Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gorgeous Primps Herself

 This is a copy of a gorgeous painting by Gustave Moreau via the extremely interesting and informative blog by a woman named BWS. The blog,  It's About Time has every post filled with luscious pictures, lots of details and well researched information on America, Art, Painting, Women. To describe her writings, BWS says in her profile that there is 'a little museum in each blog -- no travel necessary'. I loved the sound of it and it can not be more accurate.
I spent an enormous amount of time on the American colonial posts but as is often the case became enraptured with the Orientalist paintings under the title 'Turquerie'. Et voila.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Makilam and the Kabyle Women of Algeria

In the last few weeks it's been hard to keep up with the continuous news of yet another revolution coming out of North Africa . This afternoon it  has me thinking about a fascinating woman and friend, Malika Grasshoff .  I met Mme.G in Bosnia  just about this time last year at a conference for women where we worked on a particular project together for three days.

This woman. She has chutzpah. She is theatrical. She says what she means. I loved her instantly.

I saw in her my many sisters, mothers, grandmothers - the grand dames of the continent that exemplify what I consider my lineage - righteous and elegant women. Women who are by their very nature 'feminists'. Simple and profound.

Not cute, mind you. Nor subservient or mysteriously feminine or in any way caving in to the patriarchal dictum. Knowledgeable. Deliberate. Also charming. Full of power without ever resorting to man-erisms.

I could go on and on about her- but the reason I am posting is to link to her site, draw attention to her art, which is her work - this splendid story telling of an ancient female culture that obviously  lives and breathes through the story teller. I don't know if what is going on in Algeria and North Africa affects the Kabyles, the Berbers - I would imagine that it does and as such, hers is an interesting history to know.

We met at the conference.  Her decision to help me with some scheduling complications took us on a madcap trip to Sarajevo for a meet up with a VIP acquaintance of hers who would supposedly help us break through the famous Balkan bureaucracy. That particular angle did not work, unfortunately. But I had so much fun running the Bascarsija with her, it almost didn't matter!

 As a cultured and wise woman who's life work and books are dedicated to the ancient Kabyle culture of  the North African continent, I imagine she would have a lot to say about these current events in North Africa. If and when I hear from her again I will report.

Here is more information on Malika from her website: 

"Makilam is a Kabyle, a historian and a PhD. She was raised in a village of the Djurdjura, (a region of northern Algeria) until she was seventeen, and has since lived in Europe. She has always remained very close to her roots, and her testimony, interspersed with personal experiences, sheds completely new light on the rituals and myths of this vanishing society."

For information about her work at the 2nd World Congress on Matriarchal Studies on the Societies of Peace  web site you will find her presenting her research via podcast in 'The Four Seasons of Life of a Kabyle Woman'.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Food Communion at expat+Harem

My guest post featured today at the  expat+HAREM website. My heartfelt thank you to Anastasia Ashman for giving me the space and time to explore my thoughts and share them with an audience that I both relate to and admire.


Friday, February 11, 2011

A Bosnian Table

Bosnian Coffee
It's always so delightfully satisfying to experience Bosnian hospitality! On my recent visit to a home bound friend who is originally from Bosnia, I was treated, as always, like a very important person the second I took off my shoes and walked through the door.

The coffee was put on the table in minutes and the small plates with heaps of meat, cheese, and a ridiculous choice of beverages soon followed.

Bosnians love their mid morning or afternoon snacks or meze and are very fond of indulging guests with food, drink and song or story telling.
An important prerequisite is definitely home made suho meso, beef that is slowly smoked and cured and a standard in most homes especially in the fall and winter season. This arrived first.

While I sipped some strong coffee and enjoyed some fragrant sliced meat, the  smell of  frying wafted out of the kitchen and soon enough, gorgeous lepinje appeared, hot and greasy from the cooking oil.


My visit would not be complete without some sort of sweet, either. A little bit ill from too much meat and starch already ingested I was never the less hoping for something I hardly ever make at home like Baklava, which is, I think, the most well known of the Bosnian delicacies.

Fatima brought out Hurmasice instead, a recipe I know well because my grandmother passed hers on to me. She made hers with butter, but most of the women I know make it with vegetable oil.

 Here is the standard recipe:
4 small cups each of flour, oil, sugar,
4 eggs
1 packet of baking powder
Mix together till dough like paste forms and shape into appx 4 inch ovals
Bake at 375 till golden brown

4 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 lemon
4 cloves
Bring to a boil
cool for 10 minutes and pour over warm hurmasice

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How the Italians Do It

 Spuntino. Roughly translated it means 'snack' in Italian. Little bit of something to satisfy a desire, not necessarily hunger. A plate of this or that with a short glass of wine, a casual conversation with friends over a small white cup of espresso ....

It was fairly quiet this afternoon,  the rush of the lunch crowd already gone when the Arizona beauty and I came for a quick peek at the new Italian breakfast/lunch spot on the ever hip 32nd Ave in NW Denver.

Decor is simple, the colors are soothing and because we have momentarily entered Italy and not Starfucks, I am overjoyed when I see that Mr. Parisi carries real ceramic cups with which a person can enjoy a single, short,  Italian espresso.

The gorgeous corner windows are the same as before, good for daydreaming and getting a 'through the glass' suntan on a freezing bright winter day.

We split a lovely Piadina sandwich
with prosciutto, stracchino and the ubiquitous arugula.

From there, we just jumped right off the wagon and delved into the gelato.
 The show case was all pretty colors; light greens and delicate pinks, dark chocolate and intense purple berry, pretty little containers of semi freddo desert, mounds of airless gelato.

                   Popsicles with weird but cool combinations like Cerlery and Lime

                                                  and Blackberry Basil.
                                                 Not to mention Nutella.

Compliments of the house we were the first to sample the Strawberry/Fior di Sicilia combination which was delightful with a hint of Rose and fresh burst of summer red. What a great little place to visit. Often.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ritual of the Familiar

A lot of my things are in boxes. My books. My pictures. I believe we are experiencing what is fashionably called the 'in transition' stage.

It was not so long ago that the words 'in transition' made me giddy with the hope of new adventure. New friends, possibly a foreign country, a wild affair, fodder for 'the' novel. Sometime in the last while 'in transition' began to mean a form of menial labor: packing, repacking and then the searching for packed items lost. As months rolled by, the translation of in transition is not so much the promise of adventure, but mostly the discomfort of uncertainty. The other side of the coin.

Curious. Everything out of place and yet exactly where I put the boxes.

I think that I will get to the point where the boxes could blow up or blow away for all I'd seems as though things cease to have meaning without the ritual of involvement.

Now I remember the smell of beloved books, the feel of crushed silk pillows, the sight of loved ones in frames- the lines and creases of their eyes so familiar. I walk by the empty spaces where my altars of love and devotion (not always to Mary; sometimes to long ago abandoned lovers, mostly to the pictures of children and outings to the seashore or a remnant of some old country) used to perch or lean.... and I feel a longing. Maybe for the ritual. The familiar.

The Art of Communication

The art of conversation and communicating with friends and family is something that invigorates and often inspires. Talking together, sharing stories and experiences with other human beings around a table gives me a chance to open up my heart and mind to others' points of view, beliefs and customs.

Are there daily opportunities that you take to create a space for 'table talk'?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Women living the Global Life

I just spent a good piece of the late morning on a very cool website that I go to often. I start reading the expat + HAREM website totally intrigued and by the time I know it I am browsing amazing blogs written by the women that are featured there.

Anastasia Ashman, who is the creator, writes that her site is 'a neocultural hub for global citizens'. I will read a few of posts on the site, armchair travel through some personal blogs and pronto! I am swept away to different worlds.

The posts are populated with women from all walks of life, with 'hybrid identities' and as they relay their stories, communicating their love and at times, frustration with assimilation, expression and setbacks of living life in a country other than their own, I get a glimpse of something very personal and real.

Having traveled and lived abroad (meaning non USA) much of my life, I never really felt I belonged to any country with whole heart and soul. It is possible that is why I find the stories at expat intriguing, familiar and admittedly, I often succumb to a questionable form of travel envy!

I love that expat +HAREM is inventing new spaces to tap into for those of us that crave to be or who live in cultures that are different than our own.  The editors create interest by exploring the voices of the women who are building businesses, raising children and adapting to work conditions abroad. Everything on the site is easily accessible and engaging.  Anastasia writes about women finding a personal 'global niche', appropriate to the fast changing, social media infused lives we live now.

Next time you are in the mood to see what it is like to live and work in an 'exotic' country where 'challenging situations' are sometimes a matter of everyday life, check out the lives of 'global hybrids' and 'culturati' here.

Saturday Love

Saturday morning sounds in America: dogs barking, cartoons in back round, keyboard tapping, upstairs the vacuum cleaner churning. I am in the kitchen in between clearing out the fridge and making up recipes with vegetables that need to be cooked before they spoil and at the same time configuring the outline for the next project at work.. The kids observe me to see if there is a chance of a 'real' breakfast or if they should just pinch some donuts from the counter - stale but with gooey icing that could satisfy a craving.

Breakfast? Yes, I can make it up in a few minutes and it will take me away from doing the 'other' work.

As I begin to put things together I am thinking how much I love to cook for my family and how satisfying it is to create love in the kitchen. Words are not always needed to communicate - the intent is in the end result.

                                                                            I bring this... 
Uova al Prociutto Crudo

to them for today- they get to eat downstairs (eating while lounging) instead of having them come to the kitchen table.

My son makes a big smile and shakes his head. 'What?' I ask immodestly , 'are you smiling because I'm such a wonderful mom'? And he nods 'yes' and smiles again.

Well, I wonder, where should you get this kind of adoration when you are a child, if not from the hands of the ones that care for you. From those who are supposed to give you the roots and the  wings to become that what you must become?
Making and cooking food can seem insignificant to some - but for me it is a cornerstone of teaching what I have learned in life: passion, kindness, patience (ha!), aesthetics, design, communication, adventure and so much more...

Saturdays are for dreaming and moving along the path. One way I connect with and teach my children is to take the time to love them up in my kitchen.

Are there ways you express your appreciation for friends and family without words? Share some of your ideas here at SMondo...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ponte Vecchio Snow

Playing with Light

To me this looks like a scene from a ancient Roman dinner

but it also has something very mystical almost spiritual about it, I see the 'flames' hovering on top of the head and the various shades and spirits all around the bodies

In reality, I suppose it is just a set of two pictures taken in the mirror of a cavernous space but I like this playing with possibilities of different planes exisiting simultaneously around us. How about you? Do you ever 'see' things in pictures or paintings that are not obvious at first?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cup of the Week

Who is that boy?

Mixing up Religion, Sex & Art in Beirut

I discovered a post written by Isabelle Mayault  for  Mashallah News  about artist Chaza Charafaddine.

I think I am in love!

The female artist says “I was educated by nuns and lived in Europe. This is probably why, for me, it’s natural to mix everything.” words that really struck a chord in me.

Not that I was raised by nuns or even had a strict Catholic upbringing, (well, baka did always try to scare me with those demons pictured in the stained glass windows at the Kolster Kapelle  in Benedikbeuren ), but certainly the exposure to and then the repulsion of Catholicism ends up having a twisted effect on most, your truly  included.

Back to Miss Chaza, who lives in Beirut, this particular body of art, which was shown in Dubai recently, mixes La Divina Comedia , Persian miniatures and portraits of beauty particular to transsexuals/1940's movie stars.

The mix of historical icons, the mosaic and riot of color and myth stirs me.

How does the effect of artists mixing religious and sexual, historical fact and fiction/mythology move you to view the world differently?