Dear Mom,

I’m slowly getting settled into my life here in Israel. I want to tell you everything! Jerusalem is beautiful, and my new veggie-chopping view is the same one you see in the postcards…my kitchen window looks out over the Old City.

But no matter how breathtaking the views, adjustments are never easy. My schedule now feels so not me. I spend most of my hours absorbing information rather than creating output. I’m itching for dirty hands already.

Typically, I channel my energy by producing—painting, taking photographs, cooking, writing—but here I sit in class, read and listen. It’s not my style, and I’m scared that I don’t know how to do it—though I admit that the practice is probably exactly what I need. What I want is to run away to the market and get lost in samples.

Oh, the market. Vendors are revving up for Hanukkah, which is strange because it’s still warm outside. The stalls are stacked with fried sufganiyot (donuts) glistening with sugar and dripping with red jelly. I try to restrain myself, but they’re too good!

I’m banking on the Hanukkah goodies in Israel to fill the void of not being home for Thanksgiving, but I know I’ll miss the flavors and feel of our Thanksgiving meal together. Not that it matters to me, but do people even eat turkey in this part of the world? I can’t decide which is worse: missing your crisp latkes or your comforting squash casserole.

To bring some Thanksgiving flavors into my life here, I made Hanukkah sufganiyot that invite Thanksgiving nostalgia: Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts. Sorry, Israelis, I know that baking donuts is a total insult, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to stomach Hanukkah and Thanksgiving indulgences all in the same week!

And for another healthy Thanksgiving twist on a Hanukkah classic, try my Zesty Cranberry Yogurt in place of sour cream on your latkes. It’s great with old fashioned latkes, but with sweet potato latkes…OMG!

At least I have my priorities straight: I’ll always have time to squeeze some inventive kitchen experimentation into my schedule. Back to class…wish me luck!