Sunday, September 25, 2011

Six years of blogging

On September 27, 2011, I will celebrate six years of blogging at Blogspot. Prior to that, I had a travel blog in the now defunct Yahoo Geocities where I took my baby steps into travel writing. The first article I published here in 2005 was about my visit with my friends, Klara and Sonya in Berlin. It was called Berlin - a Tale of Two Sisters.  I have not gone back to Berlin since but I keep in touch with both Klara and Sonya who are now octogenarians. They don't travel anymore and live in a senior home. Both of them have had health issues but have survived them. I'm hoping I'll be able to see them again soon.

Yesterday I watched this video of the Sing-Off contest on NBC where the contestants sing a cappella. I really enjoyed the group Kinfolk 9 singing "Secrets" by One Republic. I kept replaying the video. Couldn't get the song out of my head. Let me share with you this beautiful music on my blog's anniversary.

Here's part of the lyrics:
"I need another story
Something to get off my chest
My life is kind of boring
Need something I can confess....."

It ends with "I'm going to give all my secrets away".

I hope you enjoy this rendition of "Secrets" as much as I have.  Thanks for following my blog.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Allied Arts Guild Gardens

The Court  of Abundance

A super find in my neighborhood are the gardens in the Allied Arts Guild  in a quiet part of Menlo Park, California. They are as beautiful as the Alhambra's Generalife gardens after which it they were planned. The Guild is an organization that raises funds to support the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. All its profits from the shops, restaurant and private events held onsite go to the hospital.

Fresco Painting by Maxine Albro

Maxine Albro learned the art of fresco painting in Mexico with Paul O'Higgins, an assistant to Diego Rivera. Later she painted side by side with Rivera while working on some projects in San Francisco.  Notice the woman carrying a heavy basket laden with fruit. It is reminiscent of Rivera's The Flower Vendor series where the vendor is carrying a basket of calla lilies on her back. The little girl to her left is holding white lilies which further alludes to The Flower Vendor. This mural with a Mexican motif complements this courtyard with its Spanish colonial style buildings and fountains.


Detail of a window with wrought iron bars and intricately carved door hearken back to Spanish colonial architecture and design.

The Rose Allee

The Rose Allee begins at the Archway Building and leads to The Barn which is the oldest structure in the property. Roses line the path on each side while tall trees lean to form an arch and provide welcome shade.


Lunch is served in the Café which overlooks the Garden of Delight (or the Blue Garden).  The menu includes a selection of soups, salads and sandwiches and some hot entreés. I ordered the vegetable cannelloni (shown above) and it came with a generous serving of side salad. It's open Mondays to Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For more information about  Allied Arts Guild and its gardens, follow this link: http://www.alliedartsguild.org/.
75 Arbor Road at Cambridge
Menlo Park, CA
Phone: 650.322.2405
  
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Images by Charie    

A Museum in the Middle of an Orchard


The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture is unique among its peers. It has an unlikely location in the middle of a vast orchard in the small town of Hanford in the Central Valley of California. Which makes it all the more interesting.

The Four Elegant Pastimes by Shibata Zeshin

The Center boasts of a considerable collection of nealy 250 woodblock prints, 500 scroll paintings, folding screens, sculpture, kimonos, baskets and ceramics. Unfortunately only a tiny fraction of these are on display at any given time. When I visited the museum this month, there were no woodblock prints at all on display. There was one beautifully preserved 6 panel folding screen, some baskets and ceramics and two scroll paintings from the collection. The museum is small so it would be impossible to show the full collection. It's best to check first before going so you are aware of what is currently on exhibit.  The two-part exhibition, Woven Identities of Japan, will be on display through January 28, 2012. (See article below about this exhibition.)

Across from the museum is a library for browsing and behind this, a small zen garden. There is a private Japanese garden with a pond that is visible through the trees from the pebble path that leads to the bonsai collection area. The third annual Kazari Bonsai Display Competition will be held here at the Center on November 5, 2011.


It's peaceful out in this part of the Valley and if the heat wasn't so intense during this time of year, it would be nice to sit outdoors after viewing the exhibition and enjoy the rows of fruit trees until it's time to head back home in the cool of early evening.

For more information about the Center, follow this link: http://www.ccjac.org/.  Admission fee is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for students and the military and free to children under 12.

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Images by Charie

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Woven Identities of Japan - Ainu and Okinawan Textiles

Bingata kimono

In the first of two rotations, Woven Identities of Japan highlights the Ainu and Okinawan textiles from the late 19th c to early 20th c. Now on display at the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California are kimonos and robes worn by these two distinct ethnic groups. The contrasts in the types of fabrics, ornamentation and color used by the Ainu and Okinawan people speak of their traditions, beliefs, social divide and geographical influences.

In  Okinawa, textiles were embellished with a stencil dyeing technique called bingata which was for the exclusive use of the Ryukyuan court. The Ryukyu Kingdom was established in 1429 and was a maritime power in Asia. Cotton, silk and banana leaf textiles were solely for the use of the upper classes  The kimono shown above is light and transparent, appropriate for the tropical climate in southern Japan. In contrast, the robes of the Ainu from Hokkaido in the north were made from elm tree or nettle fibers which provided insulation against the cold and harsh climate. Notice also the tapered sleeves of the Ainu robe compared to the wide and longer trailing sleeves of the Okinawan kimono.

Attush robe

The Ainu were hunters and gatherers. Their robes essentially expressed their religious beliefs. The Attush robe above is woven from elm tree fiber which the Ainu believed protected its wearer from evil. They also thought that evil spirits entered their body through the openings in their robes so hems and sleeves were therefore elaborately adorned with applique and embroidery. The Attush robe was worn for special occasions.

 Ainu man

The exhibit continues until October 29, 2011. The second rotation will start in November 2011. For more information please click on this link: http://www.ccjac.org/
The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture
15770 Tenth Avenue
Hanford, CA
Phone; 559-582-4915

The kimonos shown above are from the private collection of Thomas Murray. The scroll is from Clark Collection.

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Images by Charie

Sweet Gums


It was such a delight to see this stall of "vintage" gumball machines at the Hanford Mall. It's been a while since I saw one and had to stop and check them out. As you can see, there's no shortage of flavors.

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Image by Charie

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Trees and Treerooms

This is such a beautiful and evocative poem by Joyce Kilmer. Can't help but love it.

Trees
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair
Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

Bird's Nest (photo courtesy of Treehotel)

In Northern Sweden, about 60 km south of the Arctic Circle, a new breed of hotel rooms are sprouting in the wilderness. These are the treerooms that are suspended 4-6 meters above the ground. You can choose to feel nurtured in a Bird's Nest, or hide in the Mirrorcube or perhaps bunk off in a cabin in the woods, and for the ultimate in travel experience without leaving earth, sleep in a UFO. More of these "green" rooms are planned for completion in 2012.

The Mirrorcube (photo courtesy of Treehotel)

Some environmentalists have raised concerns that the Mirrorcube treeroom may injure birds who might fly into its mirrored walls but the hotel assures everyone that these mirrored walls are coated with infrared film which are visible only to birds so they won't stray into these walls. And as for the toilets, they use "environmentally friendly combustion toilets and water efficient sinks".

The UFO (photo courtesy of Treehotel)

When I first read about this hotel, I thought I'd very much want to cozy up in the Bird's Nest though the Mirrorcube is incredibly tempting. But I've never been inside a UFO, so this might be my only chance to be in one (albeit lookalike). I'm also excited about the bridge that connects to the Cabin. I can picture myself standing there admiring my surroundings (wishful thinking?).

The treerooms are surrounded by forest and the Lule River is down below. This is really a place for quiet and reflection. The fact that the town has only 600 residents means you're far away from the madding crowd. It's just you and the wilderness.

Trees + treerooms = a heightened travel experience!

For more information about Treehotel and reservations please follow this link: http://treehotel.se/
Edeforsvagen 2a
960 24 Harads
Sweden
46-928-10403
info@treehotel.se


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Images courtesy of Treehotel. These images are copyrighted. Please ask the hotel's permission before using or reproducing any of these images.


Friday, September 02, 2011

The Sunset Magazine Garden

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly.
"One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." Hans Christian Andersen


The Sunset Magazine garden is uniquely organized into five defined areas representing different climate zones in the Western United States. These areas are the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Central California, Southern California, and the Southwest Desert. There is also a Test Garden where Sunset employees evaluate plants, devices and projects for coverage in its magazine.

 The Lawn

The Lawn is a sprawling 1.2 acre expanse of short cut Astoria colonial bent grass. It is sometimes used for company and special events. The buildings in the background house the offices of the magazine and is in the early California style.


As you step out of the Reception area, a riot of colors greet you in this floral display of gold and red celosia surrounded by summer perennials like coneflowers and marigolds and anchored by a grapefruit tree in the foreground.

Editorial Test Garden

In the Editorial Test Garden I found this intriguing table with succulents growing along its central panel. It is without doubt a conversational piece. Across the way in the Pacific Northwest section of the gardens, mondo grass and impatiens fluorish in partial shade in contrast to the woodland plants behind which need full shade and moist conditions to grow.

Pacific Northwest Garden

In the Southwest Desert, cactus and succulents thrive in drought conditions. Below are various strains of agave. A tall sycamore tree inhabits the Southern California garden.


The Sunset Magazine gardens are open from 9-4 Mondays to Fridays. Admission is free. For more information please check the link below:
http://www.sunset.com/garden/landscaping-design/sunset-garden-tour-00400000015024/
80 Willow Road
Menlo Park, CA
Phone: (650) 321-3600

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Images by Charie