Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The very best thing was that I had to learn how to make hazlenut brittle. Woohoo. That's tasty. Guess what everone's getting for Christmas.
The worst thing... well that would have to be the icing. this made me laugh - a lot. Other people's gateaus are works of art, with smooth glossy ganache icing and fantastic buttercream piping.
Mind you, mine is still unique in it's own special way. Right now this cake is for sale at St Alphege Church. 50p a slice. What a hazlenutty bargain.I do have a photo of the innards - I'll download that later. Right now, I think these photos will give you a sugar rush just by looking at them.
Roll on the next challenge. Whatever it is, I'm going to eat it, not give it away.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I have to say it's quite attractive seeing successful actors dealing with their children. Even if he was crossing the road, pushing a buggy and talking on a mobile at the same time. And 'they' say men can't multi-task.
Recaro called a diary meeting for us to plan our holiday week. This is a holiday at home… where we get to enjoy where we live, catch up with friends AND celebrate our birthdays which happen to fall in the same week. So far, we are planning to
- visit my dad
- visit friends in Derbyshire
- meet Peaches’ godmother for lunch at Camber Sands
- have dinner with our neighbours at The Sportsman
- play golf
- have dinner with each other at JoJos
- watch Wall-E or The Dark Knight at the cinema
- cook dinner for another couple of neighbours
That busy agenda leaves us with three babysitting requirements. Lindiloo will babysit while we eat at the Sportsman, Granny will babysit while we go to the cinema… and Rose will babysit for the afternoon and overnight while Recaro and I play golf and go out to dinner.
This is when Recaro starts in on wanting us to play golf with his friends. Which is fine. They are great guys and I’ve played golf with them a few times before, but Recaro is insistent that they’ll only play in the morning because they have to be back in the Bubble by early afternoon. He won’t even ask if they’ll play a shorter course later in the day.
Gah – in one horrible moment I feel the weight of a babysitting demon on my chest. Despite the full pressure of Recaro’s puppy eyes and keen expectation, I feel the rising tension of a teenage temper tantrum where someone is trying to get me to do something I don’t like. If I’d been tired I might have cried, but I’m pleased to say I didn’t. I was just straightforward and clear.
‘I don’t want to ‘offload’ Peaches at 10.30am until the next morning. It’s not fair on Rose and not fair on Peaches. Or me. I don’t want to not see her for that length of time when we are all on holiday together.’
Recaro keeps emphasising that months ago, I had been enthusiastic about playing golf with his friends. Gah – again. What do I do in the face of pressure from husband to ABANDON my beautiful, lovely, happy daughter for a game of golf with guys who… get to play golf all the time anyway.
Well obviously Peaches won. As if I could let her down. I don’t think I’m being clingy, she’s going to have a fun afternoon with Rose and I get to pick her up as early as I like the next day. Recaro can go and play with his friends another day during that week, while I spend time potty training Peaches.
You think I got a raw deal there? Well, maybe it is first time potty training naivety, but I think it’ll be easier to tackle potty training on my own without Recaro chipping in with the, ‘Euw. It’s all messy, can’t we just keep her in nappies until she’s 18?’
I suspect Recaro is going to be bear a niggly grudge about this for sometime. It’s because he knows we would have fun being footloose for the day, doing the kind of things that we used to do pre-Peaches. All that stuff was great, but I’m a sucker for every happy smile and open look of adoration I get from Peaches. I’ve heard teenagers aren’t always so effervescent with happiness – the more of these moments I get in the bank, the better.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
See... applique doesn't have to mean tractors.
This market was supposed to be a farmers' market. There are a couple of fruit and veg stalls, but there were loads selling just cherries and strawberries.
If you had just arrived in town, you'd be ready for a coffee by now. This one comes with a handy coffee lounge if you like to sit down and drink. I always remember a friend's mum saying, 'it's common to eat in the street'. Have to say it's a thought that has always stuck with me - it speaks to my inner uptight suburban mumness.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
So here it is, Big Ben from the Palace.
The sleeping business men were in Green Park at 8.25am. Don't know what that's about. Had they been out all night and slept in the park? Or did they travel in early - in time to have an extra sleep before going into the office? Very odd.
Other odd things were going on in Bond Street and Bruton Street. End of summer sales (though children in England only broke up for the summer holidays yesterday) at Diane von Furstenberg and Jigsaw, but new season clothes in at Stella McCartney (she's still making beautiful clothes), the very traditional Holland & Holland (where you might find a new season pair of woolly socks, tweed hunting jacket or a deerstalker).
Matthew Williamson is giving lots of floaty party dresses. Not sure what his window theme is about. Is it a circus? But aren't those oversized Christmas baubles? I think it's supposed to be a human cannon, but with extra disco cannon balls. Huh?
As ever, Miu Miu does its own thing. It has just the thing for the woman who wants a little black dress but fears rain and just won't carry an umbrella. I'm really hoping that dress is lined. The weather this weekend is threatening to be HOT.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
When I blind baked the crust, it collapsed a little at one point, so masses of egg leaked through the base of the loose-bottomed quiche case. In the oven, the leakage souffled up underneath the tin in an alien growth type of fashion. Didn't stop me enjoying this though.
I had a very odd dream last night. In my dream I went to New York. I wonder where that idea came from? I was trying to meet friends at a bar (again, why would anyone want to do that), but got lost.
In my dream, New Yorkers were very disapproving of anyone getting lost. It's on a grid system, so how could anyone get lost, they said. (In real life, I'm sure everyone is super friendly...)
Somehow I ended in a sort of pedestrian underground walkway heading towards the bar. But then a presidential cavalcade showed up in the walkway and I had step up on a ledge to stay out of its way. The cars stopped and the FBI started quizzing me about why I was there. But I got distracted from their questions by the sight of Dubya (never dreamt about him before. I had a lucid moment in the dream of thinking, 'What the... noooooo!').
Dubya was in a flying saucer. It was shaped like the bottom of an oyster shell and Dubya was sat on this vast round mattress covered in pale blue cushions with a woman and her child.
'That's amazing,' I sadi to Dubya.
In a burble of very excited Texan, he assured me that it was indeed amazing and wasn't this just the greatest method of transport. I hoped he was going to offer me a lift to the bar, but he's evidently not that kind of guy. Probably just as well considering his personal history and although I was impressed by the saucer, I was already planning how to ditch him and avoid having a drink with him.
He drifted off in his saucer, which from this new vantage point, I could see wasn't hovering but was actually on resting on little wheels. As he made his way up the tunnel, doors swung out of nowhere and closed.
My perspective shifted into movie mode, as all of a sudden me and some friends (appeared from who knows where) were back in subway station, trying to mark the spot where we had entered the ticket hall. The doors and tunnel had vanished from before our eyes. Naturally it was at this point we realised the FBI had somehow drugged as and we would soon forget everything we had seen...
And then I woke up.
If you are struck by any of symbolism of this dream, please tell me what issues you think I might be facing right now.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Main course was a tried and tested cheese, bacon and courgette quiche. However, I was in the mood to experiment with dessert.
Pudding would be an all new, never tried before Cherry Clafoutis. Think of it as a sweet toad in the hole - with big fat cherries instead of sausages. (Ha ha, that's so going to confuse anyone who doesn't know what toad in the hole is). Cherries would transform a hot pudding into something summery.
Writing this post, I now realise how eggy this meal was. Ah well, it was tasty. Everyone had seconds and we ate it all over again for supper.
I messed up by adding twice as much flour as the recipe said, but it turned out fine. The recipe (from the London Evening Standard) also needed either a hotter oven or for the clafoutis to be cooked twice as long. So I'm going to give you the recipe amended to my version.
- Preheat the oven to 160*C and butter a shallow baking dish.
- Stone 500g cherries. Pour 250ml of red wine and 250g sugar into a saucepan and boil gently until all the sugar has melted. Pour the wine and sugar over the cherries and allow to cool.
- Mix 2 eggs and 4 egg yolks with 100g sugar. Stir in 250ml double cream and fold in 50g flour. (If you like, you can also add 50g kirsh to this batter - I didn't and it was still yummy).
- Drain the cherries and spread the cherries across the baking dish. Pour the batter mix over the top.
- Bake in the hot oven for 35 minutes. Expect the pudding to almost double in height.
- Serve sprinkled with icing sugar and cream.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
But this is where my Virtual Blogher conference took me. First - to the Whitstable Museum. This is mostly about fishing, WW II and fishing during WWII. But right at the back, the National Touring Company (or something like) had brought Matisse to town. And if that wasn't enough, there was a kid's play table in the corner for them to do their thing while parents take a look around.
How fantastically cool is that?
Then I went around the corner to St John's Methodist Church where they held a big exhibition of quilts. I was astonished. These filled the hall.
Peaches wanted to get out and run through the quilts like so much washing hanging on the line. Fortunately I knew that would make me incredibly unpopular so she had to stay in the buggy while I chatted to her multi-talented babysitter and hairdresser, Lindiloo at her Knitorama stall.
I stood looking at the plum jacket and booties for ages. They made me feel quite broody. Clearly my blood sugar was low so I thought it wise to go over the road to St Mary's Hall where Seaside Brocade was selling all sorts of vintage and crafts gubbins.
And cake. If you've not already noticed, Peaches and I like to make sure we take regular tea and cake breaks.It was now approaching the time that things happen in Whitstable like the 'landing of the oysters'. This is when the mayor and a bishop go to the beach where some fishermen (sea scouts usually) pretend to land some oysters. The oysters (and the sea?) are blessed and paraded through the town where the mayor 'delivers' them to pubs and restaurants along the way.
Among the festive crowd there are quite a few morris men. Happily, not quite so many as we get on May Day, but enough to satisfy most of us. I saw this lot right outside the church where I got married. A few of the congregation are members of Dead Man's Morris - perhaps the most goth looking folk dancers you'll ever get to see.
After all that clattering about, I took Peaches to an art show where we looked at her cousin's picture. She liked it so much she wanted to pick pieces off the frame. I stopped because that's the kind of killjoy I am.
Finally it was time to wait for the parade. The traffic was stopped and first in the parade were the Fish Slappers and the Whitstable Giant. They do a lot of drumming and it sounds very dramatic. As they get closer you soon realise these are the hippy cousins of the goth morris dancers. I'm sure they'll all be drinking together on the beach when the fireworks go off.
At this point my camera battery died. So I can't show you the school children dressed as fishermen, deep sea divers and fishmongers. Nor can I show you the mayor, the bishop and the accompanying St Bernards dogs pulling mini wagons behind them. You'll never get to see shire horses from Farmers World or the sand dancing rugby players.
They were all fantastic. You'd have loved it.
There's dog shows, workshops to decorate eggs (might give that a miss...) vintage and handcraft sales, even a Matisse exhibition. There's also a fairground with an old fashioned carousel.
If Recaro were home, I wouldn't get to see all this, but he's not. So I do.
I'm sure there's lots of exciting options available at Blogher. I hear there are seminars on tax breaks and making money out of your blog. But you know what? I think some of them would like it here too.
See you later for photos.
Friday, July 18, 2008
This leaves me with plenty of time to keep Peaches up late and take her out with me to meet up with friends, Guru and Style Queen, for dinner and chat. Incidentally, the Style Queen's house is beautiful. It's a late 18th century town house with Trafalgar balconies and wenge floors (though not in the kitchen). It's the sort of house which induces a feeling of idle decadence.
Before you know it, I had a glass of Champagne in my hand. So far, so Virtual Blogher.
Next thing you know, Peaches was tucking into the pitta bread and canapes. That's practically a canape in this strangely lush world of mine. Surely this makes Peaches an honorary Blogher. Go baby! (By the way, I didn't just pop out a baby while you weren't looking. This 15 week old bundle of sweetness is Style Queen's daughter.)
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that by the time morning comes around there'll be some on line evidence of Blogher delegates having a high old time. I'd hate to think it was all as exciting as this.
After dinner, reality kicked in. I could drink no more and had to carry on with elderflower cordial and cups of tea until it was time to drive home. Ah well. The Blogher fantasy was good while it lasted.
Cowboys and Custard is planning a Vintage Handmade Fair for UK bloggers. It's taking place in South Gloucestershire, so it's going to take a bit of planning for me to get there.
I'm not crafty and won't be taking a stall, but aside from window shopping I can also shop.
See you all there!
If I were at Blogher I could say it was all the fault of the lousy no good hotel broadband. But I'm not, so I only have my own amateur techie-abilities to blame. Instead of trying to update that post, I'm going to highlight how the Bubble might actually be the place to be.
Just like at a San Francisco Blogher conference, I can run into all kinds of people that I know. I said hello to the renowned chef of a local restaurant and the highly-regarded double bass player of a well known local band at Tea & Times (that's two separate people of course. That would just be too much talent for one person).
I also saw the Bubble's most hardworking woman. She's a window cleaner and I never see her not working. I wanted to say hello but she was chatting to one of the most sinister yet glamorous local mothers - someone I like to keep my distance from. (Glamorous in that looks 25 from behind but not quite so young from the front kind of way... sinister because when she deigns to speak to me she says things like, 'Oh your husband is so lovely. How can you let him speak to other women...' Happily Recaro assures me that he does not like this maneater.)
I invited a fabulous couple from up the road to dinner in a couple of week's time and invited the vicar and her husband to Peaches' birthday party in September. She's pregnant and will be interested in hanging out with mums, dads and babies for an afternoon. Oh yes, I'm a networking social demon.
Speaking to the vicar involved having a cup of tea at the regular Friday coffee morning. Yes, yes, if you go to a coffee morning in southern England, it usually involves everyone drinking tea. No one ever has a 'tea morning'. That would just be wrong.
However, as I drank my tea and Peaches slurped her orange squash it occurred to me that this could be the closest I get to a refreshment break in between conference sessions. See all these people mingling and chatting... for all those delegates' sakes, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Blogher is more exciting than this... Clearly, if I'm going to convince you that the Bubble is cool, I was going to have to get out of here and find something more fun.
Now San Fran is famous for many things - such as bridges. Whitstable used to have the oldest railway bridge in the world which used to carry the world's first passenger railway train. But the council knocked it down in the 1970's because the buses couldn't get under it. This road is no longer on a bus route so it is possible this piece of architectural vandalism was a little short-sighted. But don't worry, I'm not going to show you a photo of a very boring road where the bridge used to be.
Instead, I've done the research and discovered that SF has a mighty fine and very large fish
market at the Ferry Building. In Whitstable too, we have fish market at the harbour. Oh yes peeps. Whatever SF can do, the Bubble can do on a slightly smaller scale.
Cynics among you might think that SF has the Bubble beat on the shopping front. But I'm not so sure. Can you really find this skirt and this dress in SF?
There's a number of boutiques to choose from, but if you like something unique and retro, you can get that too.Shopping for small children is pretty good too. This shop sells both clothes and toys. It's in between two other toy shops and over the road from another children's clothes shop.
If you prefer a credit crunch outfit, then make your own via the fabric shop and this sells everything sewing machine shop. Even with my lack of crafting skills, I sometimes day dream of the things I would do with their overlocking machines. (You can see why small town living suits me, can't you? My dreams are really very modest).And if you are fed up with that and would prefer to sit on the beach eating ice cream, you can do that too.
Feeling sad you forgot the bucket and spade? The barbecue? The deck chair? Look no further.
I'm feeling a bit worn out now. Peaches has gone for her nap. My post is written up. Next I'll be getting ready for parties and the cocktails. Oh yes, I have plans for tonight. Virtual Blogher isn't over yet.
I'm looking forward to reading all about it. But in truth, I'm also interested in the upside - if everyone who does go would very kindly spend their time chatting, eating, drinking and chatting some more, that would be great. Then I could catch up on reading and commenting on their blogs, as well as writing something decent on my own.
Mind you, it's possible I would pass out with the excitement of meeting the Don Mills Divas, Her Bad Mothers and Bossies of the world. It's really hard to imagine this kind of event taking place in the UK - if something is already going on I'd like to know about it. After all, I wouldn't want to pass up a chance of meeting Working Mum and Dulwich Mum. Just this handful of blogs reminds me that I must sort my blogroll out. I'm finding it a bit daunting because everytime I look about, I find another blog to read and enjoy.
Now, since I will only be at Blogher in spirit (make that a double) here's the deal. Post a pic of yourself as you'd imagine yourself being at Blogher - if you could use Mr Linky below to let me know you've done it that would be great. And a name check would be cool too.
Just ask yourself, would you be a wall flower and hide in the corner? Would you be a blogging guru giving the key note speech? Or would you head for the bar in nervous excitement and then drink far too much and talk much too loudly? Would you be a nervous quivering wreck for having left your family at home? Or would you be a hyperactive child full of excitement at being ON YOUR OWN for the weekend?
On my first morning in San Francisco, I would be so excited that I would rush down to breakfast to find out what in the world grits actually are - and whether they taste any good. Of course, I would have forgotten my camera and would have to rely on a my camera phone which is always a bit shaky. I'm hoping grits would be every bit as good as Swamp Woman makes them. Back in the real world, I make do with sharing a 'half breakfast' with Peaches. Recaro was weird. He had a slice of granary toast with mashed banana. I don't know what that was about.
I'll be updating this during the weekend with more alternative Blogher moments from my strangely lush world. Make sure you come back to see who else is at Virtual Blogher.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Or alternatively, I find myself at public sector procurement conferences. Lots of slow moving, uncommercial procurement people. Wow, they make me cross.
But Blogher? That sounds like fun. It's all about chatting to blogging women - like me! Except they are American. Having never been to America I imagine it means everyone's a little bit louder.
Sounds okay to me, because there'll also be cocktail parties. And when I have cocktails, I too get just a little bit louder too. To make up for my absence from what sounds like a very hilarious gig, I'm going to share a photo of me drinking Pina Colada last week.
Recaro asked for a second round of drinks straight after this one. 'Same again', he cried. The waitress looked at him for a moment and in a heavy Greek accent she asked, 'Pinas?'
What could he do but agree? He wasn't happy about it though.
Monday, July 14, 2008
The thought of dealing with hotel internet connections just couldn't compete with lazing about in the sun.
Lazing about? Didn't I have Peaches with me? Well of course I did, but I'm a quick learner when it comes to holidays. It's very important to commit to the childcare options. Peaches was more than delighted to spend five days of the week - 10 till 1 and 3 till 6 - with her mates in the creche. They even had a party at the end of the week along with the older children from Kids Club. Somehow I've managed to capture a photo of them looking really serious about a game of musical chairs. They were having fun, honest.
A number of the children remembered Peaches from last year when she was just 9 months old. It's really sweet to see them being friendly with her. She simply beamed her way through the week and had a bit of an afternoon wail on the last Saturday - probably because she was a bit bored without the creche.
I did do some windsurfing too. That was supposed to be the main event for me... but what do you know, our instructor kept encouraging us to wait for the wind to pick up. What could I do apart from sunbathe? By the way, just because I sunbathe, don't think for a moment that a tan all that much. It must be something to do with using a minimum of factor 35 suncream, dammit.
In summary, we kept things cool with our shades.
We made sure to go to the big Club Vass barbecue at the end of the week. It would have been rude not to. Those guys slaved their butts off over those hot coals.
It's okay. You don't all need to thank me at once for sharing a photo of this family-friendly barbecue with you.
And we ate lots of ice cream. Though we soon learnt that Peaches had to have the same us or else she'd just plain steal ours from us.
Our triumph of the holiday was that Peaches went along with our holiday routine of taking her out with us in the evening. Sometimes she slept through dinner and sometimes she didn't. She was always awake for her visit to the bakery for baklava (honey cakes). In pre-Peaches days, the woman who runs the baker would be very grumpy with Recaro and me. Then I got pregnant and she started smiling at me. Now she knows Peaches, she lights up at the first sight of the small girl and gives her free biscuits on every visit.
Peaches also got given a dolphin-shaped helium balloon by some young Greek women. That freaked me out a bit. I think it freaked Recaro too. We smiled politely and he insisted - still smiling - that he take their photo with Peaches. Just in case they were baby-stealing witches... gah! we can go on holiday but always remember to pack our paranoia.
Here's a photo of them. I think they were really very kind and friendly, but I can't be entirely sure. Also, I felt like a bit of a dummy pushing the buggy around with the dolphin attached. I wanted to explain to everyone that 'I had not bought the balloon. I am not that kind of sucky, indulgent parent. I just feed my child ketchup and chips because it is a holiday and she's not eating much anyway in this crazy heat...' See. Totally paranoid.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
It's beyond me to resist questioning the intelligence of some people. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but every now and then I just find myself rushing to the moral high ground full of certainty that other people are mad.
It was for this very reason that I stopped reading our local paper. I was having to fight the urge to write weekly letters to the editor complaining of its sexism and shoddy journalism. I've had two letters in the local paper, which probably means I'm certifiable too. (At least it illustrates that blogging is one part of a bigger pattern which sees me splurging my thoughts and convictions to the world...)
Last Sunday, however, it just so happened that there was an armed siege less than 500 yards from the house. Roads were closed, armed police were swaggering about and there was no details of WHY to be had anywhere on the internet. So we stayed home, hoped it was nothing too horrible and bought the local newspaper four days later to find out more.
I'm showing you the pages, because it's always been my experience that newspapers are infinitely more interesting if read over someone else's shoulder.
If you click on the images to read the story, it would be a bit of a squint. Basically, a tenant living close to the harbour threatened his landlord with a samurai sword and said he was going to set the property alight. The landlord called the cops who then launched a four-hour armed siege to get the guy out of his flat.
Here's the mad part,
"Jenny Cross of Tankerton Road was walking to the High Street with her three-year-old son when she came across the drama.
"She said: 'I've been standing here waiting for something to happen for the last hour.'
"'It's pretty exciting. It's not every day something like this happens in Whitstable.'
"'It's the first time I've ever seen policemen with guns. I just hope noone gets hurt.'"
Is it just me, or isn't it really daft to stand around with your three-year-old son waiting for a gun siege to kick off?
While you mull that one over, I'll be getting on with packing for our summer, windsurfing holiday. Here's a hint of what we'll be wearing next week.
And yes, this is a three duck trip. I'm taking no chances.