Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Birthday Gift and Assorted Garbage From My Head

My birthday often falls on Mothers’ Day so is often ignored.  My older sister has a birthday in late September so it often gets swallowed up into the High Holiday season.


My sister is currently going through a Missoni phase. She has purchased several Missoni scarves for herself.


When she saw the dress I had made out of Missoni fabric from Fabric Mart missoni knit dress (2)

she was blown away by it. I saw the Missoni lust in her eye.


So the next time a batch of Missoni fabric was available I bought some. I made my sister this drape front cardigan


The shape is fairly simple. I used an exiting sweater as my pattern but  extended the fronts to create a draped front. I also cut one of the fronts with the stripes going North-South rather than East- West



My serger HATED the fabric and spent lots of time chewing it up.  Since I’m talking about what went wrong, I also sewed one sleeve in upside down once.SAM_3047


Just in case you are wondering. Unpicking stitching from this knit is a yukky job.  I tried not to curse the entire time. SAM_3048

Today I posed the sweater for the blog and used the opportunity to snip loose threads. I packed up the sweater and walked it over the the Post Office.


On my way I saw something that is both charming and annoying.



Often when I take the bus to Boston the bus, like this one passes my block on its way out of the city.  It’s nice to get a last glimpse of the neighborhood and to mentally shout goodbye to my family as I pass by. but on the other hand, the bus usually passes my house about an hour after I have left home. as my mother says “I coulda stood in bed!”

I also passed a new and annoying art installation.

This is how 95% of the people experience the installation.SAM_3050

A bunch of metal sticks in the sidewalk.

The people coming out of PS 163 and the for the 5 seconds you pass the piece you see this.


It’s just not enough of a payoff  for the forest of metal sticks that most people on the block have to experience. Have some bleak public art kids.SAM_3052

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Post Rosh HaShanah Walk

One of the many pleasures of living in my neighborhood is the richness of architectural textures. The current buildings in my neighborhood were built mostly between 1880 and the late 1920’s. It was a great era for home building.


Once the Depression began there was very little new construction  until tax laws changed in the 1980’s and there was something of a building boomlet than continues until today.


Yesterday my husband and I went for a walk with a friend. It was a spectacularly beautiful day. After being indoors for services for three days running, it was a pleasure to be out and about.


There is something so delightfully over the top about two cherubs holding a banner with the balding number. I love the grille texture behind the banner.

You can see the cherub a bit better here. You can also see the unfortunate choice of lighting fixture. It’s too small and not nearly grand enough for the entry way.



Griffins hold up balustrades on fences from the 1880’s and 90’s.


Even the undersides of bay windows are embellished.


Brownstones tend to be on the side streets.

Often a series of  brownstones will appear in a conversational but not identical set.bThe short run of buildings below were probably all built by one builder/developer. This particular run of buildings is vaguely Dutch in feel. There are other building groupings that are vaguely French or vaguely English.



I am a sucker for fancy brickwork



or fancy stone work in general.


All of the textures and variations in color invite one to walk to see what the next house has to offer visually.


A few buildings in our neighborhood  have similar terracotta decoration. It’s easy to overlook  the beautiful polychrome tiles. They are high up on the buildings. But they add to the general pleasure of the street.


Our friend stopped to visit dogs as much as I stopped to look at details on buildings.


Our friend stopped to pick up some groceries at a local fruit stand. My husband and I waited outside.

My favorite vegetable in terms of looks was outside.


I haven’t eaten one of these cauliflowers yet. But I love how they look like they come from outer space.


They were also selling slightly more conventional orange cauliflowers,


as well as the proper plums for making plum tarts.


By this time, it was getting lateSAM_3037

so we went home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nearly there….

Yesterday was baking day. I made this apple pie with a pecan crust.


My kids love pumpkin pie and there is enough of a nip in the air to justify it being on the table.


I also made a plum and apple crisp.


Those desserts along with the honey cake should have us covered  for dessert for the next few days.


I baked ten challot.



There is a video  making the rounds on Facebook with an Israeli woman  making tons of cool variations on braiding. I think that the dough she used had a very low gluten content. When I roll out strands of dough mine spring back and become short. I played a little bit with shapes and then went back to old standard shapes.

Food-wise, I think I’m ready.


I have been practicing my shofar blowing so I ought not to make my family ashamed to be related to me.


I am so looking forward to my two out-of–the-house kids coming home.


The really hard part of the season is the  heshbon nefesh, soul math/ self evaluation part of the season.

I leave you with an alternative shot of my apple, honey and shofarot bowl.


Shanah Tovah to all of you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For 5775



אֲרֶשֶׁת שְׂפָתֵינוּ יֶעֱרַב לְפָנֶיךָ
אֵל רָם וְנִשָּׂא
מֵבִין וּמַאֲזִין
מַבִּיט וּמַקְשִׁיב
לְקוֹל תְּקִיעָתֵנוּ
וּתְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצוֹן סֵדֶר מַלְכֻיּוֹתֵינוּ




תכלה שנה וקללותיה
תחל שנה וברכתה
שנת עליה ושמחותיה
שנת בטחון ועבודה
בה תיבננה מושבותינו
בה אדמתנו תיגאל
ומארצות נכר אחינו
ישובו לארץ ישראל
לשנה טובה תיכתבו
לשנה טובה


Wishing for all of us a year of peace and a year of blessing and abundance.

Monday, September 22, 2014

House Hunting

Yesterday was supposed to be warm. My husband was sad, as he always is, at the departure of summer. I am always happy to see the heat of the summer go. It’s always the most difficult season for me physically.

My husband thought that it would be really nice to do one last out door swim before it got too cold. He rented a car so we could go out to the country to swim.
Renting the car and then driving across Manhattan yesterday was a giant nightmare.  Between the Africa Day Parade and the climate march we needed to get off the island if we expected to not spend our time in a rental car sitting in traffic.
We decided to go to New Jersey and then figure things out once we got there.  We ate here

in Paramus. The Fireplace felt like the sort of restaurant that would benefit from a bit of time with Gordon Ramsey.  But as we ate our fit for an elementary school cafeteria sandwiches I realized that we were not far from where my grandparents were buried so perhaps we could do a pre-Rosh HaShanah  grave visit. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the name of the cemetery and my mother’s memory is not terrific at the moment. I also realized that we were not far from Spring Valley where my mother moved with her parents when she was 14.  They lived there until my grandfather died in 1965. My mother did remember her address so after our lunch we set off for Spring Valley.

On the way we drove through Monsey. Monsey is where lots of Satmar Chassidim live.  I didn’t take photos because Satmars don’t like to have their pictures taken. We saw lots of young Chassidic  riding their bikes peyot flying behind them.
After a stop in a supermarket where we indulged in one of our favorite sports supermarket tourism, we continues on our quest to find my grandparents’ home.

Once Maple Avenue reached Spring Valley we pulled into a strip mall that housed a Cabbibean church, an adult day care center, a Family Dollar store and the Spring Valley municipal offices, including the court and the police station.

We asked a man who had just finished his shopping at Family Dollar how to get to First Avenue, which was where my mother had lived. He gave us  directions and then mentioned that it’s a dangerous drug dealing neighborhood and we would be wise to not get out of our car when we got there.

We mis-followed his directions and then went back to ask the police for directions. They directed us to a different First Avenue in the town of Ramapo. New York has a really complicated system of villages that exist within towns that I completely don’t understand. I believe it has to do with the vaguely feudal land distributions system that existed here during pre-Revolutionary times. I suppose that that village within town system makes sense to someone but my brain refuses to accept  any of it so when I hear it it just bounces away.

Never the less, we drove  to the Ramapo, First Avenue which was a two or three block stretch of new houses.
The landscape just didn't look right. I was ready to just give up.

My husband kept searching on his smartphone and then figured out that First Avenue had been renamed Bethune Boulevard. He mapped out the directions and off we went again in search of  my grandparents’ home.
I remembered the street as having several wide hipped porched houses from about 1910. My mother had told us that she lived in 41 First Avenue.
We found
The house had been knocked down and replaced by this pre-fab multi family dwelling and a commercial warehouse sort of a building.  We didn't get out of the car as the nice man from the parking lot had warned us.

This was the house next door, at 39 Bethune Avenue.
My grandfather owned 41 first Avenue. But he had trouble managing the steps. So in his later years he rented out rooms at 41, but rented an apartment to live in next door at 39. I used to visit my grandparents there. They lived on the first floor. The front porch was not enclosed in those days. I remember sitting with my grandfather on that porch.
After my grandfather died, the hearse was brought to the house and my father recited the El Maleh Rachamim from the porch as my grandparent’s tenants watched solemnly.
Earlier that day, my Great Uncle Nathan brought us balloons. Nathan was orphaned at a young age. He worried about the three of us being sad because our grandfather had died.  My mother was in the kitchen cleaning up and looked outside to see something she thought was at the same time  surreal, oddly beautiful and completely weird, an old man  cavorting on the lawn with three little kids with balloons, as we were waiting for that memorial service on the porch to begin.

That was my last time at the house, except for a drive-by visit with my freshman year roommate who drove me there for a quick look when I was 17.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cooking and sewing my way into the New Year

My building is converting from oil to gas heat on Monday. The boilers will be off in my building so I won’t be able to cook. I decided to do much of my cooking today and serve some of it for Shabbat dinner.

My family traditions are often a bit idiosyncratic, to say the least. Apparently Sukkot and Purim are the traditional times to serve stuffed cabbage.  In my family, that’s what we ate on Rosh HaShanah. Tzimmis is a traditional Sukkot food, in our house it shows up to mark the beginning of the Jewish year. My grandmother used red dishtowels for dairy dishes and blue for meat unlike the rest of the known kosher homes in the universe. I don’t follow all family traditions slavishly but when the High Holiday season approaches I NEED stuffed cabbage and tzimmis.

Lyear I made a memorable tzimmis with flanken bones. This year I cut up London broil into chunks for the tzimmis.


I make tzimmis in the turkey roasting pan. I’m telling you this so you get a sense of the sheer volume of meat and vegetables that I cut up. this pan can hold a 30 lb turkey. It took 90 minutes to get everything chopped up.


Here is the sky-cam view.


After everything is cut up you cook it covered, and then uncovered to dry up the juices.  I put two gallons into the freezer and we are eating the rest tonight.


I also made stuffed cabbage.


Getting the leaves off the cabbage is usually the worst part of the job. I know that some of you will write to me telling me that if I put the cabbage in the freezer for a few days the leaves will peel off like the bark off a birch tree. I don’t think I ever have room for a large head of cabbage in my freezer, especially not before a holiday. I actually tried the frozen cabbage method a couple of times and it did not work for me. I used the old fashioned steam the cabbage in a big pot method. I did a serious job of coring the cabbage before steaming and that seemed to make a huge difference.

I got every leaf unwrapped.

I mixed the chop meat with rice, lots of spices, including a bit of cayenne pepper this year.


I know that my buddy Ann will look at the mixture above and tell me that it looks great except for the raisins. I think the raisins are mandatory.  Ann, if I ever make you stuffed cabbage, I will leave out the raisins, but only because you are a good friend.


All stuffed and rolled up foods are done the same way. You plop the filling in the middle, fold the east and west sides of the wrapper over the filling and then roll up.



You then stew all of the cabbage rolls in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. Thanks to my friend Alan Divak the sour is provided by sour-salt rather than by vinegar.


I ran out of cabbage leaves and just tossed a few meat balls on top of the pot.


Stuffed cabbage is pesky food. It does make my kids, at least the two who love to eat, really happy so I make it for them.

We need to eat well during the holiday but a girl also needs a new dress or two for the new year.

Both dresses were made with the same sort of irrational fabric-love that those of us who sew occasionally fall victim to.


I fell for this orange textured knit.


It looks like what adults were wearing in the early 1970’s. I wish I had white low heeled pumps with thick heels and lots of brass hardware to wear with this dress. If I had a matching pillbox I could be a stewardess for a Florida airline.

The next dress recalls the late 1950’s. I bought the fabric at P+S Fabrics while I was on jury duty. It was on the 75% off rack.


Unlike my usual quick and dirty dressmaking methods, this dress is underlined  to give the silk a bit more body. I also had stitched the armholes and the neckline.


Yes, it needs a serious pressing. I also have to hem the dress. It’s a dress that wants to be worn with pearls.


Shabbat Shalom!