May 31, 2013

May Recap!

May was a pretty mental month.  I moved house in the middle, had no internet, got internet, finished moving house.  In one week I worked 63 hours, but at the end of the month I claimed some of that time back and had a few days off in the sun.  I went camping in Ludlow for  a weekend which was awesome, I drank a fair amount of good beer, and I did my longest run ever.

My numbers are respectable... better than April!

Total bike miles: 205!

Total running miles: 12.5

So I ran a lot less this month, but cycled a lot more.  I'm a much better cyclist than runner so it's understandable, but soon I'm going to start entering a few 10k runs because the half marathon is getting closer...

June should be a good month, Brewer half and I have our own flat now where we do dorky things like bake bread
And buy loads of vegetable from local veg shops
This month I'm looking forward to eating well, cycling lots, enjoying a Welsh summer (hoping for sun!) 

My favorite Canadian Amy is coming to visit from Bath!

The Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival is this month!  

And at the end of the month Brewer Half and I are going to Scotland for a holiday!

Lots of excitement - here's to an awesome June!

May 28, 2013

Rachel Visits Oxford and Lunch at the Gardner's Arms Oxford

A few weeks ago I visited Oxford to see my little sister, who is much more fashionable and photogenic than me:
When I arrived in Oxford I was 100% starving.  We tried to go to a fancy county pub called The Perch, which looked good but through a bizaare interaction with the staff we found out it was booked full.

Instead, little sister took me to The Gardener's Arms, a fully vegetarian pub in the Jericho area of Oxford. Because I am sometimes fancy I love the Jericho neighborhood: tiny cute shops, tasty restaurants  and adorable houses!

The menu was a typical pub menu - burgers, flat breads, calzones, a few salads...

I ordered the (veggie) burger with mango chutney.  The good point was that this veggie burger tasted almost as good as a very average meat burger.  Nice chutney and good toppings, the burger did taste "meaty".  But this is where my philosophy on vegetarianism shows through: vegetables are delicious and shouldn't be made to taste like meat.  There are a million delicious vegetarian foods, and the idea of creating a meat-substitute instead of embracing what is good about non-meat is counterintuitive to  me.  

Once you get over the novelty of being in a pub eating what kind of tastes like a burger but actually isn't a burger there's not much to say for the meal - I was full, it was good, and instead of thinking "wow that was delicious" I thought "wow, that didn't really taste vegetarian"
 Little sister ordered a burger with garlic mayo:
I'll let little sister do her own review here!

Hi there! I'm little sister (and Rachel's editor). I like food.

Growing up, I ate meat fairly regularly. It was rarely the main component of a meal, but we often had spaghetti with ground beef (or turkey), hamburgers, hot dogs, and dishes with chicken. Two years ago (one year into my liberal arts education) I sat in bed on an evening in May and thought to myself "I should probably be a vegetarian." Since then, I've been a pretty strict vegetarian, and I've found that I haven't had to make too many adjustments to my lifestyle. [Side note - the morning after that fateful night in May, I remembered the existence of bacon, or as I like to call it, nature's candy. That was a difficult time for me.]

A good example of how my life hasn't really changed that much since I went veg is this lovely picture of me gorging myself:
Yes, that's me chowing down on one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. The Gardener's Arms serves lots of fake meat that tastes like real meat, which is not everyone's cup of tea, but I assume that's why they have salads too. Fake meat is, however, my cup of tea. I love fake meat. I used to like real meat, but I think I've gotten to the point where I could eat nothing but MorningStar fake bacon for the rest of my life and be content:
Unfortunately I don't think they sell this stuff in the UK... Y'all are missing out!
Wait, this is a review of The Gardener's Arms, isn't it... So yes, I love The Gardner's Arms. I love their meaty veggie burgers, and their mango chutney, and garlic mayo, and they have a chili cheese dog on the menu too which I'm sure I'd love. Vegetarian things that are made to taste like non-vegetarian things are not for everyone, but luckily The Gardener's Arms does have something for everyone on their menu. And lastly, their sticky toffee pudding is amazing. It's sticky and gooey and sweet and I love dates and toffee and pudding... Can you tell Rachel and I are related?

That's little sister!  And that was the Gardener's arms.  And that was Oxford! Little sister has since moved back to America, but it was nice to have her over on this British island with me and I will hopefully soon go visit her in Chicago instead!

Gardners Arms
8 North Parade Ave
Oxford OX2 6LX
01865 554007

May 27, 2013

Ajax Sunday Ride - Up the Rhigos in the Sunshine!

On Sunday I went out with Ajax for another Sunday Social Ride.  The routes had been put out on Tuesday (they're always ranked 1-4, 1 being fastest and 4 being slowest) and group 4 was going to Chepstow and back - a flat ride I have done loads.  I was all excited for the flat ride but when I got to the start MTB Ben told me to go with the faster ride (group 3) which was going up a massive mountain.

I said no.

Then I joined the group

We made it up the Rhigos fine, I was the 2nd from slowest but mostly from fear of not knowing how long the mountain was going to be, by the top I was moving quick again.  Next time I will try harder and next time I will go faster!

At the top everyone was waiting for me and also enjoying the sun
I decided to practice posing like a poser!
So comfortable! so natural!
After the ascent was the decent - 3.5 miles down the other side of the mountain with and average speed of 29.4mph and a max speed of 37.5mph.  SWEET!

Then we stopped at a cafe to refuel, where I dined on the competitive snack of champions:
Dark chocolate kit kat and full fat coke - YUM!

Unfortunately I had a bit of a mechanical problem at the end of the ride - 12 miles outside of Cardiff my pedal fell off.  2 miles later it fell off for good.  Despite the best help of my group I had accidentally destroyed my crank, partially from the sheer power and strength of my legs and mostly from cross threading my pedal until it was destroyed
I tried to cycle 1 legged for a while (there was no pedal anymore for leftie!) but it was painful and uncomfortable and I got a lot of odd stares so eventually I waited for Brewer half to pick me up from a town about 6 miles outside of Cardiff.

Brewer half earned some major beer credit from me on that ride - a lift home from Tongwynlais (lol at welsh town names!) and this dinner when I got back!
Yes I ate the whole bowl, and then a bit more, and then some stir fry, and then some crackers and cheese.  55 mile cycles make Hungry Rachel hungry!

And in case you are interested... here is the Strava:
And the Strava of my 1 footed ride

May 25, 2013

I've got internet! and the South Wales Echo On Your Bike for Barnardo's

Did you miss me?  I missed me!  Not having internet is the worst! Luckily I now have the internet, and so i can write things and do things and do things then write about the things I do!

Its a sign of the times that a house is not a home until there is internet.  It's also a sign of the times that I complained about not having internet on twitter.  The irony was not lost on me...

So what have I been doing besides moving?

I did the Barnardos ride!!

37 Miles through the lovely Vale of Glamorgan - It was the first big group ride I've done (about 350 people) and it was just awesome... the sun was out and I got to play tail-hog on cyclists a lot faster than me.  In the end I finished in 2 hours 10 minutes, next year I will definitely do sub 2 hours!!

And they put me in the news paper!! (I'm on the right in the group of 3)

Other than that I've been mountain biking, and I tried track cycling (on fixed wheel bikes) and I remembered that cycling in the sunshine is completely awesome and it's the whole reason I started cycling in the first place.  Cycling fast in the sunshine is even better so I think it's time to get my training on... more.

Back to unpacking...

May 17, 2013

Moving House is the Worst for a Blogger (also for a person)

Dear internets,

I have been the worst blogger!  But I have an excuse.  Sort of.  Sure, I've been eating, but it's mostly bread and cheese.  Sure, I've been exercising, but it's mostly been lifting... boxes.

I'm moving house today, and the amount of stuff I own is ridiculous   Yes, everything I own helps contribute to my awesome life... bag of cycling clothes, bag of running clothes, bag of work clothes, bag of leisure clothes, bike bits, camping bits, adventure bits, cooking bits... ahh the list goes on!

So it's been busy. Too busy for me to write about my awesome weekend in Ludlow
Which was filled with awesome beers
Too busy to write about my amazing Meet The Brewer with Sue from Waen Brewery!
But not too busy to pack my life away.  Which is what is happening now.  Boo!
Oh and the worst news? worse than packing?  

Internet is not coming to the new house till Monday!
What is a blogger to do without internet?!

I guess I'll just have to drink some of these....

Well, maybe not the Siracha. Not until I get desperate at least.

Reader question:  Is moving the worst? 
Stop playing on the internet and start moving!

May 10, 2013

Snack-tastic Sweet Chili Tofu Squares

I used to hate tofu.  Then I learned that tofu is awesome because it is like a vessel for awesome things, like sweet chili sauce.  A vessel with 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.

One of my favourite tofu snacks is baked tofu.  It's so easy!  The hardest part is buying tofu, I get mine at the asian grocery.  be sure to get the firm/extra-firm type:
Chop the tofu into roughly equal squares and put them on a baking tray covered with baking paper (for ease of cleaning tray!)
Pour lots of sweet chili sauce all over the tofu, then rub sweet chili sauce all over the tofu, until they are completely sweet chili'd out
Put the tofu in the oven at around 350f/ gas mark 5 / 200c for about 25 minutes, then flip when the edges start to crisp.

Or forget they're in the oven and leave them there for 45 minutes and you end up with this tasty mess
The baking paper means that you don't spend 12 hours cleaning the tray!

These are awesome as a snack by themselves, or you can chuck them into a salad for extra protein and flavor  It's better if you let the sauce soak for a while, but if you're forgetful like me you can chuck the sauce on and put it all in the oven quickly.  Then you can snack away!

May 8, 2013

Katiwok Cardiff - Pan Asian Street Food - Restaurant Review

On a random Sunday my very hungry friends and I ventured down to KatiWok - the fairly new Pan Asian Street Food open on Crwys Road.  
I noticed KatiWok a few months ago on my cycle to work - it's hard not to notice a bright pink and green restaurant in Cardiff!
The menu was broken up into starters, Kati Rolls, noodles, and deserts.  They also offer a meal deal for a starter, a Kati Roll, and a drink for £7.99 or noodles instead for £8.99.  They do different lunch deals as well.

Everything came together about 25 minutes after we ordered, and in adorable packaging:
The hungry Brewer Half ordered an Asian Beef Kati Roll. Brewer half turned from hungry to happy when he saw the size of the Kati Roll. It was massive! We had 3 nice sauces to chose from, a medium spicy, an extra spicy, and a green one that I didn't try but probably should have.  The asian beef was just spicy enough for Brewer Half, the beef was tender and fresh, and the paratha (Indian fried bread) was tasty without being greasy.  Yum!
For the sides Brewer Half ordered meat samosas and I ordered fishcakes.  We were served 5 samosas and 4 fishcakes, a good portion for the price (£2.99)! The fishcakes were tasty and fresh, but the samosas were the stand-out STARter!  Spicy chopped meat with indian spices, fresh dough, deep fried but not oily.  I think that was one of the best parts of Kati Wok, everything was fried (as street food is!) but nothing was oily - it was all just well cooked.
I ordered an Afgan Chicken Kati Roll.  I could have done with more spice, but that's because I'm a spice addict.  It was described as "hot and spicy strips of chicken with onions, tomato, ginger and garlic."  I'm not sure if it was that much spicier than the Asian beef, but given the option I'd rather eat flavorsome food than mundane spicy food.  And this was tasty - fresh chicken and fresh herbs.  You can also see half a samosa I bartered from Brewer half - hand made samosas are amazing!
MTB Ben ordered Asian beef noodles and veggie samosas.  MTB Ben ate all the noodles and all the samosas and then made groaning noises because he was too full and then fell asleep.  When I asked MTB ben about the meal, he said "that was good food" It looked like good food before it got devoured (he's devouring as I took the photo!).  MTB Ben notes that the medium sauce is quite hot, and that his noodles were spicy but good.
We all enjoyed our meal at Kati Wok.  Good fresh food at a good price.  The manager, Niaz Taj, clearly had a vision for the type of restaurant he wanted to open, and Kati Wok is a distinctive and unique addition to the many options in Cardiff. The food is fresh - as it says on the website "good food takes longer than 60 seconds."  This is truly good food - good flavors, good preparation, good service, and certainly unique decor!


02920 376222
53 Crwys Road
Cathays, Cardiff
CF24 4ND

May 7, 2013

Brewer Half's Half Brewed Review: Danish Monster by Celt Brewery

Celt Danish Monster - 6.2%

Celt Brewery, based in Caerphilly, have been running for a few years, and are winning me over with their understated yet quirky beers. This one I especially enjoyed, although it is definitely not understated.

The bright, golden colour hides a thumping personality, with a surprisingly thick and heavy body.

The first mouthful was like being hit gently yet firmly (thanks Peep Show) in the face with a beery sledgehammer. It was wonderful.

There is a rich maltiness, fantastically balanced with a healthy dose of bitter, citrusy hop flavours, and an alcoholic punch.

The initial citrus hop bite is quickly followed by a lingering liquorice and sweet malt body, all interlaced with a lovely bitterness. I say interlaced, what I mean is that the intense bitterness cuts through the already strong flavours present, but the beer is so well balanced it doesn't overpower.

I like this beer a lot. It's intense.

Celt Brewery

And that's the Brewer Half's Half Brewed Review! 

May 5, 2013

Sunday Training - my first attempt at a Long Run

Today is Sunday, and Sunday is Ajax long rides, and I did not go on the Ajax long ride.  I was nervous because it was long (75 miles!) and lumpy (read: hilly) and I was probably going to be the worst one there.

Instead of getting on the bike I decided to hit the gym and learn how to use machines.  As you can probably tell, I tend to do my workouts in circuits, with sets of exercises that I run through 3 times.  I remembered I used to do 3 sets of 10 things, and then move on.  So I brought a notebook and paper and did 3 sets of 10 on all the things.  I wrote down the weights I used too so I can go back and do it again.

It was cool, machines make me feel lame but are probably good.  I like free weights but I feel like I exhausted my arms more than normal by doing every machine in the gym.  I still did my favorite bar stuff (CLEAN AND PRESS!) but at least now I have an option for when they weights area is mega full.

After gym I had a protein bar and an apple and a cup of coffee before heading out on a long run.

I don't know exactly what possessed me - I've wanted to do a long run for a while, more than a 5k and more than 5 miles.

I found an awesome trail that was super pretty and took some photos:

I was out for a while and wanted to keep going but the trail sort of ended so I headed back towards home.  The last 2 miles was mostly painful but I kept going - I did stop to change the song and check my strava a lot on the way back, but in the end I made it home and had run a total of....

8.3 Miles!

This is pretty awesome as I was never a runner before and I don't like running, but there's something amazing about propelling yourself forward with only your feet and exploring new places without bicycle or car.  I will have to head that way again and see if I can find some more trails - it was absolutely stunning!

Of course my legs do feel like led now, as do my arms from the gym, but it's been a pretty excellent Sunday!

So I treated myself to some lovely beers in celebration
What an epic day!

May 4, 2013

Brewer Half's Half Brewed Reviews: Dark Arts Surreal Stout

It's time for another edition of the Brewer Half's Half Brewed Reviews!

Magic Rock Brewing Surreal Stout - 6%

I love thick, dark beers, and this looked like it would fit the bill. This is a new brewery to me, and my local beer shop (the Discount Supermarket - an excellent beer shop cunningly disguised as a corner shop) has just gotten in a selection. 

This beer has an aroma and flavour of roasted barley. Each mouthful has a fine balance of thick, smooth richness, and bitterness from the dark malts. The finish is lingering and smoky. 

This smoky finish adds a little extra twist to what is a fine example of the style. 

May 3, 2013

Mountain Biking Castle Coch - my first trip to my properly local trails

The other week MTB Ben took the Brewer half and me up to some of the local trails at Castle Coch.  It was a sunny day and MTB Ben was set on teaching us some new skills.  I'de never really been up Castle Coch but knew there was biking there - it turned out there was much more than I expected!

After grinding to the top (with a bit of pushing) ben took us to some little jump-y courses.  MTB Ben took us to a steep downhill bit and encouraged us to go down it.

I did not want to go down, neither did Brewer half.  But after some coaxing I gave it a go, and It was actually fine!  I practiced shifting my weight back to try and control the bike, and did not crash at all.

In fact, MTB Ben took a photo that was kind of awesome
It doesn't even look that steep!

After playing on the jumps we cycled to the top of the ridgeway overlooking Caerphilly...
...where MTB Ben fondled his bike...
...And then took some class photos

Check it out, here's me going over a very small bit of down!

And here's MTB Ben, going over a much larger bit of down!