Blog Assessment and Watercolor Flowers

flower in watercolor gerber daisy
Sometimes you have been elsewhere than the blogosphere, and you want to convey some of what you have learned and seen, but you don’t always have a set tale or a method or a how-to or some other funky way of setting up the oh, so awesome post. So some of the places I have been: 1) skiing in Pennsylvania with my sons 2) strolling through Central Park in the cold snow with my husband and daughter 3) viewing the Chagall exhibit at the Jewish Museum 4) creating watercolor exercises like the wet on dry Gerber daisy flower above for the FB group One Watercolor a Day and 5) working away for various clients, including one project for anthropologists that started last June and may finally be close to becoming two new websites. I’m not going to say more about 5), because there is still more to be done, but maybe I can talk a bit about the other “subjects.”

On the topic of blogs, what is this blog about? I want to continue to share artwork; this blog can help propel me forward with creative ideas both for my traditional fine art and for illustration work that might be for client work. I would like to continue to share in Nature Notes, though I only participate when I have been photographing nature, and that has been slim pickings lately. Sometimes I talk about Highland Park – I’ve done Hurricane Sandy and some recent power outages (there were more tonight; friends on the South Side are not having fun). I used to do more recipes – my thinking in the future is maybe I will focus on teaching creative cooking. For example, how does one create a good soup? a tasty salad? Years ago I wanted to blog about how to get one’s children to eat healthy food. I still struggle with that, but my children probably do eat more vegetables than the average American, although only if placed directly in front of them in a manner that is appealing. I will sometimes post book reviews, but those take a lot of my energy and time, so expect those sparingly. There are Jewish topics, often of a creative nature like a piyut (liturgy poem), that I love to explore. In the past, I’ve interviewed artists and writers – maybe I’ll have the opportunity to more interviews. And with all of these topics, I love getting your feedback. If you share my enthusiasm for any of these topics, would love to hear so in a comment.

Getting back to my recent adventures, here is a favorite ski slope scene:
ski slope

I wasn’t allowed to photograph the Tsfat synagogue painted by Chagall that I saw at the Jewish Museum, but I do want to say that my daughter was excited that she had been in that very synagogue. The painting had a more uplifting tone than the one of the Vilna synagogue right next to it – that synagogue, the one in Vilna, was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II.

So who else is assessing their blogs? Susan showed the Little Engine Train that Could as her blog in a podcast, and Jeri decided to put up a survey to assess her blog. Creative approaches!

For this blog post, I’ve said enough. Will have to save more conveying in a future post! To finish off, here is the wet-on-wet version of the Gerber daisy flower I painted:
watercolor wet on wet

Guest Poem: The Lament of the People of Sodom

This is a guest poem post by Daniel of Adventures in Jewish Thought. The salt shaker is totally my idea. Hoping his poem will evoke some good comments, ideas, reflections.

The Lament of the People of Sodom

saltshaker watercolor

Because we did not see

The poor,

The orphans,

The widows

And the strangers

In our midst

We were struck blind.

• • •

As we are approaching Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, I would like to share with you these links:

Finally, a badge for Sam, who has undergone a lot, much more than any child should:
Sam Cancer Awareness badge family

August Jewish Book Carnival

Ma'alot view
View from back balcony of home in Ma’alot, Israel

Honored to be hosting my first Jewish Book Carnival. The Jewish Book Carnival is a monthly event where bloggers who blog about Jewish books can meet, read and comment on each others’ posts. I posted a May 2013 photo of my friend’s back balcony porch in Ma’alot, Israel – wouldn’t you like to cuddle up with a good book on her porch while enjoying this view?

On My Machberet, Erika Dreifus praises The Property, a graphic novel by Rutu Motan (trans. Jessica Cohen).

From Heidi Estrin: Visit this podcast interview with Michelle Bayuk, Marketing Director at Albert Whitman & Co, about two recent picture books of Jewish interest: The Wooden Sword by Ann Stampler, and Happy Birthday, Tree by Madelyn Rosenberg.

On Sketching Out, learn more about Israel’s leader Menahem Begin in a review of the biography Menahem Begin: A Life by Avi Shilon.

Susan Curtis talks about a book I greatly enjoyed: The Golem and the Jinni. Then she got a chance to interview the author Helene Wecker!

Forwordsbooks has been busy in the past few weeks! On her website, Kathy Bloomfield shares a list of books to help everyone in the family value the precious commodity of time. While over at, she shares her favorite children’s Shabbat titles for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies Families with Young Children Initiative. And at Kathy welcomes the New Year with a list of books to help families learn about and engage in the upcoming holidays.

Sandor Schuman presents What is a Jewish Story.

Lorri reviews Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz.

Naomi Firestone-Teeter presents a list of books for the high holidays and an article by Daniel Torday on Jews and the novella.

Barbara Krasner from The Whole Megillah has an Interview with poet and memoirist Joy Ladin and another Interview with Behrman House editor Dena Neusner.

Barbara Bietz shares some book news from friends.

Ann Koffsky talks about storytime: Once upon a time, many, many Rosh Hashanahs ago

At Life Is Like a Library, Kathe Pinchuck blogs about reading Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots on her new e-reader, as well as some Jewish-reading-related visits to Hebrew University and the old Jerusalem Train Station.

• • •

Thanks to all the people who submitted posts! I’m wondering: do more people read in the summer? Do you read more books in the summertime?

Blog Awards and Fireworks

Fireworks - July 7, 2013 Donaldson Park, Highland Park, New Jersey
Fireworks on July 7, 2013 in Donaldson Park, Highland Park, New Jersey

Blog Awards Received

I want to acknowledge two blog awards received from two excellent bloggers. First, I was pleased to receive the Liebster Blog Award from the talented writer Jeri Walker-Bickett:

Jeri is the author of a collection of realistic fiction short stories called Such is Life. She also recently wrote a guest post for Websites for Small Biz on author blogs.

A week later I was pleased to receive The Very Inspiring Blogger Award from Diana Marinova:
ver inspiring blogger award

I am going to cheat a little and pass on the rules as they are posted on the Liebster Award (instead of doing both) to a few favorite bloggers.

About the Liebster Blog Award

Blogging can be a very solitary life, and sometimes encouragement is needed. The Liebster Blog Award is just that, a token of encouragement from a fellow blogger. A world without rules can lead to chaos, and the blogging world is no exception. In accepting this award, a blogger will follow the following rules. It is a way to “Pay It Forward” to other bloggers.

Answers to Jeri’s questions:

  1. Who is your favorite author? My favorite author choice varies, but I will go with Aharon Appelfeld.
  2. What is the strangest book you’ve ever read and liked? Maus by Art Spiegelman
  3. Favorite social media site? You can circle me (Leora Wenger) on Google+.
  4. Topic of your most popular blog post ever? How to Pay a Shiva Call – A Guide for Non-Jews
  5. Which blog do you read most often? I am afraid to answer this question for fear of offending anyone, but the three blogs that show up in my Frequent folder are: RamblingWoods, Jewaicious and Hannah’s Nook.
  6. What would your last meal be? A depressing question: the last meal I was able to serve my father was chicken soup. So I’ll ask for chicken soup.
  7. What is your biggest pet peeve? vague questions like this one
  8. Where did your best vacation you ever take place? In 2008 we (my husband, my three children and I) visited Kfar Blum in northern Israel.
  9. Who do you consider the greatest TV character? Archie Bunker
  10. What makes you unique? My varied interests: art, piyutim, building WordPress sites and Jewish ways of dealing with death, to name a few.
  11. What one thing would you most like to change about yourself? self-doubt

If you have been nominated below for The Liebster Award and you choose to accept it, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link on your blog.
  2. Display the award on your blog by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a widget.
  3. Answer the 11 questions about yourself, provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Give 11 random facts about yourself. (Note: I skipped this; long enough already!)
  5. Nominate 5 to 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award; who have less than 1000 followers.
  6. Create a new list of questions for the nominated bloggers to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post. (You can copy and paste them from here.)
  8. Once you have written your post and published it, you then have to inform the bloggers whom you’ve nominated for the Liebster award. Remember to give a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Reciprocation by the nominees is entirely optional.

11 questions for those who accept Liebster Blog Award from me

  1. Who is your favorite author?
  2. What is your favorite blog topic?
  3. Favorite social media site?
  4. Topic of your most popular blog post ever?
  5. Where did your best vacation take place?
  6. What is your strongest childhood memory?
  7. What is your favorite online recipe?
  8. Which topics do you talk about in person but avoid discussing online?
  9. What is your favorite film/movie?
  10. What is your favorite fairy tale?
  11. Name a historical leader that influenced you.

And here are my nominations for the Liebster Blog Award:

(Some of those listed below have commented on my blog for years – a huge thank you for that).

  1. Hannah’s Nook
  2. Mrs. S.
  3. Pragmatic Attic
  4. Me-ander
  5. Jewaicious
  6. Carver
  7. Rambling Woods
  8. Stuck Under a Baby
  9. Struggling with God
  10. Take Charge Now
  11. Diana Marinova

Review with Rose Garden

rose garden at liberty hall museum
The rose garden at historic Liberty Hall Museum in Union, New Jersey

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

Blog is Named Sketching Out

Sketching Out
After much pondering and going back and forth and almost picking Rough Sketch, I went with Sketching Out as the new name of this blog. If Sketching Out reminds you a bit of the Joe Jackson song Stepping Out, so be it. If not, I hope it at least makes you think of sketches of art, sketches of books, recipes to try, food cooked up in a kitchen to be sketched into a watercolor or photographed on a plate of china, and photos of nature. I tossed out Rough Sketch because I didn’t care for the word Rough. I ruminated over A Sketch in Time for a few minutes, mostly because I realized the ‘S’ would bump me down in the alphabet instead of up to an ‘A’ (for a smart ‘A’ – see ‘A Mother in Israel’).

Sketching Out

The font in the header is called Sketch Rockwell. It goes well with the new name, does it not? I can say that I may change the header once again, but I will probably instead concentrate on gathering new content. One idea for the blog in the future is to have guest posts of artists teaching some simple artistic technique. Long ago, Jill Caporlingua wrote a post on using Salt in Watercolor Painting. That is a great example of a post that would fit this blog. I also hope to continue artist interviews. As spring approaches, I plan to fill up posts with lovely photos of local nature. And whenever a Jewish holiday approaches, you can count on me to find some creative approach to preparing for or celebrating the hag (holiday). One of the topics I have written about in the past may come up again: a popular post is about How to Pay a Shiva Call: A Guide for Non-Jews. Difficult topics such as shiva, death and mourning may make the occasional appearance.

I will continue occasionally post about Highland Park, New Jersey, but the old name of Here in HP is now happily laid to rest. So long, old-fashioned name. Hello, new ideas, new energy, new focus, new readers (I hope), and your input, too.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, is there any category or topic in particular that I have posted about that appeals to you? Any ideas of what might fit this new title of Sketching Out?

Interview with Adam Gustavson, Illustrator of Hannah’s Way

Welcome, Adam! Readers, enjoy this interview with Adam Gustavson, illustrator of the award-winning children’s book Hannah’s Way; the interview is part of the Sydney Book Awards Blog Tour.

Description of the book: After Papa loses his job during the Depression, Hannah’s family moves to rural Minnesota, where she is the only Jewish child in her class. When her teacher tries to arrange carpools for a Saturday class picnic, Hannah is upset. Her Jewish family is observant, and she knows she cannot ride on the Sabbath. What will she do? A lovely story of friendship and community.

Hannah's Way

How did you decide how Hannah should appear? her family? the scenery? Did you do research on the period’s clothing and style?

That a good question. Before I even picked up a pencil, I immersed myself in images of people from the 1930s. I looked at as many ancestry web sites as I could and thumbed through books of costumes and period photography. I also dug as far into Orthodox Judaism as I could, just trying to make sure the family in the book didn’t fly in the face of some hidden clause from Leviticus that I didn’t know about.

I looked at lots of sale items on ebay, trying to keep in mind that the era a story takes place in isn’t really the era of the stuff in it, it’s the cut-off date for said stuff. The couches, the lamps, the architecture, all of that has to predate the story. And if someone in the story is dressed in hand-me-downs, well, now we’re looking at fashion from the late ’20s…

As far as the characters themselves, I rely as much as I can on instinct. Granted, I research hairdos and ethnic bone structure and think about people I know or have known that fit a temperament or demographic, but one of the really important aspects of being able to draw the same person, active and emoting for 32 pages, is to really believe that they’re the right person for the job.
Hannah's Way - Hannah's family

How did you team up with the author, Linda Glaser?

Illustrating books is a sort of funny thing; the whole affair is orchestrated by the publisher, so as it was Joni Sussman at Kar-Ben who contacted me about illustrating the Hannah’s Way.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I’ve always drawn; my mother was an artist when I was growing up, and my brothers and I drew like most other kids would play ball. It was a big part of how we played together. My father, an engineer, used to come home with art supplies he’d picked up for us on his way home from work. I grew up in the only household for miles and miles where a crisis consisted of my mother trying to find out just who took her kneaded eraser.

When I went to college, the toss up for me was between becoming an artist or becoming a musician. So again, I was pretty much the only person I knew who went into art because it was the more practical choice.

I love the illustrations you did of commuters on a train
What advice would you give someone who wants to improve his/her drawing skills?

gustavson summer sketch on train

There are two things I’d say; the first and foremost is to draw everything all the time. The way I put it to a student recently was that if what you really want to draw is Spiderman, at some point you’ll have to figure out what kind of furniture Aunt May has in her living room. A big part of making art is experiential, which is to say you don’t really know what something looks like until you try to draw it, and really explore it in your drawing.

Another important aspect is to be influenced by things that aren’t specifically what you want to do. This goes for technique, subject matter, and high falutin’ compositional stuff. A high profile example of this idea at work is in Van Gogh’s love of Japanese woodcuts, and the way that it translated into how he used paint, but it exists to some degree almost everywhere.

What projects are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a really sizable project for Holt’s Christy Ottaviano Books imprint, called “Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story,” written about the co-founder of the Band by his son, Sebastian Robertson. It involved over thirty oil paintings and real life protagonist that had to age about 30 years in the course of the narrative, which was a bit of a challenge.
Rock and Roll Highway, illustration by Adam Gustavson
You seem like you have worked on many books and illustration projects – which were your favorites?

My two all time favorites have been Leslie Kimmelman’s “Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt!” and Bill Harley’s “Lost and Found,” the latter of which just came out this past fall. From a concept, design and storytelling perspective (the Alice Roosevelt book was very research heavy, to boot), both projects had a lot of freedom involved and called for a really dynamic range of images. Any project that calls specifically for a 1904 Studebaker or leaves room for a stuffed flying badger can’t be all that bad.
Mind your manners by Adam Gustavson
Can you tell us a little about the zombie project? How did you get involved in that one?

I was invited by illustrator Bryan Ballinger, a friend of Pete Mitchell, a cartoonist and the singer for the band No More Kings, to participate in an anthology of zombie comics, which was an impossible thing to say no to. The idea as I understood it was to have the book available for release at the same time as the band’s latest album.

I batted around several ideas over the course several months before writing up a conversation between two undead companions, one of whom was having an existential crisis.

What is the hardest part of illustrating a book? What part is the most rewarding?

The hardest part is not the “getting started” part, having 32-40 blank pages staring back from a computer layout, though sometimes it seems like it could be.

The hardest part for me is the part I call Page 28 Syndrome: being in the home stretch of something that has been lived with for six to nine months, and putting finishing touches on that scene that every book has that happens right after the conflict is resolved but the story hasn’t ended yet. It feels like 101st mile of a 100 mile run, where instead of running you’re just consciously lifting your knees to get to the end, and trying not to trip. That right there, that’s the hardest part.

The most rewarding part for me was always the moment before a project was shipped off the the publisher, looking at everything spread out on the floor in order.

But truthfully, grade school appearances are really the thing that does it now. The whole process of making books can be so isolating, so much about high minded professional practices done in a cave, that it’s not hard to lose sight of who these things are really for. Wandering around among actual humans ‹ preferably short ones ‹ with a book is really my favorite part.

And I think it’s a reminder of why that page 28 syndrome thing is important to get through. There are plenty of examples out in the world where adults cut corners or cheap out on things for children because they think their target audience won’t notice. And often they’re right. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? Children deserve better things than that, whether they’ll recognize it or not.

The worst thing we can do as people in the creative class is willfully accustom our audiences to mediocrity.

• • •

To learn more about Adam Gustavson, you can visit About the book Hannah’s Way, see:

This Blogs Needs a New Name

Name the Blog
I have been working on this blog since 2007. When I started, I thought I would write about the Borough of Highland Park, New Jersey. In turns out, I rarely write about Highland Park, and the name Here in HP confuses some people who think of Hewlett-Packard. In any case, few of my readers live in Highland Park. I prefer to post my art, my art sketches, my Photoshop and Illustrator attempts, my photos of nature, food and whatever else looks appealing, a few book reviews, a recipe here and there. I’ve decided the blog needs a new name.

So, how to go about making a decision? Fortunately, the urls will not have to change. The blog is merely positioned as a subdirectory of my main domain:
It’s just that annoying Here in HP that I do not like. I want something related to art. Here are a few ideas:
– Sketching Out
– Sketched Out
– Sketch and Photo

The idea of Sketched Out is that I put up sketches when I can, but most of the time I am sketched out, so you get a photo or a book review or a recipe.

Obviously, I’ve got sketch on the brain. I would love to get your help. I was thinking of making this an official contest; however, I read over contest rules, and one must have a definite end to a contest. I’m afraid the unofficial contest does not end until I finally like the new name. Also, one is encouraged by U.S. law to limit the contest to only U.S. entrants, as one would have to follow the contest rules of every single country in order to make it internationally legal. Well, I’m not doing that, either. So this is an extremely unofficial contest. Unofficially, I may give a prize to the winner (an Amazon gift certificate). And equally unofficially, I may post the names (with links to their blogs or to a recent blog post of theirs) of the honorable mentions.

So, do you have any good ideas on what I should rename this blog?

Update – more ideas:

  • Sketchy
  • Drawn Out
  • Sketches and Stuff
  • Sketches and Such
  • Rough Sketch

Kosher Cooking Carnival Tishrei

squashes watercolor
Three Squash, watercolor on paper by Leora Wenger, 2009

Welcome to the Kosher Cooking Carnival, the Tishrei (Jewish month, the first one, the one with many holidays like Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and more) edition. Thank you, Batya, for managing this blog carnival.

What’s for Dinner?

walk with foraging for herbs

Chunky Tomato Soup with Rice by Frugal and Kosher is beloved by her son – I bet other kids and adults will enjoy this recipe as well.

Yosefa went Summer Foraging and showed Purslane Tips and Recipes includes purslane.

Jane presents Hariseh – the recipe. a recipe from a book she reviews called Simply Israel by T. Gila Levine.

Look at this Broccoli and Potato Daiya Cheese Bake – Vegan – did you say vegan?

This one looks delicious: Herb Lentil Salad

I like quinoa! And it seems that Batya likes quinoa, too.

Batya has some yummy suggestions for Easy, Healthy and Yummy Vegetables .

Rivki Silver participated in a Rosh Hashana blog party and made a super salad. Hannah Katsman of Cooking Manager was also part of the blog party – she presented one of my favorite of her recipes, the marinated beet salad.

And for dessert

Do you crave honey cake at this time of year? See Laura’s ginger honey cake.


If you want an easy dessert and you have two extra bananas, try my banana cake or is it banana bread.

How about some taiglach for dessert? Mrs. S. can teach you how to make taiglach.

Sharon talks about the grain made by the Jerusalem windmill in the 19th century. In the twenty-first century, there was ice cream, crepes, wine and fruit.

Hiking Food

pizza by Batya

As summer is over (if not yet officially), I wanted to end with Batya’s hike food: pittot, tomatoes, olives and salads on the side.

If you want to submit a post to a future KCC, use this blog carnival link.

Review with Bean Cookies

cookies black beans gluten free
Cookies with Black Beans, Gluten Free

I just made these black bean cookies, courtesy of Laura’s Double Chocolate Mocha Bean Gluten Free recipe. Question is: will my kids eat them?

On My Blog

chives Mexican poppies pink butterfly with orange stripes red admiral

Book Review of Septembers of Shiraz

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

  • View a lovely Kosher Cooking Carnival for Sivan hosted on Ilana-Davita’s blog. Thank you for all the hard work of hosting!
  • Thank you to the Jewish Book Council for hosting the May Jewish Book Carnival and including my Holocaust books post.
  • Happy Shavuot to all those who celebrate. Happy Memorial Day to all those who celebrate. Happy Happy to All.