Monday 30 November 2015

Bah Humbug. Not Really

This weekend at an overnight stay in Galway, the guy at reception was full of chat with the boys.  They lapped it up.  Then he asked them were they tired because they watched the Late Late Toy Show the night before.  Lovely Liam piped up, “We don’t actually know what that is.”
The poor guy behind the reception desk.  His face was a picture.  All kinds of incredulous and disbelief. 

It’s true.  My boys have never seen TLLTS.  I think the oldest one is aware of its existence but other than that, he has no interest in it.  The youngest two would never be able to keep their eyes open – in fact Smallest Boy issued his “bring me up” instruction at approximately 8pm Friday night.  It means he is tired and he wants me to take him up to his bed and tuck him in.

The Late Late Toy Show is not the only Christmas tradition we don’t partake in.  We don’t pose for pictures with Santa nor do we do the Santa trails.  My boys have never been to a panto or ice skating.

The Christmas tree goes up mid-December and I do my best to take it down before New Year’s Day.    

I’ve never cooked a turkey.  Last year I served a fancier than usual roast chicken for our Christmas dinner. The boys loved their Viennetta ice-cream with sherry trifle for desert and had a great time pulling crackers.  They declared it one of the best dinners ever.  This year I think T-bone steak is on the menu and the boys have expressed a strong interest in egg fried rice as part of their meal.

We don’t visit other people on Christmas day.  We stay in our own home.   The boys’ aunties come to us for maybe an hour in the morning to distribute much awaited for presents. 

I used to make a big deal out of putting up the Christmas tree.  But everyone got bored after ten minutes and wandered off so I keep it all very low key now.

One year I spent almost thirty euros on a turkey crown and there were maybe four slices carved from it.  It was a total waste.

The boys like to stay at home Christmas Day and play with their presents, watch TV, dip into the bowls of chocolate sweets and just chill.

So do I.  

I suppose those are our traditions.  We do enjoy other customs.  For example, I have yet to miss a school Christmas pageant.  When the boys get their holidays from school, we go out for a special lunch.  

We also enjoy plenty of family meals.  Year round and not just in the run up to Christmas.  I particularly like this one.

Another massive event in their lives is the brainchild of their grandmother who is no longer with us.  A few years back she organised the first of the now annual Santa visit to her house.  Granny and Grandad asked a friend of theirs to don the red suit and belly and each grandchild took turns to receive their gift from the man himself - who had very kindly taken time out from his very busy schedule to visit a fully decorated home in south Kildare on a frosty Sunday evening.

The older kids are questioning Santa now but accept it’s just a helper that steps in for the day.  The younger ones are still deeply enthralled and amazed at the whole thing.

Who needs a Santa trail or a frantically busy supermarket when Santa can fit in a personal visit in the comfort of your grandad’s home?

So when the guy at reception over the weekend followed up his initial shock over my kids being ignorant of The Late Late Toy Show by asking them, “do you know about Santa?” I was very confident in the knowledge that yes, yes they do.

We may not be as traditional as other families with our festive happenings, but we get a kick out of them all the same.

Rudolph the plywood reindeer.

Friday 27 November 2015

The Complaint Hotline
I collect Smallest Boy from Montessori at 12pm.  Mister Husband is the best person in the world because he does the 1.30pm school pick up and I fetch the remaining two boys at 2.30pm.

From 9am till 12pm I enjoy complete and utter serenity both in my mind and house.  I love it.

From approximately 2.45pm, not so much.

As soon as they clap eyes on each other, the rowing begins.  The bickering.  The sniping.  The moaning.  The whinging.  The fighting.  The arguing.  The whole kit and caboodle.

It’s exhausting.  It’s stressful and I hate it.

I have told them as much.

I lost the plot this week – I am not proud but it happened – and I roared it at them. I told them I dreaded that time of day; that I hated them coming home from school.  That I find it all so upsetting and stressful and loud and horrible and it makes me want to cry and would they all just please stop!

They did.  

For a while. 

They fight over the Xbox.  If the tablet has been left at home, they fight over that.  They fight over couch space. 

They come to me with their complaints.  The big stuff, the small stuff, the ridiculous, the unbelievable, the just because I can stuff.

This evening I told them I was going to call my own mother and complain to her.  That I was going to give out to her the way they give out to me. 

“You have a mother?  But you are a mother!”

The phone conversation played out.

“It’s Friday and I’m bored.  Make it go away.”

“I want to go out but I can’t.  I’ve kids to mind.”

“It’s raining.  Will you make it stop by tomorrow?”

“Can you do the washing for me?  Please?  You never do it.  Never!”

“What’s going to be for dinner tomorrow?   Will I like it? How come you never make me what I like?”

“Why can’t I watch what I want to on the television?”

“Can I have a treat?  Why not?  It’s just not fair!”

They looked at me as if I had lost the plot.

“You sound silly.  If you ring nana and say all that stuff to her, she will just laugh at you.”

Ya think?  So how come I don’t find it funny when you boys say all of that stuff to me?  Well?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Anyone?



Thursday 19 November 2015

Good Cop Bad Cop Recipes

Right.  So we’re a pancakes for breakfast family.  At least the boys are.  Every morning I make them pancakes.  It’s not hard.  They are easy to make – the batter is always made the day beforehand - occasionally when they are particularly hungry I might have to whip up a second batch that morning, but it can be very repetitive.  Already one of the boys is bored of them. 

He is also fast evolving into that mythical werewolf creature otherwise known as a teenager and has begun the love affair with sleep and his bed.  He has maybe ten minutes in the morning from the time his feet hit the bedroom floor to his butt reaching the car seat so a quick yet nutritious breakfast is necessary for him.

So I went on a quest to find a healthier, non-cook breakfast option and I discovered these lovely oaty breakfast muffins by Jenny Bristow.  My lot aren’t fond of raisins and the like so I omit those and instead chuck in a half pack of chocolate chips.

Try them. They take about ten minutes to prepare, are really tasty, high in fibre and full of energy. 

110g/4oz raisins or sultanas
Juice of 1 orange I used regular orange juice
75g/3oz Rolled porridge oats
 175g/6oz Self Raising flour
 25g/1oz soft brown sugar
2 tbsp. rapeseed oil I used sunflower oil
 1 egg lightly beaten
 ½ tsp Cinnamon powder
175ml/6fl oz. buttermilk or low fat milk


 Preheat the oven to 200oC/Gas Mark 6
Place the fruit with orange juice in a bowl for 10 minutes until they have plumped up. (Sorry Jenny.  I soaked the porridge in the milk for this step.  It absorbed nicely after a few minutes)
Place the oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl; to this add the beaten oil, egg and milk, mix lightly for only 1 minute. Don’t forget choc chips if using.  I think the grated zest of an orange would be lovely in this.  I also think a spoon of peanut butter would be another really nice option. 
Transfer to lined muffin tins and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. When cooked dust with icing sugar and serve.  One of my favourite things to do when making muffins is to add a couple table spoons of yogurt to the batter.

The second recipe is Brookies.  For those of you who may be new to these delicate delights, think brownies married with cookies with the density of those little amaretto biscuits you get with your coffee.

Up until a week ago my world was devoid of brookies.

I like nothing more than chilling out in front of some beauty bloggers and one night I happened across Lily Pebbles  who featured the aforementioned brookies on her blog. 

Two things stopped me in my tracks; Lily Pebbles reckoned a yield of 75 brookies from one batch and there is almost a pound of sugar in this recipe.

75 brookies!  And a pound of sugar?  Seriously?

The pound of sugar is correct but what she did get wrong was the yield.

I got way more than 75 so you might want to wait until there is a birthday party before making these.  Although they are very light.

85g 3 oz good quality cocoa powder  
14 oz caster sugar
125ml vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
9 oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz icing sugar


1. Mix together the cocoa, caster sugar and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. 
I used the electric beaters for this.   Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours. I’m lazy and impatient and only gave it about two hours.  It was perfect.
2. Preheat oven to 180 c/ gas mark 4. Line baking trays with parchment. Pour icing sugar onto a plate and using a teaspoon, spoon and roll mixture into 2.5cm balls coating each one with the icing sugar before placing onto prepared trays
3. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Let them stand on the baking tray for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

I wouldn’t recommend the brookies for breakfast.  Well, maybe one or three.  But definitely try the muffins.  Once cool, especially the following morning, they taste even nicer.

Friday 13 November 2015

Cornflake Boy

“Are we cornflake going to collect Liam today?"                                                                                                 
“I would cornflake my breakfast now.”

“I think it’s cornflake a wet day today.”

“Is today cornflake treat Friday or is it a cornflake school day or cornflake the weekend?”

“Is it cornflake time for Galway yet?”

“How cornflake soon is it to Christmas?”

I know!  What the heck is that?   Smallest Boy is a talker.  Once you make eye contact with him you can consider yourself a goner.  Good night Irene!

Lately he has also taken to putting the word “cornflake” into every sentence.  Depending on the amount of stuff he has to say, he could use “cornflake” three times in one sentence.

Except it’s not “cornflake” he’s saying.  It’s “kind of like” but he says it so fast it sounds like “cornflake.”

I always believed there were a couple extra voices in my head.  Always.  It seems this has been proven lately as I am the only one who “cornflake” can hear him “cornflake” saying this.

It “cornflake” drives me mental.   

Thursday 5 November 2015

How Not to Scare Your Child in One Easy Step

Don’t lie to them.  That’s how.  Easy, see?   Simple.  Easy peasy lemon queasy as my small boy likes to say on an hourly basis.  It’s not a bit annoying.

I’m rambling. 

Ok, you know the way ladies of a certain vintage (over 20) like to blatantly shave years off their birth cert?

Don’t do it.

When your child asks how many years old you are, what your number is or even if you are in double digits yet, tell them the truth.

Do not tell them you are 24.

Unless you are.  Of course.

Do not lie and tell them you are 24 when you are really 42. Almost 43.

The other night one of my boys asked me how old I was. 

Forgetting myself for a moment, because lies will catch you out like that.  They will.  I told him the truth and said I was 42.  Almost 43.

His little eyes widened and he gasped out.  “You told me you were 24!”

“Yes, but I feel 24.” I replied tucking him in.  “That’s the important thing.”

Another lie.

I do in my hoop feel 24.  I feel every decade, month, week and day of my almost 43 years.

“That makes you a lot older than I thought you were.”  The blankets were clutched under his chin.

“Ah, it’s only a number.”  I reassured him.

“Jesus, how old is Daddy then?”  The panic!

“He’s younger than me.  Don’t worry about it.”  I was beginning to see the error of my ways. 
We were seconds away from the “when are you going to die” question.  I’ve been lying about that for years.  More of a threat though rather than a reassurance.

“So, he’s 24 then?”

“No.  No, he won’t be 24 until next May.”    

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.  I promise you.  Now goodnight and get some sleep.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

See, don’t lie.  It scares them when the truth comes out.  Now all I have to do is tell Mister Husband he’s a lot younger than he thinks he is.  Also that the boys want him to audition for the Milk Tray ad.    

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Late to Another Party

The online party in fact.  To be honest I’ve never really shown up.  I’m not a fan.  I confess to loving that rush of adrenaline received from the actual handing over of cash across the counter in exchange for a product over waiting for the postman.  I just do. 

I also like to get a literal feel of what I am buying.  I have never purchased clothes online as sizing can be notoriously difficult and I am just not willing to risk the inevitable disappointment of an item arriving that will only fit my leg.

As a result, I limit my online shopping to books and the odd item of makeup that I am confident about.    

However, last night I may have changed my mind. 

Spoiler alert!

There are only 7 little Mondays remaining till Christmas.  Did you know that? 

I know!

I hate when it sneaks up on me too!

The logistics of Santa shopping with 4 kids and getting away with it have been burning a hole in my brain for a while now.   I mulled it over again and mentally re-enacted several plans of action.

The first one was to ask a relative to look after the kids one Saturday so we could scoot off and complete this most arduous of tasks in peace and total secrecy.

But that involved asking someone to forfeit their precious Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon.  And we ours.    We’d end up with no relatives.

Plan B was to ask a relative to take them to the cinema (I would pay) so we could have an hour or two to load up the car and transport Christmas goodies back into the house without being caught.

But what if there was nothing decent on in the cinema?  I couldn’t, in good conscience, ask an adult to sit through the Minions or some other hell. 

Then I had the first of two brainwaves. 

The toy store from which I had made a list provides great opening hours exactly for stressed and beleaguered parents like us in which to complete their Santa shopping. 

I considered asking a relative to stay with the boys who would be all ready for bed if not actually in it, so we could complete our Santy duty in one fell swoop.

But that would involve asking Mister Husband who would have put in a 10 hour day, to trek with me to a quite possibly heaving toy store.   

Maybe problem not solved after all. 

I sat down to see what the opening hours were, nonetheless and it was during my googling I saw this!

Problem solved.  And we get to keep all the relatives.

Win win!

So yes, I am that smug person who has made a start on the Santy shopping and intend to finish it by the weekend.

Online shopping – I think I love you!