Tub on the Run


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T minus 1 to my Whole 100

It’s Whole 100 Eve today! I’ve decided to take some time out to blog about where I am right now, with pictures and everything. In my January Whole 30, I made the mistake of forgetting to take any before pictures. This time, I’ve remembered!

Starting Point

This is my starting point. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I felt like an over-stuffed sausage, squeezing into these capri pants again. It’s a long time since I wore them last, and man can I feel the extra pounds in this! I am also cringing a little to post this, but I’m desperately trying to remind myself that this is my “before” photo. It’s going to get better from here.

Whole 100 Minus Day 1 Beyond the Sofa

Obviously it should go without saying – apologies for the awful hair and lack of make up. It’s Sunday – that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! I’ve weighed myself, measured myself, and taken photographs. One thing? I am definitely hoping for a bit more of a tan in 100 days! I’m still undecided what I am going to do about weighing in over the course of the Whole 100. In my Whole 30 round up from January, the creators of Whole 30 think you should look at the achievements beyond the scale, but when you have such a large amount to lose, I think it is helpful, so I am going to do what works for me. I don’t want to be beholden to the scale like I used to feel when I did Slimming World, but I also don’t feel ready to go it solo.

Anyway, I think it’s fair to say that my weight loss seems to have ground to a halt lately. I’m bobbing around the same couple of pounds, and I find myself regularly overeating just because it’s there.

Energy and other stuff

I honestly feel like I live in a kind of “coffee cannot cure this kind of tired” way at the moment. I have quite defined peaks and troughs in my energy (don’t ask me for anything between 3:30pm and 5:00pm – it won’t get done). My procrastination levels are possibly reaching new highs too. This has been further compounded by some really awful sleep. Normally I’m a good sleeper, but lately, my sleep has been quite broken. I’ve been quite good at getting to bed on time, as I had promised myself that I would do, though my weekends need some work! The sleep itself though has been decidedly naff.

Let’s talk about skin, hair and nails. Now, I’m going to paint you a lovely picture with words. I think I’m turning into a crust. My skin is so awfully dry and flaky. My scalp is sore with painful dandruff. My nails are super thin and brittle. I’m truly gorgeous! I had a facial a couple of weeks ago in the hope of sorting my skin out, but even that didn’t really help.

About my Whole 100

When I wrote my post about doing a Whole 100 a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d be able to breeze through it with no real issues. How hard can it be? It’s only 3 lots of Whole 30 plus 10 days. I’ve done 3 Whole 30s already after all. Then, I suddenly start thinking that actually, 100 days is really long and that I don’t want to be a hermit. Then I remembered it is the Devon County Show in a couple of weeks, and I won’t be able to eat the wonderful cheeses, breads and other samples. Then I remembered that I am out with friends the following week. Then I remembered that I am actively choosing to do this, for good reasons, and that in the grand scheme, 100 days really isn’t very long and I will be able to eat out as normal but I’ll have to be that person. It’ll be fine.

I’m expecting the first couple of weeks to be a standard Whole 30 affair, with some grumpiness, some breakouts, some issues with tiredness and concentration. From around Day 30 onwards, I would anticipate either some food boredom or plate envy, and maybe a desire to binge eat. I suspect I’ll probably have a bit of a grump around then too, though that is wandering into uncharted territory at that point.

I’ll be blogging about it, but it won’t be as frequent as my January Whole 30, as, y’know, 100 days and all.

I have a “send off” of chicken fajitas and tiramisu, so I am going to head off and have my tea. Wish me luck!


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Batten down the hatches

From the little trends that I can recognise in me, I know that stress typically sees me fall face first into some sort of sweet, whether it’s lemon sherberts, Krispy Kreme doughnuts or chocolate. I would say that probably 90% of my stress comes from work. I’m lucky that actually, work aside, I live a relatively stress-free life – I’m lucky to have a wonderful family, my health (albeit not optimal) is fine, I don’t have much in the way of finance worries, and there are no other big life changes on the way. And I should probably say that stress isn’t always a bad thing for me. Like many, I do pretty well on a challenge and a little stress can help move me towards a deadline.

But there is a tipping point where stress becomes a problem.

This week, my friend and colleague resigned. I thought she was joking when she told me to start off with and that she was just going to smile, say “gotcha” and bounce off with our coffee mugs to get the morning brew. I stopped what I was doing, looked at her and knew she was serious. I am so pleased for her, as this is just a brilliant opportunity and she’d be a fool to turn it down, but at the same time, I will be really sorry to see her leave my team. As we talked about her new role and how it was going to be strange not working together, I waited for the wave of argh to crash over me. It didn’t come immediately.

Now that I have had time to digest the news, I can see a lot of what is about to come. She’s our team’s administrator and as her supervisor, I can see the amount heading towards my desk as I also know that we won’t recruit her replacement in time. The work itself isn’t overly complicated, there is just a lot of it alongside looking after my own “thinky” work (which is pretty high at the moment with some projects I’m loving being part of). Okay, it’s not an ideal situation (for me), but it is rare that I have this much notice to get my bum in gear and effectively batten down the hatches so that I can weather the impending storm.

Learning to dance in the rain

(Photo credit: Jib on Flickr)

Given that I have a couple of weeks to put some plans in place, here is what I am planning to make sure I don’t end up a completely broken and grey haired by my birthday in August.

Get to bed for 10:30pm

I’m not too bad a sleeper generally, but like most people, when there is a lot going on, I struggle to switch off.  One thing I have done pretty well at recently is trying to shut off the amount of blue light I am looking at from around 9:30pm, as that has helped me “calm down”. It’s tough breaking the habit of many years though!

Take some time out while we’re still a full team

We become a team of 3 (from the current 4) in mid-May. If there is one thing I can to do help myself, it will be to take a couple of days out to do the stuff like a real good run through of housework, catch up on all the washing, finish clearing the boxes that are still floating around from our move last year, and create a proper work space. I use our spare bedroom, but I need to make it a nicer space to work. Any time that I can spend doing the mundane things now (or shortly) will stop me stressing out about it later down the line.

Get some fresh air, stretch a bit

I work a desk job. As my workload increases, I end up staying at my desk literally all day, and then take work home and work on the sofa. My fresh air exposure literally will be walking from the car to the office and back again. I plan to get outside, even if it is for a walk around the car park as I need to. I also want to get back into the habit of stretching as I really notice that movement is harder when I have been sat down all day. I fully intend to start my Fitness Blender videos in the not too distant future, but I am not there right now.

Know that I can’t do it all (and that’s okay)

I hate the idea of having to ask for help, let alone actually asking for it. Yet as soon as I can see someone struggling, I’ll offer support. Reciprocation sees me shrug it off with a “thank you, but I’m really okay” as I chow down my 6th biscuit in half an hour and peek up from my unintentional paper fort. Part of it depends on who the offer comes from – I don’t like my manager asking, as I feel it’s a failure, and another colleague would offer only to turn the knife later. So it’s time to get a bit selfish and put what I am working on first and make sure that I am prioritising well, and if it isn’t a good use of my time, it’s got to go!

It is important that while I need to understand that I can’t do it all, I do need to spend time doing the things I enjoy, whether that is blogging, some sewing, singing out loud (and out of tune probably), or getting outside. The weekends need to count – getting up and living life beyond my sofa.

What have you got coming up over the next few weekends? Matt and I are headed to Cardiff to watch Judgement Day soon, and we have my parents’ birthdays to look forward to.


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Dear childhood me – life’s little lessons – #BehindTheBlogger

Dear Childhood Me,

Spoiler alert – life doesn’t go as you expect, but don’t worry, it turns out pretty good!

Firstly – 30 obviously sounded far enough away for you to think you should have all your “life stuff” figured out and that you’d be ready to start your family. You’re kind of right. You want the husband, house and career all sorted by 30 years old. Good news – this happened! You wanted to be pregnant and have your first baby before 30’s sun set for the last time. This hasn’t worked out so well. As it currently stands, we’re 4 months away from turning 31, and we’re just about keeping a house, two cats, a husband and me alive. Probably the less said about the plants that have been sacrificed throughout the process the better! Mother-in-law has requested a pink grandchild, but you’re not quite ready yet. Anyway, about that career…

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You suck at science all through school, but actually do quite well on the science-y parts in your degree. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you didn’t get in to university to study forensic anything. Nope. Nor did you get in to read law. That ruled out a career in pathology or becoming a solicitor. Instead, psychology was your degree and you end up by some random happenstance to work in HR (I know you don’t know what that is yet), and do you know what? After a couple of rocky years, you love it. Also, you didn’t go to Dundee University like you had threatened to do – it was Sheffield Hallam University, but that was quite far enough!

Graduation

The friends that you thought were your life during secondary school, that you were always going to be BFFs with? They’re still around, but y’know. Boys. Instead, you come to realise that actually, the person who you fought with regularly (your sister), is actually your in-built best friend, and she rocks. She will be forever your partner in crime. You’ll do all sort of things together – go to London to watch one of your favourite bands, organise a trip to Paris for Mum’s significant birthday, run together, bail each other out, cry on each other and laugh so hard together. You’ll need to get past that holiday in Cyprus first though.

Sister is amazing

On the thought of partners in crime, you know that blonde haired boy that recently knocked your pencil tin out of your hands while he was coming down the stairs, before declaring that he never wanted to see you again (I can’t remember what caused this vicious outburst, though I’m sure you can)? You married him. Sure, he went to a different school for secondary school, but eventually because of this thing called the internet which allows you to talk to people all over the world without actually using your voice, or hogging the telephone (I know – mind blown, you’ve only just got Encarta 95), and then this thing called Facebook (which is like a friend group on a big notice board on the internet), you get back in touch and eventually it’s “Stephanie and Matthew sitting in a tree…”. I won’t finish the rhyme for you. You like to remind him of this anecdote quite regularly.

Matt and Steph

There are some things I wish you had not done – you will suffer with spots quite badly, and the bad news is that they aren’t gone by the time you’re 30, but please don’t pick them. You’ll scar. I know you will. You’ll also develop some pretty naff coping mechanisms. One of them will be food, and you will be a fat person. But you won’t always be that way. Also, you know Top Cat? Yeah, you know, the horse that is too crazy to ride? She doesn’t grow old gracefully by the way, and you decide that it will be fun to ride her and help her owner out around the yard. Top Cat will break your fingers (not once, but twice – three fingers, two separate occasions) and also stand in your armpit and that will be the MOST painful bruise you’ll experience in living memory. Thankfully, aforementioned sister will catch Top Cat, help you turn her out, and then take you to hospital.

Rubes

Lastly, know that Mum and Dad are right. Nothing ever turns out as badly as you think it will, even if it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. At 30, know that you’re okay. No. You’re doing well.

Love every moment, even the ones you eventually cringe at.

 

                                                                                                       

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Surprise! A candid photo

I have to admit that since just before we decorated our bedroom, I hadn’t seen my scales to step onto and find out the state of play. I’d assumed that because I hadn’t been following any kind of eating plan at all, that the scales wouldn’t make for happy reading when I did eventually unearth them.

Then, as I was putting together the decorating post, I asked Matt if he could send over any pictures that he had of the room. He sent me over the picture below.  My heart sank.

Candid shot

This picture is hard for me to post. Having unearthed my scales and weighed myself now, I know that I’ve actually lost the couple of pounds that I put on in mid-February and I’m back to my lowest weight of 2016, possibly even 2015. I’m 21 and a half pounds down since my January weigh in. But on Saturday, this was of little consolation.

I spent time on Saturday genuinely considering the question, can body dysmorphia work two ways? I know that typically body dysmorphia is where the person thinks that they’re much larger than they actually are. But can it go the other way? Can you think you’re smaller than you are? Regardless, I have clearly been telling myself that I am much smaller than I actually am, and catching a candid shot has opened a bit of a wound. The more frustrating thing? I’ve lost 21.5 lbs. This isn’t even me at my heaviest. I was a stone and half fatter than this at the beginning of the year.

That night, I attended my pity party. The thing is, I’ve done the long and protracted pity stage. I’ve done the self-loathing stage. Have either turned out to be a successful strategy for improvement? No. Quelle surprise. Wounds won’t heal if you constantly pick at them. So after a bit of a miserable evening, I tried to kick myself out of it on Sunday morning. It was no easy thing, especially mixed with the mother of all period pains. But after the horror of seeing that photo, I know I have made a good start on my weight loss this year and I just need to keep up the momentum.

Part of my Easter weekend will be devoted to some good old fashioned batch cooking. Our freezer has been broken for weeks, and the repair man is coming out (hopefully for the last time) on Wednesday. I’ll also be restarting my Fitness Blender FB Fit, which I had stopped as I hadn’t made it a priority.

If nothing else, this photo has served to put me back on track with a better focus. On the plus side? It can be a progress photo for the future!


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Starting the decorating

If I had to sum up my March so far in a picture format, it would be this…

Faceplant

I’m not entirely sure who has done it, but I’m certain that someone has pressed the fast forward button this month. Really, it is just my work that has increased over the last couple of weeks, which I think might be due to having a week off at the start of the month.

We didn’t have any plans to go away for our week off, but decided towards the end of 2015 that as we became more settled, we should turn our attention to redecorating our house. The first room we wanted to do was our bedroom. Originally, our bedroom was painted a deep red and a mix of other neutral colours. We’d ordered and had a new carpet delivered and fitted on the day after we bought the house, so that was quickly sorted last year.

Bedroom original

It is safe to say that the previous owners’ forte did not extend to decorating. We’d already spotted a couple of “interesting” patches in other rooms (for example, the wall behind a curtain in a different room is an entirely different colour to the rest of the room, where they hadn’t taken the curtain off the pole to paint behind it…), but we didn’t think our bedroom was going to be too bad. I knew that we needed to prepare the bare bones well to make a nice job of it, but I hadn’t realised quite how much needed doing.

I’d surprised myself by filling in the dings, dents and holes and achieving a nice finish – it’s the first time I’ve used filler before. That was job number 1. I did a second review of them if I’d missed any patches or wanted a slightly smoother finish and left it to dry before sanding it back. While that was all going on, we attacked the woodwork. We realised that there was different paint on different parts of the room. Some of it had a gloss finish, some a satin, and the door frame had been painted with silk. The silk was probably the worst bit, and I think Matt died a little bit inside when we had to use a paint scraper to strip back all the silk off the wood (sanding it just won’t work, as it peels and you’d end up with a really naff finish). Matt’s not much into the prep work, more about the bigger transformation picture. I was adamant that if we were going to do it, then it was going to be done well.

Anyway, long story short, like the woodwork, there was different paint (matt v silk) on the walls too, so that needed more prep than a normal matt emulsioned wall. It definitely made me realise how much of a doddle decorating our flat had been.

Once we’d covered off the bedroom (meth lab chic anyone?), and made sure that the black cats couldn’t accidentally become white cars, over the following couple of days, I did the cutting in and the gloss and Matt did the roller work (white ceilings and gloss, B&Q Colours in Chantilly for the main walls, and Dulux’s Purple Pout for the feature wall). Surprisingly, there were no arguments, despite the immense tension of putting the new curtain pole up (we’re now the proud owners of a spirit level and power drill, and I’m convinced I should have had my salary directly transferred to B&Q this month).

Decorating

It took us a lot longer than we initially anticipated and spent the whole week sorting it out, but it was a week well spent. I’m really pleased with the result, even if I realised that our deep purple colour is actually the same as one of the brand colours at work!

The next room on the list is our spare room. That will be much easier, as it isn’t a room that we live in.

Are you a fan of decorating? Any tips you’d care to share? I’m not quite at the stage of wanting to tackle the next room yet, but anything to help speed the process along while maintaining the finish is always a good thing!


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Soapbox time: Habit forming

The habits that took years to build, do not take a day to change

It’s soapbox time.

One thing that I have found really grinds my gears in the world of health related articles, including all the New Year’s Resolutions articles masquerading as help, is the “it takes 21 days to form a habit”. That’s right, 21 days and I will be an early morning riser, super productive, healthy eating, good wife/sister/daughter/friend, yoga guru, gym bunny.

This might seem a really small and trivial thing to get wound up about, but let me explain. I have three reasons for this being a soapbox rant target.  I call bullpoop on 21 days.

First up…

Where is the science?! I studied psychology at uni, and while that makes me so far from an actual psychologist, it did give me the desire to see things back up by, y’know, science. Ask most people how long it will take to form a habit, and the stock answer is probably going to be 21 days. Where has this mythical 21 days come from? Interestingly, from what I have read, it actually started off being an observation of a surgeon called Maxwell Maltz in the 1960s who said that he noticed his patients adjusted to a physical change from 21 days onwards (it is the “onwards” bit that is often missed off). In 2010, a health psychologist called Philippa Lally published a study which suggests that it is more likely to take 66 days to start forming a habit. A bit of a difference in timescales there! Importantly, she also said that it depends on the type of person and the habit they’re trying to form. It’s going to be much easier to form a quick and pleasurable habit (eat a piece of cake a day) versus remembering to wash the car on a weekly basis.

Secondly…

Maybe this is just me, but habits do require some maintenance. Suggesting that your habit will be formed after 21 days and will then be forever ingrained is just daft. Okay, brushing your teeth may not require as much thought, but trying to adjust your eating habits, or exercising habits, speaking from experience, can be hard work. Not physically hard, but mentally tough. I find myself having to be in a constant state of vigilance, lest I find myself falling into my own personal danger zone of apathy because I have decided I have failed at whatever I am working on.

Lastly…

I think it can be damaging to bandy around the idea that in three weeks, you’re cured! Your bad habit has been broken and replaced by a good habit.  Congratulations! You’ve succeeded in three whole weeks, and no more do you need to think about it! Again, if it’s a nice habit (like eating cake every day – that would be lovely right now), it’s not going to take much effort to get into that kind of routine. This is where it gets personal for me. Telling me that it will take me 21 days of healthy eating to reform my habits psychologically doesn’t do me any favours. Have I failed to form a habit successfully if it takes longer than 21 days? Yes, according to the unreasonable and illogical part of my head, I have. Forty-one days later into a different way of eating and I can’t understand why this doesn’t feel any easier. That’s lie. I can understand it. I said before that it’s a constant state of awareness, and questions, and reasoning, and logic. I went to a workshop for work this week, and there were pastries. I cannot tell you how amazing they smelled. Little pastry slices of sweet and buttery heaven. Before the workshop started, my internal dialogue was “Do I feel hungry?”… Yes. “Okay, are you thirsty?”… Yes. “Have you tried having a drink first?”… No, okay, glass at the ready. “Is there an alternative?”… Yes, there’s fruit. “You’ve done really well, will the pastry set off a binge type response?”… Probably. “Is it a good idea to have a pastry?”… No. All of this over a pastry. And right now, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So, at the end of all that? I think it really depends on who you are and what you’re trying to do, and of course, how much it really means to you and your motivation and engagement in following it all through. Just please, no more “21 days to make a habit” rubbish.


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How to survive Christmas shopping

Surviving Christmas Shopping

Ah, the Hollywood dream – cold weather, worthy of a lovely snuggly coat, scarf, cute hat and gloves. Maybe accompanied by your equally as well dressed partner, smiling as you walk down the busy, but not too crowded high street, carrying bags (the nice kind – you know, the ones that you end up keeping for “best”), smiling all the while.

The reality? Queuing to get anywhere near the city, then queuing some more as the local NCP operates a one-in-one-out policy. Once you’ve found the Holy Grail parking space, you join the multi-generational roving mosh pit rocking out to Mariah Carey. It could almost be considered a contact sport. The weather just about warrants a coat, but the second that you step into a shop you’re sweltering and sweating like you’ve just sprint 5k in a bid to beat Yusain Bolt (Marks and Spencers, I’m looking at YOU!). The bags, which you had to pay for because you keep forgetting that plastic bag charges aren’t just something that your local supermarket has had to implement, aren’t the nice ones. They’re the ones that slice your fingers and make you wish you had worn gloves (though it is too hot to actually wear gloves). Your partner is miserable as sin, and the mood is showing no signs of improving. Battle weary, you return home with most of the stuff you had intended to buy, some things you hadn’t planned on, and forgot some things in the muddle of bags.

Often, after my November pay, I brave the high street for a couple of items. The majority of my Christmas shopping is done online to save the stress. When we lived in the flat, as we lived above a business, the delivery men used to be able to leave stuff with the business who would very kindly leave it on our landing. In the event that it wasn’t delivered during office hours, we lived around the corner from the sorting office which opened at 7am so we could nip in before work. All that said, I don’t actually like online shopping all that much.

Exeter Christmas Tree

This year, we have our own front door, and no one to take in any packages for us. Work are pretty good if we order stuff to be delivered there, but I wouldn’t want to take the mickey. I also wanted to enjoy some of the Christmas atmosphere in Exeter. Here are my top tips:

  • Make a plan of what to buy

We all know this makes financial sense, let alone anything else! Despite my misgivings above, I do actually like Christmas shopping. I like it too much actually. I get massively carried away usually, blow the budget and pay for it (literally) until Easter. This year, I’ve reeled in the spending, but hopefully not to the detriment of getting things that people want.

  • Make a plan of where to go

This helped us massively. We literally planned to go down one side of the high street and back up the other. It was executed in a way that I think the military would have been proud of. There was no faffing, no browsing, just targeted shopping. I think this definitely helped me stay on budget too.

  • Get in there early

Exeter is hardly London or any other major city, but the shopping area is really quite concentrated. I am not a fan of crowds, and find shopping with large quantities of people around stressful. I’m sure as a teenager, I used to enjoy this, but as I get older, I find myself less tolerant. Matt and I got in to the city centre for about 8:30am. We drove straight in to the car park we wanted to park in – no hassle. There was no battling through crowds to get to destinations or in the shops. As we left, it was just beginning to get busy and I was glad we were done. If you can’t do early, try getting there late. When I lived in Sheffield, an evening trip to Meadowhall was infinitely less stressful than a day time jaunt.

  • Treat yourself

I was quite clear when Matt and I were formulating our battle plan that breakfast featured. Our original plan was to go to Brody’s (I fancied pancakes), but in the end, we opted for a breakfast Subway on the way in. It was nice, it definitely stopped me feeling grumpy, and felt like more of a treat than lunch.

  • Don’t stress it

It just isn’t worth getting all stressed over. There are some things that I missed off the list (and therefore forgot to buy). Worst case? I’ll either pop in early again, or buy them online. This year I’ve had such a good experience, that I’ve realised it isn’t worth stressing about, or getting annoyed at the child that screams just below the pitch that only dogs can hear, or about the person who just randomly stops and you end up bumping in to them.

Needless to say that I am now sat here, smug in the comfort that I am pretty much done. I’ve got the wrapping to do, for what Miracle on 34th will be cracked out (my favourite Christmas film).

How is your Christmas shopping going? What’s your favourite Christmas film?


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Murder on the Moors in Simonsbath

Quite early on this year, Mum said for Matt and I to make sure that we didn’t book to do anything this weekend. At the time I had an inkling of what we might be doing but wasn’t sure until it slipped out a couple of months later. Pretty much every two years, Mum and I go to the Christmas markets in Belgium or France. As we have a regular “thing”, so do Mum and my sister. Each autumn, they go to a murder mystery on Exmoor, and each year they come back and say how good it was.

My murder mystery experiences have been one of two dinner party types.  One, where everyone is assigned a role, and you have to work out whodunnit amongst yourselves. I quite enjoy these – it’s a bit of fancy dress, questionable accents, dodgy acting and food with friends. The other type is played out by actors. My last experience of this version was at Reed Hall in Exeter, and I wasn’t much of a fan. The acting was distinctly am-dram and Reed Hall didn’t get the food right at all, and I think it was too big a group of people for us all to gather what was going on and being said. It wasn’t a great experience. So when Mum said that was what we were doing this weekend, neither Matt nor I were too enthusiastic.

I’ve had a week at work which has completely knackered me out mentally, and I just wanted to sit on my bum and let my brain fall out of my ears in front of the TV. I didn’t really feel like being social. That wasn’t an option though.

At 5pm, Matt and I headed off in the dark along the North Devon link road. Once we got off the main link and into the lanes, I actually really enjoyed the drive. It was a barely-more-than single track road, pitch black, twisty and turny. My inner rally driver was unleashed and Matt pace noted the drive from the sat nav. Yeah, we’re just your regular husband and wife tarmac rally stage team… We arrived around 6pm and headed in to Simonsbath House.

I think this may have been one of the friendliest places I have ever been. The house is over 350 years old, in the middle of nowhere, nestled in a valley, wood panelled, with open fires that smell like winter.

Simonsbath Hotel

As we arrived at night, we were looking forward to seeing the house in the daylight. First though, we got settled in the room and got ready to head downstairs. I was really impressed by our room – it was lovely and spacious.

Simonsbath Hotel Room 3

I’m a sucker for a nice bathroom too. It was quite a big bathroom, well appointed, warm, and had shutters (what’s not to love about shutters!).

Simonsbath bathroom

We met Mum and Philippa in the bar. A couple of drinks later, I felt more relaxed and less uptight, and started to enjoy the evening.

The actors milled around (in character) and made small talk. There were approximately 30 people there including us. We were called to the dining room. Service was speedy and efficient (but not too efficient – despite being a fast eater, I hate being rushed). I wish I had taken photos of the food as it was presented really nicely, but I didn’t have my proper camera with me and my phone camera makes a poor substitute. My starter was partridge with bacon on romaine lettuce, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar dressing and toasted pine nuts. I haven’t had partridge before, and was expecting it to be more game-y that it was. The acting continued throughout the starter, which was quite amusing (no one had been murdered at that point). I had a little bit of plate envy when Matt’s main arrived – he’d gone for the cannelloni which smelled amazing (and quite garlicky). I’d chosen the rack of lamb with roast veggies. The lamb was perfect – pink and tender. I don’t eat much lamb as I’m not brilliant at cooking it. It always turns out tough or to be a really fatty cut. The pudding was a choice of sorbet, cheesecake or rice pudding. I haven’t had rice pudding in ages, so that was my choice. Stodgy, wintery, goodness! No dessert envy here! Sadly, during the pudding a murder occurred, shortly followed by another (murder, not pudding). Two people down and it was time to retire to the lounge for teas and coffees to solve the crimes. We weren’t an effective crime solving unit, as the third and final murder happened in front of us! I didn’t get any of the murderers right, though Mum did (well done Mum!).

Once the actors had left, we were free to do what we wanted. Philippa decided to build the fire in the lounge up a bit more, and we were visited by the owner of the hotel’s dogs – a Collie called Bramble, and a Cocker Spaniel called Fern. Bramble spent some time with us, though Fern was less bothered.

Bramble

After a natter, more tea, and visiting each others’ rooms, we went our separate ways and headed to bed. Matt and I were interested to see what the view was like in the morning. We weren’t disappointed, despite the mist.

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Breakfast was nice and relaxed. I had a cooked breakfast, with a lovely oozy poached egg and good toast to mop it all up with.

Despite my initial misgivings, I was really glad I didn’t just sit at home and wallow, but got out, met a few really lovely people, had a great evening with the best company, and came home with a bit more of a spring in my step. Matt and I are already thinking about going back and getting out onto the moors for a walking weekend, as well as telling some of his family about Simonsbath House, as we’re sure they’d love it too.

Have you been on a murder mystery before? Did you have a nice weekend?


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My stress management plan

Having given weight gain versus weight loss some thought lately, I am perhaps a little late to the party in realising that generally I fail to cope on a personal level with stress. Professionally, I thrive off of it. Personally though, it is a precursor or trigger to weight gain.

Stress itself has long been linked to weight gain, and in my case, it is probably a key time when my inability to cope in a healthy way shows itself. When Matt and I lived at the flat, during times of stress (my stress) we would eat takeaway most nights and over eat. Obviously this is one of those cycles where sugar highs and lows exacerbate the stress.

As I stand on the edge of a potentially stressful run up to Christmas because of a project at work, I recognise that my go-to strategy of stuffing my face with whatever junk food I can find isn’t going to stack up this time.

Managing Stress

Instead of reaching for the Dominos, I am going to try some new things in the hope of starting 2016 lighter than I currently stand.

  • Breathe

One of the things I realised when I attended the yoga workshop in early October was how shallow my normal breathing is.  During the workshop, after around half an hour of breathing deeply and fully, I was really surprised to find myself bordering on short of breath when that part of the workshop was over.  Focusing on a solid and slow 5 in, 5 out, for as long as it takes for stress masquerading as cravings to subside will helpfully ground me better.

  • Read

While I am not as avid a reader as my sister or mum, I do enjoy a good book. It is something I’ve stopped doing lately, but reading does help to distract me. I have started reading blogs again, which is nice, but some non-screen reading will also be good to help wind down.

  • Go for a walk (or run, or something, just outside)

My average step count is around 5,000 per day, which isn’t that brilliant. But more importantly, a quick walk around the block in an evening after a mentally hard day will help me to sleep better – fresh air always helps.

  • Do some colouring in or sewing

I am quite poor at leaving work at work. I always have been I think. When I’m stressed, my anxiety raises its head too, so doing something that means I need to concentrate on something else that is distinctly different should help. I have at least one cross stitch on the go, and several more to do, so running out of them shouldn’t be an issue.

  • Eat well and drink

Of course, by “eat well” I don’t mean “eat indulgently” as I have done in the past. It will be about carrying on getting my vegetables in, and making sure I am meal planning. In eating properly, I’m hoping that my sugar highs and lows won’t fuel the stress even more.

Good in plan, and hopefully better in practice!

How do you manage your stress?


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Home sweet home

We’ve been in our new house for a month now.  The one bed flat in the middle of a busy town seems like a distant memory now, and my words “we’re never EVER moving EVER again unless I’m wheeled out in a coffin”, while still ring true, don’t instil the same level of weariness that they did just a fortnight ago.

Don’t worry family, we’re not planning on moving for several years yet!

Five weeks ago, Matt and I went on the lamest, most sober pub crawl as we waited to be told we could collect the keys to our first home.  The day hadn’t gone quite as smoothly as I had originally planned in my utopian fug of “OMG we’re going to own a house!”.  What no one had really stressed enough was that there is a ridiculously long wait at the bottom of the chain.  Thankfully, we were only a three party chain.  I’d planned to have a huge clean throughout our new house on the day we collected the keys, but it didn’t happen.  The previous owners were still moving out by tea time that day.

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They had very kindly done most of the cleaning anyway, and had left us a binder full of useful info (including how to avoid the traffic warden!) and a pretty pink orchid.  Ah, little do they know that I can only look after three things at once without anyone dying – Matt, Tank and Timo.  Add a fourth thing in, and as my previous, and now deceased, herb pots can attest, I am rubbish with four things.  Nonetheless, the hardy little thing is still going, despite me forgetting to water it (oops, I should get on to that!).  I’m very impressed that I have managed to keep Juan the Cactus alive for nearly two months (though Mum assures me they’re quite difficult to kill).

Juan the Cactus

Over the next few days, I think Mum, Dad, my sister, Matt and I all found muscles that we forgot we had as we lifted and shifted the contents of our tiny flat down the three flights of stairs, into a van and then ferried it up to our house.  Matt and I couldn’t have done it without them – they worked like Trojans and my sister now officially holds the status of Queen of Van Tetris.  No one can pack a van like she can.

We cleared and had cleaned the flat by the Wednesday the following week.  It was a bit of a shame that we hadn’t been more organised actually, as it meant that the week off that Matt and I had booked was spent mostly at our old place, which meant that our unpacking is still ongoing.  I am reassured though, as most people I have spoken to have said that they never fully unpacked, and there’s at least one box in the loft that has remained sealed.

So, top tip – declutter before you move, and start packing earlier than you think you need to!

A month in, there are some things that just make us laugh (previous lazy decorating – painting around the curtains and movable frames!), and some things that genuinely make me think I’ve achieved a life goal (adore my washing line in our little garden, and am the proud owner of an 8kg washing machine and a compost bin).  I feel very grown up all of a sudden.

We’re beginning to put together a list of things that need to be done, along with a wish list of things we’d like to do, and are very pleased that B&Q have just brought out a reward card, as I can see us spending quite a lot in there over the coming months!

Do you enjoy moving house? Mother-in-law (and therefore Matt) have always been quite nomadic, but the last time I was around for a house move was the late 80s!

(I am totally getting to grips with this self-hosted blog malarkey! Beyond the Sofa is now on Bloglovin’ too!)