Monday, February 27, 2012

The Rest of February 2012

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After all the birthday excitement in the beginning of February, we were looking forward to settling into our routines again, but Ari’s room-sized oriental rug and foyer cabinet were hanging out in the rear of our SUV and we were excited to see how everything would look together in his home. So despite the weather forecast for a snowstorm heading north up the East Coast the third weekend of February, we set out for DC on Friday morning figuring we would head back on Saturday night if it looked like the storm was going to materialize. Luckily, it didn’t, and we drove back Sunday after breakfast without even encountering any rain. On our way down to DC, we took our time, and stopped in Wheaton for lunch at Hollywood East Café, where I overindulged my craving for their crispy sesame eggplant, for which I have had a hankering for almost a year.

Ari arrived early from work and when he and Saul moved everything into position, we all thought it looked spectacular. No buyers remorse, whatsoever! We all had been searching for the right cabinet for the foyer for over a year. Ari knew it was perfect the minute he saw it. The same happened with the oriental. It took him less than five minutes to decide to buy it. He has kept to his plan of finishing the house little-by-little with just the pieces he wants, and not accumulating stuff just to fill space.

As the afternoon progressed, I was developing stomach pains. Since I was not hungry, for dinner we ate at a downscale, but very delicious Middle Eastern chain restaurant in the city that Ari had tried and liked on his lunch hour—Roti Mediterranean Grill. I had only a bowl of lemon chicken soup. It is the type of place where you order at the front and they give you a number that they call when your order is ready. It was perfect considering the good quality of the food and the way I was feeling. Later in the evening, the stomach pains increased so much I considered going to the emergency room. As I waited for the doctor to call me back, I threw up and immediately felt much better. Then, I feared I had caught the norovirus as Saul and I had eaten exactly the same things at lunch and he was okay. As the hours passed, and Ari kept us company, I continued to feel fine and was grateful that I had not needed a trip to the hospital or that our weekend had not been ruined by a three-day bout of illness.

Over the weekend, Ari made an appointment for Saul to have his beard shaved, and treated him to an awesome experience at Grooming Lounge where a progression of seven hot towels were used, he was shaven, massaged, and his face was treated with a variety of emollients that left his face not only clean-shaven, but as smooth as a baby’s bottom for a few days. His beard had become a nuisance to him as its coarseness began to prickle him as he slept. Afterward, we stopped by Ari’s new office in DC in a gorgeous office building that has modern installations of color-changing glass walls, and huge panels of grain-matched white marble backlit with white light. His work area is light and airy and recently done in an ultra-modern color palette of gray, yellow, blue and white. Common areas, such as the lunchroom, were the epitome of practical, modern, sleek design with every up-to-the-minute convenience imaginable. After touring the office, we walked down the street to Bobby Flay’s new fast food concept, Bobby’s Burger Palace, where Saul and Ari had lunch while I just sipped a ginger ale to make sure I was fully recovered from the trials of the previous evening.

In the evening, I finally felt up to eating and we revisited the Lebanese Taverna in Pentagon City for a reprise of the meal we had enjoyed so much a few weeks earlier. It did not disappoint, although the waiter did not have the spark of the guy on our previous encounter. After dinner, we wandered around the mall for a few hours until it closed, not buying anything, but enjoying the diversity of people from all over the world, in every type of native garb, who had been deposited there by buses or tours to get their fix of American goods.

On Sunday, after stopping for some supplies at Home Depot, Saul and Ari affixed his bed to his headboard, a project that has been waiting for some time. The weather, unlike what was predicted, was beautiful, and the bulbs Ari and I planted a couple of years ago have begun to emerge in his garden, a gratifying result of just an hour’s worth of labor. We had brunch together at the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring before heading home. On Sunday evening, I decorated a Presley Bella cake for Sister Lisa’s birthday while Saul caught up with a ton of schoolwork.

In the ensuing week, I finished my publication and shipped it out. Saul and I picked up Marianne and took her to lunch for her birthday at Thai Orchid in Blue Bell. She had never had Thai food before and seemed to enjoy it very much, especially the fried bananas we shared for dessert. Work began on our house and we are pleased with the progress being made. I finished reading two books in the last week on the Kindle app of my iPhone, Rob Lowe’s autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. I like that whole new worlds opened up to me in reading these, something I find particularly gratifying about non-fiction. Whether the information is biased, or has an “axe to grind,” is mostly irrelevant to me. It represents the way in which an author chooses to reveal a perception of reality to the rest of us. Trying to take some meaning from the apparently random experiences of our lives is something with which I struggle all the time in this blog.

Adele and Larry bought a house in The Villages in central Florida a few days ago. They are planning  to spend several months there in the winter each year. Ken and Randi, who are still in Hawaii, called to let us know that, next year, they have booked a place there from January through April. Beth spent the week out in Tucson looking for a place. Her house next door will be going on the market in the next month or so. It seems the whole family is on the move. Only Larry joined us for Shabbat dinner this week. Faith is in Israel for her grandson’s bar mitzvah on Masada. Beth was in Tucson. We had homemade challah, leek and cauliflower soup, spinach salad with hot sesame dressing, sesame-crusted seared tuna, and homemade potato knishes. For dessert, we had cranberry upside down cake with whipped cream and coffee. Saul and I went from store to store gathering our supplies for the Men’s Club dinner on Thursday that we are cooking tomorrow at MBI-EE. At services on Saturday, we learned that there are very few reservations, so we may not have as much work to prepare everything for this Mural Arts of Philadelphia program that is being presented. It is a subject that is very interesting to me.  I think the murals all over the city are exceptionally beautiful and diverse.

Last night, on the spur of the moment, Beth called to ask if we would like to join her and her friends and former tenants, Manuel and Ilsa for dinner. We were delighted to see them again, and we met at a Mexican restaurant in Blue Bell called Tamarindo’s that they liked. I will probably never eat at any other Mexican restaurant than this one. The food was delicious and authentic and the entreés came with free margaritas that were the best I have ever had. The staff came around with beautiful hammered copper pitchers and refilled our glasses with margaritas, just as good waiters usually fill one’s water glasses with water, which they also did regularly. I usually suffer quite a bit from drinking margaritas because the prepared mix that most restaurants use is full of sulphites, which give me sharp pains beneath my ears. Last night I was feeling no pain at all. In fact, I was as pleasantly high on margarita’s as I have ever been. Manuel and Ilsa seemed incredibly happy. Ilsa says she is now in her dream job. They insisted on treating us to dinner. Afterward, we stopped in at Beth’s house to see the progress of the work there and meet her second rescued Cairn terrier. Arriving home a short time later, I tried to stay awake to watch the Oscars, but I was feeling wonderful, sated, and drowsy. All I really got to see was the incredible Cirque du Soleil performance. Today, I had to be content with watching the highlights on the red carpet from reruns of last night. After a little more shopping today, I will be ready for preparing a dinner for 30 to 40 people tomorrow. Glad there was no hangover from my overindulgence this time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is it Possible that Saul is 65?

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Saul and I were childhood sweethearts. We have known each other since I was 11 and he was 14. He walked me home from my friend’s twelfth birthday party. We all lived down the street from each other in a section of North Philadelphia called Logan. On our first date, when I was 14 and he was 17, we double-dated with that same friend and attended Olney High School’s Kix and Kapers in May of 1964. I still have the program from this variety talent show that the students of the high school performed, and some subsequent ones that we attended for a few years after that. It is unbelievable to me that we now have a granddaughter who is 11.

As we were lucky enough to grow old together, we still feel an element of that youthful relationship. The way we look belies our perception of each other. My friend Roxy and I are always laughing about the fact that we are shocked each time we walk past a mirror. In our heads, we are still in our twenties. My mother used to say that inside every old lady there is a 16-year-old girl screaming to get out. Saul and I are so lucky to have all the shared memories of our youth together, and it colors the way we see each other, much as it would be if we were “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.” I don’t think either one of us minds being perceived in a more flattering light, however unrealistic that might be. A 65th birthday celebration is both a shock and a privilege. We need to make serious plans for our old age, but how lucky we are to have reached this milestone together and to have had the time to enjoy each other for all these years!

Ari has been visiting the last two weekends to help us celebrate Saul’s birthday. In the intervening week, the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day, has occurred and we have had three separate Tu B’Shevat seders. The first was at a Shabbat dinner at Jess and Alex’s house. Jess wrote a beautiful ceremony, gleaning from various sources, and including a very clever poem of her own creation. Alex, as usual, made a delectable meal ordered up by Izzy. We celebrated her eighth birthday as well as Saul’s 65th. When we arrived for dinner, Saul was greeted at the door with a crown that the girls made that said “King Saba,” and a royal robe, trimmed with gold, that had been part of a Purim costume for Jessica. Jess was able to find a great variety of fruits and nuts for the seder, all grown in the U.S. Rif brought a box of caramelized mixed nuts from Trader Joe’s that had us all addicted the moment we tasted them. We had the required four cups of grape juice ranging in color from white to dark. The dinner Izzy ordered for her birthday, so unusual for a child’s taste, was black bean soup, baked glazed Brussels sprouts, salad, seared tuna, glazed salmon, and mashed potatoes. We also had the birthday-cake-shaped pasta that I had bought the week earlier, and for dessert, brown-sugar-iced sweet potato cake and carob sheet cake brownies. Attending the seder and dinner were Alex, Jess and the girls, Saul and me, Ari, Larry, Faith, Elaine, and Rif. We had picked up Larry and Faith for the drive to NJ, and Ari drove us all home, tired, but sated and happy.

The next day, Saul, Ari and I attended services at MBI-EE and participated in our second Tu B’Shevat seder and luncheon there. Again, there was was an incredible variety of fruits and nuts, various colors of grape juice and a thoughtful series of readings and blessings in a pamphlet prepared by Rabbi Addison. On Sunday, we had bento box lunches with Jess, Alex and the girls at Chez Elena Wu where we are now recognized on our once-a-month excursions and treated very well indeed. In the late afternoon, Saul, Ari and I decided to take a short trip to The Dump in New Jersey. We found the merchandise there to be quite a bit different from what we had seen at the one in Oaks. Ari found the perfect, one-of-a-kind console table for his foyer and also bought a beautiful, room-size Oriental rug for under his dining table made of wool and silk. We figured that we would find a way to get them to DC eventually.

During the following week, I spent several days in front of the computer working on an international publication. In whatever free time I had, I continued to scan the descriptive and engaging letters from my father to my mother during WWII from the months of March through July 1945, a very auspicious time during the war. In the last year, with a long hiatus, I have scanned over 500 letters and have just scratched the surface. On Thursday, I attended Faith’s class where we sampled leftover fruit and nuts from the previous night’s seder at Temple Sinai and read from a seder pamphlet compiled by the daughter of members of our class (a fourth seder for me). Saul and I shopped on Thursday afternoon for the supplies for our own Tu B’Shevat seder, going to Costco, Produce Junction, Assi Market, Trader Joe’s and Giant to assemble all the necessary and diverse components. Ari arrived late on Thursday evening after attending a work-related dinner. The three of us spent most of the next day enjoyably preparing dinner and the seder, although Ari was interrupted by work much more than he had anticipated. We took a break and had lunch at Eastern Dragon. We used our traditional seder from previous years and were joined by Saul’s colleague, Sister Lisa, Beth, Larry, Faith, Jerry and Betty. For dinner, we had homemade challah; chestnut soup; spinach salad with hot sesame dressing, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds; Israeli salad; slishkas; mashed cauliflower, and maple-glazed steelhead trout. For dessert, we had coffee and an upside-down fresh cranberry cake topped with whipped cream, and assorted tree-related cookies, such as mango teacakes, mini pecan pies, lemon cheese logs, lime cornmeal cookies, and walnut cookies. On this day, Saul became 65 years old and we marked his birthday again.

An icy snow began to fall in the wee hours of Saturday morning and travel became treacherous, so we lounged around on Saturday morning, and had a big breakfast. While Saul took a long nap, Ari helped me assemble and decorate the roller skate cake that Izzy had baked a few weeks earlier, which was waiting in the freezer for her birthday party. As with the Cat in the Hat cake that I made two years ago, I used the standing lamb pan from Wilton to get the basic shape I needed. We had taken a photo of Izzy with her lavender roller skate a week earlier so that I could copy it. I was very pleased with the result.

On Sunday, the three of us packed up both cars and headed for Izzy’s roller skating party in New Jersey, stopping to have breakfast at the Marlton Diner on the way. Izzy had a rollicking celebration with a dozen other children, including her cousins, Brenna and Ava. Alex’s sister Naomi, her husband Matt, their baby Talia, Elaine, Rif, Erica and Danny came to the rink as well as some of the other parents. Jess had provided all sorts of crafts projects for the kids, as well as packs of glowing light sticks. At the rink, there were also mazes, a giant inflated slide, which Yona climbed until she could not take another step, arcade games and air hockey, to name a few of the delights there. After two hours, all rendezvoused back at the house for snacks, drinks, birthday cake, and ice cream. When the party ended, Rif and Paul drove with us to The Dump where we loaded Ari’s table and rug into the back of Paul’s large SUV. We met Jess, Sami and Izzy at a Thai Restaurant, Bankok City in Voorhees, where we had a delicious and leisurely meal. Transferring the table and rug to our SUV on the parking lot after dinner, we decided that we would visit Ari this coming weekend so that we could deliver his stuff.

Now well into winter, we are hoping that this unusually mild weather will continue so that we can begin some major renovations to the house with an eye to putting it up for sale in the spring or summer. The future of Camp Bubbie and Saba for this year has yet to be determined. Sami is going to overnight camp at Ramah this year. Izzy may be at the JCC day camp, and a day camp program is available for Yona as well. We hope that the number 65 is only a number and that we have a healthy future in store with lots of energy to enjoy the summer with our kids and grandkids. We childhood sweethearts have to keep ourselves active and moving if we want to reach “Infinity and Beyond!”