Thursday, 31 March 2011

...puff, pant......just let me catch my with you in a sec.....

First of all, thank you all so much for your supportive comments about me doing battle with my need to begin exercise and my enormous distate for doing so.

To that end, I've pulled up my big girl panties and decided that I've really got no other choice.  Actually, that's not true.  I do have a choice.  I can choose to do nothing at all and end up in a wooden coffin (or maybe a wicker one, not decided yet...) ending my days prematurely in the fires of the local crematorium (or maybe buried in a field with a sapling at my head, not decided yet...).

It's quite odd, though, throughout my life I've had spasms of being really quite fit and exercise-y - when I was in my early teens I used to both swim for my local town and also played hockey for my school.  But then I went to sixth form college and discovered performing in bands on stage and boys and eating disorders and alcohol and smokable drugs, so exercise went right out the window.  It wasn't until I was in my very late twenties that I and my first husband ('The Artist') decided we wanted to take up Wu Shu Kwan, a form of full-contact Chinese kick boxing.  We did it for 2 or 3 years, from about 1989 to 1992, and it was pretty bloody full on.  Classes lasted 2 hours twice a week that involved god knows how many sit-ups, push ups, practising of forms (kata in karate) and then, finally, one-on-one sessions of sparring with each other (we wore pads but it could still hurt).  We both got about halfway up the belts but then I had to stop because I kept damaging myself too much, and kept dislocating my ribs.  Apart from the injuries, it's probably the fittest I've ever been.  Fun too, 'cos I got to hit boys who were bigger than me.

In about 1993 I signed up for tap dancing classes at the University where I was working and did that for about 10 months and in the following year I started hanging out with the future TLH (he worked at the end of my corridor - you can read a potted version of our getting together here) and one of the things we did was play squash against each other.  But then I split up with The Artist, got together with TLH for real and we discovered other,, 'interesting' sorts of exercise and we thought 'sod the squash, let's just do this loads and then go out to restaurants and eat our bodyweight in steak and ice cream' which, I think you'll agree, was absolutely the right thing to do.  Trouble is, we've not stopped doing it since.  The eating, I mean.  We've been together 17 years now so the other more 'interesting' exercise has calmed down somewhat.

And I really think that was the last time I did proper exercise, 17 years ago.  Blimey.  That's quite a long time ago, innit.

Goodness, this has been a longwinded way of getting round to actually documenting what I've been doing.  So why don't I just stop blathering and get on with it, hm?

So then, my new exercise regime started last Saturday when I went swimming with my good friend Sam.  She's far fitter than I am (she does a lot of power walking and swimming) so when we got into the pool itself, she went off to the medium fast lane and I plodded along in the slow lane.  The pool, incidentally, is lovely.  It's low chlorine because it uses fancy-schmancy modern technotrickery involving ultraviolet light to keep the water clean.  It also has a unisex changing area which, surprisingly, didn't bother me in the slightest as everyone gets their own cubicle, i.e., no communal changing areas, so it's no big deal.  The pool is 50m long but it has something called a 'transversable boom' which goes across the width of the pool and can be moved up and down its length to divide the  pool into two different sizes.  It's mostly used to divide it into two separate pools of 25m each which means one side can be laned off for the 'serious' swimmers and the other can be a free for all splash pool for everyone else.  It's a really good idea.  Like I said in my previous post, I only managed 10 laps but it was a start.  So that was Saturday.

Sunday - I didn't do anything.  Bad Mrs Jones.  In my defence, though, I don't want to go hammer and tongs into things and end up doing myself a mischief.  Softly softly catchee monkey.  Or some such bollocks.

Monday - I was really good and did my first ever run.  I put on my proper running gear, strapped my iphone to my arm, plugged in the headphones and stepped out the door to do my first Couch to 5k session.  About 5 mins walk from my house there's a big area of open fields where everyone walks their dogs so I decided I'd go there.   The Couch to 5k (C25k) app claims to be able to get you to run 5 kms within 9 weeks if you follow their training.  The app suggests 3 sessions a week and, for the first week, each session is exactly the same: a brisk 5-minute warmup walk (this gets me to the dog fields), then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 mins, finishing with a 5 min cooldown walk.  In the second week it's 90 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking.  So, you see, it seems really quite sensible, nothing too difficult and within reach of even the lardiest couch potato.  Except that it was bloody hard work.  You really appreciate those 90 seconds of walking.  I would tell you more details but I hadn't got hold of the GPS add-on for this app (I have now!).  You have a playlist of your choice playing and a voice interrupts to tell you when to run, when to walk, when you're halfway through, when you're about to do your last run, and then when you've finished - it's really easy, you don't have to think what to do, the voice will tell you.

Tuesday - I managed about 45 mins of digging and hoeing at the allotment, and then followed it up with 30 mins on the Wii Fit doing hula hooping, step aerobics, running on the spot and boxing.

Wednesday - I was going to go for my second run of the week but it started raining so I decided to go for a swim instead.  I can only get to this particular pool if I've got the car and, fortunately, TLH had to attend a business meeting oop north by train, so I had the car yesterday.  This time the swimming was easier.  I've decided to try and increase the number of lengths I do each time by 2, so yesterday I swam 12 lengths in about 20 mins and I found I wasn't quite so out of breath at the end of each lap.  Progress? or just not swimming as fast as possible as I was doing on Saturday?

Thursday (today) - sunny/cloudy but not raining.  Huzzah.  Today was my second C25k session.  And this time I'd got the GPS add-on working so I can give you a lot more detail:
      Distance: 1.7 miles
     Walk pace: 19:23/mi (i.e., it would take me 19.23 mins to walk a mile)
     Run pace: 15:46/mi - oh yeah, I'm not jogging fast!
     Calories burned: 195

All a bit slow at the moment.  According to the app, the goals I should be working towards are, obviously 5k in distance, a run pace of about 9:41 mins per mile (I've just realised they're mixing kilometres and miles!), and a walk pace of about 12 mins per mile.

I've set my own goals for weight loss (I want to lose about 2 stone/28lbs, if possible) and I've been making a concerted effort this week to look at what I'm eating and, especially, portion size.  I'm eating way more fruit that I normally do and cutting down on carbs, and I have a reward for myself in mind for when I'm down a dress size.  I'm going to buy myself this gorgeous frock:

It's a Fifties gypsy style figure hugging dress made from pale pink fabric covered with tattoo designs.

Or possibly this one:

Same designer but this fabric is pale blue covered in Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls.  Sorry about the quality of the pictures but eBay is very awkward about copying pictures so I had to photograph them on my phone from my laptop and then email myself the photos!  But you get the idea.  Picture them with fishnet tights and pointy, pointy kittenheel sandals.  I have to admit there is an ulterior motive to getting one of these frocks, but one I'm not quite ready to share with you yet in case it doesn't work out.....

As for tomorrow, Friday, well, currently not sure what I'll do but I may take the slightly easier option of half an hour on the Wii Fit (don't have to pay any money for that, unlike the pool, and I don't have to go outside, unlike the running!).

The purpose of this post has been to log what I've been doing as a permanent record but I have to say, if you've managed to read this far without being bored out of your tiny mind, then you have a level of stamina I can only aspire to...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

And so it begins.....

I've been taking my blood pressure for the last 4 days now and once I've averaged it out over 10 readings and then added 10 to the Systolic and 5 to the Diastolic readings, it certainly looks as if I'm going to be in the low end of the high blood pressure range.  Bummer.

Still, at least I know.  And steps are starting to be taken so that when I return the machine on Monday and see the doctor (probably at a later date) I can at least tell her that I'm trying to lose weight and I'm increasing my exercise from zero to some.  Well, it's better than nothing and now I have an incentive.

So to that end I've downloaded the Couch to 5k app for the iPhone which claims it can take you from - as the name suggests - the couch to running 5kms (3 miles) in 9 weeks.  We'll see.  I had to get some proper clothes to run in, and an armband to attach my iPhone to my arm so I can listen to the little voice (not the ones in my head, for once!) telling me when to jog and when to walk.  So I've got all the kit now, I've just got to make the exercise happen.  But today I didn't feel like getting started on the running, and I felt like a failure before I'd even started.

And then, at about midday today, I received a text from my good friend Sam who now lives opposite me in the Close, suggesting that we go for a swim together later this afternoon.  I pondered saying 'no' but stopped myself - after all, what's the point of starting an exercise regime if you don't actually start it, know what I mean?  And I used to really enjoy swimming - I mean, in my early teens I used to swim for the town where I grew up so I used to be good, you know?  Plus the University near me has recently built an extremely spiffy sports centre with a 50m pool which is where she swims, and I'd fancied checking it out anyway, so what was stopping me?

 I dug out my swimming costume, and rummaged around to find my goggles and condom hat which were located somewhere in the depths of my knicker drawer.  I tried them on and decided I was too sexy to live:

It's a good look, non?

The pool was fabulous and although the sports centre was heaving with all sorts of things going on, the pool itself was relatively empty for 4.30 on a Saturday afternoon.  I utilised the 'slow' lane while Sam headed off to the 'Medium' lane.  We decided we would swim for about 30 mins and I managed 10 laps, but had to stop after each lap to bring my heart rate down.  I still managed to go faster than one woman who was doing that very slow breast stroke where you don't get your hair wet, which just seems pointless to me.

Anyway, I was very pleased I went as I did enjoy it loads, so when I get the car back in a couple of weeks time I'm going to try and make it a regular thing.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

It's official - I'm getting old....

Last week I went to the docs to have a suspicious rash (that I’ve had for over 2 years!) on my hip investigated in case it turned out to be basal cell carcinoma (like a close relative's just been diagnosed with) - turns out to be ringworm! Yay for 19th century ragamuffin diseases!

While I was there (and ‘cos I don’t go to the doctors very often), they nabbed me for a blood pressure check. As I'd just had a brisk 10 min walk to get to the surgery, I wasn't surprised that the reading was a bit high.  The doctor was a little concerned and insisted that I do a 5-day home blood pressure check so on Tuesday I went to collect the machine to start checking my blood pressure twice a day. Like a motherfucking adult. Or even Old Person.

When I told friends last weekend about having to collect the monitor I was pretty gung-ho and dismissive about it since I felt absolutely fine, and had no doubt that the readings would be normal. Obviously, as I had had a brisk walk to get to the surgery, it had been raised but, it'll be fine, you'll see.

Then, over the weekend, as you do, I hit Google as I wondered what the symptoms of high blood pressure would be (apart from the obviously terminal ones like sudden stroke or heart attack).  Turns out, rather alarmingly, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure.  You bimble along, happy as a sandboy until WHAM! you literally hit the deck and either survive or don't.  Huh.  This must be one of those 'silent killer diseases' you hear of.  Bugger.

I tested yesterday morning (141/87) and yesterday evening (140/80) and this morning's reading was 138/88 with a resting heartrate of between 72 and 75 bpm.  The instructions that come with the monitor says that anything over 135/85 is iffy so mine seems to be at the top end of borderline high blood pressure.  Just for comparison, we tested The Lovely Husband's blood pressure this morning.  His was something ridiculous like 122/77 with a resting heartrate of 62 bpm (I think it was).  The difference between mine and his was a lot more than I was expecting.


I have to take 10 readings and do an average, and then add 10 to the first (systolic) figure and 5 to the second (distolic) figure since "on average, home blood pressure readings are 10/5 lower than readings in the surgery, and targets for blood pressure are based on surgery readings" according to the form the doctor gave me.  And it looks like when I do that it's going to put my readings into the high blood pressure range properly.

Double sigh with additional 'tut'.

From what I've read on the internet (yes, yes, I know one shouldn't consult Dr Google but I like to be informed, you know?), my blood pressure is not so high that I should immediately be put on medication but that the doctor might consider it.  I'll see what she says.

Putting my sensible grown-up hat on for once, this is actually a good thing for me to discover.  My genetic inheritance is Not Good regarding heart problems as I have it on both sides of my family - my maternal grandmother (who was an ill woman all her life) died of her 5th or 6th heart attack aged 64 - so that's heart problems on my mother's side of the family - and my dad dropped dead of a massive heart attack (his first and only one) aged 55.  I'm almost 48.  And, as far as I'm aware, he'd never complained of chest pains and wasn't on any kind of medication.  He was also a non-smoker, didn't drink much, played golf, squash and swam, and it still got him.  However, he did run his own business and was under quite a lot of stress most of the time.  But, still, 55 is no age to go and I really, really don't want to follow in his footsteps.

Guess I’m going to have to watch the salt and start doing exercise. Can’t I just sit on the sofa and eat cake  instead?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ta-daa! Unveiling the Pansy and a new Bauble and more Birdies....

My name is Mrs Jones and I am a hooker.

Yes, once again, I've put down the knitting needles and reverted to my beloved crochet hook.  Knitting's weird, people. Having to manipulate two long thin metal spikes and a ball of wool in order to veeerrrryyy slooooowwwly create something that looks like my 5-year old nephew made (actually, he could probably do better) is just not my idea of fun.

I know millions and millions of people can do it and it bothers me a bit that I just can't seem to manage it when, on the face of it, it doesn't really seem that difficult but it's got me flummoxed.  So, for the sake of my sanity, I've gone back to crocheting.

This past week I've made another couple of Birdie decorations, and I now have a little flock of them hanging in my front room:

I've had to stop for the moment though, because I've run out of buttons for the eyes, plus I want to get some different colours for them.  I'm making them in a 100% cotton yarn (I normally use acrylic for everything) which makes them feel, sort of, I dunno, more classy somehow and a bit posher.  I'm heading into my nearest big town on Thursday this week so I'll swing by the wool shops then to check out what colours they've got and check out different coloured buttons for eyes.

My intention, at the moment, is to carry on making a few more of these and then see if there's a market for them, either on my craft stall or in my (currently defunct) Etsy site.  I'm also planning to do something similar with the Bauble decorations.  If you recall in my previous post I'd made a blue one, while earlier this week I made a purple one, and decorated it with more beads:

This one has faceted crystal beads (the clear Aurora Borealis - like a clear rainbow glaze -  ones on the outside, and the blue ones in the middle), small silver metal beads and a pearl in the middle.  Sadly, it's a plastic pearl - I'd much rather use a real pearl but the holes in the middle of real pearls are not large enough to pass even a very fine needle and thread through.  I do have a pearl clamp and a Dremel drill but enlarging a hole through the middle of a real pearl is an unbelievable faff.  Takes ages and the pearl gets really bloody hot.

 I'm not sure it's worth the bother when a plastic pearl will do the job and look just as nice.  Still, I'd like to use real semi-precious stones and pearls on these eventually.

I want to make more of these in different colours and, like the Birdies, see if there's any market for them.  They'd look great on a Christmas tree as well as just hanging them up in the house all year round.

My final ta-daa for you today is a flower that I crocheted.  I bought myself a book called 'Crochet Bouquet' by Suzann Thompson which tells you how to create all kinds of different flowers.

It arrived a couple of days ago, so I've had a quick look through it and have started to decide which flowers I want to have a go at.  I'm not sure it's as easy as she makes out, though, mainly because it's written using American crochet terms and I use English ones.  For example, what they call a double crochet (dc) in the States, is a treble (tr) over here and their single crochet (sc) is our double (dc).  It means you have to really concentrate while reading the pattern until you get the hang of it.

Still, I had a go at her Pansy design yesterday and I think it came out pretty well - at least, it had a passing resemblance to a pansy so I'm pretty pleased:

Sorry the picture's a bit dark but you can click on it to make it bigger. You might just be able to spot the small gold glass bead I attached to the middle.

One of these things is not like the other....

Not sure what I'm going to do with it.  I absolutely adore the tea cosies covered in flowers made by Alice over at Crochet with Raymond but, sadly, I don't use a teapot (nor know anyone who does) and - as whinged about above - I can't knit yet.  But the cluster of flowers is to die for - I suppose I could try and crochet my first beanie-style hat and attach a load to the side....

Anyway, apart from fannying around with fibre, I've been enjoying the arrival of Spring and today mowed the lawn for the first time this year.  What a hateful job that is.  Took over an hour to mow our tiny little patch of lawn and the sweat was literally pouring down my face by the end.

And I've been a very good girl and have been going to the allotment more frequently - in fact, I ought to pop down there now for a bit but I've promised myself a session on the Wii Fit and there's other things I should do this afternoon, so I'll probably leave it until tomorrow, but a few days ago I sowed over 300 carrot seeds (you can't really start carrots off in the greenhouse, they don't like being transplanted, so you have to sow them where they're going to grow), and weeded the flower bed beside the shed where I grow plants specifically to attract the bees - lavender, potentilla, foxgloves, sedum - and put in a couple of delphiniums and a small clump of Golden Rod.

But I am feeling a bit guilty about not going because it's just such a glorious day.  I mean, this is my view from where I'm sitting writing this - our back door is open onto the bridge, Sylvester's sitting on the doormat and the sun is just streaming in through my filthy dirty windows:

I hope the spring's arrived wherever you are...

Friday, 11 March 2011

Ta-daa! Unveiling the Bauble Decoration....

Yeah, I know, I'm still on a roll.  This is my latest project, now finished, a crochet bauble decoration (don't forget you can click on all the pictures to make them bigger):

As before, I got the pattern from Lucy's blog at Attic24, in fact this particular tutorial.

I used acrylic yarn from my stash in shades of blue and used a 4mm hook to make it.

This should give you an idea of scale.  They're simple to make and you can use them just to hang up anywhere for a bit of colour in your life, or you can make a load to hang on the Christmas Tree.  Lucy's ones are very bright and she uses buttons and plastic beads.  I don't have buttons but I do have more beads than any sane person would have (in case you've forgotten, I make jewellery so have a craft room filled to bursting with pearls and crystals and semi-precious beads of all shapes and sizes), plus I was inspired by the serious embellishment that Elizabeth Cat used on her version of Lucy's bauble decoration.  Please click on the link to have a look - they're like jewels!

So mine hasn't been encrusted with quite so much loveliness as it was the first one I made and I need to work out how to attach all the pearls and beads and things, bearing in mind I don't have any embroidery thread (I think I need something thicker than sewing cotton but thinner than yarn to attach the beads - wool won't go through the hole and cotton is too thin) but I do have very flexible beading thread/wire.

Instead of a button for the centre, I used a clear Swarovski octagonal chandelier crystal with two holes, and just sewed one in place on both sides.

And then used the beading thread/wire and crimps to attach the dangly bit at the bottom, utilising three differently shaped and coloured crackle beads.

At the top are a couple of silver-lined glass beads in pale and darker blue.  These have really big holes in them so the hanging thingy can pass through the middle of them.

I'm really pleased with how it came out although it did take quite a long time to make.  Mind you, that might well have been because I was following the pattern for the first time, but I think I will make some more and try experiments with adding crystals and pearls to make them really lavish!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Ta-daa! Unveiling the Birdie Decoration....

I seem to be on a bit of a crocheting roll at the moment, and this little birdie is my latest finished project. 

After I'd finished the Twirly Scarf I turned my attention to learning how to knit.  This is coming along slowly and not without swearing.  I'm struggling my way through a scarf made in moss stitch (knit one, purl one) which is a pretty stitch, sort of bumpy, but I'm really having to concentrate and remember exactly what stitch I'm supposed to be doing.  Of course I don't manage this so I end up with too many stitches and holes and, well, look, see for yourself:

See?  Rubbish, isn't it?  I'm not too bothered though as the whole idea was to get the hang of manipulating two long thin needles as opposed to a single short hook.  God, that photo makes it look really, really bad, much worse than in real life!

Here's a closeup of a really crappy part:

I just have to keep remembering that my very first attempt at crochet in November 2009 was meant to be a square but it came out triangular.  It was dreadful, but now I can make blankets.  And small birds. 

So, yes, back to the little birds. Knitting the scarf is hard work, like I said I have to concentrate, and it's disheartening to keep making such a dog's breakfast of the whole thing but I shall persevere because I've got to get better eventually, haven't I?  Please God, say I will...  Anyway, to give me a break from the swearing, I thought I'd rattle off one or two crocheted birdie decorations which I've been meaning to have a go at for some while.

I got the pattern from the incomparable Attic24 blog (which if you are interested at all in crochet, you should check out) and if you follow her wonderful tutorials, the birdies really do come out as they're supposed to.  I followed her instructions to the letter which meant I had to get a new crochet hook, some buttons and some new yarn - cotton, this time.  I got half a dozen or so colours - two shades of pink, two of blue, creamy white, a browny-purple and an orange - and over the weekend made this little guy:

It's a bit dim on that side of the kitchen, so let's hang him up in the sunshine on the other side, shall we?

I'm glad I've finally found a use for some large gold-plated heavy metal beads with big holes that I bought by mistake about 5 years ago - they're perfect for birdie 'feet'!

This was so satisfying to make, that I've made another one, finishing it this morning:

The body of this one is alternating cream and pale pink stripes with darker pink wings and an outside edge in browny-purple.  Cute, aren't they?

I'm keeping the first one but the new pink one is off to a new home as a surprise present for a lovely person.  But I like it so much that I think I'll make another in the same colour way to keep for myself.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Where should we go?

I'm feeling in need of a break.  A short getaway.  The Lovely Husband and I haven't been away on holiday for what seems like an age now.  Not even a short city break.  This has mostly been down to constraints on time and, most especially, money.

But we have a wedding anniversary coming up in the first week of April, a reasonably substantial one at that (15 years, if you really want to know) and call me an old romantic, or a traditionalist if you will, I actually think that's something to celebrate.  It would be easy enough to just go out for a curry and enjoy a bottle of wine but, to me, that's an average Friday or Saturday night.  Being able to stand 15 years in the company of the same person without wanting to stab them to death too often is an achievement, and one that demands something a bit more celebratory than a Lamb Bhuna and a bottle of Shiraz for once.  So that's 15 years wed come Monday 4 April.  Trouble is, we're already going out with friends on 3 April, to see a very funny comedian called Micky Flanagan, which I'm looking forward to tremendously, but it does mean we've kinda scuppered our plans for getting away that weekend.

No matter, I have a birthday 19 days after that, so - I hear you mumble - why not get away for that?  Because it's only bastard Easter, isn't it?  Yep, my birthday this year falls on Easter Saturday so if everywhere I fancy staying isn't already booked, then it'll be extortionately priced because it's bastard Easter.


So let's say we just discard those particular dates.  Okay, no worries.  The next choice is where to go and what to stay in.  And this is where my head asplodes, because, frankly, I have no real idea.  Well, that's not strictly true, I have so many ideas and desires that I can't make a final choice.  Right now I really, really like the idea of a small cottage, as close to the beach as it can be, with a woodburning stove and a pub that does really good food in walking distance.  Preferably on the south coast so it doesn't take hours to get there.  We both love Cornwall but I'm thinking it may be a bit far.  I'm tempted by the eastern side of the country - East Sussex and Kent where it sticks out into the sea - but probably not Suffolk or Norfolk, for distance reasons, again.

The Isle of Wight is quite appealing - not just for its reputed unhurriedness in a 1950s Britain stylee but also for the dinosaur factor.  I mean, of course, real dinosaurs not just stuff that's unfashionable, ancient and lumpen.

But then I start thinking of cities that I want to stay in - Brighton, Bath, York (too far, but on the list), Canterbury - or smaller places such as Rye - or even just areas I want to go to where I've never been before - the Lake District, Cumbria, the Yorkshire Moors, the whole of Scotland - and I end up closing the browser window in despair and thinking about what to make for tea instead.  I just can't decide.

So can you help me?  Have you any suggestions of places you've stayed at that might be what I'm looking for?