Category Archives: Diet

Luxury Trail Mix

Everything is nearly there. With less than a couple of days to go until I board the plane for Ouarzazate, I made last minute preparations measuring and mixing my trail run earlier. I suspect that many people have their own special ‘recipes’ for trail mix – a generic term for gathering together food into a bag which a walker, trekker or runner can periodically grab a handful of during the course of a route – so here is mine!

Luxury Trail Mix
Description Calories (per 100g) Comments
Goldenberries 302 Also called Inca Berries
Blueberries 275 Good for taste
Macadamia 739 Highest calorie density
Cranberries 331 Tasty dried fruit
Cashews 609 Roasted and salted
Pine Nuts 690 tasty with high calorie content
Pumpkin Seeds 565 Good omega oils
Sunflower Seeds 518 Good fibre, taste and calories

 

Trail Mix
Trail Mix

I think this is a good all round combination of fruits and savoury food which seems to go down very nicely (Yes, I’ve been ‘testing it over the last couple of months!) and the calorie to weight content is very high – in fact I reckon it couldn’t be much better. When compared to my freeze dried Expedition Foods which weigh in at around 425-578 calories per 100g, I don’t think I’m doing too badly with a mix of ‘real’ food which will be averaging 528 calories per 100g. I have a 100g bag for each day – i.e. 6 days, so I can enjoy my rest day trail mix in relative peace and calm – assuming I haven’t already eaten it by then of course, which is entirely possible 🙂

Obsessing over Weight

I am not normally one to obsess over my weight, but recently it has been foremost in my mind.

It is not my weight I have been overly concerned about, although this has not totally escaped my attention, but rather the weight of my backpack and the supplies I ‘might’ be taking for my week in the desert in under 5 weeks time.

Calories vs. weight
Calories vs. weight

Last time I was in the desert, I must’ve arrived with at least 11-12kg in my pack, much of which was carried along for the ride in a fundamental, but common first-time MdS participant error related to the terror of being self-sufficient for a week. My pack in 2008 included cameras, chargers, spare batteries, food, snacks, extra food, extra snacks, changes of clothes, extra clothes, trekking poles, flags, hydration tablets, isotonic powders, plus all the normal compulsory kit. With a backpack resembling a Rio Carnival float which was stuffed tighter than a haggis on Burns night, I still had to add the organiser supplied mandatory equipment, in the shape of a rather large emergency flare to pack, to which access was required at all times, so no squirrelling away inside the pack.

I can look back and laugh 😆 about my error now, but as a result have paid my debt to the Gods of experience and will therefore be returning to the desert with more knowledge of the appropriate levels of equipment and food required.

Balance of Weight
Balance of Weight

Nevertheless, I am still obsessing over weight, pouring over the smallest details, agonising over the merest grams of mass that I can shave out of my pack. Do I need that knife with ALL those blades? Can I manage without all that hydration fluid in the Sahara? Do I really need toilet roll, or will sand (which gets everywhere anyway) suffice? Surely, when the organisers say self-sufficient, they don’t really mean it? Surely!

The bulk of the changing weight clearly goes into food, although the organisers insist on a strict bare minimum of 2000kcal per day, remaining at the end of the day’s stage, i.e. 14,000 at technical checks, 12,000 at end of first stage, etc. Needless to say, 2000 calories for an adult male, using (conservatively) 2,500 kcal per marathon, of which there will be about 6, on top of a normal day’s energy expenditure, will leave a fairly substantial and hungry deficit by the end of the week. So here is where the compromises start, but each little extra food on a daily basis adds to the weight to be carried and since my experience is of having too much food, I don’t think this is going to be too much of a compromise.

Interestingly, post-race reviews have indicated that the Brits take excessive food and equipment while the French (the largest contingent) are prepared to accept a lot less in the way of what might be considered ‘luxury’ items.

Anyway, my daily pack weight currently looks like this, including the anticipated organiser supplied flare, etc.

StageFood (g)Stage weight (kg)

Stage 1 2721 7.0
Stage 2 2243 6.5
Stage 3 1806 6.1
Stage 4 1368 5.7
Stage 5 521 4.8
Stage 6 103 4.4

– this is based on the fact that my ‘static’ equipment weight is 4.3kg (including backpack, sleeping bag, Thermarest, headlamp, compass and the rest of the paraphernalia, but excluding water)

I will be trying to reduce my body fat content (BMI) from its current comfortably quiesent state of 11% down to a more functional 9-10%, which won’t leave me much contingency by the last day, but then as Marshall Ulrich said in “Running on Empty”, the story of his run across America, most people have enough body fat to get them most of the way across the continent! Given that he was eating enough for 4 people on his average 58 miles per day run across the States, I am a little dubious about his comment 🙂 but then he is a legend!

So, after a little more tweaking I’ll be ready, and at the end of the day, a few grams here or there won’t make that much difference.

Or will it? 🙂

Okay, I’m off to my spreadsheet….

LCHF – Dietary Chaos

Over the last week or so, we’ve been investigating a new dietary regime which, although by no means new, has recently been extolled by the likes of the legendary Prof. Tim Noakes, the author of the Lore of Running, to such an extent that he says everyone should rip out the chapter on nutrition in his best selling book, as it has all been turned on its head by his current research.

Lore Of Running
Lore Of Running

Noakes states that his family has a predisposition towards diabetes and he wanted to investigate what a change in his diet could do to reduce the risk of him also succumbing to the disorder, since he is now prediabetic.

To cut a long story short, he has investigated and, in his usual highly structured and methodical way, has come to the conclusion that those individuals who are carbohydrate resistant (CR) should be eating only about 5% carbohydrate, replacing the bulk of their current intake with fat, in something similar to what is known as the LCHF (low carbohydrate, high fat) diet. There are actually many variations of this which are all similar, including the Swedish diet, Paleo diet and the Atkins diet.

Clearly, this is somewhat counter intuitive in today’s world, but he goes on to support this with many facts regarding the way that the human body metabolises fat, etc, and that we are more like big cats who have a protein and fat high diet in the design of our intestinal tracts than, say, gorillas, who eat grasses and shoots all day.

His hypothesis is that a high carbohydrate diet, typical in today’s modern (western) world, forces the body to produce the hormone insulin at rates it was never designed to do, so with the starches and especially the sugars which are added to most processed foods nowadays, in order to feed the habits of a society that is essentially addicted to sugar, this is bad news. This is because the body’s finds it far easier to assimilate carbohydrate than, say, fat or protein, but this causes spikes in the body’s insulin production, as it tries to control the levels of sugar in the blood. However, because our diets have become so sugar rich, perhaps even dependent, we have had to reduce the amount of fat in our diets, mistakenly assuming that the fat was bad for us – which it is, but ONLY when eaten with excessive carbohydrate since the body chooses to store the excess calories as adipose. Our distance foraging hunter-gatherer nomadic ancestors simply could not get nearly enough grain, and certainly not enough fructose, prior to the advent of farming and the domestication of the staple grains, as recently as thirty thousand years ago. So, in short this is another case where human evolution has not had the chance to catch up with our ‘progress’.

Primal-feast
Primal-feast

While he has not gone as far as to say that everyone should follow this diet, he clearly intimates that this would be a healthier way of eating, irrespective of the individual’s predisposition towards carbohydrate reactivity. However, there are others, notably Mark Sisson, author of ‘The Primal Blueprint’ who advocate it for all.

So, Liz and I are investigating this further, but suffice it to say our dietary world has been thrown into chaos at the moment. I personally find it amazing to try to walk into a coffee shop, restaurant, or similar and find a mid-afternoon snack which ISN’T stacked full of carbohydrates, generally in the form of simple sugars, but even the ‘healthier’ starch laden, grain based snacks are prevalent. I haven’t a clue what we are going to eat while running yet, but Noakes and Sisson both commend the diet as healthy and appropriate for athletes as well.

I’m sure we will report back in a few weeks, and will let you know how things are going; alternatively, if you don’t hear anything from us for a few weeks, we may have suffered catastrophic symptoms from the sugar withdrawal after a 72 hour chocolate and doughnut binge 😯

If you want to read more here are some links, and the response from Tim Noakes in Runner’s World.

 

Starting to Get Real (and Exciting)

This is where it starts to get real for me.

With just over two months to go to the starting line of the Marathon des Sables, I have been going through a spurt of preparation recently. This is probably because I am also focused on my race on Saturday, the Thames Trot.

Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames

Five years ago (as scary as that now seems) I was toeing the start line of a similar race, the Thames Meander, which followed the path of the Thames from Reading, through Henley to Maidenhead, Chertsey, Walton and East Molesey. The Thames Trot is organised by a different group and takes in a different route as well, but the sentiment is the same from the point of view of myself and many of the other people who will be doing it – it is a trial for the long day of the MdS, or as close as you can get to the distance, given that rural England in Winter is significantly ‘cooler’ (to put it mildly) than Morocco in Spring.

Many of the other 350 competitors are also running the Marathon des Sables and so will, as with myself, be loading up their backpacks with ballast to simulate race conditions and gain further familiarity with the hardships of the long day of the MdS specifically, albeit without the heat, sand, and having completed 3 marathons on the preceding 3 days 😯 For us, the race will not be our fastest, but the psychological benefit to be gained from completing the distance, probably in the dark and cold, will definitely be worth while.

The Thames Trot, or ‘Boat Race’ as it is know, starts from a good 30 miles further back towards the source of the Thames in Oxford, or Iffley to be exact, and then snakes its way through Abingdon, Wallingford, Mapledurham, Reading, Caversham, Sonning and finally Henley, 50 miles later.

Freeze dried culinary delights
Freeze dried culinary delights

Today I also received my order of freeze-dried food from the Expedition foods team. These high calorie, low weight packs are perfect for the type of multi-stage event where ‘self-sufficiency’ is something which needs to be taken as a matter of course, since there are many other things to worry about which one would have little control over, including the environment and importantly, its effect on your feet, the heat and dehydration effects, etc. Having the right balance of food / weight is crucial to success.

I’ve decided on a variety of flavours for the evenings, and have even plumped for savoury breakfasts as well, after Liz’s reminiscing over forcing down porridge with strawberries on the last day reminded me of the contempt with which everyone regarded that particular dish by the end of the week. It has probably something to do with the body’s lack of salt, and over-reliance on sweetened snacks. Either way, the feeling seems universal.

So, my MdS menu will consist of something like the following: –

  • Chicken Korma with Rice x 2
  • Chicken Tikka with Rice x 2
  • Spaghetti Bolognese x 1
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice x 1

And then for breakfasts I’ll have these delights to look forward to every morning: –

  • Scrambled Egg, Potatoes and mixed peppers x 3
  • Porridge with Mango x 2
  • Porridge with Strawberries x 1 – for old times sake 🙂

Just add water!

My memory last time is that the savoury food was a lot more palatable than the sweet stuff, because of the snack bars, sweetened isotonic drinks, jelly beans and gels which I took during the races themselves. Still, as they say, ‘Hunger is the best chef’.

In addition to food, I’ve also order gaiters for sticking onto my shoes; essential to stop sand ‘ingress’ which would have a profoundly negative affect on the feet, and the progress of blisters. There are also many things on the ‘compulsory’ list which I am ensuring I have, such as the disinfectant ‘Tincture of Benzoin’ which I ordered from Bristol Botanicals yesterday, so with much of the kit I used last time (hat, compass, sleeping mat / bag, etc) and my new torch, I’m getting to the stage where it is all starting to get rather real. In fact, the plane from Gatwick Airport to Ouarzazate will be leaving in just over 9 weeks.

For now though, my focus is the weekend, and my extended ‘training run’ along the Thames! 😉

The Grizzly Death of the Frozen Mouse

When you have children, it is nothing, if not informative!

Joshua, our eldest, is 11 and animal mad. He had been begging us for ages to allow him to get a reptile of some sort and while happy to do this, the initial expense of setting up was deferred to a birthday / Christmas present. This also gave him the opportunity to firm up on a decision as to what he actually wanted to get.

Having been through chameleons and geckos, and a variety of other scaly, legged creatures he eventually decided on a snake of some sort and after a lot of research which we insisted that he did, he settled on a corn snake as they are quite ‘sociable’ animals and have quite a lot of character – apparently 😉

As luck would have it, there is a reptile centre no more than 5 miles or so away, so before Christmas we visited and obtained all the kit he needed, so that he could set it up for his birthday, which he duly did, taking much care over the positioning of the lamp, substrate and log which we hoped would provide his new friend with a nice environment in which to live. After we came back from holiday we went back to the shop and he came out as the proud owner of lilac corn snake.

They are definitely animals full of character as the assistant in the shop informed us; Joshua’s snake, Casian (kay-sian), is more than happy to be held and when it gets bigger will drape itself across your shoulders, should you give it the chance of course. Whenever it is brought out it is interested and sniffs the air constantly to build up a picture of its surroundings and despite only having been with us for less than a month, has already amazed us with its skin shedding and the pièce_de_résistance, eating a (previously) frozen mouse which seems unimaginably bigger than itself.

We have all heard stories of giant snakes in Africa swallowing buck, crocodiles and the occasional unlucky stray native villager, but to actually see this small juvenile snake devouring a mouse twice the thickness of its own body is a sight to behold.

Maybe next time I’ll try to get a video for YouTube 🙂

Les Arcs – Day 5 – Blizzard Day

A river flows through it.
A river flows through it.

I suppose we had been quite lucky with the weather up until this point. It had only really snowed on our journey into the resort.

Up until now.

We woke up this morning and it was snowing lightly, but the wind was quite fierce and whipping the drifts and any remaining loose snow from the previous day’s up in a bit of a blizzard. At this point we could still see though, and looking out of the window of our apartment, the scene actually looked quite idyllic.

Then we went downstairs and outside with our equipment to start school.

I managed to persuade Liz to get off to her school on time as I dropped off the little ones, but it immediately became apparent that they were not going to be able to manage without goggles, which up to this point had not been a problem. The instructor confirmed this a few moments later that if we thought it was bad now, on the chairlifts and the exposed slopes it would be infinitely worse! We rushed off to the local store and hastily chose some eyewear to make the day bearable; the choice in the second shop we found was good even for the little ones and they managed to get the colours they wanted 😉 I even got a pink pair for Savannah, which she was delighted with a few moments later when I gave them to her. Liz, ironically, was feeling guilty that she was the only one with goggles as she had borrowed some earlier from another member of the group, until I updated her on our recent purchases.

httpvh://youtu.be/3NMSweYBNUI

The conditions were the worst I’ve ever tried to ski in. I’ve been in white-outs before but not with this kind of wind; a biting horizontal wind that seemed to blow the sharp sand-like snow into your face irrespective of whatever direction you were facing and I only managed to get 4 or 5 runs in before it was time to fetch the children.

A moment of calm!
A moment of calm!

After some warming food we went back out to brave another couple of attempts at runs with the little ones, who to their credit were not complaining at all, but I suspect this was probably because they couldn’t get their faces out of their coat hoods for long enough to talk, let alone complain.  We therefore decided that it was getting ridiculous since we couldn’t even see a few metres in front of us at times and the upper lifts were being closed down, so at about 3:30, we called it a day.

We made our way back to the village and after dropping off our equipment yet again, warmed up with more waffles, Nutella and pastries (what a great excuse to eat yummy food – a bit like ultra-running really!) before returning again to the apartment.

The wind and snow had got steadily worst throughout the day, and conditions continued to deteriorate throughout the evening to the extent that we were often unable to see the lights of the buildings 50m opposite and the clear skies and brilliant full moon of the previous evenings was a distance memory as the snow careened around the village.

Thankfully though, we were snug in our warm apartment and could do nothing but hope the electricity supplies to the area did not fail and that by morning the worst would be over!

Les Arcs – Day 5

Rim Run and Zion

Bryce Canyon Sunrise!

This was to be our last proper day of holiday 🙁

Tomorrow was to be taken up with packing, travelling back to Salt Lake City, dropping the RV off and then hopefully relaxing in the hotel at SLC.

Today, we had two more things planned and the first required an early start.

We wanted to try to get up to see the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. Contrary to the names of the vista points along the rim, we had been told that ‘Inspiration Point’ was the best place to see the sunrise, as opposed, ironically, to ‘Sunrise Point’.

Luckily, since we were now on daylight saving time in the mountains, sunrise was at 6:55am (the previous day in Arizona, it had been 5:55am! We tried to make our way, as quietly as possible, out of Ruby’s Inn RV park, disconnecting our amenities in a flash – seasoned RV’ers after only a couple of weeks 🙂 We then drove up to nearly the highest point of the Bryce Canyon rim, where the first vestiges of sunlight were starting to illuminate the eastern sky.

Liz rushed up to the high point with her camera to start to take photos of what promised to be a magnificent event; indeed, there were several other people there who had had the same idea. Dad wondered up to the first point and after ‘settling’ the children down, I followed to the mid point of the rising rim and found a boulder on the edge of the cliff to sit on.

For a brief instant in time, we had a spectacular and privileged view of the sun rising, as it slowly crept its way above the horizon and stuttered behind the distant blanket of clouds, releasing a red warmth onto the chilly mountain side. A daily event, for sure, but unique to see the patterns within the canyon, illuminating the hoodoos which had taken thousands of years to form and which were ever changing in the slowly rising light.

After the spectacular sight, I got back to the RV to find the children going wild! It is difficult sometimes to have such emotive experiences, and then be brought down to reality so suddenly by the practical needs of the youngsters. However, after Liz had returned as well, and settled them down, I was ready for my next exploit while they had breakfast. A run along the rim.

Since we were only a couple of kilometres from the high point of the rim, I decided it would be rude not to go all the way to the top first and then turn round and come back ‘down’ the edge of the precipitous cliffs to the most northerly view point of the park, although this was a desire vs. time constraint compromise.

Bryce Rim Sunrise – Not a bad place for a Run

As I started out from the car park and up the first incline, I hoped my initial breathlessness was simply a result of a ‘standing start’ and going up hill without having warmed up for a few km; that and the 8,200ft altitude, of course. I was reminded, for the second time this vacation, of the Western States 100, which starts out with a vicious 3-4km climb from Squaw Valley, up to the highest point of the course, before the undulating one way route descends over 100 miles into Auburn. Perhaps I should practice my uphill running from cold.

Only half an hour after the sun had risen, I was already beginning to feel the heat, on first my left side and then, after reaching the summit at Bryce Point, turning and retracing my steps, on my right side. I stopped briefly every few moments, as I reached another corner or crest with another new and stunning view of the canyon to the east, to take some remarkably pleasing picture with my iPhone.

If I thought that the route was to be all downhill from the turning point I was sadly disappointed as it too was an undulating route along the ridge of the canyon, but this at least gave me a good workout. I ran through my start point and them on for another 2-3km before reaching Sunrise Point where I had arranged to meet my breakfasting family. They had had an adventure of their own and, being confused about where they were to meet me, had travelled around the various vistas but luckily had arrived at the perfect time to meet me.

What a fantastic day so far, and it wasn’t even 9:00am yet 🙂

After a quick bite of breakfast and shower, while the children played in the surrounding woods, only at the end of which did we discover that ‘rattlesnake activity’ was HIGH :shock:, we then continued our journey, but went south for 40 miles or so, back along the road we had previously travelled to Bryce, back down in elevation, and then 20 or so miles west to Zion National Park, our second treat for the day.

Zion is more popular than Bryce, as it is more accessible and lower elevation, but is just as beautiful albeit for different reasons. We entered the canyon and realised that approaching the route through the park from the east, we were actually descending further into the valley which after the climbs of the last few days to get to our destinations was an unusual feeling. The canyon walls were beautiful though, and etched in unbelievable way as if someone had spent a lifetime with a cold chisel and hammer drawing a myriad of designs of the rock faces, some etched vertically in contrast to the horizontal sedimentation lines, some horizontal weathering effects and some diagonal and cross-cross herringbone lines produced by heaven knows what effect! Beautiful though.

We had been warned at the entrance to the park that there were two tunnels, the second of which we were considered an ‘oversized vehicle’ for and hence needed a ranger ‘escort! This amounted to only allowing one way traffic through the tunnel so that we could drive down the middle of the 1/2 mile tunnel hewn through the canyon wall.

Zion National Park – After the second tunnel – Click for Panorama

As we emerged from the other side, we were exposed to a final perilous descent down a switchback through the almost unfeasibly steep cliff valley on either side. The pictures we took, on stopping will never do it justice.

At the bottom of the valley and the other side of the park, we stopped for some some lunch and found a Thai restaurant which although incongruous in its location, was a great meal.

Setting off again we were soon back on the interstate, with ‘only’ 160 miles to go to our final evening stop in the RV. We had decided to push on to a place called Fillmore, simply because it had a hot-tub as well as a swimming pool at the KOA RV park; such are the simple demands of under-11 year olds.

As it turned out the park was well enough presented with a great view of the mountains to the east and although several miles away, there was nothing between us and them except, as it turned out, a couple of thunderstorms. At least they whipped up a nice breeze while we were packing. Fillmore itself was a small place, a bit of a one horse town perhaps, but the restaurant we ate at for our final evening meal in the RV did us proud.

RV Trip, Day 15: Ruby’s Inn RV Park, Bryce Canyon to Fillmore, UT
Day Mileage: 246 miles
Total Mileage: 2249 miles
RV_Trip_Day_15_Ruby’s_Inn_Bryce_Canyon_to_Fillmore_UT

Caffeine and Pace

For the last 15 months or so, I’ve been largely caffeine free.

In an attempt to give my leg the best possible chance of healing, I forsook caffeine in coffee and tea, choosing instead to drink decaf coffee and rooibos tea, the naturally decaffeinated tea which originates from South Africa. On occasions I have had the odd double espresso after a meal, and of course I’ve not given up chocolate by any means, but these have been the exception rather than the rule.

Caffeine

So imagine, if you will, the effect of a couple of full strength coffees on a pace run I had today.

I am still feeling a bit blocked up, so decided I needed a bit of a perk up this morning after getting into the City and it certainly worked.

London is filled with small coffee shops, Pret a Manger, Pod, Eat, Cafe Nero, Starbucks, Costa’s, plus any number of small independent shops – it is clearly a lucrative business to feed the City’s habit of morning stimulant. I don’t normally have to worry about frequenting them though, as our restaurant and coffee bar normally provision adequately for my needs. Still, you never know what you’ve got, until it’s gone, and as both are closed for the Bank’s annual meeting, for the last week I’ve been experimenting with the local drug establishments, but still getting decaf as a preference.

I had a large coffee from Pret first thing, with my croissant followed by another from rival Pod a couple of hours later.

When I got down to the gym I was still feeling a touch congested, and it had not even crossed my mind that I had been imbibing hard stimulants all morning. The weather was good, but my mind was such that I only decided to go outside at the last minute, deferring from my planned treadmill interval session to get some fresh air along the Regent’s Canal.

As I started out I tried to get things moving as quickly as possible, warming up for the first km with a view to doing a faster 4km before a cool down final km back to the gym. My watch beeped all too soon though and as I glanced down I was pleased with the 4:45 recorded for my first lap as I sped up for the real test.

Then the surprise really happened, 4:15 as I picked up the canal, 4:14 for the third km, feeling the strain, but still not maxed out. I took the prudent course at this point and slowed marginally for a couple of minutes as a recovery, so the next beep indicated 4:34 as I sped up again on my way back through Hackney and Hoxton to record 4:10 with the last cool down km being 4:28.

Now, I know these are not particularly fast pace times, indeed, I will be looking to attain this as the norm, rather than the exception in a few months time. Even so, the surprise was that in my semi-depleted, blocked up state, I was able to run at this pace at all, let alone without bursting a blood vessel.

It was only much later that I realised the probable, caffeine related reasoning behind my sudden performance increase.

Performance enhancing indeed!

Long Two, Shortbread Three

I planned a long run again this morning, after a week where things had been a bit quiet from a training point of view.

It was a bit of a late start, but eventually I got going, starting out along the canal and disused railway to Bramley, but unlike the week before last, I turned off towards Shamley Green to get a few hills in. I did this route recently, but after getting through Farley Green and Albury, I took a right turn towards Shere, and then went up a trail towards Coombe Bottom, which still makes the children laugh every time I mention it.

Shortbread with Liz's Caramel

The hills were pretty much over at that point. Only about 1200ft of ascent over what turned out to be about 19 miles in the end. I am hoping to double this distance in the next 4 months or so of training, be far more comfortable with the hills, increase my speed, and my overall endurance with back-to-back long runs on consecutive days – too much to ask? We shall see.

As I didn’t get out too early, I got back just after midday and was exhausted and starving, having not had breakfast, a habit which I will have to change! The feelings of nausea and light-headedness passed after food and a couple of hours.

We started the afternoon with a quiet book reading session and then, as I had expended so many calories in the morning, I made some more millionaire shortbread later on 😎

The last batch we made was good, but the caramel was not perfect, so this time we used Liz’s fantastic tried and tested ‘Boil the cans of Carnation Condensed Milk for 2-2½ hours. After cooling, the normally creamy liquid cam out as a thick golden lump of pure caramel, which I then mixed with butter and sugar to pour on top of the already prepared shortbread. I can recommend this approach.

I’ll get the feedback from the children tomorrow 🙂

Meet The Vet

The kittens had their first set of injections booked in with the vet this morning.

After a good night’s sleep, I felt a little more human, but still felt like I needed another few hours rest, which with kittens, children and chores to do, didn’t really end up happening.

Ready for lift-off!

The vets is a couple of miles away, down the Epsom Road to the east of Guildford, along a route Liz and myself have often run. The “Cape Veterinary Clinic” is run by a South African who has been over here 18 years. The session was early but swift, and the little kittens are fine. Their first injections were carried out and they have been relatively quiet and sleepy for the rest of the day. I’m sure it will be a different matter in a few weeks when they need to go back, having already experienced the associated of basket, vet, and discomfort!

When we got home the children had some of their “Lunar Candy” which they had been begging us for ever since Thursday. They each chose a different colour and then had great fun for the next 30 minutes eating them. Then the rush came and there was mayhem! I’m not sure why we keep doing the sugar thing, although in a way it is to get them used to it – this seems to be working for the elder boys, but the younger ones still have the occasional post-sugar reaction.

Mousetrap - deep concentration

The little ones had swimming starting again today which they were reluctant to go to, to start with, but as usual, once they were there, they were fine and both enjoyed themselves – it is strange how they react so badly to changes in their activities sometimes.

I had only just got back from swimming when I had to take Morgan to his party at the Spectrum in Guildford, where he had a spy activity and picnic, and I only had about 5 minutes when I got back to grab some lunch, as we had a house viewing at 2:30pm which the estate agents could not attend (as it was last minute) so Liz did the ‘showing’ while I took the remaining three children out to the local hostelry, where they played mousetrap and  monopoly for a couple of hours before we picked Morgan up and then journeyed back home to meet a resting Liz, before we all collapsed.

What a day.