Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Just sayin' - a perfect weekend

My friend Paul wrote me this message in one our inter-firm email marathons:

'Btw your blog needs to be updated so badly ;) Just saying... :)'

And I know, believe me, I know. I am literally about two months behind.

This past weekend was such a wonderful one. The sun shone throughout the two days, it was hot, and London is so so beautiful in the summer. The trees are a myriad of colours, from green to red, blossoms are in bloom and the city just comes alive. You know how much I love Paris, but for me Paris doesn't come alive in summer the way that London does. Few cities can rival London's open spaces, which are to be found everywhere. This weekend I felt so lucky to live in this great city (this spur of appreciation is a rarity, as normally I moan and moan about the expense and inefficiency of everything).

I spent the weekend with all of my favourite people and it was wonderful.

Kenwood House

On Saturday Marc, Ryan and I went to Kenwood House. For the Jane Austen enthusiasts out there (and I know you are out there), Mansfield Park was filmed here. Kenwood House is a beautiful 18th Century residence, owned by the National Trust. It looks onto Hampstead Heath, a preserved park area, and also has a wonderful collection of art by artists such as Greuze and Rembrandt. It is such a treat to have Kenwood so close by. It is literally a 10 minute drive from my house. On a sunny day, I would venture to say that there are few more beautiful places to be.

It was so fun to see Ryan and hear of his plans (Ryan always has exciting plans). This summer I hope to visit him in Utah. I'm excited at the prospect of meeting his family, seeing the great Mormon temple and understanding more about Ryan's background. Ryan's family lives in Glenwood but also owns a cabin and Ry and I want to go there and write. One of the reasons I have been finding it so hard to write recently is just that there appears to be no time and no space. And, let's face it, this is hardly literature. So it would be an amazing privilege to have that time and space with one of my favourite people in a place that I have long wanted to visit. Ry is thinking of moving to Seattle for a while, so I hope that I can help him with the move whilst I am there.

Kenwood House
Kenwood Grounds - does it get better than this? Don't you want to swan around in gowns pretending to be in Pride and Prejudice?

Posing with the Penny Farthing
A Penny Farthing! How cool!
Ry and Marc hogging the jar of homemade peanut cookies...

Me at Kenwood

Dinner at Cinnamon Club

Then, for dinner, Marc and I went to a wonderful London restaurant, an institution really, called the Cinnamon Club. This is in Westminster, right next to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and is where a lot of politicians lunch. This restaurant is a converted library, and you can see beautiful shelves of books on the balcony that surrounds the room. This is undoubtedly one of the best meals that I have ever eaten. I love Indian food, but often find it greasy and heavy. Here everything was light but full of flavour. I had marinated chicken to start with and a beautiful fish dish for my main meal. The best part? London restaurants (on the expensive side) are participating in a scheme called 'London Restaurant Week' (don't ask me why - it lasts longer than a week). In order to fill places out, these restaurants reserve a small number of tables for the promotion: A three course meal and half a bottle of wine for £25! This is incredible as in this restaurant a main meal alone costs £30. If you are ever in London I really couldn't recommend this place more highly. What a treat it was!

Sunday at the V&A with the girls

On Sunday the girls and I went to the Hats! exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was so fun to see so many interesting hats spanning many ages by famous designers and worn by the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Sarah Jessica Parker. We even got to try some hats on - always a good girlie time. I am a huge hat lover and have quite a collection, so I was in heaven. The V&A also has a lovely garden and courtyard, so after the exhibition we were able to sit outside in the glorious sunshine and it was just a wonderful - blissful - time. I hadn't seen one of the girls, Lucy, since university and I was so happy to have everyone together again. These days we are all so busy and live in such different places, what with people living abroad or going on secondment - and it's so nice when we can manage to get together. I love my girls!

A perfect weekend!

A beautiful mobile in the V&A.

The girls sitting out on the V&A lawn. From left to right: Miriam, me, Kate and Lauren.

Lauren and me being silly and trying on hats at the Hats! exhibition

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Book Club?

So I happen to think that I have some of the best blogging friends around. People I admire, whose opinions always interest me, who inspire me with their hobbies and interests and lives. I want to share more thoughts and ideas with all of you.

What do you say we form a book club?

Emily (of Overdue) and I discussed the idea of an online book club together and it is going forward! I have been lax about doing things, but I'm excited to get going now!

The books that have been suggested so far are the following:

1. The Book Thief;
2. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day;
3. The RoadSmall Island; and
4. Love in a Cold Climate.

Feel free to put forward others, as well as any ideas you might have for the club (including a name). Sadly we won't be able to share cheese, biscuits and cake, but a different blogger can 'host' each time and who knows, we may snychronsie recipes or post pictures! In any case, it will be so fun to share ideas and motivate each other.

The power of books to transport us to other places, to inspire and entertain us, to comfort and teach, is incalculable. But how much greater is the joy when it is shared! I know that when reading a good book I always have the urge to grab the person nearest to me and read a portion out loud.

So please join us.

Now a little related personal history...

In high school, where I discovered my love of books and reading, a most wise and special teacher, Mrs Bourke, started something called 'Literary Society'. I don't even remember how often it met, but I remember that the first book we read was 'The Reader'. We would discuss our ideas and the aim was to learn to think critically in preparation for admission to university. Mrs Bourke is the person who first had faith in my academic abilities. One day - it must have been close to the end of term - she asked each of us what we wanted to study at university. She nodded supportively at everyone's choices, until I announced that I wanted to study law. She just didn't think it was for me. I replied by saying that that was fine, but I thought she should tell me what she thought I should study instead. She said that she would think about it, and think about it she did. A few days later she told me that I should study English 'somewhere like Oxford'. Were it not for her I would never have contemplated either. The thought hadn't entered my head. Mrs Bourke's faith stemmed not from anything I wrote but from the passion with which I discussed ideas in books. So I suppose that the idea of a book club strikes a special chord with me. See you there!

A humble Passover

Passover for me is synonymous with Israel, my birthplace. I go every year, almost without fail. We would visit my grandmother, my Safta, in Jerusalem, and she would prepare fragrant pilaf rice in the Buchari (Sephardic) tradition.

Sadly my Safta has now passed away, and with her the tradition of spending Passover in Israel is slowly fading. But as old traditions die out new ones are created, and I discovered to my delight this year that I could prepare a Seder myself without too much fuss. This had always seemed like a formidable task but I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how wrong I was.

This year, Ima came over from Israel to celebrate with us in London, and we also had some Italian guests over. They aren't Jewish and aren't familiar with Jewish culture - they must have thought we were crazy not eating bread, singing neverending songs, starting to eat so late and most crucially not eating the beautiful baked goods they had kindly schlepped all the way from Italy. But they joined in with such spirit and sang with all their heart - it was really touching.

Passover brings with it a familiar 'argument' in my family: Dad wants to read as little of the Haggadah as possible so that we can eat promptly and Ima wants to read the whole Haggadah and sings the songs very loudly indeed. In the end each is exasperated with the other. This little comic routine repeats itself every year and, don't tell them, I find it very entertaining!

I actually really love the story of Passover and find the message so meaningful: that we should put ourselves in the shoes of the Jews who escaped Egypt. I love the importance placed on passing the story onto our children. I am proud that mine is a faith that encourages questions and debate, and that is essentially what Passover is all about. Even the songs and prayers are phrased as rhetorical questions.

Our Seder was casual because everyone was too busy to cook a huge meal. But Ima made her legendary chicken soup (replete with matzo balls), an Israeli salad, I made harosset, Moroccan chicken, rice and roast vegetables and dessert. Dessert was a meringue with rhubarb compote and berries. There aren't many Kosher for passover dessert options of which I'm aware (I've seen meringue desserts pop up all over the place this week!) but I was fond of this dessert. Basically, put rhubarb in almost anything and I am sold!

I hope you all had a lovely Passover/Easter!

This egg is amazing! It is HUGE. Look at the makeup counters in the background for an idea of the scale! It costs £500!!!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


I have never left it so long without blogging and I have missed it. There has been the issue of work, of course, but it has also been Passover. I love Passover but since we keep it more strictly than not, there can be no baking. And let's face it, Kosher for Passover baked goods just aren't that good and definitely not worth the effort. But when I get home I will post photos of our Seder - it was a most merry one!

I have a question for the parents out there. Would you always want your child to be at the best school they could get into, even if you felt they would struggle at that school? And what about your choices so far in life: to what extent have they been guided by pragmatism?

The reason I ask the question is that I think I have been hankering after the best and the best ranked for so long, and I feel such a sense of relief at admitting that to myself and admitting that the best is too difficult for me. It's funny, I do not have a competitive bone in my body and I have never sought to be the best at anything, so it comes as something of a surprise, when I look at the course my life has taken so far, that I found it important to attend the highest ranked high school I could get into, the highest ranked university and workplace. Why? Because it was objectively the best thing, not beause it was good for me. Not because I ever really thought it through. I preferred to struggle a little but be somewhere 'better' than to be somewhere mediocre.

This firm, its top clients, its smart lawyers - it is out of my league. I'm not made for it. And I'm happy to admit that. I am going to leave and handing in my security pass will feel so good, will feel like regaining my life.

I don't think that my parents made bad choices for me - in fact, I made most of my choices myself. Still, I hope that, one day, if I am fortunate enough to have children, I will be able to guide them to make choices that do not relate only to their tangible success but also to their wellbeing. Where will they be happy? Where will they thrive? A balance must be struck. I want them to think about their choices with an open mind in a way that I didn't think about mine.

I always wanted to go to the best, because that's mindless, isn't it? It doesn't require a choice - the choice is made if you live your life only by objective standards: A is better than B - I'll attend A.

I don't know what's in store for me next, but you can count on my rational side giving way to the more creative, spontaneous side that has been held back these past few years. I'm excited!