Thursday, June 3, 2021

Rounding the Corner and Re-Imagining the Future


“Rounding the corner” is how most of the news media I have been watching has characterized this phase of the Covid 19 Pandemic. About two weeks ago, Saul and I decided it was time to renew our Annual Passes to Disney World which expired last August (we had not attended since the beginning of March 2020). Our decision was based on the fact that the C.D.C. issued new guidelines, unexpectedly, saying that people who had been fully vaccinated would no longer need to wear a mask in outdoor situations, and, indeed, also no longer indoors if everyone indoors has received a full vaccination. While we don’t trust that everyone indoors has been so vaccinated (and therefore we continue to wear masks indoors), we felt relatively comfortable outdoors once Disney removed the mandate for masking outdoors and requiring everyone’s temperature to be taken as they enter the parks. We have greatly missed giving vent to our inclination to wander the parks in the evening, putting in, usually, two to three-and-a-half miles each time. Our walks around the neighborhood for the last year are just not the same. Unfortunately, the new Disney requirement that a park be reserved in advance has put quite a crimp in our impulsive, spur-of-the-moment style. In the last week or two, we have found that very little is available for reservation. We are hoping the availability improves, or that Disney will soon drop that requirement also.

As my last blog post ended, we were preparing for Passover 2021. Jessica, Izzy and Yona were flying down on an unbelievably cheap deal from Frontier Airlines. Alex could not join us physically because he would not have had enough time to quarantine on his return to the responsibility of overseeing a large, in-person, nursery school. The prep was a lot easier this year (except the cleaning and transferring part) because we could shop at the synagogue-adjacent Winn-Dixie (that carries a full line of Passover goods) in person this year. It was our first foray into an actual store since the previous March. We were gratified to find everything we needed, including a very large, fresh horseradish root. It obliged us in other ways a few days after use by sprouting a healthy contingent of green leaves. It is now ensconced in a large planter, sending up gigantic leaves, and awaiting next year’s seder. This year’s seder’s attendees, thanks to the wonders of Zoom, were: Alex, Ari, Rifka; Matt, Naomi, Talia, and Ava; Aaron, Stacey, Jacob, Lilly, and Zach; and in person: Saul, Marilyn, Jessica, Sami, Izzy, Yona, Kenny, Elaine, Larry S., Susan and Ted. Our vegetarian menu consisted of: Guacamole, Hummus, Steamed Mini Potatoes, Vegetable Sushi, Celery Sticks, Carrot Sticks, Haroset, Horseradish, Salt Water, Roasted Egg, Beet/Zroah, Deviled Eggs, Chickenless Chicken Soup, Matzoh Balls, Homemade Passover Noodles, Vegan Gefilte “Fish” with Horseradish and Beets/Hrain, Cod and Passover-Certified Surimi Lamaize, Vegan Shepherds Pie (Sherpa’s Pie) with Chestnuts and Butternut Squash, Jackfruit Chili, Wild Mushroom and Eggplant Vegan “Meatballs” with Chickpea Pasta, Marinated Salad, Israeli Salad, Gezer Hai, Passover Potato Knishes, Steamed Cauliflower, Apricot Sweet Potatoes, Brown Basmati and Black Wild Rice, Matzoh-Apple Kugel, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Assorted Sorbets (Blood Orange, Strawberry, Lemon, Mango), and Carob Mousse Crepes with Vanilla Custard Sauce. The first seder fell on a Saturday night this year, which is problematic, because technically, there is no cooking allowed on Saturday until sundown. There was also much debate this year about what to use to make a motzi the previous Friday evening. It is after the burning of hametz, so technically, no challah, but also falls within the time period when one may not eat matzoh until the first taste at the seder. Most rabbis recommended using egg matzoh, but luckily, none in our group have a problem with gluten (which was a whole other problem for some this year). Susan was very gracious in inviting us all for Friday evening Shabbat dinner, at which she prepared a gorgeous and delicious vegan buffet that conformed to our esoteric needs. Kudos to her for meeting this considerable challenge in such a gracious and delectable way! Our seder table was enhanced by beautiful flower arrangements from Ari and Elaine. Towards the end of the holiday, I made Passover Rolls, and Yona made meringue frogs with some of the leftover egg whites.

Ari’s move from his high rise flat in Canary Wharf to a four-story, two bedroom, two bath, house near Paddington went pretty much without a hitch, except for some plumbing problems, which, thank God, the owner was very diligent to fix.

At the end of Passover, I did something I have never done before. I prepared a Mimouna celebration, as is done in Sephardic communities (especially in Morocco), by making (very successfully) Mofleta, the signature dish of this celebration. The table setting and symbolism are quite beautiful and it was very gratifying and meaningful, not to mention delicious, to celebrate in this way. Another new tradition was baking a “shlissel” challah (key-shaped) on the first Shabbat following Passover.

After Passover, Saul and I ventured forth to shop at Lotte, a huge Asian warehouse-type supermarket and Golden Sparkling, another Asian supermarket, to get all the items we had been missing during the pandemic. Lotte and Golden Sparkling did not have a delivery or curbside pickup service during the pandemic.

In the period after Passover, our friends, the Enders, Murvin and Linda, made their yearly trek to Orlando. Last year was, for obvious reasons, an exception. Since we no longer had active Disney Annual Passes, we found other attractions around Orlando and St. Petersburg to enjoy with them. We visited the Morse Museum, which graciously honored our annual passes that we had purchased the previous year, a glass museum that houses one of the largest collections of Tiffany glass, including a chapel made of glass. Afterward, we had lunch at 4 Rivers Barbecue, which has delicious vegan Beyond Meat burnt ends and wonderful sides in addition to their regular barbecue. A few days later, we trekked to St. Petersburg to view the glass collection at the Imagine Museum. The displays were eye-popping and diverse, revealing the kaleidoscope that is the human imagination. We each took a picture at the end of a long tunnel of glass. We had lunch, outdoors, at a charming waterfront bistro called “Fresco’s.”

Sadly, Jessica and Yona all too soon returned to New Jersey via Tampa Airport. As the airport is only a short drive from Clearwater Beach, one of my favorite beaches in the whole world, Saul and I took the opportunity to spend a few blissful hours there after dropping them off for their flight. We hadn’t been to the beach in a few years because of the pandemic and before that, red tide. Recently, the beach had been the site of controversial crowds of spring break party goers that were celebrating en masse and mask-less that had to be dispersed by police. The day we visited, the weather was perfect, the water warm, the beaches uncrowded and sparkling. We were lucky to get the parking spot closest to Frenchie’s Rockaway Grille on the beach and, after a very short wait, had the most lovely table outdoors so we could dine with our toes in the sand.

As evidenced by the many photos of our garden, fruit trees, and orchids, which are all thriving, we can’t escape the daily evidence that, despite the pandemic, we are living in paradise. We decided to take a hand in our gardening, almost daily, for an hour a day to get more exercise and our small investment of time has rewarded us handsomely. Izzy, as well, was bitten by the gardening bug, but on a smaller scale. After discovering the half-price rack of dying plants at Lowe’s, she came home regularly with forlorn-looking plants that she nursed back to health in short order. Her bedroom now looks like the page in “Where the Wild Things Are” where it says “That very night, in Max’s room, a forest grew…” 

During May, we celebrated a number of birthdays, for which I made cakes: our friend, Susan, for whom I made a Texas Sheet Cake; our neighbor Gary, a Chocolate Medallion Cake; and our niece, Haley, who requested a Cinnabon-type cake. I made two batches of my potato-dough cinnamon buns, baked them in layer cake pans, and frosted them with cream cheese icing. As the peaches from our tree became ripe, we harvested them and I made peach jam with the not so beautiful ones. As of this writing, sadly, the last of the fresh ones have been eaten and we will have to wait for next year’s crop to enjoy them again. Izzy perched precariously on the top rung of the ladder to prevent her Saba from climbing to reach the highest ones on the tree. During May, we were able to purchase beautiful mangoes for 39¢ apiece, so while I was canning peaches, I also made mango jam with the surfeit of mangoes I had purchased. I also love the half-price rack at Lowe’s and bought a bush of my favorite flowers—gardenias. My love dates back to the time of Jessica’s birth when friends who were visiting at the time (Ed and Rose St. Onge) bought me a gardenia tree to celebrate her birth. I used to sit next to it, inhaling its fragrance while I was nursing my daughter.

Saul’s cousin, Adi, whose wedding we had attended with his sister in Israel back in October 2019, gave birth to a beautiful little boy. Sadly, Adi’s mother, Sylvia, died at the beginning of the pandemic and never got to see her beautiful little grandson.

One of the small number of benefits of the pandemic was getting to attend my regular Thursday morning Bible study classes on Zoom. Up until I moved to Florida, I had attended regularly for almost 20 years. Our final Zoom class of this school year ended about three weeks ago and we all got a screen shot of the attendees.

Since the C.D.C. lifted the mask requirements for being outdoors, we took the girls for our first dinner at a restaurant together in over a year. We got an outdoor table at “Ford’s Garage” in Margaritaville and had a lovely evening.

In the last few days, Saul and I have resumed our walks in the Disney Parks when we can get reservations. We were pleased to discover that The Grand Floridian Hotel has a newly-paved and refurbished walkway to the Magic Kingdom. We had a pleasant vegan lunch outdoors at the Gasparilla Island Grill, which is now entirely different due to the pandemic, before embarking on our newly discovered route to the Magic Kingdom. Like Disney, we are now tasked with “Re-Imagining the Future.”

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