Taking the Minxes for a Pub Lunch

Today I sweetened the hellish ordeal that is school shoe shopping for 3 girls by taking them all the way to Arbroath and going to Wetherspoons for lunch.

It wasn’t just for the treat – I may have looked like a harassed, dumpy, middle aged mum to casual eyes, but underneath I was an eagle-eyed, inquisitive, secret reviewer of The Corn Exchange‘s child-friendliness for the Soil Association. As I explained when I reviewed our lunch out at McDonalds last week, the Soil Association are using an army of parent volunteers to help them in their Out To Lunch mission to assess and improve big food chains’ approach to feeding and serving children.

So how did our visit go? Well, we loitered outside in the sunshine for a while, reading the displayed menu in detail and bickering over whether it was ok for one girl to have a lemon San Pellegrino if the others were having orange… Give me strength! I must have banged my head letting them drink fizzy pop at all. But better to get the squabbles over and done with in private before walking past the big “Families Welcome” sign.

I settled the minxes at a big empty table before ordering immediately. Children weren’t welcome at the bar itself, so I had to leave them at the table and hope for good behaviour  (“You’re in charge of her; you’re in charge of her; you’re in charge of the table; you’re in overall charge; I’m right over there at the bar and I can see and hear everything!“).

There was no children’s menu, so I had a lot of questions about which meals might be appropriate for the younger girls and whether the adult food portion sizes could be varied. The staff member taking my order (the Duty Manager) apologised for there being no children’s menus out and said that the portion sizes couldn’t be varied. Oh. However, she made some appropriate alternative suggestions for Midi and Mini’s orders.

I delivered the kids’ Ultimate Treat Fizzy Drinks then decided to chance their good behaviour lasting long enough for me to swing past the toilets to check on a few other things:

  • There are no babychanging facilities signposted. I watched a woman with a baby try the disabled toilet (locked), then the ladies toilet (clean, airy but no changing area), then search for a staff member to fetch the radar key for the disabled toilet. I hope that full nappy held on long enough…
  • The high-chairs are the brilliant sit-beside-the-table ones, so the baby is sitting with the whole family rather than being a little outcast satellite self-contained table.
  • Lots of the restaurant’s tables are in booths or in cosy nooks, giving good privacy for breastfeeding.

Well, I was only gone 5 mins maximum, but when I came back the food had already been served. My heart sank, anticipating microwaved, rubbery rubbish. But it actually looked, smelled and tasted good. Maxi and Midi had obviously been charmed by the waitress while I was away. They said she’d been careful to make sure they all had the correct meals, had explained the cutlery (Midi and Mini were given a teaspoon alongside standard cutlery; there was no child’s cutlery when I asked) and had been very friendly:

Maxi: “She didn’t seem like she was rushing away. When she asked us a question, she actually waited until we’d replied and really listened. Not like you, Mum”.

Maxi and I had lasagne; Midi and Mini had the children’s cheesy pasta (macaroni and cheese with some broccoli stalks and peas stirred through); we had a couple of additional sides because we’re all garlic freaks and are greedy.

So, 5 mins to plate all that means it’s obviously pre-prepared food. I guess it makes sense: the menu stresses the calorific value of every single dish and all its variations, so to do that you’d have to have very precise portions and ingredients. In fact, online there’s an extremely detailed nutritional analysis of every meal. That’s fine if you care about numbers, though not all calories are equal… Looking round at the very busy Tuesday lunch-time crowd, about half were families, and lots were engaged in that thrice-daily struggle of getting food into little Johnny / Janie and to hell with whether it’s the low-cal option or not – is it good food and does it taste nice? To be fair, the food was tasty enough for that to be no problem at all for my 3 at least – they enjoyed their meals very much:

Midi: “You could taste the actual cheese in the macaroni cheese!” (As opposed to…? I was too afraid to ask)

Midi again: “The broccoli and peas were like our veg, which is really good” (Was that distant praise for my cooking?! Surely not)

Mini: “It’s so yummy! Much nicer than your macaroni” (No. No praise for my cooking at all, there).

Talking of the broccoli and peas, I loved that the children’s food came with 2 green veg and a fruit bag as standard; chips, garlic bread and fizzy drinks* were extras. Normally it’s the other way round – I usually have to ask for extra / any vegetables – so that makes me feel that someone’s thinking about the nutritional content of the food served. It would have been even better if the fruit had been a wee bowl of fresh fruit instead of processed, bagged Del Monte apple slices and grapes, but that’s just me nit-picking. Would the person preparing the (good) adult side salads have the capacity to chop extra fruit, too?

*Well, I say that fizzy drinks are extras. But now that I’m home and can actually look at the children’s menu, I can see that I could have had fizzy pop or a healthy drink included as part of the meal. What a shame – if I’d known, I’d have asked for the free bottle of water as well as ordering the Evil Fizzy Pop for the kids anyway.

Mini's lunch today has been brought to you by the colour yellow

Mini’s lunch today has been brought to you by the colour yellow

OK, ok, the fizzy pop: when I ordered it, I assumed I’d get 4 cans or maybe 4 tall glasses to pour it into (and then spend the rest of the meal mopping up the repeatedly knocked over contents). But instead the Duty Manager filled 4 huge brandy-style glasses with ice, added a big chunk of freshly-cut fruit into each, popped in a straw, and added the pop. The minxes eyes were as big as the glasses. As I watched their chubby wee fingers grip the round glasses and stubby stems, it slowly became obvious that these fishbowl glasses were a stroke of genius: easy to grip, near impossible to knock over, sophisticated-looking and stable enough to cope with the inevitable, frenzied ‘poking the fruit with the straw’. Fantastic! I’m a convert. Maybe I’ll buy my future grandchildren a set of brandy glasses instead of sippy cups…

So would I eat there again? Yes. Yes, I would. It cost twice as much as the McDonalds lunch but the improvement in comparable food quality meant it was better value for money. And it filled us up for longer. I think Wetherspoons have tasty, decent fast-food for kids at a reasonable price nailed. They just need to make more child-friendly amenities available to move them from good to great.

This doesn’t look like lemonade. Are you sure we’re in the right pub, Kyle? Photo: artwork available from HistoricalFindings on Amazon

Shopping

After putting it off since Wednesday, I had to cave in and go shopping.  It was the horrible kind of shopping: in and out of 100 different places.  Not my idea of fun at all.  And I find it so depressing walking around a town centre with shops I’d intended to go in standing empty, and pawnshops, money advance and sell-your-gold shops springing up like weeds.  Still, with Mini Minx for company, it was bearable.  And it gave me the excuse (like I need one…) to go to my favourite pizza house in town and glug coffee.  And try some posh perfumes in Boots – it really tickles me to spray on something expensive and ask Mini’s verdict: “Yummy or yucky?”  I generally hate the stuff, but she gives it so much thought!  So far she thinks Miss Dior Cherie is ‘yum-yum’, J’Adore is ‘sicky-yuck’ and Allure is ‘picy-orange’ (spicy).

Mini is such a little lady right now.  She’d complained when I got her clothes out for her this morning: “No matchy-matchy!” she’d sternly objected when I gave her her favourite green long-sleeved teeshirt with a dog on it and her purple cords with loveheart patches on the knees.  Aha, but I had an ace up my sleeve: a green, white and purple striped woolly cardigan I’d found on the last decluttering mission.  She thought about it, holding all 3 pieces together over by the window, before conceding that they didn’t look as terrible together as my usual choices.  (How did I produce children who care so much about their clothes?!  I really don’t get the whole clothes thing at all.  And what’s wrong with mixing green and purple anyway?  I think it looks nice! )

At the pizza restaurant, Mini decided that she’d prefer to sit in a grown-up chair for once.  She chose her own milk-shake (chocolate) and drank it so neatly.  At 2.5 years, Midi was still needing a biiiiiiig bib, whereas Mini is such a delicate little eater, with her nimble, dainty little fingers.  Again, she must get that from her Daddy – I’m more the wolf-it-down-before-it-escapes-or-fights-back kind of eater, like Midi.  There’s only one part of Mini’s eating that she gets from me: her sense of humour…  Now, rather than something spicy or adult, she’d asked for chicken teddies in breadcrumbs, baked beans and smily potato faces.  Treat food, that she never gets at home (well except the beans).  Anyway, she lined up her potato faces and took a careful bite out of each one, then lined them up, just so.

“I eat up all a heads – hehehehehe!” she cackled with a maniacal laugh.  Minx!

Full of food and caffeine, we headed to Tesco where Mini only agreed to go in the shopping trolley if I padded the seat for her – her little thighs weren’t happy against the thin plastic seat.  Just the job for the marshmallowy Carmin Fish sling!  She rested her tired little head on a roll of soft shopping bags and only got excited when we went down the home baking aisle – that’s my girl!

On the way home I braced for a sudden aux belt failure and Mini fell asleep to the sound of my favourite music: classic euphoria from the 90s.  “That’s funny music”, she sniffed, and promptly crashed out; she’s always preferred Muse and Small Potatoes…

Lucky, Lucky, Lucky!

Monday 3 April and Day 3 of the Easter Holidays…

My original plans of heading out on a woodland trail fell apart when we woke to a freezing cold gale. The snow forecast possibility was now a certainty. Flexibility being the key to both Air Power and staying sane as a parent, I quickly replanned: trip into the heaving metropolis of Inverness to spend some birthday vouchers, Tiso for new approach shoes for both me and The Boss (I’d found photographic proof that mine had been worn many days each week for the past 6 years, so were justifiably in need of an upgrade), treat lunch, cinema, quick shop, put the tent up in the back garden, camp in the back garden instead of a snowed-in campsite near Aberdeen.

I loaded the car boot with 100 bags*, got everyone’s jackets and wellies on, lined the minxes up on the stairs ready to ferry them into their car seats, nipped out to the garage to grab a buggy, then spun round when I heard The Boss yell.

We had a puncture. A bad one. The tyre was totally flat and coming off the rim.

I could have cried. Instead, I shepherded the kids into the car while The Boss did the necessary, then insisted on watching him carefully and doing bits myself. Mostly bouncing up and down on the nut lever thing. That was fun. Besides, I never want to be stuck by the side of the road, flapping ineffectually at a flat tyre. So now I know I can change a tyre on a Grand Scenic with 3 screaming kids in the back seat, because I did! Also looking on the bright side, we had to put the winter tyres back on the car because Scenics don’t have a spare tyre. With snow looming and temperatures back below 10degC for the foreseeable future, this was no bad thing at all.

*100 bags might be slight hyperbole. But I need a nappy change bag, a complete change of clothes for Mini and Midi Minx, a bag of bags to pack shopping into, a bag of snacks and drinks for the kids if we’re going to be out all day, a bag containing phone, keys, purse, lip-balm. I could go on, but I’m losing the will to live…

This was just the start of our luck. We’d run out of time to do anything in Inverness before lunch, especially because we got caught behind a tractor and 2 very slow lorries, so went straight to the carpark. And straight into the perfect car park space. Cha-ching! Screeching past HMV en-route to lunch, The Boss decided he’d nip in and have a quick look. And immediately spotted Toy Story and Toy Story 2 on a 2-for-1 and costing the same as his birthday voucher was for. Cha-cha-ching! That’ll be 2 quiet afternoons next week sorted! We went straight to Pizza Express (serious treat lunch!) because I had a few vouchers to use there. We had our choice of tables. But in the time it took us to get coats off and Mini Minx strapped down, every single table had filled up. Wow, if we’d been only 5 minutes later… Seriously, seriously lucky or what?

Lunch was lovely: we all love garlic butter, with or without dough balls. Mini ate hers with a spoon like yogurt. The pizzas were good, desserts pretty fabby, and the girls thought drinking Bambinocchinos was impossibly glamorous. The service was fantastic and we left an hour later, full-up, happy and relaxed.

Walking back to the car, our luck was still in: H&M had a sale on. I love their simple, super-cheap summer dresses. At £2.99 you don’t expect them to last more than a year (though they usually do), but they’re brilliant on their own or layered with long sleeved teeshirts and leggings. I swooped in, grabbed a huge armful in 6-7 years for both Midi and Maxi, more leggings and out. Smug, smug, smug.

The cinema was another lucky time: it was 10 minutes to the showing, but The Boss, Maxi and Midi went straight in, barely had to wait in the queue, got tickets at 25% off because it was a quiet time (?! really? It looked like loads of Inverness folk had the same idea as us on what to do on a cold, wet day!). Still, we spent the money left over from our budget on the most enormous bucket of popcorn: I think Midi could have hidden in it! They saw The Pirates, and it was Midi’s first ever trip to the cinema. Maxi’s been once before with nursery, so she was An Old Hand, and talked Midi through it, especially when she got scared when it went dark (awwww, bless!). They had a brilliant time, and even The Boss enjoyed the film.

Meanwhile, me and Mini went for a jaunt through all the shops in the retail park. I can’t stand shopping, but this time I enjoyed aimlessly wandering about with my mind switched off, just relishing the time to smile at my baby daughter drifting off languorously to sleep. An hour later, when she woke, she ‘helped’ me carry some daft wee purchases from Homebase, then we went to look at the fish in the pet shop. As she’s only just turned 2, I suspect she enjoyed that more than she would have enjoyed the film.

More luck followed us home: a few petrol stations were sold out of diesel all the way to Nairn. But the cheapest, Sainsbury’s, was still open! Brilliant! Around then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow…

Day Out With Maxi

Well, I finally went to bed around 2am this morning after hitting the ‘scholarly articles’ on ticks, Lyme disease and other nasties. I slept ok, given that I had some nightmares about one very graphically described study, checking the likelihood of passing Lyme on to mice compared to how long ticks were attached. Still, the study left me feeling very reassured that the chances of Maxi catching anything from a 7hr-attached adult female tick (female, cos the ugly brute was huuuuuuge, but not engorged) were just tiny. She’s far more at risk from all the dog-poo on teh paths round here.

Anyway, I remember checking the clock at 0230hrs. Then again at 0500hrs: Midi Minx stood wailing at the side of my bed. After a few weeks of being dry at night again, she’d wet the bed. The Boss sorted out her bed while I hosed her down, got her in dry clothes and settled her down. As Midi continued to wail, Mini Minx set up a big howl. I thought she was just jealous of me cuddling Midi – she’s going through a phase of screeching and hauling at her sisters if they dare to come to me for a hug (Mummy’s lap is MINE ALONE, she roars). I couldn’t settle her, so The Boss suggested I check her nappy (yeah, despite 3 kids, lack of sleep stops you thinking). Sure enough, she’d pooed so much she’d leaked all round her nappy legs, nappy back, nappy top, through PJs and sleeping bag. I can’t shake off this virus, hence why I couldn’t smell it.  Bleeeeeeee! Alas, the lukewarm water left over from Midi’s shower was gone, so Mini got cleaned down with cold water. I reckon you could hear her screams down at the harbour. After The Boss cleaned her up, she came to me for a cuddle and wouldn’t let go, like a little tick (hehehehehe!). So I let her sleep with us. While she thrashed around trying to get comfy, Midi came in for a cuddle and was distraught at my arms being full of baby. So she snuggled into The Boss and they quickly fell asleep. Around 0800hrs I finally fell asleep for an hour.

Although I looked somewhat more haggard than usual, I’d been promising Maxi a mother-daughter visit to town this past week, so tanked up on coffee and attacked the shops. She was a brilliant shop-friend, finding nice clothes in my size (! I detest clothes shopping, but I’ve recently dropped 2 clothes sizes, so needs-must) and cooing how beautiful I was. I mean, how could that not be fun?! We had a good blether, bought hairbands and bobbles for her and her sisters, then went swimming.

As we’d started late, it was just after 1300hrs, so we had a chocolate donut and an apple juice each (“So we don’t fight over it”, Maxi commented) before we hit the water. We spent an hour in the kids pool with Maxi relearning how to swim. Her right arm seems disconnected from the rest of her: she can remember how to do back-stroke and front crawl with each individual limb, and up to 3 going at once, but move her right arm with anything else and she stops and sinks. Doh! She wasn’t impressed at me refusing to let her go into the big pool until I was happy she could swim herself, but hey-ho. So we played with the cutes and the big floats and generally had a laugh.

After an hour, we hit the showers, when she laughed so hard she nearly peed herself, and I showed how tired I really was: I used rich, heavy body moisturiser instead of shower gel. I rubbed in a good double handful, mildly mystified as to why it wasn’t lathering. I think my new cozzie is now dead forever…

As a special treat, we went to Scribbles for lunch (! It was 15oohrs!) afterwards. Maxi chose calzone and a huge chocolate milkshake (pizza-pie) and I had my standard beef chilli melt, the meal that I think baby Mini was built on. Idly chatting, Maxi suddenly broke off with a very teenage, “Oh my God! Listen! It’s my favourite song! By Katie Perry! It’s… it’s… “Baby You’re a Firework!” I did snigger a bit.

Maxi got a piggy-back back to the car as a special treat, quick blitz at Tescos (failed utterly to find a replacement Vileda broom-head, and it feels stupid to buy an entirely new broom), then home in time for tea (Maxi’s favourite – sausages!) and to eat the biscuits The Boss had baked with Midi.

The bit had that me laughing for the rest of the evening, though, was at the Tesco check-out. Maxi was waggling around her shopping list, blethering on to the cashier about how she wanted a paper hat made out of it. He admitted to making paper aeroplanes for his kids, but couldn’t do anything else. We looked down adn Maxi had made a perfect paper hat out my crumpled list and cheekily perched it on her head. I was speechless, the cashier’s jaw dropped. “I’d no idea you could make paper hats – who taught you?” I asked. Maxi shrugged. Minx!

Eating and Sleeping in Orkney

Accommodation

I found this wee house to stay in, on the outskirts of Kirkwall: Innisgarth.  I booked it for 3 nights, at £45 a night, through the website on the strength of its rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

The reviews were outstanding, so I expected something very, very special.  Yet I was still amazed!  Sheila, who runs the property and lives next door, met us with a very warm and genuine welcome and showed us round.  It looks like a show-home: newly-decorated and tastefully furnished, spotlessly cleaned, and with absolutely everything you could need.  With 3 little girls, I was really thankful for little touches like the cupboard of games suitable for their ages, DVDs, the washing machine and tumbler, the toddler cutlery and plates, the perfectly clean high chair and travel cot, and the mountain of towels!  Being able to park the car in the garage meant the minxes could get out in comfort on the day when it was *really* wet and windy.  And The Boss could hoover out the half-beach of sand we’d accumulated in the car without being anti-social (he cleaned out the filter and emptied the hoover as payback).

The kitchen had every single thing you could want.  I really appreciated things like plenty of cleaning equipment, soap, kitchen roll, salt, vinegar, tea, coffee, sugar – you know, the kind of things you normally have to buy when you go self-catering!

I was already wowed (underfloor heating, for goodness’ sake!), but the welcome hamper had me grinning like a kid: a stack of Orkney produce that meant we didn’t need to worry about buying food till the next day.  Things like local ice-cream.  It was just cream, milk, sugar and a bit of stabiliser, so egg-free, which meant Mini Minx could devour it (and she did.  And held her own against her sisters when we let them polish off the last of it for breakfast on the last day.  I am a Bad Mother.  I know.  Whatever).  Butter made from raw milk.  Marmalade.  Local cheese, crackers and relish (yum!)  Local bread (did Sheila know of my white-bread toast and butter craving?!).  Very, very fresh eggs.  Milk from down the road. Fudge (oh my word, the fudge!  It was so good we hunted it down and bought loads more).

I know they’re booked through the rest of the year, so we’ll need to get our skates on to book for next year.  Our biggest problem is that it only has a double and a twin bedroom, so once Mini Minx is too big for a travel cot, we can’t go.  Doom!

Eateries

Well, we probably should have done our research on where to eat, but decided just to chance our arm.

First Exposure to Evil Chips

First Exposure to Evil Chips

Saturday night we went for a bimble around Kirkwall and peered in to lots of different eateries.  As we were all in the mood for fish and chips we decided just to go to a local chippy rather than go fancy.  And ate really huge, juicy haddock with batter to rival the best I’ve eaten.  The minxes giggled at being allowed to drink a carton of ‘red juice’ (I think the only natural thing in it was the water.  Perhaps).  I hope I’ve got the name right – I think it was the Harbour Fry.  Kids under 5 ate free with paying adults, but only if they ate from a specific menu.  We wanted the kids to sleep that night, so preferred to let the minxes share a portion of what we had, thereby exposing Mini Minx to her first serving of chips…

Sunday we ate a packed lunch in the car waiting for the Birsay causeway to clear – lots of delicious local food provided by Sheila (bread, butter, cheese, fudge – blimey, she even supplied butty boxes!) supplemented with ham , fruit and juice.  The allure of the local van ‘Teas and Tabnabs’ was too much, so The Boss was despatched to bring back cups of home-made lentil and veg soup and sausage butties.

We ate at The Orkney Hotel, Kirkwall, for our Sunday evening meal (Mother’s Day).  We’d just spent the day out in the windy hills, so were weatherbeaten, still grubby round the edges (there’s only so much you can do with nappy wipes) and me and Maxi looking like a haystack dragged through a girl backwards.  We took the time to change from wellies to approach shoes because it seemed quite formal, but the staff made us feel very welcome.  The food was good, but not outstanding: huge amounts of tender meat, leaving not much room for vegetables.  Though maybe we were just missing green veg having had a chippy the night before and too much ice cream and fudge…

First Exposure to Evil Beer

First Exposure to Evil Beer

Monday night lots of places were shut (eg Creel, which we really wanted to try.  Doh!  Next time check out the info beforehand, Trout The Dolt), so we went to The Commodore, who specialise in local, fresh food.  We chose it because the second word of its advertising was ‘family-friendly’.  It sure was – Under 5s ate free and still got a good selection from a proper menu.  They polished off melon balls, vegetable lasagne and an enormous plate of ice cream; me and The Boss had deep fried local cheese and plum chutney (me) and chicken liver pate (him), followed by some juicy, tasty Westray salmon, then the most moreish fudge cheesecake it has ever been my pleasure to eat.

le bistro lemon

Le Bistro lemon

Our food adventures weren’t over when we sadly left the island – oh no.  On the way home, we happened on Le Bistro in Thurso.  I only chose to go in there because it was the first place we saw stumbling out the car park, and it seemed busy.  What a result!  For a start, the staff were all fantastic with all 3 minxes.  Then more importantly, perhaps, the food was really excellent.  Example, I had a baked potato, cheese and coleslaw.  The ‘side salad garnish’ that came with it was fresh, varied, interesting and tasty, well-presented with just the right amount of balsamic vinegar splashed on it.  Someone had really thought about the variety of textures, colours and flavours – it was downright beautiful.

And have I told you about Orkney fudge?  Esp. the vanilla and the hazelnut stuff?!  Only 5 or 6 times, now…?

Sick Pirates

Saturday 19th March wasn’t a great day for me – I was a tad ill.  Again.

After giving my immune system a shoeing last weekend with gastroenteritis, I was a pushover for some sore throat-y, sore chesty, wheezy, ouchy, knackered-making virus all week.  Saturday was the worst day.  I sprayed with chloroseptic stuff and it made a difference for 5 seconds.  Even munching chocolate made no odds to the razor-blade-in-the-throat feeling.  So you can imagine my expression when The Boss sprung on me that I was being surprised witha birthday lunch in Contrast, Inverness.  With 20 mins notice.  And no clean nice clothes.

I guess in hindsight my tirade was quite funny.  I had to whisper (no voice), probably frothed a bit (couldn’t swallow), and was generally quite incoherent (I couldn’t understand why he was subjecting me to this when I felt so awful).  When we arrived and I admitted how terrible I felt, my mother in law got very upset and wailed, “I always manage to do it wrong, don’t I?”  I had 2 options: agree and berate her son for dragging me out, or croak that really it would be fine and I probably would feel better for getting out the house.  Yep, I went for option 2.  And actually, it ended up being the truth.  I couldn’t taste the food, so couldn’t comment on how nice it was, but the big cold glass of wine mixed with half a cupboard of painkillers swilling around in my stomach certainly made me feel quite jolly and happy.  I certainly couldn’t feel my sore throat.  I must remember this remedy for next time.

I’d moaned beforehand that the minxes would be uncontrollable after an hour in the car and then a few hours in a restaurant.  How wrong I was!  They were delighted to see their grandparents, loved their meal, and all 3 were an absolute delight to be with.  We got appreciative looks from the other diners, and one couple came over at the end of their meal to praise the girls on their good behaviour.  I was proud as punch, but inwardly thinking how different it could have been…

(photo deleted) When we got home, my in-laws gave the girls the first of their presents – the most cool pirate dress-up outfits I’ve seen.  I think they may have come from Sainsbury’s?  As by this time they were starting to play up a bit, me and The Boss between us cooked up a cunning plot to get them to eat some normal food and get to bed: make a quick snack dinner of cheese sandwiches cut in the shape of coins (round scone cutter), beaker of watered down apple juice, some fruit pieces and some little chocolates (well, your mother only turns 40 once…).  We hid them in their room under a stack of paper crosses (“X marks the spot”).  Maxi and Midi Minx enjoyed their little treasure hunt and wolfed down their pirate treasure.  They were snoring within the half-hour.  Result!