Wednesday, 29 August 2012

We find ourselves in the strange situation of the two elder children being at home while the littlest one is at play school. So today William appeared with his Octonauts comic and asked to make the fish biscuits. I know from personal experience how this type of thing normally goes. It normally goes badly. I imagine it'll be a nice "mummy-and-son" activity but in fact it turns into an episode of destruction which ends in me wiping down the kitchen walls while sobbing. Also 'fish biscuits' really wasn't doing anything for me until I read the recipe and saw that there was no actual fish involved- just buttery biscuits cut out in the shape of fish, the image kindly supplied by the comic.

So, in the end we made the fish biscuits without too much incident. You will undoubtedly agree that the finished biscuit is no more fishy than I am (although there are those among us who would say I am part human, part fishwife) and yes, the pink icing is especially vile but it adds a certain frisson to the whole thing. I think.

If your day will not be complete without these biscuits here is the recipe...
250g plain white flour
85g caster sugar
175g soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract- not in the recipe but added in a moment of sheer madness
greased baking sheet

Ask a grown-up to turn the oven on to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
Mix the flour, sugar, butter and vanilla extract together until it turns into a doughy ball.
Sprinkle some flour on a clean table and roll out the dough on it. It needs to be as thick as your little finger.
Lay the fish shape flat on the dough (we got ours from the comic but there's a really good chance that yours will be better) and use a knife to cut around it. Cut out lots of fish until you have no more dough left. Pop your fish on your greased baking sheet.
Ask a grown-up to put your biscuits in the oven. Leave them to bake for about 10 minutes until they look nice and golden.
Leave your biscuits to cool on a wire rack. We iced ours.
Ask a grown-up to pour a large G+T for themselves and tell them to put their feet up. Ok, so that bit wasn't in the comic but it should have been.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Raining, pouring, lashing, bucketing, showery, misty, damp, mizzling, drizzling, drenching, downpour, pissing. Guess what? It's raining.
Today was the beginning and the end. Difficult and easy. Sad and happy. Wonderful and awful. Today Mide (the youngest and on the cusp of turning four) started Montessori school. He's ready and yet leaving him was one of the hardest things. I've had the privilege of having been able to bring the boys to work with me but circumstances mean that Mide is experiencing pre-school without his mum teaching there too. Oh my, I had a gulpy moment after the door closed and we were left on the wrong side but thankfully Hugo and Will were there and they definitely didn't understand the wobbly parent "but sure he'll love it in there Mum". Yes, I know he'll love it but it's just, it's just.... he's my baby, my last one... Next week will be even weirder as the older two start back to school and then every morning will be child free. Oh. God. Child. Free.

I made this cushion from a much loved but tatty cashmere jumper of Kevin's and last night I stitched a little sitting hare on to it to cover a few holes-what do you think?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Yesterday was quite nice weather wise and, being Sunday, was a relaxing kind of a day. So we decided to go wild water swimming in the lake. Sure, we've paddled and dipped our toes in the waters before but as for actual, total body submersion...we hadn't just been brave enough. Until yesterday. So we geared up-swimming costumes? Check. Swimming shoes? Check. Goggles? Check. Towels? Check. Three children, two dogs and a partridge in a pear tree? Check, check, check.

I have to admit I was not especially looking forward to swimming in the lake. I mean, I know this lake quite well. It's silty, it's muddy, it's wet....but actually when I got over the horror of stripping off and walking into the water slipping and sliding over the rocky bottom, it was (whisper this) fun! Yes, it was actual fun. Kevin and I swam out a little where it was not too deep while the kids paddled at the shore. The water was surprisingly warm. And once you got used to the gentle touches of weed and the fact that at any moment you might get chomped by a vicious pike it was all rather lovely. We giggled like children at our daring- swimming up and down, the wind blowing little wavelets against our bare skin. It was nice to see your underwater arms spread out in front of you and to kick your legs. Hugo swam with us for a while and then declared it was "freezing" but it wasn't. It was liberating. It was beautiful to see the lake from a totally different angle. A dragon-fly flew over our heads. Pippin and Belle paddled beside us. We swam a bit more and then rose from the deep to dry ourselves and head back home. We made a pot of tea and spoke about our lake, our swim and our luck at living where we do.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

I mentioned last time about finally getting to the vegetable patch but I'm not going to show photos of my shamefully overgrown wilderness. Oh no, not I. Instead the focus will be on the good wholesome yumminess that can come from even the most neglected spot...The boys and I had managed to salvage a colander of broad beans so I used a Sarah Raven recipe and made broad bean crostini. With mint growing in the pots of herbs at the back door and some of my sister-in-laws organic garlic it was altogether a home-grown affair.

150g broad beans, shelled weight
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice and grated zest of a small lemon
handful of finely chopped mint
salt and pepper

for the crostini:
good quality white bread- baguette for example
extra virgin olive oil
a garlic clove, peeled and halved

Boil the broad beans for about 5 minutes until tender. Purée them along with most of the olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, the mint and a good pinch of salt and pepper. To make the crostini, cut the baguette into finger thick slices, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and then toast them on a griddle. Scrape the cut side of the garlic clove along each slice and sprinkle with salt. I left the toast on the griddle until the edges were a little charred as I love it that way. Then dollop on a generous spoonful of the broad bean mix and top with slivers of grated pecorino cheese or with manchego which is all I had. Oh, it was so nice!

Friday, 10 August 2012


Today the sun is beaming on Ireland and it sure does make a difference! The silage has been baled on the hill so I took Belle and Pippin for a little walk scattering black winged crows as we went. The boys and I finally made it down to the chronically overgrown vegetable patch and our battle through the nettles was rewarded with broad beans, purple and yellow beetroot and a single potato...We need to put on wellies and bring a spade next time... A few days ago Kev also found a bounty of tiny, jewelled blackcurrants hidden in the hedge which I made into blackcurrant and almond cake and a teeny tiny pot of jam.

Bonjour! We have just returned from a deliciously refreshing two weeks in France. We flew in to Carcassonne and from there headed into the beautiful open countryside of the Langeudoc region. The fact that there are no hedges closing in the fields meant that the view stretched for miles through sunflowers and vines. Oh my, it was just what was needed after weeks of relentless rain and grey skies! The heat was so welcome- warming up our poor bones and allowing the boys to run around in shorts and bare feet. We soaked it in, so thankful that we had this time together.

We climbed steep, winding cobblestoned tracks to the castle in Foix, we ambled through the medieval town of Mirepoix, ate delicious duck during a wild thunderstorm in the vineyards and sought refuge from the heat in cool dark churches.

The children loved the prehistoric park in the foothills of the Pyrenees - a walk back through time which left us wondering at the beauty and importance of primitive art. They boated through deep underground caves and walked with giant tortoises at La Ferme des Reptiles. And the swimming- we were spoiled to have a pool- so each perfect afternoon was spent splashing and diving and screeching with the delight of the whole thing.

We ate like kings and let plenty of wine flow. We sat out late into the night chatting about everything and nothing while the silent wings of bats flew overhead, brushing past the lavender hedge on our way towards bed. For two long weeks we were looked after and pampered and nourished so thanks so much Mum and Dad for helping us to enjoy every minute!