Friday, April 9, 2010

Passover 2010 and Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

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When Ari, Saul and I arrived at Jess and Alex’s home for the first seder, we were greeted by a sweet vision of sugar-plum fairies in the form of Yona and Izzy wearing the frothy sister gowns that I had nabbed on sale at Talbot’s Kids that Sami and Izzy had worn to Erica’s wedding. Everyone was just putting the finishing touches on the beautiful table setting and we sat down right on schedule to begin our child-friendly, but traditional, service using Alex’s custom-designed, full-color haggadot which had been imaginatively illustrated by Izzy. As always, not only the service, but the food was truly amazing. Our karpas was a vast array of unique vegetable dishes, all prepared by Alex. In addition to the usual crudité, there was homemade guacamole, salsa, baba ganoush, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and onions, home-cured pickles, Bloody Marys, olives, etc. Alex spurns the usual gefilte fish in favor of an artfully garnished salmon and sea bass appetizer with individually prepared sauces. The horseradish we had picked in our garden was the hottest ever this year! The theme of this year’s seder was a discussion of the contrasts of the different practices and order of the services from those which took place during the Middle Ages.

In attendance the first night were Jess, Alex, Sami, Izzy and Yona; Saul, Ari and me; Elaine and Maury; Aaron, Stacy, Jacob, Lily and Zach; Arnold and Susan; Anne, Aunt Ruth, Max and a girlfriend, Tamara. The second night, Max and Tamara were not in attendance, but we were joined by Larry; Elaine S.; Naomi and Matt, Peter and Nina, and Matt’s friend, Jeff. Larry and Elaine slept over at the house; Anne and Aunt Ruth stayed in a nearby suite hotel in Whitemarsh for two nights; Saul and I stayed at Brookshire Suites across from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore for two nights, and Ari drove home each night. The room rate was very reasonable with a deal from, but we were dismayed to find that the parking was by valet only and was $30.00. Our photos of the seder are very limited as Jess and Alex preferred that there be no photography during the hag (the first two and last two days of the holiday).

For dinner, Alex had also prepared three different soups (very usual for him), traditional chicken soup, lamb, and a beef and cabbage borsht, all delicious. We added his superlative matzoh balls, and my homemade Passover noodles. For dinner, we had roasted turkey, grilled chicken, lamb, beef, a sweet and a savory quinoa pilaf, mashed potatoes with cauliflower, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and my Passover potato knishes. For dessert, we had mocha mousse crepes with strawberry sauce, chocolate almond bars, nine flavors of sorbet, and macaroons and fresh fruit salad brought by Stacy and Aaron.

During our time in Baltimore/DC, we took the opportunity to visit the new Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian, which is on the grounds of Dulles Airport, with Anne who suggested it. The experience was beyond our imagination as every type of aircraft, from the tiniest ultralight, to the space shuttle, to a full-size SST, were artfully displayed within the gigantic gleaming hangars that house the collection. The only disappointment was that the airplane on which Saul worked when he was in the navy back in the 1960s, the RA-5C (Vigilante), was not among the hundreds on display according to a docent, who helpfully looked it up in a catalog at his fingertips. I was absolutely wowed by the scale of the space shuttle, Enterprise, (under which I posed) because on a television screen, it looks like a normal-sized aircraft.

During the week, we were informed that Saul’s aunt, Hannah, had died suddenly. We decided to attend the funeral, which was on Thursday afternoon at Goldstein’s in Southhampton, PA, with interment at King David Cemetery in Neshaminy. We spent the day driving the three hours each way from DC. We decided not to attend the gathering at Saul’s cousin’s Elaine’s home following the interment as we would have been too tired for the long drive afterward. There is no shiva during Passover, but the family decided to sit shiva from Tuesday evening through Monday morning following Passover.

On Friday evening, for Shabbat Pesach, Alex prepared, in addition to all the leftovers which were copious, three different types of shawarma (lamb, chicken, and spicy chicken) and a tossed salad with his homemade dressing. I added to the mix of desserts a large matzoh cake meal crumb-topped apple pie that I prepared in a rectangular Pyrex dish at Ari’s house and lemon-curd-filled matzoh cake meal cream puffs. To fill in among Alex’s leftovers during the rest of the week, I made a vegetable soup, topped with additional noodles that I prepared again, a few more batches of Passover rolls, scrambled eggs, and several batches of matzoh brei. Ari went shopping during chol hamoed in Rockville at a glatt kosher Passover store, and picked up additional supplies, such as Israeli chocolate spread, tea, chocolates, and sweet potato cake.

Saul and I left Ari’s house early on Sunday morning so that he could teach a session on the Middle East at the Pearlstone Center where Jessica is the programming director. We had breakfast together with the guests in the sunny dining hall before going off to the sessions. Saul’s session went so well, despite some vehement disagreements between “hawks” and “doves,” that a number of the participants would not let him leave, and the session ran overtime by almost an hour. Then it continued with a few of the guests in the lobby while we waited for lunch to be served. While he taught his session, I picked up some pointers at a chess class that I decided to attend. After lunch, we met Ari in DC just in time to tour an open house that he wanted us to see. As of this writing, Ari has been on tenterhooks, waiting to hear if an offer has been accepted on a shell of house that needs to be gutted and refurbished, and negotiating for a vastly overpriced restoration that he truly loves.

Alex’s sister, Naomi, won four tickets in a lottery to be a guest at the White House Easter festivities, so Jessica brought Sami and Izzy and their other grandmother, Elaine, down to DC for the day. We had decided to visit the zoo first, but the weather was gorgeous and the zoo was so packed that all the parking lots were full and we spent 45 minutes in a line of traffic weaving through the zoo that was eventually turned around and filtered out of the park. Instead, we took the girls to a playground near Ari’s house and had our Passover picnic there. Elaine said that the White House fair was incredible, with tons of activities for the children, including craft projects, and face painting, lots of beautiful food, including fresh fruit, of which they could partake during Pesach.

We attended services, including yizkor, at Chizuk Amuno on Tuesday and joined Jess and Alex for lunch as we prepared to return Alex’s parents to their home in New Jersey, and ourselves back to the northwestern suburb of Philadelphia where we live. During lunch, we were surprised when Jess mentioned that Sami was on vacation from school for the whole week and, on the spur of the moment, we decided to bring her home with us. By leaving a lot of our stuff behind, we were able to cram ourselves into the Prius for the long ride home. After unloading our car, we broke Pesach with a late meal of sushi at a new nearby restaurant, Ooka, for which I had a coupon.

On Wednesday, while Saul was at school, Sami and I went shopping. We had a mission of finding her new sneakers for school as there were gaping holes in the ones she was wearing. We replenished our post-Pesach food supplies at Costco and had lunch there. Then we tried Marshall’s and several stores at Montgomery Mall. We found her great sneakers and Crocs at Famous Footwear and I even got a pair of cute flats half price as a result of a two-fer deal, and some nice solid plain cotton tee shirts at Gap Kids. When we returned, I helped Sami make a sour cream pound cake to take to the shiva at Saul’s cousin Bobby’s house in Warrington. Their lovely home was filled with people. The cousins invited Saul to lead the service at the suggestion of their rabbi, who was Orthodox from Chabad, and feared that he would have to contend with women and non-Jews at the service. Sami had a chance to meet many of Saul’s relatives, most of whom she rarely sees, and some of whom she had never met, including quite a few children with whom she played. We returned the following night with Sami, and Saul led the service once again.

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