Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

It snowed a lot this Christmas here in the UK, even in North London...

Presents multiplied under the tree...

Little Planet received many lovely presents, including a wooden kitchen, a wooden miniature piano and a mini wooden workbench...

Mr Planet roasted a freerange goose for Christmas Day lunch...

While I made an Indian meal for Boxing Day of mixed vegetable curry, paneer curry with peas and tomatoes, dal, and lamb with spinach curry...

Little Planet learned to take a break from all the hullabaloo by retreating to her cot alone with her soft toys and books for half an hour or so...

We had a lot of guests...

Some of whom took breaks in our super kingsize bed...

Merry Christmas one and all! xxx

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas has begun

Little Planet has met Santa Claus (both at Hyde Park's truly exquisite and magical Winter Wonderland and at our local shopping centre) and she's also helped us decorate our Christmas tree. Now begins a week of serious gift buying for over 20 people. Some of it online, but the rest requires visits to Liberty, Cath Kidston and Ginger Pig in Marylebone, Daunt Books also in Marylebone, After Noah and Igloo in Islington and... Hmm, not really such a hardship especially when combined with frequent coffee breaks. But first, the ordeal that is the Indian visa application process for my mother. That will be hell.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn goals

In the spaces between my writing, this Autumn I want to focus more on...

... Walking
... Yoga
... Playing (with my daughter)
... Cooking stews
... Knitting (especially for my daughter)
... Reading (less web surfing)
... Homemaking (simply making our home more pretty)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Head down

Well, I've completed the chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene outline for my novel. It's run to 33 pages so it's quite detailed. I know from experience of writing my previous two novels that some or many of the scenes will change as I write, but for now I am very happy and excited with the plot, characters, structure and scenes. The novel's set in present-day London and Calcutta and there are two main characters whose stories intersect, and several more minor characters. Now I have the scenes all laid out, I've identified the research I need to do to bring the scenes to life. So, it's head down now. Blog posts will be few and far between, I suspect, and limited to photos. See you soon!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Weekend in green

We enjoyed a long Bank Holiday weekend in the UK and as the weather was so sunny, we spent most of the long weekend outdoors. M had to work all day Saturday, so my mum and I took Little Planet to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Little Planet thought the greenhouses were like jungles and enjoyed running through them:

That night, M returned from the office in time to put Little Planet to bed for 7pm, and then we dined on classic poached cod fillets in homemade parsley sauce, new potatoes and peas:

On Sunday, we visited my mum and dad and had a BBQ. Little Planet spent a lot of time running around the garden with her new friend, a little boy called A.J. It rained a bit and Little Planet was car sick (of the projectile variety) on the way home, but all in all it was a lovely, chilled day:

We spent Monday on Hampstead Heath. This magnificent piece of London countryside is quite close to our home. It's also quite close to our hearts: both my parents and M's grandparents visited the Heath often (my parents as newly weds), and also M and I were married right next to the Heath in 2007. Little Planet was so worn out after a few hours running round the Heath and eating in the Kenwood House cafe that she napped in her buggy for 2 hours and didn't wake up until well after we'd returned home (we parked her, still asleep in her buggy, in the hallway). When she woke up, she looked around and said in a soft, sleepy voice, "Oh, we're at home!":

Kenwood House:

Here're M and Little Planet running down Parliament Hill:

Roast chicken with homemade pesto (with pumpkin seeds), homemade potato salad and sweetcorn with tomatoes for a very comfort-eating dinner:

In all a very tranquil weekend spent in nature... though Little Planet is still teething - this time a far back upper molar that is coming through too slowly and that is making her very irritable and clingy, poor little thing. But she's wanting lots more cuddles than usual, which is always a delightful thing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whirlwind in red

If we were out and about when Little Planet was a baby, she would nap in her pushchair when tired. As she grew into a toddler and became much more alert to and engaged with her surroundings, napping in the pushchair whilst out became a rare event - the result of which was a very cranky toddler. So we tended to go out early and come back home for her 2pm nap, which she had in her cot in her room.

Now, at two years and two months, she is managing to go an entire day without napping but not necessarily getting super cranky as a result. This is great for us because it means we can be more flexible with our weekends and go out for longer days. Yippeeee! She's always been a terrific sleeper, but now that she's not napping her sleep is getting deeper and longer. She's wiped out by 6.45pm and often now falls asleep before her stories have been read. We're often having to wake her up in the mornings too.

We made the most of her not napping this weekend by going out and about for most of the weekend. On Saturday, we visited old Oxford University chums in St Albans - a lesbian couple with three young children, who Little Planet enjoyed playing with. And on Sunday, we went with another old Oxford friend, who was staying with us, to the Victoria & Albert Museum (where Little Planet had a ball splashing about in the courtyard pool), then lunch at Jean Nouvel's vibrant red Serpentine Pavilion, and then a stroll through Hyde Park. Back at home, we then enjoyed a visit with M's sister, who'd just returned from a 3 week vacation in France.

Here are some photos from our busy weekend:

Little Planet keeping herself occupied on the train to St Albans...

Little Planet (middle) and two of the St Albans' children playing with the dollhouse...

At the Victoria & Albert Museum...

Little Planet splashing about in the water at the V & A...

M and Little Planet at the Serpentine Pavilion...

Little Planet lounging around. It's a hard life being a toddler...

Friday, August 20, 2010

A day in Wembley

My mum wanted to buy some new saris and gold jewellery this week, so I accompanied her to Wembley in northwest London. The highlight of my day was a delicious lunch at the bustling Indian vegetarian restaurant Sakonis.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tweet, tweet

We had a lovely weekend, the highlight of which was going out for a Turkish lunch with six of us. In lieu of a proper weekend post (aside from the wonderful lunch, we did little else but play and relax at home), here are some recent Tweets:
  • Cauliflower cheese for dinner tonight. Comfort food of the highest order.
  • Happy wedding anniversary, Mum and Dad! I love you both xxx
  • Homemade potato salad with spring onions, chives, parsley and mayo for lunch today.
  • When M is home, Little P can never get enough of him. She's his little shadow which he loves, but he then gets worn out from no down time.
  • I can never get bored of baklava. Yum.
  • Downpour and soaking aside, it was a lovely day with a Turkish lunch for six.
  • I was a good host and lent my umbrella to a guest and then got stuck in a torrential downpour. I was soaked, of course.
  • I have to collect Little Planet from daycare soon and it's not only pouring with rain but I hear thunder too. And no car. Help!
  • M and I have both taken today, Friday, off work so we're heading into town for a day of fun :-)
  • This morning Lil P woke up so I called out "Hello" & opened her door. She shouted at me "No, go away Mummy, it's Daddy's turn to say Hello!"
  • Little P is experiencing her first celebrity crush: Carrie & David Grant from CBeebies' Pop Shop. She gets excited & shy by turns. So sweet! (Photo above)
  • The sheer size of A Suitable Boy is proving a little intimidating. I'm still (slowly) reading it but also dipping into A Married Woman by Manju Kapur (re-reading it actually) and Anita Desai's Fasting, Feasting.
  • Saw Toy Story 3. Exhilarating, funny, emotional. Brilliant!
  • Uh oh, storyline for one of my major characters has changed completely. Time for a major reworking. All good tho as the story is stronger.
  • Fancied simple dal and rice for lunch today. So that's what I'm cooking.
  • Am beginning to get so lost in my writing that I forget that I have to pick up Little Planet. I need to set the alarm for 5.15pm each day.
  • Just started to read Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. Brilliant! I can't believe I've never read it before - a veritable literary soap opera.
  • Little Planet woke up this morning wanting Feta cheese with her Cheerios.
  • Squirrels eating my Gerberas - buds and all. Googled a solution & laid down red chilli flakes all around the plant. Seems to be working.
  • I love the rain now that I've got green fingers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday on my mind

After working very long hours this week, M deserved a day off today. And, of course, I couldn't resist joining him for a day out. I dropped Little Planet off at daycare while M went out on a run. Then we headed into Covent Garden, where we popped into the new Apple store in the Piazza to ogle, and I changed the size of UGG slippers Little Planet had bought me (with the help of her daddy) for my birthday the other week:

Then we breakfasted at Canela, where we found ourselves discussing toddler eating habits with parents of another two year old at a neighbouring table (if both our two year olds are given a sandwich, they will remove the bread, eat the ham then the cheese then lick off the butter then finally resign themselves to eating the bread, if they can be bothered; if you give them bread on its own though, then they will eat it, maybe):

We went to the Royal Academy Of Arts on Piccadilly to view the Sargent And The Sea exhibition. The place was heaving with old age pensioners so we scooted and dodged our way around. Many of the paintings were incredibly expressive and brooding, especially my two favourites Fisherwomen Returning, 1877 and Fishing Boats, 1878. And we couldn't ignore the infamous 2010 Summer Exhibition, where I was blown away by a monumental painting by Anselm Kiefer (photo below) and, most especially, David Hockney's stupendously life-affirming panoramic photos of 25 trees on a road in Bridlington, Yorkshire, taken in the Spring, Summer and Winter. It closes next week, so do hurry and see it if you can:

Afterwards, we were hungry for lunch, but we wanted first to pop into HMV to buy both Madagascar animated movies for Little Planet. Though her attention span is still short, she is beginning to engage with longer movies now and last week happily watched, on and off and in between playing sessions, the animated movie Happy Feet - she can even narrate bits of the plot: "Happy Feet was dancing and then a shark came and tried to eat him, then he fell down"! She can watch one of the Madagascar films this weekend, in between entertaining yet more house guests.

For lunch, we went to the restaurant at Mitsukoshi - one of my favourite places to eat a Japanese lunch. M ate pork cutlet with miso, salad and pickles. I had a delicious bowl of rice topped with salmon sashimi and spring onions, plus cold buckwheat noodles in broth and pickles. For dessert, M had a fresh fruit salad and I had a homemade fruit cocktail with citrus jelly alongside a creme caramel made with brown sugar. I was obviously very greedy but am experiencing no guilt whatsoever:

I went into the JP Books store to buy Ku:nel. I love this chic Japanese lifestyle magazine, mainly for its food photography but also for its lifestyle shots:

We stocked up on provisions from the bustling, ever popular Japan Centre next door...

... before heading home so M could do a conference call with a client at 4pm. We'll collect Little Planet together soon (though its pouring with rain!!) and then, after her bedtime at 7pm, M will make tempura of sweet potatoes and king prawns. Can't wait.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Slow cooked

M has been working late all this week, eating at the office and not coming home until after 10pm each night. So I am left cooking for one. This week, I decided to make up a large batch of slow-cooked tomato and olive sauce for pasta - one of the advantages of working from home as I can leave pots simmering on the hob for hours while I work upstairs.

Slow-cooked tomato and olive sauce for pasta
Serves 4

In a heavy-based saucepan*, gently fry a large handful of chopped pancetta in olive oil until nearly crisp. Stir in four minced cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of red chilli flakes, a tablespoon of mixed dried herbs and two large handfuls of chopped and pitted black or green olives. Make sure the heat is low and stir for a few minutes until the garlic releases its aroma. Add two 400g tins of plum tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, a cup of roasted cherry tomatoes** and a teaspoon of salt. Stir well, bring mixture to the boil, then turn the heat right down, put a lid on ajar and simmer for two or three hours, checking and stirring the mixture periodically.

* I used a Le Creuset cast iron casserole.
** After we'd make roast chicken at the weekend, we put a tray of cherry tomatoes on the vine topped with herbs fresh from the garden into the still hot oven and left it overnight so the tomatoes slow-roasted as the oven cooled down.

Yesterday, I fancied dal for lunch. The recipe couldn't be simpler and it simmered away for an hour as I worked.

Simple dal
Serves 6

In a saucepan, gently fry in olive oil a chopped small onion and two cloves of minced garlic. When the onion and garlic mixture has softened, add a teaspoon each of ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, salt and half a teaspoon of red chilli flakes. Stir on a low heat for a minute then add four generous handfuls of red lentils. Fry together for a few minutes then add 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil then cover ajar and simmer on a very low heat for 45 mins to 1 hour.