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Life begins at...

I’ve always thought 35 is when life starts. Maybe it began when I was young, the first year I had a concept of how old my parents were. I remember coming back to school after learning you had to be at least 35 years old to become president.

"I know why you can’t be president." I immediately addressed the issue with my dad, as if he would be if he met the requirement.

But I never addressed the issue with my mom. There wasn’t a law against women becoming president, yet, the possibility never entered my mind.

journal

take three

It' s surprisingly hard to make bread.

A campfire from the summer. I hope to bake on an open fire one day.

On Sunday I tried to make bread again. This time, I tried very much to make sure the yeast was active. Unfortunately, it was way too active and the dough did not come together well enough to bake.

Of course it took 8 hours of poking before I realized it wasn’t going to happen.

If I were on the homestead, back in the 19th century, would I have thrown my dough onto a pan and made do with less tasty, imperfect bread? I’d imagine that I’d be traveling with a family on a Conestoga wagon. There’s a scarcity of food so my family would have had to eat bad bread when it didn’t come out right.

Is there documentation of poorly made food? How bad was it back then? I can imagine the activity of making bread was more vital, so perhaps I would have perfected the craft of bread making after apprenticing with a female relative.

Instead of learning from another person, I have a world of resources: youtube videos and online forums. But despite all the information, and the number of people 'teaching' me, I’m not getting closer to ensuring that bread will happen again.

journal

villa sola cabiati

They say it's one of the finest villas on Lake Como.

Velvety and silky in gold frames

I’ve visited enough places to know nothing is what it seems. Dreamy photos of far off places are never as dreamy in real life. There are multiple ways to enjoy a place, but the most alluring imagery, the ones that demand you to enjoy a place in a particular way, usually fall short of the intense expectations. For instance, wandering around Paris thinking everything is the most romantic takes a lot of work, especially when you’ve wandered onto a dirty street with guys pushing fake designer perfume every couple steps.

Million dollar views

Guestroom details, marble and embroidered velvet

As luxurious as the photos of Villa Sola Cabiati are, I’m only interested in the decorative details. The Villa's website has albums full of details. Damask textiles are draped all over guest rooms and the minimal bathrooms are adorned with vintage faucets and fixtures. I’m satisfied taking a virtual tour, surprisingly not jealous of the people who can afford $54,100 a week to stay here.

What's painted and what's sculpted?

All photos via villasolacabiati.com.

home

mary magdalene wroclaw

A live museum: an old Gothic church

A pretty Mary statue and gold details in the chapel.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Wrocław was established in the 13th century. It was rebuilt after destruction during WWII and the church has a large collection of statues, art and plaques, some dating back to the early part of the millennia.

Gothic architecture: very high ceilings.

As mentioned previously, religious art is a bore when placed in a museum. There’s no context, no robed men walking around, no women praying or lighting candles, no theatrical display communicating the relevance of religious objects today. But that’s probably the result of being placed in a museum—it’s no longer alive to be interacted with on functional level.

A wall of rosaries

Since most signs are in Polish or German, I wasn’t aware of the tower in the back. "The bridge connecting the two towers is called the 'Mostek Czarownic' (Witches’ Bridge). A legend says that the shadows visible on the bridge are the souls of the girls who used to seduce men without wanting to be married, being scared of housekeeping. Indeed shadows represent women with brooms in their hands." - Wikipedia

Stained glass and a gentleman in tights and big bows

I wonder why there aren’t shadows of women with dishwashers. While a broom can’t sweep itself, a dishwasher, when powered, can wash dishes. Does that automatically relieve a woman of her sin? The cavernous space is perfect for quiet contemplation.

Just the side exit door...

travel

sylvia stave

A few things that I like.

Sylvia Stave silver cocktail shaker sold at an auction in 2005, Cecile Top by Style Mafia and a mesh bag photographed and styled by Dorien Dolsma and Jitske Hagens of ’wij zijn kees’. The pastry case was taken during an afternoon trip to Le Pain Quotidien.

I found a silver teapot--oh wait, it's a cocktail shaker with a handle. Sylvia Stave was a Stockholm based designer who created silverware concepts for a manufacturer by the name of C. G. Hallbergs. The shaker was made in 1930 and Sylvia designed pitchers and coffee sets in spherical forms.

"After a year in Paris, Stave returned home to design the 1939 collection, but would not stay long. She had now met her husband-to-be, the doctor Rene Agid, whom she married in 1940. At the age of 31 she gave up a flourishing career, never again to turn her hand to design. Sylvia Stave became a housewife and died in Paris in 1994." - Art Bulletin of Nationalmuseum Stockholm via nationalmuseum.org

A serving dish with cover and coffee service, 1930-1934 via nationalmuseum.org

Speaking of coffee sets, does that white pleated shirt remind you of something? It’s an exotic hybrid between a coffee filter and whipped cream. The top is designed by Style Mafia, a brand developed by a fashion blogger Simonett Pereira. I hadn’t come across this clothing line until today, but it’s got a louder style than other lines developed by fashion bloggers. Bigger sleeves, more exaggerated ruffles…maybe it’s the result of being based in Miami.

Finally, a blue mesh bag caught my eye. Sitting near the wall, the bag is shapped like the plastic grocery bag. This was styled and photographed by ’wij zijn kees’ for Tas Design, a company that produces all sorts of bags.

uncommon-finds

Meal Kits

Making a home kitchen away from home.

Butter with pasta: I spent a lot of time thinking of what to make with the few ingredients...

About two months ago, my husband and I were wandering around Berlin. I spotted a shop window full of cooking supplies. Since I can’t resist looking over kitchen supplies we had to go in.

It turns out Kochhaus, the shop we stepped into, wasn’t a kitchen supply shop. When we entered, there were multiple stations, with recipe cards, raw vegetables laid nicely and a meal presented on a plate. It felt a bit like a science fair, you could walk up to the stations, read and examine the display.

I spotted a basket of king oyster mushrooms and as a huge fan, we looked into the details. There were packaged mushrooms in one serving size available for purchase. The display had a warm spotlight on a pile of fresh mushrooms and green onions placed in a wicker basket. The middle of the display showed a dish with pasta and cooked mushrooms sprinkled with green onions. We realized we were in a shop where you can order a packaged meal, with the exact amount of spices, dry and fresh ingredients, to cook at home.

While I dismissed the concept immediately, my husband thought it was an interesting concept. He told me that if I weren’t around, he’d most likely be ordering out and sometimes it’d be nice to cook at home. With something like this, he could easily make his own food without much hassle. I told him I wouldn’t be the 'type' of person to consider it.

Cooking lunch

Recently, I was listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. There was an interview with Martha Stewart. A question about food waste came up and Martha answered that these cooking packages presented a neat solution to addressing food waste.

"There’s a new thing happening which I’m very excited about. And that is the meals that come in a box. All the ingredients that would allow you to cook but there’s no waste—there’s no shopping, there’s no waste. How many have tried those? Everything from the Marley Spoon, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot…there’s about ten or eleven of them now popping up. I don’t think it’s a fad. I really do think it’s a trend. And I think they’re getting better and better and the meals, they could be really good. Some of them are better than others. We’ve been testing them at the magazine and I think they’re very interesting. And I think that eliminates the massive waste, not only at the home level but at the supplier level. Because those suppliers know exactly how many meals they have to prepare of meal number one next week for shipping out. They order exactly what they need. And that goes into the box. So they don’t waste anything. So I think it’s going to take on the grocery stores in a big way. I think it’s a really good thing."

I had never considered these cooking packages as a way to reduce food waste. Of course, as someone who cooks, you always end up buying too much produce, or you run out of time to cook something before it goes bad.

Slowly, I opened up to the idea that this might be good for not just people who don’t cook, but good for people like me, who enjoy cooking but not so much the planning or grocery shopping.

Last week, we spent the entire week away from home at an Airbnb apartment. It was a nice opportunity to only take what was necessary and live my normal life in a different setting.

Spending time outside my usual surroundings: a different lamp, a different bed, different surfaces and different plates

We stayed near a grocery store, so the option to cook was available. But after the week, there was a ton of food waste. We had to get oil, salt and pepper, the basics. Cooking was tricky. We had picked out ingredients for breakfast sandwiches—olives, mushrooms, butter, cheese, and onions. But I had no clue what to purchase to cook for lunch or dinner because I was afraid of having to throw out so much food at the end of the week. All I committed to was a bag of pasta. At the time, I was unsure how I was going to make it.

On the first day, I tried to figure the kitchen situation out while eating a bag of potato chips. It was easier to just fill up on chips. On the second day, I didn’t feel comfortable with chips in my stomach and made an effort to create a meal.

I cooked the pasta, browned some butter and threw in olives and mushrooms. There was lemon purchased for the tea. I squeezed a bit into the browned butter. The result? One of the tastiest meals I had this month.

The following day, I was out of ideas, so we purchased some pre-made pierogi.

Some Basics: We stayed in an apartment that was part of a 'modern' gated apartment community. Clean lines everywhere, it came with a large balcony and modern furnishings.

This was when I thought, if I want something with a little more interesting than pasta and butter, or if wanted something with spices, these cooking packages would work so well. The idea of making a home away from home, just to get out of routine, would work so well if I could simply order a cooking package.

I’m willing to take a chance and try one of these meal kits out.

journal

real residences

Kitschy delight.

I discovered this front yard while wandering a residential neighborhood in Wrocław.

I live to see random design. While wandering a side street in Wrocław, I came across a well kept front yard. The yard is more like an entry space for the stairs but this home had hung a ton of flowers from the windows. My eyes fell on the patterns on the rails and then I saw pops of pink from a rose bush growing in the tiny space of the front yard. The course textures of yellow and peachy salmon added further stimulation.

Whoever planned this was having fun. They're not trying to go along with any contemporary trend. Maybe it's a trend from decades ago, but no one else on the same street is doing it. It's as if they were piling tons of makeup on a building.

Circles small and big: architectural elements in Wrocław

On the same walk I came across a small gated window and a building with large slabs of concrete with circles cut out. The building is run down but I appreciate how the entrace is kept as dramatic as it had been back in the day. It's the 70's futurism style, a version of modernity from half a century ago. I'm get excited knowing such details are still around.

home

Harold Scheub

'When you sit down in front of a television set, and watch a situation comedy, it’s the same thing…we pretty much react the same to the same stories. The more I experienced stories in southern Africa, the more I was aware of this. It wasn’t unique'

I love watching tv. Of course, only when there’s a good show to watch. Earlier this month I spent 8 hours watching the 2nd season of Narcos and 7 hours on Stranger Things. TV is still considered consumption that is anti-productive. Often I hear others who have also binge watched say that they feel like a chunk of their life disappeared.

The best tv shows are well constructed stories. I can’t say specifically how my last two binge watching experiences transformed me, but I remember moments when I was able to look at issues I was dealing with fresh eyes. Occasionally, I would re-watch a tv show and realize how different the frame of mind I was in when I first watched it. TV shows are like a mirror to how I see myself.

Masindi Senior Secondary School students, Uganda. 1961-1963. Photo by Harold Scheub via Sunu Journal.

Today I came across a photograph by Harold Scheub. He is most known as the guy who trekked across Africa recording storytellers and taking notes on the oral tradition.

"During four of the ten years that I spent in Africa, I walked up and down the southeastern coast 1,500 miles during each of those years, collecting stories, and in the end I had somewhere between nine and ten thousand oral stories."

Harold sees watching tv the same as listening to a storyteller in a rural village.

"it’s not unique. When you sit down in front of a television set, and watch a situation comedy, it’s the same thing…As different as it may seem on the surface, the fact is that we tell the same stories, and I think we pretty much react the same to the same stories. The more I experienced stories in southern Africa, the more I was aware of this. It wasn’t unique, it wasn’t exotic. So the sameness, the familiarity, seemed to me to be enormously important. And it broke down all the barriers. The fact is that we human beings speak the same language. And the language that we speak is the language of storytelling."

A photograph from Scheub’s travels through Africa. Photo by Harold Scheub via narrative.ly.

I assumed villagers, particularly in Africa, would have exotic stories to tell. But that idea, of Africa being exotic, has much more to do with the cultural brainwash I’ve gone through. Every human culture across the planet is concerned about the same things. Anxiety about change, fear of the unknown…

"Stories in all societies deal with change, transformation that takes place in human lives. Because these are scary parts of our lives. We’re moving from childhood to adulthood, from being unmarried to being married, from the pre-midlife crisis to the post-midlife crisis, all kinds of things. And so stories place a lot of emphasis on transformation."

In an interview with Harold, he states the uniqueness of a story is how it inspires. This is similar to the fresh perspective I come across: when I relate to a character and find answers to my own life through a close examination of theirs.

"Storytellers are constantly in the process of taking ancient images and casting them into contemporary kinds of forms. And so there’s no such thing as an original story. I don’t care where it is, whether it’s written or oral, the fact is that every story has been heard before. Every story has been told before. So if we’re looking for originality we’re going to find it, but in unique kinds of ways. We’re not going to find it in the way the story is told, we’re not going to find it in the story itself. It’s that connection, that’s the important thing. Connections are everything. Connecting the present and the past, connecting the storyteller and the audience."

I’m a huge fan of binge watching. While movies are only 2 to 3 hours long, watching an entire series uses up 7-8 hours. With the longer time, I can understand the nuances of different characters as they are revealed in different situations. Each character is less polarizing, no one is good or bad, it’s more about the circumstance. The main complaint I had in movies was that the characters are oversimplified. With an entire season available, each character can be made relatable in some way. Everyone is human.

In Narcos, I got to know multiple sides of Limón, Escobar’s sidekick, who is also a well-intentioned person.

"I remember hearing a story in 1975, a woman started telling a story one day, and it went on to the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and for twenty days she performed one story, so that in the end it was 120 hours long, and that was only one-third of the story. That was in July, she invited me to come back the following October for part two, and then the following November for part three, so that the three-part epic amounted to something like 400-450 hours. Magnificently told, and magnificently organized."

All Harold Scheub quotes from ’The Man With 10000 Tales’ on narrative.ly.

art

walk 2

Industrial zone.

My husband was wondering why they made half balconies than full rectangular balconies. I assume it was cheaper.

The fan was fully running.

There was an old factory that made some sort of cutting tool for metal. It was pretty neat to see the structure. I really like the glass blocks used in the front. It always looks like something shady is happening in these storage spaces.

An entrance to a section of old buildings off a very busy street

On our way towards the factory, we came across old buildings that had an exterior stripped of paint. I like the concrete and the decorative window detail. Crumbling shabby chic but totally functional at the same time.

journal

Patriae Textiles

All natural, Slovakian hemp textiles.

Bags by @patriaetextiles. Photo by @reasonstoquit.

I’ve seen a ton of antique french linen, but Slovakian hemp? That’s entirely new.

"Historically each family in this region harvested their own hemp and flax, homespun them into threads, then wove them into fabrics that were hand sewn into clothes… towels, tablecloths, pillows, bedding, grain sacks, and wagon covers. In rural areas, this tradition continued into the middle of the 20th century, hence the textiles in the Patriæ collection were handwoven between the mid-19th and the mid-20th century. They are completely organic…"

Hemp textiles collected by @patriaetextiles

Patriae is line of bags and clothing made from antique hemp textiles. I didn’t know there was so much vintage stock left but from Barbara Pisch’s instagram, it seems she’s hoarding a ton of it. Which makes me jealous.

But what would I do with a pile of traditional textiles? I can only think of upholstering my furniture and making table runners. Most likely I’d be too lazy to make anything outside a couple pillow cases.

'Early-20th century Slovak women posing with their hemp harvest and scutching, spinning, and weaving tools.' - @patriaetextiles

Barbara transforms the vintage hemp textiles into stylish totes and tops. The totes highlight the colored lines that are characteristic to the cloth. Lines are placed in ways that divide bags and tops into flattering proportions. Not everyone has an eye for re-envisioning traditional textiles in such ways.

Contemporary lifestyles don’t have as many needs for grain sacks and wagon covers. Patriae’s collection is designed with today’s practicality in mind. The life of the textile is revived through the functional usage: it doesn’t become a museum piece frozen in time, too precious to touch.

Cute totebag by @patriaetextiles

If you’re a vintage enthusiast, then you probably understand the satisfying weight of materials—how good a wood button feels over one that’s plastic. My enthusiasm for vintage has a lot to do with the natural materials. Being able to be in touch with something that is real, less artificial.

In addition to quality, there’s the aspect of culture. Who made this cloth and where are the materials sourced? I don’t think textiles can be easily traced to a family of makers, it might be too long for that information to pass, but the unique lines on each textile are often indicators of the history. It’s a detail worth treasuring.

uncommon-finds