The scent of self-indulgence fills the air

Sally's opinion on working out
I am proud of my workout routine.  It has taken me almost 3 years to build myself up to this level of commitment, but now Im at the point where I actually want to exercise.

This is my weekly exercise regime - 

  • 50 minutes swimming (breaststroke of course...dont like to get my hair wet!)
  • At least 5 hours walking Sally (for the record my dog gets way more exercise than this per week - mum has her when Im at work)
  • 700 stomach crunches (more if Im feeling energetic!)
  • 1.5 hours yoga
  • 1 hour weights (I use 1.5kg arm weights...Im no bodybuilder!)
And yeah I am proud of this.  It makes me feel good, and I am definitely the strongest and most flexible I have ever been.  I recommend increasing the amount of exercise you do to anyone, it is incredibly good for you and helps to counteract the negative effects of our modern lifestyles.  Research even shows that it can be as good a cure for depression as taking antidepressants.
I also watch what I eat, lots of fruit & veggies, lots of fish and lean meat, minimal carbs.  I drink loads of water and herbal teas, and hardly any alcohol (I know...boring right!).  I weigh less than 120 lbs...and yet....and body still doesnt look like the girls on tv!

I remember once in my mid teens when I was hanging out at my local outdoor pool where I used to volunteer in the shop.  It was a sunny day but the pool was empty as usual, and the lifeguard and I were sat outside sunbathing in our bikinis.  I can clearly remember comparing her stomach to mine and thinking to myself how lucky I was to have my teenage flat stomach stretched tight like a drumskin...and wondering why anyone would let their bodies change.  She wasnt fat at all...just human.  Her stomach looked like soft dough, not like the taut flat airbrushed photo-perfect image we are encultured into believing is normal.

And you know what, despite my 700 crunches a week - neither does mine.  And I think 700 crunches is a lot! What kind of fanatical dedication would it take to reach the standards that we are told to believe is "normal"? What kind of world do we live in - which teaches us to look upon religious, educational, sporting, political and most other kinds of fanaticism at best as an achievement for the minority and more often as something dangerous to be discouraged at any cost.  Fanaticism is not a concept we associate with normality.  But when it comes to physical beauty, nothing short of fanaticism is required just to be considered normal! What! Why! Thats crazy.  Yes its crazy and illogical, but its worse than that.  It is psychologically and physically damaging to our children, to our women, to ourselves.

Its one of my pet hates against Western culture.  I have vowed many a time that if I ever have a daughter, I refuse to bring her up in a culture that assesses her value based primarily on her youth and her appearance.

Rant over, time to go do some more stomach crunches.  Aah sweet hypocrisy.

Going backwards...or how to buy a campervan cooker

So I was all psyched up to write a super post about the shiny new cooker I had ordered for my van, why I chose it and what options there are.  But...then I realised that its actually been 2 weeks since I ordered it...and it hasnt arrived.  After a bit of a hunt around on Ebay I found that the seller I bought it from is no longer registered on Ebay.  I dont think this is a good sign.  But I have raised a Resolution Centre Case on Ebay and sent the seller a nice email after finding their email address via PayPal.  So we will see what happens.  Hopefully I will get my money back...although I really want my cooker! Sigh.

On to a slightly deflated cooker post.  One of the requirements to get the van recategorised as a motorhome (which is good because it makes tax and insurance cheaper) is having a permanently fixed in cooker.

Smev hob
I would have loved to get a proper caravan cooker that embeds into the top of the unit, because they look super smart and neat, the controls are on top, theres no rattling around, they are easier to fit and they are also way smaller than free-standing camping cookers.  The best ones out there seem to be Smev...check out these little babies!

 HOWEVER, these things are expensive!  Even second hand on Ebay they are almost £100, and the new ones are even worse!  So despite how perfectly sized they are, and how awesome they would look in my van, I decided I really couldnt justify spending £50 more on a second hand caravan cooker than I could spend on a brand new camping cooker.

Gelert Economy Double Burner
So after much search to find the smallest camping cooker I could find, I settled on this one from Gelert.  I am going to be using Camping Gaz with my cooker (the other options are butane or propane) - as this is apparently the only type of gas you can get with standard sized connectors across Europe (crazy huh!).  If the gas bottle doesnt have a connector which matches what you have fitted - you cant use it.  Pretty much every cooker is compatible with all types of gas, you just have to get the correct fitting pieces so that it will connect to the type of gas you want.

So in my usual search for a bargain, I searched around until I found the best price.  And I found it.  On Ebay.  Sigh.

I would say I had learnt a lesson - but to be honest I have never had any problems before with anything I have purchased on Ebay - so at the moment I am still pretty hopeful that either the money or the cooker will make its way back to me.

Its just frustrating not to have my cooker yet! Ah well...

Aww...I love my Vee Dub

(And the second vehicle in the commercial is just like my van...yay!)

The dog, the girl and the wardrobe

Welcome to my wardrobe! (and yes I am devoting a post to a wardrobe...but you know what...I am super excited about my wardrobe)

I have built up the bottom of my wardrobe so there will be a 30 cm gap between the bottom of the sliding doors and the floor.  It has to have sliding doors because there isnt enough room to have ones that open outwards...eek!  

So the advantage of having doors that dont come down to the floor is that this way I can just stick stuff down in the bottom section there without having to worry about it being secured when Im driving...because it cant fall out when I open the doors.  Awesome! That big old grey boxy thing is the cover of the wheel arch - Im losing so much space to those things but it cant be helped.  Its still better than the really old (and super cute) VWs where the engine is in the rear of the van...imagine how much space you lose then!

Then I am going to have 3 of these brilliant little things inside the wardrobe...

These are great because they are made of fabric so super light compared to shelves, they are also nice and cheap (£7 each from Argos).  Each pocket will fit to the shape of the things inside it a bit and there will be no space wasted between them like there would be with plastic boxes.  Also the pockets will dip down when they are filled so the stuff inside wont slide around.  Stopping things sliding is a totally new consideration when you are planning a van - when you drive, if it can move then it will.  And the last thing you want is stuff breaking or falling out all over the place.

The storage pockets will go onto a rail and then be attached to the back wall to stop them swinging around...something like this...

To make the sliding doors I have ordered some runners for the kind of sliding glass doors you get on terrariums (is that the right word...I mean houses for snakes, lizards and the like).  Into this 3 pieces of 6mm ply will be slotted with finger holes to move them.  There has to be 3 because if there was only 2 it would not be easy to access the central hanging pocket unit.

And that, dear readers, is my wardrobe.  I suspect the world may not share my wardrobe-based excitement!

On the subject of readers, for some unknown reason my site traffic has increased by about 10x in the last couple of weeks.  This is pretty unexpected, Im really only training myself up for writing when I start to travel so I havent even given the link to any of my family and friends yet.  But its awesome, hi guys! I hope you are getting something out of what I write, I'd love to hear from you. Big love.

Bon Iver's new album...available now for your ears!

Bon Iver's new album "Bon Iver" is available now...and you can listen in full for Yay.  Listening time!

Its beautiful stuff.  And while there is no Skinny Love on here - which in a way is a shame - in another way I think thats a good thing.

I could praise Skinny Love and Bon Iver's earlier work for being written with the kind of passion and emotion that music is supposed to contain.  When music contains passion and emotion of that depth, it becomes so personalised that it can be almost impossible to relate to, impossible to understand.  But that's the way it should be, when you truly write from the heart nothing generic or universal can possibly come out.

So to praise Bon Iver for his individuality and honesty on one hand, then criticise for not producing the same thing time and time again, would be somewhat hypocritical of me.  Yes it is a new direction for him, but I think it honestly reflects his personal changes.  He is in a different place now, and so is his music.  

And it is beautiful.

Furniture fumblings

Me and my oh-so-useful friend (who owns all the useful tools and all the manly expertise that I lack) have been working on the van furniture these last few weeks.

We have just finished making templates of the furniture sides in scrap wood he had lying around.  Templates seemed like a good idea because the shape that is needed has a curved edge to cope with the weird wall shape that apparently VW think its funny to make vans with.  Cue lots of measuring and trimming and reshaping and swearing to get it right!

Cupboard with curved walls!
Anyway we made them fit in the end so it should all be downhill from here.  Next step is to decide where I want any shelves and partitions inside the units, then choose the colour I want to paint them (now that sounds like my kind of job!).  As the floor is black and the walls are carpeted in grey where you cant see the blue van metal I think Im probably going to go for a light green or blue.  Then its just a matter of cutting the plywood (think Im going for 9mm) to the right shape and then fixing it all together! Sorted.  

We are planning to do some neat little shelves on the outside of the units at the rear of the van because otherwise there would be quite a bit of unused space back there as you cant extend the units all the way to the doors.  Sneaking in extra storage like this will make a big difference!

Kitchen unit

Looking forward to posting pictures of the finished units!

newspaper map | 10000+ online newspapers in the world, translate with one click

newspaper map | 10000+ online newspapers in the world, translate with one click

Well this is fun...and it works!

Mmmm Benco!

I am a Benco addict...and proud.  A French guy at work introduced us to Benco...and the entire office is now addicted.

So addicted in fact that one of the guys recently went on a Benco run to France.  Now going on a wine or beer run to France is pretty normal...if you live on the south coast of England. But we live over 600km from France, and this wasnt a wine run.  This was a Benco run. But as you cant buy Benco in the UK...what else could we do!

Benco is kind of like Nesquik, or Milo...or any other kind of chocolate milkshake powder you can buy.  But better! Soooooooooo much better.  And by better I pretty much just mean more addictive. Nom nom nom!

I wish I had been there to see the customs official's face as he inspected my friend's Mini full of Benco as he arrived back into England.  Priceless.

A day in the life of...a dog agility show

This weekend was my dog training club's agility show, so as I have pretty much lived and breathed agility for the last 48's a taste of what I have been up to. Ive had a really great weekend! So happy...and SO tired!

5.30 am ... Day visitors rouse themselves and their pack of excitable canines from their sleep to begin the journey to the show

7.00 am ... Weekend campers slowly wake up in their tents and caravans on the showfield as the morning chorus of barking dogs slowly rises up in the clear cool air

7.30 am ... The club who is holding the show swarm everywhere like ants, setting up the various show rings.  There are jumps to be moved to set up courses, boxes of snacks for the people who will spend the day helping out on each ring and endless steaming flasks to be filled for thirsty helpers

8.00 am ... The (human) competitors are out walking the agility courses.  These consist of various numbered obstacles.  Dogs must complete each obstacle in the correct way and in numerical order within a given time to get a clear round.

8.15 am ... The judges brief the competitors.  The judge is responsible for deciding whether a dog completes obstacles in the correct manner

8.30 am .... The first dogs are ready on the starting line and the classes begin.  There can be over 200 dogs in a class (they are grouped based on size and ability level), so the "rinse-repeat" flow of dogs through the ring has to be smooth and continuous

9.30 am ... As each class finishes, the course is changed for the next class and walked by the handlers, the presentation of rosettes and trophies occurs for the class which is finished and then the whole process starts off again

12.30 pm ... The rings fall quiet as everyone breaks for lunch

1.30 pm ... And they are off again!  As well as the ability level classes, there are also special classes for junior handlers and for veteran dogs.  The old dogs only get one run a day compared to the 3 - 5 a younger dog will get, but they love to still get the chance to participate in the sport they have loved for many years

4.00 pm ... As the last classes finish, everyone joins in to help take the equipment to pieces and tidy up the showfield.  

6.00 pm ... The very last tired and happy dogs and handlers finally leave the now deserted showfield - the show is over - until the next time!

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