Sunday 31 January 2010

To the person

who found my blog by typing into google:

"why do i turn into the snot monster when i exercise"

Thank you, I love you, you've really made my day!!! <3

I'm probably going to spend my entire working day tomorrow sitting sniggering at my desk :-D


Thursday 28 January 2010

Introducing Maxitone!

Some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed me mentioning Maxitone, as well as Maximuscle, some of you may even have seen the ads on TV or received a catalogue...

Well, I just thought I'd talk briefly about what I know of Maxitone so far.

During the Maximuscle Body of 2009 photoshoot, myself and the other girls were privy to some information concerning an exciting new addition to the Maximuscle family - Maxitone.

So, what is Maxitone?

Maxitone is a standalone product, separate from the Maximuscle range, though of course under the same umbrella.

So, I guess you might have some questions along the lines of - why has Maximuscle felt the need to do this? Why not stick with the Maximuscle Promax Diet line? They're already popular, taste good and work well!

To be honest I was a bit unsure about the name... the word 'tone', and indeed expression 'get more toned' seems to cause controversy wherever it's used.

When a woman says "I want to get toned up", she really means:

"I want to lose body fat and look better".

When a man says "I want to get toned up", he really means:

"I want to get bigger, better-defined muscles"

neither is technically correct as a) you can't 'tone' your body and b) you can't 'tone' your muscles... muscles either do one of two things - get bigger/stronger, or get smaller/weaker.

People get really uppity about the ostensive 'misuse' of this word, but maybe we should all lighten up ;-)

'Tone' appears to be one of these words that takes on more than one definition... like the words 'bad', 'sick', 'gay', 'wicked', 'mint' etc - you know the word 'girl' used to once mean a young person of either sex?! The meaning of words change over time, any Etymologist will tell you this - one thing we're all agreed on though is that when a woman says she wants to get more toned we *know* that she just wants to shape up, so perhaps we should all remember that and appreciate that this word is recognised everywhere to mean just that :-)

Anyway, now we've dealt with the name, why again do we need a separate product, and indeed brand name to Maximuscle?

Well, I guess the obvious answer is that the very word 'muscle' in 'Maximuscle' is enough to put most women off the products altogether.

Like the word 'tone', 'muscle' is also misunderstood by women trying to lose weight. They assume that the minute you pick up a pair of dumbbells you are going to turn into some muscle-bound freak, or just a square blob!

In fact, muscle is more metabolically active tissue than fat, the more you build, the more calories your body burns when you're not even moving about, how awesome is that?!

It is true that if you are overweight because your diet is rubbish, and you embark on a programme, for a long time, which consisted of a lot of heavy weight lifting, and do nothing to address your eating, it is entirely possible to build muscles *underneath* your fat (in effect adding another layer to your size), which will make you appear larger (albeit a firmer kind of 'large' ;-) ).

I see plenty of guys in the gym who can lift a hell of a lot, very impressive, but who have little to no definition (or what they'd consider 'tone' ;-) ) because they have such a large amount of fat covering their hard-earned muscles!

I realise that I am not exempt from the above observation, I know I have 'wicked' definition *somewhere* under there ;-)

It also really does annoy me when women come out with "I started exercising and I thought I'd lose weight straight away but instead I put on weight... but that's because I've obviously put on muscle and muscle weighs more than fat right?"

WRONG! A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, it's like the old tonne of bricks vs tonne of feathers riddle... what usually happens is that when a lot of people start exercising they either a) get hungry and eat more or b) think that as they've exercised they can therefore eat what they like, or, and this is killer... they drink 'energy' drinks while doing minimal exercise.

If your goal is to lose body fat, unless you're going out on a run where you'll be on your feet for over an hour, or are heading off on a 3 hour cycle ride which takes in a few hills, you really don't want to be taking on extra carbohydrates in the form of sugar, seriously - just drink water! What happens is that your body uses these drinks for fuel, instead of tapping into your body fat reserves - PLUS, any carbs that are not required for energy, i.e. if you're not working hard enough that your body actually needs the extra fuel, you will just store it... as, yup, you guessed it - FAT - bummer!!

You also don't need to be drinking these drinks *after* you've finished light exercising, that's not to say that you need *no* carbohydrate, but what you should be focusing on getting down you after exercising - especially intensely where you've put stress on your muscles - is protein.

This is where Maxitone comes in. 1 serving of Sculptress contains a huge 32g of protein, that's pretty good huh?

Alternatively, if you wanted to create a decent post-workout drink which incorporates good healthy carbohydrates as well as a decent amount of muscle-repairing protein, you can try blending some low fat greek yogurt with fruit and a scoop of Definity (only 120 Cals but over 24g of protein!) to form a yummy recovery smoothie - perfect! :-)

To summarise, I guess I've really come round to the thought of the Maxitone standalone product because

1) if I start using it at least I may get less funny looks/odd questions from colleagues about my protein supplements, using words like 'steroids' and 'mighty-muscle' and 'arnie'!

2) I do quite like the packaging, although the red and black from Maximuscle is dramatic and pretty cool, my favourite colour is purple and there seems to be a decent amount of that about, including the shaker which, apart from being shorter and less obtrusive (therefore more discreet!), is also pretty damn cute ;-)

3) Most important to me though is that I think us women DESERVE our own product! The world of sports nutrition is such a hugely male-dominated world. So should we have to 'share' our products with men who might have entirely different fitness goals and whose bodies are very different to our own - we are worth so much much more than just being an 'afterthought' in a previously male-oriented company.

I think it's great that Maximuscle have recognised that there are women who take their training and nutrition as seriously as men and don't want to be fobbed off with lower grade sports products. Maximuscle invests a lot of time and money into researching what goes into their products and the proof of this is evident in a) the results achieved by people taking the products and b) the caliber of people who do - have you seen the sportsmen and women who are happy to put their name to the brand?!

Ultimately that makes a difference right? You can't say it doesn't. Sportsmen and women or 'sports personalities' tend to have greater weight than regular celebrities when it comes to people who take their training and nutrition seriously.

For example, in 2004 when I first became interested in Triathlon I decided that wearing glasses and/or contact lenses was probably not what I wanted to do when transitioning from water to bike to running... So I looked around at my options and decided that I wanted to correct my eyesight permanently - I only became shortsighted at around the age of 12 so I really had time to become used to not needing corrective means to see and I missed having the peripheral vision that is denied to you when you wear glasses (unless you get a pair of wrap-arounds!).

So I decided to shop around for places that offered corrective laser surgery. Obviously by this point there was a plethora of choices out there and it was hard to know who to go with.

Then I saw an advert with Sir Steve Redgrave, Olympic Gold Medalist rower and he said he'd his eyesight corrected by Ultralase.

Bingo! Respected sporty person inspires hopeful fellow sporty person to have her vision totally restored and in 2004, a wonderful man called Mr Vinod Gupta made that possible.

The ONLY regret I have about the whole procedure is not having had it done sooner, it totally transformed my life. Races like Tough Guy just would not have happened for me as I'd have worried about either glasses breaking or contact lenses getting infected or losing one in the mud!!

Anyway, have gone off on a bit of a tangent there, my 'summary' ran on a bit too long, sorry but you know what I'm like!!

In short (I promise!) it appears that women's nutritional needs are finally being taken seriously in this country and addressed in their own right. It's about time too, I don't wear men's underwear and I don't eat man-sized food portions so why should I consume energy and recovery products designed solely with men in mind?

I think that a female-specific brand like Maxitone will provide women with perfectly balanced high-quality products and I can't wait to try them all out and report back to you with my verdict!

Oh, and one last thing...

I have my own page on the site!

Check me out ;-)


I wrote all the above yesterday but didn't get a chance to post as had to head out to the Official Maxitone Launch Party which was taking place in London last night.

I had a really rather fun time, especially as an old friend I'd not seen for absolutely years was there so that was a nice surprise :-)

I will update you all about how the evening went and try and post some pics too so keep checking back for more news...!

Off out tonight to a 'Hollywood' themed night with lots of glitz and glamour, apparently there's going to be a red carpet and paparazzi, plus casino tables, free drinks and food too - can't wait for that either, have my camera for that so expect a double update soon!

Hope you're all well and healthy


Tuesday 26 January 2010


OMG have you tried Finn Crisp crispbreads yet? They're super lush, made from 100% wholegrain rye, very nice!

I was in my local Holland and Barrett the other day and I saw these, they're tasty, organic and low in Calories (only 40 Cals per crispbread despite being quite thick) - perfect!

Was feeling a little peckish earlier so I had a couple with some soft cheese (plus the obligatory black pepper).

Not bad at less than 120 Cals per serving!

Here's the full breakdown for 2 organic rye crispbreads with a 35g mini tub of Philadelphia Extra Light:

Calories: 118.8
Carbohydrate 17.4g
Protein 6.9g
Fat: 2.4g
Fibre: 4.8g

They also do thinner rectangles at only 20 Cals each - perfect with cheese - and thick round ones (rice-cake style) which we had with smoked salmon and cream cheese as a starter on the weekend when our folks were over :-)

If you haven't tried them already I'd recommend you get some! I'm not sure if you can get the organic ones from regular supermarkets but you can certainly get the round and thinner crispbreads from places like Sainsbury's.


Monday 25 January 2010

Lunch hour workouts

With the best will in the world, my scheduled workout plan often goes awry due to personal/work/social life taking over and throwing everything out of kilter!

However, I do try my best to squeeze in some lunchtime workouts during the week as I find that not only is it a great way of getting some training in, it also helps you to combat the dreaded 'mid-afternoon slump'!

Plus I find that as I only have a limited time, my workouts tend to be fairly well focused and structured (regular readers of this blog will recognise that I struggle with both of these traits!! ;-) )

I'm going to start sharing my lunch break activities with you as and when... I can't promise they'll be any good or suitable for everyone but the one below can be done by anyone who has a bench, some free weights, a rope and a little bit of space!

You seriously don't need much space, just look... this is my work gym - how microscopic?!

Only one of the treadmills works, both bikes are broken (I've never used the 'multi-gym', it's pretty rubbish) and the elliptical trainers make your toes go numb if you use them for more than 20 mins, but I can still get a reasonable workout in if I use some effort and imagination :-)

Today I'm going to tell you about the workout I did last Friday lunchtime.

If you like the look of it, here is the equipment you will need:

* 1 x jump rope. I use one with weighted handles but any is fine
* 2 x heavy-ish dumbbells (the weight you'd use to perform about 12-15 'standard' biceps curls)
* 2 x lighter dumbbells (approx 1/2 to 2/3rds the weight of the other ones)
* 1 x mat (optional - if you have carpet you might not need this)
* 1 x bench
* bit of space with reasonably high ceiling (I have to stand smack bang in the middle of my work's gym when I skip or I'll take out the light fittings!!)

And here are the exercises you're going to do:
(click on the exercise name for link to video/picture/animation or, if you're familiar with the exercises, click here to be taken directly to the routine)

* Biceps Concentration Curls
Notes: These are harder to do than regular bicep curls as you isolate the muscles and use nothing else to perform the movement (it's amazing how many people you see in gyms with weights that are too heavy literally 'rocking' their arms into a curl with the weight of their body!!).

Sit on a bench or stability ball with your legs wide apart and rest the back of the arm with the weight on your inside thigh - use the other arm for stability.
This exercise is good from an ego perspective as you can really see the biceps working hard! ;-)

* Biceps Hammer Curls
Notes: Like the concentration curls, I find that these also require a slightly lighter weight than that which I'm used to for regular curls as the movement is more isolated and forces you to concentrate on using the biceps to do the work... as opposed to your back, shoulders etc.

For this exercise I sit at the end and astride the bench with my arms by my side to begin and curl both at the same time. But you can alternate them if you like. Lift the weights up as if you were holding a baton (or bottle of beer!) so that your thumbs are facing upwards instead of your palms as with regular curls.

* Triceps Kickbacks
Notes: This exercise is harder than you might think and requires some concentration to get it right. You may wish to choose a lighter weight from that which you can curl. Make sure you engage your core muscles during the exercise and try to avoid twisting your back.

Although this movement targets your triceps (and indeed it is those muscles that facilitate the movement!), the only part of your arm that should move is the forearm. Ensure that you keep your elbow raised and still, if you find that you're dropping it or you're having to rock to 'kick-back' the arm then the weight is too heavy and you should drop it down a smidgen to avoid hurting your back

* Overhead Triceps Extensions
Notes: You will most likely need a lighter weight than the one used in the biceps curls/triceps kickbacks. I use one which is 2kg lighter, any heavier and I'd probably bash myself in the head with it!!

Variations: I tend to stand up while doing this and hold onto my triceps with my other arm to stabilise the shoulder joint... I only do this because I have rotator cuff issues due to hypermobile joints. You can sit down if it's more comfortable and you don't have to hold onto your arm if you feel it unnecessary - whatever feels most comfortable during the movement, just make sure you control the movement when lowering your arm as much as when extending it :-)

* Skipping
I'm sure you don't need a picture for this, although that's not to say that skipping's not challenging... it's just not hard to figure out for yourself ;-)
Try to keep skipping for the entire time, no matter how difficult it feels - it will get easier I promise!

* Plank
Notes: try and keep a straight line across your back and avoid sticking your butt up in the air or lowering it below the hips. This exercise hurts, but it is SO worth it :-)

Variations: If you're feeling particularly hardcore, you can always try the straight arm Plank variation on this already tough exercise!

* Quadruped (Alternating Arm and Leg)
Notes: This odd-sounding exercise is fabulous in that it works your entire core, without you (seemingly) having to do much! The main focus is on balance though and in this exercise I want you to hold the pose for at least 30 seconds (instead of alternating in quick succession like the video clip). The longer you hold the pose, the harder it gets to balance and the harder you are working your core muscles as well as improving your butt - everyone's a winner! :-)

Variations: If you want to make this tougher you could consider wearing ankle and/or wrist weights to make this more difficult for your arms and legs. Also, instead of kneeling you can come up on your toes like this. However, if you're new to this exercise it's probably best to stick with the basic move which is effective enough in itself without the need for variation.

* Bicycle Crunches
Notes: Jillian Michaels says that these are the best all-round abdominal exercises you can do and I tend to agree. This exercise works your upper and lower abs, as well as your obliques - perfect if you're pushed for time and want to blast the lot!!

Place your fingers behind your ear lobes - not head - to avoid using your hands to propel you forward increasing the risk of neck strain. Bring your elbow to your opposing knee, breathe out as you lift your elbow upwards and breathe in as you lower it and your leg.

Okay so now you're familiar with the exercises, how about we put them into a workout?

This is what I did on Friday, it's a circuit of all the exercises I mentioned which you repeat 3 times. It's guaranteed to get the heart racing and make you feel fabulous afterwards for having worked so hard!

The whole routine took me about 50 mins which included time for re-working the programme, re-tying my stupid long hair which kept getting tangled in the jump rope and sitting down panting for breath after each skipping interval!

Next time I do it I'm hoping to get down below 45 minutes!

Tara's Fitness Fat Blasting Routine

* Skipping - 3 minutes
* Plank - hold for 60 seconds
* Quadruped - hold for minimum of 30 seconds each side
* Bicycle Crunches - 20 reps each side
* Concentration Curl - 10 reps each arm
* Overhead Triceps Extension - 10 reps each arm
* Hammer Curl - 10 reps each arm
* Triceps Kickback - 10 reps each arm

(rest for a few seconds... then repeat!)

* Skipping - 3 minutes
* Plank - hold for 60 seconds
* Quadruped - hold for minimum of 30 seconds each side
* Bicycle Crunches - 20 reps each side
* Concentration Curl - 10 reps each arm
* Overhead Triceps Extension - 10 reps each arm
* Hammer Curl - 10 reps each arm
* Triceps Kickback - 10 reps each arm

(as above, rest for a little while but no longer than 30 seconds, pick up your jump rope and get right back into it!)

* Skipping - 3 minutes
* Plank - hold for 60 seconds
* Quadruped - hold for minimum of 30 seconds each side
* Bicycle Crunches - 20 reps each side
* Concentration Curl - 10 reps each arm
* Overhead Triceps Extension - 10 reps each arm
* Hammer Curl - 10 reps each arm
* Triceps Kickback - 10 reps each arm

(finish and congratulate yourself on a job well done, feel very smug for having made such fabulous use of your lunch break/free period, note your time and try and beat it on your next attempt!)

So that's your lot for now, if you like the sounds of it then do let me know and I hope you have as much fun doing it as I did :-)


Thursday 21 January 2010

weekly roundup

Greetings and salutations!

I've not been a well Tara these last few days and have spent most of them asleep - while it does wonders to your complexion it really buggers up your training plan!!!

Also, annoyingly, being bedridden due to physical sickness and fatigue is not conducive to successful blogging, grumble grumble...

Anyway, enough moaning, I'm feeling a little better today and managed to not puke on my boss during a meeting this afternoon (no offence intended towards him, he's super, I just felt mighty queasy and claustrophobic at the time!)

What can I tell you?

Well, I managed to break the psychological deadlock and haul my arse back into the gym. Gawd knows why I had such a block but I really couldn't motivate myself and literally had to psych myself up for a while before going - even to my work's gym which has about 3 members, ha!

When I returned to my local gym I felt dreadful, really lumpy and out of shape, especially carrying round and extra half stone of lard!

However, I've reined my eating and exercise back in check and the good news is that I'm starting to see I'm starting to see the results of my hard work - my arms are looking better already! Obviously being the classic pear it's going to take a lot longer for my bottom half to follow suit ;-)

I managed to stay off the sauce for 2 weeks, broken only last Friday when was out with friends at birthday drinks and fancied some red wine, so had some!

Two weeks off the booze makes Tara a cheap date indeed though and after 2 glasses I felt rather woozy... a cheeky small bottle of lager later and I felt well and truly tipsy - lightweight!!

This pub was fab though, I must say, it's called 'Paradise by way of Kensal Green' which is a rather snazzy name.

I used to live down the road from there and I don't remember it being in existence when I was nearby - but then I didn't tend to seek out classy boozers like this so I'd have probably missed it anyway!

The menu on the website looks superb and Joe and I had already planned to share the Chateaubriand, but unfortunately given that the pub's reputation for food alone is a draw, there were no tables free til 9:30pm and we'd have been munching on the bar mats if we'd left it that late... so we had 'bar snacks'.

We over-ordered, food was fairly tasty but too greasy for my liking - I ordered 'fish cakes' which were small salmon balls coated in breadcrumbs and deepfried... even the 'healthy' chicken skewers had a sheen of oil on them and were too greasy to stomach - shame!! The lamb koftas were nice.

However, this being said, they do make the most AMAZING chips ever... big huge hunks of potato, massively deep fried I imagine but boy did they taste (sinfully) good!

Joe did decide to order the Mother of All Scotch Eggs

Look at the size of this bad boy - it's absurd!

And in case you were wondering, no, I did not partake in this abomination of sausage meat and dairy produce!

So, what else did I get up to last week?

Ahh yes, on Tuesday Joe and I went out with a couple of friends of ours. The male half of said couple is doing the Etape du Tour (again) with Joe (again!) so both myself and the female half have plenty to lament :-(

I actually wouldn't be too bothered about the Tour if it weren't for the fact that it's the VERY NEXT DAY after a couple of very good friends of mine's wedding!!!

Grr, talk about shit planning, at least we'll be in the same country, just over 100km away from the start of the race (in Pau)!!

I'm sure he'll sort it out but it means he'll be less-than-merry at the wedding, will miss the reception altogether and I'll be staying on my own with the boy!


Pah, anyway, Joe finally got back on his road bike (first time since race day back in July last year!) on Saturday and after netball practice I joined him on a little jaunt to Richmond Park. I haven't actually ridden round it for years and I haven't taken Henry over any distances further than to work and back so he was in for a treat!

Although, it pissed down with rain, all the way there, and the traffic was terrible, and I'm scared of London traffic and...and... you get the picture?

We did a circuit (11km) and it was fab, the rain had stopped (although the recent snow meant the roads were covered with grit, not an ideal surface for cycling!) and I was okay with the hills - which is great considering how long it's been since I rode up any.

We stopped for a wee and tea and, please hold onto your coffee cups and try not to get excited but here you are about to see the most spectacularly HOT steamy picture of me you have ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on...

how about this then?!

dontcha wish your girlfriend was HOT like me...!

Yes, this is how I ROLL! Or RIDE, rather ;-) I really do look this nerdy when I cycle in the rain - I wear a big obnoxious helmet to protect my head (flashy light optional) bright clothing to avoid being hit by cars, clear glasses to protect my eyes from road dirt, ski-socks and shorts *over* my tights to keep my legs and bum warm.

Oh yes, and I go red when I exert myself.

I'm so sexy it hurts.

You too could look this hot, all you have to do is dress like a halfwit and have to ride out with a pannier top-bag because you were too excited at the thought of getting a new bike you forgot to ask the cycle-shop guys to fit a bottle cage!

Anyway, enough of my hotness, I was actually quite cold by this point (the park loos aren't heated, as a girl who needs to sit down (like most girls do I imagine?!), the peeing experience was quite unpleasant to say the least!)

So we made for the inviting warmth of the nearest café.

I have decided that the café just by Roehampton Gate (turn left as soon as you come into the park) makes the best lattes in the world*

*if you are cold, wet and in need of milky caffeinated yummyness

Joe ordered some insulin-spiking simple carb greasy goodness

(I'm sure this isn't in the diet plan?!)

And got 'papped'

...he returned the favour but, with my relatively saintly-by-comparison protein bar I had earned the right to look a little less guilty (though not any less red... that doesn't change for ages... I really am quite a catch huh?!!)

I wasn't too hungry as had drunk my yummy protein smoothie

Just before we were about to set off on another loop (I was looking forward to taking pics of the deer that were out and about) Joe discovered he had a puncture, dammit!

We ended up calling it a day, which was bloody sensible in the long run as, although he 'repaired' the puncture (AKA swapped the inner tubes!!), he failed to spot the piece of glass that was still lodged in his tyre and got another puncture on the way home!

Plus the weather was a bit mis...

Fortunately Evans Cycles in Wandsworth were open and we were able to get in and have them take a look at his wheel, locate the source of the puncture (d'uh) and get *another* inner tube! I also 'forced' him to buy some Continental tyres as I have a pair on my MTB and I have *never* had a puncture, they're ace!

We finally got home, after dark, a little fed up, a lot tired and very very hungry!!

After sneaking a slice from the 'gigantaloaf' I had made the night before

(my loaves seem to have a mind of their own, don't think I'll every properly figure them out!!), I set to work cooking and made a simple but tasty dish with salmon, prawns and mixed colourful veg in a white wine and garlic sauce - with some Quark for good measure :-)

The boys had spaghetti but I had some of this amazingly tasty *wholewheat* (I know the two don't usually go hand-in-hand!) pasta called 'Mafalda Corta', it's by Napolina and is definitely the most delicious wholewheat pasta around :-) I think you can only get it at Sainsburys at the mo, which is a bit of a bum.

Right, I'm going to take myself off to bed as it is waaaaay too late for me and I'm finally starting to feel tired (my body clock is so out of whack right now it's untrue!).

Catch you later


Wednesday 20 January 2010

Yummy fromage frais, fruit and protein smoothie

If like me you buy fruit and then forget about it (bad!!), smoothies are the best way to deal with old(er), less aesthetically pleasing fruit to avoid (guilt-inducing) waste and still ensure you get your vits.

I'm also one of those weirdos who can't eat a banana if it's too yellow... off-green/just-yellow is my preference, any darker and it won't go down... show me a brown sugar spot and I'll gag (yes, I'm odd) - this is also where smoothies come in handy as the sweetness adds to - and gets mixed up in - the flavour and pacifies and placates freaks like me ;-)

Note: frozen berries are a Godsend, although they always seem to be sold in inconvenient HUGE plastic packaging so I tend to transfer them to freezer bags ready for use - they also serve as pretty decent ice-fruit-cubes too :-)

I made this smoothie on the weekend and it was so lush I had to share it with you (through the magic of Microsoft Paint - I'm all high-tech, me ;-) )

Step 1 (click for fullsize pics):

Step 2:

Step 3:

Last but not least, here is the nutritional breakdown per serving, courtesy of

As you can see, there's a nice balance of protein and carbs, plus plenty of fruit which includes soluble and insoluble dietary fibre to help you cleanse and detox your insides without you even trying!



P.S. if anyone's interested, my smoothie maker is a Kenwood 'Smoothie 2Go' and it's bloody marvellous as the mixing blade screws into the top of the jug, as do the lids so you can literally drink your protein shake on the go - superb! :-)

Thursday 14 January 2010

Christmas in the wood

Yes I know that Christmas is eons ago and I'll probably get round to finally updating you about our New Year holiday sometime in June... but for now here you go (before I find something else to distract myself with!!)

Fans of True Blood may or may not be aware that the hunky (do I sound old saying 'hunky'??!) Stephen Moyer (yeah probably, oh well!), who plays the lead male character 'Bill Compton', is actually from Brentwood in Essex (yes, the UK!).

Another rather sexy, but younger, blonder and less toothy export to come out of this town is none other than my own rather lovely boyfriend; and this Christmas was spent with the people responsible for his very presence on this planet (thanks guys!) as well as his older brother and some close family friends.

To say my present haul was large would be a huge understatement - I'm not bragging, I didn't get cars and diamond rings but I did get some lovely thoughtful gifts and I'm really chuffed with them all. I'm not going to bore you with a full list or all the pictures I took on Christmas Day, but here are some snippets from the day:

One of my requests for crimbo gifts was a slow cooker. I really like the idea of being able to chuck a load of veg and meat into a pot, set it going and bugger off to work for the day just to have a nice pot of yummyness awaiting my return.

So I asked for, and thankfully got a Cuisinart 'Cook and Hold' slow cooker. It has a great (I think) feature where, after the cooking time has elapsed, instead of just switching off it keeps the food warm for you. This prevents any overcooking that might result from your warming up your food in a microwave when you get back! (see, thought of everything me ;-))

Nice huh? well I think so anyway ;-) If I come up with any tasty nutritious recipes I'll be sure to pass them on.

I also asked for a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes as I was quite curious to try them out.

I'm getting a bit bored and not just a little fed-up with my running-related injuries and increasingly concerned by the numerous articles, like this one posted on the the Telegraph's website by Will from WLR, promoting barefoot running over sinking our toes into over-priced, over-cushioned, over-supportive shoes - it's a wonder our lower limbs actually know what to *do* anymore when we break into a jog!!

After all, if I'm returning to basics with my eating (more of that to follow), why not apply the same school of thought to my exercise and technique?!

Here are the shoes:

Yes they do feel *incredibly* weird - wearing gloves on your feet, who'd have thunk it?!

And no, I haven't gotten out for a run with them yet, it's been a wee bit too nippy for that!! When I do I'll take pics, just so you can all laugh at me and my weird shoes, I doubt you'll be the only ones!! ;-)

Other than that I got some nice books, a couple of lovely necklaces, a beautiful black scarf with stars on it, and some other bits and bobs, I definitely did rather well!! :-)

Oh and I nearly forgot about this jewellery box - how gorgeous is this?!

One of Joe's Mum's presents was a new breadmaker and we got her the same one we have, the Panasonic SD55, it's awesome and she's already experimented with making rye bread (her fave) using the special kneading blade it comes with.

Joe got loads of gift, including a nice bag and watch. I got him some CDs too (old school huh?!), here's him with the Foo Fighters Greatest Hits album, very pleased :-)

I also got him an album by Them Crooked Vultures (Dave Grohl's side project)

My son got the new Black Eyed Peas album as well as In Silico by Pendulum, got to educate the boy ;-) he thinks they're great too, glad he's got as eclectic a taste in music as I do!

Amusingly, Joe, his Dad and older brother all bought each other bottles of the same wine

Bring on the chateauneuf du pape baby!! :-D

One of the presents my son got that is really quite cool is an EyeToy. It's mad, you can interact with the funny little furry creature!

Anyway, that's enough about the presents - onto the rest of the day!

I didn't photograph the main course as I was too busy shovelling it down my gullet, but I did manage to snap the starters, aren't these the most wonderful imaginative dishes going? Such wonderful colours!

Can you guess what's there?

Okay there was smoked salmon, hot smoked trout, smoked mackerel, crab and caviar (an oceanic treat!), served with avocado, dill, quail's eggs and some rather wonderful rye bread, all the way from Finland.

Joe's uncle brings it over with him when he visits and it's delicious, quite sour but really tasty and it keeps forever which has earned it the moniker of 'travelling man's bread'.

If only we could buy it over here but I've not seen it sold anywhere :-(

And here's a picture of us all, in the lovely new conservatory, about to tuck in :-)

The food didn't hang about on the plate for long, I can guarantee that!

Like I said I didn't snap the mains but I'm sure you can picture for yourself what it looked like, turkey, roast spuds, brussels sprouts and loads of other veg - standard issue Christmas loveliness :-)

Before I finish, here's a pic of me and my lovely son, whom I just discovered yesterday to my chagrin that he is now *less* than 3 inches shorter than me (having grown over 4cm in the last few months) - arghh! This time next year I'll be the shortest person in the house (bar the cats of course!)

Isn't he handsome? Although I am ever so slightly biased ;-)

Dinner was followed by drinks and good conversation, great fun and can't wait to do it all again this year - though hopefully in my own new home in London, would be awesome to play host and return the festive favour for once!

Hope all your Christmases were equally good.


Wellies are smelly, boots are best ;-)

Wow, what a difference a day makes!

This was my road on Wednesday:

And here it was the next morning!

(less pristine, more slushy, more damp, blerghh!)

This morning it was totally snow free - hurrah!

Sorry, I'm sure we've all had enough of the snow to last us a lifetime, it's just such a novelty, I've lived in London all my life and can't remember there ever being this much snow for so long!

Anyway, it seems that the snow is just an excuse for Londoners to parade their new brightly coloured wellies about... it used to be that people just wore them for mud, then it was festivals (although that counts as mud I guess) and now it's snow too!

Whyyy? I can understand if you're in it up to 1/2 a foot deep, but it never gets that deep in London! Wellies have rubbish grips, it's hilarious to see such wearers slipping about on the snow and ice all for the sake of fashion!

Personally I think everyone should make like me and wear a beat up old pair of Brasher Hiking boots, like these beauties:


Rugged soles? Aggressive soles more like!! These bad boys never slip or slide, they're 100% waterproof - basically they're absolutely fabulous and I'd highly recommend you get a pair :-)

These boots have trekked up numerous hills and a few mountains to boot, including Scafell Pike and Helvellyn!!

Okay so they need a bit of a clean, just found a picture of what they should look like new

*Slight* difference there, heh ;-)

Ahh well, I have had them about 6 years at least!

Anyway, I don't really have anything much of interest to say, I'm just killing time as my friend's on her way over to pick me up, we're off to my old stomping ground for a drink and a bite to eat in a fab pub that does awesome steak so more about that later!

I've been a good girl today though and did Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred this morning (FAB DVD, will have to review soon once I've moved up a level!) and at lunch I did some skipping and arm weights - rock on!

Will try and break the habit of a lifetime and actually blog over the weekend, it should be a quiet one so hopefully will get back on and tell you about life lately :-)

Have a happy Friday everyone

TJ x

Tuesday 12 January 2010

January Detox - Tasty Trade-offs :-)

If, like me, you might have indulged a teeensy bit too much over this festive period and are letting your liver recover, as well as the rest of your body, here are a couple of worthy-of-note drink substitutes it might be worth considering in place of coffee and beer :-)

Bavaria (the name is a bit of a misnomer as it comes from Holland!) contains: Purest Mineral Water, Barley Malt, Wheat, Hops

That's it.

It also has less than 80 cals per 330ml and tastes great!

BarleyCup contains:

Roasted barley, rye & chicory.

And that's also it.

Although it obviously doesn't have the 'kick' that real coffee has, it's pretty damn tasty, doesn't leave a nasty bitter aftertaste and you can drink it at night without worrying that you'll be kept awake!

So nice healthy alternative choices to help make January less painful for those going without :-)


Am I the only freak

who puts black pepper on banana?

It's such a great combination, doesn't taste at all as you'd imagine :-)

This is lovely if you've got a bit of a sweet tooth and a craving for healthy carbs:

1 small-medium banana mushed spread thickly over two Kallo organic no-added salt thick wholegrain rice cakes

(the black pepper is optional but if you've not tried it, why not give it a go?! :-) )

Guilt-free snacking at around 150 cals, nice :-)


Saturday 9 January 2010

A tasty mess :-)

Just thought I'd share my lunch with you - and no, not in a mother/baby bird kinda way ;-)

I've mentioned before that I buy Two Chicks liquid egg whites because they come in a good size carton, seem to be sold more and more locally and, most importantly, come from free range hens (very important to me as I wouldn't buy barn eggs for usual every day use!).

Anyway, despite the cartons being a handy size I still manage to waste a lot of the egg white as I open it and then don't use it within the three days it recommends!

So what I've been doing is spooning out 10 tablespoon portions into mini tubs and then freezing them so they're ready when I need them (only thing is you have to be careful when defrosting not to turn them into scrambled eggs!! ;-) )

So today, while the boys were making cheese on toast I whizzed up some egg white, cheese, a little bit of milk, Tabasco sauce (essential) and black pepper (also essential).

I usually add either Maximuscle Promax Diet or Promax Natural to my egg white pancakes/omelettes but today I forgot to put either in and it was equally lovely!

I think I'll leave the natural protein powder out of my savoury omelettes in future as it does nothing for the flavour and can make them a bit carboardy. Plus I need to keep the Promax Natural back for my lunches as it adds protein and creamyness :-)

Promax Diet is lovely in sweet protein pancakes as it gives them extra flavour and can counteract the sometimes tart quality of all the berries I use. Incidentally I rarely use fresh berries as (thanks to a tip-off from the all-knowing and wise Gym Ninja) frozen berries are much better as you can buy them in bulk from supermarkets, they act like fruity ice cubes and don't go off because they're in the freezer - I think I need a *bigger* freezer!

Arghh, sorry I'm waffling, Joe's sitting angrily strumming his guitar as I need to get on and do some household chores with him (yawn) instead of blogging.

So yeah, here's what I made... it doesn't look pretty as I had the pan on the wrong ring and it was too hot (you reeeeeally need to gently heat omelettes!) and one side cooked too quickly causing a big mess when I tried to flip it.

Bloody tasty though, got thumbs up from both the boys, you'd never have guessed that no egg yolks were harmed in the making of this feature:

Here's the nutritional info:

Calories (kcal) 239.8
Carbohydrate (g) 3.0
Protein (g) 31.0
Fat (g) 11.0
Fibre (g) 2.7

And here's the recipe, courtesy of the fab tools at Weightloss Resources if anyone's interested (any Brits, please note that Sainsbury's reduced fat 'davidstow' cheese is bloody gorgeous and doesn't taste like at all like it's not full fat!)

I think I'll make the same thing tomorrow but add some mushrooms and peppers for good effect, that's if my sweet-tooth doesn't take over ;-)

Hope you all have a great Saturday


(most of) December in pictures

Birthday Meal

Although you wouldn't guess from her Christian name, Joe's Mum's birthday is in early December.

His Dad's birthday is on Christmas day, which is just bad luck as far as I'm concerned... it's bad enough waiting the whole year to celebrate your day of birth, but to have it happen on the same day *everyone* else gets presents is just unnecessarily cruel!

I'm lucky that my birthday is late May so I get a break (almost) mid-year when I can have a whole day devoted to celebrating my birth ;-)

Joe and my offspring aren't quite so lucky as they share the same birthday - how random is that?!!

Anyway, so it was the birthday of 'My Other Mother', which has a very appropriate TLA so we'll call her 'MOM' :-D

As Joe's parents live in Essex (more about that in my Christmas post) the easiest place to meet is at Liverpool Street Mainline Station. My job was to find a suitable restaurant.

So, as per usual I popped over to the trusted and had a look at what was local and recommended by fellow diners.

I found a place called Kazan City, whose sister restaurant is actually close to where I work but I'd not yet had a chance to go there.

I don't want to go on too much as this is meant to just be a brief picture post but if you're ever around Liverpool St (or indeed just in London) and fancy an awesome Turkish meal then I'd recommend you head on down, it was superb!

Here's the address:
34-36 Houndsditch, London, EC3A 7DB

in short:
food - amazing and plentiful
atmosphere - wonderful with charming charismatic staff
decor - stunning, even the loos are lush!

in fact, you can read my review (left on 20/12/09) and many others here!

So, enough of that, here are some pics from the night:

Here's me and my wonderful MOM :-)

Joe displaying the usual amount of respect he has for his father ;-)

Joe's uncle was over from Finland and he and my son got on famously and spent most of the evening engrossed in conversation :-)

I particularly like this picture because, if you look carefully, Joe's older brother is mid-spilling his water... couldn't have timed it better if I'd tried!

Oh and here are a couple of pointless pics of restaurant paraphernalia that I liked :-)

I LOVE this, I just wouldn't put it in my house ;-)

Serpentine Running Club Christmas Party (aka "annual pissup")

The majority of the runners I have encountered tend to take their training quite seriously - this often makes for nights stood in pub, pint of orange juice and lemonade in hand.

However, if there's one night that runners and triathletes really let loose it's at their running club's Christmas Party.

Also, because of being in a relative state of abstinence or at least self-enforced discipline for most of the year, it doesn't take much to get them drunk.

Very fit people get drunk quickly, fact.

Some very fit people also have this ability to drink a lot without it (seemingly) affecting them. These people are called freaks of nature.

In any case, fit drunk people are hilarious and great fun to be around. I just wish I spent more time at my running club as they are a fab (very large) group of people!

So, the night started off sedately. I'd spent forever earlier on trying to find a dress which wasn't boring, but also not garish - didn't fancy digging out one of my LBDs.

I settled on a nice green number, here it is, and one of my very fast lovely running friends, Rach:

Me and my beloved, doesn't he scrub up well ;-)


Although I'm not too sure quite how sexy he looks here

Maybe not at all? ;-)

Joe and Rach's husband looking resplendent in their silly hats

I made this for Rach, I stuck both crowns together with candle wax, aren't I talented (ahem)

I forgot to photograph the main meal, but that might have been subconsciously deliberate as it was rather forgettable and bland

The dessert was rather lovely though :-)

Now of course, what party for fit running types, would be complete without a

Panto Horse

!!! (note the shades)

This was the front end of Panto Horse, we did wonder why he'd brought such a massive rucksack to a black tie event!

Ahh, the shades have been stolen as I obviously think I look better in them. Fliss to my right looks unimpressed and the waiter looks as if he'd like to spill my food over me.

I don't blame him

So, after you've stuffed a large three course meal down your gullet and followed/accompanied this with plenty plenty wine... what does any self-respecting reveller do?

Get up and dance of course!

Oop look, Panto Horse made another appearance (this was the first of many)

Here is the usual obligatory pic of Joe and me

And just one of me (aren't you lucky to have me all on my own! ;-) )

Ooh and there's one of Joe too for good measure ;-)

I'm not 100% sure but, and correct me if I'm wrong, that might be Blue Steel we just saw!

This is my friend Lou, she deserves a place in this post not only because she is gorgeous fabulous, and super fast, but also because she looked amazing!

Look at that hair!

She had a corset on too which made her waist thinner than my calf!

Ahh, and this is the back end of the horse (not Joe).

As I've already mentioned, Panto Horse made several appearances throughout the night, each time dancing furiously away...

This made for a rather sweaty rear end, I think that shirt was transparent but I guess it's hard to tell from the pic. Consider yourselves lucky!

One last pic for luck, I love this, it's hilarious! Pete's a legend. He actually works with Joe but is also a running club member and just all round top bloke :-)


...actually it wasn't the whole thing, just the reception, but it was superb. A really lush extravagant affair, but not too showy that you felt like you couldn't relax :-)

Initially I was a bit sulky at this whole wedding thing as I had tickets to see Florence and the Machine that night and I'd been really looking forward to it when Joe dropped the bombshell that that specific Sunday night we'd been invited to attend the wedding of his long-term colleague - dammit!

But c'est la vie, you can see bands many times over - how often do people get married?!

The wedding and reception were held in a rather grand hotel in London's Russell Square and I particularly liked the statues 'holding up' the ceiling

Pretty huh? :-)

This was the first Indian wedding I'd been to so I didn't really know what to expect food wise (don't say Indian food!).

I can safely say that it might have been the best wedding food I have ever eaten!

It was all vegetarian, all amazingly tasty with fabulous spices and so colourful to boot!

Here's the starter

and look at the main course - drooool

We were a bit too far back for my rubbish point-and-shoot to get a decent picture as the bride and groom came in but I got a quick snap later :-)

Obviously there was the cheesy dancing to disco classics after the meal:

And here's a silly pic to round off the night :-)

Alpha Meal

Some of you might remember that Joe and I did the Alpha Course

After it finished we went along to a Christmas supper with our group hosts who are the loveliest couple and are expecting their first child soon :-)

Here's my son and another from our group

While were were there Nicky Gumbel came over to talk to Joe!

He'd heard that Joe had enjoyed the course, but that his opinion on Christianity was unchanged and he still didn't believe there was/is this one almighty creator.

But Joe did say that he felt he'd developed a better understanding of the Christian faith, felt less ignorant about what it all meant and met a nice bunch of (not scary or strange) people to boot!

Nicky listened thoughtfully as is his way, and then asked Joe if he'd consider going up onstage and repeating what he'd said in front of everyone and he said yes!

How awesome, my boyfriend on stage at Holy Trinity Brompton, one of my favourite places in the world, talking to the legend that is Nicky Gumbel - woot!

Look, he even got on TV :-)

On a big screen too! ;-)

I rather liked this rose, for no reason other than it was pretty :-)

Work Christmas meal

I haven't got a lot of pictures of this as didn't take many, but in brief, I organised it (go me) and it was at our local Giraffe Restaurant.

If you have a Giraffe nearby and haven't visited it yet I would highly recommend you do as the food is lovely and very varied and well priced :-)

My meal consisted of:

'blue cheese, avocado & toasted pecan salad' to start (yes, I'd almost finished it before I thought pull out my camera - it was too tasty to resist!!)

followed by: 'double roast crispy duck' for main

and then finally to round things off I had: 'Steamed apple & toffee pudding' which was lush but I was quite full by then and had to share it with a colleague (obviously she was *devastated* by this ;-) )

Any Other Business

My son and I finally put up our Christmas tree (we forgot last year). It's one of those fake ones with 'snow' on the 'branches' which absolutely covers our floor with white powder (grr).

I think this year it might not make it back into the box if Joe's got anything to do with it...!

Saw this dude on a tube, thought him worthy of photographing (surreptitiously of course), love that he's wearing one green glove, a twig wreath and is carrying a paint stick - plus how retro are his trainers?!

The rest of the month was spent working and house-hunting! Well, I say 'house-hunting' but we'd already decided on the place that we liked and (more importantly) could afford back in November but there were quite a few weeks of uncertainty - mainly because it's a huge thing to take on when the country's in the state it is right. However I am more than confident that the house will be worth it, and then some - it's in a great area and it's large with buckets of potential... just needs a lot of TLC!

My son went over to Joe's parents' place early on in the week of Christmas as he'd broken up for the hols. So I thought I'd make use of us still having a little disposable income (before it all gets invested in this house!) and plan a nice evening.

It just so happened that the day coincided with the current owner of the house agreeing to our offer so it was definitely a cause for celebration!

I booked us into L Restaurant and Bar which is in Kensington. I'd found it on toptable (obviously!) and thought I'd try it out as it had such a high reviewer rating and had 50% off food (it still does at time of writing this!).

We weren't let down, the food was delicious, really stunning :-)

To start I had the "Crispy Goat Cheese served with Roasted Mixed Peppers & Pine Nuts Salad" which was just scrummy, and Joe had "Baby Scallops & Sobrasada Risotto with Manchego Crisp" which was also nice but not as lovely as mine - it reminded me of a sort of fishy rice pudding!

For my main I had the "Pan Fried Stone Bass with Spinach & Mashed Potato with Sauce Vierge & Chorizo Dressing". The fish was a good size and it tasted wonderful but I did get slight food envy at Joe's steak, which was cooked perfectly - but obviously I had some of this ;-)

We had to eat relatively quickly as I'd booked us into the Kensington Odeon to see a film that I thought sounded promising, Law Abiding Citizen.

If you've not seen this film before, don't.

It's the biggest pile of tosh I've seen in a very long time... predictable, boring and ultimately unsatisfying.

It was rated 18, why?! There wasn't that much gore, it was just stupid and unbelievable.

By contrast, if you've not seen Rein Over Me, starring Adam Sandler and playing the first straight role I've seen him in!

I *love* Adam Sandler, have done for years, so was worried about how he'd take to the part but he nailed it and I experienced something I've not felt while watching a movie for a long time - actual caring about what happened to the characters in the end!

So yeah, there's my tip on 2 'rent out' and 'see at your peril' films

But it's all subjective and you might totally disagree with me on both counts, which is fine, as if we all liked the same films the movie world would be a very boring place indeed ;-)

So anyway, back to the night...

After the (rubbish) film came the final surprise of the night. I'd booked us into a hotel for the night (naughty) and found a great deal on for one of their 'top secret 1/2 price hotels'.

The hotel wasn't as top secret as they'd have hoped because, although the description did its best to be relatively ambiguous, there are precious few 4* hotels in Kensington that have spas and gyms in them.

And that's your lot for December, well, apart from Christmas but I won't bore you with that right now ;-)

Hope you all had an equally lovely last month of 2009 and that January is going well for you already too :-)