Monday, April 27, 2015

A little out of the ordinary for me


My friend asked me to update a flower girl dress for her daughter. I was charged with adding flowers to a vintage flower girl dress. I asked my friend to buy the flowers from a craft store.

I pulled apart the flowers.



So I could combine them and make new ones.


The skirt of the dress was made of several under layers of tulle covered by a layer of organza. My fried had asked that the flowers be sewn  to the top layer of tulle.

I began with a row of large blossoms.



I then created smaller blooms that I scattered further up the skirt, and that added two smaller blooms to the waist.




Both my friend and the flower girl were happy with the results.

Last winter I wore my mother’s 1950’s fur lined coat to the theatre. It was a frigid night and I was glad for the warmth of the fur.  unfortunately the big corded decorative button fell off the coat. In desperation ( it was really cold out) I bought a big brooch to use as a closure in a store on the way to the theatre. The brooch was what we in my family call a HOJ, a hunk o junk and it broke after just a couple of uses. I had jury rigged a closure that didn’t really work very well.

Today I was given two show boxes filled with vintage buttons. One button was the right size. It was, however a utilitarian brown. I painted the button with gold nail polish, topped it with a layer of crackle nail polish in black and then the button looked right for the coat. I added a layer of clear polish to protect the fancy polish and then sewed the button onto the coat.


A small but necessary task is complete.

My synagogue has to make a space that is currently being used by a pre-school during the week work as a prayer space.

I had come up with an idea and realized that I needed to make a model so others could understand my vision.

I felt like I was doing an elementary school project , and it was a blast.



What you see are two moveable screens with sconces with biblical verses about light that will light up.  The ark  will stand in front of the screens. The goal is to have something that will be beautiful, transform the space, and can also be set up and broken down easily.

Friday, April 24, 2015

In which an error makes things better

Jean and I went shopping for the fabric for her tallit a few months ago. She had chosen a delicious black ribbed silk for the body of the tallit.

Jean also fell in love with a complex striped silk that included stripes in satin , and gold brocade. The stripes silk was expensive. it was sold by the panel. The stripe pattern didn’t repeat.


My original plan was to have the stripes continue to the inside of the tallit.


Once I got the fabric home I realized that this was not possible.  there simply wasn’t enough of the same element of the stripe pattern to have the same bit of the stripe pattern on both the face and the lining of the tallit. I spent a little while feeling completely stymied by the problem. Jean, ever gracious, was prepared to find new  new fabric.  I was not ready to give up that easily. She had invested a fair amount of money in the fabric. I didn’t want to see such beautiful fabric go to waste. Also Jean is a really careful decider. It takes a good deal of long and careful deliberation for her to come to a decision she is  comfortable with.  I didn’t want her to doubt herself or to start dealing with an entirely new set of moving parts.

So I spent time figuring out the problem. I kept pulling out the fabric, looking at it hard and trying to see if I could figure something out.  Eventually, I realized that if the stripe on the inside of the tallit was cut from a different piece of the fabric  ( with a different stripe pattern) you would then have something that was coherent, a variation between the inside and the outside of the tallit.

Then life, and death intervened and it took me a while to get back to work on the tallit.


When I was ready to get back to Jean’s tallit, I carefully pieced first the outside of the tallit, and then the inside, the lining of the tallit. Once I got the inside and the outside sewn together I realized that my error in calculation has yielded something even better than planned.

Here is the tallit displayed with the lining side out.


The stripes from the face of the tallit shimmer through the lining. It looks simply amazing.

This isn’t what I had planned, it is just way better.


Here you see the tallit how it will look when worn, with the lining turning to the outside. I’m just so happy with how it looks.


Yes, I know the tallit needs a proper pressing. Please ignore all lumpiness. It won’t be part of the final product. I was too excited to share this to take the time to properly press the tallit.


Next we need to figure out the atara together.

Food Friday–Frigid Spring edition

This morning at services some of us were in down coats. Some of us were wearing spring coats with sweaters and scarves.  One of my friends was complaining about the April chill  and Marty responded with these lines from Robert Frost.


The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

It’s very nice to daven each morning with an English professor. Even without today’s perfect lines of poetry Marty makes morning minyan into something quite wonderful.SAM_4121

My son offered to make the chicken and the ribs for tonight’s dinner. I have not taken photos of his handiwork. I do want to say that the house smelled so good that I ought to have charged people to stand in the hallway and inhale. I probably could have covered the costs of my youngest son’s meal plan in college before the meat was finished cooking.

Given that so much of my time was freed up I decided to concentrate on dessert.


I decided to make a pear sorbet. I roughly chopped the pears and put them in a pot along with


the zest from one lemon which I chopped up before tossing into the pot.


I  thought about which flavors are buddies with pears. I Think that aside from lemon, pears play well with ginger. So I chopped some up.


A parve ice cream also needs a bit of fat in it. Usually I use olive oil. This time I used a heaping tablespoon of coconut oil.


I also added some sugar.


I then simmered everything until the pears were soft. I added a few lavender buds because they would add a bit of mystery to the flavor.

Towards the end of the cooking I added a tablespoon of potato starch. I still had some left over from Passover, but cornstarch would work fine. I just want to finish the can of potato starch before next Passover.


After the starch had boiled for a bit I let it cool and put everything into the food processor. I suppose I could have just smashed everything through a strainer if I were in the mood to do that.

I then put the pureed mixture in the ice cream maker.


Depending on the light the pear mixture either looks like a lively light chartreuse or like snot. It is hard when a food looks distressingly like snot. I plan to serve the sorbet with fresh raspberries.


One of our guests is bringing salad and cardamom scented rice just finished cooking. We are all set for Shabbat.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yom HaAzmaut- wearing your ideals

I probably wore this embroidered blouse every year on Israel Independence Day between seventh and twelfth grade.
Most of the girls in my school wore a variation of this blouse to celebrate Israel's birthday.  At school we would have had an assembly complete with lots of songs from the time of Israel’s birth. We may have watched a movie some years.  Certainly part of the celebrations included Israeli dancing and eating felafel in pita.
The blouse was worn to express my solidarity with Israel. My blouse came from an older sort of cousin. I believe that this particular blouse is from the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. The fitted nature of the blouse, it’s short length, meant to hit just at the waist, and the zipper in the side seam all seem to date it to that time period.
The embroidery is fairy fine. Similar blouses that were new during my high school years, the 1970’s, were made with much larger, cruder stitches. By the 1980’s similar shirts were made with machine embroidery that mimics the look of this prototypical Israeli blouse.
The history of these sorts of garments is actually pretty interesting.  Right after the Russian Revolution, dispossessed Russian aristocrats flooded Paris. Many of those Russian women were left completely impoverished by the revolution. They began to sell their handwork, re- creations of Russian peasant embroidery to Parisians.  During the 1920’s there was something of a craze for Russian style  fashions.
The founders of WIZO, faced with poverty stricken immigrants to Israel started a variety of workshops to help women be self supporting. One of those workshops was the embroidery workshop. items were embroidered and Zionists women’s organizations world wide sold those items to help support Israel.
My mother owned several scarves produced by their workshops. They were worn for fancy.

The scarf below is made out of rayon. The embroidery is fancier  and includes couched metal threads.
Housewares were also embellished with this work.
This sweet table cloth came to me by way of my cousin’s mother in law. It’s just the thing to put over the card table when you are entertaining.
Perhaps it goes on the drinks table.SAM_4118
Although I no longer wear the blouse, I always remember a room full of us wearing our embroidered blouses with blue skirts preparing to sing patriotic Israeli songs.
If you want to hear some of the songs that are playing in my head go here.

Today, one of my readers shared with me  this  photo of  a great  baby outfit.

It was purchased at WIZO in the mid 1940's for my reader's brother in law. My reader's son wore this outfit in the mid 1960's.
If you  look at the label, you will see that it reads "WIZO, Palestine"
that is Women's International Zionist organization, Palestine.
I remember some of my guy friends in elementary school wearing similar shirts on Israel Independence Day, albeit without the button-on pants. These embroidered garments helped to lift new immigrants to Israel out of poverty. The wearing of these garments in the Diaspora showed that the wearers cared about Israel. I love seeing this heirloom, a portrait of a moment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It’s Spring

After a long and difficult winter, it is finally spring, not just by the calendar but by the weather as well.


The street trees have begun to bloom.


I am also doing the spring time task of catching up on ironing all of the table cloths I used during Passover. Well, I actually haven’t gotten through all of the cloths.  I have done about half of them.


I also ironed most of the napkins we used for the two Seders. Unlike my mother who was a big believer in using matching napkins at a meal, I use a mix of similar napkins. Some in the stack are from my mother, others I inherited from other people.  All of them are roughly the same size and are ivory linen with taupe cutwork. I think that like the various people at the table, they can get along even if they are not identical.SAM_4112


I also began constructing the stripes for two very different tallitot for two very different people. This black gold and blue tallit is for Jean.SAM_4110


She had taken a  tallit workshop I had taught last spring. jean is a deliberate thinker and wasn’t ready to make her tallit at that point. She needed a longer time to mull over what she really wanted. The base of her tallit is a truly delicious ribbed black silk. She chose a complex striped silk that is a mix of chiffon and tightly woven satin brocade. Like Jean herself, it’s deceptively simple. What you see here is actually the lining of the tallit. this is a tallit that will look good  both on the inside and on the outside.


I have also begun working on a tallit for my friend Howard. We had begun discussions about this tallit more than a decade ago.But he recently said that he was ready to go ahead  with his tallit.


What you are seeing is striped Italian tie silk that has been cut apart and re-stitched together. I love having two such different projects going on at the same time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

From my mother’s wallet

My husband and I left New York right after Pesach and Shabbat ended to go to Boston to work on clearing out my mother’s apartment.
I wanted to share the contents of my mother’s wallet. This is not the wallet she used at the end of her life. I found  the wallet in the place where my mother kept all truly important things, her underpants drawer.  The wallet  was one she had made herself while working in camp.
My mother used the wallet in college and perhaps for a little while after that.
imma 003
In case you were wondering, my mother could read, as certified by the state. My mother, was also very serious about voting. she once walked a mile in the snow to vote “none of the above”.
I found this photo cut out of a camp year book, along with the note she received with her salary at the end of the summer.  I indicated my mother with a red arrow.

camp-imma arrow
I also found some photos.
imma 001
My mother is on the far right. This is probably the best picture I have ever seen of my mother. She is leaning on her friend D’vorah. My mother and D’vorah always had LOTS of fun together. D’vorah brought out the outrageous in my mother.  I have no idea who the others in the photo are.
D’vorah made aliya with her family. Here she is with her sister Nechama in Israel. My mother had first met Nechama who was somewhat serious. But soon my mother and D’vorah had become much closer.
imma 006
Before we went to Israel in 1970, my parents had made a will. In case of their death  we were to be raised by my Aunt Sheva. During the trip to Israel we met D’vorah. We asked that D’vorah raise us instead in case of our parents demise. We knew that living with D'vorah would be a blast.
This extraordinary photo was in the wallet as well.
sheva 001
This is my Aunt Sheva in Florida. Her husband Sol took the photo. There are many shocking things about the photo, the bare midriff, the shorts and most of all the giant laugh you see.

This photo of Sheva was taken in 1993 and is much closer to the aunt I knew not just because the image is more recent, but it shows the temperament I knew best.
tbt 001
Below, from the same trip to Florida are my cousins, Sheva and Sol’s two older children, David the ethnomusicologist, and Bonnie the historian.
bonnie & david 001
This photo was taken the following summer.
sheva 002
My cousin Judy, is on Sheva’s lap. I met my husband at her wedding.
Below is my Aunt Sheva standing next to her sister Freida. this was taken before the sisters stopped speaking to one another. Sheva’s husband Sol is the adult male in the back row. He died tragically, far too young in 1963.
sheva 003
The kids are below, the historian and the ethnomusicologist are joined by their cousins and the doctor and the dentist.  Frieda is holding her youngest, David. Despite the rift in the earlier generation I have recently gotten to know my cousin Av in the dark striped shirt and his younger brother Sid in the lighter striped t-shirt.
There was a mystery wedding photo. Perhaps one of my cousins can solve the mystery for me.
imma 005
The wallet tour ends with this photo of my mother eating an apple while hanging out with her friend.
imma 004

Once I get a working camera in my hands I will take a photo of the green leather wallet tooled with my mother’s Hebrew initials.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Both of our Seders were pretty wonderful. Today though I am really tired. I am so tired that I took a nap in the middle of the day.

My camera seems to have gotten overwhelmed as well. I had to bring it into the shop to get fixed. Being without my trusty camera makes me realize how much I rely on it.

Friends invited us all to a surprise mid week dinner. It will be really nice to be fed by good friends.