Thursday, July 22, 2010

Party, Prep, Programs and Pool

We have five weeks of Camp Bubbie and Saba before our next scheduled vacation to Virginia Beach. Before camp began, I had spent a morning trolling the Net for scheduled summer activities in nearby parks and venues and printed out those that were appropriate for the kids. Particularly helpful was a site called “” While we were unpacking from Ocean City, Sami and Izzy had read over them, chose a few things that interested them, and wrote them on my calendar. Among them was a butterfly and insect program at Lorimer Park in Huntingdon Valley. The day was gorgeous and sunny and not too hot. Armed with Izzy’s insect-capturing equipment in a supermarket bag, we headed off for the half-hour drive and parked in the designated lot across the street. We were incredibly impressed with the natural beauty of the park as we wended our way down a long curved driveway to the program area. There were about a dozen families with children there and the park ranger was explaining pertinent facts about bugs and insects, their life cycles, feeding habits, etc. She provided special boxes with magnifying lenses built in to catch and examine specimens, and butterfly nets. After a brief talk, the participants were directed to the nearby magnificently planted garden to catch some bugs, examine them, and then release them. Besides the array of butterflies, insects and bugs, we were thrilled to watch tiny hummingbirds darting up and down from the overhanging old trees to sip nectar from the panoply of flowers. After the program was over, the girls begged us to stay and spent the entire afternoon, joined at various times by other children, hunting bugs in the garden while Saul and I watched from a nearby shaded park bench—an idyllic afternoon! On the way home, we had an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in Willow Grove, arriving in time to beat the crowds for Sunday dinner.

During the week, we began seriously preparing and freezing party food for Ari’s upcoming housewarming party on August 1. In addition, we needed to use up leftover food from our vacation. The girls and I, sometimes with Saul’s help, spent most mornings cooking and baking, which they love to do. We made two broccoli kugels, and a broccoli cheese soup with leftover fresh broccoli. We made over 100 bouchees savelli, mushroom cheese puffs, for Ari’s party, using the liquid squeezed out of the mushrooms to augment a smoked turkey and split pea soup. The stock needed to be defrosted and used up to make room in the freezer for stacks of hors d’oeuvres. Izzy loved the soup so much that she was eating two bowls a day for several days. The girls worked beautifully together to make dozens of perfect little mini quiche. We used up stored egg whites from the freezer to make Presley Bella Marble Cake and Yona Rae Coconut Cake. We used leftover mini organic carrots to make an Ultimate Carrot Cake. Haley had written an email during our vacation to ask for the recipe for fresh Glazed Blueberry Pie, which had apparently escaped my recipe blog, so we made one of those so that we could photograph it and post the recipe. The girls made Mini Filled Chocolate Cupcakes, enjoying putting the colorful little cupcake papers into the mini pans, a task I find extremely tedious.

We spent several afternoons at Beachcomber, during which the girls spatter painted, worked with clay, had their faces painted, and learned how to dive into the pool with Saul.

On Tuesday, I finally, after ten years of waiting for her to take on new patients, was able to schedule a gynecological appointment with Dr. Leslie Frankel, so I caught up with having an overdue PAP test taken. I had put off all routine doctor appointments while Mom was on hospice last year. Tuesday evening, we set out to see something billed as “The Verdi Band” which Sami had penciled in on the calendar. We thought it was in a park, but when we arrived, it turned out to be in an auditorium at Central Bucks High School South. None of us felt like sitting in an auditorium on such a beautiful night. To salvage the evening, we headed for Freddie Hill Farms, where we viewed the farm animals on display, and enjoyed ice cream cones. Izzy had Cookie Monster ice cream, blue with crushed chocolate cookies inside.

On Thursday, Friday, and Monday, Saul was at Chestnut Hill College for Griffin Days to help introduce incoming freshman to the school. Thursday afternoon, I took the girls to the pool myself. The weather was so nice, and the pool so uncrowded, that Saul went home after school, put on a suit, and joined us for a few hours.

Penciled by Sami on my calendar for Thursday was “Flower Heads” which turned out to be a retro rock group called “The Large Flower Heads” who were performing at a park in Doylestown. Although the day had been very hot, the evening was temperate. A well-equipped playground nearby kept the girls busy within earshot of the concert until darkness fell. The group played music from our teen-aged years and we found them to be much better instrumentalists than singers. They were followed by a stargazing session sponsored by a local astronomy group as night fell. A number of astronomy buffs had set up their diverse telescopes on the grass, and the girls were able to view the moon and Saturn.

Jessica had asked us to come to Baltimore this past weekend. The largest arts festival in the country, Artscape, takes place there every July, and usually we are on vacation and miss it. She really wanted us all to see it this year. While Saul was at school on Friday, the girls and I spent a few hours cleaning and dusting to get the house ready to be shown, just in case a realtor wanted to bring someone through while we were away; all in vain, I am afraid. No one came. It was nice to come home to a perfectly clean and neat house, though. Around 3:30 p.m. we were on the road to Baltimore, the frozen food for Ari’s party packed into insulated containers. We took the long scenic route over the Conowingo Dam and arrived around 6:15 p.m. just a few minutes after Ari and a few minutes before Jessica’s friends, Maury and Alice, with their youngest daughter, Danielle. Their older daughter, Leeann, is at Camp Ramah Poconos this summer. Alex made chicken soup with matzoh balls, as Izzy had requested. We had a variety of salads made from fresh vegetables gleaned from the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) at Pearlstone. Alex made grilled chicken and sweet grilled corn on the cob. Jessica brought out frozen chocolate mousse crepes and chocolate almond bars that I had made previously for dessert, along with store-bought cinnamon and chocolate rugelach. After a delightful evening, Ari left his Mercedes in Baltimore, and drove us in our SUV, loaded with food, furnishings, and extra chairs, to his house.

The weather was absolutely stifling on Saturday, and we opted to skip the outdoor venue of the arts festival in favor of meeting Jessica, Sami and Izzy for dinner at Chevy’s in Arundel Mills Mall, and then the new 3D movie, Despicable Me, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Sunday dawned just as hot and humid as Saturday, and again we decided to skip the festival. Saul did some work around Ari’s house, we shopped for furniture in Silver Spring a bit on the way to Jess and Alex’s house, and had a leisurely lunch together, finishing up with the fresh blueberry pie we had made together, topped with vanilla ice cream left over from Abby and Isaac’s pre-wedding Shabbat luncheon that Jess and Alex had prepared and hosted a few weeks earlier. After lunch, Saul, Alex, Sami and Izzy stayed behind while Jess, Ari, Yona and I went shopping to look for chairs for Ari. We went to Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn in Towson Town Center, and then went to check out a Tuesday Morning store nearby. The only success we had was square European-sized pillows to fill the shams from the new bedding we had purchased for our bedroom in Ari’s house at Macy’s Home. We felt badly about missing the arts festival entirely, for which we had specially made the trip to Baltimore, but just walking from the car to the stores in that kind of weather was miserable.

Jess gave the girls dinner before we got on the road home around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday evening. Saul and I weren’t hungry after our big lunch, but we stopped at the Royal Farms where we usually stop for gas in Maryland, and bought drinks and their delicious french fries on which to snack. During the ride home, we had a bit of a scare with Izzy. She had been toying with the plastic lid on her lemonade. One of the plastic points at the center perforation circle for the straw had evidently dropped into the drink. She sucked it up through the straw and it got caught at the entrance to her throat. We heard her gagging and could not understand why she was sticking her finger down her throat, but luckily, she was able to remove it quickly enough to prevent swallowing it or vomiting. I am always amazed at the number of ways children can get into serious trouble!

On Monday, after the pool, we decided to take the girls out to a nice restaurant. I ordered a $25 coupon from for Thai Orchid, which has nice vegetarian selections in addition to their regular menu. While we were showering after the pool, a violent thunderstorm passed through the area, but the rain had stopped by the time we were ready to leave. When we arrived, they had to turn us away because the storm had knocked out their power. Disappointed, we wound up having dinner at an IHOP in the same shopping center. They did have power, surprisingly. Dinner was unexpectedly pleasant and enjoyable. The food was capably prepared and nicely presented. The service was efficient and congenial.

On Tuesday, we awoke to find that all our water had been shut off by the crews working on the nearby massive 202 bypass construction. Saul had misread a hang-tag that had been placed on our doorknob warning us. He thought the water would be off from 2:30 to 4 p.m. when, in fact, the seven for 7:30 a.m. had a little tail at the bottom. We all quickly dressed and, on the spur of the moment, decided to visit the Franklin Institute for the day because the weather, again, was supposed to be scorching. We began with breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Plymouth Meeting. We parked beneath the Institute and purchased a family membership, which entitled us to discounted tickets for the special Cleopatra exhibit that is there right now. The exhibit was well done and even Izzy enjoyed finding the numbers and pressing the buttons for the interesting audio tour that accompanies the exhibit. I especially liked that, behind and around the exhibited items, were underwater photos of them, sometimes with divers viewing them, before they were actually excavated. The girls loved the sports activities area, and a hands-on science exhibit on the third floor. Izzy liked walking through the heart, which grosses Sami out. We all loved the planetarium show on black holes. The girls each made a sheet of paper. We were continuously busy for 5 hours and did not even get to all the exhibits. Sami, impressively, had a turn on the Sky Bike, which is a bicycle suspended on a tightrope and balanced by a large pendulum at the ceiling of the building. Halfway out, she suddenly realized how precarious it felt and carefully worked her way back. Izzy was not tall enough to ride and was quite bent out of shape about it. We spent the last hour doing brain-teasing puzzles at tables set up outside the grand hall.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner at Thai Orchid. I was not sure how the girls would like the food, but the evening turned out to be a great success. Both of them so loved the crispy fried tofu appetizer with satay sauce, that I ordered a second one. We had Buddha’s purses (crisp vegetarian dumplings), jasmine rice soup, tofu soup, a special tuna dish, jungle to jungle, and a vegetable fried rice with pineapple that Sami adored. The desserts were a big hit also. We all loved a homemade mango ice cream served in a chocolate cup with beautiful sauces beneath, and Izzy wanted to lick the leaf-shaped plate that contained the sauce for her warm fried bananas.

Yesterday, after more baking for Ari’s party, we spent the afternoon at the pool. Yesterday was clay, and I had a difficult time tearing Sami away from the intricate vase she was constructing so that we would be home and showered in time to have dinner with our friends, Susan and Paul, whom we haven’t seen in several months. Saul cleared out the SUV so that we could raise the third row of seats and only take one car. We all drove together to King Buffet in Plymouth Meeting Mall. Susan and Paul said that they really enjoyed it, and the girls always love it. The girls were very well behaved and went off to their room to watch t.v. before bed while we had a few hours to catch up with Susan and Paul.

This morning, I made a flyer on the computer for my brother-in-law Larry’s 50th high school reunion. Then, by the time we were finished baking, I was too tired for the pool. While Saul took them, I cleaned up, did laundry, and took a nap. They had so much fun there (today was a face-painting day), that they did not return until 7:15 p.m. When they woke me, I made some tortellini for dinner, we watched some cartoons on t.v., and they went off to bed. I finally had the energy this evening to catch up with my blog, and now, I see from my computer clock, that I am already into Friday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Second Week of Ocean City, NJ 2010

Ari left Ocean City on Monday morning to avoid the horrible shore traffic that results after a holiday weekend. He was also anxious to clean up to get his house ready for filming by the HGTV show, Real Estate Intervention, which was taking place on Thursday morning. He had consented for it to be filmed as a comparison house when the directors wrote to him through his realtor a week after he purchased it. On Monday, I made apple cinnamon taro pancakes. We dawdled together as long as we could before he set out on the road. Larry left a short time before him, also to avoid traffic. The day was supposed to be deadly hot, possibly up to a hundred degrees. We decided that it would be a good day to catch a movie, also in view of the fact that the beach would probably be incredibly crowded because of the three-day holiday. We all went to see Toy Story 3 in 3D at the Shore Mall. The movie was delightful, but much longer than we had realized. By the time it was over, 2:30 p.m., we had just about missed lunch and especially Izzy was ravenous. The Shore Mall looked derelict inside, and a nearby sushi place was closing before dinner. On her iPhone, Jessica located a small Mexican restaurant called Sombreros, just 4 miles away, which had an 88% approval rating on Urbanspoon, and which stayed open between lunch and dinner. We were the only people there at that odd hour, but the place was spotlessly clean, the service was extremely accommodating, and the food was reasonable and delicious. I had two wonderful margaritas for $2.50 each, an incredible bargain compared to our neighborhood restaurants. The flan for dessert was exceptional. Having the place to ourselves was delightful because Yona has taken to the habit of shrieking whenever the mood strikes her, probably a successful tactic at daycare, but we haven’t quite figured out how to modify the behavior. Alex gets very embarrassed, even in restaurants where the ambient din drowns out any attempt at conversation. After brief naps when we returned, we headed up to the boardwalk for ice cream—a wonderful way to end a delightful day. The next day, we learned that there had been an electrical fire on the 9th Street Bridge and that it had been closed at around 1:00 p.m., stopping holiday traffic for three hours. By the time we returned from our afternoon excursion we had been spared the nightmare of having to park for three hours on a horribly hot day, with two children and a baby in an overheated car.

Tuesday was promising to be just as hot and humid as the previous day. None of us wanted to go biking with temperatures in the mid eighties by 8:30 a.m. After breakfast, Jess and Alex took the girls, as the temperature began to grow steamy, for a walk down Asbury to the Potomac Bead Company so that they could make the projects Jess had promised them. As it turned out, the store was not air-conditioned, but they came back with unique necklaces, bracelets and a beautiful ankle bracelet for me. Saul took a long nap while I worked on the blog. When the kids returned, we went to the beach for a few hours, and had a late lunch of leftover hot dogs, hamburgers, and smoked turkey before our nap. In the evening, we set out by car for a Japanese/Chinese restaurant, Tokyo Mandarin, a few miles away in Marmora, for sushi for dinner. When we arrived, it turned out to be a very tiny, but nice restaurant. Since we were a large group, had not made a reservation, and most of the tables were filled, we were asked to return in 25 minutes and they would seat us. Lunch had been late, so we were not particularly put out. We went for a brief, air-conditioned, circuitous ride around the area, and were seated immediately when we returned. The only quarrel I have is that there seemed to be an interminable amount of time before someone came to take our order. The sushi was wonderful, and the staff, which was somewhat brusque when we began, really warmed up to us after a while. Some of the rolls were so delicious that we ordered a second round of them. The prices were very reasonable compared to what we pay for sushi in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.

On Wednesday, a sand sculpting contest was held on the 6th Street Beach. I was a bit disappointed because there had been so many professional sculptors at the competition 30 years ago. There were a few very special ones, but no where near the number that had competed many years ago. The temperature, even early in the morning was very hot and humid. We walked a few blocks down Asbury to F&M Restaurant, where we had great breakfasts with exceptionally good and varied toasted bagels, which are a specialty in that place. Jess and Alex set out with the girls for the long walk to 6th Street, but Saul and I opted to replenish juice, milk and eggs at Boyar’s Market on our walk home, and then drive in air-conditioned comfort to view the sand sculptures and drive the family home. The heat was sweltering as we viewed the sculptures, and the walk back to get in the car was practically unbearable. Yona had fallen asleep in the stroller, which could not roll on the sand, and Alex walked back home with her rather than wake her before we arrived. When we returned home, Jess and Alex decided to take the girls to the nearby community gym where Alex had bought a one month family membership so that he could work out there. The gym had an indoor pool and Saul and I were happy to just veg out in the air conditioning of our house in the afternoon on such a hot, sticky day. Just the short walk back from breakfast carrying the groceries and the hour we spent viewing the sand sculptures had totally exhausted us. I spent the afternoon blogging. On Wednesday evening, we bought the girls extra rides at Castaway Cove and finished up our block of tickets.

On Thursday, it had been pouring for several hours when we awoke, so biking was out of the question. We watched the sun go in and out a few times and eventually decided to head down to the beach anyway around 11:30 a.m. Within an hour the sun emerged fully, the beach filled up with people, cool breezes were blowing, and the water was delightful. We were happy to have one last fling on the beach before we needed to begin packing for home. Our plan was to leave Friday afternoon and drive to have Shabbat dinner with Alex’s parents in Cranbury, NJ, before ending our vacation. Thursday evening for dinner we grazed along the boardwalk, buying the kids and ourselves all the bad-for-you guilty pleasures, like huge cups of French fries drenched in ketchup, fried fish tacos, pizza, funnel cake, ice cream and water ice. The girls watched impressive choreographed yo-yo routines by several teenaged youths at the boardwalk pavilion. Jess had told the girls that they could have a woven and beaded braid put in their hair on our last day, but the lines were very long and she told the girls that she, herself, would do an even nicer job at home this coming weekend when we visit. We wandered in and out of shops all the way down the boardwalk so that each could chose a souvenir to remember the vacation. Izzy was first to choose a sleek and colorful art glass dolphin. Sami eventually settled on a glass and crystal nautical-themed wind-chime for her bedroom. When we returned on Thursday evening, we discovered that our air conditioning had broken down. We opened all the windows and sliders, and turned our ceiling fans on high. The evening was bearable, although very humid.

The broken air conditioning made Friday morning packing really unbearable. We called the realtor first thing in the morning and someone came over and repaired it within two hours, but those were the two hours that we were packing up. Drenched in sweat, we decided to find an air-conditioned place for breakfast and settled on Uncle Bill’s Pancake House. Even at that early hour we were really dying from the five-block walk in the sun. Luckily, when we were finally seated, after about a 10-minute wait, we were in a very cool spot with an attentive waitress who immediately brought us large glasses of iced coffee. We recovered quickly and really enjoyed our breakfast there. Shortly after returning home, the guy appeared to fix the air conditioner and had it working within a half hour. We had a chance to cool off before leaving around noon. All of the girls traveled with Jess and Alex to visit Alex’s parents. Saul and I decided to take the opportunity to visit Saul’s mom at Lion’s Gate on our way home. She was in good spirits and playing Bingo when we arrived. She really did not seem to know who we were this time, but was very happy that we were there to visit with her. Saul brought in his laptop and was able to show her the photos and videos of our vacation, which delighted her. We had decided to stop at home before going to Maury and Elaine’s to unpack food and switch to the Prius for the drive. Unfortunately, between the visit to Lion’s Gate and creeping Friday rush hour traffic, we arrived too late to have dinner together, but had a chance to see the kids off, have a delicious dinner with Maury and Elaine for company while the girls watched t.v., and had a chance to schmooze with them for a while. We tucked the girls into bed after the hour’s drive home, and left all the baggage to unpack in the morning.

All of us were too tired to do anything on Saturday but lay around and, piece-by-piece, unpack all our stuff. In the evening, we drove to King of Prussia Mall, more to get some exercise walking out of the heat and to try to check out Bloomingdale’s for chairs to go with Ari’s table. We ate in the food court and were pleasantly surprised at the reasonable upscale food that we purchased, a personal pizza for Sami, a bean burrito for Izzy, and a large slice of spinach quiche, which Saul and I shared. We bought the girls gelato for dessert which was the real deal, exceedingly rich and creamy. By the time we finished, all the stores were closing, and all we had was a nice walk around the mall with some window shopping before heading home for the evening.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First Week of Ocean City, NJ, 2010

Only Larry joined us for dinner on Friday evening as Beth had other plans. We made an early morning trip to Costco with the girls to pick up additional supplies, and I had decided to make fish for dinner. They had beautiful steelhead trout and Saul made one of the most popular recipes on my recipe blog with it, Pan-Sautéed Buttery Steelhead Trout with Caramelized Shallots and Lime. The girls absolutely devoured it, both of them, which is surprising because their tastes in food are so different. We had potato and leek soup, Israeli salad, black and white rice, the trout, and for dessert, we had two different kinds of jumbo oatmeal peanut butter cookies--Daddy Alex's, with dried cherries and bananas, and the regular kind, with just raisins. Sami had awakened early from her nap and we had spent an hour together making the cookies to take to the shore. We also had some chocolate pretzel bark that Larry had brought the previous week. After dinner, we packed the girls’ suitcase so it would be ready to go in the morning.

We awoke early on Saturday morning because not only did we have to finish packing for two weeks in Ocean City, but everything in the house had to be spotless and put back the way the stager had left it a few days earlier. The girls were very helpful in gathering things together to help Saul load the car. Eventually, the car was loaded and we fretted over whether all the food for our vacation would fit into the space Saul had allotted. I sent him out with the girls to the playground with instructions not to return for an hour while I ran around like a maniac doing the final cleaning and packing up all the food I had purchased and prepared from the refrigerator and freezer. As I finished up, Saul returned and went outside to water all the plants and herbs on the deck and gather a big bag of fresh herbs to take on vacation with us. It was 1 p.m. by the time we finally left and we fed ourselves and the girls assorted snacks on the road, like Gogurt, crackers and potato chips. For the first hour, I thought we would never get out of the city as we encountered bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-76 almost immediately after leaving. Once we finally reached the Ben Franklin Bridge, though, it was smooth sailing and we breezed over the Atlantic City Expressway in half an hour.

Beth, Paul and Brenna had been waiting for us for just a few minutes on the steps of our beautiful rented house at 1621 Asbury Avenue when we arrived after picking up the keys at Berger Realty just a few blocks away. Beth and Brenna had arrived earlier in the day so that Brenna would be able to spend a little more time here, as the first day of camp for her was on Monday and they would only be able to spend one night with us. Paul had arrived by motorcycle just before us, having gotten a little lost and then getting stuck in heavy traffic in Delaware. The house was just as we remembered it, and spotlessly clean. We were very happy to have the help unloading because the loading and cleaning earlier in the day had left us exhausted. Beth and Paul went out for dinner together, and Saul and I walked down to our old favorite, Scully’s, with the girls to have dinner. We were not disappointed. Afterward, we walked up to the boardwalk and bought a block of tickets to take the girls on the amusement park rides at Castaway Cove. We allowed the girls to each choose two rides. Brenna and Izzy rode the Hurricane together, but Izzy was not tall enough for the wildest rides, and Sami and Brenna are more timid in their choices. We bought the girls Dippin’ Dots for the walk home down the boardwalk, and by the time we returned, Beth had made up all the beds, Paul had left to be home for a golf game the next day, and we were all very happy to sink into blissful sleep after our long and exciting day.

Jess and Alex were bringing the girls’ bikes later on their car, so instead of biking on the boardwalk, we opted to go to the beach early on Sunday morning. Beth loaded our bag with munchies and drinks, we packed all the beach paraphernalia onto our rolling cart, and we were on the beach by 10 a.m. when the lifeguards arrived. Unfortunately, our beach has been designated as a “surfers’ beach” this year. After a few minutes, the lifeguards asked us to move a block further down the beach to a bathing area. We set up everything a second time, dragging our slogging cart a full block down the beach. Then we realized we were not between the two green flags that had been set up by the lifeguards further down. Again, we repacked everything and set up yet a third time. We all were enjoying ourselves immensely (especially because a school of dolphins obliged us by breaching close to shore) when Jess and Alex called about 12:30 p.m. to say that they had arrived at the house and were unpacking. Jess and Alex decided not to come to the beach that day as preparing Yona for the beach would be a hassle and we would be ready to come home by the time they were ready to leave. We left the beach around 1 p.m. We have a convenient enclosed outdoor shower where the girls are able to strip down, shower off prodigious amounts of sand, wrap themselves in big towels, and then finish showering upstairs in one of two regular bathroom showers. By the time they are finished, lunch has been put on the table by one of the adults, and they go off to take afternoon naps. It is a glorious system, allowing us to nap as well, if we wish. On Sunday, after our naps, we had a delicious dinner, prepared by Alex, a salad loaded with veggies and chickpeas, homemade salad dressing that he concocted from my fresh herbs, tomato and avocado salad, leftover grilled chicken, black and white rice, and sliced grilled London broil with sautéed mushrooms.

After dinner we all strolled up on the boardwalk to Castaway Cove again. The girls each chose two rides, and Brenna had a few extra to make up for the fact that she would be leaving that night. Brenna had ice cream, but Sami and Izzy could not because we had had meat for dinner. I remembered that the previous evening, on our walk home Izzy and I had watched a huge, fluffy, shave ice concoction being handed to someone on the boardwalk. Sami remembered that the store was called “Planet Ice” and we found it on the last block of shops on our way home. Sami had a “Bad Apple” which was red and green apple flavored and topped with a gummy worm, Izzy had lemon, and I shared a coffee one with Saul. Beth picked up fudge to take home at Fralinger’s. Beth and Brenna packed and left for home about 8:30 p.m. and arrived by about 10:30 p.m., luckily without encountering too much traffic.

On Monday, we all set out on our bikes for the boardwalk by 8:15 a.m. and Yona, on the back of Alex’s in her new bike seat and helmet, was enjoying it immensely. When we reached the end of the boardwalk, the line at Brown’s for freshly-made donuts was very long indeed, and we decided to skip them. After a short rest back home, we breakfasted on toasted parmesan bagels, fresh fruit and cheeses, juice, tea and coffee. Then, we changed into our suits and headed to the beach with total paraphernalia, including food, chairs, blankets, towels, umbrella, boogie board, beach toys, stroller, and folding shaded play station for Yona. This time, instead of slogging over the sand, we filed down the boardwalk to 15th Street beach. I forgot my beach tag and had to return for it. Yona liked the sand and splashing in buckets of water, but definitely did not like her first encounter with waves of cold ocean water on Jessica's lap at the seaside. After our hot, sandy, and tired walk back, and nice, refreshing showers, we feasted on caprese sandwiches, mushroom and cheese flatbreads, courtesy of Alex. After naps, Alex had prepared soba noodles with veggies and portobello mushrooms, followed by delicious sweet cold watermelon chunks before heading out to Castaway Cove. Two rides later, we were having ice cream at Kohr Bros. Izzy had peanut butter, Sami had sprinkles on top, and Jessica shared a creamsicle with Yona. Yona could not get her mouth open wide enough to indicate her desire for more.

On Tuesday, during our boardwalk jaunt on our bicycles, we encountered no lines at Brown’s and so we returned home with hot, freshly-made donuts for breakfast. We decided not to trek down to 15th Street beach and the lifeguards were kinder about letting us hang out at the edge of the 16th Street surfers’ beach. It rained briefly and unexpectedly while we were at the beach, but not enough to chase us away. Yona became even more comfortable with the sand, but still was afraid of the surf. For lunch and dinner, we cleaned up leftovers, took long naps and again spent the evening strolling the boardwalk and at Castaway Cove.

Wednesday, the lines at Brown’s for donuts were long again because we were later, having had breakfast before setting out. Leaving our bikes chained up on the boardwalk, we played miniature golf in the cool, sunny weather at a course with a big, orange octopus at the entrance. Sami turned out to be a natural at the game and managed to score 4 holes-in-1 with her left-handed swing. She beat us all. Izzy lost patience after the first five holes and became interested only in climbing the various nautical-themed constructs. Alex, with Yona in a backpack, went for a walk with her. Saul was our resident photographer. We had an early lunch when we returned because we knew that Wednesday was a special bracelet day at Castaway Cove. From 1 to 4 p.m., $10 bought a paper bracelet that allowed the children to ride as many of the rides as they wished with the proceeds going to charity. We had an absolutely perfect day for such an activity, cool, breezy and sunny. The kids had a blast, and we enjoyed ourselves watching them enjoy themselves. On the way back, we stopped for refreshments at Planet Ice and I invented a new flavor combination, which they say they will name after me, coconut shave ice with cappuccino topping. Sami had something called a “Shark Attack” with a gummy shark on top. Izzy had french fries for her refreshment, but we all shared. After napping for 2 hours, we all walked down Asbury to Scully’s for dinner. Wednesday is Disney Trivia Night at Jake’s Water Ice, so on our walk home, we signed up to be “Go Team.” We came in second and won a certificate and a free quart of water ice. Our big problem was that we had not seen the movie, Bolt. We attempted to watch Inspector Gadget on their outdoor screening of the movie around the back, but gave up after half an hour because of the mosquitoes. Ari decided to drive in late on Wednesday evening to avoid holiday traffic and arrived at about 1 a.m.

On Thursday morning, Sami, who was saddle sore, stayed at home with Ari to work on a book report she was assigned over the summer, and Ari had lots of work to do, which he delightedly did in the cool morning air, sitting with his computer on the front porch. The rest of us went biking and had a small mishap. Izzy had been riding Sami’s bike and the chain popped off. She was able to pull over to the side without incident, but while Alex was repairing it, my bike fell over and cut Saul’s leg, scraping down the back of it. He bled rather badly for a few hours because he is on anticoagulants. After a large breakfast, which included banana taro pancakes which I made, Jess and I took Sami and Izzy for a walk down Asbury to enjoy Ocean City’s “Market Days.” They had their faces painted and got really neat balloon animals made for them by the most competent balloon artist we have ever seen. She produced these incredible constructions without even looking at what she was doing, having a running conversation with everyone around her as she worked. Sami got a monkey climbing a palm tree with coconuts. Izzy got a turtle bracelet. The shops and art galleries where we wandered in and out were filled with interesting and unique items. A new bead shop opened across the street from Scully's and it has a fascinating and vast array of every type of bead one could imagine. Jess promised the girls that they could go back on another day to make necklaces. I found very unique doll shoes at one of the stores for Faith, and on the way back the girls had their nails painted, hot pink for Izzy and lime green for Sami. There were singers, musicians, and an Uncle Sam on stilts to entertain us along the way.

Calling ahead, we arrived to find a huge lunch on the table, readied by Saul and Alex, of cold cuts, salads, and leftover soba. After schmoozing for a while at lunch, Alex went off to work out at the gym, and Ari went back to his computer and the rest of us took naps. We went to dinner at Clancey’s, a new restaurant on the boardwalk that seemed a little more upscale. Because we were eight people, they allowed us to call ahead, if not to make a reservation. The food was good, but not exceptional and the service was quick and efficient. After dinner, we all continued up the boardwalk for a family night, which included various musical groups, barbershop quartet, yo-yo demonstration, and magician doing card tricks. We walked all the way to Wonderland at a far end of the boardwalk to see if they would take our Castaway Cove tickets for rides, but found out that they are a separate concern. The girls had their two rides at Castaway Cove and we returned home for the evening.

On Friday, we all went biking, except for Ari, who learned how when he was a kid, but never enjoyed it. Then, Saul, Ari and I decided to take a ride to Costco to replenish our supplies. We got stuck, unluckily, both coming and going with bridge openings that took about 20 minutes each time. I found absolutely beautify wild ahi tuna there which Alex seared as an appetizer for dinner that night to accompany our smoked turkey and butternut apple crisp. We were way behind in returning for a lunch of barbecue beef sandwiches with homemade cole slaw. We had picked up a couple of six-packs of cold Magic Hat, Wacko beer in Somers Point to accompany them. Although it was late, we decided to go to the beach anyway, especially because Yona had taken a long nap. It turned out to be one of the most glorious beach days ever, cool and sunny. The ocean looked like a placid lake. Yona got really comfortable with the sand, venturing off the blanket to play with a small bucket and shovel, and crawling over to the lifeguard stand to say hi to them. She hasn't started walking on her own yet, but toddled down the wet sand holding one of my hands. She is still very unhappy with the approach of the cold water’s edge. We stayed until the lifeguards left at 5 p.m. hoping that Ari or Alex would join us, but eventually made our way home without them. We spent so much time in the afternoon sun that each of us had a small burn spot where we had missed with the sunscreen. In addition to the ahi appetizer with avocado antipasto with artichokes, tomatoes, and olives, Alex had prepared adult sangria-like cocktails with blackberries and fruit juice. Our friend, Larry, arrived for the weekend just before dinner, having been stuck in holiday traffic on his way down. He brought us an assortment of pareve knishes--potato, kasha, and rice to accompany our pre-made turkey dinner. We blessed our candles on the mantel above our gas fireplace and settled in for the evening after dinner. We were all very tired.

On Saturday, Jess, Alex, and Larry took the girls biking on the boardwalk. Saul and I got up too late and were preparing to join them just as they were returning. Instead, we had a lox and bagel breakfast. Yona had gotten a bit too much sun the day before, so we left her with Alex, who doesn’t really like the beach, and hung out with Ari and Larry at the 16th Street surfers’ beach for the afternoon. It was a day that was even more beautiful than the previous one. We lingered until 2 p.m. enjoying the calm water, cool breezes, and cloudless sky. We had leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch and took long naps. After a light dinner, we set out for the boardwalk after dark and took the girls for ice cream at Kohr Bros.

Ari, Saul and I decided to pay a visit to the casinos in Atlantic City after tucking the girls into bed. The elegant Borgata, with beautiful Chihuly chandeliers, was just 12 miles away, according to our G.P.S. system. Ari had recently won a $1,500 jackpot there at a progressive machine during a bachelor party for his friend and coworker, Brandon. We went back to the same machine, and after about 20 minutes, and about $200, the machine station where we were sitting crashed. Although we flagged down a security guard and pressed the “service” button on the machine, no one came to repair it for about 15 minutes while we sat and watched everyone around us winning money. I finally left to see if I could find a human being, but after completely circumnavigating the huge casino, and asking for directions a few times, I gave up in disgust and returned to find Saul and a casino employee arguing over a total of eight dollars that the machine had lost. After about five minutes of arguing and explaining, I asked Saul to forget the principle and leave. As soon as I asked to leave, the manager authorized a credit for $8.00 and we cashed it in, got a steak sandwich for Ari at Tony Luke’s on the lower level food court of the casino, and headed for home. It was a frustrating evening, but better than sitting around and watching television at home until 1 a.m.

On Sunday morning, just Saul and I took the two girls biking on the boardwalk. When we returned, I made banana taro pancakes, and we all sat down to breakfast together. Saul, Jessica, Larry, Ari, Sami, Izzy and I went down to the swimming beach on 17th Street this time and set up camp at the ocean’s edge. Yona took a nap with Alex on the airy porch back home. The weather was beautiful again and we stay until 1 p.m. until the tide began to come in and the water was only 5 feet from the edge of our blanket. By the time we left, so many people were on the beach behind us that we had to maneuver ourselves through a circuitous route around and through other people’s encampments to reach the exit ramp. After our naps, Alex had prepared hamburgers, hot dogs, and spicy Moroccan sausage with sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onions along with guacamole. For dessert, we had some of the peanut butter cookies Sami and I had made, and leftover chocolate chip mandelbread. As it grew dark, we headed for the beach at 14th Street with all our beach chairs to watch the fireworks. The fireworks were very impressive and the beach was a great locale for appreciating them. The evening was clear and cool. The crowds were huge and we were glad to be walking home rather than driving, although Jessica got the unpleasant job of shlepping the beach cart with all the chairs the few blocks over the darkened streets.