Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cocktails at Big Easy

On Thursday my boss decided to take us all out for lunch, and, as often happens where I work, 'lunch' meant 'staying out all evening'. We ended up at Big Easy on the King's Road - I'd never been before but I'll definitely be going back again! They have a brilliant happy hour all evening on Mondays and from 4pm until 7.30 Tuesday-Friday, with two cocktails for £7.45, and the cocktails were fab.

We started with frozen strawberry margaritas...
...then tried the Starlett (which involved gin and passion fruit)...
...then the Mint Julep (I'm not usually a bourbon fan but this was gorgeous)...
...then the Rum Runner (white AND dark rum with Galliano, passion fruit and tropical fruit juice)...
...and finally a mango margarita!
Unsurprisingly, I had a rather good night...
It's also a proper American-style steakhouse and crab shack, and the food looked amazing - I think I'll have to go and try their lobster one day!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Let's talk about bras...

For one reason or another, bras have featured quite heavily in my life just recently! We had a thorough discussion about bras and bra fitting in the office the other day, and that spurred me into making a trip to Rigby and Peller and buying a couple of new bras that actually fit, rather than the pre-weight-loss, decidedly baggy and old, ones I'd been wearing for shamefully longer than I should have!

First things first - the majority of women out there are wearing the wrong bra size. Women have a tendency to think that they can't possibly be 'that big' in the cups (fuelled, I think, by the stereotype of the 'DD cup' Page Three girl) and that they can't possibly be 'that small' around the back (because we always think we're fatter than we are). Too many women also rely on those old-fashioned calculations that tell you to measure round your back, then measure round your boobs and work out your cup size based on how many inches' difference there is - but I'm afraid that just does not work. For years, I went by what I was told by a bra fitter in a well-known British shop - she said I was a 34B, so a 34B is what I wore. Even though the straps fell down and the cups gaped. Then one day I was at a friend's house and the conversation turned to bras, and she actually laughed at me when I told her what bra size I was wearing. She told me in no uncertain terms that I should get myself to R&P for a fitting - and lo and behold, I instantly went down a back size and up two cup sizes! Plus, I ended up with two lovely bras that felt comfortable and fitted in all the right places.

Since then, I've become something of an evangelist when it comes to the subject of getting properly fitted (as you can probably tell!) Yes, bras from places like Rigby and Peller and Bravissimo are more expensive than high-street bras. But they fit beautifully, and with just a little bit of care and attention they'll last absolutely ages. I'd rather spend £100 on two well-made bras that make me look and feel great than spend £100 on five ill-fitting cheaper bras that dig in and gape and generally annoy the heck out of me. And no, the people who do the fittings don't maul you like Trinny and Susannah! So if you haven't done so already - please, go and get yourself a proper bra!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Tea and pampering...

I've had the nicest couple of days! I had two days' holiday from last year to use up, so I sneaked them over into this week and I'm halfway through a fabulous four-day weekend. Yesterday, my mum came up to London (it actually worked really well, as my dad had meetings up this way as well, so they drove here and back together and we all went out for Thai food and lots of wine last night) and we made use of a brilliant LivingSocial voucher we'd snapped up last year. It was for a massage, facial and champagne afternoon tea each at the Hilton Park Lane, and we were seriously impressed. The massage was wonderfully relaxing, the facial - with Dermalogica products - was amazing (we couldn't stop going on about how plumped and soft and brightened our faces looked and felt afterwards) and the tea was utterly delicious.

We started with a peach Bellini each and some beautiful little open sandwiches - I had prawn, smoked salmon, egg and cucumber, and my mum had the same but with a ham one instead of one of the cucumber ones.
Then we had tea - I had jasmine green tea...
...and THEN, the tower of cakes and scones and pastries came out!
There was a plain scone, a raisin scone and two chocolate chip scones, with strawberry compote, cream and chocolate ganache... cupcakes, which we cut in half and made into hybrid Frankencupcakes (this one is half raspberry and half lemon)
...and an amazing selection of little chocolates and pastries and things (the tray they're sitting on is made of chocolate too!)
We did our very best and ate everything apart from two cupcakes and two chocolate things, but we got to take those home with us in a little box! After all of that we had a lovely walk in Hyde Park, where we saw swans and daisies (in January!)
Then this morning we popped to the shops, where I bought some new bras (I've been wearing the wrong size since losing weight *slapped wrist*) and a couple of jumpers and a gorgeous blazer from Zara, and Mum bought some lovely jumpers too, and then we had lunch and then I saw Mum off to the station and went and had my fringe trimmed! It's been a thoroughly brilliant couple of days - and I've still got the actual weekend to come! Hoorah for days off!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My new toy...

Yes, I've finally joined the world of 21st-century running! I'd been thinking about getting a Garmin for ages, but I'd always been put off by the price, and I've never really liked tracking my pace while I'm running. I prefer to do a run, see how I feel, see if I can push myself a bit, and then see how fast I ran when I finish. But seeing as I actually want to attempt to run a sub-2hr half-marathon at some point in the near future, I think it's time to brave it and actually start keeping an eye on how fast I'm running - and on how that compares to how fast I should be running!

So when someone on the running club's Facebook page alerted us all to the fact that Sweatshop currently have the Garmin Forerunner 110 for only £74.99, I decided to go for it. I haven't actually used it yet - it's charging at the moment - but it sounds perfect. It's not stupidly complicated but it'll give me all the information I need and I'll be able to track my progress online. So we'll see how it goes!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Victory from the jaws of defeat...

It's been a day of running and cooking, with a bit of football thrown in for good measure! First off, this morning I headed off with the running club for a 10-mile run, and I was feeling quite nervous about it - I hadn't done that sort of distance for a good few weeks and last week's shorter runs weren't really anything to write home about. But I actually managed to smash my PB by over five minutes! I think it was down to the lovely people I was running with - they're so chatty and supportive, and even when I found my rightful place at the back I had someone who runs at my pace with me and we were spurring each other on. Just look at this time!
I was so chuffed! And it's really boosted my confidence as I start my half-marathon training.

Then this afternoon I watched (hiding behind a cushion, given our recent form) the FA Cup clash between United and City - I am, of course, a United fan and the first half couldn't have gone any better, but we can never do anything the easy way and the second half was horribly nail-biting! Thankfully we won 3-2...but having seen off one set of bitter rivals, we've now been drawn against Liverpool in the next round! Give me strength!

After all that excitement, I knew I wanted something nice for supper, but I had no idea what. My mum would no doubt have said 'If you don't know what you want, you can't be hungry' but that wasn't the case at all! I just couldn't work out what I fancied. Then I happened upon an online discussion about takeaways...but I can't afford takeaway from either a financial or a health point of view! So I ended up making my own. After a bit of Googling I found a recipe for naan bread - I'd never made naan myself but a couple of months ago I went round to a friend's house and she made gorgeous naan which she cooked in a frying pan, so I fancied having a go at something like that. It was a really easy recipe - I halved it and made mini naan breads, and they were really lovely and flaky and absolutely delicious. I also made some red lentil dhal (it was never going to photograph well, I'm afraid...) which had cumin, mustard seed and garam masala in it, and a mushroom and chick pea curry with some curry paste, garlic, ginger and tomatoes. It was a feast!
Can't wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

This week's cooking...

As it's a new year, I am of course attempting to get myself into an 'exercise and healthy eating' habit. I've signed up for the Reading half-marathon, which is on April 1st (shock horror - I'm doing an organised race! Hopefully this time I'll finally get over my bizarre tendency to do perfectly well in training before a spectacular crash-and-burn on the day itself...) so I need to start putting in the miles, and although I don't have many Christmas pounds to lose I would like to be a bit healthier after spending the entire festive period eating my bodyweight in cheese and drinking rather a lot of wine. A trip to the pub last night probably wasn't the best start, but never mind! This morning I went to Pilates, and on the way home I bought lots of healthy things.

Some of which I used to make this lovely nut roast:
I do love a nut roast! Bizarrely, though, this was my first attempt at making one - my mum makes an amazing pine nut, pepper and mushroom terrine thing that sort of resembles a nut roast, which I have for Christmas lunch every year instead of turkey, but it's not really a nut roast. This one was the real deal, with walnuts and sunflower seeds as well as carrots, mushrooms, onion and pepper. I didn't have any of the herbs the original recipe called for, so I decided to add some toasted cumin seeds and a bit of ground coriander, and it's absolutely gorgeous. As you can see, I had it with a lovely tomatoey sauce (I just cooked up a little tin of chopped tomatoes with plenty of salt and pepper and a bit of chilli) and some brown rice and a big pile of baby Brussels sprouts. I'm hoping it'll be good running fuel! The loaf makes easily enough for six, so I've popped the rest in the freezer in two-slice portions.

The healthiness doesn't stop there, though - on Thursday night I was stuck for something to make for supper when I stumbled across a recipe from Appetite for Reduction for soft broccoli polenta. I've had a massive bag of polenta in the cupboard for literally years - I bought it to make Jamie Oliver's pizza dough when I lived in the flat before this one - and it's only just gone past its best before date, so I thought it'd be a good idea to use some of it up. This polenta dish was ridiculously quick and easy to make, ridiculously filling and ridiculously low in calories - and of course anything containing broccoli is bound to be right up my street!
I made some garlic mushrooms to go with it and drizzled the whole thing with some balsamic glaze - yum!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas 2011: Done

Once again, sorry for disappearing for weeks on end! I did mean to post a few times over the festive break, but as it was I had such a lovely time eating, drinking and being merry that I barely touched a computer! So here's a recap...

Christmas Day started like this:
...and continued in a similar vein all day!

Here I am looking very excited about my presents:
...and here's our lovely tree (Dad had a slight tree-rage incident at the garden centre when he turned his back for five seconds and someone else nicked the tree he and Mum had chosen, but we ended up with a gorgeous tree nonetheless!)
And finally, here's all the food...

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