Cottage Pie

I really fancied a hearty Sunday dinner this weekend, so I decided to make an British classic – Cottage Pie!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 500ml beef stock
  • Glug of Red wine
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 2 tsp all purpose seasoning
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 10g butter
  • 50ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat oil in pan and add mince and onions. Season with salt, ground black pepper and all purpose seasoning. Fry until minced is browned and drain any excess fat.
  2. Add garlic, tomato puree, beef stock, herbs, cayenne, red wine. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Put potatoes into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for around 15 mins until soft enough for mashing. Drain well.
  4. Mash potatoes in the saucepan. Add butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer meat mixture to an ovenproof dish.
  5. Pipe or spread mashed potato on top. Grind pepper over the top and cook in the oven for 35-40 mins until golden brown and bubbling.
  6. Voilà!

I have to say I didn’t have enough potatoes in the house, but hey ho, it was still delicious! You can also add carrots to further enhance this dish.

(Adapted from a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie in the OXO Cookbook, Quadrille, London, 2015)

Strength

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This week I made it back to the gym – yay! I did the crosstrainer to warm up, and then the low bike for about 5 minutes. I followed these up with some lower body strength work (30kg seated leg curl, 40kg seat leg press), and then some stretching of the calves, hamstrings, quads, achilles and feet. Because almost all of the lifts at work are out of order at the moment, I took my shower stuff over to the gym with me, rather than trying to climb 9 floors’ worth of stairs back at work! However, I won’t be repeating this. In the shower cubicle itself there was NOWHERE to put ANYTHING. No shelf or hooks or anything, so although I could throw my towel over the door, I had to put everything else on the wet floor. Not impressed!

Since Wednesday evening I’ve been feeling really rough with hayfever or a cold – not sure which at the moment, but I suspect it is hayfever (pollen & pollution) as I have maintained my sense of smell… I wasn’t sure if I was going to even make it to my tap class today, but I decided to dose up and soldier on! (Not something I usually advocate if rest is in order, but I really don’t want to miss any classes this time when we only have 4 in the block and today we would be filming the routine for practice purposes).

Rhythm Tap Class

We were a larger group than usual because a few people from Wednesday evening’s class joined us, plus another few who were trying out before enrolling. We worked on our around-the-world roll again and our swing-beat paddle exercise where we did:

  • 4 x 4 beat paddle (heel dig – pickup – toe – heel drop)
  • 4 x paddle minus the first heel dig
  • 4 x paddle minus the first heel dig and last heel drop – requires balance!
  • Repeat

It’s another great exercise to try and get your head around. And then you have to try and not use your head.

Quite quickly we moved straight onto our Bollywood routine as there are only 2 weeks left after today (rhythm tap to Bollywood music, rather than dancing Bollywood style). I really like this routine…but then I say that about all of them! It’s quicker than we are used to, but that’s good as it challenges us to go for it.

Thankfully the shower situation worked out when I returned to the office as I managed to get a lift very quickly. In the afternoon I had a chair based massage which was organised by the HR department, and despite everyone saying that the massage was too firm, I really enjoyed it and found it greatly beneficial to my post-tap muscles! Sadly it was only for the upper body, but I’ll take that 🙂

Studio Spring Clean

Hey, how was your weekend? This weekend I ended up tidying up my garage, which is also home to my makeshift dance practice studio!

This involved sweeping the floor and my tap floor which had accumulated leaves and garden dirt. I moved my collapsible ballet barre so that it’s in my practice space – to make sure I use it for stretching. Unfortunately there’s not enough space at present to leave it up permanently.

There’s a lot we need to get rid of, so I got a big cardboard box and filled it with items to go to the charity shop or tip. There are a lot of plant pots…including pots that were left behind by the previous owners! We also need to list an old IKEA wardrobe that’s not old at all, but we have no need of it any longer.

In addition to a spring clean, I also hung some dance related art! One piece was a poster I already had of the tap legend that is Jason Samuels Smith. I chopped it down to fit a frame and hung it above the mirrors for inspiration! I also purchased a canvas of a dancer that I spotted at The Range to add extra dance atmosphere! A trip to the tip is definitely in order this coming weekend.

Before locking up, I had a quick practice of the Around The World step we learnt on Thursday!

Around The World

After a relaxing break from work over Easter, this week I returned to the day job, my soap side gig and rhythm tap class!

I didn’t make the gym because with the Bank Holiday on Monday, there were only 2 possible days that I could go and I just couldn’t fit it in. I suppose I could have gone Wednesday, but I don’t like to work out the day before a dance class. I will get back to it next week when the schedule is back to normal.

I did do a lot of walking last week, with a weekend in Birmingham and Hughenden Manor National Trust, plus I did a New York City Ballet Workout, so I’m not too concerned about loss of fitness or anything.

Rhythm tap class was amazing as usual! I think everyone was hyped to be back, including our teacher who had been at a tap retreat in Italy over the break. Mountain views, food, wine, day trips and tap classes…So jealous!

There were some new people joining us this term; some who have moved up from beginners and some who want to refresh their steps after years away from it. This week we worked on a travelling shuffle-step exercise, which we did each way sets of eight, four, two and one. Our teacher got me to do it with her double time – that was fun!

The other main exercise was an ‘around the world roll’. This is like a cramp roll, but in a different order:

E.g. Starting on the right

R-Toe L-Toe L-Heel R-Toe

And you end with the left foot off the ground ready to start the left side:

Our routine is to a high energy Bollywood track and I’m loving it!

Weathered

Morning…

It’s no secret that Brits talk about the weather A LOT. It seems crazy, but when you go through all four seasons in one day, it’s kind of no wonder.

I don’t really take much notice of the weather and I make sure I get out of the office every lunchtime, in all weathers, for my own sanity and for a recharge. It’s really not good to be cooped up indoors all day. But I’ve noticed this thing with some of my colleagues. If there’s a bit of drizzle, they won’t go out. If it’s a bit windy, they won’t go out. If there’s a slight chill in the air… You get the picture. Then there’s the weather commentary throughout the day.

Sometimes I feel like screaming at them “you can’t put your life on hold because of a bit of rain!” I mean seriously, just put a coat on and grab an umbrella. It won’t kill you. You think they’d be used to it by now 🙂

Afternoon…

This week I met a friend for lunch on the day I have designated ‘Gym Tuesday’, so instead, this week I had ‘Gym Wednesday’. Although I really felt like I couldn’t be bothered, and even ate my lunch with the intention of skipping the gym for another day or not bothering at all. I think it was all psychological because:

a) I didn’t go on my usual day (i.e. Gym Tuesday)

b) I was looking forward to finishing work on Thursday for an extra long week off and was therefore demotivated to work out

But, I gave it half an hour and then MADE MYSELF GO. And I’m glad I did because I added the lat-pull machine to my weights routine. I also spent a good amount of time stretching, and I felt so much better and more energised for the rest of the afternoon.

I even told two random people at work about the gym when I got back to the office and they both said they’re going to start going or return to the gym after speaking to me!

I reiterate that it’s all thanks to my 80+ year old friend ‘S’ who is hitting the gym and pool 5 times a week – she’s amazing! And I’ve never heard her moan about the weather 😉

Bloch Warm-up Booties

Oh my DAYS I am loving these warm up booties from Bloch! I bought them a few months ago, not because I really needed them, but because I’ve become obsessed with dancers’ foot health, I liked them and one of the teachers at the Rambert Contemporary Dance summer school wore them for the warm up session that she led, which made me think: “good idea!” And they were on sale!

They are designed to be worn for warming up and time in between dance classes, particularly ballet, jazz and contemporary. I saw someone wearing them during the lunch break at the Tap Dance UK Festival in February to keep her feet warm and for a bit of comfort in between hours of tapping and I wore mine when I got home from that amazing weekend tap marathon to take the edge off my poor tootsies when trying to walk around the house.

Designed by former American Ballet Theatre (ABT) principal dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, they have a thick spongy layer on the bottom and cushioned heel, which provides amazing comfort to pummelled feet, plus there’s an adjustable ankle strap and velcro fastening at the top of the boot to provide stability and stop you slipping around in them like some ill-fitting Ugg boots (don’t get me started on Ugg boots).

They also come in loads of different designs. I mean, I really wanted the jungle print ones, but they were sold out. I paid around £25 and as you can see above, I opted for purple!

Verdict: Great for pre-dance warm-ups and post-tap class comfort. LOVE ‘EM!

Note: indoor use only

Have you tried these Bloch Warm-up Booties? What do you think?

Power Pack

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This week is the first of three weeks with NO TAP CLASSES! OH MY! Today I hit the gym again, for the third week in a row. I did the cross trainer on the interval programme to warm up and get the heart pumping, followed by the low bike over a varied terrain. Then I did the adductor, abductor and hamstring weight machines, the pec-deck and then some serious stretching before heading back to work. I felt much better this week and actually enjoyed it!

Today’s playlist (including a couple of motivational 80s power tracks*):

  • Heaven – Emeli Sande
  • Buffalo Stance – Neneh Cherry
  • We Built this City – Starship*
  • I’m Always Here – Jim Jamison*
  • Lose my Breath – Destiny’s Child
  • La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
  • California Soul – Marlena Shaw

Last Thursday Rhythm Tap II performed our Naughty Little Flea routine at the college’s Latin dance cabaret evening. The video and some photos were shared on our Whatsapp group and they did so well, despite a brief hitch with the music. I so wanted to be there! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take part because the rehearsals were during work time, straight after our daytime class, which meant taking something like a 3 hour lunch break; although looking back, I probably should have just done it and made the time up because most of the time I ended up being the only person in the office!

Next time, I’m doing the show no matter what!