Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ready for tzitzit

Yoni’s tallit is complete,


except for the tzitzit.

The pinot/corner pieces are stitched to the tallit using a buttonhole stitch. I like the way it mimics the look of a hand stitch.


I thought many kind thought’s about Yoni’s savta/ grandmother as I stitched those pinot.



Yoni is a deep thinker.  He chose powerful  texts from his haftara.  Of all the kids I have ever worked with he has understood most intuitively about how using texts wisely can change the experience of wearing a tallit.  Most kids ( because after all they are kids)  need a fair amount of hand holding to select texts, and more importantly select texts that work.  Yoni dove right in and made  smart selections.


Tomorrow I go up to Boston. My mother is now in home hospice care.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Clearing my plate

Yesterday I finished adding color to the Isabel’s thank you notes. Tying her tzitzit was scheduled for the late afternoon.  as delightful as this project was,I am glad to put it to bed.


Isabel was really delighted with her tallit. Her father joined her for tying the tzitzit. The two shared the task with  much teasing between the two of them.



Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera and I missed Isabel’s jumping for joy moment.SAM_3907

I am also working on finishing up Yoni’s tallit.


I have had to abandon some ideas that didn’t work.


The text for the atara just didn’t show up on the rock pained fabric. the little green snails are of no theological importance but will make Yoni’s favorite color more dominant on the atara.


I also had a similar false start with the pinot.


I still have to sew the corner pieces onto the tallit and make he eyelets. Once I trim all of the loose threads the tallit will be complete.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Food Friday–Scented with love edition

Our dear friends Alfie and Judy live in the mid-west but have often been guests at our house, and at our table.


They stopped in new york earlier this winter while on their way to France. When I got my mail yesterday, there was a small package from Judy. It was this package of couscous spice purchased at a Paris market.


I made not couscous, but a quinoa and rice pilaf and added the fragrant spice mix to the to the pot of grains.


This is a week when I wish I had the ability to digitize smell and attach it to the blog post.


Our meat too, is enhanced by Alfie and Judy’s love.


The coffee used in the spice rub was a gift from Alfie from his time in Costa Rica. it’s de-caf coffee, so unfit to drink ( in my opinion) but perfect in a meat rub.


Smelling all of those good loving smells is pretty wonderful. I am feeling very much in need of that love right now.  My mother is now, as my dear friend Linda and I have often quipped, on that great exit ramp from the land of the living.  It may be one of those long meandering exit ramps, but she is now traveling that road.


Several years ago my mother once said to me “ You know how I am going to die? I am either going to have a heart attack or a stroke. If I’m lucky it will be a big one and will kill me all at once. If I’m not so lucky  I will have a whole bunch of little ones and die slowly.”

My mother has had a couple of  heart attacks and a couple of medium sized strokes and a bunch of small strokes. She is going through the dwindling that she had hoped not to go through.

My mother has begun that merge onto that great exit ramp. The love contained in a spice packet from Paris gives me great comfort.

Steps forward and back

Isabel’s tallit is complete. We just have to schedule the tzitzit tying.


I am pretty delighted with this piece.


The atara came out exactly as I had hoped. You can see much of it before it was sewn onto the tallit


And here it is on the tallit.





I could not be more pleased.

I did more work on Yoni’s tallit.I found a spool of army green thread and realized that rows of machine embroidery in the army green would be perfect.




Things were going so well that I decided to add a decorative stitch to the edge of the  rock stripes.

I forgot how the stitching will stiffen up the edge of the stripe in a really unpleasant way. I had of course chosen a stitch that was fairly dense.


I had a crazy amount of unpicking to do.


Unpicking stitches is probably one of my least favorite activities. I would rather clean toilets. If there were a way to NOT unpick the stitching, I would have done it.SAM_3888

Eventually, after several episodes of crappy reality TV streaming on the computer monitor as I pick pick picked away, the task was completed.

I think that a slight change in tactics might help me in the next series of tasks I need to do on this tallit.

I think that rather than placing the rock stripes, I will complete the atara, sew that into place and then go back to the rock stripes.


When I realized that I had messed up the rock stripes with the too stiff stitching, I rewarded myself by recovering one of my couch cushions.SAM_3902

Reminding myself that I am not a complete failure  at sewing helps me to get an unpleasant task done.


The fabric was a remnant purchased from the basement of ABC carpet and home about ten years ago.  The nice thing about having made a decision to cover my couches in mixed prints is that as elements get worn out they can be replaced. I have a selection of upholstery fabrics in my stash in fabrics that work together.

I am now ready to get back to Yoni’s tallit.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Connecting with the past

A few months ago I had a craving for my father’s chicken fricassee.  If my father were still alive I would have called him up and he would have talked me through the process of making it. 


My father is no longer alive so I turned to my cookbooks and the recipes I found for chicken fricassee were nothing at all like the stew of chicken necks, gizzards and wings in a watery sweet and sour tomato sauce that I enjoyed as a kid.  I assumed that the dish was an invention of my father’s. I then attempted to replicate the dish from my memory of it and failed.


A couple of weeks ago I saw an article on the internet, and I can’t remember where, that talked about Jewish fricassee  and it sounded an awful lot like the dish I was hankering after.

This afternoon I went to the butcher and picked up all of the chicken elements of the dish, a couple of packages each of wings, necks and gizzards.

My father never cooked directly from a cook book. He used to read a batch of recipes and then just cook. Clearly, this is a method that I follow as well.


I went online and Googled  “Jewish fricassee”. Some of the recipes I found online had too much beef in the mixture. Others weren’t sweet at all. One called for repulsive amounts of sugar. One called for a mini can of tomato juice.  I read all of the recipes and then set out on my own.

I sautéed one onion in olive oil. When the onion was not quite translucent I added the packages of meat and a can of diced tomatoes. I then added lots of paprika, black pepper, and smoked paprika. For the sour I added lime juice to the pot , because I have some, lemon would work fine and brown sugar, maybe a tablespoon full.


I let the mixture simmer covered on top of the stove until it was mostly cooked, and very very wet.



Some of the recipes called for leaving the pot uncovered on top of the stove and simmering away lots of the liquid. I didn’t want to  end up with a filthy stove top from spattering boiling chicken juice, so I put the open pot into an oven heated to 350. If someone else cleans your kitchen for you you can just leave the pan on the stove to shoot droplets of tomato-ey chicken juice all over your stove top. 


I let the juices evaporate in the hot oven. The oven time also got some of the meat crispier. I adjusted the flavors as I went along adding more sugar and some cider vinegar.


This was the taste I was looking for. We ate the fricassee over a slice of challah and some cooked kale. ( My son had finished all of the rice left over from Shabbat, the rice would have been my first choice to sop up the cooking juices but the challah was pretty delicious)

While the mixture was cooking I worked on Yoni’s tallit. Yoni is one of those incredibly sweet kids who asks for very little. So when he does say he wants something you really  want to make sure to satisfy the kid.

I hemmed the outer edges of the tallit and attached the first set of stripes. I used green thread because Yoni loves green.SAM_3875

Yoni’s late grandmother was a serious needlewoman. After she died I inherited some of her notions and sewing tools. Two of her storage boxes sit to my left as I sew. I never met Yoni’s grandmother but her tools have become part of my sewing life. I just used her large tapestry needle on Sunday to help get tzitit through the eyelets of the twins tallitot. I use her antique wooden darning egg fairly regularly. When I get stuck for a closure I will open one of those plastic boxes, and often there is exactly what I need neatly packaged from a store that went out of business decades ago. Sometimes just opening up those boxes triggers the right solution to a sewing problem.SAM_3876


There is still a fair amount of work left to do on Yoni’s tallit but I like that this is feeling more like a tallit and less like random bits of fabric.

Monday, February 16, 2015

And a splendid time was had by all…

Yesterday the twins and their parents came by to tie the tzitzit on their tallitot.  Unfortunately, the twins grandmother was snowed in and could not join us.

When we had met earlier it was pretty clear that the twins’ mother was worried that the tallitot would look like some sort of a camp craft project, far too wild and wooly for her taste.


One of the things I really do pride my self on as an artist is hearing what my clients want and incorporating the needs of the client into the final piece.  I have noticed that lots of figurative painters make every portrait look  something like the artist rather than like the client. One of my long time clients once quipped that each of my pieces is a portrait of the client. I take that as a big, big compliment.


So here are the two tallitot.



Here are some details:



I set the girls up side by side to tie the tzitzit. like most kids who have gone to camp the knots were familiar to them, albeit with a different name…


Like anything, else beginning the task was a little tricky. But after a few checks and corrections the work of tying tzitzit  went more easily.



As the girls began to tie the tzitzit they and their parents noticed ways small and large that I had heard them during our initial meeting.



When both sets of tzitzit were tied on one side of the tallit I had each twin teach one of her parents how to do the knotting and tying.




I love seeing families working together.

I then had the girls don their tallitot with all of the verses that surround the ritual.


Friday, February 13, 2015

My life is not just cooking…

It was now time to tackle the atara/ neckband for Isabel's tallit.


I went back to look at my sketch.

Isabel 001 (2)

I had forgotten that I had planned to make an atara with the priestly breastplate in the center.

Isabel 001 (2)


So I had to get to work creating it.


Last week one of the local thrift stores was selling a roll of Joe Fresh gold knit fabric. It was a really really shiny bathing suit knit. If I wanted to star in a 1980’s aerobics video I would make myself work out clothing out of this knit. It was a silly amount of fabric for a silly price.  I had made myself a slip out of some of it.


I realized that it would be perfect for the breastplate for Isabel, the girl who loves bling.


I cut a rectangle of fusible fleece, and drew the stitching lines on the fleece with a marker. I backed the fleece with the shiny fabric and stitched.


I then added twelve different shiny bits as the jewels.


I then tidied up the little breastplate.


I painted the text on either side of the center and decided to paint a frame for the breastplate onto the silk. I used painter's tape to mark the area to be painted.



I think this will look great when it is all put together.


My friend's daughter is expecting a baby. This is a huge, huge deal.


I decided to knit a blanket for the baby. I have fallen in love with knitting on giant needles.   It’s the way that those of us with short knitting  attention spans can knit things like garments or baby blankets.


I used four fat yarns at a time and switched out colors whenever I felt like it. the yarns are all acrylic so the blanket can be washed whenever it gets dirty. Given that the blanket is going to a baby, that means that this blanket will get dirty often.


I love the colors. hope the baby does too.