Vegan MoFo Day 17 – Birthdays, a gift and my favorite thing (in my kitchen)

Political aside :

I was so sleepy last night after waking up at 4:30 a.m. to watch the presidential debate that I opted to go to bed rather than write a MoFo post. This might sound weird, but I feel sort of sorry for McWar. Most political analysists agree, he was slated for the Republican nomination in 2000 (save that little “mistake” when he said that he thought that decisions about abortion should be made by women and their families it was deemed better to to get him out of the spotlight, enter Bush). He reminded me of a little Jack Russel trying to play rough with a German Shepard – he knows he probably isn’t going to win, but wants to show us all the fight he has left in him. Let’s just hope the Obama voters don’t get too confident- go out and vote kids!

MoFo Post :

One of the great things about Vegan MoFo (besides having a backlog of blog reading to do) is that the kids are sharing some of their favorite things. I love reading about your favorite kitchen gadgets and appliances, and so I thought I’d share a picture of the thing in my kitchen that I love the most…

That’s right. It’s not a stand-up mixer (though I would love one) or a vitamix (yeah, I’d like one of those, too). It’s my Wonder Woman mug. I use it for measuring, for heating water in the microwave, and for cutting out biscuits. When I was 5, I wore my Fruit of the Loom Wonder Woman Underoos like they were my uniform, and my poor mum had to engage in some serious negotiations to get them in the wash. My mug lets me relive my Wonder Woman nostalgia (dare I say complex?) in a healthy, quiet way. I do try to save the world, but allow me to reassure you, I don’t parade around France in a stars and stripes bikini and knee-high red boots…though that might be fun.

I also use my mug to drink my favorite tea :

Their almond green tea is the most amazing tea I’ve had in a long time. It smells so good, I find myself just giving it a little wiff from time to time when I open the pantry…Does that make me really weird? Since the spring I have been striving to eliminate coffee from my life. I love coffee so so so much, and it hasn’t been easy, but I’m down to about 4 espressos a month. My one raw day a week really helped me break the cycle. But I think the green tea has helped more.

Today is one of my sister’s birthdays. We are only 21-months apart, and as children (and teens) fought like cats and dogs. We are like night and day. She and her husband have a dairy farm, are Southern Baptists, put large signs for whatever Republican candidate is running in their field…you get the picture.

That being said, even though we could focus on everything that divides us, since becoming adults we work very hard to agree to disagree and focus on what we have in common, and we do have much in common. I wanted to make her something special for her birthday, and this is what I came up with :

You might remember this apron that I made for Jen. I loved the retro look and color combination so much that I decided to make the same one for my sis. This was actually my first crack at embroidery (I stitched up the pockets over a month ago…before the leaves even!) Hoping to broaden my crafty horizons, I bought the Sublime Stitching Kit last spring, but it wasn’t until this project that I actually used it (not because it isn’t adroable, just because I am always working on 10 projects at once!). I stitched the pockets using the retro transfers from the kit. I felt much more confident after this first project, and everything I’ve embroidered since have been just things I drew free-hand.

I know that my nieces (ages 11 & 13) will enjoy using this apron in the kitchen as much (if not more) than their mum!

Also (at the risk of embarrassing myself because I’m wrong) I’d like to wish a happy birthday to our Bianca! Joyeux Anniversaire ma belle!

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Jen’s Birthday Apron

My very best friend Jen turns 30 today! I have never had a friend like her, nor have I ever been through so many things, from the dramatic and traumatic to the blissful and fantastic, with anyone else. I wish I could have toasted to her “live”, but she is in Arizona and I’m not. Sigh.

Despite the fact that we’re thick as thieves, she isn’t a regular reader of my blog (she works in IT and doesn’t do anything in front of a computer screen that isn’t absolutely necessary, which I totally understand…we don’t even really email, we just call – woo hoo unlimited free long distance!), which means I can show off her birthday present which I sent off to her today.

What I miss the most about my Jenniefish is porch-sitting, hanging out on weekend evenings, usually with Jen whipping up something tasty and me opening wine bottles and keeping wine glasses full (because the Shellyfish did no food preparation until just three years ago…and I haven’t lived on the same continent as Jen in 5!). We’d sit outside in the warm pueblo, reinventing the world together… Jen is still often found entertaining post-work cocktails-cum-dinners, so an apron seemed like the perfect gift. She is, like me, always spilling and wearing what she is making or drinking, so this will help keep her clean, and she’s got two pockets for matches to light candles on the patio table, or to carry a bottle opener, her secret decoder ring…

I really wanted to make an apron with gathers at the waistband so I consulted my newly acquired Bend The Rules Sewing by Amy Karol and it was so flipping easy to do! It’s so funny how we think what we don’t yet know how to do is so crazy hard. Not the case at all. I like Amy’s blog Angry Chicken, and also happened upon her “apron blog” Tie One On which has a sometimes-monthly apron making theme/event. This time around it happened to be gingham, which is what this little flirty apron is made of (I actually bought the fabric to make something cutesy for my soon-to-be-born niece, but it preferred to be an apron. Not my fault) so I have submitted it to Amy’s Tie One On flicker group, to go up at the beginning of the month.

And don’t you love my little felt appliqués? Un repas sans vin, est comme une nuit sans étoiles… a meal without wine is like a night without stars…

Happy Birthday, Jen. I love you!

Apron Love

This is an apron made by my great-grandmother Mary, my mum’s grandmother. She was undoubtedly one of the most important women in my mum’s life, and while I never was able to physically meet her (she died before my parents were married), I always felt her in our lives- not in some bizarre “Sixth Sense” meets X-Files way, rest assured. More in the way that many African societies divide people (here’s my Reader’s Digest version of a beautiful and complex theory) – the living, the sasha, and the zamani. The first category is obvious. The second, the sasha, are those who are indeed dead, but whose existence dovetailed with those still living, thus they are “alive” in the living memory of people. The zamani are our ancestors who are revered and remembered by the group, but there is no one left who was alive at the same time as the deceased.

My great-grandmother Mary was very much “alive” in the memories of my mother, my grandmother, and my great aunts and uncle. She is most definitely a member of the sasha. While my Grams often had rather humorous stories to tell, oft reflecting my great-grandmother’s sense of humor, duty and love, my mother often spoke of her in the present, and in flashes of detail rather than linear stories. The smell of parsley. Taboo. Pink flannel. Ice Box Cookies. Aprons. You see, my mother has but one memory of her grandmother sans apron, and this was when she was hospitalized. Great-Grandmother Mary wore an apron every day, as did many women at the time. Washing clothes being a royal chore, an apron served an obvious functional purpose, however, she made herself many aprons reflecting the seasons (lighter or darker colors), and special aprons for more momentous occasions such as holidays, family reunions, communions and baptisms.

Great-Grandmother Mary was a hard-working woman. She lived in a rural area, and at a time when all that needed to be done in the home – laundry, cooking, cleaning, clothes, canning, etc., was done at home. Her family made their own bread, their own maple syrup, wine (even when it wasn’t legal- rebel!) and my great-grandfather, a carpenter, carved their toys (one of our family’s prized possession is the chess board he made), even my gram’s crutches after injuring her foot when she was a little girl.

One of my prized possessions is my great-grandmother’s hand-written recipe book. Her bilingualism was often a handicap in the pre-depression era, leading to the family speaking English-only, but how I love to read her recipes which are often written in franglais. Until recently, the recipe book was all I had in the line of family heirlooms, but during her recent visit, my mother gave me this apron. It’s just beautiful, which I never thought I’d say about an apron, but it is. It must have been made for special occasions, the delicate rosebud fabric and the gold-threaded trim are rather fancy. It was perhaps only worn once or twice as it seems brand new, despite it’s being at least 50+ years old.

The acquisition of my great-grandmother’s apron inspired me to try my hand at my own. The above is my updated rendition, which I love. The pattern is from De Filles en Aiguilles by Céline Dupuy which I got in my Easter basket. It is also available in English as Simple Sewing With A French Twist. This was a super-easy project for the neophyte seamstress that I am. While I didn’t make the apron while my mum was here, she did come with me to purchase the materials, so in her own way was part of the process (not the mention that she gave me my sewing machine!).

There was a time during my youth when I felt rather envious of my friends whose mothers, grandmothers, even great-grandmothers were career women, often college educated. This was not the case of the women in my family, and I found myself sometimes feeling almost apologetic when talking about them. I’ve since seen the absolute ridiculousness in not recognizing all that they did. Silly Shellyfish. Any woman who dried her herbs, grew her own food in her garden, cooked and canned it, and on and on, without the things I take for granted from running water to kitchen gadgets, well, she kicked some serious buttercream.