Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Afghanistan - Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

Over the winter holidays, Dan took me to see this wonderful exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. If this exhibit comes anywhere near you, I suggest you go and see it. The treasures were amazing, and the story of their discovery and survival was fascinating. The exhibit was put on by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Geographic, the National Museum of Afghanistan, and many other generous donors. There is also a great show done by National Geographic under the same name as the exhibition as well as a wonderful website all about the exhibit. If you can catch the show, it give a great explanation of all the artifacts, much better than I could ever do.

I took these snapshots of the photographs from the brochure you receive for the exhibit. All the photographs were professionally taken for the exhibit, and as a head's up, you are not allowed to photograph in the exhibit itself. Be prepared to shell out for the book in the gift shop if you want pictures or hold on to your brochure like I did.

Here is a map of the general areas where the artifacts were found.

Most of the artifacts were found in the 1960's and 1970's. The first set of items were found in 1966 when farmers stumbled across the items near the village of Fullol. It was a burial cache that contained evidence of the Oxus civilization in Afghanistan. These pieces below are from that area:

The picture shows a ram ornament, a bowl, and a neck ornament. One of the things I found really interesting is how jewelry pieces I have from modern Afghanistan are still very similar to that necklace. The tea drop motif with the coins still is popular today.

The exhibit then showed an interesting intersection of Greek styles of architectural elements as well as statues and artwork that looked like they could be found in Italy just as easily.

The top picture is of a ceremonial plaque of Cybele, the others are a portrait of the gymnasium director, Strato, and a Corinthian style capital stone.

In the 1930's, there was an earlier find by French archaeologists that found two sealed and undisturbed store rooms that contained all sorts of luxury goods from the Silk Road trade routes. This site is called Begram. There were four rooms full of items. The items there were very interesting and to me showed the diversity of the area the best. A Greek influenced item would be right next to an ivory carving that seemed to be from India, and still there were pieces of jewelry that had motifs common to Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. The things that I found the most intriguing was all the glass vases. Most of them looked like they were just made the other day. They were still flawless after all this time and all the wars they have witnessed. Some were also painted with interesting scenes like the one pictured below.

My favorite part of the exhibit was the items found at Tillya Tepe. This was a burial ground for a warrior and his household. The area was located and excavated in 1978 by a joint Afghan-Soviet team, but the excavation had to end early due to the conflict between the two countries. The burial mound was made similar to Central Asian nomadic burial areas, only instead of making the hill themselves, they used an existing one. There was a sword with a golden hilt:

There were also many small ornaments made from gold and turquoise. Most of them would have been sewn directly onto the now missing burial shrouds. They were delicate flowers and tear drops. Some of the more ornate pieces were the clasp and belt buckle located below.

My most favorite item in the exhibit was the crown worn by the highest ranking woman found at the burial mound. She was most likely the wife of the warrior buried there. This crown was not only delicate and beautiful, it was functional too. The crown was comprised of five trees that interlock into each other to form the crown. When traveling, the crown can easily be disassembled into the five pieces and can be carried flat for ease of travel. Genius!

Beauty and function! You can't get any better than that. The items in the tomb show the influence of Chinese motifs, Russian bears as on the sword, Greek gods and goddesses, Indian and Persian style motifs in the jewelry, as well as local influences for the choice of materials the items were made of. It was a great example again of the nomadic lifestyle and influence that seems to rule the area.

I found after viewing this exhibit that some of my instinctual choices for materials and motifs in my bellydance costumes, especially the belts, are right. I guess I should follow my instincts on things more often. I was most impressed with my instinct to choose the fabrics that I did for my current line of cholis. The motifs on the choli fabrics were visible all over this exhibit. It gave me some real confidence in my choices, or a sense that certain motifs are just universal. Much to ponder.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday, Monday

The weekend was a good rest and well needed break of the normal pace. Instead of going out and doing a bunch of things, Dan and I mostly stayed at home. We meet up with a friend for lunch on Saturday and did some grocery shopping, but that was it. The weekend was also suitably rainy and crappy, so it was not a surprise that we hid indoors. I took the opportunity to get some organization done in the office area. I have stacks and stacks of different crafting magazines that I kept for the projects. I have decided to go through them all and rip out the projects and get rid of the adds and place the projects into organized binders. These magazines are chock full of adds, and most of the pages are going into the recycling bin instead of taking up room in the office. It was, in an odd way, relaxing to pull apart magazines, hole punch, and place the articles into binders. I also decided to work on my cross stitch frame. Currently the dowels that hold the fabric did not fit well through the frame holes. I also had to thread one side on first and then the other side of the frame, so it was always hard to get the fabric lined up well. I decided to get out the last scrap of sand paper we had since we "gifted" most home improvement supplies in our move and sand down the dowels. I am now wondering why it is that I did not do this sooner. It was much easier to work on getting the fabric not only centered but also taught with the ability to move both sides freely on the dowels. Hopefully this will make me get back to work on the cross stitch design in there that I have been working on for years. It is an "off time" project that I pick up and drop off when convenient. Also over the weekend, I cleaned up some of the piles on my desk. In doing so, I found the brochures for the Afghanistan exhibit that Dan and I visited over the holidays this winter. I will take pictures today and show them off tomorrow along with talking about the exhibit. What an oversight on my part to not share sooner!

Today is a delightfully rainy Monday. I love rainy days, and most of my love for them is the added focus I seem to have on those days. We don't get many rainy days though, so I find myself wandering more often then I would like. I have a ton that I need to get done, and today I am determined to get it all done in a timely manner.

On the plate for today:
I really want to get back to jogging. Hopefully the treadmills are back in working order this week. I have decided that while the elliptical is better for my hips, I really do like jogging on the treadmill better. I also need to get the special order finished today. There is so much work to do, but I MUST get it done today.I also want to get the photographs for tomorrow's post compiled and edited. As a bonus, I hope to get some peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies in the oven. That is all I am going to put up for goals. I want to meet them and perhaps get to exceed them. I am also going to continue the magazine purge tonight with my evening television viewing. Hopefully I can get this purge done this week. Ok, lots to do and I really want to achieve my goals, so off I go! Pictures tomorrow, I promise!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not a Lot to Say

I guess I will just keep it short. I went and filed my city taxes today. It went smooth and, surprise surprise, if you don't wait until the last day to file, it goes pretty quick! Lesson learned. I think I have all the kinks worked out on this custom garment, so I am going to finally cut into the fabric today. It is a bit nerve racking, but I need to get moving on it now. Tutoring is also today, so that means work here is cut short, but I of course don't mind at all! Hopefully there will be more to discuss tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finally done with Christmas.... Only Two Months Late

So I finally finished up the last Christmas gift for this year, and yes, it is two months late. Seeing as I am new to knitting, I am not too disappointed in myself. This was in fact only the second thing I have ever knit, and while I did not do it exactly correctly, it looks fine and is done. Apparently, I was not really knitting my knit stitches on this one but doing something else entirely called knitting to the back. I think.... I am so confused on this lately, and I am thinking of learning socks next. What is wrong with me! Anyhow, here is a picture of the finished scarf for my father-in-law.

It was supposed to be moss stitch, and it looks kind of close. I looked at several other pictures of moss stitch, and I can definitely tell this is not the same due to not actually knitting the stitches correctly. It looks good to me none-the-less. Here is a close-up of the stitches.

Pretty good I think for only the second thing I have made. I am still working on loosening up my tension on the knitting. This was a bit better than the first scarf, but still quite tight. I realized this especially when I compared the finished product to the swatching I did originally. I thought I had the gauge of needle right due to the swatch, but the finished scarf was smaller due to my excessive need for too tight knitting. It should get better with practice though, right?

I also went to take dance classes at a different studio while Ariellah is off teaching away from the studio. It felt fun to be a "new student" again. I went to Fat Chance in the city and had a good time. American Tribal Style was my obsession when I was in Illinois, but there were no certified teachers out there then. Ishara taught me the little she knew though. That emphasis switched to dark fusion styles before I left to move out here, so I have been with Ariellah since the move from Illinois and my cabaret style background. It felt great to look into ATS more again. I think it is going to be a nice departure temporarily from the studio. I feel in an odd way refreshed. I guess I should start practicing my zills again so I can keep up in class again.

Today I have decided to not go and jog. There is just too much that needs to be done around the house. I am still working out the kinks on that special order. I need to get that wrapped up by early next week to get it sent off in time for the client. I also have to do my city taxes for Fabulous Pants. I would also like to get some ideas sketched out for a new belt and perhaps pull out that embroidered belt and work on that again some more. I need to get some belts up in the shop soon! Ok on that note, I need to get down to some sewing action.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Listing of Things to Do

1. Jogging, that is if I can detach myself from the couch
2. Laundry - Really this does have to be done
3. Finishing up my pattern and muslin - SERIOUSLY! This needs to get finished today
4. Cleaning - Um.... well... I think this gets put off for the weekend
5. Get a Valentine for my Valentine - I hope to fight through the battling hoards successfully for this
6. Go to Long Now talk - Ah, exercise for the brain is good
7. Find a dinner location - I don't want to wander around trying to find food in the rain again

SO.... I guess I need to be off to try to accomplish #1... here is to hoping.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Need to be Productive

Yesterday turned out to not be very productive. After writing my entry yesterday, I think the workout I did got to me. Yesterday I ran/walked one and a half miles. I have never really done that since I quit playing soccer in high school. Then I lifted weights a bit. It felt good but sapped my will to get anything else done yesterday. This of course included my plans to make baklava, so I settled on making seven layer bars.

They are totally easy, and cheesy, but I love them none-the-less. Today I want to get bunches of stuff done before I leave for 826 to tutor. I want to finish up freezing the chicken stock I made yesterday into their "hockey puck" forms. After I make a big batch of stock, I freeze it into ice cubes in a muffin tin. It works out well, making even third of a cup pucks. I also want to get the kitchen moped and the stove cleaned. Both are in need of some major attention. Since I did not get anything else done yesterday, I need to get the pattern I am working on ironed out and modified if there are any needed. I also would love to get it muslined, but I am not sure that can happen before I have to leave. I am also working on "memorizing" the next song for choreography in my dance class. I accomplish it by playing the song on repeat for hours on end. I find that this is the best way for me to know the music fully, so that when I dance to it, all elements of the song become second nature. I am sure the neighbors love it! Well off to get some things accomplished.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Busy Days

I know that it has been a few days again since I wrote, but things have been pretty busy around here. I was contacted by a dance colleague and wonderful customer of mine, Ashley Lopez, who is both a dancer and instructor in San Jose. She needed a new pair of custom pants, so I have been of line working on making some tailoring adjustments and crafting her perfect pair. She picked out her pair from a new fabric I had in stock but had not made into pants yet. It is a beautiful raspberry sari fabric that she chose, and I am sure it is going to look killer on her.

I still have enough fabric left for one more pair of pants to be made if there are any takers out there.

Friday was a great day. Dan took the day off from work to decompress while I finished up the pants. We had tickets to see Kodo that night up in Marin. We went up and saw another wonderful show by them. Saturday and Sunday were filled with the usual domestic things, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and the like. Monday I spent out fabric hunting for another new special order. I found the perfect fabric for the client, and I am going to muslin up the piece to day to see if there are any adjustments that need to be made before I move onto the actual garment sewing. Yesterday was spent running around the city looking for a new pair of knee pads for dance class. I ended up finding ones I thought were perfect, but they did not end up fitting over my calves. Oh well, such is life. ;) I guess I am back to the drawing board with that one. I also got some supplies for the household yesterday as well as my Valentine's Day cards. I need to fill them out and get them in the mail, pronto!

On the list for today, I need to get these cards filled out and mailed first. Second, I am going to work on this pattern and hopefully get the muslin cut out today and perhaps sewn. I am still working on my now very late Christmas gift for Da, so that also needs to get worked on some today. Other than that, I want to try my hand at baking baklava. I will take pictures to post tomorrow for you all. I hope it turns out! I also need to order new bulbs for the AeroGarden. One is already burned out. Bummer I know, but I need to keep the now thriving garden happy. Well lots to do and so little time. Pictures hopefully tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Short but Sweet

Short post on things today. First off I am more sore than I have ever been since playing soccer competitively. Between my work out yesterday and then yesterday's killer hip day at Ariellah's studio, I am pooped and sore. I am hoping that one of the treadmills is working in the workout room today, so I can try to walk some of the soreness off. I am also planning on doing some yoga stretching to also work on that. Also on the plate for the day today is a special order of pants for one of my friends and long time clients. I am hoping to get those fully prepped, cut, and sewn up today. If I manage to get all that done today, I am going to take myself out to the fabric store to get some things for another commissioned project. Well off to get things done. I feel like it will be a productive day, and I really want to follow through today.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My, How They Grow!

This seems to be the phrase that I have had in my head lately. Last week was a great time visiting with my sister and the whole family out in Delaware. The kids are getting so big, and Craig is as cute as a button. It was the first time I have gotten to see him in person, and he already looks like a little boy. All the baby features are gone with him. He is also a super active kid, so there was a lot of me chasing him around. Claudia is also getting to be a big kid now. The last time I saw her she was Craig's age, so it was nice to get to know her more. She is just as articulate as her older sister, and she already is very concerned with others. Brenna is off to all day kindergarten, and I was lucky enough to have an extra day with her at home due to an ice storm that rolled in on Tuesday night. She is still the same creative and imaginative girl she has always been. While the ice storm made it so we could not go to the Conservatory, it was nice to not run all over the place to do things and just spend time catching up with everyone. There was lots of talk time.

When I returned home, I found that the AeroGarden had gotten really big since I left too. I had to raise the light hood for the first time. I am going to read today to see if I need to start the pruning process with the tomato plants. I also was so glad to also get back to the Farmer's Market this weekend when I got home. While there are limited items for sale this time of year, but the oranges are in. I decided to try the Cook's magazine orange sherbet recipe. It was successful and did not take that long to make. Taking a cue from the book I am reading, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, I am trying to take more pictures of the things I do around the house that are beautiful. As I was making the sherbet, I realized that I really loved how the prep area looked with all the vibrant orange.

It took some doing squeezing all the oranges by hand, but it was over all rather easy. The only thing that I would change is using less lemon juice as well as making sure I have the heavy cream next time. I cheated this time and used half and half. It did turn out too icy for my liking, and as usual, Cook's had noted that would happen, but I did not want to run out the store for just that one item. I put it into the ice cream machine, and it spun up pretty well.

I also got back into the gym and jogged on the elliptical again. Boy did I get out of shape again over the holidays and travel break. I am hoping to get some yoga done this morning after writing. I need to also take some new pictures of fabrics for a pants order that I am working on. When I got contacted about this order, I forgot all the great fabrics I have squirreled away for making into pants. I really need to get back into working on the new pairs. Tomorrow I hope to go to a fabric store to pick up some supplies for a belt I want to make as well as some supplies for another project I have been commissioned to work on. I guess the sewing machine covers are being pushed back just a bit, but I do not mind a bit. I would rather make things to sell than the things I am doing for my personal self distraction from other things. Well it looks like there is a lot I could get done before heading to the dance studio tonight, so I suppose I should get to it.