Sunbonnet Sue picks flowers in El Salvador!

This time around, Sunbonnet Sue visits El Salvador, proudly carrying the country’s national flower, flores  de izote, in her arms.   Sunny Sue is all dressed up in happy yellow gown dressed up with purple and aqua lace and she’s wearing some extra flowers in her hair.   I’m using some vintage lingerie lace that my mom gave to me a few years ago – it was really going to waste in my sewing box.   I think it looks quite pretty and reminds me of the real national dress, loaded down with gewgaws, ribbons, and ruffles.

So what about that flor de izote, huh?   Look it up on the web, because it is truly a lovely flower.  It’s actually the flower from the Izote tree, a member of the Yucca tree family.  You might be more familiar with it as the Joshua tree.   This tree looks great as a hedgerow, and here’s the best part:  the flowers are edible.

Yes, flores de izote are edible – both the flowers and the pistils, but separately.   If you known someone in Central America with an Izote tree in their front yard, you might want to see how they like to cook them.  One recipe I’ve seen calls for eggs, flores de izote, breadcrumbs, and salt, mixed together, formed into patties, and fried.  It doesn’t sound bad, does it?  If you like to eat flowers, I mean.  However, I’ve heard the flores can be a little bitter, but some people like that taste.  And from what I understand, the pistils are usually pickled.  I’m sure that’s good too, and I usually like anything pickled.

Speaking of Salvadoran flowers, Christy Turlington, one of the supermodels, is an American of Salvadoran ancestry.  She’s best known perhaps for her Calvin Klein ads from 1987-2007.    El Salvador has some great beaches.   If you’re into surfing, you’ll want to check out the waves – I can promise relatively decent accommodations, mid-size waves, and relatively uncrowded.     And who knows, maybe you’ll run into Christy visiting the home of her ancestors….

And while you’re waiting for the right waves, you might want to take a minute to enjoy a pupusa….  Pupusas are thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, or fried pork.   If you want a real treat, you’ll try to find a pupusa with Loroco cheese (it’s a vine flower bud native to Central America).   Alas, it is not flores de izote!   After they’re grilled, they are served with a curtido, usually pickled onion and carrot slivers.   Piping hot, they are fabulous!

Well, I hope that I’ve inspired you to embroider, to applique, to quilt, or to spend some time eating flowers!   Well, okay, I may not convince you to eat flowers, but why don’t you enjoy this flower from my yard instead?   Until very soon, take care and be in peace……  Happy Halloween!

Sunbonnet Sue dances “La Vaquita” in Nicaragua!

Sunbonnet Sue looks very festive in her bright red dress trimmed with vintage pink rickrack  (given to me by my mom) and wearing a red hat covered in flowers.   The mask she’s holding is supposed to resemble the face of a cow (una vaca).  The folkloric dress worn by Sunny Sue was first introduced during regional festivities in Managua.

In these festivities, the  “La Vaquita” costume is composed of a hoop around the waist, decorated to make it look like a shirt.  In the front, an image or a painting of a cow’s head is attached and finished with either real or fake horns.  The dancer carrying “La Vaquita” is generally wearing a red huipil or dress and the dancer’s clothing and hair as well as “La Vaquita” are generally bedecked in masses of flowers.   Every July-August, there is a Santo Domingo procession.  The  women who brings vows or promises to Santo Domingo created and use this costume while accompanying the saint as he travels between churches each year.  As they travel with the saint, Las Vaquitas are dancing to the so-called “toros” songs of the chicheros (chicha sellers) and interacting with other dancers dressed as bulls.

By now you might be wondering, “What is chicha?”   Chicha de maiz (chicha from corn) is a traditional drink in Nicaragua.   It is a typical drink, usually unfermented and served very cold.  It is often flavored with banana or vanilla flavors, and its saleswomen can be heard calling “¡Chicha, cafe y jugo frio!” in the squares and streets of Managua, Leon, Granada, and Masaya.  Nicaraguan “chicha de maiz” is made by soaking the corn in water overnight. On the following day it is ground and placed in water, red food colouring is added, and the whole mixture is cooked. Once cooled, sugar and more water is added. On the following day, the maker adds further water, sugar and flavoring. Although fermented chicha is available, the unfermented type is the most common.   Nicaraguan party-goers usually enjoy the pink chicha the day after a big night out, as a cure for the common hangover.

Chicha is a term used almost the entirety of Latin America to describe several varieties of fermented and non-fermented beverages.   Most often chicha is made from corn.  However, depending on the country or region, chicha can also be made from manioc root (yuca or cassava), grape, apple or other fruits, and rice.   While chicha is most commonly associated with corn or maize, it generally means any homemade fermented or non-fermented drink.   And, well, chicha is an acquired taste, so sample it with care.

I hope that I leave you inspired to create, to embroider, to quilt, to applique, and to dance your own dance.  I leave you with a beautiful and interesting flower I saw recently at a local plant nursery.

Sunbonnet Sue Sings Edelweiss in Switzerland!

So this time around we’re visiting Switzerland.  Sunny Sue is looking quite pretty in her striped gown and plaid apron and the Edelweiss flower is stunning.    We tried out a new stitch for Sunny Sue’s hair, using an “interlaced running stitch” from Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials (see Blogroll) — I think this stitch adds a fun and lively look to Sue’s hair.  I also tried out the “split stitch” around the hair ribbon, but I didn’t really love this stitch, probably because I used three strands and there’s no way to split it evenly….

Edelweiss, also called Lion’s foot, originated on the Asian steppes.  It’s a hardy plant that is well adapted to climatic extremes; it roots deeply and its felt-like covering on its leaves provides the plant protection from drought, strong winds, and strong sunshine/heat.   In German, Edelweiss means noble and white, which makes it the perfect name for a flower that works so hard to survive.  And for those of you who love flowers, but live in places with arid or windy conditions, Edelweiss is a great choice for your garden.

Of course, if you are a bit of a royal sort (you know, gotta a whole lotta princess in you!), then you’ll already have guessed that these “Silver Stars” were the favorite alpine flower of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, and his beloved, but much older, Empress, Elizabeth, who was killed by an assassin.   If you remember King Ludwig II of Bavaria (aka Mad King Ludwig — see German Sue), he as well as German Kaiser Wilhelm I were great fans, as well, of this lovely flower.  Mad King Ludwig liked the Edelweiss so much that he often had it painted into his portraits…so you know, you’re in good company if you like the Edelweiss.

Perhaps the Mad King liked the Edelweiss because of its value as a medicine, or perhaps because it was a powerful talisman to ward off evil, or perhaps because it was an alpine love charm.  It’s quite hard to say which is likeliest to have attracted his attention the most–he was mad, after all.  Well-known as a love charm, love-struck swains would gather Edelweiss from high crags and ledges in the Swiss Alps.   Many of them died from falls or from exposure as they tried to prove their love to their soon-to-be-grieving lovers.  However, the upside to this exercise was that the successful beaus were demonstrably brave, able-bodied and serious in their intentions–a kind of Alpine survival of the fittest.  But they don’t pick the Edelweiss in the wild any longer; it is now a protected species in Austria and Switzerland.

If you’re like me though, you knew “Edelweiss” only as a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.  In the theatrical version, Edelweiss is sung by Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp and his family during the concert near the end of Act II as a defiant statement of Austrian patriotism in the face of the pressure put upon him to join the navy of Nazi Germany. In the 1965 film version, the song is also sung by the Captain earlier in the film as he rediscovers music and a love for his children.   That makes me want to watch the Sound of Music again–such a great movie.  Maybe I’ll go do that now….

I hope that I’ve inspired you to embroider, to quilt, to applique, to think about the symbols in your life, to plant some hardy Edelweiss in your parched garden, or to watch The Sound of Music one more time, just because it’s good!   I’m leaving you with a star-shaped flower from my own garden, and, I hope, I also leave you humming “Edelweiss” to yourself…