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Happy days

I've mentioned a few times on here that I'm going through a really busy period at the moment, and I find myself complaining a lot about how much I have on my plate.  It's something I battle with a lot; trying to stop myself whinging about being over-committed and over-tired and telling everyone how stressed I am.  I've been trying to say no to more things (I even wrote a post for High Tea Cast about how busyness is a choice, and making more time for myself) but at the moment it's mainly work commitments which sadly I can't say no to, no matter how much I might want to! I'm working away for a couple of weeks but staying at my parents' house which is nice as it means I get to spend some time with my Mum and Dad, but I have got behind on lots of bits I would normally have time to do at home (blogging being one of them).

The weather however has been kind during the weekends I have spent at home, meaning we've enjoyed some lovely Saturdays and Sundays full of beach walks, our first barbecue this year, drinks in pub beer gardens and pottering in the garden.  I'm so excited that the clocks have now gone forward (though not so much the hour less in bed), bringing with them some lighter evenings - post-work bike rides, fish and chips on the beach and strolls in the forest are calling!

The weekend before last Bodhi and my friend Nicole's pug Archie went for their first walk together, along the beach from Highcliffe to Mudeford.  It's a relatively short walk but Archie kept getting so much attention (there were even people taking photos on their phones!) that it took us ages, especially with Archie's teeny tiny puppy steps! Luckily Bodhi didn't seem to mind, although I think he did wonder why he wasn't getting as much attention as usual!

Highcliffe beach Nicole and Archie Bodhi and Archie Highcliffe Archie and Nicole Beach huts Archie on the beach

We are so lucky to live where we do, and it really comes into its own when the sun is out.  I am making a promise to myself that I will spend more time at the beach this summer!

Other things that I am thankful for this week -

001. Snatching pre-bedtime time for reading (finished Wool this week and really enjoyed it).
002. Spending lazy time with my Mum watching TV and chatting - never normally get to do this!
003. Making plans to go away camping next month - looking forward to barbecues and cider in the sunshine
004. Cashew butter.  No further explanation required.
005. Bodhi cuddles after not seeing him for a week.
006. Being able to deliver training I designed and have it go (mostly) according to plan - feels like a great achievement!
007. Heated seats in my car on chilly evenings.
008. Pretty desktop backgrounds making me glad for spring (downloaded from the bottom of this post)
009. My morning green tea - it always feels so restorative
010. Catching up on trashy telly yesterday morning (I have a Valleys addiction!)

My friend Kate bought me flowers the week before last and they were beautiful. I also learned the trick of pushing a pin through the stem below the head of the flower to keep them pepped up and stop them sagging - genius!

Tulips Tulips

The only thing that I'm not thankful for at the moment is my choice to give up sugar for lent! I was doing really well up until this week and didn't have as many cravings as I thought I would, but for some reason, about a month after lent started, I'm suddenly craving all things sweet! I've been wishing I hadn't said I'd give up everything with (refined) sugar in it as it's meant I can't have a lot of things I hadn't banked on giving up, like mayonnaise, Matteson's chicken bites, hazelnut milk, tomato sauce etc.  Though I think I'd give up all of those things forever for a huge slab of Dairy Milk right about now! I'm keeping going by gorging on peanut butter and cashew nut butter but I'm really missing my Peanut Hottie, I can't wait for Easter Sunday so I can make myself a big mug of it!

Peanut Hottie

What's been making you happy this week?

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Loose teas and infuser mugs

As you know, I am pretty passionate about my tea.  Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing (except for maybe when I'm on holiday), my morning starts with a big mug of green tea.  I usually stick to flavoured green tea bags as I find green tea on its own a little bitter, but I have long been searching for the perfect loose leaf green tea (and the perfect way to brew it) and I have found it in Jing Tea's Anji Green Tea.  A lot of people who try green tea via teabags often dislike the taste, but I think even the staunchest of green tea haters couldn't help but be convinced by the taste of this tea - it has such a delicate and delicious flavour and is completely different from anything I've ever tried in a teabag, it feels very luxurious!

I brewed it in one of their amazing glass infuser mugs (£24*).  With the mug, you can enjoy whole leaf tea wherever you like - I'll definitely be picking up another so I can have tasty teas in the office as well as at home.  It's such a genius idea and so simple to use, you simply pour hot water onto the leaves in the top level of the mug, and then pull the layer out once it's brewed.

Jing Tea Jing Tea Jing Tea Jing Tea

Even if you're not a green tea fan, Jing Tea have a whole range of teas, from Earl Grey, to Assam Breakfast, to their Blackcurrant and Hibiscus, which was also a big hit with me!  I think it's a rather refined and civilised way to start a day with a fresh, loose leaf tea, and I'll certainly be branching out more into the world of tea now I have my amazing new mug.

Are you a loose leaf tea fan? Have you tried Jing Tea?

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{products were sent for review, all views are my own}
5

Five Favourites: March

I'm going to be completely honest here and tell you that this post started out in draft format as my 'Five Favourites: February' post, what feels like about a week ago, but actually must have been a lot more, as somehow we're now 25 days into March.  So I am being a bit of a cheater and turning it into my March edition so that it appears that I'm organised and slightly early, rather than really, really late!  Where is the time going? I am away from home at the moment staying at my parents' house whilst I support and deliver some training and I'm finding myself doing slightly longer days and then flopping into bed at an embarrasingly early time! I have a 10k run on Sunday which my Nike Running app keeps beeping at me and telling me to do some preparatory runs for but my legs have other ideas.... I also haven't been on Twitter or able to read blogs as much this week, so I apologise if I've missed anything that's going on with you guys. Saturday is my only full day at home for the next 10 days or so, so I promise I'll do lots of catching up then (on sleep, as well as blog reading!)

Without further ado, let me tell you about some of my favourite things this month (and last month, ahem....)

001. This quote: 
img credit: the year of lettering
002. Sunny days spent at the beach


003. Sleeping a hundred times better (since I gave up bad sugar for lent!)
004. Being woken up by the sound of seagulls whilst at my parents' house
005. Having a little splurge on ASOS, and also receiving a jar of treats from them to celebrate #ASOSHighSummer




001. Monica at The Travel Hack asked her favourite travel bloggers their recommendations for their ideal weekend escapes (I've now added several more locations to my wanderlust list!)

002. On the Lucky Bitch blog - 38 things you need to declutter from your life

003. I always love Leona's Wednesday Loves posts and I absolutely adored this post (even before I noticed I got a little mention - promise!)

004. The writing in Meg's post 'How Notting Hill (the movie) turned my life around' is simply stunning.

005. A massive well done to Charlotte, who ran a half-marathon this weekend! Amazing achievement (she only started running nine months ago!)


And a little bonus, because we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last weekend and I'm now addicted to listening to this song, a favourite song too...



What have you been loving this month? Any favourite blogs I should check out?

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Gunwharf Quays Treat Yourself event - this Thursday

This is just a quick post for people who live on the south coast, are free on Thursday evening and fancy a bit of shopping and pampering (if you tick those boxes, you're going to want to read on!)

On Thursday (27 March) Gunwharf Quays retail outlet in Portsmouth is holding a 'Treat Yourself' evening where there will be exclusive offers and pampering treatments while you shop. 

The evening is being held in conjunction with Glamour.com and there will be the opportunity to star in your own Glamour cover - how exciting!

treatyourself

The event will be held from 6-9pm and there will be lots of treats in all the stores, in-store discounts, makeovers and prize draws.  There are some amazing discounts and offers on the night (on top of the already discounted outlet prices, bargainous or what?), including:

  • 20% off Cath Kidston
  • 30% off All Saints
  • 15% off Jack Wills
  • 10% off Hobbs
  • Sweet treats and Prosecco at Sunglass Hut
  • 10% off at The Cosmetics Company Store
  • Cava at Karen Millen and a free gift for the first 30 customers
There's also the opportunity to win handbags from some of their stores, including a £500 Osprey London handbag.  Other treats on offer include Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Lindt chocolates.  Now that is going to be a real challenge for my no sugar lent, Krispy Kremes are rather a weakness of mine!

I'll be there on the night getting stuck in to some serious shopping, as well as taking over the Gunwharf Quays Twitter for the evening to tweet and snap all the action.  I can't wait! I'll also be blogging about the event afterwards and I have some exciting things lined up to share with you.

If you fancy coming down to the event, don't forget to pre-register to get your access wristband and claim a free treat.  And do let me know if you're coming down so I can say hello!


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Post-exercise smoothies, and smoothie tips

As you probably know by now, I'm a massive smoothie fan and have them most days, either for breakfast, as a mid-afternoon treat or post-exercise.  The post-exercise smoothie is always particularly satisfying, especially after a long run when you want to refuel with something tasty and nutritious - it's so easy just to whip up a smoothie or a juice.

I do quite frequently make juices too - and if you're looking for some juice inspiration then check out the Curry's blog post on post-workout juices - but, I can't help but love a good old smoothie, mainly because I am a peanut butter addict and you can't really throw peanut butter into a juice, can you?

My go-to recipe for smoothies consists of the following.  Protein powder (my current one is MyProtein Toffee Whey Protein Powder), soy milk, peanut butter and a banana.  So, so tasty and ticks lots of boxes for me by providing protein and good fats.  I usually use Alpro Hazelnut Milk but whilst I'm giving up sugar for lent I've moved onto their Whole Bean Soy Milk instead.

Curry's Smoothie Campaign

I was kindly gifted an awesome Kenwood kMix Blender (£129.99*) from Curry's to help me whip up the perfect post-exercise smoothie.  Last weekend I went out for a run and managed 11km, which is my longest run since I sprained my ankle, so it was the perfect opportunity to come home and test out my new blender! The blender itself is absolutely amazing - it can make soups as well as crush ice - I can see myself using these features a lot (it can even make dips, how cool is that?)

Curry's Smoothie Campaign

I must admit, I do find myself coming back to that same recipe time and time again, but I've been trying to mix it up a bit (geddit?) and try a few different flavours - I made one with coconut water and pineapple the other day that was amazing.  I get quite a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and I love this graphic which helps you build the perfect 'green' smoothie.


Some other quick tips for smoothies:

1. Add in extra ingredients like wheatgrass (a great source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and protein) or flaxseed (source of fibre and fatty acids - one of the greatest sources of omega 3).  You can buy packets of flaxseed in Aldi relatively cheaply.
2. Adding frozen banana to smoothies gives them a thicker, creamier, consistency
3. Freeze-ahead 'smoothie packs' with all your favourite smoothie ingredients so you can whip them up quickly in the morning.

{ no credit found - contact for removal }
4. Add washing-up-liquid and hot water to your blender after you've made a smoothie and then whizz it up - you still need to wash it afterwards but it'll save cleaning time by getting a lot of the gunk that sticks to the sides out.

{img credit: imperfect homemaker}

5. Add porridge oats to smoothies - they'll keep you fuller for longer and also give you a hit of fibre (and apparently also protect against cancer and heart disease!)

What are your favourite smoothie recipes? Do you have any smoothie tips?

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Aces up your sleeve

A very quick post today, but I wanted to share with you today's outfit, and in particular my new fluffy jumper (I know right, stop press or what?) HOLD THE PHONE - she's got a new jumper! I wore this for a little brunch outing today where I consumed a very large all-day breakfast and then spent too much money in Primark.  I've started doing this thing in Primark where I buy something, decide I like it, and then buy it in about four different colours.  Not sure that really fits with that 'buy less, buy better' rule I was trying to stick to, but at least I now have several different options when I need to wear a fleece-y hoodie or acid wash jumper (a necessity, I think you'll find).

Sheinside Furry Jumper Sheinside Furry Jumper Sheinside Furry Jumper
Sheinside Furry Jumper

fluffy jumper: sheinside.com $33.90 // jeans: asos £28
jacket: barneys {old} // bag: kate spade // boots: marks and spencer {sold out}

I am a bit in love with the mix of fussy fluffiness and the mesh on this jumper - I didn't take a photo of it but on the back the mesh extends down most of the jumper so it has a sort of 'backless' effect.  I think I'll wear this with shiny leggings and heels out on a night out (*talks casually as if I even still go on nights out*) as I think it could be dressed up as well as down.  And, I don't think I'll ever stop loving this boots.  I was kindly sent this jumper but I must say there is a lot of cool stuff on sheinside at the moment - I couldn't help myself and bought this ice cream jumper on Friday.  When you find a jumper that has an all over ice cream print, I think it's basically a rule that you have to buy it, right?

I hope you're all having lovely Saturdays, whatever you've been doing.  I'm away training on Monday for a week so tomorrow will be mainly spent washing, ironing and packing (yawn), therefore tonight is specially reserved for chilling on the sofa and catching up on TV (now that's more my kind of Saturday night, I guess those shiny leggings are safe for now...)

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Healthy snacks, protein shakes and guilt-free treats

When I decided to give up refined sugar for lent, it also made sense to really commit to 'clean eating' again - it would have felt a little like cheating (and been counter-productive for the waistline) to cut out sugar and spend every night binge-eating kettle chips (I think I dribbled a little at that mention of crisps...)  And I must admit it did feel a little like I was committing to six weeks of going without any treats or moments of food-induced pleasure.  And that's bad, because filling my body with food that's nutritious, healthy and bad-stuff-free should not feel like taking the enjoyment out of eating, but let's face it, who ever looks forward to their afternoon banana, or reaches for a salad after a tough day at work.

However, I have found that there is a lot of pleasure to be had in several foods I can eat and really, really enjoy, and also know they are doing good for my body.  If you've seen any of my health and fitness updates where I've listed what I've eaten for the week you will note that I'm a bit of a creature of habit, and that I rarely go without a daily 'treat' - this time in the form of a yummy protein shake, a delicious smoothie, a Nakd or Trek bar or trying out a new recipe - like a healthy cheesecake or making 'raw' chocolate.

Protein shakes are a bit of a morning habit - they are low calorie (I have mine with Whole Bean Soy Milk), high protein and and low in carbs and fat so they're a good morning choice for me.  A protein shake in the morning blended with a banana, peanut butter and flaxseed keeps me full until lunchtime and is blimmin' tasty too.  I buy MyProtein Whey Protein which is great quality, good value and has some amazing flavours.  I've previously bought their Choc Nut, Cookies and Cream and Toffee flavours but I was also kindly sent samples of vanilla and chocolate from ProBikeKit and I loved them too, as well as their NutriGreens which is also great.  I am a bit of an experimenter with their flavours and will probably try Chocolate Mint or Strawberry Cream next but I can fully vouch for the fact that their normal flavours are amazing too!  They really do feel like a real treat, having toffee and soy milk on it's own is just like a tasty milkshake.  Yum. 

MyProtein Shake
MyProtein Shake

As I mentioned, one of my favourite flavours is peanut butter, banana and protein powder - adding frozen banana gives it a real thickness and an almost 'ice cream milkshake' consistency - yum.  Most supermarkets these days stock peanut butter or other nut butters without any added ingredients too so it's easy to grab ingredients for some yummy and healthy shakes.


I mentioned that one of my other treats (usually my 3pm treat) is a Nakd bar or a Trek bar.  Nakd bars are made of raw fruits and nuts and come in delicious flavours like Cocoa Mint and Gingerbread (some flavours have cocoa or natural flavours in them but they are always 100% natural ingredients and gluten, wheat and dairy free).  They are usually sold for about 80p each in supermarkets but Natural Balance Foods sell boxes of 18 for £11.99 with free delivery, making them a bit cheaper to buy in bulk.  I bought a box of the cocoa flavours and a box of Trek bars from their website this week and have been happily munching through them! The Trek bars are also all natural and have lots of protein packed in, they are mainly made of oats and nuts and are also really tasty.

Natural Balance Foods kindly sent me some Nakd Bits to try out, which are AMAZING! They are tiny little bites of yumminess in some of their most popular flavours.  They are packaged in a nice big bag too so it sort of feels like a substitute for a bag of sweets! I reckon they'd be a great treat for the cinema or film night.

Nakd Berry Delight Nakd bars and Trek bar

Last night I decided I fancied doing some cooking/baking and I was really missing making desserts, so I decided to give Nic's Nutrition Healthy Cheesecake a whirl.  I substituted honey for Sweet Freedom and added MyProtein toffee protein powder to make it into a toffee cheesecake!  The smell of the coconut oil, syrup and oats emanating through the house was amazing and when it came out of the oven I think my mouth was actually watering! In the recipe it's served with fruit but for once I didn't have any raspberries or blueberries in so I just served it 'as is' and it was so, so yummy! The photos do not do it justice, it had a delicious layer of creamy, cheesy, toffee-y deliciousness...

Nic's Nutrition Healthy Cheesecake Nic's Nutrition Healthy Cheesecake

So there you have it, lots of treats for people who still like sweet things but might be 'clean eating' or giving up sugar for lent.  What's your favourite healthy snack?

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A bug's life

I have had this dress hanging on the back of my wardrobe door for a couple of weeks now, the print never fails to put a smile on my face as it's so fun.  I should explain the 'back of the wardrobe door' thing - basically I have one wardrobe door permanently open and when I get something new I hang it on the door so that it doesn't just get absorbed into my wardrobe and disappear forever.  I like to make sure I enjoy a new item and get a bit of pleasure out of it before it gets tucked away - is that weird?

This dress was a must-have as soon as I spotted it, I love the shape, the long sleeves, and what's not to like about a print made of up of bees? I must admit, I probably should have worn it with tights, but I have come to a bit of a conclusion over the last few weeks - I HATE TIGHTS.  Also, I think it's a pretty universally British rule, that if the sun is out, that means it's summer, and summer means... no tights, right?

Bug dress Bug dress
Bug dress
dress: sheinside.com $30.98* //  boots: glamorous £35*

The boots I'm wearing are my current favourites - I've been after a pair of cutout boots for ages and this pair from Glamorous are perfect.  I think they look great with dresses or skinny jeans and they're really comfy for stomping around in.

Glamorous Boots

This outfit will be staying on for Tom and I's little date night tonight - I've been working a lot of long hours at work and I'm away from Sunday for a couple of weeks so we're trying to fit in a bit of quality time and a bit of 'relaxing time' around that.  We were thinking of going out (I'm desperate to go to the cinema to see the Grand Budapest Hotel) but during a busy time the main thing I want to do is curl up on the sofa and chill and eat some good food.  Tom is preparing a yummy dinner as I type this, and I have made Nic's Nutrition's Healthy Cheesecake for afters!

The decision to stay in with cheesecake and last night's Valleys episode on catchup was definitely a welcome one, but I did check out the Ladbrokes Date Generator for some other inspiration, as it claims to have discovered the science behind the perfect date.  It told me we should go bowling and then for fish and chips, which sounds pretty good to me (although getting beaten at bowling by Tom for about the fourth time, not so much). Will put that one down on the list for next time (mmmm, fish and chips....)

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{date generator provided by ladbrokes}

17

Health and Fitness Update 05

I feel like I have a lot to share, as always, relating to my health and fitness progress over the last couple of weeks. But first of all I wanted to start with a thank-you to everyone who has read my updates, commented, tweeted and supported me over the last few weeks.  Even though I feel like I've been on a health/fitness/diet journey for about the last five years, it's really only in the last year or so that I've been really learning more about it and trying really hard to keep on track, and the knowledge I've gained through other bloggers and through chatting to people on Twitter has really been amazing.  I'm also grateful to people who regularly visit my blog that I've been able to slot in this relatively new topic and that (I think!) people have still been reading it and not giving it the swerve!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might know that I gave up (refined) sugar for lent.  I've always been a total sugar monster, with a huge sweet tooth and the ability to devour multiple chocolate bars in one sitting, and over the preceding few months I'd found myself more and more eating sweets, chocolate, cake and all of the other sugar-y treats, and craving them throughout the day.  I thought this would be a good challenge, and I've always been a bit of an 'all or nothing' person - I somehow find it easier to have the willpower for complete abstinence rather than 'a treat now and then'.  I can't say it's been easy - I have turned into an obsessive label checker after discovering that loads of food items I eat and would never have thought had sugar in them - Matteson's chicken bites, mayonnaise, soy milk, coleslaw, dried fruit, bread, etc - do indeed have sugar added to them and are now off the menu.  I have certainly had to cut out more than I originally planned! I have also found it challenging to decide whether some things are 'allowed' - I have allowed the odd artificial sweetener in (otherwise I couldn't have my protein shake), and Sweet Freedom (a fruit based syrup) but even fruit itself has a bit of a question mark as a lot of people who give up sugar also give up fruit. You will see from my food diary however that I have still been eating fruit as it seems right to include it as part of a nutritious and healthy diet, which of course is the ultimate aim.

So, here is my food diary for last week.  I've also included any exercise I've done, I tried to do something active every day, which I did do except for Thursday.

F o o d  D i a r y

Monday: Overnight oats with soy milk, quark, strawberries, peanut butter, flaxseed // Banana // Avocado on ryvita, salmon on brown bread // Sweet potato and cottage cheese // Peanut Trek bar

Exercise: Rode my bike to and from work (10k)

overnight oats
Tuesday: Overnight oats (same as day before) // Cottage cheese on toasted rye bread // Nakd bar // Homemade pizza with olives, chorizo and sweetcorn

Exercise: 3.5k run

went running with Tom after work - our trainer sizes are rather different!

Wednesday: Overnight oats // Salad with chorizo, sweetcorn, olives, lettuce // Carton of rice milk // Trek Peanut bar // Chinese takeaway for Dad's birthday - rice, shredded chili beef, prawn crackers

Exercise: Rode my bike to and from work (10k)

Thursday: Protein Pancakes and strawberries // Matteson's chicken bites // Apple and raisin Trek bar // Babybel // Fish, chips and peas (at a pub)

Friday: Protein Pancakes // Babybel // Ryvita and houmous // Apple // Protein shake // Haddock crepe

Exercise: Two hour yoga class

Saturday: Banana // Trek Peanut bar // Protein Shake // Tuna baguette and chips (at a pub)

Exercise: 3.5k walk

Sunday: 

Trek Peanut bar // Protein shake with banana and peanut butter // Steak with sweet potato chips

Exercise: 11k run


Obviously there are a few dinners in there that were less than perfect - we went for dinner with Tom's parents on one evening, and had a takeaway for my Dad's birthday on the Tuesday, but my aim is to make good choices at least 70% of the time and allow myself a bit of flex, which I do feel like I've achieved.  As always, any tips, suggestions or help on my diet and food choices is massively appreciated!  I was also chuffed to do an 11k run on Sunday - it wasn't the fastest run in the world (about 1h 15) and I had a pause to dip my feet in the sea (bliss!) but it was a lot of fun and felt like a good achievement.

I've lost a lb this week which is positive but I'm trying to focus on body changes and measurements rather than on the scales as it was really starting to demotivate me going weeks without 'losing any weight'.  I will be away from home for two weeks from next Monday which will be a bit of a challenge but I'm hoping to fit lots of running in in the evenings to keep my fitness up.

Do you have any health and fitness goals? How have you been getting on over the last week?

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