Monday, May 26, 2008

The Rest of Memorial Day Weekend

Yesterday, we were invited to Ralph and Ann Marie Swan's home around 2:00 p.m. Saul and Ralph both teach at Chestnut Hill College and have become good friends over the last few years. We were invited to their home several months ago for a birthday party dinner for Ann Marie's mother. They designed their own house, like we did, and it is absolutely beautiful and nestled into a wooded hill in a tranquil area of Downingtown. The floor to ceiling windows in the living and dining areas overlook a private, sloping thicket of aged trees with a meandering brook which you can hear from the outdoor screened terrace where Ralph was grilling steaks, chicken and burgers. The layout is open with inviting surfaces of polished wood, stone, granite and stainless steel. There are picturesque loft spaces and areas of light on the upper floor as well. On the last visit, when Ralph took us around, I was impressed to find that Ann Marie had chosen the exact bedroom set for which I had kept the catalog for many years. I had seen the set in Dane Decor when we bought our present house, but there were too many moving expenses for us to afford it. I think Ralph was shocked to find that I knew exactly from where the set had come. Ann Marie told me that she had lusted after that bedroom set. I knew exactly how she felt!

We also knew from the previous invitation that Ann Marie is a surpassingly good cook. Each time, she had prepared an assortment of delicious and imaginative appetizers. This time, the appetizers were a mushroom pate rolled in a thin, breadlike dough and tied with a chive; smoked chopped salmon on toast rounds topped with sour cream, dill, and caviar, potato and cheese puffs, a cheese board with St. Andre, and provolone; and long, flat cheese crisps with mustard seed and kosher salt. We all sipped a delicious Beringer Cabernet. The other couple, whom we were meeting for the first time, was a teacher, who had grown up in Scranton, and her husband, who was a retired engineer. We all have lived a long time and are really just getting to know each other's lives and backgrounds, so there were many interesting stories told during the evening. We had an absolutely wonderful time. The cheesecake I made turned out presentable and delicate. Ann Marie had made a wonderful lemon chess pie and we had delicious fresh berries on the side along with coffee. Before we knew it, the whole afternoon had evaporated into evening and it was time to depart. The Swan's and other friends of theirs had joined us for New Year's Eve. I hope we provided as interesting an evening for them.

Kenny and Randi had joined us yesterday morning after taking a walk in a nearby park and stopping at Costco for supplies for Haley's open house party today. They wound up joining us for a late breakfast and we called Beth, who has been prepping and painting her kitchen all weekend, and she joined us also. After we schmoozed for a while, they took Mom back to their house for dinner and it was time to get ready to make the hour-long drive to Ralph and Ann Marie's.

This morning, again, we had great weather and put in a few hours on the gardening stuff before showering and heading off to Haley and Eric's new home in Merchantville, NJ. Right before we were about to get in the shower, I decided to put the crocheted tablecloth back on the dining room table. I had stashed it on Friday night on the top shelf of our large coat closet, which is in our dining room. When i went to take it down, the whole long wire shelf, on which the coats also hang, collapsed. Luckily, nothing breakable broke. I guess it was a lucky break that it didn't collapse on Friday night, but what a pain to have to repair it! My mother's coats take up two thirds of the coat closet (Saul and I have the other third) and I have been begging her to give them to a yearly coat drive for years now. The ones she actually wears are in her bedroom closet. She was very annoyed that I made a comment about donating them yet another time and we had to send Beth into her room to get her to take her to the party. The house is really great--laid out conveniently, roomy, two-story ceilings, first floor bedroom suite, cozy fenced back yard, fresh paint in really good colors, lots of storage, two-car garage, a usable basement and nice open kitchen in a well-established neighborhood. The food was great and a lot of us wound up on a large, circular modular sofa watching "Meet the Robinsons" on a gigantic flat-screen t.v. over the fireplace.

On the way there, we passed "The Pub." I was shocked to find that it was still there, looking exactly the same after all these years. Yesterday was the 44th anniversary of our first date, which was a double-date, to Olney High School's Kix and Kapers, a variety show put on by the students. When Saul got his first car at the age of 17, a British Anglia as small as anything on the road (except perhaps a cockroach). The Pub was one of the only "nice" places to which we could afford to go on a date. For $3.95 you could sit in front of a large fireplace and be served on white cloth tablecloths and napkins. At that price, you got soup, a large wedge of iceberg lettuce with Russian or bleu cheese dressing (or both), a good-sized steak (or as Saul remembers, Salisbury Steak, which is really a hamburger), large baked potato with sour cream or butter and chopped chives, house vegetable, and dessert. We spent many an evening there when we were dating. The location is really obscure for us now, but we passed it on the way to Haley's. Looking at it brought back memories I had not thought about in forty years. The memories were great, but I don't think it is a place I would care to revisit.

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