Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

When the days were still short and it was cold outside early this past spring, our son planted tomato seeds in egg cartons and placed them on his windowsill. He tended the plants like children, transplanting them into pots as they outgrew the egg cartons, then reluctantly moving them outside when the time came. Once out of doors the plants required very little human attention, although they got a lot of attention from a certain groundhog.

There was a tense day in June when DH, who doesn't always read labels, decided to spray all the plants for bugs. Not only did DS, an organic gardener, not approve of the use of chemicals on his children, but the spray DH used appeared for a time to have killed the plants. Contrite, he hosed them all down, hoping to save not only the plants but his son's happiness. Fortunately a few survived, and DH sneaked in a few more he bought from the Feed and Seed across the street. Had all the plants lived I don't know what we would have done with all the tomatoes.

For the last few weeks we have been awash in tomatoes. We have orange ones. We have Roma, which always make me think of the gypsies I encountered overseas. And we have the classic red ones that taste great on a ham sandwich. It is a great joy for me to pick them in the gentle September sun and lay them carefully into a doubled Wal-mart bag, which I lug into the kitchen and empty onto the counter. A mixed blessing, however, is figuring out how to use them all. I've given as many away as I could find recipients for. I've made salsa, I've made spaghetti sauce, I've frozen a dozen Ziploc bags full, I've made more salsa, I've made more spaghetti sauce... DH grumbles that there's no room in the freezer for anything important, like ice cream.

I hate to admit this, but I left several dozen to rot on the vine. The groundhog, who early in the summer got thumbs-down for getting fat off the fruits of our son's labor, now gets an indulgent smile when I see him race away with a big orange tomato in his mouth.

Friday, September 11, 2009

World's oldest known fibers found!

Check this out:

The thing I love about this story is not that people have been working with fiber for 34,000 years, it's that even way back then, we dyed them. It wasn't enough that the flax be functional, from the beginnings of time our fibers had to also be pretty. Is that great or what?

I took a particular interest in this discovery because as many of you know, I spent four years in the country of Georgia and have great admiration for the Georgian people, the single most artistic group I have encountered in my travels. Every person you meet in Tbilisi can recite poetry. The flowers in the first picture are from a wall hanging in Georgian theka, or felt. The second picture is of a handmade Georgian rug. These are only two of many examples of the beautiful textile work done there. It's no big surprise to me that the first person to spin flax into thread might well have been a Georgian.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blue and White China

I love blue and white china. Here are a couple of pictures from my dining room, just to prove it. It seems I'm not the only one--I discovered this wonderful painting of a woman with a blue and white china ruff and bonnet at an exhibition at Vascoeuil Castle in Normandy this summer. The image above is a watercolor done by my daughter Isabella (aka DD), using my blue and white Delft teapot for inspiration. She claims to prefer Fiesta Ware for herself, but she's still young.

It's funny--my collection started entirely by accident, when one of my former high school teachers called me up one summer during my college years. He said that he and his wife were divorcing; he was moving back in with his parents in northern Indiana and he didn't know what to do with his half of their china service. He thought my sister and I might want it. I said yes, sight unseen, and he arrived with four blue and white English ironstone plates, cups, saucers and bowls. Sorry as I was for his misfortune, I was immediately smitten with the dishes and a life-long love affair began. Fortunately when my sister moved to a different apartment she left the blue and white for me, and the rest is history.

I probably have two hundred pieces by now, and I love them all. Many I bought for myself and many were bought for me by family and friends. My DM (darling mother) contributed at least a couple of dozen pieces, often precariously mailed through the diplomatic pouch. The collection traveled the world with me; at one point, during the 1993 military mutiny in the Central African Republic, I thought I had lost it, but it all eventually arrived at our new home in Djibouti. Fortunately the Foreign Legionnaires who occupied our house during the hostilities were honest and had no interest in china.

There was a time when I couldn't pass up a nice blue and white piece at an antique store, but my passion for collecting has cooled somewhat and now I enjoy rearranging them in our castle, finding new uses for them, and setting a pretty table occasionally. I'm still on the lookout for a covered vegetable dish that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, having passed up many beautiful but expensive ones, however regretfully, many times.

Thank you, Mr. DeBeck, wherever you are.