Purim: Plays & Hamentaschen!

My friend Marla invited me over for lunch. “Come for blintzes,” adding she had some pitted jarred cherries from the Russian store and sour cream.   I happily ate the blintzes, a cheese-filled crepe popular in Jewish cooking.

Knowing Marla’s busy life, I doubted hers would be homemade, though she is an excellent cook and might have taken the challenge.

Out of a box, fried in a pan, served with a dollop of sour cream and the cherries, they were yummy. I told her how my mother used to make them from scratch, making a thin dough of eggs, flour and milk, and gently frying the pancake, filling it with a mixture of dry cottage and farmer cheeses, folding up the blintzes, wrapping the edges like a small present, then refrying the entire thing lightly.

Like so many of traditional Jewish dishes, homemade blintzes are considered in Yiddish a “potchka,” a bit of a mess, and also a big production. I often wonder how my grandmothers made all the dishes that require hours and hours of attention, all without the assistance of a food processor.

I was facing an afternoon in the kitchen myself so was happy to have a lunch invitation.

Next week is Purim; the holiday that celebrates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. King Achasverosh announces a contest to find a new bride and summons all the eligible women to the palace. He selects Esther, who lives with her Uncle Mordecai. Esther doesn’t tell the king that she’s Jewish. Meanwhile, Haman, the king’s evil advisor, convinces the king to annihilate the Jews because they don’t follow all the laws of the kingdom. He’s particularly mad at Mordecai who refused to bow down to him in public.  When Esther hears of Haman’s plan, she appeals to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, putting her own life at risk.  Achasverosh listens and orders Haman hanged.

The holiday includes plays and costumes, and food, particularly Hamentaschen, a triangular filled cookie that represents Haman’s three-cornered hat. I fill mine mostly with poppy seed; however anything from apple butter to chocolate can be used. I’ll freeze them until next week when I’ll bring them to friends and family.

Hamentaschen made (strawberry for the non-poppy eaters), I now have to find a costume and might try my hand at writing the Purim spiel—a retelling of the story in play form where everyone gets a part.


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Finished Projects: Winter Knitting

I’ve been knitting up a storm the past several months. I made matching sweaters for the 4 grandsons in royal blue, navy, and green and light blue.  DSC_0625The eldest grand-daughter got a jumper with a cabled top. DSC_0627

Of course, I couldn’t neglect our grand-dog, whose sweater came out too short so I’ll lengthen it so it’s not a “crop top.” It’s my first dog sweater and they’re a bit tricky to do.

IMG_2921 IMG_3089-1 I made a vest for my sister Madeline from Noro yarn someone had given her. A hitchhiker scarf for Prita, image a bobbles scarf and hat for Esti, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and a ruffled scarf for Claudia as a thank you present for attending my memoir writing workshop. photo-90 I hope it keeps her warm and inspires her writing!

Yet another local yarn store closed. The owners retired to Costa Rica and plan to offer knitting retreats. I will miss them. They could take a ready made sweater or a picture from a magazine and create a pattern. I did stock up during their sale and am now working on a cuff- to -cuff pullover for myself. Plenty of snow day projects!



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Bob Dylan & Harper Lee: Forever Young

One usually doesn’t include Bob Dylan and Harper Lee in the same sentence. This week, however, the two icons made news, capturing the attention of fans and pundits.

First, Dylan, 73,200-06-bob-dylan-cover-dylan-portrait.imgcache.rev1421441931112.web released his latest album, Shadows in the Night,61iSFAXmvDL._SX355_  a collection of songs from the 1940’s and 50’s, many made popular by Frank Sinatra. He granted one interview, an exclusive to  the AARP.  That alone sent traditional media outlets into a frenzy; then they dissected the album, intrigued with the crossing of genres and different style.

I, too, was curious and picked up the cd at my local record store and listened to it on my way to see the grands this week. The songs are pleasant; hearing his gravely rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” surprised me with its pathos and yearning. I guess that reflects the songs of the time period.

For me, Dylan will always be the 1960’s folk singer/songwriter famous for “Blowin in the Wind”  and other ballads of the time. Yet,  I admire how he took risks with his art.

Then there’s 88-year-old Harper Lee.  images For decades, she’s claimed she wrote only one novel: the 1960, Pulitzer Prize winning, worldwide sensation, To Kill A Mockingbird. In fact she wrote another book first, Go Set a Watchman, Unknown which was rejected by publishers until now. It brings an adult Scout Finch back to Maycomb, Alabama.

The book won’t come out until July; pre-orders on Amazon have already vaulted the book into a best seller. Naysayers say leave well enough alone; that nothing can be as good.

Personally, I can’t wait to re-enter Scout‘s world. Whatever Lee did with it, will be fine by me.

May Lee and Dylan keep creating; may they remain Forever Young.





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Thank You, Carl Djerassi: Birth Control Pill Chemist

When I read the obituary of Carl Djerassi,  a chemist and writer who died this week at age 91, a series of “what ifs” came into my head.

What if he and his parents hadn’t escaped the Nazis?

What if he didn’t write a letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, seeking her assistance in procuring funds to attend college?

What if the first school, Tarkio College in Missouri, didn’t close and he didn’t transfer to Kenyon College, then an all men’s school in Gambier, Ohio?

What if he didn’t pursue a chemistry degree?

Djerassi was among a team of scientists credited with discovering the birth control pill. Like so many products in medicine cabinets, most people don’t know the names behind the inventions, but take for granted they’re there. The birth control pill, now considered commonplace, had a rocky beginning, including protests about its use and distribution.

I met Djerassi in 2008 when his play Taboos opened in New York.

In an interview for Education Update,  Djerassi shared his views on the role of science and art.

Here are  excerpts:

“For Carl Djerassi, the chemist, scientific discoveries are tangible and transparent. For Carl Djerassi, the writer, the ramifications of these discoveries pose challenging questions…”

“…Taboos  addresses the complications that arise when conception occurs in the laboratory, not the bedroom. Featuring a lesbian couple and an infertile fundamentalist Christian couple who all want to have a child, the play questions what defines a parent, and what creates a family…”

“…The greatest cultural innovations of the last 40 years were the invention of the Pill and invitro-fertilization,” he said. “These gave us sex without reproduction, and reproduction without sexual intercourse. No one can say this is sinful; the genie has already escaped. Opponents can argue all they want…”

Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt for helping this young refugee get an education.

Thank you, Carl Djerassi for changing the lives of women worldwide.


Posted in commentary, Education, interviews, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Los Angeles: Meeting Miriam and the Getty

One of the true joys of blogging are the friendships I’ve made. I tell people about my “blog friends,” and how I know details of lives of complete strangers who aren’t really strangers. So to meet a blog friend in person is a special treat. Knowing I had a couple days in Los Angeles, I contacted Miriam Hendeles who shares her experiences being a mother -in- law, mother and grandmother in her blog, Bubbly Joys and Oys.

Like similar meet-ups  I’ve had with other blog friends, we immediately fell into conversation as if we’ve known each other for years and shared stories about families, work, and of course writing. Miriam is an accomplished musician, and shares her talents as  a music therapist with hospice patients. She drove me around a bit in LA and we ate grilled fish and toured the Museum of Tolerance.


On my second day, she had about an hour in her busy schedule and we stopped by the La Brea Tar Pits and then headed to an area called the Grove, an outdoor shopping plaza. At the Coffee Bean, a west coast icon, two of her former high school students recognized her and recalled how she taught them Shakespeare and other literature. The students had to remind Miriam who they were. I shared how I too usually have trouble remembering the names of former students I encounter.

In the morning, I wanted to take a walk around the neighborhood. Walking isn’t really done much in LA; it’s a driving city. Daunted about crossing four lanes of traffic without a stoplight, I waited until someone else appeared who wanted to cross. Safety in numbers, I figured, or at least, the locals must know how to do things. A young man joined me and we crossed together, and started talking. Mark, as I found out, is originally from NYC and has settled in Los Angeles, where he manages a hair salon in West Hollywood. We chatted while walking; I admired the local architecture and of course, how both the climate and vegetation provided a welcome change from the cold we left behind. IMG_0704 IMG_0703 IMG_0702

The next day we took a few hours before our flight to San Francisco to tour the Getty Museum.  Unlike any art museum I’ve ever seen, the Getty comprises five pavilions set atop a mountain. A tram takes guests to the top and back and both the tram and museum are free. Panoramic views of the city and coast, meticulous gardens and waterfalls, indoor art and outdoor sculpture, it’s truly a peaceful escape from the sprawling city.  IMG_0708 IMG_0713 IMG_0712IMG_0181IMG_0191

Onto San Francisco for a day to see our daughter and meet our grand-dog, Tyson Chandler, and then grabbing a couple days biking in Sonoma. Ah, to live in a climate where one can bike year round.




Posted in art, bike riding, Cycling, daughters, exercise, Friendship, Museums, galleries, teaching, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Shared Winter Reading: Curious George, Dostoevsky, & Mantel

Cold weather is for reading and there’s nothing like a grandson and a favorite book to spend a wintery afternoon. My son surprised his wife with a few days away this week and asked me to help his sister-in-law (their new nanny) with the kids. The eldest had been coughing a couple days and missed school. Curious George is the perfect anecdote for three-year-old boredom; we snuggled up and I read and reread and reread and reread adventure after adventure.

I read the books, leaving out some key words for him to fill in, like “curious,” or “yellow.” Or sometimes to be silly I say George was always very “sad or happy,” and substitute purple for yellow—just to see if my listener is paying attention and to have some fun. Curious George was among the holiday gifts I gave the grands, which also included a Lyle the Crocodile story collection for our three-year-old grand-daughter, and BJ Novak’s The Book with No Pictures for our five –year- old grandson. As the title suggests, there are no illustrations and no real plot. Instead there are funny words that allow each reader to interpret with different sounds – perfect word play.

The littler ones got board and fabric books and I gave my daughter, a new dog owner, Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs.

I’ve amassed a stack of books myself, including two that I’m reading in a “shared” experience. My eldest son invited me to read a classic together that we’d analyze and discuss, comparing characterizations with ourselves. We selected Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. The reading is dense and the discussions, given that we each have busy lives, also a bit slow. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep up my commitment.

My husband ordered tickets to see the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies, accounts of British Tudor history that have been adapted to the stage. He ordered copies of the books and we hope to read them together before our NYC theater date late March.

Book sharing seems like a great way to read with the young ones when they’re reading themselves. A friend shared a list of favorite titles he has read with his three grand-daughters, ranging in age  from 6-11:

The “Just Grace” series
“Lilly Lemon Blossom” series
“The Land of Stories”  Chris Colfer
“The Fault in our Stars”   John Green
“Number the Stars” Lois Lowry
All of Roald Dahl
“Holes”  Louis Sacher
“Out of My Mind” Sharon M. Draper
“The One and Only Ivan”  Katherine Applegate
“A Tale Dark and Grimm Adam Gidwitz
“The Mother Daughter Book Club” Heather Frederick
“Wonder” R.J. Palacio”
The Magic Tree House series

Something to look forward to. Happy Winter Reading!





Posted in Books, Education, Family, Grandchildren, parenting, Reading, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power or.. Don’t Forget Lipstick!

I reached into my deep purple suede satchel to retrieve my small makeup bag. I needed to reapply lipstick before our meeting. Alas! No bag in sight. In my haste to switch from my everyday purse to the one-that-matched-my outfit, I’d forgotten to toss in the makeup kit.

I told my husband: I needed to stop at a drug store for 5 minutes. He looked at me askance; noting we were already running late, but relented. Into the next Duane Reade I went, grabbed a couple Revlons (Spicy Cinammon and Goldpearl Plum) and a Burt’s Bees lip balm (peppermint), and immediately felt much better.

I don’t feel dressed without earrings or lipstick. I’m a minimalist most the time with make-up, but insist on these two things. I remember years ago my college friend Carol asked me if I could apply lipstick without looking. We commented that our mothers were particularly adept at this task. Then, since we didn’t have kids, and were less busy, we needed mirrors. It wasn’t long before we both mastered lipstick application without any visual aids.

Later in the day, we strolled into Manhattan’s Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side. A lot of well- dressed women wearing lipstick and much more were lined up to enter. It’s a museum that often has excellent exhibits and we were intrigued about the latest one about Helena Rubinstein.  I figured my husband was humoring me and we probably wouldn’t spend too much time before heading to the gift shop.

We were more fascinated with the story of this woman and her art than I could have imagined. Born Chaja Rubinstein in 1872 in a Polish shtetl, she fled an arranged marriage and landed in Melbourne, Australia. She coined the term “beauty is power,” and established a successful business empire, creating beauty products for women, collecting art, and espousing to women the need to use sunscreen and eat healthy diets. Her salons were gathering places modeled after the literary salons of Europe, as much about sharing ideas as about making up faces. She’s credited for bringing the use of cosmetics to the average woman, empowering them to practice self-expression. She opened her first salon in New York City in 1915, on the heels of the women suffragists who had marched a few years earlier, wearing lip rouge as a badge of emancipation.

Obsessed with the female face, she amassed vast collections of art, including African and Oceanic, and had her own portrait painted by many different artists, ranging from Picasso to Dali. In a time when anti-Semitism was ingrained in the elite, she maintained her surname, opting instead to change her first name to Helena, like the great beauty of Greek mythology. On display are immense jewels, for a petite woman less than 5 feet tall, she wore huge bracelets, rings, and necklaces. The exhibit includes her collections of miniature rooms, some designer clothing, letters and advertisements and a film.  One can’t imagine her in jeans and a sweatshirt, and certainly not without lipstick.images

Worth a visit.







Posted in art, Fashion, Friendship, Judaism, Museums, galleries, New York City, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments