Running Couch to 5K

Going for a Run

Running’s one of those things that you either get or you don’t, like marmite or astral projection.

And I, for the vast majority of my life, have not been one of those people who “gets” it. I don’t like running at all – it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, my legs and lungs both scream for the entire duration, and I wind up a sweaty, gasping mess.

So it was with some trepidation that I decided to go for a run this week – but not the usual just-run-fast-until-dead kind. This time, I decided on something more chlled, more of a stepping-stone to bigger things. I decided to do a Couch to 5K run.

For anyone not familiar with it, the Couch to 5K programme is designed to get lazy potatoes like me off the sofa and running, one gradual increase after another, over a long period. Hopefully, that way, you avoid going too hard too soon and burning out. Hopefully.

So with that in mind, I laced up my running shoes, put in my headphones, put on my running charms, and got going in the sun. And you know what?

It was great.

I was exhausted afterwards, but I kept moving for half an hour and got plenty of running done. The app told me when to run and when to walk, and I spent more time recharging between my runs than I spent running. When it was over, I was tired, yeah, but I’d done it. The next one has almost as much relaxed walking and just a little more running.

Let’s see where this takes us.

J

xx

Gumbo Recipe

Jin’s Nawleenz Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo

Just a quick note – I’ve roughly estimated the amounts of ingredients here to put this recipe into writing, but I usually do it by eye, so you should just put in however much of each ingredient feels right to you! (Gumbo’s a pretty forgiving dish for the chef, and it’s really varied and soulful, so you can get away with a lot of rough measurements. It’s an art, not an exact science!)

All right, let’s get started!

Ingredients

One chicken breast or thigh per person, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
12 baby potatoes, quartered
150g or so of chorizo, chopped
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into little bits (about half an inch on each side)
3 bay leaves
4 tsp of cajun spice
1 chicken stock pot or cube
4 spring onions, sliced
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
240g rice

Method

– Heat up some oil in a casserole dish or saucepan. Fry the onion on a medium heat for a minute or two until softened (not brown). If you want to oven cook this you’ll need to preheat to gas 6.

– Add the chicken and fry it up a bit until coloured on the sides, or until you’re worried your onions might overcook

– Throw in the chorizo and celery. Fry everything up for another couple of minutes so the chorizo turns everything red and the celery softens a little bit.

– Add the cajun spice and stir it around, cooking for about 1 minute so that the flavour gets a chance to get into all the other components.

– Add the potatoes, enough boiling water to cover the contents of the pan, the stock pot and the bay leaves. At this point you can either simmer it on the stove (saucepan) or put it in the oven (casserole dish). I usually do it on the hob if I’m in a hurry or in the oven if I want to leave it and go do something else while it cooks.

– Cook it, covered, for about 15 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are cooked. If cooking on the hob you want it at a gentle simmer and you’ll need to keep lifting the lid to stir it. Put the rice on and get it ready to serve.

– When it looks and smells delicious, add the peppers and cover it again for another 5 mins(ish) so they can cook through, then serve it over the rice, with the spring onions and parsley scattered on top.

It’s a perfect dinner for guests or dinner parties, since it scales to more people extremely easily, it’s a very forgiving dish in terms of ingredients, and it’s unusual and delicious! If you can’t find an ingredient, don’t be afraid to swap it out – that’s the spirit of gumbo! The dish will still be great.

It’s also still an uncommon enough dish that it’ll really catch your guest’s attention and make the dinner party stick out in their minds. Just don’t tell them how easy it was to cook!

Bon appetit,

J xx

Wyolin

Picking up the Violin Again

So I finally got around to sorting another one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Getting back to playing the violin!

Since Tilly was born I haven’t played much, but believe it or not I was quite the talent when I was younger! I started when I was only 8 (so I’ve been playing for a long, looooong time) but like I said before, life kind of just gets everywhere when you’ve got a sprout or two running around, and it’s impossible to get something like a decent practice in, let alone a routine!

So even though Tilly’s off school today (Easter holiday still stretching on, the lucky duck), I got Joe fed, sat them in front of the TV and got the case down from the wardrobe. It was so dusty!

The violin wasn’t, though. It was a little out of tune, and cold, but it felt so right picking it up, like I’d never put it down. Once it was tuned, I tightened the bow up again, rosined the horsehair and started to play.

It was rusty, sure. I’m not as fast or as clean on the notes as I used to be. But it felt so freeing, like long tendrils of sound were slowly unfurling and coiling around everything in the house. It was keening, scratched – it could definitely use some practice. But it all fit, just like it used to.

I feel so real. I’m definitely going to be practicing more tomorrow!

New driver's licence

I Lost My Driver’s Licence!

I was buying a bottle of wine as a gift for a friend last night and was actually a little flattered when the girl on the check-out asked to see my I.D (Asda seem to think my anti-ageing cream is doing the trick) but when I looked for my driver’s licence I got a surprise nobody wants to see – it wasn’t in there!

Retracing my steps

First things first, I had to retrace my steps. Luckily the girl on the check-out accepted my library card as ID so I got to keep the present! I looked all through the aisles I had been in, and thought I saw it slithering away under some shelves a few times, but there was no sign of it whenever I looked.

Calling the DVLA

I had a quick look online for the DVLA phone number and called them up this morning. It took me a little while, but in the end I managed to get through to a real person, a lovely lady called Jane, and she got me set up for a replacement. I’ll be sending off a copy of my certificate and a photo, and I’ll get the new licence soon! Until then, I’ll have to dial back the wine purchases a little or bring my passport out!

Still no idea what happened to my original licence. I found a tiny piece of pink plastic outside earlier, but that could have been from anything. Tilly’s saying she hasn’t seen it, so who knows?

Keeping Up New Year’s Resolutions – Against All The Odds!

This is around that time of year when most New Year’s Resolutions start to crumble for most people – and usually, I’m right there with them falling back into my old habits – but not this year!

I’m determined not to fall in the same old traps that everyone always does this time of year, so this morning after my Xanax I made myself a veggie-rich omelette to keep me going through the day, and then went out for a walk!

It’s still pretty chilly here, but the woods aren’t too far and they’re gorgeous, especially when it’s frosty, so I could really settle my mind and enjoy the trail for a few hours. Afterwards, I felt fantastic, but I was dying to get back in for a cup of tea, so after a quick drive home, I stuck the kettle on, sat down and made a to-do list for keeping my resolutions.

I’ve decided not to join a gym (although I was a really keen lifter as a younger woman, my powerlift and deadlift days are behind me!) since I think some nice walks and some good food will do me just as well. I don’t need to be able to crush muscleheads like Dwayne Johnson or Tommy Wiseau, I just need to be fit enough to take my kids on adventures through the park and trim enough to feel nice when I’m with my husband!

Not that much to ask for. I think I’ll go for another walk into the deeper parts of the woods tomorrow.

Bloggerjin Valentine's Day

A Fantastic Valentine’s Day Surprise!

So it was Valentine’s Day yesterday, and we don’t normally do anything, but this year Mark said he wanted to do something special, even if we couldn’t get a sitter and had to just celebrate in the house.

I wasn’t sure what he was up to, but I said it sounded like a great idea (we haven’t been sticking to our date-night-every-week resolution too well) and I’m so glad I did!

We couldn’t get a sitter (guess everyone else was out being romantic) but Mark took care of the kids, got them watching UP on Netflix, and when they were distracted, he broke out the presents.

He’d made me these unbelievable handmade chocolates and sat them in little red foil covers in a little tray, and topped it all off with a card! I asked him if he’d made them himself and he said he had, when I was out with the girls the night previous. He wouldn’t tell me what was in them, he said the surprise was the main fun part, so I tried them, one at a time.

They were amazing! Soft caramel, strawberry fondant, white chocolate truffle, Turkish delight…. He’d made a little box of everything! I felt terrible for only getting him a card and the Avengers on DVD. I’ll have to think of something special to do for him.

So in other news, I’m trying to convince my hubby to start a little business selling handmade chocolates, because, as it turns out, he’s excellent at it!

holistic medicine natural mother

Tilly’s Cold

My poor Tilly wasn’t well at all this weekend!

On Friday I noticed that she was a little quiet and not as cheery as she usually is, especially considering that Friday is Taquito Night for dinner (her favourite). I checked her forehead for a temperature and thought she felt a little warm, but nothing too bad. She was a little sniffly and downtrodden looking, so I tucked her up and got her a little cup of cocoa to put the pep back in her step while I finished up dinner.

She cheered up a little after dinner, and but she was still a little too warm and said she felt unwell, so we put her to bed nice and early and she fell straight to sleep. I sent the hubbub to check on her a few times, but apparently she slept like a baby!

During the night I woke up when I heard her little voice crying from the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it – she’d been sick on the floor trying to reach the toilet, but she was crying because she was so unwell and she didn’t want to wake her mummy! I nearly cried, it was terrible seeing my little baby like that. I told her it was ok and I wasn’t annoyed, and got her all cleaned up.

We stayed up all night because she couldn’t sleep, but I made her a charm bracelet out of my hair so that contact with her mother’s natural DNA could boost her immune system, and after a few days at home wearing it she was totally better!

She got up this morning in great form and took the bracelet off and gave it to me, saying “thanks Mummy but I’m all better!” and I was just so proud!

So now she’s off to school to tell all her little friends about how great her natural-medic-mummy is – but really, seeing her skip to the car in full health was all the reward I needed!

J x

New Year!

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I hope all you lovely people had a great New Year’s Eve (I know I did!) and a lovely Christmas on top of that.

However it’s back to business now, and time for some New Year’s Resolutions! Last year I promised myself I would stop smoking, lose some weight and start reading with Tilly every night. And, in a shocking twist, I managed to accomplish every one of them! Usually New Year’s Resolutions are much harder to stick to, so I’m very proud to have made it!

Ok, so I have a bit more weight to lose, but that’s a continuing resolution into 2016. As for the others, I’m thinking:

Official Resolutions

  • Take more walks with the family in nature/at the park
  • Start playing the violin again
  • Try to have one date night a week with Mark

Unofficial Resolutions

  • Eat more greens
  • Put some money away for Christmas throughout the year
  • Convince Mark that the scratching in the ceiling is real

What about you? Have you all set some New Year’s Resolutions to stick to this year? Let me know in the comments!

J x

christmas with family

Settling in for Christmas

So, after setting our tree up last week, we finished the last of our prep today! (We’ve been very organised, I’m sure it’s a fluke).

We’ve got the turkey bought, the veg in the fridge, the presents ready (don’t tell the kids!) and the decorations up all in time for Christmas week, so now we’re just settling in to enjoy the last few days, and really kick back.

We’ve made a little planner for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with a schedule of things to do each day, just to make sure we don’t lose track of anything. With so many relatives to see, and so many things to pen in, it’s been a real lifesaver, and I think it’ll really keep us on track!

We’ve got my sister up, with her sprouts and her husband, Rufus; we’ve got to visit my Mum at some point, we’ve got the hubster’s parents to see, we have to sort out the presents for the kids, that scratching started in the attic again, we need to sort out the dinner (which will be tricky just by itself) and we have all kinds of smaller treats and things to arrange to fill the time.

Things like curling up with the kids to watch Elf (something I like to do every Christmas), stuffing button mushrooms with pate for Christmas Eve supper, a glass of Baileys on the sly with the sis when she gets here… There’s so much to do!

Thank heavens for little leather diaries.

Christmas decorations

Christmas Tree!

I have a personal rule for the house, that Christmas decorations – the tree especially – can’t go up before the 1st of December. It’s a pretty generous time window before Christmas I think, but my hubby just keeps sneaking little decorations up around the house and it drives me crazy! It seems like every day I come home to another innocuous little paper snowflake tucked up on the mantelpiece or at the bottom of my coffee jar, seriously!

The neighbours put their tree up almost a week ago too, and you know, that’s a fire hazard. Its like the baubles are judging all the non-Christmassy people who pass that window, and I’m glad it’s December now so I can put my tree up!

We took the tree down from the attic (it’s a foldable synthetic tree, you don’t want bugs!) and got all the decorations ready yesterday morning, so when Tilly came back from school we could get right down to work.

Then after the afternoon school run, the hubby put dinner on while we set the tree up. I let Tilly pick her favourite baubles out to put on the tree herself, and while Joe’s still a bit too young for it, he mostly just played with the bubble wrap they decorations were packed in and had a whale of a time!

I had to lift Tilly high to let her put the star on top (she is getting so BIG!) but the look on her face was priceless. It looks amazing in there all lit up and shiny, and Christmas is finally starting properly!

Merry Christmas guys and gals

J x

Bloggerjin Rome

Surprise Anniversary Trip to Rome!

I can’t believe what a whirlwind that was!

So with our anniversary quickly coming up, the hubby and I had planned to go away to the Wirral for a few days – but little did I know that’s not what he had planned at all!

We left the kids with my sister Florence, and got in the car to start the drive, but we wound up on – get this – the motorway to London!

I asked what was up and just got told that we weren’t going to the Wirral after all, we were going to Rome!

Needless to say, I was just gobsmacked.

And it was gorgeous!

Without me finding out, my amazing hubster had booked a loft apartment with Air BnB in the middle of Rome for us to stay in, close enough that we could go see the sights during the day and easily take in the best restaurants at night. He even made sure the internet connection would be great so I could Skype the kids before bed to kiss them goodnight and make sure they’d brushed their teeth, eaten their vegetables and didn’t have nits.

We went to a beautiful restaurant called Cacio E Pepe on the first night, and – although I hate saying that things are “authentic” – it just felt real, like we were seeing what pure Italian culture looked like. The waiters spoke very little English, and we were surrounded by hungry Italian families with snide sideways glances at each other’s food, which was amazing.

There was no menu, just “the specials”, and the lack of choice really put me at ease and let me enjoy whatever they brought out – it was like everything was a lovely surprise!

Then we went to see the Colosseum and the Forums, which were just astounding, annd Vatican City, which had a beautiful, whispery echo everywhere through it and so many beautiful pieces of old art that I actually reached saturation point and couldn’t appreciate them all after a while!

It’s really a wonderful city, and even more wonderful as a surprise for your anniversary!

Needless to say we’ll be back soon!

J xx

Spider Cupcakes

Spooky Baking!

So Halloween’s coming up, and at Tilly’s fierce insistence we’re going to bake some cupcakes to take round to my sister’s little family Halloween party!

I was looking online for some inspiration and the options were a bit overwhelming (apparently cupcakes can be made spooky in thousands of ways) but when I saw the picture of the spiderweb cakes up above, I just fell in love with them.

So then all I needed was to find the recipe – it wasn’t attached to the photo!

I hunted around and finally found this one on the BBC Good Food site that should do the trick just perfectly! Tilly gets her baking and I get the most gorgeous cupcakes to bring round to Suzie’s for the party. Everybody wins! (Especially Tilly and I, who will be tucking in to a cake or two hot out of the oven!)

We’re baking them the night before Halloween, so I’ll post pictures then! (if I remember!)

Ingredients

  • 125g/4½oz plain flour

  • 25g/1oz cocoa powder

  • 1½ tsp baking powder

  • 150g/5oz caster sugar

  • 50g/2oz butter, softened at room temperature

  • 1 free-range egg

  • 8 tbsp milk

For the cream cheese icing
  • 50g/2oz cream cheese

  • 25g/1oz butter, softened at room temperature

  • 125g/4oz icing sugar, sifted

  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

For the chocolate icing
  • 25g/1oz icing sugar

  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a muffin tray with 9 paper cases.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter and beat the mixture together until well combined.
  3. Whisk in the egg and milk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture between the paper case and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until springy to the touch and skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
  5. For the cream cheese icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl until well combined. Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla.
  6. Spoon the icing onto the cupcakes, leaving a small border around the edge.
  7. For the chocolate icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of water to form a smooth, thick icing.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a fine nozzle. (Alternatively, spoon the mixture into the corner of a sandwich bag and snip off the corner, to form a small hole.)
  9. Carefully pipe a few concentric circles onto each cupcake. Run a toothpick from the centre to the edge of the cake, through each circle of icing, at 2cm/1in intervals to create a cobweb effect.
  10. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the icing to harden.
Littlewoods Catalogue

Dress woes with Littlewoods!

After seeing the Littlewoods summer advert (late, I know! I don’t get onto youtube as much as I’d like and Tilly and Joe always have the TV to themselves!) I just had to have the dress Myleene is wearing at the start. It’s up there in the photo, and I just managed to grab one!

When it arrived, I tried it on straight away, and it was too small – though most of my old dresses seem to be shrinking lately. I checked the label and I’d just been sent the wrong size, thankfully. Still a yummy mummy!

I gave Littlewoods a call and they were lovely about it. The summer range had just stopped, but they said they’d pull a few strings and send me the right size, so that was a relief!

I sent my one back and I’m just waiting on the new one now. Here’s hoping it fits this time!

Tilly!

I went into the kitchen to get breakfast ready for the kids this morning, and opened the cupboards to find Tilly hiding in there!

She jumped out and scared me and I laughed so hard I almost fell over! She’d actually gone straight downstairs after I got her dressed for school so she could hide before I got down there. Thankfully I wasn’t carrying cereal or milk, because they would have gone everywhere!

What a mischievous little madam she’s becoming.

Getting Tilly Ready for Reception!

It’s been a big few weeks for us! Tilly’s started reception, and at risk of sounding like a gushing mum, she’s settling in really well. She’s made a few friends and her teacher is lovely.

I made sure to do lots of prep before her first day to make sure she got a head start, and I read that these tips are great ways to help a child get ready for their first day of school, so if you’ve got a little one getting ready to start school, here you go!

Reading Aloud

I’ve always been keen on reading to my kids before bed, and I found plenty of research online backing up how good it is for them! Expecially just before school, reading aloud to Tilly was teaching her that words can be written, as distinct blocks of letters on a page – almost a primer to beginning to read herself!

I got her started on learning what letters make what sounds, and now that she’s in school she’s getting a chance to show off and be a little clever clogs (and she never misses a chance to do that!)

baby-adult-with-book-2

Lunches

I made sure to call the school and explain Tilly’s lactose intolerance well ahead of time. I made sure to have doctor’s notes handy, and they were very accommodating! Just being clear and open and communicating honestly concerning your child’s dietary needs is always the best first step!

I’ve tried my best to make sure she’s not a fussy eater, but she does pick sometimes, so I spent a while making sure she knows she can just ask the lunch ladies if she has a problem or if she’d like something else. Lots of kids are too timid to try and wind up throwing away a lunch they don’t like! (Not that my Tilly would throw food away to save her life)

Starting school

Keeping it together on the first day

This is a surprisingly tough one! When a parent is upset or distressed, the child usually picks up on it and feels like they should feel that way too (remember they’re always looking at you for clues on what to do!)

So on the first day of school, make sure they know how happy they should be, by looking and acting happy yourself.

And try not to cry, or you might set all the poor parents there off!