Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Stick with it

Evening, bloglettes. It's been dull and grey here today but really humid and sticky. Yuck! Still, it sounds crazy but it's been good to have a break from the eternal sunshine. It was starting to get a little weird. I mean, this is England! The sun will have his hat back on tomorrow, by all accounts.

I'm sitting here trying to plan our meals for the next week. I'm conscious of being in a bit of a dinner rut, so want to try at least one new recipe. In other random musings, I've decided I'm fed up of TV recently - it's all so gloomy! Every programme is about people being murdered (usually women) followed by about 500 episodes of other, depressed people, trying to figure out who did it. Enough. Bring back Golden Girls!

Okay, rant over. Bring on the food. Sunday ended with smoked haddock, steamed courgette and asparagus and 'baked' (read: microwaved) sweet potato. It was a welcome return to fresh food after a weekend of the brown stuff. I went for a walk, then Andy watched his French dead people programme - more depression - while I caught up on blogs.

I decided to get back to some Whole 30-style clean eating this week. I think I just needed a break from frittatas, but I was totally ready to welcome them back on Monday morning. This three-egg beauty included some anchovies on top.

With no lunch plans, The Boy and I headed up to the shops for a walk, as I'd forgotten to order a vital dinner ingredient. This happens rather often. Before we headed out I devoured a gorgeous smoked mackerel salad.

When we got home from work, I noticed the sun shining on my freshly blooming roses and just had to share.

It looks like satin. So, so pretty.

Monday night was chores night, so dinner needed to be quick. I went back to an old favourite - salmon and ginger broth with pak choy. I'd forgotten the pak choy, hence the visit to the shops. It was worth it. Love this dinner and the crunchy pak choy.

We went for a walk after and checked out the rose garden, before watching Top of the Lake. Yep, you guessed it, depressing!
Tuesday morning was mackerel frittata. Nope, not bored yet. I worked from home, so got started early and ploughed through while it poured with rain all morning.

Come 12pm I was starving, and dove in to my pre-prepared salmon salad. Then, I went for a walk in the drizzle and stopped by the butcher to stock up for the week. I'll have 20 eggs, please.

Being at home meant I could get a chicken roasted before I left for Real Military Fitness at 6. It was a good class, and I conquered a new move. I've always thought I can't do box jumps, but when our scary instructor says jump, you better say how high. And I did it, despite having shorter legs than most. I was chuffed. I'm loving being back in the routine.
When I got back I boiled some new potatoes and made a Greek lettuce salad, which goes perfectly with roast chicken. Just finely chop two heads of Romaine lettuce, a pack of dill and a few spring onions. Squeeze some lemon juice over the chopped veggies and pour over a good quality olive oil. Toss and serve with salt to taste. The taste of summer.

Today I fancied a slightly different breakfast, so just fried up an egg to have with my roasted veg and mackerel. It was nice, and quick.

Lunch was a dinner replay, and I wasn't complaining.

And here I am. I've been for a walk to water my friend's plants. Time to cook, meal plan, food shop order and relax for a few moments before it all starts again tomorrow. Still, it's not long until the weekend and Prosecco Friday!
Which exercise are you scared of?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Life on the road

Evenin' all. We just got back from a fairly epic weekend break to North Yorkshire - that's a 600 mile round trip. It was well worth it though. It was my first visit to the region and it is stunning. Beautiful rolling hills, stunning towns and villages... I could have stayed a week... or three.

We were there to visit Andy's family, and they were so lovely and welcoming. Having grown up with family in Greece, I spent most of my holidays there (I know, tragic right) which means there's still a lot of the UK I've not explored. Our trip this weekend opened my eyes to what's out there and I want more!

Talking of something I always want more of, let's get to this week's eatin' and then we'll do a bit of sightseeing, too.

Andy hearted Wednesday's very simple supper - grilled chicken with Greek salad. What can I say, I'm Greek and I know my salads. Win.

Thursday morning's breakfast was overnight 'oats' with ground almonds, Greek yoghurt and berries, ready for my second trip away from the office this week to Swindon, hence an early start.

I had left plenty of time for my journey, and was glad I did, as part of the motorway I needed to take was shut off! Luckily I remembered a cross-country route I could take and, after consulting with a colleague who had some local knowledge, I took a detour. Not a great start to the day, but I still got there in time. It was worth the travel as I had a good meeting there and managed to grab lunch al fresco before I headed back to my office for some afternoon meetings. Leftover chicken with salad hit the spot.

Driving stress and tiredness meant these treats were hard to resist when I got in to work. Sigh. Sugar. Once I start I just don't quit.

After eating approximately 8 million sweets, Real Military Fitness was calling me in a big way. I was disappointed when I arrived to find it was a running class. I don't run anymore and really don't enjoy it. But, I did my best and pushed myself a little. Running on the beach was a killer! Still, I felt better for it, as always, despite finishing off with burpees and running up steep steps. They are trying to kill me, I swear.
After that cray day, dinner was ready in a flash. Flash fry that is. I fried our rose veal steaks and put them on top of fried mushrooms, peppers and onion with some baby plum tomatoes, beetroot and salad leaves. Very simple and tasty - I really enjoyed the veal, which we picked up at the food festival last week.

Friday morning saw the last of the Greek yoghurt and ground almonds being used up for overnight 'oats'. Same as Wednesday, but with a dollop of sunflower seed butter for fits and giggles.

As we were straight off to Yorkshire after work, I'd decided we'd grab lunches out rather than cart dirty tupperware around all weekend. Okay, so we could have washed them. Frankly, I fancied a break from lunch-making duty! I bought a hot smoked salmon salad from Marks and Spencer. It was tasty but very stingy on the salmon. C'mon, I'm used to a whole fillet! I went for a nice long walk at lunch and really made an effort with my steps all day as I knew we'd be stuck in the car for hours later.

So, off we headed just after 4pm and got stuck in loads of traffic. We made it to the Premier Inn Sheffield/Barnsley around 9pm and checked in before heading straight to their adjoining restaurant, the Taybarn. The Taybarn is an all you can eat buffet for £7.99. There's nothing more to say. Gourmet it ain't, but edible it very much was! I especially liked their vegetables in black bean sauce and even got a second helping! I also had roasted veggies, chicken and jacket potato and enjoyed a couple of glasses of white wine. I also had an apple and an Eat Natural bar back in our room a bit later, having rejected the dessert options, which did look pretty good, to be fair.

I was really impressed with the Premier Inn - clean, quiet, bright and spacious. They had a really good dressing table area with a lit mirror. I'd definitely stay again for £48 a night.
We skipped breakfast at £8, though, and headed to the McDonald's over the road. I know! But it was £6 for the two of us and I must say I enjoyed my porridge and pineapple stick!

I'd bought some Pink Lady apples on the way up the night before and munched on one of those a bit later.

Part of the reason we broke the journey at Sheffield was to visit and tend Andy's grandparents' grave in Bolsterstone, a very pretty village on the edge of the Peak District National Park.

Eventually, we arrived at our final destination of Middleham around lunchtime, to be greeted by a fabulous lunch spread at Andy's uncle's house, in the garden. Roast salmon, salad, carrot houmus, potato salad, Wensleydale cheese with ginger (very good)... It was all so fresh and delicious, and was topped off with fresh strawberries and cream. I didn't take any photos, but it really was picture perfect. A little while later we set off to Andy's grandmother's house in nearby Leyburn, where there happened to be a 1940's vintage day on. Marvellous! Despite a couple of sharp downpours, everyone was looking very dapper.

I'd love to have lingered longer, but we had a lot to pack in. After some tea and cake with Granny (I just had an iced coffee), we headed back to Middleham and popped in to the Black Swan pub for a cheeky shandy and a bit of early evening downtime, just the two of us. Perfect.

We then went to see Andy's uncle's beautiful horses before setting off for a late evening stroll back in to town for some supper. We checked out Richard the Third's castle. You know Richard - the one from the carpark? This was his pad. It's right in the centre of town!

We were particularly impressed at how that staircase has survived the ages...

All cultured out, we checked the eateries in the town square and plumped for the White Swan hotel. It was cosy and friendly and had a nice vibe. I was in the mood for potato chips, which never happens, but I went with it, along with salt and pepper fried squid with chilli sauce. It didn't knock my socks off but it was hearty and filled a hole.

Although not quite enough, apparently, as I still had room for dessert! Lemon tart with raspberry sorbet. Again, it was fine, but the base was a bit soggy and the sorbet not as tangy as it could have been. However, it was just really nice to sit in a country pub and while away an evening together.

True to form after yesterday's lunch, Andy's aunt put on a fabulous breakfast spread for us before we left this morning. I had porridge with fruit salad and sultanas, but could have chosen from a range of cereals, muesli, seeds plus eggs, toast and marmalade, all laid out beautifully. She really was so hospitable, and their house backed on to fields and fields. It was so relaxing. We'll definitely head back.
And then, the drive home. We stopped a couple of times. Lunch was an uninspiring affair at the Watford Gap Roadchef. This ham, cheese, egg and coleslaw salad cost £5, but did actually taste okay. I also had a soy iced capuccino from Costa and a Nature Valley ginger bar.

It's nice to be home and I'm looking forward to some cleaner eating in the week ahead, not to mention a walk later this evening. I've also decided I need a fitness goal to motivate me... Andy's aunt an uncle are real outdoor types and have inspired me. Any ideas?

How's your weekend been? Been anywhere new?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Paperwork is power

Evening all my Chilli Chocolate Lovers. It was around this time last year that I made one of the biggest commitments of my life... No, not choosing between Kanye and the Arctic Monkeys. Not quite as big as that.

This time last year I bought my first home. Which means this time this year everything needs renewing, so I'm spending my evenings updating home insurance and other fun stuff and having to come up with new passwords because everything's online now. Joy. But, as my dear friend Paul likes to say, paperwork is power. I don't know what it means but it makes me feel a bit better.

After last week's crazy pace, it's been nice to have some normality this week. If you can call spending seven hours in one day on a train on the hottest day for seven years without aircon normal, that is.

On Sunday night we enjoyed a quiet end to a hectic few days of partying. We retreated to our garden oasis with some grilled pork chops, steamed Sweetheart cabbage, courgette and carrot and sweet potato. It was very peaceful in the 'hood and dinner was simple but delicious. Then we caught up on the last episode of The Apprentice and had an early night.

I had a long train ride to Cardiff on Monday morning that started at 7:13am, so time was of the essence. I ate my pre-prepped overnight 'oats', except I actually used ground almonds instead of oats for a change. I added 0% Greek yoghurt and a mix of fresh and frozen berries. It was good and kept me going until gone 1pm. Unheard of!

I was in Cardiff to do something rather fun - accompany an ice cream van our employees there won in a photo competition. I made sure the van was in the right place at the right time and watched lots of happy faces eating soft-serve ice cream cones. I've had worse days at the office! It was scorching hot, too, and both offices I visited were on high floors, so there was a lot of running around, meaning lots of steps. I actually didn't eat an ice cream myself as I was sick of the sight of them by the end of the day! I did manage to quickly wolf down my yummy mackerel salad, though.
After a meeting, I headed back home on the hottest train EVER. Luckily I had some colleagues to share the pain and we laughed our way through three and a half hours of torture. I also spotted someone gardening naked, which provided some light relief...
I finally made it home just after seven, very hot and bothered and ready for my dinner. We just can't get enough of this coriander, coconut and salmon recipe from Waitrose. It's really quick and easy, you just need a hand blender. Steamed sparagus and samphire accompanied. I really needed to stretch my legs, so we had a walk then caught up on weekend TV - a new programme called Top of the Lake. A bit bleak but quite compelling. Don't you find a lot of TV is so dark now?

Look what I noticed at breakfast on Tuesday - my Chinese orchid is growing a new stem! First time ever.

I went old school with a smoked mackerel frittata. I've missed them! I think I just needed a break to be honest, but am rediscovering my passion for their eggy goodness.

It was good to be back in the office after a day on the road. Plenty to do, but the day flew past. I chowed down a lovely baked salmon and avocado salad at lunch then went for a walk with Andy. The forecast was rain, but it was all good in the end. Endless summer!

I was all fired up and ready for Real Military Fitness after work. It was tough, but I loved it. Working out with a partner really pushes you to go that extra mile you just know you wouldn't if you were at home or the gym. I heart it. And I ache today! I checked out the rose garden on my way home. The red of these beauties just 'pops'.
Some of the girls at RMF were talking about a new seven day juice cleanse that's all the rage, which I'm quite intrigued by... I just can't stand the thought of cleaning a juicer all the time!
This salad for dinner was pretty juicy, though. Luann's Kale salad is back.

Served with grilled rib-eye steak. Perfect succulent summer supper.

Breakfast today was another mash up... 30g of ground almonds with some leftover coconut cream, heated in the microwave for two and a half minutes. I added blueberries and sweet, sweet raspberries and a big dollop for Greek yoghurt plus cinnamon.

I was a bit nervous this morning at work as I was delivering a training session, but it went really well, which was a great feeling. All the best things in life make you feel a little anxious! I celebrated after with lunch by the lake with Rach. You can see her funky shoes just below my prawn, avocado and kale salad. I accidentally ordered tiny prawns, but they were okay.

Tonight is jobs night - online food shop, paperwork, dinner, quick walk. Then relax with my blogs and the local guide that came through today - I love to see what's going on. Take it easy, peeps.
Do you keep up with what's going on locally?
I live in a really vibrant community, so like to make sure I'm not missing any cool stuff.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Drink eat repeat

My blog title today is an homage to one of my favourite blogs, Run Eat Repeat, and also describes what I've been doing since Wednesday. Yep, healthy balance has gone out the window this week and I'm feeling the effects, y'all. I'm one tired bunny.

Let's examine the evidence...

Wednesday we had friends over to celebrate Andy's birthday and I cooked up a Greek feast of Greek salad, marinated grilled lamb, toasted pittas and an assortment of dips and vine leaves. It was a lovely evening, and I may have over-indulged in the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. That stuff just slips down such a treat. We also had chocolate mint gateau from Waitrose as birthday cake. Really light and fluffy.

Wine plus a relatively late night meant I was very glad I'd made overnight oats with Greek yoghurt and berries ready for Thursday morning. I had a long day ahead, which began with a 90 minute drive in heavy traffic. Sweet.

After a morning conference, we headed to the buffet. There was a lot of 'brown' food, but I opted to keep it fairly light with chicken, salad and fruit. I had an afternoon of dancing ahead of me, you see!

We spent the afternoon putting on a charity tea dance for 80 elderly people. They loved it! I danced the Cha Cha Cha, which I'd learnt two days before, and had a great time. It was sweltering, though, and I was tired and fuzzy-headed so reached for some jelly beans and a fairy cake to keep me on my feet.
After the event, it was straight to the hotel for a much-welcomed shower, followed by (more) drinks - Prosecco this time - and a barbecue dinner. I was pretty restrained on the drinks and just had a few glasses, as I was already tired. For dinner I went for a burger, sausage, halloumi kebab, baked potato and some salad and salsa.

There were tonnes of dessert options, with loads of cake left from the afternoon event. I couldn't resist a couple of bits of crumbly, oaty flapjack and some lemon sponge alongside my fruit. I also ate about a million Haribo Tangfastic sweets during the quiz that followed dinner. Tired Jodea = sugar monster!

I slipped off to bed around 11, determined not to repeat my mistakes and get some decent shuteye.
Breakfast options on Friday were pretty decent and I felt better after some rest. I went for muesli with Greek yoghurt and fruit compote, followed by a banana. I'm just loving the oats and fruit since I ditched my strict Paleo regime.

We drove back down to the office in the sunshine, and hit more traffic, but the sun was shining and we had some good tunes to sing along to. When lunchtime arrived I needed to buy something as I'd been away, so I got a meal deal from Marks and Spencer - chickpea and edamame salad with a berry smoothie and some cherries. It made a really nice change and the salad was very tasty.

Later that afternoon I couldn't resist some fruity flapjack... I needed to line my stomach for cocktails at the castle straight from work, you see. It was a gorgeous evening and great fun to meet with friends for a bottle (or four) of Prosecco. It was packed!
Come around 9pm I needed some food, fast. We headed for a local Thai cafe in Elm Grove our friends had heard good things about. And it was really good, fast and cheap. Result! Pork toasts with chilli dipping sauce to start.

Followed by a spicy beef dish and egg fried rice. By this time I'd had enough fizz and moved on to lychee juice, which was very refreshing. At £12.50 a head, we were all happy.

Life in the fast lane caught up with me Saturday morning and I was beat. So beat I didn't even go on my usual walk and just moped around feeling sorry for myself. Tragic. I had porridge with berries and sunflower seed butter in the garden, but it didn't help.

We managed to pop to the local shops and then I got lunch going before some friends dropped by. They'd just cycled over 30 miles, which made me feel like even more of a useless blob! Lunch was a real yummy treat - it was supposed to be Friday night's dinner! Homemade burgers with roasted sweet potato, parsnip and green beans and a kale salad with a dollop of houmus.

We went for a reviving little walk around 5 before getting ready for round four, six friends over for drinks before tapas at Nicholson's. I know! My friend brought round a lovely sparkling Pinot Noir which we enjoyed in the garden with some cashews and spicy peanuts. We had a set menu at Nicholson's, with assorted hams, salads, squid, chicken, chorizo, potatoes, paella... I definitely overindulged. You lose track so easily with all those little plates. I shared a jug of white sangria, but finished drinking after that and switched to water. ENOUGH!

Our friends came back for a few drinks and we called it a night just after midnight. It was a really lovely, relaxed evening.
Today I felt a little more like my old self. I even had a grilled veggie and anchovy frittata to celebrate! Back to the old school.

I cleaned the house, spoke to my Mum and did a Jillian Michaels DVD. A proper weekend morning. For lunch I had leftover kale salad from yesterday with albacore tuna, anchovies and olives. It's felt good to eat clean today.

We took a wander down to the Southsea Food Festival and bought some rose veal which I'm excited to try this week. Then we stopped by Southsea Coffee Co. for a watermelon and coconut water cooler. I just had a nap (still tired) and soon it will be time for dinner and getting ready for the week ahead.
I'm travelling to Cardiff tomorrow, Swindon Thursday then going to York for the weekend straight from work Friday - a six hour drive. I had made plans to see one of my favourite girls on Wednesday, but have learned my lesson from the last few days. I need balance. Today I've felt bloated, tired and tearful. Not good. So, I told my girl we'll have to rearrange and, thankfully, she understood. Time to get some normality back. Still, I have had some fun!
Any trips planned for the week ahead? Whatever you do, have a good one.