Saturday, 12 September 2015

A sightseeing break in Northumberland

We spent a week in Northumberland in mid May. As with so many things, I've not had a chance to publish this blog about it before, as our house move had taken over our lives. Anyway, here it is, better late than never.  

We left home just before 11am, breaking the journey at Wetherby services and arrived at Beacon Hill Farm at 5pm. One of the owners, Christopher, gave us a guided tour of site on a golf buggy which had some novelty value. The site seemed to have everything we'd need, and some. The views from the site, and even our sofa were so far reaching, they immediately made us relaxed. We settled in, had dinner, sampled the cake that had been left for us and set about making plans for the next day. 
The next morning was Andrew's birthday so we got up and did presents. After breakfast we headed to Cragside, a National Trust property nearby. We started with the six mile scenic drive around the estate, stopping a couple of times for short walks and to take some photos. The only seating available for lunch was outside, and it coincided with the rain arriving, but what's an English holiday without eating in the rain?! After lunch we walked around the house then down and around the gardens to see the Archimedes screw. Again we were caught by the rain so we headed back to change before going back out to meet a family friend for a catch up and food. 
The next day we headed to Alnwick. We walked around the gardens first which were literally incredible, we spent a lot of time in the Serpent Garden admiring the water features. We had a break for lunch before heading on to the castle. It was very well stocked, the owners had clearly never had to sell off the family silver! Afterwards we headed into town for tea and cake and called for groceries on the way home. By the time we got back, we collapsed in front of the television for the night, with the woodburner keeping us warm.
After a couple of days of sightseeing, we decided to have a day of geocaching near Acklington. We picked a circuit and managed to do 14 succesfully. On the whole we were lucky with the weather, but could have done without it starting to hail as we walked across a very open field. Afterwards went to Amble for fish and chips, it took us a while to find the restaurant but food made it well worth it. 
The next day we had a plan to go to Holy Island and got up early so we could catch the tide. It took about an hour to get there and crossed before the water reached the causeway. We walked up to the castle first and then around the back to see the views and do a geocache. We met two other geocachers who pointed out the cache to us when our GPS was pinging about all over the place. Next we ventured inside the castle, which was interesting and compact. The wind was perishing on the way back into town and it started to rain as we hit the centre. We went for food at the post office as they had tables inside. It was a tiny space but the leek and potato soup was amazing. When we couldn't linger inside any longer we ventured to the priory, had a quick walk around in the wind, then into the church. We stopped for tea and cake as we waited for the causeway to reopen, then headed back.
After the weather the previous day, we decided we'd earned a lazy day and had a late breakfast and lounged around for a while in front of the fire. Once the rain tailed off we headed out for a walk. We went down to Meg's Lake first, it was incredibly windy but the weather improved as we walked around. Forgetting our plans for a lazy day, we then headed off to do the local geocaching trail. I could have done without crossing a field with a bull in, which stood up as we approached, but the views mostly made up for it. We finished what we thought was a circular walk but then had to head back, again passing Meg's Lake. The weather was horrible, cold, windy and hailing. We were glad to get back and get the fire roaring. After a snooze and some TV we headed out to the local pub, the Shoulder of Mutton, for tea. 
On our final day we headed for Embleton. We parked up and walked along the beach to Dunstanburgh Castle, which was stunning, doing a couple of caches on the way, then back along tracks and paths doing a final cache. We stopped at Alnwick on our way back for very well deserved food and cake. Afterwards we headed back to pack our bags and prepare for our journey home the next day.
We had a really good week in Northumberland and will be back to do a few things we didn't manage to fit in on this occasion. The accomodation was good, albeit the owners were a bit elusive, not responding to queries. We never did manage to find the tools for the woodburner, but managed to avoid third degree burns anyway!!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

90 day SSS - Cycle 1 Week 1

After a very busy and fairly stressful few months due to a house sale, purchase and move, it's fair to say that the mirror tells me that I'm a little rounder than I was this time last year. It's been on my list to do something about it, but I wasn't entirely sure what. I was aware of the Bodycoach on Twitter, and Instagram and the amazing transformations experienced by his clients, but it wasn't until one of my friends signed up and raved about it, that I decided I should join up too. 

I paid the fee a few months ago, with the intention of starting following my house move in May. A series of friends and family visits meant that this was pushed back, but my birthday appearing over the horizon made me think that it may be a good time. I completed and submitted the questionnaire and just under two weeks later received my plan through. It was long, but I read through it and made sense of it. Over a couple of nights I came up with a food plan for my first week and it took another night to turn that into a shopping list. I ordered the majority of the food from Ocado, in place of my usual online shopping order, and went to Sainsbury's to collect the fruit and veg, and any other items I couldn't get online. The food shop was a lot more expensive than usual, but that was mainly due to one-off items, such as herbs and spices which will be good for months to come. I also ordered protein powder and Walden's sauces online, followed by BCAA tablets and Quest snack bars. Once everything arrived, I thought I should be good to go. I set my start date for Monday 17th August. We had a final trip to Pizza Express on the Saturday and had three courses, I'll miss that cheesecake! 

Bodycoach plan and food planFull fridge

I spent the Sunday evening before I was due to start prepping the food I'd need for the next day, I'd not heard good things of the reduced carb oatmeal, so I baked that into biscuits and prepared the tasty tuna salad for lunch. I also made a batch of turkey bacon muffins for snacks. It was fairly full-on and exhausting but I felt I was ready to start as I meant to go on. In the morning I got up and had my oatmeal biscuits. They were very solid and even with some Walden's caramel syrup, they took me about 15 minutes to eat. I was a bit deflated, but headed off to work with my tuna salad. I had another disappoitnment at lunchtime, the sauce on the tuna was so mustardy, that I found it really difficult to eat. I struggled through, but it felt like a chore. Alongside all of this, I had to keep remembering to drink water, I have to drink almost three litres a day. I'm spending much more time on trips to the toilet than I ever have before! I had some melon mid afternoon which I enjoyed and which lifted my spirits. Straight after work I headed to the gym for my first HIIT. It went well, My heart rate probably isn't as high as some but my legs won't move any faster and risk buckling, so that'll do. 

HIIT heartrate

The rest of the week went much better. I had one breakdown on Tuesday night. I was making reduced oatmeal biscuits (to then break into cereal, eaten with milk they're much nicer), orange chicken salad and Mediterranean stuffed peppers. The fridge had had a panic with all the food we'd loaded into it and it's temperature had gone haywire, freezing my lettuce, spinach and peppers. We had some slightly mushy peppers for dinner and I had to buy (even) more lettuce, but apart from that everything went well. 

I've continued with only preparing breakfasts and lunches in advance, I make my evening meal fresh each night. Most of the food has been okay, although the muscle mince is like the magic porridge pot, however much you eat, your plate doesn't seem any emptier! Some of the food was a bit too herby for my tastes, but I can adjust that in week 2.  

The exercise had been tiring but doable. I went off plan one day and did a long walk, burning 800 calories, I decided that warranted a refuel mail even though it wasn't HIIT. I have to admit to struggling with the water intake though. I'm just rubbish at remembering to keep drinking, particularly when I'm busy. I'm also having more fruit as snacks than I should but decided it's probably better than skipping them.  I'm proud that I only went off plan once, when I had Welsh cakes with a friend. Hopefully I made up for it by missing breakfast and did a HIIT session afterwards.  

And so on to week 2. I'll do my next update at the end of Cycle 1. Fingers crossed I'll have something to show for the four weeks in pounds and inches. Until then I'm following the advice of Joe Wicks (the Bodycoach) and staying away from the sad step (aka the scales). 


At the end of Cycle 1 I decided not to proceed to Cycle 2. I stuck to the exercise side of the programme 100% and the food around 80% (probably more). However, after four weeks of seemingly endless food preparation I hadn't lost a single inch and although I'd lost three pounds, I just didn't feel my results reflected the amount of effort I'd put in.

I have my programme for Cycle 2 and may pick it up in the future, but for now will put the 90 day SSS programme to one side. I have however bought Joe's new book and so am looking forward to preparing some meals from that in the next few weeks. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Braces, the final chapter

I've had a busy year with a new job and house move and have noticed I didn't publish my final blog about my braces. Here it is, apologies for the delay, it should have been published in May 2014.

At my last appointment my teeth weren’t quite perfect, but we were at the stage where all my teeth were in the right place apart from my wisdom teeth. With those, the cusps of my top wisdom teeth were biting inside, rather than outside my lower wisdom teeth. Much as my orthodontist is a perfectionist, he had to accept that waiting months for teeth to correct which no one would ever see was perhaps a little unnecessary. He gave me the choice as to whether I wanted to wait for my wisdom teeth to right themselves, or finish treatment as I was. I ummed and erred but decided that after 18 months, I didn’t want to wait another six months for a change that no one would ever see. It was time to give up on the braces.

My wires were refitted, moulds were taken for my retainers and I was sent away to return in a couple of weeks’ time. Due to holiday commitments, it was actually four weeks by the time I returned.

It’s fair to say I was pretty anxious on the day. My orthodontist suggested I should be excited, but I was bothered by the unknown. Metal brackets come off easily enough if flexed in the right way, but ceramic brackets are more difficult. The metal brackets on my back teeth were taken off first, and then onto the ceramics. If I could hear two cracks that was good, it meant that the bracket had come off in one go. However, frequently I heard one crack, which meant that it was going to take a little more work to take them off. This normally finished with a crunching sound, which is never a good sound to come from your teeth. It was a little uncomfortable, especially on my front teeth, where it felt like they were being twisted out of their sockets, but not painful. My wires were taken out when about half of the brackets were removed, when it was easy to slide them out. My orthodontist used a water jet to remove any remnants of brackets, it was pretty much like having a shower, the water went everywhere, even down my neck, but at least it broke my tension. He had a look at my teeth and gums and was happy that they were healthy, most people have some pocketing in their gums as it's difficult to keep everything clean with braces on, but I'd done a good job with the orthodontic toothbrush heads and TePes.

I was then sent to the waiting room to wait for the next part. This was the bit I was dreading. I'd had previous experience of the hygienist, she’s thorough, very thorough, verging on too thorough. She welcomed me in, checked I hadn’t looked at my teeth (I hadn’t) and set to work. She started with a water jet, removing as much of the glue as possible. Next came a polisher which made a grinding sound, it was like having a pneumatic drill in my mouth when she was doing my back teeth. She felt over the surface of my teeth with her finger to make sure she’d got all the glue off as otherwise it would be prone to staining. So far, so good. Next was the ultrasonic device to remove any plaque. My back teeth on one side were so sensitive that she had to give up with this, and use a hand implement instead. Once she'd removed all of the plaque build up she finished with paper (like really fine sand paper) which she used to clean between my teeth. After this, she sandblasted the backs of my teeth, to ready them for the retainer. It was only at this point I was allowed to look at them. They looked good, but not like my teeth, so I found it strangely difficult to comment.

With that it was back down to the orthodontist. He fitted my fixed retainers by gluing them to the backs of my front six teeth, top and bottom, in much the same way as my braces were fitted initially. He warned that they’d take some getting used to and would taste a bit odd initially, but they didn’t cause me any issues. I was given another mirror to look at my teeth and then had impressions taken for my vacuum formed retainers. I needed to come back after a week for those.

It was only when I was at home and caught sight of myself in the mirror that I really saw my teeth. The close up I’d seen at the surgery was fine, but suddenly I could see them in the context of my whole face. It was so odd, but good odd.

A week later I went back for my retainers. My orthodontist fitted them to check the fit and then I had to practice getting them in and out. They were a tight fit, particularly due to gaps in my lower arch, but I managed to get them in and out. I was then trained in looking after them. I had to wear them every night (well, nearly every night) until my next appointment and let them know if I didn’t wear them, I shouldn’t clean them with chemicals or toothpaste, but could use my toothbrush, I could buy retainer tablets to keep them clean, but I shouldn’t put them in hot water (or the dishwasher!) as they’d melt, should keep them moist and in my retainer case, should let them know if they get harder to put in as it will mean I should wear them more and shouldn’t let them near dogs or they’d eat them! I reckoned I could cope with that. They took final photos, and showed me how I looked before and after. It felt a bit of an anticlimax as after eighteen months there was no fanfare, but at least now I’m less self conscious about my smile.

I have to go back in three to four months for a check up and six months to see if I’m ready to be weaned off my retainers. I’ll then be seen for a year or two for checkups, just to make sure my teeth don’t go anywhere.

I've been a bit slow at publishing this post, so I can say that with hindsight it was well worth doing. I'm a lot happier with my smile and it was worth the cost, mouth ulcers and eighteen months of wires. I broke virtually all the food rules I was given when I my braces were fitted but didn't lose a single bracket, not that I'd recommend not following an orthodontist's advice!

My before and after photographs are below. Not the most dramatic change, but I'm really happy with the results.

It's now over a year since I had my braces off. I wore my vacuum formed retainers every night for six months and was then weaned off them. I now wear them when I remember, once every two or three weeks. My teeth have probably moved very slightly, but I'm still happy with the result.