Sunday, September 14, 2008

I now pronounce you... Mr. and Mrs. Kuitunen!

Yesterday Eric and I spent some time in northern Minnesota at my uncle Eric's wedding to Mishawn. After dating for more than eight years (I think), they finally got engaged, and we all headed up to beautiful Jay Cooke State Park and Fitger's Inn and Brew House in downtown Duluth for their nuptials. The rain held off just long enough for the ceremony, and the fog that ushered it gave the whole park an ethereal, fairy-tale quality that you can see in my pictures, I hope.

See pictures here. Or, watch them recite their vows:

Lots of love to you both, Eric and Mishawn!

Friday, September 12, 2008

*Check out these hotties!*

This is me with my friend KatieJ. I hope she's not embarassed that I'm posting this... : ) In the last year or so we've lost more than 100 pounds between us. This picture was taken a couple days ago at our "I can't believe I lost 50lbs!" celebration :)

From Birthday Losers

Shabbatin' it up, Jew-style

Now that I'm a full-fledged Jew, I thought I'd kick it off right and have a big Shabbat dinner for the family before services. I love that we have a holiday every week. That's right -- every Friday night/Saturday! Nearly everyone was there -- Eric, Michelle, Gary, Marni, Doug, Jim, and Casey, Doug's friend. We lit candles using my new candlesticks that the rabbis and cantor gave me at my conversion and blessed everything -- Shabbat, bread, and the wine!

Behold, my first Shabbat dinner! I made super delicious challah from scratch (with help from Marni on the stirring and Casey's help with the braiding),

matzo ball soup (with thanks to Doug and Casey for handling most of it!), honey-orange chicken (this was way yummier than this picture would lead you to believe -- it was moist, flavorful, sweet, and deliciously breaded and pan-fried),

glazed carrots (who doesn't enjoy carrots in a soup of buttery-sugary goodness?),

and, the pièce de résistance, scallion-gruyere latkes!

After dinner, we rushed to the synagogue to make services because I was going to be called up to the bimah for a special blessing. It was really cool and I got to hold the Torah -- apparently quite the honor, since most people don't get to ever. I found out later that photos aren't allowed during services, so there aren't any pictures of my moment, so I'll let you imagine it. :)

Although I don't promise anything as elaborate as this meal, Eric and I love hosting Shabbat dinners, so expect to be invited once in awhile to partake in the festivities!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Welcome to the Tribe!" or "Rub a dub dub, Sara's in the tub... becoming a Jew!"

Today was a pretty big day. After many months working with Rabbi Morrison at Temple Israel in Boston (and a few short weeks with Rabbi Spilker here in Minnesota at Mount Zion), I was deemed ready to take the plunge -- literally -- and officially converted to Judaism.

The Rabbis Spilker and Adler and Cantor Spilker met with me beforehand as part of my beit din, the rabbinic panel, to serve as the official gateways into the tribe, as it were :) They questioned me about my intentions, sincerity, and knowledge of the religion and practices. After passing that first test, I had to go strip down (not joking!), including what ended up being a ridiculously long amount of time for removing nail polish (it just would not come off), I met Cantor Spilker in the mikveh, the ritual bath, for my dunk.

If you're struggling to picture this, envision old school baptism (it's where the practice came from) in a really pretty spa-like atmosphere, sans the Catholic guilt and crucifixes.

After dunking and saying a prayer and the sheheckiyanu, I was asked the declarations of faith -- including some funnily-phrased questions involving the involvement of children in Jewish education programs and becoming a member of a synagogue (something Jews by birth are notorious for not doing, or doing in a non-timely fashion :) ). After my third dunk everyone waiting out in the living room joined in a chorus of "Simon Tov u Mazel Tov" for me.

At the end of it, Rabbi Spilker said a blessing, we all said the Shema, and I read a passage from Ruth, the first convert. You might know it -- it's the one that begins with "Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge." (Ruth 1) Then the rabbis and cantor gave me some pretty candlesticks that we'll use for Shabbat on Friday. Yay!

It was really nice to have everyone there -- Eric (of course!), my mom and dad, Eric's mom Michelle, his dad Jim, and brother Doug.

After the formalities, we went to Mount Zion's gift shop and I got all Jew-ed up -- we bought a kiddush cup (for the wedding) a seder plate, a cookbook from the sisterhood at the synagogue, and Jim bought me a star of David necklace. And some Bazooka Joe from Israel :)

All of us plus Gary, Marni, Joe, Katie, Adam, Jill, and Isaiah, headed down to Figlio for a celebratory dinner. Yummm!!!! Sooooo good. I got Thai mussels, wood roasted mushroom pizza with goat cheese and scallions, red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, AND a profiterole. I also had some of their super good house-infused raspberry-lemon vodka. Delicious delicious delicious.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mug shots

Either out of sheer laziness or a deliberate attempt to see how much facial hair he could grow, given the opportunity, Eric didn't shave from the time we were in Minnesota visiting for him to take the bar until the Friday before he started his job (for those of you counting, that would be more than five weeks). I present, Exhibit B, evidence of his ability to kind of grow facial hair. (See also: Exhibit A on evidence that Defendant Rice can do physical labor if necessary.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's raining gifts!

Yesterday, Eric's aunt Linda and my mom, along with Eric's cousin Jody and uncle Jerry, threw me a beautiful shower with the women in the families. The food was amazing, the decorations were so pretty, and I felt so special that they all did all that work just for me. Here are some pics of the event:

Here I am, clearly giddy about something. Perhaps it's the thrill of opening presents?

If you're interested in seeing more of the same, check the album here.
A big thank you to our families who put the shower together, and to everyone who came and made us feel so loved!

While the bulk of the shower was going on, Eric and the men of the family went golfing. Check them out:

Also, if anyone was wondering why I'm marrying Eric, I have evidence. Evidence that shows he is capable of getting things done. I present to you Exhibit A:

Move complete!

We've been very remiss in posting, but are here now for many updates. Our move across the country has more or less come to a close. We are currently living with Eric's mom and step-dad in Stillwater. In the next few weeks, we plan to move some of our stuff back into the condo, just in time to live there after the wedding.

Although there were some anxiety-inducing moments when we didn't know when the movers would come (among others), in the end, the boxes were packed and sealed, the movers took them and put them on a big moving van, and we high-tailed it out of Cambridge as quickly as absolutely possible. As in, the movers finished at 5p.m. and we locked the door to our place at 5:17, I think.

Poor Murphy wasn't prepared for the trip and had a couple of accidents before we even got on the turnpike, but some quick thinking and resourcefulness on Eric's and my part (and the loss of not one, but two Purr Pads) got us back on the road with only about a half an hour of lost time.

Our first night we spent in Syracuse, NY -- which was almost Utica... I was using our handy-dandy new GPS to find hotels in the Syracuse area, made a reservation at the Syracuse Red Roof Inn, and then accidentally selected the Utica Red Roof Inn as our new destination. When we got there 20 minutes later (instead of the hour we anticipated -- "gosh that was fast...") and I walked in, confident that this was where we were staying that night, the man at the front desk informed me he hadn't taken any reservations all night, and I couldn't possibly have one with them. ...At which point, we thought to ask if there was a Syracuse location. Of course there was. Yep. I felt pretty stupid. So 45 minutes later we finally stopped for the night. Huge props to Red Roof Inn -- they were the only hotel I could find in the entire area that would accept pets -- and they didn't even charge for them! Our kitties made themselves right at home and settled in for the night. After watching some Olympics (Michael Phelps won a medal that night!), so did we.

Bright and early the next morning we loaded up on our last taste of Dunkin Donuts and hit the road for Chicago. The weather was perfect and clear the whole way -- we couldn't have asked for better driving weather. Our kitties are total travel troopers too -- no need for bathroom breaks or walks -- as if to say, "Just keep on drivin' mama!" :) We got to Eric's aunt and uncle's house just in time for dinner -- Uncle Jerry made some super delicious chicken wings on the grill and a bunch of yummy salads. After eating road food for two days, and non-homemade food for longer than that, it was so nice to have a home-cooked meal.

The next morning Eric, Kerri, Randy (Eric's cousins), and I went to Portillo's for lunch. And it was so amazing. They not only make some of the best Chicago-style hot dogs I've had, but they also have this amazing, decadent (and totally sinful) chocolate cake shake. Whoa.

We left shortly after that, arriving at home in Stillwater before sunset -- which is good, because somewhere along the way from Massachusetts to Minnesota we realized we were sporting one headlight. Darn car and its darn repairs...