Trout’s Chicken Soup

I’m trying to muster the energy to tell you about last couple of weekends, with a couple of birthdays, parties and poorly children. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d jot down the directions for my favourite chicken soup because I’ve eaten loads of it this week. I love it when I’m feeling a bit off-colour, or when I want something light to eat that’s filling, or when I need comfort food, or when I’m fed-up with bland food. Bland this definitely is not! The minxes love it too, though I suspect in their cases it’s mostly because I let them add the flavourings at the end to their bowls as suits them, ie they get to play with their food.

I also say ‘directions’ rather than recipe, because it’s not the kind of thing I make the same way twice. Finally, this amount is generally enough to feed all 5 of us. And we’re pretty greedy.

1. First, put 1.5 – 2 litres of chicken stock in a big pot. You could use 1 or 2 stock cubes and the right amount of boiling water if you wanted, but honestly, if you’re roasting a chicken any time soon, it’s much nicer and really, really easy to make your own. See directions at the end.

Chicken Soup Ingredients2. Add some vegetables (the last time I added some sliced bits off the green end of a leek and 2 big carrots sliced on the diagonal. The time before that it was chopped onion and a tin of drained sweetcorn. Whatever you like. Think about colours: leek, carrot, red pepper and sweetcorn would look amazing!).

3. Add some leftover chicken meat and / or 1-2 sliced garlic cloves and / or a chopped up ginger slice, if you like.

4. Bring to the boil then simmer for 3 mins to start cooking the vegetables.

5. Add some thin noodles (it’s ASDA udon noodles in the photo. They were perfectly light. Thread noodles are great, too).

6. Continue simmering until the noodles are cooked – 4 mins or so.

Ready to serve up

Ready to serve up!

7. Remove from the heat then add your flavourings! In this amount of soup, I like 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce (nam pla) and the juice of half a lime. I don’t add salt because it doesn’t taste right in this soup.

8. Serve with whatever bread you fancy. Adjust your flavourings to your own taste.

Chicken Stock: pick the roasted chicken carcass of most of its meat. Put the carcass in your biggest pan. Cover it with cold water (about 2 litres of water). Add a single sliced garlic clove, a couple of spring onions chopped into 3 or 4 bits, and a couple of slices of ginger. Bring to the boil. Put the lid on. Simmer gently for 90 mins – 2 hours. Strain. Chuck away the bones and veg. The liquid will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, or you could freeze it the same day.

My Weird Bud

Maxi Minx has been feeling particularly troubled recently with classmates continually calling her a weirdo. It’s been going on for a while. She’s carved the hidden side of her bed with “I am a weirdo” and I sometimes find that she’s written it on bits of paper littering her bedroom. Every time she’s mentioned it I’ve told her to keep on daring to be different, that I treasure her individuality and that when she’s an adult she’ll be glad she wasn’t a sheep. But it’s hard to take that perspective when you’re only little!

Sometimes, though, you hear what an outsider says better than you hear yer auld mammy’s words. So last night I shared this quote from Graham Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech with her because she’d had another anxious evening after more name-calling. We had another chat about individuality and the qualities that make people special. I found a YouTube clip of Moore’s speech and we listened to that as well. I shared the quote on my Facebook status.
Graham Moore speech

It had a huge impact on Maxi. She hugged me and said I’d made her night. She wrote out the quote twice. She pinned one to the wall beside of her bed, and she folded the other one up to take to school in her pencil case, where she can reread it when she needs to.

rainbow fishAfter she went to bed, I checked Facebook again. My status had grown into a long series of heartfelt posts sharing fellow weirdos’ school experiences. The sheer love and support in that thread made me cry. So this morning before school I sat Maxi on my lap and we read through it together (she’s 8 and I curse and rant a lot on the privacy of my page, so she’s entirely banned from seeing Facebook over my shoulder). She hugged me tighter and tighter as we talked about how so many people feel or have felt the way she does. We talked about the things all us fellow weirdos have in common (personal success, strength and achievements) and what characteristics the tormentors and bullies share.

Normally when I ask her who calls her a weirdo, she just wails, “Everyone!” This morning I challenged her to list names. Funny old thing, the same 3 names as have repeatedly tormented her for being half-English, and who allegedly bully and tease another family of kids over their surname. None of the bullies are the brightest of God’s little sunbeams (!), but they’re certainly smart when it comes to stinging other kids’ feelings. On the other hand, she told me that 2 older girls call her a weirdo and routinely tell her that being weird is a good thing to be. I figured Maxi’s maybe a bit young to discuss how people have ‘reclaimed’ hurtful slurs from homophobes and racists, for example, but I think she understands.

The minxes’ school never ignores reports of bullying. Perhaps their favoured method of dealing with it, though, is discussing it in Circle Time. I’m yet to be entirely convinced on whether it works to change attitudes and behaviours – maybe. I wonder what difference it would make, though, if kids could challenge each other directly on instances of anti-social behaviour in Circle Time instead of speaking about problems generically? Anyway, I think it’s my responsibility to teach her how to deal with unfair criticism and fools rather than rely on teachers rescuing her every time. Otherwise how will she handle bigger idiots in high school? Or in the work place? I guess I need to teach her a lot better than I’m currently doing, though, so I really valued the help from my friends on my Facebook feed! Still, I suggested to Maxi that she show her teacher Moore’s quote and ask for Circle Time today to be held on name-calling.

On the way to school this morning I called Maxi over to the miniature flower bed Midi and I had made last month. ‘Flower bed’ is a bit grand – it’s a teeny patch of scrubby ground that I put a tray of cheap, dried-up flower bulbs under. Astoundingly, some of the anemones are starting to poke through the caked, dried mud, their growing red buds leaving cracks in their wake.

“What can you see there?” I asked Maxi.

“Oooooh, there’s buds coming through! Four of them! And they’re all red. Oh wow!” she breathed.

“Do you see how even though me and Midi flattened the ground over them, they’re still breaking through? They’ve not given up, getting stronger all winter long. Even though there’s lots of heavy mud all around, trying to force them down. They’re nearly ready to blossom and show the world how special and beautiful they are. Just like you. When kids call you a weirdo, rise above it. When you’re older, you’ll bloom into a very special young woman. I promise”.

No, she didn’t vomit at that! She just smiled, laughed, wondered what colour the flowers would be, then skipped off to school: armed and ready to challenge a handful of idiots. I can’t wait to hear how she got on!

Standard Half-Term Rollercoaster

You're fooling no-one, Mini

You’re fooling no-one, Mini

Thursday was Day 1 of half-term. If the week continues like this, I’ll have aged a few decades before they go back to school.

It started really well with a playdate early on Thursday morning with one of Mini’s nursery friends and her little sister. The little sister is at that fantastic age when toddlers are becoming properly independent, able to walk where they want, use some words to express what they want, and in to absolutely everything. I say fantastic: it is to me, watching with reminiscing eyes and NOT the one with the sleepless nights, having to hover and Not.Blink.Not.Even.Once. Ha. I do remember and even blogged a bit about it… I guess this is what being a granny is going to feel like, but with the ‘affection’ feeling dialled right up into ‘unconditional love’.

The day got even better: a letter arrived addressed to me and The Boss from the school, telling us that Midi had gained 50 ClassDojo points*, that her teachers were very proud of her and that we should be as well. To reward her, she could come into school the next full day in whatever clothes she liked. Midi read it herself and literally bounced to the end of the house. I think she’s pleased… I’d thought they’d already made a big fuss of her for reaching 50 points: the whole of that day, she’d gotten to be first in every queue, her table were first to go anywhere, she got picked to be the one who did the weather chart, etc. etc. What a lovely thing to do! I suspect she is going to remember this achievement for the rest of her life!

After the world’s fastest lunch of fishfingers and beans (parp!), we got to swimming for Mini just in time, in our now-reliable car, and had a jolly old time while we waited on her lesson ending: I got to blether to my friend whose eldest daughter is in the same swimming class, and treated my eldest 2 minxes to crisps and fancy-pancy water.

So, you’d think they’d all be in a fairly good mood later that afternoon when we got home. Non. First, Midi was sat at the table, jabbering about someone (I wasn’t listening – I was mentally totting off a list of things to do for her birthday party on Sunday). Suddenly I heard the words “f**king w**ker” trip from the rosebud lips of my 6 yo. She also looked slyly at me. I didn’t get angry or shout. I just pointed out that if I told her teacher, she wouldn’t just lose one ClassDojo point, she’d have them all taken off her. I told her I was very disappointed as she knew better than to swear, and never in front of Mini. Midi went red, burst into tears and raced to her bed.

Well, I couldn’t shout, could I? That would have been hypocritical of Potty-Mouthed me. But I tell you, her accent when she pronounced those words was definitely not Glaswegian, so I think I can claim innocence – it had a definite ‘FOO-ging WANG-er’ sort of mid-Englandshire twang to it. So I’ve no idea where she heard it. And I reckon Mini is probably already gleefully repeating it. Bah.

I went to her room to calm her down and have a chat. Midi was sobbingly apologetic and promised not to say it again. I told her I believed her. “Don’t tell Daddy!” she begged, “You tell him everything!”. While we were quietly talking, we heard Maxi’s siren wail go off. I’ve had nearly 6 years of Maxi’s Drama Siren Shriek shattering my ears (since she was 3). Although nowadays I try to ignore it, it sets my nerves jangling every time. It sounded like she’d had a limb severed. This is normal for her, and usually signifies that Mini’s threatened to lick her soft toy Bagpuss or some other equally horrendous terror. The siren kept on. I went to investigate.

I don’t know why Maxi had been rolling on the floor in the first place, but Mini had decided to sit down on her face, hard, to get her own back on Maxi for something. Neither girl was clear on the reasoning behind any of this. Those were the only facts I got. So it seems Mini’s tail-bone battered off poor Maxi’s nose. From the initial swelling I suspected a broken nose. Luckily it wasn’t, and the new banana bend in her previously slim and pretty nose faded after lots of cold compresses.

I tell you, I really needed to get out for a glass of wine at the pub that night! My wallet didn’t – I never buy whole bottles for wine at home that cost that much – so had to nurse it all evening. Still, it was great to get out and have a laugh and a blether with a big bunch of women similarly escaping half-term demons.

*ClassDojo is a computer app that Midi’s class uses that tracks each child’s behaviour. The kids get awarded points for doing things like working hard, working well in a team, persevering, that kind of thing: there are 8 or so different areas. They can also have points deducted for bad behaviour. Typically, Midi gets one or 2 points a day. The sole time she had a point deducted she was devastated (she sobbed so much she made the classroom assistant who’d deducted the point cry). As the parents can view the points from their PC or smartphone, the app also lets the teacher send messages to parents in a whole-class broadcast or individually. Parents can also reply or send messages to the teacher. Handy! Midi’s teacher is experimenting with sending photos to parents, so the Dojo points are illustrated with examples of work that they were awarded for. I was skeptical at first, but am now a convert.

Mondeo Minx

Our car is poorly.

It’s been a bit meh about starting for ages. Being analytical, I noticed that there was no consistency to its lethargy – there was no pattern associated with the outside air temperature, engine temperature, car load, previous journey length, anything I could spot. Sometimes it would start first time, other times it would labour. Occasionally it wouldn’t start at all, and would sound and look like a totally flat battery. Yet after a quick head-thump of despair into the steering wheel, and it would start fine.

Eventually I realised that it needed to go to the garage (cue music of dread). Me and garages don’t have a great track record. But our main Ford dealers have actually been a bit fantastic the last 2 times I’ve taken the car there. So I’m defrosting a little.

To cut an awfully long story short, after ruling out crankshaft sensor problems (I reasoned that there were only problems on starting, not whilst driving. Ever), they reckoned it was a “lazy starter” and perhaps a going-flat battery. I couldn’t really get them to be more specific, and was loathe to spend £400 on something that may or may not fix the trouble. I didn’t get the work done, opting instead for the software upgrade The Boss read about on his last Google-Fu session that would fix the known fault of the central console display unit draining the battery if there was a delay in passengers getting out after the engine stopped. Oh yes, that’s us! At least one, usually 2, minxes refuse to exit the car on stopping, demanding to be carried out. Do I need to tell you that I always, always refuse? Doesn’t stop my tenacious trio trying it on, though!

Anyway, anyway – the software upgrade looked like it worked, until I drove 45 mins to ASDA on Sunday night. Where the car would not restart, despite head-thumps, threats, biting the steering wheel, coaxing, wheedling, getting out the car and giving it a thump and a bounce… The carpark was mostly empty; the few cars I could see in the dark were little, with little batteries, and probably not going to jump a big ole Mondeo that thinks it’s a minx. I took a fraught Maxi with me to the customer service desk, where a very nice lady took pity on us and persuaded the equally-lovely security guard on his tea-break to jump-start me from his big people-carrier. They were keen to stress this had nothing to do with ASDA and was just them helping us out. I understood. So instead of a thank you letter, I gave them a hug. I think they would have preferred the letter…

So yes, the car will be going back to the garage for a new starter and battery after all. The garage were lovely, as always, about squeezing in the work to fit around school times and days off (they really are great like that), so we’ll see if that fixes it. I’m really fed-up of having to cancel routine dr appointments, haircut appointments, swimming and dancing lessons because the car won’t start and there’s only one bus a day (I can go, but I can’t get back!). But I do have to tell you about the first time that the car went to the garage for assessment the week before last:

I’d taken Mini out of nursery to accompany me so that I didn’t need to flap about getting back in time or finding a babysitter. I knew the garage waiting area had a coffee machine, some toys and a tv, so I brought along some books and snacks and we settled down and made ourselves comfy for the long wait we’d been warned that it would take. Mini was extremely well-behaved for the first hour, playing on the floor with cars. The second hour, she took off her shoes so she could wriggle around the sofa and play the longest game of I-Spy in the world with me. For the 3rd hour, we counted the number of vans vs cars that went past, then the cars of each colour that went past. Mini stropped when the colours I chose kept winning on the First to 10 rule (though I was amazed that more blue cars went past in any time that we watched than red, black or silver. Blimey!)

Aware that the patient garage staff might be as fed up of I-Spy and 4 yo loser strops as me, I decided that as we were the only ones in the waiting area, it really wasn’t anti-social to change the tv channel from BBC News to CBeebies. Oh, Same Smile‘s on. Great (!) Mini was delighted, though. I guess the mechanics felt the same as me, because it only took 5 mins of being subjected to that programme before the car was out and re-booked for another time.

So there we have it: if you need the garage to speed up a little, just turn on CBeebies.

Mini the Uber Minx

Today was brought to me by the word: “groggy”.

Mini Minx had had a nightmare and crawled into my bed for comfort. I don’t mind that at all, and am glad to be able to cuddle away her bad dreams. I do mind, however, when she spends the rest of the night whirling round and round like a Catherine wheel on my left, while The Boss makes a cocoon for himself out of the duvet on the right. They slept soundly; I didn’t.

When I picked Mini up from nursery, she’d made me a Valentine’s card with both “I love you” and her name chalked inside in pink, and about a million red sticker hearts pasted on the front. And she’d made her daily portrait of me in spatter-paints. Awwwwww! Melts my heart every single time. I suspect, though, that it’s because my purple hair is an easy thing to draw with the materials available to her; browny-gray would be far more difficult with standard issue nursery paints.

Anyway, we hung around the library attached to the school and I read her a quick story before it was time to pick up her sisters for a now-rare Home Lunch. I think Mini must have been as tired as me, because after the short walk home she lay on the floor like an Egyptian mummy with her arms folded, chin out, bottom lip out, and refused to sit up at table. She got short shrift from me – I’d gone all out to make Maxi’s favourite lunch: feta, garlic and oregano baked inside a half red pepper each, resting on a bowl of fried leftover rice and a ton of peas, with a drop of soy sauce, and apple juice as a treat to wash away the garlic taste. Mini tried to eat her pepper-half like toast. When I objected to her table manners, she stropped and whined and tantrummed, eventually giving in and asking me to cut it up for her. When I did, she snarled thank you, then pushed the bowl hard to the other side of the table with a pout. I told her she’d get no other food till dinner time, so to think carefully before she threw it away. She flounced off with her nose in the air, to go and torment her sisters (allegedly biting. Again. Makes my blood boil).

After dropping off Midi and Maxi at school, me and Mini had an exciting (!) afternoon of fighting with 3 beds, stripping and replacing all the bed-linen. What a wonderful opportunity for another tantrum! This one was because I refused to get her summer duvet cover out of the box in the garage (aye, that one under the other 788 boxes) and magically wash and dry it instantaneously for her to use.

By the time we’d done the return walk to school to pick up her sisters at 3.15pm, Mini was in a foul mood: hitting, snarling, whining, pulling toys off her sisters, grabbing their homework. When she smacked at me for scolding her, I bent down and eyeballed my bratty 4 yo:

Me: “Mini, you can’t keep biting your sisters and hitting me! It’s naughty and I’m not having it! No more bratty behaviour! I don’t do tantrums; never have. Stop it!”

Mini pulled away and sighed melodramatically: “But it’s soooo hard being good…”.

I might have smirked a bit…

I see your exasperation and I raise you 2 finger-bogeys. I win!

I see your exasperation and I raise you 2 finger-bogeys. I win!

On a cooking roll, I made Korean slow-cooker beef, with rhubarb and semolina cake. Not together. Obviously. Beef cake would be hideous. Beefcake, on the other hand… Speaking of which, The Boss’s stomach was in ecstasy eating that lot, mine was pretty happy, Midi thought it was just a little snack-ette, Maxi refused it all (pale, complaining of sore tummy, was shortly thereafter showered, hugged and in bed), and Mini used it as yet another opportunity to establish her will.

“It too spicy! It burning my whole mouth off!” she roared. Trust me: this girl eats garlic with most meals, so a 2-clove garlic meal, with half a tiny chili and a single thumb of ginger divided 5 ways is definitely not too spicy. She stropped when she realised we were serious that she had to eat at least all her beef and all the veg before she could have some of the cake she’d baked with me. Poorly Maxi was already tucked up in bed before Mini quickly relented at her final chance to eat cake before it was packed away in the fridge for the night.

I didn’t get a chance to scold her some more, though – Maxi had a sudden meltdown over knocking over a little blue pot of mine that used to hold my paintbrushes nearly 20 years ago. It fell off her shelf, boinked on her head, and smashed on her bedhead. I explained that I’d much rather the pot was smashed than her little head, and that I wasn’t angry (Jeezo, just the opposite: I’m desperate to do some major decluttering, but need to wait till they’re all out the house to sneak it out to the 2-week quarantine of the Cooling Off Area in the garage). Still, this was a disaster of the worst kind to my little 8 yo. I suspect a lot of it was because she felt ill, and perhaps some delayed reaction from last week: half her class were away for a few days on a trip, and the break in routine disturbed her enormously. We’d talked about it and anticipated it, but it still upset and unsettled her while they were away and over the weekend. Maybe the resumption of normality with their return today hit her hard, too? I don’t know. It’s easy to just say she’s being a Drama Queen, but I’m starting to spot that most of these wailing sessions tend to have triggers.

So, anyway, after all that I was really looking forward to a precious one-hour of knitting in front of Broadchurch tonight. Mini had other ideas. She kept running in and out, wanting her dolly tucked up, herself tucked up, her dolly dressed in a blanket like a toga; no, like a dress; no, like a sarong. She’s pretty astute about knowing just when I’m about to blow my lid, and usually picks that time to announce “Mummy, I love you allawaytoamoo nanback, hundred time” (Mummy, I love you all the way to the moon and back a hundred times). Anticipating it, I kissed her and said:

Me: “Good night, Mini! Last time! Bed!! I love you all the way to the moon and back a hundred times”.

Mini: “I love you more” (coquettish smile)

Me: “No, I love you more. To the moon and back the long way, infinite times”

Mini: “No, I love you more – I love you all the way to South Africa!”

Well, by golly, that is a very long way indeed. What a lucky mummy I am!

Midi’s On a Roll…

A week or so ago, the school had a Burns celebration, so they learned some Scottish country dancing so they and the parents could have a wee ceilidh, the classes sang us some Scottish songs, they exhibited artwork about Scottish heroes, my 3 minxes did a little (60 second!) Highland dance, and the children had a Scottish poetry recital competition. The class winners were announced at the celebration. Maxi came 3rd in her group and Mini came 1st in hers. Blimey! So tonight Mini is off with The Boss shortly, with all the class winners, to recite their poems at the local Burns Supper.

I was reflecting on how self-confident the minxes are in front of audiences, especially Midi. They don’t seem bothered at all by the attention; indeed, Midi seems to revel in it. I asked her why she’s not bothered by performing in front of other people.

“Well, it’s like I’m the Queen,” she explained with a regal wave of her little hand. Hmph!

Practicing at home

Practicing at home

Midi The Quizzical


As we were stumbling out the door yesterday in a rush to school, Midi wrinkled her little brow.

“Mummy, can I ask you a question?” she frowned. Oh boy. My minxes don’t half pick their moments. I remember when her big sister asked something similar.

“Sure. Quickly. Mini: get your shoes back on. Maxi: where’s your homework bag? Girls: out, out, out!” I barked.

“Mummy, who’s Rip?” Midi asked.

“Huh?” I said eloquently.

“Rip. You know: Rip. The man who’s got lots of headstones”

Midi the Quizzical Bless. I stopped and laughed and gave her a hug. Maxi butted in and explained what R.I.P. means to her 6 yo sister.

Every day’s a school day, eh?