Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poconos Repose

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Saul and I were thrilled and delighted to be on the road, the SUV fully loaded with boxes of food, towels, sheets, and warm clothing, a full half-hour before the realtor was due to arrive with potential buyers for our home, and all this with only a minimal amount of screaming and yelling about my obsessive need to clean everything, and his frustrating assurances that we can buy anything we forgot “up there.” We stopped for breakfast on the way at a Cracker Barrel near Allentown and had a very large and enjoyable breakfast seated directly in front of a toasty fire in their huge stone hearth. Our waitress was a bubbly joy who anticipated our every need and seemed to greatly enjoy her job, kibitzing with everyone around us. The place had the feel of a neighborhood diner where regulars come in every morning and sit at their usual table and have their usual breakfast, socializing with other regulars. The people at the table next to us had brought a bag of Christmas gifts for some of their favorite waitresses, including ours. The woman at the table on the other side of us was writing holiday cards as her meal arrived, “just as she liked it” according to our waitress.

The snow at our home in the Poconos, in Ari’s words, was just enough to lend the right atmosphere, but not so much as to inconvenience anyone in the least. We spent about an hour unpacking and stocking the kitchen and making the beds. Then, we just hung out in front of our own huge fireplace, playing with our iPhones and watching old Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons on television from a dvd player. We went to bed early, reveling in the peace and quiet and anticipation of seeing our children and grandchildren the next day.

Although I had brought plenty of provisions for breakfast, Saul and I decided to dine out at a favorite breakfast place that we have been patronizing for twenty-five years, Van Gilder’s Jubilee. We have not been up to our Poconos home for almost two years and wanted to see if the restaurant was still the same. For the most part, it was. After breakfast, we decided to take a 20-minute drive to The Crossings, a huge outlet mall. We thought that right before Christmas it would be incredibly busy and we were prepared to turn around if it was. As it turned out, we were there early enough in the day to avoid the crowds, truly enjoyed ourselves puttering around in all the shops, and came home with some fantastic bargains. Jess called to say they would be arriving shortly just as we were beginning to get fatigued and the crowds were starting to arrive. When we returned home, I put dinner to warm in the oven, set the table, and Saul started a roaring fire. Everyone was relieved and happy to be sitting down to dinner together. Ari called to say that he would be driving up after work. He arrived before the grownups went to bed and I slept like a baby that night knowing that my whole family was together and that we would have a few relaxing days together. Early in the morning, Izzy wandered downstairs, began a sleepy conversation with Ari, and then told him that he looked just like Uncle Ari. He told her that that was because he really was Uncle Ari. Yona, for the first time ever, slept for a full 12 hours.

Alex and Jess were out with the girls first thing in the morning, all dressed and bundled for a day on the slopes. Saul, Ari and I stayed home to bond with Yona. Ari has hated skiing all his life. When he was six, I promised him that if he went down the slope standing on the skis of one of Beth’s friends who was a ski instructor, I would never bother him about learning to ski again. By age six, he had been skiing numerous times and I was convinced that once he had the thrill of zooming down the hill really fast, he would love it and want to continue to learn. After much trepidation, he tried it, hated it, and I have kept my promise. Yona, as usual, was an angel baby. She babbles away happily whenever she is awake and looks as though she might walk before she crawls. She is just starting to get the hang of getting her knees underneath her, but she takes steps if you stand her up. She turned eight months old this week.

The slopes were nearly deserted. The staff said that the resort had been that way since the opening of the season, and it was not just because it was Christmas Eve day. With rental of the girls equipment, and lift passes for Alex and the girls (Jessica decided not to ski) the total came to over $180. I fear that the lack of disposable income has affected the ski resorts in this part of the country, but perhaps it is just the lack of good skiing weather for the time being. The weather on Friday and Saturday was dreadful. We awoke to misty sleeting rain and wind, and everyone had work to finish up on their laptops which was made possible with a Wi-Fi connection from a new system that Ari brought with him (MiFi) that allows computer hook-ups anywhere. Eventually, we spent the day hanging around the house in front of the fireplace, and eventually, playing cards. We taught Sami how to play poker. For Shabbat dinner we had a choice of soups, Alex’s lentil and his chicken soup; homemade challah; Israeli salad; iceberg lettuce salad; warm edamame; smoked turkey in giblet gravy; black and white rice; chestnut stuffing; cranberry apple chutney; sautéed sugar snap peas; and kohlrabi coleslaw.

On Sunday, the weather finally dawned beautiful, sunny, and not too cold. Most of the snow was washed away, but Alex decided to chance taking the girls skiing again because they both loved it so much. The rest of us began cleaning up the house in preparation to leave, but both Ari and Jessica wanted to have breakfast at Jubilee for old time’s sake, so we dropped what we were doing to get there early, in advance of the usual Sunday morning crowd. In the past, we have had to wait almost an hour for a table if we arrived after 10 a.m. on Sunday. We were surprised to find the restaurant with plenty of tables, and when we left after 10 a.m. the crowds had not materialized.

After breakfast, we went to The Crossings, with Jessica on a quest to find boots and a new ski jacket for Sami. She found the boots, and a gorgeous jacket, and adorable, funky, high-top embroidered sneakers for Izzy. Ari got a toaster oven and two beautiful sport jackets from Brooks Brothers. Saul bought a well-made black leather jacket at Eddie Bauer that fit him like it was tailored to him, a remarkable find. We bought other items as well and were all very pleased with our purchases. Alex called to tell us to take our time shopping, that the girls had exhausted themselves on the slopes, had eaten some lunch and were asleep, and that he was not particularly tired. Because the slopes were not crowded, they were able to make multiple runs down the mountain without having to wait in line for the ski lift. The resorts have done away with the half-day passes they used to sell, but skiing for a whole day without breaks in between is exhausting. When we returned, we finished cleaning a packing and everyone left for home.

Sami and Izzy returned with us as they are off from school this week and both Alex and Jessica have to work. Yona has been taking turns reposing in both Alex’s and Jessica’s offices. This is the first time the girls have been here since Mom’s shiva and they both were a little shocked at the emptiness of her room now that her possessions have been distributed among the family and I have prepared the room for showing the house. On the way home from the Poconos, we stopped for dinner at King Buffet, their favorite sushi restaurant. Jess, Alex and Ari found a fantastic restaurant in Harrisburg on their way home with memorable dishes that Alex is now recreating at home.

We discovered on the net that the Philadelphia Art Museum was open on Monday this week because of the holiday and decided to take the girls there for the family crafts workshops that they run. We had so much fun that the girls did not want to leave and, as it turned out, we never got to see any of the museum itself. We took them to a kosher restaurant on South Street called Chickpeas and had a huge late lunch of kebab, shawarma, hummus, salad and chicken soup. We were all too tired to return to the museum and headed for home where we all took naps. I made the girls a light dinner of ravioli and, after some t.v., they went back to sleep at the usual time.

On Tuesday we were waiting around for our air conditioning compressor to be worked on, but we finally rescheduled when they kept changing their time of arrival later and later. Beth called and we decided to have dinner together at Bacco, a nearby Italian restaurant for which I had purchased a $25 certificate. The food was very good, but pricey. The coupon made the visit worthwhile. I was also pleased that they had finally gotten rid of the raucous, loud music that had made conversation impossible on previous visits years ago. At dinner, Beth said that she had wanted eat at King Buffet but that it was no fun to eat there alone, so we arranged to meet for dinner there the following evening. When Saul and I returned home, we had some leftover chocolate cake with the girls and curled up in bed together to watch The Parent Trap.

Yesterday morning, Jessica informed us that she was not able to get coverage for the dogs on New Year’s and would not be able to join us for the weekend. We immediately made plans to stay at the Sheraton in Towson, which has an indoor pool, so that we can all be together. So, we are heading off to Maryland again today. Since we will not be in Philadelphia for New Year’s, we headed out early yesterday to the Convention Center to watch the Mummers rehearse and check out the floats. When we arrived downtown, Izzy was hungry and we popped into Reading Terminal Market, across the street from the Convention Center, for ice cream cones from Bassett’s, my favorite place for ice cream on the planet. Then, we were extremely disappointed to discover that the information that was published both on the web and promotional materials had been incorrect. We would not be allowed in to see the Mummers perform until 4:00 p.m. We headed back to the Art Museum where we spent a few hours crafting again and I finally was able to tour some of the museum with the girls. They decided they would rather have dinner with Beth than see the Mummers perform, so we met Beth at the restaurant as planned. Everyone went to bed early.

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