Tuesday, 16 September 2014

So long, farewell...

My time here blogging has, I think, reached a natural end.

I know. I've said that before. A number of times before, but I do think this time it might actually be true. (The lack of blog posts in the past few months have probably drawn a number of you to reach the same conclusion.)

The primary reason being, that after almost 9 tremendously happy years as the ridiculously lucky post holder of The Best Job In The World... I'm off to do something else. Something else which I hope will be a serious contender for The Best Job In The World... but something else which, if I'm honest, is unlikely to allow me enough time to have a wee in the middle of the day, let alone take a lunch hour in order to update this blog.

I have loved every minute of writing this blog, and I've loved every single one of you who have commented, laughed, commented while laughing, or just emailed me to tell me I'd broken your pelvic floor once again. (My work here is done.) I have made some genuine friendships whilst blog-writing and I will be very much prevalent on Twitter and Facebook, so don't feel I'm dropping off the world entirely, that really shouldn't be the case.

Speaking of Facebook... my one hesitation about closing the blog down was losing out on the quite awesome record of Mr Jamie-isms and, increasingly, Beth-isms that it has provided. I'm planning to continue to commit these to the electronic page (mortifying my children being what I do best), and so to that end, if you're not there already, come on over to the IKINTST Facebook page:


Where I can promise you'll continue to benefit from all too frequent 'glimpses into madness' - my favourite ever review of this blog. I will try and keep this slightly more regularly updated with all the little moments of randomness my children - and I - manage to come out with. I really hope you'll come and join us.

I love you all. And, to give the blog a fitting send off, here's a little moment of absolute genius from its most prolific contributor... Mr Jamie:

'Mummy, I think One Direction should be called Zero Direction... because they have none. Do One Direction just want to marry all the girls?'

That's my boy.

Bye bye blog. It's been an absolute blast :-)

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Fat Duck



Otherwise known as The Best Day Of My Entire Life.

Even by my standards, I have been a rubbish blogger. I know. I know. Real Life has been selfishly getting in the way, with recent highlights being Mr Jamie returning to school (at bloody last) and me landing myself a brand shiny new job. Which, despite the fact it means leaving The Best Job In The World (TM), I am still tremendously excited about.

The highlight of all highlights was, however, my long, long anticipated trip to The Hardest Restaurant To Book a Table At, Ever: Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck. Readers who are bored senseless by photographs of food and me harping on about said food... you will want to close this post down round about now. If you are brave enough to continue, however, I have put one of the best Mr Jamie/Beth moments EVER at the end as a reward. Bribery and corruption: that's how I keep my readers.

I have wanted to go to The Fat Duck since pretty much for ever. (This is a lie. I've wanted to go since I first discovered it existed, which was about 10 years ago.) However, table bookings are somewhat hard to come by, with an apparently verified rumour that, at the peak of its fame, they were receiving 30,000 telephone calls A DAY to book a table.

Terrifying.

Thankfully, our experience of booking a table was a bit easier than that. Bookings are now done via t'internet, and so having found two willing victims to come along with us (tables of 4 being far easier to procure than tables of 2), I duly logged on at the allotted hour (2 months precisely before the date you wish to book for, at 10am), sweated and shook and panicked and triple clicked... AND I HAD A TABLE. And didn't my entire office know about it.

The Fat Duck is famous for its 14 course (yes, you did read that right) tasting menu, full of all kinds of weirdness and wonderfulness. We decided, as this was an experience we were unlikely to repeat, we would also go for the wine flight, which involved a full 7 glasses of wine across the course of the meal. (Those of you who are wondering how, given that, I can remember any of the visit at all, make a very valid point.) And so off we went.

Rarely, in my experience, do things live up to expectations. Particularly things which I have hyped up with the level of hyperbole you get inside my head.

The Fat Duck didn't just live up to my expectations. It surpassed them. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best meal I have eaten in my entire life, and, as alluded to earlier, it comes very close to being the best day of my entire life. Virtually faultless.

I'm not going to go through the menu course by course... you would lose the will to live. It's here, should you wish to have a look. Here instead are some of my personal highlights from what was FIVE HOURS of eating and drinking.

Red cabbage gazpacho with mustard ice cream
Truffle toast. One of the best things I have ever put in my mouth, ever.
The infamous Snail Porridge
Sound of the Sea
The Best Pudding Ever
Fat Duck sweets, and the happiest person in the world
And those are just a tiny selection of the ONE HUNDRED (I am a very anti-social dinner guest) photos I took over the course of the meal.

Of course, at the end of the meal, they had to ruin it all by bringing us the bill.

Now. It was not cheap. Clearly not. The bill for four of us, with service, and wine (with one non-drinker), came to... wait for it... £1,300.

Which I realise on the fact of it sounds extortionate.

But then take into consideration the 15 courses, the 7 tonnes glasses of wine, the 5 hours we spent enjoying it all...

... and honestly, genuinely, I think the value for money was absolutely superb.

Go. If you do nothing else before you die, do this. Really, truly, one of the best days of my life ever ever ever. And if you feel the crazy price tag of The Fat Duck is a bit out of reach... try Dinner by Heston in London, where by coincidence Neil and I are off to with the in-laws on Saturday*. Also a phenomenon.

*I realise this blog post has made my life sound far more glamorous than it is. Rest assured I'm writing this eating a wilting Sainsbury's salad at my desk. I'm not sure you could get anything more removed from a Michelin star. 

Finally... as promised... THIS:

Beth: Mummy, I want a Peppa Pig toy. 

Me: Well, you can't always get what you want. I want some Jimmy Choos, but that isn't going to happen. 

Beth (in utter bewilderment): Mummy, why do you want Jamie's shoes? 

They just keep on being brilliant.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Still here... still rather odd and in need of a hair brush...

I know. I know, I know, I know. Am a TERRIBLE blogger.

We're just back from a week's holiday, if you can describe a week of chronic sleep deprivation and constant child-watching-for-fear-they-would-run-into-the-sea-and-never-return as a holiday. Restful, it was not, but the kids loved it, the sun shone... and most of my skin is now peeling off as a result of said sunshine, which is a delightful mental image for you all. (This was after THREE applications of factor 50 every single day. There is no helping people like me.)

Jamie and Beth continued, despite the sleep deprivation, to provide on tap entertainment. Perhaps my very favourite moment of the week came courtesy of the brilliant - and terrifying - mind of Mr Jamie. Enjoy.

'Mummy, I love baby Will.' (His year old cousin, also on holiday with us.) 'I love him so much.'

'Good. I'm glad.'

'I love him... and I love baby Theo as well.' (The son of one of his school friends.)

'You are far more maternal than I will ever be.'

'Mummy, when I grow up I think I am going to marry baby Will and baby Theo.'

My face clearly showed what I thought of THAT plan.

'Oh, no. I can't do that, can I?'

'Relief. No, you absolutely cannot.'

'No, because you can't marry two people can you? Not in this country...'

So that's the major issue here, Mr Jamie. Not the marrying of babies. Not the marrying of family members. Not even the marrying of boys (which, clearly, I have no issue with, but Mr Jamie's desire for 'ten hundred' children suggests a lady is going to need to be involved at some point). It's the marrying of two people at the same time which is stopping you from ploughing ahead with this plan.

If he tells me he's moving abroad soon, I am going to need to start to really worry.

Friday, 18 July 2014

How To Make Your Children Eat

Warning: Smug post ahead. (Ah, who am I trying to kid... they're all smug!)

It is unusual for me to write a Proper Parenting Post. Not least because I am anything but a Proper Parent... as proved on multiple occasions by the archives of this blog, which my children will no doubt be using as evidence against me in later years. However. Over the past few months I've been asked on an oddly frequent basis the following question. How Do You Make Your Children Eat? Or, perhaps more accurately, How Do You Make Your Children Eat Such Bloody Weird Things. And so I thought I'd devote an entire blog post to the one part of parenting I think I might currently be getting right.*

Now, this could be luck, it could be design, it could just be that my children happen to treat every meal as though it is their last. I have no idea what it is which makes them happy to consume just about everything, with their favourite foods being as diverse as olives (I am 32. I have only just made myself like olives), smoked salmon, quinoa, broad beans and that all time Best Food Ever... Brussels sprouts. (Which I have only just learnt has a pluralised 'Brussels'. Every day's a school day.) However, in answer to the questions, and in the hope that it might help someone else... this is what we did:

1) Baby Led Weaning. I could lie and say that we did this because we thought it would encourage our children to eat a wide range of foods. The reality is that we did this because we are lazy. (Sorry Neil. I am lazy!) Having said that, I think it was good for getting them used to lots of different flavours and textures very early on. Nine times out of ten they'd just eat whatever we were eating (laziness strikes again), so there has never been a distinction between 'child' and 'adult' food in our house. Which I think is important. No child wants to think there's something good you're eating that they're missing out on. Hence the smoked salmon obsession.

2) Nursery. Peer pressure from a very early age. It's incredible how often children will eat something when they're sat in a room of other children, all eating the same thing...

3) Choice. But - and this is important - controlled choice. It's unusual for me to just plonk a plate of food in front of my children and expect them to eat them. They will usually get a choice. The choice will be something like: 'Mushroom and quinoa risotto, or Spanish omelette with salad'. (I love how I'm pretending I am a cooking guru. That is a choice, but only on a day when I'm finishing work early. Most of the time it's more like 'EGGS ON TOAST OR BEANS ON TOAST, DECIDE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.') And then they get to decide. If they can't decide mutually, then I get to overrule them and make the decision for them. Am trying to encourage their development of strategic team building skills (as opposed to just hitting each other) at an early age. Similarly, they always get a choice of drinks. That choice being: 'Milk, or water?' Both of which they therefore drink in vast quantities. (Until they get distracted by a display of Angry Birds Fruit Shoots in Waitrose. Bloody marketing ploys.)

4) Open Discussion On The Health Benefits Of Food. Some of you will disagree with me on this, but we have an open dialogue in our house on the importance of eating certain foods in order to stay healthy. They know we should be trying to eat a minimum of 5 different types of fruit and vegetables a day. They know drinks with sugar in might make your teeth fall out. They know you need lots of protein to help you grow and make your bones strong. They know if you eat too much sugar (we worry less about fat, because of course there are so many 'good' fats) then your body won't work as well and you won't be as healthy. They are however children, not saints. They both still love to eat sweets and cake and puddings, however they both appear to currently have the ability to self regulate, particularly when it comes to sweets - I regularly get half full packets handed back to me. I am not naive enough to think this will last, but at the moments it feels like they're getting a sensible message and listening to it.

5) Minimal Snacks. This will be a bit controversial, but it's very unusual for me to give my kids a snack between meals. Past the age of about 2, when they need lots of smaller meals rather than 3 big meals, I don't believe any child (or adult, for that matter), really needs to eat between meals. It often means that by the time they come to sit down for their meal, they're not actually that hungry, which is where some of the problems start...

6) Zero Tolerance. IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, DO THIS. Contrary to popular belief, I do not force my children to sit down and eat all of their meals. They can eat as much or as little as they want of what is on their plates. BUT... and it's a big BUT... if they don't finish what I've given them to eat, there is NOTHING ELSE. No pudding, no fruit, no crisps, no sweets, no snacks... NOTHING. (The exception to this is where they're eating somewhere other than home and have got too large a portion... but then we pre-agree what they need to eat if they want to have something else.) They don't then get anything else to eat until their next meal, or, if it's dinner, until the next morning. They might whinge a bit about still being hungry, but you know what: they're not going to starve. And I reckon it's this, more than anything else, which has had the biggest impact on their eating habits.

I hope this answers some of the questions I regularly get asked. We do not get it all right. And I'm sure in the next few years they'll go through phases of faddy eating, and you can laugh in my face about this post. But, based on Mr Jamie's caviar tantrum alone... they're not doing a bad job.

*Feel free to remind me of this smug proclamation in 6 months' time when they're refusing to eat anything but Cheerios and jam.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Sad times

This is not going to translate well into a blog AT ALL.

But it was funny enough that I shall try and make it work anyway.

One of the many annoying phrases which I use on an irritatingly frequent basis is that of 'sad times'. Usually used when the kids are telling me about something which really isn't that sad at all, but which they are treating with more melodrama than is necessary. For example:

'Mummy, today there weren't any apples left at snack time so I had to have A PEAR.'

'Sad times.'

You get the idea.

And so it was, last night, that Mr Jamie and his friend Reuben were in the car coming back from school. They got onto discussing 'purple level books' (at some point I really must find out what all these damn levels mean), which they'd both been reading. Reuben started to elaborate on a particularly tragic tale regarding Floppy the dog:

'And then the evil genii made the big bird come down, and he swooped down onto the desert island, and Floppy was there, and he picked him up in his talons, and then he flew off with him, and meanwhile the children had to go back home because the key was glowing, and they didn't think they would see Floppy EVER AGAIN.'

At which point Reuben, sitting back having delivered the denouement of his thrilling tale, waiting for an appropriate and dramatic reaction, was greeted with this, from Mr Jamie:

'Sad times.'

FROM MR JAMIE.

I swear, I laughed so much I nearly had to pull over. (Don't panic Vic, if you're reading this. I promise your child was totally safe and hopefully not too scarred from Jamie's utterly understated response.)

He's flipping marvellous, isn't he?


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

It seems it's not only the children...

If I ever wondered where they got it from... I need wonder no longer.

On Saturday, Neil and I found ourselves with some blissful child-free time in central London. As it was pouring with rain, we decided to go and see a film in Leicester Square.

'Let's go and see The Grand Budapest Hotel', said Neil.

'Oh fab, yes, I've always wanted to see that', said I.

And so we bought our tickets and sat down to watch it.

Now.

The first thing you should be aware of... is that I thought Budapest was in India.

Which explains why I found the constant references to Eastern Europe extremely confusing.

This misconception wasn't helped by the fact that, at the start of the film, there was a statue of a man.

An extremely familiar looking man.

I know who that is, I thought to myself. That's GANDHI.

Fortunately, I kept this thought to myself. (Or, perhaps, unfortunately, given it might have highlighted the 'India-not-India' issue rather earlier in the day.)

There was a second problem.

When I'd said I'd wanted to see The Grand Budapest Hotel... what I'd actually meant was that I wanted to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Which was, ergo, the film I thought I was watching. I was somewhat surprised by the lack of an appearance by Judi Dench and Maggie Smith... but I assumed they'd burst in half way through, full of old lady charm and entertainment.

It was not until we were approximately 90 minutes through a 100 minute film... that it occurred to me that I might be watching the WRONG Film With The Word Hotel In The Title.

It was a very, very confusing two hours of my life.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Family planning

(Apologies for absence - selfishly my children haven't been quite as funny as they usually are over the past few days. Thankfully Beth saved the blog from falling into utter demise with this moment of genius from the car journey home today. Enjoy.)

'Mummy, I want a baby.'

'I'm afraid it's not quite that simple. They're not the sort of things you can just pick up in supermarket.'

'I want another baby to grow in your tummy.'

'I can assure you that hell will freeze over before that happens. Sorry.'

'But I WANT a baby.'

'And I want world peace and an Audi TT... sometimes we can't always have what we want.'

'I'm going to have my own baby.'

'Could you wait until you're 16, at least?'

'I'm going to have a baby in my tummy.'

'Goodness. Well, I'm pleased to say that you need two people to have a baby.'

'What?'

'Don't worry about the details, just know that you can't have a baby by yourself. There has to be someone else involved.'

'I have a baby with Kiera.'

'Um... no. You can't.'

'BUT KIERA'S MY BEST FRIEND.'

'She may well be, but she's also a girl. You can't have a baby with two girls. Promise.'

'Fine.' She thought for some time, then I saw her face light up in the rear view mirror. 'I know Mummy. I have a baby with JAMIE!'

'Oh good grief. No, no, no, you absolutely cannot have a baby with Jamie.'

'But Jamie's a boy.'

'Yes, yes he is. And he's also your brother.'

'Jamie loves babies. JAMIE! I HAVING A BABY WITH YOU.'

Normal service is very clearly resumed.

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