Toby Week 3: All The Things

It’s been a week of buying stuff for the littlest member of the household.

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As he is sleeping in the “futility room”, we bought a blackout roller blind to keep it nice and dark at night, as well as a bit warmer.  This necessitated looking for a doorstop to prevent the blind crashing into the wall should the wind catch the back door.  But I was worried that a sticky out springy one would be a chewing temptation – as he’s already had an operation to remove something he chewed I didn’t want to take any chances.  I did consider positioning such a doorstop up high, though!

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We cleaned out the outdoor run, and lifted the old wooden kennel, only to be horrified by the crud that had gathered underneath.  So a new kennel was required.

We chose one from Ecoflex, which is made from reclaimed and recycled materials, and is much cosier than the old wooden one.

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At the minute they are on 2 different dog foods, so we upgraded the food storage boxes, and also treated Minnie to a new dog bowl, again an environmentally friendly one.  Toby is fed 3 times a day, and Miinnie gets fed at the same times.

Crate training has begun – just small sessions, like 10 minutes while I have a shower, or nip to the shops.  It’s absolutely charming when a puppy crawls into your arms to go sleepy bye-byes, but I don’t want that to become the only way he will go to sleep.  So whenever he makes that grizzly “I want to sleep now” noise, I pop hin into the crate without any great fussing.

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He loves the sun, likes nothing better than getting into the garden, fining the sunniest spot, and just sitting.  Or exploring new things like cobwebs.

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I can’t believe how fast he is growing!  tobypurple - Copy

His little purple fleece now won’t fit over his head, and as he fills out I can see more of the pale gold markings coming through – technically he’s what they call “lemon and white”.

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Fighting over toys continues, poor Peppa Pig has no ears left!  But they do snuggle up together at times.

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Jamie’s 5 ingredients: Harissa Squash Salad

I’d been very impressed with the telly version of Jamie’s latest book, 5 ingredients.  The premise is that healthy, tasty food does not have to be complicated, so he has devised a range of recipes using only 5 ingredients (and a decent stocked larder).  So impressed, in fact, that I bought the book.  So pepare yourselves for an onslaught of recipe trial blog entries while I work my way through them.

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Harissa Squash Salad.

I’m a big fan of salads, especially ones that don’t go soggy before lunch.  I had half a butternut squash in the fridge, already had a jar of harissa, a ball of mozzarella and an avocado in the fridge, so the only ingredient I needed to buy specially was salad leaves.  I chose rocket, as the most versatile.

I was intrigued at the instructions to chop up the squash without bothering to peel, in fact add in the seeds as well.  I’m all in favour of using up as much as possible without waste!  I tossed the chunks of squash in a good blob of harissa paste, glug of oil, and salt and pepper.

Roast at 180 for 50 minutes – I gave them a bit of a stir around half way through.

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Serve on a bed of leaves and chopped avo, dresed in some olive oil and vinegar (I used sherry), with some mozzarella strewn over the top.

Verdict:

This was seriously tasty stuff!  I was perhaps over generous with the harissa, but once paired with the creamy avocado and cool cheese it was a lovely combination.  I found it a little on the soft and squishy texture wise, so I sprinkled some mixed seeds for added crunch and protein.

Half a squash was loads!  Even after my salad, there is still a generous amount left in the roasting pan.  It will be nice in another salad, or a wrap, or even in a “clear the fridge out” soup.  And not bothering to peel is a revelation.

Vegetarian friendly, could be made vegan by relacing the cheese with tofu.

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9 out of 10.

 

Week 2: Toby-wan-kenobi

Week 2 with Toby the beagle pup.

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He is growing so fast! Already the purple fleece he wears at night to keep warm is a little too snug, and taking it off a wriggling squirming bundle is an art form.  The collar has been let out a notch too.  He loves his grub, and is still being fed 3 times a day.  We’ve switched Minnie’s feeding times to match, and keep an eye on them as they are eating to watch out for growling or food guarding.

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The play fighting continues: sometimes it’s what I call the War of Jenkins Ear, other times it can be over a toy.  One of Toby’s faves is a squeaky Peppa Pig, which technically Minnie won as a prize about a year ago.  Now, she’s never really shown any interest in toys…..except when someone else wants them.  The fighting takes place under the kitchen table, or under my desk, and I hope everyones’ ears survive this phase intact.  Even mine, for the sharp beagle “play with me!” bark is VERY shrill.

 

We paid a vist to the dog-tor, to have a health check, get microchipped, and see when the next injections are due. I didn’t realise that different vets use different brands, and of course the first set he’d been given were not used by our local people.  So we’ve had to start again.  Microchipping is essential, but it is quite a nasty jag for the dog. And he got a worming tablet.  This has to be done monthly until they are 6 months old.

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Now, you know you’ve got a seriously cute dog when even the vet’s receptionist rushes round from behind her desk to take a photo, and put it on their Facebook page immediately!

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He wasn’t too impressed with being in the back of my car, which has a proper dog guard, or being on a lead, but it’s important to get him used to different situations and experiences at a young age.

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Toilet training is going very well, and he has a special pooping place in the garden.  I remarked that he was top of the pooping league, and my husband offered “Top of the Plops”

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It’s been Star Wars day  –  May the 4th be with you.  This year it fell on a parkrun day, so needless to say I’ve been planning costumes for me and Minnie for months.  She was originally to have been Chew-barker, but after a trip to the groomers she’s currently resembling a shorn lamb, and so Bark Vadar it was.  Toby is too young to participate just yet, but I did enjoy recreating the opening scenes, with “help me Toby-wan-kenobi, you’re my only hope”.  My son appreciated this joke! (Hi Harry  *waves*, your puppy snuggles await!).

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Toby: Week 1

Well, we have a new addition to the family!

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Despite the fact that my husband has angling for another dog for some time, and I’ve resisted strongly, this was the Unintended Dog. A friend of mine got Toby about a month ago, and I instantly worried about how she would be able to cope with him.  He’d had a tough enough start in life, having swallowed a baby’s dummy and had to have an operation.  So the first time I actually met him he had a wee buster cone on, to protect the stitches on his tummy.

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As he got bigger and stronger, he was proving too much of a handful for my friend, not helped by the fact that she couldn’t let him outside.  So all his toilet training was being done indoors  with puppy pads. Fast forward to the Thursday before  Good Friday. I got a phone call, saying that she realised he was going to be too boisterous for her, and would I be prepared to take him on. A quick discussion with husband (whose reaction was clappy hands and Oh yes! Oh yes!) and we agreed to have him for a trial run over the Easter weekend.  An important factor was, how would Minnie react?

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So on Easter Saturday lunchtime, we picked him up with his bed and crate and toys, and took him home.  My husband was instantly besotted, and created a special facebook photo album for the name he gave him: Tobias Albus Regis von Thunder.  The naming of dogs is an important thing, don’t you know!

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Full credit to Minnie, she was brilliant with him, particularly in putting him in his place when his puppy boisterousness gets a little too exuberant.

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We were blessed with fantastic weather over the holidays, and I was off work for a few days too, so we were able to spend loads of time out in the garden. This was obviously Toby’s first experience of grass, and after a few tentative sniffs, he was soon enjoying playing zoomies with Minnie all round the place.

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For his first night, we left him in his crate, but this proved rather messy in the morning.  So we then tried leaving him an his familiar bed but in the utility room, with some puppy pads about.  On the next morning, he seemed a bit shivery, so he’s now trying a cute purple fleecy coat to wear as pyjamas.  He settles quickly, and sleeps without too much noise until we get up at around 6.

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Puppy teeth are like needles, and we both have hands that bear the scars.  We are working on getting him to chew appropriate things, ie not human flesh.  Minnie is teaching him not to chew on her ears, either!

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Toilet training has been pretty good – we are looking out for the sniffing around signs, and what I call the “John Wayne” walk, which preceeds a poo.  He’s been finding his favourite spot in the garden to perform, and get lots of praise when he does.  Accidents have been few.

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Other training has been exceptional!  He is one smart cookie.  He learned “sit” on the first day, comes when he’s called, and is chasing and fetching toys.

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So, Week One verdict – better than expected.  No destroyed shoes or scarves, no dashes to the vet, and no regrets.

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parkrun tourism: Bois du Boulogne, Paris

parkrun #249 event #60
Reason for visit: supporting a friend running the Paris marathon.

Access:
The parkrun website acknowledges that it can be hard to find the start of this one, and helpfully gives a guide for English speaking visitors. Having chosen my hotel based on its proximity to the parkrun, I was only a few metro stops away from Porte d’Auteuil, on line number 9. Be aware, this stop is on a little one way loop section, so you may find yourself going back one stop to change direction. Taking the “hippodrome” exit, I was getting my bearings when another runner came and joined us.

He had the co-ordinates on google maps, and so we continued together, comparing parkrun histories, and crossing the big dual carriageway into the main parc. At this point we should have hovered near the car park until more likely suspects arrived, but we continued into the woods, were unsure where we were, tried asking a few others for directions (my French is OK but rusty), were sent to a different running route, found a really helpful chap in blue with a dog, who made sure we found our way back to the start point. By which stage there were lots more runners assembling, familiar parkrun signs were visible, and marathon man Simon found us.

Top tip – stick near the car park, there’s bound to be runners arriving there.  Oh, and monsieur en bleu, merci mille fois.

Facilities:

There are no loos in the parc, but there is one just as you exit the Metro, which is free to use.  Post run coffee and chat takes place at the little kiosk.

A volunteer led those of us who wanted to deposit coats and bags at the finish, reassuring us that there would always be someone there.

Crowd:

Surprisingly parkrun is not that big in France, there are only 2 events in Paris.  This one usually attracts 40-50 runners, but every year during marathon weekend those numbers are quadrupled.  The pre run brief starting by asking if there was actually anyone French here – one hand went up.

And how many were here for the marathon? Lots of hands raised!  Couple of dogs and prams.

Course:

One big loop and then 2 smaller ones. The paths are packed soil and gravel or tarmac, and wide enough to avoid any bottlenecks.  It’s a popular spot for dog walkers, so look out for dog poo……

Strangely appropriate song on shuffle:

Since were were in la belle France, and had spent some time looking for the start, I did smile when the French Eurovision entry “J’ai cherche” came on.

Time:

My running times aren’t great at the moment, but I was happy achieving my target of 35 mins.  Interestingly, French parkruns take very seriously the “it’s a run, not a race” concept, and the results are listed alphabetically, rather than by position.  And the result email doesn’t say “you came second in your age category” or anything like that.

 

And the rest:

It certainly was a memorable weekend!  We went along to the start of the marathon on the Sunday, a straight run on the metro from our hotel, and at each stop more runners got on, filling the carriages with the rustle of plastic bags and the smell of Tiger balm.

We’d agreed to meet Simon and his friends at the Disney Store, and volunteered to take their bags to the drop off zone.  While we were waiting, a girl came up and explained that she was supposed to be meeting Paul here, but she was late, and if we saw him, he had brown hair and maybe a beard, could we tell him that Helen had gone on……After watching the various time groups set off, we struggled to find the place to deposit the bags, and things got a little fraught as time was ticking by.  But, mission accomplished, we made our way to Porte d’Auteuil again, which was Mile 21, where we’d arranged to supply Simon with a bottle of flat coke to get him past “the wall”.  The sun was shining, a samba band was playing, we found a brasserie to enjoy a glass of wine in, and followed Simon’s progress on the brilliant marathon tracker app.  Flat coke duly handed over, we were delighted that he beat his target time of 4 hours.  Other Simon who I’d met at the parkrun did it in an impressive 3hr 15!

On the Monday, we checked out of our hotel and decided to pass a few hours on an open top bus, to save our legs and lugging bags around.  As I went through the metro turnstile, the flappy door which stops tailgaters came back and whacked me on the eyebrow.  You know how in cartoons there are little birds and stars flying round a whacked person’s head? That.  And my brain was going “Oh, someone’s going to come and ask me what happened, and I’m not sure how to say that in French, is it le truc m’a frappe?”  Meanwhile my husband was trying to stop me sobbing, and offering me a tissue for the blood that was dripping.  And no, no staff members came over to see if I was OK.  Once on the metro, the dirty looks my poor husband was getting….

Open top bus was a sensible use of time, and the bright sunny morning showed Paris in all its glory.  We passed Notre Dame, remarking on what a beautiful old building it was was, and then made our way out to the airport.  It was only when the plane landed back in Belfast, and everyone turned their phones back on, that a collective gasp spread amongst the passengers, seeing the news of the terrible fire that had taken place in the cathedral, everyone saying “but we were only there a few hours ago!”

All my parkruns:

 

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Weymouth

parkrun #246 event #59

Reason for visit: Scottish Dancing at the local group’s annual Highland Ball, invited by my fellow teaching candidate Irene.

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Access:

The parkrun takes place at Lodmoor Park, down near the beautiful seafront.  How many places have a town beach!  We arrived in style in Irene’s MX5, and parked for 50p an hour.  Free car parking is available a little further away in the College.

I’d travelled from Ggeorge Best Belfast City airport to Southampton, and bumped into local sleb Julian Simmonds doing his bit for Red Nose Day.

 

Crowd:

There were over 300 runners this visit, and a great range of ages and abilities. It was the final of the 6 nations, and there was some good natured rugby banter with some runners from England and Wales.  And plenty of cow cowls to be seen.  I was the runniest female.

I admired one guy in his vest with tags from all the parkruns he’d visited.  Some very fine looking doggies were also  participating.

Facilities:

There are toilets at the car park (though I coudn’t work out how to open the door), and all the equipment is stored in a little shed, where runners can also leave coats etc.

Volunteers:

I have to give a special mention to the volunteers, who included one Gregory Bailey, the first person to run 250 parkruns with no repeated events., as well as a “Friendship” and a “Dance”.

Today he was sporting a boot on his injured foot, poor thing, but his sister posed for photos with me.   There was a lead bike, and a new role to me – a buddy runner.

For newbies or anyone who might struggle and need a bit of support, running around the 35-40 minute pace.  What a super idea!

Course:

The surface is a bit of tarmac with a lot of compacted gravel, and can get muddy.  Having said that, Storm Hannah was causing havoc for parkruns up and down the country, and Weymouth got away lightly with just a stiff breezze to contend with.  It didn’t seem too bunchy at the start, a lap and a bit round the miniature train track, and then it’s out and back to the pineapple statue by the park and ride, which has its own dedicated marshall.

There’s a section here where runners are going in both directions, so keep left. No real hills to worry about, and I tried a hop skip and jump to get a flying feet photo.

Wooden km markers.

Time:

I was happy enough to knock 3 minutes off last week’s time though I still have lots of room for improvement.

 

Unexpectedly Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

An all time favourite – Some Days You Gotta Dance by the Dixie Chicks.

 

Gear:

My Garmin had a flat battery so I didn’t know my pace, but I’m learning how to guage that without the use of a watch.  Headphones worked well.  Apricot T and cow leggings make it easy to find myself in photos ( for which many thanks to Ken Hewitt).

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And the rest….:

I think this might be my most southerly run to date.  I was absolutely charmed by Weymouth, with its bascule bridge, and even found a pub selling Muff gin, which I needed for a photo competition.  Muff is a little village on the Irish border, before you ask.  The dancing on Saturday evening was lots of fun, and it was wonderful to meet up with old and new friends.  I dare say I’ll be back!

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

parkrun tourism: Stranmillis

parkrun #242 event#58 Reason for visit: to regain regionnaire status!

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Stranmillis College is my Mum’s alma mater, and I know she reads these, so hi Mum!  She infamously contracted pleurisy while sliding down the Famous Hill on a dining room tray…

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Now I was tempted to attend the inaugural last week, as my mate Ronan was celebrating his 250th run.  But instead I chose to capture a missing Wilson Index number at Deerpark, Carlanstown , and I’m very glad I did! One of my fellow canicrossers turned up at Stran, to be informed that it is a “no dogs” course, cos Rules, which he was rather miffed about.  And I would have been also if I’d given up catching my WI9 and then discovered I couldn’t run with Minnie.  Anyhoo, I let them get their inugural out of the way, and atteneded event #2, which suited me to run without dog as I was heading off to a dance class afterwards.

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Access:

Runners are encouraged to park in the small car park at the roundabout.  This has around 80 spaces, though some of the parking leaves a lot to be desired.

One then trudges up the Famous Hill, past any amount of empty car-parking spaces which aren’t allowed to be used cos Rules.  There is a Metro bus stop close to the entrance, 8A or 8D from the city centre –   the 8.40 would get you there in plenty of time.

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Facilities:

The run starts and finishes behind the Orchard building.

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There are loos in here which are clean and warm, and I was able to leave my jacket under a table here too.  After the run coffee and buns are in the cafe across the way in Central Bulding, which is currently doing a special offer for parkrunners.

Course:

From the start it’s DOWN the Famous Hill, across the front of the big old redbrick building, and then up hill.  And then up hill some more.

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A short spur to a turnaround point, and then more hills and more buildings. It’s all on tarmac roads, look out for the speed bumps, and there were a few cars driving about as well (at what seemed to me to be in excess of the 5 or 10 mph speed limit indicated).  If you are running with headphones, make sure you keep aware of what’s happening around you.  Three laps, and you can then pat yourself on the back for completeing a “character-building” course.

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Crowd:

I got the feeling it was a youngish crowd – even though my time was a rubbish 37 mins (I walked up the hills quite a bit), I was still 2nd in my age category.  And the first female was an impressive junior with a time of 21 minutes.  I bumped into a few fellow tourists, regionnaire and Wilson chasers.  There were 118 people when I visited, and the wide paths made it not too bunchy or crowded.  I have to admit, it’ll not make the Top Ten list of prettiest parkruns.  But it’ll be popular with those completing their “I’verunalltheNornIrnparkrunssoIhave” collection, visiting students and professors, and those who live nearby.

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Gear:

My Garmin couldn’t find a signal at the start.  I was probably standing too close to big trees and tall buildings, and should’ve gone onto the playing pitch where some people were doing their warm ups.  My headphones thankfully worked, as running without music would’ve been testing, and they are bone conducting ones so I could still hear what was going on –  there was lots of encouragement from fellow runners.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Since I was heading off to a dance class straight after, “Some Days You Gotta Dance” by The Dixie Chicks.

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Other thoughts:

My “elf’n’safety” meter was beeping loudly at the pre-run briefer standing on a plastic chair, the cars on the course, and a few extra marshalls would’ve been good, especially at the turnaround point, where the marker can get blown or kicked out of place, and also the surface there was a bit slippery and mucky.

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I thought I couldn’t see a tail walker, but photos and results seem to suggest that there was one, just not wearing the orange vest.  And I’m going to need a teeny tiny bead to mark the spot on my Tshirt!

List of All My Parkruns:

All my parkruns