As the violence between Israel and her neighbors in the Gaza strip heats up, I have been glued to not CNN for updates, but the news feed on my Facebook page from The Jerusalem Post. I am relying on the Jerusalem Post and accounts from my friends in Israel to give me the scoop on the latest to what is going on there. I have given up on US media on getting any story related to Israel right. The latest picture on the JPost newsfeed brought back memories of my last nights in Israel spent in Tel Aviv.
When you think of Israel these days, I bet that fashion does not come to mind. No, no, you say, nothing is ever reported from Israel except conflict and war. What else can possibly be going on there?
A lot. Fashion, for one. Israel is entering the international stage for its fashion design. Israeli designer Ronen Chen’s can be found all over the world. Tel Aviv Fashion exec Molly Grad is one of Israel’s top female executive at Gottex Swimwear.
Tel Aviv designers teamed up with designers from Milan, its sister city, to put together Tel Aviv Fashion Week last November Some Milan designers included Milan’s Roberto Cavalli.
On our last nights in Israel this past December, we spent time wandering the streets in Tel Aviv, particularly the fashion district on Northern Dizengoff Street. The stores were closed, and that was a fortunate thing for my wallet because I knew I had no need to buy any of these clothes. Never mind my suitcases must have been already over the weight limit because of all the artwork, books and souvenirs I already purchased.
But the styles were oh so beautiful:
So, this is why this morning’s picture of a bombed fashion boutique in Ashdod really resonated with me.
This is a picture that I bet will never make it into US papers. It is not until you walk the streets in Israel, until you drive along her crowded yet modern highways, feel the beauty and the utter vulnerability of the land that you can really understand what is going on there and what Israel needs to do to survive. And thrive.
Israel, I stand with you.
America, if you want to know what is going on in Israel, do yourself a favor and get your news from The Jerusalem Post.
My husband and I joke that our kids are pretty warped. But at the Museum of Glass in Corning, they had fun distorting and twisting their images, like this:
and then, my son grabbed my iTouch and used the CamWow feature to do this:
See, they truly are warped, and I love them for it!
“I returned to New York wondering why we made so little use of our eyes, why we refrained so obstinately from taking advantage of colour in our architecture and our clothing when nature indicates its mastership.” — Louis Comfort Tiffany
Mr. Tiffany certainly had a point.
It’s late February in Western New York. In the bleak late winter landscape, you can be hard pressed to find any color. Unless you consider muddy brown fields and yellowing corn stalks color.
This February break, my family did not escape to Floridian blue skies or green palm trees. With no white snow, Western New York this time of year is nothing but grey.
So, we decided to go to the Corning Museum of Glass for color.
I came across the above quote by Louis Tiffany in front of one of his gorgeous windows that had been salvaged from a mansion on Hastings-on-Hudson.
This quote made me think – we really are afraid of color.
How many of us take the safe route and dress in black or beige because we don’t want to stand out from the crowd? Yes, we see models wearing bright fuschia or tangerine. But in our closets, we always go back to black.
Tiffany’s quote holds true to the home as well. My in-laws are in the process of selling their home. Most rooms have been repainted to – you guessed it – eggshell white.
That’s a good thing for my husband’s childhood room, which was brown. Um, my mother-in-law referred to it as s*&t brown. In this case, repainting was a wise move.
But I was sad to learn that they had to paint over the crimson dining room as well as the hand-painted grey and silver squiggles my father created on their kitchen walls.
Color in and on a house was also the talk of my street when homeowners who since moved away painted their home dark purple. That really stood out on a block of beige, tan, and grey homes.
When this house came on the market to sell, potential buyers were scared off and could not get past the purple hue of the home. During an open house, my husband and I took a peek inside. The colors continued inside as well: a brick-red dining room, cobalt blue kitchen and an orange bedroom. And, in the bedroom, the lady of the house proudly displayed her collection of 30 different shades of nail polish.
I actually loved how these soon-to-be ex neighbors embraced color.
Finally, the house sold. The first thing the new owners did was repaint the house. To grey.
But, I digress. Back to CMOG, as we Western New Yorkers call it.
When you think of Corningware, certainly this image comes to mind:
Your typical casserole dish. Very practical. Very white.
At the Corning Museum of Glass, the visitor learns that glass is science. It is everywhere in our everyday lives: light bulbs, windshields, windows. Fiber Optics. Casseroles. Glass insulates our houses, we can cook in glass, conduct scientific experiments with it. Tempered glass is used for shower doors and car windshields so they will not shatter into sharp shards if they break.
But, step into another section of the museum, into the more contemporary galleries, and the mundane is left behind.
Artists worldwide have taken this medium, and with it practical objects, and stretched both glass and our imagination to rethink the most practical of objects.
Imagine asking your kids to set a table with a top like this:
Or putting your feet up at the end of the day on a glass-beaded ottoman
Some artist visualised the human torso in glass:
Still others beckoned us to take a gondola ride suspended along an invisible river:
On our way home, we left all this color behind and re-entered the grey, rainy late winter afternoon. But, we were treated by Mother Nature to one last blast of color:
Acre, or Akko, is an Arab port city in the north of Israel. It is a city that was built and rebuilt by the Crusaders, and then the Ottomans. Parts of the old walled city are being excavated til this day.
You can look up the history of Akko. I’m just going to show you some nice pictures that will speak for themselves.
In Judaism, if Israel is the Jewish state, then Jerusalem is Judaism’ holiest city and its eternal united capital. But it is also holy to all faiths. As recognition of this, ever since Israel reunified Jerusalem after capturing it from the Jordanians after the 1967 Six-Day War, it has made sure that all of Jerusalem’s religious sites are open, safe and accessible to all religions.
This is why though I am a practicing Jew and a Jewish educator, for one of my first post-Israel posts, I wanted to show you the walk of the Via Dolorosa. As you look at these photos, keep in mind how preserved and maintained are these stations. Keep in mind that my family walked the streets of the Old City safe and without fear because of the constant present of the Israeli Defense Forces. Keep in mind that all religious sites in Jerusalem are open and accessible to all faiths. This was not the case before 1967.
The week our family visited Israel was during Christmas. We saw thousands of Christian Pilgrims walking Jesus’ final steps:
The other morning I phoned my sister-in-law in northern New Jersey. I needed to know her Hebrew name for an honor she was receiving for the morning service at my son’s Bar Mitzvah, now only days away.
Now, I should have known this, and certainly my husband should have known his sister’s Hebrew name, but we didn’t.
I called her cell phone a few days ago after 8:45 in the morning. With four kids in school, she had to be up. She is always on the go. Instead, a very groggy voice answered.
“I am. That’s my Hebrew name.”
Oh, of course, that’s why I was calling. But why did she sound so tired?
“Why arent’ you up? Don’t you have kids to get to school?” Fool that I was, with the glorious November day outside, and the fact that Western New York again survived the latest storm to hit the east coast unscathed, I was not thinking about how bad things were back in the NYC/NJ Metro area. The now-dubbed Halloween snowstorm had turned the streets of parts of New Jersey into what looked like a war zone. With downed trees and downed power lines, it was even too dangerous to go trick-or-treating.
“I’m sleeping at a friend’s house. We have no power and no heat.”
She sounded so sad. She still had no power after two days. The kids had no school for two days straight. But the one thing that seemed to make her the saddest was:
“You should see my block. We lost so many big, beautiful trees.”
In the winter, when the snow is wet and heavy enough to put a coat of sugar on every last branch and twig, my street looks like this:
Sadly, even trees don’t last forever.
The snow-laden trees above were planted because they were fast-growing trees for Rochester’s first suburban development. They are now almost 90 years old.
Trees planted closely to houses are dangerous when they age and begin to rot from the inside out. Last weekend, our neighbors took down one of these trees. The bottom trunk was this big:
This tree saw 90 years of changes of seasons, survived ice storms and blizzards. It saw generations of school children off on their first day of school. It was a home to birds and squirrels who played in its branches. But it lived out its days and succumbed to “crotch rot” of all things. Now, where its branches once stretched out, there is a whole punched into the sky where it once stood.
When snows fall heavy before the leaves drop, trees come down before they get a chance to live out their days. Back in New York City, Central Park lost 1,000 trees; trees that were just beginning to peak in their fall splendor of color. Trees that were planted generations ago so that we may enjoy them.
The other week, my son got a gift from a relative in honor of his Bar Mitzvah. In the true Jewish tradition, a ring of trees had been planted in his name in Israel. It’s a good thing we are headed there this winter to water them!
Now after this devistating storm that cancelled trick-or-treating and felled countless trees close to home, it seems like New York City needs new trees just as much as the land of milk and honey. The Central Park Conservancy is now asking for donations to restore its tree population.
Do you have a favorite tree? How would you feel if it were destroyed or it had to come down? Or, did you lose a tree to the Halloween storm? If so, I am sorry for your loss. Why don’t you write about it here?
Last Sunday morning, though I could have slept in, I woke up early. I woke up my family too. I told them we were about to take a trip into the country. No, we weren’t going through a corn Maze.No, there would be no pumpkin catapult contests. But I promised them, they would enjoy it. They were going to have a good time. Because I SAID SO!
Life has been way too hectic lately. I feel like I have barely seen my three children since late June. It seems like no sooner did my older son and daughter return from sleep-away camp and I washed all their laundry, the summer ended and so began the school grind. Homework and tests. Track meets and band practice.
But last Sunday morning, we had this glorious sunny perfect day. And we had no school and no work. I just wanted one chore-free day of me not nagging anyone spent out in the country. One day of me not badgering anyone to stop texting friends while I am talking to them or stop playing games on the computer.
So off we went.
as we whizzed past withering cornfields.
To reach our destination: the East Hill Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm and Folk Art Guild in beautiful, Middlesex, NY. There, we got a chance to see where our vegetables were grown all summer.
East Hill Farm is a project of the Rochester Folk Art Guild, a nonprofit organization and community of craftspeople and farmers. Since 1967, they have grown food and produced handmade practical folk art on a 350 acre farm. East Hill Farm uses old fashioned, chemical-free, hands-on organic methods to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, eggs, pigs, and chickens for the community and for sale through our CSA and markets.
For the past 20 weeks, our family took part in a great experiment of owning a CSA share. Each Friday since mid-May we were presented with a portion of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers organically and lovingly grown by a group of young entrepreneurial farmers. Whether it was spring’s excessive rains or July’s excessive heat, we shared in the farmers’ risky dance with Mother Nature.
The farm had limited cell phone service so we got a chance to sample the simpler, slower style of life. We actually got a chance to catch up, share and talk as a family. How many times are family members distracted from each other by screens: laptops, DS games, cell phones, iPods?
Well, on this day in October my teen-aged daughter actually sat and talked to me. She sat and reminisced with me about the first time she used a pottters wheel this summer at camp as we watched a master potter throw and mold a clay jar before our eyes:
How many toys, clothing, dishes do we buy that are made of cheaply made mass-produced?
Then, in the weaver’s studio, my son got to try his hand at a loom, using wool that was dyed by an apprentice, the same young woman who brings us our week’s worth of vegetables. Thank you, East Hill Farm farmers. It’s been a great summer.
During the long Rochester winters, what I miss most about the summer is my garden. One fall day in early October, when my older son was very small, he accompanied me into the garden as I pulled out the last annuals and put the soil to bed.
As I yanked out the last withering tomato plant, he burst into tears and cried:
“It’s really OVER!!”
One of the favorite dishes of summer for my family that smells as good as it tastes is Pesto.
Take one leaf of basil and rub it between your fingers. The powerful scent it gives off is the stuff of summer. Then, when it is crushed into a paste and mixed with pine nuts, olive oil and cheese, it makes any boring pasta meal a celebration.
To live without basil all winter would be too cruel a reality.
Sure, you can buy yourself some hydroponically-grown basil in the middle of January. One plant, that has about 20 good leaves on it, will cost about 2.99 these days at the supermarket.
You can get out to your nearest public market, like the Rochester Public Market, one of the world’s greatest public spaces. Buy the biggest bunch of basil you can find for about $1.50. It will be waiting for you in a big bucket filled with water and if it’s fresh, will still have the roots attached, dirt and all.
Then, take this green bouquet home. It’s so pretty you may want to photograph it, like I did:
It isn’t long before basil leaves wither. As harsh as it may seem, pick all those leaves off (I amassed 3 cups of basil leaves with this bunch), wash them well in a colander, and place them in a food processor.
I also put in three cloves of garlic that I roasted. Roasting the garlic cloves brings out their sweetness.
Add to this puree 1/3 cup of some very good olive oil and 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts or walnuts. You can add 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese here, but this can be added when you are ready to use your Pesto.
Then, pour the mixture into an ice-cube tray sprayed with cooking oil. (My children think this is very strange and have at times placed a pesto cube, in error, into their water. I don’t recommend this.)
And how could I not visit Coney Island?
After all, it’s en route in our Island hopping tour – between Staten Island and Long Island.
My family plunked down its roots in Coney Island, on 21st Street. This is where my great-grandparents on my grandmother’s side lived. My grandmother with her three sisters and one brother.
This is the subway train stop that takes you to the boardwalk. The very spot where my grandmother and her sisters would stand and offer visitors and beachgoers a clean place to shower and change after beachgoing at their apartment – all for a quarter.
This is the famed Coney Island boardwalk. On this spot – or around here somewhere – my grandmother met my grandfather and told him to go home and grow up. They were married for 67 years. This is also the Boardwalk and the beach where my brother and my cousins and I ate chicken salad sandwiches with grapes and then had to WAIT on the beach blanket for 30 minutes before we can go jumping in the waves. It was a cruel ritual that we endured each summer.
This is the Cyclone. My grandmother rode it, as well as my mother. Skipped a generation with me. Now, this week, my husband and son got a chance to ride its rickety hills.
Me? I agreed to ride the Wonder Wheel with the family.
My husband, two boys and my parents crammed into one of the moving cars that shoots out into nothing over the beach.
This is the sign that tells the rider just how old the Wonder Wheel is, and that there has never been an accident in all the Wonder Wheel’s 89 years. This is the view up top of Nathan’s Famous Franks below:
And after a few hours, hot hungry and tired, we left the boardwalk to find our car which was parked by the Luna Park apartment projects. These were the apartments where several branches of the extended family lived for several decades.
I took a walk on the grounds. I looked up at the terraces where my cousins and I played tag.
The buildings were under a much-needed renovation. As I walked along memory lane, I noticed that the playgrounds of my childhood had been upgraded. Old school monkey bars and jungle gyms have been changed to the plastic, safer playgrounds of today.
But wait – some were JUST the same. The same concrete play structures were still there that I played on. So, for one more time , I climbed on them, with my youngest son:
There are many magazine articles and blog posts that feature sumptuous photo spreads of gardens in full bloomed glory. Beds of perfect tulips. Rodent and insect-free vegetable gardens bursting with a unbitten, sun-ripened bounty.
This blog post will not be one of those. This is for the rest of us.
Any chance of me having one of those gardens, where the sun actually ripens tomatoes on the vine before the first frost, is gone. I missed out. For whatever reason – maybe it was procrastination, or maybe for lack of believing that winter would ever end this year – I missed the March 1 deadline in signing up for a plot in the Brighton Community Garden. Yes, I believe that day in March, we were under a blizzard warning.
Gardening up North can be frustrating. The season is very short. Veteran Rochester gardeners warn the uninitiated not to plant anything in the ground before Memorial Day weekend. I received gasps of horror when I informed some that I had planted my tomatoes two weeks ago. But they had become so leggy and pale looking under my basement grow lights, I really had no choice.
And my flowers? I’m trying not to have a meltdown after the bunnies in my garden CHOMPED off the heads the poppies that I have waited all winter to bloom. At least those red bugs have not attacked my Asiatic lilies. At least not yet.
That perfect garden is just not going to happen. So, this year I am just going to relax and keep it in perspective. I think about the ravaged midwest and how lucky we are in boring, tornado-free upstate New York. I think of the farmers who rely on the land and ideal weather conditions to make their living.
It has been one soggy spring, one of the rainiest in record in Western New York. In fact, in April, Western New York received 5.81 inches. So far, in May: 3.32 inches. Upstate farmers are weeks behind in planting their peas and corn. And the farmers at my East Hill CSA have already warned us that this year’s crops are getting a late start because of the soggy conditions.
This year, I am leaving my garden primarily up to nature, because I think She is the best gardener after all. I will embrace my failures.
The Zinnias that I started from seed in the winter are quite puny and can really use some sun and heat:
And tomatoes? These are the ones I planted from seed back in February, they also need some sun and need to dry out:
But some plants do well in cold wet weather. Here is a picture of the arugula I started from seed way back in the winter:
But nature is the best gardener. I call these volunteers. This year, if it is not a weed, I’m letting it grow. And who cares if they are not in perfectly straight lines. If it is a seedling left over from last year, I’m letting it be and will let it grow:
That will go very nice with the cucumbers that will grow on this vine, also a pop-up volunteer:
And as for perennial flowers. If you see one of these growing in your garden, jump for joy. It is not a weed, but the start of a beautiful lupine:
Leave it alone, just where it is, and it may grow up to look just like its mom: