Short Tales: The Sultan’s Perfect Tree

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

“The Sultan’s Perfect Tree” is another jewel from Jane Yolan’s library of modern fairy tales. A short story of about 16 pages, the book is about a beloved sultan who likes things to be just perfect. Orderly. Beautiful. Symmetrical. Perfect. In his mind, the perfectly shaped form, from the beautiful servants waiting on him down to the unblemished fruit served  on his golden platter, is the only form of life worthy of his consideration. However, this wouldn’t be a fairy tale if fate didn’t have other plans.

One autumnal day, a tree planted in the center of the Sultan’s symmetrically designed garden loses its leaves on one side because of a strong gust of wind. The tree, planted by the Sultan’s wise grandfather, is in his direct line of  vision, and so loses its perfection and and status. Thus begins the Sultan’s journey, in his quest to replace the imperfect tree with a perfect, albeit static, tree that can change with the seasons, to learn the true difference between perfection and imperfection. He is adroitly and subtly aided in his quest by a young serving girl who has not had the opportunity to become a perfectly behaved servant. Read that to mean one who can still think for herself and thus still has individualism, spunk and brains.

Illustrated by Barbara Garrison, The drawings are etched onto the pages, giving them a medieval, two dimensional feel reminiscent of mogul paintings from the sub-continent. Gentle splashes of color are spread throughout the paintings in an array of subdued tints creating a rather majestic and medieval presence. And the character’s expressions are so wonderfully expressive(!!!) that you smile each time you turn the page! Check out the library and see for yourselves!

sultan's perfect tree II

sultan's perfect tree I

A Spinning Wheel

November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have a friend who is one of the most beautiful belly dancers you’ve ever seen. She’s also a spinner with her very own spinning wheel! Its magical watching her turn colorful balls of yarn and fluff into thin, delicate strands of threads. It really is like watching a spiderweb emerge from all those spindly implements.

Vintage Spice Labels

November 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

I cook a lot of Pakistani cuisine, ergo, I have a fair amount of loose, exotic spices in plastic packages that I buy at the local South Asian stores. Till date, I have stores them tightly in their plastic bags and or the small Rajtan spice jars from Ikea. I have always wanted to transfer and organize all my lovely, scented spices into beautifully labeled jars, and FINALLY, last week, I did just that!

The first step in my organizational endeavor was to label all the twenty jars. I wanted something a bit more creative than the usual white label maker. Armed with my trusty laptop, I scoured the net for some ideas and found two that were very inspiring:

1- DIY Spice Jar Labels from DIYdiva

2- DIY Authentic Vintage Labels from EATdrinkCHIC

I loved the humor and detail of DIYdiva’s set, but since my spice jars were so small, I decided to use her layout for the larger jars (pasta, rice and lentils) some weeks in the future. For this particular task, EATdrinkCHIC’s beautiful, apothecary simplicity would be the blueprint for my small jars.

When I say blueprint, I mean exactly that. I couldn’t really use her template because it did not contain all the spices I wanted (fenugreek, garam masala, asafoetida, etc.). Additionally, I wanted “instant” labels, using the tools I had in-house. I loved bottom-up approach to EATdrinkCHIC’s tutorial, so, armed with my mod-podge, old coffee granules, Microsoft Word and printer, I set to work.

(You can see what EATdrinkCHIC did here. As I said, I followed the spirit, if not the letter of her guide.)

I created my small, 2 inch x 1 inch labels in MS Word using the “tables” feature. I downloaded the fonts I wanted from smashing apps here and used “My Underworld” for the English name and “Quid Pro Quo” for the Urdu name (written in Roman script).

I printed them on regular white printer paper and cut them up with my trusty old scissors. I do not have the steadiest of hands, but my plan was that the slightly uneven edges would add to the charm of the labels. It worked (or so I tell myself).

I boiled water and two days worth of my used coffee granules in water (enough to just cover the 10 tablespoons of coffee). Since I already had used granules, I thought it would be worth seeing how they stained the labels. I loved the effect! But there was trial and error. I had to make sure that the water was boiling hot and the labels steeped for a good 30 minutes (note: the water was strained into a wide, shallow bowl, and only a few coffee granules were added). Since the granules were already diluted, the longer they were in the left them the longer you leave them the darker the color. Or you could use fresh powder.

Then I tried to blow-dry the labels to get the stained-water effect. Unfortunately, they were (1) too many for my impatient soul to individually dry and (2) the air was too strong while I held each one, so they ended up flying everywhere! I decided to just let them dry in the sunlight. I forgoed the beautiful dried water spots in favor of free time. And, luckily for me, I still ended up with a  dried, weathered look to them.

And finally, when all the labels were dry and all the jars filled with the spices, I used my left over semi glossy mod-podge to stick and seal the labels onto the jars. All in all, including taking care of a 15 month old and enforced wait-time, it took a total of 5 hours. Not bad eh?

(P.S. please pardon the photography. The kitchen lighting is not the best place, but unfortunately I could not do this project anywhere else.)

Short Tales: The Girl Who Loved The Wind

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have discovered a new love of illustrated children’s books. Short stories, encased in hard cover and liberally drawn. Full of age-old wisdom, sweet and gentle humor, beautiful pictures and poetically simple sentences. Online formats will not do them justice; these books beg to be held and gazed at slowly and reverently, read aloud softly and intimately to yourself, your child or to your entire family.

I discovered these “short tales” as part of my rite of passage – I was at the library with my son was looking for books to read to him at night, and I stumbled upon the children’s fairy tales section. A whole new world opened and I was soon choosing books for myself instead! I still read them at night, but I will be honest when I say that only some of them appealed to him. It didn’t matter – I still read it aloud to my husband and enjoyed them on my own. I’ve decided to share this series of “short tales” with you in the hopes that these books will not be forgotten. Here goes!

The idea for the series came to me with my third short tale: “The Girl Who Loved the Wind.” This out-of-print book by Jane Yolan is gorgeously illustrated and allegorically composed. It is about a girl with an overprotective father. He wants her to see and feel only happiness and good things, so he builds her an elaborate cocoon at the edge of the sea, constantly surrounded by servants who are ordered to look happy in young girl’s presence. This superficial haven is all she knows. But then, life slips in: a strong and vivacious wind blows into her home and into her mind. He sweeps in and out of her life on a whim, simultaneously taunting and tantalizing her about the world outside. And, because this is a fairy tale, she falls in love with him and breaks free.

Accompanying this fable are a set of illustrations that belong in an Ottoman palace. Ed Young, the illustrator, has recreated Persian and Moghul miniatures, imbuing them with an Arabian Nights quality. They are detailed, colorful and authentic. You can gave at the pictures forever and still be humbled at their magical qualities.

Sadly, this book is out-of-print, so it is very difficult for me to add it to my bookshelf. But I am thankful that my local library has a copy and knows how much I love it. Go and find this book. Pick it off the bookshelf and look at it. It will be a treasure.

Mailbox Love! Posters by AllPosters.com

November 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week happiness arrived in two separate long slim packages from AllPosters.com. A couple of weeks ago we had we had ordered three very large movie posters (27 inches x 40 inches) during their 20% discount sale. Have a look:

Something for the mama, for the couple and for the kiddies! And before all of you start sympathizing with my dude, there are three very, very good reasons why I have the beautiful Lee Byung Hun.

1- The movie is brilliant! A nihilistic tale of crime, betrayal, revenge and fleeting romance. A favorite of us both.

2- Hubby insisted on the poster, because ….

3- … we have the following three beautiful, arty posters up in our den:

Our sons will certainly have an eclectic sense of style!

If any of you feel that mature, responsible, family-oriented adults do not incorporate movie posters as wall art around the house, please rid yourself of that notion! I will keep you posted on how these will be displayed. In the meantime, enjoy looking at something beautiful.

Movie Review: Failan

November 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Failan broke my heart.

This movie was my introduction to Korean cinema, and for that reason alone it will always have a special place in my heart. However, Failan, more than any other movie, exemplifies Korean Cinema for me: viciously unpredictable, achingly sweet, apologetically heartwarming and completely redemptive in the only way a person can be – through complete loss. You don’t see stories told like this very often; Korean movies are very unique and Failan is even more so.

Official descriptions categorize Failan as a love story and that is correct. But what is not correct is that this is not really a love story as it is not romantic in the way we understand romance stories, and it is certainly not sweet in the way sweetness is usually depicted. It is also not a linear story. But it is a very simple story, told in two halves about two completely different people who begin to form an attachment to each other through letters, stories, perceptions and dreams. They both exist, and they know the other exists, but that is the only factual knowledge they have of each other.

Failan, played by the fragile actress Cecelia Cheung, is a sweet and shy Chinese orphan who moves to South Korea by contracting a “paper marriage” with Kang-jae, a South Korean thug, played with exquisite recklessness by Choi Min Sook (he of the Old Boy fame). Money is exchanged, they sign on the dotted line, take the required marriage photograph to show the immigration officer, a bribe is transacted, and that is the end of their business, at least on paper. I don’t think they even looked at each other.

What happens next is what dreams are made of. Kang-jae goes back to life as a worthless and cowardly thug, whose greatest achievement could be going to jail for his boss. Failan finds a menial job as a laundress whose closest family is her sweet landlady. Life goes on. But Failan has a copy of the marriage photograph where Kang-jae is smiling into the camera. And that smile is what transforms her existence from a hopeless daily grind to one of daily happiness because there was a man who, in her mind, cared enough to help her out of a difficult situation. That smile is the crux of the love story that is slowly reciprocated when Kang-jae is informed that his wife has died and he must collect her things. In order to prove his relationship, he tries to memorize some facts from the marriage certificate as well as two letters he received from her thanking him for his help. As he begins to learn of her through her writing, he begins to imagine her as she imagined him from his smile, and he becomes slowly touched by the gentleness of this lonely woman who has nothing but kind words and gratitude for him. Her unflappable faith in his goodness transforms him, and we see not only the love story as it grows, but the transformation of a man who behaved worthless because he believed himself to be worthless, to become a man who begins to believe in his own dignity and the ability to act with honor. His first act that is true to himself, and therefore a right and honorable act, becomes his last.

Yes, Failan broke my heart.

My guest post on Ruche

November 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have an eclectic sense of style, so it was no surprise that when I stumbled upon Ruche, I fell instantly in love. Their clothes, accessories and home decor items all have a vintage-chic charm and their look-books are modern fairy tales that you can gaze at your leisure for many an hour while curled up under the sun like a cat. They also have a top-notch blog that is full of recipes, inspirational outfits, love stories, decor ideas and easy DIY projects.

They also – unlike many online retail blogs – accept submissions. “Ooooo” I thought! Why not submit our love story. So, without much ado – and not sharing my scheme with my hubby – I painstakingly wrote about our own little love story (and tried very hard to refrain from any nauseating proclamations) and sent it in a couple of months ago. I just received word that they published last week and already people have enjoyed reading it!

The entire process from beginning to end (not counting the work of my brain cells) was very enjoyable. The Ruche Blog Team are very sweet and communicative. I highly recommend shopping through their online store and following their blog for some inspirational and creative ideas. And, if you’re up for it, submit a story, a recipe, a style idea of a DIY that you’re particularly proud of.

For those interested, here’s the post!

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