nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
( Mar. 18th, 2014 09:59 pm)
I felt the urge to rewrite my introduction so I thought I’d use it as a starting point for a Subscription Meme, as I haven’t seen one going around for a while.

I’ve made a template, which I’ve filled out very wordily below. Please feel free to adapt it to your wishes, and please link this post wherever you like. (Please participate or share? I'm going to feel very sad if this entry sits here alone with 0 comments...)

Subscription Meme template:
<b>People in this journal</b>
<b>About my job</b>
<b>Some random facts</b>
<b>Things I like to do</b>
<b>Social media usage</b>
<b>>Subscriptions, access and commenting</b>
<b>What I’d like to get from my participation here</b>

My responses! )

In honour of Caturday, some photos Humuhumu playing shepherd with Telstar.

+4 )

+2 photos by Humuhumu )
Keiki and I had a day out together in Worcester this week.

[Photo of us at lunch. Me after I had my makeup done and then spent too much money on makeup, with Keiki looking worried that I’m going to drop him in my risotto.]

We started off with a tour of the high street, poking into various shops for long-overdue purchases of important items like new tights to replace all my raggedy old ones, and stamps for sending postcards.

[Fish Street, with graffiti and bicycles. No fish, though.]

More flanage. )
The conversation with the taxi driver began innocuously enough. We chatted about the nice weather. He said he hoped it would continue as he was going on holiday in a couple of weeks. I replied that we were as well, to Turkey, for the first time. He said he loved Turkey because of the food and the hot weather and the people and how he’d thought about moving there but --

“They’re really strict on immigration laws.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Well, you can’t just move there and get a job. You have to prove that you’re not taking a job from a Turkish person. So if you want to open a restaurant, you can be the owner, but you have to train and employ all Turkish people. You can go around and greet customers, shake hands, be seen, but you can’t cook or wait tables or even be seen sweeping up after it shuts or they’ll close you down. I completely agree with that idea because it means the jobs created all go to the Turkish locals.”

I considered my reply carefully. “That’s how the visa system works here, too, for non-EEA* migrants.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. When I got my first job here, my employers had to prove that they couldn’t find a British candidate with my skills in order to obtain a visa**.”

“I didn’t know they bothered with that.”

“Yes, they do. It’s not easy to get a visa even if you have highly specialised skills like mine.”

“Well, I think Turkey have got it right. Everyone should have to do that no matter where they’re from. We don’t need more people doing stuff like going over to Spain to work part-time in a bar. We have enough people to do all the unskilled jobs here.”

Thankfully we arrived at my destination before the seemingly inevitable “and that’s why I’m voting UKIP”. /o\

* European Economic Area. Americans are non-EEA migrants, although most British people seem to think that "non-EEA migrant" == "asylum seeker". Oh and by the way the immigration system is just as draconian for asylum seekers as it is for other non-EEA migrants.
** Tier 2. It is now even more difficult to obtain a Tier 2 visa even through an employer like mine, a top-ranked academic research institution. More and more positions, even post-doctoral ones, are advertised with the proviso that applicants must already have the right to work in the UK.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Apr. 11th, 2015 09:11 pm)
Poor Telstar. He hardly gets a look in these days. Competing with Humuhumu and Keiki is tough.

Today he decided to put on a bit of a show, and as it's Caturday, it's a good time to share.

Yes, yes, it's a macro lens. Whoopdedoo. Why exactly is it in my face, again?

Yawning and stretching. )
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Apr. 7th, 2015 09:51 pm)

"Why, these eggs? They're for you, of course. No, I haven't been eating them. The chocolate all over my mush is purest coincidence, I assure you, madame."

Easter bunny visit )

Cousins in the garden )

No matter how foul or frigid the weather, we never can seem to resist taking a trip to the seaside when we visit Norfolk. Our original intention was to travel to Horsey beach to see the seals, but Humuhumu became restless during the car journey so we ended up stopping in Hemsby on our way up the coast.

Trip to the seaside )

Bonfire )

ICYMI, Norfolk Easter Part 1 is here: DW/LJ
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Apr. 4th, 2015 08:39 pm)

Humuhumu riding on Daddy's shoulders

Kite-flying )

Walking down to the river )

Toddler & Keiki )
nanila: me (Default)
( Apr. 2nd, 2015 01:12 pm)
Since having children, a slow but quiet revolution has been occurring in my domestic habits.

I've always been a tidy person, so keeping beds made, laundry done and put away, and kitchen sink clear were never a problem. My major stumbling block has always been getting dinner on the table*.

I knew how to cook well enough to survive graduate school, which, I'll grant you, isn't a high benchmark. I subsisted largely on three "dishes", which were as follows.

  1. Grilled cheese sandwiches
  2. Pasta with some form of ready-made sauce
  3. A plate of steamed rice, vegetables, and grilled fish

As I was generally only cooking for one person, me, this worked out just fine. I could also nip over the road to Baja Fresh or Whole Foods for cheap fish tacos or ready-made organic macrobiotic somethingorother that I assumed was probably good for me.

I liked baking and would occasionally make a chocolate cake, banana bread, or chocolate chip cookies. But I rarely deviated from these, mostly out of fear. This fear, I've determined, had several components, which I've gradually overcome.

Fear #1: Too many ingredients. When faced with a recipe on which the ingredient list ran past ten items, my mind would freeze up. It wasn't until I started cooking daily that I realised most (British) dishes are essentially a variation on meat, carrots, green vegetable and potatoes. (I tend to substitute rice for potatoes unless the potatoes are mashed, but that's because I grew up eating rice and still find whole or chopped potatoes relatively unappealing.) Making a roast on Sunday, particularly a roast chicken, means you have the "meat" part sorted for the rest of the week once you've stripped the chicken or chopped up the leftovers. Also, most baked goods, including bread products of all types from standard white loaves to crumpets, are essentially comprised of flour, butter, eggs, yeast, milk and sugar in varying proportions. And finally, making your own sauces to put on things, whether it's pasta, rice or potatoes, generally has the same set of steps: fry garlic & onions, add tin of tomatoes/beans, add pepper and salt, chuck in chopped vegetables, add prawns/chicken/leftover roast and swish round until it's all warm.

These things are probably blindingly obvious to a lot of people who have grown up being decent cooks, but honestly, they were revelations to me. There's also the gulf between theory and practice. Even if I'd been told the above, I don't think I'd have properly understood it until I had the experience I have now.

Fear #2: Not possessing the correct ingredients. If I looked at a recipe and saw there was even a single item that I didn't have in the refrigerator or the spice cupboard, it was usually enough to put me off making it. Overcoming this fear evolved in parallel with the previous one, as I started to realise that the fundamental elements of dishes are often the same. Of course if you're looking at a chicken and leek pie and you have neither a chicken nor leeks, that's probably a non-starter. But, for example, I decided to make a simnel cake to take to the bloke's parents' for Easter this weekend. I found a recipe. I didn't have glace cherries, candied peel or currants. But I did have pitted dates, chopped dried apricot and raisins. So I forged ahead with the substitution, and the resulting cake seems to be edible, although I imagine the liberal application of marzipan probably helps with that as well. Anyway, my point is, three years ago I would have given up after reading the recipe, and instead now I've got a nice homemade cake to contribute to the Easter celebration. Plus, Humuhumu will enjoy helping me decorate it with more marzipan when it's time to eat it.

Fear #3: Getting the timings wrong. Since I've never been a skilled cook, I've always assumed that it would take me at least an hour and a half to prepare a meal from scratch. It also made me very nervous to have more than one burner going on the hob, not to mention the oven going at the same time. I often had to make one or two elements of a meal sequentially instead of simultaneously. I'm now much better at chopping things up and my preparation time has decreased considerably, as well as being able to manage multiple pots without panicking. Frankly, there was no single moment that marked overcoming this fear. It just took a lot of practise. There were many burnt or undercooked items that suffered the consequences of my ineptitude.

The acquisition of a slow cooker a couple of years ago marked an uptick in my cooking repertoire. In the morning, I could spend half an hour chopping up a bunch of stuff, adding liquid (particularly leftover wine or beer), turning it on low heat, ending up with something delicious at the end of it and having enough left over for the week's lunches or another supper. It was a monumental discovery, and I probably inflicted a few too many stews and chilli dishes on the bloke and Humuhumu before calming down. It also means that there are portions of these in the freezer for the times when we are sick or busy or tired and can't muster energy to make something fresh. This is a level of preparedness I'd never aspired to, let alone believed I could achieve.

Fear #4: Spoiling the dish. When cooking for myself, it was never a problem if, say, I accidentally burnt my last piece of toast and had instead to go to the noodle restaurant and get myself some pho instead. With two other people to feed, one of whom is in no state to be in a restaurant past 6:30 PM, getting it wrong is more of a problem. Naturally it's going to happen sometimes. Things will get overdone, taste bad, or turn out to be so far past expiry that they render a dish unfit for human consumption. And thus, you get out the frozen pizza, or you have porridge for supper. It's funny how terrible the fear of doing this was until it actually happened. As we munched on iced lollies, I let go of it.

I'm hardly ready to become a contestant on Masterchef, nor would I ever want to be, but it's nice to have the confidence to feed myself and my family regularly and well, and to cook with my children. It's an accomplishment worth celebrating. I've put a lot of effort into it and largely failed to acknowledge its success to myself. So this is me, patting myself on the back, for coming along as far as I have.

* Please note that when we're both working, the bloke and I share this responsibility equally. I really wish I didn't have to spell this out explicitly, but I fear that the automatic assumption would be that I always do the cooking when in fact for most of the relationship until now the opposite has been true.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Mar. 30th, 2015 08:19 pm)

Two dual nationals and their Daddy. The sticker on Humuhumu's shirt is Neptune, from her Usborne "Space" sticker book. (This means that her version of the solar system as recorded in the book has only seven planets.)

+1 )

Last Friday we headed to the embassy in London to register Keiki's birth and apply for his other passport.

When we did this for Humuhumu, the bloke's trousers split as we were navigating the packed morning Tube. He got to swear his oath of truthfulness before the consular officer with his jumper artfully tied about his waist to keep his pants from peeping out playfully from beneath his trousers. We were therefore anticipating some manner of sartorial disaster to befall one of us during the adventure.

It didn't happen during the commute, which was unnecessarily exciting due to the cancellation of our first train. We hustled to get on a train going in the opposite direction so that we could travel instead via fast train. The fast train, by virtue of being fast, was also rammed, so we ended up getting on the next slow train, which stopped at the station we started in, only 15 minutes later. Humuhumu, who loves public transport, entertained morning commuters on the busy platform by gleefully greeting the arrival of every train with, "OH, TRAIIIN!", whilst her parents attempted to disappear into their hats.

Despite the delay we still arrived a comfortable margin before our appointment to go through the security checks and unintentionally play "spot the celebrity". (Last time it was Jay Rayner. This time it was Rita Ora. Her assistant interrupted our initial check-in to determine where to go for a VIP appointment.)

Once we were through into the citizen-only waiting room, Humuhumu gravitated towards the soft play area and promptly befriended a small boy. Or rather, attracted a small boy follower whom she scarcely noticed. (This is a theme at her nursery as well. She has a staunch attendant there who always fetches her coat and bag when we come to pick her up.) He toddled loyally after her, presenting her with blocks that she could integrate into her sculptures, which she then kicked over gleefully.

After paying the fees for the registration and passport, we settled down to wait until we were called before a consular officer. Keiki woke, realised he hadn't been fed for a while, and squawked. I arranged my cover and sat down to feed him. When he was finished, I removed the cover to find that the sartorial disaster had struck. These days I find I don't have much leakage from the opposite breast whilst feeding, and when I do, a breast pad is more than sufficient to soak it up and protect my clothing. But of course, not this time. My entire right side was soaked. There was no way to conceal it without putting my wool coat back on, which I did, even though it was tropical in the waiting room.

In the end, I swore my oath of truthfulness to the consular officer whilst sweating profusely and smelling faintly of stale milk. Classy.
nanila: (me: art)
( Mar. 26th, 2015 02:34 pm)
Mia has made one of her recent pieces available on Redbubble to purchase on a number of items. “Aswang, at Night” is an incredibly powerful image wrought from many hours of work with ink and watercolour.

I've ordered a set of 16 postcards. If you would like me to send one to you, please provide an address that will reach you, either by leaving it in the poll below or in a DM. Please note the following. First, I’m happy to send outside the UK as I have a stockpile of international postage. Second, if you provided your address in one of the previous postcard polls, you don’t need to leave it again. Just say, “Yes, please” or equivalent. If you need to check whether or not you've left me your address before, links to my previous postcard posts for "When Dragons Speak" and "Princesa" can be found by looking at the free stuff tag: DW and LJ.

It usually takes several days for a Redbubble order to reach me, so these will be going out over the next two to three weeks.

Poll #16560 Aswang, at Night
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 4

I would like an aswang postcard by Likhain. Please send it to this address:

I finally got a few pictures of Keiki in Big Purple, getting ready for a walk. He was practising his "Haaa haaoo" noises during the photo shoot, which led to pulling some interesting faces.

"I can eat this, y/y?"

+1 )

Humuhumu is presently obsessed with the set of five Meg & Mog books that sister-out-law gave her for Christmas. I think they're from the seventies; both the bloke and sister-out-law remember them vividly from childhood. Meg is a witch, of the spellcasting-pointy-black-hat-and-cauldron archetype. Mog is her black and white striped cat. The illustrations are colourful and the story lines are quite sparse and more than a bit absurd. I have them memorised now as we frequently have to read all five at bedtime.

Shirtless man with children behind the cut )
Photo: Keiki on Humuhumu on Daddy, reading Meg's Eggs, in which Meg magics up three big eggs for supper, but the shells can't be broken. In the night, the eggs hatch into dinosaurs, two of which are plant-eaters (Diplodocus and Stegosaurus). The third is a T. rex who wants to eat them all. Meg makes another spell and the dinosaurs are miniaturised to a non-threatening size. The End.

This one is second only to Meg's Veg in Humuhumu's view. Meg's Veg is her favourite because there is a page on which Meg fetches the muck for her garden. Which, of course, means we all get to shout, "POO!"