Sunday, September 30, 2012

October Flowers: Hydrangeas

 Welcome to October's Flowers on First!

Although many varieties of Hydrangeas are in bloom most of the summer, my favorite Hydrangeas bloom in late summer into autumn--the Paniculata Hydrangeas. They are lush and plentiful all around the Northeast so I love to cut large bunches and place them all around the house.

When Ariel had her October Bat Mitzvah (SO many years ago!) I made centerpieces for each table with nothing more than these beautiful flowers in simple white urns. In my Garden Gazebo sukkah I used bunches of dried Hydrangeas hung upside down from the schach (roof). Hydrangeas can easily be dried to enjoy all year round--simply strip off the leaves, arrange in a vase with or without water and leave them to dry.

When they first bloom in August the flowers are white. By September the are turning green and then pink.

Here's how to keep the flower heads from any type of Hydrangeas from wilting:
1. Immediately after cutting, plunge the cut end for about 30 seconds into boiling water.
2. Put the hydrangeas into a deep container and fill with cool water all the way up to just below the flowers.
3. Mist the blooms, cover them with damp paper towels, and let them sit for 4 or 5 hours. 

The hydrangeas are now ready to use and should last a long time.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sukkah Hop

I love Sukkot. It gives me the opportunity to design an outdoor dining space every year. And, since autumn is my favorite season I am happy to sit outdoors and dine under the stars.

Many Jewish communities have "sukkah hops" where families visit one another sukkahs.  Here is an online hop I put together featuring a few of my favorite sukkahs. 

Clockwise from top left: SukkahSoul sells the kit so you can put together this delicate pretty sukkah; the abundance of pine for the schach gives this sukkah from the Sukkah Project in the forest a lush look; if you like post-modern furniture you'll love this sleek sukkah from Sukkah Outlet; this bamboo walled sukkah, also from the Sukkah Project has an organic look that's so in right now.

I created the first three for my book, Jewish Holiday StyleClockwise from top left: My garden sukkah boasted a real candelabra and an arched lattice entry; we shot this sukkah on the Connecticut shoreline--don't live near the beach? Use sailcloth for the walls and lots of blues and whites to get that beachy feel; city dwellers have their sukkah on a rooftop or balcony--the topiaries add to the "Park Ave" look; I adore this roof made up of real fruit--amazing!
Now it's your turn. Do you have a sukkah that you're proud of? Send me your photo at If I get enough, I'll do another sukkah hop starring your sukkahs!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sukkah Chandelier

Being the minimalist that I am, I don't care for a lot of tchotchkes hanging in our sukkah. 

Instead, I prefer one show-stopping light fixture that becomes the main decoration itself and also sheds light for evening dinners. Since our sukkah won't be going up for another few days I shot this year's chandelier on our porch.

I put this together with a 26 inch hula-hoop and two packs of LED mini lights. I sprayed the hula-hoop orange to blend in with the lights. 

It was just a matter of wrapping the lights around the hula hoop...
I hung it with the floral wire. 

You may remember my light fixture last Sukkot. I made that one out of plastic cups...
Here's the real was great on most days, but whenever it rained the cups would fill up with water and the weight of the fixture came crashing down on the table! I'd have to empty the cups and hang it again.
So this year I went with something that the rain won't hurt.

Can't wait to hang it in the sukkah!

Linked up to:
creative jewish mom

Friday, September 21, 2012

Accomplishment Book for Yom Kippur

The meal before the Yom Kippur fast is usually a quick one--the fast begins around 6:30 p.m. this coming Tuesday night and most of us will be rushing out to synagogue to hear the Kol Nidre service. 

Take a few meditative minutes before everything gets hectic to have you and your guests jot down their New Year's resolutions with individual blank books they'll find on their plates.
I call these "accomplishment books" because there can be so much more than just making resolutions the way we are accustomed to: i.e. lose ten pounds, finally get rid of the junk in the garage, etc.

Instead, each person writes a wish list of hopes, dreams, and goals for the coming year and things that need improvement. Writing down the steps you need to take to accomplish everything on your list helps bring it from the realm of possibility to reality.

I found my blank books at Target, added a label, then tied them together with a pen using bakers twine.
The key is to use and refer to the book during the year, and remember what goals you wanted to accomplish. This is a great new tradition to start with your family!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wedding Table Numbers

Our friend's daughter is getting married next week. The wedding will take place in Massachusetts in a beautiful wedding hall that used to be a concert hall for the symphony orchestra. They asked for my help to create the numbers that will sit on each table. The bride came up with the idea of incorporating sheet music into the design to play up the concert hall theme. (The seating cards will be replica's of concert hall tickets). 

I wanted them to look "old world" to blend with the look of the location. Here's a peak of the
hall and the soon to be bride and groom...

The first thing I needed were the frames--the size would determine the rest of the design. I walked  into the dollar store and was thrilled to find these...
The size was perfect and they even had enough of them!

Next, the numbers were printed from my computer and each one was cut out with scissors.

After dabbing the back of each number with a bit of glue stick, I placed each number on a piece of sheet music and placed it face-down on the glass of a xerox machine and copied each one onto parchment paper.

It wasn't looking quite as aged as I was hoping for, so I dabbed each one with a wet tea bag. I liked when the tea bag opened and some granules of loose tea got onto the paper.

They were really wet so I spread them on the floor to dry.

Once dry, it was just a matter of trimming and inserting them into the gold frames.
Can't wait for the wedding!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Apple Cake

I got the recipe for this apple cake from another mom in my daughter's play group--that was almost 27 years ago!!! I still have the recipe written on the original index card that I copied from her, so you know this is going to be good.

I make it for Rosh Hashanah since apples are in season, it's an easy parve dessert and I always get rave reviews.  It also looks pretty baked in a bundt pan and drizzled with a sugar glaze.

Apple Cake
5 apples
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Slice apples, then toss with sugar and cinnamon.
3. Mix flour, sugar, salt, eggs, oil, vanilla, orange juice, baking soda and powder.
4. Mix everything together--you will have a very thick dough.
5. Grease a bundt pan--fill it like this: dough, apple, dough, apple, dough.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
After it has cooled, pour glaze over cake.

As you can see, the apples were picked with care from my favorite little apple picker!
 Have a Healthy and Sweet New Year! See you back here on Wednesday.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jewish New Year Centerpiece

You may remember the numbers I bought for my Jewish New Year cards. When the photo session was over I was left with these really nice Birch wood numbers, spelling out the new year on the Jewish calendar--5773. It seemed a shame not to use them one more time, so I incorporated them into a quick centerpiece using things I already had.
I picked up extra wood coffee stirrers (during my daily trip!) at Starbucks and glued them to the back of each number with wood glue. Next I soaked some floral oasis in water (you can buy a block of oasis from the floral department of most supermarkets) and fit that into a steel rectangular container I picked up at Restoration Hardware a few years back. 

For the flowers, I went outside to my yard and snipped whatever I found in bloom--Sedem, green leaves from Geranium, and those fuzzy purple flowers that are taking over my garden! (Anyone know what they're called)?
If you'd like to copy this idea but don't have time to order wood numbers and have them shipped before Rosh Hashanah,  you can use house numbers from the home improvement store--just glue them to wood sticks or skewers. The flowers can be purchased from the supermarket and you could use four flower pots instead of one long rectangular pot. It's a fun way to remind your guests the new year on the Jewish calendar!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Table Setting for Rosh Hashanah

Keeping it simple is my motto this year. If you're cooking and having guests for the holiday there's probably not much time for fancy table settings. So, what could be simpler than a centerpiece of branches snipped from the apple orchard and a honey stick slipped into each napkin ring?

The autumn colored paisley napkins were picked up at Marshall's, and the napkin ring is made with leftover colored paper and a satin ribbon. The pomegranate is sitting on top of a cupcake stand (!) with some leftover apple leaves scattered below.

You can find honey sticks at many gourmet food shops and supermarkets. Just snip off the tops and squeeze the honey onto the apple or challah-- children & adults love them!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rosh Hashanah Honey Tasting & Gary Rosenthal Bowl

Although I find it hard to believe, the first day of Rosh Hashanah is only a week from today! One of my favorite parts of celebrating the holiday is the tradition of dipping apples into honey to signify having a sweet New Year. Here is a fun (and very chic) idea: have a honey tasting with different varieties of honey for everyone to taste.
I found my honey at a local import store this summer, where I was delighted to find all sorts of kosher honey from all over the world. (Here's the deal with honey--if it's raw it doesn't need a kosher certification, if it's not raw it needs one).
The differences in taste, texture and color of honey depend on the kind of nectar the bees have been collecting and there are as many subtle flavors of honey as there are plant nectar sources. Did you know that a bee must tap the nectar of two million flowers to produce one pound of honey?

Speaking of honey, we have a winner for the Gary Rosenthal honey bowl! My granddaughter Moussia was very excited to pick the winner...
the cape on the corner will be receiving Gary's beautiful honey bowl this week in the mail. 
Her comment was:
"oh my gosh, how i would love to bring this to my mom's dinner!
thanks for offering this!"

Linked to: 
i should be mopping the floor

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Jewish New Year Card with Photos

This year, with a new baby in the family, I decided the perfect Jewish New Year card was one that incorporated photos of our children and grandchildren.
The hardest part of this project was getting everyone to pose for the photos! Our son Ben left for a five month internship in Israel so I had to grab him from his busy schedule and photograph him before he left.  Moussia tends to make silly faces when I press the shutter of the camera,  baby Zelda could start crying any minute and Ariel's arm was getting tired holding her!  The only one that seems to love the photography session is two-year-old Yosef who gives me the biggest smiles when I am ready to shoot!

I had each person hold a wood number which together makes up the new year on the hebrew calendar--5773.  I ordered my wood numbers from here. I was going to paint them but I decided I loved the look of the plain Baltic Birch wood.
After printing the photos at a local photo store, I cut long strips of vanilla colored paper 4 1/2 x 14, then folded it into four panels to fit into a number A-1 envelope. For the cover, I typed my greeting on the computer, printed it out on transparent vellum paper, and cut to size to fit onto the front cover. 

Now, I only have twenty more to assemble and get in the mail by next week!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I'd like to welcome my newest sponsor, Mezuzah Master!

A Mezuzah is a hand-written scroll that is affixed to the doorpost on a Jewish home. It is a reminder of our faith and a symbol of G-d's watchful care over the house and its dwellers. You can read more about Mezuzahs here. Although the scroll is the important part, it needs to go in a case--so why not choose something beautiful that reflects you and your home?

Whether your taste runs from jeweled and fancy or clean and modern, Mezuzah Master will have it and with excellent prices!  Here are just a few favorites of mine--and there is no better time than now--before the high holidays to add or replace a Mezuzah.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Flowers: Rosh Hashanah Centerpiece

This month, skip the flowers.

For September's Flowers on First, I created a centerpiece for Rosh Hashanah since the holiday is only two weeks away. My inspiration for this came from Pinterest--I love the simplicity of cutting branches of fresh apples from the orchard and using them as a floral arrangement.
Leafy branches are a chic (and free!) centerpiece and they will last several days in water. We live a short drive from many apple orchards and having a tractor-pulled hayride on a beautiful fall day is one of my favorite things to do. 
I wish blogs had a "smell" button so you could smell the dining area--it smells like fresh apples!

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