Friday, 24 October 2014

Bali, baby

Now, where was I? Ah yes, dragging my sorry ass around Singapore in the name of exercise. The point of the (one-off) exercise was Bali - specifically, bikini-wearing in Bali - which is where today's dispatch comes from. 'Why are you updating your blog?' I hear you all cry; 'why are you not out lounging about on a beach somewhere, surfers in sight, cocktail in hand?'   Well because I'm sitting in front of Sofia the First with a vomiting Girl, while everyone else goes lounging and surf-sighting. (Except for the Man, who has had to leave for 3 days for work. Which is why the Girl is sick. You can set your vomiting-alarm by his travel diary.)  
So, Bali. It is NOT Singapore. You poo on the beach in Singapore? You go to jail. Probably forever. Poo on the beach in Bali?  Why limit it to just the once? As a result, we've been hanging out at our villa quite a bit.  A beautiful villa with a beautiful pool. To be on the safe side - I assume - the villa-owner has added a bit of water to the chlorine in the pool.  Turns out that green hair sort of suits my children. Although swollen-shut eyes isn't a great look for the Boy. 
The Baby either has chickenpox (again!) or has been ravaged, all at once, by tiny hungry baby mosquitoes.  Only on her face*, however, which is fine, because who ever looks at a baby's face? (*21 and counting.) So we didn't take any photos of her on her birthday. Which was celebrated the day after her birthday, because we spent her birthday travelling. And biting our tongues to stop selves from wishing her HAPPY BIRTHDAY  every few minutes.  And then the next day, the birthday oooomph was gone. But anyway, she is two! We're hopeful that this is the year she starts to talk slightly. Something - anything - beyond No, and Thiiiiiiis, and MINE!  (And grows out of her mosquito bites.)
Speaking of which, today is the Boy's birthday. And because the Man is away, we are celebrating it tomorrow. Gah. So last night I brought him out to the markets to see if there was anything he wanted to buy. (Luckily, he loves tat).  After touching and picking up every single thing on the island, and possibly getting several contracts out on him by very disgruntled stall-owners, he alighted (the pun will be revealed in a moment) on a small cobra figure. Which of course, he picked up, cupped in his hand, flicked a random switch, and.... Cue screeching, a dropped cobra, and the smell of burning  flesh. Poor the Boy. To cheer him up he got a (very permanent looking) scorpion tattoo covering most of his lower leg.  (Which will go down a treat in school.)  And a fish spa session - which he loved. (Thousands of teeny wriggly baby fish nibbling at your skin - what's not to love??)
However. Despite the poo and the vomit and the blistered hands and scabby faces, Bali seems to be working its magic. I am relaxed! Exhausted and a bit stinky, but the skies are blue and the palm trees swaying. And one of my dearest friends is also here, with her (gorgeous, beautifully behaved, unlighted by bugs of any type) children, in the villa next door. We have a handy booze set up- gin in our villa, wine in hers. (There has been a LOT of going and froing.) But - I can't limit my villa-excursions to nipping next door for some Mummy's Little Helper, so we are heading out now, sick-bowls and pooper-scoopers in hand.   
Next week - we survive the flight home, good health is restored, and I start organising a party for 18 6 year old boys.  At home. Oh GOD why did I just think of that?

Friday, 10 October 2014

In which I decide to get fit. And then decide not to.

I’ve just been for a run.  My first since I became pregnant with the fully-grown-toddler Baby.  On the plus side, I didn’t wet myself, and none of my insides fell out of my vagina.  Nonetheless, running – particularly after  almost three years of not running – in the tropics is not something I’d really recommend.  If you are curious, however, and have the good sense and fortune not to live in a country with 100% humidity and melt-you-skin-heat every single day of the year, this is what to do.
  • Find yourself a steamroom.  One with no windows and a hatch is ideal.  
  • Drag a running machine inside it, and turn it on.
  • Set the temperature to Volcano, and the humidity to Ocean.
  • Put on the teeniest workout clothes you can find.  (Now is not the time for either modesty or self consciousness.)
  • Dip yourself in a bath of sweat-resistant insect repellent. (Or you could wonder what all the fuss is about and half-heartedly spray in the general direction of your body)
  • Have on hand the following:  an assistant; some snakes; several bin-liners full of angry mosquitoes.
  • Sprint into the steamroom, leap onto the running machine, and tell yourself that this isn’t so bad after all.
  • Run for about 12 seconds before realising you haven’t brought a drink.
  • Call out for one of the bags of mosquitoes to be opened and shaken through the hatch.  The hatch should be shut firmly afterwards.
  • Close your eyes and your mouth and keep running.
  • Wish you’d decided to go for the bath option after all.
  • Call out for a snake, and hope that it slithers away from you.
  • Develop the worst cramp you have  EVER had, and think about sitting down. 
  • Remember the snake and the mosquitoes and keep moving.
  • Start to feel the first symptoms of dehydration.
  • Call for more mosquitoes.
  • Shout “Lights out!”, run in the sudden and pitch dark, and tell yourself you’ve just experienced tropical sunset.
  • Randomly hit the incline button on the treadmill, thereby discovering hills in your neighbourhood you never knew existed.
  • Start to hallucinate.
  • Feel your knee twinge.
  • Call for more mosquitoes.
  • Decide, bugger it, you’re stopping.  Snakes and mosquitoes be damned.
  • Hobble out of the steamroom.
  • Check your watch.  You’ve been running for 11 minutes.
  • Lie facedown on a bed in an air-conditioned room without moving for so long that the Baby – the one who got you into this unfit mess in the first place – starts to cry with anxiety.
  • Sweat for about 2 hours. Even after you shower. Go to embrace your children, only to have them shriek and scurry away from you, their little faces filled with disgust. 
  • Wait another 3 years before trying anything this foolish again. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September Rolls

I honestly don’t know why I can’t get it together to post more than a couple of times – if that – a month. Perhaps I am worn out from all the sweating and the drinking of water and the draining of leaking water bottles from my handbags?  Whatever, not a huge amount has been going on. 


Which is a broken Le Creuset butter dish.   The enormity of this will be felt only if you live in a country / island state where Le Creuset costs FOUR TIMES (I kid you not) what it costs in the country / island multi-state you just moved from.  

Reflux.  Or something equally unpleasant and anti-social.  It is, I assume, the latest in the unceasing advance of The War of Middle Age.   (I am alone at the front, with only a twig and some loom bands for defence.)  So for about two weeks I completely cut out: caffeine; dairy; alcohol; citrus; tomatoes; chocolate; wheat.  It made fuck all difference, other than constant near-starvation, so now I’m miserable but replete/ half-cut, both of which take the edge off the misery somewhat. 

THE HEAT, people, the heat.  One of these days I swear I’m going to shake off my latent Scottish Presbyterianism and turn on the air-conditioning during the day.

Bastards.  As in:  “Oh Bastards!”, the Girl’s new expletive of choice.  (On the plus side, because of her ridiculous semi-American accent – Thank you, Frozen -  it comes out as “Oh Busters!”)

Pets.  There is no longer any pretence about the status of emotions towards the hamster. The Boy, yesterday:  “When Pink Red dies, can I get a guinea pig?” (Me:  “Certainly.  As long as it’s also dead.”)

A weekend on an island which looked like it was used for the Bounty Ad.  In fact, the Man tells me it was used for the Swedish version of Survivor;  which is hilarious, because it’s not exactly remote, or particularly wild.   I planned to take lots of photos to make you all wildly jealous, but then I’d have to have been honest.  So, eg the picture of the view from the restaurant bathroom, while idyllic (turquoise waters;  palm trees swaying in the afternoon breeze etc), was also the scene of many rather catastrophic bottom explosions from the Baby, who discovered the hard way the perils of not listening to STOP DRINKING SEA WATER;  the picture of the enormous jungle villa, in reality, the large (but not large enough) room where we ALL bunked down every night, sober, at 9pm, and lay listening to the Baby bark and meow and growl, and make whatever other ridiculous noises I presume she makes every night for hours before she finally falls asleep; the beautiful villa bathroom, with its enormous free-standing bath, which was perfect for rinsing the vomit out of all of Baby’s travelling clothes and various stuffed animals etc. (Notwithstanding all of the above, it was still amazing.)

I joined a book club!  Which – at the risk of doing them an enormous disservice – doesn’t seem to focus too much on the book, as much as on the Getting Away From The Children And Conversing With Grown Ups While Drinking Cocktails.  They are My People.

A woman in the park taking a photo of her dog.  Not entirely unusual here (or, I assume, anywhere) except that she was beseeching him – quite seriously – to “smile” and “say cheeeeeeeeeeese!”.   In her defence, he did look like he was both smiling and saying cheese, so maybe she knows something I don’t.  Or maybe he just had a stupid dog face.

Other Pets!  We seem to have acquired geckos.  Two.  (Which I suppose means that soon we’ll have thirty-two*).  They are quite lovely and sweet and make chirping noises while dancing underneath the cocktail cabinet (yes!) when they think no one is watching.  Also – and this contributes 100% to their loveliness – they are entirely maintenance-free, which is now the required standard for all incoming animals. (*As of this afternoon, we now have three.  Mummy, Daddy, and a gormless, translucent, and very tame, baby.  The children are ecstatic. Me, not so much.)

Bread.  The bread in Singapore is revolting. Also, quite expensive.  (I guess the cost of all those additives literally add up.)  So I took my Hugh Fearnley Whittingthingy pizza recipe and told my maid to turn turned it into bread rolls.  

Ta da!!:   

Easy and delicious and CHEAP.   (Also - quite impressive, no?)

Don’t be put off – as I was, for years – by baking with yeast.  YEAST IS YOUR FRIEND. A nice, unobtrusive friend, who keeps herself busy in the corner while you’re doing other things.

(Mind you, while easy, it takes a while for the dough to rise – twice – so not something you can just knock up and have ready to eat in half an hour.  I make the dough in the evening, then leave the uncooked rolls to rise overnight in the fridge – ready for baking in the morning.  But that is because I am a domestic goddess.  (Nothing whatsoever to do with having a maid.))

You need:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 (bare) tablespoon salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well, and pour in the water and oil.  Mix roughly with a spoon (or whatever), then roll up your sleeves and tuck in.  Once it’s all mixed and you have a dough, take it out of the bowl and KNEAD.  I know - proper baking!  Personally I don’t find it terribly therapeutic, but I’m assured it is.  Whatever – push it into the surface and away from you with some force, then fold it over on itself, turn it 90 degrees, then repeat.  Over and over and over again, for as close to 10 minutes as you can (all the time resisting the urge to just go to the shops and buy the effing ready-made stuff and all its component crap.) Then roll it into a ball, rub a tiny bit of oil around it, and put back in the bowl, covered, and leave to stand until it’s risen. (An hour if you live in a normal climate, about 27 seconds here.)

Once it’s risen, squish it back to its original size, then cut into 8 / 10 lumps, rolling each out into whatever shape roll you want.  Place a couple of inches apart on a baking tray, and leave to rise again – another hour or so.  Bake for about 13 minutes in a hot oven – 220c /Gas 7 or so.

And there you have it.  Home-made bread, AND a post.  I have surpassed myself this week.  I think I've earned some air-conditioning. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

In which I am Ungrateful

Unless you live under a rock (or – SHRIEK! – are not on Facebook) you’ll be familiar with the latest trend to hog the world’s FB thread: the gratitude challenge.  Because I am brow-beaten by middle-age, my wild children, and life in general (and perhaps slightly because I am a cynical bitch), I thought it was high time for an alternative.  Thus I present:

The Ingratitude Challenge*

1.  I am deeply ungrateful for the state of drivers and driving in Singapore. JESUS CHRIST someone needs to give drivers here a collective lesson in  (a) driving and (b) politeness.  (Bill Gates popped up on my FB thread this evening offering everyone $5,000 each;  I think I’ll ask him instead to bring everyone in Singapore to England for a week’s driving.  That should sort them out.)  Also – THE IMPORTANCE OF INDICATORS. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PEOPLE!  I did see someone use their indicator today, and I inwardly cheered – but then they turned the other way, which sort of negated it somewhat.  Also amusing today – in a bang-your-head-on-the-steering-wheel sort of way – was seeing a traffic policeman tap on the window of a stationary car, and usher them into the empty space in front of them.  Empty, that is, except for the yellow crossed markings on the ground. 

2.  I am deeply deeply ungrateful for the hamster (also, by default, for my son, for bringing him into our home, and then promptly losing all interest in him).  Not only has the burden of his emotional and physical well-being landed on my lap (often literally), but also has the task of finding the little fucker when he manages to escape from his cage.  (Mind you, this has only happened once, but it was the rodent version of The Great Escape, and took an entire morning, fuelled by the horror of finding his mummified corpse in my winter boots / the linen closet / one of our many random boxes filled with wires when we’re packing up to move in 2 years, to find him. He was under the tv gnawing on a cable, the little fucker.) 

3.  I remain ungrateful for the passing of time and the ravages of middle age.  I am currently sporting a small hole above my knee which seems determined to not heal - the side effect of having a small lump burnt off by my GP. “Nothing to worry about,” he blithely told me;  “A common skin growth which appears in older people.”  Cheeky bastard.  (At least I assume he was being cheeky.)

4.  Don’t start me on the kids’ school, and the shower of morons they use to bus them around. (They forgot the Girl last week!  Mind you, they were too busy yelling at me at the time for being “late” meeting the bus - when in fact it transpired they were early – to realise she wasn’t actually on the bus.  Jesus wept.)

5.  I cannot find it within me to be anything but ungrateful for my son’s cunning in taking advantage of the school’s insane cafeteria system, whereby student “purchases” are unquestioned, and then credited to the parents’ account.  (I am also somewhat disturbed by his apparent fondness for chocolate milk -  $45’s worth in two weeks, bloody hell.)

6.  Nothing will ever persuade me to be grateful for the humidity here.  My hair is a ruination.

HOWEVER!  I am not a totally ungrateful bitch (no middle-aged woman is an island, etc.)  I have feelings of gratitude too, just like everyone else. 

1.  I am grateful that people have stopped chucking water over themselves and wasting my broadband allowance with videos of themselves shrieking in astonishment at the coldness of iced water.

2.  I am grateful that I now know why my son has had diarrhoea for the past few weeks.

3.  I am grateful that our maid has worked out the difference between baking soda and baking powder.

4.  Apart from the having to deal with other drivers bit, I am grateful for my car.  Especially the seats in the boot, into which I can strap the children and not hear them, or see them flailing about in my periphery vision. 

5.  I am grateful to FINALLY have an oven with a working thermostat.  And, consequently, for these little nuggets of loveliness:

Not only my very own picture, but also my very own recipe, culled from several attempts to get the perfect Oat&Raisin cookie (necessitated because I went overboard on oats purchasing and now the damn kids won’t eat porridge).  

Oat & Raisin Cookies
  • 110g unsalted butter 
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150g oats
  • 100g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350f / g4

Cream together the butter and sugar, and when fluffy add the golden syrup, egg and vanilla essence.  Beat again until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Add to the butter mixture, and mix well. 

Stir in the oats and the raisins.

If you have time (and don’t have wild children, for whom you are not at that moment feeling AT ALL grateful, clawing at your legs) put the mixture in the fridge for an hour or so.  Otherwise jump straight to the next step.

Spoon a lump of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet – how much depends on how big you want the cookies to be – and flatten it with a fork.  You don’t want it too thin, however, or it’ll be too crispy once cooked.  Repeat with all of the mixture, keeping the cookies about an inch apart.

Cook for 10 -13 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.  You want the edges to be browned, but the inside to still be a bit soft when you take them out of the oven. (So ignore the picture above, which was the result of 14 minutes cooking.  They were still great, but more crunch than chew.)

Leave to cool for, oh, about 30 seconds, while you put on the kettle and are once again VERY GRATEFUL that you thought to bring several boxes of real English tea home with you. 

(*Please feel free to add to this.  Or, even better, start your own on Facebook! Personally, I am tired of people being grateful for their health and children and friends etc.  I want to see some more honest-to-goodness ingratitude in our lives.)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pink Stinks

Finally, it’s happened.  We have embarked on the long, tedious, and frankly rather disgusting journey that is Pet Ownership. Here’s the little critter:

(See him in the cowering in the corner there?  So would you, if you had his owner.  Also: be glad that there’s no scratch ‘n’n sniff function on d’internet; two days and his cage already smells like the bathrooms at a boys' school. )

He arrived two days ago  - after a laborious process involving a Responsibility & Kindness Chart (which was manipulated for its short-term gain, and abandoned as soon as we stepped foot inside the pet shop) – and our conversations have been variations on the following ever since:

Me:  Put him DOWN.  The vet said you can’t touch him for at least three days.
Me: Including kill him?
Boy:  He’s not dead yet, is he? So what are you worried about?
Me: Can’t you just please stop touching him?  Just until Friday.
Boy: FINE!
Me:  You need to be... ouch!.... careful putting him in the cage...
Me:  You also need to CLOSE the cage...
(Ah yes, but for how long? I give it two weeks, then  the whining about wanting a dog will begin again.)

In other news, we are all getting back into the swing of normal, boring Singaporean life.  I’ve remembered all the things that drive me mad about living here:
  • Preservatives and gelatine in every single thing you try to eat
  • How damn hot you get when you blow dry your hair
  • No matter how poker-straight your hair finally is, it makes fuck-all difference the minute you poke your head out the front door
  • The fact that no one – NO ONE!  – seems to know what that strange wandy thing sticking out beside their steering wheel is (IT’S AN INDICATOR PEOPLE - TRY IT!)
  • Cooking in our (non air-conditioned) kitchen is a form of Bikram yoga

but also everything I really quite like:
  • The weather ( “Like walking into a warm embrace” as the Man says)
  • The pool, as our default answer to the daily “How the hell am I going to kill a few parenting hours?”  question
  • Cheap cabs
  • Even cheaper car parking (50p an hour street parking.  Woo hoo!  IN YOUR FACE LONDON)
  • Blessed, blessed school... (Not that it’s any better than any other school anywhere else, but it is the one the children are enrolled in, and have restarted as of a week ago.  Mid-August is the new early-September!)
  • Oh, and let’s not forget our proximity to Bounty-ad holiday places.  I got a bit carried away last week and booked five (ahem) getaways for the next few months.  (Including this one, which we can drive to (except for the last, watery, stretch).  It’s our version of the South Coast.  Let's hope the similarities end there...)

In other other news, I am trying to spend more time with the Baby in the mornings (the combination of her calling the maid “Mama” and saying her (scant few) words in a Philippine accent made me realise that perhaps I need to up her Mummy Time).  To this end I have organised a Parent & Toddler group thing through the school.  (Go me! [Reluctant Launderer:  Bringing haggard parents together since 2014]). Inaugural meet-up is meant to be tmrw.  I BET I’m the only one more interested in the “Parent” element.  Assuming anyone else turns up that is. 

Speaking of Parenting, I must go check on our latest addition.  His name, by the way, is Pink Red - on account, apparently, of his pinky-red legs.  Yes, name-shame on top of everything else. Poor little bugger. 

(Ps:  Recipes should resume with some regularity now that the thermostat on our oven has been fixed.  Turns out there was a reason for every single thing I cooked burning black. (Also for the kitchen heating to 700 degrees.))
(Pps: The Baby has just kicked the ball-bound hamster across the room. Hilarious.  Not for the hamster, obv.)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Nearly There (Chin Up etc)

We are back – dare I say it – home.  Yes! It feels something akin to home!   At least to the extent that home is where the packing of suitcases is not, nor the wiping of vomit from a carseat, nor the managing of three children on far too many plane journeys.  Remarkably, the Baby slept for the bones of the final – and longest – flight. Although not before putting The Fear in the man next to her that her shouting NO!NO!NO! would go on all night, and  not just for the two hours it did;  as did the Girl, which is fairly standard – she’s a fabulous traveller.  The Boy however... Sweet Jesus.  He HATES planes, and when he hates, he shares.  LOUDLY. The twelve-hour pattern went as follows:  30 mins excitement;  2 hours tv;  30 mins boredom (loud, loud, boredom); 30 mins arguing (I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SLEEP, I HATE SLEEP, I HATE THIS PLANE, etc etc): 2 hours sleeping  (on me, pinning me to the teeny tiny chair, terrified to breathe in case I woke him, wondering when – if ever – the feeling in my left buttock would return); 1 hour thrashing about, crying and growling, like a rabid dog (I had moved, tentatively, to examine the remote possibility of actually getting up and going for a pee.  Big Mistake);  2 hours sleeping (again, on me);  15 mins demanding tv;   2 hours tv;  45 mins COMPLAINING about feeling sick / tired / uncomfortable; 30 mins DEMANDING that the entertainment system be put back on. That I managed to arrive in Singapore without having pulled an emergency eject button (for me or him) – or at least having stuffed a miniature pillow over his face in his mouth – is something I am quite proud of.

Anyway.  It’s all over now.  The unpacking is done, the jetlag has been survived. School restarts in TWO DAYS! Although another – my other – way of looking at it is as two more long, drawn-out days of hell and torture – because honestly people, I am at the end of my parenting tether here.  Europe was wonderful and all, but nine weeks (and some) of fairly constant solo parenting  has wiped me out.  However!  In an effort to get the most from it,  I have drawn up a list of Things I Learnt This Summer:
  • If you have several long car journeys and two flights ahead of you in the forthcoming week, try not to fall on your arse on a rock. 
  • If you want children to understand the cycle of life –particularly the final (very final) stage of said cycle –allow them to bring whatever unfortunate sea creature they have caught home in a bucket, whereupon they should place said bucket in direct sunlight and ignore it for three days.  Repeatedly.
  • When flying with small children, don’t both being friendly to anyone on the plane (including staff).  They all hate you, regardless of how much you smile.
  • Persil is very good for removing the smell of vomit.
  • Gin is very good for removing the memory of the smell of vomit.
  • The Boy’s social tourettes continues hasn’t gone away. (Example:  "My daddy has very hairy testicles” to my relatives. Lovely.)
  • Hearing a 4 year old implore the Divinity to save her from the pain of water on a cut (“NO-NO-NO-OH-JESUS-CHRIST-NO”) is disturbing and amusing in equal measure.
  • If you’ve had three children,  bouncing on a  sofa with your off-spring isn’t the best idea.
  • Although everyone believes you if you blame a non-toilet-trained child who can’t speak to defend herself.

And most usefully:
  • Pasta with cream, lemon and prawns is heavenly, and piss easy. 

Yes! A recipe.  There has, I concede, been a dearth of recipes since we moved to Singapore.  I wish this was because I have a team of chefs (or even just one of anything) creating all my meals for me – but in fact it’s largely because I haven’t gotten around to making anything new in ages.   BUT – here is something fabulous.  Ready in the time it takes to boil pasta, and you can slip in all manner of vegetables without offending your children’s sense of culinary decency.  (Also, you don’t even need prawns.  I made it the other day with just garlic, lemon, courgette and cream and it was fantastic. But for fanciness, some prawns are great.  Also, protein to go with the oodles of fat is a good thing, no?)  

Creamy Prawn Pasta

Makes:  enough for 2 grown ups, or 3-4 kids

You need: 
  • Pasta – Linguini or Spaghetti preferably;  about 250g (or as much as you usually make for yourself / your kids)
  • Medium-sized tub of thick creamy stuff (I use 300ml crème fraiche;  you can also use sour cream, or double cream.  As long as the fat content is in the seriously unhealthy range.)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Frozen prawns, shelled (cooked or uncooked, makes no real difference) – as many as you want / have
  • One small courgette
  • One clove garlic, peeled and crushed / sliced
  • Oil, for cooking.

Put the pasta on to cook.

Place the oil and the garlic in a deepish pan and heat over a gentle heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, grate the courgette directly into the pan.  Stir well and leave to cook for a few minutes.

If it starts to stick to the pan before it’s had a chance to cook and go soft, add a splash of water and stir.

Add the lemon juice and cream, stirring well. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, put the lid on and leave to simmer for a few minutes.

Add the prawns (I just chuck em in frozen, which is probably really bad for you, but we’re all still alive here) and let them defrost warm through (or cook, if using uncooked ones).

If you want to be all Swedish about it, chuck in a table-spoonful of chopped dill at the end.  Mint is good too.  But in my VAST (ahem) experience, kids prefer it without herbs. 

Add the cooked, drained pasta, stir well to combine, and serve.

Gobble up, allowing your body to be infused with the joy of knowing it’s only 36 more hours until you get something akin to your life back again...

(Update:  Because I got called away on some urgent parenting business (bum-wiping, most likely), I wrote this a couple of days before posting it. The kids have now gone back to school, and I celebrated by standing in a supermarket gazing at the mad mad produce and wondering just what Singaporeans must think of us if they put marmite  in the baby-food section:

Monday, 28 July 2014

Summer Update

So.  Where were we. I was – am – in Ireland, and suddenly four weeks have passed, and I’m looking around the house we’re renting, at all the shite which has mysteriously accumulated (also, equally mysteriously, a cat) and thinking I have to pack all this up in two days. And you know of course what that means;  at some point – in the rapidly approaching future – I will be getting back on a plane and enduring the horror of The Trip Home.

But first – 4 year old girls.  How great are they?  There’s something quite magical about 4 year old girls.  They’re still sweet and innocent and love fairies and glitter and showing strangers their bottoms, but without all of the demands and lisps and irritations of a 3 year old.  Generally speaking, of course.  Our own 3 year old become a 4 year old a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that she is... well, almost exactly the same as she was as a 3 year old. HOWEVER! She seems to suit 4 better.  Notwithstanding this, she is still as mad as a bag of badgers.  Yesterday she was uncharacteristically quiet so I poked my head outside to see what she was doing, and, bless her, there she was sitting on the front drive squeaking to and petting some stones.  After a few more minutes of silence I checked again – not that I don’t trust her or anything – and there she was licking the car’s hubcab. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! I shrieked.  Cleaning the car, apparently.  AND THEN she demanded money for it (from her black-as-night mouth, teeth and tongue, to my horrified ears).

As if that wasn’t proof enough of her, um, eccentricities, here she is on the morning of her birthday:

I think it’s the most accurate photographic depiction I have of her. (Also, worryingly, it reminds me of myself, hugely.)   Wild hair and mad eyes aside, her birthday was an explosion of sugar and Frozen, and I now know all the lyrics of every one of those damn songs. 

Aside from letting stuff go, and pestering people to build snowmen, we have largely been pottering and beaching.  While we’re looking through my phone, here's my favourite beach in the whole world, which is accessible only via a sheer cliff-face;  easy peasy when you are young and lithe and unencumbered by off-spring, not so much when you’re not so much, have a terrified 1 year old clinging, sloth-like, to your neck, and two mentalers underfoot.  The upside – it is always totally deserted.  

If you look really closely in the distance - miles away from the very content photographer - you will spot these feral creatures:

Needless to say, an afternoon spent in the sun with the kids hundreds of feet away, safely playing and unable to go anywhere, won it first prize for Highlight of the Summer. (Here’s the beach again.  Just ‘cos it’s so gorgeous:)

Next stop: Dublin - Dublin airport – Stockholm – Middle-of-the-Swedish-Woods – Stockholm – Helsinki – Singapore.  No prizes for guessing the lowlight of the Summer.