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:
Erika Ill Again
Dim Sum and Hyde Park
In the Play Pen
Guildford and Fitzrovia
Old Malt Cask Port Ellen
Shoes and Hat
Fior di Sale Marino di Trapani
Whisky Tasting at Fortnums and Dinner at Brasserie Zedel
Just Me and Erika
Storm and Macaroni Cheese
Prospect of Whitby
- [Wednesday 27th November 2013]
I felt it had been a slightly better night last night (although perhaps just because I'd had a few pints and therefore was more oblivious to it) but Erika still wasn't well enough to go back to nursery, so today we swapped over, Chie took the day off, and I went to work.
We tried to make Japanese curry for dinner, but realised we'd ran out of the all important Japanese curry roux. They sometimes sell it in Sainsbury's but had sold out. I tried to improvise using various spices but it really wasn't the same.
Chie had a bit of a break in the evening and went to yoga. Erika really wasn't her usual self still. She didn't seem to want to get up to mischief, and instead just wanted to sit on my lap, or lie on the floor looking forlorn.
- East London
- [Tuesday 26th November 2013]
After that particularly bad night last night, I volunteered to take the day off work today and look after Erika, so Chie could have a "break" (i.e. go to work). Erika really didn't seem well enough to go to nursery - besides anything else she isn't sleeping properly (and neither are we) so I just didn't think she had the energy for it. I took her to the doctor in the morning, and he said she'd had a cold which had turned into an ear and chest infection. He prescribed her some antibiotics for it. Fingers crossed it will get better in a few days - we really need at least a half decent night's sleep!
As Andrew was going to be away until the new year, we'd arranged to have some early pre-Christmas / leaving drinks. Despite having not really slept properly the last two nights, and being further tired out by a day spent looking after Erika, I was determined to go along as I felt I needed a break. Chie got back from work at 5:30, we gave Erika a quick bath (we'd skipped this the last couple of evenings as she hadn't seemed well enough) and then I headed out for the evening.
The original plan had involved a cocktail bar which had proved hard to make a reservation at, so in the end we went on a completely different tack and did a short tour of pubs in my favourite part of East London - along the Thames around Rotherhithe and Wapping.
We started with the Angel, and I'd forgotten what an absolute little gem this was - with its three partitioned bars at the front (public, saloon and private), an open fire, and the spectacular river views along to Tower Bridge. I don't think I'd actually been in the evening before, and by night the views are particularly atmospheric.
Next up was the Mayflower, which also really delivered this evening - whilst it doesn't have quite as nice views as the Angel, we'd chosen to eat there, and the food seemed to impress all round.
We rounded off with the Prospect of Whitby, over the river (now so much more convenient with the re-opening of the old East London line in the guise of the Overground line). Again, the views couldn't really top the Angel, but looking out over the water here was very atmospheric, and after we'd finished our pints we took advantage of the little flight of stairs by the side of the pub to get down onto the foreshore.
- Erika Ill Again
- [Monday 25th November 2013]
Erika's fever had come down this morning, so we'd hoped it might just be one of those one-off things - perhaps teething related, or something like that. Apparently though she wasn't her normal self all day at nursery, she didn't really want to play or do anything, and in the evening her fever came back, she was coughing a lot again, and her breathing was affected too. Poor little thing.
We had a particularly bad night as a result, it just seemed like everything we tried to do to help just made it worse, and this really got to Chie. She got really upset in the middle of the night. I tried to do my best to keep a level head, but I felt exhausted too, and was now trying to deal with not just a poorly little girl but also a very stressed out not so little girl. Definitely a low point!
- [Sunday 24th November 2013]
Went to see the Australia exhibit at the Royal Academy this morning with Andrew, Gemma, and her family. I wasn't in a particularly arty mood today, so volunteered to just whizz through with Erika and wait in the cafe. Although I did like the Persian rug with the hole burnt in the middle. After that we all went for lunch at Tibits (the only baby friendly place I could think of nearby) and then went to ruin a hipster coffee shop by showing up with two buggies.
We spent the rest of the day back at the flat, which was just as well, as Erika started to show signs of being a bit unwell in the evening - she wasn't really her usual self, and had a bit of a fever and developed a rather nasty cough. As a result none of us got a particularly good night's sleep tonight.
- Dim Sum and Hyde Park
- [Saturday 23rd November 2013]
We'd arranged to meet a friend of Chie's for dim sum at lunchtime today. Rather than go to the usual haunts (Royal China or Joy King Lau) Chie wanted to give a new place a try, so we went to Pearl Liang near Paddington. It's in quite an interesting spot, just North of Paddington station, where to be honest I haven't ventured much before. We walked some of the way there, as it was a nice day, getting the bus as far as the Dorchester Hotel (it always seems a bit ridiculous to me that it has a bus stop) and then a stroll through Hyde Park, and up past Paddington from there. It hadn't really occurred to me before that the canal goes so close to Paddington, and with some recent redevelopment the area to the North East of Paddington station is actually very pleasant.
Lunch itself was fairly good, although it is unlikely to supplant either of our regulars as a new dim sum place.
After lunch we wandered back down through Hyde Park, and took in some of Winter Wonderland, the annual Christmas fair they set up there. After that we popped into the Waitrose in Belgravia, and bought some macarons from the Pierre Hermes shop round the corner.
For dinner I made cannelloni, which I thought would make a break from the usual lasagne. It ends up being about the same amount of effort, and isn't really as nice, but it's good to try something different now and again, and it was nice that Erika ate some of it too.
- [Friday 22nd November 2013]
Just went very briefly to TGIF, and then headed home by way of Sainsbury's, where I bought tofu and chives, as I fancied hiyayakko (raw tofu with usually soy sauce, grated ginger and chopped spring onions, although in this instance chives seemed like a good substitute). Not much else to report really.
- [Thursday 21st November 2013]
Got a text from Leon saying he was in London, and proposed going for a pint. So after work we went for a pint at the Ship and Shovell, following which we met up with the girls for dinner at Rossopomodoro, which was very good as always.
- [Wednesday 20th November 2013]
I leafed through the recent bottling list I'd received from the Whisky Society this evening, and excitedly noticed a bottling from Kilchoman on there. We'd been to the distillery when it was in its infancy and as a result I have a special fondness for it. So somewhat on the spur of the moment, after putting Erika to bed, I decided to pop out to the members rooms and pick up a bottle. Not sure I was able to pick up all the themes in the tasting notes, but impressively Chie, who hadn't read them, listed them all - peaty, antiseptic, maritime and honey.
- [Tuesday 19th November 2013]
Spent a while in the evening getting annoyed about the lack of choice in non-leather / vegetarian shoes. Not really much else to report!
- [Monday 18th November 2013]
Chinese takeaway for dinner, from the place in Pimlico I'd not liked originally, but which seems to have improved in recent years.
- Northcote Road
- [Sunday 17th November 2013]
Went down to Clapham (well Clapham Junction, not sure whether that really counts as Clapham proper) to meet Gemma, a friend from work who had a baby earlier this year. They live near Northcote Road, which is a particular hotspot for babies, and so we went for lunch at one of the most baby friendly restaurants I've been to - there were young children at every table around us. Whilst in the past this notion would have been horrific, nowadays I like these sorts of places because of the sense of relaxation that everyone's in the same boat, and nobody's going to get annoyed if Erika has a bit of a tantrum. Not that she ever does of course.
It's actually the first time I've ever been to Northcote Road (I don't go South of the river much, as you know) and it was nicer than I'd expected - a particular highlight being the little antiques market.
- Foodie Saturday
- [Saturday 16th November 2013]
Spent most of the day either eating or buying food.
Started off with breakfast at Daylesford Organic. Although neither Chie nor I were particularly impressed by what we had to eat here, I enjoyed the ambience - we shared a table with a family who "lived most of the year in Monaco", which I found pleasingly glamorous.
From there we went for a wander round the market in Duke of York Square, and also some shopping on and around the King's Road to buy Erika a new winter coat. Whllst at the market I picked up some Wapping Sourdough (this is really excellent bread) and Burrow Hill Cider. Then back to the flat for a late lunch which I thoroughly enjoyed - a sort of Ploughman's I suppose, featuring a large "Porkless Pie" from Holland and Barrett, and some bread, cheese, chutney and cider.
Took Erika out for a walk in the gardens later on to test drive her new coat. I'm rather pleased with the purchase, particularly as I'd been uncharacteristically frugal, and having looked at several that were £100+ in the end chose a very modestly priced one in the thirty quid region. She is of course only going to get a few months wear out of it, etc.
I popped out again briefly just after 5 to pick up some "fast food" for dinner - I bought a black truffle in Fortnum and Mason, which cost less than Erika's coat. We had that with some truffle infused tagliatelle.
- [Friday 15th November 2013]
Made a stew with dumplings for dinner, which all three of us ate. Not much else to report really.
- [Thursday 14th November 2013]
Chie and Erika took the day off work/nursery following Erika's fever the previous night. The fever seemed to come and go, and inbetween Erika was actually in reasonably good spirits. So probably just teething.
She seemed OK around lunchtime, so they came to my office for lunch, which was very nice as always.
Didn't really feel like cooking tonight, so we ate junk food pizza, which I of course regretted afterwards.
- Good Mood
- [Wednesday 13th November 2013]
I found myself in a surprisingly good mood today at work. I think it might be a combination of several small factors - yesterday had been one of those crappy days when everything seemed to be going wrong, but somehow pretty much all of it was magically fixed today without me having had to do anything.
Also I've recently set up a US dollar account so I can have a bit more control over exchange rates etc (part of my income is stock and therefore effectively in dollars) and found today the first transfer into it had been successful. It really shouldn't have been a big deal, but somehow I found this very satisfying.
In the evening I made spaghetti bolognese for dinner, which turned out rather well.
Things did take a bit of a turn for the worse later on in the evening though - Erika developed quite a high fever which in hindsight may possibly have been down to teething (she didn't really have any other symptoms). However my good mood helped me to take it all in my stride, and we just went through the now familiar routine of Calpol and doing our best to make her as comfortable as we can.
- [Tuesday 12th November 2013]
Chie and Erika had the postponed dinner with our NCT friend this evening, so I went out for a little bit after leaving the office. I meandered over to Holborn, had a burrito at Chilango, and a quick pint a the Lamb on Lamb's Conduit Street, before heading home in time to greet the girls as they got back from their evening out.
- In the Play Pen
- [Monday 11th November 2013]
Just one picture of Chie reading to Erika in her play pen.
Made a sort of Chinese / Thai hotpot for dinner, as well as a less spicy version for Erika. A bit like when we make a Japanese nabe, but with a different flavour soup. It turned out surprisingly well.
- Guildford and Fitzrovia
- [Sunday 10th November 2013]
To round off Mum's weekend down south, the four of us headed down to Guildford for the day to see Adrian, Liz and the kids. We had a particularly lovely time there, Erika played with her cousins and Adrian and Liz made an excellent Sunday roast for lunch.
Towards the end of the afternoon Chie, Erika and I got the train back to London (Mum was heading straight back to the Midlands from Guildford).
In the evening I went to the new St. James Theatre with Robert and Iain to watch the Fitzrovia Radio Hour. It's a sort of spoof 1940s radio show where a cast of 5 enact radio dramas in evening dress whilst also industriously creating the sound effects in real time, using a large array props. It was right up my street and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if there were a couple of disparaging remarks made about Pimlico, to which I took slight exception.
- Splish Splosh
- [Saturday 9th November 2013]
Mum was out for the daytime at a knitting conference, and as the weather wasn't particularly nice we mostly had a quiet day indoors.
I did venture out for a bit with Erika, just into the gardens, so Erika could have a go at splashing in puddles. I remember really enjoying that kind of simple pleasure as a kid. Erika likes her red wellies, and seemed at least moderately interested in puddles, even though she did the splashing with her hands rather than her feet.
In the evening we met up with Mum at Oxford Circus, which turned out to not be a very good idea, as there was some kind of live music on in Regent's Street, and the surrounding streets were absolutely thronging. That, coupled with the fact the restaurant I'd chosen for tonight's dinner was already full up at just after 6pm (they don't take reservations) set the evening off to a rather bad start. Chie deemed that we should just go back to the Indian place we'd taken Mum to on a previous trip (Roti Chai). I felt this was a bit like admitting defeat, as I always try and find new and interesting places to eat every time Mum comes to London, but equally felt under pressure to get something sorted out as soon as possible, so that's what we did.
The Hakka Chilli Paneer remains a highlight at Roti Chai, despite the fact it is so spicy I can barely eat it.
- [Friday 8th November 2013]
Chie and Erika came to my office for lunch which was jolly nice as always.
Mum came to stay for the weekend from today. She'd decided to go for a bit of a wander round Brixton market in the afternoon, so I thought it might be nice to meet her there for dinner. On the way there I caught a brief glimpse of the Pullman carriages used in the Orient Express in Victoria station, which I always find rather exciting.
We ate at Okan, an Okonomiyaki place, which I think we all agreed was pretty good. After that we went for a drink at the controversial Champagne + Fromage, at the centre of the recent "Yuppies Out" protest. Ironically I probably wouldn't have heard of it had it not been for that. I have to admit I was a bit less impressed by this place than the okonomiyaki place, somehow it just felt a bit soulless. Anyway, it was a fun evening regardless, and Mum seemed suitably impressed with Brixton market.
- Naish's Cider
- [Thursday 7th November 2013]
Chie and Erika were going to have dinner with one of our NCT friends this evening (although in the end it was actually postponed), so I was given a couple of hours off from the usual post-work parenting duties.
I met up with Al for a quick drink at the Argyll Arms where they had a sort of beer festival on. I was impressed that in the little booklet with tasting notes they provided that they listed the varieties of hops used in each of the beers. This was helpful as that way I could steer well clear of anything which had a whiff of "craft beer" about it - none of those grapefruit flavoured cascade hops for me, thank you very much.
Al could only stay for one as he had a dinner to go to, but on the way back I thought I'd poke my nose in at the Coach and Horses in Soho, where I was delighted - and quite surprised - to find Naish's Cider on tap. This is the stuff of legends in the cider world, and I didn't think it was usually available more than a few miles away from the farm in Somerset, let alone all the way over here in London. I have to admit it seems to be a bit of an acquired taste which I didn't immediately acquire - perhaps partly because I'd had some beer first, and it's rather strong, but I ill advisedly ordered a whole pint of the medium nonetheless. It actually made me feel a bit queasy, so I vowed to come back at the earliest opportunity and try it again without having had anything else to drink first.
This I managed a couple of days later, and went for a half pint of the dry this time, and enjoyed it much more second time round. Not really sure how to describe it without resorting to a lot of cliches - certainly the word "rustic" comes to mind, which is wonderfully incongruous when experiencing it in central London. Words like "smooth" or "easy drinking" definitely do not apply.
- Old Malt Cask Port Ellen
- [Wednesday 6th November 2013]
Following last week's whisky tasting I was left with a nagging doubt that I might have just gone off whisky altogether - it seemed like a long time since I've had a whisky that I've really enjoyed. So this evening I re-acquainted myself with an old favourite - an Old Malt Cask bottling of Port Ellen, which was very similar in date, age, and style to the superb Fortnum and Mason Old Malt Cask bottling I'd bought quite a few years ago, a bottle which had sadly long since been polished off.
I did indeed successfully remind myself that I do still like whisky.
- Shoes and Hat
- [Tuesday 5th November 2013]
In the morning Erika tried on my shoes, pretty much all by herself. Correspondingly in the evening I gave her my Lock and Co. hat to try on.
- Fior di Sale Marino di Trapani
- [Monday 4th November 2013]
The picture is of a bar of chocolate we bought in Gelupo yesterday - the best chocolate I've tried in quite a long time. It was very darnk, quite a dry consistency, and had salt crystals in it. Really delicious. Reminded me of the superb Claudio Corallo chocolate Fortnum and Mason sold a few years ago.
- [Sunday 3rd November 2013]
Much quieter day today. Had ramen for lunch at Shoryu in Soho. I tried "Kirin Frozen" for the first, and I think on reflection probably the last time. I like beer and I like sorbet, but I don't really need the two things to be combined. The brussel sprout tempura, however, was a much more successful bit of culinary innovation.
Went to Gelupo after lunch, and tried their bicerin - a hybrid of hot chocolate and espresso we'd discovered in Turin. It wasn't as good as the one we had in Turin, of course.
Also popped into the new Japan Centre, Chie shared my opinion that it looked a little sad in its new home.
Other than that not much to report.
- Double Trouble
- [Saturday 2nd November 2013]
Rather a full day today.
Accordingly, we commenced it with a fortifying breakfast at the Regency. It was particularly busy today - I've never seen such a long queue. After that we thought we might finally claim our right as Westminster residents to free entrance to Westminster Abbey (we just had to apply for a residents card thing) only to discover it was closed to visitors today. So we meandered back home by way of the lovely streets around Smith Square, and popped into the Tate Britain for a coffee. We realised we didn't really have time to actually see any art, as we needed to get back home and tidy up a bit for our visitors this afternoon.
We'd arranged to look after Nina, daughter of a friend of Chie's, so that she and her husband could go out for lunch and go to a musical to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Nina is very close to Erika's age, and similarly half Japanese, half English. Apparently it's the first time she's been left with anyone for any period of time, and she reacted surprisingly well - there were no tantrums whatsoever - she just seemed a bit quiet and glum. I can't really imagine Erika responding so well if the situation were to be reversed!
We spent a while at the library, where the girls did some colouring in (neither of them quite have the dexterity to do this properly yet, so it's more a case of stabbing a piece of paper with some coloured pencils), then back to the flat for a second lunch. For some reason we ended up giving them asparagus, and I felt I had attained a super advanced level of parenting as I fed both of them simultaneously (see picture).
In the evening after Nina had gone home, we felt too tired to cook, and so went for an incredibly quick dinner at Goya.
- [Friday 1st November 2013]
Met up with Chie and Erika on the way back from work. Had a funny sort of dinner which we ate standing in the kitchen whilst also feeding Erika.
After giving Erika her bath, we both seemed really knackered, and the act of getting Erika to go to sleep made me and Chie fall asleep too.
- Whisky Tasting at Fortnums and Dinner at Brasserie Zedel
- [Thursday 31st October 2013]
Al had arranged for us to go along to a Bowmore tasting being held at Fortnum and Mason this evening. I left the office just after 6 with Andrew, and we walked from there to St. James's, where we stopped off at the Red Lion on Duke of York Street for a pint and a chinwag.
Not sure I actually massively enjoyed the whisky tasting itself, Bowmore is usually relatively unpeated for an Islay malt, and the four we tried this evening were no exception. I actually made use of the spitoon, which rarely sees much service at whisky tastings in my experience. Still, it got everyone in a jovial mood, and our group proceeded from there to Brasserie Zedel for dinner and a few more drinks beneath its art deco splendour. The food as before was at best adequate, but the interior makes up for it. We also enjoyed a superbly pomaceous bottle of Bollinger 2004. Finished off the evening with a quick cocktail in the Bar Americain, where I left my umbrella (fear not, I phoned the next day and they found it for me).
- Just Me and Erika
- [Wednesday 30th October 2013]
Chie went out with friends in the evening, so we switched our normal roles - for a change Chie dropped her off at nursery in the morning, and I picked her up in the evening. I took her home, fed her, gave her a bath and put her to bed all by myself.
- [Tuesday 29th October 2013]
Sushi for lunch.
Felt very lethargic in the evening, and really couldn't be bothered to cook. Considered getting takeaway instead but nothing seemed to appeal. Ended up just having some of yesterday's leftover macaroni cheese reheated.
- Storm and Macaroni Cheese
- [Monday 28th October 2013]
There had been a storm overnight last night, although it had mostly blown away by this morning.
It did also seem to have blown away the mild weather we'd been having for the past few days, and it felt quite wintery instead. So for dinner I made macaroni cheese.
- Prospect of Whitby
- [Sunday 27th October 2013]
I was given a bit of time off from parenting in the afternoon, so I went to the Prospect of Whitby.