So Crafty

 

woman carving lacquer

We might as well start with this;

 I’m not ‘Crafty’.

A confession that might come as a surprise to some, as I’m a visual person who can draw and paint passably well, but you would be very, very wrong in assuming this translates to ‘craftiness’, at least in my case.

 Have you seen any photos of that hot pink antique lantern yet? Say no more.

When I do attempt something in the crafty vein it usually takes me about 974 hours to complete the task and I’m seldom happy with it.

I never even learned to sew or knit.

It’s all my mother’s fault.

slimpaley.com

 I was instantly reminded of this when taking photos (this one in particular) at the silk weaving centre we visited in Myanmar last week. A flashback to ‘Mom’s Sewing Kit’  growing up. It was small and oval shaped in green brocade-they used to be called a “Train Case”, complete with tiny mirror and 4 lipstick holders sewn under the lid. It ran a very sad popularity race against her infinitely more exciting ‘Manicure Case’ and housed a thread monster much like this one. More than anything though, the sewing kit was a repository for safety pins to hold the things begging to be sewn together and more importantly, as time moved on, pimple-popping needles. Sorry, but The Truth isn’t always pretty.

silk weaving Burma slimpaley.com

  I did, only because it was mandatory, study sewing in Home Eck.  in junior high. I might have mentioned this before (I’m like my mother in more ways than one :-) ) Our big project was to design and sew a stuffed animal-draw and cut the patterns and everything. I sewed a snake. I glued on spots, eyes and a long tongue and failed the class. Seriously-how long did she expect that tongue to stay on? Aren’t snakes supposed to shed their tongues anyway? Personally I thought my stuffed animal was pretty edgy. I don’t think I ever finished the second assignment; an apron ( micro mini of course) but I did learn to type, whipped up a ferocious Baked Alaska, achieved my future sun damage like nobody’s business leaning against the back wall of the building and sold one of my paintings to the Industrial Ed. teacher for $100.

A stellar scholastic year to be sure.

So, you can imagine my shock and awe when we visited a few of the Burmese craft houses I’m sharing with you here.

blue thread slimpaley.com

Did you know that thread has to be made??

Like the individual strands of thread are M-A-D-E ?

As in there’s no such thing as a Thread Forest.

Lotus plants for weaving slimpaley.comHere Lotus plants are harvested from Lake Inle

Lotus stem, slimpaley.com

Each individual stalk is cut several times and the fibres are gently pulled away by hand and rolled…

Check this out; (video might take a minute to load- but patience is everything, as this perfectly demonstrates)

After the lotus stalks are cut and the thread has been removed, the rest is fed to the pigs.

Of course there is also the controversial Mulberry tree silkworm spit method of creating silk but we did not see it being done here.

fabric dyes slimpaley.com

The threads are then dyed and the weaving process begins.

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Bags of dye waiting to be mixed. This part looked like fun to me but you can’t even imagine how hot these rooms were.

weaving loom in Burma slimpaley.com

Seeing the process from start to finish truly gives you a newfound appreciation for this timeless art.

If your travels ever take you to Burma, I think Lake Inle appears to be one of the best places to buy silks and lotus leaf fabric.

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lacquer bowl Slimpaley.com

Heretofore I would have picked up a lacquer bowl and said with all certainty it was made out of…lacquer.

With no irony. I’m not proud, but there it is. I expose my foibles for the sake of honest journalism.

bamboo being made into lacquer bowls slimpaley.com

It actually involves, oh, about infinity different stages and starts out as bamboo.

You probably knew that.

making lacquer slimpaley.comHere, starting from bottom left to top right and snaking back, you can see some of the stages that the bamboo passes through, each one by hand, before it becomes the finished product.

making lacquer slimpaley.comHere the bowls have received an initial coat of lacquer and are being sanded for the next coat.

men working on a lacquer tableThese gentlemen are working on the lacquer table in the following photo

lacquer & mother of pearl table slimpaley.c

After each coat of lacquer the pieces go down to a very hot, dark and dust-free cellar to dry.

lacquer slimpaley.comThe finishing touches being made to dinner chargers. We ordered some of these to be shipped back home. I was never really that attracted to lacquer before. Now I can barely stand to wait the 7 months it will take to receive our chargers and set a chic Burmese themed table!

(yes, 7 months)

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This particular lacquer maker ships to clients all over the world- including a very well known, upscale store in San Francisco which we won’t name, but starts with G.

and ends in umps.

Young man painting lacquer

I think this might be one of my favourite photos-even if I do say so myself.

carving lacquer, Burma, slimpaley.com

Ladies quietly carving and painting the lacquer bowls.

hands carving lacquer , slimpaley.com

This is just one of the reasons why I love traveling so much. It’s both inspiring and humbling…

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place You occupy in the world.” Gustave Flaubert

PS. I’ll add the name of the silk & lacquer makers as soon as I find the receipts!

PPS. Does anyone on WordPress know how to make the new video format smaller?!

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This time last year… Opulence Moroccan Style

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The Dusty Road To Mandalay…

890A1365Sunrise, Bagan, Myanmar

I’m back! At least my body is…

My mind, I’m not so sure…it might arrive later this week. It’s still spinning with the imagery, sounds and scents of distant lands.

 I’ve lost some sense of time & space, but how lovely to come home to Spring and the clocks being turned back, er forward, or…whatever…

 It’s staying lighter much longer than when I left and that makes me very happy :-)

Oh and look at that-Wordpress got new smiley face icons while I was away.

Boy, did we do a lot of traveling in 3 weeks. If it didn’t involve a plane, van, truck, boat, bike, a hike or a climb and a 5:30am wake-up call it was a slow day.

Lake Inle, Myanmar, slimpaley.comCruising along on Lake Inle, Burma

Why all the early starts? It gets hot in *Burma quickly at this time of year. Very, very HOT.  100+ degrees  on many days with nary a suggestion of a breeze. The fine, chalky dust from the red earth rises to meet the omnipresent smoke of the open cooking fires blanketing the atmosphere with a gauzy filter from sunrise to sunset.

Woman smoking, Burma, slimpaley.comA woman in a street market in Mandalay

Yet, despite the heat, many destinations and points of interest require keeping your arms & legs covered, as well as closed toed shoes (because of dust & dirt) yet easily removable (because of the shrines)

Shwedagon Pagoda , slimpaley.comMy shoeless friend and me at the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma. The light coloured marble here was lovely underfoot, but some darker hued stone floors at other shrines, not so much…

We took sooo many photos. There was SO MUCH to photograph! Besides, I wasn’t about to lug my Canon 5D (AKA Big Daddy) 1/2 way across the world for naught. In its travel case it’s the size and weight of a small baby. I attached a big hot pink name tag to the strap (Travel Tip #1 learned after leaving my husband’s headphones in a plane seat pocket) in case I left the baby on a plane, or pagoda steps…Did I mention there are a LOT of pagodas in Burma?!

And that I now know the difference between a stupa, a shrine and a pagoda?

 What is a “Stupa”? for $500 Alex.

I also shot in ‘RAW’  format for the first time-FYI that’s a camera setting not a sartorial choice ( I only just learned about this, hangs head in shame. Thanks Mr. Sammy’s Camera Man!) So I’m busy downloading, sorting and trying to figure out how to transfer all these huge files without taking 5 minutes per pic. It’s hard being an empty-nester and not having in-house tech support anymore, but wowzer-zooming in has taken on a whole new meaning. If the photos take a little longer to load than usual, please bear with me.

Breakfast, slimpaley.comBreakfast. NOT every day.

I’m learning, always learning as I go, and we saw and learned so many wonderful things on this trip.

From the mind-blowing wealth and staggering architecture of Dubai, the chic decors and gorgeous people of Sri Lanka to the endless stupas, golden light and dusty chaotic roads of Burma it was a wild, wild ride.

The Tintagel hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.com

And always, the beautiful children all over the world

IMG_9632A couple of heart-melters at a monastery in Inle Lake, Myanmar

video (might take a few seconds to load)

 I usually cave to self-inflicted Virgo-ian pressure to blog in chronological fashion, but as my last post was March 6th and inspired by my trip, I’m going to go ‘off road’  and let all these places and photos just spill out willy nilly over the course of the next few weeks.

IMG_9536Much like an intricate mosaic, they might not appear to make complete sense viewed too closely but trust me-they’ll be cohesive when viewed from a distance.

I think.

Stand back a bit farther.

I’m starting with the travel tips I promised you but rather than spew them all out at once (that could be pretty boring) I’ll give you just a few at a time.

Starting with the Most Important; MEDS.

1) NEVER pack them in your suitcase. Always in your carry-on.

2) BRING ANTIBIOTICS. Absolutely mandatory on overseas trips!

 No need for me to run through the more obvious medications (Dramamine, Imodium, Pepto-Bismol (pink bismuth caplets) etc. but you might want to also consider;

3) If you’re going somewhere tropical, always check to make sure the area you’re visiting is Malaria-free. If not, seriously consider taking Malarone tablets. I’d rather suffer through a few bad dreams (a possible side effect, and more or less a given for me) than Malaria. I’ve read too many books about Africa & India to risk it, thank you very much. I’m also always the one covered in mosquito bites so I carry

4) “Mozy” After Bites spray. Provides great relief.

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If your trip requires shots, i.e. Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Influenza, it’s always a good idea to carry your yellow International Certificate of Vaccination (approved by the World Health Organization), in case you need to show it to a foreign doctor for any reason.

5) Toothache gel.  Although I think tooth-aches are rare these days, this can be a life-saver if you aren’t near a reliable dentist. I’ve only ever suffered an adult toothache twice. Both times, away from home and excruciating. Once in San Francisco and once in Vegas, where basically you can just win a new tooth, but imagine suffering from a bad bicuspid in say, Africa??

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6) a Dental Repair kit. A friend shared this with me-how about losing a filling or a crown, especially HORROR of horrors, a visible one, right in the front? Talk about excruciating. No more holiday Selfies for you!

Dental_Cement

7) Leg cramp tablets. Long flights, not enough liquids, lots of walking, strange mattresses…I get leg cramps often when I travel and I like Hyland’s Homeopathic pills-I swear they work.

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and lastly, for this go round; my Slim Paley Special Tip that works brilliantly for me whenever I’m around ‘questionable’ tap water;

8) Fluorescent hair ties.

fluorescent hair ties

 

Don't Drink the Water! slimpaley.com

Don’t Use the Water!

The first thing I do in a hotel where I won’t risk even brushing my teeth is to wrap a fluorescent scrunchie around the faucet to serve as a reminder. Because, let’s face it, we’re all Pavlov’s dog when it comes to daily hygiene habits. Works like a charm for husbands & children too :-)

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Next up; not sure… markets & monasteries, fishing & silk weaving, shopping & eating, stupa climbing, beautiful hotels…suns setting & rising and lots of other fun stuff plus more travel tips.

Stay tuned.

Balloon over Bagan, Burma, slimpaley.com

Happy Spring to All!!

xxSP

*To dispel any confusion, Burma is now called ‘Myanmar’ but a healthy number, if not majority of Burmese including our guide and Aung San Suu Kyi still commonly refer to it as Burma, and Yangon as Rangoon. Much of the signage and newspapers still use “Burma” as well. I won’t dare attempt to get into the politics of all this, but the names appeared to be interchangeable without causing any rancour.

Dear Abbey

Lady Mary at the train station bids adieu to Cousin Matthew

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And I must also board a train to distant lands…

(after a plane, a car, then another plane, and one more car, but those bits aren’t so romantic)

I’m off to Sri Lanka and Burma (Myanmar) with a girlfriend for 3 weeks!!

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Cousin Matthew and Lady Mary say good-bye

but it could just as well be my husband seeing me off

(after he catches his breath getting all my bags into the car)

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I’m quite beside myself with excitement and slightly overwhelmed at what’s involved in leaving home & hearth for 3 whole weeks.

Packing is the least of it.

No, it SO isn’t, but I’ve always wanted to say that.

One MIGHTY BIG concern is the fact that I’m going to be missing the last 3 episodes of Downton Abbey, including the 2 hour Christmas Special!

I’m afraid if I do have internet access I’m going to get ‘spoilers’ coming at me left and right.

The Husband’s never been great at keeping secrets either, which means he might be banned from watching until I return.

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I’ve recorded this for him as a warning reminder;

Downton Abbey

 


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Will they get back together?

Will the cheeky chauffeur have his way with her Ladyship?

Is Robert really going to leave Downton to be in the employ of such a nouveau riche bounder?

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Meanwhile, I’m going to miss my favourite character

Lord Grantham

but I’m slightly worried about the glint he’s getting in his eye when talking to the new maid…

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Hmmm- and who might that new precocious parlormaid be??

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Impostor or the real deal?

And if dead cousin Gordon or whatever his name is can just waltz up from The Titanic’s watery depths, albeit burned beyond recognition and with an American accent, to  crash the party,  why can’t our favourite Turkish delight rise stiffly (no pun intended) from his grave to make a repeat performance??

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Who amongst us would mind?!

oh here, let me get that mud for you with the warm edge of the lace hankie I keep tucked just inside my heaving bodice.

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and while we’re at it…

Is it just me, or is Lady Mary’s fiancé Sir Richard Carlisle not  the love child of Richard Chamberlain and Peter Beard?

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Richard Chamberlain

Sir Richard (Iain Glen)

and Peter Beard

Separated at birth, no??

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Is the treacherous Thomas softening slightly this season?

I do believe I’ve almost caught a glimmer of a smidgen of a smile once or twice.

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I might I need to ask Cousin Matthew who followed me on Twitter recently

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Although he’s not exactly the chattiest follower on Twitter.

Perhaps the paralysis is migrating upwards…

Hey! Matthew! WAKE UP

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.In any case,

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 Cocktail napkins from Rue de Lillie Antiques, Summerland, CA.

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Robert: “You know, there is nothing more ill-bred than to steal other people’s servants.”

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In honor of my favourite show, I’m sharing my bells once more…

Found years ago in London

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Traveled across the seas to America

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To live silently ever after in my kitchen in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Imagine the stories they could tell.

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And how does One feel about Madame MacClaine joining the cast next Season?!

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Is there really room for two Divas?!

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Who is your favourite character?

Are you enjoying the second season as much as the first?

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PS. I hope to be able to post  and keep in touch on my travels, but it’s rather a whirlwind itinerary and I’m not sure how available internet access will be.

I’ll try to check in on FB  & Twitter

 (It’s always been my dream to “Tweet” from Mandalay :) )

If you haven’t done so already, you might like to sign up for my email alerts at the top of this page to stay connected.

(don’t forget to click on the ‘confirm’ button you will be sent-it takes 1 second)

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** Hoarder Alert;  It’s been 29 years since my last visit to “Ceylon” but I saved this 10 rupee bill (circa 1979) knowing that someday, I would return.

It’s going back with me this week.

Woo hoo!

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I’ll see you at The Abbey tonight!

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and dare we hope that Matthew felt a tingle??

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