Archive | May 2012

Grow, Tomato, Grow!

Long ago, in another state, the Garden State, my neighbor Joe, a retired chain-smoking fireman, chided me as I put a tall tomato cage around the tiniest tomato seeding in my garden.

“Yeah right, like that’s gonna grow,” he said with smile as he pulled the waistline of his polyester pants over a plaid short-sleeved shirt.

Two months later, I teased him right back.

We were up to our ears in cherry tomatoes. Picked ’em by the basket. And beefsteak tomatoes too. I had so many cherry tomatoes I had to give them away, and my city-dwelling co-workers in Manhattan gladly took some of the perfectly ripened produce  off my hands. And of course, I gave some to Joe and his wife Pat because I was a good sport.

This year, I could have purchased some tomato plants that already had flowers or, heaven forbid, green fruit, and stuck them into the ground in my spot in the community garden for instant gratification.

But it’s far more satisfying for me to know that from seed to ripened fruit, I grew a tomato all by myself. When you grow from seed, you can control the variety and are not at the mercy of whatever is sold at the local greenhouse or big box hardware store. It’s also a lot cheaper.

So, once again, I plant a tiny tomato seedling in the ground:

RUTGERS tomato, started from seed in my basement. It’s got a long way to go before I get a tomato.

And, by putting that big metal cage around this tiny seedling, I am saying “I have faith that you will grow and by summer’s end, provide a bumper crop.” And that’s what you call a real homegrown tomato.

Misbehavin’ at the Eastman Theater

I grew up in a town where many if not most people get up and dance at a rock concert.

New Yorkers are known to be a bit rowdy and I pride myself in my own rowdiness the older I get. It proves I’m still alive

Yes,  I know how to sit well-behaved at a symphony or an opera, but at a rock concert, or even a Broadway show with a rocking musical score, many if not all audience members where I grew up get up where they are seated and DANCE.

I just got out of a concert that I can say I have been looking forward to since I got my tickets on January 27. But no, I’ve actually been waiting to see Bonnie Raitt AND Marc Cohn for over 20 years now.

Her Grammy-winning album, Nick of Time, came out the year I graduated college and started my first job at a tiny weekly newspaper in New Jersey. I would play it on analog tape back and forth in my first car, my dad’s 1982 Toyota station wagon, back and forth from New Brunswick to Hunterdon County, every day for months. My roommate and I cleaned house to the upbeat songs. I cried myself to sleep to the sadder songs like “Too Soon to Tell.” It was after this introduction to Ms. Raitt’s newest album that my roommate said that her mom said that I had to listen to Bonnie Raitt’s old stuff. So I got Collection. And I became hooked on that too and developed a love for blues music.

Then, several years later, I moved out to California to be with the man who would soon become my husband. The year we became engaged, Marc Cohn released his self-titled  debut album. We were driving on a windy California road and “True Companion” came on the radio. That beautiful song became our wedding song.

These two artists have a lot of meaning in my life. So, hell yeah, if I’m going to be a little loud. I might be compelled by one of Ms. Raitt’s signature blues riffs to get up out of my seat and wiggle a bit. A LOT.

But as Bonnie played one of the more up numbers of the night, “Come to Me,” I noticed that hardly anyone was dancing in their places.

Is it our northern location? Is it the lack of sunlight that mellows out Rochesterians so much that they don’t get out of their seats at rock concerts?

And, Ms. Rait: Was it us? Would you have played some more rocking songs to close out your last set at the Eastman Theater tonight if the audience were not so ….


Would you have closed with “Thing Called Love” or “Love Me Like a Man” instead of a cover version of Van Morrrison’s “Crazy Love” if you got a more up vibe from the sleepy audience?

There were some women, myself included, who tried to do their part and could just not stay seated. Women feed off each other on things like this. Once one woman gets up, another one or two feel validated and do the same.  The woman sitting next to me agreed about the lack of life in the audience, and we both declared we were not dead yet and YES we were going to dance.

Then, as a more mellow song followed and we sat down, we actually got scolded by an usher for DANCING at a concert.

The blue-haired, polka dot-shirted bespectacled usher, who was sitting for FREE in the last row behind me, said to me:

“You are being very rude and inconsiderate. I cannot see the performance if you stand.”

If I were younger, a scolding by an older authority would have reduced me to tears.

But now?

I’m being bad?

Finally, at age 44?


Hey, Little old lady usher with the polka-dotted shirt and white eyeglass chain:

Did you even know who this woman was on stage? Do you have all of her albums? Did you listen to “Nick of Time” and “Luck of the Draw” till you knew every word and every guitar lick when you were in your 20’s?

Bonnie, my heroine, who at age 61 was playing on stage, in high heels and skinny jeans and playing that slide guitar STILL like nobody’s business;

Bonnie, who in her 2000 induction speech to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame encouraged women to “get out of the kitchen and into the kick-ass fire” of playing rock and blues, Bonnie would have been very proud of me, thank you very much, and to NOT dance and sing and whoop it up would have been an act of disrespect to Ms. Raitt, not to an usher who didn’t even PAY for her seat behind me!

So, Ms. Raitt, if you ever do read this blog, I must apologize for the overheated Eastman Hall and the majority of the audience, who kind of sat there like wet wash cloths and didn’t give you and your hard-working band do justice to get off their asses and dance!

And Rochester, next time you are at a rock concert, give the musicians the justice they deserve and GET UP AND DANCE!!!

I’ll post this one more time. Rochester/Brighton folks, take a walk up Hoyt Place this weekend … you can pay your respects and discover a historical gem walking distance from your house.

Stacy Gittleman

I have a Facebook friend who lives right around the corner from me.  In the privacy of our own kitchens, we  use Facebook all day to stave off the isolation that comes with being a freelance writer or a painter. We chat and exchange ideas and opinions, sometimes the same, sometimes different, on Facebook nearly every day but rarely get together in real life.  A teacher and avid photographer as well as mother and artist, Carol blogs at watchmepaint.

This week, when Carol graciously shared my column about finding the true meaning of Memorial Day on her Facebook page, she added a comment  saying she would pay her respects by visiting a little-known cemetery in Brighton where there are graves that predate the Civil War. She described where it was to me and I still could not picture how a graveyard could exist hidden away one of Rochester’s busiest…

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This Memorial Day, Skip the Sales. Visit a Graveyard.

I have a Facebook friend who lives right around the corner from me.  In the privacy of our own kitchens, we  use Facebook all day to stave off the isolation that comes with being a freelance writer or a painter. We chat and exchange ideas and opinions, sometimes the same, sometimes different, on Facebook nearly every day but rarely get together in real life.  A teacher and avid photographer as well as mother and artist, Carol blogs at watchmepaint.

This week, when Carol graciously shared my column about finding the true meaning of Memorial Day on her Facebook page, she added a comment  saying she would pay her respects by visiting a little-known cemetery in Brighton where there are graves that predate the Civil War. She described where it was to me and I still could not picture how a graveyard could exist hidden away one of Rochester’s busiest highways. So, being it was a gorgeous morning in May, I posted back “Take me with you!”

Every town has an old cemetery. The Brighton Cemetery, walking distance from our neighborhood, was founded in 1821 with some of its earliest graves dating back to 1814. Though the name served its purpose at the time, this part of Brighton was annexed to the City of Rochester in 1905. The cemetery now sits in Rochester’s 21st Ward, or for my reference point, three blocks away from the East Avenue  Wegmans.

it is located on Hoyt Place off Winton Avenue:

How many times have you passed this tiny street on your way to pick up some milk at Wegmans on East Ave?

This is a street I’ve driven past thousands of times without ever knowing what mysteries it contained. It is a street that time seemed to have forgotten, paved in the 1820s at the time of the building of the Erie Canal. As time passed, this part of the Erie Canal gave way to Route 490.

Tucked away into this street are centuries old mansions:

And then.. the Brighton Cemetery:

This week leading up to Memorial Day, find an old forgotten cemetery in your town. Dust off a gravestone to see who is buried there. You will be surprised to see that the many streets in your town just very well may be named for the names on the graves you find there.

And, if you see a grave marked with a flag, take some time to care for it. If the flag has toppled over, prop it back into the ground. Brush off the grass clippings that may be clinging to the stone. Read who the person was and the wars in which he fought.

Isn’t this a far better way of observing this holiday than, say, taking advantage of a mattress sale?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

Okay, I’ve got to get my hands back in the soil of my garden, but I’ve got to respond to this week’s photo Challenge: Hands.

When I think of hands, I think generations. And nothing depicts generation-to-generation as young hands next to older ones.

Here is a photo of my mom holding my youngest when he was just nine days old:

Adventures in the Community Garden: Day One

This will be the year.

This is the year when I, as a gardener, who has lived for over a decade trying to eek out a ripe tomato or a proper cucumber vine in the dappled sunlight of my backyard, will finally understand what full sun means.

This is the year that this gardener becomes a farmer.

For $25, I signed on to care for a 10’x10′ foot plot of earth in The Town of Brighton’s Community Garden. I’m hoping not only to reap some great crops of vegetables and flowers for bouquets all summer, I’m also looking forward to the people I’m going to meet and the stories I will learn from them.

But when I made my first visit to the community garden, located along Westfall Road in Brighton, I wondered what I’ve gotten myself into.

This is the third or fourth season at the garden and many of the plots have been cared for by some pretty seasoned green thumbs. There are plots adorned and accessorized with fencing systems to keep out critters,

neatly divided quadrants, and well-built support systems to grow climbing bean and pea vines. There are plots that have strawberry plants and leeks sprouting up that were planted from the year before:

Some caring gardeners have even designed  a scarecrow:

Then, I located my plot. Plot D-4:

Weedy. Messy. Nothing much to look at. But, hey, I signed on to this, and this little plot of land was mine for the season so I got to work.

It took little effort to pull out the weeds from the soft, loamy soil. The most delicious feeling soil I have ever worked compared to the clay-laden soil in my backyard garden. Did I mention that my neighborhood was built on a former brick making quarry. ‘Nuf said about the quality of the soil.

But out here: The Brighton Community Garden sits on a former cow pasture that was home to  a century’s worth of dairy cows. You guess it, this soil is blessed by 100 years of blessed cow poop.

I weeded and I tilled, the only sounds I heard were the swallows and red-winged blackbirds that swooped and sang overhead.

I did bring along my iPod for company and listened to music on its tiny speakers. And, even though I was alone in this sunny field, I still kept looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was going to run off with it. There are some habits from New York City that don’t die.

After a few hours, my plot looked like this:

Not bad for a first day’s work.

Next up: I’ll install a fence and start planting some seeds.

This is a favorite dish of mine that I rarely get to make at home because I’m the only one in the house of the rising picky eaters who likes it. Phewey on them! Don’t let that stop you from trying this amazing vegetarian Israeli dish, straight from my favorite Israeli chef Tami who now works at Wegmans down in Maryland. Check out her blog chutzpahinthekitchen, you won’t be sorrry!


Shakshuka (שקשוקה) is a traditional and very popular Israeli breakfast. Most restaurants and chefs have their own version of this savory tomato and pepper stew, with freshly poached eggs. I like to serve it for dinner,or brunch  with some buttery toast and a nice light and leafy salad. It is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, and is a great option if you are vegetarian or if you are having vegetarian guests over. You can choose to bake the dish in a large baking dish and serve it family style, but prefer to serve it in personal baking dishes.

For 4 people you will need:

1 red pepper, medium dice

1 green pepper, medium dice

1 Vidalia onion, medium dice

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 tsp olive oil

1 can (24 oz) of diced tomatoes or, if they are in season, 4 cups diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp red…

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Photo Challenge: What is Blue?

I haven’t posted a photo challenge in a few months, but if you are a blogger, this is a great way to draw eyeballs to your site.

And what a better blue than the blues I saw in Israel? (If you know me, you know I will not miss an opportunity to show you my pictures or tell you about my latest trip to Israel.

I could have portrayed the impossibly clear blue skies of Jerusalem.

But no, I wanted to take you to the Grottos of Rosh HaNikra, one of the northernmost spots on Israel’s coastline, just on the border of Lebanon.

I hope you enjoy this photo. But even more, I hope you get to visit this very spot someday soon:

And what did you think of the Cover of Time Magazine?

I know I am getting this out under the wire, as the sun sets into the sky, but Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. It’s the hardest job in the world and you deserved every minute of pampering, every bite of that breakfast in bed you got today.

And, you are mom enough, even if you didn’t breastfeed your child until the age of four or five.

Time Magazine has had some pretty controversial covers around Mother’s Day.  I can recall one year a crying toddler hanging onto the toned, stocking and heeled leg of a presumably working mom with the headline something to the affect of “Is Motherhood Ruining Your Career?” I can’t seem to locate it, so if anyone can recall and locate the link to this article, please send it my way.

On another cover in 2004, Time Magazine did an about face, covering the other side of the coin by featuring a piece called  The Case for Staying Home.

Now, this week’s cover about attachment parenting caught my eye (well, my eyes nearly popped out of my skull) when it was posted by a friend on Facebook.   You must have seen this cover, the one with the almost four year old boy bellying up to the booby bar by using a chair, mother and son both with their eyes focused not on each other but on the camera lens.

I have yet to read this article about attachment parenting, but I did take the quiz to ask how much an attachment parent I am, or was, when my children were infants and I scored a 50 percent. I guess this is because I answered that yes, my babies did sleep in our  bedroom and our bed, but didn’t leave room to elaborate “only sometimes and only because I was too exhausted to carry baby back to crib after he fell asleep at 3 am after nursing.’

But this photo, and the controversy that is swirling around it, made me think of the days I breastfed my children, particularly my oldest. And how this image is a perversion of the emotions I experienced when I fed my babies this way. When they were – little babies.

When my oldest child, now 15, was born, I stayed home with her for three months. In those three months, I breastfed almost exclusively. It wasn’t easy and for any mom who has  chosen to feed her baby this way, you know it takes some time and practice for you and baby to get in synch.

After the initial frustration of learning how to breastfeed, nursing with my firstborn was a special bonding time, a quiet time, a time that actually forces new, exhausted mothers to sit down and be still. Not only does breastfeeding give new mothers a well-deserved opportunity to put her feet up, it also reduces one’s risk of breast cancer and helps a new mom lose that baby weight. A win-win situation.

Three months into being a mom, I went back to work, commuting three days  a week to my job in Manhattan. But, because I wanted to be supermom, I still wanted to give my baby (and me) all the benefits of breastfeeding.

So, off my daughter went to a loving home-based daycare. And off I went to work, toting a breastpump on the  train and through Penn Station and Midtown Manhattan.

Now, working in an office with twenty somethings who spent half their income on rent and the other on a bar tab, I was the old married lady with a baby at age 29. Definitely an oddity  in the office.

I needed to pump at work at least 2 times  a day. I also worked in a cube. But my co-workers were very supportive and my boss, a father of three, made sure that I had access to an empty office or conference room whenever I needed to pump.

As a master multi tasker, I made sure I was still productive during my pump “breaks.”  I got adept at pumping and checking my email and with the mute button, I could still sit and listen in on conference calls and monitor my client’s press interviews.

Not that pumping did not have its pitfalls.  Because, although I had access to my co-workers offices, none of the offices had doors that locked.

So, one day, even though I hung my PRIVACY PLEASE sign on the door, even though I shouted “PLEASE DON’T COME IN I NEED PRIVACY,” this did not stop one young man of about 23 from entering his bosses’ ofiice, my nursing station de la jour, and getting the shock of his life.

I don’t know what freaked him out more – the noise of the pump or the sight of, well…..

“OH MY GOD! ” he shouted.  “WHAT IS THAT?? WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”

I was calm. ‘I told you not to come in,” I said.  “I’m making food for my baby and I need my privacy, please close the door.”

The poor guy. He was far more embarassed than I. For as long as I worked there, he could never again look me in the eye.

Yes, there are times, whether one is a working, nursing mom, or when a crying baby needs to breasfeed, that a mom will have to nurse in public. When my first was born, my doula, or mother’s helper, not only taught and encouraged me to breastfeed, she also taught me how to cover up. Because  although I know breastfeeding is completely healthy and natural, I also didn’t feel like exposing myself to the world. And, any nursing mother will tell you that nursing goes far more easier when mom and baby can find a calm quiet place away from the public.

Although pediatricians recommend that nursing a baby for 1 or even three years is natural, and in third world countries breast feeding is a necessity to stave off infant and child mortality, the call of when is a  “normal”  time to stop breastfeeding is up to the individual mother.

As far as my babies, once they tasted solid foods and became too distracted to nurse by the world around them, and for me, once their gummy smiles gave way to their first teeth, we both decided that our special mommy-baby time was over.

So, whether you breastfed your baby for one month or one year or three, whether you went back to work full time or stayed home and let your baby sleep in your bed, you are mom enough. Motherhood is not a competition. Nor should breastfeeding be shown in the exploitive way it did to sell some magazines.

troubling and scary.

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