Monday, May 31, 2010


After a day at home on Saturday, we were itching to go out and about again. So on Sunday, after M's usual run and our breakfast of homemade granola, fresh berries and smoked cheese, we went to visit my parents. Here are M and Little Planet running around the garden there:

My mum came back home with us for lunch and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the garden. M made banana bread and chicken stock (below):

Sunday dinner was roast chicken, roasted tomatoes on the vine and mashed potatoes.

Monday was a public holiday in the UK and we spent most of the day on the Southbank. We got off the Tube at Covent Garden and walked through Trafalgar Square, showing Little Planet the fountains and lions:

Then we crossed the river and walked along the Southbank, looking at the elephant statues, skateboarders and boats; climbing over the oversize astroturf furniture outside the National Theatre; pausing for coffee at Benugo at the BFI, where Little Planet enjoyed some crayoning and M caught up with work emails:

Here's Little Planet running to her heart's content towards Gabriel's Wharf, with St Paul's Cathedral and the Gherkin in the distance:

We lunched at the excellent, child-friendly Canteen behind the Royal Festival Hall. M ate fish and chips, I ate sausages, mash and onion gravy, and Little Planet had scrambled eggs on toast (though she ate more of our food than hers):

And then we headed home, where Little Planet napped then played, I read (my own books and with Little Planet) and M worked. After Little Planet's bedtime, M cooked a risotto with homemade chicken stock, broad beans and asparagus.

We'll eat it soon. M's back at work tomorrow and Little Planet's back at daycare. But I will still be off work, so I am spending the day with my mum and we will go out for a South Indian meal for lunch.

M's out tomorrow night and I am in Paris on Wednesday with a client and will be back late so really we won't see each other until Thursday.

Roll on next weekend and Little Planet's 2nd birthday!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Domestic Saturday

It rained all day today so, unlike yesterday, we didn't do much except catch up with things domestic.

A man came round first thing to hang curtains up in the nursery. Little Planet had an amusing conversation with the man she calls Mr Curtain Man:

"Hello Mr Curtain Man!"
"Hello little one. How are you?"
"I'm drinking!"
We all roar with laughter.
Put out by our laughter, Little Planet exclaims "It's not funny!"

The curtains are lovely - a Harlequin print called Far Far Away: cream with colourful prints of hot air balloons, rickshaws, yellow cabs, elephants, gondolas and red double deckers (photo above).

Afterwards, we went shopping - shoes, sandals and shorts for Little Planet, magazines and general provisions for us.

In the afternoon, we cleaned the house and sorted out the study - going through all our paperwork, filing boxes and miscellaneous things we've dumped there (photo above). We still have stuff to go through, but we've made progress. The study is the only room in the house now that needs de-cluttering.

Little Planet played on the floor during all this cleaning and sorting. Now that her vocabulary is exploding, her capacity for imaginary play is expanding and it was a joy today to see her playing with her cars and garage, and her little people in their play school, creating scenarios.

I spent a lot of time reading stories with her too - books like Meg On The Moon and Tea With Bea, plus story apps on my iPhone such as Kidztory's The Tortoise And The Hare (photo above). I find reading with her extremely relaxing. My favourite way to unwind during the week after a hard day's work is reading bedtime stories with her.

After her bedtime, M made homemade pizzas - one with mozzarella, capers and anchovies, the other with mozzarella, artichokes and asparagus (photo below).

Now M's watching David Lynch's Inland Empire but I'm simply not in the mood for such an obtuse and surreal film so I am snuggled on the other sofa with some trashy magazines and my iPhone open at Google Reader.

There's a treacle tart in the oven, which we'll devour smothered in cream.

It's been a good, productive day at home, but I do hope the sun shines tomorrow and on Bank Holiday Monday.

Friday, May 28, 2010

That Friday feeling

M and I both had the day off today so, after dropping Little Planet off at daycare, we headed over to Exmouth Market for breakfast at Caravan: flat whites, scrambled eggs with chives and organic salmon on toasted sourdough, black pudding and, for M, a full fry up (photo above).

We took a bus down to the Tate Modern, where we visited the exhaustive and excellent Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera exhibition. I was engrossed by this show as it appealed to the nosy parker in me. One of my fondest memories from childhood is when my father and I went out walking after dinner through our neighbourhood at dusk and both of us looking in through the windows of houses as we passed by and imagining what was going on and what was being said!

There was a very un-PC woman at the exhibition - standing in front of a photo of slum dwellers in Alabama, she exclaimed loudly to her companion, "I'm glad I don't live in those conditions!"; standing in front of a photo showing the broad behind of a woman in a red dress, she wondered aloud "Do you think she is black?" I was lost for words.

Afterwards, we bought several story books for Little Planet in the Tate shop, including the beautiful, fantastical story book Mouk - a wordless picture book about a little bear who sets off on a journey around the world and discovers different cultures and makes new friends around the globe. We have a long weekend ahead of us in the UK (Monday is a public holiday) so we will be doing alot of reading with her. I can't wait, as I love reading children's story books.

Then we walked along the Southbank to the British Film Institute, where we watched Apichatpong Weerasethakul's haunting, mysterious and political short film Phantoms Of Nabua. Teenage descendants of Nabua's Thai rebel farmers play football at night with a fire ball. Beautiful.

We walked across river into Soho where we lunched on amazingly subtle yet flavourful udon noodle dishes at Frith Street's Koya. M had his with prawn tempura in a hot broth, and I had mine cold with fried tofu and spring onions (photo below).

We popped down to the Algerian Coffee Store on Old Compton Street to stock up on coffee beans (Costa Rican and Indian) and Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe on Brewer Street to stock up on cola cubes and apple & custard sweets, before watching a little bit of Tacita Dean's new film Craneway Event at the Frith Street Gallery on Golden Square. We couldn't resist checking out the new iPad in the Apple store on Regent's Street - we'll definitely be buying one but may wait until the next iteration of the device coming out later this year (which will have multi-tasking capability - ie ability to have two apps open and working at once).

Then home to pick up Little Planet, play with her a bit then put her to bed. M's cooking dinner now: spaghetti with butter beans, pancetta and rocket (from our garden).

What a lovely day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer scenes

We did some serious chilling this bright and sunny weekend. The weather was so gloriously hot that we couldn't be bothered, or desired, to stray too far from home.

So, Little Planet did some serious playing in the garden...

M did some gardening...

We ate a BBQ of chorizo, chicken and leek, and beef and asparagus...

We gazed up at the trees at the back of our garden and listened to the birds (sparrows, wood pigeons, robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, starlings, blue tits, wrens and more... all sing song through our London garden)...

I knitted...

We all played in the sandpit at the park...

We ate watermelons with Feta cheese, fresh basil and thin slivers of red onions...

We read the weekend papers from cover to cover and browsed a few cookbooks to plan our meals for this week...

And now the weekend closes with another BBQ. I feel quite rested for the week ahead.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer breakfast

Breakfast on this gloriously sunny and warm Friday morning. Little Planet is eating her breakfast on the kitchen step...

We're eating M's homemade granola, made with chopped Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, maple syrup, honey, dried strawberries, dried cranberries and sultanas.

I love Summer mornings, especially on a work day.

Recipe for granola
  1. Roughly chop some nuts - M used Brazil buts, hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds
  2. Mixed together with whole oats, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  3. Heat together maple syrup and honey
  4. Mix the syrup mixture with the nuts and seeds - spread out on baking tray and lightly toast in oven
  5. Spread out the mixture to cool down and dry
  6. Add mixed dried fruit - M used dried strawberries, cranberries and sultanas
  7. Eat!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


On Saturday, we breakfasted at Ottolenghi in Islington. M ate granola with fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, papaya, pineapple and melon) and whipped Greek yoghurt; Little Planet had a lemon, blueberry and almond cake plus some of M's fruit salad; and I had a hazelnut and chocolate ricotta cake. The food was delicious - the fruit very sweet, the granola perfectly crunchy and the cakes moist and flavourful. As we paid the bill we were tempted into buying Yottam Ottolenghi's sumptuous Plenty cookbook of vegetarian recipes. I can't wait to start working our way through this book!

We walked round the corner to Cross Street. Little Planet had her feet measured for new shoes at the busy One Small Step One Giant Leap children's shoe shop, whilst M nipped round to the Steve Hatt fishmonger for sword fish and to Farrow & Ball for paint samples. We all popped into the Piero Maurizio deli for Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheeses and pasta. As the morning was bright and sunny, we walked home through Highbury Fields, popping into a toy shop on the way for a pirate finger puppet for Little Planet. She kept saying "Ahoy!" all the way home.

Back home, lunch for all three of us was pitta with houmous and cucumber before a play in the garden. While Little Planet napped, M did some gardening and I chilled out with the June Good Food magazine.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the garden with Little Planet helping with the planting of radishes and spring onions (photo top*). Before her bedtime, we played cars with her in our bedroom and read her lots of stories. Dinner, for M and I, was grilled sword fish served with asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes accompanied also by a parsley, caper and tomato salsa (photo bottom). By 9pm, I was ready for my bed - too much walking, too much fresh air, not enough sleep! - but 9pm just felt too early so I stayed up... until... 10pm! I am such a lightweight.

Sunday (today) was spent entirely at home. M went out jogging and saw London Mayor Boris Johnson playing tennis in Highbury Fields. I read the weekend papers and chatted with Little Planet whilst she played (and she really chats in sentences now; plus she is beginning to make up entire imaginary narratives - so entertaining). I am teaching myself to knit so that I can knit Little Planet some Winter woolies this year, so I did a few rows. Little Planet and M planted tomatoes and kicked a ball around in the garden while I hoovered the house and cleaned the cooker.

We lunched on spinach and feta boreks, houmous and lamb kibbe, then all three of us napped after lunch. I woke Little Planet up at 3pm (I've always woken her from her day time naps so they don't go on too long in order to protect her night time sleep - it's worked well for us so far) and gave her her afternoon milk (which she still has three times a day as she loves milk, like her mummy).

It rained for the rest of the day so we all stayed inside: M ironed all his work shirts; I read; Little Planet played and we also read together. Then M made Little Planet macaroni cheese for her dinner. He also made a start on a slow cook lamb ragu for dinner tomorrow and he made homemade granola for 2 weeks' worth of breakfast (though it's so yummy, I am not sure it will last that long).

It's 7.30pm now and Little Planet is in bed. I'm blogging this while M is making a simple dinner of grilled aubergines with Greek yoghurt, feta cheese, garlic, paprika, ground cumin & coriander and fresh mint leaves. He will serve it with a bulgur wheat salad. Later we will watch the TV drama on the BBC about Boy George's volatile relationship with Jon Moss.

But I doubt I will be able to watch it to the end for I am exhausted. Since Spring sprang, I've been naturally waking with the birds at dawn, sometimes as early as 4am but more usually around 5am. Both M and Little Planet are sound asleep, or if M wakes when I stir he falls easily back into sleep. But I can't fall back to sleep so easily: my mind starts thinking about the day ahead and 100 other things such as "How can I improve that client presentation?" or "I must remember to ring the curtain man" or "Will Little Planet wake before 6am this morning?" as she often does when she's teething her big back teeth.

Hurry up dark, Autumnal mornings when I can sleep properly again!

* A rare photo of Little Planet as she is today on this blog, albeit with her features obscured. Sorry about that... As much as I would love to show you her beautiful little face (and she truly is gorgeous!), I want to at least make some effort at preserving her privacy. We've kept her abundant hair short for all her young life but now we are growing it long with a short fringe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Being a home body

Ever since we have been together (and at 4.5 years, it's not really been that long) Mr Planet and I have been on some big holidays: last year we went to New York, the year before that was spent in India and Japan, the year before that was spent in Thailand and New York, and the year before that was spent in Thailand and Spain. So when M said that we would have to postpone our trip to Hong Kong this year because it clashed with a big court case he's working on, I was incredibly disappointed and resigned myself to the thought of smaller city breaks and odd days off here and there to stay at home in London.

Of course, I can go away by myself or with friends/family, but... I admit it, I sulked a bit, okay a lot. But you know what? I've taken a few days off here and there to simply potter in my own home and city and I've really enjoyed it. 2010 is shaping up to be my year to chill out a little more and simply enjoy time in my own place as a home body. I became a homeowner for the first time ever the year we got married, 3 years ago. And I'm really enjoying having my own space to truly relax in. Taking days off to potter around is actually as rejuvenating as a holiday abroad, if not more.

Today has been a case in point. My day started early - as it tends to being the parent of a small child - with Little Planet's wake up call. As M showered, I took Little Planet into bed with me and we read lots of stories as we snuggled up together. We both especially enjoyed Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg because of the sheer amount of illustrated detail on every page. My little toddler is usually such a whirlwind of activity that it's rare that I get the luxury of holding her in my arms for more than a minute or two. But when I'm reading her stories, then I am allowed to hold her tight for as long as I want! It's pure heaven to feel the weight of her little body against mine, to smell her skin and hair, to listen to her breathing so close to my face as she listens to me reading to her. I never want to let her go.

But I had to let her go as we had to drop her off at daycare for 8.30am. M and I then headed into town for a quick al fresco breakfast of apple Danish pastries and flat whites at The Espresso Room on Great Ormond Street. M headed off to work and I headed over to John Lewis to pick up a polka dot rug (photo above) for Little Planet's bedroom. I also picked up a few toys for her birthday in June, plus some knitting needles and yarn, and then I caught a cab home. I was back home by 10.30am and the whole day stretched out languorously ahead of me.

The day was bright and sunny so I decided to launder all the towels. There is nothing like the smell of freshly-washed towels that have been hung up to dry in the garden. Then I curled up on the couch in our newly painted and bright living room (photo above) and I read for a few hours.

I paused for lunch: I made myself some fried Spam slices and fried egg on a bed of white rice and liberally sprinkled with sweet chilli sauce. It sounds disgusting but I've been craving Spam (and this combo) ever since I read a few blog posts by Su-Lin at Tamarind & Thyme and TFP at The Food Pornographer. M is horrified but fried Spam with egg and rice is comfort food of the highest order!

After lunch reading Elle Decoration magazine, I settled in to watch a DVD: Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch A Thief. Beautiful to look at, entertaining to watch - a great escapist afternoon movie. As I watched, I snacked on some Klik chocolate cornflakes. Obviously today was turning out to be an unhealthy-eating day!

After the movie, I pottered from room to room doing nothing in particular, and by 5.30pm, it was time pick up Little Planet, who regaled me with lots of toddler talk ("Look at the bird", "Oh man with blue hat", "Is Daddy at home?", "Bye bye Dida's car!", "Hello man", "I went to the park with Dillon", "Baby Celeste she was crying", "Twinkle twinkle little star!", "Can we go to the garden mummy?") all the way home. We chatted some more as she played in the garden and the kitchen and I prepared some dal for the evening meal. Then it was her bedtime - nappy change, into bed clothes, milk, teeth brushing, 3 or 4 stories then bed around 7.15pm.

Whilst waiting for M to return home, I got out my knitting needles and wool (photo below), looked up a great How To Knit video on YouTube and cracked on. The reason I want to learn to knit is twofold:
  1. Because I can't listen to music and read at the same time so knitting gives me the ability to switch off and listen to music at night after Little Planet goes to bed.
  2. I love buying woollen cardigans and jumpers for Little Planet in Winter. Normally her Grandma knits her some wonderful things; hopefully now I will be able to too.
  3. It seems like such a relaxing, even meditative activity.
Yesterday, Sunday, Little Planet and I had spent the day with my mum and dad whilst M had relaxed at home by himself. Mum had made two curries for us - lamb and prawn. So tonight, when M gets home, we'll have dal and my mum's prawn curry for dinner.

What a lovely day off. I could easily not work ever again if every day could be like today!!

Friday, May 07, 2010

5 day weekend, part 2

Better late than never to complete this post... A continuation of Part 1.

My mother-in-law looked after Little Planet on Bank Holiday Monday, so M and I headed into town to the British Library's Magnificent Maps exhibition, which was, as you would imagine from this venerable institution, a well-researched and detailed review of maps from 200AD to the present day. I used to be a Reader at the British Library when I was completing my PhD and though my membership has expired I was delighted to learn that reapplying would be incredibly straightforward. Remember that big life change I've hinted at recently? This would facilitate that immeasurably... But for now (and for the next few years) it's life as usual.

Afterwards, we shopped in Marylebone: The Conran Shop, Skandium, Daunts. We lunched at a bustling The Providores: I ate the grilled chorizo on creamy root vegetable gratin with a soft boiled egg, four nut dukkah, green olive, chilli and oregano salsa; M ate the sweet potato, spinach, wild garlic, feta and herb tortilla with yoghurt, basil pesto dressing, pinenuts and greens. It was all very fresh and flavourful though M didn't think it quite lived up to the hype.

Before returning home to play with Little Planet, we popped into Bill Fontana's River Sounding exhibition at Somerset House. This site installation used the sound of water to take us on an acoustic journey into the bowels of Somerset House, in so doing evoking the history of the River Thames that once flowed through the building. Meandering, atmospheric, haunting, spellbinding.

Tuesday was spent painting and decorating (photo top). M concentrated on painting the living room completely white - he's taken a whole week off to do this. I took delivery of a furniture order from John Lewis and spent all day in Little Planet's room setting everything up. Little Planet has been sleeping in her own room since she was 6 months old and yet until now her room has contained just her cot and lots of junk. Quite simply, we have been using her room for storage and she has been using it just to sleep. Now that she is nearing two years old, we thought enough is enough.

By the end of Tuesday, her room had become a space in which she can play and relax in: as well as the cot she's already been sleeping in, her room now has a toy box filled with toys, a wardrobe, the chest of drawers and changing unit that has been in our bedroom, a bookcase filled with her books, her beanbag chair, a chair for us all to sit in and gaze out the window - an activity Little Planet enjoys a lot as she loves staring at the cat, the fox, the squirrels and the birds that all make good use of our back garden. We are still waiting for her curtains and blind to be made and fitted - when this is done, I will post photos.

And then on Wednesday it was back to work for me.

Monday, May 03, 2010

5 day weekend, part 1

The UK has benefited from an official long weekend and I have made it even longer by taking Friday and Tuesday as annual leave too. Friday morning started with a trip with M to The Espresso Room on Great Ormond Street, where we breakfasted on Cherry Danish, Apricot Danish and coffees. We sat outside on the wooden benches watching the world (and their children) go by. Then M went off to work and I headed into the West End to shop for jeans. The morning was hot and I was sweaty and tired out by the end of the morning but I eventually found three perfect pairs at French Connection. I also discovered French Connection's children's collection and couldn't resist buying Little Planet a few tops and a dress (selection above and below).
After a hectic morning clothes shopping (and I always find shopping for jeans particularly stressful!), I stopped off at Mitsukoshi on Regent Street for lunch. I much prefer Mitsukoshi to the Japan Centre to eat as the former feels much less frenetic and much quieter plus it is always filled with Japanese families (and their very cute babies and toddlers). I ate an exquisitely flavoured salmon and seaweed rice, pickles and an udon noodle soup with thin triangles of deep-fried tofu.

Still tired, I escaped the West End crowds to watch The Joneses at the Leicester Square Empire. This movie is about a family who move into an American suburb and wow the neighbours with their clothes, food, plasma TVs, home decor and general overall lifestyle. Little do the neighbours know, though, that the Joneses are not a proper family at all but have been employed by a stealth marketing company to promote and increase sales of certain brands. The film is premised on a clever idea and the story is entertaining enough but it's hard to feel any empathy with the characters (as the movie attempts to do). Still, it passed the time nicely enough. Incidentally, I was the only person watching the movie and it was great: like being in the comfort and privacy of my own living room but with a gargantuan size TV screen and with central London on my doorstep.

After this, I went to the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Piccadilly to view Bharti Kher's ritualistic sculptures of found objects, including old mirrors covered in bindis. At the Haunch of Venison I viewed Rina Banerjee's vibrant, corporeal oeuvre of mythological and fantastical worlds (photos above and below).

And then I returned home to collect Little Planet from daycare. When M returned home from work, he made Thomasina Miers' simple Mexican chicken and avocado salad with gem lettuce leaves, rocket, toasted almonds and sesame seeds, dressed in a balsamic and olive oil dressing.

Saturday began with almond croissants and German salami. Then we went to London Zoo. Little Planet loves it so much here that we've bought an annual membership which entitles us to unlimited, free visits all year long both to London and Whipsnade Zoos. On this particular visit, Little Planet counted 1 to 10 (clearly and in the correct order) for the first time as she climbed the stairs to the giraffe viewing deck.

We sat down for a lunch of fish and chips (Little Planet ate a small egg sandwich as well as a few chips) but after a while she started complaining "My tummy hurts!" Poor little thing couldn't stop crying - she tried to doze in her buggy as we wheeled her around Regent's Park, but she couldn't get comfortable so we took her home in a cab and she fell asleep in M's arms. She was fine after her nap, which was a relief.

By late afternoon, the weather had turned from sunny and mild to grey and cold, so after Little Planet went to bed, we ate a hearty dinner of spaghetti with a slow-cooked tomato, garlic, pancetta and fresh herb sauce.

Sunday was cold and rainy so we spent the day at home. Both of Little Planet's Grandmas were visiting so she spent a lovely day playing with them. M has the entire forthcoming week off as holiday and plans on painting the living room, so he popped out to buy paint and related materials from our local DIY store. In the afternoon, I slow-cooked two curries for the evening meal: chana dal with cherry tomatoes and dessicated coconut; and lamb rogan josh with ground almonds. We also read and napped and generally lounged around being very lazy all day.

Life with a toddler can be noisy enough, but add two loving and playful Grandmas to the mix and the noise levels in the house can go off the scale! So M and I retreated frequently to the relative calm and sanity of upstairs.

My 5 day weekend is not yet over. More soon!