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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Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
Pasta e Fagioli
Frank's Campari Bar
Pizza and Cider
Back in Town
Hotel Grounds, Millook Haven and Tavistock
Dartmoor and Hotel Endsleigh
Around the Exstuary
Exeter, Reddaway's Cider and Teignmouth
Arriving in Devon
Afternoon Tea with Grandma
Out for Dinner with Erika
Erika in the Kitchen
Not Very Successful Chinese Food
Picnic and the Royal Academy
Too Much Champagne
Lunch with Erika
- [Saturday 24th August 2013]
Partly with our upcoming trip to the Cote d'Azur in mind, and partly because I still want to get out of the sloppy habit of wearing jeans, I decided I should buy some new trousers today. I headed out by myself to make it a bit quicker, and headed to cheap and cheerful Charles Tyrwhitt on Jermyn Street, wherein I found a couple of pairs which seemed to fit reasonably well. I also popped into New and Lingwood while I was in that neck of the woods, and bought three shirts in their sale.
Met up with Chie and Erika after that, and went for lunch at Tibits. We then had a far less effective attempt at shopping for clothes for Chie, which took longer than I spent shopping, and ultimately resulted in her not buying anything.
Towards the end of the afternoon / early evening I popped out again with Erika, so Chie could have a bit of a rest. We walked to Waitrose and bought some fresh pasta for dinner. We all had the same thing for dinner. Well, we all had the same fresh pasta - I made a different pasta sauce for Erika which was more baby compatible.
- [Friday 23rd August 2013]
Not much to report. I went for a burrito at lunchtime, which was very good.
Went along to TGIF for a bit, but decided I shouldn't drink because of the antibiotics I'm on, so it was a bit rubbish.
Burgers for dinner which were a bit disappointing. Bought some alcohol free beer on the way back home, which always surprises me by how drinkable it is.
- [Thursday 22nd August 2013]
Chie made dinner tonight - something in between Chinese and Japanese food which is hard to describe but quite tasty.
Also booked tickets for another trip to the Cote d'Azur this evening. Chie really wanted to swim in the sea before the summer was over, which we didn't really manage on our trip to Devon. We'd spent some time in the usual state of indecision, because Chie wanted to fly, and I wanted to go by train - including one plan where I went by train with Erka and Chie flew by herself, which to my surprise Chie wasn't keen on. We'd more or less decided to just give up as we'd been unable to find transport arrangements we both agreed with, but then one of Chie's friends pointed out we'd flown to Japan twice this year, so it wouldn't be so unreasonable to go by train for this trip.
- [Wednesday 21st August 2013]
For dinner this evening I made an unusual variant on mash including parsnips and leeks as well as potatoes. Chie and I had this with vegetarian sausages, Erika had it with mashed tomato, chickpeas and spinach. I ran Erika's portion through the blender, and I think that ended up much tastier, as the parsnip was better integrated and you didn't get an occasional surprise as we did.
Later on in the evening I watched the first episode Francesco da Mosto's Italy: Tip to Toe on iPlayer. I think it's actually a few years old now, and a vaguely remember having seen part of it before, but nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed it and it instilled in me a sudden desire to travel.
- Pasta e Fagioli
- [Tuesday 20th August 2013]
Made this Italian peasant dish for dinner - pasta and beans - based on trying to cobble something together from what we had in the cupboards. It was surprisingly nice.
- [Monday 19th August 2013]
Started a two week course of antibiotics this week - although the label didn't explicitly say I shouldn't drink alcohol, I thought I should probably try not to in order to give them the best possible chance of working.
I'd got a home teeth whitening kit from the dentists a while back, and had never got round to using it because it seemed like a bit of a bind, and it was one of those things that apparently once you started you had to use every day for a couple of weeks, or it wasn't worth bothering. So the next two weeks actually seemed like a good time to do that, since the fact I wasn't drinking meant I probably wouldn't be going out in the evenings much either.
As a result of that, it meant I also have to avoid coffee for the next two weeks. What a dull time it's going to be.
Made a Thai curry for dinner, and a baby version of it for Erika (tofu and vegetables cooked in coconut milk).
- Frank's Campari Bar
- [Sunday 18th August 2013]
Spent the afternoon at Frank's Campari Bar in Peckham. This is something of an institution in London - an open air pop up bar on top of a multi story car park which is only open during the summer months. It was originally notorious for being full of hipsters (Peckham not exactly being a very mainstream sort of a place), but I think by now the crowd is a lot more mixed - even some people with children. I'd wanted to go for a while because they specialise in Campari and Aperol based drinks, of which I'm a fan, so was very pleased to have been invited along for a bit to join Andrew and a few of his friends, some also from work, some not.
Really enjoyed the afternoon - everyone seemed to be in high spirits, the Aperol and Campari were free flowing, and the views are rather impressive.
- [Saturday 17th August 2013]
Headed over to Bermondsey for pie and mash at Manze's and a return visit to the Druid Street market to buy some bread from the St. John bakery.
Bought some interesting tomatoes and some gem squashes a the fruit and vegetable shop on Druid Street which formed the basis for dinner. I stuffed them with tomato and red lentil mixture, and blended the end result for Erika, whilst leaving Chie's and mine whole.
- Pizza and Cider
- [Friday 16th August 2013]
Went out for lunch with Kyle today, to try the new Pizza Pilgrims restaurant in Soho, which seems to be getting a lot of publicity at the moment. It was pretty good - the pizza was of a high standard and the atmosphere was buzzy.
Took the remains of the Reddaway Cider into work for TGIF which many of the usual suspects helped me to finish off. Perhaps not quite as possible as the Newtons Perry, which is a bit less "rustic", but still several people asked for second and third glasses which must mean they either liked it, or were too lazy to get up and find a different drink.
- [Thursday 15th August]
- [Wednesday 14th August 2013]
An evening revisiting some old friends in Holborn.
- [Tuesday 13th August]
- [Monday 12th August 2013]
Dinner at Yming in (almost) Chinatown.
- [Sunday 11th August 2013]
- Back in Town
- [Saturday 10th August 2013]
Spent some of the afternoon in St. James's.
- Leaving Devon
- [Friday 9th August 2013]
We started the day off with breakfast outdoors, and had the terrace all to ourselves, which made for a lovely end to our time at the Hotel Endsleigh.
After checking out, we drove back to Exeter (the less scenic way on the A30 to the North of Dartmoor), dropped off our hire car, and got a lift to Exeter St. David's. We were there before midday, and considered getting an earlier train, but then reasoned that they were likely to be busy, and we really didn't want to take our chances without having booked seats.
So we had a couple of hours to kill around Exeter St. David's, where there isn't really much in the way of places to eat. Chie suggested the somewhat radical plan of going to the Wetherspoon's pub we'd spotted near the station last time we'd got a train from St. David's. Whilst I'm normally allergic to Wetherspoon's pubs, this one - the Imperial - was in a very grand building, a former stately home of sorts, and so I consented on the grounds of architectural interest.
It did have quite an impressive interior, which thankfully the corporate blandness of JD Wetherspoon had not managed to completely crush. The food was off course awful (what do you expect at these prices) and we had to share the space with a few unsavoury characters (again, what do you expect at these prices) but I had to concede that overall it worked out pretty well - we had plenty of space for our luggage, there was a highchair for Erika, and we could just relax and take our time.
We got on our train around 2pm, and in our carriage there was a very lively bunch of teens on their way back from a school camp. They were singing South Australia - rather loudly as there were at least 30 of them. Quite a contrast to our very quiet trip on the way there, but I suppose it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
We got back home around 5, and after just five nights off from cooking I seemed to have forgotten how to do it. We thought we'd just have some of Dad's potatoes and some vegetarian sausages for dinner. I thought I'd try and cook the potatoes in the microwave to save time / effort. Having already cooked one for Erika's dinner that way - which seemed to work - I then tried with a handful and it was rather disastrous. I don't think I'll try microwaving potatoes again.
- Hotel Grounds, Millook Haven and Tavistock
- [Thursday 8th August 2013]
Erika woke up earlier than we wanted to, as always, so I thought I'd try and give Chie a lie in, and donned tweeds, and took Erika out for a pre-breakfast walk. To my surprise the grounds of the hotel were shrouded in mist, which made it very atmospheric, and also quite damp underfoot. We wandered down to the river, looked across to Cornwall, then back to the hotel by way of the shell house.
After breakfast we went for another wander around the grounds, this time all three of us, and this time followed one of the suggested routes, taking in the little valley formed by one of the tributaries of the Tamar, which had a selection of interesting and unusual trees growing in it. There was a little man-made off shoot of the stream (I think the Devon word for it is "leat") which we dropped a leaf into, and then followed as far as we could. Erika maintained a fixed stare on the leaf the whole time, which was rather lovely.
We then retired back to the hotel's lounge for elevenses - coffee and biscuits. There was a selection of toys and books for kids in the library (neatly tidied into a cupboard) so Erika had some things to keep her occupied while we were relaxing with our coffees. Oh and they gave us frothed milk in a jug, so Erika had another babycino.
We really should have just stayed around the hotel all day - it was so restful and just altogether extremely pleasant. However, as always happens when we're on holiday, I felt a nagging urge that we should be out and about doing things. So at midday we set off in the direction of the North Cornwall coast.
For a long time I've wanted to visit the location of the picture of a beach hut we have on our wall at home. It turned out the nearest bit of coastline to the hotel was in fact around there - near Widemouth Bay - so this seemed like a good opportunity. As is often the case with these things, the reality of the beach hut wasn't quite as spectacular as the picture. The picture gives the impression of complete seclusion, but in fact there are a few other houses nearby. The beach didn't look quite as picturesque at low tide either, and the hut had been repainted. Still, all of that aside it was satisfying to finally get there, and the beach made for a pleasant spot to feed Erika her lunch.
We then continued on to Widemouth Bay, where we thought about going on the beach, but again it was low tide (so the water was a very long way out) and a bit overcrowded, so in the end we just parked in the car park at the top of the bay for a bit, then decided to head back.
On the way back we stopped off in Launceston, apparently the former capital of Cornwall, which is a funny sort of a place. I can't really think of much else to say about it really.
We got back to the hotel around 4:30, and had a bit of a rest for an hour or so, before heading out for dinner. We didn't particularly feel like eating at the hotel for the second night, so instead headed into Tavistock to try the "best pizza in Devon" at a place called Robertson's. Having been spoiled by excellent pizzas in London and Italy I couldn't get very excited about the pizza here, but the staff were all very pleasant and accommodating of children, and Erika slept through our starter which was a nice break for us.
We were back at the hotel before 8, but just stayed in our room for the remainder of the evening. I was already falling asleep by 9 o clock!
- Dartmoor and Hotel Endsleigh
- [Wednesday 7th August 2013]
Dad gave us a lift to the car hire place in Exeter this morning, where we picked up the car we'd be using for the last couple of days of our trip. We all drove together from there to the Warren House Inn on Dartmoor, where we had a pleasingly rustic lunch, before waving off Dad and Janie who headed back home.
From there, we drove across Dartmoor, stopping off before Tavistock to walk up Cox Tor. The weather had changed somewhat since we had lunch (or maybe this was just the West versus the East of the moor?) and was looking quite broody - which I thoroughly appreciated, as Dartmoor never looks quite right with blue skies and sunshine.
We'd originally thought we might stop off in Tavistock, but thoughts of catching afternoon tea at the hotel instead persuaded us to motor on through. We arrived at the Hotel Endsleigh - our home for the next two nights - at 5pm, and were indeed just in time for afternoon tea. This made for a lovely introduction to the hotel, as we sat on the chaise longue by the window in the library, and enjoyed some very nice tea, sandwiches, scones and cakes.
After that we went for the first of several wanders around the grounds. It really is an idyllic setting, the lawns sweeping down to the river Tamar, and looking across the valley to the woods on the other side of the river, which defines the border between Devon and Cornwall.
We fed Erika outside in the gardens, and set our minds to trying to get her to go to sleep in time for us to go and have a grown-up dinner, just the two of us. This would only be the second time we'd been "out" for dinner without Erika since she was born. The kitchen stopped serving at 9:30 apparently, so it was a bit of a race against time - we booked our table in the restaurant for 9, and she just fell asleep a couple of minutes beforehand.
They have a listening service in the hotel, using the hotel's phone system, and the receptionist would come and let us know if she heard any crying. I still went up and poked my head round the door a couple of times.
Not sure the food was actually that marvelous (my "raviolo" - singular of ravioli - was a bit rubbery and bland) but it seemed important that we had some time to ourselves for a change.
- Around the Exstuary
- [Tuesday 6th August 2013]
Dad organised a very interesting day out for us today - a circular trip around the Exe estuary. We started out with a walk along the front from Starcross to the Turf pub, passing the grounds of Powderham Castle en route. We had a quick drink at the Turf, then from there took the little ferry to Topsham at 12:30. We almost had the boat to ourselves - most people seem to go in the other direction at this time of day.
Topsham seems to have become quite a well heeled sort of a place - a bit like Dartmouth perhaps. Rather than eat in one of the pubs or restaurants there we decided to buy some cheeses from the very good cheese shop, and some bread from the bakers up the road, and sat in the churchyard to eat them. After that we went for a wander round the large antiques centre.
The next leg of the trip was by train, from Topsham down to Exmouth. We didn't really linger long in Exmouth, and instead just walked through the town to get the ferry back to Starcross. Unlike the earlier boat this one was pretty much full.
In the evening Dad made a porcini risotto (with cider!) for dinner. Which of course was accompanied with more cider.
- Exeter, Reddaway's Cider and Teignmouth
- [Monday 5th August 2013]
Dad and Janie needed to go to the post office in Exeter, which was handy as it gave us the opportunity to do some shopping. You wouldn't believe it looking at our bags, but we'd actually tried to pack fairly sparingly for our 5 nights away in Devon, and as a result found we were short of a few baby things. Oh and we forgot the electric bit of our electric toothbrush.
Also, the weather was looking surprisingly inclement, and after all the hot weather I'd come away from London without a jacket. I'd wanted a new tweed jacket for some time anyway, and it seemed like a good opportunity to buy one in a different part of the country for a change. A quick Google search for "tweed Exeter" had suggested Lugets was the place to go, and after just a few minutes of browsing I very efficiently came away with a new jacket, made by a company called Magee, in a fairly light green/brown tweed with a sort of purplish blue and red overcheck.
We had lunch at a cafe on top of an organic food shop in Exeter, whose name escapes me, and then eventually headed back to the house for a bit, where we later on had a cream tea. Of course.
In the early evening we headed out in the direction of Teignmouth, by way of Lower Rixdale Farm - home of Reddaway's Cider. This was one of the highlights of the holiday for me - a chance to see a real farmhouse cider producer. It was a superbly small scale operation - no swanky farm shop, barely any signs at all, we just knocked on the door of the farmhouse, and John Reddaway took us round the corner to the cider cellar. There was a fantastic atmosphere in the cellar - reminiscent of the warehouse where whisky matures - and that was no coincidence as several of the barrels were in fact former whisky barrels. We tried the cider on the spot - it was delicious - and came away with 8 litres of the stuff, for an incredibly cheap £14. Really fantastic.
From there we headed on to Teignmouth for an early evening stroll along the beach with its distinctive red sands, and a quick drink at the Ship Inn, before heading back to the house for dinner.
- Arriving in Devon
- [Sunday 4th August 2013]
We got the train from London to Exeter in the morning, which was particularly pleasant as we upgraded to first class, and had almost an entire carriage to ourselves. We nibbled some of the leftovers from yesterday's afternoon tea, along with the complimentary tea from the buffet.
Dad and Janie came to pick us up at Exeter St. David's, and from there we drove to Newton St. Cyres for lunch at The Beer Engine, a pub which brews its own beer. I particularly liked their "Rail Ale" which was very easy to drink.
On the way back to Dad's house we popped in to visit Janie's Mum, who I haven't see for years. She was rather delighted to meet Erika.
In the evening Dad made a sort of middle eastern meal for dinner, including home made ful medames.
- Afternoon Tea with Grandma
- [Saturday 3rd August]
Mum came to visit this afternoon. As it was a lovely sunny day, I'd originally thought about going somewhere nice with a garden for afternoon tea, but quickly realised just about everywhere like that would be fully booked. So instead I made the surprising choice of making afternoon tea myself, so we could enjoy it in our own gardens.
I baked scones (not actually sure I've ever done this before) and sort of madeleines - although I didn't have the right tin for the madeleines so they ended up in a fairy cake format. I also made sandwiches (half of them cucumber, half Red Leicester and Mum's chutney). I didn't cut the crusts off. I assembled it all on the plastic cake stand we bought in the Conran shop a few years ago, which seemed appropriate for taking out into the garden.
I thought it all came out rather well, although perhaps our initial choice of a place to sit in the gardens - in the shade of the mulberry tree - was a little ill advised, as we were bombarded with mulberries. Oh and it was actually surprisingly windy. Apart from that though it was very pleasant.
- Out for Dinner with Erika
- [Friday 2nd August 2013]
I bought a "friends and family" railcard this morning, to use for our upcoming trip to Devon. To our surprise we discovered that even though Erika doesn't need a ticket to go on the train, if we actually buy her a child ticket, we then qualify for the discounts you get from this railcard, and the overall cost of our three tickets would be less than what we'd normally pay for the two of us. So Erika effectively costs a negative amount of money to take with us! In this case it would have been £156 without her for the two of us, but for the three of us it cost £117 - and it means she gets a booked seat too.
Chie went out for dinner with friends this evening, to Olivomare in Belgravia, so I looked after Erika. I was originally going to just take her along to TGIF for a bit, and feed her there, but it was cancelled this evening due to some refurbishment going on in the office. It seemed a shame just to stay home, so instead Erika and I went for dinner together, at Noura - one of the few places in Belgravia where inexplicably you never seem to need a reservation.
I fed Erika a bento Chie had made for her (some rice an something or other involving okra) and then she nibbled on bits of my dinner while I was eating. She seemed to like the bread most of all. She was extremely well behaved throughout, really happy to sit on my lap and be fed without making any noise, or trying to wander off, or throw things on the floor. The man at the neighbouring said "she's gorgeous" and pointed out slightly humorously that he and his wife were also taking their child out for dinner - although in their case their child was about my age.
Took Erika back home after that, and managed to get her to go to sleep all by myself. I felt like a very good parent!
- [Thursday 1st August 2013]
Chie had some of her "Mama tomo" (Mum friends) over to visit in the afternoon, and they apparently spent quite a lot of time out in the gardens. I'm really pleased that we're making so much use of the gardens since Erika was born, and especially because we've had a few weeks now of really nice summery weather.
In the evening I made spaghetti for dinner for the girls. A sort of vegetarian version of a putanesca sauce for the grown-ups, and a more baby compatible sauce for Erika. Chie accidentally dropped Erika's bowl of spaghetti on the floor, and there were tears as a result (not just from Erika). I responded swiftly and retrieved some pasta from earlier in the week from the freezer, and I think managed to recover the situation.
- [Wednesday 31st July 2013]
Erika really hasn't been sleeping well recently, she wakes up in the middle of the night and starts crying and it can take a couple of hours to get her to go back to sleep again. We're really not sure what it is, and have tried all the usual remedies to no avail. She seemed to calm down as soon as we took her to the lounge and let her play with her toys a bit, but that really doesn't feel like what she should be doing at 4am!
Chie was particularly exhausted this morning, and so I was determined to let Chie stay in bed and take over - I fed Erika her breakfast, and then managed to distract her with toys long enough for me to sneak out of the room and have a shower. I then took Erika with me to work for a couple of ours - I obviously didn't have much of an expectation I'd get any serious work done during that time but one way or the other I had to give Chie a break.
We spent most of the time in the "park" in the office. I just about managed to send a couple of emails whilst trying to distract Erika with a pop-up book, but of course she's far more interested in my laptop, and wanted to "help" with the typing. Kyle came and joined us for a bit - we had a coffee, and gave some of the spare frothy milk to Erika - her first "babycino". She seemed to really like it.
Chie came to pick up Erika around 11, and rather sweetly Erika actually cried a bit when I left them, and tried to crawl towards me.
In the evening Chie made "hayashi rice" (Japanese stew with rice) for dinner. After feeding Erika and doing the washing up, I went out for a bit, to meet up with Al, Kyle, Andrew and some of Al's colleagues at the Whisky Society. I haven't been for quite a while now, and in fact my membership had lapsed since about October of last year (not surprisingly just after Erika was born!). I actually renewed my membership today, but their system hadn't updated yet, so for the duration of the evening they rather bizarrely assigned me a spare card, and I was "Ed Brysant" or something like that. No particularly outstanding whiskies which stick in my mind from the evening, I suppose they were all generally good though. Despite being somewhat knackered after a few consecutive nights of not sleeping properly, I really appreciated the opportunity for a bit of banter with the chaps.
- Erika in the Kitchen
- [Tuesday 30th July 2013]
A couple of pictures of Erika in the kitchen.
I made macaroni cheese for dinner - including some baby pasta for Erika with a light cheese sauce. She seems to like pasta (what a shock it would have been if she didn't!) and really guzzled it down, which was rather gratifying.
- Not Very Successful Chinese Food
- [Monday 29th July 2013]
Not very successful Chinese meal this evening - started with the now usual mock duck pancakes - probably the best bit - and then for the main course made ma-po tofu and attempted to make a kind of sweet and sour sauce with some fake beef from Holland and Barrett. Neither came out particularly well, both had a sort of funny "fizzy" sort of flavour to them somehow, which was a bit off-puting.
Erika had some noodles and some plain tofu, plus the usual fruit and vegetables on the side. She probably fared better than we did.
- Picnic and the Royal Academy
- [Sunday 28th July 2013]
Had a really nice day out today. As it was another sunny day, we started off with a picnic in St. James's Park - we bought a baguette and a few other bits and pieces at the new little Waitrose on Victoria street, and then sat on our "leisure sheet" from Mister Donut under a tree. It was really lovely.
After that we headed to Piccadilly to go to the Royal Academy. We started with the Richard Rogers exhibition - of which we probably enjoyed the big room with the lego and the Velopresso (an espresso machine connected to a bike) more than anything else. We also went for a wander round the summer exhibition which I absolutely loved - it's so jam packed full of stuff that it was really easy to find things we liked. They also had Grayson Perry's tapestries there - my first time to see them in person - I'd really enjoyed the TV series about them last year.
- [Saturday 27th July 2013]
Went down to Canterbury for the afternoon to visit Leon, Yukari and their two kids Aiko-chan and Mae-chan. Leon made from very tasty Mexican food for lunch, which we ate at their big dining table in their very swanky kitchen, of which I am rather envious.
Erika enjoyed playing with Aiko and Mae, and we also spent a while sitting out in their very big garden.
- Too Much Champagne
- [Friday 26th July 2013]
Too much Champagne in the evening, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.
- Lunch with Erika
- [Thursday 25th July 2013]
Erika came to my office for lunch.
- [Wednesday 24th July 2013]
Made a sort of aviation involving Parfait Amour.