Small steps

Hopefully this won’t jinx it, but it’s fair to say we’ve had a fabulous summer so far.  There was a week or so where it cooled down, was a bit dreich and autumnal, but thankfully that passed quickly and the summer has returned in full force.  I have to say I do love the heat, even it means the midges seem to be out in full force this year, and for the first time in years I’ve been bitten a few times this last few weeks.  When I go camping later in the month, I think I’ll need to stock up on citronella candles and industrial strength insect repellent.

So I’ve finally hit the half way mark on my debt repayment, hurrah! and this is despite paying for flights and car parking for a Spring ’18 Lanza trip, and also paying a deposit for a hotel next summer.  All unplanned expenses at this point, but I took the decision to use up spare cash for June & July (i.e the only money I had in my savings) to pay for the holiday expenses now while they’re cheaper (in Lanza’s case – I’ve save about £70 over what I paid for the trip this year).  Next year the Pirate party is heading to Ironman Austria in July, so I couldn’t resist signing up….to support!  I’ve never been to Austria, and when you know you’re staying 100m from the lake front below, there’s no way I’m missing out.

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Due to the fact the race is on, the hotels are only booking for a minimum 7 night stay, so I’ve had to sign up for a full week of lakes, mountains and fresh air, how awful!  The only downside is having to pay the hotel this year, but that’s only because I hadn’t planned for it.  Anyway, I managed to pay the deposit, and will pay the balance by the end of the year.  Paying in advance for holidays is actually making me very happy though.  I used to credit card the lot and worry about it after the fact.  No more!!  The result is it that the debt repayment may extend a wee bit longer, and as such after a big payment in January, my last card repayment may be in February 2018 (the last £400!).  I may be able to pay more than planned this year and bring that back, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter, I’ll get shot of it all eventually, end of.  My attitude to money has completely changed, only about 20 years too late, ha! Hence paying for holiday stuff now when I can, otherwise if I didn’t have the money at the time, I’d now say no, and quite frankly, I like my holidays and don’t want to miss out if I can avoid it.  So after a lean (ish) year, I’ve still got two amazing trips to look forward to next year 🙂

Allotment wise, I’ve been learning that you can weed & weed until the cows come home, but if you don’t cover the cleared-bed up, they’ll come back, with a vengeance.  So because I’m a numpty and have only just realised, in some ways I feel like I’m not getting anywhere!  I’ve got the one bed I plant stuff in, but I’ve not been able to plant anything else.  However, it doesn’t really matter because I still enjoy it, i’ve learned my lesson, and i’m slowly getting on top of it.  Today I finally finished clearing one bed (again!) and i’ve covered it up until i’m ready to plant in it.  My aim now is to have the place in better shape for the Autumn, so I can then start to plant more stuff that can cope with the cold and frosts of winter (parsnips anyone?).  What I have planted is doing well, and despite thinking they were dead, the even the broad beans are starting to grow!

I pulled an onion up because I was dying to try it, but I’ll try to leave the others in a bit longer; some are a reasonable size, some are still pretty small.  The potatoes are doing well.  I’ve pulled most of the Charlottes, as the leaves succumbed to a bit of blight, so I’ve dug up those potatoes now.  The International Kidneys are still in the ground and will keep me in tatties for a while.

Otherwise I’ve been taking a few walks down by the river when it’s been nice, and always manage to go and say hello to the locals, who always come when I call them.

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I’ve finally managed to get back to the gym too.  My back is still bothering me off & on, but I got a new 12-week programme designed to work on flexibility & mobility, and so far (2 weeks in), I’m feeling better for it.  Over time I’m hoping it will sort out the back issues I’ve been having once and for all.  Sugar wise i’ve been a bit up & down like a yo-yo.  The culprit isn’t sugar as such, it’s basically too many carbs.  A ridiculous amount of trial and error has demonstrated to me, without a shadow of a doubt, that I can give up sugar and have few issues with cravings, but if I overeat on the carbs or have bread or anything similar (even if no/low sugar), it makes me crave sugar like a drug-starved crack addict, and I can’t stay off it.  So attempt no. 1 billion is underway, and i’m 8 days in and feeling good.  I’ve even managed to do it in a PMT week (unknowingly, but it makes sense why my back has been worse for a few days).  So the upshot is when I go camping at the end of the month, i’m going to sadly have to refuse all the beautiful cakes and scones in the local Tea Room.  It sucks and will sound insane to anyone that doesn’t have an issue with the stuff, but I need to do it for me, once and for all.  Enjoying life, i’ve realised, is much more important than ‘missing out’ on some foods, so that’s what i’m going to do.

Happy summer folks 🙂

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The longest day

The longest day is upon us, and it’s a scorcher!  The past week has been fabulous; it feels as though we’re getting a proper summer, hurrah!  Summer might just last a week this year, but better than hee-haw! So this month has been good so far.  A last-minute visit from one of my lovely nieces a couple of weeks ago was great, and we were fortunate enough to have good weather so managed to get out and about each day for a wee wander which was nice.  I’ve walked to work a few times too, and want to keep that going as I definitely need to move more in general.  My back has been really bothering me though which has pissed me off no-end.  Unfortunately it’s meant I’ve not spent as much time down the allotment as I’d have liked, especially in the heat of summer.  As a result the bastarding weeds have regained overall control!  All the kale, cabbage and lettuce planted was completely decimated by snails or slugs.  RIP poor wee veggies 😥 On the plus side though, the tatties, garlic & onions are doing well, so much so that I did a test-dig of the potatoes and got some lovely Charlottes to eat.

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Yesterday I also dug up some of the other variety i’d planted – International Kidney (like Jersey Royals but you can’t call them that if they’re not from Jersey) –  and they look good, if a bit wee….I really need to leave them be for another few weeks to let them all grow!  Anyway, it feels fab to have actually grown something myself 😀  I also got another haul of rhubarb which appears to have rallied even though in May it looked as though it was on its last legs.

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What the allotment has really given me an appreciation of is, well, just food.  The fact I planted something over 2 months ago, and it’s now giving me food is amazing.  The fact it takes so long in a way is what gets me.  It just cements for me how bad it is to waste food.  We are so used to popping to the shops to be faced with rows an rows of stacked veggies (and all the rest), that you become immune to the fact that the produce is the result of weeks & months of hard work.  Okay, so you could say that mass production takes a lot of the graft away, but not entirely.  Anyway, I’m sure you get my point.  It’s humbling to me, coming to this fairly late in the game, and it being such a revelation and novelty, but growing your own food really is something special.  I’ve got so much to do to wrangle control the allotment from the weeds and what not, I’ll not be planting anything else in the immediate future, but that’s okay.  (Oh and I know i’ll never actually be the one in control here!).

The flip side of my allotment love is that I think this is also primarily one of the reasons my back hasn’t been great.  I’ve been doing whole new movement patterns on a slightly dodgy back with crappy core strength and limited flexibility etc., so as much as I love it, it’s not loving me.  I’ve not been able to stick to my weight-lifting plan as a result, so I’ve taken the sensible position of dialling it back and getting some help.  I was at the gym earlier tonight for an assessment/chat about what I wanted, so I’m getting a new programme that I’ll do myself, and it’ll focus on increasing range of mobility/flexibility and ensuring I have the correct movement patterns.  It’ll be a 12-week plan, and might be that I don’t lift anything heavy at all in that time, but that’s okay.  If it helps get me in the right place, then it’ll help my lifting no end, and my lifting goals will take care of themselves in the long run.  So i’m looking forward to getting that started, and hopefully sorting this back out.

Money-wise has been a bit of a disaster this month.  Well, actually not bad compared to where I used to be, but the new money-saver me has ballsed up this month.  I had a couple of unplanned expenses that have wiped me out and left me overdrawn.  It just means the spare case from July’s money is no longer spare, and will get eaten up by the overdraft.  Not the end of the world, but it’s a place I don’t like being in anymore.  The good thing is I’m bothered by it – this was a monthly occurrence before.  Also it’s meant having to say no (again) to another weekend event with some lovely pals I’ve not seen in a while.  One even offered to pick me up on the way, but since I would only ever have been going for the day, while they were staying for the weekend, I had to decline the generous offer.  It sucks, I feel like a boring twat, but it is what it is.  On the plus side my debt is now less than £10K, meaning i’ve paid off over £7K since August 2016.  It’ll likely take until Jan. ’18 to finally get shot of it, but I can live with an extra month.

So in the meantime it’s nothing but free entertainment – allotment, gym and swims in the beautiful river near my flat.  I can live with that 🙂

 

Move over May…

Fingers crossed I’ll be uttering that on the 9th of June, but in the meantime, it’s nearly bloody June!  Jings.  I’ve had a busy month, a lot of which has been spent on holiday, woo hoooo!  May heralds the now annual trip to Lanzarote to watch my friends beast themselves in the sun and wind to conquer the Ironman triathlon.  The Ironman is one of the ultimate tests of endurance, with a 2.4 mile swim in the sea, followed by a 112 mile bike ride up the hills & through the sparse volcanic landscape of the island before cooling down with a little 26.2 mile marathon to finish.  Easy.  Or not.  My one-and-only attempt at the distance ended on the bike course as I missed the cut-off time.  Having watched a fair few friends tackle Lanza now, rest assured I will NOT be signing up for it in a hurry.  It’s known as the hardest IM on the circuit, and it’s clear to see why.  When we arrived 3 days before the race, winds were said to have been gusting at 60 mph on the top of the hills (it was about 40 mph in the town), and it was a scorchio 30-odd degree Celsius.  Thankfully it calmed down a little for race day, but the sun was still blazing.  Needless to say my holiday was a lot more relaxed, and can basically be summed up with the following collage:

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Cocktails, lots of delicious cocktails.  Oh and the odd saunter along the beach.  It was too hot to sit out for hours, so it was only right that we shelter in the bar for a week.  Needless to say my low carb efforts were kiboshed for the week, what with all the sugar I was drinking and the bread that I ate with dinner (it was warm and lovely, hard to resist).  I had a fabulous week (and can’t wait for a return trip early next year), but I’m also glad to be back to low carb eating, and I’ve entirely binned the sugar again.  I’m definitely all or nothing when it comes to eating well, and already feel good now I’m back on it.  While i’m in the adjustment phase from high carb/sugar to the opposite way of living, i’ve felt totally knackered with little energy to spare, but I know that’ll change soon.  So now my life looks like this:

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Yum!

Otherwise this month it’s just been the same-old-same-old.  I’ve not been spending quite a much time in the allotment (due Lanza, bank holidays and work trips away), but thankfully it’s been raining a fair bit which has helped and the plants are thriving (esp. the bastarding weeds).  Sadly however, despite the fact my courgette plants and broad beans seemed to be hardening up well in the shed, I planted them before my holiday and when I came back i found they’d ALL died a hideous death.  RIP little guys 😥  It’s all a learning experience though, and hopefully I can replace them with plants that make it!

Money wise all is good.  I’d saved up for the Lanza trip so that’s all paid for, and debt repayment is tootling along.  By the time my credit card payments come out in June I’ll be into 4-figure debt instead of 5-figures, so that’s pretty good.  The next couple of months will be pretty tight with various bits and bobs to pay for including car insurance and what not, but it’s all budgeted for, so it’ll be fine if I stick to my spending plan.  Happily summer is here so I’ve plenty to do on the allotment to keep me busy, and keep me from spending money!  So we’re almost half way through the year, and I’m almost half way through my debt repayment; i’m pretty pleased to say the least, and it’s amazing what an unrelenting focus and commitment can achieve.  I’ve another few months of being selective with what I can do, and who I can visit, what trips I can (or more to the point cannot make) etc., but as I keep saying, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Health wise my back had been giving me a lot of gyp for the past couple of months, so I’m hoping it will improve pronto.  Walking around and dancing in Lanza has helped a bit, and I’ve also started a Million Step Challenge (basically 10,000 steps per day for 100 days) which I did in 2014, and that will help with general mobility.  I really do think the fact I was eating more carbs in late March / April while studying (i.e. lots of sitting) hasn’t helped – I think it has increased inflammation which has exacerbated the back issues.  Fingers crossed reducing the carbs will address this in part at least, and if I work on overall mobility this will help sort my back out so I can start lifting weights again, as I’m missing that.

One step at a time 🙂

4 down, 8 to go

May, already!  Well, tomorrow at least.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Also when you get older.  I thought I’d stick with recent tradition and do a bit of a round-up of the month.  So 4 months in to my debt repayment year and this weekend it’s definitely biting more than most.  Where I should be, rather than at home having just tidied up, changed the bed, stuck a couple of loads of washing on etc., is at the annual DIY Half Ironman.  I’ve been there the last few years, and I’ve always looked forward to the May Bank holiday weekend as it heralds a fab weekend with Pirate pals, lots of tea, chips, banter and good times.  I buggered up my finances in April though which meant I had to give up my weekend away.  It sucks massive balls.  One fabulous pal offered me a lift if I could get to hers, and another even offered to pay my petrol – extremely generous offers both, and I can’t express how much to means to have such wonderful people in my life (more proof of Piratey awesomeness). Turning down such generosity seems daft I know.  I just can’t bring myself to accept such offers at the moment – I got myself into this financial mess and I need to get out of it myself.  Also knowing I’ll soon be heading to Lanza with my pals, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I saw them anyway, though I’m sorry there are a few I’ve missed this weekend that won’t make Lanza.  I keep telling myself it’ll be worth it (it will), but I do hate letting anyone down in the meantime.

So other than being a boring twat, April has been good.  Lots of happy time spent at the allotment, and lots of plants growing, including weeds.  So plenty of work to do to keep me busy over summer.  I can go down in the evenings after work now too which is awesome.  I love it so much I wish I’d discovered the joys of the allotment years ago.  I’m just glad I have now 🙂

So plans for May are more of the same.  The only pain in the ass (literally) is my back has been bothering me a fair bit this month.  I’ve not been at the gym for about 3 weeks as a result, but it’s got to the stage that the less I do the worse it gets.  The allotment is good because it keeps me moving, but also i’ve overdone it a couple of times there with too much stretching and twisting, so it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.  So bollocks to it I’m going back to the gym this week regardless.  I think I’ll need to adjust my programme a bit and in fact reduce the weights and work on technique until glutes and posterior change all firing properly and working together before upping the weight again.  I’ve missed the gym and been worried about making my back worse but actually I think it’ll make it better.  I just need to work on technique and positive movements – show my back what it can do, not what it can’t.

Money wise it’s the same old same old.  I’ve saved money for Lanza already, and otherwise I’m massively overpaying debt to get shot of it.  My plan shows me making a final payment in January 2018, but i’m determined to try to pay it all off by the end of December, so that’s the focus.

Weight wise I’ve stalled a bit, not helped by the fact I bolloxed my sugar-free ness and had a bit of a sugar binge after Easter.  Anyhoo, live and learn, so back off it and feeling better already.  Eating too many carbs full stop = mahoosive sugar cravings and sugar failure, so lesson learned and back to normal (i.e. less carbs, no sugar).  Getting back on means i’ve already started moving in the right direction again.  I weighed myself today, and if I can lose 4.4lb by the time I go to Lanza then i’ll be 2 stone lighter than I was when I was there last May.  So the upshot of it all is that progress is being made on all fronts, I’m looking forward to May and my pirate holiday, so life is very good indeed.

Happy days 🙂

 

Spring is in the air 

April already! A quarter of the year has already gone by, but happily it has brought with it the first signs of spring, and very welcome lighter nights.

March has been a good month, and progress is being made. I’ve finished one six-week gym programme and I’ve started the next one. I’ve yet to hit any of my target goals but I’m edging ever closer to a couple which is good. Mostly I’m just really enjoying getting back into the gym. Having spent the final week of the month in Scotland for work, I’d even managed to find a gym I can pay to use as needed, so went twice during the week, leaving my final session of the week for this weekend, in my usual gym. Being able to keep the momentum going really helps. 

The ‘no sugar’ thing is going well and I’ve now surpassed the two-month mark. Tonight will be a test as I’ve got rhubarb from the allotment to make into a crumble. I had actually bought some coconut nectar sugar today as an alternative to sweeten it, but on reflection I want to avoid any and all substitutes, so as it’s unopened I’ll return it tomorrow and rely on apples, cinnamon and some nuts to sweeten the crumble. I reckon slightly sour crumble is the way forward anyway 😉


The best thing this month has been spending more time at the allotment. It’s fairly coming on, and I’m happy to have finally planted some vegetables. I also love flowers so I’ve planted 25 bulbs plus some fuschias and geraniums today. I’ve also bought some sweet pea seeds, so I’ll attempt to start them indoors first and plant them out later. 


I returned from my work trip to find that some of the courgette seeds I had planted had shot up, so I’ll re-pot them then plant them out later in the month. 


Happily this month I’ve also managed to get back to some open water swimming, or more accurately, bobbing around in freezing water for a few minutes, twice. The weather has been so lovely I thought I’d get back to it earlier this year, and without my wetsuit. It’s so lovely just being in the open air, in refreshingly cold water whilst listening to the birds chirping nearby.  Today I stayed in for 9 mins, and was cautious not to stay in longer so I didn’t get an after drop. I’ll keep upping the time gradually over the next month or so.   You really can’t beat swimming outdoors with a view like this:


Finally the debt repayment is going to plan. I’ve just paid off a credit card, leaving two to go. The next one should be paid off by July. Happily I’ve also received a refund from the course I’m doing as I found out I’m entitled to a discount I didn’t realise was available, being an alumni of the University. I’ve squirrelled the money away to use for another course, but if I decide not to study anything else in September I can put it towards my debt. 

So all in all a great month, and I’m looking forward to making more progress in April. This is the start of the minimal spend month, so I’ll report back on how that goes ☺️

Happy Spring people ☀️

All you need is….the outdoors


I’d decided to take a long weekend off work to catch up on my course work, and figure out what to write about for my final assignment, an essay due in mid-April. I’m doing the course via distance learning, so I fit it in around work and life.  I spent a couple of days catching up with the weekly work which was good, then yesterday I started trying to narrow down what to write about for my essay. Long story short, but it needs to be based on what we’re studying this term, but we can’t make it too similar to anything we’ve studied during a particular week. Of course typically I want to cover something that we looked at in Week 4. After three full days of sitting in front of the computer, my back was decidedly unhappy, I couldn’t figure out what else to write about – hours of research boiled down to a big fat zero – so I had a melt down. I emailed my tutor in a stress, then sacked it off for the night about 8:30pm and decided to watch Fast & Furious 7. I love that film and still cry at the end 😩 Anyhoo, I had today off to study, but after a restless night with an achey back I decided to sack it off for the day.

Amazingly it was a beautiful day, so I decided to drive to a nearby beach and go for a walk. I looooove beaches so much, they just make me feel great. I spent a good couple of hours wandering along the route of the local Parkrun, and enjoyed a coffee on the hoof. I was sorely tempted by some chips, but managed to restrain myself.


After I got home around 1:30pm, I had a cuppa and was contemplating logging on, but thought ‘bugger it’ and headed to the allotment.  Happily I met one of my neighbours who I’d never met before so we had a nice chat, then one of the guys from the plot on the other side appeared so we had a lovely chat too. I asked them their expert advice on what I should do with the two compost heaps I have, so now I’ve got some plans for another visit. I decided to try and clear one of the beds I hadn’t really touched, other than previously trying to pull out some brambles. I got most of it done, and hauled out another couple of huge roots. This was the first time I’d been at the allotment in just a t-shirt, and at one point it felt totally scorchio. I cannot wait to be down there in the summer 😀


My recently discovered rhubarb is also coming on at a pace, and I’m already dreaming of my first crumble (a sugar free recipe has already been found).

So today was fabulous, and I’m glad I chose to spent a lot of it ourside. Even though I felt like I’d had a meltdown last night, the difference is I didn’t reach for the shit food to compensate, as I would have done in the past. It didn’t even occur to me. Also as frustrated as I was, I feel really clear headed today, and I know I’ll get the essay sussed and get the plan in next Monday. I know I keep banging on about it, but I’m constantly amazed at the difference that no sugar and low carb eating is making to me, especially mentally/emotionally. Yeah stuff can still be stressful, but it bothers me for a lot less time, and mentally I feel a bit sharper such that already I can see a way out of the hole I felt I was in yesterday.

That said, this week I didn’t lose weight and in fact went up 2 lbs. I’ve been tracking what I eat but I’ve also not really been paying attention to whether I’m hungry or not and scarffing down nuts like there’s no tomorrow (damn you salted pecans!). So back to just eating when I’m hungry this week, and I’m sure I’ll get shot of those 2 lbs pretty quickly. Oh and I did have a sneaky Chinese takeout on Friday, so that won’t have helped!  It was bloody good though 😀

Dig-o-rama

tatties

I should know better, but truthfully I’ll probably never learn.  As I was heading to the allotment this morning, I thought to myself “everyone says gardening is really hard work, but so far it’s been okay”.  I know, i’m delusional.  It was a pretty cold start today, and I had to scrape the car for the 6th time this week.  I reached the allotment and as I walked along the grass paths in amongst the other plots towards mine, I noticed that for the first time since I took over the plot in November, the ground was hard.  Really hard.  Hmmm.

Last week I managed to dig over two small beds, one of which had lots of dead and dying plants (herbs I think), and the other which wasn’t too bad to begin with.  The soil was really soft and crumbly, so turning it over did not involved substantial amounts of effort.  Clearly I had just been lulled into a false sense of security; today the soil felt rock hard.  Time to eat some humble pie.

My aim for today was to turn over the slightly larger of the remaining beds in the small section I’d worked on the week before.  There was a long piece of thick wood running the length of the bed effectively splitting it in two, but as soon as I realised it wasn’t as securely fixed into the ground as I had first thought, I removed it so I could get at the weeds that were clearly growing under the wood from the adjacent bed.  Once i’d removed it I knew I couldn’t just leave the other area un-weeded, so I did the lot.  It was definitely harder work to dig it all up and turn it over this week, and I found myself battering massive clumps of soil off the side of the bed because I couldn’t get the fork through them.  Unexpectedly I also dug up a few potatoes!  I’ve no idea how long they’ve been there, and was actually surprised they were intact and not rotted.  They were pretty rock hard through so I chucked them on to the compost heap.

I’ve had a pretty sore lower back for the last couple of weeks, so I was careful not to twist too much while reaching for roots, and happily it seems to be fine.  In fact being active is helping it.  I can’t tell you how much I’m loving having the allotment and working my way around it trying to sort it out bit by bit.  There is something immensely satisfying about the feel of pulling long roots from the soil, which is just as well as I think I’ll be doing a lot of that over the coming months 😀

So another successful day at the allotment, and I’m pretty pleased with the progress so far.  Here’s how it looks now (the main beds anyway) after a couple of weekends of digging.

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Last week before (above) and after (below)

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This is how it looks today 😀

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