Monday, November 29, 2010

CSN Giveaway and Review - KitchenCraft Let's Make Children's 11 Piece Silicone Bakeware Set


This is how Cate felt about her new baking set. CSN was kind enough to send over the KitchenCraft Let's Make Childrne's 11 Piece Bakeware set. She was in awe.

A week or so ago I received the parcel wtih the bakeware set in it. I opened it and was delighted. Cate was as well. Later that day I received ANOTHER parcel with the same bakeware set from Pamela - my secret gift exchange buddy, which I gave to X, who also loved it:
It was such a hit I ordered another set for my niece who was visiting. We made sugar cookies during a sleepover - both girls loved it:
The set is adorable: it has a rolling pin, whisk, four cookie cutters, silicone tins for bread, muffins and cake and two mixing spoons all in a nice mini kid size, perfect for little hands. So far we've made mini muffins, some banana bread and the sugar cookies. Cate is in heaven.

CSN is graciously giving another set away. In order to win all you need to do is follow me (if you aren't already) and leave a comment. You may also twitter this and let me know (@xcrossthepond). The competition is open until December 6th at midday. I'll announce a winner in the afternoon!

CSN Stores has amazing online stores where you can find everything from beautiful bedroom furniture to cookware to chic lighting pieces! I'm very excited to be working with them again. 
Don't miss out on this great giveaway - just in time for the holidays!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Lovely Lunch in Londontown: Bar Boulud and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Bar Boulud at the stunning Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park/Knightsbridge. Travel Onion, a fantastic travel site that features the worlds best travel bloggers, invited a few bloggers for a tour and lunch. I was very excited to go as I love Daniel Boulud, and Fen and I often went to his many NY restaurants, Daniel in particular. So when the invitation came I jumped at the chance and dragged Fen along, although he didn't put up much of a fight.

We were late arriving due to sitter issues, and missed the original tour of the hotel which I was sorely disappointed by. However, we were in the restaurant no more than 10 minutes before the Cal Simmons, Founder of Travel Onion and the rest of the bloggers and hotel PR staff arrived. Fen and I sat at the bar waiting and took in the restaurant as it was early, around 11:45 and not bustling yet. Although it did get busy, and fast.
Here is Fen checking out the newspaper selection on the bar. I was eyeing the wines behind him! We sat down and introductions went around: Jane from Jane's London, Luiz from The London Foodie, Lucy from The London Insider, Rejina from Gastro Geek and Julie from A Lady In London. Each of the bloggers have really fascinating blogs, most are foodies and if you swing by and take a look they can introduce you to some excellent places to eat. I drooled over the sites. Jane also has an interesting look at London - take a peek and see what I mean.

But I digress, back to lunch. We sat down and they served the restaurants signature charcutier plates: plates platters of meats, pates, terrines, seafood, breads and salads, and more. 
They also served several wines that sommelier David Vareille chose, my favourite was the 2007 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc from California. It was very light and smooth. I could have drank it all day! I was surprised by the choice of a California wine but it was the perfect choice for me. They also served a 2007 Pinot Noir from Domaine Cantin in Irancy, Burgundy; and a 1995 Chateau la Fontain de L'audbier from Bordeaux. Each was more amazing than the next.

After the wonderful platters we ordered lunch. I had a hard time picking out what I wanted but settled for the croque monsieur which was, you guessed it - divine. I'm a big croque monsieur fan, anything with cheese is a hit with me, but this one was really superb. Fen and just about everyone else had a signature dish: burger and chips (fries). They were HUGE. Fen loved his as did everyone else. Just look at them, they're almost to pretty to eat...almost. It was overall, an amazing feast.

The conversation flowed. I spoke with the other bloggers, each very interesting. Spoke with the PR folks for the Mandarin and learned that Queen Elizabeth II learned to dance in their ballroom. The hotel was originally a gentleman's residence and it looks very regal and understated. After lunch Fen and I were invited for a quick tour of the Royal Suite. It's absolutely breathtaking. At £11,500 a night it certainly is spectacular and fitting for a king - which is fitting seeing how royalty and foreign dignitaries fill it 60% of the  year. Fen and I were in awe of it. The bathroom alone is larger than our flat! However, we could not stay there as Cate and X would destroy it in minutes!
The master bed (above) is simply beautiful. The room overlooks Hyde Park and the Serpentine which was a beautiful view on that crisp Autumn afternoon. The chandelier in the bathroom is fiber optics and was my absolute favourite thing in the flat but unfortunately, I did not take a photo! here is the lounge which is stunning.

Cal Simmons was very interesting - he's lived an interesting life and his recent adventure is Travel Onion. Please go and have a look. It is a collection of the best travel blogs around the world. If you're going anywhere, please check it out and see who's writing about your destination. it's a great insiders view to the city/country you'll be travelling in and what to do, avoid, where to eat and stay. It's a great tool and I plan to use it whenever I travel again. Which, will be soon and often, hopefully!

Overall, a lovely afternoon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Busy week

I've been so busy this week I've hardly come up for air. Sorry to those I've ignored this week. I just didn't have time to read blogs or write my own blog. Work is boiling over, which is a good thing for me financially, not so good socially.

I did manage to get out, however. I was invited to a lunch at Bar Boulud at the Manadarin Oriental Hotel hosted by Travel Onion, which was lovely and I will blog about it this weekend.  I also managed to attend the women's club meeting, went to a book club meeting (hadn't read the book but loved the company and lunch), did a small press thing - the presentation of the check to the women's club charity - which was nice. I did a few playgroups as well but mostly I've been working, working, working. In my line of business you work now and get paid later. So it's going to be a good spring!

Back to work for now. I have cousins in town, they just called to say they landed and found their driver so we'll be busy sightseeing, shopping, eating and having fun for the next week. Can't wait!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The best laid plans...

After a super busy, very productive, sleep deprived week I was looking forward to the Tower of London tour and the ceremony of keys on Friday with a group from my women's club as well as the rest of our action packed weekend.

All day Friday I felt off.

It started with coffee with a new friend who is quite lovely and thinking of developing herself into a brand. She has all the elements so I hope she goes for it. My lunch canceled and although I like this friend, I was kinda relieved as I was feeling tired.

I did a little grocery shopping. worked all afternoon, did the school run to pick up Cate, entertained both of them, fed them dinner, got ready to go out and waited for the nanny to show up so I could bolt out the door to meet Fen and head to meet the group.

The tour was fascinating, and we were lucky to have a really engaging tour guide. He certainly knew his stuff. Fen and I are total geeks and love documentaries. We recently watched an episode of the British TV show Castle which was all about William the Conquerer who built the first castles in England, included the Tower of London. I was also and English/History (British history with a focus on the 17th century) double major with a minor in English Literature (19th century British fiction - not very surprising). He ran through the rise and demise of many folks I remembered from my studies - I had briefly dusted off that part of my brain by reading about the Tower and it's occupants before we got there. I am really a dork. But I love anything historical.

It poured at one point and as the tour is outside I got a little soaked. Even with my umbrella and practically hiding under Fen I felt chilled. One thing in abundantly clear, I need to get new foul weather gear something I've been saying since we arrived. Anyway, the tour and ceremony were fantastic and it was a good group of folks so I had a great time. We all piled in the tube and headed back home. By the time we got in the door I was beat. Still managed to have a glass of wine and watch a little television with Fen before calling it a night.

The next morning I woke up at 5:30 sick with a rotten head cold. Sneezing, coughing, chilly with red-rimmed eyes and bone tired. X and Cate got up at 6 and I went out to give them drinks and be with them until Fen got up at 7:30. I went back to bed immediately and stayed there until 11:30. All our plans for the weekend were canceled. I'm still ill but I have to get better for tomorrow. I have a HUGE week again!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Things that go bump in the night...

Around 5am this morning X cried out. I snapped awake and lay there, ears zeroing in, waiting for the follow through. It didn't come for another hour but it didn't matter - my mind had already switched on and I started to think. That is the WORST thing in the world when you're laying in bed with a few hours left to sleep. Once my mind hooks onto something - usually my to do list, or a single thought that requires processing - I'm up for the day. Although I've had some real break-through/fabulous ideas -  lightbulb-over-the-head  moments some mornings.

I checked on both kids - both fast asleep and content in their beds and then went back to bed to sleep for a few more hours. Nope. Not today. X had an allergic reaction to salmon yesterday which was a big shocker as he's had it before. He blew up like a puffer fish and I had to dash off to an emergency NHS to make sure he was okay. I have to make an appointment to take him to our regular NHS today. That's the thought that shook me out of sleep.

Then I ran through the rest of my to do list in my head. I'm delighted that one of my projects debuts on the NY Times bestseller list this week (at #4!). Thank you and congratulations notes/gifts must be done. What I was going to write, what I was going to send, when I'd have time to do it today? Then I switched over to the project I'm in the middle of going out with - the list of people I'm sending it to - who has it, is the pitch right, etc. etc. It's fine but at 5am I'm thinking of ways to improve it. I have three things out there that need following up too. And I know it's fine and I'll get it done but it's 5am!

Next, I thought about Christmas gifts, who's left on my list to buy for, what I should buy and where I should get it. X's first birthday is coming up - big party, small party, no party? We've won family tickets to the Peppa Pig show on his birthday and we're going to see Santa at Selfridges that afteroon and having some neighbors for cake - is that enough? I think maybe so!

Then I balanced the check book, ran over the schedule of phone calls I need to make this afternoon, decided to make muffins with Cate this afternoon as our Mommy-Cate time activity while the nanny is here to entertain X. She needs a haircut (Cate, not the nanny) so I need to make that appointment for Monday afterschool. Have to sign up for the ballet classes in January for her. X needs a music class. Fen and X needs socks and I have a 30% coupon off at the Gap this week so I better go soon. Have guests in town next week and the week after for Thanksgiving and they will need entertaining so I need to confirm reservations with them and change if necessary. We need baby formula, blueberries, milk, butter, Cheerios (they don't have regular Cheerios over here - so disappointing), the list went on.

I thought about my younger sister and her cancer battle, she's asked for help with a project that I need to get back to her regarding at some point today. This weekend I need to hit a few stores and ask for prizes for the school raffle, I really need to do pilates this morning sometime, I have a lunch with four friends today which I'm looking forward to - what should I wear? I need to meet another acquaintence who's asked for writing advice after lunch and then pick up Cate.

I joined a writing group which I'm really ecstatic about and have to start formulating some sort of plan for that. I'm organizing a press thing for next week for my women's club (already wrote the press release so that's good). And the list goes on and on. This is merely the tip of the iceberg.

At 5:45 I realized I'd been awake for almost an hour and squeezed my eyes shut hoping I'd drop off. I was just starting to let my mind drift when X cried out with real purpose fifteen minutes later. Ah well...Who needs more than 6 hours sleep?

Now I'm up and just procrastinating by blogging before dressing the kids and calling NHS. I will get it all done today. And I've already started my list for tomorrow. Don't get me wrong - I like being busy. However, I like sleeping more.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not a one read...

Last year at this time I had a list of books on my nightstand that I wanted to read. I blogged about it - read it here. I have not read a single one - and the list keeps growing and growing. I've been invited to join three different book clubs - which I would LOVE to do but realistically there is no way.

It seems ironic that I got into book publishing because I loved to read, yet now all I read are manuscripts, competitive books (to keep current) and proposals. I read alot, probably more than the average person. But it just dawned on me that I haven't read a book I've wanted to read in over a year. That's tragic.

So I've pulled out the White Queen and I'm going to read it this month. A gal  needs a little downtime, right? I definitely work too much!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

It's bloody cold today! Cate and X nearly froze at the park, where we didn't stay long. I came barrelling home half frozen with X to warm up - Cate and Fen stayed on for a while. Then I got to thinking.... wouldn't it be nice to have a hot toddy?

One of my favourite things to do is flip through my cookbooks, of which I have many, and look for fun things to make. I quickly remembered a recipe for a chai tea Toddy in Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes 2 and went on the hunt for it. I have a slow cooker but haven't used it yet as I was worried I'd blow it up like I have several appliances before it. But I plugged it into the giant transformer and lo - we were in business.

I made a test batch and the result: It is GOOD!  I used low fat milk, otherwise I followed the recipe directly. The house smelled heavenly while it was warming which made it nice and cosy. I've only had a small cup, we'll have nice mugs of it later once the kids are down. We've got a movie to watch tonight so I'm very excited about snuggling on the sofa, drinking our hot toddies and watching the flick!

Thought I'd share it with you in case you're looking for a pick-me-up.

Chai Tea Toddy

8 cups boiling water
16 bags of Chai Black Tea
1/2 cup spiced rum
1/2 cup vanilla vodka
2 cinnamon sticks (plus more for garnish)
2 cups sweetened condensed milk

1. Pour boiling water into a 4 quart slow cooker. Place tea bags in slow cooker and secure lid with the bag tabs hanging outside. Let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Stir in rum and vodka. Add cinnamon sticks. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 2 hours.

3 Stir in condensed milk and switch to WARM setting for serving.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kitchen Smackdown, Part Deux

Back in June I posted about the Toaster Wars in my house. I thought that it was over - oh no, it certainly is not.

Fen started causing trouble again and was precariously close to losing dinner privileges once again. This time it's over cups and bowls.

As most women (and many men) will agree - the kitchen belongs to us. Men may come in to raid the refrigerator, reach something off a high shelf, unplug a drain, change a light bulb or do the dishes (okay, stop laughing!) but they have no say in what goes where and how things are done.

Fen had decided that the children's bowls and cups should be arranged in the order he has decreed acceptable. He was toying with death. For about two weeks now I've taken down two heavy plastic bowls - the ones for babies that are separated into two halves - and placed them on the counter to remind me to drop them off at a charity bin. I have the little Ikea bowls on a shelf in front and the little cups stacked behind them. Fen has been putting the two baby bowls back on the shelf in the back with the bowls on top and the cups in front.

While this may seems small to many of you - it drives me batty. I use the bowls more often than the cups and like them in front where I can reach them. And I keep forgetting to take the baby bowls because they are continually put back up on the shelf.

This morning I rearranged everything and left the kitchen for a spilled cereal bowl emergency (as you do) and when I turned around sneaky Fen was in there changing it around. Once again we started nicely, then gauntlets were thrown and it was knives at dawn. He said he was tired of the mess so he wanted to tidy it up. Ah, silly man.

Let's suffice it to say the baby bowls are now at Oxfam, the cups are stacked in the back, the bowls are in the front, Fen has a packed lunch and order has once been restored at Chez 'Cross the Pond. And no one got hurt as you can see...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A new CSN sponsored competition coming soon.

CSN and I are teaming up again for another giveaway. This time it's going to be a little more fun. I'm going to review a product and then give one away to a lucky reader!

CSN Stores has amazing online stores where you can find everything from beautiful bedroom furniture to cookware to chic lighting pieces!

We've teamed up for several promotions and reviews so I'm very excited to be working with them again. I'm writing this right now while my desk is illuminated by the fabulous lamp I bought from CSN.

It's going to be for mums and kids. I'll have the review and competition up next week so stay tuned!! 

They are having a massive sale right now. Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

James Bond and moi - Shaken and Stirred

On Halloween, after the trick-or-treating and the kids were asleep, Fen and I had a drink and decided to watch Thunderball. My parents were extras in the movie which was shot in 1964 on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas - which is where I grew up.

I called mom to ask what scene they're in - it's the scene right after the casino gambling where Domino and James are having a drink and then dance. We kept fast forwarding and pausing until we spotted my parents in the background with their two best friends Sonia and Victor.

Fen and I were laughing our heads off. My dad outfitted in his tux and my mom is in a fantastic silk, pale blue gown. They look like two million in cash - young, beautiful and having fun. My dad's smile is infectious and I can spot it from a mile away.  They're just mom and dad to me - but here they are fabulous, perfectly dressed and coiffed and having a blast. I love it.

Mom had a good laugh at us hunting for them in the film. She told me that Sean Connery was wearing  slippers throughout the entire scene because his feet hurt. You never see his feet so I guess it didn't matter. But there's a little trivia for you. She also told us that back then there was no bridge to Paradise Island so they had to be boated over - they were stuck there until 4 in the morning. But the booze and food was served all night.

James Bond films are almost always filmed in the Bahamas since they began. My parents found out about the need for extras through an ad in the paper that requested 'caucasians'! How offensive is that?! Half of Nassau society turned out and it shows - that's their own clothes and jewels they're wearing in the movie and some of it's dazzling (and real). The scene my parents are in was filmed at the old Ocean Club which was on the water and owned by Huntington Hartford the old A&P heir and playboy (who my mother went on one date with - that was enough!). He was there with his latest squeeze as well as Grace Kelly's mother. All of my parents friends were out that night and they had a rip-roarin' good time.

I loved watching that movie because it shows the Paradise Island I grew up knowing - not the ridiculous Atlantis nightmare it is now.It's featured back in the golden age when you had to dress to go to the Casino and dancing was elegant. I remember how dashing my parents looked. My dad always had on a tuxedo and my mother was (and still is) quite the fashionista. She was a big fan of Pucci and to this day I love his designs. She had a white mink stole that she broke out from time to time and always looked fantastic. I now have that stole which I model for Cate when we play dress up. It's still stunning but I can't rock it like mom!

As a very young teen, I was an extra in two James Bond movies: Never Say Never Again and Octopussy which were filmed within months of each other and released in 1983. One with Sean Connery and the other with Roger Moore. It was fun - but nothing like Thunderball. Met both stars and their co-stars (Kim Bassinger, Rowan Atkinson, Barbara Carerra, Maud Adams) which was nice. I've been an extra in several films, a few commercials and TV shows - all in the background. It's not even remotely glamorous. It's boring and tedious to be honest. And that's it for my film career.

Sean Connery lives in Lyford Cay/Nassau and has for years. When I was 14 a few friends and I crashed our golf cart into his front gate and he came out to yell at us, which we thought was hilarious. I've been chewed out by James Bond. Good thing he didn't have a gun (but he was in slippers again)!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Early Learning Centre to The Rescue

Last week a wonderful package arrived and just in the nick of time. and the Early Learning Centre sent over a few toys for review. And, MAN, were they welcome. As you know Cate was home for two weeks straight, under the weather, bored and ready to smash her poor brother to bits. I was exhausted from separating the two and getting close to the breaking point.

The giant box rolled in and both kids gathered round to see what was in it. It was like Christmas day in this house. For Cate there was the  HappyLand Windmill Farm.
Talk about a HIT. She loved it. It's an adorable little windmill farm with two characters, horses, sheep, a cow, a cart with a bushel of apples. The best part for Cate was the lovely dining table set up for tea for two. The windmill turns and plays music which Cate loved. She sat down immediately and began playing with it - for almost an hour and a half!

In the other box was The Stack and Drop Froggy which we set up and he got right into it:
I think he liked knocking it over best of all. We had a grand time building it up, putting a balls through (the flashing ball is by far the most fascinating and tasty - as X gummed it for ages) and then knocking it down. He played contentedly with it for a long time.

For over an hour I did not have to play referree. They both played with their new toys and ignored each other until lunchtime. I could not belive it. Honestly, the toys were a lifesaver last week!

After lunch, I put X down for his nap and was going to suggest playing Candyland or crafts to her. Here's what she did instead:
When the mouse is asleep....! Hey, whatever works. She played with both toys quietly for over two hours. I actually got some work done and made an uninterupted phone call. I made a decision to keep these toys out of reach and only bring them down at the end of the day when things are going downhill. This way they are 'special'. It has worked beautifully so far. Keep your fingers crossed!

So I went to the Early Learning Centre site to peruse. They're having a half term/half price sale at the moment and there are some great buys. I've earmarked a few things for Cate and X for Christmas. And X's first birthday is November 30th!! I can't believe it. Take a look!

And a big thank you to - as always!