You know you should be in bed when…

… your kids are asleep in bed and half an hour later, you realise you’re still watching Jungle Junction on Disney.

I think that is justification enough to declare it vodka’n’coke o’clock on a Wednesday night. Just a small one, for medicinal reasons, you see.

After all, I survived another soft day. The cubs were a bit like caged tigers, fighting and arguing all day over the little things. Crimes like, ‘he looked at me‘ (cub 3 about cub 2) or, ‘stop making that noise‘ (cub 2 to cub 3) and even, ‘don’t fall into my dust pile!‘ (cub 1 to cub 4 when she was sweeping the floor while he twirled to get a dizzy buzz)

Nothing quite surpasses the moment of the monumental crash though, followed by dead silence and then cheeky giggles which quickly faded to ‘oh fiddlesticks mami doesn’t think it’s funny‘ when I walked into the room. I had washed cushions and their covers after the recent illnesses and lice and whatnot and had the clothes horse up with them drying flat on the top. Naturally, cubs 3 and 4 took that as an invitation to climb up it and try to lie down on top. With the result that the whole thing bent crooked, and both fell off and over – thankfully only the clothes horse got injured.

I am knackered though. I went on a run this morning. Only 3km but boy did that wipe me! Suppose that’s what happens when you haven’t really run since beginning of June (a charity ‘mini-marathon’ 10k race) – but I figured I have to get back to it if I want to make it across that Half Marathon finish line in March; and I’d really like to still be running while crossing that line and not crawl across it before collapsing. I’m hoping to do it in under 2 hours 30 minutes. We shall see! I think the main problem is that the training plan is 12 weeks… so no pressure yet to do it. Might just have to find another goal closer to Now to get my arse in gear!

Another thing bugging me is that this month is NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It’s about the nth year in a row that I had great plans on finally doing it and keeping up. Usually, I manage well enough the first week. After all, just over 1600 words/day is doable. This year however, well it’s day 6 and my word total is a gigantic ZERO. Do I really want to catch up 10,000 words? Want? Yes. But as soon as I even think about sitting down to do it, I’m rather efficiently putting the Pro into procrastination.

Now, before I forget I shall have my little vodka/coke and while I’m at it to get the ice, I might as well take a rat out of the freezer and defrost it overnight for our snake. She is a lovely, gentle corn snake. What does the snake do in our household, you might ask yourself. After all, didn’t I say I live in Ireland? Didn’t that bloke St. Patrick take care of that?

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Well, we found her slithering in the ivy on our shed in the back garden. Take that, St. Patrick. We made the mistake to let the kids name the snake (Snakey! Inventive, huh?) and added the St. Patricia bit on as she’s a girl and it’s so fitting! It is true though that there aren’t any snakes at home in Ireland (only a slow worm!) and she is an escaped (or purposely let loose?) pet. As we couldn’t find the owner, we’ve kept her and she’s now with us for over 2 years! Here she is on the day we found and captured her:

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Snakey St. Patricia. She’s about 4 ft long now and very gentle – all the cubs can handle her (strictly under my supervision that is) and love having her around.

And now, to all a good night!

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Best laid plans and all that…

First of all… my apologies for the lack of promised posts with Halloween foods.

It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster recently. I’ve decided to file the whole of last week under ‘must scour from brain’ and start again.

Well, there are a few things I can’t forget, really. This poor neglected pumpkin, for example,  will still feature on my menu this week… shame to waste it. It must feel very sad and excluded not having been carved at all!!!

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Honestly though, between cubs home from school on mid-term break, fighting head lice off cub’s head (isn’t it great when the little ones share those!), a not-so-plain-sailing daytrip on the ferry to and from Dublin-Holyhead (Wales), tummy bugs over Halloween (yes, I was sick for two days missing it ALL) which lead to an ever increasing Mt Washmore… all while having a visitor in the house! Let’s just pretend that week didn’t happen and move on, shall we!?

This week started off quite well. Cold and blustery, but well nonetheless. Cubs are happy back in their schools, the house is s.l.o.w.l.y. looking somewhat clean again and the coffee flows freely. I have news of more upcoming voice-over work on the horizon (not the exciting movie stardom ones – pssst if you are looking for someone in that area though, PICK ME! – ‘only’ corporate stuff, but still: hooray!) and I actually got a couple good night’s sleep in.

If the weather holds – you never know, we might be lucky – I will bring the cubs out farther afield to have a go at locating and collecting some marrons to roast and eat. A friend had done that and offered me some, but at aforementioned tummy bug time and I didn’t even want to think about food then. So a foraging-for-food-adventure is called for, me thinks!!!

Once we’ve managed to procure some, I shall share our results.

For now, I’ve put up a recipe that came about out of sheer frustration. Shopping’s not been as organised recently *pointing back up to that dreadful youknowhat* and I’ve had to use some things up that looked rather sorry in the fridge. Therefore, I will leave you today, with this utterly delicious creation made tonight:

Vegan Quinoa Burgers (gluten free and low-fat!)
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Three Days of Madness: Act II

Don’t get me wrong: my children are the best thing in the world to me. When they’re up to mischief, more often than not, I’m laughing about it as much as they are. Take Cub 4, for example. His little big sister, Cub 3, came running into the kitchen the other night and shouted at me that Cub 4 is stuck. Of course I rescued him, but what kind of mother would I be had I not taken a picture of him first:

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Fun as they are, boy did they drive me mad yesterday! Every single button they could, they pushed.

After the usual, and expected, Monday morning madness of trying to get the four of them up, washed, fed, and dressed, I thought that I’d get a little break while they’re all in school, preschool, childcare. Well, if by break I meant time to clean the house, put on a wash and do the dishes, then I got it.

The real trouble started when I picked up Cub 4. He didn’t want to go in the buggy. Not having had his full rain gear and it being a rather incessant soft day out there, I made him sit in it anyway, much to his annoyance. From there we went to pick up Cub 3, who cried all the way home as her legs were tired and I hadn’t brought the double buggy (less than 10 minutes walk, but she can make it seem hours!).

By the time I had to get them out again to pick up Cub 2 from school, I decided to drive and get a couple groceries while I was at it. At least cubs would stay dry and no more crying about walking – until, at the supermarket: my car wouldn’t start again!!!! Rather inconvenient that to say the least.

On the phone, sending a message to the husband about the misbehaving car, I try a sixth time, and voilà: the car started up. Typical. (Hubby is going to check it out and fix that little snag, hurrah!)

Thinking that my bad luck for the day was all used up, I started making some bread and while that was left to rise, I dove right into Mt Washmore.

Mt Washmore, you see, is higher than Mt Everest. Believe me when I say it is. I’ve never really managed to conquer it. I fondly remember the days before the cubs, single and more or less organised. I used to wash one dark and one white wash a week. Ah – memories! It took me a solid hour to fold all the washed and dried clothes, never mind putting them into the closets.

Cub 1 returned from school with one of her best friends, and the two of them had a great time. Add another friend and still, all was well. Add Cub 3, who shares the room with her big sister, to the mix: an eternity of screaming, shouting, missiles throwing later, we had tears and tantrums with me left wondering where their tiaras were.

Only three casualties though:

  1. The clock: it fell off the wall (completely by itself, would you believe. No? Me neither…)
  2. The ceramic horse: a bad decision to use that as a missile. It broke a leg, but the husband glued it. I was ready to throw it out. Good cop, bad cop. Guess I’m the bad one again. Sigh.
  3. The beaded necklace: lovely clatter as it was torn apart by the two pulling on it, then blaming each other for breaking it.

Of course, after all that was resolved, and peace restored it still wasn’t the end of things. I’m not actually sure how much coffee I drank yesterday, but it was a LOT. You see, while holding the mug, I’ve got my hands full and can’t go strangle them. I hear that’s frowned upon anyway, so probably better I drink coffee!

I had finished the bread, and gone on to make dinner. You see, I had this gorgeous romanesco in the house still and needed to make something yummy with it. I love romanesco. So much nicer than just cauliflower. I think it’s the texture as well as the look and the slightly nutty flavour.

So I chopped and stirred and created and pre-heated the oven at 200C and then shoved the vegetable bake in. It takes around 25 minutes to cook in the oven.

When I checked it after around 20 minutes I was disappointed to see the veg wasn’t even nearly cooked through. Doubting myself, I resigned myself to having to wait. After a few more checks and at 45 minutes I realised why it wasn’t cooking: Cub 4 had taken to turning knobs and pushing buttons whenever he got his fingers on them. I found the oven at 110C. No wonder it wasn’t cooking!

What else was I to do but serve up the freshly baked bread sandwiches for dinner, accompanied with carrot sticks and a few crisps on the side (rare that I do that, but hey, it was that kinda day!).

On the plus side, today’s dinner’s already done and only needs re-heating!

Three Days of Madness: Act I

It truly has been a helluva few days!!!

All day Saturday was simply mad. I dared take three of the four cubs into one of the busiest shopping centres around, right smack bang in the middle of the day. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the best of ideas!? Apart from the fact that it was insanely crowded, hard to get through the shops with a double buggy and I’m not a shopper at the best of times… sentences such as, ‘Cub 2, stop rolling around and get off that shop floor NOW‘; or, ‘Cub 2, I swear if you hide in the middle of the clothes racks one more time I will leave you there‘; and indeed, ‘Cub 4, stop eating the clothes off the hangers!‘, were heard all day. Much to the amusement of other shoppers. I failed to see what was so funny about it. I hadn’t had nearly enough coffee for that trip.

But, much to my – and the cubs’ – amazement, we all survived that trip and the cubs have some much needed new clothes to show for it.

However, the trip took a lot longer than anticipated, so by the time we were home and all the cubs in bed, I was so wiped, I couldn’t do another trial run of the vegan, gluten free apple pie I was going to bake for Sunday’s apple pie contest.

Fast forward to Sunday morning:

The current husband took the four cubs out to the seafront where the school had a sponsored walk for all the kids to raise funds for new maths equipment. Mind, during the night I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen, as we’ve had a thunderstorm with downpours of epic proportions. Alas, the weather had changed and even the sun was out! Happy days! They were out in the fresh air and I had peace and quiet to bake my contest entries!

But of course, nothing’s ever straight forward when it comes to me. Be boring anyway, right? Right!?

Problem number 1: my last attempt at the gluten free, vegan pastry hadn’t really worked as it lost its form, and had a funny aftertaste when eaten by itself.

Problem number 2: I couldn’t decide which dish to bake. After all, I have a tried and tested Cinnamon Apple Recipe. Well, when I say I have one – I mean, I bought it. It’s the cookbook that has it, really. Brilliant book though ‘La Dolce Vegan!’ by Sarah Kramer. Look it up guys, it’s absolutely full to the brim with fabulous recipes and then some!

How did resolve the problems? Well…

In order to have some sort of chance, I decided to forego the experimental pastry and simply make the pastry that was on the recipe, which was neither vegan, nor gluten free: it was simply vegetarian. I could live with that though, time was of the essence after all: It was 11am and the entries had to be at the venue before 2pm. Really not the time for more experiments.

Result Number 1:

Sarah’s fabulous Vegan Cinnamon Apple Muffins

(I’m not sure on the copyright of the recipe – can you tell I’m new to this? – so I will possibly share this recipe at a later stage when I found out!)

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I knew I had all the ingredients at hand. I had baked them several times before, and also knew they were quick and fool-proof.

Until I needed the egg replacer. My go-to egg replacer is ground flaxseed and water. I always have ground flaxseed in the house. Except Sunday. I still don’t know what happened to it, because I don’t remember finishing it!!!! No matter, there are other ways to replace an egg. I had bananas, but I didn’t want to put an overpowering banana taste into an apple-centered contest! Apple sauce then. Again, the cupboard came up emtpy!

Man, that clock ticked loudly in my ears!!!

Not one to give up easily, I quickly peeled and de-seeded one of the cooking apples and, with a touch of vanilla and water, made my own apple sauce which turned out delicious if I do say so myself!

The oven door wasn’t quite shut on the muffins when I immediately jumped to the apple pies. You see, it was an apple pie contest, but I couldn’t bring myself to just make a traditional apple pie. I wanted to stand out of the crowd and have people go, ‘Oh wow, look at that!

And what did I do? I did what every person would do these days: I asked Google to give me ideas. And boy did I find one, right here: Apple Pie (in the apple) <- and hers look truly stunning, pity I don’t have such pretty flower cutters!

Which brings us to result 2:

Apple Pie (in the apple)

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I used the recipe given on her blog for her ‘sweet pie dough’ exactly as described (well, besides the fact that I had no baking powder left! Honestly, no idea what is going on with me! So I substituted it with 1/2 and 1/2 of Cream of Tartar and Bicarbonate of Soda!):

Ingredients for the pie crust:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1tbsp sugar
100g butter, cold
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Put all ingredients in the jar of a food processor and mix only until it forms a ball. If necessary, add a few drops of cold water. Don’t over mix. If you want do do it manually, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and rub the mixture with your hands until you have a crumbled texture. Add the egg and  mix until it comes together into a ball. If necessary, add a few drops of water. Do not over mix.
(This recipe does indeed make enough for 8 lids on small apples, or 5 lids on large apples. I kept the remaining pastry refrigerated, wrapped in cling film, to do mini quiches for school lunches!)

The apples themselves, however I changed a bit to suit my own tastes. Here’s what it looked like in my kitchen:

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INGREDIENTS for filling: 

insides of two Cooking Apples

 1 tablespoon raisins

 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

 1/2ish teaspoon carob syrup (or treacle!)

I cut a thin lid off two big cooking apples and used a spoon to take the flesh and core out, careful not to get break the sides. I then discarded the core, chopped the apple flesh into small chunks and mixed those with a tablespoon of raisins. I then added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla sugar and just enough carob syrup to coat the lot before spooning it back into the apples.

Pastry lid on top and off into the oven! I baked the apples at 170C (fan assisted oven) for 25-ish minutes. The recipe says 40 minutes but by that time, my apples would’ve fallen apart. I needed them to keep their shape and for my apples, that time was just right, the pastry was just right and all looked well.

In other words, keep an eye on your apples! If the pastry looks done, poke your apples carefully to see if they’re soft to avoid overcooking them.

And here they are, my creations, at their destination: The Happy Pear!

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The creations being judged… the crowds had gathered! And take note of the most rare phenomenon: sunshine 🙂 Who’d have thunk it after the Monsoon the night before!

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To wrap it all up – I didn’t win. Quite happy with the judges’ comments though, they were all-round happy with the baked apples and one told me afterwards that he’s not quite sure why I hadn’t won. Heh. They were all fantastic though, I didn’t envy them their job to chose winners at all.

Best part of it? Besides the fun to enter and having a good time there, we were let loose on the creations after judging and got to taste them all. It was the most delicious Sunday in a long time. I’ll be back next year – and hopefully with a perfect vegan, gluten free pastry!

Of Shards, Trials, Errors, and Porn

Apt, don’t ya think? Another day for the ducks out there… but then, the Irish must’ve lied an awful lot when they were 17. Heh.

Not a bad day at all otherwise today – at least so it seemed. Until, every time I turned around, the little monsters I’m raising got into another thing they weren’t allowed. Like the time I was bursting for the loo and dared to go:

Tiniest man decided he wanted milk. He opened the fridge and brought a glass he had liberated from the clean dishwasher. At least that’s what I’m thinking as no other glasses were within his reach. No matter though, as I only found him when he stood in the middle of the glass shards, shouting, “Oh no! Mami! Glass broken!” 

Shouldn’t have gone to the toilet. *Note to self: Invest in some adult nappies…*

Or the time I went upstairs to get the tiny man out of the bathroom, where he happily played with the running water at the sink – thankfully not overflowing it this time! Came back down within 2 minutes. Did you know that 2 minutes are enough for a 3 and a 5 year old to completely and utterly cover the living room floor with toys? Apparently, she wanted his rocket ship. He didn’t want to give it to her and somehow that meant that all other toys were used as missiles.

Have I mentioned that i had banned all toys to their rooms? Mustn’t have paid enough attention at school during Physics. Only after having children have I realised that living rooms are indeed magnetic. At least where it comes to toys. Those toys might not stick to the fridge, but by golly do they stick to the living room!

And to the bottom of my feet… well, they didn’t stick to them, per se. More into them. Lego, how I loath thee!

At some point during the day between two school runs, I did have a lovely half an hour at a friend’s house, who supplied me with some wonderful chickpea flour – and a delicious coffee before I headed off into the day again.

That chickpea flour was going to be one of the ingredients in my trial for Sunday. You see, I decided to give an Apple Pie contest a go. It’s this Sunday. But, I want to make it gluten free and vegan. Better try it out – and good thing I did!

The pastry I made – didn’t really work the way it was supposed to. Darn tasty nonetheless – besides the funky aftertaste when eaten by itself. Ahem.

Here’s a sneak peek… full details of the final dish, and the recipe, will be revealed on Sunday night 😉 Hopefully, it won’t look like some sort of Halloween Ghost in food form then!

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I have to say, when it came out of the oven, it smelled divine! It didn’t look the part, but hey, I was willing to follow my nose and ignore my eyes. I carefully poked it with a fork, before it even cooled a little bit, and took a bite. Two words:

FOOD PORN

It was delicious!!!! So delicious, I immediately called the cubs to try and rejoice in my creation. First cub up was the 5 year old boy cub. Who immediately pulled a face and wildly gestured for a tissue to spit out the offending food. He then proceeded to claw at his tongue and asked for a drink to get rid of the taste.

Next cub up was his little sister. Same reaction.

Tiniest cub made it a hat trick.

Everyone’s a critic!!

Then, the 9 year old girl cub to the rescue – she took one bite and immediately declared it DELICIOUS and wanted more. So I shared the rest with her.

Is it wrong to have favourites…? *innocent whistling*

Well, ya couldn’t make it up!

Finally, it’s Wine o’clock! And the fire’s blazing to make it toasty warm!

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It’s been one of those days. You know the ones. Where you feel like you’re in a Stephen King novel: you get up and the birds are chirpy and all seems fine in your world, but by lunchtime you feel the hair in the back of your neck stand to attention and come evening you wonder how on Earth you survived.

Well, let’s start this morning: All four cubs got up. All four cubs got dressed (well, okay, I dressed the 2-year-old), they all had breakfast, brushed their teeth and got to school on time. A miracle in itself, really.

Yes, it rained like it was trying to prove a point (see my earlier post on puddle jumping) and yes, I got soaked to the bones bringing my cubs to school and into crèche. But then I got a nice hot cup of tea while getting some time to update here and do some housework. See, all was good in my world.

Come lunchtime, I had picked up the two small ones and was now going to pick up the 5-year old from school. By car (which is something I rarely do, only living a few minutes’ walk away from the school!), and that’s where the trouble started.

It was also the only thing that started, because the car didn’t. And, of course my husband had the second car with him at work. So, conscious that I was now late for the school run, I quickly unbuckled my two and re-buckled the tiniest one into his stroller. Which he hates, but he had to live with that, and his little big sister got to complain about her tired legs all the way.

Frazzled and late, I finally got to school to pick up the big boy, who I now had to break it to that the promised trip to the toy shop to spend his birthday money was cancelled due to the car (at least his teacher complimented me on his school lunch – *proud moment* – leftover Quiche from last night).

Cue 3 unhappy kids and that 10-minute walk home felt a LOT longer. Not only that, but the next problem I had was that I had banked on that toy shop run, because I needed to buy nappies (diapers to some of you) and above all, tomorrow morning I need to get to work (I do irregular work as a voice over) and that date couldn’t be moved. I was in a right dilemma!

However… things then started to look up, just for a tiny bit:

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My husband, who wasn’t even supposed to come home today as he was meeting friends after work, sent me a message saying ‘Driving home now‘ – he left work early. He’s a superhero!!! Not only did he drive home and leave me the second car, he also fixed the main car and even filled it up! Hurrah!

The roller-coaster was going up. I should’ve known that it wasn’t going to last.

So, after dropping the husband to the train so he could get back to work, we went to The Toy Shop after all.

Only in a toy shop can even the happiest parents lose their will to live. I could see it on other parents’ faces and they could see it in mine. After the fifteenth time (yes, I counted!) of my 3-year-old trying to see if something 60+ Euro would fit into her 10 Euro budget (all the while I was trying to stop the little man from pulling a guitar off a shelf!) I had a wee second of ‘I’m either going to laugh out loud or strangle her‘. The latter is at least frowned upon, so I decided to laugh; which resulted in a very sympathetic mum turning to me and saying, ‘I know, I’m right there with you.

Half and hour and two toys bought later, it appeared to all go well again – until: ‘Mum, why are we home? I thought you needed to buy nappies?

I wanted to bite the steering wheel at that point.

Instead, I pulled out of the drive again to get the groceries needed. Finally, an hour later than intended, the dinner was cooking. Just as I was about to drain the pasta, the 3-year old comes into the kitchen to inform me that her little brother had taken his vest off. Okay, let him be cold. I continued to drain the pasta, add the pesto and stir through the peas I had steamed over the pot. While I put the food on the plates, she came in again, saying that he’s undressed himself.

I should have known then. I think I did know then.

I still wish I could bleach my brain.

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I walked into the living room to find the tiniest boy had not only taken his arms out of his vest and pushed it off his shoulders; he had pushed it past his hips, and also pushed down his trousers and his nappy.

Which was open and hanging off him, full to the brim.

And not with wee.

Stop – Coffee Time!

I’m finally sitting down, freshly brewed cup of glorious coffee in front of me. I close my eyes, I take a deep breath in and revel in the rare stillness of my kitchen.

Waking up the kids was extremely hard this morning, almost a surgical procedure to remove them from their beds. Getting them to brush their teeth was equal to pulling their teeth, and of course socks were lost (which resulted in my 5-year-old not being able to dress himself at all!); that elusive school book that hid in the black hole that is their room and the never-ending arguments about just why watching the telly is just not an option before school, added to the typical mayhem that is a Monday morning at our house.

Now, with two at school, one at pre-school and one in front of the telly (the power of Mickey Mouse to save my sanity!), it is finally quiet.

Too quiet, as I realise too late: my 2-year-old comes into the kitchen to show me his arm: perfectly coloured in with a blue marker. I just hope he is the only thing he coloured in with that.

I go and clean him up, remove the marker stains on the living room floor (which thankfully is laminate and not carpet) and put all markers out of his reach before sitting back down at the kitchen table. Finally, I’ll get my coffee.

Which is cold. As usual.