Friday, April 30, 2010

A Hippo for Maddie

After completing the mobile for my nephew, Alexander decided we should make something for his two-year old niece, Maddie. He suggested a hippo and decided that it was also time for me to move onto something more challenging and make a three dimensional hippo. Yikes! Luckily he took it upon himself to make a pattern and quite the pattern maker he turned out to be.

He picked out some shweshwe fabric and I set out to cutting the pieces. It was going to be a challenge, but luckily we were still at home so my mom could help out if we got stuck. We decided to embroider some details onto the hippo- eyes, nose and a little fish, with the machine. I quickly figured out I had no idea how to go about doing this.

Good thing my grandmother lives crawling distance from my parents. We went over for tea one morning and asked her if she would do the embroidery for us. She was pretty excited to be included in our project and immediately grabbed her box of supplies and helped us pick out some colors and discussed the design details.

Later that afternoon she came over to drop them off. The embroidery looked super and it was time for the hippo to be assembled. It was a bit of a headache and I though we would not be able to finish it in time, but my mother helped us a bit with the sewing, stuffing and stitching the hippo shut.

For a first attempt at making a 3D toy I think we did really good. The hippo looks very South African and the embroidery detail add a sweet unique touch. She's a bit heavy around the head and tends to fall on her chin sometimes, but overall she's a sturdy hippo.

And did Maddie like her hippo? When Alexander showed it to her and asked her what it was she answered, 'It is mine!'

* Thanks Alexander for the pictures.
** I just ordered a new sewing machine and can't wait for it to arrive so I can start on some Lotta Jansdotter projects- I just picked up her book, Simple Sewing and it has some very fun and inspirational projects.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Breakfast pastry with farm fresh produce

Our Saturday in San Francisco was spent at the Ferry Building's weekly farmer's market, an event that sees the building and space around it filled with locals and tourists alike standing in lines for delicious meals and to pick up fresh and organic produce.

We decided to stock up on some goodness and make breakfast for the family Sunday morning. I was inspired by a recipe for a breakfast pastry in February/March issue of ReadyMade magazine which suggest arranging some ingredients on puff pastry, putting it into the oven and topping the finished product with a fried egg. It seemed simple and a great idea for breakfast.

From the market we got (clockwise in the picture above from top left)- pancetta and a fennel and orange salami from Boccalone Sulameria, a bundle of fresh herbs, free-range eggs, asparagus, two kinds of heirloom tomatoes (how have I not had this before?) and Dutch shallots. Everything was either organic or free-range or both and everything looked and tasted just magnificent.
I could not find puff pastry as the recipe suggested, so instead I picked up some phyllo pastry from the friendly grocer across the street from our apartment and left it overnight in the fridge to thaw.

Sunday morning I started out by cutting and slicing up all the ingredients, neatly arranging them on the cutting board before starting work on the pastry. I've never worked with any form of pastry before so I was rather nervous. What I did to the phyllo was probably somewhat wrong but it worked fine. I folded the sheets in half, brushing each layer with a little melted butter. I forget how many sheets I used, it wasn't too many. The last one I brushed with some beaten egg and then arrange the rest of the ingredients, except for the eggs, on top with the help of Alexander.

While the pastry was baking in the oven (preheated to 375F and baked for about 12 minutes or so) we cooked the eggs. When the pastry was nicely browned and the toppings were just nicely cooked we removed it from the oven, topped them with egg and served. Simple and fantastic.

* The images were sketched by Alexander. He's on a drawing and painting mission and I might do some more entries with his work. Fun!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Take me back to your house- my parent's garden

In between our jaunt to Asia and our current stay in the US we spent a couple of weeks visiting my parents in Hoedspruit, South Africa. Visits home are usually rushed and chaotic and ends up with me being frustrated, but this time we took it easy and stayed for 3 weeks. It's the longest I've been home in years and it was very well worth it. I may have mentioned in previous entries how our time was spent on creative pursuits like sewing (me) and sketching and painting (Alexander) as well as cooking for my family.

While we were there Alexander took a lot of pictures of the garden. As long as I can remember gardens were always big with my family. Both my parents grew up in homes where gardening was a popular hobby and it is something that they both actively pursue. I believe that starting our day having breakfast on the 'stoep' with our view of lush garden (thanks to some very late rains) contributed to our time there being a very memorable one.

The 'stoep', pictured above, is spacious with some trophy antlers from my grandfather, dad and brother and other bits hanging around. Our house is very popular with toads who try to nest inside, much to my mother's frustration (they attract snakes and messes a bit) but we befriended them. This one hung out on Alexander's leg for a bit.

My parents have several aloe species growing just beyond the garden as part of their nursery, they supply indigenous plants to gardens and businesses in the area. We also have a variety of avo trees growing around the garden, sadly they none were ripe for the picking while we were still there. The dam is a couple of steps from the home with nice views of the hills beyond. It's home to some colorful fish.

A quiet spot in the overgrown garden. I have no idea what most of the plants in the garden are, but I really like the dark purplish ones in the bottom left frame.

I don't think I'll ever live in a house with a garden as spacious as theirs, but I do hope that we have the chance to live somewhere someday to carry on their love of gardening.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spending time in California

Apologies for being a lame blogger. I got reprimanded by a fellow blogger the other day so I will try-try-try to be more active here.

We're currently on a family holiday in northern California. Having a most fantastic time and feeling quite at home in this part of the US. If I had a dollar for every time Alexander mentions something along the lines of 'so we should totally move back to this part' I'd be able to afford a pair of Tom Ford sunglasses by now. I do agree with him though. I enjoyed Chicago and New York seems like fun, but there is something about the West that just clicks with me.

We spent some time in Napa, visiting wine farms, enjoying the scenery and we got to meet the above mentioned blogger, delightful Erin of Endive Chronicles and her husband Phil. And of course we had to stop by an In & Out to satisfy a craving of almost 3 years!

At the moment we're in San Francisco and I am loving it. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the visit, everybody who heard we're coming could not stop ranting about what a great city it is. My skepticism was gone within the first few seconds of arriving here though. It really is a great city. It has everything I like- lovely fresh produce, excellent food scene, great architecture, handsome men, stylish ladies, fun shopping, sweet coffee spots, environmentally conscious... in a word, it is awesome.

Since arriving here we've been doing a lot of eating and wandering around. Some highlights include grabbing superb Vietnamese sandwiches at a grubby spot and then some fabulous baked goods from Tartine and then enjoying them in Golden Gate Park. We had the most amazing dinner at Burma Superstar (if the food there was at what food is like in Burma then book me a ticket pronto!), more great sandwiches at Wexler's downtown and super ice-cream at the Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission.

We're almost getting ready to go again and already I know I am going to miss San Francisco. But we are keeping it open as an option of possible-future-home-city so who knows. And if we decide to move back to LA (which luckily I also love-love-love) then SF is only a couple of hours away. Head over to Alexander's blog soon for some more stories on our foodie adventures here.

*Thanks Alexander for the pictures!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Corrective rape in Zimbabwe

Alexander alerted me to this story on the Huffington Post's website yesterday. It's no secret that homosexual men and women in Zimbabwe are often victims of public harassment and persecution, members of the public are being encouraged to report on homosexuals they know and obviously it doesn't just stop at that. Homophobes, religious zealots, extremists and the like often feel they have the divine right to hand out their own forms of justice on those they do not agree with, just look at what happened in the US with the passing of the new health bill recently.

Now corrective rape is nothing new in the world and most certainly not in Africa. It is very common in South Africa for lesbians especially in black communities to become victims of this form of 'social justice'. And nobody gets spared, last year a member of the South African female soccer team, Eudy Simelane, was repeatedly gang raped, beaten and stabbed. Her dead body was found in a creek in a park outside of Johannesburg. She was openly lesbian and a campaigner for equal rights.

According to the article in the HuffPo the situation in Zimbabwe is getting worse and it affects all homosexuals. Gay men are forced into having sex with women and lesbian women are raped by men, families of the victims are often involved in this corrective process. Homosexual family members also get forced into marriage with people of the opposite sex in an effort to 'heterosexualize' them.

The government is not helping the situation with politicians still speaking out against homosexuals and President Mugabe have recently re-iterated that there will be no provisions made for the rights of homosexuals in the new constitution. According to the article the prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also stated that he 'shares and abhorrance' of homosexuals, although he has also asked for tolerance towards minorities.

Nice try Morgan, sad to think I supported you politically, naively believing you would take the rights and interest of all Zimbabweans to heart. Abhor and tolerate sadly do not go together.

It is sad to think that there are so many people still facing horrible injustices at the hands of their fellow country men with a government that either turns a blind eye or encourages this kind of behavior.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vintage family portraits

While at home just now (did I mention that we arrived in the US a couple days ago?) I spent a lot of time over at my maternal grandmother's house. She's in her eighties and my last grandparent still around. Alexander and I paged through some of her old albums and discovered some fantastic old pictures, mostly of her husband when he was a young man.

She entertained us with some stories of him during the second world war and of her teenage years. I decided to borrow her albums and scan some of the images and also discovered some old family pictures from my dad's side of the family. It was an incredible trip into my genetic heritage and family's past, seeing resemblances and hearing about events that took place long before my time again. It made me kind of sad too, I never got to know any of my other grandparents very well, so I missed out on a lot of their stories.

Here are some images so long. I might post some more as I sort through them.

My paternal grandfather is standing second from the right. I forget what the event was.

And here he is many years later as a young man, I inherited his names- Jean Bordeaux. He also went by Bordeaux, or Oupa Bordeaux for me. He passed away when I was 7 so I never really knew him. But apparently I inherited his preciseness.

His wife, Ouma Tille. I adored her, she instilled in me a love of reading and the piano. Sadly my elementary school piano teacher ruined it for me. I stopped playing as soon as I went to high school.

My maternal grandfather, Oupa Johannes. He was (is it okay if I say this?) an incredibly handsome man and I think he was well aware of it. I thought he did not like me as a kid, but later found out that he told my mom on his deathbed that I was his favorite. My grandmother also told me recently how he basically told her I was going to be gay and he was being very protective of me as a result.

Ouma Isabel. There are sadly not a lot of pictures of her when she was young. She's still alive and very busy, always sewing or gardening, baking and cooking. Her father spent time in a concentration camp during the South African wars, she was born in a simple adobe house and I can spend hours listening to her stories about my family.

Here is one of my father as a kid. Love-love-love the outfit. He was adorable I think and there are several pictures of him dressed up in the cutest little outfits. I suspect my grandmother always yearned for a girl.

And this is my mom as a baby girl. I had the same deep brow as a baby and now my nephew's got it too. You can also see my sister as a baby in this one. A really sweet baby pic of her.

And finally me. I believe this was on the day I was baptized. The dress was the one my paternal grandmother was baptized in as well as my father. We still have it, an incredible heirloom dating back to the 1910's. It is a long dress with lots of lace and mother of pearl buttons. Everything was handstitched. It is exquisite, my nephew will be baptized in it as well.

Another project

While I was home and had some time I sorted through my 'stuff' and discovered some thin boards that were just taking up space. I decided to cover it with bits of fabric I had traveling with us and then using string, fabric and ribbon to crisscross over the boards for keeping notes, pictures and other random light bits of nonsense. Everybody in my family got one and they'd better be using it.

Jean's mobile

To welcome our new nephew into the world Alexander and I decided make a mobile with African animals made from South African shweshwe to hang above his bed. At the time we didn’t know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, so a mobile with neutrally coloured shwshwe seemed a safe idea. We started on the project in December last year, but never got further than drawing the patterns and cutting the fabric.

Moving house and travel wreaked havoc with that plan though and so the cut-out pieces of fabric were mailed to my parents, the project to be finished once we had access to a proper sewing machine and other equipment again.

It ended up being quite a family project. Alexander designed and drew the patterns and gave lots of helpful suggestions. I was responsible for sewing and stuffing the toys and my mom assisted in sewing them shut. My dad had some great ideas for building a stand and did all the sawing and drilling. There were a couple of nervous moments, but in the end it all came together nicely I think.

Have to say I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out. I like that African look and feel of the animals and I think the stand adds to the natural style of his parents’ house. The mobile can also be removed from the stand and travel with them to their temporary home further north where they will be living for the next few months while my brother is their for hunting season, where they can suspend it from the ceiling over his bed. I hope he likes it.

I am tempted to try my hand at more of these and sell them on Etsy, so anybody with a word of advice in that regard, give me a shout.
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