Creating a home gym on a budget

We have been very fortunate to have had a free corporate membership of a gym for the last 8 years, sometimes we used it 3 or 4 times a week and other times we could go for 3 months without going. That is the nature of gym membership, some 70% of memberships are rarely used.

download So now that I’ve left the job and no longer have the free membership we were in a dilemma last year when we decided we really needed to get back our fitness and get into shape. We weighed up the options of re-joining our old gym. This gym in Oxford is currently £82 a month plus £30 joining fee per person. For a 12 month package that would amount to £2012 for the two of us. I know for that fee you would get the full facilities including classes and swimming etc but we also knew from our previous use that the only things we really use were the fitness machines and weights machines. In fact my preferred machine was the treadmill and occasionally used the bikes.

IMG_5726It was at this point we looked into the option of a home gym. We were very lucky that the year before we added a summerhouse to the garden the intention of which was to be a quiet sitting area at the end of the garden. The summerhouse measures 10ft x 8ft and cost approx £1000

IMG_5732 We decided however that perhaps this could house a gym, a perfect solution to our dilemma, it would be a few seconds away, so no excuses you couldn’t be bothered to go to the gym and the machines would always be available.

Our next quest was to find suitable equipment that would be professional enough to feel you were getting a decent workout but wouldn’t be too expensive. Ebay was the perfect answer and we found a 2nd hand professional treadmill only 10 or so miles away and only £150. It was a bit of a mission getting it in the car and home, but we did it.


We also wanted a weights machine which we found in Argos in the sale, £120 and it would have sufficient weights for the workouts we were intending. Again the assembly was somewhat stressful but several hours later it was up and running.


Over the following few months as we were using the home gym on a regular basis we had 3 or 4 trips to decathlon who do a fantastic range of exercise equipment and added hand weights, kettle bells, an inflatable ball and exercise bench to our set up.


The total cost of equipping the gym came to approx £350 and since creating our home gym I use the treadmill every evening for 1/2 hour when I get in from work and in the morning on a weekend except during the winter months when the evenings were too dark and I used it on a Saturday and Sunday morning only. A real saving on even one years gym membership and we’ve now had our gym for nearly 2 years. Now we are heading towards the spring again, my evening routine is about to recommence…..


Gluten free soda bread, a quick and easy recipe


I’ve been diagnosed coeliac for the last 10 years and during that time have experimented with many different GF recipes. Mostly they have been very successful but one area that has not yielded much success is making bread. I brought a bread maker about 5 or 6 years ago in the hopes that this may be the answer, but unfortunately no luck for me. So no matter what I’ve tried, I seem to have spent hours, mixing and proving only to end up with a heavy, solid loaf.

The success came when our sons jointly bought me a KitchenAid, a special treat for my ‘big’ birthday. Also I found a recipe for a no yeast, no proving needed, soda bread recipe.

The kitchen aid comes with three attachments, one of which is a dough hook,


The dough hook has the action of kneeding the mix to add air, which I do remember back from my childhood days of my Mums old Kenwood Chef.

                                                  credit: pinterest

So I set about experimenting to create the soda bread. One of the key things it seems to me, is that you are always told not to overwork the GF flour, so in the past I would’ve done a limited amount of kneeding, but oh no, it seems that allowing the dough hook to thoroughly mix and then kneed the dough seems to be the answer.


400g GF Self raising four (some extra if the mixture seems too wet)

1/2 tsp baking power

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

300ml butter milk

1 egg

Mix the egg with the buttermilk, then add all ingredients into the KitchenAid

With the dough hook attachment, allow all the ingredients to thoroughly combine, ensure all the flour has mixed in,

Then allow the dough hook to mix for at least 10mins.

Prepare either a 1lb loaf tin or a baking tray.

Either put all the mixture into the loaf tin and bake at 160 deg for 35 to 40 mins

or place small balls of dough on the baking tray and bake at 160 deg for 25 -30 mins.

The dough will rise beautifully giving tasty soft textured bread.


Best eaten the same day 🌟

Is it time for a decorating refresh?

Our kitchen was one of the first rooms we decorated when we re-modelled the house. As we have gloss white units we decided to paint an accent wall behind the cupboards a colour that would make the white stand out against it. This bright teal blue was chosen to blend with the duck egg blue on the other three walls and provide a real statement.


Of course that was 4 years and since then we have added this painted grey bookcase bureau and have replaced most of the white stools with grey. Just recently I’ve started to think the bright colour is beginning to look quite dated and every time I look at it I think perhaps it’s time for a refresh. The trouble is what colour to choose?


I like the Laura Ashley pale duck egg on the other three walls so really we need to blend in with that. The white fireplace and gloss white cupboards also need a colour to sit against. We like grey and have grey in nearly all the other rooms in the house in various Farrow and Ball colours, so wonder if another room painted grey would be a bit too much?


Out with the paint charts and glass of wine and let’s see if we can make any progress and come to any conclusions, Wish me luck!


What’s Going To Be Hot in 2016

Last day of the holidays before we have to get back to work. I love the holidays with the long leisurely days where you can get up anytime you like and do whatever you want without clock watching. But I do know without a job you can’t have holidays or the money to fund them! Fortunately  I do actually love my job but the regular holidays are just right for a complete relax and refresh.

It’s in the holidays I have the time to think and reflect on life. I was watching Sunday Brunch this morning who were talking about how we know what trends are going to coming this year. One of their guests was a person whose job it is to go to the hip places and see what the trend setters are up to and pass this information to all the high street chains. It makes you realise why everyone has similar ideas, shops are stocking similar things and why fashions and fads are so here today, gone tomorrow. Even the simplest action such as having the top button done up on a shirt spreads around quickly as the way to wear a shirt.

Nobody wants to think they are behind the times. Who would’ve thought pulled pork would’ve started in a Michelin starred restaurant and ended up being sold in Greggs.

Predictions for 2016 include more wearable technology, lower sugar foods, calling our babies non gender names, Wilder, Jagger, Indigo or Blues,

hmm food for thought.