I have become obsessed with a book called French Children Don't Throw Food. I'm sure you've heard about it; it's by an American journalist called Pamela Druckerman who moved to Paris, had children and wondered why they were such snarling brats compared with the quiet little bonbon-ish children of her French counterparts.
She did some investigating and turned her findings into this book, which, if like me the two things you find most abhorrent in the world are badly-behaved dogs and badly-behaved children, is utterly gripping.
The secret, she says, is that the French just sort of ignore their children and let them get on with things by themselves. They are not constantly in their faces, trying to entertain them They do not rush over to their child at the first squeal of frustration. They practise "La Pause", which is the moment where you stop and think "Is that a cry of distress? Is my child actually hurt, afraid or upset? Or is she annoyed because she can't get the star-shaped wooden thingy into the square-shaped hole and will recover herself in a moment? And should I therefore just continue to hang up this washing and not run over there?"
They also don't really tell their children off that much. When they do, they make it count - but they don't tell them they are naughty. They say something along the lines of: "NO! We do NOT lick shoes. Non, non, non!" and they consider it part of the toddler's education, teaching them not to lick shoes because they are dirty, rather than a terrible curtailment of their freedom of expression - or as discipline.
Anyway, I could go on but I won't because we'll be here all day. But the upshot is that I have been implementing this advice as much as possible and although I can't say that Kitty is now a model child, at the very least I have ceased to feel even remotely guilty when I leave her bumbling around alone with her toys for 45 minutes while I lie on the sofa eating mini-eggs.
On an entirely separate note, I made the other night a really fantastic monkfish curry and it was terribly easy. I had a lot of monkfish knocking about from a trip to the farmers' market over the weekend and it felt like a curry night.
It utilised a curry paste from Jamie's 30-Minute meals, minus a few things I didn't have. We are eating a lot of fish and vegetables at the moment because my husband and I have both got terribly fat in the last few months and seeing as we're neither nice people nor useful to society, the least we can do is be thin.
2 monkfish tails (or any other firm white fish), cut into chunks
1 knob fresh ginger
1 red chilli seeds in, don't be pathetic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 tsp tamarind paste (if you have it)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 mini cans cocnut milk (you can get these from Waitrose, or 1 large one will probably do)
1 tsp coriander seeds, (if you have)
2 tbs groundnut oil
1 Put all the ingredients for the curry paste into a whizzer and whizz. In 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil fry off the paste for about 5 minutes.
2 Add the monkfish chunks and some sad old veg (baby corn/sugar snap peas etc) you have hanging about if you need to get rid of it. Stir this round until the monfish looks opaque on all sides, but don't cook for longer than 8 or so minutes.
3 Add the coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes until everything is very hot. If you had some fresh coriander, you could stir this in or sprinkle over at the end, but who ever has fresh coriander?