Someday Projects

It's an odd feeling to be on summer vacation. I haven't really had one since, I don't know, high school? And instead of spending all summer at the lake subsisting on Hot Tamales and mischief (which sounds as much fun as it was), I've decided tackle a few "someday" projects. I've always wanted to learn how to sew. Like, really sew. I've haphazardly made things up, or altered thrift store finds to better suit me. (And I'm trying my hand at my first quilt. Updates to follow.) But I know very little about tried & true garment construction. So, with my trusty on-call teacher (Mom) and my new best friend (Singer), I'm determined to literally make something of my summer. Up first is this super cute Hazel dress by Colette in a black & white seersucker fabric.

Another of my projects is to really devote myself more to this blog, and turn it into something that I will be really proud of. I'm excited to share feature some of the artisans I'll meet at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market. Hopefully, a sense of cohesion will emerge from both this odd miss-mash blog & the more pressing chaos that seems to be my life these days.



Argan Memories

It's taken cosmetic products by storm, but did you know certain types are edible? The difference between cosmetic and culinary argan oil is that edible argan uses toasted argan seeds to enhance its characteristic nutty flavor. Cosmetic argan is made with untoasted seeds to remain mild for use on skin and hair.

Argan oil is an ingredient in Amlou - hands down my favorite Moroccan snack. Toasted almonds and argan oil are ground together and mixed with honey or sugar, creating the most delectable almond butter ever. Even calling it almond butter is misleading, since this combination of seemingly predictable ingredients creates a sort of culinary Gestalt. It's spectacular and was always a special treat in my village, each ingredient being so expensive.

My host sisters and I made a bit for me to bring home, which I gave to friends and family for Christmas this year, creating a tradition I hope to continue in coming years. This recipe in the New York Times looks authentic (though I expect nothing less from the Paula Wolfert).

Writing about Amlou and Argan was actually inspired by two catalysts I've encountered this week. First, I'm ready Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, in which, among other things, she uses writing and food to remember important people and events in her life. It's a nice read (& especially fun to read about Paris and Seattle). Secondly, a post to fb by a friend I haven't actually yet met including this link to a BBC story on the women who make argan oil, much like one of the groups I worked with in my village.

My women's enterprise provided a culturally-acceptable income-generating opportunity to use their existing skills-set to earn money. However, two main challenges faced the women I worked with, and I'd venture to say, many other new argan oil businesses (which was entirely glossed over in the BBC feature). Firstly, start-up costs are high, despite significant state-sponsored support. Machinery, certifications, and the cost to join exporting cooperatives (necessary to benefit from the strong foreign market) are often prohibitively expensive - well into the tens of thousands of dollars. Additionally, rural women often lack knowledge of how to successfully run a business. Lack of learning opportunities and knowledgeable guidance can be detrimental. As the market for argan oil continues to grow, I hope training and developmental support does as well.

So, there you have it - a few of my argan memories.


My Ladies, P2

Holidays and Internet problems and settling into a new village has created a bit of a back-log in my blogging. You'd think I was still in Morocco! So, back to the story of my ladies. Their workspace was modest - just a few chairs, a table, and  some aprons they'd made hanging on the wall. The first day I arrived, two women sat quietly crocheting. Little did I know the boisterous, humming, delightful space that would soon become.

We talked about a craft fair coming up and decided to participate. Our first major obstacle was their product selection. They only new how to make products that appealed to village women - dresses, children's clothing, aprons, bath accessories. I taught them how to make these simple beaded necklace. It was low-cost and low-risk, so a good place to start. I also hoped they'd be interested in making some garments. We updated a traditional Berber dress - something they already knew how to do - into something that would work well as a summer dress, top, or beach cover-up for Western women.

I loved these conversations about clothing. They became a way to share my culture with the women and learn more about theirs. I can't tell you how many times I said, "Walu brillance!" (Trans: "No sparkles!") Within a few weeks, their first prototypes were completed, and we hit the ground running.


Galinanova Weaving

Love love love these Galinanova textiles I spotted on Design*Sponge a few weeks back. A timeless melding of traditional motifs & up-to-date colors handwoven by Sardianian artisans.


Sari Bari

Gorgeous recycled sari blankets at Sari Bari made by women seeking a better life.