Smiley London Collection as Music Ambassador!

Just wanted to share some work related blogs. I work for Smiley, who own the iconic Smiley logo, and license out to over 200 companies. This is some of their recent PR with Celebrities & Musicians.

Stooshe were spotted wearing our Smiley London collection  – Cool!

Smiley London Collection as Music Ambassador!.

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Countdown to the Bupa Great Manchester Run – 5 days to go

This is a quick pre-race blog post!

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Bupa Great Manchester Run

I strangely won a place in the Bupa Great Manchester 10K Run, which takes place this Sunday – I say strange because I don’t actually remember entering! 

This is the biggest race I have entered.

Big as in the amount of runners, not distance. I was staggered to see that it has over 40,000 runners, and that the start is in several waves.

Secretly I am a little disappointed that it is a wave start, as it would have been epic to race against that many people!

I somehow also managed to get into the white wave, where it quite clearly states that this is not for slow people. Ok, they worded this a little more eloquently than me.

I figure that I gave them my target finishing time, so they would have put me in the right wave – right?!?

I am also very impressed with the race pack and information that they supplied. It includes some really helpful tips on the build up to race day, fab maps and schedule information about when and where each wave starts and where to meet with family later. Even this is specified by your wave colour!

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Fantastically detailed map of the route

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Detailed info, including how to tie your chip to your shoe!

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Great info on where to meet people after

I have the full Beecroft family out supporting me, as my other half is from Manchester, so it’s a great excuse to head up North to visit the family. Hopefully they’ll be able to spot me amongst the other 39,999 runners! I also have a friend running, but he’s in the Orange wave (fastest!) so I doubt we’ll find each other due to the wave segregation 😉

I am very excited, as I always get caught up in the atmosphere of a well organised race, plus I’m super competitive for someone who’s not actually very good 😉 The way it has been organised feels like it will be a fab morning of running. Plus I might be on TV – must remember to set the Sky + 

I have only done three 10km races before, so I am by no means an expert at this distance, and my pacing is pretty shocking! Hoping to get a PB, but we’ll see on the day – Fingers Crossed (and a few toes for extra luck!)

 

STK London – Anniversary Meal

For our 2nd anniversary we decided to try STK at the ME hotel on The Strand.

The hotel and restaurant are part of The One Group who are also the owners of The Cosmopolitan, where we stayed for our honeymoon in Vegas, so it was an apt choice to go for our meal.

We reserved around 2 weeks in advance and could only get an early sitting of 6pm, with a 2 hour time limit for the table.

The hotel is quite understated from the outside, so not easy to spot, but sits on the island between Aldwych and The Strand, so not too difficult really.

The restaurant is very stylish, with a dark and glitzy look. A nice selection of booths and tables, with ample space, so you don’t feel like your all squished in together.

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Our waiter was very attentive and took great pride in telling us how lively the place got later, with dancing on the tables when the DJ cranked up the volume. Seeing as we had to leave by 8pm this was a cunning ploy to pique our interest and maybe try for a later sitting next time.

We ordered a Cocktail for me, Oh L’Amour, and Beer for Hubby.

For food we chose the Chateaubriand to share, Lobster Mac & Cheese and Parmesan Truffle Chips. The main also came with Foie Gras and Spinach. The meat was cooked perfectly and there was plenty of it, so much we took home a doggy bag! The mac & cheese was delicious, and chips super tasty!

With my steak I had a glass of white wine and hubby a glass of Malbec.

Hubby had spotted a Cheese & Champagne restaurant earlier in Coventry Garden, so he already had dessert sorted, so I opted for the Cold Chocolate Fondant. It was amazing! The base had popping candy in it, and the orange sauce was lovely.

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At every course the waiter had some interesting fact to share about what we were eating or drinking, and was a great host for the evening, always ensuring we had enough water etc.

The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. Food was perfect, and not too unreasonable for central London.

We have seen how lively The Cosmopolitan got as the evening drew on, so can only imagine what STK London could be like after dark.

Only negatives would be the distance to the toilets – around 4 flights downstairs. And the fact that the service charge doesn’t go just to your waiter/waitress, but to the restaurant. This isn’t a big surprise, it was more the fact that they point this out on the bill, which almost guilts you into adding extra to the 12.5% already on your bill.

We would definitely go back to try some of the other items on the menu, especially their great choice of cocktails.

My 1st Half Marathon

On Sunday 7th April I took part in my 1st half marathon at Paddock Wood.

Many of my friends will fall off their chairs when they read that sentence, and wonder what has happened to their lazy friend. Doing a half marathon is not something I saw myself doing a year ago, when I could barely run constantly for over a mile, and my friends had to bribe me to go out and exercise with them, and I mean ANY exercise!

So it was in trepidation that I signed up for the race, but hubby was sure I would be fine with some training, and my brother-in-law signed up too and promised to run with me. He is a relative novice too, and this would be his longest competitive run too – oh boy!

Rich & I did a couple of long distant runs in the build up to the race, and I carried on with my Saturday park runs to try and maintain my fitness. I am sure I should have done more, but April loomed quickly.

Rich had developed a sporadic knee complaint that came and went, but he would just grit his teeth and train through – what a trooper!

I decided to buy myself a new pair of trainers for the occasion. I went to the London Cheapside branch of Sweatshop and let them do their stuff.

I had my gait analysed and they decided that I had a minor inward roll (sorry can’t remember what that is called!) so suggested I should have a show with support.

Now, I am no expert but I could barely see the roll when looking at the video, but they are the experts so I put my trust, and my £100 or so, in them. I didn’t opt for the £40 bespoke inner soles, as I didn’t feel I was that advanced in my running to need them. It did seem odd that they went to the trouble of moulding them even though I was under no obligation to buy them.

 He selected 3 brands for me to try Brooks, Asics & Mizuno, based on the support needed and the width of my foot. We went for half a size bigger than my regular shoe size.

The ASICS were too narrow, the Brooks just weren’t as comfortable as the Mizunos, so I ended up with a lovely looking pair of Mizuno Lady Wave Inspire 9’s.

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Mizuno Lady Wave Inspire 9

I did a practice 9 mile race in them, and I must say they are super comfortable, and very pleased with the Sweatshop staff’s selection.

I also decided to by a GPS running watch, as my iPhone app was a bit rubbish, and I didn’t want to run around with my earphones in, especially with company! I went for the cheapest entry level Garmin – Forerunner FR10. It had all the functions I could need, and it came in a lovely lime green colour for girls 😉

The day of the race arrived, and typically National Rail announced works on the network, so the organisers advised that people get their early as there were only a limited amount of parking spaces. So we left around 7.30am for the drive over. Hubby was doing a warm up (!?) 5 miles with a member from his running club, so Rich and I warmed up (in the car) while we waited for him to return.

Rich and I had planned to try and complete the race in under 2hrs 10mins, based on a comfortable pace of around 10 min miles.

Paddock Wood course is relatively flat, scenery not too inspiring but great for a first half marathon. The support from the locals along the route was great. People were having BBQs, and there were even a few sweetie stations – fab! The weather was dry, maybe a little too warm, but otherwise perfect.

 Rich and I maintained a good early pace, comfortably hitting under our target pace and not wearing ourselves out.

During the early stages of the race we discussed what the tactic was for the end. Every man for himself, so elbows out and a sprint finish to the death? Unity and peace, holding hands across the line?

I was pushing for option 1, feeling all confident that I would still have energy for sneaky tactics and a sprint finish. Rich nervously laughed not sure whether I was serious or not, and whether if it came to it he could indeed take me out!

Just after halfway Rich’s knee began to play up, his sharp intake of breath a big clue! At one point it got so bad we had to walk, and Rich did say I could go on with out him. I’ll admit it, I was SOOOO tempted, my competitive devil was shouting that I should just leave him, but then my good angel reminded me that Rich would NEVER leave me if the same thing happened to me, so I stayed and encouraged him, eventually we got running again.

 At around mile 11 I decided I hated running, my back ached, my body weighed a tonne, and I just wanted to stop. I am so glad Rich was with me, he kept me going, reminding me that it wasn’t that far.

I felt worse during the last half a kilometre and there was no way I could pull a sprint out of the bag, but we had a target time, and I didn’t want to miss it.

All thoughts of tripping Rich and taking the glory were gone, as we crossed the line together in 2hrs 8mins  – YAY! Plus with alphabetical positioning I beat him anyway – double YAY!

We found hubby and he had completed in a very respectable 1hr 38mins.

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Beecroft Results – Yay I am the 2nd fastest Beecroft!

 

His running club (and recently now mine), Dulwich Park Runners, had organised a picnic for those that ran from the club, and their family so it was great to share stories, and some well earned grub!

 At the end of the race I could never imagine having to do that distance all over again in order to complete a marathon, I was wrecked. Marathons weren’t for me.

Well, that was until I went to support and spectate at the London Marathon, I loved the atmosphere of the day so much, well…I entered the ballot, I guess fate can decide!

Band of Bakers – Paul Hollywood’s Sicilian lemon and orange sweet bread

For Band of Bakers recent 1st Birthday party I decided to bake Paul Hollywood’s Sicilian lemon and orange sweet bread. I felt is was quite apt, as this was the episode of Hollywood’s bread that the baking club starred in, and in which I had 3 appearances!

Now me and dough are not great friends, but I think we have found a mutual respect following the attempt of this recipe twice, with no major disasters, which usually come as standard with my baking.

The only thing that is a pain about this recipe is the proving time – 4 hours in total! Do not attempt to do this the night before an event, unless you want to stay up till 1am! Cough Cough!

Paul Hollywood Sweet Bread

Paul Hollywood Sweet Bread

The recipe is taken from Bread by Paul Hollywood (£20, Bloomsbury)

Serves: 8

• 400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
• 7g salt
• 40g caster sugar
• 10g fast-action dried yeast
• 120ml tepid full-fat milk
• 4 medium eggs, at room temperature, lightly whisked
• 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
• Finely grated zest of 2 lemons and 1 orange (unwaxed)
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 100g flaked almonds
• 100g mixed candied peel
• 100g dried cranberries

FOR THE TOPPING:
• 2 medium egg whites
• 25g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 25g ground almonds
• 50g flaked almonds

1. Put the flour in a food mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk, eggs and the butter, in small pieces.

2. Mix on a slow speed for 3 minutes, then on a medium speed for 4 minutes, kneading to a soft, elastic dough.

3. Tip the dough into a bowl, cover and leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

4. Grease a 23cm round, deep springform cake tin. Mix the lemon and orange zest with the lemon juice, almonds, candied peel and cranberries. Add to the risen dough and use your hands to incorporate it well.

5. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a ball. Put into the prepared tin and place inside a large, roomy plastic bag. Again leave to prove in a warm place for 3 hours, until the dough has reached the top of the tin.

6. Heat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6. Bake the sweet bread on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, for the topping, in a bowl, stir the egg whites, sugar and ground almonds together to make a paste.

7. Take out the bread, spread the almond paste on top (some will run to the sides) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds and a little sugar.

8. Lower the oven setting to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4 and bake for a further 20 minutes, covering loosely with foil towards the end of cooking if it appears to be over-browning.

9. Leave the sweet bread to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then release the sides of the tin. Place the bread on a wire rack to cool completely.

Harley's Sweet Bread

Harley’s Sweet Bread

LONDON – Dirty Martini – Chocolate Heaven

I recently went to the Covent Garden Dirty Martini, and I just had to post a blog about the experience.
Now I know I’ll probably be told by all you experts that it’s not the best bar in London, but compared to many of the bars found in the Covent Garden area I really liked it.
Plus the Chocolate Martini blew me away! I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

I actually started the evening with a Strawberry & Rhubarb Fizz, which consisted of fresh strawberry and rhubarb puree and Crème de Fraise syrup, topped with Prosecco. This was very nice and light, however the fruit was a little stringy, and I often had bits of fruit hanging out my mouth after every sip – attractive!

Strawberry & Rhubarb Fizz

Strawberry & Rhubarb Fizz

I then thought I would try a house speciality, seeing as I haven’t had a Martini before, the Chocolate Martini caught my eye straight away, consisting of Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur and Crème de Cacao, shaken with cream and cocoa.

OMG! It was AMAZING!

What is even more amazing is that they have Happy Hour everyday, and these two drinks are half price, amongst other Martinis, and Prosecco cocktails – BARGAIN!

Link to their drinks menu here

The Covent Garden venue is quite small, and most tables were reserved for later that evening, so it’s a great venue if you book, or just going in for a quick couple of drinks, and there’s not too many of you.

Dirty Martini - Covent Garden

Dirty Martini – Covent Garden


Service is good, they happily corrected their mistake when I received a Tropical Pear Martini instead of Chocolate (very tasty as well!), and the waitresses are very attentive as soon as you finish your drinks. They even have a good selection of bar snacks, not sure where they fitted the kitchen though!

I would definitely go back again and recommend to friends. Did I mention that they do an amazing Chocolate Martini?

Images from http://dirtymartini.uk.com/covent-garden/gallery.php