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Friday, December 24, 2010

Blessed.

After a few days of uncertainty, we have made it home in time for Christmas. We were set to fly out on the 22nd at 5.30 pm to arrive home at 10.30 pm. With all the disruptions at the airports both in France and in Ireland, the picture looked ever so bleak. I couldn't find the courage to pack, almost certain that we wouldn't be travelling. I was stuck to the Internet and the news, feeling disheartened anytime the snow started falling again, anytime the airport had to be closed again. As long as we got into France, anywhere, we would make it home even if we had to drive hom for more than 7hrs, I didn't care. But getting to France seemed like the hardest part to achieve. The airport was closed on the 21st in the afternoon, flights were cancelled. I packed but my heart wasn't in it. I had to pack carefully, making sure I had some warm clothes on hand for the girls, enough nappies and snacks for Noelie should we get stranded anywhere and have to sleep on an airport floor.

On the 22nd, at around 12 noon, we set off for the airport. Mr Foodie's brother kindly picked us up from home. The roads in the area, being secondary roads that have never been grited or salted since the snow came, and where, in parts some of the first snow (the one from Novemeber) was still lingering, were treacherous. We took our time and made it to Mr Foodie's parents house in not too bad a time. Mr Foodie was set to finish work around 3pm and we were to set off for the airpot straight away, our flight supposedly taking off at 5.30pm. Thankfully, his boss let him go a bit early and we arrived at the airport around 3.15pm. The scenes in the arrivals hall were nothing like what I had seen on tv the previous days. The massive queues were not there. Some people were queueing for the desks but the queues for check ins were relatively normal. No desperate scenes of utter chaos, all seemed fairly normal. We checked in and made our way through security. We had decided not to take the buggy with us and Noelie was walking along and being very good. Marie knew that there was a chance we might not make it but was also extremely good. We went to our departure gate and then it all started. Our flight planned initially for 5.30pm was delayed until 7.20 pm. Not a big delay but enough for us to know that we wouldn't make our connection. I kept saying to myself that once we are in France, it doesn't matter we would make it down South somehow. Our phones kept ringing, people were asking us what was happening, we kept telling them that so far so good, delayed but still flying. Then, the flight was further delayed until 22h30. A long way away, as long as the snow kept its distance, we were going to make it to France. Then it was put forward to 20h40. My dad, ever the joker, asked me if it was today or tomorrow. Not so funny, but hey, at least it's not cancelled. The flight planned to depart after us took off, we were still waiting. There seemed to be a lot of children on our flight, all trying to go home to their families for Christmas. We had no public announcement, no vouchers for food or drink and the coffee shops in the airport were starting to run out of food. They replenished their stocks but nothing but chicken stuffing sandwiches could be found.

Eventually, a plane arrived and was disembarked and deiced and we made it on board. It was past 11pm. We were going to make it to Paris around 2 am (French time). Marie and Noelie were being very good still although none of them had slept more than 20 minutes. Marie found a little friend and was playing with her while we were waiting. We were desperately trying to keep Noelie entertained. We took off and made it to Paris landing at 2.30 am. Noelie had not slept yet, neither had Marie. The stress of the day and the adrenaline still pumping meant that they couldn't sleep. When we arrived, we went to the transfer desk. The girl there got us to skip the queue because of the children, not a passenger made a comment, there was about 20 off us having missed a connection, some of them to far away places like the US or even Honk Kong. There was no quibble, no shouting, not an ounce of frustration amongst them. The girl at the desk gave us a voucher for a hotel and promptly renooked us on the first outgoing flight to Toulouse at 7.15 am the very same day which meant a very very short night for us. The girl ecplained that she had gotten a special authorization to put us on that flight since we had small children and they had released seats for us on the plane and shuffled some passengers around so that we could seat together. One of her colleagues drove a group of us to the hotel. A 4 star one with as big a bed as I had ever seen. The 4 of us would easily fit in it so we didn't bother using the other room they had booked for us.

I had never seen Noelie so happy to see a bed in her life. She was hugging it and kissing it, shouting 'dodo, dodo' (sleep in french). So we put the girls to bed, I climbed in beside but I couldn't sleep knowing that we had to be up an hour and a half later to catch our second plane. As soon as their heads hit the big fluffy pillows, the girls were gone. Mr Foodie had decided not to sleep at all, and went down to use the Wi fi in the hotel. At 5 am, we got up and took a shower. We put on our previous days clothes, still feeling dirty and smelly from the day before. We got the girls up (not without a fight though) and went down for breakfast. We made our way to the airport, got pas security and onto our flight. It was delayed by an hour as we had to deice but we made it home around 10.30 am yesterday with very little sleep.

It took us 22hrs to get home, with an 18 month old baby in tow and no buggy, and a 7 year old on less than 2 hours sleep. But we made it. As we got home, we checked the Irish news, only to find out that the airport was closed again and thousands of people were being stranded, again. And all I can say, is we were trully blessed. We made it, not that easily but we did. And the girls were amazingly good, not once did Marie complain that we were being delayed or that she was tired and had to walk, not once did Noelie cry because she too was going on less than 3 hours sleep, taking cat naps here and there. I was probably the worse of them all, being snappy and quite unpleasant to Mr Foodie although none of it was his fault. So Mr Foodie, I apologize for my very not nice behaviour. Today I will spare more than a thought for those of you who had to cancel plans, or are stranded somewhere, and those of you who were as lucky as we were and made it. It's been a tough journey. Wherever you are though, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I should have kept my mouht shut

I knew it! I should have kept my big mouth shut! If I hadn't posted yesterday about how all that snow is starting to really annoy me now, it wouldn't have snowed again. I'm sure of it.

But, no. I had to go and open my mouth and say that I was kind of getting sick of it. And what happens? Well another good 5 to 10 cm fell overnight. Seriously, it is starting to get boring now! And I can't even do my grocery shopping online as the next delivery slot available is for Friday! Friday, we have time to die of starvation by then (although we won't because the freezer is well stocked) but I'm starting to run out of fresh stuff.

It took Mr Foodie 20 minutes to get out of the garden this morning to go to work. His tracks from yesterday afternoon had all disappeared. The snow is half way up the wheels of my own useless, dead car.

But what I find amazing is the fact that we keep being told that the worse is over, no more snow. Temperatures will go up by the week end and it will all start thawing. Yeah, right! I think the weather people are at this stage as believable as that stupid government. And what about after the week end, they don't seem to be as confident about what's going to happen then. More snow, colder temperatures? Or just a big thaw that will bring on some floods? Nobody knows.

I keep thinking about people in Nordic countries (Hi Heather!), they are well used to plummetting temperatures and snow and ice. So why can't we just get used to it? Why can't we just even be prepared for it? You know, snow chains and snow tyres? Life doesn't stop in those countries, schools don't have heating problems, or burst pipes. Life goes on. Even in the South of France, we are used to snow and ice and cold weather, they do sell snow chains and winter tyres. The year my brother was born (yes, Mr Foodie, the great cold of 84), temperatures in the South of France plumetted to -20. School was open, people went to work, roads were adequately treated. Shops sell snowsuits for as little as 20 euros. So why, can't we deal with it the same way here? Why can't we look at nordic countries, or Canada and take advice from them. See how they do things and learn from it? But no, we let it bring the country to a standstill and we keep using old methods such as salt and sand on the roads. By the way, did you know that salt is useless if temperatures fall beneath -8?

Argh, it's just so frustrating. One thing I know though, is that I will be hitting the French sales in January and I will be getting proper snowsuits and snowboots for the girls. Because I'm sure that this is not the end of it, I'm sure that before the end of this winter, we will have more snow and more ice. And we will be in the same predicament we are in at the moment. The difference is: I will be prepared.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow and Ice and all the things nice.

I thought I would ride out the whole Big Freeze thing but it looks inevitable now. I have to write about it because there is nothing else to talk about it seems (well at least until tomorrow, when the harshest budget of the history of the Republic of Ireland will knock us all out). 

I have been stuck in since last Monday. I ordered my shopping online for the first time ever and it was delivered on Tuesday, thankfully since a good 10 inches of snow fell on Tuesday evening, making the roads barely passable from Wednesday on. Still on Wednesday, Mr Foodie managed to go to work, just about, but he abdicated on Thursday and Friday and stayed home. School closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

We had a great snowball fight on Tuesday evening with the neighbours. Wednesday, Marie went sleighing with the neighbours and some of their friends, in the field next to us. And Thursday, Mr Foodie and Marie went out to try and build a snowman. They just about made the body before giving up, it was too cold. The fire has been blazing everyday from early in the morning, the heating has been on a good while and I lived in fear that we would run out of oil as the weathermen and women announced temperatures of -13.

Our neighbour drove me to the Post Office in the landlord's agricultural Jeep so that I could collect my pittance since nothing had yet been put in place to accommodate people who were snowed in. We stayed in all week end, Mr Foodie only venturing out to get bread and milk. Cabin fever set in on Friday and I escaped for an hour or so to deliver some cinnamon rolls to the neighbour and get out a bit, albeit not far at all.

This morning, things were more or less back to normal, we still have about 10 to 15 cm of snow out, the roads are extremely icy, but Mr Foodie went to work, and Marie's school reopened. So we muffled up and walked down to school, since my car has refused to start since Thursday. I looked like I was doing some kind of cross country skiing rather than walking and people who had the courage to take the car were laughing at me, but it was a lot better than Tuesday when Noelie and myself nearly ended up in the ditch along the road a fair few times. I'll take ice over fresh snow any day now, when it comes to pushing the buggy. I didn't plan on repeating the experience until later on this afternoon but we received a text asking us to collect our children immediately as the heating was not working in the school. So much for being back to normality! And school will be closed again tomorrow although this was planned since September.

Noelie has been fascinated at the snow, spending hours on end looking outside when it was falling. We took her out walking in it and she thought it was great fun, although a bit cold for her liking. We have been baking, cooking, reading, watching TV, knitting everyday. The days have felt extremely long and we found ourselves in bed by 10h30 most nights. And it has been boring, I have to admit.

The snow doesn't seem to want to go anywhere and we now wake up to lovely frosty mornings. So much so that this morning I had to take out my ridiculously ridiculous camera (bring on Christmas so I can get my proper one!) and I had to take pictures. Hope you like them! I am now seriously running out of ideas on how to entertain the girls, there is only so much starring out the window we can do! If you have any ideas, please feel free to let me know!

PS: Sorry if this post seems a bit like random thoughts. It is exactly what it is. I have Noelie stuck to my leg looking for biscuits and Marie hovering about telling me that she's bored. Help!!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Desktops have a future!

Here in the Foodie household, we are a bit computer mad. When you live in the middle of nowhere, there are times when your computer and your phone are the only contacts you have with the world at large. There is the blogging, of course, Facebook and Twitter (although I must admit I haven't got into Twitter that much), uploading pictures, keeping in contact with my family in France, catching up with favourite programs, getting assignments ready for my course and uploading the assignments. Mr Foodie is a huge Facebook fan and loves to play games on his computer too. Marie loves to draw on the computer or type up stories and Noelie loves to watch In the Night Garden on YouTube.

So what we're looking for in a computer might seem like a lot. A good HD screen and a good webcam to keep in touch with my mum and dad and allow them to see and talk to the girls. It has to be sturdy (to resist the attacks from a very excited 18 months old), and it has to be compact so that it can be put in a corner somewhere (it does happen sometimes!). Wi-fi is a must as the modem is in the playroom and we more than often use the computer in the kitchen or the sitting room. Oh and we need fast and easy access to our favourite applications (so that I can access my blog quickly!).

So I was really amazed when I stumbled across the Inspiron One desktops from Dell. I thought desktops were a thing of the past, that the only way forward was laptops. How wrong was I! The Inspiron One Desktop has made me rethink the future of desktops. It has a HD touch screen that makes drawing and uploading pictures or other onto Facebook and other websites really easy. Its design is really streamlined and it would fit practically anywhere. And it can be connected to nearly everything such as games consoles, TV tuners, cable and satellite boxes too (but not your brain yet although I'm sure that will come soon enough!.) A real home entertainment centre and what more at a really reasonable price. Further information can be found here . It really has it all in one!

And if you think that a desktop can't do all that, then check out the youtube Video. It's incredible what desktops can do nowadays!

 

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The season for giving.

Are you involved in a local community project, club or charity? Have you been affected by cuts recently? Are you looking for extra funds? If so, The Cooperative Membership Fund would like to help YOU! Thousands of communities have already benefited from the fund so why not yours?

The Cooperative Membership Fund is a grant scheme that helps local community projects, groups, clubs and charities in the UK. The grant scheme is funded by members of the Co-operative who kindly donate some of their share profits and these are then redistributed locally (the criteria is the postal code) to community projects, groups etc. This year, so far, they have donated £1.2 million! The amounts for the grants go from £100 to £2000 and are awarded to projects that address a community issue, are innovative and benefit the community in the long term. These groups, clubs and charities also share the values and principles of the Co-operative.

.  The Cooperative Membership Fund

Of course, there are a few criterias to fill before they can award you with a grant. So to be successful, a group must:


  • Carry out positive work in the community (it does not have to have charitable status to apply)

        And the project must:


  • Address a community issue

  • Provide a long-term benefit to the community

  • Support co-operative values and principles

  • Ideally be innovative in its approach

 

Unfortunately, this great initiative is not available here in Ireland. It would be a wonderful thing to see here especially in the gloomy days we are experiencing. In the imaginary world in which I could apply for one of those grants, I would want it to profit an organization that gets children and elderly people together.  

You can find out more about the projects that have already benefited from the Co-operative Membership Fund's kindness on their website. If you want to apply for one of the grants, you can do so here.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

You have to be in it to earn some.


For most of us, blogging is a hobby. It's something we do in between kids, cooking, cleaning and working in general. Sure, there are the occasional perks, the freebies, the awards, the reviews. But what if you could get more out of it? What if you could earn money and not just freebies.
I can see a few people rolling their eyes and thinking, here we go another sponsored post. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. It is another sponsored post. But it's a post written by me, in my own words and about a subject I chose to talk about. All I got was a brief with 3 bullet points about what the post should be about and, even at that, one of those bullet points was just about what links should be included. As for what way I want to present it and what I want to say, it's all up to me. Are you still reading?
Find out more on ebuzzing.co.uk

If you are, then you must be interested. Good. How do I get to do this? I registered with a Website called ebuzzing. It took me less than 5 minutes. Big brands get in contact with them to promote products or campaigns. Ebuzzing then offers you the opportunity to write an article or display a video and pays you for it. It's really easy and you can chose not to take part in the campaign should you not wish to. The only thing that has to be clearly displayed is that you are writing a sponsored post. No sneaking about disguising a sponsored post as a normal post! And the brands that they work with are very well known brands, LLoyds TSB, Levis, Dell, HP amongst others.

One of brands I would love to write about is a french brand called Petit Bateau. Their clothes are simple yet stylish and the quality is incredible. I have owned some of their tops for more than 5 years and they are still as good as new. They are quite famous in France for their kids underwear, vests and pants. They also make kids clothes and adults clothes. I especially like their adults sizes. They're not your normal sizes, they go by age not the usual S, M, L and others. Knowing that the size of the top you're wearing is 12 years old or 18 years old is quite a boost, although purely psychological.

So, if you too are interested in monetizing your blog without deceiving your readers, or polluting your blog with millions of irrelevant videos, then why don't you join ebuzzing. It's easy, free, straight forward and they have a strict code of conduct that is very easy to adhere to. So come on, Find out more on ebuzzing.co.uk. And if you think you found out enough and want to register straight away, then click here and join!


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Another go at making cupcakes

This week, I received a very christmassy, beautiful big red box complete with silver ribbon from Tesco Real Food. We have tried a few times to make cupcakes and I have to say, it has not been easy. The cakes themselves are great but when it comes to decorating them, we are not as skilled as we thought we would be. So when Tesco Real Food contacted me to take part in their Christmas Cupcakes Competition, I jumped at the chance. So they provided me with everything I needed to make those beautiful cupcakes and I gave it a go.

Well, the cakes came out of the oven looking lovely and golden and tasted wonderful. Once they had cooled down, I got down to the business of making the frosting. And what a business it was. Frosting has never been my friend. I never get it right. Sometimes it's too runny, sometimes it just splits. So I braced myself, recipe in hand and utensils at the ready. First, I took my electric whisk to the butter, trying to get it turn pale and fluffy. Result: a kitchen counter, presses, windows and yours truly splattered with bits of butter. I think I licked more butter off my fingers than I ever put on toast! Next, add the icing sugar, a little at a time. Result: a kitchen counter, presses, windows and yours truly covered in a lovely dusting of icing sugar, which of course was sticking really well to the previously splattered butter! So, after a lot of kitchen redecorating, I got down to the business of decorating the cupcakes. Until my cheap piping bag burst at the seams and I found myself with more frosting melting on my hands than getting on the cupcakes.

So altogether a rather messy affair, but I managed to decorate a few cupcakes and enter the competition. Seeing some of the favourites they have put up on their website already, I don't think I have a chance to win but hey, it was great fun and who wouldn't love to win an afternoon of cooking with a celebrity chef? The 2 lucky winners of the competition will get to do just that and the lucky 10 runner ups will receive a great cupcake kit. So since the cold snap is here and we all would rather stay indoors than venture outside, why don't you give making Christmas Cupcakes a go and upload your pictures to enter the competition? You have until Monday 29th of November to enter so it sounds like the perfect thing to do over this freezing cold week end.

As for me, I think this was my last attempt at making the damned things. I think I'll leave it to the professionals and stick to my basic recipes. Although it was great fun, I don't think all that frosting and decorating is for me. The result wasn't too bad in itself and rather tasty too. Would you like to have a peep?


The Tesco Real Food website is a treasure trove of recipes and tips for anybody and I have bookmarked it already. So whether you want to enter the competition or just find a recipe for dinner tonight, go and have a look!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A new hobby.

Dear blog,

I have somewhat again neglected you over the past few weeks. I have been busy, what with the bake sale at school for which I baked 6 big cakes, 32 little cakes and 6 loafs of bread (although only 5 made it because my dear neighbour who was in charge of taking them there decided to keep one for herself). There has been a christening (not Noelie's). There has been the discovery of delicious Swedish cinnamon rolls that I can't stop baking and eating (I'll post the recipe soon if people are interested). There has been sickness (a baby up half the night for 3 nights does not make for great inspiration although I could have posted about that but I feel like it has been done and redone and I had no new insight into it that people would find a) interesting, and b) useful. There has been studying for my course. And there has been the discovery of a new hobby, knitting. Marie had to bring in needles and wool into school and teacher showed them how to knit. Do you know how difficult it is to find knitting needles and wool these days? I hadn't knitted since those summer nights when I used to stay at my grandmother's and she taught me how to knit. But I decided to give it another go. So I went in search of more knitting needles (the kiddies ones were somewhat too small for me) and some nice wool (once again the one brought into school wasn't the nicest looking wool). It took me a few days to find it. I had to travel a bit to get my supplies in and I also bought a kids book on how to knit. People can laugh but kids books are great. I bought one for Mr Foodie so that he would learn how to cook and it worked. So I bought one for myself on knitting.



And so far I have managed to knit one scarf and hat for Noelie and I'm about half way through knitting a scarf for Marie. What I really appreciated though were the comments that I received. Mr Foodie, when I sent him a picture of Noelie wearing scarf and hat, said that it was lovely (of course it was lovely) and then admitted that he didn't think it would be nice but that it actually was. And so did my mum. Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys! I know that I try this and that and don't always succeed. I know that my hobbies change like the wind and that I still haven't finished that beautiful ABC embroidery I started when I was pregnant on Noelie. But it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy doing it or that I am not good at it. I just kind of lose interest after a while.

People look at me weird when I tell them I knit. It's something that their grand mothers used to do, not our generation. And I think it's kind of sad that all this knowledge and art is being slowly but surely forgotten. Not just the knitting, but the baking and to an extend the cooking. We are forgetting how to do all this when not so long ago, it was a normal everyday occurrence. We are hungry, we just buy ready made meals, we are cold, we buy a scarf and hat, we want something sweet, we pop into the shop and buy a pastry. Is it fulfilling? Not really. Instant gratification but no lasting sense of achievement. And although some people might find me weird and that even Marie calls me a granny (because you know, mummy, that's what grannies do. They sit on the couch with a blanket over their legs and they knit), I don't really care. I am proud of what I do. I am proud to see that people enjoy my food and my pastries. I am proud to say that I made that scarf and hat. And I am proud to say I baked it, I cooked it and I knitted it. Because it is fulfilling.

Maybe I was just born in the wrong era. What about you? Is there anything that would be considered old fashioned and on the brink of extinction that you enjoy and are proud of doing?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A wonderful start to the run up to Christmas.

How would you feel if you got a text from somebody telling you that, unfortunately, their situation is such that they won't be able to buy your kids presents for Christmas this year?

You could react the way we did and reply that it's no big deal and that the kids get too much anyway and offer help to that person, in as big or small a way you can.

Or you could react differently. We weren't the only ones to get the text, and I was really shocked by somebody else's reaction. Well, shocked at first and, now that the shock has worn off, rather pissed off about it. Somebody else, after getting the exact same text we did, complained about it! Yes, you heard well, complained or rather said that they were quite annoyed over it. Their reasons for reacting that way were the following:

- ''We already bought presents for the kids.''

Good for you. You are obviously extremely organized and, unlike me, get your Christmas shopping in by the end of August. Although, personally, I think Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without that mad rush of last minute shopping. And I thought Christmas was all about giving! Obviously not for some people, you seem to give to receive.

- What's €10?.

€10 in itself is not much but multiply it by 5 that's €50 already. And that's without counting their partner, their own kids, and their parents at least.

- How can you explain that to the kids?

I know my kids, and I know that Marie (at least, because Noelie is too young) is told not to expect presents off everybody at Christmas. And if she was to be told that such and such can't buy them Christmas presents this year because they don't have enough money, she would understand it and, knowing her, she would probably even go and get her piggy bank and give it to them.
Which way do you bring up you kids? So that if they give a present, they expect one in return? In such a way, that they don't understand that sometimes people don't have enough money? In such a way that they feel entitled? Way to go! I'd hate to see you in a position where you can't afford it, how would you explain that one to the kids!

- We are all in the same boat.

Well obviously not, otherwise we would all have gotten our Christmas presents already, or we would have all sent the same text. Yes, it is hard on everybody this year but you have to admit that it is harder on some than it is on others. Everybody's situation is different. You were in that boat a few months back when you couldn't afford to chip in with a special celebration because you were only back from holidays. Did we say anything? No.

It took a tremendous amount of courage for that person to send that text, to publicize to a point that they are having difficulties. I am sure that to come up with such a decision must have hurt them immensely, especially knowing how much they adore the kids. But they are being realistic and I applaud them for it. I can only imagine how hard it must be for them not to be able to buy the kids something for Christmas or how hard it will be for them on the day. And bitching and moaning about it behind their back is not going to help them either or make them feel any better about it.

So don't worry, your kids will get presents from us this year. One thing I know though is that I won't enjoy buying them or giving them. Actually, I wonder how they would feel about some homemade present or is that not good enough either?

As you can tell, I am rather annoyed at them for reacting that way but what about you? How would you have reacted?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Allow me to choke on my French cheese.

By no means do I want to turn this blog into a political one but there are some things that I just need to say. I have no intention of offending anybody, these are just my ramblings, my opinions and if you don't like them, well, sorry but look away.


First a bit of historical background and a bit of setting the story straight. During a time of great famine, a french princess supposedly said in response to the growing anger of the population: 'Let them eat cake'. OK, it wasn't cake, it was brioche which technically is a type of bread enriched with eggs and butter. But I'll allow that small translation mistake, you have to make it relevant to your readers. This was attributed to a few french princesses but it stuck to Marie Antoinette, for some reason, although when this was reported in one of Rousseau's book, she was only 13 and there was no famine so, more than likely, she wasn't the one who said but I digress.

For the purpose of this post, we will stick with the common misconception that:

During the French Revolution, while peasants were going hungry and bread was lacking, Marie Antoinette, disconcerted at the growing anger of the population, said: 'Let them eat cake'. Obviously, this shows how 'out of touch' and condescending Marie Antoinette was. She had no idea what the population was going through, and really didn't want to know. A while later, the French revolted and overthrew the monarchy in favour of democracy. The French people turned into Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts and went around ordering people's heads cut off which of course included the King's and Marie Antoinette's. So for telling people to eat cake, you got your head chopped off.

Fast forward to 2010, the setting is not Versailles or Paris. It's Ireland and the government has announced a wonderful initiative to help the people through the bad financial times we are experiencing. They have really thought hard and probably way too fast and came up with this.

Imagine the following: sitting around a priceless ebony table, sunk in really plush, red velvet covered armchairs, sipping a glass of the best champagne, wearing Armani suits, with gold cuff links are 3 characters named: Brian Cowen, Taoiseach, Brian Lenihan, minister for Finance and the, up to now unknown to me, minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith. The conversation goes like this:

B.Cowen: 'So, gentlemen, since the people are losing their jobs and their houses, cannot afford to pay their bills and credits, are sitting in the cold because they can't afford to heat up their house, can't clothe their children or buy shoes for them and now shop in Lidl or Aldi, what can we do to help them through the Christmas period? It is, after all, a time when people should be cheerful.'

B.Lenihan, holding his hand up cheerfully: 'Me, me, me. I know. How about we cut another 6 billion in the budget. I mean, they can't afford anything as it is, so they're not really going to know the difference if we take another €10 a week on their jobseeker's benefit, or another €20 a month per child on their child benefit, are they?'

B.Smith, holding his hand up too: 'Me, me, me. I know, the EU has given me more than €818.000 from some kind of scheme they have going. They said we can use it on butter or cheese. We could distribute it to the people! That would cheer them up!'

B.Cowen: 'What a wonderful idea.'

B.Lenihan, not happy at not having come up with the best answer: ' Yes, but butter melts too fast. We'd have to pay for fridges and things to keep it cold and I won't give him the money for that.'

B. Cowen: 'Right, then, we can't pay for fridges and things so we won't give them butter. What was the other option?

B.Smith: 'It was cheese.'

B. Cowen: 'Right so, let them eat cheese for Christmas then! That's going to go so well with their non existent turkey'

So the government, all happy in their knowledge that they were going to make such a difference to the People's Christmas, set off to distribute some 53 tons of cheese.

Now, forgive me if I turn all French on you, but does that remind you of anything? No? Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake? No? And what did the French do? CUT OFF THEIR HEADS.

So they're talking about cutting 6 billion euro in the next budget, cutting child benefit, cutting old age pension, cutting frontline services, cutting benefits, cutting this and that. Now, that 'let them eat cake' anecdote and all that talk of cutting gives me an idea as to what else we, the People, could cut. That would save some money I'm sure, since they will more than likely look after themselves and their buddies bankers again and not touch their benefits, their pensions, their allowances. I, like so many other families and people in Ireland, am dreading the next Budget and I will not be taking the government up on their offer of free cheese. I think it is an insult to the People of this country to have come up with this stupid idea. People don't need Cheddar cheese for Christmas, they need hope and jobs and money in their pockets and those with children want to see them happy this Christmas which, believe it or not, still costs a little bit of money. So what next? An incentive to recycle aluminium cans and turn them into toys for our kids for Christmas? A little Arts and Crafts project?

Now, Mr Cowen and co, if you told me that you were going to give me some nice Brie or Camembert or any other nice stinky French cheese for Christmas, then maybe we could talk. But in the meantime, do us all a favour, call a General Election, find a hole, crawl into it and do not emerge for the next 30 years, maybe then we'll be out of the hole your party has dug for us all. Anybody fancy a remake of the French Revolution? I know I do!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dreaming of a wonderful Christmas.



What would I do with £40.000? There’s a lot I could do with it. I probably would splash some and keep some. I would splash and buy some presents for my family. I would completely redecorate the girls room because let’s face it, it is still quite bare since we moved in. I would get a new coffee maker since ours has decided to give up on life just yesterday and I would get an IPad for Mr Foodie. I would probably treat myself to some new clothes too. But most of all, I’d keep some. It would allow me to stay at home some more and not worry about finances. That would be a god send!

Now the dream is achievable thanks to Paypal. Just by buying something and paying with Paypal, you can be entered in a weekly draw. And the prize? You could Win £40.000! The more you buy using Paypal, the more entries you get in the draw. Find out more details on their website: www.paypal.co.uk/win/. Of course, no competition would be without its Terms and Conditions.


So come on, is there a better time than the run up to Christmas to do a bit of online shopping? You don’t have to brave the cold and the rain, all you have to do is sit there, pay for your purchases using Paypal and wait for the postman to come! And you might even be rewarded with £40.000 for it!
I know already what I would buy. So here is my shopping list for Christmas:

Noelie would get the In the Night Garden MegaBlocks for £19.99 and Pink Castle Bead Maze Tube for £29.99 from Toys R Us.


Marie would get the Nintendo DSi XL in Burgundy for £159.00
and I would get the camera I have been dreaming of for the past few months, the Canon 1000D EOS for £449.00 from Woolworths.co.uk.


Mr Foodie could get this new Dell 17R Inspiron for £449 from Dell.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Christmas! What would your shopping list be like? And more, what would you do with £40.000? Why don’t you Enter now for your chance to win!
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Friday, November 5, 2010

I am worth it!


Have you ever wondered what it was like to be famous, really famous? You know, paparazzis waiting outside your door, articles in the newspapers, TV appearances, photo shoots, fashion, make up and the rest? How far would you go to become famous? What would you like to be famous for? I have to admit that I do sometimes wonder what it would be like and whether I'd like it or not.
Well, I have had a taste of it without even having to leave the comfort of my own sitting room. I was sitting there, dressed in my pyjamas, hair not brushed, not a trace of make up to be seen anywhere (sound familiar anybody? No? Mmmh, all right then, must be just me, oops!) when I came across Hewlett Packard's new app: HP- Be A Star. So I leaped at the chance of putting a little bit of glamour back into my life. Forget the pjs, the lack of make up and the messy hair. I am now a glamorous star and I know what life is like for the Cheryls of this world. Would you like to see too?




Why don't you give it a go? All you need to do is visit HP- Be A Star and upload a photo of yourself and the dream can start! You can also go and 'like' their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HPUK. And while you're there, why don't you show me what it would be like for you to be a star by sharing your bit.ly thingy in the comments?
Why, do you ask? Come on girls, you know you're worth it (big swish of extensioned hair, massive flutter of fake eyelashes and huge smile of veneered teeth. Oh and the compulsory wink too!). .   . Andd.              Why, do you ask?

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Serious lack of self discipline

The course I have embarked on recommends that I write something everyday no matter how silly or significant it is. Just to 'sharpen' those writing skills. In itself, it makes sense and is a wonderful idea. But what happens when you just seem to 'dry out'?

Since I have started the course, I have managed to post once, maybe twice on this blog which would obviously be the perfect place to 'sharpen' those writing skills of mine (assuming I have any). But I can't seem to find either the inspiration or the will to do it. I don't know why. It's nothing to do with the course I am sure. I am one of those 'impulse' writers. I just put pen to paper and write what I feel like writing. It's not because I am trying to focus on what I write or the way I write it. So what the hell is it? Arghhh, it really annoys me.

Is it because there aren't enough hours in the day? I don't think so either. My body decided last night that there were more than enough hours in the day. For some strange and unexplained reason, I could not fall asleep. That is very out of character for me, even if I desperately want to watch something, if my body is tired, I can't help but 'rest' my eyes. But last night? No way. I couldn't fall asleep. Could it be that I was too taken by the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' which I am reading at the moment and admit that I can't really put down? Could be, but the fact that I love the book didn't stop my eyes from itching and closing the nights previous. So what the hell was it? No idea.

Is it because Noelie takes a lot of time and attention during the day? Not even that. Since she is walking by herself, I have a new found freedom. She doesn't need me to hold her hand for hours on end, walking around the house in circles. She just goes where she wants to go whenever she wants to go there. She is also a big fan of 'In the Night Garden' and will happily sit in front of Cbeebies (I know isn't that evil and bad of me to let her sit in front of the TV watching people in costumes who can't express themselves properly jump up and down) in the evening while I or Mr Foodie get dinner ready.

Is it because I am cooking or baking too much? Not really, practice makes perfect (or so they say) and, despite baking my own bread nearly everyday, I think I have nailed it and as the name implies, it does really only take me 5 minutes to do it. As for cakes, cookies and the likes, it doesn't really take that much time and Marie helps. I admit that sitting in front of the oven watching cakes or bread rise somewhat magically is not a great way to free up time but I embarrassingly admit that I do sit in front of the oven and also the washing machine, especially on a coloured wash, it is just amazing! Beats watching TV anytime, and is seriously not half as depressing as watching the news these days.

So why the hell, can I not manage to have a bit of self discipline and sit down and blog everyday (or nearly everyday)? That remains a mystery.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The beauty of it

I've been pretty quiet in the past few weeks. Nothing special has happened. We have just been busy living and enjoying it.

The last time I posted, I was getting ready to receive my mum and dad over in our new house for the first time. They were supposed to arrive on the Saturday and leave on the Tuesday but they unfortunately had to cut their stay short and left on the Monday due to the strikes going on in France and their Tuesday flight being cancelled. So they were over on a very short 1.5 days visit. Short but very very enjoyable. The girls loved them being over. We went on a nice walk on the Sunday followed by some cake and bread baking and a lovely dinner. We all walked down to school on the Monday before making our way to the airport.

I am glad to say that they loved the house and the surrounding area, although we didn't get much time to explore much with them. Noelie took her first steps after a lot of coaxing by my dad. She is now flying around but only on her terms. If she wants you to hold her hand, she will not walk unless you do. And then, after a while, she will just let go and doesn't want you near her. Her speech is also developing at an incredible rate.

Marie has already had 2 outings in her new school. One exploring the woods, from which she returned with a bag full of dead leaves (what for!!!), conkers and various other sticks and stones. Another one, to the library where she got to meet Steve Cole, author of the Astrosaurus children books which she loves. Tomorrow is the last day before half term and they can get all dressed up in their Hallowe'en costumes and finish early and the Parents association have organized a Spooky Hallowe'en disco for the kids tomorrow evening. Marie has decided that she wanted to dress up like her sister and so, will be going as a witch.

In the meantime, I have started on my course. It is a distance learning course and I really need to get cracking. I have nearly completed 2 modules of it already but there have been no big assignments yet. I have also indulged again in my love of baking and baked fresh bread nearly everyday. I have discovered a wonderful recipe for bread that requires very little time and effort and have been using it ever since. My parents tried my home baked bread and found it delicious. My mum even stole the recipe off me. My brother and his girlfriend who were over in August have been already converted and bake their own bread too, despite both of them working full time and working shifts! You can find the recipe here: Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. Look for their master recipe and you too will be able to make your own bread in no time at all and with no sweating from all that kneading!

Doesn't it look nice?
Other than that, Mr Foodie has too succumbed to the baking lightening that seems to have struck our house lately. He tried his hand at making cupcakes, no less and cookies. I have to admit, he did a very good job at it. I am no icing queen and the first time, I just made normal icing, none of that fancy swirly pink glittery stuff. But the second time, I tried to make THE frosting. And didn't do that good a job really. The stuff looked like it had split. I tried piping it onto the cakes and it just looked like a big pink blob had landed on them. Mr Foodie made them look a bit nicer by adding sprinkles and other stuff on them. He was all proud of himself and I was really proud of him too. He even brought some into work to share with his colleagues! Some of them probably thought that he was trying to poison them, but I can confirm that they are still alive one week on!

And the rest of the time? Well, the rest of the time, I have just been in awe at the beauty of the countryside. When you live in town, there are too many things around, too many streetlights, too many buildings, not enough trees to notice the beauty around. I have been looking from my kitchen window at the century old trees lining our little country road, their leaves turning from green to yellow, red and orange. I have looked at the mist hanging mid air and the sun rising over it. I have looked at the stars and the moon and the shadows it casts in the fields around. I have looked at the gust of wind taking with it colourful leaves from the trees and depositing them lightly onto the ground. I have listened to the conkers falling from the trees and hitting the road. I have watched the squirrel who lives on the big tree at the end of the garden, jumping onto the telephone lines and making its way safely across the road. I have looked at the pheasants in the field next to us and admired their beautiful autumn coloured feathers. I have enjoyed walking into the crisp morning air to the school and back, all wrapped up. And I am just wishing Christmas would come quick so that I can get a nice, decent camera to take pictures of it all and share them with you. But until then, I will make do with the better photographer of the family. Here are a few pictures that my dad took when he was over.

X
Foodie Mummy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Have you gone baking mad?

Are you baking mad? It seems that in the past few weeks I have been. I bake nearly everyday either on my own or with Marie.

This week has been filled with baking, baking, baking. I seem to alternate between weeks of cooking and weeks of baking. As you know I hate waste, so when I saw 5 apples nearing the end of their life, I decided to do something with them. Now, Marie doesn't like cooked apples so I knew that I would have to be crafty so that I didn't find myself with half a cake going to waste. See, as my neighbour would put it, I'm a 'feeder'. Where I used to work, a feeder was a big big truck. I hope she doesn't mean I look like a truck. Oh dear! No, I think that what she means is that I cook, I bake and all but not really for me, for everybody else. And it's true, I don't really do it for myself and there are times when I don't even eat what I bake. Thank God, otherwise she would use Feeder in the other sense!

Anyway back to my apples. I didn't want to bake a crumble or an apple tart. I haven't broken the pastry key yet. So I decided I would bake something my grand mother used to do: 'Beignets aux pommes'. The translation would be something like Apple Donuts but they are not as big as donuts and the batter is slightly different to that of a donut. They are just apples dipped in batter and deep fried. Great idea considering I don't own a deep fat fryer of any kind, whether electric or not. So I used my wok and half filled it with oil. Now, they came out not looking quite like I remembered it. But they tasted nice and out of the 20 or so beignets I made they were all gone by the next day.

On Thursday, the unknown woman I had let Marie go off with in that first week of school came over to my house for a play date. and a coffee and a chat. I had been to her house 2 weeks ago and, in return, invited her to mine. And that morning, I went baking mad again. I baked for hours. When you don't know somebody well, it is quite difficult to bake or cook for them. I didn't know what she ate, I didn't know what her kids liked for lunch. So I played it quite safe (I thought) and baked some mini lemon cakes (well some... more like 12), some Nutella Muffins (again 12) and some Bacon and Cheese Muffins (yes, you guessed, 12). OK, I didn't know that her daughter (Marie's friend) was a vegetarian (I asked and she made that decision herself at 5 years of age, and the parents are not even vegetarians!). Surely 36 cakes/muffins would be enough for 3 adults and 4 children? Em, yes, that would be more than enough, Foodie. Despite the fact that we all, more or less, had one of each, and that she even took some home with her, I still have about 8 left over! Baking mad. That's me. I made too much again.

I probably won't bake as much this week for various reasons. One is that I baked to much this week and I am running out of baking powder. Yes, I know you can buy it in the shops, but I am a creature of habit and I am used to baking with my French baking powder. So I will have to wait for my mum and dad to get here on Saturday to get some more. Then, I am about to start a distance learning course too so I probably won't have as much time on my hands as I do now (although I need to point out that I only bake when Noelie goes for her nap, before somebody accuses me of neglecting my child in favour of cake tins and flour, although they make as much of a mess, but probably just a little less noise).

So in the meantime, I will leave you with the recipe for the Bacon and Cheese Muffins that I found in a magazine a few weeks ago (yes, I have time to read those too) and thought it would be worth a try. Everybody here loved them, they are incredibly easy to make and if you have any leftover, they are great to put into a lunchbox. The best thing about them is that once you know the ingredients you need to make the batter, you can make as many variations of it as you like! I tried olives, sun dried tomatoes and garlic cheese and that was yummy (although I was the only one who ate them because nobody else likes olives here).


Bacon and Cheese Muffins:

- 5 bacon rashers (I used streaky bacon, you can also use pancetta or even just ham)
- 100 grs of Cheese (I used Cheddar on the first batch and Emmental for the second)
- 140 grs plain flour
- 1 tbsp of baking powder
- 125 ml of milk
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 egg

- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 6 hole muffin tray.
- Grill or fry the bacon, set aside to cool and chop finely.
- Mix the flour, salt and baking powder
- Whisk together the egg, milk and oil
- Add the dry ingredients.
- Add the bacon and cheese.
- Spoon into the muffin tray.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Yummy! Now I'm off to bake some soda bread. If it turns out nice, I'll share the recipe with you, shall I? Or are you sick of ready them? Let me know!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Brio Pounding Bench

Noelie loves throwing things and banging stuff. She loves to hear the various noises she can make by banging a piece of jigsaw against the table or even just drumming her fingers. The louder the better.

So she was delighted when last month, we received the Brio Pounding Bench for Noelie to test out, courtesy of the online nursery shop Hello Baby. The Pounding bench is one of those everlasting toy, one I remember my brother having when he was a baby, one that has run the test of time. The Brio one came out for the first time in 1957!

 When it arrived in the post, I was surprised at the size of it. I didn't know what to expect. It is quite compact which makes it great for putting away and it is the perfect size for Noelie to play with, not big or not too small. It is designed for children age 24 months + and since Noelie is only 16 months, I was a bit concerned that she would not be able to play with it. How wrong was I? She has grasped the concept of banging onto the pegs very quickly, but still  insists on banging onto the white ones (those that don't move!) instead of the red ones. The toy is designed to improve hand - eye coordination skills and I have to say that in the short time we have had it, I have seen quite an improvement. Although she doesn't yet bang on it with the hammer in the right position, she is now able to bang on the peg of her choosing. When she first played with it, she couldn't do that and would bang at any random peg on the bench, sometimes even missing the bench altogether. She has now understood that if she wants to keep playing with it, she has to flip it around and she gets to have more fun, so it has also helped in improving her problem solving skills (which amaze me everyday).

The hammer is light enough for her and it fits snugly into her hand and, as Mr Foodie's knee can testify, she had become quite agile with it. Mr Foodie, the biggest kid of the Foodie Household, loves playing with the Pounding Bench too. He finds it great especially after a stressful day!



So thank you to Hello Baby for letting us try this out. We are all looking forward to more months of fun with the Pounding Bench. Hello Baby offers a great range of toys and nursery equipment. Christmas is just around the corner, so why not pop over to their website to find out more about the Brio Pounding bench and all the others products they offer!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waking up with the animals.

This Saturday morning was a bit different to our normal Saturday mornings. Usually, I get up with the girls, whenever they are ready for their breakfast and I let Mr Foodie have a lie-on (before people say anything, he does return the favour on Sunday mornings).

But this Saturday, I set my alarm for 7 am. I got up while the girls were still asleep and got ready to go out. It was a lovely autumn morning, with a bit of a chill in the air, but the sun was shining and at least, it wasn't raining. I had to set off at 7h30 to make it into town for quite a special event: 'Waking up at Dublin Zoo'.

A few bloggers had been invited to go to the zoo, before the doors opened to the public and go around and witness the keepers waking up the animals, getting them out and giving them their breakfast. I had to get there for 8h15 so I rushed out and got on the road early.

We made our way into the zoo through the back door, the service entrance. After some tea and coffee, the big group was split into 3 smaller groups and we went off to different sections of the zoo. I got to meet Hot Cross Mum (whose TV appearance last year prompted me to start this blog!) and Eavan from Irish Moms. Since none of us specialize in photoblogs, you could spot us a mile away with our small (and in my case absolutely, completely outdated *hint hint Mr Foodie, Christmas is only a few months away**) digital cameras, amongst the 20 or so photobloggers with their paparazzi-like equipment. So I apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures!

Our group set off to the African Plains part of the zoo. We, first went to the chimps. The keeper let them out and threw them some apples. Although I had seen chimps before (dah!), I was amazed at how human like they were. They were gesturing at the keeper to throw them more apples and one in particular was clapping anytime one of his chimp friends caught them. The keeper told us all about the hierarchy within the group and also how aggressive they could be. Blogger doesn't want to let me upload my lovely pictures of the chimps, so unfortunately you'll have to do without.

We then moved onto the rhinos. While the keeper was talking, it sounded like he was talking about his pet dog. He was saying that they love being tickled and that they kind of rolled onto their backs too. Bear in mind that these are 2000 to 3000 kgs beasts, not a little chihuahua.
A baby rhino should be born soon in Dublin Zoo.
After the rhinos, we went to see the giraffes. The keepers had to let the zebras, oryxes and ostriches out first and while this is all happening, the giraffes were patiently waiting in a very orderly line in front of their gate. The keeper was explaining that they separate the male and the females at night so,  in the morning, they greet each other by rubbing their necks together. She was also explaining that one particular giraffe greets her in the morning by licking her forehead, same when she brings her back in at night.

The giraffes go through an incredible 160 trees a week!



Afterwards, we met with the other groups and went to see the elephants. The keepers had planned to wash them for us but since the temperature at night had gone near freezing, the water was too cold to do so and they wanted to make sure that the calves would not catch a cold.


The only baby elephant ever born in Ireland was born in Dublin Zoo, 2 years ago.
We then went back to the Meerkat Restaurant for a warming breakfast and a chat and we were then released back into the wilderness of the zoo for a wander around at our own pace.
Dublin Zoo is a wonderful place to bring your kids on any given day. I would highly recommend it to anybody. My advice though: Wear sensible shoes as there is a lot of walking involved. Witnessing it, without the crowds and noise was just an amazing experience. The keepers were very eager to explain to us all about 'their' animals and they really are passionate about what they do.

I wish to thank Dublin Zoo for having allowed me to be part of such a wonderful experience.

You can find out more about the zoo and any upcoming events on their website: Dublin Zoo. And if you are stuck for ideas for Christmas, they also offer adoption packs!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Waste not, want not!

I am sick of throwing food out. It looks to me that food goes off a lot faster here than it does in France. Take milk for example. Use by date: next week! My mum buys milk by packs of 6 bottles of 1 litres. They don't drink milk and she only uses it for cooking. But she can afford to buy them because the use by date is anything from 3 to 6 months away. I know that it is because the milk is pasteurised and some people would argue that it does taste differently. But what would be better? A slightly different taste and a longer shelf life or the way it is now? How much milk goes down the drain and gets wasted because it has gone off? It has happened a few times here. Not so much since Noelie has arrived but before it would be a regular occurrence. Buy smaller bottles I hear people shout. Yes, I would. But then I would decide to cook something that involves a nice bechamel sauce, or I'd want to make some crepes and, bam, not enough milk in the fridge. Such a dilemma!

Bread would have the same tendency sometimes. I have often bought bread that within a few days had either developed green mould or that pinkish dusty substance. There is nothing nicer than a nice fresh loaf of bread. But, I hate the fact that within a couple of days you can taste that it is about to go off. It's quite difficult to describe the taste. It is a dusty, cardboard-y kind of taste in the crust. Once again, in France, the equivalent 'Pain de Mie' wouldn't develop that taste, let alone mould unless you have had it for months in the cupboard. But that being said, it is not half as nice as the bread you can find here. It is a lot drier for a start and a lot less tasty.

But my biggest grudge is to do with yoghurts. To start with, there isn't half as many varieties of yoghurts here as there would be in France. Secondly, my child is allergic to strawberries. It is not very uncommon to be allergic to strawberries. So why, oh why do they insist on selling mostly strawberry yoghurts for children? Packs of 8 or even 16 strawberry yoghurts. I can steer clear of those. But even, the multi flavoured packs of yoghurts still have more strawberry yoghurts than other flavours. 2 x banana, 2 x pear and 4 strawberry! I want my child to experience different tastes but I am stuck with either buying a pack of 4 of the same variety. Or a pack of 8 and Marie (or god forbid me) who also likes banana and pear yoghurts is stuck with having to eat the strawberry ones because her sister can't eat the other ones. Hardly fair, is it? There is nothing more boring to eating the same type of yoghurt day in, day out. That and my apparent problem with use by dates. I can't seem to find yoghurt with a use by date of more than a week, a week and a half if I'm lucky. So guess, what happened to us again this week? Well, we are left with 5 yoghurts off a multi pack to eat by today. And Noelie has been eating one of them everyday since we bought them.

So I was racking my brain as to what to do with them. And I remembered a recipe from my childhood that would be using some of them up. It is a great recipe that is extremely easy for kids. It is so easy that I let Marie do it all by herself. The great thing about it is that the (empty) yoghurt pot is also used as the measure for the other dry ingredients. So without further a do, let me present to you the recipe for the 'Gâteau au yaourt' (Yoghurt cake).

Gâteau au Yaourt:

- 1 yoghurt (125 grs) (flavoured or not)
- 1/2 a yoghurt pot of vegetable oil
- 2 pots of sugar
- 3 pots of self raising flour
- 2 eggs (if you are allergic to eggs, you can substitute them by an extra pot of yoghurt I have read somewhere, however I haven't tried it yet).

- Mix all the ingredients in the order stated above (don't forget to wash and dry the yoghurt pot before using it for measuring though!)
- Pour the batter in a greased cake tin.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180°C (To check if your cake is ready, just insert the tip of a knife into it. If it comes out dry, then your cake is ready).
Cooling by the window
The possibilities are endless (well, about as endless as there are varieties of yoghurt). We used one of the orange and melon yoghurts we had and added the zest of an orange for a little bit more zing. I also then made a syrup with the orange juice by adding 70grs of icing sugar to the juice and letting it thicken over a low heat for a few minutes (I wouldn't recommend that children do this as the liquid is very hot and runny and they could very easily burn themselves as they pour it over the cake, just like I did!). You could also just use a plain yoghurt and add some chocolate chips to it. Or add some melted chocolate to half the batter and roughly mix it in the remainder of the batter for a lovely marble cake.

Let me tell you, once it was cooled, there wasn't much left off it! Hope you and your kids enjoy making it! If Marie's reaction is anything to go by, they will be extremely proud of having baked a cake all by themselves!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Holy Cow!

Our landlord is a farmer. He is also by country standards our neighbour (if you consider half a mile up the road, behind century old trees a neighbour). He specializes in suckling i.e calves. I still haven't quite yet grasped the concept though. For me, a cow serves 2 purposes, milk and food. Now breeding cows just for the sake of breeding them is still a bit of a mystery to me. He probably sells them on to other farmers so they can make milk or food I suppose! He owns a few fields (as farmers do) and specifically, owns the field beside us. Well, actually, our house is built on one of the corners of the field. He also uses another bit of the field (right beside us to stare bails of hay). In itself, it's not a problem. It's actually quite nice to be looking at bails of hay, although these are wrapped in black plastic. He also parks one of his things there. I don't know what the thing is. It's some type of green trailer, with an open top, a bit like a big huge skip on wheels. I assume it has something to do with feeding the cows, but I'm not really sure.

I wouldn't say our landlord is much older than we are. We know that he is not married and lives with his mum in the big farm. We drove up there once before we moved in and I was expecting a farm, complete with, you know, chickens running around, a lazy cat somewhere, a couple of dogs, you know the stereotype. And to my surprise, oh no, it wasn't your typical farm. It looks more like a manor with manicured laws, ivy climbing up the facade and flowers strategically planted. Until he took us to the back, now, that was a proper farm yard, minus the chickens. I still have trouble imagining him living in that kind of house. With the job they do, farmers are not people that generally worry too much about their appearance, they are not afraid to get dirty, and wear practical clothes. So does our landlord, you will always find him wearing a pair of mucky overalls, or a dirty pair of jeans with a dirty shirt. OK, all farmers don't go around with big holes the size of my fists in their shirt but he does. That and his trusted boots, not wellington boots, more like safety boots. Anytime he calls in (which is not often), I invite him in for a cup of tea or something and whenever he accepts the invitation, he takes his boots off at the door, even though we keep telling him that it doesn't matter. There is something funny about your landlord standing in your sitting room wearing a shirt full of holes, dirty jeans and his socks though!

The other morning, as we were having breakfast, I took a look outside and as usual, the cows were in the field. And then, I noticed that one of the calves was standing by the bails of hay, despite the electric fence that is around them. I called Mr Foodie who called our landlord. A few minutes later, the landlord pulled up, not in his usual filthy, dirty Jeep but in a Jaguar and used it to block the entrance to the field. The place where the bails are kept doesn't have a gate, and there is no need for it, well at least until the electric fence stops working. He came in for a little chat and informed us that one of his 'girls' (he lovingly refers to his cows as his 'girls') was about to calf and if Marie wanted, we could go and have a look at the baby, once it was born. He also informed us that the fence was fixed and that there shouldn't be any more replays of the great escape.

Was it? Not really for the past couple of days, the same calf keeps going through the fence and grazes where the bails of hay are. We, being neighbourly, keep hushing him back into the field. We would be sitting down, helping Marie with her homework and notice the calf in there, again. So one of us would go out, make a lot of noise and wave our arms so that the calf would get a fright and go back in. Only, after 2 days of that treatment, the calf has grown used to the two legged weird looking things coming out of the big box and making strange noises and moving in a very suspicious way. He now just stares at us and doesn't move an inch. So we go out onto the road and into the field and get closer and closer and closer. So close, that eventually, he does get a bit scared and runs back to his mates.

So imagine our surprise when yesterday afternoon, while once again doing homework at the kitchen table, I looked out the window to see the calf. Not where the bails of hay are, no. With its nose nearly stuck to our sun room window, looking at us while ruminating. I felt like a fish in a tank! Mr Foodie called the landlord and told him that he was going to get him back into the field. We have a big gate at the back of our garden, that leads into the field. So off Mr Foodie goes, into the garden, opens the gate while wearyingly staring at the small bull who is now grazing on the lovely little arbusts that are supposed to eventually grow into a hedge. The young bull, having grown more than accustomed to us, is just staring at him. So Mr Foodie has to get closer and closer again and eventually manages to scare him back into the field. Mr Foodie closes the gate again and all is well.


But, oh no, about an hour later, the same little stubborn tear away is in our garden, again, grazing on all the tasty grass. Mr Foodie goes back out and chases him into the field again. Only this time, Mr Foodie has to run after the beast and this one, instead of going through the gate, decides to go straight through our barbed wired mesh fence. So now, not only does the electric fence need fixing but our fence does too. Our landlord will come by today to do so as we called him last night to let him know that the calf might have injured himself. But one thing is for sure though, we had a great laugh and it was well worth getting a new fence. My only regret is not having my camera at hand! Mr Foodie, how about dressing up as a cowboy for Hallowe'en?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Food, glorious food!

I can never cook the same recipe twice. Really, I can't. The reason for it is because most of the time I don't follow any recipe. I just go with my instinct.
Take last week for example, for dinner I cooked one of my (what I like to call) One Pot Wonders. What is that? I hear you ask. Well, it usually consists of the following: some vegetables, some minced meat (anything from beef to sausage meat, while also taking a detour via turkey and lamb), a bit of stock and a lot of simmering.

I always start with the same 'base': chopped onions, carrots and celery. Then chuck in whatever else I can find in the fridge that needs using up like leeks, bacon, or peppers. Once that's softened, I then add the mince of my choice. Then, if I want a thick sauce, I add a bit of flour. If I just want some kind of brothy sauce, I skip the flour and just add the stock straight away. I then look in the cupboard for some inspiration and usually end up chucking a handful of herbs (usually rosemary, thyme and laurel) or spices (I always keep a tub of harissa in the fridge and ras el hanout in the cupboard) depending on my mood. And I let it simmer for a while. Some days, I would add some potatoes 20 minutes before serving or other vegetables like courgettes or aubergines, or a can of chopped tomatoes. Or I would just cook some pasta or rice or couscous.

Now, sometimes the result ends up looking like a bit of a dog's dinner, I'll admit it. And it's also the reason why I don't have any pictures of it. But, it's not what it looks like that matters. It's what it tastes like. And as my dad says: it's full of nice ingredients, so why wouldn't it taste nice?

However there are some ingredients I can't seem to cook with. What do you do with a parsnip? What kind of strange root vegetable is that? One day that my parents were visiting, we went to the supermarket and spotted parsnips. My mum being an encyclopeadia on all things foodie, I asked her what that was. And guess what? She didn't have a clue. She answered with one of her best cryptic answers: 'It's probably one of those roots that we stopped eating after the war'. As if people only ate root vegetables during the war, and also, what would she know about it. She wasn't even born then! We had to look it up in the dictionnary when we got home and strangely enough, this particular root has made a comeback in the past few years in French cuisine. Same with swedes and turnips? What the hell are they? They look like those plants that shriek and kill you in Harry Potter, the ones you need earmuffs for. My mum thinks (and is probably right) that they are somewhat akin to our dear 'navet'. Except that ours are tiny, white with a bit of purple at the top. Not gigantic and orange inside. That being said, navet or turnip, I think that both of them are tasteless and don't particularly like them as you would have guessed. So why would I bother cooking them? I bought one of those soup packs the other day in the greengrocer's. It came with a leek, some carrots, an onion, some herbs and guess what? A bloody parsnip. Next time I'm there, I'll make the suggestion that they replace the parsnip with a nice big potato instead. That would suit me better. I ended up taking a potato out of my potato bag and throwing the parsnip out. Talking about potatoes, why do they insist on selling you 5kgs or even 10 kgs bags of potatoes. I know it's a staple here, a bit like bread over in France. But seriously, Irish families are not that big anymore. How do you manage to get through 10 kgs of potatoes before they rot? You'll have to tell me, because my 2.5 kgs bag, bought only last week, is growing lots of little spider look a likes everywhere!

The meat front sometimes looks as bleak as the vegetable front. For a start, butchers here don't cut the meat the same way we do in France. Which makes me laugh everytime my mum gives me a recipe. She always mentions which cut of meat I should ask for (force of habit), which is pretty useless to me because first, it would have a different name, and second, the butcher wouldn't have a clue which bit of the bloody cow I'm talking about. You can't seem to find some specific types of meat here. And, no I'm not talking about horse meat, which is really, really bland, if you ask me. I'm talking veal in particular. Now, thanks to Mr Foodie, this problem has been sorted. He happens to work with somebody (as you do!) whose relative is a butcher. So on Thursday, I sent him into work with my shopping list. I am thrilled, I got 2 rabbits, some veal and some oxtail. The first time I asked for oxtail in the butcher's here some 10 years ago was memorable. He looked at me and asked me my age. What does that have to do with it? Are young people not allowed to cook oxtail or something? He then proceeded to ask me with a suspicious look about how I intended to cook it? Mind your own business how I cook it! I wouldn't ask for it if I didn't know how to cook it!

So what's for dinner tonight? Well, I need to use up those weird looking potatoes (it is still ok to use them, isn't it?). And I have some mince in the freezer, some carrots and a few peas at the bottom of the freezer. So cottage pie it will be. In the meantime, if anybody can tell me if they buy those huge 10 kgs bags of potatoes, please enlighten me and tell me what you do with them!

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