15 January, 2007

triumph at the Pony Club Quiz!

Yes, Avery's team in the under-12s won their "Area 12" group of the Pony Club Quiz! Area 12 is, I found out through assiduous googling, the "Northern Home Counties" of England, which includes all of London. As Venetia, head girl at Ross Nye Stables put it, "Avery won it for us!" She was positively jumping up and down like a jack-in-the-box last evening when we went to collect her at the stable, a little bouncing figure in the dark, clutching her blue rosette. "We won, we won!" So she and her little companions are all set to move on to the next round, which I think is all of Area 12, and then Regionals, near to Easter. Well done! That barn has been incredible for her self-esteem, not to mention leg muscles. As she fell asleep she murmured, "I never had anybody do a three cheers for me before. Hip, hip, HOORAY... for Avery!"

So she tripped off to school this morning with her rosette, and I'm sure she will have plenty of stories to tell.

I myself have not been idle. Did I tell you I finally got all the horrible ugly hair color from last spring cut off? Yes, on Coco's mother's recommendation I headed off to Shepherd's Bush and under the ministrations of Radina, got all the bad color gone, a new nice, subtle blonde-ish color put on in highlights, and a nice, if too-short cut. Took years off my appearance, I have to say. Plus they were terribly nice, and all just like characters out of a British television show. Very homey, lots of in-house gossip, advice given on all subjects from school choice to the best way to cook sea bream, and a little glimpse into the teenage years to come. Radina told me wisely, "Kristen, if your daughter comes to you at any time, come the teen years, and wants to do something with her hair, just you let her do it. Because it's either that or piercings, and hair GROWS BACK." As I sat there, outlasting all the other ladies who had less demanding hair problems, a nice English lady sat down to have a shampoo. Her hairdresser asked if she'd managed to get that birthday present off to her son in time. "No, I found out it would cost the price of the book to get it to Washington in time, so there's just a card in the post, now. I would have liked him to have a little something to open, on the day, but he's 42 this year and perhaps it won't matter so much." Oh, it made me homesick for my own mum! I'm turning 42 as well, this year, but I still want a present from my mum on the day. Just so she knows. Now it's public.

Then today I ventured off to a shop a friend has been urging me to visit ever since we arrived last year, but for some reason, some things just go undone until one day it's absolutely imperative to find roasted almonds in bulk, and poof! Off goes the little lightbulb about where my friend said to get nuts in bulk. And everything else exotic and Lebanese, as it transpires. Green Valley is the place to go if you want the most delicious lamb sandwich you will ever have, called a shawarma: in-house just-baked pita bread, stuffed with homemade pickles, peppers, onions, carrots and shavings of roast lamb, which I then topped with their yoghurt sauce with cucumbers and dill. Warm, delicious, and very filling. John of course inhaled his in the time it took me to lift the sandwich to my mouth, so I think he was pretty happy as well. I had such fun trawling the aisles. Every kind of olive you can imagine, and dozens of different sorts of chick peas, and many brands of tahini (I can't imagine why you'd need more than one, but then I'm not Lebanese). Really high quality produce (I bought a couple of guava, thinking surely they give juice?), seemingly hundreds of varieties of baklava, nougat and other sweet things that did not tempt me, but might you. Spices I had never heard of, like "lime powder," can't imagine what that's for, but some cook might not be able to exist without it and is searching Blogger for someone who can tell you where to buy it. There you go. And a lovely new beverage (because I'll try anything that smacks of a way to drink water that doesn't taste like water), made from hibiscus flowers. Becky would laugh so much, as she does every day at school pickup when I show up with a new bottle and either a thumbs up or resounding thumbs down. But do go to Green Valley if like me you adore food shopping.

Oh, and a place to visit if you need gifts. We went before Christmas and I meant to describe this shop right away, but the brochure found its way to the bottom of the pile of things on my desk that need attending. It's called The Big Tomato Company, in St. Helen's Gardens in West Kensington, and what they do is put funny expressions, epithets, nicknames, you name it, on coffee mugs, utensil containers, serving platters, everything. One of my favorites was the toast rack that read "nice rack." I bought "loser" for John, because of his obsessive rantings at bad drivers: "You're a big fat loser!" And I wanted "dark horse" for Avery, but they were sold out. I bought "footballer's wife" for Alyssa, and "drama queen" for Annabelle. You could get a teapot with "not for all the tea in china," or a coffee cup with "yummy mummy." The proprietors were there and very keen to chat. They've cracked the American market already, but John and I feel confident they could have a fabulous success in, say, Nolita in New York. Go, do, and indulge yourself in something funny.

Well, we're off to see another house, in Notting Hill. The one in Bedford Square fell through because a ginormous developer turned up with cash and the ability to close in ten days, so John is very sad. Something will turn up. Maybe it will turn out there's a highly lucrative quiz show called "Who Wants To Be A Stablehand?" and Avery will be the savior of us all...

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