Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Baby Cashmere

I put the wool needle into my sewing machine for one last cashmere project before my sewing efforts become completely dedicated to sewing squares for Tayta's college quilt.

This baby blanket was made a for a sweet baby boy, welcomed into the world just two weeks ago.

Can you guess the baby's nationality from the colors I chose? Orange was the first color I chose, and the stitching was done in orange.

Here's a hint: Color inspiration from a favorite artist...

Church at Auvers
Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh

Painter on the Road to Tarascon
Vincent Van Gough

Yes, this blanket was given to a beautiful Dutch newborn this afternoon, at his "coming out" party. Welcome to the world, little one!

Edit: When I asked my Dutch friend which Dutch artist she thought inspired my quilt, I was surprised when she replied, "Mondrain?"

But of course! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Birthday Outing to Abila

Last Saturday was a perfect day. It really was. In celebration of Dear Husband's birthday, we planned a day trip to the countryside, once again joining our preferences for ruins, landscapes, and wildflowers, and chose the ruins of the ancient decapolis city of Abila, about an hour from our home.

(Asphodelus fistulosus)

Abila is not nearly as developed or excavated to the extent that Jerash and Um Qais (Gadara) have been, yet there is yet evidence of a large ancient city. Below is a distant view of city ruins which I took from atop another hill of ruins. We picnicked on yet a third hill of ruins.

We immediately set out exploring: Dear Husband and Tayta for ruins and maybe some Roman glass, me, for wildflowers.

I was surprised to find several stands of orchids (which Dear Husband and Tayta passed by completely!) as I didn't know this species grew in the area. Disappointingly, they were just past their prime, browning around the edges of their petals, but beautiful all the same.

Fan-Lipped Orchid
(Orchis collina)

(Adonis aestivalis)

Jagged-leafed Phlomis
(Eremostachys laciniata)

We left the main site of the ruins and drove up to the top of an adjacent hill--Dear Husband's  vision for a picnic site. We had this lovely spot, with its panoramic views, ruins, and wildflowers, all to ourselves.

Views from our picnic spot:

The main site of preserved columns at Abila

And turning slightly to the south, this spring-time view of rolling green hills, gently sculpted with stone terrace walls and olive tree groves~

Having laid out our picnic lunch, Tayta's next task was to round-up her parents, who are prone to wander around such places, her father, exploring the ruins, and her mother, searching out the dearest freshness deep down things.

Judean Bugloss
(Echium judaeum)


Oriental Garlic
(Allium orientale)

Star of Bethlehem
(Ornithogalum montanum)

She succeeded in coaxing us to sit down.

And after lunch, some more wandering and exploring:

Dense-flowered Fumitory
(Fumaria densiflora)

"I stumbled upon a land of my childhood dreams. All of a sudden, the stories of The Silver Chair became so real: here I stood at the edge of the ruined City of the Giants. This place matched what I had imagined, or perhaps, my imaginings came from what I knew..." Tayta

Purple Clover
(Trifolium purpureum)

Chaotic, abundant fields of beauty

Dear Husband reflected that visiting Abila was an ideal birthday present for him as it was his first visit to the site, a new discovery. And, he has now visited all five ancient decapolis cities in Jordan.

Happy Birthday to a very Dear Husband. May God give us more years of wandering and exploring together.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Tell Al Hamman~Biblical Sodom

One  aspect of residing in Jordan that we've come to appreciate is living amongst the ruins of ancient civilizations: some excavated, some in the process of excavation, some buried forever under the foundations of our present civilization. The archaeological, and particularly, the biblical archaeological record of Jordan is very rich.

Several years ago our family had the opportunity to participate in a fascinating archaeological dig just east of the Jordan river and 14 kilometers northeast of the Dead Sea: Dr. Steven Collins, of Trinity Southwest University led an excavation of Tell Al Hammam, believed to be Biblical Sodom. The team returns every year for a month-long season in January/February, and this year, they graciously allowed us to again join them for a day.

Since we joined the dig on a day that two new helpers had arrived from the States, we were privileged to listen to Dr. Collins give his introductory talk about the site from the highest point of Tell Al Hammam, believed to be the palace of this Middle Bronze Age fortification.

The location of Tell Al Hammam and the of the other sites around it, which are located precisely where the cities of the Jordan plains should be, according to the Biblical text, satisfies a major criteria for its designation as Biblical Sodom. To the south and east is Mount Nebo, the traditional site where Moses looked into the Promised Land. It also overlooking the Dead Sea.

To the west, is the Jordan Valley, sites of the cities of the plains, and, through the haze, the land of Canaan, present day Palestine and Israel.

After a stimulating lecture/briefing, we were invited to help  the other archaeologists and dig workers in one of the pits.

Excavation of charred wooden beams

Dr. Collins put Artist son to work cleaning the dirt that he removed from one of the walls.

We learned how to "dig" properly. Notice that Dear Husband is using a flat trowel. This is so that he can take the dirt down by levels--think bathwater going down the drain--rather than digging down. The pointed end of the trowel can be used to gently chip away the remains of ancient mud bricks.

And how to get all that dirt out of the pit? The dig crew fills the "qoufas ", which are then tossed by a strong, able-bodied young man up to another strong, able-bodied young man. The dirt is taken by wheelbarrow to a dumping area.

Getting ready for the toss

The catch

The scene above reminded me of just how enjoyable it can be to dig in the dirt. These men were obviously having a good time, and I easily imagined them as small boys, minus the kneepads and gloves, 

I wasn't able to photograph the coolest find of the day: a man, his first hour on the dig (!) unearthed an intact pottery jug from the Middle Bronze Age period. We all congratulated the new digger, but I knew that Dear Husband must have had just a bit of artifact envy. He had been excavating just a couple feet from where the jug was found. Perhaps one of the local workers sensed it too, as he kindly said to Dear Husband, "wijak khair", "your face is good"-- a way of saying that Dear Husband's presence brought good to the dig site. 

I asked Dr. Collins wife, herself an accomplished site manager and excavator, how often someone found a piece of pottery like that, in such good condition. Her answer: "Not." We each found various sherds and animal bones which we collected in plastic buckets and mesh bags for later readings. I noticed a smooth rock on the side of the dig wall. I pulled it out and asked Dr. Collins if it was something to keep. Yes, he said, it was a pestle. No, I didn't find the mortar. 

There are so many more fascinating things to be told about this site. If you are interested in Biblical archaeology, or archaeology in general, I recommend Dr. Collin's book: 


I haven't yet read it, but I plan to purchase it when we are in the US this summer. 

Of course, I took a break from digging to do a little wildflower spotting:


  JAYA:  Just Another Yellow Asteraceae,  growing out of ancient ruins, so that makes it unique

Unidentified JAYA