Thursday, 28 June 2012

Eleven questions

'meme' time as the name goes, which is quite funny as it means granny in French (well, with adding a couple of accents)!  
The idea is I answer the 11 questions set by my friend Recipe Junkie, then make up 11 questions of my own and tag another 11 people to answer them and so on.
I have been tagged so I've dutifuly answered my questions...

Wham! or Frankie goes to Hollywood

Frankie because I've got more memories of listening to them when I was young, have always liked their name (!) and also because I'd still listen to their music now (if I had the time and the opportunity!). Whether Wham!, well honestly... Other than for nostalgia? Nahhh

Dog or cat

Dog. I'm a sucker for their obvious affection for you and furry cuddles. Plus DH is allergic to cats so...!

Nigella or Delia

I actually quite like the 'classicsm' of Delia's main dishes recipes. When I cook from an English recipe I quite like it to be fairly traditionnal and Nigella's are a bit too exotic for me. But I'd choose her for the pudding.

Silent witness or CSI

How do I say this...? I've never watched either! (said while cringing). We don't have a tv so we never 'happen' onto anything and we don't watch many different things on i-player either.

Thomas Cook or Internet

Internet. We don't have much organising to do when we go on holidays as we generally end up in France to see the family.  But last year we went to Munich and I booked our flight and a self-catering appartment on the Internet. I just love browsing!

TV or radio

I-player at home. Radio in the car.

London or Paris

I've got to say Paris as I was born and raised there until I was 8. We lived in a lovely typical parisian building with a playground at the bottom (as they were then : bit of greenery, sand, a music stand and dark green duo swings). The lift in our building was an old fashioned one with a two pannels door and a folding gate.We had a balcony running along three of the flat's rooms, giving onto a busy boulevard (on th 6th floor, my parents were scared of the hight at first and wouldn't go anywhere near the railing!). My brother and I used to throw cloth pegs from it, using the washing line as slingshot.
We lived close to Montmartre and the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur which was a favourite outing.
Paris' 'quartiers' just evoke for me a feeling like no other place does...

If you could choose any 6 people to come for dinner with you (living or dead) who would you choose and why?

I think I would chose my grand-parents. I have known only my mother's mum fairly well, the other ones all died before I was 7. I'd also invite some very dear friends of my parents' age who used to live in Suffolk (and sadly have also left us now)  and to whom we took refuge when we lost our first baby boy at 32 weeks of pregnancy. For a whole week they looked after us with compassion but enough affective distance as well (as opposed to our parents) that it wasn't stifling. Nobody else, I think, could have done that in the same way they did.
And if I can choose also at what time of their lives they could come back for that dinner, I would say same as mine now (40!) . It would be interesting to see how we'd get along and if we would have been friends...

What would you cook?

I would cook the 'paupiettes' I learnt to cook with my mum, with rice to soak up the lovely tomatoes, garlic and red wine sauce. I love casseroles where the meat just melt in your mouth. Or maybe a cassoulet, but the 'proper' South West of France one. Sorry guys but the cassoulet recipes from English chefs are lovely but they are just not cassoulet! Too many vegs and not enough beans and goose fat... I've got the recipe in my well worn, dog-eared, French cookery book published in 1950! Then cheese of course. And maybe an apple tatin with a splash of Armagnac (in the butter...) followed by strong black coffee.

Favourite book when you were a child?
I loved the Nancy Drew series (called Alice Roy in the French version) and read almost all the books I think. Otherwise La Mare au Diable from Maupassant had made quite a strong impression on me.  

Earliest memory?

Crying in the stairs to my classroom on my first day at school! (I was 2 and a half)

 My questions :

Vegetable or flowers patch?

Bath or shower?

Tea for Two or Fly Me to the Moon?

What's your perfect idea of a Sunday morning?

Punch and Judy or Shakespear?

What were your dreams when you were 18?

Have you had plans that have been completely upset by Life ?!

How many children did you want before you had any?

What was your favourite dish when you were small?

What do you admire most (or only!) in your, hm hm, mother-in-law if you have or had one? ;) If not you can choose someone(but not necessarily s.o. you generally admire)

 What would you like the most to achieve in the next 20 years?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Getting ready for school

People often ask me 'How do you manage to get 4 children ready in time for school?'

Well at the moment #4's first breakfast is breastmilk and sometimes she has something else after the school run, always more bm, and all that in her pyjamas. #3 has still to be dressed by me but at least he doesn't fight it. Although if he needs a nappy change as we leave it does throw me! One time it happened coupled with the realisation, once outside, that the Phil and Ted had a puncture... I experienced a very bleak couple of minutes. Fortunately we live in a small village where we know lots of people and Providence sent one of them strolling by on her way to school just at the right time.

As for #1 and #2 in all fairness they're not too bad, providing you're not suffering from a loss of voice and can shout regular reminders about eating breakfast and getting dressed. Sometimes they have their own agenda, which of course involved your participation (for example finding a particular item of theirs that has been long lost in the dedalus of their bedroom's mess) but is not brought to your attention before the last minute. The relativity of time makes perfect sense when you've got school children. Five minutes left to play is an extremely small measure of time but five minutes left to get ready before leaving for school almost equals eternity....

How are your school runs?!


Max's mission was a familiar one : save the world. And he had exactely 43 minutes to do it. First he had to get rid of the deadly radioactive substances that the mad scientist threatened to force feed to the President of the World. Max would have to eat them himself and quick.

 33 minutes to save the world... What to do now?
"We can't lose you agent Max!' Barked the President of the World. Max had to go to the decontamination chamber to rid his system of the deadly substances.

27 minutes to save the world... Max packed his agent's kit. Survival manual, check. Hydration solution, check. Mission report notebook, check. Energy rations, check.

19 minutes to save the world... Max needed to put on his special operations uniform. The President of the World helped him to locate his socks.

5 minutes to save the world...! Max purposefuly activated the special extra secure device desguised as a comb, just as the mad scientist was going to catch up with him.

Mission accomplished! Max set off for his next assignment, the mad scientist hot on his heels... 

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Washing up

I have never been a whizz when it comes to housework, far from it. But it definitely seems to be worse since the birth of #4. #3 has grown into a full-size, 100% efficient mess maker, #1 and #2 have long honed their skills in that department. Add to that looking after a baby who wants to be held a lot as babies do, cooking for everyone, working on my diploma (I'm training to become a breastfeeding counsellor), and - yes I confess - going on Facebook or my blog (you need a minimum of interaction with other adults, even virtual), and the dust gathers on carpets, the children's drawers become incumbered with endless clothes that have become too small, toys multiply and invade every area of the house, and so on and so force...

One thing I have never managed to master is to empty the dishwasher as soon as it's finished washing. Usually clean dishes seat for a while in their racks while the sink is getting filled up with dirty dishes. When the sink is absolutely full I empty the dishwasher of its clean dishes to fill it up with dirty ones, until the sink has enough space for me to be able to fill up the kettle with water without having to use a glass (you'll understand if you're like me).

I have tried sometimes to empty the dishwasher before the sink fills up, but some things still find their way to the sink rather than the still-to-fill-up dishwasher and I end up forgetting to finish loading the dishwasher and turning it on (because the sink is not full to the brim you see, which is normally the sign that the task needs doing). When the sink does become full to the brim I can't pu everything in the dishwasher and I am even more behind than usual!

I do know some people who are as disorganised as I am regarding housework but not enough! Please drop me a line if you understand me!!

Monday, 25 June 2012


Saturday was very busy. It was the school fete in #1 and #2's school. DH is in the parents' association so he was at school to help set up at 9 am with #1 and #2. Meanwhile #3, #4 and me were looking after two little boys who are roughly the same age as #3 and #4, i.e. 3 years and a bit less than 1 year. It went quite well, considering, although at some point I really got the urge to get out of the house! So I strapped #4 and her little boyfriend in the Phil and Ted, marshalled #3 and his mate into marching order and we had a little wander round the shops and the park. After my friend had picked up her boys we went to the school fete. #1 and #2 were running around from one stall to another, #3 watched the magic show, hooked floating fair trade products (really skillfully if I may say so myself), went on a tractor ride and had sweeties. Then we listened to the school's rock band before heading back home.
The evening was BBQ and money counting time. More fun and play for the children and it lasted up until around 9.40 pm (thanks Recipe Junkie! The banoffee pie was sooo delicious). Well, the children were veeery tired the day after! We had promised #1 and #2 to do some cycling in the afternoon. It was just a bit nightmarish, #1 and #3 taking it in turn to have meltdowns (payback time for having prolonged the joy of the evening rather than going back home to put them to bed).
Thing is I can really relate to that. I felt exactly like that when I was pregnant with #4, so tired, not able to enjoy anything, barely able to bear anything, that all I could do was cry.
So, here is a little story for that kind of times, for maybe a chance to stop, have a quiet time and feel understood...


When Betty woke up that morning it took her just a little moment longer to jump up out of bed than usual. If she had taken the time to think about it she might even have chosen to stay in bed a little longer... But bed is for bedtime, not for bright, sunny morning. When you are in bed you can't play!

So out she jumped and went straight in Mummy and Daddy's bedroom. But Mummy and Daddy are so slow in the morning, it always takes ages to make one of them get up, at least 10 minutes! 
Finally Mummy got up and went downstairs with Betty to give her her breakfast. By the time breakfast was ready Betty was feeling tired and tearfull. The bacon looked too pink, the juice not orangey enough and there weren't anymore of her favourite cereals.
"I don't like it!!! cried Betty.
-Please stop crying said Mummy, and tell me what you'd like."
Eventually Mummy got the bacon and juice right, nothing could be done about the cereals though.

Betty felt better after breakfast and asked to go and play outside. More waiting while Mummy was having her shower. Then off to the park to play! Swings, slide, climbing, turning, more swinging. Betty was starting to feel tired again and would quite like Mummy to take her home.
"It's getting late Darling, said Mummy, let's go home!
-No, shouted Betty, I want to go on a slide again!"

And she did want to go on the slide but, oh dear, she felt so tired... She stopped climbing the ladder and cried "I can't do it!"
Mummy came to help, picked up Betty and put her at the top of the slide.
"No, cried Betty, I want to do it myself!"
And she started crying and kicking and sobbing. She really wanted to climb the ladder and go on the slide one more time but she was too tired, and she really wanted to go home too. It was all just too much.

Mummy let Betty cry and kick for a little while. Then she looked in her bag and found a snack bar. She said "Do you want a snack Betty?
- Yeah, said Betty in a small voice.
-Do you want to come on my lap?"
And Betty let herself being picked up and put on Mummy's lap, and all was well again for 5 more minutes...

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Scientists and Mother's Milk

Yesterday child #4 had her 8-12 months check with the HV. One of the quesions was what #4 eats. Well, at the moment she tries things, grabs and play, eats little as we are doing baby-led weaning, but I didn't go into this with HV. She actually seemed to assume that I was spoon-feeding #4 (I think that, otherwise, she wouldn't have asked if she was having '3 meals a day' to which I lied and said yes) and her questions were about what she eats. She asked if she had had meat or fish. #4 hasn't had meat nor fish. The HV then told me that I should give her some as, at this stage of her developpment, she needed... proteins. So... the fact that breastmilk contains 75% of proteins apparently doesn't count.
I must add that the HV's first question had been if I was still breastfeeding (I am). She then said "It's just for statistics. Because we want to encourage it." If she wants to encourage it I wonder why she says that asking if the mum of an 8 months old is still bf is 'just for statistics' and why she leads her to believe that her breast milk isn't a sufficient source of proteins for her baby. She even actually used the words 'Introduce proteins'. Please note the INTRODUCE !

Well, here is a little story about the composition of breast milk. Maybe I should send it to my HV...


In the farway land of Fiddlydy everyone was happy. Feed-your-baby-yourself mothers fed their babies themselves and growers of dontmakesuchafuss plants grew their plants.

Of course it could not last. Somebody had to feel discontent. Well, the scientists were feeling just that. When the harvest of dontmakesuchafuss plants had been lost nearly two years ago and Fiddlydy had had to find different ways to feed their babies, the scientists had discovered a lucrative market. They had synthetised the juice of dontmakesuchafuss and made a few nice royaldoughs (the Fiddlydy currency) in the process. But the last harvest had been better than ever, more and more mothers were feeding-their-babies-themselves, and the syntethised juice of dontmakesuchafuss was not very successful at all anymore.

So they thought, why not syntethise mother's milk? They set to the task with much enthusiasm.
They found that mother's milk was high in proteins. That one is easy they thought, there are proteins in cow's milk too, let's have a bit of that.
For the fats and oils a bit of fish oil and egg yolk.
"I think we need some water, said the Head Scientist.
- But the water in Fiddlydy is not of very good quality, said another one.
- Maybe we could make it come from the land of Aplenty, suggested someone wearing thick glasses. Although it would considerably to the cost...
- Nothing wrong with that! boomed the Head Scientist. What's next?"
Next were minerals and vitamins. The Scientists loved the idea of adding lots of minerals and vitamins. The mothers would certainly like that.
The drink would also need an emulsifier, the best choice being protein from soybeans, according to the Head Scientist.
"Won't we need a petroleum gas to extract the protein? Asked someone.
- Yes?
-But there will be some traces in the babies drink.
-Oh, it will be tiny! exclaimed the Head Scientist."
They added some starch and gum as thickeners and starting congratulating each other.
"Not bad eh? Said the Head Scientis.
-It doesn't smell very nice, said a rather fat scientist.
-Babies won't mind. It's the nutritionnal value that counts anyway.
-We haven't got cholesterol for the development of the nervous system...
-Can't have everything.
-Immunoglobulines, immune factors, anti-bodies?
-Not nutritionnal. We're making food here, nothing else.
-Well it seems, said a scientist with her nose in a book, that mother's milk is something else.
-Don't worry it will be as close as can be. "

Finally the Scientists decided that there were enough ingredients in their like-mother's-milk-drink. The label would look nice with a list suitably long and impressive. It wasn't quite as long and impressive as the list of what is actually in mother's milk but, as the Head Scientist had said, you can't have everything.

The scientist were confident that the like-mother's-milk-drink had just as good nutriotionnal qualities than mother's milk, and they could sell it for a handsome price.
"That's what you call progress!" said the Head Scientist.

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

References :

For a real list of what's in breast milk and what's in formula :

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Tale of the Boy and the Intruder

Once there was a boy called Max. Max was four and lived with his Mummy and Daddy and his dog Doodle who was his best friend in the whole wide world. Max was a very happy boy until...

One day Max's Daddy came to pick him up early from school, which was a bother as Max had been building a rocket. It looked like it was going to be the best thing he had ever built but it would certainly be ruined now. The inspiration would have left him by tomorrow! So Max  cried all the way home.

When he arrived home, however, Max understood what the rush had been and why his parents needed him. A Thing had invaded their home and it was terrible !

The Thing was very ugly, just like the aliens in Max's favourite TV programme : red, scrawny and wrinkly, with little claws of hands. Well, probably claws. His parents had managed to encase them in protective gloves to spare themselves of the deadly poison they must scratch you with.

The Thing quickly transformed Max's house in a mass of mess, ten times worse than what Max could achieve in a whole week!

The Thing made a terrible noise when it was hungry, piercing and blaring. It made your eyes water. And it was always hungry, even during the night.

The Thing always farted and pooped and the smell was terrible, worse even than brussel sprouts.

The Thing needed to be guarded at all times and Max's parents did not have so much time anymore for Max.

Worse, the Thing was here to say. Max's parents had said that they could not send it back (Max had asked).

Worse still, Max's parents were getting fond of the Thing. Max had heard about it on TV. It happened to people who were kept prisoners and Max and his family were certainly like prisoners...

Months passed and Max learned to just live trying to ignore that the Thing even existed. Life was not as it had been before but it was ok. The Thing was still braying and stinking but Max's parents were getting better at dealing with it. Max even started to forget what, exactly, life had been like before.

And then suddenly something quite extraordinary happened. Max was playing with his favourite rocket. The Thing was lying beside him, watching. Max engineered the launch of his rocket, which involved lots of weird noises (Max loved making weird noises). And the Thing laughed! A big, rolling, gurggling laugh that made Max feel something very strange. He felt happy and proud. He felt that what him, Max, did must be very special if it could make the Thing laugh in this way.

And from this moment Max thought that it might not be too horrible, after all, to have a little sister.

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

Monday, 11 June 2012

The tale of the Very Desperate Mother - A Fiddlydy Tale

Once in the faraway land of Fiddlydy there was a woman called Elspeth who was expecting a baby for the fifth of the thirdoftheautumnmonths. As soon as he found out about the baby the father of the child, Eric, asked for Elspeth's hand in marriage. Elspeth could not have been happier. Unfortunately Eric got a bad case of the willies while tying his bow tie on the day of the wedding and flew to the nearby land of Forgetitall. When she heard, Elspeth rather got the willies too, thinking about her future as a single mother, but could not fly anywhere, litterally speaking, being over the 28 weeks limit to fly with Air Dragons lines (oh yes, Fiddlydy is a real fairytale land where you can fly on dragonback). So she couldn't even go to her parents who lived on the other side of the seven and three quarters seas.

When the baby was born, however, Elspeth fell instantly in love with her little boy and things seemed to look up. But not for long... There are rules set in stone when in comes to bringing up a baby in Fiddlydy and being a single new mother Elspeth relied on them more than anyone else.
Fiddlydy rules say that babies should be taken for a walk every day at 10.49, that they should sleep from 7.00 in the evening until 6.35 in the morning and then during the day at 9.01, 11.02 (Elspeth found that she often had to run for the 10.49 morning walk to only go round the park closest to her house and be back home for the 11.02 sleep), 13.03 and 15.44, no sleep after that but interactive playtime and bath time, that babies should get used to being left on their own in a darkened room when they sleep, that feeds shouldn't exceed 42 minutes and 15 seconds, etc. etc.
 Elspeth found the rules difficult to follow and her little boy seemed to cry a lot. The rules did not plan much rest time for the mother either but dictated strict cleaning and cooking schedules. Elspeth was exhausted and despair was slowly engulfing her...

 When Elspeth's baby was five months Elspeth's parents sent her a boat ticket to come and visit them. Although reluctant to go anywhere Elspeth got ready to travel. Just before the day of her departure, when she was about to feed her son, someone knocked on her door.
Elspeth opened the door and Eric's mother was standing in front of her, frowning and forbidding. In most fairylands step-mothers are the evil ones but in Fiddlydy it's the mothers-in-law. Although Eric's mother wasn't technically Elspeth's mother-in-law she showed uncanny predispositions. In five minutes she had convinced  Elspeth that she was responsible for Eric leaving her, that she didn't have enough milk, that she fed her son too much, that the baby did not sleep enough, that he was awake for too little time in the day, that Elspeth's milk was no good, that she cuddled her son too much, that she didn't stimulate him enough, etc. As Elspeth was bombarded with critics and ill judgments, her already low spirits sank to bottomless depths. When her evil nearly-mother-in-law left Elspeth felt that her last crumbs of hope and joy left with her. Elspeth knew absolute despair.

Without knowing how she got there Elspeth found herself on the boat to to her parents' the following day. She felt so very desperate, her life lonely and empty, her efforts vain and exhausting. She was standing on deck watching the waves below, her baby strapped to her, and in a mad, sad instant, she jumped... That's when her guardian angel's alertness to her woes finally kicked in. Elspeth and her son landed softly in a passing boat's fishing nets, ready to be cast. Wanting to catch up on his work Elspeth's guardian angel saw to it that it also happened to be Eric's boat. Eric had had an epiphany two days before, deciding to lead a simple life on the sea and earn enough money to be worth of Elspeth and their baby.

In the end all turned out well for Elspeth, Eric, and their baby boy, but Elspeth never forgot the moment she felt such despair that she nearly precipitated herself in the sea with her precious son, all for silly rules and even sillier comments from an evil nearly-mother-in-law...

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte