Monday, September 25, 2006

Song from our Wedding Online!

A song written and performed by my friend and colleague, Steve Goodman, HaStav Avar (The Autumn has Passed), based on text from Song of Songs is now online. At our wedding in March, just after the rains, "when the song of the turtledove was heard in the land..." Steve played the song and Marcie Schrier sang it for us.


Great article on the humble joys of potato kugel.
I once made a Jerusalem Kugel which is a noodle-based kugel that involves carmelized sugar. I had to pitch the first attempt (carmelizing sugar requires attention!) but it was quite worth the extra effort. The result was not sweet. Quite interesting and somehow much yummier than the "genuine" Jerusalem kugels I've sampled when in Jerusalem.


A couple weeks ago I made Faye's recipe for a special Shabbat overnight bread called Kubaneh. I was very curious about this recipe which like Cholent gets cooked very slowly overnight. I had trouble imagining what it should look like since I'd never seen it. I searched the web and found a picture next to what seems to be an unauthorized posting of Faye's recipe. Anyway mine didn't come out quite like the picture, it didn't rise as much.
I wish that as I was rolling bunches of dough with butter I'd followed my instinct and added cinnamon, sugar, and maybe raisins too. This would have made it more of a hot cinnnamon bun than a traditional "Kubaneh". It would have been more worthwhile. Still, it was good.
So what was it like? Well I used some whole wheat flour but I think even without it, it would have achieved a nice brown color. While certainly bread-like, there's something different about it. It comes out somewhere between soft and flaky, with a rich flavor that owes to the slow cook baking as much as it does to the butter.
If you do try making it, I strongly suggest you thow those whole eggs on top. It's easy to do and the overnight cooked hard-boiled eggs are really neat.

Monday, September 18, 2006

At the Movies


Last night I went to the movies with my friend Lili to see the latest Almodovar film, Volver. It was all about women: mothers and daughters, sisters, aunts, friends. Amazing how he can do that, Almodovar, get into the lives of women. It was quieter than his movies usually are, more restrained, less colorful, less shock. Not as good as Bad Education which literally left me sitting stunned in my seat uttering "He is a genius" for several minutes.
But still. It held my interest. What is going on? What will happen next? It was just a pleasure to watch. Penelope Cruz is stunningly beautiful. Carmen Maura is better than ever. And everyone else was wonderful too, producing sympathetic characters.


I have honored my "last Spielberg dollar spent" promise since the duo of Shindler's List and Jurassic Park turned me off of the blockbuster director. I even avoided "Private Ryan".
Catch Me if You Can
managed to slip through a few years ago and that was only because I'd loved the bookso much. The book was way better but thanks to DiCaprio the movie at least wasn't awful. I may have even seen it on a plane, thus avoiding keeping my vow never to spend another cent on a Spielberg movie.
"Munich" came our way cost free. But still. It has caused me to reasses my vow. As of now, I swear never to spend another second on a Spielberg movie. Yes, it was that bad. Why? Let's start with the beginning. The film deals with the terror attack carried out on Israeli atheletes at the Olympic compound in Munich in 1972. (Perhaps I should warn you that my critique will contain spoilers. However, the facts of what happened are well known and are pretty much summarized in, say, the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on the subject. The rest of the film is based on a highly fictional account which is so implausible that knowing or not knowing the outline ahead of time makes it no more or less surprising. Besides, I am hoping to save you the pain of wasting your time on this film.)
Since this event took place under the eyes of actual, modern film crews, there presumably exists some rather pertinent footage. Heck, this event took place during my lifetime. So, if you wanted to show footage, you could show actual footage. Which I guess he sort of did. For quite a while. And too confusing what was footage, what was film.
"Is the whole movie going to be like this?" I asked Adi in despair. You could actually make a good documentary based on the footage. But this was supposed to be a thriller.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


By popular demand! Belly Week 26

Cooking Again

I haven't abaondoned the Faye Levy project, it's just been a little slow. Or my reporting on it has been a little slow. Here are a few things I've made from the book:

Homestyle Chumus

This was the easiest and perhaps the best of my recent recipes. You basically take a can of chickpeas, drain it, and mix it with some fresh garlic, parsley, lemon juice and raw tahina. Oh yea, and some red pepper flakes. That makes it rock.
Oddly, I'd never really gotten behind the whole raw tahina thing. Raw tahina (or "tahini" if you pronounce it like that) comes in a plastic jar. It resembles natural peanut butter in that it's very hard to stir and the paste gets separated from the oil. One advantage of the raw tahini is you can opt for the "whole sesame tahina" which I guess is healthier, like the whole wheat version. Except for tahina. It's probably cheaper too, and it keeps in your fridge basically forever. All you need to do then to "make" tahina is add water, lemon juice, and garlic if you like (I like).
With this Chumus (or humus if you like that spelling), the chick peas stay whole, so it's chunky style. We had it for breakfast, the traditional time to have humus.


Faye has a recipe for "French pastry dough". I made some, thinking it would be a good base for a tart to use up a surplus of plums. Her recipe was for a rasberry tart, I think. Well, the dough seemed a)kind of boring and b)a lot of work for something so boring. So I surfed the web for inspiration and maybe something more appropriate for my plums.
Epicurious had this great Plum Tart with Marzipan Crumble. I didn't have marzipan but I had almonds and a mini-chopper. It was good inspiration. The plums didn't come out soft enough but my improvised crumble was bakery class quality.


I never really liked blinzes. My bubbe, grandma's mother, used to make them and they were considered a real special treat. Only, I never thought so and felt kind of guilty for not appreciating the sort of sweet, yet sort of cheesy things that I understood were special, her specialty.
So I wasn't so excited to make them, but there they were in the book. With some unusual sounding filling options: cabbage or mushroom and cream. More savory side blinzes. OK.
Like most things involving cabbage, the quantity produced was large. The recipe included some sauteed onions and a hard-boiled egg. The pancake part of the blinz came out light and fluffy. Too much so for my taste actually. I longed for the "flappers" my mother used to make when Jake and I were kids which were prepared much the same way (in the blender) but were thicker, denser, tastier.
I wasn't crazy about the cabbage stuffed blinz and because making them was very very bowl and pan intensive (= massive clean up effort), I don't think I'll be making them any time soon. But Adi was quite pleased with them and gobbled up all the leftovers within a day or two.
Still I was impressed. Like so many Eastern European recipes, these blinzes took simple, inexpensive ingredients and transformed them into something hearty, satisfying, and a little surprising.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Puking Again

Sorry I haven't written. It's been a tough week. Had one good day but other days have seen a return of UTTER EXHAUSTION plus nausea and a bit of puking. I puked last night at our birthing class, just before viewing a lovely film on natural childbirth. Not great timing.
I was proud of Adi who was the first to give a reaction to the film:
"I was just wondering... if this natural thing is supposed to be a return to traditional ways, well, wouldn't it make more sense to have an experienced old woman around rather than the clueless husband? Isn't that the way things were done traditionally? Also, didn't women DIE in childbirth all the time?"

His comments were met with tongue-clicking and head shaking, but I thought he had some good points.
Wendy B., our instructor noted that having the fathers present was indeed new but that it fit with new household roles in general, "If the father is going to help with diaper changing, grocery shopping, doing the laundry (at this I elbowed Adi), and so on, he should also have the chance to enjoy the miracle of birth."
She noted that now a-days, modern medicine enables us to do a lot of pre-natal testing, offsetting the risk of mothers dying in child birth. While natural childbirth is not always appropriate, and complications can arise that in most cases it can go rather smoothly with minimal medical intervention. Fair enough.
I noted that we did not really hear any women shouting in the film. Some were smiling dopely, some seemed to be concentrated in exertion, all were breathing nicely.
"Well, that was glossed over, yes." Wendy admitted. The shouts were turned down and covered with a lovely melodic soundtrack. But.
During the break a woman asked me why it was we were thinking about C-section (if I may ask). I told her about the myomas which got her to give me a semi-sympathetic nod. Still I felt like I'm a bit of a freak in the class for my lack of utter devotion to natural birth. Hmmm. It will be interesting to see if everyone is singing the same tune after they give birth.
Meanwhile on the upside I will say that the film reduced my fear about how I would handle things if I unexpectedly start going into labor ahead of time. True, I would probably just call a taxi or otherwise make my way to a very nearby hospital. But worst case scenario I could call Lola, the downstairs neighbor to help and let my body do the rest.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pleasant Diversions


Check out the nice videos and artwork at this site, recommended by a friend who writes:
"To those of you looking for a piece of exceptional contemporary Judaica as a gift or a personal piece, please see the website that follows. Leo Contini is the father of a friend of mine; his work is truly unique and beautiful. The images do not do these objects justice but will give you an idea. It is hard to realize from the images that what one sees on the cups is a reflection of the intricate, fine workmanship on the saucer.
Take a look and yes, for those of you who think you recognize the name, this is the Contini family of the Finzi-Continis...

Spanish Podcast

Remember my fear of podcasting? Well I got over it and found some good stuff to listen to. Among the best is this show for learning Spanish as a 2nd language. The level is just great for me. A teacher reads an essay then goes through it, explaining words and phrases, all in Spanish. You can also find the texts of the classes online. One 15-minute podcast is exactly the right length for my morning commute, if I'm lucky! Today's subject was SIESTA. And it's right here on blogger.

Barnes and Noble University

Free, online classes and reading clubs. I'm doing one called "Find a Job You Love". See

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Is it Safe During Prenancy?

Coffee? Pretty much yes, unless you're a rat or drink 50-70 cups a day.
Sudafed? Best to abstain if you can.
See iVillage reference site.


A list of some books I like. Order through these clicks and help support my site.

Pregnancy Books

This is not a serious medical tome but rather a good comfort and good laugh. I devotedly follow her advice to keep my nails well manicured & my feet well pedicured because as the rest of my body goes totally out of control, it's really nice to be able to look at clean, pretty nails and feel SOME sense of stability. Plus, it feels good to have my feet massaged a bit and I imagine that soon I will not be able to care for them myself!

My favorite pregnancy reference. Well-designed so you don't have to read through scary lists of horrible things that can go wrong. Easy-to-digest (and read with your partner) mini-chapters on what's going on with you and your baby each week. Includes gentle suggestions of things to do, not preachy lectures. Also recommended by a friend for the post-partum baby care sections.


The book I'm cooking my way through. Excellent holiday sections. Wide spectrum of Ashkenazi and Mizrachi foods.

The classic. Not that I've read it.

Jewish Books

So far, liking it. There are some errors in the name section, but her attitude is right on.

Super book on planning a Jewish wedding. Highly reassuring, hence useful.

Great Reads

Really enjoyed this one. Funny, entertaining true story of disgruntled 29-year old secretary who takes on the task of cooking all 500+ recipes in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" within a year.

Linea Negra

Example: black line.
It just appeared the other day. Monday, in fact. It wasn't there in the morning. And then, there it was in the evening. I was wondering if such a thing would appear. I've also been checking my belly button to see if it will go from "inie" to "outie" (not yet, though it's not as deep as it used to be).
It's a fairly faint, somewhat wobbly (not straight) line from the top of my belly (now located about 3 fingers-width south of my chest line) to my belly button. And then it also "spills" down from my belly button. The lower part is like an old rock fountain that has a trail leading down from the spout even when no water is flowing.
I understood that these things disapear after you give birth. But I was checking it out in the bathroom mirror at work and Chen showed me hers, still there (though a little faded) a year after she delivered. Oh well. It's not like you get an extra prize when you die for an unmarked body.


It is interesting to note how people's reactions to C-sections differs. When I tell some people that a C-section is a likely outcome for me, they express disappointment and sympathy, their faces forming an "Oh" of pity. Others, especially those who have experienced them are far more up-beat.

"Good!" said Galina, my cosmeticana when I told her as she waxed my eyebrows yesterday, "Beleive me, it's the BEST!". She gave birth to her son by c-section, apparently because he was breach in week 41. I recall pencil-thin Galina wearing her pregnancy like a swallowed basketball, so I secretly wondered if size might have had something to do with it too.

Galina showed me her scar too, a thin line about the length of an index finger that fell just bellow her bikini line. Really not a big deal at all.

"Afterwards, for about a day, you feel bad. It's VERY hard to get up out of bed that first time. But only that first time. After that, it's really OK." Galina had a strong opinion about the rooming in too:

"Don't do it! Not at night anyway. Because you need your rest. And if you hear that baby crying and you can't get up, it will torture you. Why? You don't need that psychological scar. Nope. Take your rest. Believe me, that baby isn't going anywhere. At home, for the rest of your life, that kid is YOURS." Good points. She also said it was no big deal if the baby got a bottle during the first few days.

"No one ever said 'no' to a breast. That's not the problem. Getting them to give up the breast later, that can be a problem. So let them have an occasional bottle. No big deal."

I'm not sure I totally agree with her but the positive message I am getting is: don't be such a fanatic. Wait and see. Maybe it will be enough to have her with me all day during the day, when grandparents and Adi are around to help me lift her. And better to sleep throughout the night so I can recover more completely before going home. We'll see. Nothing has to be written in stone now.

Vicky, my manicurists, was also adamant.
"Did you talk to your doctor about a C-section?" she asked. I explained that I was expecting one.
"Good!" she said. Vicky is a little older than Galina and I didn't know her when she had her two girls. She is rounder than Galina too and gave birth to both girls naturally. "But I suffered," she explained. "And why? There's no need for it. C-section is the best."

Now you may be gafawing at these relatively non-professional opinions. But I find that when it comes to "girly" stuff (and what could be more girly than this stuff?), that beauticians are on the mark. Not only do they have their opinions, they have a catalogue of clients stories filed away.

Oh yes, Galina had another good suggestion:
"No one has to know that you had a C-section." A little late perhaps for readers of the blog but her point: once you have the baby it really doesn't matter how it got here.

My friend Jen had her first baby by C-section and the 2nd naturally.
"I really can't say that one or the other was better. They were different, and for reasons that may or may not have to do with the method. I enjoyed the C-section. I was happy. The natural birth was WAY more emotional and in that way harder. I really didn't suffer too much after the C-section. I think it helps to go into it rested and healthy (rather than after hours of exhausting labor). So it just depends."

Which brings me back to the fact that if I don't have a choice, there's no reason to get upset about it. In fact, maybe just the opposite.

On the very last episode of "Coupling" (the one after the episode that sent me into a panic!), Steve and Susan experience birth. Now you may recall that in their birthing class, Susan made Steve promise that he would ask her three times before giving her any drugs.

Well, during the actual birth Susan turns into a sweating, suffering beast who screams, "GIVE ME DRUGS NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!"
Soft Steve makes one feeble attempt at holding her off, "Now, honey, remember we said --"
Next thing we see a happy smiling Susan saying what a lovely lovley man the anesthesiologist is. Then the midwife takes Steve aside and explains that too much time has passed and they want to do a C-section, but they need his permission. They need Susan's permission too of course, but she is now floating in la-la land.

"Let me get this straight," says Steve. "If you cut, there will be no damage to the..."
"Yes, but it is MAJOR SURGERY. It will take time to recover..."
"But, no damage to..."
"That's correct."
"Ok, I'll have to talk it over with Susan." The midwife nods.
Steve enters Susan's room and says, "Honey, GREAT NEWS!!!"


Adi and I looked at each other at this point and said, "Yeah! C-section is the best!"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Belly Pic

This is actually from almost 2 weeks ago, at week 23.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tipat Chalav

I went to my first official visit at "Tipat Chalav". These are nationally sponsored neighborhood health clinics devoted to pre and post natal care. They are considered supplementary to doctor care and they strike me as a darn good idea.
I should have started some time ago but my doctor never mentioned them, perhaps assuming that most Israeli women simply know about them. Then the war started and I went to one in Zichron but didn't open a tik, a file.
Conveniently located a few minutes walk from my house, the Tipat Chalav was clean and cheerful yet had clearly seen better days. Funky child-oriented paintings and pro-breast feeding posters in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and Amaharit (Ethiopian) decorated the walls. The waiting room chairs could have used a replacement.
But most importantly, nurse Ela was really nice. And she had all the time in the world for me. She patiently filled out my tik carefully copying down all the information from various tests I carry with me in a folder (this folder did not leave my sight during the war). She recorded additional information such as my parents birth years and birth countries, my husband's profession, and so on. I kept thinking what a boon this data would be to researchers interested in matching the quantity of protein in urine to grandparents place of birth. Or maybe even more useful things. But she assured me that the data was strictly private and that the tik would be a lovely momento. (With this in mind, I'm happy to note that Ela has exceptionally nice handwriting.)
By the end of our time together, I felt she was caught up on all the important details of my pregnancy so far: the scary bleeding and hospitalization at 13 weeks, the myomas, the nausea and vomiting that is mercifully past, the decision not to have amneo (so nice that it's not a big deal anymore!!). And she had nothing but good things to say about my Dr. which is always nice to hear.

What else happens there? She takes my blood pressure, checks my urine for protein and something else (sugar mabye) and weighs me. Mention of that last item caused my blood pressure to spike just a bit, so she did it twice and all was fine. Urine check involves peeing into a cup then dipping a little plastic strip into it. Colored squares either retain their yellow colors, turn green or red. Very exciting.
I have gained about 10 kilos so far. I asked Ela if that's OK. She reasuringly put her hand on my arm and looked into my eyes with her green eye-lined ones and said, "The way we see it is, it's all for a good cause."
So maybe it'a little freaky that most of that I gained after the first 3 months (during which my weight did not change despite FEELING much fatter) and that Cholent currently weighs only 800 g. But, whatever. It's not like I'm up to running marathons now. I'll try to eat more vegetables, really I will.
She went through a long list of unpleasant side-effects which I happily was able to answer "No" to. Even the swelling I'd been feeling in my extremities upon waking has disappeared for a week or so.

The main benefit of going to Tipat Chalav (in addition to doing those basic standard checks) is that you can feel free to ask all the questions you want without fear or embarassment. You could ask the doctor too but a) He's a boy. and b) He's a bit more busy. No particular questions for Ela today but it was good that she reminded me that it's totally normal to experience sadness and mood swings now.


We saw the "real" doctor too in the evening. Everything OK there too. His ultrasounds are not nearly as exciting as Dr. Shapiro's, though it was nice to get a quick peek at Cholent who now moves often.
My myomas (fibroids) still there. They are not bothering Cholent, though they may be the reason she was lying transverse (horizontal relative to the floor) during our visit. A C-section therefore remains a likely outcome, not only because the myomas could be in the way but because they may make it more likely for her to be in a non head-down position (or impossible for her to get to a head-down position on her own).
Personally, I think it shows good sense to be transverse at least now - those head down pictures of babies always look uncomfortable to me.
For planning purposes you may find the following info useful:
(1)A final decision re: c-section will be made in week 36 of my pregnancy = Dec 19 - 4 weeks = ~ Nov 21
(2)C-section would be done Week 38 = Dec 19 - 2 weeks = ~ Dec 5.
(3)So.... while it is not 100% certain, I think it is very safe to say she will arrive sooner than Dec 19 at the very very very latest, with good money on a ~Dec 5 arrival.


I'm feeling less freaked out than last week about the actual birth. Talking to friends really helped. Particulary C. from work who had a baby last year, naturally. She said, "What, only now you're freaking out?"
That made me feel more normal about being afraid.
I also started reading up more on C-sections on the web and in a lovely little booklet my aunt wrote back in 1978.
I read about a woman in Mexico, Inés Ramírez Pérez who did a C-section ON HERSELF with a butcher's knife with only a few slugs of rubbing alcholol as anesthesia. She and baby Orlando survived. Her story made me think about how lucky I am and how no matter how bad it gets, it is extraordinarily unlikely that it will ever be as bad for me as it must have been for her!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Catch Up

I'm feeling a lot better today and it's time to get out of my funk and move on. First a little catch up on what's been going on this past week or so.

Cooking Project

Since the "Easy Lemon Chicken" I snuck in a few more recipes. Saturday I baked some other things, not from the book. Like Aunt Marcia's peach cake. I almost called it "Aunt Marcia's Amazing Peach Cake". In this case I think the adjective is justified. I woke up craving it, dreaming of it, that taste of summer. She used to make it for us at the lake. I found the recipe, in her hand, embedded in a letter she sent me about ten years ago.
Her version made enough for one 9x9 pan. That seemed impossibly skimpy to me. I knew half of that would disappear for breakfast and so if I wanted enough to be around when my in-laws came for a visit in the afternoon, I'd have to double it. Which I did. Adi woke just in time to enjoy it fresh out of the oven.
I should explain that this cake is half way to pie crust. It's got a lot of shortening. In this case, BUTTER. The peaches sit on top in all their glory, covered in more butter, and what seemed like too much but was just enough cinnamon and sugar.
It was a hit with the in-laws too and I felt like a good daughter-in-law for making it and for inviting them.
I also made Bizza Balls (check out the author if you follow that link ;-), a delicious appetizer I learned from my friend Ahlass. I'd been thinking about making this for a long time but it took me a while to assemble the ingredients and I was finally ready. Er, so I thought. Here, I should have halved the recipe. It makes sooooo many. And I didn't actually have enough of all the ingredients. Like, I ran out of flour. What to do? I added corn meal, thinking the grittiness would be nice. Still not enough. I had some bread flour. How different could it be? Turned out to be a lot different. Too gummy. Or maybe that was because I'd freaked out at the amount of oil and had skimped on it. I should have pitched it all but there were a lot of ingredients in there by now. No one of them particulary expensive, but collectively a non-insignificant little grocery bill. Grr. I threw in a whole package of zaatar to make the flavor more interesting. Now I had a huge mass of green sticky dough. I made a sample batch. Anyway I didn't have enough sesame seeds to coat the whole bowl's worth of balls. I thought to test the batch and pitch the rest if it was a no-go.
I didn't think they were that inspiring. I offered some to Adi to taste, with the warning that I'd botched the recipe.
"They're fine," he said, not knowing how heavenly they're supposed to be. "You're tunring into my mother," he added in reference to my warnings. His mother always prefaces each and every serving with a list of what she did wrong, making it absolutly impossible to enjoy any of the food she cooks which as a rule is perfectly fine.
I glared at him.
"That's not a bad thing," he teased.

Well some of the green un-yummy balls were on the table when his parents came and they seemed to like them. Still, they are no match for the cake, trust me. Moral of the story: when it comes to baking, stick to the recipe.

Saturday night I thought we'd keep it simple but I thought I could squeeze in one little Faye item. That item was a zuccini frittata. Not bad at all. Again Faye expected me to do a lot of container switching. I humored her this time and thought that yes, it really did seem to make sense to dry the frying pan after removing the sauteed little zuccini rounds. But I didn't see the point in adding back more oil. It's a non-stick pan afterall. No need.

Eggs with zuccini may seem boring and true it wouldn't win any great originality prizes but it was simple, satisfying, light, easy, and nice. Oh, I also jazzed it up by adding some parsely to the mix.

Cholent's Development

I definitly have a belly now. It's been easy to forget spending the week in a generous nightgown I bought on our honeymoon in Rome. It was big when I bought it. Now it's "comfortable" and still pretty. I can see why women in "traditional societies" (example: ones where they're pretty much expected to be pregnant or nursing during all their child-bearing years) favor generous, flowy, modest cuts in clothing(example: tent-like attire).

This week she is, according to the books, "the size of a banana". She sort of feels like one too. She is kicking more and it is no longer a goldfishy flutter I feel but more like a solid, sudden WHAP as though a banana is straightening out its curve for a moment then bouncing back to its natural shape.

My Health

Having a cold always stinks but having one pregnant proved to be really un-fun. The only upside was that when I felt it coming on, there was NO doubt in my mind that I would be staying home from work the next day.

I also realize that I must, must, must take it easy. I thought I was but I guess there are higher levels of relaxation I have not yet achieved that I must learn to explore.

Well that and it could be the subtle change in weather. It's getting cooler. Ever so slightly, but I'm sensitive to degree changes now.