Friday, February 12, 2016

The Art of Cubish Cooking

For me cooking has always had special meaning however as I've gotten older I've found that there are only a few foods that I truly enjoy cooking. These foods typically have special meaning and tie me to my roots.

Don't get me wrong, I love trying new recipes, trying to replicate dishes I've tried, and different places around town but my life doesn't revolve around food nor do I want to spend all day in the kitchen. Nor do I want to wash the pots, pans, and accoutrement that follow.

 I'm also incredibly lucky to have a husband who loves to cook so I don't have to and even though we don't always like the same things I so appreciate him and how hard he tries. I honestly believed that I wasn't a picky eater until I met my husband lol. All in all though I think our palates balance each other's well and there are always my three favorite words: Let's Eat Out. 

However when I do cook here are some of my favorite things to make:
1) Frijoles negros and arroz blanco (Black Beans and White Rice)
2) Ceviche
3) Maduros and Tostones
4) Maria Bonita soup
5) Shrimp burgers
6) Yuca con mojo (now that I have the recipe right)
7) Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
8) Matzo ball soup
9) Turkey Chili (I blame my mom for this obsession ;) )
10) Pretty much anything that involves lime and avocado

If you notice, there is absolutely no baking involved in any of my favorites. That is because I am not a baker. My husband, however is. He makes beautiful challah loaves and rolls, cheesecakes, cakes, cookies, and other lovely leavened treats. It's not that I don't appreciate them I just feel too restricted. I love the freedom of the math of cooking, ie: adding, subtracting, substituting, and measuring by taste and texture. I also can devote more time to the other requirements of my cooking method. Here are the requirements to having a deliciously cooked Cuban meal.

1) All necessary ingredients. You can only imagine how many times I've had to make substitutions because I realized that I  was out of something at the last minute.
2) Cuban/Salsa/Latin music which must be played Loudly!
3) Dancing, lots of dancing. So much that I joke that my kitchen is made for dancing...and cooking
4) Can do attitude and fun!

Believe me what the promise in Simply Irresistible is true. Whatever you are feeling when you're cooking completely goes into the food, good or bad, so make it a delicious and happy memory. Whatever you do or make do it well and remember to pay homage to your creativity or like me, your raíces, or roots.

Growing up we ate a relatively Latin/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern American diet. This included a lot of chicken, fish, seafood, beans, rice, vegetables, and occasional beef and pastas. That's not to say that I didn't have traditional American food it's just not the first thing that I'd reach for. For my family the meal wasn't necessarily about the food but instead what many cultures call the Sobremesa.

Sobremesa in our family happened often times on Friday nights when my brother and I weren't busy with friends, BBYO, school, etc or our weekly Saturday or Sunday night dinners with our abuelos and the rest of our immediate family. When stayed in chances are Alle would make Arroz con pollo, Maduros or arroz con frijoles negros with quimbombó (okra) or berenjena (eggplant), and end with un cafecito or Cafe con Leche (because there is always time for un Cafecito). If we went out we'd go to one of abuelo's favorite restaurants, usually somewhere Chinese, Italian, Turkish, American, or somewhere he could get a good cup of soup. I never made plans that night unless I wanted to go out later because we were usually out with our family until at least 10pm.  

Looking back those were some of the best meals that I had ever had and I would give anything to sit in between my abuelos at a meal again. It is my firm belief that because of family traditions like this I always wanted to ensure that I had a place in my home wherever I lived to carry on this beautiful custom. We've already had some wonderful sobremesas of our own with our friends and family here and I look forward to many more to come.

I'll leave with a few cute quotes/images that I've found along the way.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Making a House Our Home

When Brad and I moved to Pittsburgh and decided to buy a house we knew that it was going to be an interesting journey. For those who have never been to Pittsburgh or are unfamiliar with the housing market here there are a few things to note when you are planning to purchase a home:

1) If you want a new house (ie: 1970 or newer) expect to pay a lot more and live at least 30 minutes (before traffic) outside of the city of Pittsburgh limits

2) If you want to get the most house for your mortgage places areas like the Northside are definitely worth a look

3) If you're looking for new developments with larger square footage expect to pay at least $50,000 more and live at least 45 minutes outside of the city of Pittsburgh

4) In Pittsburgh badly maintained can often trump badly made

5) Yinzers love traditional victorians, tudors, and walk ups. Just look around they're everywhere!

6) Want a garage? Good luck. Street parking is king here. 

7) Pittsburgh among world's best long-term real estate investments- meaning homes stay in families for year. For example, our neighbor is in her 70s and still lives in the house she grew up in which belonged to her great grandparents. 

After seeing 6 houses and with the help of our amazing realtor we found our new home. Luckily I married a very resourceful man because it is definitely a fixer upper. To date we (mostly Brad) have: waterproofed the porch, fixed some direly needed venting, painted 80% of the house on the inside, replaced over 4 incredibly outdated fixtures (including a glass bathroom door), and probably a ton of things that I'm forgetting. Slowly but surely our house is changing from a place we live to a place to live, love, and call our own. 

Here are a few before and after pictures:



Manny of course fell asleep on the job but we're just glad that our new furniture is Manny tested Manny approved

So as you can see we're definitely making progress. I'm looking forward to the countless years we will spend together in our home and hopefully soon we will be able to start our family and bring even more happiness and love into our little piece of heaven in the Burgh.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ode to Baby Blue

Last weekend we made the difficult but necessary decision to go furniture shopping. A few hours later we left with a new couch, ottoman, table, and accent chair, the couch and chair were definitely in the plan, the others...not so much but we figured go big or go home. Plus you know that I can't say no to a good sale. With the purchase of our new couch it was time to say goodbye to our current one, my beloved baby blue. You may think I'm crazy dedicating an entire blog post to a couch however, I promise that there is a method to this bit of madness.

My relationship with Baby Blue began in the summer of 2007 when I moved from Kansas to Florida for my job with then Webster College now Rasmussen. My grandparents and parents graciously offered to help me furnish my apartment with new furniture. My mom and I found her at Rooms to Go and we both instantly fell in love. Ironically enough my parents have a couch similar in their house which always made me feel a connection to my Texas roots while I was away. 

 While living in Tampa Baby Blue and I entertained friends and family from near and far, She comforted me when boys were mean and I just wanted to cry it out, supported me on lazy weekends when I wanted to watch tv or movies, and brightened up my living room wherever I moved. When the opportunity presented itself to move back to Texas I had decided that I had moving down to a science. A great crew of professional movers carried her off and we'd reunite in College Station.

In College Station my job duties shifted significantly and I worked a lot of late nights programming for both Hillel and after changing jobs, Texas A&M where I worked for the Memorial Student Center. In my rare free time my apartment was filled with students whom became friends as well as friends and family now that we were geographically closer. Baby Blue "supported" me throughout the remainder of my arduous Masters program and was my comfort zone when I wanted a relaxing moment to myself. Although Blue had moved with me what felt like thousands of miles she was still in one piece and I worked hard to protect her from harm, namely, liquids, food, etc. After I met Brad and our relationship became serious and committed we moved Blue as well as his sofas across the complex to our two bedroom apartment in the same complex. This is where Blue would meet a very special little "boy."

Boy/Puppy Meets Couch

In August of 2011 Brad and I adopted our now 4 1/2 year old pup Manolo Martinez Esquenazi Weiser Krugel, Manny for short. Manny came into our world like a whirlwind and we've loved him every since. He has also loved his couches whether they were Brad's purple couches or Blue he always found his place, usually on top so he could have the best view or sleeping soundly on the cushions. This love affair and admiration began with Baby Blue when he was a baby. 

As he got older he would move around but when we got home after work he was usually in the same spot, snoozing in between the pillows waiting for us to get home. 

When we moved into our house in College Station we had the perfect set and finally were able to combine all of Brad's and my furniture in one place. Our friends would come visit as would my students so needless to say our couches were well loved. Our families would also come visit as well and I have some wonderful memories specifically of Alle and Abuelo. I'll never forget when abuelo came to visit College Station for the last time he and Alle fell asleep on Baby Blue which always warms my heart when I think about it. I think this specific memory stands out because my parents and my couch share similar moments where I'd often find the two Manolos asleep together.

Alle and Manny also spent some quality time together as well. 

After our move to our house I started to notice that Baby Blue was starting to fade but I wasn't quite ready to move on yet. This couch was more than a couch. When I lost Abuelo and became emotional I always found myself gravitating to my couch. This couch, this object made of wood and cloth, was not just a couch but instead a vessel full of years of love and it was something that was given to me by my abuelo. It was a touchstone and something that comforted me and connected us. So I refused to let her go when we moved. Baby Blue semi survived the move to Pittsburgh. Our movers were not the most gentle and the creaks when you sat began to grow louder and more prominent but there she sat in our living room to continue to support and love us in our new home. 

In Pittsburgh Manny's bond with Baby Blue grew. Here he assumed his position of neighborhood watch and protector of his people and home. 

Over the past year the 9 1/2 years have begun to show and the creaks and groans when you sit have become more prominent so I prepared myself of the inevitability of saying goodbye. As hard of a decision as it it was I know that Abuelo would not want me to hold onto a slowly breaking couch. He would want us to find something new to bring us joy, comfort, and furniture that will support our hopefully soon growing family for years to come. When we made the decision to buy new furniture I knew that I couldn't bear leaving her on the sidewalk.  Luckily we found some graduate students in need so Baby Blue could go to a good home. 

In reflecting on our almost 10 years together I've found that this couch embodies my relationship with my grandparents in so many ways. Both were always there for me, they comforted and supported me, they were with me in times of joy and sadness, they shared the weight of many decisions that I made in my life, and always made me feel like I was home wherever they were. And I am so incredibly greatful to them and how they have changed my life. Home is where your heart, and my case, your couch, is.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

All that glitters...

Since I was born I have always gravitated to symbols like evil eyes and hamsas and my mom and abuela always ensured that I was "armed" with beautiful bracelets and amulets to protect me. My personal motto is that you can never have enough hamsas or evil eyes so I set out to make my own to reflect my personal style. After modeling them my friends and family asked me to make them for them too, so here we are! 

Before I showcase some of my newest designs, I wanted to share with you some information about the origins of the Hamsa and Evil Eye courtesy of

Hamsa Meaning - Where Does Hamsa Originate ? 
Whilst today we do not exactly know the true origins of Hamsa Hand symbol. We do know however, that throughout registered history, humankind has adopted the hand symbol in every culture without exception.

Ever since ancient times we have always been aware of the energies spreading from within the palm. All human movements under the command of the brain are linked with hand-eye coordination and so civilizations and ancient cultures created a mystery around it, which was the beginning of Hamsa icon.

Hamsa Meaning or Hand of Fatima - 

A Universal Symbol of Protection - Studies have shown that this image and belief started to solidify in the Middle East, before the time of the main Egyptian civilizations in two basic forms.
In its simplest form the symbol for Hamsa is the hand.
It is talismanic symbol that they believed would protect them from harm against the evil forces and bring them goodness, abundance, fertility, luck and good health. 
Hamsa is an icon used by man as a defence, in his struggle against the forces of evil.

The Hamsa icon not only has a special place in Judaism, it has also evolved to become regarded as sacred and respected symbol in Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shamanism, Jain beliefs and in Anatolia.

The Evil Eye

The fear of the evil eye has been ongoing since prehistoric times. It represents the fear of those destructive energies that arises from negative emotions, like jealousy hatred and envy. Desire for protection against these negative emotions is a universal impulse and for thousands of years the peoples of many ancient cultures and religions resorted to unimaginable procedures and sacred symbols to protect them and stop them becoming a target for these evil forces. 

Many early cultures adopted the eye as an icon for their protection, others used Hamsa and so over time the most popular universal symbol became an eye placed in the palm of a hand. The power of the eye inserted into Hamsa combined their power and introduced the idea of obtaining a more powerful talisman by combining the power of two. Today the Hamsa with Evil Eye icon and symbol has reached its final form and found an ideal place in the world of symbols. Aesthetically it is uses as a stylish and beautiful figure for the decorative arts and intellectually, it is used for religious beliefs and is accepted as an icon / mascot or charm, which attracts goodness, luck and abundance, whilst propelling the forces of evil.

While Jubana's Jewels is not at this time a venture that I can retire off of it's been a great way to express my creativity, craft unique and personal gifts, and originally pass the time as I was waiting my new adventure to begin. I'm always open to artistic ideas so if you have something that you'd like to see let me know!


About Mariam

Life is sweet

Life is sweet

And they lived happily ever after

And they lived happily ever after

One day a beautiful Jewish girl met a nice Jewish boy and made their mothers very, very, very happy

One day a beautiful Jewish girl met a nice Jewish boy and made their mothers very, very, very happy

About Me

For those of you who know me, writing has always been one of my passions, with the exception of my Masters or any ridiculously long testament within the wide world of Academia. I've only had the pleasure of blogging a couple of times, mostly for a few classes in graduate school, but figured it was time to organize my numerous thoughts and musings with all of you out there in cyber land. I created this page because my mind is always running and often times my thoughts get lost in the hubub. Plus, my friends have always said that I'm a great storyteller, so I'd love to share them now with you. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this... Throughout the past 33 years of my life I've seen, heard, and experienced so many different things as well as had many adventures and dream of so many possibilities. But in short, what it comes down to is this..I'm just a little Jubana trying to make a difference in the world. Everyday I live my life to the fullest and have fun doing it. Life can't always be about work or how much money you make. There's so much more to life than that.