Life of Pip


Food. Wine. Friends.

How to live with a toddler

November 17th, 2012

This will come as no surprise to anyone, parents or not: toddlers have an inordinate amount of energy. I am sheltered from this during the week. On a ‘school’ morning, while he eats breakfast, I get ready for work; while he watches the iPad, I get him dressed. And then it’s off to school. Duncan has daddy duty 3 out of 5 nights, and the other 2 he’s there to help me. And evenings go by quick – dinner, small play, get ready for bed, stories, bed.

But the weekends. What did we do with our weekends pre-H? We must have had so much time. Now? The goal is to come up with activities that use maximum energy (for him), while using minimum energy ourselves.

Hide and seek is a good one. He hasn’t quite grasped the concept. He always wants us to seek (which you would think would go against the above rule, but just wait). Seeking involves, counting to 10, doing a vague attempt at looking confused as to where he is, and then turning your head towards the giggles. He doesn’t seem to mind that you ‘find’ him so easily. He’s happy to hide in the same spot again and again.

The more weekends pass, the more tricks we are learning, but I’m still exhausted come 9.

Hamish and Papa hiding

Hopefully this doesn’t land me on STFUParents

August 12th, 2012

Reading Baby Centre for 29 months – how old Hamish currently is. It says:

“You can help build your toddler’s verbal skills by expanding on what she says. For instance, if she says “Car go,” you might say “Yes, that red car is going down the street very quickly.” You can model for her the bigger vocabulary and more complicated sentence structure that she will soon grow into using.

Hamish would be more likely to say, “Mummy, do you think that red car has an internal combustion engine or is it battery powered?”

Breakfast disappointment

August 2nd, 2012

(Written in the way Hamish speaks.)

Me: Hamish, breakfast time.

H: What’s on my plate?

Me: Vegemite on toast.

H: But… How I’m going to get cheese on it?

At Hyde Park After first dentist appointment

Month of veg, Day 1: pasta with potato, peas and pesto

May 2nd, 2012

Duncan and I have decided to dedicate May to exploring new vegetarian recipes. This means no meat (or fish!) for 31 days. We were inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book, “River Cottage Veg Every Day“.

Day 1, we thought we’d start relatively easy. I had made pesto earlier this year from basil from our friend Sam’s garden. When I’m freezing pesto, I go easy on the olive oil, and add it instead when I add the defrosted pesto to the pasta. So the recipe is roughly as follows (very similar recipe appears in Hugh’s book):

2 or 3 good handfuls of basil
1-2 cloves of garlic
About 2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese
Enough olive oil to blend all the above ingredients

300g pasta (we used a combination of twists and penne)
300g new potatoes, cut into thick matchsticks
1/2 to 1 cup peas
Lemon juice
Green olives (optional), chopped
Parmesan cheese to serve

This recipe assumes the pesto has been made and is sitting in your freezer. Take it out to thaw (or make some up from scratch, remembering to be a bit more generous with the oil).

Bring a pan of salted water to boil. Add in pasta and potatoes and cook until the pasta is al dente. This should be enough time for the potatoes to cook. With about a minute left in the cooking time, add the peas.

Drain. Add in the pesto with enough olive oil to get it coating the pasta. Grind in a good amount of pepper and some lemon juice to taste.

Dish up and top with green olives and freshly grated parmesan.

Pasta with potato, peas and pesto

Today I learned I’m not above bribery

April 9th, 2012

H: Where’s the chocolate Easter eggs gone?

D: Ask mummy – she’s the keeper of the chocolate.

H: I want chocolate mummy!

Me: Sit on your potty and mummy will give you chocolate.

H: ok!

Chalk one up for mummy!

baking cookies
Not related to this post, but I like the photo.

And then there were 55

March 27th, 2012

We’ve been very remiss having people round to our house. There was always some reason that we couldn’t have a get-together: renovations, work, holidays. Finally we decided to bite the bullet and combine all the owed invites with Hamish’s 2nd birthday. Though we’ve made great inroads to improving the child friendliness of our house, with that many kids, we had to hold it at another venue – Clareville Beach seemed perfect.

We invited some people, and then invited some more people, and then some more still. Even my mom and dad were going to be able to be here. Only a few were unable to come. All of a sudden we had over 50 people coming. Good thing we were having it at the beach!

There was a lot of pressure around the cake. It was probably all self-induced, but I was still very glad when Jess said she’d make some cupcakes. Thanks Jess!

I managed a train cake with zoo animal passengers. Train cake for kiddies, and cupcakes for adults. Perfect!

Choo chop train cake

After a month of rain and a month of forecasted rain, we lucked out with a beautiful day. We sent my parents down to the beach early with a bottle of wine to hold a table or two for us. They did admirably.

The party went well – the kids played, the adults watched, we all ate and had a good time. Hamish had such a good time, that two weeks after the party, he is still talking about it. “It’s my birthday?” “I had cake. I eat cake. I like cake!” “I go to the party next day.”

Thanks all for helping make his day memorable – he was a very spoiled little boy. And Thanks to John for some wonderful photos like the one below. More on Flickr.


Baa baas

March 8th, 2012

Today was Hamish’s 2nd birthday. We awoke to rain, rain and more rain. The water was pouring down the streets. But we’d promised to take Hamish to the zoo – his first visit. We batted around the idea of going to the aquarium but none of us was as enthused with that idea. So when there appeared to be a break in the deluge, we rushed out.

Almost looks like he's writing it doesn't it?

Of course by the time we got to the zoo, the rain had started once more. Turns out this is the best time to come to the zoo. We had it to ourselves!

The first stop was the koalas. Hamish hadn’t seen these ‘bears’ before and had a great time imitating how they ate. Next was the crocodiles (“snap! snap!”) and the reptile enclosure. I think we must have spent a good 15 minutes watch the turtles. (“Turtle swimming! Turtle not swimming!”) But then it was all about the elephants. (“See elephants? See elephants?”) I vainly tried to get him to look at the other animals on his way down, but without much luck. The chimps weren’t all that active anyway because of the weather. And he didn’t really warm to the giraffes though he did concede they were as tall as his teacher.

The elephants are well placed however, directly across from seating where we wee able to have lunch and ‘weather’ the worst of the rain. (See what I did there?)

By then the seal show was about to start. Hamish was very impressed with the seals and the fact that “the man spoke and the seals waved bye bye. Splash!” Never mind it was a woman. Gender is perhaps not his strongest suit.

Off to the kids’ zoo we went. Hamish loved running around chasing the turkeys and watch the chickens. “I like chicken!” Uncle J would be proud. Hamish and I went into the sheep enclosure where I tried to get him to pet a sheep. He was just reaching out when he decided better of it. The sheep baa’ed loudly in protest and Hamish jumped a mile. “I no like baa baas!” was repeated a number of times over the rest of the day (update: and continues to be repeated).

Chickens are cool

He mistook the goats for doggies and seemed to like the pigs, but was not impressed with the dark enclosure belonging to the wombat. We exited the kids’ zoo and wandered around as much of the rest of the zoo that we think we could manage before Hamish cracked it (or nana or papa got too tired…)

Apparently these are doggies

All day Hamish had been seeing the sky ride and excitedly pointed saying, “plane! Plane!” So at the end of the day we headed to the top planning on taking a round trip ride. Wrong. He wouldn’t even go near it saying, “I no like plane! It’s scary!”. This too became a mantra to be repeated.

As there was no sky ride, we finished off with a trip through the gift shop. Might need to make this a birthday tradition.

More pictures on Flickr.

Giving daddy a cuddle

A Gaudí kind of day

January 30th, 2012

After a quick breakfast in our respective hotel rooms, we were off. First stop: Sagrada Família. Though we arrived early, the queue was already long. But it moved quickly and soon we were inside. This was my third time visiting, and still I found it awe-inspiring. The scale of it is almost too much to comprehend. There’s still so much to be done to complete Gaudí’s vision too – I guess that’s why they have guys whose job it is to paint the scaffolding?!

Ceiling of the Sagrada Família

Mom, Dad and I took the lift up. After a quick look around, Mom decided she’d prefer to go back down the lift and keep Duncan and Hamish company. Dad and I continued up and up and up. And then came down, down, down. Coming down is so much harder than going up.

Looking down. Or was it up?
Looking down. Or was it up? Hard to tell.

Dad and the view about half way down the tall tower of the Sagrada Família
Dad and the view about half way down the tower

After lunch – some absolutely fantastic Andalusian Gaspacho for me – the next stop was Casa Millà (La Pedrera). But it was getting on in time and the queues seemed to be on the long side. Much of what makes La Pedrera special (to my way of thinking) is visible from the outside anyway – though maybe not in great detail. But we had a look and then continued on to Casa Batlló, where Dad and I had a good look around.

I am boggled by Gaudí’s ability to continually surprise. Simple ceilings become ripples in water.

The dining room ceiling of Casa Batlló

Every element has purpose – every colour, every line, every shape. The internal courtyard went from deep blue to the palest of blues and the windows increased in size the lower down you got – all to help with the reflection of light and the temperature control of the building.

The internal courtyard of Casa Batlló

Outside you can see the spear penetrating the back of the dragon, as well as Gaudí’s amazing skill to use tile like it were paint. And through the gap on the left, his Sagrada Família is framed beautifully in the distance.

On the roof of Casa Batlló

After we were done with Casa Batlló, we headed back to the hotel for a swim (for Mom, Hamish and I), a rest for Dad and a wander for Duncan. We then headed back towards La Rambla in search of dinner. This time we went via the Arc de Triomf and approached from the east, rather than north. Mindful of the situation we were in the night previous, we were keeping an open mind, but not looking for the ultimate eating place. Lucky for us we came upon exactly what we were looking for – though maybe a bit pricier than we were hoping for. We had a lovely meal in a lovely outdoor plaza.

Just the other side of Arc de Triomf

Of course on our way back to the hotel, we located all of the lovely little eateries that you read about and see on the travel channels. In fact I think we found the one Duncan and I had been looking for back in 2002! Then we ended up an area that we were altogether not too comfortable in and had to backtrack pretty quickly. We’ll know for next time.

Our arrival in Barcelona

January 23rd, 2012

Ever since I went backpacking and visited Barcelona in ’98, staying 8 days rather than my planned 2, I wanted to share it with Duncan and my Dad. Duncan for the tapas and general vibe; my Dad for the architecture. Duncan and I were able to visit in 2002. I was very happy when this trip came together and we made it to Barcelona to introduce Dad to Gaudí.

We left Javea as early in the day as we could, prepared for five hours of trying to settle and entertain a toddler. I won’t brag but Hamish was brilliant. In both directions. Ok, enough of the patting myself on the back. The trip there was uneventful with the exception of having a couple issues paying the tolls. (We picked the wrong lane once or twice, meaning the reader didn’t read our card. A hasty reverse and into the correct lane solved that.) We were treated to lovely countryside and glimpses of far away churches, castles, walls and other monuments. The only better way to get to Barcelona, would have been to take the train.

We made it to our hotel in good time. It was a perfectly lovely hotel – its only downfall being the incredibly steep and tightly wound ramp down to parking. Duncan drove down but made Dad drive back up at the end of our stay. I didn’t see it myself but apparently we were exceedingly lucky to not have damaged the hire car!

After a day in the car, we all wanted a good walk to stretch the legs. I took the role of navigator and set us off to Plaça de Catalunya, a good 10 blocks from our hotel on Casa de Sicilia. Hamish was pretty excited to be out and about.

Plaza Catalunya

From there, it was straight down La Rambla – one of my favourite streets in the world. We found the market that was of such interest to us in previous visits, but it was very difficult to navigate with a buggy and post-work crowd. We exited shortly after entering and found this greeting us:

Free drink and Wifi at the erotic museum!

We weren’t swayed and instead continued our trek down La Rambla, enjoying the atmosphere.

I think the most difficult thing was finding somewhere to eat. We were victims of the “I’m sure there’s an even better place just down the street”. I think I was guilty of pushing everyone to find the ‘perfect’ place to eat. In the end, we settled for a perfectly reasonable cafe – but it probably didn’t quite meet the expectations everyone had set.

The limit of my memory

December 20th, 2011

We arrived back from Spain the second week of September. It is now 5 sleeps until Christmas, or so my “sleeps til Christmas” calendar tells me. And so far, I have only taken you through about a third of our trip. With all of the stress, good times and bad times, and just the passing of time in the last 4 months, I no longer have a good grasp on the tidbits and tales of our trip that you may enjoy. Events have now become memories to be jogged by current events, but difficult to write down in a coherent fashion.

So. In an effort to not sound like a travel documentary, I’ll post the highlights, attempting to group them in a way that may be even slightly entertaining (or at least somewhat enjoyable) for you.

I’ll start off with tapas. Because I’m hungry.

On our previous trips to Spain, we have been on a quest to find the holy grail of tapas. The types of dishes you see on the food television shows that make you salivate and want to book plane tickets then and there. We’ve always enjoyed what we’ve eaten but it’s never (bar one or two dishes) been mind blowing. Nor has it been cheap. You don’t expect tapas to be cheap outside of Spain – but you do in Spain. And yes, we did try and avoid the tourist-y places.

Jim took us to a fantastic spot, right in Javea. We enjoyed a number of dishes – most of which I didn’t photograph – but the three I did were the requisite patatas bravas, sepia (cuttlefish), and calamari. Though the patatas bravas was perhaps more like chips with sauce and mayo, everything was very tasty. Even Hamish agrees!

Tapas, yum!

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