Postcard from Kyoto

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My last postcard was from Tokyo, the buzzing, neon epicenter of Japan. Think of Kyoto as the serene, ancient version. Unlike Tokyo, this feels like the East. There aren’t signs in English everywhere, and credit card acceptance is patchy; you must use the Yen.

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The essence of Kyoto is in the ancient beauty of it. Shinto temples, arched bridges over ponds bursting with koi, and geisha darting by in the night. Unlike the skyscrapers of Tokyo, try to stay in  a ryokan – small, Japanese style inns with tatami floor mats, sliding doors and spare wooden rooms overseeing a Japanese garden. It’s the stuff spa music is made of.

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If you are fascinated by geisha, visit the Gion district, preferably at dusk. During the day it’s a tourist trap, and you’ll be elbowed by packs of miserable Russian women. They’re wealthy and paying top dollar to be dressed and photographed as geisha. I can see why the locals take advantage of the fantasy, but these ladies are thirsty. Hovering over their phones and draping themselves over bridge railings;  it’s an embarrassing sight to behold. Instead, go at sundown to see the working geisha rushing to real appointments. Look in the windows to see elaborate tea ceremonies. Hear them playing the shamisen for their guests. In fact, you can go to a tea ceremony and performance yourself!

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the real deal

Like Tokyo, take to the alleys! That’s where all the great shopping is, and be sure to have a pocketful of yen. While Tokyo has a trove of hidden Izakaya spots to grab a bite, Kyoto is filled with artisans. Out of tiny homes, a simple canvas flap separates the sidewalk from a dimly-lit den, where Japanese artists sell their wares. From handmade jewelry to candies, it’s perfect for souvenirs and afternoon snacks. I stocked up on the lightest, most delicate rice crackers, or senbei. Some featured nori, some had a hint of fish, and some were spicy yet sweet. Just thinking bout them gives me cravings!

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yakitori + jetlag = our first night

I didn’t get a chance to see the Fushimi Inari shrine, but if you see photos of it, you’ll know why I recommend it. It gives me good reason to come back! Kyoto is magic.

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The Kamo-gawa river winds past ancient wood buildings in Kyoto

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Postcard from Tokyo

This advice for Tokyo is the same advice I’ll give anyone visiting Japan. Explore the alleys! That’s where all the treasures are hidden. From little Izakaya shops with just four chairs on a counter, you will find exquisite ramen. You’ll find hidden courtyards with Shinto temples that are over a thousand years old. Homemade candy shops, innovative playgrounds and sushi meccas are tucked away in these little alleys. Some highlights from Tokyo:

Robot Restaurant

Prepare for sensory overload, as lasers, disco balls and neon lights create a dizzying show of battling robots, ninja warriors and psychedelic costumed characters. It’s too over-the-top to put into words. The show sells out way in advance, so be sure to book before your trip!

Cherry Blossoms

Make sure to go in the spring to take in the heady, romantic views of cherry trees blossoming in white and pink. Unlike the delicate cherry blossom trees in the states (such as DC) the trees in Japan are beyond mature. They seem ancient, with heavy, twisting trunks people can climb. If you can’t make it in the spring, come in the fall, when the Japanese maples come alive in fiery colors. Click here for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

This is Harajuku, close to Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing

Yes, it is home to the busiest intersection in the word, with thousands of people criss-crossing the multiple corners for each red light. It’s a sight to behold, and film with your camera as you weave through a sea of faces. But beyond that is a vibrant night scene. I got street food at midnight – unbelievable Kobe beef on a stick. I got sushi served to me by bullet train when ordered on a computer screen. I explored adorable boutiques and saw a statue dedicated to Hachi.

Japanese pancakes

There are plenty of places to get these fluffy masterpieces. About an inch thick and custardy on the inside, they melt in your mouth and are piled high with fun toppings. From hazelnut chocolate and bananas, to whipped cream and strawberry compote. Just don’t go to Burn Side St Cafe, because there is a miserable server there who takes away the experience. There are plenty of options!

Tokyo Tower!

Speaking of plenty of options, there is so much more to discover than what I mentioned.  So consider this a jumping-off point. And most importantly, don’t forget to explore those alleys!

 

How You Can Bring Paris to RVA

Last year, I was swept up in the magic that was Diner en Blanc. I wrote about it, but one must experience this Parisian tradition in person. While this elaborate picnic began in Paris, it’s now celebrated around the world. Considering the size of Richmond, you’d think it wouldn’t have caught on. But the event became a must-do summer tradition, and with around 1,200 attendees every year, Richmond’s become a major player on the world stage.

And 1,200 revelers are a lot to coordinate, so Diner en Blanc Richmond is looking for volunteers. By volunteering, you not only gain free entry, but you get to participate in one of the most memorable cultural experiences in Richmond. An elaborate night of creativity in all its forms; visual, musical, palatable. The big night is August 17th, and per tradition, the location is top secret until the day-of.

If interested in volunteering, email richmond@dinerenblanc.com – until then, au revoir!

Ladles & Linens & blogs, oh my!

As you know, I love to share party and entertaining tips. Exhibit A, Exhibit B ….you get the idea. I’m happy to announce that Ladles and Linens brought me on as their Lifestyle Blogger! The Story of Cooking has allowed me to share even more tidbits and things that inspire me, like managing your work/life balance and themed parties. The latter being LIFE.

The company’s owner, Sarah Nicholas is a legit FBI agent-turned-TV Chef-turned business owner. And since her story’s more interesting than mine, I’ll go ahead and leave a link about her right HERE. And since her family is so adorable, I’ll go ahead and drop a photo right…

…there we go.  I’d always been a Ladles and Linens customer. If Lilly Pulitzer were a gourmand, this would be her shop. It’s playful, but tasteful. Cheerful, but serious about quality; they test all their products. They have three locations in Virginia, but distance is no issue because you can shop their store online. Their prices are competitive with Amazon, which makes me feel even better about shopping local.

And as they say, “It’s always a kitchen party, and everyone’s invited!”

The Life Aquatic

IMG_8847Remember that hilarious rap parody from Saturday Night Live, I’m on a Boat? It’s a classic, and a tongue-in-cheek reminder of how boats makes us want to brag. We can’t contain our camera phones. So much so, that #imonaboat is the standard hashtag when on the water.

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Salty!

I’m not above the humble brag, but when recently boating on a Virginia lake, I didn’t think about how lucky I was, or how my Sunday was so much better than everyone else’s (which it was, obviously). It was bigger than that. I had relaxed. The stress of my job melted away and the wind in my hair made me close my eyes and get philosophical about life. I need a boat.

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Waterfront property – and a lovely one at that!

I’m not alone – our friend John considers time with his boat almost a religion. You can clear your head, get some perspective. People who have boats swear by them, and those who don’t look for ways to get invited onto them.

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Gretchen and Robert

My husband and I have taken to renting pontoons and inviting friends out for an afternoon on the water. Swimming and tanning and an ongoing picnic with reggae, the Grateful Dead and the Avett Brothers playing in the background.

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My husband’s cost benefit analysis suggests that with our lifestyle (not living on the water, travel and a busy schedule) we’re best suited to keep renting boats, as opposed to owning. But that can be translated to, the solution is purchasing beach front property. No?

RVA Fashion Week welcomes you to the funhouse

Richmond’s Fashion Week has just begun, and it’s already next level. Last night at Vagabond, they kicked off the week with a Funhouse-themed party, trippy and circus-like, but 100% glam. I was surrounded by models who towered over me, their bodies studded with gems and glittering under dramatic lights.

This week is not to be missed. Local designers, exclusive boutique opportunities and endless inspiration abound. Check their website HERE for a list of events, and enjoy a week less ordinary.

With the beauties of BOMBSHELL

RVA Doubles Down on the Ultimate Self-Care: Equine Therapy

Self care is more than a trending hashtag. In fact, it may not be a trend at all. Recently Barnes and Noble said that for the first time, January’s self-help books for mental health outpaced books about diet and exercise. And interest has been quietly building for years. As younger generations slowly erode the stigmatization around mental heath, we’re more comfortable addressing it, and tackling it head on.

Why is equine therapy the ultimate in self-care? While a mani-pedi gives us confidence, equine therapy forces us to go deeper. It helps to understand the therapeutic value of horses. They are herd and prey animals, and a major part of their survival is their intuition. They watch one another and communicate quietly on an emotional level. If one horse is frightened, they all become frightened.

Horses serve as our mirror. If we’re angry, even if it’s not on the surface, horses can sense this and pull back as you approach. If you’re sullen, they will pick up on this and have the ability to comfort you. Horses are majestic animals, and can pull the feelings right out of us. Caring for them is a lesson in our own self care.

Life coach Florencia Fuensalida and Kristin Fitzgerald, an Experiential Equine Practitioner, are holding a much-needed equine therapy session on April 6th. People from Central Virginia and beyond are invited get outside and kick off the spring season with this event. Whether you’re suffering from anxiety, recovering from trauma or simply want to shake off the winter blues, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried this sooner. No experience with horses is necessary, since you won’t be riding with them but bonding with them. To register, please see details below. Happy trails!