Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Well, my final is over and so I'm officially out of hibernation! I'm supposed to be working on one of my school papers, but instead I've been planning our upcoming Fourth of July BBQ! I'm very blessed to have married into a family - the first American since Pidgeon's Aunt - whose thrilled to share in the customs of my heritage. This means, we all now celebrate Thanksgiving and July 4th! As you may recall, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner in the apartment last year (more than 40 people folks!) and it was a great success. But, since we don't have a grill and only a tiny mirpeset (balcony), we had to find a new location to play host for our BBQ. Fortunately, Pidgeon's folks have both a beautiful garden and a Weber, so plans were made and this morning my mother-in-law and I discussed the menu.

First thing she asked me was if this was going to be an American style BBQ. I said: absolutely! That means, no pita, no hummus, no babaganoush, NOTHING middle eastern should appear on the table. I'm now in charge of picking up hamburger and hot dog buns (yeah! I haven't had a bun in AGES!) We also discussed grilled corn on the cob, American hot dogs, chicken drumsticks slathered in BBQ sauce, American hamburgers (minus the bacon cause we're kosher) and ALL the fixings. That means sauerkraut, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, sliced pickles, sliced onions. I nixed the mayo cause I just don't like mayo on my meats and my mother-in-law nixed the relish cause she doesn't like it. Then I asked if she wanted me to make coleslaw and french fries, and she decided to make real french fries (we're all about the frozen kinds that you bake in this house) cause it's supposedly better for me and the baby. Whatever. As long as I can have some fries with my hot dog, I'm a happy lady. 

I think I'll surprise her with my Mother's coleslaw recipe, it's delishous, and maybe I'll also make a macaroni salad. I have to find a good recipe for that though, but it would also be delicious! Next, it was on to the dessert discussion. Personally, I'm a big BBQ pie gal. I like either cherry, blueberry or apple. I offered to make the pies - will probably just make my Aunt Amy's apple pie and my sister's blueberry pie - and then my Mother-in-law requested brownies. Now, I'm not really a big believer in brownies at my BBQ, unless they're special and well in my condition that ain't happening, but I'll honor her request and will make my snowdrop brownies especially for her :)

She's going to also pick up the watermellon and Pidgeon and I will look for some parve vanilla ice cream cause you can't have apple pie without vanilla ice cream ala mode. And voila, a Fourth of July BBQ comes together! Wow, I hope I don't pack on the pounds. I've got 3 weeks to go until my next Dr. appointment and I don't want to get another tongue lashing!

I'm so nostalgic for the July 4th BBQ's of yore, when I was really, really little and my brother wasn't even on the scene yet! When Aunt Amy and Cousin Neil would come out to us (with Cousin Larry too) in Queens and my Dad would BBQ in the backyard. Those were the days before my parents had a back porch, and the grass in the yard was nice and green and manicured. My parents would set up the sprinklers in the lawn and fill up the crocodile baby pool with the little slide, and we would all spend hours playing in the water.  Meanwhile, as our parents supervised in their hippest 70's gear (we're talking funky sunglasses and lime green dresses (my Mom) with bell bottom pants (Neil's Dad) my Dad would come out in HIS BBQ gear. 

That consisted of the cleanest and holiest white Hanes T-shirt he could find in his drawer, a pair of loose fitting shorts, knee high sports socks with green and yellow stripes underneath the knee, and his favorite pair of sneakers. Ah, if only he had worn this outfit JUST to BBQ. As I later learned, this also turned out to be his sleep away camp visiting day outfit (complete with galoshes in case it was rainy or muddy at Camp Moshava/Hillel/Morasha/Mesorah, etc.).  A bit embarressing when you're 12 years old, completely endearing when you're 5. 

Sometimes, Dad would let me help him get the charcoal going. That meant he let me hold the lighter fluid bottle about 10 feet away from the grill. When he was ready,  he'd walk over to me to get the fluid, and let me hold the spatula. I usually got bored with just holding the spatula and ended up getting all wrinkly in the pool with my sisters and cousins. My Grandparents used to come too, and Uncle Benjy A"H, and we would just spend the day in the back yard eating and having a great time. Since we always started our BBQ extra early, sometimes we had time to drop by the Fried's and crash THEIR BBQ. Daneel would be shooting hoops in the driveway and my Dad would join in, while I tried to pick at their cherry tree. Those were great summer memories. 

Sometimes, I just want to be 5 again. Life was so simpler back then!

Well, I'm really hoping that P"G this baby will also have some great summertime memories. Granted, it will be really different from mine since we're living in Israel and only a minority here celebrate the American holidays, but who knows. Maybe we'll spend our Fourth of July's in the States with my family? My folks have a Weber now too, and well, Dad still has those tube socks but maybe I can convince him to leave the galoshes in the hall closet.

Speaking of Dad, he just called to say good morning but I was downloading, The Very Best of the Beach Boys off of iTunes and our VOIP connection was pretty lousy. Now that I'm all done with 30 of the very best Beach Boys tunes (another surprise for the BBQ!) I think I'll call him back.

Yom Tov from Baka!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Philosophy Countdown

In about 15 hours, I'll be in the middle of the Medieval Philosophy final. Yikes! I needed a break, so I decided to update my blog before going back to my study notes. I've been at it since 11:30 a.m. and it's tiring! My head is swimming from the 4 proofs of Creation, the proofs of Providence, types of Commandments, types of Laws, etc. I'm hoping I'll be able to keep everyone straight, but it's confusing trying to keep up with the beliefs of Maimonides and Saadia Gaon and Joseph Albo, etc.  Plus, the exam format is multiple choice, and I am a lousy multiple choice test taker. I'm a brilliant essay test taker (I can BS my way through just about anything) and same with fill in answers. But hand me a multiple choice exam and I just have the hardest time, especially when the instructor tries to hand me trick questions. I always end up second guessing myself and inevitably scratch in the wrong answer. Now, Professor Harvey is a good guy, so I'm praying he did very few trick questions and everything else is just straight forward. At this point, I'm not even looking to ace the test, I just need to pass it so I can get a passing grade in the course and move on to my thesis. 

Here's hoping!

Well, Pidgeon and I had a long, busy day yesterday. I had another Holocaust literature class after my usually scheduled Tuesday class, and the conversation was fascinating. I am a huge Melvin Jules Bukiet fan, as of yesterday, since he is an absolutely brilliant writer. His short story The Library of Moloch was really, really riveting. I highly recommend it as a must read! By the time Pidgeon finished his own course, near the Azrielli mall in Tel Aviv, I was walking towards the Aroma off campus for a nice, tall drink of ice decaf coffee. It was stinking, stinking hot though, and sitting outside was torture. When I got into the car, Pidgeon was able to see his own reflection in the sheen of my face. Gross! I washed my face as soon as we walked through the door.

I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We are planning on doing absolutely nothing. I froze some leftovers from last Shabbos, so I don't have to make any of the chicken, and am planning on cooking super light for the rest of the weekend. All I want to do is sleep and catch up on my reading. I have to get at least another book started and finished before the weekend is over, so that I can keep on top of my school work. 

I can't believe that June is practically over. I'm not that upset, mind you, as I absolutely hate this hot weather. I'm a Fall person and am looking forward to the crisp, cool weather of October. Granted, I have no maternity clothing for cooler weather, but I can always find an oversized sweatshirt and just layer up. 

Recently, I decided to try to change up our eating habits. I figured, since we're most active during the day, we should have our heavier meal for lunch and a lighter meal for dinner. So, this week, I've experimented and served Pidgeon meat for lunch and light/dairy for dinner. I don't know if he likes it so much, but I'm really enjoying it. It's nice to go to sleep without this huge meal to digest. Granted, I want to take a nap right after lunch is over, but at least I have plenty to do to distract me so I don't just crawl into bed as soon as I finish off the corned beef. I'm hoping this will help me keep my weight down, and with another Dr.'s appointment looming, I'm nervous. I'd really prefer not getting yelled at by my GYNO, it was not a pleasant experience.

Well, I think I should log off and get back to my notes. I'm still not straight on the purpose of Averroes/Ibn Rushd Decisive Treatise and I just know that's going to be a question. 

Erev Tov from Baka!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mint Lemonade and Joy Division

I never thought I'd be the person to say that I'm happy Shabbos is over, but boy am I really happy that Shabbos is over. Our guests were great but extremely exhausting. It's hard to wash 20 plates (dessert, salad and main) twice in one weekend. Not to mention, the mountain of silverware and the cookware that I went through on only two meals! Fortunately, my last minute decision to bake snowdrop brownies were a big hit. They polished off the tin before Shabbos ended, and Pidgeon and I abstained so that our waistlines would get too big. I even surprised myself and went to Shul yesterday, in time for Torah reading too, and then came home and the lunch marathon began. We promised our guests we were take them for a walk around the neighborhood after our naps and at 6:30 p.m. we started on our way. Now, normally, I would take the walk a bit slower than the pace they set. But, they're all walkers so I huffed and puffed to keep up. By the time we made it through Baka, crossed the train tracks, and headed deep into the German Colony, I was hurting. I needed to get home! I'd been on my feet at that sink, and serving and clearing, and standing in shul, for way too long. And, we were about 25 minutes away from home. Well, that just made me cranky, so I told Pidgeon we must slow down and get me home before I just lost it. So, we took it a bit slower, and half of our guests went ahead so they could get to shul for Mincha. Myself, Pidgeon, and our female guest headed back to the apartment. Now, before we left for the walk, I'd mentioned that I would make mint lemonade when we got back. Granted, I didn't think I would be feeling so lousy when I made the offer. So, we finally get back to the apartment, and I collapse onto the sofa and Pidgeon brings me a drink. I hadn't been sitting there for more than 20 minutes before out female guest inquired about the mint lemonade I had promised her.

WTF? She was kidding, right? But nope, she wasn't.

So, I peeled myself up off the couch and asked Pidgeon for help and we set to work on squeezing 6 lemons for the lemonade. That's when our guest decided to "insist" on helping by washing the lemons or offering to squeeze. ALL jobs pidgeon was doing, as I was the one in charge of washing the mint, measuring out the sugar, filling the pitcher with ice cubes, etc. Pidgeon was the one doing all the hard work. So I very politely asked her to sit down and relax while we got her her lemonade.

And that's when I was officially ready for our Shabbos guests to go home. I've never felt that way before, but I was just done. Does that make me terrible? I felt guilty that I just wanted some quiet in the house. I wanted to take off my hair shmata, put on a pair of shorts, and sit like a pig in shit on the couch doing absolutely nothing. Speaking to absolutely no one. Just me and Pidgeon, in silence. Well, we rushed through Havdala as soon as we could, and insisted they not tidy up the rooms. Then they asked about food, and I very nicely offered to make them toasted cheese sandwiches if they were hungry. Fortunately, they decided to make other plans, so I was off the hook on preparing another meal for them. We said our goodbyes and Pidgeon walked them out to show them the way back home. And, as soon as I closed the door behind them, this great relief washed over me. It was almost tangible. I walked into our bedroom and did exactly what I had been dreaming about doing for most of the weekend. Put on a pair of shorts, took off my hair shmata, and then walked back into the kitchen to finish washing all the dishes and silverware. In complete silence. It was bliss.

After I finished tidying up the kitchen, I decided I was done for the night.  Even though our bedroom looks like a hurricane hit it, and I needed to put up a linen wash, I decided to just chill for the evening. Pidgeon left to do some work at the office, and since he didn't have to be home until 11:00 p.m. for my shot, I was left with a couple of hours to myself. I wish I could say that I did something interesting, but I didn't do a think. I ate some Shabbos salad leftovers and watched an online episode of MTV's The Real World. I was just in the mood for absolute mindless drivel, something that I could just zone out and really relax to, and that program was certainly perfect. Once Pidgeon got home, and we did my shot, we decided we were both so exhausted to do much else. We caught the episode of CSI: Miami and then I remembered the movie we took out on Thursday. I was hoping to watch it on Thursday night, but I spent the entire day and night cooking in the kitchen. Friday was more of the same, although it was mostly cleaning and setting up then cooking. So, there was practically no time for me to watch the movie.

But, I highly recommend it! It was a terrific film about the life and tragic death of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis. It was haunting and the fact that it was shot completely in black and white just added to the starkness of the storyline. Brilliant.

Well, I am in serious final mode. I have my one and only final P"G this Thursday morning and it's a huge amount of material. It's not easy getting Rambam and Rabbi Saadia Gaon straight - especially when it comes to their opinions on Creation and Jewish Philosophy. But, I'm hoping by Thursday I'll know enough of the material to pass the exam!

Yom Tov from Baka!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just a Wee Bit Pissed

This is exactly how I feel today. I am so angry, I just want to take an umbrella and just unleash hell all over some unsuspecting vehicle. Ah, family. They're pretty much the only group of people who can really drive me this insane. 

Usually, my Dad's the culprit. But, I was able to take his lecture yesterday about studying for my final next week, not over exerting myself on the exercise, blah, blah, blah because it was Father's Day. And, that's the one day out of the year where I give my Dad free reign to say whatever he wants to me, and not take it to heart. That's usually my gift to him (and really, myself).

Nope, this time, the culprit is none other than my older sister. I'm so angry with her, I think I'm done speaking with her until at least after the baby is born. Here's the situation. Unfortunately, last March, my sister suffered a horrible miscarriage. It was awful, and we all rallied around her after it happened. Thank g-d, she has two wonderful children who helped her through the tragedy. I was really appreciative that she was so supportive of me as I went through my engagement, and how much she did for me around the wedding. And then, 17 weeks ago, I got pregnant and was just so ecstatic. But, not everyone in my family was as happy, particularly my sister. At first, I was really understanding about her situation. However, as time goes on, my patience is wearing more and more thin.

My Mother decided to try to help ease my disappointment by making the following analogy. She told me that the way I felt when my little sister got married before me is exactly how my older sister feels now that I'm pregnant.


When my little sister got married, I wasn't dating anyone. I am 3 years older than her and found her marriage very difficult. So, what did I do? I went to therapy. Why? Because I knew that if I didn't have someone to talk to, during her engagement, I wouldn't be there for her and it would ruin our relationship forever. Going to therapy during her engagement was the best thing I ever did, and I had a great time at her wedding. Not only that, but my little sister had TWO children before I even got engaged! And, I supported her during her pregnancies. I went down to Baltimore and helped her when she was pregnant and then after each baby was born. I love her children more than anything in the world, and no matter how sometimes I felt a twinge of jealousy because I wanted to be married and have children too, I never let it affect our relationship.

So, that analogy just doesn't work for me since my older sister has been married now for eight years and has two beautiful, wonderful and amazing children. 

OK, so that's the back story. What did she say to me yesterday that made me so angry?

1) Baby names - we were discussing my Zaydie (A"H) Hebrew name. Now, my little sister had a boy after both my Grandfather's passed away. And, she decided to use my Zaydie's Hebrew name as her son's middle name. They call him, however, by my Zaydie's English name. So basically, there is already a baby in our family who is named after both of my Grandfather's (A"H). Now, Pidgeon and I have been discussing baby names for a while now. And, we've discussed using my Grandfather's Hebrew name should the baby be a boy. But, we don't know if we'll use it as a first name or not. So, when I mentioned to my sister how we're stressing about baby names, she went OFF on me. She said that "it's not like I'm living in a rented apartment" and maybe "we should think about doing the right thing".  How DARE she? I need her to pull a guilt trip on me because we live in my parents apartment? Is my parents helping us out a bribe for us to name our children after the names they want us to use? 

What upsets me even more is that my sister had NO relationship with my Zaydie. I LIVED with him for 2 1/2 years when I was in my 20's. Out of everyone in my immediate family, I was the closest to him! I miss him terribly! There is nothing more I want to do than to honor his memory. So, who the hell does she think she is to guilt me into doing something that I don't have 100% control over. It's not like I'm going to be a single parent (thank g-d). There are two people who make this decision when it comes to baby names. Two. 

2) So, AFTER she made me feel like complete shit, I tell her that I was calling to let her know the sex of the baby. We decided to just tell our siblings what we're having, since both Pidgeon and I are terrible about keeping secrets. And, once I told her, she revealed that she basically already knew because she asked my Mother. Now, why my Mother told her, I don't know. But, I was pissed that she asked my Mother point blank what we're having. First of all, ask me, don't ask my Mother. Second of all, if I thought she cared at all about this baby, I would have felt differently. But, she merely want to know because what we're having affects my parents travel plans. And, even though the main event is P"G 4 3/4 months away, she HAD to know when they were going to be out of the Country. 

3) Well, if that wasn't bad enough, I asked her to share some of her old baby clothing with me. I wasn't trying to be insensitive at all. But, when my little sister had her son, my older sister sent her some of her old baby clothing (P.S. you have no idea what we're having, both my sisters have a boy and a girl). And, when my little sister had her daughter, my older sister bought matching outfits and shared baby clothing with her as well. When I requested that she send some baby clothing to Israel, her response was Oh. I quickly told that I would send the baby clothing back as soon as our baby grew out them, but I know that she has some really nice stuff and it would help us out financially if we got some hand me downs and I didn't have to buy a whole bunch of new stuff. We're students people, we make very, very little money, and I have to cut corners where I came. A baby is a huge expense, so if my sisters could help me out, why not ask? Anyway, she hemmed and hawed and basically said she would "see how much room my parents have before making a decision to share her baby clothing". You and I both know that I'm not going to see anything from her. Ever.

I was so upset with this conversation, I barely slept last night, and have spent the morning doing laundry, cooking dinner for my sister-in-law and her family (with a new baby, I thought she could use some help in the food department) and cleaning all while crying. Pidgeon's been very helpful, and tried to comfort me,  but I'm just so miserable. 

I used to have such an amazing older sister. We used to be so close. She used to be so supportive. I miss that sister. I hate this new her. And I really don't need this kind of relationship in my life right now.

Maybe the sooner I accept that fact that just because we're related, doesn't mean we have to like each other or even be friends, the better.

I'm just hoping it hurts less that way.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Lychee Heaven

They're here!!! Pidgeon picked me up a carton of Lychee yesterday and it was the best fruit I've tasted in a very, very long time.  Our greengrocer on Derech Beit Lechem, meanwhile, is happy too as I've been bugging them week in and week out asking when lychee would finally be available. I think they're just so happy I'm no longer bothering them with my incessant phone calls. 

So, its been a busy and productive week. Fortunately, I finished my first draft of one of my thesis stories. I have some edits to do on Saturday night, but then I'm sending it off to my advisor for his feedback and starting on my next story. Meanwhile, my Philosophy final was finally scheduled for June 26th at 9:00 a.m. and with only 13 days until test time, I better start reviewing my material. Granted, it took my Dad yelling at me to start studying to even think about studying, but I'll just be so happy with a passing grade and the course behind me.

Unfortunately, my cleaning lady quit on me this week. I was not pleased, as my floor was in desperate need of a washing from our Shavuot meal. And, rather than do any tidying up in advance, I just left everything for her to take care of. Big mistake. So, this afternoon, after Pidgeon and I got back from another morning at the Dr.'s office, I asked him to fill a bucket of water and cleaning solution, and I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I absolutely HATE the sponga stick. Really, I find it annoying and clumsy. I'd much rather have either the Swiffer Wet Jet or a nice spongy mop. But, I did manage to do a nice job, and now my salon/kitchen area is just gleaming. It's nice to go into Shabbat with a clean home, and I'll probably end up scrubbing the toilets too. Sigh. Housework, at least it burns calories. I guess it's better than I wield the stick instead of a spoon. Although, the Haagen-Daaz in the freezer is definitely calling my name.

We're eating out both meals for Shabbat, which is a welcomed break for me! And, since we're having sleep over Shabbat guests next weekend, I'm thrilled to take a week off from cooking. Now, I just have to start thinking about food for next Shabbos. Fortunately, our guests offered to make a corned beef and since we're on a budget and we don't eat any meat, I jumped at the kind offer. I love, love, love beef so this will be a very welcomed treat!

Well, I think it's time for me to take a pre-Shabbos nap. My eyes are closing as I try to update this post, so I think I'm going to have to just give in and try to catch some Z's. 

Shabbat Shalom from Baka!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Poltergeist Tree

Remember the movie Poltergeist? I do. Extremely well. You see, when I was 6 year old, my Father was tasked with watching myself, my older sister and her friend, for the day. So, he decided to do what all Dad's do when they have no idea how to entertain three little girls. Take them to the movies. We went to see the cartoon flick, The Secret of Nimh, which was a little scary for me but overall entertaining. And then, after the movie was over, my Dad asked us if we wanted to stay for a special double feature. The movie they were showing was Poltergeist and he promised it wasn't scary.

He freaking lied.

I screamed and ran out of the movie theatre at least twice, but not before I saw the Poltergeist tree swoop in and grab the little boy. Or the scene when the clown under the bed attacked. And who can forget the little girl getting sucked into the TV? I slept with my parents for a week, and I think my Mom was pretty ticked at my Dad.

Found childhood memories.

Why bring it up now, you might wonder? Well, we have a gigantic tree outside the apartment building. Its roots are on three different people's properties. And, lately, the tree has grown so much that the limbs are hanging all over our front walk. Kinda like spindly green arms and, each time I walk from our front gate to the front door, I have to push my way past these arms and I constantly think of The Poltergeist Tree. 

I think it's time to call a gardner to have him come and give the tree a little trim. Otherwise, the limbs are going to take over and I'll never leave the apartment!

Shavuot lunch was fantastic! Everyone loved my deconstructed Mexican appetizer and we all had a really, really nice time. I was exhausted from washing all the dishes, but we had so much fun that it was well worth it. Yesterday, I was in a daze from exhaustion and also because it was a very long day. I still can't get over the fact that, in Israel, it's no longer a holiday while in the States everyone is celebrating second day of Chag. Pidgeon drove me to class and even sat in, which was nice, as he really enjoyed the topic. We analyzed W.E.B. Du Bois Souls of Black Folk and made some interesting comparisons. Pidgeon loves literature so it was a wonderful start to our day.

And, since Pidgeon's sister had a baby girl yesterday morning at 7:45 a.m., we decided to drive into Tel Aviv to buy her a present. Well, that, and because Pidgeon had a 29 credit at CNV (Comics V'Yirakot) and wanted to pick out some good comic books. We also went to Emma Green in Dizingof Mall and bought 2 bath bombs for Mommy's feet, and some cute clothing for the new baby. Afterwards, we popped into Anise for some Terra Chips and juice, and then it was back to Jerusalem for us. We were both so tired that we sacked out on the couch and ate some lunch picked up from New Deli (I had a hot dog craving, which really hit the spot!). Soon, it was time for visiting hours at Shaarei Tzedek and we went to visit the new born. Mommy and baby were doing great and everyone was just happy and tired. We spent 30 minutes with the happy pair before coming back to the apartment.

I was so wiped, and felt like the biggest dishrag, that I fell asleep while watching TV. Pidgeon had to help me into bed, help me with my shot, and I was asleep by 11:30 p.m. 

We had another early morning wake up call today as we went to Tipat Chalav around the corner to chat about my pregnancy. I showed then nurse all my information and she bluntly asked us why we were there. I told her that my sister-in-law told me to come, but I had no idea what they did. She smiled and basically told me that since I have two Dr.'s taking care of me, they weren't needed. We were so embaressed that we wasted her time, that we walked home with perverbial tails between our legs. I was also really tired, so I was angry that we woke up extra early for no good reason. Oh well, I guess the upside was that I know where they are located and what they do for babies. P"G, she told us she'll see us after the birth.

We got home and, since I was starving, I ate a quick breakfast. My eyes started closing so I decided to crawl into bed and managed to nap for a couple of hours. And then, Pidgeon came back from running some errands in town, and he woke me up for today's main event.

Today, we had our "big ultrasound", which is when the Dr. looks at every part of the baby to make sure they are developing well. I was more nervous today than I was on my wedding day. We got to the office, filled our forms, and then sat with the Dr. He asked me to get on the scale and seemed surprised when I asked if I could take off my heavy New Balance sneakers. I, of course, was up 8 pounds since last month. He was not pleased with that and told me that I should "stop eating breads and be careful". He told me not to gain more than 4 pounds a month. I was shocked with the scale and didn't agree with what it said. I weighed myself yesterday morning and I was 4 pounds lighter than what the scale said. I mean, what did the Dr. expect to see? It was 1:30 p.m., I had eaten breakfast and a snack, drank at least 4 glasses of water, and was wearing all of my clothing. That's not the right time to weigh a pregnant lady. Shavuot and all the cheesecake didn't help me either, so I'm back on healthier alternatives to food and hopefully I won't gain more than the required amount. Believe me, with all this working out I've been doing, I too want to keep my weight healthy.

He was, however, very happy with my blood pressure. I wasn't surprised as I've tended towards low blood pressure my whole life. P"G, that should be something that I keep relatively low throughout the pregnancy.

Anyway, the ultrasound was incredible. He did a scan of the baby and looked at everything to make sure it was developing normally. And then, he asked us if we wanted to know the sex, and we said "hells yeah!" And so, now we know, and I'm the worst secret keeper in the world! I just want to tell all of my family and friends what we're having, but we want it to be a surprised. 

So, we told my folks, who needed to know since they already have travel plans to Israel for December. All I'll say is that they are planning accordingly.  As for us, we've been in a bit of a fog since we left the Dr.'s office. It's just so surreal and amazing. I have about 16 ultrasound photos of the little babes, who I could swear was sucking its thumb at some point during the procedure. It was simply amazing. 

Well, I'm off to finish my second load of laundry for the day and to figure out what I'm feeding Pidgeon for dinner. 

Erev Tov from Baka!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Great Cheese Holiday

Ah, the holiday where one stays up all night and then rewards themselves with forks full of cheescake. I've been busy, and so I apologize in advance for not writing. I can't believe that I actually have 30 minutes to myself, before I have to shower and get ready for Shavuot. I've spent the entire day cooking, shredding, cleaning and organizing. Phew. Good thing we don't entertain often, I don't think I could take it. Fortunately, I had the energy today to do everything on my list. Hopefully, I'll has some more room in my energy reserves for the hour walk home we have tonight.

But, before I get to the Chag, let me catch y'all up.

B"H, I've been feeling much better. And, thanks my exposure to an enormously obese pregnant woman, I've been doing all that I can to take better care of myself. That means walks every day or the gym. No more days lying in bed for this preggo! Oh no, I am absolutely petrified that I'll end up 50 pounds heavier than I already am and won't be able to move let alone lose the weight after the baby. So, when I could have been updating the blog, I've been exercising.

We also decided, early in the week, to host Shavuot lunch in the apartment. We haven't been too social these days, so we thought it would be nice. At first, I was afraid I'd have to scramble for some guests, but we were able to rustle up a nice group of folks. And, next thing I know, our friends Oren and Rachel are coming to sleep here from Tel Aviv too! 

Quid pro quo though, we had been planning a weekend in Tel Aviv by Oren and Rachel for the past few weeks. They were able to secure the apartment in their building for us, and we were so thrilled for the change of scenery for the weekend. It was so much fun!! They hosted a wonderful Friday night dinner on the roof for us and some of our close friends (and a new group as well of very nice folks). Unfortunately, once 11:00 p.m. came, we had to excuse ourselves and went down to the apartment so I could give myself the shot. We've come to the conclusion that, until it's early shabbatot again, we're not going to be able to go out for dinner anymore. It's because, 2 hours into the meal, we have to leave and I feel bad doing that to our host and hostess. Anyway, we thought we would get to bed early, and then the AC crapped out and I spent the entire night tossing and turning and sweating. Not what I was hoping for, but I was still so happy to be in Tel Aviv with my friends that I didn't let it get me down.

On Shabbat, Pidgeon and I had lunch by our friend Jeff. He hosted a small, dairy meal with us, another couple and my friend Lana, and it was really fun. After the meal, we went for a walk towards the beach. We ended up going to the look out area up on Ben Gurion Street, which gives you these fabulous views all the way down to Yafo. The beach was insanely packed, with lots of people just enjoying their Shabbos of surf and sand. I wished we could have stayed longer, but we were tired and had to head back. We ended up back at the apartment and both sweated through an attempt at napping. A quick Shalosh Seudot with Rachel and Oren and suddenly the entire weekend was over!

Don't you hate when that happens? Especially on a long Shabbos? When normally, the Shabbos could just drag on and you're counting the minutes until you can put on your TV and boot up your computer. But then there are the weekends when you're just so happy, and having so much fun, that it ends way too early? 

We drove back to Jerusalem happy with our great weekend and I immediately set to work on making the cheesecakes. I hope they came out ok, as I used only 5% cheese for both of them. Normally, I use full fat for this cheesecake recipe, so I hope it tastes good.

Here's the menu for lunch: deconstructed taco salad, quesadillas, guacamole, salsa, hummus, mandarin orange salad, baked ziti (pictured above), tuna croquettes, garlic roasted sweet and regular potatoes, cheesecake, watermelon and vegan brownies for dessert.

Well, with the vegan brownies made on Thursday night and the cheesecake done last night, I had well everything else to make today! I was exhausted when I pulled myself out of bed this morning and I quickly got to work making a cranberry crunch for tonight's dinner. We're going to pidgeon's Aunt for Shavuot dinner and I offered to make this dessert for the non-cheesecake eaters. Pidgeon is looking forward to it, as we think the cheesecake is full fat and not on either of our diets.

Then, I literally hand grated a huge block of cheddar (finished result pictured above) and two blocks of mozzarella. Next, I set to work making the baked ziti. It came out beautiful! I hope it tastes as good! I also made a smaller version, with low fat cheese, for pidgeon. Next, it was on to the garlic roasted potatoes and it took me forever to peel all of them. After that, I made the corn salad since it needs to marinade overnight, and I set to work on getting the tuna croquettes ready. They took no time at all to fry up and I think I might have burnt a few, but it wasn't took bad. I cooked up 6 eggs just in case someone doesn't like tuna or pasta and I'll have an egg salad backup, and then I got to work on the quesadillas. It's iffy making these in advance, but my friend suggested that I reheat them on Shavuot without any cover. This way, it won't get too soggy. Pidgeon was extremely helpful, running all my errands and making the bed for Oren and Rachel, helping clean the apartment and putting away stuff that has been strewn about for weeks! I was pretty much falling off my feet when I had to work on cleaning the living area and setting the table. I decided to just put a tablecloth and the chairs around the table, as opposed to actually setting out plates. I still don't know if I'm going to use real plates or paper, we'll see how I feel tomorrow.

Well, I'm off to finish getting ready for our Shavuot guests! Here's hoping your lactose induced holiday is enjoyable! We won't be staying up this year, and I'm looking forward to P"G a restful 24 hours.

Chag Sameach from Baka!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Food is Love

I grew up in a household where food = love. You know the type, when you were 6 and you broke your wrist and the Dr. had to twist it back in - without anesthesia - to set it and you screamed your head off and almost fainted in pain, your Dad took you straight to Baskin and Robbins for a double scoop treat. Or, when you scored really high on the GRE, you parents decided to take the whole family out to a big celebratory dinner at your favorite kosher restaurant. And, you ordered everything you ever wanted from the menu. What about when you were feeling down about the crappy dates you'd be out on lately, and your Mom looked the other way when you reached for a box of chocolate donuts and then handed you a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream to instantly make you feel better. Or that first Shabbos back home from the awful Zionistic sleep over summer camp and your Mom cooked you your absolute favorite Shabbos foods and then Grandma popped over with her famous potato kugel that she only makes on special occasions.

Yeah, that's the home I grew up in. Well, as I got older and my waistline expanded, I realized that maybe I didn't have the best relationship with food. So, I decided to try to get control and ask for hugs instead of bags of Hershey hugs when I needed emotional comfort. Its been working well, thankfully, and I'm doing my best not to perpetuate what I learned at home into our new home. That being said, I'm not always successful. We joke about how food=love, especially when Pidgeon comes home from a long day and I immediately ask him what I can give him for dinner. I give him a hug first, so he recognizes the difference, and then I make him a fantastic meal. But, on Friday, I realized that Pidgeon needed more of a pick me up than my wimpy little arms could provide. And so, I decided to bake him a surprise batch of vegan brownies.

But wait, you might be asking, since when are you vegan? We're not. I could never be a vegan or a vegetarian. I love meat. But, we are on a big time budget and when I rummaged through the fridge looking for the 2 eggs needed for my brownie recipe, I discovered a lone egg and no applesauce to substitute. So, I hit the internet and found a recipe for vegan brownies that called for maple syrup instead of eggs. I decided, since we had a huge bottle of maple syrup that I wasn't planning on using any time soon (no pancakes for this preggo), to try out the recipe. I shooed Pidgeon out of the kitchen and told him I was making him a surprise for Shabbos kiddush. He was curious and excited and happily went to his room to do some work. By the time the brownies were baking, the fabulous scent drew Pidgeon out of his room and into the kitchen. He was thrilled and the brownies were delicious! I warned him that this was a pick-me-up that I won't constantly resort to, but I knew that he would really enjoy his treat. He really did.

Sometimes, folks, a brownie is exactly what the Dr. ordered for some much needed mood elevation.

Shabbos was very quiet and relaxing. We ate Friday night dinner at Pidgeon's parents home and for the first time, I had to give myself the shot away from our apartment (well, except when we were at my parents, but that doesn't count). It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, especially since everyone was lingering over dessert and we were able to slip downstairs to his bedroom quite easily. We walked home around Midnight and the streets were much more crowded that usual, which really means that the summer is here, and it was nice to get home and not have to do a shot before going to bed. With the AC humming softly, we both fell into a nice sleep.

Shabbos day we were home by ourselves, which is exactly how I like it sometimes. I still don't understand how we manage to have 2 1/2 hour lunches, but it was a lot of fun. I had to read Abraham Cahan's Yekl for class this week and, since I'm a huge Cahan fan, I really enjoyed the story. After a quick nap, we decided to escape the artificial air and sit on the back porch.

It was so nostalgic for me. In Queens, on a long Shabbos afternoon, I would wake up from my nap and join my Mom on the front porch to read, gossip, watch the people going up the block to the two shul's in our vicinity, and just relax. We wouldn't go inside until dusk and the bugs started to bite, or if our stomachs growled for some Shalosh Seudot. Pidgeon didn't grow up sitting on the front porch Shabbos afternoon, he was usually fast asleep with the latest SciFi thrilled next to his pillow, although his parents do have a beautiful garden that they entertain in.  I think he enjoyed the hour and a half we spent outdoors, if for no other reason than there was a fantastic breeze and the fabulous scent of fresh flowers growing in the air. When Shabbos was over, I was a little sad since it had been so enjoyable, but was looking forward to the start of a new week.

We also decided, as our Saturday night activity, not to see Sex and the City but the head over to the Mamilla mall which is right outside the Old City walls. We hadn't been there yet, but the buzz is strong and positive, and we thought it would be a fun evening. Little did we know that the rest of Jerusalem thought the same way! It took 30 minutes to just drive down the block and into the parking lot. I was shocked by the lines of cars, in both directions, that seemed to stretch for miles. We also had an alternative reason for going to the Mall; I had a 300 shekel gift card to Mac that I wanted to redeem and figured now was as good a time as any to get me some fun stuff. 

We parked and quickly made our way to the shopping center. We hadn't realized that the Mall was basically an outdoor one, and on such a beautiful evening, it was perfect! We passed restaurants that had long waits and were bursting at the seams! We saw a Rolodin, Aroma, Cafe Cafe and a Cafe Rimon. For some reason, the line at Cafe Cafe was the longest. We noted upscale retailers like Tommy Hillfiger, Bebe, and H Stern and of course the requisite Michal Negrin store. The shopping was a tourists dream! Imagine, you could go to the kotel, walk back through the Old City, and stop at the Mamilla mall to get anything you would have gotten in the center of Town. Pretty soon, Ben Yehuda might become obsolete! 

Well, we went to Mac and it turned out that my card expired in February. I was a little upset, as that gave me only 4 months from my birthday to redeem the card and I was told I had a year. The woman was very helpful and got on the phone with HQ to see what they could do. We decided to check out the other shops while she was on the phone and we stopped into the Body Shop so I could buy myself some nice bubble bath. I hope it does what I'm looking for, because sometimes you just want to spend a few hours soaking in a hot tub, with a glass of apple juice, some scented candles and your Nora Jones CD. Afterwards, the hunger bug struck and we hopped into Aroma for some take out sandwiches. We were fighting the clock as I had to be home for the 11:00 a.m. shot and it was getting precariously close to the time we needed to leave. We stopped back at Mac and the woman told us that I could redeem the card but could spend no less than 300 shekel. I ended up getting a palette of 4 eyeshadows, a pencil sharpener and 2 sponges for 316. Fortunately, the extra 16 shekel didn't break the bank. We then quickly stopped into the Steimatzky, which was GORGEOUS, and didn't find the book Pidgeon is desperately looking for. Anyone who knows where we can buy a Brandon Sanderson novel in Israel, please let me know! It would make Pidgeon so happy to have!

We made it home with 2 minutes to spare and then, after the shot, enjoyed a lovely midnight snack with some CSI: Miami.

Today, Pidgeon is off helping his Uncle move offices and I'm home working on one of my thesis stories. I hope to get the bulk of it down today so I can have at least something else written that I can edit into shape. 

If you're in America, here's hoping you're spending the day at The Salute to Israel Day Parade. Show your pride and wear blue and white! We here in Baka appreciate it!

Yom Tov!