Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Back on the wagon - running in the dark

I'm back on the jogging wagon.  I fell off back in August when I went for a long weekend in a castle.  On my return I had a cold, so gave myself a break.  Then I was really busy.  Jogging in the evening kind of fell by the wayside.  I knew that if I wanted to get back on and do it, then I needed to do it now, but was getting a little worried by the darkness.  I live in a little village in rural Scotland.  The tracks are dark, the roads are dark, and all is dark and muddy.  Egged on by Seaside Belle I decided to just go for it with a head torch.
The Path To The Dark Side
This image stolen from (great blog)

This evening I did.  The whole route is fine with a combination of head torch for cloudy nights on the footpaths, for picking up the dog's you-know-what and for letting vehicles know we are there, and night vision for moonlit nights and the road sections.  With one exception.  There is a stretch of track which links the golf course and the village.  Even during this summer there are places where it is ankle deep in mud, and there are overhanging brambles and the occasional conifer branch.  Now that autumn has set in, the mud is even deeper, the puddles bigger and the whole lot more slippery.  To avoid this 200-300 metre stretch means adding at least a mile to my route, which I'm not ready for yet.  So I think I'll just walk this bit.  That will give me time to pick my way through the worst of it by torchlight.  

I'll be back in a couple of months to let you know how I'm getting on with the running and the route once the snow and ice settle in!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cheap and Free

What can you do with a toddler and a baby on an autumn morning that won't empty your purse?

Try this and you'll find you are adding instead of taking away.

We took advantage of a beautiful sunny morning to go out to the woods in search of blackberries. 

Little C was alternating between the pushchair and walking until we abandoned it at the entrance to the woods (we collected it again on our way back).  Little Sis was snuggled up in the backpack and took the opportunity for her morning nap.  The waggy-tailed-one galloped alongside and darted off into the trees.

We started out admiring the colours all around us as the trees are on the turn, looking at mushrooms, squelching in muddy puddles and running around.  Once we found the blackberry patch, I explained to Little C that this is a prickly plant, that he should only eat black ones rather than red or green and that he needs to check for bugs before eating.  After that I pointed out low down and accessible ones for him, and he popped as many as he could directly into his mouth, while I gathered the ones that were a little more difficult to reach and put them in a tub.  There weren't all that many, but enough to make a blackberry and apple crumble for dinner tonight and Little C had a wonderful time.  He absolutely loved being able to pick fruit himself and eat it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ten Task Challenge

I've been going easy on myself for too long now.  I'm a "to do" list fiend.  I used to have a list of things to do, and I used to get stuff done.  Then I had Little C and had to make a change.  I read somewhere that with a small baby you should make your top ten list of things to do, then cross off nine of them and be proud of yourself if you manage one.  I did that for a while and then gradually, as he became more independent, increased my list again, and was succeeding in getting things done.  Then I had Little Sis.  With two little ones I had to pull back my expectations of what I could manage again.  Then Post-Natal Depression hit, and low self esteem, low confidence and generally feeling terrible - I really had to go easy on myself.  Now I'm feeling fine.  The anti-depressants have really done their stuff, and I'm now (touch wood) successfully reducing the daily dose.  Now I just feel that I need to be achieving things again.
Image of slothfulness from (Guardian Newspapers)

So I'm ready for my lists again.  Bring on the Ten Task Challenge.  I will have a laminated card with ten spaces on.  In each space I will write ten tasks every day.  Some of them will be activities to do with the children, some will be housework tasks, and others will be fixed appointments, crafty things to do and so on.  I've got two little children so I've got to be realistic and not beat myself up if I don't achieve my ten tasks, but if I do, then I give myself a gold star in my diary and feel good.  I start tomorrow.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A funny farm shop

There's a farm shop near me.  I won't name them, because I've been a bit disappointed with a discovery I made yesterday.  I love going in there and buying things.  I like knowing that I'm buying things with low food miles, things which are seasonal and grown in my area.  

They also sell frozen things, meats, bread, chutneys and jams and much more and have a lovely "coffee bothy" (cafe).  I thought they could make an improvement.  They sell some fruit and veg which is clearly not local, either because it doesn't grow locally (pineapple, kiwi etc) or because it's sold out of season.  I thought that they could make things better by clearly labelling the foods which were grown locally - I'd be more likely to choose those ones where possible.  So when I was there yesterday, I asked the lady behind the counter whether this would be a change they would consider making.  Imagine my disappointment when she told me that none of the fruit and veg comes from local farms.  It all comes from the wholesale fruit and veg market in Glasgow!  Excuse me?  What makes this farm shop any different from a normal greengrocer then?  Is it the chutneys and jams?  If so, then surely they are a green-grocer-come-deli.  What makes this a farm shop apart from that it happens to be located on a farm?

I looked on where it says that "Farm shops sell local foods grown, picked, reared or produced usually on the farm where the farm shop is located."  Having said that, they go on to list this particular farm shop on their listings, which are "members of FARMA, meaning they have been through a selection process to ensure they are the 'real deal' in selling actual local foods,".  So now I'm completely confused - is it a proper farm shop or not?

Wikipedia says that "Farm shop is a type of retail outlet which usually sells produce directly from a farm. Some farm shops also resell related goods such as locally produced groceries, foods and drinks and delicatessen products."

Friday, 23 September 2011

Book Review - Over the Hills and Far Away

Over the Hills and Far Away - A walkers anthology edited by Duncan Minshull.
I can't find a picture of this anywhere on the internet, nor can I find it for sale anywhere else to link for you, so it appears to be a bit of a mystery book!

I got this as a gift quite a while ago from my grandparents (I think mum may have bought it on their behalf, knowing that I like walking and hills).  It has been neglected on a bookcase ever since - sorry mum.  I'm determined to read all the books which fill my house, and chance - quite literally, I chose the next book to read by throwing a dice several times - led me to this one.  I opened it less than optimistically.  While I love hills and walking, I'm not usually a fan of anthologies.  Anthologies tempt and tease you.  They give you just enough of a snippet of the original to engage your interest and then the excerpt is finished.

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself dipping further into this book every night at bed time.  The excerpts are arranged into categories such as: How to Walk; In the City; You Walked?  The excerpts were taken from a wide range of genres, from texts ancient and modern.  Some were several pages long, others were mere paragraphs.  I have made a note of a few more texts which I need to dig out and read in full, but for the most part I just enjoyed a pleasant meander through these ideas of literature.  A bit like walking through a garden and catching the scent of the flowers you pass, without the need to stoop and inhale at any particular bloom.

My next reading adventure is "A Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley.  More on that soon.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Recipe: Roasted mackerel with bay, lime and olives.

I had to include this recipe as it was not only super easy to make, it was also very healthy and delicious!

Ingredients - serves 4
4 mackerel fillets, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 4 tbsp thyme leaves, 2 limes (sliced), 3 bay leaves, 12 black olives, juice of 2 limes, 8 tomatoes, handful chopped basil leaves, 4 finely chopped shallots, extra virgin olive oil, fresh crusty bread.


  • Preheat the oven to 220C.
  • Lay the fish fillets in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with cumin seeds, thyme leaves, lime slices, bay leaves, black olives and lime juice.  Season generously and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 15 minutes.
  • While the fish is cooking, slice the tomatoes and lay in a serving dish sprinkled with torn basil leaves, chopped shallots and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Drizzle generously with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (we used bog standard cheap olive oil and it still tasted lovely).
  • Serve the fish, tomato salad and fresh bread in the centre of the table for everybody to help themselves.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

My beauty regime

I can't help laughing at the title of this post, as "beauty regime" isn't really a fitting term.  There isn't much beauty and there certainly isn't much of a regime.  I suppose it could be described as "physical maintenance routine" (the type of maintenance you aim to keep up with a car and never quite manage).  Anyhow, I thought I'd blog about it here in the hope that it might encourage me to get with it a bit more.

Okay... where to begin...

I do some.  Occasionally.  Lets look for the positives.  I walk the dog every day, usually for about an hour.  If either Big C or I are out in the evening then I go out with the little ones and I'm either pushing one and carrying the other, or carrying/pushing one and the other one is walking, so in either case it's not a fast walk.  If we're both in for the evening, then I go out with the Waggy-tailed-one after the small people are in bed, which means its a much brisker walk (and getting darker).  I was jogging this, but fell off the wagon a month ago after our castle trip and then having a cold, and then being really busy.  I need to get back on the wagon, and fast because my current route is mostly unlit footpaths, and I was hoping to be jogging a longer, and lit, route by the time the evenings were getting dark.  Okay, that's me prompted.  I will get back on the wagon.  I also occasionally jump around in front of or with the kiddies to an exercise DVD, I have a new one called "Fun and Fitness for Mummy and Me", which my mum passed on, and which currently I do alone while Little C watches bemusedly rather than joining in.  The plan is also to go on the exercise bike on those evenings when I am home with the kiddies.  There are just so many jobs to do!

Oh this one's hilarious.  My hair is usually a mess.  I generally cut it myself, somewhere between chin and shoulder length, with a fringe.  Sometimes layered and sometimes not.  I've been going grey since I was about 20 so dye my hair every 6-8 weeks.  I'm planning on getting it cut at the hairdresser at some point, at which time I'll have to explain to the hairdresser that I require a completely no-maintenance "do".  I shower most days, usually in the evening (after jogging), and probably every other day will wash my hair.  If it's nearly my bed time I'll blast it with a hair drier, but otherwise just run a brush through it and let it dry naturally.  In the morning I usually brush my hair (it's a bit scary when you get to Friday morning and go searching for the brush only to find it still in the swimming bag - we go swimming on Wednesday mornings!).  If it looks dreadful then I put it in a pony-tail or stick a clip in (depending on the current length), but if it's okay then I leave it loose.  On the rare occasions when I dress up nicely, then I take the trouble to blow-dry properly.  I sometimes even use straighteners.

Skin and nail treatments
Soap and water.  Sometimes shower gel.  Plus whatever bits and bobs of bath/shower stuff I've been given as gifts.  Sometimes a dollop of moisturiser if I'm feeling decadent.  Some scrubby soap if I need to get ingrained soil and mud or bicycle oil out of my hands.  Anti-perspirant.

Make up
Usually none.  If I'm looking tired, pale, ill or generally run down then I may pep myself up with a little concealer in the bags under my eyes and over any spots, a little lippy (a kind of pinky-burgundy colour) and some dark brown or black eye-liner well smudged in.  If I'm going dressy, then as above, with the addition of a little foundation cream and possibly some brown eye-shadow and some black mascara.  This is the make-up I've used and worn since I started wearing make-up at about the age of 17, and it hasn't changed.  I wear it so rarely that when I do, I try to keep it subtle.  It seems to work.

A dab of perfume on dressy occasions.  I've had the odd bottle as a gift over the years and have only ever bought one for myself.  I wear it so rarely that there just doesn't seem to be the need.

That's it.  Does this make me a "slummy mummy"?  It's not that I'm not bothered about my appearance.  I am.  It's just that I'm busy.  I'm outdoorsy.  I like the natural look.  I think there are far more important ways to spend my time than in front of a mirror.  Fitness and exercise are different - they are about health and feeling good.  Looking good - well doesn't that come from within?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


So, lets just say we had a little rain on our holiday.  We had one sunny day, which we made the most of.
Big and Little C on the bike around the coast road
Here's how the week went:
Little C "washing up"at the front of the hut.
Saturday - we took a while to get started on our trip.  I bought the wrong size bottle of butane for the regulator we had, so we stopped at several shops in Perth (ironmongers, hardware stores, DIY chains, country stores) looking for a regulator for Calorgas butane 7kg bottles, but no success.  We gave up and had lunch.  Driving further north we tried again in a very busy Pitlochry, where I was again directed to try somewhere else.  This direction though was a worthwhile one, to my delight we found the required regulator at Faskally Caravan Park's shop.  We were once more cooking on gas (literally - we could now cook for the week!)  We continued on our drive, and everything was going smoothly, if a little wet and splashy, until we had a flat, and poor Big C had to take the bikes off the back to get the spare wheel, climb into the roofbox to get the jack, and change a wheel in absolutely torrential rain.  Eventually we made it to the campsite and made ourselves comfortable in our hut.
our sleeping area at the back of the hut, with washing line above
Sunday - It turns out that the Camping Huts are quite brilliant.  They are well insulated, so as well as being warm, they mean that sounds from outside don't carry in to disturb sleeping children, and sounds from inside (children not sleeping) don't carry to the rest of the campsite.  Very different from a tent in that respect.  Today we went to the beautiful Sands, where Monty Hall had his "great escape".  It was as stunning as we remembered, and we had a wonderful bracing walk and play in the rain.  Later we also went for a walk in Applecross itself, allowing both children to get some much needed sleep.
Little C tries heading the ball
Monday - We headed to lovely Lochcarron, where there's a garage to fix the tyre, had lunch there at the Waterside cafe.  Then we headed across to Broadford on Skye, where we visited the Skye Serpentarium.  Little C wasn't much bothered with the snakes, as they mostly just lay there doing nothing.  He was a bit more interested in the lizards, especially a couple of more active ones.  Big C held a snake, which Little C did rather warily stroke.  I kept hold of Little Sister - if she had got hold of the snake I think she would have eaten it, that's what her appetite seems to be like at the moment!
a cloudy day at Applecross
Tuesday - So, still raining today.  We haven't had the crazy gales that were predicted, but we are still having a lot of rain.  We headed to Sands again, but decided that it was just too wet and, more to the point, windy, to get down on to the beach, so instead went to the cave not far from the car-park.  This is an amazing cave, not because of depth, decoration or aesthetic reasons, but because artefacts have been discovered here from as far back as 7500BC.  Next we drove around the coast road to Sheildaig, across into Torridon, stopping at the Whistlestop Cafe in Kinlochewe for lunch, and then to Red Point at the south end of Gairloch.  The beach here is just stunning.  Beautiful red sand with literally nobody there.  Little C and I played in the sand (and torrential rain) while Big C walked around with Little Sister, trying to protect her from the worst of the rain and wind.  It was fabulous.  We ended the day with fish and chips in Gairloch and the drive back to Applecross.
Little C and Daddy (and dog) looking for shells and seaweed at Applecross
Wednesday - We spent the morning pottering around the campsite.  Today was more "cloud and showers" so we were able to get a few things dry.  We went to the Walled garden in Applecross for lunch.  This place is something really special.  Firstly there's the Victorian walled garden which they are in the process of restoring, even on a rainy day it was full of charm and atmosphere, and the walls create shelter and warmth allowing many more plants to flourish than can be found anywhere else locally.  Then there is the Potting Shed cafe, where they sell locally made gifts, and delicious food.  I will definitely recommend this place and will be visiting again.  I can't believe I've missed it on previous visits to Applecross.
Little sister snuggles mummy in a gap in the rain
Thursday - Oh yes, we finally got a day of sunshine, and with scenery like this it was a cracker.  We drove around Applecross Bay to the headland, and then rode the bikes along the road to Sand.  We couldn't cycle the whole way from the campsite as it would be too far for The Waggy-tailed-one to run alongside us.  At Sand we found a spot at the top of the beach where we parked the bikes, collected shells, dropped my camera (sob, sob, it's not working any more...), snacked and just enjoyed being out on the beach in the sunshine.  Little C and Big C took the Waggy-tailed-one down to the sea.  Who ended up the wettest - the dog who was swimming?  Little C who was paddling?  I think it's a close run thing actually.  Little C came back up the beach in only his nappy and vest, all the other clothes and his wellies were soaked.  We cycled back to the Landrover, then drove around to the campsite for changes of clothes before driving back over the Bealach na Ba (highest road pass in the UK, with lots of switchbacks and a stunning view over Skye) to Kishorn, where we had dinner at the Seafood Bar.  I was very impressed with the Seafood Bar.  Firstly, how can you go to the coast and not have some of the local seafood?  Secondly the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming.  Thirdly, the food was very tasty.  Having small children, we were quite early for dinner, so it was still the lunchtime/snack menu.  I had a plate full of mussels, and Big C had hand-dived scallops.  Yum yum.  After that we headed down a side road to explore a little, and found one of the most beautiful places in the world (this is a stiff competition which parts of the west coast of Scotland keep winning).  Sadly I can't include pics of my own of Strome and Strome Castle in particular, as my camera is broken, so you'll have to take my word for it.  You could type them into a search engine if you like, but believe me photographs just don't do justice to the beauty and tranquility of this place at sunset on a beautiful sunny September day.
she doesn't look that impressed at this point does she?
Friday - We packed up our belongings into the Landrover and said goodbye to the hut and the camp-site, heading for Skye again across the bridge.  We had promised Little C a trip on a little ferry.  We drove down to Kylerhea and got the little (4 cars on a little turntable) ferry across to Glenelg and the Glenelg peninsula.  On the peninsula we drove South to the walk down to Sandaig, made famous by being Camusfearna, the setting of Gavin Maxwell's "Ring of Bright Water".  Yet another beautiful spot and paddling in the water before the long drive home.
I think she's watching the dog.  The hood helps the helmet stay on.
Well done for getting this far.  Hopefully you'll have spotted that the rain did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for this beautiful part of Scotland, or for my holiday.  The combination of camping, scenery, being outdoors in the fresh air, and uninterrupted, un-busy time with the family has served to refresh and re-invigorate me.  I feel as though all is right with the world.  As though everything has got into it's proper place in my brain.  As though my soul has been replenished.  As though everything has returned to its proper perspective.  Isn't that what a holiday is all about?  I know, too, that the trip had the same effect on Big C.  And despite Little C being delighted to be back home with his own bed and all his toys, he continually talks about the holiday, the hut and the beaches, so I'm pretty sure he enjoyed it too (we mostly seem to go to the beach on rainy days, so I don't think he knows any different!).  Little Sister is smiling as much as ever too, and the damp weather certainly hasn't dampened her spirits.  Waggy-tailed-one got lots of walks and bounces on beaches, so she's happy too.
The beach at Sand

Monday, 19 September 2011


Sorry, been AWOL since returning from holiday on Friday night, and even now it's just a quick list of excuses why I'm not writing a better post.

  1. I did write a lovely post all about my holiday with lots of pictures, but then it all deleted when I pressed something, so I need to write it all again, and just don't have the time just now, because...
  2. I'm running a Module 7 course (Valuing Diversity) of The Scout Association tomorrow night, so nap times are pretty full on getting everything prepared (or trying to catch up with the post-camping-holiday laundry mountain).
  3. I'm sad and despondent because I dropped my camera on the sandy beach on the one day of sunshine we enjoyed on our holiday, and now it doesn't work and needs to be sent off to Glasgow for a repair (sand in the lens zoomy in-and-out bit mechanism).  It means that apart from my holiday pics there won't be any new photos for the blog in the next few weeks.
So anyway, I'll try to blog about the holiday tomorrow if I can manage it, and then get back to it - only without pics :(

Friday, 9 September 2011

Holiday time again

This summer I have actually been away every month for a holiday, I feel as though I have been very decadent.  Two weeks in Scarborough in June, a week in Devon in July, a long weekend in Gloucestershire in August and now we're going camping in Wester Ross (North West Scotland) for a week.

I absolutely love camping, and can't wait to get away.  Camping lately has been virtually non-existent.  We went when I was six months pregnant with Little C, then we went again a year later when he was nine months old.  It was fun, but required a bit of a shift in mindset.  One of us couldn't cook the breakfast while the other was in the shower block, because we needed a constant eye on Little C, who was at the age of crawling and pulling himself up on things (camp chairs and stove etc).  We also found it really difficult to get the tent up because at the end of a long journey he was screaming and needed some attention.  So we haven't been since.  I've been getting camp withdrawal symptoms.

camping huts at Applecross
So anyway, we're going camping for a week.  We've pretty much accomplished the mind-shift to altering things in order to accommodate small children now.  And to solve some of the problems, we have opted to use a camping hut rather than a tent.
A camping hut is basically a wooden hut with four sleeping mats on the floor, and an electric heater.  Other than not needing to bring sleeping mats or a tent, the rest of your camping experience is just the same.

The advantages?  You don't need to put up a tent; the electric heater provides a bit of extra warmth for the little ones; you can stand up and move around more easily for getting nappies changed and children dressed; you don't have to crawl in and out; I still love 'proper' camping, but this is a good intro for the small ones, and will help us get back into the groove. 

So, where are we going?
We're heading for Applecross.  It's probably one of the most beautiful places in the UK.  Beinn Bhan is one of my favourite mountains.  The pub at Applecross is superb.  The awesome views across to Skye. The variety of beaches.  Stunning wildlife.  Just around the corner to Torridon and then Loch Maree in one direction or Loch Carron and then Plockton in the other direction.

We are planning a week of chilling out.  Playing on the beaches (regardless of weather).  Bike rides.  Cafes.  Views.  Wildlife spotting.  Camp cooking.

Aaahhhhh.  I'm relaxing just thinking about it.