Lorna

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So, here we are. Another year has been and gone and I can’t believe only a couple of weeks ago I was saying good riddance to 2017. So much happened during the last 12 months, and I was happy to hold a middle finger up to it and send it on its way. I didn’t even stay up to see the old year out and the new one in – I was over it and found myself tucked up in bed before 11pm, only to be woken at midnight by a million fireworks going off.

I realise there’s no magic door that separates the old year from the new one, but there is something satisfying about waking up on New Year’s Day. It’s like a clean slate. A new start. A time to move forward and plan for the year ahead. I love those feelings of positivity and determination, which 2 days later are replaced with the familiar feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. No? Just me then.

2017 was many things. Including,

Challenging, overwhelming and emotional

Just like the previous year, 2017 was filled with overwhelm. And if I had to describe it in three words (which I did in Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year), I would describe it as challenging, overwhelming and emotional.

As I recently said on Instagram, just because the photos are pretty it doesn’t mean everything is peachy behind the scenes. My dad had been in and out of the hospital for over a year, which ended with life-changing consequences for our family. Especially my parents. It’s been a huge adjustment for everyone, but luckily, we’re a family that deals with things using humour – most of the time in bad taste. Without this coping mechanism though, everything would have just gone to shit.

Heart-breaking

We also lost our pretty princess, Henry. She was 19 ½ and had a few health issues which were under control, but unfortunately, she’d started to deteriorate in other areas due to her age. In October, both the vet and I agreed Henry would be ready to leave us soon, but not quite yet. We needed a sign, and a few weeks later my little princess gave us one.

Henry used to sleep on me at night and early one morning I woke to her having a seizure. The vet had warned me this could happen, but it was a shock when it did. I had to wait until it was over before I could comfort her which was awful. She was disoriented, and I was terrified of going back to sleep. The following day she lost the use of her back legs and that’s when we had to call the vet. We were absolutely heart-broken.

Losing my princess hit me hard and I still listen out for her at night, thinking she’s going to jump on the bed for snuggles.

Expensive

The house cost us a fortune this year. Yes, we bought it because it needed renovating, but unfortunately, it turned out the work that needed doing ran deeper than we initially thought. I’ve wanted to up and leave about a million times during the past year, but we made the decision to buy it, so we just need to man the fuck up and get on with it. Hopefully, a lot of the more expensive things have been dealt with now and this year I can concentrate on some decorating and making things look pretty.

But the year wasn’t all bad.

I went back to work

Health and fitness has been a big part of my life for so long. I spent 5 years teaching aerobics and a few years working as a gym instructor. I’m also a qualified personal trainer. I’d been wanting to get back into the fitness industry for a while, but wasn’t sure in which capacity, so in March last year I randomly took a course in sports & exercise nutrition. Then in November last year, I started work as a part-time gym instructor. It suits me perfectly at the moment because I can easily fit my printing business around it.

I’ve had some other offers that I’m currently looking into and I’ve got some ideas of my own that I also want to explore. So far, things are looking positive – although perhaps a little overwhelming.

I have a blog post coming soon with my thoughts on going back to work.

I switched up my exercise

Even with everything that went on last year, I still managed to work out 6 days a week. Some days I hit the road instead of the gym and other days I stayed home and did a circuit, T25 or a YouTube video. Working out is my coping mechanism, how I function and non-negotiable. It also helps that I enjoy it! Last year showed me I had to be flexible in order to squeeze in my exercise fix and this year is shaping up to be the same so far.

I’ll be sharing some of my favourite YouTube videos soon.

I found new running routes & ran the Preston 10k

I fell out of love with running early in 2017, but my passion was soon reignited when we discovered the Preston Guild Wheel. This opened-up some amazing running routes, and I fell in love with it all over again. Is it easy? Hell no! Running doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s still something I love.

I also ran the Preston 10k. My time was slower than I would have liked, due to a section of the route that bottlenecked while people filtered down into a single lane track. But overall, I was happy with how it went and this year I’d like to take part in more events.

I explored new places

I’m not shy when it comes to shouting about how much I love the Lake District. But 2017 also saw us cheating on the Lakes a couple of times with the Forest of Bowland and parts of Cheshire.

Stocks Reservoir and Nelson Pit No.7 were two of my favourite walks from last year. Even though they were a little boggy! It just made it even more fun. Especially when walking Stocks Reservoir and Ian dropped his sandwich. We watched it roll down a hill into a mucky stream and then through hysterical laughter I pondered out loud if tinfoil was waterproof. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so I had to share my lunch with him. The mud, cold, and sandwich rolling pretty much summed up the whole day. But they’re the days I love. The days where things don’t go to plan.

I also found myself on adventures with my bestie visiting Holker Hall, Sizergh Castle, Martin Mere, Brockholes, Levens Hall, New Brighton beach and the Cat Cafe in Manchester. Considering the year I had, I’m amazed I managed to visit anywhere at all!

I finally closed the doors on my photography business

Even though I announced in December 2016 that I would be closing the doors on my photography business, I didn’t actually do it until May 2017. Sometimes previous clients come out of the woodwork and you just can’t turn them down. It was nice to do a few last shoots, but it also reminded me why I wanted to close the doors and move onto pastures new. I have no regrets whatsoever and I closed my business with a lovely shoot of a small country cottage holiday let.

Final thoughts

Last year was tough. But it showed me I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. There were days where I just wanted to give up. I wanted to hibernate and never speak to another living soul again. But somehow, I got through it and came back stronger. This year, I’m looking forward to getting organised, working on a new business venture, exploring the great outdoors and doing more things that make my heart sing.

How’s your 2018 shaping up so far?

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This month I took delivery of my second lifestyle subscription box from The Vegan Kind. Last month there were some incredibly tasty treats, but this month’s box was so yummy we’d eaten half of it the day after taking delivery!

The Vegan Kind Lifestyle Box

What’s in The Vegan Kind October Lifestyle Box?

So, I hear you ask. What was in October’s box?

  • Biona Cool Cola Bottles
  • Harpers Candles Little Black Cat Candle
  • MyProtein Chocolate baked Cookie
  • Geo Organics Chickpea and Lentil Dahl
  • Eat Vive Peanut Butter Jelly Bar
  • Alo Comfort Watermelon and Peach Drink
  • Retrocorn Lemon and Lime Sherbert Popcorn
  • Cashew Udon Noodles recipe by My Fruity Kitchen

MyProtein Chocolate Baked Cookie

The day before The Vegan Kind box arrived, we’d been out walking in the Forest of Bowland. We’d celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary a few days earlier, so we decided to end the week by walking Stocks Reservoir and then heading over to Zizzi at the Trafford Centre. I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much I love their vegan menu! After we’d eaten I was craving a chocolate cookie and started whining like a child. I want a cookie. Like Millie’s double chocolate chip cookies. But obviously with Millie’s not being vegan, they were out of the question – so we left empty handed.

Imagine my delight when the next day our lifestyle box arrived and it contained a MyProtein chocolate baked cookie. Oh. My. Rare. How tasty? Erm. Extremely. We scoffed this the next day as part of our post run snack. With 38g of carbs and 13g of protein, this is certainly something I can get on board with after a workout. It tasted so good I ordered a box of 12! Highly recommended.

My Protein Baked Cookie and Vive Peanut Butter

Retrocorn Lemon and Lime Sherbert Popcorn

Something else I had been craving was popcorn. I’d been pondering out loud to Ian, asking if he knew where we could get some vegan popcorn from and once again, The Vegan Kind answered my cravings. When I saw the flavour, I was a little unsure to begin with. But once we busted these bad boys open there was no going back. They were really tasty and I’ll definitely be buying more in the future.

Retrocorn Popcorn

Eat Vive Peanut Butter Jelly Bar

It was okay – but nothing spectacular. It had one of those weird textures where once you’ve chewed it, it’s not very easy to swallow. I found it far too dry for my liking, so I don’t think it’s something I’ll be buying in the future.

Biona Cool Cola Bottles

I was super excited about these. Vegan cola bottles. What’s not to love?

Admittedly, if they were fizzy vegan cola bottles they would have been perfect. But I really liked these and they worked well as our Saturday evening treat.

Harpers Candles Little Black Cat Candle

The smell!!! As soon as I saw the candle in the box I took the lid off so I could have a whiff. I couldn’t figure it out, but it smelt so amazing I wanted to eat it. Ha! It was movie night that night so I lit it and set it off burning for a few hours, letting the smell fill the room.

Later that night, I noticed Harper’s Candles had commented on my Instagram post that showed the full lifestyle box, so I took the opportunity to ask them what the smell was. It was English Autumn berries. No wonder it smelt so good.

The Vegan Kind Harper's Candle

Alo Comfort Watermelon and Peach Drink

Erm. No. Just, no. I’m not sure if it was aloe vera or watermelon pieces floating in this. Either way, it definitely didn’t float our boat. We didn’t even manage to finish it. It did not taste good.

Geo Organics Chickpea and Lentil Dahl

Ah, chickpeas. My adversary. The peas I love to hate.

Last month’s box included some Cheeky P’s curry flavour roasted chickpeas. I immediately pulled a face like a cat licking a chilli and told Ian he could have them. Me and chickpeas are not buddies. But when Ian opened them and persuaded me to try a few, they tasted immense. I loved them. So, I thought maybe I’d made my peace with chickpeas.

I decided to crack open this chickpea and lentil dahl for my lunch one day, thinking I could pick out the chickpeas if I decided I didn’t like it. How wrong I was. So. Many. Chickpeas. It was in the title I suppose. I tried eating some, but only managed to get about a quarter of the way through before deciding I couldn’t eat any more. So, apparently dry roasted curry chickpeas are yummy, but normal cooked chickpeas are not.

At least I tried.

Cashew Udon Noodles recipe by My Fruity Kitchen

I don’t like coconut so I haven’t made this yet. But I’m thinking about swapping out the coconut milk for almond milk. I’ll experiment and then get back to you.

Charity of the month

This month’s charity is Tower Hills Stables Animal Sanctuary. I stumbled upon this a few months ago when I fell down the internet rabbit hole looking for vegan athletes and discovered the owner, Fiona Oakes.

Fiona runs marathons to raise awareness of the work she does for the animals and to show that being vegan doesn’t hinder athletic performance in any way.

10p from every box sold this month goes to Fiona’s animal sanctuary, which she runs with her partner Martin and her mum, Meg.

Final Thoughts

I’m really happy with this month’s box and I still love the whole concept. I’ve discovered some really tasty vegan foods that I wouldn’t have otherwise known existed.

I love that The Vegan Kind are giving something back each month by donating to a chosen charity/campaign. This also makes me wish I was in a position to open an animal sanctuary and save all the animals. We visited Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary at the weekend looking for a cat for my friend, and all I wanted to do was take the animals home and care for them. The woes of being a vegan eh? Maybe one day my animal sanctuary dreams will come true.

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The Vegan Kind October Lifestyle Box

I am an affiliate of The Vegan Kind. If you purchase something from them through a link on my blog, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Ever since I completed the 2016 Chester half-marathon, I’ve been desperate to train for another event. Unfortunately, life had other plans. It’s like there’s been a universal conspiracy preventing me from taking part in anything else. Injury, illness, more injury, ill parents, time constraints, more injury, house renovations – you name it, it’s happened. And for the past 18-months I feel like I’ve just been ticking over.

The Preston 10k

Although I’ve been working out consistently – mainly because it keeps me sane – I’ve not been doing anything outstanding. I’ve gradually built my running back up to 10k, and my weekend outdoor run with Ian is something I look forward to. But over the last couple of months I’ve been feeling the need to do more. So instead of telling myself we needed to train for something big, I changed my focus and decided that we should concentrate on smaller events. Enter the Preston 10k.

On 17th September while out on our Sunday morning run I saw a banner advertising the Preston 10k. It was a sign. Literally. <cue dramatic lighting and fairy dust> Seeing that it was taking place the following Sunday I feared we may be a bit late to enter, but low and behold, the online cut-off date was that night. Another sign. I’m all for the signs you know.

Other than the Chester half and a 5k fun run I did when I was 10 I’ve never taken part in any other events, so I was interested to see how well organised it would be. Convinced the roads would be filled with stationary traffic, I insisted we leave home early to get a parking space and pick up our race numbers. But en route we soon discovered the roads were clear, we could enter the car park with ease, park anywhere we wanted and still have 30 minutes before we could collect our numbers! So far so good.

Collecting our race numbers

Making our way to Friargate to collect our race numbers, we realised we were still 10 minutes too early. Ian’s clock in the car was 10 minutes fast, something he failed to remind me of. But the closer we got, the more people we passed who were pinning numbers onto their tops. Although the collection time was supposed to be from 8am, it appeared the tent was already open for business. Another bonus. We didn’t have to queue, we went straight to the table where quickly and efficiently we were given our numbers. By 8.10am we were both race ready and sat back in the car keeping warm.

Smugly, I sat watching as the car park filled up and people rushed around, trying to figure out where to go. Unfortunately, my smugness was short lived. The race was starting at 9am and at 8.40am as we left the car, we realised just how many people were there. As we turned the corner onto Friargate we saw a sea of people queueing for the toilets. I was happy they had been provided, but I don’t think there was enough to accommodate the amount of people. Having a child sized bladder meant skipping the loo before the race wasn’t an option, but somehow, with only 3 minutes to spare, we managed to make our way into the crowd. We weren’t at the very back, but we weren’t exactly in the middle either! I just hoped that we would be able to get into a stride and move further forwards once the crowds thinned out.

Pre Preston 10k faces

The Race Route

From Friairgate, we ran down Cheapside which felt narrow and penned in, but we still managed to find some gaps and use them to overtake. Having only moved to Preston in November 2016, my knowledge of the city centre is still pretty sketchy as it’s not somewhere I visit. But from looking on Google maps, I think from Cheapside we ran onto Glover Street, turned right onto Avenham Lane which then turned into Ribblesdale Place, before entering Avenham Park.

I have no point of reference to the previous routes that the 10k has taken, but after leaving the park we headed over towards the Capital Centre at Walton-le-Dale and headed down Winery Lane. Winery Lane runs behind Prezzo and Nuffield Health which width wise, is okay to begin with. Ian and I run down here sometimes, so we were familiar with most of the route. We also knew that to get back to Avenham Park we needed to run down an unnamed track between fields of corn, which eventually leads to a single lane track between overgrown foliage.

If you meet someone coming the other way, especially on a bike, it’s an interesting situation to say the least. And I realise there were stewards and it was closed off to accommodate the race, but personally, I don’t think enough thought was given to this part of the route. The night the route was thought up, I think there was copious amounts of beer involved and someone just said, fuck it, it’ll be alright.

Bottle Neck

We (and many other runners) were in a nice steady stride by this point, but when we reached the single lane track everyone had to stop, as one-by-one people filed through the gate – which created a bottle neck situation. And then there wasn’t any other option but to slowly jog at the same pace as whoever was at the front. It. Was. Frustrating.

We looped around and then hit the track from the other direction, which was marginally wider, but there still wasn’t enough room to get past anyone. And then we had to run along a narrow path through parkland towards Riverside Road. It was during this small section I started to get really frustrated, as it felt like people just didn’t want to be overtaken. Not having much experience of running events, I’m not sure about running etiquette. But, I know when I sensed someone coming up alongside me who needed to get past, I accommodated them and moved out of the way. Yet here, we were met with runners who would glance over their shoulder and ignore the situation. Even when there was ample space for them to move out of the way to let you pass, it just wasn’t happening.

From Riverside Road we headed back towards Avenham Park. Everyone had spread out nicely again by this point, but this section was also a killer for me. This is where I began to struggle with the pace we were running at, trying to make up for the sections where we’d lost time. The hill out of the park was too much for me at this point, so I walked up it. I wanted to save everything I had left to run the last half mile and get over the finish line back at Friargate.

Post Preston 10k running faces

Final Thoughts

We completed the race in 1 hour 1 minute 21 seconds, which I was quite pleased with. It was probably about a minute over what we normally complete 10k in, but considering some of the time we lost, I was okay with it.

Overall, I really enjoyed running the Preston 10k, because it gave me what I wanted. Which was the chance to start experiencing more events. It was well organised, there was a good atmosphere, and the medal was decent too – really solid! But, I do think the route could have been planned out a bit better. One thing I like about running is exploring the city on foot and getting to know how it fits together, so some aspects of the route were really enjoyable. And I know I’m not the fastest runner, but I still found the single lane tracks frustrating.

Unfortunately, this was the last Preston 10k. It appears that the cost of hosting the event is getting too expensive and there’s more red tape to deal with each year. It’s a shame really, because it was an enjoyable experience and it was plain to see how much business it created for the town centre.

Did you run the Preston 10k this year? What did you think?

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Running the Last Ever Preston 10k

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When I was making the transition from vegetarian to vegan, the one thing I struggled to give up was cheese. It wasn’t even like I was a big cheese monster. I hated cheese. Well, cold cheese anyway. I didn’t eat cheese sandwiches, or cheese on crackers or posh cheese on little cocktail sticks. But melted cheese on a pizza, on a toasted sandwich and even on tomato pasta was something I really loved. Also, the thought of eating vegan cheese didn’t seem that appealing to begin with.

Searching for the perfect vegan cheese

Just the thought of eating cheese now makes me feel sick. Not only because of the taste, but because of the dairy industry itself. At the time, I thought that by eating a vegetarian diet I was doing my bit to help the animals, and I was to a certain degree. But once I realised the horror of the dairy industry and the cruelty of it all, I knew that cheese had to go.

But even after I’d made up my mind to remove it from my diet, I still found myself falling off the wagon. To begin with it was difficult to find a decent cheese substitute, so we experimented with different pizza toppings that we’d found online or in magazines. We would make marinades, use roasted vegetables and quite happily eat a cheese-less pizza. After all, the Italians famously invented pizza marinara did they not? But pretty soon it started to get boring and I found myself slipping, because I just wanted my pizza to taste like pizza goddamn it!

And each week as I threw a bag of mozzarella into the shopping trolley, I found myself trying to block out the horrors of the dairy industry. But as my journey to becoming vegan continued, I reached a point where I could no longer eat it. I couldn’t bear the fact that I was contributing to such a horrific industry. And so, my search for the perfect vegan cheese began. It wasn’t easy, and although vegan cheeses have improved a lot over the past couple of years, I think there are still a few duff ones out there.

Cheezly Mozzarella

Admittedly, I haven’t tasted every vegan cheese available, but out of the ones I have tried my personal favourite is Cheezly Mozzarella. I find it ideal as a pizza topping, because just like cheese it can be grated and it melts too, unlike other makes that end up tasting like plastic. I haven’t eaten any of the other Cheezly range, but they also have a selection of cheddar style cheeses available. As for the mozzarella, I like the taste and the consistency, and the fact that it doesn’t have a strong flavour. Because even when I did eat cheese, I used to go for the weakest that I could find.

Vegan Cheese Options

Some of the most popular cheese alternatives include Violife, Vegusto, MozzaRisella and Veganic Pizza Melty. MozzaRisella is what both Zizzi and Pizza Express use on their vegan food options, and much as I like it, I find it goes cold really quickly. Some supermarkets are even getting in on the action now too, with Sainsburys and Tesco jumping on the bandwagon. Although, I actually wretched when I tried Sainsbury’s mozzarella. The stench was so strong, that I should have just closed the bag there and then. But I thought I’d give it the benefit of the doubt, hoping that perhaps once it was cooked it would taste okay. Oh, how wrong I was! It’s the worst vegan cheese I’ve ever tasted.

But don’t let my experience put you off. If you like a strong flavour, then Sainsbury’s mozzarella might just be the cheese for you! Although, one person who reviewed it described it as ‘an assault to my mouth and taste buds’. Ha! I couldn’t agree more.

Final Thoughts

It might take a bit of trial and error, but I’m pretty sure if you’re looking to give up cheese, there’s a vegan alternative out there to suit your taste buds. And as always, I advise doing your own research.

Are you still searching for the perfect vegan cheese or have you found it?

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Vegan Cheese with Pasta

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