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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Holiday Hell


The holiday season is well and truly upon us, although the Irish weather doesn't seem to have got the memo!
I love reading about other people's holidays, having a look at their holiday pictures on Instagram and I've written one or two posts of my own about holidays. What we rarely see though is accounts of our WORST holidays. While all holidays, especially with kids, will have its good and it's bad bits there are some holidays that are just misery, ones where you want to beamed home and the memory to be wiped immediately from your brains. Well I've decided to blog mine, which happened back before I even knew what a blog was, and I'm setting it up as a linky if anyone would like to join in and share their holiday horrors.



Our first holiday as a family of four was a staycation in the sunny south east, it was a chance for me to return to the beaches of my childhood and introduce our daughters to this part of Ireland.

We decided to book a self catering cottage on the grounds of a hotel that had a pool and a small playground. A mix up on our booking meant that when I phoned to change a part of it, it turned out that we weren't booked in, not a great start but at least it was rectified before we arrived. 
Things seriously nosedived when we did arrive. The hotel that had looked dated but ok on the website turned out to be worse than expected. There was that hideous pine panelling everywhere and the reek of fried food permeated the lobby. 
Our 'cottage' was possibly the worst self catering I've ever stayed in. Old fashioned puts too nice a spin on it, it's was cramped, dirty and the fridge in the galley kitchen was covered in rust. The only place to eat was at the table under the stairs, my 6 ft 1 husband was suitably impressed with this!! 

The girls were in separate rooms as they were still too young to share and not disturb each other but on the plywood wall between the doors of their rooms was perched the TV, which meant no TV could be watched after they went to bed, at 7 o clock, as the noise and woke them.

I had booked a babysitter ,through the hotel, for one night so we could go for dinner in Dungarvan but we both concluded that if their cleaning staff were an example of the hotel employees we really couldn't trust their judgement...no fancy grown up dinner for us then.

It rained or drizzled most days, I persisted with a trip to the beach, that beach where most of my happiest childhood holiday memories were formed, the girls obliged by trying to catch crabs, build sand castles and ignore the freezing wind, a hastily purchased wind breaker meant I nearly had a Mary Poppins style airborne moment while trying to set it up. When the youngest girls lips turned blue I finally conceded and packed up and returned to the house. 

Our youngest girl wasn't long out of her cast for hip displaysia and really hated being in the car but due to the crappiness of the hotel car trips were a necessary nightmare. One such journey to the Waterford Suir Valley Railway resulted in 40 minutes of wailing followed by the train trip that saw the loss of one shoe and one fleece...and expensive experience and that's not even taking into account the damage to our hearing.

Another hopeful trip to the church where we got married in East Cork resulted in a similar disaster because when we got there and a kind man offered to take a family picture, well both girls were wailing...ah if only we had known the joy that was ahead of us as we headed up the aisle like two innocent eejits!!

The only enjoyable part of that trip was having lunch outside together while both girls slept in the car parked in front of us.

We finally gave in and, four days early, packed up and headed home. We spend a lovely afternoon in Kilkenny on the way back, we did some great day trips on the remaining four days, from the luxury of our own home and had our babysitter come each evening so we could go out for dinner. Those last few days, holidaying at home, saved that summer.

Many, many lessons learnt from that holiday, thankfully we've never had such a crappy one since.

Holidays,while great, are not always what they are cracked up to be!

If you'd like to join in and share your holiday horrors then click the blue button to add your post.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

London In The Wrong Shoes


Last Thursday was a big day, not only was it the smallest man's birthday, it was also the day that we went on our much anticipated trip to see Aunty Jenny in London.


As you can see, excitement levels were FIERCE!


There was a small bit of trepidation about corralling four small people through Dublin airport but an early arrival meant it was all very easy and for the most part everyone behaved. There was some ( and by some I mean a lot!) of impatience as we waited for each part of the journey
 In the car "wheeeeeen are we going to get to the airport"
In the airport " wheeeeen do we get scanned"
In the queue "wheeeeen can we get on the plane"
On the plane "wheeeeen do we start moving....

Anyone seeing a pattern yet?

In between the whining though it was very pleasant. 

Excitement levels skyrocketed when at the end of the safety announcement the aerlingus staff announced that there was a very important passenger on board who was celebrating his fifth birthday and called out his name, the smallest boy was torn between mortification and ecstasy.

The poor man who sat along side us had to listen to a monologue of 'there's another plane, and another one, there's a cloud and another one, were in a cloud we're out of a cloud' for almost the entire journey, he also became the passer of colouring pencils and sticker books and bottles of water . Apologies if you are reading. 

Apologies also to the elderly lady who got unceremoniously pushed out of the way in order to race to Aunty Jenny in arrivals who turned up with a birthday helium ballon for him, it surpassed all previous records and lasted a good four hours before being accidentally released to the balloon heaven in the sky.

London was much warmer than Ireland and the smallest boy complained instantly about his feet being to hot in his canvas shoes. A quick stop off in a shoe shop and despite my misgivings a very cute pair of Haviaianas flip flops were purchased. Within an hour my misgivings were realised and there was complaints that they were hurting is toes, lesson learnt for me and the next day another pair of sandals were being purchased for His Highness The Birthday Boy.

There is so much to see in London it's almost hard to know where to start.

Top of the list was seeing Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards, this was great.
After there was much discussion about the number of toilets in the palace, a very apt conversation considering we had one child with us who seemed determined to use every toilet in London, the moniker Tiny Bladder may stay with her for life! The changing of the guards and the pomp and ceremony was well worth seeing.

Next we headed to the Natural History Museum, it is AMAZING, there is so much to see there and it is all free. One child was fixated on getting to the Dinosaur exhibition which meant we rushed though some parts in order to avoid the simmering meltdown that was brewing. 


 

Aunty Jenny had booked the London Duck Tour as a surprise for the kids and it was definitely the highlight of the trip. Everything from the bus itself, with its open sides, to the hilarious and informative commentary from the guide, meant that both adults and children loved this. Going into the Thames and passing Big Ben and Westminister Abbey was brilliant. There were a few moment when a 'Thames dip' was looking likely as my children refused to stop hanging out the side but thankfully we got back in one piece and dry.




South Bank is fantastic, amazing street food, street entertainment and the London Eye. When the children realised how slowly this moved I was delighted that I hadn't booked this because their impression of it was more along the lines of a big wheel and they all agreed that they would have been bored in it. 

M
A trip to Battersea park playground on Friday evening had resulted in us booking the Go Ape Tree Top Walk there for Saturday evening. The children were really excited about this, I was less so when I realised that I had to accompany them due to the youngest being less than 6. Despite arriving 40 minutes early and checking in, it was only 5 minutes before our allocated time that the staff told us that our shoes weren't suitable as they needed to be fully closed in. This resulted in tears and me making a baking hot 15 minute run to the nearest Tesco to see if we could purchase yet more shoes, only to discover that it didn't have a clothing department ( the staff member who directed me there was cursed repeatedly by me as I made my hot sticky way back to break the news) They promised us a full refund and then a round of ice creams dried the tears. Battersea Park is beautiful and has a fantastic playground and a pizzeria next to it ( which serves wine...yippee) so we whiled away the evening there.



Our last day in London was spent in London Zoo. For some reason I always imagine that the bigger the city the better the attractions are, but this was definitely not the case here. London Zoo is good but completely pales into insignificance when compared with Dublin Zoo. The children enjoyed it and there was a wonderful butterfly section which was fascinating but if you have been to Dublin zoo then you would be disappointed with London's version. 





The public transport in London is both amazingly efficient and exhausting, my country bumpkins behaved exactly like country bumpkins on EVERY trip, no bus could be boarded without sitting on the top deck, regardless of the length of time we were going to spend on it, this was most like the cause of one unfortunate disembarkment when, having got the mini dictator off the bus I looked behind me to see two of the girls faces pressed up against inside of the closed bus doors, they were thankfully rescued before the bus actually moved off! The tube was also seen as a form of entertainment with competitions as to who could stand without holding the bars, apologies to all the foot owners who bore the brunt of this game!

Three of the children were reasonably well behaved, the fourth was just himself, 3 parts demon: 2 parts dote.

In fact the demon turned up at the airport and almost caused us to miss our flight home as he refused to have his face scanned to allow us through security, no amount of pleading could make him face the scanner and our flight was closing! The security man eventually had to concede and allow us through, when we reached the body scanners I was surprised that the Mini Terrorist alarm wasn't triggered was he walked through.

It's important to remember that your children are still your children on holidays, they won't suddenly morph into a modern day version of the Von Trapp children, they will squabble as much as they do at home, it's just that the time in between is so much nicer.


The children, on arrival home, declared it a 'brilliant holiday' and instantly forgot the rows and the crankiness. They already want to go back, but I think we need to give Aunty Jenny some time to recover!!!

We will also be sure to bring the right shoes with us next time!


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Thai Peanut Fish Curry



This recipe was inspired by a Pork Thai dish that Hey Pesto cooked a few years back in a cookery demonstration that I attended. Over the years it's morphed into this super quick and delicious fish curry. It's a really handy recipe to cook for guests as you can have the sauce made and just add the fish before serving for perfect stress free entertaining. The fish I used in this was what happened to be in my freezer at the time but you can use whatever firm chunky fish you prefer.

Ingredients

1 fillet of salmon, skinned and cut into large chunks
1 fillet of hake, skinned and cut into chunks
Handful of prawns
1 large tablespoon of Thai red curry paste ( I use Mae Ploy)
3 large tablespoons of Peanut Butter
200g Mangetout
200g Baby Sweetcorn , sliced lengthways
1 Tablespoon of Sarah's Honey with Ginger*
1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce
1 Tin of Coconut Milk
Coriander to serve 
Toasted peanuts chopped to serve
1 Lime, zest and juice
Rapeseed Oil

* if you can't get this a tablespoon of regular honey and a grating of ginger ( 1/2 inch piece) will work too, add the ginger when you are cooking the paste)

Method

Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook for a few minutes. Then add the peanut butter and coconut milk. You will need to whisk this slightly to get the peanut butter to mix through the coconut milk. Half fill the coconut milk tin with water and add it to the wok. Stir in the honey and soy sauce and lime zest. Cover and allow this to simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. Add the Mangetout and Baby Corn and simmer for 5 more minutes. If you are making this ahead then turn off and leave the sauce at this stage. When you are ready to serve, bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer and add the fish and prawns. They will only require about five minutes of cooking until they are done. 
To serve, place the wok in the centre of the table and scatter over some coriander, a squeeze of lime juice and some toasted peanuts. Equally good with either rice or noodles.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Me | by Me

A lovely fellow blogger Awfully Chipper  is running a linky based on a very simple premise...things that say 'me'. She has a gorgeous post which is so worth a read, so head over here for a look at what inspired it.

Trying to think of things that say me isn't as easy as I first though. It was tempting to think of things that I'd like to say me but that wouldn't be fair. I asked the children who were understandably confused by this line of questioning on a Tuesday evening and so said they needed time to think!

Eventually between us we came up with some of the things that say me.

Coffee




My constant companion, it's with me from first thing in the morning and I'm seldom more than a few minutes away from a cup. My love of has seen me race down the avenue when I see my nespresso delivery coming...the addiction is strong!!

Flip Flops



I hadn't realised this until the children pointed it out, I then realised how many pairs I have and how I have a pair on at some point of every day, even in winter.

My Phone

Not my finest attribute but it's true that it's never too far from me and there 'may' be some separation anxiety if we are apart for too long!

Food

No discription of me would be complete without mentioning food. From cooking it, reading about it, writing about it, thinking about it and most importantly eating it. Food is a huge passion of mine and discovering a new recipe or trying a new restaurant is what makes me happy.

Books




It was unanimously agreed that these are the object that most describes me. I find it unfathomable to go anywhere without a book. My older sister used to hide whatever book I was reading when she returned from university, just to ensure I would speak to for the weekend! I love new books in the way some people love new clothes. That I married a man who doesn't read is still a shock to me and proves without doubt that love can help you overcome all prejudices!  

So there you have it, a little snippet of me. If you'd like to join in, or if you'd like to read some of the other link ups then click in the Awfully Chipper link above and have a look.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Another Last Creeps Closer...





Tomorrow my little boy, my baby gets to go into 'big school' and meet his junior infants teacher, he gets to meet all of his future classmates and have a look around what will be his new classroom.
 
We've been down this road before, we know what it entails. We know that while he is very excited by the idea of it, tomorrow might be a different story, there may be clinging, there will be uncertainty and I might even have to squeeze into one of those tiny chairs to make a jigsaw with him. We know all this but he doesn't.

To him the idea of going to big school does not involve him finishing in his much adored Montesorri school. 

To him the idea of meeting his teacher couldn't possibly mean he has to say goodbye to his beloved Montesorri teacher.

Seeing his new classmates has nothing to do with saying goodbye to his old ones. 

He knows none of this and yet we do. Telling him is pointless and will only lead to upset. It will dawn on him slowly and as with his big sisters he will come to accept it. 

It is us who will struggle. Not with the idea of him growing up, parenting has taught me that each new phase brings its own joy and focusing on what's to come is so much nicer than mourning what we are leaving behind. 
It is not his preschool years that I will be mourning but having to say a last goodbye to the amazing people in his Montesorri. 

This is the place where our shy daughter learned confidence, our stubborn daughter learned how to move forward from an entrenched position so firmly held, where our spirited non-conforming daughter learned that it's perfectly fine to just be yourself and where our wild tornado of a son learned that you can be wild and free and yet still listen and follow direction. 

There is so much that I have to be grateful for but most of all I'm grateful for having found it, for the fact that each of our children got to experience this wonderful start on their educational journey.

And so tomorrow our youngest will dip his toe into the world of 'big school' ,excitement levels are unrealistically high so there will no doubt be some disappointment but most of all tomorrow will serve as a small, quiet but insistent alarm bell that another last is coming, and other goodbye will have to be said.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Summer Time And The Living Is Easy | A Trip Down Memory Lane


One of my favourite times of the year growing up was late May/early June. It heralded the imminent arrival of summer and all the promise that that held. It also meant for us farm children that this was silage time. 


Silage time meant that our normally quiet farm became a hive of activity. My dad was, amongst other things ( publican, shopkeeper, jockey and trainer), a silage contractor so this time of year meant that it was all hands on deck to help out, seasonal workers joined my dad and uncle, and mum got roped into to help out. 
My older sister and I were always delighted to be given the roles of chief tea makers and were put in charge of making supper for the hungry silage men. 

Although I'm sure there must have been some variety, my prevailing memory of these suppers was an Irish salad. 
For the uninitiated an Irish salad consisted of several slices of ham, often rolled for a fancy effect, some hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, potato salad made from the leftovers of dinner and in an effort to qualify it as a salad there was usually one leaf of iceberg lettuce with a spoon of coleslaw on it if you were lucky.
 In a world of unlimited salad option this may all sound very basic but to a nine year old girl who was allowed to assemble it, this was the height of sophistication.

A lot of the excitement lay in the upheaval of routine, dinners were wrapped and brought out to the fields to feed men who were too busy to come in for it, the odd bottle of cider or beer was consumed by these self same men. For us children this resulted in some benign neglect that I'm sure we took full advantage of. 

I'm conscious that time and nostalgia have washed my memories clean, have polished them to where only the good remains. I know there was stress, that my then smoking dad relied on 60 Major a day to get him through! 
As he has never been known to for his ability to hold his temper in a crisis there was often shouting and cursing and inevitably someone was sent 'back to Geary's' to get a part for the mower. 
In rural Ireland where you go varies, not by geography but by some indisputable navigation that is handed from one generation to the next, for instance, you go up to Cork (south of us) in to Limerick ( north of us) over to Doneralie ( east of us) and back to Newmarket ( west of us)...clearly SatNav is a poor substitute for these directions!

My already busy mother was called on to do everything from milking the cows, to making food for an ever changing number of men at ever changing times of the day. She would help cover the silage and somehow keep the show on the road with us whilst all this went on. 
And yet it is with huge fondness I remember this time, there was always a feeling of community, of neighbours helping neighbours, the smell of freshly cut silage will always bring a smile to my face.

I pass field upon field of silage on my way to work this morning, neat green rows of grass basking in the sunshine, or bare fields which look freshly shaven, an almost lime green in contrast to the deeper greens surrounding them. 
I'm nostalgic and yet I know it's all so different now. My parents get contractors in now, huge machines that can do in a day what once would have taken a week. Contractors now routinely work around the clock and last year our silage was completed at night, while the rest of the world slept.

I'm sure it's more efficient, and with the short windows of good weather that we get it probably relieves a lot of stress, but somewhere along the way a lovely tradition has been lost. I'm sure for many farm children a day in school might mean that they miss the whole thing.

Faster times, more efficient times, not necessarily better times though.


Lemony Sumac Chicken Traybake


Like a lot of the best tasting recipes, this came about as a result of a fridge clear out. Gorgeous flavours and the ingredients can be swapped about depending on what you have in the fridge.

I originally made this for my husband and I to have one evening that I was going to be late home from work, I needed something that could be just popped in the oven, but the children came flocking round once we sat down and there was much tasting, munching and grumbling that our dinner was nicer than theirs so I had to agree to make it for them the following night!

I used free range chicken drumsticks in this, makes it very economical, you could also use a mixture of drumsticks and thighs.



Ingredients;

1 small bag of baby potatoes ( or new potatoes as soon as they are out)
6 free range chicken drumsticks
1/2 a chorizo sausage, cut into  large discs
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper sliced
1 red onion quartered
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Heaped tablespoon of Sumac ( sold in most supermarkets now)
Rapeseed oil
1 Lemon, juice and zest

Method
Place all the ingredients, except for the Sumac, Oil and Lemon in a large oven proof dish. 
Drizzle over some rapeseed oil and mix everything together, squeeze over the lemon just and add the lemon zest and mix again. 
Season with salt and pepper. 
Now take the drumsticks out of the mix and arrange them on top of the rest of the ingredients. 
Sprinkle over the sumac.
Cover the dish loosely with tin foil and cook in an oven preheated to 180 for 40 minutes, remove the tin foil and cook for another 20 mins, check and ensure the potatoes are cooked ( they tend to be the slowest)
The chorizo and tomatoes make the most delicious sauce that coats the potatoes in this dish.

While this is cooking enjoy some of the glorious sunshine that we are currently basking in. 

Serve with some peas for a delicious easy dinner that won't have you tied to the stove.