A happy 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

It’s already proving to be an interesting start of the year for me so far. My sister is due to give birth to her first child any time soon, so I’ll be becoming an auntie! My family is on high alert waiting for a phone call from my sister or brother-in-law. I wish them both a prosperous year ahead with plenty of joy and sweet times ahead.

So looking back at 2017 on my blog, my main focus was definitely fitness. I was more determined than ever to run my first half marathon, which I’m glad to have completed on Sunday 15th October 2017 in 2 hours and 47 minutes. With 9 months to train, I gradually built up the distance I was running, starting with 12.5km, then 15km for the Resolution Run, followed by 18km and then the target of 21km. The training was certainly challenging, especially as I experienced a brief period of pain in my shins. I was worried about this, but luckily the pain started to subside and I had no pain in my shins on the day itself. The Leicester half marathon was an incredible experience and one I’d like to take part in again!

After completing my first half marathon

Due to the nature of my training for the half marathon, I didn’t run in many parkruns last year since they are 5km. The last parkrun I ran was in May, which was my sixteenth parkrun. I was even contemplating reaching the 25 or 50 parkrun target last year, but waking up early every Saturday morning can prove challenging for me. I only need to run nine more parkruns to complete 25, so that could be possible to do this year.

On the foodie side, I gave up meat for lent as I have done for the past few years. I love experimenting with vegetarian options during this period of time. I made a vegetable pasta bake, had a go at making Spanish omelettes and a few vegetarian quiches. I also satisfied my sweet tooth a few times throughout the year, making a variety of cakes from lemon drizzle to a chocolate banana loaf. I will more than likely give up meat again for lent this year.

Lemon drizzle cake

Looking back at feminism last year, one of the biggest topics was definitely Donald Trump. I would love to have gone to one of the many worldwide marches protesting against Trump, which was known as ‘Women of the world unite‘. Another topic that became popular on social media was the taboo surrounding periods when Bodyform released a ‘controversial’ advert. The advert showed a young man buying menstrual products and a woman in the shower with blood running down her leg. I believe that this was a breakthrough as it was the first advert to show blood, which was aimed to help break the terrible taboo around period shaming. My most recent blog on feminism was briefly about sexist statements that I’ve heard throughout my life. I also wrote about a poem this called ‘Things I(we’ve) heard‘.

Bodyform’s new advert

As with last year, I’ve decided not to set myself any New Year’s resolutions for 2018. The simple truth is, I just want to be happy. Unfortunately I experienced a few things which really made me unhappy, and quite frankly a bit down too. My experiences from last year have made me realise that a weakness of mine is letting people walk over me. I don’t like disappointing people to the point where I end up putting myself at a disadvantage and often uncomfortable position. It’s a weakness that I need to work on, as I’ve put up with enough (sorry to use the word) s***.

Therefore this year I would like to be happy, not put up with nonsense and work towards becoming more willing to speak out when I need to, rather than letting things go aside. As well as this, I will take part in the Leicester half marathon again and work to beat my first time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. I will also give up meat for lent and continue being a feminist working towards gender equality!

Here’s to a prosperous 2018!

 

As always, happy reading and blogging!

Clare Bear

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Chocolate Yule Log

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to celebrating the New Year! As I always say every year, I don’t know where the time has gone. 2017 has just flown by! And as usual I’ll write a blog looking back at 2017, like I did for 2016.

Over the Christmas period I made some mince pies, which I’ve blogged about before. I also made two chocolate yule logs as requested by my parents. I made one for Christmas Day which went so well that my mother asked if I would make another one for her birthday yesterday.

I looked at a few recipes as there are many different ways to make a chocolate yule log, regarding the sponge, filling and exterior decoration. I decided to use one on a website called All Recipes UK. I made a few amendments to the recipe, adding cocoa powder to the sponge mixture and using two types of chocolate for the buttercream. I used 75g plain flour and 25g cocoa powder rather than just 100g plain flour (it’s not a yule log without a chocolate sponge!). I also used 50g milk chocolate and 50g of dark chocolate for the buttercream. You can look at the recipe here.

Sponge ready to bake

It had been a while since I last made a chocolate log. The trickiest part of making a log/roulade is rolling the sponge without it cracking. The first chocolate yule log I made for Christmas Day had major cracks in it, but the chocolate buttercream came to the rescue and covered the cracks! The second log I made had no cracks at all; I managed to roll it up perfectly. I decided to decorate both logs with a sprinkle of icing sugar to make it look like a log dusted with snow.

Chocolate yule log

I was also pleased to achieve a perfect swirl in both logs!

Look at that sexy swirl!

I enjoy baking over Christmas as it’s nice to have treats during the festive season. Of course the only downside with all of the delicious food is my waistline, which always expands during Christmas! I went out for a run with a friend the other day which went well and was nice to do, and we’re planning on going out for another run soon. I’ll head down to the gym in the New Year and walking back to work will help shift a few pounds too.

See you next year!

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Clare Bear 🙂

A trip around Belgium

Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted on here. I haven’t even got round to writing an update for November, so I’ll just leave it for this month. It’s not long until 2018 so you’ll see an overall update looking back at what I got up to in 2017.

I recently went on a mini interrailing trip around Belgium which was so much fun! One of my friends went to Ghent for a conference and asked if I wanted to join her and a friend for a pre-Christmas tour around Belgium. I immediately said yes, as I had always wanted to go to Belgium, plus I wanted to give interrailing a go. My parents have said many great things about Belgium, especially Bruges. So after many Skype calls, booking and planning, we travelled around Ghent, Bruges and Brussels for 5 nights/6 days.

After a very early start travelling on three different trains and a tram last Friday, I arrived in the heart of Ghent. I spent the rest of the day and the following day with my friends exploring this magnificent city. A Christmas market surrounded the stunning churches in the centre of Ghent and the city with buzzing with tourists and locals. The atmosphere of Ghent was electric and the history was very interesting, especially the castle known as Gravensteen. We also visited MIAT, a textile museum and I really enjoyed a boat tour around the canals of Ghent. We also saw the famous Ghent altar piece known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, which was pretty awesome to see!

Gravensteen

 

A view of one of the canals in Ghent

After a busy day exploring the rest of Ghent, we caught the train to Bruges in the evening. I went on my first ever walking tour the following morning which was a fantastic experience. The tour guide was so enthusiastic and took us on a 3 1/2 hour walking tour around Bruges. We covered a lot of the beautiful city seeing the truly outstanding architecture and learning so much history from the tour guide. He also gave us recommendations on where to buy popular tourist goods, including beer and chocolate. After the tour we relaxed with a well-deserved hot chocolate at one of the best tea rooms for a hot chocolate in Bruges. I had a ‘Death by Chocolate’, which was so tasty but also an overload of chocolate!

Death by Chocolate

As with Ghent there were Christmas markets dotted around Bruges, with the main ones in the centre near the Belfort Tower. We climbed up the steps of the Belfort on Monday morning where we were treated to stunning views of Bruges. Despite the sweetness overload from the hot chocolate, we visited the Choco-Story, a chocolate museum near the centre of Bruges. We could help ourselves to as much chocolate as we desired during the tour while learning about the history of the sweet delicious substance. After another day of exploring Bruges, we then caught the train in the evening to our final stop, Brussels.

A view of Church of our Lady Bruges with the Old St John’s Hospital in the forefront

 

View of Bruges from the top of the Belfort

Out of all the cities we visited, Brussels was definitely the busiest and buzzing with excitement and life. We went on a walking tour around the centre of Brussels, looking at the main sights including the famous Manneken Pis (which was a lot smaller than I was expecting!), the Royal Palace and the Cathedral of Saint Michel. We also managed to visit EU Parliament on the same day! It was really cool going inside the hemicycle where the main talks and debates happen, and a museum dedicated to the history and the countries which make up the EU. We then looked around the Christmas markets around Brussels- there were so many of them dotted around the city!

Selfie in the hemicycle
A cool sign I spotted in Brussels!

On our final day we visited the comic book museum. It was really cool to see artists’ original first drafts of their work compared to the final piece. I also learnt about the birth of the Smurfs and Tintin, and the architecture of the museum was stunning. After a final look around the city and some essential shopping for beer and chocolate, we caught the Eurostar back to London and made our way back home.

In the Comic Book museum 

I loved all of the cities we visited in Belgium. Each once had its own unique characteristics with stunning architecture. Out of all of the places, I really want to go back to Brussels. We only really skimmed the surface as Brussels is so big compared to Bruges and Ghent. I also enjoyed the experience of interrailing. Travelling by train is so much cheaper on mainland Europe than it is in the UK, and we stayed in hostels which made the trip more fun and affordable. Another thing that fascinated me about Belgium was the bilingual aspect. All three cities spoke different languages, so I tried out my French in Brussels as that is the dominant language there.

Happy reading and blogging!

 

Clare Bear 🙂

Christmas came early!

When it snows in the UK, it’s always a massive deal. People get really excited when they see just one snowflake and then exclaim, “It’s snowing!!” This happened a few weeks ago when I was in town; there was a short period of snow and lots of people seemed overwhelmed by it. When snow is forecast for the Midlands, it is usually just a flurry just like I experienced a fortnight ago. However, I woke up to a fascinating sight yesterday morning.

My entire garden was covered in a thick layer of snow, and it was snowing heavily. It has been a long time since I’ve seen snow like that- it actually felt like Christmas had arrived early. I ran downstairs to see if my father had taken our dog Barney out for a walk. Luckily he hadn’t yet, so I got all wrapped up and went out for a festive walk. Here are some shots from the walk yesterday morning:

Along the canal
On a part of the meadows
Barney enjoying the snow

I went out for an afternoon walk with my sister and brother in law, along with their dog Hendrix. I decided to have a go at forming a snow angel, although not very gracefully!

Trying to make a snow angel

We ended up having Christmas dinner yesterday because the snow really made yesterday feel very festive (but mostly because it was the best looking meat in the shop). We had a joint of butterfly turkey covered in bacon with all of the trimmings, including the British favourite, pigs in blankets (I forgot to take a photo of dinner!).

I made a mince meat tart with a lattice shortcrust pastry lid for dessert. As I usually do, I made the pastry using half the amount of fat proportionate to the plain flour (e.g. 8oz of plain flour with 40z of fat). After rubbing the flour and fat together and forming it into a ball, I rolled out the pastry and cut it into strips to fit into the dish.

Before going in the oven

After placing the layers of shortcrust pastry on top of a dish filled with mincemeat, I glazed the pastry with egg wash and popped in the oven for about 40 minutes at gas mark 4, until golden brown. I then left it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Mince meat tart ready for eating!

I had a really lovely day with my family yesterday. We ended the day by watching one of our favourite Christmas films, The Muppet Christmas Carol. The only thing missing was opening presents, but we’ve got to wait only 2 more weeks until it’s actually Christmas Day. I wonder if the UK will actually have a white Christmas this year…

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Clare Bear 🙂

Festive stuffed mushrooms

My father bought some large mushrooms yesterday and asked if I would make some stuffed mushrooms as a starter with dinner tonight. We rarely have starters so it made a nice change to make one before having dinner.

I decided to go for the festive theme, so I made mushrooms stuffed with brie and topped with breadcrumbs and cranberry sauce. It was very simple to do but the end result was tasty!

Firstly I cooked the mushrooms in the oven for 20 minutes at gas mark 3 to start softening them.

The mushrooms after a bit of softening

I then sliced up some brie and placed them inside the mushrooms. I also sprinkled some breadcrumbs on top.

The mushrooms stuffed and ready to cook again

I then popped the mushrooms back in the oven for a further 15 mins on gas mark 4 in order to melt the cheese, and also crisp the breadcrumbs.

Festive stuffed mushrooms on a festive plate

Once cooked I topped the stuffed mushrooms with a small dollop of cranberry sauce. While they were very easy to make the taste was beautiful; brie and cranberry just go so well together, and taste really nice in a large mushroom. If I make them again I might even cook some streaky bacon, dice it and sprinkle it on top of the mushrooms, since bacon also goes well with brie and cranberry sauce!

Since it’s the festive season I will probably make some more seasonal dishes this month, including the usual mince pies and maybe even some shortbread! I have my birthday to look forward to next, which is this Thursday!

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Clare Bear 🙂

Oh what fun it is to run

This morning I ran in my first Santa Fun Run in a village called Broughton Astley. I signed up for the run as soon as I found out about it via social media last month. I’ve heard about them and wanted to give it a go, and I’m so glad that I found out about this one which wasn’t too far for me to get to.

All geared up as Santa!

I picked up my Santa outfit when I arrived this morning, which I wore over my running gear. The bottoms were baggier than I expected for a ‘one size’ outfit, so I had to tighten them with a drawstring and my bumbag helped to keep them in place during the run. I wore the beard around my neck while running as it would’ve been hard to breathe with it covering my mouth.

Rocking Santa’s beard!

Overall I was very pleased with the Santa suit, as it was light and allowed plenty of room for movement. Plus it really put me in the festive mood! There was the option to complete 3km or 5km, which you could walk or run. I opted to run 5km, which was fun to do with lots of other Santas! Even though it felt cool outside, I got warm very quickly with the suit on, so I rolled up my sleeves and took my Santa hat off about half way round the route.

All of the Santas raring to go!

I managed to complete the 5km route around Broughton Astley in about 38 minutes. The last time I went out for a run was for my first half marathon, so I think 38 minutes was a good time today, since it was a new 5km route which I hadn’t ran before and I was wearing a suit which made me feel rather warm and sweaty.

I’d love to do a Santa Fun Run again next year- it was really fun and lovely to see so many people happy with festive cheer! There were even dogs dressed up in mini Santa outfits, and lots of children took part as well.

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Clare Bear 🙂

Things I(we’ve) heard

Walking to work usually gives me time to think deeply about my thoughts, usually about things I could’ve done better, what I’m having for dinner in the evening, what tasks I’ve been procrastinating on, the meaning of life and all sorts of various things. One thought that came up for me recently was sexism.

You know when someone says something to you, but you can’t think of how to answer them back and then you think of a brilliant comeback or what you should’ve asked them miles down the line… unfortunately I’ve had that moment quite a few times in relation to sexism.

I was dating a guy over a year ago when he said to me, “Women shouldn’t have equal rights because they’re too important.” I didn’t know how to respond at first, so I said “I’ve not heard that one before” because genuinely, I hadn’t. He then went on to explain how much he loves the Queen and that we have to protect her, and protect the Mother state.

It didn’t occur to me until much later that he held the traditionalist view that women are caregivers and are only useful for one thing: producing children. He may have thought himself chivalrous in feeling the need to protect women, probably thinking of the example in the film Titanic where women and children get on the lifeboats first. Considering that there has been full emancipation for almost 90 years, I was surprised that someone not far off from my generation (he was four years older than me) believes that women shouldn’t have rights equal to men.

You’ll be glad to know that I’m not dating this guy any more and it was only a short waste of my time (a few months). I think the conversation came up as the Brexit referendum wasn’t too far away. Before he said what he thought about women, he said “We’ll probably have conflicts over feminism as we’ll have conflicting views.”

“Women shouldn’t have equal rights because they’re too important” kept on going over and over in my head while I was walking to work, and then I thought of all of the other things I’ve heard and that have been said to me throughout all of my life so far. Some of them include “Man up”, “Grow a pair” (aka balls), “Don’t be such a girl” and the list goes on.

I wrote down all of the phrases and made a short ‘found poem’ out of them, which you can read on my poetry blog. This blog serves as a commentary to my poem ‘Things I(we’ve) heard”.

It’s cases like this which prove that we still need feminism. A lot of the phrases in the poem can be heard on a regular basis and are often used in everyday conversation. I wrote a blog a while back about the power of language which explores some of these phrases and the impact language has on gender. Just some small changes to our language could help to eliminate the barriers which prevent women from being on equal grounds to men. A progressive society works together where everyone is involved, so any phrase, no matter how implicit, which undermines a person, should stop being used.

 

Happy reading and blogging!

Clare Bear