Here’s a beauty: a kimono scarf step by step

Well, after the To Celebrate Life scarf went to the highest bidder when the auction closed, a disappointed bidder still needed a scarf.  So, I made this one.  First, a trip to the kimono rack to pick out something really beautiful.


This will do nicely!  A kurotomesode–a heavily embroidered kimono traditionally worn by married women-from the Ichiroya Flea Market.  The small circle at the top is a family crest–one of five on the kimono.


After taking it apart gently, I need to repair the gold embroidery.


Here’s how the original embroidery looks on the back side, if you’re interested.


And, while we’re at it, here are the front and back of an embroidered flower.


Now that I have the main piece, time to find some pieces that will work with the colors.



And start to lay them out.


And then, start to construct the scarf.






Finish the ends, line with beautiful cream-colored silk with shibori cranes, hand-sew the final seam, and it’s finished!




P.S. This all takes a lot longer than it looks like it does.

Dinosaur Prints, Foliage and Things to do in Massachusetts


New England is famous for its foliage.  One great spot for leaf-peeping is the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts.  And while you’re there, the Pioneer Valley offers dinosaur tracks,  candle making, college visits, historic towns and museums, and lots of other things to do when your eyes are exhausted by color.  Your path is along Routes 116 and 5, north and south halfway across Massachusetts.  This is an idyllic location for leaf peeping with grand vistas, lakes, parks, and a multitude of deciduous trees.



In fact, sometimes the colors are just too much, like this view across Lake Arcadia in Belchertown.


So, you come for the foliage, but there are lots of other things to do while you’re here if you start getting overwhelmed–the way people sometimes do with the art in Florence.


There are, of course, the colleges.  The Pioneer Valley is home to five outstanding colleges:  Mount Holyoke (women), Smith (women), Amherst, Hampshire, and UMass Amherst.   You can choose the school that suits your personality and sense of beauty, but take classes at any of the five schools.  The PVTA bus links the campuses.  They are among the most beautiful classic colleges you will ever see, with trees, lakes, old brick buildings.  This is at the lovely Mount Holyoke, the first of the famous “Seven Sisters” of the Ivy League.




Maybe you’re not ready for college yet, or you’re finished with that phase of life, then how about dinosaur tracks?  The Pioneer Valley was once home to small herds of roving carnivorous dinosaurs who left footprints in the sandstone 190 million years ago along what was a subtropical swamp.  One place to see them is called, appropriately enough,  Dinosaur Footprints. This is the first place that dinosaur prints were scientifically described and the very tracks are still here to be seen.  You park along Route 5 in Holyoke and then take an easy walk north from the entrance to the footprints.   Dinosaur Footprints is open daily April 1 to November 30, sunrise to sunset.

If you would like to OWN a dinosaur footprint, then the place to go is Nash Dinosaur Track Site and Rock Shop, formerly known as Nash Dinosaurland, off Route 116 in South Hadley. IMG_1712

This is an eccentric shop full of reasonably priced dinosaur footprints that the family has carved out of the rock formation in the backyard.  You can get an innie or an outie footprint.  For a minimal price ($3.00 adults/$2.00 children) you can walk out on the rocks to see where the tracks come from. IMG_3958

Nash Dinosaur Tracks is open 12-4 on Sunday, 10-4 Monday-Saturday except Wednesday, when it is closed.  Here is a nice history of the discovery of dinosaur tracks in North America–starting only a mile from Nash Dinosaur Tracks.  A dinosaur footprint is an excellent graduation gift for your student in the Pioneer Valley.  Or a gift for any reason.  Here’s mine–it’s an outie.


Some of the colleges have dinosaur tracks on display as well.  Amherst has the first specimens to be found in the Valley.   Here is a wall at Mount Holyoke.





Emily Dickinson lived in this house in Amherst for her entire life, except for a few homesick months she spent down the road at Mount Holyoke College.  You can take a guided tour of her house from March through December, Wednesday through Sunday.  There are several different options for tours,  including one that visits her brother’s house next door.  It is fun to walk through the garden and see the views and hear the birds that inspired her poetry.  Prices vary from $5 to $12.  For more information, see here.


As you drive north on Rt. 116, you will drive by this mountain between the Southern Pioneer Valley, where the colleges are, and Deerfield.  Drive to the top and take a look at Mt. Sugarloaf State Reservation.



When Rt. 116 runs into Rt. 5, head north on 5.  One nice change of pace from the leaves is Historic Deerfield, an outdoor history museum made up of 12 houses ranging from 1730 to 1850 situated at the crossing of the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers.  Eleven of the houses are on their original sites.  With your admission, you can take either a guided or self-guided tour of each house.  The houses that require guided tours run them at different times so you have to keep you eye on your watch and dash from house to house so as not to miss the tour.  The guided tours do give a wonderful history of the occupants and draw one’s attention to architectural detail that might otherwise be missed. There are furnishings, including handmade coverlets, handpainted wallpapers, and odd furniture, the purpose of which must be puzzled out.  One of the houses is home to an extensive silver and metalware collection, including work by Paul Revere.  Here is a map of the village.  The homes are open during the “regular season” daily mid-April through late December, except some holidays, from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.  Check your dates before going.  During the regular season, admission is $14.00 for adults, $7.00 for youth (6-17), and free for under 6.  Tours can sometimes be made by appointment during the winter.  No photography in the houses.

Even the non-historical houses on the street go all-out with autumn decor.


While in Deerfield, don’t miss the Memorial Hall Museum, right around the corner.  It is a history museum with exhibits such as a door showing a Native American attack, pictures of prize cows, and, my favorite, textile work.  There is a form of embroidery known as “Deerfield Embroidery” and many examples are on display.



I also enjoyed this quilt made up of show ribbons–now that’s an idea of something to do with all those prizes from the county fair, soccer teams, music contests, or, as my niece says, an “award for breathing!”


The Museum is open for weekends in May, then June through the beginning of November it is open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.  Admission is $6.00 for adults, $3.00 for students (6-21).  The tiny shop includes embroidery kits – both crewel and cross-stitch.  These are also available online here and here.


Okay, we have to say it.  Everybody goes to the Yankee Candle Factory in South Deerfield once.   You’ve got to take your opportunity to cast your hand in wax, dip a candle in multiple colors, buy a Christmas ornament or Polish pottery.  It’s loud, it’s crowded, it’s touristy.  But, okay, it’s kind of fun.











We love the Black Walnut Inn in Amherst.


Each room is different and welcoming and a little bit eccentric.  We adore creeping up the narrow stairs to the Carhart Room, built in 1745, where the original family slept.   Breakfast is outstanding.  This is where I discovered Red River cereal, but there are lots of other, more indulgent, homemade treats available.  The innkeeper, Marie, is friendly and warm.


There is always at least one dog.  Our favorite is Nutmeg.

Another alternative is renting a cabin from vrbo.  Here is cozy Abigail’s Cottage in Belchertown, right across from Lake Arcadia–a great place for a family reunion with gorgeous views of foliage.


It also features oodles of unusual reading material.



You can’t miss Judie’s in Amherst, home of the most outstanding popover ever, cheerful painted tables, and a colorful decor featuring work by artist in residence, Donna Estabrooks.


Another favorite is the Amherst Brewing Company, a casual restaurant which serves seasonal craft beer and delicious comfort food.


Mill Valley Film Festival – A Master Class with Catherine Hardwicke

DSC_4779 Continue reading “Mill Valley Film Festival – A Master Class with Catherine Hardwicke”

Mill Valley Film Festival 2015 – The Directors

The 38th annual Mill Valley Film Festival is underway and it is a celebration of directors this year.


Opening night brought us the two Toms.  First came Tom Hooper, Academy Award winning director of The King’s Speech, with his new film The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne.  Mr. Hooper is a very tall man.

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Here he is being interviewed by Loni  Stark of the Stark Insider.

Next up was Tom McCarthy.  He is here with his new film, Spotlight.  He is wonderfully animated.

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And has a beautiful, extremely nice, wife.


With great shoes.  She told me they’re Joia.


Another night featured the world premiere of A Light Beneath Their Feet, with director Valerie Weiss.  She said, “Purse or no purse?” and I said, “Definitely, purse.”



One of the best experiences at the festival is the panels.  Catherine Hardwicke, who directed Thirteen, Twilight (which made over $400 million and won the heart of tweens everywhere) and her new film, Miss You Already, gave a remarkable master class in directing, but that will be the subject of another post.


Iguassu Falls from Brazil and Argentina


When Eleanor Roosevelt saw Iguassu Falls, she reportedly said, “Oh, poor Niagara!” I can just picture her there in the steamy subtropical jungle with her good wool suit, sensible shoes, gartered hose and pith helmet. In fact, Iguassu Falls is spectacular. The 275 cascades tumble down through black basalt and deep green jungle around a 1.7 mile horseshoe gorge. You can usually spot monkeys, coatis, and capybaras. You can hike through the jungle, ride on the river, and march out over the falls. And everywhere, it is so loud!

Like Niagara, you can visit the falls from two different sides from two different countries. The Sheraton is on the Argentine side and many people go there for the view of the top of the falls and because it is especially convenient when coming from Buenos Aires. But if you really want to get the feel of an old-school visit to the falls, stay at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas inside the Iguacu National Park on the Brazilian side.   I don’t have an aerial view, but here is one from the hotel website:

Cataratas hotel

At one time, the lovely pink Cataratas had a beautiful view of the falls. Trees doing what they will, the view is now obscured from the building, but you can see it if you just walk across the driveway.  Even without the direct view, the hotel is beautiful with Portuguese Colonial architecture, carved wooden door frames, a gorgeous pool, a Paraguayan band, and lots of local coati.



The restaurants in the hotel—one more elegant, the Itaipu, and one that’s casual, the Ipe Grill, by the pool—are excellent. It’s a good thing they are since there is absolutely nowhere else to go. In fact, visitors are warned to avoid stepping too far out of the perimeter during the nighttime because, after all, the hotel is nestled in the jungle full of jaguars, pumas, snakes, and stinging insects. We were there for the full moon, but as it happened, also a full rainstorm, so the full moon night viewing of the falls usually offered by the hotel was canceled.  A major advantage of staying at the Cataratas is that you can visit the falls early.  By the time the tour buses arrive, you are sitting by the pool drinking out of a coconut.


HERE ARE THINGS TO DO ON THE  BRAZILIAN SIDE in addition to enjoying the Cataratas:

HIKE DOWN THE PATH OF THE FALLS TRAIL to see the Devil’s Throat falls from the base in all their glory. This is magnificent. You can walk out over the water on a narrow wooden walkway


and feel the river rushing underneath you, around you, almost over you.


This is the very best view of the falls. Conveniently, if you need it there is an elevator to go back up.  This trail is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and there is an admission fee.

TAKE A RIDE IN A RIB—a rigid inflatable boat with twin outboard motors. You have to hike down a trail through the jungle to the river, an interesting walk in itself punctuated by sightings of giant butterflies. Once at the river’s edge, you don your life preserver and board the boat.


Then you go on a very wild ride. The drivers are very skilled because they must maneuver the RIBs upstream over river rocks against a churning 20+ knot current. The boats are not allowed within a certain distance of the main falls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t go to the smaller falls and dunk you under the cascading water. And dunk you again. And dunk you again.

100_1169100_1177Since it is quite hot and steamy, this dunking is more than welcome and very fun. The water is redolent of the hundreds of miles of jungle above.  Highly recommended.



All those birds you’ve wondered about turn out to be real. You know that old postcard of the Degas painting from the 1988 Met show of a woman with the two startling cadmium red ibises perching on her wrist and shoulder? They’re there! Where on Earth did Degas find them? And they really are exactly cadmium red, that color so favored by Degas for its dependable surprise.

100_1374Young Woman with Ibis, Debas 1860-62

At the park, look up! The roseate spoonbills balance above you.


The toucan is right there, too, just posing. “Stand closer, honey. Closer. Get closer.” Ouch!  (Hint:  If you want to photograph your child with a toucan, don’t have her stand too close or she might get beaked in the head.)


VISIT ITAIPU DAM.  If you are a fan of engineering, you can visit Itaipu Dam. You watch a movie about so many happy birds and picnicking humans that it makes you think, “Wow, this must be some big environmental disaster.”   Well, it is, but still it is impressive. You ride a bus out around the dam and even visit Paraguay in the course of the tour. This was our reaction, however.



From Brazil, you can drive across to Argentina. Although the backup at the border can be long, private guides seem to have a way of bypassing much of the line.  The Argentina Iguazu National Park is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is charged.  Once you enter the park, take the Jungle Train to a network of upper and lower circuit trails covering many elevations and waterfalls.  The lower circuit is thought to offer the best views.  From the bottom of the Salto Bossetti, you can walk down some stairs to catch a free ferry to San Martin Island.  We didn’t do that on our visit because the weather prevented the ferry from operating.

After the hike, you can take the train to the main event: “La Garganta del Diablo”  — The Devil’s Throat.


We huddled under our plastic rainwear and made another terrifying crossing of a very long walkway over the rushing river to the viewing platform built out over the top of the falls.   (How do they build these things anyway? Turn off the falls?) Arching over the railing to see and feel the falls rushing down is a dramatic, powerful, and vertiginous experience.


Shouting over the din of the falls, you realize why this UNESCO World Heritage site is noted, in part, for being “acoustically stunning.”


You can’t really photograph it without a helicopter.

Soaked to the bone, on our way out of the park past the Visitors Center and cafe, we spotted some cute capybaras.  Alas, I wasn’t quick enough getting my camera out from under my raingear.

There are ways to enjoy Iguassu Falls without being fit, but if you have the chance, go while your knees are still with you.


Walking Llamas at Agape Hill Farm in the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

If you’ve always wanted to walk a llama, then it is worth the long drive to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to visit the Agape Hill Farm.  Agape Hill, in Hardwick, Vermont, is an ideal destination during leaf peeping season if you are looking for a reason to drive through the brilliant countryside.   Since we actually had always wanted to walk a llama, we made a reservation and set off.


After making our way to northeastern Vermont, we met Nancy Kish, the very kind owner of family-run Agape Hill.   As we roamed around the farm, she showed us the goats, the sheep, the pigs named Bacon and Sausage.  She told us about Pomco, the restless rescue llama who jumped the fence and tried to impregnate all the ladies.


And she showed us Trainwreck, the wry-mouthed cow.


Then we were introduced to our llamas. The website says that they “carefully match our llamas to each visitor according to comfort level and personality.”  Well, bad news for me because my llama, Lolly, was kind of a stinker who only wanted to eat and was not in the mood for a walk.  Hmmm, maybe not so far off after all.  On the other hand, Miss Fluffy’s llama, Mahea, was an angel.


Lolly’s slight reluctance to move along didn’t detract from the joy of the experience, however.  We traded llamas and Lolly seemed to be much better behaved for Miss Fluffy.  There really is something soothing about strolling through the gorgeous countryside at the side of a llama.


Agape Hill does a lot of things other than accompanying wayfarers on llama walks.  They run a program for special needs students, who often relate better to the llamas than they do to other people.    Their dedication to serving this population is deep and reflects their greater ambition to show an “agape” love:  self-sacrificing love for others.

After our walk, we received our pins, rummaged through the gift shop, and went on our way.


It was a wonderful day with some very cute llamas and a really nice person.


Tulip time at Filoli in Woodside, California

When you are craving tulips, there’s no place like Filoli in March.  Filoli is a country home in Woodside, California, situated on 654 delicious acres of the San Francisco peninsula.  The home, designed and built between 1915 and 1917, is lovely, eclectic, very large, and allows for expansive fantasy habitation.  It is the 16-acre Renaissance garden, however, designed between 1917 and 1929, that brings us back season after season for another look.

In March, it is time for the tulips.


The name Filoli is derived from the credo of the original owner and builder, William Bowers Bourn:   “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.  Mr. Bourn made a fortune in the gold-mining business in Grass Valley, California, and also owned the Spring Valley Water Company, the southern tip of which now comprises the Filoli estate.  His home certainly reflects the part about LIving a good life!


In 1975, Mrs. William P. Roth, the owner at that time, donated the house and 125 acres to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and it is now open for visitors between February and October, Tuesday through Sunday.  No picnics or tripods!

So, let’s stroll through the garden take in the tulips.




Since it’s March, there are also rhododendrons,wisteria, and the beginnings of peonies.


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There is a garden shop that uses lively merchandizing to sell plants and other odds and ends.

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Another reason to go to Filoli is the classes.   It is possible to get a certificate in botanical art, floral design, or horticulture.  The decorative arts classes offer unusual subjects like embroidery and porcelain painting.  Just for a laugh, here is how my embroidery looked after a six-hour “White Work in Color” embroidery class taught by the charming Lucy Barter, a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework whose certificate was actually signed by Queen Elizabeth II.   (For you Call the Midwife fans, Chummy is also an alumna of this college.)  It wasn’t Lucy’s fault it looked like this.


This is Miss Ellie’s, who was much more adept.


Well, back to the tulips.


Cats in Greece

There are a lot of cats in Greece–domestic, feral, and stone.  Here are a few from the Greek Islands:












And here’s a dog:


Movie Stars in Mill Valley! MV Film Festival – From a Photographer’s Eye


It is almost time for the California Film Institute’s 2015 Mill Valley Film Festival (October 8 – 18, 2015) and that got me thinking about last year’s festival when I worked as a photographer.  That was when I decided for sure that I didn’t want to be a movie star.

The opening event is held at the Outdoor Art Club.  It’s a private women’s civics and conservation club dedicating to preserving a beautiful Arts & Crafts building designed by architect Bernard Maybeck and the lovely garden.  IMG_1592It has the added convenience of being located across the street from the Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley, where the opening night film, “The Horsemen,” was shown.


The Opening Night VIP party is attended by everyone:  filmmakers, producers, locals, people involved in this festival, people from other festivals, even you, if you buy a ticket in time here.





There are, of course, artists and actors, although Hal and Myrna Tatar were actually across the street in line for the movie.


Everyone had a camera.


Meanwhile, the official photographers rushed around shooting pictures, taking names, and trading sightings.



But the main event is when the star of the show arrives for the opening.  Hilary Swank flew in from Paris and appeared in a gorgeous blue movie star gown.  She was swept into the little garden behind the club, away from the party, and posed with the director of the festival, the president of CFI, and the sponsors. Here is how she looked:


But this is what it looked like:


She generously turned her head as photographers called her name (here, with CFI President, Jennifer MacCready).  Here comes my turn:


And there she goes:


After this, Hilary went into the club for a private Q&A with the big wigs.  When this was finished, she was hustled into her black SUV, driven around the block, and deposited at the Sequoia after the viewers were already seated inside.  This is what it looks like when a movie star gets out of a car and there is no red carpet “step and repeat”:


Hilary was very gracious, even when I was setting up my tripod inside the theater and accidentally jabbed her with my elbow as she waited through the introduction before walking down the aisle.

At last, here she is meeting her public at the screening of “The Horsemen” with Mark Fishkin, Director of the Mill Valley Film Festival:


Another red carpet MVFF event was the screening of “Like Sunday, Like Rain” attended by filmmaker Frank Whaley and stars Leighton Meester and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. This was one held at the Rafael Theater in San Rafael.

Leighton Meester is very, very pretty in person with perfectly symmetrical features and luminous skin.  But on camera?  A knockout!  No such thing as a bad angle.

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And here she is talking with the press:


Here is filmmaker Frank Whaley speaking with interviewers:


And here is Billie Joe Armstrong:


And all three for a final pose:


It takes a lot of grace to be a movie star, and a lot of stamina to stand up to the demands of the public.   That’s why I’m staying on the shy side of the camera.

Cooking School in Florence, Italy


There are many great things in Florence, Italy–the architecture, the art, the gardens–but there is no question that one of that best things is the food.  So, while in Florence, why not learn to cook?  Some lucky visitors stay for a week-long cooking course, but even if you have only a free day you can learn to make a decent pasta and tiramisu.

We went to a cooking class at the Food and Wine Academy of Florence.   They offer a variety of cooking classes and tours, including pizza and gelato making, wine and olive tasting, a Tuscan wine trail tour, and our class, the “Chef for a Day” cooking class that included a trip to the Florence Central Market.  We had, quite unusually, not planned in advance and considered ourselves extremely lucky to fit into a class the next day.

Our cooking class met in the morning and we took an easy stroll to the Central Market in Florence.  You begin to understand why Florentine food is so great when you see what they start with.

There’s the funghi and the ham:


Every kind of delicacy:



And, of course, a classic Italian butcher:



We crammed into a little stall for a private tasting of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


We also tried a lot of tasty artisanal treats and came out with our winner, the truffle honey.


Once we had our supplies, we proceeded by foot to the cooking school.  The kitchen was high-ceiled with smooth plaster and looked the way kitchens aspire to look after a high-end remodel.  We were issued our aprons and found a place at the table.

First, we all ate some bruschetta with perfect tomatoes.  We didn’t make this, but we were given the recipe and instructions to make it at home.


Next, we made our dessert, the tiramasu.  We did a lot of whisking.

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Then we layered our crema and chocolate in glass bowls.  We all designed our tiramisu with a personal touch so that we could identify our own bowl later after the dessert chilled.


Then, the main event.  We learned to make pasta and, while we were at it, a couple of different sauces.  First the pappardelle:


And then the ravioli:



And the results were startlingly professional!


After we ate–sorry, too busy eating to take a picture–we all received our certificates.  What a delicious and instructive way to spend a day in Florence!

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