Berry good fun

This weekend I took the boys to East Yonderton Farm for some fruit picking. Last year we were too late for the strawberry crop so when I heard that the farm had opened on Friday for strawberries I thought we better try and beat the rush this year. This weekend the fields were busy and the farm has already posted that existing strawberry crops have been exhausted. The other crops (broccoli, peas, redcurrants,blackcurrants and raspberries) are not yet ready and the only other available fruit was gooseberries which were not yet quite ripe and soft. (We still picked some gooseberries nevertheless!)

I gave the boys the rules for picking – No green ones, no ones with holes or bites in them and no eating (except a very occasional “wee nip”) and my busy bees were productive:SAM_8276SAM_8278

As ever I didn’t have the sense to curtail the picking and we picked three baskets full!

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This has resulted in a rather busy time preparing fruit for jams and crumbles. If anyone wants anything to eat in the next couple of days, they will be given strawberries!

I can highly East Yonderton. Fruit picking is a fun day out and the staff are very friendly and helpful. Scott and Luke were delighted to get a sit on the quad bike:

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After a picnic break, we headed back to the fields to pick some gooseberries.SAM_8282

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Luke wasn’t so keen to pick the gooseberries because of the jaggy bushes.SAM_8289SAM_8293

Some of the fruits of our labours:SAM_8306

I made three jars of strawberry jam, one jar of gooseberry jam and a gooseberry crumble. The rest of the strawberries are in the fridge ready to eat or ready to foist on family and friends!

Scott has his heart set on some more picking later on in the summer so hopefully we will fit it in. Fortunately it will be other fruit and vegetables as I have a feeling that this house may be a little sick of strawberries soon!

 

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Sunshine and showers

This weekend was definitely meant to be spent outside. Though to my mind it was a bit blowy when we went to the park yesterday.SAM_8132A bit of DIY over the weekend:SAM_8128

Today was warmer so we took the boat over to Dunoon and our first stop was the Royal Botanic Gardens at Benmore. Once we got over the initial having to stick to the path and “you can’t go wandering through the plants and flowers” we had a lovely walk.SAM_8137SAM_8140SAM_8143The viewpoint:SAM_8144SAM_8145

After lunch we went to Loch Eck to cool off:SAM_8146SAM_8147SAM_8149SAM_8150SAM_8151SAM_8152SAM_8153SAM_8154SAM_8155SAM_8157SAM_8158SAM_8159SAM_8161The cost of this adventure included a pair of Crocs. Despite Billy’s best efforts and repeated “Why wouldn’t Crocs float?”, the Crocs could not be located…SAM_8163

Last weekend gave some wetter weather on Sunday so we had a softplay day:

This “Take the L” business is wearing me down:Luke giving the L

Luke also made his Mini Kickers debut this week. Scott was there to show him the ropes.

Signing off for a while now as Round 2 of marking season begins this week. 😦

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3rd Birthday Bakes

Paw Patrol was the main birthday theme for Luke this year. I did my usual checking of ideas on-line and saw many examples that were way beyond my capabilities. In the end, I amalgamated a few ideas – The Marshall collar, the paw prints and the Paw Patrol Logo. Making my own sugar-craft pups was never on the cards so I bought three Paw Patrol toys. His favourite pups change from day to day so I chose the ones with the best vehicles as accessories!

I made a three layer sponge (6 eggs) and covered in vanilla buttercream, sandwiched with jam and buttercream.paw patrol cake uniced

I finally invested in a spinning turntable which makes the icing process a bit easier. The collar was straightforward enough and the paw prints were fine, if a little time consuming. I copied the template of the logo and used my other purchase, alphabet cookie cutters, to get the “Paw” part. I was delighted with how well the cookie stamper I had worked to make the “Patrol” on the bone. So much so that I decided to make a “Luke” one for the top of the cake too!iced paw patrol

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Luke got a nice wee surprise after the cake was cut when I brought out the vehicles for the pups:

My cake choice for Luke’s actual birthday was a rainbow cake. I just love the look of a rainbow cake. I went for 5 layers (thinner layers – just 1 egg each layer). The real challenge of this cake is the patience to clean the mixer and bowl after each layer to make sure the dye does not mix. I covered the cake in vanilla buttercream and hundreds and thousands. If anyone knows a way of doing this without covering the kitchen in hundreds and thousands, please share it!rainbow cakehundreds and thousands

It is always slightly nerve-wrecking checking if the colours will work out when you cut the cake so I was pleased to see the clear definition between layers.SAM_8126

The laugh of it all is that Luke doesn’t really like cake!!!

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Big Three

Dear Lukey, Lukester,

Here we are with you now a 3 year old. I can almost touch the memory of you as a quiet little baby bouncing in your chair.

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You are definitely not so quiet these days, but your eyes still shine with happiness when your brother plays with you. There is nothing you like more than making Scott laugh with your silliness. You melt many a heart every morning I drop Scott off at Pups and you tag along on his coat-tails asking him what he is going to play with before giving him a big cuddle and saying, “Bye Scotty. Love you.”SAM_8025

 

Your imagination is running away to far away lands of pirates, vikings and superheroes. You thrive playing with other children and would be happy outside all day long. I could weep when I hear you sing! Your wee voice is so precious. Even when you are singing “There’s soot in my sack, my beard is black, my nose is tickling too..” in April; there is still something so cute going on!

Although you can be unbelievably cute, you have certainly developed quite a temper. When you put your foot down, you will not be turned and I am often amazed at your stamina to stick to your guns when a tantrum kicks in. I hope that stubbornness and determination will one day serve you well.

You are certainly determined to have your own style and wear what you want:SAM_7977.JPG

You can be such a sweet boy. I love your “Thank you, Mummy.” I have heard you sweetly ask other children, “Would you like to play hide and seek with me?” I have also seen you give others a shot of your toys with a little, “There you go.” A little girl was crying at the park and you walked over and gave her one of your Quavers with a “Don’t cry. There you go.” I hope this deep and genuine kindness stays with you always , even when the world tries to squash it out.

Hold onto your kindness, and you will be so much happier.

Hold on to your excitement, because too many people grow up to be bored and dull.SAM_8011

The world is an exciting place, and right now you appreciate that perfectly. I see it in the way you flap your arms with elation when you see the street sweeper, or when you squeal with joy when the spray from the sea hits you on the face. I see it in the way you jump up and down and your whole face lights up when I say you can jump in puddles or that we can go to the beach.

I am nowhere near the perfect mum, but I hope I am the perfect mum for you. I am always trying to be better for you – to be more patient, to live in the moment, to slow down and not rush you (and to not give in to your requests for chocolate!) in the hope that your life will be better for it. My promise to you is to never stop trying.

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Happy 3rd birthday Luke x

This is the first year we have asked you these questions:

Favourite colour: red

Favourite food: macaroni cheese

Favourite toy: bricks

Favourite story: Animal book and Peter Rabbit

Favourite TV programme or film: Paw Patrol

Favourite superhero –  Captain America

Favourite song – Sleeping Bunnies

 

 

 

 

 

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Things we do at weekends

Life is kind of busy at the moment so I don’t have much time to review the weekends. My energy levels at weekends have been rubbish so a lot of time has been spent close to home and getting out of my dressing gown has been a bit of a struggle. I have probably missed a few opportunities to get outside when I could, but there have certainly been a few nice days. The running side of me is on a bit of a hiatus, due in large part to lack of time, due in part to a few nagging injuries and also due to a bit of jadedness. In saying that, on checking my Strava account, I see I am averaging 26 miles a week, but no longer runs have been on the agenda. I keep talking about getting another run booked up, but haven’t got round to it, yet.

This weekend has definitely had the best of the sunshine so far this year. We ticked another castle off our list, closer to home this time at Dundonald. The boys were delighted to borrow some of the props from the visitor centre:SAM_8036SAM_8040

We had a lovely picnic on the hill before exploring the castle:SAM_8045SAM_8048SAM_8049SAM_8050SAM_8052

We also had time for a visit to Dean Park:SAM_8055SAM_8057

Which included our now traditional paddling session which turns into an open water swim!SAM_8058SAM_8063SAM_8064SAM_8065SAM_8066SAM_8067SAM_8068SAM_8069SAM_8076SAM_8077SAM_8080SAM_8081SAM_8082

Given the running theme of water that seems to feature in our days out you would think I would learn my lesson and bring a towel!

Last week when we went to Luss, another full change of clothes x2 was required:SAM_8031

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My latest attempt at Culzean was cut short by hail stones. All after we had enjoyed a brief stint of sunshine:SAM_8016SAM_8017SAM_8021SAM_8005SAM_8011SAM_8013SAM_8014SAM_8015SAM_8025SAM_8022The sky got darker and darker and then after sheltering for half an hour we gave up and dashed to the car.

I have had a couple of adventures at the burn and the park with the wee one when the big one has had other fish to fry.

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These are definitely the best bits. No dressing gown pics to share! 🙂

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Easter holiday in Winter

As the holiday draws to a close, I am pausing for a moment to remember some of the best bits in terms of days out. The weather really did not oblige most of the time and the feeling of being cold outdoors has been in the air. We were forced in to softplay and swimming several times and Luke had his first cinema experience with the Peter Rabbit Movie.

Most of my days out have been with the wee one as Scott has been otherwise engaged at football. I have had a wee sense of “lasts” with Luke as he is moving out of the baby phase. He is definitely his own little person and he has insisted on various clothing choices over the past couple of weeks, but the Paw Patrol wellies have been a constant come rain or shine!

wk obstacleThe poor wee guy has done a fair bit of hanging around in the cold and rain in the wake of his big brother.

I have taken him for a couple of runs in the pram to kill some time while we were down at West Kilbride football camp and get some miles in for me. It is easier when he falls asleep, otherwise I need to talk and run the full way! I know that this is on its way out and my trusty Bob will not be seeing much more use.

Scott off to “crazy hair day” at football camp:scott crazy haircrazy hair with l

A trip to Millport is Luke’s number one destination at the moment and he is at such a great age for appreciating  the simple things. He just loves the ferry and bus trip.

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A wee wander on the beach to splash in puddles, pick up shells or throw stones has him in his element.SAM_7889SAM_7890SAM_7891SAM_7892

One of the days we took a spade and his dumper truck and easily passed an hour:SAM_7941SAM_7942SAM_7944SAM_7948SAM_7953

We were also lucky enough to spot lots of seals:SAM_7950

Luckily the trampoline man isn’t strict about the time limits as Luke was on here for 45 minutes!

I was standing freezing with my hat and gloves on when he insisted on stripping down!

Day 2:SAM_7955

The bouncy castle was not such a big draw for him the first day and he was beaten by the big slide.SAM_7900

The second day we went however, he was determined to go down the big slide and was so chuffed with himself when he plucked up the courage to do it!Luke bouncy slideSAM_7967SAM_7968SAM_7969

My final “shows spends” was on the mini carouselSAM_7904

And the swings:SAM_7974

He was such a wee joy to take for a day out, but I was knackered pushing him on the round-about:SAM_7907SAM_7909SAM_7976

We also did the obligatory tourist visit to Crocodile Rock:SAM_7959SAM_7957

I cheated him out of the bus ride back to the ferry as I walked. The second time ended up being a bit embarrassing as I had to put the speed on the last mile or so to try to make the ferry and the bus stopped and asked me if I wanted a lift. I got a few cheers and “well dones” from fellow passengers when I made it to the ferry by the skin of my teeth!

It seems a while ago now, but when we were in Dunbar we visited Dirleton Castle. We have been before, but it was only a short drive away and it is a right good castle. (It is also a Historic Scotland site and we have membership.) I only have pics of Scott as Billy stayed in the car with a sleeping Luke and by the time they came out my post ultra fatigued body needed a rest and I sat while the others explored.

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I was forced into Laser Matrix with Scott on a rainy day. It is not my favourite place, but Scott loves it. Our other day out was an away day to see Killie at Firhill, home of Partick Thistle. Fortunately, the result went our way again:

Our only family trip back home was to Culzean Castle. I have avoided this for a while as the £40 seemed expensive and as members of the rivals it seemed a bit much to pay out to another organisation. However, we decided to treat ourselves and go and try it out. The beach surrounds do make a lovely setting – Even more so on a warm day, I imagine!

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SAM_7913Initially I wasn’t overly impressed but I was won over by the amazing time that both boys had in the adventure fort.

This boy LOVED the zip-line:SAM_7923

They were both happy off exploring all the different areas and climbing and jumping and sliding:

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So guess what we did? Yes, we ended up paying another £62 for annual membership! I am already anxious about making sure we get our money’s worth and have my eye on a few further day trips.

As ever, I am sad that these holiday days together are coming to an end and the grind of marking and working looms large. Hopefully the nicer weather is round the corner to sustain me with our weekend days out.

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John Muir Way Ultra Race Recap

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”  John Muir

A week out from the race, I feel like my recap may be a bit different from the one I may have written it on the same day, or the day after. The immediate pain of the event has faded and the relief at having reached the finish line has passed. Running has been very much in my mind over the past week as I have thought about where I am and what I would like to do.

On Race Day I arrived at Foxlake HQ at around 7am. The weather was not like this last Saturday, but Foxlake looks great fun on a nice day.

I was concerned that the two hours till the start of the race would pass slowly, but I found I had plenty to keep me occupied. I had to register, get my number and get my chip sorted. I tried to eat some more breakfast, but couldn’t manage. (I had porridge before I left the house and this filled me.) I got chatting to a few veterans of ultra running and was interested to hear of all their experiences. I am fascinated by people who do this regularly and how they work it into their lives. We were loaded onto buses to take us to the start line at Port Seaton. Bag drops were provided both at the finish area (Foxlake) and at the start so there was plenty of opportunity to shed layers at the start and have fresh clothes waiting at the finish.

The weather was harsh throughout. This is one of the few times on a run of distance that I have not thought about taking my hat off. I also had ear warmers on underneath which stayed on the entire time. My gloves did come off briefly near the start, but I needed them most of the time. I cannot recall ever racing in both tights and a jacket either. There were rain showers and sleet showers throughout the run, but the exposed parts with the wind were the worst.

The first 3 miles were along a narrow coastal path:

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My fears of getting lost were unfounded as the route was well-marked and on the couple of occasions when I was by myself a quick look to see the markings or a fellow runner in the distance reassured me I was on the right path.

The first few miles were filled with speed time calculations in my head. I was concerned to feel the ongoing IT band issue  starting to irritate after around 6 miles. I knew it was likely going to hurt, but had hoped to get further in before it became a problem. Unfortunately, the pain got worse as the race went on and the sudden movements, slipping on muddy trails exacerbated the situation.

The terrain was more challenging than I had expected and I frequently felt like I had under-estimated the challenge. The mud was horrendous at times and it was difficult to walk, let alone run. The hills were also a bit more undulating than I had expected.

This is the view from the top of a stretch that felt like miles and miles…

john muir way sign

The aid stations were a real beacon of light in what felt like a grim struggle. I loved the orange slices and the kindness of marshals could push an emotional runner over the edge! Due to the conditions, at every aid station we were asked if we were “too cold” and if we wanted to continue. As the race went on, it was mighty tempting to say “No.”

This was the halfway point at North Berwick at the changeover point for relay runners. I could very cheerfully have finished at this point after a blustery run along the beach.

The stretch from the halfway point to around 20 miles was my most successful part of the race. From here on, the wheels really came off. My leg hurt more and more and the run through muddy, squelchy paths was soul-destroying.

By the time I reached the last aid station I felt incoherent and broken. I glugged Coke that was offered and it tasted great,

Billy and the boys were here at this point to cheer me on. I think I told Billy I was dying. I was barely moving!SAM_7855SAM_7856

The last 5 miles took me just over an hour. My leg was really hurting and the run in along the coast was hellish. I fell several times in the mud and the wind in my face and occasional spray from the sea  was not helping me get anywhere. The camaraderie of fellow runners did help a little as I realised I was not the only one suffering. A man told me he was “broken” and he became slightly hysterical at the ongoing trenchfoot inducing conditions saying he couldn’t bear running through any more “shit”.  Another runner told me he was “a right good runner” and had achieved a 1.28 half marathon a couple of weeks previously. He then shook his head and said, “But this…” I just kept saying “I don’t know what I was thinking. I completely underestimated this.”

It almost felt like an outer-body experience by the time I reached the home strait. My dreams of a sub 5 hour finish had long since disappeared in the mud or the winds and I limped across in 5hr 30 mins.

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29750306_10214734382608165_426009428_n29750619_10214734388688317_1631982137_n29831535_10214734366727768_1435912080_oSAM_7859SAM_7861My official photographer captured all my grimaces. (Billy said I looked the “most buggered” of all the finishers he saw!!)

Fortunately my official photographer also managed a cute shot:SAM_7869And a selfie 🙂SAM_7878

29920436_10214734392128403_742613943_nA change of clothes later and things did not seem so bad.

The stats made me feel a better about my time:

JMW certificate

I have learned so much from this experience. Taking part and finishing is a part of the journey I need to focus on more. There are too many variables on a race day to get too bogged down (literally) on finish times. Given a bit more time on my hands I would love to make friends with the ultra running community and get myself a couple of running buddies. Running alone is special and something I definitely need a lot of the time, but it can also be challenging as a soloist. I know I could not sustain the mental takeover that doing an event like this generates in me, so to do this regularly I would definitely need a change in mentality. Meantime, I need to hope my IT band issue clears up and I can get back in my groove again soon.

“The sun shines not on us but in us.” John Muir

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