Monday, April 25, 2011

Building their own traditions under the apple trees at Little Dog Orchard: Tahneer and Jon’s Wedding

Tahneer and Jon  photo:  MCV Photography

Tahneer and Jon are good friends with my son Aaron and daughter-in-law Melissa. It was exactly a year ago this week, that I first sat down with them to talk about their ketubah. To get the ball rolling, I asked them about their wedding plans. I can’t remember who spoke first but it was clear to me from the first words, that this was going to be a very special wedding. They started by telling me about the venue – An apple orchard, near New Paltz, New York.

Don't you love it when things just fall into place? Tahneer began to describe how they found their venue. “I met up with my friend for dinner when I was at a conference in Philadelphia, and I mentioned that we were thinking of getting married in an outdoor space – like an orchard or a vineyard.” Tahneer explains, “Then my friend said, — I don't know if this will help, but I have a friend from grad school who now lives and works on an apple orchard!” This story/person so appealed to Tahneer, that she knew she had to look into this further.

Wedding Ceremony at Little Dog Orchard  photo:  MCV Photography

Little Dog Orchard had never been rented out for a wedding (or anything else for that matter), but the owners were keen to find new ways to utilize their property. “We contacted Julie and we drove up there and met her and her partner Jody” Jon explains, “They took us around the property and we knew immediately that this was where we wanted to have our wedding.”

Besides caring for their organic apple trees, Julie and Jody’s other talents lent themselves beautifully to wedding planning. “Julie is a DJ and Jody is a sound engineer” Jon began. First they hooked them up with The Big Shoe, a local cover band. “We loved their vibe and music and they became our Wedding Band”. Then the creative duo found them a caterer, a florist, a restaurant for the rehearsal dinner, and even helped with parking and technical arrangements the day of the wedding. “Julie and Jody were awesome and we love them for everything they did for us” Jon says with emotion.

The Big Shoe  photo:  MCV Photography

But the venue was just one aspect of the unique personality of this wedding. When we got down to discussing what elements they wanted to include in their Ketubah design, they related their experience at a friend’s Quaker wedding. They were intrigued with the wedding certificate. “In Quaker tradition, it is not one individual that marries a couple. The board of elders agrees to allow them to marry and the entire congregation certifies the marriage by signing the certificate” Jon explains. This suited Tahneer and Jon’s inclusive and egalitarian sensibilities, and they wanted to incorporate this tradition into their ketubah. “How many people will be at your wedding?” I asked sheepishly, trying to calculate how I would have space on their Ketubah for hundreds of signatures, Ketubah text in English and Hebrew and an apple orchard ...

Ketubah: Naomi Broudo  photo: MCV Photography

When there is a will, there is a way and working with Tahneer and Jon was amazing. A true collaboration.  “I remember (the ketubah design) as one of our earliest wedding projects” Tahneer reminisces, “looking at the early drafts you sent us of the Ketubah, and deciding together how we wanted it to look, what would make it most symbolize what we wanted it to symbolize!” The final result several months later, was a double apple tree design with 180 signature lines superimposed over the intricate root system. I think we were all pleased with the final result! And so were all of their friends when it came time to sign their Ketubah at the wedding.

photo: MCV Photography

I asked them recently, what they took away from this beautiful tradition they created. “We felt very loved and supported”, Jon began. “And I love the idea that instead of some ordinary sign-up guest book that we will never look at again, we have the signatures of everyone who attended on one beautiful sheet.” Tahneer added.

Personal touches  photo: MCV Photography

This wedding has a personality all it’s own because it is personal. “I think both Jon and I appreciate things when they relate to people we know and love, so we really tried to integrate friends and family into as many aspects of the wedding planning/execution as possible” Tahneer explains. For example, there was home brewed beer by Jody, hand drawn invitation artwork by Tahneer’s little brother Mo, Wedding dress alterations by a friend of the family, makeup and hair by Jon’s barber in Jersey City, assembly-line candy-jar-filling by the Oskman family, to name just a few of the personal touches. “It really felt like we were supported by a whole community of friends, family, and in some cases even strangers!” says Tahneer.

Hand picked flowers from Shoving Leopard Farms  photo:  MCV Photography

Even the flower arrangements were a group effort. Months before the wedding, the couple scoured flea markets to find 25 different glass vases for their center pieces. The Saturday of the wedding they drove to Shoving Leopard Farms to pick fresh flowers in the farm’s “flower maze” with an intimate group of friends and family, who then filled decorative baskets and created the center pieces for the wedding. I can’t imagine anything more meaningful!

I spent some time going through their wedding album recently and thought their photographer Mike Vasiliauskas, really captured the essence of their special day. It felt so real! I asked them to summarize their wedding concept in their own words. Here is what they had to say: “The main focus of the wedding was to make people feel relaxed, and at one with nature (in the most tree hugger way) ... The flower picking, Ketubah signing, and the apple orchard all contributed to our focus. People felt involved, and having the wedding at our “new” friends orchard, really made people feel welcome ... People picked apples, felt the warm hospitality of the orchard, and really felt comfortable enjoying themselves.”

I only experienced their wedding vicariously through their wedding photos and their descriptions, but I think you will agree that this is one wedding, where the dream and the reality are one in the same. Thanks Tahneer and Jon for sharing your incredible story.

photo:  MCV Photography

Oh – and in case you are living in the New Paltz, NY area, Julie and Jody have a lease-a-tree program which you can find out about here. You can help tend your own tree and reap the benefits of your labors! And if you want to have your wedding under their organic apple trees, I am sure they will be happy to hear from you!

Wedding Photography: MCV Photography | Venue: Little Dog Orchard | Music: The Big Shoe | Ketubah: Naomi Broudo | Flowers: Shoving Leopard Farms |

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why is this trip to the post office different than any other trip to the post office?

Excuse my passover brain. Every experience seems to turn into a passover story...

During the Passover Seder, The youngest child is always asked to recite the four questions. The opening line of each of the four questions is the same: “Why is this night different from every other night?” Hearing these questions each year, keeps the events of the past clear in our minds, and gives us time to reflect. I was reminded of the four questions on my visit to the post office this morning. Nothing to do with reclining, eating matzah or bitter herbs, but still profound.

The ladies behind the counter at my local post office always get a kick out of me arriving with my ketubah tubes several times a week. I regularly ask them for US Expedited Parcel Forms, so that I can fill them out at home to speed up processing. And I know they appreciate me being organized considering the long line that is usually forming behind me.

Yesterday they decided to write down the dimensions of my tubes so that they wouldn't have to measure them each time, which I thought was very sweet. But today, when they asked me if I would like to have them jot down my Venture One card number and my mailing tube dimensions, on the card they keep next to the computer – I thought – wow, I AM a regular customer!

I know it may seem silly to get excited about Canada Post, but it is really much more than that. What makes THIS trip to the post office, different than any other trip to the post office, is that It reminded me why I have become a regular at the post office in the first place.

Several things have happened over the past couple of months and I think they all deserve a public thank you. Firstly and most importantly, Jennifer Raichman, who has been my inspiration and role model on etsy since day one, has been so exceptionally generous, I really do not have enough words to thank her. Between being a mother of two young kids and running an amazingly successful etsy business (Ketubot and Invitations), she has time to share her knowledge with me AND to refer couples to me. Jen you are the best!

And speaking of etsy, I joined two etsy teams: Etsy Chai and Judaica on Etsy. Both teams have been very supportive of my work, featuring me in their treasuries and even shopping at my shop. It is great to have a community of like minded artists to share ideas with, brag a little and even kvetch now and again.

And it was also through etsy that Lisa from Temple Shalom Gift shop here in Vancouver, first saw my work. One thing has led to another and with Lisa's encouragement I have a new line of Bat and Bar Mitzvah gifts for sale in the Synagogue gift shop as well as at my etsy shop. Thanks Lisa for pushing me to try new things! 

So you see, there are good reasons why these last two months have been the best and busiest for Fresh Creations and Fresh Ketubah. And next week at our Seder, since I will be the youngest at the table, I will volunteer to sing the four questions. And when I do, I will be giggling about my trip to the post office today!

Friday, April 8, 2011

We were once slaves in Egypt: Time to clean the silver.

I think it is safe to say that we Jews take spring cleaning quite seriously, as it is spring that reminds us, among other things, that we were once slaves in Egypt—and at least once a year it is our duty to retell the story. To prepare for this event, we take out dishes, recipe books, Hagaddahs, and assorted serving dishes that otherwise sit wrapped tightly in dark cupboards for the rest of the year. In the weeks leading up to the Passover holiday, we ponder and fine tune our festive meal line up, purchase boxes of matzah (hoping this year's batch will be as crisp and delicious as last year) and other unleavened concoctions, and of course clean the silver.
My mom had a beautiful set of china that only came out for Passover, for the seder (festive passover meal). Gleaming white china with gold leaf designs. Wonderful soup bowls with little handles on each side, so perfect for steaming chicken soup and fluffy matzah balls. The table was always beautifully set with crystal water and wine glasses, sterling silverware, silver platters and serving dishes for all of the amazing dishes my mother and her sisters prepared for the meal.
As a kid, I really had no idea how much work went into pulling this off each year. My biggest concern at the time, was having enough room in my tummy for all of the seemingly endless courses of aromatic food being served on those beautiful dishes! But we all grow up eventually, and there is a time for all of us, when “cleaning the silver” becomes our responsibility.

For me, it happened the year my dad was so unwell, that my mom was planning on skipping Passover all together. I was by then completely grown up, married, a mother myself with a son already bar mitzvahed. Still, I had more than one moment of fear, wondering if I could really pull it off. There were tears in both my parents eyes that night as we silently agreed that the seder would move to our house that year. 

It turns out that it is just as hard to let go of the “silver” as it is to “clean” it — yet for every family there is a moment when it is time to pass down the traditions, recipes, dishes and responsibilities from one generation to the next.

From generation to generation things change. My table is always set with modern dishes (not china) and stainless steel silverware (dishwasher safe every piece!), but in keeping with tradition, the horseradish is in the crystal decanter my mother used every year – the salty egg mixture is always served in my Baba Fruman's glass bowls – the silver jacketed Hagaddah from Zada Harry always sits on the table. Our table is full of seders past and all of the wonderful memories they bring with them.

Mom's kiddish cup and candle sticks — that she passed down to me the year the seder moved to our house, have come out of the cupboard. As I ready myself to clean them, I see in my mind's eye, my dad, uncles and grandfather negotiating so astutely with all of us giggling cousins for the afikoman – I see my mom and her sisters in and out of the kitchen serving us delicious food – I can hear my own son as a child singing the four questions – and my husband Marc leading our seder –and my most recent and cherished memory of leading the seder myself for the first time with my daughter-in-law's family in New York. And of course in my imagination I conjure up the day when my son will be leading the seder with his own children. Mom's beautiful china and sterling silver have been passed down to them for just that special Passover!
Happy Passover preparations everyone! And by the way, toothpaste is the greatest for cleaning your silver!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A “rock” down memory lane

I am pretty sure I am not the only one that is sentimental about rocks and shells collected from one location or another. It is hard to part with them. Seems silly, but just looking at them brings back the smell of the salt in the air, the long ago conversation, or the experience of that moment in time.

When we moved last July, I had to part with many things. We were doing a major downsize and half of everything had to go. When it came to this alabaster bowl of rocks and corals, the decision was easy to make. The Alabaster bowl was a gift from my dear friend Glenda who lost her battle with cancer this past August, and in it were rocks I gathered from a trip to the Red Sea in the Sinai Desert. So many memories in one small bowl.

Hand painted stones by Fusun Aydinlik

I was reminded of my collection of memory rocks this week when I bumped into Fusun Aydinlik's etsy shop called Zeustones. She is from Turkey and she has a great story about the stones she gathers and paints:
In Greek Mythology, two sacred mountains are called Mount Ida, the “Mountain of the Goddess” ; Mount Ida in Crete, and Mount Ida in Turkey.

Mount Ida in Turkey is located on the Aegean shore of Anatolia, near the site of ancient Troy. Here lies the classical shrine where Paris is said to have judged the beauty of three Greek goddesses: Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. This event was also considered as the origin of the Trojan War owing to the jealousy of the goddesses. Later when the full fury erupted, the war itself was witnessed by the mythological Gods, from a high point of Mount Ida, which at 1,800m (5,800 ft) provided a bird’s eye view of the hostilities!

I live in a village in the Ida Mountains, nestling amongst the olive groves and pine forests, southeast of the ruins of Troy. On a southern promontory of my village the Altar of Zeus (Zeus Altari), overlooks the Aegean Sea; the Gulf of Edremit and Lesbos Island….

In my neighbourhood Zeus once walked , and these are his stones… 
Each of her painted stones tells a story and are all exquisite.
Rock art my Amy Komar
When I was participating in my first poppytalk market, I bumped into Amy Komar who is a artist from Alaska. I didn't know at the time that she also paints on canvas. Here are a few more samples of her amazing rock paintings. You can also see her paintings on canvas at this link. If you do, you will be delighted to find that one is the extension of the other.

Crochet covered river rocks by StitchHappens7

In my search for rock art I had to giggle when I found Renee's shop called StitchHappens7. She lives in a small rural southern New Jersey town, is a mother of five and has a house full of cats and dogs. She is a lover of yarn and all things natural. And you guessed it, she combines rocks and yarn to create her masterpieces. Doesn't it just make you want to hug a rock?

rock art by BillieRocks

The last stop on my rock art trail is a shop called BillieRocks. I think the artist's name is Billie. She is a self taught artist who took up rock painting as adult. She loves everything about the process from selecting a river rock that is just the right size and shape, cleaning the rock, sketching an outline, doing the painting, and giving the piece the final touches. The results are amazing!
Finding all of these artists, gave me an even better appreciation for the collected smooth rocks in my alabaster bowl. Treasures every one!
Happy Friday!