Couch 2 5Km The Final Update:

Having at last found a way that I could both achieve the challenge of ‘Couch 2 5Km’ and do so in a manner that would encourage me to maintain the level of exercise, I enjoyed the final week.

 First run of the week was along a ‘traffic-free’ country road and was as usual a mixture of trotting/running/brisk walks. I covered 6.4 Km in 53.3 minutes. Hardly giving Paula Radcliffe any exercise but really delighted me.

Then for Run 2 I was back in the gym – this time solely on the Static Bike and only for 35 minutes.

This included both warm up and cool down periods, I set the bike to the ‘Hills’ mode so there was effort required and challenged myself to have cycled 5 Km before Roger Federer took the first set. He was playing Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon quarter finals and I know that he can complete a set in 16 minutes, so the race was on. And I won (thanks to Mr Anderson being a tough opponent, if truth be told). I covered 5 Km in 24.9 minutes – the first set lasted 26 minutes.  Phew!

In total I did 6.95Km in 35 minutes.

Whilst cycling I had a chance to think how I have increased my stamina and general fitness in the last 11 weeks. I now recognise that my ‘gym sessions’ previously were more to promote my mental health, that I ran on the treadmill to de-stress rather than to gain fitness. Not that there was anything wrong with that – just I had thought I was doing both until now.

To maintain what I have gained physically I will need to keep up the level of exertion and surprisingly I know I will – I think I have more energy and feel less tired. I also know that as people age it is harder to regain lost muscle strength than when young and after all this hard work I am not going backwards. (Plus, without any effort I have lost 1.5Kg of weight)

Now to the final effort:

The hot weather meant that the final spurt would have to be completed indoors, even gentle trotting is exhausting in the humidity we were experiencing in July of 2018.

 

I started on the Treadmill – brisk walk and run for 1.5Km, then moved to a Static Bike and cycled 4Km in the next 25 minutes then slowly pedalled for the remaining 5 minutes – so in the 40 minutes I moved my legs over 6Km (I forgot to re-set the machine for the final 5 minutes so no info!)

 

 

 

Although I did not run non-stop for 5Km, and I never will, I think that I have achieved the essence of the challenge. I now intend to increase the distance I cover over 60 minutes of fast walking time – I wonder if 5 miles (8Km) is doable?

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash – End Photo

Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon on Unsplash – Featured Image

Photo by Shep McAllister on Unsplash – Roger Federer

Photo by Nathalie Désirée Mottet on Unsplash – Runner

When Only a Roast will do

You know that feeling – a busy and long Sunday ahead and a roast dinner to look forward to would be a fitting end to the day. But, it’s July and it’s hot, cooking for hours would just result in a boiling kitchen and a wilted chef. So normally I would put that idea to one side and think of something else – yet, why not utilise modern technology.

Shoulder of Lamb in the Slow Cooker for 6 hours, (out in the Utility Room although it really does not generate that much heat). Combo/Microwave has a Steamer programme which I had forgotten all about, although it’s easy to use.

 

 

Carrots and potatoes cooked in a small amount of hot water for 5 minutes then place the second tray with ‘delicate veg’ on top and cook for another 6 – 8 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the Slow Cooker once ready (always amazes me that, despite the low temperature the meat is cooked in, when inserting a meat thermometer, it does reach the 77C required). Keep the Slow Cooker on High and use the juices left – adding seasonings, gravy browning etc. to make a gravy and dinner is ready.

Don’t forget the Mint Sauce.

Stockholm in the Spring

One of the joys of having children living in far flung places is that you need to visit – check that they are really ‘doing fine’, using sunscreen, wearing a coat in winter etc. etc. To date husband and I have ‘had’ to undertake parental visits to Calgary (including Banff and Lake Louise), Berlin, Venice, Nuremberg, and Cologne – as well as London, Somerset and Edinburgh. Crossing the Border usually involves paintbrushes and screwdrivers – the border crossings easy, it’s the chores that are required once we arrive ? although great to see the ‘home improvements’ taking shape.

Our latest trip was to Stockholm in Sweden. This coincided with an unusually warm spring, so it really was ‘sunshine all the way’.

Although husband had visited the city as a child it was my first visit and I was looking forward exploring.

I found it a city of contrasts – old and new buildings, many parks and museums amongst the mainland and the islands. Water was a constant presence, either in lakes and rivers or the sea. All linked by the numerous bridges. It reminded me of both York and Venice.

 

The buildings are well maintained and there is little damage from any previous conflicts – although many of the government/royal buildings had tales of major fires in their history. ‘Careless with matches’ I thought.

Despite the weather we did not sit on the beaches, although they were sandy and inviting. We behaved like real tourists and visited ‘the sights’.

The Vasamuseet is a must. I was not expecting such a spectacular sight as ‘The Vasa’. Its size alone was a surprise and that it is intact is a credit indeed to the excavators and restorers.

The Royal Palace – Kungliga Slottet – is very impressive to walk around. We did not go inside although I understand it is worthwhile, so perhaps next time (if it’s raining)

Skansen is an open-air museum displaying a history of Swedish culture using original buildings, tools and exhibits from many centuries.

 

 

 

Traditional skills such as carpentry and pottery were evidenced as well as a fully functional glassblowers workshop – a skill which is always amazing to watch. The Zoo housed many of the native wildlife and was an interesting walk. As it was midday and hot most of the animals were hiding in the shade.

 

We took a boat trip to the royal residence of Drottingholm. It is not a large palace, yet the grounds are extensive and well worth a walk. The boat trip provides an opportunity to view the outer-city landscape and some of the surrounding islands. Lunch at the small restaurant was traditional fayre – which of course included a cake. The boats sail hourly and appear to finish around 5.00pm so check your return times or you may have to use public transport to return to the city.

 

We ate a lot, especially joining in the Swedish tradition of ‘Fika Time’, a break involving cake. 

I would recommend all the places we ate although my favourite was ‘Meatballs for the People’ at Nytorgsgaten 30 (http://www.meatball.se/) A traditional Scandinavian restaurant, may not look pretty but the best meatballs and mashed potato ever!

The Fotografiska (Photography) is another place to call – for both the exhibitions and the lunch. The walk along the waterside added to the experience.

Whilst walking in the city, in the sunshine, the tourist can view the renown buildings and many of the museums we called in were those we just came to on our walks – such as the Nobelmuseet. More interesting than it sounds. At the time I was reading ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ whose author Gabriel Garzia Marquez was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1982. I picked up a copy of the book in the literature room, found my page and sat to read a chapter – how amazing was that?

 

The area we spent a lot of time in was Gamla Stan (think York and the Shambles). Full of history, little alleys and delightful cafes. Even though it was hot we still managed to call in to Sunbergs Konditori for a cup of their famous Hot Chocolate.

 

Stockholm, like many cities, is divided into urban areas (suburbs) interspersed with parks and museums. So much to see and explore – looking forward to our next trip already

 

 Retirement Blogs

As I began planning my retirement I started with Google – that mine of information and distractions! Initially I was searching for basic, but relevant, information in relation to financial planning, pensions etc. although often distracted by sites offering insights into retirement itself.

Some were basic and had not been updated for some time, others contained practical and helpful direction for a new way of living.

I have a list below of links to those I found interesting and thought I would share. Some were of practical use, others offered advice relating to activities and many were just interesting to read.  https://www.blog.feedspot.com/retirement_blogs/ This is a general website listing many retirement sites – it is updated weekly and is USA focused. That said the Blog Sites it lists are useful to read as they offer advice that can work this side of the Atlantic.

https://www.blog.feedspot.com/uk_retirement_blogs/ is the UK version and lists the top 20 retirement sites. Many are in relation to financing your retirement (and we do need to retire fully informed so don’t ignore these) although there are others that offer inspiration through sharing their ‘bucket lists’ or maintaining a Blog in the style of a diary. These remind me of the 19th Century authors submitting their novels on a weekly basis to The Times or Punch (think Dickens or Brontes) The following link is an example of a site offering tips on retirement alongside diarised events of ‘life as a retiree’.  http://www.aretirementblog.blogspot.com/

https://www.crackingretirement.com/ is another example of a diary style site that demonstrates the possibilities offered by retirement, alongside insights into finance.

 

 

A day could easily be lost searching for and reading through such sites, although this is not a negative activity. As well as practical information many of the sites offer encouragement and insights to inspire you in the next phase of your life.

 

Simply writing ‘UK Retirement Blogs’ into your preferred search engine delivers a host of sites for you to trawl through if looking for information – or just to sit in the sunshine and read as if they were a journal.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Cartoon Professor – Dreamstime.com

Couch 2 5Km Update 4:

Every day ‘something fast’ was the plan and, so far I am on target. The heat has made it difficult – even in the gym it is stifling. Aware of the rarity of the hot conditions so trying not to moan. Yesterday I covered 4.8Km (3 Miles) in 43 minutes. Due to heat I had intended to just walk briskly – the surprise was – I kept breaking into a run!

Wimbledon and sunny weather are both distractions but still on track to do week 9 run 3 shortly.

Reflecting on how I have tackled this challenge so far, I identified that my lack of enthusiasm for running must have contributed to the slowness in achieving the goal. Despite being a regular attender at a gym and a keen walker I never ran anywhere so in reality I was starting from a baseline of Zero.

Although I can now run 2Km in under 15 minutes and regularly walk 3 miles in 42 minutes I do not feel any further progress. I decided to review how I was trying to achieve the goal. Perhaps it was more about keeping the legs moving, improving speed and distance, raising pulse rates and increasing stamina rather than focusing on running 5Km in 30 minutes.

I went to the gym and looked at the machines. Now, I can walk easily so thought the treadmill would be good to use for the ‘warm up walk’, the Cross-trainer would exercise arms and legs and as I enjoy cycling the Static Bike would introduce some pleasure. All these machines have screens displaying scenic routes and I would have earphones for music.

 

I decided to use all 3 and in 40 minutes I travelled 7.5Km – which included both the warm up and cool down walks.

 

 

I, at last, felt a real sense that I can achieve the goal.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by morgan sarkissian on Unsplash – Featured Image

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash – Gym sign

Photo by Martin Barák on Unsplash – Bikes

Photo by ivan Torres on Unsplash – End photo

Leftovers Week

Not all recipes can be adapted for 2 people, most are aimed for 4 people at the table. Whilst I do try to reduce the amounts by 50% it is not always possible – and so the freezer fills up.

The temperature last week was soaring high – and we were spending a lot of time in the garden weeding and generally tidying up. So, rather than cook late in the evening I decided to have a ‘Clear Up’ week.

We started with ‘Lamb, Saffron, Dried Lime and Cumin Spiced Rice’ from S. Ghayour’s ‘Sirocco’ recipe book. Not quite ‘leftovers’ I know but needed to use the ingredients I had bought prior to deciding to eat out on Friday. I had no dried lime so used Kaffir Leaves which worked fine. I would describe the dish as a Persian Paella and it was really yummy.

Next day I thawed the Rick Stein ‘Bolognaise Sausage Ragu’ (I had seen him do this dish on a TV programme and found the recipe on Google). Now I know it is not the most pretty of dishes, but it is my favourite pasta dish of all. I always make the full dish as it does freeze well. I did make the pasta though.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday was Bean Stew – the label was not clear but I think it was a ‘Hairy Dieters’ recipe. My thinking was supported when I discovered the stew was sitting on a bed of roasted cauliflower rice. Added a salad and dinner was on the table.

Whilst looking through the freezer to plan the week’s dining I had discovered a Venison Chorizo. Not sure how long it had been there but could show you which stall at the ‘Pop Up’ market at Kings Cross that I bought it from. The market is there from midweek to Saturday and is a great place for picking up Breads, Cheeses, pies, cakes and Chorizos as you pass through on your way to the trains – a mini Borough market. I also had some pasta leftover from earlier in the week (apparently cooked then reheated pasta is healthy) so Thursday was pasta night. I chopped up celery, onion, garlic, green pepper and garlic – throw it into a pan with the chorizo which I had sliced thinly and let it cook away gently for 5 minutes. Added a tin of chopped tomatoes and a carton of Passata, brought it to the boil and left it all to simmer for 30 minutes. By this time is was hot and tasty. Boiled a pan of water, added the pasta for 5 minutes to heat through and – dinner was ready.

We ended the week with Short Ribs – although they had been in the freezer for 6 months the sauce was as rich and tasty as I recall and the ribs very tender. I think it was a recipe from Ree Drummond’s website (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/ ) that I adapted for the Slow Cooker.

 

And now, with summer holidays fast approaching, we will have a few weeks of healthy eating – would much rather go on holiday a few pounds lighter than come home and find nothing fits.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Featured Image  – Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Market Stall – Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

End Photo – Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

 

Never Too Old to Rock’n’Roll

We enjoy attending concerts, from the Battle Proms at Blenheim Palace to the Rolling Stones at Murrayfield.

A few years ago we were sitting in the Barbican at York waiting for John Mayer to start (Husband is a fan) when I noticed a text from the youngest daughter ‘Are you watching the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network? She is doing some good stuff’ ‘No’ I replied ‘I am at a rock concert’ ‘Oh, haha’ she retorted. Why do your children think they invented youth?

Don McLean is still going strong. Although in 2015 when at the Sage, Gateshead, the supporting act was the one I remember most. A young Irish girl called Chelsey Chambers – listen on YouTube or Spotify if you have the chance. She appeared later that year at Glastonbury.

Amongst others such as Cliff Richard, Rod Stewart, Kylie, Seasick Steve, J-Lo, Queen and Adam Lambert, there have been a few stand out acts.

For me these have been Robbie Williams, Claire Teal and Mick Hucknall.

Robbie Williams came on stage in Singapore as the closing act following the F1 qualifying rounds in 2014. A monsoon suddenly started and he was soaked in seconds. Not missing a beat he removed his jacket and put on a show – even though his audience were mostly hiding from the storm in doorways, roof overhangs and in nearby staircases.

Clare Teal, with her Jazz and Big Band sound, has long been a favourite of mine. In 2017 I was fortunate to see her live at the Sage and it was a very entertaining evening – I even bought the CD as we left. Called ‘Twelve O’Clock Tales’ she is accompanied by the Halle Orchestra. Listen to her Radio 2 Sunday evening show if it’s your type of music – also on iPlayer (must admit that is usually how I catch up – same time as Poldark, what can you do?)

Mick Hucknall has still got a great voice – which, in all honesty cannot be said of many ‘old rockers’. He also speaks very entertainingly  between songs. Beside being good at his art he is also surrounded by great musicians. This he acknowledges during the concert – when each had a solo piece he would quietly leave the stage and the focus was on the musician. I have been at concerts where ‘the star’ would stay and dance about, distracting the audience from the soloist – no such bad manners from Mr Hucknall. A great evening back in 2016.

Yes, mostly these are older bands from ‘Back in the Day’ – it’s good to know the words but having taken children along to see bands of their generation, all glitz and dancers, very little content and often late on stage I recall the many changes of outfits rather than the entertainment.

Which brings me to our latest concert – The Rolling Stones at Murrayfield.

Well, the arena was packed, they can still draw a crowd (approx. 50,000). I stood in a queue for 1.5 hours, so my daughter could buy a T-Shirt, not that service was slow – just so many people, so many queues. We had seats at the front on the first tier so had a great view of the crowds on the ‘pitch’ dancingand singing along.

 

A message was illuminated before the show started it read:

THERE WILL BE 

PYROTECHNICS USED IN THIS

EVENINGS PERFORMANCE

DO NOT BE ALARMED

‘Oh, that’s a message for the band’ was the humorous comment from one in our party.

Mick Jagger left the stage after singing a few numbers ‘Has he gone for a lie down?’ I was asked. All joking aside the energy of the band transmitted to the audience and before long it was just a big party.

There is very little difference in appearance between 2018 and 1968, and the voice is little changed. Wasn’t a fan in my youth but now I can see the appeal.

Not great photos, too far away.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Featured Image – Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash

Making Croutons – Quick Tip

Making croutons in summer can be a nuisance – oven heated up to high temperature when only needed for 10 minutes, then it takes ages to cool down and everyone frazzles in the hot kitchen.

I needed some for Sunday Lunch Caesar Salad and thought – wonder if the Microwave ‘Crisping Plate’ would be of use? So experimented. 10 minutes later – perfect croutons.

Had mixed the bread with Olive Oil and grated Parmesan then spread them out on the plate, I did shake them up every 3 minutes to ensure that they browned evenly. Had the bonus of a moment’s relaxation – as I had not done this before I stayed near the machine and focused. Was in the moment, you could say.