a salute to 2023!

a salute to 2023!

Dear Ones,

The highlight of 2023 was that Rebecca found Ihab Gabra (through a dating app!). We have had a wonderful year of getting to know him, and his whole wonderful family in Mission Viejo, and are looking forward to many many years to come!

This was not a year for taking one big trip – but we had many smaller celebrations and trips! In February, we hiked in Malibu and had brunch at Geoffrey’s by the beach to celebrate Stephen’s birthday. Rebecca went to New York on business (joined by Ihab!) and then visited family in Toronto and got to attend Alexa Meles’ Bat Mitzvah – while we watched online.

To celebrate Elise’s birthday in March, we took a trip that started with a lovely English tea at the Tea House on Los Rios in San Juan Capistrano; then moved on to a visit to The Cave Store in La Jolla, dinner at WeOlive Winery, and a performance of the musical “The Outsiders” at La Jolla Playhouse. We spent the night at the La Jolla Riviera Inn, and were supposed to head to Temecula the next day for more fun – but we were rained out and had to postpone!

In April, we were invited to Mission Viejo to celebrate Easter with Ihab’s family. We were so blessed to be immediately embraced by this lovely and loving family, including Ihab’s parents (Nagy and Della), sister (Noha), aunt and uncle (Molly and Magdy), grandmother (Mary), and cousins Sarah (and David) and Bishoy (and Henry). We had a lovely picnic at the lake near their home, and enjoyed some amazing food.

That month we also headed back to Temecula for our delayed Side Car Wine Tour – and it was worth the wait as we were chauffeured around to three different wineries in the side car of a motorcycle, followed by a wonderful dinner and the night at the South Coast Winery Resort.

In May, Elise and Rebecca headed to Kansas City for a quick visit with Elise’s father (Art) and brother and sister-in-law (Bruce and Peggy). Later, we were invited to Mission Viejo again for a Mother’s Day Movie Night – where we enjoyed the company of the fabulous Gabra family and watched The Sound of Music!

At the end of May, Stephen and Elise (and Ihab!) headed up to Big Bear to help Rebecca open up Camp Gilboa for the summer (more about that later).

In July, Elise and Stephen drove up the coast to Napa – stopping first for lunch in Big Sur at the infamous Sierra Mar restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn. The location is unbeatable – with an amazing view of the ocean – and the food was also amazing! Once in Napa, we checked into our Bed & Breakfast, the Old World Inn (where a complimentary bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon was waiting for us!), and had a light dinner at Carpe Diem. The next morning we headed out for our Napa Wine Train Legacy Experience – which consisted of riding on the vintage-appointed train and having a four-course meal, with stops in-between courses at wineries to enjoy wine tastings! What a fun day! The next day, on our way back home, we stopped in to visit Fern and Sam in Berkeley and also got to see a bunch of the Sokoloff/Solomon gang.

In August, Ellen visited us from Toronto, and also managed a trip up the coast (with Stephen) to visit Fern and family, as well as a trip to Big Bear to visit Rebecca at Camp Gilboa.

At the end of the summer, we were so saddened at the loss of Ihab’s father, Nagy. Our hearts go out to Della and the rest of the family for their loss, and we are only happy that we had the chance to meet Nagy and know what a wonderful man he was. He will definitely be so missed by everyone.

In November we all (Stephen, Elise, Rebecca, and Ihab) headed to Toronto to visit the Meles clan and other friends; and in December, Elise took another quick trip to Kansas City and treated everyone to lunch from the Taj Mahal restaurant. It was an added treat that cousin Kathleen Rice was there and brought her mom – Aunt Ruth – to celebrate her birthday with us!

In and around all these trips and celebrations, we also had to work! 2023 brought big changes for both Elise and Rebecca. Rebecca decided her time at Bend the Arc was done, and she became the Executive Director for Camp Gilboa – a progressive Jewish summer camp with a focus on youth leadership. As part of the job, Rebecca (and Potemkin) moved to Big Bear for the summer – living in a trailer and being on call pretty much 24/7 through the end of August. Ihab was extremely supportive, and visited Rebecca at camp several times. Stephen and Elise made it up for the pre-camp work-weekend; Elise came for a short visit a few weeks later; and Stephen and Elise went back with Ellen when she was visiting. The camp is beautiful and Rebecca found it an amazing – if challenging – place to spend the summer.

Elise started working on lessening her workload at New Musicals Inc. – first by finding an outside bookkeeper, and then by launching an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to hire a facility manager/administrative assistant. Shelby Chargin – who got the job – started by taking over supervising outside rentals through the summer, and has been gradually taking on more duties (all of which come off of Elise’s plate!) through the fall.

But of course, apparently one job wasn’t enough, so Elise got herself hired as the Orchestra Manager for the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. Stephen has been the Cello Coach for LAYO for about 16 years – and now it’s a family affair! Elise started by helping out with rehearsals and stage managing the concerts for the 2022-23 season; and then started full-time in May. The job involves attending (and organizing) weekly rehearsals, managing auditions, and generally doing communications and administrative work to keep the orchestra functioning. The orchestra also got a new Executive Director this year – Joyce LaBriola – and Elise and Joyce are learning to work well together. The fall semester ended with a pair of successful concerts, and the spring semester will bring more concerts and a June trip to Vienna and Prague!

When not dealing with the orchestra, Elise is continuing to work on musical theatre classes, video shoots for our Veterans’ project, various readings, organizing NMI’s new joint project with Union Station Homeless Services, and a summer production at the Hollywood Fringe Festival of the one-woman musical Queen Mab’s Alarmingly Mandatory Bridal Shower – for which Elise received some stellar reviews (including from the Gabra family!) If you want to see a (not great quality) video from the production and read all the glowing reviews, check out the Queen Mab page.

Once Rebecca got home from camp in the fall, Ihab gave up his apartment and moved in with Rebecca and Potemkin, and Rebecca continued with Camp Gilboa’s year-round programming, including producing the Summer Memories: Stories in the Sukkah story-telling event to raise money for the camp. Ihab continues teaching English to sixth graders at a Charter School.

And during all of this, Stephen kept busy with performances with his quartet, the Avanti Ensemble, as well as performances of Sleeping Beauty at the Carpenter Center, Pippin at USC, the Candlelight Concerts at Disneyland, The Nutcracker with the Long Beach Ballet; as well as playing two concerts with the Long Beach Symphony, teaching private lessons, and, of course, continuing as Cello Coach for the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra.

There were so many other activities throughout the year – seeing lots of shows (including Secret Garden, Jane Austen Unscripted, A Little Night Music, Transparent the Musical, Into the Woods, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Mis, Pippin Inherit the Wind, the Troubie’s White Album Christmas); attending some special events (including Masters of Taste at the Rose Bowl, Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis with Colin Mochrie, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl, a taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me at the Greek Theatre, and Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan at the Kia Forum for Ihab’s birthday).

We ended the year by spending Christmas day celebrating with the Gabra family in Mission Viejo; and a day at the Long Beach Aquarium with Anthony and Cathy Meles (and Alexa and Haley!); and Elise and Stephen closed out the year with a very fancy dinner at the Rustic Canyon restaurant in Santa Monica.

We are very much looking forward to more family adventures in 2024 – and wish all of you love and happiness!


Elise, Stephen, Rebecca, Ihab, and Potemkin

we gathered…

(click any image to enlarge)

Rebecca got to visit the Toronto family in February
Including Remy and the twins
Rebecca attended Alexa's Bat Mitzvah in person, Stephen and Elise watched online!
We were welcomed by the Gabra family for Easter
What an amazing family!
The Dewsberry clan met Ihab in Kansas City for Canadian Thanksgiving
The young'uns got together for drinks - along with cousin Lizzie
Dad with all four granddaughters (Adrienne, Cara, Lisa, Rebecca)
and with one very special one!
We all got to visit the Green/Meles families in Toronto for American Thanksgiving
The same group, but with Joshua swapped for Anthony!
The girls worked their magic on Rebecca
And Elise got to visit her sister-in-law Peggy, cousins Pam and Kathleen, Aunt Ruth, (and Dad and brother Bruce, not pictured) just before Christmas
Aunt Ruth and Dad
And a Gabra family Christmas!
A day in Long Beach with the Anthony Meles family
Including the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific

we travelled…

A Birthday Trip to Malibu

A Birthday Trip to La Jolla

A Sidecar Wine Tour in Temecula!

A Trip to Napa Valley

New York City!

Mexico City!

we dined…

(click any image to enlarge)

Rebecca actually cooked us dinner in her apartment!
The one and only time!
Dinner at Prosecco Trattoria (after seeing Jane Austen: Unscripted)
Lunch with Stephen's sister Ellen at the Grove
Dinner at the Hollywood Bowl with Ellen and Ihab
Stephen and Elise went to a special dinner at Osteria Mozza
Dinner was amazing...
We ate every bite!
Stephen and Elise had a very special New Year's Eve dinner at Rustic Canyon restaurant in Santa Monica (note the dried persimmons in the window)
The menu ... we got to pick eight dishes to go with our wine pairing
We started with "beets and berries, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, pistachio"
Followed by "sprouting cauliflower caesar, cantabrian anchovy, chili oil, parmigiano"
Next up was "Smallhold oyster mushrooms, charcoal-grilled with lion's mane miso"
Then this soupy-looking dish...
Which turned out to be the truly heavenly "ricotta gnocci, See Canyon pear, walnut brown butter, truffled pecorino"
Our entrees were "prime Brandi Beef sirloin cap, chanterelle mushrooms, sauce au poivre"
And duck confit, 'caraflex' cabbage with 'pink lady' apple & hazelnut" (OMG!!!)
Desserts were "warm Dandelion chocolate mousse, cocoa nips, malt ice cream" (sublime!) and "Epoisses de bourgogne, hoshigaki, hazelnut, buckwheat sourdough" (cheese and fruits!)
The persimmons in the window had been drying for weeks, and massaged daily, to create the fruit-leather type slices as part of the cheese plate
And a very happy New Year to all!

we camped!

A summer at Camp Gilboa

and more!

(click any image to enlarge)

Rebecca introduces Ihab to musical theatre
And more musical theatre
Stephen cells!
Elise started to help out at Los Angeles Youth Orchestra rehearsals (in a bid to get the job!)
Elise performed Queen Mab's Alarmingly Mandatory Bridal Shower
at the Hollywood Fringe Festival
to rave reviews!
Elise and little brother Fred (and Sandra, not pictured!) represent the family at Uncle Orval's funeral
Ordering dinner on Ihab's first night after moving into Rebecca's apartment
The happy couple!
We saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Hollywood Bowl
The happiest couple on earth at the happiest place on earth
Stephen has been the LAYO Cello Coach for 16 years; and now Elise is the Orchestra Manager (pictured with equally new Executive Director Joyce LaBriola)
The opening Parent/Student meeting for the new season of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra
A sample of Elise's organizational work for LAYO
Rebecca and Ihab hiked to support Camp Gilboa
Stephen prepares an amazing Pumpkin French Toast Casserole (Elise's cake in the foreground!)
Rebecca and Ihab carving Halloween pumpkins
While also celebrating both of their birthdays
They made short order of Elise's two-sided cake (peanut butter/chocolate for Rebecca and Toblerone/chocolate for Ihab)
The results of hard work of pumpkin carving!
At the huge Kia forum to see Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan for Ihab's birthday! (with Della and Noha!)
The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra in concert!
Stephen in the Nutcracker pit
Beautiful exhibits at the Long Beach Aquarium
And some very brightly colored sea creatures
A promo shot of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra
A promo shot of Stephen's quartet - Avanti

From our balcony on New Year’s Eve  –  Los Angeles loves fireworks!

we’re ready for 2024!