Friday, July 29, 2011

The blowout party

WeHeartIt but we really hate it
I'm talking about my thighs and my butt, and the unbelievable mission they have set themselves of late to be the most RAPIDLY EXPANDING body parts EVER! Urgh. I thought this whole baby thing meant I was supposed to get a fat stomach, you know, because there's supposed to be a growing baby in my uterus - but noooooo, it seems the baby got lost at conception and is currently growing in my ass. Phil's got no sense of direction, the baby must have inherited it from him.

I know it's normal for people to put on weight, but right now I feel like a whale, and I've barely even got a tummy yet. I'm still in that in-between pregnant-but-don't-look-it stage-but-clearly-you've-been-eating-too-many-muffins. It's ordinary I have to say. Not a highlight. God help me when I actually start to get a proper baby bump (not just faux-food-bumps). Perhaps my thighs and ass are just throwing in a sympathetic "hey, we know you wish you had something to show for your pregnancy, and Bad-Boy-Bump is a little late, so we thought we'd round up our thousands of mates Can-do-Cellulite and Actually-Adipose and throw you a party instead!". Thanks guys, superb.

The books keep telling me that it's perfectly normal, the baby needs protection, yada yada yada, but then I see all these girls at pre-natal yoga who walk in looking so compact and skinny with their size 6 backsides and toned thighs and perfect soccerball bellies and I think that all those pregnancy books are actually full of shit. Protection schmection. I want a size 6 ass. Sigh.

Well on the up-side, I've been air-punching. I've had two whole days of NO nausea and NO vomiting. Woooo! I think (she says very softly), I may have turned the corner.

So are my mates Cellulite and Adipose jut really good friends or did yours throw you a party too?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

The post box in our beloved LG...
I lived in London for 6 whole years. 84 months. 336 weeks. 2352 days. 56,448 hours. In other words....A. Long. Time. And I miss it SO much.

I miss the beauty of the place. The amazing architecture of the houses, the regal colonnades lining the streets, the monochromatic colour scheme, the pops of pastels. I miss the parks. The enormity of them, the lush green grass (that you're actually allowed to sit on), the summer picnics with friends, walking home together, the cool breeze at dusk. I miss the culture of the place. The musicals, the theatre, the films, the diversity, the attitude. I miss the music. The live gigs, the summer festivals, the drums in the streets. I miss the history of the place. The grandeur, the royalty, the British. I miss the restaurants. The suave, the hip, the local, the hidden, the regulars. I miss drinking on the sidewalk outside our favourite pubs. I miss the shopping. I miss the markets. I miss X-factor. I miss the homewares. I miss Portobello Rd. I miss my street. I miss Linden Gold. I miss my friends. I miss that life.

So....I've bitten the bullet and I've decided to go back. In two weeks time. Only for 8 days.....but I'm going. Actually, I lie. Two of those days will be in Paris. I know. I cannot wait.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Help

I mentioned the other day that I'd been reading this book, and at 1.15am this morning when I finally (begrudgingly, I might add) turned the last page, I knew I was going to have to blog about it.

I love a book that captivates you. One that hooks you in so effortlessly to the characters and their stories that you feel like you're going through life with them. The Help does exactly that. It's a brilliantly written story about African-American 'helpers' and their tumultuous experiences with their middle-class white employers in the '60s in Jackson, Mississippi. It describes the degradation and jaw-dropping racism that went on, from the perspective of three characters, all based on the very real experiences of the author. If you haven't already, read it. You won't be sorry.

What struck a real chord with me, and worried me, to be honest was the relevance of this story to the 'helper' trade here in Hong Kong. This is a hot topic for us at the moment what with me being up-the-duff and all. The vast majority of residents (both expats and local Chinese) here with children have live-in help. It is by far and away the norm and it is cheap. I'm talking just more than $450 AUD per month for 6 days per week, 12 hours per day. And when you're living away from home, with no family support to turn to should you have a freak out moment and just need some time away, it's a very damn appealing option.

The sad thing is, you hear the most horrendous stories about how the Filipino helpers here are treated. And 95% of the time, Chinese families are the culprits. I've heard about helpers having to sleep on the couch, so that the precious dogs can sleep in the third bedroom instead, about helpers having to give 'favours' (use your imagination) to their bosses husbands, helpers not being fed for days, having to clean the cars at 2am in the morning because they're run off their feet during the day. You'd think, when you read The Help, how backward and unjust the treatment of the African-American helpers is. Well I have to say, 50 years later, there still seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the way the majority of this society treats its helpers.

Conversely, it seems on the whole, that expats are very good employers, as having 'help' is most certainly not something you have your whole life and isn't something to sneeze at. It's an absolute luxury and a very tangible benefit of living in Hong Kong. All expats seem to get that. We've got quite a few friends with helpers, some live-in, some live-out, and it feels like perhaps we'd be passing up a very good opportunity if we didn't also jump on the bandwagon, once The Athlete comes along.

There's no way we could have someone live in at the moment. The 'bed' (or more accurately the 'plank of wood') above the washing machine and dryer in our cupboard of a laundry just doesn't scream human rights to me. Although obviously it was adequate for the Chinese family living here before us, which I just cannot fathom. There's no way in the world I could let someone spend more than 5 minutes in there. So at this stage, a live-out helper would be our only option. I've still got some way to go to get my head around having someone here all day. Around losing my privacy. Around someone else spending so much time with my baby. But the option is there to have someone to clean, to do the dishes, to do the washing and maybe cook some food. It's affordable, and it would be so helpful.

Just a huge, massive, enormous, gigantic rewiring of my brain needs to occur before it's going to feel ok.
Or perhaps a screaming, pooing, demanding baby would do it.

What do you think? Do you have help with your kids? Should we be jumping at the chance? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Bakin'

My very own banana bread!!

Play along over here....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Clucky duck

It's sort of hard to believe that there's an actual human growing inside me. Apart from feeling slightly podgy and having a progressively impressive rack, I don't look pregnant. At this stage (almost 14 weeks), it's still so hard to believe that this is actually happening to us and that life is going to be tres different come January next year.

But when I got a little surprise delivery today from my best friend back in Sydney, it all suddenly felt very real and VERY exciting! 

a) There's nothing better than getting a surprise delivery and tearing it open to see what's inside, but 
b) When it contains something as cute and adorable and baby-like and cuddly as a Size 000 Bonds Jumpsuit?! There is NOTHING more exciting!

A huge big grateful thank you to this amazing friend (you know who you are) for such a beautiful gift and very real reminder that there is, in fact, a proper actual living human inside me that I CANNOT wait to meet. As she so rightly put it, "There's nothing better than a freshly baked baby in a Bonds jumpsuit". And I would have to agree. Is there anything sweeter??

Monday, July 18, 2011

Doing the Tai Tai

After being sick as a dog the past couple of days and feeling like there was no light at the end of what seems to be the longest tunnel EVER, I decided I deserved a little pick me up. Today would be a proper Tai Tai day. A day to make me feel good. Something I haven't felt in, well, a long time. I did my best Tai Tai impersonation. And I think I did pretty damn well! How do you think I went?

I got up at a leisurely 8.30am, made myself some porridge and a glass of orange juice (which I kept down for the first time in 4 days I might add - woo me!) and snuck back into bed for some QT with my current can't-put-it-down book of choice. It's this one here, in case you're wondering.

After moseying out of bed somewhat closer to, ahem, 10am (I knooooow....), I showered, packed my bag and tottered downstairs to meet a girlfriend. We were off to The Oriental Spa at the Mandarin Oriental. "For what?", I hear you ask. A faaaaaacial dahhhhling, what else?! I'm a sucker for a promotion and at this delightfully indulgent spa (until September, Mon-Thurs 9am-3pm) they have a 2 for 1 deal on a 90 minute massage OR a 90 minute facial of your choice PLUS an hour to spend lazing about in the sauna, steam room and hammam facilities. It was a bargain I clearly couldn't resist. Snap!

So grinning ear-to-ear, we arrived, we chatted, we swapped flip flops for spa slippers, we sipped ginger tea, we freshened up with scented towels, we paddled in the hotel pool because pregnant + heated luxury apparently = disaster, we showered, we towel dried with enormously white, fluffy pieces of heaven, we robed up and we got busy being pampered. And it was AMAZING! I've only had one or two facials since I've been here, and this my friends, particularly you HK friends looking for some sensational spa action, was by far and away the best. Serene rooms, mood lighting, gentle music and therapists whose hands were nothing but magic. The whole thing.....pure magic.

When it was over, we got ushered to the relaxation room for a glass of crisp pineapple, ginger and lemon water and a day bed for "recovering", because of course, we needed to recover after that. A few very well-sold and utterly unnecessary skin care purchases later, and we were done. Fresh faced and ready to conquer the madness of Honkers.

I clearly had low energy levels after such a busy morning, so food was next on the cards. A delicious chicken and avocado sandwich hit the spot as did a few other necessary, ahem, purchases.

After some chores and admin, I plonked myself on my couch at about 4pm this afternoon and did the only suitable, respectable thing to finish off my proper Tai Tai day.....Gossip Girl. 3 episodes. Oh and a blueberry muffin. did I do? Do I do a good Tai Tai?
What's your perfect Tai Tai day? How do you indulge?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting my ass kicked by 23g

Being pregnant hasn't been at all what I expected. I've given ample air time to the thought of wanting a baby, but I never actually thought about the foetus part, the 'being pregnant' bit. Probably wise.

Apart from the amazingness of seeing our healthy little baby alive and kicking on the ultrasounds, and the fun chats about life with a baby I'm having with my husband, the rest has been pretty crappy. Don't get me wrong, I'm SO excited about having this baby in our lives and am SO grateful we didn't have trouble conceiving. I'm just hoping the delightful little one is getting all its difficultness out of its system now and will be every parent's delightful dream come true come actual human, crying, pooing-baby time.

Now I know all you readers out there with kids will have been through this a thousand times (well hopefully not a thousand. Sausage down a hallway anyone?) and will think this old news, but this is very new news for me. And the reality of it all is punching me square in the face.

This has been my very 'precious' but somewhat ferocious last 3 months:

  • I've got massive boobs, which granted are fabulous, but they hurt like hell. 
  • I feel nauseous pretty much all the time. And I have been more than partial to a vomit or 463. This has definitely improved in the past week, and I find if I have a blueberry muffin or a piece of banana bread in my mouth at least every 2 hours, I feel considerably better. Wha' chu gonna do?
  • I've put on kg after kg as a result. In all the wrong places. I wish I could blame the baby, however I think it weighs about 23g. Sigh.
  • I cannot stand the smell of Asian food. Lucky I don't live in Asia. Ahem.
  • I feel like I've run a marathon every day, which would be great if in fact I had run further than the bedroom to the bathroom. But I haven't. 
  • I basically don't feel like talking to anybody. 
  • Gas. 'Nuff said. 
  • I haven't exercised properly in 3 months. I'm no exercise freak but I need to exercise to feel remotely sane which means I've basically been insane for 12 weeks. Super. Have fun with that Phil.
  • I've got the skin of a pubescent 14 year old. 
  • I've been ridiculously constipated. Not fun people, not fun. 
  • I can't eat sashimi, or smoked salmon, or cake batter or runny poached eggs. Only my favourite things in the world to eat. 
  • I can't drink alcohol. Fun police anyone?

Now I didn't mean for this blog post to be a whinge, but would-you-look-at-that, I think its become one. Sozza. I'll blame the pregnancy hormones. I'll be blaming them for a lot these next 6 months... "It's not me! It's the hormones!" kind of get-out-of-jail-free-stuff. But I am SO close to this golden 2nd trimester and I've got every finger and toe crossed that I'm not going to be one of those por sods who is sick for the whole 9 months. Pray for me people. Pray for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - 90s porn

Coz sometimes I just feel like listening to old school 90s porn. Brings back so many memories.

Don't judge me....I know every word.

Linking up with Faith, Hope and a Whole Lotta Love today....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Introducing.....The Athlete

One hand on a golf club, the other on a tennis racket. That's what Phil has decided will happen on Day 1. "It's definitely going to be an athlete", he says as I roll my eyes with a smile. I'm just hoping for 10 fingers and 10 toes and a killer smile!!

We're having a little whipper snapper and are both over the moon! I'm due on the 20th January, which makes me almost 13 weeks pregnant and neither of us have got the patience to wait another 6 months to meet our little one.  I should stop saying little. I'm quite sure it's going to be a gigantore newborn considering I'm 6ft and Phil 6'4". That makes my nether regions recede with raw fear, the prospect of pushing a watermelon through a pinhole. Sweet jesus. Think it's best to just brush that small physically impossible nightmare of a prospect to the side for now. Yep. Officially pushed aside.

Highlight of the pregnancy so far?
I've got a great rack. Lovin' it.

My all too frequent and intense friendship with the good ol' porcelain bowl. Enough with the nausea already. Enooouuuughhhh!

So there you go. Big, life-changing, superb news for us Holmewoods. Ecstatic doesn't quite describe it. No doubt this blog will now become a way to document and share the highs and lows of the adventure ahead!!

A new chapter, with me, Phil and "The Athlete" (cue eye roll and cheeky smile)....Bring it on!

ps. How cute is the little hand in the pic?! I think it's holding a microphone up, singing along to Adele, as I do so often. Popstar in the making. Snap.

pps. How good is technology? So amazing to see the little one moving around and kicking its legs. Incredible to see. Especially when it's only 6.1cm long!! ;)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Shank Tagine

The other day I posted about the somewhat 70s/80s style progressive dinner we did with some friends and I promised to share the recipe for the tasty lamb shanks we dished out at Casa di Holmey.

So, thanks to my old mate Bill (Bill Granger that is) here is how the magic happened....

Moroccan Lamb Shank Tagine

1 tbsp olive oil
4 large lamb shanks (or 8 small)
1 spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsps grated palm sugar
4 tsps fish sauce
4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 potatoes, unpeeled, chopped
1 sweet potato, unpeeled, chopped

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Heat oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add lamb shanks and cook for a few minutes on each side until well browned. Remove lamb and place in a baking dish.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion to the pan. Cook for 5 mins until onion is translucent and smells like heaven (love it). Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 min, then add chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. Cook for 2 mins, stirring constantly. Add sugar, fish sauce, chopped tomatoes, lime leaves and stock, and bring to the boil. Remove from heat.

Add the 'tates - normal and sweet - to the baking dish with the lamb, and pour the sauce over the top. It looks and smells SO good at this point! Cover with foil and bake for around 3 hours or until the lamb falls oh-so-delicately off the bone (the recipe says 2 hours but our 'tates weren't soft enough and our mahoosive shanks weren't quite 'falling' away at that point).

Serve with whatever you fancy. We chose steamed cous cous. I added some melted butter and roughly chopped parsley and coriander to the cous cous to give it a bit more edge. Because plain cous cous is just...well.....plain.

Et......VOILA!!!! Delish delish delish.....

Oh, and this serves about 4 people....Enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sweet relief

When it's 33 degrees, 95% humidity, SOOOOOO hot you can barely stand in the sun for more than 30 seconds before sweating like a dirty, feral pig, all you want, all you search for, all you can think about, is relief. Sweet sweet, cool, fresh, invigorating relief. A fresh lime soda, a glass of iced water, air-conditioning, a fan, shade. Anything will do.

But nothing brings quite as much relief as the ridiculously crisp, refreshing, just plain sensational feeling you get when you excitedly dive into a pool. A cold cold pool. A cold cold clean fresh water pool. With no plastic bags, no bottles, no crap. No grime to rinse off. No making sure you absolutely do not open your mouth.

No. A swimming pool is just sweet sweet worry-free, bloody amazing relief.

Thank you Hong Kong Cricket Club. I haven't felt that fresh in a looooong time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - The Trolley

The Trolley - sharing with you a part of the everyday landscape here in Hong Kong.

Joining up with Faith, Hope and a Whole Lotta Love today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baby shower bliss

I went to the classiest, most lovely baby shower on Sunday. Granted, I've only been to one other, but still, I'm pretty sure this one was still classy classy classy. All the ladies were lovely, there was champagne flowing, bunting a plenty, a menu to boot (hello crustless chicken sandwiches and zucchini slice, I'm talking to you), a great apartment, a beautiful little bub to get us all appropriately clucky and a blossoming, beautiful mum-to-be.

As I said, there was a lot of clucking, a lot of labour-talk, a lot of "oh my god, you're joking? Does that really happen?" but mostly a lot of excitement for the amazing journey this lovely lady is about to go on. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Progressive dinner

When my friend here in Honkers suggested we do a 'Progressive Dinner', I wasn't quite sure how to react. Images of swingers and risque banter and all things Wife Swap popped into my head and to be honest, I got a little scared. Then when she explained the true concept to me, I smiled, had a little giggle and said Yes We are most definitely in.

If, like me, you are new to the concept, here it is in a nutshell. Basically, you get a few couples together (ideally three, and ideally those who live in close proximity to one another), and you agree to cook and host one course each for dinner. Someone cooks the entree, you drink, chat, eat, then move on to the next couple's home, where you drink, chat, eat the main and then move on to the final couple's home where you drink, chat, eat dessert and drink and drink some more! It's a great way to a) minimise the stress of needing to prep and serve 3 courses, b) crucially, to minimise the washing up and c) to put a different spin on the traditional dinner party!

First stop was at our Kiwi friends place just a few mins walk away. And boy did they start the dinner off in style. A magnum of Moet was on ice and the most scrumptious plate of goodness was served up as the starter. Fresh mozzarella di buffala with tomatoes and basil, melon wrapped in prosciutto, and beautiful slices of venison with onion chutney and horseradish on fresh crostinis. Yum!

Then it was our turn. Phil and I had spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen, prepping, chopping, laughing and generally having a good old time. Our menu of choice? Moroccan style slow-cooked lamb shanks with cous cous. Has to be said, the best meal I've plated up in a long time! I'll share the menu during the week....

Finally, we headed to our last destination for the most incredible dessert.....I don't know exactly what you call it, but it was like chocolate brownie on the bottom and chocolate fondant on top. Served in beautifully massive chunks with vanilla bean ice cream and fresh cherries. Now we all know how I feel about chocolate, and you'd be right in assuming I was in heaven....and shortly after, a chocolate coma.

These friends are also the king and queen of cocktails and made some infamous (with our friends anyway) French 75s. It's a shot of gin, some lemon juice, sugar syrup and topped with champagne. Made famous by our favourite drinking hole, Le Boudoir. One of the most delightful things you will ever put in your me. Give it a go.

The cocktails and wine and food and banter were flowing all night and it was such a great way to catch up 'with a difference'. Progressive dinner not so scary after all, eh?