Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Days of leisure # 2

M has had this week off, so we have been gallivanting around town together while Little Planet is with her childminders. On Monday, we dropped Little Planet off at 8.30am, then headed into central London on the Tube...
  • We strolled through Russell Square to Soho, where we breakfasted on Monmouth coffee and Chelsea buns generously studded with sweet currants at Fernandez & Wells. It felt quite decadent leisurely partaking of breakfast early on a Monday morning while media workers rushed in and out of the cafe grasping their takeaway coffees before work

  • At the National Portrait Gallery, we viewed the Gerhard Richter Portraits exhibition (photo above). I had not seen much of the work on show, but I was blown away by the fleeting brushwork and found refreshing the artist's insistence that "I don't think the painter need either see or know the sitter. A portrait must not express anything of the sitter's 'soul', essence or character". He is content simply to paint what can be seen on the surface

  • After a quick browse of new fiction books at Hatchards on Piccadilly, we caught the Kuniyoshi show at the Royal Academy (photo below). Looking at the prints of this prolific and masterful nineteenth century Japanese print artist, I was struck by how much contemporary manga and anime artists are rooted in the print traditions of Japan's past

  • We popped into Lina Stores to buy pumpkin and ricotta tortellini for the night's dinner

  • At Bar Shan, in Soho, we lunched on a variety of Xi'an and Sichuan delights: 5 spiced beef salad with fresh coriander and garlic, lotus leaf steamed buns with beancurd and vegetables, pork and chive dumplings, prawn and water chestnut dumplings, Beijing noodles with minced pork sauce and vegetables, and vegetable guotie or fried dumplings. Each dish was delicately balanced and very fresh tasting. The service was also both attentive and informative. Like the Korean restaurant Bi-won, I can see myself popping in here on a regular basis for lunch

  • We spent another couple of hours shopping - Chinese (Sichuan) and Japanese (pub food) cookbooks from Foyles, a baby toothbrush from Boots the Chemist on Tottenham Court Road, storage boxes and wine glasses from Heals, and lampshades from Habitat - before heading back home to fix our bedroom curtains then collect Little Planet at 5.45pm
We spent Tuesday closer to home, in Islington...
  • We browsed bath suites and fittings at Aston Matthews and Bathstore, before realising that we do not need to actually change our existing bath suite, which is of very good quality - we simply need to spruce it up a bit, re-tile the bathroom and re-paint it

  • In our favourite baby clothing store, Green Baby, we bought some colourful t-shirts for Little Planet

  • We bought New Zealand Pinot noir and Ribera del Duero wines from Oddbins, parenting, photography and gossip magazines from Borders, and red snapper and samphire from the excellent and enthusiastic Steve Hatt Fishmongers

  • Then we lunched at Masala Zone: bhel puri and aloo tiki chaat to start, then kadhai paneer and Malabar green chicken curries for mains, all washed down with a spicy masala Cola (Coca Cola with spices, crushed mint and lemon - very delicious and refreshing). Though it is a chain, I like eating at Masala Zone because the food is still fresh, light and flavourful

  • For dessert, we crossed the road to the always busy Ottolenghi. M devoured a chocolate and raspberry tart with his coffee, and I demolished a lemon and raspberry cupcake with mine

  • Every where we go, we talk about Little Planet - we can't help ourselves, we are boring parents! - thinking that we cannot wait to take her here and take her there, when she is old enough to appreciate and enjoy it all. We certainly hope she becomes a foodie like her parents, though at the moment she is generally non-plussed by food

  • We returned home and were able to spend a good hour or so in our sunny garden before collecting Little Planet at 5.45pm

  • After we bathed her and put her to bed at 7pm, M pan-fried the red snapper with lemon, garlic and capers, and served it with steamed asparagus and samphire tossed in olive oil, black sesame seeds and garlic
M stayed at home this Wednesday morning while I dropped Little Planet off with her childminders at 8.30am...
  • I headed to Holborn where I got my hair cut and treated at the Aveda Institute in preparation for my return to work tomorrow
  • At 11am, M joined me and we walked over to Lambs Conduit Street, which has a great selection of small, independent clothes stores and cafes. M looked at jackets in Oliver Spencer and I bought several Humanoid tops at Folk
  • We lunched at Life in Old Street. M had a tempura set and I had a sushi set
  • Then we walked around Hoxton for a bit before returning home to collect Little Planet
  • Tonight, we're having spaghetti with artichokes, lemon and garlic
And that's it. M still has another two days off work. But I return to work after a year off... tomorrow! One era ends, another begins.

See you on the other side!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Little Planet bits

  • Separation anxiety?! In a previous post, I talked about how exhausted I was because, after months and months of being a contented little baby as happy to play on her own as with others, Little Planet was now beginning to cry every time I even turned my back on her. Well, that phase of separation anxiety lasted all of 1 week when she had a cold and when she was cutting her first tooth. Well, that first tooth cut through, her cold eased off and she reverted back to being my happy, contented, independent little baby girl again

  • In fact, we now have separation anxiety of a different kind. She is having such a good time with her childminders that she cries each night when I collect her and take her away from them! Last night, she cried as soon as one of the childminders put her into my arms, and she twisted away from me to reach back out for her childminder. Fortunately, she was soon babbling happily away and smiling at me once she was on her way home

  • Little Planet's latest favourite activity is to prod at a trail of ants as they meander their way across the childminders' garden

  • In fact, she loves fingering all teeny tiny things. She will spot a single grain of rice across the other side of the room and, despite being surrounded by all her books and toys, she will crawl zealously toward that tiny grain of rice and prod at it for minutes at a time. Ditto a blade of grass or a piece of thread. Whenever she suddenly goes quiet, we now know it is because she has found a teeny tiny object on the floor to poke and analyse

  • She enjoys throwing the coloured bricks out of her playpen at home and then crawling out (we leave the door open) and throwing them back in

  • She babbles non-stop, all day long. Her favourite "word" is currently "gungala", often posed as a question, as in "gungala?" She will definitely be a chatterer

  • She enjoys sucking on cucumbers and satsumas and munching down on bananas

  • She loves looking at herself in the mirror and shaking her mass of curls around. If she is grouchy, then placing her in front of the mirror instantly makes her forget her woes

  • She also likes shaking all her toys at this other little person in the mirror

  • She is very big on looking at other people's reflections. I often catch her grinning up at me through the reflection on the oven door, for example

  • Books are her favourite toys. She is now beginning to leaf through our books. Her favourite adult book to pull off our shelves and leaf through is Banana Yoshimoto's Hardboiled / Hard Luck. I think it is because it is a thin book and has a colourful blue cover

  • Her second tooth has finally cut through

  • It looks like she may be dropping to one nap a day. She mainly fights her morning nap nowadays, preferring to save her daytime sleep for the nap after lunch. This is fine by me, as it means we can go out earlier in the day now. Her night sleep is still long and deep

  • She understands the word and concept of "no". If she tries to touch anything she shouldn't, for example the DVD player or an electrical wire, then I call out her name, say a firm "no" and then look away. So far, it works. She's not a willful toddler testing boundaries yet, though. I am the disciplinarian in our household; her daddy is the softy and one day, I am sure, she will take advantage of that

  • I am sorry I am no longer posting photos of my baby. Believe me, I think she is so, so so beautiful that I long to show her off here every time I post. But now she is getting older, I think it is only fair to stop posting photos of her, especially considering that I do not post photos of myself and M. Take it from me, though, that she is as cute as ever and looks more like a little girl than a 10 month old baby!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Staying local

We didn't feel like straying too far from home this lovely, sunny and warm Spring weekend. On Saturday, we bought pungent Old Amsterdam, Brie de Meaux Donge and Pyrenees Chevre cheeses from the imaginatively titled Cheeses in Muswell Hill; we bought cod fillets from the fishmonger Walter Purkis & Sons; Little Planet crawled around the equally imaginatively titled Children's Bookshop and we bought her some colourful and bold Jan Pienkowski books (Faces and Food); and we ate brunch at the local Giraffe, where M had eggs tostada, I had a full brunch plate complete with bacon, sausages, baked beans, potato wedges, fried eggs and toast, and Little Planet got distracted from eating her lunch by all the orange Giraffe balloons bobbing away.

Then we spent the afternoon at home gardening and playing with Little Planet on a picnic blanket. The day ended with cod roasted on a bed of potatoes and tomatoes and served with chermoula, and our first ever viewing of The Sopranos, season 1 on DVD, which we are watching now we have finished all seasons of The Wire.

Aside from a walk in the park and swing rides for Little Planet, all of Sunday was spent playing with Little Planet at home, reading the newspapers and generally chilling out. M baked bread with rye, wholemeal and white flours combined, and we ate it with our cheeses for lunch. He also made meringues, which he served up as pavlova with blackberries, raspberries and strawberries and whipped cream for our dessert after our Sunday dinner of roasted lamb shanks and watercress salad.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Days of leisure # 1

With Little Planet in fulltime childcare and with still a little time left of maternity leave, I have been indulging in a lot of "me time". I have...
  • Bought jeans, blouses, tights, shoes and ti-shirts from French Connection, Gap, Cos, Uni Qlo, Selfridges and Wolford
  • Lunched at Itsu (sushi) on Regent Street and Ikeda (mixed tempura) off Bond Street
  • Breakfasted with M before his work, at Konditor & Cook (sausage rolls) on the Greys Inn Road
  • Stocked up on provisions at the John Lewis food hall (mainly salad leaves) and teas at Postcard Teas (Sparrow's Tongue, First Flush and Masala Chai)
  • Watched the moving Genova and poignant Gran Torino at cinemas in the West End
  • Viewed Kutlug Ataman's engrossingly familiar family home movies at the Thomas Dane Gallery (photo above) and Andreas Hofer's mythic art constructs at Hauser & Wirth
  • Eaten spaghetti carbonara, chilli tofu and chickpea and tomato stew at home for dinner
  • Househunted in North London with my mother, who is planning on moving down here to be closer to her only grandchild
M has been away in Europe but is back tonight and then he has all of next week off. With Little Planet in childcare, M and I will be spending some leisurely days together... just the two of us.

And at the end of next week, I return to work. My maternity leave is coming to an end and I am both excited and nervous about this. Excited, because I am returning to a job I love; nervous, because... how am I going to fit it all in and be good in my roles as professional, wife and mother?

Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Precious times

So Easter has come and gone. I am amazed how quickly this year is rushing by: it's already April! We had a lovely four days with Little Planet. We've been missing her now that she has started in fulltime childcare, so the four-day Easter break with her was so precious.

On Saturday, we took her to the White Cube gallery to see Fred Tomaselli's colourful photograms, newsprint collages, watercolours and intricate tapestries (above). She was mesmerised by the colours and shapes, as was I. On Easter Monday, we took her to the Barbican to see the Le Corbusier exhibition. She wasn't so taken by this, preferring to gawp at all the people in the gallery instead. I wasn't taken by the exhibition either: I would have preferred a more thorough focus on his architecture than his paintings. It was great seeing his work in Chandigarh though.

The Barbican is very baby-friendly: its vast, carpeted spaces enabled Little Planet to crawl around to her heart's content. At one point, another little baby suddenly appeared on the carpet too and the two babies started to crawl eagerly towards each other. They sat in front of each other and then bumped noses. It was so cute to see. Then they exchanged toys - Little Planet and her green frog and the other little girl (who, coincidentally, was also 10 months old) and her Teletubby Po!

We also let Little Planet loose in Waterstone's bookstore on Piccadilly, where, in both the children's and fiction sections she crawled around and pulled books off shelves. She is now very much into books with buttons that press to play animal sounds or nursery tunes. So, of course, we bought several.

Most of Easter, however, was spent at home playing with her, as we no longer have the opportunity to play with her during the week. All in all, it was a very chilled four-day break with our daughter.

And of course, alot of eating got done. After Little Planet went to bed each night, M indulged in his passion for cooking. He made pizzas on Good Friday, boiled ham on Saturday, roasted Indonesian duck from a Sri Owen recipe on Easter Sunday (when we had dinner guests) and nasi goreng on Easter Monday.

And now Easter is over but I still have two weeks' of absolute leisure. Bliss.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I spoke too soon in my last post: my cold lingered on and I passed it onto M, so the both of us had been coughing away and blowing our noses and generally struggling through each day. We finally called a doctor on Sunday, who prescribed us antibiotics; M took Monday and Tuesday off work; and we generally tried to take it easy.

Fortunately, my mother was able to spend an entire week with us last week to help look after Little Planet. Little Planet's cold has also lingered, but thankfully it is not as bad as ours. And this week, she is spending most of the day at her childminders' house so I've had the chance to take it easy on my own. I'm sleeping, reading (Graham Swift's Tomorrow, Gillian Slovo's Black Orchids, Richard Yates' Young Hearts Crying), listening to music I haven't listened to since my student days (Mercury Rev, Divine Comedy, Radiohead), and generally pottering around.

It feels strange being in the house without Little Planet. It is so quiet. I have spent many days in the last 10 months of her life away from her, so being apart from her has not been sad for me. However, whenever I have been away from her I have been away from the house - spending the day in central London or visiting my parents in East Anglia. This is the first time I have been away from her, but able to stay in my own house. And it feels so wonderful pottering around the house on my own. Not since I started maternity leave a month before she was born have I been able to have uninterrupted "me time" to simply potter and chill in my own home.

It's lovely.

Instead of feeling sad that Little Planet is no longer here with me during the day, I am happy. Happy because she is so obviously having a wonderful and stimulating time with her childminders. They are qualified childcare professionals; their house is large and warm and homely; they look after just two other babies (both 16 months, so six months older); they sing and dance and read and play; they are very much into early, pre-school, education. She is napping well there and feeding far better than with me. She has developed so quickly in the last two weeks she has been with them. She spends alot of her day trying to copy what the older two babies are doing, which is great.

I do not doubt my abilities as a mother, but I honestly believe that she is now in better care.

And today, M was able to return to work and I too am feeling much better. I am still coughing but less than before. This week, Little Planet has been spending 10.30am to 4.30pm with her childminders. Next week, after Easter, she will go fulltime - 8.30am to 6pm - in preparation for my return to work two weeks later. Next week, I hope to be better enough to spend leisurely days in central London: eating out, visiting galleries, shopping...

I have to make the most of it, because soon, too soon, my days of leisure will be over.