Monday, December 16, 2013

Hakuna Matata

Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata, ain’t no passing craze
It means no worries for the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata

We went to see the “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park with our friend, Larry, who joined us for a few weeks. The lyrics from this song struck me as perfect for our new retirement lifestyle here in Florida. Although I have known and loved the music for many years, until I googled the phrase, I wasn’t sure if it was a made-up word like “supercalifragilisticexpialodocious” or a real African phrase. Sure enough, it is a real Swahili expression meaning “no worries.” Most of the time, Saul and I achieve this idyllic state, as most of our days for the last few months have consisted of rising in the morning when we feel like it, having breakfast by the pool in gorgeous weather, possibly shopping, doing a small project around the house (there are always ways to improve it), and either swimming in our pool, or enjoying walks in one of the four Disney Parks, or both. Tough, huh?

Since my last post, I can report that we had as delightful and easy a fast for Yom Kippur as anyone could wish because of the temperate weather. Our drive back to DC with Ari after breaking the fast was fine, even though it was late. Saul and I left DC on Sunday, September 15, after having breakfast with Ari. Unfortunately, because of our timing, we spent about three hours in heavy traffic just traveling the first 100 miles of our 900-mile journey back home. Doubly unfortunately, once the traffic eased up, we almost immediately ran over a blown tractor-trailer retread that damaged the undercarriage of our Prius. It sounded much worse than it looked, and Saul, with his amazing talent for quick fixes, was able to crawl under the car with some hose tape that we purchased at a nearby truck stop, remove part of the damaged cowling and tape the rest up so that we could continue our journey. For this fiasco, we only lost about a half hour of traveling time. As we neared the end of our first evening’s trek to Florence, SC, the rain was coming down so heavily that we almost missed our exit in the dark. Fortunately, we were able to get a comfortable room for the night at our favorite Comfort Suites, and left refreshed and well rested the next morning, a clear day, after a satisfying free breakfast. We really were excited to be heading home to our new life.

We arrived home on Monday, September 16, and had dinner at Sweet Tomatoes before 5:00 p.m. We quickly unpacked our car and suitcases and met Ken and Randi at Epcot for the IllumiNations fireworks that same evening. They had been in Disney World at The Swan Hotel vacationing with Jamie and Andy, Presley, Evan, and John and Cindy, Andy’s parents. The next morning, we met all of them at The Art of Animation Hotel where Jamie and Andy and the kids were staying to have a rather chaotic breakfast together. Following breakfast, Jamie and Andy went off to a timeshare pitch, while the parents babysat, and we went home to catch up with laundry and food shopping. The next day, we picked up the “old folks” to see our home. That night, while Cindy, Randi, Jamie, Andy, and Presley were attending the “Not So Scary Halloween Party,” dressed as various characters from Peter Pan in the Magic Kingdom, Saul and I picked up Ken, Evan, and John and had dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack, where Evan was able to play in the restaurant’s playground with me while we were waiting to be served. Afterward, we dropped the three of them off at The Art of Animation Hotel to put Evan to bed and await the return of the others. The next morning, we picked up Ken and Randi from their brunch at The Grand Floridian, with John and Cindy, dropped John and Cindy back at The Swan to meet their airport shuttle, and brought Ken and Randi with their luggage back to stay with us for what was supposed to be two weeks.

We spent Thursday with Ken and Randi relaxing by the swimming pool while the kids fulfilled their self-scheduled activities at the parks. Over the next few days, we picked up provisions for Shabbat dinner at Costco and First Oriental Supermarket, went to see Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios, bought a used wheelchair for Ken from a Craigslist ad (so that we would not have to rely on renting them from Disney), took a late night walk around the lushly-landscaped indoor gardens of the Gaylord Palms Hotel, and shared half price mojitos and small plates at Bahama Breeze. Randi’s sister and brother-in-law, Lori and Jules, became grandparents to a new baby boy, so we spent a day driving to Boca Raton to visit them and to see the new baby, a drive that was memorable in that we were held up for half an hour alongside a car that had just flipped over, while the medics evacuated a badly injured young woman by helicopter. It landed on the cleared highway right in front of us. After visiting the children at home with their new son, we had a lively and delicious dinner together with Lori and Jules, sitting at outdoor tables along the seaside at Boston’s. The next day, we toured Animal Kingdom. Afterward, we picked up Ari at Orlando Airport on his return flight from Paris where he had been vacationing for a several days. He stayed with us for the last few days of his vacation, before flying back to DC. During his stay, we spent some very enjoyable hours making the rounds of the Food and Wine Festival that had begun at Epcot, sampling some really exotic wines and beers from around the world. Thirty different countries were represented at the festival. On Friday, September 27, we shopped for and prepared a Shabbat dinner and were joined by Larry and Adele, who drove in from The Villages so that we could all be together. The strain of the vacation took a toll on Ken’s health and he and Randi decided to return home earlier than planned so that he could receive a few extra treatments from his applied kinestheologist. We took them to the airport on September 29. Ari spent a day shopping with us and just hanging out by the pool before we returned him to the airport on September 30. For the next few days, Saul and I accomplished various odds and ends around the house, including finishing hanging our artwork, a process that began with Ari’s input, assembling a few miscellaneous pieces of IKEA furniture (a television table and a printer table), adjusting some wiring to be more unobtrusive, unpacking and organizing a few last boxes from our move, cleaning out the garage, cooking to use up some leftovers, etc. In between, we swam in our pool and took long walks in the parks almost every evening, enjoying the “Eat to the Beat” concerts that were a part of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, especially The Pointer Sisters.

Our friend Larry drove down to stay with us for a few weeks beginning on October 18. Larry, like Ken and Randi and Ari, also decided to buy an annual pass to the park so that we could all come and go at will. On his first Shabbat morning here, he accompanied us to services at Ohalei Rivka, where he was immediately welcomed and rewarded with an aliyah. Over the next few days, we visited Epcot and Animal Kingdom. We dined at various restaurants in the area, Miller’s Ale House, Bahama Breeze, Sonny’s Barbecue, Sweet Tomatoes, First Watch and Ming’s Bistro. One night, we visited Universal Studios City Walk and had a very lively dinner at Margaritaville where Larry imbibed a multicolored and flavored flight of margarita samples. We visited Adele and Larry at The Villages and had a very pleasant lunch with them at Lighthouse Point Bar and Grill by the side of a lake. Saul developed a nasty ear infection in both ears during the first few days of Larry’s visit. He was much better after we visited a nearby walk-in clinic and he began taking antibiotics and ear drops for a few days. He was under the weather for a day or two, though, so just Larry and I went to the parks a few times. Saul missed the Boyz II Men concert at Epcot. At our Shabbat dinner on October 25, I made a number of Larry’s favorite dishes to celebrate his birthday on October 22, including kasha and bow ties, Texas sheet cake, wedge salad with Russian dressing, chicken satay, corn on the cob, and homemade challah. Larry brought with him a collection of etrogim from the Sukkot celebration at MBI-EE. While he was here, we turned them into a collection of etrog/honey jam to take back home with him for our friends. Saul and I went to see Smashmouth at Epcot, an amazing concert. After making arrangements to visit the lodge, Saul and Larry attended a Masonic meeting in nearby Clermont.

At Larry’s suggestion, we took a drive to Clearwater Beach, somewhere none of us had visited before. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the pleasant drive took about an hour and a half. Coincidentally, we arrived to find that their Second Annual Chalk Walk Art Festival was in full swing. We had a delightful lunch sitting on the second floor deck of Frenchy’s, a seaside restaurant. The beach was spectacular white sand, and the calm Gulf water warm even at the end of October. We took off our shoes and strolled a few blocks down along the water’s edge. The artwork was incredible! I even was invited to pose, sitting on the concrete sidewalk inside one of the chalk drawings that was designed in perspective to look three-dimensional, so that it looks like I am sitting in a beach chair! It is one of my favorite photos ever. Another bonus of the trip is that we found a little place that makes the most delicious New Jersey-style bagels anywhere—Clearwater Bagels. We bought a dozen to put in the freezer, a good thing, because we had recently discovered that the one place in our area to get good bagels, A Roll with a Hole, had just gone out of business. On October 31, Halloween Day, we decided to explore Celebration, Florida, a nearby planned community that was to be a prototype a la Disney. We had an elegant and memorable lunch there at the Columbia Restaurant, a 100-year-old family institution that began in Ybor City, a Spanish community that settled in Florida many years ago. In our meanderings through this very charming and unusual town, we happened upon a sizable, Halloween-decorated private house that was the ultimate. In fact, it was not immediately recognizable as a house. The entire front was obscured by a two-story-high, fake facade that emulated a haunted pirate ship. The presentation was so enormous and so detailed that we immediately wondered where the whole thing is stored during the rest of the year. Our meal at Columbia was delicious and memorable. We returned home and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, only drying out to hand out candy to the approximately 15 kids who came to the door trick-or-treating.

We had Shabbat dinner that I prepared with Larry on Friday, evening, November 1. He left for home the next day right before we were hit with a driving rain storm. During the following week, we went to a Christopher Cross concert at Epcot. On Tuesday morning, we picked up Adele at The Villages and brought her home to stay with us for a couple of days as Larry was attending a Bridge Tournament in Daytona Beach. We hung out by the pool, ate at Sweet Tomatoes, and spent Wednesday in Clearwater Beach. The weather and water were as beautiful as the first time. We had lunch on the second floor deck of Crabby Bill’s Bar and Grill, next to Frenchy’s, overlooking the Gulf. Again, we walked for several blocks at the water’s edge. Again, we picked up bagels and added some pastries, Adele’s treat. On Thursday, before returning Adele home, we stopped in Celebration to show her the Halloween house and then went for dim sum in Orlando at Ming’s Bistro, because Adele is a big Chinese food fan and Larry is not. That Friday, Saul and I just had a quiet Shabbat dinner together. Within a few days, Ari flew to London for a work-related extended stay.

Also, a few days later, we picked up Erica and Danny, along with Brenna and Ava, at Orlando Airport to begin their one-week planned Disney vacation. Their vacation had been planned long before we had an inkling that we would be buying a home here. We brought them home to drop off their luggage, lunched together on our good bagels and lox, and then we took them to visit their parents, and tour The Villages. We all had dinner together at Sonny’s Barbecue in The Villages. Brenna stayed with Adele and Larry, and Erica, Danny, and Ava stayed with us the first night because of Ava’s allergy to the dogs. The next morning, we awoke to the happy sounds of Ava in the pool with Danny poolside with his cup of French-press coffee. We headed over to their Disney hotel, the All-Star Disney Movie Resort to meet Adele, Larry and Brenna so that they could all check into their rooms. It was a process that took over two hours. After that, we rendezvoused at Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner. After dropping them back at their hotel, Saul and I went to Epcot, taking photos of Epcot’s “England” to exchange for the incredible photos Ari was sending us from the real England. Then, we attended the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert, which was majorly swinging! We met the family off and on for various experiences in the parks. To celebrate Brenna’s birthday, we all had lunch together at the Rainforest Café in Animal Kingdom. Later, we bought Brenna a microchip-controlled set of light-up Mickey Mouse “Glow with the Show” ears which coordinate with various extravaganzas at the Disney Parks. Unfortunately, Danny got sick with a stomach bug almost from the beginning, but toughed things out for a few days until it got the better of him. On Friday, November 15, our friends, Ruth and Giora stopped in on their way down to their winter condo in Marco Island to see our home, have lunch with us, and drop off instructions so that we could stay in their home in Voorhees, NJ, the week before, and during, Sami’s bat mitzvah. Their home is only about two miles from Jess and Alex’s and from TBS, and, more importantly, it is pet free. On Saturday evening, November 16, Saul and I went to the Magic Kingdom to see the castle lit in gorgeous fashion as though it were encased in ice (a la the new Disney movie, Frozen). We hung around that night to see what the park looks like when it is almost empty of people. Unhappily, that is how we discovered that the monorail back across the lake to our car ceases running at midnight, but we were able to take a much slower ferry boat. We felt a bit like Cinderella when the coach turned back into a pumpkin.

With true serendipity, Saul and I discovered a free, invitation-only party online, sponsored by Yelp with suggested donations to help Harbor House, that was taking place on Sunday, November 17, in Orlando. We put in our names as alternates, as the guest list was already filled, but were awarded last minute tickets when there were a few cancellations. We had an absolutely incredible afternoon, strolling around the grounds and sampling the offerings of dozens of restaurants and vendors from the Orlando area. In addition, there was entertainment by a number of local acts—singing, dancing, magic, guitar, etc. There was even a hairdressing salon set up outdoors if you wanted to sit still that long. Billed as Yelp’s Bohemian Bash, it was an amazing amalgam of food, wine, whiskey, cocktails, and entertainment where we ate wonderful tidbits until we couldn’t move and drank more alcohol than we should have. We went home loaded with more flare and beautifully-packaged desserts than we could easily carry. An added bonus was that, in addition to learning a great deal about what was available around us in Orlando, we met some really delightful people from the area, although of the 500 that were lucky enough to get tickets, we were probably among the oldest.

A few days after Danny, Erica, Adele and Larry all went home, we hit the nearby outlet malls in search of a folding suitcase. We found exactly what we wanted and returned home to pack our party clothes, anything we still had that was warm, and anything we thought might be useful in the kitchen to prepare for the bat mitzvah (about two cartons worth of cake pans, cookie cutters, cake decorating equipment, etc.) and packed up the Prius for our trip to New Jersey for Sami’s bat mitzvah. We left on Tuesday, November 19. We had planned to have lunch at Fresh on the Fly in Lake Mary, FL, again, along Rte. 4, but sadly discovered it was already out of business and replaced by another restaurant. Around the corner, we ate instead at Jax 5th Avenue Deli and Ale House, a bit disappointing, but the food was okay. Staying overnight again at the Comfort Suites in Florence, SC, we later discovered a charming new place along our I-95 route in the college town of Wilson, NC—Quince, A Southern Bistro. Besides the charming setting, we were welcomed with warm southern hospitality and good southern cooking—definitely a great respite from the long hours of driving.

We arrived at Ari’s home on November 20, and walked over to nearby Meridian Pint for a satisfying dinner. Since Ari had been assigned to London with only a few days notice, we were able to get things organized for him that had been left undone, such as emptying his refrigerator of perishable food, etc. During our time in DC, we discovered two new breakfast places that we really liked, Highlands, very fresh food, reasonable, and just a mile from his home; and Mark’s Kitchen in Tacoma Park on our way to New Jersey. Mark’s Kitchen had some really unusual offerings and I was delighted with my savory mung bean pancakes, served with teriyaki sauce, home fries with onions, and eggs. Saul was also delighted with his breakfast sandwich and buckwheat banana pancakes. We made the final drive to Jess and Alex on Friday, November 22, arriving at Ruth and Giora’s with just enough time to open the house, unpack, change clothes, and head over to join the kids and Alex’s mom for Shabbat dinner. We all attended Alex’s family service at TBS the next morning.

Beginning on Sunday morning, our preparations for the bat mitzvah the following Friday and Saturday began. Jess and I went shopping after her Sunday morning classes were over. We delivered everything to the TBS kitchen and I began to bake all the cakes needed to somewhat emulate the tiered wonder that Sami had found on Pinterest. While at Michael’s for additional cake decorating supplies, such as fondant, we were inspired by pearly blue chocolate-filled beads that matched the colors for the party, which were turquoises, peacock blue and copper. I found copper Luster Dust there as well. Jessica had ordered sugar peacock feathers to add to the cake decor, a discovery she had made online. They inspired the rest of the cake. In the months leading up to the event, Jess, Alex and the girls had all been busy with crafts and items that made the affair truly unique. From the acrylic painting I had made based on Sami’s Torah portion, Alex produced beautiful invitations incorporating various elements of the design, as well as birkat hamazon benchers. The girls had spent countless hours producing one-of-a-kind women’s head coverings made from copper wire, beads, and charms. Jess had crocheted the men’s kippot. Leftover wood strips of flooring from their kitchen remodel had been turned into long centerpiece planters which housed herbs and etrog trees that Alex had grown from seeds leftover from last year’s etrog-honey jam. Suspended above each of them were nine delicate glass globes to house tealight candles in a chanukiah-type configuration as this year, ChanukahThanksgiving, and Sami’s Bat Mitzvah all came together in one marathon long weekend. Elaine, Sami and Jess, but mostly Elaine, had labored to produce a gorgeous tallit for Sami to wear that is as unique as she is, with embroidered messages of love in the corners. Alex and Jess grommeted the holes for the tzitzit and Alex and Sami worked together to tie the special knots incorporating the tekhelet of blue into the tzitzit. Sami has worked countless hours this year volunteering for Hazon CSA of Southern New Jersey, a group whose mission is to support sustainable agriculture and local farmers. With this in mind, Jess planned everything from the recycled centerpieces, to the plates and cutlery made from pressed palm leaves and bamboo, to the stacks of fabric towels in the bathrooms, to the local and sustainable sourcing of the meal itself, so that disposable waste did not accumulate because of this event. To date, Sami has personally raised over $2,500.00 for Hazon.

With everyone pitching in, we were able to complete all the preparations that had been planned right on schedule. Ari flew in from London the Saturday before the bat mitzvah, worked in DC for a few days, drove to Cherry Hill on Wednesday, and stayed with us at Ruth and Giora’s. He was, as always, a tremendous force for good, keeping everyone cool and on track, always pointing out what is truly important when we all get stressed over the details, and lending a hand wherever necessary. He spent several hours tying multicolored ribbons around the napkins which draped from the plates down the sides of the tables, adding a colorful touch to the room. On Friday morning, we returned his Mercedes, which was at the end of its lease period to the dealer in Cherry Hill, ahead of his returning to London. Jess and Alex were especially happy to host their friends, Rabbi Menachem and Liz, and their three children from Berkeley, CA. Their friendship dates back to JTS days and with all the demands of family life and synagogue congregations, they have had precious few moments to spend together over the last 17 years. Menachem was the best man at their wedding. Every child had one corresponding to their age with whom to relate, and they all seemed to get along famously.

Wednesday evening, Jess had arranged a professional photographer to take formal shots of the family as no photographs could be taken during the Shabbat festivities. It was a happy and productive evening. The photographer, Sheena Levi Photography, a friend and co-worker of Jessica’s was very professional and exhibited a creative and delightful personality. Elaine hosted the Thanksgiving dinner for the family this year and we so appreciated the delicious food and all the effort she lavished on the details, especially after our daily labors to ready everything for the bat mitzvah.

The actual event was far more than a warm and unpretentious service and meal. On both days, Sami handled almost all aspects of both services with poise and expertise. We all knew how smart and creative she is, but we were nevertheless wowed by the amount of preparation and knowledge that she exhibited. She was a superstar! Entering the candlelit hall, we were impressed with the creativity of the beautiful setting, sparkling with not only the suspended tea-light-illuminated, glass globes, but the fairy lights that twinkled beneath the sheer fabric of the buffet tables and lattice panels. The seating arrangement, listed on a board next to the cake at the entrance was also unique and beautiful. The families and friends, who had come from near and far, moved about the long tables and actually engaged in lively conversation. The food was delicious and beautifully presented on the buffets. The servers were efficient and friendly. And, as is usually the case with Jessica’s affairs, the weather was great, too. The evening was lovely in every regard.

Saturday’s main event was attended by over 300 people. If Sami felt any nervousness or pressure, she did not show it at all. In addition to leading the entire service, she flawlessly read in Hebrew all but a small section of the entire Torah portion. She even impressed the part of the family that attends Chabad services regularly with not only her fluency with Hebrew, but her accuracy as far as the trope (rhythmic cantillation) of the reading. During the previous week, we had all worked at the synagogue to prepare four items for the meals—the cake, a dozen challahs, butternut apple crisp, and baked ziti. Everything was greatly appreciated by the guests. The cake, especially, turned out spectacular (better than the model on which it was based) and weighed about 60 lbs. when completed. After an enjoyable and sociable afternoon feasting and catching up with friends and family members we have not seen for far too long, we were ready for a long nap. As evening approached, Jess and Alex and Menachem and Liz headed off with the kids to a nearby indoor water park at the Hotel ML where some of the relatives were staying. Saul, Ari, and I decided, after we rested for a while, to pack up and leave for DC that evening, rather than waiting for morning, as Ari needed to be delivered to Dulles Airport by 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and we feared getting caught in traffic on the holiday weekend. We secured Ruth and Giora’s home, stopped in Havre de Grace on our way home for a light meal at Laurrapin Grill, and were in bed in DC before midnight.

The next morning, we arose early to have a dim sum breakfast together at Oriental East. Arriving back at his home, we helped him finish his laundry, get his house together for his absence, helped him pack for the trip back to London, and delivered him to the airport right on time. Saul and I decided to sleep for one more night in DC before heading home. We had dinner one more time at Meridian Pint and then hit the sack early so that we could be on the road very early to avoid the DC traffic in “the mixing bowl.” We arose at 3:00 a.m., packed our Prius with our overnight stuff, and were on the road home by 4:15 a.m. When we left DC, the temperature was 30°F. and we were in winter coats, scarves, sweaters, wool socks, etc. We couldn’t wait to get back to our balmy Florida home. Encountering very little traffic at that hour, we fairly flew through Virginia and were in Florence, SC, our usual stopping place, before lunch time. We decided to press on and we were feeling great, both psychologically from our happy, contented, and productive week with family and friends, and physically, from the great food, lack of stress, and anticipation of resuming our warm, retired, Florida lifestyle (Hakuna Matata). We had a late lunch at Dickey’s in Pooler, GA, and decided to try to complete the drive in one day. By the time we reached Georgia, we had ecstatically stripped ourselves of coats, scarves, sweaters, and socks. We stopped at Sweet Tomatoes in Kissimmee for dinner as the sun was setting, and walked in the door of our home before 8:00 p.m. It was 72°F and it was sweeet! We lit our first Chanukah candles in our new home in Florida the last three nights of the holiday.

Tuesday, after unpacking everything, stowing all our winter duds far away, and catching up with our laundry, we spent the warm evening wandering at Epcot, taking more photos of “England” for Ari and our other Dr. Who enthusiasts, and viewing the special extra fireworks added onto the already-spectacular IllumiNations show. On Wednesday, we went to Downtown Disney to catch the movie, Frozen, in 3D. The weather was so beautiful that we strolled for hours by the lake, lounged under the palm trees in the public square, popped in and out of art stores, and lunched outdoors at Bongos Cuban Café before reluctantly leaving the sunshine to enter the opulently-appointed theater to see the visually-stunning animated movie. To our surprise, Downtown Disney is undergoing some sort of massive reconstruction project and we can’t wait to see what is being added. Thursday, we went shopping to replenish our supply of coffee for our newly-pilfered Tassimo (from Ari). We located a really well-stocked Bed, Bath and Beyond, and were gratified to find that their 20% off coupons were honored if you picked up the coffee there, instead of ordering it online. On Friday, we restocked our pantry and refrigerator with the most wonderful stuff. The Aldi Supermarket in Clermont has beautiful, fresh, mostly-local produce at bargain prices. On the way back, we stopped at a roadside farm stand to buy freshly-picked, locally-grown strawberries, that were expensive, $4.00 a box, but incredibly beautiful, sweet, and delicious. They were a variety that was long and slender, unlike the usual generic tasteless ones. Also on our way home, we stopped at the Friday afternoon farmers market at nearby Cagan Crossings, something we have been meaning to do for months. There, we picked up the most amazing eggs from a local farmer who cares for his chickens in a true free-range setting. He cannot sell his eggs directly because they are not pasteurized as commercial large egg producers are required to do. So, his business is billed as “Rent a Hen.” Technically, you are not buying eggs, but picking up the output of your rented hen. He has many different varieties of chickens and they lay eggs ranging in color from blue through various shades of brown and beige. The eggs, which we have been using all week, are wonderful! We also bought homemade tamales, hot, from a local husband and wife team, and my favorite Jubilee orange tomatoes. We sampled delicious, freshly-popped artisanal caramel and salt popcorn from two local guys, but we’re waiting for company to come before we buy some as I would probably be tempted to snack on it incessantly.

On Saturday, we attended services at our new shul, Ohalei Rivka, especially to say kaddish to remember Saul’s dad, who died right after the end of Chanukah many years ago. The synagogue was packed to capacity in honor of a bat mitzvah that was taking place that day. During the next week, as blizzards began to hammer practically the entire country, including the Philadelphia area, we were enjoying record high temperatures and sunny skies in Florida. We spent whole afternoons enjoying our pool, further exploring our surroundings, and taking long evening walks in the Disney parks which culminate with incredible fireworks and light shows. We discovered the seasonal Osborne Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park, truly an overwhelming and sensational experience. In the midst of all this warmth, we were experiencing man-made snow flurries in the park. Wow!

During our week with Jessica and Alex, we ate twice at Rajbhog, a completely vegetarian, southern Indian restaurant with an incredibly complex and delicious menu. On both occasions, even though I overindulged, my sugar measured in the low 80’s afterward, the lowest it has measured since I started monitoring it several months ago. I was incredulous, but then Liz pointed out that certain spices, especially turmeric and cumin, are extremely efficacious in lowering blood sugar. Since then, I have been experimenting with adding spices to my food with very good results. In conversation with our favorite waitress at Sweet Tomatoes, whose nickname is Jellie, I mentioned the fact that we had left behind, in the north, a vegetarian, southern Indian restaurant, that was capable of lowering my blood sugar substantially every time I ate there. She proved to be extremely knowledgeable on the subject, suggesting various spices and a homeopathic spice-based capsule that supposedly works in conjunction with traditional medication. She also recommended a vegetarian, southern Indian restaurant in Orlando, which she and her family have been frequenting for at least eight years, Woodlands. Saul and I immediately went there for their buffet lunch, and again, after overindulging in the unlimited buffet, including a sweet dessert called payasam and fresh wedges of Florida oranges, my blood sugar was normal. Today, we had lunch at a non-vegetarian Indian restaurant just about a mile from our home, Dhaba. I have high hopes for my blood sugar reading tomorrow! Rajbhog was the yummiest, but I would rather be living here.

Another signed agreement on our house in North Wales fell through when a home inspector managed to convince the buyer that a new dimensional roof on top of the first one was not really a new roof because it was a second layer, and they wanted us to remove both roofs to install a third new one. We are now awaiting the results of a third signed agreement that is supposed to be settled by December 31. We substantially reduced the price because they agreed to such a speedy settlement, and will take the house “as is.” In the meantime, the latest home inspector is about to drill holes through the outside stucco to check for mold with no liability on his part. We are fully expecting this deal to fall through as well, not because we think they will find mold, but because our life is so wonderful now, we expect that there must be some reason for us to worry. In that regard, we just keep reminding ourselves how lucky we are right now and that we should not let the stress of dealing with our former home creep in to wear away at our present happy state of being. Hakuna matata!