Wednesday, 26 August 2015

John Butler Trio play Lusty Glaze during the wettest night of summer!

Named as the Sundowner sessions the summer gigs held at Lusty Glaze beach during the summer months have been a favourite of mine since moving to Cornwall. I've watched the likes of Feeder and The Levellers and had many a good dance at the beach gigs with the sand between my toes, the waves rolling in behind and the sun setting over the sea.

However the summer of 2015 has other ideas, well to be honest there is no summer of 2015 just the empty shell of hope clinging on to the idea that maybe, just maybe we will get an Indian summer and once the kids go back to school we can enjoy some sunshine in Cornwall. To make matters worse last night there wasn't just another evening of unfavourable weather and the dread of not seeing a sunset at a sundowner session but much worse. We were on a severe weather warning for wet weather from 9pm onwards for the whole of Cornwall.

Well, what can I say! Us British folk aren't put off by a little, or rather in last nights case a lot of the wet stuff. Arriving to the beach to the sell out gig the crowds were already well fed and watered by the various BBQ and bars set up on the beach and with a lot of summer attire on display there were lots of people in flip flops and I began to wonder were people being optimistic about the forecast or did they simply not know?

After a few songs in the dry suddenly the heavens opened but it didn't seem to have an impact on the evening what so ever. Suddenly the summeresque dressed British Public pulled out pac a macs, ponchos and coats and simply just carried on as if nothing was happening. We had rain water pouring and pouring down from the sky, the water was running down in gully's onto the beach, the puddles were beginning to form but still we carried on, rain dripped off my nose and down my face I was soaked!
Watching a gig in pouring rain proves difficult for those with glasses
Rain continues to pour at lusty glaze sundowner sessions
The camaraderie amongst the crowd was fantastic and not a single person was going to let a bit of rain spoil their evening and it was simply a case to drink more, dance harder and party on.

Rain continues to pour at lusty glaze sundowner sessions
The gig continued to get better and better and the rain continued to pour and pour and friends were starting to look more and more soaked through yet not a single one of them cared. I have to say, respect to each and every person on the beach last night that proved that even in the worst of weather we still know how to have a good time and a good party.

Check out my quick video from last night with the crowd singing and dancing along despite the diabolical weather.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Please help me raise £500 for WWF

I'm sure people are asked for sponsorship money all the time and it is hard to give money constantly to friends and family that are doing events all the time but if possible can I have 5 minutes of your time to read why I'm asking for your help?

Look outside, it's raining (It is in Cornwall right now) or at least it has been raining for pretty much the whole of summer. This is partly due to climate change, and WWF want to fund research and invest in ways to protect our environment and help us to combat climate change.
Running in the rain in Cornwall, one of the many effects of climate change
What about your favourite animal? As everyone will know I'm slightly obsessed with Pandas, I have been since I was very young. Amanda the Panda being a nickname of mine. But imagine a world without Panda's. OK so that's probably not that bad for most people in the UK, most people have probably never seen a real panda bear. I myself was fortunate enough to see London Zoos second Panda Ming Ming that was at the Zoo from 1991-1994. But for most people seeing a real live panda bear could become a similar story to seeing a real life dodo.

If your not interested in Pandas, what about Tigers, African Elephants, African Lions, Jaguars, Marine Dolphins, Mountain Gorillas and even Polar bears all of these are helped to breed, and survive and to be understood by the work that the WWF do, and without the WWF all these could die out.

I'm trying to raise just £500 and it sounds like a lot of money but If every one of my twitter followers donates just £1 I will smash that target or just £2 from each Facebook like, I'm asking for less than a cost of a pint! We all saw what happened to Cecil the Lion recently and it's not just the Lions that need our help. If I can raise just £25 this can pay a Rhino Protection Unit ranger's salary for 10 days to help protect the African Rhino's from poachers.
The panda made me do it, running the cardiff half for WWF
If you care for animals or the environment you'll know about the work that the WWF already do and understand why it is vital to keep supporting them even if it is only by donating just a few pounds each.

Then there's me, I'm asking for you not just to donate money to the charity but I'm asking you to sponsor me. Yes the sponsorship is for the WWF but by sponsoring me you are saying that you believe that I can do it. That I can get around a half Marathon, That I can complete 13.1 gruelling miles of exercise. That's 21.097494 kilometres of running, over 2 hours of plodding pavements, burning over 1000 calories. And that's just on the day, I've also been doing training runs, I had built up over 200 miles of practise, building up my strength and stamina. I've even had to deal with an injury and enjoured nearly 2 months off with a painful calf injury. Now I've started training again I have less than six weeks until the event and in every practise run that I do and every bit of training, knowing I have the support and sponsorship from my friends and family helps me plod on through.
Mandi Brooks running the cardiff half
So what I'm asking is please sponsor me, please believe that I can run/walk/crawl my way around 13.1 miles and in doing so feel proud that you are also helping to save the planet and the pandas.

Training for the Cardiff Half
You can sponsor me on my just giving page here 
If you can't afford to sponsor me but fancy helping me out by running with me then just let me know as having a running buddy on the lengthy runs is always appreciated.

Thank you again

Monday, 17 August 2015

Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge Week 2, Paul Hollywood Arlettes

Yesterday I found myself with enough time and enthusiasm to attempt week 2 of the Great British Bake Off Technical Challenges, this was making eight Arlette biscuits a recipe from Paul Hollywood.

There's a part of me that wants to do all of the technical challenges this year but I'm sure there will become a stage where I don't own the correct utensils, tools, tins etc to be able to join in but so far so good. Week 1 saw me making Mary Berry's Walnut layer cake and although It was a success it didn't feel that much of a challenge and worst still my partner didn't particularly like the cake!!! Seriously I think there is something wrong with him when he said it was too sweet!

After watching the latest technical challenge I couldn't help think it seemed like a lot of effort for eight biscuits but not wanting to quit at week two I persevered and started by watching the technical challenge section on the BBC Iplayer. Watching as some contestants got in sticky messes, others mixed by hand and others used electric mixers. I was confused at what best to do, after reading the recipe instructions I was clear on what I needed to do, and that involved A LOT of chilling and the use of bread flour and some kneading. All in all an odd recipe to make a biscuit.

The recipe was similar to making a flaky or a rough puff pastry mixing layers of butter and layers of pastry dough. The only difference was that you wrapped the pastry in a layer of butter rather than the other way around. All in all the recipe so far was actually really quite simple, once you had the basic ingredients it was just a case of fold and chill then repeat. After a few hours I was ready to add a layer of sugar and Cinnamon and roll and chill again. Although not a major issue the first problem I had was that I lost some of my dry sugar mix out of each end of the roll of pastry.
Making Paul Hollywood's ArlettesMaking Paul Hollywood's Great British Bake Off Arlettes
Great British Bake Off Roll of pastry for Arlettes
Great British Bake Off Roll of pastry for Arlettes
Once the dough was chilled again it was time to cut into eight equal sections and roll flat with a rolling pin before baking. Again the dry ingredients caused a slight issue and once I had started to roll the biscuits flat some of them were unravelling and not staying as a tight pinwheel.
Great British Bake Off Roll of pastry for Arlettes ready for baking

Placing the rolled biscuits out onto the baking tray It was time to bake. On the television episode there were lots of comments about the high butter content and how these biscuits could burn easily however I think I was over cautious. After the first 5 minutes of baking the instructions state to flip the biscuits over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Another slight issue was that the biscuits were fairly stuck to the baking paper but with a little shuffling they were free and flipped over. However the 8-9 minutes baking time turned into 10-12 to avoid the centres of my biscuits still looking doughy and raw. I'm not sure If my Arlettes weren't rolled thin enough or it was due to my oven. Either way the additional baking time wasn't an issue and I now had eight little Arlette biscuits.

Eight Arlettes from the Great British Bake Off
Once cooled with a cup of tea the first two biscuits were devoured in seconds. They taste a little like the flaky pastry and sugar coated edges of an apple strudel. They had the snap, a little flaky crunch and a delicious buttery flavour. All in all very very yummy but you need to be in the house for several hours to keep attending to your chilling and rolling of the pastry so unless I have several hours to spare I'm not sure I will be making them again in a hurry.
Four Arlettes from the Great British Bake OffEight Arlettes from the Great British Bake Off
Next it's bread week and I've only ever made bread once so this could be an interesting technical challenge. Roll on Wednesday for episode three. I can't wait.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

I just did a baby run :@)

After 8 weeks off running and rather a lot of pain my last course of acupuncture and ultrasound seems to have helped. Not wanting to run before I can walk I decided that I would start the week with a walk and see how things went.

On Tuesday I took to the local streets and managed to walk just over 4 miles fairly trouble free. When I say fairly, I managed to walk nearly all four miles without a twinge or a hint of pain however around three and a half miles in I started to get a twinging in the muscle in my calf. But after a change of pace, the pain completely went? I'm not sure what is causing the pain and whether I will do more damage using it rather than resting it but the following day after the four mile walk there was still no pain.

Training for the cardiff half with a calf injury
With the excitement of walking 4 miles without to much bother I decided I wanted to increase the distance yet again before attempting to go for my first run in eight weeks. My next walk was along the camel trail in Wadebridge. I didn't want to start taking massive hikes up hilly coastal paths just yet and want to ease myself in fairly gently on flat routes and there isn't anywhere in Cornwall flatter than the tranquil camel trail that follows the side of the river.

Starting at Wadebridge I walked three miles up the trail before turning around and walking another three miles back. Again all was well whilst walking until I hit the four mile mark where again the same twinging started to appear in my calf. I tried changing pace but this time it didn't work. I decided to stop and give my calf a massage and carry on. The pain didn't stop completely but it didn't hurt as much and was on and off for the rest of the walk. I felt deflated that just 6 miles and I was struggling with this niggling in my calf but after reaching the car and sitting down the pain was completely gone again.
Walking on the camel trail in Wadebridge

sun setting in Wadebridge

Dusk in Wadebridge

Camel trail in Wadebridge to Bodmin

The next day when I woke up I was worried about those first few steps in the morning feeling that the calf would once again be tight and painful. However to my delight there was nothing, no pain and so I decided that after another days rest just in case I would now attempt a little walk, tiny run and little walk to ease my calf back into running.

Sunday arrived and It was time to put my leg to the test and see how it would fair with a little run and not wanting to go off to hard too soon I decided on a little route close to home. I started with a one mile walk to warm up followed by a gentle 1 mile run followed by half a mile walk to finish and I am pleased to say that I survived pain free. I was wearing my compression socks and took it really easily plus gently stretched when I got home and iced my calf for 30 minutes once home and so far so good.

The only negative is that I found running for just one mile really hard work and got out of breath VERY quickly. It seems that my 8 week absence from running has really seen my fitness deteriorate and although I've tried to keep fit with light walking, yoga and a bit of surfing there has been a lot of resting and not a lot of activity so I've now got a long way to go to be ready to run a half marathon in just 5 weeks!!!
walk in indian queens cornwall

It sounds like an impossible challenge and I thought I was going to struggle to run a half with a full training regime but I will deal with what I've got and I'd prefer to walk it than pull out so that is where I am today. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed and staying hopeful that the pain doesn't return and I'm able to carefully increase my training enough to get through the Cardiff Half.

Joining the Great British Bake Off Technical Challenges

After the first episode of the Great British Bake Off I decided it would be a great idea to make each of the technical challenges each week.

Sunday's would become the day to stay indoors and bake with my partner. The summer hasn't been particularly great this year and with lots of soggy Sundays to entertain ourselves this seemed to be a fantastic idea.

The first weeks episode was cake, My favourite thing to bake and our favourite thing to eat and so off to the store I went to purchase the ingredients to make week ones technical challenge Mary's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake.

The first challenge was that the cake was made using three equal sized cake tins and I only had two of the same size and one larger. But with the cake mixture evenly shared out It was a case of cutting down the larger cake to match the other two and I was still on track to making an acceptable bake.

Mary Berry's frosted walnut layer cake
The great thing about making one cake slightly bigger is that there were offcuts for the tasting before the rest of the cake was finished.
Once the cakes were cool it was onto the final stage of decorating. The cake required 10 walnuts to decorate the cake all coated in caramel so the first thing to do was make some caramel. This however, was easier said than done. With my sugar in the pan and the heat rather low my sugar slowly started to melt and bubble and started to colour but I didn't realise how quickly the sugar turned from a light golden brown to a sticky black mess of burnt caramel! 

With attempt number two more successful there were 10 perfect little walnuts covered in caramel cooling and ready to decorate the cake. 
Next it was to make up a butter cream to sandwich between the cakes and finally to finish with a boiled icing. I've got to be honest I've never heard of boiled icing before but it was a mix between royal icing and meringue. 
Once the icing had set over the cake it resembled the texture of snow. It had a texture that was light and fluffy and made a slight crunch when cut and compressed. I'm not sure if it was suppose to be like this but this is how ours turned out. 

Great british bake off walnut layer cake
All in all I found the cake delicious, however my partner with a sweet tooth declared that the cake was too sweet! Can a cake be too sweet? It did have A LOT of icing in between the layers, a lot of icing around the cake and then the sugary sweet nuts on top so yes it was very sweet but I loved it. 

Next it's time to make Paul's Arlettes which i'm not very confident about making, the recipe for wafer thing rolled biscuits uses simple ingredients however looks like a much more technical challenge.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

What's wrong with my calf?

This is the question that's been on my lips for several months now, "What's wrong with my calf?" After pulling my left calf muscle several months ago I stupidly didn't think much of it and carried on running through the injury. It didn't hurt too much whilst I was physically running it was just after the run, the day after that would cause pain.

After running through the pain for several weeks and with only 5 months until running my half marathon for the WWF in Cardiff in October I decided I would go and seek some medical advice from my GP.

The GP told me that there was a 16 week waiting list for NHS Physio and If I wanted a quicker path to recovery I should go privately. With that in mind I decided that I would seek out a local physiotherapist and pay for treatment. However after several appointments with the Physiotherapist the outcome wasn't good and the treatment was failing to work and week after week has gone by and stretches and strengthening exercises and massage is not helping at all.

After speaking with a fellow runner I was recommended to go and see a chiropractor rather than a physio and see if they could help. I was told that I was rather knotted up through the calf and also knotted through the spine which was effectively making one leg longer than the other. After a few sessions of being straightened out clicked and crunched the pain is still niggling. Every morning when I wake up and first walk on the leg the muscle feels like it is bulging and pulsing out of the leg. With an electric type pain running through the calf.

Several more weeks later and several hundreds of pounds of my own money spent I have now had so many types of treatment that there doesn't seem to be any thing else out their available for me to try. I've had deep tissue massage, I've had acupuncture and I've had ultra sound on my calf and although I have good and bad days, some days with no pain at all and others where my calf is as tight as when I first injured it months ago.

The next step unfortunately is being referred back to the local GP and potentially to an osteopath to hopefully find out what's wrong with me and how to fix me.

Sadly my first half marathon attempt is now very much looking to be in jeopardy and I'm gutted as I really want to do this not just for me but for the WWF too. As the date is getting closer and no training under my belt it's looking less and less likely but If I suddenly recover I will push myself and get myself around those 13.1 miles and "do it for the pandas" As for now, it's a waiting game and just trying to stay optimistic that I am doing the right thing with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation...... I just might need to work on the ice part a little more!

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation