Thursday, 29 May 2014
I've been very vocal over the last few months about my weight loss and you've probably all been shouting at the "virtual" me asking me to pipe down – I'm not sorry (haha), as Sarah at Primal Performance has truly helped to change my life for the better. However. I've recently encountered an old issue that has stopped me (very literally) in my tracks. About 8 years ago, no thanks to my little pup at the time (yes, he's still in the dog house over this one!) dripped water from his beard all over the place and I slipped in grand style, landing in the "splits" position on the kitchen floor. Ouch + a few swear words! The doctors & hospital fobbed me off, popped me on some highly addictive medication and told me to "learn to love the pain" after a series of physio sessions didn't help me. Skip forward to last week and whilst training in the sunshine with Sarah, something clicked and my back went "ping", resulting in her needing to peel me off the floor as I winced in agony. Since I've started training, deadlifting, running, cycling and so on, my back has twinged on and off and there's been a lot of ceasing up, building up to this nasty pain that has stopped me from exercising full stop. I'm able to walk around (just about) and do some stretches several times a day, but it's pretty bad and in turn, so stupidly frustrating. I just want to go out for a jog and I NEVER thought I would hear myself say that! So, whilst I work with the miraculous Soraya at the Saffron Walden Osteopath Clinic (she's a back saver and is helping me through it) I have decided to focus on the things that make me happy, keep me focused and relaxed and enjoy some relaxation to help me in my recovery. I've been enjoying reading some magazines and books that I've been meaning to catch up on, painting my nails a rainbow of different colours, playing with the puppy, brainstorming creative ideas, enjoying the odd cocktail & roast dinner, lazy brunches with good friends, heading to local food festivals & new food openings, planning overseas travel, walking through Cambridge market and buying myself beautiful flowers, taking a relaxing trip to the coast & eating ice cream or to see my "must see" films at the cinema with some popcorn, enjoying a loose leaf cuppa with a DVD, eating
cake healthy (and seasonal) food to keep me on track and even enjoying a guilty pleasure or two in the form of episodes of "Storage Hunters". If you haven't seen this programme, it's basically a load of bargain hunters bidding for unclaimed storage lockers full of crap for a lucky dip of findings within them, I adore this show, I am well and truly addicted! I also asked my social media followers what they like to do when they are having a crappy day or time and I'd love to share with you just a few of the responses I received, they are fantastic ideas, so thank you to all who joined in with this conversation... @BridgesCamb - Have some really nutritious tasty food, avoid those sugar highs and lows. Rae Snape - A walk in the woods. Nature: birds, drizzly rain, look up at the trees and breathe in deep. Really deep. You'll feel reconnected with everything. @Miss_Informed86 - If I can just push myself out of the door and go running I always feel great. Other days however you can't beat choccy biccies! Anna McConnell - Watch a film, usually a Cary Grant film if I am trying to cheer myself up. @MrNeilB - Favourite songs. You know the ones that send a tingle down your spine. Yeah those. Extra loud. Kathy Salaman - Watch an episode or two of The Simpsons. Love Homer! @SchoolDinners – I do something for someone else, bake a cake, smile at a friend, take someone a coffee. Don't navel gaze. Emma Furness - I knit : ) @nortonofmorton - I find walking helps in the rare situation that I'm in an utterly foul mood. That and throwing things. Aggie Redpath - DON"T go and start chomping your way through the fridge, we have ALL done that, not a good move, and one we ALL regret!! @CambridgeAroma - I like to sit in front of one of my hives and watch my bees. Julie York - Was feeling low today so spent an hour on my veggie plot digging away with my 7yr old grandson...feel great now! @Paper_Obsessed - Write in my journal is my go to activity when feeling in a mood. Let's me rant, offload and start working through solutions. Pete Robbins - For me it was spending yesterday really getting to grips with an old friend called the drum kit, I am am happier and more motivated for it. Nothing quite lifts my spirit than spending time playing the instrument I love. @cakeswithfaces - You can't underestimate the healing properties of a shower! Washing your face & combing your hair will do for minor bad moods. Fiona McDuff - I eat chocolate (guilt free). I restrain myself the rest of the time so that I can indulge when I need it most! @GentlemanBaker - Tea and Cake. Tea and cake is like a little five minute holiday in ones day. Aoife Maxwell - Swim in Jesus green outdoor pool - never fails to cheer me up. Followed by wine and nice dinner - preferably cooked by someone else! Here's to a speedy recovery and a potential training plan for a 10k run in October… gulp! How do you deal with a crappy day? Do you eat good (or bad food!)? Do you exercise (if you can!)? Or do you try something a little different in your approach? I'd love to hear from you below…
Monday, 26 May 2014
I was recently invited to join a very special party on the Cambridgeshire/Essex border to celebrate the launch of some very exciting happenings within a homely and vibrant cookery school that not even my food-loving self had heard of previously. You know me by now, I'm never one to turn down some feasting and a good old nosey around a fantastic venue. Just Cook is a purpose built cookery school nestled within the historic station-side buildings of the Maltings next to Newport mainline station in Essex, just a hop from Saffron Walden. It all stemmed from an idea by Tim Ryan, a passionate man who wanted to inspire people through his fun outlook on food and soon the idea of a well-equipped cookery school grew. Tim joined forces with his resident chef, Maxine Quinn who shares his passion for cooking and she now manages the Just Cook Cookery School too - you simply have to engage in just a short conversation to become addicted to her enthusiasm for a community-minded space that will offer a place to learn, relax and have fun at the same time. As soon as I walked through the doors I felt right at home, the soft colours and low-level lampshades make this venue feel like a loft apartment, it really did feel as though I had just walked into their home kitchen... and it made me want to roll up my sleeves and help, I think that's just the natural hostess in me, but it didn't feel as sterile as I had expected it to. There are 6 individual cooking stations all built around the central dining area, which is made of a large communal table and chairs for an intimate dining experience after a lesson, it's such a great idea and makes use of every inch of the room within this first floor studio space. Everything is provided for all cookery lessons, you are even given some recipes to take home with you afterwards, so this makes it a perfect venue for an intimate celebration or a great excuse to join a pre-arranged class or two. The overhead lights house built in extractor fans, which is just such a clever design in itself, I couldn't help but geek out about this little touch, I loved it. At first I thought it had a speaker or sound system within it, until someone mentioned that this was a clever way of hiding the extractor fans, very clever! Cookery classes are run by their regular chefs, as well as guest chefs from local food businesses, there are some exciting names in the pipeline. We were treated to Indian inspired treats on the night cooked freshly by Priyanka Bamford of Pri's Kitchen and the floral displays were created by Claire Ashman Smith of Waterbaby Flowers, who is also teaching floristry workshops within the school. It's a varied class list and it will grow even more as they grow, I may even fancy helping to offer my own skills in the future, so watch this space.. You will be able to book Just Cook for private supper clubs, learning to cook the food that you plan to eat should you so desire, allowing up to 14 guests at one time, as well as classes on offer for children & teenagers to help their kitchen confidence. Private catering is also on offer and by the taste of their homemade macarons on offer on the evening alone, I'd say this could be food worth looking into for a memorable event. Rachel Hewlett of The Biscuit Jar was also present and had organised some beautifully handmade biscuits with the Just Cook logo on the them for everybody to take home as a party favour - needless to say, this didn't make it home in one piece, it would have been too rude not to give it a go for pudding! This is somewhere well worth keeping an eye on, it's not too far from Cambridge and is in the perfect location from a hop up from London too, no excuses. With courses ranging from Italian through to fish classes, flower arranging, Indian, Moroccan, Thai and even Spanish, there's going to be something for every taste, making it a great gift option for a food-loving friend perhaps. This was just a sneaky peek behind the scenes, so I cannot wait to see what they can do when it comes to the classes. The food and drink on the night was delicious, the kitchen was smelling gorgeous and the buzz was electric, everybody was enjoying themselves and this is what I'm looking forward to seeing at future events within this new cookery school. The Just Cook team are also planning to create vintage tea parties for private hire and will potentially be running baking classes too, so this is very exciting and something I can't wait to get involved with as a guest... I can just imagine enjoying an afternoon tea in their beautiful kitchen after helping to prepare some of the elements, it would make for a memorable afternoon or celebration if you fancied trying somewhere a little more unusual. www.just-cook.com
Please note - This visit was a complimentary/preview event, following a visit to view this venue to meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions, please do email: email@example.com
Saturday, 24 May 2014
As you may know by now, I'm the queen of secrets when it comes to afternoon tea and all things related to this great British pastime. Well, if you share the same passions as myself, you may or may not have heard of The Secret Tea Society.... I'm a member myself and this is a club worthy of a mention, having finally been to my first ever Secret Tea Society meet up since joining in December 2013. And oh boy, this was an afternoon tea to remember! Firstly, if you don't know what this Secret Tea Society is all about, well, you're not really too clever in my honest opinion! This is like Fight Club, but without the fisticuffs... I hope! Swap the underground bare-knuckle fighting for afternoon tea in lovely secret venues and you've got the picture. Created by the very lovely Claire Worrell, you can join The Secret Tea Society for a modest fee (you can opt for a pretty trio of china and loose leaf tea to arrive as one option), she has created a network of tea loving ladies who may first ask you to do a little dance and sing a song, but will welcome you into the fold if you adore these traditions as much as she does. You can join this members only club at any time and there are many different themed events of varying costs (sometimes free) throughout the year, which allows you to pick and choose the ones that sound right for you. As a Cambridge girl, I was concerned that I'd be travelling a lot to head down to these events, but Claire is open to suggestions for events further afield, so who knows, I may have an idea or two up my sleeve to help her out. I was even suggesting the club to a friend of mine a few months back, Cat of The Teatime Treatery and bizarrely, she had also just joined and had booked her very first event on the same day as my own first visit... It's a very small world! And this truly wasn't just any old afternoon tea event, this was a very special day indeed, one that Cat and I spent a lot of time building up to, bubbling with excitement and nervous energy equally. This was an event to mark the first birthday of The Secret Tea Society and there was only one theme to mark this special occasion.... Downton Abbey. This was to be a 1920's inspired afternoon tea, with a suggested 1920's wardrobe to match. Not only that, but this was to be hosted at Byfleet Manor in Surrey, better known to fellow Downton geeks as "The Dowagers' House" where the mother of Lord Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) lives in this hit TV show. This was truly an honour, as Byfleet Manor is a private residence, not usually open to the general public, so a very lucky group of tea enthusiasts we were! The guests made a terrific effort to dress up, with a mix of colour, beads & pearls, stunning hair styles, dresses and heels, the house was buzzing with excitement as we took our welcome cocktails to the tea lounge overlooking the picturesque gardens to sit down for a few hours whilst getting to know some new friends. Each place setting had a stamped envelope with a pack of loose leaf tea and a stunning hand decorated biscuit for everybody to take home with them, such a beautifully made teapot shaped biscuit, I ALMOST didn't want to eat it! The afternoon tea was served by staff dressed in black and white outfits, the butler in a smart black suit and the waitress in a full maids outfit, they looked fantastic and knew their loose leaf tea, much to our delight. They even posed for photos with some of us sat in the world famous "Dowagers' chair" later on, we really were nerds! The china was matching and the small silver butter knives were stunning, with ornate handles and shining beautifully in the sunshine. Because this was a family home, owned by the lovely Julie Hutton and her family, there were animals walking around the house and the garden. Her gorgeous 8 month old Great Dane was standing on the patio looking in, drooling over our feast and her many cats, dogs and even pigs in the furthest end of the grounds entertained us as we explored. What was lovely about this sunny afternoon was the fact that we were invited to make Byfleet Manor our home for the duration, we were allowed to wander around, use the bathroom (many members wanted to take their stunning copper bathtub home with them, myself included!) and we couldn't leave without looking around their little room of vintage treasures, where many items could be bought and taken home. All of this, the shop full of vintage china and trinkets (as well as some Downton Abbey paraphernalia) the afternoon tea in the conservatory and the fantastic hosts offering their stories and fun as a huge part of this period drama was suggested as an offering to tourists after people (mainly American fans visiting the UK for a Downton-themed tour!) wanted to visit this iconic home and see it for themselves. Whilst getting to know Julie over a cuppa, she advised how she allowed one fan and her daughter to visit for a look around, offering them some afternoon tea delights (she truly is the perfect host!) as they had been so respectful and excited to be there. From this visit, the idea developed to allow others to come along for this experience... and so the afternoon tea venue we enjoyed on this day had been created and a warm welcome allows fans to get close and personal to their favourite Downton character. The afternoon tea itself was homemade by Julie and it kept coming, there was so much, we were full to the rafters by the end. The crustless finger sandwiches offered a selection of fillings, including cucumber, a spiced chicken, egg mayonnaise & cress (this was delicious and dangerously moreish!) and smoked salmon. These were the perfect size, two bites per sandwich, which allowed us to sample them all fairly easily...it would have been rude not to! The large fruit scones were served warm with strawberry jam and clotted cream and were served with fresh strawberries to add colour and fresh flavour to proceedings, I loved them! There were so many cakes, we really didn't know where to start - Cat and I were in cakey heaven! Light vanilla sponges with fresh cream and blackberries, some sponges with lemon curd and cream, small petit fours including pastry cases filled with toffee and vanilla creme patisserie and fresh strawberries, it was a sweet-toothed paradise. She had also made tiny bite-sized chocolate brownies, gooey in the middle and my favourite treat by far, they melted in your mouth and I couldn't get enough - I would have done the Dowager proud as her guest! If this wasn't enough, we were also served a chilled trifle shot in a small glass, complete with jelly and topped with a fresh mint leaf, it was the perfect size and came with a tiny silver spoon that oozed cuteness. Yes I did just say that, apologies, but it WAS super cute. I do love jelly in my trifle, it reminds me of the way my mum and great auntie always makes/made their trifles, it really isn't the same without some raspberry jelly in the centre, much to controversy! This was an amazing day, finished off with a guided walk by one of our hosts through their garden (heels and damp grass making for an interesting combination!) and a quick visit to their friendly & furry pigs before driving home, what a day! A huge thank you to Claire for arranging such a superb experience and to Julie and her wonderful team for allowing us to descend and take over Byfleet Manor for the afternoon! This was my kind of place, I felt right at home and I can't stop myself from enjoying the use of the photos with my "staff" next to me on my social media pages, it was so much fun. I really could see myself hosting an afternoon tea etiquette event here, so pinkies crossed that Julie and her team may have a use for me one day in the future... In fact, Julie mentioned to us before we made our way that she will be hosting a grisly "murder mystery" afternoon tea in the summer with a couple who have actually worked in CSI, so expect finger print examinations, a dead body on the floor and an adult only afternoon with a difference. My money is on it being Lord Grantham, with the candelabra in the Drawing Room! www.thesecretteasociety.com www.byfleetmanor.com For my full photo album from this Downton Abbey themed event, please click here. Please Note - I paid my own way with this club & at this venue and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event or location, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss an independent review or "Secret Stay", please do email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, 18 May 2014
A few people have recently asked if I have any top tips on losing weight or getting fitter and I've decided to be brutally honest with you all... It's far from easy if you've got a lot of weight to lose or a long distance goal in mind, nothing happens overnight, as lovely and fluffy as an Instagram photo might show the journey. I haven't been vocal about the low points - that is until now, as I feel that people need to know that there's more to my achievements and goals than the happy snaps or pretty recipe ideas. I know myself that I can be great at talking up the positives of my current weight loss, but I'm ready to let you in on a few secrets & stories that I've experienced over the last few months. I also want other people who plan their own goals to know that I don't find this a breeze, even with a personal trainer by my side - it isn't all fluffy and lovely, as much as I'd love to tell you that's the case. Since I was a kid, I've struggled with my weight. I was always the chubby girl at school, a complete tom boy most of the time so as not to stand out like a sore thumb next to the skinny girls in my year. This went on into my teenage years and I've dipped up and down on the scales ever since. Food can be my best friend and my worst enemy, I am a comfort eater through and through - this is one habit in itself that needs kicking and won't be an exact science at all. So here it is, my blood, sweat and tears - quite literally, please don't judge me ; ) As I've experience/d these events or issues, I certainly haven't laughed about it until a fair while after each experience. I've been an emotional wreck most of the time and it hasn't all been plain sailing - I simply want other people to know that this is stupidly NORMAL and that you're not alone in feeling this way from time to time. Or most of the time, as the case may be. THE BLOOD: Ok, so there isn't too much blood, but I've had my fair share of accidents, cuts and bruises over the last few months including a nasty trip over my own feet and cutting my knee open on a concrete path on Xmas Eve. I did this in super style - I was actually doing "The Running Man" in my walking boots... my boots have fantastic grips, so good that I stacked it and landed face first in a pile of leaves, completed in epic style with the dog licking my face as I cried toddler-esque tears, whilst screaming out that I will never, EVER dance again. The mister stood and laughed, he said it was hilarious, as sorry as he was for this - I can laugh now. Just about. Bio oil is now my friend for the huge golf ball-sized scar I have on my knee from this little "trip". I spent most of Xmas with my leg elevated, I couldn't walk or wear tight fitting clothes, not forgetting the fact that I couldn't exercise properly for weeks without crying or wincing in pain - this could only ever happen to me! Blisters from running in cheap trainer socks that ride down into my trainers, leaving me with blood-soaked socks as a result. I have since bought myself a pair of "proper" running socks, well worth the £8 investment! Broken fingers from last summer have been making press ups hard work and painful to boot, but I have to suck it up and deal with it - I'm such a trooper ; ) Back pain, of which I had previously, comes to me with a vengeance after a particularly tough circuit. I now pop a painkiller if I need to and try to keep moving so as not to stiffen. I try to breath through this pain, it's always going to be there, so I have to deal with it - "learn to love the pain" as my NHS therapist once told me. Hmmm. I'm also thinking back to the very first sports massage, which felt amazing but stopped me from sitting back on a chair for three days after. My car seat was included in that one - no pain, no gain, right? Saddle Sore - especially in my lady parts when starting back on my bicycle. We are plotting a cycling holiday later in the year to the Lake District, so training has started locally and boy, oh boy, the "John Wayne" walk is in full swing currently, oof! I mustn't forget the multiple carpet burns from planking in front of the TV or the pinging of my lovely finger nails as I throw a "Slam Ball" across the garden - it's really not too glamourous, I did warn you. THE SWEAT: Self motivation is the hardest bit and people may just see the ball flinging that I do with my personal trainer or a short jog around my village, but I'm putting my ALL into these activities and it's working steadily. It's not a quick fix, it's a healthy lifestyle that I'm adopting and not everything will work, but that's ok. If, like me, you get tetchy when you haven't exercised and are prone to slamming doors on stressed days, then a "Slam Ball" is the perfect toy for you! Weirdly, no matter where I am within my circuits, I always get tougher with this as the exercise goes on - I ADORE this beauty and it's helped me relieve some real tension by sweating it out when I need to unleash some fury. Get yourself over to Jordan Fitness to buy yourself one, I use their 9kg ball. This is so gross, but when detoxing at the start of my training, the exercise made me need to go out and buys men's deodorant, no word of a lie. I stank to high heaven, even though everyone said they couldn't smell me - I could smell me. It's not bad anymore, now that I've detoxed, but boy, even in winter climes, I was ripe. There's also the "sweat" at the new and not so exciting foods that you are about to encounter. I'd never have thought I'd be eating steak and raspberries for my breakfast or drinking spinach in my smoothie. Sometimes it takes a few drips of sweat to get past those worries, especially when you are a fussy eater like myself, but you've just got to do it - it's honestly worth it! Due to so much time spent sweating it out at the moment, my hair is getting a regular washing - twice a day sometimes! There's not much better than a hot shower and a lovely cup of coffee (or hot lemon) after a hard workout, it's heaven. I've had more hot showers than hot dinners of late and the dye is running out of my hair faster than it takes to put it in! THE TEARS: Oh, so many tears, I have lost count of the amount of days I've actually spent crying into my soup. There have been tears at the back of my local running group, trying to catch up with the faster runners and getting so frustrated that I want to give up (but don't!) - but, that's ok because now I've got the basic advice & support, I can continue at my own pace, no dramas. It's just about finding a way around these things to make it work for YOU. Even if you have a personal trainer helping you, there's no magic machine of which they flick a switch and shed the weight for you. It's hard work. It's emotional. It's tough. It's painful. It's draining - but we all know losing weight isn't that easy when you have serious weight to lose. Anyone who tells you to drink a magical drink or pop a magical pill are kidding, don't do it. You've got to work at this and I'm being as honest as humanly possible - I can laugh looking back at some of my own hissy fits, but it's been REALLY hard. It WILL be hard in future, even if I enjoy some elements, so please know that this is a normal feeling. If you are on a weight loss mission and you feel like crying, screaming, thrashing out, eating a wedge of cake or just giving up all together... I KNOW how you feel. Sometimes you just have to go with it and let it out, that's fine to do sometimes too. Your real friends will show their support for you throughout your own mission...and the not so good friends will show you just how little they care about you. Mixed with the emotions you might already be experiencing, this is tough to deal with, but I now know who I can count on and who will lecture on it all being common sense and scoff at my "silly" diet. You truly don't need this negativity in your life, so don't dwell on this, instead, concentrate on the positive support around you : ) Clothes are always a HUGE stress, with them being too small or too big. Emptying three quarters of my wardrobe was a horrible experience, as some of the clothes I threw out had been a part of my life for ten years or so, as scary/criminal as that sounds! It felt good to let go and give them away to a charity who might need them and it also gives me motivation never to fit into the larger items again. I did keep a couple pairs of jeans back for future laughs, but it was a tricky job to get my head around and more upsetting than I had anticipated. There have been tears over eating a piece of cake the night before a gym session. Tears because I can't reach a goal. Tears because hot yoga wasn't for me - I lasted an hour before slapping myself in the face! My glamorous 30th birthday was spent in tears (a plenty) for many different reasons. Tears because I'm just feeling overwhelmed - sometimes you just need some "me time". I've had to deal with a lot of changes all at once including setting up a new business venture, busier days, alongside a new fitness regime to squeeze in too. Women can be more vocal (in my experience) - my other half will just implode, as I will just explode. Everyone is different, but it's normal to feel disheartened or panicked, please don't ever feel alone on that one! This can be (without wanting to sound cheesy) an emotional roller coaster for somebody who isn't used to it and I think it's been an education for Sarah, my trainer as much as it has been for me. Let's also not forget the single, most horrific part of this weight loss mission so far. The caffeine withdrawal. This is a TERRIBLE curse to any household. If you are a big coffee drinker, wean yourself off slowly if you value your
sanity life! I asked my other half what the worst thing has been in his experience over the last few months and his response was "YOUR CAFFEINE WITHDRAWALS" - be warned! A FEW OTHER LESSONS LEARNT: I'm ravenous all the time. If I'm not eating, I'm thinking, writing, dreaming about food. Conflicting information can be confusing and stressful - be careful and stick to your beliefs. Worrying about fitting it all in - but we found as soon as you turn the TV off and put the "Dexter" box sets away, we've gained a good 2-3 hours a night, shocking... For me I'm lucky that I can see my trainer or exercise myself throughout my working day quite flexibly, whereas some people are tied to a desk, so this can be stressful too. Plan exercise into your day, no matter when it might be and stick to it, no matter how tired you feel, you'll thank yourself for it. If you eat something "bad", don't panic about it, draw a line under it and move on. We are all told to enjoy everything in moderation and it's true. You can't deny yourself everything, just plan your treats into your healthy eating plan and enjoy fresh, healthy food around your "treats ". The start of a serious health kick can result in tiredness and severe mood swings, as I learnt when I first detoxed. I was needing midday naps at around day 25 of my raw food diet and this is quite normal due to your body using up the last of certain reserves, including all the carbs your body may have clung onto. This is where healthy eating advice comes in VERY handy and I recommend getting some advice when taking on this sort of diet. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Have fun, you only live once! I may find it tough at times, but I love my personal trainer to bits (in fact I shouldn't share her really, but if you want her yo can find her here!) and I have so much fun making silly little videos and taking selfies (much to my mums amusement as I've ripped it out of my sister for taking selfies for years!) - if you can't laugh and have fun with it then you're not going to be very happy on a (potentially) very long journey.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please do visit my other weight loss blogs here, thanks so much in advance for your support and if you feel inspired to do so, please get in touch or leave a comment to share your own adventures or dilemmas!