My Fascination With the Images of Cuba

Havana Courtyard by Michael Tutton from flickr creative commons

Havana Courtyard by Michael Tutton from flickr creative commons

Mostly the impressions I had of Cuba that flickered around on the edges of my radar, weren’t very positive. Poverty and politics and the military, cigars but not much of beauty. A few months ago I was looking at photos on Pinterest, something that is very effective when I’m on hold trying to straighten out some annoying first world problem that must be dealt with.

There were some photos of Cuba taken by Michael Eastman that I loved. I looked at his website, read his bio and kept thinking about the inspiring images. I purchased his coffee table book, Havana, as a holiday gift for myself and it’s a good fix for me to look through it still.

There are some inspiring photos on flickr as well, like the one above by Michael Tutton.

In the Havana book, Eastman mentioned noticing the buildings and backgrounds of Cuba in the film, Buena Vista Social Club, so I rented that and the beauty in it was striking.

Then I recalled enjoying some of the episodes of Covert Affairs that were filmed on other locations, one of which was Cuba in an episode called Loving the Alien.

While I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and New Zealand and a few other places, I’ve now added Havana to my list but for now I enjoy seeing the images.

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Spring

After laying low for a few days, I went out for a food run this afternoon. The city seemed deserted. It looks like spring to me now because the forsythia bushes are blooming and the sidewalks are marked up for construction, with a few fenced off and being worked on already.

I’ve been watching Who Do You Think You Are on Hulu, all six episodes from this season so far. The first thing that surprised me is that I’ve never been interested in any of the celebrities featured. After watching for awhile, I begin to care. I guess unless someone is really awful, people are easier to care about once you get to know them a little better.

The second thing I’m aware of is how touched and heartfelt the celebrities appear when they consider the hardships of their ancestors. Some of the ancestors were not sterling characters. So far, the one’s I’ve seen are all in the eastern U.S. except for Kim Cattrall, who went to England.

Updates

The three basil seedlings are still alive. They don’t get enough sun and are spindly so I keep turning them. I plucked a leaf off one that seemed to be weighing it down. I ate the leaf and didn’t get much of a taste.

I’ve watched episodes three and four of Edwardian Farm. (It’s awkward the way I watch them on YouTube.) Alex has learned to repair and make hedgerows. The tool he used was shown being forged. Ruth cleaned and disinfected the privy for use. The walls inside were painted with something white which helped disinfect as well as make it easier to see in the dark. Two floppy-eared sows were brought to put in the pig sty next to the privy to assist in composting. They were painted with a waxy substance to protect their skin. Rooting around, they seemed happy and oblivious to whatever was going on outside of what was in front of their noses.

Peter began a trout hatchery. About 1500 eggs were harvested from one trout and she was released back into the stream. It seemed quite a laborious project, making pitch to coat the wooden hatchery and cutting down trees and sawing the lumber for it.

A tractor was borrowed to plow the field. It is the oldest working tractor in the world. Only 500 were made because they were extremely expensive.

Ruth also prepared toilet paper out of newspaper. She has a surprise secret project going–picking sloe from the hedgerow, mixing it with sugar and gin and at Christmas will have sloe gin to share. That was unusual because temperance was being pushed during the time period.

And if you’re still reading this far–on a personal note, I had a consultation with an expert today who recognized that I’m doing very well with the hand I’ve been dealt. I know this to be true and also that it isn’t apparent to the world. I was told that I’m the “gutsiest person” she’s ever met. True. I know it down to my toes.

Edwardian Farm

A few months ago, I greatly enjoyed the BBC show Victorian Farm which someone posted in videos on YouTube. The DVD’s which are available on Amazon do not play in my regions’s DVD players.

The two archeologists, Peter and Alex, and historian Ruth, lived for a year on a farm they worked as the Victorians did for a year, like a documentary/reality show. After checking back a few times, someone has now posted the episodes of Edwardian Farm which I’ve begun watching. It’s all I can do to keep from staying up into the wee hours of the morning watching more of it.

The Edwardian era in England was from about 1901 when Queen Victoria died to about 1914 while King Edward the 7th was on the throne, ending about the time of the first World War. (This was about six years before my Dad was born here in America). I’m guessing that King Edward was the grandfather of the “King’s Speech” King.

Anyway, it’s fascinating. They’ve already brought in farm animals. Ruth scrubbed the kitchen floor with a brush on her hands and knees and said that women would do that twice a day in that era. (It doesn’t sound like my ancestors would have but never mind that.)

The soil is acidic and the men hauled tons (literally) of limestone to nearby kilns to burn into quick lime to spread on the field. Much of the men’s work so far has seemed very dangerous to me. The quick lime business let off toxic carbon monoxide and if gotten wet could cause an explosion or caustic burns.

A heavy granite rock was carved into a feed trough to keep the sheep food off the ground. It was moved in a very laborious way of the times.

One of the meals that Ruth cooked was a sheep’s head soup and it was gross to see the actual head on the table and later when the soup was done. Most of the meat during the time seems to have been sold and what was left for the farmers were such as the head.

The chimney was clogged up and Alex climbed up on the roof while Peter and Ruth were helping near the stove below to unclog it. Fortunately, Alex couldn’t bring himself to use the chicken–yes, he was holding a live chicken to throw down the chimney to unclog it–and they ended up using a bunch of holly instead. Another dirty job.

Ruth spent hours out in the field cutting gorse to feed the horses. It looked rough but they stomp on it first and eat it.

This is what I remember from watching–me of the not-so-great-memory–and I will attempt to ration my enjoyment of it to make the episodes last. There’s always the chance that YouTube will shut down the account like they tend to do. While I enjoy watching, I am certain I would not want to live that lifestyle after living as I do now.

Fabric/Mixed Media

Recently while going through things I found an old box of laminating sheets. They are slightly yellowed and close to 20 years old. When I got them years ago I obsessively laminated a lot of items for a little while and then moved on to something else.

A little over a year ago, I used some of it to laminate a cancelled stamp from 1904 and a note that was written at that time. The letter was mailed from St. Louis around the time of the World’s Fair to my grandmother before she was married. I have a small stack of letters to her and she seems to have been rather popular with the young gentleman, something I’d never heard about. She passed when I was six years old and I remember her as very reserved.

I sewed the laminated items onto a small quilted wall-hanging I made by hand. I enjoy doing that even though it’s very time-consuming and I am not at all a good quilter. I doubt if I’ll ever be and it isn’t really a goal of mine. Since it’s art, I don’t believe the hangings need to be sturdy–I just like the way they look.

The wall-hanging is pictured above. There’s a tiny mesh bag that jewelry or something came in and inside of it is a small plastic bag that has a curl of human hair. A young man had sent Grandma a lock of his blonde hair in 1904. The note paper had absorbed any oil and the writing was slightly smudged. The hair was understandably a little brittle. I typed up a little hello note back to the boy in a time-travel kind of way and attached it to the vintage looking fabric.

The letters are all written in pencil and the various handwritings are difficult to read. Grammar and punctuation are poor and the content is a mix of casual, mundane and formal. There are letters about social events, picnics and dances that people traveled to on horseback. Most other old letters I’ve seen in books and museums are from educated and sophisticated people and I was a little startled at the simplicity of these.

I haven’t read all of them–I have to be in a certain mood to read them, I guess because it’s family and they are gone now.

This afternoon I printed a copy of a painting I’d done and also a copy of a photo I’d taken on acid free paper, laminated them and got out my fabric stash. I’ve moved past the part where my lack of manual dexterity and quilting skills makes this a waste of time. I want to do it. I like making things out of found objects.

Victorian vs Smithfield Farms

Yesterday evening I watched the last segments of the British documentary, Victorian Farm. Alex did some beekeeping and collected the honey. Peter made ginger beer and Ruth got into straw plaiting.  When they advertised for harvest help, I learned that there was junk mail in Victorian England after the printing system made it possible to print flyers.

The hay crop was ruined and they barely got their wheat harvested in time. Ruth made cheese and got the necessary rennet for it from a calf’s stomach.  This way of life was going on in rural England around the time my grandmothers were born here in America.  Maybe I should write historical fiction about this time period—I’m so fascinated with it.

The baby farm animals were so cute. One of the archeologist’s, Peter, said he would miss the pigs the most. Princess, the mama, had given birth to nine piglets and eight of them made it. They were funny, especially when they were eating and had their heads in a bucket.

When I got online this morning, the first thing I saw was a video about an investigation that the humane society had secretly done at Smithfield Farms, the largest pork producer in the world. The pregnant sows were placed in gestation cages where they could barely move. They had sores from chewing on the metal bars and slowly went insane. It was horrible and sad to see the video footage.

I’m not a vegetarian. I eat meat for health reasons, almost all free-range, organic meat and pork is one of my least favorite meats. I certainly won’t be eating any for a long time now.

Sure we have lots of improvements over how things were done over one hundred years ago. There are more people to feed. Factory farms have gone to far though. Many of our systems need to change, of course, but food is so very basic.  Paula Deen is the face and spokesperson of this Virginia company.

The contrast between how Princess was raised and the sows in the cramped wire cages is shocking.

Nutmeg

There’s a mess in my kitchen that involved melted butter. I was preparing brussel sprouts for the slow cooker and then piled chicken thighs on top. The melted butter was mixed with Dijon mustard, soy sauce and black pepper. I think. Not remembering the exact measurements, just remembering how good it was when I fixed it a few weeks ago, it’s definitely a keeper recipe. I got it from Stephanie O’Dea’s blog. It lands in my inbox with slow cooker recipes, often using gluten-free ingredients. She’s written several cookbooks–I’ve just saved the posts with recipes I want to try, in a folder.

Rebuilding my health, after things I won’t go into, it’s good if I eat mostly organic veggies and some organic meat.  When you feel really, really tired it’s challenging to learn a new way of meal shopping and preparation.

I’ve been looking through the side dishes in the WordPress food blogs and found some interesting posts about turnips and beets. Filing the general information away in my head, I’m not able to provide links.

The one that caught my attention was turnips roasted with nutmeg. I decided to do both beets and turnips. Nutmeg is a spice I’ve never used in my years as a sporadic and rather sloppy cook. I was surprised how expensive it was. Running around doing lots of errands yesterday, I didn’t notice until I got home that I’d bought whole nutmeg. Dang.

Looking it up online, I learned that freshly grated nutmeg is far superior to using ground nutmeg. O.K. I looked at the graters and grinders too  and decided to pop on over to the gourmet cooking shop a few blocks away. Like almost everyone else, I am really keeping an eye on my finances. (We all know about that reality and we’re going to do our best here.)  Too expensive.

Later I ended up ordering one from Amazon and bought a book to make enough for free shipping and ended up spending more that if I’d just bought it at the shop. Now I need to wait also.  Well, I’m moving in the direction of better financial choices.

I can find some way to grate a whole nutmeg in the meantime or use lots of ginger instead. Ginger and turmeric are my favorites.

Nutmeg needs to be used sparingly.  Ingesting more than two tablespoons at a time gives it a hallucinogenic effect.  That isn’t at all what I’m intending while searching for ways to eat tasty, healthy vegetable dishes.

I’m continuing to really enjoy watching “Victorian Farm” on YouTube. Looking at the meals they’re eating puts me more  in a mood for old-fashioned  home-cooking.

The woman of the house is having a laborious time cleaning. The coal they cook with,  leaves dust everywhere. For cleaning metal, she used brick dust and vinegar. When she swept dust off the stairs she used saved, damp tea leaves so the dust would clump into balls instead of flying all over.

Women usually had three or four dresses at one time and made them last as long as they could. The woman in the series made a new dress for the May Day celebration and it took her over sixty hours.

The farm had lambs born–also piglets, chicks and ducklings. Almost nothing went to waste. They boiled a pigs head and ate the eyeballs along with everything else. It was mentioned that the work was so hard the historians participating in the documentary began to crave animal fat where as otherwise it wouldn’t sound appealing at all.

Most of my impressions of the Victorian age are from novels that are usually set in London instead of the country.  Anne Perry comes to mind–I’ve especially enjoyed her novels.  The poverty was grim and frightening but the upper classes had their restrictions and constraints also.

That was their mission, even if they didn’t articulate it, to explore and develop the outer world and get humanity to a place where it wasn’t all about survival. Now in many ways, we are needing to explore and develop the inner world more. People are at all ends of the spectrum on that one. It’s in a transition phase. I’m all for the inner-directed life but recognize that it’s dangerous and ineffective to neglect the material world.  All too often I seem to get de-railed into survival issues.

After watching the segments of this series, I’m really appreciating tap water, flush toilets, forced air heat and my electric range and lights.

Just Getting it Done

Christmas Tree 1944Today I wrote out most of my Christmas cards. It would be great if I felt more festive and less like I was doing something like tax preparation but I can’t always be in an optimum mood. Many people seem to have had a difficult year and many of my cards go to elderly relatives. I have two aunts in their mid-90’s, one in her 80’s and one in her 70’s. No e-cards for them.

I found my digital camera in a drawer where it’s been for awhile and am considering decorating a small tree and posting it here on my blog. Hopefully I won’t need to find the directions for getting the images loaded onto my computer. When I don’t do things often, it’s like I have never done them before. It would have been great if the instructions were kept with the camera. There may be instructions on my computer. Oh, to have more confidence in myself.

So in the meantime I found a photo from The Commons on flikr. This tree was the cover of a McCall’s homemaking magazine in 1944.

I watched the Christmas segments of the “Victorian Farm” after I finished with the cards. On Christmas eve Clumper, the Shire horse, pulled a wagon with the folks in it to the local church where they sang hymns. There were candles for lights and you could see the breath of the folks as they were singing.

The tree was put up at the last minute. The historians in this series had guests for Christmas dinner and Ina, the turkey, was served as the meat course. There was also cow’s tongue and other dishes that aren’t served today.

Before one of the men went pheasant hunting, he waterproofed his boots with a mixture of beeswax, tar and tallow. For chapped hands, the woman made a mixture of lard, honey, some oats, rosewater and a few other ingredients of the sort.

There are pregnant sheep and a pregnant pig and their babies are something to look forward to, although these are definitely not pets. They will likely share the same fate as Ina.

Half-heartedly I got other things done today. It rained again. I’m comfortable, just not perky and that’s O.K.

Victorian Farm

There’s a lovely view outside my window. It’s very foggy again and the downtown Christmas lighting is wispy looking. There was rarely any  fog during the first four winters that I’ve lived here.

It cleared up this afternoon and the sun shone weakly for awhile. The temperature was in the mid 40’s and I walked to Winco to get some snacks and eggnog. I got more wasabi almonds and jalapeno jelly.

Today I didn’t notice I hadn’t had coffee until about four in the afternoon. It’s been recommended that I quit using caffeine for awhile but it’s been my hold-out. So many other  things I’ve given up, even coffee for six months about fifteen years ago. I never felt normal and functional during that time.

What I did today was drink several cups of hot tea and I simply forgot about the coffee. I’ll experiment with that, drinking just enough coffee to avoid headaches.

Yesterday I learned of a fascinating British documentary/reality show called Victorian Farm. Three historians live for a year as the farmers of England did around 1885. They have assistance from other historians and locals but it is very laborious work. I’ve watched them sow wheat, make apple cider and construct a pig sty.

The woman made chutney and preserved other foods and sealed the crocks with pig bladders. It was recommended on laundry day that the farm wife rise at 2:00 a.m. instead of 6:00.

I’ve watched about seven of the thirty-six segments on YouTube. I looked for dvd’s on Amazon and it isn’t available  for U.S. region players.

I’m learning to blog by doing and am not quite ready to do links yet, although I looked at some instructions for inserting them. The videos can be found on YouTube as “Victorian Farm” and the segments are from  four to ten minutes in length.  There’s also a book available on Amazon that can ship in one to four months.

I live very modestly but those folks in 1885 might think I live like royalty. They worked from sun-up to sun-down, seven days a week. The two men and one woman wear clothes of the period as do the consultants and other experts brought in.