12 June 2015


 *photos used with permission from the Meringue Girls - shot by David Loftus*
Rainbow battenburg cake, popping candy truffles with processco & strawberry and the promise of "the MOTHER"0 of all carrot cakes. Sold yet? These are just some of the recipes to be discovered in the second cookbook by the Meringue Girls.

From edible gifts, to showstoppers that would impress the likes of Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood - if you're into sweet things that aim to impress - "Everything Sweet" has it all. The photographer for the book (as with the first one) is the incredibly David Loftus, who has shot some seriously gorgeous images!

Last December I actually assisted on one of the shoot days for this new book and have been eagerly awaiting glimpses of it ever since. It was a pretty incredible experience seeing behind the scenes and I'm excited to see everything come together to produce this final product. A big bonus about a cookbook shot? Trying all the recipes that were baked that day! Everything I tried was seriously pretty amazing and I'm hoping to recreate a couple of them myself. The Crème Brûlée tart (pictured above second from left) is HIGH on the list - I may have a bit too many pieces...

The book is released on the 30th July and you can pre-order it from Amazon here. And if you fancy seeing some more sneak peeks from the book? Check out the girls on Instagram.

05 June 2015


Last Sunday (31st May) I participated in my first ever cycling event - The Plymouth Gran Fondo. This was the first year of the event and hundreds of eager cyclists turned out for it. I’ve got a post coming up soon about my experience with the ride itself. But for now this post is more of a profile in order to give you a bit more information about the event itself.

Venue - Start line was on the cobbles outside Rockets & Rascals, Barbican.
Cost - £30 for the Gran Fondo & Medio route, £20 for the Piccolo.
Feed station positions - 25 miles, 42 miles (although the manual provided stated 50 miles) and 75 miles.
Feed station locations - Buckland Abbey, Cotehele and Seaton Beach.
Food & hydration provided - Oranges, bananas, Soreen Malt Loaf, OTE Orangeand water. No gels were provided in order to try and keep the amount of litter on the course to a minimum – riders were informed of this in the race manual provided.
Course type - Hilly. Some single steep inclines as well as rolling hill sections.
Start times - 7am for the Gran Fondo/Medio route (with small waves of around 20 people, separated with roughly 2/3 minute gaps). I believe 8am was the start time for the Piccolo.
Distances/route - There were three routes for the event; The Piccolo, (41.43miles) The Medio (79.39 miles) and Gran Fondo (92.24 miles). You can see all the routes, as well as elevation profiles here – Plymouth Gran Fondo. *all distances stated as per the routes on their site - these were marked from timing point to timing point so the actual distance ridden were slightly longer.
GPX Routes - The routes were all available around two week before the event. You could download them from the website.
Support - Mechanics, marshals and manned feed stations.
Timing method - Chip, fastened to the handlebars of the bikes via cable ties.
Merchandise – Race jersey, £50.

All three of the routes rolled out from the start line at Rocket & Rascals, Barbican. The timing chips were activated about two miles into the routewhilst riding through Saltram Estate. This delay in timing was done by the organisers to get the riders out of the “old town” and also to allow them to spread out before timings began. Riders were informed that timing would occur this way. The sportive began at 7am (for the Gran Fondo route) and waves of around 15-20 riders were off in waves.

The Piccolo route stayed in Devon, with a larger section of the ride on Dartmoor National Park. The Medio & Gran Fondo routes carried on into the Tamar Valley, before making their way across into Cornwall. My route took me out onto the moors, through the Tamar Valley, through towns and also headed along the coast line with some incredible views towards the end. The Gran Fondo & Medio routes followed the same course until you hit just after St Mellion. You carried on if you were completing the full Gran Fondo or you turned off to take the shorter, Medio route back. This split was marshaled by people checking the route you were taking and diverting you in the correct direction. 

The finish line for all the routes was back at Rockets & Rascals. The Torpoint Ferry marked the end of the route for Medio & Gran Fondo routewhere it would then be an untimed ride back to the start. This timing and route information was all provided to the riders before the race began and was clearly shown on the map.

The routes were marshalled (although there could have perhaps been a bit more along the route) whilst also signposted. I personally had no issues with following the signs although the marshals were incredibly useful at various points – such as the turn off point for the Medio. Whilst the main routes were signposted and able to navigate with ease, heading back from the ferry proved a little bit more of an adventure. The sign posts were not as easy to follow and resulted in many people finding varying routes back to the start. I have a good knowledge of the area and was also riding with some others that I had been on the same ferry ride as me. If you weren’t aware of the local area it would have been trickier to navigate your way back with ease, had the signs not been there.  

For next time I know there were a couple of things I think could be improved. They're only small things and nothing too major. For my first sportive I was really impressed with how everything went and my own experiences was overall very positive.
The distance. One of the main things for me was the fact that it wasn’t strictly 100 miles. The route “ended” at 92 miles when you reached the ferry port. I would rather the route been extended slightly more so that when you reached the ferry that would then have been 100 miles. The cycle back to the start made up the remaining distance of the 92, but dependent on which way you rode back this may have varied.
- Timing chips. Perhaps a different form of timing chip could be used for next year. Such as a band or bib. The chips used were mounted on the handlebars but if bent it meant that the chip would be harder to read. This resulted in some results not being accurately picked up.
- Results. There was a delay with the results being posted but, the team worked incredibly hard to make sure people were receiving their official times. 
Official start of time. Like with running races, I would have preferred to have had my time started at the start line itself. Everyone I’ve spoken to post event said that they all started their own timing devices at the start itself. It wasn’t a major thing but just perhaps something to be noted for next year.

Overall, I personally think it was a great event and, for its first year, I think it was very well organised. There were a couple of small things that can be adapted and changed for next year in order to make the race better. With the little wrinkles ironed out I think that this could prove to be a popular event in the years to come. Like with any event things can always be improved and I'm sure the organisers will take on board peoples experiences and suggestions

As I said at the start - I’ve got a more detailed post on my actual experiences coming up soon. As well as that I’ve also written a short post for the Queen of the Mile, all about my ride nutrition which will be up soon!