Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Waiting...


I’m now officially on maternity leave-pay, as last week was a week of paid vacation. Mum arrived last Monday and it’s been a godsend. I was not expecting to be this tired. I’m finally feeling somewhat caught up on rest, and this is after a week of spending a good chunk of time sleeping. Mum’s helped me get caught up on little bits of housework, and she’s keeping the dishes and mealtimes in a good semblance of order.

We picked up her rental car on Thursday and were able to upgrade from a standard to an automatic, which made both of us quite happy. We’re driving a large Volkswagen, which I’ve named “the beast” due to its size. Most days include a practice trip or two to the hospital.

No baby yet, but between first babies often being late and no medical professional being willing to listen to me about cycle lengths or the date of conception I’m not that surprised, as my own calculations put the due date a few days later than the ultrasound scan showed. Plus, the baby will come when it’s ready. So the most annoying part right now is people who make the astute observation that the baby hasn’t come yet even tho it was ‘due’ on Saturday. I can assure you all that I’m quite aware that the baby hasn’t come yet. That would explain why my stomach is still giant and why I am still getting kicked in the ribs. I bet I even know before everyone else when the baby is on its way.  

I am fairly relaxed about the baby coming when it comes, but I am still praying that it decides to come before Friday. If it’s not here by Friday the midwives have promised me some unpleasant-sounding form of natural induction. And, more importantly, David is leaving for Germany either on Saturday or Sunday so it would kind of be optimal if the baby were here before he left... since you know, he’d kind of like to meet it and not be spending his whole time in Germany worrying that he’s going to have to rush back to England or miss the birth.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Eating Through the Pantry – IV


This week’s ingredients—a McCormick chilli package and around 50g of red lentils (except it ended up only being red lentils...):

 
Monday: Spicy Tomato & Red Lentil Soup with homemade cheesy biscuits

It's the middle of July and here I am, making soup. I think today reached a high of 17, and it's been as rainy and gray as November. This is not the best summer to be in England. The good news, however, is that the tomatoes I had delivered seem to be delightfully ripe & sweet, if yesterday's fresh tomato relish is anything to go by. So it is a good time for trying out a fresh tomato soup. Those of you who know my cooking habits should be somewhat surprised to see me using a weight-watchers recipe, as they are somewhat notorious for using artificially low fat ingredients, which I am opposed to. So I swapped out the low-fat cooking spray (can't easily get it in England anyway) for a teaspoon or so of olive oil which eases my conscience. And besides, what is more delicious in a tomato-based soup than a garlic & olive oil base? Other swaps--as mentioned I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned and I've used catsup instead of tomato puree/paste since I have a massive bottle of catsup to use up. As for the biscuits, they are made with my go-to biscuit recipe (so easy) and the addition of a fair quantity (I was aiming for 1/4 cup and probably overshot) of grated mature cheddar. 


Verdict: Not bad at all, although not the best tomato soup recipe I have (my favourite remains a creamy tomato soup recipe from the CNIB cookbook). At the last minute I chucked in a dried cayenne pepper (we have tonnes from our plants) and I swirled in about 75mls of single cream which was hanging out in the fridge from last week's mashed potato feast. The soup definitely benefited from both of these additions, as it was certainly not spicy and the cream helped give it some depth of flavor. As for the biscuits, the cheese didn't really make an impact so I likely won't do it again with that recipe. Over all, it was a quick, easy, and surprisingly filling meal.

We never did get around to our chilli and cornbread. It was supposed to be for supper on Wednesday, so the meat was out thawing, when the Cambridge bus system decided to cancel it's busses between 4:30 & 5, and thus I had to pick up something for supper before my evening class. And by the time I was able to make the chilli (Thursday I wasn't well enough to cook and we don't eat meat on Fridays) the meat had turned an unappetizing colour of greyish brown. We both feel that we there's enough on our plates without risking a bit of food poisoning, so as I see it the bus company owes me the cost of a pack of mince...


********************************************************************

Easy Baking Powder Drop Biscuits
(these biscuits are actually easier to make than using a "just add liquid" mix)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 beaten egg (optional)
            Put flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl and give a few quick stirs with a whisk to blend the ingredients. Crack an egg into a measuring cup (or anything else that pours easily) and give it a quick whisk. Then add the oil and whisk with the egg to form a simple egg-oil emulsion (ie the egg & oil are combined--it's like doing a really bad job of making fresh mayonnaise). Add milk and whisk again, then pour into flour mixture and stir until combined. Drop by spoonfuls onto a buttered cookie sheet.  Bake in a 450° oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Because of the egg-oil emulsion, these don't need butter when served. They are also delicious when cold & topped with jam!
 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Last Day at Work

Best to write this one out while the memories are still fresh.

My last pre-baby day at work was amazing. I've left feeling so spoiled and loved, especially by my own team who said some very kind things to me over dinner.

The day began with Shilpa bringing in breakfast for everyone--sesame bagels, philly cream cheese, and my favorite--her homemade pakoras. The carb & cheese feast put everyone into a great mood and, at least for me, the day flew by. It was a combination of finishing up the week's work, ensuring I tied up as many loose ends as possible, and then cleaning out my desk and handing in all my security tokens.

This picture does not do justice to the pakora-gluttony experienced by the six of us.

In the afternoon, right before we left for the evening festivities, a fair crowd of people came in and I was given a lovely speech from my boss, two cards, and the coolest gifts--a bib embroidery kit and a baby accessory cake:


From work I headed into Cambridge with most of my team for an evening of camaraderie and good eats. We went to a couple of pubs, although most of us drink diet cokes, and then had an evening meal at a new restaurant in town called Las Iguanas. It's a South American restaurant and it was great. We had a table overlooking the Cam and Magdalene college, the service was friendly, and the food was delicious. It is so hard to find a restaurant with good service and good food in Cambridge (pubs are a different matter) so we were all really thrilled. It was a really relaxed and lovely evening, and a bunch of us are off over the next couple of months (some working at the Olympics, others going to India, and others giving birth) so it was great to have a meal together before we all go our separate ways for awhile.

And, to round things off, my "last working paycheque" treat arrived in the post today--OPI's Vintage Minnie Minis collection of nail polish. I figured I could use some pampering before the baby arrives:

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Another change

I officially have one day of work left. It is so bizarre, and I'm actually feeling rather sad about it. Yes, I'm really looking forward to having time to be at home with David and the baby, but I also really enjoy my job and the people I work with. I've worked at the same company since I arrived in the UK in 2009 -- it's the longest I've ever stayed with the same employer and it's been a great place to work.

I haven't written much about my job, because I've never felt it prudent to link work and social media. In basics, however, I am a risk analyst who is focused primarily on fraud. I work for a company that facilitates payment processing, which is to say that we, among others, are what allow you to use a card to make purchases either in a shop or online. The position I've held for the past two years has been perfect for me, as I get to do a lot of research and analysis (thank you, post-secondary education) with the benefit of knowing that the work I do each day has a positive impact for a variety of people (something that I felt was lacking in my own academic pursuits). The team I work with is really great and I've even made a few friends (people I'm happy to see outside of working hours!). My job has actual opportunities for career advancement, which is the first time in my life that I've held a position that didn't require a lot of creativity in order to spin it into something better.

So, leaving to go on maternity leave feels weird. It's not the same as just quitting my job, and I've only ever quit jobs because I've moved to a new city. I'm signed off work until July 29th, 2013, although I can go back earlier if I need to. I know it won't take me long to adjust to being at home, but it is still a strange thing to get my head around. I'm certainly not worried about being bored, as I'm sure the baby will ensure that I am constantly occupied, but it is really weird to think that I won't have the same rigid schedule that I've held for the past few years. It is another step into the unknown.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Eating Through the Pantry – III

This has not been the best week. David had a deadline, which basically means any semblance of order in the place falls to me because he spends all his waking hours in his office, working. I, however, have been suffering from a feeling of general unwellness/exhaustion, thanks to being 9 months pregnant, and the meal plan I made for this week was a little too ambitious for our schedules. We've stuck to it, because that's the food that was in the house, but it's meant a week of late suppers and 'wasted' evenings (I can never do anything useful until I've had dinner)... such is life! I'm particularly grateful that I have Friday off this week, as I'm definitely in need of a three-day weekend in which to rest and relax.

This week’s challenge ingredients: a Schwartz packet of spices with a recipe for beef & beer stew on the back and around 60g of semolina:

Do I even need to tell you that trying to use up 60g of semolina is a challenge? It’s not enough for bread, but it’s too much to use as a dusting on pizza bases. That I managed to work it into a recipe is surely deserving of some sort of award! I’ve also included in the 'challenge' some muffins which I made entirely from odds and ends in the kitchen.

Saturday & Sunday: Oatmeal, Yogurt, & Walnut muffins; Grapes

I made these as part of my attempt to find a filling, nutritious muffin recipe. Mum said I’d be wise to make batches of muffins and freeze them once I start breastfeeding, so that I can have a really nutritious snack without having to do any work (she recommended bran muffins with a piece of cheese). I have a giant sack of oatmeal in the pantry and I do find that I feel better overall when I have porridge for breakfast. At the moment I can easily make instant porridge at work, but we don’t have a microwave at home and so I’m trying out oatmeal muffins.

They got a little scorched because I was distracted by reading and not paying attention to the clock or the smells coming from the kitchen...
Verdict: Really good, although a little bit on the sweet side so I’m going to work at cutting down on that, probably by using honey or brown sugar for the next batch. I threw in the tail end of a bag of walnuts and dusted the tops with nutmeg. They’re not too cakey and they have a good oatmeal flavor. And, I think they’d be really excellent with some fruit spread or jam!

Tuesday: Beef & Beer Stew with Dumplings, baguette, corn on the cob


These spice + recipe packets are a gimmick that Schwartz Spices are trying out. We bought a couple for David to make, but then life got super busy and he never got around to this last one (which was the most labour intensive). Also, it's pretty sad that it's cool enough to cook stew and be able to eat it in July... more torrential downpours/flood warnings today!


Verdict: David really enjoyed this, but I thought it was just so-so (which was the same feeling I had about the other pack we bought). My own Guinness stew recipe is much better, as are David's mum's dumplings which we make when we have her stew (hers is also delicious and loaded with sweet potatoes and squash and all those yummy things). I thought the dumplings were too soft, and the herb flavour was really overpowering. Needless to say, I won't be buying these Schwartz packs again. The other problem with them, aside from not really liking the flavours of the ones I've tried, is that they are a damned nuisance to use. It looks like the spice containers should open easily, but they don't, which takes up more time then it would to just hunt in my cupboard for the spices. Although you'd think they would be pre-measured, they're not necessarily (for this recipe it was OK but for others I had to waste time measuring them). I guess they're an alright bridge between packet/sauce-bottle 'cooking' and real cooking, but it doesn't save any time and the recipe isn't any easier than any other stew recipe. I was disappointed enough with the product that I actually wrote to the company (via an e-form) to give my feedback.

Wednesday: Prosciutto, Mozzarella, & Basil Stromboli; Tomato & Cucumber Salad

I tried to roll it up. Then it looked like a murdered slug. If there's a next time, I'm getting David to do it.
Finish product, however--delicious! And much less resembling something pallid and bleeding.

Verdict: The salad was pretty good--I couldn't get mustard oil so I just used olive oil and some wholegrain mustard I had in the fridge. The cayenne pepper was a nice surprise. It wasn't too overpowering but it gave the salad a good kick. It's not the best tomato salad recipe out there, but it is something really different from the norm. As for the stromboli, this has been the bane of my existence this week. David and I have both failed to find time to make the dough (considering that making the dough consists of plunking everything into the bread machine and selecting the 'dough' setting should give you an idea of how bad this week has been) so this meal kept getting pushed until later and later, when it couldn't get pushed any more. I really hate working with dough and this dough is really sticky, so it didn't come out looking as nice as it should've. In fact it wasn't until I woke up in the middle of the night that I realised I'd rolled it up the hard way. And, since I was meeting a friend for coffee tonight, I had to make it the night before and then cook it when I came home--after being stored in the fridge overnight the dough collapsed and the tomato juices made things a bit liquidey. But the good news is that it tasted delicious! I won't likely make it again, as it wasn't something I enjoyed doing, but I can highly recommend it. We followed the instructions with the recipe and dunked our pieces of bread in balsamic vinegar & olive oil. It's very tasty and the crust comes out absolutely lovely. 

I should also note that we are absolutely spoiled in the UK with the various food subsidies, so making stromboli was actually quite inexpensive even with the proscuitto and fresh mozzarella that the recipe calls for. I can get a ball of fresh mozza for 44p (about $0.66). Olive oil isn't too pricey either, and proscuitto is quite popular so it's easy to get cheap cuts of it sold pre-packed by the stores.

 We managed to stay on budget this week, and I even managed to sneak on a baby-sized fitted sheet. So that was good news. But I'm certainly glad the long part of the week is over and that I've planned easier meals for next week...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Some thoughts on Natural Family Planning

I wrote most of this a week ago, saved it in order to add more, but can't seem to get around to it. So it's either post now or never. Just some of my thoughts on natural family planning:

I'm 36 weeks pregnant--it's crazy! I just had my first meeting tonight (I was meeting with a lovely woman who teaches NFP on a regular basis until pregnancy put things on hold. Having her support and advice has been crucial in learning how to listen to my body, and I am quite grateful that she is willing to spend the time teaching people) about stuff post-baby, namely getting back into the swing of the regular natural family planning routine once the baby is born and the breast-feeding hormones are making everything a bit complex.

So far our success with NFP has been 100%, meaning pregnancy when we wanted it and no pregnancy before that. It wasn't until it worked both ways that I could be certain it was the method and not just a problem with fertility.

NFP is a subject I mostly enjoy discussing with fellow Catholic friends, as they tend to have a similar outlook about it. It's not just about not using birth control and ending up with ten children because God keeps letting you get pregnant, and it's also not about using pseudo or antiquated methods (like the rhythm method) based on generalizations about fertility. In my experience it's about being in tune with what your body is telling you. I wouldn't say it's always easy, because it involves patience, organisation, and being open to change (your body can change its fertility pattern without you planning for it to change..and that bit of uncertainty that comes with each month means you can't just establish a pattern and then follow it forever). But I find it incredibly empowering to be in tune with my body and to feel a little more in control of the situation than just putting faith in manufactured contraceptives. I love knowing that I'm making decisions that are working with what my body is telling me, rather than trying to work against it.

People put so much faith in contraceptives that they tend to think anything natural is automatically going to fail. Sure, it can fail, especially depending on the accuracy of the method used and the accuracy of the person using the method... but condoms break and people conceive while using hormone-changing types of contraception. It's like they taught us in Junior High -- if you want to 100% avoid getting pregnant, don't have sex.

Having a large family doesn't mean that NFP doesn't work, just as having a small family doesn't mean that the people are using contraceptives. As one of my friends pointed out, people just assume that the only reason Catholics have more than two kids is because they don't use birth control, rather than assuming that some people might actually want more than two kids! As a Catholic I take the promise I made to be open to life very seriously. It doesn't mean turning myself into a baby factory, but it does mean recognizing that all life is a precious gift and that the ability to create that life is not something to be taken for granted, squandered, or messed around with.

Having support is crucial, and I wouldn't like to give the impression that because it's natural it's the easiest thing in the world. Personally, I haven't found it to be a great difficulty thus far, but I am also very organised and for the first 28 years of my life have been blessed with a cycle that has little variation. So I'm not exactly working against the odds. But it's precisely for people with irregular cycles that it gives it's greater gift, because it's often turned to by couples who are struggling to conceive so that they can figure out when, and for how long, ovulation is occurring. Being able to meet with someone on a fairly regular (every three months or so, I think) basis as I was getting the hang of things helped answer a lot of my questions and helped keep me on track so that I didn't start making assumptions about my body instead of looking at the evidence. It also meant that when we made the decision to start trying for a child we had someone ready to support us if we faced any difficulties. Teaching myself the method on my own would have been really stressful and it would have been difficult to tell if I were applying the 'rules' correctly. It's nice to have someone to weigh in with their opinion.

I don't know how it's going to work going forward, when my body throws me a new loop of regaining it's cycle after pregnancy and during breastfeeding. We may end up with a surprise, or things may just continue as planned. But I'm kind of excited to get to know my body through a new phase of life. Learning about fertility and cycles and things like that just make me marvel at the wonder of the human body, this creation made in the image of God... we really are fearfully and wonderfully made!







Tuesday, 10 July 2012

DC & New York: VIII

All too soon our last day in America arrived. Fortunately we’d booked a late night flight, which meant that we could still do some sightseeing that day. We spent the morning packing up our things and then went to Veselka for breakfast as our farewell to New York treat. Any place where I can get french toast (made with challah bread) with a side of kielbassa for breakfast is alright by me! As an anniversary present David bought me the Veselka cookbook. And in typical David form he decided to make a witty comment about how it was really a gift for himself, since I’d be the one doing the cooking. This led to the man behind the counter laughing, exclaiming “DUDE, I can’t BELIEVE you said that” and then informing every passing waiter of my husband’s wit. I refrained from hitting David with the book ;)

After breakfast we went back to Midtown East to do our last bit of sightseeing/shopping. This led to a very long time spent in Argosy Books, where David finally hit his motherload and ended up with a bag full of books (we snuck it onto the plane as ‘reading material for the flight’). Then it was off to Dylan’s Candy Bar, where we managed to cross most of our souvenir-gift-list off in one stop, including a gourmet dog treat for my dad's dog. It’s a multi-story shop with each floor devoted to candy. In fact the floors themselves are clear and full of candy.

We walked by Bloomingdales every day.
From there we ambled over to FAO Schwartz, but after Dinosaur Hill and Dylan’s Candy Bar it failed to impress us so we bought a giant cupcake to share and then wandered around Central Park, enjoying the scenery and the chance to rest our legs. I wish that we’d been able to spend more time there, but it’s a giant park and time was flying at an alarming rate.




We were back at the flat by 5pm to pick up our luggage, say our farewells, and head off to JFK. I like being ridiculously early for flights, because I hate the stress that comes with rushing, but we made really good time which meant that we were able to enjoy Tim Horton’s coffee at a little cafe by the airport shuttle train. It wasn’t as good as in Canada, of course, but we can’t get it at all in England so it was a most worthwhile stop. Then it was a short ride to the airport and the regular hassle of checking in and waiting and more checking and more waiting...

Neat building on our way back to the flat


I let David have the aisle seat and my generosity was rewarded as the seat next to me remained vacant for the flight. Sitting for 7hrs on an airplane is less fun than usual while pregnant, so I was glad of the extra legroom. The best surprise of all for our return journey was how easy it was to get through Immigration at Heathrow. Because I have a visa which allows me to work, I normally have some level of questioning at the Immigration desk, and in my experience the border guards at Heathrow are the most terrifying when it comes to random questions on policy which you a) should know the answer to or b) know the new answer to while the person questioning you only knows the old answer. But this time they took one look at my visa, asked me where my husband was (next booth over, ma’am), and then waved me through. I suspect they’ve been given sensitivity training for the Olympics. Either that or 10 days in America is less suspicious than 21 days in Canada.

After an absurdly long bus ride we ended up back at home. It was so nice to be back in our flat. But we had less than 24 hours to settle in before the first of David's family arrived for their visits.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Eating Through the Pantry – II


Another week, another challenge issued to myself. This week’s shop has involved quite a bit of tweaking. For the first time ever we are having our groceries delivered, as I can no longer carry everything myself on the bus, and it takes a good portion of the day to go into town and get them (we usually get distracted by books and coffees). Since we don’t have a car and will soon have a newborn, it seemed like this would be the best way to go and I’m glad to start trialing it before the baby comes.

The online ordering bit has gone well. What I really like is that I can adjust my order until late the night before, which means that anything I no longer need can be removed. It also means I have a really good idea of what the bill is going to be before I pay, and with a very expensive shop this week I have managed to cut about £10 off the Sainsburys bill with last minute adjustments and substitutions. Besides, being at home for an hour (of my choosing) is much easier than the 1.5-2 hours it takes if we go into town, and means I can get other stuff done and stay relaxed.

Anyway, this week’s challenge ingredients: a packet of taco seasoning and about a cup of puntalette (it’s a pasta that’s like orzo):


Monday: BBQ ribs, orzo pilaf with rosemary & lemon, and corn on the cob:


I purchased the meat at Tesco's as part of a 2 for 5 deal, and it came ready to cook. The corn was delivered with our groceries on Saturday, and everything used in the orzo recipe came from the pantry. So the only things that I needed to purchase for this meal were the things I have to purchase every week, namely fresh meat and veg. 

Verdict: Delicious! It was also really quick to make and there was no prep required which was particularly good news tonight as I had an ultrasound at the hospital and didn't get home until 6pm. I modified the orzo recipe slightly, by cutting out the salt (since I used salted butter) and by using dried rosemary instead of purchasing fresh. I also used a cup of orzo and increased the water by 1/4 cup. When it was fresh off the stove it was a little like risotto, although by the time I had everything served all the excess liquid had been soaked up. The butter is really important, as it gives a good creamy flavor to the dish. That said, I refuse to have margarine or any other processed oil butter substitutes in the house so having to use butter wasn't a big deal. The flavor wasn't overpowering so it made a great side to the ribs, and it's an nice alternative to potatoes or rice. 

Thursday: tacos with salsa, sour cream, and guac; oven roasted Bird's Eye garden peas:

Tacos end up being a bit of an expense since we don't eat enough Mexican food to keep all the necessary ingredients on hand,  but they are also a quick and easy mid-week supper. Due to some changes to the grocery list, I allowed a bit of a splurge in the form of spicy Old Elpaso salsa instead of making my own. However I did make my own guacamole, as I only recently found a recipe for guac that tastes as good as the one you mix from the packet (it is so hard to get good guacamole out here). The oven roasted peas were an improvisation, since the pepper I had meant to use had turned moldy between the humidity & rain this week. I did learn that in oven-roasting the peas, from frozen, they taste as close to garden-fresh as possible. When I boil them they tend to lose their sweetness, but this method seemed to trap the moisture in and they were delicious! I am not usually brand-loyal, but the Bird's Eye ones we get here really are delicious.

As for the grocery bill, we unfortunately went over budget this week despite my best efforts to the contrary. Partially to blame is because I chose to make tacos with the taco seasoning, which required buying all the extras for fixings. Mostly to blame, however, is that we ran out of a bunch of staples (plain flour, olive oil, dish soap etc) and I also have a fair bit of baking planned this week (2 types of pizza doughs, Nanaimo bars, biscuits...) and that always means having to buy larger quantities of eggs and flour. We also have planned to eat at home every night this week, and we had our phone bill on this week’s shop, so that always makes it a bit much. Still, we try to keep our grocery bill to no more than £10/day for food for two people, excluding last minute snack purchases and we ended up below target for food.

***********************************************************************************
This guacamole recipe is the only one that I've ever found to work, aside from ones where you use a packet of mix and add it to the avacados. Ones using fresh ingredients never seem to get the same depth of flavor, and the tomatoes always end up too runny and the onion is always too sharp and the garlic is overpowering. But this recipe tends to balance nicely, and it even worked on my less-than-ripe avacado (I used my food chopper to blend everything together, so it was more of a diced & seasoned avacado topping than a mashed guacamole). I always have the seasonings in my pantry, aside from salsa, but normally if we're having something that wants guacamole we're also having salsa so it's doesn't require a bunch of extra purchasing.

Storecupboard Guacamole
 
  • Avocados (number according to the size of the crowd)
  • About 1/8 tsp seasoning salt per avocado
  • About 2 tbsp salsa per avocado
  • About ¾ tsp garlic powder per avocado
  • About ½ tsp onion powder
  • About ½ tsp lemon or lime juice per avocado
  • Hot sauce to taste
 Mash avacado(s) and mix in other ingredients.

Monday, 2 July 2012

DC & New York: VII


Our last full day in New York began with a trip out to Liberty Island, which meant we had to stick to a sort of schedule as I had been clever enough to book tickets in advance and thus jump the queue. Getting onto the boat was horrible—a combination of US fears of terrorism in the extreme perhaps coupled with a desire to make the immigrant experience feel authentic... My shirt set off the metal detectors (it clearly had metal on it) and the next thing I knew a very rude security guard had confiscated my glasses while another one started barking orders at me. This in itself wouldn’t have been a problem, but I am at best functionally ‘blind’ without my glasses, and it means that if they’re off I can’t hear well in a noisy area as none of the noise distinguishes itself as words directed at me. So I ended up shouting at the security personnel and I must’ve been a little louder and more panicked sounding than they were because they restored my vision. It wasn’t the most promising start to the day, as being left vulnerable like that is never pleasant.

Fortunately things perked up as soon as we got on the boat. A nice harbour cruise with a little bit of sun was just the thing to put me in good spirits, and we managed to get seats which was particularly lucky. The ride to Liberty Island was lovely, and then we had a nice walk around the statue and some fun gazing back at the Manhattan skyline. Once we’d seen all that we could see, we decided to skip on the Ellis Island part of the boat journey as it was beginning to rain and instead headed back to the city for further exploration.

Approaching Lady Liberty
View of Manhattan from Liberty Island

At the foot of the Statue
More of the skyline

A boat similar to the one we were on.
One last look.
We spent most of the afternoon wandering around Chinatown and Little Italy. David wanted to see the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, so we took that in, as well as heading down Wall Street and window shopping at Tiffany’s. The Tiffany’s experience was great, because we were both wearing our old gortex jackets due to the rain and the staff clearly suspected that we were just touristing in their shop but couldn’t tell 100%. To be fair, we were pseudo-serious buyers, only I didn’t find anything I loved enough to purchase within the limits of what I could afford. I was inevitably captured by some beautiful diamond studded animal pendants, but at over $1000 each I couldn’t justify it, and nothing else that I could afford seemed worth it after that. Alas! 

New York Stock Exchange
Statue on Wall Street

At the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art. This is an illicit photo, as you're not allowed to take pictures inside. But look, it's Batman! Also, I am certainly not a comic book reader and my appalling ignorance meant that I was banned from speaking...
For lunch that day we went to Lombardi’s, hailed as American’s first pizzeria. It was about as fine-dining as pizza goes, and with David’s love of the stuff I had to let him call the shots for ordering. So we split a delicious caesar salad to start, and then ordered a large pie, and washed it all down with Italian sodas. It was expensive and cash only, thus using up most of our remaining Yankee gold, but totally worth it. We were sitting next to a baseball signed by Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, and the photographs of all sorts of old Hollywood stars decked the walls. Because it took up most of our remaining cash and because it was so good, it ended up being our last NYC pizza experience. We didn’t want to lose sight of the magnificence of a good pie with the the good but questionable cheaper slicers available on every corner. In fact it pretty much ensured that we swore off delivery pizza when we got to the UK and now mostly only have it if we make it ourselves. See, it was just that good. 

Photo evidence, should his love of pizza ever be called into question.
It was a happy meal.

A vanilla Italian soda. So good! There was a cherry on top but it got eaten...
In the evening, several hours of window shopping and espresso later, we met up with our kind hostess for dinner. We had a really enjoyable meal, particularly as she’s one of the most interesting people that I’ve ever spoken with. Not only could she tell us fun stories about David’s mum, but she also has a really interesting career with the UN and so the conversation was never dull. Her generosity towards us was evident all through our trip, and I admit that I felt quite touched that someone who didn’t even know me would be so kind.