February 27, 2011

The 236.

Today started out bright and sunny so we decided to take yesterday's rain check and head over to London Fields' scooter ramps.

Noah unfortunately suffered an open head wound from a rather spectacular fall, so had to sit out a few rounds.

Luckily the cheesy biscuits did the trick and he was back, up and running, for a quick playground trip.

We had lunch at Buen Ayre, one of London's best Argentinian restaurants, right there on Broadway Market. Who knew? The South Americans, apparently. The place was filled with Spanish. Thank goodness I've been watching so much Dora and Diego. A rescate, amigos!

Sadly, the afternoon went downhill from there. As it's London, it inevitably started to rain. Getting home from Broadway Market is, at the best of times, a challenge since we need to take the tiny and completely useless 236 bus.

Catching one of these in the rain is nearly impossible - this mouse-size bus is choked with people avoiding the wet and squeezing a buggy into that scrum is futile. We had to divide and conquer. Donal took the boys on the first bus and I caught the second, still needing to fold up the shaggin' buggy just to get on. Not one of my more graceful moments as I'm struggling to fold our Quinny on a lurching, sweaty, crowded bus while a portable potty, millions of wet changes-of-clothes, Noah's scooter, and enough snacks to feed Attila's army are spilling out around me. (Travelling light with an in-session potty trainer is hard.)

We're back home now though. I have warm socks, hot, strong coffee and am quickly putting to rest today's quarrel with the 236.

February 25, 2011


We made it through our first half term break. In retrospect it's a fairly typical week.

Pizza East

Dalston Lane playgroup mayhem

(and toast)

5:00 storm trooping (don't ask me!)

Soft play balloon chasing

February 24, 2011


Melissa once told me that lasagna is a labor of love. Or, something like that.

My good friend Pam has recently given birth to lovely little Blanche. As it is my self-appointed duty to feed all my friends, especially in times of celebration, I wanted to make her something hearty, warming and fool proof. Lasagna was my dish of choice. 

I decided to go with Georgio Locatelli's recipe - his cookbook is my current favorite for all Italian foods. Unfortunate for me, this didn't call for jarred Ragu but rather the slow-cooked kind which took a 3 hour bite out of of yesterday afternoon. (Top tip - don't kid yourself that you are prepared to chop up 2kg of raw meat in order to save a few pennies.) Interestingly, he also doesn't use any cheese in his layers, just a bechamel sauce. I couldn't convince myself that was going to be tasty enough, though, so threw in plenty of mozzarella and Parmesan. 

Today was assembly. It takes a surprisingly long amount of time to put together layers that are all ready, yet separately, done. Maybe that was because I decided to blanche and then cold-soak the pasta; something I normally would just do without. Or maybe because my bechamel sauce was akin to play-doh and spreading it was like working with rubber cement. Regardless of the reason, it took me a long time, but I did finish.

So here we go, 3 little lasagna masterpieces, ready and waiting for Pam's oven and/or freezer. 

Wait... that's only 2 little lasagna masterpieces. Where's the 3rd? Well, my crazy and possibly drug-riddled neighbor came knocking on the door for money. The poor chap is deaf so it's very difficult to understand him, but I basically understood that his dog had chewed his £20 note and he was asking me to replace it. Um, no. 

We ended the conversation on amicably, but I nevertheless felt I should, and could, help this guy. (Yes, the other voice in my head was saying Stay The Hell Away.) And, anyway, did Pam really need 3 lasagnas? No. She's a strong, capable woman and I was making her a cake as well, anyway.

I hope he doesn't come knocking later for dessert.

February 21, 2011

Transport Museum.

So begins Half Term for the entire UK population of school-going children, Elliot now included. This rush of children, and their parents, makes every mildly interesting child-related activity Absolute Hell. Events are over-capacity, playgroups require an absurdly early arrival time, museums are bursting, buses are overrun with buggies, restaurants are crammed with highchairs and every parent wears a pained grimace at the need to deal with Other People's Children.

Despite all this, The Richardsons and The Smyths had a very successful trip to The Transport Museum. It is, of course, because Fiona I posses superior logistical skills. Actually, we're just not afraid of Getting The Hell Out of There when things start to go downhill.

February 18, 2011

Friday morning.

If Sunday is my day to cook, Friday is my day to plan. The boys are with Ann so I have some quiet time where I can plan out our meals for the week ahead. The idea came a couple years ago from my BFF Melissa (aka Zesty Cook!) and my life hasn't been the same since.

Instruments of inspiration - my cookbooks. Cookbooks are my crack cocaine. I can't get enough of them. I have everything from The French Laundry (which is beautiful, but completely useless to a mother of 2 fish finger fans) to my newest purchase, Casserole Treasury c1970 (which is equally beautiful and useless - their recommended quantities of Cream of Mushroom Soup freaks me out). I make a weekly stop at Oxfam to check out their selection of books and bought this there yesterday for £1. I think I'll have to re-donate it next week...

Secondly, I need my calendar. Donal's gone several nights a week and I've given up cooking pleasing, complicated meals on those nights. I just don't need the pain. Anyway, the calendar lets me know where he is and when, so I know what to cook and when.

Then it's a very pleasing hour or so flipping through my books, choosing what sounds good, writing out the shopping list and doing the shopping. If I ever do manage to move out of the UK, online grocery shopping is, by far, what I'll miss most. There's no better time and money saver than doing my grocery shopping online. I haven't stepped foot in an actual grocery store in well over 5 months.

Volia! Week's menu planned! Not perfect, not entirely complete, but done. 

*WC stands for Wild Card. I obviously watched too many game shows as a kid.

February 17, 2011

Seven year itch.

Happy Anniversary to us! 7 years ago, Donal and I dragged our families down to Puerto Rico to help us get married. We needed to justify taking everyone such a long way from home, so we tried to show them why we love the island so much.

Old San Juan, with its fantastic colors and architecture, was the perfect place to base ourselves. 

The Kleins stayed in El Rincon - a cozy little house with an open patio smack in its middle. John loved this idea until he got doused one rainy night.

The Smyths fared better in their accommodation.

I think, with any wedding, there are things that go well and things that don't. For me, my main regret is poor sun protection. I thought I'd stayed covered and in the shade for our trip to Rio del Mar, but I'd obviously given myself too much credit.

Which is a shame, because there's no covering up a sunburn in a bright, white wedding dress.

El Yunque, the US's only national rainforest, was also on our tour. Mary wisely stayed home for this one and Dad kept everyone on time so we could make it back for our rehearsal dinner. (No mean feat when dealing with the entire Smyth family. Smyth Time and Klein Time do not mix. They didn't then; they don't now.)

In addition to our superior time keeping skills, The Kleins are way cooler as Goose's socks + sandals combo clearly proves. (Actually, Goose's poor feet also got sunburned so I'm sure the socks are more of a protective measure than a fashion statement.)

We got married in the big cathedral in Old San Juan. It was a bit OTT for our 12 guests, but luckily the tourists helped fill the pews.

Young and fresh on our 1st anniversary...

older and wiser on our 7th.

February 16, 2011

5 AM.

Hello. We're Noah's favorite toys. 

We're so great, Noah likes to wake up at 5:00 just to play with us. 

And of course, if Noah is awake, Elliot is too.

At this hour, I'd almost call cereal his midnight snack.

February 15, 2011

Potty Time.

Without warning or provocation, Noah started potty training yesterday. I don't remember how it came up, but he said he wanted to wear Thomas underpants. So, we whipped off the nappy and pulled up the pants. Now's as good as time as any, right? Just because he's never managed to actually do anything in the potty (as the layer of dust in it proves), is no reason to think this will be a painful process, right...? We'll see. 

As The Older Brother, I'm trying to get Elliot on board to encourage him along. His idea was to take their walkie-talkies into the bathroom and to issue orders.

Unfortunately, even with Elliot's encouragement, my washing machine is at bursting point.

No wonder people wait until warmer months to do this.

I'm also experimenting with PhotoShop, so if these colors are off, just bear with me...

February 14, 2011

Cookies and Cards.

Happy Valentine's Day. 

Elliot and I made some cookies for his teachers and friends. His teachers seemed very (yet pleasantly) surprised when he gave them each their cookie. Maybe bribing school representatives with food isn't the done thing in the UK?

Everything is better with tiny hearts.


Making things turned out to be so much fun, we all made cards, too. (Even Donal!)

February 13, 2011

A chance to cook.

While I love cooking, our mid-week meals can barely be classed as such. Mock me if you will, but God invented fish fingers, oven chips, frozen peas and ketchup for a reason.

Sunday is my day to spend some time at the stove. Today we're having Raymond Blanc's coq au vin with roast potatoes. (If you didn't take French 101, I'll spare you the embarrassment of my own mis-pronunciation... Cock Ah Van, not Coke Ow Vin.) 

While I'll in no way say my rendition is comparable to Monsieur Blanc's (given my unwillingness to 'toast' flour), it is pretty tasty and fairly easy. That said, I'm sure Critic 1 and Critic 2 will have no time for it and demand the salubrious Fish Finger. 

On the note of children's food, when did Happy Meals get such choice toys? I seem to remember them being cruddy toys that my loving and thoughtful Grandma would save up as "special toys" for when we came to visit. However, included in my boy's very first Happy Meal was the coolest light-up, batteries-included, toy light sabre you could hope to squeeze into that little box. Thank you McD's. While your food is sub-par, I'd happily wait 20 mins in your drive-thru, argue with your under-paid employees about which window is the appropriate one to pay at, and pay £2.99 x 2 to keep my kids entertained the entire rest of the way home and past breakfast this morning.

I can not condone, however, my husband's love of their strawberry milkshake.

February 12, 2011


It wasn't a typical beach-side day, but we had to get out of The Big Smoke. So, to Southend we went. 

We actually went exactly one year ago today with our lovely friends Pam, Matt and Iris. 

Alas, they couldn't come this year as Pam is nearly 53 weeks pregnant. Nevertheless, we had a great time. Fish & chips for lunch...

watching the Life Guard pull in their (noisy) rescue hovercraft...

goofing around on the beach,

and collecting more shells than we'll ever need (in the style of Michael Jordan).

Ending with a gratuitous shot of my very handsome husband.