Thursday, March 26, 2015

Getting ready for Pesach

I know.


You don’t expect to see a batch of boiled bagels ready to go into the oven in a blog post about getting ready for Passover.


But I am going my best to use up a 10lb. bag of flour before we switch over the house. for the holiday.


I live with two guys who live on bread. Tonight’s dinner and the rest of the meals we will be eating between now and Saturday evening will be in the category of festival of randomness.


Tonight we will be eating codfish cakes made with some salt cod I found in the freezer. We will be eating whatever vegetables are left in the freezer.


A friend invited us for dinner tomorrow. I made a berry pie to use up more flour and the rest of a bag of mixed berries from the freezer.


It’s an oil crust. let me see if I remember what I put in it, 2/3 C of oil, 2 C of flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and some water and a bit of ginger booze.


The filling is berries simmered with tapioca, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom.  I grated some  dark chocolate onto the crust before I filled it and over the top of the berries.A bit of chocolate is nice with berries.  I like the look of a rough and rustic crust.


Actually my plan was to make a free form pie. The filling was just to runny to attempt that this time. I realize that a free form pie would work better with sliced peaches or apples. The frozen berries were far too wet  to attempt a free form pie.


Well, with this batch of baking my goal was less excellence of product and more use of ingredients.

A gift from a dear friend


sabba& savta 001

This morning I got a call from one of my childhood friends. My friend lives just a couple of blocks from my mother’s apartment.

Soon after I got to Boston that week before my mother died, my friend came over with apple sauce for my mother and flowers for me and for my sister. She just sat and talked with me ,and with my sister. She brought over her photo album from her bat-mitzvah and we looked at photos of the grown ups,, many of who are no longer living, and our contemporaries.  Our classmates were wearing maxi dresses if they were girls, and the boys were wearing bell bottoms and really loud jackets.


We remembered who we were then and caught up on what various of our contemporaries were doing.  One of our classmates had died in his thirties, some of our classmates are living exactly the lives they had fantasized about, other have had more difficult paths. Some we had completely lost track of. 


There was something so deeply comforting about that visit.  My friend in her kind, kind way helped me to prepare for the difficult work ahead.


This morning, my friend called. We talked about her parents  ( who I adore) and mine. We talked about people we knew in common. We talked about getting ready for Passover. And then my friend said that she wanted to tell me something about my mother.


My friend then told me about how when she was younger she was going through an emotionally difficult time. My friend’s parents had sent my friend to professionals and yet, a heavy cloud still hung over her.  My mother called my friend and had a long, long talk with her.


My mother kept telling my friend that she needed to listen to her own heart and that she would be ok. My friend told me that this conversation pulled her out of the abyss and was the turning point for her.

My friend then told me that she had gone to visit my mother earlier in February to tell her just how much that conversation so many decades ago had meant to her. My mother didn’t really understand what my friend was saying.

Yes, I wept as I heard my friend’s story.


I am so grateful for the gift my friend gave me by sharing that story.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Guess the neighborhood!!!

My  husband and I did a small adventure yesterday to a new york neighborhood that is new to both of us. I took a couple of photos. I don’t know if any of them are particularly helpful in identifying the neighborhood.










After we got home I decided to work on using our last bag of flour before we switch the house over to Passover this weekend.


This is a hybrid between tzibbile pletzel, onion board and Eastern European  favorite, and  pita zaatar. each sheet of egg enriched dough was sprinkled with a dried onions, poppy seeds, sumac, parsley,  smoked paprika and black pepper.


I got bored when I was nearly done an rolled up the last sheet of dough and then sliced the roll. I ate one board topped with mozzarella cheese for lunch. For supper we will have a tomato mushroom soup.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Feeling Topsy Turvy and Whistler’s Mother takes a bath

This is what things looked like from my taxi window on Wednesday on the way back from Costco.


It was cold but you had the feeling that spring was right around the corner.


After all, we had just had a couple of really warm days,.

This is what is going on outside my window today.


I come from Boston. I have lived through lots of March snowstorms. I have even lived through one May snowstorm.  I know that just because the calendar says that it is spring  it does not mean that the weather will be spring-like…but still…..

I also wanted to report on process of bathing Mrs. Whistler. I took the frame apart and pulled the crochet piece off of the satin covered cardboard. the handwork had been affixed with glue and was easy to peel off.


I soaked the piece in a bucket filled with hot water and dish soap. The piece  was really dirty. The water in the bucket turned dark brown. After many rinses the piece was still stained.


I then filled the bucket with clean hot water and added Oxy-Clean. I let Mrs. Whistler soak over night and then rinsed well and rolled her up in a series of terry cloth towels and then hung her up to dry.

Here she is now, clean and most of the way blocked. (Blocking is using steam and heat to gently re size a piece after washing


You can see that the nasty stains are now gone.


I have to get a sheet of foam core and re assemble Mrs. Whistler in her frame.

I still don’t get why anyone would take the time to make something like this. But then again, why am I taking the time to restore this piece?

Food Friday, cooking for us again

We have been eating food lovingly cooked for us  during my mother’s Shiva. Each day we have been pulling out  various food units and heating them up for lunch and dinner.

Today is Friday, time to make Shabbat dinner.  Yes, I know that Pesach is coming. But I have about 12 lbs. of flour that needs to be used up and two Shabbatot before we change the house over. So I made challah.


I decided to make a smaller batch with only 2.5 cups of water and four eggs instead of the usual 3.5 cups of water and 6 eggs. If I were more scientifically minded I would have precisely figured out exactly what percentage to reduce al of the other ingredients. I am not, so I just added less of everything.


They look good and will probably taste good too.


This my son’s birthday Shabbat so I made ribs. This is what I put on top of the ribs before they went into the oven.


I am trying to use up open containers of condiments before Passover. We tried the Korean hot pepper paste for the first time on Rosh HaShanah. We have eaten a kilo and a half of this pepper paste in six month. Yes, it is that good.


I also want you to notice how despite the fact that our condiments come from France, the Middle East and Korea, they play extremely well together, particularly on meaty beef bones. I will add another layer of marinade to the meat when I heat it up. The pepper container is sadly, completely empty. We will have to break out a new one after Passover.

Here you see the ribs and the meatballs cooking away,


until they were done



I have lots of time to make a salad. I think we will go dessert free tonight.

Shabbat Shalom to everyone, especially Annette who was worried that I wouldn’t cook until Passover.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One of the many reasons I love my kids

Yesterday was my youngest’s birthday. He is now old. A European born cousin once described her daughter as “Teaching retired children.”  Yes, our cousin misspoke and meant retarded.  But in the warped lexicon of our family, “retired children” have come to mean old, former children.  Given that usage, I am now the mother of retired children. My youngest is now a retired child.

We are now beginning to talk about breaking up my mother’s apartment. We have been thinking about which family members want which objects so we can distribute things fairly.


My parents had a fairly large art collection. I think partially as their own reaction to the Holocaust, and partially because black and white etchings and lithographs were more affordable they have a large collection of very dark art. There are lots of pieces that depict the European Jewish world before the Holocaust and others that either obliquely or directly explore the Holocaust.


I asked my kids if they were objects from my mother’s house that they wanted. One of them asked, “ You mean the scary art?”  Before long, they began acting out several pieces from my parents art collection.


Some of these tableaus depict just one etching. Others are a mélange of two or three pieces.SAM_4000



I admire their power of observation.


If you have been in either the Quincy house or the Brookline apartment you may recognize the art works my kids are depicting.




There is one oil of people dancing in the woods.


This is how my kids deal with grief. This is how they comfort me.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A gift from my husband

Yesterday I was ready for a small post-Shiva adventure. My husband and I decided to go to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

The museum is in one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York. You get off the subway in a neighborhood of abandoned and repurposed factories,
and then walk through streets where industrial and residential buildings are crammed in side by side. The industrial buildings and the modest homes feel comfortably familiar to me. I grew up not far from shoe factories, and the ship yard was just a few miles from my house.
The light was wonderfully dramatic as we made our way to the museum.
After visiting the excellent Mad Men exhibit we decided to walk around in the neighborhood.
We went into a thrift store. My husband and I tend to have very different shopping styles so we naturally split up when we go into a store. after several minutes we found one another. my husband said he noticed something truly great in the store. I had noticed the same thing. 
A rendition of Whistler’s mother in filet crochet. We both responded to the terrible reproduction of the painting combined with the fairly skilled crochet work.
The piece is big, about 30” x 24”.

There is something so completely daft about this piece.
How obsessive does one need to be to follow a chart to create this piece? ?Is this a one off, with the design created and drafted by the maker? What would cause someone to devote the time to reproduce Whistler’s painting in filet crochet?
My husband fell in love and bought the piece.
Mrs. Whistler is a little bit schmutzy . I will need to take the frame apart and clean the piece. It has been backed with cardboard that is now crumbling and covered with shiny orange satin that I think may be rayon.

I did some research the internet last night.  I f any of you have any wisdom to add or have a better idea about this piece I would be happy to hear from you.

I discovered that there was a WWII era company that was producing filet crochet patterns in patriotic themes. You could purchase the patterns from your newspaper. You could purchase a pattern to recreate the  Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence in filet crochet. They sold other patterns with other deeply patriotic themes. The same company also sold crochet patterns of DaVinci’s  Last Supper.

I suspect that the pattern for Whistler’s Mother is a product of that company. It could however just be the product of a lone obsessed woman.
Have you ever seen such a thing?
Please let me know if you have ever seen anything similar.

Melissa, a member of  an internet sewing discussion group that I belong to  sent me a link to an advertisement for a pattern for this piece.
Thanks to Melissa , some of the mystery behind this piece is solved.  I am now about halfway through the process of cleaning the piece.