It’s hard to believe my first visit to Italy was this year. What a dreamy place. There’s something very Californian about it, so it felt somewhat familiar. Perhaps the food and geography of Tuscany reminded me of Napa and Sonoma valley. I must go back...and next time will rent a villa and stay for much longer.
中山道—Nakasendō—Central Mountain Route
My friend Noriko and I spent a few days traveling through the beautiful Kiso Valley on the historic Nakasendō trail this past November. The Nakasendō is a feudal mountain route that connected Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). There aren't exact dates of when this highway was first formed, but some say it has been around since between 600-700AD. For our journey, some 1400 years later, we traveled from Tokyo to the Kiso Valley by Shinkansen (186 miles per hour!!!), bus, and then walked between two small "post-towns" on foot. These towns are reflective of what life was like during the Tokugawa era, when samurai and other travelers would pass through them, with old small inns and shops catering to those passing through.
The Nakasendō wasn’t the only or the most traveled route from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) in olden times. The Tōkaidō (東海道—East Sea Road) route was by far the most used. But travelers who didn’t want to ford rivers would take the Nakasendō. I imagine choosing a route also depended on where you were geographically, the time of year, and the weather conditions.
All of this fascinates me as an avid geographer, wondering why and how people move from place to place, and the stories that are attached to their quests. Walking along this trail, through mountains and post towns, made me think of the amazing stories of journeys that must have occurred. It’s a samurai film fan’s fantasy world come to life. This is where it all happened—swords, kimonos, shoguns, samurai.
I can't recommend this trip enough. The Kiso Valley is not difficult to get to from Tokyo, is incredibly beautiful, and is a great escape from the ultra-modern throng of Tokyo The Nakasendō is gorgeous. There’s no charge to walk its path. You just need to get there.
The Central Coast of California is one of several places I consider to be home. I left quite a while ago, but my parents are there, and there's something very comforting about going back. Moss Landing, Monterey, Carmel. They all have colors that soothe, and the smell of the Pacific wakes me up and invigorates me. I've told my parents after waking up and stepping out of their house, that the fresh air there "smells like morning."
These photos were all taken in Carmel and Point Lobos. Enjoy.
100 Days of Sweet + Salty + Sour + Spicy
It's the third year I'm participating in the 100 Day Project. The 100 Day Project is a daily creative task/challenge that you document on Instagram for 100 days. My last two projects were 100 Days of Stitched Art & 100 Days of Spice. This year I started the project by styling and photographing a sweet treat every day, and have now added savory, sour and spicy foods. You can see these at 100 Days of Sweet + Salty + Sour + Spicy.
I've been taking a ceramics class for a few semesters now and am using my pieces in my photography. They aren't in the starring role, but it's nice to be able to show them off! It's so fulfilling to eat food out of a bowl you've made yourself. I'm having fun styling with my own pottery.
I recently spent a week in Berlin, a place of rawness with a haunting history, but also filled with art and beauty. A week wasn't enough time to explore all that it has to offer.
This first photo is of the iconic Fernsehturm (television tower), which was built in 1969 in East Berlin. The tower brings a different era to mind; it's a reminder of the communist period of East Berlin. It's a striking image with so many views of it throughout the city. I could photograph it endlessly.
Tiergarten (animal garden) is the largest urban park in Berlin. It was mostly deforested after WWII to provide firewood to the city. It's a beautiful park in the winter, but I imagine in the spring it's an even more amazing place to spend a Sunday.
Cholcolate in Europe is just better. It really is.
Brunch at Das Café in der Gartenakademie at Königliche Gartenakademie was one of the highlights of my trip. The food was so delicious, and eating in a beautiful greenhouse/sun-room-like space simply makes everything lovely.
The graffiti throughout Berlin really speaks to me. For me the impact is from its impermanence and ability to express powerful cultural views that are timely. The Berlin Wall was covered in graffiti, and such an important part of its history.
Sceen'ry Travel Journal is featuring a post I wrote (Captured Moments in Romania) about my recent trip to Romania. It's a gorgeous site with beautiful photography from amazing travel photographers, I'm so happy to be featured there!
A Coastal Road Trip
The California Coast is a rugged & rocky, dramatic, beautiful place. I miss it terribly since moving to the East Coast, but I got to spend some time there over the holiday break, getting my fill of its windy roads and scenic views.
I started in Big Sur and ended up going as far north as Salt Point, which is about midway between San Francisco and Mendocino. Next time I go home for a visit, I'll go as far north as Mendocino.
I didn't know what to expect before going to Romania. I had to look it up on a map and on Wikipedia to get an understanding of where I was going. A lot of people were curious why I'd go there, too. It really was a decision to go see some friends - sometimes I have to cross the globe to see my friends! I decided to go on a creative retreat that a friend was putting on. It was to be a week of photography, knitting, exploring and relaxing.
I started the week with a stop in Bucharest. My friend Candiss was traveling through Europe, so I was lucky to have her meet me there for a few days. We wandered around what is somewhat of a depressing city visually, with it's communist era greyness, but the Airbnb we stayed in was great, with the best view of Bucharest I saw (see above). It was cute and comfy, without a hint of what the country was like a few decades ago. I have a feeling that the exterior does not show what's on the interior in Bucharest.
We ate at a fantastic restaurant (apart from people hanging up their coats on the wall directly behind me) called Lacrimi si Sfinti, which had one of the best charcuterie plates I've ever had. The Romanian wine they served was delicious as well. I recommend this place if you are ever in Bucharest.
Uber is operating in Bucharest, so you can easily get around that way. We went to a flea/antique market a bit outside of the city center, and found a boutique that supports Romani (gypsy) artisan communities. Similar to the run down communist sheen on the city's architecture, the antique market had a similar vibe, with its Soviet era clocks for sale, and the overall mood of the people, but I was able to haggle in Spanish over some silverware and picked up a few artisan made pieces at Meşteshukar ButiQ.
After a few days in Bucharest, I flew to Cluj-Napoca, where I met up with my retreat-mates to make the 4 hour drive from the airport to the area of Bucavina.
The next 5 days included a lunch with shepherds, a visit to local weavers, where I left with yarn and a rug, a stop at a tannery where they had sheepskins and wolfskins! We went to visit potters, an antiques dealer, and stopped at a beautiful monastery. All the while, we were taking photos, knitting, making a mixed media mobile, and eating delicious Romanian food. Our retreat was jam-packed!
This retreat was put on by Natasha Seidel of Taking a Moment in Time, and she'll be having this retreat again in Bucavina next year. I highly recommend it! The geography and beauty of the region is gorgeous, and the food delicious. It's a place I may not have otherwise gone to on my own, so this retreat was a great excuse to explore and see the beauty of Romania.
Brimfield - it's a wonderland of antiques! There are fields and fields of finds. There's art, furniture, fabrics, jewelry, kitchen and home goods, clothing, and lots of collectibles you didn't know existed. The show happens 3 times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts, in May, July, and September.
A few tips for first-time show goers:
- Make hotel reservations early as they book up fast. We found that we needed about 2 full days in the market (but we went for 2.5).
- Bring cash for parking and for negotiating (there are ATMs there, but you'll want cash in your car for parking).
- Bring water and snacks. You'll be walking a lot and it can be quite hot, so you'll want to stay hydrated. There is plenty of food there, so you won't go hungry, but carry something with you if you find you need to nibble.
- Have a strategy for carrying your finds. Vendors will have bags and some wrapping supplies, but depending on how often you want to go back to your car, you might find yourself in a situation where you are carrying quite a few precious items. You can carry your own bags, or a rolling cart, etc...
This is my second year participating in the 100 Day Project. Every day, for 100 days, I've committed to creating something and posting the results on Instagram.
It was pretty easy for me to come up with this year's 100 Day Project. I'm not sure why or how, but I knew I wanted to do a little styling and some photography, and I love learning the history and uses of food, and so, voila! 100 Days of Spice (which includes herbs and teas) was born. The project incorporates a styled photo of an herb, tea or spice, with some tidbits of history and culinary or medicinal uses. The following are some of my favorites.
The theme for this year's 3% Conference was "Brands on Board". I honestly didn't notice this theme running through the panels and talks. I noticed the themes of diversity, inclusion, empowerment, courage, and mentorship. I was so blown away by the quality of the speakers, the panelists, and those I met at the conference. Although I was exhausted after the first day, I got to the venue earlier on the second day than the first so I could get as much out of it as possible.
Highlights of the conference:
- The opening keynote by Cynthia Gillis, President and CEO of Catalyst
- Transgender speaker Chris Edwards. He made us laugh and cry. Truly inspiring.
- The Next Creative Leaders panel
- The Benefit of Diversity is Diversity panel
- Cindy Gallop's closing speech. Of course. See last year's on 3%'s YouTube channel.
It's day 90 of The 100 Day Project. Just 10 days left. Friends are asking me what I'm going to do with all the pieces I've created, and I honestly don't know. I guess it makes sense to have an idea of what I'm hoping to achieve or do with these, but that has not been a part of my process with this project. I just wanted to do it.
Here are some of my more recent favorites. See them all at @100daysofstitchedart.
Ceramics and food! Two things I'm very passionate about. I couldn't resist the Clay with Your Food event put on by San Francisco Design Week recently. The event was held at Jered's Pottery in Berkeley, with chefs Evan Rich (Rich Table) and Bill Corbett (Absinthe Group), alongside Jered Nelson, who creates gorgeous dinnerware locally for chefs and restaurants.
The focus of the demo was the relationship between the aesthetics of the plating and the experience of the food. Jered works with chefs to create dinnerware that works with their food and their overall aesthetic. It's a combination of beauty, form and function.
Chef Bill Corbett cooked cauliflower for us in Jered's kiln, and Chef Evan Rich shared his processes for creating dishes as well as how he plates them. All took a turn at the potter's wheel.
I recently spent a few days on Isla Mujeres, an island a short ferry ride from Cancun, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Although unbearably hot and humid, it is such a beautiful place with both relaxation and fun, and to my surprise, some amazing food.
The island isn't very large, but it's so hot you might want to rent a golf cart to get around. I loved driving my yellow, Jeep Wrangler-branded golf cart. It kept me somewhat cooler, both physically and fashionably and gave me the freedom to up and go where I wanted. The north side of the island has serene beaches, while the south (Punta Sur) has a more dramatic landscape, with a Mayan ruin, and sculptures that have been incorporated into the scenery.
We stopped at Tortugranja, the "turtle sanctuary" on the west side of the island. Although it's a little heartbreaking to see turtles kept in tanks, they are gorgeous creatures, and it's heartening to know that the sanctuary is protecting the turtles and doing great things to help the turtles survive and thrive.
There are plenty of coconuts to be found on Isla Mujeres. Wherever you go on the island, you should be able to find one to quench your thirst.
La Lomita - my favorite place to eat on Isla Mujeres. The staff are so mellow and the way they smile at you, you aren't sure if they are laughing with you or at you because you are sweating to death. There's no AC, so sit inside near a fan and order a chile relleno. I had the puerco, but was told later on that the waitress recommends the shrimp. Go there, get a relleno and get a cold beer they serve in these beautiful mugs.
When you are sweltering in the heat, a beer can be your best friend. They serve beer COLD here. These gorgeous mugs are kept in the freezer, and the beer comes so icy cold, it looks like the mugs are steaming. I recommend the cerveza, Victoria.
Sometimes I need a little push in order to achieve or discover something new. Even though they can be uncomfortable, I like challenges, so I found the 100 Day Project to be the perfect little push I needed to explore new creative pathways.
For a while I've been playing around with embroidery and watercolor, separately. One night while painting, I thought I'd give stitching the paper a try, and am so glad I did. The paper is thick enough to withstand the needle and thread, and I love the feeling of the needle going through the watercolor paper - there is something very satisfying about it.
I'm making pieces that are painted with watercolor, and some that aren't, and using various types of paper - including washi paper I recently picked up on a trip to Japan.
These are a few of my favorites so far: