Posts Tagged With: tea


Jim and I paused to reflect yesterday on our fifth anniversary since we met face to face at a restaurant in Tracy, a half way point from where I live to where he was parked near Gilroy. Once we hit the road, I slowly gave up my newspaper and and now get my news on-line.


Mr. Smith went to Washington and gave his millions to create The Smithsonian, our  masterfully reflective Museum and Archive that covers every aspect of American life and beyond. Scientists, psychologists, researchers, and curators seek out what makes us tick and how it affects how we live. I get their magazine at home, but read it on-line as well. The picture above is what once was the “Loneliest” tree on the planet. Three hundred years old, with roots that reached 100 feet to the water table. An acacia that was used on maps in the 1930’s as a directional landmark and for many years before by word of mouth. It was rammed into by a (rumored) drunk driver in 1973 and killed. The trunk sits in the Smithsonian and a metal tree has replaced the famous Acacia.

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Jim and I are tea drinkers, but when I’m home, I drink one cup of coffee in the morning. Neuroscientist Steven Miller tells us that the best time to drink coffee, or any caffeine drink, is when our cortisol begins to dip, for most people about 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the morning and after 1:00 in the afternoon and after 6:30 at night.

The United Kingdom’s National Healthy Service claims their measurements were based upon when workers begin to tire and suggest coffee break  at 2:16 p.m. Rather precise, aren’t they? The afternoon drink, with a 15 minute nap,no longer, called the caffeine nap, is beneficial according to  LIFEHACKER. Hey good to know.

Smithsonian gives you Smart News, what is Trending Today, New research and Cool Finds.  Smithsonian is trustworthy, not controlled by any President or Congress. I love it.


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We decided to find the Mardi Gras Parade route in Lake Charles, and see what ever the town had to offer. First stop?  The Visitors Center. Tables filled with entries in the local contest for float designs. School kids, various clubs, and adults as well get involved.

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They are limited in size, not much bigger than the typical shoe box. Anyone can vote on their favorite and prizes are awarded in each division. Clever and in sync with the city’s biggest event of the year.

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Very helpful people waited on us and explained the area, the Mardi Gras Balls, Parades and so on. This handsome alligator is a fixture there. It all started with the Chicago Cows. In Murphys our artists decorate frogs. We see it all over the country when we travel. Lake Charles it is alligators. How neat is that?

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As we were headed downtown, we spotted a historical cemetery and decided to have a look. Boggy ground forces burial above ground in cement crypts. DSC02188 (Copy)

Three beautiful sculptures attracted my attention. The recent rain made what appeared to be tears running down the child’s face. DSC02183 (Copy)

From an Indian village to  a Civil War Military Post and then a cemetery.  The spot is historic  and remembered.

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We went to the local historical museum for Calcasieu Parish. (Pronounced cal-ca-shu.)  We often see museums in old houses where each room is furnished according to the times. Here, instead,  mock-ups, like dioramas, of rooms. You could see everything in it.  I liked that approach better than rooms where you can’t get a picture of everything in it.

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There is always something different in a museum that represents the area and I wasn’t disappointed.

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These are old Mardi Gras masks.

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Crossed pistols are used as part of the rail decoration on a bridge we crossed. They are small and when crossing the bridge I wasn’t sure I was seeing right. The museum had the answer. The bridge IS decorated with crossed pistols, the significance of which I did not ask of the docent. I did a poor job of covering the museum because they had a special exhibit of seven Matisse’s , an equal number of Joan Mirro’s and three pieces of decorated pottery from Picasso. I got very excited about the ceramics because I had never seen his ceramic work before.  I’m not a fan of Mirro’s work. But Matisse I like and I couldn’t get very interested in the rest of the museum with this stellar exhibit going on. (No pictures, of course.) I entered Picasso Ceramics in a web url and found a lot of it for sale. Some of it in the $60,000 range, and some in the $3,000 range. I found it interesting anyway.

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From there we went to the beautiful Old City Hall building where they were featuring an exhibit of fifty of the best photos from National Geographic.  A riveting exhibit  showed the pictures with the story of how the photographer got a particular shot. Underwater Titanic, a lion fight, a Kabul group of women in traditional chadri, with a small child, endearingly clear faced and happy, innocent of her black covered future. A white wolf jumping icebergs, a charging elephnt, a polar bear swimming underwater, nappiing children covered with dust from Sub-Saharan Mali. A lonesome cowboy, branding and castrating cattle,a bustling city scape in New York. No pictures of course. I’m determined to find out if National Geographic has published them in one feature of their magazine and buy that copy.

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We couldn’t take pictures of the exhibit, but we got good advice about where to have lunch from Latin DeClouet…

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…and Harold Raney.  We got to talking about French heritage, and like us, both Latin and Harold are predominantly French.

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My salad, and Jim’s French onion soup were delicious.

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The service was great, the menu terrific, about sixty different choices of tea and a bit of gossip. DSC02252 (Copy)

The Noblesse Oblige is located across a side street from the City Hall.

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Lake Charles has train tracks running down the middle of one of their major streets. We drove to the Arts and Humanity Center to see the Mardi Gras Museum.

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Earlier “fancy” costumes were relatively simple. That is, if you can consider the above costumes of retired Queens simple.

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Now a queen is more likely to dress in elaborate costume.

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Feathers and sequins are de riguer.

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This costume is heavily laden with rhinestones to make the Statue of liberty and New York skyline. Heavily laden, heavy to wear.DSC02270 (Copy)

But, how heavy can you go? Check this costume out below.

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Here is a picture of its maker and wearer. The head-dress is half again as tall as he is. DSC02271 (Copy)

In the right hand corner you can zoom in and see how huge this man’s costume is. The museum is so stuffed full, in some areas you cannot get back far enough to shoot a full picture. Each retired King and Queen  has a picture of  themselves in costume.

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In this costume, the king’s head sits between the opened jaws of lions. All of them are amazing and the price to get in is $2. It is the largest Mardi Gras Costume museum in the world.

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There is another part of Mardi Gras costuming called during the Chase The Chicken, which is the real basis for Mardi Gras. Those costumes look like this. We will be chasing the chicken on Fat Tuesday.DSC02288 (Copy)

Elaborate costuming  is one thing. Size is another. Capes or trains from the museum hang from ceiling to floor. This old building has high ceilings. During Mardi Gras 2010, we learned that people spend thousands of dollars for their costumes. They begin working on the next year’s the day after Mardi Gras is over.


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Always dramatic, cost is no object.

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I hope you can get some perspective of this place. Difficult to photograph because most of the costumes are tightly packed together and over lappiing each other. You must go for yourself.

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The Hun Dynasty is from 200 B.C. Most Chinese are Han Qiang (han-chung)) The greatest challenge to China is the Tibetan people.  China seems to step all over itself when they try and crack down on Tibet with the  whole world watching. There was a border incident just after we left where two Tibetan’s were killed. Yunnan Province borders India, Burma, Laos and Vietnam and was once the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao that defeated Chinese armies and controlled the trade routes to India and Burma before Khublai Khan. America’s Flying Tigers were based here and thwarted  the Invasion of China by Japan in the 1940’s.  The province of Yunnan has 25 different minority groups. China is  still  leery of minority people who might try to be independent and form their own government. It is so peaceful and beautiful here, we find it hard to understand. Viki tells us that at one time China was set into strict class lines. Her grandfather was a scholar and was sent to Shenyang Province and lived with the Uygurs or Greware people, under very tough living conditions. He married there and  Vicki’s mother was born there and married  an Ethnic born in Urumki. He was persecuted and sent to a “struggle” meeting and made to live in a cow shed. He tried to kill himself but Grandmother was strong and he survived and eventually the family was allowed to move to the city.  When Viki  was a child, learning how wonderful Mau was, she once heard her Grandfather say, “Mau is a bad guy” knowing he could be killed for saying so.  One of her Uncles was a Red Guard and considered her father a traitor and accused him of crimes and persecuted his own brother. When Mau died, everyone went crazy. Some wanted revenge, others shed tears. Afterwards, they wondered how stupid they could be. Life under Mau was unpleasant for most people. We really appreciate Vicki’s  openness  about China’s infamous past and faux pas of the present.

This is the walled entrance to Jiliang where modern vehicles can drive. Buses are not able to drive into the city.

Tourists unload and walk into the city or load into a smaller vehicle. I took this picture mainly because the  baby boy is wearing split pants. You can’t really tell. But Chinese children traditionally were  not diapered. Some still wear split pants and are set down to urinate or poop and the parents pick up the waste and deposit it somewhere just as in the old days when human fertilizer was saved for the fields. The government, according to Viki,  discourages the practice and most city babies are diapered.

And, as expected, modern vehicles share the road with the more common bike-trucks.

The river and the ancient water ways dominate the city which sits at the confluence of three different rivers.  Before the fire burned half the city down, every street in Jiliang  was narrow for people walking or on horse back with a waterway beside  the walkway.

Entrance to each shop next to the waterway is a rudimentary bridge, often old planks.

The streets are teeming with customers and no one would even think it was dangerous. The U.S. would bring it up to code and ruin this ancient city, we think. It is at least 3,000 years old.

In front of this shop is a character asking people to pay to have their picture taken with him in his native costume.  His pipe reaches to the ground.

I’m entranced and sneak a picture of him. Isn’t he gorgeous? Oh, to have the language!

Water loving willows grow profusely and grace many of the old buildings.

But, most of the activity is on the square.

These sturdy little horses are called Jiliang Horses and are a desired commodity among the mountain people of this area. At one time they were a trade commodity along the famous Silk Road. The horses outlived the market for silk and eventually tea trade dominated the Silk Road.

These horsemen had parked their steeds and didn’t mind having their picture taken. They appeared to be working wranglers or traders of some sort.

The square is always filled with entertainment, like this  Naxi group dancing  and singing. I curse myself for not taking more pictures. There were tumblers, jugglers and magicians with a vessel out for donations much like break dancers and musicians do in San Francisco. This day is Oct. 30th, a double nine (lucky) lunar holiday. (I have no clue what that means.) It is wonderful to have a day in this ancient city that began as a stop along the Tea-Horse Road, a network of high paths and dangerous passes over the mountains into Tibet and other parts of China. The tea was packed in bricks and bales and we still see it sold that way in bricks, bales and huge hat shaped rings.  We couldn’t figure out what the bales were until we left Jiliang and asked Vicki who explained that those tea shops we saw, with myriad tea pots and cups, were really selling tea.

Michal and I do some last minute souvenir shopping and arrange to meet Wanning and Judge Dean Determan for dinner on the moat adjacent to our hotel which is the only food court in town where all the exotic foods, the music and night life happens. The paving stones were once washed by a trick of the ancient water system where the town streets and square was flooded and rinsed  debris back into the river. Wanning shows us her haul, beautiful scarves about six feet long and three feet wide for $4 each.  She leads us back to the shop at dusk and we get them for $3. She says, “And I’m Chinese, I’ve been taken.”  We all laugh. On our way back for dinner, a vendor tried to sell us fried grubs, inch worms and cockroaches for a snack, but we declined.  We instead opt for a dish Wanning and Dean recommend with a tomato broth and noodles with bits of water buffalo and beef. But before we decide, one animal on the butcher block looks familiar but we can’t identify what meat it is. “Dachshund,”  says Vicki who is always around on the fringes of our activity to answer questions. We  groaned but Vicki is very forthright and doesn’t try to protect our western squeamishness or apologize for their customs. We decide the people in this area like their pets too much.

We  keep gawking fascinated by every thing we see.  The octopus, urchins, shelled creatures we can’t identify. Fish with heads and eyes and fins still intact. The insects and beetles, turtles and strange colored mushrooms. Pickled vegetables we have never seen before. Seeds and pods and edible grasses and baked delights in neon colors. We can’t decide which is most fascinating, people watching or cruising the food court; listening to thousand year old  music, or the hum of exotic languages;  “hiyee!”   sharp musical calls from waiters scurrying back and forth between tightly packed tables. The glow from ambient lantern and torch light;  people stooped or sitting cross legged  in dark corners.  We know we are glimpsing the threads of an ancient past, with no definition but magical.  Unforgettable.




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Yesterday, we had an after breakfast visit with an engineer, lunch with a comedian, and caught up with a couple of business women friends of Jim’s.

I have to admire couples who celebrate 59 years of marriage, like Jim and Joan Belluomini. They are rare.  From their home base in Lacey, they are avid ramblers and road warriors.  Jim B. sent  us on a quest for a new telephone, claiming you CAN get good service with the proper equipment. Never argue with an engineer.  We visited an AT&T store in Lacey and learned that newer phones connect to towers that older phones cannot. Jim’s phone does everything but wash the dishes. I expect to quit complaining about my poor phone service, at home and on the road, soon.

Shawn Newman, an attorney Jim met during their Public Access Television days in Olympia gives these Vietnamese sesame balls the evil eye. In fact he came hustling through the door and said, “Do you like sesame balls?” his prelude to a comic monologue all through lunch. He took his dog to the vet because she had bad breath. So bad that when she sat on his chest in the middle of the night it was a command to get up and go outside.  The vet  handed him a  bag full of dog teeth,  “…they gave me the teeth like a car part?…”  but, it didn’t cure the problem.  Like me, an adventurous eater, we tried White Gourd Tea, and Penny Ginkgo Leaf Tea, (I may be fracturing the name.)  Both good, different. White Gourd tastes like caramel corn. The other more like pumpkin, wheat.

Whenever Jim hits his old hunting grounds, he looks up Kerri Kauffman, a long time friend. He teases her that she is dating the same guy after 13 years with no plans for marriage nor do they  live together. That is unusual in this day and age.

Then over to the CCTV Studio, where Debbie Vinsel has been manager for 22 years. They play catch-up with old friends, where they are, what they are doing  now, as old friends do. However, Debbie and I share a mutual friendship as well, Paul Moeller from CCTV Calaveras County.

I forgot to mention that Shawn reminded me of the program (radio)  begun in the 1940’s called This I Believe.  And, I have to say, This I Believe, I learn something from everyone. It is now available on-line.

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