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A supper safari

Last week I hopped along to West Quay Shopping Centre to go on a 'supper safari' - which sounds like you might be eating dinner surrounded by lions and tigers, but actually means that you have a starter, main course and dessert in three different locations.  Now that's the kind of safari I can get on board with (it means you get to eat loads of food, and you're unlikely to be fodder for a ferocious predator, what's not to like?)

West Quay will always hold a special place in my heart as I lived in Southampton for almost ten years and worked in the H&M store there, so it feels like home to be wandering into the shopping centre after work for a little peruse and a bite to eat.  Since I left Southampton it has got infinitely cooler, with the addition of a Victoria's Secret and Jack Wills to the already great roster of shops like Zara, River Island, Boux Avenue, Schuh and more.  But one of the jewels in West Quay's crown is its swish food hall, which has a ton of fab restaurants.

I met up with several other fab blogger girls and we convened at Nando's for our starter.  I would never think of going to Nando's for a spread of starters but actually they had a whole range of yummy things for us to try, from halloumi (halloumi will always have my heart), pitta and houmous or pitta with a red pepper dip, garlic bread, peri peri nuts, olives and their 'wing roulette'.  The wing roulette is a platter of chicken wings in all different spices, so you don't know whether you're going to get lemon and herb or 'extra hot' - crikey! (But we were all wusses except for Elisha-Jade who ate all the spicy ones for us!)

We then moved on to Handmade Burger Co for our main course.  Handmade Burger is on the mezzanine in West Quay and actually has a really light, bright and cool feel to it; you feel as if you're in a trendy restaurant rather than a shopping centre.  I opted for the American Cheese which has onion rings, mustard, gherkin relish, swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce and red onion (the healthy option, then).  I'm a sucker for pretty much anything that has onion rings in it or on it so I was totally sold on this burger (plus, the waitress said it was a good choice, so I got food selection gratification too - win.) We also had bowls of rosemary salt chips and peri-peri chips which were really yummy (though my burger was large enough that it didn't really need chips with it. Ha - that was a joke, chips, always).

The food was really great and it was lovely just to sit and catch up with the ladies over a glass of wine.  We moved on swiftly to our final stop but I'm looking forward to coming back here for another meal soon (and diving into another bowl of chips).

Our final stop was Snog Frozen Yoghurt, which only opened in West Quay this year.  I've only been to Snog once before (in London) but I really like it, so I was excited to be able to try it again.  Some of the other girls went for healthy options like fruit or granola, but I was tempted by toppings of gummy bears, mini smarties and caramel sauce.  But it's okay, because frozen yoghurt is healthy so it cancels it out, right?

The frozen yoghurt was really good, I couldn't finish my whole pot after the previous two courses (I'm normally not this much of a lightweight with food but I ate rather a lot of pitta at Nando's - oops) so I'm looking forward to grabbing another next time the sun comes out on one of my lunch breaks!

If you live near Southampton it's well worth popping along to West Quay to try out some of their food options - you can also download the app for tons of offers throughout the summer holidays; like buy one get one free on smoothies at the Boost Juice Bar.

All in all it was such a fab evening and I left West Quay with a very full, happy belly and plans to come back for another burger and a cheeky Snog soon (see what I did there?)


What I eat in a day (plus my morning workout)

So I thought today I would write a quick post sharing a typical day's food intake and a sample workout to show the sort of thing I'm focussing on prior to my holiday.  I want to say a few things before I start this post - first of all, my current goals are to lose fat, build muscle and generally tone up, so my nutrition and calorie intake are based on this, rather than what a typical calorie intake might be if I was just maintaining my weight.  My body fat percentage (up until this week) was over 31% which is just outside the ideal weight for a woman, so fat loss has been my goal for the last few weeks, not only because I want to feel confident in a bikini, but also for health reasons.  These are my goals but they might not be yours - I have a real challenge in that I hold all of my fat around my stomach area and my thighs and I really want to tone up so I feel a little better about being in the pool on my holiday.  I'm not advocating anyone copying my meal plan or trying to match my calories - you have to 'do you' and work out what's best for you.

My Personal Trainer has worked out my macros (for a really helpful video on what macros are, and how to build a meal plan around them, check out Carly Rowena's latest video) and I enter these into my MyFitnessPal and plan my meals around that.  Although I try and prepare my lunches in advance, and plan my dinners for the week, I also keep an eye on my nutrition throughout the day.  That way if I can see that my protein intake is a little low I can supplement it with some chopped chicken or a protein shake, and so on dependent on what my percentages are looking like.

One final thing - I wanted to share these photos straight away so I've taken them on my phone throughout the day - apologies for the poor quality!

So - onto my food diary.  On gym days, I tend to go before work, so in order to get there for 7am I get up at 5.30.  The first thing I need at that point is a cup of green tea to wake me up! I am not a breakfast person and I cannot stomach food until much later in the morning, so I usually only have green tea and then something light later on in the morning.

05.40 - Morning cup of green tea - begu tea, morning buzz.  This green tea is my current favourite - it really helps to wake me up and set me up for the day.

At this point in the morning it's hard for me to be awake enough to work out, so I tend to have a pre-workout to give me energy and help get me through a session.  Sometimes I go without, but on particularly tired days or if I'm going for a longer run then I'll take this to stop my energy levels from dipping whilst working out.  (If you want to pick up anything from Protein Works then you can use my referral code RT110872 when you register for a bag of free protein - winner!)

06.30 - Protein Works, Genesis Pre-Workout (61 calories).  I just mix this in my shaker and drink it in the car on the way to the gym.

07.00 - Whether or not I'm working out with a trainer or on my own I usually get to the gym around 7am to give me enough time to work out for an hour, and then get showered and sorted and into work about 08.30.  Today I did a sort of 'leg' workout which consisted of:

Cross-trainer for five minutes
Squats with a bar (12 reps) x 4
Hack squats (10 reps), Goblin squats (12 reps) x 4
Lunges with dumbbells (across gym), kettlebell swings (20 reps) x5
Kettlebell deadlifts (12 reps) x 4
Foam roller on legs to stop them aching later in the day!

This workout took around an hour and I was sweating like crazy at the end of it - definitely a good feeling before going to work!

09.45 - Nakd bar (137 calories), green tea.  I drank half of my green tea before I remembered to take this photograph! Just before 10am I fancied something small so I ate a Nakd bar before running off into a meeting.

13.00 - Muscle Food Lean Cumberland Sausage, carrots, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli (239 calories)
            Can of Pepsi Max

I was definitely hungry by 13.00 so I heated up my lunch - just an extra serving of what I'd had for dinner the night before.  We buy all of our meat from Muscle Food as it's ridiculously good value and it's all organic and from British farms.  I batch buy it and then keep it in the freezer and defrost as I go or cook things in the slow cooker during the day.

13.30 - Aussie Bites 'muffin' (135 calories), 2 x medjool dates (133 calories)

I sat in the park with a friend and had one of these Aussie Bites and two medjool dates.  I bought the Aussie Bites from Costco - they are honey, oats, apricot, sunflower seeds and flax seeds with no artificial ingredients.  I keep medjool dates in my drawer for when I fancy something sweet.

17.00 - Diet Protein Water, The Protein Works (91 calories)

On the way home I had a quick protein water in my shaker - I have the Watermelon Cooler flavour and it just tastes like squash; it's a good way to get a bit of extra protein in whilst re-hydrating.

19.00 - Muscle Food pork medallions, mustard sauce (mustard, chicken stock, soured cream, red onion), sweet potato fries, small amount of baked chunky potato. (412 calories).

Dinner was a bit later than usual - I usually try and have my dinner by 6 or half 6 as if it drags on too late I still feel full by the time I go to bed and I hate that!  The sauce only had a spoonful of soured cream in it so it was relatively low fat but really tasty.  I usually stick just to sweet potato fries but we had a baking potato lying around so we chopped that up too.  The 'chips' are just sprayed with Fry Light and baked.

21.00 - The Protein Works Vanilla Micellar Casein Powder with Alpro Almond Coconut Milk (129 calories).

I'm now just about to tuck into a Micellar Casein shake - I get the Vanilla Creme flavour from The Protein Works and have it with unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk.  Casein Protein is useful to have before bed as it's slow burning and helps with muscle recovery overnight.  It's a nice one to have at bedtime as it really helps me wind down for the evening.

Total: 1338 calories (just under my usual calorie goal).  

Do you use MyFitnessPal? Is this similar to your daily food intake? (BUT totally each to their own - what works for me might not work for you and so on, I just thought I'd share my day as I like to be nosy about what other people eat!)

The pleasure of losing things

I am fastidious about the contents of my handbag.  The usual stuff is in there, of course.  And a few extras thrown in because I don't like to get caught out - notebook and pen, green tea teabags, a few more pens, mints, hair grips - the paraphernalia of a stationery lover who frequently has messy hair. One thing I always carry with me is a small make-up bag.  Its contents include (but are not limited to) hand cream, lip salve, lipstick, mini perfume, mini hair oil, wet wipes, and a tube of bonjela that has been in there for so long that I'm nervous to take it out lest karma immediately gifts me with a 'serves you right' mouth ulcer.

This make-up bag is a sort of comfort blanket.  A warm reassuring hand on the shoulder that tells me that, should I be invited to some sort of impromptu soiree after work, I don't have to decline the invitation, but rather can arrive smelling of & Other Stories Arabesque Wood, with a slick of Mac Fabby on my lips (and any mouth irritations deftly soothed).  Actually I often do find myself going to see a friend, or popping for a quick drink after work; and so this make-up bag is in frequent use (I lose count of the amount of times I find myself trying to pack both my gym bag for before work, and a further change of clothes for after work - hashtag 'all my friends live in the city I work in but don't live in problems').  On one afternoon I found myself in the work toilets; exchanging a shift dress for skinny jeans, re-doing my makeup and generally spreading most of my belongings across all four sinks.  A lift and a short walk to the pub with a work colleague later and I dug my hand in my handbag only to find it more roomy than usual.  My comfort blanket had been snuck from my shoulders - and the make-up bag was gone.  My go-to move at this point is to involve almost everyone I know or have ever met in my personal minuscule drama, and so it was that a group of my work colleagues discussed several options to aid in the location and retrieval of the make-up bag - including phone-calls or drives back to the office (which we then realised had shut), returning to my car to perform an intensive search to see if I had deposited it there before leaving, and contacting various locations that I had visited since the make-up bag's last known position.  In the end the most popular conclusion was the less than reassuring but probably fairly sensible adage of 'it will probably just turn up' - and I resigned myself to the fact that I might never see my precious make-up bag again.  I imagined it in the hands of some new owner; gleefully slathering themselves in L'Occitane Shea Butter hand cream, and smelling strongly of Arabesque Wood (should one be able to identify what such a scent might entail).

img credit: notonthehighstreet

The next day I made it my personal mission to get back what was rightfully mine.  My handbag lopped sadly at the sides without the make-up bag to provide its stuffing, and I realised that any invitations to impromptu soirees would currently have to be disappointedly declined.  The make-up bag was not in my car, my friend's car, or the work toilets.  Further enquiries generated unsatisfactory dead ends.  This story does have a happy ending however (I know it may be tugging on your heartstrings so I shan't keep you hanging on much longer).  The make-up bag had been handed in to our Front Desk, and I was reunited with it by lunchtime.  I felt positively gleeful.  I immediately contacted all of my friends, who had been enquiring, concerned, as to whether it had been found.  I placed it on my desk and smiled lovingly at it for the remainder of the day; happy that it was once more back in my life (and my handbag).

This has happened several times recently.  Items that I thought I had lost, have been found.  Things I thought were broken, have been fixed.  Belongings I had lent out and long forgotten have been returned.  There is somehow a great pleasure in having something almost slip away from you, and then be able to grasp them again.  Perhaps because we grow so used to having things and owning things in such large volumes that we no longer really experience the thrill of becoming attached to something.  When you are a child you save your pocket money for a toy that you then love so hard you rub the fur from it.  Love that wears the wheels down, love that rumples the pages, love that leaves chocolate coated fingerprints.  

And then we get older and we chase that thrill of the newness and wonder of ownership; loading up shopping baskets and receiving unending packages in the post.  But it is dulled somehow.  I've lost count of the amount of times I find a dress in the back of a wardrobe with the tags still on that I've completely forgotten I'd bought.  Perhaps it is only by losing things, having them taken away or broken, that we reignite that desire.  How often does that happen in life too? That old chestnut trotted out - you don't know what you've got until it's gone.  Love, comfort, convenience, make-up bags, etc.

I suppose the only way to spark that joy is to be grateful for those things you have, and not to devalue that gratitude by overproduction; to dumb it down with excess.  There is a lot that can be said for owning fewer things, and for placing value on the things we really do love and enjoy.  And making sure we tell them often.  People, or make-up bags.  But people especially.