birthday celebrations upstate | catskills, NY

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It's been a year since we went to World's End State Park for Dillon's last birthday, and although that was a magical find, I had another place in mind this year! Me and two friends bought a home in the Catskills earlier this summer and are excited to tackle the project that it is. Regardless, I wanted to christen the home and land by celebrating with friends, fires and fireworks. 

Just a few photos for now. More about the home and our DIY project-ing later.

Travel guide 3/3: Vancouver Island via Tofino & Ucluelet

Oh, Vancouver Island.

A final ferry ride brought us from Port Angeles into Victoria. The city is bustling with bicycles and coffee shops and bright sun, as expected during Canadian summers. We took a long drive to arrive at our cabin in Ucluelet, British Colombia - a small town 15 miles south of the popular surfing area, Tofino. I found a cute spot in the woods for us to stay that had a hot tub (a requirement for at least one of our accommodations on each trip).

After so much hiking and driving and seeing, it was nice to have the most relaxing part of our trip come at the end. There was sleeping in, and eating out, and strolling along empty beaches. Most of Vancouver Island's provincial parks are full of tourists, similar to what you'd imagine the Grand Canyon's parking lot to look like. As you drive mile after mile (slowly, because of trucks), the population starts to fade and you arrive to a quiet and sleepy part of Canada.

We ate a wonderful meal at Kuma Tofino, a tiny little bungalow filled with fresh cocktails and authentic Japanese food. And Dillon enjoyed what I can only imagine were the freshest oysters at the bar of the Ice House, while I guzzled down some crisp rosé. One morning I snuck out to grab pastries, and stumbled upon Zoe's Bakery and Café, a few minutes into Ucluelet. People and dogs spilled out onto the porch, sipping coffee and enjoying plates full of muffins and quiche and all things that make breakfast the best meal of the day. We didn't make it to Wolf in the Fog, after getting too hungry before our 9pm reservation, but I'd suggest trying to get there (if you make a reservation ahead of time!).

One thing I wouldn't take back for the world is the seaplane we took with Tofino Air. Having been on a helicopter together once before, we weren't so sure how different this would be. Gliding into the clouds from the Pacific Ocean is a pretty amazing experience, though, and one that included soaring above glaciers and watching whales close to the shore. I can't recommend enough how incredible it is to see the place you've been hiking through from the air. The colors and shapes put into perspective the scale of the land you've been traversing. 

The Wild Pacific Trail is a 9km network of trails built by a passionate Ucluelet native named "Oyster Jim." It weaves in and out of woods and rocky cliffs that overlook the sea and beyond. No surprise here, try to experience this during sunset to see magical rays of light hitting the waves and casting shadows over the rock faces. Tale is you might even see a bear on the paths. It's easy hiking with large view impact at each turn. I might have had a glass or two of rosé before "hiking" this.

If you are up for a long, winding drive and are looking to hike through woods to magical beaches, Tofino and Ucluelet are for you. Each secluded piece of coast has sea creatures flowing out of mini tide pools and tree-sized pieces of smooth drift wood that make a great bench while you eat a PB&J. There are plenty of accommodations in both towns; mainly boutique hotels and small seaside cabins, and the bar and restaurant scene is truly booming with local seafood. Sadly, here, we ended our 10 days away and started our 24 hours of travel back to Philadelphia.

Travel guide 2/3: Olympic National Park via Port Angeles

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As per my last post, when the Beach Store Café is closed on your last morning out of town, sometimes you gotta stop for a roadside hot dog at 10am. And that's just what we did before a gorgeous ferry ride to the western tip of Washington. 

It's possible we could have spent our whole trip just exploring Olympic National Park. Out of the ten or so I've been to, I think it's my favorite National Park. From our *amazing* Airbnb in Port Angeles, we only scratched the surface of the lakes, trails and rainforests. Despite the hours I spend looking for perfect little cabins for us to stay in, sometimes the options are just limited. Stumbling upon our treehouse on a goat and sheep farm definitely felt like kismet. It was one of my favorite Airbnbs ever because a hot breakfast was included (and brought to you in bed) every morning. Oh! And our lovely hosts had just gotten a corgi puppy two days before arriving, so that's basically all I remember from the entire trip now. See below. 

On your way into Port Angeles, you'll pass through Sequim, a sweet little town with just a few little places to stop for a bite. Desperately wanting a cat nap, we quickly grabbed sandwiches from Pacific Pantry, which ended up being one of the best (and cheapest) meals out we had. The little shop has all locally made sausages, breads and spreads. Get a side of potato or chicken salad, as well!

After that well-deserved nap (so much driving today, props to Dillon), we drove 20 minutes to Lake Crescent for a sunset canoe ride. Like most of the National Parks, there are lodges for those looking for fine dining and a real bed while exploring the beauty of this country. I had read about canoe rentals at Lake Crescent Lodge, which was definitely a gorgeous little spot on a lake that is truly paradise.

Personally, I find a lot of the National Park lodges tacky and a little too "resort" feeling. But this felt quaint with its tiny cabins, which all had views of the crystal blue lake. In the front was a porch-side restaurant and main room with a fireplace; they were doing something right here. For $30 you can rent a canoe for a few hours and head out into the waters. After a peaceful ride with only one other boat on the water, we explored the walking trails off the Lodge's property. Adirondack chairs line the shore, and all the guests mingle there to drink what I assume is really good red wine. It's really a lovely place to spend a few evenings.

We did hike for a few hours in the Hoh Rainforest the following morning, but didn't really feel it was the best place to spend time. It was crowded like the Jersey shore, with cars parking along the shoulder once parking lots filled. If you haven't already been on 5 hikes and seen some crazy moss-covered trees, maybe it's a good stop. We were fortunate to have had pristine woods to ourselves for the past few days on Lummi Island.

After a dinner cooked in our little kitchenette, we drove up and up and up to the top of Hurricane Ridge. This is a place you don't want to miss at sunrise or sunset. We chose a hike we could do in an hour or two, that way we'd get the best sunset, and wouldn't have to hike back in total darkness. Hurricane Hill was perfect for that (though very steep!).

Before parking in a secluded lot at the end of the park, we peaked out our car window to see a black bear family, with cubs in tow. Dillon accidentally spooked them and they bear-crawled up a tree. So. Cute.

All the way a mile up there really are no signs of humans. This hike has a pretty narrow path with more fauna and flora than you knew existed. Baby deer and fat marmots roamed the rocky cliff edge. I (illegally) picked a few wildflowers to decorate our treehouse with. And we saw an epic sunset pouring into Canada. It's a pretty wild view from the top.

As it was Dillon's first time to the west coast, we needed to find a real Pacific sunset. And what better evening to do it on than the Solstice? I don't think we could have been much luckier finding such a majestic beach. Colors changed every minute, and photographers lined up with their tripods to catch the latest sunset of the year. After a short walk through a typical, magical woods, Second Beach in La Push (yes, something about Twilight) stares you in the face. 

Rock formations are being beaten down by waves, sun beams stream through pine trees. People are camped on the beach with fires raging and are bound to see some incredible stars above them as the last light fades.

We had a pleasantly serene few hours here, despite it being a popular destination for surfers and photographers alike. It must be the sounds of the waves drowning out others, or maybe it's just a place filled with reverence. 

Sun or fog, make the drive.

Travel guide 1/3: Lummi Island, Bellingham, North Cascades National Park

Trying a little something new here with a more detailed version of my trip itineraries. It's something I love doing just as much as baking bundt cakes, and I'm happy to share my plans and reflections with whoever is reading along (ask me for my Google Docs!). I broke a recent trip into three parts to give some in-depth info about these areas! Starting off, we stayed on the elusive Lummi Island, just off the coast of Bellingham, Washington, with a population of 822. It's a tiny fishing town that has been mainly built up along the water for breathtaking foggy views of the Puget Sound.

From our home base, a little studio cabin sitting along the water, we ventured across the Sound (on the Whatcom Chief ferry) to places like Bellingham and North Cascades National Park. Bellingham is surrounded by parks and state forests that put the Wissahickon to shame. Swimming holes, waterfalls, and moss-covered trees become expected as you weave through the local woods. We chose to swing by Whatcom Falls Park, which is a lot like a local natural preserve that families and dog-owners stop by for an afternoon stroll. It is covered with a few miles of hiking trails, a huge set of falls, and a place to plunge off of rocks into cold, clear water. Stimpson Family Nature Reserve is a bit more secluded, and has gorgeous boardwalk bridges and a beaver pond. We did both of these hikes before an early dinner at Aslan Brewery, an industrial space full of tropical plants with the tastiest rice bowls, brews, and waffle fries. Bellingham seems be covered in small breweries, and their food is way above normal pub standards.

It was usually in the mornings and after dinner that we got to really explore Lummi Island. The island is a truly peaceful place where time barely moves at all and no one is really around to see how little you do. It's a place to stare off into the endless waters and imagine what sorts of boats and whales have passed through. We were lucky enough to have bikes at our cabin and did some sunset exploring along the northern half of the island (mainly to stalk The Willows, which I just couldn't justify the price for... but seriously do it if you're ready to throw down $500/couple.).

The island has some sort of magic trapped in it. It's quiet and perfectly lonely, yet there are faint signs of beach campfires as if someone just like you was enjoying that same spot only moments before. The Baker Preserve is a steep (but short!) trail up to a magnificent view of the San Juan Islands. We saw one other human walking her dog to enjoy the view together. Do this at sunset, bring a flashlight for your way back, and don't step on the banana slugs!

If you're up for a drive (thankfully I have Dillon), the North Cascades National Park is only two hours from Lummi Island. And even though we went on a foggy and somewhat rainy day (but isn't the PNW better in the fog?!), it was totally worth seeing silhouettes of trees way atop mountains. We interrupted a bald eagle who had been chomping down on a big old rabbit along the Skagit River. We drove all the way through the mountains and even had time for a hike at Diablo Lake. The Thunder Knob trail isn't anything to write home about, but the views of the Lake from the top definitely make it worth it.

I was super bummed to find the one casual eatery on Lummi Island closed on our last morning. Make sure to check their hours and make it to the Beach Store Café! Instead I ate a hot-dog at 10am before getting on a huge ferry, but I'll save that story for another day. We were off to Olympic National Park. Part 2/3 soon to come.

Girls' Weekend in Chicago

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Do you sometimes forget how easy it is to be with your best friends? I had a reminder of that in Chicago last month, when we had a girls' reunion in the Windy City (plus Kyle and Abner...). We had lovely Chicago-spring weather - wind and specular light - and ate, drank, and danced until us old girls fell asleep around 2am.

Meredith and Kyle live in Logan Square (where we also rented a cute little Airbnb), so we made sure to do a brunch at Lula Cafe, where literally everything on the menu is worth getting. After filling our table with tofu & maitake mushroom scramble, a poached egg with raclette, and a ricotta & spring onion quesadilla (woah!), we naively ordered the pastry basket. Despite being too full to finish it after our meals, we heated them up the next day with mimosas and a famous Kyle breakfast. Worth it.

We spent the nicest day roaming the grounds and halls of Garfield Park Conservatory (FREE 365 days a year!). After staring in awe at the succulent room, we stumbled upon a field of opening tulips and daffodils. It's possible we laid there crying about the beauty of Earth for a moment. Anyway - don't miss this place, no matter what time of year you're in Chicago. For us Philly folks, it was almost Longwood Gardens-impressive, but you save the $25 and are spared the endless sea of children. 

Despite my being a whiskey girl, I can't say no to a gin bar. Scofflaw is that place in Logan Square. Their menu features adorable watercolor illustrations of all their house cocktails - mainly gin focused. It's worth trying a snack or two, as well. 

On our last morning, we all freaked out at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits. All my friends know I like to sit down in a well-decorated space with a bellini for brunch, but eating a sloppy biscuit sandwich on a picnic bench was actually better than that. Especially with guard-dog Abner making sure no food fell on the floor.

My heart felt full after reuniting the five girls I partied with, lived with, fought with, and danced with through my best years of early adulthood. I'll never get over not being able to sit on a stoop with them most afternoons, but weekends like these make up for it. All my love.

Galentine's Day Brunch

It's almost Galentine's Day! For those of you unfamiliar with the girly holiday, it's the day just before Valentine's Day where you celebrate your girlfriends, circa Leslie Knope. It's a holiday for appreciating your closest friends over tasty food and drinks. So I partnered with one of my closest friends, Diana from Unusually Lovely, to create a brunch we could make as beautiful as our friends that attended. Her blog will be filled with recipes about some of the treats we served (and how we made it so beautiful!)

I can only take credit for the cheese board (everyone knows it's one of my favorite things to make and eat) radish crostini, and a mushroom and leek frittata, whose secret ingredient is sour cream!

Additionally, we got to work with some amazing creatives! Kat of From Blossoms made gorgeous table arrangements to make the food look even more magical! The adorable pink plates and napkins are from Anthropologie, The gold flatware is from Target. The pastries sprinkled about are made locally in Fishtown at Cake Life! And of course we served my favorite, Whistle and Cuss coffee from Rival Bros. If you haven't had enough here, make sure to pop over to Diana's blog for more.

Winter Upstate

What better way to spend your week off than in the woods? Cooking, drinking whiskey, splitting firewood and playing board games was definitely the icing on the holiday season. We stayed in a lovely new Airbnb in West Shokan, NY that allowed us to lay around every evening by a gorgeous fireplace. 

 

We visited Foxfire Mountain House one night for drinks and dinner, and ate numerous large meals at the Phoenicia Diner. One morning I dragged everyone to go tubing at Hunter Mountain with gaggles of children, which was a hilarious alternative to skiing or snowboarding. Thursday graced us with a gorgeous snow storm that piled up all over the woods. We spent hours galavanting around the forest and stumbled upon waterfalls and quiet landscapes. It was the perfect trip to get in the mood for the long winter season upon us.

Montana, Wyoming & some buffalo.

One more trip. I went out to Big Sky, Montana to visit one of my best girlfriends that moved out there earlier this summer. Though a short trip, I was wildly impressed with the vastness of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I got to see some new animals (mainly buffalo and antelope), and even a cinnamon bear cub outside our bedroom window.

 

We made a short road trip through the National Parks, ending in Jackson Hole, WY one night, and at Chico - for some hot springs. Hope to be back for that baby bear one day.

Catskills, NY

Over Labor Day we spent another long weekend at our favorite house in the Catskills. This year we tried a new restaurant, Brushland Eating House, and were amazed by their schnitzel and green tomato gazpacho. I highly recommend (especially over Peeakmoose!). 

 

We climbed 3 mountains, saw 5 waterfalls, and spent a few days with some friends. Dillon and Sandi made fires every night, while Meg and I cooked elaborate dinners and warmed the first apple cider of the season.

 

As always, I hope to be back soon. I'll miss the cows until then.

Oh, and my friend, Ian, lent me his Hassleblad for the week, so all of the black & whites were shot with some old 120 film I found!

Palm Springs / Desert Trip

Two weeks ago, I saw the first sign of fall. Some yellowing leaves were falling across the street at the park as I was swimming. I had this realization that I needed to embrace the rest of the long days we have left. So I booked a trip to Palm Springs, somewhere I had never been before.

 

I stayed at the best little boutique resort in Palm Springs. So wonderful, I don't even want to tell you where it is! But I will; Sparrow's Lodge. It's a gem in a sea of party-centric hotels and mediocre food and service. Their staff, decor, kitchen and pool lounge are too perfect! Oh, and the beds!

 

On the second day of my stay, I started the day riding the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway up to the Mount San Jacinto State Park at the top. It's truly incredible to ride a rotating tram 8,500 ft. up and find over 50 miles of hiking trails among redwoods; just minutes after leaving a desert.

Later that evening I wandered to Joshua Tree National Park - which I'm sure you know all about. I went right at sunset to watch the stars come out. With the full moon coming up, there wasn't the sky full of stars I had hoped for. But the pink clouds, full moon and setting sun were enough.

 

If I'm being honest, food in Palm Springs isn't the best. I can't brag enough about Sparrow's Lodge and their kitchen, though. But I spent lunch at The Parker one day, going to Norma's. After hearing the hype, I figured it would be worth the $40 you'll spend on lunch. Can't say that it's true - though the grounds are incredibly kept!

Moorten Botanical Gardens is worth a stop though. A $5 admission gets your into a Cactarium and a walk around some amazing succulents and little lizard friends. They also have some handmade pottery for sale.

Diana of Unusually Lovely

My lovely friend, Diana, runs an awesome blog, Unusually Lovely. She makes the best baked goods, and some of the most interesting cocktail recipes I've seen! We took a few portraits for her blog in front of the new Electric Street mural in South Philly. Everything about her is full of color, smiles and cute outfits, so it was a perfect fit for her style.

 

Camping @ World's End State Park

My guy's birthday is today! So I took him surprise (kind of, everyone is bad at secrets) camping to World's End State Park, up in Forksville, PA. We spent the whole time eating cheeseburgers, foraging mushrooms and sorrel, watching the boys do dangerous things, and being so happy to be away from Philadelphia. I don't think I'll ever forget our english muffin breakfast sandwiches from Saturday morning.

 

For a state park in Pennsylvania, it was a really amazing spot. Thankfully we had some of the better campgrounds, but if you're planning a trip, don't book any in Loop A! Thanks to everyone that joined us in tent city!

 

night boudoir.

Did some exciting things with my photo bud, Michael. We had kind of a crazy shoot, since our subject's entire life was stollen out of my car 10 minutes into the shoot. This includes all her clothes, shoes, jewels and phone. Being a magnificent soul, she wanted to keep shooting so we could have something positive come out of this shitty event. Here is the aftermath:

 

PS, people actually copulate in Penn Treaty Park after dark.

iceland

Dillon at Seljalandsfoss in South Iceland.

Dillon at Seljalandsfoss in South Iceland.

Uhhhhh. I don't have much else than that.

 

Iceland is exactly what everyone says, and then a million things no one tells you. There really are waterfalls every step of your travels, but it's harder to see the Northern Lights than you hoped. Hot dogs really are the traditional road snack food, but you probably aren't ready for the magnitude at which the country exists. It's a country of endless nature and confusing weather; making your heart full of bliss and race with a bit of fear at the same time.

Our trip started in the South of Iceland in Eyrarbakki, a small fishing town. Our cottage was right on the Atlantic and the wind whipped at 40mph every day. It rained, it snowed and then suddenly a golden sun beam came out briefly and warmed the air.

This quaint town was our gateway to the Southwest of the country; exploring waterfalls, open farm land and the best tomato farm you've ever seen.

 

We then moved on to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula for two days of rocky cliffs, eating on the coast and black metal churches (but really, why do all the churches look like heathens built them? Into it.) 

 

I'll leave the rest of the trip for after the photos, since that's why you're here, anyway.

The one thing I'll really push is that the Westfjords are way more beautiful than anything else in the country. If you have time, the right car, and the right season: do it. it's not for the faint of heart, and certainly requires a skilled driver and a sense of adventure. But after we left our third stop of the trip, everything else seemed less incredible. I didn't mean for it to take away from Akureyri and the North, but we spent two days without seeing more than two people. We'd drive for three hours without seeing another car, in the most beautiful, untouched landscape I can imagine. No photo will do that place justice, I swear.

 

After a day in the North that was lackluster (Dimmuborgir was disappointing), the Myvtan Nature Baths were an amazingly empty alternative to going to the Blue Lagoon (and much cheaper!). Think about stopping at those on your trip. A geothermal pool of some kind is definitely worth the money, though. Seljavallalaug is equally amazing in a different way (but not commercialized at all).

 

Our last night was spent eating hot dogs and drinking very expensive cocktails in Reykjavik. It's a really neat city, for sure. Just don't forget about the rest of the country - it's better than any city you'll see.

 

Thanks to my friend Michael for letting me steal his camera to shoot some instant film. And a super big thanks to Jessie, Deanna and Dillon for letting me fall asleep early and still see so much of the country. Oh, and any cool photos of me were taken by Dillon.

Barcelona

I always knew I would fall in love with Barcelona. Work sent me for a week to a city I have dreamed about going to for years. It was just as magical as I had hoped. The city is gorgeous and clean and feels social. Everywhere you look there are restaurants with open doors and conversations spilling out. I accompanied a trip of students studying gastronomy and avant-garde cooking in Spain, so eating our way through the region of ham and wine wasn't a difficult feat (except for some emotional food experiences at Uma).

 

My first few nights I stayed at the Hotel Pulitzer, right above the Gothic Quarter, before moving into Barceloneta, where the students and I stayed in a dorm along the beach. I took a day trip to Monserrat, hiked up a mountain that looked down at the wine region, and ate as much cheese as I could. The last night of our stay was a big soccer match against Madrid. Though soccer is something I don't much care about - I felt compelled to watched the game with locals in a smoke-filled bar (just so I could tell my dad). Hoping to be back in this city some day. Until then, I'll keep dreaming about ham.

Sam Whiteout

Sam is a very old friend who is currently a social media influencer, social justice crusader and a huge crush in the men's fashion world. Him and I met when we were seven in theater camp (sorry to spill the beans, Sam) and have been friends through every step of our lives! Once we decided on a more casual look (though Sam still looks pretty A+), I thought Graffiti Pier, only a few minutes from my house, would be an awesome background for this superstar. Even though Sam isn't living in Philly anymore, it still meant a lot to both of us to shoot in a city we have spent a lot of time in together (though we were usually hitting up Restaurant Week).

NOLA in March

Spanish moss, the smell of beer (and piss?) and café au lait: a long weekend well spent with my father in New Orleans. I decided to take each of my parents on trips for Christmas so I could enjoy some one-on-one time creating memories. NOLA was the perfect destination for my father and I who love food, music and watching drunk people do silly things. We stayed in a great Airbnb in Esplanade Ridge, a quiet residential neighborhoods with a few cafes and bars.

 

The evening before we left we spent in the swamps of Lafitte, LA. It was one of the highlights of the trip, as the alligators had finally emerged from hibernation - we must have seen dozens! My two restaurant recommendations are Sylvain for brunch and Kingfish for cocktails (and food of all kinds!). I hope to make it back some day to eat more po' boys and beignets.

Winter in Brighton

I love the beach in winter. Hot summer days are made for cool swims, but the crowds in New Jersey leave me wishing I was at a secluded lake house instead. The deadness, deafness, of the winter beach is so serene and calming; reaffirming the silence of the season. And it means shooting in lingerie is totally acceptable. Seagulls stalked us, smelling the potato knish we had in our pockets, and a cold winter mist came down during this shoot at Brighton Beach.