April 30, 2013

April Recap!

April was Pile on the Miles!  I was going to run lots and lots, all the time.

It started strong (as these things do) with 13 miles of running in the first week.

And now, at the end of April, my grand total is...  24.9 miles.

Not even a Marathon distance!  Oh well.  That's okay, because this month is

The cool thing is that after runs I sometimes feel bad because I went slow.  But when I count up my total miles I don't look at speed, I just look at miles.  And so I shouldn't feel bad about being slow, because I'm not looking for speed, I'm looking for distance!  Here's to more distance in May.

Cycling-wise I only did 92 tracked miles (there are about 50-60 more in commuter miles) of which 50 were road cycling and 42 mountain biking.  I'm going to try and track my commutes more, and certainly going to get out with Ajax more too!

Unfortunately last month had a lot of stressful things.  This month is starting mega-stressful as well (I'm moving in 2 weeks, among other life-stresses) however I'm quite excited because in about 2 weeks lots of different stresses should be sorted, and then it will be very exciting!

Also, the more stressful times are now means that the more relaxed times will be later when the world is not being so... stressful! :-)

Phew, that's a lot of stress!

You know what's good for stress?  Running!

Horray for Pile on the Miles in MAY!

Oooh check out this Strava Widgit I found!

April 28, 2013

A Sleepy Saturday in Roath: A trip to Roath Market and Allen's Bakery

On a recent Saturday my Brewer Half and MTB Ben and I went on an Adventure through Roath.

First we looked for the mystical bread-heaven of Allen's Bakery - or The Secret Bakery as I've heard it called.  A lot of walking later and down an alleyway we saw it!
Unfortunately by the time we arrived (11am - we are not morning creatures) most of the days breads were sold, but what was left still looked amazing!

We bought some tasty rolls and then headed to Roath Market.  A few weeks ago I tried duck eggs for the first time, and they were delicious!  I was a bit tipsy as well when we ate them (I know, strange drink-snack) but I wanted to try them again!  £1.80 later I had a lovely box of 6.  Brewer half bought some fresh butter, which was the most tasty butter I've ever tried.
 We also stopped by the Blaencamel Farm stand - happiest veg stall in the world!
Recently I ordered a Blaencamel Box - fresh veg delivered to my door.  It was so good - lots of different greens I'de never tried before.  In ordere to use everything I made some lovely indian meatballs which are still waiting in my freezer - nothing goest to waste if I can help it!
Blaencamel had some stunning greens for sale
 Wild Garlic & Winter Purslane
While on our adventures we also spotted the most ridiculous bike hack - tri-bars with gears and brakes.  Amazing.

April 27, 2013

Saturday Cycle with Cardiff Tri

Today I got on the road bike again!  I hadn't been on the bike since December I think... it's been a while.  I woke up to blazing sunshine at 7:30am on a Saturday, and I was ready to cycle.  I'de never been out with Cardiff Tri before and was excited to go out with them - the leisure ride sounded like it would be a good way to get back in the saddle as the route was flat and no one would be dropped.

I had a breakfast of 1/4 cup oatmeal with almonds and brown sugar, plus a hardboiled egg and a slice of toast with avocado (I'm hungry!).

The first 20 miles were nice but much colder than I anticipated - apparently 11 degrees isn't shorts and tee-shirt weather.  After 20 miles Brewer Half and a few others did a cheeky 5 mile sprint to the coffee stop, I held the tail for about a mile before dropping off at 20mph.  I pootled there at a windy 13mph but still made it to cake third - I could see two in pursuit behind but was able to hold them off.

On the way back Brewer half and I needed to get home quick so unfortunately had to zip away from the group.  We picked up a spare rider and belted it through the lanes, I took the lead for some at 18mph and we averaged nearly 22 for the 7 mile flat sprint from Newport to Cardiff.  I was completely wheel sucking* by that time but it didn't matter - I only got dropped when Brewer Half and Rob hightailed the last mile to get their Strava up.

In the end it was a 55 mile route, really nice and pretty flat.

When I got home I tried hard to not crash and waste the rest of the day - I had a protein recovery bar and then a big lunch of shrimp stir-fry.  I actually got a fair amount done after the ride, which almost never happenes before since usually I'm too tired to even make food.

I'll have to get on the bike more soon - long cycles are great when the weather is nice - it's pretty, it's quick, and it burns 1,600 calories in a morning!

Here's the Strava!

*wheel sucking is staying on someones wheel because you expend 30% less effort go get the same speed and the person in front gets all the wind resistance and you get sucked along.  It's good.

April 24, 2013

Pile on the Miles - Running for April - Update

So there's one week left in April!  I took a bit of a hiatus from mile piling and did not run for 2 weeks, bad Rachel!  But on Monday evening I was being especially grumpy and Brewer Half convinced me to go for a run.  I came back feeling awesome, and even though it was slow (3.5 miles in 38 minutes) I felt a million times better after going out than before!
Today I was keen for another run so I set off at 6.  I was doing a pretty okay pace (for me) but I kept switching between feeling good and feeling like I wanted to stop and walk.  I told myself I could walk at the end of the CD (35 minutes) but it turned out the playlist was 45 minutes! I finished my 3.3 mile loop in 35 minutes anyways, and didn't walk at all.

This is where I run - it is super pretty
And these are my lovely Strava awards for my run today!  
Someday I'm going to try to smash my short sprint times, like my 400 meter time.  But today the miles were 9:38, 10:17, and 10:50!

This week has been good - Running monday, mountain biking tuesday, and running on Wednesday!  But tomorrow is Crepes and Cider at Creperie de Sophie, so lots of yummy crepes and no exercise for me!

April 23, 2013

Delicious Low Fat High Fibre Banana Muffins!

I love baking - and one of my favorite treats to bake is Banana Bread!  I learned recently that I could freeze overripe bananas to use for cooking later - now my freezer is half full of discount overripe banana.  Yum!  I peel them first and measure them out to 1 cup portions for easy baking.

Oh yes, I'm American so I bake with cups - for all my UK followers, a cup is about the size of a man-fist.  To be honest banana bread is very forgiving so I estimate ingredients anyways.

1 cup flour
3/4 cup oats
1 tsb baking powder
1 tsb baking soda
1 tsb cinnamon
3/4 cup fibre one
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup mashed overripe banana
1/2 cup brown sugar (optional)
1/2 cup almonds or nuts (optional)

Here's how it goes!

1) Combine fiber one and milk.  It seems weird, just do it.  Then put aside.
2) in a seperate bowl, combine all the dry ingrediants, except sugar, which for some reason goes in the wet ingrediants, even though it's arguably dry.
3) In a third bowl, combine egg with defrosted mashed overripe banana and sugar (sugar is optional, I have a sweet tooth but I've made it without sugar before).
4) Add chopped nuts if you want to the dry ingredients (I used almonds).
5) Add the soaked fibre one and milk to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly   The fiber one should almost disintegrate into the mix.
6) Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, but forget to add the cinnamon and chuck it on after but right before you take a photo.  Don't overmix but be sure there's no dry ingredients left, mixture may be a bit runny but that makes for fluffier banana bread.  Thicker mix means chewier bread. All bread is delicious.
 7) Fill muffins 3/4 full with batter.  Bake at gas mark 4/ 350f / 180c for 22-25 minutes.
8) Remove from oven when the edges are a bit brown.
9)  once out of oven leave them in the pan for another 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Or a plate.  Or your mouth.

April 21, 2013

Photopost: Hangfire Smokehouse - Cardiff BBQ - The Canadian Pub in Splott

I did a review last week of Hangfire Smokehouse last week.  I went again this week, and this time with a better camera!  So a few photos of this weeks deliciousness:
Love them pigs!  And 4 Anchor Steams to go around
Pulled Pork Platter, Loves it!
New sauce!  South Carolina Mustard! I think the bottle was full before I ate it all.  So good!
Best Ribs in Wales! 
More shots from above so you can see the beans.  SEE HOW GOOD THEY TASTE!

Back to regularly scheduled posts soon.  I've been playing with my new camera.  I took this amazing photo of my housemates:
I think I need a photography course.

April 19, 2013

75 minute mega-circuit: a workout for a smaller gym

Today I realized I need to get my motivation back.  I need to be stronger and more compact.  I decided to jump back in with a bit of a mix-up on my usual routine - sadly I didn't have the amazing equipment of DW but I did have barbells and bars and a few machines.  So I did the following:

April Mega-Circuit!

500 meter rower

Deadlifts (30kg) x 15
Box Step-ups (5kg each hand) x 20
Weighed squat (10kg bar) x 10

Clean & Press (15kg) x 10
Bicep Curl (12kg) x 10
Lat pull down (heavy) x 10

Dumbell Chest press (10 kg each hand) x 10
Push ups x 10
Dips x 10

Repeat 3 times!


Machines!  I started at a do-able weight,  did 10 reps, increased to next weight, 10 reps,  increased again until I could only do 5. I did it for the following:
Leg Extension
Leg press (each leg separately)


A bunch of core stuff.  Sit ups, weighted sit ups, planks, leg lifts, reverse crunches, hundreds, V-sits, Side plank, side crunch... etc.

And that's it!! That's my awesome fun workout that took 75 minutes and made me feel awesome.  Horray!

April 17, 2013

Hang Fire Smokehouse @ at The Canadian in Splott: Restaurant Review

A few weeks back I heard rumors of a new American style BBQ start-up in Cardiff.  Hang Fire Smokehouse put on BBQ nights at The Canadian - a pub I'de never heard of in Splott. The Canadian is a Brains pub, but when we walked in the bartender(ess) was super friendly and chatty - I later learned it was her pub.  It didn't feel like cookie-cutter brains - it felt like a lovely local.  There was an eclectic mix of people there - locals and hipsters all chilling out on comfy sofas and tables.

I was very excited to meet Sam and Shauna (the minds behind the BBQ), though I now forget which one I met!  Either way the story goes they traveled around America to learn good cooking, and came back to Wales to share the knowledge. The menu was PERFECT for BBQ - 5 items, simple and delicious.
I ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich with a side of meaty bbq beans, while the brewer half ordered ribs with chips and beans.  We were given some pigs and waited for our meals
Unfortunately the Canadian had a somewhat uninspiring selection of beers - Budweiser is wonderful with BBQ but the Brewer half was saddened by the lack of Ales. I was chatting with the owner and made a short list of my favourite american beers, and she said she would look into stocking them, so I have high hopes of better beers to come! The owner lady (I forgot her name!) was truly keen to have my suggestions, and was such a lovely lady I would even stay to drink bud :-)  Here's my list of suggested beers:
I know they probably can't get Shiner Bock in Cardiff, but I put it on the list anyways.

Our food started coming out about 20 minutes later, my pulled pork sandwich came first:
The pork was brilliant.  Soft and sweet, melt-in-your-mouth.  Chunky in parts and soft as butter in others, I almost lamented eating the bread as I could have happily eaten just a massive bowl of pork.  The sauce was delicious, and homemade.  I think I wolfed it down too fast to fully remember, It tasted nothing like the bottled sauces I've grown accustomed to.  It was rich and slightly sweet but with a bit of a bite - brilliant!  I even tried the cole slaw (even though I detest mayonaise) and it was so much better than I expected - crunchy and fresh with nice amounts of onion - the best slaw I've ever tasted. 

Brewer half's ribs came out second:
Brewer half is a hungry boy, so I only had the smallest taste of the ribs, however they were amazing!  I loved how they melted off the bone... I think proper southern BBQ can be a bit too chewy for me but this was tender without being overcooked.  I mentioned this to our chef and she said that British people tend to like the food a bit more cooked than southerners - so they had changed their recipe to fit the Cardiff tastes.  I think this is an improvement - normally I'm not a huge fan of ribs but when I next visit I'll certainly be ordering this dish!  The beans were stellar as well - I've gotten used to heinz but forgot the magic that happens when you combine beans and meat and spice and cook it all slow and low until it tastes like heaven in a styrofoam cup.  These beans were just that, heaven.

Ben ordered the pulled pork plate:
Same pulled pork as my sandwich, chips and beans to accompany.  Here's how good it was:
Them's some clean plates!  

Hang Fire is a unique new venture for Cardiff.  The chef was so friendly and excited - chatting to everyone who came thorugh the door.  She made everyone feel welcome and like she was expecting you for dinner - the food came out like she was serving to friends, not serving at a resturant.  It was all served on paper plates with wooden sporks, which is exactly how every good BBQ joint I've been to does it.  The price is right for good quality and tasty food, and it's great to see food ventures popping up in Cardiff.  I can definitely tell big things are on the way for Hang Fire Smokehouse!

I loved the relationship between The Canadian and Hang Fire.  The Canadian had such a nice setup and it really did have the feel of a lovely local.  They had some local bands on as well which just added to the ambiance - the stage area was nice because it was far enough away from some of the tables that we could eat and chat yet still have some good background tunes.  It was a nice mix of covers and original songs, and I did have a homesick moment as the singer crooned Tom Petty while I munched pulled pork.

If I can't be in America eating southern BBQ, I may as well be at The Canadian eating Hang Fire Smokehouse. Yum!

The Canadian
Pearl Street, Splott
CF24 1PN
02920 453141

Hang Fire Smokehouse

Edit: I just had an email from Catherine at The Canadian to let me know that they've managed to get some fine American beers!  They've got Anchor Steam (MEGA YUM!) and Blue Moon (it's brewed by coors but posh like Europe!) and Brooklyn Lager (as far as I remember it's exactly what American lagers are known for, which isn't always good, but isn't always bad either!).  What an awesome pub to pull in beers just because a chatty American asks for them!

Edit 2: For more photos of BBQ check out the photopost HERE.

April 15, 2013

A very embarassing trip to the gym

Hi Y'all!  So I havent been doing much gym lately. I go through about 10 day cycles it seems - 10 days where I just want to do more and more, and 10 days where I just wanted to do less and less.  I'm also grappling with some pretty irritating life stresses at the moment, which somehow makes it harder for me to go to the gym.  That's ridiculous though, it should be easier as the gym is one place where I shouldn't feel stressed!

I may also have PTSD (and my gym buddy too!) from the last gym session.

On Saturday I didn't feel great but really wanted to go to the gym.  So we started our reps. 250 meter sprint, 20 clean and press.  Repeat.

I was slow. So slow.

But I kept going!  We did the sets 5 times.

I did not feel good at all.  I felt bad.

We moved onto burpees (which I didn't do) and inverted chest press.  I did 6 chest presses and then I knew I was going to be sick.

So I ran away and it was highly embarrassing.  The kind gym staff offered me water.  I had to be driven home by gym buddy, like a kid from school.  I had to have gym buddy stop the car so I could, well, be gross.

Gym buddy was so nice about it.  We've been friends for years and had many nights out together, he's never had to hold my hair before.  But 100 clean and presses later he's blocking me from view of traffic as I try to hide behind a car and a Chinese takeaway.

As it turns out, I think I may be intolerant to duck eggs.  This is a major bummer as I love all eggs, and duck eggs are especially delicious.  I had eaten 2 for breakfast! And I felt like I was going to die.  I'm not sure how one tests for an intolerance, but Brewer Half's plan that I eat duck eggs again and see what happens is not encouraging.

So my next gym session will have to be better than that.  And yes, I was sick at swimming once too.  I have the weakest stomach in the world combined with a desire to eat all the strange things, and this often leads me to trouble.

April 13, 2013

Beer Reviews: The Wild Beer Company Madness IPA, The Waen Brewery Chili Plum Porter, and Brains Barry Island IPA

Welcome to the newest feature on my blog - the Brewer Half's Half Brewed Reviews!

Brewer half does not like that name.  Rachel in Wales like that name, and so it stays!

Brewer Half says:

I like drinking beer!

First beer up for review - The Wild Beer Company Madness IPA

This is my first review, and have already hit upon a problem. My tasting notes from this beer are not long enough to expand into a decent length review. I think from now on I will be doing a live update style review as I'm drinking, so expect future reviews to be more rambling. 

I was attracted to this beer by the description on the label, which I have now forgotten but was similar to this text copied from the website: "Our beers are brewed with a combination of ancient and new techniques, with the aim of producing a beer for people who want to discover and understand new tastes and flavours." Also, the brewer comes from California.

Sounds great. I love my beer with some flavour. 

My first impression of this beer was hops - the aroma is so intense I could taste the hops before the beer had even passed my lips. Not that this is a bad thing - this beer tastes amazing. It's an IPA, but with a pleasant earthy overtone to the hop flavour, and the bitterness is well balanced.

This is all I have on this one, so on to the next: 

I'm always keen to try Welsh beers, so was very pleased to find this beer from a brewery in Llanidloes. I couldn't resist the combination of flavours - chili and plum in a porter-style beer. 

I've had a few chilli beers, and they have not tended to be very nice. However, this one did not disappoint. 

This beer has a subtle and balanced blend of roasted malt, chili, and fruit flavours. It still tasted like beer, but with extra depth provided by the added ingredients. I couldn't discern the plum element of the flavour, but there was definitely a fruity overtone. There was also a lingering chili warmth. I'll be having this one again!

And on to the final beer in this session:

Brains Barry Island IPA

I actually drank this one first, but didn't want to start my new beer review blog with a disappointing beer. This beer sets its sights high, as an American style IPA. This means alcoholic potency and an assertive hop flavour.

On the first sip, this beer promises much but doesn't deliver. There is a lot of hop bitterness, but no freshness from the hop flavour. The flavour then quickly disappears after each mouthful. 

In fact, each mouthful is like a miniature whistle-stop tour of IPA flavours - a bit of malt, a quick punch of bitterness, a slight hop flavour, and then it's all gone. 

On that sad note, it's time for me to go and drink some more beer. I hope you enjoy my new beer review feature, comments are welome!

All of the beers from today's reviews were purchase from Discount Supermarket - our favorite massive beer emporium masquerading as a corner shop.  Check them out!

Discount Supermarket
97-99 Whitchurch Road
Cardiff, CF14 3JP
02920 619049

April 12, 2013

My Favourite healthy quick meal

I love stir frys!  They are so quick and healthy!  Yum!

Here is how I make mine: 

Step 1: Heat some oil in a pan.  I use sunflower oil as a model and food blogger once told me this is better, and I do everything models tell me to.
Step 2: Chop up a load of veggies.  Onions, peppers, cabbage, mushrooms, sugar peas, mini corn, water chestnuts (if you have them)... Or just buy a bag of pre-chopped veg.  It's up to you!  

Step 3: Cook the veg in a pan.  Throw in a lot of sweet and sour sauce.  It's full of sugar and bad for you.  Do it anyways.
Step 4: Defrost a load of frozen shrimp.  Or eat fresh shrimp, if you're fancy like that.  Or eat discounted fresh shrimp that's going off today, if you're like me.  Again, your stir-fry, your rules!  Chuck all the shrimp in with the vegetables.
Step 5: Put in a lot of bean sprouts.  YUM!
Step 6: Stir for 2 minutes and then put everything in a massive plate/bowl.  Chop up some avocado and chuck it all over the top.
Step 7: Finally, cover the whole thing with lots and lots of Sriracha!  OMG I LOVE SRIRACHA.
Step 8: Eat!  You have made an amazing stir fry and now you will eat the amazing stir fry and you will be so happy!
The whole thing takes about 10 minutes from thought to eating, especially if you use pre-chopped veg.  There are some optional extra steps you can include for extra protein - I like to throw in some cashews and also to fry an egg into it right before I add the shrimp.  In fact, there is my timing:

-10 minutes: heat oil in pain
-8 minutes: add veg and mix
-5 minutes: add sweet chili sauce
-4 minutes: add cashews 
-3 minutes: add egg
-2 minutes: add shrimp
-1 minute: chop avocado


April 9, 2013

Cafe Des Amis Penarth: Restaurant Review

Recently I went to Cafe Des Amis to celebrate a friend's birthday.  We decided to head out of Cardiff and see what Penarth had to offer - though Penarth is so close I'de never been there before except to cycle through it!  Penarth is adorable and I'll surely be returning.  By the end of the night I decided I wanted to move there, but when I saw the house prices I decided I'd rather stay in Cardiff.

We arrived at 8pm and the restaurant was fairly empty, we were greeted by a lovely hostess who showed us our seats and the specials board.
The restaurant is family run and uniquely decorated, there were loads of art and quirky pieces on the walls and it had a definite bistro feel.
The mains were £15-£18, the starters were £4–£8.  It was a bit on the pricey side but we decided it would be a nice treat for a birthday:
L and I ordered a starter off  the specials menu - crispy squid with sweet chili sauce (£6.50):
The squid was very well done - not chewy at all, it tasted fresh and delicious.  The portion size was fairly big as well, and L and I both had our fill. It was not overcooked nor too chewy - certainly the best squid I've had in Cardiff!

For my main I ordered the tagliatelle pasta with field mushrooms, asparagus, garlic cream and parmesan (£9.75)
The pasta was creamy and cheesy - I don't normally order pasta at restaurants but I was craving something savory.  The dish was very good - though I would have liked more asparagus as it seemed a bit sparse.  All dishes made with pasta and butter and cheese will be delicious, and this was no exception.  Very creamy sauce, very good pasta, nice presentation.  A great dish.

L ordered the Chargrilled butterfly breast of chicken with lemon herb dressing, chargrilled asparagus, and garlic potatoes (£13.75):
My photo is not the greatest but the chicken was perfectly cooked, tasty and moist.  The mixed veg and potatoes made for a mouthwatering and filling base, and the asparagus was perfectly grilled.  I did have a bit of dish envy - her plate looked so good!

We enjoyed our mains with a bottle of wine
We were given ample time to enjoy our mains and our wine, and the restaurant filled up as the evening went on.  All the seats in the front were full by 8:30 and the back started to fill up too.  The ambiance was pleasant and everyone's dishes looked great as they came out.  At one point the table behind us was served cod and chips, but the cod was fried after the guest ordered it steamed.  The owner apologized profusely and brought him a new dish quickly - both dishes looked amazing and her service was very professional.

We decided to try one of the deserts and chose a chocolate brownie with ice cream.
The chocolate brownie was very rich and chocolaty.  It was served warm, though it was microwaved in plain view which can sometimes put people off.  My only disappointment of the evening was the ice cream - it was served from what was clearly a Tescos value tub.  Deserts are fairly cheap to make, and it's a shame to use poor ingredients - especially for ice cream which keeps for ages.  A good quality ice cream - especially a Welsh brand like Joes or Mon ar Lwy or Cadwaladers - would have made the desert much better.

All in all it was a lovely evening - at the end we were brought 2 complimentary cosmos (they heard it was L's birthday!) which really topped off our night.  

Cafe Des Amis was a lovely and unique resturant in Penarth.  We had a great evening, the owner and her family were very friendly and accommodating made ever effort to welcome us and make sure we enjoyed our food and our time in the bistro.  It was a bit on the expensive side - but so is Penarth - and I would definitely return for a birthday meal or a special occasion!  The total came to £50 for the 2 of us, which was very decent for the quantity and quality of food we enjoyed!

4 Washington Buildings
Stanwell Road
CF64 2AD
02920 709600