july 9, 2008
hello all! it's time. the blog needs to continue in an official blog space--something i have been mulling over, researching, and working on for a good two weeks. yesterday it happened--the first official post. from now on, the blog will be at www.maryerobbins.typepad.com. it is exciting, i promise.
like giving up an old pair of shoes, it was hard to step into the new typepad soles and begin walking--but very necessary. in the next few days i will updating www.robbinsmarye.com so that all links to the 'life.news' section will head directly to the typepad blog, but all of these posts (from october 2007-present!) will be easily reachable through a link on the new blog, promise.
good things about the new format:
-comments--you can sign in and leave comments--hooray for dialogue!
-technical support other than my own web skills and the occasional panicked call to godaddy.com
...and others that i am sure i have not yet thought of. in the meantime....enjoy enjoy enjoy the wee buds of creative overflow over at www.maryerobbins.typepad.com!
june 27 2008
wishing you the happiest of summer solstices with warm family memories on my mind. this year nabil and i will not be traveling to morocco to visit our family there--and it will be the first complete year since his arrival that neither one of us has done so. last summer's vacation was my first journey back to rabat since we had moved to the u.s.--a trip rich with emotion and learning. i often felt overwhelmed. but each time i felt the emotions surging to the top, the frantic overload imminent--the grace of warm, loving family enveloped me in the comforting folds of their daily life. "al humdullilah--thanks be to allah, everything is okay."
perhaps most difficult for the westerner traveling and living in morocco and throughout many eastern cultures is the lack of privacy. for me it has been a continuous struggle throughout my time spent living in morocco--wishing so much to forsake my genetic, cultural craving for personal time and space and join fully the rhythm of communal life. the "all-outedness" of life, as i have often thought of it. i have wished that i do not feel embarrassed to argue, cry, or be sick in public-- turning myself over fully to the community and the belief that god will protect me. in the end, my cultural roots betray my ability to fully immerse, and after many years i am coming to accept my limitations, and celebrate my strength and abilities to create and work...all by myself. the beauty of my life with nabil includes the two sides--and the safety of our community forever with us even across the atlantic.
as we cannot visit the hammams (public baths) here in our small suburb of portland, maine, we try our best to imitate cleansing rituals in the comfort of our own bathroom. a key tool for a visit to the hammam is a kees, or rough exfoliating mitt. i remember walking through the souqs my first time in morocco, seeing the brightly colored mitts hanging in shops, thinking...what ARE those? i soon learned. cousin fadwa took me to the hammam for the first time, where we disrobed and spent luxurious hours sloughing off brown, dead skin--which i was amazed to see roll off my arms, legs, and back in spaghetti like strings. there are three rooms of varying temperature inside a hammam, each filled with generous steam and hot and cold taps for filling your buckets. by laying down a mat and placing buckets on the floor, a space is created.
i ventured to the hammams a few times on my own. the first occasion found me face to face with a woman i had met in the medina, but could not for the life of me remember how i knew her. there we stood, nearly nude, in the steamy safety of the middle room--her 8-month pregnant belly glistening beautifully as she hugged and kissed me, asking after my health, family, and time in morocco. my head struggled to catch up with her arabic conversation and questions, but my heart was carried by her buoyant spirit and warm kisses of greeting, my body relaxed by the warmth and water. in this semi daze i didn't know that i had agreed to let her hire a 'keesala' for me--a woman who works in the hammam to massage and scrub anyone willing to pay a small fee.
a stronger moroccan woman i have yet to meet. the keesala was berber, with small tattoos on her chin and forehead, and enormous, muscular arms flanking the sides of her generous chest. as i realized what i had agreed to, i succumbed with equal parts excitement and nerves as she directed me to lay on the mat she had spread for me on the floor. with expert strokes, she pinned my arm between her enormous breast and bicep, using her right hand (encased in my kees), to slough off every last stray dead skin cell, leaving me pink (well, more like red) and more thoroughly scrubbed than ever before i had exprerienced. from there she commenced a full-body annhilation of dead skin, sending my 'spaghetti' in rivers down the drain in the center of the ornately tiled floor. she clucked her tongue and laughed at my apparently extremely dirty skin. i looked over to my acquaintance (whose name i later recalled was bouchra) who had arranged this and smiled in a semi-conscious state at her as she ran gobs brown of olive-oil soap over her olive-toned skin. when my keesala had finished her tirade of scrubbing, i peeled myself from the floor and moved slowly out to the dressing room, into the streets, and home--to a loving host family whose laughter confirmed my flaming red face. from then on, i stuck to my own cleansing, or the occasional help from fadwa.
as an older sister figure to chaimae, i often bathed her. we brought her shampoo and conditioners from the states last summer, and she would ask me to wash her hair and scrub her. this past summer, her hair was longer, fuller, curlier, and more beautiful than ever before. we spent the better part of two or three afternoons of my vacation there scrubbing and washing--and then playing salon with her hair. oh her hair.
yesterday i fashioned the scrubbing cloth i had found in the chinese store on congress street into a kees, something i have done several times since our supply brought back from morocco have worn out from multiple scrubbings. it is not as strong as those we purchase in morocco, but it will do until we can purchase more, for about 14 dirhams each.
june 16 2008
I went to Palestine when I was 12, because my dad is a Palestinian. My mother is an American, born and raised, thus making me an Arab American. He has a lot of relatives there (his mother, his brothers and sisters, etc..) and he wanted us to finally meet them all, and see the country. So, we landed in Jordan and stayed there for a while, and eventually we got to Palestine.
At first I was puzzled, I was meeting all of these people who were related to me, cousins, uncles, aunts, for the first time. The culture was definitely something to get used to, and the living conditions that people were dealing with....it was just obscene. I was surprised at the lack of concern the rest of the world had for the pain Palestinians feel. No matter where you live in Palestine, you cannot escape the suffering and hardship around you. Every happy story there is tainted by some form of tragedy. Human rights issues are simply over looked.
The general treatment of Palestinians by Israeli officials can be summed up in one word: barbaric. Checkpoints have the effect of making you feel like cattle being herded, they make you feel unwanted and small. Neighborhood raids are frequent as well: tanks roll down your neighborhood street, armored cars whip around corners, searching for people to fill up the jail cells, most likely for doing nothing at all. No matter what you do in Palestine, no matter how good the weather is or how much you smile, there is a constant feeling of oppression. A constant feeling of shackled wrists rooted farther into the ground than you can imagine.
I did, however, enjoy some of the time I spent there. I was awed by how some people could be happy, despite the incredibly overbearing oppression they were facing. I worked hard to do the same, to tell myself that happiness is possible, even when surrounded by such a cruel way of life. It's the only way to sleep at night. You tell yourself that it's possible to keep living, even when it seems absolutely impossible.
I met people that I will forever love and feel grateful to, and I learned a language that I hope will prove to be valuable to me in the future. I feel now that I should go back, and try to help as much as I can. I feel like I didn't do enough while I was there, and that now that I'm older, I'll have more power to change things.
yesterday was one of those days that gives everything a soft and yellow glow. a day when letting go was easy and friends were plentiful and new things were happening, marking beginnings and renewed belief in good and simple.
at 8:15 i met up with kerry, merlin, and tim for a lovely long walk on willard beach out to spring point lighthouse. gus and merlin splashed in the ocean, the sun was shining, the flowers were fragrant, and the bakery was stocked to the rafters with delicious sinful delights and coffee. a perfect morning.
hugs in the maine summer. black flies begone.
at 7:20 i drove home to portland, where i found nabil waiting for me with turkey burgers.
at 8:30 i fell asleep on the couch, and soon after went to bed, where i slept deeply, all night
june 7 2008
this is not a good scene, folks. diet coke in the morning (?). i knew several wonderfully smart and savvy women in college who were die hard diet coke-in-the-morning devotees. and really, is coffee with cream(er) and sugar (staff brand sweetener) any better? i don't really know--i guess it depends on the coffee and what you put in it. but to me, soda most any time is a no no, and in the morning it's nearly a cardinal sin. but it happened today, people. it happened. i am tired and too stubborn to take a nap today, so the coke is coming out in full force, leftover from last night's pre-sex and the city movie-pizza party. the movie was great, made me miss new york, and made me re-evaluate the 10-cent church rummage sale polyester brown cardigan i was wearing. but not for long--i am still wearing it.
anyhow, yup i am still tired. and my thinking is slow and muddy, so forgive me. but i wanted to share that the naima totes are now officially on sale at fact & fancy in brooklyn, and that lovely danielle and christine shared with me this image from their flickr site. check it out--doesn't the shop look great? i am so impressed. and i am honored to have my work side by side with several other etsians whom i have admired upon finding their work. hooray for crafting and indie business.
june 6 2008
mum, your dream has come true...shelves.
my studio/work area had gotten so unorganized (euphamism for disaster) in the past month that i had to clear off the tables every time i wanted to do anything, and since the items i had cleared ultimately had no place to go, they ended up right back on the tables. and the cycle continued, play, repeat, play, repeat. it was really hedging on my productivity in a major, all encompassing way, and something had to be done. so a couple of nights ago i did what any robbins family member would do when searching for a solution--i headed to the basement. the robbins family basement of all basements.
this place is a long fabled moratorium/purgatory for items cast off or in waiting for their next owner. though i do not remember clearly, i have been told that at one time there were 15 televisions in various states of repair/disrepair down there, with which my grandfather would tinker and fix or just hold onto for who knows what reason. namely to drive my grandmother insane, she would have said-- but it was his frugal, investigative, technical mind that we all loved him for, and his eye for a 'bah-gin' (mainese for bargain) that was celebrated. i understand, i have the genes for this as well.
so down i went into the damp, dank basement looking for inspiration and salvage. i was lucky--my eyes found the above-captured shelf. mom stop laughing. in my teenage years it was her great fantasy to put up shelves in my room, which was only called a bedroom because it had four walls and a mattress on the floor (or at one point, just a sleeping bag). otherwise it would be more aptly named 'chaos container' or perhaps 'mayhem storage.' i didn't see any value in keeping clothing in a dresser or a closet (though i had both), and i was completely fine with stepping on them and then putting them on my body. things have improved since then.
this summer is starting off with a bang, it seems. or perhaps i am just so frenzied from the months of indoor-ness that governed me throughout winter-- this sudden freedom to exit the house without 10 minutes of preparatory layering has given me new life and a whole heap of new projects to get excited about.
yesterday was the old port festival in downtown portland, and some members of our greyhound meetup group marched in the parade to promote greyhound adoption. per norm, i had approximately 100,000 creative ideas to bring fun and fanfare to our little section of the parade, and left most of these ideas until the night before to bring into existence. and once i get started, the ideas snowball, and i just have to stay up 'a little bit longer' to finish one more little project. anyway it's worth it--sleep bedamned. the banner was so fun to create and have at the parade...and we'll be able to use it for future events!
we gathered around 10 am on federal street in portland to prepare for the parade, and were lined up right at the front, behind the mayor of portland and mrs. maine. the mayor, without prompting, yelled out on several occasions--'let's hear it for these greyhounds!' which was unexpected and sweet, even if a little bit silly. gus attempted to ask mrs. maine out on a date--he hasn't figured out that mrs. means married yet. and that cape? yup--i made it at about 1:25 a.m. the night before, right after i finished the banner.
may 29 2008
so much has happened over the last few days...i am in a state of murky, bleary eyed slow-down. it's 11:01--these late night posts are getting to be a habit it seems!--and resting after a day well spent wrapping up the final preparations for the send off to brooklyn.
a few posts back you may remember the mention of fact and fancy, the new uber-sweet store opening up in brooklyn, destined for mythical wonder as their shelves groan with handmade beauty. they have chosen a group of etsians for their first show, and asked me to send along some naima totes. divine inspiration struck over the last hundred or so hours, and several new totes were created. if you see them and want one, there are only one of each--six total--i have no more fabric of these prints. quick--hurry to 75B hoyt st. in brooklyn, where they will be waiting for you to grab them up all for your very own!
the naima tote::white flowers with red corduroy:
and there are two more on the way to fact and fancy, recently listed in the etsy shop but now taken down for their trip to the city. i am in a groove now with the totes...there will be more to come in the shop, promise.
after the fanfare and memories from middle school band that memorial day brought (gus and i watched the parade with mum and caught all of the sites such an event can offer), nabil and i had a day off together on tuesday. we have both been so busy as late that we haven't kept up with each other's schedules--and in fact it is usually a surprise to me when nabil has the day off. "oh, you have the day off tomorrow? great." and then a plan is quickly born.
for some time i have been asking nabil to go hiking with me, and on tuesday he relented (perhaps he grew tired of the broken record?). we went to bradbury mountain state park--which is just a short mile long hike to the summit, but very pretty and a nice little walk for someone out of shape. we are not talking about nabil here folks. he and gus were ahead of me on the way up...way ahead. but the way down was lovely and we took the long trail all the way around the mountain.
oh ms. long winter farm, how i love you. amanda, dear friend and soap maven, has tagged me in a little game of blogger factoids. fun! how can i resist? it is 11:31 pm and i am taking a break from sewing. i just took the stewed rhubarb from the oven (long winter and i have lots in common--she's rockin the rhubarb right now too). [but i will bet she didn't let the gooey sticky sweet rhubarb juice bubble out all over the bottom of the oven and then just leave it there, smoking, destined to turn into rock hard pools of sweet crustiness. le sigh.] it's okay because the results are delicious. it'll be even more delicious when the smell of smoke dissipates. again, gus sleeps by my side, unfazed.
the little gorgeous one above is amanda's youngest, modeling her mum's great handmade soaps. i really need to buy some for myself...it would encourage me to shower more often. another very special fact about amanda is that she purchased the very first item from the moth designs shop. for this, she has carved a place in my heart, and for her awesomeness that follows--she remains.
onto the blogger revelations!
Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
my seven fact(oids) are partially taken from the 'get to know your counselor' lists that i compiled while working at friends camp in south china maine. here goes:
1. one side of my body grew drastically faster than the other, leaving me physically as off kilter as my personality. they often thought it was scoliosis, but i avoided having to wear a corrective brace.
2. i have a strong aversion to styrofoam and corrugated cardboard, and all things excessively squeaky or dry.
3. i have survived dysentary.
4. i do well on my own--i am good at being by myself for hours and hours and hours. but having my greyhound gus is like the wonder of being alone with hot fudge on top. love.
5. i speak english, arabic, french, and a smattering of hindi.
6. gus just now pooted.
7. i grew up just one mile from where i live now.
i know i used to have funnier facts when we played that game at camp, but they escape me now. some help here, old friends camp pals? do you remember?
now...onto the 7 lovely bloggers...
maryam of the hand of fatima
darby of gender fatigue
stephanie of beetlelady books
ellen of classic hound
lydia of lalla lydia
persephone of what possessed me
jen of it's the thought that counts
may 26 2008
the morning was somber yesterday. thoughts of such magnitude leave me heavy. with a head in need of clearing and space to process, and hands in need of activity, i went to the garden. it is memorial day weekend, and planting needs to happen, lest the season get away from me.
...and so i headed to my favorite plant stand in cape elizabeth on route 77. i disovered this place just three years ago, but it has been in operation for a very long time. at this little oasis of new greenery, you can browse through vegetable and flower seedlings, priced just right, and leave your payment (or an IOU) through the little mail slot in the shed. it runs on the honor system, and the owners keep this annual tradition going as a labor of love. i had the unique good fortune to happen upon one of the owners yesterday, and he helped me choose my sunflowers, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes.
i watched this film last night. here on my soft couch i saw the images taken by former marine captain brian steidle, assigned to monitor the ceasefire in southern sudan. he found himself in darfur, where he daily recorded the path of the janjaweed--a militia trained by the arab north of sudan to complete its mission of ethnic cleansing. all black africans in the region of darfur, regardless of religion, are systematically being wiped off the map. this atrocity is known. our government has recognized it and declared it genocide. and it continues to happen.
less than 20 years after the genocide in rwanda, it is happening again in sudan.
i have just typed, deleted, retyped, left the computer, come back, and deleted again. i find that i truly have no words to describe my emotions. my thoughts are not clear. there are small flashes only. when i was small, i watched the evening news and saw images of the famine in ethiopia. i remember feeling only confusion and a distant reaction to something so far from me. i remember seeing absolutely nothing about the genocide in rwanda while it happened. while millions died in central africa i knew nothing. in the film hotel rwanda, there is a scene in which an american reporter films footage of the massacres. humans killing humans with machetes. he is thanked for filming--with a belief that surely the american people will come to end the killing upon airing such footage at 6:30 pm with dan rather. the reporter's response: 'i think that people will look up from their dinner and say 'my god that's awful.' then they will go back to eating their dinner.'
by happenstance, by the will of powers much higher than me, i was born into a comfortable life here in the u.s.. by that same will, millions are born into refugee camps, into the heart of conflict, into circumstances far beyond my experience. in a world where such chasms between daily realities can overwhelm the spirit, our powers of voice and heart endure. bearing witness is a necessity. more important is action, no matter how small the step. speak. share. educate. love.
fractured thoughts, unfinished, unformed, cubist. forgive my ineptitude. as i create designs in support of the arabic speaking world, the ethnically arab north of sudan seeks to decimate the arabic speaking ethnically black africans of the south--muslim, christian, animist. layers of inability to recognize history repeating itself, over and over and over again. and the continued human weakness, to see difference rather than similarity.
hope is found through expression. letting it out. this morning in my research about sudan i came across this story written about a sudanese refugee living here in portland, maine. these stories are important, and healing as they inform. one small step.
there has been some great mail these days, hasn't there? i had had my eye on the fancy martingale collars at classic hound for a month or so. i was telling myself that gus didn't need one and that his grey webbed collar was just fine, but truth be told, i really really wanted one. so i proposed a trade, and lucky for me wonderful ellen (owner of said lovely hound accoutrement shop), was agreeable! in exchange for a naima tote, i received yesterday in the mail a wonderful handmade collar just for gus.
of course i had to immediately put it on him. but seeing as how we seem to be in the midst of a mass fur-exodus, i wanted to make sure to go over his coat with the glove 'just to take off the loose fur' first. um, there was a little bit more than a bit of shedding happening. gus' thighs are getting so sparse that all of his spots are clearly visible, and nabil jokingly calls him chicken. poor gus. well, in exchange for the thinning posterior region, my friend, you get warmer weather. i do believe it's worth it as we remember the icy wintry months, no? (oh how i already dread the idea of next year's wintry morning potty outings). but we won't talk about that.
it was a beautiful little walk in the park yesterday, ladybugs included.
also, yesterday brought new excitment for moth designs and the naima totes. i am proud to announce that fact and fancy, a new shop opening up in brooklyn, will be showing a few naima totes in june. if you live near 75B hoyt street in brooklyn, drop by to pick up your very own! thank you to danielle and christine (the art mavens of this new exciting shop), for visiting moth designs and contacting me. i look forward to sending more naima totes out into the world! most excellent.
may 19 2008
i found this little post it note next to the computer last night at about 12:30. i had fallen asleep reading the lemon tree early on in the evening (which i am enjoying much thus far), and woke up at midnight in the reading room, still wearing my fleece jacket and covered by a light blanket as gus snoozed next to me. in the quiet still of the hour, i came downstairs for a snack. gus didn't budge.
the note is a recipe. nabil writes most of his notes in english these days, but when he speaks to his mum over the internet (thank you msn instant messenger and our webcam), he occasionally converses with her about one of her topics of expertise--moroccan cuisine. just as i do--calling my mum for a remembered recipe at the last minute--i will hear nabil pause in conversation and ask her--"mum--i wanted to ask you--how do you make maqoda?" and she will patiently explain in exact perfect detail how to recreate her cooking on this side of the ocean. maqoda--which is the recipe seen here--are like potato pancakes--a bit thicker. seasoned with the regional favorites--cumin, paprika, fresh parsley and cilantro, and fried to golden salty perfection. we have tried numerous times to make them here, but without her touch, they never taste as good.
i once gave my own mum a card that said something like 'did you ever notice how a peanut butter and jelly sandwich always tasted better when your mother made it?' oh how true. we miss you naima.
may 14 2008
so, as with most things that i decide to do, i didn't think it was going to take very long or much effort, and of course it was a bit more work than that--but the new curtains and curtain hardware are worth it!
yesterday, after learning that i had missed the annual salvation army fabric sale (how could i have missed it!?!), i fought the urge to go to the superstore on warren avenue all morning...and gave in finally about an hour before i was due to pick nabil up from work. with only 10 or 20 minutes to run into the store and gus waiting in the car, i feverishly bolted to the back of the store where the fabrics are usually kept. luckily for me, there was one lone bin with fabric remnants left over from the sale, and i was able to find a few choice pieces. but my favorite find of the afternoon were these yellow curtains.
because i had to try them out RIGHT AWAY, i quickly set to taking down the curtains that hung there until yesterday, which involved removing the ugly, old, bent traversing curtain rods screwed into the crumbling horsehair plaster. i then wondered how i was going to hang the new curtains, but no bother--history tells me that necessity breeds creativity and so it went. i removed some very old, unused hooks from the den closet, disassembled a few of the many street brushes in the garage, and...voila, curtain hooks and rods. $0.00. it was a little bit of a pain screwing in the hooks with no drill (variable speed drill gods please bestow me with your gifts!), but some swearing happened and then it was done.
here are the things to ignore in this photo:
the holes in the wall,
the imperfect painting job,
the obvious end of the wooden handle,
and the curtain ends, simply folded over the rod. we're into the unfinished/in progress look here. gus had no comment.
and look what we have here--a purpose for the new pink hamper. some choice finds from the fabric sale, waiting to be washed and sewn. some naima totes? i think yes.
may 13 2008
niece mya stop reading this!
and the inspiration rolled right into cake baking. i have been making my way through the collection of cakes in my grandmother's ancient betty crocker cookbook. i am drawn to its threadbare binding and wrinkled, dusty, stained pages, some falling out. this is the black midnight cake, with creamy cocoa frosting and strawberries--my own addition. to make this a healthier snack (ha ha), i added the remaining 1/4 cup sour cream from our burrito dinner the other night to the frosting--a nice tangy edge. give it a try...
and, okay, so it's not the most beautiful frosting job. but trust me, it tastes lovelier than it looks.
and an evening walk to the schoolyard at the end of our street. when my father was a young whipper snapper with a coon skin cap, he attended this school until his preteen years. my grandmother always told me about how she could stand in her yard, now my yard, and hear her children playing during recess at school, right up the street. what a comforting sound.
nabil has recently taken interest in basketball (and specifically kevin garnett), and even bought a new ball. here he is trying his hand. though he was a professional soccer player in morocco, his penchant for competition seems to have no boundaries. his gentle, easy going spirit is maintained by channeled energy on the field and court. he has even been known to watch football on occasion, and when absolutely bored--baseball--as he doesn't really know the rules. if only i could convince him that washing dishes or raking the yard were competitive sports...
april 25 2008
this little lovely sits next to me here on the desk, as it has on each workspace i have owned since it arrived in the mail two years ago. they have the fine distinction of being the exact replica (cast in crayon wax) of ms. anna magnuson's upper teeth.
as a student in india my junior year of college (following my semester in morocco), i traveled with a group of very wonderful and talented people, several of whom i have kept in touch with. anna and i lived in the same guest house during our independent study projects in udaipur and created bodies of artwork. i recently stumbled upon this photo on another fellow traveler's flickr site (keribeth livingston--oh how i miss you!)--evidence that art can be made on a shoestring budget while traveling in may in india with no air conditioning. and just for fun, here is another photo from keribeth's flickr--our school, no doubt captured immediately before a hilarious and somewhat blissfully painful yoga session with our 4 foot tall instructor, yoga ma.
and here she is, the one the only ms. anna. (thank you keribeth for your record of this history!)
|presently, i am able to connect to ms. anna through our wee mail art project. it was her idea and suggestion, and she crafted this lovely book by which we correspond. it arrived just the other day, for its next go around.|
oh how i wish anna were just around the corner so that i could invite her over for tea and a chat on the swing in the yard, or an afternoon of thrifting--which i know would be simply magical. alas, she is in los angeles, and thus we write. also magical. california--oh how i curse you for stealing so many of my ladies! and oh how i wish to visit you...
anna. the button pin is just great. thank you!
|april 24 2008|
|small things can bring me such contentment. combining silkscreening and sewing yesterday, i finally created tags to attach to the naima totes and handbags in the shop. i had been waxing and waning (and--what i do best--procrastinating) on tags for a long time. i researched countless online sources in the pursuit of ordering--but it never felt right. having these 100% homemade, washable tags feels perfect.|
|and--yes! i have been back to sewing the naima totes. inspiration and motivation came in the form of a freecycle exchange. it seems that i have been deep in the silkscreening mode as of late, and my sewing machine has not had much creative use. but a few days ago i saw a listing for vintage fabric on freecycle and was lucky enough to catch it all for my own. going through it, washing it, and thinking was enough motivation to get me to the table. new totes will be gracing the pages of moth designs soon! check back frequently!|
|and perhaps it was also this scene which inspired new creative energy--willard beach repopulated with children, toys, and sunbathers. our days of walking on the beach with gus are numbered as the summer season begins and dogs are off limits after 9 am. as yet, gus seems oblivious to this oncoming change.|
a walk to willard in the morning...and in the afternoon when nabil returned --
a trip to fort williams--just as populated, with kites, barbecues, and shorts and tank tops in full effect.
april 23 2008
firstly, today is my father's birthday. happy birthday, dad.
secondly--gus continues to nibble away at the hanging scraps from the headliner of the car. more of his artistic expression can be viewed in today's installment of the daily gus.
it is fitting, on my father's birthday, to talk about our neighborhood ice cream. i have the distinct fortune of living equidistant (almost to the inch) of two ice cream venues. right between them.
we often decide, in these 'warmer' months, to walk and have ice cream after dinner, but the only problem with living so close to two places is the decision--soft serve or hard?
most often, homemade hard serve ice cream wins, and we head to beal's. the list of flavors is long and luscious, and nabil gets especially excited about their banana splits when he is feeling less wary of sugar. but for those other nights, there are always sugar free options, which we appreciate. with so much diabetes in our families, sugar free wins most of the time.
last night found us at beal's. we ventured out with gus for our walk with a few dollars in our pockets and ended up in line with the rest of the fleece-jacket, winter hat, and flip-flop wearing maine ice cream enthusiast crowd. oddly enough, no one thought a bit about the strangeness of the sandal and winter hat combination until an onlooker pointed it out. only in maine. for the record, we had heath bar ice cream with hot fudge, generously heaped into a dish.
but on many other nights, we follow the crowd to red's, a south portland locale heavy with history and a marker of the changing times and seasons.
as awkward pre-teens in middle school, my friends and i would stop at red's on the way home from mahoney middle to share a 4 x 4 (if you have eaten at red's you know what it is!), or to scrounge all the change we could and ask for a 'mistake,' taking whatever ice cream orders made in error they had kept in their refrigerator. it was especially exciting when something arrived with googly eyes or jimmies, but anything would do. simple pleasures, from 1952 to present. soft serve ice cream and neighborhood meet-up.
april 22 2008
today, some images from spring. living again. the lilac tree next to the porch.and the red gerbera daisy on the windowsill. the forsythia is also budding, ever so slowly. one timid flower has bloomed. images to come in full glory.
april 21 2008
as i have mentioned before, i am a self-professed collector and semi-thriftaholic.
two days ago was one of the early spring saturdays in maine that mainers live for. we gingerly peel back the thermal underwear to expose blindingly white, pasty, atrophied legs, kept under wraps for half a year while winter whipped our spirits into submission. we stretch and soak in the sun, and of course...we commence our spring cleaning. garage doors are opened, radios turned on, and the great trash exchange begins...yard sale season is opening, my friends.
this certainly excites me. without doubt. two years ago nabil and i actually celebrated his birthday with a strategically planned visit to garage sales and thrift stores. we are good like that together--our shared love of the hunt and find is a very strong part of the glue which keeps us together.
i digress. the subject of today's installment involves no bartering, no exchange of currency, no yard sale planning. on said glorious saturday, i was pulling into my driveway after a visit to the dog park. the house next door was recently sold, and the family selling the house was there in full, executing the final clear-out before the buyer moves in at the end of this month. the neighbor who had lived next to us was one of this city's long-time residents, and the valedictorian of both his high school and college classes. we exchanged pleasantries and i often admired his garden, and nabil and i were sorry to hear when he had passed. it has been lovely meeting his family members as they have gone through the process of selling the house, and i was glad to see them. my windows were down, and one of the family members greeted me, calling out (no doubt half-jokingly) "you want anything?"
the words echoed in my head like magical chimes. my pupils dilated and my heart raced, i may have even broken a sweat as i tried to breathe deeply, maintain my cool and attempt to appear less than ravenous for this first step into the season's collecting wonders. i laughed, feigning indifference. of course i wanted something. without even seeing what was there, i wanted it. anything was the right word. yes, i wanted anything.
in the end, i exercised great restraint, as i thought of our overcrowded basement and the already mountainous piles of things to clear out, and i enjoyed talking with mary (who sold the house) so much that i found i really wasn't as interested in the things to be seen after all, but moreso her stories. i did take home three things that i love, and will remind me of our neighbor and the history of this neighborhood.
i mean really, how could i have not taken this? i didn't even know what it was! it's rusty! it's old! it's vintage! i need it! (...um, what is it?)
mary explained to me that it was an iron, and that her family had had it shipped to them from new york in the early 1940's. my father later told me that this type of iron is called a mangler. i am completely in love with this piece of equipment.
i am not entirely convinced that the ironrite brought about afternoon naps for homemakers, but we all have to admit how cool-looking it is.
april 20 2008
today i would like to direct you to the daily gus, found on the right... today's photo, april 20th. it has taken me some weeks to show even partial footage of gus' handiwork on the headliner of our car, remembered in detail earlier this winter. the photo below was taken just a moment before the photo in the daily gus, and for gus' pride's sake, mercifully crops out the overhanging damage.
he continues to bring me happiness every single day, and his ever-emerging quirks are endearing. for anyone who is considering adopting a retired greyhound, i can only extend a hearty YES, please do. the snuggles will be plentiful, the adjustment will be humanizing, the gas will be plentiful and odiferous, the eyes will be soulful, the legs will be lanky, the whining will be trying, the food will be stolen, the greetings will always be cheerful, and the love will be unending.
some resources i have relied on in the before adoption, during adoption, and new ownership phases of our life with gus follow here. highly recommended.
www.greyhoundgang.org--excellent information on everything greyhound
www.arlgp.org--the animal refuge league of greater portland, gus' interim home from track to our house.
www.greyhoundplacement.com--the maine greyhound placement service, located in augusta. the co-operator of the service, mary towle, graciously invited us to her home to meet her greyhounds prior to our adoption of gus. please consider donating to this service--they are an amazing organization in need.
http://greyhound.meetup.com/72--the portland greyhound meetup group. a wonderful group of folks who brave the maine winter cold to meet up for off-leash greyhound play groups.
www.greytalk.com--a forum for grey parents with comprehensive and supportive threads on everything greyhound.
enough gushing on my part--go forth and adopt!
i am hesitant, always, to recommend or make mention of a book i have not yet read, but this one will surely grace my nightstand soon, and i have a distinctly hopeful feeling about it. it chronicles the lives of an arab and a jew living in a shared space in which a lemon tree grows. one reader wrote:
april 18 2008
yesterday was a day for celebration...so much celebration lately around here! a simple little dinner for two was a perfect way to ring in nabil's 30th year of life. happy birthday dear heart. i only regret that i did not get a photo of you at the grill-which was likely the highlight of your day. something about searing food over fire just gets nabil's circulation flowing.
i asked nabil what he had been thinking about during the day in relation to his birthday and being 30. he said the somewhat expected things--it seems like just yesterday i was a small kid...it's strange how time goes... but he said the most important thing...humdullah 'ala kulshi--thanks to god for everything.
i am an anti-snob coffee drinker, for lack of a better explanation of what i will put into my body. i don't drink coffee very often, but when i do, it could be from anywhere, of any temperature, and any age--i am willing to say that in this field, i am completely indiscriminate. for example the above-captured. this coffee was made on friday afternoon by nabil, and remained in the globe until yesterday (saturday) morning. my love for nabil even extends to his apparent inability to place the coffee inside the filter--making for what i affectionately think of as 'chewy coffee,' grounds included. cold, lonely--the leftover coffee in the globe called out to me yesterday mid-morn--please don't waste me. how could i resist? who doesn't love a cup of cold chewy coffee? so i poured the orphaned black bevvie into my chipped yellow mug and stuck it in the microwave. ahhh. it doesn't end there. i will even use the powdered, staff brand of creamer. see that chunk there? evidence that i didn't even stir it in completely. coffee troglodyte, here and proud.
coffee brings memory of my mother's trip to morocco in 2004. in june of that year, my mother and family friend ingrid came to rabat. there is much to say of this trip--deserving of an entire post of its own. but one thing we would all look back on and laugh about would be coffee. poor mum and ingrid. upon their arrival at mohammed V airport in casablanca, mum and ingrid wanted coffee. we sat down in the airport cafe and ordered coffee. newly arrived from the land of large coffees, mum was not prepared for the tiny, milky, seemingly uncaffeinated beverage that was placed in front of her. she didn't skip a beat, though--and gladly gulped it down, perhaps thinking--'can i have about 10 more?'
one of the many exciting things about living in a place with such distinct seasons and such a long drawn out, psychosis-inducing winter is the change over of shoes and clothing several times a year. things become 'new' again, as they were almost forgotten while inappropriate to wear due to the weather. yesterday, i put on my chacos for the first time since september 2007. that's 6 months ago. six. here they are, pictured with the shoes i HAVE been wearing for the past 4 months (since i bought them)--indoors and out. i appreciate that i have been wearing them this much, daily, and that they still have the plastic ring from the price tag on them. that is very me. at this point i will certainly leave the ring on.
my feet feel great out in the air. even though my head is still covered with a hat and my neck wrapped in a scarf, my feet couldn't be happier to be exposed. oh and the feeling of sand in my toes at the beach...heaven.
the above image was front page material at etsy.com on saturday. the dessert for breakfast day, full of so many wonders, was made even better by the inclusion of the naima tote in phoebec's treasury...rotated right to the top midday on saturday. the naima tote was viewed over 800 times that day--a lovely little splash of exposure for moth designs. pheobec's lovely photography brings much needed color to our northeastern winter, and her connection with nature and simple, creative living is evident in each frame. i am touched and honored to have been chosen as part of her treasury--thank you phoebec!
in other moth design news, sizing and color charts have been on my mind...and i am proud to share with you my new efforts. both of these charts are included in the images of made to order shirts in the shop....and i hope to expand and improve on these charts even more in the future. so. if you have a custom shirt in mind, there is now greater ease in color and size selection. and, as always, i welcome suggestions, custom requests, and inquiries--collaborative efforts are magic!
april 5 2008it was a day off together. please note the time. this was a.m.. at this time, it was decided that breakfast (a second breakfast) was in order.
the dessert fondue set that dear friend kristan camp gifted us with so many months ago in the early winter doldrums has been calling me from beneath the sink for weeks. dessert for breakfast is always okay with me. and so we 'tried out' the fondue set (to make sure it worked, of course!), and shared some with mum, who dropped by just as the sickening feeling of sugar high had set in. it works fantastically, by the way, and i couldn't be happier. thank you kristan.
the sweetness just continued throughout the day. a trip to a new dog park. not new in existence but new to us, and certainly new to gus, whose life has had an entire epoch of new and firsts within the past 30 days. this dog park is rather fancy, and is much like a wee 'hiking park,' fenced in. unlike the other park we frequent, it is not possible to see your dog at all times within the park if let loose. so today was a bit of a test, and gus passed. he stayed close enough while wandering, sniffing, running, and playing. and it was a lovely little hike. after which gus was dirty.
another step up 295 brought us to the much celebrated, vaunted ll bean retail store. (now campus). we were on a return mission, and as always, it was successful. nabil's shoes had begun to speak (as they say in morocco) (rubber sole separating from upper). ll had no problem issuing us credit for a whole new pair, no questions asked. ll must stand for land of love.
we do not go there often, and whenever we do, there are exciting things to catch up on. the latest thrill of ll bean today came in the form of a large aquarium with a half-dome bubble to stand in, offering an eye to eye view of freshwater fish.
...and onward. back down 295. portland was just gorgeous today, and the pier on commercial street was a perfect setting for our afternoon snack and coffee. gus offered to help clean up by eating the paper wrapper from the muffin before i could take it from his mouth. sorry gus, dear heart.
april 3 2008
it is so great to hear from families who are enjoying items from moth designs. i cannot say enough about the wonders of etsy--for so many reasons--but above all its place in my life as social catalyst. some of the most wonderful, world-aware folks have come into my life through this endeavor, and to those of you who have taken the time to contact me--thank you! i am always happy to hear from you, and even more amazed when you share photos of my creations in action. this such event occurred just within the past few days, and my heart leapt! what beauty this creature brings to the world. meet persephone belle, known as pb, modelling the arabic elephant onesie. what a darling. her mother, penny saunders, received the onesie as a gift from mutual dear friend darby hickey, whom i see far too seldom but hold dear to my heart. penny keeps this lovely and amazing blog about pb's adventures in living and growing--a precious memoir.
...thank you penny. and hugs to pb!
the evolution of my interest in arabic language and culture has been a long love affair, borne of early college wanderlust and the gentle loving presence of aforementioned dear friend, darby hickey. the year before darby and i met as counselors at friends camp in south china, maine, she had been living and studying in east jerusalem, palestine. our developing bond and her passion for this region of the world helped to guide me exactly where i needed to go. she visited me in morocco, and we ate olive and la vache qui rit sandwiches all through the desert. we sipped fig moonshine from sidi harazem bottles on new year's eve with abdullah and hassan at the sahara fondouk. we endured cold, bladder infections, 24 hour bus rides, and persistent shop keepers with our spirits of ADVENTURE (!) largely intact.
in the years since that trip, i have not seen darby as often as i would like, and she would argue that i am a hermit and she is right. but i am thankful for the times i do catch her, as pictured below: last summer when she drove up from washington dc to take dear luna to friends camp.
march 30 2008
it was a quiet, lovely, day after the party day yesterday. exquisite in sweatpants, blankets, ignored dish pile and comforting movies. it was cold outside but nevermind. our hearts were warm in the lingering buzz of fanfare, and really, who wants to be outdoorsy on the day after a party?
it was made even better by the fact that we were able to take care of niece mya for a few hours in the evening while sister and brother in law ventured out. nothing like baby giggles to make a day even lighter and sweeter. oh mya.
it was a remarkable day. a rather enormous day. yesterday, friday march 28th, nabil was sworn in as a citizen of the united states, marking the end of an era in our married life--immigration will no longer be knocking at our door. we will no longer have to prove the validity of our marriage nor worry with true fear for nabil's safe passage through customs after a trip to morocco. by no means does nabil's citizenship guarantee a lifetime without struggles or injustice, but it represents a bit of safe harbor for our relationship--come what may, we are fully legal, together, once and for all.
the day bore greatness in the support of friends and family. i am proud to claim that of the 13 applicants sworn in yesterday, nabil's crowd represented the majority in the audience. we are blessed with community so generous and kind, who have shared in our joys and struggles with love and grace. the ceremony was short, to the point, and touching, with baby niece mya ever so patient as she gummed her favorite toy--the plastic slotted spoon. there is video of the moment, which i hope to include here when i gather myself enough to edit and post. for now, i share scattered thoughts and memories in a flurry of emotional afterglow.
pictured here is my father chatting with his childhood best friend charlie, sitting at the very table upon which they ate countless family meals throughout their awkward boyhood flattop-adorned years to adulthood. it felt very much like a re-christening of the house, with so much family, revelry, homemade pizzas, and of course, cake.
there are many more photos to share and thoughts to relay. i will post more as they come in from others who took photos and shared in the day. for now, i thank all who made the day what it was. and i congratulate my husband nabil, who deserves every moment of celebration and more.
march 27 2008
i am procrastinating. i admit it. i have been a champion procrastinator throughout my life. i work well under pressure. i think.
tomorrow is a bit of a surprise...and i am preparing the house for it today. or i will be. as soon as i stop procrastinating. i will be sure to share photos of the day, and thoughts.
until then, here are a few things that i have been doing instead of cleaning my house.
introducing the greyhound onesie. available at the etsy shop.
please enjoy the fruits of a still-cluttered house. it's worth it. i think.
there are many blurry parts of life that we don't see on a day to day, messy, tired, human basis. things that happen so regularly and unintrusively that we fail to recognize their significance or the touching meaning of their passing. in the all-outedness of existence it is far too easy to un-notice and... coast. every once in a while the glaze is peeled back and something is seen.
i was watching nabil for just a moment this afternoon. he was tired. he arose at 2 am today to go to work with the goal of a successful inventory in mind. the clock reached nearly noon before he walked back through the door, and after all the hours at work he still took time to greet gus and take him out for a walk, go to school to gather study materials, and go to the library to drop off overdue items. tired and weary, he came home, put on these pants which i have seen him wear one thousand times before, stepped into two mismatched slippers and sat down to read the speech he had chosen for class. the speech he chose was about the importance of helping others.
i saw the slippers. and the pants. and the bare arms and white t shirt...the quiet reading. all inconsequential but poignant. the slippers. one of a pair he bought for their 'true mainah' quality, the other purchased by my mother for me. the pants. in 2002, when nabil and i first held hands under a blanket in fez, i decided that these were my favorite pants in his closet. he wore them when he came home from soccer practice, and they matched his black and white italian jersey. the shirt. on the back, it is silkscreened with s.nabil and the number 10. in 2005, nabil asked me to create this shirt for him. it was already an old undershirt when i made it, and it is older now, thinner, more stretched out, and stained, but it is always the first shirt in the basket that he reaches for when i have done laundry. and the reading. the reading of the speech about helping others, his choice topic, and his determination to finish his education while working 45 - 50 hour weeks. tired.
nabil has told me before that in islam, work is a form of prayer. the rhythm of life takes work, and there is joy in the strain and challenge.
a few days ago , i was able to extract photos of our most recent trip to morocco from my camera. we had thought that we had lost the photos, and it was a lovely surprise to see them. the day this photo was taken was a friday, a normal, uneventful friday. a friday in an islamic country, when muslims gather at the mosque for midday prayers and a message from the imam. a friday in morocco when families eat cous cous. aunt fatiha, her strong fingers gripping the terracotta dish, is on the left. i have laughed and cried and cooked with her. mother in law naima, with her deep soulful eyes and curly hair, is on the right. her warm hands have soothed me through difficult goodbyes and welcomed me into the sibouih-kasri family. the enormous work that these lives represent ask no retribution nor remuneration. they work with grace, with joy, with anger, with sadness, with helplessness, with hope and with pride. i know that as yet, i am an unskilled worker in their fields. i accept their guidance humbly.
giant pathetic sigh. i just had to laugh and take a break when i opened up my mailbox mere moments ago to find a lone postal greeting in the form of an ll bean catalog.
having spent nearly all of my waking moments today working on my 2007 tax return, i have been more than a tad frazzled. this is the continuation of yesterday's failed initial attempt to tackle the irs and steer clear of our traditional pay-in. ugh. with easter candy on hand, it was a dangerous combination: nerve-fraying monetary task, jelly beans, and chocolate. this on top of an excessively gassy greyhound made for a particularly harried (and smelly) day. upon nabil's return from work for the brief moment he spends here before speeding off to classes, i sat back from the turbo tax screen and stretched---death and taxes, death and taxes...a mantra in my head. a quick drive to drop him off allowed me at least a moment of fresh air and sun, much needed vitamin d. upon my return, the mailbox reminded me, NO, it's not only death and taxes. it is death, taxes, and ll bean catalogs.
i believe that on average, there is at least one ll bean catalog in our recycling bin every week. how they manage to output such massive advertising (nevermind the merchandise!) is a marketing miracle. we have received enough ll bean catalogs at this house to reforest a small state. i think if i had been thinking straight, i could have saved all of my ll bean catalogs and used them as fuel for heat this winter, saving me on the near $1400 i calculated today for heating oil expenses.
yes, surely, i jest. but i remain in awe of the retail monolith of outdoor apparel and uber wholesome goods, spawned right here in freeport maine, just 20 minutes north of my own home. ll bean.
and here is the other most exciting news: it is the ll bean SUMMER catalog. summer.
march 17 2008
first and foremost, happy st. patrick's day. while i am not enormously knowledgeable nor strident about my irish heritage, and have never had green beer, i can lay claim to family history on that lovely green island yonder. go forth on this day and bravely kiss them because they are irish.
sigh. this photo below...if i have not mentioned it already, or in case you have not yet surmised, nabil and i are dorks. i think this pretty much sums up the dorkitude.
test, you wonder (?). well. (the previously mentioned) saturday was a wee celebration for dear sister's birthday at her home in kennebunk. it was a lovely gathering of family, with 8 of us sharing dinner, and baby niece mya looking ever so cute in overalls. there was no doubt in our minds that we wanted to attend the gathering and share in the festivities...but, we had not yet left gus on his own, and his somewhat nervous nature did not bode well for his ability to remain at home for multiple hours. with so many people in attendance it was not the right occasion for gus to meet sammy dog, longtime resident of my sister's house. so. gus came along, with a hefty stack of blankies, warm fleece jacket, enormous marrow bone, food, water, toys, and the promise of visits/walks every 20 - 30 minutes in/from the car. we parked close to the house and i stood near the windows where gus could see me. for the first hour and a half it worked well--gus watched from the car and i visited every 20 minutes or so and took him out...he even met sammy on the porch and both behaved politely. i was so impressed.
so much so that i sat down to eat dinner.
soon after dinner we said our goodbyes and slid out, wanting to be with gus as soon as possible.
gus had needed us sooner than that.
'oh, he shredded up some paper!' i said as i looked in the window and greeted him. then i looked up. and then i breathed through my nose. sadly, gus had been so upset that he had had diarrhea on the front and back seats of the car, and chewed up about half of the headliner of the car. he cowered, ashamed and forlorn in the backseat. an enormous ball of sadness and guilt welled up in my throat. how could i have left him? how could i have thought that blankies and bones would be enough? and how was i going to calm my angry husband?
with a few garbage bags, rags, and bucket of cleaner, i was able to clean up enough so that we could drive home, the car still smelling stongly of diarrhea. gus sat in the backseat with his tail so far beneath him that it touched his nose. as soon as we pulled away from the driveway, the dam burst and i cried nearly all the way home. poor poor gus. miserable. nabil held my hand and stroked my head, and when we got home, he fed gus while i prepared the bath to wash him. three loads of laundry and two hours of scrubbing the car later, things were restored to near-new conditions (save the mangled headliner). i'll have to call saturn about that.
so yesterday, nabil and i decided to go ice skating. and try the crate for one hour. gus went into the crate willingly, and feasted on a few choice treats. as we went out the door he barked and whined, but upon my return an hour later, he was lying down, calmly enjoying the radio we had left on for him. his joyous greeting was all i needed to know that he had forgiven us and himself. life goes on. nabil still calls him a good boy, and with every day, it will get easier.
|march 9 2008|
march 5 2008
it finally happened. for all of my dreaming of greyhounds, we finally have one in our family. this morning at 8:30 am, gus came home with me and became the first sibouih-robbins dog.
nabil's family has never owned dogs, and having a dog (or any pet) in the home is not common in morocco. i was thus extremely surprised when about two years ago, nabil proclaimed "i think we need a dog." since being in the u.s., he has gotten to know a few dogs in the family--notably sammy, my sister and brother in law's endearing boy. and of course kala, the lovely black standard poodle, of my uncle frank and aunt niru's family. he had developed in his mind an 'ideal' dog, a combination of what he had seen on television and in photo advertisements showing the real 'american family.' he wanted, above all, a yellow lab.
having read the book 'marley and me,' there was no way i was going to let any dog that could potentially eat all the furniture (or--god forbid--the sewing machine!) into the house. i love yellow labs too, but i was not up for the potential discipline issues. and let's be honest here...besides...i had another long long time wish, love, and loyalty...the greyhound.
before nabil's proclamation, i had not envisioned our life including dogs. i had assumed he would not be comfortable with it. once the tides were turned, a new dimension was added to my life. the dimension that included at least 20 minutes per day of online greyhound admiration, or the occasional happenstance exchange with neighborhood greyhound owners out on walks.
try as i might, nabil could not see the beauty in greyhounds that i tirelessly attempted to instill. his stock image of the yellow lab was as cemented in place as the greyhound was for me. for two years we waxed and waned on dog ownership...not the right time, couldn't agree on breed...and it was true, it wasn't the right time, and we couldn't.
nabil began to warm up to greyhounds upon a visit to the co-operator of the maine greyhound placement service at her home. she graciously invited us to meet her dogs, thereby showing us what they are like in a home setting. nabil was surprised, and i daresay--touched. while not completely convinced nor lovestruck, his eyes had been opened to the grace and gentle nature of the dog. a crack appeared in the heretofore impenetrable yellow lab alcatraz...
after nabil passed his citizenship test two days ago, we had a lovely lunch with my mum (thanks for celebrating with us, mum!), and an afternoon off together. i happened to think during lunch that perhaps we could go to the shelter in the afternoon, as we have done many times, to see the animals.
there were three greyhounds at the shelter. with one look into gus' eyes, i fell terribly, no turn back in love. we left the shelter and came home. later that night we were talking about names.
yesterday gus had his teeth cleaned and was neutered, and spent his last night in confinement, forever. his racing days are over. i drove through a mess of hail and freezing rain this morning to get him, and even locked myself out of my car, requiring a call to AAA. as with the downpour on our wedding day, i can only see all of this as good luck.
seeing this sign on gus' cage brought tears to my eyes.
march 3 2008.
march 2 2008
march is the month in which my sister was born. it is one month before my father and husband were born. it is a month of inner crazies, brown snow, itching from deep within the mind, and the preparation for skin's first exposure to the air after months under wraps. it is the early early prayer for spring.
yesterday was the first, and maine did not disappoint us. just as the groundhog did see his shadow on february second, heralding another six weeks (has he ever NOT seen his shadow?--and--when has it ever been only six weeks??), march was indeed in like a lion. another pile of white on top of the already frozen months-old chunks of ice we fondly refer to as snowbanks. my inner crazies have let loose. i am fully in the throes of spring-mania. i need it.
today the skies are blue again and my cold-whipped soul is hopeful. printing out the calendar for march i realized--daylight savings is march 9th--that's next monday. ever hopeful.
in the face of snow and greasy slick roads, nabil and i did what we do best on a day off together--see movies. we ventured out to see semi-pro, the new will ferrell. it did not disappoint. god i love that man.
and wouldn't you know it? there was a photo booth at the theater. how could we resist? here we are.
february 26 2008.
almost every day (not every, but almost) i ask nabil to marry me. almost every day (not every, but almost), he says yes. three years into our marriage, asking him to marry me has become a ritual. almost a prayer. i imagine asking him to marry me on our 25th wedding anniversary, in the same seemingly absurd way i do at present. i imagine asking him on our 50th wedding anniversary, perhaps with grandchildren nearby to witness. and almost every day (not every, but almost), this is an immensely comforting thought.
with me working from home now, we have more days off together than ever before. previously, his shifting schedule forever clashed with my monday through friday 9-5 work, and my weekends were often spent solo. presently, as the creator of my own schedule, if nabil has monday off, i can have monday off too. and i don't have to ask ahead, or worry about coverage, or even feel guilty about using vacation pay. shucks.
february 19 2008
i have been blogged! i am late in writing about this, as the smart and mediterranean-savvy lydia beyoud contacted me in early january about highlighting my designs on her blog. here it is one month later. i am so grateful for etsy and the people whom i have met through moth designs. lydia's blog is now a favorite of mine--offering insightful commentary on mediterranean culture and beautiful images from parts of the world so close to my heart. she includes her writing in both english and french--even better! thank you lydia! www.lallalydia.blogspot.com.
this was how it happened.
chicken curry stir fry.
1 1/2 cups prepared jasmine rice
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 red pepper
1 cup of snow peas or sugar snap peas
olive oil (or sesame oil, if you have it)
(you'll notice no quantities on those last 5 items...)
cut the chicken breasts into thin strips. chop red pepper into 1-2 inch chunks. in a hot frypan (or wok if you have one), add about 2 tablespoons oil. let heat for about 1 minute. sprinkle into oil about 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. stir up a bit. add chicken and sautee on med-high for a few minutes (probably about 5), stirring constantly until almost cooked through. add about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and more curry. add peppers and snow peas. if the mixture is too dry, add 2-3 tablespoons of water. continue to stir and cook everything together until veggies are cooked al-dente. taste, add curry powder and salt as needed. add about 1-2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter (natural is best but jif will work). sautee until chicken is cooked through and veggies are desired texture. serve over hot jasmine rice. mmmmm. enjoy.
february 16 2008
spring come hither. grass has been on my mind, more specifically, to be honest, the plastic grass that comes in sushi take out--but spring and the return of green is a big topic of discussion these days. there are still many weeks of white to celebrate before the coming of green, and we press on, ever hopeful.
nabil and i have been a wee bit ill this week. nabil truly so--bouncing between hot and cold sweats as his fever rises and falls. the flu. with my flu shot i am managing to stave off the worst of it, but the cold has made its home in my lungs, no apologies. we coughed on each other all day valentine's day, and then feasted on 50% off chocolate yesterday, the 15th. sometimes being sick is good bonding.
this morning i awoke to this image and needed to make it. here it is.
february 15 2008
simple plastic pleasures: piece o cake.
our shower in its previous state was thus: a tub with no curtain rod, backed by a half-mangled wall over which a curtain liner was duct taped, and an embarrassingly short shower head under which nabil and i crouch-showered for nearly a year. those who bore witness to (or--worse--attempted bathing in) our wee broken bath house can now rejoice in its newly curtain-bedecked, fiberglass-coated splendor. with help from terry and his one-man design and contracting business, we are now able to welcome the wayward bather to our humble home. as he said, it was 'a piece o cake.' he certainly made it look that way.
with a couple of days' reflection since the completion, i have reminisced about bathing situations past. i have already shared the experience nabil and i had one long cold winter in rabat when our hot water heater broke and was not replaced until well into the spring. but the reality for many people living throughout the world is that bathing at home would be a luxury. there are still families in nabil's neighhorhood who bathe only at the public bath houses, or hammams.
at one point, nabil and i lived in a beautiful old apartment up the street from his family. the tile work in the upstairs salon (living room) was an indescribably intricate maze of color and design. old. lovely. the roof where i washed and hung clothes looked out over the entire medina. the bathrooom was a small, short room with a cement turkish (squat) toilet and a small window cut in the wall with no window pane. For generations, families living in this majestic apartment had made the trip to the hammam, carrying buckets and bags full of towels, shampoo, and sabon bildi. while i am a great lover of the hammam and the rich gossip it houses, my weak asthmatic lungs were not suited for frequent trips. thus, nabil and i created a 'shower.' we installed a gas-powered water heater and ran two taps into the wc. uncle fatah came to cover our cement floor with ceramic tiles. and a small bathhouse was born. to bathe, nabil and i stuffed the open window full of towels or our clothes to block out the cold air. we would then place a large plastic bucket under the taps to fill it with water, and sit (as the room was too short to stand) on a short plastic stool. with a bowl, we scooped water from the bucket and showered. the simple addition of these two copper taps in the bathroom changed the rhythm of life for future tenants. i suspect--and i hope--the tradition of the hammam is still alive and well for those who live there.
in the equivalent of 2 days' work, terry brought a whole new outlook on showering to this household. the joy of contained running water. bliss. i again thank zia rosina, who brought terry our way, terry himself, and my parents, who, as always, helped.
february 3 2008
my father has worked very hard. his parents endured the great depression, and brought forth 4 healthy children in the 1940's and 50's. where i sit now, in this room, there were once bunkbeds. young ted and uncle brian slept here-- playing cowboys and indians, practicing the clarinet, arguing the arguments of brotherhood. my grandfather, irwin robbins, was a sound and cinema technician for altec service company, and from a young age my father and uncles learned the skills of the projection trade. my father would go on to work as a master projectionist for the majority of my childhood and teenage years, and serve in the union of cinema workers. saturday afternoons at work with dad were full of adventure. in the cavernous hallways of the projection booth, machines whirring, my father would take breaks from reading between shows to teach me to splice, to draw in perspective, and to give me bags full of salty 'pup-cahn.' on occasion i would go down to the theaters to watch movies, but many times i remained perched on the tall stool in front of the drafting table, sharing the afternoon with dad.
as time went on school became busier and busier for my sister and i, and it became harder for us to spend time at work with dad. he sacrificed time with his family for work, with the ever present goal of sending my sister and i to college. i do not remember a time that he worked less than two jobs. i caught my father's attention and pride when i could, with a commitment to my studies and a passion for activism inspired by my genetic tendency towards individualism. for christmas my senior year of high school, my father gifted me with a stack of books by edward abbey. perhaps he does not know this, but that was the most touching gift he has given me. i understood that he was seeing me for what i was.
my father realized his goal of sending both my sister and i to college. he did this, and so much more than he sees or remembers. skipping hand and hand into shop 'n' save on weekend days off to buy hubba bubba gum. christmas eve shopping trips to the mall. and family vacations to destinations that inspired learning.
he is a new grandfather now. thank you dad.
january 30 2008
bouchra. wife of the egyptian ambassador to morocco. dancing at our wedding. and my favorite song. memory for today and always. tie on a hip scarf and remember.
january 21 2008
happy martin luther king day. on this very important holiday weekend, nabil and i managed a rare two days off together to join friends in cornville, maine for a winter adventure. the focus of the mini-vaca was a long-sought-after snowboarding lesson for nabil from our very patient, kind and gentle cornville-ian (-iac?) friend. the initial efforts in the living room (and then driveway) were photo-worthy as nabil found his balance, strapped into the fashionable piece of plastic. his months of snowboarding fantasy came to life on a near perfect january afternoon at sugarloaf usa. with only a sore posterior and slightly wounded pride from the numerous first day falls, nabil is now ready for a lifetime of extreme winter sporting and jaunts to country destinations, populations 1100 or less.
january 7 2008
dog, friend, boots.
how it happened i am not quite sure, but early january is upon us again. more snow has fallen on maine soil in december and january than all of last year's six month winter onslaught. we stumble forward, light deprived and chubby, hoping for surprising mid-winter cheer and of course, an early spring. or an unexpected chunk of change to fund expensive winter sports. or a vacation to someplace where fruit juices with umbrellas are served and sand comes home in the suitcase. (not the type of sand currently on our roads to keep our cars from careening into the 5-foot high snow mountains on the sidewalks).
this past weekend included a bit of the aforementioned surprise winter cheer in the form of a 2-day visit from kala, a dog of our extended family. visits from kala include much one-sided conversation, walking outdoors, napping, and loving, excited greetings. we made the 1 mile trek to willard beach two days in a row for some winter exercise and socialization with local canines and canine-owners.
december 26 2007
christmas brings the family together at my mum and dad's house, just one mile down the road from my own. and christmas brings a new soccer magazine for nabil. as this was niece mya's first christmas, uncle nabil took it upon himself to show her the ways of soccer's elite, ensuring what he envisions to be a bright future on the field. oh mya. it's okay if you'd rather stay in with auntie mary and knit, too.
another day warmed by the laughter and energy of togetherness, food, music, and celebration. thank you again to my family and friends who make this time of year so full of thanks and good cheer.
december 24 2007
it is christmas eve and my body is failing me--worn from several days of celebration, cooking, laughing, dancing, drumming. this year, the islamic holiday eid el kebir landed on december 20th. eid is the most prominent holiday of the islamic faith, and is more commonly regarded in the western world as 'the sacrifice holiday.' the story of abraham and ishmael, the same in both the bible and qu'ran, describes a dream abraham had wherein he believes he has received instruction from god to kill his own son, ishmael. through his unwavering submission to god, abraham prepares himself mentally, emotionally, and physically to sacrifice his son. at the last moment, as abraham is ready to carry out what he believes to be god's will, god sends a message to abraham that as we are humans, we must not kill one another. ishmael is spared, and a sheep is sacrificed in his place.
i celebrated eid el kebir three times with nabil's family in morocco, and numerous other occasions for which a sheep was sacrificed. it was enormously difficult for me to watch the slaughtering of the sheep for the first time, as i had never watched any living being die. upon reflection, i developed an appreciation and respect for a practice which creates a clear and reverent understanding of what it means to take a life. children grow up bearing witness to this ritual, and learning the meaning of sacrifice and loss for nourishment. it is customary for the family to be present in the home when the sheep is slaughtered. a prayer is recited, the knife hidden from view. the last breath is taken and life is ended quickly, respectfully.
the celebration begins, and every part of the body is used. the family feasts together for one or two days, but the meat lasts for months in the freezer, preserved as salted khli', or shared with neighbors and community members who are less fortunate.
for our first true eid celebration in our home, we cooked an 18 pound turkey and invited several of our friends, some muslim, some not. the ritual of the sheep--and certainly nabil's family-- were missed, but the gathering was warm and happy with drumming, dancing and laughing. thank you to our friends who joined us, and eid mobarak to you. may you find happiness with all that you wish for this year.
december 16 2007
i have been knitting a lot. evenings are passed in this chair or at the end of the adjacent couch, under a blanket or two with nabil and a pile of yarn. of late, the knitting has taken on olympic proportions as i attempt enormous new feats of lofty holiday gifting goals, and the knitting has stretched well beyond the requisite movie borrowed from the library and the half hour or so following that nabil dozes on the couch. the screen goes blank, the house is quiet save the intermittent banging of the radiators, and my knitting needles softly click--evenly, smoothly. nabil rises and kisses me goodnight, and i remain, sidled up next to the quartz heater.
the long nights of solitary silent knitting always bring me to thoughts of mary ella gibson. mary is the grandmother for whom i am named, whom i never met, passed on before my birth. all that i have of mary are these piles of knitting and sewing books, and her life's collection of knitting and crocheting materials. i remember unzipping this cream colored valise of knitting needles and hooks when i was very young--marveling at the numerous sizes, colors, and shapes. until a relatively short time ago--just two or three years--i knew very little of their purpose or capability. these past two winters have found me firmly in the depths of these items--learning, striving.
the ache that i feel regarding this unknown in my life--mary gibson and her fabled passion for life, family, food, creation, and human kindness--is soothed by the rhythmic motion of her knitting needles in my hands, and the glimmer of connection i feel to her while knitting. i imagine what we would talk about if she were here knitting in the chair next to me--her advice and direction on a difficult pattern or stitch, her thoughts on what to cook for dinner, her consolation that motherhood is not as difficult and scary as i often feel it will be. i imagine her glasses on the end of her nose, with a long chain holding them round her neck, and small clips in her wispy hair.
december 11 2007
helping others is important--we are taught this from a very early age. giving of time, love, energy, money, sugar, heating oil--(maybe i am hoping for that last one?)--any way in which we can improve one another's day to day lives is important. recently, i joined nabil's human services class group to help ensure a warmer winter for a fellow community member by wrapping her foundation in plastic sheeting. the very next day, my neighbor came and cleared my entire lawn of leaves. it is so true--what goes around comes around. my tribute to social capital--and a gift to the students of nabil's human services class--the social capital carrot cake. enjoy.
december 9 2007
yesterday nabil and i were at the blissful revolution holiday bazaar at the northdam mill in biddeford, maine. as an up and coming artist community, the mill was the perfect spot for meeting wonderful folks. for all of my nervous energy before such events, i am always calmed and nourished by the womb-like serenity the company of fellow artists brings, and the afterglow from a day well spent. much respect and appreciation goes to rayne grace, organizer and supporter extraordinaire.
thank you to the many folks who took the time to stop and chat--i would love to hear from you again. and to my neighbors who lent me lighting--shucks, you are great.
december 5 2007
for the love of freecycle.
if you are like me, your heart aches with immediacy while driving past anything marked 'free' on the side of the road. saturday mornings are not for sleeping in, but rather lining up a strategic plan as to which church fair/rummage sale/thrift store/yard sale/flea market should be visited first, second, third--through perhaps tenth. cleaning goes somewhat like this: sifting through piles of old letters, tiny ripped up notes, photos, clothes not worn in months (maybe years), becoming intensely reminscent and sentimental, and then putting them all back into boxes and stuffing them into their original spots. the basement is not at all live-in--rather a safe harbor for the piles and piles of accumulated items i am simply unwilling to part with. if you are like me, you love freecycle.
the online community of freecyclers found in yahoo groups was brought into my life by a fellow uber-sentimentalist and collector. we dish almost daily about the posts that have come up--items that people would otherwise send to the landfill, offered up for free to anyone who is willing to pick them up. rest assured that ANY item one posts on freecycle will be claimed by someone. the posts range from the truly undeniable deal of a lifetime (recently a diamond ring was offered), to the utterly ridiculous--a toothpaste squeezer was offered and it was taken within a day. but the spirit of sharing, lessening of waste, and the thrill of the daily lists is A-1 prime pastime.
another very important element of freecycle is the human interaction--the willingness to have someone come to your home to give them something, and the faith that going to a stranger's home will merit a positive outcome. i have met several interesting and kind fellow freecyclers, many whom have taken the time for a chat, joke, and a smile.
for the first two and three quarter years of our marriage, nabil and i slept on a futon mattress on the floor. his desperate pleas for a "real bed" would have been greatly soothed by the simple addition of a plain wooden futon frame. i searched in earnest through craigslist, goodwills, salvation armies, and yard sales with no luck. we finally bought a much more expensive solution--a real bed with a pillowtop mattress. now two months later, i opened my inbox just last week to find it--the plain wooden queen sized futon frame. for FREE. for the love of freecycle. it is a guest bed now. sigh.and just for fun :: a continuation of yesterday--nabil snowblowing, 2007.
december 4 2007
this photo was taken mere days after nabil's initial arrival here in maine from morocco. this was his introduction to snow and the maine way of life. it was january. it was cold. it was dark. it was snowy.
he jumped right in. he learned to use the snowblower and wielded the shovel expertly. he patiently marked time until his green card arrived and social security number was issued-- allowing him to work. he learned to drive a robbins car--the land yacht on the right of this photo was the car he took his driver's test in--and parallel parked perfectly. for all of my fear about nabil's entry into my family and american culture--it was i, not he, who struggled most coming here. i take priceless lessons from his unyielding courage, faith, and will to move forward. today we went back to this very driveway to snowblow the winter's first layer. i love you nabil.
november 29 2007
last night we went to the southern maine community college to listen to two international students from the arab world (and namely one from morocco) speak about their experiences here in maine. the students came to the u.s. on fulbright scholarships, and have spent a number of months living here in south portland. the female student from morocco represented the minority upper class, and along with it an interesting wealth of 'modern' thought. i appreciated hearing her give voice to the cultural challenges that morocco faces, and in particular moroccan women--but found myself confused and defensive at times. it is her financial position that allows her a freedom of critical thought that the immense majority could never dream of. her assertions that moroccan women no longer are interested in cooking and cleaning or taking care of the elderly were not only opposed to my own experiences there, but seemed a proud proclamation of "moving forward." while i absolutley appreciate my own personal liberty to choose whether or not i work at home or work outside the home, cook for my husband or eat at a restaurant--i revere the rich traditions and female culture in morocco. and in nabil's traditional joined family--this spirit is very much alive and well. the elderly are cared for by the family, and continue to contribute into their 90's. again, this is my experience. and one i am thankful for. the presence of women pushing forward is always important--just as important as the guardianship of cultural tradition.
a funny moment occurred when she was asked about sports in morocco, and if there is fervor for national teams as compared to that of 'red sox nation.' she herself was untinterested in sports, which i had to laugh about as i remembered my own exasperation regarding soccer and its ubiquitous presence in our home in morocco. but her claim that moroccans are only interested in barcelona and real madrid (and not their own national team) surpisingly brought my hackles up. i waited with anticipation until the floor was opened up to the audience. i proudly declared that when i was a teacher in rabat, and morocco and tunisia were playing the finals of the africa cup--NO ONE came to class.
we then came home and nabil put on his moroccan jersey. chamakh, number 17. aish al-maghrib!
november 28 2007
being winter in maine, it is cold. this is the first winter that we have paid for heating oil as a separate bill and i am piling on the sweaters, hats, and gloves...inside the house.
in our top-floor apartment in rabat, morocco, the uninsulated concrete walls kept us mercifully cool in the summer but neglected us mercilessly in the winter. albeit a short season (and minus snow), winters in rabat were cold and damp--the cold that leaks into your bones and stays for three months. our water heater broke one long winter and we lived without it for 2 months. thus, it is cold in our wee house now--but i am thankful for the insulation, the new windows, the hot water (oh the luxury!) and of course, the occasional furnace allowance.
the cold blew my studio down from its roost on the second floor to the cozier downstairs. here i am parked...just a step from the kitchen and computer...dangerous.lemon tea for scratchy throat and an orange upholstered rocking chair for the occasional visitor
and holiday knitting.
november 27 2007
on thanksgiving i wore this green caftan, gifted to me by naima. my skin braved the cold that day as i tried on several of naima's gifts--kept carefully in a garment bag in my closet. the pile of unkempt laundry remains a constant on the bedroom floor :: but the caftans...the caftans are carefully folded the way that naima showed me...wrapped in plastic, and stored in the cedar trunk marked "to anne from bob."
november 15 2007
the site is almost there.still working on it, but i can't wait any longer to post it.... thanks to all who have come and taken a wee look around. so much to be inspired by in the world, and perhaps i can share a bit of what i have seen and learned.
on this first day of the site's existence, i'll post this photo.
clockwise from 12:00--fatiha, baby salma, sanae, soumiya,fadwa, me, saadiyya, naima, and ruqayya. these are the women who formed the rhythm of my days in morocco. the women who laughed loudest, cooked most passionately, loved most openly. i miss them. moreso now than in a long time. i was sitting with saadiyya and soumiya when the world trade center fell--watching the buildings burn on aljazeera. i had been in morocco eight days. i was with fatiha later that year when she learned she was about to have her third child. she drank a glass of milk over my head, kissed me on the cheek, and prayed for a baby girl. salma was born just about nine months later.
as i begin to enter a period in my life where family becomes a closer reality and hope, i look to my mother in maine and these women in morocco for guidance. i have great faith in them.