I went down to South Jersey to see Granny for Mother's Day. It was the first time I'd visited since she moved into the nursing home. Dad picked me up at 30th Street Station in Philly. Tony didn't come with me because he had a lot of work to do.
Granny wasn't in good spirits on that Saturday, but we all had a good laugh about one thing. Here's the e-mail I sent to Tony about it:
Dad was trying to convince Granny that the other women there don't hate her. Her roommate is some poor old gal who's getting chemotherapy treatments, and Gran is convinced the woman hates her. (This obviously isn't the funny part yet.) Even though the woman always waves at Dad when she sees him in the hall, and she's pretty frail and sleeps most of the time. Dad said it's not that people there are being mean; it's that they're so out of it, they don't know which end is up. Gran said she's glad she knows which end is up. It would make it hard to go to the bathroom. Dad said if you didn't know which end was up, you'd stick your head in the toilet. Gran said if that happened, she may as well just dive right into the toilet, and she pointed her arms out in front of her and made a diving motion. We all cracked up.
I don't think Gran really believes everyone there hates her. I think she says that only when she's not happy about having so many people around her; it's easier to say the other people don't like her than it is to say she wants to be alone and away from all of these relative strangers whom she doesn't feel like dealing with. She didn't talk that way on Sunday, and I even saw her happily interacting with other people in the home. Dad says her mood can change from one outlook to the other during the course of a visit.
Saturday evening, Dad, Jean, and I had dinner at The Green Olive. I was hankering for a burger:
On Sunday afternoon, a wonderful woman named Mary—who, with her now ex-husband, Herb, was my favorite church youth group leader—came by to visit Granny right after Dad, Jean, and I arrived. She told a cute story about her 7-year-old granddaughter. After her daughter (or daughter-in-law?) told the girl to wish Mom Mom a happy Mother's Day, her granddaughter asked incredulously, "Mom Mom's a mom?" And Mary told her she was a retired mom, which is why she's now Mom Mom.
We took Granny to Martinos,* a restaurant in Vineland that Dad has been raving about. The pasta was very good; I had the pleasingly spicy Cappellini Arrabbiata. The comes-free-with-the-entrée salad was the usual South Jersey–style blend of romaine and iceberg with some carrot, red onion, cucumber, and purple cabbage, so that was no great shakes. Granny had real beer—two bottles—for the first time in a while. Cheers, Gran!
I posted that photo on Facebook with the caption "Gran keeping it real for Mother's Day." It got 30 likes.
I had made Spearmint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and gave the receptionist at the nursing home a pint container to stow away for Granny. One of the nurses retrieved it from the freezer for us when we took Granny back. She enjoyed a few spoonfuls but was pretty full from dinner. She ate more at the restaurant than I'd seen her eat in quite a while.
The headline says it was a fun thing to visit Granny. But of course, it's also hard seeing her in the nursing home. She misses her freedom. But it is best that she's not alone, and she's having more and more difficulty walking. The nurses I spoke with all seemed competent and nice. The laundry people, conversely, aren't competent. Granny was wearing some clothes that aren't her own—and that had another woman's name written in them.
And it was somewhat sad going through a few bags of things I had stored at Granny's house, such as toys and books. I told Dad he could throw out my Tomy Pocket Games.
I kept some books. And I found all of my high school report cards. I thought about keeping one of Gran and Pop's old canary cages, but we don't have the room for it.
And I do have the canary-training record I saved from a garbage bag at Gran's five years ago and that now sits, framed, in our apartment.
Tony, Jack, and I caught the May 17 edition of the Cabinet of Wonders at City Winery. All of the musical acts were good, but there was no single standout, like Lake Street Dive or Black Prairie, as in previous Cabinets. And none of the musicians had an album to sell; they all seemed to still be working on one. And thankfully, there wasn't a loud talker near us, though there must have been one in the back, because Tony saw a tussle that the managers had to get involved with.
We had a fantastic bunch of peeps over for Memorial Day, including the Gerbers, the Schultieses, Hal and Stacy, and my friend and co-worker Nicole and her boyfriend, Jeff. Tony did most of the cooking and grilling. He made seven marinades for chicken, beef, and pork kebabs. Seven! Now he's just showing off. :-) He also grilled four huge portobellos I'd bought from one of my mushroom farmers at the Union Square Greenmarket. And he made his usual two potato salads: vegan, with dill and olive oil, and eggy, with mayonaisse. And his Tomato-Avocado Salad, which was a huge hit, like always.
I contributed a leafy salad, with a lemon-lime vinaigrette, that was packed with herbs from our garden: marjoram, oregano, Genovese and opal basil, parsley, and tarragon. Only the tarragon and oregano returned from last year; the others are annuals I bought as grown plants from the USGM.
I had to hit the local health food stores to buy some replacement greens and a good deal of basil, for Tony's TAS (he didn't want to use up most of what we had growing in the garden), because they'd gotten frozen in our temperamental fridge. Tony had tinkered with the temperature settings on Sunday because the fridge hadn't felt cool enough to him and the freezer hadn't been cold enough to solidify the chemical in the cannisters for my ice cream makers, and I needed to finish making my Vanilla With Chocolate Chips ASAP. I was able to do that early Monday morning after the cannisters froze completely overnight.
On Saturday, I'd made Mango-Lime Sorbet that turned our satisfyingly creamy and delicious. And I found gluten-free cones at Whole Foods, so my guy could have an ice cream cone–like experience for the first time in many many years. Here's a not-exactly-tempting-looking photo I took of the sorbet ingredients in the blender: about 6 cups of mango purée (from 10 Champagne, aka Ataulfo, mangoes), sugar, brown rice syrup for texture, and the juice and zest of three organic limes. I based my recipe on the mango sorbet recipes in my Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Ice Creams & Sorbets book and on the Chocolate & Zucchini blog. I tripled the amounts of sugar and BR syrup (in place of the called-for corn syrup) and slightly more than tripled the amount of mango purée in the W-S recipe because it didn't really yield that much, and I rightly figured that triple the sorbet base would fit just fine in my two ice cream makers.
The previous weekend, I'd made Peppermint Ice Cream, with black mint from the USGM. The mints I planted last year are coming back soooo slowly.
The only other herb that survived this past winter was my group of chives that's planted in with the oregano. I'd meant to move them to a different spot where they wouldn't eventually get lost amidst that other herb.
The oregano has managed to spread by seed to two nearby pots. (You can see some in the upper-right corner of the photo above, under the serviceberry tree.) And the dill and cilantro, which I bought new plants of, have been popping up here and there like weeds from seeds created at the end of last season. As are the oregano and spearmint, to a lesser extent. I also bought thyme—the German variety, which is supposed to be both more flavorful than English or French thyme and also more likely to survive a New York winter—and, two Fridays ago, a lavender plant, which is like catnip for the Tonester.
This past weekend, I bought two kinds of sage, tricolor and golden (with some German thyme visible at the bottom of the photo):
And a large cluster of lemon thyme, which I planted in a pot I'd been saving for more mat daisies, which I enjoyed so much last year but haven't been able to find at any of the plant stands at the USGM:
At the party, Zane went around with my watering can, sprinkling some of the plants. I had to laugh when Tony later told me that Abbe had expressed her approval to him that Zane had a job to keep him from getting bored. "He does better when he's given a task," she said. Ha!
One task I knew I had to do during the party was hand ice cream cones through the Dutch door separating our kitchen from the terrace. When Tony and I first looked at what's now our apartment, he said he could picture me doing that. So of course I had to do it to make Tony's ice cream cone vision come true. Here I am giving Mike a peppermint ice cream cone, with a humungous grin on my face:
And here I am handing a chocolate chip ice cream cone to Matt:
Tracey took those photos and texted them to me.
And here are some photos I took:
Bob, David, and Tracey:
Rich, Vince, Mark H., and Jack:
The Gerbers brought Molly. She made herself right at home:
Mark M., José, Alison, and Hanif (aka the people whose feet were in the previous photo):
Peter, Sean, and Martha:
Jack's thank-you card:
I also roasted some radishes and sprinkled them with kosher salt. And was pretty pushy about having people try them as the party was winding down.
Joyce couldn't come because she was in Colorado. She sent us this cool postcard:
*Yeah, it seems like there's not supposed to be an apostrophe, according to lots of hits on the Web. I didn't happen to notice whether there was an apostrophe on the menu.
UPDATE on June 9: Jen sent me these photos of Bob (who refuses to effing smile for a photo), Hal, and me. The three of us met in Debate & Advocacy class our freshman year at Trenton State College, in September 1987, so those two monkeys have been in my life for almost 27 years. Oy.