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Moi, Sylda & Deb (pic courtesy of Olivia)

There was a proper knees up in Dublin last saturday night. And yes it is blog awards-300x300related because it was the Glenisk 2015 Irish Parenting Blogger Awards. I even got a blow-dry. It was that big a deal. The night itself was a gorgeous meal in one of Dublin’s finest brunch spots, Odessa, followed by the awards ceremony up on their roof terrace. Hot mommas and the odd partner was the order of the night as we all got dickied up and put our game faces on. Mind The Baby MC’ed the night, and organised the whole shebang with Mama.ie and a team of energetic multi skilled bloggers. (ie. not me)

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We were all (quiz) winners. With Kate & Sinead (pic courtesy of Laura)

Proper Fud sadly didn’t make it past the long list, but the big advantage of that was I was able to fully enjoy the night with no nerves. I even won the House of Bloggers quiz, with 2 rides, I mean friends Sinead & Kate making up our team. Despite the competition being approximately a cumulative thirty years younger than us, our fastest fingers first and encyclopaedic blog knowledge netted me another years Netflix subscription. That should keep me in quality telly at least until Frank Underwood gets impeached or Piper Chapman gets parole.

There was some uh-mazing things in our party bags (as they must be called in my house); beauty goodies for tired mama faces, M&S vouchers (me), Mr. Price vouchers (earmarked for outdoor toys), Bear Yoyos, Glenisk vouchers, awesome personalised One4All cards and not forgetting glorious IPB aprons! But the piece de resistance for me was a Lottie doll courtesy of MyKidsTime.

The young fella in this house is a massive fan of those toy reveal videos on YouTube, so him and I thought the unveiling of Lottie the perfect chance for him to make his own little review video. And of course the other, younger fella got his voice heard too. We’re ain’t slick, but we sure did have fun: without further ado, it’s Dominic Tube!

I love Lottie, she’s a proper little girl shape, is age appropriate, wears relatable kids clothes and has won a tonne of awards. We might just have to buy her friend Finn too. As a special treat for friends-of-bloggers there is a full range of Lottie Dolls available on www.mykidstimestore.com.Use discount code IPBA2015 (valid until May 31st) for 10% off all Lottie Dolls and accessories.

All the well deserved winners are listed here, and include some of my personal favourites in there. Enjoy!

Green Shoots and Bad Attitudes.

Green Shoots by Proper Fud

I arrived home from a day in work and an evening in college and decided to water the few vegetables I planted this spring. Like my children, they seem to have done fine without me to constantly tend them; they have sprung up and are doing mighty well for themselves. Am left feeling like a green thumbed overachiever after a day like that.

It didn’t start off so well though. I went to do a days freelance work and was left puzzled by an encounter with a senior member of staff. It was an off the cuff conversation, but it brought home to me how little some people value certain things. The person has form; in the past I’ve found them to have a vaguely dismissive attitude towards women of a certain age, and their ability to have a career and young children. A definite fan of the mommy track.

They asked me how was retirement going, and didn’t I have a nice tan from the last few days. First of all, that’s the wrong R word and secondly, when I wasn’t bringing up my two children during the current batch of sunny days, I was locked inside studying. I said as much, and then they asked did it feel weird to be going backwards? Now, it is the guts of fifteen years since I was in college so maybe they meant back in time, but as far as I’m aware further education and personal development always count as going forwards.

So if you want to know how this particular Stay At Home Part-time Student Mother Freelancer Farmer is getting on, just ask me straight out.

I’m doing great. Life is showing definite signs of green shoots.

Time’s up, baby. Hand over the nappies.

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Where are those paper towels gone? Anyone seen the disinfectant spray? Ah feck, there’s another puddle over there. Yep. It’s toilet training time.  Actually, forget the cleaning up gear, where’s the baby gone? Look at him there above; stretching up, helping himself to something, well able to fend for himself in the wild for all I know.

Of course, you know what the worst approach to any develpomental milestone is? Putting yourself and a child under pressure to get there. And what am I doing? Trying to impose a not-weeing-on-self deadline on the fourth and final human member of our household. Like an eejit (albeit, an eejit that kinda needs this to happen sooner rather than later)

Number one child trained a little earlier than this guy, and it took a while but he got it okay. We also had the invaluable support of a creche for some relief on the pooey underpants disposal front. Other than that I really can’t remember much about it because the current champion floor-piddler was only about six weeks old so there was a lot of embracing of chaos going on.

So why am I doing it differently this time round? Remember back then I said I was going to be a student soon? Well I am one now, and it’s getting harder to concentrate at the level I need to when I can only start studying late at night. I remember well my last stint in college; I watched a lot of MTV’s The Real World and This Morning With Richard Not Judy (look it up). Britney Spears had just burst onto the scene in her approximation of a school uniform and I used Telnet for a form of social media (shout out DCU’s Redbrick Society!). Somewhere amongst that and pints I got a degree also.  Now the only thing standing in my way of time to study is an obstinate toddler and a load of Lightning McQueen underpants.

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So close and yet! So far.

I have a place for him in a local Montessori pending potty training. Three glorious mornings where I can get shit done while he does his somewhere else. Sure I might even get a run or a sneaky haircut/latte/nap in if I get through my lectures.

Anyway, two days in, he’s doing okay. There’s been more misses than hits, but the kind of misses that happen halfway to the potty so the intent is there and that’s good. He hasn’t quite cracked the poo either; a look of shock crossed his face at his suddenly weighty pair of pants yesterday but today he shouted “What’s on my bum?” just before the main event. That’s progress right?

He seems quite pleased at all the attention he’s getting – chocolate buttons and high fives abound. I bought him fourteen new pairs of pants today to add to the just-in-case ones purchased optimistically six months ago. So I remain positive but realistic. Fingers crossed for me eh? A toddler’s bodily function control lies in between me and my future career. No pressure.

Baba Ganoush, Baba Ganoush Can You Do The Fandango?

What a start to the school holidays! Rain, rain and more rain. 

 I love aubergine and my favourite way to prep it is just brush with olive oil and put it under the grill. No salting it, no shallow frying it in batches, and no need to turn on the oven especially to roast it.IMG_6851

I chopped one big aubergine in 3 lengthways pieces and stuck it on. It took about 10 minutes on each side with the grill on a medium heat. At this point I had no idea if I was making some sort of pasta with aubergine and tomato sauce for dinner or what. But it was bucketing rain so I decided to bring the warmth, middle-eastern style. We enjoyed Baba Ganoush with Fennel, Carrot and Apple Coleslaw served with Quinoa. Catchy name eh?

Aubergine cooked, it was time to settle down with my boys while it bucketed rain outside and have a Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back viewing. That’s two hours of PEW-PEW PEW-PEW PEW-PEW, a few very mild double entendres, and a shocking paternity reveal. Y’know; in case you haven’t seen it.

I looked at about three baba ganoush recipes and decided they were all different enough for me to just chance my arm with the basic ingredients. Also, some of them involved draining the aubergine of water for ages and sure I’d no time for that with the movie-watching and creme-egg-eating.

I lashed all the below into the blender and crossed my fingers.

  • Flesh of 1 grilled aubergine
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of Glenisk Natural Yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon tahini (you can leave this out, but I love the taste)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of dried mint (I have fresh mint in the garden most of the year, but I’m reliant on the jars right now)

Baba Ganoush is just the fancy name for a smokey aubergine dip. I lacked the smoke (barbeque or naked flame) but it came out great; nicely smooth and flavoursome. Pomegranate seeds on top would really set it off visually and give a sweet crunch. (That would only happen if I managed to meal plan though.)

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Finished his dinner, then finished the Baba Ganoush.

I cooked us up some quinoa (1 cup uncooked fed four) in Marigold stock and set about making a carrot, fennel and apple coleslaw for the side. This is a super healthy coleslaw – it’s a simplified version of a Winter Veg one that Jamie Oliver does – the dressing uses yogurt rather than any mayonnaise. My mum always made lovely fresh coleslaw when I was growing up, but somehow horrible claggy deli counter versions seem to have become the standard offering.

When I’m in charge it’s not dinner unless there’s a load of toasted seeds or nuts involved so in went the toasted sunflower seeds in with grated apple and carrot and chopped fennel.

The dressing is just these four, all mixed quickly with a fork.

  • A good glug of olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup of Glenisk Natural Yogurt

I gave the boys the apple and veg with some plain yogurt as the dijon is quite hot.

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You too can conjure up Arabian nights on a rainy spring evening in Dublin with a little help from Glenisk! But maybe add some gauzy veils rather than Penney’s pyjamas to really get the effect right.

Glenisk Paneer Tikka. Yum.

See over there on the left (or down the bottom on yer mobile)? Yeah that, the Irish Parenting Blog Awards! I’ve gotten a couple of nominations, and excitement is building in the IPB community. I don’t get out much and now I’ve a glitzy awards ceremony to look forward to. Eep!

One of the awards sponsors is the fabulous Glenisk – who I’m on record as loving already in case you think I’m sucking up. I’m gonna represent on behalf of vegetarians and show how we use their products outside Go-Yo’s in the lunchbox. We use them a lot.  So, me and the boys had a little think about dinner while we indulged in a breakfast smoothie…

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Bitta brekkie

We decided on curry. This particular one is a real treat meal, but still lacks the guilt of a takeaway. I dunno about you but I love curry. I have eight million herbs and spices but sometimes I want some shortcuts. I don’t like using jars so the compromise option for me is to buy a spice mix from Green Saffron (another great Irish company). As usual, the packet recipe is for a meaty curry, so I adapted it to suit us.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 tbsp coconut oillf nat big pot
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 pack of paneer
  • 1 pack Green Saffron Tantalizing Tikka Spice Mix
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 a courgette
  • 75 mls Glenisk low fat yogurtImage courtesy of Green Saffron
  • 75 mls Glenisk creme fraiche
  • 1/2 lemon, juice & zest

To garnish:

  • 1/2 cup of cashew nuts
  • Some coriander
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Jamie Oliver has a paneer recipe. But it comes in a pack too!

  1. Heat 1.5 tbsp coconut oil in a large pan. Sweat the onions, garlic & ginger with the lid on til they’re all nice and soft.
  2. In the meantime, chop the paneer into cubes. Melt the other tablespoon of coconut oil at a medium-high heat in a non-stick pan, and toss in the paneer cubes. It takes about 6 minutes each side to crisp up a bit. A spatter guard will come in handy. You’re frying cheese here people, you’re frying cheese. Mmm, fried cheese…
  3. Back to your oniony mix. Add half the spice mix, and stir for a minute or so. Yes! Good news, I find half of the 25g is enough to feed two adults and two kids, so you can get two full meals out of one packet.
  4. Add your tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.
  5. While they simmer away, chop up your veggies nice and small. You want them to cook through in the sauce and you don’t necessarily want the kids to notice huge chunks of veg. Get your lemon zest done now too. Quick! The kids’ tv show is nearly over and you set up Netflix not to automatically play the next one in a fit of good parenting.IMG_6822
  6. Move the pan off the heat and blend the tomato sauce. I really recommend a stick blender in your kitchen gadget arsenal.
  7. Put it back on the heat, add your veggies along with the Glenisk yogurt and lemon juice.
  8. Let this simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  9. Add the cooked paneer, Glenisk creme fraiche and lemon zest, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Ta-da! Done.
  10. Toast the cashew nuts on a dry pan for a few minutes. Keep a really close eye, they can burn very easily.

Now, in case you think “ah here, I’m never going to get through all this lark the kids will be all over me looking for their dinner” I like to chop up extra veggies and just leave them on the side as if they’re an ingredient, and then, just watch them disappear. They sneak in and grab them, thinking they’re hilarious. Joke’s on you kiddo, you just ate raw veggies.

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He thinks he robbed these from me.

Serve up your curry on a bed of brown basmati rice with a sprinkling of coriander and the crushed up toasted cashews scattered on top for a protein boost.

I made an extra serving of yogurt with some dried mint and more lemon zest mixed in. My kids are generally ok with a mild curry, but I often add yogurt to their dinner just to cool the temperature when they can’t wait to get stuck in.

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Dinnertime!

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Hungry after a good run about outside.

During dinner prep we even managed to make a bit of dessert. Lime (veggie) jelly with raspberries and blueberries. I stuck it in the freezer so it would be ready after dinner. The colour of the fruit ran so it wasn’t as pretty after. Never fear, it was eaten, but we had run out of yogurt to serve with it.

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Pack shot images courtesy of Glenisk & Green Saffron

Who needs hamsters, we have Hexbugs!

There’s not many things my kids can play with nicely together. They will fight over crayons and tiny little super hero figures and get very worked up indeed over the ownership of particular Lego bricks.

Dominic got a Hexbug set for his birthday, a wee one which nonetheless entertained them both, sometimes together but mostly separately. One single buzzy little Hexbug was not cutting it. I had to get the set out for Ted when big bro was in school and sneak it back up on a high shelf before he got home.

I posted this tweet and resigned myself to heading to the toy shop for some additional bugs; resigned because I have a pathological fear of “spoiling” my kids. If it’s not a birthday or Christmas or you don’t deserve a little something then there’s no new stuff coming your way “just because”.

Then, the Hexbug mothership decided they couldn’t stand to see a forlorn toddler and a large box of panels, pipes and FOUR new Hexbugs arrived five days later. The elder treated it like a YouTube toy reveal video, listing all the pieces as he pulled them out of the box (he is obsessed with this one kid who builds Lego kits).

They built an “upstairs” and tubes that go nowhere until reluctantly, bedtime arrived. By this time Dominic had deduced their name comes from the hexagonal panels (see: educational too!) So, I wonder are they spoiled now? Well, we’ll see if they give postman an earful the next time he arrives with just boring bills.

But for now, from us to you, thank you Hexbug!

We received these courtesy of Hexbug UK. They didn’t request a review but I want to share the love anyway. All opinions are our own. The boys’ opinions amount to: “COOOOOL!”