Saturday 31 December 2011

A new year

A New Year’s Prayer
Author Unknown

May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;

Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;

Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;

Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;

Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.

God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.

Tuesday 27 December 2011


Christmas has been very good to me this year. Well, more accurately, my friends and family have been very good to me.

Two pie books?! These people know me too well :) I love pastry and I really enjoy cooking and baking!

Yesterday's effort:
chicken and mushroom pie

And it was yummy! :)

Monday 26 December 2011

This week I shall mostly... playing Wii Zumba Fitness 2:

A great surprise Christmas present!

First impressions are much better than the original Zumba Fitness (which was fun to play but looked like they hadn't spent much on the graphics). Am looking forward to getting to grips with the new version properly, if I can clear my living room enough to jump around in it!

Thursday 22 December 2011

12 hikes...

Hiker Mom at living the hike life suggested a different kind of challenge for 2012: 12 hikes in 12 different states/countries. I thought I could give that a go, with 12 different counties. It shouldn't be too hard to plan one hike a month during 2012, should it?

Places I could hike:
New Forest (Hampshire)

Monday 19 December 2011

Dreaming of travelling

In the cold and darkness of this time of year, I feel the urge to make plans for next year - trips and events to look forward to. Some to places I've been before, some to explore new places...

None of these plans are solid, partly because they're so far away and partly because I'm liable to jump in the car/book a flight and disappear off for a couple of days :)

I've been to Scotland a few times, but mostly as a child, and never to spend time in a city. And I've heard lots of lovely things about it. With any luck, this trip will combine with a visit to Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. Despite my rubbish-ness at climbing hills and mountains, I will be getting up this one!
Will need to pack: stylish but warm clothes for exploring Edinburgh (with comfortable shoes) and serious hill climbing gear.

The Norfolk Broads:
As a teenager and young(er) adult, I spent many happy weeks and weekends sailing dinghies up at the Broads. It's one of those places where you slightly step back in time: the pace of life slows and you spend the entire day out in the fresh air. This year I'm hoping to be sailing much bigger boats on the Broads - a real adventure :)
Will need to pack: suncream, hat, buoyancy aid and full waterproofs!

Croyde, West Devon:
After this year's girlie surfing trip, the plan is to head back for more! Maybe even make a slightly longer break of it this time. I am excited already!
Will need to pack: bikini, warm clothes (the weather in the UK is never guaranteed!) and a good book to read on the beach.

In an unplanned manner, I've somehow or other made it to Spain for the last four years in a row. Two years were road-trips through France to Spain and back again, full of happy memories of munching on fresh bread and fuet (a Spanish cured meat) and rocking up at campsites late in the evening :) Then there was a work-related trip to Barcelona and this year's brief trips to Tenerife and Alicante. I really like Spain and I think it's likely I'll turn up there again during 2012.
Will need to pack: Spanish/English dictionary and phrase book (I speak a bit, but not quite enough!), shorts and summer-y tops, flip-flops and a kindle full of books...

Fabulous - that's enough plans for me to get excited about. For now at least :)

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Cold weather attire

Over the last few weeks I've been experimenting with the correct gear to wear when running in the cold (which, in my case, means below about 5degC). I've had particular issues with cold thighs, but tonight I think I might have cracked it:

It's a great look, isn't it?! Especially bearing in mind that I teamed it with a black thermal top, purple short sleeved running t-shirt and grey hairband/ear warmer... It's a good thing it's dark in the evenings and very few people are out to witness this dreadful combination!

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Holiday Bootie Buster so far...

How up and down things are!

Week One: did some exercise (not tons), got a few points, happy but not ecstatic...

Week Two: upped my exercise with a good ol' hilly hike and rediscovering Wii Fii (yay!). I also commited to fitting in more fruit and veg to get a few extra points. Very pleased with myself.

Week Three: was on course for an even better week with two runs in. However, I've had a slight setback which involves a very sore neck and no more exercise this week. I *might* fit in a couple of miles walking, but that's about the limit! Oh well...

Saturday 3 December 2011

Jantastic - spring motivation

Yeah, yeah, I know it's only a couple of days into December, but I had to share this straight away!

For a bit of context, I've been an avid listener to Marathon Talk podcasts for ages now, since I originally started "training" for the Amsterdam marathon. And if listening to people talking about training for marathons equated to real training, then I would have been much better prepared!

This is the launch video for their spring motivation series...

Yup, I've signed up already. Even though I'm currently running 1-2 times a week and their minimum option is 3 times a week. I'll get there... :)

Friday 2 December 2011

Lots of leaves but no fitter

We went walking again, this time in the Cotswolds. Which is much hillier than the New Forest. Much hillier.

And leafy - almost knee-deep!

Friday 25 November 2011

A bit of grit

I am not one of those determined, motivated, fit and healthy people that seem to be everywhere. And I rarely push myself to work really hard. In fact, I would describe myself as pretty rubbish at self-motivation. Quite often, I would rather be sat on the sofa than out being active and pushing myself.

However, somehow (and almost without me noticing) I seem to have developed a little bit of grit. That part of me that got round an entire marathon even though I hadn't trained enough, had been passed by the hurry up van (and half the entrants to the half-marathon) and eventually crawlled in as the last official finisher. It doesn't surface very often, but it is there.

I think it all started with karate...

Early days (circa 2002)

What I like about karate is learning to do particular movements, control your body, etc. What I end up doing in karate is standing in front of a person, staring into their eyes and thinking: "I've got to move fast enough, or I'm going to get punched!" It's an odd thought for a rather non-violent and definitely non-confrontational person, and a rather frightening one sometimes :)

Grading for my brown belt, 2005

Unintentionally, karate has given me something that I didn't use to have and for that I am very grateful. Hopefully my little bit of grit and determination will keep me running and keep me pushing myself further and faster...

Pictures from a trip to the Lake District a few years ago.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

A hundred posts and counting

In 14 months I've written 100 posts. That's a lot. Or at least it seems a lot to someone who previously hadn't considered writing any type of blog or even a personal diary.

And to celebrate, here are a few of my favourite blog posts:

Erm... marathon talk - my honest (if slightly depressing) account of running the Amsterdam Marathon. One of the first challenges that I have ever set myself and, if nothing else, I proved to myself that I do have some grit and determination.

Big bangs and bright lights - how I got into working on firework displays. A bit of an insight into part of my life.

Fishing in the Atlantic Ocean - an adventure different to anything I've done before. Not the most strenuous activity (barring in mind that I got to sunbathe on the boat), but pretty cool.

Damp feet and ice cream - sailing with great friends. Just lovely.

Got a kit box of my very own - it strikes me as a little silly to have written a whole post about buying a tool box for firework shows. But I have, and I'm rather attached to it (the box and the post!).

For me, a good blog post is one that's honest, light-hearted and includes a couple of photos.

Which post is your favourite? And what do you think makes a good blog post?

Monday 21 November 2011

Not a great start

I signed up to the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge organised by Amanda at RunToTheFinish blog:

The basic gist is that you earn points for exercise, along with bonus points for eating healthily, and as a result hopefully survive the holiday season in a fit and healthy state. Sound like a good idea?! I thought so.

So, the challenge started on Saturday, where I visited a friend in the afternoon and had a lazy afternoon. Then there was Sunday, which we mostly spent running errands and trying to sort out the clutter in our not-exactly-tidy house. So two days in and I've not earned any points at all! Rubbish.

The plan is to continue in the same pattern that I've been in for the last few weeks:
Tuesday - run
Thursday - karate
weekend - one of the following: parkrun, rollerskating in London, hiking or something else active!

So I plan to start accruing points soon!

Saturday 19 November 2011

What I've been up to...

A girlie night out :)

I had my dancing shoes on...

...and we tracked down a suitable dancing surface.

There was also dinner, posh cocktails and lots of chatting. A rare night on the town!

Monday 14 November 2011

Muddy muddy...

It's been a busy ol' weekend, although in a nice and kind-of relaxing way.

I started with my third ever appearance at parkrun, and I took a new risk - running without my ipod! I'm pleased to report that I survived the experience, although I did miss the music a bit. It wasn't a PB this time, but I'm blaming the extreme muddiness of parts of the course! (Have to have something to blame  ) At a few points it was more like iceskating than running! 
Then, after a good shower, I headed off for my treat: 24 hours in the New Forest - a beautiful part of the UK. I drove down through lanes of yellow and orange leaves, occasionally meeting a cow, pony or donkey on the verge or ambling across the road. I quickly checked into my hotel and headed out for an afternoon stroll.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Pretty flashes and bangs

I was lucky enough to get to stand back and watch one of the two shows I worked on last weekend. I still thoroughly enjoy watching fireworks shows, especially those that I've been involved in setting up.

Talking of which...
The crew arriving bright and early.
The shells
The shells from the other side of the lake.
Some of the other fireworks.

Monday 7 November 2011


full week at work last week - firework show Saturday - firework show Sunday - start a new full week at work
Taken sometime on Sunday. I was wearing about 8 layers of clothing at this point and the new toolbox was doing stirling work.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Got a kit box of my very own

I'm branching out - working on firework shows without A by my side. Which means we need to separate the kit out. Exciting stuff.

I went out a couple of weeks ago to buy my very own firework kit box. After a trawl of a couple of DIY stores, I was still empty handed  :(   I was struggling to find the right shape and size of tool box, and the few I did find were too flimsy for sitting on (a very useful part of having a box with you on shows).

Eventually, I arrived at Homebase. Here I found a really good selection and tried out sitting on them in the store to check they were sturdy enough (I'm not weird - honest):

My very own...

Monday 31 October 2011

Damp feet and ice cream (otherwise known as "sailing and sore muscles")

Another weekend, another road trip. This time to Chichester (South coast), to a newly refurbished ship at CYE. We arrived at night, so it was a bit of a surprise in the morning to find out it was green!

Our sailing group (known affectionately as Pteraductyls) meets twice a year for a weekend of sailing, relaxing and catching up. Most of the people I have known for more than ten years, so it's a bit like meeting up with family.

So, mostly, we sailed. Please excuse the quality of the pics as I was taking them whilst sailing! And I got the camera wet during a slightly accidental capsize...

Saturday 29 October 2011

Thoughts about Alicante

What a lovely city! Sea, sun, boats, beach, castles and a really gentle pace of life. I'm sure it's busier during the main tourist season, but in October it was pretty calm. Maybe I'm just still on a holiday-high, but I liked it. A lot.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Becoming Speedy Gonzales

This is probably a bit of a premature post - I've been back running about a month (and only once/twice a week), and yet I'm worrying about speeding up.

The thing is, I've always been a slow, ploddy runner. That's why I was soooo surprised with my accidental PB at parkrun the other week. And I know I want to get a bit faster. However, what's pushed me into thinking about it this week was a post on FaceBook by my friend (and new running partner):
Average Pace: 8:37 min/mi
Distance: 2.10 miles
Duration: 18m:05s
Hmmm... I can't run that fast! I checked my parkrun pacing on my trusty garmin, and I managed that pace for the last 0.1mile only! And I was really pushing myself. I get the feeling he's going to be really bored on runs with me...
So, my question is, do I make working on my speed a priority? And if so, how do I go about doing it?! I've heard of people running intervals fast, then jogging lightly to recover - is that what I should be doing? 

Wednesday 26 October 2011

A couple of days in paradise

We got away from cold, rainy October in the UK. Granted, it was only for two and a half days, but it was definitely worth it!

And what did we do in Alicante? Well, mostly, we ate...

I love Spanish food!

We also enjoyed the sea and sunshine:

I am officially relaxed! Long may it last...

Friday 21 October 2011

I have never...

Radio 4 has a comedy/chat program called "I have never seen Star Wars". The other day I was listening to it on the way home from work - Ian Hislop trying four things he's never done before: - buying and wearing jeans (!) - playing Grand Theft Auto 4 - meditating - baking a cake It was pretty funny, but more importantly got me wondering about things I have never done before... ... played a team sport (well, not since school so I think that counts). ... sung in front of an audience (eeeek!). ... spent a night (or evening) star gazing. ... worn dungarees. ... erm ... that's all I've thought of so far! Now, I'm not considering these activities to be must-tries (especially the singing one!), but I guess it doesn't hurt to try new things. Does it?! :S

Thursday 20 October 2011

The making of wow fireworks!

Here's the "making of" video from the massive display I worked on last month. I'm in there somewhere (hiding behind a fountain) - enjoy! :)

Monday 17 October 2011

ParkRun and an accidental PB!

ParkRun is a growing phenomenon in the UK (and starting to spread across the world). The idea is that they organise free, weekly 5K runs that are free to enter and open to everyone. They're run by volunteers and are very cool.

This Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed (after a very long week) and along to Thames Valley Park, where the Reading ParkRun takes place. It was my second appearance (the first, rather embarrasingly, being back in January!) and I wasn't expecting too much from myself - the furthest I've run since restarting is 2.2 miles, so I was just hoping to get to the end of the 3ish miles in one piece.

Friday 14 October 2011

What a whirlwind

I've had this blog over a year! Where did the time go?

Loads of people have popped by over the last twelve months. Thank you :)

Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Dealing with tiredness

Without really thinking about it, in the last two weeks I've really upped the amount of sport I do - restarting running and "long-distance" skating, as well as my regular karate lessons. And with a more-than-full-time job, it's really hit me.