This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

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This Moment

It’s Spring!

blog-4146blog-4156And yes, I do feel like that should be a March title.  However, Lima was kind to me today.  The first day of spring turned out to be one of those rare and beautiful sunny Lima days when I remember just how much I like it here.

I opened all the sliding doors, let the sunshine in, and started planning for some flowers.  This garden needs more flowers.  And since seeds take a while, and I needed some bright sunny instant gratification, I made one of my favorite peruvian foods – a potato salad.

blog-4176Nothing mayonnaise-y and prosaic about papas a la Hauncaina.  The dressing is sunny yellow with a fresh green tasting bite of aji amarillo.  My love of all things aji amarillo can be a whole other post.  I’ll write my own recipe soon, but in the meantime, try this one.  If you can’t find queso fresco, I have had great success with homemade ricotta.

Happy spring to all of you in the Southern Hemisphere!

Teaching history


My husband has a degree in history, and a doctorate in political science. To say that he’s a history buff is probably an understatement. When I once, early in our relationship, told him that I was not a huge fan of history in school, he said that it was because history was taught wrong. It was reduced to memorizing dates and battles, with no discussion of the human stories that make it happen.  So it was with interest that I read The New History Wars on the New York Times, an article about the revision of the curriculum framework for the advanced placement test in American history.

After that conversation long time ago, I started reading biographies, and I was hooked. Since I didn’t grow up in the United States, I thought American history would be an appropriate starting point. I read biographies of Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. I read Franklin’s autobiography – as much a study in time and life management as an account of a historical period.  When I finished David McCullough’s 1776, I immediately went looking to see if he wrote “1777” because it read like a riveting novel, and I wanted more.  I read personal letters from the wars.  I read biographies, memoirs, essays.

When I started started traveling for work, I would prepare for a trip by reading Lonely Planet,  and then whatever my local library had on the country’s history.  I read about India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Egypt.  It began making sense.  What happened to people in one place didn’t happen in temporal or geographic isolation.   If you want to understand the Palestinian conflict, start with a good read, like Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree.  Then read something on the same topic from a completely different perspective.

As I started reading different books on the same topic, I started thinking about the observer effect in physics.  Maybe history too, has an observer effect.  After all, the historian is the product of his time, her education, his belief system, her heritage.    What she sees and observes is not independent of who she is and when she writes.  Then here is the depth of field. Is it a wide angel, seeing the 6 million Jews who died, lists of camps, dates of liberation? Is it focussed on the young life of Ann Frank, showing us the impact of history on the very real girl? Is it the recollections of Primo Levi, bearing witness to the events he lived through? While all these views might be historically accurate, the stories they tell are not the same.

Facts are facts, right?  Maybe the reason that we teach kids dates and battles is because accepting ambiguity and gray areas is a more mature skill.  It seems to me that there are lots and lots of gray areas in history.  It seems to me that American history is not a static thing.  The very nature of the melting pot, or salad bowl or whatever menu item you wish to call the composition of our country, dictates that history has to be inclusive.  Our history is the history of the Roman empire, the British colonies, independence.  But it is also the history of India, and China, and the Maya and the Inca, and the Spanish empire.

So what is a vital mommy to do when she teaches her children history?  What’s vital of course.  Help them to memorize the dates and battles, then get the atlas and show them where it happened.  Take them on a field trip, even if its only to the local library.  Read.  Read.  Read.  George Santayana is credited with the quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”   To that I say that those who do not understand the interpretation of their history, and bound to misunderstand it.

By the way, if you need some examples from Peru, I suggest that you start with The Last Days of the Incas, and then read William Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru.  For more fun, start with Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a fun adventure yarn with just enough history to make you curious for more.

A challenge and an apron

My mom’s favorite quilt shop, Stitchcraft, recently had a challenge.  You had to make something, anything,  from this fabric.  The fabric had to be visible, but there was no requirement that it be the main fabric in your project.challenge fabricNow, after unpacking our ridiculously heavy household effects shipment, I vowed not to buy any more fabric until I made a very serious dent in my existing stash.  Given that the challenge fabric is not in my usual color families, this vow became a bit of a challenge.  After a few fits and starts, and ruined projects, I discovered a kit for making a shopping cart cover my mom bought when my now four and a half-year old was a newborn.  I definitely don’t need a shopping cart cover any more, but an apron is always handy.  I was inspired by this tutorial, but made mine reversible.  Wish I could tell you how, but it was pretty late and I was flying by the… well, string of my apron, to mix my metaphors.

blog-4071A few notes: one really ought to wipe the little handprints off the mirror before attempting a self portrait.  It wouldn’t hurt to attempt a smile either.  One should also finish said project in the daylight (instead of after midnight), so that crooked seams are not discovered as the project gets folded to go in the mail.  Despite the rather mediocre results, it was such fun to bring the sewing machine out for something other than the endless diaper repair project!