Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mother Nature thows an icy punch; we battle back!

Lauren and I finally make it home!
So the plan last week was to take a few days and visit the Big Apple; eat our way across Manhattan, attend a few Broadway shows, do a little shopping and enjoy some wintry weather.

We managed all the things we could control -- food, shows and shopping. But Mother Nature held on to all the white and fluffy stuff that we were hoping would turn the area into a winter wonderland. Turns out you really shouldn't fool around with Mother Nature.

She decided to follow us back to the Land of Cotton and unleash her wintry bag of tricks. It's been frigid the last few days in my little corner of the world and today all the white and fluffy stuff we were hoping to spot in New York is covering the ground here.

My neighborhood certainly looks like a winter wonderland, but a few inches of snow in the deep south causes all sorts of problems, especially when it turns to ice. The entire region is in gridlock at the moment, major highways and thoroughfares, boulevards and secondary roads filled with vehicles quickly going nowhere!

My daughter Lauren, a teacher in Cobb County, headed home when school officials called it quits in the early afternoon. The 20-minute commute took at least three hours and she ended up abandoning her car in a church parking lot about a mile from our house.

I trekked through the ice and snow -- now there's a phrase I don't use very often -- to meet Lauren on the last leg of her journey. Together we slogged through the wet and chilly stuff, working our way around slippery spots and the occasional car that had lost its battle with the elements.

In fact, just a block from our neighborhood, we came upon a sedan that was inching its way around a particularly treacherous curve in the road, its wheels spinning on a carpet of ice. Somewhat foolishly we volunteered to push the car over a slick spot in the road. It's a battle we lost. A moment later the car and its driver were in a nearby ditch. 

I'm pretty sure there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of cars in ditches across the metro area or abandoned on highways that, for the moment, have become expansive and chilly parking lots. Thousands of folks are stuck where they are, hunkered down and hoping to make it through the night.

So I'm really happy to report that everyone in my family has made it home. We just had a splendid dinner -- thanks, Josh -- and my granddaughter Bailey has been fed, diapered and is fast asleep in a warm and toasty room.

This, then, is my long and windy way to simply announce that Mother Nature might have won a few skirmishes on this cold and chilly day. But I'm thinking, at least for the moment, we won the battle!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pastrami, focaccia and babka -- oh my!

Like all things Italian? Then you'll want to visit Eataly!
The lovely Miss Wendy and I decided recently we needed a brisk winter break from the Land of Cotton. So earlier this month we took a trip up north for a tiny taste of the Big Apple.

Truth to tell, we enjoy a bit of snow and a wintry chill -- at least for a few days. That's why we're willing to venture into Manhattan in January. There's something special about the area when the temperature plunges into the teens and snow falls gently across Manhattan.

Unfortunately, during this most recent trip it wasn't white stuff falling from the sky but a wintry mix of rain and sleet. No matter. We still managed to nosh our way through several delis in Midtown, enjoy two Broadway musicals -- Motown: The Musical and Kinky Boots -- stroll about the East Village on a food tour and make our annual pilgrimage to Zabar's to stock up on babkas. Can you say yummy!

Oh, we also visited The Jewish Museum to take in a special exhibit featuring the iconic work of Marc Chagall and, just as memorable, dropped by Max Brenner in Union Square for a cup of splendid hot chocolate.

I could easily pause and whisper Dayenu at this point, agreeing with the Passover ditty that, yes, this is all enough. But what lingers in my mind at the moment is the hour Wendy and I spent at Eataly, a specialty market on Fifth Avenue featuring a cornucopia of goodies to whet the appetite and soothe the soul.

The expansive space -- it's sort of an IKEA for the stomach -- is filled with a rich assortment of goodies, all with an Italian accent. It covers just this side of 50,000 square feet and includes pastas and grain products, chocolates and sweets, bread, pastries and other such delights, meats, poultry and fish, a wide assortment of wines and, of course, an entire corner devoted to olive oil!

Food and beverage stations are strategically placed around the perimeter, offering up delightful aromas that both tingle and tease the senses. If there's a problem, it comes with simply trying to get from here to there, pushing through the crowds of locals and tourists that fill the market throughout the day in search of a tasty treat.

It's a battle worth fighting! After all, to the victor goes the spoils. For Wendy and me that meant we walked away with a veggie sandwich: a tasty garden delight nestled between two hearty slices of focaccia, and a cup of bourbon chocolate gelato!

A day later we were back home, feasting at least for one evening on all the left-over goodies -- pastrami from the Carnegie Deli and babka from Zabar's; a bit of focaccia and a huge case of indigestion. 

Turns out the really good news is we were warm and snug back in the Land of Cotton. Two days after leaving New York, yet another blast of arctic air spilled across New England and the wintry mix we had slogged through turned to snow -- lots of snow!

I'm thinking if our little winter adventure had been a day or two later I'd now be writing about our miserable delay at LaGuardia, and the delights and surprises of Eataly and Broadway would only be fading footnotes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mother Nature shouts “BOO”, but Bailey is safe and happy

Despite the weather, Lauren and Bailey are all smiles!

I think one of the perks of being a Pops is that one day down the road Bailey will make her way over to my house and her Bubbe and I will have a grand sleepover with our beautiful granddaughter.

We’ll build a little castle of sheets and towels that will spill across the living room and play hide-and-seek around the house, then drink hot chocolate and watch cartoons into the night. I’m a little exhilarated and exhausted just thinking about it all.

That said, thanks to Mother Nature our chance to bond with Bailey in such a Norman Rockwell fashion has given way to stark reality. For the last week or so Bailey, now an aging newborn of three months, has been living out her babyish days and nights with Bubbe and me.

She comes with an entourage – her mom, dad and two doggie sisters: Maggie and Ella Rufus!
The temporary move was made after a blast of artic air gripped the Land of Cotton, just about the same time as one of the furnaces at Bailey’s home decided to call it quits. Bailey and her mom bundled up and settled in with us while her dad remained home – an oh-so chilly but necessary decision. Hey, somebody had to watch the dogs!

A short two days later and the cold snap played itself out. Bailey and her mom headed home. What they stumbled into when they reached their house had them – Bailey, her mom, dad and the dogs – all momentarily reeling and in search of sanctuary.

I’ll explain.

The cold snap apparently whirled about Lauren and Josh’s home – that would be my daughter and son-in-law – and lingered around a few vulnerable pipes in a back bathroom. Need I say more?

When Lauren walked into the family room she heard a bit of static coming from a couple of speakers – never a good omen – then saw that a nearby hallway had become a watery canal. Yikes! Several inches of water covered all the nearby rooms, turning the newly installed carpeting – a little gift of welcome for Bailey in early October – into a soggy mess.

The static Lauren had heard was just a tiny taste of the pop and sizzle playing out as Mother Nature fried all the high-tech gizmos filling the house – computers, routers and lots of wiring connecting a state-of-the-art sound system, flat screen TVs, digital lighting and expansive security system.

That’s a long and windy way to say the gizmos and other stuff are mostly toast today. But, fortunately, there’s always tomorrow.

That’s where we’re all headed right now, neatly bundled up together in Pops and Bubbe’s home; warm and comfy and waiting for repairs. Okay, we’re a little pressed for space and there’s a little bumping into one another now and again.

But we’re all taking it a day at a time and, the good news, at least for me and the lovely Miss Wendy, we now have that opportunity to have a grand time with our new granddaughter in an up close and personal way.

No, we’re not building castles out of sheets or sharing warm cups of cocoa with Bailey – yet! We’re doing something better. It’s called life. It begins around 7 each morning when Bailey quietly announces that she’s up and ready to start the day.

She’s generally all scrunched up, her tiny legs flailing about as she searches for her thumb. If we’re lucky – and most mornings we are – she offers up a welcoming smile and a bit of baby gibberish that never fails to warm my heart.

The bulk of the day is a mixture of handling mundane needs – feeding, burping, and changing diapers – along with fun and games; lots of rocking and singing, tummy time and soothing walks around the neighborhood. Do this simple stuff just right and Bailey offers up a reward.

Often it’s just a contented sigh, her tiny hand resting lightly on my cheek or tugging at my finger; occasionally it’s the contentment I feel watching her eyelids grow oh-so heavy as I rock her in my arms and she falls ever so lightly into a gentle sleep.

Truth to tell, it’s a wondrous and symbiotic relationship.

Lauren, Josh, Bubbe and me – and let’s not forget Janice and Steve, our machatunim – are all working together to take care of Bailey’s needs. For her part, Bailey then satisfies our collective need that she be safe and happy.

So despite the watery mess that Mother Nature tossed our way, despite the close quarters and the little “gift” Maggie left on our hallway carpet – I did mention the two dogs, right – all is good.

At the moment the house is quiet. Lauren and Josh are resting in the guest room, Maggie at the foot of their bed; Bubbe is asleep and Ella is regally plopped next to her, comfy on my pillow; and in the room that was once my own little girl’s, my granddaughter is now safe and happy and floating in a dream.

In a couple of days or a couple of weeks the watery mess that is Bailey’s house will be fully repaired; warm and dry and home once again. And here’s the really good news. Years from now, I’m thinking, we’ll be talking and laughing about the “Arctic Vortex” of 2014 and the grand adventure that brought us all together in a very special way.