Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What A Difference A Decade Makes

Autumn is a very reflective time of year for me.  Like a lot of people who have passed through the education system, it tends to mark milestones of beginnings and ends- new institutions, jobs, changes and time served.

It's 10 years this week since I started university proper and I honestly had no idea how my life would look on graduating from university or if I'd even make it to that sometimes, let alone what to expect a decade later when I'd be closer to 30 than 25.

18 year old Chloe was a bit fragile, a bit awkward and didn't know where she belonged in the world. In the decade since cheap vodka and dodgy nightclubs, that's sometimes still true, but a lot of things have changed...

My 18th birthday

I cut my hair and owned darker lipstick... My hair used to be super long and I loved it- it was low effort- no need to blowdry and easy to pull up into a messy bun, but a couple of years ago I realised it didn't really have a style and was making me look younger in a not so great way. Whilst I miss the days of being able to leave the house after air drying my hair, I love having more 'grown up' hair. As for the lipstick, now I just feel like I look washed out without it. Sometimes you just need to find the right colour!

In the past 10 years I've lived in 4 different countries and called 11 different rooms, flats & houses home. The flat Tom & I share in North London we've been in for two and a half years and it's the longest either of us has lived anywhere since 2007.

Talking of Faceache, I'm not sure 18 year old Chloe ever thought she would be cut out for a forever relationship. A lot of that has to do with my own self worth but Tom & I have been together for 7 of the last 10 years and we're in it for the long haul.

Stupid grins before the Parathletics Champs this year

Taking about family and the one Tom and I have created for ourselves, there was the year I decided to let go of toxic family relationships too. A lot of the issues I was struggling with a decade ago stemmed from an unhealthy relationship with my biological father. Letting go of that and making the decision to walk away remains the single best thing I could have done for myself and although it took several years for me to process that and learn to feel worthwhile, that decision changed my life for for the better. I wrote about my recent experiences with estrangement and the affect of a death within that circle and you can read about there HERE

And that leads me nicely into self worth and something that definitely wasn't on my radar 10 years ago...


I have cycled countless miles including the 100 mile RideLondon, I've run hundreds of miles including a marathon, 2 half marathons and a 24 hour endurance run. I've tried everything from Clubbercise to circuit training and I now can't imagine my life without activity. This month I was even part of a Runners World magazine feature, well, my t-shirt and my story were.

Sports gave me the empowerment that nothing else in my life, even Tom, has been able to- cycle to work is not only a more enjoyable experience than London Underground but it's also a reminder of my own independence. Running has it's trials and troubles (remember that marathon....) but it also gives me an enormous sense of power- it makes me feel strong, in control of my own body and my own destiny. It's brought me closer to other people and provided me with a social circle that is diverse and that inspires me to do more and be better in all aspects of my life.

I dabbled a little with a bit of swimming and a few trials at different sports clubs at uni but overall, not my thing. after some pretty horrendous accidents taking part in PE at school, which I wasn't that interested in anyway, I wasn't all that keen. My kind of power hour turned out to be the kind where I took a shot of more-vodka-than-tonic every minute for an hour. I got serious about being more active when I thought about joining the Air Force to work in intelligence after my undergrad degree but didn't pass my medical due to sight issues and I didn't engage with sport again until late 2012/early 2013. Sports was something I never felt engaged with- it didn't speak to me. Even when I did pick up cycling as a way to get to work and save money as well as trying to keep my weight stable, it wasn't for joy, it was for purpose. I learned to love cycle commuting but my intro to running a few years later was much the same- it was a means to an end as opposed to v3. or whatever we're on of Chloe. I choose cycle commuting because getting on the tube everyday is grim. I run with a club for joy and purpose. I plan my weekends around races I want to run and I drag my friends along to classes that I think sound like fun.

My career was the biggest thing I was working towards at 18- I went to university as a means to getting a job, I wish I'd understood better what other options might have been available to me, but ultimately I had no idea what I wanted to do and when I finished university 4 and 5 years later it was still a struggle. What I wanted proved to be out of reach and I worked with what I had- having started what has the potential to essentially be my dream job this September seems a little serendipitous or perhaps synchronous. Perhaps it's this that has made me so reflective of the decade that has passed.

A few other little things I've ticked off in the last 10 years:

- Travelled - I've visited and loved some amazing places including Vietnam, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Las Vegas, Valencia, Carcassonne, Nigeria and Madeira to name a few

- Educated - Those who missed the years of dodgy outfit posts taken in my room in halls might not know that I have a BA Hons degree which is equally weighted across 3 languages making it a triple major and I have a Graduate Diploma in Law as well as having taken courses specific to marketing, speedwriting, recruitment, HR and most recently I qualified as a Ride Leader with British Cycling. I also learned more than I could ever have taught as a guest lecturer on a very memorable week long trip to Nigeria.

- Partied - as a sucker for a freebie I've spent a lot of Sunday morning dawns waiting for a nightbus after a night watching world class DJs whilst a family member managed Ministry of Sound

- Coffee AND Wine - 18 year old Chloe didn't like either, these days they are 2 of my main food groups...

Have I done anything exceptional in the last decade? No, not really. I am in many ways unremarkable- I can't tell you stories of making the world a better place or overcoming extreme adversity but what I do know is that working out who you are and what you stand for and being comfortable with that will stand you in good stead to spread good karma- be that letting someone past you in the supermarket queue, donating your organs, making an academic breakthrough, it's for sure easier to see the opportunities to make the world a bit brighter if you can honestly say- I am who I am.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Month in Review: September 2017

Well. It was a bit quiet around here in September and as is often the way for me, the complete opposite is true of my life offline.

In August I chatted a bit about accepting a brand spanking new 'proper' job after 3 years working as an ops manager for the recruitment company my parents founded. It's been a massive shift as I've moved into a completely different industry so it's been what you might call a steep learning curve!

One of the many benefits to my new challenge is a return to cycle commuting since I'm now living just over 10km from my office instead of 80 miles worth of motorway driving.

That means these awesome and light up tights are back out and in force. It also means I'm getting a solid hour of exercise in 3-4 days per week which is good because my running and other training is a bit all over the place with trying to establish a new routine.

I'm still very much running and have in recent months truly learned the joy of parkrun. I've never really been a morning person so getting up earlier on the weekend to run 5k didn't appeal but after a few irregular appearances, the joy of the community hooked me in. After a plea from my new home run at Walthamstow, I accidentally ended up as Run Director this month...

Yup. Accidental RD. They even gave me an Airhorn of Power which is almost as good as the time someone gave me a Megaphone of Power....

Tom & I went to Leeds to visit his parents this months and demonstrated to the fullest extent an example of piss poor planning. From booking the wrong hotel to not going out for dinner, to holes in my only pair of jeans, we well and truly ballsed it up. On the plus side we did both discover the joy of a GAP outlet store just off the M1 on the way home because we neither of us had enough work clothes. Oh. My. Exciting. Life.

I found myself at my first football match this month. Craven Cottage is a nice ground, although it helped that I had a pass for their newly open wine lounge....

So there's a small handful of things I did do, but probably a few things I didn't do say more about my September than anything else...

I didn't cook much and I definitely wasn't feeling inspired in the kitchen. This whole change in routine thing played havoc with trying to eat properly. I've eaten a lot of take-out salad and a lot of cobbled together meals.

I didn't make it to a single training session with what I hope will be my new running club and I'm missing club running so much. Here's crossing fingers for October.

I didn't race at all in September. But given I've got a busy autumn season coming up, I'm not so worried about that. I've had a pretty phenomenal summer season without really realising it- I knocked almost 2 minutes off my 5km PB and had a blast doing it surrounded by brilliant people.

I didn't read very much either. I'm making up for that this week and next as I'm fulfilling the last bit of my exit from my previous job covering some holiday but here's a few things that did catch my eye...

Casquette on how women in sport are basically taking over the world

An absolutely brilliant restaurant that is the best definition of unstuffy dining taken to the next level, Elystan Street won an AA Award AND got their first Michelin Star this week. Phil Howard and his amazing team are worth a follow on Twitter & Instagram for envy inducing food pictures and an injection of joy back into the catering industry. 

You need this autumnal squash & sage bake that features all the cheese by Sarah. 

We need to remember why Tessa Jowell was so impactful in giving women in particular a voice in British politics without demeaning her to being the Mother in Law of someone else. 

I'm pretty hooked on everything that Emma makes since she started creating beautiful things from silver, but she also writes very candidly about her experience with breast cancer and her post about feeling angry in the aftermath of that is important.

And lastly, I felt super old when I worked out it was 10 years this weekend since I started university. As a fresher I had no idea at all what my life would like when I graduated, never mind in a decade. It's been a twisty turny road so far, but I feel satisfied that I've grasped every opportunity and made the best of them all as they've come my way. I've made peace with many of the things I allowed to hold me back. I wish I could claim this picture was artistically created on my first night at uni back in 2007, but the truth is a combination of cheap vodka and a phone by a brand that doesn't exist anymore.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Month in Review: August 2017

August, what a month. It feels like it's been a busy month and it's been one of firsts and lasts.

I willingly went to my first 5th birthday party- my second cousin's eldest daughter (we think that makes her my third cousin....) ran riot on cake and turkey dinosaurs whilst her dad got the barbecue going and supplied the booze for the grown-ups. For someone who just doesn't do kids, I had a great afternoon- Oliver stood up to his daddy duties to make sure not even rain could stop play...

After my very first DNF last month- click if you missed my post about Did Not Finish status, I ran another well under 30m 5k- not enough to beat the PB I set in May but well under my previous long standing PB. I also soaked up the (fake because results are age graded) glory of being first home for a club race. It was a reminder that running is as much about believing that you are strong as it is about how fast you can put one foot in front of the other. It also goes to show how much I've benefited from the encouragement and experience of all our March AC runners this year.

ZSL collaborated with Oasis to produce some beautiful fashion pieces. I could not resist tiger trainers but this shirt is also beautiful and has become a new favourite. There's still stock on the website and some of the items are even in the sale.

And food, I didn't cook a lot in August but spent a lot of time using up things from the cupboards as I clear out my space at my parent's house where I'm based for part of the week for work. This one was a big plate of comfort joy- pork battered out, breaded and shallow fried (sort of schnitzel) with spaghetti & courgette tossed in pesto.

We said a final goodbye to my great-grandmother this month. She passed away at the end of July after a monumental 15 year struggle with dementia. I'll use this as a cue to remind you that you still have until 31st October to take part in #RunningDownDementia to raise £100 for Alzheimer's Research UK. That's 60 more days to run 100km, 150km or 250km. Go on... you know you want to.

Another personal one, I talked about my fear of being found out this month and a few days later had an unwitting brush with someone who didn't recognise me but would have known me if I'd told them who I was. Do not let your past define who you 'really are' We are all defined by our history and our choices but not exclusively. Click if you missed it.

I wore more proper clothes this month too. This one is from a day I spent in my new office before my official start date. Sometimes my version of adulting includes galaxy prints, ok? Click if you missed the full What I Wore post

I've now completed my first week in my shiny new job- I'd forgotten how much work it is to be the new girl, but I'm getting there and it's certainly the vast shift in career that I thought it was going to be. Oh, and the novelty of going home to my flat every night of the week hasn't quite worn off yet either, especially since I've nailed my cycle route into the office (Google really doesn't like the Cycle Super Highways does it?!)

So what have I been reading... Here's a few things you should have a flick through....

A massive and very swear-y FUCK YOU to clean eating. Read it immediately.

Hayley over at London Beauty Queen wrote this incredibly well informed and balanced post about using app based contraception which was a timely reminder that we must be responsible for making informed choices when it comes to the products we use and our bodies. 

Another post by Hayley, even more important perhaps- Fat shaming or any kind of shaming is NOT ok and calling people out directly is necessary but it's not easy. 

People talk about the life changing magic of not giving a shit, or the life changing magic of tidying up. Phoebe chatting about the life changing magic of getting on with shit is everything I live my life for, and probably a reason that Tom doesn't always know whether he loves me or hates me...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What I Wore: Galaxy Print Skirt

There is some kind of special pull when it comes to galaxy or cosmic prints. I just can't resist them and the rate at which things often sell out says that I'm not the only one. Luckily for me, there's always eBay when I want to hunt something down and much like my other favourite eBay midi skirt- click if you missed my floral midi skirt post.

So yeah, I had to do that thing where I wear 'proper' clothes again. Something that's about to become an everyday issue as of TODAY I'm back in a proper job in a proper office with other people to whom I'm not related. Thing is, my version of proper clothes and adulting sometimes involves a galaxy print or something in a vibrant shade of green or something with glitter. And that's ok too. I do not remember fondly the more corporate dress codes I've had to work with previously and I think there will be something nice about pulling on more than just jeans and a jumper everyday like I have been doing for the last 3 years.

T-shirt is a linen one from H&M last year, necklace is super old and the shoes are Geox


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Snack Attack

Once upon a time, I used to have a proper job. Y'know, one where I had to go to a proper office with other people to whom I'm not related. Everyday. At the same time everyday. I'm about to re-enter that world, which is a bit daunting. But my point is (I'm getting there....) that apparently, there are loads of people missing out the joy that is a desk snack stash. Or at least there were in my last office and I think my parents were equally mystified at the rustling coming from my middle drawer...

Since I've been working with family, I have dutifully converted them to the snack drawer. We each have our stash in our own desk drawers, things to munch on in between meals or before/after training sessions, little treats of varying types and indulgence. So, here's the tour...

Yup, so that'll be my middle drawer and the contents. My snack drawer. It's quite full (good job I'm back on secondment for a couple of weeks in October...) and some of my favourites are:

Aldi deli Sweet & Salt popcorn. I talked about it in my Aldi best buys post last month- click if you missed it. It's a cheap and cheerful carb heavy pick-me-up, especially good for training days and HUNGRY days.

The Veggie Burst pouches are also from Aldi and probably should have gotten a mention in the Best Buys post. 25g pouches of almonds, cashews and edamame beans flavoured with salt and pepper. A welcome savoury snack as it can be tough to find smaller, individual snacks that don't need to be in the fridge that are savoury. These are also relatively inexpensive at 29p a pack.

The somewhat inevitable appearance of a protein bar. These are PhD Smartbars and a relatively new product. The raspberry one is good for a dark chocolate fix although the raspberry filling seems to leak out of them in the packet and it tastes a little like cough mixture (I don't mind that, it's comfortingly medicinal). The Peanut butter one though.... Think Starbars. Remember those? Not quite as sickly but every bit as good. Perfect for a sweet treat with less sugar and more protein than an actual Starbar. You can buy them direct from PhD by the box but it's actually cheaper to buy their 'pick n mix' bundles of 5 for £10- you can pick the same flavour for all 5 or mix it up as much as you like.

I'm not a huge tea drinker or even coffee drinker- I tend to have a couple of cups of very strong French roasted filter coffee in the morning but then leave it there for the rest of the day. But both the Teapigs peppermint & the T+ multivitamin are pleasant for a warming drink on a cold day and the lemon & peach multivitamin tea in particular actually tastes of lemon & peach rather than generic green tea. Bonus. Teapigs and T+ both available from Ocado.

And nuts. A convenient little blend of raw almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and hazelnuts. I love the idea of making my own blends but I have approximately zero self control when it comes to picking at a bag of nuts and that's a lot of calories and a lot of fat to consume. These tubs actually contain more than one serving but they are convenient and they're from Lidl- look for them on the checkout aisles.

What's in your drawers? I am intrigued to see if anyone else fills their space with an array of edibles in my new office. I'm also intrigued as to whether I'll be the only one wandering about with a 1.5L water bottle (yes, really). Given I generally get through around 3.5L of water in a typical working day, it's going to be a challenge!

Monday, August 14, 2017

What I Wore: ZSL x Oasis

You know when you idly browse a marketing email that lands in your inbox and you're not really sure why, but ti turns out to yield something amazing? Just me? Oh well.

This is exactly what happened when I opened the ZSL newsletter a couple of weeks back. I love London Zoo, we had a great time at Zoo Lates back in June and there's always something I'm desperate to see. What I wasn't expecting was to head straight to a fashion retailer and drop £80 immediately. ZSL have collaborated with Oasis to produce a collection of ZSL clothes, shoes and accessories and to say I'm excited is an understatement. You see, it all started with some pyjamas I bought my cousin's daughter for her birthday a couple of years ago, and my lament that they didn't make adult sizes. They still don't sell the adult sized pyjamas (to my knowledge) but Oasis DO sell the most amazing tiger print trainers and shirts with the rainforest on it (amongst other things....)

I have no idea what is going on with my face in these pictures- I seem incapable of maintaining anything resembling a sensible expression when I take these images. But my point remains, the shirt is something else. I probably could have done with a slightly larger size to fit my boobs in but this works for me.

Tiger print trainers to follow- because TIGER print trainers!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

FOFO: Fear Of Being Found Out

In a generation of acronyms we talk a lot about YOLO and FOMO but one thing that has plagued me over the last couple of years is FOFO - Fear of Being Found Out.

Before anyone's imagination gets carried away, I'm not a serial killer with a new identity or a member of a secretive cult. But like most people do, I have a life, a history and a past. For me that includes an estranged family which I've talk a bit about before - click if you missed my post on dealing with the death of an estranged family member.

I've never really been confronted with my past in the sense of the people that know 'who I really am' because until a couple of years ago, I lived in completely different parts of the country to my estranged family and therefore there was an almost negligible chance I'd ever come across someone I'm technically related to or who might realise the connection between the family and me. All that changed when I started the job I'm just about to leave because it put me back to being based in the area I originally come from and where my estranged family live.

Whilst I've slowly settled into the idea that one day I am probably going to walk into someone who remembers me as an 8 year old or who makes the connection between me and a family I've had no contact with for the better part of a decade, I realised only now I'll be moving on and returning to living at home in London that as an active member of the local community- I run with a club, cycle with members of a club, use local business and services, eat out and socialise locally, that what has always bothered me is not being confronted by my choices, I have long since reconciled those, but that I have been thinking of the person who allowed herself to be manipulated by emotional blackmail and had different surname as 'who I really am'

Do I want people to know that person? Do I want to be connected to that person?

Actually the bigger question is: is that who I really am?

We all have a life, a history and past. I am a summation of all of those things but I'm choosing to drop my FOFO because where I come from and the details of my past do not exclusively make me who I am now.

I love and am loved by someone I plan to spend the rest of my life with
I scrunch my eyes up when I laugh
I am a runner- finisher of marathons, half marathons, charity challenges, 10k and more
I am part of a community- I try to give as much to the community around me as it gives me through volunteering
I am successful in my career choices- I am where I want to be right now
I own too many pairs of cheap sunglasses because I can never find them when I need them
I ride my bike for several hours at a time on a weekend. For fun. And I'm qualified to lead other women in such joy
I love pick n mix sweets and am especially weak willed around them
World class DJ sets on sweaty dancefloors fuelled by diet coke make me feel alive
I am a blogger
I still love green
I own too many pairs of impractical shoes
I make choices every day, not all of them are good

I am all of these things and more, and these supercede so many of the things I have been or that came before.

This is 'who I really am'. I am not scared of that. I do not fear you finding out.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thoughts On My First DNF

DNF. I DNF'ed. A couple of years ago this would have meant nothing to me. I would have thought you were perhaps speaking a language with which I'm not familiar with, to a certain extent, the language around any hobby, not least sports is very much it's own. But I'm now very familiar with it's meaning in the literal and physical terms.


Did. Not. Finish.

I have cried my way around courses, I have grunted through sprint finishes. I have unlaced my trainers walking through a finish funnel because for some ridiculous reason, the blister that is now in shreds on my heel didn't hurt at all whilst I was running and is now preventing me from walking properly. But I have never walked off a course. I have never not completed a race I set out to do. Until last week.

We're currently two thirds of the way through our internal club championship summer races- three 5k races, three 10k races. I've volunteered at some and ran my 5k PB at one in May (read more about that and feeling a sense of pride in it in THIS post I wrote about regaining body confidence). I rocked up on a sunny Tuesday night ready to rock through a 10k knowing full well I've been on terribly form with what used to be my absolute favourite distance but vaguely hopeful I might be able to cling to someone's tail to get through in around 60mins - not a PB but getting back towards it.

You know, I didn't even think about it too much when I felt my ankles ping in the first mile which covers part of a nature reserve. Not trail running by any stretch of the imagination, but not road either, and it takes me legs a few minutes to settle into a run, my ankles do ping like that a lot when I run on uneven surface. And when that ankle started to pull a bit a few minutes later I didn't really think about that too much either, because it was still inside the 3k mark and it can take me that long to get into a 10k. But then I did start to think about it, and then my foot started to go numb. And then I decided that 1 5k lap of this race was enough. Did. Not. Finish.

I have done a lot of stupid things through injury. There was the time I worked through a chest infection- at the time I worked behind a bar, it was grim. The time I worked through 'it's probably just a water infection' until I needed to go to A&E with a gallbladder infection and a 3 night stay in hospital. There was the time I tried to run on torn ligaments. There was the half marathon I ran 3 miles of with no feeling in one foot. On every single one of these occasions, trying to 'power through' has left me far worse off than if I'd quite whilst ahead when I started to realise something was wrong.I KNOW this is the sensible, grown-up decision to make- I'm not in serious contention for any championship prize, these are free races I enter for the joy of running with my club- in essence they matter only in so far as I allow them to.

So why am I so disappointed? Why am I questioning the validity of preserving my wellbeing and ability to run & exercise over finishing what is essentially 'just' a run where I happened to be wearing a number? Why is there the nagging whisper that  says to me 'it's because you're just not good enough'?

This is a common theme for me, I wrote about running being the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me last year. Running and sports have given me strength and courage. It's allowed me to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if it's not always the straightforward journey or the exact outcome I expected, but the inevitable stumbles an proverbial falls also leave me lost or doubtful. The key, and part of the strength I have gained from running and sport is dealing with it in a healthy way- yes, DNF-ing was disappointing, but it was also the right choice for me. I'm in the fortunate position that I don't have to justify that to anyone except myself either- I'm not an athlete, I'm not in serious contention for any kind of competition and if there's ever time to learn what a DNF feels like, it's a race or a run that doesn't mean too much.

So there we have it, another one to add to my growing list of running experiences over the last 3 years... disastrous marathon... check. Sub 60m 10k... check. 5k thigh chaffing... check. DNF... check. Anyone else care to share a DNF story?

In a shameless plug, I'm also going to remind you that there's a little over 12 weeks left to try out a #RunningDownDementia challenge- 100km means you need to run less than 10km over the course of each week and you could raise some vital funds to help tackle dementia which can be a devastating disease. I'll be dedicating my 250km to my late Great-Grandmother who died last Friday after a 15 year struggle with dementia, aged 95. Read more about the campaign and the work Alzheimer's Research UK are doing in my post Don't You Remember


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Aldi Favourites

So I do 80% of my grocery shopping in Aldi and Lidl. Last year I posted about 5 of my favourite products from Lidl, not necessarily the cheapest or a dupe of something specific, just 5 products that I love from Lidl. This time around, it's Aldi's turn, mostly because although I used Aldi occasionally, it's only now one has opened at the end of the road near the office that I've been using them more extensively.

So let's start with the important stuff.... WINE!

Gavi is not exclusive to Aldi, it's an Italian white wine which I love, it's £5.49 from Aldi, which is about £2 per bottle cheaper than anywhere else. Look for the distinctively tall and skinny bottle, you will not regret it.

A chilled glass of white wine of a summer evening requires a nibble to go with it (just me?) and these salt and vinegar crisps are salty, sharp and a tiny bit sweet all at the same time. Crunchy, not as lethal as a kettle crisp but still substantial. I LOVE them and at 79p per bag, they're considerably better priced than a lot of branded snacks.

If popcorn is more your thing, sweet and salt is the only way to go and the individual bags often stocked on the checkout hit just the spot. Move swiftly though, because the sweet ones never seem to sell but the sweet & salt ones walk off the shelf like nobody's business. 39p per bag, a nice desk drawer snack stash addition.

And whilst we're talking about snacks these quinoa bars appear to be quite new and come in the cacao & cashew flavour or a berry flavour (which I personally find a bit too sweet). At 141 calories (C16.4 F5.5 P4.1) they make a very handy pre-workout snack, especially on evenings where I go out to classes and end up pushing my evening meal right back into the late evening, or this week as a post-parkrun nibble. Slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, what's not like about a chocolate nut combo that doesn't send your macros off the charts?!

Not pictured, but Aldi's unsweetened almond milk is about half the price of some of the big name brands, and it still blends into my breakfast smoothies just fine. They also do a sweetened version if that's your thing as well as soya milk in both varieties.

And brownie bars. It's a bit of a con that these are with the 'healthy' products, they're still chocolate brownies, but they come in boxes of 3 individually wrapped bars, perfect for on the go and for curbing one's enthusiasm for eating the entire batch of brownie in one go (just me?). These are £1.49 per box and if anyone in your household happens to have intolerances or allergies, these might be handy as they're free from several common allergens as you can see from the box.

A few other notable aisles to pay attention to in Aldi...

If nuts and seeds are your thing, check out the baking aisle. Did you know that you pay VAT on nuts/seeds that are snacks but not as baking ingredients? Raw almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts all work out cheaper from baking ingredients!

Chocolate Milkshake is a great recovery drink after sports because it's a brilliant balance of carbs and protein, Aldi's chocolate fudge milkshake is a treat in a glass.

What have I missed? Do you have a special favourite you detour to pick up on your grocery run?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Month in Review: July 2017

July has been insane. It's usually a busy month in the office, but there's been so. many. other. things.

After spending pretty much the entire month of June drinking more than I should and eating anything I fancied, I got back to a more balanced routine this month, and training kicked in for the upcoming series of half marathons I'm running this Autumn. Given the first one is now only about 10 weeks off, I felt the need to get focused and get back out there.

What better way to focus on training plans than to treat yourself to new trainers thanks to #PrimeDay

As well as training I have raced this month, but just the once. I went off to the British 10k on Sunday 9th July. It's a beautiful closed road route through central London that takes in Westminster (including crossing the bridge) Embankment, Regents Street and more. This was  free place because I volunteered at the Hackney Half earlier in the year and although the event was well organised, I still felt that £50 entry was far too much given there are comparable races for almost half that. The day was hella hot, so I treated it as a long-ish run and took in the sights.

Not a bad place to pose for a (very sweaty) finisher's photo

As if that wasn't enough for one weekend, probably one of the biggest achievements this month was qualifying as a Ride Leader with British Cycling. That means I'll be able to take groups of women out to experience the JOY of life on two wheels via the Breeze program. Free bike rides for women of any and every ability, what's not to love?

I got really lucky that a friend of mine happened to be on the same course which made a long day a bit easier, and we're already hatching plans for more rides! We're also both fond of a glass of wine and traded pics of our post-training treats. I felt like I'd earned this glass of wine after a full 9-5 training day with a 100 mile round trip drive plus cycle commute into Cambridge!

Those who know me or have been following my blog for a while know that I work with my parents from their home office. I essentially live in shorts or jeans and t-shirt or jumper all year round, when I'm not wearing running or workout kit. I did used to have a 'proper' job and wear 'proper' grown up clothes every day, but that was almost 3 years ago. So it's nothing short of a miracle that I wore my proper grown up clothes and posted about it not once, but twice in July...

Actually. It's not a miracle at all. Albeit very unexpectedly, I'm moving on from my ops manager job with my parents into something completely different at the end of August and didn't think it prudent to attend either of the meetings to secure the job and hash out the details wearing a race finisher t-shirt and my (now blood stained thanks to blisters from my new trainers) trainers.

I'm actually moving into a sports related field working with data insight, it's all very exciting but scary as hell. I'm going back to living in my flat in London 7 days per week for the first time in 3 years and I'm going to have to start completely over trying to make friends, find people to run with and make a life for myself which I had started to do in Cambridgeshire, where I have been based for work for the last few years. Yeah, so there's that. I'm sure I'll be wittering on about all these new things in good time, but for now I'm slowly extricating myself from the current business situation and concentrating on trying to look like a competent adult ready for August 29th!

We went to the World Championship Para Athletics on a total spur of the moment. We scored tickets for £25 each and had the best Saturday night watching sprint finals at varying distances and classifications. Hands down a recommendation if we do get to host the worlds again or you get the chance to go watch para sport- you get SO much for your money and more support can only help to gain more coverage and awareness for athletes.

Queuing in the rain at Stratford, so worth it. But £5.50 for a plastic bottle of Heineken in the stadium... not so much.

Food has been terribly dull this month. We ate at Inamo on an AYCE barbecue menu via Groupon in the early part of the month- the food was average, the service was appalling so we won't go into that too much, and otherwise it's all been tried and tested favourites where my schedule has been tight and I've been trying to get back to something resembling a routine again, that and of course paying off holiday spending on our credit card lead us to curb our enthusiasm for eating out too much, no bad thing.

I did treat myself to this much raved about book though. I'm going to be back in my own kitchen and able to cook for myself whenever I want, all the time soon and this kind of 'chuck it all in' kind of cooking is how I love to do it. The book itself is simple but beautiful and I can't wait to try a few roast-esque meals from it.

The Roasting Tin - available on Amazon and I've seen it in major bookshops & supermarkets too

I got gobby when it comes to opinions on my blog this month. I heard some horror stories, including someone who has started running and was laughed at by their friends which reminded me that other people's opinions say more about them than they do about you- click if you missed it

And the floral skirt from the my aforementioned fashion post- click if you missed it, has had a lot of attention so if you want one, you can buy the very same floral midi skirt from eBay for less than £10.

This month, Friday to be precise, my great-grandmother also passed away. She very literally fought dementia for 15 years and it was a blessing that she left this life behind, albeit less peacefully than we had hoped. I've talked about #RunningDownDementia before, but do take a look if you fancy doing a little something to help a disease that robs you of so much, not least your dignity- click here to read about it. 

What I've been reading:

I am standing with the #boycottBoots campaign after their completely outrageous moralising of their decision not to lower the price of the morning after pill in line with other UK retailers. The Pool have eloquently summarised the saga and included a handy link to the #JustSayNon bpas campaign where you can send a pre-written email straight to the inboxes of those in charge at Boots to express your displeasure with their attitude. . Boots have now apologised, but it's still worth a ready of the post because it really highlights the problem of moralising access to contraception.

This post from Women's Running Magazine on why women make better ultra-runners is a fascinating look into how different genders approach problem solving and endure hardship. 

Cancer Research UK discussed the impact of the ban on smoking in public  full 10 years after it came in. I was doing a lot of pub and bar work as the ban came in and I remember it well. 

How to wear denim shorts as an adult, this post on The Pool caught my eye as someone currently very attached to my DIY cut offs after being sick of bum flashing shorts available to purchase!

A brilliant read on body size, body image and making your own clothes.

Should there be cut off times for major running events such as big city marathons? An interesting view point and a great read.

ZSL are collaborating with Oasis and the items are BEAUTIFUL! I slipped and fell onto some tiger trainers and a stunning shirt. Check out the whole range on the Oasis website right HERE

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How To Get Up Earlier: An Honest Guide

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. Even my future husband doesn't try too hard to communicate with me in any meaningful way before 8am and a cup of coffee. I've always envied those people who get up at 6am to go for a run or write part of their novel or whatever it is that morning people do, but over the years, I've rolled over and hit the snooze button whilst thinking 'fuck this' more times than I can count, enabled by the fact that I work a 30s stagger from my bedroom. Don't be mistaken, I'm not the kind of person who can't get up and is eternally running late. When it comes to work or events I really hate to be late and I'll get up for something I perceive necessary, but otherwise, where is that snooze button?!

My journey to becoming an early earlier riser started by accident. This was an attempt that did not start out with a specific purpose, but because of some trades people needing to be on site at the house a good hour before I'm normally out of bed. Like I said, I can get up if I absolutely have to... That same weekend, I also had to forgo my usual lay-in. I'm rarely awake before 9am on a weekend and Tom & I like to enjoy a leisurely start that mostly starts with coffee in bed. And so I found myself just over a week later, realising I had a golden opportunity to keep the momentum going, because I'd already done the hard bit- I'd gotten up at least an hour earlier than normal on 10 consecutive days including a weekend... maybe I was already some of the way to breaking my snooze habit? I always remembered that snippet of research (Maltz in 1950s apparently) that says it takes 21 days to form a habit. 10 days put me something approaching halfway there. Turns out Maltz said it takes 'at least 21 days' and so I'm embarking on a full month to see if I can make the morning thing work for me, here's what I've learned so far through this and previous attempts...

1. You can't do more with less... go to bed earlier
If you're getting up an hour earlier but still going to bed at the same time as before, you'll feel tired and shitty. You're not just getting up earlier, you're asking your body to do more on less sleep. I don't find going to bed earlier an especial hardship but if you struggle, try setting reminders on your phone to turn off tech and start a wind-down routine.

2. Sleeping in sports bras is hella uncomfortable

If your reason for changing your routine is to fit in a work out, lots of articles (seriously, I've read hundreds about how to get up earlier/become a morning exerciser/be a morning person/start each day at 0430...) recommend sleeping in your sports kit. These people have clearly never worn my high support sports bras which are akin to medieval torture racks and whilst my boobs thank me for that when I'm pounding the pavements, the rest of me does not when I'm trying kick back and catch some zzzzzz. If willpower is your issue, just being 'ready' probably isn't going to help you anyway. It doesn't matter how many times I've laid my kit out for something the night before (something I do regardless of what time the alarm is set for), it's not what prevents me from having 9* more minutes.
*and by 9 I mean 45-60.

3. Natural light is not your friend in June

Leaving blinds open is fine if you're aiming for an 0400 start, less so if you're going 0600 or later. All that daylight that helps you wake up naturally, nice and everything but not *that* early.

4. Gimme a reason

Not being rushed, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading my book... none of these things are enough motivation for me to drag my behind from my cosy warm nest of sleep.This attempt started with a need to be up and at it before assorted tradespeople arrived on site each morning. Just 'wanting' to get up earlier has never been enough to get me started but I'm now into week three and on the days we haven't had tradies in the house, I've found it much less difficult to get up and get on with plans of my own creation. For the first weekend of the little experiment, I already had early doors plans, but for the following ones, I made some, this brings me to my next, last and most important gem....

5. Don't skip out the weekends

I think this is probably where I have had the most failure over the years. To me, the weekend is all about leisurely coffee, a book in bed, the ability to snooze off a hangover and a distinct lack of an alarm clock. And these are things I hope will return occasionally over time but whilst you're trying to ingrain this habit, you're essentially undoing all your good work if you don't carry it through the weekend. Waking up at the same time every day helps your body to regulate it's sleep patterns, if you stop doing that for 2 days out of 7, that's almost one third of the week. If you have a significant other who shares your bed, I strongly suggest you enlist them in your weekend morning plans by the way. Turned out Tom quite enjoyed having the extra hours in the day once I kicked him out of bed as well as dragging my own reluctant behind out of our cosy, warm and inviting bed.

So, to conclude- becoming a morning person is not as simple as just setting your alarm a few minutes earlier, but for even the most serial of snoozers like me, it is doable with a bit of planning. Pay for a full week of early morning fitness classes, commit to being at work half an hour earlier, book appointments for earlier times, but most of all- don't expect miracles and be prepared to stick with it for a few weeks for it to feel a bit more 'normal'.