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.

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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.

Thinking Out Loud #1

10k without training / taking photos for your blog / ‘shedding for the wedding’ / choices / good things in sport

Very little running or fitness to report this week, so let’s try something different!

Thinking Out Loud is something I came across when I started following Running With Spoons. It is what it says. So here are the things that have been wandering through my mind today.

  • Something I’m curious to ask my fellow bloggers about, so I tweeted earlier. Were you embarrassed to be taking lots of photos when you first started blogging?
    I went to a lovely restaurant on Tuesday night and I wanted to take a few photos of the décor and the food so I could share on the blog. I just couldn’t bring myself to get up and do it, though. If you were embarrassed to be taking photos at first, how did you get over it?
    • ‘Shedding for the wedding’ is a phrase I’ve only just become aware of. But as soon as I’d read it once on a blog, it was everywhere. I don’t like it. This idea that it’s just what you do now, you lose weight before your wedding. But I can’t deny it’s exactly what I am doing. I’m not getting married until 2018, but I know that by then I want to be considerably more comfortable in my skin than I am now. Yes, that means losing weight. A few months ago I was the heaviest I recall being in my adult life. I hate it. I’m uncomfortable all the time, my confidence has taken a nosedive since the weight started going on a couple of years ago, and none of my clothes fit anymore. My goal isn’t really to be skinny by the time I get married. It’s just to be comfortable and confident again. I don’t know how much weight I’ll have to lose to get to that point, but I know I’ve been there before, so I’ll recognise it when I get there. Added bonus: not hating the way I look in my wedding photos, because I currently want to cry when I see photos of myself.
    • Similar theme for my next musing. This is very much on my mind at the moment. I’m being kind to myself and giving myself choices. I realised a little while ago that choices were the key to my success at giving up pork. Not once since I decided I don’t want to eat pigs anymore have I told myself I must not eat something. My mindset was simply ‘I don’t eat pork’. No ‘can’t’ or ‘mustn’t’. When I went out to dinner earlier this week, I fancied mussels as a starter, then noticed there was bacon in the sauce. I didn’t think ‘I can’t have that’; I told myself I could have it if I wanted it. But I didn’t want it. I think giving myself similar choices will be very helpful to my weight loss. It’s something I’ve not done before when trying to lose weight, so I’m interested to see how it goes.
  • I have a 10k run coming up on Saturday morning. I haven’t trained. Between problems with my ankle and the dreaded piriformis syndrome, I’ve barely run lately. I feel like I’m really not ready to take on a 10k. I feel like I’m crazy to be going ahead with it. But at the same time, I’m excited about it. I’m running (as those of you who’ve read some of my previous entries will know) with my best friend. We did a 5k colour run a fortnight ago, which was great fun. We’ll be doing this 10k with her 6-month-old baby in the buggy, so there’s not a great deal of pressure to be fast. It’s a flat course, and we’ll be Jeffing (using the Jeff Galloway walk/run method). We won’t be running to get a good time; we’ll be running to have a good time.
  • Final thought. I dislike football a lot. Tennis bores me senseless. But I hear Vassos’s sport updates on Radio 2 whilst driving to work and I have to say, Iceland… Well done, Iceland! And my colleague showed me a little of Marcus Willis at Wimbledon – he just seems to be full of joy. Like a puppy.

Anyway. That’s enough thinking out loud for today. I have packing to do, stretches to do for my piriformis muscle, and then I’m going to go and put together a CD for the drive to Llanelli tomorrow. Just for a start, I’m thinking Weezer, Cake, Bowie, Kylie Minogue, and Queen.

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.

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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…

Kolor Dash

I’ve never been so orange in my life…

I woke up yesterday morning, excited for my first running event, the 5k Kolor Dash in Newport. Not only was it my first event, but also a colour run organised by and in aid of a great charity, St David’s Hospice Care. And I was going to be running it with by best friend. What could be better?

Alex had agreed to come along and support us (not at all influenced by the promise of BBQ after the run), so after a healthyish breakfast of cereal, strawberries from our garden, and cocoa nibs, we set off for Tredegar Park in Newport.

We got there fairly early. Registration opened at 10 o’clock, and we knew parking was going to be tight so we wanted to make sure we were there in plenty of time. There was a little confusion for both us and Liz, because the park wasn’t signposted at all coming off the motorway, but we all made it there and headed over to the registration tent at about half past 10.

Everything was so well organised and efficient. We collected our numbers and then headed back to the park entrance to find a toilet. With that taken care of, it was time to meander over to the start, where the DJ was playing some energetic music to get people fired up. Alex left us to find a spot to spectate, while we tried to join in with the warmup. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so good at getting into things like that. The personal trainer and Bollywood dancers leading the warmup from the stage were fantastic, but I think Liz and I both felt a bit awkward.

We made a small error with our placement at the start. Because we knew we would be doing running and walking intervals, we decided to start near the back. We ended up a little too far back, behind quite a lot of children and people with buggies. That hampered our start, so our goal of running the first mile and then doing intervals for the rest sort of went out the window.

The course was 3 1-mile laps around the park. It was a little frustrating having to dodge and overtake, but as a lot of the slower runners and people with children dropped out after the first lap, the second two felt easier.

The volunteers showering runners with paint powder were brilliant. As you can see from my face, the team at the orange station were particularly enthusiastic! Sunglasses were encouraged, to keep paint out of runners’ eyes, but somehow the first cloud of orange went straight under my glasses and into my eyes anyway!

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Attempt at a running selfie
The music was fun – every time we came around to the start of a new lap we’d have a great song like Gina G or McFly.

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Better attempt at a post-run selfie
Afterwards, we claimed our medals, took a few photos, then headed back to our cars to clean up a bit. Thank goodness for baby wipes! We went back over to the park to get some food and coffee, and watched The Bollywoodettes perform while we sat on the grass to eat.

The whole day was well organised, with a lovely atmosphere. I love the engraving on the back of the medal – my first medal for a live event! I hope the Kolor Dash runs again next year – I’ll definitely be signing up! Huge thanks to St David’s Hospice Care for putting on the run, and to all the staff and volunteers who gave their time to make it a success!

It was great fun, and running with Liz was brilliant. I’m definitely looking forward to our 10k together next month, and I really hope we can run together more often, even though we live 50+ miles away from each other.

Running again

Finally!

What’s this? An actual blog post about running? No way!

I have, to put it mildly, been a bit crap these last few weeks. I ran twice last week. I ran once the week before, and the week before that. I haven’t been idle, I’ve walked and started back to strength training, but for several reasons I just haven’t run.

Last week was a good running week, though. I decided that since I was visiting my parents after work on Tuesday, I would take my running kit with me and go for a run along the canal path near their house. It’s one of the places I feel safe running alone, so that wouldn’t be an issue. Of course, after sitting in traffic, sweating like mad despite having the car windows open, I didn’t feel like running. It was only when my dad checked the traffic news and found that my route home was blocked by a collision that I decided I would go for the run after all.
I aimed for 2 miles, but my app had somehow reconfigured itself to kilometres. I’m not the greatest at maths on the fly, so I misjudged and came up short at 1.96 miles. I was thrilled to have run the whole distance, after such a lousy few weeks with no running time, and pretty pleased that I managed the first mile with a pace of 11:23, and the whole run with an average of 12:04.

Wednesday is the day I usually run with a group of ladies from work, but last Wednesday I was the only person up for it. I didn’t fancy running alone around the area I work, so I headed to my parents’ house to change and run the canal path again, determined to make it to 2 miles this time. I made it to 2.33 miles, and managed an average pace of 12:06.

Since then, I let things get in the way. The heat – I’m not used to it at all, let alone running in it. It’s aggravated my asthma, making things that much more difficult. Anxiety has played a large part in keeping me from running. More about that in a future post, but for now it’s enough to say that some days I just can’t get out of the front door to run because of it. My birthday on the weekend meant cake and booze, rather than exercise, and I just haven’t been able to get back into the mindset.

I left the house today with my running kit in my bag, and although I had to be somewhere after work so I couldn’t join my colleagues for a run, I once again changed at my parents’ house and went out, determined to get myself back into the habit.

The beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
It was hard going. I promised myself that after the first mile I could stop and do run/walk intervals. I just had to get to the bridge that marked a mile… Then at the bridge I convinced myself to go to 1.5… I got there and saw a dog walker coming towards me, so told myself to just pass him and then I could stop. Then it was 2 miles. Then it was ‘go on, just beat that 2.33 you did last week’. But 2.33 is so close to 2.5… I made it, according to my Garmin, to 2.62 before I really did have to stop because my lungs were struggling to cope.

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Maybe don’t look at the pace there, yeah?
Since getting back home, a stinking, sweaty mess (who wants to look pristine after a workout, anyway?), I’ve caught up with social media and discovered that today is Best Friends Day. Knowing that, I can’t pass up a shout out to my best friend, Liz. We’ve known each other for almost 13 years, since meeting at university, and stuck together through thick and thin. Check out her blog, Lizitivity. It’s bloomin’ good.

In all our years of friendship, with both of us having an interest in fitness and running, we’ve never once worked out together. That’s going to change next weekend – we’re running together for the first time on Sunday at the Kolor Dash in Newport. This is my first event ever, and I can’t wait! We’ll be run/walking, as Liz has recently had a baby, and this is her first running event since.

We’re running for St David’s Foundation Hospice Care, a charity that’s very close to my heart, as they looked after my granddad in his last days. They do brilliant work supporting patients and families, so if you’d like to read more about their projects or sponsor us and contribute to the work they do, this is our fundraising link.

Now I think it’s time for me to relax with my newest Netflix obsession: Orange is the New Black. Despite thinking I wasn’t going to like it when I first put it on, I’m now halfway through the first series and hooked!

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?

Henrhyd Falls

A walk in the Brecon Beacons

This post was meant to be written early in the week, as a bank holiday weekend recap. I’ve been more disorganised than usual this week, but I really wanted to share this little gem of a walk, so here it finally is.

On Sunday morning, as a break from the housework and wallpaper stripping I’d spent the previous two days doing, Alex and I decided we’d go out for the day. I’m notoriously indecisive and terrible at thinking of places to go, so I was glad that Alex already had a plan. He knows I love waterfalls (I love all types of running water, in fact. I find it so exciting and therapeutic at the same time.) and we’re trying to explore new places, so we set off to Henrhyd Falls in the Brecon Beacons.

Henrhyd Falls (which, as far as my limited Welsh can make out, translates as ‘Old Ford Falls’) are the highest in South Wales, and very easy to get to. There is a National Trust car park at the start of the trail down to the falls, but when we arrived it was jam-packed with cars and picnickers. Not surprising, since it was around midday on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend. We found somewhere to park in the village of Coelbren nearby, and walked back to the start of the route.

The scenery along the path to the falls

It was a short walk down a steep hill, then across a wooden bridge and up some steps to the waterfall. The woodland surrounding us was green and lush, and our progress was pretty slow because I kept stopping to take photos.

The waterfall was stunning. We stood for a while to watch it and take photos, then decided we would take the path to the side and walk behind it.

Henrhyd Falls

I have a terrible fear of heights and falling, so on the slippery path with a drop to one side, it was slow going. If Alex hadn’t been with me, patiently waiting and helping me across, I never would’ve attempted it. I imagine most people would find it easy enough, though.
Boy, was it worth the effort for me! First time I’ve ever stood behind a waterfall; it was brilliant to see the water crashing down, and feel the spray.

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Behind the waterfall

We made our way back the way we had come, and decided to follow the path along the river, signposted to the village of Abercraf, for a while before turning around and retracing our steps to where we had parked. In all, the walk took us an hour an a half, although we stopped for a while at the waterfall.

Lovely water drips on the rocks, and a red-faced selfie

We didn’t realise at the time that the route we’d taken was almost exactly the National Trust’s ‘Henrhyd Falls and Nant Llech’ walk – we didn’t get as far as the landslide or old watermill, but I’d like to go back one weekday and do it when there aren’t as many people around. Henrhyd Falls would be a lovely spot for a picnic after a long walk.

World Meat Free Day 2016

Going meat-free for a day

Monday 13th June 2016 is World Meat Free Day.

I’m not vegetarian. I’m a meat-eater who struggles most days with her conscience. I realise the hypocrisy of calling myself an animal lover and then sitting down to a meal that includes meat. I’ve tried giving up completely in the past, and let’s just say it doesn’t work.* Placing that sort of restriction on my diet just makes me miserable and angry. I’m not pleasant to be around when I’m like that.

However, I do eat less meat these days than I used to. I probably eat a greater variety – in the last few years I’ve become far more adventurous with food – but less often than I used to.

I don’t eat lamb, simply because I can’t stand the smell of it cooking. And recently (65 days ago, in fact), I stopped eating pork. I love pigs, and I’ve felt a lot of guilt over the last few months about eating them. So I stopped. I won’t lie, it’s been challenging. Ever notice how many pizza toppings are pork-based? Most of them. And hidden pork in a lot of dishes when eating out has threatened to trip me up a few times. But I don’t feel as though I’m missing out, really. It’s a choice that I’ve made, and that makes it a lot easier to stick to than if I’d been told I must give it up. Plus I’ve discovered that Linda McCartney sausages are brilliant, so no worries that I’ll miss out on hot dogs when we have BBQs!

So, back to World Meat Free Day. What’s it about? Why are we being encouraged to take part?

According to the World Meat Free Day website, it’s about saving the planet. Population growth and the demand for meat is having a huge impact on the environment. If a family of four goes without meat for one day, the water saved will be the amount that one person would use in a month.
It’s also about health. That same family of four going meat-free for one day could save the amount of dietary fat found in 26 teaspoons of butter.

Check out the sustainability calculator to see how much of an impact one meat-free day for you, your family, or even your colleagues could have.

It may be easier than you think to go a day without meat. There are a lot of great vegetarian recipes out there, or you could simply substitute ingredients in your favourite recipes to make them meat-free. Here are some ideas:

Have an omelette for breakfast. They’re quick and easy to make, and you can fill them with just about any veggies you have in the fridge. My favourite is a simple omelette with warmed cherry tomatoes and a little sprinkling of cheese.

A big, filling salad at lunchtime doesn’t have to include meat. Try adding chickpeas, mixed beans, or eggs to your leafy greens. Give it a kick with a simple lemon, olive oil and garlic dressing, or try balsamic vinegar mixed with olive oil and some dried mixed herbs.

What about a wrap for lunch? Wrap sliced avocado and sundried tomatoes in tortilla smeared with cream cheese. Or make coronation ‘chicken’ with Quorn pieces instead, and pop that into a wrap with some lettuce.

Use mushrooms as a substitute for meat. Chopped mushrooms are great used in place of meat in casseroles, and big portabellas make lovely vegetarian burger alternatives.

Having chilli for dinner? Try using lentils instead of the meat. You can get quick-cook lentils that don’t require soaking, or use tinned, to make things easier.

Tofu isn’t for everyone (personally, I prefer it to be cooked for me in a restaurant), but if you haven’t tried it, it’s worth a go. Pinterest is a gold mine for tofu recipes that look mouth-wateringly good!

If you’re in a hurry, you could try a meat-free ready meal. I’m fond of a Quorn cottage pie, and their toad in the hole is pretty good, too. Linda McCartney kievs are on my ‘to try’ list, and lots of supermarkets have their own meat-free ranges in the chilled and frozen aisles.

Finally, here’s the link to a recipe that I absolutely love. Fiery Welsh Dragon Hash Browns, from Independent Kitchen.

Image courtesy of Independent Kitchen
It’s worth the effort to make them from scratch; a crispy, spicy hash brown topped with a poached egg is delicious, filling, and you probably won’t even notice there’s no meat on your plate!

So, are you in? Will you be going meat-free on Monday 13th June? You can pledge your support on the World Meat Free Day website. I’ll be updating after the day to tell you how it went in my household!

* Polite footnote to say that this isn’t an invitation for unsolicited advice on becoming vegetarian or vegan. You eat your way, I eat mine.

Goose eggs

…and the other highlights of this week.

One of the great things about our new house is that directly behind our garden is a smallholding. I love waking up hearing the chickens and geese, and it’s lovely to look out of the window and see them in the field. It’s also great that the owner sells us eggs. I eat a lot of eggs, and I love knowing they’ve come from the birds there. Truly free range. I’ve been a fan of duck eggs for a very long time, but never tried a goose egg. Until yesterday.

Alex managed to get us a goose egg each from the smallholding. Having done a little research, I’ve found that geese don’t lay often – only about 40 eggs per laying season. No wonder I’ve never seen one before.

Look at the size of this egg!

Goose eggs are much larger than chicken or duck eggs. I’d say these were almost three times the size of the chicken eggs we typically have. Their shells are very hard; I had to crack them with a knife, and the texture of the raw egg is a lot thicker than I expected.

We decided to try them very simply: scrambled on granary toast. I charred a couple of small orange peppers to go with mine. The scrambled goose egg was very rich in taste and texture. It was incredibly creamy and the sweet bite of the peppers was the perfect accompaniment to cut through that.

Perhaps I needed a smaller plate…

Goose eggs contain a lot of valuable minerals, including iron and selenium, and lots of vitamins, including B-12. However, they are high in cholesterol, so they’re best eaten as an occasional treat.

Next time we’re lucky enough to have them, I think I’ll try poaching. I imagine Yorkshire puddings or pancakes made with goose eggs would be fantastic.

Whilst the eggs were definitely the high point of my week (I’m easily pleased), I’ve also had a couple of nice things drop through the letterbox.

The first was my fitness instructor certificate. I should be far more excited about this than I am, but I qualified over six months ago and having to wait so long for the certificate has taken the shine off a little. Still, it’s nice to have it at last.

The second bit of post was my very first race number! It’s for the Tŷ Hafan Rainbow Run in July. That gave me a little boost. It hasn’t been a good running week fortnight and getting the number for one of the events I’m doing this summer has given me a little more motivation to get out for my next run.

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What’s been the highlight of your week?
Have you ever tried goose eggs? If so, what’s your favourite way to cook them?