Friday, 27 September 2013

Matilda the Musical

When I became pregnant the first time, Mr Duncan and I started a new practice in which he reads aloud to me in bed a couple of nights a week before we go to sleep.  Mr Duncan can be a bit of a gadget addict and this was my way of trying to ensure we both had at least half an hour of non-screen time before bed to
promote good sleep hygiene.

We were supposed to take it in turns reading each book but it transpires Mr Duncan falls asleep almost instantly when I read, and given he said he doesn't mind doing all the reading, now he does all the reading.

So far we have read
We are currently reading Boy, the first autobiography by Roald Dahl who is the author of the book Matilda.

Matilda the Musical opened in London last November and since then I have been asking Mr Duncan when he's going to take me on a date to see it.  I like to take advantage of the culture available to us in London once in a while and I am a fan of musical comedian Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

One of the things I like about Tim Minchin is the articulacy of his lyrics.  He uses a wide vocabulary and often makes unexpected choices which tickle my sense of humour.  Storm is a good example of his work (contains strong language and anti-hippy sentiments).

Both Tim Minchin and Roald Dahl have a good sense of the dark and absurd, so I was sure they would be a good mix.  I haven't actually read the book Matilda or seen the movie and made a point not to find out more than what I already knew - which was that it was about a little girl who liked reading and developed some special powers to restore justice with regard to those who mistreated her.  So when we went on Wednesday night, I didn't really have any expectations.

As a singer, the main thing I like about musicals is the singing.  I know that sounds obvious, but a well pitched, strong voice speaks strongly to me emotionally.  Its the reason I listen to, and frequently cry at, opera - irrespective of whether or not I understand the words.  I've been known to cry at contestants singing on X-Factor for goodness sakes.

This show had me crying at its first line - but because of the words, not the voices.
My mummy says I'm a miracle.
Deep breath.  Children are all miracles though this fact is sometimes not appreciated by people who do not experience any difficulties in having them. The opening number went on to illustrate that Matilda's birth was not desired or her existence valued by her parents, which just made me cry harder.  Its so unfair!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Courgette and Duck Green Coconut Curry with Noodles

While we were trying to conceive Poppy, I was working for a company based in Paris.  My team were based in Poland and the South Coast of England so most of my work was done over the phone from my home office.  Every couple of weeks I had to go to head office for a couple of days for 'management meetings'.  Snore.

A couple of days a month working in Paris sounds rather glamorous, but really, work travel is work travel and tends to involve too much work and too much travel.

It interrupts your sleep patterns.  I had to get up at 5am to catch the Eurostar train which would get me into the office at midday and I didn't get home until after 8pm on the day I returned.

It interrupts your eating patterns.  Eating out for every meal becomes old very quickly - especially when you're trying to eat as nutrient rich foods as you can. There just are no good choices available in ready made foods and you don't know the quality of what will be in the meal you order in restaurants. Although I will say this much, ordering restaurant food in Paris was much less of a concern in this regard than ordering restaurant food in the other city I once regularly had to do work travel to - Dallas.  At least the French value fresh ingredients prepared fairly simply.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Imam Bayildi - Turkish Aubergine and Tomato dip

Scoop it up and pile it onto Turkish bread
This was my favourite dish when I was waitressing at a restaurant in Istanbul.

I did not intend to waitress while I was living in Istanbul - it just kind of came to me.  I used to go to a particular restaurant around the corner from my room in the evenings, to study my Turkish language texts and relax with a glass of wine.  It wasn't long before the owner asked if I had any CDs as they were bored with their selection.  So then I used to study and be in charge of the CD player behind the bar for the few hours a night I was at the restaurant.

One night after I'd been going there for about a month the restaurant was super-busy and understaffed.  The sole waiter was covering both floors of the restaurant and the bar and I could see he was running out of clean glasses for drinks and the dishwasher was full.  So I went behind the bar, emptied out the clean glassware and put it away, re-filled the dishwasher and turned it on again.  I cleared some tables and ran orders downstairs to the kitchen for about an hour, while the waiter focussed on taking and delivering orders, then I went back to my books.

The next day the owner offered me a job for $10.00 USD a night.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Third time lucky?

My only belly shot - Pipkin and I at 14 weeks

For once my two week wait symptoms were not actually PMS.  I got a positive result on my home pregnancy test today.

Identical symptoms to the past three cycles. Completely opposite results.


Part of me feels - whew, I get another chance.

Part of me feels  - oh no, here we go again.

At least the age statistics are on my side for once.  Apparently at my age 50% of pregnancies end in loss.  Given my two losses in a row, statistically I'm due for a live one.

I do know its not that simple though and I wont be counting any chickens until they hatch.

Farmhouse vegetable soup with croutons

Last weekend the weather was crappy and we had nothing but a bunch of odds and ends left from our veggie box so I thought a good old fashioned farmhouse soup was in order.

I remember this as a Sunday evening staple in winter while I was growing up. It is filling, tasty and extremely versatile. I had no appreciation of it as a child, but its also a pretty inexpensive way to feed a horde of hungry children.

I find it oddly comforting.

As part of eating nutrient rich foods to support my fertility, I've added bone broth to my diet, mostly in the form of chicken broth which I make after a roast chicken dinner.  I normally end up with about three litres and freeze it in 500 ml portions for use in other meals.  I dont really follow a recipe for that but here are some instructions at Natural Fertility and Wellness.

We've had lamb chops a few times this year and it seemed a waste to throw out the bones, but I never had enough to make a proper batch of stock with them. I've slowly been amassing lamb bones in the freezer two by two.

Normally I make my soups with chicken stock from the freezer but I'm all out out and there didn't seem to be much point in buying more lamb bones to make a proper batch of stock and therefore increase the stuff I need to use up from the freezer before we move.   So I kind of made the stock at the same time as I made the soup by starting with the frozen lamb bones (I had about eight chops).

You can pretty much add anything to this soup veggie-wise.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Chickpea and Spinach stuffed Gem Squash

Perfect for one
We got Gem Squash in our veg box this week. Its all very well being able to skip the potatoes or lettuce when I want to, but sometimes I end up with a replacement I have no idea about.

This was one of those times.

Now I like orange winter squash and they're very nutritious, but after a disaster soup situation with some spaghetti squash, I've been a bit more careful to find out what I'm dealing with when it comes to new veg.

So cute!
I love the size and shape of Gem Squash, they're the perfect serving for one, but most of the recipes I found on google suggested stuffing them with mince or some variation thereof which didn't appeal.  The South African way is to roast them with butter but that seemed too plain for anything but an accompaniment and I wanted to make a one dish meal (for a change).

While I'm desperately trying not to symptom spot its impossible not to notice that I'm experiencing all the same annoying symptoms as last month, plus nausea, and legumes are supposed to help whether its PMS or morning sickness so chickpeas are also on the menu.  I don't know exactly when I'm due this month as I didn't take the bbt thermometer to Jersey and I haven't figured out my cycle properly since my last loss, but it must be by the end of the week.

We have loads of spices to throw out use up before we move to Australia so I thought I'd try to create a North African inspired recipe.

Gem squash is a lot harder to cut than I expected and I struggled somewhat to cut the tops off evenly.  You might need your super-strength for this.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Trying : love, loose pants & the quest for a baby

Appropriate pun.
Trying : love, loose pants & the quest for a baby
Mark Cossey
Summersdale Publishers, 2013

I am supposed to be writing an essay for a continuing education course.  I go to the library to find books. Actually I also go to the library just to leave the house. Working From Home and Not Working are two very different beasts.

I'm much better at the former.

One of the things I like about having a library card (and I have something like seven cards in four different countries) is that you can just pick something off the shelf on a whim and take it home with no commitment.  If you don't like it, you don't need to finish reading it.  If you DO like it, you can buy your own copy. This encourages me to read lots of books about all sorts of subjects that I might otherwise show no interest in.  I'm a bit stubborn in that I usually make myself finish a book even when I think it is awful.

I read mostly non-fiction and like to read autobiographies and biographies.  I like to learn about other people's lives and perspectives.  Especially when I need to distract myself from actually doing any research or writing the essay I'm supposed to be working on.  'Trying' jumped out at me from the biography section when I should have been looking at medical journals.

Mark and his wife Martha have been diagnosed with 'unexplained'.  In the UK, that means you've not conceived after two years of unprotected intercourse at the fertile time of your cycle.  Martha spends her time learning about their options.  She does the research and presents him with the next steps.  He reacts and describes all sorts of odd fantasies in his head before addressing the subject at hand.

Char-grilled Sardines on Barley and Spinach with Tomato Chutney

I'm trying to use up foods from our store-cupboard before we move to Australia and found this packet of pearl barley which I have been avoiding for months.

When I bought it, I was actually trying to buy millet, which is supposed to be amazing for fertility, but I guess they were out and put the barley on the shelf above the millet label.  I hate it when they do that.

I should really read the labels on things before I put them in my basket.

With the veggie box this week we got spinach and tomatoes, which I love and I ordered some fresh sardine fillets because they were on special.  I knew those ingredients would go well together, but it took me a while to figure out exactly how.

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Stillness and reflection
The first time I heard about meditation I was ten years old and my Mother had just given me a book for my birthday called 'Meditation for Children'.

Although an avid reader, I was unimpressed  and uninterested in this particular book.  I didn't like my Mother telling me what to do especially if it was in any way related to her hippy ways and it lay on a shelf, disregarded, for years. I don't actually remember what happened to it.

I guess my Mother could see what was going on with me and was trying to do me a favour.  While I'm pretty happy with my brain, it has seen me through some complex and difficult situations, I do have one of those minds that churns incessantly.  So in my head, I think meditation is something I should do, and would benefit from.  If nothing else, I could do with conditioning myself to trigger the relaxation response.

I've tried to learn to meditate a number of different times in my life, with a number of different methods.

  • In my early 20s I bought a transcendental meditation cassette tape which had you repeat a mantra for 20 minutes.  
  • Inspired by a recent visit by Sri Chimnoy during my first stint working in London, I set up a small shrine with a candle to meditate on in the morning before I left for work.
  • When I was living in San Francisco I attended several terms of meditation classes at a 'church' that I eventually felt was a bit too cult-ish for my comfort. 
  • I've taken meditation workshops at Tibetan Buddhist temples.
  • I tried various guided meditations on YouTube in the interests of reducing stress while I was trying to get pregnant.
  • When I first lost Poppy, a friend recommended the meditation podcast 'Emotional Ease' to help with the merry-go-round of incessant self recriminatory thoughts I was suffering.
  • When I was pregnant with Pipkin, I listened to a meditation iPhone app while travelling to work on the tube in rush hour.  I find crowded tube trains extremely stressful.
I'm sure there are other times I've tried to start a meditation practice that I don't even recall.  I can honestly say I've learned something from each attempt, but I haven't ever stuck with it.

The problem is, when I try to meditate silently, my internal voice kicks up a big ruckus and I usually terminate the session after a couple of extremely uncomfortable minutes of conflicting internal dialogue.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Broccoli and Cashew Stir Fry with Noodles

Brocco-nut Noodles
Mr Duncan gave notice to our Landlord at the end of last week.  It was not as soon as I would have liked. I'd have done it the day he got the visa.  But when you delegate the job of Landlord Relations to someone else you live with, you have to let them do things their own way.

Even if it drives you nuts.

Otherwise you just end up taking all the responsibility for everything - and that is not a recipe for a harmonious home-life or relationship either.

So there has been a sudden flurry of activity this week.  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Beetroot, Tomato and Lentil Salad

Although I started working on eating the freezer and our cupboards bare some months ago, we still seem to have lots of random store-cupboard and spice items to use up before we move, so I need to get better at incorporating these into my meals.

It seems the weather in London outdid itself in sun and heat while we were in Jersey on holiday.  I thought I had cancelled the veg box due on the morning we returned, but it was sitting under a bush outside our door when we got in that evening.  The contents were a bit wilted but otherwise fine for having sat in sunlight all day. I normally elect to skip items we don't eat or already have a lot of.  But because I thought I'd cancelled the box, I didn't check what would be in it.  I ended up with rather more limp lettuce than I prefer.

The sun also put an end to my usually robust mint.

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Grilled mackerel and vegetable salad with balsamic dressing
at Portelet Inn, Jersey.  I am SO going to make this one day.
Our trip to Jersey was great.  The weather was sunny and hot with a comfortable breeze.

The view from our hotel overlooked the sea and I enjoyed the smell of salt in the air.

We rented bikes for two days and explored most of the island.  We cycled the headland overlooking the sea where my Jersey great x4 Grandfather grew up and visited the castle dominated village on the other side of the island where my great x4 Grandmother was raised before they met and married in New Zealand.

On one hand I felt very connected.  Maybe it was
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