Monday, 31 March 2014

Special Occasion Chocolate Cake

I don't do much baking anymore, but I keep loads of recipes bookmarked for special occasions. Yesterday was an extraordinarily special occasion: it was our last Sunday dinner with Cecilia for a while, so I pulled out a chocolate cake recipe that I had been eyeing up for a while.

This No joke dark chocolate cake just looked too good to miss. I made just a few changes: American recipes tend to go heavy in the sweet stuff, so I reduced the amount of maple syrup to about 1/4 cup, added in a mashed banana and upped the amount of fat to make up for the lost liquid. Then I put cream and raspberries in the middle instead of the chocolate cream. Oh my, it was amazing!
No joke

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Fellow Cavewoman in Camden

I subscribe to an ever increasing number of paleo/ low carb/ primal websites, blogs and groups. On one of them I learned about a new paleo food stall in Camden, Feed Me Primal. I still have a few hours on my hands before I jump on that plane to Sweden, so I set off to find out more. It took me a while to locate the stall, but I finally spotted the sign:
Cavewoman sign
Lovely Gemma started her food stall in January (just a year into paleo!) and has been making a roaring trade ever since.
The actual Cavewoman 
I am looking forward to following her progress from the motherland. Sooooo inspiring to meet someone who made the jump already, go Gemma! :-)

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Sentimental Note on Recycling

I am slowly but surely going through all the bits and pieces of my 7 years in London, bringing some kind of order to the flat ahead of my parents' arrival later this week. Finding these brought a wistful smile to my face.
A full pack as well! Soon to be found in a toilet roll near you. 
No, there was no ritual burning, just a little sad but relieved sigh as I dumped them into the recycling bin. Of course I feel the occasional twinge from missing my old colleagues. The smiles (or, to be fair, grunts) that greeted me in the morning. The casual chats over the years that gave me random glimpses into their lives and personalities. The little dramas shared.

I know that although many of these lovely people will fade away, some will continue to be around in the periphery of my new life. And that is all I can ask for, as I move to a very different phase.

On that uncharacteristically sentimental note... I will be popping outside for my daily three hour walk. Cheerio! :-)

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Showing Some Skin

I went for my first barefoot run of the year today. As the soles of my feet need a few weeks to get used to running without protection, I took it easy, running for 30 minutes in the park followed by an hourlong walk along the canal.   
Sidestepping daffodils and dog doo
I've been running and walking barefoot or in barefoot shoes (Vivo and Luna Sandals are my favourites) for close to 3 years now. As with a lot of things that I have changed over the years, it started with a problem. 

I've always been told that I have extremely high arches and that I should be wearing insoles. I caved in my late teens and got tailored insoles from my German podiatrist. He tutted and pointed out how my arches were already collapsing. Lucky me for finding him and his magic insole wand! 

The years went by and I would always choose flat, cushioned shoes over high heels, use ever more advanced insoles and buy top of the range running shoes (the models were always chosen based on my hideous pronation).

Despite my best intentions, a few years ago, my rather modest running habit starting giving me knee pains. At first, it took me a few days to recover. Then it took me a week. Then two weeks. Then a month. You get the picture. How could this be? I was doing everything right! 

So I found a physiotherapist to sort me out. She diagnosed severe ITB and started me on a program of foam rolling. Makes grown men cry. Trust me. She taped my legs and massaged and kneaded and I slowly started recovering. 

The next step was to do a gait analysis and then to create a new set of insoles. This is where my alarm bells went ding DONG and I started stalling. It seemed to me that doing more of the same would just be idiocy. At the same time, I had also come across the concept of barefoot running via Born To Run. Although I don't think we all should be running ultra marathons in leather sandals (way too much cardio, but that's a different story) there was something very alluring about the simple notion of chucking your shoes and healing foot, knee, hip and back issues. 

So I went for it. I threw out my expensive insoles. I bought new shoes. I started running tentatively both completely barefoot and in my new shoes (CAUTION: if you want to try this, start extremely slowly, your body will thank you). Slowly but surely, the last bit of my ITB disappeared. My arches strengthened and stopped aching from my hourlong walks. My toes stopped going numb from my weakened arches. My hips stopped clicking and getting "stuck". And my knees stopped hurting. 

Funny that. What if I had listened to my physio? The physio who prided herself in having started all her children on insoles as soon as they started walking? Who wondered how people in the olden days coped with ITB? It never struck her that maybe they didn't have it???

Ok, so going completely barefoot is perhaps a bit controversial. Even nuts. Especially in London. Camden is a bit gross, I admit. People look at you funny/ point at you/ laugh at you. So barefoot shoes are a pretty decent option. 

Although I don't mind being called crazy (thanks for the compliment!), shouldn't it be the other way around? Look at your own feet. The shoes you squeeze them into. Have you considered how they may be contributing to your foot, knee, shin, hip, lower back, shoulder pains? Aren't you the crazy one? ;-)
You've lost that squishy feeling, oh-oh that squishy feeling

CrossFit Poster Girl (Kinda)

My recent session with Officer M in the SE11 gym was "immortalised" in a blog post on beginner's CrossFit:

I love that the post is called Taking Personal Responsibility, as I immediately took it personally and yanked out the broomstick from the closet to start practicing the various lifts that I struggle with. Plus asked RifRaf to order another resistance band for me on Amazon. And constructed a workout to keep the sisterly competitive spirit alive.

I guess sometimes egocentricity can a good thing. :-) Bon, the running track is waiting for me.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

My First WOD

Getting up this morning was a bit of chore, to say the least. Those two glasses of wine might as well have been a triple espresso, because I did not sleep at all last night (is this just me???). However, lovely officer M, the CrossFit instructor, had to reschedule our first proper training session for early this morning, so I gladly sucked it up and downed my egg coffee and bacon & eggs and set off through the early morning mist to Vauxhall.

My first ever WOD included the following (to be down with the CrossFit kids, you need to learn an awful lot of acronyms, WOD means Workout of the Day):

20 x squat
15 x sit-up
10 x hang power clean
5 x pull-up

The goal of this particular WOD was to see how quickly I could do 3 of these sets in a row (and not croak). Overall time was 9 minutes and a bit and I actually felt pretty damn awesome afterwards. Not sure what it is about this stuff that just gives me a kick!
About to die during last set
After trying out a few more exercises (box jumps being my new favourites for trying out in the park), I walked home again. What took me 1 hr and 10 in the morning probably took me more than twice as long. Not sure if I should blame that on being unfit (how hard can ten minutes of exercise be?) or the sunshine. :-)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Wild Swimming

I love water! When I saw that there was a river close to the castle, I got it into my head that I wanted to go for a swim. The daughter of the house clearly thought I was nuts, but kindly showed me a lovely bend in the river at the bottom of one of the fields on our morning walk. 

To give you an idea of the weather, check out the layers I was wearing before the skinny dip (not even the dogs would join me...):

The complicated undressing in the mud was well worth it though. Betting I will be sleeping well tonight. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Swedes to Feed the Sheep

Oh, the things you learn when in the countryside! When on a walk today, we passed several fields with sheep happily munching away at swedes. It turns out swedes make excellent winter feed for sheep. Who knew?
Hang on! That's not grass!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Castle Bangers

When I told my friend D about my dream of some kind of organic farming enterprise, she suggested we go visit her aunt in the Lake District. Aunt Jane and her partner Chris run Askerton Castle organic farm, rearing pigs, cows, sheep, alpacas and various types of birds.

Today was obviously my lucky day, because Jane was making sausages in the butchery and was happy to show me the ropes.
Wannabe butcher posing with sausage meat
Once the pork had been ground up with spices and oats, it was time stuff it into another machine, hook up a sheep or pig intestine to it and start making sausages. 
Stuffing pig intestines, easier said than done
After that, Jane showed me the ultimate party trick, the twisting of sausage links. Apologies to the customer who may have one or two ripped Cumberlands in his vacuum pack... They were mine.
Clearly out of my depth

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Day After the Whole 30

And then there was chocolate again
So that's it. 30 days of strict paleo over and done with. I feel remarkably indifferent to the whole adventure. It was good to try it out, but I can't see or feel any major changes compared to before the 30 days. The biggest gain was hitting the 'reset' button and not accepting any rubbish or even suboptimal food in my diet for the duration. Once you set your mind to it, it is easy to just say no. I hope to keep some of that resolve.

In summary, these are my observations from the Whole 30:

1. 1cm lost around the waist. Disappointing! But then I did really enjoy the food.

2. 1kg lost. I don't own any scales (I don't see the point), and this was measured on two different scales. Scales vary so much that I'd say the weight loss is statistically insignificant. Never mind... I don't really need to lose any anyway.

3. My energy levels are unchanged. Might have more to do with lil T waking me several times per night.

4. My stomach is still playing up. Dairy, sugar, alcohol and processed foods weren't the culprits.

5. Dairy is nice, but not necessary. I'll be indulging in some, but will continue using little at home.

6. It was easy to remove sugar from my diet because I basically did all my own cooking (from scratch). I'll continue doing this at home, with the exception of some high quality and high percentage chocolate once in a while.

7. Liver is awesome.

All in all, I quite enjoyed the Whole 30 and I think I will do another one at some point. Maybe in January, like everyone else.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Mummy Workout

Russian twist with wiggly baby
Last weekend, we had a visit from our lovely friend Sevan who happens to be a personal trainer and mother to a six month old little charmer. As usual when we meet, we talked about nutrition, training and babies. It is no secret that I am not in the same shape as before pregnancy and I struggle to fit any kind of workout into my daily routine. As the good friend that she is, Sevan won't let me get away with those kind of excuses and had a great solution to my problem: doing mini workouts with baby, i.e. either keeping eye contact (and making funny noises) or using baby as a weight (similar to working out with a medicine ball!).

Here are some exercises that I can do in the comfort of my own living room:

1. Squats with or without baby
2. Lunges with or without baby
3. Front raises with baby (straight arms)
4. Plank next to baby or above baby lying on the floor
5. Press ups, like the plank
6. Bench press with baby (definitely laugh inducing)
7. Sit-ups while lifting baby from behind your head to the front of your body
8. Russian twist, lifting baby from side to side
9. Calf raises with or without baby

The possibilities are endless! Lil T's favourite seems to be the sit-ups with her flying over my head.
Attempted press up