Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

Well, it's the end of the year, and in my little world it was a big one. We made a big decision about where to live, got pregnant, moved house, had a horrible family bereavement, nine months of feeling like poo, went through the shock of a heart scare with the baby, had the baby, the baby was fine, learnt wtf to do with the baby. It rained all year. It was actually fun to have the Olympics in town (it was hilarious how quiet the tube went). And now... breathe.

Arthur seems to be an actual superbaby – he's chilled, fun, pretty much sleeps through the night.  He's never had one tantrum. We've been really lucky so far, but the last couple of years have taught me that you should never expect too much calm after the storm. Here's hoping for some mild sunshine through the rain. And the odd cocktail or two. I haven't had a strong cocktail since I can't remember when, so tonight I'm making Old Fashioneds. Wishing you all a happy and peaceful New Year.

(Oh, I'm not going to write my birth story. I'm over it.)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

He is here!

Baby arrived! His name is Arthur and he was born two weeks ago. We are overjoyed. He has got my eyes and the rest is pretty much daddy. So far, he likes:

– rootling for food
– the colour red
– stretching
– teddy bears' faces
– the Michael Kiwanuka album

I've clearly gone gaga. I'll be back with my birth story when my marbles return. (Yeah. I suffered it and so now I'm going to make you read it. It was a bit of a crazy one.) I am so fvcking glad not to be pregnant anymore!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thoughts of a first-time pregnant.

I know I should post a bump picture but I am more fascinated by this picture I found earlier today of me in Venice in March of this year. I am not a woman mountain! A relatively flat stomach, I can't even imagine it.

I've tried to write this post a few times over the last few weeks, but always had to stop halfway as it turned into too big a moan-fest. You might have noticed I haven't posted for a while. (Well, other than a sponsored post, the proceeds of which bought me a much-needed new coffee machine, OK?)

The thing is, I have been absolutely, totally kiboshed by this pregnancy. I'll admit something now that won't cast me in a particularly flattering light: I used to be one of those people who thought pregnants shouldn't moan. Like, you chose to get knocked-up, so deal with it, Bumpy. I remember reading this article about not wanting children by Polly Vernon and guiltily agreeing with a lot of what she wrote. I would always be the first to offer my tube seat to a pregnant lady, or dash to help carry their pram down the steps – well brought up, me – but a small part of me would be grudgingly thinking, 'Mehhhh, I'm tired too! I've got a hangover and I've been at work all day, we all make our choices!'

Well, I would like to publicly declare: I Was Wrong. Yeah, you might knowingly decide to get knocked up. But, if it's your first pregnancy, like me, you will not know about the insane exhaustion, constant sickness and myriad random other symptoms that you will have to deal with. Your right hand appears to have clenched into an agonising claw that you can't straighten out? Yeah. Deal. That popping noise? Oh, it was just your hip joint. You probably won't be able to walk properly now, sorry. Every time you eat the smallest morsel of food, a snake of stomach acid slithers up your throat? Ambassador, you are spoiling us.

And on top of that, you still have to deliver at work, cook, maintain friendships, clean the house. Y'know, just life as normal.

In my case, on top of the generic pregnancy symptoms, I have also managed to be the lucky one in a hundred women that develops a strange liver complaint which means I itch. Constantly. And have done since 10 weeks. I'm now 32 weeks. I haven't slept more than 3 hours in 22 weeks. Some nights I don't sleep at all.  That's nearly six months of hardly any sleep. And itching. Constantly.

I mean, not to obsess about it, but I am absolutely EXHAUSTED. I've had to leave work ahead of my planned leave date which, as a self-employed person, sucks. Poor husband is knackered, as he tries to sleep through a mess of itching, scratching, wriggling, spraying of products, rubbing-in of creams and general nocturnal comings-and-goings. (Oh yeah, there's also the constant weeing, as babies love using bladders as cushions.)

I have to go to hospital three times a week, for monitoring and tests. As I progressively feel worse, they threaten progressively harder to throw me in the labour ward to be monitored until I'm ready to birth; a scenario that I am naturally keen to avoid. (As lovely as the midwives are, I'll take my perfectly calibrated home comforts and fridge access, please! Don't make me go to the labour ward!)

But. BUT! Of course it is not all bad. We get more and more excited as the due date gets closer. We had a scan at the weekend and saw a blinking eye. Another scan showed him asleep, with one hand resting on top of his head, just like his dad. We've got a huge chest full of neatly-folded onesies, mittens and bear suits, waiting for his arrival. The Bugaboo – yeah, cliché – is nestled in the corner, ready for action. I'm more excited than I have been since Christmas as a kid. Or, maybe since my first trip to New York.

I'm just amazed at the shift between where I am now and my attitude before. So yeah, if you're on the tube and a pregnant hobbles on, face as grey as the British summer sky and holding on for dear life...you know what to do.
 
[I'm as big as a house, and probably have about five weeks left, as I will be delivering early due to the itch sitch – it brings an increased risk of still-birth if left to go full-term. I've almost totally given up work now, with just a replacement to find and a hand-over to do. I'm learning to drive, with my test booked about a week before the arrival date! And other than that, I'm planning to do a lot of reading. In bed. Between naps. Currently loving the new Amy Sohn, Motherland- awesome Brooklyn trash-lit. And this Ruth Reichl book, Garlic And Sapphires, about being the New York Times restaurant critic, as recommended on A Cup of Jo.]

Friday, 3 August 2012

Babyproof your bathroom.

When you have a baby, those dim and relaxing bathroom lighting fixtures get switched to their brightest setting, indulgent lotions replaced with no-tears shampoos, and scented candles tossed aside in order to make way for animal-shaped water squirters.

This former peaceful haven will pretty much transform beyond all recognition: from the bathroom storage cabinets you need to hide clutter, to clever products that can help make bath-time fun (for both of you), here’s a rundown on how best to baby-fy your bathroom.

Bathroom safety
You may have socket covers and child gates in other areas of your home, but what do you need to make the bathroom safe for little ones? Apart from the obvious, like putting razors, medicines and cleaning products out of reach, make sure that your child can’t get locked in there without you. Avoid a frantic call to the fire brigade by getting a lock that can be opened from the outside or by disabling the lock altogether.

A non-slip bathmat is an absolute must as soon as soon as your toddler is trying to stand, inflatable tap covers are a great idea to stop inquisitive fingers fiddling with the hot tap and toilet locks can be essential if your child is fascinated by the flush.

You can also buy bath seats for babies – a godsend if you want to give your back a rest from holding them for long periods of time.

Products to make bath-time fun-time
Bath toys have come a long way since the humble rubber duck. These days you can get everything from washable bath crayons, so your child can get creative as well as clean, to bath flutes that play a different note when water is poured into them.

Love this doll's house bathroom!
Apart from toys, there are products out there which make bath-time easier for both of you, too. A cuddle dry towel robe means less fussing when you get them out, while a step will get them at the right height to use the bathroom wall mirror all by themselves, too. And don’t forget a shampoo rinse cup to stop water going into their eyes.

Cath Kidston duck towels
Bathroom storage furniture
With all your new bathroom toys, you need to find a way to store them. A simple bath toy bag, which has suction pads that stick to the tiles is a great (and cheap) idea. To really push the boat out, you can get some fun bath toy holders that scoop the toys out of the bath, drain the water away and store the toys at the same time. Laundry bins can be a great place for toy storage but, if floor space is at a premium, look for something that keeps toys out of reach, like over-the-door storage and hooks for the bathroom or shower door.

All images from John Lewis.com

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

News!

My Converse poking out from under the bump.
I've got news! Big news! We are expecting a baby! A baby boy, to be precise. Due at the end of October. I'm 23 weeks pregnant and, judging by the belly stares and people rushing to open doors for me, the bump is getting quite big. (Above photo was after lunch at Spuntino last week; I seriously thought my legs were going to buckle.)

It's all starting to feel quite real now: the baby likes Frank Sinatra and kicks when his version of Close To You comes on which is quite cute, when you consider the lyrics. (Ok, I know he doesn't understand the lyrics, just humour me.)

This morning I bought a super-cute little wooden truck from a chazza, which carries colourful little wooden blocks, so apparently I've transferred my vintage clothes hunting to toys. (Barnet's charity shops are AMAZING, 'nother blog post for 'nother day!)

The pregnancy has been quite straightforward, other than severe and weird all-over-body itching which is driving me mad. It's a total voyage of discovery, another day brings another weird symptom. Luckily my baked beans eating phase seems to have passed and now I'm addicted to granola. At least they're healthy cravings. And obviously I have a massive wine craving that is not being indulged.

So, yeah! Any tips for managing baby boys? (I've already heard all about the wee thing.) Oh, and birthing stories welcome. I'm booking into Barnet hospital, practising meditation techniques and having the word 'epidural' tattooed onto my hand. Anything I'm forgetting? Oh yes, names. Thelonious currently top of the list. (Just kidding.) (Or am I?)

Let the pregnancy oversharing begin!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Barnet.

My last tube outta town on moving day morning.
I'm finally getting around to posting! Shameful. Longest blog AWOL ever. We've been really busy but I've just read Jordan Ferney's blog about moving from Paris to San Francisco with two small children whilst renovating a new apartment and I feel slightly ashamed.

Skies! Telegraph poles! It's the country!

We moved in early March, from central London to the very northernmost stop on the Northern Line -- High Barnet. We had been living in Archway, which is super central and kind've inner-city-like. We were in a top floor flat with a noisy neighbour downstairs and it finally drove us to decide that we wanted a house, no more flat-living, so in order to do that we had to move OUT of town.

There is a big field full of horses behind our house.


We first thought about going all out and moving to Kent but decided that might be a bit dramatic, so started looking at the northernmost and southernmost parts of the city. It was kind've stressful as it meant either way we would be moving to a new part of town so each house we considered also meant considering whether we really wanted to live in that area or not.

Not my house but this is the vibe of my street. Sleepy cats on windowsills.


After seeing lots of houses in the south (one of which we put an offer in on but it fell through!) we went for the first house we saw in Barnet. It's a tiny little workers cottage on a lovely street that feels like a seaside town. (We saw the house separately and both thought the same thing.) It's owned by a family who lived in the house for 40 years. We'll get more of a feel for the place then maybe try to buy ourselves. (Although it's a lot more bloomin' expensive around here than I realised! It's a posh little area.)

Awesome creepy house nearby.

So, yes! Two months later and we really feel as though we're settling in. Our road is really quiet, which we're loving after hectic Archway. The neighbours are lovely; they've already donated some garden furniture to us, one of them makes honey, and there's a huge street party happening for the Jubilee.

Tom at the top of the common.


It's got a villagey feel; the nicest local pub is an ancient old coaching inn. There are ponds and a common with a huge hill to stroll up and down. And a nice bakery. But best of all is the tube station that takes you in and out into town as you fancy.  Oh, and you can wait for the tube in the sun.


PS: The husbo told me this would be the most boring blog post I've ever written. He might just be right.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Venice.

I haven't posted in so long! I've been reallly busy. Lots to tell and I'll be back to tell it soon. I've missed blogging and am going to get back on it and update more often. In the meantime, here are some pictures from a trip we took to Venice back at the beginning of February.

Venice

I've wanted to go to Venice for so long but somehow never made it. We decided we wanted to take a break from life's busy-ness in February and decided it would be the perfect time of year to go to Venice, less touristy. Which it definitely was; we had St Marks Square almost all to ourselves. But it was soooooo cooooooold.

Venice

I took this picture of the Santa Maria della Salute from a vaporetto. It looks sunny, but I was freezing to the bone. It was SO COLD. (We later went to a terrible Bach organ recital at the Santa Maria della Salute. Looking back, it was almost surreal, listening to terribly played Bach being tapped out with little consideration for rhythm or pace by the no doubt ancient head organist, whilst staring at a beautiful painting of the Madonna in a freezing church.)

Venice

These fur-clad Venetian ladies had the right idea. The Venetian winter look is sable coats and hats worn with shiny black leather boots. Lots of red lipstick.

Venice

Well, fur for the older ladies anyway. This girl stalked past, the picture of perfect elegance in her burgundy belted coat.

Venice

I loved the pale blue of the lagoon. It was so calming to always be near water; at night in bed you could imagine the water all around you, so relaxing. I kept having urges to swim in it, but it's the city's very own in-built sewage system. Although apparently Byron used to swim up and down the Grand Canal.

Venice

We visited lots of churches, all stuffed full of art; sinister dark paintings, byzantine Madonnas, incredible mosaics.

Venice

This was the ceiling in Florian, possibly the world's most expensive coffee shop. That tiny cappucino was €9, I think? Apparently this used to be a society brothel, with Casanova and his friends bawdying around upstairs.

Venice

Venice

I wish I'd brought some vintage Murano glass back home with me. Preferable a large chandelier of dangling raspberries, but these glass fruit would do.

Venice

It's such a funny city of winding backstreets. The main thoroughfares are obviously waterways, with the narrow streets off the canals just a complete tangle. You find yourself in a permanent state of being lost. We found our favourite restaurant down a really insalubrious looking alley. Ca'D'Oro, a proper Venetian osteria. I still think about the polpette, gamey meatballs coated in crispy breadcrumbs. Everyone kept re-ordering more polpette, including us.

Venice


We went to listen to some opera in an old crumbling palazzo. It was a great way to admire an original interior, really intimate. It was really special to hear the singers up close and unamplified – it felt as though we were taking part in an ancient Italian tradition. Although, guys, €50 per ticket, you could throw in a free glass of prosecco. We were GASPING. (Especially when one of the opera singers started waving a frosty fluteful around as she sang.) [More details at Musica a Palazzo.]


Venetian decor is fantastically overwrought. This was the bedroom ceiling in the palazzo where the opera was staged.


Me posing in our apartment, which was also all ornate plaster and tarnished mirrors.


One night we meant to go out but instead accidentally got stuck into a 1.5 litre bottle of wine we'd bought for €3.20 from a local shop that sold wine by the barrelful. It was REALLY nice. €3.20. I hate England, sometimes.


On our last day there carnevale started. The perfect time to leave. We availed ourselves of too many of the traditional carnevale cakes: fritelle, zabaglione filled puff pastries. I still feel sick when I think about them.


Venice

Venice

It was great to visit an empty Venice in the winter months. (It snowed! Really romantic.) But it was absolutely freezing. And I bet it would be lovely in the summer to sit outside in the sunshine, in a quiet piazza, drinking wine and watching passersby. Apparently it smells in the summer, though. And is unbearably busy. I don't know. I can't help you. I think winter might be best.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

January amusements.

How's your January going? I'm having a super quiet one, trying to be healthy and working lots, sometimes in my new local cafe, bread and bean. Really nice coffee and cakes, tea served in pots with proper china, free wi-fi, comfy seats, friendly peeps, cloth hand-towels in the bathroom…it's seriously good vibes! Highly recommend, if you're in otherwise drab Archway.


I've been doing a bit of reading. I've been meaning to read Alice Munro for a while, after hearing so many superlatives about her. Too Much Happiness is a collection of short stories; I was gasping and wide-eyed by about the third page! I love Margaret Drabble's dry and clever writing. The Radiant Way is a novel set against the backdrop of the 1980s, almost a sociological study of the decade. Interesting. Restoration is my bookclub book this month. I'd never normally pick this book up (the beauty of book clubs!) but I'm loving the character of Merivel! Next to read, this Isabel Allende novel I picked up in a chazza. I can be a bit narrow in my reading, I tend to stick with British or North American authors, so I thought I'd go South American for a change. Seems to be all about the ladies in my reading at the moment.


I've been doing some thrifty and healthy cooking! I mentioned in my last post that I love Pinterest: one of the things I'm really enjoying about it is food inspiration. I get in a food rut really quickly and end up eating the same thing over and over again. But on Pinterest there are so many tasty-looking food pictures it's easy to get inspired; I've eaten two Pinterest-inspired meals in the last week, including this yum and pretty meal. I love the tumblr the picture came from, as well. (Another bonus: you find new blogs.)


Did anyone watch Sicily Unpacked? A three part series featuring Giorgio Locatelli (swoon + yum) and Andrew Graham-Dixon (chin rub), investigating the food and art of Sicily. Perfect for dreaming of summer days surrounded by mediterranean blue. It's available for a few more days on iPlayer.


Oh, and I love this tune by Django Django. You can buy it here.



That, as they say, is me. What you all been up to?

bread and bean picture credit

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Booking Office – St Pancras International.

Looking above the booking

I just can't get over my love for the new St Pancras station. (St Pancras International, if you will). About ten years ago, when the hotel was disused and in a state of decay, I volunteered as a guide over the Open House weekend. After hours, I was lucky enough to get a torchlit tour of the dark hotel; chilly long hallways, cobwebbed rooms of fading gilt and tarnished mirrors. It was eerie, the ghosts almost palpable along the grand corridors.

We were told that back in the 1960s, the building narrowly escaped demolition; apparently the problems of updating the hotel to accommodate modern luxuries such as running water in each room were insurmountable. The notion that this glorious building could be just another London ghost, replaced by rat-coloured concrete box-buildings like those down the street at Euston, makes visiting the glorious, painstakingly restored hotel and station all the more sweet.

I needed a place to catch up with a friend as she passed through Euston last weekend, so we grabbed the chance to admire St Panks. After a quick cup of tea and slice of Victoria sponge at Peyton & Byrne (7/10, nice cake but paper cups?), Jenny said she'd been told about an amazing bar in the old booking office. We traipsed off to find it and thank goodness we did!

Greeted by a friendly doorman, we were ushered in. It is a hugely ornate, grandly arched space, with bare stone walls and a high iron vaulted ceiling. An old station clock hangs on one wall, on another, oversized leaded lattice windows look out onto the platform. You can peek down the grand hotel hallways and into the lobby of the hotel; you can't help but stand a little straighter as the formal opulence rubs off. (Although sadly I was wearing my sunday best Converse and day after hairwash hair. Must go back in a frock soon.)


But back to the bar. Huge, low-hung simple chandeliers and oversized plush furniture help fill the space and keep it cosy. Sitting in a bare stone room of that scale should make you shiver, but not at all; the atmosphere was warm and luxurious. Jenny is a cocktail girl, so we went straight to the cocktail list. They were Victorian themed, perfectly calibrated to the surroundings. She settled for a warm arrack punch which smelled deliciously aromatic from where I was sitting. I had an orange juice and blood tonic soda which was satisfactorily sour.

The staff were lovely and friendly and even visiting the loos was a luxurious treat; you get to stroll down one of the hotel corridors, and freshen up in opulent style.

I had to tear myself away from the place and can't wait to go back for a longer visit. I was disappointed when I tried out the champagne bar when the station first reopened: I'd been looking forward to a Brief Encounter romantic low-lit and dark wood station rendezvous spot, but the reality is a chilly, modern bar next to the platforms. The Booking Office more than fits the romantic, cosy station bill.

Remember it's here if you need somewhere to meet in the area; there are snacks and a proper dinner menu of posh, comforty stuff. Or pay a special visit just to experience this stunning revitalised station. I can even find it in me to love the huge Olympic rings, hanging high above the platforms!

[I think I told Twitter a while back that a friend of a friend who lives in one of the apartments in the old hotel told me she can order cocktails from the bar in the hotel to her flat. The only thing that stops me actually dying of jealousy is that she also gets woken up at 7am by platform announcements. But still – the glamour!]

Picture credit 1 2 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year! I can't even believe it's 2012. Such a banal thing to say but I really can't. Last year was a hectic one for me; I moved house three times (!), got together with my husband, and got married in New York. We spent our first Christmas at home in London, which was complete heaven, and did a round trip to visit all of our family in Yorkshire. (Most of T's family live up there too.) I hope you all had a fantastic break and are several pounds heavier, like me!

I don't really do formal resolutions at New Year and at the moment am trying to work out some really big decisions with T, so I don't need to pile any more pressure on myself! We're thinking hard about leaving London; both of us have lived here for years and years, and we'd like to live in a house, not a flat. We both want some absolute peace and quiet for a while, and that's not generally something you find in this crazy city. (Just before Christmas, a cannabis factory was discovered in the house next door! And we won't go into my crazy downstairs neighbour.)

So we're thinking REALLY hard about where we might move to. Tom's work is west London based, mine can be more remote. And, I'd like to be near enough to take advantage of everything in the city still and see all my friends! We have been thinking about Canterbury, where Tom grew up, and 8 miles away from Whitstable (aka London-on-Sea). The houses are stunning there, and it would certainly be quieter. But we're still not sure. Any ideas for somewhere close to London, with good travel links, or on the outskirts, where it is quiet and property isn't prohibitively expensive?

Other than working out the Big Plan, I would like to continue doing interesting, challenging work; at the moment I am doing some social media and community management for an online mentoring site, horsesmouth, where people sign up to help others – a brilliant idea.

I'd also love to try watercolour painting, like an Edwardian lady. I've got a sudden lust to learn more about fine art, something I've always been a little bit ignorant about. I'm dying to go and check out the Turners at Tate Britain (shamefully I've never been), and fancy a bit of a splosh around myself. Tell me all the other arty must-sees in London I have to check out before I – potentially – leave town!

Oh, and I've started Pinteresting. I'm immediately completely addicted; I usually just save images I like from the web on to my desktop so this is a welcome way for me to file images. Plus I get to nosy at what everyone else is looking at. Add me if you're on there, and I'll start spying on you too.

So, wishing you all a very happy 2012! May it be kind to us all. And I hope the Olympics aren't too annoying. Hehe.

(The image above is Turner's Sun Setting On A Lake. Which I'm sure you all knew, as you're not philistines like me.)