Archive | September 2012

A great blog post from Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson’s blog Teachers and Twits, to echo the point of my last post. Please, don’ t text/call and drive, and if you see someone doing it, do express your displeasure. Let’s start a movement before someone else is killed while reading/sending something as stupid as ROFL.

A Confession, For the Sin of Being Distracted

This is the solemn 10 days of Awe, days of reflection that start at the Jewish New Year and end at the last blast of the Shofar at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur Fast.

Over and over, Jews on Yom Kippur in synagogues and gatherings throughout the world stand together and recite a litany of transgressions – in Hebrew alphabetical order –   as they softly pat their heart with a fist. A sample of them go like this:

For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.

For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.

And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.

For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.

And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.

For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.

And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.

For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.

Perhaps the biggest transgression of our modern age is the sin of being distracted by a screen.

Even now, as I type this, I’m staring at a screen. I should be kissing my youngest good night. Or tending to another child’s homework.

Perhaps the biggest transgression of digital distraction is texting behind the wheel.

According to a recent article in Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle, Rochestarians are some of the most distracted while driving bunch of people in the nation.

If I can confess: No, I don’t have a bluetooth. Yes, I make non-hands free calls when driving.

But only if I have a number programmed into my contacts.

And only if I have to call my husband during harried after school pick up times.

And even then, I place the phone on my dashboard or on my lap and use the speaker feature.

And sometimes, if I hear an old “new wave” song on the radio from the 1980’s, I click the info button, and just for a split second, peek and see who the artist was. Oh yes, OMD, I thought it was OMD.

OMG, I’m sorry I have been distracted.

But never, never will I answer a call when I’m driving, nor will I ever make or read a text.


You see it all the time. The distraction of couples looking at screens instead of looking at each other in the evening at the dinner table.

The distraction of a cell phone going off or someone texting even in houses of worship.

The other day I was walking home and saw a car lingering for a very long time at a stop sign.

Now, I was crossing the street and I needed to know what this driver would so so I could safely cross.

After about two minutes, when this driver was still at the stop sign, I crossed and peeked into the driver’s seat. There she was, oblivious to the world, texting on her smart phone.

I stared at her and she STILL didn’t notice me.

So oblivious this woman was behind the wheel, she didn’t even notice me creeping up behind her to snap this photo on my phone:

Please, for your sake and mine and the WORLD, don’t text behind the wheel.

On this eve of Yom Kippur, I pledge to do this one change in myself, to be less distracted from my family.

In a nod to D&C Columnist Pam Sherman, I too recently lost my iThing. I just can’t find it. At first I felt lost without it. But, now, I feel liberated. Maybe I’ll find it someday. Or get a new one after saving up. But for now, I’m dealing with the sin of being forgetful and scatterbrained and repenting by trying to live a more mindful, in the moment life.

For those of you who are fasting, I hope you make it a meaningful one.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

I was going to hunt through my troves of photos for this week’s photo challenge, until I came across this image at my daughter’s cross country meet today.

I know that putting one’s legs up a wall in Yoga class is very relaxing, but never thought that this pose could come of use to runners. The shot was taken on an incline and the grassy slope hides the bodies of these teens so wonderfully so all you see is those legs.

Cross-country and track meets: this is a part of my kids’ everyday life.

Hooray For Back-to-School Meet the Tester Night!

For six years, I have walked the life of a middle schooler at my children’s curriculum nights.

Some years, my husband and I conquered and divided, splitting up the night walking the walk when we had a sixth and an eighth grader. Last night we walked through my son’s eighth grade day by visiting each class in periods boiled down into 10 minute snippets.

In years past, teachers with a twinkle in their eye would discuss the actual  curriculum they covered in addition to how to get in touch with them and where to find the latest assignments online. In past years, teachers used their precious 10 minutes  to explain why they are passionate about teaching their subject to our children, something to which they have dedicated their life’s work. They went on about how they would rev up our child to learn about the Industrial Revolution, or get them juiced up about geometry.

They talked about TEACHING. Plain and simple.

Last night, something was different.  Last night, it seemed that the teachers in my beloved school district had been bitten by the dreaded TEACH TO THE TEST zombie.

With each class I visited with my husband, the evening was not about the curriculum, but making the grade. How much homework and classroom work counted toward the grade and most of all, how much those tests counted towards the grade. Suddenly, the school district that I have loved for its emphasis on academic excellence was more about how teachers were qualified to help our kids get the best grades possible.

Are academic excellence and excellent grades the same thing? Am I out of line for feeling this way?   After all, I live in one of the toughest and highly rated school districts in the country, right? The going should be tough, it SHOULD be about performance and grades, right?

Now, I know. This is school. This is hard work that’s being asked of my child and I am glad my child is being challenged, but I want teachers to challenge my kids to learn, not to feel pressure and anxiety about taking tests.

Maybe our teachers are not to blame for this shift in emphasis.

What scared me about last night is I had a feeling that suddenly in my district,  the teachers seem like they are  under the testing gun more than in years past. The teachers seem now to want our children to succeed not for their own sake of LEARNING, but to show their own accountability for how well our children perform on tests and labs so they can keep their jobs. Teaching jobs are hard to come by these days, that I understand and appreciate.

After last night, I gained a better handle as to why teachers in Chicago are striking. I got an even better handle on why the movie “The Race to Nowhere” needed to be made.

Perhaps the class with the most soul sucking sound was my child’s math class.  A cold fish of a woman with mousey brown hair prattled on about maintaining not a PASSING grade in this almost double-accelerated class, but a 85-90 percent grade to stay in the class. The word assessment came from her mouth almost two dozen times. Not once did she talk about how she was going to teach to me this most difficult subject to GET my kid and the kids of others EXCITED enough to learn and get this grade. I suddenly felt like a middle school student all over again in math, anxiously waiting for the bell to ring so could BOLT!

After math was technology, the final class of the evening. I had had it. All I wanted to do was blow this class off, not caring if I would get a detention for cutting. All I wanted to do was to go home and crawl under the covers, thanking the Lord I was no longer a middle school student.

So glad I stuck around.

Waiting for us outside his classroom was my son’s tech teacher.

“You coming in? Excellent!” He beamed.

I won’t say his name, but this man talked about his life. He talked about growing up in his dad’s auto mechanic shop and how he fiddled with car engines. In this class, they were going to MAKE and DESIGN stuff! Grow hydroponic plants! Use design and mechanic techniques that required precision and discipline to make a product!  Yes, there would be homework and tests, but these benchmarks took a back seat to the teacher’s EXCITEMENT about what he was going to teach to our children.

So glad I didn’t cut your class, Mr. Tech teacher.

After we got home, I guess you can say I was in a crummy mood. I argued with my husband as we lay in bed about my seemingly bad-ass negative attitude about middle school. On a whole, weren’t the teachers lovely and didn’t they convey to us what our son would learn that year? My husband. I love him because he is the glass half full kind of guy. Yes, maybe.

I finally fell asleep. Only to be woken by my eighth grade son at 2 a.m.  His throat was killing him and he had a cough that sounded like a sick seal. Felt his head. No fever.

“Honey, you sound sick, and if you feel this way this morning, we are going to the doctor.”


“Okay, how about coming home after school and missing track practice. You need your rest.”


Those last two sentences, fear-filled sentences about missing even a day of school, even an HOUR of school to go to the doctor, confirmed my feelings about curriculum night.

I gave him a cough drop and a kiss on his head and sent him to bed. But I can’t say that I slept well.

On This Day of Destruction, a Word (and photo) about Creation

Charlie Chaplin – created by tin cans by Israeli artist Goded Geier

Last year, as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached, I went with my daughter to Rochester’ s Annual M&T Bank Clothesline Festival.  Set on the grounds of Rochester’s main art museum, the Memorial Art Galllery, the Clothesline Festival celebrates and features over 400 selected artists, potters, jewelery makers,  and photographers selling their creations under white billowy tents.

As my daughter and I browsed and sipped frozen lemonade slushies on that hot September 10th day in 2011, I tried my best to distract myself from thinking about the heaviness and sadness that the next day would bring.

I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast of being surrounded by art and creativity on the eve of a day of destruction. I thought to myself: Look what the human mind can do when people put their energies in their life to create, to sculpt, to paint and weave.

Look what people can accomplish when they put their energies and efforts into loving, not hating, creating and not destroying.

So again, on this September 11, I’m keeping in mind the families of those thousands of victims, but one more morning of thinking about where I was and what I was doing is making me shake like a leaf.

I’d rather think of the good, and the creative good in people.

Take the artwork of native Israeli  Goded Geier, for example whose work is on display at JGK Galleries in Rochester as a part of the Greentopia Festival. He  comes from a country that right now is grappling with threats to its own existence as Iran gets closer each day for developing a nuclear bomb. Instead of surrendering to defeat or despair, he creates art, made of hundreds of soda cans that could have been disposed of or thrown away.

On this day, this lonesome day, what good and beauty can you bring into the world?

How to celebrate Rosh Hashannah with style!

she’s a busy woman, she is counting the weeks until she’s a bride, so when this Wegman’s chef blogs, we all better listen. This is my friend’s take on the Rosh Hashana menu… i’m going to try and make the geen beans with shallots and the spiced rice – how nice!


It is your turn to host the holiday. Sigh. What to make this year? You look at old recipes and nothing seems all that exciting. Brisket? Been there, Done that. Roasted chicken? Boring. Turkey? We are gonna have enough of that in November. If you feel like you are in a rut, and you are looking for some new ways to spice up your new year, try these recipes!


Middle Eastern chopped salad:

3 small cucumbers- small diced (or one large- seeded)

3 roma tomatoes- small diced

1 yellow pepper- small diced

½ a bag of shredded radishes

3 scallions (green onion)- chopped

1 red pepper – small diced

¼ cup fresh parsley- chopped finely

Combine it all together and let it sit together at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. (Can be made up to 6 hours…

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A Funny Thing about Blog Stats

I don’t really get bogged down about checking my blog stats.

I really could care less about how many eyeballs come to visit my blog or which country they reside.


I lie.

Blog stats keep me from going to bed at night and get me up and going every morning.

Lately, the tag words that lead people to my blog the most are “kosher” and “kosher meat”

In fact, in the last 30 days, searches like “kosher,” “kosher beef,” and “kosher meat cuts” led 227 people to my blog.

It’s all very flattering, folks, but I’m no expert here.

Although I follow kosher dietary laws to some extent – I have a kosher home and stick to a vegetarian diet at non-kosher restaurants – I’m no guru on kosher certification or laws of kashrut. Leave that to the experts like Kosher Maven,  Los Angeles Kosher Restaurants and here is a whole list of kosher bloggers I found on Pragmaticattic.

But still, the Kosher hits keep coming.

Additionally, thanks to WordPress’ mapping feature that lets you check out where in the world the hits are coming from, many of my hits are coming from countries where I bet hardly anyone keeps kosher.


The United Arab Emirates




So, what do I think about this? Maybe – just maybe, people are reaching across the blogosphere to reach across the Muslim/Jewish divide. Maybe, as we approach 9/11,  blogging can dispel the myth we build up about each other.  Maybe, there are people in Muslim-dominant countries who really  want to find out who and what Jews really are.  Maybe we can find common ground,  at least in a gastronomic way.

What interesting trends have you unearthed in your blogging statistics?


Two Transplants embrace the Wabi-Sabi-ishness of Rochester in Gallery Opening

One grew up among the tea plantations of the Darjeeling region of India

The other grew up in the progressive urbanism of Austin, Texas. 

One was raised in Buddhist teachings. The other came to Buddhism in his teens.

One way or another, they found themselves in Rochester.

This Friday, come check out their shared venture in the Kuma-Gama Clay Studio and Tea Bar.

Over a glass of freshly brewed hibiscus iced tea, I had the opportunity to interview them both.

Here is their full story which I profiled them in the Democrat & Chronicle: 

Within Japanese culture is the aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi.

Rooted in Buddhism, this philosophy draws attention and appreciation to life’s everyday simplicities. It asks the follower to seek out beauty in unobvious places, such as the gnarled and twisted texture of a tree branch or the irregular jaggedness of a stone.

In many ways, Rochester is a Wabi-Sabi city, says potter Cody Kroll, making it the perfect place to create his imperfectly shaped sculpture and Japanese tea ware.

“Rochester is … not perfect, and it is unfinished,” says Kroll, an Austin, Texas, native. “That’s the way I make art, by always keeping in mind that nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent.”

Kroll was working out of a small studio in the Hungerford Building and selling his work on

While online, he met Niraj Lama, a native of the Darjeeling region of India, who was selling his Happy Earth Tea online. Lama is a newcomer to Rochester, and when the two realized they lived in the same city, they met in person and a business venture began.

They will open Kuma-Gama Clay Studio and Happy Earth Tea Bar in a larger space, Suite 228, in the Hungerford, 1115 Main St., during First Friday this week.

Kroll’s work will be on display, and Lama will provide a history of tea, as well as tastings.

Kroll’s interest in Japanese culture came early in his life. His grandfather was a Marine stationed in Japan and brought him some pottery. Kroll studied fine arts at Eastern Kentucky University and State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been influenced by 16th-century and modern Japanese glazing techniques from artists such as Kanzaki Shiho and Suzuki Tomio.

In the spartan space of the Kuma-Gama Clay Studio, light streams through industrial glass block windows onto whitewashed walls. From outside, one can hear the clank and whistle of a passing train on the railroad tracks behind the building. Cinderblocks support a shelving system of wooden boards that display Kroll’s creations.

On these shelves, the visitor shouldn’t go looking for a matching tea set of identical cups fashioned with traditional scenes.

In his own primitive “impressionistic” style, Kroll strives to capture the fleetingness of a single moment on the surface of his earth-toned works, sometimes in a glaze that seemed to be fired in a kiln while it was still dripping, sometimes in unglazed parts of a piece that capture his fingerprints.

Though each piece is a one-of-a-kind creation, when a few are assembled, they suggest an eclectic harmony and the ideal vessels for a formal Japanese tea ceremony or the enjoyment of a single cup of tea.

Kroll says because Japan is an island nation, each has its own distinct style and uses resources found nearby. So too does Kroll, who only uses locally dug clays, such as what is found at the bottom of the pond of the Folk Art Guild of Rochester in Middlesex, Yates County. The glazes Kroll uses are made from ash taken from wood-fired ovens of local restaurants.

Everything about Kuma-Gama Clay Studio takes sustainability into consideration. The Hungerford Building has been repurposed from an old fruit-packing plant to a place where local artists work and live. Tea is served from an old piece of furniture found outside the hallway in the studio. It was refurbished into a tea bar and adorned with polished tin ceiling tiles also found in the building.

When Kroll moved to Buffalo in the early 2000s to earn his master’s degree, he thought all of New York would resemble Manhattan. He says he has grown to appreciate Rochester’s artistic and cultural riches and its potential to grow as a creative hub.

“To me, Rochester is what Austin was 25 years ago — a nice, yet-to-be discovered city along a river. I actually like that Rochester is a little depressed,” says Kroll, referring to the Buddhist outlook of accepting the high and low phases of life and knowing that each will pass.

While Kroll’s art is based on appreciating imperfections, Lama’s craft in making the perfect cup of tea depends on the precision of timing, water temperature and the cut of leaf.

Growing up in the foothills of the Himalayas, covered with tea plantations, Lama was raised in a culture of tea. In the country that is the world’s biggest consumer of the beverage, tea was part of everyday life. Though Lama worked as a journalist in India, the tea import business keeps him connected to his homeland.

“Tea nourishes the soul. It takes some time and patience to calm down to enjoy the subtleties of the flavors of tea. While coffee delivers that jolt to get you through the day, tea offers the drinker a tranquil alertness,” Lama says.

Together, Kroll and Lama hope to foster a “tea society” at the studio, where tea lovers and those simply curious about tea can learn about tea ceremony traditions and the art of making the beverage.

Kroll and Lama see the repurposing of the Hungerford Building as symbolic to the revitalization of Rochester. Just as Lama’s tea is a symbol of welcoming hospitality in his culture, so it has been with the “open, welcoming” nature of the people he has met in Rochester since moving here with his wife and two small children just 18 months ago.

“Rochester to me as an outsider has been a very gentle, welcoming place,” Lama says

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