4 easy ways to eat Lagom

Lagom är bäst. The right amount is best. With the average UK household throwing away £470 worth of food every year* can the Lagom approach help us?

The impact of food waste reaches far beyond our bank accounts. If food loss and waste were a country, they would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gasses behind China and the United States (WRAP).

According to WRAP, the food that is grown for human consumption and subsequently wasted accounts for a quarter of the water used by agriculture globally.

It’s not just the process of producing and transporting food that has an impact on the environment. Have you ever wondered what happens to the food that you throw away?

Unless you’re composting your waste (and good for you if you are), it gets piled up on a landfill site, where it can take years to break down. This process generates a potent greenhouse gas, methane, which has a warming potential 21 times higher than carbon dioxide (Love Food Hate Waste).

And what about all that single-use plastic? We just don’t need it! Unless you’ve had your head in the sand you’ll know that the earth is literally drowning in plastic. A large proportion of food packaging can’t easily be recycled and even where it can, we produce too much to keep up!

Taking a more planned approach to buying and preparing food can result in a massive reduction in your contribution to the plastic problem. Plus, as a responsible adult who can (hopefully) be trusted with a blade, do you really need to pay extra to have somebody cut and package your vegetables for you?

So, even if you can afford to waste £470 a  year, cutting down on food waste is in all of our best interests.

KonMari your cupboards

Before you get stuck into anything else, you need to take stock of where you are now.

Work systematically through your kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer. Take everything out (this is probably where you’ll discover you might need to clean them) and group items together that are alike.

I recently went through this exercise and found separate open packets of the same kinds of pasta, rice, all sorts of stuff!

This is where you might need to waste some food if you find anything out of date or open packets that have become contaminated but don’t feel too bad. This is where we reset and move on.

Once you’re happy your cupboards are clean, don’t just pile all the food back in. Use clear containers to group items into categories. Dry ingredients can go directly into jars or boxes so you can see exactly what you have and buy when it’s running out. This way you won’t be finding odd duplicates of open packets lurking anywhere.

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You don’t need to spend lots of money on organising your food. Save the jars from jams, sauces and pickles to store all kinds of dried foods, as well as leftovers. Give a new lease of life to any old Tupperware you found lurking as you were tidying up.

Use what you have, but if you need more you can pick up some perfect storage solutions inexpensively at Ikea. I love the Ikea 365+ container for bulk carbs like oats and rice. Korken jars come in a range of sizes – I use the larger ones for pasta, the medium ones for home-made sauces and the smallest are great for herbs and spices. You can also try the Rajtan jars for spices.

With a tidy kitchen, you’re ready to start your new zero waste lifestyle.

Buy what you need

Now that you know what you’ve got, it should be easier to plan your shopping for the week ahead.

Cut the time spent at the supermarket with a shopping list based on what you actually need. I find that writing a weekly menu makes it easy for me to shop. Once a week, I’ll sit down with my favourite recipe books, decide what to cook and copy only the ingredients I need for those recipes onto my list.

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A less time-consuming technique is to take a photo of the contents of your fridge so that you know what you need to re-stock. If you refer back to the photo while you’re shopping, you can think about what you need to buy to turn those left-overs you’ve got hanging around into a tasty meal.

If you go into the supermarket with a plan, you can whizz around the aisles a lot faster. You can even try writing your shopping list based on the layout of your local store. This way, you can skip whole sections because you know exactly where you need to be.

Be careful not to be drawn into multi-buy offers. For many of us, what seems like a bargain deal can lead us to buy more than we need but guess where that excess ends up? The bin. Or gathering dust at the back of the cupboard.

Savings on the items that are actually in your plan are a bonus. If there’s a multi-buy or bulk savings on an ingredient you use frequently that can be stored in the cupboard or freezer then go for it. Otherwise, resist the temptation.

Make your own lunch

According to a survey conducted by Visa in 2014, the average UK worker spends £2,500 on lunch, snacks and coffees every year (The Telegraph)

£2,500! Imagine what else you could do with that money! Of course, bringing lunch from home isn’t exactly free, but it normally costs a lot less (especially if you use your leftovers).

It’s not just your bank balance that will look a bit healthier. The average UK supermarket lunch deal can contain over 1,000 calories and up to 30 teaspoons of sugar, as well as all sorts of other nasties (The Independent).

We all know the dangers of too much fat, sugar and salt so we’re far less likely to add them in excessive amounts when we prepare food for ourselves.

Making food in advance that can be stored in microwave-ready portions saves time and money. Dried grains and pulses cost very little but make soups and stews more filling. Add some seasonal root veg and bulk cook in the Vardesatta pressure cooker for a supply of lunches to last the week (and maybe beyond).

Efterfragad

Efterfragad

If you don’t have a microwave or fridge at work, the Efterfragad will keep food warm or cold for hours. I used mine on a long train journey recently. I reheated my leftover shepherd’s pie before I left home at 08:30 and it was still piping hot at 12:30.

If you’re more of a grazer, the IKEA 365+ lunch box with inserts is perfect. Buying whole fruits and vegetables and preparing them at home is infinitely cheaper than buying them pre-prepared in pots and bags. Think of the plastic waste you’ll avoid too!

Istad bags are made from bioplastics, using byproducts from the sugar cane industry. They can be used to carry a variety of snacks and can be washed and reused over and over, then recycled when they get really worn out. Bulk-buying things like nuts and sweet treats then portioning them out is another double-winner – save cash and use less plastic in one hit!

Keep hydrated throughout the day by taking your own drink.  The Eftersokt travel mug has a no-spill lid and keeps your drink warm. If you need a top-up on the go, many coffee shops now offer a discount on refills. For cold drinks, the IKEA 365+ water bottle is perfect. Make sure you download the Refill app so you can see where you can refill with water for free.

Grow your own

According to a recent survey on the Live Lagom Facebook group, one of the most commonly wasted food items is bagged salad. According to The Guardian, per calorie growing lettuce produces more greenhouse gases such as methane than rearing pork. The production, harvesting and packaging process is also terrifyingly water-intensive. All so that we can throw away 40% of all the bagged salads we buy.

Most bagged salad doesn’t even come in packaging that can be recycled easily, if at all. All this waste seems even more maddening when you discover just how easy it is to grow salad at home.

As a serial plant-killer, the Krydda/Vaxer hydroponic system was my last-ditch attempt to cultivate at least some of my own food. I’d previously only had luck with chillis so I was desperate to broaden my variety of crops.

Whilst my adventures in indoor gardening have had varied results (can anyone actually get cilantro to grow!), the one thing that I’ve had no trouble with is salad. Leaves like bok choi, endive and chicory seem to grow at such a rate I’ve started to blame them for hogging the light from the other plants.

The Krydda/Vaxer set takes very little room so even those who live in smaller properties with no outdoor space can grow their own crops and ditch those salad bags.

If you have space (and possibly the patience), don’t stop there. Growing your own can become quite an addictive hobby. There’s an immense sense of pride you’ll get when you eat something that you’ve nurtured from a seedling, especially when it tastes better than anything you normally buy.

Still not convinced? If gardening really isn’t your thing, you can still cut waste and reduce food miles (reducing CO2 emissions) by buying fresh produce that was grown locally. Search online to find the best local grocers, farmers markets and farm shops. Kungfors bags are perfect for transporting and storing your purchases.

Feeling inspired? Head to Love Food Hate Waste for more ideas, news and advice.

Disclaimer: I am not paid by IKEA, although they have kindly helped me on my Lagom journey with free merchandise. 

Find out more about Living the Lagom life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Ways To Cosy Up This Winter

The endlessly scorching summer of 2018 feels like a distant memory. Spring is around the corner, but February and March can get pretty bleak.

With rising energy costs, the winter can be an expensive time of year. How can you stay warm and cosy in your home without cranking the heating up to the max?

This was the topic of the first in a series of Ikea Live Lagom workshops. What small changes could we make for the biggest impact?

Don’t let the cold in

Are you letting the cold air sneak in through gaps in door and window frames?

If drafts are leaving you shivering, that means you’re letting warmth escape and essentially letting the money you spend on heating drift into thin air.

Long-term fixes can cost a lot of money, but there are things you can do in the short-term to block those gaps.

If you’ve got any big-ish pieces of fabric lying around, you could give them a new life as a draft-excluder. This could be old curtains, bedding, off-cuts – anything.

Draft Excluder

Everyone got involved at the Cosy Homes workshop at Ikea Southampton

Cut a rectangle as long as the width of the offending door or window, fold it lengthways and sew up the side. Then you can stuff it with any old fabric. Can’t sew? Roll it up, stuff it and tie the ends off like a big sweetie! A child can do it!

When we made ours at the Cosy Homes workshop, we used old duvets, cushions, shirts – it doesn’t even matter if it turns out lumpy because it’s going to sit on the floor.

Thick curtains can also trap in heat. For extra insulation, team them up with the Hoppvals cellular blind. Air is trapped in the blind’s honeycomb structure which helps to keep the cold out.

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These plush, thick blackout curtains from Ikea keep drafts out. They’re full-length so if you need to shorten them, use the off-cuts for other projects (I used mine for a draft excluder!)

Create a cosy glow

Warm lighting might not technically keep you warm, but it can help you to wind down and relax in the evening.

Candles and tea lights can create a cosy atmosphere, although since they have a finite lifespan, you’ll need to keep replacing them.

Whilst I love filling my room with candles on a Sunday evening as I prepare for the week ahead, I appreciate they’re not for everyone – especially those with children and pets.

Sjopenna

The Sjopenna gives off a warm glow and the LED bulb has the highest energy efficiency rating, saving money too!

Fairy lights are a great way to create a similar effect. I usually pick some up during the sales after Christmas. Modern LED fairy lights can last twenty times longer than older ones and the low power consumption means many will run off AA batteries so you can put them anywhere you like. Rechargeable batteries are now a lot cheaper than they used to be and will save you money in the long-term.

Smart bulbs can give you control of the warmth and even the colour of your lighting from your mobile or remote control. I have several Tradfri bulbs connected to my Samsung Smartthings system which means I can include them in ‘routines.’ For example, my wake-up routine turns the coffee machine on downstairs, which is on a Tradfri plug, and also turns my landing light on, set to a warm orange so I can see but I’m not immediately blinded. When I leave for work, my ‘goodbye’ routine turns everything off so I’m not wasting power. 

Layer up

We’re not talking about pulling on an extra jumper here, although that would probably help you to turn down the heating by a couple of degrees.

Layering different fabrics is a very Scandinavian way of cosying up over winter. Some households even have different textiles for different seasons which sounds like a perfect way to keep your home looking fresh!

Rug

I was after this plush and colourful rug for a while so I was super happy to find it in the Ikea sale

A nice thick rug can insulate from below and make your floor a lot more pleasant to walk on. It’s also a relatively low-cost way to introduce some colour.

I have several Tanum rugs in my bathrooms which protect my feet from the cold floors in the mornings. They’re hand-woven by skilled craftspeople in Bangladesh from the offcuts of fabrics used to produce other Ikea textiles so no two are alike.

Style up sofas and chairs with soft, snuggly throws – perfect for a night nestled down in front of the television with the rain lashing down outside. My favourite is the Lisamari which brightens up my grey sofa and is so soft and warm I often fall asleep under it.

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The Lisamari throw is perfect for cosy nights in

Keep your duvet to yourself

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel in Scandinavia, you’ve probably noticed that your double bed will be topped with not one but two duvets.

In parts of the world where winters can be bitter, it’s a simple but genius way to make sure you spend the night sealed up in your own little cosy cocoon.

If your significant other runs at a different temperature to you, it also allows you to have your own individual ‘tog-rating.’ This way, one doesn’t end up too hot or too cold to suit the other.

Definitely something I’ll be trying when our winter duvet has its day.

Disclaimer: I am not paid by IKEA, although they have kindly helped me on my Lagom journey with free merchandise. 

Find out more about Living the Lagom life.

 

 

 

What Can You Get With £100 At Ikea?

The first step on my Live Lagom journey was an in-store induction where I met Outi and Vale who lead the program in the Southampton branch.

The purpose was to introduce the Lagom concept and set our intentions for the year.

The 2019 cohort was joined by some of the previous participants who shared inspiring stories of the changes they had made and how they were reaping the rewards.

Lagom isn’t just about the changes you make for one year that the Live Lagom ambassador scheme runs for. Lagom is for life and the class of 2018 were proof of this.

Lagomers old and new can also be found on the Live Lagom Facebook group which is always buzzing with conversation and advice.

At the induction, we were invited to talk about our lifestyles and our homes. Everybody already seemed to be doing a great job in their efforts to live more sustainably. However, each one of us could very quickly identify areas in our lives where we could be doing even better.

A quiz revealed that many of us, including myself, could be making savings or reducing waste in ways we hadn’t even considered. One of the biggest surprises for me was how much money we throw away on energy due to inefficient lighting or insufficient insulation.

I had so many ideas for ways to Live Lagom but I needed to focus on one area. Being a keen home-cook, I decided to make the kitchen my target.

I make most of my food from scratch and I love to experiment with dishes from all over the world. This means lots of ingredients. How could I be more organised and minimise waste?

In particular, I have always been frustrated about buying salad leaves and fresh herbs. They always come in non-recyclable bags and I often end up discarding leftovers because there’s only two of us in my household.

I’ve attempted to grow my own but it’s always ended in failure. Could the supposedly ‘fool-proof’ hydroponic kit be the answer?

With my goal in mind, I arranged to meet Outi in-store to spend my £100 Lagom allowance. Here’s what I managed to pick up:

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KRYDDA/VÄXER Grow kit w 8 pots, 1 tier

This contains:

  • An LED cultivation light
  • A Krydda cultivation unit
  • An insert for the cultivation unit
  • A nursery box with lid
  • Growing media plugs to start seedlings
  • Growing media for planting the seedlings as they grow
  • Fertiliser

Everything I need to get started with my farming-in-miniature! The LED light has a special colour spectrum to mimic sunlight – necessary in a country like the UK.

VÄXER Seeds

These are only £1.50 for three packs and you get so many! There are a few options to choose from so I picked one of each. I’m confident they’ll last quite a while – according to the instructions on the packet you only need to plant between one and three each time but you seem to get loads!

KORKEN Jar with lid

I got a few of these to store herbs and spices which I buy in bulk. They have airtight lids so they’re also great for storing home-made sauces and pickles or small quantities of leftovers.

IKEA 365+ Dry food jar with lid

I always have a supply of rice and porridge oats. Like a lot of dry foods, I buy in bulk to save money and waste. Keeping them in clear containers will help me to keep track of how much I have left.

EFTERFRÅGAD Food vacuum flask

I am a big fan of home-cooked packed lunches (I can’t remember when I last bought lunch at work). You know exactly what you’re eating and it costs a lot less. I’ve always had plastic containers which eventually break or hold onto strong colours and flavours. I have two of these on rotation now and I love that they’re totally leak-proof and the metal is easy to get really clean between uses.

IKEA 365+ Food containers with IKEA 365+ Lids

As well as rice and oats, you’ll always find flour and pasta in my kitchen and these larger tubs are perfect for keeping moisture and bugs out. I tend to have several varieties of flour so once the bags are open I stack them all up in one container.

As you can see, £100 was plenty to get started on my Lagom journey. I actually needed a bit of help from Outi to spend it all! I’m confident that my final purchases will help me to meet my sustainability goals in the kitchen.

 

Living the Lagom life

Lagom (pronounced [²lɑːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount”. The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Wikipedea

Lagom is a lovely word. It even feels nice to say, like lagoon. Peaceful. Simple.

Lagom is not a word to describe my lifestyle.

My lifestyle, outside of the 9 to 5, revolves around food, drink and cycling. This involves a lot of stuff. ‘Just the right amount’ is a concept that rarely enters my head as I spot another ‘essential’ bike jersey or add another ‘must-have’ ingredient to my precariously stacked spice shelves.

So, in September last year when I received an email from IKEA inviting applications to join their Lagom community, I was intrigued. Could they help me to clean up my act?

Saving more, wasting less and living healthily can be easy and affordable. And that’s what our Live LAGOM community is all about. Lagom Community invitation

Well, since the program kicked off in November I haven’t managed to kick the cycling kit addiction or streamline my shelves in the kitchen. However, I’m already making changes to bring Lagom into my life in ways that I hadn’t expected.

This year, follow me on my Lagom journey. I’ll be sharing some of the changes I’ve made and hopefully inspiring some of you to bring a little Lagom into your life.

Join the Live Lagom Facebook group for friendly chat and advice

Disclaimer: I am not paid by IKEA, although they have kindly helped me on my Lagom journey with free merchandise.

Kitting up for an adventure

A few months ago I entered a competition on Facebook with Specialized, one of the world’s biggest bike brands, to win a space on their women only Get Out of Town weekend. Specialized have always been a really female-friendly brand in an often male-dominated industry and seem to be doing lots to encourage women to ride in the communities where they have stores. I was thrilled to be randomly selected as one of the winners because it meant that I would be heading out to Somerset to stay with them for a weekend of gravel riding on their new adventure bike, the Specialized Diverge.

Being a bit of a kit obsessive and also scarily organised for a change, I wanted to share with you what I’ll be taking away. There’s going to be two days of riding so it’s also a really good opportunity to test out my new Kitbrix bag which has been sitting in my front room waiting for its first mission.

So, what to take for two days of September weather? I picked out two of my favourite kits in a sensible weight for the cooler temperatures – not super-summer-light and not super-heavy. Morvelo (left) is one of my all-time favourite brands. There’s a reason I own about six pairs of their bibs – they’ve got a pad that’s every bit as comfortable as the Rapha ones, they come in awesome prints and they have the most sensible strap design. Instead of the traditional ‘braces’ a stretchy strap goes up the middle which you can pretty much forget about. Another reason I love Morvelo is that they often make base layers to match their outfits. What they don’t make to match their outfits often enough is socks so dhb steps in and fills the void with a toasty Thermolite pair.

The Rapha outfit (right) is a bit more mis-matched and I debated with myself over whether I want to bring my Brevet jersey out. Now that I’ve decided it’s Brevet weather it’s probably getting worn to death and I’ll end up getting sick of the sight of it again but that’s a mark of just how good it is. With a zippy pocket large enough for a gilet as well as the standard three rear pockets and a front pocket for a brevet card it’s just perfect for those changeable days when you end up carrying all your various layers. I teamed it up with the matching socks and non-matching but ever-so-comfy souplesse bibs (I guess they match the souplesse base-layer at least).

You might notice that I do love a good base layer and there’s two reasons. The first is that they just make your outfit that bit more comfortable in any conditions. A good base layer is soft against your skin and wicks sweat so it keeps you dry and warm. The second reason is that I can unzip my jersey with absolutely zero self-consciousness. Any woman who rides in conventional bib shorts will know that the only (well, if you’re not a pro) way to go to the loo is to take your jersey off. Not being a fan of putting clothing on the floor of public facilities I often remove mine outside and the base-layer lets me retain some dignity. Likewise if I’m riding on a hot day and need to unzip. Base layers just make sense.

You’ll also see that each outfit has a cycling cap and regular Instagram followers might have picked up on a slight obsession. Caps are the best bit of kit ever. They can keep the sun out of your eyes, keep your head warm, keep bugs out of your hair but, most importantly, they’re just cool. You will never have too many caps. There’s simply too many amazing designs just waiting to be discovered.

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How to accessorise? Well, on both days I’ll be wearing my new favourite sports bra from Odlo which is one of those stretchy pull-over ones which I thought would only be good for yoga but which I seem to be wearing for everything. Maybe not great for larger busts but suits me fine! Then, super-important, Grip Grab AquaRepel arm and leg warmers. At this time of year when mornings and evenings are cool but daytime can still be super-warm, don’t decide between shorts and longs. Just wear sleeves and legwarmers you can take off and stash in a pocket as the day heats up. These have the added advantage of being water resistant. I’m also playing safe with mitts and gloves – the Hurricane gloves will keep my hands from seizing up if it’s cold but light enough that I can stash them if I want to switch to the mitts.

The Kitbrix

So all this kit, plus helmet and shoes….will it all fit in the little Kitbrix? I wasn’t convinced, but I’m happy to report that it did with room to spare! The robust little waterproof bag quite happily zips up and I can even get a couple of t-shirts, snacks, pants and socks, small toiletries and PJs in there (I’ll wear the same jeans over the weekend)! The interior zippy compartments mean I don’t need extra bags to organise my stuff and the outside stretchy pockets will take my train tickets, purse and even my lightweight waterproof. Since I’ll be looked after by Specialized, I won’t have the usual tools and spares I would normally take for a cycling adventure but I reckon I could squeeze some in if I wanted to so I’m pretty impressed!

So I’m all set to Get Out of Town on Friday! I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Beavertown Extravaganza

London Printworks. Once Western Europe’s largest print facility which supplied Londoners with the Evening Standard and the Metro. Now a vast events space with six rooms arranged over split levels, the original machinery left in situ. What better place for Beavertown Brewery to host the inaugural Beavertown Extravaganza.  Well, where else in London can you fit over 60 of the world’s greatest brewers, thousands of thirsty beer geeks and a double-decker bus?

For veterans of the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen, the format is familiar; there’s an entry fee of £55 for the session but this covers all your beer, access to all talks and seminars and the souvenir 100ml tasting glass is yours to keep.

As festival venues go, the Printworks rivals the Victoria Baths in Manchester; the original industrial features made it a memorable space and there was even a gallery where visitors could chill out and appreciate a collection of beer art. There was plenty of room to catch some fresh air and a who’s who of London’s finest street-food meant there was no chance of going hungry.

Unlike other festivals which sell tickets for half-day sessions, the Extravagnza was a whole day event which seemed to have the effect of creating a more chilled out atmosphere. Gates opened at 11 on the Saturday and the beautiful weather meant the outdoor food-court was a sociable place to wait for the main festival to open at 1. No beer available but the delicious Pressure Drop Cardamom Orange Porter ice cream from Blu Top was a pretty appropriate pre-beer treat.

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Each brewery had listed between two and eight beers for the seven-hour session and being a bit of a nerd, I’d prioritised and highlighted my favourites the night before but this organisation went out the window when I realised only two would be available at any one time. There was the usual stampede at the start with beer geeks making a bee-line for current favourites; I joined the queue for Omnipollo, always a crowd-pleaser with their soft-serve machine and masters of all manner of pudding-inspired beers. As expected, the hot tip was Trillium who had a queue stretching the entire length of the largest hall and predictably Three Floyds also drew a crowd. However, possibly because it was hard to tell what was going to be on at any time and maybe because the session was so long, the silliness died down as the afternoon went on and there was barely any queue at Trillium when I visited for the immensely flavour-packed Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale.

With so many high ABV, super-rare beers on offer, there was a surprisingly low level of drunken unpleasantness. The seven hour session seemed the perfect length to try as many beers as I wanted at a sociable pace and have time to enjoy a proper lunch of a Louisiana Crawfish roll and Halloumi Fries. Chatting to beery friends from Instagram with an empty glass in hand, I wasn’t in a hurry to dash to the next bar – I think other festivals could learn from this. And the beer itself? A perfect selection across all the styles – I can’t say there was a bad one. Well, apart from the Brewdog Paradox Absinthe Barrel Aged edition but that may also have something to do with memories of too much cheap absinthe in my student years.

A massive thanks to the organisers and especially the volunteers who ran a super-slick operation and stayed smiling throughout. See you next year!

The beers I tried (as I remember…)

Stockholm Brewing Co – Fläder Saison

Lervig – Hazy Days DDH IPA

Wild Beer Co + Side Project Indigo (Rainbow Project Colab)

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego – Karaoke Knight Bourbon BA Trippel

 Buxton x Omnipollo – Blueberry Slab Cake Ice Cream

Basqueland – Imparable Pomelo w/grapefruit

Brekeriet – Purple Rain

Omnipollo x Buxton – Yellow Belly Sundae Bourbon Barrel Aged

Trillium – Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale

Partizan + New Belgium – West Fork Saison with spruce tips and experimental hop 522 (Rainbow Project Colab)

 Burning Sky + Three Floyds Burial Vault (Rainbow Project Colab)

Green Cheek Beer Co – Attack with Love Hazy IPA

Gueuzerie Tilquin – Experimental Fruit Series #1 Cassis Tilquin

Põhjala – Pime öö Islay BA Imperial Stout

Garage Project – Rebel Counry Jameson BA Strong Ale

Cellarmaker – Manhattan Barrel Vastness of Space Cocktail Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Heretic – Peach Tartuffe Berliner Weisse

Heretic – Evil Cousin Double IPA

Alesong – Guava Berlinner Weisse

Brewdog – Single Barrel #1770 Paradox Absinthe

J Wakefield – Boutit Boutit Imperial Stout

The Lost Abbey – Cuvee de Tomme Blended Dark Strong Ale with Sour Cherries

Crooked Stave – Petit Sour Peach

Pizza Port – Party Pat Barrel Aged

 

 

#festive500 2016

I’ve always been a fan of Strava‘s virtual cycling challenges. It’s not just the woven ‘swimming badge’ they sometimes offer as a reward or the kudos from fellow Strava-ists. It’s the sense of being a part of something global and accepting the challenge to ride that bit further or higher or commit to riding on an arbitrary day not knowing what the weather will be or how you’ll be feeling. I’ve taken crazy detours to and from work to top up my distance for the Spring Classics badge and taken the train to London to meet with complete strangers (now friends) to ride the Women’s 100 in the pouring rain on treacherous pothole-ridden roads. Even on the challenges I’ve taken alone, I’ve never been truly alone. One of the beautiful things about this time we live in means we can browse social media using hashtags and connect with fellow cyclists around the world. OK the wind on that #braverthantheelements was truly heartbreaking but damn! Those ladies in Canada on skinny tires in the driving snow! Chapeau!

Ready to go

The Rapha Festive 500 has been on my to-do list for a while but in the nine years since I moved to Southampton, I spent the first eight Christmasses on planes, trains and busses, dashing around family and friends dispersed across York, Newcastle and Glasgow, with my little troupe of bicycles taking a well-earned rest back home. This year however, was a bit different. My partner and I ended up stuck in Southampton over the festive period but we decided to turn a bad situation into a golden opportunity and made the commitment to ride the Festive 500.

The Festive 500 is an annual event taking place over the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. There’s no rules, no organised mass-participation course – all you need to do is get on your bike and ride 500km (just over 310 miles) during that period. Not a big ask in terms of distance but this is the time of year when everyone’s at their busiest and there’s the added risk of storms, floods and ice to contend with for those super-tough cyclists in countries where it’s actually winter. Lucky for us, since we would be visiting family in the New Year instead of over

All smiles on an exceptionally warm Christmas Day!

Christmas, we had little in the way of commitments. Out of the eight days, I would only be working two and although Storm Barbara threatened to blow our chances away it amounted to little more than a bit of wind on the first day.

The first ride filled us with confidence; although the wind was high enough to make some descents feel like an uphill struggle, it was relatively warm for December and we managed to get 129km in the bag straight away. By the end of day four, we had 411km under our belts and we were pretty confident. I had to go to work for two days but we still had December 30th and 31st to get those last 89km. That Festive 500 badge was pretty much a dead cert. Then winter arrived.

Is there anyone there?

Below-freezing temperatures overnight before our penultimate day had left a blanket of fog so thick visibility was limited to a matter of metres. No worries – the weather forecast predicted it would be gone by midday so we waited. And waited. And checked the forecast again. The forecast had changed – the fog wouldn’t actually lift until 16:00! In that case, we were left with one option. We had already agreed that riding the winding roads of the New Forest would be an accident waiting to happen so begrudgingly we made our way to the local park, riding laps and desperately trying to avoid the dogs and children weaving across the paths on their shiney Christmas bikes until the fog miraculously began to lift. Our confidence grew and we were losing patience with the busy park so we finally decided that we were ready to risk getting out on some real roads. However, the temperature was dropping again and as we rode out from the city centre I began to develop a thin layer of frost and started to lose sensation in my hands until I could no longer operate the gears or brakes. Defeated, we had to call it a day and arrived back home with only 62km to go and one day to do it. Having initially thought 500km  over an unusually warm Christmas period would be easy, I was reminded what a fickle beast the British weather can be and how seasons can change overnight and knock all your plans sideways in one swipe.

Wrapped in a duvet, only just able to grip my latte. Uh-oh.

New Years Eve had come around all too quickly and whilst things had gone so well in the first half that I had visions of triumphantly finishing on 600km+, things were suddenly starting to look uncertain. With another severe weather warning for fog in effect until at least 10am, we kept ourselves busy at the supermarket before embarking on the last leg. Things were looking good – visibility was already improving by 09:30. Hurrying home to get changed, we were feeling pretty confident. Until the fog started to roll in again. So close to our goal, there was no question that we would bail now so armed with our best lights we set out for our last ride of the Festive 500. We thought our worst fears had come true as we rode further and further out of town and the fog once more enveloped everything around us, leaving us with only 10 meters of good visibility ahead. Mentally calculating loops in the more sheltered suburbs of Southampton as a last resort, we rode on in the murk but once we reached the shelter of the New Forest, the fog began to clear and suddenly the forest was beautiful. The battleship grey of the sky with rays of light desperately punching through, skeletal trees in silhouette, verdant fields contrasted with the gold of the last fallen leaves of autumn. This is why we ride in winter and in those final kms the sun bathed everything in a golden light and reminded me what I love about this time of year.

MADE IT! And the sun came out for us!
MADE IT! And the sun came out for us!

I started the Festive 500 feeling cocky. With an unseasonably temperate short-term forecast and six days ahead of me to ride 500km, I wondered if it would even feel like much of a challenge. When the weather changed after my two days back in the office, I suddenly realised that it wasn’t a dead cert at all. 500km in six days isn’t a challenge for me but getting through the changing British weather unscathed and riding even when I would normally think I’d rather not – that’s the challenge. Although it will probably be business as usual next Christmas and my bikes will be enjoying a break, I’m proud of my achievement this year and would gladly do it all again.