British Military Fitness

Last week I had my first training session with British Military Fitness. I’ve been kindly invited by adidas to come down and take part over six weeks to experience getting fit – military style. I have to admit, BMF (as it’s known among those that go) has never appealed. A group of strangers getting yelled at in the pouring rain all in the name of a six-pack? No ta. But summer is almost here, and my bikini body is nowhere to be seen, so on being invited, before I could come up with an excuse my lips parted and out slipped ‘I’d love to’.

'I'd love to'

BMF is essentially a one hour group training session, that takes part in parks around the country, lead by a serving or ex military member. There are three levels of training, blue being the easiest and green rating the hardest.

Anyone that follows this blog will know I love running, particularly running outdoors. But I’ve not done any field related, physical activity since school. PE does not hold hugely find memories for me – freezing cold fingers getting beaten up by hard-hitting hockey sticks, smelly changing rooms and grazed knees. So, how did BMF fare for a girl who hates being told what to do and whose shins haven’t been scraped by lumpy ground in well over 15 years?

grass stain

Climbing The Ranks:

Hyde Park at sunset is simply stunning. Any excuse to hang out there for an hour as the sun goes down is an excuse worth making.

Just like running on the treadmill is nothing compared to pounding the streets, sit ups in a mirrored gym has nothing on doing them under the branches of an old oak tree.

There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition between comrades to push you that little bit further. I will beat you Lucy Miller of Health and Fitness Magazine (even if you are an ex gymnast with awe-inspiring stamina!)

Drop And Give Me Ten

I’m not at school. I don’t like wearing a numbered bib. Especially when I’m wearing fancy new adidas training kit underneath.

I dislike organised fun: I love drinking, but I loathe drinking games. The same goes for bonding rituals – I’m a strong team player, but I hate team bonding games (just the thought of group squatting, or running with linked arms makes me feel queasy).

Doggy truffles pose a big risk – always give the grass a cursory scan before dropping to the floor for a round of 40 press-ups.

What You Should Know Before You Go:

There are three difficulty bands, blue, red and green (indicated by the bibs). After an initial session you’ll be grouped with people of a similar fitness level – green being most hardcore and blue for beginner.

Fitness tests are ongoing (how many sit ups can you do in 2 minutes / how fast can you run 1 k) with records kept at each stage – with the hope that you’ll look back after 6 weeks and admire your own improvement.

Cardio, weight-bearing (your own), and muscle strengthening and durability exercises are all covered in your hour session.

Water is available; so long as you have the skills to squirt it into your mouth from a communal bottle. I choked twice. And left thirsty.

Can the group game hating fitness lover be seduced by the power of British Military Fitness? Stay tuned in to find out.

www.britmilfit.com

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Cocktease at Bar Ninetyeight and Lounge

Something’s happening on Curtain Road. Or, to be more precise, under Curtain Road.

Head down the innocuous spiral stairway of Morrell House – the period building next to Hoxton Pony  – to Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge; a space that scores points for its cocktails and its penchant for all things crazy.

An intimate 100-person jamboree of Vintage French furniture, trays of sweets and a gilt-edged bar with toy trains carrying shot glasses and sugar cubes. Cakes by master baker Lili Vanilli pile high on the bar and behind it, owner Kath Morrell’s potent infusions will bring a tear to the eye of even the most ardent of liquor fans. Ask for a scotch bonnet chilli and whiskey infusion or sample the vintage Havana Club rum muddled with Che Guevara Cuban Cigars and prepare for a head rush. (We remind you to drink responsibly, natch).

Last week the bar reached the grand old age of one and to celebrate Morrell is inviting ladies to join in a new weekly yoga class with local teacher Christina Singleton, followed by some cockteas. (Heads out of the gutter please). A cocktea is essentially the lovechild of a cocktail and cuppa’ make-out session. Served in a floral tea cup, a slosh of Gran Marnier is mixed with flowering Jasmin Basket with Green Tea that opens up in the water to become a pretty lotus flower. Just the ticket after all that heavy breathing and downward dog action.

INFO

Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge, Morrell House, 98 Curtain Road, EC2A

Yoga and Cockteas, Wednesdays 6.30 – 9pm

020 7729 0087 ninetyeight-bar-lounge.com

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Claire Ptak’s Boozy Choc and Prune Cake

I’m a huge fan of Claire Ptak. See my review of her lovely Violet Cafe here. I am in love with this recipe of hers, it ticks all my sweet tooth boxes – chocolatey, fruity, sticky, boozy, super simple to make and free from wheat (which means I can serve it to all my flour-avoiding friends).

If you can’t stomach another Easter Egg then I’d suggest melting them down and turning them into this decadent alternative. I substitute the Armagnac for Cointreau and it tastes deeeeeevine.

The recipe I followed can be seen here

Here’s my cake in situ at a very girly high tea afternoon (before it descended into a heady Gin Fizz mess).

tea for (a few more than) two

I also scooped a few dollops into a little ramekin and baked for a bite size desert.

nom nom nom

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Summer On The Southbank

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Pelicans and Parrots

While on a long Sunday morning run with me, myself and I, I ducked and dived down side-roads, just for the sake of seeing what was down there. It turned out, as aimlessly running often does, to be fruitful, as I ejected straight onto Kingsland Road and into the doorway of new vintage clothing and homeware boitique Pelican’s and Parrots.

 

runners need

 

Well presented and airy; rails were divided into colours, which appeals to my penchant for colour coordination. Carefully placed object de art – from antlers to vases and elegant Champagne flutes from days gone by – lent a miniature-museum-of-wonderful-things feeling to the shop.

 

what a lovely ideer

 

I sweatily pricked through beautiful pieces, with a few Ossie Clarke style names punctuating genuine non-label vintage dresses, silk shorts and capes. Price points were excellent ranging from around £30 – £100, and the quality was exemplary – no tea-stains, frayed edges or broken zips.

So it’s true, the early bird really does catch the Pelican. Run Rabbit and ye shall find. A Parrot in the hand is worth two in the… Oh Dear. I think it must be lunchtime.

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Dinner For One

When talking about cooking for one I often hear people saying things like, ‘I just don’t really see the point when it’s just me, I’d rather just grab a few pieces of toast.’ Or, ‘I enjoy cooking if it’s for three or four people, but if it’s just me, then I find it a chore.’

When I was growing up, my house was, ahem, haphazard to say the least. Between the alcoholism, 100 decibel fights and tantrums there was however, always one solace – food. My mum was a fantastic cook and food was her way of giving other people pleasure. Food, cooking and eating were an event, something to be relished: At the least, meal times were a whirlwind of fresh ingredients, thrown together and eaten on the run, at best they were social events planned far in advance, with everyone getting involved in the preparation – be it pheasant plucking (dad), sauce stirring (me), plate laying (sister) and bowl licking (lazy brother). My sister and I still laugh that mum had a weekly shopping list with a menu for each night of the week, so if we peeked in her handbag on a Sunday, we’d know what we had to look forward to on Tuesday for example.

 

 

As a result I’m lucky to have a very healthy relationship with food; from poring over it in the supermarket to pulling it out of a garden pot, trawling recipe books, gutting, skinning and slicing, slow roasting and of course eating. Which is why for me, both eating as part of a group or entirely alone is something I cherish. Living with The Boy and having a hectic work/life schedule it’s rare however, that I get a chance to spend an evening shopping, cooking then eating entirely solo. But last weekend with The Boy on a stag do, Saturday night had ‘Me Time’ written all over it.

I should include a disclaimer here, that when eating solo I like to indulge in all the things I’m craving in one sitting. Which, whilst at University once famously (among my friends) meant baked beans, spinach, tortilla wrap and fish fingers. On Saturday this meant Chilli Fried Octopus, Pea and Mint Salad and Thick Cut Soda Bread with a blanket of butter. I’m not saying it’s an ideal pairing, but it worked for me. And that’s what Saturday was all about. Me + Food = Good Times & Happy Belly.

Chilli, Salt and Pepper-Fried Octopus
1 Octopus (mine was from Morrison’s Fish Counter)
1 Red Chilli finely chopped
Salt and P
Fresh Coriander and Lemon to garnish

Wash the octopus and and make sure all black ink is removed. Scrub to remove outer skin, which may become chewy when cooked. Slice into edible chunks, try not to be afraid of the tendrils, they are TASTY! Paper towel dry the squiddy, then coat liberally with salt, pepper and your finely chopped chilli. Use your hands to rub all marinade into the skin. Squeeze over half a lemon then throw into a hot oily wok and cook for three to four minutes. Roughly chop coriander and throw it all into a bowl. EAT.

 

sizzling

spicy, scrummy, squid sibling

 

Pea and Mint Salad
3 handfuls of garden peas (frozen are good)
Handful of rocket leafs
A handful of fresh mint
Quarter of a cucumber
One small ready cooked beet (without vinegar)

Throw peas in a pan of water, leave over the heat until peas start to rise. Remove from heat, drain and leave to cool. Chop beetroot and cucumber into small chunks. Once peas are cooled throw into a salad bowl and toss with the rocket and fresh mint. Squeeze over alittle fresh lemon, salt and pepper to finish.

 

hap-pea

Soda Bread and Butter

 

I cheated and just bought a nice fresh loaf. But if you did want to bake your own, this is a recipe I’ve used before.

Sit down, glass of chilled white wine, nice crockery, something good on the box and enjoy the fruit de mer of your labour. Who said eating for one was dull?

Tip: Try putting some of the salad and some of the spicy, lemony squid and sauce onto the buttered bread, fold it in half and munch. Deeelicious.

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Happy Birthday To Me

I love a birthday, it’s a shame they come but once a year. This hasn’t always been the case, I used to dread them – what if no one remembered, what if no one came to the party, what if people begrudged having to spend money to come out for something that’s not their cup of tea? Pretty exhausting stuff, but such is the life of an insecure teen who thinks too much. This year I turned 28 and have a lovely cosy, rich food and wine filled day. Bon Anniversaire indeed.

 

Presents and fizz for breakfast

Cat gets involved

coffee and papers

Pretty Pretty

before

Konditor and Cook‘s rich and decadent Chocolate, Raspberry Fudge Cake. I’ve seen this bring down even the most hardcore of Chocolate Cake eaters.

after

the end

 

 

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