Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

October, 2011

October, 2011
Chess in Lausanne, Switzerland

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guests, Modeling and Plenty of Art

November 15, 2009

It’s Sunday evening and the smell of pop corn is in the air as my husband happily tunes into an American football game.

Really we could be home…

My parents arrived yesterday, tired and relieved to have been spit out at the arrivals area after squeezing through the airline/immigration/luggage process.
Apparently they left a frigid Montana (think icy roads, below zero temps and a dead deer on the road) to arrive in rainy, windy (but relatively warm) London.

Ava and I made our way out to Heathrow via the tube (spending our time playing two truths and a dare en route, I might add) and whisked them home in a cab.

We then took a walk through our neighborhood, had coffee at my favorite French café and hightailed it home when it got dark (which is now at 4:30).

Today they (the visitors) elected to have a low key morning, then headed off to the Winston Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms with Joe while I delivered our eldest to a birthday party.

Incidentally, the birthday guest has decided we need to take Joe to the party spot – a paint your-own-pottery place (again, we could be in the U.S. doing that too) – for his birthday. No doubt he’ll enjoy spending his big day painting Christmas ornaments.

While Claire painted and ate cake, Ava and I wandered through West Hampstead (which has a lovely café scene; we’d ended up there accidentally once…too ambitious a walk on my part). This time we’d arrived by bus, then wandered a bit until we found the right café: nice buzz but not too loud, a table with bench perched overlooking most other customers in the place and, the most important thing, a three scoop ice cream dessert for A.

So that was our weekend in a nutshell. But let me rewind.

Since Halloween the highlights have included:

A talk by Khris Nedam, who led her 6th grade class to start a school in Afghanistan. She was delightful to listen to as she shared insights on the country’s war-torn history, life in typical villages, education, the school that she was instrumental in developing, etc.

Here’s the scoop on her school:

In 1998, a group of 6th graders in Northville, MI founded Kids 4 Afghan Kids, a Michigan-based non-profit organization. Its goal is to re-establish educational facilities for boys and girls in Afghanistan and to address the desperate health conditions in which the children and their families live. In three years, these students raised enough money under the guidance of their teacher and witnessed -- via videotapes, internet and cell phones -- the construction of a six-room school, a medical clinic, an orphanage, a bakery / kitchen, a guest house and community well for the residents of Wonkhai Valley, a mountainous area three hours southwest of Kabul.

I was able to attend a speech she made at a friend’s home, and later in the week she spent some time at the American School, speaking with students and to parents about her efforts. A book sale will be held at ASL later in the school year to raise money for her efforts.

On Nov. 3 I got to attend Claire’s presentation of a book about hummingbirds. Each 2nd grader wrote and produced a book complete with cover, table of contents, pictures, captions, etc. And each was about a type of bird. Very well done!

I also got to watch as Alan, the handyman for our property, painted parts of our walls damaged by water (voracious rainstorm). I mention this because the same walls are once again in a state of disrepair from this past week’s deluge…

Somewhere in early November I was in heaven (a.k.a. Whole Foods’ fresh soup department on an empty stomach). Their potato/leek soup is out of this world.

On Nov. 5 I met up w/ the Jane Austen ladies and we discussed Persuasion, which is my current Austen favorite. In another 10 years it will be Sense and Sensibility or Emma, no doubt. Austen novels seem to morph in how they’re enjoyed and interpreted as we move through time. (The world according to yours truly.)

That same evening I had my first opportunity to visit the Courtauld, which is SO fabulous.

The Courtauld Gallery is one of the finest small museums in the world. Its collection stretches from the early Renaissance into the 20th century and is particularly renowned for the unrivalled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.

A group from ASL was invited to a reception there, so we met at the school and were bused to the place, wandered around looking at great art w/ champagne in our hands, then were turned over to 2 curators for in-depth discussions of permanent and visiting exhibits. Great art, great space, great presentations by both gentlemen.

On the 6th I had a lovely lunch w/ a friend at Soffra, a middle eastern restaurant in St. Johns Wood. All flavors were fabulous.

And that evening I managed, after more than an hour of waiting, tube hopping and walking, to meet up w/ a friend in town on business from Charlotte. Both victims of screwy Jubilee line transportation challenges, we eventually met up at the Tate Modern, the national gallery of international modern art. Located in London, it is one of the family of four Tate galleries which display selections from the Tate Collection. The Collection comprises the national collection of British art from the year 1500 to the present day, and of international modern art.

After wandering around there getting another art fix (some great stuff, every once in a while some really weird, twisted stuff too), we headed up to the 7th floor for a great dinner overlooking the River Thames at a great table. So nice to catch up in such a memorable, pleasant environment.

On Nov. 7 Ava and I enjoyed her school’s Halloween party (seems so wrong to be doing Halloween in November, but whatever). The kids all seemed to have a great time with Mr. Lolly in charge of entertainment (think DJ, magician, lollipop purveyor, child entertainer used by Kate Moss etc.).

Sugared up, Ava left happy, scooting home dressed in pink ballerina costume and wings.

Later in the day our American friends (same in town on business types) joined us for dinner here, then we headed off with them to see “We Will Rock You” again. I think I enjoyed it even more the 2nd time.

And Sunday I had the pleasure of going to my favorite clothing store to try on clothes for a fashion show!!!

I got (happily) sucked into being a model by the shop owner, who knows me well enough (to Joe’s delight of course).

So I spent an hour or so with her, putting together various looks – casual to dressy – with fun hats, tall boots, cool belts, etc. – to model on Tuesday.

And Tuesday was great fun; I got to the site of the show in time to help unload bag after bag of outfits/accessories, put racks together, and settle us into our dressing room -- the library of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue.

With one small mirror for five women, we donned our first outfits and sashayed around the hall as shop owner Christian talked about the clothes. After two walks up, down and around the catwalk, we stepped off for the next model and made for that Jewish library like the place was on fire to change into the next outfit. Scrambles for necklaces, hats, the right bag, etc. “Any tags sticking out? Is the hat at the right angle? More lipstick?” What fun to be with a group of frantically happy women prepping for the stage…

The only downside to this whole deal (well there are two): I wanted all the clothes I showed off (and most of what the store has that I didn’t model) and now every woman I see on a regular basis knows where I shop.

I did chuckle at many of the comments generated by my appearance there, which included: “I had no idea you were a professional model.” (Somewhere I missed a calling…clearly they were being polite but I’ll take it. Though I must admit I’m too old and not bony enough for that job.)

"I didn’t know models ate cookies." (well hello, do I look like someone who’s going to pass by dessert just because I made a one off appearance on a make shift catwalk?!?)

What fun what fun!

The following day I had a lovely coffee w/ a friend who’d been in France for a couple of weeks; we tried a new coffee shop where the hot chocolate is like liquid brownie.

I also zipped off to an Italian lunch wherein a food writer presented various vinegars and olive oils (we had great fun taste testing).

And then, in a bittersweet way, our grand finale Austen class ended with a bus trip to Bath. There we spent some time at the Jane Austen Center, had a great pub lunch, then were shown around town by a Jane Austen guide. (Jane lived in Bath for several years, and many of her novels have references to Bath). Our guide was fabulous. A lovely city, a lovely day out.

Friday I scrambled to a book group meeting to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (good book, quick read, written in letter format so it was unique). The hostess made a lovely sweet potato quiche to parallel the book title.
In the evening our neighbors came over for drinks, then joined us for dinner at a neighborhood Thai restaurant. Nice way to end the week.

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
Largest mosque in India