Monday, 26 September 2016

Meal Plan Monday | What We Eat

There was no meal plan last week as the children were away for a few days, back to normality today and here's what we will be eating this week.

The usual rummage through the fridge and freezer revealed the following and from this the meal plan develops.

I try to include a new dish every two weeks or so but sometimes it doesn't work out. This week I'm trying a new version of a dish that we used to have frequently but fell out of favour a year or two ago, here's hoping that it's a hit this week.


The drop in temperatures means that comfort food is back on the menu again and today we will be having Irish Stew. It's actually a long time since I made this so I'm really looking forward to it.


Baked Cod, Hake and Salmon topped with pesto and breadcrumbs, we will have this with roast tomatoes, spinach and mashed potatoes,


This is the busiest day with after school activities so a quick dinner is required. This Chicken and Chorizo with spaghetti fits the bill. I will make a treble batch of this today and freeze two portions of it.


This Beef Stroggenoff from Neven Maguire, with rice, I haven't made this version before so hopefully it will be a hit.


Sticky pork stir fry with noodles ( or fried rice if there is a lot left over from the day before) I usually marinade pork fillet when I buy it and pop it in the freezer, it results in the tenderest meat ever! 

In the fridge/Extras

I will also be making Ham Hock and Lentil Soup, which is delicious and so filling, I found puff pastry in the freezer so will make some sausage and apple rolls for after school and I'm planning on making a batch of egg muffins to have for breakfast.

A girl I follow on Instagram sent me the recipe for a delicious sounding Chicken Pie which I'm hoping to make over the weekend.

So that's the plan, please feel free to share what you will be cooking this week, I'm always on the lookout for inspiration.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Love In A Time Of Parenting

Having children is a wonderful privilege, and it is one that I'm eternally grateful for. But it can be an exhausting time in the early years and even as you leave the baby years behind it is always busy. You are forever 'On' and every stage, while bringing its own rewards, also brings its own challenges.

One of the trickiest things to keep on track is your relationship. Exhausted parents of very young children are bombarded with 'advice' that they need to work at keeping the spark alive, when realistically they are just trying to keep the baby alive and enjoy those gorgeous baby moments through a fog of tiredness. They are told, in very grave terms, that they must somehow eeek out time for 'date nights' when a whole day could go by and you may not have found the time to go to the bathroom, and if the stars aligned and you somehow did, you can bet your bottom dollar you were not alone. When you are in the trenches of babyhood then this becomes one more thing on your never-ending to-do list, your relationship becomes yet another thing to 'mind' in a time when minding is all you seem to be doing! This stage passes quickly and I would feel it's much better to have faith in your relationship, to believe it's strong enough to withstand the attacks of sleeplessness and upheaval that new babies bring and to assume that your partner has got your back and isn't sulking like a big child waiting for attention.

Sleep deprivation passes and children get bigger and finding time together does get easier, but new challenges arrive. Children become part of every conversation, this is great but it also means having a full conversation becomes harder and even following a train of thought in a busy house can become difficult. Conversations become more about comparing schedules, organising drop-off and collections, sorting out who'll put the bin out, rather than anything you would have previously described as a conversation! 
You will learn more sitting across from one another in a restaurant than you will have in the two months previous of sharing the same house and bed! What's rare is wonderful and these nights out serve as a reminder of why you are together in the first place.

We recently had three nights, in our own house, while the children were away, thank you so much Supergranny and Grandad. Grandad hasn't reached they dizzying heights of Supergrandad yet as he didn't run the gauntlet of talking the four of them out for dinner. 
We still had work to go to and so in that way the usual routine continued. The house was eerily quiet, and fantastically clean, and of course we missed the children but something wonderful happened. We had full and uninterrupted conversations, with each other. We laughed together at nothing in particular, we had a cinema trip that required no forward planning, dinner in and dinner out and a last minute decision to meet for lunch, all so ordinary and all so lovely. I discovered that sharing articles out of the paper that I was reading still annoys him and he is still better at cross words than I am. 
We weren't in some fancy hotel where spending time together,while lovely, has an air of suspended reality about it. We were in our own home, doing ordinary things together. It was a glimpse back at the way we used to be, at what made us want to be and stay together. It was also a sneak preview of what life might be like when we reach the dreaded 'empty nest' phase which is no longer as bleak looking as it once was.

Half of the children returned, two choosing to stay on for another few days. The house was filled with noise and running and fighting and laughing and our home felt just right again, but those few days were perfect and needed. 

I fully believe that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outwards in the same direction but every so often it's nice to get a moment to look and check that the direction hasn't changed and that your partner is still there, at your side, looking out with you.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Nuisance Chip

A few months ago I read a book called The Travelling Hornplayer in which one of the characters refers to his child, for the entirety of the book, as The Nusiance Chip.
I remember thinking at the start that it was such an awful thing to call someone, but as the book progressed the moniker seemed to make more sense. Anything that could be done badly, or with difficulty was done so by said child. 

The name has stayed with me and it has got me thinking. Do we all posses a nuisance chip, one that can be triggered by something and which can be difficult to switch off. I have very clear memories of being warned as a child, not to be making a nuisance of myself. Is that ability to niggle, to irritate, to be an all round nuisance something that we learn to switch off as we get older. My mother's head was often wrecked by complaints at the dinner table of 'she's looking at me' as if this was the greatest irritation that a sister could inflict but even now I can remember that feeling of someone going out of their way to annoy you, just for the benefit of your reaction!

One of my children seem to be stuck with her nuisance chip firmly engaged for the last while. Everything irritates her and she goes out of her way to irritate everyone else. Any request for help with chores is met with shrugged shoulders and a teenage like grunt! Any and all tasks are done with the absolute minimum of effort and are left as incomplete as possible in the hope she won't be asked again. I've been clinging tight to the mantra 'this too shall pass' that has been the sanity saver of parents since time immemorial but sometimes I'm tired of the effort to cajole, to pretend I'm not annoyed, to try get her to talk and to somehow win her round. I try to praise the good behaviour, but my god you'd have to be fast to spot it, and not focus on her negative behaviour but it's flipping exhausting at times.
If this is mother natures way of giving me a glimpse of what parenting teenagers is going to be like I'm going to start on my soundproof bunker right now!

Rant over for now, I'm off to try figure out how to reset this ones nuisance chip, before another one of the broods gets triggered.
Any and all tips would be welcomed, but until then there wine!!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Meal Planning Monday | What We Eat

Monday is my day off, I use the word off lightly though and a more accurate description would be its my unpaid work day! Its the day that I make some attempt to keep things on track and organised for the upcoming week.
One of the main jobs is to ensure all meals and lunches are sorted for the week and to restock the fridge.
Everyone has their own way of doing this and some are happy to work it out as the week goes on. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people so Meal Planning Monday is a thing in our house.
Here's how I go about getting food organised for us.

First job is to look in the fridge and see what's in there, what needs to be used quickly and what ingredients I don't need in this weeks shop.
I do the same for the freezer and look to see what batchcooked dinners are in there too.
I make a list of what we have and this is the starting point for my meal planning.

The following is a list of what we had in the fridge and freezer.

So this week what will we be eating?

Bacon/baked ham with mashed potatoes, creamed leeks and courgette and tomato gratin. This gratin is just gorgeous and is from Delia Smiths Complete Cookbook, the kids aren't mad about it but the grown ups are. Left over ham will be used for salads (for me) and school lunches during the week.

Homemade burgers, chips, corn on the cob and coleslaw.
I use Jamie Oliver's recipe for burgers and they are always a hit, Aldi have lovely brioche burger buns and our local shop makes the most gorgeous coleslaw

Pasta with Pesto for the kids, this is our busiest day with afterschool activities so dinner is eaten straight after school and it needs to be quick.
Grown ups will be having Sumac Chicken and Chorizo Traybake, you can see the recipe here

Freezer dinner: Fruity chicken curry with Rice and Naan bread, the recipe for the curry is here

Freezer dinner: Chilli con Carne, universal favourite in this house. The children love it in wraps with crème fraise and cheese, we also put a large dish of nachos topped with chilli in the centre of the table to fight over share!!

There will be two different soups in the fridge for hungry after-schoolers and some poached chicken also which is handy for wraps for school lunches and salads

I never really plan as far ahead as the weekend, its nice to go with the flow and see what happens

I love reading what others are eating as trying to think of new dishes is often mind boggling, hope this helps

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Will I Cry?

As I stood in the butchers yesterday, stocking up on meat for the inevitable back to school batchcooking, the butcher smiled and asked me was my youngest staring school on Monday. 
'He is' I replied
'Will you cry' he asked
'I will in my eye, I'll skip out the gate' I said.
But this is only partly true.
I have been asked so often this summer about how I feel about my youngest starting school that I have my stock answers, but as the day looms large I've been thinking about how I really feel about it.
Firstly I REALLY hope I don't cry, this is the start of a very exciting stage in his life, if I cry, then the tears are just for me.
Also, if I'm truly honest, in some of the darker parenting days of having four under five the idea of them all being in school seemed like some sort of unattainable dream, so to cry now would seem disingenuous.
Tomorrow will be strange, it will be bittersweet but it will also be exciting, both for him and me. I'm excited to hear about the new friendships, the new challenges that he will experience.
There is some trepidation, he's concerned about 'the new people' having gotten over an earlier concern that wearing a uniform involved him wearing a pinafore like his sisters!
I'm concerned about how his teacher will react, having had 3 reasonable calm MacDonnell girls, unleashing the 'tornado' on her might just break her!!!

But mostly tomorrow is a celebration of how far we have have come, we've weathered the storms of parenting smallies, we've emerged from under the nappy mountain with our sanity reasonably intact ( thank you wine!) and we are ready for the next phase...and all the craziness it will bring.
 So tomorrow I won't cry...or at least I hope I won't ( wish me luck on that one) 

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 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. 

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!