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Monthly Archives: April 2012

30th April: Lamb & Chorizo Beanpot

Another Hellish night courtesy of The Baby. Actually I probably need to come up with a new name for her, given that she’s nearly 17 months old. She’s a phenomenon.

I’m writing this at 6.30am. So far this morning I’ve dealt with two poos. Two full changes of pjs. Made two cups of milk. Administered calpol and cough mixture. Had a massive go at Him about his amazing capacity to slip into a coma whenever there’s a toddler on the prowl….

He used to do this when I was feeding our babies in the night. His ability to slumber on through a bleating newborn never failed to amaze. He’d roll over first thing and say what a good night we’d had. How well the baby had done. One look at my fatigue deathmask and practically bleeding swollen eyes quickly told him otherwise.

You just don’t like getting up, He tells me. This is true. I hate mornings. I hate feeling sick with fatigue as they rise, batteries charged with a full 12 hours sleep. I hate scraping weetabix off the table. I hate the smell of boiled eggs and getting the shell under my fingernails. I hate picking up Cheerios from underneath the table. I am officially morose until 9am.

Why do they have to be so freaking jolly ffs?? Full of beans and excitement for the day ahead. Those perky kids tv presenters don’t help my mood either, especially on Channel 5. If that blond dancing bloke ever meets a sticky end live on air, then I fear I may be prime suspect 😉

After many many cups of tea, and my own weight in Rolo cookies, I finally perk up enough to cook tea. A bit of chorizo dry fried with onion and garlic. Add some lamb which has been coated in seasoned flour and brown. Crumble over a lamb stock cube and a shake of paprika. I add in some chopped carrots and red pepper, a tin of tomatoes and a slug of super annuated wine which somehow hasn’t been necked by me in a fit of tea time pique. Bring to the boil, then simmer on low for an hour or more. Towards the end I add in a tin of rinsed butter beans. All served with some baby roasties.

A restorative supper for exhausted old me. He’s off to the pub tonight to watch the footie. Under normal circumstances I would have volunteered to ‘do the double’ and get up tomorrow too. He was particularly lazy last night…I may relent, just don’t tell him that will you?

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25th April: Cuddle in a Bowl (Chicken Soup)

What are the words I most long to hear?

He’s been away for a few days… ‘working’. It doesn’t happen often, thankfully. His rare trips away swing from tedious days spent in conference centres in the midlands….to booze-filled schmoozefests in various glamourous locations.

This trip was the latter. He rocks up home with a sickening ski tan. As if sensing his demise, he immediately produces a load of gourmet gifts, chocolates, perfume and booze for me. Wise man, it did the trick.

My hat goes off to all the single parents who do this on their own full time. I am utterly exhausted. Obviously I’m used to being on my own during the day. I have this down to a fine (ish) art. It’s the sort of grinding endlessness of it that I’m not used to. The mornings are too busy for me to engage in even the most rudimentary of basic personal hygiene. The evenings are filled with chores that have backed up, chores that are usually halved after the kids have gone to sleep.

I’m so grouchy at breakfast. There’s no one to make me a cup of tea, which usually takes the edge off my mood. I’ve been up in the night, and then again since 5.30am. I can barely speak I’m so furious. I look around and realise the kids are mute, unsmiling. Like citizens of some joyless dictatorial state. I am suddenly wracked with guilt and shame that their hero is away and I am behaving like some sort of ogre. I break out into song to perk things up. They leap out of their skins. Jekyll meets Hyde over weetabix.

I need comforting. Since that’s obviously not going to come in the form of a cuddle from my beloved (him being too busy working on his carving turns earning our crust), and since it’s too early for even me to crack open the gin….chicken soup will have to do.

I’d made some stock from a leftover roast chicken. I blitz onion, leeks, celery, garlic, carrots in my whizzer. Then soften them in some butter. I add dried thyme and the chicken stock and simmer away for 20 minutes or so. With 10 minutes to go I add in some soup pasta. When the pasta’s cooked, I stir in some leftover chicken, some lemon juice and some creme fraiche. To paraphrase that dreadful man, Gregg Wallace, “it’s like a bear hug from a big lemony chicken”…. 9/10.

On day 3, my mum comes to stay. Like an angel sent from on high, she says those words I’ve so longed to hear…”you go and run yourself a hot bath and get your head down for a couple of hours”. I could cry thinking about it. Love you mum x

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19th April: Herman

And the moral of the story is: Trust your instincts, your two year old does not know what’s best.

Let’s rewind.

We live right by a park. I spend at least 85% of my life there. We often nip over there late afternoon so my two Labradors boys can let off some steam before I murder them tea.

I decided to take the Baby over there on her trike thing. The Big One asked to go on his bike too. Fair enough.

It would’ve all been ok had the Fusspot not demanded to go on his too. He can’t even pedal. Let alone steer or brake. I should have been firmer, I should have seen the iceberg.

There are only two little roads to cross. How difficult could it be??

The way there was ok. The play at the park was great. And then the hail came…

Once again I am a spectacle. The Big One pedals as if he’s in the Olympic Velodrome, I run with the Baby on her trike yelling him to slow down. He can’t hear me due to all the speed and frozen water pelting his ears. Massive hailstones bounce off the Baby’s head and she screams in agony.

Fusspot is, of course, stationary. Weeping. Miles back.

I find myself, yet again, in the unenviable position of choosing which child to save. Although today we have the added frisson of getting soaked through in the most painful way imaginable.

And then my friend appears. Hallelujah.

My theme today is friendship. I’m lucky to have made a great mob of ‘mummy friends’. It always sounded so tragic pre-kids. Friends based simply on the fact that you procreated within a few months of eachother. But I quickly realised that it is a lot more than that. These women become your allies. Their kids like cousins to yours. They’re the ones who ‘get it’. They’re the ones who leap out of their car in a Hailstorm and race your children home with you.

I received Herman from my friend next door. A bubbling pot of yeasty goo akin to a sample one might see at a male fertility clinic. Nuff said.

Herman is a German Frendship Cake, a sort of baking chain letter. The premise is that you receive him, along with instructions on when he needs stirring or ‘feeding’. You keep him on your worktop for 10 days during which time he grows. You feed him flour, milk and sugar. On the tenth day you split the dough into four. Bake one, and give three away to friends so they can start all over.

We followed the instructions and Herman thrived under our care. On the last day, I duly delivered three new Hermans to some friends. Me and the boys baked the fourth.

The house smells divinely of cinnamon as he bakes. My favourite cooking smell.

A sweet idea. I can’t quite shake the thought that it started off on some German’s work top decades ago. And that it has been festering away ever since. No one else seems to mind that though. Our faithful pet gets scoffed in cannibalistic style.

One of the three goes to my saintly hailstorm friend. Whatever would I do without them all?

End up on the news probably 🙂

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15th April: Twisted Roast Chicken

Since we last spoke, I have made a discovery. I am old. Not ‘getting old’. Just proper old.

Me and He have just had a busy, boozy, birthday bonanza of a week. Pub quiz with friends, a day at the races, many visitors. Last night I was out at a fundraiser with some girly mates. Drank too much, cried for no apparent reason, boogied on down to some old school indie. Tired and emotional personified.

Today I feel like death. The kids have upped the volume just to get on my wick. They are crazed. I wonder if He has been drip feeding them sugar and food colouring as payback for my lack of input. I long for those days when I could just get back into bed with a film, a massive bag of doritos and a vat of coca cola (‘The Black Doctor’ as my brother describes it).

Alas no. I get up to do my chores in foul temper. We have visitors this afternoon so I need to get cooking. I think of the easiest way to feed 8. I look to Nigella for the answer, and she delivers of course.

I’ve made this loads. It’s one of those meals that looks like it’s taken hours when really it takes about 20 minutes to prepare. Sounds a bit wanky to call it a deconstructed roast chicken dinner, but that’s exactly what it is. All the same flavours done differently.

Chicken pieces are marinated in lemon, olive oil, worcester sauce, sea salt, mustard and dried sage. You also add an onion chopped into eighths. Once it’s had a couple of hours, it’s roasted with some sausages for 30 mins. This gives all the flavours of sage & onion stuffing. Yum.

To go with, I make Nigella’s bread sauce potato gratin. Sliced potatoes boiled in an artery-furring brew of cream and full fat milk. The cream has been infused with clovey onions, mace and bay leaves. Once the potatoes are just cooked, the whole lot gets a 15min blast in a hot oven.

We spend a lovely afternoon with our visitors, His younger sister and her sweet little family. He likes to take us on yomps. Massive unending walks. This one was just to feed the ducks on the canal while the oven preheated. Of course we find ourselves in the middle of some field miles away. My mood is not helped by my growling belly and my reemerging headache.

We finally get home and devour our less than healthy tea. I get right back on the horse with a glass of fizz. My mood improves magically. My sister in law has made us a magnificent chocolate cake for our pud. We chow that down too. Who needs a waistline anyway?? Sclerotic deliciousness 9/10

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10th April: Whizzy Fish Balls and Bisketti

I have a new love in my life. It is fast making its way up my league table of affections. I think it may have already pushed some of my distant relatives into the relegation zone. Certainly more useful and less inclined to get hammered and behave like a prat. Although getting hammered and behaving like a prat is one of my top 2 pastimes…

Birthday presents for a stay-home mum are a minefield. I recognise this. What I actually need are things like tea towels and hand soap. If He ever dared buy me those though, he would clearly spend the next 364 days regretting the decision. Skimpy pants and push up bras open a minefield of “so you don’t think I’m attractive anymore??”, plus the obvious weeping when the skimpies don’t fit my arse.

He nailed it yesterday. Some lovely smellies (anti-ageing, but I resisted taking the bait). A pile of pretty, non-slutty pants to rejuvenate my dreadfully outdated knicker drawer. About time. It was full of those “back the hell off mate” big pants that women wear after having a child. Not entirely sure he got that message anyway to be honest (three babies in three years anyone?).

But the best of the bunch is my new love. My electric veg chopper.

I know. I’m tragic.

If you’ve never had a child like my little Fusspot, then you might not see the appeal. I have spent the past nearly 3 years finely chopping vegetables to hide them from his hawklike gaze. He could choke on a grain of sand this child. My new gadget means a meal that might have taken 20 minutes to painstakingly prepare, can now be whizzed in seconds. Oh happy day.

I am so delighted that I think of the meal that will involve most chopping. Spring onion and garlic whizzed up and added to flaked tinned tuna. A slice of bread whizzed up to make breadcrumbs. All rolled together with some grated cheese to make walnut sized balls.

I find myself unable to stop. I whizz up some peppers, celery, carrots and onions and cook for 5mins in some olive oil. Then add some passata and the fish balls. Cook for 10mins and serve with spaghetti (or Bisketti as it is called in our house).

We have a table full tonight. A good friend brings her girls over for a tea date. Sweet. Her oldest girl is the Big One’s dream lady. He is beside himself with excitement that she is here. The fishy balls get a thumbs up from 4 out of the 5 kids. Amazingly the Fusspot is in the majority for a change.

We have a glut of Easter eggs. I melt some down and serve it in little pots with some chopped fruit for dipping.This gets a thumbs up. Obviously.

It’s nice to have a friend over to share the horror joy of tea time. I must add that this is not one of my friends who is willing to start drinking wine with me at 4.30. Honest. Hic. 8/10.

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6th April: Festive Fish Pie

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Have you ever tried explaining the Passion of Christ to preschoolers? I wouldn’t recommend it. My darling husband likes to turn on the religion over Easter. Quite apt of course. But the sombre tone he tries to strike is somewhat at odds with the kids’ images of smiling bunnies and their baskets full of chocolatey treats. Today is Good Friday and He is trying to keep a sort of reflective, quiet atmosphere in the house. No boozing or feasting. He makes the schoolboy error of trying to explain the relevance of this day to them, telling the boys all about Jesus and the crucifixion.

If the intent was to make them quietly reflect on the great sacrifice in awe and stunned silence….then it was a fail. A tale involving a man actually being nailed to a cross brings out my little darlings’ bloodlust. “But HOW did he actually die daddy?” “Was it because he didn’t have any food?”. They examine a picture in amazement. He gives up on the sombre tone and pours himself some wine, regaling them both with the details. Their eyes like saucers imagining it all.

But I was struggling to feel sombre anyway, I am in celebratory mood. We go to the airport to welcome my younger sister home from her adventures in Australia. The boys waggle their handcrafted signs hopefully at anyone who’ll look. I’m not sure quite how they think their Aunty might have morphed into a middle-aged Arabic businessman, but hey ho. She finally steps through the doors looking gorgeous and tanned.

Although it feels like a blink in my sleep-deprived brain, it has been a few months since we saw her. It’s like a piece of my jigsaw is put back in place, and so lovely to know that she’s home and happy and safe. We sit for a quick catch up. The boys only cause a couple of minor security breaches as they rampage around the terminal building.

With a week of Easter treats, family reunions and birthdays ahead, I am in happy spirits. I join Him in a glass of wine and cook a massive festive fish pie for our tea. My recipe is an amalgamation of Delia and Nigella. Nigelia if you will. I poach the fish in a bit of white wine with some carrots, bay leaves and celery. Then make a sauce from butter, leeks, flour. I add the poaching juices and some milk before pouring over the fish. I also add in some prawns, spinach (of course!) and some hardboiled eggs before topping with mash and cheese.

Comfort food of the highest order. A couple of glasses of wine and some gory crucifixion chat later, we are rocking out to Jesus Christ Superstar. I never said we were cool.

Happy Easter everyone! 10/10.

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3rd April: Not Creamy Carbonara

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Have you seen that woman? You know, that one. The one you see out and about. The one that makes you feel better about your life. The one that makes you feel like you’ve got it all sorted. I’ve been looking, nay, scouring for her for years now.

I thought it was funny that everyone else seemed to have seen her but me. I was looking for someone harassed. Most probably unkempt. Possibly about to have an embolism. Someone who had those really lively little shits angels for children.

It finally dawned on me today. It’s me.

When did the truth strike? Was it in the supermarket? When the Fusspot got stuck under some shelving? Was it when I arrived at the checkout and found at least 7 items in the trolley which I hadn’t put there? Was it when the baby got a breadstick stuck up her nose? Or was it when – the smart money’s on this one people – the Fusspot decided to do an al fresco wee on the car wheel and didn’t quite get himself sorted in time. Therefore soaking his clothes and my shoes.

Not so bad? Read on.

I can pinpoint my realisation to the moment when the trolley (containing by this point only the baby and my gin), took off across the carpark. The Big One cheering on its progress as I sprinted after it in pee-soaked boots.

Of course I’m her. I’m just surprised it took me so long to get it. More to the point, why didn’t any of you tell me??

Now that I know, I can start to feel proud of myself. Being this rubbish takes some doing. I am actually providing a public service and deserve thanks from you all. Gin will do. Or a couple of hours babysitting while I do my weekly shop…..

My housekeeping has taken a nosedive. I go to make tea and realise I’ve no milk and 15 eggs. Go figure. Carbonara then, as I do have some bacon and cheese.

This recipe is good. It’s dry and salty, so the boys clearly love it. I fry a couple of whole garlic cloves in butter with some smoked bacon, until the bacon is crispy. Then remove the garlic and throw away. This way you get the essence without the bad breath. Plus I always find babies with garlic breath most alarming.

Meanwhile cook some spaghetti until it’s al dente. Drain but keep the pasta water. Add the cooked spaghetti to the bacon pan (I use my wok) and remove from heat. Mix up some eggs and Parmesan and pour into the the wok. Use tongs to coat the spaghetti, the egg cooks quickly on the hot pasta. If you like it more ‘saucy’, add a bit of the water. Add pepper and some more Parmesan before serving.

I’m off for a gin and a bubble bath. The preparation needed to continue to make you all feel great about yourselves tomorrow. All together now… “thanks Sarah”. 9/10.

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