Thursday, July 28, 2016

A curious ancestry

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my great aunt Sarah, who was my mother's father's sister. I only met her once in 2008, but I grew up hearing stories about her, like the one time at Thanksgiving, when she shot a fox off the hen house from the kitchen window...that sort of thing - and she is one of my heroes. She was an amazing wonderful person, and I'm glad that I made the trip with my mom to Addison, PA, for the funeral. It got me thinking again about where I come from, who "my people" are, etc. 

A quilt and puzzle that aunt Sarah gifted to her pastor.

During that visit in 2008, Sarah got out the photo albums and documents, and told us about our ancestry. I captured my notes on it in this journal entry. That's important because, recently, my uncle (my mother's brother) had an ancestry DNA test done, and the results that he told to my mom were surprising because...

I grew up in a family that made much of it's Irish-German ancestry. When ever I asked the question, "what is our ethnic background?" the first answer was usually Irish, with German being a close second. That was probably because most of my relatives on my maternal grandfather's side called themselves "Pennsylvania Dutch" - a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania. We definitely had the culture, in the form of traditional food and recipes that were passed down through my family. And, that branch of the family is Lutheran.

So imagine my surprise when...

I don't see any German in there, specifically. Unless, it's tucked away in that Western European bit. The 25% Irish is no surprise. The large share of English is not that surprising, but I wasn't expecting it to be such a large part. Italian and Swedish? Where the heck did that come from?? Interesting. 

Now, this is second-hand information. I should probably confirm it with my uncle. And, I'm curious enough to think about doing the test myself (or having my brother do it - to get the Y chromosome in there). My father's side is mostly Irish and English as far as I know, but who knows what kind of surprises might turn up? 

Apparently, my Lakota ancestor is so far back in there and so isolated, that it doesn't show up at this level of granularity. 

The Western European bit - probably comes from this: I'm a direct descendant of John Minear, 1730 - 1781 - from the Palatinate area of Germany. 

Yes, I am curious now. 





Sunday, July 03, 2016

Vikings in the Woods: Making the Goods

I just got back from an immersive SCA event that I really enjoyed. The group that hosted the event is forming a new SCA guild devoted to "Viking Hiking." I spent the weekend learning skills like how to start a fire by using a flint and steel, cooking over a fire, building a smoker, making bread and skyr, identifying useful wild plants, and more. Here are some photos:

Monday, May 02, 2016

Achievement Unlocked!


I just got back from a work-related trip that had me in Madrid, Spain for one week, and then Bangkok, Thailand the following week. I managed to circle the globe in 15 days.

Photos:


Madrid
  Madrid 2016
 Bangkok
  Bangkok

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pennsic 44: metal working

All of my photos from the event are on flickr here - https://flic.kr/s/aHskipusAL

So metal work seemed to be a theme for me this year. I went to classes on tinsmithing, wire weaving, and silversmithing. I was surprised by how easy it would be for me to get into any of those hobbies. They don't require a lot of tools and skills that I don't already have. 
In the tinsmithing class, we learned how to cut, shape, and solder pieces of tin, using simple tools.
I put together this hurricane lamp in a matter of hours. 
Viking wire weaving is a way of making chain.
I put the small length of chain that I wove in class on to a leather thong to wear as a necklace. 

I especially like the results from silversmithing class. 

Tools for basic silversmithing - not that difficult to obtain.
 
An easy first project - setting a cabochon into a bezel.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

New corset!

I like a challenge, so I decided to make a corset for a friend of mine who has an extremely hourglass figure, and has difficulty finding corsets off the rack that fit right. I like how this turned out.


She is an F-cup or something like that, but I don't go by that. I made a duct tape double of her, afterwhich I did one in-person fitting and determined that the waist needed to be taken in by about 4" from the size I started with, and I let it out in the hips by about 4".


The finished measurements on the corset are 52"-38"-48".



Once again, I used the tried and true Laughing Moon corset pattern, with adjustments as noted above. I got much heavier than normal steel boning for this one, too. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Travelog: Egyptian cuisine

I've always liked Mediterranean cuisine in general: hummus, couscous, olives, grape leaves, etc. so I was very excited about trying real Egyptian cuisine. I heard about a dish called "Kushari" that is uniquely Egyptian, and got to try some at a popular chain called Zooba at City Stars mall.

I loved it! It is a mixture of rice, macaroni, lentils, onion, with a little red sauce. You can add hot sauce to make it spicy, and/or a dressing made of lemon, vinegar, and garlic. Topped with crispy fired onions. I would totally eat this at home. I also tried a dip made with Egyptian aged cheese and tahina, which was really really strong. It tasted like a highly concentrated and very salty feta cheese. I liked it, but could only eat a few bites with bread. There are also many varieties of pickled veggies, which I loved.

After I told some of my new local friends that I tried Kushari, they told me that I should try another uniquely Egyptian dish called Molokhaya. I got to do that last night, when one of my colleagues invited me to her home for dinner.


Molokhaya is made from jute leaves, or okra, which are muddled or whirled in a food processor and then added to boiling broth. Seasoned with coriander and garlic, it makes a thick green soup that has an unusual texture, which foreigners might call "slimy." I actually liked it. I thought it tasted a little like spinach, but we definitely don't have anything like it in the USA. We had it over rice, with some meat that was stewed in a red sauce. The whole meal was very comforting! I can understand why Egyptian people would miss this dish when they travel abroad, and it reminds them of home. 

Another culinary adventure that I got to experience was a famous and popular restaurant called Andrea

This first thing you see as you walk in - chickens turning on a rotisserie
Women bake bread in outdoor ovens near the entrance

Guests are seated on an outdoor patio; there is a childrens' play area adjacent

Other wonderful things that I've had here: Olives, dates, and melon - are all locally grown, fresh, and delicious. The melon is particularly sweet. Fatir - a rich, flaky pastry, and Ful - similar to refried beans - are eaten for breakfast. Fresh juice drinks, such as Lemon Mint - my new favorite. It's not nearly as sweet as lemonade. Bread and baked goods here are very good.

I had an awesome and decadent (expensive) meal at a Lebanese restaurant Al Dabke in the Fairmont hotel.
Mezzeh and Mixed Grill
You can find many other types of cuisine here. I had really good sushi the other day at Mori in Mall of Arabia.

Observations:
Nescafe is a thing here. If they don't have Nescafe, then it's Coffee Mix. The fancier coffee places might serve "American coffee" which is filtered coffee as we know it, or from a French press. What we might call Egyptian coffee - the strong espresso-like brew with a bit of sludge on the bottom - is what they call Turkish coffee. And, it's excellent. Tea with fresh mint is also very good. Fresh squeezed juices are very popular, and I love the lemon mint - it's not as sweet as lemonade and very delicious.

This is a Muslim country, but drinking is not banned. There are many non-muslims living here. I am not finding a great beer selection, but I'm not really looking for it, either. I could probably find an ex-pat bar with a better selection, but I'm playing it safe and staying in my hotel where the choices are:


Or, Heineken. Both Stella and Sakara are Egyptian-made beers. Both are lagers. They aren't bad, but they are not very remarkable, either.

I had better luck with wines. The popular Egyptian wines are: Kouroum of the Nile - Shahrazade (was my favorite), Omar Khayyam, and Grand Marquis.

Travelog: East vs. West Cairo

The west side of Cairo (Giza) is very different from the east side. I'm glad I got to spend a week in each place to see the difference.

East (Cairo governorate)

The Cairo governorate reminds me of New York City with its high-rise apartments and gridlock traffic. There are street vendors everywhere, and corner shops that remind me of "bodegas." 

Some older architecture remains among the newer highrises

I spent a lot of time in this traffic


Crossing the Nile

These are "unlicensed" developments

These vendors are everywhere with their cases of Fanta


A beautiful mosaic entryway



Crossing the Nile



A shaded street in a quieter neighborhood


West (Giza governorate)

Giza is a different story. It reminds me of Las Vegas. There are palm trees and new developments springing up everywhere. You see the large cranes building malls, resorts, hotel and office complexes - separated by stretches of desert. Driving around here is more like navigating the freeways around Las Angeles. The new housing developments look a lot like the clay tile and stucco apartment complexes that I've seen in Orlando.

You can orient yourself by seeing the tops of the Great Pyramids on the horizon. They are visible from all angles. I see them from my hotel window, and pass by them on my way to work.


Pan view from my balcony, at the Hilton, Dreamland

Mall of Arabia

Melon stacking level: Expert

Cleverly disguised cell phone tower

View from a local friends balcony in their apartment complex

This could be SoCal, right?

Pyramids on the horizon
Pyramids again


Saturday, May 09, 2015

What a day in Cairo

One can't spend a week in Cairo and not see the pyramids. I also went to the Egyptian Museum today. It was all worth the effort.

The Egyptian Museum has more everyday objects from the ancient Egyptians than any other museum that I've seen. They also have a large collection of mummies, papyri, statues and monuments from the old kingdom, and most of the stuff from King Tut's tomb. It was fascinating. I learned a lot of things that I did not know. For example, dwarves were honored in Egypt and held important positions.
I saw this statue in the museum. This man married a normal size woman. The small figures below him are depictions of his children.

I got to see some famous artefacts that I have seen in magazines and on TV, like this:


Cameras were strictly prohibited, so I could not take any photos of it myself. But there are plenty of photos of it on the Internets, because it is an iconic piece, and I got to see it in person. King Tut was buried with an impressive amount of bling, and photos of many of the pieces I saw today are here - http://www.touregypt.net/museum/tutc.htm

Ate lunch at a place called Andrea. It was very good. 

You can watch the women make bread in this old stone oven.

Then, went to see the pyramids. I have no words...but I do have photos. Check out my album on Flickr. 

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