Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Draft 1

Dear Abba,

B and I have read over your last message carefully, and given it full thought. The answer is no. B will not be converting to Judaism. We will be getting married on May 17th 2009, in the ceremony of our choosing. If you would like to lend us a chuppah to use during the ceremony so that we are incorporating some jewish traditions into our ceremony, we will be happy to exchange the vows we have written under one.

Your aims are not my aims. I do not want our children to have a religious identity. I'm not an atheist because I am lazy or I think religion is too hard, or I don't think it's a big deal. I think organized religion is wrong, and harmful, and I do not want to expose our children to that way of thinking. Having B convert would be a larger compromise than I am willing to make. And for what? Getting invited to a family reunion or two each year? Your stamp of your approval? Your love? If he converts, then what? Everything is hunky dory? We're just try to forget that your refused to even meet him for the past 2 years? That your love was conditional on him converting? That I wrote to you asking for a more honest and open relationship, and you replied by asking me to undertake an elaborate hoax so that you can save face in front of your family and your community?

If you feel that inviting us both to family events would be too much strain, and that you can't accept B into the family unless he converts, then that is your choice, and we will go our separate ways. How the other members of our extended family decides to treat us is up to them. If you ever decide to welcome B and me back into your life then I will happily try to forget the extremely disrespectful way in which you have treated us over the past few years, and will be happy to resume a relationship with you. We will also be happy to dress appropriately and keep the laws of kasharut, etc, for any time we are under your roof.

With Love,
Abandoning Eden

So what do ya'll think? I'm thinking I might leave out the middle paragraph. Then again, there's stuff in there that needs to be said, and maybe me always trying to not hurt his feelings is what led to this situation.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I don't even know what to think

So I decided to reach out to my dad one more time. He sent me an email about channukah and asked what was going on with me. I told him that me and B are thinking about having kids (and also getting a dog), and then wrote some heartfelt note about how I wasn't trying to make him upset with that news, and I wish we could have a relationship where we are both happy for each other, and respect each other's decisions, and that I don't not want to not have a relationship with him, but I can't go on having a relationship where I lie about everything in my life, and don't tell him important decisions. What can I say, I had just spent all of christmas with an awesome family, it was 4am, and I was feeling down on myself.

As so many people predicted, the thought of having kids must have shaken something loose in him. This is the reply he just sent me:

Hi Abandoning Eden,

We received your last e-mail and I read it carefully. It made me think. I always try to figure out what would be a "win-win" solution to various problems. What would make both parties ultimately happy? So, while I was davening in shul this morning (sometimes I get my best ideas while davening) I thought of the following possible solution for our mutual dilemma.

A win-win situation here would be one where you & B would be accepted and included in our family. Where there would no longer have to be a strain in our relationship. Where any future children you seem to be planing would be welcome and included. For us, a win would be one where you married someone within our faith. While it would be ideal for you to marry a frum man and be observant yourself, we know that that you are not at that point in life now. Yet, we are sure you understand that we take Judaism very seriously and follow God's word literally.

So here is my suggestion. Although I haven't had the pleasure of being introduced to B yet, from what you have told me, the two of you are very fond of each other and want to marry and start a family. I am sure he loves you very much and would not want to put you in a position where you have to choose between him and the whole rest of your family. So since he loves you and since you tell me that you are both agnostic and being labeled one religion or another does not mean all that much anyway, why doesn't he convert to Judaism?

Sure, I understand that a conversion for him would not be 100% sincere at this time. But, it would allow for the two of you to be included in our extended orthodox families, it would be beneficial for the religious identity of any future children and, who knows, maybe he will actually come to enjoy and appreciate our traditions and customs over time. It would also be beneficial for your siblings since it would set a good example for D and help E's chances of securing a future shidduch as well.

I would like you two to think about this for a while. If you guys would like further direction and counseling in this area I would suggest that you contact my Rabbi and friend, Rabbi XX, who is the Chabad Rabbi in XX. (About 30 years old, used to counsel college students and is very personable.) He does not know that I am suggesting this to you, but I have talked with him in the past about your situation and I am certain he would be amenable to helping out in any way he could. I believe this would involve some education/training on B's part to know what he is getting into, a private religious ceremony and dip in the mikvah pool and, when the time comes, a religious wedding ceremony (Chuppah) in addition to whatever else you both have planned, marriage-wise.

Rabbi XX can be reached at *Email and phone number removed*

I think this could be the win-win situation we all could live with. It's not a perfect solution but a workable option.

Best wishes,



So....I haven't even shared this email with B yet...he's taking a nap right now and I'd rather not wake him to talk about this.

Some immediate thoughts:
1) I told him we're atheists, not agnostics, it's interesting he said that we were agnostic as if he can't accept atheists (or it could be he doesn't know the difference)

2) I don't think this will be as easy as he thinks it will be. For instance, I know that when my ex converted, even though he had been circumsized the rabbi drew blood from his penis. I'm not sure B would be down for that. And, as I know from my friend who is converting to judaism, it takes like a year for the process to go through. We would be married before that, we're not changing the date of our wedding. We might even have a kid before the conversion goes through. So my parents are just going to not show up to our real wedding, and think it'll be ok afterwards?

3) I love the invocation of family guilt, ha. "good example for D"? D (my little brother) stopped keeping kosher before I did, and hasn't had a jewish girlfriend like...ever. I actually really like his current non jewish girlfriend and hope they end up staying together.

4) It's like a quicky shot gun wedding if I were pregnant...a quicky conversion

5) where does it stop? If we do this, will our son have to get a bris? Will he take our kids to religious services?

6) but I'm not just agnostic..I'm actually an atheist, and I actively think religion is wrong. I don't want our kids raised in the jewish community. I don't want them indoctrinated into that bullshit.

7) It's hilarious that he says he 'thought of this while he was davening this morning' when I know for a fact he has mentioned something like this to my brother several times in the past.

8) While B would probably have no problem with it, it would very much upset both his mother and his grandmother.

9) B has said in the past that he would convert if I wanted him to. But how could I ask him to do something like that just to make my family happy, after all the shit my family has put me and us through? So he just converts, and my family accepts me, and all is forgotten and forgiven? By them? But what about me? How could I ever forgive them for forcing me to do this so that I can have their love? Is that even love? Doesn't seem like it.

This isn't a win-win solution. This is a them-winning and me-capitulating solution.

Dream about to be fullfilled

B's parents are taking us (and his sister, we're all going together) on a Mediterranean Cruise this summer (in July probably)!!! I am super excited, as I've never been to any other countries except Israel (6 times) and Canada, and have always wanted to travel around Europe (and especially Italy) for many years.

In college I really wanted to spend a few weeks in Rome on a study abroad program, but my parents wouldn't pay for it (not kosher or some such nonsense) and I couldn't afford it I ended up taking a roman civ class (or three) at my college instead. But ever since then I have really wanted to go to Rome. I've always really been interested in roman archeology and such...even when visiting Israel, some of my favorite things to see were the Roman ruins.

And this way I can go and get my European travel-lust over and done with before having babies (if we end up having a baby next year...come to think of it, during the cruise might be a good time to try and get pregnant...). At some point (before I die) I would also like to check out France, Amsterdam, and England...but maybe that can be a mid-age trip (or maybe B's parents will keep taking us on trips repeatedly, ha).

This cruise his parents are looking at starts in Italy, and goes to Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Sicily. We would also spend some time in Rome for a few days before or after the cruise.

10-Day Roman Empire Cruise

0 Civitavecchia (Rome)
1 At Sea
2 Dubrovnik, Croatia
3 Corfu, Greece
4 Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
5 Santorini, Greece
6 Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
7 Piraeus (Athens), Greece
8 At Sea
9 Messina, Sicily
10 Civitavecchia (Rome)

Super super excited!!! Gotta figure out how to renew my expired passport.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Serious Business (tm)

Me and B are in the midwest for the week. We have no way to watch TV (his parents have a big one, but they are always watching sports and poker games and lots of stuff we have no interest in), reading and going on the computer all the time gets old, so mostly when we are out here we sit around and talk to each other. Inevitably Serious Business (TM) comes about when we have this time to just talk to each other for days in a row. Last time we were out here, we decided to get engaged for reals (we had been talking about it for months beforehand, but it was here that we decided to start to tell people and to set a date).

This time around our serious business (tm) has focused on two topics: Getting a dog, and having a child.

First the less life-changing confusing thing: A dog. I was never much of a dog person. I far prefer kitties, as I can leave them alone for days, and not worry that they will starve or pee all over the apartment. But B loves dogs, and had one as a child, and wants to get one. And over thanksgiving we hung out with his sister's dog (which inspired a post about dogs that I'm not going to bother to link to), and have been hanging out with the dog this week as well. And I'm starting to come around. I think I would even like taking a dog for walks, getting out of the house a few times a day, even though B would be in charge of most of the dog-related things.

We are thinking we may start looking for one when we get back home. We still like the beagle idea, since B likes smaller dogs and I like bigger dogs, and a beagle seems like the good middle ground that we both would like. But it would have to be a quiet one, and most arn't. Most likely we will check out some beagles from petfinder and also just go to a shelter and see if there's any dog there that we like (beagles or otherwise).

Then there's the scary life-altering thing: We have been discussing having kids a lot lately, since with my career, around next spring/summer would be a pretty convenient time to get pregnant. If we didn't have a kid now (and by now I mean getting pregnant next summer and having the kid in Spring 2010), we realistically would probably end up waiting until I got tenure (which would be 8 years from now if all goes on schedule- I'm 26, so I will be 32 when I get tenure).

On the one hand, it would be a good time now, I think we are both responsible enough, and we can afford it. We both very much want to have kids. I don't know that I would want to spend the next 8 years without any kids.

But what is making me hesitate is that I'm not sure if I'm ready to give up my lifestyle. Not that I go out getting drunk every night (I don't even drink), but I like the freedom to take off whenever I want, have random adventures, stay out late (although honestly I only go out like once or twice a month at most). And of course all the other freedom's you give up when you have a child. I don't know if I'm ready to do that or not.

Also we are getting married in May, and have only been together 2 years at this point (our 2 year anniversary is in 2 weeks). Am I going to miss having that time just to ourselves if we have a kid right away?

So how do you know when you are ready to give up on your own 'childhood' (or young adulthood, whatever, you know what I mean)? Do you just know? Or does nobody feel ready until way after you already have a child, and is that normal?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I love Christmas

Growing up, Christmas was a weird time of year. Everyone was running around shopping and everything was decorated with Christmas decorations, but I of course didn't celebrate it. My parents didn't believe in giving channukah presents because that was 'too goyish', instead they gave us channukah 'gelt' (cash).

I felt like an outsider wherever I turned. Of course I didn't want it anyway; oh look at those people running around and worshiping at the alter of consumerism I told myself (Yes, I was anti-consumerism from a young age). It can't be that great. They don't even know what they're celebrating, they're just doing these stupid rituals that don't mean anything anymore. (Sour grapes much?)

My parents used to go on vacation over christmas, cause my dad had off from work. For 2 years in a row when I was in my late teens, my brother and I (a year younger than me) threw gigantic "Christmas for Jews" house parties, where 30-40 people came over and hung out and got drunk away from adult supervision. One year we almost got caught when my mom noticed some crushed chips on the floor that we had missed cleaning up. My brother said something like "Oh yeah mom, we had a gigantic party of 40 people here" in his sarcastic voice, and my mom was all "yeah right, like you have 40 friends" (come to think of it, my mom is not a very nice person).

When I obtained financial independence and moved permanently away from my parents house after college (when my dad could no longer force me to come home every shabbas by threatening to cut me off), for a few years some friends of mine would come crash by my place, and we would go get great chinese food and go to a movie. We did this entirely because of the stereotype of Jews eating chinese and watching movies on christmas.

Then I met B, and last year I celebrated my first Christmas. In a completely non-religious way. We went to his parents, I got to decorate my first tree, and I left all the Jesus-y ornaments off (although my future mom in law later went and put all of them on). B's mom, who is very religious catholic, goes to mass, but did not even bother inviting us. I probably would have gone just out of curiosity, since I've never been in a church before, let alone gone to any other religion's religious services. I'm like to see what goes on there, and how different it is from shul.

B's family has it's own christmas traditions. On christmas eve (so, tomorrow), they (we) have a dinner made up entirely out of their (our) favorite appetizers. Then they (we) all go sit around the tree and everyone takes turns opening one present at a time. His mom traditionally gives the kids (and now me) a calender and gift cards and one big present. Then on christmas day they (we) have a big turkey dinner.

I love it. I love getting presents, but I love giving them even more. My family isn't really a 'present' type of family; my parents gave us kids cash on their birthdays and chanukah, but never gifts per se. If I did ever get a gift, it was because I specifically requested something, so it was never a surprise. My friends were never really gift exchangers either.

But the whole gift exchange thing is so fun! For the past few days we've been shopping all over the place (2 malls and 2 other stores), getting gifts. We've been trying to figure out what specific people will like through subterfuge (usually by asking their spouse or parents), and based on what we know about them. It's like a giant scavenger hunt for the perfect gift. I love it so much I even mailed both my brothers gifts, making sure to write "happy chanukah!" on the one to my religious brother. We got christmas gifts for our cats (2 new scratching posts!) And one for B's sister's dog (an argyle dog sweater!). We're going to pick something up for our catsitter before we go back home this Saturday. I'm on a gift buying binge. I keep thinking of more friends I want to send gifts to. Next year I probably will.

Next year me and B are getting our own tree.

It still feels a bit weird to be celebrating christmas at all. Like, even though I celebrate it in a completely non-religious way, it feels as if I've joined another religion. I know that is partially because of socialization; my parents drilled into my head that christmas was something the christians do, even though people of many religions celebrate it. It's also partially because it's so ritualistic, even though the rituals are a conglomerate of several different winter solstice festivals, and most of the religions behind them have been dead for hundreds if not thousands of years.

But on the other hand, these festivals were created to stave off the depression that one gets from a long dark and cold winter when farmers didn't have much work to do. Christmas was something to look forward to. And you know what? I've had a pretty depressing and dreary fall semester. The past few months I've been working constantly. I too need something to look forward to. And having Christmas just makes this time of year that much better.

It's a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coming out to relatives...

People continue to surprise me. A cousin of mine (who is exactly my age, lives in Israel, divorced, and who I know has lived with a guy who she wasn't married to) saw the post I put on facebook about my wedding dress, and was all "mazal tov? hello talk to me... love you"

I took that to mean that she had no idea I was getting married. So instead of ignoring her, I decided to just tell her about it. I mean, she lives in Israel, I've met her maybe 6 times in my life (although we lived in the same room for around 6 weeks when I was 14), it's not like if I wasn't marrying B we would have a great relationship or something.

So I sent her a short email:
Hi *cousin*-

Yeah I'm getting married- and have been living with my fiance for about 8 months now. We are getting married on May 17, 2009.

My fiance isn't Jewish (He's not any other religion either- he's an atheist), so I don't think my parents have been telling anybody about the wedding (they are very upset about it and aren't coming). Since my parents aren't going to come, we decided to have a really small wedding with just a few close friends and my fiance's parents and sister (around 15 guests). I haven't really told a lot of people in our family that I'm getting married since I think most people would be upset about it.

How are you? How is your job going? Are you still doing the news?

Love you too!
Abandoning Eden

and got this back 5 minutes later:

you are very brave... my heart with you. i dont care for religion as long as you love him. sorry that your parents dont support you...
and i wish you all the love happines and luck . my english is very poor,so i cant say all my wishes. May 17, 2009. excited

love you more then ever in this special moment

mazal tov

*beams with happiness*

Things are good

It's been a little over 8 months since B moved in and a little over 5 months since we got engaged (and our wedding is 5 months from tomorrow, so I guess this is the halfway mark of our engagement!). Which is weird, as it still feels really new. On January 12th it'll be our 2 year anniversary.

Last night B picked me up from work, we got burritos at Q'doba, came home, ate, watched current_tv, and just hung out. And B was all "This is awesome, I get to do all my favorite things, I have my favorite food and my favorite people and my favorite tv channel and my awesome kitties and everything is perfect!"

Things ARE perfect. I have complete freedom in my life to do whatever I want (which mostly involves q'doba burritos and current_tv), and I have an awesome partner who likes to do the same things that I want to do, and with whom I feel like I have a true partnership of equals. I'm on my way to an awesome career, I earn enough money to be comfortable with some extra for fun things, and people are starting to pay attention to my research (my schools' research newsletter just wrote a story about my latest journal article and I got a lot of emails from people requesting copies of it!). I'm spending next week at B's parents for christmas (yay, presents! good cheer! cookies!), and then when we come back a couple that we are close friends with (who live far away) will be coming to visit for 4 days around new years (yay, friends!). There's a possibility that another far away couple we are close friends with will be coming to visit too.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Oh yes, life isn't perfect, me and B have our issues and problems (what couple doesn't, really). But overall, in general, things are farkin awesome.


In other news, I'm around 90% sure I will be spending a 6th year in grad school, and have been making arrangements for funding and such. This makes me infinitely less stressed out.

I talked to my adviser yesterday and afterwards he sent me this email:

Good talking with you today. I'm glad that you are planning to stay in graduate school for another year. I do feel that it will be best in the long run. And your upbeat attitude is the right approach (of course that is easy to say but not always easy to do).

Why wouldn't I be upbeat? I'm not super thrilled about any of the schools I still have a chance to get a job at this year (2 schools left) since I don't want to live in the NYC area, where they are both located (lesson learned for next year's job market). I wasn't originally planning to go on the job market this year anyway (but was talked into it by advisers). And knowing that I don't have to finish my dissertation by August whilst also planning my wedding and working on other research projects has suddenly taken this huge burden off of me.

I have a whole extra year! I can totally do that! And I will get to make progress/hopefully finish a whole bunch of other research projects as well. This is great news! I basically just got a one year extension on my PhD! And I have full funding (including health insurance) to boot. :) That's a lot better off than many people right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Bought the dress, a size larger than I usually wear so that I can take it in (also cause they sold out of my size). Cost:$80

Bought the veil Cost: $20

Fabulous necklace was bought out from under me while I took too long making decisions. :( Can't find anything else on Etsy that I like right now, so I'm going to wait a bit and see what new stuff comes out early next year.

Total cost of wedding to date: $200 (including venue, dress, veil, candle holders)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

potential accessories to go with potential wedding dress

Potential wedding dress?

So today I stumbled across this dress which is quite within my budget, semi-white so semi-traditional, and comes in my size!

But I need a second or third or fifth opinion of whether this will look good on me, as it seems to be an internet only type of deal.

it seems to be a little baggy under the models' arms, but I have bigger boobs then her, and I can always have that tailored if need be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Outing myself to people I barely know.

Ahh facebook, the bane of my existence. I now have almost 400 friends on facebook, at least 100-200 of which are people who I grew up with as an orthodox jew. Many of whom are still frum, (as far as I can tell through frequent annoying facebook status updates about religious plans as well as their 'religious preferences' thing).

Anyway, when I got engaged I posted it to my facebook. And, as is traditional in the Jewish community (among others), millions of people I hadn't talked to in years came out of the woodwork to wish me a mazel tov.

But now I end up feeling guilty and weird and dishonest about my marriage. I know many of these people would not be wishing me well if they knew I was marrying someone not Jewish. So it feels like I'm tricking them into wishing me a Mazal tov somehow, by not being completely upfront about the fact that B is not Jewish.

But how do I go about telling people that he isn't Jewish? I don't think it's a huge deal, but I know other people will. So do I make a big facebook stauts post that is like "FYI MY FIANCE IS A GOY!!" I think my non-jewish friends may be a bit confused by that.

I'm definitely not ashamed of B, and I don't want to feel shamed. On the other hand, why do I have to make a big deal out of the fact that I'm marrying someone not jewish, and do I really have to go out of my way to let everyone know, or is it just none of their business? Also, am I overestimating the extent to which people care about my life?

I'm thinking in particular of one girl...raised Satmer but was "OTD" by their standards (although her OTD was MO), my BFF in high school, who I still occasionally keep in touch with (we talk once or twice a year). I know she would never talk to me again if she knew I was marrying someone not Jewish. But I barely speak to her as it is. Should I go out of my way to end my small friendship with her, by making a big deal out of marrying B, or do I just go about life as if everything is normal (which by my standards they are), and figure she will find it out through the grapevine eventually?

It's hard to figure this all out.

The life and times of AE

Things have been a little crazy lately. I've been traveling a lot (a conference in late October, an interview in early November, Thanksgiving, and in a week and a half it's off to the midwest for Christmas at B's parent's house). This means that for the past two months approximately every other or every third week, I've been going on a 3-5 day trip. This has thrown off my whole work routine; it takes me at least a week to 'recover' from these trips and get back into a frame of mind to get some serious work done, and by the time I'm back in that frame of mind, it's time to go somewhere else.

Added on top of that is that I've been waiting to hear back from this job, which is really stressing me out. They told me they would let me know last week or this week, and I've heard nothing, and there's been nothing on my professions' wiki (that keeps track of which jobs have been offered). But I assume that they have offered it to their first choice and are waiting for that person to make a decision.

I'm still stressing out about it. Not because I particularly want this job, but I just want to know if I'm going to be spending a 6th year in grad school or not..if I am, I can relax and not feel so guilty about doing basically no work on my dissertation for the past month or so. If I do get the job, I need to be seriously working my ass off right now. So instead I'm stuck in a limbo where I'm not working as seriously as I would need to be if I got the job, but I'm not able to relax as I would if I hadn't gotten the job.

On top of THAT is regular end of semester madness; I've spent the past 5 days or so grading papers, and tonight my class has it's final which I have to grade as well (and get final grades in).

And all this stress and travel have definitely made me more ornery in general, which has led to some 'work-life spillover' in that I have been picking fights nonstop with B (because he happens to be the only one around to pick fights with). This built up to a huge altercation on Sunday, which involved both of us crying, and then talking for hours about what was bothering each of us and how we can improve our relationship so that we are both happier. One of the reasons I love B is that whenever we fight we end up having these long talks...and actually do things about it. As a result our relationship has actually been improving over time (as opposed to other relationships I've been in, which have always seemed like a slow march towards destruction).

I've now not spoken to either of my parents in a little over a month, since I called to talk about my interview, and my mom went on her whole delusional rant about how if I want to talk to her I can never talk about B. So I've just given up on talking to both my parents at this point.

Me and B are thinking of going to sears or something this weekend and getting a professional photo taken of us, and then framing it and giving it to B's mom for a Christmas present. We'd also get one for our house, and I'm thinking of mailing one to my parents. In a normal family that would be a nice thing...but in this case I'm just pretending my family is normal. And would that actually be a passive aggressive move on my part?

Monday, December 8, 2008

How do you sell gold?

I keep reading about people selling their gold jewelery for insane prices...I have a whole bunch of yellow gold jewelry I've received as gifts over the years (much of it from my bat mitzvah, including some bracelets that don't even fit around my wrists anymore), but I don't like yellow gold and haven't worn any in at least 10 years (as someone with an olive complexion, yellow gold looks hideous on me). So that means I have a bunch of gold jewelry that has been sitting around in my jewelry box for years, untouched.

I'm thinking that since the price of gold is so high right now, I might as well sell all my yellow gold and maybe even some white gold jewelry I got from an ex (which I feel weird wearing, so I never wear that either), and use the money to buy our wedding rings. If I can sell this giant yellow gold herringbone necklace I've had for years and worn like once, I'll probably have enough for two nice platinum or white gold wedding rings + change. And I hear the price of platinum has been going down too. I have a food scale at home I'm going to use to weigh everything tonight, but I think what I have is at least a couple of ounces. And an ounce of gold pays something like $750 right now.

Anyone know how to go about doing this? Do I just walk into a random jewelry store and ask how much they will give me for it? Which would pay me more- a pawn/consignment shop, or a nice place in the jewelry district of my city?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Crock pot recipe o' the day: Steak and Shake Chili

Today is the second time I'm using the crock pot I acquired 4 months ago when an acquaintance of mine moved to Arizona. The first time we made pulled pork, which was ok (although I definitely made too much, since we ended up eating pulled pork sandwiches for a week and a half, which means I'm all pulled-porked-out for now).

This week I went on an internet crock pot recipe search, and found a fantastic blog, where the writer is trying a new crock pot recipe every day for a year. Complete with pictures and reviews of the food.

So yesterday at the grocery store I bought all the ingredients for the pomegranate beef recipe, which I'll be making later next week or next weekend maybe. But today I'm trying a recipe I didn't find on this blog: An imitation steak and shake chili recipe.

See, B, my fiance, is from the midwest. Something the midwest has that I haven't seen east of Ohio is Steak and Shake- a kind of chain diner thing. B LOVES Steak and Shake chili, and every time we go to visit his parents he ends up dragging me there around 5 times a week. Not that I don't love their food too, but this fact directly contributes to me gaining 5 pounds every time we visit his parents.

So since we are without steak and shake until Christmas time, after much internet research today I am attempting to make a passable imitation of Steak and Shake Chili in the crock pot. I just put everything in, and it should be finished around 4:30 tonight.

1.5 pounds of ground beef
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 can Campbell's condensed French onion soup
1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 Tbsp Chili powder
2 Tsp Cocoa Powder
2 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
1 8 ounce can Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup Ketchup
1 cup Dr. Pepper (not diet)

Serve with:
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Brown meat in oil and salt. Meanwhile, blend the soup in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Once meat is browned, drain and then add the soup and let it simmer a few more minutes. Add beef and soup to crock. Drain beans and add to crock. Add everything else to crock. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve over pasta and sprinkle some cheese on top.

I'll let you know how it turns out in approximately 5.5 hours.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving with B's family

Thanksgiving at my parents house took place without two of their three children; me and my brother spent the holidays with our respective non-jewish significant other's families. At what point do my parents realize they have decimated our family by holding such a firm line on religion? Or do they never realize that? Me and my brother have resolved that if I end up getting this job near my parents we'll do our own Thanksgivings.

My parents also did not try to contact me in any way on or near Thanskgiving, they didn't invite me to thanksgiving dinner (although if I had invited myself I doubt they would say no), and they had no idea that I was even in Illinois.

Meanwhile, I met all of B's family out in Joliet, Illinois (where his cousins live). Including his cousin who is a race car driver, his other cousin who used to go on phish tour (yay for new hippie relatives!), and a whole slew of other people. We sat at the 'kids' table, although B, at 25, was the second youngest kid (the youngest was his sister who is 22). After dinner we 'kids' went to go play wii in the basement and me and B played some awesome rounds of tennis, and some less awesome rounds of some tank game. Everyone came together at some point to watch Forrest Gump in the living room. Later at the hotel me and B hung out with 2 of his cousins and walked around, talking about life.

There was no yelling, there was no talk of politics or religion (except when B and I were explaining to some cousins why my parents aren't coming to our wedding), there was no snarky comments thrown across the table, or under someone's breath, and there was no one looking miserable or uncomfortable or awkward. People wanted to hear about my crazy parents, and people wanted to talk about the wedding, and about my job prospects. I didn't have to pretend like B didn't exist, or that we didn't live together, or that we arn't getting married. I didn't have to limit myself to only talking about school. People were nice to each other, and they seemed happy to see each other, and seemed like they were close with each other as well.

In short, it was awesome. And the exact opposite of my 'normal' Thanksgiving experiences with my parents and grandparents and cousins.

'Normal' family gatherings at my parents house involve several arguments (usually about religion and/or politics, and usually between my charedi cousins and my MO cousins), several outwardly racist and/or sexist statements, my grandmother interrogating me about my level of religiosity and telling me that "education is all nice and good, but marrying a good Jewish boy should be your first priority", and otherwise trying to convince me to be more religious, my grandmother staring in my face and inspecting my ears to see if I have new piercings, and telling me to get rid of the old ones (I have 3 earrings in each ear), or (one year when I had an eyebrow ring briefly) telling me how no one would ever marry me if I had an eyebrow ring, and my mom making snarky comments about the way I'm dressed, or the way I live my life, or how much I weigh, or how my not-modest-enough-for-her clothes make me look fat (which is how my mom tries to get me to stop wearing them). And wearing what is basically a costume, and having to pretend that I'm in any way religious, because otherwise my parents would be mortified. More recently, those gatherings have involved snarky comments from my mom about how I can't bring home leftovers because I might give them to "that person you're living with".

But I've seen the other side, and how life can be if everyone acts like adults, and tries to have a fun family gathering instead of using it to air all of ones grievances. And a family where people are genuinely happy to see each other, and everyone catches up with each other, and isn't judgmental about everything. I have seen it, and it is wonderful. And I can't imagine ever choosing to go to my parents house for Thanksgiving instead of B's family. Even if they would have me.