Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- A Tale of Two Chutnies
Reading to Erika
Back to London
Sunday in Devon
Saturday in Devon
New Jacket from Ede and Ravenscroft
Red Lion and Gay Hussar
A Light Dusting of Snow
Sunday Lunch with Seth, Jo and Otto
Yalla Yalla and Sloaney Pony
Erika's New Dress
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Erika at TGIF
New Year's Day
Kyle and Hannah's New Year's Party
- A Tale of Two Chutnies
- [Wednesday 30th January 2013]
Indian food for dinner, including two chutnies - one made by Mum, the other made by Dad.
- Reading to Erika
- [Tuesday 29th January 2013]
Read some books to Erika in the evening. Recently when we read to her she tries to turn the pages herself - I'm amazed that she's started doing this so early on.
- Back to London
- [Monday 28th January 2013]
An early start this morning as we were getting the 8:25 direct from Starcross to London Paddington. We set the alarm for 7 but I think I was awake from 6, and having not gone to bed until after midnight, and slept somewhat patchily (I blame the cider) I was knackered all day today. Dad walked with us to see us off at the station, and despite being somewhat the worse for wear we had a lovely send off, being treated to a picturesque sky and a bit of a sunrise over the sea.
The journey back to London was fine I suppose, albeit that I was really tired, but couldn't manage to get comfortable enough in a train seat to sleep. That wasn't a problem for Erika who slept for a surprisingly large chunk of the journey.
I went into my office for the afternoon and just about managed to make it through to 5:30 without falling asleep at my desk.
Made gnocchi in a cheese sauce with broccoli and spinach for dinner, which came out rather well, and then an early night for me - I went to bed pretty much as soon as we'd managed to get Erika off to sleep.
- Sunday in Devon
- [Sunday 27th January 2013]
Around midday we headed out to Dawlish. It's just down the road from Dad's new house which is lovely, as it's a place we often went for summer holidays when I was little. I've hardly been back since as a grown-up, so it was really nice to see lots of familiar sights - the park, the black swans, the beach, the railway bridge the waves would crash over in a storm.
We went for a stroll down to the seafront, and then a little wander round the town, with the notion of trying to find a chip shop so we could have the traditional bag of chips by the sea. Of course, it being a Sunday all but the not-so-good looking places were closed, so instead we decided to fall back on the other traditional Devon seaside staple - the pasty. Gay's Creamery was open as usual, and therein we bought pasties which we ate in the park. We followed that with one of their ice creams topped with clotted cream which, tasty though it was, I regretted somewhat afterwards given how huge and heart stoppingly unhealthy it was.
Our return journey was made somewhat more eventful after a passer-by pointed out the car had a flat tyre. I've never actually changed a tyre before - my contribution was pretty much just winding up the jack and holding the wheel in place - so that was educational. As we weren't completely confident the spare had been put on as well as it could be - and there were too many of us to fit in the car anyway (Dad had got the bus on the way there) Chie, Erika and I decided to get the train back.
This turned out to be rather lovely - we often used to use this line when holidaying in Dawlish to get to and from Dawlish Warren - the line goes right by the sea. Erika was actually awake and alert while we were on the train (having been asleep when we wandered along the seafront earlier), and I held her up to take in the view. She seemed genuinely fascinated - it was such a lovely moment. This was her first time to properly see the sea, and I love the fact that it was captured on camera, and was in a place with such a long running family connection - not only are some of my earliest memories of holidays in Dawlish, but I found out on this trip that Vera's parents came her for her honeymoon.
So in a funny sort of way I'm rather glad we had that flat tyre.
Spent the remainder of the afternoon back at Dad's house, and in the early evening Dad and I went for a walk to the neighbouring village of Cockwood to visit the Anchor Inn (where legend has it I got my foot - or perhaps my head - in the railings - sadly or perhaps appropriately the railing have since been removed). It's in a lovely spot, and has an interesting interior, although I think the Bridge remains the star of the weekend as far as pubs go. We also poked our noses in at the other pub in Cockwood - the Ship Inn - which is somewhat more basic but nonetheless still pleasant. I was slightly disappointed - as Dad had forewarned - that none of the pubs we went to this weekend had cider on draught - but they all had some decent local ales.
Headed back after that and were treated to a really dramatic full moon on our walk home - I don't recall ever seeing a moon which was both so clear and so low in the sky (and it also had a sort of orangey pink tint to it). Obviously the picture I took doesn't really do it justice.
Dad made stuffed pancakes for dinner, and I attacked the remainder of the cider we'd bought yesterday with perhaps a little too much fervour - something I came to regret the next morning!
- Saturday in Devon
- [Saturday 26th January 2013]
Got the train down to Exeter in the morning, it was a lovely run - Erika seemed very relaxed an there was still snow on the ground along some of the route. There was also widespread flooding, which, albeit no doubt very problematic to the local residents was nonetheless very picturesque.
On arrival in Exeter Dad and Vera met us at the station, and we headed in the direction of Topsham, for lunch at the Bridge Inn. This is a really lovely pub, in CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, and I particularly like the way we placed our orders directly through the doorway to the servery, rather than over a bar counter - I'd been reading recently this practice was once commonplace but is now something of a rarity.
After that we popped into Darts Farm shop to pick up supplies for the weekend (most notably a large container of Green Valley cider) and then headed to Dad's house in Starcross. It was our first visit since he'd moved down to Devon last summer so a chunk of the afternoon was spent familiarising ourselves with the new house. We also went out for a walk around the village, taking in Dad's allotment.
In the evening Dad made Lebanese food for dinner, including a particularly successful home made foul medames.
- Bonus Day
- [Friday 25th January 2013]
I sank into a bit of a short lived malaise today, a combined sense of the anti-climax I often get of a Friday evening, with the added damp squib that today was bonus day. Not that the bonus itself was disappointing, but rather that it just falls into a seemingly bottomless pit of the deposit on an imaginary house purchase which never materialises.
- [Thursday 24th January 2013]
My team at work went out for a big fancy dinner at a Michelin starred place this evening, but I'd decided not to go as I'd had a look at the menu, and I got the distinct impression the vegetarian options were going to be very lacklustre by comparison, and I would have just got in a bad mood. Nights out are now a precious commodity - it's not really fair to be abandoning Chie and Erika on a regular basis - so I'd rather save the quota for an evening I have a higher chance of enjoying.
Not particularly as a conscious effort to make up for that, the three of us ended up going out for dinner instead, which was rather lovely. We didn't initially plan to, but met up in the Waitrose in Belgravia, realised neither of us could really be bothered to cook, and instead decided to go back to Ishbilia in Knightsbridge, the Lebanese restaurant we'd been to just before Erika was born, and had really enjoyed. It was really good again on the second visit - particularly the excellent foul moukala - and Erika seemed quite content to just sit on one of our laps to watch us eat.
- [Wednesday 23rd January 2013]
Not much to report really. According to the pictures I seem to have made a Negroni in the evening and took a picture of it - I guess I was a bit bored.
- Thai Curry
- [Tuesday 22nd January 2013]
Made a Thai curry for dinner with Linda McCartney's new "fish free king prawns" which make for an interesting break from the norm. I think it came out pretty well.
- [Monday 21st January 2013]
Chie picked up some macarons from Pierre Hermé in the daytime today, which we ate after dinner. This included the white truffle and hazelnut macaron which is my favourite flavour from there (and I'm surprised is the same price as all the rest) which I really enjoyed again today.
- Snowy Sunday
- [Sunday 20th January 2013]
Quite a lot of snow today, to the extent we decided not to really leave the flat for the majority of the day, with the exception of a foray out into the gardens to build a snowman. As I was carrying Erika Chie ended up doing all of the construction work, and for some reason it ended up being more of a snowpig rather than a snowman.
- New Jacket from Ede and Ravenscroft
- [Saturday 19th January 2013]
Rather glamorous shopping expedition this afternoon. Started off by going to Tiffany on Bond Street to have the silver spoon we'd bought for Erika engraved with her initials. After that to Savile Row (well, Burlington Gardens to be precise) to visit Ede and Ravenscroft, and pick up the jacket I'd bought last weekend, which had been altered this week. I imagine they probably don't have a lot of babies come into the shop.
Some more shopping and a coffee break followed, before returning home for the inevitable daft pictures with my new jacket "accessorized" with my trilby, the smelly waistcoat and cravat I bought for the Chap Olympiad, and so on.
Made curry for dinner - Quorn, jalfrezi paste and coconut cream, as well as some saag aloo on the side.
- [Friday 18th January 2013]
Quite snowy today, it was only really just starting on my way to work (when I chose to wear my trilby to keep my head warm) but continued throughout a lot of the day - to the extent that we were advised to leave the office early, and TGIF was cancelled!
I left the office around 5:30, and had quite a slow walk home as it was fairly slippery under foot.
The slippery conditions dissuaded me from diverting by way of Sainsbury's on the way home, so for dinner I had to cobble something together from what we had in. I just about managed to make an actually fairly decent Chinese meal - one dish of mock abalone and cavolo nero in a very light black bean sauce (the last few times I'd tried to make a dish with black bean sauce it had been far too salty / strongly flavoured), and another cautiously flavoured chilli bean sauce dish, with some fresh tofu, dried tofu skin and Chinese leaf.
It was Erika's bath night tonight, after which she tried on her new dressing gown which I thought was rather cute!
- [Thursday 17th January 2013]
Chie and Erika met up with several of the Mums and babies from our NCT group at lunchtime, wherein they had this great photo opportunity of all four babies sitting on the sofa. I didn't take the picture (I wasn't there) but it seemed too good not to upload here.
Today is the anniversary of when Chie and I met for the very first time - thirteen years ago today! We considered going out, but it was a bit cold and we couldn't really think of anywhere in particular we wanted to go so we stayed in, and I made a lasagne.
- [Wednesday 16th January 2013]
Chierika came to my office for lunch today, which was really nice as always.
In the evening, Japanese curry for dinner.
We also finally got around to booking tickets for Erika's first trip to Japan, this spring. We'd originally planned on going for New Year, but thought it would just be too cold. As always the process of booking some simple plane tickets ended up as something of an endeavour, given the very complex way airlines structure their fares, such that you can pay a hundred different prices (with a huge gap between the smallest and biggest) for essentially the same commodity. I'd really wanted to fly at least one way in upper class but in the end - even with air miles etc - that was going to cost about £1200 more than just going both ways in Premium Economy. That just seemed like an irresponsible extravagance really (and I couldn't help but wonder if we might find we have some irate fellow passengers if we took a baby with us in upper). So we'll be slumming it both ways in premium economy. On the plus side having Erika with us should mean we get the bulkhead seats so hopefully a bit more legroom - at least we won't have the intrusion of the person in front leaning their seat back.
- Red Lion and Gay Hussar
- [Tuesday 15th January 2013]
An impromptu night out this evening, with Iain and some of the other chaps from the office. Started off at the Red Lion on Kingsley Street, then proceded on to the Gay Hussar for dinner. It had been vaguely on my radar for some time, continuing on my theme of eating at restaurants from "not the normal countries". Perhaps the most memorable part of the meal was the wild cherry soup I had for a starter - which was essentially like a very thin cherry yoghurt. More like a dessert really.
- A Light Dusting of Snow
- [Monday 14th January 2013]
On my way to work this morning I was greeted by a very light dusting of snow, which was quite pleasant - and it snowed a bit more during the day, but didn't really settle.
Had a sort of nabe for dinner, which seemed appropriate given the wintery conditions.
- Sunday Lunch with Seth, Jo and Otto
- [Sunday 13th January 2013]
Went for Sunday lunch at the Draft House in Battersea with Seth, Jo and Otto - who we know from our NCT antenatal classes. We walked there and back, by way of Battersea Park, giving us plenty of time to discuss all the pertinent issues you can imagine people in our demographic talk about - schools, property prices and all that sort of stuff.
- Yalla Yalla and Sloaney Pony
- [Saturday 12th January 2013]
I headed out first this morning, in the direction of Savile Row, were to my surprise they actually had Janaury sales (I didn't think they'd really be into that sort of thing). In particular I had my eye on a nice "weekend jacket" in Ede and Ravenscroft which was relatively cheap for anything with the whiff of the 'Row about it. The only one they had left was actually slightly on the large side for me, but they said they'd alter it to pull in the waist a bit.
Chie and Erika came into the centre after that to join me for lunch - we decided to try Yalla Yalla - the "Beirut street food" place. It was OK, I guess, we ended up ordering the same sort of mezze we'd have in any other Lebanese restaurant and it was pretty average.
In the evening after we put Erika to bed I was feeling a bit of cabin fever, so went out for a bit by myself. I decided to pop over to Parsons Green, to visit the White Horse (otherwise known as the Sloaney Pony) which I seemed to have been hearing lots about from various people recently. It's bizarrely a real ale drinkers pub with a "Sloane ranger" sort of clientele.
I walked on the way home - it's over 3 miles - but I fancied some fresh air. Also popped into a surprising find - the Fox and Pheasant - a really unspoilt (pleasingly grubby around the edges) two room pub where the separation between public bar and lounge bar is still very much in effect.
- Erika Reading
- [Friday 11th January 2013]
Not much to report really. Typically sort of Friday, went along to TGIF for a bit, left the office around 7.
Erika's use of her hands seems to be improving a lot recently, and she can hold on to things more easily and for longer periods now - so here's a picture (obviously somewhat staged) of her reading one of her books of shapes.
- Erika's New Dress
- [Thursday 10th January 2013]
Erika wearing a new dress Grandma made for her.
- [Wednesday 9th January 2013]
We felt like eating out this evening, so decided on a return visit to an Indian restaurant called Gaylord, which we'd been to on my birthday last year and had really enjoyed. We went fairly early as we had Erika with us, and wanted to minimise any disturbance to other dinners, so were a bit surprised when, in an otherwise empty restaurant, the next couple were seated at the table right next to ours. One of those awkward social situations - I think that other couple would probably rather have set elsewhere, and we probably would have been more relaxed to if we didn't have to worry that Erika might start crying at some point and spoil somebody else's date. As it turned out we didn't have to worry, Erika was very good, but it still seemed a bit odd to me.
Sadly Gaylord seems to have gone downhill a bit in the last 9 months - it wasn't a terrible meal, but not nearly as exciting as it had been the first time. I assume I also hadn't paid much attention to the prices on pur first visit - particularly the drinks menu - and I was horrified to discover this evening that they charge £6.75 for a pint of bog standard beer (which will end up at £7.50 once they automatically add on a 12.5% service charge). I just couldn't bring myself to be ripped off like that, so stuck to tap water instead.
Also received a parcel of new clothes for Erika from Grandma today!
- Pub Lunch
- [Tuesday 8th January 2013]
Went for a pub lunch today, at the Horse and Groom, with some people from the office, which was a good opportunity to catch up on the latest work gossip.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- [Monday 7th January 2013]
Not much to report today! Popped into Sainsbury's on the way home, Latitude location history tells me, but don't recall what we had for dinner or anything.
Having taken a picture of it, I am at least able to remember that we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Erika for the first time. Of course Erika doesn't really understand what any of these stories mean yet, but I already like reading to her - I'm sure hearing lots of spoken English is good for her in terms of developing her own speech, and it's hopefully comforting and reassuring for her to hear her parent's voices - not to mention the fact that it helps us fill in the time!
- [Sunday 6th January 2013]
I'd developed a bit of an interest in the ancient custom of wassailing recently - a (presumably pagan) ceremony which involves blessing the apple trees in the hope of a good crop of apples next Autumn. I had briefly entertained the notion of some sort of jaunt to the West country this month to try and take part in one (in the hope of it being accompanied with some excellent local cider) but this didn't seem eminently practical with a baby.
Instead, we settled for the next best thing, as I discovered there were actually wassail celebrations in London - at Bankside, in front of the Globe Theatre. Moreover this had been going on for 18 years apparently, and somehow I had never heard about it.
The event was held this afternoon, when the Thames was at low tide - this was particularly atmospheric as a big part of the event is the Green Man arriving on a boat. I'd never noticed before, but there are actually steps down to a "beach" at Bankside, and so we stood there to wait for the Green Man, which guaranteed us a great view on his arrival. The Green Man was an awfully nice chap, and after disembarking thanked us all for coming. To my surprise there were also a gaggle of paparazzi waiting for him.
On the downside though, standing on the beach meant we didn't have a a particularly good vantage point when the festivities began - back up the steps in front of the Globe Theatre - where a surprisingly large crowd had amassed. So after a while of not really being able to see what was going on, we decided to give up and retreat to the Tate Modern. There we sat in one of the cafes for a bit, had a coffee, and Chie fed Erika. I then left the girls there to look at some art for a bit whilst I went to see if I could get another glimpse of the festivities, which by this point had moved on to the George Inn, where again there were surprisingly large crowds (and the longest queue for the bar I've ever seen there).
Despite having hardly been able to see anything after the Green Man's initial arrival, I did find the whole thing had an interesting atmosphere, and was if nothing else a break from the normal weekend routines we'd otherwise be adhering to. That said, I was rather disappointed by the conspicuous absence of any cider at the event - I had assumed it would be an inextricable part. So on the way home I took a diversion by way of the Bree Louise near Euston to fulfil that requirement.
- [Saturday 5th January 2013]
Quite unusual not to have taken any pictures on a Saturday!
Headed out of the flat just after 3, and walked via Sloane Square to Knightsbridge, as Chie wanted to have a look at the sales. Stopped off in a couple of the shops on Sloane Street before getting to Harrod's, wherein about a million other people were all looking for "bargains".
Went back home by way of Waitrose.
- Erika at TGIF
- [Friday 4th January 2013]
Another quiet day in the office (I imagine things will be back to normal next week). At the end of the day Erika and Chie came to join me and a few of the chaps for TGIF. After that I went with Kyle to pick up some takeaway pizzas from Oliveto, and he came back to the flat to eat them, accompanied with some cider. We also decided to eat the Christmas pudding we hadn't eaten on Christmas day, which I flambéed rather dramatically with some whisky (the flames were a couple of feet high).
- Erika's Cot
- [Thursday 3rd January 2013]
Another mostly quiet day at the office today, although we did have a meeting in the morning which suggested some big changes may be happening in 2013. Will have to wait and see what that actually pans out to in concrete terms
Erika's cot had arrived a couple of weeks ago, but owing to the saga of the mouldy mattresses she had still been sleeping in her moses basket (albeit placed in her cot). As we'd finally got a usable mattress the other day, tonight we tried her out sleeping in the cot properly, which also meant she went from just having covers over her to one of those baby sleeping bag things. She seemed quite happy with the transition, but then I suppose as she often sleeps in all sorts of awkward positions when we're out and about this shouldn't have been such a surprise.
- [Wednesday 2nd January 2013]
First day back at work today after my very long absence over Christmas. I think lots of people were taking the remainder of this week off as well, so it was actually pretty quiet in the office.
After leaving work I decided to pop to Chinatown to by things for dinner, including the vegetarian jerky pictured here. Dinner wasn't actually a huge success though - I bought a jar of black bean sauce which yet again didn't taste right (this one was far too salty), and the "spicy tofu" I cooked with some kai lan tasted a bit overpoweringly of Chinese five spice. Perhaps the real problem here was that we were eating Chinese food and it wasn't a Monday.
- New Year's Day
- [Tuesday 1st January 2013]
We headed down to Guildford this afternoon, to coincide with Dad and Janie visiting Adrian, Liz and the kids. It took slightly longer than we'd hoped it might to get there - we were in a bit of a rush at Vauxhall and managed to get the wrong train - so instead of heading for Clapham Junction we were bound in the opposite direction to Waterloo, just in time to miss the train we would have then changed on to, so we had to wait half an hour for the next. Oh well. It's the first time we've taken Erika to Guildford and I think we hadn't properly accounted for the additional time it takes to do anything when you have a baby in tow.
This was Janie's first time to meet Erika, and only Dad's second time. Unfortunately she was a bit unsettled today - maybe because of the late night last night - and partly a bit of reflux, so she seemed to start crying as soon as we gave her to anyone else to hold.
- Kyle and Hannah's New Year's Party
- [Monday 31st December 2012]
So it's the last day of the year then. It has of course been a year dominated by the arrival of Erika. It was actually new year's day that we first discovered Chie was pregnant (although we didn't entirely believe it at first!) - so this time last year we still had no idea what 2012 had in store for us. A pretty good year, by all accounts.
Another mattress arrived this morning - the third we've had so far - and this time we held the delivery man there until we'd opened it and thoroughly inspected it. We'd told John Lewis to send a different type this time - a foam mattress rather than a spring one - thinking they might be warehoused separately and not prone to the same problems. So I'm pleased to report this was one was actually OK, and Erika now has a proper place to sleep after three weeks of frustration with John Lewis and City Link.
Around lunchtime I went out to do a bit of shopping - more Christmas shopping (as we still haven't seen all of my family over the Christmas period yet) as well as something to wear for tonight's new year's eve party. Kyle and Hannah had invited us over, and the theme was "winter kitsch" so I bought a couple of hideous looking fleeces for me and Chie. I also bought some sushi from the Japan Centre to take back for lunch, which turned out to be a bit of a dissapointment.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the flat, and I felt quite dozy - I think I may have even had a short nap, which is pretty rare for me.
In the evening we headed down to West Dulwich for the party at Kyle and Hannah's place. Al and Charlotte were there too (in Santa outfits). The prosecco flowed freely, and then later Champagne.
We'd originally thought we might leave before midnight, so we could catch the last train, and it wouldn't be too late for Erika, but somehow or other the time just flew by, and when I checked the time it was already twenty to twelve. Erika had been napping on and off through the evening, but was very much awake for midnight, and as any baby would immediately started crying with all the commotion as the clock struck twelve. Bless her.
We left a bit before 1am, and had an interesting journey home, involving a night bus to Brixton, then the tube from there. A journey I might have second thoughts about any other time of year, but at New Year public transport in London is - for better or worse - filled with happy revelers, and generally pretty safe. It's also free! We didn't spot anyone else with a baby though. We got home at 1:30am, and getting Erika to go to sleep was not a problem this time - maybe we should try this more often?