A gleam of light

Daylight (kind of) at 5.10pm today – we’re getting there 🙂

I don’t know where the last fortnight’s gone, or how I managed to post just about every day this time two years ago! I’m working longer hours now and riding more – but I swear days are actually getting shorter… that must be it.

Luckily our snow was a one-day wonder, although it hung around for a week like the last diners in a restaurant while the waiters are clearing up around them, and although the gale-force winds that have replaced it are overrated in terms of comfort, anything’s better than that… less than four weeks till March 🙂

Highlights since my last post include a fancy dress karaoke party last week – the theme was old people and if you haven’t seen a group of “old ladies”, complete with rollers, twinsets, popsocks and grey wigs, boogieing on down to some serious choons, you’re missing out. It may not have been such a good idea for me to attempt to sing Just Like Jesse James with the back end of a cold but what can I say? I blame the vodka jellies…

Food highlights have included such deliciousness as a cheesy vegetable bake:

And the milder weather has meant I’ve been able to ride again and cycle, which makes me feel so much better, I hate not being able to exercise! I’ve been back to zumba the last two weeks too, which is brilliant.

And talking of exercise, as I didn’t manage to post at all last week, MoneySupermarket has allowed me to extend the deadline of my Get Fit Feel Epic competition for a week, ie until this Friday, February 8.

To be in with a chance of winning a  Fitbit activity tracker and a set of “smart scales, just write a blog post about how you have – or how you plan to – get fit and feel epic; how being active makes you feel and how you benefit from it. Link to the challenge and to my original competition post in your entry – which doesn’t have to be long, just your thoughts – and email me at ellejones338@hotmail.com with “Get fit Feel Epic” in the subject line. The best post will win the prize – good luck!

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The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow

And what will the robin do then, poor thing?

Well he wasn’t sitting in a barn “hiding his head under his wing”…

He was taking his life in his hands, pecking round under THWWN’s feet. And I think it’s fair to say he’s been keeping well fed, fat little bugger 🙂

But it’s true that whichever wind it was; north, east, southbysouthwestrecurring – it hath indeed blown and it hath snowed big time. My phone’s messing about so no pictures from today but it was along these lines:

We’d actually been very lucky compared to the rest of the country not to get more than a dusting before Friday (much more today) but it’s been freezing, -7C in the mornings is not fun:

I was at home most of today, as there was no riding or driving anywhere to be done – so my house is cleaner than it ever has been and even my fridge is clean. Be impressed.

It’s just so cold though, which is where this sort of thing comes in:

I was lucky enough to be sent some of Yorkshire Provender‘s gluten-free soup to try and I gave it my full attention.

Apart from anything else, the pots look so tempting – and the soup itself doesn’t look too bad either:

That was the vegetable and ham, which I shared with my mum, and it went down a treat. It tasted lovely but my personal preference is for thick, creamy soup, which is where the pea and spinach was a real winner.

I have to say the beetroot wasn’t my favourite thing ever, but then I’ve mentioned the love-hate (mainly hate) relationship beetroot and I have and actually, considering that, it wasn’t too bad! And as for the tomato and red pepper with Wensleydale, I think an mmmmmm sums it up… On that note, can anyone else not say Wensleydale without using a Wallace and Gromit voice? Or is that just me…?

Soup’s always good in weather like this and I think I’m going to have to buy some more as this looks like it’s staying around for a while! Have you got much snow? And have you tried the Yorkshire Provender soups?

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That Which Shall Not Be Named

I’m not going to mention the forecast… or the fact a few sneaky, nasty little flakes of snow were falling today… Snow Denial is the way forward 🙂

It’s been a bit of a flat-out weekend – and week, to be honest. The new job means late Mondays and Tuesdays, then I rode THWNN Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after work so it was all getting home late, which in turn meant quick dinners like this again:

Goats’ cheese – always a winner.

Yesterday, I went to a dressage show (and came fourth 🙂 ) then went to the pantomime in the afternoon, with my best friend and her daughter. It was Snow White, complete with as many Oh Yes He Is – Oh No He Isn’ts as you could hope for, which was brilliant.

Then today, I went to a jumping show. No rosette this time but THWWN was a real star. He’s definitely earned a day off which is lucky, considering the forecast of That Which Will Not Be Mentioned!

As my last post was all about fitness, this one’s all about sugar and indulgent treats. They do say the key to health is balance, after all 🙂

I’ve been whipping up  a few of said indulgences recently, including more of this:

The honeycomb ice cream went down a treat on Christmas Day, so much so, I made it for another roast my mum did afterwards, mainly for my aunt and uncle who couldn’t come on Christmas Day – and that didn’t hang around long either.

I’ve made more ultimate flapjackery – my goddaughter asked so nicely for some more – and some of these:

My boss doesn’t like a fuss being made of his birthday and some strange logic made me think brownies were less of a fuss than a cake. I used a Delia recipe for four nut ones, using cashews and almonds in place of the macadamias and it turned out really well. My only slight criticism might be that they were on the sweet side, even for me. But I had run out of caster sugar so used mainly brown, which might have made a difference… having said that, they didn’t last long so they can’t have been that bad 🙂

But on that note, although I can’t have been the only one eating too much sugar over Christmas, I’ve definitely got into a bad habit of eating too much of it, too often. I’m making a conscious effort to eat less at the moment, because it really ain’t good.

And that (shoehorned neatly in) fits neatly with a reminder of my Get Fit Feel Epic competition – you could win a Fitbit activity tracker and a set of smart scales! Check my last post…

Have you had any snow – and how sweet is your sweet tooth?!

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Fit for purpose

Phew, another busy weekend, mainly playing ponies which is always good 🙂

It was grey, miserable and almost-drizzling all weekend, which isn’t ideal weather for spending time outside but one of the great things about having horses is, they always have to be looked after. There have been a lot of times in the past when I’ve felt knackered, hungover or just generally not very up for going outside on a miserable day – but once I get outside, riding, mucking out and generally being active, I almost always feel better for it.

Similarly, it takes a lot of motivation to get on my bike to cycle to the yard on these pitch black mornings (and if it’s freezing, I don’t!) but when I do, I feel great; it sets me up perfectly for a day at work.

And it’s on that note that I want to introduce the competition I mentioned in my last post – to win a Fitbit activity tracker and a set of “smart scales“!

I was contacted on behalf of MoneySupermarket, which is running a “Get Fit Feel Epic” campaign throughout this month. It’s about “inspiring people to discuss how leading an active lifestyle makes them feel”.

All you have to do is write a blog post about how you have – or how you plan to – get fit and feel epic. Whether it’s climbing Kilimanjaro before breakfast and swimming the Channel and back as an encore or, like me, getting out the trusty bike and enjoying a zumba class, it all counts. As, of course, does running with red paint on your nose and a set of reindeer antlers.

Sooooooooooo….! To enter, just write a post, which can include photos, audio, text and video, mentioning and linking to the Get Fit Feel Epic Campaign, Money Supermarket and this blog. Then, email me, at ellejones338@hotmail.com,  with “Get Fit Feel Epic” in the subject line, and include a link to the post, and your name and phone number in it by the end of January 31 – and if you haven’t got a blog, you can always start one for the purpose!

The best post will win the tracker, which help you keep feeling epic 🙂 , and the scales, which measure BMI and body fat percentage – so what are you waiting for?!

Only open to UK residents, sorry!

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Happy new year!

I don’t know about you but Christmas seems ages ago now!

I’ve been back at work since the 27th and it’s all been busy, with early deadlines, and I started my new job as news editor this week too… it’s a bit different, as three new reporters started at the same time so I’ve got a real team to manage now; which I suppose makes me their boss. Now there’s a thought 🙂

Christmas was lovely though; at my mum and dad’s as usual, for my Mum’s world-beating dinner and a really nice day all round.

Cue my traditional horses-on-Christmas-Day picture:

THWNN and his mate George are a right pair; when they’re not play-fighting or galloping round in the mud, they’re eating the old muckheap… clearly straw that’s been weed on and left to rot for a few years is a delicacy 🙂

I got some lovely presents, including horsey stuff, a gluten-free baking book, some amazingly cosy sheepskin-lined slippers and things like this:

Anything with the word “thermal” in the title is a winner in my book, although it’s been so mild – and it was confirmed last week that 2012 was the wettest year on record.

It finished in suitable style, with lashing rain and howling gales, and I spent New Year’s Eve at a party in the village hall, which was lovely.

So another year gone, in what seems like no time. Highlights included the day at the Olympics, getting THWNN (and getting shot of baggage Inka!), my new job and the Kent Media Award last Janaury.

As far as 2013 goes… who knows! I’m looking forward to it. And one of the first things I’ll be doing on here is an exciting competition – details up at the weekend hopefully!

What were your highlights of 2012/what are your plans for 2013?

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Happy Christmas

Have a brilliant day 🙂

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Feeling Christmassy – and lurgified

Feeling Christmassy yet?!

I’ve only just got this up… and if it looks familiar, it’s the same wonky tree I had last year; it was in a pot so I put it outside in January – and brought it back in tonight. It’s grown too 🙂

I hadn’t had a chance to put it up earlier as it’s been the flattest-out flat-out week ever. My mum and dad had to be out of their house yesterday so I spent Saturday and Sunday at theirs, clearing out bags upon bags and boxes upon boxes… what didn’t help is, my friend and I had arranged to go out for Christmas drinks on Saturday night – so you can imagine I was absolutely knackered by Sunday night!

Then I was editing at work this week, with people off on holiday, and thanks to two council meetings after work, I had a 13.5-hour day on Monday, followed entertainingly by a 12-hour day on Tuesday. I told the council press officer today that it’s the council’s fault I’ve got the lurgy now, for making me too tired by holding too many meetings 🙂

Yesterday was a long day too, but for a much nicer reason…I went to Olympia and it was as good as ever.

The show jumping’s always brilliant but as well as that, there’s always great displays:

I’ve seen this man, all of whose horses are just loose but do exactly what he asks, before but I hadn’t seen the Spanish police display team and they were outstanding. There’s also the Shetland Pony Grand National (as good as it sounds) and dog agility… it’s the sort of show you enjoy even if you’ve got no interest in horses. and when you see the finale:

It’s always Father Christmas, and everyone sings The First Noel, that’s when it feels Christmas has really come.

And this year everyone in the finale – the clowns, the cabaret-style dancers, the English vaulting team, the arena party – was doing Gangnam Style dancing to finish off… genius 🙂

Are you in the spirit yet?

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Biscuits and broccoli

Eek, only a week and a half until Christmas – how did that happen?!

On that note, today was our work Christmas lunch – but I didn’t get to go (violins please)

It’s because I’d been booked to join a conference call with people from other offices. The date had been booked while I was away and it was for 2pm. So while everyone else went to eat and drink on the company, I was in the office on my own 😦

We’d decided to do our work Secret Santa at the meal so I was told to leave the room while mine was put on my desk. And when I opened it, I laughed so much, it kind of made up for missing the do.

To explain it, I have to tell you that I go over to Asda every lunchtime to get bits and pieces of shopping. The boys used to laugh at how often I bought broccoli and they were all fascinated when I said I eat it every day. It’s become a standing joke now, but when I saw a big box full of wrapped presents with a note saying “sense of humour needed”, I wasn’t sure what to expect – and this was it:

About nine individually wrapped heads of broccoli. It was hilarious, especially as my colleague Mike had bought each one from a different shop, with a note to say what sort it was. Bless him, it was such a funny present, made even better by these, also in the box:

He knows me too well, the only problem is, I don’t think I’m going to get all that broccoli in the fridge 🙂

Also on a festive theme is this:

The last 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats post of the year.

As all mine so far have been about caramel, pecans and other not traditionally Christmassy things, I thought I’d repeat a recipe that not only is, but that brings back memories of my childhood, when my mum would spend ages making them for special occasions.

Iced star gingerbread biscuits:

Preheat oven to 170C

60g butter

160g flour (I used Doves Farm plain white GF but am sure plain normal flour would be fine)

50g brown sugar

2tbsp golden syrup

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground mixed spice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Sieve the flour, bicarb and spices together into a bowl and set aside. Melt butter, sugar and syrup together over a low heat. When melted, pour into the bowl and mix until it comes together as a dough.

Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4″ thickness and get cutting out! Bake, in batches, on lined sheets in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, until browned. Sink cocktail sticks into the shapes, squashing the dough round the edges of the sticks a bit to hold them in.

When cooled, dip Smarties into icing made from icing sugar and enough water to make a paste and stick them on.

Stars and ginger biscuits – a perfect Christmas combination.

Check out the other 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats posts, hosted by Brenda… and if anyone’s running short of broccoli, let me know 🙂

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Brrrrrrrr, part 2

It’s been a bit of a flat-out week, even though I haven’t been at work…

I know I was only off a couple of weeks ago but as I did last year, I saved lots of holiday, thinking I’d need it, then had to use it or lose it by the end of the year. It makes sense anyway from a horsey point of view to have time off now; in summer, it’s always light enough to ride after work whereas had I not been off this week, I would hardly have ridden at all. Freezing and windy in daylight is one thing, freezing and windy and black as the Ace of Spades is completely another 🙂

As it was, I’ve done loads with THWNN (who I might call Sam, what do you think?); a lesson on Tuesday, another one yesterday, as my friend had to back out of a clinic spot she’d booked, and a show today. He went really well, and I feel I’ve made loads of progress with him, just this week.

Not so good was the view I woke up to on Wednesday morning:

I practised my well-versed art of Snow Denial, ie closing the curtains and pretending it’s not there, which worked a treat – it was gone by the afternoon 🙂

It’s been so cold since though, today at the show was absolutely Baltic, even with so many layers on, I could hardly move.

Hence my latest contribution to 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats:

Which is…..

Yep, ice cream. Of course.

As the flapjacks I’ve made a lot recently have only used 1/4 tin condensed milk per batch, I’ve been putting the rest of each tin in the freezer and although it keeps perfectly, it doesn’t actually freeze solid, it just gets a bit thicker. That made me think it could make a nice creamy ice cream. Then, I was talking to my mum about Christmas Day, when I’m going to make a sticky toffee pudding for those (me included) who aren’t too keen on Christmas pudding. I thought making some ice cream would be good to go with it and as the best I’ve ever had is the honeycomb Simply Ice Cream, I thought I’d have a go at my own.

I looked up honeycomb ice cream – and found all the recipes use condensed milk… don’t ya just love it when a plan comes together like that 😉

Honeycomb ice cream:

1/3 quantities of this honeycomb, from the Pink Whisk

2x (284ml) pots double cream

1 (397g) can condensed milk

1tbsp vodka (alcohol keeps ice cream creamy, but you can’t taste it)

Make the honeycomb according to the recipe linked above. Once it’s cooled, use a rolling pin to break it up into tiny chunks. There will be loads of golden dust but fear not, it’s all good.

Whisk the cream to soft peaks, then fold in the condensed milk and vodka and whisk to stiff peaks. Fold in the crushed honeycomb, pour into a plastic box and freeze for a couple of hours.

Most of the similar recipes for this don’t use an ice cream maker but because I’ve got one, I wanted to use it! I churned about 3/4 of the above recipe, as that was all that fitted, and froze the rest straight away. And I have to admit, the non-churned one was as good as the churned, if not better.

The honeycomb almost melts into the ice cream, giving swirls of caramel deliciousness, almost as if there’s sauce rippled through, and a great flavour and texture, with lovely crunchy bits too. The only problem is, I can’t see this batch lasting till Christmas…. 🙂

Check out the rest of the “>12 Weeks of Christmas Treats posts, hosted by Brenda and linked below… and have a great weekend.

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Where did this weekend’s weather come from?!

There I was last week, happily moaning about rain and wind – then it was fecking thermal-tights Baltic on Saturday and Sunday… how much longer have we got of this winter lark?

On the bright side though, literally, only just over a fortnight till the shortest day – and that’s got to mean summer’s on its way. Nearly.

On to happier things, thank you very much to the Healthy Epicurean, who nominated me for this:

I have to answer 11 questions, tell you 11 facts about me – and then nominate 11 people to do the same.

  • Spring or Fall? Spring (see above) 🙂
  • Sweet or savoury? Sweet – see all the posts I’ve ever written
  • Black coffee or white? Almost black
  • Snow or sun? Sun, x millions!
  • One word to describe yourself? Me!
  • Romantic or comedy film? Comedy
  • Meat or vegetarian? I’m not a vegetarian but don’t eat much meat…
  • Are you a morning or an evening person? Evening
  • How many languages do you speak? French and German to GSCE, ie probably only “hello” and “is this the right train?” these days…
  • Which fictional character would you like to be? Harry Potter – imagine the petrol I’d save if I could disapparate…
  • Starter or dessert? Dessert, every time!

Random facts:

  • I’ve got absolutely HUGE hands.
  • I sleepwalk and talk loads.
  • My house is fairly tidy but my desk at work is always in a shocking state, ditto my car.
  • I used to play in a pub darts team – we came bottom of the league two years running.
  • I get through seven or eight cups of tea or coffee just at work every day
  • When I learned to walk, I would only do it on concrete, having tantrums if I had to walk on grass.
  • I haven’t entirely mastered sending faxes yet.
  • I’m really claustrophobic, to the point I can’t sit by the window on planes or trains.
  • I had my first filling this year, without an anaesthetic as I couldn’t bear the thought of a needle in my mouth, even though I’m quite happy with needles for normal blood tests.
  • I hate it when people running their fingers down folded paper, it’s like nails down a blackboard *shudder*
  • I find it really hard to come up with random facts about myself 🙂

I nominate:

And their questions:

  • What’s your best feature?
  • What’s your worst habit?
  • If you could spend a week anywhere on Earth, where would it be?
  • What superpower would you have, if you could have one?
  • If you had to give up either vegetables or chocolate, which would it be?
  • Book or television?
  • Winter or summer?
  • What would be your dream job?
  • If you won the lottery, what would you do first?
  • Clubbing or out for a meal?
  • And, most improtantly, caramel or chocolate??

The last one’s easy of course – both!


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