Severn Bridge Half Marathon

A volunteer’s race recap

I’m not a fan of 6:30 alarms, but Sunday’s was surprisingly easy to get up for. Hooray – Severn Bridge Half day!

This time last year I had just marshalled the 2015 Severn Bridge Half Marathon, and I was raring to get training and run the 2016 race. Yes, despite the fact that I was suffering with a prolonged chest infection, I firmly believed I was going to kick that and get my running back on track so that I could enter.
No. Life and my body had other plans.

There was no way I was going to miss the race though. 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the bridge’s opening, and the half marathon was going to be something special. So what if I couldn’t run it? I could have just as much fun marshalling and supporting the runners.

So for this notorious night owl, Sunday’s early alarm wasn’t so bad. I quickly got ready, being as quiet as possible so I didn’t wake my sleeping fiancé, and I was out of the door and programming the satnav by 6:50.

A travel mug of coffee was very, very necessary.

Of course, I didn’t have enough petrol, so had to stop off. The first garage wasn’t open and the second had no unleaded. Third time lucky…

Despite the stops and a bit of congestion on the slip road to the car park, I made it to the St David’s Hospice Care marshall meeting point on time and met up with some familiar faces. I’ve volunteered for a few local(ish) races over the last year, as well as parkrun, so it’s always nice to see people and have a chat. Volunteers for this race are usually from the charities that the race supports, and as St David’s means a lot to me personally, I love to help out on their team.

We were given our assigned spots, maps and contact numbers, then myself and four others set out for the 10-mile point at Pwllmeyric. I don’t know the area, so I was relieved that someone else was driving. With an hour to go before we expected the first runners through, we settled down to wait.

The two ladies I was sharing a stretch of road with were from Fairwater running club, and we chatted for a while. Several people in cars and on foot stopped to ask what time runners were coming through so they could see friends and loved ones, and it was lovely to see support from the local community who came out of their houses to watch, too.

The first runners came through shortly before 10 o’clock. By that time I’d moved to my corner, where I was directing runners to turn for the loop. The Loop. The one where they had a camera set up to make sure no one avoided running it and check that people were adhering to the strict ‘no headphones’ rule. As a side note: I don’t understand why you would miss out part of a course. You’re cheating yourself. Surely you can’t be proud of your time or achievement.

The views from my little corner:


Anyhow, the lane was closed to vehicles, so there was a young guy from the traffic management company also stationed at that corner, which was nice. I had some company and also didn’t have to deal with any irate drivers who weren’t happy about the road closures. That was the only thing I had been dreading, after some verbal abuse when I marshalled the Newport Half back in the spring. Big credit to the people who stopped to ask about the closure on our corner yesterday, they found alternate routes without a single complaint.
I didn’t catch the traffic guy’s name, but we had a bit of a talk and I think he enjoyed watching the race. I know I did!

Once the main body of runners started to come through, I clapped and cheered them on. Some were chatty, some struggling but still smiling. They had just come from a water station and I could see a lot had poured water over themselves. It was warm, and apparently the course was tough this year, due to some changes that had to be made to the route.

I cheered especially loudly for the runners I knew or recognised. Every time I saw a vest from a local club I shouted for them – Pont-y-Pŵl, Parc Bryn Bach, Fairwater, Lliswerry, Islwyn. There were several Vegan Runners, and I recognised two Cornelly Striders who had run the Sospan 10k earlier in the summer. I also saw two UKRunChat vests – I’d love to know who those runners were!

The minion’s guide runners did a great job of guiding – I doubt s/he could see much in that suit!

A few people came to stand on that corner and cheer at various points throughout the morning. One runner stopped to see her supporter, before carrying on.

By the time the last people came through, my hands were aching from clapping. Can’t complain though, these people had completed a tough 10+ miles and had just under 3 left to go!

Once the road was open again and the empty water bottles and gel packets picked up from the road (thank you to the water station volunteers from Winston’s Wish), we all got back in the car to drive to the finish. We walked about 400 metres of the course from the car park, and sympathised with the runners who, after 13 miles, had one final incline before the finish line. That’s cruel!

Things were winding down at the finish when we got there. Runners were sitting on the grass, clad in their new bright red 2016 race shirts, eating and drinking and freshening up. Some were getting well-deserved massages. The volunteers were given race shirts and there was a tent set up for us to have tea/coffee, sandwiches and cake. Oh, that was good cake!

I stuck around for a bit to see the last few finishers, and chatted with a couple of people, then as it started to spit with rain I walked back to my car with one of the other volunteers.
It was a fun day, and being a part of it so that those 4000 people could run was so rewarding. The cake was a nice bonus! Thank you to the organisers for making it an enjoyable event to marshal, and for making us feel welcome and valued.

Afterwards I checked out the #SevernBridgeHalf hashtag on Twitter and saw people raving about how much they’d enjoyed the run. Congratulations to you all for getting out there, and for all your personal achievements on Sunday!

The only problem is that it’s given me runner’s envy (and some definite clothing envy – so many gorgeous leggings whizzed past me!) and now I can’t wait to get my body sorted so I can run again.

Maybe this time next year I’ll be lining up at the start of the 2017 Severn Bridge Half Marathon…

…Maybe.

Did you run it this year? How did you find it? I’d especially love to know how the new route compares to last year’s course. Leave me a comment – or if you’ve blogged about it leave the link, I’d love to read it!

Feel the fear

Resuming my personal trainer diploma

feel the fearBack in February I made the decision to put my personal trainer diploma on hold. My health was shocking – I’d been unable to exercise for months because of breathing problems. I was stressed to the teeth, and I just couldn’t see myself being able to complete the course.

If I’m honest, my health is still not great (for different reasons now) and I’m only slightly less stressed at the moment. But the course can only stay on hold for so long, and knowing that it’s hanging there unfinished has been weighing on my mind.

On Tuesday I took the plunge and booked onto my 2-day Exercise for Older Adults course. I’m hoping that it’ll ease me back into the whole thing while I find a solution to my back/pelvic pain and regain some fitness.

There are a couple of options for the 4-day personal training attendance course, so I have either until the end of October or the beginning of December to get myself sorted and feeling able to do that.

In all honesty, I’m very anxious about the attendance courses. Having been unable to maintain the level of fitness I’d like over the past year, I feel as though I’ll be the most unfit person there and not taken seriously. As an introvert, I don’t do well in large groups and really have to psych myself up for that kind of environment. The good news is that I won’t be going alone to the first one – Liz will also be there, as she’s also signed up for the course. We’ll be the naughty kids at the back of the room…

What I need to remember going forward is that I have a sound knowledge of this stuff. I’ve been learning about fitness for years. So many years. I already hold a fitness instructor qualification. It’s confidence that I lack, and the ability to follow the training plans that I put together. That’s really something I need to work on.

For now, I’m taking the exercise easy until my doctors appointment (only 5 days to go!). Yoga is pretty much out of the question with my current pain and niggles, but I can get in a good 25-30 minute session on the exercise bike.

Following our squat challenge, The Hardcore Four are taking on an ab challenge – I’m modifying mine heavily so that it doesn’t aggravate my back. So far, so good.

I’m getting a couple of good walks in every week, and short lunchtime walks are really helping to ease the pain I get from sitting down for too long at work.
I only have half an hour for lunch, but yesterday I found a circular route that takes me from the office, along the canal and back.

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Yesterday was very hot and sunny, but the canal bank was beautifully shady. It was lovely to get out in the fresh air, see the ducks and moorhens, and just relax for a while. I’m going to try to make a habit of going out every lunchtime – I think it’s good for my mental wellbeing as well as for my back.

Thinking Out Loud #2

migraines / bizarre goings on / horror films / pilates / finishing the living room

Disclaimer: this has taken me all day to write, from my bed, using my phone, thanks to day two of a migraine. I’ve read it through this evening now I’m feeling better, but I’m still a bit wibbly, so apologies for any errors or things that just plain don’t make sense!

Since I haven’t been able to do much of anything except sleep, I’ve had plenty of time to think. So I’m linking up with Amanda from Running With Spoons for another Thinking Out Loud Thursday.

  • I suppose the biggest thing on my mind today, and in my head, is migraines. This is my second one since last Wednesday. The first was mostly just visual, with a bit of a fizzy (not a typo) head. It’s been so long since I last had a migraine that it took me a while to twig what was happening. The current one is worse. No light show, but all the pain and nausea. And the dreams… Such bizarre, twisted dreams when I doze off! It’s a bit upsetting to have to shut out the bright sunlight today when we don’t see enough of it in this part of the world. I have my suspicions about what’s caused the migraines to come back, so hopefully I can get them sorted.
  • A funny thing happened outside my house the other day. Alex and I had just got home and parked the car. When he got out and said “****”, my first reaction was to wonder whether the rattly exhaust had just fallen off my car. But no.
    Thinking Out Loud #2
    “There’s a turkey”

    Not what you expect to find on the verge of a car park, but there was indeed a turkey. She was in the bushes, which lead down a slope into a bit of a thicket before breaking out onto the main road. She didn’t look like she had plans to go anywhere, but we were concerned in case she did run into the road.
    There’s a smallholding behind our house, so Alex phoned the owner to ask if it was his bird. No, he doesn’t keep turkeys. Our neighbours have chickens, so we thought we’d ask them just in case she was theirs. They weren’t home, so we kept an eye on the turkey from our window, and when the neighbours came home Alex knocked on their door. Not their turkey. But they went out and caught her, and took her home to look after until the owner could be found.
    That was a few days ago, and we still don’t know whose bird she is or how she came to be there.

  • I really want to work on the look of my blog a bit more. I can’t justify paying to upgrade/host it, so I want to see what I can do to make it a bit funkier and more visually pleasing. I need to work on my banner image, because the current one isn’t doing it for me. Doesn’t really represent what I want it to show, but it’s a good placeholder for now.
  • Another funny thing happened yesterday. A house two doors up from us is for sale. Who did we spot yesterday evening, just coming out from a viewing, but one of Alex’s ex-colleagues. Turns out he likes the house a lot and was going to put in an offer today.
    It would be so cool if he gets it. Not only would it be great for Alex to have a friend living close by (all our friends live miles away), but we’d also know we were getting a good neighbour move into the street. My fingers are firmly crossed that his offer is accepted!
  • It FollowsWe watched It Follows the other night. Oh, such a good film! Best horror I’ve seen in ages. I’m surprised the IMDb user rating isn’t higher because so many people recommended it to us. The creep factor was high; I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep alone after watching that! Less really is more with horror films. If you like a good, suspenseful film, check it out.
  • While I’m on the subject of horror films, I see they’ve released the first image of Pennywise from the new film of Stephen King’s It. If you have coulrophobia, maybe don’t click through to see it here…
    I think Bill Skarsgård looks suitably menacing. I’ve vowed not to compare this film to my beloved mini-series, so I will not compare him to Tim Curry’s Pennywise.
    I am disappointed to read that it’s now set in the ’80s instead of the ’50s, but I can understand wanting the adults’ story to be set in the current day, so I suppose it had to change.
  • I need to start doing Pilates again. I know my body hurts at the moment because of the migraine and because I’ve been lying down too long, but I’ve had general aches and pains for a while and Pilates was always my go-to for sorting those out. I can’t wait until the spare bedroom is finished (plasterer is coming next month!) so we can move clothes and boxes out of the gym room and make some space for proper workouts.
  • And talking of rooms being finished – our living room pretty much is!
    It’s taken a lot of time and work, and we couldn’t have done it without help from our families, but at last we have a proper floor, skirting boards, and everything is neat! Alex still wants to make a cupboard to hide the fugly gas meter (not visible in these photos but thanks, previous owner, for having it put in the living room instead of the utility area or outside). We’re also going to paint the window frames and make some floating shelves for the alcoves. We’ve bought some frames to turn the fireplace wall into a picture wall, and enjoyed choosing the photos we want printed to go in them. Just need to actually get them printed and framed. This is the fun part of renovating a house!

    Before:

    Thinking Out Loud #2
    Photo from estate agent’s website

    After:

    Thinking Out Loud #2
    Ninja snuck into the photo there

    Thinking Out Loud #2

Talk to me…

Do you experience migraines? If so, do you know what triggers yours?
Has anything strange happened to you recently?
What was the last really good movie you watched?

 

The post that I almost didn’t post…

…about the Rainbow Run 5k and anxiety.

I’m in the mood for honesty, so I’m going to skip over the 10k that I ran last weekend and tell the honest story of yesterday’s 5k colour run, before the urge to sugar-coat it kicks in.

The last week or so hasn’t been pretty. It’s all the same old stuff, but piling stress on top of stress, plus an added emergency trip to the garage to have my car repaired, never leads to anything good.

On Friday, my fiancé and I escaped from the DIY and other things that have been stressing us out and took my borrowed dog for a long walk. We covered 8 miles through some lovely countryside and along the canal before taking him home (where he immediately brought me a squeaky toy to throw – so much energy!). It was good to get out in the fresh air and do something active. The evening was spent watching There’s Something About Mary because we wanted a really feel-good film.

I thought that after that I might have had a good night’s sleep and woken up excited to do a colour run with some friends.
I did not.

I woke up late and couldn’t bear to get out of bed. The thought of leaving the house was terrible. I dragged myself down to the kitchen, made Alex a cup of tea and a green tea for myself. I went back upstairs and forced myself to get in the shower. Then I dithered about, wandering from place to place to get my running kit, find my race number, and eventually ended up sitting on the edge of the bed with my tea. I did not want to go. I felt like crying when I thought about having to go out and run surrounded by people. Had it not been a charity run, I wouldn’t have gone. In fact, the only reason I kept pushing myself to get ready was that a few people had sponsored me for the run and I felt like I couldn’t let them down by not going.

I cried when I pinned the race number on my t-shirt and then saw that it wasn’t straight. I yanked it off, declared I wasn’t going, then carried on getting ready. I was sure I was going to be late and miss the registration cut-off. I stuck some bread in the toaster and forgot about it until it was burnt, but covered it in nut butter anyway because I needed something to eat.

Alex drove me to the race venue, the beautiful Parc Bryn Bach. Several times I nearly insisted we turn around and go home. Halfway there the skies opened and the rain just poured down.

By the time we got to the park, the rain had stopped so Alex dropped me off on the roadside. I started to walk up the hill to the park and he passed me in the car, then got stuck in traffic. My legs felt like marshmallows. There was no energy in my body at all. I told myself that if I could get to the car I would just get in and we would go home, no matter how disappointed in me everyone would be. I couldn’t even run to where the car was inching forwards. The traffic finally started moving and I kept walking to the park. I didn’t know where I was going and as the marshals were busy directing traffic I just wandered around until I saw the crowds.

I had been told that registration would take place at the visitor centre, so I headed for that. There were plenty of people milling around inside, but no sign of registration. I decided to use the loo there and look for registration afterwards. I stood in the queue for the ladies for what felt like ages. It didn’t move and I felt like I was in the way of the people trying to get to the gents and the disabled loo, so I gave up and told myself I didn’t need to go anyway.

Two other confused ladies were looking for registration, and we were eventually told that it wasn’t at the visitor centre but near the start line. I trudged over, signed disclaimer form in hand, and found the tent. I handed over the form, which by that time was incredibly soggy because it had started to drizzle, and that was that. No name ticked off a list, no further instructions. I felt I may as well have not bothered with trying to find registration at all. That really is my only criticism of the day – the lack of signposting to where we were supposed to register (as well as the fact that we were told one place when it was another), and that it seemed a largely pointless thing anyway.

I’d signed up with a group of about 10, but in a crowded field full of people wearing white t-shirts, I couldn’t see them. I wandered around feeling (and probably looking) miserable and lost. Once again I considered just going home, but just as I was reaching the point of walking away, one of the group found me.

Things improved from then on. We had a chat, then joined in the group warm-up and the Nation Radio selfie.

IMG_4972
Photo credit: Nation Radio

At that point, the DJs doused the crowd with paint from pressurised canisters. We then made our way to the start, where we were set off in waves.
It was difficult to run because so many people in front were walking, so I ran and walked in intervals with one of the girls. We did more walking than running, but had a good chat all the way around, and managed a running finish.

The volunteers, especially those throwing the paint, deserve a huge shout-out. Their enthusiasm was brilliant and they looked like they were having a blast. It was a great event, raised a lot of money for the excellent children’s hospice, and all around me I could see people having lots of fun.

I collected my (somewhat bizarre) goodie bag, which contained sunscreen, a makeup palette and a 9 Bar, had a photo with the girls and our medals, then met Alex for the drive home.

I felt guilty for not enjoying myself as much as I could have, especially as it was a charity event. I felt like I hadn’t appreciated it fully, and all the hard work the charity and volunteers had put in. The volunteers, especially those throwing the paint, deserve a huge shout-out. Their enthusiasm was brilliant and they looked like they were having a blast. It was a great event, raised a lot of money for the excellent children’s hospice, and all around me I could see people having lots of fun. I still feel bad about that. I felt bad for not running more of it, even though I was keeping company with someone who couldn’t run more. But a text from my friend yesterday afternoon, which said ‘I’m impressed you made it there’ and another saying ‘seriously well done’ reminded me that I actually did really well to go and do it at all.

After three showers, most of the paint was off me. After two good scrubs, all the paint was off the bathtub. We went for a walk in the afternoon, then came home and watched a fitness documentary, both of which did wonders for my mood and motivation.

So. A totally honest post about how bloody difficult it is to get yourself out and moving when you’re battling with a bout of anxiety. Going for the run wasn’t a magical cure, didn’t make me feel happy, but it did at least make me feel that I’d done something.
I feel quite hesitant to post this, but I’m going to do it anyway, so please be kind if you’re commenting.

Last week wasn’t all bad…

Thank goodness for dogs and delicious food!

In my last post I talked about being injured. That seems to have sorted itself out, probably because I haven’t moved much over the last week.

I had plenty of good intentions. Rest and relaxation last weekend, followed by a week of getting back on track with upper body strength training, some pilates, maybe a few sessions on the exercise bike if my ankle felt up to it. Easing back into running by going for a few walks after work.

None of that happened.

Last week was a total shitstorm. Problems with the house, problems with the cats. One bad day after another, and then a message to say that a relative was in hospital having emergency surgery (he’s out of hospital now and recovering at home). I think the only day I didn’t cry from the stress of it all, whether in the car or in the toilets at work, was Monday.

I know some people can exercise through bad times. I wish I could. I wish I could put on my trainers or grab some weights and use exercise as therapy. I can’t. If I start a workout in a bad frame of mind, whether angry or sad, it never goes well and I end up feeling worse for it. So I didn’t work out all week. I had early nights in bed with a book instead. I don’t feel particularly bad about that. Panicky because I have a 10k next Saturday that I’m completely unprepared for, but not guilty for slacking off.

Don’t worry, that’s the gloom over with. Last week wasn’t all bad.

Things did pick up at the end of the week, because Friday is my day off and I get to walk a gorgeous border collie while his owners are at work. He’s always so excited to see me – this week he actually knocked me over while I was trying to get his lead on! I took him for a drive to a park with some lakes, and it was just lovely.

IMG_4613 copy.jpg
The park was once an old mine. This is the only bridge of its kind left in Wales.

Although there were some cars in the car park, I didn’t see a soul on the paths. We walked just short of 3 miles, and then I took him home to meet my fiancé, who was on his lunch break (and so that I could nip into the house to use the loo because I’d gulped down a 750ml bottle of water before the walk. Oops!).

I’ve been trying to calm my emotional eating down, and I had a pretty good week, food-wise. It even saw me drop a few pounds, which I’m pleased about.

I made a delicious mango & black bean salad to take to work for my lunches. It was so tasty, and kept me satisfied until I got home from work, without the need for me to snack.

On Monday night we had crispy duck and pancakes with hoisin sauce. It was out of the freezer, not made from scratch, but I chopped some cucumber and spring onions to go in the pancake wraps, and stir-fried some pak choi in garlic and soy sauce to go with it. We ate it whilst watching Game of Thrones. Nice little escape from the real world – what an episode!

Tuesday was the day I got the really bad news. Knowing I wouldn’t want to cook, Alex took me out for dinner. I had grilled halloumi on garlic bread with harissa hummus, followed by a Caribbean chicken burger. And wine. I had wine. And half a ‘sharing’ bag of salted crisps before bed, because I can’t turn off the need to eat my feelings just by clicking my fingers. At least I did stop at half the bag…

Wednesday’s dinner was a tuna steak with green beans, broccoli, olives and anchovies. I normally serve this with soft noodles that I can just throw in the wok. This time, I decided to try it with shirataki noodles, pan fried in the juices from the tuna, and I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was firmer than I’d been expecting, and once they’d soaked up the sauce and lime juice from the fish, they were delicious.

Thursday night I cracked again and we went to McDonald’s. I have to say, that was probably the nicest, freshest food I’ve had from McDonald’s in a long time. I enjoyed every bite. No photos because we all know what a cheeseburger looks like!

Friday night I made a bowl of soba salad. Supersonic soba salad, in fact. It’s from Dale Pinnock’s ‘Healthy Every Day’ cookbook. It’s really simple to make, and delicious, which was just what I needed.

So, I made some good food choices. On the days when my choices were somewhat questionable, I didn’t beat myself up over them. This is definitely progress.

Are you someone who uses exercise as a way to work out your emotions?
What’s your favourite lunch for workdays?

World Meat Free Day revisited. And I’m injured.

Again.

As the title suggests, I’m out of action. I suspect the problem is with my Achilles. I was meant to be seeing a doctor today, but woke to a text message from the surgery saying my appointment has been cancelled without explanation. I really need to change to a different surgery, because this happens far too often.

Anyhow, that’s meant no running and, aside from limping around at work, no walking this week. Combined with a shedload of problems in other areas of my life, it’s led to me having no drive to do anything productive at all. I’ve come home from work every night late because of traffic, stressed to the teeth, and just eaten junk food in front of the TV.

I’m going to use this weekend to try to just relax and reset my brain, as well as rest my stupid injury. I have a 10k coming up in a fortnight, so I need to get it sorted.

And now, a quick nod to World Meat Free Day last Monday. I meant to do a full-blown recap the day after, but Tuesday was really the start of my bad week and I thought if I couldn’t say anything nice, best not to say anything at all.

You see, I encountered a lot of negativity on Monday regarding World Meat Free Day. Personally, I didn’t find anything about the World Meat Free Day website preachy or pushy. If I had, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have been into it at all. I hate being preached at, whatever the topic. I’ve cut people off mid-sentence, unfollowed many people on social media, turned off documentaries, and stopped reading articles that I feel are trying to push something onto me or guilt me into doing (or not doing) something.
I felt that the whole thing was presented as more of a suggestion and a way of raising awareness of the difference people could make to the planet and to their own health. I found it interesting. Of course, how other organisations and individuals chose to present it may have come across differently.
Anyhow, that made me reluctant to tackle a blog post earlier this week.

How did my meat-free day go? Pretty well.

Breakfast was easy. I rarely eat meat with my breakfast; a bowl of cereal with strawberries (from my garden – so delicious), cocoa nibs and coconut milk is my usual breakfast at the moment.

Lunch was supposed to be mango and black bean salad. Slight hitch – I couldn’t get black beans. Welcome to the Valleys… I stood in the kitchen, running out of time to make something before I had to be somewhere, totally uninspired. I ended up throwing together a bowl of pasta with pesto, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts. It was delicious.

My snack was a Cadbury’s Caramel donut, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dinner was my favourite meal of the day. I’d been looking forward to trying this dish since reading about it in this post on Peanut Butter Runner’s blog. Avocado and scrambled egg on toast…with sauerkraut. I hadn’t been able to get hold of sauerkraut, despite trying three different shops, but my parents got me a jar when they went shopping, so I could finally try the meal. It was amazing. I love it! So much, in fact, that I’ve had it twice more since. If I leave off the eggs, I can make it at work for my lunch. I’d forgotten how much I love sauerkraut. Fun fact: the first time I ever had it was on a hot dog on Main Street at Disneyland Paris.

So delicious!
All in all, an excellent food day, and easy to avoid eating meat for 24 hours. I often have days where I accidentally don’t eat meat, but I’ll be making more of a conscious effort to plan meat-free days more often.

Now I’m going to make another conscious effort to get myself back on track with exercise. I may not be able to walk properly, or stand for long, but I can grab some dumbbells and do some seated upper body work.

I’ll probably do it whilst listening to Yazz & The Plastic Population to try and remind myself that yes, the only way is up. Oh yes, I did…

Wild garlic

Sunshine, a good book, and a chilled out birthday

Today is my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than by trying something new?

I’m a big fan of garlic, both for the flavour and the health benefits. I use it in most of my cooking, and occasionally even when I make juices. I’m pretty sure that as well as potentially lowering my blood pressure and boosting my immune system, it’s going to keep the vampires away from me.

I’ve wanted to try wild garlic for a long time, and recently I’ve been thinking of going foraging for some. Imagine how pleased I was when my fiancé came in from the garden yesterday with a handful of the stuff! He had been tidying up the garden, which we’ve been too busy to touch since we moved in in February, and come across a patch of wild garlic growing to the side of the path.

Wild garlic – not as pretty as most I’ve seen

This stuff is pungent! The smell of the leaves was enough that we had to keep it outside overnight. We used a little last night, just chopped the leaves over some salad, which was tasty, but I wanted to save the majority of what he’d picked so that I could make garlic mushrooms today.

Garlic mushrooms, with or without cream, with or without Stilton, in a pot or on toast, are one of my favourite dishes. If ever I go to a restaurant and see garlic mushrooms on the starter menu, I rarely look at the other choices.

I’ve only made my own at home once or twice, but when Alex handed me a bunch of wild garlic, I knew that was what I wanted to do with it.

I served the mushrooms over a vegan schnitzel. Perfect birthday lunch!

Delicious! My food photography needs some work, though…

Creamy Wild Garlic Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 500g mushrooms – I used a mixture of closed cup and mini portobello
  • Wild garlic – I used a handful of leaves and 2 bulbs – of course, you could just use a few cloves of garlic if you can’t get the wild stuff
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 30ml dry white wine or sherry
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • 60ml double cream
  • A pinch of parsley – I couldn’t get fresh, so used dried

Method

Chop the mushrooms and garlic. I chopped mine quite roughly to give it a more rustic look, and because I’m a lazy cook.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about two minutes, then reduce the heat.

Add the wine or sherry, lemon juice and the chillies. Stir through while the mushrooms cook.

When the mushrooms begin to soften, stir in the cream and parsley, and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the sauce has thickened to your liking.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. This worked well on a vegan schnitzel, but would be great on toast or as an accompaniment to chicken.

 

Alex and I ate lunch in the garden, in glorious sunshine. The garlic flavour was more subtle than I had expected, given the strong smell, but it was delicious. I re-planted the bulbs I didn’t use, in the hope that we’ll get another crop of leaves and maybe some flowers (which I’ve read are also edible) next year.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around in the sun with the cats, bee-spotting for the Great British Bee Count and reading a book that was recommended to me: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. I haven’t got very far with it yet, because I kept getting distracted, but so far it’s enjoyable and funny urban fantasy.

Magpie has enjoyed the sun today

Now I plan to get cut my very grown up birthday cake, and go back out into the garden to enjoy it with a nice bottle of cider.

Just because I’m another year older, doesn’t mean I have to grow up yet!

How did you spend your weekend?
Have you ever foraged for food or tried wild garlic?

2015

An exciting year – lots of big life decisions. Oh, and asthma.

So much happened last year that it’s difficult to know how to cram it all into a blog post. I’ve tried…

Early in 2015 I picked up my fitness routine again. I did Jillian Michaels workouts in my living room, Pilates sessions on the reformer in the spare bedroom, and then I started running again. I decided to use the C25k app to structure my workouts, and it worked really well for me for a few weeks, but I soon felt I could do more and went rogue for a couple of sessions, then stopped using the app. I’m not great at sticking to plans… I also started going to the free beginners sessions held by my local running club, which helped me to realise that I actually like running with other people. I never would have thought of myself as a social runner!

Springtime always makes my boyfriend and me want to get out and about even more than usual, and living near the canal meant we could walk straight from our house most evenings. One particular Sunday in June we did a lovely 15-mile walk along the canal from Blaenavon to Pontypool. We also walked up several of the mountains in our local area, and took my parents’ dog along for most of those trips.

Things took a bit of a turn for the worst when I found out that I was going to lose my job. The funding for my workplace had been cut, and everyone was in danger of being made redundant. Everyone but me, because I was on a fixed term contract. No redundancy benefits for me, just a ‘thank you and goodbye’. Cue much panic, and many hours spent looking for a new job.

It’s difficult to think of anything more soul crushing than the process of desperately looking for a job, especially when you know most of the jobs you apply for will just be something to pay the bills.

In the midst of it all were the Easter holidays. I had two weeks off, and I spent them not searching for or applying for jobs. I spent them walking and running and reading. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life, and I decided that sod it, I wanted to work in fitness. I wasn’t going to let other people put me off this time. I didn’t want to wake up every morning and go to an admin job, sitting on my bum, shuffling paper, not enjoying what I was doing with my life. So I did it. I applied for a 24+ loan, was accepted, signed up to do a course that would incorporate fitness instructor, personal trainer, and exercise referral qualifications.

Part of the reason I decided to take that plunge was because 2015 was the year I turned 30. I already felt I’d missed out on a lot when I’d been ill, and I hadn’t had a chance to really do some of the things that I wanted to. It wasn’t exactly an ‘ermagherd, I’m 30 and I’ve done nothing with my life!’ panic, but there was a definite feeling that I needed to start doing things that would make me feel more fulfilled.

My 30th birthday was great. They made a fuss of me in work, bought me plants for the garden and balloons. Ever tried to drive home in a 2-seater convertible with helium balloons on the passenger seat? I nearly didn’t make it to 31! My parents took me for a surprise Thai meal in the evening, and Alex had a cake made especially for me. He had also surprised me with a weekend away in North Wales, so that we could walk up Snowdon, which we’d been talking about doing for some time.

That was a bloody brilliant weekend. We stayed in a gorgeous B&B called Felindre Farm. If ever you’re looking to visit that area of the world, I highly recommend it. Gorgeous accommodation in a beautiful area, and the owners are lovely.
The Sunday morning we were supposed to walk up Snowdon it was rainy and gloomy. We ate breakfast, crossing our fingers that the weather would improve, and it did.

This is probably one of the best photos from the climb. I was still pretty cheery at this point.

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About halfway up Snowdon. Still smiling…

For the most part, I can’t say I was the greatest company to walk with that day. I found it a struggle, even though the Llanberis path is supposed to be the easiest route, and by the time we reached the summit I was very grouchy. The mountain was wreathed in mist, and there was no view from the top, so I don’t really have any photos of us when we got up there. By the time we walked back down, I felt like my knees were filled with broken glass, but after a lie down in the B&B and a shower I felt much better, and pleased with the achievement of making it to the top.
I had just finished getting ready to go into Bala, the nearest town, for a meal, when Alex got down on one knee and proposed.
He had wanted to do it at the top of Snowdon, but my face of thunder, combined with the mist and cold, had persuaded him that wasn’t the right time.

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The rest of the holiday was filled with congratulations from the owners of the B&B, as well as their other guests. We spent the day after Snowdon at the Lake Vyrnwy Spa, resting our tired legs. We visited the Red Kite centre near Rhayader, and meandered home on our last day via Barmouth, to be met with more congratulations from our families when we arrived.

In July I started a new job, working for an organisation I’d been trying to get a job with for several years. I instantly loved the job and the people there, and it was a job that really made me feel as though I was making a difference and doing something good with my life. It was only a temporary position, which fitted in well with my fitness qualification. By the time my contract ended, I would have all my qualifications and could move into the fitness industry.

I qualified as a fitness instructor a week after starting my new job. I was suffering from a cold, thanks to ‘new job germs’, but I made it through the assessments and passed.

Then I hit another big fitness-related problem. The cold became a chest infection. The chest infection didn’t clear up. After a month or so, the doctor gave me a Ventolin inhaler. It wasn’t until October/November that they diagnosed me with asthma and gave me a steroid inhaler. By that time I’d lost a lot of my fitness and hadn’t been able to keep up with my course. It felt like a bit of a disaster, but with some help from my tutor I plodded on to get my paperwork and assignments finished, then put the attendance part of my course on hold and tried to get my brand new asthma under control whilst building my fitness back up.

By the autumn we were in a position, with a lot of help from our generous families, to think about buying a house. We weren’t really looking, we just thought we’d go for a drive to see what was about. We found a lovely house for sale, and within a few weeks we’d viewed it three times and were in the process of buying it.

So many big life decisions in such a short time! 2015 was, despite some sticky moments and the inevitable stresses that go along with these types of changes, one of the most positive I can remember.

And now here I sit, a qualified fitness instructor and a (still very slow) runner. I’m engaged to the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, typing this post in the dining room of the house that we own. Funny how much can change in a year!