Friday, January 23, 2015

What isn’t there

I spent the last couple of days in Boston with my mother. My mother has had a series of strokes that have left her both physically and mentally diminished.


My mother chose her apartment for the views.


I’m not sure how much of those views she actually takes in these days.

While I was there I was struck by the quality of the  winter light.


While my mother is usually pretty well oriented, at one point she asked me in Hebrew whose apartment she was in and who was paying the rent.  I told her that it was her apartment and that she was paying the rent. She was surprised that she lived in such a large apartment.



I keep taking pictures of my mother’s things on her window sill. These objects collected over the years, some purchased by my parents, others gifts to them  are as much a portrait of my mother as an actual image of my mother. SAM_3715SAM_3719SAM_3720SAM_3721




I am so looking forward to Shabbat with my family. one of our guests is a college friend who I don’t think I have seen since the 1980’s. Both of us have had stressful weeks. I imagine that there will be lots of laughing around the dinner table.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Non identical twins

I have been working on the non identical tallitot for the non identical but  similar twins.



This is the atara for one of the twins.

I lay the atara on top of a piece of couched embroidery so you can see another example of couching.



The beams of light that come out of the Hebrew word for light will be further emphasized with more embroidery.


I like how this photo shows clearly how the silver thread is stitched down to the blue gros-grain  ribbon with tiny blue stitches. This twin wants a really simple tallit.


Her sister wanted a tallit that is a bit more visually complex, but in the same colors of blue and silver.

This is the text I’m using from Psalm 104.


The twin’s grandmother is making the bags for the tallitot. I had a really lovely conversation with her this morning talking through the process of how to make the bags. I think she will do a wonderful job. She sounded a bit worried so I suggested that she make a sample bag first. She seemed really relieved when I suggested a trial bag.


This has been an interesting project for me. Each of the generations involved with this tallit has a strong voice. They do not al want exactly the same thing but I am doing my best to hear each voice and to create something that leaves arch participant satisfied with the end result.


After each client meeting I replay the conversations  in my head  to try and understand what each person is really saying, to figure out what their real needs are.


These two tallitot are all about restraint. Although often my work is of the “more is more” school. I do actually understand how to do quiet.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Food Friday–Guest Edition

Our dear friend Marcia invited us for Shabbat dinner.  It’s been a hard week.  Marcia figured that it would be and invited us, and our house guest for dinner.  When we eat together it is always a bit of a pot luck. Marcia is doing most of the meal.


I’m bringing flanken ribs.  It’s my youngest’s last Shabbat at home before he goes back to school. I mixed pomegranate molasses, mustard, tamarind paste, liquid smoke and balsamic vinegar in a bwol and rolled each piece of meat in the sauce before cooking it. When I heat the heat up I will put more sauce over the meat.  I expect no left overs.


I am also in charge of dessert. Marcia’s husband loves chocolate. So I made a chocolate custard spiked with ground coffee that I then put into the ice cream maker.  Here are the dry ingredients in the pot.


Here is an action shot of me pouring coconut milk into the dry ingredients ( cocoa, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt)SAM_3686

Yes that IS a gorilla  in my whisk. The whisk was a gift from my sister. The gorilla is not necessary for making a good custard, but a whisk keeps lumps to a minimum.SAM_3687

I also added some pecans to the mix and some dried cranberries along with some shavings of really good bittersweet chocolate. After the mixture reached a boil I turned it off and then put it into the ice cream maker.


I also made some ginger parve ice cream. You are looking at LOTS of minced ginger, maybe two inches of a fat root well minced, about a teaspoon of fresh orange rind, a cup of sugar, a can of coconut milk, half a can of water, a pinch of salt, lots of ground ginger, a shot of ginger brandy, and some vanilla. I simmered the mixture for about an hour to extract maximum ginger taste and then added two tablespoons of cornstarch. ( I did a corn starch slurry with the hot liquid before adding the starch to the pot.)The mixture got heated to just boiling and then it went into the ice cream maker which had been well cleaned out by my older son.



After doing time in the ice cream maker it looked like this.The ginger flavor emerges twice as you eat the ice cream, at first gently and then you get an extra hit of gingery goodness.


having my son around to help means that I can work on one of the next tallitot on my plate.



This chunk of lettering is done.


I also machine embroidered ribbon for some of the stripes. There is a LOT of this .


I have to press the ribbons after Shabbat. The blue and silver work is for a set of two similar but not identical tallitot for a set of similar but not identical twins. They both want their tallitot to be visually simple. There are lots of pieces of prep work I need to do before I get down to actual construction. This will be a working weekend. Hopefully I can post more progress soon.


Shabbat Shalom!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Busy, busy, busy

With this and that.

This is some of the this, adding color to Isabel’s invitations, and the reply cards, and the thank you notes.


This is more of the this…



Couching silver cord to cover letters for an atara.



The cord is too fragile to use for embroidery, so I’m hand couching it. I could have done the couching by machine, but ultimately it is easier to work in small spaces when you work by hand.


Couching is a fancy word for stitching down  decorative cording with tiny stitches.


And an inexplicable that:

I have tried three times to purchase the Family Circle book from this series that is about clothing. Each time I have gotten this volume from the series….


on gardening. No, this is not all that useful for me living six flights above ground level.  I am going to put it in the give away bookshelf in my building’s basement.

And this is the breakfast I have been eating most mornings.


It’s sort of the opposite of a smoothie. I guess you can call it a roughie. It’s an orange, some almonds cranberries and a couple of dates, and it’s delicious.


I am incredibly grateful that my dear friend, Marcia has invited us for Shabbat. It has been a hard week. It’s so good to have a friend call up, acknowledge that it has been a hard week and then extend an invitation. There will be some cooking tomorrow, just not a giant escapade of cookery.

Monday, January 12, 2015

עטרת ראשנו נפלה מעלינו

This morning, just as I was taking these photos from my living room window, my friend Herta breathed her last breaths.


Herta was 95, she would have turned 96 in August.


I met Herta in 1986 when I began working at my synagogue. I was warned about Herta before I met her. I was told that she would find every error that I would make and call me on it. I was also told that when she complained she was nearly always right, and that it made good sense for me to listen to her.

The advice I was given was correct. At first, frankly, Herta terrified me. Eventually she became fond of me. I always thanked her for correcting my errors. SAM_3672

Herta was born in Berlin. Yesterday her  niece told me that in the family they used to say that Herta was brought up by the German army, that is her mother and her aunt, who were much fiercer than Herta was.


Herta’s Hebrew tutor was Regina Jonas. Regina Jonas asked Herta if she wanted to have a bat-mitzvah. It would have been the first bat- mitzvah in Germany. Herta declined. She said “ What do I need to do it for? The presents? Forget it!”

After Hitler came to power Herta’s father  got the family to Shanghai where Herta lived from the time she was 18 until she was 28. While there were many hardships during her time there. She was often hungry. Herta also clearly had a blast during those Shanghai years. She told me about a birthday party where her fellow refugee friends  all chipped in and bought her an ounce of coffee.  They made that ounce into a giant pot of coffee and they all pretended that it was the good times back in Berlin.


Getting to the States after the war was difficult. Herta spent her first several months with  the widow of one of her uncles,  in Madison, Wisconsin where she worked as a waitress.


Eventually, Herta made her way to New York.  There she met Lester, who like Herta had also spent the war in Shanghai. No, they didn’t meet in China, they traveled in very different circles. Lester  was older than Herta, much less cosmopolitan and deeply deeply sweet. He adored Herta. She loved him.

The two created a full life together. They became parents to Linda. They were when I worked for the synagogue one of the most important families there. Not because they gave the most money, but because hey worked hard to make the synagogue the best it could be.

Herta was also the source of lots of truly dirty jokes. She used to send me really filthy jokes via email. Most of them are too dirty to post here. They were however, very funny.

Herta has been ill for the past few years.



I will deeply miss my smart, sharp tongued friend who was so right about so many things.

Monday, January 5, 2015

All in a day’s work

Well, all the fluids in my head have been replaced with Elmer’s glue. I’m not exactly sick, nor am I exactly healthy.


I ran some errands yesterday and took some photos of birds in the trees across Broadway from my house on my way home.




I spent most of yesterday addressing invitations for my client. The nice thing is that I’m done. The fact that I was feeling too  crummy to do anything more energetic or interesting made it a perfect day to address nearly 200 envelopes.

Today my son and I made bagels. He kneaded the dough. I formed the bagels.  The dough felt unusually silky when it was time to roll the bagels. My son mentioned that he did an extra long knead.


As I keep baking bagels I have made some refinements. The bagels like a rest between being shaped and being boiled, and another between boiling and baking. SAM_3648The bagels also look cuter if you twist the rope of dough as you form it.


The bagels are much improved if you add a lup of brown sugar both to the dough as well as to the boiling water.


Before you boil the bagels, stretch the bagel out.SAM_3646

The bagels are a bit like old men in the shvitz. Let them hang out in the boiling water for a bit. Flip them over if you remember.


You can sprinkle the still damp bagels with poppy seeds. If you don’t have a child who is allergic to sesame you can sprinkle the bagels with sesame seeds.


You really do need to let them cool when you take them out of the oven, unless you want really impressive burns inside your mouth.


here is the recipe.


Heat 2 C water in the microwave for 1 minute in a big bowl. Older cookbooks will call for water that is at blood temperature.

Add 1 tsp yeast and 1T flour to the bowl. The flour is to feed the yeast. Go away for five minutes

Add 1T brown sugar and 1T kosher salt to the bowl. Then start adding flour by the cup mixing well after each addition , first with a spoon and eventually with your hand.  If you want to add specialty grains, like bran or wheat germ or oats, this is a good time to do that. I will often add some gluten here.

Keep adding flour until the mixture is no longer sticky. keep kneading the dough in the bowl adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and supple.

leave it to rise, for at least an hour . Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. You can leave the dough for as long as three hours in your kitchen…or you can put the dough in the fridge and form the bagels the next morning.

When you are ready to form the bagels..put a clean dishtowel out on your counter. Add a bit of flour to the dough and knead for a minute or two. Break off a clementine sized lump of dough. Shape it into a snake between your hands. Twist the snake and then overlap the two ends to form a bagel shape. Set your formed bagel on the dishtowel and  then make the rest of your bagels.

let the bagels rest for 15 minutes. Fill a saucepan with water and set it to boil. Add a T of brown sugar to the water. Once the water is at a rolling boil drop in a bagel or two into the water and let them cook for a minute or two. If you remember, you can flip the bagels over. A wide spatula is a good tool to use.

Set the  boiled bagels onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. If you wish you can sprinkle stuff on the bagels, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion….

After all of the bagels are boiled pre heat the oven to 380. Bake until done.

I also made a batch of green noodles today.I finally understood why my old cookbooks give such sparse noodle making directions.  It’s because they assume that only a moron doesn’t know how to make noodles.


I threw the ingredients into my food processor, cooked collard greens, two eggs and flour. I measured nothing. The mixture looked wet. I added more flour. I let it rest. kneaded it for a few minutes in the bowl with a bit more flour and rolled lumps out on a floured dishtowel.. then I cut the noodles with a pastry cutter.


You need a recipe for that?


I think that was the attitude of the old cookbook writers. They didn’t get why anyone needed further directions.

I also re lined the skirt of my daughter’s dress.


The rayon from 1959 had died. it was quick work to replace it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

For Gabrielle

As promised, I reply to comments. (real ones)

Gabrielle had asked me how I drafted the collar for the Mrs. Quint dress.

mrs quint 001

This is it.