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Thoughts on Being a Runner

A few months ago I confessed that I’d signed up to the British 10k. I’d spent the day watching the London Marathon and if the London Marathon doesn’t inspire you to put on a pair of trainers, then nothing will. Watching those many thousands of people of all ages, shapes and walks of life running that incredible distance, you can’t help thinking “maybe I could do that too…”.

Well, in my blogging absence I did it. I didn’t run a marathon (God forbid!), but I did run 10k. Ten whole k’s. I used to only run for the bus. Then I met my boyfriend – my Strava-addicted, trainer-obsessed, marathon nut of a boyfriend – and in my attempts to hold an intelligent running conversation with him, I got a bit interested. Now look at me! I’m a changed woman.

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Going from the sofa to a 10k finish line is not impossible. Far from it. Most people have run at some point in their lives (even if, like me, it was only for the bus). For a 10k that just needs little refining. If I can do it, you can too.

*Sign up for a race: Give yourself something to aim for, it’s the easiest way to keep motivation high. I’d recommend a local race but with as many participants as possible so you have the excitement of a large event but without all the stress of travelling. Don’t be put off if the entry fee is a bit steep – it usually means you’ll get a good t-shirt and medal at the end.

*Get the kit: Everyone knows that a new hobby opens up a whole world of shopping opportunities. Embrace it. You don’t need to buy huge amounts, and running kit can get very pricey, but I would recommend a few items. First and foremost, a good pair of trainers. Did you know that some trainers are ‘fashion trainers’ and not meant for any proper physical activity? AVOID those trainers. Places like Sweatshop analyse your running style so they can recommend the best trainers for you. This is quite scary, but definitely worth it. Secondly, proper running socks. Seems silly but normal socks will rub your feet. And lastly, if you’re a girl, a sports bra. A great one is truly life-changing.

*Get a running buddy: Talk one of your friends into signing up with you and then support each other through the whole process. Go shopping together, drag each other out for runs in the rain and hold hands over the start line. It’s the best way to keep motivation high. Preferably, find someone to run with who is better than you. If they really know their stuff they’ll be able to pace you properly, recommend the perfect pair of trainers and encourage a little healthy competition – noone likes being left behind.

*Remember that it’s OK to hate your running buddy: The aforementioned marathon nut of a boyfriend was my running buddy. We had some tough runs. He lied about distance, tricking me into running 2k further. I told him I wanted to punch him in the face. He ran off without me. Expletives were hurled. He quoted Muhammad Ali at me (irritating), he didn’t need a post-run shower (devastating) and he foam rollered my legs until I screamed in pain (entirely unnecessary). Just remember that running you and rational you are two entirely different beasts. And know when to say you’re sorry.

*Create a running plan: Draw up a plan of all the runs you want to do leading up to the race. Remember to taper the week before the race. This is the best week where you don’t have to run and, instead, eat as much pasta as you want (apparently it’s good for you). Include some interval sessions, long runs and short, easy runs. Think about what you want to achieve from each run – for the longer distance ones forget about time, they are just about upping the kilometers. You don’t need to do the full 10k before the race, but if it’ll reassure you that you can actually go the distance then do it.

*Don’t stress out too much about said plan: Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes you’ve had a bad day. Sometimes it’s raining and you’ve had a bad day and there’s a pizza in the oven and a new PLL episode on Netflix. Treat your running plan as a guide rather than strict commandment. Missing a couple of runs won’t kill you. If your running buddy refuses to get on board with this attitude, see above point that it’s OK to hate your running buddy.

*Get involved with Parkrun:  Parkrun is the absolute best. Granted, the 9am Saturday morning start time doesn’t feel so wonderful but the fun, community atmosphere and encouragement does make it all worth it. Parkrun is all over the country and is simply a free, timed 5k. There are the super-keen fast runners but the huge majority are just there to have a good time and run the best time they can. And a volunteer runs at the back so you will never come last. Genius.

*Enjoy it: Running can be fun. It’s so good to get outside after a long day in the office, feeling yourself improve and getting involved with the sportswear obsession. And to run a proper 10k race and have a proper medal at the end does feel like a huge achievement. Just remember, the day after the race, that noone has ever died from a pulled muscle. And that you’re entitled to not take the stairs for at least a week.

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London Cupcakes: Crumbs & Doilies

To say Soho is a busy place would an obvious (and rather stupid) statement. But today I have a quiet little corner right at its very centre for you, and they serve London’s best cupcakes.

Crumbs & Doilies is quite easy to miss, hidden down a little cobbled street from Kingly Court, but you absolutely musn’t miss it. The shop is only small but the selection of cupcakes, cakes and brownies is enormous, with inventive flavours and excellent coffee.

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Crumbs & Doilies is the mastermind of Cupcake Jemma who shares all of her baking genius on YouTube and she’s just released The Cake Book with over 50 recipes. Crumbs & Doilies also have a Saturday stand on the Kings Road and deliver their cakes all over London. Using just the finest ingredients and no weird additives, preservatives or short-cuts, there are over 40 flavours of cupcake to choose from and the selection is changing all the time.

If you can make it to the shop in Kingly Court, it feels like a calm, cupcake oasis in the middle of the Soho hubub. For the huge selection that they have on offer it seems a little small in the shop but the flavours are always incredibly inventive and varied, and if you really can’t decide they have selection boxes that you can fill to enjoy at home. And if cupcakes aren’t your favourite sweet treat, there are plenty of others to choose from. From tiffin to rocky road to shortbreads and brownies, there really is something for everyone. Wash all that down with some excellent coffee and you’ll never want to leave.

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The Classic White Shirt

Hello everyone – remember me?! I accidently took a bit of a blogging break. Not for any particular reason, I was just being busy (and lazy). Thank you so much to everyone who has still been viewing my blog (I know you are out there!) and to those who have commented and followed in my absence. Please do leave your links in the comments section so I can come and view your pages too!

But anyway, down to business. I took these photos a while ago, on a particuarly blustery day in Brighton, but I’m still so in love with this shirt that I had to share it with you.

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I am not a ‘shirt person’ at all. I think they’re uncomfortable, a bit boring and just so frumpy. But then, according to fashion law, a white shirt is a wardrobe staple and I look on enviously to all those who pull them off. I have searched long and hard for one that I actually like and I think I have finally found it.

It’s this little baby from Topshop. Very simple, not too expensive and even if you don’t like this style, they’ve got hundreds of variations on the Chambray Shirt. It’s so soft and looks great tucked in for a slightly smarter look or just loose and casual. If you are worried about looking a little frumpy in a shirt, opt for something with big pockets and distinctive buttons in a more utility style. It just adds a little more interest and, in my opinon, doesn’t make you look like you are office-bound.

Plus this shirt will carry me straight into autumn. And on a side note, am I the only one quite excited about the prospect of pumpkin spiced lattes, cable knits and Halloween?!

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New on the Block: Farmacy, Notting Hill

There’s a new kid on the block in Notting Hill, and it’s one of my favourite recent discoveries.

Farmacy opened just last month on Westbourne Grove. It is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and already causing a bit of a stir. Their philosophy is ‘clean indulgence’ – something I’m very willing to get on board with.

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Their menus are all about healthy choice comfort foods, no rabbit leaves here. It is incredibly rare that I look up a health restaurant’s menu online and decide I’d rather go for dinner than brunch. I’m all about the healthy brunches – homemade granola, smoothies and (if all else fails) avo on toast – but Farmacy’s evening menu was unmissable.

The menu is still a little small and rather pricey, but with delicious options such spelt sourdough pizzas, a clean curry and the Farmacy “burger”, I was willing to forgive those drawbacks. I opted for the porcini mushroom spelt pasta, which was delicious. If you’ve never tried spelt pasta before, then definitely do. It doesn’t have the grainy texture of other wholewheat pastas, but remains all the health benefits.

They also have a really interesting drinks menu (again, I’m never particularly fascinated by drinks menus, my interest can only be slightly piqued by cocktails). I went for the lemon-aid, an alkalising lemon juice, apple syrup and coconut water. It was amazing. I’m normally a bit scared of those kind of lemon drinks, as often they are too sharp. This was nice and sweet, but not sugary, as well as being healthy.

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If you’re in the area be sure to swing by (and don’t under any circumstances miss the lemon-aid!).

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Super Simple Gingersnaps

When it comes to tea dunking, you can’t get much better than a gingersnap.

My sister and I have been making gingersnaps since we were very small. It’s been years since we last attempted them as we are more likely to whip up a batch of cookies now, but this weekend the mood for ginger struck and we pulled out our kiddie cookbook. Sure, the instructions are incredibly basic (it specifics that you need an oven) but the gingersnaps are delicious, and it’s a recipe that kids can join in with.

These are really quick, really easy and absolutely perfect with your Sunday afternoon cup of tea.

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YOU WILL NEED:

  • 100g butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger

TO MAKE:

Preheat the oven to 160C (fan).

Melt together the butter, sugar and golden syrup. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into the mixture and combine until it forms a smooth, soft dough.

Take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a small ball to form the biscuits, you should make around 25.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the tops have cracked and are just starting to brown (our oven was too high so the tops didn’t crack..!) Enjoy!

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London’s Farm Shop: Daylesford

Being in a city doesn’t mean you can’t have farm fresh food.

Last Saturday the sun put in a very decent appearance in London (hallelujah!) so to bask in the warmth and find a delicious breakfast, Tiarnan and I took to the streets of Notting Hill.

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Westbourne Grove is a little like the Portobello Road’s big sister. Slightly more refined and much less crowded, it offers an escape from the never ending throng of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, wandering down the Portobello Road is one of my favourite activities but sometimes you don’t want to fight the crowds. Westbourne Grove has plenty of delicious breakfast options, but we settled for Daylesford.

Daylesford is essentially a farm shop given the London makeover. You won’t see any muddy wellies there, but plenty of farm fresh food. It began as an organic farm in Staffordshire and is now one of the most sustainable farms in the UK, with another one in the Cotswolds as well as various London greengrocers and restaurants. They also have a cookery school and hold various events throughout the year including supper clubs, masterclasses and a summer festival.

Daylesford’s menu is made up of fresh, seasonal produce from the farm’s market garden, cheese and bread from the creamery and bakery and meat from their animals. And if you eat something you really love, it’s pretty likely you can pop into the farmshop and buy it to take home with you.

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How to Spend… May

We’ve had our first sunny snap – summer is finally on it’s way!

I love how the sun instantly lifts everyone’s mood. Suddenly we’re planning BBQ evenings, sharing round the Pimm’s and remembering what it feels like to sunbathe. Of course it won’t last, but the promise that summer is coming is more than enough to keep me smiling throughout May. And I’ve got plenty of suggestions for when the rain inevitably returns and we have to put away the sunglasses again…

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*Go for a bike ride: When it’s nice out, it’s really nice out. There are still some lambs frolicking in the fields, but otherwise there’s a real sense of summer. The parks are filled with picnickers, flower beds are blooming and the unmistakable scent of BBQs fill the evening air. Now is such a lovely time to go for a bike ride. You can explore so much with relatively little effort, and always stop off for a sunbathe halfway round. If you’re in London definitely set a date to explore the parks on the Santander bikes – there’s no better way to spend a sunny May day.

*Make rainy day plans: But, May is a bit unpredictable and sadly the sunny weather will not be a constant. Rather than mope around inside when it’s miserable, make plans specifically for a rainy day and save them for when the weather turns. There are so many good things on at the cinema (cannot wait to see The Jungle Book!), but you don’t even need to leave the house to have fun on a rainy day. Bake up a storm in the kitchen, soak in the bath with a good read or do some of that spring cleaning you meant to do in spring (if you feel really productive). Miserable days really don’t have to be miserable.

*Set a summer fitness goal: By this I do not mean to get bikini-body ready. But summer does mean clothing gets skimpier, so set yourself a fitness goal and start to dedicate some real time to it. It doesn’t have to be anything major. From signing up for a marathon to deciding to take the stairs, making a conscious effort to get moving will have you feeling so much more confident when summer rolls around.

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A May Reading List

This month’s reading list is quite a mixed bag. What with all the commuting I’m doing, I’m getting through roughly a book a week (it’s becoming a very expensive pastime!) With the amount of time I now have for reading, I’ve been making myself pick up books that I would never usually consider. It’s such a great way to discover new favourites and the variety means you can never get bored. Here are my latest discoveries.

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*For a read that feels like a chat: Wildflower, Drew Barrymore. I never, ever read memoirs. But Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower did the rounds on Instagram (with that gorgeous cover) and my attention was caught. This is not a tell-all autobiography, but that’s why I loved it so much. Each chapter tells a different anecdote, fronted by a relevant snap. Some are funny, such as her skydiving experience with Cameron Diaz, some are touching, such as the chapters dedicated to her two daughters and some are quite tragic, such as the stories from her childhood. I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan, but you don’t need to be to enjoy her memoir. Curling up with this book feels like catching up with an old friend.

*For a real surprise: We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. This is a Young Adult read, another genre I rarely dip into. I didn’t expect much from this (unfortunately, I’m always a little snobby about YA)  and was proven completely and entirely wrong. I loved it. We Were Liars centers around the beautiful, blonde and very rich Sinclair family. They put up a perfect front but as the narrator, eldest Sinclair grandchild Cady, tries to piece together an accident that she cannot remember and her family refuses to discuss, the cracks start to form. The general confusion builds into an explosive twist which will have you immediately flip back to the beginning to work out how the author had you so fooled.

*For a much needed sweet fix: Life is Sweet, The Hummingbird Bakery. If you’re ever in London, don’t miss The Hummingbird Bakery. Famed for their red velvet cupcakes and rainbow layer slices, this American-style bakery always hits the spot. My sister and I always turn to their original cookbook when we want to whip up something sweet, but Life is Sweet is the newest addition to our collection. With red velvet brownies and pancakes (!), a tunnel of fudge cake and pink champagne cupcakes, it’ll be keeping us very busy over the May bank holiday weekends.

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Healthy Chocolate and Almond Spiced Cookies

Since working in an office, I have become much more interested in what I’m eating.

I’ve never eaten particularly badly, but I would always eat what I wanted without giving anything a second thought. It turns out that attitude doesn’t cut it in an office. When you’re sat at a desk all day, burning those calories is so much tougher. And therefore, I have entered the wonderful world of healthy snacking (and it really is a whole world of deliciousness).

While I usually make a beeline for WH Smith’s ‘nutritional snacks’ stand, these cookies are one of my first homemade efforts. They aren’t the sugar explosion you expect when you bite into a cookie, but that is part of their charm. You can eat them all day and not feel sick! The banana really sweetens them, and the spices make your entire house smell incredible while they’re in the oven. I followed this recipe – they are so easy to make and turned out really well.

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YOU WILL NEED:

  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 2 heaped tbsp coconut oil
  • 9 small squares dark chocolate
  • 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg, salt and baking powder

TO MAKE:

Preheat the oven to 170C. Mash the banana together with the chocolate.

Heat the coconut oil on a low heat. Add the syrup, spices and salt and stir until combined.

Mix the ground almonds, baking powder and almond butter together with the banana and chocolate. Add the melted ingredients and stir until combined.

On a tray, take a tablespoon amount of mixture and press down to form a cookie. Bake for 10-15 mins and enjoy!

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A Few Favourites: April

April is a bit of a funny month. We’re so desperate for winter to be at an end that when spring comes along it’s very exciting and very pretty (all those pinks!) but, and let’s be honest here, it’s still so cold. We’ve had sunshine, we’ve had showers, we’ve even had snow.

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Despite the ever unpredictable temperatures, it’s been really fun in London this month. Tiarnan and I are on a mission to find our favourite rooftop bar, which has involved some great views and some great cocktails. We also spent last Sunday by the river cheering on the marathon runners, which was so much fun! I went home feeling so inspired I could have burst, and promptly signed up to a 10k in July. Training has started. Wish me luck…

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*Interiors magazines: I love a good flick through an interiors magazine. I live for the day I own my own house and can do whatever I wish to do with it. But until that day, I’ll just form detailed opinions on other people’s homes. LivingEtc is my favourite because it combines interiors with fashion, I love the style of their features and the whole design of the magazine is just beautiful.

*Origins Clear Improvement Mask: I’ve been loving face masks recently, and this is my favourite. There’s just something so indulgent about a face mask and no better way to pamper yourself. This one from Origins is a charcoal mask, which leaves my face feeling clean, glowing and just so soft.

*The White Company Pomegranate candle: This is a bit of a hangover from winter but I just can’t let go of it yet. It, admittedly, smells like Christmas but the scent isn’t overwhelming and even though I’ve burnt it a lot, it’s lasting amazingly. The White Company have an enormous range of scents and everything from tea lights to enormous pillar candles – there’s something for everyone.

*The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro: I’ve saved the best till last. I’m doing so much reading at the moment on my commute, but this is by far my favourite recent read. It is set in a declining Britain after the Romans have left, centering on an elderly married couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they set off across the country in search of a son they haven’t seen in years. It’s a thought-provoking, clever and ultimately heart-breaking story, which will stay in your thoughts long after you have turned the final page.