Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy Friday! Echh Weekend.

I just love finding beautiful food really cheap. Other people may enjoy fashion bargains at upscale boutiques, collectibles at flea markets, jewelry at estates, or even housecleaning supplies at house sales, but for me, the most joy comes from great food items at reasonable prices. I left Saul at home with Mom around 11:30 a.m., met Ken in the parking lot near Costco to exchange some paperwork and mail pertaining to Mom, and went over to Assi Market to browse for some items to fill in for Shabbat dinner. At very reasonable prices, I bought a whole bowlful of large, ripe and fragrant quinces, my second favorite fruit after fresh figs. When we moved to this house over 16 years ago, I dug up my two two-year-old quince trees and replanted them here. Unfortunately, they developed codling moths many years ago, which destroys the fruit, but leaves the trees and the beautiful flowers intact. I have tried everything I have ever read to get rid of the moth cycle, both organic and chemical, but to no avail. I plan to make membrillo with the quinces soon, but once I do that, the incredible fragrance that is perfuming my house will begin to disappear.

I also bought fresh rhubarb. I plan to experiment with it. I usually use it for a favorite strawberry-rhubarb pie, but I have this large bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer, and I may combine it with those instead. The seedless black grapes I purchased were exceptionally good. Another great find was dewy fresh water chestnuts. These bear no resemblance whatsoever to the canned variety, and are reminiscent of fresh coconut when peeled and eaten out of hand, but moister and sweeter. We used them to make wonton filling and filled the wontons on Saturday afternoon while watching t.v. I took bags of fresh spinach from the cart as the man was stocking the shelf. I just enjoy wandering the aisles of the Assi Supermarket, and wondering how to use the myriad of products that are unfamiliar to me, such as fresh banana flowers (not leaves), bitter melon, exotic choys other than bok choy, and dried fungi of every sort. I spent two refreshing hours browsing leisurely to Asian music and returned home in time for a quick lunch with Saul and to make my challah dough.

Snow was expected in the evening and I persuaded my sister to join us for dinner and to sleep over so that Saul and I could go to synagogue on Saturday morning. After lunch on Friday, Saul and I enjoyed the afternoon preparing a beautiful dinner. We had fresh challah; homemade chicken soup with matzoh balls and the last of the frozen homemade wontons; fresh spinach salad with diced apples, chopped almonds and pomegranate seeds with a hot maple-sesame dressing; assorted pareve knishes that Larry brought from Lipkin’s kosher bakery; baked boneless breast of chicken with satay sauce; maple glazed brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pomegranate; kohlrabi coleslaw; fresh lemon-limeade; and pareve chocolate mousse crepes with coffee. Our friend Faith joined us for dinner bringing beautiful purple tulips to remind us that spring is just a few months away. Mom’s new friend and volunteer hospice worker, Marianne, joined us as well. Marianne is a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. She is 80 and was a little nervous because this was her first Shabbat dinner. I tried to put her at ease by assuring her that we didn’t expect her to do anything but enjoy dinner. Beth had dinner with Jess and Alex in Baltimore. Ari was supposed to join them, but absent-mindedly left his keys on his desk at work, had to turn around when he arrived home to retrieve them, and lost an hour. Mom spent the entire day in bed on Friday, only coming into the kitchen long enough to say the berachot and have a bowl of soup and a few bites of chicken before she returned to bed. Everyone left relatively early.

Saturday morning, Saul and I awoke and looked out the window. There was a heavy fine snow coming down with almost an inch on the ground. We decided not to try the 40-minute drive to synagogue and I went back to sleep until almost 11:00 a.m. I had no idea I was so tired. Saul spent some quality time conversing with Adele over breakfast. She has been so hassled lately that we have had a difficult time just sitting down to talk. I finished cleaning up the kitchen from dinner. After spending an hour visiting with Mom in the bedroom, Adele left for home. The snow tapered off and stopped by 11:30 and the roads were clear. I was really sorry I chose to go back to sleep because I was beginning to get cabin fever and would have preferred to go to synagogue for services and socialize a bit. I kept Saul company while he filled wontons and by 4:00 p.m. was tired enough to go back to sleep again. When I finally shook myself awake two hours later, Shabbat had ended and I sat down at the computer to work for the next seven hours.

This morning, after breakfast and a few more hours on the computer, we had a phone call from Ken saying that he, Randi and Haley were in the car on their way over to visit Mom with Haley’s dog to cheer her up. I told them it was not all right to bring the dog into the house. I love dogs, but I am allergic to them. This time of year, exposure to my allergies weakens me and makes me prone to catching colds. Two years ago, when Saul had his stroke in mid-March, I was just recovering from a bronchitis that lasted seven weeks. I had already taken a chance last week spending so much time at Jess and Alex’s house. When they arrived at 1:30 p.m., they awakened Mom, and Ken stood outside on the icy deck holding the cute little dachshund with Mom’s outside door wide open so she could see him. She was upbeat and good natured about the whole situation, but refused to get out of bed. When they left, she immediately fell back asleep and slept until 4:30 p.m., when Saul finally persuaded her to get out of bed and have some bread pudding with cream, orange juice, and a half cup of hot tea with milk. She drinks the tea with a straw, having trouble steadying the cup in her hands. Tonight, she choked on the liquid twice and went into a coughing spell each time that weakened her and sent her unsteadily back to her bedroom with her walker. She agreed to try the oxygen for a little while, but after a few minutes, called Saul to remove it because she didn’t want to fall asleep with the tubes up her nose.

Saul and I were very conscientious about getting our work done the last few days, but tomorrow, the spring semester begins and I feel a bit let down that we were not able to have a little time away this weekend. Our friend, Susan Odessey, who is a wonderful artist, had a showing of her work this afternoon at the Artists’ House Gallery on North Second Street in downtown Philadelphia and then a reception at her home. We really feel badly about missing this opportunity to support her and have a pleasant afternoon, but you have to do what you have to do.

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