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... I had a proper lie-in
... household chores were done without someone having to be reminded or asked
... someone gave me a hug, just because
... I hit my sales target at work
... I wore high heels
... I organised myself to get everything done
... we had spare cash so we didn't have to think about what we were spending
... I had someone to call a 'best friend'
... drank a whole brew whilst it was still hot
... I felt good about myself
... I did something where I felt proud of me
... something exciting happened at the weekend
... I didn't crave for a cigarette
... I ran for any length of time and it didn't hurt before/during/after
... I thought about myself before anyone else
... I read blogs or online articles properly
... the weather was nice
... I had a doze on the settee without someone shouting my name and 'needing' me
... I ate healthily for a full week
... someone paid me a compliment about the way I look
... I read a book
... I didn't lust over wine
... I did something without thinking of the consequenses
... I went to bed early
... I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw
... I formulated a plan and stuck to it
... I left the house without being all 'OCD' about everything
... my finger wasn't sore
... I had a great idea that I could devote time to properly
... something made me cry
... I stayed away from social media for 24 hours
... I didn't feel judged
... I got everything off my chest
... I clicked 'Publish' on a blog post without giving a shit << I did this today
Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where people share five music tracks that transport them back to a memorable time in their life.



Today's Soundtrack To My Life comes from Annwen.  Her blog is one that I have followed for a while and whilst she enjoys writing about style and travel she also incorporates family, fun, style, health, travel and life in general. In this choice of tracks, she's introduced me to a couple I haven't heard of before and a couple that I haven't heard for a while.  A great mix.  For now, over to Annwen...


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Suzanne Vega - Luka


The first song I remember really liking as a kid, as a child of the 80's I was brought up on really good music from Suzanne Vega, Belina Carlisle, Mel and Kim etc. I remember road trips in the car with a mix tape of all of the above!



The Tony Rich Project - Nobody Knows


The soundtrack of my first breakup, I was 15 and madly in love, he was going away to uni and didn't want a long distance relationship. I remember crying into my pillow for hours and this song will always remind me of how much it hurt at the time. Now when I hear it I remind myself of how strong that breakup made me and what it taught me about love and self respect!



Phil Collins - You'll Be In My Heart


I love the Tarzan sound track but this song in particular has always been my favourite. When my son was born this song just seemed to sum up how incredibly protective I was of this little person in my life. I was quite overcome by how much it meant to me in his first weeks. It will always be an important part of our bond.



Lady Gaga - Bad Romance


I'm not a huge Lady Gaga fan, in fact prior to the moment that this became part of the soundtrack of my life I can't say I'd really paid it any attention. When I had a planned csection with my daughter I hadn't taken a CD for them to play so we settled on the hospital radio station and this song was playing as my daughter was born. I still don't like the song but it will forever remind me that it was the moment my little girl was delivered safely and for that reason I will always smile when I hear it and listen to the whole song.



Carrie Underwood - Jesus Take The Wheel


I love country music, probably now more than I ever have. This song in particular is a favourite for me, partly because the lyrics mean something to me personally but more because even at age 5 my song still likes a lullaby and this is always the first song he asks for, I think he's a country boy at heart!



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Soundtrack To My Life - Annwen
You can find Annwen on her blog - Ramblings Of A Surburban Mummy - or on Twitter and Facebook

Find out more about Soundtrack To My Life here the read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries or follow the Pinterest board. If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.
How To Make Vegetable Soup

I'm very much a ''throw it all in and hope for the best" type of cook. I sort of follow recipes but always experiment and attempt to try out adaptations.  I recently had a whole load of vegetables that were about to become past their best and needed to use them up so I had a glance at a recipe online, took note of what I had, threw it all in a pot and kept my fingers crossed.  It was one of the best things I've ever made and has become much-requested in this house.

If you have ever followed any of my other recipes, you'll know that I don't do much measuring so everything is adaptable.  This recipe makes six to eight large portions and is ideal for lunch with a crusty loaf or as a starter for a main meal. 




Ingredients


  • 4-6 carrots
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 peppers (any colour)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 large leek
  • 6 smallish potatoes
  • 2 small onions (I used red onion)
  • ¼ celeriac
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • turmeric
  • thyme
  • a big squirt of tomato puree
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes


Method


  1. Peel and chop the carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes and celeriac into small cubes
  2. Cut the (de-seeded) peppers, celery, leek and onions into small pieces
  3. Add to a large pan with the vegetable stock, turmeric, thyme, tomato puree and can of chopped tomatoes
  4. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour or until all the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally
  5. Pour into a blender and blend until smooth
  6. Serve and enjoy!


This recipe is Slimming World friendly and stores in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for three months. Do let me know how you get on and if you have any top tips for making soup.



Keeping up a monthly series is Hard Work.  With all the good intentions of doing this monthly round-up (which I love pulling together) I didn't bother in November or December so you didn't get the promised learning experiences including:
  • My disappointment when my doppleganger didn't contact me (see October's 'Things I Learnt In...') but she was probably too freaked out at the message she received via Facebook.
  • The full rundown (no pun intended) of the two 10k races and a 5k Santa Dash I participated in.
  • A mention for 'Girls Against' - a group of young women who are campaigning against groping at gigs.
  • The time I learnt that your quiz book won't fend for itself on Amazon.
  • That you can make a London Undergroup map from Quality Street chocolates.
  • Grandchildren will say the best part of Christmas dinner is sitting at the big table and not a separate 'children's table'
  • Getting Danny Boyle and Quentin Tarintino in an interview together is genius.
  • Injury sucks (more of that in a minute).
  • Peter Kay's Car Share is returning and a whole nation cheered in unison.

Anyway... new year, new intentions, new "What I Learnt In..." series enthusiasm so here is January.


Telling Casey Neistat about the Boyle/Tarintino interview gains you a "heart" on Twitter and a total #fangirl moment. This one should really have been in December but it warrants more than a quick mention. Point of note: if you are looking for an inspirational role model / engaging vlogger / beautiful time lapse shots of gorgeous scenery / enthusiasm about life in general then you should be following Casey Neistat. I spent most of 2015 tuned into his daily vlogs and watched his subscriber count grow rapidly - and it's so easy to see why once you start watching.  He is a film maker by trade and has been commissioned to create online campaigns for big brand names but he has an inquisitive mind by nature so everything is an adventure. So, I don't normally tweet links to 'famous people' but thought that he'd enjoy the aforementioned Boyle/Tarintino interview. And this happened.

Things I Learnt In January, Casey Neistat, Twitter


Netflix is addictive. Yes, I know I'm a late adopter but there's always something else going on in my life and I rarely watch television unless it's something I can interact with, i.e. a reality TV programme that people are tweeting along with. My husband signed up for the free month and I now have my own section on his log-in with more shows queued up that I can watch in six month. Bye bye normal television. Here Netflix, just take my £6 per month and let me get on with it.


Oh yes, it's time for the running section again... 

Living with a running injury is Very Frustrating. I started getting twinges in my knee last November and I probably shouldn't have participated in a couple of events (namely our 'end of plan' 10k Celebration Run and the Liverpool Santa Dash) but I'd been waiting for these runs for ages and couldn't resist.  As a result, I was in too much pain to run and had to rest.  Two months later and I'm still not running properly and I'm awaiting the results of a knee scan. One thing I have learnt from all this is that running is now a positive make up of my emotional and physical well-being and I crave that euphoria.

Things I Learnt In January, Run Like A Girl, medal rack,

If you want a 'Run Like A Girl' medal rack, just buy it yourself. I hinted hard for this medal rack for Christmas but it never arrived (to be fair, they were out of stock) so I ordered it myself on Boxing Day and it arrived a few days later. It now has pride of place in my home office

This whole video just makes me want to go for [another] run. And when the girl says "I'm knackered" - that's soooooooo the best feeling in the world!



Finally a motivation video without fitness models, but with ordinary girls!
Posted by Gym Bitch on Wednesday, 11 February 2015


If you weren't here for the running stuff, you can stop scrolling now!

You can give a neglected project a much needed boost. I have a collaborative stationery blog with Sian that started out with good intentions but busy lives get in the way so easily. Stationery Lovers is now reborn with additional contributors in the form of Kirsty (Blog | Twitter | YouTube) and Kara (Blog | Twitter | YouTube) so watch out for videos and blog posts from us all with additional input on the Stationery Lovers outlets (Twitter | Facebook) starting in February. You can see a sneak peek Periscope on my Facebook page. EXCITING TIMES!

I can make soup! I've always been a bit of a chuck-it-all-in type of cook but I've never attempted soup. We had a load of vegetables to use up and I've been cooking more from scratch recently so I had a glance at a couple of recipes online, cobbled something together, blended it, crossed my fingers and gave it to my husband to test. It was declared a great success and I'll be writing the whole recipe up at some point in the near future.  [edited to add... the recipe and video is here]

Things I Learnt In January, raw vegetables, vegetable soupThings I Learnt In January, raw vegetables, vegetable soup,


Luke Marsden from Big Brother 9 is a bloody nice bloke! I met him whilst marshalling a race one weekend (a company he works with sponsored the race t-shirts) and he had a right long chat with myself and a friend about what he's doing now. I might have also done a bit of schmoozing which will hopefully lead to some sponsorship for our running group.

Not enough people are raving about Walk Off The Earth. You may not think you know who I'm on about but you've probably seen their version of Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' with five people playing one guitar and, if you like that, you'll love loads of their other covers including this version of Adele's 'Hello' which I've nominated as my video of the month. It's so clever - I'm in awe!!




Recommendations Of The Month  

I wrote a HUGE post which is full of top tips for new runners when they are buying clothes, trainers or accessories. It's proving to be a really popular article so if you know someone who has stuck to their New Year's resolution and is out pounding the streets then show them this.

I have been reviewing aromatherapy oils and a diffuser from Essence of Arcadia. There are some gorgeous smells wafting around my lounge now and I alternate the diffuser with wax melts or scented candles.  Read the full review here.

I love a good geek review and one of my favourite brands, Omaker, sent me a couple of their premium USB cables to try out. They are perfect for data transfer or charging mobile devices and their nylon braided cable is so much more durable than your usual rubber coated cables. Definitely handy to keep around and I've now got one in my bag attached to my portable charger. Buy direct from Amazon here

We were trying to work out how long we'd had our mattress, especially after the recent 'change your mattress every eight years' campaign and it's definitely time for a new one (we've had our feather mattress topper on for a couple of years now and I wouldn't be without it). We've decided to check out the January sale at Mattresses Online and sort ourselves out. 

Soundtrack To My Life is enjoying a bit of a reboot so if you fancy sharing the five tracks that always transport you back to a specific time and place then come and share that music. Read all about it and fill in the form.

Now it's your turn. Tell me what you have learnt this month.



As I sit and type this, I can hear the rain battering the lounge window. All day at work I have been facing the window, watching the heavens open and deliver yet more water onto an already sodden ground. I don't remember a winter like this in recent years; it's just so... wet!

The UK Floods : What Next?
In some respects we are very lucky where we live - at the top of a road that leads downhill. We aren't really at risk of flooding however, two streets in each direction were on red warnings over the Christmas period for flooding because of the way the rivers flow through the town. I'm so used to watching news reports of flood victims further down the country that to have severe warnings so close to home made us rethink a number of things such as our contingency plan for living arrangements, what we would have to move upstairs in order to save precious items and what our insurance would cover!

It's not just us that have been thinking about the long-term effects though. Simpson Millar Solicitors looked into the effect of each recent storm and then surveyed 500 people to see the effects as a whole. The results make for very interesting reading but there's an awful lot of people who believe that it wasn't possible to avoid the flooding this year (with or without local council or Government intervention) simply because of climate change. And that's something that is considered in this Huffington Post article.

I'm not sure what the answer is. There has always been talk about protecting this planet that we borrow to survive on for a short space of time; protect it and nurture it - but are our actions making things worse or does the only habitable planet in the solar system have a 'use by date' that we are hurtling towards?


This is a collaborative post
For more details please see my disclosure policy
What Do I Wear When I Go Running - Run Like A Girl medal rack


When you start any new hobby it's important to have the right tools for the job. Last year I filmed a little video which showed you what I wear when I go running (you can watch it at the end of this blog post) and whilst the basic tools and rules are the same, I'm a little bit more serious about the whole running thing now, having upped my distance and having set a few long term goals.

I have winter and summer variations but the basics are the same, so here are my top tips for clothing and accessories for when you are running or jogging.


1.  High Visibility Outerwear

running outfit, high visibility jacket, neon running top, sports/running leggings, Asics trainers,
There is a reason that a lot of running clothes are available in garish neon colours - it's so you can be easily seen day and night by other road and footpath users. I really recommend wearing something with reflective strips too if running in the dark (or early morning/late night). My jacket is bright yellow and is from Ron Hill (via SportsShoes.com).

2.  A Hat

I favour a lightweight peaked baseball cap because the visor keeps the rain off my face in the winter and the sun out of my eyes in the summer. My favourite is one I bought in Tunisia a few years back but I also have one adorned with lights (making myself more visible again) which was available from Aldi in the Autumn of 2015.

3.  Sports Tops

Depending on the changeable British weather, the amount of layers I wear will vary but I generally wear a thin, long sleeved breathable running top with a polyester t-shirt over the top (I love my #runlikeyoustolesomething GroupRun Blackburn t-shirt).  In the warmer months I will scale this down to a short sleeved running top or sleeveless vest. I have bought mine from a variety of places but I always return to the Primark sports section or Ron Hill. I love my long sleeved tops that have thumb holes in the sleeves too - I got these from Up and Running in Clitheroe.

4.  Sports Bottoms

I favour running trousers that are form-fitting. I find the ones that have lycra in them are best and prefer cuffed bottoms or zipped at the ankle. Again, my favourite purchases have been from Primark, Aldi and SportsShoes.com but I've recently discovered Wild Bangarang who sell the most amazing running tights which take me right back to my roller disco days.  My recommendation is to find a pair that fit snugly and that stay up when running. You may snigger at this but the waist elastic in some leggings or joggers doesn't do the job it was intended for and can make for an uncomfortable and embarrassing run.

5.  Socks

There are two types of socks: proper running/trainer socks and compression socks and I alternate between the two. Running socks are double layered which means that the layers rub against each other rather than the material rubbing against your skin inside your trainers which almost eliminates the risk of blisters (as long as you have correctly fitted trainers - more on that in a minute). Compression socks fit tightly up the lower half of the leg and 'massage' the calf muscle which help prevent cramp.  Some friends of mine recommend wearing compression socks when you return from your run, i.e. when the muscles are starting to relax.

6.  Trainers

The most important part of your kit so get professionally fitted for your running footwear. Find out where you can have gait analysed and go and have it done. Gait analysis is usually free (locally, we have three places that offer it); you need to wear comfy clothing and take your normal running shoes with you. You will be filmed jogging for a short distance on a treadmill and you will be shown the video which displays how your place your feet when running. Advice will then be given about the type of trainers you need to wear to make your run comfortable and injury-free. What you do with the advice is up to you and please don't feel pressured into purchasing an expensive pair of trainers. I had my gait analysis done, listened to the advice, came home, researched trainers online and went back to the shop with a clear head.

The first time I joined the local community Couch To 5K programme I threw on my old Reeboks and thought that would be OK.  It didn't work out quite like that.  My comfy old trainers didn't support my feet properly and weren't built for pounding round the local Country Park so I invested in my first pair of proper trainers in almost thirty years and these Nikes carried me for around nine months.  My next pair were Asics (with gel cushioning) and they have since become my favourite brand.

7. Extras

Underwear is important (especially for 'the girls' *wink*) and there are two items that I'd hugely recommend. First, get fitted for a good sports bra which supports and comfortably straps you in. There's no room in the running world for unnecessary jiggling. I'd recommend M&S or (again) Primark for sports bras. Secondly, comfy knickers are a godsend. I was wearing huge cotton ones until I found Chaffree - I use the knickerbocker style (aside: these also great under dresses for getting rid of VPL) which feel great under running leggings and they don't ride up.

A fleece and a waterproof jacket is a good addition to your wardrobe for specific weather conditions. I have purchased a fleece direct from my running group and wear this to all events as it acts as part of the 'uniform' but it's great to have available during a cold winter run or to wear after a race when you're cooling down.  Also, most hi-viz jackets (mentioned earlier) are less than waterproof so this may affect your choice when looking at jackets because we all know how heavy the good old British rain can be! It's also worth considering thin gloves for winter day runs.

Think about how you are going to carry your house/car keys, your mobile phone and even water for longer runs. Karrimor at Sports Direct produce some very inexpensive and lightweight bags that you can wear round your waist or as a rucksack. I actually prefer using The Fit Belt (available from Amazon) which perfectly holds my mobile phone, my keys and has loops for gels (for distance running).

If you want to monitor your progress then you might want to invest in a runner's watch. There are many out there on the market (take a look at the Garmin or TomTom range) but my preference is the Fitbit Surge. I've worked my way up through the ranks of Fitbit activity trackers and the Surge does everything I need it to including monitoring my steps and activity throughout the day, it tracks my sleep patterns and includes silent alarms (totally the way forward - it's like a little electric shock on your wrist each morning), multi-sports tracking with mapping for runs and call/text notifications. I'm a bit obsessed with it.

And to finish, a return to being visible at all times. When I'm out with my running group, I wear my GroupRun 'TEAM' hi-viz bib over however many layers I am wearing. I have also invested in flashing wrist/ankle bracelets and a head torch for occasional runs through unlit areas (although these are always pre-planned and well organised in a 'social run' situation).

I would love for you to share your top tips and best buys for run-wear.   What advice do you have for new runners?


Running outfit, GroupRun Blackburn, Wild Bangarang, Fitbit Surge, Fit Belt,


* PLEASE NOTE*
 I am not an expert and this is not professional advice. 
This is just my take-away from what I have tried 
and tested over the past couple of years.
Please stay safe, stay visible and have fun!