zipper frenzy.

yesterday, a fellow crafty blogger mentioned that she was "tackling her first zipper," which made me realize that i absolutely have to share a zipper trick. this comes from my peace corps mom, lady D, who taught it to me when i was whining about sewing a zipper into a basic seam. this trick will not work for all zipper applications, but is perfect for those of you who just want the basics.

step 1. gather your materials. my plan is to make a little zippered pouch, like the one i found on the three bears blog, so i am starting with two rectangles and a zipper. if you have a serger i recommend serging the edges where you will place the zipper (i opted to serge all of my edges, because i will have exposed seams inside my pouch).

step 2. put right sides together and baste a 1/2" seam. baste=set your machine to make long stitches.

step 3. press the seam open. place the zipper face down on the pressed seam.

step 4. match the center of the zipper to the center of the seam and pin the zipper in place. make sure your pins are on the other side of the fabric, because when you sew the zipper will be on the bottom.

step 5. make sure you reset your stitch length so that you are no longer basting and attach your zipper foot. carefully top-stitch on both sides of the seam. i always start from the closed end. when i get to the end with the pull tab i put the needle down, life the presser foot, and carefully slide the pull tab behind the presser foot. then i put the presser foot back down and continue sewing to the end of the zipper. i change the position of the zipper foot and needle to sew on the other side and repeat the process.
sewing with the zipper on the right or the left.
when you get close to the zipper pull, you can carefully slide it behind the foot, and continue sewing straight to the end.

 step 6. use a seam ripper to take out the basting stitches.

step 7. i like to sew another line of top-stitching on each side of the zipper. voila! a zipper. easy peasy, lemon squeezee.
top-stitching a second line.
a finished zipper!


tales of lesotho. part two.

life in the village is slow and quiet, but that does not mean that it is boring, because there is always something to do. always. it is a patriarchal society, so it is not surprising that the males seem to do a whole lot of nothing. if you speak to basotho men they will assure you that they do a LOT of work, but considering they often add "eating" to their list of daily work, i take their assurances with a BIG grain of salt. what DO they do all day? hard to say. some of them spend the day in the fields watching over cows, sheep, or goats. some work in the fields. and some spend the afternoon in the shop drinking beer. no matter what they do, you can be certain that they will come home, eat a lot of food, and make a big mess, which they will not clean up. 
watching cows. bringing maize in from the fields. bringing maize stalks from the fields. drinking beer in the shop.

the women on the other hand seem to do the bulk of the work. not only do the women take care of the domestic duties, throughout the day they are also taking care of babies and children. the concept "it takes a village to raise a child" is alive in lesotho, which means that even those with no children or grown children will still find themselves caring for little ones. whether it is feeding, bathing, or comforting, the children always have needs.
babies go everywhere with their mothers. and grandmothers (far right) help raise their grandchildren.

"a woman's work is never done." her day starts shortly after 7am with sweeping the dirt. yes i know this is a weird concept, but i assure you that at most every house, the women wake up, put some water on to boil, and then step outside to sweep the dirt yard. what is even more disturbing is that after having lived in lesotho for a couple years, i actually buy into this concept, because it makes the house look pretty. by the time you are finished making the dirt look pretty, the water should be boiling, which is perfect, because it is time to do the dishes. this is a standard operation...scraps go to the pig and then wash, rinse, and dry. once there are clean dishes, it is time to make breakfast. the menu varies, but my personal favorite is tea and bread. make six or seven cups of tea and plates of bread and serve it to people. when everyone is done eating there are more dishes. super. and pots. ugh.
sweeping dirt. washing dishes. preparing a bowl of sour porridge.

now is a good time to take a trip to the village water pump to get water. if you are planning to do some laundry, you probably want to take two trips to the water pump. once you have water, you can wash clothes (by hand), or do whatever other chores you had planned...you know sorting beans, taking the chaff out of corn, or shining pots. once that is complete you must start pondering what you are cooking for lunch. my favorite is papa (a thick porridge made from maize meal) with soup, a strange but delicious substance similar to spaghetti sauce. finish cooking, prepare six or seven plates, hand them out, and then add the empty plates to the stack of dirty dishes.
laundry. sorting beans. removing chaff from maize. polishing pots.

at this point it is about 1pm. time to relax. for five minutes. and then you have your choice of options. go to the fields to shuck maize or head over to the neighbor's house to take corn off the cob. i was lucky because my mother-in-law (m'e') was crazy protective of me and would not let me participate in these laborious tasks, so i typically spent the afternoon visiting with friends and family.
bringing maize stalks from the fields. sorting through maize. taking maize off the cob.
but one day i did convince her to let me tag along when she went to take corn off the cob. not a horrible task, because it is one time the women will not yell at me for sitting on the ground (they believe women of child-bearing age should not sit on the ground, because it could make the womb cold....right) and it is a great place to catch up on village gossip. m'e' was pleasantly surprised to discover that i actually know how to properly take corn off the cob. of course i am a whole lot slower than her. she tried to con me into believing that i was as fast as her, but let's be honest...i cleaned 131 cobs (yes, i counted) and she cleaned five or six hundred. in my book, this is not even a contest.
my niece taking maize off the cob. my 131 clean cobs. m'e' and her gigantic stack of clean cobs.

upon returning home, it is time to make dinner. if you have a chicken and the thought of chopping off its head does not make you want to vomit, then you can have meat for dinner. if you are me, then you stick with peeling and dicing potatoes. get dinner started, take laundry off the line, and start a fire in the wood stove so everyone will be warm in the evening. put a kettle of water on the stove. prepare and serve dinner and then add the plates to the growing heap of dirty dishes.
removing feathers from a chicken. cooking papa inside. cooking outside.
now it is time to sit around, chit chat, and drink tea (more dirty dishes). sometime around eight or nine everyone will head off to their houses to sleep (families typically have a few little huts within the family compound, so they do not all sleep together. for example, the mister and i slept in one house, m'e' and female guests slept in the second house, and our little brother and male guests slept in the third house). this is a good time to take a hot bath, so you can be warm before jumping into a frozen bed. after all it is winter and despite the raging inferno inside the wood stove, temperatures inside the house are in the low fifties.
bathing in a bucket.

sleep for ten hours and the whole process starts over. thank goodness i was never left alone to do all of this work. between my sisters and nieces visiting, we always had at least three females performing these chores, but not all women are so lucky. after one month of doing only a fraction of the daily work, i am completely in awe of the women who do all of this work virtually unassisted. here in the states we aspire to have luxuries like fancy cars and big houses, but thirty days in lesotho and suddenly running water and electricity seem like precious luxuries. i cannot even describe the heaven that is dishwashers, washing machines, and grocery stores. i only hope i can sustain my appreciation until the next time i visit the village.

next installment...only in lesotho.


tales of lesotho. part one.

for the month of july the mister and i headed off to lesotho (southern africa) to visit his family. we departed on july 6th and surprisingly our departure was totally uneventful. we followed my handy to-do list and waltzed out of the house precisely on time. shocking to say the least. two hours at the airport, ten hours on the plane, and we found ourselves in paris for a 15 hour layover. super. one minor glitch...the mister is a citizen of lesotho, a country which has no visa-waiver policy with france. sans visa the mister was not allowed to leave the international terminal of charles de gaulle airport. lucky for me, i am married to a wonderful man who took control of my luggage and sent me off to wander through paris. i did not have any kind of plan. i had a rinky-dink map from the airline magazine and i was just hoping to find the eiffel tower. after some confusion (streets going every direction with names that are all long and sound similar) i did find the major sights, but it just was not the same without my mister, so i just walked. and walked. and walked. i walked from notre dame to the eiffel tower to the arc de triomphe. for those of you unfamiliar with paris that is about 9km of walking. a little between-flights exercise.
not surprisingly, i arrived back at the airport totally exhausted. the mister was there waiting for me...obviously, he could not leave the world's most boring international terminal. we got some food and watched a world-cup semifinal along with an international assortment of soccer fans. sometime around midnight we boarded our plane for yet another ten hour flight. ugh. we arrived at o.r. tambo international airport in johannesburg sometime around 10am. immigration. baggage. customs. and then we spot the mister's brothers and best friend. 
the mister's older brother, best friend, younger brother, and me.
talk about fish out of water...these village boys looked so out of place inside this vast steel and glass building. they were thrilled by the bathroom...automatic soap dispenser and faucets? apparently it took them a few minutes to figure out how to make the water come out. they then explained that we had to take a bus to the car. they could not fathom paying for parking, so they parked miles and miles away in the employee lot. oh-kay. after the bus ride and some walking we arrived at the car and piled in. but then the car would not start. oops. so we all got back out and gave the car a push start, which was a good taste of where we were headed. the next seven hours were an uneventful journey through the countryside of south africa, a painless jaunt across the border bridge and voila...welcome to lesotho.
the family. falimehang, tankiso, the mister, masta, janki,
and m'e' (my mother-in-law).
it was past 8pm when we arrived at the mister's childhood home in a village called ha makebe. since this is our first time in the village since we married, i know we will have to go through some of the traditions for the newly married, but am not exactly clear on what that means. the unknown is leaving me a little bit anxious, but i am trying to remain calm. when i wake up the next day i am informed that i cannot leave the house until my hubby's sister arrives and dresses me. ummm...okay. trying to roll with the punches, but being indefinitely cooped up inside a 100 square foot house is making me feel a tad claustrophobic. luckily my best friend motlalile showed up right before panic set in. tears, cry, tears, cry, i am so ridiculously happy to see her and the hours fly by.
kiss and hug with my darling motlalile and her brother.
finally my hubby's sister, masta, arrives and the festivities begin. step one, masta and my mother-in-law dress me, which amounts to helping me put on the traditional outfit, complete with blanket and headscarf. step two, all of the women of the family gather in one room, while the men are outside. the men bring a sheep to the door and my mother-in-law explains that the family is giving me this sheep to welcome me to the family. great. except for the part where they slaughter the sheep to feed to everyone in celebration of our marriage. step three, my mother-in-law gives me a new name. she names me marethabile, which means "we are happy." step four, my little sister, along with any girls who want to join us, takes me to a village water source. sort of the lesotho version of a parade, except in this case it is showing the new wife where to find water, so the wife will know where to get water for washing clothes, dishes, etc. 
returning from our walk to the village water source.
step five, i sit in the house and meet a gazillion relatives, all of whom expect me to remember them when they return the next day. sure, no problem. step six, the final step. my aunt comes in and tells me to refuse the sheep meat when it is brought to me. she then leaves the room and comes back with a plate of cooked sheep, which she offers to me. i refuse it. she offers again. i refuse again. she nods and leaves the room. then she returns and gives the plate to everyone else to eat. the mister and i were rather confused by this tradition. why offer me the meat if you want me to refuse it? but whatever. the others are delighted to eat sheep. in fact, my little brother's best friend ate so much sheep that i nicknamed him mr. sheep. 
mr. sheep leading the way to finish off the entire sheep in one sitting.
the next day was a saturday, which in the basotho culture is the day for feasts. this particular saturday there were two feasts in ha makebe, so there were a ton of visitors from the surrounding villages. i sat outside while everyone came to see me. i got a taste of how zoo animals must feel, because everyone wanted to see the new "makoti" (newly married woman) and take pictures with me wearing the basotho blanket. but i was thrilled with the chance to get to know the mister's family. 
the mister and i wearing basotho blankets.
 his older sister kept me entertained with her attempts to cook the sheep's head. 
the sheep's head. gag.
she spent four hours laboring over that head...YUCK...only to forget the cooked head in the pot outside. by the time she remembered, it was dark outside and the head was gone. dogs stole it and we had to listen to them howling in the yard all night, looking for more meat. oops. not exactly how she planned things, but it sure did break the ice.

next installment...a glimpse into village life.