Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting Ready for Pesach 2010

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The last week and a half has not been as dismal as I thought it would be. Returning from a land of exotic flower-scented breezes and temperate sunshine, I thought I would be incredibly depressed by the chilly, damp, and gray Philadelphia weather, but lo and behold, spring arrived almost immediately upon our return. All traces of snow had melted away, and within a few days, crocuses, daffodils, cherry blossoms, forsythia, and all the other harbingers of spring native to our area had exploded into a riotous kaleidoscope of color that reminded me of all the reasons I love this area as well. We spent the first few days in jet-lagged stupor trying to catch up with work, laundry and mail. I hated to put away our vacation-washed, summer-type clothes because they smell like Kauai and the next time they go through the laundry, that fragrance will be gone.

Our refrigerator remained empty for the first few days until we had a chance to shop. Only Larry and Beth joined us for Shabbat dinner that Friday, and most of the dinner came out of our freezer to make room for the Passover items that needed to be prepared the following week. We had homemade challah, homemade chicken soup with the last of Saul’s dumplings, a salad of red-leaf lettuce with craisins and nuts, spicy Moroccan sausages, chicken paprikash, mushroom and apple bread stuffing, potato latkes with applesauce, fresh-steamed asparagus, and leftover cake from the freezer. On Saturday, Saul slept as late as I have ever seen him sleep, not arising until almost 11 a.m. I stayed in bed also, dozing on and off and watching t.v. for a while. We had thought by then that we would be over the jet lag, but apparently, mornings of awaking at 6:00 a.m. had taken their toll. On Saturday evening, we began the process of cleaning and readying the house for Pesach.

Our cousin Anne with her son, Ben, joined us on Sunday afternoon and we were supposed to have dinner out together, but Ben had forgotten our plans and had invited some friends over for a barbecue. We took Ben’s new cell phone over to Best Buy to be treated with an Invisible Shield and then to Costco to buy supplies and charcoal for the barbecue. Then Anne drove him home and rejoined us for dinner at Pho Thai Nam, where we shared a delicious meal of Thai specialties. For dessert, we ordered their taro cake, which looks very homely, but which we think is a delight of creamy textures and complex flavors. When we asked the owner what goes into it, she explained to us that she has tried to duplicate it in her restaurant many times, but that she finally gave up and imports what she considers to be the best example of it from Thailand for her restaurant.

On Monday, before and after a visit to my doctor for a yearly checkup, I began preparing the dishes for our seder that Jessica and Alex requested, mostly the desserts for which Alex does not have time. During the week, Saul and I made nine different types of fresh fruit sorbets, strawberry, banana, papaya, guava (we found fresh ones at Assi Market), tangerine, Meyer lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, and mango. I made 75 mocha mousse crepes, two batches of chocolate almond bars, 120 passover potato knishes, and 2 dozen eggs-worth of passover noodles for the soup. The Meyer lemons were so beautiful that I did not want the zest to be thrown away. I improvised a new and easier way to produce delicious candied peel. I also, because the mashed potato dough was too fluffy this year, figured out a way to produce the knishes that was twice as fast and even more delicious than in the past. Necessity is truly the mother of invention, or perhaps desperation is. Instead of forming the dough around the fried onions and patting it delicately with oiled hands, I used a standard ice cream scoop to release uniform mounds of dough onto the oiled jelly-roll pan. Then, I used an oiled finger to make a well in the center, scooped the fried onions with a mini scoop into the center, topped that with a mini-scoop of mashed potato dough, and flattened and blended the dough into the appropriate shape with an oiled finger again. It worked like a charm!

On Wednesday, in honor of my birthday, I met my good friend, Roxy, who treated me to lunch at the exemplary vegetarian restaurant, Blue Sage at 11:30 a.m. We had a delicious lunch, but after a while the restaurant grew crowded and we needed to vacate the table. We engaged in a conversation for a while outside the restaurant. The weather was beautiful, so we decided to sit on a bench in front of the restaurant to gab for a while. Eventually, we were interrupted by a cell phone call from Saul, who was on his way home from a meeting after school. When he told us the time, we were both completely shocked to discover that we had been sitting on that bench, talking, until 4:00 p.m. If he hadn’t called, I think we might be sitting there still :-).

At our Talmud study class on Thursday, several of the members had met the previous day to prepare a post-class, surprise, light luncheon in honor of Faith’s 70th birthday. When Saul arrived from school on Thursday, we went to Costco once again to buy snacks for a seminar with which he was assisting at Chestnut Hill College on Friday morning to encourage women to enter the field of computer science. When we returned, we both fell asleep immediately, still jet-lagged I suppose, and awoke only in time to have a very late, light dinner at Chili’s. While Saul was off at the seminar, I finished up the Passover cooking, cleaned up, and began packing for Baltimore. In the afternoon, both Faith and Adele stopped in, Faith to pick up some of the goodies I had been preparing for her family’s seder, and Adele, to drop off some clothing that was passing from Brenna to Sami. The light rain that morning had given way to sunshine, and we all went out to the garden together to dig up fresh horseradish root that had just begun sending out feathery crowns of green leaves. The pungent fragrance of the main root, as it inevitably breaks off from its deep slender branching roots, is quintessentially the odor I most associate with this holiday.

Our friend Larry, as he has for many years, hosted us for the last Shabbat dinner before Pesach. I brought my challahs from the freezer, and we had tossed salad, broiled flounder, kasha and potato knishes, and pesto tortellini with butter. For dessert, we had cinnamon buns, and rice pudding.

During his sermon at services on Shabbat morning, Rabbi Addison posed the question “Why do we eat matzah, the bread of affliction, during a feast that is meant to be an expression and celebration of our freedom?” As with Sukkot, at the times of our most joyous celebrations, instead of reveling in our prosperity, we are reminded of the austerity endured by our ancestors. We move out of our comfy houses into purposely cobbled-together booths. Our celebrations are joyous, nevertheless, and we are reminded how few material possessions are really necessary to truly enjoy life and the blessings that God has bestowed on us.

Saturday evening, Faith’s children hosted a dessert party in honor of her birthday, and we were able to catch up with many of our old friends whom we had seen just recently at Marilyn’s funeral, but only for a few moments before we left for Hawaii. The party was a warm and inviting way to spend the evening and we enjoyed the camaraderie with those people and their families with whom we had spent almost 25 years teaching.

On Sunday, after packing all our Passover paraphernalia and food, we headed off to Baltimore/DC for the week of the holiday. After attending a number of open houses in search of a house for Ari, we decided to take advantage of one of my coupons to have a large brunch at a nearby restaurant, just around the corner, called Domku. The restaurant was uncharacteristically crowded and the service was extremely slow, taking over an hour and a half before our food was presented, but the food was delicious. That evening, Ari was so involved in meeting a deadline for a huge court-ordered document production that he went into the office at 10:30 p.m. and did not return until 11:30 a.m. Upon returning, he completed the form to make an offer on the shell of a house he was interested in purchasing, and went off to bed to try to get as much sleep as possible before it was time to leave for the first seder in Baltimore. We found out, within 24 hours, that although he had offered $35,000 more than the asking price, the house had been sold by the foreclosing bank to a cash buyer for an undisclosed sum.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Final Days in Paradise

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On Friday morning, we again had breakfast in the condo. I made banana taro pancakes napped with the local coconut syrup and we feasted on a plate of the remaining assorted tropical fruit we had purchased at the farmers’ markets. Randi made omelets and we lingered over breakfast, spent the morning catching up with work, organizing photos, blogging, telephoning family, and Skyping with Andy, Jessica and the girls. Eventually, Larry headed over to the beautiful pool and lava rock hot tub for a few hours. The rest of us took a drive to Costco to purchase supplies for Shabbat dinner. On the way, in Puhio, we stopped at Mark’s Place, a local take-out joint hidden in an industrial complex, about which there were many raves on the Net. We shared two luncheon combination plates among the five of us while soaking up the sun at one of their outdoor picnic tables. The food was as good as billed and with very ample and reasonable portions. They had very limited hours and are closed on weekends, so we felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to get there before the end of our vacation.

In addition to the dinner items at Costco, we also picked up some souvenir items like macadamia nut assortments and a beautiful Hawaiian-print, 100%-cotton shirt for Saul. Costco supports the local economy by featuring locally-made products. In addition to a beautiful selection of shirts, there was a kiosk featuring high-end, handmade Hawaiian-print quilts. The fish selection includes a smoked tuna poké which is “to die for.” There are many other examples. We stopped at K-Mart also, to try to find a Pyrex baking dish so that I could bake coconut tapioca pudding for Ken. He had been paying $3.50 for a tiny cup of it at a local grocery store. I had forgotten how expensive these glass items can be on the island and finally resorted to buying some large aluminum foil pans.

The Friday farmers’ market at Lihue which was supposed to begin at 3:00 p.m. looked as though it had been in full swing for a while when we arrived. Most important, Saul found the vendor with the pink guavas, who had been looking for him at the other traveling farmers’ markets on the island. He was instantly transported back 50 years to his childhood when he bit into one of the ripe guavas we purchased from her. We also picked up wonderful fresh baby greens and arugula for a salad, red scallions, yellow cherry tomatoes, ripe red tomatoes, and fresh-picked jicama. One of the big treats which we always share at these markets is a young coconut. The vendor hacks off a chunk which allows us to sip the coconut water with a straw. When the liquid has been consumed, we return to the vendor, who hacks the whole thing into a few large pieces so that we can consume the gelatinous young coconut meat with a spoon. Yum!

Returning to our condo, we prepared Shabbat dinner, lighting candles and immediately watching the final rays of a beautiful sunset over the ocean from our front balcony. We successfully baked the coconut tapioca pudding, and prepared a refreshing salad with a calamansi vinaigrette. Ken roasted eggplant on the grill, followed by calamansi/mustard-marinated racks of lamb, burgers, and hot dogs. I sauteéd shiitake mushrooms, grated carrots, and the red scallions to make a warm soba dish sauced with soy and sesame. Our breads were a roasted garlic bread and a multi-grain loaf that were still warm from the oven when we purchased them at Costco. For dessert, we had locally-made haupia ice cream and lilikoi sorbet, augmented with chocolate macadamia nut candies from Ari’s souvenir packages. We finally managed to stay awake for a while after dinner to socialize and reminisce before heading off to bed.

Saturday was as close to perfection as one can get on Kauai. After a torrential downpour in the wee hours of the morning, we arose in time to see vibrant double rainbows from the balcony outside Ken and Randi’s bedroom. The morning dawned bright with sunshine, mild temperatures, and just enough of the delicious trade wind breezes to keep mosquitoes from alighting. We left without breakfast and drove a short distance to a parking area near Spouting Horn. Then, we hiked about a half mile along an ocean-side cove, arboretum, and multi-million dollar properties to the tiny public park that provides an unparalleled view of Spouting Horn. Never in my life have I seen a calmer, bluer, or more inviting ocean. The only white caps were those created as the water lapped against the dark rock formation whose tunneled configuration causes the Spouting Horn phenomenon. Handsome feral roosters were providing a raucous cacophony that was a counterpoint to the hissing water sprays. Overhead, for a few minutes, we were treated to the unique sight of two ultra-light airplanes cruising through the calm skies sightseeing over the still, turquoise-blue water. Then, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away, beginning to feel the first pangs of hunger.

We had pre-arranged breakfast at Yum Cha, the golf course clubhouse of the Grand Hyatt. Seated before a huge wall of windows, we soaked in the glorious, meticulously-groomed tropical landscape of the golf course as we dined on perfectly-poached eggs napped with unctuous Hollandaise, and the most tasty trio of pancakes ever—one with bananas, one with mango, and one with blueberries. Each fresh blueberry sprinkled on top looked like it had been hand-picked for its jewel-like qualities. The staff was superlative, warm and friendly, and extremely attentive to every detail. After our walk, many of us ordered iced tea, which came garnished not only with the usual lemon wedge, but with a thin baton of raw sugar cane. Again, Saul was transported back to his childhood, when he used to chew on raw sugar cane from nearby fields. The waiter overheard him and, unbidden, brought him a plate with extra sticks of it. Sadly, the clubhouse will close on March 31 for a complete overhaul of the décor. It will be closed for at least six months.

Back at the condo, we changed into bathing suits and headed over to Poipu Beach. We had the most perfect beach day! The sky was blue with just enough of the fluffy white clouds to provide occasional relief from the sun’s burning rays. The water was just the right temperature—refreshingly cool, but not enough to cause distress on first going into it. The waves were gentle swells in the protected beach area, and abundant, splendidly-hued, phosphorescent, tropical fish could be viewed through the crystal-clear water without even the need for a snorkel. Silky sand had magically returned to the rocky bottom so that water shoes were optional to protect from the occasional projecting rock. I spent almost the entire day in the water, not realizing that the sun’s rays can penetrate not only 50-SPF sunblock, but clear ocean-water as well. Even water-challenged Randi (who is a non-swimmer) ventured into the ocean for a time, so calm and inviting was the water. Saul and I met a young woman, Leah, in the water, who had just arrived from Minnesota and who could not, at first, believe her senses. She questioned us about whether she should be worried about sharks or jellyfish in the water. Once we reassured her, Saul offered her his snorkel and showed her how to use it so that she could view the scene underwater more clearly. Returning it gratefully, she was soon joined by her boyfriend, Josh, also newly-arrived from Minnesota, and they blissfully swam off together to join other friends a short distance away. We were treated to a kaleidoscope of indescribable fishy shapes and colors when a woman, standing nearby, decided to feed the fish from two empty soda cans filled with Grape Nuts cereal. Luckily, Saul was ready for what ensued with Larry’s underwater camera. The photos and videos which I have included in these blog posts are a compendium of the best of all of our photos and videos, taken with various cameras and iPhones. Larry spent a lot of time during this vacation, not only photographing, but editing in iMovie and iPhoto on his laptop. He also proffered an amazing and touching gesture. He has been wearing his parents’ wedding rings on a chain around his neck for several years since they both died within a year of each other. When Saul lost his wedding ring at Baby Beach next to Poipu, shortly afterward, Larry removed his father’s wedding band from the chain and offered it to Saul as a replacement for his loss, which brought tears to the eyes of both of us. The ring, surprisingly, almost fit Saul’s Brobdingnagian finger, but, in the end, we all decided it should be re-sized just a little larger.

When we finally tore ourselves away from Poipu and went home to shower, we began to realize just how sunburned some of us had become, despite our frequent spraying of sunblock. This did not deter us from meeting our scheduled reservations at The Plantation Gardens Restaurant to enjoy our last dinner on our last full day on Kauai. The Plantation Gardens is surrounded by an unsurpassed orchid garden where dozens of multi-hued, multi-patterned, and multi-shaped, flower varieties grow lavishly in a sensational, naturally-landscaped setting of meandering walkways, lava rock formations, grassy lawns, water features, frog-inhabited lily ponds, and old, gnarly, exotic trees. I could not help thinking that this is what the best exhibits at the world-renowned Philadelphia Flower Show are trying to emulate. Our meal at the center table on the veranda overlooking the gardens began with beautiful tropical cocktails and a delightful assortment of appetizers which we shared. Ari had a very unusual cucumber mojito, presented in a Kerr mason jar, with the paper thin cucumber slices arranged to look like a delicate flower. Saul and I shared an entrée of mahi-mahi stir-fried with veggies and pasta in a ginger sauce, and Saul had a beautiful tomato salad with a baked, crusted round of goat cheese. We lingered over dinner as long as we could in this other-worldly setting. Back at the condo, the sunburn and exertions of the day beginning to get the better of me, I wandered off to bed without sharing with the others in our coconut and lilikoi ice creams, coconut tapioca, chocolate macadamias, and other Hawaiian delights.

For our last day on the island, we had scheduled a special buffet brunch at Gaylord’s relatively early in the morning at 10:15 a.m. The plan was to skip lunch, go to the beach or pool, shower, finish packing and cleaning, and have an early dinner at a favorite, low-key, inexpensive, locally-favored restaurant in Lihue, Garden Island Barbecue and Chinese Restaurant, before dropping off our leased car in the airport parking lot to catch our plane. As it turned out, we could barely move after our irresistible last breakfast on Kauai, which included, among the many other selections, a warm purple yam salad, home fries, French toast and banana pancakes with coconut syrup, perfect poached egg dishes and omelets cooked to order, soup, mushroom pasta, sweet buttery slices of assorted loaf cakes, seafood “sliders” on taro buns, Danish, scones, sliced fresh tropical fruit, warm bread pudding with creme Anglaise, orange and guava juices, and an assortment of mini cakes which included dense, dark, flourless chocolate, and rich, chewy fresh coconut on buttery shortbread. Also available, at an additional charge, was a Bloody Mary bar, which, had we not hopelessly indulged the night before, would have been a great temptation. We were seated in one wing of a u-shaped, brick-pillared, covered patio. In the case of passing showers, which we encountered that day, rolled up clear tarpaulins were unfurled to protect the diners without obstructing the view of the expansive garden. After brunch, we stepped off the patio and crossed the lawn to a clay studio to view the items for sale there. The Gaylord is a tourist mecca that is surrounded by quirky, high-end shops, a restored, picturesque railroad train that takes tourists for jaunts around the grounds, and pastures in which donkeys calmly graze. Saul went into a shop that specialized in rum and did a tasting. In an adjacent shop, I added to my collection of honey from around the world with a boxed trio of exotic organic single-flower varieties, wilelaiki blossom, ohi’a blossom, and macadamia nut blossom. Randi and I spent some time talking to the shopkeeper they knew where Haley had chosen her unique, artist-created raku wish-keeper, that had been a major element of her shower and wedding. The shop was readying to move to larger quarters within the month. With all of our gung-ho plans for making the most of our final day in paradise, we spent the afternoon in various stages of repose, laying on the couch drinking in the fragrant breezes and digesting our huge meal, reading, recovering from slightly stinging sunburns, wrapping up photographic downloads, packing, cleaning, and lazily watching a classic beach movie on t.v.—Where the Boys Are. Ari, Saul, and I went into Koloa Town so that I could purchase additional taro pancake mix, Kauai honey, and local tea to take home with me. In the end, as much as we had wanted to revisit our fondly-remembered Lihue restaurant, none of us had any appetite left, nor did we want to take a chance on upsetting our stomachs before our long flight home. We did not even want to nibble the great leftovers in the refrigerator. We kissed and hugged Ken and Randi many times as we said farewell on the parking lot of their condo, not wanting that parting moment ever to arrive. Ari and I shared a small bowl of ramen at the airport just to have something comforting in our stomachs in the hour before our red-eye departure at 8:45 p.m. Ben Stiller was on our airplane, returning to Los Angeles from his home on Kauai, but we only got to catch a glimpse of him as he waited to exit from first class. Before we had to turn off our phones for take-off, Randi e-mailed us an iPhone video of the sunset we had just missed.

Our flight left on time and having taking my Ativan this time, I was able to sleep for a part of the four-and-a-half hour flight to L.A. The movie we watched, Everybody’s Fine, was a welcome diversion also, but pretty mediocre overall considering the stellar actors involved. Arriving with minimal turbulence in L.A., a bit ahead of schedule, we said goodbye to Larry, who was flying to Denver and then on to Philadelphia. We waited about 10 minutes for the Red Carpet Club to open at 6:00 a.m. and quickly fortified ourselves with coffee, juice, toast, and bowls of cereal before boarding our on-time flight to Dulles. Since we had all already seen, and hated, the movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ari bought a splitter from a Best Buy vending machine at LAX and we all watched episodes of Modern Family that he had downloaded with our headphones attached to his laptop. All of us were able to catch a little more sleep on that leg of the flight as well, which was also about four-and-a-half hours long and not tremendously turbulent.

Arriving at Dulles right on schedule, we learned that Larry’s flight from Denver had been delayed for an hour due to high winds in Philadelphia. We had just missed a horrible weather day at home with torrential downpours and 60 m.p.h. wind gusts that took down many trees and wreaked havoc with power lines. By the time we landed at Dulles, we were ravenous. While Ari retrieved our Prius from the long-term parking lot, and while we collected our luggage from baggage claim, Saul availed himself of a free H1N1 vaccination available from a team of medical people at a table just a few feet from the baggage claim area. I chickened out. We decided to have late lunch/early dinner at Café Asia near Ari’s office in Rosslyn, Virginia, before picking up his car which he had left in the adjacent parking lot. It was a good choice. The varied pan-Asian menu provided us with tasty and comforting selections before our three-hour ride home. We stopped at Ari’s condo briefly to use the bathroom and retrieve a few items of clothing and were on our way home by 5:45 p.m. Daylight Saving time the previous day had shortened our day, but given us more sunlight for the journey. The last two hours of our drive were in light rain and were extremely tiring. In the end, we arrived home only two hours later than Larry, about 9:00 p.m. I was greeted with a bad, fishy sort of smell when I opened the door. Beth had considerately stocked our refrigerator with milk and homemade vegetable soup and had gone crazy looking for the source of the smell, but couldn’t find anything. Saul, after a little searching, discovered that I had inadvertently left steamed cauliflower in the microwave oven for the entire 10 days. The smell wasn’t as bad as I would have thought it would be, and I think it is gone now.

We were asleep and mostly unpacked by 10:00 p.m. I awoke about 1:30 a.m. and could not get back to sleep until about 4:30 a.m. Saul slept through the night. When the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. I got up as usual to make us tea and cook oatmeal for Saul before he leaves for school. I thought I would not be jet lagged, but I spent most of the day sleeping and am now just completing this blog post at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday. I think I had better try getting to sleep for the next two hours before the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Three More Days on the Garden Island

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Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were each wonderful in a different way. Our south side of the island was supposed to be rainy on Tuesday, so we set out for the sunnier west side. There are certain experiences here that I feel are not to be missed after that long 10-hour flight. One of them is Hawaiian shave ice at the original Jo-Jo's. Another is to gaze upon the misty forbidden island of Niihao off in the distance and contemplate what life would be like in such a place. I also wanted to see how the Hanapepe Cafe was doing because a few years ago, we had dreamed about buying it with our family and moving to Hawaii. We began our day with a big, delicious breakfast at Grinds Then we spent several hours on a vast, deep beach called Kekaha that we reached by walking through a small public park called MacArthur Park. The man for whom the park is named had the first name of MacArthur (Dela Cruz) according to his plaque. The beach was extremely windy and the surf rough, but we could look over and see Niihao on one side, and watch the rain clouds over Poipu on the other. The beach had a foot-high plateau of sand which we had to stomp into a slope to allow us to get down to the water easily. Ari and I tried to fly his pocket kite again, but the wind was so strong, it snapped the string and he had to retrieve it from some people that grabbed it about 200 yards down the beach.

After a few hours, we had had enough sand-blasting and headed over to Jo-Jo's where the six of us chose only two flavors between us--haupia (coconut) and cappuccino/macadamia nut. When we returned home, sitting at the hot tub and pool, Ari figured out a way to accomplish a few other of our goals on this vacation. Randy was anxious to see a sunset, and we all wanted to see the new Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie that had opened on Friday. We showered and dressed and went off to The Beach House restaurant again, timing it so that we could watch the sunset at Poipu from their patio as we finished our tropical drinks and appetizers. Then, we drove to the small movie theater on the island to see the movie. Our reactions were mixed. Like most Tim Burton movies, I enjoyed watching it, but I am never wowed by anything but the artistry and imagination that is so unique to him. I always yearn for a more cohesive story line.

Wednesday was Ari's 31st birthday. He had received both good and bad news the previous day. Within an hour of learning that he had lost the home he wanted to buy, he also learned that a buyer had been found for his condo. So, because of the time difference (5 hours), he needed to take care of the paperwork on the morning of his birthday. We had a breakfast of poi (taro) pancakes with local coconut syrup, Anahola granola with milk, and fresh tropical fruit. Then, we all headed off along a winding scenic walkway past beautifully-landscaped homes, condos and parks, to the Grand Hyatt where Ari took advantage of their business center to sign the papers for the sale of his condo. The business center had a balcony with small tables and chairs overlooking the magnificent interior pool area of the Hyatt. Ken and I spent a pleasant hour there while Saul and Ari took care of the paperwork, and Randi and Larry went shopping. Larry bought the most expensive shoes he has ever owned, which are MBT anti-shoe sneakers that have a rounded sole which is supposed to provide ergonomic exercise as you walk. When Ari finished, we all meandered around the magnificent facilities of the beachfront Frank Lloyd Wright-style Hyatt, which included incredibly beautiful chandeliers and sconces, a huge indoor/outdoor tropical garden lobby with colorful parrots stationed at various points among the fauna, a huge koi pond with a white swan, and acres of cascading colorful flowering plants and water features. I had a difficult time tearing myself away from that Garden of Eden.

We hung around the house for a while after our walk, lunching on leftovers of our tuna, among other things, and catching up with business on our computers. After some time in the pool and lava-stone hot tub, we showered and dressed for our reserved birthday dinner at Roy's, for which (thanks to Ken and Randi) we all had gift certificates. We had chosen Roy's that night because it is indoors and does not have views of the ocean. We thought we would save it for a rainy evening, and rain is what we had that night. When we arrived, our table was decked out with colorful ticker tape streamers that surrounded our anthurium centerpiece and draped over our goblets. When we opened our menus, a special page had been inserted commemorating our birthdays. Our service was extremely attentive and the food was delicious and beautifully presented. I ordered a prix fixe dinner with wine pairings that included prosecco, sauvignon blanc, malbec, and muscat. We had a wonderful evening together, topped off by sharing slices of rich and creamy flourless chocolate cake with a pink birthday candle for me and a blue one for Ari, Roy's signature chocolate souffle, an assortment of small desserts from the prix fixe, and a buttery, flaky apple caramel turnover.

Even though our Roy's excursion had turned into a late evening, we decided that if we all awoke early enough, we would leave the house by seven to spent a day at Ke'e beach in the far north. Ke'e beach is my ultimate "must do" for Kauai. Although Poipu is consistently listed as the number one best beach in the world, I think Ke'e deserves the title. Ken and Randi were not up at that hour, but the rest of us were, and we decided to embark on the two-hour drive. We stopped at Costco for gas, and then at the Olympic Cafe in Kapa'a for a breakfast of superb omelets and pancakes. Ke'e is a remote beach and reaching it takes you past Princeville and Hanalei and then over narrow, winding roads, across several one-lane bridges, to a mountain-shielded cove of calm turquoise water, snorkeling reefs, and exotic forest. During our day there, part of the beach was roped off by the lifeguards, who were protecting a seal that came ashore to doze among the sandy boulders. We were amused watching the colorful wild chickens and local birds, who are not afraid of of humans, scrounging for food. One black hen was being followed by a white chick and a brown chick. A woman nearby had doves perched on her thumbs eating crumbs from her hands. We stayed as long as we could, again, having a sense of being yanked from the Garden of Eden as we left.

On our way back, we stopped at the Princeville Golf Club to purchase another cap for Alex, who had worn out the one he had bought on a previous visit two years ago. We stopped at Long's in Kapa'a to get Australian Gold sunblock, and decided to have dinner at Pho Vy a few doors down. While we waited for the doors to open at 5:00 p.m., I checked the reviews on my iPhone, and all of them were extremely complimentary. It was exactly as billed by the reviews. The restaurant was very attractive, tastefully and sparely decorated, spotlessly clean, with beautiful white porcelain tableware set on a white-paper-covered white linen tablecloth. We were the only ones seated in the restaurant the whole time we were dining, I hope because of the early hour. Our waitress was extremely pleasant and attentive. The pho and noodle dishes we ordered were well prepared and tasty, and not overly salted or spicy. The prices were very reasonable. When we returned, Ken and Randi had just left for dinner at Casa D'Amici, a nearby favorite of theirs. After a long-awaited shower, I went to bed early, exhausted by my amazing, near-perfect day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Monday on Kauai

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Arising early on Monday morning, we took a different direction on our beachfront walk, which took us to Poipu beach where we scanned the ocean to see whales spouting in the distance and large sea turtles bobbing in the waves. When we returned, Randi and I cooked a delicious large breakfast, which consisted of omelets with sauteed mushrooms of various types, scallions, basil, and cheddar cheese; fried brown rice with eggs, string beans and onions; plum tomato slices with fresh sliced mozzarella, basil and olive oil; guacamole; fresh sliced papaya with lime wedges; fresh rambutan; buttered toasted spelt bread with local mango jam; orange and guava juice, fresh-brewed coffee, and local mango and passionfruit (known here as lillikoi) tea. The food is an exotic embarrassment of riches.

After breakfast, dressed for the beach, we headed over to Koloa Town for their regular Monday farmer's market. Planning to drop some of us at the beach, we all wound up at the farmer's market because it began to rain as we opened the car doors at Poipu. A few miles away, by the time we reached the market, the rain had subsided. Along with a few hundred others, we arrived shortly after they opened and were glad we did. We did not realize how quickly the exotic produce and flowers would be snapped up. In our effort to check out what was available at the couple of dozen stands before purchasing, we lost out on a few items which disappeared within minutes. The one item that disappeared immediately and disappointed Saul was fresh pink guavas, which he remembers from his childhood. Outside his home in Tel Aviv, his father had planted a guava tree that we visited many years ago. We purchased a beautiful bouquet of exotic flowers for $5.00. We also managed to bag a fruit known as cinnamon kiwi or chiku, and fruits that were round and dark purple that were called cream apples, star apples or cainito. I also purchased a large fruit that I have been reading about for years, but have never tasted called a mamey sapote.

We dropped the produce off at the condo and headed over to Baby beach which connects with Poipu beach. Within 20 minutes of setting up camp on the beach, the short-lived sunshine again turned to needle-cold rain and Randi took cover under a large scarf while the guys cavorted in the waves, heedless of the inclement weather. When Ken and Larry returned, we decided to head home, leaving Saul and Ari on the beach for an additional half hour. Then, en route, we decided to pick up additional supplies for dinner at a local grocery store, including beautiful baking potatoes to accompany the previous-day's tuna that we were planning to grill on the barbecue outside our condo, sour cream, coconut tapioca pudding, and Kauai honey. As we arrived to retrieve Saul and Ari as planned, the sun returned, and we all again set up our chairs on the beach. Shortly before we decided to leave, Saul, sadly, discovered that he had lost his gold wedding band in the surf. It had been loose since we began dieting, and he had forgotten to remove it before going into the water. I suppose if he manages to lose the amount of weight he intends, his increased good health will compensate for the sadness of the loss of his ring. When we returned, Saul, Ari and I spent an hour in the lava rock waterfall hot tub before showering and beginning preparations for our tuna dinner.

The tuna was as fresh as advertised. I made a marinade from the calamanci augmented by other ingredients that was superlative. Our tuna loin was among the most delicious I have ever eaten, expertly grilled by Ken to perfect rare doneness as we sliced into it at the table. The potatoes which I purchased earlier, Randi rubbed with olive oil and sea salt and they were fluffy and baked to creamy perfection, dressed with sour cream and minced shallot. I made hollandaise to accompany gorgeous artichokes that Randi had purchased their first day here. I showed Ari and Randi how to trim them and we steamed them with fresh lemon. I had made a sauce for the tuna from orange marmalade and hot sweet mustard, but no one used it because it would have masked the incredible flavor of the tuna. The soup I had made the first day with chard, beet greens and leftover Champagne was even better after it was reheated. We capped this incredible dinner off with leftover cheesecake and coffee. Again, we all tried valiantly to stay up late and socialize, but I think we were all asleep by 10:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Another Day Older in Paradise

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Wednesday was spent preparing the house for our vacation in Hawaii. By 1:00 p.m., Saul was home early from school and we prepared to take our SUV to the dealer for inspection and service as one of our headlamps was out and our sticker was overdue. We dropped the car off, and went across the street to Restaurant Gimaro for lunch together while we waited. Just as we were seated, Saul's cell rang, and we were completely shocked to learn that a friend, whom we had just seen at the luncheon on Saturday, had passed away that morning. We had a conversation at the luncheon and she told me she wasn't feeling well. There was a time, many years ago, that we had both suffered from chronic stomach ailments simultaneously. I told her she should drink lots of water and she told me she took Prilosec every day. As it turned out, this time the problem was her heart. She went into the hospital late on Sunday. They put in some stents, and she was recovering, but then suddenly, at 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, she died. Her name was Marilyn also. At my first Sisterhood meeting, I was led to a table with an empty seat by the rabbi's wife to be introduced. When I told the other women my name was Marilyn, they didn't believe me. I made the fifth Marilyn at a table of ten--2 Marilyn S.s, 1 Marilyn R., 1 Marilyn C., and one Marilyn G. Losing Marilyn R., who was one of the sweetest, most empathetic, and compassionate people I have ever known, was really a heartbreak. Her funeral was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. the following day, and Saul and I changed our plans so that we could be there before setting off on our vacation.

Laura insisted on coming to see me on Thursday morning to give me a birthday hug and kiss and a beautiful scarf and notepad to take to Hawaii. We both turned 60 within a month of each other, and with each milestone birthday, we remember our mutual friend, Sandy, who died in a car accident almost two years ago and would have turned 60 along with us. By the time she came, I was all packed for Hawaii and ready to go. When Saul finished his last class before spring break, he came to get me, we loaded the car with our suitcases, and headed off for the funeral. Sitting there, contemplating the unfinished pine box in which her body lay, I could not help thinking how grateful I was to have another day of life with the possibility of joy and pleasure.

When the funeral ended, we drove to Baltimore to have dinner with Jessica and the girls at Bahama Breeze in Towson to celebrate my birthday. Alex had to teach and Ari could not leave work in time to join us. On the way to the restaurant, Sami recited three beautiful poems about winter to us that she had learned by heart in school. Whenever I need to go to a happy place in the future, I will remember the expression of satisfaction on her face as she animatedly recited them for us. The girls were on their best behavior during dinner and we had a terrific dinner culminating with warm banana bread, caramel sauce and ice cream with a birthday candle. They all sang "Happy Birthday" to me. Then we headed down to DC.

We arose at 5:00 a.m. on the actual day of my birthday only to find that our plane had been delayed an hour. We loaded all the suitcases into the car and proceeded to ready Ari's condo for yet another round of potential buyers. We followed Ari to his office in Virginia, dropped his car off at his office parking lot, and proceeded together to Dulles Airport. Arriving there, we discovered that our flight to Los Angeles had been overbooked by 50 passengers. We attempted to negotiate our reserved seats on that flight for a better deal, but were not happy with the alternatives. Our larger 767 had been changed to a 757, which explained the overbooking. When we arrived in L.A., only about an hour behind schedule, we had just enough time for a quick lunch at the Red Carpet Club (Ari is a member) before boarding another 757 for Lihue Airport on Kauai. Our friend Larry met us in L.A. for the final leg of the journey, presenting me with a "60 and sensational" button.

I absolutely hate to fly! I wish I didn't, because I love to be in exotic locales. Both Ari and Saul love flying, and I know I put unnecessary stress into their traveling as they try to reassure and console me through the turbulent parts. I got through it without any Atavan this time, but all through the last few hours (and altogether the flying time is 10-1/2 hours), I kept thinking how many people would give anything to be in my position, and how life is too short to pass up opportunities like this to soak in the good times.

When we arrived in Lihue Airport, I was immediately struck by the quality of the air, which was sweet perfume. The airport itself is low-key, small, and lined with wood planking, lending the classic Hawaiian ambience. The trade winds were blowing strong through the open-air baggage claim area and I had the sensation of only wanting to inhale and not ever exhale, to somehow keep the fragrant air inside my lungs forever. I don't know which flowers are in bloom during the month of March here, but the fragrance of the air is redolent of sandalwood and gardenia.

We quickly claimed our baggage while Ari went to claim the local Kauaian rental car we had arranged. Within a half hour, we were on our way to meet Ken and Randi at their cozy, four-bedroom rental condo about a half mile from Poipu beach. Although we were tired, the long flight was forgotten as soon as we dropped our bags in our various rooms, changed into airy clothing and headed out for a light dinner. We had watched the sunset during our drive from the airport and as we arrived at The Beach House for dinner and as darkness fell we could not believe our eyes as we sat on the patio with our tropical drinks, watching the phosphorescence of the breaking waves on lava stone and beach sand, under the wind blown palm trees, illuminated by tiki lamps. Saul and I shared an entree of black truffle-crusted monchong on a bed of sauteed potatoes and leeks. Delicious! The 10-hour flight on my 60th birthday was soon forgotten. Back at the condo, Ken and Randi had a yummy birthday cheesecake waiting for dessert, along with further 60th birthday paraphernalia from Larry, and we shared a bottle of Champagne. We went to bed with tropical breezes wafting over our bodies, propelled by a lazy ceiling fan.

In the morning, we arose by 7:00 a.m. and set off for a long walk along beachfront paths which wandered by the Hyatt Regency Kauai. When we returned, we all piled into the minivan Ken had leased and headed out for breakfast at Kalaheo Cafe. We chose a table on the patio near the entrance and as we were about to eat breakfast, a woman set up a table on the other side of the railing and began putting out freshly picked herbs, vegetables, and fruits from her garden. The fragrance of the freshly-picked varieties of basil and herbs was intoxicating, and we selected several bags of produce for her to set aside as we enjoyed our breakfast. These served as the basis for a delicious dinner that evening. Among our haul were two different lettuces (I had to choose from about 6 different varieties, rainbow Swiss chard, tiny multi-colored beets, three different basils, yellow, purple, and green tender string beans, and several varieties of oranges. We completed the shopping at the supermarket in Koloa Town and then went back to the condo to change into bathing suits.

We were careful to spray ourselves liberally with sunscreen, but even with the SPF 50 that Saul and I used, we all received varying degrees of sunburn because Poipu beach was so beautiful that we had trouble tearing ourselves away when we knew we had had enough sun. The water was crystal clear and the trade winds so strong that we could not fly the beautiful pocket kite that Ari had brought along. It would go right up, spin violently, and then take a nosedive into the sand. I was afraid the string would cut one of the passersby, and had to abandon the project. The tropical fish could be seen easily, even without the use of a snorkel. Back at the condo, we all pitched in to put a wonderful dinner on the table that night. We tried mightily to stay awake past 9:00 p.m., but I don't think any of us succeeded.

Sunday morning, we had reservations for brunch at the St. Regis Princeville Hotel on the northern part of the island, a drive of about an hour. Ken and Randi treated us to this exceptional buffet meal for our collective birthdays (Saul, Ari and me). Arriving a bit early, we decided to wait for a table that was situated outside on the patio, and we were very glad that we did. I believe the view from the patio is probably one of the most beautiful in the world. I was lucky enough to have celebrated a previous birthday there on an equally beautiful day. In the movie South Pacific, a scene takes place that predates the hotel in which a woman looks out at the same view and wonders what it would be like to live in such a place. Overlooking a serene and pristine semicircular beach with turquoise waters, one sees distant mountains delineated by multiple silvery striations of towering waterfalls. The hotel and food can only be described as exquisite, almost as exquisite as the view. The lobby of the Princeville was once so beautiful that it took your breath away. Last year, it was closed while the Starwood chain "renovated" it so that it could be branded as a St. Regis. It is still exquisite, but not the breath-taking experience of the past. We dined in cosseted luxury on a magnificent array of beautifully-presented and delicious dishes until we could not eat another bite. Very reluctant to leave such an incredible setting, we piled back into the minivan for our drive back to the south.

As we were driving through the golf course resort area near the hotel, we saw a number of signs for nearby open houses in the vicinity. The first one that we went to look at was so palatial that we just kept driving, embarrassed to pile out of our minivan and go inside. The second one was a foreclosure, a ranch house adjoining the golf course that needed a lot of work, but which is very affordable, and will probably keep us dreaming about a more permanent life in paradise for quite some time.

On the way back, we stopped at a tiny farmer's market in Anahola where we bought a kumquat-like fruit which the vendor called calamanci. Wild boar was being roasted over charcoal and standing caged nearby was a very small and discomfited animal, awaiting its dismal fate. Further on, we stopped on the road to purchase fresh rambutan, still on the branch, from a very buff, middle-aged farmer woman, who was selling the last of her pick. Then, we stopped by the roadside again to purchase fresh ahi tuna from some local fishermen. We bought about 3-1/2 pounds for $18.00. We were told that they had caught it about six hours earlier, but decided to cook it rather than take a chance on eating it as sushi or sashimi.

Along our meandering journey back, we also stopped at Long's Drugs to try to replace our waterproof camera, which has broken at a most inopportune time, and also at a Walmart. There does not seem to be a single place on the island that has the camera we seek. The last place we visited was Costco. We may not have found the camera, but we did manage to pick up a number of items that we were seeking, including a corkscrew and vegetable peeler.

We had planned to prepare a number of snack foods to enjoy while watching the Oscars on Sunday evening, but I crashed immediately when we returned and slept until Saul awakened me two hours later. Randi, Ari and Saul had readied a less elaborate repast than I had envisioned, but which was more than adequate, and also spent some time at the pool and hot tub as well. None of us were particularly hungry after we rolled out of the Princeville. With margaritas in hand, we enjoyed the Oscars. After about two hours, in spite of my long nap, I found I could not hold my head up any longer and went off the bed again. I want to be awake to soak in every moment of this delicious vacation, but my old body wants more sleep.

Monday, March 1, 2010


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We spent the weekend before this past one in Baltimore/DC wondering if the large buckets we left under our dripping dining room ceiling had overflowed onto the hardwood floor. When we arrived home late Sunday night, we were relieved to find that, thanks to the efforts of Isaac’s workmen, the ceiling had apparently stopped dripping within a few hours of the time we left on Thursday. Beth had been away, Adele and Ken both had plans, and there was no one to check in for us. We had a great time, despite our nagging worry. Ari was able to leave work at a reasonable hour on Friday and so we were able to drive together to Jess and Alex’s for Shabbat dinner. We were supposed to pick up sushi on our way there because their water had been shut down all day because of a water main break on their corner, but in the last two hours before dinner, the main was repaired, the water went back on, and Alex decided to cook dinner. We were the only three guests for dinner and everything, including Alex, was very relaxed. We had a spicy curried soup with Alex’s homemade sausage, a dip made with veggie chorizo, roasted orange-glazed chicken, rice, and Brussels sprouts.

On Saturday morning, Sami did a beautiful, melodic chanting of her part of Yitro, our reason for spending yet another weekend in Baltimore. I don’t know what I will do at her bat mitzvah, as even watching and listening for a few short minutes brought tears of happiness to my eyes. We caught parts of both Sami’s service and Alex’s Tot Shabbat. I had time to bond with Yona a bit more, and we had lunch at the synagogue.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner with Ari at B. Smith in magnificent Union Station in DC. On the way there, Ari saw lights on in a house that was being renovated and stopped in, met the owner, and was able to tour the almost-completed premises before it went on the market. He really liked what he saw and wound up making an offer for it on Sunday. Many years ago, while Ari was at George Washington University, we had wonderful dinners at B. Smith several times. For Mom’s 75th birthday, we booked a private room there, the whole family came down to DC, and we had a memorable meal amidst the opulence of two-story, arched and elegantly-draped windows, gilded crown moldings, Beaux-Arts chandeliers, and a long, lavishly-appointed banquette table. At that time, we felt that we had gotten a tremendous bargain on the deal. This time, I had purchased a $25 certificate from for $2.00. The setting was every bit as elegant as we remembered. The food was good, but not exceptional. The service was very slow, not because of the waiter, who was quite attentive, but because of a slow kitchen. The prices, however, were exceptionally high. Even with the certificate, we spent $150 for dinner. Ari had a $40 prix fixe three-course dinner. We shared Ari’s salad and an appetizer of three fried green tomato slices. We each had a Stella Artois with our entreés, and we shared Ari’s coconut cake for dessert with coffee. At the front of the room was a three-piece live jazz combo, which was a nice touch. Ari pointed out at the end of the meal that there were no external signs at the train station advertising the restaurant. You either knew it was there, or you spotted it while using the station. I think perhaps the restaurant has an arrangement with nearby hotels to send tourists there, which is probably how we discovered it the first time. Considering the long waiting times and crowded rooms on Saturday nights at other popular restaurants in DC, it probably was a pleasant, if expensive, last-minute way to spend the evening.

On Sunday, perhaps to atone for our extravagance, we had breakfast for $1.99 at IKEA in College Park, MD, and wandered around there for a while looking at decorating ideas. Then we left and prepared Ari’s condo for another open house from two to four. While his condo was being shown, we traveled around DC to view various other open houses, culminating with his realtor meeting us at the home Ari had seen the previous evening. We all loved it, but the owner was unhappy with Ari’s contingency on the sale of his condo and decided to put it on the market without making any agreement. Since it was dinner-time by the time we finished, Ari followed us to Bombay Restaurant, where we had dinner together before setting out for home. It was a satisfying weekend on many levels, with the anticipation of good times to come—a better house; more time together as a family; Sami eventually preparing for a bat mitzvah, Yona learning to crawl, getting her first tooth, waving bye-bye, and learning to play peek-a-boo; and, soon to come, a 10-day vacation in Hawaii.

Early this past week, Saul and I had a great deal of work, he with mid-terms and meetings in preparation for his department chairman’s sabbatical, and me with preparation of publications. I also found time to prepare additional hamantashen (some with yeast dough) in anticipation of Purim. Last month, we had scheduled a special pre-Purim Shabbat dinner on Friday with Jamie and Andy, Ken and Randy, and Efrat and Isaac and their kids. Another onslaught of snow began to threaten our plans, but we soldiered on, running out in the middle of yet another blizzard on Thursday, to purchase supplies for a Persian Shabbat. Six years ago, at her request, I made a big 30th birthday party for Jessica. Everyone came in costume and had to perform a skit. Since her birthday fell on Purim that year, I decided that our décor and party food should have a Persian theme. I thought it included some of the best dishes I had ever made, particularly the fish, but the recipes had been long-buried in a folder in the bottom of a kitchen drawer. I resurrected some of the recipes, and the fish was just as delicious as I remembered. Perhaps this time, once I put it up on my recipe blog, it will become part of my regular repertoire. For dinner we had homemade challah, baba ganoush, Comté and membrillo, ashe reshte (white bean and noodle soup), saluna (sweet and sour cod fish), kitchree (rice with lentils), salata sabzi (minted salad), and a wilted spinach salad with warm dressing, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, mushrooms, cucumbers, and tomatoes in case we had unadventurous eaters. For dessert, we had hamantashen, ice-cream and coffee. We had an absolutely brilliant time on Friday. Beth and Larry joined us, and the two little girls, Tal and Eden, had a blast playing with all the toys in the girls’ bedroom. Presley was her usual little angel self and her grandparents were absolutely delighted to see her.

On Saturday morning, we went back to Temple Sinai in Dresher for the first time in a few years for the Shabbat service at which our friends, Terry and Gene, were being honored by their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. I only hope that we may be as blessed as this attractive, caring, and accomplished couple, who are so appreciative of all the joy in their life. This has been a very bad year for their family, as Gene’s sister and brother-in-law, with whom they are very close, lost two sons and their grandson in a freak collision between their small plane and a helicopter over the Hudson River. At the luncheon, Saul and I were approached by some of the children for whom we ran the junior congregation on Saturday there for many years. One of the girls became so emotional about seeing us that she began to cry, which set off such tears for me that I had to leave the room to compose myself. Saul was touched and amazed at the reaction of his students, always surprised that his teaching has such an effect on so many.

Saturday evening, after a brief nap, we attended the Megillah-reading, and an adorable Purim shpiel and party at MBI-EE, dressed in our funny hats. Rabbi Addison was dressed as a rapper, all in black with a brimmed hat, looking very much like Dan Ackroyd in The Blues Brothers. At intervals during the reading there were pauses for a hilarious and clever rap about Purim that was performed by Rabbi; the synagogue president, Ariana; Cantor, and the ba’al korei, David, with accompaniment by the congregation, which chanted a chorus. The children really got into their roles, rapping a funny, rhymed presentation of the Queen Esther story. Afterward, while cake and ice-cream were served, Alie Addison MC’ed a dance party for us as a representative of Rak-Dan. He is an incredible dancer, regaling us with back flips, splits, moon walks, and other athletic feats along with his obvious talent for all the other dance moves as well. Some of the teens in our congregation are almost as talented and athletic. We participated in a variety of dances, from the usual Israeli circle dances, to Cotton-Eyed Joe. It was a warm and high-energy evening.

On Sunday, we were back to the grindstone, but found time in the evening to join my cousin, Anne, and her mother, Aunt Ruth, at Max and David’s, an exceptional kosher restaurant in Elkins Park, for a notably delectable dinner. Max and David’s has the most delicious burger on the planet—thick and juicy, cooked to order, topped with crispy pastrami and carmelized onions, on an incredibly tasty bun, served alongside a pile of crispy, mixed, white and sweet potato fries. I thoroughly enjoyed my carnivorous repast. Even better, they treated us to dinner for my upcoming birthday and we topped it off with a slice of chocolate-iced, marble layer cake with a birthday candle. We shared the cake and they, mercifully, sang “Happy Birthday” in a whisper.

There are just a few days to get through, now, until we leave for a 10-day vacation on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. There was an 8.8 magnitude, record-breaking earthquake in Chile a few days ago which caused a widespread evacuation to higher ground in the Hawaiian Islands for fear of resulting tsunamis. Although the waves, luckily, were not high enough to cause any damage, I would not have appreciated the inconvenience, and I am really glad we are all going this week instead. Ken and Randy will be there for a month, and we are joining them in the large house they rented, along with Ari, and our friend, Larry. On Thursday afternoon, when spring break begins for Saul, we will be driving down to Baltimore to have a birthday dinner with our children and grandchildren, and then Saul, Ari, and I will be leaving from Dulles Airport early Friday morning. After all the snow and bad weather this winter, I can’t believe I soon will be walking on warm beaches and snorkeling among the tropical fish at Poipu.