Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Hallowe'en

‘What are we going to do for Halloween?’ TLOML asked me, a few weeks ago. Because of course, for Americans, Hallowe'en is an event for which celebrations and jollities should be planned.

Fortunately, as it turned out, he was too busy winning medals at the swim nationals in Sheffield for my lack of a plan to matter. He did remind me to buy candy, for the trick or treaters who would surely call at Fox Corner. I then had to confess my Halloween plan was to hunker down in front of the Halloween specials of Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor, and not to answer the doorbell to anyone.

I suspect American readers will be disappointed by this revelation. The fact is, Halloween is not – yet – the big hoopla over here that it is in the US. You might see some kids out trick-or-treating the people they know on their street, and some people throw parties. Regular club nights may call this weekend’s bash a Halloween special, and encourage fancy dress. There’s probably one pumpkin on a windowsill on our street (of 100 houses). But that’s about it.
I'm a sucker for a seasonal candy, me.
It’s all a bit weak compared to the jamboree of pumpkins and spookiness that consumes the US throughout October. Over there it seemed to me every one had a costume and a night of parties planned since Labor Day. Pumpkin patches sprung up in malls and parks, with excited kids picking out their pumpkins. The shops were full of that lovely, sugary ‘candycorn’, and little spooky marshmallow ghosts, and all sorts of other good, teeth rotting stuff. And the doormen said ‘Happy Halloween!’ like it was an actual cause for celebration, like Christmas or Thanksgiving (as opposed to a night of famously spooky and dark deeds).
This is normal over there.
As it happens we never really did the Halloween thing in the US. TLOML was out of town both years at that time, and I was too British to get dressed up and go party with randoms like Americans do. Still, I soaked up the general Halloween excitement - ate the corn, said 'Happy Halloween', and admired our neighbours' decor. I liked the vibe and the way it marked the start of the brilliant holiday season.

I surprise myself by admitting, I kinda miss it this year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Meat Week

This weekend TLOML is away at a swimming jamboree, racing against lots of other maturing-yet-impressive swimmers.

In order to prepare, he had to stock up on protein. So on Monday we had roast chicken for dinner. On Tuesday and Wednesday we had spaghetti bolognese with meatballs. And on Thursday we had roast beef. Lunch every day, for TLOML at least, has been lunch meats. Obviously.
Beef & bacon

Beef & blood

Notice how the pregnancy food safety rules about rate meat are thankfully abandoned as pre-race pressure mounts
I called it Meat Week. We ate about twice as much meat as in a normal week. Which is about as much  meat as I used to eat in a month when I lived on my own in London, and thought a bowl of cornflakes or a tomato salad made a perfectly acceptable dinner. I know, I'm lucky he married /saved me. For what it's worth I eat a lot more fish now too. And icecream. Just fewer tomatoes. My doctor told me this week my cholesterol is a little high. I tried to look surprised.

He's gone now, to Sheffield, in pursuit of medals. (As I write this, one medal is already in the bag, and I picture him munching on the cold beef leftovers poolside, in readiness for the next race).

And I am home alone, eating tomatoes all weekend long. I'm calling it Tomato Weekend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bodily changes

Transatlantic moves can be held responsible for a fair amount of bodily changes. I gained more than a handful of pounds when I swapped my London, cornflakes-for-dinner, bike-riding, gardening, walking-to-the-shops lifestyle for life in a city where you drive everywhere, and the Mexican food is good and plentiful.

TLOML says he always loses weight in London, even if he's just here for a couple of weeks. He puts it down to a combination of walking a little bit more, and smaller portions. I was hoping the move home would have the same magical effect on me. Maybe it was starting to work, but then I got pregnant, so now I'm just expanding all over.

So.. that's us.

Jack has moved within a one mile radius, from one garden flat to another. So what's his excuse for becoming so enormous he can barely squeeze through the catflap?
Honestly, it is a normal size catflap. He just makes it look like it was built for a mouse.

Still, at least he's becoming a more and more stable ipad rest.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Transatlantic Adjustments

It's not just TLOML who has some adjusting to do. I had become very used to US style fridges - massive ones, that is. Ice-machines in the freezer. And good sized dishwashers.

Still, we are nothing if not adaptable.

The dishwasher is a little small:
Note the icebucket on top, for scale
But that's okay, we just create a mountain of supplementary washing up. It's a bit like not having a dishwasher, only with about half as many dishes to wash.
Just a couple of bits that wouldn't fit in the dishwasher last night

And the fridge is miniscule. So, much to TLOML's horror, if it gets really full we just keep the eggs at room temperature.
That's right, eggs at room temperature and butter too. Disgusting Europeans.

Our freezer is without an automated ice machine. So we have created a manual one. We have a system of a large bowl that's always full of ice, and every few days top it up with fresh ice.
We are never short of ice, despite the lack of facilities.

We miss our American kitchen conveniences. But life here is no hardship - it just requires a tiny bit more effort.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This country!

We've been living in London now for 8 months, almost as long as we were in New York. I think it's time for a progress report, on how TLOML is adjusting to life in dear old Blighty. So here goes.

Today we got off the bus a couple of stops early to go to the butcher. It being a Wednesday afternoon, they were closed. I'd forgotten about early closing on a Wednesday afternoon. It turns out that the tradition is alive and well at Elite Meats. We decided to walk to the butcher round the corner, and it started to rain. Really quite heavily. Which was surprising as the skies were blue moments earlier.

TLOML shook his fist at the sky and shouted 'GRRRR! This Country! The butcher! The rain! Grrrrr!'

I think it's safe to say that, with his years of convenient 24 hour supermarkets and year round Californian sunshine, TLOML still has a little adjusting to do.

(Meanwhile I celebrate the fact we have three knowledgeable, independent butchers within a ten minute walk - and I don't miss Gristedes, or Ralphs, one little bit. And that although it rained briefly, the skies had been blue most of the day, and it is still mild enough to go out with gloves, or boots - I remember last October's NY snow storm with a shudder.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Isadora the Oracle of Fashion

I'm feeling very proud of myself today. First of all because I am officially a fully fledged writer, as I am writing blogs for the excellent Babes with Babies. As opposed to rambling on for my own enjoyment, I am now doing for the edification of others. Lucky them.

Secondly because I took my own advice. I wrote this piece on print a week or two ago and had sort of forgotten about it. I mean, I meant it at the time, and spent a bit of time redigesting A/W 2012 catwalk reports and thinking through what they meant for pregnant ladies. Then I just forgot all about it.

Today the post was published, and on re-reading it I looked down at my outfit in delight. I am totally wearing multiple prints! I didn't even do it on purpose in a 'following the trend' way (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not how I roll when I'm working from home). I just thought it looked cute.
This is how I stand when I'm trying to make it clear this is a bump not a beer belly
Which means I am very on trend. According to myself, anyway. And/ or, I am an excellent predictor of trends.

Hurrah for small, shallow victories.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Whittington Baby

TLOML and I have decided to have our baby at the Whittington Hospital. We started our antenatal care at the Royal Free, a very good teaching hospital that's a ten minute walk from Fox Corner - but have decided to switch, as the Whittington sounds better.

The rooms in the Whittington's birth centre were recently done up, with double beds and nice big plasma screen TVs. So if TLOML wants to take a nap or watch some telly while I give birth, he can. We aren't sure if this is important or not but it seemed like a nice option to have.

The Whittington is named after Dick Whittington, legendary Lord Mayor of London. According to folklore, Dick Whittington came to London to earn his fortune, having heard the streets were paved with gold. Times were tough so he decided to quit on his dream - but as he headed out of London on Highgate Hill he heard bells ringing, and felt sure they were telling him if only he gave it another go, he could one day be Lord Mayor. Thanks to the mouse catching skills of his cat, he did indeed become Lord Mayor.

I'm a bit hazy on the details - quite how the bells told him to turn back, and exactly how the cat helped him become Mayor. But every schoolchild in Britain knows the story, and there's a statue of his cat on Highgate Hill, so it must be true.

The TVs, the double bed, and the cat story are excellent reasons to choose the Whittington. Another good reason is that they have plenty of birthing pools, so the chances are very good I'll get a room with one.

Isn't it marvellous that I can, thanks to NHS patient choice, opt without constraints for the quality hospital I think is the best? And it's all free too. God bless the NHS.

However I will, apparently, need to bring my own sieve and mirror.
Which made draw yet another comparison with life in the US. I know if we'd had a baby there we would have had to pay $500+ a month in insurance premiums, or find at least $10,000 for the birth.

But I bet they throw in a new sieve and mirror for that price.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A winning spirit

Last week I did a bit of work for Big Corp, assessing people for their geek qualities. It was like that time I went to Brazil and assessed geeks. Only this time I didn't go anywhere and the people I was interviewing were rather paler than their Brazilian peers.

I really enjoyed doing the assessments. What I liked about it was how nice they all were, even when they were told they didn't make the grade. Without exception they were smiley and pleasant, and took constructive criticism in a really positive way. Eager to learn and to improve, they agreed to work with their colleagues - some of whom had done better than them in the assessment - to fill the gaps I identified in their knowledge.

It was the exact opposite of the strops you sometimes see people throw on reality TV shows. Like that nutty Pink impersonator who went ballistic when she didn't make the cut on X-Factor.

The geeks I assessed were more like those lovely people on The Great British Bake Off, which seems to me to be the least competitive reality TV show ever made. (For those outside the UK: I'd explain the show but I think the name says it all). I love the way the baking rivals help each other out: one of them will scurry over to help another pick up the cakes she dropped on the way out of the oven, they shout encouragement to each other, and pass on tips. And they're humble, even self-deprecating, when the judges give them feedback.

TLOML laughs when we watch it: 'It's so British,' he says, 'They're so polite to each other.' When a Great British Bake Off contestant helps another rescue a dropped sponge, he says on an American competitive cooking show their competitor would be cackling with delight. When Great British Bake Off contestant says of their planned recipe, 'I hope it works, I'm a bit nervous', he reckons the American counterpart would say 'This is going to be awesome, it'll blow you guys away'.

I think he may be being a bit harsh on his compatriots. But there is something very sweetly, Britishly understated about this show. Maybe that's why it's been so phenomenally successful. It's a nice gentle ride of a show, basically.

I can see Bake Off TV taking off elsewhere, as so many British TV shows have done. But they'd need to inject a killer 'winning spirit' streak and a tonne of drama to the contestants first.