Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Harmony Homestead Dispatch #4

Lavender and nasturtiums for sale at the Sunday farmers' market in Dorset.

Shots from the garden: the polebeans I planted my second day here (much taller since I took this pic); tomatoes; rhubarb (Gail makes the most amazing rhubarb peach crisp—I'm going to blog the recipe!); zucchini (hoping to make fritters out of the flowers, I'll let you know how that goes).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harmony Homestead Dispatch #3

The sunset edition! Took this one on the ride home from swimming on the Poultney River last week.

And these were taken tonight:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eastern Europe retroblog: Brčko, part 2

(Brčko, part 1.)

Saturday 23 June 2007
Had a wonderful tour of not one but two mosques, both of which are new buildings. The original ones were destroyed in the war; a sheikh, a very nice man, showed us around, with Mujke
[MOY-kuh] translating. I enjoy hearing the call to prayer, and not just because it sounds exotic. It’s also simply a beautiful sound—even if it is often a recording. Counterpart to church bells, almost.

Coffee with Briony and Mujke afterwards, and then we finally got around to visiting the outdoor fruit and veggie market (also with B.) So glad we made it—dinner is going to be yummy tonight. Can’t remember ever seeing such fresh and robust heads of garlic.

Briony is from England, and was conducting part of her doctoral research in Brcko in the summer of '07. I was hoping to see her while I was in London, but unfortunately our schedules weren't going to jive. Next time!

16 June 2007
Our apartment here has a very lived-in feel, down to the eyeglasses and balled-up socks on the curio shelves, the rotten apple on the kitchen windowsill (Kate threw it out the window and busted out laughing—there’s a wild apple tree in the courtyard outside, she wouldn’t have gotten away with it otherwise. You can hear the occasional thump as an apple falls to the pavement), the cobwebs dangling from the eaves on the balcony (no view, but we hung up our laundry out there, and some coal-black cobwebs clung to our skivvies. Yuck), cologne bottles and half a dozen toothbrushes in the bathroom.

The owner later paid us an unexpected visit at 6:30 in the morning, for no apparent reason.

Kate in the courtyard.

Next and final post: back to Budapest!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Harmony Homestead Dispatch #2

As promised: puppypalooza! (I neglected to mention that they are Vizslas.) Most of them are going home with their new families tomorrow. It's going to be awfully quiet around here.

Grace (she's the pup Gail and Paul are keeping) and Lilypads (so named for her extra digits) have a tussle in the puppy pen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Harmony Homestead Dispatch #1

My new favorite spot for reading and writing.

The last week and a half has felt like an age in the very best way; I hardly recognize myself. I am sunburned, bruised, covered in midge bites, I haven't bathed since Thursday—and I couldn't be happier.

Planting bush beans.

Gail and Paul are two of the very kindest, most authentic people I have ever met. They treat me like one of the family, and I already feel like I've known them for years. (I'll get a good picture of them and post it next time.)

A fragment of china, found in the garden, that may have belonged to the very first homesteaders here—a hundred and fifty years ago, Paul guesses. (It might be early 20th century, but it's so much more romantic to imagine it's that much older.)

I play with nine puppies every day. This is Bean. (All but one of the nine are spoken for, and they'll be going to their new homes this weekend. One of the new owners rechristened their puppy 'Uncle Peter,' which I found hilariously inappropriate.)

I had a feeling it would be this way, but I can now say for certain that manual labor has an amazing effect on one's creativity. I've gotten so many great ideas while gardening or doing dishes; I haven't been at the computer much, and yet I've been worlds more productive than I ever was at the library. I've made space in my head, and a lot of really good things are showing up.

I have so much more to say about Gail and Paul and all their interesting friends, but it's getting late and I want to post this. More puppy photos in dispatch #2!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eastern Europe retroblog: Brčko, part 1

Toward the end of our Eastern European adventure Kate and I arranged to volunteer at a children's summer camp in a Bosnian town called Brčko (pronounced 'Birch-ko'— and if it's not then we were saying it wrong the whole time). There would be children of all religions and ethnicities here, and the idea is to foster friendship and cooperation between them. It was a very positive experience overall—thanks to our lovely volunteer coordinators Dina and Sanjin, other new friends Briony and Mujke, and a bunch of really sweet kids—but as with every other volunteer experience I've had, there were definitely aspects I found ineffective or at least inefficient.

Monday, 18th June 2007
Thoroughly frustrated…yesterday we passed three boys rooting through the dumpsters at the far end of our block, and of course one of them approached us and asked for money. THOSE are the kids who need help, but as Dina pointed out, the Roma don’t want or think they need any help. They don’t
want a better life for their families, and that is totally incomprehensible to me.

We were there less than two weeks, but we quickly settled into a routine of workshops and coffee afterwards at Dina and Sanjin's favorite cafe, Jazzwa.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007
The workshop this morning was quieter but still a success—we did the ‘pass it on’ story exercise and illustrated a few of the stories afterwards, and of course most of the kids got plenty of laughs when they were read out. We started with 'Once upon a time a brother and sister left home with their pet goat in search of adventure,' and though the goat dropped out of pretty much all the stories (never featured in Dina’s quick translations, anyway), there were still a few gems. ‘The boy squeezed the bird and mayonnaise came out’; ‘they ate five kilograms of chocolate and had diarrhea.’ Lots of farting too, naturally. Our favorite illustration was a marsupial dragon—a ‘dragaroo.’

At three we were treated to a tour of the town library, which is housed in a crumbling but wonderful imperialist Hungarian building dating to 1892.

Two views of the library:

There's so much to say about Brčko that I should split it into two posts. Next time: fresh (and not so fresh) produce, other people's toothbrushes, and an unexpected early-morning visitor.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I ♥ Angela Carter, part 2

(I ♥ Angela Carter, part 1.)

At midnight, especially on Walpurgisnacht, the Devil holds picnics in the graveyards and invites the witches; then they dig up fresh corpses, and eat them. Anyone will tell you that.

(from 'The Werewolf')

This is the most beautiful book I own.

It's the first U.S. edition of The Bloody Chamber (published in 1977), a collection of deliciously creepy retellings of classic fairy tales and legends like Bluebeard's Chamber, the Erlking, and Beauty and the Beast. The heroines of these stories are brave and sensuous and morbid; the collection's usually pegged as 'feminist fairy tales' but they're so much more fun than that label lets on.

One of my favorite stories is 'The Lady of the House of Love'; as you read it you can totally imagine yourself as the 'beautiful queen of the vampires', alone in the gloom of her ruined chateau:
Closely barred shutters and heavy velvet curtains keep out every leak of natural light. There is a round table on a single leg covered with a red plush cloth on which she lays out her inevitable tarot; this room is never more than faintly illuminated by a heavily shaded lamp on the mantelpiece and the dark-red figured wallpaper is obscurely, distressingly patterned by the rain that drives in through the neglected roof and leaves behind it random areas of staining, ominous marks like those left on the sheets by dead lovers. Depredations of rot and fungus everywhere. The unlit chandelier is so heavy with dust the individual prisms no longer show any shapes; industrious spiders have woven canopies in the corners of this ornate and rotting place, have trapped the porcelain vases on the mantelpiece in soft gray nets. But the mistress of all this disintegration notices nothing...
The prose throughout is beautiful and evocative and pleasantly disturbing. There's an awful lot of romanticization of death in popular culture these days—(enough already with all these cheesy vampire sagas!)—and while the stories in The Bloody Chamber are often preoccupied with sex, death, and decay, this is not at all the indulgence of some teenybopper goth fantasy. Her beauty is a symptom of her disorder, of her soullessness.

Like I said, I am rationing the oeuvre of Angela Carter, although I suspect I have already read her best novel—Wise Children, her last, published in 1991. If you've never read her, The Bloody Chamber might be a good place to start.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another Adventure

My nifty new galoshes.

Today I'm off to Vermont to volunteer on an organic farm near Manchester! I'll be up there 'til the end of July. There's WiFi, so hopefully I'll be blogging lots of pictures of puppies and goats and vegetable patches and such.

Aaaaaand that's about all I got. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eastern Europe retroblog: Mostar & Sarajevo

An Islamic graveyard in Mostar. Spooktastic.

We arrived in Mostar pretty late—it's a pleasant town best known for its historic bridge (which crazy locals occasionally like to jump off of), but we were pretty much only there to break the journey to Sarajevo. We chose a restaurant in the old town where the waiter spoke Italian, and I managed to communicate that Kate and I wanted only vegetables on our plates.

The next day we took the train to Sarajevo. Way too many pigeons, strong Turkish coffee for breakfast and delicious spiral-shaped spinach pastries and juniper juice for dinner, shops full of beautiful shawls and metalwork.

(Below: the main drag of the old town, the Baščaršija, which dates to the 16th century; a fountain in the courtyard of a mosque.)

I don't know what this building is—or used to be—but it's a real shame to let such an amazing piece of architecture fall into disuse and disrepair.

Three goofballs at the Sarajevo Brewery. Elliot sampled the local dark lager, Kate got baklava and I had a campari and orange. This was before I became a (very occasional) beer drinker. I think this was Elliot's last night—he took a train back to Budapest to go home, and Kate and I went on to the volunteering part of the trip.

Inside the Orthodox Cathedral.

Next: Brčko, Bosnia, where Kate and I volunteered at a children's summer camp.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sundress #2

(Sundress #1.)

So, I promised myself I wouldn't buy more fabric until I'd used some of what I've got.

And then, naturally, I bought more fabric.

I'm still planning to make the basic dress out of Cal Patch's book, but I've got to draft the pieces first, and I wanted a second sundress now. I first found this fabric (the line is Santorini by Lila Tueller) while I was in London, but it was mad-crazy expensive (something like £11.50 per meter, which is roughly $15 per yard, when the fabric retails here for $8.95), and I wound up getting it on sale from My Needle & Thread (another Etsy shop). With the bold outlines around each leaf and flower, the fabric reminds me of a stained glass window.

(Park photos by John the Bad.)

Sundress #2 took longer than #1 even though I skipped the pockets again. I realized midway through that my machine really needed a tune-up, so I packed it up and took it to the local Sew 'n Vac; I was holed up at Rachel's (she is a lifesaver, let me tell you) working on the new magnum opus; and then with my grandpa's funeral and family time and all.

(Kind of a goofy photo of me, but a better shot of the dress. Also, from looking at this one I think I need to adjust the right strap. My right, that is.)

This dress has already been very much splashed on and stained with SPF 70 sunscreen.

The only change between #1 and #2 is the length of the bodice—this time I did a few more rounds (38 instead of 35).

Now I'm ready to try something more challenging! I'm going to make a dress to wear at my launch party in October—fingers crossed it works out...

(She stuck a crochet hook in a ball of yarn and called it a yarnipop.)

[Edit 6/21: Kate asked for a close-up of the bodice. I was concerned that the larger print would look odd under the shirring, but I think it looks totally fine.]