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.

No comments: