Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Weighing Choices

the last time I posted about Charlie’s tallit my big decision was which fabric to use for the atara. I ended up choosing the wool broadcloth.

My next step was painting the letters onto the wool. I began with by painting the lettering with a flat tipped brush with black and then I outlined the letters with gold paint.


I was planning to embroider around the letters. I wasn’t sure if I would machine embroider or work by hand.  Each have certain advantages. Machine embroidery is faster, but fiddlier. What I end up doing is essentially using the sewing machine as a paint brush.  While it is doable with a whole verse full of lettering one needs to be in the right mood to approach the task.


I was going through a mild case of food poisoning from a restaurant meal and frankly my ability to focus was not at it’s best. I decided to hand embroider around the letters. It would take longer but worked with how my brain was working.


Before I could start though, I needed to support the fabric. If you attempt to embroider on flimsy floppy fabric you will want to tear your hair out and do lots of cursing. There are lots of ways to beef up fabric to make embroidery easier.


If I were doing this 100 years ago I might have pasted some paper to the back of the fabric I planned to embroider. The 2015 method of doing the same thing is to iron on a fusible interfacing.  Fusibles sometimes unpeel from their backing with age. This tallit will be getting lots of wear, and will be folded and unfolded daily. I decided to go with a longer lasting choice.


Instead I just basted another layer of wool behind the painted strip of wool. Basting keeps the layers of wool from shifting as I do the embroidery. This is a step that I used to regularly skip.

charlie miller (5)

Now I baste when it will make my life easier.


I had two different gold threads to choose from, and I had thought that I would outline the letters in an embroidery stitch known as--- wait for it------- outline stitch. I tested out both threads.

charlie miller (6)

I voted for the darker thread. I also realized that I didn’t love the look of the outline stitch and decided to outline all of the letters with a chain stitch.

charlie miller (8)

I have been listening to podcasts and have been working away. The food poisoning is now gone and the letters are mostly outlined.

This evening I went to a Shiva house. I was rewarded on my way home with  what has been called Manhattan hedge where the setting sun lines up with the grid of the Manhattan streets. I took these photos while standing in the middle of the street. SAM_4578SAM_4579


I was not the only person standing in the middle of the crosswalk taking photographs. SAM_4580

Friday, June 26, 2015

Food Friday–Living with adults edition

Recently my husband and I watched some videos from when the kids were little. For the next several days my husband kept musing about how adorable the kids were when they were small and how much he missed that time in their lives.


As I watched those videos while I did see how sweet the kids were, what I also remembered was how completely exhausting that time was. Watching those videos I was reminded about how difficult it was to balance the disparate needs of three kids of two genders with an eight year age span.


Not that there weren’t pleasure from their early childhoods, there were, and lots of them. But living with adults is pretty wonderful.I feel it every day, but some days more than others.


Our dryer is on the fritz.We are now waiting for parts. it has been several days without the dryer. Today I have been doing laundry in the machines in the basement. That activity has taken most of my day.

My older son has baked the challah and made meatballs and bulgher wheat for diner.  He took on most of the burden of cooking for tonight.


I know that not only would he cook, but the food would be good and he would clean up after himself. Little kids are amusing but knowing that I don’t have to worry about how Shabbat dinner is being cooked while I am stuck in my building’s basement is pretty terrific.


My task was making the string beans which will be served on a bed of  salad greens. I roasted them with olive oil, cider vinegar, salt black pepper and lavender.


I also made a peach pie with an almond crust.


My nephew’s birthday was last Sunday. He turned 22. I am giving him 22 recipes for his birthday.


The the nut crust and the pie were today’s recipes.

Recipe# 3
Nut crust for pie
This is easier to do in a food processor but is doable without. But first I am going to assume that you have access to a food processor.

Add to the work bowl of a food processor
1 c nuts
about 1/2 C flour
a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar
a hefty pinch of salt
spices that will taste good with your filling
process using the pulse setting

When it is well mixed add about 1/4 cut of water and process again until mixed

mush into a pie plate so that you have an even layer of crust all over the pie plate. if you work patiently you will have the mixture even and distributed up the sides of the pie plate as well

bake at 375 until it has solidified up a bit



Recipe # 3.5
If you don't have a food processor, put the nuts into a zip lock and close it up. Smash the nuts with something heavy, a hammer will work as will a book. when the nuts are fairly evenly smashed put the rest of the ingredients into the zip lok close the bag and mush the bag from the outside until the mixture is well mixed....then mush into the pan. The food processor is quicker...but you can still make a good crust without it.

while it bakes prepare your filling


Recipe #4
Peach Pie
but up a bunch of fresh peaches ( today I used four giant ones) and put them in a bowl
sprinkle sugar over the peaches.How much is up to you. You can use brown sugar or honey if you wish) I like to add spices, so I added some cardamom and some cinnamon. Sprinkle some flour over the peaches. Combine everything with your (clean0 hands and pile into the pie crust bake at 375 until done.

My son had noticed that we had some cherries in the fridge, so we decided to add them to the pie. We pitted the cherries with our  thumbnails. I suppose there are fancier ways to pit cherries but this was efficient.


“Easy as Pie” isn’t just a figure of speech it is a truism.


Now I’m off the fold the last load of laundry for the day.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Working in an imperfect world

I am still figuring out some aspects of Charlie’s atara. The design calls for sprigs of wheat. If I lived in a perfect world there would be a place nearby that sold high quality embroidery threads. When I first moved to this neighborhood in the early 1980’s I would have had several choices of places to buy embroidery thread all within easy walking distance.

Many many factors have combines to make a nice selection of embroidery threads an impossibility not only in the neighborhood, but even the notions stores in the garment district have pallid selections.


I have been working on solving this problem on a back burner of my brain for the past week or so. I suppose that I could order threads from a specialty store online and wait until they shipped my order to me. I also have to figure out how I will be creating those stalks of wheat. I wanted to get my hands working on the problem.


I had a gift to deliver further up on Broadway while I was walking home I figured out the solution to my thread problem.charlie miller

I decided to use two sewing threads, one in brown and the other in beige along with a fine gold thread.


This is the result. It’s not bad. But I think I will add a yellow thread to the mix. That ought to tweak the color to be the right wheaty shade.


Clearly I’m still figuring out how to create the wheat grains…but I am further along that path. Think of this embroidery as a sketch rather than being the finished product. I am experimenting with about four different factors all at once so don’t be alarmed if this is not your vision of wheat. it isn’t exactly my vision of wheat either.


I also am now dealing with two technological mysteries.


Mystery #1

Why is my camera resetting itself to 2011 every time it is re-charged?

Mystery #2

Why is my clothes dryer not producing heat ?


I would be grateful to answers to either one of those questions.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Food Friday from somewhere along the Silk Road

This morning as I began to mix up the spices for my chicken I decided to pretend that I was a Grandma who came from somewhere in the Middle East. A couple of summers ago my sister took me to an Iraqi restaurant in Lowell, MA and I understood in my mouth the connection between the food of India and the food of the Middle East. So, perhaps I wasn’t exactly a grandma from Iraq but I was playing with that blend of flavors.

food friday (1)

So there was lots of turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and sumac and cumin mixed together. There may have been some other spices in the bowl but I can’t for sure swear to what I added to the bowl.


I massaged the spices into the chicken, and a few hours later we ended up with this.

food friday (6)food friday (5)

Two beautiful fragrant chickens. They are now cut up and sitting in the fridge waiting to be warmed up for dinner.

I also made potatoes. the fruit and vegetable pushcart guys are selling beautiful tomatoes so I bought some and roughly chopped them up, and added them to the potatoes along with a box of mushrooms and lots of black pepper and some olive oil.

food friday (2)

I put the pan in the oven along with the chicken and let it cook along with the chicken.

After a while the top layer was all dried out.So I stirred it all up.

food friday (4)

Stirring is actually the big secret for keeping oven roasting stuff juicy.

food friday (3)

We are also eating a vaguely Asian cabbage salad.

food friday

It is dressed with sesame oil, rice vinegar and a bit of honey.I will add some chopped nuts before serving. This too is improved by an occasional stir.

Which would you choose???

I am making an atara neckband and pinot  for this beloved old wool tallit. 


I am giving my client three possible choices.

This is a soft wool with a Lurex stripe.

charlie miller (2)

This is a smooth faced wool broadcloth.

charlie miller (1)

And finally there is a silk tussah.

charlie miller (3)

Each have nice qualities. It will be interesting to see which one my client chooses.


I suppose if I were more of an artiste  I would just tell my client what he needed and be done with it. Charlie, my client is a thoughtful man who makes deliberate choices.

Earlier this week I removed the tzitzit. Someone, I assume a child had added a really tight knot to one of the tzitzit. That is what happens when you go to shul with a child.


I have occasionally come across tallitot where the tzitzit have been tied into crazy arrays of knots. Little kids can get bored at services and there is something quite compelling about playing with tzitzit.

I wasn’t sure if I could actually undo the knot. It took several tries, but eventually I was successful.


The pinot had gotten grotty and have been removed. the atara was re sewn on by Charlie’s daughter. She sewed that atara on TIGHT.

As soon as Charlie makes his decision I will begin work.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sometimes Objects are Much More Than They Seem

During the Boston part of my mother’s Shiva, my cousin Sid mentioned that he had a challah cover that my mother had embroidered for his family. He said that he had used that challah cover throughout his childhood and even had taken it from his mother’s house and had used it as an adult.

Sid talked about how much he loved the challah cover and how much he wanted me to have it.


A little while after Shiva, Sid's daughter, Emily brought me the challah cover.


This is the challah cover.


The design itself is entirely standard. One used to be able to buy a linen rectangle with this design printed in blue.


A few weeks ago I had Shabbat lunch  at my friend Anne’s.  Anne’s mother who was a few years older than my mother had embroidered exactly the same design. Anne’s mother did all of the embroidery in a soft grey. The letters were filled in with satin stitch  and Anne’s mother who was an accomplished seamstress lined her challah cover with a plain piece of linen.


My mother’s stitching looks a little spikey, partially because the cotton threads she had used are wearing away, and partially because as a kid doing embroidery her skills were, as a kind teacher might say, developing.


The kiddush cup that was at the center of the design has almost entirely worn away.

I haven’t quite figured out what to do with this challah cover. So it has been sitting folded up on my kitchen table along with the old copies of the Wall Street Journal.

This past Friday night, Emily came over for Shabbat Dinner. I put the tattered cloth on top of the challot, because Emily had gone to the effort of bringing this challah cover from her father in Boston. I wanted to honor both her efforts and her father’s touching act.

When I put the cloth over our challot I realized that this challah cover was basically a rag with holes in it. I exchanged it for another cloth.

Today, I have been thinking about this cloth. I need to share with you that my cousin Sid grew up with my mother as his very young aunt. My mother spent a  summer with Sid and his family when he and his brother Av were really little. My mother had thought she was spending the summer to help her sister Frieda take care of the children.

As I piece together family history I realize that my mother was parked at Frieda and Bill’s mostly to keep my mother  from being underfoot after my grandfather’s heart attack.

My mother was about a dozen years older than her nephews, somewhere between being a cool older sister and a cool young aunt. My cousin Sid and his brother Av shared memories of my mother taking her nephews on New York City adventures

Sometime after I was born and before I have memories there was a rift between my mother and her older sister.  I grew up with just a couple of memories of Aunt Frieda. I didn’t meet Sid until I was in my 30’s. I met his brother Av for the first time a couple of years ago.


I realized today, perhaps because I am sometimes a little slow, that for Sid, this raggedy challah cover was a symbol of the times before the rift. I believe with all of my heart that he sees this deeply flawed ragged and damaged piece of cloth complete, and whole and done by a skilled hand by someone who he loved and admired. I think that it reminded him when his aunt was part of his life.



If you had asked me yesterday what I need to do with this challah cover, I would have said that I ought to throw it away. I realized today, that I can’t.

Friday, June 12, 2015


For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to integrate the stuff from my mother’s house into our own stuff filled apartment.


So here is a little landscape of things from my parents and things we had . There are two more plates that need to be up on the wall below the square silver platter. I have some themes that I am working on developing here.


I know, it’s still not clear to anyone not living inside my head, but by the time I am done it won’t look  like an antique shop run by a crazy person.


For those of you looking for a Food Friday entry, tonight’s dinner was tag teamed by me and my older son. he made the challah. I made chicken with sumac smoked paprika and crushed tomatoes,and flanken ribs with mustard and maple syrup.


Week after week I will make a meal Friday night in my usual “Let’s see what’s hanging around in the fridge and what mood am I in.” method of meal planning and the next morning the Wall Street Journal food article will be about how whatever spice combo I had used the night before is the hottest new invention.


There was an article a few weeks back about smoked paprika, and another about using sumac. Perhaps tomorrow’s article will be about the Kale I am cooking and then dressing with Sesame oil and rice vinegar and adding some dried cranberries to the mix. That has become the no brainer vegetable around here.


I have run out of steam and am just serving fresh blackberries for dessert.


One of our guests is the granddaughter of a relative who was verboten. I plan to show her photos of her great grandparents, my grandparents.tbt 001

My grandmother had owned the modern looking candlesticks that you see in the photo at the beginning of this post. I believe that these photos were taken in their house in Spring Valley.


Shabbat Shalom!