Monday, July 21, 2014

Brightly colored memories

Growing up my parents used to regularly take us to visit museums and galleries in Boston. it was with the same reverence that they used to take up to visit Design Research in Cambridge.


The late 1960’s and early 1970’s were a time when really wonderful innovative design was coming out of Scandinavia. Visiting DR (as the store was called) was a heady visual experience.


One of the joys of our visits was checking out the Marimekko fabrics.  My mother had basic sewing skills and used to buy a half yard top cover a square down pillow she had inherited from her mother. My mother would hand stitch  the simple cover.


In the early 1970’s one of my sisters learned how to sew and my parents bought her a sewing machine.  My sister decided that she wanted to make herself a dress out of Marimekko fabric. It was an expensive endeavor. Today a yard of Marimekko fabric costs more than $50 per yard. I seem to remember the cost as being $25 per yard, although I might be mistaken.

My sister purchased a Vogue pattern that could be made with just a yard of fabric. It was a simple darted shift with an extended shoulder that made a simple cap sleeve.


My sister, a perfectionist worked carefully. I remember one magenta dress with orange and red concentric circles and a green dress where she added the optional bell sleeves. My sister was thin in those days. The fashion for skirts was short, even at the Orthodox day school that we attended, so making a dress out of one yard of 60 inch wide fabric was doable.

Today, those of us who love the look of Scandanavian design but aren’t ready to pay $53/yard for fabric to be made into a summer dress, IKEA is a great alternative.

I went to IKEA a week ago Sunday to buy racks to use at the Women’s League show.  I found the racks I wanted in their damaged/last chance/seconds room. I also found a length of terrific fabric that cried out to be made into a summer dress.

IKEA fabric is always a bargain, but this was three yards for $10.  I brought it home.


I made this dress.


Yup it has 1973 written all over it.


I could have seen several of my teachers wearing it

(OK with short sleeves, because while short skirts were acceptable at my school sleeveless was verboten, or with a white rayon cardigan worn to cover the shoulders)


I didn’t make this with a short skirt. I can’t carry off a short skirt.

Wearing this dress I am filled with nostalgia. My mother bought a few Marimekko dresses ( on clearance) that she treasured. She always used to say that they were cool to wear and wore like iron.


I love the crazy green and the giant leaf print. I feel; like an academic wife from 1973 when I wear the dress. It makes me feel like I have to start a co-op day care center before I go to the anti-war rally, and after I get home from the consciousness raising group.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A complicated week



In addition to all that is going on internationally, things have been busy here on the home front as well. This is my oldest.


Monday she called me saying that she was experiencing chest pain, numbness in her left arm  shallow breathing and dizziness. She had gone to a walk in health center who checked out her vitals, did and EKG and suggested strongly that she go to an ER.


I met her at Mount Sinai Hospital.The ER there is busy. The gurneys are stacked three deep in each little curtained cubicle.  Other gurneys with sick folks are stashed away in hallways.


The ER staff first determined that my daughter was not just having a panic attack and began monitoring all of her vitals and began testing her heart in various ways. The episodes my daughter kept having looked like what in the 19th century might be called The Vapors, . if she were a fragile sort of a girl I would have not paid a whole lot of attention…but she is a tough cookie, a strong girl in mind and spirit.


By  early evening they moved my daughter to the relative luxury of the observation ward. Lots of different kinds of testing was done to my kid. She was hooked up to various sensors that kept track of all of her parts. This think that felt like something bad in her heart showed up as perfectly normal numbers and ratios.


Her potassium numbers were a bit, but not alarmingly low they gave her a dose of potassium ..and her symptoms immediately improved. Yes, we did all make Borat jokes and commented that she needed to move immediately to Kazakhstan for their excellent potassium.


My very independent girl wanted me to stay with her. So I spent the night. We discovered that two adults can not sleep on one hospital gurney. I began the night on an uncomfortable metal chair . At 2:00am a nice nurse took pity on me and brought me a comfortable chair. After another day of testing, they sent my daughter home.


We know that the problem isn’t her heart, we just don’t know yet what it is. They symptoms are somewhat less…but are still bothersome. She went to a primary care doctor today and she will explore in a less stressful way what is going on. The nice thing is that what she has isn’t fatal. The hard this is that it seems to be one of those fuzzy unclear things that make your life a little harder to lead and an answer as to what is going on isn’t all that easy to reach.

As one might assume, spending the night sleeping in a chair in a hospital isn’t all that restful. But Wednesday , instead of sleeping or just hanging out of the couch watching endless episodes of Toddlers in Tiaras I had to get ready to exhibit my work. I had made a commitment to exhibit at the national convention of Women’s league for Conservative Judaism in Whippany, NJ.

It’s a big job to get organized for a show. I was wiped out.. I did the best I could. Meaning lots of stuff just didn’t get done.

My saintly husband drove me and helped me set up and even helped me set up a slide show of my work. He was also a really good sport when I realized after we were driving on Route 80 that while I had packed the car with my display stuff…I had forgotten to bring my suitcase full of work so we had to go home to pick up my work.

So while I didn’t sell a whole lot at the show. It was pretty extraordinary for an entirely different reason. we all know the expression “six degrees of separation”. I think that in the Jewish world it’s more like two degrees of separation.

So over the course of yesterday I spoke to a woman who used to go to shul with my great aunt and uncle in their small town when she was a kid. I spoke to another woman who was a dear friend of a couple who were very dear to my parents in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I last saw them when I was five.


I had a lovely conversation with a much younger colleague of my father’s who had worked closely with him  in the 1970’s and 80’s on the publications committee of the Rabbinical Assembly.


And in the middle of all of this I reconnected through Facebook with one of my friends from middle school who I haven’t seen since she moved back to Israel in the early 1970’s.


So in many ways, it’s been a crummy week. It’s been crummy  in my family, it’s pretty awful in Israel and in Gaza. It was really terrible for the folks flying over the Ukraine in the plane.


And yet, there were some nice things that took place as well. ( Including the fact that my son made Shabbat dinner after he realized that I wasn’t home to cook it)


Shabbat Shalom. Hoping for an upcoming week of health and peace for all.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Food Friday

It’s hot out. I have been making spring rolls. basically it’s a salad wrap.


Finding the rice wrappers is pretty easy in my neighborhood. I lay the wrappers on a wet dinner plate for a about a minute before I fill it up,

This batch had shredded cabbage, carrots cucumber, basil leaves, alfalfa sprouts and marinated tofu. Last week I had made rolls with fake shrimp and some cold cooked fish along with the shredded veggies. Last night we dipped the rolls in Hoisin sauce.


Eating the same vegetables might be a bit dreary. Wrapping them makes them into something of a party.


Tonight we are having London broil with a coffee rub.


This is the coffee and spice mixture. As far as I can remember I put in coffee, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne and coriander and cloves.

After cooking it looked like  a charred lump.


Once it is fully cool I will slice it up and put it back in the oven for reheating with a sweet/savory sauce.


My son made the challah this week.


I am also making a salad ad potatoes cooked in the chicken fat from a previous week.


If you are spending Shabbat in my neighborhood, I’m giving the D’var Torah tomorrow.

I hope that this Shabbat brings peace.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A new series of challah covers

Series is perhaps too grand a word for three.


The text comes from this

שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת‏‏ מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

בּוֹאֲכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

בָּרְכוּנִי לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאָכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

צֵאתְכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאָכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

This liturgical poem is traditionally sung before the Friday night meal.

This is the translation

Peace upon you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Come in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
May your departure be in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
And the transliteration
Shalom alechem malache ha-sharet malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Bo'achem le-shalom malache ha-shalom malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Barchuni le-shalom malache ha-shalom malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Tzet'chem le-shalom malache ha-shalom malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
I chose the third verse, the one asking for blessing for the challah cover.


I love how the deep blue linen and the stars also evokes the moment when you sing the poem. Usually it’s dark when you sit at the Shabbat table.


I remember sitting in my dining room several years ago, my family would be sitting down to Shabbat dinner later in the evening. As I sat, I heard my downstairs neighbors singing Shalom Aleichem as they began their meal. I loved hearing the melody rising in the courtyard to my windows.

SAM_2585My family usually didn’t begin our meal with Shalom Aleichem. My husband’s Friday night dinner always began with the singing of Shalom Aleichem. They didn’t sing well, but with great gusto.

When my in laws began joining us for each Shabbat dinner in the year before my mother in laws death we began singing it each week as well.



You can hear a sweet rendition here.SAM_2588


The melody sounds like it comes out of the mists of time but was written in 1918 on the campus of Columbia University.SAM_2589

When we sing Shalom Aleichem I feel the worries of the week slipping away.SAM_2592

And then I’m ready for Shabbat.SAM_2593SAM_2594SAM_2595

Monday, July 7, 2014

My childhood nightmare..Found!

Yesterday my husband and I went antiquing. I found thisSAM_2570


and this. Enameled tin dollhouses. I had one when I was a child. I believe that we had the ranch house, but not the one pictured. The dollhouse came with molded plastic furniture.

I loved the idea of a dollhouse when I was a kid..

I hated this one.


See the metal tabs that attach the roof to the house? They are perfect for slicing  the tips of little children’s fingers.

I found the interior design of the rooms to be hugely depressing. This is the entire layout of the Colonial home.


The grey living room rug always seemed to me a particularly depressing decorating choice. Were they worried about dirt on the fake rug?



I worried because this house had no staircase. How did the residents go up and down stairs? Perhaps you would have to live your life either entirely downstairs deprived of a bed or a bathroom, or perhaps you would have a place to bathe and sleep but no way to eat. SAM_2575

Once you put the plastic furniture in the rooms there wasn’t a whole lot one could do with the houseSAM_2576

Such things worried me. SAM_2578SAM_2579

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Re-visiting the Hunchback Dress

One of my readers asked me several questions about this dress and it seems like a good idea to answer them in a post rather than just to reply in the comments.


So here are some things to think about as you construct a dress like this.

This particular dress is 54 inches long from  shoulder to hem. I am 5' 7”.

The most important thing to remember when you cut out a dress shaped like this is that at each point the dress needs to be wide enough for your body. It can be wider than you are at any point but needs to fit your body.  Yes, a knit will stretch, but you also need to remember that a knit will have less stretch on the bias. If you  neglect to add enough width  you can always cut open the dress and and add  an additional panel of fabric. Given the artsy look of the fabric you can add a contrasting  fabric  if you wish.

This dress has a fairly wide center panel added.  This dress looks best worn twisted to one side.


Let me know if you have any other questions.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Working while sad

The news from Israel was so distressing these past few days. I consoled myself by working.


I needed to create borders  for this last batch of challah covers.SAM_2480


Usually I will piece strips of fabric to the center of the challah cover. This time, I decided to vary my method and applique the calligraphed center onto  silk with a painted border.

I know that I have been doing lots of pomegranates lately. I decided to change things up by painting grapes.

First I marked the corners of the center with pencil. Just a little pencil mark was enough for me to place the grape motifs.




First I painted the basic shapes with my darkest color.Then I added a lighter color.


I then added a few flourishes in green.


Amazingly it looked pretty grapey.


Next I needed to stitch the centers to the borders.


I used a few layers of ugly fabric as stabilizer to support the stitching. If you don’t do that then your stitching bunches unattractively.


This one has three rows of the same decorative stitch done in two colors and on two different sizes.


This version has two rows of that same decorative stich but the outer row couches a blue and silver metallic yarn.


A different mix of stitches.

And finally, couched hand dyed silk ribbon.



Three of the challah covers now are complete with backings and bindings.





And threeSAM_2562

The situation in the Middle East is still horrible, but I feel a little bit better.