Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Reasons to be excited about Christmas #1

There is something very not right about (a) Christmas decorations going up on the 1st of November, and (b) Christmas decorations going up while there is no change whatsoever to the weather (other than the falling of extraordinary amounts of water from the skies every afternoon).  This winter (“winter”) sees me with no woolly jumpers or last-year’s ankle boots or traipsing up and down Oxford Street looking for a new “boot” or “jean” or anything else which should be a plural.  Instead it feels – and looks - like August.  And even tho the C-day is creeping closer and closer, and I have bought cards (back in September, in fact) and tacky decorations and even some presents –  still I cannot get my head around the fact that it’s almost DECEMBER. 

December!!  The best thing about December, as every parent knows, isn’t the carols or the presents or being able to look your child in the eye and tell him that no one in Asia eats turkey, and thus nor shall he;  it’s the fact that for 25 days you have at your disposal the best tool of all time for encouraging (ahem) good behaviour.  Yes, boys and girls, SANTA  IS LISTENING!   And this year I’ve taken it a step further and ordered an Elf on the Shelf, so with any luck I won’t even have to use my voice – a simple nod in the direction of Mr Elf should suffice (assuming, of course, he arrives on time;  delivery companies seem to have something of a mental block about Singapore).

Because frankly, I need all the threats help I can get.  No matter how many sibling books I read, the Boy and the Girl are entirely devoted to irritating each other. There is nothing they won’t argue about. Here is a random list of things they squabbled about yesterday:
  • Who has bigger eggs.
  • Who has bigger sperm [I swear].
  • Who has actually got eggs [one of them] or sperm [neither of them].
  • She said my dinner looks like snot
  • He said Cinderella was an eejit
  • She IS an eejit
  • Look! She’s thinking about stealing my hamster!
  • He’s taken Lylee [stuffed lion] and is hanging him from his bedpost!
  • [Slightly more hysterical] HE’S THROWING BOOKS AT LYLEE!
  • SHE’S PUTTING EDDIE [stuffed elephant] IN THE TOILET!
  • Her toes make me feel sick
  • His face makes me feel sick. It looks like a bowl of sick.
  • And of course, the ubiquitous “She / He is LOOKING AT ME”  (followed up, naturally, with: “She/he is SMILING AT ME”).

It is non stop*.  The only thing which calms it down is the threat of a delivery of coal from the Man in Red.  And so this is what I look forward to most in December.  (That, and a stocking full of mosquito repellent.)

(*Having said all of that, right now they are best friends, and doing “private stuff” in a locked bathroom. I suspect it involves bottoms**. I can hear squeals of laughter and the occasional order to “STAY STILL!”)

(**It did involve bottoms.  And, somewhat disturbingly, an AA battery.)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Singaporean Snapshots

I think it’s time for some visuals. 

First up, a visit to Daiso, the Japanese equivalent of the Pound Shop.  (Do any of you remember the segment in the Clive James Show a thousand years ago where he’d show a clip from Japanese tv?  This was the retail version of that.  Mad weird shit. And I can say that safe in the knowledge that I am not offensively stereotypying (well, not too offensively stereotyping) because my accompanying friend is half Japanese.  She walked around looking bemused and occasionally shaking her head in silenced shock. “Oh, my people...” she said, more than once.)  Suffice to say that we had a fabulous time, each spent $50, and left with truck-loads of weird, tacky, plastic tat.

Unsure what to get your chair for Christmas?  How about some socks?  (And if the chair in your life doesn’t like  brown socks, go back for more – they’re only $2 after all)

The instructions on this are brilliant.  A bit over the top, but some items might be dangerous, and really, should NOT be heedlessly swung around, only after confirmed the hook with stable condition etc.  Most of all, tho, please don’t use it for any other purpose.  For your own sake.

Mind you, if you can think of any purpose for a chocolate scented soft strap animal (ANIMAL), I’d be interested to hear it.


We laughed our pants off at this.  In retrospect - perhaps not unlike the disposable men's pants I bought the Man (there goes his Santa Surprise) - you may have had to have been there. 

Next up!  A notice on the door of a cafe I sometimes bring the Baby to.  Although now I can’t bring her there any more, because God only knows what the staff are thinking when this ancient decrepit  silver-aged old crone shuffles in, with a 2 year old she’s pretending is hers.

Finally – one to top that delicious Tuna Croissant I hunted down a while back. 


Coming Soon:  the Boy causes consternation at school by using the word “Penis”.  Because, you know, there might be other 6 year olds there who don’t know the word. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Tears of Meat Envy

We made it home. There was, natch, a bit of travelling vomit, but only from one child, and it all made it into a sick bag, so nothing too revoltingly remarkable. The culprit was our six  - !! – year old. The one whose birthday it was two days before, but who wasn’t told about it until a day later (keep up...).  We did our usual birthday tradition of sneaking into the pre-dawn bedroom, and rousing the pretending-to-sleep child with a hearty rendition of Happy Birthday, complete with candles,  a Swedish flag, presents, cards, and something not suitable for breakfast consumption.

Actually I’d argue that Orios are not suitable for consumption by the Boy at any stage, because they’re clearly laced with something. The evil counterpart of pixie-dust.  Demon dust perhaps?  Whatever, instead of making the Boy fly and smile, he turns into a horror.  And so his birthday morning came to pass with tantrums and sulks and tears.  But!  Then we remembered we were in Bali, and dragged him down to the (poo-strewn) beach, attached him to a board, and threw him at the mercy of the waves.  It was nothing short of miraculous.  (Boogie boarding – the antidote to long-life preservative-ridden cookies.) And then came the piece-de-birthday-resistance.

When he was born I vowed that my children would grow up not eating meat, respecting animals, and understanding all the reasons for not eating them (namely, because we don’t have to.) However, I made the great liberal gesture that at age 6 they could choose for themselves. The reasoning being that by then I would have made such a great impression on my offspring with my wonderful parenting – and persuasive - skills that they would, of course, choose to respect all of God’s baby animals.

So here’s the Boy at his birthday (“birthday”) lunch. 

See the look of glee?  It’s directly correlated to the tastiness (in his mind) of the meatball en route to his mouth. (Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a photo of the Girl at the same time, sitting there, as my friend J put it, with “tears of meat envy running down her face”.  So much for respecting God’s baby animals.)

On that note, here’s my new favourite thing to eat, which is vegetarian (if not vegan) friendly.  It’s a rip off of our favourite brunchy dish at a beach-club we sometimes go to here.  (If that sounds smug – yes, I know it does, esp if you’re being pelted by sleet in Europe somewhere  – take some solace from that fact that (a) a glass of yoghurt there costs £8, and (b) if you raise your eyes slightly above your swimming children, you’re confronted with the sight of several dozen filthy spewing oil tankers trundling by.  Nothing quite says Singapore like the sight of kids and puppies splashing about beside the world’s busiest shipping lanes. )

Yoghurt Layery Thing
This is so ridiculously easy that it doesn’t actually merit being called a recipe. It’s more of an assembly.  Also, the restaurant’s original uses fresh raspberries and strawberries, while I improvised – at no loss to taste - with jam.  There are three fundamental tricks to making it a thing of fabulousness:
  • Serve it in a glass
  • Heat up the jam first (in a microwave in the glass, so no mess! Or, if you’re making more than one, in a jug.)
  • Crumble a digestive biscuit on top.  (Now is not the time to be beating yourself up about giving the kids biscuits for breakfast.  Just trust me on this.)
You need – per person:
  • A glass
  • A large tablespoon of jam
  • A few dollops of natural yoghurt
  • A couple of tablespoons of soft fruit (I used bananas, berries; mangoes, stone fruits are good too)
  • One digestive biscuit
  • Some squirty honey
  • Anything else you think might go well – nuts, seeds. A dollop of shipping fuel.

Dollop the jam in the bottom of the glass and stick it in the microwave for about 15 seconds.
Put a couple of spoons of yoghurt on top, the fruit, more yoghurt, biscuit, then honey.  As much or as little of everything, as you prefer. 
If you’re making it in advance (like I do, because as we know I am a domestic and maternal goddess) add the biscuit and honey just before eating.
Serve to your carnivorous offspring, ignoring requests for added meatballs.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Bali, baby

Now, where was I? Ah yes, dragging my sorry ass around Singapore in the name of exercise. The point of the (one-off) exercise was Bali - specifically, bikini-wearing in Bali - which is where today's dispatch comes from. 'Why are you updating your blog?' I hear you all cry; 'why are you not out lounging about on a beach somewhere, surfers in sight, cocktail in hand?'   Well because I'm sitting in front of Sofia the First with a vomiting Girl, while everyone else goes lounging and surf-sighting. (Except for the Man, who has had to leave for 3 days for work. Which is why the Girl is sick. You can set your vomiting-alarm by his travel diary.)  
So, Bali. It is NOT Singapore. You poo on the beach in Singapore? You go to jail. Probably forever. Poo on the beach in Bali?  Why limit it to just the once? As a result, we've been hanging out at our villa quite a bit.  A beautiful villa with a beautiful pool. To be on the safe side - I assume - the villa-owner has added a bit of water to the chlorine in the pool.  Turns out that green hair sort of suits my children. Although swollen-shut eyes isn't a great look for the Boy. 
The Baby either has chickenpox (again!) or has been ravaged, all at once, by tiny hungry baby mosquitoes.  Only on her face*, however, which is fine, because who ever looks at a baby's face? (*21 and counting.) So we didn't take any photos of her on her birthday. Which was celebrated the day after her birthday, because we spent her birthday travelling. And biting our tongues to stop selves from wishing her HAPPY BIRTHDAY  every few minutes.  And then the next day, the birthday oooomph was gone. But anyway, she is two! We're hopeful that this is the year she starts to talk slightly. Something - anything - beyond No, and Thiiiiiiis, and MINE!  (And grows out of her mosquito bites.)
Speaking of which, today is the Boy's birthday. And because the Man is away, we are celebrating it tomorrow. Gah. So last night I brought him out to the markets to see if there was anything he wanted to buy. (Luckily, he loves tat).  After touching and picking up every single thing on the island, and possibly getting several contracts out on him by very disgruntled stall-owners, he alighted (the pun will be revealed in a moment) on a small cobra figure. Which of course, he picked up, cupped in his hand, flicked a random switch, and.... Cue screeching, a dropped cobra, and the smell of burning  flesh. Poor the Boy. To cheer him up he got a (very permanent looking) scorpion tattoo covering most of his lower leg.  (Which will go down a treat in school.)  And a fish spa session - which he loved. (Thousands of teeny wriggly baby fish nibbling at your skin - what's not to love??)
However. Despite the poo and the vomit and the blistered hands and scabby faces, Bali seems to be working its magic. I am relaxed! Exhausted and a bit stinky, but the skies are blue and the palm trees swaying. And one of my dearest friends is also here, with her (gorgeous, beautifully behaved, unlighted by bugs of any type) children, in the villa next door. We have a handy booze set up- gin in our villa, wine in hers. (There has been a LOT of going and froing.) But - I can't limit my villa-excursions to nipping next door for some Mummy's Little Helper, so we are heading out now, sick-bowls and pooper-scoopers in hand.   
Next week - we survive the flight home, good health is restored, and I start organising a party for 18 6 year old boys.  At home. Oh GOD why did I just think of that?

Friday, 10 October 2014

In which I decide to get fit. And then decide not to.

I’ve just been for a run.  My first since I became pregnant with the fully-grown-toddler Baby.  On the plus side, I didn’t wet myself, and none of my insides fell out of my vagina.  Nonetheless, running – particularly after  almost three years of not running – in the tropics is not something I’d really recommend.  If you are curious, however, and have the good sense and fortune not to live in a country with 100% humidity and melt-you-skin-heat every single day of the year, this is what to do.
  • Find yourself a steamroom.  One with no windows and a hatch is ideal.  
  • Drag a running machine inside it, and turn it on.
  • Set the temperature to Volcano, and the humidity to Ocean.
  • Put on the teeniest workout clothes you can find.  (Now is not the time for either modesty or self consciousness.)
  • Dip yourself in a bath of sweat-resistant insect repellent. (Or you could wonder what all the fuss is about and half-heartedly spray in the general direction of your body)
  • Have on hand the following:  an assistant; some snakes; several bin-liners full of angry mosquitoes.
  • Sprint into the steamroom, leap onto the running machine, and tell yourself that this isn’t so bad after all.
  • Run for about 12 seconds before realising you haven’t brought a drink.
  • Call out for one of the bags of mosquitoes to be opened and shaken through the hatch.  The hatch should be shut firmly afterwards.
  • Close your eyes and your mouth and keep running.
  • Wish you’d decided to go for the bath option after all.
  • Call out for a snake, and hope that it slithers away from you.
  • Develop the worst cramp you have  EVER had, and think about sitting down. 
  • Remember the snake and the mosquitoes and keep moving.
  • Start to feel the first symptoms of dehydration.
  • Call for more mosquitoes.
  • Shout “Lights out!”, run in the sudden and pitch dark, and tell yourself you’ve just experienced tropical sunset.
  • Randomly hit the incline button on the treadmill, thereby discovering hills in your neighbourhood you never knew existed.
  • Start to hallucinate.
  • Feel your knee twinge.
  • Call for more mosquitoes.
  • Decide, bugger it, you’re stopping.  Snakes and mosquitoes be damned.
  • Hobble out of the steamroom.
  • Check your watch.  You’ve been running for 11 minutes.
  • Lie facedown on a bed in an air-conditioned room without moving for so long that the Baby – the one who got you into this unfit mess in the first place – starts to cry with anxiety.
  • Sweat for about 2 hours. Even after you shower. Go to embrace your children, only to have them shriek and scurry away from you, their little faces filled with disgust. 
  • Wait another 3 years before trying anything this foolish again. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September Rolls

I honestly don’t know why I can’t get it together to post more than a couple of times – if that – a month. Perhaps I am worn out from all the sweating and the drinking of water and the draining of leaking water bottles from my handbags?  Whatever, not a huge amount has been going on. 


Which is a broken Le Creuset butter dish.   The enormity of this will be felt only if you live in a country / island state where Le Creuset costs FOUR TIMES (I kid you not) what it costs in the country / island multi-state you just moved from.  

Reflux.  Or something equally unpleasant and anti-social.  It is, I assume, the latest in the unceasing advance of The War of Middle Age.   (I am alone at the front, with only a twig and some loom bands for defence.)  So for about two weeks I completely cut out: caffeine; dairy; alcohol; citrus; tomatoes; chocolate; wheat.  It made fuck all difference, other than constant near-starvation, so now I’m miserable but replete/ half-cut, both of which take the edge off the misery somewhat. 

THE HEAT, people, the heat.  One of these days I swear I’m going to shake off my latent Scottish Presbyterianism and turn on the air-conditioning during the day.

Bastards.  As in:  “Oh Bastards!”, the Girl’s new expletive of choice.  (On the plus side, because of her ridiculous semi-American accent – Thank you, Frozen -  it comes out as “Oh Busters!”)

Pets.  There is no longer any pretence about the status of emotions towards the hamster. The Boy, yesterday:  “When Pink Red dies, can I get a guinea pig?” (Me:  “Certainly.  As long as it’s also dead.”)

A weekend on an island which looked like it was used for the Bounty Ad.  In fact, the Man tells me it was used for the Swedish version of Survivor;  which is hilarious, because it’s not exactly remote, or particularly wild.   I planned to take lots of photos to make you all wildly jealous, but then I’d have to have been honest.  So, eg the picture of the view from the restaurant bathroom, while idyllic (turquoise waters;  palm trees swaying in the afternoon breeze etc), was also the scene of many rather catastrophic bottom explosions from the Baby, who discovered the hard way the perils of not listening to STOP DRINKING SEA WATER;  the picture of the enormous jungle villa, in reality, the large (but not large enough) room where we ALL bunked down every night, sober, at 9pm, and lay listening to the Baby bark and meow and growl, and make whatever other ridiculous noises I presume she makes every night for hours before she finally falls asleep; the beautiful villa bathroom, with its enormous free-standing bath, which was perfect for rinsing the vomit out of all of Baby’s travelling clothes and various stuffed animals etc. (Notwithstanding all of the above, it was still amazing.)

I joined a book club!  Which – at the risk of doing them an enormous disservice – doesn’t seem to focus too much on the book, as much as on the Getting Away From The Children And Conversing With Grown Ups While Drinking Cocktails.  They are My People.

A woman in the park taking a photo of her dog.  Not entirely unusual here (or, I assume, anywhere) except that she was beseeching him – quite seriously – to “smile” and “say cheeeeeeeeeeese!”.   In her defence, he did look like he was both smiling and saying cheese, so maybe she knows something I don’t.  Or maybe he just had a stupid dog face.

Other Pets!  We seem to have acquired geckos.  Two.  (Which I suppose means that soon we’ll have thirty-two*).  They are quite lovely and sweet and make chirping noises while dancing underneath the cocktail cabinet (yes!) when they think no one is watching.  Also – and this contributes 100% to their loveliness – they are entirely maintenance-free, which is now the required standard for all incoming animals. (*As of this afternoon, we now have three.  Mummy, Daddy, and a gormless, translucent, and very tame, baby.  The children are ecstatic. Me, not so much.)

Bread.  The bread in Singapore is revolting. Also, quite expensive.  (I guess the cost of all those additives literally add up.)  So I took my Hugh Fearnley Whittingthingy pizza recipe and told my maid to turn turned it into bread rolls.  

Ta da!!:   

Easy and delicious and CHEAP.   (Also - quite impressive, no?)

Don’t be put off – as I was, for years – by baking with yeast.  YEAST IS YOUR FRIEND. A nice, unobtrusive friend, who keeps herself busy in the corner while you’re doing other things.

(Mind you, while easy, it takes a while for the dough to rise – twice – so not something you can just knock up and have ready to eat in half an hour.  I make the dough in the evening, then leave the uncooked rolls to rise overnight in the fridge – ready for baking in the morning.  But that is because I am a domestic goddess.  (Nothing whatsoever to do with having a maid.))

You need:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 (bare) tablespoon salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well, and pour in the water and oil.  Mix roughly with a spoon (or whatever), then roll up your sleeves and tuck in.  Once it’s all mixed and you have a dough, take it out of the bowl and KNEAD.  I know - proper baking!  Personally I don’t find it terribly therapeutic, but I’m assured it is.  Whatever – push it into the surface and away from you with some force, then fold it over on itself, turn it 90 degrees, then repeat.  Over and over and over again, for as close to 10 minutes as you can (all the time resisting the urge to just go to the shops and buy the effing ready-made stuff and all its component crap.) Then roll it into a ball, rub a tiny bit of oil around it, and put back in the bowl, covered, and leave to stand until it’s risen. (An hour if you live in a normal climate, about 27 seconds here.)

Once it’s risen, squish it back to its original size, then cut into 8 / 10 lumps, rolling each out into whatever shape roll you want.  Place a couple of inches apart on a baking tray, and leave to rise again – another hour or so.  Bake for about 13 minutes in a hot oven – 220c /Gas 7 or so.

And there you have it.  Home-made bread, AND a post.  I have surpassed myself this week.  I think I've earned some air-conditioning. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

In which I am Ungrateful

Unless you live under a rock (or – SHRIEK! – are not on Facebook) you’ll be familiar with the latest trend to hog the world’s FB thread: the gratitude challenge.  Because I am brow-beaten by middle-age, my wild children, and life in general (and perhaps slightly because I am a cynical bitch), I thought it was high time for an alternative.  Thus I present:

The Ingratitude Challenge*

1.  I am deeply ungrateful for the state of drivers and driving in Singapore. JESUS CHRIST someone needs to give drivers here a collective lesson in  (a) driving and (b) politeness.  (Bill Gates popped up on my FB thread this evening offering everyone $5,000 each;  I think I’ll ask him instead to bring everyone in Singapore to England for a week’s driving.  That should sort them out.)  Also – THE IMPORTANCE OF INDICATORS. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PEOPLE!  I did see someone use their indicator today, and I inwardly cheered – but then they turned the other way, which sort of negated it somewhat.  Also amusing today – in a bang-your-head-on-the-steering-wheel sort of way – was seeing a traffic policeman tap on the window of a stationary car, and usher them into the empty space in front of them.  Empty, that is, except for the yellow crossed markings on the ground. 

2.  I am deeply deeply ungrateful for the hamster (also, by default, for my son, for bringing him into our home, and then promptly losing all interest in him).  Not only has the burden of his emotional and physical well-being landed on my lap (often literally), but also has the task of finding the little fucker when he manages to escape from his cage.  (Mind you, this has only happened once, but it was the rodent version of The Great Escape, and took an entire morning, fuelled by the horror of finding his mummified corpse in my winter boots / the linen closet / one of our many random boxes filled with wires when we’re packing up to move in 2 years, to find him. He was under the tv gnawing on a cable, the little fucker.) 

3.  I remain ungrateful for the passing of time and the ravages of middle age.  I am currently sporting a small hole above my knee which seems determined to not heal - the side effect of having a small lump burnt off by my GP. “Nothing to worry about,” he blithely told me;  “A common skin growth which appears in older people.”  Cheeky bastard.  (At least I assume he was being cheeky.)

4.  Don’t start me on the kids’ school, and the shower of morons they use to bus them around. (They forgot the Girl last week!  Mind you, they were too busy yelling at me at the time for being “late” meeting the bus - when in fact it transpired they were early – to realise she wasn’t actually on the bus.  Jesus wept.)

5.  I cannot find it within me to be anything but ungrateful for my son’s cunning in taking advantage of the school’s insane cafeteria system, whereby student “purchases” are unquestioned, and then credited to the parents’ account.  (I am also somewhat disturbed by his apparent fondness for chocolate milk -  $45’s worth in two weeks, bloody hell.)

6.  Nothing will ever persuade me to be grateful for the humidity here.  My hair is a ruination.

HOWEVER!  I am not a totally ungrateful bitch (no middle-aged woman is an island, etc.)  I have feelings of gratitude too, just like everyone else. 

1.  I am grateful that people have stopped chucking water over themselves and wasting my broadband allowance with videos of themselves shrieking in astonishment at the coldness of iced water.

2.  I am grateful that I now know why my son has had diarrhoea for the past few weeks.

3.  I am grateful that our maid has worked out the difference between baking soda and baking powder.

4.  Apart from the having to deal with other drivers bit, I am grateful for my car.  Especially the seats in the boot, into which I can strap the children and not hear them, or see them flailing about in my periphery vision. 

5.  I am grateful to FINALLY have an oven with a working thermostat.  And, consequently, for these little nuggets of loveliness:

Not only my very own picture, but also my very own recipe, culled from several attempts to get the perfect Oat&Raisin cookie (necessitated because I went overboard on oats purchasing and now the damn kids won’t eat porridge).  

Oat & Raisin Cookies
  • 110g unsalted butter 
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150g oats
  • 100g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350f / g4

Cream together the butter and sugar, and when fluffy add the golden syrup, egg and vanilla essence.  Beat again until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Add to the butter mixture, and mix well. 

Stir in the oats and the raisins.

If you have time (and don’t have wild children, for whom you are not at that moment feeling AT ALL grateful, clawing at your legs) put the mixture in the fridge for an hour or so.  Otherwise jump straight to the next step.

Spoon a lump of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet – how much depends on how big you want the cookies to be – and flatten it with a fork.  You don’t want it too thin, however, or it’ll be too crispy once cooked.  Repeat with all of the mixture, keeping the cookies about an inch apart.

Cook for 10 -13 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.  You want the edges to be browned, but the inside to still be a bit soft when you take them out of the oven. (So ignore the picture above, which was the result of 14 minutes cooking.  They were still great, but more crunch than chew.)

Leave to cool for, oh, about 30 seconds, while you put on the kettle and are once again VERY GRATEFUL that you thought to bring several boxes of real English tea home with you. 

(*Please feel free to add to this.  Or, even better, start your own on Facebook! Personally, I am tired of people being grateful for their health and children and friends etc.  I want to see some more honest-to-goodness ingratitude in our lives.)