Fit For Life – Phase 2

Phase 2 of an octant should take at least 12 hours to complete, it can be a continuation of Phase 1 or something new. For my Phase 2 I tried something new, the running which I have previously written so much about!

Phase 2: Complete Couch 2 5k (NHS running podcast series)

I took up running in July 2013. I decided to start exercising to help relieve stress. However I began to notice my level of fitness changing, and I began losing weight too. These were extra benefits, but not my reason for starting this.

My first couple of runs did not go very well. I barely ran up the road and back. I decided to investigate online training plans to hep new runners. I quickly discovered the NHS ‘Couch 2 5k’ plan. This is a series of podcasts that can help anyone starting running for 30 minutes (approximately 5k) within 3 months.


Immediately this series worked for me. The first week consisted of a 5 minute warm up walk, then 1 minute run, 1.5 minute walk (in total 8 times) then a 5 minute warm down walk. This was a lot more manageable. The podcasts advice to take a day’s rest in between runs and to complete the podcast 3 times a week.

Completing week 2 I decided to buy some specialist running trainers, which were noticeably bouncier.

I started writing a blog about some of my runs, and this helped motivate me to continue. I have attached some of these blogs as further evidence of my progress through the programme.

A significant moment in the training was on week 5. The final run of this week was a 20 minute run without any breaks for walking. I was very proud the first time I completed this. I can remember thinking in the final 2 minutes that I wouldn’t make it, but just told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It was another 3 weeks before I hit 30 minutes, but this was also a big achievement for me when I finally completed the programme.

I will continue my training, using the three additional NHS ‘5k plus’ podcasts as help but also using my own music playlists.


Another challenge I have set myself alongside running is to attend an outdoor gym once a week to work on my arm strength. For these sessions I run 10 minutes to the park. Work out for 10 minutes in the outdoor gym, and then run another 10 minutes home. (Plus a 5 minute warm up and warm down walk).

I think the ‘Couch 2 5k’ programme is exceptional, and always recommend it to anyone who mentions they wish to start running.



Fit For Life Octant – Phase 1

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the adventures I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Fit For Life Octant (many of which I may have mentioned before!)…

Phase 1: Try a water sport (White Water Rafting)

I’m not a good swimmer, so any sort of sport on water worries me. I thought trying white water rafting at Lee Valley White Water Centre may be a good start as I thought I may not get in the water too much, and it shouldn’t have been that deep!

On 11th March 2012 I tried out this sport. Before getting in the raft we were taught how to hold the oar depending on where we were in the course. Being a manmade course it gave us all the experiences we could expect on a natural river and how to deal with them. I was taught when to paddle, when to paddle harder, and when to hold the oar upright, away from the water and in a streamline position.

Thus sport was a good workout for my arms and shoulders, and I even managed to stay in the raft for the full session.


Phase 1: Take a lesson in skiing and a lesson in skydiving

On 3rd March 2011 I tried my first skiing lesson and first skydiving experience at Xscape Milton Keynes. The skiing lesson took place inside a large indoor slope. After being kitted out the first lesson was just learning to walk attached to skis. The lesson started on a flat piece of land practicing moving the skis and turning your feet in to stop. We then climbed the slope on a convaybelt to try keeping balance going down the slope. It was difficult to stop, and it felt like a panic as I went down the slope, focusing on the fact I needed to stop.

Later that day I tried my first sky diving experience in Xscape’s indoor airfix wind tunnel. The challenge here was to hold your body in the neutral position to keep you in the middle of the tunnel. This was tough to learn as there wasn’t a lot of time in the tunnel. It was great to experience how it would feel to skydive.


Phase 1: Try archery and clay pigeon shooting

I had tried archery once before as a Brownie, but in this session on 3rd December 2013 we were taught the importance of aim as we moved between lots of different shaped and sized targets. The further the target, the higher we aimed.

On 1st March 2014 I took part in a session of clay pigeon shooting. Again, this session helped improve my aim. There were two different types of shot, in the first the clay was shot directly in the air in front of me. I followed the clay with the gun, and when the clay reached its peak I shot. (Though there was the odd occasion when I didn’t actually have my finger on the trigger!) In the second type of shot the clay would be shot from underneath the hill we were standing on and moved quickly away from me. This was tougher, but I did hit a few of these. I was surprised to find the ricochet of the gun didn’t have much impact on my shoulder.

Of the two sports I found archery more difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge of this more so would choose to do this one again.


Independent Living Octant – Phase 3

Phase 3 of an octant is a long-term commitment and should take at least 30 hours, can include gaining a qualification or teaching something to others. My Phase 3 is something I completed in my personal life but took a lot of time, stress and brain power! In my mind the ultimate Independent Living challenge!

Phase 3: Buy a house

This process took almost a year to complete. The first task was to budget and once we had a figure in mind that we could afford we began looking at different properties. We started by looking at one bedroom homes in my home town. However these were often in communal grounds which brought additional costs and limited parking.

We then considered two bedroom houses in a town 30 minutes away.  We looked at around 15 houses in different parts of town before we settled on one house which had everything we both wanted. It had a small garden, parking for two cars, a small dining area and two bedrooms. We then started the process with the solicitor and returned to the house for a second viewing. Two months into the process however we received the homebuyer report and the environmental report. These documents showed the house had lots of issues, contaminated land, flooding risk and subsidence risk. The house did not pass the environment report for this reason. It was a difficult decision but we decided to withdraw our offer and began the process again.

To avoid similar problems occurring again we started to look at a different part of town. Our circumstances also changed which allowed for us to borrow more money and we could now afford a three bedroom house instead. We found a perfect property, viewed it and immediately put in an offer as we knew houses were selling quickly.

From here the process took another four months. In this time we reviewed the paperwork from the solicitor, purchased household items, and revisited the property several times to take measurements. As a completion date was set I arranged to transfer the money to the solicitor, had the mortgage confirmed by the bank and booked time of work to move.

On the completion day our priority was to change the locks. Using videos from the internet we were able to unscrew the original locks and replace them. Moving boxes took a long time as the journey from my old home to my new home takes 20-30 minutes so this was done over several days. Originally we moved all the boxes into the garage and gradually unpacked them into their allocated rooms. I also set about cleaning the entire kitchen, bathroom, all the carpets and the windows.

On the first few days I also set up accounts for gas and electricity, water, sewage, and council tax. Moving to a new area I also registered with a new GP and updated my details on the electoral role.

I’ve now been living in my home for over a year and gradually we improve it room by room. The ‘games’ room Mario mural is taking some time as our priority becomes the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room… But we love it!

Independent Living Octant – Phase 2

Phase 2 of an octant should take at least 12 hours to complete, it can be a continuation of Phase 1 or something new. For my Phase 2 I tried something new, and I set up this project once moving into my first home.

Phase 2: Learn 20 new recipes

My knowledge on cooking was low so after moving into our home I decided to learn to cook a range of meals, from everyday meals I’d never cooked myself to some more adventurous ones.

Recipe one: Sausage, Mash and Onion Gravy. Source: BBC Food website.

Recipe two: Spaghetti Carbonara. Source: Can’t Cook, Want To Learn by Carolyn Humphries.

Recipe three: Turkey Roast with potatoes, parsnips, carrots and green beans.


Recipe four: Pizza using base mix, with vegetable toppings. Source:


Recipe five: Enchiladas. Source:


Recipe six: Meatballs and Pasta. Source: Jamie’s Food Revolution


Recipe seven: Chocolate Brownies. Source:

Recipe eight: Sweet and Sour Pork. Source: Jamie’s Food Revolution


Recipe nine: Butterflied Streak Sarnie. Source: Jamie’s Food Revolution

Recipe ten: Sausage Plait. Source: Pies & Puds

Recipe eleven: Cookies. Source: BBC Food Website

Recipe twelve: Potato and Mushroom Gratin. Source: Vegetarian One Pot

Recipe thirteen: Mushroom stroganoff. Source: Vegetarian One Pot

Recipe fourteen: Lasagne. Source: Jamie’s Food Revolution

Recipe fifteen: Chocolate Mousse. Source: French Food & Language Course.

Recipe sixteen: Chicken Fajita. Source: Old El Passo

Recipe seventeen: Beef burgers and sweet potato wedges. Source: Jamie’s Food Revolution

Recipe eighteen: Carrot Cake. Source: BBC Food website

Recipe nineteen: Garlic Crispy Chicken. Source: Jamie’s Food Revolution

Recipe twenty: Pad Thai. Source: Vegetarian One Pot


Independent Living Octant – Phase 1

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the adventures I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Independent Living Octant…

Phase 1: Budget for buying a house

The very first aspect to work on when we considered buying a house was setting a budget. Setting up the figures on a spreadsheet I set a budget based on our net incomes, and researched the likely costs for utility bills, council tax and insurances.  I also considered how the costs would differ in two different towns, looking at travel, house insurance and council tax. Also on my budget was the cost of running two cars, a food budget, TV licence, healthcare, mobile contracts, clothing, gifts, and a reasonable amount of savings.

I then researched how much we would need for the cost of moving. This included the deposit, stamp duty, possible conveyancing costs and homebuyer survey.

Once we knew how much we could pay monthly for mortgage repayments I started to research how much local banks and building societies could lend to us.

Phase 1: Research solicitors and conveyancing

Having never needed a solicitor before, researching one was completely new to me. I started by finding names of solicitors that family and friends have used. I then called around these companies to get quotes for conveyancing. I found other local ones and could receive online quotes to compare the prices. We wanted to have all the possible searches so I ensured the quotes we were given included these.

The first house we put an offer in on fell through, and this gave us the opportunity to review the service we had received from our chosen solicitor and decided to research again to find someone more approachable. This time we chose a solicitor who was not recommended to us by family but someone I found myself. This solicitor kept in regular contact with us, answered all our questions and helped us through to buying our house.

Phase 1: Decorate and furnish new home

On moving into our home we needed furniture. As affordable options, I bought a range of flat pack items from Ikea and spent the first week building them. This included a TV stand, a dining table, six dining chairs, a sofa bed, a coffee table, two chest of drawers, two sets of bedside tables, a shoe rack and three bookcases.

While the room was empty we also decided to paint a wall of one bedroom. We chose the colour, bought rollers, masking tape and a step ladder, and prepped the room with plastic sheets and newspaper. The wall took one day to paint two coats.

Creativity Octant – Phase 1

I’m not sure where my post went for the activities I did for the Phase 1 of the creativity octant so here it is again!

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the experiences I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Creativity Octant…

Phase 1: Bake a chocolate & mango cake

As part of the hostess badge the Brownies were working on, the girls wanted to bake a cake. With little knowledge on baking I decided to have a test run at home. I found a great recipe in the 2014 Brownie Annual and used this, as including chocolate and mango made the cake appear yellow and brown, like Brownies!

I learnt to put more icing sugar into the icing mixture, as what I created turned into a runny mess! I somehow expected the icing to set once I spread it on top. I also forgot to include milk into the chocolate sponge mixture so this came out quite dry.

My second attempt came out a lot better, the sponge was softer and the icing was more firm. It was interesting to use mango in one of the sponges and the icing, I would never imagine putting fruit into a cake mix.

I used this experience to help the Brownie make a great cake between them, which we all enjoyed!


Phase 1: Try creating ‘feltie’ characters

Inspired by a book I was given as a present (“Felties” by Nelly Pallioux) I decided to try and stitch a ‘feltie’ character. The pattern for this dog was taken from the book.

To make this character first I made templates of each piece and cut them out of felt. The eyes are two small beads stitched to the felt, and the nose is also stitched. Some parts are glued together and then the head a body pieces were made of two same sized pieces of felt stitched together, I added stuffing as I went. This one character took over two hours to create; I hadn’t done much sewing before so this was a practice piece.

Considering this feltie only fits in the palm of your hand, it was a bigger challenge than I expected. But I thought the outcome was worth it.



Phase 1: Learn to knit

I was inspired to learn to knit by seeing the many charities asking volunteers to make blankets and scarfs, and wanted to try to help.

I had a beginners knitting set given to me with the intention of making a scarf.

Learning to knit was a real challenge for me; I want to start something again if it doesn’t look perfect straight away and while learning to knit my work looked far from perfect.

I learned to cast on, knit and purl using online tutorial videos uploaded by other knitters. Understanding whether I should knit or purl the next line was difficult at first. I spent 2-3 hours practicing on my this piece, but decided that knitting might not be something I would be able to continue doing as it took me a long time to create something I wasn’t satisfied with. I think if I decide to take up this hobby again I will invest in joining a class or group to be able to make the most of it. However, I am proud of what I did achieve.