Florence & Venice

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.

Firenze
Wisteria
Tuscany
Venice
Shakerato
Artichoke

Nakasendo & the Kiso Valley

中山道—Nakasendō—Central Mountain Route

Kiso Valley waterfall

Kiso Valley waterfall

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. 

Fall forest in the Kisō Valley

Fall forest in the Kisō Valley

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. 

Persimmons and chiles

Persimmons and chiles

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.

Meeting room for daimyo and samurai

Meeting room for daimyo and 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.

IMG_2224.jpg
nakasendo_marker
kiso_chrysanthemum
IMG_2194.jpg

Views From Home

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.

Year 3 of the 100 Day Project

100 Days of Sweet + Salty + Sour + Spicy

meringue

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. 

Pâtes de fruits

Pâtes de fruits

Chicago style popcorn

Chicago style popcorn

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.

Häagen - Dazs   strawberry ice cream

Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream

Macarons

Macarons

 

 

Berlin - Spirit City

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. 

Fernsehturm (English: Television Tower)

Fernsehturm (English: Television Tower)

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.

 

 

 

 

When in Romania...

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! 

California Coast

A Coastal Road Trip

Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park

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.

Pfieffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfieffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park

Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs, Sonoma County

Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs, Sonoma County

Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs, Sonoma County

Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs, Sonoma County

Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay

Salmon Creek

Salmon Creek

100 Days of Spice

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.

Find more at @100daysofspice on Instagram, and last year's project @100daysofstitchedart. For other projects, search the hashtag #the100dayproject.

Hey y’all, guess what? Paprika doesn’t originate from Hungary! It’s from Mexico! Yeah, I didn’t know that either. It’s called pimentón in Spanish. The Spaniards actually took it from Mexico to Spain in the 1500s, from where it made its way to Africa, Asia, and then Eastern Europe.
— Christine Aiko Beck
Coriander seeds

Coriander seeds

Tea blend

Tea blend

Update: The 100 Day Project

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


#the100dayproject

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:

 

 

framed

All art and photography by Christine Aiko Beck.