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.

1 comment:

jmedancer said...

So we get to have Presley Bella and Yona Rae cakes at Ari's Party!? Mmmm.