All the gingerbread! A quick visit to Vienna.

So on Friday night we drove down to Gatwick, as we had a super early flight the next morning- getting up at 5am was not my favourite way to start the weekend, but it turned out well in the end.

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We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out on a walk- it was pretty cold but not as freezing as it could have been (yet).

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There were plenty of little Christmas markets on street corners- I love seeing all the gingerbread houses.

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Plus plenty of very grand buildings- neither of us had been before and it was a great city to walk around- I think it would be lovely in the summer too as there were so many parks.

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Just like in Cologne (we went there last year) all the markets had different cups- when you bought Gluwein (mulled wine) or any hot drink (Andy had that whereas I had a hot chocolate), you pay a deposit (a couple of Euros) and then get that back when you return the cup.

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There were a few bigger markets that we walked to- in the day they were not too busy so we could look at what was on offer (and take photos).

2014-11-22 12.36.56There were so many amazing food stalls- these pretzels were gigantic- I don’t think the photo does it justice. We shared a marzipan pretzel (oh yes) in the evening.

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Yet another market, by this church (cathedral?) with the most impressive patterned roof.

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The gingerbread stalls were my favourite- we bought one to take home as we had one last year and it was just so good. Although some of the phrases piped onto them were a bit amusing- #yolo or #b*tch being the strangest two.

We had a rest in the hotel for a bit before heading out in the darkness to see the beautiful lights. I was not sure about food options, thinking it would be all sausages and stew, but there were a few veggie options about (although one market was so huge that you had to just get something when you saw it as you might not find it again)- I ended up having a jacket potato with cheese (my German is not the best, but I could translate that for sure) and Andy had a bread bowl filled with tomato soup- just like Boudins in San Francisco!

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We went back to the biggest two markets, and they were just so pretty (but also rammed).

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There were plenty of lanterns in the trees, including cupcake ones!

We were pretty shattered (and also freezing- it was so much colder after dark) so headed back for a long sleep- according to my vivofit I walked 29,000 steps- not too shabby! On Sunday we got a train pass and went out to the Schonbrunn Palace which is a big palace (over 1000 rooms) with enormous gardens- perfect for a walk. It also had a large Christmas market.

2014-11-23 12.15.28The sun even came out for a bit.

After a little walk around we fancied a warm drink – Andy again got the mulled wine, and I noticed on one menu an After Eight hot chocolate, and it stated alcohol free. The day before when I ordered my hot chocolate they asked if I wanted cream (I can’t remember what the word is, but it is a long word but it was written on the menu so I was prepared…) and I didn’t but this time they didn’t ask (and it wasn’t written so I didn’t think it would be included). The lady poured out the hot chocolate, covered it in cream and then stuck an actual after eight chocolate in the cream! I am not a huge fan of cream, but I put up with it because it held the chocolate in place!

2014-11-23 11.58.17Although the chocolate melted quickly!

2014-11-23 11.58.29Cheers!

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Then we walked to the top of the hill for stunning view of the gardens and Vienna.

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Then we walked back to the main building, had another mooch around the market before getting the train back to the city centre. I was going to buy a few gifts, but the shops had shut by the time we got back, plus we had hand luggage only so I was a bit limited with what I could bring back.

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Our flight wasn’t until 9pm so we had time to re-visit our favourite markets before collecting our bags and heading to the airport. We still managed 22,000 steps for the Sunday- impressive!

It was a great weekend away- the flight was under 2 hours and because we didn’t check bags it was really speedy at both ends. The train from the airport to the city centre takes 16 minutes, and the centre was really walk-able too, with plenty of markets around.

Now we need to decide where to go next year! So far we have been to Copenhagen, Bruges, Cologne and Vienna, and I must say that the Germanic ones win so far for festiveness, food and gifts. I mean, last year I had a marzipan and nutella filled crepe, this year a marzipan pretzel- sounds good right?

Are you a fan of Christmas markets? I love that they are becoming more common over here too- we are off to Bath in a few weeks as theirs is always a nice one too.

What Christmassy food would you go for at a market like that?

 

 

Vivofit thoughts

So, back in the summer, Andy’s brother was given one of these fitness bands for his birthday. I used to have a pedometer, but got a bit fed up of the noise, and also it counted steps while I was driving and things, so it was not that accurate.

More recently I read Anna’s review of her vivofit, and started looking into them. There are other bands out there, but the Garmin one appealed as I already have a Garmin GPS, so I could use the Garmin connect software to see all my activity. Plus, I did not want one that vibrated, or beeped or anything like that. Sometimes at work I have to sit still (long assemblies or meetings) so I liked that the Garmin one just had lines on the screen.

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I looked a few times on John Lewis (as I had some vouchers) and one day in half term I decided to go ahead and treat myself. I went for the grey, even though I really liked the green as I wanted it to go with everything.

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It comes with two straps- I went for the smaller one but on one of the largest settings as I don’t like really tight things.

Apparently you can wear them in the shower and everything, but I have been taking mine off for that.

Setting it up was so simple. I mean, I am a bit of a technophobe still, but I followed the little guide, turned on the bluetooth on my phone, and straight away it was there. You can add your height, weight and birthday and then it apparently works out calories used, but I would take that with a pinch of salt.

I don’t normally have my bluetooth on (it seems to drain the battery on my phone pretty quickly) so I tend to turn it on once in the evening, synch the band (you just press and hold the button until “synch” appears on the screen), add my sleep time and then turn it off again.

The strap seems pretty secure- I read some reviews where people had lost them after a few days, but I think perhaps they had not clipped them in properly. There is a little additional strap that goes around the part where it is fastened, but I wore it for a few days without and it stayed on the whole time.

The screen is pretty clear- again some reviews complained about it not having a lit screen, but I would not be looking at it while running in the dark anyway, so that doesn’t bother me at all. You can flip between the different displays (time, date, steps, steps til you meet your goal, miles or calories)- I tend to leave it on the time screen and wear it instead of my normal watch. But at home I quite like seeing the steps mount up. If you are inactive for a while a red line begins to show along the top of the screen, which gets longer the more you sit still.

Although I don’t think the mileage is very accurate -one day I did an 8 mile run first thing in the morning (listening to a Richard Herring Leicster Square podcast, which is well worth hunting out by the way- the Russel Brand one was hilarious and very disturbing) and it thought I had done 11 miles or something by the time I got home- it will of course track patterns and I can compare if I did more or less steps than the day before. Mondays are now a day spent out of class, mainly in front of a computer, and I walk loads less, but I have been making the effort to have a walk in the evening as I am more conscious of it now. These past few days we have had Ofsted at work and on both of those days I did over 10.000 steps (although I was at work from 6.40am-9pm)- this was more rushing about than usual although I do tend to walk about quite a bit when teaching.

I am really glad I got it anyway- would you be tempted by something like this? Andy has got himself an app on his phone that tracks when he walks, but it would not work for me as we are not allowed phones on us at work, so mine is in my bag in my cupboard all day as I am rushing about everywhere, but if you had your phone in your pocket all the time some sort of fitness app thing would be a lot cheaper than a band.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Please, sing along if you would like. If you do not like, I apologise for putting the song in your head.

So on Friday after work we had dinner at home before getting the train down to Brighton. Originally we were going to go on Saturday, but there were rail replacement buses and we decided that once (Sunday) would be enough.

2014-11-15 10.49.22On Saturday we went out for breakfast (pancakes from Bill’s) and then had a wander around the shops in the rain. Then it brightened up so we had a nice long walk by the seafront.

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Some of the stones and seaweed had washed up all over the promenade- crazy!

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We did some shopping, had some tea and cake, and generally enjoyed wandering about.

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I got some super cute t-shirts in New Look!

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We went for a fairly early dinner (Pizza Express) before heading back to the hotel for some TV (Strictly and 8/10 Cats does Countdown)- good to rest the legs before the race.

2014-11-15 21.47.01I shall be very easy to spot in my luminous t-shirt.

Staying over before the race is such a luxury. The race started at 9.30am, so we got up at 8, had a clif bar for breakfast, and then took our time getting ready. We left at just after 9, and we were at the start 5 minutes later. Amazing.

This race is great- last year we ran it together and I got my first ever sub hour 10K. This year Andy was aiming for a faster time, so we arranged to meet at the end. The run begins near the big ferris wheel- you run east for 1.5k, turn, come back to the start and run west towards Hove, and then at 6.5k turn back along the seafront again to the finish. Super flat, nice scenery the whole way, and considering it is a fairly small field for a city race (I think 3500 runners) lots of crowd support too.

I had no idea about my pacing- I have been either running 5k’s at parkrun and Sweatshop, or much longer runs for my 10 mile race. My time last year was 56.14, so I wanted to beat that but didn’t know how my fitness compared. Plus last year I had Andy pacing me, which really helped. This year I was going to have to do it by myself.

I looked on the lucozade pacing calculator- to run 56 flat I would have to do 9.01 miles, and for 55 I would need to do 8.51. Those paces sounded quick, but the parkrun I have been doing recently is not flat, and is a huge range of terrain, so it is much tougher than a pancake-flat road run. So I decided to try and keep as close to 9 minute miles as I could, and see how long I could hang on for.

I kept glancing at my watch and was generally seeing 9.03. After about 3k I think ( I like miles, so really had no idea) it went up a bit of a hill and I dropped to 9.13, but I picked up the pace again pretty quickly. This year the course was moved to the road to help with congestion, but I don’t think it helped much as I was still weaving past people a fair bit. But no matter. Just before the 6.5k turning point I saw Andy going in the other direction- he was still looking happy which was good (he often sets off way too fast and the struggles), and after the turn I was seeing a few 8.xx’s on my watch. Soon enough the ferris wheel was in my sights, and a marshal was shouting “one kilometre to go” so I decided to push it a bit. I was on my watch that I was going to make a pb, but then the finish line seemed to far away- I ended up counting to myself (one count for every 4 steps seemed to work) and willing myself to push hard. I overtook a few people, but some people rocketed past me- I have no finish kick at all.
I was so chuffed when I saw my watch!
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My official time was 55.23- and my splits went 9.03, 9.02, 9.02, 8.59, 8.57, 8.39 and then 7.45 for the final .2. So another royal flush negative split :) I think it is catching on!
Something that Andy pointed out to me as well was that compared to last year I recovered so much quicker- last year I was a bit shaky and Andy was a bit worried about me (my breathing while we were running- I did explain that was just what I sounded like, but also I was pretty shattered after)- whereas this year although I was very tired (and my legs still ache today) I was much better, sooner after the race. Also, pacing myself was harder than having someone else do it for me so I am really pleased with my time.
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Hooray! I had some water and a bit of banana (they were a bit brown for me) and then we headed back to the hotel for showers (what a luxury again) before going for lunch. This time we went to Wai Kika Moo Kau as last time we visited it was too busy.
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I had a pitta with hummus and falafels and Andy had a wrap filled with chilli and served with nachos and dips. So good. I could not resist an almond hot chocolate from Iydea either.

Another wander around the shops, and then we had the joy of the rail replacement buses. At least we had podcasts to listen to- we both caught up with the radio 5 film podcasts (and I may have had a little nap on the train too).

I think this race is great. I love the smaller races, and this has all the pro’s of one- you don’t have to get there hours before, the marshals are all fab, the start/ finish area is nice and small so meeting up is easy. There are no goody bags, just a medal, banana and water when you finish, but you get chip timing, and there is lots of crowd support. Plus, it’s in Brighton and I never need an excuse to head down there for the weekend. Even with the bus replacing some of the train our journey took about 3 hours, so we didn’t have to spend the whole day travelling.

Brighton, I will be back for more!

Half term…

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Walking in the leaves in the rain.

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The park looks so pretty, even in miserable weather.

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Baking Christmas cakes.

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Seeing Dave Gorman.

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Runs in the daylight.

2014-10-28 12.02.31Muddy shoes (should have worn my trail shoes).

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A leisurely breakfast.

2014-10-29 10.11.09Tesco treats from my mum.

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A walk through the fields, spotting poppies.

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A haircut ready for a wedding. And yes, cake is the best part of a wedding.

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Baking cakes ready for the wedding.

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Don’t the cakes look stunning?

 

 

Oven baked risotto

Recently Andy’s mum gave us a vegetarian cookery book. We have tried a few recipes from it, and our most recent success is a vegetarian risotto. I am not a huge fan of rice usually, but I do like a nice flavourful risotto, although if I was out I would not often choose one as I worry about what sort of stock has been used.

The book is a Good Food book (101 Veggie Dishes) but the recipe is here too.

It is pretty simple to make- chop the onion and cook it in the oven a bit, add the rice, vegetable stock (we don’t use wine, we use a small carton of passata instead) and rosemary, and leave in the oven for more, then drain a jar of antipasto peppers (Aldi do a jar for 99p), add that and some spinach, and bake again.

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Last week we bought a huge bag of spinach, so it would not all fit in the risotto- I added some to my plate so the warm rice wilted it a bit too. The recipe says to use vegetarian parmesan- style cheese, but we have just grated a little cheddar to melt on top.

Much easier than one that cooks on the hob and needs constant stirring.

We are ones to get stuck in a bit of a meal routine, so it was great to try something new and we have had this for a few weeks now, as it is lovely and warming on a chilly evening.

Have you tried baking a risotto before? Are you good at trying new meals or do you tend to stick to the same ones?