A lazy Sunday

Last night (the first Saturday night of the Easter holidays) was spent marking year 11 coursework until midnight!  I’ll be glad when that’s all over and done.  Before I began the marking, Dan and I sat down together to work out our plan for getting around London next weekend for the marathon.

All I can say is that was a mission!

London marathon planning

Trying to get my head around hotel check-ins, breakfast times, train times, which trains were free of charge and where I needed to be, as well as where Dan needed to be by when was a nightmare, so I promptly left it all to Dan and handed him my marathon magazine to sort the plans out.  I think every relationship has one person with a sense of direction.  That person is not me.

As we’ve both had such busy weeks lately we agreed to relax a little today and head out for a Sunday carvery.  Dan’s footy match had been cancelled and I’d gotten my last ‘long’ run in on Friday, so our calendar was clear!  The aim being we could have a little bit of a lazy Sunday morning lie in before enjoying a nice meal at The White Horse in Eton Socon which Dan had chosen after reading some reviews online.

Unfortunately we were rather disappointed with the dinner.  We arrived and asked if there were any tables available and told to ask at the bar instead.  After asking at the bar, the bartender walked us back round to a table in the restaurant.  I was rather thirsty so almost downed my glass of water upon arrival, but we didn’t see anyone to ask for another in a very long while.  In fact, 30 minutes after arriving a waitress came to tell us we would be allowed up to the carvery shortly, but they just had to cook some more vegetables.  My idea of a carvery is you get served almost instantly, with pretty much a constant queue of people collecting their meals.  This wasn’t the case!  Another 5-10 minutes later and we were allowed to ‘queue’ for our food, only there was nobody to dish it out.  By this point we were both starving and I was almost tempted to go to the serving side of the counter to carve Dan’s meat.  The options for meat were either beef or duck stuffed turkey.  Neither of which I like so I decided to stick to vegetables, although I was very disappointed with the choice.  Leek, carrots, roast parsnips and roast potatoes.  That was it.  No mashed potato, no peas, no sweetcorn, no stuffing…(I realise stuffing isn’t a vegetable, I was just disappointed it wasn’t an option!)  In the end I also added a yorkshire pudding, despite not really fancying one.  I ended up leaving most of the yorkshire to Dan though as I couldn’t get the knife through it it was so crispy.

Sunday roast

Such a shame, because we had both been looking forward to lunch out all week yet both left feeling quite hungry still and disappointed at how long we had had to wait.  When Dan went to ask if he could pay so that we could leave they couldn’t remember what we had had so he had to tell them and we were charged £28 for the two carveries and a lager shandy.  On the way out I queued at the bar for another five minutes with my glass from the table for another tap water as I was so thirsty from the meal.  We decided, the way to go was Sainsbury’s for some cookies for dessert.  Good plan!

Cookies

Whilst we were in Huntingdon (picking up cookies!) we dropped into the phone shop as I was due for an upgrade and I came away with a Motorola Moto X on a cheaper plan than I am currently on.

Motorola Moto X

My requirements were; 1) decent camera 2) able to connect to the internet quickly and reliably 3) able to use when I’ve got sweaty fingers from running!

Because of requirement #2 I ended up changing from Vodafone to EE due to the coverage in the area where I live.  It has been very frustrating trying to connect to the internet and getting nothing back from my phone, or it timing out before completing what I want it to do.  Hopefully I’ve made the right decision with both phone and network.  I feel a little bit like a traitor…I’ve been with Vodafone for fifteen years now!

Quickly, before I break to start a Prison Break session, I have some breaking news…Dan admitted this morning that he quite likes sweet potato fries!  For a non-vegetable eater when we first met, this is massive!

Last night I experimented with a baguette by mixing some bacon, cheese, butter, lemon juice and mustard into a paste which I smeared through cut slices of a baguette.  I added a side salad to my plate, and some sweet potato fries to both mine and Dan’s plates.  I’ve never added mustard to my meals before, but I have to say I loved the ‘kick’ it brought to the meal and I will be cooking with it again.Bacon and mustard bread

Looks like sweet potatoes are going to feature a lot over the next few weeks now that Dan’s a fan!  I’ve yet to try Laura’s Sweet Potato Oaty Choc Chip Cookies and I also want to test out Anna’s Slow Cooker Chickpea and Sweet Potato Salsa.

Any other sweet potato meals I should try?

Working part time does not exist

DaffodilsLook how colourful my front lawn has become!  If only daffodils lasted year round – I would love my path to permanently be this bright and colourful!

Yesterday Dad sent me back home with a loaf of bread.  I love the bread my parents get – real fresh bread straight from the local bakery – not processed with loads of additives and ‘fake’ tasting.  Unfortunately though, this does mean we need to get through loaves quite quickly if we ever have them, and this time Dad sent us back with a MASSIVE loaf!  I put a teaspoon next to it so you could compare…

Bread…massive.  Especially for just two of us.  I see several soups and casseroles with hunks of bread in the near future!

Back in September I took on a new job at an Independent School.  The job was only three days a week and at a much reduced salary from where I had been working.
I am somebody that is always – always busy.  I’m someone that always has their weekends booked up for months on end, has become a pro at fitting in running wherever I go and using trips to places to meet up with several different friendship groups during the same day.  I don’t think twice about putting on a smiley face for somebody’s 30th birthday party when I already got up at 5:30am that morning to run 18 miles, then worked all day before heading out.  Days often contain several events all loosely planned around work.  In the past it’s something that Dan was not a fan of.  I was always rushing around, and although I can put on a great face for others – acting super energised and bouncy – Dan and my Mum are the only two people that ever saw how I really felt – the stressed out, miserable, grouchy and incredibly tired side of me.  Then Mum got sick last year and I was travelling back to Norfolk most weeks – sometimes more than once a week – adding yet more extra pressure to my life without being prepared to give anything up.

When my current job was advertised as only three days a week Dan and I had a long chat about it before I went for the interview.  I took a £12,000 paycut for this job (although am working two days less each week).  That is quite a substantial amount!  We both agreed that I was no longer happy in the school I had been in for the past three years, and with no paths open for progression I needed to get out and do something new.  At my current school I am the only ICT teacher, so technically am employed in a Head of Department position – with the same responsibilities such as producing and following Schemes of Work and organising exam entries.  As well as working as a Head of Department, the school was seriously lacking in ICT knowledge.  The teachers didn’t have email – or hardly any computers!  Dan managed to ‘gift’ ten computers from his school (they replace theirs every other year) which I distributed to classrooms.  Student details kept in paper folders was another big no-no at the school that needed organising.  Then as well as trying to organise teaching, being Head of Department, sorting the admin and training staff I also do my best to update the website and send emails home to parents about the school activities.  Updating the school Twitter feed as much as possible.  When you consider that I’m only actually at school 8:30-6pm 3 days a week and I only have 90 minutes of PPA (Planning, Preparation and Assessment allowance – time in a working day where you are not directly with students) in that time, that’s a whole lot to fit in!  This morning I logged into my work emails and then spent nearly four hours working from home on a day I don’t work for the school.  I replied to a few emails from teachers, added the week’s catering recipes up to the website, replied to some parents, sent in some work for students that have ICT lessons on days that I don’t work and spoke to BT as the school has been losing internet connection each Friday for the past month.  It just never ends!  I am so looking forward to the Summer holidays!

Yesterday afternoon I did manage to get in a break to finish off the last of the wedding invitations though.  I picked up an extra 10 metres of ribbon from Hobbycraft on Monday.

Ribbon

And finished tying the bows onto the front of each invitation and addressing the envelopes.  We’re still a little way off sending our invitations out, – we were thinking June? – but I just want to have them ready to go incase life gets uber busy before then!Invitation

Despite being home in the daytime I decided to throw some items into the slow cooker…

Ingredients

 

Half a jar of tomato sauce, half a pack of Philadelphia, three chopped up rashers of bacon, two carrots and a handful of peas.   Dan often doesn’t get home from footy training until 10:15pm and I knew I would want to eat before then so it made sense to leave his share of the meal in the slow cooker.

Slow cooker baconLoved this meal.  Proper comfort food!  Especially when served with a big hunk of bread and butter on the side.

Cheesey bacon

For anyone on Twitter, tonight I shall be co-hosting the #UKRunchat on Twitter with Howard50at50.  Come and join us between 8-9pm and search for the #Ukrunchat hashtag to join in with our favourite topic of conversation…running!  With it being so close to marathons for so many people this week, Howard and I plan on mainly focusing on race build up and the post race blues!

8-8-8-4 Vanilla buns

When I was little I used to cook quite a lot with my Mum and also my Great Aunt Mary who lived next door to us.  Here’s a picture of Me with my Aunt Mary one Christmas.  We made and decorated that Christmas cake on the table.  You can’t see it very clearly though I’m afraid.Aunt Mary and I at Christmas

Last week, Anna posted the question ‘What is the easiest thing you bake?‘  The easiest recipe I always used to make with my Mum when I was younger had to be vanilla buns or chocolate cake.  Throughout the week we had hot cooked dinners each evening, but when it got to Sunday we would have a roast dinner for lunch and then afternoon tea – filled with sandwiches, cake and sausage rolls in the evening.  It was such a nice change from the rest of the week.  A chocolate cake or butterfly buns would always feature for the dessert.  The recipe?  8-8-8-4!

Ingredients:
* 8oz caster sugar
* 8oz butter
* 8oz self-raising flour
* 4 eggs
* Dash of vanilla essence

Even I can remember that!

I decided to make some this morning after I had cleared away and paid the hundreds of bills we now have coming in for our wedding.  :(  When money stresses you out, I find cake is a great reliever!

I’m usually even too lazy to find my whisks so just mix everything up with a spoon…

1. Mix the sugar and butter together until nice and creamy…

sugar and butter

2. Add a little flour and one egg at a time until they’re all stirred into the mixture as well…

cake mixture3. Spoon a little mixture into each case…

bun cases

4. Then sit back and relax with your feet up whilst they cook in the oven at 160C for 15 minutes.  (Or pay your bills.  :(  )

If you want to add icing (Always!) then – still keeping it simple – ingredients are as follows…* 8oz icing sugar
* 4oz butter

For chocolate buns rather than vanilla ones, just swap 1oz of self-raising flour for 1oz cocoa powder.  If you want chocolate icing, swap 1oz icing sugar for the cocoa powder.  I tend to either make chocolate buns with vanilla icing or vanilla buns with chocolate icing…it’s all about the variety!

I still have quite a lot of bun cases and decorations back from when I held the MacMillan cancer care cake stall at the end of October so I made them look pretty…!

butterfly cupcake chocolate cupcake

animal cupcakes

Running wise, I set out on a great 4 miler last night.  My legs were a little achy still from 18 miles the day before followed by dancing in the evening so I kept it slow and really enjoyed the time out there on my feet.  Just before I went to bed I felt a slight tenderness underneath my left foot, almost like it was bruised and unfortunately I can still feel it (allbeit more faintly) today.  My trainers are OK, I haven’t really upped the mileage this week, my long run was completed offroad…the only thing I can think of perhaps making it sore is on the Sunday morning I used my left foot as leverage to break up some wood pieces for our wood burner.  There’s a strong possibility this caused it, despite not feeling any pain at the time.  Ice and rest today – hopefully back running again tomorrow!

Less than six weeks until London Marathon now.  Does anyone know what pacers there will be?  I’ve heard lots of good things just lately about the camaraderie of running with a pace group.  I was hoping to stick to the 4:45 pacer at MK maratho last year, but after starting alongside the 5 hour pacer, and running at sub 11mm for the first few miles even he was pulling away from me and I got rather disillusioned.  I hope there is a Sub 5 pacer at London who is running at the correct pacing that I can stick to as I think it would be good to have people there helping me not to rush off, and to chat to when things are getting tough!  I can always pull away if I’m feeling good towards the end, but the last three marathons I’ve run have seen me drop off drastically in the second half of the race and I want to finish London feeling strong!

Have you run with a pacer and would you recommend it?

Slow cooker success! Cheesy chicken quesadillas

I was inspired by Anna’s slow cooker meals post to pull out my own slow cooker from hibernation underneath the worktop last night…

I only have the basic Argos slow cooker which my future Mother-in-law bought for me a few years back but it had never properly been tested out until today.
I eagerly hunted out a few recipes at www.corriecooks.com before bed last night. My worry in the past has been how long I’m away from home in the day. Although I often don’t leave for work until 8am nowadays. I’m normally at work until six and then stop off in town for a run with friends on the way home. Meaning some nights I’m not home until 8:15pm! Dan is often back by six though and I figured it must be pretty hard to burn something in the pot on low! (Crossing my fingers tightly here!!!)

I defrosted some chicken pieces overnight and after a quick dash to the Co-op when they opened for some cheese I threw the following into the pot…
-Half a pack of chicken pieces
-Half a pot of cheap tomato sauce
-Half a pot of Philadelphia

Cheesey chicken slow cookerAll day I had dinner on my mind and rushed home from work with a pack of tortilla wraps and some sour cream.  I was a little worried that the chicken would have been in the pot (allbeit on low) for more than ten hours but I returned to see this…

Cooked chicken slow cooker…pretty much exactly what I left in the morning with a few darker patches around the edge!  Although concerned it hadn’t cooked properly, or there would be burnt patches, after a quick stir and pull apart of the chicken pieces the mixture turned a beautiful orangey-brown and smelt delicious!

Chicken quesadillas I realise this is a rubbish picture where you can’t see the creamy colour of the chicken, just the bland colour of the tortilla but I was too excited and spooned it into the wrap with some grated cheese to melt and hold it all together.  Great with a side salad and some sour cream!  I love trying new food.  :)  I have neglected food experimentation for too long!

I had a great run after work last night with four guys and a dog from club.  We ran 6.6 miles of trail, – mainly over fields which were a lot drier than I originally thought they would be.  They were still wet enough to suck one of our runners upside-down into a puddle though!  It was relatively warm last night and I surprised myself by running in a short-sleeved top and staying warm for the whole run.  I literally wore the big jacket I took to New York until the second our run began as I feared it would be so cold!  I was due to head to club tonight but for several reasons I decided to set my alarm for the morning and head out early instead.  (Not seeing Dan much this week, missing my alone runs, wanting to try out my slow cooker creation…!)

Are you a morning or evening runner?  I’m normally an evening runner but I love heading out in the mornings when it starts to head towards Summer and gets light.

What other all day slow cooker meals are out there for me to experiment with next?!