12 September, 2006

Book Club and a new pony

Well, silly me I forgot to take my camera to the riding lesson at the new barn today, so I shall have to wait to post a picture of the darling new pony, Rowan, until Thursday when Avery has her next lesson. Suffice to say it was successful! And readers, let me tell you of my satisfaction upon making the journey to the stable: it was but a 5-pound cab ride away from school! Ross Nye Stables, in Bathurst Mews, with lessons across the Bayswater Road in Hyde Park. Now, why did it take us so long to go there? Ah well, we're there now. The mews itself is gorgeous, cobblestoned as they all are, and simply overflowing with windowboxes full of pansies and violets, and trailing vines and ivy. I say this with spurious authority since I cannot really identify any flowers except marigolds, which my mother made me enter into every Flower Show at School 77 (for which I earned a pathetic Honorable Mention every year, so sad). My point is, it's a very flowery mews. So they put Avery on sweet Rowan, who is rather Scout-like in his size and demeanor, and since my loyalties have always stayed with Scout, I felt good. She and two instructors headed off toward the park and for some idiotic reason I followed them, only to be abandoned for The Mile, the path around the entire park. So I spent the hour on a ruinous phone call to my mother-in-law (how do we manage to talk for an hour? I can easily do that with my mother, too).

Home to exchange via email dinner plans with the Divine Sarah Webb, with whom we're planning our Paris trip. You simply must go on Sarah's website and see her artwork. Her show, "Fat and Blood and How To Make Them" was one of the highlights of the life of my gallery in New York. Can I boast for a moment and say that Edward Albee bought one of her pieces? That was beyond thrilling.

But I digress. Did I tell you that the formidable Mrs Davies, headmistress of King's College Preparatory School, invited me by letter over the summer to teach a Book Club after school this year? Her letter was a marvelous piece of English language engineering, begging my kind forgiveness should her invitation strike me as a "cheeky" one. On the contrary, I was thrilled. I have missed the Book Clubs of Avery's little girlhood, with a host of children sitting on the gray felt rug that zipped around the column in our Tribeca loft, reading to the little sprouts and having snack. I think I did it for five years! So this was great. Except for the stifling unseasonable heat and the fact that the school seems allergic to having the windows open. It was a horrible flashback to the Fashion Show.

The Club was assigned to Mrs Miekle's sixth-form classroom, which doubles as the English Room. The sixth-form girls were busily packing up their rucksacks, complaining about the amount of homework given that day, the incredible meanness of various teachers, changing into dance leotards, sharing water bottles. Their piping English voices and sort of awkward pre-adolescent demeanor was simply adorable. Then they departed, to be replaced by Avery and Anna, and the New Girl Elizabeth, who Avery had press-ganged into signing up for Book Club. And then, four gulls that, in typical nine-year-old fashion, did not identify themselves and simply plopped down on the floor. So I opened "Betsy-Tacy," asked if anyone knew what an autobiography was, got a resounding silence for my pains, then Avery said yes, it was a person telling the story of her own life, so I explained that this book was a fictionalized autobiography. It was the author writing down the stories of her childhood but giving all the characters different names. I read the first three chapters, and there was rapt attention from the girls, who gradually sank down with their heads on their backpacks, staring at the cover illustration and occasionally asking for clarification as to which girl on the front was which character. I had worried a bit because the story starts out about five-year-olds, but there was no problem. They loved it. If any of you have little girls who do not know Betsy-Tacy, run, don't walk to your nearest real or virtual bookstore and snap it up.

Home sweating to death, via Villandry where Avery wolfed down, I'm ashamed to say, both ice cream and a pain au chocolat. I really must bring a healthier snack to pickup!

Friends sauntered in for dinner, the truly luscious chicken curry with oranges and apples, and a salad of lamb's lettuce (it is also called mache) with a vinaigrette of my own invention. It is not for the faint of heart.

Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette

1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
sea salt
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Here's the fun part, if you're at all OCD. You roll the lemon around on the counter, which for some reason makes it give more juice. Then with a sharp paring knife, peel it all round, leaving no pith (I just can't stand that word. But it's not as bad as "moist".) Then very carefully section the lemon, taking care to discard seeds. The sections will look like tiny pale mandarin orange sections as you get in a can.

Peel the garlic and chop it right with the lemon sections which you have sprinkled with salt. It will become a kind of liquidy paste finally. Scoop this with the flat of your knife into a nice small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and watch it emulsify. Then whisk in the vinegar and mustard. Dress the lamb's lettuce just at the last moment before eating, because the leaves are so delicate and will absorb the dressing right away.

For dessert we had English strawberries (red all the way through, such a delight after their American cousins that look like strawberries and bark like strawberries but smell like nothing but their plastic containers and are white and hard inside. Ick.) sprinkled with Amaretto and tossed with a tiny bit of sugar. I wanted to sprinkle them with Cointreau but I didn't have any and was too lazy to go back out. One of the things I love about my friend (and there are so many) is that she was quite fine with her children having a bit of Amaretto with their fruit. Although Avery, no child of her spirits-loving parents, wrinkled up her nose and said, "Eew, what's wrong with the strawberries?" Ah, youth.

I'm so pleased to go to bed tonight with a successful Book Club under my belt, and a new pony and barn. Now all we need is for John to come home and start shopping seriously for our Mini, and the autumn will be looking quite bright indeed.

1 comment:

Avery said...

Sorry, Mummy, but it was actually in Mrs Taylors classroom.