[Wednesday 27th February 2013]
Chie and Erika came to my office for lunch today, which was lovely as always.
In the evening I made a curry with coconut milk - which came out rather well - I used a mixture of jalfrezi/balti curry paste with some Quorn pieces, the end of that "radis noir" Chie got a while back, with some runner beans and broccoli. It was really rich, fruity and more-ish.
[Tuesday 26th February 2013]
Given our upcoming trip to Japan I started to plan our meals around things we'd be unlikely to eat there. Japanese homes don't typically have ovens, and it's very hard to get decent cheese there, so I thought macaroni cheese would be a good candidate tonight.
After dinner I read a couple of Japanese books to Erika - I can just about manage if they're written in hiragana. She really likes turning the pages herself, albeit that she does so in quite a random fashion, irrespective of whether I've finished reading that page - then sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards, and mostly several pages at a time.
[Monday 25th February 2013]
Just like last Monday, Chie had another dentist appointment first thing, which followed the same pattern: I tagged along to look after Erika, and then afterwards we went to Polaine for breakfast.
In the evening I went for a quick drink in Belgravia with Andrew, as we had some weighty work related matters to discuss.
Got back home in time for Erika's bath time, after which we rather lazily had Chinese takeaway for dinner.
[Sunday 24th February 2013]
Headed out again today to resume the "omiyage" shopping which we hadn't really got very far with yesterday. Got the tube to Green Park, and then started out with Fortnum and Mason, and Mitsukoshi - the Japanese department store. They particularly specialise in aggregating together the typical omiyage Japanese people would buy from various different other stores (Harrod's, Fortnum and Mason, Parttridge's, etc), so you can buy tea, jam, biscuits etc from any of these places conveniently under one roof. It's also very good for getting a sense of which particular products Japanese people tend to like, as they obviously only carry a small subset of the myriad of things you could buy at those other places. It is very efficient. Better still, Chie has a card which gives her a discount here - so it's bizarrely cheaper to buy Fortnum and Mason tea here, rather than round the corner at Fortnum and Mason.
We went for lunch at a Hawaiian burger place called Kua' Aina - it's actually an international chain, and Chie had been to one of their places actually in Hawaii. It was probably good on a psychological level, as it was really cold outside today, and so a short while spent in a mock beach hut helped us to briefly forget about the freezing temperatures.
In the evening, I cooked the mock dong po "pork" we'd bought in Chinatown earlier in the week. I think this will likely be a one off, as even for me - usually quite open minded when it comes to fake meat products - this was a little weird and artificial. The simulated layer of "fat" was made in part from konyaku - a kind of jelly made from yam which is common in Japanese cuisine, and I'm not really a fan of. So surprisingly Chie actually liked this product more than I did, having successfully by stealth got me to eat konyaku.
[Saturday 23rd February 2013]
Got up quite late this morning, and felt quite hungry (as a result of a bit of a hangover) but had very little in that was remotely breakfasty. So I ended up bunging some Quorn "fish" fingers and "chicken" nuggets in the oven, which we ate with some Lebanese bread I also found lurking in the freezer. I felt compelled to call this brunch because it was so un-breakfasty.
Went into the centre in the afternoon to do "omiyage" (souvenirs / visiting presents) shopping for our upcoming trip to Japan. We started off at Liberty, where we didn't buy any omiyage, but instead got distracted by the childrens department, and I finally managed to persuade Chie to let me buy Erika some of the stupidly expensive baby clothes they have there. It's a Liberty print dress, and I think it's rather lovely - see the pictures.
Whilst we were in Liberty, I received a surprise text message from Gav, who was in London for a few days, and wanted to see if we were free to meet up. So that rather put pay to any further shopping getting done (I can't say I was really in the mood for it anyway). We headed to Princi, where Chie and I had a late / second lunch, and Gav and Kyle joined us there a short while later. We followed that with a drink at Notes (after wandering around for quite a while not being able to find anywhere suitable, thanks to the bloody Six Nations) before heading back home. What a nice surprise that was!
[Friday 22nd February 2013]
The picture is again mostly irrelevant to the days events. I got into work early this morning, which prompted me to take a picture of the coffee making facilities. They're normally fairly crowded, but my office in general is very quiet before 9am.
Chie wanted to get her hair cut this evening, so I headed over to meet her after work, so that I could look after Erika for a bit. Conveniently her hairdresser is close to the British Museum, which opens late on Fridays, so Erika and I went for a look round some antiquities. I attracted a few strange looks - lots of people still don't seem to be used to the idea of a man looking after a baby by himself. Although a nice Chinese lady did come and ask how old Erika was - after telling her I added that she's training to be an archeologist and there's so much to learn that it's important to start young. This met with a very blank expression - I don't think she really spoke much English.
I'd sent Al a text earlier mentioning that I'd be at the British Museum - his office is quite close by - just on the off chance he was at a loose end. Just as I was getting ready to leave the museum he replied, and so we decided to go for a quick pint, as Chie still wasn't quite finished yet. I initially considered the Museum tavern, but it was pretty busy and they were a tad ambiguous over whether they were happy to have babies in the pub, so we instead went round the corner to the Plough - emboldened by the fact that there was already another baby in there, and it looked slightly quieter.
I noticed that a couple of chaps there had finished their drinks and looked like they were about to leave, so we hovered near their table in the hope of taking it after they left. To my surprise, when the chap who'd had his back to us got up, it turned out to be Timothy Spall. What a nice man - he paused to have a little chat with Erika on his way out the door, and patted her on the head.
Erika seemed unfazed by her brush with fame.
Chie came to meet us in the Plough a short while later, and kindly offered to take Erika home so Al and I could stay out for the remainder of the evening - it turned out Al didn't have any plans. So we headed from there to the Whisky Society - where I don't think I've set foot in well over six months - and worked our way through some of their whiskies.
[Thursday 21st February 2013]
I made a paper cowboy hat for Erika this evening for no other reason than she was already wearing a check shirt and a bib that looked a bit cowboy-ish, and I felt like the outfit needed completing. It was a bit too small, if truth be told.
[Wednesday 20th February 2013]
Made a tom yam (soup? stew? hotpot?) for dinner. Used some Linda McCartney Fish Free King Prawns, some pak choi, beancurd from Chinatown and a few other odds and ends. It was really tasty, although I suspect the soup was very salty.
[Tuesday 19th February 2013]
Went to Chinatown after work today, although owing to some miscommunication I failed to meet up with Chie and Erika, who had left See Woo just a few minutes before I arrived.
Unsurprisingly had Chinese food for dinner.
[Monday 18th February 2013]
The picture is completely irrelevant to the rest of the day's events: a sherbert lemon which had no sherbert in it.
In the morning Chie had a dentist appointment, so I went along to look after Erika while Mummy was in the chair. After that we went for breakfast at the Polaine cafe near Sloane Square, which made for a rather nice start to the day.
After dinner, and giving Erika a bath, I went out to meet up with the other Dads from our NCT antenatal course group, at the Antelope near Sloane Square. We naturally spent at least some of the time discussing how we were all getting on with our respective babies, and all seemed a bit surprised (and almost worried that it was too good to be true) that overall things were going fairly smoothly.
[Sunday 17th February 2013]
I went to see Vic Reeves' "Hot Valve Leak" exhibition at the Strand Gallery in the morning. I had a lovely time browsing the art work - Vic Reeves has always been a style of humour that I felt like I "got" independently of anyone else liking - I remember watching Big Night Out when it was first on TV, when I was 13. No-one else at school was remotely interested at the time, and so I remember talking to the student teachers about it instead.
I liked the exhibition so much in fact, that a few days later I bought a piece - the plate pictured on the shelf of ceramics.
After the exhibition I went for a lunchtime perry at the Harp, where I waited for Chie and Erika to come into town, so the three of us could go for lunch together. We decided to go for some "old fashioned" Mexican food at Cafe Pacifico. Despite all the new Mexican places we have in London now, and all the trips to the US I've made since I first went to Pacifico (in around 1999 / 2000 I reckon) I still really like this place.
[Saturday 16th February 2013]
Grandma came to visit Erika this afternoon, bringing with her as always a bag full of her handiwork, including six knitted elephants to make a mobile out of.
After a couple of cups of tea at the flat we decided to head out for a late lunch, and thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce Mum to Lebanese food - so we went to Noura. We had a long leisurely lunch, with a table full of mezze, and a bottle of Chateau Ksara Blankety Blank. Erika slept the whole way through - which was nice to begin with as it meant we could eat lunch without worrying about keeping her entertained, but in retrospect a bit of a shame as this accounted for a large chunk of the afternoon, and Grandma had come all that way to see her!
After lunch we went for a bit of a stroll around Belgravia, bought some macarons in Pierre Hermes, and then headed back to the flat for further cups of tea before Mum had to head off to catch her train.
I'd expected we'd be hungry again in the evening, but to my surprise we didn't actually have any dinner in the end.
[Friday 15th February 2013]
None of the usual suspects were around for TGIF today, which was a bit disappointing, so I had one quick drink with some people from my team and then headed home.
Chie wanted to go along to her Hiroshimakenjinkai this evening, so we took the rather bold decision to take Erika to a pub on a Friday evening (having first phoned the pub to check this would be OK). There were a handful of Hiroshimakenjin there, perhaps some of them slightly bemused at us showing up with a baby (that sort of thing would be even more frowned upon in Japan than it is here), but nonetheless she proved quite popular for our brief visit. It was a bit loud for Erika though, and she didn't seem very settled, so we only stayed for one drink before heading back again.
Somehow dinner had been more or less forgotten along the way, and it was 10pm before we ate anything. Chie had bought a black raddish yesterday, and I was keen to try that - so we had some of that grated, with some grated carrot, followed rather lazily by the leftover lasagne from the day before.
[Thursday 14th February 2013]
Didn't really do much for Valentine's Day - we never do - but I made the now traditional lasagne - and we had a quiet but lovely evening in with our little sweetheart.
[Wednesday 13th February 2013]
Did the presentation thing I'd been working for the last few days at the end of the working day today, I think it went reasonably well, at least I was pleased with the technical result of the prototype, I suspect my presentation skills have room for improvement. If nothing else though at least I was quick - I think I got my idea across clearly and succinctly - other people really rambled on...
Left work at a very sensible time, having felt like I'd been neglecting Chie and Erika the past couple of evenings because of working late, and had a thoroughly focused evening of family time.
Captured this video of Erika laughing as Chie lifted her up and down:
[Tuesday 12th February 2013]
Left work about 7pm but then after dinner worked more from home - about four hours more in fact, until after midnight. I'd been trying to get a prototype up and running for a presentation tomorrow and it wasn't quite working which was somewhat frustrating.
[Sunday 10th February 2013]
We'd been invited along to the christening of one of the babies from our NCT antenatal course group today. Rather impressively it was at St. Peter's in Eaton Square, Belgravia - the Duke of Westminster's local church (although, alas we didn't spot him there today). Thinking about it, I'm reasonably sure this was actually the first christening I've ever been to. It was also, thinking about it, the first formal occasion I'd been to since I got my suit (we didn't go to any weddings last year!) so I was pleased to have an excuse to wear it.
The service was littered with rugby references - and in fact the vicar even threw a rugby ball about it during it - which I hadn't really expected. I can't pretend to have read the bible exhaustively but I'm fairly sure rugby doesn't crop up much, so I'm going to assume he was ad libbing.
There were refreshments in the portico of the church afterwards (obviously the bit I was looking forward to) although even I felt 11am on a Sunday was a bit early for prosecco. It had a bit of a feel of a high society event about it, and I half expected to see a photographer from Tatler pop up - fortunately Erika already had a double barreled surname for the accompanying caption.
After that we headed back to the flat to get changed and have a warming cup of tea (it was a bit chilly out) before heading out again to meet up with Masumi-san for lunch. They'd decided to go to Sketch, as much for architectural interest as anything else, and although again we had a bit of a wait for a table, it wasn't as bad as the previous day, and we did end up with a particularly nice table with a sort of chaise longue on one side, and three armchairs. The chaise longue looked a rather fitting piece of furniture for our little princess.
In the evening I made sausage and mash for dinner - it was Masumi-san's last night with us, and I thought she should probably have some English food during her stay.
[Saturday 9th February 2013]
Went to Royal China for dim sum today with Masumi-san. Probably picked one of the worst days of the year for it - it being Chinese New Year. Masumi-san went out for a bit in the morning first to see Westminster Abbey. She was back before midday, and although I rushed us all to Baker Street as fast as we could, it was 12:20 by the time we got there, and already the place was full. We ended up waiting about an hour for a table - had we known it would be that long we probably wouldn't have bothered, but by the time we'd already waited 20 minutes or so we decided it would be a waste of all that effort to give up. The food was really good as always and despite the fact they were probably worked off their feet the staff were in rather a friendly mood - but nonetheless we spent more time waiting than we spent eating which was a bit frustrating.
After that we went for a wander round the Wallace Collection, and then a wander through Marylebone in the direction of Fitzrovia, to also poke our noses in at the Toy Museum (we just went to the gift shop) before heading back.
Masumi-san went out to a musical in the evening, we stayed in, had Japanese curry, and gave Erika a bath.
[Friday 8th February 2013]
Iain at work had got us tickets for a special screening of "A Liar's Autobiography", the animated biopic about Monty Python's Graham Chapman at the Curzon in Soho. As Chie's friend Masumi-san was visiting, so could lend Chie a hand this evening, I'd been given the night off from parenting duties.
I'm not entirely sure the film worked for me - it seemed to flit about a lot and it was a bit hard to get really invested in it with all the changes of animation style. I think part of the problem is that I really don't like watching films in the cinema any more - and I was reminded of how much I value being able to pause the film whenever I feel like it. Curzon cinemas have bars so you can have a drink before the film, which always seems like a really good idea, until you get to about an hour into the film and realise you really want to go to the toilet.
After the film there was a Q&A session with the directors of the film (one of them being Bill Jones, son of Terry Jones) including a special guest - Carol Cleveland (sometimes referred to as the 7th Python). I even had a chance to take a photo with her, which was all rather exciting.
After that we headed out with the vague idea of finding Chinese food for dinner, but soon realised the Chinese New Year was going to make that hard work, so instead we went for pizza at RossoPomodoro.
[Thursday 7th February 2013]
Had a call from the estate agent at lunchtime - our third offer on the flat we'd been to look at last Thursday had been turned down. We were still under the asking price, but only ever so slightly. Interestingly it didn't sound like anyone else had put in an offer anywhere near yet either (normally estate agents are pretty good at letting you know about that). So I was left a bit unsure what to do next.
Although it probably sounds like an obvious thing to say, the frustrating part about being a first time buyer is that you're buying with cash which you've actually worked for, rather than simply the value of your existing house, which may well have gone up without you doing anything whatsoever. It's pretty much always the case that any property you buy in London will be on the market for more than whatever the seller originally bought it for, and in the case of the flat we're bidding on I found the last sale value on the web, and it has gone up about 40% in value since the current owner bought it in 2006. That's pretty much the average sort of rise in London in that period of time. However I can't help but be quite reticent in every increment in the offer price - however "small" that may be in property price terms - it's money I've worked for, whereas the seller has just sat on something which has appreciated without them doing anything.
[Sunday 3rd February 2013]
Quite a mixed bag as our weekend days often are. For the past few days I'd been craving pizza - and not just any pizza, but specifically the Naples style with the raise edges. So the main plan for the day was to go for lunch at Sartori, which does that Neapolitan style. The base and tomato sauce were good as they had been last time I went there, but again the mushrooms they use on their funghi pizza are a bit boring. I wanted to try something different this time but lots of their pizzas on the menu frustratingly have just one non-vegetarian ingredient and there's a slightly irksome note on the menu requesting that you don't ask them to modify the ingredients. So I think I'm going off this place.
The other thing I wanted to do was to go and see the Manet exhibition at the Royal Academy. I'm not really sure where I've developed a liking for Manet from, he's just sort of grown on me the last few years. Maybe to start off with it was just the fact his paintings are quite bold and eye-catching, and I liked A Bar at the Folies-Bergère initially just because it has the bottle of Bass Pale Ale in it. The more I saw his paintings though - the handful they have at the National Gallery, and Le déjeuner sur l'herbe at the Musée d'Orsay the more I liked them. There's a sort of angst, or malcontent about him - despite apparently having come from a well-to-do background, and not actually needing to paint for money. My favourite painting in the exhibition was probably a self portrait.
I planned on becoming a Friend of the Royal Academy so we wouldn't have to queue for tickets for the exhibition. After a short discussion Chie ended up joining instead though - as she was more likely to come in the daytime when I was at work. After seeing the exhibition we made use of the Friends room wherein we seemed to be the only people under 50 (and definitely the only people with a baby).
On the way back we finally got on the new Routemaster bus - the 38 - as far as Victoria. It was definitely a lot more comfortable than the original.
[Saturday 2nd February 2013]
We got the train to Canterbury today to visit Leon, Yukari-san, Aiko-chan and their new baby Mei-chan. They've also just had their kitchen done, and it's likely a sign that perhaps I am finally ready to buy property that I was actually quite envious of it.
[Friday 1st February 2013]
Put in an offer on the flat we'd seen the previous day, a bit below the asking price. This is the third place we've put an offer in on in the last year or so, the last two having been pretty much turned down by the estate agent - they'd already had higher offers apparently - and we'd quickly lost interest. So it felt like a step forward here that our offer was even taken seriously.
I think I still had some lingering disappointment over last Friday's anticlimax of a bonus day, and so, a propos of nothing in particular I arranged for us to have some Champagne at the office at TGIF (at the risk of sounding like a first world problem, the free beer doesn't vary much and has become quite boring).
[Thursday 31st January 2013]
Chie bought an excellent pair of herringbone trousers for Erika today from the very posh looking children's clothes shop in Pimlico. The slight downside is that they're meant for a one year old, so it's going to be a while before she can really wear them, but they were just too good to resist.
I launched a small feature I'd been tinkering away on at work today. Whilst it isn't particularly high impact, I'm quite proud of it because it's something I did entirely single handedly from end to end - I normally work on the "backend" side of things, don't typically make user interface changes directly, and there are usually several non-engineers involved in launching a feature - designers, product managers and so on. I took on all of those roles for this tiny feature and it was rather gratifying.
Met up with Chie after I finished work to go and look at a flat. I'd been talking to a friend at work in the daytime about how ridiculous it was having savings at the moment - it's impossible to earn interest above the rate of inflation, and so the money is just devaluing in the bank. This prompted me with some renewed vigour to buy somewhere, even if it wasn't all that great, just to stop our assets devaluing.
The flat didn't exactly have "wow factor" as those tedious property TV programs are so keen on saying, but it wasn't bad either so we decided we'd probably put an offer in on it.