Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cashmere Throw #2

Left unattended, my creative interests can tend to complicate my life, so I am trying, trying to simplify. This year I decided that I would narrow my wool purchasing to cashmere for making blankets. Cashmere-hunting at Amman's used clothing market ups the challenge as it is harder to find. My average find on a Friday morning is about six or seven cashmere sweaters of varying quality and color. By December I had enough to entertain the thought of making a cashmere throw for my parents. It would be a little-bit-late Christmas present as I sent it back with Active Son when he returned to school a little over a week ago.

I followed the same procedure that I used for my first cashmere throw. This throw measures 74 by 72 inches and I used eight sweaters to make it--the colors co-ordinate with my parents' living room furnishings.

When I sent it too my mom, I joked with her that she and my dad would have to share it. She wrote back that they had worked out a schedule: she will have it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and my dad, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. They will share it as they curl up to watch Downton Abbey on Sunday!

I used some cashmere scraps to make these flax seed bags so that  the kids would have our version of a hot-water bottle to warm their cold sheets at night. These flax seed bags hold six cups of flax seed and take about four minutes to heat in the microwave. I've put the flax seed in cotton liners, which are then covered with the cashmere case.

I'm starting to use my huge stash of "other wool": this week I cut and laid out a lambswool blanket that I am making as a wedding gift for a dear friend's son and his new bride. I think blankets may be my thing for awhile. Simplify.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

One Last Holiday Day-Trip: A Jordan Wadi Hike

We had one last opportunity for a day-trip before Artist Son and Active Son headed back to college, so last Friday we headed south once again, this time to hike a "wadi", or valley, across from the Dead Sea. This wadi was familiar hiking ground for Active Son as his Boy Scout troop had camped and hiked here on more than one occasion back in the day.

This is only my third wadi hike in the Dead Sea area, but I've noticed some common themes: streams, hot springs, interesting geology, birds, waterfalls, palm trees.  As we entered this wadi, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful and varied rocks and I immediately wished I could recall all the fleeting geological knowledge that I knew I once had. At least I could appreciate the beauty of the lines and colors. Perhaps iron ore was coloring this stream bed.

And just around the bend...

...and around the next bend, two-toned shale.

Just look at the colors on these rocks! I checked my Jordan field guide, but I'm still not sure what I was looking at.

Active son carried out this beauty below and it is now sitting in my front sun porch, a fine reminder of our beautiful day.

Tayta insisted on taking a enthusiastic-geologist-wanna-know photo.

A little more shale:

Below is the Lady of the Rock. Do you see her? She reminded me of a woman in a Renoir cafe' scene.

Tayta rightly insisted that I stop monopolizing the camera for rock pictures so that we could take some people pictures. I'm thankful for her balancing perspective.

The kids decided to hike in further than Dear Husband and I...

While we waited for the kids, Dear Husband thoughtfully placed two rocks for us to sit on just on the right of this hot spring--the palm fronds made a shelter which kept the warm, moist air in and we were able to have a long, pleasant conversation in our little makeshift sauna.

I don't see ferns very often in Jordan.

Our picnic visionary, Tayta prepared a delicious lunch for us: sesame noodles with chicken, with a tomato garnish and cucumbers.

The whole family is joining in the fun of birdwatching these days and  Artist Son took this shot of what looks to be a juvenile Blackstart. We don't have the best birder lens, but I love the composition of his picture.

On the way home we stopped at Tell al-Hammam, the proposed site of ancient Sodom. We saw a small flock of colorful Little Green Bee Eaters and Tayta snapped a shot of these two. When in flight we could see their orange underwings--a very beautiful little bird.

Little Green Bee-Eater
Merops orientalis

I spotted two new-to me species of wildflowers:

Bellevalia desertorm

Androcymbium palaestinum

And the Sidr tree, which I've observed on previous visits to the Jordan Valley. It's Latin name is Ziziphus spina-christi, but it is thought unlikely that this is tree from which Christ's thorn of crowns came.

Ziziphus spina-christi

The fruit of the sidr is about the size of an olive and has a mild sweet taste like an apple.

And then, home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Touring Day: Madaba and Mount Nebo

One of our favorite things to do over the Christmas/New Years vacation is take day trips together around our beloved Jordan. Due to a flurry of pre-Christmas social activity and work, we celebrated Tayta's Christmas Eve birthday on December 26th this year. We were up early to enjoy the traditional cinnamon rolls, grapefruit, and egg breakfast, and then, encouraged by beautiful weather, we hit the road.

Though we usually head north on such day trips, today we headed south to Madaba and Mount Nebo. Dear Husband and I so enjoyed our visit this summer, we decided to take the kids, who had not visited there for many years. Tayta informed us that she had never been to Mount Nebo. Well, at least that she could remember. Gulp. None of the kids had visited The Church of the Virgin Mary and the adjacent historical park (mosaics), so we started there. It was a quiet day, tourist-wise, so the gatekeeper/ticket taker accompanied us around the site, discussing the finer points of the archaeology. Me, I like to appreciate the beautiful mosaics.

The Tree of Life 
(pomegranates and grapes)

This Roman road is located just outside of the church. The stones are laid  diagonally to prevent wheels from getting caught in the cracks between the stone.

Below is the oldest mosaic found in Jordan. It is from the baths of the fortress of Machaerus which was built by Herod the Great, and dates back to the first century B.C.

The peeling turquoise paint and the rusty frame of this closed shop-front door caught my eye and I asked the kids to pose for a picture. Better than a studio back-drop, I think.

And then I found another door...

Next we visited the church (shrine) of Saint John the Baptist. Somehow, we had missed visiting this interesting site during previous trips to Madaba.

Another door. This one led to the ancient tunnels...

Down into the tunnels...

A memorial to John the Baptist, who was imprisoned and then killed at Herod' winter palace at Machaerus (mentioned above),  his head offered on a plate to Herod's step-daughter, Salome.

I didn't get a picture of the beautiful sanctuary, with perfect acoustics, but I did get a picture of the extensive nativity scene which was set up at the front of the church, in front of the altar.

Meanwhile, the guys discovered the passageway which led to the bell tower.

Surprisingly it was open to the public, so up the steep stairs we went...

Tayta enjoying this view from nearly-the-top

Active Son and Artist Son went all the way to the top, but the climb was a too rigorous and risky for the rest of us. If only my pictures were enhanced with audio, you could hear Dear Husband and me sternly commanding the guys not to climb out the window onto the ledge.

Though they have never had the opportunity to pose with Mickey or Donald, my kids have now posed with John the Baptist.

More doors

Heading back toward the city center, we passed the Madaba Christmas tree. Tayta was charmed by the city of Madaba, proclaiming it the Paris of Jordan. That seemed like a stretch to me, but I think that because Madaba was once a Christian town, there remain enough cultural vestiges which make it yet seem familiar.

The weathered wall of this "modern" but abandoned home reminded me of the subtle colors found on an old fresco:

As the shadows lengthened, we made our way up to Mount Nebo, the traditional resting place of Moses. The location of Moses's remains is unknown, but Mount Nebo is mentioned in the last chapter of Deuteronomy as the place where Moses ascended to view the Promised Land.

On a clear day, one can see Jericho and Jerusalem, but many days are hazy as this one was.

The Brazen Serpent, Mount Nebo

This map at the lookout point shows the distances to notable cities.

The church at Mount Nebo is being restored so we were unable to enter, but a number of shelters had been set up to house some of the mosaics and items of historical interest--a sort of make-shift museum. I liked the picture above: the first archaeological crew to work at Mount Nebo. Note that the priest and the sheikh are holding hands.

Another picture of the crew in the field. 

More mosaics, more color, more designs to enjoy

The color and lines of this aloe plant caught my eye.

From Mount Nebo we headed back to Madaba where we visited the famous Church of St. George and the Madaba Map. Our final and much anticipated destination was a favorite Arab restaurant, Haret Jdoudna, where we planned to eat dinner together, thanks to a thoughtful and generous Christmas gift from far-away-and-much-missed Oldest Daughter.

We were as happy as we look in this group selfie. It was a perfect day. Really perfect.