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of us specialize in photoblogs, you could spot us a mile away with our small (and in my case absolutely, completely outdated *hint hint Mr Foodie, Christmas is only a few months away**) digital cameras, amongst the 20 or so photobloggers with their paparazzi-like equipment.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!

Monday, September 20, 2010

An afternoon of country living

Before we moved to the countryside, our afternoons were never that much fun. I would collect Marie from school. Stress in the car that traffic wasn’t moving. Get home, get some lunch, do our homework and basically just get ready for the evening ahead. Nothing terribly exciting. Marie would probably play outside for a bit but I would constantly be looking out for her, making sure that she stayed in the back garden and not the front as it was too close to the main road with little boys racers flying up and down.
How things have changed! We now walk up and down to school almost everyday. I feel bad about taking the car for the half a mile journey. Marie loves it. Half way up, she usually asks me if she can run. As there are very few cars on this road, and you can hear them coming more than a mile away anyway, I let her. The other day, while sprinting up, she suddenly stopped and started waving across the road. I caught up with her and asked her who she was waving at. She was waving at cows in the field. Cows are of a very curious nature and they all came flocking over to see what that thing on two legs was doing. We stopped there for a few minutes and both Marie and Noelie were waving and talking to the cows. After we got home and all our homework etc was done, and Mr Foodie had come home from work, we all ventured out to the garden to pick up some blackberries. Noelie was sitting in her pushchair. Marie was standing beside us with a big bowl while we were trying to get to the blackberries without either falling into the thorn bush or slashing our hands to bits. Once we’d picked as many blackberries as we could reach, we went back in and washed them and eagerly ate them all. It was such a wonderful afternoon of country living and the best thing was that it was all absolutely free.
After such a nice afternoon, Mr Foodie decided to treat us to dinner and we drove to a big shopping centre about 15 minutes away. We didn’t fancy the usual fast food outlets but didn’t want to spend too much money either. We stumbled upon a Pizza Hut restaurant. They are running a special offer called Kids Eat Free.
 For every adult main course or adult lunchtime buffet purchased, an accompanying child can choose from either a FREE 2 course kids meal (includes a drink) or a FREE kids lunchtime buffet (includes pizza, pasta and salad).I had never tried Pizza Hut before and was pleasantly surprised. As well as being very affordable, the staff was very nice and helpful and the food was lovely. As it was quite late, we steered clear of the Ice Cream factory as we wanted to avoid any kind of sugar rush before bedtime, but it did look incredibly fun. What I particularly liked was the fact that the children’s menu was very varied and that it offered healthy, yet kid friendly options such as spaghetti Bolognese and even vegetarian options! We will definitely go back especially since the Kids Eat Free options has been extended until January 9th2011! Find more details about the offer at 


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rural mutliculturalism

I have always thought of Dublin as a very multicultural city. After all, it is a capital and, like any other capital city, it is a main pole of attraction for businesses and people from every horizon. Other big cities like Cork and Galway would be too, of course, but not to the extend of Dublin. I have witnessed in the last 12 years, the development of Dublin as a multicultural city. When I first arrived here, being foreign was still a bit exotic. It was still something quite unusual. The Celtic tiger was only a cub at that stage, only a few years old. Walking on the streets of Dublin, you could hear English spoken everywhere. You could point out the foreigners, usually because they were large groups of unruly children on school trips. Loud Spanish, French or Italian youngsters, all with the same back packs. On a night out, you could play 'spot the foreigners'. They were the ones wearing jeans and big jumpers. Hardly dressed to impress, just dressed for the weather. Funnily enough, the less you seemed to reveal the more you seemed to draw attention to yourself. Irish people were the most helpful people in trying to integrate you into their culture.

As the years went on, I have seen more and more foreign people coming into this country, for work reasons, for personal reasons, for whatever reasons. I started working in a huge multinational, where due to the nature of the business we were in, only 5 to 10% of the workforce was Irish. Slowly but surely, over the years, on the streets, English was replaced by so many other languages. At some stage, even printed adverts on the sides of bus stops were in a foreign language. Being a foreigner was soon becoming the norm.

When Marie went to school, outside the school gates, I noticed that the Irish mums were mostly sticking together, and the foreign mums were doing just the same. A lot of invisible barriers seemed to be erected between the two groups, language, accents, cultures, etc. I never belonged to any of those groups. I was one of the lucky ones who didn't sound too foreign to talk to the Irish mums and who didn't look too Irish to talk to the foreign mums. But to be honest, I mostly kept to myself anyway.

Then we decided to move to the country. I didn't know what to expect at all when it came to multiculturalism. I didn't think that there would be as many foreign people around as there are in Dublin. I didn't know how people would react to me being a foreigner, to my children being half French. In my head, the Irish countryside was still very much inhabited by Irish people.

How wrong was I! This tiny place, probably the only village in Ireland that doesn't even have a pub, is as multicultural as Dublin is. I would even go as far as saying that it is more multicultural than Dublin. And here is why. Although most of the men are Irish, it turns out that a lot of the women around are not. There are British nationals, Dutch, Belgians, even some from South America! There are a lot of Irish women, don't get me wrong but I was amazed that for such a small place, such a small school, there were so many non Irish people. I was talking to the woman I let Marie go off with a couple of weeks ago. She is Belgian and we were switching from English to French during the conversation. Whenever people came over we would speak English and include them in the conversation. When they'd walk away, we would either keep on going in English or switch to French. I was talking to our landlord and he told us that one of the people who rented our house before us were German. I was talking to my ever so helpful neighbour, who happens to be British and she pointed one of the houses along the road and told me that a family from South Africa used to live here. I was also speaking to one of the South American mums at the school. So many different nationalities in such a small place.

And do you know why I think this small tiny little village in the middle of nowhere is more multicultural than Dublin? Because people mix, they talk together at the school gate when they're waiting on their children. It is true multiculturalism because cultures are being shared, and not just observed warily from one side of the yard to the other. I have felt so welcome and accepted in this tiny little place. I expected a 'rural' welcome, being looked at as the new mum etc. I thought it would take a bit of time but it didn't. Marie has been made feel so welcome and accepted in her new school by teachers, children and other parents.  The people here have turned my expectations upside down and inside out. I have found again, here, that spirit, that helpfulness, that willingness to integrate newcomers that has slowly faded in Dublin again. THIS is the place where I want my children to grow up.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Open letter to the Social Protection department.

Dear Social Protection department.

You recently changed your name from Social Welfare to Social Protection. Protection of who or what I wonder? What the f*&^ or who are you protecting, if I may ask? Because you certainly are not protecting me and my children.

When we decided to move, I inquired left, right and centre about what I should do with you. To change the address, to change the Post Office I collect my payment from etc. So that everything would go smoothly. I was informed I had to come in 2 weeks beforehand to inform the Social 'Protection' office that I would be moving. I did that. I was then told I had to go in to the new Social Protection office I was going to be dependent from within 3 days. I did that. I was told that for that week, I would have to travel an hour over and an hour back to go and collect my payment or it would take 4 weeks for it to be reissued to the correct Post Office. I did that. To cut a long story short, I went into your Office every week since I moved apart from the 2 weeks I was on holidays (but I had informed you of that) because there was no payment at the Post Office. I was showing up every Wednesday as I was told to and there was nothing there. Do you have any idea how humiliating it is? To show up at a tiny country Post Office only to find out that there was nothing there for me? The postmistress was very nice to me but she couldn't help me much. I found your office's phone number and I tried to call all day. But nobody answers the phone. It must be for outgoing calls to friend and family only, I'd say. Anyway, it took 7 weeks for my file and my payment to be sorted out properly. I received 5 weeks payment at once. Thankfully, I am not completely reliant on you to live. Thankfully Mr Foodie works. Thankfully I am not completely reliant on you to put food on the table or to keep a roof over my head and my children's heads. Thankfully, my ex-employer was kind enough to pay me off a reasonable amount of money which I put in the bank and into which I can dip. Thankfully, because if I had been reliant on you and your 'generosity' (feel the irony?), my children wouldn't have a roof over their heads, they would have starved by now too. Do you realize what 5 weeks of payments represent? How much of a hole that makes in a family's budget? Or do you care at all? I started to feel a bit paranoid and thought that it was because I wasn't Irish.

I thought everything was sorted. How naive of me. I took a look at my bank account today and realized that my Child Benefit payment wasn't there. WTF? Once already, this has happened to me. A few years back. When I had to leave everything behind, I missed a letter from you. And you cut me off for 4 months. I was working at the time and once again, thank god, I wasn't completely reliant on that money, even though we didn't have much of it at the time. So I had learnt my lesson. Anytime I moved, as soon as I moved, or before I moved even, I dutifully informed you of my new address. Which I did this time again. I sent you an email 3 weeks before moving. 2 weeks later, I got an email back asking me to send a letter. I hadn't waited on the response and had sent the letter already.

And what happened? Well, you sent me a letter. You know the letter I'm talking about. The one I get every 3 months or so because I'm not Irish. Yes, that one. The one I have to fill in with the same stupid information every 3 months. My only sin being that I am non national, a foreigner, an alien which makes me automatically a suspect of fraudulent behaviour. You have to keep your eye on me, of course you do, because I might have moved back to my own country and I might be taking your government's money fraudulently, when I'm not entitled to it anymore. It doesn't matter that I go and humiliate myself every week and collect a payment from the Post Office. Of course, the 2 systems are probably not linked. So you don't know that I have to do that. So, despite me informing you twice that I was moving, you still sent a letter to my old address and when I didn't return it, well, you assumed I'd left the country and you cut me off, again. If I were Irish, I wouldn't even get the letter, so I would still be paid whether I am here or not, wherever I move. If I 'forgot' to inform you, you wouldn't even realize. You would still be paying me religiously every month. But not me. Oh no. Not me, the fraudster alien sponger. Sure, why don't you consider doing what the mayor of Limerick suggested last year? Why don't you deport me back to my own country because I've been unemployed for more than 3 months? Who cares that my children are Irish citizens? That my fiance is Irish? Who cares if I have paid taxes in this country for more than 10 years? You didn't mind taking my hard earned money then, did you? But now? Now, it's a different matter. Tdiscrimination. There is a law that says that you can't be discriminated against on various grounds. Yet, it doesn't apply to you. You are allowed to discriminate against foreign nationals, EU or not. I wonder what the EU would think of your methods? I wonder if they would endorse such discrimination. I am sick and tired of being suspected of fraud on the basis of my nationality. There are to be other ways for you to keep an eye on me without me even knowing it. Maybe if you didn't do it so openly, I wouldn't feel so hard done by.

Or maybe you should change your name again to Social Protection Department for the Irish only. That way, we, non nationals, foreigners, aliens, whatever you would like to call us, would be forewarned that we will need to bend backwards to satisfy you. Because obviously, being proactive and following your rules is not enough for us, non Irish people.

Non nationally yours,
A very annoyed Foodie Mummy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A dirty little secret.

It's just past 4pm and I am sitting in my PJ's watching rubbish daytime TV. Yes, I know it's Monday. I didn't even bother getting dressed this morning. We went to a christening on Saturday and I spent yesterday suffering (or as a man would put it dying) with a sore throat, a bad headache (and no it wasn't just a hangover) and a really bad cough. I wasn't feeling well at all. Neither was Noelie. She had a bit of a runny nose and, I suspect, a very sore throat too, as she kept screaming whenever she swallowed as well as coughing for a bit.

So Mr Foodie took the day off work (thanks force majeure) so that he could look after me, Noelie and, of course, Marie. He has been pottering about today, hoovering, cleaning, cooking. He took Marie to school, made her lunch, collected her. He also took to fighting off the little buggers that we have found around our house.

For the past week or so, little bugs have been making our house their home. It turns out that they are fleas. Yes, I know, it sounds horrible. I'm itching all over just thinking about it. I bet you are all depicting me as a filthy person whose house is a dump.  But we are not, I swear. I wash the floors every second day, I hoover everyday. Our cats don't go outside (apart from one who escaped the other day for about 15 minutes). So, how come we have fleas in the house?

It looks like the guy who was living here before us had 3 dogs and a rabbit, hopping around in the house. As per our neighbour, he left the house filthy dirty. So much so that the landlord called in a crowd of industrial cleaners. So could these buggers have been left around the house and awakened by our cats and ourselves? More than likely. Unless we brought one in from outside without realizing. Oh! the joys of the countryside!

So now, our house is a war zone. We have sprinkled flea powder on all the carpets, we have treated our cats, we have sprayed flea killer everywhere. I haven't seen any in a few hours now so hopefully, that will have done the trick. Every single teddy bear, bed cover, item of clothing etc is now being put through the washing machine. The weather is after turning cold too, and these little buggers don't like the cold so the windows are being left open.

I have been wondering if I should write this post for the best part of the week now. Because, like head lice, fleas are associated with dirty people. If you say to somebody that there are fleas in the house, people automatically assume that you are dirty, that your house is dirty etc. But, I now know that it has nothing to do with being dirty. I'm not dirty, my kids are not dirty, my house is not dirty. I am a borderline maniac when it comes to cleaning. I bleach everything. A bottle of floor cleaner doesn't last 2 weeks in my house, I wash the floors that often. I spray my counters 4 or 5 times a day, before I cook, after I cook, before I go to bed. So why, why, why are people associating fleas with dirty people? I am scared of inviting anybody in, in case one of them is still alive and jumps on a guest. I am completely paranoid now. Anytime I spot something small and black anywhere, I jump up to catch it.

It's been our dirty little (jumping) secret for the past week. We are doing our best to get rid of them and I know that we will but in the meantime, I'll turn into an even worse cleaning maniac than I already am. I just hope that you'll take my word for it: it doesn't just happen to dirty people.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How stupid can you get?

Today, I've done something really stupid, really irresponsible. I am ashamed that I did it, but what's done is done and I can't undo it.

Today, I let Marie go off with a complete stranger. Yes, you've heard me, a complete stranger. I recoil at the horror of doing this. How stupid can I get?

Marie got out of school with her new friend, L. I had been briefly introduced to her mom by my ever so helpful neighbour (and by briefly, I mean: 'Hi J. Have you met my new neighbour?'). I was talking away to her mum and we mentioned a play date, sometime next week. Which eventually turned into today. As soon as the girls heard that, of course, they didn't need to be told twice. And they happily skipped away to L's car, real fast, fast enough so that we couldn't tell them to come back.

So we agreed to meet back at the school at 5.30pm. No phone numbers had been exchanged, I had met the mum for the first time there and I let Marie go off to her house, in her car, without knowing exactly where it was. Once again, how stupid and irresponsible do I get?

I was left standing at the gate of the school, schoolbag in hand, Noelie in the buggy, utterly disconcerted at my complete irresponsibility. I didn't know the woman from Adam (or Eve for that matter). I knew her name and that her girl was L. and she is the one sitting beside Marie in school. I had no phone number, no exact address, no make of cars (I couldn't see the car that was parked behind the school bus). What the hell was I thinking? Not much really. That's it, I wasn't thinking.

Had it been her old school, it would have been a straight no. Because I didn't know the people, I didn't know who those people knew (read into it if they knew Noodlehead or not). And here? Well, I'm pretty sure they don't know Noodlehead, that's a given. But I still didn't know the woman. What made me trust her with my child? Ok, she is pregnant if that makes it any more acceptable to let your child go off with a complete stranger because she's pregnant.

I walked back to the house, feeling sick, chastising myself for my lack of reflection. How did it turn from 'sometime next week' to 'today'?. She didn't look like a psycho, I talked to her for a few minutes and I learnt a few things about her but still, I let Marie go off with her without giving my number, or getting hers, without any more information than the general location of the house. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I started to panic a bit, I was sick with worry. My breath grew shallow, my heart started beating faster. What the hell had I just done? How did I come to trust a complete stranger met for 5 minutes and entrust them with the responsibility of my child? Silly, silly, silly.

That's the kind of stuff those bad movies are made off. I'll be the irresponsible mother, crying on the news for the safe return of her child. How stupid do I get? Just because you're in the country, doesn't mean that there aren't any psychos around. Yes but would that psycho take the shape of a pregnant woman collecting her daughter from probably one of the smallest schools in Ireland? Unlikely, but still. I took comfort in the thought that my neighbour knew her.

What did this woman think of me? She must have thought I was a complete fool. Surely, she wouldn't let her child go off with me, after having met me 5 minutes ago. Surely, nobody is that irresponsible. Well it seems that I am. But then again, she is the one who went from next week to today. I was quite happy with next week. I didn't get a chance to react. It all happened so quickly.

At 5.30 pm, we went down to the school, and as we got there, another car parked there. It was Marie, with J and L. Everything had gone really well, she was well behaved. I chatted for a few minutes to her. I still don't know her any better. All, I know is that she returned my child in one piece, thank god. And that they have a cat, two dogs and two horses.

You won't catch me doing that again! Playdates will have to be organized well in advance, no spur of the moment thing. And for you all gasping in horror at the thought of doing that, I completely get you. I put my hands up, I have been irresponsible and stupid.

Marie had a great time though, does that count for something and make me less of a bad mother? Probably not. Anyway, lesson learnt. It won't happen again, your honor.

First day back.

Monday morning was the first day back at school for Marie. It was quite a special day since it was not only her first day back at school but also her very first day in her new school. Despite being a bit nervous, she was still fairly confident that everything would go well. I, for one, was probably more nervous than she was, you know, being the new mum and all that. The registration had been so easy and effortless that I was wondering, in the back of my mind, if I had done everything that had to be done, if she was really enrolled there. If I'd made a mistake and not fully enrolled her, would they turn us away?

Mr Foodie had taken a bit of time off work so that he could come with us. So we all got up nice and early (although for him it was more of a lie in, considering he got up more than 2 hours later than a normal working day). After breakfast, Marie went upstairs to brush her teeth, and her hair, and wash her face. Then, I helped her put on her uniform. In her last school, Marie only wore a tracksuit but this year, she gets to wear a 'proper' uniform. She was so smart looking in her pinafore dress, shirt and tie.

This school starts a bit later than her old school but we left the house much later than we would have before. It is only a short country lane walk as opposed to a stressful 15 minutes drive for the same distance. When we got there, we could hear some of the children murmuring: 'This is the new girl.' but I don't think she heard them. We waited outside for a short while, as our neighbour was on her way down. I was quite amazed by the number of children. Where Marie was before, there would have been close to 300 pupils in the junior side alone. But here, there are only 130 altogether. There were only 5 or 6 lines of children waiting to go in. The principal helped her find her line and she stood there. Before long, a few little girls had gathered around her and were talking to her. Thanks to our lovely neighbour, she already knew one of them. Her new teacher came over and talked to her. She introduced herself to us and seems very pleasant. Eventually, Marie's line went in and she followed without even glancing back at us.

We still had to pay for the copies and journal and other bits so we went in to the secretary who remembered us from the time we went in to enroll Marie. She asked us a few questions on how we were settling in and how we liked the area. Once that was done, we left and one of the dads came over to us to introduce himself (well jumped over the wall rather than just came over). He explained that he had met Marie while she was playing next door. He also has a daughter in the school although not in Marie's class but one year up and they only live down the road from us.

I felt a bit awkward (I'm not the best at meeting new people) but I didn't feel intimidated at all, or stared at. Our neighbour also introduced us to a couple more parents and we made our way back home.
Later on, I walked with our neighbour down to pick her up. She came running out, her face beaming. She loved it (big sigh of relief). Everybody has been very nice to her, helping her to get settled. She said that somebody bumped into her by accident and turned around to as her if she was ok. 'In my old school, they would have told me to watch where I'm going', she said.

It's been nearly a week now, she is settling in well. I spoke to her teacher again and she assured me that it was all going really well. When I drop her off, I can see a little girl waiting for her at the school gate. She's made a friend and I'm really happy about it. She also received a birthday party invitation for this saturday. We all really enjoy the walk up and down, morning and afternoon. It's so peaceful, walking up and down this little country road, waving as cars pass us by. I have met more parents, thanks to our neighbour again. She has been so helpful in helping us settle in and not feel isolated that I don't know how I could ever thank her enough.

I'm glad the holidays are over. We can finally settle properly now. Between visitors and holidays and other dramas, it has been a bit difficult to find a real routine but now that everything is back to normal, now, our real country life can begin. And we are all really looking forward to it.

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