Thursday, May 16, 2013

Block Party

A cool, rainy spring blew eastward out of town, taking with it most of the mosquitoes and gnats, and leaving in its wake clear skies and a warming sun - finally!

It was time to invite the neighbors, a few extra friends along with an assortment of local children, and throw a block party.

Out came the giant-sized BBQ filled with smokin' charcoal - big enough to grill dozens of hot dogs and burgers at once. Coolers filled with ice popped up here and there.

There were 4 large tables laden with an assortment of homemade appetizers and desserts, buns and condiments.

 The guests' first stop was the card table to pick up a hand printed nametag - which helped when trying to remember 40 or so names at once. It was also the station where the kids could get their faces painted - most choosing a flower, a dolphin or colorful bird.
And it was easy to spot in the middle of the cul-de-sac as it was the one decorated with shiny helium balloons.

Everybody brought their own chair, a beverage or two and a side dish.

While the children played an assortment of outdoor games and made sidewalk chalk drawings, the adults sat and talked or strolled around and got to know each other better. 

Some folks had never met; some hadn't spoken to each other for years; others had just moved in.

Everybody had a great time, and there's talk of a repeat party in October.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Restful Ryokan

Ryokan is a traditional country inn typically found in the picturesque countryside of Japan. Here, guests will feel like they are taking in journey back in time to experience life in the Edo period of Japan (1603-1868). It's a celebration of the art and culture of that period.

 Visitors will experience first hand many traditional customs including a tea ceremony, wearing a yukata (cotton robe) and sleeping on a futon that is laid on a floor covered with straw tatami mats. In order to preserve the delicate mats, one is expected to remove their shoes before entering the room.

The ryokan serves dinner in kaiseki ryori style cuisine, which is a meal consisting of more than 20 small dishes that are beautifully arranged and brought to the table at the same time.

 Perhaps the best luxury involves soaking in a relaxing onsen filled with water from a nearby hot spring. These baths can be private or communal, but in either case the water is very hot and guests are expected to wash and rinse their body at a shower station before entering the onsen. Once the visitor gets used to the steaming hot temperature it becomes so relaxing that it's difficult to leave.

Every detail at a ryokan is meticulously arranged for the comfort and satisfaction of the guest, from the exquisite rooms, gardens and baths to the visually pleasing and sophisticated cuisine.

It may be that the best time to immerse yourself in the calming, luxurious  elegance of a ryokan is in winter where the traditional architecture blends into the beauty and simplicity of nature.