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Snow day

It happens about once per winter I guess, when we suddenly get enough snow to cause chaos. Today was the day for Winter 2013 (hopefully). As I didn't have any pressing need to be in uni today, I downloaded a load of papers to read yesterday, and stayed home (after a short run at 9). 

However, as I am a geek, I took hourly photos. I tried to embed the slideshow, but it's a little big. You can see it here though!

I'm sort of hoping it will have miraculously cleared enough overnight that we can get to parkrun over in Hove tomorrow, but since they still aren't sending any buses up our road I guess I'm probably not going to get there. Maybe I'll just have to test out my yaktrax around here instead!



Buy nothing update

The challenge has begun. I can't really say it's begun entirely smoothly. It's interesting how many times I've caught myself starting to type amazon.co.uk into the address bar, and how many times I've then thought "Well, how do I waste this time now then?".

Actually, that has come as quite a shock. Turns out that browsing Amazon is one of my grade A procrastination measures. Heh. 

I've also kind of broken the rules twice already. I bought a new pair of running shoes on special offer, when my current ones should be good for at least another 4 months. And after running in the cold and the rain on Saturday I bought a pair of warm compression shorts. I'm going to get rid of a different pair I have which leave me with rubbed patches, but it's a bit of a cheat at best. 

I'm still wasting a certain amount of time reading bag reviews too. I have this idea that I will splurge a little on my perfect backpack, and not have to think about bags again for 10 years plus (and before you say this is ridiculous, it's kind of worked for bikes). I want a backback, around 18-20l capacity, some pockets for organising stuff, preferably a pocket for my iPad and at a pinch my 15" Macbook Pro. Ideally there should be space for a water bottle, and a nice large internal section that I can put my Eagle Creek 15" folder into for one bag travel. At the moment I'm leaning towards the Tom Bihn's Synapse, probably in black. The GoRuck bags have caught my eye, but the sizing is not there, the price tag is enormous and the overt military/American theme is a little offputting for this Brit! 

The nice thing here is that I'm not actually intending to buy any of them imminently. I can really enjoy the searching (hello Carryology!), the reading reviews, the refining of what I need, knowing that actually I have a bag that's doing pretty well right now and I'm just playing. It's one of my favourite parts of buying stuff anyway, so I shall just choose to revel in it for a little longer than normal. (If anyone knows of a British company making nice bags, please let me know! I seem to be having some difficulty finding them...)

So, it's started, but not entirely well. Fingers crossed for better efforts from here on in. 


Bedroom rejuvenation

Back when we moved into this house, the main bedroom was purple. Lilac really, with pale green accents. Sort of a toned-down Wimbledon. Lots of people like it as a colour, I understand that. We, however, didn't. So, in the week before the furniture arrived and while Clarkie was off playing cricket, I painted it. I looked at the curtains I'd brought with me (which are really thick), and chose a teal and a stucco colour (sort of mushroom) to go with them. Two walls got done in each colour, completely ignoring the fact that the purple carpet didn't go with them. Also (due to the living room also needing serious repainting) I didn't quite get to do the ceiling, or the gloss-work. 

So 6 years on, we were still living with the purple carpet, which by now was demonstrating its (lack of) quality by making crinkling noises every time we stood on it. The ceiling was a little grubby in places, and getting the windows replaced had resulted in some big holes in the teal around the window. 

Then Clarkie changed jobs, and due to a combination of events she ended up having to use-or-lose three days of holiday in December, but not at Christmas. She decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to re-floor the bedroom with laminate. Of course, before that happened it would make sense to decorate, right? And before that could happen, we had to empty everything out of the room. Well, almost everything. The wardrobe won't actually fit out of the door. 

I'll admit, I thought this sounded like a bit of an extreme task. But I didn't like the purple carpet either, so we headed out to Wicks one rainy Saturday (I can't actually remember if it was raining, but given this Winter it's a pretty safe bet) and purchased all of the necessary stuff. We cleared the room and painted the ceiling and walls on Day 1. Day 2, Clarkie had to visit her Dad for a large chunk of the day, so I got the gloss-work done (mostly - the door took another coat). The good thing was she also managed to borrow her Dad's piano trolley, so now the wardrobe was at least mobile. Day 3 we cleared out the carpet and got it to the dump before Clarkie had to go to Guildford for cricket training. So it was Day 4 before we started on the floor in earnest. 


Part-way through, with wardrobe still on the skateboard. We were sleeping in the spare room. 

This meant that on Day 5 (the three days were taken either side of a weekend) we had the difficult edge bits to do, the edging, all the furniture to reassemble... 

We didn't quite make it. The edging didn't quite get done. The rest did though, and the edging got done the following weekend. And now we have a lovely, clean, fresh, not-at-all-purple-or-crinkly bedroom.

Bedroom decoration finished

The sun even came out for the picture! 


Running review

I know that the first of January is an arbitrary date, and I understand that really one day is much the same as the next. However, it is kind of nice to be in sync with other people at least occasionally, so happy new year!

With all that said, I'm going to do a review of my running for last year, because I'm quietly pleased, slightly smug, and rather hopeful about it.

The year didn't start brilliantly on a running front, it must be said. I completed the Walt Disney World marathon, but much slower than I'd hoped thanks to a chest infection that (I thought) just wrecked my December training. By the time I got to March and the Cambridge half marathon (trainer issues apart), I'd come to the conclusion that actually, my breathing still wasn't good. Those two races wound up being my only ones of the longer distances last year, giving me a season's best of 6 hours 9 minutes for the full marathon and 2 hours 39 for the half. Neither of these is as good as the times I set back in 2005 (5 hours 58 and 2 hours 24 respectively), when I was run-walking mostly on cycling fitness.

So after the Cambridge half, I eventually took myself off to the doctor who promptly increased my asthma medication. I ran my first parkrun (5k) of the year on 14 April in a time of 30:20, which wasn't quite a personal best but wasn't too far off. Then something remarkable started to happen. My times just started plummeting. 12 May I took over a minute off that time, getting down to 27:39 by the middle of June. I'm always a bit slack in August, and I got ill in September (failing to finish the Grunty Fen half), but after that I started cycling as well, and the times fell more. By my last run in December, my gun time was down to 26:25 (watch time of 26:08) which is a massive improvement of near-as-dammit 4 minutes since April.

Turns out running on knackered lungs really does hold you back! (Clarkie has asked for drugs tests...)

I also did a couple of 10k races this year. My last 10k was in 2010, with a personal best of 1 hour 3 minutes 31 seconds. I did the Phoenix 10k in the middle of July, into a 20+ mph headwind for the first 5k, and still finished in 57:10. That was already 6 minutes off my previous best. Then I did the Brighton Brooks 10k in November, not feeling great so taking it a little easy. I came in with a time of 55:31, or exactly 8 minutes better than my best at the start of the year.

These still aren't times that are going to set the world alight. I know that. But when you were the slow kid at the back they are very pleasing indeed!

The exciting thing is that I don't think I'm done yet. My base speed has increased, so if I get some endurance in I ought to be able to take a good chunk off my half PB this year. Those 10k times suggest that really, I shouldn't be too far off a 2 hour half now. And that is something I never believed could be possible.

Most important of all is that I've really, genuinely started to enjoy running! Wow!




On the make

Happy Christmas everyone! Yeah, I'm a bit late. I got another cold, a pretty good one this time. So I've been mostly sitting around coughing and feeling a bit sorry for myself. I think I managed to not totally irritate everyone on Christmas Day though, and I had a large portion of turkey, managed several pigs in blankets, and some very crunchy roast potatoes amongst other good things, and if that doesn't set a person on the road to recovery I don't know what will. 

(Actually, I honestly don't know what will. Colds, huh?)

I got a large amount of black wool from Clarkie, which I will get hours of fun from as I intend to make Veronik Avery's Military Cardigan, from Knitting Vintage Style. I was very good though, and didn't start it immediately. I still have another jumper on the needles. My other knitting-related present was Barbara Walker's Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns. I suspected I might be getting something along these lines, so I had taken a couple of balls of scrap yarn and some needles. Just in case. (And a half-finished sock. Can't be too careful.) So I happily spent the afternoon exploring mosaic knitting. (I'm still not sure how it works, but I believe it does now. I wasn't sure before I tried it.) There is a lot more fun to be had from these books...

One of the biggest tell-tales for how ill I am is that when I'm home all day I sit and do nothing. I mean nothing. I barely even knit. It's very sad. So it was some relief to discover that yesterday I actually had enough energy and will to bust out the sewing machine. We've been and redecorated our bedroom (I should blog that, huh?) and in the course of doing so completely removed all of the stuff. Putting it all back seemed like a good opportunity to go through things and thin a little. I found a pair of trousers that I like but needed hemming, and the red hippo skirt I made last year that now falls off me. So ostensibly I started out yesterday just hemming and taking in. Easy. 

The other part of the thinning and tidying is that I've been discovering certain objects that have no home, or an inadequate one. I've made a list, and now I'm trying to solve them. While the sewing machine was already out, I thought I'd tidy up a project I started a while back to store my earrings (why does this feel like possibly the girliest post I've ever made?!). 

It's a variation on an idea found on this blog post. I found it by googling, and honestly, there's a lot of fun to be had googling storage solutions. Some of Martha Stewart's are fascinating (if you have a palace). In the blogpost, she uses a piece of felt inside another, with the earrings pushed through the inner piece. I liked the idea, but didn't have any felt large enough. I did have an offcut of a wool blanket (most of it is inside a quilt), which being woven looked like it would work brilliantly. So I used that, and some more of my upholstery fabric stash for the outer. 

Earring holder Earring holder

Earring holder Earring holder

I haven't bothered with a proper closure, as this is only going to sit in my drawer. But it works a treat! The hoops are on pins. I don't often wear my dangly earrings, but now I can see what I have in one place and that makes it easier. As a result, I remembered and wore my Mickey Mouse earrings at Christmas. I can see improvements could be made to this - a stiffer case might be nice, a way to hang it up would be useful - but it's much better than the small pot and various boxes I had before. 

Then I still had the sewing machine out, Clarkie was still at work... I decided to deal with the belts. My belts have never had a home. They eventually sort of lived on the top of a chest of drawers, but we're not putting that back in the bedroom so they are homeless again. I googled again. I only have four belts, one of which doesn't have a traditional buckle, and this time I drew a bit of a blank. So I've improvised, and created a set of hanging, front-loading pockets that tie onto a hanger. Not clear? Try a photo. 

Hanging belt storage Hanging belt storage

(Yes, it's the hippo fabric again. I still have loads left.)

It's pretty straightforward. A long strip of fabric, hemmed (I cheated and used the selvedge - it's not going to be seen), folded in half longways and a line of stitching at various points to make the pockets. I made the ties, but ribbon would have been easier and possibly prettier. It holds my belts, hides in the wardrobe, and job's a good'un. 

I'm nearly well enough to try running again. In the meantime, wonder what I can make today?