Friday, February 27, 2009
Often I hear about literary events and tell myself, "I must go along to that" and then never do. But I keep hearing about it, and decide to go along purely out of my desire to satisfy myself that I'm not missing out on anything spectacular.
Last night, TS and I sipped G&T's in the fragrant Herb Garret of the Old Operating Theatre Museum (which TS had last been to as a school boy) and were then led into the auditorium for the February edition of BAD IDEA magazine's The Butcher's Shop. And as the evening progressed, with more G&Ts at interval, I realised that, indeed, I had been missing out on something spectacular!
I think I might have mentioned The Butcher's Shop earlier this year - ah yes, I have, in this post - wherein the basic idea is that guests submit short pieces to the editors in the week or so leading up to the event, and they are then dissected like the dusty Victorian medical artefacts we saw as we sipped our cucumber spiked G&Ts, or "butchered", taken apart flabby adjective after flabby adjective, monotonous detail deleted, unnecessary words wiped out. It's a real education on the craft of good and relevant writing. The two editors-in-chief even wear "blood" splattered aprons as they discuss the piece, red markers in hand.
This month's edition of The Butcher's Shop had a recession theme - all the pieces seemed to focus on the central character of the evil banker. In a entertaining respite from looking at the pieces themselves, they brought up a financial journalist from the audience, "nailed" him to a cardboard crucifix and we all got to fire our questions at this hypothetical banker. Great fun.
Later on there was also a competition where the editors had gathered a collection of quotes from the mouths of three famous (or infamous rather) moguls, and volunteers had to come up and match the mogul to his words. Spurred on with an excess of very good gin, I put my hand up, correctly guessed a quote by now the disgraced Fred Goodwin, and won a free copy of How Not To Write A Novel (which I'll of course review on Green Ink in due course!).
While on the subject of spoils, TS and I also walked away with a copy of the magazine each, a DVD of a collection of short documentaries entitled "The Art of Confession", and quite a few mini bottles of Hendrick's Gin, quite possibly the best gin on the planet. Pure alchemy.
I'll definitely be a regular at Bad Idea's Butcher's Shop from now on - not only was it terrific value for the ticket price, but it was exactly my idea of a fun night out - lots of bantering about topical issues, talking about writing, or what makes good writing more to the point, and getting lots of ideas, like how to turn one story into four saleable pieces, and even how to self publish your novel (hmm...depending on how my winning read goes, that might be an option for me, ha ha!)
Who knows, maybe my scared and quivering little piece of prose might be on the operating table next time....?
For more information on the next Butcher's Shop event, see Bad Idea's web site. Maybe I'll see you there!
It has always worked for me, I must say. When I hit my two most gruelling plateaus on my way to goal, having a different breakfast each day, trying new recipes, eating at different times of the day, and really upping the ante as far as exercise went was what snapped the body back into action.
This week, I decided to have a different breakfast - I ditched the usual yoghurt and muesli routine and made a delicious fruit, nut and tahini breakfast bar on Sunday night to take to work every day during the week. It is essentially my homemade muesli packed into a very convenient little bar. Eaten when I got to work at 9am each day, it kept me full until at least 1pm! So delicious as well - chewy, full of spice and fudge-like dried fruit. It felt like I was eating flapjack for breakfast!
And it might be my imagination, but everything felt a little looser this week! (I've been on some killer runs though)
Do try them, they're a lovely breakfast alternative, or a good thing to have around for a snack. Really good for before or after exercise too.
But, word of warning, do not leave the dates to go and do something that is likely to make you forget about them - they will burn, your partner will capture your embarrassment on camera (!) and you will still be soaking the saucepan five days later!
Fruit, nut and tahini breakfast bars
This is originally from Limes and Lycopene, but I have modified it slightly
- 1/2 cup diced dried dates
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup tahini
- A drizzle or two of honey
- 3 cups homemade muesli or you can follow Cassie's original recipe which has quantities for the oats, nuts and dried fruit
- 1/4 cup wholemeal plain flour
Lightly coat a 9"x9" baking pan with cooking spray, line with baking paper and set aside.
Prepare Date Mixture: Add 1/2 cup water and diced dates to a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dates are soft. (Mixture will be thick.) Allow to cool. Add tahini.
Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add date puree mixture and a few drizzles of honey (according to taste). Add a bit more tahini if it's too thick, or a bit more muesli if it's too wet. It should be like Anzac biscuit mixture. Mix to combine and press into baking pan.
Bake at 180 C for approximately 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Cut them as big or as small as you like - mine were on the bigger side, I admit, but they kept me full until lunch time and that was the whole idea! And so much easier than lugging yoghurt, fruit and a bag of muesli on the train!
I've also made some great dinner dishes this week (when I've been home) which I'll definitely be making again and look forward to sharing with you. Who knew that vegan cuisine could be so darn divine?!
I also have a few advice posts brewing as well - for those who you who've asked questions, don't worry, I'm on it! I've had about five questions on the same thing, so that will be a two part post I think.
Otherwise, all is good here and I'm looking forward to the first day of spring on Sunday!
Monday, February 23, 2009
Shazam writes this week:
I was wondering, do you have any tips for how to fit exercise into a
busy week? What is your weekly exercise schedule like?
I think the best way to fit exercise into a busy week is like anything else you want to make time for - you make it a priority and set aside time for it. If you enjoy it, you're far more likely to want to do it too!
Sometimes when we say "I'm too busy" to ourselves, what we're really saying is "this isn't really a priority". It's a way of letting ourselves off the hook. It might be a pain to do, but if you take a cold hard look at where your time is going each day, I reckon you can find 30 minutes in there somewhere. For good health and fitness, we should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day to exercise. If you think about it, that's an episode of a tv show - so not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. As Kathrynoh said in one of her kick-arse posts, "do you want to watch TV, or do you want to work out? It's your choice!"
Find the time of day that works best for you. Mary, for example, knows that her best time of day to exercise is first thing in the morning - 5am. I myself can barely function at that hour so I know that would never work for me!
Looking at my time, and weighing up what is both realistic and convenient for me, I have found that my best time to exercise is straight after work. The minute I get home. I don't allow myself time for any distractions - I throw my bag down, dress in my running clothes, find my iPod and keys, have a drink if I need it, and then I'm out the door. I don't even give myself the option of flaking. Unless it is snowing, I'm out there.
Obviously if you have longer to exercise, great! But if you only have a limited amount of time, then make it the highest intensity exercise possible. Run, don't walk. If you can't run, just jog or walk really really fast (think Jane Saville!). Sometimes exercising harder for a shorter amount of time can have just as good an effect as a longer but less intense session.
I love to exercise, but I also love to do other things as well. I know I could exercise a lot more than what I do (like I used to) but that means not as much time for other things in my life that are important to me. But exercise, and the benefits it brings to my life, are a big priority for me, and that is why I fit it in, no matter how busy I am. Because ironically it's when you're busy that you should be making time to exercise and eat well, because it will give you so much more energy.
Exercise is also a wonderful way to set and achieve some tangible goals. Take my triathlons for example. It wasn't just about getting fit, it was about getting confidence. Confidence that I could get out of my comfort zone, and not only survive it, but enjoy it! Confidence that I could do things I never thought I could do. When you set and achieve a goal like that, no words can describe how amazing it feels. It is so worth the effort.
My basic rule is to exercise 5 days out of 7. If I can do that, then I'm happy. I have stepped up things a lot since deciding to do a half marathon, but I'm finding it isn't encroaching on my time too much at this stage. The closer I get to the event, the more focused I'll be. Long distance running is also amazing for sorting out my head - the difference that running regularly has made to my mental health is amazing. I find I think about all the things that are bothering me, and I "run them out"! All the stress of my day gets pounded out on the pavement. I come back and do my strength work, and gaze at the slowly forming ripples on my tummy in the mirror with a smile, and then get in the shower and come out feeling amazing.
When I think about all that, I want to go for a run! I want a six pack! I want runners legs baby! It might sound a bit vain, but if you are a bit 50-50 when it comes to prioritising exercise, you've really got to seize all the motivation you can.
Here was my week last week:
Monday: 40 minute run + strength work
Tuesday: 35 minute run + strength work
Wednesday: Walk at lunchtime and then yoga for runners when I got home
Thursday: 35 minute run + strength work
Friday: Walk at lunchtime
Saturday: 4 hour walk + aerobi in the park (it was such a lovely day, TS and I walked for hours around our borough)
Sunday: 30 minute run + strength work
I would have run on Saturday too if we hadn't gone for a long walk. On Wednesday and Friday I was out in the evening so went for a brief walk at lunchtime to compensate...ish! I've had better weeks than this, but all in all it wasn't a bad effort, considering what a nightmare of a week it was work-wise. 4 runs in a week I am happy with.
I also don't have a car, so if I want to go somewhere I have to walk there, or walk to the tube station. All the incidental activity really helps, so if your week is looking busy at least try and do some incidental activity - get out of the bus or train one stop early, go for a walk in your lunch break, that sort of thing.
It's ok to have really busy weeks every now and then, but if you let it be your excuse indefinitely, then sooner or later you'll see someone going for a walk and think..."when was the last time I did that?" and you won't be able to remember. That was me, sitting in the car at the petrol station, in March 2005. Pretty tragic, isn't it?
Remember the saying - "if you don't use it, you'll lose it!" and that definitely applies to your fitness. If you've worked hard for something like that, don't let it go just because you're too busy. You will be kicking yourself later, trust me!
Inspiring exercise links:
Mary at A Merry Life shares her Top 10 Ways to Motivate Yourself To Exercise
Cool Running Australia
My triathlon and marathon links
My running links
About.com has heaps of articles on how to fit exercise into your day
Yoga for runners - I love this lady!
[sorry, I know I quote this all the time, but it's the quote that got me to goal, and I believe every word of it!]"When you really want to do something, in your heart of hearts, you will find a way. But if you don't really want to do something, you will always find an excuse."
- Pat Farmer
Have a happy, exercise endorphin-filled week everyone - especially you Shazam!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Last night, I thought I was grabbing my San Francisco diary from the shelf to read with my bedtime cup of Milo, but I accidentally grabbed my first London one instead. It turned out to be very interesting reading.
July 20th, 2007. Paddington Library. What a nightmare day. Caught in a storm in Bloomsbury - torrential rain sheeting and pelting from the sky, greyness clamped over London like a saucepan lid. Drenched beyond my skin.
I've kept a diary since the age of nine. Pretty much ever since I read The Diary of Anne Frank and decided I wanted my diary to catapult me to worldwide fame. I doubt my childish musings of "So-and-So told the teacher I did this - I SO DID NOT!!" would do that though. And then I discovered Anais Nin when I was fifteen, and could only dream of the trappings of her life on the sharp end of the double-edged erotic literary sword.
July 28th, 2007. I am in Ottoemezzo Cafe on Westbourne Grove, about to indulge in breakfast of a "Kate Moss Cappuccino" and pain au chocolat.....the coffee comes in a giant chocolate brown and white bowl. I can taste Irish Cream in the froth.
I'd forgotten how much I did in those first two months in this city. I had arrived, fresh-faced and deeply tanned from a particularly sweltering North American summer, to a city I'd longed to know my whole life, knowing only one person, having no job, nowhere to live, and only two bags with me.
August 1st, 2007. 8.15pm, Northern Line. On my way to look at another flat, a room the size of a shoebox for three times what I was paying in rent in Melbourne. Gah. I go through stages of loving and hating it here. Has it sunk in that I live in London yet? Not really. Now that I'm working I'm too busy to really think about it - about the enormous changes I've made in my life....there are days when I feel so lucky to be here, and there are other days where I think I've made the biggest mistake of my life. When I think of everything I gave up to come here, it makes me want to be sick.....harden the fuck up Phil, as Chopper would say.
At first, I really did think I had made the biggest mistake of my life. The first six weeks here were pure torture, albeit interspersed with visits to literary sites I'd longed to see since I was yay high, extravagant cocktails that cost more than an hour's pay, and accumulating as many library cards as possible (I have four I still use!). Everything was so much more difficult than I expected it to be. And I had to do it on my own.
August 9th, 2007. I'm glad I read 1984 before coming to London. It prepared me. But I haven't got lost since last weekend. I think I'm slowly starting to get to grips with life here.
Elephant and Castle smells like fried chicken.
Everything is a test.
Everything is fleeting.
One afternoon, after a particularly bad week, I sat in Hyde Park and wrote a poem. A poem in which I unleashed my sadness that London hadn't been quite what I expected, but I still loved it, and wanted to stay. I just wanted it to start loving me back.
August 12, 2007. I have just arrived at the London Poetry Festival in Waterloo. It's not what I expected. It's empty.
A week later, that poem I wrote in Hyde Park was accepted in Smoke #11.
It's amazing how good things will get, if you just keep believing and persevere.
August 21, 2007. Met up with a dear, dear friend visiting from America. I almost asked if I could go back with her. Her eyes glistened with tears as I told her what life has been like here so far.....We talked about writing..... "Now you can do with your writing what you're doing with your life," she said, "being brave."
That diary contains my first thoughts on my new home - city life, a journey to Edinburgh for my first ever Fringe, the joy of my first poem acceptance, theatre I went to see, romances that didn't get beyond the first date, the nightmare of flat hunting, the wet warmth of the English summer, the craziness of Notting Hill carnival, yoga and Guinness and porridge at the staff canteen, conversations I had with taxi drivers, negotiating all the intricacies of daily life in the UK that just didn't make sense to me, managing to walk home alone after two bottles of wine at 3am without an A to Z, and everything in between.
August 27th, 2007. Finally I have a home. I'm sitting in my favourite coffee shop nearby, sipping strong cappuccino amid obscure jazz and handholding lovers reading the paper opposite me. I know my way around the area now - I've learned the routes from the house to both tube stations, rather alarming though that I remember where to turn left by looking for the blood stains on the pavement.
It was wonderful to empty the suitcase and the backpack at long last. To wash my clothes, to buy new towels and revel in their cleanliness. To cook a meal. To sleep on my own sheets. Such small, small things, but things I've learned to be grateful for.
It's hard to believe that almost two years have passed between those inky words in that leather bound journal and typing this now. There is an art to carrying your past forward with you, but there is nothing in that journal that I want to forget, ever.
I really do love living in this city. It's hard work at times, but it does repay you, a thousand times over, if you stick with it. Kind of like writing, in a way.
My favourite things to do in London (and the list keeps growing)
Visit the Tate Modern on the Southbank, and drink beer on the terrace overlooking the Milennium Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral.
Go shopping in Regent Street, on payday.
Slurp up noodles at Cha Cha Moon or Hare and Tortoise.
Red wine and poetry at The Poetry Cafe.
Sunday walks in my local park.
Coffee and book shopping in Lamb's Conduit Street.
Go to a concert at Kings Place.
Look at books at The British Library.
Trawl Spittalfields Market for treasures, and Columbia Road for flowers.
Visit Sylvia Plath's house in Primrose Hill, and having ice cream at Marine Ices afterwards.
Eat strawberries and drink champagne in Hyde Park (in summer!)
Friday, February 13, 2009
And then followed
"how did you do it?! Tell us!"
Oh dear. I felt very sad with these beautiful, healthy-looking young girls in front of me, looking at me as though I was holding the Holy Grail. I wanted nothing more than to scoop them in for a big hug and tell them you're perfect the way you are. Just like I would have wanted when I was 16.
So, I pretty much did that. But I don't know if they believed me.
Seeing that the theme of my talk that afternoon was "things I wish I'd known at your age" (boy did I feel old!), I wasn't going to miss my chance to hopefully talk some sense into these kids, and spare them what I went through. Hating your body and hating yourself is no way to live, whatever age you are.
I spouted what I could remember of this post I wrote three years ago. I told them that, to me, they were healthy and beautiful. That starving yourself doesn't work. That there are far more important things in life than what you look like. That they should exercise and be active for the joy of it. That they should enjoy being young, and the freedom of being young, while they can.
I asked their teacher later if I could email her the post I did, and could she hand it out in class. She happily agreed, and felt sorry for me that I'd been ambushed by these girls when the reason for me coming to speak to them was not weight loss!
But I didn't mind really. I just felt so sad, remembering that once upon a time I was one of those girls. Thinking that being skinny would mean I would be happy - it would be some key to a magical land where I would be popular and cool and boys would like me. Oh, far from it. If you're confident and happy, people will like you, no matter what size you are! God, I wish I had known that then.
Speaking from my own experience, being slim has not brought me happiness. Learning to like myself and having the courage to follow my dreams has. Finding someone who loves me for everything I am, warts and all, has helped too :)
When I stood on those scales on that grey April day in 2005, yes I wanted to be slim, but I also wanted to be happy. I wanted to be proud of myself. I wanted to look forward to each day, instead of dreading it. I wanted to feel confident and young (I was only 23 at the time and felt about 50!). I wanted to stop being so afraid of life - and so jealous and resentful of other people and their achievements. I wanted to feel in control of my life. If I happened to lose weight in the process of gaining all these things, then that would be a bonus, as far as I was concerned at that very moment, with the men's size 40 jeans and size XL shirt sitting in the ironing pile.
I knew I had issues that had led me to where I had ended up. I knew that I would have to deal with them eventually. It wasn't until after I reached goal that I really started facing them though. While I was losing weight, I had my goal to focus on - and ironically, I still had my remaining fat to blame if I screwed up or something went bad for me. Fortunately, those moments were few and far between, because something inside me just wouldn't let me give up, made me hold myself accountable for what happened in my life, and wouldn't let me be negative for too long. What I wanted to achieve was always gleaming in front of me like the proverbial pot of gold.
The euphoria of getting to goal and its aftermath was sweet and wonderful, and lasted for well over a year. It was an amazing time, where I felt utterly invincible. I stupidly believed that my "issues" had gone for good. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It's really only been the last eighteen months that I've really got a handle on my issues - because they unexpectedly all came flooding back. The destructive, self-loathing thoughts and behaviour that got me to where I was all those years ago were all of a sudden part of my life again, when I thought I'd banished them to the land of wind and ghosts forever. It was truly terrifying to be feeling like that again, after the sweet-honey golden glow of the year before. Even though I didn't alter physically (well, I thought I had, but was assured endlessly to the contrary) my mental state was shot to shit. And if there's one thing I learned in that time it's that if you don't have your mental health, you don't really have much at all.
The mental and the physical cannot be separated - one always mirrors the other, and affects the other. I know from my own experience that until you're prepared to take a good hard look at your mental health, look at the reasons why you behave/react/think the way you do and are prepared to do whatever it takes to deal with your issues, then everything you do to improve yourself physically is just a short term solution. If I hadn't been prepared to find a counsellor, stay on top of my issues and really work hard at changing my patterns of behaviour and thinking, then I was going to end up right back where I was.
It helps that exercise plays such a vital part in my mental wellbeing. I feel amazing after a run, so I try to go as often as I can, and have running goals to focus on (like my half marathon!) to get me out the door when it's snowing or a block of Green and Blacks on the couch looks far more enticing!
It's really quite a simple equation.
Phil eats well + Phil goes for a run = Phil feels happy
Phil feels happy = Phil is more likely to keep exercising and eating well
Phil exercises and eats well = Phil fits into her small clothes
Phil fits into her small clothes = Phil feels happy!
Phil feels happy = Phil can deal with life's ups and downs better, and doesn't get upset about silly things that she'd normally get upset about if she was feeling fat/grumpy/tired/useless
I do these things in addition to working actively on my issues. It's hard work, because the negative thoughts have become used to having all the airtime, but slowly I'm replacing them with more helpful thoughts and behaviours. It's been a year of change so far, and I feel good! For most of last year I was in a bit of an emotional black hole, but now I seem to have climbed out. Once again, I've learned that reaching goal doesn't signal the end of the journey. If anything, the journey is just beginning.
As I was finishing talking to the girls, feeling hopeful I had convinced them that being healthy was more important than being skinny, I noticed another bunch of them and a teacher come into the sports hall and start getting set up for an after school exercise programme, including an aerobics DVD! I would have loved to have had something like that when I was at school!
"Go on," I said, "that's what you should do - be active and have some fun with your friends. Do it for fun."
And I saw them join in as I left the sports hall.
I saw them smile and look like they were enjoying themselves. I hope so much that I got through to them.
Afterwards, my friends and I took the bus to Wimbledon and enjoyed Sauvignon Blanc and delicious thin crust pizza. Being able to enjoy my food without feeling guilty is something I never take for granted. It's a joy that everyone should be able to experience. I enjoyed every mouthful. I enjoyed the company of my friends. I felt very happy.
Life's just too fragile and too short to be anything else.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Two years ago, this involved giving up eating meat. These days, it has involved no longer buying certain products, and making my own alternatives. Not only do they taste better and have less fat and calories, but I feel so much better knowing that I'm not contributing to more landfill with packaging, and supporting producers of the raw ingredients. And, weirdly enough, the grocery bill has decreased significantly. Every week I go expecting it to be an extortionate amount, and it's usually about £10-£15 cheaper than I expect (and that it used to be, come to think of it!).
Over the past few months, I've started making my own bread, my own muesli, my own juice. Last weekend, I made my own hummous. My local supermarket is going to wonder now why their supplies aren't shifting with the usual speed anymore :) I'll never go back to store-bought now!
I got the basic recipe from my favourite food blog Ripe London, of course, and modified it to my own taste. I have a bit of a phobia of garlic breath, so only put 1 clove in rather than the 5-6 the original recipe called for!
Home Made Hummous
2 cans drained and rinsed chickpeas
1 clove garlic (you can add more if you want)
2 handfuls fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
7 tablespoons light tahini
the juice of a large lemon
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
Soy milk, to thin out if necessary
salt to taste
It keeps in the fridge for nearly a week but tastes best as fresh as possible.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
This weekend's favourite juice, with a recipe this time, just for you Lil!
3 Bramley apples
3 small pears
1 large stick of celery
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
2 medium kiwi fruit
Chop all the fruit and juice together. Strain into a jug and serve with ice! So easy!
I got the recipe from this wonderful book, which I recommend for anyone who loves food, loves cooking and loves cook books:
It's absolutely bursting with fabulous ideas, and written with so much freshness and realism, but also enough element of fantasy to make me wish I was the type to make an extravgant breakfast in bed with champagne cocktails, or a yummy mummy with a perfect chrome kitchen in Clapham somewhere....(which I'm not!)
The night I got it, I made the Saucy Banana and Caramel Pudding - but adapted it for the marathon runner's diet :P
Here's my version:
Saucy Banana and Caramel Pudding
[sorry, I did try and take a photo but as delicious as it is, it is not a photogenic pudding]
125g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
100g brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed or pureed with a hand blender
1 large egg, beaten
150ml soy milk
100ml low fat vanilla yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 if you have a fan oven). Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the sugar, mashed banana, beaten egg, milk and yoghurt, and stir until well combined. Add a bit more milk if it's too thick, or a little more flour if it's too runny (it should be the consistency of a cake batter).
Coat a 1.5-2 litre ovenproof dish with cooking spray. Pour the batter in. Sprinkle the top of the batter with more brown sugar - so the entire surface is covered with a thin layer. Pour over the top (yes, really!) 250ml of boiling water from the kettle.
Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden and firm in the centre when slightly pressed.
Leave to cool for a few minutes, and then serve with a bit of vanilla icecream or thick yoghurt.
The top is a banana-cake like sponge, and the bottom is a river of caramel sauce.....so good!!
Serves 4-6. TS and I have had this for pudding for three nights! TS asked me to tell you all that he preferred the pudding tonight, two days after it was made, because the texture of the cake was nicer (an observation, not a criticism, he was quick to add!) So yes, apparently it improves on keeping.
Sorry, my Australian readers must hate me - all snow and hot sticky puddings that this blog has become of late ;P
Saturday, February 7, 2009
For the first few days of this week, it was impossible to run - first with the ten inches of snow, then with the aftermath of it - ice and slush that made the possibility of breaking my neck a very real one! I found myself getting very cranky without my runs - going from home to tube to office to tube and home again meant a scant half hour outdoors if that! My running not only keeps my body in shape, but it is essential for my mental wellbeing. As Elle Woods said, "exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy"!
After a bit of effort put into negotiating the least icy/slippery route in my neighbourhood (I think all the salt and grit has been used in Central London, the rest of us in the nether regions just have to wait until it all melts!) I've managed a 35 minute run every day since Thursday! Whoo hoo!
My sister and I have been exchanging our "happy playlists" via email this week, and this has inspired me to share my running playlist here. A lot of songs in my happy playlist are in my running playlist too, I have to say! If you want a bunch of songs to get you really pumped, check this out:
- Jump - Madonna 3:46
- I Want Everything - Sneaky Sound System 3:50
- I Wish U Would - Martijn Ten Velden 5:02
- Exceeder - Mason 3:23
- Yeah Yeah - Bodyrox 2:52
- All Things (Just Keep Getting Better) - Widelife 2:46
- I Love It - Sneaky Sound System 3:47
- Get Together - Madonna 5:31
- O Saya - A.J Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack) 3:36
- Only (Richard X Mix) - Nine Inch Nails 7:26
- Ray of Light - Madonna 5:21
- We Built This City - Jefferson Airplane 4:56
- In Your Eyes - Kylie Minogue (cool down) 3:21
Lately I have been thinking about distance more than time when I run - because I'm going to be running a 13.1 mile race!! It's all very well to say "I can run for 40 minutes" but how much distance does that actually cover? Thanks to Map My Run I've figured out my usual route is about 4.5 miles. That's going to have to be UPPED big time over the next month, but seeing that I've only just got over very bad flu as well, I'm trying to be gentle with myself and be happy with managing my usual route in good time.
Today I finally bought a proper running bra, and I really noticed the difference when I whipped it on when I went running this evening after my marathon Oxford Street expedition this afternoon :) This is the first sports bra I've ever owned, I'm ashamed to say! Even when I was training for tris, I just wore sports tops with built in support. My "girls" aren't very large, and never have been - I've only been a C cup at my biggest - so I thought I could get away with it. But lately with the longer distances I've been aiming for, I have found myself feeling very sore! So I bit the bullet, got measured and fitted by a lovely lady at M&S, and got this sexy thing! Ideal for long distance running, and used by Olympic pentathletes, so I'm in good company ;)
I also need to get some new trainers. I think I might go to a shop where you can have your footprint analysed, or whatever it is, to get maximum support for your feet. But I've been looking at these. Does anyone have them? Is there any brand I should avoid, or definitely go for? Any advice and tips on buying trainers much appreciated, particularly from anyone who's done long distance races!
And finally, I've been ending my runs with a lovely big bowl of this:
It's definitely porridge weather over here! (and I was surprised to hear my sister is still having it for breakfast in sweltering Perth! Crazy girl!)
The bowl above is actually porridge made from my homemade muesli. Seeing that it's based on five-grain porridge mix, I was curious to see what sort of porridge it would actually make - and it was delicious. Imagine porridge, but crammed with dried fruit and nuts and seeds! I put some frozen mango in as well, and that heated to a rather yummy buttery puree that swirled all through the oats. Finally, I mixed in some coconut yoghurt and sliced strawberries. So good!
Hope this has inspired you to go for a run! (or at least think about it, if it's too hot!)
Friday, February 6, 2009
A fascinating (and a bit worrying) read for those of us interested in yoga.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
This was my garden at about 8am yesterday! Having not seen a proper snowfall since 1986, can you imagine how excited I was?!
Not that I mind running in the cold - in fact, it's my preferred training weather, as I tend to run faster and slack off less because I have to keep running for warmth if nothing else - but it was more my safety that was of concern. The roads were so slippery, even to walk on in steel-capped wellington boots, so I wasn't sure how my desperately-need-replacing-wearing-thin trainers would cope! I have never broken/dislocated any body part and I don't intend to start now. I know I said I wanted to have adventures in 2009 but that's not quite what I meant :P
Not having a car in London, I rely on public transport to get everywhere and yesterday it was in chaos. Nearly every train line was suspended. No buses. Very few cars on the road. It was so weird to hear the streets so silent!
So, having discovered our train station was closed and the remainder of the line suspended, TS and I (quite happily!) went back to our cosy, warm flat where we successfully managed to work from home. We of course took a little break mid-afternoon to enjoy the snow while it was still light:
I had been running in this park on Sunday, and this was what it looked like 24 hours later:
We did an extended lap of the park, taking everything in, the snow continuing to fall heavily all the while (it didn't stop until 8pm!). I tried to build a snowman, but failed (I forgot to bring a carrot for his nose, so considered any effort I made incomplete without that!).
Tramping through the thick snow was certainly a workout for the old thighs, I am actually pretty sore right now! But it's my right arm that's feeling it the most, as I WON in the mother of all snowball fights! We went out again, once we'd finished working, and by then it was dark (although the snow lit up the streets quite eerily!). TS started the fight, but I finished it :P It was extremely energetic, scampering up and down the side streets, hiding behind snow covered cars....I'm a bit embarrassed to say I did fall over, and my tailbone is still whimpering a little (!), but I was magnanimous in victory.
The winner's reward was getting to wear TS's super warm gloves on the way home, as my knitted mittens were by then soaked through :P Actually, he was a true gentleman and offered me his gloves when he saw the very real risk I had of frostbite!
I love walking in fresh snow. It squeaks as you walk!
Once we were home we cuddled up on the couch and watched Masterchef while eating dinner. I made "snowballs" (vegetarian meatballs) with rice. Perfect warming meal for a snowy, wintry night.
This is how I made them, in case you're interested!
[no photo, sorry!]
1 pack meat-free meatballs (ASDA is the best, I think - and you cook them from frozen)
1 onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 jar tomato and vegetable pasta sauce
1 can crushed tomatoes with garlic
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons red pepper and walnut pesto (optional, but I think it adds lots of flavour)
1/2 pack baby spinach
Basmati rice, to serve
Coat a saute pan or slow cooker with cooking spray. When hot, saute the onion and carrot until soft - add some water (or white wine if you have it handy) if it's sticking. Add the meatballs, pasta sauce, tomatoes, sweet chilli sauce and pesto. Stir to combine everything and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
5 minutes before the meatballs are done, add the baby spinach (no need to stir in yet) and place the lid on the pot. The spinach will wilt in the heat. When you come back, stir it through - much easier.
Serve with basmati rice (I'm just using the rice cooker as much as I can, it's so easy) and fresh parsley on top.
Haven't worked out the points (as I don't count them anymore) but based on my previous knowledge, I'd say 7 points for 7 meatballs and sauce, plus a small portion of rice? If you left out the pesto it would be a bit less.
~ ~ ~
TS and I remarked how lovely and quiet it was walking around our neighbourhood, the roads and roundabouts clear from the usual queues of cars, the bus station empty, the supermarket practically deserted, with the rows of unused trolleys crusted with snow. We saw shops that are normally open until all hours shut, with a handwritten note on the door.
It was a real eye opener, yesterday. Things that normally make life work stopped working. But life went on. People went outside and walked and played and frolicked and smiled, instead of staying inside, glued to computers or television, or worrying about work. Deadlines got missed, but it wasn't the end of the world. So why do we struggle so much? Why do these things have so much importance placed on them? If things don't happen exactly as we want them to, it isn't a disaster. In fact, it can turn out to be rather wonderful. A snow day is a timely reminder that sometimes we just need to go with the flow, and be open to a bit of change.
I hope I don't have to wait another 23 years for the next one!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Ha ha, got you there with the title, didn't I?!
When TS and I first moved in together last year, we got a couple of things for the house that neither of us were able to bring to the party - vacuum cleaner, etc - and we also got a juicer. At first we only used it every now and then, because it seemed to be a bit of a pain to clean. It was so much easier to open a bottle than it was to slice upteen bits of fruit, juice them, drink the juice, and then have to clean the darn thing!
As Jason Vale, the Juice Master, says in his book, the day they make juicers easy to clean is the day that everyone in the world will have a juicer :)
But this year, we decided to use our juicer more often. So, rather than buy fruit juice, we buy the fruit and juice it ourselves. We're saving about £5 on our grocery bill on average just by not buying juice anymore. Another incentive to keep up the juicing!
We've been playing around with various combinations - our standard juice tends to be carrot, apple, orange and ginger. But seeing that we've both had the flu this week (hence the silence here!) we've created a new combo with a few handfuls of spinach and parsley, and we had a old looking piece of broccoli in the fridge which we thought might work.....and surprisingly, it did!
Most health magazines and gurus tend to spout the wonders of fresh juicing these days, and to be honest I'd had a rather ambivalent attitude towards it - it just seemed like a lot of effort, and most times I'd rather eat the fruit than drink it. I didn't see what was wrong with bottled juice. Until I looked into it a bit more and realised that so many of the nutrients are lost in the bottling process. So, like most things in life, the fresher the better!
A few things have helped me use my juicer more often:
- Not buying juice from the supermarket, so if I want some I actually have to make it myself
- Having it either out on the worktop or within easy reaching distance
- Putting a plastic bag inside the chute for easy clean up (it really works!)
- Rinsing everything immediately once you've finished juicing - leaving the pulp and stray bits to stick to everything makes cleaning up a bit more of a pain!
My favourite juice combos so far have been:
- Apple, carrot and ginger
- Carrot and orange
- Spinach, parsley, orange, apple, carrot and ginger
- Apple, then blended with no-fat greek yoghurt and 1 banana
- Apple, pineapple and orange
- Apple and lime (inspired by a juice I had in Victoria, Canada called "Dragonfly")
Another nice thing from my kitchen recently:
"Fried" rice - I love my rice cooker! How did I get by without one of these for so long?! We usually cook enough to have some for the next day, and I made this one lazy Sunday night when we felt like something quick and easy. Chopped up a leek, some celery and one courgette (you can use whatever you have handy), stirfried them until soft, then I threw in the rice, the rest of a packet of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrot, corn and beans), two baby pak choi, threw in some sweet chilli, soy and oyster sauces, sauteed it until the vegies were cooked and the rice was heated through. In two other pans, I grilled some tofu chunks I had marinated in some sweet Japanese garlic soy in one; in the other, I made an omelette that was flavoured with soy, sweet chilli and fresh coriander. Chopped up the omelette into shreds once it was cooked through, and then added it and the tofu to the rice. Stirred everything through, and then served up! Easy, healthy (no oil used) and so delicious!
We've also just done the shop for the week. I do love seeing the fridge full of healthy, delicious things:
Did you notice on the top shelf that there's a mini Cherry Ripe?!
Yesterday TS and I had lunch at Yo! Sushi in Russell Square, seeing we not only had something to celebrate, but also a 40% voucher! Every Saturday, there is a delightful fresh food market in the Brunswick Centre - fresh pasta, a cupcake stall, cheeses, organic vegetables, french crepes, chorizo hotdogs - it's just lovely. But yesterday, after stumbling out of Yo! Sushi filled to the brim with miso soup and crispy tofu salad, the first stall I saw seemed to be selling.....Tim Tams? Surely not, I thought, as I wandered over. Yes, the owner of the stall was selling all sorts of things I used to see in Coles all the time - Barbecue Shapes, Cheezels, Chicken Twisties (can a vegetarian eat them I wonder?!), Tim Tams - in honour of Australia Day earlier in the week. Thankfully I was completely stuffed from lunch, so this helped restrain me! I just got one mini Cherry Ripe, and held it like a precious jewel.
It's now in the fridge, waiting to be savoured - perhaps chopped and stirred into some of my favourite coconut yoghurt, or eaten on it's own with a mug of hot chocolate. It was 50p, which is about $1.20 AUD! Bah!!
With the flu pretty much departed now, I'm hoping to be back on form this week with my running, which I'll talk a bit more about in my next post. My challenge for this week is also to eat more fruit. Well, with the juicer that shouldn't be too hard!
Hope you're keeping warm or cool, wherever you're reading from! :)