As some people may know, I like to participate in the odd running event for fun and over the years, have managed to complete several half-marathons. I never thought I would say it, but I quite like running this distance. Mainly because of the broad range of people and abilities taking part, including many of those wearing fancy dress. There will always be some seriously speedy competitors at the front of the pack kitted out in the latest high-tech trainers but they definitely do not make up the majority of runners. Which means that the whole event feels less like being part of a ‘race’ against each other and more like running in the middle of a giant wave of like-minded participants that surges forward past the crowds.
But despite the all-embracing, tree-hugging inclusion with motivational cheering of half-marathons, you cannot hide the fact that there are also 21km of hard slog to contend with. Not everything always goes to according to plan on the day, despite your best efforts, and I am no different. In fact, it is fair to say that my experience of running half-marathons has been very mixed…
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of Brexit news and political shenanigans at the moment that reaches you with every notification ping of the latest breaking news story. Therefore, I almost missed the fact that it had been Sugar Awareness Week. This year, Action on Sugar focused their campaign on banning all milkshakes over 300 kcals. Their main target is a sugar monstrosity known as the Freakshake. A Freakshake is unlike anything ever seen or even dreamt up before and is more than some ordinary milkshake having its moment in social media. It is an indulgent, calorie dense, sugar loaded mash-up of 3 different puddings in one. It is also an absolute feat in pudding engineering and pushes the boundaries of sickliness to extreme limits. Continue reading
Although some may think this is controversial, I am just going to come out and say it. I absolutely love Halloween! I cannot help it. After growing up in a country that celebrates it and spending much of my childhood counting down the months leading up to it, it was sort of inevitable. I could think of nothing better than spending hours trying to decide what to dress up as or figuring out the most strategic routes for trick or treating. It paid to be prepared because the more candy you had, the more of an advantage you would gain in the next day’s sweetie trading wars. But Halloween wasn’t just about hoarding candy or even eating pumpkin pie. The night was filled with ear-splitting fireworks displays, the smell of sparklers, running around with your friends in the dark, impromptu parties, grown-ups acting silly and everybody staying up far too late whether it was a school night or not.
Of course, I haven’t mentioned the Halloweens when things didn’t quite go according to plan. Like when the Vancouver torrential rain destroyed our homemade costumes made of cardboard in minutes and we had to ditch them and trick or treat in wet pjs. Or when we managed to go to every house in the entire surrounding area that only gave out boxes of raisins. Or when we ended up trapped on a street between houses, in the middle of a standoff between older boys who were firing Roman candle fireworks at each other and hurling lit jack o’ lanterns.
Although the school year has started, like many families, I have also faced the trial of both my elder children leaving home to begin university last week. It didn’t exactly go off without a hitch and included some stressful last-minute shopping trips and meltdowns in IKEA, whist debating both the necessity and merits of various cooking utensils. But at least they both did all the packing, in that they crammed the entire contents of their messy rooms into every available suitcase and carry-on bag they could find.
Now that they are safely settling in their new homes, it has been a bit of an adjustment to get used to living with less people around. Of course, like all milestones in our children’s lives, there is always lots of advice out there about how to cope through it all. From self-help books to blogs, websites and even 8-step programs, ‘empty nest syndrome’ makes for some serious marketing opportunities. That is not to say there isn’t a need for such advice because some families go through a very difficult period of loss when their children begin to leave home. However, even if you are happily sailing by this milestone in calm waters, there may still be some unexpected trouble ahead. Because what nobody ever warns you about when your children move out is the effect it has on your kitchen. We have not only lost two children but two really massive eaters. As a result, our ever-empty fridge is now perpetually filled and the cupboards are full to bursting. As I struggle to adapt to shopping and cooking for less people in my house, my kitchen has become a battleground to fight food waste.
Like many parents, I spent the last few weeks of the summer holidays trying to stretch out the days whilst dodging the inevitable back to school preparations. Ultimately, time caught up with us which meant that I no choice but to shop with my children en masse. Admittedly, we’d left it a bit late this year but we obviously had blocked any previous memory from our consciousness of back to school shopping hell. Because why else did we choose to shop at a time when the stores are full to brimming of other late starters? Oh, the joy of shopping alongside other panicking families, scrambling around in search of missing school uniform and stationary. There was nothing quite like shopping for the Holy Grail of school shoes, ones acceptable to parent, child and school, whilst in the surroundings of other stressed out families. I lost count of the number people we witnessed losing the plot after hearing the fateful words of ‘out of stock’ one too many times.
Ready or not, the new school year waited for no one despite many of us still trying to deal with one of our child’s most important pieces of kit. Of course, I am talking about sustenance and the annual guilt-laden dilemma of school lunches: to pack or pick?