Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus on Cupcakes

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Yeah, ok, you busted me. I’m not a photographer, I’ve got no business posting my amateur iPhone photos in the “weekly photo challenge” category but I just couldn’t resist. Everyone involved in this photograph had their focus on the same thing, the beautiful cupcake, made with love by my friend Ness Kirton.

Now, I make a pretty good cupcake myself, they’re not nearly as pretty as Ness’s and, as it turns out, not nearly as yummy either. Ness has been proudly displaying her cupcaking talent on her facebook page for the past 6 months or so and, quite frankly, making my mouth water. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to ask the question…”Ness, may I purchase a six pack of your mud cupcakes with buttercream icing?”.

Well, I got much more than I bargained for, two chocolate mud, two white chocolate mud and two mud  baked with a mars bar in the middle! Amazing!! I took them to my parents place, where my 19 month old nephew was hanging out for the day and he couldn’t get his hands on them quick enough. Just quietly, I think he takes after his Aunty.

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Yes, there were six, by the time I got around to taking this photo, we’d already lost two…they were just that yummy.

I can’t begin to describe how delicious these cupcakes were. I have never had anything like them, they were just so fabulously chocolaty, so moist they melted in my mouth and it was truly difficult to pick a favourite. I had to cut them into quarters so that my parents, cousin, and aunt could try them all and we all had different favourites. As for my nephew, lets just say, you know it’s a good cupcake when a 19 month old goes beyond the buttercream icing and eats the cake too.

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A little slice of cupcake heaven.
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Fashion in the (Fun Run) Field

I ran 13kms today. A hilly 13kms that started with an 800m sand run. It was the 21st annual pub2pub fun run and my physical preparation had been a little bit lack lustre. I’d done no hill training whatsoever and went for a token sand run one morning when I had a beach to myself.

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Magenta beach, how often do you get a beach like this to yourself?

So, with my lack of physical preparation, I thought I should make a point of being dressed with optimal comfort and style for the big event.

One of the first things I did when I decided to take up running was to purchase some good quality, industrial strength sports bras. It frightens me how many women I see out running, wearing inadequate undergarments. Women of the running world, listen and listen well, look after your girls! Go and get fitted for a sports bra, it will change your life.

Next, while we’re on the matter of undergarments, a decent pair of running briefs is not an easy thing to come by. Why not just wear a g-string? Well because you should never exercise in a g-string. I’d explain it to you myself but I’d rather you just click here.

It took me a solid 2 months of slightly uncomfortable running before I managed to procure a pair of briefs that don’t ride up and have no visible panty lines. I now swear by these bikini briefs from Jockey. They’re amazing! Really comfortable, a “no panty line promise” and they don’t ride up at all.

What about shoes? Shoes are as important as bras when it comes to fit. If you’re not wearing the right shoes, you’re not only going to be uncomfortable but you’re also more likely to sustain an injury. More information about running shoe fittings can be found here.

With all that sorted, all I needed was a decent pair of running tights and a nice, light, loose tank top. So what defines “decent running tights”? First of all, they need to suck everything in, so to speak. When I first bought my industrial strength bra, I did the mandatory bounce test. You know, jumping up and down and seeing how far the girls go. It was then that I experienced the strange sensation of my body bouncing up and down and my breasts going nowhere. It was disconcerting to say the least and it was then that I began the search for a pair of running tights made of the same fabric as my bra.

Another important criteria that needs to be met by the ideal pair of running tights is their ability to stay up. Yeah, that’s right, they’re expected to defy gravity. I need all my energy for running, I can’t be expected to be constantly pulling my tights up and I don’t want to run around with a steadily blossoming muffin top.

I’m happy to report that, even though I am yet to find a pair of running tights that are as effective as my sports bra, I did manage to find some that held everything relatively still and didn’t fall down at all. I couldn’t find the Capri version online but this is them in the full length version. For the top half I went with a Nike Pro tank top similar to this, light, loose and figure flattering, a winner all round.

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Looking cool, comfortable, athletic, effortless. Feeling exhausted yet surprisingly comfortable and moving at a snails pace.

As you may have guessed from my reluctance to talk about it, I didn’t run a great race today. I had to stop to get the sand out of my shoes, I walked up the hills and I was running in the “jogging” category which apparently translates to “walkers who run really fast right after you overtake them”. It was a beautiful course, with spectacular views of the northern beaches but it was too narrow not to be pushing past people. If I were to ever do it again I think I’d walk it with a good camera.

I haven’t got my official time yet but I believe it’s around the 1:40 mark. Not fantastic but not terrible. Just in case you haven’t picked up on this, my most noteworthy achievement today was the fabulously comfortable and practical outfit I chose for myself.

Getting a Kick out of Golf

I’ve never been exceptionally competitive in the sporting arena. Another, more accurate way of saying that is, of course, I suck at sport. The funny thing is, I love sport! I’ll give anything a go, much to the amusement of onlookers…or to the detriment of any team that I might have let down.

I tend to stick to solo sports these days, so when the opportunity to play ‘football golf’ arose, I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.

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To anyone who plays soccer, it’s obvious this shot didn’t hit the target.

The course was a similar size to a par three. Obviously the holes were much bigger but the aim of the game was virtually the same. Get the ball in the hole in as few kicks as possible; and wait until the ball stops before you kick again.

I’d like to surprise you all and say I excelled at this game, but alas, I was terrible. In fact I was so bad that they didn’t have a souvenir keyring with a high enough score for me. It’s a good thing I’m not very competitive in the sporting arena, otherwise I wouldn’t have had so much fun.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

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Carefree is a sunny beach barbecue. Especially when you can enjoy a little pre barbecue snack while the boys get the set up organised.

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“Oh why thank you, I’d love a beer. How’s the set up going over there? It seems to be coming together nicely. Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Yes it was a beautiful day. The boys cooked up a storm and us girls enjoyed being waited on. We couldn’t possibly have known it would end up like this…

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The Beauty of Afternoon Tea

I love afternoon tea. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, I’m obsessed with afternoon tea. Not to be confused with high tea, afternoon tea is that snack that you have between lunch and dinner. It can be anything from peanut butter on toast to double baked cheesecake, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s exactly what I’m craving and I enjoy it immensely.

I earn my afternoon tea. I earn it at the gym, training for fun runs, rock climbing, whatever activity takes my fancy, I will take on in the name of afternoon tea. I don’t care what anyone says, I reward myself with food. If I’m going to go to the trouble of earning the calories, I’m sure as hell going to spend them.

Do I think about afternoon tea while I’m exercising? Of course I do. I think about what I’m going to have, where I’m going to get it, how I’m going to make it and/or where I’m going to have it. How else am I expected to get through a workout?

Lucky for me, I’m pretty good at baking. If I have a craving for something that doesn’t seem to be available in a bakery or cafe, I’m quite confident of my ability to hunt down a recipe for it and make it happen.

Take red velvet cake, for example. I discovered red velvet cake in New York in 2003. I had to ask the shop assistant what the bright red cake was. She told me it had a cocoa flavour and cream cheese icing with crushed walnuts on top. Sold!

The addiction was immediate, the move back to Australia, a major set back. No-one here had heard of red velvet cake and the idea of a bright red cake, quite frankly, put them off a bit. It was a few years later that it occurred to me to check the world wide web for recipes. Bingo!

I loved the sound of the icing on this one…

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/10766/iced-red-velvet-cake.aspx

But it looked like such a massive cake! I didn’t own 3x20cm round cake tins! So I tried a different approach and searched for cupcake recipes…

http://redvelvetcupcakes.com.au/

They were amazing, my very own little creation, red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese icing. Obviously I introduced them to my family and friends and made the inevitable transition from crazy girl who talks about red cakes to baking genius.

Then came the day my googling truly paid off. The day that taste.com introduced me to red velvet whoopie pies. Oh sinful delight! The thought of my white chocolate icing sandwiched between two little pieces of red velvet cake had me heading straight out to stock up on red food colouring.

They didn’t disappoint, they turned out exactly as I’d imagined they would. I got a bit creative with the piping and was proud enough of my artwork to photograph it, bless my cotton socks. Shame it didn’t occur to me to photograph the finished product.

I'm no expert but at least they slightly resemble hearts.
I’m no expert but at least they slightly resemble hearts.
They looked even less like hearts after I'd baked them but who cares they were yum.
They looked even less like hearts after I’d baked them but who cares they were yum.

Fun Running: The Ultimate Fitness Regime

As you may or may not have noticed from a previous post of mine, I have very recently taken up fun running. Yes, I know it’s an oxymoron, I couldn’t agree more. The act of running long distances is not fun. The best part is the end. No, not the sprint for the finish line (I don’t do that), the part when you cross the mat and can walk again with your dignity intact.

I learned to run earlier this year. Up until then, the longest I could run for without stopping was 1 minute. In February I took on the Michelle Bridges 12WBT with the goal of learning to run 5km. The program was fantastic! Such a sensible way to learn to run. On Mondays there was interval training with the running times increasing by 30-60secs each week. Tuesdays and Thursdays were all about strengthening the muscles we use whilst running. Wednesdays was when we tested ourselves on how long we could run for without stopping. Fridays were for stretching, Saturdays were a mix of everything with the goal of burning 1000 calories and Sunday was the traditional day of rest.

I can’t say I followed the program to the letter. Although I was pretty close to the mark with the training, the food was another story. The suggested daily caloric intake for women was 1200cals. I had a dexa scan done and found out that my resting metabolic rate was close to 1800cals/day. I probably consumed close to double the recommended dose of calories but I still managed to lose 8kgs and, much more importantly,  I learned to run 5km.

So, why did I want to learn to run if I find it to be such a chore? Firstly it was about challenging myself. I’d always told myself (and others) that I am not a runner, running is bad for your joints, I’m not athletic enough, my boobs are too big, etc. I wanted to challenge my self perception and break down those silly barriers. I believed that if I could learn to run long distances, anything was possible.

I suppose I should point out that I wasn’t overweight or terribly unfit at the start of the challenge but I was continually amazed by how much I was improving every week. Every Wednesday, I’d turn to my training partner and say, “that’s the longest we’ve ever run!”. I was just so proud of us and that’s what makes running fun. That amazing sense of achievement at the end of the run. Achieving something you truly didn’t believe you could is really quite euphoric.

I believe fun running is the ultimate fitness regime because it takes the focus away from superficial things like dress sizes, numbers on the scales and having a bikini body by summer. When you’re training for a fun run, you’re much more interested in the numbers on your stop watch and they’re a much better indicator of your health and fitness. Those other numbers will come down if they need to but there’s just no sense in setting a goal of looking like Jessica Biel or weighing what you did as a teenager.

I guess what I’m trying to say is we need to start setting ourselves goals that revolve around achievements, not weights and measures. Running isn’t for everybody, cycling is a great low impact alternative, and a good long walk is not to be underestimated. Just set yourself an achievable exercise challenge and throw away the stupid, fluctuating scales.