Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Comeback Queen or Cutting My Losses

 Comeback queen or cutting my losses… 


This is a close contender for the longest I’ve ever left between posts in 11 years of holding this space. I was in my final year of a 4 year undergrad degree when I started posting here. It was a welcome escapism from a tricky time, and a space where I found joy, friends and some of the most incredible experiences that would look very different in today’s world. 


I’ve flirted with fashion blogging- try not to laugh too hard, although I must confess to a chuckle when I think back to balancing a camera with a lower res than my front facing phone camera has these days, and of peter pan collars in my badly lit student halls room. Food has been a fixture for a fair while too. We all have to eat, right? My approach to and the way I talk about body image, food and fitness has changed a lot in 11 years too, and I’m proud of that. We owe it to ourselves to be open minded to challenge, change and to learning enough to appreciate when we’re misguided. I’m fairly sure if I were to look back in another 11 years, I’ll have a little cringe at some of the things I put out into the world now. That brings me nicely to... fitness. 


This blog has taken me through a lot, 20 year old me owned a pair of children’s trainers because you don’t pay VAT on kid’s clothes and shoes - hurrah for small feet! I also could not understand why I’d want to spend more than £20 on something for exercise, which was something to partake in only to keep my weight and dress size at a certain level. 22 year old me had absolutely no idea how far a mile was, or how to go about running one in 9 mins or less to make it through a selection test for the RAF (spoiler alert: I didn’t even make it to selection, thank you piss-poor eyesight). 23 year old Chloe got on a bike for the first time in more than a decade because cycling to work I could afford, a travel card… not so much. Since then, sport has been a constant, albeit that my journey has not been linear. Then again, whose journey is? I’ve cycled 100+ mile routes on a single speed with zero understanding of why that might be a point of interest. I’ve run everything from 1 mile time trial to marathons. I’ve completed the London Classics in a single year, learned to love throwing heavy things around and the joy of a deadlift and discovered that exercising the connection between mind, body and movement is just as important as how far or fast you can travel under your own steam. 


The most recent chapter, my 30s have been... an experience. Like everyone else, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way I live and work, not least because I lost my job shortly before the crisis hit. And then there's the virus itself. I experienced COVID-19 for myself in February and it’s left me wondering about the space I hold. About this space.

As I face down a comeback to running and other sports or exercise (incidentally my last post in June was about returning to running too…. Hurrah for the pandemic…), I’ve found myself assessing which things I want to pull forward as I make my way through another year. My thoughts have turned to running, to cycling, to the debut triathlon I might get a chance to complete this year, to my best mate and his wedding (attempt number three to plan his day, here’s hoping third time's a charm), to seeing friends, to new work projects and ideas and to opportunities that present themselves, I wonder do I want to bend and mould this space to fit around those things, have I got enough energy to bring to documenting all those things, and ultimately is it worth the expenditure of my energy if I do… 


In a world of “content” and professional website builds, photography and styling that wouldn’t look out of place in Vogue, does anyone want to use their own energy ready about a very ordinary 30 something who runs a bit, likes to cook and has a love/hate relationship with DIY and the 1930s terrace house renovation? And whilst I agree wholeheartedly we should pursue things that bring us joy regardless of whether we’re good at them or not, and we don’t need to monetise our hobbies, I find myself wondering: if nobody is reading, will it bring me joy? In times passed, a lot of joy has come from connection with others through this blog or the associated social media. I’ve done all the things we grew up being not to do with the internet: stayed overnight in a country manor house with 10 people I’ve never met before? Check. Give strangers on the internet my contact details or address, Check. Arranged to meet strangers from the internet, check. I have some fabulous memories, and although I do not yearn for those yesteryears to come back around, I suspect that the connections and  the joy of the blogging we did then, is to be found elsewhere now. 


To cut a VERY long story short, and I will always wonder by the way, how I can write 1000 or more words for my blog with such ease, and used to lose half a day finding 500 or so for academic work…. ANYWAY…. I don’t know if I will continue to hold this space or if it’s time for me to let it go, but it seemed only right that the place for my internal debate should be here. 


So long… for now, maybe for a while, maybe for the last time. Let's see...


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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

On Being a Beginner (again)

One of the things I identify with is being a runner. I run regularly, the act of running brings me joy (even if it doesn’t always feel that way mid-session), I've been lucky enough to run in many countries and the running community (and those I’ve previously been involved in elsewhere) I’m an active part of has brought me friends, special friends and people who have changed my life. I can’t remember a time in the last 5 years where running hasn’t been a part of my life.

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When we entered lockdown in the UK, my running community, Adidas Runners, and the much loved women’s studio on Brick Lane had already closed their doors to in-person classes and group runs and it became very apparent very early on into the lockdown that running wasn’t going to be possible for me, in my area. Watching people ignore restrictions and hold birthday parties in the park as the number of deaths was doubling almost daily was too much for me, and so began 8 weeks of connecting to online workouts and not setting foot outside the boundaries of my home.

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Fast forward to where we are now in June. With easing restrictions out there and a need to up the intensity of my exercise in here as well as recognising the anxiety I had been holding about going outside needed to be confronted too. Fully embracing the fact that I’d need to build back up with a beginner plan of run-walk intervals, I picked a hell of a week to get back out there as a beginner. I say this because there’s a lot you can learn about the journey to anti-racism from this….

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Just as not every second of every run is a joy, to practise anti-racism, you will need to address your own biases and prejudices as you uncover them. And I’d wager there will be more of them than you think, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable and then work out how to push through the other side.

Consistency is key
Following a plan consistently will build strength, speed and endurance in running. But anti-racism is also about consistency. The world is watching, the Black community is watching. And we must practise anti-racisim consistently and not just this week, this month or this year, because addressing racism, especially at a systemic level, isn’t the only (enormous and widespread) issue to be faced, it’s also a case of keeping it out, just as we have failed to do at multiple opportunities in history.

Rest Days are part of the plan
When you begin running or return to running or indeed if you’re a regular runner, rest days are where the magic happens, your body has time to repair, your mind has time to assess, reflect and reset for the coming days and the next stage of your plan. There are no prizes for reading the entire Macpherson report in a day, and how much are you really taking in if you’re reading history or anti-racist activist publications one after another? In order to learn, we must also allow ourselves the time to process the information so that as well as knowing better we most importantly of all ARE better and DO better.

Comparison is the thief of joy
We’ve been hearing this in many fields for many years, and that’s because it’s so very true. Whatever runnin you’re doing, at whatever pace, for however long or whichever distance, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because you have no idea what their struggles and their goals are. See also your own anti-racism journey. There are many different ways in which you can make an impact on the movement and the current situation. Some are donating, some are protesting, some reading, some are having tough conversations and a magnitude of other impacts and actions are taking place. Don’t compare your journey, just make sure you can be honest with yourself about the work you are doing.

As with so much, what this comes to is privilege. Returning to running for me is a privilege. As a beginner again I get to notice things I didn’t the first time around because something else was hard. I get to choose to run, and to choose to get back out there. Just like getting educated about racism and anti-racism is part of my white privilege, because ultimately I’ll never be subject to the horrors of racism, but I have to power to stop it, and if we can’t accept our privileges, then not only can we change nothing, but we’ll have nothing left to be grateful for either.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Socially Distant Chef: Episode 3

It feels apt to have collated this little snapshot of what I can only describe as comfort food after a week that was very much a struggle. But this ride we’re stuck on, the ‘coronacoaster’ I’ve seen it called, yeah, it keeps on rolling. So here’s a scant handful of things I’ve eaten lately.

Fake-Away Subway
This one was a birthday wishlist meal. Faceache decided he really fancied a subway style sandwich with salami, cheese and BBQ sauce amongst other things. Messy as hell, but he was a happy bunny. I went with a homemade burger sauce, vegetable meat balls, equally as messy and pretty damned good.

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THAT Pret a Manger Cookie…
This we need to talk about. This is the Almond Butter & Dark Chocolate cookie from Pret a Manger AKA The Vegan Cookie they brought back due to popular demand. Made by me. They came out SO well, I strongly recommend you hit up the Veggie Pret Instagram feed where they have posted the recipe, because it’s too good not to try- I made a handful, and froze the rest if the dough in individual portions, so I have a treat lurking for when I need one.

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Fishfinger Sandwich
Because sometimes you wake up on a Saturday morning, and you drink your coffee and you lever yourself out of bed, and only a fishfinger sandwich will do. And so it was, the morning after the night before, I was slicing leftover, slightly disappointingly textured but very tasy sourdough and slathering homemade tartare sauce on hot from the oven fishfingers. What more is there to say?

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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Keeping My Cool, Naturally: First Impressions of Natural Deodorant

I started writing this post last week and that version is 2 pages of a document long and it doesn’t even cover the product I want to chat about today. So I’m saving my mammoth post for another time as it covers a whole host of other things I (still) want to talk about later!

SO. Let’s talk about natural deodorant. There are lots on the market with new products popping up all the time. Some are creams, some come in tubes, and some look a bit like a familiar stick deodorant. They’re made with a variety of natural ingredients such as clays and essential oils and one of the biggest selling points is often that these deodorants are aluminium-free. Aluminium is the ingredient that blocks the pores in your underarm to prevent swearing in lots of the deodorants and antiperspirants we’re so used to. If the idea of purposefully blocking your pores leaves you a little surprised, then a more natural alternative might be for you too.

All of that said, my primary motivation was to reduce waste. Although it’s not true for all natural deodorant products, many of them have less packaging, and what packaging they do have might be compostable and/or single use plastic free.

With all of this in mind, I set about some research a couple of months ago, and last week I opened up this delivery from Wild. The format is based around a refillable unit (in a choice of colours, this is the closest I could get to green….) and compostable or recyclable cartridges of natural deodorant in a choice of different scents. There are options to make savings on the refills by opting for a flexible subscription of regular deliveries of the cartridge or you can purchase ad-hoc with a minimum purchase of 3 cartridges (to help reduce postage and packaging impact).

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This starter box set me back £25 and replacement cartridges come to around £6 each depending on how you buy them. I chose Bergamot, Orange Zest & Mint, some of the other options include Rose and Coconut.

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Aside from having used up the last of my previous deodorant, something I’ve been burning through for a couple of months, there’s another reason I chose to make this switch now as opposed to when I first started to investigate earlier in the year. And that’s lockdown. Stay with me for a sec…

One of the considerations with this switch if you’ve been using aluminium deodorant for a long time, which many of you will have been for lots of your adult life, is a transition period. Not entirely a surprise when you remember that the aluminium you’ve been using has been building up, blocking your pores over the years. Some people experience a period of sweating a bit more and you might notice you don’t smell quite as fresh as usual too. Popular consensus seems to be that the transition period lasts 2-3 weeks. There’s some people who swear by a clay-based mask to clear the pores both DIY and options available to buy. I have chosen to follow the Wild advice given it’s their product I’m betting on, which is simply to shower more often if needed, and use the deodorant to freshen up is needed. They have a super helpful guide on their website which outlines what you might expect if you’re a person who does go through a transition period.

And so that brings me to day 7 in the Wild... as it were…

I’ll be open and honest (because why else would I be chatting about my deodorant on the internet anyway… ), and say that I’ve been using a unisex antipersperant roll on for a long time. I’d say it’s largely considered to be quite a strong product and I’m a person who only has to think about being hot and I sweat. In other words, I’m fully expecting to experience a transition and the reason that, for me, there’s no better time than now to give it a try. To put no finer a point on it, there’s only one other person in my household to offend and although lots of you might be working from home, I’m currently unemployed and so I have quite literally no reason to leave the house or come into contact with anyone else.

In my professional life and work settings, the idea of taking on a possibility of excess sweating and body odour would have been horrifying, but whilst the effects of this pandemic are so awful in so many ways, it’s a perfect opportunity for me to set aside some of the anxieties and let’s be honest, excuses when it comes to making positive changes that might take a little adjusting to.
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So far, it’s been a warm 7 days here in London. It’s also been a week of workouts, so here’s what I’m noticing…

Day 1
Easy to assemble, easy to apply, looks pretty.
Top of product a bit crumbly.

Day 3
No noticeable difference, not sweating more than usual and haven’t noticed any body odour, which I feel I’m super conscious of knowing I’ve made a change. Product smells AMAZING.

Day 4
Double workout, sweating as expected, not smelling quite as fresh as I do usually, but nothing a standard post-workout shower won’t solve.

Day 6
Woke up with some body odour after a very warm night and a humid early morning, although it was more noticeable, it’s also not unusual for me in hotter months.

Day 7
My underarms feel a little raw, but also much softer to touch and none of the usual residue I’m used to.

I’m full planning to chat about this again, one week isn’t a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but I also really wanted to get this out there in case anyone else is thinking about trying something new and experimenting during a period of time where we’re potentially afforded a little more privacy in which to play.

If you’re interested in this process, I’ve been documenting my experience via Instagram stories and if you have any questions, please feel free to ping me a message- this isn’t an ad, a sponsored post and neither am I here to tell you what is right for YOU, but I’m happy to share what I’m learning with anyone who might find it useful. And stand by for more chat about sustainable changes! If you do happen to purchase via the links in this post though, you'll get 20% off, which is a standard referral link, available to any new customer to pass on to friends.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Chloe Likes To Eat: Socially Distant Chef Episode 2

Well, here we are, still staying home, or at least Tom & I are.

I'm calling this one Salads & Sangria

Courgette, Pea & Courgette Salad, Garlic Croutons

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I love a salad, as you will be able to tell by the end of this episode! This one was a bit of a use up special a couple of days before the grocery run, and is a favourite with any kind of green bean/pea/leaf you enjoy. It works best if you mix the textures up to keep it interesting- chopped, grated, spiralised (do people still do that?) etc. This version is a bit like this:
1 grated courgette
Half a cucumber diced (sort of, I have zero knife skills)
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas, defrosted in cold water
Dressed with lemon juice, a spoonful of pesto, lots of black pepper and topped with some stale bread mixed with a little bit of garlic butter and roasted off until crispy.
Side of grilled tendersteam broccoli leftover from the night before

Pad Thai Salad

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A new ‘grocery day’ tradition/treat! A bag of prepared stir fry veg whilst it’s all still crisp and the bean sprouts are safe to eat, I base my Pad Thai dressing on this BBC Good Food recipe:
2 tsp tamarind Paste
3 tbsp fish Sauce (or use the liquor from rehydrated soaked mushrooms with a touch of soy/tamari for a vegan option)
2 tsp sugar
Zest 1 lime
Pinch chilli flakes or the Jamie Oliver trick- grate a bit of a frozen whole chilli in

I mix it all together in a bowl, add rice noodles soaked for approx 10 mins in hot water, the raw stir fry veg, mix really well, and serve with some crushed salted peanuts to top.

It’s fresh, salty, sour, and a tiny bit sweet all at the same time, and the longest job of the whole thing is the 10 mins you leave the noodles sitting in hot water!


Lebanase Inspired Salad Bowl

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I have a few favourite Lebanese restaurants in the UK and also Spain, it’s got some cracking flavours and lots of meze dishes which are epic inspiration for the ‘bowl format’ which has been featuring heavily in this household lately. I always say ‘inspired’ when talking about these, because I’m painfully aware there’s nothing authentic about these dishes, but they are truthfully inspired by fantastically smooth baba ganoush, tangy fattoush and fluffy tabouleh and some of the most fun and raucous meals I've shared with family and friends over the years.

This one includes:
Chargrilled slices of courgette and onion tossed in tahini, garlic and lemon dressing
Chargrilled peppers
Chargrilled slices of aubergine, with soy sauce and crushed garlic poured over
Fattoush style salad of tomatoes and stale bread with a harissa, red wine vinegar and zaatar
Minted yoghurt
Chickpeas roasted with a touch of salt and pepper

Falafel Bowl

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Told you, another bowl it is.

This one is a bit of a scraping the barrel special from the freezer as I made this a day or two before our grocery shop when the house was devoid of much fresh…
Pepper, edamame and grain salad (from the freezer section of Aldi) with a bit of added sumac
Pea, Courgette & cucumber salad with a lemon and tahini dressing (leftover from the top salad)
Guacamole made from frozen avocado purchased a couple of months ago- one to never repeat since as there was zero flavour.
Gosh! Spinach and pine nut falafel (we get them from Lidl, but I don’t think they’re a Lidl brand)
A few leaves from the baby lettuce in my Aerogarden
Harissa mayo

And something for when the sun comes back out...
Peach & Raspberry Sangria

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This can be made alcohol free or you can add a bottle of rose to it- whatever floats your boat, but it’s bloody delicious enjoyed in the sunshine:

Add raspberries (I used frozen ones), chopped tinned peaches and ice to a jug, the juice from the tinned peaches and either a 1L bottle of tonic water and/or a bottle of rose. Stir. Enjoy.

And that concludes another episode- I hope you won't judge me too harshly for my horrendously lit, unedited images- more work to do for me! Is there anything you'd love to see me chat about food wise- a particular cuisine using store cupboard/basic ingredients? Or maybe the cocktail making needs to be a regular feature? In any case, you can see regular snaps of food and drink amidst the rest of my waffle on Instagram: chloelikes2talk and I've even reinstalled Twitter (same handle)!
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