Jan 222014
 

SUP1

…No, not that one!  I’m talking about Commitment: something I’ve struggled with in the past – bags of loyalty, but I’ve undoubtedly been hesitant with the hard grind of backing up my morals.

I noticed this at the weekend when out paddle boarding, with freezing feet (having not invested in all the necessary kit for winter sea sport) and enjoying the exhilaration of catching my first wave… my only successful wave of the session. You see, I’m a total rookie at this sport. A kook. I had a couple of SUP lessons last summer, fell in love with the sea again (having grown up literally on the beach), and was generously gifted an end-of-season board and paddle for my birthday. It’s not top of the range kit, but it’s perfect for getting me out there and it’s the right place to start.

I felt pretty embarrassed knowing I was the only one in the water and being watched by the well attended audience of Sunday seaside visitors. But I know that you have to start somewhere, and I was exactly here with cycling not that many moons ago. I stayed in the sea until I could no longer feel my feet and then after getting out only to discover I’d forgotten my towel (only a novice could do this, surely!) I promptly ordered myself some boots ready for next time. I can’t get better without practice, and practice at this time of year needs warmer kit.

I’ve tried so many sports I can’t even remember them all to list: netball, climbing, volleyball, tennis, hockey, football, surfing, running, squash… the list goes on. Cycling is so far the only one that I have committed to, that I have competed in and has gripped me. It’s my sport and I feel like I belong to it. I think perhaps if I hadn’t moved away from the coast for University that surfing could have been my cycling. Hmmm, but if I’d been committed then I would never have moved away.

It’s a different thing when you really stick to a sport and develop. It’s very rewarding to say the least and with cycling I think of myself as an athlete now. I train daily, with specific sessions, and cycling is a large part of our family life. My body reflects this commitment in both how it looks and feels: strong and light. It’s such a pleasure to feel like this and it comes from doing something I love.

I have no ambition for the SUP boarding to rival my cycling. It is a different thing entirely. Like all the sports listed before it, I see the SUP as a recreational activity which I’d like to be able to enjoy with some style and grace, whereas my cycling goes much further than that.

With cycling I want to push my way to the top. How fast can I go? How hard can I push myself? What are my limiting factors? …and how do I eliminate these? I have real event goals that have been chosen with thought for my current situation, and for where I will be come the race season. I have a great coach and fire in this belly. I do understand commitment these days and I feel the rewards. I’m putting my commitment into my cycling dreams for 2014. I’m sticking to the plan.

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Jan 032014
 

chickycasserole1

I’ve noticed sugar has crept (or rather leapt) back into my diet again as my mind is distracted with other things at the moment. Hormones are on the rampage and I’m caught in an emotional battle to suppress my overwhelming desire for another baby – something that we would struggle to afford and would certainly scupper my three-year plan cycling dreams that we’ve been working towards.

Unfortunately these dreams feel totally confused right now as they can’t include pregnancy and another baby in the same time-frame. It’s one or the other. It’s been a gradual shift but now I find one has heavily tipped the scale for me, although it’s not solely my decision. Rob is free of these ‘make-a-baby-NOW!’ hormones and as such is blessed with logical thinking. And, let’s face it, not many people in their right mind would choose to have another baby: the first six months ages each parent by five years via a severe sentence of sleep deprivation and lifestyle changes beyond measure.

But was it really that hard? And if it was, perhaps it’s easier the second time around? …or perhaps this is my hormones taking over again?! Becoming a mother has felt like the most correct thing I have done in my life and Megan is so wonderful she has been worth every sleepless night and more.

Anyway, it’s been beneficial to stop and assess my diet as it’s so easy to return to old habits – especially those like too much sugar and caffeine which offer a welcome quick pick-me up. I find I often use them as a ‘reward’ for late nights working, but bad health and poor sleep is hardly a way to reward myself!

So, rather than a cake recipe, here is a wholesome, easy and very tasty winter warmer for you. I remember my mum leaving this waiting for us in the Reyburn when we got home from school – hot and ready to eat but a swirl of cream before serving with lots of fluffy white rice.Using cheaper cuts of chicken on the bone makes this dish taste better, as well as being far less expensive. I only use organic free range chicken – there is no other option in my mind.

I’m not sure of my mum’s exact recipe, but this is my take on it for our own family table…

Serves 2 (+baby Megan)

Ingredients
Coconut oil (or olive oil)
4 free range chicken thighs (on the bone)
4 rashers bacon (any kind)
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
1 red pepper
1 table spoon dried mixed herbs (roughly)
1 pint chicken stock with bay leaf added
Optional double cream.

  1. Finely slice the onion, garlic, pepper and bacon.
  2. Melt about a table spoon of coconut oil (or olive oil) in a large saucepan or casserole dish.
  3. When hot add the chicken skin-side down. This should sizzle. The idea is to get a crispy skin and for the fat to render down. Once golden, turn the pieces and cook a little on the other side.
  4. Remove the chicken and put to one side in a bowl. Reduce heat.
  5. In the same saucepan/casserole dish add the onion. Cook over a medium heat to soften.
  6. After a few minutes add the bacon and garlic.
  7. Again after a few minutes add the dried herbs and mix through. Should smell wonderful. Then add the red pepper.
  8. Keep stirring and frying for a couple minutes longer then place the chicken thighs back in the pan skin-side up. Add the juices too.
  9. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf, bring to the bubble then reduce heat right down. Cover with lid.
  10. I leave to cook gently like this on top of the stove for about 1.5 – 2 hours, so the chicken literally falls off the bone – delicious! Alternatively you could finish the cooking in the oven if using a casserole dish.

Just before serving I pour in a generous glug of double cream and mix this through the soupy stock. This gives the casserole a delicious richness that I think completes the dish.

This dish works particularly well with fluffy rice and seasonal green veg.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
 Posted by at 1:46 am