A visit to Foxcroft & Ginger – east side

Foxcroft and GingerEven though we’ve been to the Museum of Childhood quite a few times (fascinating for me, not actually that much for a two year old to do except run around like a loon but that’s fine) I hadn’t done that much exploring with Sproggett past the local park and the overground station. Bethnal Green Gardens has the advantage of having not one but two train lines run past it so you can keep a toddler happy there for ages. But if you do wander just a few minutes further…

I’m a big fan of Foxcroft & Ginger‘s original outpost on Berwick St. They have a new site on Mile End Road, enormous with a gallery/co-working space upstairs. I loved the industrial styling and it’s got a great relaxed atmosphere. Or it did until these two rocked up, hah!

IMG_1252

I went along with my friend Laura and her two lovely little ones and I have to say that the staff were extremely friendly, doing everything they could to get us settled in. From the picture you’ll notice see we had two tiny perpetual motion machines with us so it was a more fleeting visit that I would have liked, but that’s kind of what happens with kids in tow. I’m hoping it’s just a phase for them I have to admit to being in the camp who sooner have a shorter more enjoyable time somewhere than linger and let them run riot.

Highchairs were offered, although only the youngest member of the party was obliging enough to get into one, then crayons and colouring sheets arrived rapidly to placate the terrible twosome.

The standout thing that would make me run back there at speed is the Blood Orange and Chocolate Ganache cake, which has the added benefit of being gluten free. It’s like a divinely upmarketed cakeified Jaffa Cake. The coffee was great too. All the pastries, cakes and breads are made fresh daily at their Soho location.  I wished we’d been there at lunchtime because the sandwiches we saw looked packed full of fresh ingredients and I know their bread is fab.

IMG_1266They’re doing a special offer on Monday-Fridays, quote ‘Yummy Mummy’ for a coffee and a filled croissant, or coffee and cake for £4.50. When I was pregnant, I would have haunted the place, and with a bub asleep in a buggy, it would be a great place to hang out. I think when Sproggett and his mates are older, and more likely to sit with a book or toy, I’d definitely spend more time there.

Staff were happy to split up juice so that we could water it down for the kids – would be great to have plastic beakers for little ones too. They’ve got a kids menu and they’ll size down items from the regular menus for smaller tums too.

We’ll definitely go back, I imagine that weekend brunches are pretty special. Then it’ll be over to the park to watch trains, trains and more trains.

Foxcroft and Ginger2
Foxcroft & Ginger, Whitechapel, 69-89 Mile End Road, E1 4TT – thanks for inviting us to visit!

Still plodding

 

IMG_3371

I’m pretty chuffed that I’m on Week Six of eight weeks of Couch25k training!

I started with the NHS podcasts but reasonably soon, the music started to drive me insane. Not even in a ‘run faster to get it over with’ way. It was borderline demoralising. Plus I had issues with them telling me, whoever, that I should run through pain. Discomfort yes, but running through pain is stupid and that’s how people get injured. Yes, I ditched them over semantics.

On a friend’s recommendation I downloaded the Active Network app and I can use Spotify alongside it. Plus I’ve just found out that that one of the coaching voices is a zombie. Massive win!

The only way to make it work, practically, for me to keep up with something like this, is for me to get out of bed, put on exercise gear and go straight out the door in the morning. That’s because my motivation evaporates during the day, and also because howbloodyfrickingtiredIam hits badly in the evenings. Poor Sproggett gets night terrors, frequently. Not fun for anyone. Those following mornings are tough ones to persuade myself to put on the shoes and go.

Still though. On alternate days, because I’m trying to keep up momentum on the programme, it’s up, dressed, out, by 7:00 latest. Mr D attempts to get breakfast into the boychild and we swap like a pro tag-team when I get back, with me dressing the wee man and getting him ready for nursery, or “Adventure Days”*. I’m really lucky – most of the time my schedule is flexible or going out on weekday mornings to run would be tough to manage.  I’m sorely aware that I need to be fitter to keep up with the kid, that’s mostly what keeps me going.

Living right beside a park helps. It’s my makeshift running track at the moment. I try to log which point I reach around the perimeter on my running bursts, see if I can better it (and then I use the apps to tell me if I did afterwards.) I watch the dog walkers who meet up on the green before taking their joint pack to the Marshes. Smile at the other huffing joggers, occasionally eliciting one in return, an acknowledgement of solidarity. Nod at the quiet Asian lady who runs a few paces behind her husband, but only when they think that they’re hidden in the trees, slowing to a walk again when they meet other park users on the path. On weekends I keep an eye out for the homeless guy who sleeps on the bench in the furthest corner, not wanting to rouse him abruptly from hard-won sleep as I lumber past.

It’s getting easier to go, in that it’s more of a habit, even if the activity itself seems still rather difficult somedays. Oddly the intervals have been harder than the longer jogs, which may be because of muscles warming up, getting a second wind etc. I’m most definitely still a work in progress. But I’m loving it.

Next workout is ‘jog for 22 minutes’. I may need to be scraped off the pavement at 7:45am on Sunday.

*we tend to go out on I’m looking after him before we both go mad at home.

August and everything after

The first pingy pingy notes of ‘Round here’ by Counting Crows on “August and Everything After” immediately transports me back to Maine, and my first proper summer away from home. It’s exactly half my lifetime ago, and I wonder where I’ll be in another twenty years.

11374024513_5d71bedf85_z

I’ve been thinking about what sixty will look like for me, assuming I get there. I mean, my family are pretty good models of longevity but it’s not understating the matter to say “I could be helping myself out a bit more”. I had some routine health checks done recently (the GP’s receptionist chirpily told me that they were offering them to everyone over forty, like we’re some sort of endangered species) and I was surprised the results all came back ok, to be honest. I was semi-primed for disaster. Ok so I was glad there was no bad news, but perhaps I needed something to Get My Arse In Gear? I’m not unhealthy, or at least not in need of intervention, according to medical definitions, but I’m not exactly brimming with energy and I’m still carrying baby weight. Hell at this point I’m carrying about two Sproggetts’ worth of extra poundage around with me. I. Don’t. Like. It.

So as usual, much stock taking going on around here. I read a couple of blog posts that sparked steam trains of thought, although the usual themes are the same – productivity, what I want to achieve, what the hell am I doing with my life. Do you get like that? I sometimes look around me and think – wow, how did I get here? That’s not to say I’m not happy with my life, hell if anything my worrywart gene kicks in bigtime when I take stock of just how lucky I am, and I get petrified it will all fall apart (that’s when I usually start forecasting the zombie apocalypse and getting worried that I can’t run very far and how long could I carry Sproggett for…?).

So I read Lucy’s post about Making A List. Ooh I love a good list, might be connected to the stationery fetish. Also the husband uses lists to great effect and we both use an app called Things which works well with the the GTD system. I like its notion that ‘Your brain is for having ideas, not for holding them’. Although where I usually fall down is on the reviewing element of GTD, I’m excellent at braindumping. It literally makes you feel lighter when all the swirling screaming ‘must do’ things get removed from your mind and stored somewhere. I’m also a massive fan of Evernote, btw, and that link gets you a free month of their premium service although the free one is fab.

Last night just before bed – with eyes almost closing – I scribbled out a list called ‘By the end of 2015′ as the start of a road map for August and everything after.

I surprised myself with what was on it.

Lots of it was health related, like

  • Able to run for 60 minutes straight
  • Able to weightlift properly
  • Have a sub-25 BMI

I know that the second one, in particular, needs to be quantified – defining what I mean by weightlifting etc.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve restarted the NHS Couch To 5k podcasts – mainly motivated by an amazing friend who is a couple of weeks ahead of me on the programme, and I’m into week 2. This morning, after a night of broken sleep thanks to Sproggett and a tumble drier that was possessed by the devil, when Mr D shouted ‘I thought you were going to run this morning?’ up the stairs at me, the very last bloody thing thing I wanted to do was haul my arse out of bed and bumble around the park.

I procrastinated checked Dark Sky and it told me there would be rain for the next hour. My running kit was still wet thanks to aforementioned temperamental appliance. I WAS TIRED.

Then I remembered Liz Goodchild’s blog post and thought, no I don’t feel like it. But I want to be able to run for 60 minutes, and unless I go out and slap one flat foot down in front of the other, repeatedly, I’m not going to be able to do that. Not by 2015, not ever. I’m not going to get less tired unless I get fit.

So I wrestled my iphone back from Sproggett, who has lately learned the phrase ‘my turn’ which he thinks is a magic spell for him to get whatever he wants, found some shitty Apple headphones that are like about as comfortable as trying to wedge grapes in your ears, and walked out the door.

Thirty minutes later I was slightly damp, home, and glowing. A little bit of smug, a lot of JESUS IT FEELS GOOD TO ACTUALLY EXERCISE. Why can’t they bottle endorphins?? Just a little of it makes me want to go back to running marathons (ok it was only the one but distance running is just the best thing ever, IMHO) and lift sofas over my head. A couple of weeks ago I went to a weekend Power Pump class at the gym which turned out to be full of semi-pro lifters and although I didn’t walk properly for four days afterwards, I was buzzing like a four year old on Frosties afterwards, and I realise how much I miss that feeling.

But I’m not signing up for marathons or even 5ks. Not until I can run one. This time around I’m looking for ways to change over the long term, which is why I’m thinking through to 2015, rather than a quick-fix that doesn’t last, and doesn’t work.

I can’t decide whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist but I’m sick to the back fecking teeth of thinking ‘I wish I’d done’ ‘where did all the time go’ ‘what have I achieved’ etc etc and so I’m going to take stock, and Make A Plan. Through 2015 which frankly should give me enough time to take over the planet.

There might be a better way of going about doing this – it’s the spew-inducing notion of ‘goal-setting’, isn’t it? The first step is finishing Couch 2 5K. Then we’ll look at the rest of the list.

Want to encourage/compete with me/buddy up with me for running? Search for me on Nike+

 

Photo from Linh Nguyen‘s Flickr stream under a Creative Commons licence

Bring me all the (Dairy Girl’s) cheese

Hello!

Blimey, hot enough for you, etc, how’ve you been, going anywhere nice on holidays? Yes I know, you haven’t seen me around here in ages. I’ve been blogging less partly because my life feels like it’s all about Sproggett, and I don’t talk about him that much on here (which ironically is a whole other post).

Anyway like with my last post about cold brew, at the moment we’re all about how to make food shopping and cooking easier. Since having a small human we’ve had to get out of the habit of ‘throwing something together’ (ahem, ordering a takeaway) for supper or thinking ‘oh I’ll just pope out and get those three esoteric ingredients that come from a specialist shop in favour of planning ahead. So that’s a big food shop on the weekend, prepping lunches in advance, planning what to eat a week at a time. It’s one of those things that a bit dull but rewarding.  That’s what I keep telling myself. 

I’ll be honest, we find it quite hard but it’s getting better. I’m now thinking that maybe a veg box scheme would be good – although not knowing what’s going to arrive in the box would kind of screw up planning, right, unless you plan the night that the box has been delivered?IMG_2453

We recently received a sample delivery from The Dairy Girl, which is a bit like a veg box scheme for cheese, with curated monthly deliveries. And no danger of an oversupply of kale. I’m kidding, but the service is actually a rather nice idea. If you’re the sort of person who likes visiting Neal’s Yard or La Fromagerie and picking what looks appealing then I think you’ll like this – you’re able to narrow down the selection by giving the your preferences and then you get the cheeses and recipe cards with tasting notes by courier.

We had the taster box of four, and that worked well for two (fairly cheese-greedy) people. I know that cheese isn’t long-lead so you don’t want it sitting around but one or two people would get through the taster box fairly easily.

IMG_2457

Our box contained Rachel, Pont L’Eveque, Badentoy Blue and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, and between following the suggested recipes, like Pont L’Eveque with pears and the Mrs Kirkham’s for cheese on toast, and just eating it in place of dessert, we were very happy bunnies. 

The branding is lovely and the tasting notes are a nice touch.

At £17.95 + delivery it’s positioned about the same as a chesemongers – no, this isn’t value cheddar and it’s not for making kids’ lunches unless they are very bloody lucky – it’s great food from small producers. It’s subscription-based but the site promises you can pause or change your preferences easily. 

You can also gift it easily which is a nice touch, I know that ripe-enough-to-drip-off-the-board unpasteurised cheese was one of things I was dying to eat again after being denied it when pregnant. Also good as a wedding gift for any couples you know, as you can do up to six months of deliveries as a present.

Good luck to Rachel, it’s a lovely idea and she seems uber-passionate about taste, the industry and working with small producers. It’s a lovely way to get introduced to some new cheeses you might have to work find to discover otherwise.

Oh and if you ever end up with any spare Gruyere from your cheese box, make Smitten Kitchen’s Rosemary, Gruyere and Sea Salt crackers, ideally as tiny bunnies

 

Disclosure: We received the box as a gift but the review is entirely my own opinion.

Cold Brew Coffee

God, I bloody love this stuff.

Because I love coffee. And I am fussy about coffee. But I don’t always have time to be fussy about coffee. 

Even making an Aeropress can sometimes take too long if the toddler is rampaging. Also I quite like the small ceremony of the Aeropress routine, and to take my time with it.

I also, slightly freakishly, like coffee when it’s gone cold. Again, useful when there’s a toddler around. But yeah, it’s sometimes more bitter than you’d ideally like (more on the science here).

So I decided to make some cold brew. Which sounds like beer to me but it’s actually an immersion method of slowly brewing coffee.

Image

I coarsely ground some Union Hand Roasted* coffee, 110g of their Abahuzamugambi ba kawa microlot from Rwanda. Cold brew can give a smoother taste but only if you’re using decent beans in the first place, and these are amazing.  Candied orange and milk chocolate notes. 

Image

Then I put the grounds in a huge Kilner with 2L of water, gave it a good stir – and you can see it start to bloom, above –  and left it 12 hours. To strain, I lined a sieve with two Chemex filters and poured the whole thing through, which took about 15 minutes.  Then bottled it and put it in the fridge: beautiful coffee concentrate. Depending on who you talk to, it keeps anywhere from two days to two weeks. But it’s not difficult to make so I think we’ll aim to prep a batch every three to four days. 

Image

Since then – sun or not – I’ve been throwing a cup of it over ice and usually adding a little whole milk. It’s amazing coffee flavoured rocket fuel. Can’t imagine I’ll be brewing any other way until there’s frost on the trees!  

 

 

 

*Union are a client but I choose to buy from them anyway, and pay for my coffee myself

I like a Big Lunch

I really like where we live. I know most people would hope to say the same, but there’s a lovely sense of community around here – something that London is sometimes criticised for lacking. We have a brilliant park at the end of our road and last June we formed a ‘Friends of…’ group to try to make the most of it, and make it into a thriving local resource. 

We did some bulb planting last year but our first major event was hosting The Big Lunch on 1st June. We knew the weather would make or break it. I woke up at 5:30 on Sunday morning and my first thought (after ‘oh Sproggett go back to your own bed) was ‘zomg it’s bloody well sunny’ and it turned out to be a scorcher. 

We were on site from 9:00 setting up, and left at 5:00 after a brilliant day. We had yoga for kids, bee hotel making with Friends of the Earth, a police car to clamber into, ‘art growing on trees’. I was mostly behind the cake stall (having baked all Saturday, after our last three-hour planning meeting – including biscuits that were supposed to be rockets but actually looked like cycloptic monsters wearing braces, see below) and lovely lovely Edd came to judge it. Even the Bunting for Life got an outing. 

We enlisted some of the visitors to the Big Lunch for a few minutes to help for the tear-down We got chatting with people who tentatively ventured ideas for future events we could do, and it was so great to see people get excited, and see the potential in our park and our community. We’ve already been asked what we’re going to do next (which is a bit like asking someone with a newborn when she’s having the next one, #toosoon) but we have tentative plans for something Bonfire Night related. Lots of small children and fire, what on earth could go wrong?

 ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I’ll only see 39 again if I come back as someone’s front door

Image

As Mr D has taken a few days off, it’s officially a long weekend in our household from tomorrow.

Today isn’t marked on the calendar, mainly because we don’t tend to do that sort of thing much. It’s the end of my 30s. Goodbye to a decade that saw three houses purchased: one joint, then thankfully released to one on my own and then finally just two weeks after I became Mrs D, the purchase of what has turned out to be a very happy family home. Even if it’s growing more ramshackle by the day.

This little terrace and my life is filled with a metric ton of plastic crap, more Ikea furniture than I’d ideally like but hey, it does the job, much sleeplessness due to teething at the moment, and two amazing men (one grown-up, one miniature.)  I could never have predicted how my situation would be at 40 and it’s vastly different to how my 30s started – and I’m so grateful. This city, London, is a constant but lots of other things have changed and only for the better. Apart from my knees. I’d like my 30 year-old-self’s cartilage back please.

Todays’s also significant for the celebration – or not, they keep it fairly low-key – of my parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary. I think it’s significant that when my father doodles mindlessly on the newspaper, it’s always the digits 27, which I ascribe to this day. My mother always snorts lovingly when I say that and rolls her eyes, bringing forty-two years of experience to bear. 

Tomorrow they’re flying over to spend the weekend with us – ostensibly for my birthday. Mainly to visit Sproggett. We will spend the weekend child-fussing and gardening, I’d say. Not exactly an exciting stay in London for them but actually the best pressie I could wish for.

There are birthday plans in there too – most of them are secrets still – and then on Sunday it’s the maternal motherlode – a family birthday lunch which also neatly brings my husband and I together with our respective mums for Mothering Sunday.  Sproggett gets two grannies (and granddads) to coo at.  He may actually implode with excitement. I predict him being like a metronome, not knowing whose attention to aim for. I am more grateful than ever for a mother who’s a best friend and a gift in the form of a mother-in-law. It’s not always the case and I count my blessings.

Monday is a secret escape and our first night away from the wee man. I am still conflicted about this – desperate for the sleep and getting to be a grown-up with my husband for a whole night; grateful he’ll be looked after by people who love him best and will spoil him rotten; infused to my core with guilt for not being there when he wakes in the morning.

Of course at the rate he’s been going he may just stay up all night. So that will solve the problem, right? 

 

 

Photo from Leo Reynold’s photostream under a Creative Commons Licence