Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Tidying Up
Sunday in Abergavenny
Out in the Garden
Negronis at the Office
Lunch At My Club
Haircut and Hackett
School Tour and Easter Bonnet
Sunday Lunch at the Wrestlers and the Zoo Again
- Tidying Up
- [Wednesday 22nd April 2015]
Tidied up the lounge in the morning.
- [Tuesday 21st April]
- [Monday 20th April]
- Sunday in Abergavenny
- [Sunday 19th April 2015]
Erika had a chance to play with Jessica in the morning, followed by lunch at the Cottae of Content.
- To Abergavenny
- [Saturday 18th April 2015]
Just one picture of Erika on the train to Abergavenny.
- [Friday 17th April]
- [Thursday 16th April 2015]
Some nice blossom on the street.
- Latte Art
- [Wednesday 15th April 2015]
Cheated at latte art in the morning. In the evening went to La Genova for dinner.
- Out in the Garden
- [Tuesday 14th April 2015]
Nice weather today so we ate dinner (at least some of it) out in the garden.
- [Monday 13th April]
- Espresso machine
- [Sunday 12th April 2015]
In John Lewis yesterday I'd been eyeing the Sage espresso machines. My coffee connoisseur friend at work had of course recommended the most expensive model, but ultimately so as not to incur the wrath of Chie I'd opted for one less than half the price.
We'd arrived at John Lewis before midday, not fully having registered that they don't properly open until then (or at least they can't sell anything). Oddly though the cafe is still open, so we had an early lunch there, before going and ordering a chest of drawers, and buying the espresso machine. I then excitedly headed straight home to set it up.
I was able to get a fairly decent espresso out of it, with pleasing crema, almost straight away. The really challenging part seems to be using the steam wand, which unlike the more professional machines I've used at work has only a single nozzle, and isn't as powerful. So it somehow seems to just heat the milk up without really frothing it at all. There are videos on the web of people using this machine to make decent looking microfoam, hopefully it just takes practice.
In the evening, Chie's soon-to-be-ex-boss popped in very briefly - he's moving back to Japan, and had some toys his daughter no longer played with to pass on to Erika. So that kept Erika entertained for the remainder of the evening.
- Tweed Sofa
- [Saturday 11th April 2015]
The tweed sofa we'd ordered a few weeks back was delivered today. I'd been a little apprehensive how the finished product would look, as we'd just ordered it based on a small cloth sample in a swatch book, but I'm pleased to say it's actually pretty respectable looking, not nearly as outlandish as I thought it might have been.
Although we'd been using the radiator bench as a de facto sofa of sorts, the arrival of the sofa today really transformed the lounge, and made it feel a lot more cosy and, well, like a lounge.
Spurred on by this, we decided we should head out and look at some more dining tables - that being, with the possible exception of bedroom cupboards, the last big piece of furniture we still need to get. We went to the "made.com" showroom in Notting Hill, but we still don't seem to be able to make a decision.
We went for lunch at an Italian restaurant called Portobello, mainly because it was close by and we'd been before, and remembered it being not bad. We then got a bus from Notting Hill back into the centre, did a bit of shopping at John Lewis (I think we bought some new shoes for Erika), and then headed home from there.
- Negronis at the Office
- [Friday 10th April 2015]
A friend at work was returning from the Netherlands today, and we'd together concocted a plan to try making Negronis with genever rather than gin. Actually as it turned out she brought back two bottles, one an aged genever, the other actually a gin, but crucially heavy on the orange in the botanicals. Orange has this natural affinity with Campari, and I recall there being some fruit flavoured genevers from my last trip to Amsterdam so I'd suggested she look out for something like this.
So at TGIF we made Negronis with the Dutch orange gin - it worked really well I think.
- Lunch At My Club
- [Thursday 9th April 2015]
I'd heard that the terrace at my club had recently reopened after a period of refurbishment, and since it was also a nice day I thought it would be nice to go and have lunch there. On my first few visits since joining it had always felt a bit dead, to be honest, but I'm forming the conclusion it may just be more of a summer sort of venue. The club has gardens (still being refurbished, almost done I think) which back on to Green Park, and it looks to be a very pleasant spot on a sunny day - I imagine a very nice place for afternoon tea.
The terrace is more of a balcony really, which is attached to the bar, overlooking the gardens, and only has a handful of tables. They just serve a very light menu there - more erring on the side of snacks than full meals - but nonetheless, although not particularly substantial the cauliflower cheese croquettes were very tasty, and the accompanying glass of the house Champagne (Gardet I think, hadn't heard of it before) was very pleasant.
Anyway, definitely the nicest visit to my club so far.
- Pink House
- [Wednesday 8th April 2015]
On mine and Erika's Wednesday morning off together this week we mostly stayed home (I think we may have been waiting in for a delivery, I forget now). I decided we should embark on a bit of a project, so we took one of the moving boxes and turned it into a little house - I made a sloping roof, a door, and a little window, and then together we began to paint it pink. I found this oddly therapeutic.
- [Tuesday 7th April 2015]
Back to work after the very pleasant four day long weekend. Really struggling to think of anything to report.
- [Monday 6th April 2015]
We'd decided it had been far too long since we'd last seen Rob and family, and so were determined to meet up over Easter. The trains out to Reading were a complete mess, however, but undeterred I'd done a bit of research for an alternative place we could meet, which would be easy for them to get to by car, and had settled on Beaconsfield, the big attraction there being Bekonscot model village.
So Chie and Erika and I got on an early train out of Marylebone (I always enjoy having the opportunity to use this station, it's really delightful), timed so that we could be at Bekonscot for when it opened at 10. Rob et al met us at the station, and it was lovely to see that Felix and Erika immediately got on, and they held hands on the way to Bekonscot.
I think I may have enjoyed Bekonscot most of all - it was utterly charming and so very English - both the fact that all the model buildings were a distillation of Englishness (from thatched pubs to morris dancers) and that the idea of a model village somehow seems so twee and English in the first place. Utterly delightful.
The kids, whilst enjoying exploring all the model houses at first, eventually got wind of the fact there was a playground on site, and then wanted to head there instead. On the plus side this gave us grown-ups a chance to sit down with a coffee and have a natter. This was one of those moments which would have been very hard to imagine when I first met Rob (nearly 20 years ago!), that one day we'd be sitting watching our respective offspring run around a playground. When we were just starting university that notion would probably have seemed horrific but now it was, well, delightful (note to self - need more synonyms of "delightful").
I would have loved to stay longer at Bekonscot, but despite having got there for when it opened, it wasn't long before our thoughts were turning to lunch, and given the presence of two young children, the nice weather, and it being a bank holiday monday, the planning thereof could not be handled too complacently. I'd rather liked the idea of going to the Royal Standard of England, which claims to be one of the oldest pubs in England, and despite wavering a bit as it was a bit of a trek, and we might arrive to find it choc-a-bloc, the rest of the gang seemed willing to give it a go, so we pressed on in that direction. I think perhaps towards the end of the walk, the ladies at least were beginning to question whether they should have left the choice of venue up to me, but I think all was forgiven on arrival. It is a very attractive pub, we managed to find a nice table outside, and thanks to getting our order in very quickly we comparatively didn't have too long to wait. Rob kept the kids entertained while we were waiting by reading them a story, which was very sweet. I think the food was generally well received - Erika went for fish and chips (with a ridiculously large piece of fish for a kids portion) and it seemed would have just eaten the chips, enjoying the action of dipping them in ketchup, had we not intervened.
We left the pub around 2pm, and walked back into the centre of Beaconsfield, and said our goodbyes to Rob, Kate and Felix at the station, before Chie, Erika and I got on the train back to London.
Took a bit of a detour on the way back from Marylebone by way of Camden, to do a bit of shopping in the Whole Foods there while Erika was sleeping. We had been given a voucher - £5 off when you spend £25 or more, very easily done in Whole Foods.
- CBeebies Live
- [Sunday 5th April 2015]
Erika is a fan of Mr Tumble, and so I was pleased to notice that he was doing a live show with some other CBeebies friends. I'd decided it might be nice to go see this as just the two of us, so Chie could have a bit of a break.
It was a bit of an endeavour getting there, as it was at the Wembley Arena, and the Jubilee line was suspended. Apparently the best route in the morning for us was to get a national rail train from Kentish Town to Hendon, then a bus from there. The train part of the journey was pretty quick (albeit that we had a long wait for it), and the bus, while it took a fair while, wasn't too bad as we managed to sit at the front of the top deck, and Erika recently likes pretend she's the driver. I can't pretend the scenery (the rather grim residential areas 'twixt Hendon and Wembley) was particularly pleasant to look at, but Erika didn't seem to care.
We arrived a bit too early in the end - the show didn't start until 11, but given the uncertainty of how we were getting there I'd got us there for not long after 10. So we had an extended wait with Erika regularly asking "Where's Mr Tumble? What's Mr Tumble doing?" to the odd backdrop of Justin's album of party song covers (including most surprisingly his rendition of What Does the Fox Say?).
I think we both quite enjoyed the actual show - whilst the "plot" (if you can call it that) was a bit half arsed, there were moments of greatness - Mr Tumble's rockstar-esque first appearance on stage, a sly Spinal Tapp "turn it up to 11" reference, and for me the personal highlight was Justin's sidekick Robert the Robot dolefully breaking into a solo of Send in the Clowns which was delightfully out of place with the tone of the rest of the show.
When I asked Erika afterwards what her favourite bit it was when Aunt Polly showed up, and wandered round the audience nonchalantly spraying everyone with a large water pistol. That was good too.
Once it was all over we left, buying an incongruous Hello Kitty balloon on the way out, and decided to try the rail replacement bus for the return journey, which took us to Stonebridge Park to connect with the Bakerloo line. From there we had a long slow run back into the centre of London, and got off at Oxford Circus, where Chie met us with Erika's buggy, in which Erika promptly fell asleep.
Went for dim sum at Joy King Lau while Erika was dozing, which was delicious as ever, then headed home.
- Borough Market
- [Saturday 4th April 2015]
The combination of now owning a small cellar, and having discovered a surprisingly good independent wine shop not too far from our new abode, plus possibly having recently watched Brideshead Revisited, has meant that recently I've started to develop a bit of an interest in wine. I remember Keith Floyd's favourite wine producing village being Gevrey Chambertin, and somehow this has stuck with me as a little niche I'd like to explore more. So the other day I'd bought a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin Domaine Fourrier and had since been trying to think of something to eat it with. Most of the suggestions seemed to be somewhat gamey, of course mostly useless to me, but along that autumnal theme wild mushrooms were also mentioned. Of course, in April, that information isn't hugely useful either, but then I discovered that morels are in season from the spring.
So this morning we ventured down to Borough Market to buy morels, and while we were there I picked up some other interesting ingredients to build a meal for this evening.
After we'd done our shopping, since we were in that rough neck of the woods Chie suggested going to Manze's for lunch. We walked from Borough market, it was actually a bit of a trek over to Tower Bridge Road. It occurred to us we no longer had our bearings since moving - we used to get a bus there from Pimlico, but there wasn't such an obvious public transport route from there back to our new home. We ended up getting a bus which took us through some rather insalubrious parts of London before eventually heading to somewhere near Charing Cross, where we got on the tube.
I think we just hung around at home for the remainder of the afternoon, I assume Erika had a nap for a bit.
Dinner was then a bit of an undertaking - I sautéed the morels in butter and a little garlic, and served them on a bed of spätzle with emmental, and a little purple kale. As a side dish I made a fennel and baby artichoke gratin. The Gevrey Chambertin did go very well with the earthiness of the morels, and was quite delicious. Erika seemed to quite like morels, to our surprise, after some initial hesitation (they do look a bit weird) she had five or six in quick succession - I guess she liked the texture.
- Good Friday
- [Friday 3rd April 2015]
Chie and Erika went off to see some friends for most of the daytime today, leaving me largely to my own devices.
I put on my tweed suit, feeling in the mood for a gentlemanly sort of afternoon in St. James's. I thought I might have lunch at my club, but ultimately decided to dine at the Fountain restaurant in Fortnum and Mason instead - I'm rather fond of sitting at the counter there and people watching when eating alone. I'm always pleasantly surprised by how good the vegetarian options here, you'd really think for such a traditional establishment they wouldn't be up to much, but actually they make very thoughtful use of interesting vegetables. I started with a very fresh (and seasonally appropriate) fennel salad, then followed with a heritage potato and celeriac gratin with "wild" mushrooms. I don't think they really were "wild" mushrooms - more like cultivated oyster mushrooms, but that quibble aside, it was very pleasant.
After a quick bit of Easter shopping in Fortnum and Mason I thought I'd better go to my office for a bit, as I'd realised I had to print out the tickets for "CBeebies Live" tomorrow, plus I thought while I was there I could get a bit of work done. Earlier this year I've moved desks into a different building across the road from the main one, and had just taken it for granted there would still be some kind of out of hours access. I couldn't actually figure it out. So instead I just went into the "old" office, where I didn't have a computer or anything, spent nearly half an hour figuring out how to print a PDF from my phone, then left again.
I wandered vaguely back to St. James's, thinking as I wouldn't be able to get any work done I might just as well resume my afternoon of gentlemanly self indulgence, but ultimately I seemed to have gone off the idea by that point, and instead just got on the tube and headed home.
Did some shopping in the little street of shops near the new flat, which I am increasingly warming to, having initially been a bit underwhelmed - the funny little fruit and veg shop I'd initially written off as a generic convenience store turns out to have lots of useful things including, as I found today, vegetarian feta (couldn't even get that in the big Sainsbury's in Pimlico sometimes) and lots of varieties of organic tinned beans etc. So I decided to go Greek for dinner, and make a moussaka with a greek salad. After dropping off the food shopping (it was a bit heavy) I headed straight back out to Theatre of Wine, another nearby shop which is helping to change my initially rather bleak opinion of the area, and had a chat with a chap there about Greek wines, which was rather interesting. Chose a bottle of "Xinomavro Nature", which was, just as they'd said, "barnyardy", and actually slightly sparking - really weird for a red wine. Can't say I immediately was convinced, but there was something oddly moreish about it, and by the third glass I think I could safely say I was a convert.
- Haircut and Hackett
- [Thursday 2nd April 2015]
Chie had given me a voucher to get my hair cut at Murdock for my birthday, and as my hair was starting to look rather scruffy, I thought I'd try and make use of it before the Easter break. So I popped out in the middle of the day to the branch near Sloane Square, which is inside the Hackett store there. This worked exactly as I assume Hackett wanted it to, and as I happened to be there I also bought some clothes - a pair of trousers which I think were quite justifiable (I never seem to have enough, and most never fit properly) and a "gilet" which was surprisingly expensive, but it was one of those things which sort of jumped off the shelf at me.
Met some of the chaps from the office on the way back for a quick - "last day of term" pub lunch. We also resumed these festivities briefly at the end of the day, with a Negroni at the little Italian deli at the back of the office.
Made "pasta e fagioli" for dinner.
- School Tour and Easter Bonnet
- [Wednesday 1st April 2015]
Went on a tour of Erika's prospective school this morning - a big part of our decision to move to this area. I am pleased to report that it was really impressive, and I think lived up to all the hype surrounding it. After a chat with the head teacher the tour itself was conducted by a couple of kids at the school, who clearly loved the place. I had a very good feeling about it.
They were having some sort of Easter party at Erika's nursery today (they were closed tomorrow for training or something), and has asked us to make an Easter bonnet for Erika to wear for the day. As she only goes in on the afternoon this gave us this morning (working on the motto that if you leave a job until the last minute, it only takes a minute) to hurriedly make it. Our tiny local Sainsbury's had a surprisingly good range of seasonal things to assist with this - we managed to get an undecorated hat and a box of "crafty" things to decorate it with, and also in one of the other shops I managed to find PVA glue. Once back at the flat with these supplies, it took a while for me to re-learn the limitations of PVA glue, and after trying several designs which clearly weren't going to hold together, I settled on a final decision which relied on a bit of tissue paper (which had previously wrapped a bottle of wine) as a sort of band, to which I then stuck bunny faces. Whilst I don't exactly think I have a career in millinery ahead of me I consider it to have been a respectable effort.
Also today, we took delivery of a chair I'd ordered for Erika's bedroom - I wanted something to sit on when reading her bedtime stories, and waiting for her to fall asleep, as kneeling on the floor was really uncomfortable, and sometimes the process of getting Erika to go to sleep can be rather protracted. It's not exactly how I'd imagine it would be from the pictures on the website, a bit bigger than I'd hoped for (I thought it was more of a "cocktail chair" which despite the name look like kid's chairs), but it was cheap, and I like the fact it was made in Long Eaton, near where I grew up.
- [Tuesday 31st March 2015]
Dinner at our old haunt Oliveto.
- [Monday 30th March 2015]
A couple of random pictures from Monday evening at home.
- Sunday Lunch at the Wrestlers and the Zoo Again
- [Sunday 29th March 2015]
Went for Sunday lunch at the Wrestlers in Highgate followed by another trip to the zoo.