Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cook - cake

A quick post today - I've spent this afternoon (between naps to re-energise after a late night and early run this morning) making a cake for my friend whose birthday it is today. I'm quite pleased with the result.

A simple all-in-one sponge flavoured with lemon zest and juice, layered with lemon curd, blueberries, whipped cream and strawberries and topped with fruit, cream and chocolate curls.  Hopefully it will go down well tonight (literally).

Friday, 27 February 2015

Read - We are all completely beside ourselves (#2/52)

I finished another book this morning in the 10 minutes I had between waking up and my alarm going off - sneaky reads are the best.  This time it was a 2nd reading of We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - I read it last year for fun, but now it's been selected for book club so I needed to refresh my memory of it.

I really liked this book first time round and still enjoyed it on a second read.  The writing is very engaging, there's a 'surprise' which doesn't spoil a re-reading and it provokes lots of questions - I think it's going to be fun to discuss at book club next week.

The next book I'm reading is one I failed to finish (or even start!) in time for book club last month - I've promised myself I WILL read all my book club books this year, even if not in exactly the right order (and even if I would never have chosen them myself ...)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Run - 8 miles early(ish) doors

I've been wanting to do a longer mid-week run and managed to fit in 8 miles this morning before work (usually mid-week runs are no more than 6 miles - often quite a lot less).  Admittedly, I'd arranged to start work late today so it's not really very impressive - but pleasing nonetheless. And today's run was one of those rare runs where it all feels good for the whole run.  I walked a very small part (up a muddy hill) but on the whole kept up a reasonable pace and really pushed it for the last mile.  I'm entering the hardest part of my marathon schedule - lots of big runs and not much downtime - so it's nice to get the odd good run in as I know they won't all feel like that. The other big plus for me was that it was a solo run which I normally hate.

I chose a lovely muddy route and because I wanted to keep up a reasonable pace I didn't stop to take any pictures - so here's a pair of very muddy trainers afterwards.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Craft - finished project #1

I've finished something! A garland for a friend's birthday.

Pattern: Maybelle Crochet Flower Free Pattern, then chained together with a foundation chain and a row of dc (both worked on the right side).
Yarn: Rico Creative Cotton in Aran (this link goes to Wool Warehouse, where I get most of my yarn from, but lots of suppliers sell it) -  flowers in red, cardinal, cherry, royal, pistachio, light pistachio, green, candy pink, orange, tangerine, sky blue, chained together with pistachio 
Hook: 4.5mm 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Cook - mmm soup

I love soup, especially homemade, so thick you can stand your spoon up in it soup.  The soup I made at a ridiculously early hour this morning wasn't quite that thick but it was a good way to use up lots of slightly limp looking bits from the fridge to create 5 lunch-portions of soup. It was based loosely (as always) on another recipe  (Covent Garden Russian Vegetable Soup) but with variations due to what was available in my fridge.

First I sauteed some chopped onion and leek in a mixture of oil and butter till quite soft, then added some diced potato and let that soften a bit. Next went in about half a finely sliced savoy cabbage, outer leaves and core removed. While that was softening slightly I added 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/2 tsp ground cumin and lots of black pepper.  Finally I covered the whole lot with boiling water and added a couple of teaspoons of vegetable bouillon powder and left to simmer for about 15 minutes (while I had a shower). Once everything was all cooked. I blended it up and portioned it out.  4 portions to go in the freezer for other days - I had the 5th portion today for lunch - yummy!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Craft - 9 down ...

.. 2 to go.  This is the stack of flowers I've made so far:

I managed to finish another 3 while watching the last episode of Broadchurch this evening (which I've really enjoyed - I know it's been different from the first series, but I still think it's been full of great drama).

I'm pleased with the colours of the flowers so far - bright and cheery, which is just what I'd hoped. There'll be 11 in total, and I'm going to join them to make a garland / bunting - I haven't yet decided how though.  The yarn is Rico Creative Cotton, using a 4.5mm hook and this lovely pattern - I'll list all the colours when it's finished. Fingers crossed that will be by the end of the week - it will be great to have completed a project!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Run - jelly babies

When you start running - especially longer distances - a whole new food group opens up to you.  Foods which under most other circumstances you'd steer well clear of - gloopy gels, odd tasting drinks promising magically swift recovery, jelly sweets, energy bars and blocks - all designed to deliver the maximum amount of energy in minimum time.  But believe me - at 14.5 miles into an 18 mile run, jelly babies are EXACTLY what you need.

Today's run was a brilliantly organised 17 mile training run (+ 1 extra mile to make it up to 18 as that's what the plan says!) by Gade Valley Harriers which a couple of friends and I went along to. Simple registration procedure, excellent pre-event toilets, a well planned and marshalled route through country lanes (including water and jelly baby stops) and tea and cake at the end - all for a fiver! We really enjoyed it - I'm now disappointed I can't go back for their 20 miler in a few weeks as I already have something on that weekend. Which makes me realise quite how bonkers marathon training makes you - disappointed to be missing a 20 mile run?!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Craft - potato printing

One of the many things I've been wanting to try is printing, and last night (not today - today's blog is a bit of a cheat as I've spent most of the day tidying and sorting - no time for craft or other fun!) I sat down to make a card, and ended up having a bit of a play with potato printing. Like most things it actually took minimal time - it was just the thinking about it that took a while.  I made a card and 3 different A5 prints in about half an hour, using old potatoes, a (slightly blunt) kitchen knife and acrylic paint. Next time I will use a craft knife to get neater cuts, and maybe try using multiple colours.  But I'm quite pleased with these as a first attempt - I think I like the red one best, but I'll have another go at stripes as I think it could work ok if I do it slightly differently.

The printmaking book I got from the library (Printed Pattern by Rebecca and Yvonne Drury) has a really helpful section about potato printing and lots of good ideas. I'm very inspired to give it another go soon. The thing I really like about potato printing is that the main material is as cheap as chips (sorry!) so you don't need to worry about wasting money if you make a mistake or want to try again.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Read - The Mitford Girls (#1/52)

I'm usually quite a voracious reader but this year I've managed to read the grand total of half a book so far.  I've flicked through others , I've amassed a pile to read, but I've only actually sat down and solidly read half a book so far.

The book I'm wading through is The Mitford Girls by Mary S. Lovell - it's for one of my book clubs but the meeting was a while ago and I couldn't make it, so the urgency to finish it passed. I think the reason I'm taking so long to read it, is that the Mitford family and other characters in the book seem so very far removed from my own background and experiences.  I don't dislike them (well, not all of them) - but I'm finding it hard to comprehend how the family apparently had such involvement in key events of the 20th century. What the book has done is spur me to read The Pursuit of Love - so I shall add that to the steadily increasing books-to-read list.

Edit (21-02-15): Turns out that my Kindle's idea of 52% and my idea don't quite match - as this book included a large number of  footnotes, all at the end, the main text only made up about 65% of the overall book. A couple more hours reading last night and this morning and job done! Only another 51 to go in 2015 ... ?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Craft - a new project

I know, I know. I already have too many things in progress and planned - I really shouldn't be starting anything new.  But I want to make a present for a very good friend's birthday which is more imminent than I'd realised.

Luckily I have a decent amount of cotton stashed away, so I could make a start on these lovely flowers as soon as I found the pattern on the internet. I'm making them in aran cotton with a 4.5mm hook, so they're coming out bigger than the originals, but that works for what I have in mind.  Just need to make some more before I can proceed to the next stage - to be continued ...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Run - another walk

I'm not sure whether I'm misrepresenting my activities by keeping the 'run' titles but it feels like walking is definitely a running substitute at the moment. Last day of our walking and crafting short break today - over 5 days 24 miles have been walked, several batches of flapjack baked, 9 circles crocheted and somewhere in the region of 50 pom poms made - some are now garlands and owls, many are still awaiting a purpose. A lovely break, and the loveliest part of all was seeing how much my children and my friend's children enjoyed both the walking and the crafting (and the eating!).

Today's walk was the shortest of all, 4 1/4 miles of easy terrain with a perfectly placed cafe stop for ice cream and duck food. These lovely buildings with their shiny woodwork were also en route - I love this shade of red.

Normal activities should resume in the next few days so I promise some more accurate blog titles will be on the way. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Run - walk don't run

I was going to try and do a shortish run after we got back from our walk today, but walking further and longer than we'd planned (nearly 8 miles on very undulating terrain) followed by a very lovely cream tea made me reassess my plan. I decided spending a decent amount of time on my feet meant I didn't really need to go for a run after all so today will count as cross-training.

This is the valley that made up the last section of our walk. It was definitely worth missing a run today to walk through this amazing countryside in glorious weather with a lovely group of family and friends.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Craft - simple squares

More progress on my circles blanket. There are now only 6 purplish squares to go, as I've made all 6 squares for the other six colours (blue, yellow, grey, green, red, brown) - there will be 42 in total. 

Next I need to think about joining and borders. I'm writing on my phone at the moment, so I will try to put more details of the pattern and inspiration when I'm near my pc as that seems to be easier. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Run - tunnelling

I imagined my short recovery run this morning along a disused railway line would be fairly gentle - after all, train lines don't usually go up and down hills, do they? Turns out this former train line did exactly that with a 1 in 8 gradient - hard going up it on the way out, even harder coming back down it on the return leg, with achy quads from running and hillwalking.

But I did get to run through a great disused tunnel (and totally pretended I was in The Railway Children as I ran).

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Craft - a pom pom owl

We had a lovely evening crafting after a day of walking and sightseeing. Everyone was happily engrossed in different yarn crafts - crochet, pom pom making, French knitting. Some amazing pom pom garlands were constructed along with this little owl, made (mainly) by my youngest, with just a bit of help tying and sewing.

He's spending the night on the bedside table right next to my very proud son!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Run - 16.7 miles and snowdrops

A lovely run of three and a bit parts today. First of all my youngest and I ran/walked to breakfast club where I dropped him off and met two good friends. We ran 6 miles, met up with the Friday running group and ran 6 miles with them, and finally ran 4 miles home.

16.7 miles done and dusted before the weekend, and lots of pretty snowdrops en route.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Cook - batch baking

Hopefully we'll be doing lots of walking in the next few days, so we've been busy making fuel to keep us going.  With a bit of help my youngest made the cupcakes (caramel flavoured - and they'll have a chocolate topping tomorrow but bedtime arrived before we could finish them), and my middle child made lemon drizzle cake unaided. I made flapjacks as usual.  It looks like a lot but I don't think it's going to take long for these to go.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Run - night running

Fluorescent yellow socks? Check. Light up stripes? Check. Luminous t-shirt (luckily not visible in the photo)? Check.  Night running is not a very glamorous business.

It is however essential when you've got to fit the miles in and you have no childcare easily available. I'm getting used to snatching a run here and there whilst my children are at activities.  Most weeks I stand and devotedly watch my youngest at football training - tonight I asked a couple of other parents to keep an eye on him while I ran in ever decreasing circles for 45 minutes around the surrounding streets. Madness - but time-efficient madness I guess.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Craft - crochet on the sofa

One of my children was at home ill today - once he'd had a good sleep he was keen to sit on the sofa watching old films with me, so we snuggled up together and I made the most of the opportunity to work on my big blanket. I tried to get a picture of the whole thing but will need to be higher up to get it all in (and do it in daylight next time - the colours are quite off here) - this is about a third of it.

It's a granny stripe, with 4 rows to each stripe instead of the usual two, and will have a border of daisy squares.  I worked the stripes up from the bottom border (because I was making it up as I went along) but now it seems to have got wider, so I'm not sure how easy it will be to attach the other three sides ... I think there are 6 more stripes to do and then the main bit will be finished. I've made about 20 more daisy squares, but I will probably need double that, so it's some way off being finished.  The provisional deadline is April, so I need to get cracking!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Read - the library

I haven't been to the library for ages but I was really pleased I visited today. After sorting out an embarrassing lost book issue, I spotted a display of craft books, including this lovely book about printing (one of the techniques I'd like to try).  This reminded me about the crochet section so I popped over and found another couple of interesting books - both of which I've borrowed before, but I think they're worth getting out again as they'll be useful for my current crochet projects.  All in all a successful visit - and I'll need to go back again in 3 weeks to return the books. Who knows what treasures I'll find next time!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Run - sunshine and riverside

Today's long run was very enjoyable - just under 15 miles in glorious sunshine, along the river in part, with a lovely running friend.  Chatting your way round 15 miles makes it a lot more manageable.  We were both sensible, keeping a steady pace and drinking and eating as we went - all good preparation for the upcoming event.

Here is today's halfway point.  I'd like to do this route again for one of our longer runs - we should get to some lovely open countryside next time. Now off to carry on refuelling (as I've earnt it).

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Run - a short loop

I didn't manage to drag myself out for a run till 4.30 today. The light was beginning to fade and I needed to be back within 50 minutes as we were going out, so I decided on a short loop - through the woods and along footpaths then back along the railway line. I'm not sure what the best sort of photo is to illustrate a running blog post - this time I decided to see what the view was like at the 2 mile point (halfway). Although cloudy and grey, the green is beginning to dominate - spring must be coming!

I'm very lucky to live close to the town centre yet less than 10 (running) minutes away from open countryside, and I appreciate this every time I go for a run. I love the way running regularly in the countryside lets me really notice the changing seasons and patterns of nature.

It might be another running post tomorrow as I'm due to do my weekly long run. It will be quite different surroundings for a lot of it - maybe I'll photograph the halfway point again. Fingers crossed for sunshine!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Cook - Friday treats

I love Fridays. I didn't used to - I used to have a Friday evening committment that filled the preceeding day with anxiety as I worried whether everything had been organised properly, had I forgotten anything, was all the paerwork correct? And then, when I got back home afterwards, I was anxious again about all the things that needed following up before the next Friday.

But I gave it up just over a year ago and I still get a delicious feeling of freedom on the way home from work every Friday afternoon, as the weekend truly starts for me. Often we have things to do after school or places to be, but today we came straight home and I started some easy baking with Alt-J playing gently in the background as the boys depressurised from busy school days. Half an hour later and a plate of flapjacks was ready as a pre-tea snack.

My flapjacks are loosely based on Delia Smith's Whole Oat Crunchies (although this is slightly different from the recipe in my battered cookery book) but I usually wing it by throwing 4oz butter (this is the only recipe I measure in ounces), 4oz sugar (any sort - usually a mixture - these contain dark muscovado hence the toffe-colour) and a splodge of golden syrup in a pan, letting it heat up till bubbling and then adding enough rolled and jumbo oats to make it a stiffish mixture.  Plonk in a lined tin, bake for 15-20 mins around 175 degrees and you're done.  Actually, on reading Delia's recipe again, I think mine have evolved into something completely different.

I've even managed to take a photo in (grey-ish) daylight today!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Craft - a bit of progress

It's late and I haven't really planned what to write about today.  I haven't run as it's a (well earned) rest day. I've barely cooked (only to the point of shoving a few things on a tray, sticking them in the oven then dishing up 20 minutes later) and I haven't read (yet - hopefully I will get a chance to shortly). I have spent rather a lot of time sorting out different electronic devices to try and keep everyone happy.  And I discovered that I have made some progress on my 'other' blanket.

This is my current portable project - it can be done in small chunks by the side of a pool or in a car when waiting for an activity to finish. I laid it out for the first time in ages and found that I've now made over half the squares.  It feels a lot more achievable now - hurrah!

(I do know that the photo is dark and the colours wrong - I need to make an effort to take more photographs in natural light).

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Craft - in progress

Today I had a spare couple of hours so I thought I'd get on with some gentle crafting.  This turned into emptying out many bags of half-finished projects, trying to work out exactly how many things I have on the go at the moment.

"Too many" is the answer.

Currently started or half made are:
2 blankets
1 cushion cover
4 hot water bottle covers
1 top
1 banner
2 blinds
6 covered files
3 placemats

And that doesn't include 12 projects I have planned (= sourced all the materials for) but not yet started, or the wishlist of 6 new techniques I'd really like to try.  I think I need to get a grip - maybe I could concentrate on one project a month and actually finish some things this year ...

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Cook - refuelling

Running this evening was speed work with the group. Scheduled to run on roads which were quickly becoming icily treacherous, we relocated and ran laps of a local field instead. When we got home we needed food fast,and a bacon and avocado salad was just the thing.  

While a few rashers of bacon sizzled away I chopped lettuce, avocado, tomatoes and cucumber. As soon as the bacon was crispy I popped it onto the salad, added a slug of balsamic vinegar to the pan and reduced it slightly then poured over everything. Simple, swift and tasty - perfect post run food.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Run - Monday morning running

Monday morning is running group morning.

I'm very lucky that I don't work Mondays, so I can join a group of fantastic women who run for an hour or so off-road in amazing countryside. More often than not we get muddy, quite often we get slightly lost.

This morning we set off across sparkling frosty fields under a gloriously blue sky - my favourite type of running weather. After an hour or so I carried on by myself to make it a slightly longer run (because I'm training for an event at the moment). Crossing a ridge I discovered a string of untouched icy puddles - after indulging my (sometimes not so) inner child by jumping in some and cracking the ice, I came across this amazing whirly iciness - too beautiful to jump in so I took some photos and carried on, ending up doing 9 miles in total.

I love starting the week like this.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Read - bought, borrowed, found

I love to read and to this end I'm in two bookclubs.  They operate quite differently. One is super-organised - we meet on the same day every month and we compile a booklist every January for the coming 12 months. We also have a very complicated scoring system for each book and rank the books at the end of the year. The other is more fluid - meetings take place evey 4-6 weeks on different days of the week and books are chosen at the preceeding meeting. Both bookclubs are great and have made me read far outside my comfort zone (which would be only crime fiction). Sometimes it feels like a chore having to read a book to a schedule and sometimes (quite often) I fail to read the book in time or even at all.  But more often than not it does get read.  And sometimes books get read well in advance for the super-organised book club, if I can't wait till the right month.

The Miniaturist is one of these - so many people have recommended it and I was very excited that it got accepted onto this year's booklist. I found it reduced today whilst waiting for a train at Kings Cross so it's now in my pile of new books and will be started very soon.

Two of the other books in the photo are also new acquisitions this week - they belong to other members of my family but I'll be sneaking them away to read as they look great. The poetry book, however, I found on my bookshelf this morning. I was given it years ago by a friend and never read it, so I'm going to add to my 'to read' pile as I NEVER read poetry.  Four books on the go - and none of them for the next book club meeting.  Oh dear!