Friday, August 26, 2016

Food Friday- Zei gezunt edition

A cousin we all love a whole lot has just moved to New York for grad school we are delighted that she will be nearby and even happier that she is joining us this Shabbat.

Our larders were pretty bare. it was time to make a trip to Costco. I made the trek yesterday. One of my favorite thing about living here in New York is how instead of just living with " my own kind" I am cheek by jowl with all sorts of people. 

Part of that joy of cheek by jowl-hood is in the foods we eat. A Jamaican born babysitter once brought home a fruit from home that she bought from one of the pushcart fruit guys on the street. She called it Genep and it is a variety of citrus, it's about the size of a cherry with a big seed and not much fruit. We buy it every year when it is in season. We turn dried hibiscus blossoms into tea in the summer. My kids used to have me buy yogurt in sabor Latino. The shea butter sold in tubs at the cola dollar store keeps our skin soft. Spicy pastes from Korea and China and Latin America keep our food tasting lively.

Each time you go to Costco, there are employees at the door checking the items on your receipt against the items in your cart. As the young man with dreds was going throughmy cart, I casually said  I have a whole lot of Kosher meat in there."  He marked my recipt, turned to me and said "Zei Gezunt!". Every time we used to say goodbye to my grandmother we used to exchange our Zei Gezunt's, Go in good health.  i was just so touched.

So our gezunte Shabbat dinner includes, chicken with lime and  cayenne, made by my son.
This was a challah baking week. There are no photos this week .

I made roasted Brussels sprouts. Most of us like them with a bit of char on them.
My husband does not so we set aside some char-free ones for him.

I was so happy that our cousin was coming for Shabbat so I baked a cake.

It's a citrus cake, orange and lime with a layer of brown sugar and lime filling inside and then drizzled with a lime and brown sugar syrup. The cake itself is a 3 egg cake, faked and baked in an 9x13 pan, cut and sandwiched with the vaguely jam-like  filling. It's really tart and should be a nice finish to tonight's dinner.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sharing Grandpa's tallit

When a beloved grandfather is no longer alive having a bit of his presence at a grandchild's bar-mitzvah can be a really important thing.As I mentioned in my last post, there is one grandfather and nice grandchildren.
My clients suggested that I make kippot for the rest of the grandchildren out of the tallit.

If you go to a synagogue there are usually baskets of kippot at the door. many people when they plan a bar mitzvah will also get kippot made.those kippot usually cost a couple of bucks. I knew that if I made kippot out of Grandpa's tallit  I couldn't just charge a couple of bucks. I don't have a factory set up. Each piece would need to be not stamped out by machine, but hand cut and hand pieced together. I knew I had to charge an actual significant amount of money for each kippah.

 I found a place on line that will make kippot out of fabrics that you provide for a relatively small amount of money. I suggested that my client call and see if they could make the kippot out of this tallit.  My client called but they basically hung up on him when they found out how few kippot he wanted. 

We decided that I would make the kippot. First I pulled apart a nice bar-mitzvah kippah so I could use it to create a pattern.
 I noticed that the hem is reinforced with a strip of cardboard for a bit of extra stability.I also noticed that while the kippah was made out of six segments, the lining is made of four segments. 

I pressed and starched the wazoo out of a segment of both the outside and the lining of the kippah and cut a pattern for each out of cardstock. Before I cut into actual precious tallit fabric I cut out paper pattern pieces to see how many kippot I could get out of Grandpa's tallit.

I traced around the card stock pattern and began cutting out kippah segments. As I cut I realized that If I were making just one kippah I would be sure  to match the stripes on the kippah.

I was however making ten kippot for ten grandchildren. Most of the tallit is white. Clearly the best part of the tallit are the stripes and I will have to distribute the good stuff so that none of the grandchildren feels slighted.

For my own sanity I decided to give myself permission a little bit playful with the lining and the trimming. I had tried to make a summer dress for myself out of this fabric with it's design of Hmong applique work. I was very fond of the fabric and was sad that the dress was a disaster. The fabric will line some of the kippot.

I have been making kippot for years but it took me until this batch of kippot to realize that the lining needs to be bigger than the outside fabric. You align the kippah at the hem and then magically, the too big lining and the smaller outside fabric line up perfectly and make for a well fitting kippah.

Four kippot are completed, but still need threads clipped.

Each is trimmed just a bit differently.(They may get buttons at the top, just like a nice old fashioned kippah)

I was a little bit worried about how the unmatched striped would look. I realize that the fact that each kippah is made out of various parts of the tallit underlines that these kippot were all a part of something else, something bigger.

I am nearly half way there on this project.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

למען תזכרו ועשיתם

One of the things that I am really proud of is I have a reputation for taking on projects that are sort of out of the box. 

The woman who asked me to take on the kittle project realized part of the way through our initial meeting that perhaps I might be able to help out with some projects for her son's upcoming bar mitzvah.

The bar-mitzvah boy's grandfather died right around the time the boy was born. The bar-mitzvah boy was named for this grandfather. My client and her husband wondered if I could turn somehow add something of Grandpa's tallit to the tallit they had already purchased.

Clearly it is easier to integrate a treasured textile if that textile is part of the design process from the beginning. Never the less I was ready to think about how to think about this problem.

The coloring of the new tallit is intense, a midnight blue and peacock green. There was also the issue of how to share bits of the tallit with the other 8 grandchildren. I am going to table the issue of the other grandchildren for the moment, just as this family and I had to.

I did think that if I dyed some of the strands of tzitzit from grandpa's tallit to a nice rich color, I could couch it onto the pinot, the corner pieces.

Grandpa's tallit was clearly worn while sitting next to a bored child at synagogue.
There were several extra knots enthusiastically added to the ritual knots and wraps. I untied both the knots added by the bored child as well as the regulation knots and wraps. It took a while.
Then it was time to dye the tzitzit. I put a bit of dye into a plastic bag, added some water and then the tzitzit.

I then mushed the diluted dye around the tzitzit untl the color was evenly distributed.

Then I let the tzitzit dry for twenty four hours.That will make the color fairly permanent.
The next day I heat set the color on the tzitzit. In layman's terms, i put the tzitzit between the folds of a cotton napkin and ironed the napkin encased tzitzit for several minutes.  The tzitzit were a crumpled mess.

I then pulled each strand under the sole plate of the iron, and by then they were straight. For good measure I repeated the pulling under the iron process again . It was fun and also REALLY made sure that the color was set.

Next, I couched the threads around  the satin stitching at the edge of each corner piece.

It's a subtle addition.Here you can see the corner piece on the right with the couching and the one on the left without the stitching.
These photos are really enlarged. The effect in real life is really subtle. There are enough bits of the tallit that all of the grandchildren can have a bit of it.

I could write a long and sentimental paragraph about how the whole point of the tzitzit is to help us remember as we daven and how the one strand of the tzitzit  from Grandpa's tallit will help his namesake born just as Grandpa was dying remember  the man he was named for and how much he was loved by his family, but I will leave the writing of that paragraph to someone else.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pu- Pu Shabbat

I remember eating with my family as am elementary school kid at either the now defunct Harold's or the more recently defunct Rubin's and seeing Pu-Pu platter on the menu. I thought that the term was one of the funniest things I had ever read. I was clearly still of the age when bathroom humor was really funny.

My family didn't eat in Chinese or Polynesian restaurants. This was in the 1960's, before that sort of "international" cuisine had hit the Boston Kosher food scene. But just thinking of the term Pu-Pu platter was enough to give me the giggles for years after that first sighting on that menu long ago.

Although I am much older I am still fond of the term and have been known to serve my kids a random bunch of stuff on a plate and call it a Pu-Pu platter. I have learned that if you give something a cool name it makes it better. Clearly, I brought the right kids home from the hospital because they think the term is as funny as I do.(One of my sons says that I am actually an 8 year old boy in disguise.)

Last night I went to see what meat lurked in my freezer so I could make my youngest a proper send off on his last Shabbat at home before he goes back to college. I had one sheet of flanken, one small London broil and two smallish packages of Chicken wings. I turned to my boys and asked them "Well, How about Pu-Pu Shabbat??" 

They loved the idea. This morning I went to one of the local Kosher butchers to see if I could ramp this up a notch. I bought two packages of beef fry and a package of sausage. I thought I could make pigs in blankets with the sausage. 

I thought I would buy ready-made puff pastry. I found a package but it needed over night to thaw. I didn't have that kind of time.One of the staff members at the butcher's suggested that I might that the puff pastry dough out in the microwave, but we both soon realized that that would lead to a disaster of melted fat and flabby dough.  Instead I came home and made a soft bread dough with lots of oil, rolled it out into a thin sheet, cut it into strips and rolled strips of dough around a bit of sausage.

This will be a meal that will make my gang very happy. This might be a start of another family tradition.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Like white on rice

If both time and money for this kittle were unlimited I would be embroidering the text by hand in white silk or embroidery floss in large block lettering on the beautiful white patterned shirting that I bought to make this kittle.  The embroidery would have enough dimension to be visible and that kittle which exists just in my head would be magnificent. Unfortunately, this kittle needs to be ready this Rosh HaShanah and not in a few years.

A kittle, much like a First Communion dress needs to be white, to give an impression of whiteness. This platonic ideal is wonderful.

But if I am calligraphing white text on white ribbon the result will look like absolutely nothing, a little like the Emperors New Clothes.  I had noticed in my internet searching of kittles that some of the super fancy deluxe ones are embellished with silver lace.

I used that as my cue and mixed up a pale silvery dye/paint mixture for the lettering.
I was taught a long time ago(the summer of 1982 by Ruti who was a Bezalel student on the Ramah New England arts and crafts staff with me) that all lettering will look much better if outlined.

I followed her advice using a dye/paint that is a soft pale shimmery gold. It is barely a color difference, and yet it makes the lettering better.

  My client is anxious that this kittle give the impression of white. She's right, but I also know that by making the lettering not really white it will be visible. I am thinking about the tricks that impressionist painters used to create white while mixing a whole lot of other pigments into the white. I am thinking about how bluing is added to white loads of wash to create the look of white.

I think that as I get all of the lettering on to  the ribbon I will get a bit braver with my color choices.
 The not- white will appear as shadows on the white. 

Just as I am expanding on the colors that I am using on this kittle I am also expanding my choice of texts used on the klittle. I am including not only the texts my clients chose but some others that I believe will resonate for the man destined to wear this kittle.

One of the joys of working on this project during the summer of 2016 is being able to download a High Holiday prayer-book from the early 1800's onto my tablet and carefully copy chunks of liturgy from those ancient pages. 

This isn't hand embroidery but it is hand work done with care and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Starting a kittle

A kittle, for those of you who don't know is a Jewish ritual garment. It means a little coat and is related to the housecoats worn in Germany by men of means. Think of it as sort of a smoking jacket.

A kittle is purchased for a young man before his marriage and is worn during the wedding ceremony. It is also worn on High Holidays, and when one is leading seder. When one dies, a kittle is put on over the shrouds.

Generally kittles are worn by men but in egalitarian communities like mine, they may be worn by women as well.  Kittles are not worn in every Jewish community.  Neither my father nor my husband are kittle wearers. One of my sisters wears a kittle on the high holidays, but not on Passover. I don't wear a kittle.

I was asked to create a special kittle for someone as a surprise. My client and I thought that it would be nice to decorate this kittle with text from the High Holiday prayer-book rather than just with lace.  Yes, I do find it fascinating that a garment meant to be worn by religious men is so covered with lace and other traditionally girly design elements.

I thought that it made the most sense to calligraph the text on ribbon, because if you mess up the ribbon you can always write out more text on more ribbon. If I mess up the wonderful shirting that I had planned to use to create the kittle, it would be an expensive disaster.

So, last week I went ribbon shopping.
 M+J trimming is still selling off their stock purchased from Hyman Hendler.  I wasn't sure if they would have white ribbon left. The sale has been going on for not quite a year. Fortunately I had quite a bit of white ribbonto choose from. I bought grosgrain, satin, organza, and  velvet ribbon along with the manly lace pictured here.  I wasn't quite sure what would work best. I also assume that I will be layering some of the narrower ribbons over some of the wider ribbons.

These reels of ribbon cost  between $5 and $15 per reel. (Actually they have been packaged in old film spools.) Retail the ribbon would cost between $1.50 and $5.00 per yard. The cashier asked me what I planned to do with the ribbons ( I also purchased some other reels for some other upcoming projects). When he found out that I wasn't just a home hobbyist the total price for all of the ribbons dropped significantly. (Yay!)

The gros-grains are not  made out of nasty polyester but are a smooth and soft fiber, I'm guessing  a rayon and cotton mix. These spools are all old stock. Probably none is newer than the 1970's.

Today I began my work writing out the selected prayers on the ribbons.

I will probably go back and outline all of the letters so they stand out a bit more.

This is a nice way to get my head back into thinking about High Holiday liturgy. This will be a project with many stages and some sewing tasks that are completely new to me.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A DIY watch band and Food Friday

This is probably a DIY of semi limited usage, but it makes it possible for me to wear a wrist watch.

Several years ago I developed a nickle allergy. Over the years it has gotten progressively worse. Eventually even the buckle on watchbands were impossible to wear once the brass or gold plating wore away.

I came up with a solution that is fairly quick to make (around ten minutes) and looks to my eye pretty chic.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to purchase a giant wheel of  inch and a half wide elastic for either $5 or $10. My elastic watch bands last for a a few months. They get yukkier in the heat of the summer and tend to last a bit longer in the winter months.

You need a length of elastic that is about the same size as the length of your wrist.

Thread the elastic through the little watch band holding bars on either side of your watch.

This should take about a minute.. Adjust the length of the elastic so the watch is centered on the elastic.

I used to sew these by machine. This is a time consuming mistake. It is much easier to hand stitch the watch band closed.

I lightened this photo so you can see my stitching near the raw edge.. I then turned the raw edge to the inside and stitched again. In fancy sewing talk this is called sewing a French seam. I then stitched the seam allowance to one side. This is called a felled seam.  At this point I have sewn an inch and a half of fabric three times. For those of you who like me are math challenged that's a whopping 4.5 inches of sewing. This won't take you long.

If you figure out a tidier way to do the job, then do it your way.

And now for those of you who like to eat.

For tonight's chicken i pretended that I was an Indian grandma and pulled out a bunch of spices and mixed them up in a bowl before I coated my chickens with all of their spicy goodness.

I did snitch tastes as I cut up the chicken. i did a good job pretending to be an Indian  grandma. 

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman from the Ukraine. She was compiling and translating a collection of recipes from her grandmother. one of them was one she had never tried. it was beaten egg whites and sugar mixed with rye bread crumbs and then filled with a sweet filling.

I had a chunk of last week's challah left over and adapted this Ukrainian cake idea to my own larder. I took the left over egg yolks and made them into a chocolate dough and sort of mixed the two together.
This is the beginning of a good idea. I think I will explore it a bit more.

I have several cool projects that are starting in the next couple of days.I am looking forward to getting going on them.

Shabbat Shalom!