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April 26, 2012

We’ve had a busy, but fun-filled weekend. We’ve been to several lovely places in London over the last few days, but most importantly we found (and devoured) some pretty decent bagels.

Saturday was Record Shop Day apparently, and husband thought it was a good excuse to check out Rough Trade East. I was quite keen to see Brick Lane so away we went.  And at Brick Lane, there is not one but TWO 24 hour bagel places. These people have no idea how good they have it. We bought two bagels to share between the three of us, and then a dozen to bring home. Seeing as how fast those bagels disappeared we should have sprung for at least two dozen, and at £3 a dozen I don’t know why we didn’t. I, however, made the mistake of storing the bagels underneath Beans’ stroller. At one point in the day, while husband and I were checking out some pretty knit dresses that I am already too pregnant to fit into, Beans reached under her seat, ripped a hole in the paper bag holding the still warm bagels and started eating one. After she finished that one, she went for another one. And kept trying to eat them until we were forced to stuff them into husbands bag. Keep in mind that she had been eating all day, so it’s not like we are starving our child. I think she just has spectacular taste and understands how amazing warm, fresh bagels are.

Brick Lane was not at all what I expected it to be. All I really knew about the area is from this book, which had led me to believe it would be a lot less hipster-ish then it was. I did really like it there, but I think the younger, unmarried, childless version of myself would have loved it more. To be fair, if I wasn’t currently growing a small person in my uterus I would have been much more keen on all the gorgeous vintage stores, and will probably try to go back when my dress size is a bit more consistent. I might also want to go back without the stroller, if only so I could browse the stores with a bit more ease. It’s hard to navigate those gigantic things through stores with narrow aisles, and even though I am in the market for an awesome sugar bowl I didn’t feel like I could get Beans and I into any of the antique/bric brac/vintage stores safely. Sigh.  I still loved it there though. The open markets and the huge food court were especially impressive.

After husband did his tour of Rough Trade East (I went in briefly, but gave up trying to get Beans and I through the crowd after about 2 minutes) we walked over to Spitalfields.  Apparently this is the old haunt of Jack the Ripper and throughout most of London history has been regarded as a bit of a slum. Not anymore though, it has been thoroughly gentrified, and a brief glance at some estate agent windows let me know that we are much too poor to ever live there.

We walked past the Ten Bells Pub which was featured in Alan Moore’s From Hell, which was beside one of the most imposing churches I have ever seen. And then wandered into the open market nearby. There was some sort of fashion show on with several well dressed men wearing Guy Fawkes masks and pretty young women giving out Hagan Daaz free samples. There was also a Cheese Restaurant that piqued my interest, but looked a bit pricey and plenty of handmade, arty stalls with pretty jewelery, clothes and hats. Beans endeared herself to a few of the stall minders, with one woman giving her a little Peter Rabbit playing card and some candy, but mostly had a great time trying to run away from her adoring parents ( we let her out of her stroller so that she could stretch her legs a bit).

All in all it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday.

On Sunday we met up with another family and explored Kew Gardens. The gardens are gorgeous, and it was so nice to let Beans run free and not have to worry about being nearby roads, or bicycles on park paths. She loved running around trees and collecting pinecones and sticks with the other children. I just enjoyed that it didn’t start to rain until we were heading home.

They did have this terrifying tree walkway that I opted out of. I’m not a heights person, especially when the walkway has a see-through floor. Brave Husband took Beans up though, and my fearless daughter loved tearing around the structure.  

The other children also taught Beans how to roll down hills, even my mister got into the action, and joyfully rolled down the hill at full speed. Beans loved it so much, that even after we returned home and I was trying to get her pyjamas that night she was telling me what I needed to do to roll down a hill. I’m looking forward to exploring more of London’s parks this spring and summer, and letting Beans have more of these classic childhood experiences.


Things I am craving

April 12, 2012

But that I can’t find in London. Blarg!

1. Dill Pickles.  Proper garlicky, dilly, vinegar-y pickles. With no sweetness/sugar in them. The kind served beside sandwiches in deli’s in North America. Apparently they do not exist here. And even though Beans and my husband are enjoying gobbling up  all the jars I keep buying and rejecting, I find my craving intensifying every minute. I may break down and try to make my own soon.

2. Yves brand Veggie Hot Dogs. I know there are other brands of hot dogs here. But I don’t want them. I want the one’s I ate growing up. It’s cruel to deny a pregnant woman this simple wish.

3. Perogies.  The frozen, quick meal kind. I also know I can make some myself. But I think what I’m really craving is that overly processed, mildly unhealthy taste to them. If I made them myself, I’d end up using whole wheat flour instead of white, and probably leave the cheese out all together. I’m not saying they won’t be delicious, but  they won’t be the same. Also I think what I’m really after here is a quick, no-fuss meal and making them myself is a anything but. It would also involve a lot of dishes and time and I’d rather just pull a bag out of the freezer and call it a day. And how good are these with sour cream and caramalized onions. My mouth is watering.

4. Smoked Tofu. I’ve heard a rumour there are places in London that sell more than just firm tofu, even though that’s all I’ve found so far. (It’s true folks, no extra-firm, tofu, which was what I used most back in Canada). I will be packing up the Beans and dragging her around the city soon in search of different tofu. Especially since I think she misses smoked tofu too. Because it is amazing.

5. Bagels. In Victoria we lived a block and a half away from a bagel shop. So we often stopped on our way home from walking the dog to pick up fresh, still warm, bagels on a regular basis. These Montreal style bagels put all  grocery-store bagels to shame. So much that I can’t eat them. I really just want a nice Everything Bagel smeared with Tofutti cream cheese. Am I asking too much?

On a slight tangent, if you ever do find yourself in Victoria go get yourself some of the bagels at Mount Royal Bagel Co. and then walk around the block to the Fernwood Coffee Co. That coffee place ruined all other coffee for me, I didn’t even mind giving it up this pregnancy, since I’ve yet to find any coffee even half as good as theirs.  So if anyone knows of any good independent coffee shops that roast their own beans in London, please let me know. I will travel great distances for a decent cup of brew (at least I will in approximately 6 months when I let myself drink coffee again).

I’m back!

April 10, 2012

We’ve had a busy few months here at casa Beans, but I’ve been too sleepy to write about any of it. I usually update the blog during Bean’s nap, but for the last 3 months or so I’ve taken to napping while she naps. You see I’ve just come out of the first trimester of my second pregnancy and first trimester means being sick and tired all the time. The the exhaustion was brutal this time around. I remember falling asleep at work a few times while being pregnant with Beans, but now that I’m chasing after a two year old all day everyday I was completely wiped out by noon. So no blogging, and housework took a back seat too.  But I’m now on week 13, and even though I’m still pretty tired, the overwhelming urge to crawl into bed has started to fade.

Our 12 week ultrasound of the little Sprout.

So what have we been up to? Well we’ve had our fair share of house guests including a lovely 10 day visit from my best friend Nutmeg. I love when people come to visit because it gives me an excuse to do the tourist thing. We went and walked around the Southbank, escaped to Stonehenge and took Beans to the London Zoo. As a family we’ve done a bit more exploring of London, and just got back from a weekend up in Birmingham.  I also escaped for a night out and saw a fabulous play at the Young Vic Theater starring none other that Patrick Stewart a few weeks ago. All in all a lot has been happening.

I will be writing about all of our past adventures in the next few weeks. And I’m sure now that spring is here and I’m feeling human again we will be getting out more.  We’re definitely thinking a trip to Cornwall is completely necessary in the coming months…

Beans loves beans

February 2, 2012

I’m going to start this post by stating I don’t think a Vegetarian diet is intrinsically healthier than a diet that includes meat and fish. I mean you can be a Vegetarian while only eating fries and cupcakes, and as awesome as that sounds, healthy it is not. I’m also going to say we don’t always make the best food choices for our daughter all the time. I know she’s been given lots of pb&j sandwiches after turning up her nose at whatever I’ve spent hours preparing that day for supper. And we may indulge her sweet tooth too much, often when indulging my sweet tooth too much. And final disclaimer I know you don’t have to be a vegetarian to know about the awesome-ness that is hummus, or tofu, or lentils. I know there are lots of kids out there that if you come between them and their hummus they will cut you. My daughter is part of this group.

Okay. So we’ve chosen to raise our daughter as a vegetarian first of all because both the hubs and I are veggie inclined (he’s a vegetarian, I’m leaning ever closer to veganism, often going weeks on end without animal by-products). Secondly I have NO idea how to cook meat. I went veggie when I was eleven, long before I learned to heat canned soup on a stove, let alone make a meal. Nor can I really stand the smell or taste of meat/fish and I don’t really want it in my house. Finally I really love animals and I don’t want any harm to come to a single one just so I can eat. Especially when there is lots of delicious alternatives.

That being said I worry sometimes about our choice of food for our daughter. I’ve read books and talked to dieticians and I know my Bean is growing up healthy just by looking at her. But I definitely have gotten my fair share of raised eyebrows from health professionals when I mention that she doesn’t eat meat. And that makes me doubt myself.

And then we’ll have really good days. The other day Beans and I made hummus, and she sat and ate it out of the food processor with her finger while I looked for a bowl to put it in. I think she ate a good half a cup worth before I just gave her a bowl and spoon.  When we lived in Canada one day we were running late to catch a ferry but she had a meltdown in the car because I hadn’t packed her any tofu. I had to make an emergency stop at a grocery store and get her some. And last night, while I was making this for supper I opened a can of lentils by mistake. I had the open can on the counter when Beans waltzed in grabbed the open can and a spoon and wandered off. I got  them off her, but she wasn’t happy until I gave her a bowl of lentils to snack on. Then a few minutes later she came back in, grabbed the can and dumped the rest of the lentils into her empty bowl before sitting down and eating them by the spoonful.

And then I realized she’s awesome, she’s healthy, and she really, really loves lentils, and I’m going to have to buy another can to make the lentil/olive burgers I had planned for dinner tonight.

Beans Unplugged

January 31, 2012

We survived Beans second birthday party! Miracles of miracles. She was a bit of a crank at her actual party, but  I think this was due to her giving up on naps and sleeping through the night the week before the big day. Thankfully she seems to be over it and is once again is only fighting her nap for an hour and bedtime for two before crashing. Toddlers are awesome.

Oh help! Oh no! It's a Gruffalo!!!

I think the Gruffalo cake was a success. It tasted really good if I do say so myself, even though we didn’t manage to have purple prickles going down his back.  Husband was quite jealous of all the fun I had making and decorating the cake so he has already called dibs on making her cake for  the Beans third birthday. I am more than happy to relinquish control. It’ll be nice to just sit back and enjoy her party next year.

So since the new year we’ve been trying as a family to unplug a bit. I get worried when the first thing my daughter wants to do when she wakes up is watch tv or “videos on the computer”.  And both hubby and I have a bad habit of going online to check something and then getting swallowed into the black hole that is blogs/news sites/gossip sites/online gaming/facebook/email. We then surfacing hours later with nothing productive to show for it. Therefore, I made the executive decision that on Sundays between 8am and 8pm we do not look at screens: no computers, tv, mobiles or ipods. And it’s been great. It’s amazing how early we can get out of the house to go on an adventure if we aren’t checking our emails every 3 minutes. It’s also amazing how many hours are really in a day.

We’ve been using the no-screen mornings to explore London a bit. We haven’t gone to far yet, but there are many plans to do so. A few weeks ago we went to Crystal Palace. A neighbourhood I had been considering a move to (I really like the name) until I saw exactly how many stairs the train station had with no elevator.  But we did love the park. Beans was quite keen on all the dogs, the ruins and the playground. And the hubby and I loved the Victorian dinosaur sculptures that were scattered about. They reminded me a lot of the dinosaur park at the Calgary Zoo, which I visited a lot as a child and a few times as an adult. Husband loved them because they reflected a lot of the incorrect assumptions paleontologists had made at the time. For example the Iguanodon sculpture had a huge spike coming out of its nose that we now know was actually its thumb. Oh those wacky Victorians!

This last weekend we headed out to Cheam, which is three neighbourhoods from ours. It has a great high street, with lots of interesting little boutiques, craft shops and coffee shops. Even though it was a gross, cold day I really loved the small village vibe I got while wandering around. Husband also really liked it, and already we are considering moving there when our lease is up this summer. We wanted to go explore the park (called Nonsuch Park!) but it was really a cold, bleak day so we hopped onto another train and carried on to Epsom. Epsom was a lot bigger and has some nice shops to explore, but we found it almost garish after the awesomeness that was Cheam. I did score some good stuff in the charity shop for Beans though. I got her a great green cardigan at an Oxfam, and a stuffed Toodee from Yo Gabba Gabba from the British Heart Foundation shop. When we got home Beans spent the afternoon making Toodee nice meals in her play kitchen, and has now told me that now that she has Toodee and Foofa, she needs the other Gabba friends too. It’s like all her birthday presents weren’t enough!

In crazy toddler language development news Beans has really taken being two to heart. It’s almost impossible to read her books anymore since she spends the entire time repeatedly asking what everything on the page is. All you hear is “What’s this?” over and over again, even after it’s been answered the same way every time. She  has also began to demand to know what different sounds are (“What’s that noise?”), what different music is (“What music is this?”), and what all her food is (“What is Mommy cooking?”). My favourite question, however, has to be when she has eaten something that she’s not sure of she asks “What’s in Beans mouth?” and sticks out her tongue. The best case of this was when we ran out of peanut butter one day so I gave her tahini instead in a sandwich. She gobbled 3/4 of it before she realised it was a bit different from her usual pb&j sandwiches and started to ask questions. I had a heck of a time keeping a straight face since it’s such a weird phrasing. I love it though. I have to be consistent with my answers too I’ve realised. If I figure out that I’ve given her the wrong name for something  and I try to correct myself she will not accept it and will stick to the original definition. The other day we were eating pizza and we had the following conversation:

Beans: What’s Beans eating?

Me: Pizza

Beans: what’s this? (pointing to the crust).

Me: Pizza crust

Beans: Not bread.

Me: Well Beans, it’s a kind of bread. You can call it bread if you want.

Beans: No mommy! It’s Pizza. Not bread.

She gets a pretty serious face on when she’s correcting me too. Her eyes narrow and she furrows her brow. It’s adorable. I am already getting a bit sick of defining everything constantly, but it’s fun too. Especially when she repeats words like “condensation” back to me. Oh language development! I find you infinitely fascinating.

Toddler Memory

January 16, 2012

I’ve been thinking about Bean’s memory a lot these past few days.  She’s been learning so much lately, whether its the names of various items around the house (“What’s that/this?” is heard about five thousand times a day round our place), or her lower case letters (upper case are almost mastered). A lot of what she knows is remembered through repetition. So she seems to know most of her books off by heart, but that’s because they are read to her 4-5 times a day. Or we have many discussions about the different names for furniture or people or toys. Just this morning she asked me what curtains were and we repeated the word back and forth a few times. She briefly considered them doors but only because in her world doors go “open and shut” like curtains.  After learning the word she went around the house and found all the curtains, so once again we repeated the word, and now she knows it.

But what I’ve been really interested in what she remembers thats a bit more abstract. Does she remember events in her life without some concrete reminder infront of her? Does she remember something that happened last week? Last month? Or even what we did this morning?

Every night for the last year or so during bath time I go over the days events with Beans. I ask her questions about what we did and where we went to try and see what she remembers. She is getting better, but usually when I first ask the question it is met with no answer, or simply a “huh”, until I lead her a bit more. For example I’ll ask her where we went in the morning. If she doesn’t know I’ll say “Did we go to the park?”. This is usually answered with a “Yeah” and then an expansion on what we did there, like “played with doggie”. So I know she remembers things, but will only vocalize it when prompted. I do think part of her inability to answer may be that she’s a bit distracted by the toys and the water, and also the fact that bath time happens just before bed time so she’s getting sleepy, so she may know what I’m asking, but just might not feel like answering as well.

But what I think is really strange is when out of the blue she’ll remember something we did months ago that we haven’t really discussed since. The month before we left Canada Beans and I went to stay with my parents. Hubby had left for London a month earlier and I had finished work and I really wanted to spend time with my family before moving to the other side of the world. My parents live on an island with many little beaches, and since September was unusually warm, Beans and I ended up going to the beach almost every day. My mother came with us a once or twice as well.  This was about 5 months ago, and since then we’ve taken Beans to a few beaches down south (Brighton, Hastings, Pett, etc.) with no mention of the beaches we went to in Canada. However,  the other day I was looking up warm places to go to for a family vacation and we had the following conversation:

Me: Hey Beans should we go to the beach?

Beans: Yeah! Mommy go get bucket, and shovel,  and knitting, and Grandma’s water, and Grandma, and ball!

Me: Grandma? What about Daddy?

Beans: Daddy’s at work.

I love this. I love that she remembers going to the beach with my mother, especially now that we live so far away. I love that she remembers that my mother brought her knitting and her water bottle. And I really love that Beans thinks knitting is a necessary item to bring for an afternoon on the beach. I just find it so strange that she remembers one afternoon, but has trouble remembering what we had for supper an hour after she’s eaten it.

Toddlers are strange.

I hope everyone…

January 12, 2012

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Personally I’m completely Holiday-d out, but we have another big event right on the horizon. Bean’s second birthday is less than two weeks away. I can’t believe how fast these last two years have gone. I also can’t believe that the little tyrant is demanding I make a Gruffalo cake.

We had a pretty relaxing holiday all in all. My mother-in-law came down for a few days before Christmas and we had a lovely visit. This was the first year I had ever hosted Christmas and I was incredibly stressed about the whole cooking a massive Christmas dinner, especially a Vegan one, but I think it went really well. I may have even started to convert my mother-in-law to the Veggie way. Maybe.

Beans was incredibly pleased with the whole Christmas experience. She loved decorating the tree, and she managed to put several of her toys on the various branches. She was very helpful with both preparing and eating the christmas baking and she was very very happy with all her presents. The big hit was the art box, she must have played with all the paint brushes and pom poms for hours on Christmas morning. And it’s only now that she isn’t asking for it every morning.

After Christmas we has a few quiet days. We went in to the city at one point, just to get out of the house and have a bit of an adventure. Also I really wanted to check out the Moomin store that just opened in Convent Garden. To save a bit of money and stress we decided to skip the tube and walk to the shop from Victoria Station (seriously a stroller and most tube stations really don’t mix. I have no idea how people in wheelchairs get around this city!) Beans was right pleased to see  Buckingham Palace. Especially since we stumbled by during the changing of the guards. She loved the horses and the hats. We also started quoting A A Milne to just add to the overall experience.

On New Years Eve we took a train down to Brighton to spend the day exploring. We had some free train tickets that expired that day that we wanted to use, and I have been wanting to go to Brighton for awhile. Mostly because I miss living by the water and it’s been described to me as the Vegan/Vegetarian capital of the UK. It did not disappoint. It was a blustery day but it was great to be on a beach. It also has these amazing winding streets filled with unique little shops and boutiques and amazing restaurants. We were spoilt for choice with Vegetarian restaurants and finally settled on Food with Friends. I’m still dreaming of the baked apple salad I devoured and Beans was pretty happy with a hummus filled pita. We also managed to wander over to the Pavillion and had a quick walk through of the Museum before heading back to the train station. It was nice having free tickets, since we didn’t feel guilty about only spending a few hours in the city. I definitely would like to go back and spend some more time there, maybe even get a hotel room as a base to make it a bit easier. Travelling with kids really does make you slow down. But I think I prefer it. We didn’t see a lot of Brighton due to the ever changing moods of a toddler, but what we did see I really enjoyed. It was a lovely way to see out 2011 and to welcome in 2012.

We’re hoping for many more adventures in the coming year. So far we have tentative plans for a trip up to Edinburgh, a very strong desire to go to Greece and are hoping to make it back to Canada for Christmas. I’m excited already!