Saturday, 31 December 2011


I began 2011 in style: drunk, full of nice food, and a spectacular failure at darts. I also looked like this.

Later in the day, possibly drunk again, I wrote a blogpost with my resolutions for the year.

1) Join the local running club

I did that! I liked running so much I ran 820 miles this year. Including three 10K races (Flitwick in April and Standalone and Stanley Park in October) and two half marathons (Fleetwood in August and Stevenage in November). I'm really proud of what I've achieved. And I'm so grateful because I've met some fantastic people this year who I hope will become good friends. They sure do put up with me and my nagging/bossiness :) If you're looking to start running you can't go wrong with Stotfold Runners.


2) Eat healthily and encourage my children to try new tastes

I did this too! I've learnt so much about healthy eating and nutrition this year. I began the year eating smaller portions to lose weight, but as I progressed with my weight loss I began to cut out certain foods and think about the times when I ate. It's not been easy by a long shot. I spent a lot of February and March eating separately from my family, or eating a different meal. I was slightly depressed about it if I'm honest. Anyway, I got through it. With help and advice from friends on Twitter, I learnt about good fats and when to eat protein and carbohydrates, and tried some recommended new foods (eg, mussels, mackerel, and scallops, which are all excellent sources of protein and good fats, and are low calorie too).

My children have benefited too; they tried Thai food, different seafood (including scallops, which they love), and now put in requests for their tea, such as risotto. I'm proud of them both this year.

I've embraced Meal-Planning Monday with a passion, and this is helping me to keep track of what we eat, making sure we include some fish at least once a week, and trying not to eat chips too many times! I started meal planning after I was constantly asked by friends and on Twitter what I ate to lose weight. During the summer it became a source of entertainment as I struggled to plan around the kilos of green beans we produced at the allotment.

3) Spend more time in the garden

We have certainly spent a lot of time outside this year. But sadly the garden has been neglected in favour of our allotment. We became tenants in January but didn't really get going until April. We got a lot of food out of it this year, potatoes, courgettes, green beans... Lots of tomatoes, baby corn, and kale. I can't wait to get started in 2012. I have a separate blog for my allotment, it's a bit sparse of content...


4) Be more thoughtful when making decisions that affect others

I'd like to think I achieved this. I've definitely asked my husband before agreeing to do things or go places. A few times... at least. Three out of four isn't too bad.

2011 has been awesome. I think 2012 could be much better. I sure hope so :) Happy New Year xx

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Festive running

I've been away for a week over the Christmas period, but I didn't want to miss out on my weekly runs, if only to try and minimise any weight gains from the excesses of Christmas.

On the Friday before Christmas I dragged myself out for a 6 mile flat run around Stanley Park. It was raining and windy but I wanted to burn some calories and get a bit of fresh air while I could. The park was very muddy and waterlogged, so I came back to my mother-in-law's house with very dirty trainers (and legs!).

Tuesday after Christmas I had a lovely short run with my sister. I'd bought her some Nike running gear for Christmas so this was a good chance for her to test it out. We ran 3 miles from Great Harwood towards Whalley and back, through the River Calder valley, so there were a couple of lovely hills to run up and down. She doesn't usually run for longer than 30 minutes, so she did well. Hopefully she can train a bit more now so next time I visit we can have a longer run together.

Today (Wednesday), I wanted to run the 6 mile loop around Hyndburn that I ran earlier in the year. This loop goes from Great Harwood, up several steep hills into Clayton-le-Moors, and back down and up several more hills into Rishton, and home. Very tiring, very cold, very worth it. The views of the hills are breathtaking, despite the industrial bleakness dotted around.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The 800 mile challenge results

Earlier in the year I blogged about a challenge my friend Abbie set: to cover 800 miles in a year, whether by walking, running, swimming, cycling, however you fancy.

I wasn't convinced I'd cover the distance, but training for two half marathons and three 10K races sure racks up the miles. I stopped including the half mile walk to school and back I do twice daily around April (I got bored!).

So, I've passed 800 miles! 779 miles running, 17 miles cycling, and (at least) 15 miles walking. I'd quite like to pass the 800 miles mark for just running, and I think I can achieve that before the end of the year.

21 miles to go.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sog's chicken curry

I promised yesterday I would blog the recipe for this curry. It's adapted from one by Delia Smith.

The idea is that it uses up leftover roast chicken, but for the amount of chicken Delia says you need, you'd have to only eat the wings on a standard chicken! I adapt the recipe to include whatever vegetables I have, and more veg if I don't have much chicken. Or you could actually cook chicken breasts first, that would work :)

Sog's chicken curry (serves 2)

Leftover roast chicken (I aim for one chicken breast and 'a bit')
Various vegetables (I usually use an onion, a pepper, and a handful of mushrooms, but I've used cauliflower and mini corn before)
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp plain flour
2-3 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
1/2 tsp chilli (optional)
3/4 pint of chicken stock
salt and pepper
Spray oil

Fry veg in a little oil for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the chicken, garlic, flour, all the spices, and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Gradually add the stock until everything is mixed and there are no lumps. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Monday, 12 December 2011

12 days of fitness: a challenge

In the run up to Christmas, my friend Pete (a personal trainer who leads the running club I go to and the circuit class I also attend) is setting his PT clients and Twitter and Facebook followers a 12 days of fitness challenge. I'm going to take part and update this blog daily with the challenges and results.

Day 1
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

My time: 1:44.

Day 2
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

26 dips and 1:50 plank. Ouch!

Day 3
1 minute of bodyweight squats
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

50 squats, 39 dips (found a better place at home to do these), and 1:31 plank. Bit wobbly now.

Day 4
1 minute abdominal crunches
1 minute of bodyweight squats
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

52 crunches, 56 squats, 40 dips, 1:02 plank.
My legs are feeling sore now (I've also run 5 miles today) and my shoulders are starting to feel the dips. But, really enjoying the challenge.

Day 5
1 minute running on the spot
1 minute abdominal crunches
1 minute of bodyweight squats
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

58 crunches, 59 squats, 42 dips, 1:26 plank.
Look at me go beating yesterday's times! Unsure if this is due to the lateness I did the challenge (I usually remember to do it after I've just eaten) or whether I'm especially awesome today. Anyway, my shoulders and triceps are really hurting and my legs shake everytime I stand up. This can only be a good thing. Oh, and a run tomorrow morning. That will be fun.

Day 6
1 minute press ups
1 minute running on the spot
1 minute abdominal crunches
1 minute of bodyweight squats
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

30 press ups (10 full, 20 3/4), 55 crunches, 58 squats, 33 dips, 1:04 plank. I've also run 6 miles today, so I'm a bit achey and sore.

Day 7
Hold a side plank for a long as you can (alternate sides daily)
1 minute press ups
1 minute running on the spot
1 minute abdominal crunches
1 minute of bodyweight squats
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

I missed today because of family commitments.

Day 8
1 minute of back extensions (not to be counted or rushed)
Hold a side plank for a long as you can (alternate sides daily)
1 minute press ups
1 minute running on the spot
1 minute abdominal crunches
1 minute of bodyweight squats
1 minute of tricep dips.
Hold a plank for as long as you can.

Right side plank 1:13, 25 press ups (7 full), 47 crunches, 56 squats, 32 tri dips, plank 1:06.

Meal-planning Monday: 12/12/11

It's a busy week for us: last week of the school term, various parties, and it's my daughter's birthday too. So lots to plan around.

Fish finger sandwiches

Homemade chicken curry and rice

I'll blog the recipe for this, it's a favourite.

Spaghetti bolognaise

Pizza and chips

It's my daughter's birthday today. She loves pizza, so this is especially for her.

Steak pie

Leaving free

Looks horribly unhealthy doesn't it? Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for more meal plans and ideas.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Meal planning Monday: 5/12/11

My first meal plan for December! Such a busy time of year; this week we have two evening school play performances to work around, plus a night out for me :)

Leftover chilli with rice, garlic bread, and salad

The carbohydrate police will be onto us with this meal. Anyway, I've added salad because we have tomatoes and cucumber hanging around, and I like salad with chilli. I'm odd, just live with it.

Leftover roast beef, with mash and veg

I'm out tonight so I've planned a sympathy meal. It's Beavers too, but with leftover beef and only mash to prepare, this tea should be quick and easy.

Beans on toast

We're all out tonight for son's school play, so we need something quick and easy to eat.

Bacon, egg, and chips

Son has another school play performance tonight. I'm hoping to be let out to go running so I'm making a nice tea ;)

Leaving free

Hubs has the day off today so we'll probably do something nice in the evening *hopeful face*

We will definitely fit a roast in on Sunday and I fancy cooking a gammon too (it is nearly Christmas), so we might have that on Saturday. Nothing fixed yet though.

No fish this week so I'll try and fit that into our lunches. That will go down well at school! Nothing especially imaginative this week, oh well.

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for more meal plans and ideas.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Medical eponyms

I've spent a lot of time today on a useful website called,which contains details about medical eponyms---diseases named after the doctor or doctors who discovered an illness. One of my favourite jobs as a lowly medical editor (back in the day...) was working on medical eponyms. These were articles containing a case report and description of a disease, and then a biography of the doctor.

The most interesting eponym I edited was on Munchausen's syndrome. This was not strictly an eponym because the disorder was not named after the first doctor to describe the disorder but rather after the character Baron von Munchausen, by a doctor called Richard Asher. Supposedly, Baron Munchausen not only travelled by cannonball but also formed a pair of broad wings. Clever chap.

No jokes about big balls please
Eponyms are quite fascinating to me, as someone who has studied etymology (word origins) as part of my work. This site is worth browsing for a few minutes if you are ever bored ;)

Monday, 28 November 2011

My first proper running injury

I guess it was inevitable I would pick up a serious running injury at some point, since I'm running so much these days.

When I first started running I remember an especially tough club run (fast, and a longer distance than I was used to). The next day my toes, feet, and ankles hurt so much and continued to hurt for the next 3 days. Fortunately I saw my sister, who is a physiotherapist, during that period, and she assessed my injury, diagnosed overpronation, gave me some exercises for my feet. She also told me to get a proper pair of running shoes, which I obediently did the next week!

I've been fine the rest of the year. I've had the odd niggle, but I've always put that down to dodgy knees or too many squats at circuit training! My routine now is to run twice during the week with my running club friends, and then on my own at the weekend, on Saturday morning (my long-run day) and Sunday afternoon (4-6 miles).

This weekend my in-laws were visiting, so I'd swapped around my runs. I ran 5 miles Saturday afternoon while tea was cooking, and then I planned an 8-mile run for Sunday afternoon during the F1. 2 hours of Sunday morning were spent digging my allotment, not something I'd planned to do!

The first 6 miles of my run were really great, nice consistent 9:15 pace (see the data pasted below). I'd got a bit confused about the route to take to make my run 8 miles, so by 6 miles I was in the centre of Letchworth with another 4 miles to run! And that's when the pain started in my left knee. Halfway up a hill, I got a sharp pain in the side of my knee. I stopped and tried to bend my leg, massaged it a bit, and tried to carry on. The pain was so acute I couldn't put any weight on my leg. I hobbled up the hill for about a third of a mile (not quite crying, but very close!) then attempted to run again. Still couldn't put weight on my leg. I could manage a walk though, so I carried on as fast as I dared. By the edge of Letchworth, and after nearly a mile of walking, I decided I would have to grin and bear the pain to get myself home. I managed no more than 11 min miles, which I recalled was the fastest I could run back in February and March.

I kept expecting (hoping) to see my husband driving the streets looking for me, since I was at least 30 mins over the time I'd given him. But he hadn't even noticed I'd been out for a long time! And he told me to stop moaning when I got in!

So here I am, lying on the sofa, leg strapped up with a tight compression bandage, and two bags of frozen peas in the freezer with my name on them. Hoping that I'll be OK by Friday for a quick test run around the village. Really really hoping.And really hoping the "worse case scenarios" my physio sister was describing aren't what has actually happened.

Meal-planning Monday: 28/11/11

I'm not very prepared this week. I've normally planned and written my meal plan on Sunday, but it's now lunchtime on Monday.

Really don't want to spend too much on food this week. We've had a busy few weekends with guests, so lots of money has been spent on nice foodie bits. I also have 8 pints of milk because no-one has been drinking it lately and I keep forgetting to cancel the orders! The freezer is full of half packs of everything too.

Bacon, egg, chips, and beans

Hubs' request, and I never say no to a polite request. Although I have to admit I'm not feeling the bacon love at the moment, so I might have a salad. EDIT: We had prawn salad and chips! Very tasty :)

Chicken, baked potatoes, and cauliflower cheese

Fish pie

Chilli and rice

Toad in the hole

I've not planned the weekend's meals yet. It was hard enough planning to Friday! Managed to get a pie in, and it's one we've not had for a long time too. Hope the kids like it. Going to make a rice pudding too, to use up the milk. Not made one of those for years!

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for more ideas.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Meal-planning Monday: 21/11/11

Morning world. Another Monday means another weekly meal plan. I promised two pies this week because of last week's pie absence. Not sure that's healthy or possible. I've also promised my husband MEAT since he had to eat scallops and salmon at the weekend.

Here goes...

Homemade chicken and vegetable soup with crusty rolls

This is something I've not made for months. I used to always make a stewy soup from leftover roast chicken. Anyway, it's winter and its back. Hurrah.

Fish, chips, and mushy peas

It's Beaver night. What can I say? I lack imagination.

Lancashire hotpot

I'll be making a variation on the James Martin recipe because I've never used dripping to cook with and I dislike kidney with a passion.

Chicken with couscous

My children have requested couscous and I'm always happy to oblige a polite request. I'll make some sort of variation on this Moroccan-inspired recipe, without the fruit because my husband is averse to fruit in his main meal.

Cottage pie

I'm out in London town. My in-laws are visiting. This combination means I have to make dinner so that I don't get talked about in an unfriendly way.

Leaving free

Roast dinner (yet to be decided)

Two pies! Lots of meat! A child's request fulfilled. I am a genius.

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog either for other ideas and link-ups.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Meal-planning Monday: 14/11/11

The weeks are flying by at the moment. There's so much to fit in with school events and evening activities, and now pre-Christmas family visits are approaching. (Arrghh, Christmas. I've not given much though to that! *slightly scared*)

Anyway, this weekend my parents are visiting, so my meal plan has to incorporate their dietary requirements. My mum tries to eat a vegetarian diet if she can, or at least no red meat, and my dad is on a low-fat diet.

Chicken and broccoli pasta bake (using up leftover roast chicken from Sunday)

Fish fingers, chips, and beans (Beaver night! Easy tea needed)

Braising steak with mash and veg

Baked potatoes

Scallop and vegetable risotto (Sog concoction)

One day I'll remember to blog the recipe for this!

Poached salmon with boulangere potatoes and veg

Roast chicken

No pie this week :( I'll have to plan two for next week to make up for it.

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for more ideas.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sunday run: 13/11/11

My 3-year-old daughter woke up at 6:50 am this morning and crawled into our bed, so I got up and decided to go for a run (I was planning to go at 7:30 anyway). Today I was trying out my new New Balance long-sleeve top. It's pink and very comfortable, so highly recommended for people who run and who like pink :)

I decided not to look at my Garmin for the entire run. I just wanted to run comfortably and see how I went, not to be bothered about pace or time. Felt good for the first two miles, then started to get pain in my knee, so I slowed down a bit. I'd had ankle pain the evening before but this didn't bother me at all. I went into a bit of a trance on the way back home, possibly the huge red sun hanging over the village was mesmerising me! Or the fact I was nearly home and was a bit tired!

Anyway, I've just looked at my stats and I'm really surprised and pleased. Consistent pace around 9 minute miles. The last half a mile was a bit slower because I took it easy through the village (and had to stop for cars).

Perhaps I should ignore my Garmin more often?!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Saturday run: 12/11/11

Woke up a bit late this morning (7:30!!) so had to sort the kids out before I could go running. I was eager to try out my new running gear; today I tried out my new hi-viz pink jacket :) Probably didn't need it because I was Sweaty at the end. But it's going to be great when the weather gets very cold.

Anyway, I decided to head onto The Greenway for a quick 4 miles. I took the first mile easy to warm up (9:38), stopping to admire seven grouse in a field. I know they were grouse only because they matched the picture on the whisky bottle. I'm definitely not alcoholic though.

Mile 2 was a bit slower, The Greenway was muddy (and uphill), and I stopped for a walk because I had pain in my "lower abdomen". The downside of having *some* medical knowledge is you start to think everything is terrible. So I'm thinking "prolapse" and then after a minute decided I just needed a wee.

During mile 3 I ran past the field where I'd previously seen A Lovely Horse. This reminded me of Father Ted, and I spent the next few minutes humming the song to myself.

Mile 4 was much faster, mainly because I was back on the road and nearly home.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Living the American Dream: part 7

The seventh stop on our American Road Trip is our final one.

May 10-12, 2003: Los Angeles

We set off early from Lake Havasu not wanting to miss too much of the day. Our route took us along Route 66 (Topock to Barstow). We were stopped by the police at the border with California and questioned about our itinerary and fruit and vegetables. That was fun. *safety first*

After another McDonald's breakfast at Barstow (I like them, yum yum), we drove into LA on the I-15. Six lanes wide each carriageway, this road means business. It was busy busy, and we were glad to arrive at our hotel, which was SWANKY! Lovely end to the holiday.

Me and hubs being as we are, we didn't rest, and jumped into the Jeep and headed to Hollywood. We enjoyed the best burger of the holiday (or we could've just been hungry) at Wendy's on Sunset Boulevard (living the high life). Living dangerously, we parked on a very dodgy side street just off  Hollywood Boulevard, then checked out the Walk of Fame, Mann's Chinese Theatre, and the Kodak Theatre.

Beatles on the Walk of Fame
Kodak Theatre (surprisingly)

Mann's Chinese Theatre
Tom Hanks has girl-size hands
If only Ric looked like Sean Connery too ;)

Slight sci-fi geeky explosion of excitement

Only in LA
We also saw one of the Backstreet Boys singing at a show by the Kodak Theatre, but no idea who it was or what the show was for, maybe he just liked singing.

We spent a bit of time driving around looking for the Hollywood sign, and the best place to take a photo. We got very close, and found some very exclusive houses while we were at it. Eventually, I had to jump out of the car to take this photo, and nearly got squashed in the process.

Squint or you'll miss it
Bit of random driving around on the way back, down Firestone Boulevard. I can't even remember why we thought that would be a good idea. Took us through some scary areas of LA. But, we "saw" LA, and that was a good thing.

Day 2 saw us head to Disney's California Adventure. The rumours are true, it is rubbish. We got a bus from our hotel and arrived early, managing to avoid the queues and FastPass our way around the rides. Soarin' Over California was excellent, but I cried all the way around California Screamin'. I think I got whiplash too because instead of the nice gentle start you get for most rollercoasters, this one rockets you up at the beginning. I was not ready and I moaned quite a lot as a result.

We left soon afterwards (not because of me, hubs has issues with spinning rides, it's his own fault) and spent the afternoon baking beside the gorgeous hotel pool. And a very delicious and expensive dinner was the perfect end to our honeymoon.

Here endeth the American Road Trip. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Meal planning Monday: 07/11/11

It's a very damp Monday today. Makes me crave warming food like mash and gravy. Mmmm.

I'm writing this post the day after my half marathon. I'm aching and still very tired. Eating food is the last thing I want to do, although it's very important for recovery. So I've had a think about what I need to eat and what will fit in best with our family activities this week.

Tuesday is a busy day because it's Parent's Evening followed by Beavers, this week my son "gets his woggle". All very exciting. On Wednesday it's the kids' swimming lessons, yes I've doubled my swimming pain and will be at the pool for a whole hour on Wednesdays. On Saturday my son is at the hospital for an appointment, so a home-cooked meal won't happen (anyway, I missed my Indian takeaway on Sunday because it was Eid). So here's the plan.

Sausages, mash, veg, and gravy

Beans on toast

Fish, chips, and peas

Spaghetti bolognaise

Chicken enchiladas

Takeaway :)

Roast dinner

Right, now I can go shopping for everything :(

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog later to see what she's having this week and everyone else who's linked up.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Stevenage Half Marathon

I'm writing this in a semi-drunken and very sleepy state. So please forgive any spelling mistakes...

So, November 6th, 2011. The 25th Stevenage Half Marathon. I signed up to run this event at the last minute (last minute for me!). I usually like to have several months to prepare for races but I only signed up for this a few weeks ago. I was "race-ready" though, because after finishing Fleetwood I wanted to maintain the distance I'd trained up to, so I'd been running 8 and 10 miles as recreation. I know, I'm mad.

A few other members of Stotfold Runners were running the event, Ed and Scott, and it was lovely to have them and their families around for support during the race and at the end. (My family are a bit "race-fatigued", this is my 5th race this year, so they stayed at home.) So huge thanks to them, and to Scott's family for driving me there and back and looking after me :)

So, my previous PB for a half marathon was 1:52:40 and my "secret aim-for time" for this race was 1:50:00. I really wanted to beat my PB but I wasn't sure I could because the Stevenage course was more undulating than Fleetwood. This course was run on underpasses and cycleways around Stevenage, and through Fairlands Valley Park, so lots of hills and slopes! But, with up bits come down bits as I always tell myself. We ran two laps of the course, the second lap being slightly longer through the Park.

I started slowly because I'm always being advised (nagged) by Pete L from running club to start slowly and build up speed. First two miles were comfortable, then I remembered I wanted to get a good time! So I started to up my pace. I took my energy gel at 5 miles (just after I ran past Burger King) and just before the second water station. I had a few slower miles after this, possibly because I was on lap 2 and it was a bit more uphill and a bit of a psychological downer. But I sped up through the Park (although I was overtaken twice), and got a lovely boost when I saw Ed's wife cheering me on! When I passed Burger King again I had a "moment" when I remembered being fat in January and I decided to really try and crack sub 1:50. So my last few miles were corkers. I'm not sure where my energy came from, or why I didn't fall over.

And I should say that I really hate finishing on a running track, those last few metres are killers. But when I heard "Come on Sarah!" shouted by Scott's wife Julie I found enough energy to sprint. I even heard another runner mutter "great finish" as I passed him :)

We got no cake at the end :( I hate bananas. I ate the banana I was given, but I hate bananas. Got a lovely silver shoe trophy though :)

Race data are below. Time was 1:49:54! Sub 1:50!!! *big smiley face* Position 307 (whoop). And, Scott finished sub 2:05, Ed sub 2:10. Well done to them :)

*sore legs*

*bit tired*

*need a sleep*

*looking forward to India Lodge takeaway later*

Friday, 4 November 2011

Living the American dream: part 6

May 9-10, 2003: Lake Havasu City, AZ

We only had one day at Lake Havasu, so we set off early from Scottsdale. It was a beautiful morning, and we made great time, even managing to fit in a McDonald's breakfast. (McDonald's restaurants in the USA are completely different to those in the UK (much more choice, better cooked food, still full of fat though).

So many McDonald's to choose from. Map not to scale.

At one point on the Highway we drove through a swarm of butterflies, which obviously became all dead and squashed on the windscreen of the Jeep. Was a very very strange sight, bit grim, bit interesting from a science geek point of view.

Lake Havasu is situated on the Colorado River, on the border of Arizona and California, and is popular for watersports and fishing. It is somewhat famous because some rich American dude bought the old London Bridge and moved it to the city.

We had a walk around and checked out the city sights (ie, "English Village with pub"). The whole area felt like an unfinished development, bit odd really.

We hired a jet-ski for a few hours to pass the time and headed along the Colorado River towards Parker Dam. That was so much fun, we saw loads of unusual ducks and geese, and enjoyed peeking at the little boathouses and holiday homes tucked away up little creeks. The "most amusing" part (apparently) was when we fell into the river, although I didn't enjoy it, or being cold and damp for an hour until we got back to the hotel. Minor point though.

The only photo I took, the view from our hotel room
The evening was spent eating houmous with enormous pitta breads because there were no decent restaurants nearby (we were staying at a resort on the opposite bank of the river, away from the City). And I think we watched Friends on TV. And I think it's safe to say we were glad to leave the next day.

Part 7 is coming soon and is the final part. (Please don't be sad!)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Living the American Dream: part 5

May 7-9, 2003: Scottsdale, AZ

The drive from The Grand Canyon to Scottsdale was spectacular. The distance was quite short (compared with our other trips) so we took the scenic route, along the edge of the Canyon, then down a few back roads. We passed through several tiny towns, sometimes just a gas station and a few dusty houses. *Bit scary* And of course, lots more cacti to admire.

Yes, it looked just like this.

We had to drive around Phoenix to reach Scottsdale. Skyscrapers and highways, busy busy. We had considered a visit to Biosphere, which is located south of Phoenix, as science geeks the place appealed to us. I also fancied visiting Old Tucson, the Hollywood Western film set. But in the end we never left Scottsdale.

We stayed at a fancy sports resort and made the most of the facilities by playing tennis, using the gym, and hiring canoes. Rather energetic for a holiday! We also spent a LOT of time lounging by the swimming pool, drinking free cocktails that the bar staff concocted for us (and lots more Strawberry Daiquiris, made with fresh strawberries *drools at the memory*).

Frosty strawberry-ness. Yum :)
We acted like true "Mad dogs and Englishmen" by taking a walk around downtown Scottsdale at midday. The heat was like walking through an oven. Dry baking heat, completely draining. We drank a lot of beer in small bars, as we were fond of doing throughout the holiday. Love the little local cafes and bars in America, you meet such characters. Also saw my first drive-through post office. (So lazy.)

Downtown Scottsdale

On our last evening we drove to a Mexican restaurant located out of town. We ate so much food, tacos and fajitas, and I was serenaded by a group of Mexicans dressed in big hats and with violins. I tried to disappear into the floor but it just didn't work.

And we forgot to take any photos because we spent so much time sunbathing and at other times were too hot to carry anything with us. Hence the blatant use of Google Images.

Part 6 coming soon :) Hope you can wait!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Meal planning Monday: 31/10/11

Monday again! Didn't half-term pass quickly? My two were at holiday club for 3 days last week (they loved it!) and we've had 3 days of fun with hubs at home too (we have an inset day today).

Last week's meals went according to plan until Wednesday. I'd forgotten (again) about swimming, so I made cottage pie Wednesday instead of Thursday because it could be cooked while we were out. On Thursday we went to Milton Keynes and had a big late lunch out, so the scallop risotto from Wednesday (are you keeping up?) went on hold. Friday went to plan for the kids and hubs but I had the scallops with vegetable couscous, chilli, and lemon (Sog concoction). Very tasty :)

This week I'm building up to a half-marathon on Sunday, so I'll be upping my carbohydrate intake towards the end of the week.

Sticky soy salmon with egg-fried rice and vegetables

Sog concoction. Probably will include honey and soy (surprisingly).

Chicken, chips, and peas

Easy tea because it's Beavers tonight.

Pork and cider casserole

It's SWIMMING so something easy I can slow-cook in the oven. (Sog concoction)

Baked potatoes

Lamb burgers/koftas with pittas and greek salad

Steak pie with mash and veg

Leaving free because it's my race today.

Leave a comment to let me know if you'd like any recipes posting or just to say "Hi", and don't forget to check Mrs M's blog for more meal plans.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Living the American Dream: part 4

May 6-7, 2003: Grand Canyon

The drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was short but stunning. Our route took us over the Hoover Dam, which we obviously stopped to admire (the dam was bypassed in 2010, the bypass was being built when we were there). No photos...

The scenery on the journey was bleak yet beautiful. Miles and miles of red sandy or rocky wastelands dotted with enormous cacti. Kind of weird really. Sadly, no photos; we shot hours and hours of video though...

We arrived at our hotel just after lunch and we were treated to buffalo burgers and chips. Very very tasty. (Here I discovered my napkin/serviette translation error, amusing.) The hotel was stunning, it had a fantastic pool too, which we had to ourselves.

Since we were only at the Grand Canyon for a one night stopover, we headed to the visitor centre in the afternoon. We DID take some photos :)

Slightly scared because a Native American was heading towards us with merchandise... (hurry up timer!)

If you're clever you can stick these last three together and make a lovely panoramic shot. I am not.

In the evening our hotel hosted a Native American evening, with traditional dancing and singing. Fairly entertaining. Based on how busy the restaurant was I think most of the tourist population of the Grand Canyon were in our hotel. We retreated to the peace and quiet of the hotel bar after our dinner and played cribbage at the bar with some locals. It was like Cheers and everything. The locals "helped" me play against hubs, which led to me losing quite badly :)

Part 5 sees me forgetting to take ANY photos. That's how good the next part was.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Living the American Dream: part 3

Viva Las Vegas!

May 3-6, 2003: Las Vegas

I couldn't wait to set off on the drive to Las Vegas because the route took us through Death Valley. We were well-prepared for this trip. Advice was to take plenty of supplies in case of breakdown. We just about remembered to fill up with fuel; we had two bottles of water, a Babe Ruth, and some Reese's Peanut Cups. Excellent choices.

Our Vegas hotel was The Luxor and we stayed in the Pyramid (there is a boring square hotel adjoining). Oh, the excitement of the inclinators and the sloping walls!

I was overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of every casino we went into. The restaurants, with their all-you-can-eat buffets. The noise and excitement of the gaming floors (our vice was video poker, and boy did we win big on that!). And the cute little trams that took you between casinos.

Walking up the strip was so much fun, a landmark at every turn. And Strawberry Daiquiris you could buy on street corners! I love Strawberry Daiquiris... The shows at Treasure Island and Bellagio were well worth an evening walk to see. And the shopping centres that were so large you could get lost in them.

Looking good hubs :)
God bless Siegfried and Roy
Oh look, it's me :)
Gondolas :)
I was scared my husband would insist I go on this ride (I am a wuss)
The Excalibur had The Best buffets
One of our funniest experiences was meeting a "sailor" in a shop, who was excited were were from "Eng-er-land" because he'd once lived near London, "in Hull". Excellent geography. We also had a culture difference in Fatburger, when I asked a waitress for napkins (serviettes), not realising Americans call "ladies sanitary products" napkins. I got a bemused look from the waitress (no serviettes), and I only realised my mistake several days later...

Fatburger: the best burgers in town
On our last day we had a walk out to The Hilton, which is off The Strip. We wanted to go for Star Trek: The Experience. It really was an amazing experience, hubs and I nearly wept when we went from being in "the lift" to being on the bridge of The Enterprise. We are very sad sci-fi geeks but I make no apology. Sadly the show is no longer around.

Great casino too :)

Ah, part 4, what will you bring?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Meal-planning Monday: 24/10/11

I missed Meal-Planning Monday last week and as a result was stuck for what to give the family for tea; we ended up eating a lot of chips and freezer food. Bad Sog.

This week is half-term; I'm working 3 days and hubs is on holiday from Thursday, so the end of the week should be fun.

Sweet chilli chicken wraps with salad

Gammon steaks, baked potato, and cauliflower cheese

Scallop risotto

Cottage pie

Cod fishcakes, chips, and mushy peas

Garlic and dill chicken with spaghetti (adapted from this recipe)

Roast lamb

I've got the requisite one-pie-a-week in. Slight craving for mash and mince at the moment. Going for the scallop risotto again, kids liked it (hubs didn't), it's a good way to get fish into their diets though.

For other weekly meal plans don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Autumn breaker 10K: 23/10/11

Today I ran in Fylde Coast Running club's Autumn Breaker 10K. Just 151 runners turned up, which I was surprised at. The weather had been quite cold and wet to start with though, so maybe other runners decided to stay in bed. Probably wise. I didn't have the best pre-race prep, because I was at a family party the night before (late night and 'some' alcohol consumed, not excessive though!).

After a non-start, when the marshals sent us the wrong way and we ran for 0.5K, we finally got going. The route took us around Stanley Park on roads and footpaths. The paths were very muddy and slippery from leaves, and we had other obstacles to watch for (dogs, walkers, children, and BMXers). The council were officially opening the park's BMX track, which we had to run around (twice), so that was another well-planned aspect.

I tried to start a bit slower than I did for Standalone, because I didn't want to get too tired halfway round. I managed to maintain a good pace, and I got faster with every mile. Details from Garmin Connect are below.

All in all, I'm quite pleased. I shaved 30 secs off my PB and was the 6th (out of 48) woman to finish (59th out of 151).

Friday, 21 October 2011

Living the American Dream: part 2

Part 2 of our honeymoon involved our first road trip.

May 1-3, 2003: San Francisco to Mammoth Lakes

This part of the trip was the most difficult to plan. The itinerary we had been sent was a straightforward  drive through Yosemite National Park. However, there was a very small disclaimer, which mentioned the route might be closed during adverse weather. At the beginning of May, snow in the region is usually coming to an end, but the year we went it was unseasonable. So I had to plan a longer route that bypassed the area, through Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and then skirting Nevada down to Mammoth Lakes. We didn't see any substantial snowfall, but I was glad we had the Jeep and not the weeny sportscar we'd originally talked about! The drive itself was awesome, through cities, up and over mountains, through forests (with bears!), and ending in the mountains again.

Breakfast en route :)

Now, this part of the holiday was not my most favourite. I'm not a fan of cold weather. I hate snow because it's wet (yes, I have issues). I don't ski or anything like that. I was a little excited though because there was a festival that had finished the day before we arrived and Andrew WK was performing (Party Hard!). Not that we saw him of course...

In fact, when we arrived there was very little snow, so we hoped we might be able to hire bikes. It was the end of the ski season so we couldn't book skiing lessons (we tried but the instructor was a bit cagey: "it's supposed to snow tomorrow" he said. Surely snow would be a requirement...) And we were too early for the summer season. Kind of a fail really.

We arrived at the end of lunch service and rushed to the only restaurant still serving food. They were seemingly trying to offload all their remaining food, and we got the giggles over the mountains of chilli, fries, and hot dogs we were given ("Oh My God you're from En-ger-land!").

The next day it did indeed snow, a lot (several feet). We had a stomp in the forest, made snow angels, and eventually drove to the town to look at the shops, eat fantastic food in a locals' cafe, and watch X-Men at the cinema. Most fun doing things wot the locals do yanno.

The only photo we took, through the snowscreen on our hotel window
Fortunately, we were only here for 2 days... Part 3 coming soon.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Living the American dream: part 1

The best holiday I've ever had is my American Road Trip, which was organised by my husband for our honeymoon. Anyone who's known me a long time will appreciate how well-planned this holiday was. There was an itinerary and everything.

Before I get too old and forgetful, I wanted to blog what we did, what we saw, and where we went. Here's Part 1: San Francisco.

April 28 to May 1, 2003: San Francisco

We flew from London with Virgin Atlantic (we actually saw Richard Branson in his pilot uniform) and arrived at a very windy San Francisco Airport slightly sideways and almost on the grass (I hadn't much experience of flying so I just thought it was a pretty cool landing).

To stave off jet-lag (the flight departed at lunchtime in London and we arrived at San Francisco in the early afternoon), we headed straight to a Denny's for food. If you've never been to a Denny's you really should do (hold on to your heart though!). We then had a bit of a walk around Fisherman's Wharf to get our bearings.

Pier 39

The Fire Engine tour that I wanted to go on but wasn't allowed *still sulking*
Day 1: don't we look happy?!
We hired a Jeep Cherokee for the holiday, I got to drive it too! We did the 49-mile Scenic Drive, which took us around San Francisco, up the Pacific coast (we had a paddle!), back through Twin Peaks, and through Chinatown. We also drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, through Richmond and Berkeley, and back across the Oakland Bay Bridge.

Palace of Fine Arts
Lombard Street, very cool to drive down
And of course, we had to take a trip to Alcatraz.

View of SF on the ferry to Alcatraz

Got to have a comedy photo...
...or two!
Aww, don't we look happy?! (mk II)

On our last day in San Francisco we took a ride on a cable car from Aquatic Park at Fisherman's Wharf ending at the Powell-Market turntable. Very exhilarating hanging off the side of the car. And much fun was had shopping :)

Part 2 coming soon.... where will we go?!

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