Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Best Folding Chair in the Western World: A. Fritz & Company

Growing up, my grandparents had these folding chairs:

After my grandparents passed away, my parents inherited them.
Talk about fantastic mid-century design!

When I was single and living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I learned that my neighbors had the very same chairs.
When I got married, I learned that my in-laws had the very same chairs.
They used them as their dining room chairs until they could afford real furniture.
When I had dinner at our friends' houses, I learned that they had the very same chairs.
People had them in different colors.
People had them in upholstery to coordinate with their dining room chair fabric.

Mostly, they were all well-worn, stained velvet gold or rust colored chairs.

But everyone agreed:  These are The Best Folding Chairs.  Ever.

And you can't get them at IKEA, Crate & Barrel, or any other big box store.
They are local and made by a family-owned business in Long Island City, New York.

Last Sukkot we needed more folding chairs.
I looked up the name of the company on the bottom of the chair.
I had no idea if they still existed.
The story was that my Aunt Henny and Uncle Herman were friends were the owners of the company. Sounds oddly familiar to my family's Joyva story.

A. Fritz is still around, alive and kicking.
They have no web site to speak of.
You have to pay by check:  they don't take credit cards.
The woman on the phone is very nice.

Same tag on our new chairs as the ones we have that were purchased in the 1960s

Except now they have colors and fabrics that speak to a more contemporary taste.

Now, this is REALLY mid-century design.  Would Marcel Breuer have approved? still does have upholstery, which he was not at all into with his infamous Wassily Chair.  But it *is* minimal... 
Who can't love a chair that folds up so trim and slim?

Tonight I was at a melave malka (post-Shabbat music gathering) at my friend Holly's house.  I noticed she had these exact same chairs.  She said all of her Philadelphia friends have them.  I said many of my New York friends have them.

It's got to be a Jewish world thing.

I wonder if folks out in Los Angeles have 'em?

Oh, and they are so affordable.  Like, no more than $150 for 4 chairs.  And they'll last you for a lifetime.  And then your children and grandchildren will enjoy and be inspired to blog about them.

A. Fritz Chair
37-28 9th Street
Long Island City, NY
checks only
They will send the chairs UPS
no web site
under the radar, but likely you know these chairs

Greatest Love of All

Since I try to often bring back my blog entries to my music interests, I think it is appropriate to note that my first rock-n-roll concert was Whitney Houston at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid during the summer of 1985.  My summer camp took us as an evening out:  it was lots of fun.

Whitney Houston's debut album cover
 It was The Greatest Love World Tour, which was Whitney's first tour after the release of her debut album bearing her name.  To learn of her tragic death at a young age is saddening, and I only hope that she is in a good place.

My music taste didn't very much stay with Whitney, but she will forever hold a place in my memory as introducing me to seeing live music in an arena venue.

The past few summers we have been back to Lake Placid, and this summer we finally visited the venue where I saw Whitney perform all those years ago.  It is a nice, small size compared to large venues like Madison Square Garden or the Hartford Civic Center.

Just outside the venue.  The Wolfman and the Wolfman's Brother are playing air hockey.  Kinda like air guitar.  But hockey.

No scores posted:  we were watching figure skating practice.

We had our pick of seats for figure skating practice.  I imagine all the seats were filled when I saw Whitney there in 1985.

And there you have it, photos of my children from last summer at the Olympic Center where I saw Whitney Houston more than 20 years ago.

In addition to Stango, they are my greatest loves of all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Big O...TGIF

You might think that because I wear skirts, have a bearded husband, light candles on Friday night, go to shul (synagogue) regularly, eat kosher food, and have boys who wear tzitzit (ritual fringes) that I am an Orthodox Jew.

Oh no.  Not the Big O again.

Truth be told, I do not like the label Orthodox.

My husband Stango, ever brimming with his sense of humor, told me that I am Ultra UnOrthodox.   And this is coming from a guy who, while striving to fulfill the taryag mitzvot (613 commandments of the Torah), no longer even considers himself Post-NeoChassidish.  Yes, he would have been a great writer at the Lampoon if he only applied after the first rejection, which he said is par for the course.

Judging me from the outside people say that I am Orthodox.  Sorry, folks, not me.  I do not even consider myself Open Orthodox, a term coined by Rav Avi Weiss, a rabbi, leader and spiritual activist whom I respect tremendously.

Which leads me to The Jew in the City's Open Letter to Jerry Seinfeld, where its creator Allison writes that Jerry should take a look at Orthodox Judaism as a way to fill his secular void.  I hear her, I really do.  And I  agree with her sentiments.  But, my personal preference is to not use The Big O.  How about Traditional Judaism?  And yet, I realize that this might be misleading.   After all, Camp Ramah is traditional in its Judaism, but it is not Orthodox.  How about Torah Judaism?  Or, just Judaism?  Maybe a label is unavoidable and my argument holds no water.  Remember, I only worked in legal research for 5 years.  I never went to law school.

Once you get past the candles, challah, and wine it is all the same traditions.  Do we really need the word Orthodox to get there?  Can't we just celebrate Shabbat Across America this March 2, 2012 by turning Friday night into Shabbat without relying on the big O?

Maybe Allison can start with teaching Jerry about the concept of mezonot (Jewish blessing on cakes, cookies) before he imbibes in racial harmony through the black and white.

One thing is for sure:  I bet that Jessica Seinfeld isn't stressing out right now that she is writing on her blog at 3:15 on a Friday afternoon instead of getting ready for Shabbat.

A gut Shabbes to the Ganse Mishpucha!
(Have a great Sabbath to the Whole Phamily)

(and if you don't relate to that...TGIF!)

But lighting Shabbat candles and having wine and challah would make it all the more better...who knows, maybe then you will learn about the double mitzvah.  Big O, now we're talkin'!

I'm Still Alive, She's Not Gone, and It's Good to Smile, Smile, Smile

This week has had its share of daily grind frustrations with society but for reasons unknown to me Pearl Jam's "Alive" spoke to me and become somewhat of a mantra when I had to deal with them.

I didn't know what the song was about until I read this lyrics this morning (references to a boy, presumably Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam's lead, who meets his birth father late in life and then he passes away shortly thereafter), but I kept repeating that refrain "Oh, I'm still alive," and reminded myself of all those people who turn lemons into lemonade and maintain a sunny disposition.  No matter how many negative interactions I had with The Establishment (i.e. the medical world) this week, I reminded myself that it isn't really that big of a deal in the end.  Gotta count your blessings and be happy that we have our health and family, and really in the end that is all that matters.  Oh, yeah and of course being educated consumers and advocates for ourselves.

My friend Limor is a huge Pearl Jam fan.  When I posted about how ukeleles have made a comeback, she sent me a link to an Eddie uke performance.  I love Limor, not just because she is sweet.  Not just because her name appears in a song by my favorite band.  Not just because she has a husband who has the same first name as mine (and who I have known since he was a little boy, also a great guy).  Not just because she is into healthy eating and yoga.  Not just because she has great style.  She is also a jeweler.  She is my sister's jeweler.  She is my jeweler.  More on that another time...

When there's nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile (lyric reference to song in video below), that ain't so bad.  The crowd surfing in Pearl Jam's video is a bit high energy for me, but I see where Limor is coming from.  I think I will listen to more Pearl Jam.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

River Waters - Mei Nahar - Idan Raichel Project

Last summer, while working at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, I learned this beautiful Israeli song as part of the staff component to the end-of-month song performance zimriyah.  As you might know, I love jam bands, but I also love good music in general, and Idan Raichel is a phenomenal superstar Israeli musician known for his fusion of Ethiopian and Middle Eastern music, electronics, and traditional Hebrew texts.

I happen to think his dreads are quite attractive, as well.

Music director extraordinairre Daniel  Henkin provided us with the sheet music and Hebrew lyrics.   Here are the lyrics only:

In the meantime, this is proof that working at a wonderful institution filled with good music ruach, good leadership, and energetic Israeli staff can sustain you through the entire year.

Turns out the staff didn't even end up performing the song due to the venue's excessive heat!   The camp has stated it will longer hold its zimriyah in the Nyack High School Gym.

Thank God:  I hadn't shvitzed like that in years!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shalom Kids Yoga

You may know by now how much I respect Tara Stiles and her teachings and practices of Yoga.  But she teaches for adults.  What about the kinderlach (children)?

Shalom Kids Yoga logo

My friend Jory Stillman has recently launched, in New York City and New Jersey, Shalom Kids Yoga.  SKY teaches unique Yoga classes with the Jewish community in mind.   What a great idea.

Knowing how amazing Jory is, I am sure her program is set for success.  Hatzlacha raba Jory!  If we lived nearby, we would surely try them out!  (Oh, and if my children were open to yoga, which for whatever reason lately they are adverse).

Jory Stillman, photo courtesy of

Both Tara and Jory are graduates of Kripalu.  That says a lot to me.

Check out these classes for your children!

Beautiful Land, Beautiful Food, Beautiful Vision

Last night Stango and I attended Taste of Hazon:  A Culinary Celebration of Tu B'Shvat.  I already blogged about this event as I looked forward to the night.  Fully impressed, this was my first Hazon event.   And I only hope there will be more in my future!

At this benefit for Hazon, founder Nigel Savage stated that Hazon is about taking Jewish tradition seriously and eating Jewishly in the 21st century.  It is both about the past and the future. Hazon means vision, which is a vision the organization itself embodies.  

Hazon "creates healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond."  The group runs environmental bike rides in many cities (Bay Area friends:  the California Ride is coming up on May 10-13).  They sponsor CSAs across the country.   Along with The Jewish Daily Forward, they co-sponsor the blog The Jew and the Carrot, covering food issues as they relate to the Jewish world.  They have a food conference in December, complete with composting, pickling, and other sustainability and food workshops.

Back to the event...

The food:  superb.  My menu included smoked duck carpaccio with passion fruit, barley soup with fenugreek and mushrooms, and braised short rib of beef with pomegranate and figs.

The crowd:  a diverse group of Jews of all stripes and polka dots, and even some non-Jews, too, including acclaimed Philadelphia chefs Patrick Feury, Terence Feury, Susanna Foo, Jean-Marie Lacroix and Chris Scarduzio.

The message:  Create sustainable communities inspired by Judaism.

The speakers:  Manageable since we were able to pick at the edible centerpiece featured below.

Edible centerpiece at Taste of Hazon

Chana Rothman performed "We Shall Not be Moved," which is one of Stango's favorites. Chana is also a Philadelphian and therefore I hope I will get to hear her perform another time in the near future!

Here is the title song of Chana's newest CD.  Though not a Tu B'Shvat song per se, I pointed out to Chana (naturally, the rock star in me of course will seek out the musician after the show if possible) that it has a clear message for Tu B'Shvat.

Listen carefully and you will see why:

And here is the studio recording of Beautiful Land, which has more of the African beat, which is simply so lovely and speaks towards unity and world peace.

Thoughts from benefit honoree Mark Dornstreich, proprietor of Branch Creek Farm and a 1970s pioneer in Pennsylvania in organic farming included the following inspiration:

"Sweat.  Art.  Food.  Family.  Sharing.  Bonding and the continuity of your life's work and the people that are part of your being.:

At the end of the evening, Savage quoted the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach:

"I bless you and me and all of us."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shtuff Ragers Say...Molly is My Middle Name (Ain't That the Truth)!

Already old hat, the genre of "Sh!t (fill in the name of some ethnic-social group) Say" has certainly been done.

I post "Shtuff Ragers Say" with full disclosure/warning that it is definitely filled with a lot of shtuss and chazarai (Yiddish words for, basically, garbage)

I recently posted my own $.02 about the use of the word rage, and now along comes this YouTube.  As I mentioned there, I like it when rage is used in a positive way.

Just a few seconds into watching that brings me to one of the things I like least about the music scene and popular culture in general:

The Excessive Use of Foul Language.

I really didn't want to go there on this blog, as I try to focus on the positive, but it is there.

In my adult life, I have made the conscious effort to limit the use of cursing.
It is just plain ugly and only brings out negativity.
A little bit, ok, yeah. A lot?  Nah.  No, nope no siree.
Why do they go there so frequently?  Find the light, folks!

I had the opportunity a few years ago to be on the set of the film Going the Distance, starring Drew Barrymore and Christina Applegate.  What a thrill to be among the cast and crew.  And yet, when I saw the film on screen, I was disappointed to hear so much cursing.  It didn't really help the movie, in my opinion.

Nanette Burstein, you were the director.  I think you should have toned it down.  Justin Long just didn't do much for himself with his excessive cursing.  My own humble opinion.

But, thanks for letting us borrow your chair.  It was SUCH a thrill being on this set two summers ago.

Fast forward about 20 years, and these boys and girls in the Ragers video will be talking about, instead of Pokeballs and Hello Kittys, the Louis Vuittons.

The Almond Tree is Blooming

The Jewish birthday of the trees is nearly here!

Here are Stango and Concealed Light from a few weeks ago.

Oprah and Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn

Honestly, we haven't watched Oprah in years, but this is looking interesting...


Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bob Marley and Tong Yuen

Not only are we busy getting ready for Tu B'Shvat and celebrating Chinese Lantern festival with tong yuen which are rice balls (recipe to follow), but thank you to all of my Facebook friends for alerting me to the fact that today is Bob Marley's birthday.

My high school friend Mike posted a lovely rendition of "Lively Up Yourself," from 6/13/80

As you know I love numerical synchronicity.  When I saw the date of this YouTube, I livened up myself!

6/13 or, 613 is a significant number in Judaism.  As you know, I am Jewish and I live a Jewish life, so when I see that number of course I make the connection.  I have mentioned how I love when I go to Madison Square Garden, especially to see my favorite band, I view the jersey hanging high above for "Horowitz" with the number 613.

613 refers to the total number of mitzvot or commandments in the Torah.

Don't know if my friend Mike looked at that date or realized, but I think it's pretty cool.

So, there, I have linked Rastafarians with Jews.  Not such a huge stretch.

Tong Yuen
family recipe from my friend Hannah

Serves 2

1 tsp oil
2/3 c glutinous rice flour (use up what’s left from making nian gao)
Cold water
Roasted, crushed peanuts

Add water gradually to the rice flour and mix by hand until melded.  Shape into bite-sized balls.
Boil in water until they float to the top.  Cool before sampling!  Serve, sprinkled with peanuts and sugar.

In Through the Back Door? Out Through the In Door?

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

I love spin class, and one day when I grow up and become a spin instructor, I will pump out the jam band tunes (shorter jams, under 7 minutes) because they are the most rockin' out there.

Boy did I ever love that Ferris commercial last night.

 You are speaking right to me, Matthew Broderick! Actually I really love you here, too:


 Which leads me to Zeppelin. In Through the Out Door...

Would that fly in spin class? Me thinks yes.

Oh, yeah, and the password for the back door?  Do I really need to spell it out for you?

J-O-S-H-U-A   (I loved the intonation of Ally Sheedy's voice as she said it in "War Games")

How many Joshuas do you know?

I can count many.  Many, many, many.  And I love them all.

Lantern Festival: Happy Chinese New Year Today!!!

The Year of the Dragon is upon us, and today is the date for Chinese Lantern Festival.

Last week we went to our local Chinatown (oh, how so very different than New York's various Chinatowns, whether on the Lower East Side or in Sunset Park!), and we sought out Chinese New Year's greeting card red envelopes used for money gifts for children (the Chinese do gelt in their own way).

Here is one that we got, in a multipack of other licensed characters:

Stango didn't give me $ in this, but instead he wrote a love note.  I know, I know, wrong holiday...but next year, when we know better, we will do it right.  And since we don't celebrate the holiday that is on February 14th, this was a good time to jump the gun.

My friend the Nunever consulted with his friend, who is Chinese, and I received  the following quite lovely translation and interpretation:

"The top line means be auspicious and wishful, and bottom is happy new year.  That's very good because it's integration of Chinese tradition and American culture.  Localization always means to me the symbol of being rooted, accepted, united and harmony.  We see peace as well from those."

And that is what the Whole Phamily is about.

Of course, we were eating Chinese food when we gave the cards.

We are Jewish, after all.

(What I REALLY want is to make my friend Marci's "Chinese New Year's Cookies" which are so deliciosu and not at all Chinese but they are made with lo mein noodles, butterscotch chips, peanuts, chocolate chips, and it can all be varied.  Marci, would you post the recipe?!?!)