Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Our holidays. An almost wordless Wednesday

On our holidays we went to the Croatian Coast

Photo Credit: Oranges and Lemons

Most of the time we stayed near the sea, but we did also go to Dubrovnik to get some ice cream and a bit of culture.

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP

We spent a lot of time swimming in the crystal clear sea, the odd inland lake on the occasional island and many many pools.

Photo Credit: CC Chapman

Adam discovered what a jacuzzi was. This is the actual jacuzzi that he found. I'm sure that aged 4 the word 'jacuzzi' hadn't entered my vocabulary. Anyway it was fairly difficult to get him out. He is a man who likes a bit of luxury in his life. He is so born into the wrong family!

Photo Credit: Admiral Hotel, Slano
The Grandparents came too and spent plenty of time with their grandsons, talking, reading, swimming, playing and having a ball. Us parents made the most of it by catching up on a bit of reading and idling.
Photo Credit Somma1977

Luckily for us, being September, it was out of season. Got to love a bit of out of season holiday. The weather was cooler (meaning perfect temperatures for us Brits). It means that even in Dubrovnik it isn't so expensive and there aren't nearly as many people so there are much less of this:

Photo Credit: Marcel Oosterwijk

At the end of the day parents and grandparents indulged in a bit of this whilst watching the sun go down. At least, most of us did. My cocktail was delicately sipped with one hand whilst holding my youngest on the loo whilst he did his daily poo. Turns out you can't off load all parental duties onto the grandparents!

Photo Credit: KAZ2.0

A holiday to demonstrate what holidays should be all about.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


I'm not here today. Sadly I've not skipped off on holiday again but it is almost as exciting. I've been asked to be the Guest Blogger of the Day on the rather marvellous Angels and Urchins site, a chance I simply couldn't let pass by. So, for your daily dosage of Bosnian tales, do head over there and have a read of Plum vodka with that?

Back tomorrow, or thereabouts.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Back to real life.... sigh

On holiday:

The Croatian Coast: according to local legend its islands are 'teardrops from God' and it contains 'the jewel of the Adriatic' (the stunningly beautiful city of Dubrovnik).

The weather: sunny, warm, light breeze, not too hot but warm enough in the evening to sit outside for dinner.

Activities: swimming, skimming stones, looking into fishing boats, watching very glamorous yachts swan around, sitting in the jacuzzi, sipping cocktails, strolling the streets of Dubrovnik and the paths of the nearby islands, playing with Grandparents.

Ice-cream: amazing.

Place to stay: Out of this world. Merits a post all of its own.

Back home:

Tuzla: 'an industrial town without the industry' (my father-in-law).

Fridge: empty

House: trashed and full of suitcases that need to be unpacked, washed and put away

Weather: Really quite chilly!

Lakes: Shut

Ice-cream: not being sold any more.

Activities: A list of chores as long as my arm.

How do we feel about being back home? Mneh.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dear So and So, Bosnian Version: Part IV

The Brits household is off on holiday this week, sunning itself on the Croatian coastline. At least that is the plan. The forecast is for rain and a bit of a cold snap making it a rather less attractive proposition than England.

Sadly this means that we will miss Bajram, the Bosnian version of Eid which marks the end of Ramadan. The whole town is a flutter of talk about which parties shall be attended, and who will be where. I've been to some of these Bajram parties (in a pre-children era) and they are terrific. Everyone joins in, Muslim or not and there is an awful lot of dancing and beer and food and all things good.

Anyway, until you get your real-life postcard which given the ongoing British postal strike means probably never, here are some of the virtual versions, sent from Bosnia.


Dear fellow expats in Tuzla currently on holiday in the States (you know who you are),

When are you coming back? We miss you! I'm not sure we have forgiven you yet for abandoning us all summer. And can you bring peanut butter with you?

Hugs and kisses to you both,

Fraught Mummy


Dear Random Imam,

After the Bosnian Delights and the perfume, I must also thank you for the vast quantities of plums that you have taken to leaving by our front door. Would you be very offended if I was to make them into Plum Vodka?

Yours, hic, oops, silly giggle,


Dear Boys,

Which bit of 'Don't Do That' do you not understand?

Your ever loving but getting increasingly disciplinarian as it is becoming more obvious that noone in this household listens to a word I say mother xx


Dear Bosnian Pedestrians,

Given that you are the bottom of the pile when it comes to priority of road users, how is it that you feel so confident in crossing the road without looking to see if there are any vehicles coming?

Seriously wondering how any of you are still alive,



Dear Dave,

I do appreciate you looking after the boys when I am out and about. Really I do. But, given that you take control of them at about 5.30 which isn't that long before they go to bed and during that time they are having supper, a bath and watching a bit of TV, how is it possible that the house gets so totally and utterly trashed?

Your ever grateful, but curious wife x


Dear Bakers, all bakers, any bakers,

Please don't stop making Lepina just because it is the end of Ramadan. I know that you can get it out of season, but it just isn't the same without those yummy black bits on the top. I don't think I can wait for next year to get my lepina fix!

Yours, scoffing any lepina I can find in preparation for the great lepina fast about to begin,
FM x

Dear Boys,

Which part of 'you will hurt yourself' do you not understand?

Your exasperated mother who is running out of plasters and sympathy for preventable ouch moments. xxxx


Dear Outside Dog,

We are ok for you to make a camp for yourself on our porch as you are, for a stray dog, remarkably well behaved (and now fully deticked and delurgyed). We are happy to keep on giving you food. But if you keep going into our bins and dumping the contents all over the garden we may have to rethink the above.

Don't say you weren't warned,



Dear favourite bakers,

Please reopen soon. You are the only ones that I can rely on to bake zeljanica pita (spinach pie with a sort of feta like cheese in) which is my absolute favourite of all time ever.

Pretty please?



Dear Bosnian Car Importers and Banks,

How difficult can it be? Seriously.

Starting to get quite wound up at how long (and how expensive) a relatively simple and straightforward transaction can be made into a paper marathon, with no end in sight.

Yours, still driving our English registered car round Tuzla,



Dear Boys,

Which part of 'Stop Climbing Onto The Windowsill, Opening The Window And Throwing Your Toys Out!' do you not understand?

Just understand this: It is your fault if your toys break or get lost,

Mummy x


Dear Next Door Neighbour,

The boys are 2 and 4. They will make a lot of noise when they are in the garden. They tend to this during the afternoon, usually around 4pm. This is a whole lot better than your turbo folk music blasting out late at night. So quit complaining and shut your window if you don't want to hear them.

Yours, with a you got a problem with that? attitude,


PS - your white suit and shoes they you so love? Not a good look.


Dear Bosnian teenage boys,

Scooting around with your helmet draped over your handlebars doesn't look cool. We know that your mother made you take your helmet. Why don't you just wear it? You never know, it might actually save your life.




Dear Boys,

You are never to buy yourself a scooter. Or motorbike. And you are ALWAYS to wear your helmets, especially when I make you take them with you.

It's because I love you,

Hugging and kissing you and holding you tight, and never ever letting you buy a motorbike (although you will pay about as much attention to that statement as you do to all my other instructions - sigh).



Dear Blogger,

What is this thing with the formatting? If I want lots of spaces between my lines, I'll put them there myself.

Fed up with having to reformat my posts for no good reason,


As ever, I could go on. And on and on. But, that is enough for now. There are bags to be packed, packed lunches to be made and armbands to be found. Have a great week.

If you fancy a writing a Dear So and So post of your own, make sure to head over to Kat's at 3 Bedroom Bungalow and sign up so other fans of the genre can read you too.


PS - for those that haven't already spotted it, the latest Best of British Mummy Bloggers carnival is up: Head on over to New Mummy to read 42 posts covering the full range of parenting moments.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

What country are we in again?

Caught out once again by the semantics of this country. I was out and about near the east of the Bosnia, very close to the border with Serbia. This part of the country is a part of the Republika Srpska, the Serb half of Bosnia, usually known as the RS. It is very beautiful; forested hills, green valleys and the stately Drina River. This time of year there are cornfields and fishermen. The temperature is cooling to very pleasurable levels, it is really pretty Garden of Eden perfect like.

I'd been having a coffee with some very nice people, who had been more than welcoming and had offered me vast quantities of food and drink leading to us all having a very convivial time. They asked me where my children were, and I had said, in Bosnian, that the boys were at nursery. They asked me how the boys were coping with the language and I had replied that I thought they understood everything and that now they were actually starting to speak Bosnian.

There was a silence and then one of the men looked straight at me and in that sort of voice that says do not even think of contradicting me said that they weren't learning to speak Bosnian, they were learning to speak Serbian.

I forget sometimes about the realities of this country. If I had been to the south or the west of Bosnia, the men would have looked at me and told me that my children were learning to speak Croatian. The fact that these 'different' languages are as different as American and Australian are to English is neither here nor there. Nor was the fact that I struggle to speak any of them well, so to have to worry about who I am talking to and to remember to say Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian is way beyond me. It was important to them that I knew and that I understood that the language we were speaking was not Bosnian.

It is not restricted to the language. If you are in the RS when Bosnia are playing football you would never know it. Noone is watching. Their football team, the team they want to go to the World Cup, is Serbia and they are passionate about that. In the Croat areas of the country, they support Croatia (must remember not to say 5-1 at inappropriate times, the Croats are devastated, their media is imploding with grief in a way that I thought only the English could really do).

It is only the Bosniaks (also known as the Bosnian Muslims) who really identify with Bosnia. They speak Bosnian, they support Bosnia, they understand themselves to be Bosnian. They will do whatever it takes to keep the country together and at the more extreme end of the scale this involves trampling all over the sensitivities of the Serbs and Croats in the country.

The Americans say that they speak English. Chucking the Brits out of their country didn't lead them to insist that their language is American. It really doesn't matter what they call their language, noone is going to get upset about it. But, when the conflict here is so recent it becomes obvious that this tiny thing, a foreigner mistaking the name of the language they are trying to speak, is unbelievably important.

Suddenly I feel that 14 years after the conflict ended, Bosnia still has a long way to go before it can really function as a normal country.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A different approach for fussy eaters?

Following on from last weeks post and the comments on fussy eaters (you have to love them or you would end up flinging their rejected macaroni cheese across the room), I've been doing some thinking.

Adam is, indeed, a very fussy eater. When we were in the process of moving to Bosnia I worried about this a lot. Not only would he only eat a very limited range of food, we were moving somewhere where most of that range of food was unavailable. What, I thought, am I going to do without fish fingers, sausages or baked beans? That boy is going to fade away, and there's not much of him at the best of times.

Of course, as it turned out we found other things he would eat and he actually is eating a wider range of foods here than he ever would in the UK. I took a disciplined approach of 'if you eat it, great, if you don't, well fine, but you're not getting anything different for supper' which combined with an absolutely no snacks at all during the afternoon seemed to work. He's better now than he was and I think he will continue to improve.

But in Bosnia I noticed something. They don't seem to have very many fussy eaters here. Almost every child I have come across has eaten a full range of fruit and veg with enthusiasm. They also eat chocolate and sweets with enthusiasm, but (and this is the key here) I've also seen the kids say 'no thanks' to offers of chocolate.

Now, my two, with limited access to chocolate and such delicious banned substances, have never, ever, been known to say no to chocolate. In fact, Adam has on one occasion managed to get his little hands on so much of the stuff that he made himself sick. He gorges on it, absolutely gorges and has no ability to stop eating it.

This has got me thinking. Is it possible that we've got our approach to food all wrong? By banning or limiting some foods do they become all the more enticing and desirable? If we were to allow the kids more access to chocolate and the bad stuff, would they work out for themselves how much was enough? Would giving them this responsibility lead to a more responsible attitude towards food?

I'm not sure I'm prepared to try out this theory. Adam would eat nothing but cake and chocolate for weeks and I would fret fret fret. But, the Bosnian kids here all eat their fruit and veg and all tuck into their food with gusto. I've not seen any really fussy eaters, and given how much the nursery staff fret about Adam's lack of lunch consumption, I don't think they are used to it either. You don't tend to see fat Bosnian kids either, they live active lives running around burning off that calorie intake.

I am however interested to know whether anyone is bucking the 'ban the goodies push the veggies' trend out there and has tried giving their child a more free rein on having whatever they want to eat? Did it actually lead to a child with a healthy attitude towards food, who was able to say no to chocolate if they didn't really fancy it, and who tried out other healthier food? Or is the reason there aren't too many fussy Bosnian children because they are simply not given the opportunity to be difficult over food? Comments welcome!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Passing on the link love

It's awards time again. Get out those hankies, prepare those acceptance speeches. Here we go....

First of all, the incredible Zombie Chicken Award from the lovely Kathryn at Life In Italy.

I love this award. It has instructions that go something like this:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all."

How can I not pass on the silliness? The lucky 5 to whom this prestigious award is bestowed are (cue dramatic music): Dulwich Divorcee, London City Mum, Not SuperMum, Notes Inside My Head and Really Rachel. All worthy winners. May they embrace the silliness.

Alrighty now. Time for an advert break - my delightful husband has just put supper onto the table. I shall be back later for the best actor and best actress, so don't switch over now...

(a rather good chicken curry later - he can cook my husband)

Welcome back. Next up we have the Awesum award from Teacher Mommy over at Diapers and Dragons

This fine award goes to a few blogs that are new to me and no doubt well known by everyone else. So Hot Cross Mum (the British Mummy Blogger of the week this week), Sleep is for the Weak, Insomniac Mummy and Very Bored Housewife - it is all yours.

A second round of adverts before the final award. What can I say? They are showing Cocktail on TV. It is brilliant (whatever anyone may say) and it has taken me back to my teenage years. Coughlin's Laws. Being Spooked. A fine fine film. Seriously.

Last, but by no means least: The Great Read Award from A Very Bored Housewife herself:

I think I might be supposed to do something for this one, but I haven't got the organisational capacity to work out what so I am just going to pass it on to some deserving blogs which are all great reads: Baby Rambles, Muddy No Sugar, Big Beluga Baby and Babies Who Brunch.

As they say in Hollywood: That's All Folks!

Friday, 11 September 2009

The road outside our house

A sobering start to our day. Just as everyone was struggling out of bed (well, I was struggling out of bed, the boys were bouncing around full of the joys of a brand new day with far too much energy for my ever so slightly feeling the effects of a glass of wine too many the previous evening head) we heard shouts coming from the road outside. I looked out of the window and realised that a woman had been hit by a car. People were running to help, the driver of the car was out of his car looking shocked and slightly hysterical. An ambulance arrived in minutes, closely followed by the police and she was whisked off to the hospital, to be treated for a broken shoulder and leg. The police remained for several hours carefully photographing all aspects of the accident, circling relevant marks with chalk, placing numbered placards everywhere and interviewing witnesses.

As it turns out, she was walking to work and had just stepped off the pavement, into the path of the car. The car had not been travelling fast, there was no screeching to a halt, no skid marks on the road. She was lucky, we might live in a residential area, but the road by our house is surprisingly smooth and cars drive up it at an inappropriate speed. This being a residential area there are always children playing on the road somewhere. It is one of the things that I love about living here. The kids are outside, making up games with chalk on the road, drawing out elaborate courts for games to play with bottle tops. The girls are often to be seen with long pieces of elastic stretched between themselves playing elaborate games that the boys look at with confusion, as if the girls are practicing an advanced form of black magic. The boys go up and down on their bikes practicing wheelies and trying to look cool. It is exactly how children ought to be spending their time. It is exactly how I would want my kids to be spending their time when they are a few years older.

But this accident has really shaken me up. I grew up in London, so am no stranger to cars travelling too fast on the roads. But at least in London the pavements are wide enough to walk on. Here, the pavement which this woman stepped off is narrow, gravelled and difficult to walk along. Whenever I try to walk along it, I normally end up stepping off it and walking on the road. And I usually have 2 small children, a couple of scooters, some shopping and a dog to try and keep under control whilst I do so. The other day, I took my eye off Luke for all of 1 second and he ran across the road for no reason whatsoever. This is the first time he had ever done something like that. Usually he is pretty road aware, but for some reason this time, he simply took off. There was a car coming as well, fortunately travelling slowly and paying attention, so was able to give the rampaging 2 year old plenty of room.

I keep thinking of this woman, who was just walking to work one Thursday morning and who ended up in hospital with some fairly serious and very painful injuries. And all I can think is There, but for the grace of God, go I. And I draw my boys in towards me, kiss their heads and hold them tight.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Football Identity

A big football night last night in the Brits in Bosnia household. Not only was England playing against Croatia (and there are quite a few Croatia supporters who live around here) but Bosnia was playing against Turkey. As Bosnia was once a part of the Ottoman empire and the high proportion of Muslims in Bosnia is as a direct result of that occupation, the links between Bosnia and Turkey remain strong. Bosnian Muslims are often called Turks by the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia. Not only were there strong historical and cultural links to this game, it was also totally vital that Bosnia won if they were to have a chance to go to the World Cup Finals in South Africa next year, which would be their first major footballing championships.

Adam is starting to show quite a bit of interest in football. He enjoys watching people play it, and is full of who we are going to support. We have constant conversations about who the teams are and what colours they wear. As Bosnia wear blue, and so do Chelsea (my family's team) he is very into versions of blue kit. As the day went on and more and more people starting appearing wearing Bosnian kit, he started getting quite excited.

Adam: I'm going to support Bosnia

Me: Good idea darling. I am too. But I'm supporting England in their match against Croatia. Do you remember we saw Croatia the other day. They have a flag with lots of red and white squares on it. Like that one over there.

Adam: What colour is our flag?

Me: do I talk about the Union Jack here or the St. George's cross? The cross is easier, let's run with that one for the moment. It is a red cross on white, like the picture of a knight in your book.

Adam: What colour is Bosnia?

Me: Blue and yellow - look, like that flag over there.

Adam: What happens if England play Bosnia?

Me: Well, we support England.

Adam: I think I want to cheer for Bosnia against England. They wear blue.

Me - in my head: **&&%%&%&&! Who are you kidding? Your grandfathers will never talk to you again! Your father may never talk to you again. I'll never watch an international with you. Supporting the English football team in all their misery and occasional moment of glory is a part of being English, it is what defines us. Then again, this might be the moment when you are spared the abject pain of being a life time England supporter; so hopeful every time, only to be so disappointed - without fail. But on the other hand, the Bosnian football team comes from the same stock, they also have the ability to self implode and clutch defeat from the jaws of a great victory. Arrghgh, what do I say? Bosnia as a second team definitely yes, but to support them over England? What happens if Bosnia qualify for the World Cup and we end up playing them? Does this mean that he thinks he is Bosnian and not English? Is this a good thing, does this show how he has adapted to living here? How can we reinforce a sense of being English whilst we live abroad? How does football define identity? Gosh I can think fast as I haven't even opened my mouth yet in response and my thoughts have covered a lot of ground.

Me: Are you sure? Bosnia is where we live, but we are English so we really should support England.

Adam: Yes. I am going to cheer for Bosnia.

I feel the time may have come for us to consider moving back.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Permission to move, with children

Way back when, when we were stuck deep in the throes of trying to move out to Bosnia, we had admin tasks coming out of our ears. We needed letters from the vet for the dog, we needed export licences (again for the dog), we needed letters from doctors with records of vaccinations for the kids, we needed letters from the police confirming that we weren't naughty people. If in doubt, we needed a letter from someone.

There was one letter that I didn't even start to think that I might need. It was only after a visit to the Bosnian British Embassy did we realise that in order for me to fly from London to Sarajevo with the boys on my own, I needed to have a letter from Dave and notarised by a proper official notary (with an official stamp and everything) saying that he gave his consent for me to take our children out of the UK, (indeed out of the EU) and into Bosnia. Without this letter and his consent it would, in theory, not be possible for me to bring our children to Bosnia.

At the time I didn't really give it much thought beyond 'oh damn it, more admin, where are we going to find a notary who can do this cheaply at zero hours notice?'. If I did think any deeper about it, it wouldn't have been anything deeper than 'I guess this requirement is there to stop big mean parents kidnapping their kids' in a Daily Mail sort of way.

I certainly didn't think about what it would be like if Dave and I were not happily married and he hadn't wanted to give his permission. How much that might affect my life, my childrens lives and they way in which I would have to live. I didn't even start to imagine the way in which my choices could be affected, curtailed even, by someone else who was the other parent of my children. How I might not be able to live in the country I wanted to live in, should the father of my children not want me to.

Recently, I've been reading about a fellow English Mummy Blogger, Yummy Mammy. She married an Irishman, and moved to Ireland. Then they got divorced and she now wants to move back to England, to her home to be near her family, friends and support network. No problems with that. The problem comes because she wants to move back to England with their daughter (a distance of 135 miles or so, door to door), and the father is taking legal actions to prevent her from doing so. Now, Ireland is a part of the EU and Yummy Mammy doesn't need a letter to fly with her daughter to the UK. But, she does need to agree with her ex-husband about where her daughter will live. Her ex says Ireland and she, living in a foreign country and wanting to return to her own country, says England. It is an impossible situation.

Yummy Mammy is running a campaign to raise awareness of her situation and highlighting the problems and heart breaking issues surrounding a two country divorce. Please visit her campaign site Save One Mammy and to read more about the background to her predicament then read her post HeartBroke - Part 2. The campaign started on Monday and you should also stop by at Metropolitan Mum and WAHM BAM to read their posts on the issue. Both are poignant and will make you think.

Monday, 7 September 2009

New recipes and fussy eaters

Reader, I have a confession. Well, a typically middle class Mummy confession. Adam, my eldest, my four year old, is a fussy eater. Not just a little bit fussy either, he is a full on, will not eat, meal times can be a misery fussy eater. He's been this way since he was about 8 months following a particularly nasty stomach virus. Obviously he will eat chocolate, crisps and anything bad for him. I am actually thinking of renting him out as a quick way of working out whether food is good or bad for you, on the basis that if he will eat it with enthusiasm and without coaxing, it is without a doubt the worst type of processed, sugar/salt filled food available.

We don't stop trying though. Every night I cook something vaguely healthy and try to get him to eat it. Some nights we manage ok. Others turn into a bit of a showdown. Sometimes I can deal with it, sometimes I can't (as Charlotte Moerman of the Buggy Blogs writes in her book Instructions Not Included writes 'hell after all hath no fury than a mummy whose laboriously made fish pie has been rejected').

As a fully paid up member of the middle class mummy society, this inability to get my son to crunch down on a raw carrot for snacks or to eschew crisps for a bit of filled gem lettuce leaves often feels as a downright failure. Of more concern though is the thought that his younger brother will watch this little behaviour trick and take it on board for himself. Currently Luke eats most things, but I can already see that he has learnt from Adam, and the vegetables are getting more difficult to get down him by the day.

In short then, I'm desperate for ideas, for any help in how to get healthier food into Adam. So when Ebury Books asked me if I'd like to review some Annabel Karmel recipe books, of course I jumped at the chance.

Now, I'm no stranger to Ms. Karmel. Of the three recipe books we bought out with us to Bosnia, 2 were hers. So sending me more of her books is a bit like preaching to the converted. But, any new recipes, anything that might become acceptable to my little fusspot, are very desirable. First they sent me the latest Annabel Karmel New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. This is the fourth edition and I have a previous edition with me, so I was able to complete a fairly exhaustive compare and contrast. At least, of the chapter 5 which was the only part of the book relavant to me now with 2 toddlers in the household. Much as I wish to Blog with Integrity and conduct a thorough and exhaustive review, going back to pureeing food was never going to happen. Anyway, I can confirm that the new edition looks pretty good, has colour pictures and a couple of pretty pastel pages, but the core of the book, the recipes and the information that comes with it is pretty similar.

Luckily for me they rapidly realised their mistake and proceeded to send me the Complete Family Meal Planner which was far more appropriate. So for the last month I have been testing out a range of different recipes. As I mentioned before, I've got a few of her books, so wasn't surprised to see many of the recipes were repeated here. She has a few themes which she uses often. A meal based around meat or chicken with soy sauce, honey, garlic and lemon (or a variety of) are commonly found in the book, definitely delicious and sadly not acceptable by my little fusspot. On the other hand her Hidden Tomato Vegetable Sauce is the only way to get Adam to ingest any form of vegetables at all, as long as I don't get over excited and try to hide too many vegetables in it. That mistake took me about 6 months to recover from, so for anyone else thinking of trying to sneak a few extra veggies in that way, think twice. Her Bang Bang chicken is the only dish that I can confidently say will lead to a clean plate. The Chicken and Apple Ball recipe was a surprising success too.

I have two gripes with the recipes though. The first is her assertion that fussy children will eat food if it is presented well. So, there are such incidents as the Teddy Bear Rissoles with olive and peas for eyes and carrots for the ears. Now, in this household, for food to touch anything that is red, orange or even (heaven forbid!) green apparently means that the entire plate is rendered unfit for human consumption. There is no way that I would ever be able to persuade him otherwise. I know that Ms. Karmel is supposed to have had a fussy eater as a child, but in my experience this tactic takes up a lot of time and will lead to certain misery at the meal times.

The second moan is that I find her dishes can be unnecessarily complicated. Not to cook, for even someone with my meagre culinary skills can manage them pretty easily, but in the food. In our experience we have found that the best way to get the fusspots to eat something is to keep it as simple as possible. So, for example, rather than fill burgers with breadcrumbs, onions, chopped red peppers and parsley, we are far better off going to the butchers, getting the best quality meat possible, getting the butcher to mince it, make it into a patty and cook it with nothing else added at all.

But I'm whinging. I've already said that I'd be lost without her books. Anyone with children who doesn't have one of her books on their shelf should. On the other hand, if you already have one (or two or even, like me, 5) then you probably won't gain too much from these additional ones.

Right what's for dinner?

Friday, 4 September 2009

Dear So and So Bosnian Version: Part iii

My biweekly opportunity to rant and get pithy with things that have annoyed/delighted me over the past couple of days. I encourage everyone to have a go at writing a Dear So and So post, it is surprisingly therapeutic.


Dear Bosnian Taxi Drivers,

Just steady there with the stopping in the middle of the road to pick up and let down passengers. Usual etiquette suggests that you should wait until it is safe, indicate and then pull over. Or at least let the drivers behind you know that you are about to come to an abrupt halt.

Yours, with depleting brake pads and increasing Bosnian swear word vocabulary,
Fraught Mummy


Dear Bosnian billboard advertisers,

I have a question. You know your advert, the one where there is a picture of a woman wearing nothing but a thong and with her hands in some very fetching yellow marigold rubber gloves placed delicately on her very perfect backside? You know the one? In the background there are a few men in suits, hard helmets, chewing on pens and looking thoughtful? Can you explain to me how this advert in any way promotes safety in the workplace?

Yours, in curiosity,
FM x


Dear ice cream sellers on the Korzo,

You remember how last year there was a bit of a cold snap at the beginning of September? But then the month continued to be warm and sunny and perfect ice cream weather? Do you remember how you also stopped making ice cream at the very first sign of cold and then for the rest of the month we wanted ice-cream so badly but noone was selling it. The forecast for next week is a bit chilly, but then it looks as if it will heat up again. Please please please don't stop making ice cream until it really is too cold for it.

Yours, in appreciation of your amazing ice creams and wondering how we will get through the winter without it,

PS - if you ever wanted to try making that blood orange ice-cream again, I'll buy a box of it!


Dear Nursery,

Thanks for the offer of giving English lessons to the boys. I think they'll be ok without them.



Dear Bosnian bathroom designers,

I know that Bosnians aren't that short (in fact there a lot of very tall Bosnians). So why are all your baths so tiny?

Yours, in desperation for a long hot soak without my knees around my ears,


Dear Bosnian Grannys,

Telling my children off in the supermarket is not acceptable, particularly when they were actually being pretty well behaved. I know you mean well, telling them to listen to their mother and to hold my hand is exactly what I have been telling them for, well, years. But if you shout at them in Bosnian it doesn't really help much.

Yours, only just holding my tongue in check,


Dear Boys,

Do you have a volume control? Could you use it? Particularly in the supermarket or when there are people around who are likely to tell me off.

Your only slightly deaf mother x


Dear Bosnian Traffic Light Designers,

When I get a specific green light to turn right, I'm not expecting to come across a stream of pedestrians crossing the road who also have a green light. It always takes me, and quite a few other drivers, by surprise. Do you not think it might be better to let one group of road users have priority at a time?

Yours, in bewilderment,


Dear neighbours,

You've been ever so generous with the produce of your fruits trees. We've gorged on your cherries, raspberries, apples, peaches and plums. I can see the pear trees are looking pretty good and I'm feeling hopeful.

Yours in anticipation,


Dear Mum and Mum-in-law,

We can't wait to see you when you come out. A week on the Croatian coast near Dubrovnik is a very exciting prospect. The boys are so excited to spend some time with their Grannies. Please come bearing tea bags. We're nearly out and whilst everyone says that the 'crni caj' is the same thing, it just isn't and I can't function without my tea.

Only a few weeks to go now,
FM xx


Dear Bosnian Football Team,

You're playing Armenia tomorrow. You have such a great opportunity to qualify for the World Cup in 2010. Go get 'em! Hajmo Bosno Bosno Bosno!

Yours, waving my blue and yellow flag enthusiastically,


Haven't had enough Dear So and So? There are a few others posting them too: Head on over to

Home Mum of 2 (or 3 if you count their Dad)

Muddling Along Mummy

London City Mum

Very Bored Housewife

Have a go yourself. And if you do, make sure to go to Kat's at 3 Bedroom Bungalow and sign up so that other fans of the genre can come and have a read too.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A depressing coffee

For once, a positive take on the situation in Bosnia. The Economist has an article from a couple of weeks back about how the old Yugoslavia is no longer a country but the countries that came from it are now developing a Yugosphere, where business and cultural aspects are binding the area back to a semblance of normality, despite their politicians.

The article is a couple of weeks old now, and must have been published when all the politicians were away on holiday because now they are back at work we are being treated to a few articles with headlines like 'Politicians "lead Bosnia to the verge of war"'. All kinds of the usual political shenanigans are going on with various political parties throwing all their toys out of the pram and behaving like, well, my children really.

Usually I come down on seeing the positive side of the situation in Bosnia. Despite what all those politicians are up to, I can see that in everyday life people are getting on with the business of living. They have coffee with each other. They create business together. They listen to the same sort of music and love to travel to Croatia or Serbia. They live together. To some extent they view with their politicians with a hint of exasperation, but also don't see much of a connection between the latest shenanigans in Sarajevo will affect their day to day lives.

This week though, I'm feeling more pessimistic about Bosnia's future having had the (mis)fortune to have had a coffee in the company of a die-hard nationalist. Whilst practically every other Bosnian I have met (whether Serb, Croat or Muslim) has been the most generous, kind hearted, well natured person, this man was odious. The bile he spewed was jaw dropping to listen to. The certainty in his own beliefs was frightening. The venom he had for people who were not like him was really frightening.

I have struggled to understand how it was that the war in Bosnia became so vicious and nasty. The people I've met have all been such unlikely characters to participate in such a thing. They were neighbours before the war, I couldn't understand how they got to the point that they did. How was it that they came to listen to their politicians and embark on such a lunacy?

Having met this man, I could suddenly see a glimpse of how it might have happened. He is not someone I would want to meet at a roadblock. He is not someone I would like to have negotiate with. He stands out to me as the exception in Bosnia, I have not met anyone quite like him before. Suddenly I understood that it wouldn't take so many of this type of man on each side to create a situation where things became nasty.

But the really frightening thing? The thing that really depressed me? He was in a position of influence and there were 5 or 6 18 year olds hanging off his every word.