Thursday, December 17, 2009

The rush toward Christmas

Last weekend we had the last of Lauren’s parties for this season.  It’s been a busy time and she’s had a packed social calendar.  Even Jocelyn, my two year old has been to some parties, so life has been non-stop.

My favourite has to be the one hosted by Lauren’s friend Oliver (who is Jocey’s best friend Georgia’s big brother) where the girls went together in almost matching fairy outfits.  It was (of course) a Pirate and Fairy Party.

Party Fairies 004

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lauren trying on her Mary Outfit

I have been trying out our new video camera. Here is our first effort.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who ate all the pies?

Most people who know me probably realise that I am almost fanatical about my food.  I always try to explain that this is part of my cultural heritage, that it is an inherently Cantonese thing (to the point that the standard greeting between Cantonese friends tends to involve asking if they’ve eaten yet, or similar) but the truth of it is that I’m probably just plain obsessed.

However, it can’t just be any old food.  It’s got to tickle the taste buds, be interesting and preferably with some provenance.  I love nose to tail eating, am passionate about seasonal, local produce and proper animal welfare but am not a vegetarian.  Giving the animals we eat as food a decent quality of life should be a matter of course but I certainly don’t see why I should stop eating them as long as I do what I can to ensure that I buy responsibly and respect where the food comes from.

Opera for Pre-school Children?

If you had told me before I had the children that a really good idea for children’s TV would be a series of short 25 minute operas or operettas, I would have laughed.  What a bizarre idea; surely it wouldn’t work!

Ok, I was wrong.

My children have just discovered The Wonder Pets, a cartoon where most of the dialogue is sung – in essence a 25 minute operetta.  They are completely hooked.  Jocelyn in particular adores the Wonder Pets.  All this week, she has been singing the phrase “What’s going to work?” after which I get a chorus of “Teamwork!” from both children.  They have also just about figured the words to the theme song.

 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday Cooking Marathon

Every Sunday, I spend several hours cooking.  Some weeks I spend two to three hours and other weeks it is more like five or six hours, depending on the number of meals I am making in advance and their complexity.  I try to have all the meals for the working week cooked and also to prepare all our lunches for the week in advance.

There are many reasons behind this but the main one is to save time and money.  It is often between 6pm and 6:30pm before we get home on a weekday (often I am even later than this) and the girls are tired.  They want to be fed immediately, bathed and put to bed otherwise tempers start to fray (and we get tantrums).  There is only really time to do a bit of reheating, rather than cooking from scratch.

Additionally, buying ready made stuff is neither satisfying to the palate nor to the wallet.  Despite our jobs, money is still tight (costs of living in London, childcare for two children 5 days a week balanced with being low down on our respective pay scales) and we still scrimp and save at every opportunity.  Besides, I come from a family where no matter how busy my parents were, there was a proper meal for the entire family to sit down to in the evening.  A very Chinese tradition.

Thus the need for the cooking marathon.  Last week, I hadn’t had the time to make our lunches and spent about £25 on some rather limp and bland sandwiches.  Ouch!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Party, Party, Party!

The party season is well underway and over the last month or so, the girls have had a very active social life going to all their friend’s parties.  They seem to have had great fun in the process.  We’re busy most weekends as a result!

The first party of the season was attended by Jocelyn – she was invited to her best friend's Georgia’s birthday party.  One evening in October, I happened to ask Jocey (the first time I had asked – at the time I asked I wasn’t even sure that she would be able to answer the question) who her friends were.  Her response (and she says this every time now!) was “Err…Lucas…Georgia…Georgia…Lauren…”.  Georgia is obviously of such importance that she gets mentioned more than once!

Georgia’s brave Mummy and Daddy invited lots of little toddlers to their house for a painting party.  It was a lovely party, very well run and the children enjoyed it immensely.  Jocey wasn’t at all shy and was in playing with the other children in no time.

Party 006

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Glorious Devon for our Jocelyn!

I confess that it has been two months since I last blogged. Life has been so crazy that we haven’t had time to stop – the weeks have just hurtled by. It is a shame as so much has been happening but I am hoping that I’ll be able to recall most things. I think that ultimately I do enjoy keeping a diary – I did as a child – and perhaps this blog is an extension of that. Shared memories have always been really important to my family; thus we are a family who love to tell stories and laugh over photographs of past adventures.

At present, we are well into the party season and almost every weekend has seen some celebration for the girls or their friends.

This is mainly an account of the time up to our holiday in Devon, where we celebrated Jocelyn’s second birthday.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Big Fish Tank

We’ve had a number of successful days out from Richmond over the past few weeks.

One weekend at the end of July, we went on the train to Waterloo to the London Aquarium.  We had been promising the girls that we would go to see the “big fish tank” for some time and they were very excited about going.  Even the train journey was lots of fun for them and they kneeled on the seats to look out the windows to point at other passing trains along the way.

We got there relatively early, but despite this there were already hoards of people in central London.  The queue for the London Eye was already massive.  Here’s Daddy and the girls outside the Aquarium.

Home 043

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Lauren’s 4th Birthday

I am slowly catching up with recent events; it has been so hectic that I’ve barely had time to catch my breath.  I can’t believe that two weeks have passed since Lauren’s birthday and that I haven’t been able to blog about it until now.

Mind you, in that time I’ve been to Australia and back, but more about that later.

The birthday girl had known for some time that she was coming up to her fourth birthday and mentioned it quite often.  She talked about the party she was going to have (with all the family there, of course) and the cake that she wanted (chocolate, with Dora the Explorer on it – a bit of a challenge for poor Mummy!).  She was really excited as the day got closer and the family started to arrive.

Peter and Suzanne stayed with us in the flat and my parents stayed in Kingston as the flat isn’t big enough to accommodate both sides of the family at once.  The children were thrilled to see everyone here in our new home.  Both sets of parents have been impressed with our new flat – smaller but perfectly formed, and our new surroundings in lovely Richmond.

We decided to have a big meal out with the whole family on the Saturday night and went into Putney to the original Royal China there.  We had an enjoyable meal even though some aspects of it were not as good as the newer Bayswater one.

Lauren’s fourth birthday was on the Sunday.  Recently, I bought a Cobb barbeque to try out as we only have a small balcony as outdoor space and it is so compact.  We lit the coals and prepared a large birthday feast – this is fast becoming a tradition on her birthday.

Here’s our journey with her in pictures.  This is my beautiful girl on the day she was born, in August 2005.  She was so tiny as she was only 34 weeks and was 4lb 3oz (1.9kg)!

Life in Richmond

I am finally back blogging after a significant break – it may even been the longest period I’ve had where I haven’t blogged.  Swine flu is just a distant memory now – although Jocelyn also caught it (bizarrely, not from Jase) and was quarantined too.

We went offline shortly after my last post because of the house move.  There was a frantic push towards the finish line as the move date edged closer, but we finally managed to get all our stuff ready for long term storage and the house ready to be packed by the removal men.

On the morning of the house move in mid July, the girls got up for the last time in their bedroom.

Home 002

Here they are in their beds in their room.  Most of their stuff had already been packed away and this meant that it had already been depersonalised to some degree.  However, I did feel sad for them as it’s been the only home either of them have ever known.

Despite this, they seemed genuinely excited when they said their goodbyes to the house and I promised them that they would go to the new house when they came home from nursery.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Days of our lives

I’m pleased to report that Jase has recovered from his brush with swine flu.  He was in quarantine all of last week but after starting Tamiflu made a speedy recovery.

We’ve had the opportunity to deal with approximately 30 years of photographs over the last two weekends as part of our packing and sorting.  We found an excellent company on the internet who take all your old photos and scan them into digital copies.

We sent them approximately 2000 photos from 30 years (unfortunately excluding ones already in photo albums as I had packed these already) and within three days they had scanned them and returned them to us with the photos on a DVD.  Through this method, we were able to save these precious photos from further degradation in quality.

I am so pleased with the result!  We looked through the photos and it brought back so many memories, but frustratingly we also realised how much we’d already forgotten.  I’m hoping these memories will come back when we look at the photos again.

We have begun to build our photo archive here on Flickr.  I will need to get Jase to dig out some of his baby photos the next time we are in York.

Ruby Wedding celebration

Four weekends ago, we headed up to York to celebrate my in-law’s Ruby Wedding anniversary.  Suzanne and Peter had invited their close friends and wider family to help them celebrate the occasion.  My parents headed down from Edinburgh for the weekend as they were invited too.

We were a little worried on the way up as the weather hadn’t been all that great and the forecast was for a cold and grey day.  I hurriedly unpacked all the summer clothes that I had originally packed and repacked for a colder day before leaving London.

We arrived close to midnight on the Thursday night, so went straight to bed on arrival.  The following day, we helped Suzanne and Peter get ready for the big day by preparing food and doing odd jobs.

On the Friday evening, a large marquee was erected in the back garden.  We were amazed at the speed with which it went up considering at that time the heavens opened and it was pouring with rain.

On Saturday, Suzanne’s family started to arrive.  It was lovely to meet them for the first time and get to know them a bit.  My parents also arrived that afternoon, so we spent a lovely evening as an extended family out at a local Chinese restaurant called Maxi’s.

This is Suzanne with two of her sisters.  Jase also got to meet one of his cousins for the first time.

Ruby Wedding 016

Moving to Richmond

At the end of last week, we finally exchanged contracts on our house and have set a date for moving out!  We were absolutely thrilled to have sold our house in 7 weeks despite the current housing market and additionally to get what we asked for the house.  Our estate agents worked their socks off for us, so all credit to them.

We have had several weekends of sorting and packing, thus the lack of updates online.  We finally finished clearing out the loft this weekend, including all the old carpets that had been stacked up there from the year dot.  Worryingly, some of them had become a good hiding place for moths so they were quickly taken to the tip.  The loft is now gloriously empty; just a shame it wasn’t that way when we moved in ourselves.

It has been really cathartic; we have taken 5 car loads of stuff to the tip and at least 3 car loads to the charity shop.  I couldn’t believe some of the stuff that Jase had hoarded over the years in our loft (we’ve only been in this house since the end of 2004 but there was hoarding going on even before that).

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Glorious summer

The weather has been absolutely glorious for days.  At the weekend, we spent a lot of time at the park with the girls as the whole family took advantage of the fabulous weather.  Our garden is looking wonderful but is needing a lot of watering as the sun is so fierce during the day.  There has been very little rain lately, so it looks like we could have the very hot summer that we’ve been promised by the weathermen.

June is a busy month for all of us.  My brother Jase and Charlotte celebrate their second wedding anniversary today.  My in-laws celebrate their Ruby wedding anniversary this weekend.  We celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary in 3 weekends’ time; that same weekend, my cousin Jeff will be getting married in Toronto.  We are really sorry that we won’t be there to help Jeff and Leanne celebrate their special day.

So this weekend, we are all going to York for Suzanne and Peter’s Ruby wedding anniversary.  There is a big event planned for Sunday with family and friends, with a hog roast being the centrepiece of the festivities.  We are all really looking forward to it and having a long weekend out of London.

Next week, I am going to view some rental accommodation in Richmond for the family, as our house sale appears to be reaching the final stages.  We are really pleased to have got here so quickly and can’t wait for everything to be finalised.  Moving to Richmond will get us closer to the nursery and make our lives a lot easier as commuting will be less.

Once we are safely settled in Richmond, we intend to kick back and enjoy the glorious summer ahead!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Birthday to Grandma!

May is a month of birthdays – we had PoPo’s (Grandma Maggie’s) birthday at the beginning of the month and Grandma Suzanne’s birthday today at the end of the month.  So just for our two Grandmas, here’s a special rendition of the Birthday Song!

Happy birthday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

James & Sally’s Wedding Photos

The photos that Jason, Julian and I took are uploading to Jase’s Flickr account as I type.

They will end up here.

We have sent James & Sally a disk with them all on today.

Feel free to share the link around.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

String Legacy

My musical career really began aged 6 or 7 when I first encountered the violin.  I remember quite vividly my first Skylark violin; it made quite a squeaky noise and its quality was no doubt the catalyst for many parents prohibiting their offspring from taking their instrumental career any further.

Luckily for me though, my parents persevered with the questionable sound and my string playing eventually led me to playing both violin and viola with orchestras and quartets at school and outside of school.  However, as my singing career became more dominant, my chances of playing became less and less and eventually I stopped playing both instruments and concentrated on the singing.

Recently I brought my instruments (which I’ve had for about 20 odd years) down to London as I wanted the opportunity to pick things back up and show the girls what fun stringed instruments were.  Lauren in particular was fascinated.  However, after a few attempts at playing the instruments, I realised that all those years in storage had affected both the bow and the instrument as the sound didn’t ring quite true.

Last Tuesday, I accidentally found a violin shop in Ealing whilst on a quest to get some sushi.  Sadly, the sushi shop was just closing as I got there so I decided to investigate the violin shop instead.  After a conversation with one of the staff members, I decided to bring my instruments back to the shop this week for examination, a valuation and an overhaul if necessary.

“Happee!”

Jocey is getting really talkative now.  We are constantly astounded at her rapid acquisition of new words.  My favourite one is “happeeee!”, which is quite apt considering her sunny personality and her constant smiles.

We’ve had two happy Bank Holiday weekends in the last month.  On the May Day weekend, we went to Woburn Safari Park on the Saturday and on May Day we ventured out to Kensington Gardens to see the Diana Memorial playground.  We hadn’t been before so weren’t quite sure what to expect.  However, we liked the sound of the pirate ship there so made the journey out there.

May Day 01

Monday, May 25, 2009

A South Yorkshire Wedding

Last weekend we went to the wedding of Jason’s oldest friend, James.  They first became friends at the age of 4 when they went into Clifton Prep School in York some 32 years ago.  They, together with their friends Alex and Julian later went to St Peter’s School in York and are still friends now. 

Here’s a picture of the boys together on the day (clockwise from back left – Julian, Jase, James the groom and Alex).

Jackson Wedding (Ayers) 052

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Congratulations!

Congratulations to my friends Jill and Mark, who had their third baby at the end of last month!  Baby Stephen arrived three weeks early but both mum and baby are doing well and are at home.  Strange to think that they were only with us back in February, when they got snowed in.

My favourite picture was this one that they sent me, of Emily, Christopher and the new arrival.

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Call of the wild

On the Bank Holiday weekend, we decided that we’d done enough tidying and cleaning but hadn’t really had enough fun.  On Saturday, the weather was glorious, so we decided to go to the safari park at Woburn.  The girls were really looking forward to it as we had promised them that we would see lions and elephants in the morning.

After about an hour’s travel, we were at Woburn without too much difficulty.  Unfortunately, the ticketing computer decided to crash when we got to the ticket desk and we spent about 10 minutes waiting for the team to sort us out with tickets.  However, once this was solved, we were in the park.

Woburn 018

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun at the weekend

Well, this weekend wasn't the complete washout that the weather men predicted and was actually quite lovely.

The girls have been out to the park today with Daddy whilst I was doing my weekly cooking marathon. We all managed to have a relaxing time despite the chores - something we were needing.

Lauren drew this picture for me this weekend.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Selling our House

Over the last 7-10 days, I have had a mad time entertaining estate agents. Last week, I invited a few agents to view our house and to give us a valuation. Predictably, these ranged from the totally unbelievable to the probably realistic. In the end, after much deliberation, we didn’t go with the agent who gave us the highest valuation, nor the one with the cheapest rate. The agent we chose came armed with lots of facts and figures, didn’t say anything vague or wishy-washy and didn’t promise anything that he knew he couldn’t actually deliver. He was also the only one who said that he wouldn’t be telling us what we wanted to hear but what was realistic.

I have to say that I have not regretted the decision at all. After informing them that they were the successful ones last Wednesday and signing the paperwork on Thursday, I found myself sorted out with a solicitor for the conveyancing work and with a viewing in hand by Friday. By Saturday, we had had another viewing and an offer made on our house. I was bowled over by their efficiency and fast pace.

Ongoing developments

Jocey has suddenly discovered language.  She seemed much slower to talk than Lauren but over the last three weeks, she has been learning new words at a phenomenal rate.

She has quite a vocabulary now and seems to be adding several new words every day.  For example:

Mame = Mummy

Dada = Daddy

Otpu = Octopus (her favourite soft toy)

Mih = Milk

MehMeh = Dummy (also Lauren’s name for a dummy)

Tuck = Stuck

Noo = No

OoohNooo = Oh No!

AhhGoh = All gone

BehBeh = Bye Bye

SaCho = Sad Choice

Fun with the Grandparents

I’m aware that we haven’t been posting very often recently but here’s an update of the things we’ve been doing over the last three weeks.

At the beginning of April, Jase’s parents and Aunty Madge came to stay.  It was the weekend following my birthday but unfortunately I was on call that week, so wasn’t able to celebrate much.  The girls had a great time as usual seeing their grandparents and Suzanne and Peter did a fantastic job with the garden.  They helped us by tidying and planting up our tubs to bring colour into the garden.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Catch-up with Old Friends

Whilst away in Manchester for James’ Stag Weekend I had the opportunity to catch up with Gareth and to meet Lindsay for the first time.

We spent a good 5 hours (in a couple of sessions) chatting, and that is one of the prime reasons I am so tired this week! (3 am finishes are outside of my comfort zone now!)

Anyway, we had a great time and here are some photos that I took in Starbucks.

Gareth and Lindsay 001

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rapid catch up…

I have been chasing my own tail for so long over recent months that I’ve hardly had time to breathe. I’m certain that this adds to the sense of frustration that I have felt on a day to day basis. There seems to be an impossible mountain of tasks to complete and not enough hours in the day.

To add to this, I sprained my back whilst moving boxes over the weekend as some of them were very heavy after I had packed and sealed them. I am trying to keep moving and do some stretches, but it has been a set back in terms of packing today on my day off.

I’ve put the girls into nursery full time so that on my day off I can organise all the house move stuff. Whilst I was a bit reluctant to do this at first, it has certainly allowed me to get things done which are normally impossible. Even at the weekend, we have little opportunity to do chores as the girls are still little and require a lot of our attention. I miss them but console myself that it’s only going to be for a short time until we’ve sorted our move.

I’ve finally got up to date with our photos online – our photos from the last three months are all uploaded and can be seen by clicking the link to my Flickr albums.

Now, highlights from the last three months’ family activities!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So much to do

We've been back from our holiday a week and a bit now and I know that there is still so much to talk about. I've realised that I haven't even got round to putting the pictures up from New Year yet!

Whilst on holiday, we made some firm decisions about the near future. Firstly, we are going to try to sell the house. I've got a decorator to come round next week to start work on getting the house smartened up for sale. Everything needs to look spick and span before we invite the estate agents round as I want to get the best price possible for our house. I realise that in this financial climate we will need to be realistic about what that is (unfortunately, probably about £100,000 less than the price I could have put it on the market 18 months ago).

Once we've sold the house, we are going to rent in Richmond closer to the nursery for a while until we are ready to make our ultimate move. More about that soon!

A weekend of packing up and de-cluttering looms ahead; no doubt it will be the first of many.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Holidays!

We are off on our holidays tonight!  The whole family are flying to Hong Kong to visit my grandparents and extended family.  Lauren and Jocey haven't met my grandparents before, so we are all very excited.  My grandparents have told my parents that they can't wait and are coming to meet us when we land on Saturday afternoon.

It's also the longest plane journey that the girls have been on so we are a bit nervous.  Last time coming back from Chicago, Jocey refused to sleep for the entire flight, which was tough.  We were all shattered by the time we got off the plane, as that meant that none of us adults had any sleep either.

I have just about finished packing now but as always, I have that nagging doubt in the back of my mind about whether or not I've forgotten to pack something.  I suppose I'll find out soon enough!

So glad that the holiday has finally arrived.  Yippee!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rapid catch up…

I have been chasing my own tail for so long over recent months that I’ve hardly had time to breathe. I’m certain that this adds to the sense of frustration that I have felt on a day to day basis. There seems to be an impossible mountain of tasks to complete and not enough hours in the day.

To add to this, I sprained my back whilst moving boxes over the weekend as some of them were very heavy after I had packed and sealed them. I am trying to keep moving and do some stretches, but it has been a set back in terms of packing today on my day off.

I’ve put the girls into nursery full time so that on my day off I can organise all the house move stuff. Whilst I was a bit reluctant to do this at first, it has certainly allowed me to get things done which are normally impossible. Even at the weekend, we have little opportunity to do chores as the girls are still little and require a lot of our attention. I miss them but console myself that it’s only going to be for a short time until we’ve sorted our move.

I’ve finally got up to date with our photos online – our photos from the last three months are all uploaded and can be seen by clicking the link to my Flickr albums.

Now, highlights from the last three months’ family activities!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Family portraits

I don't have much time left this evening because I didn't get home from work until late, so I will talk about the festive period more tomorrow.
However, we had some professional photos taken of Lauren and Jocey and were thrilled with the result.  The grandparents got the photos framed as their Christmas present and loved them.

Festive fun, part 1

I can't believe it's been three weeks since we all headed back to work properly after Christmas.  Both Jase and I have had a mad time at work and haven't really had time to do anything extra at all.  On top of that, poor Jocey has been really unwell and had the winter vomiting bug for about 6 days, resulting in both of us having to take time off work.

I guess the impression that the festive season was a long time ago was compounded by the fact that I had to work in the week running up to the New Year, so only had a week's break.

We did manage to cram quite a lot into the festive period and had both sets of parents down to spend time with us in London.  Mum and dad were the first to arrive and spent Christmas with us.

Christmas 020