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.

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.

 

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.

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).