Review Good Vibes Fitzrovia Cycle Beginner Improvers Class The Workout LifeI have been meaning to go to a spin class for months. Back in the good old days when I was a member of a gym five minutes away from my office I’d often be found sweating away in the spin studio during my lunch break. Sadly the closure of the gym and the fact that I no longer really have a lunch break have put the halcyon days of thrice weekly spin classes behind me. I used to love those classes, the sweat, the music, the fact that it all took place in a darkened room so no one could really see me huffing and puffing during the climbs. As it’s been a while I decided it would do me no harm to brush up on the basics and finally learn the proper way to set up the bike at the monthly Beginner Cycle Class held at Good Vibes Fitzrovia.

I talked Mr WorkoutLife into coming along with me and this is what we discovered.

The Basics

A 35 minute class designed for beginners or improvers looking to brush up on their indoor cycling skills. This class runs on the first Wednesday of every month at the Fitzrovia studio.

The Workout

The description on the Good Vibes website states that this class is for beginners or anyone wanting to sharpen their technique. The website also says, in bold, that “everyone is in control of their own ride … nobody but you will control your resistance dial or your pace”. This was very reassuring for a lapsed indoor cyclist like me!

Our cycle coach Nadine was brilliant. She came round to every person, introduced herself, asked about our cycling background and helped set up our bikes correctly while explaining what she was doing and why she was doing it. She was super patient during this stage, I was one of the last to get their bike checked and I kept thinking “oh no, I’m too late, she’s going to have to start the class before she gets to me” but she did come to me and helped me get the right set up that was both safe and comfortable. I’ve never had proper personalised guidance on how to do this during a spin class and to be honest, as this was one of the main reasons why I took this class I didn’t think that I would have much to learn (ha!) once this had been done.

She also explained about the cadence (RPM counter) on our bikes, how to adjust the resistance, keeping good posture during the class, how to safely come out of the saddle for a climb and what the different stages of the ride should feel like. This isn’t a full indoor cycling class, but it is a great primer for moving on to those classes (there is one straight afterwards, if you fancy it). Nadine gave me lots of pointers on my posture while cycling and which felt a lot more efficient and targeted my glutes much more effectively when compared to my previous collapsed across the handlebars posture.

What I really, really like about this class is that it focuses on cycling. It sounds obvious but there are so many cycling classes out there that promise to deliver a full body workout by shoehorning in upper body workout sections that it is becoming quite unusual to find an indoor cycling class that doesn’t do some half-arsed moves with 1kg dumbbells or “push ups on the bike”, let alone a studio that actively promotes their purist attitude to indoor cycling. Good Vibes gets a huge tick for this!

Instructor

Nadine was the perfect instructor for a beginner’s class – she delivered everything I hoped for and some things that I didn’t know I wanted before class! I would go as far as to say that Nadine is the best instructor I’ve had in an indoor cycling class.

The Fit Crowd

Including us, the class had 10 people (7 women and 3 men), which made it a “very popular beginners class” according to Nadine. Everyone was friendly and chatty, there was a distinct “we’re all in together” vibe in the room and if people were a bit nervous we helped each other through it.

Sweat Factor

Pretty sweaty. This isn’t bright-red-and-dripping-sweat-on-the-bike class but it’s definitely more than a quick-babywipe-and-go-back-to-work class.

Repeat Performance?

This class is excellent for beginners (or might-as-well-be beginners like me) and I think that more advanced cyclists would get something out of the class. I’m thinking of going back in September for a skills tune up and every few months thereafter to make sure I haven’t slipped into bad habits.

I’m really keen to try Nadine’s other classes and some of the other classes on offer at Good Vibes as I had a really positive experience of the studio. However, this  would be more of an occasional treat rather than a regular addition to my workout schedule. Fitzrovia isn’t the most convenient location for me and I’d have to make a concerted effort to get there more than once every couple of weeks which wouldn’t make any of the money-saving membership options viable for me.

Know Before You Go

The bikes have cages not clip-in cycle shoes so bring trainers.

You’ll be given a small towel free of charge if you are doing an cycling class and you can hire large towels from reception for £1.

You’ll need a £1 coin for the lockers and I found the locker rather small. I managed to fit my backpack in one locker but if I had a winter coat or anything bulky, I would have needed two lockers.

Bottled water and healthy snacks (I spotted Bounce Balls and Pip&Nut sachets) are available to buy from Reception. I discovered you can also use account credit to pay which was great because I didn’t bring any cash and actually had £6 credit on my account so I could buy something to scoff on the journey home.

Good Vibes operates a 6 hour cancellation policy. I think that this is really generous, if I realise I’m going to be swamped with work and there is no way I’m finishing on time, I’ve got until lunchtime to cancel the class. Much more forgiving than 24 hour or 12 hour cancellation policies at other studios.

This class was £16 and there are various memberships and block class packs available. If you are new to Good Vibes, you can take advantage of their Intro Offer which applies to both the Fitzrovia and Covent Garden studios both studios and all activities (Glow Yoga, Pilates and Power Plate classes in addition to Indoor Cycling). At the time of writing, the Intro Offer was £45 for 30 days.

Last tip, save a tiny bit of energy to stagger up the stairs afterwards (and try to avoid the temptation to stagger straight into the fish and chip shop over the road!)

Readjusting My World View

I am trying to lose weight at the moment. And I’m trying to be healthy. And in the past those two things have never sat together easily for me.

I’m trying to lose weight because over the past couple of years I was increasingly exhausted, suffering horrendously painful periods that kept me off work for days and gradually gaining weight. I went back to my GP again and again, and then eventually (after insisting that actually there was something wrong I wasn’t just tired from work and no, actually very woman doesn’t feel like this bad every month) was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and endometriosis. I’m working with my new GP (needless to say I left the old one) and specialists to get both of these conditions under control, but that hasn’t made the weight magically disappear – apparently I have to sort that bit out “the old fashioned way”. The difficult bit comes when I’m asked to set my goal weight, I think about the lightest I’ve ever been and reluctantly add enough kilos so that weight will acceptable. And that when I think about diets, about healthy eating plans, about clean eating, I start getting stressed and panicky. And when I think about “the old fashioned way” I go back to the darkest point in my life.

I have had problems with eating disorders since I was thirteen ears old and that by far the worst time for me was the period between age seventeen and twenty five. There were a couple of years while I was university that were the very worst time in my life, when I clung to my disordered relationship with food and my completely dysfunctional relationship my own body in an attempt to cope with everything else that was happening to me.

Even though I know that my mindset was not healthy at all and that my size and weight at this time were not healthy or unsustainable by healthy means, there is a dark corner of my mind that has always believed that being so thin was the biggest achievement of my life. There is also a  part of my mind that tells me that I never really had an eating disorder. Never mind the years I wasted by starving myself, forcing myself to be sick every time I caved in and ate something and obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t good enough (which invariably equated to not thin enough). Never mind the entries that were entered on my medical record – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and depression – during a time when things were so bad that I nearly dropped out of university. Never mind that at the time that I was so thin, I always thought that I was too fat and had so much self-loathing that every day was a struggle. This voice argues that I was never really thin enough to have an eating disorder. I was never so thin that I was hospitalised, never so thin that I was force fed, so therefore, that voice tells me, I was never really ill. In fact, it whispers sometimes, maybe what you need to do is stop pretending you were ill and find the self discipline to go back to that weight and those behaviours.

But something happened recently that has challenged this voice. A couple of weeks ago, I was sorting through some boxes and the old computer at my parents house because I wanted to make sure that I kept my old modelling portfolio and all the photos from when I was at university before they made good on their threat to throw out all the stuff I abandoned when I moved out.

I was looking through my portfolio and kind of lost down memory lane remembering the hilarious hairstylist on this shoot or the terrible freezing cold studio on that one. My portfolio is full of the very best photos from these shoots, taken after a whole team of professionals paid to make me look my very best before the camera, and a whole team of professionals armed with Photoshop to make the resulting photos look even better. My portfolio got the same old wistful “I was so slim” feeling. But it wasn’t my portfolio that got the biggest reaction from me.

It was the outtakes – the hundreds, even thousands of photos that didn’t make it into my portfolio – and the goofy pictures when we were testing the lighting, the selfies I took in front of the sets and the pictures from nights out afterwards. Some of the things I saw in those pictures really disturbed me, and the reaction they got was disbelief and sadness. The outtakes from my favourite photo shoot (that supposed pinnacle of achievement of thinness) are nothing like the picture my agent chose to be printed out and put in my book. In the majority of the pictures from that day I look gaunt, tired, unhealthy and too thin, far too thin. I’ve never deep down believed that I was ever too thin, so for me to admit this even to myself was like a seismic shift.

Even worse are the pictures a few days later when I’m hanging out with my friends, no makeup, no professional lighting, no Photoshop. I’m shocked at how unhealthy I look compared to the other people in the photos. For the first time in my life I’m not thinking “I wish I looked like that now”, instead I’m thinking “I look terrible, why didn’t anyone say anything to me”. The very worst thing about this cache of photos is that I clearly remember that on the day these pictures were taken, I thought that I needed to lose weight. Today I look at these pictures and think the girl in them was clearly ill and in need of help, not that she has something I wish I had now.

I know that I don’t want to go back to feeling like that or looking like that, but I also feel a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me. My view has changed and that magical, in-my-wildest-dreams-I-might-get-to-that-again weight has suddenly become undesirable. That destination, that perfect weight that would make me happy, doesn’t exist.

I still want to lose weight, but its because I want to improve my health not damage it in a different way in pursuit of that “perfect” weight. That feels liberating, but it feels a bit scary too – before I knew what the destination would be and now I don’t know where I’m headed because I’m going to have to learn what healthy is along the way – and I feel angry, that I’ve been berating myself for my entire adult life for not maintaining something that was so bad for me.

 

 

 

Steal Her Workout Style Elle Linton Keepitsimpelle

 

Welcome to the second edition of Steal Her Workout Style, a series of interviews with amazing women who have their own unique sense of fit-style and put their fashion choices through their paces by wearing them during real-life workouts (complete with real-life sweat!).

My subject for this month is the lovely Elle Linton, a Personal Trainer, Sport Development Professional and Health & Fitness Blogger at Keep It SimpELLE  and the creator of the London Bloggers group. Inspirational is a word that gets thrown around a lot within blogging circles, but for me, Elle really is inspirational. She seems to live at a million miles a limit (I love reading about all her fitness adventures and vicariously getting my fit-thrills!) and yet she is always a bundle of positivity and is incredibly generous with her time and energy.

 

Elle Linton Keepitsimpelle

Photo Credit: Georgina Ellis at Fitcetera 2015

Describe your workout style in three words
Simple, classic, tight

What is your favourite piece of fitness apparel and why?
Has to be my footwear. I always ensure I’m wearing the right footwear for the workout whether it be running, gym, CrossFit etc. Footwear is designed to work with your feet – so for running, the shoes will support you in a forward motion only. This means if you wear your running shoes to go to Zumba you won’t be supported for the sideways movements and all the jumping. The right footwear ensures you get the most out of your workout and can perform to your maximum!

What one item/accessory has made your workout life easier?
A huge bag with compartments! My bag needs to fit everything I need for the day, from clothes to extra shoes, my lunch and snacks, my diary, laptop …then for when I go swimming or have a particularly sweaty workout, it needs to hold all that gear and protect my dry stuff! Having a bag that can fit all this makes my workout life so, so very much easier!

How does your training routine affect your fashion choices (if at all)?
I basically live in sweat wicking, fast drying clothes! I try as hard as I can to mix it up with a few normal pieces every now and again! So my training routine definitely affects my fashion choices! I need to know that the outfit I chose for that day can get me through work (either in store or in and office at a studio) through to teaching, maybe my own workout and then socialising (casually) at the end of the day! I think that’s quite a lot to ask for?! Sometimes I just have to swap / add a layer and maybe change my shoes and it works!

If you could only wear one fitness brand for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?

This is a tough question! I think I would pick either lululemon or Topshop! If I had to choose an athletic wear brand it would be lululemon based on the fact that they have an awesome ‘to & from’ range which are “normal looking” clothes made with technical fabrics. If it wasn’t a sportswear brand that I had to choose but to wear for being active it would be TopShop – they always have great simple pieces in that you can sweat in and look like you walked straight out of the trendiest studio in East London!

Where is your favourite place to shop for fitness clothing and why?
One place I think that is a hidden gem for shopping for fitness wear is NEXT. They have quite an extensive range of stuff both branded and their own label! Sometimes they even have exclusive stuff you can’t find on the high street!

Function or fashion – what drives most of your fitness clothing purchases?
FUNCTION. Every second, of every day!!!

Complete these sentences:
I splurge on …. bags and jackets!
I save on …. tops and vests!
I always have …food and snacks… in my gym bag
You will never catch me wearing …. the colour red!

Massive thanks to Elle for being such a fabulous Steal Her Workout Style interviewee. You can catch up with Elle’s adventures at www.keepitsimpelle.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Black and Gold Winter Outwear

I’ve been shopping. I was hoping that I could squeeze another year’s wear out of my old winter coat and boots but they are fairly knackered when you look at them in the cold light of day. Then I optimistically wondered if I could put off the purchase until the pre-Christmas sales (or ask for a couple of things for Christmas) but last Friday I spent an hour shivering in my seasonally inappropriate mac and Converse while waiting for a delayed train collection so I bit the bullet and tried not to think about my credit card balance while shopping.

The Coat

Ted Baker Lorili Long Wrap Coat I wanted something really smart for work that was also a little bit stylish and could be worn over the top of party dresses without being too obvious looking like I only have one posh winter coat. I picked this one because the shape is very flattering to someone with boobs and a bum (I spent all my teens and most of my twenties wishing that my boobs were bigger, they went through a growth spurt in my late twenties and now I find that I wish they were smaller – some of my favourite styles, like a double-breasted military style coat or a classic trench coat, look a bit matronly on a larger bust). I love the fancy lining and the gold hardware, it comes in several other colours including a classic taupe and a gorgeous bright purple – if I had the money I would buy it in a few different colours. Sadly I don’t, so classic black it is.

(This is the most expensive winter coat that I have ever bought, but on the basis that I’m going to wear it at least 5 days a week, 5 months a year for the next 2-3 years, I think I can justify the cost-per-wear).

Ted Baker Lorili Long Wrap Coat – £299

The Boots

Steve Madden November Black Leather Ankle Boots Ordinarily, biker boots are my go-to choice of winter footwear. I’ll buy a pair every couple of years and wear them to death (5-7 days a week, 5 months a year) and then have a period of mourning when they really become unwearable and I can’t find an exact replacement. This year I have decided to invest in two pairs of winter boots – a replacement pair of biker boots (also Steve Madden and available here) and the November boots – a posh pair of leather ankle boots with a low heel to wear to work. Apart from ticking all the boxes for practical ankle boots (low heel, leather not suede for durability) I chose these because the gold zips and trim on the heels mirror the gold accents on the Ted Baker coat.

Steve Madden November Black Leather Ankle Boots – £99.99 (but reduced to £59.99 at the link above)

The Bag(s)

Gymtote Sophia Tote Bag This is a bit of a cheat as I’ve had this bag for a good few months but haven’t had the occasion to use it. I bought it specifically to use on days when I need to carry a lot of stuff with me (including my gym kit!) abut where carrying a rucksack would be a bit of a fashion faux pas – meetings with clients, conferences, checking into posh hotels.

I used it for the first time this week when attending a Social Media & The Law conference followed by two yoga classes at Good Vibes. I was really impressed with the practicality of the bag, everything I needed for yoga fit nicely in the large ‘gym’ compartment and all the stuff I’d normally carry around fit in the ‘handbag’ compartment on the top, with a bottle of water and a selection of snacks in the side pocket. I was also impressed with how nice it looked, particularly in combination with my new coat and bag (gold hard wear on the bag matching those on the coat and bag – I’m sure nobody apart from me notices this but it adds a little spring to my step). I am going to use this as my handbag on business trips as it is very spacious and a sneaky way to get extra storage in hand baggage.

If I could make any improvements to the design of this bag, I would have it remade in leather – it is made of polyurethane and the handles are really, really squeaky (I discovered this when trying to quietly get something out of my bag during one of the key note speeches). I would also add a cross-body strap, because I can happily load it up with a multitude of gym and work items until its really too heavy for me to carry on one shoulder.

GymTote Sophia Tote Bag – £135

Osprey London Leather Across Body Bag My second bag is a small, leather handbag with a cross-body strap and just enough storage space for my purse, Oyster card, iPhone, Blackberry and Kindle. It is also black with gold accents and the cross-body strap is skinny enough not to spoil the line of the coat. I bought it from TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago, they had a good range of colours then but only seem to have it in bright red and khaki online.

Osprey London Leather Across Body Bag – £39.99 Black (in-store at TK Maxx) or £29.99 Red (online at TK Maxx via link above)

Zenning Out

 

I am on a bit of a yoga and relaxation kick at the moment. I used to think that I was just too fidgety and impatient to get any of the benefits of those activities that are supposed to relax you; yoga classes, meditation, even soaking in a long, hot bath – I couldn’t switch my mind off for long enough to enjoy it. I always had a sneaking suspicion that I could be better using all that time doing something more useful and productive than ‘just’ relaxing.

Gradually, the lack of time for myself crept up on me. I was getting stressed out by things that I would usually take in my stride and at the end of one long, hard week when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, I realised that I had been overloaded and exhausted for months. I was burning out, living for my days off (which I then spent pretty much comatose because I was too exhausted to do much else) and spending a lot of time fantasising about spa days and long, lazy holidays.

It was actually while I was taking a not-very-long-but-extremely-lazy holiday that I had time to think about this properly. In the run up to the holiday I was seized by fear of missing out and spent hours on Tripadvisor researching the best activities and must-see destinations, but after spending the first couple of days doing nothing more strenuous moving between my sun lounger by the pool to my sun lounger on the beach, I realised that my normal attitude to relaxation is extremely stupid. I don’t need to wait until I’m completely knackered to have a rest, or until I’m injured to enjoy a yoga class – time spent relaxing has an intrinsic value, it’s not all about putting up with a boring activity so I can do something more energetic in the near future and it is definitely not a waste of time.

I also realised that I don’t need to spend a lot of money on a spa break or expensive treatments to relax – it is surely be much more effective to build this time into my normal routine, making relaxation a simple and sustainable habit rather than a big production every few months. With this in mind, I am consciously building time for myself into my schedule every week. I have been attending restorative yoga classes twice a week and although the first class felt more like being guided through an hour long nap than any kind of exercise, I was feeling the positive effects for days afterwards. I’m also trying really hard not to follow my normal pattern of behaviour, which would be to rush headlong into a time specific challenge with a physical goal at the end (like 30 Days To Advanced Wheel Pose! or something similar) and start feeling stressed about achieving it. Of course there is nothing wrong with having a target in mind and following a structured plan in order to reach it, but I have so much of that in other areas of my life that I want to keep my yoga practice as free and easy as possible. I’m also looking for other smaller ways to bring the chilled out holiday vibe into my daily life, perhaps doing a DIY digital detox or at least unplugging for a couple of hours every day.

What part does rest play in your work/life balance? What do you do to relax and do you find it easy to switch off?

Cook With Neff and the Great Office Bake Office

Along with a few million other people in the UK, I am obsessed with the Great British Bake Off. I love nothing more than curling up on the sofa on Wednesday nights to watch the action and tuning in again on Friday nights for An Extra Slice. There is a small but hard core Bake Off fandom at work and we get together on Thursday mornings to discuss the latest dramas over a cup of tea. I have never made a genoise sponge in my life and I didn’t know that flaounes existed until a couple of weeks ago but that doesn’t stop me critiquing the bakes every week and wishing that I had a dedicated baking work station, fancy sliding door oven and proving drawer in which to construct my own masterpieces.

So of course I said YES! when I was offered the opportunity to visit the Neff showroom in Milton Keynes and try out those famous sliding door ovens for myself. I spent the week before the event in a state of near frenzied excitement, something that was lost on my colleague when I tried to explain why I was taking a day off work. “So it’s just … an oven showroom? Well, I’ll think of you opening and closing oven doors while I’m hard at work on Friday.” However, opening and closing the oven doors was only part of the attraction. I was also hoping to pick up some insider baking knowledge to put into practice at my Office Bake Off the following month. As far as I was concerned, there was a Star Baker wooden spoon with my name on it and Neff were going to help me win it.

#CookWithNeff

Bright and early on the morning of the trip, I headed over to the rendezvous point at Marble Arch to meet up with my fellow London-based bloggers and take the coach out to Milton Keynes. We were all bright eyed and bushy tailed (or, at least in my case, heavily caffeinated) and hugely excited about “having a go with the baking show ovens” and the journey flew by in a blur of blogger chat and Bake Off predictions (as it turns out my early favourite contestant, Tamal, didn’t win but he did get to the final, so I wasn’t too far off!).

We were greeted at the Neff showroom with coffee and freshly baked cookies (seriously, they were still warm from the oven!) and then settled down to hear about our itinerary for the day (cooking and eating) and to learn about Neff’s current social media campaign – the Cookaholics – six ordinary people who love to cook, and their online community Bake It Yourself which features recipes, how-to guides, tips and cooking inspiration across Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

We were given a demonstration of the ovens in Neff’s current range and talked through all their technical features. I have to admit that I wasn’t paying quite as much attention as I should have been because my fingers were itching to have a go with the slide and hide oven doors, however, we were then handed over to Lyn – Neff’s Senior Home Economist – for a hands on cooking demonstration which showcased some of the cleverer points of the Neff range.

Under Lyn’s tuition, we split into several small groups and each prepared one dish for lunch: Wild Boar & Pork Patties; Flatbreads; Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Tartlets; Goats Cheese & Caramelised Onion Tartlets; Vegetarian Tart; Grilled Vegetables and Giant Cous Cous Salad; with Chocolate Dipped Strawberries & Marshmallows for dessert and as though that wasn’t enough – scones for our afternoon tea!

Wild Boar and Pork Patties

Flatbreads

Giant CousCous Salad

Griddled Vegetables

Salmon Tartlets and Veggie Tart

Chocolate Strawberries

 

As well as being delicious, mostly healthy and very easy to cook, these dishes had the added bonus of showcasing some of the cleverer technical points of the Neff range, and I think that getting stuck in and actually using the ovens while preparing a meal was probably the best way to learn about them. In my opinion, the best features of the ovens (obviously apart from the amazing doors) are :

1. Circotherm Technology (basically, the way the air circulates around the oven). Not only does this mean that the oven needs little pre-heating, which lets face it is a bonus for a bunch of bloggers because we were far too busy taking photos of everything to bother with fiddly little things like preheating the oven, but also that there is no transference of flavours so that you can cook a variety of dishes at the same time. This was put to the test as we cooked salmon and asparagus tartlets at the same time as scones and there was absolutely no cross over of fishy taste. Another great point about Circotherm is that you can grill without needing to use a grill setting – Helen and I were in charge of making Wild Boar & Pork Patties and we ‘grilled’ these with the oven door closed which was a lot tidier (no spitting meat to deal with) and also kept the smells contained.

2. VarioSteam – (think the water tank on your iron, but for an oven) this adds moisture to optimise the baking process. If you remember the Technical Challenge in Week 6 of the Bake Off, Paul told the bakers that this is essential for baking proper baguettes – how much easier is this drawer than faffing around with trays of water?

3. Induction Hobs – these use electromagnetism to create a magnetic field between the hob and the pan, only the bottom of the pan heats up so they are more energy efficient and also safer because they won’t heat unless they have a pan on them. The hob keeps the pan at a constant temperature and this was demonstrated by melting chocolate for dipping strawberries and marshmallows directly in the pan rather than using a bain marie (check out Sophie’s blog about the event – she was in charge of the delicious desserts). However, a drawback to induction hobs is that you do need special pans to work with them, so do take this into account if you are thinking of buying one.

4.Pyrolytic cleaning (self-cleaning system for ovens). I didn’t test this feature personally because the fantastic Neff team cleaned up after us, however, I am fully in support of appliances that clean themselves. I can imagine that my mum is reading this and shaking her head in disbelief, so in the interests of full disclosure, I better admit that I have never cleaned an oven in my life – I’m perfectly happy to sacrifice in other areas to save money so that I can pay someone to do it for me. Life is too short to be scrubbing ovens!

Our day finished up with a Tear & Share Bread baking demonstration from Lyn, followed by another round of munching – this time Afternoon Tea. I rolled myself back on to the coach and spent the journey back to London dreaming about the amazing things I was going to make for my Office Bake Off a few weeks later.

The Great Office Bake Off

My office has been planning a charity bake sale for months and it turned out to be very simple to organise. Three weeks ahead of time, we sent an email out asking for volunteers to bake and gathered a list of 10 people who were willing to all make different things. We publicised the event by email every week, to get people excited about it and also to jog their memories that they would need to bring in cash on Bake Off day (and perhaps not plan a big lunch).

We set up a table in our canteen with all the cakes from 11.30 – 3.30 and asked everyone who was tasting to make a cash donation, try the bakes and vote for their favourite. We didn’t set a minimum donation amount but most people gave around £5 (although I did notice a few £20s and even a £50 when we did the cashing up – someone really likes cake!) and we ended up raising just under £400.

Office Bake Off

As it turned out, I didn’t use one of the Neff recipes for my entry into The Great Office Bake Off because I didn’t plan very well and ended up not having enough time to practice ahead of time. Instead, I used a tried and tested favourite of mine – Ancho Chilli and Chocolate Brownies. Sadly, I didn’t win the much-coveted Star Baker Wooden Spoon but I had a great time baking and tasting and am already plotting my entry for the next event!

Ancho Chilli and Dark Chocolate Brownies

Did you go to the #CookWithNeff event? Add your blog post to the link up below!