Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On absence, fondness, etc

Daddy's back
TLOML came home yesterday. Yes, I know, I posted about him coming home just a couple of weeks ago. But then he went away again. That's the thing about running a US business from Yorkshire: it involves an awful lot of travel.

Off he went again, rather glum about saying goodbye to the new love of his life (that's Lady P, not another car, to be clear). And so began another boring endurance trial for Lady P and I. We miss him so, you see.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I cry myself to sleep every night when he's gone. Actually I tuck myself into bed really early, with a good book, and feel quite smug about it. I keep my self busy socialising with my family - a run out for afternoon tea with my mum, lots of playing with my nearby nephews and chatting to my sister, and a couple of Sunday lunches at my parents'. I made a foray down to Harrogate to see an old friend for the day. And thanks to the wonders of childcare, got out for yoga and for a personal training session.

So it was a reasonably busy week. It was a productive one, too. I spent my free, housebound evenings writing. I probably lost a couple of pounds thanks to consuming mainly vegetables and fruit all week. And Lady P and I worked on sleeping through the night: she's much better at it now. (Probably because I caved and now give her an enormous bottle of formula at midnight and then refuse to feed her till breakfast.)

And yet, and yet, I missed him still. No matter that I can fill my days and nights with things to do. Nor that I have my little buddy Lady P to keep me company. Nor that I caught up on sleep and all that good stuff. It's just that life is somehow kinda boring when he's not around.

Now he's back. Proposing we wander out for coffee, when I had meant to be writing. Suggesting ice-cream, or cheese, after a dinner that was supposed to be healthy. Pouring whisky when we should be going to bed. Taking up half the bed and more than half the covers. Messing up my carefully constructed clothes filing system when he puts Lady P's clothes away.

He really is a terrible influence. And life really is just much more fun when he's at home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Balding baby

When I spotted the dark furry patch on the cot sheet at first I thought Jack, our enormous black cat, had been sleeping there. I was about to give him a good hiding. Okay, a brief 'tch'. Then I looked more closely. The hairs were not long, coarse, Jack hairs. They were short, and kinda fuzzy. Like baby hairs.

That's right, my little Lady P is losing her hair. And really quite dramatically. As in, a large patch of abandoned hair appears after every nap. I change the sheet as often for hairy reasons as for the little puddles of sick that appear.

I was so pleased she was born with hair. Babies with hair are just more attractive, frankly. (Note I say 'babies with hair', and not 'hairy babies', for they don't sound at all appealing.)  She looked so sweet and pretty with her soft dark hair.
Luxuriant with lovely fluffy hair at 3 days old

Now she's just starting to look a bit monk like. Or like a man who is beginning to bald and hasn't figured out his hair strategy yet.
Baby bald patch. 

Of course I know more hair will appear. But meanwhile, she's going to be wearing a lot of hats.

Meanwhile my hair looks like ass, due to the fact I've become one of those women who says they don't have time to go to the hairdresser. Unlike Lady P's hair loss, I think there's something I can do about that.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dining and driving

Saltburn is a brilliant town, and small enough to be perfectly walkable. There are half a dozen lovely places for a coffee, two or three good lunch options, and a handful of great pubs all within a short stroll of our house.

There are also some good places to grab a casual bite: a great curry house, and a nice, vibey place that does a good pizza. And all of the pubs of course offer grub. In fact the homemade steak pie at The Marine is quite possibly the best meal I've ever had for a fiver.

But for an actual dinner, Saltburn has nothing to offer us. By 'actual dinner' I mean, a sit down, table service, multi-course, might even start with a cocktail, date night dinner.*

At the risk of sounding like a massive restaurant snob, I want to go on a date where the butter doesn't come in little portion-sized plastic packets

So we have to get in the car. Within a twenty minute drive we have some great options. The Fox and Hounds is a destination restaurant (it'd have to be, as it's in the arse-end of nowhere), and the seaside towns of Whitby and Sandsend draw enough tourists to have a range of interesting places to eat. So we have some options. It's just a shame we have to drive to them.

I guess it's just another way in which Saltburn is like Malibu. We had to drive everywhere then. There were a couple of places to eat and drink within a five minute walk of our old beachfront apartment, including the legendary Moonshadows. But the walk was along the side of a somewhat terrifying dual carriageway, with no pavement. As a result we always hopped in the car.

Driving isn't be such a big deal to us, therefore. But we are parents now. And new, neurotic parents at that. What if the house sets on fire and we're out and the lovely teenage babysitter doesn't know how to call the fire brigade? Or Lady P starts to choke and the only one who can do the baby Heimlich manoeuvre is TLOML and we get home seconds too late? We don't like to be more than spitting distance away when we leave Lady P. The first night we left her with the babysitter we only dared venture to Guisborough, a seven minute drive away, where we had a lacklustre Italian and talked about all the places we could have gone if we'd dare drive just ten minutes further.

So we've had to book a posh Yorkshire hotel - rather than just the excellent restaurant therein - for our wedding anniversary. We can leave Lady P in baby-monitored safety, metres away, while we dine in style. And perhaps enjoy more than one cocktail before dinner, since we won't be driving home. Plus if the hotel sets on fire we'll be there, so we'll know about it. And if we hear her choking, TLOML can run in and administer the Heimlich manoeuvre immediately. Assuming that extra cocktail doesn't render him incapabable, that is.

Ah. Enforced minibreaks. I think I may have just found the silver lining in the cloud that is Saltburn's limited restaurant scene.

*Disclaimer There is one Saltburn restaurant which could provide such an experience. But given that we have breakfast, elevenses and lunch in the attached cafe, about three times a week, we want to avoid it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On old cake and older traditions

TLOML and I had a fairly traditional wedding, when all's said and done. Among the traditions we adhered to was that of saving the top tier of our wedding cake for a future christening. As Lady P was 8 weeks worth of embryonic development inside me at the time we did so with confidence, knowing we'd be eating that cake within a year or so. (And yes, I'm counting being knocked up before your wedding day as a time honoured tradition too.)

We were married in July 2012, and the cake was made in the spring of that year. And Lady P is going to be christened in July 2013, by which time the cake will be about 17 months old. Just perfect! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Now the concept of a cake that keeps for months, if not years, is a strange one for Americans to grasp. It's up there with the idea of keeping eggs at room temperature. Something amazing happens to a rich fruit cake when it's doused in rum and wrapped in foil for months on end. It gets even richer and more moist and just irresistibly sticky. TLOML has enjoyed my mum's Christmas cake - usually made in October - for enough years now to know that it's okay. In fact he'd agree that not only is it safe, it's actually delicious.

I know some of his compatriots don't feel the same though. My sister rather mischeviously waited until the Americans she was seated with at our wedding had taken a bite or two from their cake before announcing 'You'd never know it was 6 months old, would you?'. They left the rest. All the more for her and the other food-safety-flouting, life-on-the-edge-living Brits at the table to hoover up.

Unlike the cake, the icing does not get better with age. Egg whites, and all that. I (or perhaps more accurately, my mother) need to remove it and re-ice it. Today I dug the cake out of its hiding place so we can take a look at it together.

It was then that I realised the flower cake topper is still on there. All those beautiful, hand-made sugar flowers. (They are freesia and roses to match the bouquet, which is exactly the sort of detail you spend time and effort planning and no-one pays a blind bit of notice to.)

Now I'm wondering if there is a traditional way to re-purpose these too. Or were we supposed to eat them on the big day? If they keep as well as the cake I was thinking I could serve them to TLOML for breakfast on our wedding anniversary. Or save them and give them out as favours for Lady P's first birthday party? Other suggestions welcome...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunction

She's at an awkward age, our little Lady P. Or an awkward shape, at least.

At almost 17 weeks of age, she's too long and almost too wide for her 0-3 month clothes. But her 3-6 month clothes are still a bit big. Also, now she's 17 weeks old and we've got this good thing going with the schedule, and the general return of sanity - I feel like it's no longer okay for her to wear sleep suits all day long. By the same token it's no longer okay for me to schlep around in yoga pants and sloppy joes.

This confluence of circumstances has had a number of outcomes.

1. I spent a couple hours putting away all her 0-3 months in various piles. 'Keep for the next baby', 'Hand down to friends', 'Give to charity' and 'Fit only for the rags bin in Sainsbury's carpark'. (Yes, I was sorely tempted to chuck the lot in the rags bin.)

2. Our old system of sorting her clothes into 'underneathy garments' and 'things to put on top of them' no longer suffices. So I spent most of a day digging out all her 3-6 month clothes and filing them away in her drawers, with a whole new complex system of categories.

3. She sometimes has to roll her sleeves up.

4. Now she has a waistband most days, which kinda makes her look like Humpty Dumpty. Or the fat old gent who sits outside in the precinct every day, with his trousers up over his belly (and neatly tied with string).

I hope as time goes on these wardrobe changeovers will be less traumatic. Frankly, I hope she has fewer clothes at the next changeover. And that she fits them better.

As for me, well, having signed up with a personal trainer for the next 6 weeks, I'm hoping I fit my clothes rather better too. And that I can finally dig out my 'skinny' wardrobe again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Time zones away

It's 7.30pm as I type this, and my 'working' day is over. Lady P is in bed, I've had a lovely early evening run, and am sitting with a G&T enjoying the aroma of roasting chicken fill the kitchen.

TLOML, by contrast, is just hitting his stride. He's been at his desk for three or four hours, has cleared his inbox and placed a few calls, and is getting into the real 'meat' of the working day. He works California hours, you see. From Yorkshire. That's an 8 hour time difference he's spanning.

Time for tea, say I. Time to log on, says TLOML.
TLOML's ability to run his US business from the UK is what makes it possible for us to live here. And there are some advantages to the strange hours he keeps. When Lady P needed frequent attention overnight, TLOML could take a late shift in caring for her, safe in the knowledge he could sleep in the next day. And I often have some company for my morning nap (now Lady P is on a schedule and has a nice sleep after breakfast). We can wander out to grab a coffee or lunch together too, which is lovely. I haven't had to join any of those unappealing 'mum and baby' groups just to get some grown up company in the day time.

On the whole, it's very nice to have a husband who not only works from home, but is totally up for distractions for much of the day.

There are, however, significant drawbacks. Despite his best intentions, TLOML often has to take a call or respond to emails when we should, by all normal standards of civilised behaviour, be enjoying G&Ts together. Or when we could be preparing dinner - which I have to do solo more often than either of us would like. He'd love to do Lady P's bath every night but sometimes it just isn't possible because it hits the middle of his 'morning'. It's frustrating for him to have his nose to the grindstone just when those around him are heading for leisure. While I'm ready to crawl into bed by about 10pm most nights, he's still scanning emails, his brain fully engaged - and would gladly be up for another couple of hours.

When we started dating we used to have Skype lunch/ dinner dates. I'd eat my dinner, usually in a boring Big Corp-funded hotel somewhere in Europe, and chat to him as he ate his lunch, in sunny California.Though we live together now, it seems we're still spanning time zones.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Whatever the weather

'You can't live somewhere just for the weather' I used to say, as we gazed out from our balcony across  the Pacific, sparkling under another perfect Malibu blue sky.

I stand by that. It was, and is, important to me to live in the UK, to be close to family and friends. The weather in London never put me off returning home, and the rather brisker climate in Saltburn didn't deter us either.

My first line of defence was that the British weather really isn't that bad, anyway. So what if the summer is a little unreliable? Always have a brolly in your bag and you'll be fine. Yes, our winter is rather longer and colder than the three weeks of rain they get in LA, but at least we get to enjoy autumnal mists and fresh snowy days perfect for snuggling in front of a fire. And then there's spring, of course. Seasons are a wonderful thing.

My second, and more principled line of defence, was that, as I stated at the start of this post, 'You can't live somewhere just for the weather'. If you could, well, we'd all move to Southern California. Or Provence. But we choose where we live for reasons more personal, more particular. It's about people, relationships, possibly career, and culture - but surely never just an external factor like climate?

I hate to admit it but after surviving the wettest summer and the coldest spring on record, I was starting to question my reasoning. After all, 'just climate' is the reason people are so smiley in California, I'm sure. Blue skies cheer everyone up - even if you see them all year round. And good weather promotes an outdoor lifestyle that just does make you feel good. It seemed like an age since I didn't need socks and a jacket in the UK, and that depresses me. Maybe climate isn't just an unimportant external factor after all.

TLOML texted me pictures of Los Angeles last week. Acres of golden beaches, populated with tanned Californians playing volleyball and jogging. Restaurants with year-round outdoor seating. It made me sigh, and again, wonder whether climate is rather more important than I had thought.

And then the sun came out here. The ice-cream van arrived. The beach was packed with kids playing. I sat in my dear landlady's garden and ate scones in the dappled shade of her apple tree. My sister looked after Lady P - easy enough when the weather's nice and she's just hanging with two happy boys in the sunshine - and I went for a lovely run. We all went to the beach together, and sat and had coffee in the sunshine. Lady P had her 11ses in our back yard. I haven't worn socks for days. It is magic.
Finally, she needs a sunhat!
So I suppose my new position is that yes, weather is important. The state of the sky does rather impact my state of mind. But the good news is, I only need a couple of sunny days every once in a while to make me happy. LA's sunshine is wonderful, but an extravagance I do not need.

That's my new line, and I'm sticking to it. (Whilst praying hard for plenty of sun this summer).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


TLOML is flying home as I post this. Hurray and hurrah for that. He's been gone for just over a fortnight, busy wining and dining clients and colleagues on the West Coast and in Argentina. In the name of building professional relationships he has probably consumed a small herd of Black Angus, a couple of cases of Malbec and several casks of Lagavulin.

Meanwhile Lady P and I have been on a sort of bootcamp, pretty much devoid of meat and alcohol. For me, that is. She was never a great meat eater anyway. Her bootcamp has included a high intensity nap training programme, and the introduction of a fairly strict schedule. The nap training involves letting her cry for a minute or two before soothing her, and repeating that cycle till she falls asleep alone. The schedule ensures she gets plenty of sleep and I'm never caught short suddenly needing to feed her, for example, on a station platform (I've done that once and don't want to have to do it again. Those benches just aren't very comfortable).

I've flirted with both this nap training thing, and the schedule, several times in the past few weeks. But there's always been a reason - we're on holiday, growth spurts, she's just had a jab, I can't bear to hear her cry for even 10 seconds etc - not to stick to it. In fact I started it in earnest by accident. It was one of those mornings when I thought she was asleep, and then heard her crying from the shower. By the time I'd rinsed the conditioner from my hair and wrapped a towel around me, she was starting to quiet down. I stood by the nursery door and listened. Miraculously, she nodded off with a sweet, sad little whimper.

I decided she was ready. No more being boobed to sleep and put down as slowly and delicately as if I were defusing a bomb. With careful use of the oven timer, set to beep after she's been crying for 1, then 2, then 3 minutes, and some steely resolve, we cracked it in a couple of days. And although it was hard to hear her cry for a minute or two, she rarely cried for three. Overall it was a heck of a lot faster than wheeling her buggy furiously round Saltburn willing her to nod off. And now I have the holy grail of early parenthood, a baby who can be put down for her nap awake and will fall asleep on her own.* What's more, she sleeps for a solid two hours at lunchtime, and is an awful lot smilier in the afternoons as a result.
The longest minutes I ever knew

So much for Lady P's bootcamp. As for me, well, as usual I've made the best of being bereft by going on a mini health kick of my own. Lots of salads, even more fruit than usual, plenty of early nights and a bit of disciplined exercise. It's not that TLOML is terribly bad for my health - he enjoys a lovely fish supper, and encourages me to go off running, and so on. But there are just a few more late night whisky and cheese sessions, and buttery scrambled egg breakfasts, and steak dinners when he is around. While he's gone I eat less, sleep more, and actually do my sit ups while Lady P's having tummy time. I guess a little bit of boredom is good for my health.
My bootcamp essentials - these and a fridge full of tomatoes
The transformative effect of bootcamp has been less dramatic on me than on Lady P, but I am definitely a little trimmer than I was when he left.

As I said, TLOML gets home today. I've stocked up on cheese and ice-cream, and am planning an elaborate dinner. Hmmmm. I'm afraid I'm going to slip into my old hedonistic ways again. Let's just hope Lady P doesn't fall off her wagon too.


*I realise I am tempting fate by writing this, after just a few days of napping success. According to the law of parent bragging, by the time you read this she'll have reverted and we'll be cluster feeding and rocking her to sleep again. Yikes!

Monday, June 3, 2013


We moved to Saltburn for the summer for a number of reasons. Economics and the fact that it's a lovely little town are but two of those reasons. The proximity of family was another.

Now, I love my family dearly, but I never felt the need to live spitting distance from them before. Still, we had this vague feeling that, with a new baby, it would be rather nice to be close by.

We were so right. It's not just that it's great for me - especially when TLOML is off on his travels - to be able to go to my mum's for Sunday lunch, or that my sister pops round unannounced with a Wispa when I've had a hard day of buggy-pushing.

It turns out that it's also rather marvellous for Lady P. I had thought she was too young to form a relationship with her aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandparents, but oh how wrong I was. She already knows them well, and enjoys many a cosy cuddle with her grown up relatives.

Cuddles with Aunty

But it's the socialising with her cousins that really makes me - and I hope, her - happy. How much more fun it is to go for coffee not just with your mother, aunt, and uncle but with your rufty tufty twin cousins for company too? Sometimes the kids outnumber the grown ups, and that must be very nice for them I imagine.
Hanging with the big boys
I happen to know the boys like hanging with Lady P too. Ollie told me last week that included in the space rocket he was drawing was not only him, his brother and his dad, but his baby cousin too. Sweet!

And look at Eddie, in a moment he may have thought was unobserved, waving the cat toy at Lady P to try to amuse her. Not sure it''s working for her, but I love the sentiment.
That blur is the cat toy, being waved furiously
Yes, all in all there's a lot to be said for living near family. And it's not just for the free babysitting.