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Picture + 100 Words: Grant Me The Patience to Shape a Pine

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We’re having a heat wave in Maryland. With temperatures in the 70s in February, many of us wander around delighted and frightened. For those with gardens, the temptation to get back in the dirt is strong. But will we have another frost before spring? After experiencing Japan’s gardens we’re more inspired than usual to prune this, shape that, plant those. When you look at this tree and you imagine the patience that went into forcing this pine to take that shape you remember that gardening is an exercise in restraint. Step away from the shears and wait a few weeks.

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Picture + 100 Words: Container Garden Inspiration

One of Cordoba's famous patiosIf you find yourself with a garden space that is horizontally challenged, take a tip from the Spaniards and go vertical. In countless courtyards throughout Cordoba, gardeners are not deterred by limited space. Instead they put plants in containers that climb up the walls toward the sunlight. No need to get fancy with the pots, simple terra cotta will do. Add in some blossoming flowers in coordinating colors, mix up the textures of the foliage, and just keep rising higher and higher. One more thing: consider drought-resistant plants because watering all of these regularly would be bothersome.

Picture + 100 Words: Nature’s Simplicity

Trees growing in a straight line? This is not coincidental. This is what happens when trees grow out and on top of dead, fallen trees. A concept called the nurse log. As you hike through the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park everything feels very alive – the greenery all around is teeming with life that supports more life. And if that weren’t enough to inspire, the local library placed signs with poetry along the trail (including the poem below).

Nature is what we know –
Yet have no art to say –
So impotent our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
-Emily Dickinson

Picture + 100 Words: Finding Kyoto’s Best Bamboo Grove

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In Kyoto we wanted to visit the bamboo grove Arashiyama. We had seen pictures of rows upon rows of bamboo that looked mesmerizing. We trudged there all the way across town and were, well, underwhelmed. Yes, lots of bamboos. But it didn’t have that dizzying quality we expected. (Plus it was packed with tourists). We had seen more impressive groves elsewhere in Kyoto. On an unassuming detour at Fushimi Inari, we walked by hundreds of bamboos lining the trail. Later at Enko-ji we saw the grove pictured here, which had a major advantage because we were the only people there.

How Others Deal With the Heat

If you haven’t heard, it’s going to be hot the next few days and into next week. H-O-T hot. Like 99 degrees hot here in Frederick. But it’s not just Maryland, a heat wave is in the forecast for much of central and eastern U.S.

I grew up in Louisiana, so I’m no stranger to heat (and humidity!). But how do others handle the heat? Here are a few clever ways I’ve come across.

Dubai

We were in Dubai in January and it was hot. It was about 30 degrees away from summer weather, but it was 85 and I was wearing lots of modest clothes. So how do you escape the heat in Dubai? You go to the mall.

The wonderfully air-conditioned mall.

Let's go to the mall

We joked that Dubai was one huge mall because there were so many of them, but it makes sense. Isn’t there nothing better when it’s ridiculously hot out than stepping into a 65 degree climate-controlled space?

Spain

The other week we were complaining about the heat in Maryland. We were dealing with low 90s here and I decided to check the weather in Southern Spain. It was 110 degrees. Spain was one place where we were fascinated by how they’ve handled hot weather.

You have table misters that keep you cool while dining alfresco or just walking by.DSC_5225

Sun shades that stretch across streets do you don’t have to walk in the sun.DSC_5224

And kissing lanes that are designed to be so narrow for more shade.
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This is also the culture that has perfected the art of the siesta – a midday nap that coincides with the hottest part of the day.

Greece

I was thinking of all of the places we’ve traveled when it was hot, and the only thing that I could think that Greece really got right about the heat was having the sea RIGHT there. You just jump in and immediately cool off. Genius. 😉

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Phoenix, Arizona

When we were in Phoenix this past January it was warm (for January!) and sunny. At one street corner I happened to look up as we waited to use the cross walk and saw the ingenious shade structures on all four corners of the street. It was this convenient little tree-shaped plastic fan that spread out over us and provided shade from the relentless Arizona sun.

I don’t know if it necessarily makes me feel better to know others are dealing with hight temperatures, but I do hope that some of these heat-beating solutions will be implemented more widely here in the U.S.

What other smart ways have you found to beat the heat?

Picture + 100 Words: You Will Know It By the Smell of Sweets

DSC_2560You smell Takeshita Street before you see it. A saccharine cloud descends upon you. It’s not even noon and you find yourself craving ice cream wrapped in a crepe drizzled with syrup. As you walk down what’s supposed to be one of Tokyo’s most fashionable streets your every inhale is tinged with sugar. You expect to see Harajuku-style dresses and cosplay, but the predominant fashion on this weekday is sailor collars on school uniforms. Clusters of school children line up to buy candy, creme puffs and other goodies. Meanwhile you’re wondering whether they could all possibly be skipping school.

Picture + 100 Words: Visiting Mars, We See You

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They talk a lot about energy in Sedona. They describe mystical qualities of their famed red rocks. As we hiked to Cathedral Rock, we didn’t quite experience an energy or magnetism about the place. We did, however, note that hiking there made us feel like we were on Mars. The almost unnatural red and organge, the odd rock formations, the super wide vistas all felt other worldly. As did the people-shaped rocks that looked down and watched over us as we explored, something we didn’t quite notice until we got home and looked at photos like this one.

Shoes to pack when you travel: Three pairs and considerations

When you travel the last thing you want is a blister or aching feet. But what shoes should you pack?

Ultimately the shoes you pack should meet most (if not all) of these considerations:

  1. All weather. It’s not the time to pack suede shoes if you’re going anywhere that rains at all. Your shoes should be able to get wet, dirty, muddy, dusty, etc.
  2. Comfortable as can be. You should be able to walk miles in these shoes without aches or blisters. This requires significant breaking in.
  3. Versatile for all outfits. Your shoes should work with every outfit you pack. You won’t want to wear the same shoes day after day. Get shoes that work with jeans, khakis, pants, capris, shorts, and bonus points if it works with skirts and dresses.

Below are my go-to shoes for traveling as well as recommendations from my well-traveled friends.

Merrells

Me, my husband, and my friend Kerry all swear by Merrells. The best thing about these shoes is that technically it’s a sneaker, but it doesn’t look like a sneaker. Too many jokes have been made at the expense of white-sneaker sporting American tourists, but at the end of the day a good pair of sneakers is what you should wear when you’re walking 10-12 miles a day. The three of us have gray-colored Merrells, which like Dr. House proved, we can make look as sporty, casual, or nice as we want.

Sperry Boat Shoes

I love my Sperry boat shoes. The moment it climbs past 65 degrees in the Spring until it falls below 60 in the Fall, I’m in my boat shoes about 75% of the time. In addition to being comfortable, boat shoes look nicer than sneakers (even Merrells). If we’re traveling in any season other than winter, my boat shoes are in my bag.

Nice walk along the river/creek.

Sperrys in Wales.

A pair of strappy flat sandals

In Louisiana we use the term “lagniappe,” which means a little something extra. If we’re traveling in the summer I’ll throw a pair of flat sandals in my bag as lagniappe. These are nice for the beach or to wear with a sundress to look a wee bit dressier than my other shoes. I wouldn’t spend the day walking in sandals, but it’s nice to have the option to dress up. My favorite sandals have been from J Crew and Madewell – they only last a couple of years, but I don’t spend a lot on them. These look very similar to a pair I bought a couple of years ago and I just bought these, but haven’t worn them yet, so can’t say if they are comfy.

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Flat sandals at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

A few more ideas

My friend Melissa says that her Converse all stars work well for long days of walking while traveling. Kerry’s husband and family members love the brand OluKai for comfortable all-day walking shoes, which was new to me. After spending 15 minutes on the OluKai website I’m ready to buy all of the shoes.

What are your go-to shoes for traveling?

Picture + 100 Words: Why is the Getty Center Free?

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We were in Los Angeles for a conference and wanted to do some sight-seeing. Not being interested in Hollywood or celebrity mansions, we decided to visit the Getty Center instead. The moment you arrive you think how is this free? You take a tram from the parking garage at the bottom of the mountain and step out in the bright, blaring sun at the top. A futuristic white structure looms before you. Inside is art, gardens, and dramatic L.A. views. You could spend hours here, not even going inside a building. It’s worth every penny. Even though you spent none.

How to Have a Memorable Night in Venice

One night in Venice, fairly far from our hotel, we were eating dinner at a restaurant and heard a flood siren. The sirens in Venice don’t wail. They melodically hum. It’s quite creepy sounding.

Flooded sidewalk

For some reason we thought nothing of the siren and continued eating. When we looked up and saw that the whole restaurant had cleared out and noticed the staff looking at us impatiently we began to realize that we should take heed of that siren.

So we left the restaurant headed to the hotel roughly going to same way we came, only to be stopped by water lapping at our feet. There was a canal flooding the walkway and the way to the bridge we needed to cross.

Not a problem we thought, because in Venice there’s really no “main route” and there are multiple ways to get anywhere. We would just cross the canal on another bridge farther down.

Rising water

We headed that way only to be stopped by flooding again. Not quite panicking yet, we started walking faster almost jogging, to what we hoped would be another footbridge over the canal. I noticed that we had several groups of people following us at this point (perhaps because we walked so determinedly – but really it was blind leading the blind at this point). We found a bridge that was not flooded yet and crossed it and made our way quickly back toward St. Mark’s.

This adventure repeated itself several times until we got to a spot where there was no un-flooded option so we just had to wade in and through it. My husband and father in law took off their shoes and socks. My mother in law and I just went for it. It was fine at first. Only coming halfway up my shoes. And then it got deeper and deeper and my shoes and socks were submerged and waterlogged.

Shoes off? Bogdan and Vlad did.

Finally we reached a raised platform constructed just for situations such as these that eventually led us to San Marco. High above the flood now, we watched the Venice police wading in the water below us, wet up to the knees.

Up to the knees

We really should have paid attention to that siren.

But what an adventure we had instead.