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!


Photography ideas to make your Instagram feed stand out -flat lay

I love order and symmetry, call me OCD or maybe it’s the mathematician inside me but either way, seeing pictures of these gorgeous flat lays really appeals to me. I’ve had a little dabble over the last few months and I really like the effect you can create using just a few of your favourite pieces


I’m a fabric hoarder, I love to buy off cuts of pretty fabrics which I always think will make a fabulous creation of course most of the time they just end up in my fabric stash. However they come in really handy for the base of the flat lay. Gorgeous paper napkins are also great as a base.


I’ve had a posy of spring flowers, tulips and hyacinth which are just coming to their last few days so a perfect time to trim them down and include them in my flat lay.


Finally a vibrant coloured new notebook picked up last week from TKMaxx will form a beautiful centrepiece.


Have a little play around with all the elements laying out a square of fabric and placing the pieces on in a symmetrical repetitive sequence. Play attention to the placing of objects of the same colour and keep moving bits around until it becomes pleasing to the eye.


I’ve included a couple of props for effect, a moka pot, a birthday card, cut out 50s, but for each picture, keep the elements simple and uncluttered.


You can rearrange and create 3 or 4 different pictures from the basic items giving completely differnt looks.

It might be winter but………

This has been officially the mildest winter so far and don’t we know it, daffodils are flowering already and it’s still only the 2nd week in January. These delightful daffodils were brought in a flower market over the weekend and are really brightening up my work space at the moment. I remember as a child waiting to see if the daffodils would flower in time for Mothers Day which is in March.

The grass has continued to grow not stop since last summer, ordinarily I would put the lawnmower away in November and not get it back out again until early March. Instead just two weeks ago I was still mowing. It was a little bit too wet for ideal conditions but I always find that if you just leave the grass to grow, it will be so long in February that when you do come to mow it, it becomes a big job and I think causes more moss to grow.

Last Sunday the weather was so lovely with the low spring sunshine I was really itching to get out into the garden and seeing as I needed to lift the last of the leeks I decided it would be good to dig over the whole veg plot whilst I was there.

It is so nice to get out into the fresh air, with some sun on your skin, you suddenly feel human again. I start wearing coat, hat scarf and gloves and after just a little bit of digging I’m casting off layers as you get so warm.

I felt very satisfied with a job well done and retreated indoors to start looking at the plug plants online ready for delivery in early spring.