Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Sweet Note Bakery Gluten-Free Bagels

Holy (Bagel) Grail! There are a few things that I've slowly been coming to terms with never being able to get gluten free that taste good, let alone edible. The two big ones are baklava (and anything made with phyllo dough) and bagels. Most of the bagels I've had from brands like Udi's taste like eating air -- tasteless, unsubstantial, and just not worth it.

And then? Sweet Note Bakery The Greater Knead!. I'm trying to remember (with my intensely active baby brain) how I found them, and I think it might have been a Facebook ad, but I'm not entirely sure. I saw a small bakery making gluten-free bagels that happened to be kosher, and I reached out. A quick connection later and I had a box full of gluten-free bagel goodies on my doorstep. Cinnamon Raisin. Everything. Plain.

Then I ate them all over the next few weeks with the enjoyment of someone who unearths a classic family recipe a dozen years after it was lost. These bagels are divine, and unique.

They're smaller than most of the gluten-free bagels on the market, and they're more substantial in weight and flavor, too. They don't taste like a fluff of air; you actually feel like you're eating a bagel.

The trick to these bagels? You have to follow the directions -- no swaying from the path. The ladies behind Sweet Note know what they're doing, and they know that storage and reheating can be the enemy or best friend of gluten-free baked goods. I attempted to warm a bagel up on the plata on Shabbat, and it ended in disaster (I was so bummed that I wasted a bagel).

It's all about freezing the bagels. Putting them in the microwave for 60 seconds to soften them up, and then toasting them ... yes. Perfection. So good. So much flavor, so much substance, so filling.

I can't say enough about these bagels. I'm going to do everything in my power to try to get them into some local shops because, even I can admit, the price is a bit of a sticker shock when it comes to shipping (because they need to stay frozen for integrity, overnight is the only option, which is expensive).

Have you tried Sweet Note? Is there another kosher, gluten-free bagel that I should be eating that I'm missing out on? 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Mommy Shabbat: Man Plans, G-d Laughs

The past few weeks have been a bit insane, and basically until The Blob shows up, things are going to continue to be pretty insane, what with Purim tomorrow and Passover coming up next month. Then it'll be June and I'll be launched into a world of having two kids under three. Good times!

It all began a few weeks ago when I ended up staying alone over Shabbat in a hotel airport in order not to miss an 8 p.m. flight after Shabbat to Austin, TX, in order to attend SXSW Interactive. I've stayed in plenty of hotels over Shabbat, but those hotels were in ... Israel! Where everything just works. You can enter your room with a real key, there's no weird automatic lights or doors, the dining room serves food for Shabbat, there's a synagogue in the hotel, and everything is super easy. For this stay, I had to organize a food delivery from the local deli for dinner and lunch, make sure I got to the hotel well before Shabbat to figure out where the automatic things were and what lights I could leave on and off, and to make sure the staff were prepared for me. Add to this the fact that the hotel had only been open a few months and ... what a time I had.

Aside from the logistics and having to "check out" at 4 p.m. and spend the next 3 hours in the lobby waiting for Shabbat to end, there was a great sense of loneliness of Shabbat. I went into it thinking I'd have a super relaxed "Mommy vacation," a chance to kick back, sleep a bunch, and read trashy magazines and a good book over those 25 hours. But the truth was, it was a lot of empty time where I felt a bit stir crazy. Once I was in the lobby, I got to do some fun people watching, and I got halfway through a book, but eating alone in a fairly sterile hotel room wasn't fun.

Would I do it again? Probably not. Would I do it in Israel again? Yes. A million times. So easy.

So Shabbat ended around 7 p.m. and my flight was at 8 p.m. I zipped off to my gate and made it in time for the flight to Austin, where I arrived around 11 p.m. ... the night before the Daylight Savings change. Once I arrived at the group house I was staying at, I schmoozed for a bit and then crashed hardcore like a very pregnant mother would.

About as wild and crazy as I got at SXSW.
Wearing a lei at a Tiki Bar party. 
And then? SXSW Interactive. I attended in 20102011, and a very memorable 2012, but hadn't been back in four years. Showing up at one of the most booze-filled, energy-draining festivals ever at nearly 7 months pregnant with a husband and toddler back at home was a pretty big culture shock. I remember SXSWi from years gone by, and I spent a lot of time waiting in lines for the big parties, drinking, and staying up all hours of the day.

This time around, I was home most nights and in bed by 9 p.m., exhausted with swollen feet, a headache, and no desire to party until the cows came home. I felt completely lame, considering my housemates were up until around 4 a.m. most nights, but hey, I'm a mom. An overworked mom. Sleep is a commodity. I was also a bit turned off by the entire thing this year because it's become incredibly and predominately corporate in the past four years, and not just tech corporate. McDonalds had a house. Why does McDonalds need a huge presence at SXSW? I don't know. They had a virtual reality Happy Meal experience for the love of Pete. I don't mind a Mashable House, but McDonald's? No thank you. The whole thing just made me feel ... dirty. SXSWi was big when I used to go, but now it's turned into some type of unstoppable corporate monster.

Overall, I totally thought that Shabbat and SXSWi were going to be a huge "vacation" for me, but they ended up being harder work than juggling work at home with a toddler. It's definitely a truth that man plans and Gd laughs. Despite it all, however, it was a ton of fun. I just probably wouldn't do it the same way again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Start Spreading the News: We're Moving!

So we've been living in an epicly rotten apartment complex for the past year and a half, and we found out recently that our lease would not be renewed (because, well, our desire to have a dishwasher that was actually mounted and electric outlets that actually worked and fixtures that weren't falling off the walls -- all in a "newly renovated space," meant complaints, and they didn't like those complaints and having to fix the problems). We assessed our options, and the reality was that the only other apartments within the Orthodox community were too far down the road to be a part of the kehilla (community), especially with the isolation of a new baby coming for me. 

So. What to do? We turned a potentially terrible situation into something awesomely positive!

Well, Mr. T sold his flat in the UK late last year, which left us with a bit of a down payment that was originally meant as our Israel house fund. But let's just say that the amount was not even a drop in the world's largest bucket of Israeli housing costs, so we made the executive decision to pursue the purchase of a home. We technically began looking in the fall, but because of Mr. T's recent re-arrival in the U.S. and lack of work history and my own unique financial background, we were not in any position to even ask the most giving of banks for a mortgage. 

So we waited until quite literally the last possible minute, were blessed with the world's most amazing loan officer at a local bank (whose owners support Israel wholeheartedly) who crafted a completely custom mortgage for us, as well as an amazing realtor, and we closed on a home yesterday, Monday, March 7, 2016. It was ... well, a bit of a process where I felt in over my head about 99 percent of the time, but Mr. T had been through it before and our realtor was outstanding and dealt with my neurosis and countless questions and concerns. 

The house? It's a little single-family, three-bedroom home in the community with a re-finished basement and quite a few nice renovations. It has a huge back yard with a shed and it's just a few blocks from Asher's daycare and our synagogue and most of our friends. It's small, but it gets the job done, and as soon as we can figure out how to make a dining room and living room out of one small space, I'll be able to rest easy. 

So what does this mean for Israel? Well, the reality is that the Denver housing market is on the up and up constantly, which means (b'ezrat HaShem -- with the help of Gd) we'll be able to sell nicely or when we are prepared to move back to Israel we'll have a steady monthly income from renting the home out. But neither of us are up for making it back to Israel without a financially sound plan to support our growing family. 

Truth be told, I'm still in a bit of shock. We're moving on Thursday, and then I'm spending Friday through Wednesday on the road for work at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX, leaving the boys with a house full of boxes to be emptied. Moving, after all, is one of my least favorite things in the world and gives me immense anxiety. Large volumes of things being packed and shifted just ... I don't know. It messes with my nerves. And being super preggers, no thank you. (My husband is a saint for taking on this task, seriously.)

I honestly never thought I'd be a homeowner. I grew up with parents who rented, and I've rented my entire life. In my last marriage, my ex had two properties in his name, but nothing was in my name, so I didn't know what it felt like to say "I'm a homeowner." 

Does this make me an adult? Am I grownup now? Here's to a new home for a new baby and plenty of celebrations of good, happy, positive things!