Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Wish, I May

The fantasy land in which I live has been wonderful for lifting the spirits, encouraging physical activity, sowing good karma among strangers, and in general, keeping me out of the blue funk to which I had been prone for many years. Our walks, several times a week, in the Disney parks where the mantra is that wishes can come true, where families are enjoying their time together and letting the “magic” wash over them in the acres of magnificent settings that have been created, are especially exciting in the spring when everything begins to flower anew and we are looking forward to a new summer of “Camp Bubbie and Saba.”

Sami has been apprenticing with a lovely lady named Michele Haines, who retired and turned her French restaurant, The Spring Mill Café, in Conshohocken, PA, over to her son a few years back. In a strange twist of fate, Saul and I met Michele many years ago when we won an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris by winning first prize in the Mann Music Center picnic contest. Part of the prize was brunch at the Café, where we introduced ourselves to Michele and she wrote a note for us to introduce us to her friend in Paris who owned Le Grenouille (where we had an incredible free meal and indelibly memorable evening) on the Left Bank across from Sacre Coeur. We delayed the trip to Paris for a year, so I carried Michele’s note in my wallet for a long time. By coincidence, Jess met her at an event that Jess had planned and lamented the fact that Sami was losing her French from the Wellwood International School in Baltimore where she spent half of her days learning her subjects in the language for a couple of years. In recent weeks, Michele and Sami have been cooking together on the weekends while conversing in French. Together, they have made a Passover orange/almond/date/cranberry torte, brioche, daffodil cake, vegetable tart, etc.

This was the first year that Saul and I missed Yona and Izzy’s birthday parties. It is also the first time I was unable to make their cakes myself. Sami and Jessica, however, have stepped up to the plate (literally) and have done a masterful job based on what I have taught them. This makes me very proud! Both Izzy and Yona’s cakes were three-dimensional. Izzy had a rock climbing wall cake, and Yona’s was Olaf the snowman from the movie “Frozen.”

Our friend, Larry, stayed on for another few days until the middle of April, after everyone else went home following Passover. Evidently, the magic and the fantasy (plus the thought of spending another terrible winter up north) was enough to spur him to look at some properties in the area. As it turned out, within ten days of returning home, he reached an agreement with the seller on the first property he viewed. He really loved it and so did we. An added benefit is that it is 1.1 miles from our door to his. If all goes well, settlement is due to take place on June 9, and he is planning to move in sometime after the holidays at the end of September. We are very excited at the prospect of having another friend nearby!

Jamie’s in-laws, Cindy and John were here in Florida at the end of April. They stayed with Adele and Larry for a few days, then in the parks with Andy’s sister’s family and their children, and then for a few days with Ken and Randi. We joined them on many of their activities while they were with Ken and Randi. We spent a wonderful, but iffy weather day at Clearwater Beach, checking out a number of beaches in various locations on the Gulf side of the island. We had a congenial and delicious lunch of grouper at Frenchy’s together there. The next day, we toured some of the various Disney resorts. At Animal Kingdom Villas—Kidani Village, we were again wowed by the proximity and variety of the wild animals on view in natural settings. We had lunch together at Sanaa, an African/Indian-themed restaurant with unique decor and a view of the animals, on our level, right outside of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Some of them seemed to be more interested in looking in at us than some of the diners were in looking out. The view of giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, and an array of exotic birds, among others wandering by, made it almost impossible to concentrate on our food or our conversation. From there, we drove around to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a view of the magnificent architecture and decor as well as another magnificent view of wild animals. After chatting with the docents for a little while, we continued on to Wilderness Lodge, my favorite of all the Disney resorts that I have seen so far (I still have a few more to check out even after two years here). Cindy seemed to be as taken with Wilderness Lodge as we are. Randi, Cindy and I wandered the grounds for a while and I was able to see parts of the Lodge that I had never seen before, including the fishing boat docks. After our afternoon of touring, we went home to rest and freshen up to prepare for our dinner reservations at Grand Floridian Café that evening. After a wonderful dinner with our very congenial waiter, Ralph (he referred to himself as “Wreck It Ralph”), who gave us some great tips about dining around the area, we viewed the spectacular “Wishes” fireworks over the Magic Kingdom from the terrace, outside, overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon.

While John and Cindy headed for home the next day, Saul and I spent the afternoon at what should become Larry’s new home, with the home inspector, who pronounced the place a “creampuff” when he was done inspecting. The place is completely furnished as it is frequently a vacation rental. The furniture is beautiful and everything is in place right down to the linens and table settings. That evening we chose to do our walking at Hollywood Studios where we were able to enjoy the Toy Story ride with only a ten-minute wait and still see the Fantasmic show before heading for home. I finally got to see Cinderella’s golden coach in person. I had been shopping with Ari and Beth at the outlet malls when the rest of the family spent the afternoon there.

We finally had a chance to visit the new Trader Joe’s that opened nearer to us and we found some great items that are unique to them, such as red heirloom spinach, rainbow-colored carrots and multi-colored chard. When we arrived home, I finished making homemade challah, black and brown basmati rice, Israeli salad, heirloom cherry tomato and mozzarella pearl caprese salad, masala aloo dosas, and Ma Po Tofu for Shabbat dinner. Ken and Randi joined us for dinner late after attending a wine and cheese reception at their clubhouse. We had enough leftovers to last the whole week, with lots of variety so we wouldn’t get bored. After services on Saturday, we spent the afternoon in our pool. In a long FaceTime conversation with Ari, who was on a long bank holiday weekend, we first got to see Windsor Castle as he wandered through, and then, the next day, the white cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle. The Garden Rocks concert on Sunday evening featured Taylor Dayne. We attended with Ken and Randi.

Saul and I spent the beginning of the week cooking, making one of my “clear-the-refrigerator-of-leftovers” vegetable soups, felafel mixture, and Israeli salad, frying the felafel balls the following morning. That afternoon, we joined Ken and Randi, along with her sister Lori and her husband Jules (who drove in from Boca Raton) at San Angel Inn Restaurante inside “Mexico” at Epcot to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a tradition that Jules and Lori have been practicing for many years. While we waited for a table, Saul, Randi, Lori and I had a pre-dinner snack and cocktail at La Cava Del Tequila just a few steps away. Jules and Ken waited on the comfy leather sofa at the entrance to the restaurant as they switched from lunch to dinner service. There was a special Cinco de Mayo prix fixe, three-course meal that was pretty authentic to the food truly served in the city of Puebla in Mexico where the actual celebration is centered. After dinner, Jules and Lori, and Ken and Randi drove to the Polynesian Village Resort where Randi and Lori’s niece and her family were dining at ’Ohana to visit with them. Saul and I hopped the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom, where we picked up a set of Sorceror’s cards for the girls, rode the train to see Buzz Lightyear, and then watched the Electric Parade and Wishes fireworks from the train station platform. Ken drove home from the Polynesian, and the rest of the family joined up with us as the fireworks began. The five of us left the park together. It was late and we had missed the last monorail, so Randi rode the bus with us back to Epcot, where we picked up our parked car and drove her home.

Having exhausted ourselves the previous day, Saul and I hung out by our pool, enjoying the benefits of our shopping trip and home-cooked meals. The next day, refreshed, we met Randi’s niece and family at Animal Kingdom and caught the Festival of the Lion King with them. They continued on to various other activities at the park, and we went to Bahama Breeze with Ken and Randi for a late lunch. Saul and I spent the rest of the afternoon by our pool. In a lengthy conversation with Ari from London that afternoon, he requested that we suggest a recipe for a dessert that he could make easily with limited equipment to take into work on Friday. The lemon bars that he made on Thursday evening were a great success.

Then we began a real whirlwind of a weekend. We had a very early, light dinner at Bonefish Grill, packed our suitcases, and left very early the next morning to catch our flight from Orlando International on Frontier Airlines to Cleveland for our niece, Meredith’s wedding. We parked our car at the airport, as we did not want to interfere with Ken and Randi’s plans to visit with her sister and family for Mothers Day, and Haley, who was on a business trip in southern Florida for a few days. Our two-hour flight to Cleveland was on  time, very smooth, and we had good weather. Our rental car pickup went smoothly and without incident so that we were able to check into our hotel, drop off our luggage, say hi to a few people, and return to the airport about a half hour away to pick up Jess. Luckily, her flight was only delayed 15 minutes, so we all had enough time to return to the hotel, dress in our wedding duds, and get to the wedding venue, about a half hour in the other direction, with a few minutes to spare. The wedding took place at a very picturesque farm setting that had previously been a golf course. The heavy rain which was expected in the late afternoon never really materialized. Meredith, her groom, Michael, and Saul’s sister Rifka and her husband, Paul, all looked absolutely wonderful and happy. Michael’s family and their friends were all welcoming and friendly. The delicious meal was augmented by a gorgeous array of pastries and desserts prepared by the groom’s mother and grandmother. It was a great pleasure to watch everyone dancing away the evening. Meredith and Michael are fantastic dancers as are many of their friends. When we returned to our hotel, I crashed immediately, but Saul and Jess still had enough energy left to attend the after-party hosted by Michael’s family in a room at the same hotel. Saul, Jess and I had to be up by 6:00 a.m. to be at the airport in time for our flights back home. Since Jess’s flight was a little bit later than ours, she dropped us off at the airport, returned our rental car, and caught the shuttle to the airport herself. We all had great flights, had a great time at the wedding, and Saul and I were back home the next morning in time for breakfast. Who could wish for more?