Challenge Met!

When a client asked me to weave a prayer shawl for his friend’s birthday, I said, without thinking much about it, yes.   After all, I have woven a number of shawls so how could this one be too different?  At least, that was my first thought.  Before starting the project I decided to go online and investigate prayer shawls worn by men practicing the Jewish faith.  Thus, began the challenge and my learning experience.

The shawl is called a tallit and consists of two main parts, the shawl itself and tzitzit which are fringes on the four corners.  I began to worry that there might be specific requirements for the size, type of material, color arrangement, etc. and wondered whether or not this was a job for me.  Before becoming totally despaired, I remembered having met a rabbi who also had some experience weaving, so I gave him a call.  He graciously spent the better part of an afternoon educating me about the tallit and assuring that I could do the job or at least the weaving part of it.  If the tzitzit presented a problem he would be there to help me.  What a wonderful person!

The only clue I had about the person for whom the shawl was being made was that he liked blue.  How wide or how long would have to be my best guess.  The weave structure was also a challenge.  I wanted it to be something other than a plain weave without being too fussy.  And, my client asked if I could incorporate the Star of David into it.   OK, by now I’m a wreck, worried the finished product would be less than perfect.

I won’t bore you with all the details involved in the design and weaving process; I’ll just show you the finished product.  If any of you are weavers and want the draft, I’ll be only too happy to share with you. Looking closely, you can see that the points of the Star of David are not real well defined due to the size of the threads and how closely they are packed together.   However, the client thought it satisfactory.  I am going to work on this just in case I am ever asked to do the same again.

The weave structure for the body of the shawl turned out fine, just enough to give the cloth a textural interest.

I had enough warp left on the loom to weave cloth for a pouch in which to put the tallit.  This was that little something extra.

Together they make a very special gift.

I loved doing this job not only because of the challenge but because I learned something new and made a new friend.  In return for his help, the rabbi wants to work with me to improve his weaving and design skills.  To that, I say GLADLY!

Linked to Blue Monday

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Running Strong

Under this morning’s leaden sky threatening to open at any second, 42,000 runners began their journey toward the finish line of the Houston Marathon.  My neighborhood, West University, is the halfway mark and  a favored location along the 26 mile route.

The streets are lined with flags put up by the West U Rotary Club, bands play, people are cheering urging the runners on, all of which contribute to a festive atmosphere.

Runners come in all colors, sizes and shapes.

Not all are young

or have svelte, athletic bodies.

Some look like they are having more fun

than others who are struggling to keep going.

Some have to pause for an energy boost,

some for a potty break or to talk on the always present cell phone.

By the time they reach West U, the pace has slowed for many and there are more women in the packs of runners.

When most have passed through, volunteers begin ridding the streets of cups, bottles and banana peels that have been left behind

and the police wait patiently for the last runner to come by.

I cheered them all this early gray Sunday.

How did you spend your morning?

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This post is linked to Seasonal Sundays and Sunday Favorites.

 

 

Napkins 101

Every week, many of us bloggers gather at Tablescape Thursday to share our creative efforts.  As simple as it may be, my favorite part of doing a table is choosing the right napkins and folding them in some fun, interesting way.  Most of the time, it’s pretty simple, like this one, for example.

Fold the napkin in half.

Turn top layer back to bottom fold.  Yes, with many napkins there is a wrong side, but that’s OK.

Turn the bottom edge up to the middle fold or slightly above it.  That covers at least half of the napkin’s wrong side.

Fold the napkin in half taking care to keep the folds straight.

Fold in half once more and you have just the right size pocket in which to insert your utensils.  Depending on the occasion, you might even want to put a flower or some little happy into the pocket as well.

Now, wasn’t that easy?

Napkin folding is one of my favorite things, and I’m going over to Favorite Things Saturday to see what others  enjoy.

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Warming up the Night

Recent nights have been cool enough to suggest warm foods set on a not too serious table.  This was to be a chili night, and the question was how to make a simple meal fun.

I found the answer in a piece of handwoven cloth recently brought from Peru.  Who knew it would be just the right dimension for the table?

The jugs in the design made me think of pitchers, and goodness knows I have many in all shapes and sizes.  Here are the ones that came to the table this night.

Hmmm, the decision now is what dishes to use.  The Peruvian fabric suggests something fun, and that’s exactly what this handmade pottery from Ravello, Italy, is all about.  All the pieces have a different animal pattern and color combinations, and they all mix together for that touch of whimsy.

Add a napkin folded to hold the utensils and a few candles  among the pitchers to keep them from looking so lonely, and the table is all set.

Speaking of candles, I love these simple little holders from Ikea.  Depending on how they are turned, they work great for tealights, votives or tapers.  You can’t beat that, and the price is right, too!

Did my hubby really choose a bottle of Silver Oak to go with the chili?  Well, bless his heart!

Check out other creative posts at Tablescape Thursday and Masterpiece Monday.

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Heavenly, er Havenly, Indulgence

Over the next few weeks, we have five birthdays in our family.  If they are anything like yesterday’s, we will be super saturated with sugar, not altogether a bad thing if the goodies are as yummy as they were last night.  We celebrated daughter #1’s birthday at one of our favorite Houston restaurants, Haven which features a tempting menu of dishes made with fresh local ingredients. For dessert, the birthday girl had a gluten free concoction created especially for her by Haven’s chef/owner Randy Evans, one of the nicest guys around.  But, it doesn’t end there.  Randy had one of everything on the dessert menu delivered to our table!  That means nine desserts for six people, and I’m embarrassed to tell you there wasn’t much left after they had been passed around again and again and again.  Anyone observing us must have thought we were total gluttons, and they just might have been  right!

The favorite?  Well, maybe the carrot cake.  No, the goat cheese cheesecake or  the divine chocolate ice box pie which disappeared quickly.  The apple tart and the buttermilk/goat cheese pie, both served with homemade ice cream, were reminders of what Grandmas would make.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Coke float which had us all chuckling over some long forgotten memory.  Just thinking about how good each bite was, I am on a sugar high!

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Eat More Pie!

Did you know today is National Pie Day?  Me either until hearing it on NPR in an interview with Beth Howard who is evidently very well known in the world of pies.  She views pie as a tool for healing, for building relationships and making the world a better place.  I never thought about pie in quite those terms, and her comments were enough to make me look at her website The World Needs More Pie. There’s quite a story there as she has made pie baking a meaningful and serious vocation.    Beth’s skills are not limited to the kitchen.  Her profile describes her  as a pie baker, writer, TV producer and host.  She has a docu-reality series called The American Pie in which she finds and interviews fellow pie bakers and pie lovers.    Now, that’s what I call a sweet creation.

In addition to all else, Beth is also a blogger, and like many of us, she writes about people and places that are interesting to her, and, yes, there are bits about pie.  I wonder which came first, the blog or the pies.  Maybe she will tell us!

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about making a pie, probably a coconut cream.  Want to join me in a slice this Sunday afternoon?

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Lobster Risotto

Having easy access to lobster most of the year, I have become the Bubba (remember Forrest Gump?) of lobster.  It’s good just about any way you fix it, but one of my favorite recipes is lobster risotto.  It’s not complicated to prepare, and it’s a dish that will make dinner companions ask for more.  While lobster is my favorite shellfish ingredient, shrimp can easily be substituted.

lobster risottoLobster Risotto

1 t. olive or vegetable oil

4 T. unsalted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 1/2 c. arborio rice

1/2 t. cayenne pepper

1/3 c. dry white vermouth (white wine will work, too)

6-6 1/2 c. chicken stock, heated

8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (can be omitted if

you aren’t crazy about tomatoes or don’t have them on hand)

2-3 T. cream (I use heavy but whipping is OK)

2 c. lobster meat cut into chunks

2 T. dill

salt/white pepper

Heat oil and half the butter in large pan over medium heat. Add

shallots and cook til softened. Add rice and cayenne; stir for

about 2 minutes til rice is well coated with oil and butter.

Add vermouth (or wine) and about 1 c. of broth. Stir til stock

is absorbed. Continue the stock addition til all is gone. This

takes about 20-25 minutes. I’ve found you don’t have to

constantly stir, but keep an eye on the risotto so it doesn’t

cook dry. It should have a creamy texture and be tender but

firm to the bite.

Stir in tomatoes and cream and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the cooked lobster, remaining butter and dill and cook til

lobster is heated through.

Enjoy!  This is enough for about 4 servings. You don’t need

anything with this but a green salad and a yummy bread.

Linked to Foodie Friday and Laurie’s Favorite Things