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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travelling with children: a review.

One of my many daily struggles challenges is the school run. My car broke down about a year ago and we have never bothered to fix it. We live a half a mile away from the school and I feel bad driving for such a small distance anyway. Also it would take almost as much time to put all the children in the car than it would to walk at least half of the way down. So we walk.

When Elliott was only a few weeks old, I used to put him in the sling that my mum bought us, which was great as it meant that I could hold Noelie's hand while walking along the narrow, potholed country lane. As the weather grew colder, I put Elliott in the pushchair. That's when the whole thing became awkward. Have you ever tried steering a pushchair with one hand and holding a toddler by the hand all the while trying to avoid the pot-holes / muck / puddles / cow dung / water filled ditches on either side? It's not easy, let me tell you. Noelie, unlike many toddlers her age, insists on holding your hand when walking anywhere and will not move if you don't, not that I am complaining that I don't have a little runaway on my hands.

The whole experience of walking up and down to school twice a day was fast becoming a rather unpleasant. And then, Travelling with Children contacted us and asked us if we would like to review the Toddler Mini Back Pack and Reins. I decided to give it a try on the day we received it and have used it every day since. It has completely changed the school walk, for the better. The small back pack has given Noelie the confidence to walk without holding my hand, leaving me with both hands free to push Elliott's pushchair. 

The back pack is small and is designed to be used by children age 6 months to 4 years old. The straps are in fact a 3 way harness and are very easily adjusted. It is big enough for Noelie to put in a snack and a drink, as well as her teddy and her soother. She feels all grown up with her own 'schoolbag' as she calls it. She loves the animal embroidery on the front of the backpack and I love the fact that there is a safety reflector there too. I have peace of mind knowing that she can't wriggle out of it as well as the fact that she can't stray too far away from me (and that I don't have to fish her out of the water filled ditches). It also has an emergency handle that comes in useful when Noelie trips over her own feet (which happens at least once a day). The rein is easily removable and clips back on in no time at all, allowing the child to have a bit of freedom but also allowing the parent to regain control fast, should the need arise. No wonder it won the Mother and Baby Gold Award for BEST SAFETY PRODUCT 2010/11! And it comes in 4 different colours too.


So whether you're travelling home this Christmas or just finding the school run a bit of a challenge, hop over to the Travelling with Children website and see what products they have on offer. They are also offering a 15% discount if you buy any Lodger product (check out these hats or this fleece wrapper. Don't they look cosy?). You can also find Travelling with Children on Twitter and Facebook too. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breastfeeding? Not for me, thanks.

That's what I thought. Breastfeeding, not for me thank you.

When I had Marie, I was a young 24 year old woman. The thought of breastfeeding hadn't even entered my mind. I don't even think that it was presented as an option in the hospital. I wasn't really aware of it. For me, a baby was fed with a bottle, end of.

By the time I had Noelie, breastfeeding revival was well on its way. A bit too much if you ask me. I felt like breastfeeding was pushed down my throat. It felt as if every midwife, nurse and doctor I met wanted me to breastfeed. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who will do exactly the opposite of what people try to get me to do if they push too hard. Telling me that I must read such a book, will only result in creating a very strong aversion of said book in me and ensure that I will never, I repeat never, pick up that book, ever. Same goes for breastfeeding, talk to me too much about it, try and push me too much in that direction and I will not even consider it.

I think that I saw breastfeeding as a bit of a hippy, new age thing to do and something that didn't really fit in with my corporate, busy working mother image. The whole feeding on demand thing didn't seem to make for a great routine that fit in with the lifestyle I had at the time (poor excuse I know since being on maternity leave the whole corporate, working mum image didn't exist anymore).

This time around, when I was asked during my first visit in hospital if I intended to breastfeed and I answered no, nothing else was said about it. No disapproving look, no lecture, nothing. I didn't think anymore about it until during the last couple of months of my pregnancy. My breasts started leaking, quite profusely at night and I joked with Mr Foodie on a few occasions that maybe I could breastfeed this baby. It was never really serious and I never read up on it or anything (apart from what I read in the blogosphere). We bought our bottles etc (we still had the steriliser from Noelie) and were all set for another round of bottle feeding.

Until after the birth that is. When the nurse came around, a few hours after the birth and said it was time to feed this little man, she asked me how I wanted to feed him. Automatically, I answered bottle. Mr Foodie looked at me and mentioned the fact that I'd said I might give breastfeeding a try. I looked at him and at the nurse and said OK, I'm going to try it. Mr Foodie and I had never really discussed it, well, not very seriously anyway so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised. The nurse helped Little Man to latch on and off we were on our breastfeeding journey. I had no idea what to expect having never really given it serious thought and never researched it. It just felt like the natural thing to do at the time.

It surprised everybody around us, I think. Having bottle-fed Noelie, people expected us to do the same with Little Man. We don't come from backgrounds where breastfeeding is common and we had never mentioned it before. My only experience with breastfeeding was that of  my aunt who was advised by her pediatrician to switch to bottle feeding as she managed to overfeed her baby while breastfeeding. That being said, she also managed to over feed him on the bottle and the poor child was wearing 2 year old clothes at the age of 8 months. Despite being surprised, nobody had anything negative to say about it. I know that some of them felt rather uncomfortable at the idea of me taking my boobs out to feed Little Man. I think others felt a tad disappointed too (and still are) at the exclusivity of the whole breastfeeding experience as they wouldn't get to feed Little Man for a little while. But if they do think anything negative about it, they certainly never mentioned it to me or to Mr Foodie. The nurse later said to us that she had never met a couple that made the decision between breast or bottle in such a natural, easy going, spur of the moment kind of way.

Maybe it is because we made a natural decision, with no expectations or pressure (self inflicted or otherwise) that breastfeeding has worked out so well for us. Maybe it was because I knew I could give up whenever I wanted if it didn't feel right, or if it wasn't working out without feeling guilty but rather proud that I gave it a go. Maybe it is because we did approach the whole thing with no knowledge whatsoever. We have since spent hours reading up on it but I think that if I had read about it too much beforehand, I probably would never have given it a go. If I had been told of cracked and sore nipples, of toe curling pain (and, yes, you literally do curl your toes), of no feeding schedule as such, of times of cluster feeds, I wouldn't have given it a go. And I am so glad that I never did read about all that, because, despite the hard times and the pain, despite the tiredness, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful things I have experienced with a baby. It is not easy and there were times where I was close to tears with the pain and the tiredness. Little Man didn't latch on properly until a couple of weeks ago and I had terribly cracked nipples (it looked like a quarter of my nipple had been peeled off at some stage) and the pain was near unbearable  for a few seconds but once it stopped, it was fine.

Mr Foodie has been extremely supportive through the whole thing and has become very knowledgeable on the subject. I know he is proud of me for giving it a go and for sticking to it. And I am very grateful that he has been so supportive. He will tell anybody who will listen (people like the other blokes at work) how great breastfeeding is. He, too, is a convert. We love the fact that there are no bottles to wash and sterilise, that there is no paraphernalia to carry around when out and about. You don't need to worry about heating up bottles or having enough formula. You don't need to remember to buy it in the supermarket. It is there, at the right temperature, in the right amount and free.

I can understand why some people do not want to try, or are not interested. I was one of them once. Some of the literature you can read feels a bit like german propaganda in the 1940s. Some people are way to pushy or judgemental if you say that you have no interest in breastfeeding. I think it takes a certain maturity and a certain confidence to attempt breastfeeding. It is demanding from a physical and mental point of view but it is also strangely extremely rewarding. I had never thought I would be a convert to breastfeeding but I am. I won't be joining the so-called breastapo soon as I believe that everybody is free to choose which way to feed their baby (and some people sadly have no choice in the matter). I didn't join any breastfeeding groups etc and I will not be criticizing or judge anybody who decides to bottle feed their baby. I bottle fed my 2 girls and don't regret doing it. It was what was right for me at the time. And at the end of the day, it's all about what's right for you and your baby at the time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The wedding part 1

A little over a week after giving birth to Little Man, Mr Foodie and I got married. Before I tell you all about my wedding day (I'm sure you are all dying to know about it!), I feel like I have to give a little background information as to why we did things the way we did.

We got engaged on my 30th birthday, a couple of years ago and had been talking about getting married  ever since. However, our circumstances were such that we never really got around to doing it or even planning it in any serious way.

However, the impending arrival of baby number 3 and the fact that by getting married we would get an extra 300 euros a month in our wallet (don't ask, it's just the way the stupid system works here in Ireland!) tipped us over the edge and we started thinking about it more seriously. One small problem though. We couldn't agree on how to do it.

Before any of you start thinking 'Here comes the bridezilla.', let me be clear: I am not the type of girl who has been dreaming about her wedding day since the tender age of 3. I have never dreamt of white horse drawn carriages or pink meringue wedding dresses. I couldn't tell the difference between satin and silk, have never thought of table centerpieces or grooms men outfits (I do quite like kilts though) and certainly never given any thought to what flavour I would like my wedding cake to be (that would have to be chocolate though). I have never bought a wedding magazine and do not intend to either. So don't start blaming me before I even start!

There were 2 obvious options: getting married in Ireland or getting married in France.

Unfortunately, getting married in France was not an option. Indeed, Mr Foodie's mum will never get on a plane and has recently decided that she wouldn't like to get on a boat either. There is also the small matter of food, that the Irish side wouldn't eat. And all the going back and forth that would be needed to organize everything incurring more cost.

The second option would be to get married in Ireland. It would definitely be easier to organize. However, it would mean that my family would have to travel and bearing in mind that wages are much lower in France than they are in Ireland it would mean quite a big expense. Also I would be rather embarassed to serve the kind of food that is served at weddings here to my French guests as for them it would amount to a normal, dare I say, everyday dinner and not a celebratory one. Finding the food served at French weddings here is near impossible, or at some ridiculous cost. There is also the small problem of having to invite half the neighbours off the road as well as the uncle that you haven't seen since you were 4 and the cousin that you hate, as seems to be tradition in Ireland. And that is without considering the cost of a wedding here (we know off people that have taken out loans to pay for their wedding!). So, Ireland was also struck out.

The easiest solution was to get married abroad. It would solve the problem of who has to travel as everybody would have to. It also solves the problem of who gets invited, what food to eat etc... It didn't solve the problem of Mr Foodie's mum not willing to get on a boat or a plane. I offered the solution of getting married by ourselves, just Mr Foodie, the kids and myself.

We spoke about our dilemna with friends who advised us to do what was best for us (not so helpful advice). Eventually, we spoke to my parents about it as well as Mr Foodie's parents. My parents have always said that they wouldn't travel for a wedding only (even if it was mine) and that at the end of the day, it is an affair between 2 people and that you don't need the world and its mother there with you. Mr Foodie's parents weren't as open minded. They were fine with a small wedding involving parents and brothers (as we have no sisters), they also said that they were ok with us getting married by ourselves although they would rather be present. We went around in circles over the next couple of months as Mr Foodie wanted his family there on the day and I didn't want to have his family and not mine there. There was also the problem of the 3 months notice you need to give to the registrar as well as the fee.

After looking into various options, we finally set a date that would solve the problem of my parents not willing to travel only for a wedding as they would be over on holidays. We also decided to get married ''abroad' although it didn't involve Mr Foodie's mum to get on either boat or plane since we were going to get married in Northern Ireland (cheaper fee and shorter notice period). We also decided that we wanted only our kids and parents present on the day. That decision proved to be the most controversial one...




Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby Elliott AKA Little Man

On Wednesday 10th of August, at 1.40 pm, Elliott also referred to as Little Man was born.

I had been going a bit crazy, slowly but surely, waiting on his arrival. I had been told (and was more than happy to think) that Little Man would come a bit early, like both his sisters. Since the beginning of July, every twinge, every pain, every unusual feeling prompted the question: Is this it? Do we need to go? Marie wasn't there to keep me company, she was way too busy having a great time in France and Noelie was spending some time in her grandparents' on and off during the holidays so I was on my own a good bit of the time. I had plenty of time to rest, and plenty of time to slowly go mental. Towards the end of my pregnancy, Mr Foodie's brother didn't help the situation by asking 3 or 4 times a day where his nephew was. Bear in mind, he is closer to 40 years old than he is to 4 (had he been 4 I could have handled it, but the fact that he is a grown adult and that he kept doing it despite being asked to stop, made it even worse. In actual fact, I broke down crying about it, blame the hormones). I was sick and tired of waiting for the arrival and tried every single old wife tale out there. Nothing worked. Also I was getting quite irritated by friends and family's kind words. Why is it that people think that your due date is some kind of limit. Most babies aren't born on their due dates so why do people send you texts wishing you 'good luck today'? If there was ever a day I knew this baby was not going to come, it was his due date!

2 days past the elusive due date, we went back to the hospital for a check up. Every week, we had met the same couple there and we'd laughed that we were still there. She was 11 days overdue at this stage. I was silently panicking as the wedding was getting ever so close and this baby was still not born.  We were told that they usually wait until you are 12 days past your due date to induce you. 12 days past my due date was 2 days before our wedding which meant that I would never be out in time to get married. Mr Foodie spoke to the consultant and explained our dilemna. The consultant did an ultrasound and an internal exam and found that the level of fluid around the baby was a bit low. He told us that there was a good chance that I would go into labour on my own that same evening as he could feel the baby's head and my cervix was nearly fully effaced but if not, to come back the next day to get induced.

After coming out of the hospital, we walked and walked and walked for miles, trying to get labour started. Suffice to say, it did not work. I had no idea how this whole thing was going to work, we had been so caught off guard by the whole induction possibility that we never got a chance to ask many questions. We did stop by the admissions office to try and see if there was a time we had to be in for. It turns out we could pretty much come in at any time.  So the next day, we trotted off to hospital, not knowing what to expect. We went to the admissions, signed a few papers, got admitted and walked to the labour ward. I had never been to the labour ward before despite giving birth to 2 girls. For Marie, I was taken straight into the delivery room, and for Noelie I was taken straight into theatre. The midwives were lovely and helped me get settled in. I was put on a monitor for a while and then was seen by a consultant who decided now was the time to induce me. Because of my previous c-section, I was induced in a quite 'natural' way. No drips or drugs for me. All she did was break my waters. It was 11h55.

Mr Foodie was there with me, a bit nervous and not knowing what to expect. Listening to the the screams and moans of some of the other women in the ward mustn't have helped. After being monitored for a bit again, I was allowed to walk around. I was to report to the midwife whenever I started feeling pains. They started about 30 minutes after my waters broke. The pains were quite mild at first but were increasing in strength and duration. Mr Foodie tried to crack a couple of jokes during some of the contractions but I think that my reaction showed him it was better not to. We walked around for a bit. The contractions were coming closer and stronger. At some stage I told Mr Foodie that I wanted to go back to the bed in the ward as the most comfortable position for me was crouching and I didn't feel comfortable crouching in the middle of the corridor! I asked Mr Foodie to time the contractions as they were getting quite strong and close. I soon realized that he had no idea what he was suppose to time. He started noting only the time the contractions started at! So, between two contractions, I explained to him that he had to time the length as well as how far apart they were. It turns out that they were lasting about a minute and were 2 minutes apart. As each contraction was happening, they were increasing by about 10 seconds and the interval between them was also decreasing by 10 seconds. By the time, they were lasting about 1 minute 30, I went to see the midwife.  She told me to lie on the bed to measure and see if it was time for me to go into a delivery room. As soon as she started the exam, I felt the urge to push. She told me to stop pushing, that the baby couldn't come out in the labour ward, that they had no equipment etc, pretty much any argument she could give me to try and stop me pushing. All the while, she was screaming at one of her colleagues to get her a wheelchair quickly. Mr Foodie was standing by, a bit lost, at a loss as to what to do.

Another contraction came and the urge to push came again. The poor midwife was now giving out to me, not shouting, but in a very stern tone was telling me to stop pushing. I felt like I was a child again being told off by a teacher. Between two contractions, I managed to get onto the wheelchair and was rushed into the delivery suite. Before another contraction came, I climbed onto the bed. The midwife barely had time to write my name on the papers. She was telling me to wait until she at least got her gloves on before pushing again. There was nothing I could do, I had to push. Less than 1h45 since my waters had been broken, and within 1 minute and a half  of being admitted into the delivery suite, baby Elliott, AKA Little Man, was born. A healthy 7lbs4 (3.290 kgs), 50 cms tall with the most teeny tiny face I had ever seen. I wouldn't say it was a pain free delivery as there is no such thing, but it was certainly a fast and drug free one with only a minor tear that only required 2 stitches.

We stayed in the hospital for 2 nights (although one of the nurses wanted to send me home the next day). Visits were restricted to grand parents and siblings only and Noelie came to visit her new little brother. She brought some cards and a couple of presents for the baby. She had everybody in stitches as she started singing happy birthday to me when I was opening the cards and presents. She also fell in love with one of the nurses, Emma who was the nicest nurse on the ward and gave her a box of chocolates. She wasn't phased at all by the fact that I was in hospital and that there was a new baby there too. We went home on the Friday and started settling in as  much as we could with our wedding looming 10 days later.

A third baby, a third birth experience, completely unique and different from the other two. I went from a completely natural, drug free, premature delivery with Marie to an emergency c-section with Noelie, back to a natural, drug free yet induced delivery for Elliott. He is 7 weeks soon and I couldn't imagine life without him now. Despite all the backaches, kidney infections and rib punching he gave me during pregnancy, I fell in love with my Little Man the moment I saw him.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

4 - 3 - 2 - 1

I have been pretty absent from this blog the past month but with good reason. 4 reasons really.

4: weeks ago, baby Elliott was born. After nearly going crazy and overdue by a few days (when I thought I'd be going early because both girls were), I was eventually induced on the 10th of August at 11.55 am. A healthy baby boy was born at 1.40 pm. He weighed 7lbs4 (another thing doctors got wrong, the day before I was told he was about 6lbs!). A very positive birth experience (if you ignore the fact that I left it too late to tell the midwife and nearly had him on a wheelchair) that I will write about soon.

3: weeks ago, Mr Foodie and myself were trying to get used to life with a newborn again and to breastfeeding. We were also very busy organizing the event that took place.......

2: weeks ago when Mr Foodie and I got married. We managed to organize our wedding between the time we got out of the hospital and the time Elliott was 12 days old! Granted, it was a very small wedding but it was still a wedding. 

1: week ago, Marie went back to school after being away for 6 weeks. She came back fluent in French and a few inches taller than she was before she left, hence why all the 'going back to school' shopping was left to the last minute.

I hope you'll forgive my absence, but as you can see it has been a very very busy summer. I promise I'll give you more details soon. 
X
Mrs Foodie Mummy ;-) 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Documentaries on 4 sponsored by Honda'

While I am waiting for this baby to make its appearance, I have to admit that I am clocking in quite a few hours of rest. Rest for me can be anything from sleeping (something I can't seem to manage to do much at night but doesn't bother me that much during the day), to watching a lot of TV while lying on the sofa (it is after all much more comfortable than sitting down!).
Of course, I love all things cooking and will watch quite a lot of that, but I also like watching documentaries. And Channel 4 now has a new series of documentaries on. Last year, the documentaries were sponsored by Honda, and the catch phrase: 'Documentaries on 4 sponsored by Honda' has become very familiar. Mr Foodie is the type of person that will get hooked on a catchphrase from an ad, or sponsor and we will hear it 10 to 15 times a day, until another one takes its place. Don't ask me if it drives me mad, it does....

http://hub.honda.co.uk/?s3campaign=Cars_Channel4Outreach&s3advertiser=eBuzzing&s3banner=Alpaca 
This new round of Channel 4 documentaries is no different, it is sponsored again this year by Honda. The programs are being introduced by little Honda films, created by Wieden and Kennedy (W+K) London, all of which star a real life Honda user, but one that uses it in unusual or quirky ways. The first one of 4, currently on, has really caught my eye. It stars Philippa, who uses her Honda on her Alpaca farm in Oxfordshire (who knew you could breed Alpacas in the UK?). I can't wait to find out what the other 3 Honda users do with theirs!

 Throughout the year, Honda will be releasing a series of mini documentaries featuring some of their real life users, an online hub as well as the little spots used to introduced the Channel 4 documentaries. Each little spot contains a unique URL that gives you access to extra content online on the Honda hub website. You can also find a 'Take Part' section on the website, where you can leave your own story on how you use your Honda product in an unusual way. Wieden & Kennedy will chose their favourite and turn it into a final little mini documentary and ident that will be used on TV. So why don't you follow the links? Have a look at the documentaries, see how people use their Honda products. Could you use them that way? If so, why don't you take part and see if you can appear in your own little mini documentary and ident?



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Thursday, July 7, 2011

The name game.

With a little under 5 weeks to go now, you would expect us to know what we are going to name the little monkey that keeps me awake at night. At this stage of pregnancy, most people have the name picked out whether or not they know if it is going to be a girl or a boy.

I have written already about the added difficulty for us to find a name. We need to find a name that works in French and in English. Too Irish a spelling and you've got the French side of the family unable to read it (or even pronounce it, I still can't pronounce Oisin properly, no matter how many times I hear it), too French a pronunciation and it's being continuously butchered mispronounced by the Irish side. Marie's name was picked out even before she was conceived and is pronounced in a similar way in both languages, Noelie's name we found by chance on a Christmas card while shopping (she was born at the end of May, so plenty of time in advance!).

This time around, we know we are having a boy. A few months ago, Mr Foodie asked if he could chose the name. I personally don't have a problem with that as long as I like it too. There is no way that I would let him pick a name that I don't like. However, we seem to be having a problem. We can't seem to find a name that we both like, or that works well within our unusual constraints. And I'm getting antsy now. What if this baby comes and we still don't have a name? My family keep asking if we have found a name yet and we haven't.

A good few weeks were spent on various X-Men and superheroes' names, another few were spent on the most popular chinese and japanese names, a lot of precious time was wasted on names that don't even deserve a mention. And in the meantime, we still haven't got a name for Peanut. I am getting a bit anxious now as the birth is getting closer and we can't seem to find the right name for us.

Now we are not completely at a loss. We have found a few names that we like but we have thrown so many names at each other that we keep forgetting which ones we liked. I know, it would be very easy to write them down but we keep forgetting to do it to. A friend of ours has even compiled a list with a name for every single letter of the alphabet. Mr Foodie has asked all of his Facebook friends for ideas. We even went through the French calendar where a name is displayed daily to try and find one.

We have managed a shortlist of about 5 or 6, but it feels like people are taking pot shots at those daily. No later than this morning another one had to be struck off the list because one of Mr Foodie's coworkers' wife gave birth last night and picked the name already. Arghhhhh.

Hopefully, we will be able to settle on a name soon and all will be well by the time the baby is born. In the meantime, if you have any ideas, please don't hesitate to leave any suggestion in the comments.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food Friday: Choux

For Father's Day, I asked Mr Foodie what type of treat he would like me to bake. Ever so helpful, Mr Foodie couldn't make up his mind, only guideline: not chocolate again. So I decided to try my hand at something new. And I decided to try and make some choux.

Choux are one of those pastries that look really impressive and that people think they can't make. It has to be complicated, right? I mean, look at them, they're puffy and sweet and golden. It has to involve some kind of trick of the trade, some kind of big secret. Well, let me tell you something. It's really not that complicated. I was one of those people thinking: I can never make that. But I tried and it worked..



Now, because I didn't know how they would turn up, I didn't take pictures at every step of the way, I have to say I should have because the result was quite something (if I may say so myself). The only thing I would warn people about is this: If you don't have one of those fancy free standing food mixers thingies, you have to use a wooden spoon which is not really a problem in itself unless you are like me and your hands are quite delicate and you then end up with a blister from the quite heavy stirring you need to do.


So here is what you need to make some lovely, puffy, golden choux:

Ingredients:

- 250 ml of water.
- 100 grs of butter.
- 125 grs of flour.
- 4 eggs.
- 1 pinch of salt.

How to:

- Preheat the oven at 180 C.
- In a pot, bring the water, butter and salt to the boil.
- As soon as it starts boiling, take off the heat and add all the flour in one go.
- Stir fast and furiously with a wooden spoon.
- Return to a medium heat and continue stirring with the wooden spoon until the mix dries up and comes off the sides and bottom of the pot easily (making a ball).
- Take off the heat again.
- Once cooled down, add the first egg.
- Stir until fully incorporated (it looks like it will never happen but then all of the sudden it incorporates!)
- Repeat one egg at a time.
- Once your pastry is ready, put little blobs of pastry onto a baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
- Bake for a further 5 minutes with the oven door open (it will help the steam escape and ensure that your choux don't go all floppy when you take them out).

This should be the result you get:



It is then up to you to chose what you want to fill them with. We had a few sneaky ones in the afternoon, filled with squirty cream.

The girls and myself had some more then for dessert, filled with vanilla ice cream, and covered in melted dark chocolate and grilled almonds. Yes, my favourite dessert: Profiterolles au chocolat. Yummy.
Mr Foodie not being a lover of chocolate, went for a creme patissiere filling which looked like this.
The filling has to be done at the last minute, because otherwise your choux will start soaking up the moisture from the filling and go slightly soggy.

What about you? Which filling would you go for?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Food Friday: Chocolate cake.

I love chocolate, good old dark, slightly bitter chocolate, none of that fancy milk stuff. And of course, I love a good chocolate cake.
For years, I have baked the same chocolate cake. I found the recipe in a book I bought when I was a child. It is a Disney recipe book. I remember spending afternoons reading the recipes and bugging my mum to bake a cake with me. I also remember one afternoon when my mum and dad were busy doing something else, taking it upon myself to bake. I believe the result was practically inedible (it was some kind of custardy thing) and the kitchen was an absolute disgrace by the time I was finished. My brother claims it is his chocolate cake recipe (although clearly the book is mine, so it is my recipe) and it is the only cake he will bake (or eat for that matter). When he was smaller, he wanted to become a pastry chef / footballer. But he would only bake that specific chocolate cake and nothing else (he was only young if that's any excuse, and he has become neither a pastry chef, nor a footballer).

However, that one recipe has stood the test of time. I baked it for Marie's birthday party and Noelie's too this year and I barely had a chance to take a bite. I also baked it for an engagement party we attended not long ago. It is very simple and not fancy at all, but it has to be said it hits the chocolate spot anytime. It also doesn't take long at all and can be decorated any way you want it (Chocolate ganache and mini smarties looked good!), or just a dusting of icing sugar.

Noelie's birthday cake.
So here is my favourite good old chocolate cake recipe:

Ingredients:

- 125 grs of dark cooking chocolate.
- 100 grs of butter.
- 4 eggs.
- 70 grs of flour.
- 125 grs of sugar.

How to:

  • Preheat your oven at 180 C.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter.
  • Mix the eggs, flour and sugar.
  • Add the melted chocolate & butter to the batter.
  • Pour into the cake tin.
  • Bake for 30 min.
For a lovely twist, you can add a small cup of expresso coffee to the melted chocolate. You won't taste the coffee but it will enhance the flavour of the chocolate.

For a really decadent treat, serve warm with custard, or vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream!


 Bon appétit!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Maman, what's that pretty flag for?

That was the question Marie asked when we were driving through town the other day, on our way back from collecting her much awaited passport. The flag in question was this one:
 

The Dublin Gay Pride is about to take place and the quays are lined with flags and it brings a nice touch of colour to the grey skies and a great sense of fun. So I explained to her what it was about. Marie knows that sometimes men love men and women love women and that's it's natural and normal and not a big deal. She has met some gay friends of ours and she absolutely adores one particular couple.

So, what could have been an awkward moment for some people was just a normal conversation between me and my 8 year old daughter.

And I felt a great sense of pride. I was proud of us and the fact that we are bringing her up to be accepting of others, regardless of any differences. And I was proud of her because she is showing signs of compassion and acceptance for other people.

Because, at the end of the day, we are all different, and we should all be proud of who we are.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A little corner of France in Ireland!

As I have mentioned in the last post, the past couple of weeks have been quite busy and slightly stressful. Since we can't go on holidays to visit my parents this year (thanks Peanut!), they have kindly offered to take Marie so that she wouldn't miss out on the fun, sun and swimming pool. I had assumed that they wanted to take her for a couple of weeks but since my dad is now retired, they decided to take her from mid July until the end of August.

I was a bit wary of letting her go for that long (selfishly I have to admit) and I also felt a bit bad that she would miss her little brother's arrival. But after talking to her and explaining to her that she wouldn't see her little brother until a while after he was born and asking her what she wanted to do, it took her the whole lot of 2 seconds to decide that she wanted to go on holidays. Newborns, as she remembers from her little sister, are 'boring' as they only 'sleep, eat, poo and cry' (her words not mine). So it was agreed that my dad would come and pick her up mid July and fly back with her. And then my mum & dad would bring her back when my mum took her holidays at the end of August.

There was only one slight problem though, her Irish passport is about to expire. In itself, it might not sound like a big problem. I mean all you need to do is fill in the form, get it signed at the garda station and send it off. Unlike last year, there are no strikes in the passport office, so you can get it back within 10 working days. Unfortunately, it's not that easy for us. Some of you know that Mr Foodie is not Marie's biological father, although he is for all intents and purposes her dad. She calls him Daddy and loves him as such. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we haven't heard from her biological father since last summer. We don't know where he is and the last known number we have is the one of his ex-girlfriend. Since we don't know where to find him, he can't sign the passport form and since he is considered as her guardian, both signatures have to be on it. I discussed it with a garda friend who explained to me that unfortunately, the only way to go was through the courts. I have had my fill of them, I have been in and out of court over Marie and I've had enough to last me a lifetime. So I'd rather stay away from them. That and the fact that by the time we realized that her passport would be out of date for the summer, the case would probably not have been heard until they come back from their summer holidays, in September. So too late for her to go.

So I looked into getting her a French passport. She is after all a French citizen hence entitled to a French passport. And it turns out that in France, only one parent's signature is required to get a passport or an ID card, no questions asked. I have to say that finding this bit of information out made me jump for joy.

Then started the process of gathering the documents needed to request it. We had to order her french birth cert twice but eventually, we got both copies within a day of each other. Then came the fact that she had to come with me. The French Embassy operates on a very French schedule. It is only open to French citizens from 9.30am to 12 pm, the afternoon being dedicated to visa requests. You can only call them between the hours of 2pm and 3pm unless you have a real emergency. And if you manage to get a hold of somebody on the phone before 2pm, they ask you to call back within the dedicated hours. So I decided to keep Marie out of school for a day, so we could both go and get the passport.

My car has refused to start since the snow last year, and I have since let the insurance policy lapse, not renewed the car tax (since it's off the road) and not bothered with getting it NCTed (that would be the equivalent of an MOT in the UK I think). On a daily basis, it's not a problem. We walk to school (10 minutes up and 10 minutes down) unless it's raining heavily when the neighbour (who also drops her son to school) gives Marie a lift. Mr Foodie is usually home by 4pm so any shopping, etc can be done after he gets home. We have been using only the one car for the past few months and it has worked for us. But on the occasions that I need to go somewhere during the day, it does take a bit of organising. So we arranged for the girls to stay over at Mr Foodie's mum & dad's so that I could drop him off at work (leaving the house before 6am) and then went on to collect Marie and drive to the embassy. I think I went there 8 times in 13 years (4 times to vote, twice for my own passport, and twice to make the girls fully fledged French citizens) and certainly had never gone there from where we live now. So the GPS went on and we made our way. Marie was slightly nervous and so was I. What if they started asking questions about her father, what would we do if they refused to issue her passport, how devastated would she be that she couldn't go on holidays etc... I had explained to her that we had to go and get her passport and that without it, she wouldn't be able to go on holidays, so she was aware of how important this was.

We got there without getting lost (which with my sense of directions is quite an achievement). And after queueing up for a bit, we got seen to. I decided to also get her an ID card. You see, an ID card is valid for 10 years and allows you to travel within the EU and it's free too. Which means that the ID card would expire after her 18th birthday, by which time, she will not be considered a minor anymore (hence sorting my visiting Papi & Mamie for holidays / passport requests problems for the next 10 years). She got fingerprinted, measured, her eye colour was noted, her picture was taken and the ID card and passport requests were sent. The girl behind the counter did ask if I had a letter or a copy of her father's ID but I quickly explained the problem and she said that it wasn't compulsory anyway. So, after we came out, we both sighed a big sigh of relief. Half of the problem was solved. All we had to do now was wait for the embassy to send me a text to let me know that the passport was ready to be collected. The girl said that if I didn't hear from them by the end of the week it meant that there were no problems with the request. I immediately called Mr Foodie to let him know how we got on, as well as my mum and dad who didn't waste any time booking the flights that very same afternoon.

A week to the day later, I received the text. Her passport had been issued, and was ready to be collected. I was extremely impressed at the speed the request had been processed, especially when you know that the passport gets printed out in France. It left Dublin on the Tuesday, the following Thursday was a bank holiday in France (and most companies would also be closed on the Friday) and the following Monday was a bank holiday in Ireland. So it really took less than 3 working days for the passport to get printed and flown back here. A weight was instantly lifted off my shoulders. All the stress and worry of the past few weeks wondering would she be able to go or not, would I need to go back to court etc just dissolved. It took a little more organising so that we could go back and collect it. Marie had to come with me, as she needed to get fingerprinted again to ensure she was really the passport holder. We went to collect it last Friday and you could see the delight on her face when we stepped out of the embassy. She too was extremely relieved and even let out a small squeal when we closed the door of the consulate. She turned around, beaming and announced proudly: 'It's official. I can go on holidays!'

It feels strange to me to see her name and picture and written below the words nationality: French. I don't know why but I have always considered her to be more Irish than French. Probably some kind of unconscious reaction to the fact that her biological father didn't want me to speak French to her. I subconsciously suppressed her Frenchness. But, in the past year (since her father vanished really), her French has come on so much that she is able to hold a conversion on the phone to my mum and dad, she speaks mainly French to her little sister and she wants to learn more. And she will. What better way to do so than go away for a few weeks and be completely immersed in the language, and the culture! So roll on the holidays! I just wish she would stop asking me everyday how many days are left until she goes...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

8 weeks to go.

Yes, 8 weeks to go. That's all that's left now until this baby comes into the world. I am secretly hoping that he will be like his sisters and make a somewhat early arrival. Marie was 5 weeks early and Noelie was 2 weeks early. So 3 weeks early sounds good enough to me.
 
I am very glad to say that my sciatica has eased a lot. Yes, the place looks like a bombsite most of the time because I don't bend down to pick up stuff as much as I used to. I don't hoover or wash the floors anymore either as it seemed to be triggering the sciatica (good excuse isn't it!). I have to say that Mr Foodie has more than stepped up to the mark on the whole housecleaning side of things. He is now in charge of a lot of the household chores and I have to admit that he is doing quite a good job at it too. I know I tend to be a bit demanding on the hoovering and cleanliness side of things but he does it really well (well, nearly as good as I would ;-P). Things have improved so well on the sciatica front that the physio said that she wouldn't give me another appointment, but to call if things deteriorated. The exercises she has given me have helped and I think that the fact that Peanut has moved up a bit and isn't lying on my back anymore probably has helped too.
 
I still feel like a whale at times. I was weighed in the hospital last week and was quite happy to discover that I was under the 63 kgs mark which I find quite reasonable and puts my weight gain at around 8 kgs so far. I know there is more weight to put on especially now that we are nearing the end. I am and never have been obsessed with my weight. I believe that you can eat anything you want as long as you eat the bad stuff in moderation. I am particularly paying attention at the amount of calcium I eat at the moment. I have had a couple of toothaches lately and I know it's from Peanut sucking the calcium out of my bones and teeth (he has to find it somewhere, doesn't he!). There is even a French saying that says 'Un enfant, une dent' (a child, a tooth).
 
I have been a bit tired lately, but I'm not sure if it is pregnancy related or just the running around I have done in the past weeks that has me like that. We have had a few busy and somewhat stressful weeks and I am sure that hasn't helped.
 
We are slowly getting ready for the arrival of baby and I am already thinking ahead about packing the hospital bag. I know it's early but apart from vests and pjs for Peanut, we have pretty much got everything we need in. The only reason we haven't got vests and PJs is because we are quite picky and we want wraparound vests that we can find in France and not here. And although PJs are widely available here too, I think the French ones are cuter. So we are going to order some soon.
 
Last week, I went for a checkup as I mentioned and I was also delighted to find out that this time around I haven't had as many kidney infections as I did on Noelie. It was unfortunately the bane of Noelie's pregnancy (that and the fact that she was breached, of course) and I was on antibiotics for a week after any check up. This time around I had one and I didn't need antibiotics for it so I am very pleased with that. The doctor in the hospital also gave us another scan which we really weren't expecting and it looks like Peanut is already head down, which would explain some of the weird kicks I have been receiving. I am getting kicked in the ribs and punched in the hips quite a lot and he is very, very active. Sometimes my whole belly seems to move to one side. The rib kicking is quite uncomfortable and seems to happen more in the evening, when I am sitting down. The consultant also confirmed that it was still a boy.
 
Marie is getting really excited and is a great help around the house. She tries to send me off for naps when she gets in from school (I wonder is she doing it for my own good or is she trying to get up to something when I'm not looking). She plays with her sister as much as she can so that Noelie is not constantly looking for my attention.
 
Noelie seems to understand that there is a baby in my belly and if you ask her to give her baby brother a kiss, she will come over, lift up my top and give my belly a kiss. Or blow a raspberry on it... Or slap it depending on her mood. She has also taken to try and give the baby her soother. She tries and stick in through my belly button which is quite funny. Sometimes if you ask her where the baby is, she lifts up her own top and points to it laughing. She is quite a character. And I am not too worried about how she will react to a new baby in the house. I am pretty sure that she will be ok, as she is fascinated by her big sister and tries to do the same things as her. Fingers crossed!
 
We don't have much running around to do in the next couple of weeks so I am hoping to recharge my batteries during this time. And I know that after that things will go really fast. Marie finishes school in a couple of weeks. We are going to see the Script in concert in 3 weeks time (I didn't know I was pregnant when I booked the tickets and I am not giving them up. That's if Mr Foodie will take me because technically these are his tickets.). We have another hospital appointment in about 3 weeks too. Then my dad is coming over to pick up Marie and whisk her away to France until the end of August. She will not be here when her little brother is born but she is old enough and she is the one who made the choice. I mean if you had to chose between 5 weeks of sunshine, swimming pools, bike rides and fun with Papi & Mamie or stay at home with a newborn that does nothing but eat, sleep, poo and cry which would you chose? Yep. We would all chose the fun option.
 
I have decided not to go to antenatal classes this time around. It is after all my third pregnancy and I believe I have been from one extreme to the other when it comes to giving birth. I had a completely natural birth on Marie and she was a premie and I had a c-section on Noelie since she was breached (although I did go into labour spontaneously). I am not too stressed about the birth (yet) and as they say que sera, sera. Unlike in the UK, there are no talks of birth plans here. No talks of music playing, no talks of birth pools or anything like that. Check ups etc feel more like a factory than a personalized experience. You don't get to meet the same midwife during your pregnancy, and you pretty much get whoever is there on the day. When you go in a for a check up, you hand in your chart, you hand in your little container of pee and you wait to be called out to one of the 4 or 5 consulting rooms. There you meet a consultant (never the same one) who checks your blood pressure, prods your belly and if you're lucky (like I was the last time) gives you a quick scan. If you don't have any questions, you are then sent on your merry way home until next time.
 
The only thing I am getting worried about is making it to the hospital on time.Marie's labour was only 5 and a bit hours. On Noelie, my waters broke (I was already in the hospital getting checked out because I felt that there was something wrong and I didn't know what it was) and I was wheeled into the operating theater very quickly after that. Apparently I was having contractions but apart from a rather uncomfortable tightening of my belly, I wasn't in pain (and that was before being given any kind of anaesthetics). So I am hoping against hope that this time, I will recognize the contractions for what they are, and that this baby will hold on long enough for us to make it into the hospital! I have already warned my neighbour that I will be calling upon her as soon as I feel something especially if Mr Foodie is in work. Let's wait and see!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Food Friday: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips Cookies

I don't have any strange food cravings since I got pregnant. I have heard of women getting strange cravings like soil, coal and other rather unedible things. I remember when I was pregnant on Noelie having a sudden craving for French Onion Soup and sending Mr Foodie out on a wild goose chase on a Saturday evening past 9pm. He never found French onion soup, despite enlisting half the staff of a couple of supermarkets to look for it. By the time, he'd gotten home, the craving had passed anyway and I settled for a ham and cheese toastie.

On Marie, I used to get cravings for peanut M&Ms and my drawer in work used to be full of packets of peanut M&Ms that colleagues used to pick up anytime they went to the shop. This time again, I have developed quite a taste for anything with peanuts and chocolate (although I wouldn't really describe it as a craving as such if that makes any sense). But if I am in a shop, and pass by something peanutey and chocolatey, well I can't resist. I believe that cravings are just signs from your body telling you that you need something. I mean chocolate is good for you (in moderation of course) and so are peanuts (they are full of whatever it is). So I just give in to my ''craving'' a couple of times a week for Snickers and M&Ms. Even in what I call my 'non pregnant' state, I believe that no food should be banned (unless you're allergic, or morally opposed to something). There is no bad food for you, it just all depends on the amount and frequency you eat it. Anyway, I digress.

So, after having a bit of a general bad mood, bit of a cow episode yesterday (I blame it on the pregnancy hormones). I decided that I needed to make amends (and give in to my craving at the same time which might just lift me up a bit too). So I made Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chips Cookies for Mr Foodie.


Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

- 70 grs of softened butter.
- 60 grs of caster sugar.
- 60 grs of dark brown sugar.
- 1 egg.
- 125 grs of smooth peanut butter.
- 125 grs of flour.
- 1/2 tsp of baking powder.
- 100 grs of chocolate chips.


How to:

- Preheat your oven at 160 C (fan assisted) or 180C.
- Cream together the softened butter and both sugars until the mix is light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and beat well.
- Once the egg has been added, add the peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
- Add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix well.
- Add the chocolate chips.
- There is no need to refrigerate the dough it can be used straight away.
- Just take as little or as much as you want (depending on how big you like your cookies)
- Shape into a ball between your hands and flatten slightly.
- Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a rack and enjoy!



Bon appétit!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A big bed for a big girl!

Noelie turned 2 last week and received a great and practical present from my mum and dad: her first big girl bed. To be truthful, they got it when they came over at the beginning of April and it has just sat in the spare bedroom since then. There were some practical issues that needed to be sorted before we could allow Noelie to have the freedom to get up out of bed by herself!
First, we needed to get safety gates. Although she is well able to go up the stairs by herself, she doesn't really attempt to do it without somebody following her. Well she tried a couple of times but quickly realized that Maman and Daddy weren't too keen on the idea. So we wanted to get safety gates for the upstairs landing, to prevent her from attempting to go down the stairs should she manage to get up out of bed and open the bedroom door without anybody noticing. As much as she has mastered the art of going up, she is far from having mastered the going down part. She tries to copy everybody else and walk down, which considering her size and the length of her legs means that she would tumble down at the first step.
Anybody would think that getting safety gates is a common enough thing to do and as such, an easy one. Not in our experience! Firstly, our landing is wide. We could find safety gates that fit but at what we considered to be too high a price (I know, safety has no price, but seriously would you pay 150 euros + for safety gates?). So we looked into the extensions on a normal safety gate option which seemed like a good idea. After visiting a couple of Mothercare shops, we discovered that we could find the safety gate we wanted, but it seemed that none of them had the extensions in stock. Eventually, we found one shop that did have them in stock. Very happy, we purchased our safety gate and the extension, and other bits and pieces we needed and made our way home. Simple, hey! Well, no. It turns out that we were given the wrong extension, it wasn't even the same brand as the gates and wouldn't fit onto them. And on top of that, had we been able to fit the extension on, we were missing quite a few inches in length. So, we went hunting for the right extension and the right length. We went to another Mothercare shop, where they had no extensions but took back the wrong one and gave us a refund. They also said that they could order them in and we could collect them but had no idea how long the process would take. We then decided to order them ourselves on the website as it really made more sense. Simples again.

Well, guess what? Not so simples. We looked on the website and for a start, although they sell white safety gates, they only sell silver and black extensions. We went for the silver ones, that were in stock and expected the delivery within 10 working days. Everything was fine, or so we thought. A week or so later, I received a phone call informing me that the 14 cm extension wasn't in stock so they'd give us a refund and we could order it again when they were back in stock (all research and checking would have to be done by ourselves, of course). Wonderful customer service, isn't it?

A couple of days later, the delivery came with one of the extensions we'd ordered but we were still a few inches short. So the safety gate was just sitting there, under the stairs, with its too short of an extension, in other words, absolutely useless.

Eventually, we decided to put the safety gate up at the bedroom door and forget about extensions and the likes. So on Saturday, Mr Foodie plucked up the courage to put the bed together (why is it that men as much as they love putting things together, don't like reading the instructions on how to do it?) and the cot went out of the room.

This didn't seem to phase her at all. As soon as the bed was up, she wanted to go for a 'dodo' (sleep). Noelie is at a stage where she loves doing the same things as her big sister and, for the past couple of weeks, insisted on getting into her sister's bed in the morning with a book and the bedside lamp on, just like her big sister.

At bedtime, she rushed up the stairs really excited about sleeping in her big girl's bed. I know that sometimes the transition from cot to bed is not necessarily and easy one, but I have to admit that we were more nervous than she was. All through the evening, we kept listening out for a thump, indicating that she'd fallen out of bed, despite the barrier. We went up a few times too, to make sure that she was OK (something that we haven't had to do in ages!). But the night went without a hitch or thump. My main worry wasn't really nighttime, it was more nap time. What if she didn't want to sleep and kept getting out of bed? But that too went without a hitch.

The second night took a little more work. We had put Noelie to bed slightly later than usual, and Marie followed closely. After a few minutes, Marie shouted from the landing that Noelie kept getting out of bed and coming into her bed, and that she'd like to sleep now please so could somebody come up and put her in her own bed and make sure that she stayed there. So I went up and settled both girls back into their respective beds. I calmly told Noelie that it was time to go asleep in her own big girl bed and so she did. And so far, there has been no nap time or bedtime escapes.

The cot is now on the landing, ready to be put into our room for the arrival of Peanut in 9 (or less) weeks time. And she hasn't as much as taken a look at it on her way to her big girl's bed. We are very lucky that she has taken to it like a duck to water and that she was ready for it. It is quite an emotional thing for parents, seeing their baby make the transition from cot to bed. She looks so small in such a big thing. But I can't help but wonder, are we, parents, making more of a big deal about it than it really is for our children?

What do you think? How was the transition from cot to bed for you?

Angelina Ballerina Pop Star Girls review

A while ago, HIT entertainment, the company behind such famous names as Barney, Bob the Builder and Thomas and Friends just to name a few, sent me the new Angelina Ballerina Pop Star Girls to review.

Noelie was in the midst of a terrible Cbeebies obsession and trying to get her to watch anything that wasn't Cbeebies related was a nightmare. Marie, being 8, thought that the DVD was for babies as she is more into the likes of Disney Channel right now. But eventually, I won the battle and managed to get them to sit down long enough to watch the 5 episodes. And something miraculous happened, they both really loved it.

For those of you who are not familiar with Angelina (or those just vaguely familiar with her, like I was), she is a little mouse whose goal in life is to become a prima ballerina. She works hard at it and, even though, sometimes, things don't go according to plan, she always learns from her mistakes. The cartoon is based on the very popular books written by Katherine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig and the little mouse was given an excellent CGI treatment for this exclusive 5 episodes DVD.

In this DVD, Angelina finds out that there is more than just classical music and ballet. She discovers hip hop, folk, rock and rediscovers the pleasure of lullabies.

I have to say that since discovering Angelina Ballerina, it has become a daily request from Noelie who loves dancing and singing to it. Marie has also taken to it (I think she identifies with Angelina as she loves to dance and she is also a big sister, just like the little mouse!).

Angelina Ballerina Pop Star Girls DVD is available from all major retailers and from www.hitstoreuk.com at a cost of £12.99 and runs for 60 minutes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Food Friday: No bake Lemon and Orange Cheesecake.

This week is Noelie's 2nd birthday. Time just flew in and I can remember very clearly what I baked for her birthday last year. We decided to celebrate her birthday early with family and friends. Mr Foodie and I started baking on Friday, to save rushing on Saturday. We had decided to bake a chocolate cake, a quiche, cookies (3 different types) and make a lemon and orange cheesecake (I say make because it's a no bake cheesecake).

So Friday I got cracking with the cookie dough that can be refrigerated and kept overnight, the quiche and the cheesecake. I made it all from scratch. I left the baking of the cookies and the chocolate cake for the Saturday morning.

I love the cheesecake recipe as it is one of the easiest and tastiest recipe I have ever come across. Other people seem to agree with me as I was asked to wrap up the last two slices so that they could be taken home.

So I decided to share the recipe with you. Try it out and let me know what you think!


Ingredients:

- 200 grs Digestive biscuits.
- 100 grs of butter.
- 1 can of condensed milk.
- 1 tub of Philadelphia (300 grs).
- 2 or 3 Lemons and Oranges.

How to?

- Melt the butter.
- Bash the biscuits.
- Mix the melted butter and the biscuit crumbs.
- Put the mix in the base and refrigerate while you do the next steps.
- Mix together the condensed milk, the cream cheese and the juices of the oranges and lemons.
- Beat up until it thickens a bit.
- Pour over the base.
- Decorate with either biscuit crumbs or lemon and orange zest.
- Refrigerate for as little as a couple of hours, as long as 24 hours.
- Cut up and enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

WAHM: Don't know how to get started!

I've been on both sides of the fence. I have been a working mum and I have been a stay at home mum. Both have advantages and both have disadvantages.

I have experienced the guilt of leaving your child for so many hours a day to go and work and bring money in. I have experienced the exhaustion of rushing constantly from home to creche to work to creche to home, the exhaustion of having to do everything to a strict schedule and only putting your feet up late at night, thinking now I can relax and falling asleep on the sofa 10 minutes later. I have experienced the corporate world and climbed up the ladder only to be made redundant after 10 years of loyal services. My dedication and loyalty to the company meant nothing to them. At first, I was glad not to have to return to work, not to fall back into that trap of running around like a headless chicken. Feeling like I was being cut in half, feeling like I couldn't give as much as somebody who didn't have children, because I had to leave on time to pick Marie up, because there was always the possibility of THE phone call, that something happened and that I would have to leave work and feel like I was letting other people down. Feeling like I wasn't flexible enough for the company. Although nothing was ever said to that effect, it was always there at the back of my mind.
And then there is the other side of it, feeling guilty that I couldn't see Marie's first steps, first words, delegating so many of the decisions to the creche. They made the transition to solids, not me, they potty trained her, not me, they looked after and cared for her, not me. So many not mes. Feeling guilty about it all, because in the back of my mind, it should have been me. She was my child, my responsibility, mine to bring up, I should have been there to make those decisions, witness those firsts. I was torn like most of working mums are.

Then after being made redundant, I jumped the fence and stayed at home. It was and still is a wonderful experience. I am there for those firsts for Noelie, I am there for Marie to help with her homework, to get her to school and pick her up, I look after the house, I look after Mr Foodie and I am enjoying it immensely. I don't need to rush from here to there, like I used to. I feel more complete and I feel like I belong. But there is a downside to it too. Unfortunately, it's quite a damn big one. Financially, things are harder, as you would expect them to be. I feel guilty about the fact that I don't bring in an income and that we have to be more careful with our money. I feel guilty that Mr Foodie works his arse off and I don't share the financial burden. He works hard and should be able to enjoy the rewards of his hard work instead of being faced with the worry of what had come out, what needs to come out and how much is there left, of how can we save more. I am very grateful to him for not complaining about and getting on with things. But yet, once again, I am not 100% happy with the balance. Before it was too much work, not enough time for the children and enough money and now, it's enough time with the children, and not enough money. Does a mother's guilt ever go away? It feels like you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

There has to be a happy medium or is it just an illusion? And then I look at my lovely neighbour. She is a work at home mum. She has two successful business that she runs from home, that bring in an income. She is a personal trainer and she is also a hairdresser. And I envy her. It feels like she has found that balance I am currently looking for. This is what I would like to do. I would love to be a work at home mum. Unfortunately, I don't have any of her hands on skills, I can't cut hair, I can't train people, I can't do much with my hands other than cook and bake. I have other skills, of course. I have made a list of them.  I am fluent in French and English. I can teach people. I can make mean PowerPoint presentations. I'm sure I have skills there that would allow me to make a living from home. I'm far from stupid, I learn fast. I just need to be able to take my skills out of the corporate environment and apply them differently. I can see that this is what I need to do. I just don't know where to start, what to do and how to go about it. Self doubt is clouding my judgement. I just need to think outside the box for long enough to be able to formulate a viable idea (not easy with baby brain!). All I need is a bit of direction and support. Does anybody have any spare supply of it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pampers factory: a trip to remember

Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited to visit the Pampers factory in Manchester and meet the experts from the Pampers Parenting panel.

It was a very busy day that started very, very early (4.30 am anyone?). Mr Foodie had been very kind and taken the day off to look after the girls and he even got up to make me a fresh pot of coffee! At the airport, I met Sandra from mummypages.ie and Chris, the lovely PR from Fleishman Hillard.

Due to a misplaced boarding pass, Chris and I took a mad dash through Terminal 2 to make it onto the plane on time. If you saw a pregnant woman running through the terminal with her belt in her hand and her trousers falling off closely followed by another lady running in her socks carrying her shoes, well, that was us! The exercise certainly woke me up at that early hour and really is not that different from running after a toddler who doesn't want to put her shoes and coat on!

We arrived in Manchester and had breakfast while we waited for Barbara from parenthood.ie who was arriving on a later flight. As we were early and the event wasn't due to start for another couple of hours, we went to the Trafford Centre for a spot of shopping (or window licking as we call it in french!).

We finally arrived at the Pampers factory for the event. There I had the pleasure of meeting fellow mummy bloggers SimplyHayley, Mummysbusyworld, Simone and Wendy. We all gathered in the conference room for an informal meet and greet along with the Experts from the Pampers  Village Parenting Panel, and representatives from Pampers. The experts were very interested in the mummy bloggers, on how and why we blog, where we get our inspiration from, how we started etc.

The Plant Manager then gave us a presentation on the brand and the plant which celebrated its 75th birthday a couple of years ago. We then received a presentation on what goes into a nappy and how it works to keep your baby dry for up to 12 hours! We had great fun ripping nappies apart to see the various layers of material they are made of (which, despite having nappies at hand everyday for the past 2 years, funnily never really occurred to me before!). Did you know that the absorbent gel thingy (I believe it's called polymer) is the same thing that goes into sanitary towels as well as the bottom of prepackaged meat? Well, I didn't, but it does make sense when you think about it. Another interesting thing is that all Pampers nappies across the world are designed and manufactured the same way and that a pack of size 5 Pampers in Ireland is the exact same product as a size 5 in Japan or the US. The only thing is that some sizes wouldn't exist in some countries (Pampers size 7 or 8 are available in North America!).

Everybody listening to the presentation.
Over lunch, we had the chance to mingle and talk to the experts. I had a great chat with Mary Steen-Greaves, the expert midwife on the Parenting Panel. We talked about the differences in prenatal care in the UK and Ireland (which are a world apart), premature birth, breech babies, c-sections and breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. She was the most approachable midwife I ever spoke too and I very much liked her philosophy that 'a happy mummy is a happy baby' and 'you have to do what works for you'. I also talked to Dr Maggie Redshaw, the development expert, about bilingualism. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to talk to the other experts:
- Dr Gillian Lockwood, the fertility expert.
- Laura Williams, the fitness and nutrition expert
- Dr David Atherton, the skin expert.
- Denise Knowles, the relationship expert
- Nicola Cairncross, the money expert and Wendy Dean, the sleep expert.

We were then given highly fashionable (not) safety shoes and hi-vis vests and went on a tour of the plant and witnessed how the production works, from raw material to finished product. Most of it is handled by very fast and very impressive machines, and quality checks are performed at every single stage of the production. Unfortunately, us Irish bloggers had to leave before the end of the tour because we had a plane to catch and didn't get to see the warehouse and shipping part of the process.

During the tour.

I got home about 6pm that same evening and I have to say the house was still standing, the girls were in one piece, and dinner was on its way too (not that I ever doubted it would be otherwise)! I had such a wonderful time that Mr Foodie could hardly put in a word edge ways as I was telling him all about the day. So thank you P&G, Pampers, Fleishman Hillard and everybody else that made the day so memorable!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bumps and brains...

I am now 28 weeks pregnant and I feel like a whale. There I've said it. My head says that really I am not that big. If I look purely at numbers, I 'only' put on 3 kgs in 3 months (well, the last time I was weighed), which really is not that much. But I'm quite petite and this bump is without a doubt the biggest bump I have ever had. And I have had 2 before! Even at the end of both my previous pregnancies I don't think I had such a big bump. Going to the hospital for check ups puts things in perspective though and makes me feel quite good, because when I look at all the other bumps waiting for their check ups, I realise that really my bump is not that big. That and the fact that I haven't yet developed any stretchmarks! Don't ask me for a miracle cure, I haven't got one. And if anything I am definitely not as rigorous when it comes to applying cream to my bump as I was with the 2 others. This one is quite a mystery really as my skin has always been very dry and far from being stretchy!  I am definitely carrying this bump differently than the girls. While, with the girls I had a bump that was mainly towards the front, this one seems to be more across. But all this doesn't make it any lighter and bending forward has become something close to mission impossible. Putting my shoes on is becoming difficult as I have to consider both the bump and my back which still acts up some days more than others.

I have gone for some physio appointments which have helped and have been cause for great laughs. I came back from the first one with one of those tubey things that help you support your bump although stepping into it now is becoming more and more difficult! And I came back from the second one with a triangle of elastoplast on my bum! I felt a bit like a broken down truck at the side of the motorway! I have had to take it off though because it was starting to peel off and was getting caught in my clothes and pulling the skin of my arse literally!

This bump is also the most active bump I have ever had. I don't know what this baby is doing in there but he must be having great fun! Jumping up and down and side to side and back to front. Every bone and organ in the vicinity is being kicked and pushed and prodded. He is a very very active baby and quite a jittery one too and would sometimes take 'fits' of movement that are quite incredible to feel and even more impressive to look at. We are pretty sure we saw an arm (or leg) rolling across my belly the other night!

Baby brain has also set in and I'm forever forgetting things. I would walk into the kitchen and by the time I get there not remember what I went in for. I think that this baby has also stolen my writing mojo. I have had great ideas for posts and then either forgot them, or sat down to write and haven't been able to string 2 words together that make sense. We have had a very busy week with Marie's communion and a day trip to Manchester to visit the Pampers factory (more about that soon!) and I find it quite hard to get over the tiredness this week which doesn't help either but I am trying to apply the old philosophy of the more you write, the more you'll want to write. Hope it's going to work!

So please bear with me while this little baby is sucking all my brains and energy (and kicking the netbook that is resting on my bump!), I promise you that I will make sense soon (hopefully).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review : Little Dish

I usually cook food from scratch. I like the sense of achievement and to see the look on people's faces whenever they taste my food. Noelie eats the same food we do. And you better put the plate in front of her before you cut anything otherwise she thinks that she is not eating the same thing and would rather eat what's on your plate than what's on hers.

I have never seen a baby love vegetables and fruit so much. Actually, I have never seen a toddler (because she's hardly a baby now that she turns 2 at the end of the month) eat like that. A sure way to know if she is not well is to look at her plate. If she refuses to eat, then there is something wrong. Anytime we cook, she wants to sit on the counter and look at what we are doing. And if we taste anything, she wants to taste it too. She loves looking at whatever is in the oven and just generally loves food. She is not a fussy eater.

I am not going to lie, there are days when I or Mr Foodie are not in the mood for cooking and we usually resort to ready made lasagna (there's a dish I have never managed to get right) and salad. I sometimes give Noelie baby food at lunchtime, especially if there are no leftovers from dinner the day before. And we do have a few stored in the cupboard just in case. However, I am not a big fan of them as they all look the same, orange gloop with bits.

Then Little Dish got in contact with me (a while ago, sorry!) to try their ready made fresh dinners, I was immediately won over by their philosophy: making fresh, healthy food using only 100% natural ingredients without adding salt or sugar. Just like I would cook at home myself. So off we went in search of their products. We selected 3 of their wide range: the Mild Chicken Korma, the Salmon and Broccoli pasta bake and the Cottage Pie.


The first thing that struck me was that you can actually recognize what's in the dish, unlike so many baby foods around, rice looks like rice, salmon looks like salmon. It looks and smells like you've made it yourself. Noelie wasn't too keen on the chicken Korma but she wasn't feeling great that day and I am pretty sure that this is what it came down too. I have to admit that I finished her plate and it was really tasty, not too strong, not too bland. The Cottage Pie and Salmon and Broccoli Pasta Bake went down a treat and there was next to nothing left for me to taste (you are supposed to taste yourself too, aren't you?).

I was really glad to find out that these Little Dishes can be frozen too. As I don't rely much on ready made food for Noelie, they could have sat in the fridge for a quite a while and they could have gone off without me noticing. But the fact that they can be frozen means that I didn't have to worry about it. I just popped them in the freezer and took them out whenever I needed them. It was also great knowing that there were no nasty preservatives or other unknown ingredients in them, that there was no added sugar or salt, just like I would cook myself! And that they definitely passed the Noelie taste test!


If your children are past the toddler stage, Little Dish also has a beautifully illustrated cookbook out entitled 'Little Dish Favourites Cookbook', full of more than 60 favourite recipes for the whole family, from Macaroni and Cheese to Chili and Rice Bake to Pink Ice Cream, all tried and tasted by children and adults alike, and with no added salt. The recipes are divided in various sections: First tastes for that all important weaning period, Family Dishes (itself divided into sections such as poultry, vegetarian, meat and fish) and finally the Treats and Puddings. Each section has its own introduction with tips and guidelines from when to start weaning to dealing with fussy eaters to choosing the right treats. The degree of complexity of each recipe is clearly indicated along with the prep time and the cooking time which makes it easy for busy parents to identify and select the recipe that will suit their needs. They don't require an infinite list of ingredients and all of them are readily available. I particularly liked the fact that all the weights were both in grs and oz since I don't do imperial (sorry I'm from the continent, give me grs and kgs anyday!) The recipe planner at the end of the book lists all the recipes by degree of complexity but also points out the ones that can be made ahead, freeze well and the ones in which children can easily get involved. It also matches various recipes together to provide meal ideas. We decided to try out the Meat Loaf recipe as I had never cooked one before. The result was very tasty despite its appearance (but that definitely would be my fault and not the books!!).

I would definitely recommend the fresh dinners to any parent who wants to give their children nutritious food even if they might not have the time to make it all from scratch themselves.The Little Dish range of fresh dinners is available in the UK from the following retailers: Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Boots and on Ocado.com and can be found in the Republic of Ireland in Tesco and Superquinn stores.

And I would also recommend the cookbook for those who are past the toddler stage and are looking for easy and tasty recipes that the whole family will like. It is available from WH Smith, Waterstones, Tesco, Ocado, and Sainsbury’s, or online at Amazon.co.uk.

Go on, give it a try!

In order to review, we received coupons and a free cookbook.

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