A love letter to Kyoto

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Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)

Kyoto, a place like no other, holds a special place in my heart with its many Buddhist temples, traditional wooden houses, imperial palaces, gardens and delightful food, but most of all for it’s beauty, history and peaceful quietness that allows space for reflection.

I first wrote about Kyoto on this blog three years ago after a visit where I stayed at a Buddhist temple for a weekend in order take a meditation class, and over the course of the few days found many unexpected surprises, met new friends, walked through a bamboo forest and hiked to the top of a mountain to see the monkeys.

This week I was fortunate to visit Kyoto again with some of my colleagues for a day of fun and exploration before we kicked off our work in Osaka with a corporate partner.

Yet today my heart is heavy that just a few days after our visit Kyoto saw an atrocious act of arson with a fire that caused so much harm and lost so many lives.  I share photos from our visit on Monday with reverence and respect to Kyoto and my heart goes out to the families of those lost.

Monday, July 15th, a day of exploration…

We were staying in Osaka so we got up early and took the train to Kyoto and immediately made our way to the bike rental company.   Once on our bikes, Kris and Kristin navigated us through the city to the bike path along the river so we could make our way north to the Philosopher’s Path.

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As we rode through the streets, crooked and small, and along the path, I felt exuberant and so free.  We were lucky in that it was not too hot; the day was cloudy, which kept us out of the sun, yet it did not rain.   The wind was on my face and rushed through my hair.  As we made our way the scents of the city filled my nostrils: wafts of fragrant flowers, bursts of incense seeping from the shrines and temples, and delicious smells of delicacies flowing out of the myriad of restaurants.

The Philosopher’s Path is a stone path lined with cherry trees that follows a little canal where one of Japan’s famous philosophers was said to have meditated during his daily walk to Kyoto University.

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After walking our bikes along the path, we stopped at Omen for lunch to have some of their famous udon noodles and experience local fare.

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After lunch we mounted our bikes again and made our way back to the banks of the Kamo River.

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We stopped for a minute so that we could walk across the stone path…

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The Kamo River stepping stones include large turtles crossing the river.

Our final destination was across the city again to The Golden Pavilion, dazzling architectural beauty surrounded by water and zen gardens.

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The Golden Pavilion

Before heading back to the train station we made sure to enjoy the refreshing green tea ice cream.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Cantaloupe – How to pick the perfect one

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Summertime for me means warm, sunny days, flip flops, digging bare feet into the sand or walking across the freshly mowed lawn, picnics, ice cream and of course an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies.   One of my favorite summer fruits is fresh cantaloupe, but you need to know what to look for for ripeness or you’ll be disappointed as they do not ripen further once off the vine.

I have distinct memories growing up of time spent every summer with my grandparents at their place on the Chesapeake Bay.   They had a huge vegetable garden and always grew cantaloupes.  Many mornings when we were called to the breakfast table there would be cold slices of sweet cantaloupe sprinkled with salt waiting for us.

Last week when I was at the market I was holding a cantaloupe and smelling it, trying to pick the perfect one.  A woman approached me and asked how do you know which one will be good?  I figure perhaps there are others of you who also could use a few tips.

The best way to pick a cantaloupe is by smell. The fruit should have a sweet, slightly musky scent. If the smell is too strong, it will be be overripe.  A good cantaloupe feels heavy for its size, should feel firm but not hard, and should never feel mushy.  Next look at the color.  Cantaloupes have a rind that resemble raised netting and the ripe ones have a golden hue.  Finally the stem end should yield slightly when pressed with your thumb.

You can eat cantaloupe on it’s own or sprinkled with salt, put it in smoothies, salads and even grill it.  Here are a few ideas…

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Gather – Flowers for your table

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Wildflowers collected from our fields in White Stone, VA

I firmly believe that when you gather friends and family at the table you should always have fresh flowers there too.  They elevate the experience and can be done simply and inexpensively from gathering wildflowers in various shapes and sizes to pulling together one flower, in one color, to make a statement.

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Wildflower arrangement by Jamie Campbell for Decoratop

You can pick one vase to fill for a center arrangement or find various jars, cups and vases in varying sizes to place organically around the table and house.

When I have a special event, dinner or meal and want that extra help I love collaborating with a florist in order to get more unique flowers than are readily available in the yard or at the local market.

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Photo by Will Hawkins / Flowers by The Wild Bunch

It’s also fun to add in fruit and vegetables as part of the table decor.

Think about what season you are in and pull from what is growing at that time.  Lilacs are my favorite flowers and I love to fill vases of them in the spring all over the house for their soft color and lush scent.

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Mason Jar Vase and Lilacs by Country Living 

If you have a large group, it’s fun to have flowers run down the entire table so that everyone gets to enjoy them like I did last summer for a large family gathering in the photo below.  I worked with Cindy at The Wild Bunch in Kilmarnock, VA.  She does amazing work.

If you do not have a garden or yard to pull from, visit your local market or grocery store.  When in Boston, I love what Trader Joe’s keeps in store year round and look for groupings of one type of flower to mix and match colors as opposed to the prearranged bouquets.  Another favorite – peonies…

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Peonies / Photo by Amber Lilyestrom

When creating your own arrangements, you must strip the stems of all leaves for the part that will be below the water line.  This slows up any bacteria growth and keeps the water clean longer.  I like the flowers to be cut shorter in the vase, so that the flowers are poised just above the top of the vase and often tie the vase or jar with twine or a ribbon.  Cut each flower individually to fit your vase in order to have various heights and place them loosely for the look you want.

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Flowers by The Wild Bunch

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here.