Monday, November 29, 2010

Speaking of...

One of the more interesting aspects of our lives these days is the funny things that Blake comes up with to say. I love hearing not only what's happening in his imagination ("Mommy, run, that crocodile's about to eat you!"), but also how he tries to understand simple things that we as adults take for granted, and the subsequent grammatical attempts to ask the question: "Mommy, what's that?" "It's a garlic press." "What means, garlic press?" "Well, it's for pressing garlic." "Oh." Or tonight's, "What means, full of beans?"

On Saturday night I had a rare night out for Nina's Hen Do, and there were instructions beforehand that we were to all wear "special frocks." This was perhaps a good email to send, because it meant I had to start thinking about what to wear sometime before when I was actually getting ready to go, or else I might have ended up in some trendy club in carrot- and porridge-encrusted jeans with worn knees from too much time spent crawling around after Noah or playing dinosaurs with Blake. I managed to find something at a local shop which I thought fit the bill, and was pleased to hear when I came downstairs; "Mom, you look pretty!" It did make me smile. I was very good and restrained on the Do, though, and only had about 4 drinks over the course of 5 hours (one being a tequila shot about half an hour before I made an early exit, knowing that I wasn't even going to get an unbroken night's sleep!). Although the place we went was very busy, very trendy and very very loud (I felt SO old), it was fun to get out and not be a mother for the evening.

This morning as I was in the kitchen making toast, Blake came in and reported that "it's very tiring being a boy." Try being a middle-aged woman, son! After I picked him up at nursery later in the day, we were standing in the hallway zipping up his coat (it's absolutely frigid here at the moment). There were two Dads there as well bundling up their little ones, and Blake chose that moment to remind me that "you looked pretty in that dress". I am sure I blushed, as I most definitely did have some food encrusted on my jeans and my top was covered with massage oil from a Baby Massage class I'd done with Noah that afternoon (he is probably a little too mobile for this, so I spent much of the class trying to keep him from crawling off, and the oil just got all over me). I think it would have been quite hard to imagine me either in a dress or looking pretty. One of the Dads said to his son, "When you learn to talk, you'll have to remember that to say to your Mummy." This evening I heard that it was "very tiring being a super-hero". If only his super-hero trick could be to toilet-train himself, then we'd be in business!

Blake doesn't just voice his own ideas, of course; he has also apparently recently been employed as Noah's official spokesman ("Noah says he's not hungry." "Noah says he wants to go in the buggy.") Yet again I'm amazed that Blake can hear these things but not things which are much more obvious such as "Don't step on your brother!"

As for poor Noah, he for some reason is still referred to by Blake, about 50% of the time, as his "brothersister". I'm sure Blake knows he should just stop at "brother", but I think the "sister" just comes rolling off his tongue too quickly for him to catch it. I'm going to try to be better about writing some of these funny phrases here, but for now, I'd better run - a crocodile's after me!

Friday, November 26, 2010

My vague sense of history

Ok, so I'm not that good about historical dates, and I guess in the back of mind in my Thanksgiving post about Noah with his breadstick, I was thinking about Churchill and his cigars...but he is probably not classed as a '20's politician!
Here is the image that made me think of it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, part 2

It's hard to believe, but my second Thanksgiving post is also going to be about breasts! On to that later.

I am not really a fan of "self-help" books, but Matt is often buying a manual that will give him good advice about something or another - running, or career-finding, or home-renovating, etc. I decided last night that I should really be dedicating my time to writing a book about how to over-commit oneself silly, and be constantly exhausted as a result.

It's very early in his life for me to be doing this (I thought, at 1:00 am this morning), but I had volunteered to go into Blake's pre-school and do a "bit" about Thanksgiving. On Monday of this week - or was it even Tuesday - I suddenly decided that I needed a book to support my story-telling efforts, so out I went to seek the book, something with pictures, that told a simple story about how and why it is that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.

I started at my local bookshop, Dulwich Books, and my opening line to the man there was, "I almost hope you'll say you don't have anything." But I asked anyway about whether or not they had any children's books about American Thankgiving. The guy was super helpful, but every search he did kept giving him no stock in terms of being able to order me something to arrive the next day. His theory was that all the big retailers would have bought the available stock, leaving nothing to the small guys. Another call to Village Books in Dulwich confirmed this - they didn't have anything either.

Now, believe me, on the one hand, this is great news. After seeing how big Halloween has gotten here (and if you are prone to consider it an American import, despite its religious background), I thought to myself that really there is no reason for many Brits to even be aware that a special day is happening in the US, so the news that every bookshop isn't promoting "American Thanksgiving" means that hopefully it can preserve its special status as an American holiday, even in an expat-laden area such as London. On the other hand, this was making my book search difficult! In the end, I gave my first thanks to Amazon's expedited delivery service, which delivered a story book to my door yesterday afternoon, and at least I could relax that if all else failed I could just read the story.

I then stayed up late last night "prepping" for the event - how much detail would I go into about why the original Pilgrims left England in the first place (answer - none)? What sort of counting games could I throw in to make the story-telling fun? That sort of thing. Before I knew it, it was 1:00 am and I was only finishing up some pumpkin cookies. In the meantime Noah had not stirred at his normal 10:30/11:00 pm wake-up time, so that was unusual.

This morning Blake and Noah and I headed into pre-school, which was exciting because Thursday is not one of Blake's normal days in attendance there. The class was all assembled on a rug waiting for me (picture me, panting, 5 minutes late, going, "Oh, hello children!"). I was unshowered because our boiler had stopped working sometime in the morning, and the ice-cold shower was too unbearable to contemplate. I had actually turned a gas lever off as I was rummaging around in the under-stairs cupboard, so fortunately later this afternoon hot water and heat were restored.

My story-telling left a little to be desired, but we then made turkey handprint pictures which was fun.



Back at home, Blake watched a bit of Cars while I made his lunch. Afterwards, he announced that he was going upstairs for a nap, so I waited in the kitchen to hear what I thought would be his next words: "Mom, I've done a poo." He has definitely decided to go away for privacy when he needs to do his business. I was busy in the kitchen, cleaning up some dishes and "getting ready" to start cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. It was much much much to my surprise, when half an hour later, I went upstairs to find Blake sleeping in our bed. Very Goldilocks of him. So I thought, fabulous, I'll just start working on the cooking.

One of the huge challenges of serving a true Thanksgiving meal is the timing - getting everything to the table together, hot and on time. I decided at about 3:00 pm today that given the way we live, we can't do this on a normal night, let alone a night where there is a special meal on the menu. So I just decided to seize the moment and get done what I could. By this point I think I'd managed to get Noah asleep too - minor miracle to have them both sleeping at the same time!

I did a quick search for what dishes might work for preparing in advance, and read something about being able to cook mashed potatoes and then keep them warm in the slow cooker. Sounded good to me, and we do a have a slow-cooker! So I started on those, prepared the stuffing, made some glazed carrots, got the turkey ready (decided to forego a trip to the store for dried herbs to smear on to it; butter, salt and pepper would have to do for seasoning). I was feeling AWESOME! At that point I decided to work on heating the mashed potatoes, so I went on to the stepladder to get the slow cooker down. In slow motion, then, I happened to watch as the lid fell off and smashed into about 1000 pieces. Sh*t! That's not good. I then heard the padding of feet; perfect timing! I cleaned it all up as quickly as I good, sweeping, vacuuming, doing it again. At this point Noah woke and was screaming his head off in his cot, but I had to clean up all the smashed slow-cooker lid in case Blake wandered into the kitchen and got something in his feet. Unintentional controlled crying, I guess! At this point I was feeling REALLY NOT AWESOME! It had all been going so well...

With both boys awake, I only had still to put the turkey in, and in the world of turkeys, this one would be a waitress at Hooters! I had been at Costco last Friday and happened to see turkey breasts for roasting, and hey, that seemed like a good idea and easier than preparing a whole turkey! The only thing was that the one I got was absolutely enormous - but it was the smallest one there. It's funny how I only really think anatomically about the turkey as I'm preparing it - never when I'm buying it. And what I mean by that is as I was patting this piece of meat dry, rubbing it with butter, and figuring out where to put the meat thermometer into its thickest part, I was thinking, this is a turkey's breast! And my word, it's big!

Matt was home around 6:15, and we actually sat down for dinner at about 6:45 or 7:00 -incredible by my standards. I had allowed myself a much-earlier-than-usual glass of wine at 5:00 so I was feeling great, and so pleased that the minor mishaps of the day were not worse.

As for thanks, we gave lots before we started eating: for our wonderful family and friends, for our home, and food to eat. Blake got pretty into that and would respond with his clearly-enunciated "Yes!" as we would say, "Are we thankful for x and y?" "Yes!"

It's such a crazy holiday in a way - so much stress to produce this huge and elaborate meal; only celebrated in this way, on this day, by people who have some connection to this one place in the world; and it could be very easy to forget what it's really all about. But then, when I see these three handsome faces around the table with me, it's all very clear. We are so lucky and so thankful for all that we have. Even if we do need a new slow-cooker lid.

He has the look of a 1920's politician smoking a cigar...


Ignore the burned oven glove serving as a trivet in the foreground...



HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving, part 1

This was forwarded to me in an email and I thought it was funny enough to post, although I have some reservations about doing so. Life's short though; I wonder if Hooters has any Thanksgiving specials...?!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING..........here is a recipe I thought you would like for the holidays
Ingredients:
1 whole turkey
1 large lemon, cut into halves
salt and pepper to taste
butter or olive oil, whichever you prefer

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Rub butter or oil over the skin of the turkey until it is completely coated.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you prefer.

Take a knife and gently separate the skin from the breast meat;
Slide lemon halves under the skin with the peel side up, one on
each side. This way the juice from the lemon will release into the breasts.

Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes. Remove cover and continue to roast until juices run clear, basting every 15-20 minutes.

If you've followed these steps correctly, your turkey should look like the one in the picture.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shopping with the wee ones

I just read a post by one of my Hickory friends Sabrina over at her blog, Aga Toast, and chuckled and smiled to myself the whole way through. It's so true what she says, although I feel as if her son Wolfi is a lot more well-behaved - or at least better-restrained - than Blake. I have been meaning to post this picture for a while now, but it was from one of our trips to our local supermarket Sainsburys, and we spent a good 20 minutes in the paper towel aisle as Blake experimented with enclosing himself in rolls of the stuff in the shelves.




"Bye!" I would occasionally shout. "Noah and I are going now. See you later!" and then I'd saunter off to hide behind a column in the aisle and peek from behind it to see what he would do. Would he worry I'd left? Panic if he didn't see us anymore? Cry out in anguish that he could no longer lay eyes on his beloved mother and brother? The hell he would...I must have used that trick too many times! What he would do was scamper over across the aisle to add toilet tissue to the paper towel fort, and then scamper back again to knock down several bottles of toilet cleaner so that he'd not only caused me to waste 20 minutes of my life trying to move us along to the checkout, but had now added several more minutes of work as I tried to restore order to the shelves...he surely wasn't going to pick this stuff up and put it back right when he'd decided he'd had enough of this pretend castle. It was, indeed, an exhausting trip to the store.

Which is why, after years of just not getting with it, we have tomorrow our first-ever grocery order coming to our house, courtesy of Ocado, Waitrose's online delivery branch. This is big for us, and I hope it goes well. I had once or twice in the past thought of getting groceries delivered, but it seemed tedious to do the browsing for the items online, and it seemed expensive to pay the delivery charge. Now that I know exactly how precious our time is, the 99p delivery charge (off-peak, but this will at least mean the kids should be asleep so that we can unpack it all in peace) seems a bargain. After all, the Bob the Builder ride at Sainsburys costs 50p, and the cost of the medication to kill the headache I end up with at the end of a trip to the store is surely around 49p or more, so overall, perhaps we are saving money by doing it this way! I am excited about it.

This afternoon I - against my better judgment - took the boys to an arts and crafts store to pick up a few things, as arts and crafts are our new best friend (more on that later). As we walked through the door, Blake seemed interested in what I was looking for, sticking close to me and questioning what various items were (snap, Sabrina!). I would then love to have a digital MRI picture of what happens in his brain when, about 5 minutes later, he makes the connection that a shop, with its maze-like aisles, is the perfect place for him to wreak havoc and make my blood pressure rise. The first thing he did was find the section of dried fake flowers and pulled some fake roses out from their display cans. Next up that caught his eye was a spool of turquoise thread, which he found as he sat on the bottom of a shelf (a la the grocery store), and he topped it off by "riding" on a roll of white crepe paper which he said was "his broom". I had Noah in the Baby Bjorn, and for the first time ever, Blake's running up and down the aisles in an attempt to escape my chasing was made even worse by the fact that Noah then started shrieking with glee every time we did see Blake - as if it was in fact an intentional game of hide-and-seek that I was participating in! I kept telling myself to stay calm, and for the most part I actually just made sure I knew where Blake was and let him do his thing. Fortunately we had nowhere to be and I just guessed (and prayed) that he would get bored eventually.
And this where it gets good to be able to outsmart them, as I finally said to him that we could take his 3 chosen items to the checkout counter. He agreed to this, and as we walked up to the counter I lay the rose, the crepe paper and the thread on the counter and very quietly said to the 2 women working at the register that we "won't be taking these items, thank you" with a meaningful glance at Blake, whom I'd managed to seat on the counter. The two women at the counter were of drastically differing ages, and the younger one didn't seem to understand what I'd meant, but the other one, who was older and probably a mother if not a grandmother herself, got my drift instantly. We then had Blake help hand them the items that we did want to buy and we managed to leave the store with my sanity intact.

I have always felt that shopping was not for the faint-of-heart, but doing it with kids in tow does indeed add a whole new - generally unpleasant - dimension. Let's hope that we like our online grocery delivery. I wonder if they deliver arts and crafts?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today was a beautiful day

Crisp air, beautiful blue skies and glorious late-afternoon light. I didn't get to capture as much as I should have but Noah and I took a walk with some friends down to Brockwell Park and I took these shots.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dartmouth Undying

This was going to be a post about how bleak the start of winter can sometimes feel, but I'm going to try to put a positive spin on it as best I can and make a link to Dartmouth, that beloved college of mine.

Two weeks ago I was getting Noah undressed on a changing table at the local baby clinic in order to get him weighed; next to me was a blonde woman was about to do the same with her little girl, who looked to be a couple of months younger than Noah. After a brief conversation about North American accents, the woman mentioned that she had a friend nearby who grew up in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she had gone to college, and lo and behold, I was speaking to a Dartmouth '95! It was quite a random connection to make just off the busy Norwood Road in SE London. Turns out she's also married to an Englishman and has a 2-year-old son as well as a 3-month-old daughter, so we arranged to visit them this week. It was fun to see the boys play together and think that years ago, in a land far away, their mommies spent one year together on campus without knowing each other!

On Friday I woke up to my usual selection of emails - mostly junk - and clicked on a link to an article from the eDartmouth that began "beloved art history prof passes". Although I could never be considered the most studious art history student, I did end up with a minor in the subject and thought I might know the professor. In all honesty, I expected it to be about an older, probably male professor, possibly a professor emeritus or someone who'd taught there even before my time. I was deeply saddened to see that instead, it was a vivacious and beautiful female professor, one I'd had in her first year, and my last year, at the College, who had passed away, evidently to cancer. I spent most of the day - which happened also to be very grey and bleak here in London - feeling incredibly saddened by this news. I felt sorry that I had not been a better student under her tutelage, as one of my poorest academic shows in my 4 years at Dartmouth involved this professor.

It was either fall or winter term of our last year, and at the beginning of the exam of the survey course she taught, she announced that for extra credit, we could list names of the artists we'd studied over the term...there were probably in excess of 300 names or so who were mentioned or studied in depth during the course. I had probably pulled one of my infamous all-nighters in preparing for the exam, and in a sleep-deprived fog I failed to remember this challenge as I wrapped up the last question. In the hallway afterwards, I met Beth (and one other of my 3 Dorrance roomies - Amy, was it you?), and realized only then that I had failed to do the extra credit! I ran back into the room, where the kind and generous professor was turning off the slide projector and packing up. I explained that I'd forgotten to do the extra credit. "All right," she said, "just tell me some names then." My mind started whirring to process the request, and I came up with...nothing. Not one name. Completely mortified, I just stood there in the hallway, unspeaking, until she said that I could accompany her to her office where it would be easier to perhaps write them down. In her office, I was able to come up with, maybe 2 names, before we agreed that the moment of the exam, the stress, the adrenaline, were gone, and that it was likely a lost cause. I felt utterly useless as a student, and remember having a fairly major meltdown later that day at the missed and wasted opportunity.

On Friday, I relived those moments as I remembered her and felt guilty once again that I had not been able to do better when she showed me generosity and kindness at extending the chance for the extra credit even when she could have just said, sorry, the exam is over (in fact, I think she may have initially said that, but I convinced her to let me try, and then failed miserably, which probably enhanced my humiliation). I shed some tears as I thought of the husband she leaves, also an art history professor at the College. I went and had a nap with Noah, and cried myself to sleep as I replayed the words from the article that she was survived by her parents; how unfair and cruel life is for any parent to have a child precede them in death. Later in the day I wondered to myself whether I had tried to explain myself to her in writing about the poor exam show - an apology of sorts that it wasn't down to her teaching - and I hoped that I had. I can't be sure though. I hoped for her sake that she had many more good students than unremarkable ones, as she was, by all accounts, a remarkable art historian and person. Mainly, I was just saddened at the way in which life can take even those who seem deserving of more time.

And so it was that a very sad death has led me to hum the words of one of my father's favorite songs about Dartmouth, not the Alma Mater, but a lesser-known one: Dartmouth Undying, whose lyrics are here:
Dartmouth, there is no music for our singing
No words to bear the burden of our praise
Yet how can we be silent and remember
The splendor and fullness of her days
Who can forget her soft September sunsets
Who can forget those hours that passed like dreams?
The long cool shadows floating on the campus
The drifting beauty where the twilight streams?
Who can forget her sharp and misty mornings,
The clanging bells, the crunch of feet on snow,
Her sparkling noons, the crowding into Commons,
The long white afternoons, the twilight glow?
See! By the light of many thousand sunsets,
Dartmouth Undying, like a vision starts.
Dartmouth, the gleaming, dreaming walls of Dartmouth,
Miraculously builded in our hearts.
—Franklin McDuffee ’21

Upon further reflection, maybe it's the way in which this song actually seems to paint a picture of the College campus that has led me to think of it - perhaps a connection to art? I actually think it's just that it has a sad tune, or that it highlights the passage of time that all of those who spend time at Dartmouth - students, staff or faculty - will encounter. But how lucky we are to have known life there, and to know that the beauty of the place will hopefully live on, even after we depart.
Here is a rendition by the Aires for those who don't know the song:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Baby-led weaning, an update

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been trying to follow a baby-led approach to weaning, letting Noah explore tastes and textures on his own as opposed to being served pureed food on a spoon. (I put that bit in italics because that's the way I think the book would have put it; one of the reasons I am doing it in the first place is that I feel too lazy to do the puree-ing business).

Anyway, about 10 days ago I had started to refer to Baby-Led Weaning as Parent-Led Starving, because I was really worried that Noah was probably very hungry compared to other babies who are getting 3 decent meals a day. At the moment, he still just kind of gnaws on things and occassionally I'll spy some small piece of something in his diaper which confirms that his swallowing reflex is functional, but I'd be hard-pressed to say he's "eating a lot." His favorite foods are cheese, tomatoes and breadsticks, but the remnants of a meal usually seem to be everything I'd given to him, but just broken down into smaller-sized pieces on his highchair tray or on the floor. Since I originally drafted this we have also discovered cream cheese on a cracker and fresh figs, the perfect BLW food because of its soft flesh and squidgy center!

That's why I was pleasantly surprised to find out last Wednesday when I got him weighed that he'd curved upward a bit on the percentile graph. Although he was about 60th percentile at birth, he'd been at 25% for quite some time (which seemed surprising to me, really, since he has quite the double chin and his upper legs are really "sturdy-looking"). I kept telling myself that if he dropped in weight that I'd switch immediately to purees to get some calories down him, but he's doing ok, and in fact doesn't really even seem to like it much when I do try to spoon-feed him his breakfast porridge.

BLW does feel a lot more relaxed than the method I used with Blake; it's fun to watch Noah react to a piece of food and work out whether he likes it or not, or whether he can try to chew it or hold it better. It's also a lot easier in terms of the preparation of the purees, although I do have to remind myself that I have to put some variety into the shopping list (as ready-made curries and pizza is not exactly what they mean when they say "give the baby whatever you're eating"). I'm going to ignore the fact that it could be the twice-a-night breastfeeds that are helping Noah put on weight...until that tray table starts to look a little cleaner after a meal, I may have to continue with my own diet - the sleep starvation one.


A baby becomes a boy, with a little help from his brother

Last week I went to take a photo of Noah as he pulled himself up onto the bottom stair of the staircase, but by the time I'd aimed the camera and was ready to shoot Blake had come up from behind him and lifted him up, so that now the photo in my viewfinder was of Noah standing at the stair! Second children, eh?

They do seem to have a lot of fun together; witness this evidence of them "being pirates". Blake was insistent that Noah join him in this toy chest and then their ship cruised around for a while looking for treasure (I was on an "island" - the rug in the middle of the room!).

I can only imagine that it won't be long before Noah is trying to boss Blake around. It seems like it won't be long that Noah is doing everything that Blake is doing! If only he could take some lessons on the sleeping through the night thing...

Sleeping chubba bubba

Yesterday I put Noah down for a nap and came back into his room to find he'd wound up in this position - amazingly he wasn't that grumpy when he woke up! Look at those chubby legs...

Remember, remember...to buy sparklers early!

So often I feel I conjure up elaborate plans in my head for "perfect" events/days out/celebrations/activities (delete accordingly). And, they never really seem to live up to my expectations....

Friday was, as any calendar will tell you, the 5th of November. In the UK, this date is special because it is "Guy Fawkes Night" or "Bonfire Night", the anniversary of the day of the attempted explosion of Parliament back in 1605. The rhyme that goes along with it is "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, The gunpowder treason and plot/I know of no reason, why the Gunpowder Treason, should ever be forgot."

Last year we tried to see fireworks with Chris and Anna but Blake was not a happy camper, and we weren't sure how he would be with them one year on. At last week's Halloween party at church, there were a few small fireworks, and he seemed to enjoy them.

Back to my issue of my visions for things not matching up with reality...

On Friday at about 4:00 pm I headed off with Noah to the store. It usually takes us about an hour to get there, get through the aisles, and back home again, so I thought this was perfect timing for picking Blake up at pre-school at 5:00. I had plans to buy some sparklers, which I thought was about all we should attempt really, since we'd decided not to go out to any organized firework displays.

The first thing that I discovered when I got to Sainsbury's was that if you want to buy sparklers at the largest supermarket in a very "family-friendly" part of town, you do not wait until 4:00 pm on the day to do so. They were all sold out, so I had a little pout before deciding to move on to the other purchases I had intended for our little celebration. Mulled wine for Matt and me...mmm, that seemed like a good idea. Ooh, a toffee apple - very autumnal, maybe Blake will like that! Ingredients for a "white chili" recipe I'd seen in my Betty Crocker cookbook. Cider with a hint of blackberry liqueur - again, yummy. I got all the other weekly stuff like milk and juice and then headed off to join the - whoa, these are some awfully long queues!!! We finally managed to get into the car at 5:15, at which point the skies opened up. Since we changed clocks last week it was of course, pitch black, so now it was pitch black, and pouring rain, and in the heat of rush hour, and even worse because all of these people were out trying to get to various fireworks displays. Not good. I finally picked Blake up at about 5:45, having already decided that we would have our little celebration on Saturday, since I remembered that I had to go that evening to help set up for a craft fair that I was volunteering at on the Saturday afternoon.

The next day, I happened to see a sign at a toy store for "fireworks", so at about 4:00 pm (we'd had a long day with football, my volunteering at this fair, etc) I went in with the boys to see if they had any sparklers left. And now I know - if you want to get sparklers for the 5th of November you should really have them by Halloween - the lady said they'd been sold out since the middle of the week! They did have other boxes of fireworks, so I inquired as to their intensity, and the lady told me that they were very "gentle" and said that her 4-year-old who doesn't like fireworks was ok with them. A mere £10 later and we left the shop with no sparklers, but a box of about 20 different explosive devices.



Matt reluctantly agreed to set up a small show in the garden, but after one firework - picked because of its gentle-sounding name "Velvet" - Blake decided it was "too scary" and that was the end of that. I had been desperately convinced that I had within some little-used storage container a box of indoor sparklers, and lo and behold after nearly giving up looking for them, I did manage to find them (this search, or more like a wild goosechase, which took at least an hour, led me to resume wondering where most people put their "stuff" - like indoor sparklers - which just doesn't seem to have a good home...it's an issue that seems to plague me!). I lit three of them outside, and Blake seemed happy but then lost interest.



We served up my chili - I chopped up coriander on the table and didn't bother with putting it on a plate or a bowl, I'd forgotten to buy tortilla chips or sour cream, and the avocado I did have was very hard, so that kind of didn't live up to expectations either. Blake started being annoying at the table so I decided he didn't deserve his toffee apple treat, and the mulled wine is still sitting unopened in its bottle. And so that, in a nutshell, was our very unspectacular Bonfire Night - spread out over 2 nights and still not very impressive! It makes me realize that if I want to do something nicely, I need to plan ahead, but that also, maybe I don't need to come up with the plans in the first place! At least not until the boys are of an age to care about any of this stuff!

Setting up in our back garden...



Testing the "fireworks" mode on my camera..."Velvet" is not that gentle!

Ah, a small sparkler being observed from afar...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Life in the kitchen

Perhaps it's because I feel that my return to work is going to come around quickly, but I've decided to embrace domesticity this week and have not only pretty much cleaned most rooms of the house, but have also gone all Julie and Julia in the kitchen. Right now I have an Irish Stew in the oven (something smells like it's burning, but it doesn't seem to be that, so I'm a bit confused, but that's another issue). I picked this because it was in my Williams Sonoma Slow Cooking cookbook and the whole idea of slow cooking just seems so good. I always feel like, with slow cooking, there should be just a few steps: 1) Put all ingredients in a slow cooker 2) Turn on slow cooker to low 3) Go out for an entire day of fun in the outside world 4) Return home, open pot, and voila - amazing meal! Instead there's all this prep work that has to happen before the thing actually starts its long slow cook, and I end up with grease splattered all over my shirt from the browning phase of the process, hot fat flying everywhere in the kitchen requiring me to not only clean all this up afterwards but likely leaving me with small injuries related to said hot grease. Argh.

At 8:00 this morning I found myself doing - if my count was correct - 7 things at once; to me this multi-tasking was incredibly exhilarating. I was pouring juice for Blake, boiling the kettle to make a cup of coffee, stirring Noah's cereal, putting away some cutlery, opening a bag of potatoes to think about putting in the oven later for lunch, making toast, and something else....

Now some people would say that rather than 7 (or 6) things, that this was actually just one thing - "making breakfast" - but I would say to that person that if they're so smart they can figure out how to get to my house by 8:00 am tomorrow morning and do it for me. Or maybe I would just say something equally annoying like, "I know you are, but what am I?" Oh yes, yelling at Blake that it was time for him to get dressed, that was the other thing.

I also made some bolognaise sauce yesterday - which ended up at the home of a friend with a 5-day-old baby (someone I met locally brought us by a few dishes when Noah was really little, and it was so wonderful, so I decided I would try to pay that kindness forward). Tonight I was despairing that we had nothing original for dinner when I was paid an unexpected but very welcome visit by the Muse of the Kitchen Cabinet. I was seeing what we had in the way of "staples" and I was staring straight at the label on a tin of kidney beans which said, "Why don't you try making homemade Veggie Burgers?" And well, I did just that! They were certainly not the best veggie burgers I've ever tasted but I think Matt was, if impressed is not the word, bemusedly grateful might sum it up. Now I'd better return to my stew. In the fight of Meg v. the kitchen, I would say the gloves are on. I need them to protect myself from all that flying grease!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

DwL editor in technology u-turn

London (BP) - The editor of the acclaimed blog Dances with Lyons has made a surprise u-turn related to Facebook, rejoining the social networking site a mere three months after her departure.
"This is an interesting decision for me," she admitted in an exclusive interview. "On the one hand, I haven't missed it and I certainly didn't think to myself, 'Oh, I wonder what so-and-so's status update is today.' On the other, I remember going to get my hair cut and asking my hairdresser if he was on Facebook. When he replied, 'Isn't everyone?' I started to wonder if I'd done the right thing. The mother of a friend of my son had a baby this week, and I was on a list of "special people" who got an email with information because we weren't on Facebook. I thought to myself, 'I don't want to be the person for whom people have to make an exception in terms of communication.' When I was growing up, we didn't - and actually my parents still don't - have an answering machine, and I lamented this lack of technology. In a way, this is a similar situation. I could ask people to send me updated photos or write to them and ask them what they're up to, but the reality is, Facebook makes this easier. My original intention when leaving was to see if I could work out who I really wanted to keep in touch with, and in all honesty I miss being connected with certain people. If I was wrong to leave in the first place, I'm willing to admit that."
She also revealed that her decision was made easier when she logged in one evening using her husband's account. "I saw a photo of a friend's son and was amazed at how much he'd grown since the last photo I'd seen of him. I could have probably kept logging in under Matt's account to have a peek at what people are up to, but that felt wrong. I just went ahead and signed back up there and then."
"In the few months since I've been off Facebook, I wouldn't say I've replaced it with a specific meaningful activity. Friends are important. If this is how modern friendships work, I don't want to miss out. I still respect all of those who aren't on Facebook, but I guess I'm back for now."
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was unavailable for comment.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy Halloween!

There are some things, like knives, flames, and turning back the clock, which really aren't compatible with children, but we dealt with all three yesterday and managed a decent day out of it. At some point deep in the night on Saturday the UK reverted back to GMT. Try explaining to a 2-year-old whose DNA, upon examination, would likely have traces of rooster in it, why "getting an extra hour sleep" is a good thing. Yes, I think the idea of an extra hour of sleep was not written into the calendar with children, or the parents of children, in mind.

It also happened that yesterday was Halloween, a holiday which only I, of the people in my household, seem to be interested in. Matt does not endorse trick or treating so the various activities related to this - pumpkin carving, costume selection, answering the door - were up to me. He did buy the candy though, at my request, but perhaps he just knew there would be left-overs!

Blake showed a clear apathy toward Halloween and despite my various attempts over the weeks prior to find out what he wanted to be ("ballerina" and "rubbish truck man" were the things he did express an interest in), he ended up reluctantly sticking on a skeleton t-shirt at the party we went to at church.

When we got home I put out the pumpkin and we had a smattering of trick-or-treaters. Having rarely actually had to answer the door for young trick-or-treaters in our previous London residences (and then turning all the lights out and retreating to the back to avoid the banging on the door by hooded teenagers), I felt like a real amateur in the candy-dispensation department; what was I to do: place the bags of candy into the tiny hands, let them select what they wanted out of my plastic candy basket, or deposit the candy into their open goody bags? Clearly I need to have more practice at this as my hesitation led to confusion when I was trying to bypass their open hands to throw the candy into the bags, etc. Noah liked having people come to the door and his little outfit got a lot of compliments.



I was quite proud of my pumpkin although having looked at our photos from last year, this year's version was not too different!
The pumpkin is crying! I had never noticed this before...



We'll now look forward to another "holiday", this Friday's Bonfire Night.
Fortunately for Blake, Bonfire Night does not require a costume!