Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2018 Challenge No. 1 - 2nd Update & hurty days!

Halfway through the month already? This one is flying by! I  meant to do this second update at the 15 day point but somewhere along the line time slipped by me!

So - 17 days in and I'm impressed to say I'm still sticking with my #EED0118 challenge. So far this month I've done a lot of walking, quite a bit of running, 3 visits to the gym, 4 x HIIT sessions. Plus of course as I mentioned in my last post I've completed the C25K programme and run a parkrun as well - that seems like quite a bit of "achieving" for one month already! My step count is easily topping 100,000 a week and I increased my walk/run mileage last week to 50 miles from the previous week's 47. I'm also starting to enjoy exercising each day - I'm mostly looking forward to my runs and loving the fact that I can now "just go and do a mile run" - the very thing I wanted to be able to do when I challenged myself to learn to run originally. I love that I can think in terms of doing that and know that yes, I can do it - that feels like a real win. Having said that though it's still not always easy. My legs ache/hurt pretty much daily at the moment - sometimes simply as a result of muscles tightening up from being used in a way that they've not been used in for a lot of years. My joints are complaining a fair bit - today is one of those days that everything seems to hurt - my knees and hip are stiffening up every time I sit for any length of time and when I get up I feel like I'm hobbling around like a little old lady! More stretching will help - I know that much - and to an extent I figure that at the moment I'm also asking quite a lot of my legs, I have after all taken them from being lucky if they did 5,000 steps some days 18 months ago to averaging 14 - 15k a day now, quite an achievement in its own right! I'm guessing that they will gradually get used to me having higher expectations of them!

I've got some challenging days coming up with a trip to Manchester including two nights in a hotel. The friday will easily be covered by doing a LOT of walking I suspect - we rarely use public transport around the city when we're up there, preferring to walk from place to place, the Saturday will be a hotel-room HIIT session - relatively easily done with the aid of a folded towel as a mat and a focus on upper-body & core work. The Sunday will be the biggest challenge with the likelihood of a bit of a hungover state - at a pinch I'll pin my hopes on a brisk walk home from the station when we get back, but may be able to cram something else in earlier in the day depending on how I feel. We'll see!

On the running front I've decided for now to not particularly look at increasing distance, but instead to focus on some speed work to try to build my pace up a bit. I'm also starting to incorporate inclines on the treadmill with a particularly nasty little intervals run involving short bursts of running up a gradually decreasing incline but as the incline drops, the pace increases. On paper it appears simple but you definitely know you've done a workout afterwards! My plan for the next few weeks is to do at most a couple of 5k runs a week (the second one will be parkrun the weeks I can get there I think) and an intervals session, along with probably just a mile or so here and there when I need to shake my legs out a bit after a longer one. For the gym I'm looking to increase the weights I'm doing, and my HIIT stuff will start to incorporate more of a focus on leg strength which will hopefully help with supporting my knees in particular. I'll continue to squeeze in walks whenever and wherever I can and work on making sure that my lunchtime miles are done at a brisk pace too. I'd love to be able to increase my mileage week on week through the month but suspect that might be a slightly tall order!


Saturday, 13 January 2018

Ticking things off...

...yes, THIS early in the year!

You might remember from a few posts back that I summed up my aims for this year in three phrases:
~ See what I can achieve
~ Challenge myself
~ Suprise myself

You might also remember that at the tail end of last year I started working through the Couch to 5K programme, and that buried in my list of things I wanted to work on this year was "Run a parkrun"? well this morning I decided to double-up those two things AND deal with today's #EED0118 effort by making my final C25K run of the programme our local parkrun. Now before I go any further, I should say that several folk had said to me "don't for goodness sake do Harlow for your first one - it's a devil of a course!" - it's held in our Town Park which is absolutely gorgeous but VERY hilly - and so far I've done almost nothing with I've spent the last few weeks wandering through the parkrun pages on t'interweb for the surrounding area and debating which one to do. Settled on one in a town slightly south of here - then realised that it meant faffing about with paying to park. Looked at another one a few miles west but don't really know the area...and eventually just thought "How bad can it be?"and decided to do Harlow anyway. Walked across with MrEH (there for moral support - not running!), nearly bottled out when I first got there as there were PROPER RUNNERS there and I was terrified and wondered what on earth I was thinking. MrEH reminded me that I KNEW there would be people slower than me, that I knew I could do the distance, and that if I needed to walk I knew there was no shame in that - except of course I'd decided to tie it up with that final C25K run hadn't I which meant NO WALKING!

Newcomers briefing was called and instantly set my mind at rest as it was so friendly and I liked the fact that it wasn't just first timers gathered together but regular parkrunners who were at Harlow for the first time ("Tourists" in parkrun language) although I was a bit freaked to see two "London Marathon" running jackets among the group - eek! The main briefing was made rather tricky to hear by some folk around me who obviously decided that as they'd heard it all before it was fine to talk right through it but I managed to grab the salient points from it thankfully, then we gathered at the start and suddenly the people in front were starting to run and we were off! Running with other people for the first time was odd - I was terribly conscious of not wanting to get in people's way and so I'd set myself up right towards the back, but in fact I could have gone quite a bit further forwards with no issue. I was also terribly conscious of not being drawn into going off too quickly which of course inevitably lead to me going off slower than I needed to instead - a couple of minutes in I realised I was going slower than my usual pace and picked it up a bit. The run is 2 x 2k laps followed by one partial lap of 1k to finish, undulating up and down all the way - and about two thirds of the way round the 2k lap is what will now be known as #ThatHill - I'm familiar with it as we puff our way up it every time we walk back from the station to home. In other words - it feels steep when you just walk up it. It was as we approached it for the first time that I realised that it looked like it was part of the course...but no, hang on....oh hell it is! It was also exceptionally muddy which REALLY didn't help - I slogged up it, feet slipping and sliding all over the shop, and finally reached the top absolutely gasping for breath - thankfully from the top the course levels out a bit allowing you time to catch your breath before a short downhill takes you back to the beginning of lap 2. Needless to say I ran the whole of lap 2 positively DREADING the wretched hill! Second time round at least I knew what it was like - not entirely sure that helped but I was at least prepared for the worst of the mud and knowing I didn't have to do it again I was able to power myself up it a bit more effectively as I was less concerned about not having enough left in my legs & lungs to finish!  The short lap to finish proved pretty much no problem at all and I was well able for a sprint (downhill - bless them!) to the finish. Oh the feeling as you cross the line that first time - just amazing!

My time for that first one was under 32 minutes - which for a hilly course I'm really pleased with. (My own Strava timing knocked a few seconds off that as I only clicked start when I actually started running) Had I properly grasped where the final short lap took me I could have kicked on a bit more for that too. I now know that I definitely need to build some hills into my running - and I'd like to start doing some speed work too to see how I get on with upping my pace a bit. Was I right to do that one as a first parkrun effort? Honestly probably yes - had I not then I would have avoided it for a long while I suspect and it would have turned into a "Big Thing" so in spite of #ThatHill I'm glad I did it! (There's also a degree of kudos in having a hilly home course apparently, and as someone else pointed out it means everywhere that's not hilly feels far easier!). Do I want to do it again? Yes! No question about it - I can see why folk say it's addictive as I just want to beat that time now. I'd like to have a go at some otherparkruns too - maybe when we're away places. I'd like to run a "proper" 5k as well - and am eyeing up the idea of a run at the Olympic Park at the moment as that's such a special venue it would be amazing to do a run there! For all those assuming that I want to go on to 10k distance though - no, certainly not at the moment anyway and honestly, probably not at all. For me wanting to run was in part laziness - it's a mighty good way of burning off some calories in a short space of time, and in part because it was something I'd always thought I couldn't do - and that had started to annoy me. I've got no great burning ambition to run any great distances although I would now like to see how fast I can get over 5k - that idea quite grabs me. The very idea that I can run 3 miles without stopping to walk is more than enough for me, though! (Although earning a blingy medal or two is right up there now!)


Monday, 8 January 2018

2018 Challenge No.1 - 1st Update

One week down and I'm doing OK! I confess I'm feeling slightly surprised about this as I entered into this feeling that it was quite a tall order for me - well obviously as otherwise it wouldn't be a challenge, would it now! I was wary of those days when the weather was grotty and I didn't want to get wet, or when I got home and couldn't face going out again, or arrived home a bit late and was STARVING hungry and didn't want to take the time to do any form of exercise before I ate...and sure enough I've had to tackle all those things in the week and so far I'm still on track - go me!

The first few days of the month I've mentioned in my original post about the challenge - the 1st was that run (and fall!). The 2nd was the first day back at work so I knew it would be a dodgy one - plus I had a hospital appointment at the end of the afternoon - so I planned ahead to do the intervals sets and just got on and did them when I got home - all good. Wednesday was the day of the light traffic and the long pre-work walk - while I won't often manage to get that sort of distance before coming into the office I can usually manage at least a mile - although those miles aren't counting for the purposes of this challenge.

On Wednesday I also did an hour in the gym after work - I really mix it up when I'm there - I only go once a week and so try to get as much value from it as possible - so I mix up the treadmill (running and intervals with an incline/sprint intervals), some mat-work (basically the same sort of stuff I sometimes do at home but usually a single set and often the stuff that's more comfortable to do with mats rather than thin carpet underneath me) and the weights machines. I have a rough programme but it is only quite rough - I vary it depending on which machines are available so it doesn't have any kind of set rotation to it. It took SO much nerve for me to get back to the gym - it was something I always enjoyed years ago but I guess I'd just got out of that "gym mindset" and had slipped into thinking that I'm not that sort of person...thankfully I found the nice, friendly little gym at the community sports centre near to work, and that suits me brilliantly! They offer a community rate to those living and working locally so I can simply turn up, pay £7 and off I go. Because I go straight from work it cuts out that thing of getting home and not wanting to go out again, which in real terms means I do it rather than talking about it, then deciding the sofa is more comfortable.

Thursday I knew I needed a lower impact day - my joints were painful and achey - not unusual in itself but this was worse than usual and I knew if I was going to keep up through the week I had to factor in a more gentle on myself day - so I made the effort to walk a couple of miles before work (in the rain, no less!) and another couple after work. And then I told myself - "that's enough for today" - ands therein lies ANOTHER issue with goals and targets and challenges - it's too easy to fall into that trap of feeling that you constantly have to be at 100% on it - you don't, it's absolutely fine to mix up a few 50% days in there, to remind yourself that actually, you're achieved what you set out to do, you don't always have to feel you're over-achieved. Sometimes enough is, well, enough.

Friday I'd always planned to do another C25K run - I knew I had the option to get week 7 ticked off inside that first week of the year so I went for it. I'm now at the running for 25 minutes straight stage - not anything I ever thought I'd manage, and something I've learned is that the first 5 minutes or so is ALWAYS hard work - you think your breathing is never going to last out, that you're incredibly slow, you feel every twinge and hurty bit. After that first little stretch though comes the sudden realisation - how far you've run already in that time; that suddenly you're able to breathe more easily; that the bits that were hurting, the knees that you were afraid at the start were going to collapse on you, actually now feel OK; and that you've found your rhythm, and that you can now run mostly on autopilot, without having to think too hard about it. Once you reach that stage you also start to understand something - that if you can keep going for that time, you can keep going for longer. The first time I really "got" all that was the run at the end of week 5 of the C25K programme - the one I'd kept looking at and thinking "No WAY!" about - a solid 20 minutes of running when prior to that the most I'd done in one go was less than half that. The final minute of that run was INCREDIBLY hard work, until I realised that the final minute I was then running - that was the self-same 60 seconds I couldn't manage when I started - and now I was doing it after running another 19 minutes!

Saturday - a walk into town and back again (brisk pace - 2 miles each way)  and then some HIIT intervals in the afternoon - mostly focused on core stuff and leaving legs pretty much alone again to give myself a lower impact day. And finally yesterday and the third Week 7 C25K run - and boy oh BOY did I not want to go out in the cold and do that one! I started thinking of possible "reasons" (yep - excuses, you've got it!)  for not doing it the night before, finally managed to force myself out a good 45 minutes after I'd planned, then spent the first mile convincing myself why I should just go home again... Of course I didn't, I sucked it up, carried on, made myself do an extra couple of minutes at the end as I'd been pathetic and slow at the beginning (I hadn't as it turned out!) and ended up running 2.7 miles at sub-10 minute mile pace.

This week will be pretty much a mix up of the same again. I want to get a short run in there somewhere I think - probably just a round-the-block mile to remind myself it doesn't always have to be further - the whole point of running in the first place was that it would give me a reasonably quick route to exercise and now I'm in a position where I can really start making use of that convenience. I'm hoping to get another 2 C25K days run - I'm incredibly keep to get the programme done and ticked off now and actually I'm starting to think that I might even be able to make that final run of the programme a Parkrun - which would be quite exciting! The gym will feature again, and some more HIIT stuff probably mostly focused on core & upper body. My FitBit tells me that in the course of last week I covered 47 miles between walking and running so it would be really nice to see if I can get anywhere near that again.  It's funny but at the moment it rather feels as though one challenge is sort of naturally leading me in to another which is interesting for me - I've even started looking into possible 5k races to enter - mad!

If you've sent yourself a challenge or several for 2018 how are you getting on so far?


Friday, 5 January 2018

Frugal Friday

I'm technically jumping a bit ahead of myself here - but I'm already thinking ahead to my second monthly challenge of the year - it's going to see the return of Frugal February! The eagle-eyed and sound of memory will recall that I said in my list of goals for the year that we were aiming to re-focus on some of the frugal stuff again - just try to get our eyes back on the ball a bit if that makes sense.

It's odd - one of the things that just about everyone I know who's had a period of time where they have been voluntarily frugal to pay off debt, or a mortgage, says once they've achieved their aim is that it's quite difficult to get out of the mindset where you feel guilty, or uncomfortable, about spending money. The good side of this is of course that you're never likely to massively overspend again - the habit of saving up, of seeing what else you have that will do the job instead, is too deeply ingrained for that. What does happen a bit over time I think though is that small things start to creep in, little frittering habits sneak back up on you. Never much - just a pound here or there, but the result is that you end up with "stuff" that you hadn't planned, and don't really need. The Credit card bill can still perfectly easily get paid when due, but there's just that little bit more on it than really, you would have liked...and THAT is the side of things we want to address a bit.

There are things that we won't be doing - we have some trips out and about planned, and those will still be happening. MrEH's car needs a service & MoT. We will still be heating the house, and still be eating well. Stuff that we NEED will still be purchased, but stuff that we just WANT may well get put on hold, thought about, and only bought after a short review, if at all.

Some of this will continue through the year as well, and some of it is starting sooner than February - for example:
- I have plenty of assorted toiletries stashed, and will be aiming not to buy more until I actually need to.
- We currently once again have an absolutely jam-packed freezer and one thing I intend to do this weekend is to do a full audit of that freezer and then meal plan ahead using the contents.
- Similarly we have a well stocked store cupboard - once the freezer gains a little more wiggle-room I want to batch-cook some pulses ready for incorporating into meals
- Books - I got a number for Christmas and also bought myself a handful of charity shop paperbacks just before the festive season so I have plenty to read going forwards. No more to be purchased until I've read those I have!

Clothes - now this is a trickier one. There IS still things I need, I'm still wearing a number of tops that are far too big for me, for example.  Some things can be purchased from charity shops - it's amazing quite how often I find a pretty much unworn fitted M&S scoop-neck top hanging there just waiting for me, for example. I will also keep my eyes on trousers and skirts that will do as work-wear. Other things do need purchasing new either for hygiene reasons (underwear, nightwear, shoes - do not get me STARTED on charity shop shoes - and Exercise kit - I refuse to wear an item that somebody else's crotch has sweated into before mine), or because generally by the time they hit the charity shop they look more "past it" than I'm comfortable with - pretty much anything light-coloured falls into this heading, as does anything with a fleecey finish. I freely admit I'm a terribly fussy charity-shop shopper - but I do like the idea of it, so will persevere for those items where it works for me to do so. I'll be reviewing my list though, and also doing some more decluttering of cupboards and the wardrobe.

One thing I DO want to really look at is how easy the whole "contactless revolution" has made things. I used Apple Pay a lot, and I think there is no question that it does make you think less about spending than handing over a crisp fiver would. I want to focus back on using cash a lot more for the first part of this year - it will also make my monthly credit-card statement reconciliation far easier too of course! I keep saying the same thing about it - that the ease of just tapping a phone on a reader to pay for something is going to get a lot of folk in a lot of trouble - and I honestly think that's dangerously true. I don't think I'm likely to be one of them, but even I have to admit that it genuinely doesn't feel like "spending money" in the same way.

There might be other things that will occur to me ahead of really starting the challenge on 1st February, if so I'll note those and incorporate them - both otherwise I'll be back on the first Friday in Feb with my framework and intentions for the month!


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2018 challenge No. 1

So I've decided that for my first "challenge myself" thing I'll be starting the year with a kickstart of "Exercise Every Day in January" - I have friends who have joined in with Run Every Day January and I would probably have gone for that except like a twit I took it at face value and decided that a plan that wanted me to run every day with no rest days wasn't for me. Of course as it turns out it's not quite that, and I could have counted all the other sorts of exercise I do as well, but by the time I realised this it was too late to sign up so there you go!

I'm including a variation of things as I know from experience that trying to repeat the same form of exercise too many days on the trot causes me issues with injury. My gym sessions will count, as will a brisk (15 minute mile) walk of at least 2 miles taken specifically as exercise. I'll also be throwing in HIIT sessions on days that I'd normally not be doing other stuff as a lower impact way of keeping things going - I've got a handy interval timer app on my phone which gives me nasty little sets of 8 x 30 seconds work with 10 seconds rest in  between them - turns out 10 seconds is JUST long enough to change position for the next exercise, but not enough to give you any sort of a rest, so that's not as easy as it sounds. Similarly, 30 seconds Plank is easy until you get to the final interval of a core set, at which point it becomes less so...!

My thinking on this is that if I can start the year with exercise as an ingrained habit, then that's setting me up well for the rest of 2018. In fairness it's already pretty much there, and I'm rapidly finding that the more I do, the more I feel like doing too - there's no question that it helps my energy levels. This will target those lazy days when it's easier to say "Oh I'll call this a rest day" than do anything though - and having friends doing a similar sort of thing means that I'll be more determined not to let myself down in front of them. If you're interested to see how I get on I'm using the hashtag #EED0118 on both Twitter and Instagram to keep track.

I've also decided to continue through this month logging my food on the FitBit app - I'm presuming that there will be at least some sort of weight gain from a couple of weeks almost entirely "off" tracking everything over Christmas, although we did stay pretty active throughout, so I'm dropping calories a little this week too and will see how things stand when I weigh myself at the end of the week. I'm not after losing more weight as such, but I do still have some toning up to do, and would like to reduce my body-fat percentage a little more as well, at the moment it's still a little high. I'm aiming to continue with going to the gym once a week mostly for strength training as well as bodyweight exercises at home in those HIIT sessions, and I want to start throwing some hill-work into my running as well, if I'm ever going to make it right round the local Parkrun course then I'll need to do that! I'd like to get back to regular swimming again too but at the moment that doesn't quite suit me - nothing I hate more than coming out of the swimming pool on a freezing cold day with soaking wet hair!

So far I started on the 1st with a run - which I managed to fall over a mile into which wasn't ideal. Turns out it's all well and good spotting the muddy looking puddle and thinking "I'll avoid that" but you need to note where there are loose patches of gravel that your foot will land on instead, too. One skinned hand and a rather sore, bruised knee later...I was so determined not to have to count it as a stop that would blow my Couch To 5k day that I got straight up and carried on running though!

Yesterday was 3 x sets of those intervals I mentioned earlier - 1 x core, 1 x legs & 1 x arms/shoulders. Today we reached London earlier than usual thanks to very light traffic so I set off for a 3 mile walk before heading into the office - done comfortably inside that 15m/mile target pace too so that counts, and I am also heading to the gym this evening for my first session there of 2018. The walk this morning underlines one of the biggest changes I've made in my mindset over this whole thing - back in Autumn 2016 my immediate reaction would have been to have sat in the car for that spare 45 minutes until it was time to head to work - this morning that didn't even cross my mind, and as a result of doing that I already had nearly 6,500 steps under my belt by the time I reached my desk. It also goes to show how easily you can add additional activity into a regular day once you ditch the "haven't got time" mindset.

I'd be really interested to hear whether anyone else has "movement related" goals for this year - and if so how you're planning on implementing them!


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Bring on 2018!

At the beginning of last year I said that as usual, I wasn't going to make any "New Year's Resolutions" but instead I came up with a list of things I wanted to try to change about my life over the course of the year. What followed was unquestionably the year in which I have made the most changes to my life, and indeed myself, ever. I've made new habits and broken old ones. Got fitter. Shed somewhere around 4st in weight and dropped several dress sizes. Streamlined my friendships and learned to share my time with people who I know genuinely like me for me, not for what I can get them. Learned to be more cautious about people.

- I set myself a goal to do at least 5,000 steps a day - it's now rare that I don't exceed 10k - but when I don't, I don't, it's no big deal.
- I wanted to change the way I was eating - I have, with the results detailed above.
- We planned to continue with works to the flat - and the last year has seen us gain a fabulous new kitchen, and a whole set of new windows and doors!
- We aimed to continue putting aside a good amount into our savings accounts and we've done so - that pot will continue to pay for improvements to the flat still needed, and to build ready for a future Hebrides property purchase.
- I wanted to have paid off at least £700 from my 0% card by the end of the year - and ended up with a figure of £703 paid off, a massive chunk of which was funded by doing surveys, and earning cashback on things I would have bought anyway.
-...and to have paid off that amount without dipping into savings to do so - not a penny of the money that was stashed aside to pay for the items has been touched to make payments to the card.
- I planned to upgrade my long lens this winter - it got done slightly earlier at the end of August as I had saved the money to do so.

There were a number of others things as well - some of which have been tackled already and others will continue to be a work in progress for a while longer. I'm in many ways a very different person to the one I was when I set my goals at the start of 2017 - I'm certainly a fitter, stronger one. And I've discovered I like that feeling of being stronger, of being an active person. I've learned that I can run, and that I can be brave enough to go back to the gym.

So it's now time to think about a whole new set of goals for a new year - and I really feel ready for some challenges too. I've summarised this online already as I really find the accountability of throwing things out there publicly works to keep me determined.

Personal/Health & Fitness:
- I will aim to keep up a good level of activity, with no fewer that 6,000 steps in a day
- Continue with eating well, using the FitBit to log foods some days to keep on track.
- Exercise at least 3 x per week - more is fine. Gym, running, swimming, circuits, HIIT Sessions - all good.

- Stretching is good and helps facilitate the exercise. Ideally a full stretching session at least once per week and mini sessions scattered through as well.
- Continue using my Bullet-ish journal to help with planning and general organisation
- Do Parkrun - either our local one or another, it doesn 't matter which, just DO IT!
- Visit the local climbing wall for a session.

Home: We want to continue with the works on the flat, initially to make it a lovely place for us to live, but also to add value.

- Hallway to be refloored/redecorated
- Plastering to be done in the front room and bedroom
- Electrical works to be done over the first third of the year
- Decluttering at a low level - focus on seeing items within the house that we don't use
- New coffee table for front room - this is a quality of life thing. 


- Joint savings to continue as they are
- I will keep a good eye on interest rates and make the most of any access we have to higher interest savings
- 0% card must be cleared by the end of October, and again as far as possible this needs to be done without touching savings.
- keep the extra savings ticking over to ensure that our Lundy trip in the spring doesn't have to be paid for from savings.
- Refocus on the small stuff - the odd frittering, and the impulse spends that have started to creep in a little.
- "Frugal February" to assist with the refocusing on the small stuff.


- Continue to work on gaining confidence in friendships
- Learn to be more tolerant without letting myself be used, and a little more patient without taking unnecessary amounts of sh*t!
- "Let it go" and "This too shall pass"
- Stop and think before acting
- Try not to feel hurt or upset when other people behave unpleasantly or unkindly - I can't control their behaviour, I can control my reaction to it.
- Be conscious and mindful. Think about the choices I have, and those I make going forwards
- Tidy up laptop in readiness for the new Airshow Season.
- Continue with volunteering stuff
- Try to tick a couple more items off our big "We want to..." list.

My intention is to pick out a single item to make a main goal each month when I've realistically got the time to focus on it, as well as working on progress on other items throughout. January is "Exercise Every Day in January" - as I wanted to kick-start my year on that front with really keeping up the habit of being active. Several friends have signed up to a Run Every Day challenge for the month, mine is simply to do "something" whether it is a run, the gym, a swim, or some form of exercise session at home. I want to start the year with a real focus on ditching the excuses and not finding reasons to NOT do things, as this is still somewhere that I fall down. If nothing else I can go and run my "standard" circuit which is a mile and a half - and can be done inside the 15 minutes that as previously established, we can do anything for! 

The one thing that's NOT on the above list of course is "Blog regularly" which I suspect has been on my year-list every single year in recent times, and I've always failed with it. This doesn't mean that I don't want to do this, just that I've decided to let go making a "thing" of it. Perhaps that will work better than a more stated intention on this one? We'll see!


Thursday, 21 December 2017


Yes, I KNOW this all happened ages ago, and I KNOW I've been saying for months that I'm going to blog about it, but life's escaped me a bit! (And the whole thing of having your kitchen totally ripped out and replaced turns out to be a bit traumatic and it MIGHT have taken me until recently to even consider looking back at the whole thing, too...)

So, having debated for several years about exactly how to tackle to kitchen, the eventual decision was to strip it back to bare bones and basically start again - without question the right decision, but somewhat daunting as you might imagine. We got completely stuck on the design first off - and how to "improve" on what we already had, until someone pointed out that we first needed to question whether we were actually unhappy with the layout as it was, or not. Once we realised what things we wanted different, it became much easier - so more storage, more ability to use ALL the space (avoiding the issue we'd had previously with an unusable space in a corner) easier to maintain and keep clean, and better lighting options were the things that stood out, but we realised fairly fast that the actual layout was not so far wrong. We found a pull-out unit that would solve the problem with the dead space in the corner, and our builder came up with a clever way of making that work for us, and my lovely friend Ross who is a bit of a whizz with such things made lots of brilliant suggestions on the lighting side, which we incorporated. The only real layout change as such was to move the washing machine to the far end of the room and put the dishwasher next to it - making the whole room that much more useable. Structurally we also made the decision to get the door moved across a little and change it from a traditional doorway (which can't have a door on it anyway) to an arch, and have a pointlessly thick piece of wall narrowed down and reinsulated - increasing the space in the room from end to end and giving us slightly more useable worktop. We chose units, appliances, tiles and all the other odds and ends, and then we took a collective VERY deep breath and gave the go ahead...

As a reminder then - before the work started it looked like this:

(Sneak preview right there of the new wall colour!)

The first and third shots there are taken standing as far back in the room as it was possible to get - which gives you an idea of space. Or lack of it. *Grin*. Yes the appliances did really stick right out into the room like that. And yes the unit doors are slightly different colours above the oven. Oh and yes, the top light did dazzle you regardless of where in the room you stood, and create nasty dark spots wherever you really wanted light. It wasn't, to be blunt, great. Still though, it was more user-friendly than this:

which was the sight that greeted us when we got home the first day of work... *gulp*. Nothing we weren't expecting, but still made us realise the real scale of what we'd done!  The reason for the white goods sticking as far into the room as they had was immediately obvious too - the plumbing was a total abomination:

What on EARTH were our predecessors thinking?!

That was dealt with, the new electrics were put in, and the new doorway took shape...

Obviously while all this was happening we had pretty much NO use of the kitchen. We made a point of requesting that the washing machine was kept useable for as long as possible which was really helpful, but beyond that, all cooking and washing up was having to happen elsewhere. Washing up in a bowl in the bath is NOT fun, and neither is trying to use a very limited space in the spare room, and a microwave, to cook all your meals. The camping stove used outside on the balcony proved great for stir fries, and over all we were remarkably good about not falling into the trap of eating masses of takeaways. It was helpful that it was summer as things like salads etc are easily prepared and require no cooking of course! The arrival of our eye wateringly expensive, but stunning Silestone worktop boosted our spirits and made us feel as though progress was being made...

As you can see we opted to have the worktop taken right to the window - again this maximises space that would have been lost had we had a sill. It also makes a massive difference for a short person (me!) as it means that I can reach the windows to open them while standing at the sink, AND I can reach right into that far corner to clean - a vast improvement!

As with the bathroom, we spent where we needed to but saved where we could. Having found the marvellously cheap floor tiles that we liked and used in the bathroom we were happy to get those again. The larder simply needed plain square white ceramic - so we bought the cheapest we could find at the right size. The wall tiles were a little trickier - but basically we spotted the style we liked and then hunted for the best price. In total the tiles cost under £200. We looked at a LOT of taps, essentially to find the style we both liked. We wanted brushed steel as this would fit with the oven and fridge we'd chosen as well as the sink (brushed steel is a theme that runs through the room - the switches and sockets are all in that finish too) and eventually found the one in the picture above which fitted precisely what we were thinking of and cost just £69 from Homebase. Neither of us are fussed about "designer labels" or impressing other people with the brands we own, which helped - as it meant we were able to purely focus on the look we wanted rather than whether it was an acceptable make. Oddly enough the thing that brought this home the most was the rubbish bin - whoever knew you could, if you wish, pay over £100 for a simple two-compartment rubbish & recycling bin. ("SimpleHuman" in case you were wondering - and yes, that's the brand, not the sort of person who would pay £100 for a kitchen bin!). We found an almost identical one for well under half that amount. You will be relieved to say that it works marvellously!  On the flip-side, the worktop, as mentioned, cost a painful amount (one-fifth of our total budget!) and with the appliances we chose to buy good makes that we had confidence in.

The decision about which appliances to retain and which to replace was a tricky one from a sustainability point of view - it went against the grain to replace appliances that were still working, but on the other hand our dishwasher and Fridge freezer were both over 13 years old, the dishwasher had already been repaired (by us!) twice, and neither would go with the new kitchen in the slightest. The cooker was a much simpler question - at in the region of 16 years old one ring had already failed completely and another was starting to play up, and it had cost us nothing in the first place as it was gifted to us by the landlord of our rented flat many years ago. That was scrapped as we wanted no risk that anyone else might try to use it bearing in mind its age and that an elderly gas cooker can be a dangerous thing. The compromise on the dishwasher and fridge freezer was to donate both to a local charity that takes electricals, and the washing machine was only a few years old so we decided simply to keep that.

So, to the end result then:

The first thing that surprised us was just how much bigger the room looked and felt - just the cleaner lines I think and the fact that the light now reflects about the room rather than being absorbed into dark corners. We're pleased with the mix we achieved of industrial and homely - the sink is a HUGE deep industrial-style one, but it doesn't stand out thanks to the undermount on the worktop. Talking of worktops, we've had to learn that the new one needs careful watching to prevent things staining, but overall it's so much easier to keep clean. Storage is wonderful - we've still not quite managed to fill all the cupboard space and I now have room for a utensil tub on the worktop for wooden spoons, and also a couple of pots of favourite herbs - wonderful! The larder now has crisp white tiling and waxed pine shelves - and MrEH's idea and by FAR his favourite feature in the room I think - a rather clever light that comes on when you open the door...

As you can also see we opted for a spice rack that sits on the inside of the door in there too which helped keep the cupboards clear of small jars.

Needless to say it's not stayed quite as "showhome" as it looks above - but generally speaking it's pretty easy to keep the surfaces clear of too much clutter. What is there is stuff that gets used all the time...

 The pull out unit to the right of the cooker takes all our pans, bowls and a further utensil pot that holds things that get regular use but don't for whatever reason fit on the rack - it's so easy while you're cooking to just pull it out, grab what you need, and bump it with your knee to close it again - and I could watch our soft close doors all day!

The cost stayed relatively under control - we'd set a budget, and allowed an additional 10% for contingencies, and thanks to some delays in various areas, and the fridge we had originally chosen not turning out to be the width it was described as being, we did end up using most of that contingency, but unquestionably it was worth every single penny we spent on it. It's a joy to work in, and costs less in running costs as our appliances are all up-to-date energy efficient versions, and the lighting is LED. It's incredibly easy to keep clean and we tend to keep it far tidier as it simply looks nicer, plus we have sufficient storage for everything now. The cooker hood is a full extracting one rather than a filtration type so we get less issues with condensation, and we have less "stuff" overall as we took the opportunity to thin out the items that didn't get used. All in all - a triumph!