Monday, 26 August 2013


We went to the PYO farm and picked redcurrants, blackcurrants, and raspberries.  Oh, those raspberries!

Fruit abundance!
Just some of the fruit we came back from the PYO with
Then we went to the forest and picked blackberries.  So many blackberries!

Stewed apple and blackberries
Stewed apple and blackberries

It has been a incredible year for fruit in London.  I think the combination of wet spring and hot summer have suited the berries very well.

One of the great joys of going berry picking is the speculation about what you will do with your berries when you get home.  So far this summer I have made:
  • apple and redcurrant crumble (at least three of these)
  • raspberry and apple crumble
  • raspberry crumble (two of these)
  • raspberry and almond cake (using this failsafe recipe here)
  • raspberry and vanilla cake
  • blackcurrant and almond cake (same recipe as above)
  • raspberry coulis
  • stewed apple and blackberries
  • lemon and blackberry loaf cake

Raspberry and almond cake
Raspberry and almond cake

We have also stirred handfuls of berries into porridge, bircher muesli and plain yogurt for breakfast.  I am particularly partial to ryvita spread with cream cheese and then topped with raspberries or blackberries and a drizzle of honey.  We've had so many berries that I don't even mind Olivia standing in front of the open fridge eating great handfuls of them straight from the punnet.  

There is a generous abundance this year.

About half of what we picked during a stroll through Epping Forest

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


I'm trying to improve my running - and mostly succeeding, I think.  

I finished the 9 week NHS Couch to 5K programme last month, at roughly the same time I did my Race for Life, and then at the same time I also finished my placement and went on holiday to France.  At that point I could run 5k in roughly 32 minutes, and afterwards feel tired but not absolutely spent.  I went for a few runs while I was on holiday, and used them to think about what I should do next with my running.  Graham ran with me while I was in France - which was very kind, as he runs MUCH faster and MUCH further than me normally.  I found running in France so hard though!  There were proper hills, and the weather was ridiculously hot and sweaty for running in.  Graham taught me a bit about interval training, and we tackled some hills together - it started to dawn on me that I am still not very fit and I'd really like to be able to run faster than I do at the moment.

Field of sunflowers
Running past fields of sunflowers in France - at the bottom of the gorge

I also began a running diary while I was in France - jotting down my thoughts after each run and making note of where I ran, how far I went, how I felt and what I saw.  I have found this to be hugely beneficial - it is good to reflect on the run, and I get a picture of how well I am progressing which isn't always apparent if I just think about my running in an abstract way.

Now I am back home, my aim is to not just keep running, but also to improve on the things I found so difficult in France: I want to run faster and get fitter.  My plan is to carry on doing Parkrun each Saturday, and do two other runs midweek as well.  

I have downloaded the Couch to 5K + podcasts, which are designed for people who have finished the original programme and want something for their next stage of running.  I love them just as much as the original Couch to 5K ones.  The big difference is that now the podcasts want me to run to a beat - the beats per minute change through the podcast, so you start off running at 150 beats per minute, move up to 155 bpm for the middle section of the run and then end with a 10 minute blast at 160 bpm.  I have never been so exhausted at the end of a run before - oh my  goodness! There is no doubt this will help my fitness.

Another interesting development to my running has been an increasing enthusiasm for talking about running, discussing the minutiae of different training plans, setting up a Running Love board on Pinterest (I would really like to get some sort of running skirt - there are loads out there, amazingly), and agonizing over a few seconds faster or slower on my PB.  I realised, after discussing interval training plans with Graham for a full 30 minutes before he left for work and then emailing him with further important insights about five minutes after he'd gone...I have turned into a running geek.

Early morning run
Early morning run, in the sunshine

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Kicking back

We're back in London, after a blissful couple of weeks staying with my family in France.  I miss them dreadfully, and it was so hard to leave.  But the second part of the summer holiday is now underway, and it is still lovely.  The children and I have a few more weeks at home together before the autumn term begins at school and at University - I know these are precious times that don't come around very often.  

I get up when Graham does, and either go for an early run in the forest, or sit outside with a cup of coffee and Radio 4.  The weather is still mild and sunny, and there is no structure to our days.  The children wake up whenever they feel like it - anywhere between 8am and 10am.  I still marvel at this - the early hours of the morning when they are still asleep reminds me of naptime when they were babies.  Such a stillness and anticipation in the house!

Early morning window
Early morning sunshine on the windowbox
Maybe we'll all hang around the house reading and baking, maybe we'll go to the farm and pick fruit.  Maybe Cam will head out to meet up with friends.  Maybe Olivia will spend all day drawing and listening to Capital FM.  Maybe I shall pick up my cross-stitch, or maybe I shall knit a bit more sock.  I love not knowing, and I love not planning (much).

Most of all I love being still and relaxed, after what feels like a whole year of running around and being busy.  These are good times.

Raspberry and almond cake

Coffee in my new French beaker

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Focusing in on the detail

I decided it would be nice to do some French-inspired cross stitch.  But on calico, because I don't like aida.  The stitches are tiny.  I have to concentrate very hard indeed.  I would only attempt this sort of foolishness in the University holidays when I have hour after hour free, to sit squinting at calico and deciding where EXACTLY to put my needle in next.

Cross stitch - TINY cross stitch!

I do love holidays.  Full of pointless, small satisfactions like this.

Monday, 5 August 2013

10 small indulgences

  • ice cream
  • an espresso
  • Parkrun
  • day dreaming
  • 10 minutes reading your book
  • rubbing your fingers through a lavender bush
  • eggs for breakfast
  • a new magazine
  • a bunch of 99p flowers from the supermarket
  • buying a postcard
I have a long holiday from University this summer, and I plan to fill it with as many small indulgences as I can.  I'm off to a good start.