Friday, February 17, 2017

Finishing Charlie's tallit and Tag team Cooking

Charlie's tallit is finally completed.
please excuse the wrinkles, I promise that the tallit will be well pressed when Charlie and his family come to pick it up.
I adore the pinot. 

I love that despite the fact that there are so many textures and techniques used in this tallit, the tallit has a calm feel to it.

And now onto the cooking.

I had an appointment this morning. My son got the chicken going (honey mustard, because we have a young dinner guest this evening). 

My son trusted me with the task of chicken removal., but before he went out for his bike ride he discussed the flavoring for the pilaf ( the chicken juice from last week's curry and date chicken) with me,
and how I should make the kale. He also weighed in on my sister's chicken flavor question( Pomegranate molasses works well with black pepper and mustard and less well with za'atar.)

My son left me to make dessert,an orange almond cake.  I dried orange peel in my oven's down draft.

The cake is pretty but broken. In case you get the same baking feeds on your Facebook page that I do, sprinkling your greased pan with ground nuts does aid in releasing the cake from the pan. I will probably hide the cracks by decorating the cake with strawberries.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Some odds and ends

odd and end #1

A few year back I bought a cheap belt because I loved the closer, the black and white snakeskin plastic, not so much. I wore the belt today and discovered that the plastic had broken.

I found a bit of a pigskin skirt I had bought in a thrift store to cannibalize. Much of it has been put to use as bindings on various pieces. I block printed the suede, used the busted belt pieces as a pattern and now have a functioning belt

Odd end #2

some cool architectural details from the neighborhood
 I have walked by this building thousands of times but had never noticed the cool art-deco tera-cotta work before.

This knock off Richardson building has been a favorite of mine for years.

 Aren't these the prettiest fire escapes?

I can't admire them enough.

And  two details that had until today escaped my attention completely.

When I moved to New York there was too much dog-poop on the sidewalk to risk looking up when you walked. This is another lovely by product of the pooper-scooper laws.

I also re stuffed the cushion on my husband's dining room chair.
it is now much more comfortable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A blast from the past

Whenever I create a piece with a client, the client always lives in my head during the time I am working.  I think about our conversation during the design meeting during the time I am working on a piece and even while I am not actually working but going about my daily life while the piece sits fallow.  If a piece is complicated or unusual, or involves some interesting textiles or my learning a new technique, the piece and the client become part of me during my time working. 

Sometimes it isn't the piece itself but the client that really stays  with me. So when I get a call from someone who says "I don't know if you would remember me, but we made a tallit together ten years ago." I always remember who they are, the piece we created together and what the experience of working together was like.

Fifteen years ago I made this set of arba kanfot for a really remarkable client.
Her Iowa born great grandmother had crochet this dress topper. If you look carefully, you can see that it was never quite finished. The right shoulder has an extension that the right one does not.  I made the pinot/ the corner pieces out of linens that had belonged  to the very elegant Mrs. Grossman, a friend of my mother's , a friend of mine who had died with no children. My mother had found Mrs Grossman's linens in a local antique shop soon after she had died ( many of the things were monogrammed). I thought that Mrs. Grossman would have loved L. my client. It seemed like a nice way to put two special people together. 

Six years ago I got a call from L. ( Did I remember her? Of course I did! ) Her daughter was seriously ill. As L was driving her daughter to yet another treatment, little N. asked if she could have a set of tzitzit.  Both of us knew  without mentioning it that we hoped that the tzitzit would work as a segula/a healing amulet. I actually had a set of silk tzitzit that I had made for someone that had turned out too small. I thought they could fit little N. 

There were some emails back and forth, N had gotten sicker. Treatments were complicated.  After a while, I hadn't heard anything and suspected the worst. Occasionally that set of silk tzitzit would sort of appear in my work closet. I would look at the tzitzit and feel sad. The last time the tzitzit appeared was a couple of weeks ago.

Last week I got an email from L, N's mother. N was about to have her bat-mitzvah, could I make her a tallit?

I was stunned and wept tears of relief. I made time to meet with them. 

N, as I anticipated is just a great kid. She's smart and goes to Jewish day school and pays attention in school.  Her mother also brought two scarves she had purchased in Burma a long time ago, one in ombre purple and the other in ombre turquoise. We decided to stitch  the two scarves together, both were fairly fragile and the colors interacting with one another was divine.

N is just a tad short for this tallit as the two sewn together scarves are becoming, so I sewed a series of  three pleats on either side. 
I went a little wild with the pinot/corner pieces. First I block printed a length of turquoise silk. I backed a chunk of it with fuse-able web and then cut 2.5 inch squares of the fabric. Each square has been backed with golden orange silk organza. You really can't see it, but I know it is there.


I sewed a couple of rows of decorative stitching in gold metallic thread to frame each of the pinot.

I'm in love with them.
Each eyelet was hand stitched using one thread of blue metallic and one thread of bronze metallic thread. The mix of colors reminds me of Fortuny.
A bag was also needed. As I was hand stitching the ribbon at the edge of the lining  to the zipper tape,  my middle finger was completely chewed up from all of the hand embroidery I had done on Charlie's tallit. Luckily I remembered that my mother had given me my grandmother's brass thimble. 
This is probably the third time I have ever used a thimble. I am glad I had it. Now my finger will have the chance to heal.

This is the outside of the bag, a bit of crazy quilted silk ( left over from Charlie's tallit and improved with block printing and decorative stitching, and black cotton velveteen that has been mellowing in my stash for about 20 years.

I was so deeply moved to be involved with this project.  I can't wait until we tie the tzitzit.

Friday, February 10, 2017

ט"ו בשבט הגיע

When you grow up Jewish in New England or in Northern Europe, you are always aware that while your physical body is experiencing one thing, the Jewish calendar forces you to be experiencing something quite different in your spiritual life.

Yesterday we had the biggest snow of the season, tonight we begin celebrating TuB'Shevat, the new year for the trees and the beginning of spring.

The song in the video is burned into my consciousness. If prompted, I could probably sing it while I was in a coma.

During all of my years attending yeshiva, Tu B'shvat was celebrated with assemblies, singing and each student was given a little baggie that contained, one tangerine, one mini box of raisins, one small piece of rock hard carob and a little gummed label that said that this little baggie was a gift given in memory of Clara Leif.

Like any school environment where the screws of discipline were just a bit too tight, any opportunity that allowed for acting out was taken advantage of. Those little Tu B'shvat bags usually ended up with tangerines tossed at one another, the rock hard bits of carob being used as projectiles and all of us blacking out our teeth with the raisins

When I was in 5th grade we had a substitute teacher on Tu B'shvat. He taught us this song and an equally terrible dance to go with it. This version has been tweaked into the melodic, trust me, not so lovely when sung by a bunch of 5th graders.

There is a tradition on Tu B'shvat to eat the seven varieties of produce from the land of israel, those varieties are a specific legal category of produce but they are
as shown on this series of Israeli stamps. any Yeshiva kid could rattle of the seven species for you in Hebrew. 

Because Facebook  makes it's business to know everything about you, this showed up in my feed several times in the past few weeks. Shivat minim babka.  I kind of liked the idea of the Shivat Minim babka, but babka is usually not all that good without butterfat.  I decided to make the fruit filling part of the babka and then see what developed.
While the fruit mixture was simmering I had a sewing disaster that is too upsetting for me to discuss here right now. (When I am less upset I will share the particulars of the disaster.)

I chose to wallow in my misery by baking. I thought that rather than a babka, a layered cake, a layer of cake, a layer of filling topped by more cake would be a good thing.  I love the idea form the babka of using barley flour in the cake. I ground up some barley in my coffee grinder, I made a three egg cake. the batter was loose than I had anticipated so I let it bake with no fruit for a while.  After my sewing disaster, nothing was really working for eventually I just plopped in the fruit. it was to heavy to be supported by the fruit, so i marbled it into the partially baked cake batter.

After the cake had finished baking I trimmed off one side. my son and I tasted. The barley hadn't been ground up enough. The texture was pebbley. My son noted that the cake was missing an element. After a bit of discussion we decided that if I heated up honey and added some booze and then drizzled it over the cake  it might end up having the feel of a Middle Eastern syrup infused semolina cake. We used to be a household that owned at least a coupe of bottles of cheap booze. I know you are not supposed to cook with a good single malt scotch. I used about a jigger and a half of our least fancy single malt, the bottle was nearly empty.

Today my cake looks like this

So in keeping with the rest of the holiday we have challah made with wheat and olive oil. The chicken is made with dates (and curry), our starch is a barley and wheat pilaf.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Real snow

The snow season has begun slowly this year. This morning I woke up to this outside my windows.

A bit later I went out for a little walk and some food gathering.

The bike outside of the pizza shop needs to be dug out before people can get their deliveries.

 This pair of bikes look like they are hibernating for the winter.

If you frame a picture  one way it looks like a winter wonderland.

But when you pull back some of the realities of snow in the city emerge.
When our neighborhood was being developed, some money was set aside to properly engineer the streets.  Unfortunately, the politicians of the time couldn't resist that pot of money and siphoned it off .

The result is  that crossing the street during snow and rain is something of an obstacle course. 

This puddle across the street from my house is often surprisingly deep. During my years pushing strollers some corners of Broadway made me want to cry during the snow, they were so hard to traverse.

On my street, the snow covered fire escapes made a pretty graphic pattern.

The warm lights of my lobby just beyond a snow laden potted plant.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Feeling pleased with my own cleverness

When I un-picked all of the miles of lace from the edges of Gavi's wedding dress
I realized that some of the lace, especially the bits that had been on the bottom hem of the dress had gotten a bit greyish and dingy. It really needed to be clean before I attached the lace to the silk double Georgette. The bit of schmutz might not matter at the back of the hem of a dress but it would be noticeable on a tallit.

I can't calculate all of the books of early 20th century helpful home hints I have read since I was in grade school. I am a person of odd passions. I had a period of time when I was little when I had a crush on dump trucks. But I have been reading collections of home hints probably since I was seven or eight ( not long after my dump truck love).

Many of these hints are not exactly useful in my every day life, although I do know how to construct a fireless cooker if the need ever arises.  As I looked at my big spool of shmnutzy lace  I realized that washing miles of loose lace would just create a giant spaghetti-like mess of hard to control lace that was liable to rip during the stress of washing. I remembered one book had mentioned that a good way to clean a long length of lace trim was to wind it onto a coated metal frame and washed in a solution of  water and grated laundry soap and then allowed to dry and then pressed on a "heavy Turkish towel". 

In the 1920's such devices were probably easily available in your local dry-goods store.Since we no longer live in an age where dry goods stores exist, I knew I had to figure something else out. 

Long ago I had purchased some lace on plastic reels. I know for sure that those reels have long since been tossed in the recycling bin. I did have some lace trim that was wound onto cardboard, but the cardboard was useless for washing purposes. I visited the dollar store to see if anything there might work. I came up dry.

This morning I began searching my kitchen to see if anything might fit the bill. I found exactly the right tool on my kitchen windowsill. My dishwasher came with entirely too many silverware containers. This unused one would be perfect for the job.

I began to wind the lace around the silverware container.

I used the lid to hold the ends of the lace firmly.
I filled a bucket with hot water and added Oxy-clean and added my improvised reel and reeled lace to the bucket.

I let the lace soak for a few minutes and then 
Pulled it out and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed the lace.

I wrapped the lace bundle in two Turkish towels
to absorb most of the moisture
and set the bundle to dry on a window sill.

The washed lace is much whiter. Tomorrow I will press the lace.