Thursday 31 July 2014

Good Clean Messy Fun!

THIS is messy play!
CURRENTLY my legs are covered in spots.  Big, dirty, itchy spots.  They are so uncomfortable, so unsightly and unbelievably itchy there is no way these things are regular hives. I found myself googling insect bites.  I am still none the wiser.

I take the kids to the pool every day and this morning I toyed with taking out the Vichy Derma Blend to camouflage the red discs or raiding the first aid kit for those little circular flesh coloured plasters.  But I don’t have enough of either.  My Vichy Derma blend is only a teeny tiny sample and I want to save it for my face not my dodgy looking legs.

What on earth have mosquito bites/hives got to do with messy kids play, I hear you ask,

Then it hit me.  Maybe I’m allergic to the thoughts of messy kids play.  I honestly get so stressed, annoyed and completely anal about these things I don’t usually do messy kids play.  

So I reckon I’ve reacted in the only way I know how – with an allergic reaction.

All joking aside, even though I do have horrible hives on my legs, I admit to being not a big fan of messy play.  Could you tell?  I doubt I am not alone in this admission either.

But I have noticed something in our house; whilst they certainly enjoy messy play along the lines of painting, play dough and the odd spot of baking, they lose interest in it very, very quickly.  In fact, the setting up of the paints, making the play dough (yes, I did go there) takes longer, much longer, than the actual time they spend playing/painting.

I’ve done it all; made cards, cookies, painted pictures, the dreaded play dough, loom bands (do they count?) and encouraged Lego tournaments.  All over within ten minutes but not after there is a huge row over something or other.

However, what they do enjoy is outside play.  We have a house full of (broken) toys but they will head out and spend the afternoon with school bags on their backs containing kitchen knives, apples and water bottles playing The Hunger Games.  They track rabbits in the grass.  Play on the trampoline.  Play in the puddles.  Kick a ball around.  Sweep the driveway.  Take each other hostage.  Ride their bicycles.  Play on the swings. 

This year they had tremendous fun planting trees in the garden. They also made wooden swords with Mister Husband and they got a tremendous kick out of this.  Smallest Boy is very fond of his own company and likes to line up his many toy cars and play with them

They enjoy a spot of face painting.    Recently the oldest boys have taken to keeping a journal and recording their daily adventures.   

Water guns?  That constitutes as messy kids play surely.  They love that.  Or rather they did when the weather was a bit better. 

Bubbles are water, aren't they?

So in the same way you can take a horse to water but can’t make him drink, I can wave poster paints in front of my boys and sprinkle flour around with the promise of play dough, but I can’t make them play with the stuff for an hour.  I should be so lucky.

In fact today one of them asked “what can I do” and I deliberately suggested he draw something.  Out came the rather large box of colours and off he went to grab some paper.  I watched to see if any of the others would be tempted.  But no. 

Although Smallest Boy can have great fun with a scrap of paper, a safety scissors and a chunk of blu-tack.  Keeps him occupied for ages.

So, messy play is great and all but we haven’t had much success with it in my house.

It very much appears that my boys are outside kids and believe me, they get up to more than their fair share of messy, filthy play out there.

This messy play blog post has been brought to you today in association with Mama Courage who is a lot better at messy play than I am!!

Monday 28 July 2014

Holiday Observations
HOLIDAYS are funny things, aren’t they?  Events that are saved up for all year round and then over and done with in a speedy week.  As for the vomit inducing anticipation followed by lack of sleep with massive excitement in the immediate run up to it.  Then it’s hard to settle into holiday mode as the office takes up too much head space.  Before you know it, the clothes that were so carefully laid out and packed 7 days ago, are being balled up and stuffed back into the suitcases.

You might also experience some, if not all of, the following:   

Are we nearly there?  The final destination is a whole hour and forty minutes away not including the obligatory stop to get something to eat.  A recent study has revealed the average child will ask that question approximately 27 times before you arrive.

There is way too much eating and drinking.   But you are, after all, on holidays and everyone knows weight that is gained over a short period of time will also be lost quickly.  At least, it better!

Sun burn can happen even on a cloudy day. Particularly if you are on a beach.  Wear that sun block!  You can only blame yourself if you neglect to apply it to your own skin but if one of the kids gets overlooked, then you do not deserve for the lovely lady in the pharmacy to be so nice and say, “these things happen.”  Yes, I am talking about my child.

There will be tears.  Small kids have no concept of time and how long a week really is.  They might get upset and ask to go home.  Home to their dog.  This usually happens at about 2am. 

Sand is bat shit crazy.  The stuff gets everywhere.  In your hair.  In your clothes.  God, in your clothes.  In your bed.  In your food. If you wait long enough or have drink taken and watch some, it will actually move in your direction.  Try it.

Before you know it, there will be a clothes shortage.  Despite packing 11 sports bags containing shorts and t-shirts, by mid-week the kids have worn all of the clothes into the water.  You will be stopping complete strangers for directions to the nearest Penneys to buy some more.  You are on holidays FFS and refuse to turn on a washing machine.  The laundrette costs a fortune.  Then, when you do source the nearest Penneys, all the autumn/winter stuff is in which means there isn’t a shorts or t-shirt available for love nor money.

The respectable beach villa takes on the look of a hippy commune.  All of the clothes and beach towels are strung up and over banisters, the dividing wall in the garden, the tiny clothes line and every available chair in the house.  Stiff with sand. 

Wine tastes nicer by the sea.   Or in the sea. 

The local Centra is a Mecca.  It stocks everything from mouse traps to kids flip flops, postage stamps, tin openers and absolutely everything else in between.  All at a horrendously marked up price.

There will be plenty of early wake-ups.  Resulting in yours being the only family on the beach at 7am.  Guaranteed.   And then the initial all-consuming surge of adrenalin called holiday excitement wears off.  They crash and burn.  Hard.

You will meet someone you know.  It might be 15 years since you last saw them, it could be your granny’s next door neighbour's cousin, or even the consultant who inserted your kid’s grommets.  Doesn’t matter.  It will be someone you know from somewhere.

You will forget to bring something.  Enough clothes perhaps.  Maybe even baby wipes.  And you will find something.  Possibly an entire outfit since last years holiday left in the holiday bag.  You will also lose something.  A child for a heart stopping two minutes on the beach or your sanity.

After the first three days it feels like you have been there forever.  The kids have made friends with the youngsters next door and you know exactly where to go for the best coffee and cheapest bottle of wine. 

You tell strangers the oddest things.  They only have to be tying their shoe laces and you’re informing them a beach holiday is all you can hope for really whenyouhavekids.  But you’d give anything to be able to escape for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the evenings.

You buy 7 postcards in the Mecca of Centras.  Chosen with considerable care, witty holiday observations are penned as you dine in the bistro bar.  Then they are stuck inside your holiday read and you end up bringing them home with you.  Stamps and all on them.

There will be at least one injury.  A thorn imbedded in a small foot, a stubbed toe resulting in some toenail being ripped off.   A sibling receiving a thump from another, someone tripping on the stairs.         

You will come home with more crap stuff than you went with.  Buckets and shovels, if left unattended, will get it on and reproduce.  Fact!

And then on your return home:

You have The Fear.   For the 3 year guarantee on your washing machine.  There is no way it will be able to cope with all the sand that got packed into the 11 sports bags.  This time you don’t have a problem visiting the laundrette.

You never want to see a fresh cod and chips again.  Imagine, the thoughts of switching on that oven and peeling a few spuds for a roast something dinner is positively appealing. 

The dog is ecstatic at seeing everyone again.  She wee’s all over everything at the sight of her humans.  You may even shed a small tear yourself. 

It’s great to be home.  Within an hour it’s as if you were never away.  And there’s nothing quite like a cup of tea from your own kettle in your own kitchen.

Who cares that there are 11 sports bags to be unpacked, that the buckets and shovels appear to have spawned overnight and there is a random kite in the mix.  How did that get there?  The dish cloth is fit for the bin because it wasn’t left in a detergent and there’s no milk.  Some seventy million fruit flies are having a party with the bananas in the fruit bowl and someone forgot to flush the downstairs loo before you left.  A week ago. 

Everyone is home.  The sun burn is now a peeling special effect, tan lines are evident and the kids begin to fight.  Because they’re bored.

But everyone agrees it was the best holiday ever!

Saturday 26 July 2014

Holidays are Made of These

Holidays are made of good memories.  I have many.  The West of Ireland springs to mind immediately.  I also had very memorable times in both Spain and Turkey.  A St. Patricks Day spent in New Zealand was incredible.  Then there was a break for a while.  We had started our family and holidays were the farthest thing on our mind.

I was never thrilled with the idea of a family of six battling for prime seats on a flight to a sunnier clime for a fortnight.  To be followed, I am absolutely certain, with cross children who are finding it hard to adjust to the heat, grumpy and refusing to eat. 

But we wanted to go on holiday.  So we took our three small boys on a staycation that consisted of a mid-week family break.  I was a couple of months pregnant with our fourth son and was expecting to be shattered tired, but I was determined to enjoy the break regardless.

We had a wonderful time.  The bunk beds in our hotel room charmed the collective trousers off the boys and the excitement was insurmountable when they saw the swimming pool.  Things continued to improve with the weather holding up, lovely food and sight-seeing.

Some people say you shouldn’t try to repeat a good experience because it usually does not measure up second time round. 

Our next family holiday showed that to be the case.  For us at least.   We had four small boys then, one of whom fell ill during our three night stay in a hotel room that was not suitable for a family of six.  I ended up sleeping on the floor for one of those nights.  It was so miserable we decided to stay in a guest house for one extra night, determined to knock some fun out of what had been a most disappointing holiday. 

Thankfully, that was a good idea.  It just about gave us some fond memories of an otherwise poor vacation.

Last summer we decided to holiday at home again and this time we spent it with other family members in a rented house at the beach. 

That’s three years in a row now we have opted for a staycation and with the exception of the middle holiday, it has worked out really well for us. In particular the one with our extended family.

Going on holidays with family can work out brilliantly or it can be the holiday from hell.  It helps of course that everyone gets along under normal circumstances because let’s face it, a situation where adults and small children are in close proximity and out of their normal routine for any length of time can be a recipe for total disaster. 

It is also true to say the advantages of going on holiday en masse are numerous.

Here are 7 top tips that should help your family holiday run smoothly.

Show me the money

A definite plus side of holidaying with family and one of the more obvious benefits is the fact that accommodation costs are kept to a minimum as everyone can pay their way.   Make a list in the run up to the holiday and buy non-perishable food in the weekly shop especially for the break away.  No-one wants to cook on holidays but items such as beans can get you out of a tight spot in a hurry when hunger calls after a day on the beach.

High on Emotion

Holidays are a very excitable time for everyone concerned.  Getting there can be stressful in itself so it is a good idea, as we discovered, to meet up at a halfway point to stretch legs and have a light meal.  It also means you do not have to rush out and look for the nearest supermarket when you arrive at your destination because there is nothing to give tired, cranky and hungry children.

Some Ground Rules

It might seem like bringing the teacher on holidays with you but putting a few ground rules in place beforehand could prevent a few clashes later on.  For example if there are small babies in the family it might be wise to make people aware that early bedtimes and possibly a couple of naps during the day are going to be necessary.


The last thing anyone wants to think about on holidays are injuries but packing a first aid kit with some basic items can prove invaluable.  An over the counter spray for wasp and bee stings is very handy to have.  Also include plasters, anti-septic, anti-histamines, inhalers, and Paracetamol for both adults and children alike.

Breathing Space

It is very important to remember that each family has its own dynamic and whilst it is lovely to share the same experiences on holidays it is also essential that everyone spends some time apart and not live in each other’s pockets.  It might prove advantageous if the accommodation has adequate cooling off space for everyone.  Familiarity can breed contempt even on a relaxing break.

Time Out

Young cousins are great company for each other during the day but the novelty can wear thin, particularly if they are unused to spending a lot of time together.  It is only natural that spats will break out so it is of absolute utter importance that discipline is carried out by the child’s parents and not their aunt, uncle or grandparent. 

Summertime and the Livin’ is easy

Everyone knows everyone else and there are always babysitters at hand if one couple feels like getting away by themselves.  And if you opt to sit in during the evenings, there are worse things you could enjoy than a relaxing meal and a glass of wine while the children sleep nearby. 

On a final note, there is little or nothing that can be done about the weather. It simply boils down to dressing for the elements and then getting on with things.  So pack coats, shorts and t-shirts, fleece tops, flip flops, welly boots and sandals.  Basically prepare for every weather possibility and bring plenty of sun block of course.

Lastly but definitely not least, enjoy yourself and take plenty of photographic memories.  

Holidays such as these are to be cherished.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Birthday Interview with Lovely Liam

20th July 2009
 Five years ago you arrived on the scene a little earlier than expected.  Two weeks early.

Lifted up and out of me in a way I was not prepared for and never expected having had two previous perfectly normal deliveries.  I was that person who skipped the Caesarean section chapter in the birth book.     

Five years later you do everything at your own pace and respond to being harried by insisting “I’m going as fast as I can!”

You are completely without guile, affectionate beyond compare and one of these days I am going to purchase a one way ticket to your planet because I want a little bit of what you are made of all for myself.

You are our Lovely Liam and this is your happy birthday interview.  

We made it - Happy 1st birthday

How old are you?  
5 no 6.  Actually can you say my number? 

What is your favourite animal? 
A elephant.  Coz they drink water and put it into their mouth. 

Second birthday

What is your favourite food? 
 Weetabix and toast 

What is your favourite game?  
I like to play catch with Tom.  (Tom is his cousin)

What is your favourite thing to do? 
Play with balls.  I like swimming. 

3rd birthday on our summer holidays

What was your favourite holiday? 
North America.  (He’s never been)

Where is your favourite place to go?
On holidays

What is your favourite restaurant? 
The big blue barn. (An indoor play centre we sometimes visit)

Where would you like to go on holidays?

What makes you happy?
Seeing shadows.  I just saw one on the wall now.

 What makes you sad?
If someone punched me in the eye

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
I would like to be a man in the big blue barn

If you had one wish, what would you ask for?                           
A bicycle

What does your daddy work at?
He goes to his office and he works.

What does your mammy do all day?
She cooks dinners.  Yes and brings us to Rosslare

What are you most excited about doing this year?
Going to granddads and staying forever.

Happy fifth birthday, Liam.  You are a legend.



Monday 14 July 2014

A Lidl bit helps a lot. Sometimes.

 Like many other families we are recession shoppers.  By that I mean a lot of the contents of our shopping trolley are own brand names.

Nothing wrong with that. 

In fact, with a lot of things, the purse friendly items are often as good as, if not nicer than, the more expensive items.

We are lucky enough to have the German supermarket Lidl in our town.  This provides us, a family of 6, with great produce, variety and bang for our buck.

Some of our favourite items in Lidl would be the following. 

Fruit and veg.  In particular the raspberries and strawberries.  Smallest Boy eats these like sweets.  Whenever I can, I use the berries to make a berry compote.

Berry Compote with sunflower and pumpkin seeds

They are also great for “in season” bits and pieces and I took a mad fancy to make some ginger and rhubarb cordial lately.

Ginger and rhubarb cordial

We also enjoy coffee.  Well, I do.  We had an expensive ornament on our kitchen counter top for a long while.  Otherwise known as a coffee maker.  Then Lidl introduced these amazing coffee pods at €1.99 for 10 ranging in strengths from 4, 5 and a stop-your-heart 10.  Injection fuel for the day.


Water melon anyone? 

Lovely Liam has fallen in “yum” with the pesto and chicken pizza and insists that no-one else is allowed eat it.

The wine is mine!!

On the hot sunny days you cannot go wrong with the selection of ice-creams.  I buy tubs of strawberry, chocolate and a 2.5 litre of vanilla.  A box of wafer cones and we’re sorted for at least a week.



Then of course there are the staples of the weekly shop.  I never buy milk anywhere else and Mister Husband is fond of those little bottles of beer with a bag of tortilla chips to accompany them.

Really, you can’t beat Lidl for value and quality.

I do however, have a tiny complaint.  Just a small one. 

Their nappies are second to none.  In fact, they are so good Smallest Boy has declared on more than one occasion that he doesn’t want to grow up.  He wants to “be small forever,” has regularly and consistently refused and shunned any notion of ever wearing Big Boy Pants.

It’s a good thing Lidl Toujours nappies are such good value as it looks like I might actually have one going to school wearing them.

Anyway, my gripe.  Smallest Boy has decided he has a favourite nappy.  Lidl nappies have cute little animals printed on each one, a giraffe, a zebra, a blue hippo, a yellow lion amongst others.  Like the one Smallest Boy has fixated on.

The crocodile one.  Or as he calls it, the caiman.  Thank you Steve Backshall and your Deadly 60 animal series.

And thank you Lidl.  For not manufacturing a bag of 44 nappies with caiman/crocodile pictures on them all instead of just seven.

Friday 11 July 2014

The Monster Splash

The actual pool with the actual pirate ship.  K Leisure Athy
Another time we were in the swimming pool.  Incidentally it was the first time we visited since finally signing up for membership which means we can go every day during the summer holidays if we want.

We will want.

The boys were very excited to hear this.  I made sure to tell them lots of times about our membership as signing up means there will be a tidy sum of money removed from my bank account each and every month for the foreseeable and dang it, I want value for my money.  Lots of value for my money.

On this Sunday afternoon however, our session was coming to an end and it was time to haul ourselves out, have a shower and go home.    

The life guards chose that precise moment to drag out the massive inflatable pirate ship that is the infamous Monster Splash.  It is essentially a bouncy castle on water.  Cue massive excitement.  Cue massive fun altogether. 

Cue a massive pain in the arse!

Like the mermaids in Pirates of the Caribbean every kid in the pool was drawn to the side where they could watch, mesmerised, as this massive piece of rubber and its inflatable thingy were rolled out.

We had been in the water long enough for Oldest Boy to develop a blue rim around his lips.  It was as if someone had taken a magic marker and drawn on him.  He was also vibrating with cold.  The deflated pirate ship lay on the floor.  It wasn’t even plugged in.

I managed to get them out of the water with the promise of a return the next day when it was fully inflated and at the due Monster Splash time of 4pm and they could have a go on it then.

I believe it’s called bribery with hot chocolate.

Just as we were in the showers the lifeguards decided to plug the inflatable thingy in and perform the kiss of life on the pirate ship. 

My kids were aghast. Right before their widening eyes, the pirate ship was slowing coming to life. 

They’re blowing it up! Can we go back in?  Please?  Please?  You promised we could.

I reminded them the promise was for the following day and there was a hot chocolate waiting for them at home.  With marshmallows.

They weren’t buying it. They wanted to go on it now!

The whinging and moaning and complaining continued well into the changing room.  I reminded them that I had just signed us all up for membership and what it meant.  Reminded them how excited they were to hear about this in the first place.

“This is the worst day of my life.”  And the award for Dramatic Moaney Hole goes to…………”I was doing my best to be happy and then you go and reverse it on me!”

The other little shite ingrate turned to him and gravely intoned, “Don’t ever trust an adult.  Just. Don’t.  Ever!  They will always let you down.

So the Monster Splash.  Great fun.  For all the family.  I highly recommend it.  In fact, take out a membership.  Go on!  You won’t regret it.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Did Someone Mention Chocolate?

Page 199!  You will not be disappointed!
I am not a fan of TV celebrity chefs.  At all.  I enjoy watching their programmes, yes, but I have had maybe a 90% success rate when it comes to actually cooking something of theirs from the accompanying cook book.

Wanna know why?

Not all of the recipes are tested.  You are taking the life of your bag of flour and other expensive ingredients into your own hands.

There are one or two of these that prove otherwise, however.  I have one such book that, when I place it on the counter it practically opens itself on the recipe I want:  the absolutely divine chocolate brownie recipe.

The clue to the chef’s identity is in the title.

Rachel Allen introduced me to this recipe several years ago.  It is taken from her first book, 
Favourite Food for Friends and in my humble, shite cook opinion, probably her best.  I am not a great cook but I’m not bad at baking so I feel qualified to make this claim. 

I have fond and gluttonous memories of making this and eating most of it myself.  Bear in mind I would have been awake since 4am and breastfeeding a ravenous leech of a child so I had lots of energy to replace.  It was my choice to replace the sugar part first!

Please, please if you bake one thing and one thing only over the next week, bake this.  You will be swamped and inundated with praise, given by those with eyeballs rolling so hard around their heads in pure ecstasy, don’t be surprised if one or two fall out!

I posted a picture on my Facebook page recently and it got so many comments, I thought I would share the recipe with you.  I am sure Rachel won’t mind as I have already stated it is hers.

Like so far?

Chocolate Brownies as taken from Rachel’s Favourite Food by the author of the same name

6oz butter
6oz *good dark chocolate
3 eggs
9oz caster sugar
4oz plain flour
*This bit is important.  Lidl do excellent bars with 70% cocoa content.  The high percentage is needed to cut through the sweetness. 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.   Line a Swiss roll tin.  Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over hot water.  Whisk eggs and sugar until nice and creamy.  Allow chocolate mix to cool before adding spoonful by spoonful.  Then add in flour.  Pour mix into lined tin and bake for (depending on oven) 25 to 30 minutes. 

The top will be nice and cracky and the inside a sublime, fudgy, dense holy mother of GOD, creation. 

Leave for 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

A few squares for everyone in the audience!

Try it and see but be nice and share.  A bit of vanilla ice-cream makes it a bit more eye rolling.

Get ready to have your eyes rolled!

Disclaimer:  I am heretofore absolved from any responsibility or blame over possible happenings bloody, fatal or otherwise that may or may not take place over the last remaining slice.