Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day

Of all the “holidays” on the calendar, Labor Day – the first Monday in September, certainly seems the most elusive, almost perfunctory.  A three day weekend  - reason to hit the road or gather for the last burgers on the grill for the season. Labor Day - just a breath between summer and the return to school or the routine of the work-a-day world we take for granted.

Gone are the days – my grandfather’s days  - where worker’s rights were new,  hard won and worthy of true celebration.

Labor Day. On this day, I think of my grandfather, Alexander (Cop) Kaplan, a labor leader from Cleveland.  Regrettably, his story I’ll never know. Can’t know, as I never knew him, have no personal memories of him. How carelessly, wrecklessly we cast away our family stories -- or the opportunities for hearing, never thinking to pursue them – or better yet, to record more of the details of the life and times of our fathers and mothers before us.

I can’t Google Alexander Kaplan. Other than the fine photos I still have of him, the handsome smiling face in a vintage frame on the wall in my dining room, Alexander Kaplan is nowhere to be found unless I really delve beneath the surface of the 1940 U.S. Census, a citizen of a country at war,  where he’s listed at 51 as head of the household, with my grandmother, Sarah, (40) my parents, Edward (23) and Clare  (22) Goldman, living with them - and my mother’s younger brother, my uncle Arthur Kaplan (20) – noting that  Art’s twin brother, Wilbur (Wil) Kaplan in all likelihood had already enlisted and was stationed somewhere in the South Pacific . . .

Our families, our stories, our life’s labors. . . so many are to be lost.  What do we know?  What do we miss?

My parents, Edward and Clare, gone now for a decade, would be amazed today to see their progeny, their grandchildren, grown to adulthood, and their great-grandchildren:  Zachary and Lauren – my sister’s grandchildren now heading to their senior year in high school . . . and a new set of children . . . ours: and here they are:

Mason, 4 years, b. March 15, 2011

Benjamin, almost 3, b. 2013
Carter, 2 years old,  b. April 18, 2013

Mila, 3 months, b. May 26, 2015

Our labors . . . of love.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just Passing Through

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."  --from The Life and Work of Martha Graham

It’s been some time since I crossed my own path here at wildturtle. Something is keeping me in my shell -- even as I pour words by the thousands into my day (and night and weekend ) job tending to my duties as editor and writer of an online monthly publication ( – if you care to take a peek). . . always working on a deadline, in a monthly cycle that keeps me anxious and ever-vigilant of the calendar, somehow I’ve left this space, my space – an empty space, waiting and wanting, like a lost cursor on an blank screen.
There is a vitality in the work that must be done everyday, and the prospect – and the inevitability - of ever stopping unnerves me. I dread to think about turning over a blank page, finally at a loss for words.
As night falls on this summer day, I think of so many days and nights I’ve spent at a keyboard – tap, tap, tapping on assignment, a school paper, a advertising campaign, a television script, an annual report, an article, an interview. So many words. . . and so many well composed, but not really my own.
And yet. . . and yet, put all those words together and between the lines you might find me there.
A turtle. In a shell. Crossing ever so slowly. Through my garden.

Words & Photos: Vivian Henoch
Thanks for dropping by.

And visit if you wish:

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Roads (More or) Less Traveled

The storms had passed. Coming and going along our route of nearly 1800 miles, we managed to miss the worst of the weather over the holidays. 

Considering the snow and deep chill blowing across the country today, I’d say we fared extremely well on our Midwest to East Coast U-Turn to Chicago Odyssey, December 23 to January 3.

As empty-nesters in Detroit with married children and grandchildren in Cleveland and in Chicago, we now spend holidays in a gentle negotiation and navigation between families with in-laws located from coast to coast.  We must share. 

Though Christmas isn’t our holiday per se, we have taken to spending it lavishly, leisurely, deliciously: traveling.  A favorite spot the beach at Kiawah (Charleston, S.C.) Two years ago we spent our most venturesome and memorable Christmas ever with friends. . . in Delhi, India.

Where to this year? A last-minute, impromptu plan: We mapped out a two week trek – setting out for points of interest on a route we had driven many times before but never taken the time to stop and explore. 

Now with cameras in hand  (and no young children for whom to break for feeding and bathrooms) we were free to wander at will . . . and meander all day.   A rare luxury, indeed.

 Day One:  Northville MI. to Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA, approximately 350 miles.

A gentle rain along the way hardly deterred us, by 2:00 in the afternoon, the winter sky and light were perfect for pictures taken from the lookout points on public trails leading to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece. Built between 1936-1939 for the Edgar Kaufmann family (of Kaufmann’s Department store in Pittsburgh), this mountain retreat is a wonder to behold with every changing season. Our timing couldn’t have been better. Closed January and February, Fallingwater will open again with the spring thaw.

Day Two: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, approximately 150 miles

A bit of history here: Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers,  is the site of John Brown’s Raid of 1859 - considered the precursor of the Civil War.  In 1785 Thomas Jefferson described the view, standing on “a very high point of land” (now known as Jefferson’s Rock) as “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.” A haven for hikers today, this beautiful historic town is considered the psychological midpoint of the Appalachian Trail.  If you’ve never been to Harpers Ferry, go… visit, take a turn on the trail. 

Day Three and Four: Washington D.C.   about 70 miles

My husband’s hometown, with his alma mater nearby in Baltimore. There’s no family to visit in D.C. any longer, but we had the good fortune to reconnect with friends.  Choosing places we had never been, we particularly enjoyed the National Portrait Gallery and the Newseum.

Day Four Christmas Day and Day Five:  Chadds Ford,  PA,  120 miles

About 30 miles from Philadelphia, Chadds Ford is “Wyeth Country,” home to  the Brandywine River Museum which houses an extensive collection of the paintings of N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew and grandson Jamie. The area is also DuPont Country, home to the vast estates of the once ΓΌber-rich of the 20th Century.  With the expectation of nothing open on Christmas Day, we were delighted to find Longwood Gardens in resplendent holiday display within its 4.5 acres of heated greenhouses.  The property once owned by industrialist Pierre S. DuPont  is open to the public 7 days a week year round.

 Day Six:  Cleveland, about 420 miles: 
Grocery shopping and dinner with our son and family— preparing to drive westward together for New Year’s in Chicago

Day Seven:  Northville, 180 miles
A quick “rest” to pick up steam,  heading for a family reunion in Chicago.

Day Eight through Day Twelve Chicago,  240 miles
2 nights in Evanston with my nephew’s family, New Year’s in Lincoln Park with the grandkids. . . worth every mile of the trip.




Day Thirteen : Return to Northville

Friday, December 20, 2013


Because . . . it’s time to clear the pumpkins and dreidels from the doorstep of the “home” page, because on the Jewish calendar, our holidays are past, and because December is drawing to a close with Christmas just a breath away and the turning of a New Year almost here . . .

It’s time.

To leave the matters of work aside

To pack our bags

To spend the last days of the year

In a celebration of our own making.

Sounds a little crazy, but this year we’re taking a Christmas road trip.

Heading to sites where people normally see in the full bloom of spring or the heat of summer or the changing colors of fall.

 A Winter Photojourney, we call  it.

Taking our cameras, because that’s what we do on the road.

Heading East with the rising sun, through the mountains (where frozen roads are predicted) to Fallingwater – an architectural masterpiece we’ve never seen,

Booking a room in an historic inn where Andrew Jackson once slept. . .

Just the two of us on the road,

Driving through Harper’s Ferry, perhaps to take steps (or snap a photo or two) on the Appalachian Trail . .  . on to Washington, D.C, then back through Wyeth Country, Chadds Ford. . .

Snowbirds? Not us. Not yet.  

The winter roads await. 

Photos: vhenoch
Thanks for stopping by. . .and merry, happy, healthy

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanksgivukkah? Our November Dilemma

It's that time of year. . . and never again.

It’s been heralded as the holiday of a lifetime. Stranger things have happened on our calendars and in our kitchens, but it seems that the earth has turned and the stars have aligned to create a convergence of the First Day of Chanukah (technically the second night and candle lighting) and Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 28.

Hence a fusion - if not confusion of menus. What’s a cook to do as we prepare to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Oil together with the American Festival of  Stuffing?

One mash up holiday meal

Any way you slice it, according to the Jewish (lunar) and Gregorian calendars, the two feasts won’t land on the same date again for another 70,000 years.  So cheers to all,  let's make the best of it and prepare our menus . . . to the max.

On the menu?
Blending the best of both frying and basting, mixing and stirring, we suggest:

Bubbe Knows Best Latkes  with Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

Wine-Brined Turkey  (or is that Whine and Brine Turkey)

Sage Dressing: Pumpkin Challah Day Stuffing with Chestnuts

Sweet Potato Kugel (No Marshmallows Please)

Roasted Root Vegetables: Parsnips, Carrots, Beets with Pickled Onion

Pumpkin Pecan Rugelach

Pumpkin Cheese Cake

Guiltless Gelt

Bubbe Knows Best Latkes: A Recipe

Bubbe Knows Best Latkes
Mini Latkes and Cranberry Pomegranate Relish for T-Day Appetizers

There’s nothing like a platter of potato pancakes to inspire excess and pure joy. Plain and simple, this recipe calls for measurement in pounds: as many potatoes as you could stand to grate, as many onions chopped as needed to bring tears streaming to your eyes, eggs and matzoh meal – enough to hold the ingredients together, salt and pepper enough to taste, and if you really want to give your Lipitor a workout, add a  dollop of chicken fat to the potato mixture before frying, just enough to enhance that indescribably heavenly Jewish holiday flavor. (Hint: make ‘em “mini” for Thanksgivukkah appetizers.)
A recipe to serve a crowd

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 large onions, grated
  • ¾ cups matzoh meal (or panko bread crumbs for extra crispy)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chicken fat (optional)
  • ½ cup peanut oil (or more) for frying

Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

Here’s a Chanukah variation on a classic
  • 1 package cranberries
  • ½ red onion diced
  • Seeds 1 pomegranate  –
  • ½  cup brown sugar or to taste
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ orange juice
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • Pinch salt
In a sauce pan, combine ingredients and simmer until the mixture thickens.

cranberry ingredients-9176

A brief  history of Jewish time

On the Jewish calendar, Chanukah comes up reliably on the same date each year. On the secular calendar, the dates move from year to year, most commonly falling in December.

Given that the Jewish calendar repeats on a 19-year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7-year cycle, you would expect  the holidays to coincide roughly every 19×7 = 133 years.

According to calculations by Jonathan Mizrahi, a quantum physicist at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, the overlap of  the two holidays would have happened only once before in 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863. So, it has never happened before.

And essentially, we’ll wait an eternity before it happens again. Why?

Mizrahi explains: The Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the secular calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1,000 years. (Not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Chanukah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Chanukah can be is 11/29. The last time Chanukah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be the Monday after Thanksgiving).

Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way (which by Jewish Law it would be required to modify to keep Passover in the spring), then it will slowly move forward through the secular calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Chanukah will again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811. So go figure.

Menorah and pumpkins-9154

Let’s Talk Turkey:  About the Chanukah Holiday Take-Over

Technically, let’s be clear, the first night and first candle lighting of Chanukah is Wednesday, November 27th.

This year’s calendar fluke placing the first day of Chanukah on the same day as Thanksgiving has given rise to some crazy notions that Chanukah is taking over the menu, the Parade and the true “American” spirit of the day.

Not so. According to Jeffrey Lasday, Director of Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education, Chanukah and Thanksgiving have worked together to eclipse the original Jewish Harvest Festival of Sukkot –  a sadly-neglected eight-day holiday which in fact traces its beginnings to the Book of Leviticus (23:39-43).

“When you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the Lord to last seven days; a complete rest on the first day and a complete rest on the eighth day.”

For hundreds of years in Temple times, the Jewish people observed Sukkot by traveling to Jerusalem for eight days of celebration, camping out in Sukkot (booths/huts) around the Temple. Sukkot ruled!  That is until . . .  the Maccabees.

Here's the story: In 168 B.C.E., the Syrian Greeks take over the Temple in Jerusalem and forbid observance of Jewish rituals including the holiday of Sukkot. A war breaks out for religious freedom. The Maccabees wage battle against the Syrian Greeks. Due to the war, the Jews are unable to get to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot. Finally the Maccabees vanquish the Syrian Greeks and are able to regain the Temple in Jerusalem. The first thing that the Maccabees do when they win back the Temple according to the Second Book of Maccabees is to celebrate the eight-day holiday of Sukkot.


As Jeff goes on to explain, “This victory over the Syrian Greeks becomes known as Chanukah (dedication) in remembrance of the rededication of the Temple. However, Chanukah goes on to shine, stealing the limelight from Sukkot. Sukkot’s critical role in the rise of the Maccabees and Chanukah is  forgotten.  But then . . . the Pilgrims come to America.

Like the Maccabees before them, the Pilgrims turn to the Bible and draw inspiration for a new holiday from Sukkot. Both Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles and Thanksgiving celebrate the fall harvest. Once again, Sukkot serves only the inspiration. The rest, as they say is history . . .  as the turkey, the stuffing, the candles, the dreidel-spinning, the candle-lighting, the NFL Games, and the gelt all go on to show.

From our family to yours . . .  Happy Challah Days.

(A version of this post appears in the November issue of -  where I spend a good deal of my waking hours - and some of my sleep time - writing and editing stories on behalf of the Detroit Jewish Federation.  Thanks for stopping by.) 
Photos: Vhenoch