Friday, July 22, 2016

Food Friday - it's hot out edition

It's hot out.

I made chicken using some of the Tsere I had bought a couple of years ago. Tsere is an African mixture of hot peppers and peanuts that packs a punch. It gets hot in Africa,they know how to make food for this weather. It will be perfect for tonight.

While the chicken was roasting I roasted some tomatoes that will go into tonight's salad.

Since you asked nicely I will tell you that I sprinkled them with Zaatar.

Tonight's dessert is Creamsicle flavored parev ice cream.Here is a pot with a hefty tablespoon of flour, but I could have used corn or potato starch instead, a cup of sugar and the grated rind of an orange.

I cut the orange 
and then used my fancy orange juicing tool to get out every bit of juice. yes, i squeezed the orange right over the pot. Who needs to was extra dishes?
I added some commercial orange juice and some water  and a bit of olive oil, and set the pot to simmer.
When the mixture came to a boil I added vanilla and then put it into the ice cream maker.
It tastes like a Creamsicle or like an Orange Julius if you grew up in New York.

Our starch tonight is lazy corn, cooked by letting the ears sit in boiling water for a few minutes.

It's time to finish making the salad.

Shabbat Shalom! and stay cool.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Dispatch from the Department of Weirdness

While much of my father-in-law's best work was marginalia, doodles quickly done on the margins of the newspaper or on the backs of envelopes or in his children's discarded marble notebooks we also have a collection of sketchbooks.

In preparing for the visit of Rob and Gaetan from the Lost Art Salon, my husband has been bringing some of those sketchbooks home.

As I was going through one of the sketchbooks I found this image. My father-in-law didn't date this sketch, but other sketches in this book include a series done of my oldest as a just born baby still in the hospital, so this helps to date this drawing to 1988.
The resemblance to

our youngest who wasn't yet ( as the old women of my Hospital Hill neighborhood would say) " Not even a twinkle in his  other's eye", is striking and at first glance kind of spooky.

Before you start playing the meaningful chords on an organ in your head, you need to remember a few things. One is that our youngest looks remarkably like my late father in law and has at every stage of his life.

The other thing to remember is a general rule in art is that every portrait any artist does looks in some ways like the artist - think of all of those wonderful Mogdiliani portraits as a fine example of that rule.

My son is both spooked and tickled by this prophetic sketch.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Food Friday - Cooking while sick edition

I feel crummy. But Shabbat is tonight. My lousy sons have jobs and are not around to wait on me hand and foot and cook Shabbat dinner. So I needed to cook for tonight.

I had made a big bread dough yesterday and only baked half of it. Today was a challah baking week. I suppose I could be fancy and say that I used a starter to bake this weeks challah. The truth is, It was half a batch of yesterday's dough. I pretended that that lump of dough was yeast and just added all of my usual challah ingredients to it.

I did have a moment of "what if it doesn't rise" panic and added about 1/4 of a tsp of yeast to the bowl of dough.

It was probably not necessary. I thought that a loose dough, that is with not all of the flour in it would rise better, so I let the mixture just hang out for about 30 minute.

I came back to see this.

Lots of bubbles are a good sign at this stage. My old lump of bread dough was doing it's job as a leavening agent. The bits of actual yeast was probably just the baker being a bit too anxious.

I kneaded in the rest of the flour and here is the the result a few hours later, a great dough ready to be shaped. At this point I think that bread baking is magic.  I throw all sorts of stupid things into the dough bowl and it works. The lazier I get about baking bread, the less worried I am about technique the better the loaves I bake taste. I don't get it at all, it must be magic.

I got a little fancy with the braiding. Most of these loaves are five and six stranded challot.

To tell you the truth, visually the five and six stranded challot don't look a whole lot different than the four stranded ones. 

Yes, I do keep washing my hands with lots of soap and water as I am cooking dinner so I don't get everyone else sick.

I roasted some tomatoes that are going into tonight's salad.  I went across the street and paid entirely too much for two whole kosher chickens. They are being cooked with smoked paprika, allspice and lemon. They will look like whole chickens with nice brown skin when they are done.

My son's are taking over from here. They are back from work. Time for more tea and a nap. If my son's feel like making it there will be rice or some other grain. And if they don't, we will live without the grain.

Shabbat Shalom!

Letting go

My late father-in-law Morris was an artist. I think that in his younger years he had hopes of becoming a big name artist. He was an art teacher in the New York City public school system, and by the time he retired he was an art supervisor in Queens helping to create and develop art curricula across his school district.

During his long life (he lived to be not quite 98) my father-in-law produced a large body of work. 

When my husband was given the monumental job of closing up his parents' house in Queens, my husband gathered up all of his father's paintings and drawings stashed all through the house and stored them in a storage locker in Long Island City.

A couple of years ago I found a link to Lost Art Salon, which collects, displays and sells the art of accomplished mid-20th century artists who nevertheless never achieved fame. It seemed to me like it might be a good home for some of my late father-in-law's work.

When we went to San Francisco this past spring, we made sure to visit the Lost Art Salon. We arrived unannounced. We met both of the owners of the gallery, Rob Delamater and Gaetan Caron, and were struck both by their kindness and their love of the work of the artists whose work they curate.

Recently, Gaetan and Rob informed us that they had scheduled a trip to New York and asked to go through the trove of Morris' work that my husband was ready to part with.

Yesterday we met them at the storage locker in Long Island City.

Gaetan and Rob asked to see the oil paintings first. Before my husband began to pull out the paintings, he showed them several photos and self portraits of Morris so they could get a sense of who Morris actually was.
Then my husband began pulling paintings out of the storage locker.

It's amazing how much he was able to fit into such a small space.

There were large-scale experimental works my father-in-law made when my husband was an adolescent, using sand, paint and a vacuum cleaner.

I was seeing some of these pieces for the first time.

They began propping paintings along the walls of the storage facility so they could look at a life time of painting.

Some pieces were familiar to me from the walls of my in-laws' house in Flushing. Some have lived in our apartment. These photos were taken at the beginning of the process before the battery in my camera died. 

Rob and Gaetan walked along the  hundred or so paintings that we had all set out and selected the ones they thought  would work for their gallery. They chose about 60.

In the weeks leading up to this meeting, my husband was anxious, sleeping badly. How much of his father's work was he willing to give up? During the last few weeks my husband has been going through the locker, looking through the trove of paintings and drawings. He found drawings of my mother-in-law  from their Biloxi years during WWII.
There were pastel portraits of his nieces and nephews. My husband brought home some paintings that he remembered fondly from his earliest childhood.

While my father-in-law had a huge body of work done in oil on canvas or on board, his best, freshest, and most original work was done in pen and ink.
My husband was torn between wanting to hold on to the best of his father's hand and wanting to share it with the world at large.

Soon it was time to begin showing Rob and Gaetan  the drawings. There were some themes that Morris returned to again and again: birds, chickens, fish, horses, naked women on horses, mythical beasts, architectural fantasies.
 My husband pulled portfolios out of the depths of the locker and we opened them up. Some of the drawings were nice. Others were simply mind blowing.
Rob and Gaetan kept adding to the pile of drawings that they wanted to buy for their gallery.

For my husband this isn't just nice art work, this is the contents of his father's internal life. My husband thinks of himself as being very un-materialistic. He has no need of fancy things in his life. 

On the other hand, I think that he is actually very materialistic. He is deeply tied to objects that are connected to people he cares about or remind him of a moment of deeply held emotion. My husband has kept a shell necklace from a party we attended and had fun at decades ago. He has kept a bit of his blankie, a toy given to him as a joke award for clever Purim spiels written long ago, a bottle of aftershave his older brother gave him before we had even met, the fancy soap given to us as a house-gift thirty years ago, ugly ashtrays given to his parents as gifts by dear friends. My husband looks at those objects and is reminded of the moment they came into his life. 

Morris' art work means even more to my husband that the gifted soap. Giving it up is really hard. While it fulfills the wish of everyone in Morris' family that Morris get some recognition for his skill, giving up possession and ownership of this artwork  is just plain hard.

As we worked, Gaetan and Rob kept asking questions about Morris, about his biography, his approach to art. They will create a virtual gallery of his work and the images of the drawings and paintings will not be taken down  from their website even after the pieces are sold. This was a great selling point for my husband.

In the end, my husband let many drawings and paintings go to the Lost Art Salon. 

It was a day of large emotions, and I think my husband mostly feels that he has done the right thing. I look forward to seeing Morris' work not  stacked in a basement in Flushing, and not in a storage locker in Queens but beloved and admired on the walls of new homes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fixing a Torah mantle

Today I was asked to fix a Torah mantle. 
If you only looked at the top of the mantle you would think that it looked like it was in good shape. 

The bottom inch or so was completely looked chewed up.The velvet had worn away.
In fact, the last couple of inches at one of the sides was completely gone.

The mantle was made out of a shade of plum velvet that was popular during the late 1980's and would be difficult if not impossible to match.

I thought that I could construct a ribbon to cover all of the ugly bits.

I began by stitching two rows of plum velvet ribbon to the navy blue grosgrain.using a bronze metallic thread. it was a good beginning but not quite enough.

I then noticed the embroidered border of grapes at the top of the mantle. So I painted a row of grapes in the center of the ribbon.
It took a while.
I sewed the ribbon onto the mantle and patched up some of the really grotty bits on the inside of the mantle.

I noticed that the mantle originally had some jewels near the couched embroidery near the bottom of the piece that had fallen off at some point.

I replaced the fallen jewels with spirals of couched gold embroidery.

I also fixed some of the damaged  embroidery.

I'm pleased that my fixes look intentional rather than a clumsy patch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Jean's tallit - now complete

I have loved working on this tallit.  jean is an adult who decided that she wanted a tallit, not for any external reasons like reaching a particular age but because of her own careful thoughtful decision.

The making of this tallit has taken a long time. Usually I am a fast decision maker. But in working on this tallit for Jean it has helped me to do all of my decision making in the careful and thoughtful way that she does.

Like Jean, this tallit is deceptively simple when you first look at it. But also like Jean, the more interesting the tallit gets the longer you look at it.

Like Jean, the quiet side of the tallit faces outward, never the less you see the glimmerings of the flashier side through the quiet front of the tallit.

You see a bit of the lining turned towards the outside of the tallit.

I could look at this tallit all day.

I had originally thought that just painting the letters for the atara would be sufficient. 

But I kept thinking about how fond I had gotten of Jean during out time working together. So I did something a little bit nuts. I outline all of the letters in chainstitch--by hand. Actually, what I did was actually even more nuts, I used teeny stitches.

Here you can see the ribbon I created by using embroidery stitches from my sewing machine and extremely cranky metallic thread that is not actually designed to work in a sewing  machine. I tried to get the ribbon to work with the stripe pattern of the fabric.

I really look forward to tying the tzitzit with Jean.