Thursday, July 29, 2010

We're back!

We had a lovely jaunt across the English and Welsh countrysides visiting Old Sarum, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath, Newport, Cardiff, The Cotswolds (well, just the white horse at Uffington) and back home again. Made a few mistakes, had an argument or two, but overall it was a wonderful trip. More tomorrow - I'm knackered tonight. See...I picked up a little Britishism along the way....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Out of it and getting out!

So I've been a bit out of it lately. I have a staph infection - in my eyes! Which makes reading and looking at a computer screen very, very difficult. So I've been struggling along since Thursday trying to work but unsuccessfully.

I'm also trying to read guides as we're heading out to Stonehenge, Bath and Wales soon but I can't even see the maps. And don't even get me started on the bright sunshine! I'm blinded by it. I wear contacts but have been forced to wear my glasses daily. It's not fun.

But I digress... I'm really looking forward to getting out of London and seeing more of the English/Welsh countryside. I've always wanted to see Stonehenge and Old Sarum - especially since I read Sarum by Edward Rutherford. It's a great novel of the story of England starting from way back in the ice age - following one family's history. I love his stuff. Go check it out (I'm not being paid for this endorsement, I just really like it, btw).

We're heading to Wales but not sure where. Fen and I love to just explore. We drove across the US about five years ago and it was one of the best vacations we've ever had. We saw the Black Hills, The Devil's Tower, Badlands, Yellowstone (including Old Faithful), Grand Canyon, the Great Salt flats of Utah, Graceland (tee hee), The Blue Ridge mountains - we crossed the continental divide three times. We even stopped in Colonial Williamsburg (why not?). It was something we both had always wanted to do so we set out without a set plan just a few general sites in mind. This is what we're planning to do on our upcoming trip - just drive and see the sites at our leisure.

Granted driving across the states took nearly three days (the entire trip took two weeks). Here it will only take three hours so we figure we'll be able to take our time. The kids have about two hours a drive in them a day. So we're not going to get too far at that rate.

Any suggestions for must see spots in Wiltshire or Wales?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

X marks the spot

My little angel cut his first tooth yesterday. I cannot believe  how fast this is happening. This time last year I was almost six months pregnant and had just found out I was having a little boy. My Cate had just turned two and was starting to use two words at a time, learning her alphabet and counting. We had just learned we were potentially moving to London and I was excitedly checking out all things British online preparing for our upcoming trip- and romanticizing the entire adventure.

How vastly different things are a mere 365 days later. I have my little man X and Cate talks in full sentences (albeit she still refers to herself in the third person); we're in our THIRD flat in London,  (the romance has been beaten out of me by the land of the romantics: Byron, Austen, Shakespeare, etc. Heavy sigh. I'll get it back....)

I don't know why I felt so proud and wistful yesterday when I noticed a tiny  tooth staring up at me from his little gummy smile. I called Cate over to look and she proudly showed off her full mouth of  perfect, precious teeth.

'Cate count X's teeth,' she said then pointed at his mouth. 'One!' She howled with laughter.

My babies are growing up! Wonder if I ever will.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Even more doors!

So I'm still out and about looking at the beautiful houses and buildings here in Hampstead. There is a never-ending supply of them so I snap my favourites and post them there. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Here are the first three albums if you're interested: one, two and three

I love how this one is hidden away behind a lush garden. The door is a rich blue but it doesn't really show in this photo.
The flowers in this front garden are just beautiful. I stop and smell these fragrant roses almost daily.
I just love this front entry - I've tried taking it from other angles so the rubbish bins don't show butthe window with all the ivy is really what I love.
The gravel drive is fantastic. There is a wonderful tree in a circle here which is on the side of the photo - but I cut out the cars and rubbish bins to focus on the front door. This is a single family home!
The front door is really short - I always wonder how someone tall would get through. But I think it's very charming.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Naughty Step

I've been tagged by the fabulous Mother Hen to put someone on the Naughty Step. After careful consideration and deliberation between Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson I have chosen Mouthy Mel.

Mel left his wife of nearly 30 years - after seven children and two grandchildren - for a Russian pianist Osanka somethingoranother. She had his baby too (he likes to be fruitful and multiply). She has now left him under allegations of domestic abuse where she accuses him of using racial slurs (again). He has accused her of extortion. over the tapes she presented to the LAPD. Both have filed restraining orders against each other. He has also been dumped by his longtime agency William Morris Endeavor (one of the largest in the world). What a wretch!

However, there are new signature drinks dedicated to each of them: The Lohan, The Mad Max Meltdown and The Braveheart. If you feel like getting drunk and ruining your career - fix yourself on of these doozies and chugalug ya'll!

Now I'll tag six people to also put someone on the Naughty Step. They are:

Lou at The Archers at the Larches
Ayak at Turkish Delight
Bomshellicious
Spencer at Donkey Trousers
Betsy at Betsy Transatlantically
Aledys at From Argentina to the Netherlands for Love

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wham!

A few weeks ago George Michael crashed into Snappy Snaps on the Hampstead High Street. I walked by the other day and someone wrote 'Wham' on the smashed wall. No, it wasn't me, but I thought that was hilarious!! Here's a photo of it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who do you write like?


Here's a fun little exercise. Go to I Write Like and put in a blog entry to see who you write like. I write like David Foster Wallace (I WISH!). Who do you write like? Try it and let me know.

Hunting for a lamp


My darling son, age 7 months, managed to grab ahold of our Tiffany lamp and knock it to the ground. We hadn't even had it rewired to work here yet and it's dented and shattered at one spot. I was upset because we've had it for years, I love the design and it's going to cost a bundle to repair.

So when the good folks at CSN approached me about doing a review of one of their products I immediately jumped at opportunity to review a lamp. I'm really excited because CSN Stores have amazing online stores where you can find everything from  ceiling lights to cookware to furniture to Tiffany lamps!! Woo Hoo.

So look for my review coming up in the next week or two!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More charming doors in my 'hood

I'm always out and about pushing my double-decker pram all over Hampstead. The houses are just lovely here - the gates, front doors, walks, yards and flowers are always just a treat for me. It always a pleasure to walk around admiring others yards and entries.

It's not a voyeuristic endeavour as I'm not peering in the windows but as Irish comedian Dara O'Briain says, 'If you leave your curtains open, I'm going to look in. I won't vault over the wall, sprint across the garden, squeak my face across the glass and say, 'I like what you've done with the place.' But I'm gonna have a look!'

This is my third installments. You can take a peek the first and second albums if you're interested. And if you're ever bored and looking for a chuckle check out Dara O'Briain - he's an absolute scream!

I love this one - it looks like a little cottage, but it's actually a rather large house with a quaint entrance!

I love the potted flowers going up the steps here.

The corner window really makes this one charming.
It wasn't the brightest day yesterday but the door is purple and matches the flowers in the pot. It was really pretty.
I would love to see the inside of this one!

I'm out and about again today - so we'll see if anything strikes my fancy! Stay tuned for more!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mean Girls

I consider myself a normal parent - my kid is the cutest, smartest, most wonderful child (most of the time). But back in reality, Cate is a handful: wilful, determined, curious and head strong. She is still really cute ALL the time - even when she's pouting.

But today I felt sorry for her. We were at a park where there is a large sand pit. There were about 5 six year old girls building a castle (basically a giant mound of sand). Cate tried to play with them but they were not interested in her help, or her artistic flair when she shouted, 'Flag!' and put a stick at the top, or when she tried to scoop sand onto the mound with them. They complained to her, throwing her sticks away and I kept asking her to leave it alone. My friend tried to distract her by telling her to build her own castle. But Cate wanted to play with the big girls. They were mean - ignoring her little attempts to chip in, telling her to leave and to stop it because she wasn't doing it right, etc. Cate can be a troublemaker but this time she was just wanting to join in. She kept trying and was visibly taken aback by their meanness.

There were no parents in sight and I didn't feel right telling the older girls to place nicely - I just said, 'She's only three, she just wants to play.' Then they were rude!

Poor Cate - she didn't have a clue. So I asked her if she wanted to go and get ice cream. She seemed keen on it. When she climbed out of the sand pit the other girls cheered stating, 'Yay,' 'She's leaving,' 'Thank God' (Thank GOD - from a 6 year old? The mouths on them. OY!).

Now, I know they are only six or so but I wanted to smack them all (except my friends daughter who is a sweetie pie)! How dare they be mean to my little angel? She only wanted to be included. But as the 'adult' I ignored their glee and wheeled my two chickadees out of the park. We had ice cream and Cate was completely unscathed.

It makes me wonder what was the right way to handle the children who are not mine. Earlier today we were at a toddler's playgroup and Cate snatched a hula hoop out of another child's hands - as three year olds are wont to do. Her mother snatched it from Cate and yelled, 'We do not grab!' I said to her, 'Then practice what you preach.' She's pregnant so I let it go - plus it would be right ugly if two mommies started a brawl in the middle of Toddler's World! But don't be yelling at my kid!

Both situations irritated me (plus I'm tired with only four hours sleep last night). Surely there is a good way to diffuse these situations - anyone have any tips, thoughts or ideas? Quick - before my mug shot ends up on the cover of the Daily Mail with the headline: Smackdown in Sand Pit

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Writer's Conference

I attended a writer's conference here in London recently and  it was a lovely experience. I left my children, husband and flat (after a thousand kisses and a huge helping of guilt) at 8:30 in the morning heading to the Maritime campus/Greenwich University in South East London. I have to say walking up the hill to the tube with all the other commuters busily reading their papers, moving at a clip, sipping coffee; filled with purpose and ready to face a day at the office was exhilarating.

I have always been a workaholic. That may seem like a bad thing to many, but to me it is a heady elixir  - like a steady heartbeat to joy. I hadn't realized how much I truly enjoy the pull of an office and all it entails. So I revelled in walking to the tube and piling on, heading out knowing I'd be busy all day working in a job I truly enjoy.

I took the tube to the DLR while reading a manuscript (of course) but I abandoned it to look out at the fantastic neighborhoods that are Cutty Sark and all the Quays. So quaint and beautiful with canals and boats in the harbours. I couldn't help but press my face to the glass with Lady Gaga doe eyes and smile in absolute glee. I was told not to live there because it was so far out of London - but it wasn't that far and it I found it absolutely charming.

I alighted at Cutty Sark and took my time wandering the  streets until my appointments at 10:30. Greenwich is just charming! I found myself slowly meandering and nearly jumped out of my skin when I realized I had 15 minutes to my appointments and had to dash through the campus to find out where I was supposed to be.

Now I've attended many writer's conference in my nearly 20 years in the publishing business but I found the people who pitched to me here were more than prepared. More than half were already published and all had a story or idea that I found intriguing, well thought out and beautifully presented. This was a first for me. Most of the time the meetings are dull and I find one or two things I actually request. Not this time. I requested everyone's work. It was that good.

Now I just have to wait for the partials to start rolling in - which I'm guessing will start tomorrow and last for the next few weeks. Good thing I cleared my schedule to do some reading!!!

As I mentioned, I really do enjoy my job and always wanted to reach this point in my career: where I could work from home and pick and chose what I wanted to work with and at what level. After twenty years of working - starting at the very bottom - looooong hours from 7:30 in the morning until after 11 many nights and then making my way up to the very top. Yet, now that I have what I want I wouldn't mind working in an office again. And I'm sure that if I did - six months later I'd want to go back to this! Grass is always greener.

But I digress...and I have miles to go before I sleep...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Exotic foods

Last night we had lamb chops from New Zealand, broccoli rabe from Algeria, Spanish strawberries and Dutch cherries. It seems our diet is becoming exotically international.

Back in Brooklyn we had fruits and veg from the US and south American - Chilean seabass, Argentinian grapes, and lamb chops from New Zealand (hmmm.. what a coincidence). Maybe it's just me but I think it's really cool that the foods we're eating now are coming from far away lands that are on my (extremely long) list of places to see.

And the food seems to taste better. Maybe it's because the last year I was in NY I was pregnant and ill the whole time. But the foods here taste better and seem so much nicer. I'll have to see if it's just me - we're heading back to NY and Pennsylvania next month. Maybe I'll have a change of heart.

But for now I will continue eating my way through the countries I hope to visit.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On the move....

No, we're not moving house again! But, I am on the move. For months now I've been too tired and busy packing/unpacking to really get out an about on my own. I wasn't sure about the buses and there was no way I could get around on the tube with this heavy, double-decker pram. So I was content to hoof it around Hampstead/Belsize Park/Swiss Cottage, etc.

But now I've gotten over it and I'm finally taking buses - everywhere! I can completely handle the pram on and off the buses and now I'm unstoppable. I had a meeting this morning, then went over to Regents Park, then to Euston Station for lunch and back again.

I've been on the go for a few weeks now and have plans to venture out further and further. Please wave if you see me go by! There's no stopping me now!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Places I must visit and things I simply must see...Part 1: Castles of England

When we decided to move to London travel was on the top of our priority list. Here are a few of the Castles we must go in England before we leave:
Bodiam Castle is a quadrangular castle located near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England. It is said to be a perfect example of a late medieval moated castle.
It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, supposedly at the request of Richard II in order to defend the surrounding area from French invasion.  Recent research suggests that the castle was built more for show than as an effective defence. There is evidence supporting that research, as the walls of Bodiam Castle are only a couple of feet thick. I think it is absolutely mystic and must go as soon as possible.

St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island located 366 m (400 yd) off the Mount’s Bay coast of Cornwall, It is united with Marazion by a man-made causeway, passable only at mid to low tide, made of granite setts. The island exhibits a combination of slate and granite.

Historically, St Michael’s Mount was a Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France. We've been to Mont Saint Michel and it was fantastic.


Castle Howard has been the home of part of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It was used fictional “Brideshead”, both in TV's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Today, it is part of the Treasure Houses of England heritage group. I find is stunning and romantic and cannot wait to go.
Arundel Castle in West Sussex, England is a restored medieval castle. The castle dates from the reign of Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–1066) and was completed by Roger de Montgomery, who became the first to hold the earldom of Arundel by the graces of William the Conqueror. The castle was damaged in the English Civil War and then restored in the 18th and 19th centuries.
From the 11th century onward, the castle has served as a hereditary stately home to several families (with a few and brief reversions to the Crown) and is currently the principal seat of the Duke of Norfolk and his family. It is a Grade I listed building. I love this photo of it as well - it looks so foreboding and timeless!

Hever Castle, in Kent, England (in the village of Hever), was the seat of the Boleyn, originally ‘Bullen’ family. It began as a country house, built in the 13th century and converted into a manor in 1462 by Geoffrey Boleyn, who served as Lord Mayor of the City of London. Some time after 1505, the Boleyn family moved in, and Anne Boleyn (and her siblings, Mary Boleyn and George Boleyn), although probably not born here, did grow up here for a time, before she was sent to the Netherlands and then to the French court for her education from 1513 to 1521.
The building  passed through various owners, including the Waldegrave family in 1557, and the Meade Waldo family from 1749–1903. During this latter period of ownership, the castle fell into a poor state of repair, during which time it was leased to various private tenants, until it was acquired, in 1906 and completely restored by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor, who used it as a family residence. We've actually already gone to this one - my profile photo is taken in the gardens and here are Cate and X:
Belvoir Castle is the thing of fairy tales. It's huge, wonderful, magical and you can hire it for the night, weekend or week! Anyone want to go in together and have an enchanting evening (or two or three)? All you need is a coach, handsome prince, some glass slippers and a sparkling gown fit for a queen. I cannot wait to see this castle.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July in London

I've been outside of the US for Independence day many times but this year it was just weird - seeing how I was in England - the place the US declared independence from over 200 years ago. Understandably, it's not a big deal here! And I mean - not even a mention, a murmur, a flag or sparkler! I kept forgetting it was even the big day of fireworks - not that I'm a big Fourth of July person, it's just every year we're either at our lake house with the grill loaded up with hotdogs, hamburgers and sweet corn, or we're in Brooklyn at our neighbor Joan's house where the grill is loaded and the drinks are flowing.

This year we laid low and managed to unpack the final box! It was our own personal victory and declaration of independence as we are no longer shackled to the move and boxes, OH, the dreaded boxes! We hung a few paintings (we've got way too much art so much of it's going into storage), got rid of more baby stuff (X is already outgrowing things), and then went upstairs to have drinks with our fellow Americans.

Fen and I did manage to run out to the pub for a nice English Sunday roast and a pint. Not exactly hotdogs with relish, but it was good! And seeing how Fen is a Kiwi, it was all fitting. I'm only half American as well. It was a quiet July fourth but it was perfect.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Missed CyberMummy


Both kids were ill last night - I was up half the night tending to one or both. So I had to miss the CyberMummy conference and I'm woebegone because of it.  Did anyone attend? What'd I miss? Hope everyone who went had a marvellous time. Share the scoop if you went!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things I'm starting to love

Since we moved I've been trying out new products and trying to get into the groove of favourite things. So far I've amassed a few 'must have' or 'can't live without' items. They are:

M&S smoked salt. It's ridiculous. I know salt isn't good for you so if I have to use it - I make it count. I bought it on a whim when we were having steak and now I want to sprinkle it on everything. Smoked salt is made by just about everyone so I don't know why I'm gaga for M&S - maybe because it's course. Whatever the case may be, I love it with a passion.

Fortum and Mason's English Breakfast tea - the loose leaves, not the bags. It's so delicious. I love it, love it!

Hobnobs. 'nuff said. I love the milk chocolate covered ones. An open pack is an empty pack in this house.

Sainsbury's sparkling water with a hint of raspberry and peach. Oh, so good.

Waitrose's balsamic vinegar - it's syrupy. Ridiculously good on their home made mozzerella, vine ripened tomatoes and fresh basil. I think next time I'll sprinkle a little of the smoked salt on. We'll see.

M&S shaker salads. I'm addicted. Joyce knows what I'm talking about!

Stella Artois. That's some good stuff! Draft is best but we stock up on the cans and bottles.

La Creperie on the Hampstead High Street. Thankfully, most days I walk by before it opens otherwise I'd find myself involuntarily walking toward it.