Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day and Fiambre

My post of today is not about patchwork, quilting or any other craft. Today I want to share with you a wonderful tradition and a food adventure!

There is in Guatemala a strong religious tradition by November 1st, the All Saints Day. Perhaps this tradition comes since the Mayan culture, based in their ancient spiritual believes, that have been mixed through the years with the Christian thoughts of the conquers, and so is by today.

By this day, the weather has turned windy and cold, properly to fly kites. But not any ordinary kite, no! There are some towns in my country like Santiago and Sumpango Sacatepequez, where people makes really Giant kites! Beautiful, vibrant of color, and really giant, they usually measure 4, 5 until 18, 20 meters of diameter! Groups of men meets usually once a week in the community hall to work together in order to create these stunning masterpieces.

With a strong but lightweight skeleton made with bamboo sticks, they make beautiful round, octagon or similar designs plenty of color, with tissue paper glued on a lightweight background. The day when they go to collect the bamboo sticks from the forest, is almost a holiday in the town: when the truck with the sticks enters in the town, people burn firecrackers and incense to bless the sticks in a very solemn ceremony, as the kites are their sacred way to communicate with their deads. These kites are released at the town cemetery, where people meets to celebrate the memories of their loved deads.

The tradition says that the kites are a way to send a message of love to the souls or spirits of the dead.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of my own, so I share these for you to see the stunning, marvelous kites

More pictures here:

Don't you think they are an inspiration perfect for a quilt? I truly think so!

But I told you about a "food adventure", remember? That's another thing! Another tradition for this day.

Related with this custom of visiting the cemeteries and the relatives' tombs, arises the habit of this strange, but delicious food almost every family has for this day. It's called "Fiambre" that means "cold meat". The word "Fiambre" is related to any kind of cold meat, sausages, ham or similar that you can use for a salad or sandwich. And that is exactly what this is: A very large amount of salad with a wide variety of meats and pickled or canned vegetables.

There are so many stories about the origin of this meal, but all agree in the fact that it merged from the mixture of cold meals families brought to the visit of their dead.
Although the base is the same: some pickled vegetables, and some traditional sausages that are made only for this season, the taste is as different as every cooks' taste is.

Each family has their favorite meats and vegetables, so here are mine:

From left to right: shredded cabbage, beets, diced carrots, green peas, cut green beans, and cauliflower, ready to be carefully boiled until still firm. After that, this vegetables are mixed in a large (very large) bowl, and add: pickled small onions, olives, capers, baby corn, and any other vegetable to the cook's taste! Marinated with some good vinegar -I like a mixture of white and apple cider- salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. I usually boil the vinegar with spices for a couple of minutes, to mix the flavor. After that, mine looks like this:

That "strings" spreaded over are not noodles, no! It's "pacayas", a not very common vegetable but easily found in here, is slightly bitter but pickled tastes good.
Then, here comes the meats. Again, these are to the cook's taste, but the basic are shredded boiled chicken, roast beef, "Butifarra" "Black chorizo" "Red chorizo" "Extremenio chorizo" and "Longaniza", I added pepperoni and salame, all cooked and chopped,

then mixed with another vinegarete made liquefying the chicken broth -defatted- more vinegar -if needed- salt, parsley, mustard and the juices of some canned vegetables you will use for decoration, like asparagus, red peppers... the meal is looking something like this:

The green bowl is before mixing, the white at left is already mixed, and the small amount in the red bowl has only chicken, for my hubby who doesn't eat pork or sausages...

And the -almost- final product:

An individual serving will be about two cups of this strange but unvelievable very goooood mixture, over lettuce and covered with: small pieces of a variety of hams, cheeses, asparagus, radish slices, red pepper, slices of hard-boiled egg , and sprinkled with a special hard dry cheese, from the town of Zacapa. This cheese tastes like feta cheese, but dry.

The garnishes I used:

And this is how my dish looks:

Of course it is like a bomb, but believe me, it's DE..LI..CI...OUS!!! After all, it's eaten only once a year, for a couple of days. Or more, depends on the amount you made and how many family comes to dinner!

A beer or a cup of wine and "Salud" (Cheers!)

Happy All Saints day!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A handsome guy, a lazy girl and a flower

It's been a long time from my last post, but as I told, blogging is not my favorite activity. If I'm blogging, I'm not sewing, so what will I blog about?

Among other projects, I've finished and sent the blocks for two of my partners in Star of Africa bee.
Jen, our Queen Mum of August, and who blogs at Quilter in the closet asked for animal themed blocks, because she wants to make a quilted book for her young children. As the main proposal of the bee is to share representative things from our countries, I sent her nothing less than our beautiful, awesome national bird, the Quetzal.

Don't you think he's a very handsome guy? Lovely, they are. Quetzals live in the tropical rain forest of Central and South America. They are in danger of extintion, and it's told that can't live in captivity.

Males have a long, beautiful tail, that looks majestic when flying. They live in tall trees and trunks with holes deeply enough to stay inside, but leaving the long tail outside to prevent it from hurt. If you want to know them better, click here:

There is also another animal in my country that I really love: turtles. They are not representative from here, but we have two or three refuges in the Pacific shore where they are protected in order to let them grow up enough to live by themselves.

The staff of these refuges helped by some volunteers, watch at night for the adult turtles when they come out from the sea to spawn in the beach sand. Carefully, they pick up the eggs and have them kept at the refuge in a similar and properly environment, where the breeding is safe until they are born and grow up enough to be released in the sea.

At that time, these refuges organizes a funny activity: people can be the sponsor of a small turtle, and at sunset they form in a row at the beach for a race. At the voice of "Ready, Set, Go" the tiny turtles are placed on the sand and everyone cheers while they are running to the sea... No prizes, no medals... just the freedom!

Here, my tribute to these kindly, beautiful, tiny creatures:

Slightly delayed -after all, she's a turtle- this cute girl was ready to be sent to Jen. By mail, not swimming...

It was then time to work in the block for Benta, our Quenn mum of september, who blogs at SLIKstitches. She asked for five blocks: a central one, with anything we like to represent our culture, and four blocks to form a wonky star on a gray background. She's going to make a quilt for her silver wedding anniversary, so I decided to send her a white flower, one of the most beautiful flowers in the world. Our Monja Blanca (White Nun), a stunning orchid that grows in the same environment as the Quetzal, the tropical rain forest. Let me introduce the Lycaste skinneri alba:

Copyright of this picture:

And this is the block I made:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wish you were here...

This is my second block for the "Star of Africa" Quilting bee. It pretends to be a relaxing view of Lake of Atitlan, maybe from the window of one of the few "eco-hotels" sited in the mountains that surround this beautiful lake.
May, our Queen Mum of july, had asked for blocks representing something in our countries of what we surely would take a picture. Blocks of almost any size or shape. A lot of freedom to create, except for one thing: she wanted pink or pastel colors.
Well, I don't think a pink lake could show exactly what I wished, so I decided to use the more soft colored fabrics I found, and enclave the sight through a window... with pink curtains. Hope she likes it!

To enhance it a little, I embroidered a rose garden under a tree... Would you like to be there?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Every Quilt has a story...

Yes, not only every Quilt have their own story of creation, but most of them also have "a Tale to tell..."

When we start a Quilt, from the simple beginning of an idea flowing from our mind, through the whole - and sometimes complicated- process of drawing our idea. To find and get the best fabrics, those that will show most properly the quilt sense. The best design. The careful process of sewing to get an accuracy, well done top.
The selection of an appropiate quilting design, then the quilting process, and finish. All this process has a story of motivation, commitment, or the only desire to please a loved person with a special gift, made with our hands and love.

That's why most quilts also, have a Tale to tell... the story coming out of our mind to materialize into a work of art made with our hands.

As my "Enjoying together" quilt is:

It was at a workshop, when our teacher gave us this pattern to make, and told us the "story" behind the quilt, which I don't remember anymore. She encouraged us to make a table mat -with just the houses and trees- or a larger squared tablecloth -adding the fence border- or, if we want to, a bed-sized quilt, adding another border with squares and a final border.

The theme of the quilt was something about Christmas Night, using a starry dark fabric for the center. I found this lovely fabric, with all-colored stars over black background, that makes me remind the fireworks we use to play in my country for Christmas Night.

When I finished the top and showed it to the teacher, she told me "but... (there was always a "but...") in the sample, all the squares at the corners below the houses are from the same fabric, and also the outer border was only from 2 fabrics. You used too many fabrics"

I answered "Yes, but you also told us that the quilt tells a story. So, I made my own story".

"The fact is that I have 4 children. All are grown up, and is not usual that they join for a meeting during the year. Just a few times, for birthdays or so. But Christmas Eve is another thing... it's a tradition.
And for me, there's not better time than this, when I see the four enjoy setting off fireworks in the front yard, laughing and joking together as if they were again little kids".

So, the story behind this quilt is: "May the joy of Christmas, that makes my children forget all kind of troubles they might have, and play happily together as in their childhood, remains with them during the whole year" Each house represents the place of each one of them, with their favorite things:

Music, for the oldest boy;

Medicine, scouting and nature, for the second.

Children and Teddy bears for my oldest daughter, who is a Teacher;

Animals and Japanese culture for my youngest girl.

And of course, every house has its "puppy dog" appliqued in a window...

The outer border is not only made with scrappy squares, but selected from fabrics that represent the 4 seasons. Thus, one line is for winter, that slowly turns into spring, this in summer, and for last, the autumn.

Then the teacher and my classmates expressed "ooooohhh" and one of my friends asked me, And who among the four will be the heir to the quilt? You may have to do another 3 ... LOL!

At this point of construction, I measured the top on my bed and it was exactly the size to cover it, so my husband asked me to attach a final border, just to make it larger... "enough to cover us both, and not only you, when you turn around and you pull the quilt, and leave me shivering..." Ooops! :0)

Well, I bought the fabric he liked for the outer border, and that was the point where this beautiful Quilt became an UFO! As it was a workshop project, at that moment we started another project and I set this aside "to be finished later", until now!

Thanks to the initiative of my friend May who, with the aim to motivate us to finish all those unfinished projects that have been forgotten at the bottom of a shelf or a box, started the group "Lazy bums" to which I have joined with enthusiasm. I also encourage all of you who want to get rid of all your hidden, forgotten UFO's, to join too!

Star of Africa

I'd love to finish at least half of the 24 projects I have chosen to work over a year, and this quilt is one of the most important for me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Antigua Guatemala, my first "bee block"

Here is my first patchwork block, for the Star of Africa bee. In this block, I tried to represent a street of Antigua Guatemala, one of the most iconic touristic places of my country.
The streets of this wonderful city are straight, with a traditional stone pavement, as it has been since the Colonial age. On both sides of the street, the houses are all of similar construction, all of them respecting the codes of the Colonial architecture. Is almost a tradition to put flower pots in the window sills, and also is very common to see large bouganvileas falling by the outer walls, spreading its perennial, bright purple flowers, to your eye's delight.
The blue peak at the end of the street, represents the "Volcan de Agua" (Water Volcano) which is named like this because is a non-active volcano, with a large pond of water in its top. Very close to it, are the "Fire" and "Acatenango" volcanoes. Contrasting with the calm of Volcan de Agua, the Fuego is always in activity.
Searching for more information and pictures to share, I found an excellent website, owned by Rudy Giron,a photographer who has posted hundreds of photos, and explained Antigua life in a very clear and amusing way. I truly recommend you to make a tour by his site, Antigua Daily Photo.

I'm sure you'll be delighted.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quilter's horoscope

I've just read a post in my friend Leanne's blog, referring to the quilter's horoscope. Funny, but not totally wrong, I found mine very close to my way of being...

Libra - September 23 to October 23
Easygoing and sociable Libra’s are great fun to have in patchwork and quilting classes and workshops. They enjoy helping others and never turn down a request to lend a hand to pin a quilt top. Friends are very important to Libra, and they don’t mind sharing their stash or tools. Unfortunately helpful Libra rarely will ask for help. They think that if they wait long enough for a problem to go away it will. Thus they end up with unfinished quilts when they do run into difficulty. Instead of finding a solution for the glitch they put it aside and move on to another project. They believe that they will be able to return to the project later and the predicament will have fixed itself. Funnily this sometimes works. You will find that a quilt designed by a Libra is always perfectly balanced.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Story of my (until now) best quilting artwork

When a friend of mine  received a bag made and quilted by me, she asked me to make a Quilt for her Mom.  Some years ago, she had bought some fabrics with the proposal of making the Quilt by herself, but with no idea of how to do it, and also, with no time to learn.
So, she gave me the fabrics and asked me to do "what I could" with'em. OMG! what a surprise...
That's what I got!  A bag full of  pre-cut pieces... snipped, not even, not accurate or the same size. I really couldn't imagine what was her mind, her idea,  but well... I had to do something, it was such a deal!
Mainly, because her mom is a truly beloved person for me!  She's also my daughter's piano teacher, so, I wanted to do my best work for her.

I began to sort  and set the pieces by groups of similar size... then I found that, with these square pieces

thepatchesofmylife.blogspot.comI could make these 4 patchs:

 Which were almost the same size of these pieces,
thepatchesofmylife.blogspot.comSo, trimming them to the same size, and with some matching fabrics for sashing, I planned an outer border!  

maybe not the usual way to design a Quilt,but... that's the way it came out...Having measured the final size of the 4-patch border, and calculated an inner border, I decided the size of the center.  I marked my desk with tape to the appropiate size, and began to play with all the leftover odd pieces, to get a... puzzle?... That's how I named it!   What a funny time!     
Here, the steps:
Then, adding the inner border, the 4-patches, and another 3 borders, one of them with all the small leftover pieces, I got the final top:
After that, I spent some days thinking about the proper quilting.  I realized I only could hand-quilt it, and I needed a simple, not much time-consuming design.   One morning, I awoke with the clear idea:  The recipient lady is a loving mother, grandmother and...yes! great-grandmother of 2.  Nothing greater or more important for her, than her family, so... what about quilting her relatives' names in the borders?  I loved the idea, and immediately called a mutual friend who could give me all that names without telling her, or her daughter who ordered the quilt.  I wanted it to be a whole surprise for both!  
And of course, it was.  I needed almost a year to have it finished, but finally she had a very special, surprising Christmas gift.  Hope she now has warm, soft dreams, covered and well wrapped with "My family love" as I named it.

The finished quilt, and a detail of the quilted names:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Around the world in... 80? No, 480 days...

Departing from Africa... well, not really.  Departing from my nearest quilting shop, and then comfortably installed in my sewing room, I'm ready to go!  Planning... done!  Design...almost done!  The hardest part: fabric selection. That's always my biggest challenge, because my choices often result in a monochromatic palette. But the best part of my amazing traveling story is that, after a couple of days feeling overwhelmed,  the fair of inspiration came over me this morning, and ideas flew as a brainstorm!  Star of Africa ladies, this part of the world has started... May I post pictures in advance, or Patti wants to be surprised?  

My first steps in blogger world

Well, finally, I did it!. I've been avoiding to start blogging. I knew why: it's confusing for me. But life changes in that way, that create the necessity to deal with new challenges. And here I am, starting my second blog... I opened the first two days ago, and really couldn't enter again. Doesn't matter, not too much said in there.
The main reason to be here, is to share with my quilting pals my experiences about quilting in a country with no-quilting tradition at all. That's a growing, but still almost unknown craft.
It was five years ago when I discovered Quilting world, an since then, it conquered me.
I was about to quit a whole life of Accounting, which had turned a boring and hard work for me; and was also entering in the "empty nest" age, when one friday morning, at 10 am. I received a call from my best friend.  She told me:
-"Hi dear, listen, I registered myself in a Patchwork and Quilting course.  But I've just received a call from a job I really need to grasp.  It'll be impossible for me to attend the course.  Would you like to go instead of me?  I give it to you"
-"Well, of course I'd like to, thanks.  When it starts?"
-"Today, at 1 PM."
Wasn't that a strong push forward? No time to refuse, or even think about.  Just grab my purse and GO!
That was the beginning of an affair... I became immersed in the study of this beautiful art, that every day surprises me with more fascinating, new secrets. 
After 3 years of classes and practice, buying fabrics and collecting UFO's, as well as some finished projects, I felt my brain fulfilled with information.  A lot of techniques were just glanced at, and I wanted to practice them again.  So, I decided it was time to stop studying for a while, and start teaching others what I've learned.

At present, my dearest dream is to find in my country more people interested in learning this artwork, in the same in-love way as I do. 
I love to browse internet looking for new patterns, designs, and to share experiences with other quilters around the world.  An amusing and amazing way to travel...