Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surprising NY Times Article

Here's a really interesting NY Times article about the university-created cultural divide between rural white Americans vs liberals and minorities.  Really surprising findings.

What do you think?  It makes sense to me, being from NYU and remembering a classmate crying because she was so embarrassed to come "out" as a Republican after classes were turned into group-therapy sessions upon the Bush re-election.  But that's NYU--the left of the left.

Was your school the same?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rebbetzin Levitan is a FlyBaby?

I've written about FlyLady before, but this takes the cake!

Today, Rebbetzin Levitan, super-shadchan, marriage and dating counselor/speaker extroardinaaire, and author of the very popular new book, I Only Want to Get Married Once: Dating Secrets for Getting It Right the First Time, just wrote in a testimonial to FlyLady!

I was so surprised to see this in my inbox!  Check it out!

"Dear FlyLady,

The book you are holding would not have been written if not for a very special email I received from you in 2008. I am writing to thank you and to share my experience with you. The words in your email that really impacted me were: 

"So how do we stop this sensory overload? We have to pull the plugs! Let's practice turning off and tuning in… This is how I wrote my first book. I had made myself a strict routine for the morning… My goal was to write ten pages or three hours whichever came first. To accomplish this goal I had some rules for myself."

You then listed a bunch of very important rules including: Doing morning routines, not turning on the email, browser or instant messenger program and most importantly, no answering the phone. 

You then wrote, "I started my day at 7:30am by 8:00am. I was ready to start writing and by 11:00am I was finished with ten pages or I worked for three hours. In two weeks I had a manuscript. Do you see what you can accomplish when you turn off the distractions and tune into your brain power. 

When I read your email, I was literally blown away. I never heard of someone writing a book in 2 weeks. I was amazed. Now, I had been considering writing a book based on my lecture series on relationships. Many people were pushing me to put my lectures into writing, but I always said, "I don't have time to write a book. I run a lively home, together with my husband. We have a handful of beautiful kids and I also have five teaching jobs. On top of this, I also freelance lecture and counsel people. When exactly do you expect me to write a book???"

All of a sudden, after reading your email, my excuses didn't hold water. If a book could be written in a short time, well then I could do it. I just needed some focused time. So that was it. I said to myself, "If FlyLady could write a book in two weeks, I could write one in four!" And that's exactly what I set out to do. 

In June 2008, I sat down to write my book. I wasn't as good with my morning routines as you were. And I didn't stop writing after three hours. Actually, as soon as I started writing I couldn't stop… until it all came out. Although I didn't quite make my four week deadline, seven weeks later, I had a manuscript! (Thanks to a lot of patience and support from my husband and kids as well) But FlyLady, if not for you email, I am convinced that I never would've written my book. It was published iin February, 2010 and I have already received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from people who have been helped by my book. This is all in your merit! I cannot thank you enough! Perhaps other people will be inspired to accomplish big projects based on your email together with my response. If you want to print this email as a testimonial, it would be my pleasure. 

FlyLady, once again, I have no words to thank you. You are an inspiration to so many people, may you always be blessed with the wisdom, strength, health and good heart that you have to continue making a difference in so many people's lives. 
With endless gratitude,

Chana Levitan
Jerusalem Israel"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where did I leave my keyboard?

In case you were wondering, Pregnancy Brain for sure exists.  I've had three really terrible run-ins with my new identity as a forgetful mom-to-be but (I kid you not) can only remember two of them.

My case began gradually.  I found myself walking around the apartment much more looking for things.  Every once and a while I do something silly (even before I was pregnant) like look for my glasses while they're on or ask my friend on the phone why I can never find my phone.  I think I get that from my father, the classic absent minded professor.  So it wasn't so much new levels of forgetfulness, just increased frequency.

But then I graduated.

The first (and therefore most unnerving) situation came up when I was serving Omri juice for breakfast.  I opened the fridge, took out the bottle of juice, went to the cupboard, took out a glass.... and the bottle of juice was gone.  It was like a maniacal magician was playing tricks on me.  So I tried to think of what brilliant place I had thought of to leave the juice while I got the glass... did I put the juice back in the fridge?  Is it on the counter somewhere?  Maybe I put it on top of the microwave for some reason?  I started wandering the whole apartment--the dining room table?  The fridge?  Again the fridge?  Maybe further back in the fridge?  ...the FREEZER?

Ok, if you already figured it out, just don't tell me.

I had neatly replaced the glass with the bottle of juice.  No logic.  No, a bottle of Naked juice will not last long in my cupboard.  It took me a good five minutes to find the sucker.  I spent the rest of the day scared of myself.

But if I had only known what was in store for me I would have seen the many advantages of that mistake.  It was only within our small one-bedroom apartment, so how many places could I possibly need to check?  Much more critically... it was PRIVATE.

Not yesterday.  Oh, no.

Yesterday, on my way to my milestone halfway-through-pregnancy super ultrasound (healthy, albeit hyperactive baby growing nicely!) I was Miss Efficiency and decided to return our Redbox movie from the night before (Did You Hear About the Morgans?  Nothing spectacular, but what we needed.).  So I took our Redbox movie, went to the movie rental machine, and returned it.  The only problem was, it was the BLOCKBUSTER movie rental machine.  So I watched as the machine courteously reported that "No Media Was Detected" and then promptly switched to "Out of Order."

I stared at the machine.  I was mortified.  I was also multi-tasking (big no-no if you ask my mom)--ironically, by being on the phone... with my mom.  And then the yetzer hara reared it's ugly head and I fully embraced his excuses.  "This is way too embarrassing, you can't do this, it probably happens all the time, you'll deal with it later but you'll be late for your appointment.  Just leave."

I left.

Which, of course, just makes it all the more awkward and embarrassing.  Y"h did NOT have my back.

So I spent the very long ultrasound appointment planning my attack and imagining all the old gnarly Dollar Store employees screaming at me for ruining their business and breaking their machine and demanding I buy them a new one.

Luckily, the managers are actually chilled-out twenty somethings.  Who, quite frankly, laughed in my face (as politely as one can laugh in someone's face when not laughing is just not an option) when I told them what I'd done.  I gave them my name and number, reported the Out of Order machine to Blockbuster (India), and went home.  A few hours later I get a call from the next on-duty manager.

"Hi, is this Kayla?"
"This is Somethingorother from Dollar Saver."
"Oh, hi..."  (I hadn't really heard him.)
"Yeah, I have your (barely suppressed giggle) Redbox DVD."
"Ohhh.  Yes.  Yup.  Ok.  I'll be in shortly.  Thank you sooooo much."
(Outright laughter.)  "Yeah, ok, see you then."

When I went in, I found Mr. Somethingorother, asked him if he worked there, and then identified myself as "the ditz with the Redbox DVD."  He actually finished that sentence for me.

Then he told me it was his opinion that "they make it a Big Red Box for a reason."  In as friendly a way as possible.

I guess it's as good a time as any to really understand what they meant in theater school when they said to "check your ego at the door."  This is a whole new level.

All I have to say is, thank Gd this baby will be attached to my body for another many months so I don't have to worry about misplacing it.

Gourmet Date Night!

This week our goal was to get into the food in our fridge, freezer, and pantry that is otherwise getting neglected (I think the falafel mix has been waiting for us to get inspired for almost a year).  So date night led to me fishing out the frozen whole wheat pizza dough from the fridge (homemade... yum) and planning a vegetarian pizza (1. I wanted cheese, 2. it's the 9 days so we don't eat meat).

I found this recipe for pesto pizza online and we made it with a few adjustments.  Mainly, since Omri couldn't find pre-made pesto or a jar of kosher artichoke hearts, he came home with two huge batches of basil and a whole fresh artichoke.  I was totally overwhelmed but it turned out to be the best move possible!  

I learned that you can MICROWAVE AN ARTICHOKE!  After trimming the top and the sharp tips, taking off any gnarly leaves from the bottom, and cutting the stem, wash it and stick it in the microwave, covered.  (The website said plastic wrap but that scares me so we covered it with a piece of wax paper.)  7 minutes.  Done.  I made a poor-man's hollandaise imitation (good thing my dad doesn't read this blog or I'd be disowned) with margarine, mayonnaise, paprika and lemon juice so we could nosh on the leaves while making the pizza.  It was fine, since I wasn't looking so much for it to taste like hollandaise and was just hoping for a compliment for the artichoke leaves.  Great parve option, by the way!

Omri checked the basil and we put it into the food processor with fresh garlic and olive oil until it was just perfect.  

I also chopped up some veggies (as per the recipe)--green pepper and red onion--and grilled them briefly (not from the recipe but I get nervous putting raw veggies on the pizza since Mark Bittman says not to).  After they were done I added sliced olives and chopped fresh tomato.  I should have put in the fresh artichoke heart then but forgot!  

The (pre-cooked) dough was covered with the fresh pesto, piled high with veggies, then feta, then (when I remembered) the artichoke heart.  Here it is mid-process:

And here's the yummy result!

YUM!  I highly recommend this recipe to any pizza or pesto lover!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Practical Shoes

After much thought about last night's traumatic visit to DSW (why do shoe stores seem so exciting and then so quickly become overwhelming?) I started doing some serious online hunting for cute, practical shoes.  There MUST be such a thing.  For a girl who wears only skirts, a bad pair of shoes is just too prominent a fashion faux-pas.

So here's the wish-list.

These boat shoes by our favorite shoe maker, Merrell, definitely fit the bill.  I've never tried on a Merrell shoe that didn't feel fabulous... and this one looks it, too.  Six different splendid colors of comfy-yet-dainty shoeage.  Swoon.

Dansko shoes strike me as generally too clunky but with the right, nicely tailored skirt and a clever shirt, these could round off a perfect Shabbos outfit without keeping you sitting at home wondering what's going on at the other side of town.

And as gorgeous as these baby blue Born flats are...

true flats must become a thing of the past, at least for another few months.  1 1/2-2" is apparently the way to go when your center of gravity is being gradually pushed forward from the midsection.

An alternative flat would be Crocs Crocband Flat, which I love in navy with red and white accents.  Too bad I didn't find these before the 4th of July!

I ended up with a sportier (and apparently no longer available) version of this Mary Jane from Anne Klein Sport.  The material on the upper is more athletic, the strap is a smidge further back, and the heel is more sneaker-like, but this gives a general idea.  It might not be a match made in heaven, but it's a big step up from my favorite go-to Old Navy flip-flops.  My back is thanking me already.

Ok, enough shoes for one day.  

Time to put that nesting instinct to use.

Massive three-part picture post... it's been a while!

PART ONE: The Belly  

If authors were honest, books on pregnancy would have these words of advice under "pregnancy fashion"

If you really care, don't get pregnant.

Because it doesn't matter how much money you have and how fabulous the designers are that are making the clothes, eventually you will, like me, find yourself in the -- I have trouble typing this -- Practical Shoes section of DSW wanting to hide your face in shame.

Ah yes!  It's out!  I did some "advanced calculations" and decided that the chances of anyone but my mom reading this beats the likelihood of running (big belly first) into a friend not-yet-in-the-know so I might as well get the process down on record.

So here's where we've been while I wasn't posting because who can post about anything else when you're GOING TO HAVE A BABY?!?   (G-d willing!)

So, here's the little bugger from a few weeks ago... this shirt doesn't fit anymore.  That was fast.

PART TWO: The Food

This is for Whitney, who requested photos, here was the massive erev Shabbos cook-off from last week.  We had some amazing guests and a really lovely time.  I'm a huge fan of making lots at a time, in small batches, and freezing.  Here are the 16 baby challahs that I baked.  I won't be baking challah again for a few months :)

Or my absolute favorite carrot cake...
(The recipe is no longer online! Such a shame!  This cake is packed with raisins, walnuts and, of course, shredded carrots.  Deeelicious.)

Ok this chicken is slightly charred... but it's my favorite chicken dish and tasted better than it looks.  And this from a girl who's really not a fan of meat.  Broiled chicken with Jack Daniels' BBQ sauce and veggies and pineapple mmmmmm...

Potato kugel, which we don't particularly love but goes great if left on top of the chulent pot until lunch on Saturday.

Finally, here's a preview of what I couldn't take pictures of because it was made (or finished cooking) on Shabbos.  Our chulent, some amazing fresh cherries, and the pineapple that's left from the chicken which turned into an amazing fruit salad.  We also had dips, gefilte fish, a regular romaine salad, an Asian cabbage salad, and another fruit salad.  Mmm...


We went on a fabulous overnight to Boston for 4th of July (although the only thing we DIDN'T do was fireworks!)  It was amazing to do the fun road trip, see open roads and SPACE (something we miss dearly in NJ), and get away from our crazy heat wave.

Our view as the sun was coming up on the highway... about two hours into the trip.  (We left at 4 AM after a brief nap.  Fenway was the next day, which kept us going strong, but we opted to watch the fireworks from the comfort of our hotel room bed.)

We had a difficult time trying to figure out why there were so many parking spots available  We spent a good ten minutes looking for hidden signs until we realized we're just not in NY anymore.

Our view from the bleachers at Fenway, by far the highlight of our trip, despite the fact that the Red Sox seemed to think they were also on vacation.  That would be the one and only head between us and the (far far back of) the field.  Very exciting :)

Obligatory stadium shot.  Omri looks so hot in Red Sox paraphernalia.

The highlight of Omri's Fenway foray.  Meat and milk vending machines that "cook" your kosher food for you--and you STILL get to pay outrageous ballpark prices!  (They were small, but surprisingly good!)

Future Fan t-shirt.  Of course I bought it!

Proof that Omri's really a Jewish hippie at heart.  He went a night without sleeping to make sure he'd make minyan Sunday morning in Boston, but on Monday, he got to get in touch with his inner Chassid.

Finally, some silly tourist-y pictures to round it out:


Conclusion: road trips are awesome, especially with an Omri.


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