Playing in the Garden

A late update today! What a wonderful day was had here in ‘the Shires’. The sun has beamed down upon on us all day long. At present our not so famous five are playing chase in the garden with daddy, who is presently counting to 10! I guess he’s on it then! Lol

Nothing has really happened, just a really lazy day.

A barbecue was enjoyed earlier, consisting of burgers, sausages, corn, fries and coleslaw. And bedtime awaits once ‘big bad bear’ completely tires them out.

Thank you for stopping by.

Naughty School with Mrs Snodgrass

This morning at breakfast Aaliyah was playing up and Mrs Snodgrass was mentioned! I have not spoken of her for some time now. Mrs Snodgrass is a fiction. Or is she? We don’t threaten the children with the ‘thinking chair’ any more, but the occasional muttering of the legendary Mrs Snodgrass generally has the desired effect. Be good or you might just end up at ‘Naughty School’! There is one other character that has appeared within our family history and that is Mr Strickland. He runs a summer camp for naughty children who act like babies! Again, he has not been mentioned in quite a while.

Thor got quite screamy at dinnertime tonight and threw his dinner on the floor. Tara and Amritsar piped up ‘Call Mrs Snodgrass Dadda, call Mrs Snodgrass’. I pretended to dial a number on my phone ‘Mrs Snodgrass’ I said.

We smiled. Remember that Mrs Snodgrass is a fiction. Or is she…

Morning sunshine spilled through a window as Aaliyah rolled over, too tired to open her eyes. She and her brothers, Thor and Caleb, had been up all night. Again. Dadda had told them over and over to be quiet and go to bed, but, as usual, Aaliyah snuck out of her bed, knocked on her brothers’ bedroom door, and they began to play.

This lasted until after Dadda fell asleep. This continued until long after the moon rose, and only when the birds started to cheep, cheep outside did Aliyah and her brothers run back to their beds and try to fall asleep. But an hour isn’t enough sleep, even for a young child.

And so, Aaliyah moaned and groaned as Dadda knocked on her door. ‘Rise and shine, Aaliyah’, said Dadda. ‘It’s time to get ready for school. I’m waking up your brothers too, and we’re going to eat breakfast in ten minutes. Get ready!’ Aaliyah said, ‘Yes, Dadda’, but she sniffed, snorted, and snored. Aaliyah wasn’t getting up anytime soon. Or so she thought.

Suddenly, she opened her eyes, and Dadda was looking down at her. ‘Wait a minute’! he said. ‘You have dark bags under your eyes. And look, your slippers are by the door and not your bed. And what’s this? A toy in the hallway. I think someone was playing with her brothers last night and is too tired to go to school today’.

Aaliyah moaned and groaned. ‘But, Dadda, we had to! We couldn’t fall asleep, and so we had to play for a while’. ‘All night’? said Dadda shaking his head. ‘Boys’! Now Thor and Caleb came stumbling into the room half-asleep. Both boys’ pajamas were wrinkled, their hair stuck up, and their tongues hung out like little puppies.

‘These boys didn’t get hardly a wink of sleep’! Dadda said. ‘All right enough is enough. I’m calling Mrs Snodgrass’. Aaliyah shook her head. ‘No, Dadda, you can’t’! ‘Oh yes’, said Dadda. ‘I can. And I will. I have no choice! Dadda marched out of the room, determined to fix the problem. ‘Mrs Snodgrass’? said Caleb. ‘Who is that’?

Aaliyah and Thor turned to him, both looking pale and wide-eyed. ‘Haven’t you heard of Naughty School, Caleb’? said Aaliyah. ‘Mrs Snodgrass runs it with an iron fist. She whips children, puts them in dungeons, and makes sure they’re never heard from again’. Caleb laughed. ‘That’s silly’.

Thor grabbed his brother’s arm and pulled him close. ‘Haven’t you heard of Mrs Snodgrass’s Thinking Chair’? Caleb shook his head. ‘Is it like Dadda’s thinking chair’? Thor sighed. ‘Oh no! It’s the worst thing you can imagine, that’s what! Once you’re in Mrs Snodgrass’s Thinking Chair, you’re done for’! Caleb swallowed hard.

‘And that’s not all’, said Aaliyah, ‘they’ll make us eat porridge at every meal’. Each of the siblings stuck out their tongues and held their tummies. ‘What a disgusting thought’! said Caleb.

‘Wait’! said Aaliyah. ‘Do you hear that? Dadda is on the phone. Hurry let’s listen’. Each of the children pushed their way forward, jostling to get close to the partly open door. ‘Can’t hear’, said Caleb, and he inched his way out into the hallway. ‘That’s better’. Aaliyah and Thor followed him.

‘That’s right’, said Dadda, speaking into his phone, ‘Mrs Snodgrass. I’ll hold. Yes, Mrs. Snodgrass? We met some time ago. That’s right. I think my children need to visit Naughty School. Oh, enroll? Well, maybe just… oh… yes, of course, I understand. Well, yes, you’re right, maybe it’s time I decide for their betterment. Of course, so true. I’ll enroll them in Naughty School today. Yes. Three children, their names are Aaliyah, Caleb, and Thor’.

And with that, he hung up the phone and sighed. Aaliyah frowned. ‘He did it! He actually did it’. Thor shook his head. ‘We’re done for now’. Caleb got on his knees and clasped his hands together. ‘No, Dadda, not Naughty School’!

And then Dadda stepped in front of them. He crossed his arms and said, ‘I’m sorry, children, but you’ve left me no choice. When you stay up all night, don’t listen, don’t do your homework, well, then there’s only one alternative’.

Caleb sniffled. ‘Mrs Snodgrass’? Dadda nodded. ‘Yes, Mrs Snodgrass… and her Naughty School. So, pack your bags, we leave right away’! Suddenly Aaliyah, Caleb, and Thor dropped to their knees and shook their heads. They held out their hands like they were praying. ‘Please, Dadda, not Naughty School’! they pleaded. ‘Not Mrs Snodgrass! And not the Thinking Chair’!

Dadda sighed. He put his hands on his hips and scratched his chin. ‘Enrollment is today, but you don’t start until Monday. So, I suppose we’ll see how your behavior changes from now until then’. ‘We’ll be better’! said Aaliyah. Caleb nodded. ‘Oh, we definitely will’! ‘Yes, Dadda, no naughty school for us’! said Thor brightly.

And so, the siblings tried their best to be good little children, just like their two bigger sisters Amritsar and Tara. Though, they needed a nap after such a long night. But, come the next day, there was a shout from downstairs. Dadda dropped what he was doing and darted down the stairs, nearly tripping and flying through the air. And there, Daddy was standing, speechless and pointing.

‘What is it’? asked Dadda, looking around for a lion or bear. ‘What’s wrong’? But there was no lion. No bear. Not even a small dragon with smoking nostrils.

But there was Caleb, holding a tub of sudocrem. ‘Caleb’! said Dadda. ‘What have you done’? Caleb had somehow smeared his bottom and back with sudocrem. He looked positively a mess! As if someone had dipped him in a vat of cream from the dairy, pulling him out and letting him drip all over.

Oh, but there was more. Dadda turned to see a long trail of sudocrem on the hardwood floor. Splotches here and there, running back as if a house painter had drunkenly stumbled into the house. White marks were on the sofa, on Caleb’s brother, Thor’s, face and arms, and even on the television! There were marks on the chairs and the dining room table. There were marks on framed photos of Granny Hazel and Grandma Jean, and also on the painting Dadda made for Daddy’s birthday two years ago. ‘Oh my’, said Dadda. ‘Caleb’!

‘It’s time we have a sit on the thinking chair, don’t you agree, Daddy’? Daddy nodded. Caleb said, ‘No, not the thinking chair! Mrs Snodgrass has one, and they say it eats children! Dadda shook his head. ‘Oh no, it doesn’t, but you’ll be thinking about things for a very long time, Caleb’!

Dadda lifted Caleb high into the air, carried him across the room, into the hall and placed him on an antique chair. ‘Now, think about what you’ve done and… oh my, think about Naughty School too would you’? Caleb swallowed hard. ‘And you, mister’, pointing at Thor, added Daddy, ‘You’re the one who gave the sudocrem to Caleb’! ‘Well, I, uh…’ Thor mumbled. Big sisters Amritsar and Tara were sniggering at this point. They realised that this was a serious situation so both headed for the living room for some screentime.

‘Off to the thinking chair as well’! said Dadda. And Thor marched off, sitting in another chair, on the opposite side of the sideboard, slightly out of view from his brother Caleb.

Dadda turned back to Daddy, who said, ‘And who do you think got the sudocrem down to begin with? Who is the tallest’? Now Dadda turned to Aaliyah, whose face was burning brightly. Whose eyes were cast down on the floor. ‘Go on’! said Dadda. ‘Off to bed’! Aaliyah ran up the stairs screaming, off to her bedroom.

‘I don’t want to say it’, said Daddy, ‘but I don’t think we have a choice’. ‘Well, I already made the call, but I was giving them a chance’ replied Dadda. ‘I think they’ve all had their chance. We have no choice. When little boys and girls are this naughty, when they stay awake all night, when they smear sudocrem all over the house and giggle…’ Dadda nodded. ‘Oh, yes, you don’t have to say it. It’s time for Naughty School, Daddy because we quite simply, have no other choice’. Tara and Amritsar looked a little sad ‘But we will be able to go and visit them – wont we Dadda’? ‘Of course’ replied Dadda, adding ‘And of course, they will be home for holidays’.

And so, it began. Aaliyah and her brothers would soon be off to Mrs Snodgrass’ Naughty School for Children.

Not too far away, on a hill overlooking the city, a dark, gloomy, prison-like fortress stood under dark clouds. Even on this, the sunny day our story begins, it looked as if it were an overcast day at Naughty School.

The Naughty School had been built, well, nobody remembered when it had been made. It seemed as if it had always been there. Overlooking the city with its dreary gray bricks, its tall fence that looked like a prison with barbed-wire and guards at the gate. The gate itself was wrought iron and several feet tall. It had the letters ‘N’ and ‘S’ emblazoned on it in a bold typeface.

At the front gate, there came marching down a thin, pale woman wearing a tight black dress. Her long dark hair was tied up in a bun. On her sharp nose were glasses that were far too big for her with lenses that made her eyes look wide like a fish’s.

This was Ms Bettina, who was Mrs Snodgrass’s loyal assistant. She carried a small leather satchel with her from which she withdrew a red book. It looked like a datebook, and when she arrived at the gate, in front of the uniformed officers in black shirts, pants, and boots, she opened the red book. ‘Aaliyah, Caleb, and… let’s see, yes, Thor’. The guards nodded. ‘They should be arriving any moment now. Look sharp, men’. The guards snapped to attention and saluted.

Another man came marching down the driveway to the gate. He was tall, skinny, and broad-shouldered. He had a long face with a square jaw. He was balding and he, too, wore glasses, but these were small, round, and wire framed. He wore a tweed jacket with patches on the shoulders and elbows and his pants were a few inches too short, revealing black socks with little red polka dots on them.

‘Ah, Mr Strickland’, said Ms Bettina. ‘I’m glad you made it. How was Baby Camp over the Summer’? Mr Strickland frowned at her. ‘Too many babies,’ he said flatly. The guards swallowed hard. Even they, along with the other teachers at Naughty School, were afraid of Mr Strickland, who also ran the Summer Baby Camp, quite, well, strictly.

‘As alwas, Ms Bettina, I am here to inform you that if you have any children acting like babies in this new school term, you are ordered to send them my way. This, of course, is a direct order from Mrs Snodgrass herself’. Ms Bettina scowled. She didn’t like Mr Strickland very much, but she knew she had to tolerate him. ‘Of course, Mr Strickland’, she bemoaned. ‘I’ll make sure to do that’.

Now she turned to the guards. ‘Remember, send them straight to my office for intake’. The guards nodded, and with that, Ms Bettina and Mr Strickland left the front gate, going in different directions.

After a few minutes, a silver Mitsubishi Shogun 4 x 4 arrived and stopped at the gate. Inside was Daddy, Aaliyah, Thor, and Caleb. ‘I’m here for…’ said Daddy, but he couldn’t get out the rest of his words. One of the guards held his hand up and said, ‘Enough! Aaliyah? Thor? Caleb?’ Daddy nodded. ‘That’s right’. ‘Drop them off here. We’ll send them to Ms Bettina’. ‘Oh, well, I… yes, okay’. Daddy opened the door and got out. He then opened the door for his children, and all three slowly, cautiously, ever-so-carefully crept out.

Aaliyah and the boys looked up at Daddy and said, ‘One more chance’? Daddy shook his head slowly. ‘Sorry, children, I love you and I am going to miss you, but off to Naughty School. Go on now’. Daddy said goodbye, gave them all hugs and said that he would see them in a couple of weeks.

They shuffled along slowly, and the wrought iron gates slowly creaked open. The guards looked down at the children. One of them said, ‘Go on now, that way. March! We’re off to see Ms Bettina’. Thor turned to wave at Daddy, but the car had gone. Thor looked up at the guard who said, ‘No more of that. March! Go on!’ And so, they did, all three, Aaliyah, Thor, and Caleb, too, hurried up the twisting driveway.

Ahead, they saw the prison, sorry, the school, that is. Naughty School. Its gray bricks were covered with moss. A mass of ivy clung to its walls. Stone gargoyles looked down with beady eyes and sharp horns. There were tall windows that were cloudy and caked with what could only be smoke stains, though one guard mentioned that it was ‘fog from the children’s breath as they complained from sitting in the Naughty Chairs too long’.

And in one window, high above, Aaliyah spotted two bright eyes watching. They almost looked like red eyes. ‘Mrs Snodgrass’! she muttered. ‘Hey now, none of that’! said the guard. ‘No talking! Off to Ms Bettina, you go’.

The front door of Naughty School was embossed with brass and was covered with etchings of what can only be described as monsters chasing little children. And, once more, there were the letters ‘N’ and ‘S’ in a bold typeface.

Inside, the hallways were long and empty. Aaliyah saw a little boy, dressed in a black uniform, peek out from a classroom. But just as quickly, someone yanked him back inside with a little ‘yelp’ and the door slammed shut, nearly breaking the glass window. A blind was drawn rapidly, blocking Aaliyah’s view of what was happening inside the room. ‘We’re doomed’! she said. ‘Quiet’! said the guard.

And soon, they climbed a high set of stairs. Onto a landing, and then up to another landing, and finally to the third floor and an office that had big blocky black letters declaring that it belonged to MS BETTINA, assistant to MRS SNODGRASS. The guard snapped to attention and knocked gently on the door. The children gasped and gulped as they heard the click-clack of Ms Bettina’s high heels.

And the door opened. There she stood, the dark-haired administrator with her overly large glasses. Her large, fisheyes stared down at the children, and her thin lips were snarling. ‘In here NOW’! she commanded. And to the guard: ‘Leave us’! The guard turned around and left, leaving Aaliyah and her brothers standing awkwardly outside of Ms Bettina’s doorway. ‘RIGHT’! Ms Bettina shouted.

The children hurried in and piled onto three small metal chairs in front of an unusually high oak desk. Ms Bettina crossed the room, her footfalls sounding like CLICK, CLACK, CLICK. She climbed a small footstool to get onto a high-backed chair, and from there, she looked down over her large glasses at the children.

‘Biters, pinchers, hair pullers, screamers, shouters, naughty, naughty children’, she murmured. ‘Mrs Snodgrass will not be happy at all. Oh no, she won’t. Do we have enough Thinking Chairs for the three of you’? Aaliyah raised her hand timidly as Caleb and Thor rattled their teeth and sat on their hands. ‘What is it’? snapped Ms Bettina. ‘Wha… what… what are you going to do’? replied Thor. ‘Oh, it’s not what I’m going to do, little boy’, said Ms Bettina.

Someone’s throat cleared, and Aaliyah and her brothers whipped around to see…

A woman in her late fifties, dressed in a green tweed two-piece suit. Perched on her nose were a pair of brown horn-rimmed glasses. She looked quite like a School Head Mistress from 1954 come to life in front of them. ‘I’ll be dealing with you three personally’! said the woman with a shrill voice. ‘Meet Mrs Snodgrass, children’, said Ms Bettina. ‘The Head Mistress who will do everything in her power to get every last ounce of naughtyness out of you’!

A couple of pics I just put on Instagram (hahahahaha)!

Plus a couple that I did not! I definitely think that bloggers are a more discerning bunch! Don’t you?

The day has zipped by. Homeschooling nightmare this morning as with every Monday morning. It’s not like we pressure the children to do all four exercises. If we get through two of them, I’m happy. Thor was once again very close to expulsion.

Blazing sun in the garden this afternoon, so I managed an hour or two’s sunbathing whilst the not so famous five played on their screams, sorry screens!

A ‘mock roasty’ chicken dinner with deep fried potatoes, cooked chicken in gravy and broccoli was just enjoyed by us all as a family in the kitchen. It’s getting better you know! Mind you, Caleb did flick me with a piece of chicken breast. It stuck to my clean white tee shirt. I was not impressed! I gave him ‘the look’ so hopefully it won’t happen again.

Sat on the terrace now, they are quiet and in front of the television. John wanders around me with a work related phone call.

A red kite, of the bird variety has just swooped down on an unsuspecting pigeon at the end of the garden. And it’s gone, just a pile of features lay there in homage.

Some screaming, must go. I think that Tara has fallen out with Caleb. Oh dear.

My Audiobook is Complete

This evening marks the completion of my novel Eighteen Moons, with the recording and its conversion into audiobook format! The talented voice of actor ‘Angus Scott’ takes the tale of my journey into parenthood and brings it to the exciting realm of audio. The story is now available to a whole new audience, this does sound strange, an audience of people who don’t really want to read. That can’t be right can it?

I have to add however, that listening to an audiobook makes it easy to just switch off completely, close your eyes and be totally and utterly transported to a different time and place! There is no easier way to walk with me on the ill fated (yet so rewarding) journey that I took into the realm of parenthood.

I will update this post in a couple of days and supply a direct link to the various platforms where the audiobook of Eighteen Moons will be available.

I have to say that I am quite excited. And I would like to thank Angus Scott for making this possible.

One Day at a Time

Wise words from a lovely reader. You know who you are! Hahahahaha.

With a partially restored Mojo, I hope all is well out there today? It is a Sunday and although I do not participate in religious goings on, there is the sound of hymns being sung on an unwatched television. Caleb and Thor are tinkering away on their screens and the girls are running ferrell in the garden. Hide and seek was being enjoyed! That is, until we couldn’t find Tara. Now found, she has just lead her sisters on a big bug hunt!

There were upsets yesterday regarding the netted bug house (a bit like a mini bird cage). Tara had taken Amritsar’s bug house from her bed without asking to borrow it! Some major screamies ensued. Anyhow, moving on. They are now playing with it together (nicely).

Today’s picture is of Amritsar playing a very early-years game of peek-a-boo. That’s kind of like hide and seek, isn’t it?

The dogs are a bit more settled now, due to the fact that they have both just eaten. Their mealtime has moved ever forward in the day to 11am. It’s an ongoing thing. You see, they’re on a 23.5 hour daily cycle, basically meaning their dinner gets earlier and earlier in the day, due to their constant whining to be fed. By the end of the summer they will no doubt be eating before they even wake up!

Oh! My notifications on my new Instagram account has just told me that I have my very first follower! Hoorah – I am in business! I have a following on Instagram of one! Woohoo!!!

http://www.instagram.com/mybigcrazyfamilylife

I did actually participate on the insta-app a year or two back. I even had a few followers. But I gave it all up when I realised just how much time I spent on there. And with nothing to really show for it, I finally deleted my account. But this morning, I thought a new beginning! And rather than revive the old account, I chose to start afresh. And I now have one follower. Whoop-de-doo!!!

Right, there is luncheon to prepare, so I will get back to this later today! But for now, I thank you, as ever, for reading. And thank you kind people, for your uplifting comments yesterday. You know who you are!

Good Moods Bad Moods

Impartial!

Yesterday I chose to silence any attempt at words. Without going into detail, my mood took a bit of a nose dive in the mid afternoon.

Thinking about moods, emotions and all, I realise that the majority of time at home, I remain impartial! I do wonder if that is a coping mechanism. It’s not just with the children, but the dogs drive me both up and then back down the walls! However, I think that the dogs constant and needy demur keeps me from being an emotional rollercoaster! I have to always remain impartial as to what goes on around me.

It’s hard to act like I’m in a good mood when I have to be the voice of reason around so many minor tantrums, rants and raves. Sometimes it seems that the children only ever ‘want’ Dadda, when one wants another to be told off. Well that and anything to do with their next meal!

A bad mood on the other hand is just the drawn out ricochet of being upset isn’t it? Thankfully there never seems to be the time to dwell on things for too long in this house. The good or indeed the bad.

Moments of appreciation make me feel happy. Moments like when Thor storms over and grabs a leg and holds on tightly saying loudly ‘I love you Dadda’! But the happy mood does not have time to linger as someone is sure to start yet another rant or begin screaming about something or other within minutes.

So I remain impartial mostly, in these time of family lockdown.

Outright Revolt and Outright Outrageous

10.10am and we are still having trouble getting our not so famous five to do their school work. We managed to get Amritsar to read 5 pages of her ‘Swallows and Amazon’s’ novel! Yes, she is now reading novels at 7 years old! Tara on the other hand has chosen a David Walliams book ‘First Hippo on the Moon’! But she has now retreated to her tablet in the dining hall, looking like she thinks I can’t see her!

Thor and Caleb are refusing to wear anything bar their underpants, simply refusing to get dressed. Aaliyah is also sucking away on her fingers merrily. We have asked her to wear a woollen glove these last months! But any chance she gets, she slips it off for a sneaky suck. It’s an ongoing thing!

The lessons still sit on the kitchen table awaiting some enthusiasm. I will have to come back to writing today’s post in an hour or so and let you know how things go. Wish me luck!

(An hour later…)

OMG, that was a real struggle! Namely Thor screaming because he could not draw unicorns. But Aaliyah’s unicorns were perfect. An oval, a small circular head, four stick legs and a little horn! Caleb persevered, so a jelly baby for him also. I bit my lip! Was today going to be the day of Thor’s expulsion!

Amritsar and Tara applied themselves to their maths questions, though I helped Tara so much, I may just as well have filled in the answers myself and claimed the credit (and the jelly baby)! But I know, that’s not supposed to happen, is it?

Thor finally settled down a bit and scribbles for unicorns had to be accepted as effort. He got his jelly baby.

We have normally (though nothing is normal at the moment) managed to keep their attention for something just shy of an hour. Today we might have clocked up 25 minutes.

On a slightly unrelated matter, John’s parsley plants arrived this morning. Consider that the supermarket sells fully grown parsley plants at £1.25, John tells me his 2 x parsley plants cost £3.50 each! I am now sounding like one of the girls mathematics questions (oh dear)! Okay, eBay has done it again! Negative feedback is on its way. Some people are unscrupulous, outright outrageous in fact!

Happy Birthday Mum

Jean Eve Paradise was my Mum. She had three boys (Paul, Brandon and me) and a daughter Shae. Today is the 14th May, her birthday. My mum passed five years ago this coming September. She is missed very much, but we always remember ‘Grandma Jean’ with colour and theatrics. She was in the movie ‘Charlottes Webb’, an extra in a number of scenes, but a few closeups in a few scenes too. She also acted in a number of commercials in Australia. The main one being shot in Melbourne for a national jeans brand ‘Just Jeans’. Odd that her name was also Jean. Well today would have been her birthday and today’s photograph is of a pink orchid. Something I would send her every year on her birthday. She loved the colour pink and she adored orchids as they are beautiful and have a good shelf life. One year I broke the model and sent her yellow tulips. She was horrified. She called me and inquired ‘why would you do that’? I had to apologise and swear that it would never happen again…

I miss you Mum. You are fondly remembered.

Late in The Day – What Can I Say

The children’s dinner just done! Daddy tapping away at his laptop. Gracie snuggled on the sofa besides me. Remus nowhere to be seen. Thor and Aaliyah sat opposite on the other sofa looking at daddy’s iPad. Thor shouting very loudly. Good shouting, he is happy and talking about ‘Jelly Beans’! Aaliyah looks to be in a good mood. She turns to Thor and smiles. ‘I’ve still got 11%’ she says. Must be the battery charge on the iPad. All I hear from outside in the dining hall is the theme tune to ‘My Little Pony’. However it is Tara looking on and enjoying the episode on her tablet. Aaliyah certainly has lead the crew to embrace that show. For me however – giving me a bit of a headache. Amritsar and Caleb are sat close to Tara, watching on contentedly. Now Amritsar is coming in here to plug in her tablet and watch something different. The television has thus remained silent all day long!

Remus is in fact inhabiting the spare room. I think he is thinking of it as ‘Remus’s Room’ nowadays. Ever since his exile from Daddy and Dadda’s room, he has been hanging out up there, like a moody teenager. I think that he finds the relative organised chaos of the children a little too much sometimes. Gracie on the other hand still loves Aaliyah’s occasional hugs, at least one every hour! So she generally stays close to the family hub.

I am just thinking, I have completely forgotten what day it is! That’s bad isn’t it?

Weather not great. Still grey, though a few moments of sunshine today.

Oh! Look whose just swooned into the living room! Remus! Now what does he want I ask myself!

Thor has just asked me to video him! Just why, I really don’t know. He is a funny boy!

Thanks for looking in.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Is it that time? Has a week flown by already. Not that this is s Tuesday thing! So, how was daddy and dadda’s dinner(s) over this past week? Sadly no Indian cuisine, so that’s definitely gonna have to change over the next few days!

Now, John is your classic Irishman. He loves his meat and two veg. And looking through this weeks images. He’s clearly getting what he wants. Even the Thai Massaman curry is laden with spuds. Lol

Lamb Shanks, boiled potatoes, mangetout and a red wine jus.

Beef Massaman with basmati rice.

Rack of Lamb with garlic green beans, creamy mashed potato and a red current gravy.

Lightly smoked Salmon with potatoes and sugarsnap peas.

Gammon Steak potatoes and stringless beans.

Filet Steak, garlic beans, mushrooms and triple cooked chips.

Irish Sausage, mash and peas. Lucky John! But I have to add, I enjoyed this weeks menu also. And what’s on the menu tonight? Roast leg of pork! More meat and two veg (maybe three). Hahahahaha…

Dadda’s Cocktails! The Summer Berry Daiquiri

And guess what? The only thing you need is one of Dadda’s Jams! And there are so many to choose from!

Now here’s the deal! To your blender, add a good slug of dark rum. Add a similar volume of lime (or lemon) juice and maybe 10 ice cubes. Finally complete with 2 large dessert spoons of Dadda’s jam. In this case, summer berry. Blitz until a sorbet like consistency is achieved.

Put your feet up and relax.

Jellof Rice of West Africa

Today’s morning lessons sent to us from the children’s school were initially embraced with loud screams from the little ones and downward looks and silence with the girls.

This isn’t going to be easy I mutter to myself. Right! Divide and conquer I think. The first class I gave to Aaliyah, Thor and Caleb.

We firstly look for the number ’11’ around the kitchen. A game to see how many times we can spot 2 straight lines sat next to one and other. The screams soon settled into a hive of excited wonderment. Okay, I then mistakenly start them on the girls (year 2) ‘geography’ lesson and we look at foods from around the world. A lot of countries were covered, many foods were thought of, quite a few from their experience of Dadda having actually created them for their dinner in the past.

We ended up in SubSaharan Africa. Now this memory takes me back to the time that John and I met. As well as designing for a clothing company just north of Soho in London (Noho), I also worked late afternoon in a hostel for young homeless people. I was their evening dinner chef. I had to pretty much forget everything that I had learned at catering college and research the wonders of international cuisine. This was partly due to the hostels embrace of multicultural London.

I did in fact re-educate my knowledge of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, pretty much all cultural foods! Yes, including the Caribbean and some west African wonders.

I befriended one of the hostels staff members Dora. Herself from Ghana and a very keen cook. We spent many hours cooking, just as West Africans would have done. Traditionally meals would be cooked in a pot above a fire, later on a gas hob. I learnt spicy meatballs (with corned beef), served with hot tomato sauce, groundnut stew with chicken. Sardine omelet and a west Africa staple, Jellof rice.

I loved Dora’s surname! I believe it is a popular name in Ghana, Dora Owusa Ansah. That is such a great sounding name. It is a poetry of sounds to the ear. She was a lovely woman.

After not having cooked these dishes in years, today’s ‘geography’ lesson took me right back. The children and I talked about this great dish and I promised to make it for lunch.

The dish is flexible as different family’s all have their own recipes. So this is my take on this amazingly tasty dish of Africa. I have updated the simple one pot cooking option to make it my own. I am going to use a frying pan to cook the spice out with the meat and onions, but I will be using the microwave to cook the dish to perfection.

Ingredients:

Meat (your choice)

Onions

A Tin of Tomatoes

Basmati Rice

Salt

Spices (feel free to experiment)

I remember Dora just chose what was available. I thought about the flavours I remembered and came up with:

Dried coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, chilli (dried or fresh), paprika, celery salt and a little season-all.

You want your meat tender, so you could cook it in advance. Stewed beef for instance. Chicken is ideal. Just cook it in a frying pan with your spices first. Oh! And I finely chopped some cooked garlic mushrooms, just because they were there! My meat choice today was bacon lardons from the fridge. This is a main course meal on its own. But this is your party so play around… Frozen peas!

Cook your meat with the spice. Add your chopped onion and continue to cook until tender. Add your tinned tomatoes and cook a further 10 minutes.

Place in a large microwaveable bowl with your rice and about double the volume of boiling water. Season well. Place a lid on your bowl or use a plate to cover. Microwave on full power for 10 minutes then carefully stir the contents. Cook for a further 10 minutes and recheck the contents. At this point most of that flavoursome cooking liquid should be absorbed by the rice. If not, cook a further 5 minutes.

Very carefully remove the bowl and empty the contents into a baking tray with plenty of room. I do this in one fail swoop. Baking tray on top and flip over. Your rice should come out with ease and look like a solid block. Break this up with a fork and pull clumps out to the side of the tray, allowing the rice to become more flaked and separate. A lot of steam, so be careful. Once you are happy there are few clumps, serve.

My crew went wild for the extremely invigorating taste and moorish texture of this most famous West African comfort food ‘Jellof Rice’. Not a single grain of rice remained on any of their plates.