Dia De Los Muertos: A Primer

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Over the past few years, around Halloween time, you may have seen festive, brightly decorated "sugar skulls" proliferating; and it's easy to see why - they're unique, colorful and detailed.  But to appreciate these emblems, it's important to learn about the holiday with which they are associated - not Halloween itself, but rather the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). 

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Dia de los Muertos is a holiday for people to celebrate and honor loved ones who have passed away. Celebrations for Dia de los Muertos take place from midnight on October 31 through November 2. 

While Dia de los Muertos coincides with the Catholic holidays All Soul's & All Saint’s Day, it's not simply a Catholic celebration: the indigenous people of Mexico have combined these significant calendar days with their own long-held beliefs and traditions, to honor their deceased loved ones. The multi-day holiday gathers of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away, and to support the spiritual journey of the deceased; Dia de los Muertos is a time to celebrate the dead temporarily returning to Earth, and to celebrate life. 

It is believed the origins of the modern version of Dia de los Muertos that is celebrated today in Mexico, by Mexican people living around the world, and embraced internationally by millions can be traced to indigenous observances hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago as part of an Aztec festival dedicated to the Aztec goddess, Mictecacihuatl. The holiday, and particularly the associated skull motif, has become a national symbol of Mexico. Dia de los Muertos shares some characteristics with celebrations and observances in other cultures around the world for honoring and celebrating the dead. 

Dia de los Muertos begins with the belief that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31.  The holiday has developed such that over the last century, the most common interpretation is that the spirits of deceased infants and children reunite with their families for 24 hours, on November 1. Then, on November 2, all other spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that have been prepared for them.

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Toys are often brought for dead children (referred to as "the little angels" or los angelitos in Spanish), and alcohol is sometimes gifted to adults. Families will also offer other gifts, or favorite snacks or sweets of the deceased, which can be placed on their grave. Altars are sometimes set up in homes either in place or of in addition to celebrations at cemeteries, or graves themselves are intricately decorated; in each case, these offerings are meant to encourage the dead to visit.

The most common and well-known symbol of the holiday is, of course, the skull (calavera in Spanish).  So-called 'sugar skulls' came about because foods such as chocolate and sugar in the shape of a skull, decorated with colors and patterns, and sometimes the name of a recipient marked on the forehead, are often presented during the holiday. 

(not historically accurate representations of the original sugar skulls, but delicious nonetheless!)

(not historically accurate representations of the original sugar skulls, but delicious nonetheless!)

This theme is also commonly represented in the form of decorated skull masks (called calacas in Spanish). 

(Dia de los muertos symbols have become so widespread that even craft stores sell ones you can decorate yourself)

(Dia de los muertos symbols have become so widespread that even craft stores sell ones you can decorate yourself)

It's also important to remember that the traditions and annual activities celebrating Dia le los Muertos vary, depending on family traditions and sometimes changing from town to town; it was not celebrated in Northern Mexico until the 20th century. The holiday currently has great national importance; some families will prepare all year for the celebrations, and may spend several months' salary on decorations and preparations.

This year, huge parades have also taken special care to celebrate those lost in the earthquake that hit Mexico earlier this year, paying special tribute to the victims with huge Dia de los Muertos parades.

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I have always found this holiday and its traditions to be poignant and powerful, and have celebrated in mixed media paintings showing vibrant calavera motifs atop watercolor images.

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As this holiday becomes increasingly popular around the world, it's wonderful to join in and celebrate, and to honor your deceased loved ones and celebrate life as part of the Dia de los Muertos tradition; it's also important to always remember the meaning behind the symbols.  And now, as the clock strikes midnight, feliz Dia de los Muertos! 

                                               Lauren // Wandering Laur Fine Art

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Glass Fusing Class

Glass Fusing Class

The tools of the trade

The tools of the trade

I love working with glass.  While I've done lamp working for many years, I had never done glass fusing, or kiln working, before and wasn't too interested until I found a new store opening along one of the streets I often used in Mamaroneck.  This turned out to be a new store, workshop and gallery for Bullseye Glass, an American art glass manufacturer based in Portland, OR.  I had to check this out. 

It is only a street away from the Mamaroneck Metro North Station.  Easy trip from Grand Central Terminal in the city!

It is only a street away from the Mamaroneck Metro North Station.  Easy trip from Grand Central Terminal in the city!

A veritable candy shop for glass fanatics!

A veritable candy shop for glass fanatics!

Samples of work and Bullseye is big on education.  There are classes for the complete beginner and the experienced glass artist, and you can rent time in their studio and kiln time for firing your projects after you take the proper classes.

Samples of work and Bullseye is big on education.  There are classes for the complete beginner and the experienced glass artist, and you can rent time in their studio and kiln time for firing your projects after you take the proper classes.

Part of the location is a spare and elegant gallery for contemporary glass artists

Part of the location is a spare and elegant gallery for contemporary glass artists

The Studio in the back, full of kilns and well lit work tables 

The Studio in the back, full of kilns and well lit work tables 

All the staff are incredibly helpful and friendly.  My introductory class was taught by James O'Neill

All the staff are incredibly helpful and friendly.  My introductory class was taught by James O'Neill

This is my worktable at home, but Bullseye provides all the tools and glass you need for the class

This is my worktable at home, but Bullseye provides all the tools and glass you need for the class

The class introduced us to the tools we needed to use and the different kinds and colors of glass we could use to make and decorate a plate.  A lot of glass was pre-cut, but we all practiced scoring glass with the cutter and breaking it with the splitting tool.  It was a lot easier to cut and break than I remember in high school stained glass class!  Glass came in sheets, in powder and frit, and in stringers - thin round sticks like vermicelli.  Everyone in the class thought of different ways to decorate their plate.  When we finished the plate went on a kiln board for it's first fusing in the kiln.  This was called a full fuse, as all the glass would melt together to make a single flat 6mm layer.  

My glass after firing in the kiln

My glass after firing in the kiln

After the full fuse, the glass would be put on a mold for the slump fuse and a second firing.  This time the kiln would be set to a lower temperature and the glass would just melt into the shape of the mold .

This is one of my glass plates atop a mold.  The molds are ceramic but specially coated to prevent the glass from sticking.

This is one of my glass plates atop a mold.  The molds are ceramic but specially coated to prevent the glass from sticking.

This is what my plate turned out like.  I used strips of glass, frit, and stringer.

This is what my plate turned out like.  I used strips of glass, frit, and stringer.

I got a lovely plate and another new hobby started!  I would highly recommend classes at Bullseye to anyone who is interested.  The introductory class is quite easy and very reasonably priced.  Glass makes great gifts!

www.http://www.bullseyeglass.com/products/resource-center-new-york.html

Jody Lee www.astudiobythesea.etsy.com

Jody Lee www.astudiobythesea.etsy.com

Sumi-e Artist Koho Yamamoto, New York City’s Treasure

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"I believe that one has to be strong and bold, and unafraid to make mistakes."
Koho Yamamoto

Anyone familiar with the local history of sumi-e in New York City knows about artist Koho Yamamoto. At 95 years young, she has taught hundreds of students Japanese ink painting over the years. Her work, which ranges from expressionistic landscapes to abstractions in black and white, has been recognized by many, including Mother Teresa, Isamu Noguchi, and the Smithsonian Institution.

I am a student of Koho, and call her Sensei.

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"I was initiated into the sumi-e art form at Topaz Internment camp in Utah by the renowned artist Chiura Obata. My experience during WWII and my life in internment taught me to have courage during uncertain times."
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It was during her time in the Japanese internment camp that Koho Yamamoto developed her love for art. She devoted herself to her art under the guidance of her teacher, Chiura Obata, the renowned painter and educator who founded the art schools in the camps.

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“My paintings come from nothingness.”

The current Soho exhibition, "The Handshake," showcases her life's masterpieces and the genius of Koho Yamamoto. Her abstractions captivate the viewer with energetic brushstrokes full of life. This impressive collection of ink paintings leaves the viewer in awe of her artistic vision and sheer talent.  In "Bamboo2", the bamboo stalk is masterfully rendered in a single brush stroke!

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Much more than my sensei, I consider Koho a living legend. Every class is an enriching and joyful experience. She is my inspiration! Don't miss her exhibit, on view until November 15 at Cubico in Soho, NYC. RSVP:  https://artveer.com

Read more about her at KohoArt

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Nicoletta is a lifelong artist and art educator, with an M.A. in Art Education and Administration. She travels the world seeking cultural inspiration for her art, and has worked in fibers, acrylics, oils, and sculpture. She currently teaches elementary art education, adult oil painting and sumi-eclasses in New Jersey.  She is also known for her unique jewelry, inspired by the reinvention of the mundane zipper, featured throughout the NY/NJ area as Artologie Zipper Jewelry.

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(Faux) Zatar Roasted Potatoes

What is Zatar?

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For a recent family gathering I was assigned to make Zatar roasted Potatoes. I must be out of the loop because I had no idea what Zatar was.After looking it up I found it was a middle eastern spice that is very trendy now. So trendy in fact that there was none to be found in the stores in my neighborhood. I found a couple of recipes for faux Zatar and gave it a try.

 

Zatar has Sumac in it, this faux zatar replaces that with lemon peel.

I have a big family so had 5 lbs, of red potatoes ready to go, you won’t need this many. Not only are we many, we all cook and love to eat. I grow thyme so had plenty dried. for some reason I saved and dried the peels of lemons I had juiced. Sesame seeds needed to be toasted but basically I was ready to go.

 

Recipe Preheat oven to 425 degrees Recipe: for about 4 servings Cut 4 potatoes into bite size pieces and par boil about 10 minutes 2 tablespoons dried thyme 2 tablespoons dried lemon peel - replaces Sumac whichI didn’t have 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted Course salt to taste Grind together in food processor or spice grinder Place par boiled potatoes on parchment paper - I love using this whenever possible saves a lot on clean up! sprinkle oil on potatoes and toss Sprinkle with Zatar mixture Roast for 35 minutes.. If inclined drizzle sesame tahini on top and serve      

Recipe

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Recipe: for about 4 servings
Cut 4 potatoes into bite size pieces and par boil about 10 minutes
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried lemon peel - replaces Sumac whichI didn’t have
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Course salt to taste
Grind together in food processor or spice grinder

Place par boiled potatoes on parchment paper - I love using this whenever possible saves a lot on clean up!
sprinkle oil on potatoes and toss
Sprinkle with Zatar mixture
Roast for 35 minutes..
If inclined drizzle sesame tahini on top and serve

 

 

 

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Sumi-e: An Introduction

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The first time I picked up a bamboo brush was in a third-grade classroom in Japan. It was the highlight of the day for our visiting group of teachers from America. The initial experience of dipping that brush into the ink and writing my first kanji is unforgettable. Twenty years later, I have rediscovered my fascination with Japanese ink painting, known as sumi-e. In this first installment in a series, I will introduce some basics to get to started in sumi-e.

Experiencing calligraphy for the first time, twenty years ago in Japan.

Experiencing calligraphy for the first time, twenty years ago in Japan.

Not So Simple

One may hear of "the simple art of sumi-e", but sumi-e is far from simple. It has the potential to be life-changing, as the practice of painting with ink is more than the art form. The sumi-e artist is challenged with capturing the essence of a subject with the fewest brushstrokes. It requires self-discipline, courage, and the willingness to take risks in learning to use the ink and brush confidently. Once the mark is made with the brush, there is no turning back, and no corrections can be made. This encourages dedication to improve, spontaneity and in time, energetic paintings full of life.

traditional ink painting supplies

traditional ink painting supplies

The Four Treasures

In sumi-e, the essential materials are known as "The Four Treasures." While it may be easier to use bottled ink, I find that grinding my own ink allows me to focus as I prepare to paint. 

  • Paper (washi): While a variety of rice papers and silk is traditionally used, beginners will actually practice on many, many sheets of newspaper.
  • Brush (fude): The brush is traditionally made of natural materials with a bamboo handle in a variety of sizes.
  • Ink (sumi): This is a dry stick of ink, also known as pine soot ink. Bottled ink is used as well.
  • Ink Stone (suzuri): The ink stick is rubbed in water onto this stone which has an area carved out to hold the new liquid ink.
practice on newspaper before using expensive rice paper

practice on newspaper before using expensive rice paper

Beginning Sumi-e

The basic strokes of sumi-e can be learned by practicing specific subject matter found in nature.  The photos above show some of my early experiments with bamboo, pine, and plum blossom, the building blocks of sumi-e painting. The techniques learned can be applied to all aspects of brush painting, and is a necessary foundation to expanding to other subjects. Practicing these subjects teach control of the ink and handling of the brush: making confident strokes without hesitation is key, as this will show in the work. Since results are immediate, one can instantly determine the effectiveness of technique. The practice of sumi-e takes great dedication, and the process can be quite fulfilling to both artists and non-artists.  Stay tuned for more in my journey! 

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Nicoletta is a lifelong artist and art educator, with an M.A. in Art Education and Administration. She travels the world seeking cultural inspiration for her art, and has worked in fibers, acrylics, oils, and sculpture. She currently teaches elementary art education, adult oil painting and sumi-e classes in New Jersey.  She is also known for her unique jewelry, inspired by the reinvention of the mundane zipper, featured throughout the NY/NJ area as Artologie Zipper Jewelry.

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Benefits Of Chlorophyll

Food | Health | Wellness 

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Being a health & fitness coach in NYC I'm always hearing about the next hot commodity when it comes to health, fitness, food, and wellness. From supplements, herbs, holistic nutrition & natural beauty products it seems that something new is trending weekly. If you frequent Pressed Juicery or any of the Juice bars, you may have noticed the rise of chlorophyll water. If you follow me over on Snapchat you may have also noticed me dribbling green drops into my water in some of my  stories.... also chlorophyll !

So what is chlorophyll and why is it everywhere ?  

If I'm being honest, I hadn't heard the word chlorophyll since grade school science class. Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants which absorbs energy from the light in the process of photosynthesis. This energy is what allows plants to grow and flourish.  

It has become a hot trend for a handful of suspected benefits. For one the Chlorophyll molecular structure is almost identical to that of hemoglobin, the substance our bodies use to build and transport red blood cells. Meaning chlorophyll can actually help do the job of hemoglobin by increasing the quality and quantity of red blood cells in your body. More healthy red blood cells mean better oxygen absorption in the bloodstream. This means more energy all around & oxygen utilization in the body. 

Other suggested benefits: 

• Energy Booster  

•Immunity Booster  

•Wound Healing  

•Hormonal Balance  

•Detoxification & Digestive Health  

•Good Source of Vitamins A , C , E , K , & Beta Carotene 

•Rich in Antioxidants & Vital Minerals such as Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Calcium & Essential Fatty Acids.

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You can find chlorophyll drops at any health food store. I picked mine up at Whole Foods. They are flavorless & the bottle will tell you exactly how many drops to add to your water. If you give chloroyphyll a try let me know what you think by commenting below.

Until Next Time, 

XOXO,

Rachel Leigh

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Creator Of Spaces

Founder Of MozieMo

NYC Based Designer | Blogger  | Health + Fitness  

Shop MozieMo On ETSY

Email : MozieMoByRachelLeigh@Gmail.Com

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DIY: Craft Fair Table Display

DIY: Craft Fair Table Display

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This summer I decided to make a table display that had shelves for my craft items to sit on, and that could fit inside the largest luggage allowed by airlines without penalty.  My other requirements were that they would make use of height, since I could be selling from a 4' table space, be clamped to the table to withstand wind, and to be made from materials I already had around the house.  I have gone through so many different displays and selling so many different kinds of crafts, that I didn't want to spend any more money on my next wacky idea.  And since we have been over twenty years in our house, there were a lot of odds and ends that I could use; much of the wood came from a torn down tree-house or remnants from fixing up the old garage.  For this job I needed a table saw, a miter saw, a sander, a drill press, and cordless drills; I had plenty of screws and nails from previous projects, and all of these things I had bought previously.  I don't come from a handy family, and often I don't know the names of things I need or use.  Thanks to YouTube and HGTV, I plunge ahead into my very amateur woodworking adventures.

I plotted out the size after measuring my large luggage case, and decided it could be 27" high and 20" wide, with removable leg stands for clamping to the table. There would be three shelves, and the topmost rung would hold other beads/finials/box toppers.  When you build your own display, you can design it to show off exactly what you make.  For example, I have another display from re-used materials for jewelry, and for that I have rungs that are just right for hanging 16" necklaces on one shelf and 18" necklaces on the one below.

I plotted out the size after measuring my large luggage case, and decided it could be 27" high and 20" wide, with removable leg stands for clamping to the table. There would be three shelves, and the topmost rung would hold other beads/finials/box toppers.  When you build your own display, you can design it to show off exactly what you make.  For example, I have another display from re-used materials for jewelry, and for that I have rungs that are just right for hanging 16" necklaces on one shelf and 18" necklaces on the one below.

Old wood that have been in the yard for 17 years.  Re-Use!  Holes and old paint just add interest!

Old wood that have been in the yard for 17 years.  Re-Use!  Holes and old paint just add interest!

Cutting up all the pieces.  And all my tools are cheap - I'm not making fine furniture, after all.

Cutting up all the pieces.  And all my tools are cheap - I'm not making fine furniture, after all.

Making the boxes for the leg stands

Making the boxes for the leg stands

The assembled leg stand

The assembled leg stand

Adding rims to the upper shelves

Adding rims to the upper shelves

Drilling holes on the top rung.  I will put cut pieces of brass wire to put in them to hold my toppers. 

Drilling holes on the top rung.  I will put cut pieces of brass wire to put in them to hold my toppers. 

Attaching the shelves to the standing legs; because the shelves will fold flat, a strip of wood on the back will keep it in place when folded out, and so the shelf back hangs a little farther out than the leg. 

Attaching the shelves to the standing legs; because the shelves will fold flat, a strip of wood on the back will keep it in place when folded out, and so the shelf back hangs a little farther out than the leg. 

The shelves are attached with screws or glass headed screws (that I'd made for an earlier display - one that failed to work as planned!)

The shelves are attached with screws or glass headed screws (that I'd made for an earlier display - one that failed to work as planned!)

I measured the shelves to open to 90 degrees from the legs

I measured the shelves to open to 90 degrees from the legs

And added stoppers underneath the shelves to keep them in place when in use

And added stoppers underneath the shelves to keep them in place when in use

A wooden strip across the back also keeps the shelf in place and keeps things from falling off.

A wooden strip across the back also keeps the shelf in place and keeps things from falling off.

It works!  I decided I didn't need any rims yet for the lowest shelf.  I may put something there later.  The two top shelves hold very light objects, so they can be on the thin side.

It works!  I decided I didn't need any rims yet for the lowest shelf.  I may put something there later.  The two top shelves hold very light objects, so they can be on the thin side.

I decided to paint the shelves as the different kinds of wood was distracting from my boxes.  Just with gesso I already had in stock.  Note - sometimes I used my glass beads as shelf stoppers!

I decided to paint the shelves as the different kinds of wood was distracting from my boxes.  Just with gesso I already had in stock.  Note - sometimes I used my glass beads as shelf stoppers!

The legs were wobbly in the leg stands.  Amateur woodworker me had measured incorrectly and left too much room in them!  But I wanted to be able to make each display moveable on its own anyway, so I lampworked glass fins onto some wood screws, drilled holes into the backs of the leg stands, and used the finned screws to keep the legs in place and steady.  Fins are better than round knobs - they give you a better grip for turning.

The legs were wobbly in the leg stands.  Amateur woodworker me had measured incorrectly and left too much room in them!  But I wanted to be able to make each display moveable on its own anyway, so I lampworked glass fins onto some wood screws, drilled holes into the backs of the leg stands, and used the finned screws to keep the legs in place and steady.  Fins are better than round knobs - they give you a better grip for turning.

The screws dig into the legs of the display and all are soundly but not permanently attached.  Yay!

The screws dig into the legs of the display and all are soundly but not permanently attached.  Yay!

All folded up.  The two displays weigh about 15 pounds together.  Not a light weight display, but that was secondary to my requirements.

All folded up.  The two displays weigh about 15 pounds together.  Not a light weight display, but that was secondary to my requirements.

The finished display stands

The finished display stands

What the display will look like when it is in use.

What the display will look like when it is in use.

Unattached box toppers can be displayed on the very top rung by putting brass wires in the pre-drilled holes.  This is also an effective way to hang necklaces and jewelry for display.

Unattached box toppers can be displayed on the very top rung by putting brass wires in the pre-drilled holes.  This is also an effective way to hang necklaces and jewelry for display.

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Labyrinth or Maze?

There's something mesmerizing about labyrinths and mazes. Being immersed in solving a large-scale puzzle provides fascination as well as inspiration. However, there is a definite distinction between a labyrinth and a maze. Mazes are puzzles in which choices are made as to paths and directions. A labyrinth, however, is a single, meditative, path leading to the center through a series of concentric rings, known as circuits. One can think of a maze as a place to get lost, and a labyrinth as a place to find oneself. 

"Be Present" Labyrinth: Take a "walk" around this labyrinth with your finger to stimulate productivity.

"Be Present" Labyrinth: Take a "walk" around this labyrinth with your finger to stimulate productivity.

Found all over the world since ancient times, labyrinths have a purpose: they are used as walking meditation, personal transformation, and a way to re-focus and stimulate creativity. Want to "walk" a labyrinth right now? Use your finger to trace the path to the center (and back out again) on the finger-labyrinth above.  

Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city?  Take a walk in New York City's Battery Park, where you will find the hidden gem known as the "Labyrinth for Contemplation." 

Which do you prefer, a labyrinth, or a maze?

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Nicoletta is a lifelong artist and art educator, with an M.A. in Art Education and Administration. She travels the world seeking cultural inspiration for her art, and has worked in fibers, acrylics, oils, and sculpture. Her current work is inspired by the reinvention of the mundane zipper, elevated to an art form into unexpected jewelry designs, and shown throughout the New York/New Jersey area as Artologie Zipper Jewelry.

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A Summer Garden Gallery

A little portfolio to cool you off from the summer heat, perhaps inspire you for next year's planting.  Taken this year and July last at Chautauqua Institution.

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Jody Lee / a Studio by the Sea
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While Visiting Family in Bangkok

I ATE SOME AMAZING FOOD AND SAW SITES I COULDN'T HAVE IMAGINED AND PLAYED WITH MY CUTE GRAND NEPHEW WHO IS JUST DISCOVERING ABOUT THE WORLD AROUND HIM

I'll start with some food. Rambutan is a relative of the Lychee so the flavor was similar. Mangosteen looks beautiful in its outer cover and is a segmented white fruit inside. Its full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. My nephew had vegetable and pork soup in Chinatown. The appetizer plate, Miang kham is eat onleaves..very tasty bite! Butterfly pea flower iced tea starts out blue but adding lime gives it the beautiful purple color. Finally delicious spicy soft shell crab curry, my favorite! 

 

Now for the sites. The Grand Palace is just that-Grand. It'smade up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. There is more gold in this complex then I have ever seen, the statues are filled with details, heads on toes of feet, wings, gods, goddesses. Wat Pho - the Temple of the Reclining Budda is one of the largest and oldest temple complex in Thailand. the architecture is less extravagant but full of detail.

Of course everywhere you go someone is taking a selfie you couldn't find a more interesting spot

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