30 August, 2006

reunited in the Hamptons, aka The Glamorous Life



















































Whew, where to begin? I think that so much has been happening, I'll start with today and work backwards. I've been saving some nice pictures from past weeks in a couple of draft posts, and I'll definitely make a stab at catching up. As you can see from the above, it's getting harder and harder to winnow down the pictures, trying to encapsulate our summer. I'll have to make some decisions "strategetically," as Avery would say. My favorite word of the summer. In the meantime...

We just pulled in from picking up Avery in Manhattan. Why was our only child in the city without us, you ask? Well, it all started at the Hampton Classic, over the weekend.

The Classic, as you may know, is the apogee of the Northeastern American horse world. Set in glorious Southampton, truly the most sophisticated and glamorous place I've ever been, it brings together all the best riders of all ages. Back in the years when Avery went to a horse show practically every weekend, it was not so crucial to happiness as we know it. But this year, of course, it was the ONLY show. And she's been training twice a week all summer just to be ready. Joey, her insane but genius trainer, has raised his mellifluous voice more than once in the question that typifies his style: "NO NO NO! Girls, what has Avery just done that is the WORST thing you can ever do on a pony?" Wisely, the girls treat this as the rhetorical question it is, and wait patiently, in silence, for Joey to point out whatever infraction has caught his eye at that particular moment and has earned the moniker "worst thing." Sure enough two minutes later, the Bronx air rings with the shouted words, "NO NO NO! Girls, what has Gabby just done that is the WORST thing..." And on and on throughout the summer. The pictures shown here do not do his mercurial temper justice!

So after our last dinner at Jill and Joel's house, on Friday night (mmm, that parmesan-baked chicken and tomato-basil risotto was divine, thank you Joel), we got up Saturday morning and headed to the Bridgeport, Connecticut side of an hour-ish ferry ride to Long Island. What a trip! The rain that was to play such a crucial and unpleasant role in our weekend was gearing up yet again, but for the duration of the ride we were able to sit outside, enjoy the sea air, and listen to me saying really stupid things about the geographical location of various pieces of land and water. I really have NO sense of direction. We landed and drove the winding way along the coast, passing through the stunning towns of Water Mill (est. 1644, I was impressed) and Southampton to arrive at Avery's friend Tess's house. Honestly, even accustomed to beautiful towns in Connecticut, and the English countryside, it was amazing, and intimidating a bit, to see on either side of the road huge expanses of meticulously maintained and landscaped shrubs, hedges and lawns, all embracing vast estates of stone or shingle houses, some dating back probably to the turn of the century or before, when the great tycoons of New York spent their summers on Long Island. Somewhere was Christie Brinkley's famed estate, and who knows who else. We arrived at Tess's house earlier than expected and Francesca, her mother, was out grocery shopping for the 30 or so people she had madly invited to dinner that evening! Sounds like something I would do. But what I would not do is accomplish all my shopping at Citarella, the peerless food shop I've visited on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but never dared to patronize. Now they've opened a shop in Southampton, and I fear, nay shudder to think what this dinner for 30 set Francesca and her husband Matt back. Twelve pounds of filet mignon! Ten pounds of shrimp! To say nothing of foie gras, roasted vegetables, dozens of figs to slow-bake in organic honey... Amazing! So extravagant, so generous.

The house itself was gorgeous. A sort of Mies Van der Rohe-inspired low stone building, perfectly landscaped with exotic plants. Everything pristine, matching, new, all the softest, thickest, shiniest and most glamorous of its kind. Here's the item that, for me, encapsulated the entire extravagant, stylish and perfect atmosphere (I'm sorry I didn't take a picture but that would have seemed very odd!): in a glass-fronted double-doored cupboard in the front foyer, there were row upon row of perfectly rolled, enormously thick bath sheets. Half the cupboard was filled with white, half with a trendy acid green. All just waiting to be used to towel off after a quick dip in the sybaritic waters of the in-ground pool, or the ocean a short walk away. Mentally I contrasted this with my skimpy pile of striped affairs, none of them matching or particularly thick, stuffed into an L.L. Bean canvas bag to drag off to the pool in Southbury! Somehow I didn't mind the image: the life out in the Hamptons is too perfect to be real. Or am I just telling myself that so I don't feel like a big fat loser? Which reminds me, John has been obsessed all summer with applying this epithet to drivers who dare to occupy "his" lane. To emphasise his words, he places the forefinger and thumb of his right hand against his forehead, a big fat "L." The sad thing is, Avery and I laugh every time.

Francesca and Matt, along with assorted cousins and Avery's beloved Tess, sauntered in and we were reunited. Francesca is one of my favorite barn mothers, with whom I have spent countless hours sitting by a jumping ring watching our daughters go round and round, supplying endless bottles of water for the parched riders, dishing about our compatriots, whose pony is doing what, how everyone is doing in school, what insane thing Joey has done or said lately. Every once in awhile our conversation is interrupted to make sure that someone's child's fall hasn't broken any important bones. Then it's back to gossip. Francesca is a psychoanalyst, which makes conversation very entertaining. So we all sat around with dozens of panini from the Blue Duck Bakery Cafe in Southampton, ham and gruyere, tomato and mozzarella, BLTs with basil. And corn chowder (but not, I must admit, as good as mine; however I know pride goeth before a fall), and lunchtime cocktails of our new favorite Ruby Red Absolut vodka mixed with fizzy pink lemonade. I know, it sounds repulsive and too pink for words, but it's yummy. After lunch, the serious business of preparing dinner for 30 consumed us. Francesca's housekeeper Elizabeth (for whom I would seriously sacrifice a lot, what an amazing help in the kitchen) toiled with us as we formed crabcakes, mixed pasta with the fresh pesto I brought, watched Francesca roll the meat in a rub of her own invention (caraway and lemon were predominant) and tolerated a lot of comments from the peanut gallery of John and Matt about "working the meat." They're so mature.

Then there was spinach salad with the carmelized figs, and shrimp marinated in a hoisin-based sauce, to throw on the grill after the filets were done. All this was accomplished under the completely strict and Mistress-of-her-Domain specificity of Francesca herself. Very quickly we all realized that any invitations to do things to our own standards ("Of course, Kristen, chop that however you like, it's entirely up to you,") very inefficiently masked the fact that all would be done EXACTLY as Fran wanted! One pot of boiling water to accommodate a huge amount of pasta met with her disapprobation and she enlisted John's opinion as "the real Italian here," until the dish was remedied. All this amidst threats to "simply throw it all away and start over," a manifestly impractical aim since the vegetables had roasted all day!

Avery and Tess alternately played chess with the life-size pieces on the in-ground flagstone chessboard, jumped courses on the set of jumps set up on the lawn, jumped on the trampoline, or swam in the pool. Finally guests started arriving and it was all my favorite barn people! Oriana's mother, who is Carolina Herrera's daughter, and Florencia, Sophia's mother, Gabby's mom Camille, the Olympic water skier, and Ali's parents, who are both psychotherapists and never averse to a little free advice, which I love. Plus of course the crowning glory of Joey and Christine, looking glamorous and full of dramatic tales of the opening moments of the Classic, which might or might not have been as important as Joey's disapproval of the way Alexa's mother arranged the flowers at the tent! The talk turned to how training has been all summer, with Joey dispensing lavish praise and hilariously exaggerated stories of mistakes made, falls survived, ponies with brain surgery who are at spas getting massaged every hour. I simply sat back and was thrilled to be with them all, back with people I have missed all year, imagining having been part of it all while we were in London. How far away they all seemed. And how funny, stylish, full of glamor they all are. Through it all ran Francesca's little white dog, Buda, whose presence reduces the brilliant and ascerbic Harvard graduate to phrases like, "Who's mama's little peachy fluffy little bundle, then, my darling Buda? Who's a clever girl, you little beauty?" She stopped once in horror and said, "My God, Buda has turned me into Joey talking to the girls!" One of my favorite sounds: Joey's voice booming across the jumping ring, "Is that my gorgeous AVERY I see? Sweetheart, you are BEAUTIFUL!"

The next day it all came unglued! Glamor was replaced with torrential freezing downpours, glossy manicured lawns with sucking mud, the Prada and Issey Miyake of the night before with soaked Levis and Blunny boots, foie gras with damp tasteless hamburgers from a scary trailer. But Avery won fourth in "walk trot," a huge achievement considering her absence from the barn all year, and the incredible competition of 28 other riders. Good on you, Avery. And her divine Ladybug. So all was worth the effort.

Back home via the Gap where we bought all new clothes since we were freezing and had packed badly! The girls retired to Tess's room, with a darling white trundle bed, many heaped Moroccan cushions, huge blown-up photos of Tess at a horse show. We grownups snacked on more foie gras and flatbread, and contemplated what to do for dinner. Talking to Francesca is a classic example of what John calls "shiny object syndrome." She can be completely focused on some really significant topic, but then a metaphorical shiny object crosses her mental field of vision, and it's completely off onto another topic altogether. "Should we just order in bad pizza? or there's also bad Chinese we could pick up in town. Who's Mommy's best Buda, come here darling, and Matt, when did you say you had to leave for New Haven? Why don't you teach Nick to play Risk, I know I know how, but you two should learn it together, consider it a challenge. John, could you order me boots like yours online? I am really afraid of the computer, or we could go out to the sort of dumpy Italian place in town? Did somebody pour me a drink?" Completely entertaining. Finally she and I went out to get Chinese, and on the way home ran into a party that had been shut down by the police and causing huge traffic problems as everyone tried to leave at the same time, totally flummoxing the inadequate parking valets that had been hired to take care of the cars. In the torrential rain! Francesca simply began backing up, to the noted dismay of the drivers behind her. "Does that idiot see me backing up? Does he contemplate that I will in fact run over his sorry butt if he doesn't move? Did you get fried rice, Kristen? I said, I'm BACKING UP!"

Totally cosy to cuddle up in the luxurious whatever-threadcount sheets, the bed piled with every possible comfort in shades of gold and barley, and sip some of the Busnel Calvados I brought, in view of the weather. I always forget, during the summers, that there's nothing on a cold, rainy night like a warm glass of Calvados.

Before bed we decided on a completely spur-of-the-moment plan: Avery would stay with the Jacobsons while we came back to the farm (foregoing our planned trip to see the Sadoffs in Fire Island, since Alyssa answered the phone "Hurricane Sadoff, would you like a rain check?"). So proud of Avery to be able to stay with people she really has just gotten to know, in such a cool place, and behave so nicely that they want her to stay. So in the morning we headed off back to Connecticut, talking sixteen to the dozen all the way about the fascinating people, the fabulous food, the lifestyle we had a brief and enticing glimpse of. The perfection! Then we walked in the door of Red Gate Farm and sighed. It's cluttered, nothing matches, the kitchen always smells like the fireplace, there are bowls full of fruit and vegetables all over the counter and piles of library books, doll clothes and laundry to put away. But it's also home.

So we picked Avery up at 39th and 3rd Avenue (let me tell you, after a half-hour's stroll killing time I can report that there is nothing to recommend that intersection, so cross it off your list for your next trip to the city), she having traveled on the Hamptons Jitney with Tess's babysitter for the handoff. Many stories of adventure and mayhem at the Classic, as well as reports on meals eaten ("I know you want to know about the food, Mommy, so I'll get it over with"), toys acquired, Buda's iniquities including chewing on Avery and her belongings during the night ("it's very disconcerting to be in the middle of a dream, and then something is pulling on your arm, literally pulling you out of your dream!"). Thank you, Francesca and Matt. For everything.

29 August, 2006

summer memories

















































I couldn't resist basically a picture post. How can we ever forget the twin foals born at Red Horse Stables? Nor how we found out: Avery and I are such well-known pool rats that when Anne and David had something to tell us, they knew exactly where to go. It was so funny to look up in the sunshine at the side of the Southbury Municipal Pool and see fully-dressed Anne coming toward us, arms practically waving with excitement. "There are twin baby horses in the paddock at Red Horse!" So we dried off and drove away, and sure enough: two little foals. Apparently while it's not that unusual for a mare to be pregnant with twins, it's very unlikely that both will be born safely. So these two are real miracles. We have visited them with loyal frequency ever since.

Then I had to show you the street sign from Mystic, Connecticut, where I took Avery to visit twice, to see Cici. Can you believe it? There's also Avery Corner. Who was this Avery?

But nothing can top the presence of Jane in our summer. Have you ever seen such a creature? We will miss her terribly. Jill and Joel simply have to schedule a visit to London, that's all there is to it. There must be some important sporting event Jill can produce, right? I'll keep my eyes out. How can we possibly spend the next ten months just HEARING what Jane is doing? Will she keep on sitting in her Thinking Chair and Thinking? Will she continue to do touchdowns and find the book of funny faces, and do "happy feet"? No, she'll learn a whole bunch of new party tricks and we won't know. Thank goodness for digital cameras, and pretty soon she can talk well enough to spend lots of her parents' money on extensive transatlantic phone calls. Sob. Jane has greatly added to our literary knowledge this summer, our money being on the heretofore unknown to us Mo Willems, author of such gems as "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus," followed by the even more stimulating, "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late". Perhaps the best, though, is "Knuffle Bunny." If you need baby presents, go for the whole pile.

Well, we're off right now to dinner at the Olive Tree, one of perhaps two dinners out we have had here in Connecticut. It's too much fun to cook, to justify going out. But this restaurant was recommended by Rollie and Judy, and borders two golf courses, so it should be pretty. We had such a nice dinner at Rollie and Judy's house, a real farmhouse meal. Chicken in a mushroom sauce, and then the vegetables! Steamed fresh beans and zucchini, carrots and tiny new potatoes. And I brought pesto, so the boys (Rollie Junior, Chris and Todd) spread it on their bread. Then fresh peach and blueberry pie with a real latticed crust. I don't think I've ever eaten a real pie like that served by the real person who made it! We'll let you know how the Olive Tree is.

corn, crab, politics and simple things


































Have I given you my corn chowder recipe? I think I did, but I'll go back and check. One thing I'm going to try to learn this upcoming year, well two things, one is to write better, more precise recipes. The other is to find a way to present them on the blog that is easier to get and more appealing, like maybe a hot link to a separate page that will include a photo of the completed dish. We'll see.

In any case, this summer has been about corn. I just love sweet corn, and not the scary kind that finds itself mixed in baked potatoes in England. I'm sorry, that is just WRONG. No, the kind I mean is picked up from the Starchaks' farm stand on Main Street in Southbury, Connecticut, driven directly home to be shucked on the back step (always throw the husks over the back fence; I love to have a fence to throw things over), then boiled for precisely three minutes, and raced to the table and salted, and eaten without holders. I can easily eat four ears, no problem. However, after an entire summer of corn on the cob, my family was objecting to the monotony. So in addition to the corn chowder, I came up with a recipe that takes into account the awful possibility that some ears of corn will not live up to the billing I have just given them. They will be, inexplicably, tough. Or not juicy. Or starchy. The kind of corn that, were you to encounter it on the side of a lame plate of surf and turf at Red Lobster, you would simply treat as the kind of aberration it is: clearly there to provide the illusion of a vegetable but not in any way expecting to be actually ingested.

So if this happens, what is an unhappy cook to do? Well, rather than slog through and eat it anyway because it's there, and you bought it and cooked it, simply say goodbye to the sorry ears and put them aside. Finish the rest of your lovely meal and do not dwell on the disappointment. There's always another trip to Starchaks' tomorrow. Meanwhile, save it for the next meal you prepare, especially if it's a nice meaty one like steak, pork chops, or as last night, a roasted leg of lamb rubbed with a mixture of chopped rosemary, garlic, lime juice and olive oil. While the lamb is roasting, here is what you do:

Scalloped Corn, or How to Turn a Failure Into a Success
(serves four easily)

6 ears cooked corn
four cloves garlic, chopped fine
half pint light cream
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsps melted butter
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

Spray a nice casserole dish (I used a pretty oval Pyrex one) with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the garlic over the bottom of the dish. Cut the kernels off the ears of corn (be sure to gather up the few racy kernels who will fly off onto the counter top) and sprinkle them onto the garlic, taking care to separate the long rows should they stick together. Pour the cream over all the kernels evenly, then toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter and fluff them up. Spread evenly over the corn and then sprinkle the cheese over all. The casserole can bake for the final half hour of the roast lamb, and will be ready to make the perfect accompaniment for a juice, garlicky bite.

Then there's the perennial question, what to do with a really high-quality 1-pound can of crabmeat, the kind that comes in the refrigerator section of the fish department? Or alternatively you could order it along with your lobsters from Dave Thomas in Islesford, don't think it isn't possible. Anyway, say you bought it intending to make crabcakes and then you got back from the Hamptons where you had just had crabcakes. Well, here's what you can make, in two seconds:


Simple Crab Salad

(serves four)

1-pound can crabmeat, refrigerated
1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
3/4 cup mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon or lime
salt and pepper
half an avocado, sliced lengthwise
1 really good heirloom tomato, cut in bite-sized pieces, or a handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
pinch paprika
four slices buttered toast

Mix the crabmeat, onion, mayo, and juide together, folding gingerly so as not to break up the yummy long pieces of crab claw. Then salt and pepper to taste. DO NOT eat it all at this stage. Taste just a LITTLE. Then put on a large plate, mounded in the center. Surround with tomato bites, and fan the avocado slices on top of the crab. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve with buttered toast.

I'm thinking about all this summer food, and all our fun this summer in general, to take my mind off Leaving Anxiety. Yes, I who can find something to be anxious about under all circumstances, am worrying about leaving. It's a bit stressful getting the house in order should someone want to rent it this fall and winter. So we're packing away clothes, linens, etc., so as to make it count as furnished, but not personal. Then of course there's the ever-present unwillingness to leave the three Js behind. I cannot imagine how much Jane will change over the year until we get back in July. Already she can say "up above" when she couldn't six weeks ago, and it will probably be a matter of only days before "the world so high" follows.

Also I must admit to a certain don't-wanna-fly creeping back into my reconstructed heart, which was doing so well about flying on our way here. But even someone not as self-centered as I might be forgiven for a bit of anxiety when my life entails moving from Target Number One to Target Number Two or the reverse, depending on your point of view and airport of departure. One of the funniest moments of the summer, in a completely sick way, was when Rollie stopped to chat after scything the meadow to the side of the house. It was the day when all the nonsense broke about what liquids you could and couldn't take on board and how we had all just narrowly avoided whatever dreadful thing happening on the way from London to here, and generally announcing the incipient Armageddon. Rollie put some grass between his teeth and whistled. "When's John expected?" I sighed and said, "He's flying back from London tomorrow morning." Short silence. Then Rollie grunted. "You HOPE."

Well that's just icky! I can join the thousands of generations of parents before me and moan that I really don't like the world we're bringing our child into. Europe has such a different perspective on the world than America has, and such a sadly negative view of much that is American. It's so hard to know what to think, but one example of the huge isolation of the United States these days came up when I was talking to a friend at the pool about the airport situation. "It's just going to lead to worse profiling than we had in the past," she worried. And I mentioned the awful case of a family in London whose home was broken into by dozens of armed special force police officers, shouting and ordering people to the ground, all based on what turned out to be completely baseless threat information. The story was top news in Europe for days, as the mistake was discovered, the family's ruined lives paraded in front of the news media, the police and government forced to apologize. And you know what? The story never broke here at all. I guess that's a combination of our lack of interest in stories not directly related to America, and a reluctance to dwell on mistakes. Watching television here is interesting: the media seem to want us all really scared, but not very specifically! A strange mixture of how right we must be because we're Americans, but how target-number-one we are because everyone else in the world thinks we're wrong. Such an unhappy situation. It will be helpful to get back to London and realize that of course we can go back and forth and the world doesn't end.

In the meantime, though, I'll concentrate on Avery's little face, pressed up against her dad's. Because you see, he DID come home.

25 August, 2006

Saturation Station








































I have had these photos sitting in my draft post box for ages! Ever since Annabelle's sleepover. Avery is obsessed now with the water park where we had our adventures. And so I don't forget, and so you know where to go should you come to Middlebury, Connecticut, it's Quassy Amusement Park, a hundred-year-old park full of dry and wet rides, and provided us with one of the most exciting days of the whole summer.

Until this summer, I had seen billboards for Quassy on the way to Jill and Joel's house, but it never occurred to me to go. Then Avery and I decided that a day of getting really soaking wet, and possibly having a hot dog to go with it, was just the ticket, and that Annabelle should come along. So we packed up our bag of towels and sunblock and beverages, and headed off, singing at the top of our lungs to the Beatles. I must add: musically speaking the summer has been defined by Songs in the Car. If you haven't heard Sheryl Crow's duet with Sting, "I'm Always on Your Side," you must. Avery and I, one day, listened to it possibly 60 times in a row to get two phrases JUST RIGHT. Also, John has exposed Avery to Queen, so she spends a lot of time shouting, "We will we will ROCK YOU," which brings back horrible memories of various after-game high school dances where I never had a date. But the music's good.

Anyway, we sang along and arrived at the park, and spent the next few hours getting sweaty on the dry rides (I skipped the Helicopter, and the MusicFest, but the girls loved them), having that hot dog, and slushies for the girls, getting soaked in the water park ("Over 30 ways to get wet!" the website trumpets). Best of all was, however, the Saturation Station. As you can see, it's an enormous bucket suspended high about the water park, gradually filling with water. 400 gallons! When it reaches a critical mass, it tips over, burying the people underneath in water so freezing you simply have to scream! We all clung together under where the water would fall, waiting in ridiculous fear, then simply shouted our heads off and inhaled a great deal of water, plus stepping all over each other's feet. But it was GLORIOUS.

And it gave the girls strength to go the bumper car route, as well as the famous Quassy Super Slide on a nasty burlap rug that brought back memories of some similar slide in my childhood. And just like then, you get to scrape your arm against some rough bit of the slide as you pelt downward, and have a nice scrape to prove you were brave.

What a day.

24 August, 2006

life is peaceful


















Let's see, aside from fishing for minnows with the new minnow trap seen here (I actually got us to the tackle shop in Newtown, and back, without getting significantly lost... well, I did, but I got us found again), going to the Hickory Stick Bookstore in Washington Depot (quite simply the best bookshop west of the Atlantic Ocean (I'm loyal to Daunt in London, sorry!) and spending all our disposable income, visiting Rollie's wife Judy's farm stand at Painter's Ridge Farm and sampling the watermelon (also coming away with the best peaches ever, and did you know that if you didn't bar light from reaching growing celery it would be dark green? neither did I), nothing much is happening. Oh there was the night of a rainstorm so heavy that I turned off the fan I always sleep to, and listened to the patter on, variously, the roofline outside the bathroom window, and bird feeder outside Avery's window, and the sloping, densely-surrounded meadow outside my bedroom window. Blissful.

Wait, there's also the woodchuck who eats during the afternoon, and the skunk who eats at night, and the deer crossing the road today in front of Quincy, our 1967 Land Rover, and the hummingbird who almost drank from John's dad's cocktail over the weekend, and the frog that Baby Jane did NOT like hopping about on a rock in a bowl full of water! "Uh oh! Uh oh!" she said. All was NOT right with that picture.

And our after-dinner trips to Denmo's for the best ice cream in the world (according to people who eat ice cream, accompanied by people like me who watch people eat ice cream).

We stopped off yesterday to see Jane and Joel on our way home from dropping off Rosemary at the Hartford airport. Sorry, Bradley International Airport. I saw a sign for Midwest Airlines and for a moment misread "Mideast Airlines." That's right, nonstop from Hartford, CT, to... Dubai? Jane was most surprised to see us after her nap, and led us from one possession to another, showing us her little world, with a sweaty brow and hair in her eyes. Sweet Joel who had his ginger and garlic chopped for their gourmet stir-fried beef dinner that evening. Well I remember those later-afternoon "she's about to wake up, better underchef dinner" moments! Sadly we missed Jill who was slaving away at ESPN, but we shall see them for dinner at their place on Friday. I wonder what has happened to the little baby pigeon that fell from its nest during our visit. I wish you could see the little cutout in their fence, shared with their little-boy neighbors, labeled from Jane's side with the legend "To Milo and Kai" and from their side, "To Jane." Joel is a perfect dad. These are the exciting events that make up summertime in our neck of the woods. Tomorrow I promise to blog about our babysitting with Jane. Suffice to say, this evening: Joel and Jill have their hands full! She's a carbon copy of her mother when a baby, and it took two parents and two siblings to help her survive childhood intact. She's cooking with gas, that girl.

23 August, 2006

ready, set, EAT!















Have you ever received a big box from Fedex and opened it up to discover a dozen tomatoes from your very own father's garden, wrapped up like Christmas ornaments? That's actually a rhetorical question because I'm virtually certain that no one else I know has a father so obsessed with tomato-growing, a family so devoted to Frederickson Tomato Eating, or indeed a family crazy enough about the whole thing to think that sending them across country is a reasonable thing to do! However, we do, and it is. The love wafting up from the box, once opened, was almost visible! Or maybe it's the whiff of insanity. In any case, for the uninitiated, Paul Frederickson tomatoes have a patent pending. They have fan clubs (with waiting lists). They are, quite simply, Manna From Indianapolis. So in honor of my in-laws' visit from Iowa, my father packed up twelve of his babies and sent them here to Red Gate Farm. There they were joined in holy matrimony with four pound-and-a-half lobsters from David Thomas Lobster in Islesford, Maine, and a dozen ears of corn from Starchak Produce in Southbury, Connecticut, and there has never been a better dinner. EVER. As soon as I get a jpeg from my mother-in-law, I'll post a picture of the whole dinner. Unbelievable. Added to it was a generous helping of mayonnaise infused with garlic and lemon juice, and little baguette rounds brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted. Were we lightly toasted? The single-malt Glenkinchie Scotch was flowing nicely! I don't think any of us has ever had a better culinary experience. Even Avery, who doesn't eat lobster, was happy, because her besotted mother pan-sauteed a little filet mignon, just for her. Actually her father got the best end of the deal: she couldn't eat it all, so he ended up with the ultimate Surf and Turf!

Basically all we did during John's parents' visit was eat. Actually, shop, cook, eat, clean up, and then talk about what we just ate. Sick! I'll give you the highlights. And it's been suggested to me by readers of this blog that I turn my incoherent ravings about food into more actual recipes, to convince you all to try things. So here goes.

First of all, if you love lobster, scallops, or crab (or all three), may I suggest you go online to David's lobster site and order you up some. They will arrive alive, overnight, surrounded by ice and wet newspaper, and what you should do is open up the box to make sure they're still alive, then close it again and leave it till dinner time (the box doesn't have to be refrigerated). When you're ready to eat, boil about three inches of water (seawater if you live by the sea!) in a very large stockpot (you can buy the cheapest enameled thing on earth, sometimes from a hardware store) with a lid. Then one by one, quickly drop the lobsters in headfirst and put the lid on with something to weight it down (don't think about why). After 13 minutes, take them out and put them on a large platter and let cool for five minutes or so. Then with your napkin tucked into your shirt collar and very clean hands, the fun can begin. Some people don't bother with the legs, but they have yummy meat inside that can only be sucked out. Oh, don't forget to have a set of crackers for each person: some people buy fancy task-specific lobster crackers, in the shape of lobsters and bright red, but save your money and buy nutcrackers. Just as good, IMHO. I start with the claws because I like them best and I rarely can get through a whole lobster, so start with the best is my philosophy. Then move onto the tail, then the legs. If you're still hungry you can scoop out the tomalley from the body of the lobster and it it on a saltine. Truth to tell, the tomalley grosses me out so I pretend it isn't there. If you have the tail leftover (both Rosemary and I did, defeated by all the other food), put it to one side and after dinner you can rinse it and put it in the refrigerator, and then the next day you cut it up and either dress it with a tablespoon of mayo mixed with lemon juice and put it in a toasted hot dog bun (this is called a "lobster roll"), or eat it with an avocado dip of my own invention:

Avocado Dip a la Little Cranberry Island

1 avocado, nice and ripe (so you can make an indentation in the flesh, but don't go crazy doing this), peeled and the seed taken out)

Wait.

Let me interrupt myself and teach you how to prepare an avocado. I had to learn the hard way, where you mangle many, many avocados and are finally taken to task by some more knowledgeable dinner guest watching you be your idiot self. You hold it in one hand and using a nice paring knife, pierce the avocado with the tip till you feel the seed inside, then run your knife all the way around the avocado, making contact with the seed at all times. Then hold each half of the avocado in a hand and twist till it comes apart. Then VERY CAREFULLY ease your knife tip into the seed (I once completely stabbed myself in the palm doing this, so deeply that it didn't even bleed, and it had to be patched up by my dinner guest who happened to be a doctor -- a dermatologist, but I couldn't be choosy). Wiggle the knife in the seed VERY CAREFULLY till you dislodge the seed and then discard it. Now pull the skin off the whole avocado and either slice nicely for a salad or in this case...

Place avocado in food processor or blender. Add:

three tablespoons sour cream
three tablespoons goat cheese
several shakes Tabasco
juice of a lime, juice of a lemon
salt to taste

Whizz till completely smooth. This with lobster or crab is DIVINE. Unless, like my mother who is otherwise perfect, you feel that avocado is inferior to modelling clay as a food.

The evening of the Currans' arrival we had a gorgeous dinner as well, if I do say so myself, and really a diet chicken salad dinner. For when you're in a no-carb mood. The chicken salad idea is modified from a lovely lunch my friend Kathleen served to me at her house in Mystic, Connecticut. With it I served my pink gazpacho (recipe in an earlier post from May).

Guilt-free Chicken Salad
(serves four)

three whole bone-in chicken breasts
salt and pepper
half stick of butter

1 large bag or bunch of baby spinach, or mixed leaf salad
8 very small tomatoes (preferably on the vine)
1 avocado, sliced prettily
dressing of your choice

Place 1/4 stick butter on each chicken breast and salt and pepper it. Roast at 425 degrees for an hour, then five minutes under the broiler or until nice and crispy (if you really want it a diet salad, remove the skin after roasting; removing it before roasting will make it dry out). While the chicken cools, arrange the greens on a large platter, prepare your avocado, quarter the tomatoes and mix your dressing. Remember this basic rule, taught to me by the mother of the French family I lived with when I was sixteen, never forgotten. Three parts oil to one part vinegar (or other acidic liquid like fruit juice. Then you can add whatever other things occur to you with abandon (mustard, Tabasco, mayo, pesto, you name it). Slice the chicken breasts and arrange them on the greens, then scatter the tomatoes and avocado all over and around. Drizzle a minimum of dressing on just before serving.

After dinner, if you're feeling at all energetic, put the breast bones in a stockpot and cover with water, and quite a bit of salt. If any salad is left, you can throw that in too. Boil pretty high for at least an hour, strain through a colander (throw the bits away taking care not to attract skunks!) and refrigerate. In the morning you can take the fat off the top of the pot and you've got chicken broth, good on its own or perfect as the basis of any good chilled summer soup!

Mmm. We're going out for dinner tonight, but right now I'm pretty sure it won't get better than that! Enjoy whatever is on your plate tonight...

16 August, 2006

Calgon, double time!















At least you're seeing this skunk in daylight hours! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me describe to you my day. Oy veh.

Actually it started last night, when Avery discovered (nearly spitting it across the table) that her glass of milk was ROTTEN. This, of course, was the same half gallon that I had used to make my afternoon-project batch of vichyssoise. How dare they! Fizzy, awful.

Then this morning. I'm sorry, someone tell me I didn't get up at the crack of dawn (well, it was 8) in a pouring rainstorm to drive an hour and half for a horseback riding lesson that had been CANCELLED. Truly. The only thing that saved me from an absolute temper fit was actually two things: one, the trainer had an out of date phone number for me, and two, we were, in any case, rendez-vousing with Annabelle to bring her to the long-awaited sleepover. So. I kissed Alyssa, watched Elliot slog through puddles at the barn, and hustled the girls straight BACK into the car for another hour and a half drive back home. It was enlivened by exposing the girls to "Strawberry Fields Forever" on the CD player, which made me feel very old, half the Beatles being dead and another simply embarrassing. However. During the drive Avery found out from her Iowa Nonna on the cellphone that a package awaited her at Red Gate Farm, from the singularly exciting return address of "American Girl," which made arrival very exciting: a new doll! Holly, to replace the Holly stolen callously from our parking lot in Tribeca. There you go: a unique "New York isn't perfect" memory.

To lunch at the diner, then a marathon session at the pool! Much diving, lap swimming, while the skies gradually cleared to the MOST beautiful early evening swim ever. Simply divine, coming up from a dive to see blue, blue sky and green, green trees. Avery's valiantly attempting diving.

Home for me to frantically clear up all the mess from an early morning departure and prepare spaghetti all carbonara, tons of garlic. Annabelle is my best dinnertime customer. Here's the recipe:

Kristen's Carbonara
(serves four)

1 pound bacon, throughly chilled and sliced into 1-inch pieces (easy to do: just keep the pound together as it's packaged and slice down the strips lengthwise as a bulk, does that make sense?)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 small white onion, finely minced
1/2 pint light cream
1 egg yolk
3/4 pound cappellini
2 tsps fresh thyme, leaves only
1/2 grated pecorino romano or parmesan

Boil water for pasta. Then in a large skillet, saute bacon bits over low to medium heat, stirring nearly constantly and taking care that the bacon does not scorch. Drain frequently (not down the drain! try a measuring cup, then you can keep it to saute hash browns in if you're feeling ambitious).

When bacon is completely crispy but not burned, drain one last time and return skillet to heat. Add garlic and onion to the sauteed bacon and saute lightly, again taking care not to scorch. When garlic and onion are softened, add cream and bring to a low simmer. Add egg yolk and stir thoroughly. The sauce can sit and simmer while you cook and drain the pasta.

Cook pasta and drain. Throw the pasta into the sauce skillet and toss well with the sauce. Serve with thyme and cheese sprinkled on top.


The girls made homemade "cookie dough ice cream" with real cookie dough! Then the real heart-clencher of the day: I went to (nice Indiana-ism there) take the garbage (only we'd say "trash" back home) to the can in the barn, when out of the bag I'd stashed on the terrace bounced... a SKUNK! EEEWWW!! Cute, all right, but alive! In my garbage bag! It lurked without undue alarm on the terrace as I stared, and screamed, and the girls came running down from Avery's bedroom, convinced I was nearly dead from... something. Finally it ambled off. Terror!

Much sweeter is the melon-obsessed woodchuck, Gary II, so named after Jill and Joel's original Gary. That boy loves melon! Carried away a whole half, if that makes sense.

OK, I'm fading. Sleepover finally living up to its name as both girls slumber away. Sleep well!

14 August, 2006

hotter than Hesse
















Now that the temperature has returned to nice normal Connecticut numbers not in the triple digits, I can look at this photo and recognize that Avery is actually MELTING! And my poor friend Sarah Webb! Of course, it was her idea to meet up in the city, but when we scheduled the visit back in, gee, May, who knew it would be 105 degrees in New York that day! Just awful. But the reason for our visit was worth the hellish temperatures. The Eva Hesse show at the Jewish Museum was, Sarah and I agreed, the single best and most significant exhibition we have ever been to. She is, of course, the co-author of our book, "Singular Women," which we wrote together over seven years, the most rewarding project of our careers. Undoubtedly our feelings on this matter are colored by the fact that our work, and our emails about the project, were shared in equal measure by discussions of the completely remarkable things our baby daughters, then toddler daughters, then school-age daughters and Sarah's baby son, were doing, plus in those days we knew what each other was cooking for dinner every single night and exchanged many, many recipes and dinner party stories. But still, Eva Hesse is huge for both of us. Much of Sarah's own artmaking is inspired by Hesse, and I myself have taught Hesse's work in countless seminars, one at Christie's devoted to her. And so many of the artists whose work appeared at my gallery, and grace the walls of our homes, shows the lineage of her influence.

So there we were, in the sweltering, beyond torrid heat, contrasted by the near-arctic temperatures of the museum itself and the cafe where we had lunch. It was wonderful and touching to catch up with Sarah, to hear about her daughter's exploits. We reminisced about the dedication of our book: something like this. "To our daughters, who with their innocent question, 'Can men be artists too?' showed that feminism has indeed achieved its goals."

From there we headed to Tribeca, frankly driving slowly to take advantage of the air conditioned car! But even the heat could not spoil dinner with my friend Alyssa and her kids Annabelle and Elliot, at our old neighborhood haunt, "Roc." Rocco himself was there in all his Italian charm, and it was simply wonderful, and so heartwarming, to be back. Avery spent the night with Annabelle and I repaired to John's midtown hotel for a nice rendezvous! Being back has taught me this much: you in fact CAN go home again!

Three cheers for Eva Hesse, and all the artists who make life a bit more than just living. And sweating, for that matter!

welcome back, Sadoff style

























Well, wouldn't you know that my friend Alyssa Sadoff would not let our arrival in America go unheralded. We had all arranged our picnic lunch at Red Gate Farm for the first Saturday after our arrival, and I was more than prepared to barbecue, whatever was needed. No! Alyssa immediately announced that the lunch would be coming from none other, none less than... KATZ Deli, the be all and end all of Jewish proper food from New York! So she arrived our first weekend with scads of pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, cole slaw, potato latkes, applesauce, the whole nine yards. Thrilling! Jill, Jane and Joel came, as well as Anne and David from across the road. A beautiful afternoon, kids on the trampoline, popsicles, Baby Jane in her wading pool.

Possibly nothing surpassed the happiness, though, of our arrival that first evening in Connecticut. Thanks to the generosity of Reuters for our "home visit", we were picked up at JFK by a lovely car and driver, and spent the ride to Red Gate Farm on the phone with our families, letting them know we'd arrived safely. As we approached the farm, our hearts quickened, and we rounded the little hill toward the house: lights blazed everywhere from our neighbors' determination to welcome us home! Farmer Rollie and his wife Judy had left homemade scones, peach and blueberry jam, and Anne and David had stocked the fridge with eggs, juice, bread, hummous, everything we needed to settle in. And there were Rollie and Judy gifts of flowering geraniums all over the terrace and front porch. We were officially HOME.

I will never forget the feeling of utter calm, flopping onto my old quilt upstairs in our bedroom, looking up at the dormered ceilings, candles burning in the windows, realizing in some dim way that one CAN go home again. LOVELY.

back together for Avery and Cici




























The reunion was everything they dreamed it would be, I think, or at least from what I can gather judging from extreme screams, much jumping up and down (even without the aid of the trampoline) and mostly, obsessive hair-doing. I did not realize the extent to which life as a (nearly) ten-year-old involves hair-doing. Perhaps my friends and I were not so assiduous in our grooming. But anyway, Cici came immediately to us on our arrival, thanks to her generous mom Kathleen who bravely drove all the way from Mystic, Connecticut, and thence back to the city to work on her upcoming Chelsea painting show in the fall at Brenda Taylor's. Poor girl: she got caught in the now legendary "Tarrytown Tornado," on the Saw Mill River parkway on the way back into Manhattan. Literally a rare event: I think there has not been a tornado in New York State for 50 years. Thankfully she was not injured.

Cici and Avery spent their visit shopping at the Gap, where frighteningly it turns out they can wear extra-small women's sizes. Of course since current trends (I hesitate to call such hideousness "fashion") precludes covering most of the torso, it's easier for women's sizes to fit small girls. They looked, as you can see, adorable. Then there was catching up on their phantom riding techniques. It turns out it's possible to have a phantom horse show ON a trampoline. We ended up for dinner at Maggie McFly's, the "Unique Eatery" (this moniker always troubles me, listed as it is on their business card showing TWO locations). The chief attraction of Maggie McFly's is the light-up ice cube, included in some of the more noxious cocktails on offer. Since I was taught from a tiny girlfriend by John that a true cocktail includes only two ingredients, and one of them is ice, the thought of drinking something with several different kinds of alcohol PLUS fruit was pretty nauseating, so I opted to buy the ice cubes outright, in glasses of Sprite. Much easier on the drive home, not to get arrested.

Oh, and the POOL. It's only a little bitty municipal pool; I don't know why I love it so much! It must remind me of something in a former Eastern life. We've spent many happy hours there, doing laps, watching Mr Adonis the local heartthrob work on his tan and his pecs, hearing the inevitable American screams of "Marco... Polo," listening to children whine at their mothers (mine at me), "You should come in! It's so warm! Come on in, please?!" to mothers who are happily stretched out on towels reading People, or in my case catching up on Soap Opera Digest. Did Dinah cause the fire that almost killed Cassie, and will Sami admit she switched Lexi's test results before the Gloved Hand switches Belle's in vitro embryo? I'm so glad to be in a position to find out, without transatlantic postal charges.

We've been hanging out at the library, too, but more on that in my post to cover Taking Care of Jane. That could be a blog all its own!

a giraffe in your dining room



































And why not? Have a giraffe in your dining room, I mean? This, along with fresh chicken salad and gazpacho, and irreplaceable dinner conversation, is the reason to visit our beloved friends Cynthia and Jeanne in Orange, New Jersey. I have come to terms with the hedgehogs, spiders, lobsters, koi fish, foxes, rabbits and ponies that adorn the plate rack in their library, Steiff animals all complete with the little gold buttons in their ears. I myself had a fair collection as a child. But even I was taken aback by Clarissa, living in their dining room. And yet why not?

We had our usual perfect visit, missing only John. I think when you get known as a person who likes to cook, fewer and fewer people cook for you. But Jeanne, better known as Jeannemommy since Avery thus christened her probably eight years ago, always feeds me. And nothing ever tastes as good as what she makes, no matter what it is. In this case it was perfectly roasted chicken breast, pulled apart and tossed with pineapple, endive, celery, white grapes and a bit of mayonnaise. Simply divine. And this after we had dragged her on practically the hottest day of the year, to find riding clothes for Avery, in a charming tack shop where the owner of the barn actually knew crazy Joey, Avery's trainer. His fame, or insanity, precedes him.

After dinner we were joined by Cynthia's niece Alexandra, who I met when she was Avery's age and is now, frighteningly, a post-graduate intern at Simon and Schuster in the city. To think the little sprout, Irish as they come, taught me to sing "Over in Killarney" to try to quiet newborn Avery, closeting us in the library during a dinner party. "It's always comforted me," I remember her saying, and now not a bedtime in Avery's life has gone by without its being sung.

After our lovely visit to them, we were off again back to Connecticut, this time to my sister's house to see my whole family! Wonderful to be together, but honestly, we could be anywhere and we would all still be engaged in that popular eternal game: "Watch Baby Jane"! It really doesn't matter where we are, or who's around the table or the room. Mostly we all try to get her to say cookie ("diddle liddle liddle") or stroller ("doodle loodle loodle") or squirrel ("durdle lurdle lurdle"), or show us her happy feet, or say "What does Daddy do when he sees a bug?" and see her clap her little fat hands together, squealing "Daddeeee!" "Mommy" is "minamalina" or some such thing. Dad was busy helping Joel do something involving wet concrete in the garage, and Mother was enjoying being called "No----na" by Jane at the top of her lungs. Everyone took time to appreciate Avery's report card from QCPS and her Latin cup, then we were back to asking Jane how does a sneeze sound.

More updates in a bit, but right now Avery are off on our typical summertime ritual: the library and the POOL! It's 80 and sunny, what could be better.

bouncy bouncy bouncy




































You'd have to laugh. All you have to do is say to Baby Jane: "would you like to go on the..." and she explodes into "waah, waah, waah," in the cadence of trampolining! Her Uncle John thought he would be doing her favor by buying one for her very own backyard, however... she is tireless! Annabelle, Avery, Cici, Jill, plus every other adult nearby was necessary to keep her from simply careening off the sides. We played countless games of "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Janey straight over to..." whoever! Except that she refused categorically to go to Uncle John. I think he's too large.

There could be nothing more beautiful than those girls, any combination of them, hair flying, smiles stretching from ear to ear, to be together again after their year apart. There was Avery's golden brown mane, Annabelle's thick black tail, Cici's tow-headed cap. And way, way down low, little Janey's two tails (when she left them in!)...

Happy days...

time with Sweet Baby Jane







































Swimming! The Southbury Municipal Swimming Pool is the place to be. Especially if you're 17 and a half months old with a doting aunt to devote herself to your amusement for hours on end. And tennis, you can be a ball girl! Actually this photo is cheating because John wasn't able to be at home during our babysitting for Jane, stuck in Times Square as he was.

Here's the story: Jill and Joel needed a little down time just the two of them. And nothing could please me more than having Jane all to myself, so they took themselves off to Lake Mohonk, a classy and beautiful resort with spas, restaurants, hiking trails, and the like, to spend a couple of days, while Avery and I played with Baby Jane.

Suffice to say I had no idea how much energy she has!

Now, Avery was a placid, quiet baby. If I sat her down with a pile of books and a couple of squashy toys, I could go take a shower, check email, make beds, whatever, and when I got back, there she was, right where I left her. There was the time she crawled to the kitty dishes and sampled their pellets, but that was the exception. Now Jane is another story. She reminds me completely of Baby Jill. We have a home movie of Jill running from one end of the living room to the other, taking knobs off the television, unscrewing the lid of a jar of Vaseline, unfolding blankets, knocking over piles of books. Jane is just the same! She wants to know if she can lift up a coffee cup, take all the boxes off a shelf, start the rocking chair rocking, unfold laundry. All this is accomplished with a maximum of laughter, squealing, running to you for hugs, taking her ponytails out. She is, as you will have gathered, completely perfect in every way. So Avery and I took her down to the trampoline, but that was too nerve-wracking with just the two of us to keep her from careening off the edges. Easier to kick a ball back and forth. She and John, before he left, played forever in the hose water. She had her first popsicle, covering herself from head to toe in raspberry lemonade. We went to the pool and she dashed about in the baby-level water, and scrubbed down a utility door with a wet paintbrush.

Finally Uncle John had to be driven to the bus stop to go back to New York, sob, and after that I saw what life with two children is like, and it wasn't particularly pretty! I just don't have the knack of talking on a nine-year-old level with one person while cutting food up into toddler-appropriate bites and making dinner for myself and folding laundry! But all too soon it was bedtime for Jane, and then we were back to boring old us.

Next day we took Jane to the library, this being the easiest place to entertain her, I thought, on a brutally hot day. Well, it was an eye opener! She has a way of saying "Groo bee [something]," which means "Great big whatever," and she found LOTS of "Great big books" to whip out of the shelves, peruse with a lightning-quick glance, toss to the side, and move on to the next. Avery and I ran after her at first replacing them on the shelves and then finally just leaving them on tables for the lackluster spotty shelf girl to attend to. Jane kept waving her plump little hand at this paragon of library labor, saying, "I" [for "hi"] over and over. The girl just didn't tumble. Finally I said, "Please say hi back to her," and the girl muttered something that Jane interpreted as an endearment and we were able to leave.

We decided that an ice cream cone was the order of the day and ended up at Denmo's, where Jane reached for her ice cream cone by the dip, not the cone! The lady at the counter was ready with a dish instead. Not having a sweet tooth, I had some shrimp instead, and Jane alternated dipping her spoon into her ice cream and into my tartar sauce! An equal-opportunity dipper. We reached home just as Avery's London friend Sophia and her mother Susan arrived for an overnight stay, and then we all played with Jane, until her mammoth afternoon nap. I forgot what that was like. For about an hour you're happy to accomplish things, then you start looking at your watch and missing the baby, then after two hours you're pretending to hear her every five minutes until finally she gives in and gets up! Jill and Joel turned up, to Jane's delight, and we all went to the pool. It's fun to be there with the cutest baby among all the babies.

Susan made the best ever, most authentic risotto I have ever had. Joel kindly honored my request for fresh thyme from his private crop, and the leaves and stems were so tender that they could be snipped right in, no picking over required. Here's Susan's method:

Susan's Simple Risotto
(serves four)

3 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps butter
1 cup risotto (arborio) rice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 white onion, finely minced
1/2 orange pepper, chopped
6 button mushrooms, chopped
3-ish cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
salt to taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry)

Melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic and onions till slightly softened, then toss rice until all is coated in oil. Saute peppers and mushrooms slightly, then begin adding chicken stock, stirring over low heat and absorbing the stock gradually. It will take about 30 minutes to get the rice to a slightly chewy stage, with a nice thick liquidy consistency to the whole dish. Do not worry if you don't add all the stock. When the risotto seems ready to eat, stir in the cream, and 1/2 cup cheese, and snip the thyme over the dish. Serve with the additional cheese on the side. The key is to stir nearly constantly, adding the stock slowly.

Then, sadly, the baby was taken home, and we were left just adults and old kids, with no one to rush around giggling or saying crazy things, or pushing her finger into the palm of her hand in her baby sign language for "help," when she heard an ambulance siren. Jane is simply divine.

13 August, 2006

HI-atus















So.

Didja miss me?

We've been here a month and it has been an absolute joy to be back.

"Back." What to say? Can't say "home," because that's supposed to be London. But it feels like home. This picture is taken from the hotel room where John's living this summer during the weeks, where we had a romantic rendezvous a couple of weeks ago. Bright lights, big city for sure. There are so many differences between London and New York. Number one may well be sheer height. The buildings are so towering, one feels so tiny on the streets. I always forget that, living in Tribeca where everything is London height, but in midtown, namely 34th Street and 8th Avenue where this shot was taken, it's all the Great White Way, and people are dwarfed. And probably dwarfs, too, if it comes to that. That's another difference. Oddity, strangeness, anything goes, is the norm in New York, which I almost forgot. Not that London isn't international, cosmopolitan, etc. But New York? Times Square? Midtown, in July? Just plain WEIRD. And it's all normal.

So we've been back. It's been a huge roller coaster. I may well need a vacation from my vacation because we've been a moveable feast, for sure. I have to admit to a huge identity crisis: whenever I see a photo, on a drama promo on TV, of the New York skyline, I feel a huge surge of "that's my home, that's my town." On the other hand, when all the recent craziness happened with travel, and starting from London, I thought, "THAT'S my home, that's my town, and how dare anyone violate it?" A bit of a conundrum. Of course, only in my life would my loyalties be divided between the two towns on earth with competing BIG RED X marks on them for international intrigue. Sigh. I love both my towns.

I'm going to start another post so we can show another couple of photos!