Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thrills and Chills in January & February

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As the end of January neared, and February began, the weather grew super cold, yucky foggy/rainy/sleety/snowy, and gray, gray, gray! I love gray inside, but it needs to be tempered with blue skies outside. I believe I suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder), so on days like these, I have to work at things that cheer me up. One of those things is cooking. For a few days, I just grocery-shopped and cooked, sometimes putting things away in the freezer for the future, sometimes to satisfy cravings. I made Israeli salad, potato salad, fresh tuna salad, chicken salad, and a sweet potato cake. Saul helped me turn out many dozens of hamantash in every flavor to pack away in the freezer for the upcoming holiday of Purim. I also found time to make the yeast type that Saul loves. On Wednesday, January 23, after about two hours of cleaning house and doing laundry in the morning, I discovered that the diamond from my engagement ring had fallen out of its setting. I spent most of the day searching everywhere and Saul helped me when he came home, but it never turned up and I suspect it either disappeared in the washing machine or toilet. We even emptied the ice in the ice maker and let it melt to see if it dropped off in there. I have not shed a tear about it because it is only a thing and not really worth crying over, but losing it certainly didn’t help to cheer us up.

One thing at the end of January did cheer me up, and that was seeing a display of the art of Mordechai Rosenstein during Faith’s class. Hearing him speak about the development of his art, his childhood in Philadelphia, and watching him apply his vibrant colors to a new work was very uplifting for me.

On Friday, January 25, Saul and I drove to the Social Security office in Norristown for our scheduled appointment and both of us registered to receive Social Security. We had a very helpful and pleasant staff person who took us right away, guided us efficiently through the process, and she answered every question we had. After that, we arrived early at Noboru and tried the $9.95 buffet lunch. We decided it wasn’t worth it. We made plans to have an early bird dinner with Larry before Shabbat, but canceled them because it began to snow. We had dinner from all the leftovers of my cooking spree, lit the candles, and went to bed early, watching the snow fall outside the window.

Saul had Team Children on Saturday and while he was gone, I stayed in my cozy, warm bed and finished the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle on my iPad, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. When Saul returned, we slept most of the day. A lot of the snow was gone by evening and we were well rested, so we called reservations ahead to Bahama Breeze and had a lively dinner there as soon as we arrived, circumventing a very long line waiting for tables. Then, we drove down the street to King of Prussia Mall and walked around there for about two hours. We tried out a Sleep Number bed, which we are considering buying, and bought a pink cake ball pan and sugar decors at Sur La Table for Izzy’s birthday cake.

On Sunday, we rose at 6:00 a.m. to drive to Cherry Hill to babysit for the two younger girls. Izzy had been sick with a cough and fever for two days. Sami was not due in Sunday school class until 10:00 a.m. Jess in her new job, was responsible all day for Super Sunday and Alex was running his school until 1:30 p.m. I took two batches of hamantash dough with me. Sami helped with the first batch and then Saul took her to school. The younger ones helped complete the second batch with Yona cutting the circles. I made lunch for them, but Izzy was too sick to eat and I tucked her into bed. When Alex returned, Saul and I left and had lunch at Famous Dave’s. When we arrived home, we went to the Giant and bought sour cream and candy for Izzy’s sleepover birthday cake to be eaten at Shabbat dinner the following Friday.

Monday, January 28, was another snow day. Although the college stayed open, Saul canceled all his classes because of an ice storm in the early morning. His first class is at 8:00 a.m. Alex called to say that Izzy had slept from the time I tucked her in until late morning. She had gotten up at 2:30 a.m. for ice cream and hamantash and went immediately back to sleep afterward. She was feeling better, but Jess took her to the doctor, anyway, who prescribed amoxicillin. We went back to sleep for a couple more hours. Then, while Saul caught up with computer work, I caught up with phone calls, spending a long time with both Roxy and my sister (who sounded very upbeat and happy). Saul and I had a leisurely breakfast, watching the ice build outside the window. Then, I cooked some more, making three more batches of hamantash dough, among other things, followed by Izzy’s sour cream pound cake. In the evening, we were invited to dinner at Foulkeways by our friend, Marianne, just down the street, so the ice was not a big issue. Marianne had just been given a new iPad for her birthday by her son, John, and was beginning to take classes on how to use it. We spent an hour or so before dinner, and an hour after dinner showing her what could be done with it. Both she and her friend Cliff were absolutely wowwed when we Googled their names about how much information resides on the internet and Marianne was flabbergasted that all her photos taken in Israel with her sister a few years ago were available there because we had posted them to Picasa when Saul and Ari had returned with her from the trip. We showed her my blog posts in which she is mentioned and photos we took together. I also took Marianne a half of a carrot cake leftover from a previous dinner that I had frozen (she once told me she dreamed about my carrot cake) and some hamantash.

I attended Faith’s class on Tuesday. After Saul and I had lunch together at home, we began to assemble Izzy’s birthday cake. Saul made the red cake bases and sliced up the cake into six “beds.” We had dinner with Faith at Cheesecake Factory in King of Prussia and then made a shiva call in West Chester at the sister of a former dance teacher who was on Faith’s faculty. Saul and I had taught with Diane many years ago. I had danced with her and the children in the school for a few years as an assistant. Diane died of breast cancer.

On Wednesday, January 30, the weather was again foggy and horrible. Saul was gone all day, but I hardly noticed the weather or his absence. In fact, I was having so much fun working on Izzy’s cake that I forgot to eat all day. I worked on it from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. when Saul came home. We drove together in the awful weather to pick up Ken’s car and check his house. He left us three $20 coupons for Bonefish Grill that needed to be used by February 10. We used the first of them for dinner that night. Driving together to Executive Auto Body, we dropped off the Prius so that the bumper that we had damaged at Downtown Disney and duct-taped up could be replaced. The repairs were finished by the following Monday and cost a little over a thousand dollars, not worth making a claim with the insurance company because of the deductible, but hard to swallow nevertheless. Ari paid the bill, bless his heart. My friend, Roxy, called in the afternoon to tell me that her daughter, Sarah, had given birth to a healthy baby girl. They named her Eliana Rose.

On Thursday, January 31, I skipped Faith’s class because of an upset stomach and slept late. I baked a date bread loaf and more cake pops to make two additional “beds” for Sami and Yona as Jessica had pointed out that I hadn’t taken them into consideration and I felt badly about that. I spent the afternoon finishing up Izzy’s cake with icing hair and white chocolate name plates for the cake dolls. In the late morning, Jess called because she needed last-minute babysitters as Alex needed to be at a last-minute meeting and she was still obligated for Super Sunday week. Thursday is an early day for Saul, so when he returned home, we had a quick bite of lunch, stopped at the Giant for additional candy for the two new cakes, and headed out to Cherry Hill. When we arrived, we took the girls for a walk around Cherry Hill Mall so that I would not be exposed to the dog for too many hours. The mall turned out to be very boring as malls go. There was absolutely nothing for the girls to do there and we won’t be going back. We had dinner at Bahama Breeze there (the girls choice) and while the food was delicious, the service was incredibly slow and inefficient. The girls were finished with appetizers and entrées before Saul and I received our meals. They even brought Sami a child’s pasta meal that had sausage in it by mistake. There is never sausage in the child’s meal. We had waited so long for it that they quickly replaced it with macaroni and cheese and didn’t charge us. All through the walk around the mall and the long period of sitting at dinner, the girls were angels. The afternoon was a delight for us, just watching them interact together. When Saul and I returned home, we were very tired. We were in Ken’s car, so I had to get out to manually open our garage door. When I slammed the car door shut, I closed my left pinky in the door. I opened the door in an instant, but the pain was horrible and I got nauseous and then faint. Saul was so upset, he left the car running and came into the house after me to apply ice. Luckily, the finger was only badly bruised with a tiny cut so I did not have to go to the hospital, but the incident set off a chain reaction. By the following Monday evening, I called the doctor, told him about my symptoms of nausea, chest pain, and aches in my left arm, and begged him not to send me to the emergency room because I believed I was experiencing simultaneous esophagitis and trauma to my arm (further exacerbated by aggressive use of a rolling pin to roll out fondant), a situation that I had experienced exactly the same way a few years ago. He agreed and set up an appointment in his office three days later that confirmed my own diagnosis.

Izzy’s actual birthday party, on Shabbat evening February 1, was a delight. The little girls were all adorable. They and their mothers were so impressed and delighted with the cake that one-by-one they whipped out their iPhones and took photos of it. One even wanted to know if there was a way to preserve it permanently. It is probably my favorite of all the cakes I have made over the years. I made a big pot of black bean soup, Izzy’s favorite, and Alex made a huge salad and an assortment of his special homemade pizzas. After dinner, I enjoyed watching the girls dig into their individual cakes, so excited were they that every part was edible. We took Larry along with us and we were joined by Saul’s sister, Rif. On the way to Cherry Hill, we stopped at Singapore Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant downtown to order the food for Saul’s birthday luncheon at MBI-EE the following Saturday.

We went to services at MBI-EE on Saturday, despite the way I was feeling, as the ache and nausea were intermittent. Saul and I dined on my cooking spree leftovers for lunch and took a long nap in the afternoon. Because we had only a short time to use up the $20 gift certificates from Ken and Randi, we decided to dine again at Bonefish Grill. Neither of us was very hungry and we ordered judiciously, so our bill for the evening was only $4.00 plus tip. We found seats at the communal table immediately, so we didn’t have to wait, and we met a pair of young ladies next to us, who gave us packets of coffee samples for a company they represent.

That Sunday, February 3, we slept late, and had a leisurely breakfast. I was feeling yucky most of the day, worried about my symptoms, and hesitant to call the doctor. The family was due in on the following Friday night for a big Shabbat dinner here and to sleep over for the luncheon on Saturday at the synagogue. I wanted to be up for all of it.

On Monday afternoon, I was finally able to meet my friend, Laura, for lunch at the Metropolitan American Diner. We have not found the time to get together for almost a year, and it was so nice to just sit and talk face-to-face to catch up with each other’s lives. We had big bowls of hearty soup and tied up the table for a long time as we kept thinking of things to share that we had forgotten. We also shared photos of the grandkids—all girls. I hope that somewhere out there someone is having boys! The doctor put my mind at ease that I was not going to spend time in the emergency room, so I was much more relaxed the rest of the week. We picked up our repaired Prius that evening.

I went to Faith’s class on Tuesday morning and then went shopping with Saul on Tuesday afternoon for supplies for his upcoming birthday dinner on Friday. Later in the afternoon, Jessica convinced me to make a fleishig meal as their kitchen has become totally dairy and she and Izzy have been craving meat.

Saul has a late day on Wednesday, so I used the opportunity to shop for fresh kosher chicken and veggies to make a large pot of chicken soup. I spent the entire day cooking, preparing for Friday. I made chicken soup, kasha and bow ties, black and white rice, beef stew with assorted root veggies, sweet and sour meatballs with Moroccan sausage, cole slaw and the final batches of hamantashen. When Saul came home, dinner was leftover lecsó (pronounced “lehtch-o”) that I had made with small chunks of dry salami, a delicacy that I had readied in honor of Izzy’s upcoming visit (she had a few slices as an appetizer on Friday), and couscous.

On Thursday, a big nor’easter blizzard named Nemo began to be predicted for New England and south beginning Friday night. After speaking with Larry, we decided to cancel Saul’s luncheon. When I returned from attending Faith’s class at Temple Sinai, I reached Singapore and the owner, Peter, said it was okay to cancel. Saul arrived home early and went with me to the doctor, who put my fears to rest, telling me to take Pepcid morning and evening for two weeks, and do pendulum exercises for my rotator cuff discomfort. I fairly skipped out of the doctor’s office feeling I had dodged a bullet. Arriving at home, we had soup chicken and cole slaw for dinner. Ari arrived at about 9:30 p.m. from DC and we kept him up until midnight finishing up two batches of jumbo oatmeal, peanut butter and raisin cookies.

Because of the impending storm, everything was very “touch and go” on Friday. Saul and Ari left early in the morning. Ari had an appointment for his Mercedes at a local dealer, and Saul had a meeting at school. After dropping off the car, they had breakfast together in the school cafeteria and Ari went to work, remotely, from Saul’s office. I went back to sleep after they left and slept soundly until almost 10:00 a.m. Ari’s car wasn’t ready until almost 1:00 p.m., so they didn’t get back home until 1:30 p.m. I had been working in the kitchen for a few hours by then and I was incomprehensibly tired again. We all just had a snack for lunch and drove Ken’s car back to his house to put in his garage in advance of the storm. At about 3:00 p.m., I laid down in bed and took a nap until 4:30 p.m. By 3:00 p.m. Jessica had committed to coming, but not sleeping over, and was bringing Rif with her. Larry picked up Faith and brought her along. When I awoke from my nap, Ari and Saul, particularly Ari, had readied everything perfectly. The table was expanded and set perfectly with beautiful linens and all the appropriate tableware. Ari had readied the challah pans with non-stick spray and cornmeal, and prepared the egg and sugar glaze. He had made mango/passion fruit iced tea. The dishwasher had been emptied and the extraneous items had been washed by hand. Ari had anticipated my every need. That was a beautiful thing! And, he stood waiting to assist with the last minute prep. I began to warm all the items I had prepared previously. I kneaded and braided the challahs, then glazed and sesame seeded them, while Ari squeezed lemons and limes for fresh lemonade and made simple syrup. Jess, Rif and the girls arrived just after the challahs went into the oven. They said they thankfully did not encounter any precipitation. We blessed the candles together. I prepared a lime juice, fresh herb and tomato mixture for guacamole into which Izzy mashed avocados, while Sami put out multi-grain chips. We snacked on seasoned pistachios while waiting for Larry and Faith to arrive. Yona took Rif into her bedroom to show her all the toys in her toy box. We had a heavenly, delectable Shabbat dinner together, right on schedule. When everyone left, about 7:45 p.m. the snow had already laid down half an inch, but luckily all arrived home safe and sound in record time because of the lack of traffic.

At 8:00 a.m. the next morning, when we needed to start preparing to leave for synagogue, the weather still looked awful. We got only 2 to 3 inches through the night, but the wind was whipping it around and temperatures were bitterly cold. Danny had not plowed our driveway yet. We decided to go back to bed. Around 10:00 a.m. we had a huge bagel breakfast comprised of most of the items I had purchased in anticipation of everyone sleeping over on Friday night. The sun came out and began to melt the snow. While I finished my crossword puzzle and snoozed away the afternoon, Saul and Ari together accomplished something I have been trying to get done for at least 10 years. They moved our WiFi connection to the middle of the house and disconnected and removed the huge spaghetti of wires that was under both Saul’s and my desks. They were both grinning like Cheshire cats when it was finished and our signal is now strong everywhere in the house. In the early evening, we caught the movie, Silver Linings, at a nearby theater. We all liked it immensely. Then, we went to dinner to celebrate Saul’s birthday at Tamarindo’s, which was lively, crowded and very good. We only had to wait about 20 minutes to get a table, not bad for a Saturday night.

We still had a $20 coupon to use up by February 10, at Bonefish Grill, so we arrived at 11:00 a.m. when they opened for their relatively new brunch. We tried three different selections and enjoyed them all, but felt it would have been a little pricey without the coupon. Ari and I took a walk around Montgomery Mall in the afternoon because he needed some new pants. In the process, we found a $200 goose down jacket for Saul that was marked down to $35 at Eddie Bauer. It was the only one, just his size, and just seemed like it was fated to be there for his birthday. I love when the planets align! On Sunday evening, we had dinner together at Bertucci’s in Plymouth Meeting so that Ari could just get on the Blue Route and head back to DC. What a wonderful weekend it turned out to be, despite the bad weather and cancellation of the luncheon.

On Monday, I had some major cleaning and laundry to do to get the house back in order, but it was a pleasure knowing how we had all been healthy and together for this milestone. I attended Faith’s class yesterday morning, had a yearly mammogram, which will hopefully be okay, had lunch with Saul at Eastern Dragon, and then a white pizza dinner with Faith at Giuseppi’s. The weather and some of our circumstances might be full of chills, but the thrills these last few weeks have definitely surpassed them.

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