Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Legacy Multimedia Blog

Alicia Elkort’s Poetic Memoir Of Our Grandparents – “Apricot Preserves”

Posted on November 6th, 2014

My grandmother used to make these amazing cookies for special occasions. They are called Franz Joseph Cookies and supposedly took their name from the famous Emperor of Austria. I’m not really sure the back story on how my grandma got this recipe but it was a family favorite and one that had great pomp and circumstance around the making of the cookies. She resisted giving the recipe to anyone for many years and finally when she was well into her late 80s, she gave me the recipe. When I make them, I use her gifted and typed recipe that is yellowed and stained with cooking splatters. I posted the recipe for these wonderful cookies several years ago. Feel free to bake them and make sure to tell grandma thanks! (The photo on that page is her in her kitchen when she was in her 80s, still cooking up a storm.)

Recently my sister, an extremely talented and published poet, wrote a poem about the making of these cookies. It was published by Red Paint Hill Publishing in the anthology, “Mother is a Verb,”  released May 2014. The poem poignantly evokes the memory of these cookies and of my grandmother and I hope you will enjoy reading this poem as much as I do.


Alicia Elkort

All summer, I sleep on a foldaway
in my grandparents’ living room,
against the open window,
the torn mesh screen
patterning the trees
outside.                         At night,
I breathe
wisps of jasmine and honeysuckle,
fall asleep to the dewy patter of crickets.

 Lightly grease two cookie sheets.

Before sunup,
Grandma wakes me,
a brush of lips
on the crown
of my head.
I stretch my body long
to the scent of eggs,
toast and oranges.

By six a.m. we’re in
the old Dodge Dart
with blue plaid seats,
windows rolled down,
Grandma and Grandpa
in the front seat,
bookends to my little self
lodged between them,
the cool air beginning to warm.

 Grate hazel nuts finely and set aside.  

As we drive the empty freeway,
I take my grandfather’s hand.
Los Angeles disappears,
replaced by wheat colored hills,
cow-dotted pastures, horses,
fences, then row
upon row
upon row
of trees that fly by like a memory.

Grandpa turns onto a dirt road,
tires churning, crunching gravel,
the released whisper of each tiny
rock a hello and a welcome.  We
park underneath an olive tree,
approach the foreman of the orchard.
He hands us a large cardboard box.
Grandpa counts out five one-dollar bills.
Whatever fits in the box will belong to us.

I climb ladders, scramble up rough-barked
trunks, reach across leaves and pluck
apricots from their branches,
slipping the furry globes into the box,
taking something I won’t have to share.

 Sift flour, cinnamon and cocoa together.

An apricot with the blush of red
makes especially good jam.
I fill my cardboard box
only with apricots
with the blush of red.
What doesn’t fit, I stuff
into my shorts and jacket
when no one is looking.

 Blend groundnuts into mixture. 

On the drive home,
the remnants of peanut butter and jelly
on hand made whole-wheat bread
surround me as I lay across the backseat,
my hair drifting into the box of apricots
nestled on the floor.

I grab an apricot,
slowly chew the moist flesh,
throw the pit out the open window
and reach for another
and another
until I fall asleep to the rhythm
of the susurrant engine.

 When cookies are cool, turn one half of them
upside down and spread ½ tsp apricot jam on each.  

Later that night, Grandma
leans into the sugared
dough, her hair hidden
beneath a red bandana,
hands covered in flour.

 Place another cookie on top and squeeze together lightly.

I look over at my grandfather
reading on the couch, his thick
hair parted on the side, combed
into a wave across his brow.  In a quiet
voice, Grandma tells me she had
other suitors, but Grandpa was the most
handsome.  He looks up, smiles at Grandma,
turns to me, rolls his eyes, then laughs.
During the week,
he repairs washing machines.  At night,
every night, he reads National Geographic.

 Dip tops of cookie sandwiches in chocolate. 

I lean into the dough,
touch my grandmother’s hands—
I love the feel of the soft fleshy parts
soft as the skin of an apricot,
soft as kindness.

  Press a whole blanched almond into the top of each cookie.  Then enjoy.

When the cookies
come out of the oven,
we three sit at the table
lit by candles, cleared
of the remnants of dinner.
We sip black tea
while eating cookies,
the wafers made of hazelnuts,
topped with chocolate and almonds,
all held together with apricot jam.

Years later, when
my grandmother is dying,
I take her hands and rub
the soft fleshy parts.  I rub until
the moment blossoms
into the sweetness of jasmine
and the earthy oozing orchard
and the hot drive home
and the hazelnut dough
and the apricot jam
and the sweat of her perfect love.


Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Family Memories

Reminisces On My Recent Trip to Turkey

Posted on October 29th, 2014

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I just took a look at my blog this morning and realized it’s been almost 4 months since I wrote anything. My commitment has always been to try for twice a month and I have alerts set on my calendar to remind me of that commitment.

I think that after finishing my documentary and screening it at the end of May, I was just pretty wiped out and creatively drained. I’d worked on the film for 3 years and the work that went into promoting the screening and handling the media inquiries was more work than I had expected. So every time my calendar reminder popped up and said, “time to write a blog post,” I briefly looked into what I was doing and felt that I had nothing to say here, then moved on to something else.

In reality what was going on was that I was taking the time I needed to recuperate from this Herculean task by working on other things; such as finally learning to really use my DSLR camera, crocheting an afghan for my new grand-daughter Hazel, and other projects. I was also getting ready for a major trip to Turkey, a country I had wanted to visit for 20 years.

I returned from Turkey a couple weeks ago and I want to tell you that it was one of the best vacations I have ever taken. I have traveled a lot in my life, and lived in some exotic places. But Turkey was something different for me. The trip I took was an organized tour around the country combining a lot of physical activity such as hiking and swimming in the Mediterranean with museums, archeological locations and cultural experiences. Twice we visited homes of Turkish people for meals and conversations and in one case, spent the night in one home out in the country. It was definitely a cultural experience sharing one bathroom with a family of 7 and three other Americans!

I learned so much on this trip thanks in large part to my excellent guide, Ozcan (pronounced Oz-jawn) who was extremely knowledgeable in many areas, notably history, archeology, religion and culture. His ability to help you see each moment through a lens that reached far back was a terrific gift. What I was struck by was the length of time human beings have been living on this chunk of land 302,535 square miles and with a population of almost 80 million. Excavation points often one civilization layer built upon the ruins of another. the Seljuk’s built their palaces and the Ottomans came along taking the old stones and built palaces of their own. And so it went. At times it was difficult to wrap my mind around this cultural layering; who came first, who incorporated previous cultures into their own and who completely obliterated the previous cultures. So much happened.

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So tying this in with my own passion of preserving stories, like I always do, I have to say that the reason all of this fascinated me so much is that as usual, what remains is what people preserved. What they wrote about to document their lives. For instance the Lycians were some of the most amazing architects dating back some 4000 years ago. However their language is, to this day, un-translatable so the only way we know anything about them is writings from other cultures that happened to document what they observed upon visits. Believing in reincarnation, they built elaborate tombs into the rock walls of the mountains where they buried their dead. Some 2000 years later, the Romans built the Celsius template at Ephesus, which bears a striking resemblance to these burial facades. Were they incorporating the architectural ideas from 2000 years prior? We don’t know.

I came back from Turkey relaxed, tan for the first time in many years, and with my creativity fired up. I now have more projects and ideas in my head than possible time to complete them all. So, what will I do next?

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Preserving Memories

My Documentary Screening at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Posted on May 22nd, 2014

Martin Elkort

Sunday May 18, 2014 was the first public screening of my documentary, “Martin Elkort: An American Mirror” at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It showed to a crowd of about 200 people, which is an terrific turn out for an early Sunday evening, on a graduation weekend.

Anne Wilkes Tucker, The Gus and Lyndal Wortham Curator of Photography, gave a wonderful opening speech where she helped the audience to create a context of what it was like to be a photographer during that time period and how Martin Elkort’s photographs were distinguished by a lens of optimism.

After the movie screening I read a short piece I had written. Here it is for your enjoyment:

I can’t tell how gratifying it is to bring this film – which is really like bringing my father – into this venue. And I thank you for that Marian Luntz, and for all you do for film in this city.

8 years ago, I wanted to capture my parents on film. It’s what I do as my profession. My business, Legacy Multimedia, focuses on telling life histories in a way that communicates who you are to future generations. So it was important to me to gather their stories while they were both still alive and in good health. As an adult, I wanted to know about them in a much deeper capacity then the experiences I had of them growing up. So a lot of this footage of my father was shot back then.

About three years ago, the stirrings of a storyline surfaced after taking on the management of my father’s street photography archives. So I set about pulling clips from that original footage and forming the first version. Honestly, it was horrible, and a bit incoherent, but the line was there, or the arc, as we call it in storytelling.

Like a photographer developing an image in a darkroom tray, slowly the story began to appear and after several tries, and a lot of contribution from my friends and co-workers, I came to what you just saw here tonight.

I grew up with a man who was a devoted father and husband, had several careers, and who had done some photography sometime in the past. But I never heard much about his work. I saw him as he was.

Fortunately, my parents gave me a lot. I learned the skills of being in a family that works, and stays together. I learned to give to my community. My first career was as a social worker. Eventually my artist emerged and I became a filmmaker. Like my father, I too was interested in everyday lives and the stories that become a legacy.

I became an artist, and none of these things would have happened the way they did had my father not placed his camera down, and chose a life devoted to his family.

I sat down to create that legacy with my Dad without knowing what it would reveal. What I saw was that my father did not put a camera between himself and life. He did not spend time staging or crafting images. He focused on a world where life happened on the sidewalks and street corners, beside pushcarts and under boardwalks.

His photos show a dignity in every day life that is often absent in the barrage of sensationalized and over-manipulated images we are exposed to today. We resonate with these photographs because seeing images of a world which no longer exists, and the sense of nostalgia it evokes, gives us an optimism about our own world.

My Dad was a story-teller with a camera. He wasn’t there to serve himself as a photographer, he was there to accurately and simply convey what was going on in the street. And from that perspective it makes total sense that he chose his family over a career as a photographer.

There is so much talent and generosity in this room tonight, and seeing you all here, many of you are friends, makes me realize how fortunate I have been to find my voice as a film maker in THIS community. What we have available right here is an amazing venue for established and new filmmakers like myself. Thank you Marian and Anne, for being the strong clear path for great film in Houston.

Filmmaking is an intensely collaborative process and I could not have found the story in this work without so many of you.
I didn’t set out to be a filmmaker, it just sort of happened. I did not set out to make this film. Yet, after it was said and done, I saw that there was a story in these photographs that had eluded me. Your encouragement, love and support pushed me to make all this happen.

Mostly I want to thank my father for being so generous with his time and stories.

Many of Martin’s photographs are on display at the Catherine Couturier Gallery on Colquitt through the end of May and I encourage you to drop by and see them.

I am proud to offer you the world as seen by Martin Elkort and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Martin Elkort’s stunning photographs from the late 1940s and early 1950s can be seen on his website or at select galleries around the United States.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Personal History, Photo Restoration

From The Video Honoree’s Perspective

Posted on April 1st, 2014

I asked my friend, Vicki Samuels Levy to write me a brief perspective on her experience as a video honoree in one of my Legacy Multimedia productions. After all, I write a lot from my perspective; what I’m trying to do with the video, the feelings that I want my audience to experience. I usually get a nice note from my clients and they often agree to allow me to use it as a website testimonial. So I was thrilled when a few hours later, Vicki sent me two pages of writing from her experience. It really made my day, in fact my week, to hear what a positive experience making the video was for her and her family. You tell me what you think.

When the leadership at American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev approached our family in 2013 about honoring the three generations at our newspaper, the Jewish Herald-Voice, we were overwhelmingly flattered.

At the same time, we were relieved that a tribute video to our family would not be created. After all, we quietly get the paper out each week, and work overtime to create five annual magazines. However, something changed in AABGU’s planning process, and we were notified that we had to do a video for the gala dinner.

Grumbling under our breaths, we thought, “Really?!” After all, we’ve all seen tribute videos at fundraising dinners. They are lovely and everyone looks so polished. How could we meet those standards? Furthermore, with our weekly and multiple deadlines, we rarely have a chance to clean up the place. And, the best place to capture our essence is in our office.

We also wrestled with finding the time to think about what we would say. Ultimately, out of the five in our family being honored, four acquiesced to being interviewed. So, Stefani Twyford, working with AABGU’s Deborah Bergeron, and with our input, put together an outline of how the interviews would go.

I think Stefani Twyford had a monumental task – probably greater than any of her other projects. Not only did her crew have to schlep up (and down) a flight of stairs, but they had to set up their lighting and equipment, not two times, not three, but six times! So, one weekend, we cleared our desks, dusted, and straightened our collars.

I was the first to go under the lights. While I wasn’t nervous, I suddenly was at a loss for words for what this great honor meant to me and how important AABGU, especially its Cyber-Security Institute, was to the State of Israel, the Houston Jewish community, and really the world. The crew was so patient and laughed with me when I struggled for words. I couldn’t imagine that anything I said would be usable in the video.

After my debut, the crew moved to my mother’s office, then my nephew’s and my son’s, then to the conference room, where they filmed Deborah Bergeron and two leaders of AABGU. The crew had to adjust lighting and sound for each one.

The five hours of filming was remarkably distilled and expertly edited to nine minutes. Not only that, but the office clutter didn’t even show up!

We didn’t get to see the video before it aired at the gala. I understate when I say, Wow! How did they make us look and sound so good? I was so impressed with how Stefani wove the stories of AABGU, Ben-Gurion University and its new Cyber-Security Institute, and the part my parents played in the beginning of AABGU in Houston and how the Jewish Herald-Voice continues to play a vital role in informing the Jewish community about breakthroughs at BGU. (All in 9 minutes!) Rather than feeling embarrassed that we were on the big screen(s), I was drawn into the story that Stefani wove. Isn’t that amazing?

Besides feeling good about the video – Stefani did find something intelligent I said and I appeared in the video three times. We received so many compliments! The one I love the most came from one of our staff members, who has been with us for 13 years. He said, “I was watching the video and I thought to myself, ‘Who are these people? Are these the same people I work for?’ ”
That’s how good it was!
Thanks so much, Stefani, and to your staff. I’ve seen many videos you’ve produced at many dinners. Gotta say: I don’t know how you do it, but this is my favorite one!

– Vicki Samuels Levy, president, Jewish Herald-Voice

If you’d like to view the video, use this YouTube link and hopefully you’ll give it a thumbs up!

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Uncategorized

“The Great Beauty” And The Small Moments In Our Own Lives

Posted on January 14th, 2014

The Great Beauty

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of watching La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), an epic Italian film in the style of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, but with more cinematic greatness achieved by the advances in technology since the 1960s as well as a more existential examination of life. It was truly captivating and I am planning on a second viewing next week as the MFAH is bringing it back for an encore. Since I saw it, it has won a Golden Globe for the Best Foreign Language Film, something it truly deserves.

There are lots of scenes of Jep, the protagonist, sitting and staring out at his view of the Coliseum from the patio, smoking a cigarette in his apartment, or talking with his housekeeper. He has a life of leisure comprised of wild parties and social events, punctuated by moments of intense introspection and reflection on his life, what has happened, and what it all means.

Because these moments were part of a gloriously beautiful film, the scenery and lighting were not something I could relate to in the day-to-day playback of my own life. But I have often commented on the small moments of boredom and repetition we all experience. Those moments strung between the peaks and valleys we remember as memoir. We don’t think about taking our dog for a walk or volunteering at the food bank, while we do remember our vacations or the first time we saw our grandchild. These peaks and valleys tend to have emotional poignancy that authenticates the experience of our lives, while the small moments are the times for maintenance and reflection. Without them, I think we would live in a constant state of overwhelm.

Jep has nothing else to do but contemplate these moments, he doesn’t have to manage the industry of his own life. Even though Jep doesn’t have to contend with laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills and updating his Facebook profile, I was affected by the eloquence of the small moments of his life and wondered whether he had ceased to see the their magnificence. For the rest of us, we are consumed with these tasks.

I remind the people I work with about these moments and that they often make a good place to mine for memoir. What is it like to have dinner with your family? What is it like to walk through your house late at night, when the rooms are deserted? Or sit out on your patio, having a glass of wine and enjoying your own view? I think that as we become accustomed to a certain quality of life and it’s repetition, these moments becomes ordinary and our ability to see “The Great Beauty” dulls. I think it’s important to be aware of this and recognize there is great beauty in our lives and the generations that follow will want to know about these moment and how we see them.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Family Memories, Personal History