Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

October, 2011

October, 2011
Chess in Lausanne, Switzerland

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Success

Yes I know, it’s too early for Thanksgiving. However, since we’ll be eating cod or some Welsh specialty on Thanksgiving proper, we decided to have our big American feast a few days early.

So yesterday was all about food.

I spent last week trying to get a headstart on the meal deal, plus I think the process is great fun to stretch out a bit…searching out ingredients, ordering food, perusing recipes (one time, early in my marriage, my husband incredulously asked if I was actually reading a cookbook. And yes, I was.).

This was all fun and games until the turkey business went pear-shaped (love that British expression). First I’d thought perhaps I’d do something radically different and go with pouissins (fancy name for small chickens). I.e. six of these little chicks for our six adults and one standard chicken for the five kids.

We’d extended our early T’giving food plans to our Australian and Texan neighbors. Who doesn’t like a happy secular holiday with plenty of food?)

The reasoning here – about poussins, not Texans and Australians --was to avoid the challenge of 1) locating a turkey (they are to be had here but are costly, many places require advance ordering and they often aren’t available until two days before T’giving. Plus I don’t have a big oven here. That said, it’s not a tinker toy (one would think we all have ovens the size of toasters here, the way some ex-pats exaggerate about the inadequacy of their appliances. Or maybe they had ovens on steroids at home?).

Anyway, it is prudent to make sure the bird will fit in the oven while also allowing the oven heat to circulate properly, thus helping to ensure a properly cooked hunk of poultry.

But then I noted the poussins and chicken were going to eat all my oven space and then some, plus I’d have to fuss over 7 birds rather than one.

So turkey ended up being the logical choice, and a 10 or 12 pounder would work, I figured.

Next mission: finding one. Three stores later, no birds available until next week.


Ocado to the rescue. Now don’t let the word get out, but (shock of all shocks) I purchased a frozen bird. This was after I picked out a lovely free range 12 pound animal that had purportedly enjoyed a fantastic life wandering the fields with his 10 favorite female friends, eating a splendorous fruit, grain and nut diet. Said bird would then have been humanely sacrificed and rushed to my kitchen for a splendid T’giving feast. Not only would his happy, healthy, carefree life have been cut short gently, he would of course be juicy, flavorful, chemical-free etc etc.

As I moved toward the “purchase” button I read the fine print: available in December.
Scratch the homespun heirloom happy go lucky turkey.

What was available in the 12 pound range was a frozen bird. No details on how he lived, but let’s get real here: turkey isn’t the world’s sexiest meat. (I’m having vague recollections of the turkey farm I toured in Germany eons ago. The experience would convert most to beef, pork, venison, squid, anything but poultry. But that’s another story.)

While that was off-putting, it didn’t really turn me off turkey. I just find it’s a bit bland (that word just says it all, doesn’t it?). And in fact I feel quite vindicated on my feelings about turkey, having listened to my foodie program earlier today (Splendid Table). The program featured a chef who, when asked how he does T’gving, said he avoids it, roasting a big chicken, stuffed with fabulous chestnut stuffing, instead.

HA! I am not the only one who thinks turkey is overrated. Of course, if you smother it in really good gravy…

Now I must say I can’t believe I’m telling the world that I happily settled for a frozen bird, but the reality was I was a bit desperate, plus quite pleased with the price. And Ocado could deliver two days before I needed it, plenty of time to thaw the thing.

This delivery business wasn’t smooth sailing, though. I had carefully orchestrated delivery from 3 and 4 that day because I had a Tudor outing at the Nat’l Portrait Gallery from 10 to 2 ish, then had to get back here to get something accomplished and await the grocery man. (Let’s face it, I’m behind on everything due to Tudor outings and such.)

He showed up just before 4, dropped the bags and ran. I ignored said bags for 20 minutes, then started putting things away. Only to find no turkey. Someone’s brown and serve rolls instead. GREAT.

In a panic – and rushing out the door to collect Ava – I called Ocado. On hold.
Caller # 5 in the queu.

Collected Ava. Got disconnected. Frantically re-dialed. Now caller 3 in the queu. Short window before Claire retrieval and finally someone picked up only to tell me she’d call back after doing some reconnaissance. As I was about to walk over to ASL, she phoned to say the driver was again en route, this time w/ the turkey. Dilemna. Claire. Turkey. AHHH. Friend Kelly to the rescue. She happened by to pick up something up as I was in my state of frenzy and took over Claire pick up.

Ten minutes later, my bird was indeed swapped out for the rolls.


Now that it’s 48 hours past the feast, I have to say that was one of the best turkeys I’ve ever eaten. Whether he never saw the light of day, was pumped up with hormone infested pellets, crowded in with a bunch of birds he hated or whatever, he made a mighty good feast. Juicy, tender and flavorful (this is coming from a serious turkey skeptic).

It also helped to not over-cook said bird and to slather him up w/ butter, salt and pepper, then a maple syrup/black pepper glaze (this was my 2010 experiment and I’ve already committed it to my recipe book).

The glaze contributed to the best gravy I personally have ever concocted. (Drippings plus malt vinegar, of all things, the roux and some chicken broth…fabulous.)
Everything else was tasty too – cornbread/sausage stuffing (with my recent favorite cornbread recipe), homemade rolls – Mom’s buttery sweet roll recipe, those cranberries I’d cranked on earlier, mashed potatoes with plenty of real Irish butter (yes, it is better), Melissa’s green bean casserole (it’s not T’giving without the French fried onion casserole), sweet potatoes with brown sugar/pecan topping, pecan pie, a big green salad w/ feta that, even on day 2 of the feast, I still haven’t found room to fit in, either on my plate or in my tummy.

A thoroughly fabulous T’giving with great company and cocktails to start and finish, thx to the Texans.

I hope, as you read this, that you’re eagerly anticipating my favorite holiday, and that you glory in your turkey, frozen or fresh, free range or “housed” (sounds better than caged, right?).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Comfort food

Written last Wednesday. One would think I could write and post same day, but apparently not.

Ok so what does comfort food mean to you? For me it’s polenta, warm, just the right amount of salty, just the right amount of thick/chewy but not chewy, with just the right amount of good Parmesan and BUTTER. None of that substitute stuff.

This I subjected my kids to tonight. They actually also love it. Put a grain in front of them and they’re happy. My husband, not so much. His idea of comfort food is probably something different. Midwestern meatloaf and mashed potatoes, likely?

When I think comfort food I don’t think mac n’ cheese, though for many that ranks. (Maybe my brother still fondly reflects on it; he kept Kraft in business for a while. Today I think he tends more toward a really good steak and my mother’s incredibly perfect seasoned salad. This is nothing more than an olive oil/vinaigrette mixture w/ just the right amount of seasoning, but somehow no one else gets it perfect.)

What else ranks on my comfort list…I would have to say oxtail soup with barley (again, my mom’s). It’s really rough when you grow up with a REALLY good cook. I won’t even get started on her pie crust. Or potato salad.

Do not ask me how I felt a need to extrapolate on polenta and barley soup; maybe it’s because I’m consumed with Thanksgiving. Today I had a foodie heaven day. I started at Whole Foods, where you leave (I should say I left) with a SMALL brown bag in exchange for 26 pounds. OUCH.

These cranberries better be good.

But I did so enjoy perusing the aisles with the people stocking them (9 a.m. is a great Whole Foods time), though there aren’t many samples out. So if you’re diet obsessed, go then.

From Whole Foods I moved on to a Thai cooking class, wherein the chef cooked up Thai comfort good (hence my digression. I knew there must be a connection somewhere).
Her comfort food was an incredibly good curry chicken served over coconut rice. I could get used to this.

Then I collected Claire and made DECADENT (and I do mean decadent) brownies. 80 percent dark chocolate. Big eggs. Plenty of REALLY good butter.

You’d think with all this food talk I’d weigh 200 pounds. Not to worry. Even in my limping state I get plenty of activity schlepping around London, usually carrying at least 10 pounds worth of groceries, kid stuff, books, the like. Plus Sam at pilates is trying to kill me so I haven’t many calories to spare.

We moved on from the really good butter in the really decadent brownies to conjuring up cranberry sauce (with those whole foods cranberries that cost a million dollars). And no, I don’t do the jellied stuff out of the can. Once I year I crave cranberries and given the infrequency, they better be the real deal.

Tomorrow: head start on the cornbread stuffing. You know the drill. No stove top here, sister.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How do you wash a tie?

That’s the topic of the morning, as Ava came home with applesauce on her tie. (This would be a critical component of the Abercorn uniform, which I must say, was tied successfully by yours truly yesterday.)

This tieing of the tie was somewhat of an accomplishment given

1) her father typically does it…but hard to reach across the Atlantic this week, therein leaving me in charge of one crisp, proper knot. You can see I’m stretching for descriptors on properly tied ties.

2) I don’t have much tie expertise.

And 3) Tie-tying under the duress of morning mayhem takes the process to a new – and not necessarily good – level. (Some days it’s all we can do just to get out the door in something other than our underwear, let alone ramp it up on accessories.)

Getting back to my question of the hour, I tried sponging; I’ll get back to you on my level of success. Or not; somehow I doubt you’re sitting on the edge of your chair on this one.

As for other mundane topics, ever ponder light switches? Normally I don’t bother, either, but this weekend I had the opportunity. Why, for instance, doesn’t the switch closest at hand turn on the lamp similarly…closest at hand?

It’s a Seinfeld sort of thing, I suppose.

Anyway, I’d been laying awake at the fine Ramada Inn Tunbridge Wells, trying not to wake up my two sleeping beauties, pondering all the things I haven’t yet done (not things like writing the world’s greatest novel or learning to scuba…though the first holds appeal, the second none whatsoever). The list running through my mind was more along the lines of Thanksgiving menus, ironing, ordering school clothes.

Tired of my ramblings, I hit the nearest light switch, which lit the whole place up like a fire. The next one lit the kids’ side, even though they can’t reach said switch from their bed. The third hit the light over the mirror and TV. And the last one – a long reach from little old me – nailed my lamp. Hmmph.

Similarly, at home the light in the patio is governed by a switch in the living room, as far from the light as you can get and still remain in the living room.
And then there are two light upstairs that are governed by one switch; I’ve yet to understand why, when its sister switch could do one of the jobs…

You really can write about nothing. Maybe Seinfeld was also created at 6 a.m. without coffee.

As for mid-October onward…

York? I wrote a diatribe on this trip (great town in northern England which we as a family thoroughly enjoyed a few weeks ago. I'll regurgitate my prose at a later date; it takes some time to decode chicken scratch).


With a little extra time on our hands upon our return, Claire and I met up with friends for an outing to the Natural History Museum and its Amazonia exhibit – a one room wonder. The exhibit brought nature and art together through abstract paintings, photography and sculpture (i.e. works that resembled bones with splotches of color, extreme close ups of nature photos, etc.).

Also during our museum visit we lunched and checked out the bugs. I'm not sure if it's best to check them out before, thereby putting a damper on the appetite, or after, which could provoke indigestion...

The most striking thing about this particular Natural History Museum visit was our discovery of a new entrance (the building is huge but apparently I hadn’t been imaginative enough to get beyond the main entrance, generally featuring a line out to the sidewalk).

This new way in didn’t have even a glimpse of a line and it opened a whole new world of natural history to us. I maintain you could live in London all your life, hit two or three museums per week and still never cover it all.

Upon return to routine that week I fit in an India lunch with the American School London’s international group. This is an organization open to all ASL parents, its goal to provide international experiences – through food, culture, art, learning – to the community. I think it’s a very valuable organization, given ASL can lean toward being a “mini-America” experience unless you push outside the boundaries.

The culinary arm of the group is particularly interesting (the foodie in my surfaces). This lunch was at an Indian woman’s home, with demonstrations of how to prepare homecooked Indian food. Naturally the dishes are less complex, less heavy, less intensely spicy than many restaurants throw at you. It was all very good, though I do like Indian food with some serious HEAT!

On the theatre side, I took myself out with a group of ladies to see “Flashdance.” Flashback to high school! As is everything I’ve seen on the West End, it was very well done, but the male lead was a little light. That is, he could have been taller, darker, more handsome and with a deeper voice – could I get any more critical this morning?

Perhaps I should just say he didn’t come off quite as heroic as the movie version.
Other members of our party echoed similar opinions, someone noting that the lead in Dirty Dancing was considerably less Patrick Swayze-ish. She said it ruined the experience for her. I prefer to herald PS in that role so will pass on DD at the theatre.

Further to the art scene, a few of us gathered for the Treasures of Budapest exhibit at the Royal Arts Academy. Very thorough representation, it seemed to me (and according to the Royal Academy):

This exhibition showcases the breadth and wealth of one of the finest collections in Central Europe. The exhibition features over 200 works and includes paintings, drawings and sculpture from the early Renaissance to the twentieth century. Selected works by artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, El Greco, Rubens, Goya, Manet, Monet, Schiele, Gauguin and Picasso are on display, many of which have not previously been shown in the UK.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest houses the state collection of international art works in Hungary and includes the Esterházy collection, acquired by the Hungarian state in 1871. The collection began in the seventeenth century but expanded during the rule of Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy (1765 – 1833) who was responsible for developing the fine collection of Old Master paintings and drawings which will be showcased in the exhibition. One of the highlights of the exhibition will be Raphael's 'Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist', 1508 (known as The Esterházy Madonna).

This perusal of art, followed by lunch at Fortnum & Mason, made for an extraordinary day out.

And now I'm onto making toast and peeling kids off the bed. Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Sept 29 – Oct 1 found me, with the Alice Leader contingency of ladies, catching a train to Dorset…

My first order of business was to limp to the tube, meet up w/ the group at Waterloo and watch the rain fall as we headed coastal, toward Weymouth. Lovely country and a great day to be watching the world go by.

Upon arrival at the train station we marched off with our suitcases; our trusty bus whisked us off to the Wise Man pub in West Stafford and we had pub grub in a warm, woody setting. The local cider: good (it’s apparently cider making time here so we naturally got on board with the seasons). The local chili: not so good. Who does chili on rice, anyway?

From The Wise Man we hit the Dorset County Museum, which was supposed to have plenty of Hardy items to peruse. However, our tour guide apologetically noted X was missing, Y they couldn’t find, Z was under protection, etc.

We all had a good chuckle at their expense.

Then off to Max Gate, Hardy’s home, which he designed. It’s a Gothic looking, stately but not particularly grand home. There one of the very elderly actresses who played Tess’ sister in one of the theatre productions done during Hardy’s time was present. She couldn’t hear well but shared memories of rehearsing in the parlor. The Swiss woman in our group visited with her for a bit, spending most of the conversation trying to convince her she wasn’t German. In fact, she’s from the French part of Switzerland, so really not inclined to jump on board w/ the German business.

The room in which this little old lady held audience was one of a few we could tour (ok, one of two if you didn’t count the entry way). In the other room we were given a welcome by a Hardy expert, who recited some of his poetry, bringing it alive with his Dorset accent. What I remember best was the old sofa on the far side of the room; someone expired upon it 100 years ago.

Then we were off to the Yalbury Cottage (at least my faction of the group; others were chauffeured to their respective hotels.). Our cottage was in a quiet, rural spot with cows and ponies frolicking in the pastures behind.

My window looked out upon this pastoral scene, which felt straight out of a Hardy novel. He captures the essence of the landscape and weather beautifully in his prose.

After some re-group time we met for dinner at the Yalbury, which I have to say has a great chef. I’d stay there for the food alone. Short commute, too. Apparently said chef used to work for 4 Seasons as an executive chef.

At the moment I can’t remember what I ate (unbelievable, isn’t it). Of course it is a month later.

Ah yes…now I recall. Scallop starter, vegetable and spelt pie for my main (sounds so healthy but believe me it packed a wallop of really good butter) and apple flan to finish. Perfect for the season.

I do remember the conversation at our table…it went from “why are our kids taking the tube for their field trips?” (vs. busing, why 3rd grade and not the older/potentially more seasoned 5th graders, for example.) I, for what it’s worth, didn’t really get concerned about losing my daughter on the tube. One, I guess we’ve already been down that path and am now de-sensitized? (thankfully a short-lived fright but all ended up fine), 2) Claire’s teacher is WAY on top of things and 3) the 3rd grade crowd seems to have enough acumen to sort themselves out (probably because ASL has drilled the protocol into them should they get separated from the group, tube or no tube).

Ok back to the table conversation. Yes so it ranged from the tube to plastic surgery (re-building of cheekbones – who knew?). As my friend Allison says, I thought you did that through weight loss.

Then we moved on to 3rd grade girls and carbohydrates. This I refuse to make an issue in my humble home.

Oh and this led into obesity in the U.S. Phew doesn’t it sound like we were all a bunch of carpies (is that the right word or am I referring to fish?). Yes, there is an obesity problem there but it’s also a growing problem (no pun intended) here, in India, Mexico, you name it…blame it on Nintendo, TV, internet, McDonalds, laziness, cheese, beer, whatever.

The following day I had a fabulous omelette. I do mean fabulous. Boy that sounds funny right after my paragraph on obesity. LOL.

Then off to Hardy’s childhood home, a lovely little cottage with tiny upstairs rooms. We then went to Bere Regis, famous for its connection to Hardy's novel 'Tess of the d’Urbervilles', first published in 1891, where it is referred to as 'Kingsbere'. (Never mind that he described it as a “half dead townlet.”) We stopped at the church there, lovely with carved roof and Tuberville stained glass window.

Then it was time to eat again (these trips are heavily weighted toward food, again no pun intended). This time: the Greyhound. I think we pre-ordered, then all re-ordered and confused the kitchen, wherein we all passed around some starters and desserts because we didn’t want to add insult to injury. I recall thinking the soup (which I did not order) was quite good.

After all that food we simply had to move, and Alice had arranged two walk options for us. Being a gimp, I opted for the putz around Dorchester – “Far from the Madding Crowd” walk. We hit the points on our map, had time to tool around antiquing and shopping a bit, then slipped back to the hotel for some down time.

In my case, a massage at a room in a very cool inn dating back to the 1500’s. The masseuse was fabulous and doctored up my toe with some homeopathic meds. I’ll try anything to move the healing along (anything except the R-I-C-E treatment at this point, apparently. Don’t worry, my time came.).

Truly a fabulous afternoon – historic walk with friends, nap, massage, bath and dinner, all in the space of a few hours.

Our coach (sounds so Cinderalla doesn’t it? Never mind; it was a bus with a bit of a grouchy driver) whisked (lumbered) us off to dinner, this time at the Blue Vinny. Great name, you think? Another good meal; I seem to recall fish this time.

And on Friday we enjoyed another amazing breakfast before heading off to Stinsford Church. Hardy and his wives are buried in the churchyard, and he was baptized within. I shall probably always recall best Alice swearing like a sailor inside; I can’t remember the story she was recounting but it was most amusing and blasphemous! (I’ve always wanted to use that term!!!)

We then stopped for coffee/tea before hitting the train back to Waterloo. 1) we had a little time to kill and 2) one can never have enough of a warm beverage living here, it seems.

Actually, Szerina and I used our coffee time to go on on a mad, fast paced shopping trip that netted nothing (I was looking for warm slippers to accommodate foot issues. You know as well as I that when you go in search of such specific items they are NO WHERE to be found.).

All too soon we were back on a train homeward bound. Another great Alice Leader adventure!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

India. Or not?!?

I was still in fly high mode after the 13.1 disorganized Run to the Beat race. (I'll go w/ 13.1 because it sounds longer than ½ a marathon. Even better would be the measurement in km but I’m not that good at math and am too lazy to google. That’s wicked bad down to the toes LAZY, isn’t it?).

Well anyway, still in my high flying mode, I recall getting up early the following day set the world on fire (generally that means I've gotten up before everyone else to putz in my kitchen and on my computer. Plus the toe/coffee table accident hadn't yet occurred so I had big plans and no distractions.)

Order of business: make coffee, check email. So while the French press was doing its thing and I was as of yet devoid of caffeine, I was sure the note I opened from my husband did not say he hadn't been let in and was catching a BA flight home in an hour.

How does a tired clean cut, nicely dressed businessman not get allowed into India's India-ness? Last time I saw him he didn't look like much of a threat to the country.

(Frankly I’m the one who occasionally runs around the house in a rave with bedhead. Husband? Not so much. And since he’s in human resources, his diplomacy skills are outstanding (when one is deficient in a category, i.e. self, one does notice these things).

At this point I had coffee, which did not change the content of his note. Hmmm!

So there you have it. Husband turned up exhausted later same day. Apparently he’d been shuffled from small waiting room to small waiting room along with others who couldn’t pass go.

He did manage to be returned to England via business class. A long way to go for nothing but miles…

The following day found me doing the St. Johns Wood walk with the London Walks people. Ironic, isn’t it, that later that day I would slam myself into the coffee table and find walking REALLY a drag.

The SJW walk was good, though the guide took plenty of potshots at the high retail value of homes in the area. Maybe she didn’t make the connection that we were with the St. Johns Wood Women’s Club…a group of women residing in…well, St. Johns Wood.
Then again maybe she enjoyed slamming residents w/ her snide comments?

Nevertheless, a good walk that carried us around the neighborhood to learn about historical events, buildings and famous faces in our back yard.

Some of the highlights:

St John's Wood is a district of north-west London, England, in the City of Westminster, and at the north-west end of Regent's Park. It is approximately 2.5 miles north-west of Charing Cross. Once part of the Great Middlesex Forest, it was later owned by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.

St John's Wood was developed from the early 19th century onwards. It was one of the first London suburbs to be developed with a large amount of low density "villa" housing, as opposed to the terraced housing which was the norm in London up to the 19th century, even in expensive districts. Parts of St John's Wood have been rebuilt at a higher density, but it remains a highly desirable residential district.

St John's Wood is the location of Lord's Cricket Ground, home of Middlesex County Cricket Club and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), and original headquarters of the sport. It is also famous for Abbey Road Studios and the street Abbey Road, where The Beatles recorded, notably the Abbey Road album, the cover of which features the band crossing the road. Paul McCartney has owned a property in the area since the 1960s along with many other famous music and film stars.

The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery has a barracks in St. John's Wood and regularly exercises their horses by parading them through the streets of St. John's Wood.

Chef Clarissa Dickson Wright grew up in St John's Wood, and the former Wrights' home is now home to supermodel Kate Moss. Actor Damian Lewis was born in St John's Wood. The Rolling Stones referenced it in their song "Play With Fire". The director, wit and physician Jonathan Miller was born into a wealthy family in the area. The British World War II flier Douglas Bader was born in St. John's Wood.

I must say I’ve yet to hit a cricket match, but that’s on the list…I believe the 2012 summer Olympics archery events and maybe others will be held at Lord’s, so watch for it on the telly!

As for the Beatles crossing, I step over that much-acclaimed crosswalk at least twice a day, if not more often. Much to the annoyance of many strategizing for the perfect Beatles replicated photo, I’ve walked through plenty of shots. Good thing for photoshop.

Re: Kate Moss. If I’ve seen her, she hasn’t registered. Clearly I don’t read enough People magazine.

As for the royal horses, we do see them regularly and had the opportunity to tour their barracks last year. That’s a must do, especially since the horses will be relocated next year.

More late; I’m fried!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Late September in London: Pilates

Yes, I realize it's now Nov. 1 and I'm still talking about September...stop the clocks!!!

Late September found me discovering pilates, which has become my latest exercise obsession.

I was introduced into this torturous looking program by my dear friend Suzanne, a high energy New Zealander who convinced me to try “beautcamp” pilates.

So I signed up for my first free class (love free, don’t you) and made my way to Bayswater for this experience. I wasn’t sure if this was a mix of cardio and floor/machine exercises or what, but I was game.

10:00 rolled around. No Suzanne. 10:05 no Suzanne. Class took place. No Suzanne. Class ended, no Suzanne. Hmm!

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the class (as much as one can enjoy burning muscles, particularly ones that have languished, untested, for years. In fact I think they were/are MAD that I found them and have since put them through their paces).

I had a great instructor for my first class; Ben walked me through the reformer (imagine a cot covered partly with a matt that moves back and forth, tension adjustable). The thing has a movable bar, useful for push ups and all manner of exercises.

Underneath this machine lie a variety of props to continue the physical torture – weights, boxing gloves (have yet to use those), a pole, ring, etc.).

So far each class has been different as there are a variety of instructors and they change up the routine each time. Some things seem to be consistent throughout – squat-like exercises using the reformer to warm up, lots of planks, tricep press ups, etc.

I've become a regular at this place for the past 6 weeks, sorting out who my favorite instructors are and finessing my form to gain the most benefit (burn). So far I think Vicki and Jordie give the hardest workouts. Vicki’s class leaves me feeling like a wet noodle, in a good way. And Jordie is very good at coaching superb form, plus he’s eye candy.

I had to laugh at a recent exchange I overheard between him and another guy who was taking the class. The guy said he'd been away from pilates for a while since he was busy w/ "Tap Dogs," which I saw on the West End. They were talking about a mutual friend who moved to Vegas and had her third child. Jordie's comment: Well I guess there's not much else to do in Vegas. I'm still chuckling about that...what would he think of Charlotte in terms of excitement I wonder.

My pilates launch also fit beautifully into my “light mode” training prior to the ½ marathon and, bonus, it’s a great way to work on flexibility for people like me who don’t bother with stretching.

On Sept. 23 I had a belated birthday celebration. If you turn 40 you’re allowed to celebrate the event for at least six months afterward, I think. 15 of my favorite women friends gatherwed with me, we all donned frocks and had fabulous food at Il Baretto. It was a lovely night, fabulous company and I felt well celebrated.

Small anecdote: I hit the ladies’ room and as I was making my way to the sink a horror-stricken man looked at me and said “wrong room?” I just laughed, delighted to know it wasn't me.

Somewhere during that week I also snuck off to the movies with the ladies. It always feels decadent to hit a matinee during the week, doesn't it? We saw Tamara Drew, which appropriately follows Bathsheba’s story in The Mdading Crowd (Thomas Hardy). The movie, though, was a bit slow/long and then came to a crashing, rather dark ending. WFV

Happily, my husband also returned, unscathed, from a business trip, only to prepare for another.

The kids started pre and post Communion classes on the 25th and I headed off for my ½ marathon the following morning, dressed in three layers. Can we say cold. Our start was at the 02 centre near the river. Colder. Then it was delayed due to tube issues. By then Michelle and I were beyond blue.

I must say, it was a great race (shaky start – 17,000 runners and a rather disorganized race organization). We scarcely found our start; Deb and I were booked into the same timed group and ended up leaping fences and weaving our way through the masses to try to find our space. I’m still not sure if we did but at least we ended up toward the first third.

Somehow we missed the place for checking in our bags (no biggie; neither of us had anything of value in them so we made use of a trash bin). We also managed to find the port-a-potties; that too was chaotic BUT good thing it panned it for us. Could have been a long race otherwise…

We took off together and I have to say I was so frigidly uncomfortable for the first three miles I didn’t think I’d ever get my shoulders out of the clothes pin position.
About mile four, though, the blood seemed to come back into my system, and at mile 5 or 6 I actually shed a layer. Who knew? I also lost Deb about then.
The miles after that were quite happy; well I don't remember them so that's why I would describe them as happy.

However, someplace toward the end, when I could no longer find the mile markers (same problem Deb and Michelle said they had, so it wasn’t just me), someone in the crowd, thinking they were being helpful, hollered “not much longer now.” And someone else said “almost there…”

Boy was I bummed when the end wasn’t just around the corner. In fact, I had a few more corners to go.

But all in all, a great race, I finished in 1:51, which was good for me. And I finished strong, pushed it to the end, still had energy in me, no particular pain.
Yes, I would do the ½ again.

So I was flying high with this attitude until Tuesday afternoon.

Then the coffee table attacked me. Well ok I was in a huge, clumsy hurry...

And the pinkie toe was the casualty. Since then I haven’t been running. In fact, I couldn't wear anything but flip flops for over a month. Those apples SUCK.
This problem contributed to my infatuation with pilates.

I must say I did want/need a break from running (I had some strange bruises on my feet/ankles, was starting to dread getting up early on Wednesdays to run, etc.). But I could have done without the toe breakage to get a change of scenery.

Now that the toe has gotten a week bit better (this is one long drawn out healing process), I can wear my very ugly UGGs that, happily, John Lewis put on sale last year. Also happily, the one pair available as I was heading off to Haworth for a very COLD, very authentic Bronte experience in the Moors last winter was in my size. They are now my savior. Not pretty, but toe-friendly and warm.

Oh the little dramas of life...

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
Largest mosque in India