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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Shark Tooth Necklace

Given the crumminess of the weather here, I think it's time for another beads and jewelry post!  I'm lucky to have hobbies that can be done inside.  I think these hobbies have kept me from going too stir crazy this winter.

When I was in North Carolina for the holidays, Scott, my parents, and I went to this fossil museum.  The museum itself is a nice little museum, and well worth a look if you happen to be in the area.  My favorite part, though is the fossil pile outside.  Periodically, someone brings gravel from a local phosphate mine.  Anybody who wants to can comb through the pile and take any fossils they find.

Despite some light rain, we decided to have a look.  I found a couple of nice shark teeth in the pile, one of which had a small point on each side, making it ideal for wire-wrapping.  I decided to make a necklace.

I confess that I resorted to using my shirt as a background for this photo, hence the sleeve dangling over the window sill.
First, I wire-wrapped the shark tooth.  It took several tries to get it how I wanted it.  Maybe I just need more practice wire-wrapping irregularly shaped objects.  Then, I made the five chain maille triangles out of jump rings.  I considered various designs, but thought that the triangles echoed the shape of the shark tooth.  I connected these triangles together using obsidian beads I purchased a few years ago.  It's hard to tell from my photo, but these beads have sort of a golden undertone.  It reminds me of the obsidian I saw when I studied in Mexico years ago.  Finally, I used a length of chain in the back of the necklace and attached a clasp.  On the whole, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I'm considering shortening it slightly, but may leave it as it is.  The only problem is that one of my chain maille triangles keeps want to turn upside down while I wear it, but I don't know if anyone besides me notices that.

Aside from my beading endeavors, there isn't too much to say here.  I mostly stay in my building these days except for working or going out to restaurants.  We finally made it to a local Korean chicken restaurant that people have been raving about.  It had other types of food, too, but it seemed that the focus was on chicken.  Think of BW3's, except good.  :)  We also went out for Georgian food last night, which I always love.  I have no idea how typical this is, but this restaurant has a dish with thinly sliced eggplant wrapped around ground, spiced walnuts.  I'll need to learn how to make this, whenever I'm in a kitchen that has a functioning food processor again.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and staying warm!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Decadent Brunch

Today, we went to brunch at the Marriott with some friends.  This is exactly the sort of activity I'm up for doing these days.  It's been a pretty mild winter by local standards, but with all of the permutations of winter weather (icy winds, snow showers, slippery walkways, and filthy slush), I've been mostly staying inside, except for walking to and from work.  When I do venture out, I like activities where I can take a taxi from outside the door of my building directly to the door of another building, and then go inside and start eating.

What's funny is that the Marriott brunch is exactly the sort of activity I probably wouldn't do in most other places.  It's more expensive than I'd prefer, for one thing.  Unsurprisingly, it's also heavily populated by fancy people.  They make for entertaining people watching, with their outlandish fancy outfits and state of the art baby gear, but they're often pretty irritating beyond that, especially when their children behave as if they were raised by extremely wealthy, materialistic wolves.

The food, however, is glorious.  We went to this brunch once last month, so we had a better idea of what to expect this time.  We decided to eat strategically:  no stews containing cheap filler ingredients; no pasta; nothing containing cabbage, beets, or potatoes.  I focused my calories and ability to eat on salad greens, which are hard to find and often limp in Kazakhstan; smoked fish; sushi; imported cheese; fresh-squeezed juices; and desserts.  They also had oysters on the half shell.  I had some of those last month, but wasn't feeling as brave this month, even though they were fine when I last tried them.  I'm never able to eat nearly as much as I plan, but I was able to get through a fair amount of food by spreading the eating out and talking a lot.  All in all, it was a good day, and a good activity to brighten an Astana winter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Average Mohamed

I learned about a fascinating website today, and since I don't know how widely known it is, I wanted to be sure to share.

This website is Average Mohamed.  A Somali-American man named Mohamed Ahmed, who lives in Minnesota, started a business whose purpose is to counter extremist ideology.  He has created a series of animated cartoons that show the harm that extremism does in the world.  Even better, he uses the Qur'an and Hadith to counter extremist arguments and actions.

I am not a Muslim myself, but I have spent a fair amount of time in the Islamic world.  Over the years, a lot of people have told me that they don't understand why Muslims don't denounce terrorism and extremism.  This isn't true, of course, but I've always felt sad that this was such a common misperception.  Anyway, it's a misperception I'm happy to play a role in correcting, even if only to write a post about Average Mohamed on my humble blog.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Winter Diseases

Ah, winter....the season of inconvenient weather and plenty of diseases to go around.  Scott and I have stayed pretty healthy so far, knock on wood.  Plenty of people around us have not been so fortunate.

I've seen a lot of people wearing surgical masks recently.  I'm not sure what to make of them.  Should I feel grateful that people are trying to contain their germs, or fearful of the germs that they're trying to contain?  I find myself trying to give people wearing surgical masks a wide berth, but maybe I should actually be more afraid of the people who might be sick, but haven't signaled it to the world at large by wearing a mask.  Hmm.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Random Thought On Groceries

I don't think I've visited an off-campus grocery store or supermarket since I returned to Astana in January.  The weather is way too cold, and the sidewalks way too slippery for my taste.  Plus, there are now three campus mini markets (including one in my building!), and there is grocery delivery.

I thought this week that I wouldn't order any groceries, and that I would just use the campus mini markets.  But, inconveniently enough, I've run out of salt.  And, also inconveniently enough, none of three campus mini markets seem to have any!

I had always thought of salt as being a super basic staple.  Is that just a US thing?  Or maybe there was a run on salt here that I was blissfully unaware of?  Either way, looks like I'll be making a grocery order after all.