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.

Sigh.

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.
 
 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Breaking the mould

Evening, lovelies. How's November treating you so far? I've had a nice little weekend here, but unfortunately I'm still not feeling tip top. Still, I've made the best of it and kept calm and carried on in true Brit fashion.

Let's take a look at what's been getting me through these dark days...

They now sell Chobani yoghurt in the UK! I spotted them handing out freebies at the Great South Run last week and sprinted over! They gave me a voucher, so I stocked up on Thursday in my lunch hour. It's like Greek yoghurt and comes with a yummy fruity layer. I've had blueberry and cherry so far and also ordered a big tub of plain. Overdoing it much?!

 
On Friday night Andy and I went for a nice long end of the week walk. Before we headed off I made this simple but super snack of banana and almond butter to power me through.

 
I also checked out my beautiful cyclamen which has about a squillion buds coming up. Hooray for Winter flowerers!

 
It rained on our little walking parade, but after a week spending so long cooped up indoors, I was loving getting lashed by the wind and rain on the seafront. I heart the colder, darker nights down at the beach. The world and his wife have packed up for another season and I get it to myself again.
 
I thought we should celebrate with the first mulled wine of the season, also a handy throat soother. We bought the ready bottled stuff from Tesco, which was okay, but I look forward to making some proper brew soon.

 
Saturday morning we were up bright and early with the morning sun to head to Southsea Coffee for the breakfast we'd been looking forward to all week after I saw it Tweeted. Toasted banana bread with mascarpone, banana and ginger infused maple syrup. Errr, HEAVEN. We had a yummy coffee to go with, too. What a great start to the weekend. And it kept me full until late afternoon. Cake for breakfast is always a win.

 
The day just got better as we met my lovely cousin and her husband in Chichester for a late morning drink at Bill's. Trying to up my vitamins, I went for carrot, orange and ginger juice. It was so good to catch up - I always feel restored after time with my family. We also had some QT with my Mum, aka the most wonderful human being on earth. Fact.

 
I was on a mission in Chichester, too, with regards to spending some birthday money. I got a Kiehls body scrub from Space NK and a yummy soy-based cinnamon candle from Homesense for £6 (can't function without a nice candle burning in the evening nowadays).

 
I also got round to spending another birthday voucher in H&M and bought two cute jumpers. I wore the blue one today. And I bought a 'handyband' from Seasalt to keep my hair out of my face for Real Military Fitness and travelling. I was pleased with my little haul.

 
Saturday night we went to Andy's sister's 40th birthday party. There was a gorgeous Chinese buffet. I particularly enjoyed the beef satay and sweet and sour chicken. Sadly I was feeling really rough again so we left around 11pm. Unfortunately I somehow set my alarm by mistake so woke up at 6am today! I tried to get back to sleep but gave up after half an hour and headed down to breakfast.
 
Andy bought some coconut yoghurt to try from our local health shop, Southsea Health Foods. At £2 a carton they don't stock it all the time but ordered some in for us to try. I added it to porridge with banana and pineapple. It was good - it was just like creamed coconut really, very rich. Good for an occasional treat. Thanks for the recommendation, Esther!

 
Another reason I got up early was because I could not rest until we fixed a little problem I noticed in our understairs cupboard yesterday. MILDEW! Ewwww! It had been smelling a little musty and then yesterday I noticed some mildew on a couple of our coats in there. Ick. So we cleared out the cupboard, washed and aired everything and threw a ton of stuff out. We realised the problem was we were storing too much in there and, with little ventilation, the air wasn't moving around. I feel soooo much better now it's sorted. Old houses are lovely, but not without their issues, and ventilation is a big one for us.

So, after getting the boring cleaning and de-moulding out of the way, we headed out for coffee and a treat. Andy bought these custard tarts from a place that's recommended locally called Casa de Castro. They were gorgeous! The pastry was really flaky and the custard perfect. Beats your usual egg custard tart.

 
We had a Moroccan crock pot stew for dinner with a bit of beef added in. I loved it but Andy wasn't fussed. Oh well, more for me. Full of goodness, which is what this girl needs right now. I hope your weekend was full of goodness, too.