Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yes, Virginia! There is a Tajik Postal System

I've been lamenting the fact that a trial run LLBean order wasn't successful. The order shipped December 9 and, according to their website, it would get here between 2-4 weeks. I held out hope that the girls' bunny and lamb slippers would arrive in time to make it under the tree for Christmas. Hope springs eternal, as they say.

Nearly 10 weeks after the order shipped, I had to face the brutal truth - that the order wasn't going to make its way to me. The Freeport-Dushanbe pilot test failed. I got onto Bean's Live Chat (which is brilliant if you live overseas) and shared the sad story with the kind customer service rep. Everyone agreed that ten weeks was way too long and we concluded that the package was MIA and that some customs agent was wearing my cute flannel PJ bottoms with the matching green fleece and bunny slippers. Order was cancelled. Credit card credited.

And then, the very next day this arrived.

The Sturgeon Bay-Dushanbe magazine express however, was successful!

Inside are my secret indulgences. Well, not so secret maybe. But definitely a treat when living in these parts.

I ordered several annual magazine subscriptions last October and had them sent to my sister's house and she graciously offered to ship them to me once per month using this USPS flat rate service. Like the LLBean order, this was a risk. Hey, what can I say? I'm a risk taker that way.

It only took five short weeks for these to make it to me.

And now I can read about this.

And this.

And this, too.

And this, because we can always search for ways to make life simple, even though we know that it never will be!

While still riding the high of the successful magazine subscription test, this happened.

My husband came home from work. He'd been on a business trip over night, which explained the suitcase. But what's that in his other hand?

What's that familiar pine green writing?

Our LLBean package after 10.5 weeks had arrived!

My fleece.

Paul's fleece.

But most importantly, these!

Never mind it was well below freezing a few weeks ago and it's now 48 degrees at 7.15 in the morning.

I got back on LLBean's Live Chat and let them know that the packaged arrived, but that we sort of missed winter and that the chances that the bunny slippers are going to fit this time next year were a bit slim.

And, true to their word, they credited the shipping and the cost of the bunny slippers. Well done, LLBean.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Multi-grain Hot Cereal from Scratch

It's getting warmer now. I think we've turned the corner from winter into spring. So if I don't post this now, I will forever hold my peace and never get to share how I made my own multi-grain hot cereal that got me through winter.

Frankly, if I were in the U.S. I'd go out and buy me some Bob's Mill 10-grain Hot Cereal. But since that's not going to happen, I decided to gather up the grains I already had in the house and make my own.

Cornmeal, 1 cup.

Oatmeal, 1 cup.

Bulgar, 1 cup.

Millet, 1/2 cup.

Flax seeds, 1/2 cup.

I ground each grain separately in a coffee grinder and then mixed them together until I got this, Julie's five-grain hot cereal!

It's very simple to make. For one serving, put 1/4 cup of the mix into a pan.

then add 1 cup of water.

Put the mixture on high heat and let it come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it sit for about five minutes or so until all the water is absorbed. The mixture will now be porridge-like.

From here you can go many directions. You can add in some pumpkin puree and cinnamon.

Or, as in this case, add some chopped nuts and craisins.

Or with 1/2 cup of frozen fresh raspberries, as I am doing right now.

Which ever way you take it, it'll not only fuel you through your morning routine, but boost your fiber intake for the day.

Yum. So so good. And good for you, to boot!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Suzani and Our 'Hood

Last weekend, on a cold and snowy day, my oldest daughter and I ventured outside to a friends' house, three blocks away. Armed with snow boots, scarves and my camera, we headed to A's house where a treasure trove awaited us.

We walked down our street.

At the first intersection sits this house. I've always found it suspicious. It's not a nice, new house, of which there are many in your neighborhood. But yet it's heavily fortified with barbed wire and has a questionable amount of communication gear sprouting out of the roof. And sometimes I see UN cars parked there.... just sayin'.

This is looking back on our street.

Our neighborhood is a mix of old and new. Old houses that have seen better days.

And newer ones.

And hideous I-wanna-be-Cinderella's-castle ones.

We turned the corner for the last two blocks to A's house.

We walked until we saw the telltale sign indicating that we were at the right house. The big nest-like good luck sign. No, it's not a bee hive. It's some sort of dried plant...or herb....or, um, something... But no matter, because it's good luck. Sort of like an upside down horse shoe.

Once inside the door, we walked into the traditional central court yard.

Once through the front door, our shopping trip was about to begin.

My friend A had arranged for a local seller of suzani to bring a large collection of suzani and other Tajik treasures to her home. Suzan means needle in Tajik and suzani are the traditionally embroidered quilts of Central Asia.

I took a suzani embroidery class for about two months -- before I dropped out -- and let me tell you, it takes patience, skill and a strong back.

Traditionally a design was hand drawn on a large piece of cloth and then cut into several long strips, which were then divided amongst several women in the house. Each woman would complete her section and then all sections were stitched together. This resulted in some wonky bits that make truly make these so endearing.

These two pieces align quite well.

And here, you can see the seam.

Suzani were all the rage a few years ago in the U.S. Lots of recovered chairs and ottomans. More chairs. And hung in various parts of the home. But here, in this part of the world, they've always graced walls, filled young women's hope chests and represented family as they are passed down from generation to generation.

So a dozen or so of us gathered at the ever-so-gracious A's house on a Saturday morning to sift through Tajik treasures, and drink her REAL coffee and eat her baked goods. Did I say she was gracious??

Here's a sampling of what was offered.

And here's what I came home with. Surprisingly, only one suzani. I was told by the seller that its meant to cover a stack of korpucha, which are futon-like mats that cover the floor or a topchan. But it reminds me a prayer rug, with its arrow-like motif on only one side. I'll have to investigate further....

This large cross stitched piece. Not sure where it was used, but I have the sister piece, so should I ever get around to it, I'd like to get both framed.

And these two men's coats. I love them! I have NO idea what I'll do with them, but I love their colors. They remind me of grosgrain ribbons. They make a fine winter robe, I'll tell you.

We paid for our goods, which were nicely packaged.

Gave our thanks and headed home. As we turned headed out the door, guess what came out of A's neighbor's door?

This gorgeous creature.

A buzkashi horse. Buzkashi is the ancient horsemen's game known as "goat catching". And its still played in Tajikistan seasonally. And Buzkashi season is getting underway. Separate posts on that are required.

Tajikistan; a mix of old and new.