Sunday, September 27, 2015

Camp Bubbie and Saba 2015

Photo Log for Mobile Devices
Optimistically, I thought that on quiet evenings during the summer, I would have time to sit for a few hours after the girls were asleep and catch up on my blogging. In reality, our summer was so full of activity, and we were so anxious to spend every possible minute that we could absorbed with our wonderful granddaughters, that we gave up on the idea of catching up until after the girls left. Instead, we tried to take at least one photo every day to trigger our memories so that none of them would be lost as we reflected on the last two months.

The weather at the end of June was a harbinger of the weather to come in July and August. This past summer was the rainiest ever recorded since records have been kept in Florida. On some of our forays with Ken and Randi, we were in such violent and sudden rainstorms that we sometimes waited for an hour before venturing a mere few dozen feet to get to our car in the parking lot. In the days leading up to the girls arrival, we shopped for provisions, prepared a number of meals for future use, cleaned, dusted, washed and remade bedding, and tried to get as much R and R as we could before the serious running around in the parks began. Before they arrived, Sami and I both baked blueberry pies together via FaceTime because the berries were in such abundance both here, and from the CSA to which they belong in Cherry Hill. I also made the most delectable white nectarine custard pie with a bounty of juicy, perfectly ripe, sweet ones from a case that I bought at Costco. On our Tuesday $6 movie night on June 30, we had our usual half-price fajitas and half price margaritas at San José and saw the Disney movie Inside Out, which I thought was okay, but Saul hated.

The girls arrived with Jessica at Tampa International, as planned, on July 1, and after a failed attempt to have dinner in Tampa, we drove to our nearby Sweet Tomatoes, where they would choose to eat every day, if we acquiesced. We kicked off our summer at Keke’s Café, which became a new favorite place for them. Taking advantage of the annual passes that were purchased for them during Passover with Ari, Jessica took the two older girls for a day at Universal Studios. Yona was happy to hang out with us in the pool and be an “only” for the day. We rejoined in the evening for an incredible meal in the elegant lounge at Blue Zoo in the Dolphin Hotel. The nitrogen mayo sauce on Izzy’s fish dinner was both delicious and memorably presented from a pressurized dispenser. Following that, we crossed the lobby to have ice cream sundaes at The Fountain. Day One of Camp Bubbie and Saba was a huge success! We spent the next day, Friday, preparing a Shabbat dinner, and hanging out in the pool. Ken and Randi joined us for dinner. We had homemade challah, guacamole, deviled eggs, chicken soup, a tray of smoked turkey that had been frozen since Passover, black and white rice, brussels sprouts with chestnuts, pareve sweet potato cake and cupcakes, and leftover homemade sorbets. Yona was so tired from her day in the pool that we had trouble waking her from her nap; she missed most of dinner, ate a little bit, and then promptly fell asleep curled up on a nearby lounge chair. We tucked her back in bed with uncharacteristically little protest. Day Two was also a big success! We attended services on Shabbat. Later, we all had nitrogen ice cream at Abracadabra. As Shabbat ended on July 4, we delivered Jessica to Tampa for her flight home. We were planning to see the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks from the Grand Floridian terrace, but it was raining quite hard. Having arrived back home late, we found that we had actually timed things very well because we were able to have a great view of both the regular and special fireworks from our car as we were stuck in slow and stopped traffic as we approached the hotel. That made it easy to continue traveling the short distance to Hollywood Studios. The rain subsided, and after parking, we still had time to view the Epcot IllumiNations fireworks behind us across the lagoon, from our park bench, and then turn around to watch the special July 4 fireworks over Hollywood Studios—another great day logged in at Camp Bubbie and Saba! The girls chose to spend the next day at Hollywood Studios where pin trading for this summer really began in earnest and most of the special Frozen events took place. Sami became an expert at booking fast passes for us and took over the decision-making process of where we would go, based on which passes were available and at what times on any given day. Jessica and Alex left for their RCI vacation in Williamsburg, VA.

Having exhausted ourselves the previous day, the girls spent several hours of quiet time sorting and organizing their pin and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card collections. Additionally, Sami sorted through a number of my old collection of recipe books and ran across a hand-written recipe for schnecken that was given to me by Saul’s mom many years ago. She used to make them in vast quantities for Alex and our friend Larry, but I had never made them myself. The girls were intrigued and decided to make them that morning. The results were very successful! In the evening, we had a light dinner on the terrace outside the Gasparilla Island Grille at the Grand Floridian, and watched the Wishes fireworks over the Magic Kingdom from there. Since Sami was able to book us some good Fast Passes, we spent the next day at the Magic Kingdom. Again, after that, we needed a day off, and the girls used my sizable collection of frozen egg whites to bake a Yona Rae three-layer coconut cake. We prepared a pasta dinner and spent the afternoon and evening with friends Carly, and Peter, and their children Ella, Harrison, Henderson, and Emma. Unfortunately for us, they were due to leave in a few days for their new jobs in Port Deposit, New York.

The girls settled into our summer routine so easily, that shortly, it felt like they had always been here. Izzy arose almost every morning before sunrise and later took breakfast orders. She and Yona would be amusing themselves with iPad games and children’s television while Saul and I were able to take our time rising, getting ready for the day’s activities, augmenting Izzy’s excellent breakfasts, and tidying up. Frequently, Sami would be up early, too, making pancake batter, or laying out the table for breakfast. She and Saul organized, and packed into our backpacks, the supplies needed for our days in the park. She also learned how to do some unique braiding styles on her sisters’ hair. I regret that I never seemed to have the time to learn to braid hers. On Friday, July 10, we made an elaborate Shabbat dinner and were joined by not only Ken and Randi, but Jamie, Andy, Presley, and Evan. We went to services with the girls on Saturday. On Sunday morning, Ken and Randi hosted a breakfast in their home for all of us, including Carly and Peter and the kids. Before Jamie and Andy flew home after a few days here, we all had a beautiful and memorable dinner together in a private room at Johnny’s Hideaway. For a few days, we helped Ken and Randi care for Presley and Evan, and visited the parks together, before the four of them flew back north together. Ken and Randi were beginning their six weeks of revisiting their friends and family up north this summer. Before they left, Saul and I took advantage of their babysitting services so that we could finally meet the new internist we had chosen for our checkups at nearby Celebration Hospital. It had taken us a few months to get an appointment with the actual doctor as opposed to a nurse/practitioner.

While Saul and I dropped off Ken and Randi, Presley and Evan at Orlando International, the girls stayed home and began preparing our Shabbat dinner, Ma Po Tofu with black and white rice. After services on Saturday, Izzy and Yona decided to produce a play for us and spent a few hours arranging costumes and makeup. We especially liked the stripe of white tissue incorporated into Yona’s braid so that she could emulate Princess Anna from Frozen. On Sunday, July 19, we spent the day at Hollywood Studios beginning with an early morning dash to the most popular Toy Story Midway Mania ride for which we can rarely get Fast Passes. We still waited almost an hour for the ride. We happened to be there on the day that Bill Cosby’s bust was removed from its pedestal. A few days later, it was replaced with a bust of Bob Newhart. The next day, we did a monorail hop with the girls so that they could check out and photograph many of the various pin boards that Sami had read about online. We parked at Epcot, used our early morning Fast Passes, took the monorail to the Transportation Center, switched trains for the resorts monorail, and stopped at many of the resorts to check out their pin boards, including The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, The Contemporary, and Bay Lake Tower (to which none of us had ever been before). Surprisingly, we were all up to our adventures the next day at The Magic Kingdom and even had enough energy left over for a night swim in our pool.

On July 22, Jessica arrived in London to begin her three-week vacation/adventure with Ari in honor of her 40th birthday this year. In addition to staying with Ari in London and walking miles and miles touring the city while Ari was at work, the two of them traveled around London on the weekends, and then had an amazing time together on a one-week-long trip to Barcelona that Ari had arranged. Izzy began a concerted effort to improve her roller skating skills by skating around the neighborhood each day with Saul in tow. We also took them to a special Yelp!-promoted event that was a hands-on art event with artists displays and craft activities using cardboard.

While going through recipes and cooking equipment, the girls ran across a taiyaki pan that I had never used, and would not leave us alone until we had purchased everything they needed to make the taiyaki at First Oriental Supermarket. Except for starting a fire on the stove (no permanent damage) in our initial attempts, because of over-greasing the pans with butter, the taiyaki were a huge success. Sami, with Izzy’s help, made them many times over the summer, experimenting with various fillings, after the first flush of success with the traditional sweetened red bean paste filling. She filled them with cream cheese, peanut butter and bananas, pumpkin butter, and strawberries.

On Friday, July 31, a whole crowd arrived. Erica and Ava were picked up early at the airport by a surprise guest, Brenna’s Uncle Ed, Aunt Beth’s ex-husband, whose parents live down the street from Larry and Adele in The Villages. The girls had made a special breakfast, which included taiyaki, and held much of it in readiness until they arrived. Brenna had been staying with Adele and Larry for a week, and later on, they all joined us. Ed drove back and forth each evening for two days to stay with his parents. The rest, except for Larry, who also drove back, stayed with us. Having prepared most of dinner the day before, we were able to have a late lunch of ice cream at Abracadabra. We had a smoked turkey Shabbat dinner that Saul and I prepared and froze before the summer began, and the girls made chicken soup, pareve carob cake brownies and pareve jumbo oatmeal peanut butter raisin cookies. Over the weekend, we spent a soggy day in Animal Kingdom together and Ed spent a day alone with Brenna at Hollywood Studios, mostly riding the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and The Tower of Terror many, many times. In the next few days, we went to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot together. Erica spent a day with Brenna at Universal Studios. Before she left, she taught the girls to make pretzels. The girls also made ice cream sandwiches with the peanut butter chip cookies they had made. All this baking proved very useful when we needed snacks for the parks.

Izzy developed an ear infection and, after Saul took her to Urgent Care, she was banished from the pool for a few days. The prescription ear drops cleared it up very nicely, but we insisted that they wear ear plugs after that. Friday, August 7, was Sami’s actual birthday, and we planned a special meal and celebration for that evening. The day before, we went to Animal Kingdom and when we returned, Sami, with some help from the others, made a cake topper with Color Flow icing for her birthday cake.  Larry joined us for breakfast at Keke’s on Friday morning. The day was spent with all of us preparing Sami’s birthday Shabbat dinner which included rainbow challah, vegetable sushi, warm spinach salad, seared sesame-crusted tuna, tortellini, and a sour cream pound cake birthday cake. Larry and Adele drove home after dinner. Erica and Ava flew out early the following day, leaving us with Brenna for a week. We all accompanied Erica and Ava to the airport, and then went to services. Saturday evening, we parked at the Boardwalk and took the Friendship Cruiser around to first see the IllumiNations fireworks at Epcot, and then the Frozen fireworks at Hollywood Studios. We spent the next day at The Magic Kingdom. We had some anxious moments when Yona got lost. We split up in a gift shop near Cinderella’s castle and Saul took Brenna to play her game of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, while I took Sami and Izzy to play their game. I thought Saul had taken Yona, and he thought she had stayed with me. When we met up 15 minutes later, we freaked out to find that she was with neither of us. We ran back to the gift shop where we had last seen her and she had done just the right thing that she had been taught. She calmly went to an employee of the shop and told her we had disappeared. They told her to wait with them and when we breathlessly returned, we were relieved to find her basking in all the attention. She even got a sprinkling of fairy dust (glitter applied with a star-shaped wand) in her hair, which made us worry that she might decide to get lost again! That evening, she was delighted to receive a new doll which was included in part of a package of lotions and soaps that Uncle Larry had won at an activity in The Villages.

We had a shopping excursion to the nearby outlet mall on one of our iffy rain days, as Izzy had completely worn out her walking shoes in the parks, and Sami wanted some dress shoes for synagogue mornings. Sami also got some pretty skirts and tops. We followed up with dinner at Bahama Breeze and ice cream later at The Fountain in the Dolphin Hotel while we waited to view the fireworks at Epcot. On August 12, we had a very special lunch at Sanaa in Kidani Village in Animal Kingdom Lodge. Until then, the girls had only been to Jambo House there. We saw some exceptional animals (including rare tortoises) as we happened to be there while a group of new Disney employees was being shown around. Following a yummy Indian-style lunch in the elegant and unique restaurant, we spent the day at Animal Kingdom. While we were at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Yona was chosen by one of the science lab employees to go behind a “cast members only” door into their glass-windowed work area to learn about different types of animal poop. She was so excited to be there and given so much attention! Eventually, she went to fetch her sister, Izzy, who was not quite as excited about the poop, but also enjoyed the attention. They were both given special plastic cases that were a type used in experiments to test animal urine and feces. We spent the next day at Hollywood Studios. The following day at Epcot, Saul took Brenna to get a henna tattoo at Morocco while Sami and Izzy watched, and Yona had a chance to meet Tinker Bell with me at the International Gate. Cruella Deville was also signing autographs, but no one, especially Yona, seemed to want to meet her. Returning home early to prepare Shabbat dinner, we made an incredible meal in a very short time thanks to our very organized and well-skilled granddaughters. We made rainbow challahs, vegetarian French onion soup, caprese salad, tortellini, and salmon burgers. We still had plenty of home-made cookies, and desserts left in the freezer. Brenna flew home very early on Saturday, August 15. I waited with her until she boarded the plane. Saul and I called the girls and asked if they wanted to attend synagogue that morning. They said “yes” and they were ready and waiting when we returned to pick them up. At the end of Shabbat, we took them for dinner at Ay Jalisco! in Clermont. The restaurant has a great selection of delicious vegetarian Mexican food. The girls really like it! Much later that evening, after the girls were already asleep, we picked up Saul’s cousin, Adi, at Orlando International. Adi spent the next four days with us prior to returning home to Netanya, Israel, after her year of service working at a school in Fort Lauderdale. Adi had only been to Animal Kingdom with her friends, so we spent the next three days, trying to get her to all the great attractions at the other three parks. We spent all day Sunday at Hollywood Studios, all day Monday at Magic Kingdom, and all day Tuesday at Epcot. According to Saul’s FitBit, we averaged about 8 miles of walking each day. The temperatures were hovering around 95°F. for much of it, and we only survived by knowing the parks so well that we moved from air-conditioned attraction to air-conditioned attraction with the least amount of steps. We ate glatt kosher meals at the specified restaurants in each of the parks.

Our foray into Epcot with Adi was marked by a harrowing and unusual accident with Yona. Yona insisted on buckling her own seatbelt on Soarin’ for which we had Fast Passes. In the process, she managed to lock her index finger underneath the T-shaped clip. The seatbelt cannot be released, except by the employee at the front, once it has been snapped into place. Yona’s finger was so compressed that we could not extricate it and while she was shrieking in pain and terror, it seemed to take forever for that man to release the locks. At that point, all six of us sprang from our seats, which, luckily, were in the first row right in front of him, and ran with her out of the ride, answering the man that, yes, he should call for medical assistance. We were all the way to the desk at the entrance to Soarin’ before anyone was notified. Once the guy at the desk called it in, help was there within a couple of minutes. Izzy quickly got a cupful of ice from the adjacent restaurant, and by the time professional help arrived, Yona’s finger was already in the ice and we had determined that she could wiggle it a bit. Our first-responder, Anna-Marie, helped us to decide that it did not look like a 911 emergency and cancelled the call. As Yona had calmed down, and we examined her finger more closely, we decided it did not require a visit to a medical facility on the premises either. Ice seemed to be all that was needed. After a few minutes had passed and we collectively breathed a sigh of relief, Anna-Marie asked if we would like to go back on the ride. Surprisingly, Yona said she would. Anna-Marie took us down the wide alley behind the tourist areas at Soarin’ to what she told us was a special V.I.P. door where celebrities are ushered in at the front of the line when they visit Disney. We were met there by a technician whose job it was to find out exactly how the mishap had occurred so that it would, hopefully, never be repeated. Apparently, it had never happened before, as Soarin’ was considered one of the most accident-free rides in all of Disney. This time, Izzy carefully buckled Yona into her seat. Anna-Marie was waiting for us as we left the ride and presented Saul with vouchers for all of us to have ice cream. It was the first time any of us had tasted the kosher Mickey Mouse-shaped ice-cream bars, and they were delicious. Izzy and Yona, allergic to chocolate, were thrilled with their Olaf rainbow sorbet pops. On the following day, we dropped off Adi at Orlando International Airport. We completely vegged out by the pool for the next two days trying to recuperate from too many consecutive days in the parks while we tried to accommodate our various sets of guests. We loved doing it, but exhausted ourselves in the process.

At the spur of the moment, our friend Larry, decided to drive his second car down to Florida as the home he had purchased was not rented for the last week of August. He wanted to have a new porcelain tile floor installed before arriving at the end of September to move in permanently. Equally last minute, Jess found a cheap flight from Orlando to Philadelphia and decided to help him with the drive down. Together, they spent all day driving on Thursday, August 20, and arrived here about 2:00 a.m. Friday. Larry went to his new home, just over a mile away, to sleep for the first time. The girls made a wonderful breakfast and helped prepare a fantastic Shabbat dinner once again while they waited patiently for their mom to awaken. We had chicken soup with dumplings that the girls made, home-made challah, warm spinach salad, maple-glazed Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, black and white rice, and chicken paprikash. The girls made a fresh batch of jumbo oatmeal peanut butter raisin cookies and Sami made pareve carob brownies. With Jessica, we attended Shabbat services. The last weekend that the girls were here, we were finally able to get together with Jelly and her daughter, Olivia, our friends from last summer. Jelly had been our favorite waitress at Sweet Tomatoes a few years ago, and we formed a friendship outside of that last summer. We met on Saturday night at The Fountain at the Dolphin Hotel for a light dinner and ice cream sundaes. Because Sami wore her birthday Disney badge, we were not charged for her sundae. The intention was to watch the fireworks over Epcot, as we had done in the past, and then take the Friendship Cruiser over to Hollywood Studios to catch the Frozen fireworks. Unfortunately, that night, the schedule had been changed to a half-hour earlier and we only got to see the tail end of them from the ferry boat as it docked, so we just stayed on the boat and sailed back to the Boardwalk where we had all parked. No one was terribly disappointed, however, because we all had a wonderful time together at The Fountain, and we did, after all, get to see some spectacular fireworks. Sunday morning, the girls made breakfast and Sami made taiyaki. Larry and Jess had never had them before.

Sami had remembered her special birthday dinner last year at Artist Point in Wilderness Lodge, and wanted to do the same this year. We had managed to snag a reservation for a while after her birthday had passed, and we were luckily able to add Jess and Larry to it. On our last Sunday, we had a phenomenal elegant dinner in the gorgeous Craftsman-style setting and celebrated Sami’s birthday. On Monday, Jess and the two older girls spent the day at Universal Studios, taking advantage of the annual passes they had bought while Ari was here during Passover. Yona was again delighted to spend the day as an “only” with us and after a morning in Larry’s pool and spa, we took her to Abracadabra for nitrogen ice cream. We ordered pizza and had a movie and story night when Jess and the girls returned. Tuesday morning was rainy, and Jess decided that we should check out the Crayola Experience that had debuted a few months earlier at the Florida Mall. We weren’t expecting much having been to the Crayola Factory in Easton several times, but were we surprised! Arriving early, on a weekday when school was already in session in Florida, we had immediate access to anything we wanted in the vast, imaginative and high-tech facility. In the end, we wound up buying annual memberships, which were not very expensive and which allow us unlimited access to all the Crayola facilities in the country. After spending a few delightful hours, we headed out for a last lunch for them at our local Sweet Tomatoes. We had been trying all summer to get a dinner reservation at The California Grill at the top of The Contemporary Hotel. The girls had never been there, and we were wowed by the experience in April for Ken’s birthday. Because of our previous experience in April, Saul had a direct phone number and a name so that he was able to book a reservation for five, even though the regular channels showed that no reservations were available. This was to be our last hurrah before the girls flew home on Friday morning, August 28. Luckily, after much pleading, he was again able to increase our reservation to seven people. The timing was perfect, and we were able to view the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks from the floor to ceiling windows by our table as well as from the outdoor observation deck just as we finished dessert on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, Jess was able to get a swim in with the girls before we drove her to catch her cheap flight home from Orlando International. From the airport, we drove to Downtown Disney, now known as Disney Springs, so that the girls could see all the new construction and each buy a souvenir to remember Camp Bubbie and Saba 2015. Yona chose a miniature set of princess dolls, but the others didn’t find something that day. We spent several hours wandering among the shops, ducking in and out as the rain came intermittently.

Our last full day, Thursday, August 27, we told the girls they could choose to do whatever they wished in the parks. We started out at Epcot because Izzy wanted to do “The Sum of All Thrills” one more time and had talked Yona into doing it with her, but Yona was very disappointed after she was psyched up for it when we discovered that she was too little to even wait in line with Izzy. To distract her from her disappointment, I took her to a nearby installation that had to do with weather emergencies and that was more age-appropriate. She was excited when she was given a sticker and set of special cards for completing a puzzle there. Meanwhile, Saul took Sami to the pin trading stations to trade with the adults. Together we went to Mouse Gear where Sami chose a deck of Disney playing cards as her souvenir and Izzy chose another fleece Disney blanket so that she could have two at home, one to hold, and one with which to wrap herself. Coming out of Mouse Gear, we bumped into Anna-Marie, who was delighted to see us because she had missed getting certain information that she needed from us. She offered to take us through the V.I.P. door to Soarin’ again, but this time, Yona said no, and the other girls were anxious to get on with the day. Even though the weather looked threatening, we decided to take the monorail from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom so that they could complete their level of the Sorcerers game. As we trekked through the gift shops along Main Street, Yona became chilled and was trembling, and I was afraid she had begun to run a fever. I told Saul I would meet him under cover on the second floor of the train station as it was also beginning to drizzle. The girls were able to complete their game before the rain became really heavy and they all got quite wet on their way back to the entrance of the park to meet us. As they arrived, the skies opened up with one of the most violent electrical thunderstorms we had ever seen. I refused to leave until the storm subsided somewhat. Yona was shivering by then and Izzy was kind enough to offer her her new blanket. I wrapped Yona in it and she slept for much of the storm on a bench inside the train station. The Festival of Fantasy Parade was cancelled because of the violence of the storm. When it finally began to subside, after about one-and-a-half hours, we quickly headed to the monorail to get back to our car that was parked at Epcot. After sleeping, Yona felt somewhat better and we pulled into the parking lot to have lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, but then she changed her mind, and we headed back home for lunch. Saul went out to get some children’s ibuprofen after we spoke with Jess and told her that Yona had a 101 fever. We worried about her taking a turn for the worse on her early morning flight home the next day. Luckily, the medication did the trick, helped by a long nap and a good night’s sleep. She seemed fine the next morning. Sami was wonderful in getting everything organized and packed for the flight home. Since she had turned 15, the other two were permitted to fly under her care. Everyone awakened before dawn on Friday morning, dressed, had a quick breakfast and we drove out to the airport. I went through the gates with them and we passed through without incident. I waited with them at the gate until they boarded the plane. The flight home was fine and never were two grandparents more relieved than when we knew they were safely at home with their parents. We thank God that we both had the fortitude and ability to create yet another wonderful, memorable summer of Camp Bubbie and Saba. May God give us the ability to do the same for many more years. It has been such a privilege to be able to spend such quality time with our wonderful grandchildren each summer. We are very, very lucky people!