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Monthly Archives: June 2012

26th June: Super Speedy Sweet & Sour Pork

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There are some things you say you’ll never do when you’re a parent.

Shout; smack; bribe; fib; force them to eat vegetables just to ‘win’ a tea time battle; get drunk and breast feed; get drunk and dance about with them til you fall over cackling before realising they’re actually squished underneath you; get drunk and climb into their bed ‘cos you just love them soooo much’. Then get cross when they wake up….

Sorry, is there a theme developing??

I also told myself I’d never be a pushy parent.

Today was the boys’ preschool Sports Day.

On the way there I lectured them both on how it was all about taking part and having fun. Everyone needs to have a turn at winning, I told them. They weren’t to get upset if they didn’t come first.

The kids sat in their little groups, the parents and grandparents milled around chin wagging about village politics – litter levels, dog poo levels etc etc. The first group of children took their places for the hurdles race. “Ah, how sweet” we all titter. Some of the very little ones stand stock still, bewildered by all the shouting. Some don’t have a clue what they’re meant to be doing and just burst into tears. “Aw, well tried darling” come the supportive voices from the crowd.

Fusspot takes his place on the starting line. He’s up against some big ones. Strictly entre nous I wouldn’t have put money on him on this occasion. He’s a determined little thing. I have empathy for him. I was a permanent second place to my big brother too. He gives it some welly and comes third. Little honeypie. He’s very chuffed with himself.

The Big One takes his place in the hurdles line up. He’s about a foot taller than everyone else. He has a look of steely determination on his face. The whistle blows and they’re off. He goes for it and streaks over the finish line in first place. “YES” I yell, punching the air. Oops. So it would seem that I am some glory-crazed soccer mom after all. Who knew??

The boys had asked me to take my trainers so I could run in the mum’s race. I couldn’t seem to find them. That’s because they’ve been lost in the loft since last October when I last exerted myself physically I must have erm, left them in my gym locker.

The parents line up ready. The Big One scans the line for me. I had promised him I’d do it. I kick off my birkies and prepare to run barefoot. One of my friends decides to join me. “We can run together” she says. “Whatever” I think. Some of the dads are clearly viewing this as a public test of their virility. A bit of jostling followed by a false start. We line up again. I am quick off the mark, I leave my friend for dust. She’s outraged as she eventually crosses the line. I had to do it you see, last year The Big One cried because I came last. Another friend of mine had comforted me with the kind observation that I’d done well considering all the other mums were ten years younger than me. Cow.

For tea we have Sweet and Sour Pork. When I first saw this recipe I was repulsed. But curious too as it had had such good reviews online. It’s from Good Food magazine and involves putting all the ingredients – tomato ketchup, muscavado sugar, vinegar, chopped pork, peppers, onion, garlic, carrots – into a Pyrex dish and blasting it in the microwave for eight minutes. You then add in some tinned pineapple and mange tout and blast again for four minutes. This sort of cooking sings to me when I’m stuck for time. I serve it with some Straight to Wok noodles.

The kids poke at it and pretend to be Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda by making noodle moustaches. I barely notice as I am googling Junior Sports Academies 😉 Speedy grub for my Speedy Gonzaleses… 7/10.

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23rd June: Tuscan Tales

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Buongiorno tutti!!

Confused?? You may well be.

We never did quite do that marathon drive through France and Spain.

After a week of agonising, the pile of wet weather clothes and jumpers sitting alongside the flimsy summer wear, indecision and, ultimately, cowardice. We booked flights and decided France would forgive us this one time. Italian sunshine was beckoning. We talk the In-Laws into changing their plans too. It was quite simply the best decision we’ve made in a long time.

The new plan begins inauspiciously. We spend night before weighing and reweighing our bags to avoid getting shafted by the jobsworths at the Ryanair desk. We shift bits from one case to another until we have EXACTLY the right weight in each bag. I admit that I do feel itchy with the disorder of it all.

We have to get up at 3am to get our taxi. The Baby is awake from midnight anyway so I’m pretty grouchy *understatement*. We arrive at the check-in desks to be met by an unholy queue full of similarly tired and grouchy travellers. The kids cavort, thrilled to be up ‘in the middle of the night’.

Nervously, we shunt our bags onto the scales. The check-in man can smell blood. 14.9kgs. “YES!”. I pump the air. Loser.

Apart from feeling like some sort of underclass as we shuffle onto the plane – I irritably snipe, as they refuse to let us on first with our kids, that I will only fly with BA (preferably business class) in the future – the flight goes well.

We arrive into the mid-morning heat of Rome, collect the hire car and make for the chaotic deathtrap that is the Grande Raccordo Anulare – Rome’s ringroad. Let me assure you, these drivers literally do not give a hoot. There are absolutely no rules. If you’ve ever driven around the peripherique in Paris – times it by ten. He handles it like a pro. I swoon a bit.

A couple of hours later, we are in the beautiful medieval hilltop town of Sarteano, sitting in the campsite restaurant noshing on delicious pasta and salads. The Peronis are flowing and things are looking up. I eat pici (a really thick, noodley spaghetti) with a gorgeous rich duck ragu. Amazing.

How to explain a fortnight of awesomeness?? I’m not sure I can. We make friends with our neighbours. They have a feisty little four-year old daughter who is a marvellous match for the Big One. We spend our days thinking about our next meal. Culinary high points include a really simple ragu made by my mother-in-law. We loved it. The Baby adored it. She ate it for about three days.

It was my in -laws 38th wedding anniversary whilst we were there. We buy some ravioli from the fresh pasta shop, dress it with olive oil and Parmesan. Served with a lovely tomato salad and plenty of prosecco. Afterwards we dip cantucci biscuits in amaretto, and sit tipsy in the broiling heat working up the energy to waddle to the pool.

On Father’s day, we lunch at the most amazing spot. A 15th Century convent with the most stunning views imaginable. The kids scamper about the walled garden playing hide and seek while we devour the wonderful food. I have bruschetta followed by homemade polpettini. One of those magical moments that I simply don’t have the vocabulary to convey to you.

The in-laws depart that afternoon. We spend our remaining week cruising around in the breathtaking Tuscan scenery. We visit many a hilltop town. Eat too many gelatis. Drink far too many Aperol Spritzes. We successfully stalk an old Aussie friend, who is over getting married nearby. He clearly had no intention of getting in touch. Possibly preferring instead to enjoy his peaceful, magical time as a newlywed on an extended honeymoon. He underestimated us. We are a tenacious pair. We back him into a corner with an endless list of options. A cornered rabbit, he has no choice but to relent. He comes to visit us, bringing along his lovely new wife and their two gorgeous boys.

We spend a brilliant, boozy couple of days together. The kids get on famously. The Big One is revered as some Demi-God, and he leads the rest of them in a Pied-Piper fashion around the campsite, hunting for lizards and lobbing sticks at Germans in the stream.

A magical time. Although sadly not for my waist, which has pretty much vanished. It would seem that ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith and her ilk may have a point. Drink loads of beer, eat loads of carbs and sit about sweating a lot, and you do indeed become a big fat whale. Expect lots of bran, brown rice and salad recipes peeps *kills self*.

Ciao for now 🙂

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6th June: Plain Old Roast Pork

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An interesting concept Luck.

I’ve always considered myself very lucky. I still do. But I feel my luck has changed over the past few years. Not the proper lucky stuff – Happy, Healthy, Loved etc etc.. More the day to day luck that seemed to follow us wherever we went, casting some golden glow over us as we landed on our feet again and again.

The glow seems to have passed on to some other lucky souls. We find ourselves in a permanent state of near calamity at all times. Our garden hacked in half by some Dickensian misanthrope, our children permanently riddled with viruses which spread between them like wildfire.

Nowhere else has our luck been more altered than on our holidays.

We are now professional shit holidaymakers. So much so that (save our own parents), we can not find anyone with even the faintest desire to join us on our calamitous travels. And He works for a travel company. He gets REALLY cheap holidays…

It’s all the Fusspot’s fault really. We had some marvellous holidays with the Big One before his little bro came along and ruined it for us all 😉

We decided to go to Brittany when the Fusspot was about 5 months old. He thought it’d be a brilliant idea to develop bronchiolitis and spend the week in an oxygen bubble in Quimper hospital. Nice one. I thought I’d much prefer to spend my holiday on a z-bed sick with anxiety, than at the pool with the rest of the family.

Surely a blip in our unblemished record of successful jaunts?? We booked a cottage in Wales later that year. He only went and did the same bloody thing!! This time, my week was spent in Chester hospital. Still on a z-bed. Still sick with anxiety.

We waited 6 months before attempting another holiday. What we needed was some guaranteed sunshine. Let’s fly to the Riviera! Three days in, we were having a marvellous time. Totally getting our holiday mojo back on. A bit of heavy rain that evening wasn’t going to dampen our spirits.

Fusspot awakes at 3am. I stumble across the caravan and retrieve his dummy. Something’s amiss… Where’s our car gone? Why are there men with torches shouting in French?

Flash floods. The worst to hit the area for decades. Super.

We grab a few possessions in a couple of rucksacks, strap a boy each to our backs, and wade waist-deep for ten minutes until we reach the campsite bar. We settle ourselves and try and act like it’s just the most fun we’ve ever had to stop the boys from freaking out.

“The river’s burst its banks” comes the cry. “Onto the roof”. The following 8 or so hours were bleak. A low point was watching an old man do a poo in the makeshift latrine.

We were finally helicoptered off the roof and taken to a refugee centre where we were fed and clothed by some kindly locals. We got a cab to a different campsite and stuck out the rest of the holiday there. Determined, if not a little stupid.

We were due to set off on holiday today. A mammoth tour through France, with a boat home from Spain in a couple of weeks. The weather forecast was dire. We decided to hold off for a few days until it improves. We are either getting wise, or boring. Possibly both. But, can you blame us?

The cooking seems a bit of a non-sequitur. For tea tonight I made rather bog-standard Roast Pork. The rain was drumming down and I felt like making something wholesome and hearty. Not much of interest I’m afraid. A rolled half-shoulder, roasted with sea salt, lemon, olive oil and Caraway seeds – and gravy made using Marsala wine. Lots of crackling and clean plates = happy me at least.

Now to tackle the packing. Wish us luck. And if you don’t hear from me again, then the shit holiday luck may have finally got the better of us for good…If anyone fancies joining us, just get in touch 😉

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