Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November Weekend with Ari and the Girls

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This past week was especially busy for Saul and me. Saul has been overwhelmed with meetings as department chairman and as a student advisor, and spent long hours at school. On Tuesday evening, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, our friend Elsa had a showing with another artist of her works in connection with hidden children of the Holocaust. When Saul came home on Tuesday, we didn’t know if he would actually be able to “come home,” or if we would be able to go out to the art show. The police had closed off our street in both directions as someone had hit an electric pole with their car and compromised it to the point that nothing could be done until PECO arrived from another emergency to stabilize the pole so that they could work on the wires. Fortunately, the police let Saul sneak through, and by the time we were ready to leave for the show, the pole and wires had been fixed. The show was very interesting, especially since Saul’s aunt, his mother’s sister, had been a hidden child who had been saved by a convent. The show’s kickoff took place at Gratz College.

We had arranged for Ari to bring Sami and Izzy in to spend this weekend with us. Ari had Friday off for Veterans Day and the girls were off for teacher conferences. They were supposed to come down on Thursday evening when Ari finished work, but as luck would have it, he had a stomach-wrenching computer crash at work that afternoon as a result of upgrading some software. By evening, it had all been worked out with no loss of data, but they all decided that they would come the next day, which made me a happier mommy also. I worried about the long drive in the dark, late at night.

After my class with Faith on Thursday, where she introduced the background and life of Maimonides, she mentioned to me that she was doing Shabbat dinner with her son and two of her grandchildren, Alex and Hilary, as her daughter-in-law was away. I already knew that I would be preparing a vegetarian meal this week for Shabbat, and that Alex is a vegetarian. Also, Hilary and Sami were born only a week apart and I thought it would be a good time for some bonding between the girls. We had a wonderful evening together this past Shabbat. I made homemade challah, quick black bean soup, lettuce salad with assorted dressings, vegetarian meat balls, kasha with whole wheat noodles, soba with mushrooms, potato latkes (from the freezer), and a whole assortment of freshly-baked cookies along with some desserts from the freezer and pumpkin-flavored coffee.

This past weekend was to be our cookie-baking and decorating weekend. I suddenly realized, about two weeks ago, that Chanukah this year is extremely early, beginning only three days after Thanksgiving. Adele has been tied up with helping Irv clear out Fran’s house before he flies home to California this Friday. She hasn’t had time to make all the varieties that she usually has finished by now. On Friday, when Sami and Izzy arrived, however, Izzy was ill with a stomach virus that her mother had thought was already over. She threw up as soon as she got to the bathroom and spent most of the afternoon and evening sleeping. Sami was a tremendous help this weekend, helping to get dinner on the table, and making snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies before dinner. We had a wonderful evening with Larry and with Faith and her kids. Sami and Hilary appeared to get along famously. On Saturday, Izzy woke up her usual energetic self, ate a big breakfast with us, and together with Ari, we decorated over 100 gingerbread bears that I had baked earlier in the week and glazed dozens of sugar cookies that I also made earlier in the week. Saul was committed for the day to an open house for prospective new students. He was delighted to see about 180 students where usually there are a few dozen, but he came home hoarse from all the speaking he had done, unusual for someone who has taught for as many years as he.

Since everyone was good and the cookies were looking fine, later in the evening we decided to go out for dinner and a movie. Ari purchased tickets through Fandango to take the girls to see Megamind at the 3D IMax theater in King of Prussia. We headed out for Jim’s Buffet, which is only 5 to 10 minutes from our house. By the time we arrived, Izzy was extremely ill again and only had some miso broth and some white rice. By the time the rest of us finished eating she was so miserable that we decided against the movie. By the time we arrived home, she was doubled over in pain and I thought I might have to take her to the emergency room. Jess put in an emergency call to her doctor, who said that this was characteristic of a virus that is making the rounds right now. We gave Izzy a Tums, and I massaged her tummy for a while while she and Sami watched a children’s video on their t.v. Both girls, thankfully, fell asleep within a very short time. I settled into an easy chair to relax and complete the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle from last week while Saul and Ari watched an episode of Dr. Who.

Erica was supposed to come early to pick up the girls and take them home with her for Brenna’s birthday party. She had rented a moon bounce for the day and was also going to be making and decorating gingerbread cookies with the kids. But on Sunday morning, Izzy was okay, but Sami threw up. She wasn’t as sick as Izzy the night before, so I left the girls home with Saul to goof around in their pajamas, and Ari and I went shopping for dining room chairs. Saul was happy to have the day at home with them as he had not really been able to see them much this weekend and he had computer work with which to catch up.

Ari and I began by heading out to King of Prussia to get credit for our unused movie tickets. We stopped into Nordstrum Rack which is right next door to the movie theater. Ari wound up purchasing a beautiful cashmere and wool formal overcoat at a terrific price. There was no price tag on the piece and the sales guy was having trouble locating the information, so he just made up and slapped a price tag on it to save himself and us further time and aggravation. The salesgirl who rang it up even commented about what a good price Ari was paying for such a great coat.

We headed over to The Dump, but were disappointed to find that most of their merchandise had not changed in several months. We also checked out a furniture place next door called Mahogany and More, especially since it was mahogany chairs for which we were searching. By late afternoon, we were hungry. When I called home to see how everyone was doing (the girls were only supposed to have clear liquids all day according to the doctor), Saul said everyone was okay and Ari and I should go ahead and have a late lunch. We decided on an Indian buffet we had spotted across the street from the mall called Desi Village. Ari had not had Indian food, a favorite of his, in many months. The buffet was very good, but did not compare to the one at Sultan near our house. The girls were packed and ready to leave as soon as we returned. Sami had produced some beautiful origami boats while she was hanging out. I don’t know if she followed a pattern from somewhere, or just designed them herself. Unfortunately, Ari encountered large traffic jams on the road back and both girls arrived home exhausted and a bit ill. By Monday morning, the worst appeared to be over, and both girls have been in school for the last two days. I cleaned up the house after this past weekend and have been preparing more cookies the last two days. This weekend, all three girls are coming and this will be Yona’s first time away from both mommy and daddy for the night. I hope all goes well!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eat Dessert First

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You know the expression—“Life’s too short. Eat dessert first!” I wish I had taken this advice this past weekend as I feel a bit guilty having advised a few of us to be patient and “the best was yet to come.”

This past week was depressing in more ways than one. The election results were troubling as I am no fan of the tea party and one of my favorite placards at the Stewart/Colbert Rally was “Keep fear alive. Vote Republican!” Another source of depression was the influx of tiny ants through two tiny seams in my bathroom grout. I hate to kill ants. I really quite admire their sense of community and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of the group. I had let the bathroom go a bit since the lock box came off the front door, but when the flow of ants became too troublesome, I finally worked myself up to take some action and spent an entire morning spraying and scrubbing everything, including the shower, from top to bottom. The bathroom sparkled, but late that night there was still a trickle of explorer ants hunting for crumbs. The exterminator was due for his regular visit on Friday morning and I showed him where the ants were coming in. He put down invisible poison bait for them to take back to the nest to kill the others. He told me to wait a week before washing the floor again to give the bait a chance to do its work. About ten minutes after he left, I went to use the bathroom and was horrified to find big, crawly black mounds of ants covering and swarming around every invisible little mound of bait. I closed the door. Thank heavens I have more than one bathroom! When Saul came home, he didn’t even want to see what I described, and we quickly loaded the car and headed for another weekend in Baltimore/DC. To finish the story, when we returned from our weekend there were many dead ants on the floor and there were still live ants swarming around the bait. We stepped around this mess gingerly for a few days, not wanting to mess with the poison, but yesterday, I had waited long enough. After a few hours of procrastinating, I went in there with a vacuum hose and my spray bottle of Lime Away and cleaned everything up spotlessly again. So far, I haven’t seen a single ant. I hope those that may be left have gotten the message and found another home.

To balance things out, there were wonderful parts to my week as well. Last Thursday was Roxy’s birthday, and on Tuesday, Election Day, I treated her to lunch at Blue Sage. Our sandwiches (we ordered the same one) and salads were so delicious that I may never order anything else from the menu again. In the course of going through my box of memorabilia for Olney’s reunion, I pulled out a bunch of letters that I had saved that Roxy had written to me the first year she was in college and a letter I had written to Saul about an adventure she and I had shared on an evening that we had attended a Santana concert at the Philadelphia Spectrum. On this, her sixty-first birthday, we had a good laugh over the fact that she was lamenting that Saul was about to turn 21, and we were all so old!

Beth came home a bit early on Tuesday, and we went to vote together after she helped us move my big plants into the garage to protect them from the expected frost. Then, we went to Pho Thai Nam for dinner, where we left enough room to share their exceptional warm taro cake dessert, a great choice, especially in the crisp fall weather.

Wednesday evening, our friends Ruth and Giora, who moved to New Jersey a few years ago, called to say that they would be in our neighborhood Thursday afternoon to visit their former neighbors whose son had just perished in a motorcycle accident. We were glad for the opportunity to see them as we had canceled a date with them a few months ago and had not rescheduled. On Thursday, after Faith’s class where we reviewed poetry from Yehudah Ha-Levi and Hayim Nachman Bialik, among others, and viewed a short video about the travels of Benjamin of Tudela, I stopped at Giant to pick up some fruit and snack food for our friends. Then, I baked a chocolate rum cake which we shared with coffee. We caught up with each others’ lives for a couple of hours. When they left, we decided to meet Beth, a friend, Phillipe, whose wife just left for military duty in Afghanistan, and Ken and Randi. Ken had found Phillipe a job in the area through his employment service. We met at Gimaro and spent a couple of hours there eating, schmoozing and getting to know Phillipe.

Jess and Alex had programs for older students at the synagogue on Friday, and Izzy had a lantern-lighting program at Waldorf. Ari left work early and met us and we took Sami and Izzy for an early dinner at nearby Noodles and Company and then took them to Waldorf for the program. The festivities included a short skit outdoors by the fifth graders at the entrance to the school, a song by the first-graders, and a silent, homemade-lantern-lit walk through the woods while we were being serenaded by “fairies” (older students) who hid in the dark trees and played a haunting tune on their flutes. Red and green apples were distributed at the end of the program.
Ari said it was like a low-budget version of “It’s a Small World” at Disney World. We had a beautiful, moonlit evening to enjoy this and were very grateful for the perfect weather.

Ari, Saul and I hunted for furniture, having struck out the previous weekend, and visited one of the largest venues for furniture we have ever seen. Ari had seen some bedroom furniture online that he liked and that is how we found Belfort Furniture in Virginia. Not only was their warehouse the size of a two-story Costco, but they had purchased an entire shopping center directly across the street and had filled it with furniture, dividing it by categories, as well. We looked at dozens of bedroom suites, and, in the end, Ari wound up purchasing the one he had seen online. Another large purchase was a wall unit/bookcase with rounded, sliding doors to conceal a large-screen t.v. in his living room. He had also seen that online at another store, but had not wanted to make such a large purchase without having seen the actual furniture. As we were walking through, Saul spotted the wall unit on the floor and we all were delighted with the quality and construction. He also purchased a custom-made leather headboard, and two bedroom lamps that we were surprised to find that we both liked, despite the fact that our taste is very different. We rushed back to meet Comcast to try to get Ari’s internet working, but found that the service person had lied and filed a report that he had called and not gotten an answer and so had cancelled.

On Saturday night, Jess met us at a Thai restaurant called Little Spice that is near the Arundel Mills Egyptian movie theater. We had a late, delicious, vegetarian dinner and, after schmoozing for a hour, headed over to the theater to see Red, but when we arrived, we found it sold out. Having had such a large meal, we decided to walk it off by circling the enormous figure-eight-shaped mall where we were relegated to window shopping because all the stores had closed for the evening.

The next morning disappeared with waiting for Comcast to arrive. Someone did show up and fixed the connection for at least the dozenth time, but by the following morning, the signal was gone again. Trying to salvage at least part of the day, we called my cousin, Julie, who was being visited by her brother, Bob, so that they could attend a Flyers game that evening in D.C. and asked if they would like to join us for dim sum at China Garden in Rosslyn. We drove over and Julie showed us through the cozy, three-story home that she has been renovating in the tree-lined neighborhood of Lanier Heights where she had been living for a number of years. By the time we arrived at China Garden, it was quite late for dim sum. One of the first carts to come by our table had coconut buns and I convinced Julie, who was very anxious to sample them, that we should wait a while before ordering dessert so that the buns and other desserts would be warm. I was very embarrassed to find that by the time we were ready for dessert, there was literally nothing left. Our pleas to the maitre d’ brought nothing but the admonition that we should arrive around 11:30 a.m. if we expected to have a nice selection of dishes. In the future, should we be stuck with arriving late, we will be sure to eat dessert first.

After dropping off Julie and Bob to get ready for the game, which the Flyers lost, unfortunately, we went back to Ari’s to pack our suitcases, and Ari drove us back to Jess and Alex’s house so that he could retrieve his car that we had left in Baltimore for the weekend. Saul and I took the leisurely trip home over U.S. 1.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Stewart/Colbert Rally in DC and Halloween in Baltimore

Saul decided to cancel his 11:00 a.m. class on Tuesday morning so that he could attend Fran’s funeral with me. We feared, because of her advanced age, and the fact that Irv’s life was in California, that there might not even be a minyan at the funeral. Larry and Adele had come to our house to pick up the shiva trays we had prepared and had gone to Fran’s house in Northeast Philadelphia to set up the food and prepare for the returning mourners. As it turned out, about 15 friends and relatives were in attendance. The day began sunny and crisp, but then turned unexpectedly gray and cold by the time the service began. A representative from the funeral home conducted the service and did a very competent job under the circumstances. The interment was at Har Jehuda Cemetery, which we had just visited last year with our friend, Larry, who wanted to check out some graves of relatives and some grave sites belonging to his family. Saul spent hours traveling by car to get to and from school, to pick me up so that we could travel to the cemetery together—an hour’s journey, then to the Northeast for the shiva, and then back home again. As usual this semester, his work was pressing, and he spent the rest of the day on his computer.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I prepared for our past lovely weekend in Baltimore and DC. Ari, Saul and I are big fans of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. We also TiVo The Colbert Report which follows it on Comedy Central. From the time we first learned about the “Rally to Restore Sanity,” which later became “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” as both Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s two rallies became combined, we planned to attend it in DC. As we discussed our plans, our next-door niece, Beth, decided to join us at Ari’s for the weekend, and a few days ago, my cousin Anne, from New York, also decided to join us. At the last minute, Anne’s son, Ben, arranged to stay with friends in DC and join us for parts of the weekend. The day of the rally also happened to be Anne’s 54th birthday.

Not knowing what to expect as far as which meals we would be taking at home at Ari’s house, I decided to “kill two birds with one stone” and prepare some of my kids’ favorite foods which we could either eat, or could be stored away for future meals. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings I cleaned out and reorganized the kitchen cabinet on which Saul had replaced the broken hinge. I shopped, and then prepared dough and filling for more pumpkin-face cookies, made a huge pot of chicken soup that yielded 18 quarts, a large quantity of chicken salad from the four soup chickens, kasha and bow ties, macaroni and cheese, bread pudding, vanilla custard sauce, coconut/maple tapioca pudding, a brown sugar glazed sweet potato cake for Anne’s birthday, and a pareve carob sheet cake. Along with some other supplies, like milk, eggs, Hawaiian taro pancake mix, bread, avocados, tomatoes, etc., Saul and I packed everything up, including our suitcases for the long weekend and headed off to Baltimore on Thursday afternoon when school was over. We arrived in Baltimore at 6:00 p.m. just in time for a program for young families with toddlers that Alex had designed called PB & J—Pizza, Blessings and Jammies (pajamas). Jessica had been in South Carolina for several days at a conference on marketing retreat centers and was on her way home. We were able to take the responsibility of Yona and Izzy off Alex’s hands while he ran his engaging program. Sami was at a play date after school at her classmate Acadia’s house. Jess was supposed to pick her up at school and attend a PTA meeting for Izzy’s first grade class. Unfortunately, she got caught in rush hour traffic coming through DC and we never got to see her on Thursday night. She never got to attend the PTA meeting, either. She arrived exhausted and ill from six hours of driving, too many traffic jams, and several days of bad food.

Pizza not being one of my favorite foods, Saul and I stopped for a comforting late dinner of steaming soup, mu shu, and crispy sesame eggplant over steamed rice at Hollywood East Café in Wheaton on our way to Ari’s. Early Friday morning, as Ari prepared to leave for work, Saul was appalled to find that he could not get a Comcast Internet connection to answer the nearly 300 email messages that he had received following a controversial speaker who had presented at the college. A last-minute decision was made that he would accompany Ari to work so that he would have the connection to get his work done. I decided to go back to bed. Surprisingly, I slept until a little after 1:00 p.m. When I awoke, I had some late lunch, cleaned up the kitchen, looked at some magazines, played with my iPhone, watched some television, did all of Ari’s laundry, and made the beds. In short, it was a blissful day for me. The same was true for Saul, who managed to complete his work, socialize briefly with some of Ari’s co-workers, have a stimulating conversation at lunch where they were joined, in a rare instance, by one of the two founding partners, and leave in a reasonable amount of time to pick me up for our journey to Baltimore for Shabbat dinner.

Alex had chosen a Mexican theme this particular week. We were joined by his sister, Naomi, and her husband Matt. After we lit candles, dinner began with the blessings over grape juice and warm, freshly-baked challah dipped in honey, which has remained their tradition since their honeymoon. Alex made dishes almost too numerous to remember—spicy vegetable soup, guacamole, salsa verde, warm flatbreads and tortillas, black beans, baked and mashed butternut squash, chili con carne, fake crab and avocado salad and a few other side dishes that I am sure I have forgotten to mention. For dessert, we had the pareve carob cake. Sami presented me with a little gift she made for me out of cardboard, crayons, sticks, glue, nylon string and mini origami that represented a forest with owls and monkeys. Anne had driven into Philadelphia to hook up with Beth after work and they were supposed to meet up with us in Baltimore, but they had gotten off to a late start, had picked up Ben downtown, and had encountered heavy traffic on the way down. We decided to meet in DC instead and all of us arrived there at around 10:30 p.m. A few minutes later, having slept most of the day, I decided to accompany Ari while he dropped off Ben at his friends’ house a short distance away. Ordinarily, it would have been a five-to-ten-minute drive, but after encountering heavy traffic on the way there, we encountered stand-still traffic on the way home no matter which street we tried. Eventually, inching along, we discovered that the police had set up road blocks for a few blocks around the Columbia Heights Metro station which they had shut down. Ari and I did not get back until midnight. By then, everyone else was sound asleep.

In the morning, we rose early; breakfasted on bagels, cream cheese, juice and tea; and discussed what we wanted to say on our signs for the rally. We cut up an old beige bed sheet of Ari’s, and Beth and Saul provided permanent markers. Beth’s sign said, “I like pie.” Ari’s sign said, “I don’t like pie, but we can still get along.” Anne’s sign said “Whatever.” My sign said, “Why isn’t the media reporting on the media reporting on the media?” Saul didn’t make a sign. Then, we packed up a backpack with some chicken salad sandwiches and box drinks, Girl Scout cookies, sun screen, band-aids, our folded, bed-sheet signs, and a few other necessities and headed off, on foot, to the Petworth Metro station at about 10:30 a.m. The trains were quite crowded and became increasingly so as we traveled the few stops down to The National Mall where the rally was taking place. The station was so crowded that it took us almost 20 minutes in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds to exit. We stopped to take some photos holding our signs. Then, as we reached the mall itself, we found ourselves inching along in massive crowds to try to get close enough to the four large outdoor screens to see and hear something of what was happening. A few yards in from Seventh Street, which was about halfway between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, we had to stop as it was not really possible to squeeze in any closer in the mass of humanity, and I, being somewhat claustrophobic, didn’t want to try any further. All thoughts of pleasant, picnic-like seating on our blanket went out the window as we all struggled to stay together, listen to the speakers, or catch a glimpse of the projection screens above the vast sea of heads. It was standing room only for everyone, except those who were willing to climb nearby trees for a perch above it all, and there were quite a few of those. Although I could not see anything, Ari, Saul and Beth were tall enough to see the screens over all the heads, and Ari, who was standing next to me, filled me in periodically about what was happening. Eventually after about an hour, those who grew tired of standing, or needed a bathroom, or just gave up, filtered their way out of the crowd and I was able to find a spot a few feet further up where I could just see the screen if enough heads in front of me moved in the right direction as people shifted around in their spaces. The most poignant moments of the show were not really from the comedy, the music, or the satire, which were not stellar, but just from the experience of being present on that beautiful October day in that colossal, benign crowd (some estimates put it as high as 300,000). Singing, and hearing that huge throng singing the National Anthem on the National Mall, poised between the two iconic monuments of this country brought chills to my spine and tears to my eyes. I enjoyed the show, such as I could in such a situation, standing shoulder-to-shoulder for over three hours (five by the time I finally got to sit down on a concrete bench at the Metro stop). I thought the show was almost beside the point, a raison d’etre for bringing everyone together in such a way. No show could ever have met the expectations that accompanied this gathering.

At the end, we inched our way out of the crowd, struggling to stay together, and proceeded down Seventh Street, which becomes Georgia Avenue and is almost a beeline to Ari’s house about 4 miles away. Ari and Beth walked the entire distance home, but Saul, Anne and I gave up after a mile or two and headed down into the Mt. Vernon Square Station. There, we encountered green line trains so tightly packed with people that we could not hope to get on. The yellow line trains emptied out there as well, and those people just turned around and waited at the edge of the platform for a chance to push onto the green trains. After about 45 minutes of frustration, Saul hatched a plan for getting us home. We got on a train going in the opposite direction and took it well past the Archives station at the National Mall to the Waterfront Station. There, we crossed the platform and actually got seats on the train before it began to encounter the huge crowds from the rally. When we finally arrived at our Petworth stop, we had the idea, as we exited, to make reservations for Anne’s birthday dinner at Sala Thai Restaurant, which was right there. We made a reservation for seven people at 7:00 p.m. Ari was waiting for us in the car so that we did not have to walk the additional few blocks home.

Back at the house, we collapsed on the sofa with big glasses of water and watched the movie Shaun of the Dead, a precursor to Halloween, for about an hour before it was time to walk over to the restaurant for dinner. We were being joined by my other cousin, Julie, who has lived and worked in DC since she graduated from George Washington University many years ago. Anne left very specific instructions with an address for her son, Ben, who needed to get on the metro where he was staying and go two stops to meet us. Somehow, he wound up at a different Sala Thai in that neighborhood and had to take a cab to meet us. Anne was delighted that the restaurant had live jazz performers which she really enjoys. The singer, accompanied by an excellent pianist and bassist, had a terrific voice and sounded a bit like Ella Fitzgerald to me, reprising some of her classic songs. The food was wonderful, but the service was embarrassingly bad. We could not quite figure out why, except perhaps the waitress was new and had received no instruction at all. The restaurant was extremely small and did not seem to be understaffed. It began when she brought our hot appetizers and then disappeared without bringing any napkins or utensils to the table. Ari got up and found napkins, and a signal from the sushi chef spying our distress brought her running from somewhere eventually with utensils. When our entreés arrived, only half the table was served. We mistakenly assumed the others would receive theirs shortly. With no explanation from anyone, including our waitress, who again disappeared, we had almost finished eating before the other entreés arrived. I had asked about a chocolate mousse cake with a candle at the beginning of the meal, but the waitress seemed to have completely forgotten our discussion and we were all exhausted from our day and anxious to leave after so much time spent at the table. Ben left to join his friends even before the other entreés were served, so there didn’t seem to be much point in pursuing it. Julie drove Saul back to the house and joined us as we celebrated Anne’s birthday with tea and brown-sugar-glazed sweet potato cake with a tea-light candle in the center. We had a lively conversation until, one-by-one, we began to fall asleep. After Julie left, Ari cleaned up the whole downstairs before going off to bed. Next door, a wild Halloween party was raging and, as Ari was cleaning up, one of the drunken party-goers leaped from the deck next door onto his garage roof and passed out. Someone else leaped over and helped him get back eventually. In the morning, Ari swept or threw all the broken bottles and beer cans from his yard back in front of their door. Later in the day, while we were out, a hand-written note of apology was dropped into his mail slot.

We decided to go for dim sum on Sunday morning. Ari picked up Ben while Beth and Anne packed, and then we went in two cars to Hollywood East Café again so that they could get on the road home directly from there. We waited briefly for a table and enjoyed the assortment of steaming hot dumplings, taro cake, and lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice as always, but the big favorite of Beth, Anne and Ben were the assortment of warm desserts—egg custard-filled crispy mochi “carrots,” mini custard pies, toasted sesame balls with sweet yellow bean paste inside, green tea balls with sweetened black sesame filling, and fluffy pineapple buns. Beth, Anne and Ben headed for home after that, and Ari, Saul and I went shopping for odds and ends for Ari’s house at a nearby Tuesday Morning, Bloomingdale’s, Pottery Barn, and World Market. We began heading to Clarendon to check out the furniture-laden Crate and Barrel there, but realized, looking at the traffic on the other side of the road resulting from the Marine Corps Marathon that took place on Sunday, that we might get into a tremendous traffic jam on the way back and immediately turned around. We were disappointed with a lack of new merchandise everywhere we went. Stopping to pack up our things at Ari’s, Saul and I headed for Baltimore to go trick-or-treating with the girls, who were due back from a costume party at 6:00 p.m. As darkness fell, Jess, all three girls, and I pushing Yona in a stroller, went from house to house in the neighborhood for about an hour and a half. By the second house, Yona in her stroller realized that the other two girls were being given something and began to loudly protest in her own way that whatever they were getting, she wanted also. When she figured out that it was candy, we were assaulted by an endless stream of “open!, open!, open!” until Jess meted out some M & Ms.

We took the long relaxing way home over the Conowingo Dam and were unpacked and in bed by 11:00 p.m. It was a great long weekend!