Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad Blogger

I've been a bad, bad blogger this past week. I posted late on Sunday night and haven't blogged again all week. It's because I've been under the weather with this asthma thing. I  have pulled muscles in my ribs that hurt like mad when I cough - and I cough a lot. So I haven't been in the mood.

However, I've been doing a lot of research while I'm housebound (oh yes - ordered to 'relax'). I've been poring over the Internet for a new flat. If I just move to West Hampstead, South End Green or anywhere just outside of the NW3 post code we can get triple the space for the same price. And everywhere I've looked is just as charming and within walking distance to Hampstead. I'm really encouraged by this and can't wait to move. We're locked into a lease until late May so there's time to do it right. Then I don't want to move again until it's out of the country permanently!

Another bit of research is vacation spots. We decided our first trip outside of the UK should be exotic. So we decided Egypt would be best - and several friends are booked to go. Well, in light of the unrest in Cairo we've scrapped that idea. We hadn't even highlighted a back up spot so that's what I've been doing. Looking where we should go next. I'm thinking train is probably easiest so maybe Brussels or Paris. I'm really interested in Malta and Greece - as I haven't been to either. Fen wants to go to Madrid (I've been twice). We'll figure it out.

I received two tickets to the Destinations Holiday and Travel show next week at Earls Court so maybe something will strike my fancy while we're there. We'll see. It's nice to have a trip to look forward to, especially since we decided not to travel much the first year with X being so young and with being ripped off by our first landlord 'n' all.

AND, I received some good news - two of our top 3 schools have said Cate is in. I'm SO relieved. All that persistence, calling and following through paid off. it won't be confirmed in writing until April. Until then I remain skeptical but I know she's going to school around here so our hunt for a new place will revolve around that. Her current school is a half hour walk away right now. I've had enough of that this winter!

Well, that's me this week. Not exactly exciting. But how exciting can sitting around coughing your head off be? I'm just grumpy because all my favourite people are going to Quiz night tonight and I won't be there. Damn.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Three reasons to be cheerful....

Okay, last week was a fair week, a good week and a crap week all at once.

It was a fair week because I had a birthday. At my age, that's not as exciting as it was when I was, say...twelve. And I only celebrate my birthday now on the 0's and 5's. This was a five. Yikes. That's half way to the next big 0 (and not the good kind). But it's fine. I survived and surprisingly look exactly as I did the day before my birthday!

It was good because my husband took me out - a rocky start as he didn't have a reservation and we walked all over Hampstead and Belsize Park looking for a place that wasn't booked. I could feel Mary's pain, albeit I was not pregnant but I did ride the ass (for screwing up). ;-) But we had a lovely dinner once we found a cute little place and the food was great. And then I went to dinner with seven of my new friends here in London. Fantastic. And my fanciest friend came over for drinks and then sent me a ridiculously fancy gift that included a case of wine, fish sticks and Skinny Cow ice cream desserts. This is very good stuff!

It was a crap week because I was diagnosed with asthma. Gawd awful. I'm tough on myself and thought I was just way more out of shape than I am. I've been huffing and puffing my way around the hills here gasping for air and wondering what my problem was. It may not be forever, but when I think about the past few years, I've had a tough time with a bunch of things that never used to bug me. Dang. So if you see someone out there walking in the Heath or running (more like staggering) up a hill with an inhaler - that's me. Please wave and shout encouraging words.

Anyway, I still have three reasons to be cheerful:

1. My children, a given, natch, but this evening my three year old was 'hiding' behind the curtains in our lounge and then jumping out and giggling, to which my one year old would literally keel over laughing. It was seriously the cutest thing I've ever seen (since the last adorable thing they've done).

2. We live in Europe. It's been a crap road but things are looking way, way up. And we live in London. ENGLAND. I LOVE all things English, the history in particular. We haven't had much opportunity to get out and about for numerous reasons but now we can. And we are. And I'm loving it. Living here is something I always dreamed about but never thought I'd actually do. Yet, here we are. Better make the most of it.

3., Brothers and Sisters, Grey's Anatomy and a select few other shows I really love. Sound weird? I work every day sometimes until 11pm or later. When I have a night off I want to either read something someone else edited and published or fall onto my television with a beverage (anything from wine, to sherry, to tea, to lemon, honey and hot water). It's what I do to unwind at the end of a long day. I tape (DVR?) my shows so I can watch them when I want. I tape NBC nightly news every week day as well. A little taste of home. I love Brian Williams and just hearing the music cue up makes me happy. And Sunday night is movie night with the hubbie. Always a good time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - oh the controversy

I found this book quite interesting and it has kicked up a ton of controversy and comments from the masses (here's just one article from the Washington Post, google her and there are countless more). It focuses on the Chinese model of child rearing which she applied with an iron will to her own two high achieving daughters.

It's written by brilliant Yale Law School professor Amy Chua who is Chinese American. She's been called everything from monster to child abuser to genius. Whatever the case, there seems to be a method to her madness. What I like best is that she learned from herself and her daughters and freely admits to where she went wrong and what she'd change if she did it again.

Here are a few things she would not let her daughters do in order to study, practice their musical instruments and focus on becoming an above average student and adult:

- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- complain about not being in a school play
- watch TV or play computer games
- choose their own extracurricular activities
- get any grade less than an A
- not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin.

Yikes! However, everything changed when her younger daughter rebelled at the age of 13 and Chua had to reconsider her choices. The book is a fascinating look at child rearing and frankly, makes me feel better about being a bit of an education fanatic. I sit with Claire to write her name, go over her alphabet and numbers every day. We spell things when we're out (signs, etc.). I worried it might be overkill - not at all! I'm a lightweight compared to Chua and apparently, quite a few other mothers. Granted their children are high achievers but are the socially able?

I think a balance between study and play is essential for children to be well balanced and prepared for the adult world. I don't think either of my children would fare well if they couldn't play and decompress with some Mickey Mouse or Peppa Pig.

What do you think of her parenting style? She's extremely successful, her children are both going to be extremely successful so it does work. But at what price? I think I'll stick to my own model of child rearing - it worked for my mother and my two sisters and brother all turned out just fine. Good enough for me!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stylish Blog Award

Well! I've been generously presented with the Stylish Blogger Award by the wonderful (and extremely rich, stylish and fawncy, not to mention hilarious) I'm So Fancy. I don't consider myself stylish but I'll take what I can get! Thank you Ms. Fancy Pants!

The rules are:

a) Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award. Done.
b) Share 7 things about yourself. Egad. Fine, see below.
c) Award 15 recently discovered bloggers. Easy-peasy. There are so many....
d) Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award. Done.

The seven things about me:

1. I used to hate brussels sprouts with a burning passion. However, I'm So Fancy forced me to have them at Thanksgiving dinner at her palace and lo...they was delish. Then my neighbor, who was also at the posh dinner, roasted them and said, 'Just try 'em.' Again, fantastic. I bought my first Brussels sprout tree about two weeks and have gorged myself on them since. So many years to catch up on.

2. I'm ambidextrous in a weird way. I can write with both hands - used to be able to do it flawlessly in university but I'm out of practice now. However, I do a lot of things with my left hand instead of my right. I am also left legged, I lead with my left leg - cartwheels, scooters, kicking stuff, you name it, the left leg is the anchor.

3. Because I've been in the publishing industry for almost 20 years I have read literally thousands of books. At one point when I was editorial director for an imprint I was reading 300 books a year for work, not all published (and still not published). As the first defense in publishing I've read some truly awful stuff which just makes the gems shine like a beacon in the night.

4. I cannot remember lyrics to songs for the life of me. I'm absolute rubbish at it. National anthem - I'll hum in the middle. I can't hold a tune in a bucket so it's not something I'm desperate to achieve and it's not a muscle I care to exercise but don't ask me to sing along - you'll regret it.

5. I'm fiercely loyal to friends. If you're my friend, good friend, I would go to the ends of the earth for you. I don't forget birthdays, I'm available to chat during crisis at any hour and I'm happy to help in any way I can. I live for it.

6.I'm a granny at heart. I love knitting, sewing, needlepoint, etc. I'd scrapbook but I don't have the time. I always have a project I'm working on somewhere nearby. I'm a busy, busy type who can't sit still for a minute so I knit while watching TV, and I used to do it on the subway on the way to the office in the mornings.

7. While I can knit and watch TV, I am seriously uncoordinated. Can't do step classes or group aerobics to save my life. As a child I went to ballet and gymnastics. Couldn't do ballet at all and Mr. Farrington, the fierce instructor, would bellow at me to keep up. I just can't get those dance steps down, or the aerobic moves. So I've asked for a wii fitness for my birthday where I can be uncoordinated in the the privacy of my lounge.

Now, here are the fifteen bloggers I admire and think are oh-so-stylish:

The Beauty Glo
Mummy's Little Monkey
An American ExPat in London
The Archers at the Larches
Ayak's Turkish Delight
A Tranquil Townhouse
Mother Hen
The Mid 30's Life
Expat Mum
Nappy Valley Girl
A Lady In London
Quite Sensible Indeed
Funnel Full of Soup
The Bewildered Brit

Now here's some serious style for you:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Street Etiquette

Today, at my women's club meeting, one of the ladies said, 'I've seen you out and about and was thinking, I know you!'

My reply: 'Oh really? Was I behaving myself?' We laughed and she said I was but who knows if I really was the picture of respectability. The things you do when you don't think you're being watched....(see photo of Her Majesty above.)

In New York City being anonymous is expected - in a city of 11 million it's easy to get lost in a crowd, most don't even know their neighbours. In my old 'hood I knew the neighbours but once you got out of a three block radius you pretty much didn't know a soul. (In fact, I met a former Brooklyn neighbour here in London - we were members of the same clubs, same play spaces, parks, etc. She looked familiar but we didn't say a word to each other until we ended up at the same women's club meeting here in London).

So when I walk, and I walk  A LOT, I have a tendency to let my mind drift. I often practice phone pitches, run dialog over in my head, think about work, strategize, and such. I've been known to make a bed and talk out loud: quoting dialog and reworking it, trying out a pitch for a book, rerunning a conversation I had the day before. It's not that I'm nuts, I'm just lost in my head which is filled with stuff - which, apparently, is spilling out of my mouth.

Fen and I have had a disagreement or two while walking down the street - not screaming matches or dramatic outburst, but disagreements on which way to go, the small couple stuff you do. I've also been known to reprimand Cate while walking, as you're wont to do with a three year old.

I'm usually pushing a pram (uphill both ways - this is Hampstead after all) and I know I've huffed and puffed on occasion (like today, and yesterday...okay every day), and I am certainly guilty of window shopping and lallygagging on the sidewalks of the high street.

And don't get me started if I'm on my own with my iPod plugged in - I'll sing. It ain't pretty, trust me, but I can't hear me - so it's all good on my end. I'd like to formally apologize to all the dogs of Hampstead, Belsize park, West Hampstead, Swiss Cottage and South End Green for my lack of talent and for subjecting them to it.

I like to think I'm fairly normal (dont' we all) but when I don't think I'm being watched I guess I can be a little weird (can't we all). Former UCLA basketball coach, the late, great John Wooden said, 'The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.'

If so, I'm pretty harmless and I like to think that Shakespeare is onto something with 'To thine own self be true.'

But my favourite quote regarding being alone - even if you're out in the world is from Charles Evans Hughes: 'A man has to live with himself, and he should see to it that he always has good company.'  I certainly do amuse myself!

Friday, January 7, 2011

My lemon

I decided to make Ayak's lemon curd for some lemon meringue pie and cut open this lemon. I've never seen a lemon that had a seam down the center. It was so odd I had to take a picture of it. have you ever seen one like this?

Anyway, the lemon curd turned out beautifully and I highly recommend you try it. It's easy, doesn't take long and makes a really nice pie! I've made her shortbread too - fabulous.
I love lemons for a million things. I love hot water with lemon and honey - good creamy honey, not just any honey. I love chicken paillard and lemon spaghetti. I make both at least once a month. So I'm familiar with lemons. This one just caught my eye!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

X, the chameleon

X needs a haircut, that's for sure. His hair is all over the place and I have to just go and get it done. He's so cute, though, with his unruly locks. What do you think? Dead ringer for:
The X Man

Orlando Bloom's hair
Young(er) Justin Bieber

President Andrew Jackson on the US $20 bill
And again:
The X Man
Farrah Fawcett
Perhaps this is more like it:
The Happy X Man
John Boy Walton

And one final time - which I think is the winner:
My Handsome X
His real dad?

What do you think? Okay, okay. I'll cut his hair!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bleary eyed

I'm dead on my feet today - can you guess why? I haven't really slept well since we moved here and there are four factors as to why:

1. X - he's only one and sleeps through the night most nights. Every now and then he wakes up and I usually just put a plug in him (a dummy/binky/pacifier) and he tends to just go back to sleep. Rarely does he get up up during the night now but he's wide awake at some point between 6 and 7am every morning. So regardless of the amount of sleep I've had the night before I'm up when heir commandant beckons.

2. Cate - she's three and a half but lately she's been getting up in the middle of the night. She likes to softly pad into our room, tip-toe up to my sleeping form, then put her face right next to mine and tap on my cheek. I wake up with a jolt. Her latest excuses: "I need chocolate milk", "I'm scared, there is an owl in my room", and my favourite, "There are spiders in my bed." For the record there are never owls or spiders. Ever. She's terrified of owls and I have no idea why. Santa brought her a few sticker story books (these are fantastic for travel activities) and in the ballet one there is a Swan Lake scene with an owl in a tree - she covered it with stickers and announced it was 'scary'. I think a trip to the London Zoo is in order to get her over this. Owls are our friends and seeing how I'm becoming a night owl I need to stress this!

3. Fen - he snores. Not soft little rumblings - we're talking LOUD growling, frightening snoring. This is not enough to want to divorce him, in the light of day. However,  in the dark of night I might sing a different song (peppered with unique and interesting combinations of four letter words)as the awful racket emanates from his snooter reverberating around the room and rattling the bed. He has nose strips which work for the most part but some nights - when he has a cold or if he's had a few beers - nothing can stop the freight train that is his sleep apnea.

4. Me - once I'm jolted awake it takes me a while to get back to sleep. I've written about this before and it just stinks. I need a vacation from my own head sometimes!

So I face today tired - it was Fen's fault (sometimes they tag team but last night it was all him). I looked in the mirror this morning and I looked my age plus 10 years (okay, maybe I exagerate a tad) but it wasn't pretty.  I'm not one for cosmetic surgery or botox or anything like that so I guess I'm stuck with whatever nature has to offer.

However, yesterday I was chatting with a client who is literally a beauty queen - she is stunning, stunning beyond words. She said, as casually as possible, " I just had some filler put in so I can't really smile yet." I have no idea what that means but it sounded like something a construction worker might tell me during a renovation. Mind you she's my age (sorta) and looks amazing. I thought about it this morning as I showered.

The conclusion - I shall be filler-free but I did just make an appointment for a facial! If I can't get sleep at least I can look like I did.What did Fernando Lamas (and Billy Crystal) say?: It's better to look good than to feel good." I doubt it but I'm willing to give it a go.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's a new year!

I was fast asleep when the clock struck midnight on 1/1/11. It was a rough year, that 2010, and it couldn't come to end soon enough. So instead of waiting up for it to end, I went to bed - I think I earned the right to sleep.

New Year's eve is Fen's birthday so he gets to call the shots every year, which is fine with me. If left to me we'd be out spending loads of money and dressed to kill - he'd prefer to be mellow and I'm thinking that he's got it right. When we first met we always went out, then I'd have huge dinner parties with elaborate menu's and all my fine china and crystal but since we've had kids we've been keeping a pretty low profile. I now prefer it.

However, he does meet me somewhere in the middle. On December 30th I take him out to dinner every year - his choice of restaurant. This year we went to the George pub on Haverstock Hill. There is no chance I'd ever pick this pub for one of my birthday dinners, but it's close, it's food isn't bad and it's a sports pub (Shangri la to the sports guy). So we ventured over and had a nice dinner and a beer (yes, even me -  I like beer). We even managed to walk a few steps to the Roebuck pub and had a drink by the fire, which was lovely.

The next day, New Years eve I baked a massive, triple layer red velvet cake with cream cheese icing (again, his choice). I made a giant dinner of steaks (from the Hampstead Butcher - love that place) with sauteed mushrooms and onion, au gratin potatoes (home made), and roasted asparagus. I had champagne, he had Baileys and we were all set to watch Casablanca after dinner. Alas, it was not meant to be. X has been fascinated (read: messing around with and pushing all the buttons) on our Virgin box and it was not taped - it was just a black screen. so we watched something else, which I promised Fen I would not reveal as it's a tad girlie!

The kids blew out the candles on the cake and went to bed leaving us to ourselves for the night and it was lovely. I like my husband and we have a nice time together - whether we're just chatting, out doing something, or sitting together snuggled on the sofa watching telly.

So the year came to an end and good riddance to it. I sincerely hope that 2011 has much more in store in a good way for us. I dread the thought of having to move once again this year but it really must happen. We're heading to New Zealand this year as well which we're really looking forward to. We've got travels through the UK and Europe as well. It's going to be a good year. Never mind that I accidentally threw out my favourite pair of earrings on New Year's day and cried like a baby for an hour. the year is still off to a better start than last year!

And best of all - no resolutions. I've got enough to deal with already!

If you were wondering how the cake was received - here's the answer: