Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Joys' of Autumn Days

The twins' vocabulary (and especially Molly's) has taken a real leap recently. Among her favourite phrases are 'Shoes on!' and 'sit down', she's becoming a real little parrot, which means I'm really going to have to start watching my language (oops, yes, my toddler swore, please don't judge me too harshly). Gareth has his own name for his sister, and it's sweet to hear him call for 'Mamu'. When I get home from work, its to the fantastic welcome of my little boy pointing to me and yelling 'Mama! There you!' He also tries to sing the theme tune from a kids show they like, and 'Row, row, row, boat!'

They're shoes were getting a little tight, and a little worse for wear, so we took them to get some new ones. My mum very generously gave us a gift card for a shoe shop. My mum always bought my siblings and I Clark's shoes, and I intend on doing the same with my kids. I'm happy enough for them to have cheaper shoes once their feet have been measured, for playing about in the garden, etc, but overall, I think its important to have their 'main shoes' as good quality ones that have been properly fitted, so Clarks it is.

Gareth was totally underwhelmed by the whole shoe-shopping experience, so I just chose the pair of ankle boots he seemed most comfy in. Molly loved it, she sat in the stroller, and stuck her foot out, exclaiming 'Shoes!' She chose hers (I gave a choice of 2 different ankle boots for her) and is delighted with her shoes with the 'Nice flowers!' She loves them so much, that she asks to put them on as soon as she wakes up, even if she's still wearing her pyjamas. She can also put on her own trousers, and has also managed to put on her Thomas the Tank Engine Slippers (or the Toot-Toot Shoes as they are fondly called). Gareth, nope, will rarely even give it a go. The other day my husband asked him to try and put his shoes on - Gareth just pointed at me and said 'Mama! Shoes!' Ah well, they do say girls are a bit more independent. He's a very sweet boy, although the other day, I could have done without him deciding he wanted rid of the stray oatcake crumb that was on his tongue, and grabbing my hand and licking it to dislodge the offending morsel. There's one they don't mention in the parenting manuals.

So life ticks on as it should. We made it to Confession and Mass on Saturday evening for the first time in weeks. It was good, even if I spent half the Mass chasing Gareth around the porch. It's getting better, he's able to sit for a little longer each time, and I'm more accepting of when he's reached his limit. Molly kneels and clasps her hands during the consecration, it's very sweet. For all their noise and munty-bagging, they charm the socks off of most people who see them. When confession was over, and the Priest went to prepare for Mass, they were waving and calling 'Bye Bye!'

I have made the Christmas cake, and gave it it's first feeding of Port, one of my favourite jobs, and a sign that autumn is slowly turning to winter. A sign, along with the clocks going back, that it's time to set something nourishing to simmer on the stove, to fill your house with delicious smells, to snuggle down, breathe in warm fragrant steam, and wrap your hands around something cosy...

But that, my dears, is a story for another day.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Noshtalgia: Meat and Potato Pie

We had roast chicken a few days ago, and the idea was that my husband would make chicken pot pie with the left overs, since I was going to be working late. Anyway, he decided there wasn't enough left over chicken, and that left us with the pastry I'd made needing to be used. I decided to go for an old favourite, Meat and Potato Pie. Tender chinks of beef, onions, and diced potato in gravy, topped with rich, melt in the mouth pastry. I remember my nannie making this when I was younger. The inspiration is from that childhood memory, and the pastry recipe is hers, but the stew is mine. So, sharpen your knife, get out a big pot, and dust your rolling pin with flour. This pie is fairly economical, but to me, there's always something a bit special about a pie. If you're on a budget, this is a great alternative to a Sunday roast.

These amounts will comfortable serve a family of four.

The Pastry

This is for a top-crust only, if you want pastry on the bottom too, double it up.

3oz cold butter, diced
2oz cold shortening/ lard, diced
8oz all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp dried thyme (optional)
1 egg( beaten)
you might also need a little water if the pasty is not coming together.

Place the flour, thyme (if using) and salt in a mixing bowl, add the fats, and rub them into the flour until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg, and use your hands to bring the mix together until it forms a clump of dough. If the mix is too dry, and not adhering, add a little water (around a tablespoon at a time) until you can get it to form a ball.

Don't be scared of pastry, the trick is to be light handed but confident. This pastry will become tough if over-handled. Be as firm as you need to be to get the dough into a ball, just don't bash it around.

Pastry made,wrap it in cling film, or put it in a plastic bag, and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.

The Stew

1 tbsp
1 lb of diced stewing meat
1 large onion, chopped
5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into fairly large chunks.
about 10 mushrooms, sliced.
3 tbsps all purpose flour
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced.
1 and 3/4 pints beef stock
2 tsps dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
Corn starch to thicken gravy (you may not need this)

Keep your prepared potatoes to one side, in a bowl or pot, covered with cold water.

Heat the oil in a large pot, add the beef, and brown. Add the onions, and cook until the onions are becoming translucent, then add the mushrooms, and stir in the flour. Add about 1/4 pint on the beef stock, and stir to make sure you have no clumps of flour, and the base of the gravy is smooth. Stir in the rest of the stock, add the carrots and thyme. Cook on a gentle heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender.

Remove pastry from fridge, and preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (390 Fahrenheit)

Drain potatoes, add to stew, and cook for around 15 minutes, or until tender. Season to taste. If the gravy is too thin, slake around 4 tsps of corn starch in a little water to make a smooth paste, and stir into the gravy. Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring all the time.

Pour the prepared stew into a casserole or deep pie dish. Dust a work surface with flour, and roll out the pastry large enough to cover your dish. Top the stew with pastry, and cut a hole in the top to let the steam escape.

Place in the centre of the oven, and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Smile at your achievement.

Serve on it's own, or with a green vegetable of your choice.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Action First, Feelings Later.

In many ways, I need to act more, and think less. I'm guilty of wallowing in my feelings (usually negative) about certain situations. In most cases, not only is this wallowing selfish, it's also pointless, because A, B, or C still needs to be done, regardless of how I feel about it.

I can't promise to change overnight to a positive attitude, but I can at least make an effort to just get on with things without bitterness or complaint. I can learn that some things we just need to accept (small child wanting to come into bathroom with you) and that however much I might dislike it, saying yes means one less fight in a day.

Maybe being busier will help. There's so much stuff out there telling us 'movement is good for you.' Perhaps that's the key. Action, not dithering. Decisiveness, not pondering. Often I spend time dreading an event, like going to the toddlers group. I convince myself so much that it's going to be awful that the belief is so ingrained, that I wouldn't enjoy it no matter what. Since I've decided that the kids going to a toddlers' group should be a priority, wouldn't it be better to go in with at least a neutral (if not a positive) attitude?

By the same token, I need to start seizing the day more. The kids bring their clothes, shoes and jackets to me straight after breakfast. They look hopeful that we'll go out and do something, even if it's just go to the local playground, or go into the garden. So often, I ignore this silent plea. I dress them, but don't put on their shoes or coats. I dress them, but I stay in my pyjamas, and the day is wasted.

Why? Because I didn't feel like going out? Because there might be Other People at the park? Because it might rain? None of these things are good enough reasons for my children to miss out on these simple joys of childhood. I cannot continue to let my feelings talk me out of doing things. Less selfish wallowing, and more action is required.