Is this a scene from a horror film?

Is this a scene from a horror film?

In keeping with my earlier proclamation about not giving a rat’s arse about what anyone else thinks, behold the uninhibited Rachel looking like a dork and wearing pyjamas.

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I ate all that green stuff just after the photo was taken. It’s produce from my plot at the allotment which is where I went in the pouring rain earlier in the day. Going to the allotment is like going to the grocery store but you don’t have to pay anything to take some food away.

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I can’t say I particularly like raw kale but something I have come to realise lately is that the stuff we like and the stuff we need are not the same. Unfortunately we need green vegetables more than chocolate. It’s a painful fact and one I will have to accept.

But never fear! I still had my fill of sweet treats for the day because as part of my donation to the Bonobo Kickstarter campaign I got a free cake which we picked up today. They made me a vegan sponge cake which was superb. Ben went and picked it up but carried it home in his backpack so it doesn’t look quite as good as it did originally however it’s still delicious.

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Goodbye goody two-shoes

Yesterday I did everything in my power to kill myself accidentally. It’s fortunate I survived because today is my birthday and I’m now the meaning of life, 42.

I’m a bit of a goody two-shoes but this is only because I don’t like getting into trouble. This makes it doubly painful when I do the wrong thing without meaning to. First I stepped out in front of a car because I thought the pedestrian crossing had changed to green but it was the green light for traffic that had changed. Half-way across the road I wondered why the car 50cm to my right was inching forwards and then I realised he had a green light and I had just walked right out in front of him.

Later I cycled home from the centre of town in the pouring rain. It was dark, rainy and visibility was poor but stupid me forgot to turn the front light on. I have a fantastic, brand new bike, with an expensive, pedal-powered light up front – I turned it on when I first got the bike and I leave it on all the time because there’s no battery – I am the battery and I figure it doesn’t matter if they’re on during the day. But somehow it wasn’t on. I didn’t think to check because I never turned it off. I also didn’t notice it was off because the rain was pouring on my face and there were street lights. Nevertheless it’s hard for cars to see bikes without lights on rainy nights and several cars pulled out in front of me. They did see me eventually but I’m sure they were cursing me – “Stupid cyclist without lights and a helmet”! But I did have a helmet and I did have lights – my helmet is invisible and I simply forgot to turn the lights on.

What really peeved me off about this is that cyclists get such a bad rap as it is. People hate us and without good reason. We just want to do the right thing by our health and the planet – why is that a crime? It’s for this reason that I go out of my way to never do the wrong thing when I’m cycling. I don’t go through red lights and I walk across pedestrian crossings when I’m stopped on the road at an intersection. In short, I do so many things specifically *not* to aggravate the motor brigade – I’m a bloody irritating goody two-shoes. Then I go and cycle home in the dark and rain without lights. I’m sure there’s a new wave of motorists in Aberdeen cursing all cyclists now just because of me. Well fuck that – I’m sick of goody two-shoes. If people hate me for wanting to reduce my greenhouse gas emissions and stay slim then I don’t give a rat’s arse what they think. I’m 42 now and an adult at last, though a slightly dishevelled one.

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Insufferable mathematicians

Elizabeth had some homework this week which involved asking a member of her family to write some random numbers between 0 and 1,000 on a piece of paper for her to put in the correct numerical order. She asked her father and this is what he gave her:

869, 17, 3.5, 29, 19, 437, 832, 999, 1, 412, 3, e, π, √2

Elizabeth is 7 years old.

The bungee run

We took the grandparents to Crathes Castle today and there was an event going on with lots of bouncy castles and children’s activities. The kids enjoyed this bungee run the most.

We have been to Crathes Castle so many times but we only just realised today that King Arthur is painted on the ceiling of one of the rooms.

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There was more sack racing and Daniel won his race. He is a champion jumper. Elizabeth also did well and came in second.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Scotland has been voted the most beautiful country in the world by the Rough Guide. I agree with that sentiment. New Zealand has more striking landscapes but Scotland has history and culture and it’s also safe – no earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, cyclones, or dangerous animals.

My mother is visiting and yesterday we went to Dunnottar Castle which is 20 minutes down the road from here. I have been lots of times but I never tire of the place. It’s a medieval fortress perched on top of a sheer cliff. There’s some fascinating history in this castle. The Honours of Scotland, the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles, were hidden in the castle during an eight-month siege in 1652 when Oliver Cromwell’s army was battering the fortress with cannons. When the Scots eventually surrendered the jewels were no-where to be found, having been smuggled out of the castle. I believe they are now held at Edinburgh Castle.

There’s more fascinating history on the Dunnottar Castle site.

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Sack racing in front of the Queen

Sack racing in front of the Queen

We were very pleased to return our campervan today and return home to hot water and flushing toilets. I’ve realised that those old VW campervans are just for young, cool people who can defy their natural biology by not producing any poo. Ben and I both have war wounds. Ben for hitting his head on the roof a few too many times:

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My war wound is from hitting my shin on the tow bar. Why that thing even has a tow bar is beyond me. It can barely get itself up hills let alone something else towed behind.

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Last night we slept in this field in Braemar.

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We decided not to return to the carpark at Glenshee because it was so cold and it was definitely warmer in Braemar last night. Fortunately there were lots of portaloos left from The Gathering so we drove Fergus to the nearest one in the field and it wasn’t so far to go to the toilet in the night.

Our main purpose in going to Braemar was for the annual gathering which was fantastic. Once a year more than 15,000 people, including the Queen, descend on Braemar for their annual highland games This has been happening since 1832. The Queen attends every year just for one hour from 3pm-4pm and members of the Royal family have attended regularly since 1848. You have to book accommodation for this event a long way in advance because the village is normally home to just a thousand people and so there is a very limited number of beds. Everything was fully booked a long time ago, including tent pitches at the local campsite.

The games themselves are a mix of events including traditional things like caber tossing and hammer throwing. There were also running races, traditional highland dancing, tug of war, and sack races which both children got to compete in. There were more men in skirts than at a Mardis Gras and bagpipes playing in every corner.

I had never seen caber tossing before and it’s an amazing spectacle. I’m sure they are not really humans throwing them. The caber is basically a tree trunk which the contestant has to run with and then throw so that it flips over. The tall pole in this next photo is the caber.

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I took a short video of someone tossing the caber. Do not try this at home.

 

 

For those less interested in the events there was a gin and whisky tent which was packed by the end of the day. I got this next photo early in the day:

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The kids had their own tug of war:

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We ate lunch under some trees.

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The Queen, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, and Princess Ann arrived at 3pm.

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The highlight of the day was that the children got to compete in a sack race in front of the Queen! Ben and I also went onto the field to help them and cheer them on.

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It was a handicap race which meant that as one of the oldest children Daniel had to start from way, way back. He bounced along so fast and overtook a heap of kids but didn’t place unfortunately. Elizabeth started near the front and went so fast that she fell over!

Just before the race I turned around and took this photo of the Queen from the field. I felt like the paparazzi. You can’t really see her in the photo. I should have zoomed in but she’s seated right in the centre in that little cottage in the middle of the photo.

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Then at 4pm the Royal family departed.

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Later that evening when everyone had left we went and walked around the park and I took a close-up photo of the little cottage the Royal family sits in. It’s a very cute and modest timber cottage. There’s nothing lavish about it but it was decorated superbly, with the loveliest heather around the doorway and the most spectacular living green roof I have ever seen.

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If the Queen didn’t attend the Braemar games I think the turnout would be much smaller. I realise the Royal family is very costly to maintain and they arrived in a very expensive motorcade but the tourism dollars they bring to this region must be enormous. I wonder whether Queen Elizabeth’s successor will continue to support the event? I hope so.

Elizabeth has been learning highland dancing at school and put on a show for us in the evening.

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There are a couple of notable things that stand out to me after this event. I heard there were around 21,000 people there and when we walked around the grounds later in the evening there wasn’t all that much litter. Often after events like these there’s litter scattered everywhere and while there was a bit, it wasn’t all that much.

Ben also noted that there was no security at all. At least, none that we could see or that affected our enjoyment of the event. Often big events like this have security patrolling around and x-ray machines and bag checking. There was nothing like that at all and indeed we went out onto the field right in front of the Queen’s cottage and Ben had his backpack on his back. He could have concealed a weapon easily inside. No-one checked our bags or anything. That makes me so happy. Our friends told us there would have likely been snipers stationed around the place ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble but we never saw anyone like that and there was no trouble at all.

There was lots of merry singing into the night and bagpipes. I got a bit sick of the bagpipes by the end of the day.

 

Despite our troubles with the campervan we had an amazing weekend in Braemar. I love that little village. I eventually became a bit more confident driving Fergus and, although his top speed was 45 miles/hour, at least we had wonderful views out the window.

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We weren’t sure what to put in the visitor book for Fergus because we really did not enjoy the VW campervan. However Ben, the genius, wrote something entirely truthful and not unkind.

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On top of the world

On top of the world

We’re in Braemar for the weekend but were unable to get any accommodation because the Braemar Gathering is on and so we decided to book a 1974 VW campervan and take our own accommodation.

 

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It has been a bit of a disaster so far. I had a lot of problems shifting gears. I learnt to drive a manual and my first car was a manual and some of the car club cars are manuals but nevertheless, I’m finding the 1974 VW very tricky. Several times I’ve been stopped in the middle of the road unable to get it into first to start again and then I start to panic. The car has a top speed of 45 miles/hour but I’ve barely gone above 35 miles/hour.

I slept poorly last night. We couldn’t get the heating to work and I spent most of the night worrying that the children would freeze to death. When I wasn’t worrying about that I was worried about how I would drive the thing home again. The walk to the toilet is about 200m which doesn’t seem like much but it is when you have two small children needing to go several times before bed and then again at 6am in the morning … and it’s freezing. Add to that we keep banging our heads on the roof. Obviously I’m a princess now and should stick to glamping going forward.

It hasn’t been all bad. We went up the chair lift at Glenshee yesterday and for a walk along the ridge. The views are magnificent. I told Elizabeth that we’re on top of the world and the little know-it-all said, “No, we’re not, Mount Everest is the top of the world”.

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The mighty huntress

The mighty huntress

I have just finished this rather wonderful crochet head of a stag. All he needs now is a name.

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I got the pattern from a fantastic book called Animal Heads by Vanessa Mooncie. All the patterns look terrific and I fully intend to make more of them.

I have never understood why people kill animals for entertainment and then smile while holding a severed body part in front of the camera. It doesn’t require much talent to kill a beast but it did require talent to design this pattern. Vanessa Mooncie is a talented artisan and no animals were harmed in the making of this art.

The BBC made my daughter cry

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I’m so cross with the BBC today. For the past little while we’ve watching the BBC TV series, Merlin. It is a wonderful, family-friendly production of the King Arthur legend but told from the point of view of Merlin and starting from before Arthur becomes king. It’s got funny bits that appeal to all ages and our kids have loved watching it. Last night we watched the series finale which was a huge disappointment.

**SPOILER ALERT**

For the final two seasons Merlin is warned about the prophecy of Arthur’s death at the hands of Mordred. Throughout the entire production we’re told that Merlin is the greatest wizard to ever live and that it’s his destiny to protect Arthur so that he can unite the kingdoms. So we’re strung along for two seasons wondering what Merlin will do to change this prophecy and protect Arthur and it turns out absolutely nothing. Mordred drives his sword into Arthur and kills him. Arthur is dead and that’s it. There’s nothing after this other than Guinevere becomes the new ruler of Camelot. We don’t even know whether Merlin returns to Camelot. How disappointing is that? Elizabeth was in tears.

Throughout the entire five seasons Merlin promises multiple different characters that one day magic will be allowed again because Arthur will make it so. But then Arthur dies and sorcery is still outlawed. The show never properly finished but I’ve read there are no plans to make another and what can they do now that Arthur is dead?

The ending as it should have been told is that Merlin uses magic to remove the blade from Arthur’s chest. The prophecy only showed Mordred stabbing Arthur – we didn’t see what happened after that and it’s obvious that Merlin healed Arthur’s wound, confessed to being a sorcerer, after which Arthur allows magic again and everyone lives happily ever after.

 

Kildrummy Castle

Kildrummy Castle

There are so many castles in Aberdeenshire and I’m still discovering ones we’ve never seen, like Kildrummy Castle, which is where we went today. It’s a ruin but in its hey-day it was known as the “noblest of northern castles”. I’m not exactly sure what is meant by that but one thing is certain, Kildrummy Castle was once a very impressive fortress, with impregnable stone towers, and a drawbridge. It was built in the 13th century and witnessed many battles until its demise during the Jacobite rising in the 1700s.

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This is all that remains of one of the towers where the Lords lived. You can see how thick the walls are in the cross-section of the circular wall.

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The kids like playing hide and seek at ruins like these.

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The timber bridge in the next photo is where the drawbridge once stood.

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I love the plants growing up this stone wall.

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About 5 minutes up the road from Kildrummy Castle are the Kildrummy Castle Gardens. These look gorgeous but are not run by Historic Scotland so you have to pay to get into both places. We only saw the gardens from the bridge above as we were hungry and wanted lunch, but I got a couple of nice photos from the bridge. I’m sure we’ll go back for a proper look.

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The drive to Kildrummy Castle is magnificent. All the heather is in flower right now and it gives the hills a purple hue which looks lovely from a distance.

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Cauliflower cheese without cheese

I’m not that into cooking however I like eating and I know I need to eat more fresh vegetables and fewer processed vegan meals. Last night I made a vegan version of cauliflower cheese that tasted wonderful and was very easy to make so I thought I’d share it.

Someone at the allotments gave me a huge, fresh cauliflower and I got it home and wondered what to do with it. What do you do with cauliflower? I decided to bake it but baked cauliflower on its own is pretty boring so I made this lovely sauce to go with it.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 dessert spoons tahini
  • 1/2-1 cup of ground cashew nuts
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • water

I put the garlic and a bit of water in a saucepan and cooked them for a few minutes before adding everything else. I then added more water until I was happy with the consistency of the sauce. I’m not sure exactly how much water I added but possibly a cup or two. Then I poured it over my cauliflower and baked it in the oven. I can’t remember how long for – maybe 10-15 minutes? The cauliflower was still crunchy which is how I like it.

I prefer gardening and crochet to cooking and fortunately I have plenty of gardens to tend to including our plot at the allotment. I find weeding strangely therapeutic. Sometimes I fall asleep at night imaging pulling out buttercups which is very soothing and sends me off to sleep.

We got our plot in April and here’s how it looked:

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In June it looked like this:

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And now in August all the weeds are finally under control and it looks like this:

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Aggressive vegans

Aggressive vegans

Apparently 26% of British meat-eaters claim the attitude of vegetarians and vegans has put them off considering a plant-based diet. I think that’s a bit silly. I’m sure there are some aggressive vegans with a bad attitude just as there are some aggressive motorists with a bad attitude and some aggressive police officers with a bad attitude and so on but it’s wrong to reject that entire point of view simply because you don’t like someone you met in that group. It’s like meeting an arrogant, self-centred arsehole who likes chocolate and then deciding you won’t eat any chocolate because the self-centred arsehole likes it. You’re missing out on all that chocolate for such a silly reason! Chocolate, I might add, comes from plants and is vegan.

On other matters my sweet peas on the pavement outside our house are now taller than I am. Do I look like an aggressive vegan with a bad attitude in this next photo? I can’t seem to convince Daniel that it’s summer in Scotland and he insists on wearing his winter jacket even on the not-so-cold days.

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Some of you may remember the horrendous time I had in Spain recently trying to order vegan meals in regular restaurants. At one place I was given a plate of burnt artichokes.

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In the news this week was another vegan who had a similar experience in Spain except that she got a plate of tomatoes and raw onion. And people wonder why we’re aggressive and have a bad attitude.

Castles, seals, and Spiderman

Yesterday we checked out Knockhall Castle, the doer-upper which is currently for sale at £130,000.

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I think it’s over-priced because there’s very little land with it. The surrounding fields are all owned by someone else and not for sale – although I have heard the owner is open to the possibility of selling them. However the castle is gorgeous and has magnificent views of the sea. I would buy it in a second if we had a spare £130,000 and it included some land for a garden. The only bit of land included is the small castle courtyard.

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The holes near the bottom are apparently gun holes.

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There’s an inscription over the door which reads 1565. The door itself is bricked up.

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Here’s Lord Sinclair in front of his castle.

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The main reason we went to visit Knockhall was to see the seal colony at Newburgh. The kids love this place as do I.

It was sunny when we arrived but there was a dramatic change in the weather which made for some nice photos.

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I got myself some tartan tights in Edinburgh the other weekend but I fear they look more like Spiderman tights.

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A harvest of four carrots

I was horrified last week when one of the other plotters at the allotments told me the growing season is almost over. We really haven’t got very much food from our plot. Today I harvested our carrots. All four of them 🙂

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You may be wondering why we only got four carrots and I’m embarrassed to admit this but it’s because I got a little carried away with the weeding not long after sowing the seeds. It reminds me of the time I accidentally ordered a single carrot from online shopping.

Rule number 1 of allotment gardening: don’t weed out the legitimate vegetable seedlings. 

I planted about a dozen kale seedlings a few weeks ago and all but one has completely vanished. I put them under bird netting so I can’t blame the birds. I suspect it was snails or slugs.

Rule number 2 of allotment gardening: don’t plant kale seedlings out until they’re larger than 5cm high.

Rule number 3 of allotment gardening: birds eat kale.

I wish I had planted more broccoli because that has been doing well and we’re enjoying eating it. The kids like it too and eat it raw.

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I highly recommend the no dig method of gardening. I had a small patch of grass that I covered over with cardboard a couple of months ago. I started piling weeds on top, partly to stop the cardboard blowing away and also because my compost bin was full. Today I shoved the pile to one side to find a lovely patch of soil, without any weeds or grass, and full of small organisms. Here it is in this next photo: the square of dark soil is the earth that I uncovered when I removed the pile of cardboard and weeds. Previously it was just grass.

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The growing season may be over for some but I’m going to continue through the winter. My favourite crops are green leafy vegetables and these can be grown all year round. I also sowed some parsnips today. I’m told they won’t grow because it’s too late in the season but I’m going to try anyway. If it doesn’t work I’ll know for next year.

The ultimate doer-upper

I tried to convince Ben last week that we should buy this doer-upper:

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-63319526.html

It was built by Lord Sinclair in 1565 and Ben’s mother’s maiden name is Sinclair. Maybe it could be our bach (bach is the New Zealand word for a modest holiday home near the beach).

It’s true that we’re the most un-DIY family in existence and we need to hire tradespeople for even the simplest of things so I can see why it might not be a good idea. However we could just pitch a tent on the castle grounds and camp there. Elizabeth says she’d like it for her next birthday.

 

Vegan ice cream for dummies

I adapted this recipe from one I saw in the August edition of Britain’s Vegan Food & Living magazine. It is possibly the easiest, quickest, healthiest, and yummiest vegan ice-cream you will ever eat.

Ingredients

  • 3 large bananas
  • 300g frozen black currents (or berries of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 100ml soya milk
  • Two dessert spoons of ground flax

You can skip the ground flax but since it is full of omega 3s and very good for you I recommend putting it in everything. My kids love this ice cream better than the commercial chocolate ice cream we have in our freezer.

Method

Slice the bananas into small pieces and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, combine everything in a bowl and blend until smooth and creamy. Then eat or put back in the freezer for later.

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A weekend of vomit

I cleaned up lots of vomit on the weekend. On Friday night I was woken by the sound of Elizabeth wailing from the bathroom. I found her sitting on the toilet surrounded by a pool of vomit. Why couldn’t she have vomited in the toilet rather than on the floor next to it? I suppose I should be thankful that it was in the bathroom and not on the bedroom carpet.

On Saturday morning Daniel woke up to find he had vomited in his bed through the night. He’s the only person I know who can vomit without waking up. He also slept through a magnitude 7.1 earthquake so I suppose it goes with the territory. Unfortunately his vomit ended up on the carpet and blankets.

Why does vomit always contain diced carrots even when diced carrots have not been eaten? Ben has also been sick but thankfully he has avoided puking so far. I’m the only well one which means I’m either about to catch it or they’ve got food poisoning from some animal product which I don’t eat. I’m hoping it’s the latter.