Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Story

I have relatives – a very ordinary Uzbek family, not rich at all. The father is a retired police officer, who worked as investigator for all his life; he was a person with ideals and principles and never had illegal incomes. For many years, he was building a house in the village where he was born – it took him about 20 years altogether, brick after brick – and completed it by the time of retirement. He married late and had three children; the elder son is in the army now, the youngest is in the school, and the daughter who is in between had just graduated from community college and works at a clothing factory. His wife works as a cook at the same factory. I would not call them poor, but they cannot afford any excesses. They have a farm, so they grow a lot of their own food, and there is also the father’s pension. However they are usually pressed for cash.

In the beginning of the winter, the girl asked her father to buy her a coat. She dreamed about it; all girls were wearing beautiful long wool coats, and she was wearing a jacket. After receiving pension, her father gave her 200 thousand Uzbek Soum (about US $65), saying: “Go to the bazaar, dear, and take a look. I do not know how much coats cost, but this is all I can give you now; if this is not enough, you will have to wait”.

The girl and two aunts of hers went to the city and wished they did not – they were so upset! All coats which looked more or less good started from 700 thousand Soum (about US $250) and up; the cheapest ones could be bought for about 300 thousand, but they were very ugly. Her budget would be sufficient for a jacket – not the most fashionable one – but she did not need it, anyway.

They searched the whole bazaar and did not find anything to fit into the budget. Her aunts would be glad to top up her budget but could not – their funds were very limited, too.

They were cold and upset, when they entered another shop with coats. There were some nice coats, but they were just as expensive. The elder women wanted to spend several minutes more in the warm shop, so they took a lovely car coat from a hanger and said: “Try it on, we will see what it looks like on you”. Two consultants immediately helped her to try the coat on and took her to the mirror.

This girl, slim and fragile, with a face of a beauty from a Persian miniature, looked stunning in this coat, which cost a fortune for her (about 650 thousand Soum). The sadness on her face, on the verge of tears, made her look vulnerable and even more beautiful.

There was a middle aged man sitting at the computer in a remote corner of the shop, who was watching her all that time. He stood up and came to her, saying in a broken Uzbek (because he was Turkish): “Daughter, this coat looks great on you! Buy it – you will not find a better one!”

The girl was choking, shaking her head and unable to speak; her eyes were full of tears. She mastered her voice at last and said: “No, thank you, I do not need a car coat; I wanted a long one”.

The owner of the shop said he had a long version of this coat and told the boys to fetch it and put it on the girl. This long coat was even more beautiful – and much more expensive.

“Take it, – he said, - You are the best person to own it. I will not let you go without it, I will give you a very good discount”. At this point the girl cried out, unable to speak, and then she managed to whisper, sobbing: “You will not give me such a big discount”. Then there was a river of tears.

“How much money do you have?”

 “Just two hundred…”.

“Take it for two hundred – it is yours!".

The consultants whispered to him that she was talking about 200 thousand Soum, not 200 dollars (which would be about 550 thousand), but he snapped back: “I know that! I want her to have the coat!”.

The girl was crying even stronger now.

“Stop crying, girl, what is the matter? Here – I am taking your money – do not take your coat off, we will put your jacket in a bag! What are you crying about now?”

She said that she had spent 3 thousand from that money to pay for the commute. The man counted 15 thousand from the money she had just given him, gave it back to her and said: “They cook very nice kebab nearby; go and eat, then go home. I am fine with the remaining money”.

The girl was absolutely happy, and the whole family was crying listening to this story. We cried, too, when we heard it. This is what we call a Christmas story.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of you, dear friends! Wishing you health, happiness, peace and harmony! 

(the postcard has been chosen by my 6 year old daughter who said it embodied everything she loved most about Christmas)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tourmaline Earrings by Gray Cat Designs

I have to boast about the tourmaline earrings I received from lovely Caroline of Gray Cat Designs (graycat26.etsy.com) - are not they gorgeous? Unfortunately my pictures do not do them justice; I am very bad at photographing jewelry.

These are bright and sparkly little pieces, full of saturated and clean little faceted tourmaline beads on oxidized silver wire. Caroline called them "Rose Garden" and they indeed resemble one - a very Victorian garden, seen in the evening, when all the stems and branches look almost black in the fading light, but  flowers almost have a light of their own. It is probably autumn - the garden lacks the feeling of crispness and freshness of spring, when everything is light and new, leaves and petals look like washed and starched, and soil seems to be bursting with energy. Instead, the colors are more of a vintage palette, telling about ripeness and mellowness of autumn, darker shades, richer fragrances with fruity notes. There is still time till winter to enjoy the walks in the garden. "Season of mists and fruity mellowness...".

..I know, sometimes I get carried away. I probably love jewelry too much - I invent all sorts of stories about pieces I own! Now I want to say a big "Thank You!" to Caroline, who has made this exquisite pair of earrings for me, and I know I will wear them a lot - I like them so much! They also go well with so many colors, it will be easy to wear them. My sister wants to borrow them sometimes, too - everyone likes them!

The earrings arrived very fast, and they were packed in the most exquisite way - there was an organza bag, then a nice little box with Gray Cat Designs business card on top, and inside there was a tiny black velvet pouch for the earrings. The pleasure of opening, unfolding, shaking the earrings out of their velvet pouch to cradle them in the hand, marveling at the colors!

Caroline is an amazingly nice person, and a pleasure to communicate with. I enjoyed the whole process immensely, and I regret about being a very lousy correspondent from time to time. Dear Caroline, thank you very much and sorry about not writing back sooner! Merry Christmas to you and everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life as a Bed of Roses: Uzbek Suzani

At last, I have fulfilled my dream: we made a pair of pillow cases from vintage Uzbek suzani.I bought this suzani last weekend; it was somewhat more expensive than planned, but I had to buy it. It has a lovely pattern with flowers and my beloved pomegranates, and the colors are so vivid - summer in the middle of the winter!

Suzani are widely used for ritual purposes, such as weddings. The one we used for the cushion covers is called 'gul kurpa' which means 'blanket of flowers'; traditionally, it serves as a bed spread for the newly weds, symbolizing good wishes for their life together.

Most of the elements of embroidery have a specific meaning - for instance, pomegranates mean prosperity, the wavy white stitch called 'suv' represents water, and water means everything for our dry region, as you may know - it is precious here; and there is also the representation of sun in this embroidery (see the photo below, on the right side of the pillow - it is like a white wheel). So, in general, this suzani means wishing a life to be like a fragrant garden, full of flowers in full bloom, ripe pomegranates and clean water running in small canals around - a very traditional Uzbek vision of happiness and prosperity. I have been to such gardens in reality, and I can tell you that I would not mind my life to be like them...

This pair of suzani pillows is for sale in our Etsy shop, here. I believe the price is more than reasonable - this is our first experience with suzani, and I just want them to sell quickly, and then we will make more. Hope they will make someone's life a bit more like a beautiful garden from an Uzbek fairy tale!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My New Silky Rug: More Pillows are Coming!

This is my newest find - a lovely vintage rug, smooth, supple and silky to the touch, in stunning colors. I love the pattern, especially the tiny funny animals. It is much better live - striking! I paid much more than I usually pay for rugs I buy to make kilim pillows, and when I told my mother about it she said I was crazy. But then I took it out from the bag to show her, and of course she was fascinated with it, too.

I am hoping to list cushion covers made from it in the Mulberry Whisper shop on Etsy this week - do not miss them, if you like this rug, because there will not be many; the rug is not big. I guess it is made of rayon and cotton - feels like natural fibers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Barno Ismatullaeva, Uzbek Soprano

We went to a concert of classical music yesterday (which does not happen often). It was dedicated to the Nobel Prize award to the European Union, and featured young Uzbek artists - the Symphony Orchestra of Tashkent Academy of Music and a number of soloists. I was pleasantly surprised to find a wonderful young soprano here in Tashkent. Her name is Barno Ismatullaeva, and she sang 'Musetta's Waltz' from Puccini's 'La Boheme'. I was thrilled by the very first notes and remained fascinated and fully engaged till the end of the aria. Barno has a lovely soprano, warm and emotional, and she uses this golden instrument really well. Not just me, but everyone seemed to be impressed. I am certainly not an expert in music, but I enjoyed listening to her so much - I now want to see her in opera. I might become a theater goer!

I found her on Youtube; this is a different aria ('Mimi's Story'), but I was pleased to listen to it, too, recalling yesterday night when I was privileged to hear Barno live.

Barno is beautiful, too - a classic Uzbek beauty, like a girl from a miniature painting - but the greatest part of an artist's charm to me is in the talent, the energy she irradiates, the inner strength... I know these are very banal things to say. She needs to be heard and seen to be appreciated - and I certainly hope that she will be appreciated by many people. It feels good to have her here, in Uzbekistan.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Striped Cottage Chic - Uzbek Vintage Fabrics

These striped pillow cases are made of fabric which I love and value very highly. It is called 'bekasab', and it is a traditional Uzbek fabric made of silk and cotton. Bekasab is traditionally used in Uzbekistan for national gowns (chapan) and wonderful quilted blankets (kurpa), as well as pillow cases. Becasab resembles raw silk (not surprisingly) and linen, because of its somewhat rough structure. Its stripes might look less exotic than ikat and suzani, but it is just as traditional and valued here, in Uzbekistan. And, of course, it is easier to incorporate such cushions into many styles (or at least I think so). I see these as very cottage chic, with their home-made flavor and naive colors.

This particular fabric has a very high silk content - possibly as high as 80 per cent - and is wonderfully heavy and cool to the touch. Its subdued gold color with a greenish tint reminds me of ancient gold pieces. I only  had one small piece sufficient to make just one pair of pillow cases for the lucky buyer - it can be purchased here, in our Etsy shop, and all of my striped bekasab pillows are here

Monday, November 19, 2012

To My Israeli Friends

"Minutes ago, a rocket siren went off in Tel Aviv. Everyone ran for cover. Our photographer just took this photo on a train as he took cover. Luckily for us, the Iron Dome intercepted the rocket" - source

Our media seems to be happily indifferent to what is going on in Israel and Gaza. I found two pieces of news, between rumors of face lifting made by an aging cinema star and discussion of benefits of consuming raw beetroot. International news often look skewed, focusing on Israel's response. My news come from a handmade forum where I have Israeli friends, mostly women with children. 

From what I understand, it was more or less quiet in Israel and Gaza recently, save for missiles routinely flying from Gaza to the south of the country. ("It is never totally quiet here, Eugenie" - says my friend). People are so much used to living under fire there - it is not even discussed, being sort of normal. And then of course there are constant attempt at terrorist acts, and constant counteraction by Israel.  I do not know much about politics, but now I know something about my Israeli friends' daily routine recently. 

This is what I read in our forum - just several quotes, those that touched me most of all.

"Children in Sderot lived under fire for years. They learned how to find a shelter whithin 15 seconds - this is how long it takes for a missile from Gaza to arrive". 

 "I look at my son and my heart drops. And I cannot just put my head in the sand... We do not have air raid alarms now and no other sounds, but it does not make things better". 

"I did not take my son to the kindergarten today - their  bomb shelter is too flimsy. He stays with me. He heard the sirens twice today and told me - it is emergency, a doctor is going to someone! And then I have to explain that it means danger and we need to hide". 

"We went for a walk in the park and heard the alarm, so we hid under one of the houses (houses here are on pillars)".  

"Today is a horrible day. There are many more missiles, and they are much more precise now; the Dome cannot intercept all of them". 

"I am not afraid for myself at all, but I am watching the news... there is no end to this - only in our hopes, but not in reality".  

"It is not possible to come to an agreement with these people.  But we have no right to use the same methods which were used to the Jews throughout the history. It would justify all the atrocities". 

They never say a word of hatred towards their neighbors - instead, they express regret and their desire for peace. And Israel still provides power, natural gas and communication services to Gaza. They also send food and provide healthcare. 

They are asking me not to worry too much: "It is all right, Eugenie, we live like that all the time.  It will become quiet again very soon; come and visit us. You will love the country - it is beautiful".

...My Israeli friends, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for remaining humans at all times. Thank you for serving as an example of courage and kindness. May peace be with you. Of course I will come - and I already love your country and you. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Supposedly A Doberman: Rescued from a Rescue

This creature now lives with my friend in Russia. She took him home from a local rescue organization. Basically she and her friends saved him from that rescue - the rescue people found him somewhere and then were trying to sell him (for a long time), obviously forgetting to feed him. It is amazing that a rescue can behave like that! My friends literally crashed the doors of the rescue and took the dog (which may not be quite legal, but I totally approve of it). The rescue people tried to squeeze out some money for this skeleton of a dog! (A minute ago my 6 year old daughter looked at the lower picture and muttered - 'What is that thing? I do not get it').

Many rescues in our countries are like that now. They collect money and do not report on their use; they neglect animals; sometimes they let them breed, and even eat each other. Not all rescue organizations are like that, of course - we have some good examples in Russia, too. But not in Uzbekistan (my country). We still have a long way to go.

...The dog will live, most likely. It is a 7-8 months old pup. He eats and digests well. His whole life now is about food - when he does not eat or sleep, he keeps searching the house and sniffing for food. He is fed every three hours in small portions.My friend's Toller Retriever tries to play with him, but he needs to start feeling like a dog, rather than like an embodiment of hunger, before he can play.

However he loves to be petted; my friend says that he is 'pathologically tender'. He stands at her side, waiting for her to put her hand on his head. He stands, waiting, as long as he can... only he cannot stand long now. He starts waving and then he sits down if he manages to coordinate the movement or just falls on the floor. Lena does what she can to make him feel better.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Find: My Green Majolica Plate

I found this vintage majolica plate at the flea market a couple of years ago. The man who sold it to me could not tell me anything about its origin. I am sure it is European, but there are just two digits instead of a factory mark. Maybe this is a replica of a plate produced by a large factory? The design is quite sophisticated and seems very professional to me.

I would appreciate any views and ideas regarding origins of the plate - I am very curious!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Country Soaps by Marlene

...I have not written in a while - I was too tired and did not feel well. I am still tired, but I just have to share a few words about the soaps and shampoo bars I bought recently.

I wanted to try real cold processed home made soap, preferably the one made with goats milk. I have heard a lot about its beneficial properties, so when I decided that I had some money for indulgence I started browsing Etsy and found countrysoapsbymarlen. Of course the first thing to draw my attention were her great photos - soaps looked delicious, and I marveled at the pictures for a while.

Descriptions are informative and clear. I was satisfied to learn there was no water in the soaps, no synthetic musk, and all soaps are fully cured (even though I have had no experience with such soap, I knew some theory).

I wanted something unscented, as a great fan of everything natural, so I bought Unscented Goats Milk Soap, Unscented Bastille Cold Processed Goats Milk Soap and Unscented Goats Milk Shampoo bars (do not seem to be in stock right now - must be very popular!).

...But then I started browsing and found more soaps I just had to try. I have been longing for frankincense for a while, so I ordered Frankincense and Myrrh, and then Autumn Magic - its description was irresistible.

The soaps were shipped same day or next day, and arrived promptly. They are wonderful! The Frankincense one seems to be better than any perfume I have had. I put it with my cashmere sweaters - I would like them to smell of it. The Autumn Magic soap is also lovely. And the good thing is that the unscented soaps and shampoo bars smell delicious, too - they have the very normal, healthy, homely and cozy scent, almost edible - no trace of urban chemistry.

The shampoo leaves our hair clean and shiny; I wash my hair once in 3-4 days now (recently I had to wash it every two days). I need to reinstate the custom of rinsing my hair with herbs or apple vinegar; they work very well as natural conditioners. As for the soap, we are using the basic unscented soap now. It feels great, and my face and decollete look better (I have had some breakouts lately, and the soap seems to have cleaned them). I am not a believer in external means to resolve skin issues and usually focus on my overall health and diet, when I have skin issues, but this soap seems to work very well.

Now my daughter and I have fully switched to these products, and I only have two concerns: 1) I want to be able to use everything at once and I have no room for all these bars in the bathroom; 2) I am afraid to run out so I need to order in advance (it is a long way from Wisconsin to Uzbekistan). Ah, the third concern is availability of the Frankincense and Myrrh Soap; I hope Marlene continues making it. In the meantime, I need to make more money to buy more soap! Even if I do not have much room in the bathroom, I can put the bars in my closet and everywhere around the house.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dogs in the Park

We went for a walk with my friends today - they have a Labrador and a Dalmatian. The weather was beautiful, the dogs played, and I took some photos. Not much to say here. My dog mostly spends time with me, but sometimes I give him a chance to play with dogs. He still checks on me all the time though.

It is funny that he looks naked to me without a collar. We take off the collars to avoid damage to teeth and Jager looks so unusual; just like a wild animal. And there is a lot of wild in him for real; I often feel somewhat surprised that he obeys me willingly and happily. My mentor says it is a power of love. I respond by telling him that he is a hopelessly old fashioned romantic.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Madina and Her Skates

Madina learns quad skating - I bought her a pair of Chicago Girl Quads on Amazon, based on excellent reviews, as well as Hanna Montana protection set (my girl loves glamour and Swarovski),  and now every weekend we go to the park to train. The roads are not ideal there as you can see, but mostly are acceptable. She was terribly afraid at first and even cried once and told me to give the skates to another girl, but then she took an effort and got rid of her fear. She skates without support and learns turns and stops.

We are very proud of her little successes, and most of all of the fact that she mastered her fears. Now, even if she falls, she insists on getting on her feet without help. Madina herself is very proud of her skates (see the last photo? she demanded that I make 'a portrait' of the quads). We need to find a company of kids who skate, so that she can train and play with them; I will think of where to find them... skating is not very well developed here. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Little Night (A Rescued Pup)

We spent a very hot July this year in the mountains - it was necessary to escape from the city. We stayed in a small town high in the mountains, in a cottage built on a slope of a hill. The land plot was made into three layers, like terraces, and the cottage was built on the two lower terraces (the third one is for the entrance and parking). I always have a feeling that there are two houses there although actually it is one with two floors, but the design is so strange, it's like my daughter's Tree House Lego.

Me and my dog occupied the lower floor of the house - the one closer to the swimming pools and the kitchen (excellent strategic position!), while my mother and 12 year old sister lived upstairs, and my daughter was everywhere.

One afternoon while mother and sister were having a walk, my daughter came into my room with this pup on her hands, saying: 'Look what I have found in Granny's room, under the bed!'. I was amazed. This little creature, completely starved, had crawled under the gates and then sneaked into the house. Of course we had to keep her. It was difficult to decide how to feed her the first days so that not to kill her with too much food - she was not used to eating. (Below is her picture after a week with us - she looks quite decent).

After a week with us she looked better and my sister found an owner for her nearby. The next day we were passing his house, talking between ourselves, and the pup overheard our voices and started whining and screaming. She was kept in a box, no food and water, and of course I took her back. Everyone was happy, especially my daughter. She is not much of a dog lover, but she loved Nochka and hugged and played with her a lot. She also learned to train her with pieces of cheese and meat.

I named her Nochka - that's Russian for... eh well... Night, but in a very tender way. Little Night. Lovely Night. By the end of the second week she looked excellent, with smooth and shiny fur and no ribs showing (I even had to cut her portions a bit, but did not help because she was also sharing my dog's food as well as taking food from by mother's rescue Dachshund mix). My Malinois obviously adopted her and played with her in a very gentle way.

They also liked to have rest in the shade together. I think Nochka felt safe beside him.

My mom's Dachshund mix also loved her and they played in the sand like crazy.

Nochka has amazing temperament and is very fit for obedience training, in my view - very easy to train, lots of drive and excellent wits. Pity we have no dog sport here. And she is amazingly curious and energetic. She wants to be everywhere and to take part in everything.

I placed lots of ads but only four people wrote, and three of them I would not trust with a teddy bear, leave alone a real pup. I started thinking about spaying and keeping her although that would be a nuisance; I did not want to have a new pup at that time. However the fourth person to write was a very nice young lady, well informed and with a firm intention to love and care for 'My Treasure'. The day we came back to city, she hurried to come to us, and left with the pup. To tell the truth, Julia seemed too glamorous to me to be a good dog owner: I looked at her heels and my heart dropped... but then I decided to give it a try.

How much I missed Nochka the first two days, I cannot tell... I was ready to go and beg to give her back to me. But is she is in good hands. Julia keeps writing and calling, we met twice and I was very happy to see two glamorous ladies - the owner wearing Swarovski studded walking shoes, and Nochka (called Sophie now) boasting a pink Swarovski collar. She recognized me immediately both times, but her bond with the new owner was already very good (we waited for several weeks before meeting), so there was no stress. She is a lovely dog, and I feel very lucky to have found such a nice owner for her.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Abul Kasim Madrassah and Some Antiques


Abul Kosim Madrassah is one of the few antique buildings still existing in Tashkent. It is a fine example of Uzbek architecture of XIX century. It used to be a religious school (naturally, if it is called 'madrassah'), and now it houses a number of arts and crafts shops (and some of them are also workshops - the artists are working right there and you can observe the process).

We went there for a walk with my friend. The October morning was lovely - so full of soft light. Even these rusty grape leaves look beautiful, lit by the sun.

This is one of the shops I mentioned: they sell Rishtan style blue ceramics. Rishtan village in Ferghana valley is famous for their blue and green pottery which is very popular on of course widely imitated. I am not sure if the clayware in this shop is authentic Rishtan, and it is not that important to me, either. I will take pictures of fine Rishtan examples when I find them.

This is a balcony on the second floor. The building has two floors; the second was mostly occupied by scholars who lived there. On the first floor, they have some small rooms, too, and a couple of big ones which might have been used as lecture halls.

Here you can see an artist carving wood, and many doors and balconies in the background. Those are the doors to all those tiny rooms I mentioned.

A bush with red berries in the yard. I do not know what it is, but I am sure it is not edible or I would recognize it. Beautiful, anyway!

We decided to make a small photo session for several pieces from my friend's collection. He is a dealer in Asian antiques and owns a lot of beautiful things - Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tukmen, Karakalpak rugs and carpets, vintage and antique china and pottery, various accessories, lots of Uzbek, Tajik and other vintage clothing, lewelry, etc.. This time he brought two decorative plates, a teapot and some textiles with him and we used the old walls as a photo prop.

This plate in ikat pattern is more than 100 years old and I think it is by Kuznetsov factory.

Here you can see a handwoven ribbon with tassels - it was used to tie a bundle with a bride's possessions when moving to her husband's house. If I remember correctly, it was made by the Uzbek tribe of Lakai who were renowned for their crafts. There is also a lovely small Kyrgyz rug in the background.

This is that rug, it is very finely made and supple, and the indigo blue is just breathtaking!

Now, I am quite bad with all this pottery. I think this one (which is also painted in ikat style) was by Gardner (and thus it is older than the previous one because the factory used to be called Gardner and then it was bought by Kuznetsov and then there was revolution). I will have to ask Rustam to clarify.

Two beautiful suzani in very vivid colors. Both are antique which is hard to believe given how bright they are - as if made yesterday.

A mistery teapot; looks like made in Kashgar, but the mark says 'made in Japan'

...The pictures are made by me, save for the first one, but the pottery and textiles are owned by Rustam, who maintains a very interesting Facebook community 'Uzbek Suzani'. I will ask him to tell us more about these pieces. He certainly told me a great deal, but I am very good at forgetting! But even if I do not remember something (well, almost nothing), they are a pleasure to behold, are not they?

I have some vintage and antique items at home and I actually use them; what about you? Do you like old things or you prefer everything modern and new?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...