Tuesday, May 10, 2022

February Through May Day by Day


It certainly has been a very busy few months, despite Omicron. Many of the family has already experienced the virus, although Saul and I are still hanging in there hoping to avoid it. Those of us over 50 here in Florida have now received our second booster shot. With Yona’s Memorial Day Bat Mitzvah looming in the very near future and a family trip thereafter to London, Scotland, and Italy, we hope to all arrive at our destinations in good health having enjoyed our experiences to the max!

February in Florida began with a bit of a bump as we had two days of highly unusual and unexpected frost. Izzy set off for school early one morning, having defrosted and scraped down her windshield from the frost. However, another high school student who lives down the street, had never had the experience of frost before, and set out without defrosting, and traveling pretty much blind, ran into Izzy’s car a little bit down the street. It was a relief that Izzy was not at all injured, and a moment later it could have been much worse. However, the car needed to be towed and Izzy had to live without her beloved Prius for a few weeks while we waited for the garage to get the parts to repair it. During that time, Izzy borrowed Sami’s Prius and Saul and I drove Sami to and from work at Disney’s Yacht Club, where she has been working full-time as a concierge. Jen and Steve sent a beautiful thank you bouquet, balloon and chocolates for the scary emergency room experiences we had together in January.

Saul and I resolved that our top-heavy and armless mahogany dining room chairs had tipped over for the last time, and our aging friends were having more and more trouble getting up from them. We found some beautiful replacements at World Market and are very happy with the new look. We donated the old ones to nearby Hope Thrift Shop that does amazing charity work. Our friend, Larry, was so grateful we had replaced them that he contributed towards the purchase.

Although the central area of Disney’s Epcot has been almost completely demolished, Saul and I continue our three-mile walks several times a week through it, occasionally visiting the other parks as well. Our style has been somewhat cramped as we must now reserve the parks we want to visit ahead of time. So far, we have really not had a problem booking the parks we wish to visit, but next week, last year’s premium passes that gave us extra privileges will expire and we will be purchasing the more limited (but vastly cheaper) Pixie Dust Annual Passes. Over the past few months, Epcot has entertained with its Festival of the Arts and bloomed with color during its Annual Flower and Garden Festival and we have been privileged to enjoy many “Garden Rocks’ live concerts at the outdoor concert venue, The American Pavilion. The “Disney on Broadway” concerts were incredible! The food kiosks have also added some delicious vegan entreés and desserts during these Festivals. A truly unique experience we enjoyed while wandering through Animal Kingdom one afternoon, was listening, close-up, to a wonderful live performance on a sitar. We were only familiar with the recorded instrument because of the Beatles and their relationship with Ravi Shankar.

We’ve experienced some great meals at a great happy hour we discovered with Ari on an outdoor patio at Café Tu Tu Tango. The food is delicious, well prepared and presented, and there are lots of vegetarian options. Another of our favorites is Bombay Street Kitchen. Saul and I treated the girls there for dinner one evening, and Sami managed to order what we consider to be the perfect combination of vegetarian Indian dishes to share, especially delicious there!

Our next door neighbors, Paul and Kimberly, invited us over for a very convivial evening, celebrating Paul’s birthday, with a small group of neighbors and friends, and although I can’t stay long because of my allergy to their dogs and cat, we had a wonderful evening. Shortly afterward, celebrating a milestone anniversary vacation, they enlisted Saul to take care of their black cat, Jynx, who really warms up to him when he arrives to feed and cuddle her.

As an early graduation gift, we bought Sami an Apple watch so that she could keep track of messages while at work during the day. She is not permitted to keep her cell phone with her while on the job. Paul and Rif helped me celebrate my March birthday in a beautiful way at Art Smith’s in Disney Springs. They say it is their favorite restaurant in Disney so far. Around the same time, Saul and I were able to snag a reservation for breakfast at Yacht Club’s Ale & Compass where they have the best vegan breakfast! He was able to book it by getting on the site before dawn of the same morning.

Because of “supply chain issues” and the closure of many stores where I used to shop before Covid, the small cans of filling that I always used for Purim hamantashen became prohibitively expensive this year. I solved the problem by making my own fillings: dark cherry, lekvar, strawberry, apricot, almond and poppy seed. I will never go back to using canned fillings again. I also made both types, cookie and yeast dough, both delicious. We kvelled over the photos sent by Saul’s cousins in Israel, so cute in their Purim costumes with their children and new babies! With the leftover fillings, leftover frozen cake from our 50th anniversary party, and some homemade vanilla pudding, I made some spectacular parfaits for our Shabbat dinner. Izzy had all her wisdom teeth removed at the end of March and after a few very uncomfortable days, recovered nicely. Remarkably, her sense of taste which had faded, we thought because of allergies, has begun to return since then.

Thanks to one of Susan’s discerning neighbors, we also added a new jewel to our restaurant repertoire, Corelli’s Pantry, in old Clermont. It is a family-run, small Italian deli such as we have not seen since leaving Philadelphia almost nine years ago. An addition bonus is that they have incorporated Beyond meats and vegan cheese options into their regular menu. They make their own delicious flavors of gelato, muffaletta, cannoli, meatballs, etc.—all the usual products you would expect to see in a real authentic Italian deli.

In preparation for Yona’s upcoming bat mitzvah, Sami and Izzy created a special “yad” (pointer for reading from the Torah scroll). The pointer part is an actual dove feather that has been dipped in copper. The name “Yona” means “dove” in Hebrew. They presented it to her during Passover.

Just before Passover, almost the entire Israeli family came down with Covid. Luckily, none of them, even the babies, had a really serious case, and they told us that they were happy because it meant they would all be recovered and could be together during the seders. We were not so lucky, as Alex came down with it right before he was due to join us in Florida for the seders. He was not sufficiently clear to fly down until the middle of the week and was feeling pretty awful even when he was able to join us. His brother and sister and their families were able to fly in for the seders and a brief vacation here. They stayed at our timeshare vacation villas at Summer Bay nearby. The day of the second seder, since everything had already been prepared, we had a lovely afternoon by the pool.

Passover preparations this year were quite a strenuous business, but Sami pitched in big time and we were able to switch the kitchen over in a day and a half. Then preparations began a week ahead for the 21 guests we were hosting each night. During that week, Susan hosted us for a number of dinners and I don’t know how I would have done it without her. At the end of a long day of cooking, Saul and I dropped thankfully and exhaustedly into her kitchen chairs for lovingly prepared meals. Major, major thanks, Susan!

Despite the frost, our garden began to flourish in March and April, and Saul and I decided to add a big fig tree to our collection of fruit trees. I spotted it one day as we were wandering around Lowe’s with Izzy, and she and an enterprising young man employed there were able to figure out a way to fit it into our car to bring it home. Our collection of orchids has put on a spectacular show this year.

Jessica and Yona flew down several days before Passover bringing a 60 lb. carryon bag that was loaded with hard-to-find supplies. Our fresh horseradish root this year was the strongest and most beautiful I have ever found, and it obliged us by putting forth shoots from its severed top within a few days of us plopping it in some water. Our seder plates contained some very untraditional additions this year. Because it has become a vegetarian seder, we use a roasted beet rather than a lamb’s shank-bone to commemorate the sacrifice (z’roah), we also added an orange for women’s rights, and a little dish of rainbow sprinkles for the LGBTQ+ community. During the Elijah’s cup part of the ceremony, Elaine’s family has a tradition of pushing unmarried children out the open door to encourage them to find and wed their future spouses. In spite of all the work and preparation, everyone pitched in and we got it all done and had wonderful seders, made beautiful memories, and will never forget the joy of finally being together as a family, in person, after the two-year hiatus during Covid. With everyone pitching in at the end, we were mostly able to put away Passover stuff and restore the kitchen within a few hours.

Alex flew back to New Jersey with Yona, while Jessica remained a few more weeks to attend five graduation ceremonies during May for Sami and Izzy. For Sami: an Associate Degree in Hospitality from Valencia College and a Baccalaureate from New College in Mandarin Chinese. For Izzy: an Associate Degree in Health Science and her high school degree from Polk State in additional to a degree in EMR. She has already begun a summer course to receive her EMT degree. Yona celebrated her 13th birthday at home with Dad as well as Aunt Rif and Uncle Paul, who had flown in for a few days for their various appointments with their physicians in New York.

We celebrated Susan’s birthday at the beginning of May (at the end of April) with the carrot cake she requested at our Shabbat dinner, as well as Ken’s 70th birthday, which took place in April, with the fresh blueberry pies he requested. I also made two schlissel challahs which are key-shaped breads traditional for the Shabbat following the end of Passover. 

All of our hard work and day-by-day planning has made these past few months seem like we have created a sort of paradise here at our home. The weather has been beautiful, and our garden is flourishing with fruit, flowers, and herbs like we imagine the Garden of Eden would look. Everyone took wonderful memories home with them. Even those that caught the virus during this period (including Ari in London) seemed to come through it okay. We are now eagerly looking forward to Yona’s bat mitzvah, followed by our family’s vacations in London, Scotland, and Italy. May we all return from our adventures in safety and good health and with many more gorgeous photos and great memories for my next blog post!

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