What would I say to my younger self?

I was contacted by Legal & General asking them to take part in this campaign, and it really got me thinking.

I think when I was younger one thing I was good at was resisting peer pressure. I was never bothered by fashions or what the “cool kids” were doing, and quite liked being different. I think that served me well, and although I am not the most confident person, I am usually confident in my convictions still.

However, of course there are things I would like to have changed. I think I would have told myself two things; to experiment with cooking a bit more, and to find exercise that I enjoyed.

To explain the first piece of advice a bit, I never liked meat at all, and turned into quite a fussy eater. While doing my GCSE’s I had to write a project about a specific diet, so I chose vegetarianism and showed my mum that in fact you could be vegetarian and also still get a balanced diet (she was very worried about my iron levels, which to be fair at one point were very low and I kept going dizzy and feeling faint), so she then let me. She was really good, buying meat replacement foods and things, but I wasn’t a fan and ended up eating a pretty limited diet of mainly pasta with tomato sauce, or beans on toast.  This wasn’t helped by my time at uni- I had long days (9-5 lectures, or teaching placements) and it was an hours bus ride each way, plus a cycle or walk to the bus stop. Often by the time I got home I was too tired and would just have a bit of toast, or at one point I had a phase of having rice pudding and fruit for dinner. Not good! Now I feel I eat a much more varied diet, and I am more willing to try new foods, and I am sure I am healthier too. So I would encourage my younger self to explore new foods to find a bit more balance.

Relating to the second piece of advice, I was always pretty active, but never really found anything I loved. We did lots of family walks and bike rides, and I even did a 5 mile fun run when I was about 10, with my Dad and a friend. I quite liked cycling, and cycled a lot before I learnt to drive, but I was always very nervous on the roads. When I started work I felt I had stopped being so active, so I started going swimming, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I am not a strong swimmer, whereas the rest of my family are. I have a huge scar at the top of one of my legs from being smashed against some rocks whilst swimming in the sea in Turkey (we had been on a boat tour, and the boat anchored and you could jump off the boat into the water and swim, but then another boat came into the bay and created these huge waves- everyone else was OK but I was not strong enough to stay away from the rocks- it was very scary anyway- it put me off more). I find swimming so exhausting, plus the chlorine stings my eyes, and my hair soaks up the water and would smell for days after even if I washed it several times. I then attempted the gym, but the equipment was just so boring and I was just plodding along wishing the time away. It was much later that I decided to try to run a 5k- I kept this a secret in case I didn’t manage it, but I did, and at some point during that training plan I started to really enjoy it. Now I consider myself a runner, but to my teenage self this would have been hilarious and unbelievable. I would tell myself to believe in myself a bit more, and give it a go.

What would say to your younger self? If you are on twitter there is a hashtag  #youngerself for taking part in the discussion.

Apples

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I have a little apple tree in our garden- I think it is about 4 years old now. This year it was so weighed down with apples that some of the branches were touching the ground!

On Sunday we were going to see Andy’s family, so on Saturday I made an apple cake. Again, from the Clandestine Cake book (honestly the best ever cake recipe book). This one involved cooking apples in juice with spices.

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In there is star anise, cardamon pods, cinnamon and nutmeg. It smelled amazing, so when it had finished I made some more to have with yoghurt.

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Then you lined the tin with butter, a bit of brown sugar and a sprinkling of flaked almonds, poured the apples on, and then topped with the cake batter.

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Once baked, I left it to cool in the tin for a while before carefully turning it out.

It was delicious. I love cooked apples and the spices were perfect with it. The star anise was really unusual, but went really well.

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Another favourite to add to the list!

What would you do with a load of apples? I think a crumble might be next, if the weather cools down!

Baldock 10K recap

I only signed up to this race a few weeks ago, and then forgot (well, I thought it was later in September). Luckily the race pack arrived this week to remind me!

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I found it via Runners World but when I clicked on the reviews it took me to a different race instead. Anyway,10k was the distance I fancied, and it was not too far away.

It was a bit of a faff to get there, as there was no parking at the race start, so I had to park in the Tesco’s in Baldock and then they had two minibuses picking up runners from the high street and taking them to the start. The last one left at 9.20, so I erred on the side of caution and ended up at HQ at 9am.

The HQ was by some fields and barns, and sort of industrial buildings, and there were toilets in one of them (real ones with soap and everything), and the bag drop in another. I waited a bit as it was chilly so didn’t want to take my jacket off too soon. Then we had to walk 800m up a hill to the race start. I got chatting to a girl who was on her own (lots of people seemed to know each other) so that was lovely. The start was funny as the guy started doing the race briefing, and with the wind it was a bit hard to hear. But then thy set off a drone (no idea, maybe for photos?) and we could not hear anything over the noise of that!

Anyway, it started through (uphill) fields on rough track, so you had to watch your footing carefully. Some parts looked chalky, which turned out to be very springy and much nicer than the big flint stones. Then we went onto country lanes, but still with lovely views across the countryside. It was pretty hilly to begin with- short steep hills followed by longer slow ones. I was glad to get to half way. There was one water station but I prefer to wait until I finish as I can get a stitch- the girl who I was chatting to had been keeping up with me, but stopped for water whereas I carried on. It wasn’t long before she was behind me again.

The course was well marked with lots of florescent arrows, and marshals stopping traffic, pointing the way and cheering. I find 10K races strange- on the one hand they are not too long, so I want to not wish them away and actually enjoy it. But on the other hand you have to run a bit faster so I often find myself wanting to stop and walk, and have to consciously slow down so I can catch my breath. At one point I was running up a hill and dreading the uphill walk to the bag drop when I finished!

Anyway, after half way there seemed less hills, and after 7 or 8K a marshal told us “no more hills after this one” which turned out to be nearly true! I have had a cold since Thursday, so I wasn’t really focusing on time, I just wanted to enjoy it, but seeing that at 5 miles my watch said 50 minutes spurred me on to the finish. At one point I spotted the barns through the fields so I knew the finish was near, but 1K seems like a long way when you are tired! I turned a corner and could see everyone who had finished lined up by the side of the road cheering us slower runners home, which was nice but really I know I look awful by that point so would rather no-one could see!

As soon as I crossed the line I was given a print out of my chip and gun time- 1:01.23 chip time- how fancy! Then, the best part. As well as a bottle of water, medal and wrist band (with other events on the band- clever idea) they had a choice of either a banana or a spear of pineapple. Let me tell you, pineapple is amazing for after running. So juicy and refreshing.

They did the trophy ceremony at 11am (well it must have been just after as it was a few minutes after I had finished) so I watched that before getting my bag and waiting for a minibus.

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Not sure where I put the medal now, but it had the date and the race name on it.

As I had parked in Tesco’s I had a quick look in case I could find coconut peanut butter. Well, I couldn’t, but I did find these things.

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Dark choc pb for £2 a jar, and also gingerbread Alpro puddings! I love their dark chocolate ones for a treat, so when I saw these I had to try them. £1 for each pack too, bargain. And to balance things out some nuts and white chia seeds. Don’t know if they are different to black ones?

Anyway, I am really glad I did that race, it was good to run somewhere different. It was a bit of a faff using the minibus, so I think if I did it again I would look to park in a nearby village and walk there, as I didn’t get home until early afternoon when it is only a 25 minute drive away.

Now we are off out to dinner with Andy’s family, and I made us an apple cake for dessert.

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With apples from my little apple tree!

Did you have a good weekend?

French Toast with cage free eggs

Sainsbury’s are one of the only retailers who use cage-free eggs in their own brand products. I will only ever buy free range eggs (or I get them from my mum as she keeps hens) and I think that only products using free range eggs can be approved by the Vegetarian Society. I would not call myself a militant vegetarian, but free range eggs are something I feel really strongly about. My mum sometimes gets chicks from a farm, sometimes she gets live eggs to hatch if one hen gets broody, and a few times she has had rescue hens, which generally are chickens that were in battery farms but have stopped producing eggs so regularly. Seeing what they look like when she first gets them is horrible- they have hardly any feathers, bald  patches, they are so scrawny. But the worst part is that they don’t display normal chicken behaviour. The bottom of my parents’ garden is fenced off for the hens (with fencing over the top of some little apple trees to try and keep out the foxes) and the hens can scratch in the ground to their heart’s content. But the rescue hens don’t know how to do this- I imagine they have never seen grass or mud before. Thankfully after a few weeks of being with the other hens they pick up the behaviour, and their feathers grow back. They don’t tend to lay eggs every day, but they still lay lots each week. So often is I visit I will be given eggs to take home, but if I buy them instead, I will only ever buy free range eggs. Anyway, Sainsbury’s have asked bloggers to post a recipe using their eggs, and I was happy to oblige.

2014-09-13 14.48.21As you may know, I have been developing a love for French Toast. I have often found it too eggy, but on holiday this summer I had it a few times and it was gorgeous, so it has become one of my weekend breakfasts. All it needs is bread (I used sliced brioche), an egg, and some milk. Simple.

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This is not really a recipe, more of a “how to”. The apple tree in our garden produced a bumper crop this year, so I decided to have some spiced apple alongside. I cracked one egg into a pasta bowl, and added a splash of almond milk and some almond extract. I whisked it up, and then lay the bread in there to soak while I cooked the apple (in a tsp coconut oil and a little cinnamon).

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Once the apple was soft I put that on the plate and cooked the toast in the pan (love a one pan meal)- over a low- medium heat one slice at a time for a few minutes each side until golden.

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With a little maple butter on one (I am trying to make it last as long as possible) and maple syrup on the other, it was such a delicious breakfast.

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Sainsbury’s have a little video about their cage free eggs which you can watch here.

Are you a free range egg fan? What is the most unusual pet you have had? We had a stick insect when we were little, imaginatively called Sticky.

*I was sent vouchers from Sainsbury’s to pay for ingredients for this post. All opinions are my own.

The best nail polish remover

So I love painting my nails, but I hate using nail polish remover. It smells, it makes any tiny cuts sting, and it leaves my nails stained if I use a dark colour (yes, even if I use a base coat).

Until I came across this stuff. Priti Soy Polish Remover.

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It is  is 100% biodegradable, non-toxic and not carcinogenic, made from farm crops and does not contain any petroleum ingredients. I bought the lemongrass scented one, but they do an unscented one too. It is expensive, but I thought it would last a while as I only use a little bit each time.

I read a few reviews online, and they were mixed, but generally positive, and I am so glad I bought it. I ordered it from the Love Lula site (seeing a link on Laura’s blog) but google can show you other places.

Anyway, the verdict. It is amazing. A few tips of the bottle onto a cotton wool pad is all that is needed for each hand. The polish does not come off instantly but after a few rubs each nail is clean. It feels very oily, which is much better than the normal drying feeling, and it really does smell lemony. Also, no stains. I tend to choose darker colours like navy or deep pink, and normally my cuticles and under my nails get stained when I take the polish off (no idea why), but with this there is no such thing. No idea why. I have used it twice with different colours and each time has been brilliant.

If you are looking for a more natural product, or something that actually smells good, then I would recommend it 100%.

 Any miracle products that you have been converted to recently?