Monthly Archives: January 2014

The one about what to wear when visiting The Great Wall of China (in winter)


How to copy my style:

1. Check the weather forecast and know to dress warm when the temperature is lower than -10 degrees Celsius.

2. Wear double socks, leggings and stockings underneath thick workout pants. Plus, wear a tank top, a vest, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a thick woolen sweater underneath a winter jacket. In other words, wear so much so that your jacket can barely zip up. Don’t forget the mitts, scarf for the cold nose, furry hat and sunglasses so that opening eyes against the harsh winds won’t be an issue. It’s OK to be unrecognizable. Only The Husband has to know who you are to help pull you uphill when you can’t bend your legs under all the layers.

3. Wear contact lenses. You know from experience your glasses will fog up with every exhale. Dark sunglasses are fine because they hide the fog. Again, you are there to see that wall, the wall doesn’t care to see you.


How to copy his style:

1. Check the weather forecast but ignore it and believe your superhuman warming skills will activate when needed.

2. Ignore your wife pleading with you that you’re being unreasonable by not packing a winter jacket.

3. Pack your fall jacket, a hat that barely covers your ears, and don’t dress in layers, that is, basically freeze. Avoid contact with your wife’s I-told-you-so eyes behind her fogged up sunglasses. At least you look good.

The views were breathtaking:



Even the garbage can was pretty!


Depending on how you measure the wall’s length, you’ve got between 10,000-20,000 km. That’s quite a distance even on the lower end. In the summer, it’s said to be humid, smoggy and packed with tourists. In the dead cold of winter, the small slice of wall we visited gave us clear views into the distance and a serene quietness – perfect. But boy was it cold.



Hopefully this sign says something significant such as Great Wall of China, and not washrooms or exit:


Even the cats are huddled together for warmth:


“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” – Rumi.

The one about the Magic Garden

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens isn’t your typical tourist stop.

Here, artist Isaiah Zagar has transformed a vacant city lot into another world. His mosaic walls (and floors and ceilings) are made out of all kinds of found objects, from traditional kitchen tiles, to bits and pieces of broken glass or recycled bottles. The outdoor gallery-like space is randomly located on what appears to be a residential street. Peering through the gate, a magical scene beckons, one without flowers and trees, but a “garden” of sorts  nonetheless.

Once inside, the place is a quirky collection of objects, colours, and mirror reflections and you don’t know where to look and you kinda just want to sit down. It was a bit like how I’d imagine walking into a kaleidoscope to feel like… only not ordered into a particular design like kaleidoscope designs are; this place was anything but organized.


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As soon as we stepped inside, The Husband took one look around and said “this place is YOU – a younger YOU” I wasn’t sure if I should appreciate that comment or not. On one hand I was drawn to the unexpected treasures and little discoveries planted amongst the bottles and broken plates, such as this glass POM bottle:


However, on the other hand, it was all too much. Maybe the “younger” me was too much… as young girls are… the doodles and drawings, sparkles, jewellery, bows, the need to cover all surface areas with material things. I’m reminded of my students’ work, sometimes I just want to hide the glitter so they can’t find it, I’d rather they do without, they tend to go overboard, but they (the female students) always want to use sparkles and glitter, to them it’s beautiful, magical even.


The gardens are like a collage that’s thrown up sparkles and little toys and trinkets. The Husband refers to it as “the garbage house” because he doesn’t understand art in the same way, but he was happy with the low admission of $5.00 so that kept him quiet. I however, felt like I could stay there exploring for hours. And shhh don’t tell him, I have plans to transform his our basement in the same way.

“I don’t like formal gardens…” – Walt Disney


Favourite Photo(s) Friday: The Blue Lagoon

The Husband won’t let me turn the heat up. He says he’s not made of money and I should wear socks. I don’t understand how turning it up one teeny tiny degree will bankrupt him. It’s been a long week at school… last week of the semester. I don’t want to fight with him, but I’d much rather be here:

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The water is deliciously warm and I can walk barefoot.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland.

Favourite Photo Friday: The Famous Bean

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“Cloud Gate” more commonly known as “The Bean” by sculptor Anish Kapoor, Chicago

My jumping pose was inspired by seeing other tourists (teenage girls) jumping perfectly in their high heels. Don’t know how they did it so gracefully, I could barely land on my own two feet in my running shoes. Thanks to The Husband for capturing me mid-air..

The One Where I Reveal Secrets –

- not my own secrets, just the work of others!


Photo taken in Santorini, Greece

So you see, those buildings weren’t always white. White gets dirty very fast. In order to achieve the fresh and clean look, the white cave houses on the Greek islands (well Santorini and Mykonos both, as far as I know), need constant upkeep. I was so excited when I came across this man re-painting his wall. I felt like I had stumbled upon some great secret. Of course, I asked for permission before taking the photo. Who wants some gawking tourist snapping photos while obviously hard at work in the heat of the sun?!

Did you know that white paint is used on houses in hot countries to reflect heat? This is also why people in hot countries often wear white.

Colour choices are made for specific reasons. I always thought the white and blue colours you see often on domes on churches, little island building doorways and windows etc. were supposed to represent the colours of the Greek flag. Instead, the blue is a colour meant to ward off evil (similar to the blue colour you see with the nazar, the Turkish symbol to ward off the evil eye). This turquoise-type blue originally came from a mineral found in Turkey (hence the name “turquoise”…). This vibrant blue is the perfect island colour, it’s the colour of a hot summer day, and it’s the colour of my favourite skirt (which is reversible and can be worn 4 different ways, which translates to 4 different outfits, which = a lighter suitcase).



Photos taken in Kyoto, Japan

I love the vermilion colour he’s using and the little glass bottle in his hand. Vermilion is not one specific hue. In China, it’s more of a red hue, in Japan, the colour takes on this brilliant orange-red that veers more to the orange-y side.

But look at the size brush this guy is using, it’s going to take him all day… all week if he has to touch up all 10,000 torii gates that line the tunnel walkway of the Fushimi Inari shrine… The Greek guy had a roller, he’ll be done his touch ups in less than 30 min I think! The Japanese are so meticulous about everything. One of the first things that caught our attention in Tokyo was someone cleaning the glass along the side of an elevator in a subway station – a subway station! It’s not just the trains that are super clean, the subway stations were spotless. That’s just incredible.

It takes 2.5-3 hours to hike to the top of the shrine on the mountain through the torii-gate tunnels. The Husband and I walked for about 15 minutes before I knew I couldn’t take another step. I wanted to re-trace the Memoirs of a Geisha (do you remember the movie?) – but that wasn’t happening, not with my heavy boots, and my umbrella-turned-walking- stick which did nothing to help my case.

I was most pleased when I came across the opportunity for these pictures though. Again, it felt like a behind-the-scenes kind of look, a glimpse into the making of the place, a reminder that nothing man-made is ever perfect.

“When you are older, you realize that everything else is just nothing compared to painting and drawing.” – David Hockney.

Favourite Photo Friday: Cafe au Lait & Beignets

Café du Monde is a cute French coffee shop located in the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s supposed to be a place you can’t miss and everyone raves about their coffee (café au lait, coffee with steamed milk) and beignets (pretty much a donut without a hole… I guess you can picture those fritter things from Tim Hortons… which, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone actually eat). It was a nice experience sitting outside in the late evening watching people walk by, the place was pretty full, there was a man playing a saxophone nearby and the rain that had been coming down all evening had finally stopped. I suppose in a way, you can’t get more New Orleans than this.


Café du Monde, French Quarter, New Orleans – Louisiana