Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Back to basics

Hey folks. Well, I'm back home in Southsea and pleased to be here. It really helps with keeping on track health-wise when I'm in my normal routine.

Things have been going well with the 25 days of fitness challenge, with every challenge completed so far. Monday's was really tough - 25 jumping jacks, 25 push ups, 25 crunches and 25 squats, twice through. It was short, sharp and painful. And then Real Military Fitness class lastnight was BRUTAL!

We did some running, which I hate anyway, then a really tough 9 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of 5 jump squats, a run, then 15 push ups. The next AMRAP was 5 minutes of 10 box jumps, a run, then 5 full body get ups on the shingle beach. Add in another 5 minute AMRAP focused on arms and we were well and truly beat.

I've also signed up to a mini walking challenge for a couple of weeks where I need to hit 13,000 steps a day. I'm nothing if not determined to keep the pounds at bay this December! It's just as well because my eating has been straying way off track and featuring far to many "treats" for them even to be considered a treat anymore. So, I've gone back to basics and decided every meal I'm in control of this festive season (ie. I make at home) needs to be healthy and as simple as possible.

Monday was a pre-made cous cous and goats cheese salad with harissa from Waitrose. It was lovely but a very small portion, which probably led to my Peanut Butter M&Ms binge later that day...

Back home Tuesday night we were back on form with a simple chicken and Chinese veggie stir fry after RMF. It felt so good to eat wholesome stuff! Apologies for the crazy colour!

This morning I fried up some frozen chargrilled veggies I had on standby from Waitrose and made a frittata... They're back! I just walked to Lidl to get some smoked salmon to go with tomorrow's breakfast.

Lunch was a very tasty Tesco's sweet potato and chilli soup plus some prawns we had going spare. As we only moved back home lastnight I ordered some soups for this week but will be making my own batches for lunch next week. I also snacked on a banana and a Nakd bar during the day.

And now I'm about to make sausages for dinner. Mmm, sausages...
How's your December so far? Staying healthy?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ready for advent-ure?

Happy 1 December! You find me today raring to go and ready to count down to Christmas the healthy way. The fabulous Monica at Run Eat Repeat has got me all fired up with her 25 days of fitness challenge. I've shared it with my friends and am ready to feel fit come 25 December rather than fit to drop.

I'll admit it's been a struggle to be healthy this week. With three nights out, I've been eating treats and unable to do my usual quota of exercise. That said, it has been a great week, so I don't regret it, but I feel ready to get back into a routine.

That started with a two hour walk after sixty minutes of Barre 3 yesterday. Here's the scene as I set out on my walk. Love kicking those leaves!

So how come I've been so busy this week? Well, on Tuesday we went to the recording of a Radio 4 Show with Jay Rayner called The Kitchen Cabinet. I've never been to a show recording before and I loved it! I signed up to the BBC audience email ages ago and when I saw that it was being recorded locally, I grabbed some free tickets. You could ask questions and I wrote one down in Andy's name which got selected! We were asking for winter lunch ideas as we are sick of salads. Yep, I'm even over mackerel salad. True story! They gave us some great tips, including cooking up a vat of risotto for the week to heat up. But our favourite was taking in some good quality ready made broth and quick cook ingredients like prawns and green beans. Heat the broth, drop the veggies and protein in and let them get cooked by the heat of the broth. We'll be giving it a go. Listen on Tuesday at 3pm for Andy's moment of fame.

Wednesday I was at an all day charity conference followed by an awards ceremony for work. Cue lots of food and little opportunity for walking, although we did take a quick turn at lunch. I was particularly inspired by Paula Craig MBE who went from running sub-three hour marathons to being hit by a car while out training for a triathlon and unable to walk. Within a year she was back to marathons and triathlons but without the use of her legs. She said it wasn't about trying to be superwoman, she just wanted her life back. And her life happened to be running marathons and taking part in triathlons. Amazing. 

Thursday we went to a gig. We were going straight from work so stopped at the local Talisman pub for dinner. They had a sharing menu for £20. A starter, two mains and a dessert. It was super yummy! To start we had lamb kebabs which were very tasty and tender:

For my main I had roasted peppers with goats cheese and new potatoes on the side, plus a few onion rings. I burnt my mouth in my haste to tuck in!

And for pud we shared an apple and blackberry crumble and custard. Necessary? No. Tasty, yes! I also had a small glass of red wine. I had a glass on Tuesday, too, plus a glass of Champagne and a small bit of wine on Wednesday. It was a boozy week, but it was all in moderate amounts.

The gig was great - it was a band called Public Service Broadcasting who we saw at the End of the Road Festival in September and really liked. They're great fun, a mix of electro and guitar music with a side of retro. Check them out. We were so tired we couldn't stay for the encore, though!
After that cray week, the weekend has been all about this:

Fire on, iPad fired up and a good book on hand. I just finished When God was a Rabbit, which I really enjoyed. Not sure what I'll read next yet... maybe something wintry and festive, like Dickens or Bronte...
Last night we had a treat for dinner - Thai takeout from Lemongrass in Chichester. I had my favourite, extra hot chilli and basil squid with a side of stir fried veggies. Light and so fresh and zingy.

This morning I started my 25 days of fitness challenge by holding a plank for 1 minute 14 seconds. Not bad, but I know I can do better. Next week I need to add ten seconds on. I'm ready!

We just got back from starting our Christmas shopping in town, where I tried a Starbucks eggnog latte.Verdict? Meh. Not fussed. Now it's time to light the fire and relax before tucking in to the shoulder of lamb I have in the oven later with my cousin and her husband. Happy December indeed.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Called to the barre

Hello there, dears. I'm hobbling a little right now after a hard weekend. No, not another one on the drink like last weekend.
This weekend I tried Barre 3 for the first time and, goodness, it worked me like a mother! Getting downstairs is a battle! I read about it on Jenna's blog, Eat Live Run. Real Military Fitness is only running one class a week in December and I'm staying at my mum's for the rest of this week. Plus I'm getting a bit bored of Jillian Michaels, so fancied a new challenge.
Barre 3 is a mix of ballet, yoga and Pilates. It costs $15 a month to access the online videos and I'd say it's well worth it from what I've seen so far. I did a 30 minute workout Saturday and 60 minutes Sunday and look forward to doing it again... when I can walk unaided!
So, before the pain, here's how Friday was looking.
Fresh roses (£2 from Lidl!), red wine and candlelight after a walk along the beach with Andy to wind down the working week. Pretty sweet.
Andy picked up this VERY indulgent chocolate and almond bar at Lidl. I tried a smidge or two.

Saturday morning and the sun was shining and I spotted these little beauties on my morning stroll. All was right with the world, particularly as I had some excellent tunes going on the iPod. Sometimes I like a silent walk, but sometimes I just need to rock out! It definitely makes me pick up my walking pace, too. I got rather warm in my woolly hat. Phew!

Carl Christian Cakes has got his winter thang on. Doesn't this make you want a winter wedding?

This WHOLE house is made of gingerbread and other totally edible goodies. I can't stand it.

The rest of Saturday was spent painting the bathroom after getting a fringe trim. Andy and I both HATE decorating but I'd had the can of paint sitting waiting around for a year since we reached decorating burnout after I first moved in. And it looked really good in the end, after the initial "Oh my God, why did we ever start this" moment. We need to do the lobby and another coat, but we broke the back of it.
Our reward came on Sunday. Our new fave treat is food and drink at Southsea Coffee Co. on a Sunday. I had mashed canellini beans with garlic on toasted sourdough with winter slaw. Oh yes. And a really good lemony Nicaraguan coffee. Their coffee is so smooth I happily drink it black.

Andy wanted to show off his sandwich, too. Posh ham and cheese.

And I nibbled on this oat and choclolate cookie and enjoyed an orange soy hot chocolate for "dessert".

I've been trying to stick to the everything in moderation and no diet regime lately, but can't seem to get a grip on it. Today after a stressy start at work I succumbed to sweets and peanut M&Ms.
I feel myself putting on a few pounds and don't feel good about it. But I sooooo don't want to get back into the dieting cycle. I just have to figure this out and accept I may get a bit uncomfortable to start with. Like a lot of things in life I suppose!
I've got lots of fun stuff lined up this week - a radio show recording, a charity event and a gig plus looking after three dogs and a parrot. Soooo, wish me luck and I'll check back in at the weekend.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

'Dam straight

I'm back! And I survived! In fact, I didn't even get a real hangover... okay, I was a little bit tired on Sunday but nothing too drastic, which is surprising given this was how things were looking at 1:00pm on Friday:
After a hiccup with my train and jumping in a cab to the airport last minute with a friendly stranger, I made it in time for pre-flight Champagne to start the weekend in style.
We also enjoyed the Prosecco deal on the flight out to Amsterdam and stocked up at the supermarket on our way to the apartment we rented for the weekend.
This Wild Pig Sauvignon Blanc was good - would buy again. There was a shortage of glasses but it tasted just as good from my Holland-themed mug.

The night went: local pizza (good), local bar (fun), busy central bar (expensive), Red Light District for a peek (depressing), back to local bar, which was really the most fun. I bailed early, around 12:30am, but the girls did us proud until 4:00am.
Amsterdam by day on Saturday! So pretty.
After a much-needed brunch in a local cafe, we strolled to the Noordermarkt. Lots of yummy food treats and cute stalls.
We enjoyed a hot chocolate and some complimentary apple pie in a cafe, then headed to the centre and went to the Sex Museum. Basically, lots of pictures of peoples' bits. I was worried I'd be seeing them in my sleep after all that exposure!
The local speciality, chips and mayonnaise, brought me back to earth. Phew!

We needed an, ahem, stiff drink after all that and found another really cute bar to hang out in. I'm not a beer drinker, but when in the 'dam... This went down very nicely, thanks.

For pre-dinner drinks, we headed to the House of Bols - "The cocktail and genever experience".
You found out the history of this liquer and genever (me neither) company and, most importantly...

Drank cocktails. This was Rach's Dark and Stormy.

I had a strong lemon based one and butterscotch and cherry brandy liquer chasers.

Amsterdam was all dressed up for Christmas, which made for a pretty walk home to get ready for dinner at Beddington's after more wine.

No pics of dinner - I wanted to be in the moment. We had a lovely three course meal of scallops, followed by sea bass and creme brulee. The waiter recommended the bar on the corner, where we danced the night away and entertained the crowds. We headed back around 1:00am, dropped one girl home, two went for one more drink and two for food. Guess which camp I was in?!
Much needed morning capuccino on Sunday in another cute local place.

And a desperately needed salmon and avocado sandwich.

More mooching around town looking at wonky buildings.

Another sandwich, cheese this time, then a couple of these gorgeous walnut-stuffed dates. They were HUGE!

Andy very kindly picked me up from the airport when we got home and whisked me straight to Nemrut, our local Turkish restaurant, where I tucked in to aubergine dip and bread followed by a prawn guvec (like a stew). Comfort food at it's finest.

And, bonus, my new coat had arrived! Miss Selfridge, £62.10. Slippers not included.

Desperately trying to pump vitamins back in to the system come Monday.

A fabulous weekend and a gorgeous city. Can't wait to go back. Happy birthday, Rach!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Just pack up and go

Morning peeps. It's a crisp sunny day here and I'm ready to go. Go on a weekend mini break that is! Very exciting. It's my friend Rachael's big 3-0 and a group of girls are off to celebrate in...

I've never been so it's a real adventure. I've had to pack like a ninja as it's hand luggage only, but luckily I have experience of travelling light (three months around the world with a hand luggage size backpack in 2010). Here's my case:

We're there for two days and two nights. I've gone for layers - dresses with boots in the day and a dress for tonight and a top and skinny jeans tomorrow night. One pair of heels. Done. I'll be wearing my boots and coat on the plane. All good.

So, apart from jet-setting, what else is new? I've been out walking or RMFing every evening in the dark and cold. How cool is this street name? On my travels I stroked a pug and saw a teeny weeny mouse on the beach, too. Too cute!

Yesterday Rach and I had lunch with our friend Kerry and her adorable little girl, Anya. More cuteness. I went crazy and had a small glass of Pinot. It was my Friday, after all.

We dined at Prezzo, and it was very nice. I often go for a couple of starters or a starter and a side for lunch rather than a big meal. I had the king prawns in a tomato and chilli sauce and winter greens on the side. It was all really good, fresh and tasty and just the right portion for lunch. The prawns were huge and juicy.
I really like Prezzo - lots of choice and nice, quality food. The service was a bit slow but we survived.

It was a busy deadline day at work. I was tempted by sweeties. I even got one and put it on my desk, just to tell myself I could have it if I wanted. You know what? I didn't. I ended up throwing it in the bin.

"I just can't quit you."
But there have been a few days lately where I've given in. It's okay. It's all part of allowing myself to have what I want. At first I've been a bit over-excited and eaten lots of treats, but I know I'll calm down once my li'l ole brain accepts I can have what I fancy and I don't have to eat all the treats now in case they're taken away again!
This morning has been nice and leisurely. A bit of reading Gone Girl. Addicted!
I had some porridge made from ground almonds and Rude Health almond milk (no nasties like Carageenan in it) with banana and almond butter. That's right, the triple nut. It was a bit runny when I got it out of the microwave but I left it for 5 minutes and it thickened up nicely. Check the recipe page for how to make it.

I also made a sausage and kale and veggie frittata to take on the train to the airport. Mainly to use up leftovers and also save some dough for cocktails.

And finally, a little thought for the day and weekend ahead...
As I was on my walk lastnight, I thought about the Burton snowboarding jacket I was wearing. I realised I've had it for 15 years! It cost £130 at the time, which seemed like a hell of a lot. I don't think I've owned another piece of clothing that long.
I bought it in France. I was 19 and my boyfriend at the time and I set off to live in a ski resort for 6 months - Serre Chevalier. We didn't know anyone there, where we were going to stay... We just got on a train in Calais and woke up in the Alps.
When I get a bit scared or worried or anxious, I'm going to make sure I think about that 19 year old.
What would your 19 year old self say to you, now? Mine would say, "Quit your worrying - just pack up and go!"

Happy weekend!

Monday, 11 November 2013

You snooze you lose

Phew, it's only Monday and I already feel exhausted! I'm still not quite over this cold thing, which was proved on Saturday afternoon. I had planned to blog, but instead fell asleep for three hours! I clearly needed it! So, here I am a couple of days late and still feeling sleepy. Maybe it's just winter in general.


I was also a bit of a bad blogger last week as I didn't take many pictures, and the ones I did take are pretty random!

I made it to Real Military Fitness both nights last week. It was good to be back. One evening we were running around this little lake. The swans look so surreal and dream-like gliding through the night. Stunning.

On Friday night we went to fireworks at Paul's yard. It's not often you see a digger being used to stoke a bonfire! It was good fun and I enjoyed burgers, hotdogs and red wine by the fire with friends and family. Very good times and a lovely, relaxing end to a heavy, tiring week at work.

After a rainy and snoozy Saturday, Sunday morning was all about walks in the sunshine and brunch at Southsea Coffee Co. I tried their tostada con tomates for the first time. Lush! Crusty, crispy bread and tomatoes steeped in olive oil with a hint of salt. So simple and so effective.

We also checked out Iceland. I didn't buy this cheesecake but one day, I will.

Later, I scoped out John Lewis while waiting to meet my friend Alex for a walk and hot chocolate along the seafront. I sent this colour combo idea to Rachael for her bathroom.

After having walked 9 miles all in all, I needed a tea time snack back home. One half margarine and honey and the other the last of the homemade jam and almond butter on toasted ciabbatta. Crunch.

And we finally tried Bubble Bobble Prawns from Iceland as a pre-dinner snack. Yum!

Andy had requested a change from roast chicken, so I obliged and cooked up a topside beef joint. Rare if you please. The parsnips and sweet potatoes tasted divine after roasting in with the beef. Asparagus and cavolo nero complemented perfectly. What a dinner. Smothered in horseradish sauce.

Leftovers for tonight's curry.

And a shared slice of coffee and walnut cake from Casa de Castro while I read Gone Girl. Loving it.

I'll try to be a better blogger this week.