Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in NYC: This City Isn't What I Used to Be

Being back in NYC for the first time in ... something like five years, but really we'll say six years because the truth is the last time I was here I was in a hotel at JFK passing through on my way to Israel, feels like a dream.

Six years ago I was living in New Jersey and commuting in to NYC every day to attend NYU, where I was pursuing my second and third master's degrees in Judaic Studies and Jewish Education. It feels like a million years ago, honestly. And being back here is just surreal. I forgot what life was like "in the city" and I'm only here for 24 hours for work.

It's possible that my entire experience is probably grumpily painted by the fact that my flight was delayed twice and ended up getting in more than three hours later than anticipated. It's also probable that the fact that I arrived in the city close to 10 pm and nearly every kosher restaurant was closed or closing plays into my annoyance at the city. And then when the food I did order showed up it was breaded instead of gluten free, leaving me food-less and hungry after being in airports all day with nothing by nuts and hardboiled eggs.

But I digress.

The noise, the hectic bustle of these streets is something I'd forgot about. Or, it's possible, the noise is less aggressive down south near NYU where I spent most of my time. Up here, near Times Square where I stayed, it was an overnight constant of car horns and garbage trucks and police cars and music. This morning around 5 a.m. it was jackhammers and yelling. And I heard it all as if it were happening next to me in bed ... from the 15th floor of my hotel.

Awake, showered, hopeful, I stepped outside into the swamp. I don't mind an 80 degree day or a 100 degree day, as long as it isn't humid. I don't do humidity. I don't do sweating and sticky grossness. It's one of the reasons I truly love living in Denver. I walked a few blocks, shoving my way through vendors attempting to get people onto bus tours and to shows they don't want to see, and it was funny because not a single one of them even attempted to talk to me. Suitcase in tow, is there something about me that says, "I'm not a tourist"? Something determined or focused on my face?

I'm seriously narrating to myself as I walk. All of this. Then I hit this place called Greggory's Coffee, and here I sit, waiting for a 2:30 pm meeting that was supposed to be a noon meeting. And then off to the airport to fly back home. But this time? I'm flying out of JFK and not the ramshackle, looks-like-it-was-set-up-overnight-in-a-mad-dash LGA.

I don't know if/when I'll be back in NYC. Something about the hecticness of the city makes my social anxiety activate. My typically confident and determined personality feels confused, rushed, out of sorts. There's something about the noise and the dirt and the people ...

I didn't used to be like this. I can't imagine brining kids into the city. I'd fall apart.

Honestly? I can't wait to get back to Denver. It's clean, crisp, quiet(er). I've aged, obviously. I've gotten older. I'm only 33, but feeling this way about a city I once thought would be my long-term home makes me feel ancient.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Unexpected Mother and Interactions with Unsolicited Emails

Yesterday, while digging through the bucket of unsolicited emails I get en masse on a daily basis, one caught my eye and I actually replied. I don't know how I ended up on the email list, and I don't know why I responded, but it went something like this:

It's one of those emails that looks like it's personal, straight to the end user, but it's SPAM, we all know it. I knew it, too. But, tired, sick for the past few weeks, coughing since October, overwhelmed by life and bills and everything else, I hit REPLY. I wrote this:

I wrote this, mind you, while sitting in solitude on the toilet. During the day when the kids were in daycare because, let's be honest, when the kids are home, Little T is crawling around my ankles and Asher is bringing dozens of toys into the loo to play with while I attempt to do my business.

The original sender, Kathryn, sent back an email that was pretty generic, empathizing with my comments and fears. I had hoped for something more. I'm not sure what, but something.

Part of me thought that by putting my words out into the universe to some random, unsolicited email that some magic peace or calming reality would hit me.

It didn't.

Now I just want a bowl of ice cream.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Perfect for Pesach Cookbook

The first time I ever really observed Pesach in a remotely legit way was in 2008 when I was living in a shoebox in Buena Park in Chicago. I was going to Anshe Emet and the rabbi talked me into one of my most memorable seders ever (read about the seder here), and I was there until 2 a.m. It was also the first time I ever made fish (no kidding) in my life, and I made this recipe for Sephardic Spicy Fish. I made it with salmon, and it was amazing.

I continue to make this recipe every Pesach, as a reminder of that fateful Pesach, just weeks after I first set foot in an Orthodox shul and committed myself to converting under Orthodox auspices. I can't believe that was nine years ago. It feels like a lifetime ago. It's also amazing that the very next year I was in Florida celebrating Pesach in the most stereotypical way possible in a gated community with a family that I so loved (my ex-husband's). After that, my Pesach experiences were sort of here, there, and quite literally everywhere:
  • 2008: Chicago
  • 2009: Florida
  • 2010: Florida
  • 2011: Monsey, NY
  • 2012: Denver
  • 2013: England
  • 2014: Israel
  • 2015: Denver
  • 2016: Denver
  • 2017: Denver ... just the two of us!
I've spent Pesach on several continents with so many different families. This year? It'll be just the two of us for the seders, with kids fast asleep. It'll be fun, but quiet, but fun, but quiet. I was racking my brain as to what to make, honestly for the entire week, because in my mind, I just think: quinoa and vegetables. Quinoa bake. Spaghetti Squash bake. Bake all the things! But then ... then I got this cookbook for review: Perfect for Pesach: Passover recipes you'll want to make all year by Naomi Nachman. 

I'm not even kidding you ... the moment I got this (its squishy cover and all) and got a few pages in, I went out and bought a crepe pan. Crepes, people. Crepes on Pesach. I've never made a crepe in my life, but I saw Naomi's recipe for Passover egg rolls using said crepes, and I was all like ...

You can bet that there will be an evening of delicious Asian cuisine, including these Mock Sesame Noodles (genius!). 

Do you know why you need this cookbook? Here's a list of some of the recipes that will blow your mind: 
  • Fish 'n' Chips
  • Sweet & Sour Tilapia
  • Quinoa Granola
  • Ricotta Pancakes
  • Vanilla Cupcakes (with pudding!)
  • Fudgy Chocolate Bundt Cake with Coffee Glaze
  • ... and more.
Seriously, folks, I'm using only one cookbook this Pesach. Perfect for Pesach Because it has pictures with every recipe, and that's my kind of cookbook. And I'm a lazy cook when it comes to Pesach. I don't want to stress, and I want to use fresh ingredients and as few ingredients as possible to guarantee quick, tasty food. 

When your kids are at home all week, who has time for elaborate substitutions and a dozen ingredients just to make one dish? Not me. That's who.

Will you be picking up this Passover cookbook? You should. You really, really must. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Abeles & Heymann Delicious, All-Natural Hot Dogs

There's an ongoing debate by people on the interwebs about my family's weird dietary habits. Are we vegetarians? Pescatarians? Neither? What are those Gordon-Bennetts doing with food!? Let's bullet point this:

  • Our kitchen is dairy/pescatarian. We like fish, so we eat fish. And vegetables. 
  • We have a Rubbermaid tub full of meat utensils and dishes for Thanksgiving cooking and for the very rare occasion that we decide to make meat. This happens once ever six months at most, usually because we want to make Chicken Soup. 
  • We will eat at the local kosher deli, and we will eat meat there if we feel like it, and by meat I usually mean chicken. 
  • On Shabbat and holidays, we will eat meat out (again, chicken usually) out when invited because it's hard to say "can you make me a gluten-free, vegetarian option please?"
  • I, Chaviva, am gluten free (Celiac) and personally am avoiding soy products like tofu and tempeh, but the rest of the family enjoys them. 
Okay, I think that's everything. Now, that being said, every now and again I do get a serious hankering for meat and the truth is that I'm too lazy to schlep out the meat tub to make something and am too cheap to go to the deli and get something. 

Yumtimes in the USA!
Enter Abeles & Heymann, "makers of award-winning premium kosher hot dogs and deli." I was contacted by their PR department for a free sample, and I jumped at the chance because I can't do veggie dogs (soy, and often wheat) and their offerings are nitrate-free, all beef, and "have no fillers, are gluten-free, Kosher, and Kosher for Passover."

Asher's all like "This one's for me, right?"
Why is this a solution to my cheap/lazy style when I'm craving meat? Because I honestly just bust open a package and eat it straight! Yes, it reminds me of when I was a kid and my family got Hickory Farms and would devour a box in no time at all. If it wasn't Hickory Farms it was Oscar Meyer hot dogs and man alive those things were mystery meat to the max.

But these hot dogs? They're delicious, like nothing else on the market because they taste pure and completely natural, and that's all the reason you need to find A&H and some spicy mustard and get noshing. And with Passover right around the corner, it's nice to have something tasty, healthy, and easy in your corner because all of the processed junk on the market at Passover is the absolute worst.

A&H also just unveiled new branding that is super sleek and classic.
Have you tried A&H meats? What do you think? Do you have a favorite? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Coping with Weaning at 9 Months Old

I like to think I've been blessed by the fact that both of my children love food. Like, really love food. For both of my kids, four months was sort of the magic point where they both demanded solids.

Little T was pounding a vegetarian calzone last night for dinner, putting back more than my 3 year old, even. Here's the picture to prove it:

Did I mention that she's only 9 months old? Give this girl some cucumbers, yogurt, banana, really anything, and watch it disappear. Quickly.

Now, with Asher, around a year he was pretty over breastfeeding, but he'd still nurse sporadically -- especially at night -- until he was 18 months old. He conveniently quit around the time that Mr. T returned to the U.S. after his 10-month stint abroad.

But Little T? Sigh. Or hurrah! I'm not sure. She's only 9 months old, but her interest in breastfeeding has really gone the way of the Do Do over the past month. She doesn't even love nursing at night, preferring a bottle instead because she can pound that back faster or better than nursing. During the day, I can't get her to nurse to save my life. She's just over it. Totally and utterly over it. She takes a bottle like she's came out of the womb with one in her tiny little paws.

I'm having really mixed feelings about it all. I decided last week, after spending several days at the Redemption Retreat and breaking away to pump pretty much nothing in vain that I'm done pumping because A) it's not producing much for the stress it causes and B) Little T is happy with her bottle o' formula. I haven't pumped in nearly a week, and I'm not suffering much because of it. A few moments of being a bit over full and convincing Little T it's' the right thing to do to help Mommy, but usually only in the middle of the night when she doesn't know any better, and even then she takes a bottle afterward to supplement.


On the one hand, yay I have my body back! On the other hand, being in the position where I'm not entirely keen on having more kids, is this it? Last night, in the middle of the night while I lay in bed with Little T nestled closely nursing to relieve some pain and then going to Tatty for a bottle afterward, I thought to myself, "Is this it? Is this the absolute last time?"

It can take weeks for a mother's milk supply to dry up. There are things you can do to usher the process along, like sage tea and putting cabbage leaves in your bra, but I don't really want to walk around smelling like Holishkas. So I'm toughing it out. Not pumping. Pleading with Little T when I need to, and waiting to be all dried up.

And Little T? She's happy, healthy, and full of all the food, and that's what matters the most.

Devouring an ice cream cone.