Friday, August 22, 2014

Keeper of the textiles

My mother had a cedar chest in her bedroom. The wool blankets lived there during the warm weather months.  There were also small shelves that unfolded inside that cedar chest when you opened it. On those small shelves were beautiful little sweaters that were made for my older sisters from some of the excellent knitters in Halifax.

There were some sweaters that I remembered wearing and others that my mother told us she was saving for our children. I gave birth to the first granddaughter so after my daughter was born several beautiful sweaters came my way out of that cedar chest. Several of them were too  brittle to wear, even after careful washing. the yarns just broke with wearing.

I loved the idea of my mother saving clothing so that our children could wear them. while I gave away most of my children’s clothing after they outgrew them there were some things that I kept for my future grandchildren. We were clearing out a storage locker yesterday so I brought the box of saved garments home. No, we are a long way away from grand children but I wanted to share some of the items that I decided to save.


This sweater  was one of a matching set made for my older sisters. I don’t know what happened to the other one. I love the classic stripes at the hems and the fact that it is gender neutral. All of my kids wore this one.



My college buddy Judy made this sweater. This sweater fits from new born until a child is about two. This sweater got lots of wear from all of my kids. I see that the ducky buttons have faded ( I believe that they were purple ) and one has gotten lost. I will replace the buttons when the time comes.You can’t get much cuter than this.


Judy also made this vest for my son when he was born.This was worn by both boys, often for shul. It looks great with a pair of chinos and a button down, sort of baby country club.


When friends would visit us from Halifax they  sometimes brought us  Nova Scotia tartan kilts.  I guess it is the elegant Haligonian equivalent of I heart NY  shirts.We had them in every size from infant hood through high school. I think this was mine in elementary school. My daughter still wears the larges one that I wore when I was in High School . My daughter will wear her kilt to make me laugh and when we have guests from Halifax joining us for dinner.



My youngest has always been crazy skinny. he also had trouble figuring out which way was the front on his pants. Zippers and pockets really didn’t serve as enough of a clue for him. I ended up making him lots of pairs of pants that worked either way. I made big patch pockets on the side seams so the pants worked worn either front to back or back to front. My son loved color and wild color combinations.


We were all quit fond of the tomato pants. SAM_2773

The following pair of pants is possibly one of the ugliest pairs of pants ever made, ever.They belonged to my cousins. They came with a matching vest which we did not inherit.

These pants were so ugly that they were laugh out loud funny.


Yes, that’s genuine double knit. Did you notice the patriotic theme?SAM_2775

Yes, I made my boys wear them. They look especially amusing when worn short. Bell bottom flood pants is quite the look. Granted I called them the ugly pants. My boys are good sports for being willing to make their mother laugh. Because the double knit is indestructible there might be a few more generations of boys subjected to wearing them.


My sister in law bought my daughter these two pairs of jungle themes short- overalls. They fit a two year old and are unspeakably adorable on. they work equally well worn with a ruffled blouse and with a t- shirt. They were well worn and loved by all three kids.


This beautiful blanket was a gift from our friends Allan and Joanne. It’s perfect for wrapping up a baby during the warmer months.

there are some other garments in the saved for grandchildren box, but I wanted to share some of the highlights.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A new era begins



Tomorrow we bring our youngest to college. SAM_0467

To be frank, he wasn’t the easiest child when he was a little boy. All of us in the family have favorite stories about him. But I’m not going to share any of those stories here. If he chooses to  that’s fine, but I don’t think that it’s fair for me to in this setting. He has become quite a wonderful human being. Shockingly he has become a truly kind, empathetic person. He’s also just a good musician. Most astonishingly, he levelheaded. frankly it is much better to be the parent of a kid who is difficult when young and then is delightful from about age 9 on than the other way around.


I will share some photos that might give you a sense of what he was like as a younger kid. My son loved this photo so much that he put it in his high school yearbook. This was a routine he used to do whenever he wore his sweatpants. Yes, we all laughed.

jed no arms

I love this image for it’s sheer dweebieness. My son chose his wardrobe. Yes, your eyes do not deceive. he is wearing all plaid. Yes, those are black socks with sandals and he did button the top button of his shirt. My son was always a fearless dresser.

plaid jed

In the next photo my youngest was confused because my husbands khaki’s ended up in my son’s drawer.

pants jed

This is what my son wore  to earn money.The picture was taken by a reporter in the New York Post

Jed NY post 6-8-12

This was just one of many brilliant costumes he put together over the years. jed dylan

jumping jed

I think he’s going to have a great time in college and in the years going forward.

Truth Justice and the American Way

Yesterday was my last day of jury duty. In the morning we heard our last witness. Each of the lawyers then did their summation.

We broke for lunch. Thank you New York City taxpayers for buying us lunch. My tuna wrap was delicious.
After lunch we were given our charge by the judge.
The judge really impressed me. He carefully explained the parameters of the law that we were expected to rule on. He explained that the job of the prosecution was to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, a doubt that could be explained through reason. A gut feeling is not enough to either prove or disprove.
We went into the jury room. I had been chosen to be the forewoman of the jury. I have been around enough social workers to know that before you do anything in a group we all need to introduce ourselves.
We had one law to rule on--gun possession but that is made up three parts, one was that the fire-arm be operable, the second was that the firearm was in the defendant's possession--that is in a space over which she had authority and lastly we need to determine if she actually knew that the gun was in that space.
The first part was easy, the expert witness who testified that the gun was operable was completely convincing. As a jury we were convinced and decided to not waste time dithering over that piece of that decision.
The other two pieces of our decision were a little more complicated. Most of my fellow jurors were completely convinced that the defendant was not guilty. Some of the jurors were fairly sure that under the law she wasn't guilty but weren't comfortable delivering a verdict  until they were more convinced. We asked to see evidence. We discussed the issue further. We talked through some of the sticking points.

The defense lawyer in his closing remarks mentioned that  beyond a reasonable doubt is a high hurdle, mostly to protect all of us from wrongful conviction.
We shared examples from our own life experiences. We listened to one another
By the end of our time in the jury room we had agreed. A working gun was found in a room where the defendant had been sleeping. We were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt  the defendant actually lived in the room, if it was her room.  We also were not convinced beyond a reasonable  that she knew that the gun was in the room before it was recovered by the police.
We voted again.
We found the defendant not guilty.
Each day as I entered the courtroom I was blown away by this fabulous mosaic mural just past the elevators. Actually you can just see a bit of it. I think a later renovation made it impossible to see the mural in full. Using a camera in the courthouse is forbidden. I had to check mine with the security desk each day after I went through security.
I asked the officers in charge of the security desk if I may have their permission to take photos of mural. The guard explained that undercover cops and informants use the staircase next to the mural so I could take photos only if I was accompanied by an officer. He then accompanied me so I could take photos of the mural.SAM_2756
While I got the imagery of Moses, the burning bush and the ten commandments I haven’t figured out what this is.
It looks a bit like creation imagery to me, the tohu va vohu, the chaos that existed before creation  forming itself into the natural order of the world. OK by writing that out I’m guessing that the allegory here is that natural law  and legal law arise from the same divine source.

Frankly it seems a little sectarian for a public court  for my taste, even if the images are Jewish. However understanding Jewish legal concepts, concepts I learned studying halacha made my decision making much easier. The laws relating to the possession of hametz during Passover are direct corollaries to the laws of gun possession.
I am grateful that my fellow jurors were so serious about our task. We are all of us imperfect, doing the very best we can.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Images from Jury Duty

Given that I can’t legally talk about the case I’m sitting on and given that it is forbidden to take photos inside the court building, I am not about to break the law.


I can however show you pictures from the neighborhood. The courts themselves and the buildings in the area are full of notable details.

This is a bigger view of the Tweed court house.



This branch of Modell’s Sporting Goods is fronted by a wonderful , but dirty colonnade.



The bank a block further east has the best doors.


They didn’t stint with any of the details when they built this bank.

SAM_2742SAM_2741There is a pair of these spectacular light fixtures flanking the entryway.


This Art Deco light is in front of a Department of Health building.


Friday afternoon there was some sort of a Korean cultural festival taking place in the park. The traditionally dressed dancers were enjoying the hip hop performance.


I report back to the court tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Doing my Civic Duty

A few weeks ago I got that familiar summons to do jury duty. Today was the day.  I went downtown early this morning  and took this photo of the Tweed Courthouse before I reported for jury duty.


The last couple of times I had jury duty I loved the officer of the court assigned to the jury room. He was outrageously funny.  He made the process  actually fun.  He must have retired and he now has a replacement. She hasn’t had as many years to hone her materials her predecessor did, but she has a similar dry wit.


They have updated the informational introductory video. I was sort of looking forward to seeing the giant shoulder pads   from the old video that was filmed at some point in the 1980’s.  

The previous times I reported for jury duty the highlight of my experience was the beautiful speech made by the retired judge. In that speech he talked about how our judicial system is flawed, but it is the best and the most fair in the world. He talked about the only way for the system to be more fair was for us to take our jobs as jurors seriously. By the time his little talk was done I was dying to serve on a jury and do my part for truth justice and the American way.

The updated movie had the chief justice of New York State making  a similar speech ( but he wasn’t as good as the retired judge speaking to us live).


Well, this time I was chosen for a jury. No, I am not going to break the law and discuss the case here or anywhere or with anyone for that matter.


But I am going to say is that I am impressed with how sober and serious the entire process is. It gives me faith that  there can be justice within our judicial system.

I am not that much of a flag waver. There have been a few moments when fulfilling my civic duty I have been truly moved. I was moved to tears when each of my kids applied for their first library card. The New York Public Library has a contract for little kids to sign when they apply for their first card.  That contract is written in simple words that clearly spell out their responsibilities and rights as library card holders. It’s a gorgeous document.


I was moved to tears when I pulled the lever for Geraldine  Ferraro.  Standing on the line that snaked east and west along 97th street from Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue and back again, in 2008 for Barak Obama’s first election was a deeply profound civic moment.


Being chosen to sit on a jury is another of those profound civic moments.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Tallit for Mike

If there were some sort of a world wide competition for the nicest person our friend Mike would certainly be one of the finalists.

My husband first met Mike when they were in Hebrew High School together back in the 1960’s. Our son’s ( who share the same first name) became at kid’s services when they were maybe three. Since then, we have been fortunate to have Mike in our lives.


Mike broke his foot a few months ago in a pretty spectacular way. He has just become mobile  a couple of weeks ago.


This past Shabbat, Mike told me that he wanted me to make him a white wool tallit for the high holidays. In my experience beautiful thin white wool is what my Southern friends call spendy.  


Yesterday I went to the garment district with an out of town sewing friend.  I found several wools that might work for a tallit.


They were all beautiful. They did have a really wide price range, I could have spent anywhere from $180 down to $18 per yard.  I chose an $18 /yard wool.


Mike was happy with the choice.

I have jury duty later in the week. I thought that I would use the time to fringe the tallit. Fringing is not a job I look forward to.

What I hadn’t anticipated is that it was much easier to fringe wool than it is silk. The wool is much thicker than silk filament. I cut a bit into the selvedge  and then used blunt needle to nudge the wool threads away from the   body of the fabric.


After a surprisingly short time I was done. I then zig zagged along the edge so there would not be further raveling while the tallit was in use.


This was some of the pile of discarded wool.



Here are the adorable fringes.


I need to finish the other two sides of the tallit. (the raw edges are now serged)

I hope that the rest of this project goes as smoothly.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Food Friday and Iron Work

Tonight a dear friend is coming for dinner, my older son’s third grade teacher. My son had a big part in the planning of the meal. He suggested chicken with amba.

Amba comes from Iraq and in many ways is a keystone between Indian and Middle eastern cooking. It is made with pickled lemons and mango. For both me and my son the smell, and the taste of amba pushes a crazy button in my head. I smell it.. I MUST have some. I guess other people get excited about chocolate, but that complicated pungent smell gets my juices going.



Cooking this chicken was easy. I put some amba inside the chickens and coated the outside  with lots more amba.  Then I cooked until done. That’s the recipe.

Once the chicken was cool I cut it up into serving pieces. The amba has a strong  and complicated flavor. I think the rest of the meal  needs to provide a gentle balance.The jasmine rice with cardamom is cooking right now and I still have to make the green salad. 


My son made the challah and I made an apricot non –dairy ice cream. It’s dried apricots and a couple of peaches simmered in coconut milk with some sugar and then pureed.


It is now getting turned into ice cream by our trusty ice cream maker.SAM_2709

We are so excited that my son’s teacher is coming for dinner. We have been full of memories of my son’s time in her class as we have been anticipating tonight.

Ironically I have re-connected with one of kids who was in the afterschool class that I ran in 1982 and three. I have been trading delightful, funny messages back and forth my with student  who is as funny as he was when he was four…but he does write a whole lot better.


As a bonus, Friday treat, some lovely old iron work all within walking distance of my apartment.


Some of the iron work may have been custom made. It is more likely that it was ordered from a a catalog. I love how the choices both create a sense of individuality to each building. I also love how the decorative work makes the utilitarian lovely.SAM_2663