Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate and Chili's

It's 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, the last day of August, and I'm still in bed. The workers have begun their assault on our apartment and I'm trying to stay in bed as long as possible. They're doing a good job getting me out of bed though, what with the drilling and the singing in Arabic. Moving will be inevitable for me, I just hope I can keep my serenity for a few more moments.

Thursday was extremely busy for us. I spent all morning cooking for our neighbors, with absolute pleasure, and when we brought over the food around dinner time they were very appreciative. Sometimes it's not such a bad thing to go overboard a bit when helping out a friend - they really appreciated it and it made all those hours of me on my feet chopping and stirring and sauteing completely worth it! 

Unfortunately, one of the dishes I made called for a serrano chili pepper. And, not really cooking much with hot peppers, I just treated it like any other pepper in the house. I washed, cut, took out the insides, diced and threw it into the dish. A few hours after I had moved on from that dish, my fingers on my left hand started to burn. And, as the time went by, it just got worse and worse. I thought perhaps it was in my head, so I went online and looked up chili "burns" and sure enough, I had "burnt" my fingertips with the hot chilis.

And, nothing I seemed to do was working! First, I soaked my fingers in cold water. Next, I took some ice from the freezer and wrapped it in a towel around my hand. That still didn't work. Pidgeon got involved and called his Mom for suggestions and she had no idea what to tell me. I looked online and saw people referring to pastes of baking soda and water. Someone else mentioned toothpaste. I saw a milk option and pounced. While soaking my fingers in a bowl of cold milk, Pidgeon's Mom called and asked us if we wouldn't mind picking Pidgeon's brother and nephew up from the airport.

It was absolutely our pleasure! Especially since Pidgeon's brother was hauling a huge Fisher Price baby bathtub for us from London. Now, we made a decision not to purchase anything for the baby in advance because of Ayin Harah, but there are certain things I can't find here that I need to get here before the baby comes. So, I made the exception to my rule and purchased the bathtub online and shipped it to Pidgeon's brothers house. It was big and bulky, but it's a fraction of the size of the baby basins they sell here. Plus, this one fits into the bathtub nicely or I could put it on my kitchen counter next to the kitchen sink when the baby is small. The best part is that it has a plug, so drainage will be easy. Now, all I have to do is get over my phobia of washing a baby. That's something I've never done - not even with my nieces or nephews - even though I've pretty much done everything else (feeding but not breast feeding included).

Well, we had only an hour before his plane touched done, so dinner was forgotten in the fridge and I washed the milk off my hand and we got on our way. It was stinking HOT in Tel Aviv at the airport. I had forgotten how hot and humid Tel Aviv is in the summer, it's gross. Unfortunately, Jerusalem wasn't any cooler when we got back with our passengers. Plus, we were almost and hour past my shot time, so we really had to haul ass back to the apartment to go that done.

We got home around Midnight and I immediately iced up while Pidgeon tried to figure out what's for dinner. In the end, we ordered from Joy Express since I was too tired to do any more cooking. I haven't eaten dinner at 1:30 a.m. in a long time, but it didn't stop me from passing out at 2:00 a.m.

Friday was manageable. I was able to cook the chicken, kugel and saute the shwarma within a few hours. Because I wasn't laden down with cooking I was able to get some writing done and even managed to finish the first draft of one of my thesis stories. It's a good thing, since that story is also part of my final paper for my last class, which is due at the end of September. I felt pretty accomplished, but absolutely exhausted, and the thought of going to Pidgeon's family for Shabbos dinner was not encouraging.

I ended up going to shul with Pidgeon and his brothers/Father because there was - once again - no air conditioning in the house. It was stinking, stinking hot in there with 2 ovens and a plata going full blast and not all the windows open. Pidgeon's Mom is not a fan of AC, she really hates it, even though it was a million degrees. I sat in shul as long as I could, soaking up with AC and just relaxing. Dinner was pretty challenging. Pidgeon's sister and brother-in-law continue to be really nasty to us. And, no matter how hard I try or make an effort, it's completely futile.

She makes me feel so bad about myself sometimes. I had complemented her on her new haircut/color as soon as we walked in from shul. She blew me off. Then, literally two seconds later, she asked everyone else what they thought about her hair and when they showered her with complements, she was gracious and happy. 

WTF?

Plus, I'm still insulted that she has never once asked me or Pidgeon if we want to hold her baby. It's one thing if she was the kind of Mother who was really anal about who holds the baby, but she passes that baby around like it's a UPS parcel! For some reason, we're the only ones who don't "merit" to hold the baby.

I tried not to let it get to me while we were at dinner,  but it was hot and I was exhausted. At 10:30, I asked Pidgeon if we could just do our shot early and go home. He was more than happy to oblige as he too was hot and tired. We did the shot as quick at possible, benched and then walked home. It was the first time, since I've been pregnant, that I needed to rest in the middle of the walk. It's getting harder and harder to move these days, folks, and by the time we crossed Emek Refaim, my back was killing me. I think this is it in terms of long Shabbos walks, I just don't have the strength.

We got home around Midnight and, we were just really wired, so we stayed up talking and winding down before going to sleep. I guess we were really, really exhausted because we slept until 1:00 p.m. Shabbos day! I guess that meant no shul for us :)

Shabbos was absolutely relaxing and just what we needed to recharge out batteries. Because, as soon as Havdala was over, we had a ton of work to do! We spent three hours cleaning, rearranging and getting the rooms ready for the workers. We cleared everything out of the second bathroom, the second bedroom and the Mamad. Our bedroom is cramped and cluttered, with a portable closet with Pidgeon's hanging clothing next to my bed and our hamper next to Pidgeon's. I had to do a color load of laundry since the laundry machines in the second bathroom will be off limits until they finish the work. The dryer took forever to complete! I thought all that work would make me exhausted, but at 3:00 a.m. I was still tossing and turning and not able to settle down.

And that's when the home sickness hit. It came out of the blue, but because I couldn't sleep, I just get ruminating on Pidgeon's sister and how mean she is to me. And it just made me miss my family so much. So, I started crying, and hoped that I would just cry myself to sleep. Unfortunately, Pidgeon was having a hard time sleeping too, and he heard me crying and it just jolted him awake. He calmed me down and we talked a little, I explained what was upsetting me, and he was really wonderful about everything. After a while, I let him go back to sleep and then logged in to see which family members/friends were online. My friend Melissa was just getting her Saturday night going in Manhattan, and I told her what was going on, and she was so helpful. It made me miss everyone so much more, but at least her advice made me feel a bit better.  I'm actually ready to deal with Pidgeon's sister tonight at the family dinner.

Here's hoping all will work out!

Yom Tov from Baka!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Brooklyn to Jerusalem


It was success at the Jerusalem Beer Festival last night and, at 9:00 a.m. the following morning, I'm still on my high from our evening. Keep reading to find out why!

Yesterday was a busy day that started fairly early and ended pretty late. By the time we both got out of the apartment after doing our household errands, it was 3:00 p.m., and boy was our list long. We went to Talpiot to the baby gear store Mozezim. It's in the same complex as our Supermarket, so we figured we would kill two birds with one stone. I had one mission in mind - to show Pidgeon what we needed to get for the baby - and to get him on board with the expenditure.

So, I think we're going to go with the Bugaboo Cameleon baby carriage. Pidgeon absolutely LOVED it when he saw it. He called it the Space Age pram, which made me feel great since it's not cheap and I need him to also be okay with the price. He loved the adjustable handle bars, that you could clip a cup holder to the side of the handle bars, and how easy it seemed to be able to adjust and close it to store in the car. I'm still obsessed with the wheels and I absolutely love how huge the two front wheels are. With the cobble stone streets of Jerusalem, I think these will P"G do us well. We walked around the store a bit more and I pointed out some other items that I thought we'd need, and then it was off to do our food shopping. 

When we got to SuperSol, it was fairly empty. But, by the time we were ready to leave, it was ridiculously full and we ended up waiting on line for almost 30 minutes! That's torture for this pregnant lady, who was at this point on my feet for more than an hour. So, our neighbors had a baby girl in the beginning of August, and I offered to cook them a meal. They finally got in touch with me at the beginning of the week to accept the offer and so I needed to do some shopping. I'm not really used to cooking for vegetarians - especially ones with two little kids and a husband who is closer to vegan that vegetarian. I decided on a menu of edemame (for the protein), thai quinoa, fettucini with creamy peanut sauce (last time we were there, the kids were eating straight out of a jar of Skippy so I think peanut allergies isn't a problem in the family. Either way, I'm leaving the sauce separate) fresh corn and vegan brownies for dessert. I hope they like it!! We ended up spending over 800 shekel yesterday and we really loaded up our cart with foods for our new diet.

Now, this is why I absolutely love Israel. We were on line behind an elderly Israeli couple and in front of a Nun in full habit. I mean, she was dressed to the gills right down to her wooden rosary beeded belt. I was enthralled with her, and kept looking in her cart. I mean, how often do you get to see what a Nun eats? I think she was vegetarian too, she had a lot of fish but I didn't see any meat. Anyway, the elderly woman in front of us is towards the end of checking out, when she decides to check out what we've got on the conveyer belt. She then picks up our giant sized box of Bran Flakes and asks me something in Hebrew. I look at Pidgeon because I didn't understand the words she was using. Pidgeon smiled and translated to me. 

She asked if Telma Bran Flakes were good for "regular bowel movements." I had to cough to keep from laughing and then I told her that it was GREAT for regular bowel movements. Then she asked about the price, and I told her it was almost 20 shekel. She made a face, put down the box, and went back to her items on the belt. I guess 20 shekels for her isn't worth the investment in "regular bowel movements." 

We disagree.

By the time we got back to the apartment, my feet looked like bread rising out of too small loaf tins and I needed to sit down. But, we had lots to put away in the freezer, so with Pidgeon's help we got to work. Somehow, the evening started to fly by, and I still had to cook us dinner and then get ready to meet Pidgeon's brother at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.

We managed to get out of the house around 9:30 p.m. and it literally took every ounce of strength for me to rally to leave the apartment again. I was so tired from our shopping excursion that I really just wanted to pass out.

I'm glad we went though!

Somehow, we managed to find a spot right in front of the Begin Center, which is down the block from the old Tachanah Harekevet (Jerusalem Train Station) where the festival was being held. We made our way amongst the beer drinking set and I saw the line for the ticket sales and was shocked. It was really, really long and it looked like it would take us 30 minutes to just pay the 30 shekel combined entrance fee. I saw though, that there was a short line on the other side of the booth, so I made a beeline for it and forgot to take Pidgeon with me. He got a little scared for a minute when he couldn't find me, but then he saw me waving and came over. We were standing behind these two women with their 3 kids - all under the age of 8 - who were trying to get into the festival. It's not clear if they didn't want to pay the fee or if the ticket sales guy just wouldn't let them in because they were kids - but there was a lot of arguing. Finally, the women and kids left and we paid our fee and go in.

So, the festival wasn't anything exciting. There were a number of beer brands there and, of course, the typical larger ones you'd come to expect right up in prominent spots. I wasn't interested in Goldstar or Heiniken or even the Guiness. I was a pregnant lady on a mission - to find Brooklyn Lager.

I grabbed Pidgeon with one hand and using the other to take my pocketbook and try to shield my belly. It was a good thing I did because people were rowdy and drunk last night, and no one cared who they banged into! I got pretty jostled as I pulled Pidgeon around and through people looking for a Brooklyn Lager booth. We made our way past the terrible band playing on the stage and managed to find a Belgian beer booth. I checked out what they had on tap and noticed that they had a brand called St. Louis Premium in flavors of Strawberry, Peach and Cherry. Well, every single October in New York City, I head down to Heartland Brewery for their famous Pumpkin beer and it's heaven. So, I asked for a little, teeny tiny taste of the St. Louis Premium Peach for Pidgeon and I to sample. 

It was yum! I miss beer man. I'm hoping after the baby, P"G, I'll be able to find the St. Louis Premium Peach again. It was really delicious.

After we took a couple of cards with information about the beer, we decided to keep walking towards the end to see if there were any other beers I was interested in. As we headed out, I noticed a guy who looked familiar. I immediately knew who he was and was just praying he wouldn't recognize me.

No luck.

Of course, he stopped us and said that I looked very familiar to him. I debated whether or not to blow him off but I just played along. I told him how I knew him, introduced Pidgeon, played a little "catch up" and then I spied what I'd been looking for all night long!

A Brooklyn Lager booth!

Well, I couldn't contain my excitement. So, we said our goodbyes to the guy who made my summer experience at Camp Moshava a living hell, and we went over to the Brooklyn Lager booth. I could hardly wait patiently online for the people to get their beer and get away! Finally, it was our turn, and I told the guy how much I love Brooklyn Lager, how I've been looking for it in Israel for 2 years now, and how I wanted to buy a case.

Umm, he wasn't selling bottles. In fact, he wouldn't even give me one bottle to take home.

I was crushed! I asked him how come. I pointed to my bulging belly and told him it would be irresponsible of me to drink the beer now and how I wanted to have it as soon as the baby was born. He was sympathetic but the festival organizers said they couldn't give out bottles.

Makes sense. With that type of crowd, it's pretty dangerous to just hand out glass bottles. That could be a serious weapon!

I promised him I would just slip it into my purse and then leave right away. He felt bad and told me that he couldn't make the decision but his boss, a bald guy named Schachar as he put it, could. But, Schachar was no where to be found.

Meanwhile, Pidgeon's brother, his best friend, his girl friend and another chick showed up and I told them all about the Brooklyn Lager drama. Pidgeon's brother tried the Lager and wasn't too impressed with it, but he didn't hate it, which I guess was pretty good. We told them we were going to wait for Schachar to get back so they decided to go look around the festival.

We literally stood in front of the booth for 35 minutes. I kept looking at every bald man I could find, but no Schachar. Then Pidgeon told me that we had to leave since I had to go home for my shot, and I was just having none of that. I did not come this far - to have bottles of Brooklyn Lager at my fingertips - to leave without at least talking to Schachar. We went back to the guy at the booth and asked if Schachar had a cell phone number. Sure enough, he did! So, I called from Pidgeon's phone and asked him to come to the Brooklyn Lager booth ASAP.

Ten minutes later, no Schachar, and Pidgeon wanted to go home to do the shot. I thought this was defeat.

Until Schachar the bald man showed up and I literally pounced. Between Pidgeon talking in Hebrew, and me in English, we overwhelmed the poor man. He was so kind though and, for 20 shekel, gave me one bottle of beer that I had to slip into my purse. It was beautiful. I thanked him profusely, took his card so I could hound him to find out when they're planning on starting distribution in this Country, and we headed out. We ran into Pidgeon's brother at the ice cream stand and told him we were leaving, and about our success.

I was so happy, I think I skipped all the way to the car. The smile on my face was huge and I was so jubilant to have this bottle of beer. Even the shot last night wasn't as bad - although it did hurt and I did curse a lot - just knowing the beer was in my fridge was comfort enough.

Meanwhile, as we were icing up, my cell phone rang and it was a customer service representative from City Direct. Remember the folks I was telling you about the other week - how they're like Urban Fetch meets Fresh Direct? Well, they've just got fetchier!

Today, to celebrate the launch of The Breakfast Club they left me a "basket" of some of their offerings with a menu. The way this works is that you place an order with what you want in the morning, and they deliver it absolutely FRESH by 6:00 a.m. The menu was pretty impressive, with loads of different types of breads, milk, shokos, juices, pastries and Tal bagels! I think this is a great idea and, who knows, maybe in the next phase they'll add spreads/salads and maybe eggs. I'm keeping the menu as I think this will definitely come in handy once the baby comes and Pidgeon and I are just too tired to go out and get food/breakfast. Besides, it's cheaper than ordering a bagel from Tal bagels and I can always have shmears/salads in the house to put on the fresh bagels!

Well, my vegan brownies are done and need to be taken out of the oven. One thing down, three more things to cook to go!

Yom Tov from Baka!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Passionfruit Rain

It's raining passion fruit in our walkway and it's starting to become a hazzard. I literally duck and run when I walk from our front door and out the front gate. The delicious fruit have ripened in the hot, August Jerusalem sun and now it's just literally falling off the trees. We happen to really enjoy passion fruit, but for some reason I prefer not to use the ones that have fallen to the ground and opt for the nicely packaged version I get from our green grocer. I might just try one next time I find it on the floor - just to see if it's as sweet as some of the other versions. Either way, I'm just praying that one doesn't pelt me on the noggin or dent our car which we park in front of the apartment. We probably should move it away from the tree, now that I think about it, especially since our car wash experience yesterday was a nightmare.

Apparently, every car on Derech Beit Lechem decided to have a wash exactly around the time we wanted to wash ours. We waited for more than 30 minutes until they even moved our car through the machine. Normally, I would have just driven off and come back at a different time but we have literally been driving the shit mobile around town. We make the mistake of parking beneath our tree, which seems to be full of every single bird in Baka. And, as birds do, they've taken aim and shat all over our car. Plus, the tree sheds leaves and pine needles and lord knows what else, and so our car is just covered in junk. It was worth the wait though, and Pidgeon has learned his lesson and has decided to stop parking beneath the tree. We figured it's better if the interior is steaming hot than if the exterior has a steaming pile of shit on it.

Yesterday was a quiet but busy day. Since we slept all of Shabbos, we stayed up until 4:00 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning watching The Godfather on TV. I taped all three back to back episodes and we're spacing them out nicely. We started the second one yesterday but then got side tracked so we're hoping to finish watching everything tonight. Anyway, since we were up so late, we slept in on Sunday morning and didn't get our day going until well past Noon.  It was nice and, since we only have a few months of doing that left, we're taking advantage of sleeping in while we still can!

So, Pidgeon and I are on a new diet. Pidgeon has been frustrated with his recent weight gain and, well, I'm just gaining loads of weight. I did some research and decided we should try the Suzanne Somers diet. I've been on it many times before; I lost 30 pounds on it before our wedding last year! And, since it's fairly simple to remember the rules and includes basically all the foods we like to eat, I thought it would be worth a shot. Pidgeon took a sample menu of the diet to his nutritionist on Friday and she green lighted the diet. We're doing a one-month experiment to see if Pidgeon loses any of his post-wedding weight. I'm just hoping to maintain my weight until the baby comes, but we'll see if I lose as well.

Well, it's a good thing I started a new diet, because we had our monthly OBGYN appointment yesterday and I gained 12 pounds in 1 MONTH!! That is an insane amount of weight to gain. Fortunately, my Dr. didn't give me crap about it. I think he would have been more forceful about it had my blood test results been bad. But, B"H, my sugar is very good and except for the anemia, everything else looked great. My blood pressure was also B"H okay, so I think he just let it go. 

The good thing about my OBGYN is that he is always on time and is very efficient. We were in and out within 30 minutes. Because he's at the base of the David Citadel hotel, however, we still had to pay the parking ticket. But, apparently, if you're there for 30 minutes of less than it's free. We didn't know that so we stopped first to pay the 10 shekel and were told that we didn't have to. Happy, we got into the car and drove up and out. When we got to the gate, we put in the card, and it told us that we owed 10 shekel! Pidgeon called the guard over and he looked at the back of the card and told us that - in that second - we went over the 30 minutes and had to go back and pay the 10 shekel. Pidgeon looked at him like he was insane and explained that we tried to pay already but that it said we didn't have to. The guard was just really, really insistent and told us that we would have to reverse back down the windy driveway to the meter and pay. At first, Pidgeon started to do that, but then we realized just how insanely RIDICULOUS that was. Besides being an awful hazzard and a car accident waiting to happen, it was literally just a second past 30 minutes. Couldn't he just freaking let us go? 

Well, we drove back up to the gate and Pidgeon started arguing with the guard. He was not letting us out without paying, but lo and behold he had the ability to take a credit card and swipe it in the card machine to let us out. So, we paid the 10 shekel and left fuming with the aggravation of it all.

This Country can be so freaking cheap some times. And, seconds apparently really do make a difference. Sheesh.

Today is a quiet one for us, which is nice. I'm doing yet another load of laundry and will probably start washing and putting away all the stuff that we Toyveled last week. I need to learn how to cook with stainless steel pots though. Yesterday, I managed to kill Pidgeon's bulls-eye egg breakfast. I thought the flame was low enough but I guess I was wrong. The bulls eyes ran all over and I ended up just giving him 2 egg white omelets with the yolks scrambled.

Sigh.

Well, I'm off to cook a vegetarian feast for our neighbors who had a baby a few weeks ago! I'm thinking vegan brownies will definitely perk them all up, especially since there's enough chocolate caffeine in them to jolt an army!

Yom Tov from Baka!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mikvah Mortification


Why do these things always happen to me? I'll explain shortly.

Well, I didn't make it to the Bloggers convention last night for various reasons.

1) I was sporting a serious case of Cankles. For some reason, my feet just ballooned yesterday to the point where my ankles were sore to the touch and I could hardly stand. I just couldn't be seen in that condition, and sitting with my feet down would have been really, really painful.

2) I accidentally left my cell phone off for 24 hours and never got the call from my friend Slightly Mad who was supposed to be my event "wingwoman." I don't know why I didn't reach for the phone to call her myself, I guess I just assumed since I hadn't heard from her that she was blowing off the convention so I figured I could do the same. I finally realized my cell was off around 9:30 p.m. last night and, when I turned it back on, there were two messages from her. I think she's, well, Slightly Mad at me now for not showing and I feel awful that I missed her calls. Hopefully she'll forgive me sooner rather than later.

3) I saw that they added a political speaker to the program and I was not pleased. Not that I couldn't listen to Bibi Netanyahu speak, yet again, but was this really the appropriate forum for him? This blog tends to avoid all Israeli politics - and sometimes the American ones - for a reason. I just think there's a time and a place for political speeches. Seeing him on the program just completely turned me off. I would have much rather they turned to a "high profile" international blogger as a VIP speaker than an Israeli politician.

4) I was exhausted. My Dr. finally got back from vacation this morning and, upon reviewing my blood test results, called at 8:30 a.m. to let me know that my red blood cells are very low. So, she wrote me a prescription for iron pills and told me that I should perk up in no time at all. I'm hoping, cause this constant state of exhaustion is not fun! Anyway, I was just so tired I couldn't rally to get myself together for the conference.

I also haven't heard much feedback yet about the conference, and I really curious to know if people enjoyed it. Hopefully Slightly Mad will get back to me and let me know!

Well, yesterday was pretty busy. I did some more thesis writing, had a great conversation with my business partner about the future of two new business ventures we're pursuing and washed the crap load of dishes that were hanging out in the sink. Once Pidgeon got back home from his work day, we drove over to his Aunt and Uncle's house in Rechavia to go through boxes of books they are trying to give away.

I was not impressed with their literature tastes at all. But, I did manage to find a book by William Faulkner and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I also took all the cookbooks she wanted to get rid of, even though one of them is literally all about pork which is curious since they currently and have always kept kosher. I think that one might have to be tossed into the garbage. Oh, and I managed to save a copy of the Dr. Spock baby book. I always wanted to read that one!

Afterwards, we drove over to the Katamon Shtiebel and Mikvah to toyvel some of the things in the apartment that were in desperate need of toyveling. In particular, I had a new stainless steel set of pots and pans that I haven't been using. In fact, they've been sitting on the floor in the living room just collecting dust. Since Pidgeon's other Aunt lives nearby the Mikvah and they just returned for a month long family vacation, we thought it would be nice to stop by and welcome them home. We had a hard time finding parking arounf the Shtiebel since there is literally a Minyan there every 15 minutes and so lots of cars. But, we finally found a spot and Pidgeon and I walked the stuff over.

Now, in order to get to the area where you toyvel your pots and pans and utensils, you have to walk by the front of the Shtiebel. As we were walking through we saw a man sitting at a table with a cup in front of him. He asked me in Hebrew: 

"Efshar LaAzor?" which translated literally means Can help?

Now, depending on the speakers inflection, that's how you know if he/she is asking you if he can help YOU or if you can help THEM. 

I, of course, misread the inflection and asked him if I could go and use the Mikvah to Toyvel. I didn't realize that he was asking us for money. The man looked at me funny and then said basically, sure, go ahead and use it.

As we walked towards the Mikvah, Gaby laughed and pointed out my mistake. I was a little embarressed and felt really bad, so I told him that I would give the guy money on our way out.

We toyveled everything pretty quickly and I took out 5 shekel for the man and 10 shekel for the Mikvah. We started to head out and there were a ton of men in the courtyard. I think a Minyan was just letting out and one was just starting. We kept walking and Pidgeon spied the Shul's Gabbai. Recently, when we went to visit Pidgeon's teacher from Yeshiva,  he asked us to send his regards to this man if we should ever see him. Since Pidgeon is just such a great guy, he decided to stop the Gabbai and send his regards. While they were speaking, I walked over to the table where the man was sitting and tossed my 5 shekel into his cup. I walked back to Pidgeon and the Gabbai turned to me and said:

What you did was wrong and a bad thing. You should never give someone asking for Tzedakah. You did nothing good right now. Don't ever do it again.

At first, I thought he was kidding. But then, I realized that he was dead freaking serious. 

I was mortified. 

All these men were looking at me, I was just so embarressed.

And then I got pissed.

How DARE he embaress me like that? What is WRONG with that man? Who the hell is he to tell me how I can or cannot spend my money? 

I fought back the tears as we walked to the car and vented the whole way to Pidgeon, while spewing out a slew of curse words at the Gabbai for making me feel so terrible in public.

I tried to think back to my Michlalah days and, for the life of me, I could have sworned I learned once that it's more of a Mitzvah to give a person asking for money than to send a check to an organization. The very reason being that it's shameful to personally ask someone for money - face to face - and that you don't want to cause additional embarressment to the person asking for money.

I also remember learning that age old Jewish adage about public embarressment of an individual is worse than spilling blood.

During our visit with Pidgeon's Aunt, Uncle and family, I felt awful and just fumed. We stayed for a little over an hour and caught up and then we drove back home. I was so upset that I asked Pidgeon to just order in dinner, I had no strength to cook. We called Joy Express and got hamburgers for dinner and then we just vegged out in front of the TV. I was still aggravated when I went to bed that, at 1:30 a.m., I called my parents to talk about the situation. 

My Mom was great, she calmed me down and basically agreed that the Gabbai should have been ashamed of himself for embarressing a pregnant woman in public like that. And, that I should never feel bad about giving Tzedakah - ever. After a few minutes, I was finally ready to get to sleep, and I was able to crawl into bed and sleep the rest of the night.

Today has been busy but also relaxing. I managed to get up with Pidgeon around 8:00 a.m. and, on my own, called in the fruit and vegetable order at Gil's on Derech Beit Lechem. I was so proud of myself! Granted, I called Pidgeon first to ask him for Hebrew names of some of the fruits I didn't know, but I did the whole call in Hebrew and that made me feel pretty impressed with myself. After a quick breakfast, I relaxed in front of the TV and somehow fell back to sleep! I woke up an hour later and decided that I better keep moving otherwise I would fall back to sleep again.

I was dressed and had all the dishes washed by the time Pidgeon got back from his course in Tel Aviv. The fruits and vegee delivery arrived about 30 minutes later and I cooked us up a quick dinner. Now, we're basically just waiting for the HOT technicians to come and then we're off to do our grocery shopping. Tonight, we have a movie date, which means I'm going to have to do all the Shabbos cooking tomorrow. Fortunately, the days are still long so I should be able to get everything done in time. We're going to be laying low this weekend, which will be nice, since we could just use a relaxing weekend together.

Yom Tov from Baka!



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Israel's Medical System


I seriously hate Doctors in this Country. If I could afford it, I would packed up for the last 3 months of this pregnancy and move back to New York where my old trusty team of physicians await. What is with the medical system in this Country? Why is it that when we need access to our physicians, we cannot get them.

The Doctor on my shit list today is my hematologist. I have been trying to reach him for the past 3 weeks since our last appointment. On my agenda includes this issue with my Clexane shots and the birth, which is a pretty hefty one considering that if I go into labor with 24 hours of taking a Clexane shot, I cannot get an epidural should I choose to have one. Excuse me, but don't I deserve the right to choose whether or not I want or don't want an epidural during the labor and delivery? I just need a minute of this man's time to figure out a different course of action for both ease of mind and in order to figure out the where/when/how of this birth.

The second issue is that my OBGYN sent me for blood work, which I did, and of course there were abnormalities. But, no one is available to discuss the results with me! In New York, when a Dr. sends you for blood tests, they are the ones who get the results, reviews them and then calls and discusses them with the patient. Here, you need to go to the Kupah or access your account online, print out the results and then pray that someone in the medical profession here will be available to discuss the outcome. That's the problem with dealing with a Kupah, the Dr.'s just don't care about you. I can honestly say that the Dr.'s who are available to us, here in Israel, are the ones from the Medical Center. I believe we lucked out with those physicians, but my Maccabi paid hematologist and OBGYN won't give more than an inch unless I whip out the private checkbook.

Now I completely understand why people here pay privately for their Dr.'s. Unfortunately, we aren't in the position to pay that kind of money. We make no money, and the little we do have, we use on things like food, and gas, and apartment bills.

So, here I am up against a barrel, and I just need to freaking speak to the hematologist. I have his e-mail address and cell phone. I tried two other avenues first. I tried to make an appointment - nothing available before September 24th. I then tried to leave a message with his office for him to call me. Ummm, have you EVER seen a Maccabi office worker actually DO work? The phone rings and rings and rings. So, this morning, left with no choice, I decided to try the e-mail route.

This was the response received from my hematologist this morning:

Dear JTownunderground,

Unfortunately I am not doing e-mail medicine, especially when serious questions are on the agenda. Please make an appointment at Macabi (or elsewhere), to get more information on this issue.

Regards,
Pompous ASS Hematologist, MD


I just want to scream, I'm so damn frustrated. I responded, still being the polite, nice, reserved American woman that I am, with the following:

Dear Dr. Who Thinks He's G-d,

Thank you very much for your quick response to my e-mail. I cannot get an appointment with you before October, and of course trying to schedule an appointment to see you was my very first course of action when dealing with these issues. Can we speak on the phone instead? Since my due date is in November, I didn't think that these questions could wait until my appointment with you at the end of October. I look forward to your feedback.


Well, at least I have two episodes of Alias on my Hot Magic to watch this morning. Hopefully that will take my mind off of all this Dr. crap. Hopefully my bad mood will be gone by tonight, just in time for the Nefesh B'Nefesh Blogger Conference.

Yom Tov from Baka!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 1 year wedding anniversary to me! Happy 1 year wedding anniversary to Pidgeon! Happy 1 year wedding anniversary to us! 

Wow - I can't believe its actually been an entire year.  There has been some really good stuff, some bad stuff and just life in between. 

The Good
We had a fantastic honeymoon in the Dead Sea
We got pregnant (yea!!!)
We both finished school
We both passed all our school exams
We're still madly in love with each other (which is very nice)
We've grown together as a couple, which is even nicer
We've both been through medical crisis and realized that we can count on the other person to be there for us
We went to the States for Pesach and had an awesome time, despite the morning sickness
We're still each others best friend
I'm so thankful to G-d that we found each other, and I hope that we're still at the point where we don't take each other for granted yet (hopefully, that day will never come)
For once in my life, I am dreaming of a family, and it's wonderful to be able to dream a dream that P"G can come true

The Bad
We both put on some serious post-wedding weight, although now I just call my weight gain baby weight. We need New Year's resolutions to lose weight STAT!
I don't feel any closer to Pidgeon's family, in fact, I feel as awkward as ever

Life in Between
We went to London together, which was one of the best trips I've ever taken in my life! I miss my Starbucks here in Israel.
I still get that awed feeling when I light candles on Friday night and Pidgeon comes home from shul, sings, makes Kiddush and we have Shabbos dinner. When I was single, and during the depressed single years, I used to fantasize about that moment and what it could be like. And, having it come to fruition for me is truly amazing. It's like when you want something so bad and you dream about it and then it happens, it takes a while for you to actually realize it's real. I still get that feeling, even when it's just the two of us and I come to the Shabbos table in my scrubs. It's pretty incredible.

So, let the celebrations continue!

We had a lovely Shabbos in Ashkelon and then, on Sunday, we drove to Cinema City in Herzliya. We made it there in time for the 2:45 p.m. showing of The Dark Knight which was extremely dark and disturbing. I, of course, compare each and every new Batman movie to the original Michael Keaton version and it was basically no comparison this time. They were so vastly different. It wasn't exactly a pick me up kind of flick, but it was very entertaining nevertheless. We were starving by intermission, but we had some heavy duty dinner plans, so we both sucked it up and chewed some gum to keep our appetites for dinner.

And, it was a very good thing we did, because we ended up at the Herzliya Marina at the kosher Papagayo's. For people unfamiliar with the Papagayo concept, it's basically an all you can eat set menu. For 145 shekel a plate, we went with the meat menu. We tried to be strategic though, about the eating, since you don't want to fill up on crap before all the good stuff comes out. But, we were starving, so we had to start with something. We passed on the bread, but we both got fruit smoothies for drinks. That, in hindsight, was a bad idea since it was just air and fruit and water and it was a waste of stomach space. We then digged into the salatim which were very good, and a plate of sweet and sour sauces battered chicken wings. I usually am not a wing person, I never was really into wings, but I was hungry so I ate two. And then, the meat came out in the following order:

1 sausage (spicy and delicious)
1 strip of skirt steak (done well and also delicious)
1 chunk of marinated chicken breast
1 chunk of marinated steak fillet
goose hearts (I passed on this one, I'm not a fan of organ meat)
1 grilled and battered chicken drumstick
chicken livers (I passed on this too)
lamb kabob (I took a bite and passed it over to Pidgeon. It was too rare for me)
Sliced steak entrecote WELL done (which was actually for once, too well done for me. Tasted a bit like shoe leather)

At this point, Pidgeon and I were BURSTING with all the food and we contemplated turning the green sign to red (which signals to the wait staff that you are done and that they shouldn't bring you any more food) but I insisted we continue. I mean, for 145 shekel a plate, I wanted to make sure I got all the food I was paying for. Not the smartest thing I've ever done, but, I'm a New York Jew and I wanted to get my money's worth. So, we asked the waiter what was left to come. He said there was Asado on and off the bone and that we must at least try one. He was also very surprised that we made it this far, but there was no way I was passing up on that Asado. So, they brought the Asado without the bone to the table and carved us pieces right then and there. I got the smallest piece I could get, as did Pidgeon, and then we just caved and turned the green to red.

Now, I was really not feeling so great at this moment. I've been on all protein diets before, but never consumed this much meat (only) in such a short period of time. Even the 5 potatoes they brought us with the salatim went untouched practically, because we were holding out for the beef. So, I told Pidgeon I wasn't feeling so great, and I headed towards the ladies room where I prayed to the porcelin god. 

What a waste of 145 shekels! Pidgeon felt bad that I got sick so quickly and, instead of walking around by the water and through the marina mall, we just packed it in and headed home. It was a good idea because by the time we got home, I was just wiped. I managed to unpack our stuff though, before crashing pretty quickly. 

The worst part was that my parents paid for our Papagayo dinner and, so when they asked me how it went, I lied and told them how great it was. I mean, it was a wonderful dining experience, I just pigged out and paid the price. That's one secret I think I'm going to keep from them, I know my Father well, and I could do without the pigging out lecture. Next time, I think we're going to just pass on the whole Papagayo experience. I do much better when I can order what I want, and just leave what I can't on my plate and then wrap it up and take it home. That's the problem with Papagayo's - no doggie bags.

Yesterday, we basically spent the day a part. Pidgeon went to the office to continue working on his project, and I stayed home to be the little housewife. I did a huge load of laundry, washed dishes and cleaned up around the house. We stopped by Pidgeon's parents later at night, before dinner, so I could pick up my blood test results. The GREAT news is that my sugar test came back normal! Thank G-d! I was so worried about gestational diabetes, on top of everything else I'm dealing with, that I'm just so thankful it came out ok. The abnormal results were with my blood and Pidgeon's Mom said that it means I'm anemic. I have to call my hematologist to see if the results are because  I'm just iron deficient or if it's the Clexane. But, I'm not worrying. My sugar is good people and that means I can eat CAKE again!

Nice!

So, Pidgeon's Mom asked us what we're doing today to celebrate and we just looked at her blankly. We don't have plans. We have a 5:00 p.m. heart echo test for the baby and, depending on the results, we figured we go from there. Although, we somehow managed to pack our day today with errands. Already this morning, before 9:30 a.m., we had Mei Eden delivering our monthly allotment of water, the cleaner guy came back to refund our money and pick up an outfit they accidentally gave us that wasn't ours (love when that happens) and the cabinet builder here to measure the alarm system in the room so he can build a cabinet that will cover the system (so that, P"G, the baby won't be able to get to all the wiring) along with 2 shelves on top for baby books. We're hoping the price will be decent and he promised we'll get it by the Chagim, which is basically in two months time.  

Our other plans include going to the post office to pick up Pidgeon's anniversary present, heading over to 4UGifts to finish off our registry. We still have almost 2,000 shekel that we need to spend and I'm looking forward to replenishing the dishes we both shattered in the past year. After that, we have a 300 shekel credit for a wedding gift we returned in town that we're going to redeem and maybe, just maybe, we'll go check out some baby furniture stores in Talpiot.

Not exactly a romantic anniversary in bed, but just being together is all I really need today.

Yom Tov from Baka!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pidgeon and Pigeons in Ashkelon


I love this place! It's 2:30 p.m. on Erev Shabbos and Pidgeon and I are relaxing in the fabulous AC and looking at the glorious beach view. We are here celebrating our 1 year anniversary. And, even though technically it's not until the 19th, we're spending this entire weekend in celebration. Which means that the next 3 days will just speed by, faster than ever! Why does that always happen? When you're happy, life just goes by so fast. But, when you're sad, life just drags on? Curious.

So, yesterday, we woke up at 8:15 to give my dry cleaning to the cleaners. We use the same guys who saved my behind during the great mold debacle of January 2008. They were able to literally clean ever since moldy item in my wardrobe, so I'm now a loyal member of Yaniv's dry cleaning in Meah Shearim. And, since they pick up and drop off for free, it's perfect. After Pidgeon gave them all of my Shabbos maternity clothing to dry clean, we went back to sleep and didn't get out of bed until 11:30! Meanwhile, I had a lot of USA Men's Olympic swimming to catch up on and cooking and packing to do. So, I sat down and wrote my packing list and put up the quinoa. 

By the time we left Jerusalem, at 4:30 p.m., I managed to make the quinoa, pick out CD's and DVD's for the trip, pack myself, help organize Pidgeon who packed himself, and tidied up the apartment. We traveled light for us - which means one overnight bag each, a cooler full of quinoa, fresh cooked corn, roasted broccoli, 2 challot from Pe'er, 2 frozen bottles of Mei Eden water and the meatloaf, a small bag with snacks for the car and my purse. I was impressed with us - since we're not planning on returning until late Sunday night.

We ended up making incredible time, even with hitting the post-Thursday rush hour traffic right outside of the City. Even with a pit stop at Shaar Hagay gas station for some lunch - tuna sandwiches and shoko (for me) and diet ice tea (for Pidgeon) - we still managed to get to Kibbutz Yavneh before 7:00 p.m.! We both were afraid we were going to be really late meeting with Pidgeon's favorite teacher from High School - Avraham Stein - but we were right on time. We chatted with him and his lovely wife for over an hour and then it was back on the road and heading to Ashkelon. We were a little surprised to hit such bad traffic but then we realized it was all cars trying to get into one lane to turn off into Ashdod. Once we were able to bypass that lane, we managed to hit a bit more Ashkelon traffic and then pulled into the car parking garage by 9:00 p.m. We got the keys from my in-laws neighbors and then we were here!

Unfortunately, Pidgeon was starving and like my Cousin Neil tends to do when he's hungry, was having a bit of a hunger attack. So, we quickly dropped our stuff, plugged in our computers to charge, put my shots in the fridge and called the restaurant for directions. Somehow, the restaurant doesn't appear on Pidgeon's GPS, but we managed to "use the force" and made it there with an hour to go before they closed. The food was great! We ordered two skewers of entrecote steak (well done for me, medium rare for Pidgeon) and that came with a million types of salatim, some hummus and french fries. The pitot were also fresh and hot from the over, and absolutely delicious! Pidgeon and I devoured our food - I hadn't realized I too was hungry - and then we decided to order 4 pargiot for Shabbat lunch. The owners were really nice and they also packed us up some extra salatim to go. Satisfied and bloated, we returned home so I could do my shot and we could make the bed. I was so tired though that I started to get a bit cranky with Pidgeon, and being the amazing and patient man that he is, he helped me make the bed and tried his best to get me to sleep STAT. 

We woke to a beautiful, hot, sunny day this morning. Well, I should amend that, I woke to a beautiful, hot, sunny day this morning. I asked Pidgeon to set his alarm for 9:30 and he quickly shut it off and went back to sleep. I logged on and relaxed and let him sleep for 30 more minutes before I started to get ansy. We had a schedule today and I am determined to keep to it! While he slept, I noticed that the windowsill outside of our bedroom is covered in bird poo and the Ashkelon Pigeons have made this their home. At one point, there were 4 lined up and one even pecked at the window! I felt like I was back in Manhattan, with all the pigeons lined up in a row waiting for an unsuspecting resident to scurry beneath before they let their droppings fly and hit their bullseye down below. So, I woke Pidgeon up and told him that the pigeons were here to greet him. He smiled and I managed to get him up and out of bed.

Since we didn't know the address to the main shopping complex, we once again "used the force" and somehow managed to make it to our destination. At that point, I was so hungry, I told Pidgeon I was going to knaw on his fingers if he didn't get some food into me. We parked and jogged to the Aroma and Pidgeon ordered me the Aruchat Boker which comes with 2 scrambled eggs, some chopped salad, 4 olives, 5% feta and cream cheese and 6 slices of whole wheat bread. I also got an ice coffee cause I was in the mood, which Pidgeon had a Chai with 1% milk and an omlete sandwich. It was nice to eat although it was a bit uncomfortable in our booth. The chair was too far back from the table, but the table and chairs were bolted to the floor, so unless I sat at the edge of the booth I was too far away from my plate.

Which brings me to a phenomenon I notice in pregnant women. It's called the eating all over yourself phenomenon. When you see a pregnant lady and she's got a big stain somewhere on her shirt or skirt, chances are she has no idea how that happened nor does she even realize that it's there. I've been finding stains on my stomach hours after they happen, and I'm constantly wondering how the heck it got there. Well, sure enough, about 5 minutes into eating my food I managed to drop a big bite of salad all over myself. And, since the dressing was green, I was now sporting a huge stain right in the middle of my chest.  Pidgeon tried to make me feel like less of a pig by saying that it could be a logo for the Greek Islands - but I wasn't biting. So, with my big stain, we wrapped up at Aroma and went next door to the SuperSol Big to buy our food.

Food in Ashkelon is so much cheaper than in Jerusalem, it's insane. For less than 350 shekel, we managed to buy: a pound of potatoes cooked, a pound of noodles, one large challah, 6 nectarine, 10 small plums, a small pineapple, sorbet, a can of cocktail olives, a can of hearts of palm, a can of baby corn, a bag of lettuce, 5% creamy italian dressing, a box of Telma bran flakes, 1% skim milk, this roasted onion salatim that Pidgeon wanted, 3 bottles of hand soap, silver foil, plastic ziplock baggies, 2 bottles of diet lemonade, 1 bottle of green tea ice tea, 1 big bottle of grape juice, and 1 package of duracell AA batteries. That would have cost us at least 100 shekel more in Jerusalem. I told Pidgeon we should take advantage and do our weekly grocery shopping in Ashkelon, even with the price of gas it would probably be worth it. 

We also bought 3 green shopping bags as we're trying to save the world by cutting down on plastic baggies. With our booty, we made our way back to the car, turned on the GPS and managed to get home in no time at all. Unfortunately, it was too much time for our sorbet, and when we got to the apartment we discovered it had melted and leaked ALL over all the stuff in that green bag. At first, I thought we cracked the dressing bottle, and was relieved to see it was just the sorbet leaking. That's how hot it is here people! I quickly washed everything, including the bag, and Pidgeon put the wet ones out on the balcony to dry so we could use them to pack some stuff up when we leave on Sunday.

Meanwhile, I was so distracted, that as I was unpacking the bags I pulled out this strange package and it took me a minute to realize what it was. It was a Trivial Pursuit mini game gossip edition. I gasped when I saw it and asked Pidgeon if he knew how it got there. He said he had no idea and I though, my g-d, I stole this from the Supermarket and I didn't even realize I had packed it into the bag! My mind started racing, I needed to go back and pay the Supermarket or return it! I've never stolen anything from a Supermarket before and I felt awful.

Suddenly, Pidgeon smiled, and wished me a Happy Aliyah and wedding Anniversary! He put it in the bag AND he bought it for me months ago as a surprise. I was soo shocked and surprised! I had no idea when he even did that, and then everything started clicking into place. He insisted when we got to the car that I go and put on the AC rather than help him load the bags into the trunk. I wasn't happy that he didn't let me help him but I did it because I thought he was really hot, little did I know that he had hidden the game in the trunk and wanted to slip it into one of the bags without me seeing. Plus, when we got to the apartment, he didn't really help me unpack the bags which is very unlike him. I was wondering why he wasn't helping, and only when I found the gift did I realize what went into getting me the whole present and keeping it a surprise! Apparently, Pidgeon bought this game online and shipped it to his brother in London, who brought it with him when he was visiting in July. Pidgeon then hid it in the house - somewhere - and waited until the time was right to give it to me.

Now, we had agreed on no presents this anniversary - but both of us are  big fat liars. Pidgeon's present is on its way and I can't write what I got him here since he sometimes reads my blog and I want it to be a big surprise too. But, boy am I happy that I got him something! Whew.

Well, I'm off to change into my bathing suit and get ready for the pool! I can't wait to take a nice, long swim in the cool waters. 

Shabbat Shalom from Ashkelon!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cupcake Dreams


I'm tired! I got about 7 hours of interrupted sleep last night, but for some reason I couldn't bring myself to get back to sleep after Pidgeon left for Tel Aviv early this morning.  That, and my upstairs neighbor is running around on my head in her high heels again. Lord, I can't wait until they pack up and go back to Florida where they're from. I'm hoping that's going to be happening sooner rather than later!

So, yesterday post-fast was an extremely productive day for us! We got up fairly early and, after a quick breakfast, hiked over to Derech Beit Lechem to the framers. I had our Ketubah with me and Pidgeon took our wedding photos. We had agreed that, since this year is our paper anniversary, that it was time to frame our Ketubah as a joint gift to each other. In all honesty, I was going to also surprise Pidgeon with a comic book too. But, I have no idea which kinds he would want, so I decided to just tell him that we weren't going to exchange presents this year. Besides, we have a lot of fun activities planned to celebrate all our milestones within the coming few days that I didn't think we needed to spend money we don't have on gifts we probably don't really need.

Anyway, we got to the frame store only to discover that he's on vacation until the 19th. That's what's so interesting about this Country. Now, after Tisha B'av, a ton of tourists are heading out way for 2-3 week vacations before schools start in the States and abroad. But, most of the natives, have been heading out of town on vacation too! So, this place is packed but it's mostly with people who aren't around here. What's frustrating is that we now have to call all our local shops to make sure they're still open over the next few days. I was shocked when I called the manicurist I haven't seen since January and she told me that she was on vacation for another week! Here I wanted to finally treat myself to a manicure/pedicure and she took is out on vacation. I guess it's the Lord's way of telling me to just suck it up for a bit longer - or take a page out of Pidgeon's Aunt's book and just do it myself.

Well, Pidgeon didn't want to wait until the framer got back on the 19th (which is, BTW, our anniversary) and so he called his Mom and she told us about Micha's frame store in Katamon. So, we got into the car and headed over there. Fortunately, he was in and not on vacation (although, he too is heading off on vacation in a week!) and we were able to get everything framed. But, somehow, Pidgeon and I got our wires crossed and each thought the other took the tube that contained our Ketubah.  We didn't realize, until 11:00 p.m. last night, that we had left it at the store! Unfortunately for us, the tube still contained our Tenaim that were signed by my cousin Daneel and Pidgeon's friend Yoni. Pidgeon has been calling the framer all morning to make sure he didn't throw it out and we're praying that it's still there. I'm going to be very upset if he tossed it!

But, we both spent the day blissfully unaware of this SNAFU and we continued after the framer to run some more errands.  We both managed to do a bit of work, relaxed in front of the TV, and just enjoyed each others company. It's nice that we are still doing that too!

So, next week P"G is chock full of celebrations for us! First, August 17th will mark my 2nd year anniversary since making Aliyah. I couldn't fall asleep last night, so I went back to my old blog to read what I was doing around this time two years ago. It's so fascinating what I did before moving to Tel Aviv! I can still remember how scared I felt as I read through my blog posts. Then, I decided to read up on what I did exactly this time last year, and boy was I in a whirlwind before the wedding! August 19th, P"G, is our one year wedding anniversary and this year both flew and took its time. I've enjoyed every bit of it!

In celebration, we are planning on a movie date at the Cinema City in Herzliya. That place is the closest thing this Country has to a Loews movie theatre and we are hoping to check out Batman. Since I don't see movies during the 3 weeks, we've been counting down until we could go see it. We're also going to spend some time in Ashkelon, just hanging out at the pool and relaxing. I'm hoping the weather won't be too hot this time! Worse comes to worse, we'll just stay in doors and enjoy the sunrise and sunset over the water from our air conditioned room!

Pidgeon was up extra early this morning as he has another 3-hour lesson in Tel Aviv. I decided to get up with him and get my day going early. We're trying out a new cleaning lady this afternoon since I practically threw my back out trying to sponga the floor the other day. I'm looking forward to her coming here, I could really use the cleaning help! The floor is just getting too much for me to handle these days. My Zaydie A"H was right too. When we lived together, he used to complain that I had hair all over the place. He would clean the apartment every Friday and then show me, if I got home in time from work, all the hair balls he found in my room, in the bathroom and even in the hallway! The man was pretty much bald, so there was no way I could deny that the hair all over the place was mine. And, well, I guess I'm shedding in this place too and it's pretty gross! 

Meanwhile, last night I had a dream that I was basically living in a bakery. It was such a nice dream, one of those sensory ones when I actually smelled the scent of cupcakes baking in the oven. I told Pidgeon about the wall of chocolate rugelach and he laughed at me. I blame him for my dream though; right before he went to sleep he told me that the news released some sort of study about calorie content of baked goods. He said the cheesecake and cream cakes were least caloric but brownie and dense cake type items were the biggest offenders. Well, no wonder I had a bakery dream! It was the last thing on my mind before I went to sleep! Of course, waking up with a brownie craving doesn't help my quest to keep my weight down.

Besides spending the morning writing, and the afternoon getting our new cleaning lady acclimated, I'm actually meeting with a lawyer from the AACI. I've been fighting with my health insurance company here (i.e. Kupat Cholim) about the fact that they basically stole 2970 shekel from me. When I moved here, I got a Teudat Zehut and declared Aliyah even though I didn't know it. When I went to sign up for health insurance, even though I had my Teudat Zehut, I got a foreign plan which was about 330 shekel a month. I pay less than 50 shekel a month now because every Israeli citizen is covered by the government for health insurance. When I realized I had made Aliyah and went to Bituach Leumi to sign up, they charge me back payments from when I had moved here. So basically, I paid double. I paid Bituach Leumi AND a foreign status at my Kupah. The Kupah, though, won't refund me my money even though their worker knew I was eligible for a lower rate plan and just took advantage of my ignorance. So, I decided to take this a step further and consult an attorney about my rights. 2970 shekel is a LOT of money for us, it was also a huge chunk of my Sal Klita money that went to pay health insurance for no reason. I'm hoping the attorney will be able to tell me if I've got a leg to stand on and whether or not it pays, for the amount of money I want back, to really hire someone to take this one step further.

Meanwhile, our friend Lana is moving back to the States tonight to start her internships at hospitals in New York. We're very sad to see her go, even though she will be back in January, and Pidgeon is going to drive over to say goodbye after his class ends. We're also going to be babysitting some of her stuff - namely an oil heater and her pillow and comforter - until she returns in January. I'm thrilled as I could use another comforter for when my parents P"G come in December. Last year, when they came, I only had one comforter and Pidgeon's single comforter to offer them. Somehow, my Mom got the short end of the stick and ended up with Pidgeon's single comforter and it just didn't work for her. I'm hoping Lana's will be exactly what I need for their 10 day visit! And, well, I'm just lazy and I love extra pillows. I already sleep with 4 and one more would just make my day. Pidgeon doesn't understand my love of the pillow, but I've managed to convince him to sleep on two these days and he's liking it. We'll see what happens when I've got another one to add to the bunch!

Finally, as soon as Pidgeon left the apartment this morning, the buzzer rang and I went to answer the intercom thinking Pidgeon wanted to tell me something. Some guy, claiming to be here to read the water meter, asked me to buzz him in. I refused. First of all, I wasn't dressed and I was not in any hurry to get dressed to accommodate him. Second, when I asked him how he usually read the meters before, he claimed it was his "first time" at our apartment and that someone always buzzes him in. I don't know who that someone was because I've never done it. So, I asked him very nicely to have someone over at his Company call me on the phone to verify that he is who he says he is. Well, I don't know if that just caused him to run away or if my neighbor just took the initiative and let him in. Either way, I don't care. I don't think it's unreasonable of me to ask that his Company verify his legitimacy before I buzz him into the building. When I was at my parents in the States, and the Con Edison man came to read the meters, he always showed me his badge and I always looked for his white truck before letting him in. 

I don't care where I'm living, or what the crime situation is like. Jerusalem could be crime free for all I care, I'm still going to use my good common sense and not buzz just anyone who comes calling. If that makes me paranoid, fine. I just think that makes me cautious.

Well, I'm off to get my day going. My stomach is growling so I think it's time to feed the beast within!

Yom Tov from Baka!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cravings

It's 2:00 a.m., post Tisha B'av fast, and I'm tired but too wired to go to sleep. I probably should just shut down and call it a day, but I figured I would try to update the blog before heading off to sleep. Well, I've spent the past 2 days basically in bed, and I'm so wiped from doing nothing but just laying here. 

I have no idea what I did Thursday, but it probably wasn't that exciting or else I would recall. Friday morning, I woke up early and basically did a ton of cooking. Because of the fast on Saturday night, I have to cook both Shabbos lunch and pre-fast Shalosh Seudot. The beauty of Tisha B'av falling out on a Saturday night is that you can have meat before the fast. Since we were eating by Pidgeon's parents for Friday night, though, I was hoping to not have to do as much cooking. I forgot that I had to cook for the fast too, so I ended up basically cooking as if we were eating all of Shabbat at home. I ended up making a crock pot vegetable soup, roasted chicken, macaroni and meat with marinara sauce, a cauliflower kugel, white rice and steamed string beans. I also baked a zucchini bread, which was great, as Pidgeon and I basically ate a ton of it over the weekend. I managed to cook efficiently, so I spent 2 hours pre-Shabbos on Friday just relaxing and watching the opening of the Olympic games. Pidgeon's brother came to pick us up with 5 minutes to spare and I lit candles at my in-laws.

I decided to join the men at shul on Friday night, and so I went with them to Chovevei. It was very quiet in shul, but the AC was on full blast, and I was in heaven. My body temperature these days has been pretty high, so I'm loving when it's nice and air conditioned. After shul, I opted not to go with Pidgeon to see his Grandparents and went back to his folks place. Dinner was pretty uneventful, I allowed myself a small shot glass of Ketel One vodka for a Lechayim, and then after my shot and dinner we walked home. It was a beautiful night and the walk really did me some good, I was nice and tired when we crashed.

Shabbos day came and went and I spent most of it in bed, drinking water or eating. We consulted with both my Dr. and Rabbi about fasting and they said the same thing. Basically, I could fast as long as I don't get too dehydrated. As soon as I felt any cramping or contractions, I was to break my fast immediately. Those were the parameters and I figured I could definitely live with that.

So, Saturday night, we had our Seudat HaMafseket (the last meal before the fast) and then, after Shabbos came out, we changed into our canvas footwear and walked to shul. For some reason, Pelech decided not to put on the AC, and it was freaking hot. I sat in the back next to the window, but the women next to me decided to close my side so they could open their side wider. Whatever, I tried my best to stay cool and not ask them to be considerate. Also, sitting on the floor in my condition is definitely not the best thing. My legs kept on cramping up and I spent more time rubbing the circulation back into my feet instead of listening to Eicha. The good thing was that it was over fairly quickly. We got back to the apartment, watched this whole thing about Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temples on the History channel, and went to bed.

Now, what I didn't realize, was that all that sweating I did during Eicha really dehydrated me. I was tossing and turning all night, and was severly parched. At 3:30 a.m., I couldn't take it anymore, and I broke my fast on a small bottle of water. I was able to go to sleep pretty soon after that and felt much better. When I woke up this morning, I was really disappointed that I broke the fast, so I told Pidgeon to just forget about what he saw at 3:30 a.m. He was trying to get me to eat and drink all day, but I really wanted to hold out as much as possible.

I spent the day in bed, on my computer or watching TV, and at some point I just got hit with a massive Pringles craving. It was so unlike me, I'm actually not the biggest Pringles fan, but I just really wanted a big tub of Pringles. I mentioned to Pidgeon that I wanted him to go out after the fast was over and buy me some, but deep down I figured I wouldn't be craving that anymore and so I didn't expect him to go out and buy me some.

Around 5:30 p.m., I thought I was really going to make it. But, that's when the contractions and cramping started. It was not pleasant at all and, since the Dr. said I had to break the fast as soon as I felt them, I did. I took a glass of water and warmed up some leftover vegetable soup. I ate just enough to feel comfortable and then put my feet up and waited for the pains to go over. Thank g-d, after about an hour, I started feeling much better. It was good too, because I had the energy to cook dinner for Pidgeon.

By the time 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was ready for my next meal, and I joined Pidgeon in a quick dinner of pasta, eggs and some home made brownies. Yummy! He left shortly after the meal to meet up with his Uncle and I mentioned the Pringles as he walked out the door. I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised when he came back a couple hours later with some regular and sour cream and onion for me. YUMMY!

Cravings, satisfied!

Well, I'm off to try to get some sleep and hopefully my body will be back to normal tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a morning or thesis writing and an afternoon or apartment cleaning!

Wishing everyone still fasting a very easy and meaningful fast!

Layla Tov from Baka!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's Complicated


Just call me Puff Fatty. I have no idea what happened but, seemingly overnight on Monday, I went from pregnant to puffy. I put on 3 pounds in less than 12 hours, my legs resemble tree trunks (pine, not oak) and my face was absolutely huge. It was a bit terrifying, so I went online to find out what the heck was going on.

It looks like I'm suffering from a typical pregnancy symptom called edema. Which, basically, is the swelling of the extremities. The blood pools around the legs and ankles and, depending on diet, your feet and hands can swell too. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't able to take off my rings. That made washing for bread a bit difficult, but I remembered learning a long time ago that people who wear rings every single day on the same fingers don't necessarily have to take them off to wash because it's not considered a Chatzizah as it has become almost a part of the body. Wish I could remember where I learned that - or if it's even true - but I figured why bother asking a Rabbi when I can just paskin myself.

And, depending on the reason why you're puffy, the "solution" varies. I think it had to do with the fact that we spent majority of Monday in a car. So, I made every effort to get the blood circulating by doing lots of errands in the house, getting up from my seated position, elevating my feet when I was on the couch or on the chair, etc. I also drank a TON of water, which I actually do normally every day (I have always been a big water drinker) and decided to not add any extra salt to my food. Then, around 8:00 p.m., I laced on my walking sandals and Pidgeon and I decided to go for a walk.

It felt so great to just be outdoors, in the cool Jerusalem night air, moving. It felt good to just really move, at a normal pace for my belly bump. We, of course, had no destination when we left the house so Pidgeon offered to take me to Emek Refaim and "buy me a treat". Well, I'm like a 4 year old when I hear the word "treat" and started imagining all the yummy goodness he could buy me. Which, sadly, defeats the purpose of a healthy walk if I end up eating some high caloric ice cream (which was what I was craving).

Well, fortunately for me, we ended up at this impromptu flea market down the block from Burgers Bar. Now, it's the 9 days, so I felt bad about buying but figured that it was okay if I really found something nice. There were a lot of jewelry tables set up, but I didn't really see anything in particular that I like. I'm actually obsessed with earrings that Britney Gastineau wears on The Gastineau Girls so I was looking for similar earrings and didn't find anything. But then, we came upon this really cool table with beaded wired animals. The artist made all these animals out of wires and then "colored them in" using different beads. There was this really cool cobra that stretched clear across the table, two beautiful red crabs and lobsters, some scorpions, a black and white lamb, etc. Well, I have had a turtle fetish ever since I inherited my first and only pet Turtle, Angus

There was a small, purple turtle that was really pretty already out on the table, but I kinda like my turtles green. So, Pidgeon asked the woman running the booth about a green turtle, and sure enough there was a beautiful green turtle with red eyes, just waiting for me. That was just the treat I was looking for! So, Pidgeon bought it for me and they wrapped it up in a really nice paper and we headed home. I figured, one good treat deserves another, so we stopped off at this new frozen yogurt store sandwiched between Tal Bagels and Aldo Ice Cream. We samples the yogurt (it tasted like frozen yogurt with a bit of an after taste kick) and Pidgeon got himself a fruit juice smoothie and I just abstained. We walked home with our treats and realized, when we got through the door, that the excursion took us more than an hour! Perfect amount of time for me to be on my feet.

I rested a bit and then decided to get started on dinner. I had found Alaskian frozen pollack the other day, and in my mind thought it would be a good fish to bread and fry like shnitzel. So, I got to work on breading and frying and imagined a great dinner of pollack shnitzel with some leftover quinoa and roasted curried cauliflower. Well, I don't know if it was the fish or my crappy non-stick frying pan, but what I ended up with was basically little fried fish bits and fried breading. It looked absolutely nasty, like a bomb exploded all my fillets. But, Pidgeon insisted that it would taste great, so I just spooned out some quinoa and topped it with the fish bits.

It actually tasted okay, it just wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as I had hoped. We finished dinner in time for a rerun of How I Met Your Mother in Hot Stars and decided to relax for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile, we've been trying to join the online shopping group of CityDirect. Any New Yorkers reading this will think immediately of Fresh Direct except CityDirect is more like a hybrid between Fresh Direct and Urban Fetch.

Ah, Urban Fetch. I freaking LOVED Urban Fetch when I lived on the Lower East Side. I would order movies, pints of Ben and Jerry's, cold medicine when I was sick, cigarettes and once I bought a big box of glow in the dark condoms. I don't know why I did it, I never used them, didn't even have a remote reason to think I would need them, but I wanted to see what would happen if I bought them. Nothing happened, the delivery man brought them with all the other stuff I ordered, and I kept them in the back of my underwear drawer. Fortunately, my 90 year old Grandfather (at the time when we lived together and I was all about the Urban Fetch) never found them, and I tossed them out when I moved to the Upper West Side a couple of years later.

But, I digress.

So, we've been trying to become members of City Direct so we could order our groceries online. Now, fortunately, we're at a position right now when we can actually find time to go to the grocery store, but figured this would come in handy P"G when the baby comes and we both just can't get out. Plus, I already order my fruits and vegetables from our local green grocer, so figured why not get everything else online.

We had some problems setting things up, but then Reut the most amazing Customer Service representative in ALL the land, called and walked us through the process.

Now, I love online shopping and I love food shopping, and this just combines my two passions. I literally spent an entire hour just putting together our food shopping list for delivery this afternoon. I didn't order any of the fruits or vegetables from the shuk, but was VERY happy to see that you could order baked goods from Marzipan. The great thing about this was that I was able to find items I didn't even know existed, like whole wheat puffed pastry, and a cheaper brand of edemame. I kept the list pretty small, just what we need for the next few days, just to try it out. The best part was that I knew, before even placing the order, how much money I had already spent. For people like us, who are on very strict budgets, that was just brilliant. This way, I knew what I could and couldn't afford, and even decided to get rid of certain items this month because I didn't really need them.

I was a bit perplexed when the site didn't ask me for payment information, but I was so caught up on the site that I forgot about my shot and was late getting the icing process started. We went to bed and I figured I would call Reut in the morning to check it out.

We slept in a bit, which was nice for me since I was so tired last night, and I called Reut to ask about payment information. Turns out, after the delivery and once they know we're satisfied, a customer service representative calls and asks for credit card information. That's fabulous! Now I know that I don't have my credit card information on their servers, which makes me very happy. She called me again a few minutes later to tell me that some items weren't available, or the brand I wanted was available but they had a different brand instead, and I was very happy with that. And, within minutes of hanging up, my delivery was here.

The delivery guy was very nice, he unpacked the groceries for me out on my kitchen counter, and I gave him a little tip and he was on his way. It was just a pleasure, and I'm looking forward to P"G using this service again.

Meanwhile, I've spent my morning watching four back to back episodes of Denise Richards: It's Complicated. I gotta say, it's pretty addicting, and I'm all about the E! programming these days. I have about 6 more episodes to catch up on, but I'm thinking there's more drama to come and it's very entertaining!

Well, Pidgeon just got back from his morning out, so I'm going to go and try to figure out what's for lunch.

Yom Tov from Baka!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Drove the Chevy to the Levy


Today, we said a sad good bye to Pidgeon's Peaugot. It was a good car. It served him very well. At times, when dating was going lousy and he felt bad about himself, this car really helped pick him back up. I felt really bad that we couldn't afford to keep it, but we're just not in the position where we can afford two cars. Add up personal insurance, car insurance, gas, misc. car mishaps (like battery dying or light bulb needing to be changed), multiply by two, and it's just way too expensive for a barely one income family right now. So, we stood by our decision and did the trade in. We dealt with snafu after snafu and finally, yesterday, we got the call that the car was ready. We needed to be in Rishon LeZiyon this morning by 10:00 a.m.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of phone calls. We had to get everything ready for picking up the car today. That included purchasing new car insurance plans. And, since the car is officially in my name, I had to get personal insurance in my name. Almost 1500 shekels later, I had the piece of paper I needed regarding personal insurance, but we were fighting with our insurance agency on car insurance. They wanted to charge us 3000 shekel a year for car insurance, while UMI (the Chevy dealership) would only charge us 2400 shekel a year. We asked our insurance agency to come towards us a bit with the price, especially since we have apartment insurance, double personal insurance and medical insurance with the same agency. They refused to budge. Since we're on student salaries here, I said forget it. And, Pidgeon and I decided to go with the UMI insurance.

We both slept fitfully last night. Well, actually, I slept fitfully and Pidgeon slept well but just not long enough. When the alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. this morning, I jumped up and got us out of the apartment by 8:30 a.m. We needed to be in Rishon by 10:00 a.m. to deal with the trade in people and car insurance policies so we could catch the 11:00 a.m. Hasaah (ride) to the car park. Well, we enjoyed our last ride out of Jerusalem in the old car and made it to the dealership in time. Pidgeon felt it was bittersweet, and we left the car up in the parking lot and made our way towards the dealership. It took us an hour to fill out all the appropriate forms, get the old car checked and approved, get the alarm instructions, fax an account cancellation with our old car alarm system before the Hasaah was ready to leave.

We took off without a hitch but then the Hasaah driver was called back because he also forgot to take the mail. There was one other person in the car with us, the owner of the UMI dealership in Haifa, who was on his way to pick up a Chevy Aveo for the dealership. The conversation between the men was pretty amusing, and I enjoyed how Tzvi (UMI Haifa) went off on the Mazda dealership up North. His friend had the same experience with Mazda that we encountered when we went there looking at cars. They have zero customer service, would not come towards us with a price, would not do trade in, and basically acted like we were just annoying flies bugging them during their work days. Pidgeon got involved in the conversation and I just sat back and tried not to get too thrown around in the van on our way to the car park.

By the time we pulled up to this huge car warehouse located about 10 minutes away from Yavneh, my bladder was killing me and I was begging for a smooth ride. I ran inside with Pidgeon, dropped my stuff and headed straight for the ladies room. When I got out, everything was done; all the forms filled out and signed. The Chevy technician was on hand and he led us to our car.

And she's BEAUTIFUL! We got the car tour, learned how to use all the neat features like our GPS and the reverse radar that lets us know when we're a little too close to the car behind us. We were like giddy children with a new toy and, we were just so excited that this car was finally ours, that we drove all the way back to Jerusalem with the plastic still on the seats.

It wasn't very comfortable. But, it was just perfect.

Pidgeon got the hang of the new car really nicely, even revving the engine a couple of times to just listen to the new car sound. I wasn't that excited about the new car smell and am already plotting ways to get some sort of car air freshner from Yankee Candles over to this Country. We went straight to Nayot to the SuperPharm because I needed some more Clexane shots and my Ishur (Israel's version of perscriptions have expiration dates) ran out today. One we parked the car, we decided to remove the plastic so as not to tempt fate. We threw it out in the garbage in front of the pharmacy and then went inside to pick up more shots. We also went to the SuperSol next door so I could stock up on frozen fish for the week. I was able to find some great salmon fillets and even some pollack fillet too. I grabbed a bag of salad on the way to the checkout so we could have something for lunch, and then we checked out.

When we exited the supermarket, I was totally confused and for a minute couldn't find the car. I had completely forgotten what she looks like and, expecting Pidgeon's old car, got really disoriented. Fortunately, Pidgeon remembered where we parked and within minutes I was happily seated in the new front seat.

It was nice to get home though. We pulled up in front of the apartment at 2:00 p.m., drained, hungry and exhausted. We were trying to contain our excitement though, because it's the 9 Days, but for me this was really the BIG purchase that needed to get done before the baby.

Next, P"G, is baby gear!

Well, I'm off to fold the laundry that I did yesterday but never got around to folding.

Yom Tov from Baka!