Friday, April 22, 2011

A different Easter: Tradition, food and craft.

Easter is upon us once again and I have been reading a few blogs relating to Easter celebrations and traditions in other countries. That got me thinking about the differences between Easter here and back home in France.

First of all, we do not have the Easter bunny. Instead, we have bells. Yes, I know, it sounds strange but it's not really, once you know the story behind it. From Good Friday until Easter Monday, church bells do not chime in France, in mourning for the passing of Jesus. The story told to children is that the bells have gone on a pilgrimage to Rome and, on their way back from Rome, they are celebrating the resurection by dropping treats for children to find.

Some traditional friture.
I am deliberately saying treats because, although we do get chocolate eggs (Kinder chocolate eggs were my favourite when I was a child), we get all sorts of different chocolates. As a matter of fact, apart from the Kinder eggs, I don't recall getting many eggs as such. I got chocolate hens, chocolate bunnies and something else we call 'friture'. A real 'friture' would be small fish the length of your little finger, deep fried and eaten whole but for Easter, we get chocolate friture. These are small chocolates shaped like fish. My mum and dad brought Easter chocolates over for the girls. They get their chocolates from one of the best chocolatiers in France and they are scrumptious. I have kept them hidden in a cupboard for the past few weeks and today I couldn't help but have a peek and there is a small bag of friture in there. Not sure the Easter bunny is going to leave that out for the girls to find on Sunday! I'm pretty sure the 2 chocolate hens (and other eggs and bunnies) will be enough to keep the girls happy.

Two little chocolate hens for the girls.
We also celebrate Easter with eggs. One of the traditions in my region is to make an Easter omelette. But it's not your usual omelette. It is a sweet omelette. Every year, on Easter Monday, a small village beside mine makes one of the biggest omelette in the world. It is made with 15 000 eggs and cooked in a 400kgs, 4m wide pan before being shared (for free) amongst the villagers and tourists that have come to see this tradition that started in 1973.

French Sweet Easter Omelette:

Ingredients for 4 persons:

- 8 eggs
- 50 grs of caster sugar
- 10 grs of vanilla sugar
- 40 grs of butter
- a pinch of salt
- 7 cl of  rhum (optional)

- In a bowl, break 5 of the eggs.
- Separate the yolks and whites of the last 3 remaining eggs.
- Add the yolks to the bowl, the pinch of salt and beat.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with 10 grs of sugar until soft peaks appear.
- Fold the whites in with the other eggs.
- In a pan, melt the butter.
- Once melted, pour the mixture in.
- Once cooked, sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
- Flambé with the rhum (basically pour the rhum over and set alight. Be careful not to burn yourself! Also, it is safe to give to children as the alcohol gets burnt off in the process).
- Enjoy hot or cold!

Now that's one big pan!
So this week, we started our Easter celebrations in the Foodie household. Marie and myself decorated a few eggs. Some people boil the eggs but I decided to empty them and make an omelette with them instead (I am not a big fan of hard boiled eggs). So we proceeded to make small(ish) holes at the top and bottom of the egg shells with needles. And then the hard work of blowing the egg out began. You have to make sure that the holes are big enough to get the egg out. I find that shaking the egg for a little while before blowing makes it easier. We then washed the eggs before dipping them in food colouring. The longer you leave it in, the deeper the colour. If you want designs on the eggs, you can draw on them with crayons (that way the die doesn't take under the crayon). You can leave the crayon on, or using an eraser, take it off. If you have some glitter glue, you can use that to decorate your eggs. The options are endless, you can glue paper on, put little gems on, whatever you have at hand can be used. So here are the results of our morning of Easter egg decorating.

Why don't you give it a go (either the omelette or the decorating!) and let me know how you got on? In any case, have a wonderful Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

There's a new club I'd like you to join,

I'm officially on autopilot except that it looks more like the blow up doll on 'Airplane!' than a real autopilot. I don't even know how I can manage to string two words together together (see!). We are exhausted. I know I keep banging on about it but we are really not used to broken nights anymore. And it's been a week now.
We have had broken nights because of fever and 3am Nurofen calls. We have had difficult bedtimes because of over tiredness. Noelie had been crying for nearly 4 hours solid, full on cries, snots, tears and souvenirs and eventually around 10 pm, she just lied down and within half a second, she was snoring loudly which led Mr Foodie and I to laugh hysterically after the tension of dealing with her. One minute, she was a screaming, wriggling, crying, refusing to do anything toddler, the next, she was sound asleep on the bed, snoring away as if nothing had happened. The only problem was that she was lying sideways on OUR bed which meant that neither of us could really lie down properly to go asleep.

Yesterday, things were getting back to normal(ish). We had gone for our walks and Noelie had gone from a 15 minutes nap on Tuesday to 45 minutes on Wednesday to just over an hour yesterday.  The only thing was that she had quite bad nappies all throughout the day. Every dirty nappy was cause for a lot of distress, tugging at the nappy, even tears and eventually panic before every poo. We know that this was brought on by the antibiotics she takes to treat her UTI. They are playing havoc with her digestive system. Towards the end of the day, we were lulled into a false sense of security that things were really getting back to normal. Her appetite had returned and she was happily eating grapes and spaghetti puttanesca (made all from scratch, where I got the will and energy from I will never know!) and asking for yoghurt for dessert. Once she finished her dinner, she asked to go to bed and made a beeline for her cot, a scene that we hadn't witnessed for nearly a week now. So there she was nicely tucked up in bed, Mr Foodie and Marie were clearing the table and I was giving my daily update to my mum when she started screaming. Real screams of distress and discomfort. I thought that it was just another poo so we took her down to change her. Indeed, it was a dirty nappy, she was a little red down there but not as bad as some of the rashes she had gotten from previous antibiotics. And then it started. She started screaming and crying in discomfort, calling me, telling me she had a 'caca' (poo in french) when she clearly had done nothing. And tugging at her nappy,wriggling around while she was sitting down, trying obviously to relieve a terribly annoying itch. It then dawned on me. We (when I say we, I mean women) all know what it is. I don't know one woman who hasn't had it. That terrible urge to scratch, the irritating itch in that particular area, the discomfort: thrush. The antibiotics had brought on a bad case of thrush.  She was quite distraught, trying to scratch herself and I had nothing in the house I could put on to relieve the itch. We have never really had to use barrier creams with her and I can't remember the last time we did. I sent a text to my neighbour to see if she had anything. She came around with Sudocrem and, upon seeing Noelie's behaviour confirmed what I thought, thrush. Itching that drives you up the walls.  Mr Foodie decided to go to the pharmacy to see if they could give us anything for her and the neighbour went back to her house to get me some probiotics she uses for her son who has to use antibiotics regularly.

In the meantime, Mr Foodie found an open pharmacy (not an easy thing to do at 8.00pm in rural Ireland) and was explaining the problem to the chemist. To say that he is not a prude would be the understatement of the century (if not the millennium). He can discuss anything using any words to describe any body part you can think off (and he has greatly enhanced my English vocabulary in that way!). We all know most men are not quite comfortable when it comes to buying sanitary towels and tampons and things like that, but he couldn't care less (thank goodness for that, otherwise I would still be waiting for those maternity towels I sent him around for when I was in hospital after giving birth to Noelie!). But discussing thrush on a toddler with a female chemist is bringing it to another level and for the first time in probably forever, he found himself lost for words to describe the problem. Luckily, the chemist was 'really nice' and gave him some Canesten cream, a powder and even some probiotics. He came home quite proud of himself having been able to discuss female ailments with an unknown female chemist.

In the meantime, the neighbour was happily entertaining Noelie dancing with her in the middle of our sitting room to In the Night Garden. As soon as Mr Foodie came home, on went the cream and the powder and Noelie seemed to be instantly relieved and happily went back to bed. It was only 9pm by that time and both Mr Foodie and myself were fit for bed already. We struggled on for another hour before giving in and going to bed.

And then, around 12am, cries, winges, screams woke me up. It was not to be a good night again. Noelie was again itching like mad. So badly that it woke her up. So I went in to get her, triggering a bit of sciatica so bad that I couldn't put her down on my own bed, I could hardly walk, let alone get back into bed. We took her in, on went more cream and powder. But this time, there seemed to be no way of relieving her. She kept on wriggling, trying to scratch, wingeing, crying my name. And there was nothing I could do, just try and calm her down with words and cuddles. She was exhausted too and wanted to fall asleep but the itching was so uncomfortable for her that she just couldn't. Mr Foodie, being a man who never had the pleasure of knowning what thrush feels like, was struggling to understand why she couldn't just go back asleep and why I wasn't doing much to help her. So I found myself explaining what thrush was like at 1.30am to a sleep deprived Mr Foodie while trying to distract an itchy toddler by putting on a play with Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy and putting In the Night Garden on the DVD player in the bedroom.. Eventually she settled... Around 3.30 am... Mr Foodie's alarm going off at 5.30 am was not a welcome sound by any of us, least of all Mr Foodie who knew he had to get up.

This morning, she seems to be a bit better. We walked to school. She has complained a little bit but not half as much as yesterday. She is not as red as she was either. She took her probiotics and had breakfast. She was so tired that she fell asleep in my arms at 10.30. Now, that hasn't happened since she was a baby! We walked back to school to collect Noelie who is now on her Easter holidays and spent a bit of time in the garden. Hopefully, she will be able to catch another nap and I'll be able to go asleep a bit too. Because I am on autopilot and it doesn't feel nice. People in work commented on Mr Foodie's looks today, asking if he'd been drinking all night. I am sure he'd rather have been drinking all night than having to deal with an itching mad toddler. Mr Foodie has been talking about it with female colleagues (told you he wasn't a prude) and all of them have nodded in compassion and offered advice. They have decided to create the 'Itchy Fanny' club (their title not mine!). Care to join?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sleep: a faraway memory!

Has anybody seen the film 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose'? Quite scary wasn't it?  I forget some of the details now because it's been a long time now since we watched it. One thing I remember is that it established 3am as the demonic hour. The characters wake up at 3am all the time and experience strange things. It seems that we are having a remake of it here in the Foodie Household. Except that we know the name of the demon: Noelie.

She has been waking up every night around 3 am since last Saturday and has been quite a little demon for the past few days. She has been quite unwell because of her kidney infection and , as we do when she is not well, we took her into our bed. So, on top of my own kidney infection that has brought with it indescribable back pain, my ever growing bump and intermitent sciatica and Mr Foodie's snoring (I know, dear, there is nothing you can do about it), I have had to put up with a wriggling, unwell, and recently snoring toddler too. Try sleeping with a foot stuck near your head, or worse a bum lifted up in the air (how she can sleep in that position is beyond me)! We have been very lucky so far and she has always loved sleeping in her cot and slept well through the night so we shouldn't complain that, from time to time, she gives us a little challenge to deal with. And I suppose we better get used to interrupted sleep with the new baby coming soon. The only comforting thing is that I we are not alone in this (hopefully temporary) situation as Pampers let me know a while ago by sending me this press release.

Research Shows 94% of Irish parents walk up to 2 miles per day to get their baby to sleep while  90% of mums are doing the night shift


  • 94.7% of parents walk between 0.5 and 2 miles with their baby to help them sleep
  • 64% of parents think that getting baby to sleep is one of the most stressful things about becoming a parent
  • 32.2% of babies wake once each night and 24% of babies wake twice each night
  • 58.1% of parents spend up to 15 minutes soothing baby back to sleep
  • 90.9% of respondents feel that mothers attend to babies more in the night
  • 33.3% of parents feel that they averaged 6 hours of sleep per night in the first 0-36 months of their babies life
As any new parent can confirm, a night of interrupted sleep can be the norm for a newborn baby and his parents.  New research by Pampers has found that some Irish parents can walk up to 2 miles/3.2 kilometres per day in an effort to lull their baby back to sleep, clocking up over 60 miles/ 96 kilometres miles a month – a distance equivalent of Dublin to Holyhead.

Pampers® understands that a good night’s sleep for baby is top of any parent’s wish list. This is what Pampers calls golden sleep.  To find out more Pampers spoke to almost 500 parents from throughout the country to learn about their baby’s sleep patterns with some of the findings proving very interesting.

64% of Irish parents have cited the lack of sleep as the most stressful part of becoming a new parent with over 70% stating their baby wakes between one and three times each night.  Naps can also prove difficult with 42% of parents bringing their baby out in a buggy to get them to sleep, and 94% of these parents walking up to 2 miles per day to get their baby to sleep.

 There are enough reasons why your baby can wake up during the night and so Pampers understands that parents certainly don’t want their baby’s wet nappy to be one of them!  For Pampers, the land of golden sleep is a place where babies sleep soundly and can stay comfortable for up to 12 hours.

While your baby sleeps they can wee up to 12 times a night. Until now the link between weeing and baby’s sleep has not been fully understood. However, the results of new research*, pioneered by Pampers, offers interesting findings.

The study has discovered that the actual motion of having a wee can potentially wake your baby up (what Pampers calls the pesky Invisible Alarm Clock in the land of golden sleep). Then as your little one wees more and more throughout the night the wetness can build and may disturb his sleep.  

That’s why the new Pampers Baby-Dry nappy now features Extra Absorbent Zones. Specially created to provide faster absorption, the Extra Absorbent Zones are 14% wider than on previous Pampers Baby-Dry nappies, so this super absorbent nappy speeds wetness away faster, helping keep your baby dry and comfortable for up to 12 hours.

 To help parents get their baby to drift off into the land of golden sleep, Pampers has created four new age-related bedtime routines, called the Pampers Soothology™ routines with its sleep expert Wendy Dean. The routines aim to help ease families through their baby’s ever changing night time needs: from 0-3 months; 4-6 months; 7-12 months; and 12+ months.

Pampers sleep expert Wendy Dean says: “Sleep is important for your baby to process all that they have learnt during the day. Following a sleep routine, such as the Soothology routines will help your baby to get into a regular pattern of sleeping through the night, something all parents want for their babies.”

 Thanks to Pampers Baby-Dry you can help ensure that your baby’s much-needed sleep will not be disturbed because of a wet and bulky nappy. Following a night of golden sleep your baby will wake refreshed so you can enjoy brighter mornings together – ready to embrace the day ahead.

 To visit the Pampers land of golden sleep, go to the Pampers Village website The land of golden sleep contains the four Soothology™ routines, plus lots of other useful items and tips to help your baby sleep through the night, including a sleep diary, lullabies, bedtime stories and a Frequently Asked Questions factsheet.

So I think I'll pop over and check it out, they might have a miracle cure for a toddler that was sleeping well and now isn't. After I get a nap that is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time flies (whether you're having fun or not)

It's been 2 weeks since I last posted. Where has the time gone? Despite the glorious sunshine, it hasn't all disappeared in the garden where we did spend a lot of time. It has gone on various things, some nice, some not so nice. So let me give you an idea of what happened during those past 2 weeks:

- My jobseekers benefit ran out. I knew that would happen soon, I just didn't know when. I was never notified of the date. All I received was a long form back at the end of January, that I dully filled in and returned. But no letter advising me that my benefit would run out on such a date. So imagine my surprise when I went to collect my weekly pittance and discovered that it was not there. After a few phone calls, I discovered that they could not process my application as a form that establishes my 'habitual residence' wasn't accompanying the form. And how am I supposed to fill that in if there is no mention of it anywhere and it's not sent to me? Another sign of how efficiently the department of Social Protection is being run and how there is absolutely no consideration for the people behind the numbers. Anyway, the situation has now been sorted and the means test has been done, resulting in the loss of quite a few euros a week. I just find it quite ironic that on the same week I have to fill in that 'habitual residence' form, I also get the other form, you know, the one I get only because I'm not Irish and that has to do with Child benefit.

- On a nicer note, my mum and dad came to visit. My mum stayed for a few days while my dad stayed for the whole week (the joys of retirement!). The girls were really happy to see them, particularly Marie who had no idea that they were coming despite a few slip ups on our part. She thought I'd gone to the hospital for a check up when I was really gone to the airport. The look on her face was priceless!

- We finally got her communion dress and shoes in. After a bit of indecision on her part, she has finally made up her mind that she wanted to make her communion. So my mum and dad kindly went shopping with us and we found a lovely, simple and elegant communion dress, paired with lovely, simple and elegant shoes. I think you have all understood that we are going for simple and elegant as opposed to looks like this.

- We also had our first (and probably only) scan. And we can now confirm that the due date is the 7th of August (give or take a few days). We have also found out that we are expecting a little boy! That should round off the family very nicely. I'll just have to learn how to change nappies for boys and how to avoid nappy changing unexpected showers of pee.

-  Noelie and myself developed quite bad kidney infections. Mine saw me take to my bed at 11.30 am on Saturday morning and not really get up until Sunday. The back pain was unbearable and made me walk like a 90 year old woman. We went to the doctor's on Monday and Noelie has now to complete a course of antibiotics for the next week. She has also turned to cranckometer to the highest setting, resulting in a fully blown tantrum lasting 3 hours last night as she was over tired and refused to go to bed (something we are definitely not used to!). And then, suddenly, she just lied on her back and fell asleep.

- We have spent a lot of time outside, gardening, taking walks to see the cows down the lane and enjoying the sunshine.

So, in a nutshell, these were the highs and lows of the past couple of weeks!

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