Since this is a food site, I thought it would be appropriate to write on cutlery or table utensils. As the country of origin of chopsticks, China was the first country in the world to use chopsticks (and forks) and has a history of at least 5,000 years of using eating utensils. Chopsticks play an important role in Chinese food culture. Chopsticks are called “Kuai zi” in Chinese and were called “Zhu” in ancient times. Chopsticks seem quite simple with only two small and thin sticks, but they are in possession of many functions, such as picking, moving, nipping, mixing and digging. Anyone using chopsticks would without exception admire the inventor of chopsticks although westerners might wonder if he was only trying to torment them. No one knows how they originated, but there is a myth that about 3000 BC two poor Chinese farmers stole a chicken from a storehouse. They hid out in a forest and cooked it over an open fire. They were so hungry that they could not wait for the meat to cool and pulled off the done portions with a pair of sticks so that they would not be burned. From their humble beginning as twigs or small branches, Chinese chopsticks (kuai zi) evolved into the modern square cross section with blunt ends and tapered length.
It has started to get hot in Las Vegas, as it always does this time of year, and because we had a visitor, we decided on a trip to Mount Charleston. Fortunately for us, Mount Charleston is just 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas where you can find cool mountain breezes, fresh air and all-around scenic beauty. Part of the Spring Mountain Range and Toiyabe National Forest, Mount Charleston ranges from 3,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. It is Nevada’s eighth-highest mountain peak and one of the Top 10 most topographically prominent peaks in the United States. With trees like juniper, mountain mahogany, Aspen and Ponderosa pine and animals such as wild burros, songbirds, deer and desert tortoises, Mount Charleston feels like it is a million miles away from Las Vegas.
Boxes are an invention that probably predates recorded history, but were certainly present after the Neolithic revolution with a more sedentary lifestyle. By the Middle Ages every home had at least one chest given as part of the bride’s dowry. The chests in the Middle Ages were usually pretty simple affairs but that all changed in the Renaissance. The emergence of a wealthy merchant class meant that the the chest had to be more ornate, more expensive and bigger. The cassone (“large chest”) was one of the trophy furnishings of rich merchants and aristocrats in Italian culture, from the Late Middle Ages onward. The cassone was the most important piece of furniture of that time. It was given to a bride and placed in the bridal suite. It would be given to the bride during the wedding, and it was the bride’s parents’ contribution to the wedding. The casson pictured above would have been an extravagant wedding gift. I have collected photos of a number of beautiful chests and cabinets from around the world, from different time periods and I will show them here along with some very interesting history.
Denver has a vibrant art scene due in part to the enlightened city government which has promoted public sculptures but also due to an excellent museum and the number of artists who live in Denver. Denver also has an impressive number of excellent large format paintings on the sides of buildings, particularly in the RiNo district of Denver. North of downtown Denver, you will find the River North Art District, which goes by the catchy nickname “RiNo” . The district has even adopted a rhino design for its official insignia. RiNo is rapidly becoming the hotspot for artsy types in Denver, with a remarkable array of creative businesses, including architects, art galleries, designers, furniture makers, illustrators, painters, media artists, photographers, sculptors, art studios and a wealth of street art. Artists have challenged art by situating it in non-art contexts. Street artists do not aspire to change the definition of an artwork, but rather to question the existing environment with its own language. The motivations and objectives that drive street artists are as varied as the artists themselves. Street artists attempt to have their work communicate with everyday people about socially relevant themes in ways that are informed by esthetic values without being imprisoned by them. There is a strong current of activism and subversion in urban art. Street art can be a powerful platform for reaching the public and a potent form of political expression for the oppressed, or people with little resources to create change.
When I was in Denver last week for my mother’s 80th birthday, we decided to have lunch in the mountains. We decided to go to Kittridge, a small town (actually tiny) near the top of Bear Creek canyon, about 20 miles from Morrison. The small (population 500) mountain community of Kittredge is located between the towns of Evergreen and Idledale in Bear Creek Canyon and offers access to several Denver Mountain Parks and Jefferson County Open Space parks perfect for picnics, hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Bear Creek Canyon was a favorite of old Denver, full of small parks, which were close enough for picnics after work, which we often did with my parents. These days Bear Creek Canyon is a favorite of bicyclists who climb to the top in Evergreen or Kittridge, have a bite to eat, then race downhill on the windy road to Morrison. Bear Creek Tavern is similar to Creekside Cellars in Evergreen with more of an old Colorado feel.
At the top of the Wellington Cable Car, and just minutes from the central business district, lies 25 hectares (64 acres) of beauty, peace and tranquillity. Established in 1844, the Wellington Botanic Garden is home to some of the oldest exotic trees in New Zealand. Today, the native and exotic forests are complemented by a duck pond, a begonia house and cafe, colorful floral displays, a herb garden, an Australian garden and the award-winning Lady Norwood Rose Garden.
During our cruise to Australia and New Zealand we made a stop at Dunedin on the South Island in New Zealand, the second largest city of the South Island. While Tauranga, Napier-Hastings and Hamilton have eclipsed the city in population in recent years to make it only the seventh largest city in New Zealand, Dunedin is still considered to be one of the four main cities of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. We decided to take the historic Taieri Gorge Railway to see some of the countryside outside town. Departing from Dunedin’s beautiful railway station the Taieri Gorge Railway begins its scenic journey into some of New Zealand’s most ever-changing, spectacular and iconic scenery. The train travels through the Southern parts of Dunedin city until it arrives at Wingatui Junction where it turns off onto the Taieri branch. From here the train sneaks across the Taieri Plains and climbs into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep gorge carved out over the centuries by the ancient Taieri River.
Twelve thousand years ago, sea levels were rising as the period of global glaciation ended. The land mass now known as Tasmania was cut off and the Aboriginal people living here were isolated from the Australian mainland. Before European settlement, Aboriginal Tasmanians lived in bands, each occupying a stretch of coastline and adjacent inland areas. They were hunter/gatherers who moved around the country to harvest seasonal food. As a coastal people, they relied on the sea for much of their diet. Aboriginal women collected abalone, oysters, mussels and other seafood and the remains of these make up the middens which can be found all around the Tasmanian coastline. The boat shown above was typical of the Tasmanian people. Southern Tasmania became a favoured resting and restocking place for French and English explorers journeying to the Pacific in search of new trade routes, products, land, and scientific knowledge. Aboriginal Tasmanians of the Oyster Bay and South East Tribes were the first to observe Europeans. The earliest encounter in 1772, with a French expedition led by Marion du Fresne, was marred by misunderstanding. Men from both sides were wounded and an Aboriginal was man killed. Other early visitors included Furneaux on Cook’s first Pacific voyage and Cook himself on his second voyage. Bligh also stopped over on his two attempts to obtain breadfruit from Tahiti.
When we got to Hobart, Tasmania we decided to roam around. One of attractions we decided to visit was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Grardens, mainly for the Japanese Garden, the highlight of the garden and the subject of the photo above. The sheltered, landscaped grounds of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens hold historic plant collections and a large number of significant trees, many dating from the nineteenth century. It also has an increasing number of important conservation collections of Tasmanian plants and the world’s only Subantarctic Plant House. Prior to European settlement local Aboriginal tribes used the site, and traces of their occupation are still apparent. A number of historic structures, including two convict-built walls, date back to the Gardens’ earliest days.
When Lisa and I visited the Museum of Contempory Art, they had an entire wall of beautiful bark paintings without (to me) comprehensible labeling p, with my apologies to the artists I have decided to present them here. Bark painting is an Australian Aboriginal art form, involving painting on the interior of a strip of Eucalyptus bark. This is a continuing form of artistic expression in Arnhem Land and other regions in the Top End of Australia including parts of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Traditionally, bark paintings were produced for instructional and ceremonial purposes and were transient objects. Today, they are keenly sought after by collectors and public arts institutions. Bark paintings are based on sacred designs that include abstract patterns and designs (such as cross-hatching in particular colours) that identify a clan, and also often contain elements of the Eternal Dreamtime. Sometimes the elements of a story are obvious—such as men or animals—but sometimes the elements are symbolic. Many of the myths seem only to be concerned with a particular animal or bird. However in symbolic meaning of great importance. For instance, the Sun is a woman, she creates life and she is often symbolized by water, fire, earth and red ochre, the Moon is male and controls the tides and seasonal cycles – he is often symbolized by snake, dog, frog and also water.