Friday, November 30, 2012

Last day in New York (for a while)

It's here- our last full day in New York. In case you've ever wondered how you might spend your last day at home before embarking on a 5 month sojourn in another country, allow me to dazzle you with the details of my exciting day!

First of all I woke up early, started thinking about all that I needed to do, and could not get back to sleep. Then, just when I started feeling a bit peckish and wondering what I would have for breakfast I realized I had not taken my thyroid meds, and thus could not have breakfast yet. Sadness.

Well, that's brought you up to the present moment. I'm hungry and in need of tea! But here's what's on tap for the rest of the day.

Shower. Laundry. Sew up my favorite pillowcase, which has developed a tear. Change the sheets. Call the village water department. Run to friend's house to pick up her leftover rupees (India does not allow the import or export of currency, so we can't actually change money until we get there. The university is sending 2 cars to pick us up, and gave us a number to call if anything went wrong. But: no phone + no rupees = how on earth can we call?? So dear friend is helping us out). Pack. Charge all electronic devices. More laundry. Have various friends and children over to say goodbye.  Try to pawn our aloe plant off on one of said friends. Make dinner, wash dishes. Play video games. Collapse into bed.

PS Fear I have made totally the wrong decision about what yarn to bring. Realized the cardigan I'm planning requires a solid colored yarn, not the slightly variegated one I've packed. This throws the entire plan into disarray! I mean, I have a solid colored yard I could bring instead, but what if that changes the colors of shawls I want to knit? Or what if I shouldn't be trying to design my most ambitious sweater yet while traveling? Maybe I should just stick with what I've packed. But the cardigan yarn I packed won't work for my plan, etc, etc, etc. The yarn, she is a cruel mistress.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jews on the move

A new packing dilemma has presented itself: which of our religious objects should we bring with us to Bangalore?

We'll be in India for Hanukkah, Purim, Pesach, and of course Shabbos. Many Shabboses. Hanukkah we've settled- the kids each have a hanukkiah with their name on it, and we're bringing both of those. I even bought candles for them in advance (normally we buy our Hanukkah candles about 3 days before the holiday begins)! They're already packed, wrapped up in some cloth diapers I'm bringing for a woman I met on Rav who wants to cloth diaper her baby.

Pesach is also (sadly) a no brainer, as we simply do not have the luggage space to bring our gorgeous seder plate, matzo box etc. I love them so much, and will miss seeing them at the holiday this year. And there's nothing particular we need to bring for Purim, so that's easy too.

The hard part is Shabbos. We love Shabbos, and love the beautiful objects that we use to celebrate the day.

Our candlesticks

Our kiddush cup

This beautiful incense burner that my grandmother bought us in Budapest (it is an antique and likely belonged to a family who fled Hungary during the Shoah. We treasure it.). It's this cool art-deco-y kind of thing, made of silver, shaped like a flower.

A flower with a star of David on the top.

I'm told that we will be able to find candles and candlesticks quite easily, so I think we will buy those there. I'm too nervous to bring our incense burner; it will stay at home. So I suppose we will have room for the kiddush cup, though I expect wine might be hard to come by!

We're bringing a mezuzah, too, of course. The one we have on our front door has been at the front door of every house that Robert and I have lived in together, and I was very tempted to take it (and put up another in its place while we're gone). However, I believe we're going to take this one instead. It was made by a friend of mine, and I think it will be joyful to see it on the doorpost of our home in Bangalore.

We use these objects on a regular basis to constantly construct our identity, examine our choices, and reinforce our values. It's hard to think of leaving any of them behind, but I'm looking forward to using some of them (and finding others) to create a Jewish home for our family in a new world, just as Jews have always done. And at the same time I am incredibly grateful that we are making this move because we want to, and not because we fear for our lives, as so many Jews (including my own family) have been forced to do. Still, it is the transportable nature of our rituals, our beliefs, and our selves that has allowed us survive and thrive in communities around the world. When we became Jews on the move, we also became the People of the Book.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Preparatory knitting

Right now I'm doing something I wouldn't normally associate with getting read to go live in south India for a while.

I'm making slippers.

See, it occurred to me a few days ago that the floors in our apartment will almost certainly be tile. Winter temps in Bangalore can dip into the high 50s at night, and there's no heating. This = cold apartment in the morning and night, and even colder floors!

Luckily I'd made Zion a pair of knitted/felted slippers a couple of months ago, so he was all set.

Pretty cute, right? It was a dead simple (and fast) pattern, so I decided to make Liel a pair of the same. But she didn't want the cuffs on them. Instead, she wanted buttons for decoration. And she wanted one slipper to be gold and the other to be green. The different yarns I used felted somewhat differently, but she's happy with them (and honestly, she'll only use them for a month or two before it becomes quite hot!) so I'm happy too.

Yes, those are bat buttons. I'm so proud of myself for buying those when I saw them a couple of years ago!

Now I'm working on a pair for me. I'm running out of feltable yarn, so mine are going to be mismatched as well. But they'll be light, warm, and take up very little suitcase space, so I love them already!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Packing, part 1

I'm not sure how many parts will be in this series, but I'm sure I'll need to post about packing more than once before we leave!

I finally started packing today. I haven't been avoiding it, it's just that we use the things we're going to take with us...and so we can't pack them. But today I started bringing things downstairs. I have extra conditioner and gel, because even though I understand that I can buy hair care products in Bangalore, I also understand that my curly hair is picky as hell and that I'm vain enough to want to give it what it likes. Plus I won't be bringing those things back home, so more suitcase space/weight then! Clearly a win.

There are bags of vitamins and probiotics, a small bag of nail polish for me and Liel, a gifts for people in Bangalore, and a stack of extra pillowcases. We decided to bring our own pillows, since a good pillow can really make or break a night's sleep. I'm bringing two cases for each pillow, so that we can have one to put on while the other is in the wash. I'm going to let each kid bring one of their lightweight blankets too, mostly as a comfort item. They both love curling up in their blankets on the couch, and I think it will please them to have them in India.

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that tile floors + no heat + temps in the high 50s at night = cold feet. I had knitted and felted Zion a pair of slippers a couple months ago, so I just made one for Liel too. Haven't felted them yet, I'm hoping to knock out a pair for me as well. My Ugg boots will be too bulky. So that's still on the to-do list. I also need to pack some colored pencils and crayons and markers for Liel, just to hold her over until I can buy more there. I put a couple of free travel books (narratives, not guides) on my kindle, still need to find a few more for each kid.

Then I spent an hour or more staring at my yarn, my Ravelry queue and back at my yarn. I can't bring it all, and it's really hard figuring out what I might want to knit in the future! Yarn selection in India will be limited, though I bet I can beg some friends to mail me things if I get really desperate.

And finally there's shoes. Shoes will be difficult for me to find in India, what with my big American feet! And unlike yarn, they're heavy. So I need to make sure that I bring shoes that are cute, comfortable, and wearable in at least two different seasons. I've decided to wear my beloved Birkenstock Bostons on the plane, as they're ridiculously comfortable, will keep my feet warm, and are easy to take on/off. I've had these shoes for 14 years, have resoled them at least twice and the cork is finally starting to crumble. So sad. In the meantime, I found a pair of Birkenstock Gizeh sandals on crazy sale and after much hemming and hawing over color finally ordered these:

They should arrive on Tuesday. Hopefully they will be as excellent for tromping around the world as my Bostons have been! And more suited to the weather in South India too ;)

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I sure have been doing a lot of whining here lately, huh? Things have certainly been more challenging than usual, but that doesn't mean I don't have an absolute embarrassment of riches to be thankful for.


Health (usually!)









A few days ago I read about a cool Thanksgiving craft for kids on Jewish Homeschool NYC: a thankfulness tree. Or a gratitude tree. I can't remember what she called it, but you get the idea! Zion and Liel each made one.

Here is Zion's.

Now with my Shadow! Zion wrote something he is thankful for on each leaf (both kids came up with their thankful lists totally on their own). They say, reading from left to right:

I am thankful for friends.

I am thankful for a home.

I am thankful for family.

I am thankful for water.

I am thankful for food.

This is Liel's tree.

Her leaves say, going from left to right:

I am thankful for Fluffy.

I am thankful for life.

I am thankful for water.

I am thankful for people being kind to me.

I am thankful for bats.

I am thankful for mommy.

I am thankful for family.

I am thankful for food.

I love these kids. I am so thankful that they are mine, that I get to homeschool them, that we get to be together so much, and that we have an amazing new adventure coming up in 9 DAYS!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Banana Bread

OK, enough with the sickness and worry and the whining! How about a nice, vaguely holiday themed recipe instead?

When I was a kid my mom made the most delicious cranberry banana bread. I have a photocopy of the recipe she used, which I think may have come from Sunset magazine. Yesterday I decided to adapt it, making it gluten and egg free. It could easily be dairy free too, though I did use some butter in mine.

The bread came out really, really well. It is in fact my most successful gluten free, egg free quick bread! It doesn't crumble at all and at nearly 24 hours old it is still moist and delicious.

See how pretty it is?

And maybe a little close up...

Om nom nom!!


Makes one loaf, can be doubled.

Pre-heat oven to 350, and oil a bread pan.  Whisk together:

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs worth of Ener-g egg replacer

In another bowl beat together

1 1/4 c mashed banana
5 T of melted butter OR oil of your choice or a combination (I used butter and sunflower seed oil)
1/4 c plain yogurt

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then stir in 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries. Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake for 50-55 min.


Monday, November 19, 2012


My family has some pretty robust immune systems. On average I'd say we get sick once a year, but that's usually just a cold of some sort. So when we stayed with some dear friends in Texas, and one member of that family was sick, we were just extra careful with not touching and hand washing and hoped for the best.

But a couple of days after we got home Zion got sick. And the day after that, I did. Our symptoms matched our friend's- sore throat, loss of voice (me, not Zion), coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy. A few days later Robert had a raging fever, and last night Liel got that flushed, glassy eyed look of a feverish child. Their symptoms didn't match ours or our friend's, and today we discovered that they have hand, foot, and mouth disease. Oh and Zion apparently does too, as he was running a 101.6 temperature by late afternoon and complaining of a sore throat again.

So here we are, literally haven't been sick in over a year, and then two illnesses in one week! Thanksgiving plans have had to be totally scrapped (again), and I have to watch my family suffer. Poor Liel is particularly sick.

We're doing everything we can to get back to our normal healthy state before we leave for Bangalore- 12 days and counting!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


That's what Zion has told me a couple of times in the past few days- that's he's nervous about going to India. When I ask him why he says that he's nervous to leave his home for so long, which is totally understandable. We talked about it a bit more tonight and both the kids got somewhat teary. They're nervous to leave the home, country, language, climate, food etc that they've known all their lives, and exchange it for...what, exactly? They don't know. I don't really know! So I can't really help them too much on that front. All I can do is assure them that such feelings are normal when facing the unknown, encourage them to talk, and tell them why I think this is such an amazing opportunity for our family.

And I'm a bit nervous too, truth be told. I'm nervous that I'll get eaten alive by mosquitoes, or worse, that the kids will (happily they haven't really shown my mosquito attracting habits, but you never know). I worry that we'll get sick. I worry that the air pollution will make us sick, and cause Robert and me to rely on our inhalers just to breathe. I worry that the noise and chaos will overwhelm us. I worry that day to day living will require all of my emotional energy. I worry that we'll arrive, and I'll have two hungry, thirsty children and I won't know where to buy them food or clean water. I worry that we'll be lonely.

But I'm also hopeful. I'm hopeful that we are going to have an amazing experience of a wholly different country and culture. I'm hopeful that we'll meet amazing people and see amazing things. I'm hopeful that day living will be exciting, that the mosquitoes will respect my bug spray, that any illness will be relatively mild, and that we will miss India when the time comes for us to leave.

I'm choosing the feed the hope. Not always the easiest thing to do, when my kids are tearful and my head is swimming with questions about the FRRO (foreigner regional registration office), about appropriate clothing for the heat (is a tank top with regular, not spaghetti straps ok?), about mosquito nets, about having our debit cards work (and not shut down for fraud when we use it overseas. Yes, I plan to call ahead and tell the bank. Based on friends' experiences I am not at all certain this will do anything in particular to help me), about lists, rupees, passport photos, visas, and a thousand other details.

Deep breaths. Hope.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So it begins

I started packing today. Not in suitcases (it's too early for that yet), but my yarn and knitted items. I've been fretting about the ones I'm leaving at home (mostly knitted items as I cut my yarn stash way down in preparation for this move), worrying that they would get munched by bugs in my absence. So I decided to put everything in ziploc bags, in the hopes that this would minimize or avoid this problem. I may even put the ziplocs in some plastic tubs, but I'm not sure that'll actually help.

At any rate, Robert bought me a bunch of huge ziploc bags today, and I packed all of my knitted items that I'm not planning to bring to India or wear in the 17 days remaining to us here in New York. And I put all of my yarn in bags, other than the stuff I'm currently knitting with. It was oddly satisfying to seal everything up! And I felt productive, like I was actually making progress towards being prepared, so that was nice too.

Less nice was trying to decide which shawls to bring with me. I expect I'll get more use from shawls than from sweaters, but I also don't expect I'll wear a lot of wool shawls, even very lightweight ones. But I love them so! I really wanted to bring 5 or 6, but I'm limiting myself to 2-3. Sigh. Probably 2. I must be practical! And I am bringing yarn to knit more while I'm there, though I'm not sure how (or if) I'll be able to block them.

Zion and I are both still sick- snot, coughing, asthma, the works. So glad we're not driving to Chicago tomorrow, even if I do get sad about not seeing everyone there when I think about it. I've been making and taking a tonic with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and hot water, which I really think has done wonders for my throat. When I got sick I lost my voice pretty much right away, and my throat hurt like crazy, even drinking water made me wince. A day on vinegar tonic and my sore throat was gone and my voice started coming back. Two days and my voice is totally back to normal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The first of the lasts

Today I went to Trader Joe's for the last time before we leave the country. It was kind of sad actually. We've been going to the TJ's since we moved here and some of the employees actually know us. When I told my favorite one that at wouldn't be back for 5-6 months she looked shocked, and then spent 2-3 minutes saying nice things such as, "what a wonderful opportunity! Have a great trip! We'll miss you! Please give your husband and son my best wishes too!". *sniffle*

Speaking of sniffles, I'm a bit sicker today than yesterday. I won't bore you with the details of my health, but it is preventing me from making some phone calls I need to make, since I have almost no voice. Hopefully it will return soon. Zion seems much cheerfuller than yesterday (though he is coughing more) so with a bit of luck that means that he, at least, is on the mend. After being reminded to do so by our pediatrician at Liel's 7 year check up yesterday, I bought a truckload of probiotics (and other vitamins) take with us to India today. And I think I'll make chicken soup again for dinner tonight, if the kids don't protest too much. They're generally outstanding about eating whatever I make, but I know that I don't like eating the same thing too frequently, and we had chicken soup on Saturday. But I think it's the best thing for me right now (along with the large salads I'm consuming daily), and it's pretty easy so there.

One of my pre-leaving tasks is writing up our quarterly reports for the school district. Those are actually due this week, so I have to get on them. I wrote 2/3's of Zion's last night before my brain refused to go any further.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A hurricane, a wedding, Austin, and a change of plans

Along with the rest of the East Coast, we've had a crazy couple of weeks! We lost power during Superstorm Sandy, just 4 days before we were due to fly to Texas for my cousin's wedding. All in all we were quite lucky- our house was unharmed, and the weather wasn't too cold, so we were pretty comfortable during those days. Our town had a lot of downed trees (including big ones) and power lines, and our neighborhood was among the last in the county to have power restored (a week after the storm).

Here's a huge oak tree by our house that fell down. I've never seen so many downed trees in my life.

Since walking around in the dark with trees and power lines strewn along streets and sidewalks isn't generally considered safe for children, the village cancelled Halloween. To make matters worse for my own kids, we discovered that one of our pumpkins had rotted before we could carve it, which meant that the kids had to share a jack o'lantern. They were troopers about the whole thing! They each carved a face on one side of the remaining pumpkin, and Robert and I were super proud of their good attitudes.

A bigger concern came up a few days into the outage, when my brother called to say that his flight to Texas had been cancelled. He was officiating at the wedding, and so had arranged to take a bus up to Boston and fly from there a day later than originally planned. Robert and I spent a tense night worrying that our flight would be cancelled too, and that the airline might not be able to find seats for all four of us on a new flight. Luckily our flight wasn't cancelled and we were able to fly to Texas on the first full day that Newark reopened. Off to the land of electricity!

The wedding (and all the events surrounding it) was beautiful. It was wonderful to spend time with my family, and the weather was gorgeous. It kind of reminded me of home in fact, though somewhat less pretty to my eye, and more humid. The kids were too cute for words, reading from The Velveteen Rabbit during the ceremony. My brother worked with Zion earlier that day and Zion learned to project his voice without shouting. I gotta say- he did an amazing job! It was an outdoor wedding with no amplification, and everyone could hear him perfectly. Liel was a bit quieter, but also did a great job. Again: super proud. Many people came up to us after the wedding to tell us what a great job the kids had done, how cute they were, and how articulate.

Here are the four of us.

And here are the kids with my cousin and his bride!

After the wedding we spent another week in Texas, visiting my father in law and his wife, celebrating Liel's birthday, and visiting Robert's extra family/adopting family (dear friends who helped to raise him). We saw the bats at the Congress Street Bridge

Visited UT

And the capitol

Ate dinner at the Salt Lick for Liel's birthday (where we had one of the best waiters ever!! But no actually good pictures)

And by the end we were very, very tired.

We re-discovered that traveling, especially with small children, takes a lot out of you. So with great sadness we decided to cancel our trip to Chicago, where we were planning to visit more family and attend our annual academic conference. We both felt absolutely awful about it, but with our temporary move to India just 19 days away we feared that another 10 days on the road would have us all making that move utterly exhausted. Since Zion and I are both currently sick, I'm feeling pretty certain that this was the right decision. I'm sad that we won't get to spend time with some of our dearest friends and family before we go, but starting an adventure like that sick and/or exhausted just sounds awful! Happily, one of our friends is already thinking about visiting us when we return, and hopefully other friends and family will be able to do so as well.

Next up: my massive to-do list!