19 December, 2007

stop the train, please!














I remember last year at this time I felt that the world was spinning much too fast. It must be to do with the age of my child, and therefore the myriad activities that spread their tentacles into our adult lives, which without her would involve mostly laundry, scooping the litterbox and blogging. Suffice to say that life with an 11-year-old with many diverse interests fills up very quickly indeed. It's nearly all good, it's just... too much! Tonight we are all exhausted, and packing still beckons. Tomorrow we go to Connecticut for Christmas! But first, let me tell you about the last few crazy days. Some of it might be stuff you'd want to do in London next holiday season, but mostly I want to record it all in hopes that next year I'll remember how insane everything was and SLOW DOWN. My bet is, however, on an exact repeat in 2008.

Well, after my fabulous encounter with Matthew on Monday, the week progressed to morning rehearsals at All Souls church for the afternoon carol service. I have to say "service," because this austere terms explains why we can't CLAP which I find terrible. Especially for the little littles, who seem so puzzled at the end of their performances to face... silence! The rehearsal went very smoothly with applause (a rehearsal!) from Mrs D and Miss C, and we felt very good about it! Then some Christmas shopping to fill in the hour or so between rehearsal and our lunch together. And a tip for you all? Do NOT go to the St George's Hotel restaurant for lunch! Ever. It is, as was reputed, the most gorgeous view of what I suppose you'd call The Greater Marylebone Metropolitan Area, you could see for miles, but the scallops were, in a word, inedible, and other ladies' tomato soup looked completely forgettable. Sorry, but standards are standards.

Thence to the performance, and the entire concert was just gorgeous. From the tiny littles barely able to squeak out "It's a Baby," to the senior choir and violinists so impressive, and our own mothers' song, it was very touching and lovely. Lots of tissues needed on all sides. Finally out, to the school for everyone to gather together backpacks, change clothes, and off with Jamie and her mother, plus Anna and Ellie, to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland!

Now, as bitter cold as it was, I'd definitely go back. A beautiful sort of London Eye ferris wheel thingy (too scary for me, but John said it was gorgeous), a very nice carousel, a couple of mildly scary rides and a nice German market with ornaments and other stocking stuffers. But COLD! And we could not get tickets for the skating rink, but from the report from on high, it was much too crowded for real skating anyway. A word to the wise.

The next day dawned so early! Avery off to the last half day of school, and I for some last-minute Christmas shopping, then picking her up and dashing off to lunch at the beloved Mandarin Kitchen with Avery's school friend Sophia and her mother Susan. Delicious, and I tried to keep my mind from the fact that I was having dinner... there! That night. A request from Becky's husband Mark. From lunch to the skating rink at Queensway to watch a truly needle-in-the-eyeball performance of "Sleeping Beauty," performed by that saddest of athletes: the middle-aged, average skater. I just wouldn't! I learned what I love about skating: watching my child skate, or mind-boggling professionals. No one in between, sorry! But the second half (one and a half hours into it, eergh, my feet have never been so cold) was much better: very short renditions of popular songs by lots of different skaters, very impressive and fun to watch. And most important, inspirational to the girls. Still, WAS I glad when it came to an end! We raced home to get ready to drop Avery at Anna's and go out to dinner with her parents, and again a simply lovely evening. Brilliant conversation about all the places they have lived, all the places we have lived, visited, etc. And another very late night!

Up this morning to discuss all this, and then get ready for... the Olympia Horse Show! I remembered to pack enough antihistamines to get me through, and the show-jumping was stupendous. The crowds at the shopping! The Shetland Pony races were adorable, the dog agility hilarious, and the Cossacks very impressive. By the time Avery and Becky's girls had given their all to the charity raffle and come away with several completely unnecessary stuffed ponies, and the Christmas finale had taken place, the noise level was unbelievable. We came home in a sort of daze of fun, admiration, and also a growing sense of scratchiness. Time for some relaxation. And I can report a culinary experiment gone very, very right. Give it a try.

Roast Chicken Without You
(serves four with soup leftovers)


1 large roasting chicken, preferably organic
1 tsp each: dried oregano, basil and thyme leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 lemon, halved
3 tbsps butter

Place your chicken on a sheet of tinfoil in a large baking dish. Sprinkle with herbs, pour wine and stock around, stuff with lemon and smear with butter. Place in a 100 degree centigrade (280 degrees fahrenheit) oven and GO AWAY. Leave it for SIX HOURS. Even more, probably. Come home, baste it. Pour the juices into a gravy separator, whisk a dusting of flour into the juices in a skillet and add a tablespoon of cream. Heat through. Serve the sliced roast chicken with mashed potatoes and red peppers that you've cooked down in olive oil until they're caramel-y. So comforting.

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Well, we're packed. We're still irritable, a bit, which I put down to too much activity, all of it wonderful, but... too much. Time for a good night's sleep, travel tomorrow, and arrival at the bliss that is Red Gate Farm. Merry Christmas everyone!

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