The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, featuring headliners like Wynton Marsalis, Sonny Rollins, Bonnie Raitt, Nora Jones, and yes, even wild and crazy Guy Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, has put Rochester, NY, on the map as one of the nation’s finest places for jazz.
Although the festival marks its 11th year, this is the first I was able to make it out. And all the tents, free music, food and festivities are 10 minutes from my house.
What’s been keeping me away? I’ve had three good reasons.
Our three children over these years have kept us plenty busy in June with evening soccer and Little League games and concerts of their own.
As we packed up our lawn chairs into the car to head for the field, my empty nested neighbor and her companion would don their festival passes and head downtown where music, paid and free, pours out of a dozen venues.
I’ll admit it, I’m not much of a soccer mom, and I was envious. I am far more at home in a crowd listening to music than I am on the sidelines of a soccer game.
As it turns out, my kids would actually rather pick up an instrument than dribble a ball down a field. Luckily, Rochester is the right town for both pursuits.
So, this year, we finally went, with all the kids. The three are all musicians in their own right.
- My older son loves to “shred it” on his electric guitar that he plays in the Twelve Corners Middle School Band. He also plays clarinet, but he’d rather play guitar any hour of the day.
- My daughter will next year play French Horn in Brighton High School’s Symphonic Band
- My younger just started piano lessons this year. His teacher has nurtured several young musicians that have already played Carnegie Hall before the age of 18.
In Brighton, a suburb of Rochester, my kids not only have an excellent academic education, but a solid musical education as well. For three years now, NAMM has chosen Brighton as one of the nation’s best communities for music education.
So, have my kids sit through 90 minutes of jazz? No problem. They have developed enough appreciation to sit and enjoy Monday’s Eastman Scholarship Concert in Kodak Hall at Eastman theatre:
I looked up at the golden ceiling
knowing that my children’s’ high school graduation may take place in this great hall.
For one of the first times since moving here in 2000, I sat in this hall, for free, showing off to my parents the best Rochester has to offer, and felt I was a part of this city. Rochester, a city I barely knew anything about a decade ago, is one of the country’s best places for music.
I also feel at home here now because at the Jazz festival, as my neighbor with the festival pass says, going to the jazz festival is as much about running into people you know as it is about the music.
That night, after listening to student musicians, some who we knew personally, we ran into friends and classmates, track teammates, and band mates as we strolled along East Avenue and made our way through the tents on Gibbs Street.
Last night, husband and I were kid free. And we went back for more:We caught a set of the Barrel House Blues Band
Then, with throngs of others, we danced and sang to Toronto’s Soul Stew:Then, after we grew tired of standing and the blaring horn section (and, frankly, it was the guy smoking a cigar who did me in)
For a complete change of pace, when we had enough of the crowds, we ducked into an alleyway and discovered Blackdog Recording studios, where we were invited in down two flights of stairs treated to a free private concert by local pianist Mike Vadala:
Rochester, you’ve got two more nights of free music in the streets, so what are you waiting for? Go out & enjoy.
“Quick, someone SOMEONE open the door to the garage!”
My daughter’s voice boomed down the staircase. I didn’t appreciate her barking orders at me.
After all, that’s my job. Why couldn’t she open the door herself?
I followed the sound of her voice and soon realize why she couldn’t open the door.
Her arms were full of a year’s worth of notes. Her entire Freshman year of high school. A tree’s worth of it, was piled in her arms and about to topple over.
“I think I killed a whole tree this year,” she said.
Fortunately, it will all be recycled, I told her.
To follow suit, my husband then got rid of his own notes. Five years of notes he took in graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. Notes he hung on to for nearly 17 years. They overflowed the recycle bin. A summer wind picked up sheet after sheet of chemical and mathematical equation and scattered them along our block. We had to go chase the papers down the street to secure them with a rock for the next day’s recycling pick up.
Summer brings on a whole new pace. This summer, all three of my kids will be at summer camp. But this summer there is the potential for an even more cataclysmic shift in store for my family. I can only write this now because all the important people have been informed.
Now, as the summer starts and the house begins to quiet, all we can do is wait.
First, I have to tell you that my inspiration to write this blog stems from three sources:
222 Million Tons – This is the amount of food we waste each year. This food blog wants to put a change to that by offering delicious recipes and ways to take action on how to waste less food;
Your Kind of Salad: Another food blog where I found this beautiful recipe for watermelon pops;
and, my daughter.
If you were confused at the headline of this blog posting, you are not alone.
When my daughter was about 16 months old and was being watched by her aunt on a hot July afternoon, it was this occassion that my daughter put together one of her first sentences beyond “I love you.”
It was: “I popeese”
Translation: Ice Pop Please.
It was on this hot day that my daughter wanted what most of us want on a hot day, something very cold.
An ice pop.
So, she repeated this sentence over and over to her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend who could not figure out what she was trying to say.
Now, any other infant would have had a meltdown tantrum at this point. Not my daughter. She simply walked over to the refrigerator, and, with her tiny hand raised above as if she was holding the torch like Lady Liberty, she patiently, and a bit more slowly, repeated
I -Pop – Peeze!
She finally got what she wanted:
Flash forward 15 years:
The other day I came home with one of those cute, personal sized seedless watermelons
I will not make that mistake again.
While it was cute as a button on the outside, inside, it was a mealy, mushy disappointment.
But it was $3. I couldn’t just toss it away. What a waste of food and money.
So, following the recipe I found on Your Kind of Salad:
I scooped out the watermelon flesh:
Pureed it in a blender
Passed the pulp through a strainer.
Then to this I added one cup of corn syrup (I know this sounds like a lot of a bad thing but the corn syrup adds a nice smooth finish to the pops) and the juice of one lime:
And poured it into the molds:
Then the hard part. You have to wait about six anguishing hours for the pops to freeze.
At last, they are frozen.
So, when the world hands you mushy watermelon, don’t throw it out, make ice pops!
This goes to show you why you should not erase any digital photos, including the mistakes.
The photo challenge theme of the week is: Close.
I accidentally shot this photo of … my husband’s knee and hand on my iTouch. iTouches are so …. touchy.
We were at Citifield watching one of the first Mets games of the season. We were visiting the whole family. Even though they are not in this shot, our WHOLE family: both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all came out to see the game.
Even my dad and father-in-law, and my brother-in-law and his sons who are all Yankees fans, all came out to cheer the Mets. Why? We wanted to be together as a family, a rare occasion as we live far away from our NYC family roots.
So, this is an accidental close-up shot of my husband’s jeans on the surface. But on a deeper level, this is a photo of a day that showed my family’s togetherness.
A note came home in my son’s backpack to state that today, this Friday, the school would be celebrating “International Heritage Day.” Third through fifth grade in my town is a time when students study the cultures of many countries. My child this year studied the cultures of Egypt, Japan, Australia. In successive years they will study about China and ancient civilizations from Greece to Rome to the Inca and Mayan Indians in social studies.
As a culmination and celebration of all this international study, third graders in my son’s school were asked to wear a hat that represents the culture of their immigrant ancestry.
Like most self-respecting Ashkenazi Jews, my family has roots in Russia and Poland. And, if you want to find some real exotic roots in my family, I believe my paternal grandmother was from Vienna, Austria.
But the Polish and Russians never looked upon my ancestors as their fellow countrymen. We were just: Jews. Yids. Pretty much second class citizens. That’s why Jews from Poland and Russia came over in droves to the United States – for economic if not religious freedom.
In my house, we don’t have any connection to Russian or Polish culture. How we identify, ethnically, is through Jewish culture.
So, what hat to use? The Moroccans have the Fez. The Mexicans, the Sombrero and the French, the beret, the Italians have the Fedora (acually, my older son has taken up wearing the fedora because he is so very dapper).
So, this brings me back to the question: What country do we identify?
I should have just put a Yankee Doodle style hat on my son’s head. We are Americans. But are we something else as well? Is Judaism a people? A religion? A Culture?
With what other country do we identify?
I could have chosen an Israeli Kibbutznik style hat, but that would be so … 1950’s.
So outdated. And, as much love as we have for our spiritual homeland, we are not Israeli.
So of course, to show off our heritage, we selected this one.
A kippah, in the Bukharan style, that we purchased this winter in Jerusalem as we made our way to the Western Wall.
This is the hat of our heritage.
These are the last days of school. I’m trying to make the most of them with my youngest by having our morning one-on-one time while waiting for his bus. We did just that today, just talking and waiting as the rain fell.
All I was trying to do was play a little math problem solving game with him, and lo and behold, it turned into the beginnings of THE talk.
I was not going to write about this funny conversation with my youngest child, my eight-year-old boy who is a bit worldly thanks to big brother and sister.
However, Blogher and Venus Embrace are putting bloggers up to the challenge of writing about tips of how to have a talk about sexuality with your kids for a $50 Visa Card giveaway, I would take them up on their opportunity.
So, there we were waiting for the bus when my son asks how old his grandparents, my parents, were when they got married, and how old they were when I was born.
Perfect. Time for a little math while waiting for the bus.
Me: Grandpa was born in 1940 and he got married in 1965.
Son: So… he was 25.
Me: Right. Okay, Grandma was born in 1943-
Son: So Grandma was 22.
Me: That’s right. And I was born in 1968.
Son: Didn’t grandma and grandpa want to have kids right away?
Me: Ummm….maybe, but it takes some time to have a baby.
Son: Why? I mean, why didn’t they, right after the wedding, drive up to a hospital and say “We want a baby, please?”
Me: It doesn’t work like that….
Now, I have to say, I had these conversations a little earlier with my oldest two, who watched my belly grow when I was pregnant with my middle and youngest children.
My youngest, however, never had the opportunity to be around a pregnant woman on a daily basis, so these questions had yet to come up.
The conversation continued:
Son: So just HOW does it work? Does a mommy one day look down at her belly and say, “C’mon, belly, give me all you’ve got!” and then the belly grows and then POP! A baby comes out?
Me: No, um. It takes longer than that. It takes nine months for a baby to be born. You see, a mom and a dad have to lay very close…..
Son: Oh, they have S-E-X??
Me: Yes. (Just what does he know? I wondered. But I didn’t prod.)
Me: You see, a woman has an egg inside of her and a man has a seed, and if the seed goes into the egg, in nine months a baby is born.
Son: AN EGG? Like a Chicken?
Me: No, not like a chicken.
Son: Was I Born this way?
Me: Everyone was born this way. And every thing.
Son: Were trees born this way?
Me: No, but most mammals are born this same way.
….. and so on.
After having three kids, my best advice about THE talk is:
- Be calm. Be matter-of-fact. Don’t brush off any questions.
- You don’t have to have THE talk all at once, but take it up gradually
- Only give them just the right amount of information they need and don’t expand. I didn’t get into the complications of birth control, sex before marriage, having babies between same-sex couples, in-vitro-fertilization. WHY? An eight year old just needs the basic facts.
- When they stop asking, it means they’ve had enough information for now.
One thing’s for sure: I will take out a few books for him on the topic at the library. One good source I found was a blog post by Story Pockets, a blog written by the Children’s Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pa.
It’s been a month since the Hebrew school where I teach has let out and I guess you can say I’m going through a bit of teaching/classroom withdrawal. Yes, I love having my Sunday mornings to myself once again and don’t miss the late afternoon juggle of teaching and then rushing home to figure out dinner at 6:15 (I figured teaching at this hour will train me for the day when I actually do return to work full-time. Someday.)
But what I do miss is the discussions, watching and helping my students as they work through some Hebrew reading; watching them make their own discoveries as they decode a Hebrew sentence and have an “ahah!” moment about their emerging Jewish identities and the cool way the Hebrew language itself is constructed.
Sure, I see some of them in this post-Hebrew school twilight between the end of Hebrew school and the end of secular school. I see them at my kids’ track meets, on baseball fields and evening school concerts. We are happy to see each other, but I can’t exactly ask them a question on the week’s Torah portion in these secular settings.
I’ve gotta teach SOME Jewish kids, so I turn to my own. Namely, my youngest.
Each morning, before the school bus and after a bowl of cereal, we have been checking out this great website called Israel365. On it’s Facebook page, it states:
Israel365 promotes the beauty and religious significance of Israel. Featuring the stunning photographs of more than 30 award winning Israeli photographers alongside an inspiring Biblical verse, Israel365 connects you with Israel each day.
The photos are inspiring.And, each day there is a sentence from the Torah in English, Hebrew, and Hebrew transliteration. I scroll down the page with the transliteration part so my 8-year-old son has to read the Hebrew.
“There!” I say to him, after he reads the sentence. “You’ve done a mitzvah of learning just a little bit of Torah today!”
“Yup!” I proudly reply, and I feel like I’ve validated myself as doing my job as a Jewish parent for the day.
Check out the site with your kids and tell me what you’ve learned.
Another site, this time dealing directly with the Hebrew language is My Hebrew Dictionary which can help you with Hebrew verbs, useful vocabulary and word pronunciation. It even breaks words into themes, like Food, Animals, and a Bar/Bat Mitzvah resource center.
Over the past week, I referred this site to my cousin in Seattle, who is preparing to sing some Hebrew songs in an upcoming choral concert. If she takes the quality of her singing as seriously as she takes which syllables are accented and word pronunciation, this is bound to be a concert that is Metzuyan (excellent!)
Last night, I attended a great working gathering with about 80 other 20, 30 and 40something Jews in Rochester who are very concerned about carrying Jewish continuity here into future generations. This grassroots group, in its very infancy, calls itself ROC Echad (one Rochester) and I wish them all the success in the world in infusing energy back into our Jewish community.
At this meeting, we learned the biggest issue that is keeping people up at night: Providing quality Jewish education in our community.
At the end of the meeting, I challenged those who were there to go out and seek for themselves in the next day some Jewish knowledge for themselves.
While there is no substitute for learning and doing Jewish in the company of others, these websites are a good start for some independent Jewish learning.
If you are reading this and decide to do some Jewish learning, tell me what you find out and I will share it on my blog so others can learn. Thanks!
Hey, guess what? I’ve been nominated for The Versatile Blogger and the Kreative Blogger awards!
A very special thank you to landscape designer Nicole Brait who blogs at The Sustain Blog.
Nicole Brait is Landscape Design Consultant recently transplanted to Austin, Texas who focuses on sustainable design. She has done projects back in the boroughs of my hometown: Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as Sun Valley, Idaho and Denver, Colorado.
With an emphasis on native and drought resistant plants, water-wise irrigation, and chemical free disease and pest control Brait aims to not just transform her clientsʼ yards but to change the way they think about outdoor space. She also posts on her blog any great products she happens upon such as “repurpose” compostable disposable cups and where to buy recycled building materials.
Through comment exchanges, I’ve learned that Nicole and I share common interests like gardening in our own backyards and community plots in our local community garden. We both love tomatillos. Also, we also share a common heritage that she has commented on my non-gardening posts.
Thanks so much, Nicole!
Because this is a versatile blogger award, I wanted to nominate Seven blogs I have discovered that tie back to the sort of amorphous themes I’m starting to develop on my blog. These blogs hit upon some of these themes: New York City and the New York Metro area, moving to a new town (or even country), family life, and hey why not — food and gardening.
- Letters from New Jersey – Debbie and I met out in San Francisco through her friend Craig, the man who was soon to be my husband. She and Craig met as undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania. During my years out in the Bay Area, Debbie introduced me to a great group of people who helped me find one of my first jobs in public relations. She also threw some great game night parties. Now transplanted east, she is a freelance writer living in Westfield, NJ. In her blog, she writes about navigating roads with jug handle turns and beaches filled with tattooed ladies. She is also a travel and healthcare writer, which makes her completely deserving of the Versatile Blogger Award.
- Chutzpah in the Kitchen – this is written by my brilliant hard-working friend Tammi who is a chef at Wegmans in Maryland. This is the woman who, when living back in Rochester, treated our Israeli Dance group to fig and date stuffed hamantaschen and who created Southwestern Chipotle blintzes. Now that she has been transplanted south, I do miss her, but can’t wait to dance at her wedding this October!
- I Love Upstate New York – Now that I live in Western New York, I’ve come to appreciate this beautifully photographed blog and will refer back to it often when I plan my next day trip to explore our beautiful state. New Yawkers, there is life beyond Westchester County, so come on up and visit!
- Wind Against Current – Okay, for starters, this blog, written by two scientists, has on its home page a panoramic shot of the New York City and Jersey City skyline that can only be viewed from my home digs of Staten Island as one crosses on the ferry. Tugs at my heart every time. And, get this, for the past decade, Vladimir Brezina, neuroscientist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine KAYAKS all through the waters around NYC on his kayak he keeps up in his apartment on the 17th floor! Relating back to blog nominee No. 2, that’s chutzpah!
- Foodimentary – This guy who goes by J.B. is a regular food historian. Every day is some kind of national food day, did you know that? For example, today I learned is National Cheese Day. Might inspire me to make America’s most popular cheesy dish. Can you guess what that is? Hint: most kids LOVE it! He is so resourceful he even helped me dig up facts on the history of sushi for my son’s Japan project.
- Munira’s Bubble – Munira writes about the everyday events in the life of a wife, writer and mother, but what makes her fascinating to me is that she writes from Pakistan. For example, she recently wrote about going through an old autograph book (think last day of grammar school autograph book) with her daughter that had been kept in a storage area for 20 years. She and I have connected through my posts about Judaism and parenting. Through Munira I get to sample a snippet of life in a country I will never get to visit safely, a country that is having crumbling relations with the United States. Through this exchange, I have learned that two women can share thoughts about raising our kids and find common ground although we are worlds apart and our countries may be at odds with one another.
- Lastly, I came across Kaori’s blog Meuleh!. Kaori is a Japanese woman who has made aliyah (moved to Israel) and who blogs about her new life in Israel. She writes her blog in English, Hebrew and Japanese, talk about versatile!
- My favorite colors are orange and purple, and sometimes I’ll even wear them together.
- I have this niche hobby attempted by very few at least in the Rochester area. Every Sunday night, I join a small number of people for Israeli Folk Dancing. Wherever you live, you should really check out an Israeli Dance session in your neck of the woods.
- I’ve lived in Rochester for 13 years now, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else except in Staten Island.
- I take great pride in my compost heap.
- I learned to read Torah at age 38 and have taught Hebrew school now for nearly a decade.
- I met my husband at camp.
- Here is one weird fact that puts me way in the weirdo category by my kids ‘ standards: I like Dr. Brown’s Cel-ray soda. Thanks to my grandmother introducing it to me at a very early age.
Governor Cuomo, just don’t mess with a good thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
To kick off the summer travel season, New York State has revamped it’s iconic I Love New York tourism ad campaign created in the 1970’s. I loved those commercials as a kid!
Now, the heart has been replaced by a number of symbols of New York. Think: The Statue of Liberty, Niagra Falls, a beach ball to represent Long Island beaches…
The reasoning behind this tweak in New York’s decades old ad campaign is that the whole I heart thing has been overdone. And, to get all New Yorkers involved, Governor Cuomo has asked us to draw our own symbol and submit it to www.iloveny.com. Maybe my talented daughter can come up with a logo for this park.
So, I’d like to add my own symbol, although it might be hard to draw in a simple red outline.
Chimney Bluffs State Park near Sodus Point in Western New York is definitely worth the road trip even if it may not make the most recognized logo for an ad campaign.
From Rochester: Take 104 East until you see a sign for Chimney Bluffs State Park. It’s that easy. It’s about an hour’s drive.
You will be then treated to these views along an easy hike on a trail that hugs a cliff that looks out at this:
On the way back to the park entrance, which has great amenities like a pristine brand new bathrooms, picnic tables and a nice shoreline, walk back on the wooded path. Just bring your mosquito repellant:
Will you be visiting upstate New York this summer? If so, why don’t you write a guest post for my blog and tell me what you discovered? Governor Cuomo and I would love to know where you went.
But, I have to say, nothing beats those old I Love New York sweatshirts.