Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Gwyneth

My daughter modeling "Apple". Other designs available here.

Dear Gwyneth,

I was recently in line at the check out at Safeway when I saw you on the cover of Vogue so I skimmed the article. It wasn't a long line. But I was happy to see we have so much in common girl!  Besides being smokin' hot in our mid-thirties and Jewish, we're both from southern California. We both write blogs. We both have two kids who are basically the same ages. Except my oldest is a boy and the little one is a girl. Your daughter is named Apple and one of my most popular card/iron-transfer designs is called Apple! We both married foreigners. Your husband probably never watched Cheers or Family Ties either. So weird, I know. Both of our dads are from New York and went to Tulane. My dad became a doctor and your dad produced a show about a hospital! Uncanny! And unfortunately they both died of cancer before they knew their grand kids. I think about that one a lot. I'm guessing you do too.

And then there's the fact that we're both world renowned, award-winning artists. I mean, you won that Oscar. Remember? You cried like a crazy person in a poofy pink dress? And I recently won Best Jewish Artisan in the East Bay (of California) for the J Weekly Reader's Choice issue. So we both know how hard it is to deal with the pressure to always be awesome. Just the other day I had a big order but I forgot to save something on my computer and I closed the file by mistake and then I ran out of photo magenta ink and the neighbor's washing machine flooded and leaked into our garage, since it's attached to theirs, and got my museum etching paper wet, and I thought I can't let down my fans! All 288 of them on Facebook. 

Not to mention the paparazzi. It's no wonder you moved to London honey. I mean the constant phone calls, the random strangers who come to my door (selling vacuum cleaners). Can't a famous artist get some privacy?

Anyway, we are obviously kindred spirits Gwyn. In fact, when they make a movie of my life it only makes sense that you should play me. And vice versa. (here's where we do a pinky swear). Even though Winona Ryder would probably be a better choice since we have that brown pixie hair thing in common. You can just wear a wig.

In sisterhood,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Abundance ketubah

The thing I love most about my work is my interaction with clients. Even by email or phone. But especially when it's someone local who comes over to the studio for a consult. Such was the case a few weeks ago when a lovely couple came over to discuss what they wanted in a ketubah. They weren't sure if they would just choose one of the ones from the portfolio or they wanted something of their own design. We talked about ideas and themes and in the end they decided to trust me to create the imagery surrounding the elements of their partnership they hold most sacred. Really? It blows me away every time.

And, after having made a handful of these, I finally don't feel like I'm going to barf the minute the clients leave the house. Let's hear it for confidence! that fickle bitch... So this is their ketubah. Most prominent are the pomegranate trees bursting with fruit. Apropos pomegranates (fertility symbol) the bride works at the hospital where I delivered both my kids and she's doing some fund-raising for my midwife's clinic so we had a short conversation about having babies. And then her fiance fell out of his chair and died. Just kidding.

They got engaged at the Western Wall in Jerusalem so we decided to include some of that imagery. The images on the bottom signify their love of cooking and their origins in wine country. And the shabbat evening table they intend to create with their family every week. The scales were a must for the groom. He's a lawyer and I guess balance is something they're working on as a couple.

It was interesting for me to watch them discuss what they wanted and diplomatically negotiate the elements to include. I have a good feeling about these two...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Core of the Big Apple

Roger's Beach, Westhampton, New York
I was on a roll with my big apple stories but then I hit a nearing deadline and panicked and a shark bit off my thumb and I fell into a hole and red ants ate my eyeballs. None of those things are true except that I had/have a deadline for a custom ketubah (Jewish wedding contract - do I have to keep telling you this or does everyone know what a ketubah is at this point?) and the wedding is August 22 but the bride wants her grandmother who has generously paid for it to give it to her on the day of her wedding shower which is August 8, except that I am leaving town again on July 31 so she needs it on the 30th and that's on Thursday! But I finished it! Because I am a ketubah making MACHINE. You will get a peek coming up soon. But first, a final recap of New York.

After our two days touring Manhatten we dug into the core part of our trip which was seeing family and eating. I took the kids to see my husband's grandmother on the south shore and then when we tried to get to the beach from there and failed, I took them instead to a park nearby with sprinklers. I could have just as well turned the sprinklers on at my own house and saved myself a ton of time and money. I must say though I am really good at getting around Long Island even though I had to take six different highways to get ten miles. My aunt scoffed at this notion pointing out that on their various trips to see us in southern California back in the day she remembers taking the 5 to the 55 to the 22 to the 405 to the 73 to the 1 etc. She has a point.

On Saturday we spent the whole day at my cousin's house culminating in a fifth birthday party for my niece. Most of my cousins have kids now and they're all about the same age and this cousin is so relaxed entertaining a house full of people. You can imagine her stirring the tomato sauce in her bikini and holding her two year old on her hip with everyone around her screaming or kvetching or whatever. And the kids are all in the pool and the cousins (the grown-ups) are remembering when we used to have chicken fights and play marco polo when we were kids. And now we're all old. 

Sunday was time for more nostalgia. We drove out to Westhampton where my aunt has been living the last 45+ years. We used to go out there every year and stay in her house which was over the pharmacy that my uncle owned. They had a giant tree swing out back and a golden retriever named Fletcher and even though I was the youngest cousin on my mom's side (by a lot) I used to love tagging along with my big cousins and going to the beach where we'd line up our shoes as is local tradition, taking showers outside and eating steamers for dinner. It was so nice to be there this time with my own kids and their cousins and to see my aunt. And even though it was a double red flag rip tide at the beach and I was terrified the surf would eat my kids, we had a terrific time. And we even got to clean up in my aunt's outdoor shower. That is the essence of summer.

Our last day we went to the Long Island Children's Museum and then drove to the airport where unfortunately our flight was delayed three hours. But my kids were stars. We ate dinner, played games, watched movies and by the time we took off they were completely wrecked and slept the whole way home.

Some parting thoughts:
  1. Traveling solo eliminates the stress of figuring out what you'll do each day and who you'll see because you just do what you want to do and that's that.
  2. I would need to grow out my hair if we ever lived on the east coast because the humidity makes me look like Bozo the Clown.
  3. There is no need to bring a "just in case" sweatshirt to New York in the summer. 
  4. Family is good. The bigger the better.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tooth decay in the Big Apple

Here is my daughter trying to grab the pieces of candy that are embedded in the floor, looking herself like a piece of candy.

On Day Two we headed back into the city by train and met my brother's family at Dylan's Candy Bar in midtown. Dylan is Ralph Lauren's daughter and the story goes that her dream of owning a giant candy store began at her fifth birthday party when they watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the best movie of all time. Dylan and I are obviously kindred spirits, except the part where she's the daughter of a fashion legend and probably had a pony growing up. And since my own son is obsessed with Willy Wonka (more on this at another time), it seemed like he would fall over and die in this kind of place. Which he did. It was awesome. And we bought a ton of candy. Mostly of the Pez and Gobstopper variety.

Central Park

Empire State

Then we walked to Rockefeller Center where we went to view the city from the top. Another cousin had given us a tip not to visit the Empire State Building because it's way too crowded and overpriced and, most importantly, it's not, by definition, in the view. So we went to the Top of the Rock and the views of the city were as promised. Once again, my kids were more awestruck by the elevator. Youth is really wasted on the young.

After grabbing a slice of pizza we navigated the subway system to get over to the Second Avenue Deli, a family tradition, to meet my grandmother and aunt. This required three subway transfers. So imagine the two families schlepping our strollers up and down the stairs and me trying to figure out how to connect the dots. At one point we were trying to get on a train and, like the two stooges, pushing our strollers on while the doors were crushing us closing. These are not like elevator doors. They are non-retractable. The kids were on board with my sister-in-law, all of them screaming. So much for blending in with the locals.

At our stop we decided to take the elevator up and this proved to be a major miscalculation. It was the world's slowest moving elevator and at 110 degrees it was like being in a microwave. When it reached the mezzanine the doors didn't open for about thirty seconds and I started to have a panic attack. As did my brother. Not pretty. Finally we emerged.

Second Avenue Deli

After a short walk to the Second Avenue Deli which, incidentally, is now on Third Avenue, we met up with our people for a delicious meal of matzah ball soup, egg salad, roast beef and the like. The piled up pastrami my brother was eating made me wish I hadn't recently become vegetarian. Bad timing. Thankfully my aunt drove us home because by this point we'd had our fill of public transportation.

Next up - navigating the Long Island highways, a pool party for my niece and a trip to Westhampton.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sinking our teeth into the Big Apple


We are back. We've been back since 2 am on Tuesday morning but we're still in recovery. It was a trip of epic proportion! Huge! Urban! Filthy! Exciting! Nostalgic! We took many forms of transportation. We endured a heat wave. We ate a lot of candy. We walked a lot and my feet are disgusting. So much for my biennial pedicure. But we did it all - the arranging, the flight, the trains, the museums, the Long Island Expressway to the Meadowbrook to the Southern State to Sunrise Highway to Country Road 16, the Atlantic double red flag rip tide, the three hour delay at JFK. All of it. Solo.

It was not such a gargantuan undertaking. It's not like I have two year old triplets. Nonetheless, there were a lot of logistics and a lot of coordination so that we could see our family and indeed spend much of the trip traveling with my brother's family who also flew out from California. The first day my cousin picked us up and took us to the train station just as our train was arriving. This is apparently her M.O. Why waste time waiting for public transportation when you can jump onto the train with your two kids and your stroller as it's pulling out of the station? We arrived safely at Penn Station and caught a subway uptown to the American Museum of Natural History where we met my brother and his family in the whale room. We eventually made it to the dinosaur room but my own kids were a little nonplussed, which I found annoying. I guess once you've seen one hundred and fifty MILLION year old reptile the size of ten elephants, you've seen them all.  The buttons on the elevator continue to trump all other marvels. Maybe next year.

We headed out in the 100 degree sun and found our way to a clean and inexpensive burger place with an air conditioned downstairs big enough for a party of seven and a flat screen playing world cup soccer . I highly recommend the shroom burger. Here's where it would have been nice to have an iphone, which I decided not to buy before the trip for fear of completely neglecting my children. Even though the burger place was a block away, like a schmuck I convinced everyone to follow me up and around the museum so we walked an extra twenty minutes in weather I can only describe as a sauna inside an active volcano on Mercury. All the while accompanied by the constant drone of the sun is too hot, the sun is too hot. Really? Huh. I hadn't noticed while I was bending over to pour out the pool of sweat that had formed in my cleavage.

Central Park Spa

After lunch we walked south to a section of Central Park with big splashing fountains and joined a group of intrepid NYC summer campers for a little cool down.  We spent more than an hour running around pouring water on each other before we bid farewell to our cousins and headed on the subway back to Penn Station. Well first we mistakenly took an uptown train one stop but then we got off, stood dazed while two express trains created a sudden wind inferno on the platform, then dragged the stroller up the stairs, crossed over, and down the stairs to the downtown platform. I don't know how NYC mommas do it. I imagine they don't take the subway if they can help it. And taking the train back to Manhassat at 6:00 was a little claustrophobic. But we survived and my uncle picked us up, brought us to my grandmother's for pizza and we called it a day.

Some observations:
  1. Car seat coordination while traveling is annoying.
  2. New York pizza beats the crap out of all other pizza in the universe and beyond.
  3. Having a home base is key. My kids were so happy to go back "home" at the end of every adventure.
  4. Bringing a bag of snacks from home meant we didn't have to waste the first day of our trip looking for a supermarket. And incidentally, eight juice boxes fit perfectly in a small flat rate box from USPS and can be packed in a suitcase without fear of crushing/exploding.
  5. New Yorkers are not as familiar with protective swim wear as Californians.
Tomorrow - Dylan's Candy Store, 30 Rock, the subway elevator where we almost perished and the Second Avenue Deli.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane


We're flying to New York on Tuesday and I have a few (hundred) things to do. Thankfully my daughter is all packed. This is a picture of what she thinks she's taking on the plane. Who is this girl? For the last few months she has this thing where she pads round the house holding a bag and just starts putting stuff in it. All kinds of toys, balls, dolls, silverware, trivets, napkins, food items, candles, batteries. By last Tuesday I counted five large bags (beach bags, shopping bags, backpacks, purses etc.) filled with her "stuff". Just looking at all of these things thrown together with no common attributes makes me just about have a brain hemorrhage. And she wonders why she can't find her flip flops (well one of them is in this box, I'm pretty sure, under the wallet). It turns out several other girls in her class are also exploring this kind of hoarding bahvior but I have a feeling she's the one who started it all. She's a bag lady. I finally dumped the contents of all five bags on the floor and made my kids sort everything to put away. They actually got into it and she then started rushing around the house looking for things that were out of place. But half an hour later she was asking me for another bag like it was crystal meth. Please mommy, I just need one bag. Just one. This is the last time.

So since I can think of nothing else right now except all of the stuff I have to get done before we leave, and by we I mean me and the kids. by myself. on a plane with them. forever. I'm just going to list it all out here in no partifular order:
  1. Let everyone know that they can vote for me for best artist or ketubah maker (or both) in the J Weekly Reader's Choice poll. go here: and click through til you see Ketubah Maker and a page or so later Jewish Artisan. And do it by July 5. And tell everyone you know. Yeah.
  2. Get a new battery for my watch.
  3. Pack.
  4. Print and ship current orders.
  5. Reserve a rental car.
  6. Find some unsuspecting family member to pick me up at 11:00 pm from JFK on Tuesday.
  7. Schedule a hearing test appointment for my daughter.
  8. Schedule dental appointments for both kids.
  9. Order niece's birthday gift.
  10. Buy snack food for flight.
  11. Print out itinerary.
  12. Check out videos from the library.
  13. Charge all electronic devices.
  14. Buy an iPhone and learn how to use it. (Question: is it better to by an iPhone at the Apple store or the AT&T store or online?)
  15. Print out Long Island Railroad train schedules in case I don't end up getting my iPhone. 
  16. Post blog. Check.