Category Archives: food

Memphis in June

Or, at least, the South in June…

I can’t believe how quickly Summer is approaching – it’s been a busy Spring!

Between work (all three jobs, plus smaller side hustles!), my involvement with the Young Democrats of GeorgiaThe Young Democrats of Augusta-Richmond CountyThe Columbia County Democratic PartyRCSAS, school (all As, thank you very much!), and as a contributing writer for Live Your Dream, it’s pretty much non-stop all day, every day. I can’t really complain, though, as it’s all fulfilling, and on top of all of that, I also get to flex my creative muscles with weddings, cake baking, & personal writing, so the balance is starting to fall into place. Since my facebook and twitter feeds are already full of politics, I’ll not bore you here with it and instead share a few of the other things I’ve been up to over the past month and a half.

My mom and I went to the lavender farm in upstate South Carolina and came back with a plentiful supply! Lavender simple syrup was made first, followed by blackberry lavender jam, and I’m still filling jars full of dried lavender buds. The simple syrup was used to soak lemon cakes – one of which was for a Memorial Day low-country boil at a friend’s house and the other for Humanitree House.

 

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lavender infused lemon cake

 

Each cake was iced with a lemon buttercream and sprinkled with fresh lavender on top – all vegan, of course. I was really happy with how this recipe turned out – a nice combination of moist and fluffy, with just a hint of lavender that wasn’t overpowering.

Strawberry season started early this year (looking at you, global warming) and ended this past weekend, but I took as many opportunities as I could to hit up the u-pick. We’ve got jars of strawberry preserves stocking the fridge, which are even more delicious when spread on homemade strawberry loaf!

 

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freshly picked strawberries with honey from Duck Feather Herbs & handmade wooden spoon from The Hermit & Co.  plus mint from the garden

 

In between baking, I was fortunate enough to have two pieces of work published. The first was in WSU’s literary journal, LandEscapes, and the other was in a book produced by Weaver House Co. about textiles. There are still some books at Weaver House available, as well as some really beautiful weavings!

 

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There’s really nothing like fruits and veggies this time of year. We planted artichokes last summer, and they finally produced! I was SO PROUD of these delicious gals! It was *almost* too hard to eat them, but somehow, I managed. 😉

 

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One of my co-workers has backyard chickens and every Friday, she sells the most beautiful eggs. I don’t always eat eggs, but when I do (insert meme here), they are always fresh! Look at these pretty colors!

 

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I’m now salivating because blackberry season has finally started! I had wanted to pick my own, but they won’t let you do that at the farm with the strawberry patch due to snakes! Regardless, I got a bunch that were pre-packed, ready to make jams and cakes! The farm also has rows and rows of gladiola and zinnias and I can never leave without filling my car to the brim. I’ll save those for another post, though!

 

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ready to become blackberry lavender jam

 

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blackberry champagne cake

 

Finally, with the premiere of the new season of ‘Twin Peaks,’ I had no choice but to make a cherry pie. I know I wasn’t the only one enjoying a slice!

 

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I suppose I should have made something for the latest season of ‘House of Cards,’ which gave me LIFE. Also, Robin Wright in ‘Wonder Woman’ is seriously the greatest thing ever. I could wax poetic about her right now, but then I’d end up crying (again) so instead, I’ll just daydream about owning the Antiope Barbie doll.

In other news that will be detailed in the next update, baby Iris turned 1 and we adopted an 11-year-old deaf Boston baby named Spanky, who I like to call Spankmaster Flash. He is just the sweetest and they are getting along swimmingly! All the heart eyes for my babies.

Fingers crossed I can knock out another blog post by the end of the month. I’ve got a wedding this weekend, and am super excited about the flowers we’ve ordered – plus, the site is incredible. Now, if only I could decide what cake flavor to make next…any suggestions?

 

 

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bread and roses*

Since I’ll be baking a blackberry cobbler tonight for a friend, I’ve got dessert on the mind and thought I’d share some of the cakes I’ve made recently. I had a last minute order for a birthday cake this past weekend that was fun to do, as I was given carte blanche in regards to the filling. I used my beloved vegan Lithuanian white cake for the base, soaked the layers in a homemade lemon simple syrup, and enrobed it in a fresh strawberry icing. Because I was short on time, I opted to decorate it with strawberries and candied lemon slices, leftover from the lemons I used for the simple syrup.

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My jadeite cake stand is one of my favorites, and it always looks good with pink icing! The best part about cake-making is leveling the tops – delicious scraps for days! I inevitably have leftover icing, as well, so makeshift cake sandwiches are made frequently. I’ve yet to use the scraps for cake pops, as I’m still on the fence about those. I know that sounds weird, but THEY seem weird to me!

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The client I had before this one had requested a cake with a bohemian theme, with fresh flowers. She also wanted the white cake, but with fresh raspberries for the filling and icing – this happens to be my favorite combination, so I was quite eager to make it and lick the spoon!

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I really enjoy using fresh flowers as decoration, and will never tire of using roses and raspberries together. Again, the color palette of jade green & rose pink will never grow old…

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She also wanted a bit of the “naked cake” look, so the icing wasn’t applied on it too thickly.

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those flowers, tho!

We have “treat day” at the station each year which encompasses delicacies of both the savory and sweet variety,  and, naturally, I bring some kind of dessert. Last year I made a vegan dark chocolate yule log, but this year I decided to go with something a little simpler, and made a gingerbread cake with cream cheese icing and candied cranberries.

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We are savages at work when it comes to food, so the cake was gone within an hour, at best.

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holiday cake baby

Last, but not least, I made a dark chocolate cake for my former 😦 co-worker’s birthday. I don’t really like chocolate cake, and because I think they all taste bad, I can never gauge whether or not mine are okay, haha. Still looking for that perfect chocolate cake recipe, so if you’ve got one, PLEASE send it my way!

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Inspired by one of my friend’s love for violet-flavored candies, I’ve got violet simple syrup on the mind now, and am thinking of making that the star of my next cake. I’m also leaning toward a slightly tart, slightly sweet grapefruit and poppy seed cake – doesn’t grapefruit curd sound so good?!

*extra credit if you get the title’s reference!

summer wine

July was wild. It’s my favorite month because we make our annual trip to Hilton Head, the days are rife with summer storms, the gardens are overflowing, and there are many celebrations. This July was particularly full, as we enjoyed the beach, drove into Savannah, toasted a friend’s engagement, and then I flew off to Philadelphia and New York for the DNC and to see two of my best friends. Now that I have a month off from the 2nd of my 4(!) jobs, I will have some time to catch up and actually write! While I get everything in order, here’s a sneak peek through photos of what is to come.

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sunsets at Hilton Head

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sunday morning tea blending

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trespassing through a nearly demolished recording studio in Savannah

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vegan blueberry banana bread

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twilight hour engagement parties

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the shakespeare garden in central park

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celebrating the success of nominating HRC as the first female candidate of a major party

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thrift store finds & birthday surprises

Fingers crossed I can get on a regular schedule here! 😉

 

Food, Glorious Food

I really love food. I mean I really, REALLY love it. While eating lunch, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. It should come as no surprise, then, that when visiting other cities, meal planning is high on my list of priorities.

While I had some favorites to hit up in Olympia & Portland (hello, Big Tom’s!), I was eager to explore other restaurants. To be honest, I would have been fine with fries and goop from Big Tom’s the entire time, but I think that my traveling companion might have bickered!

We actually spent a good bit of time at the Olympia Farmers Market, sampling all the goodies that vendors were selling. We tried homemade macarons (passion fruit for Travis & me, peanut butter for Peter & Nicole), the delicious homemade sauerkraut, freshly picked cherries, and tayberry & marionberry jams. We got up early one morning to get breakfast there so Peter could try the Cap’n Crunch shake, and I had an enormous vegan breakfast sandwich.

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breakfast of champions

I wish we could have taken home all of the plants, fruits, and veggies at the market. I am going to order some of the tayberry jam from Johnson Berry Farm because it’s just so good! The tayberry is a cross between a Scottish raspberry and an Aurora blackberry, and it’s a perfect blend of sweet and tangy.

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nothing like fresh washington cherries

Once in Portland, I had to take Peter to Sushi Ichiban, where my friend, Ainsley, of Palate Polish, hipped me to their “Eliza” roll last year. I could go on and on about the amount of premium quality sushi that you get for next to nothing, but I won’t since I think I already did that on a post from last year. 😉

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oh, eliza

While I follow a primarily vegan diet, I have a weakness for fancy ice cream. After seeing numerous friends posting about Salt & Straw, I knew we’d have to go. There are, fortunately, several Portland locations, because the first one we went to had a line that wrapped around the block. The second one had a line, as well, but we only ended up waiting about fifteen minutes and it was every bit worth the wait. I tried to convince Peter to get the Fish Sauce Caramel with Palm Sugar flavor off of their Fermentation Series, but he wasn’t having it. Instead, he chose the Freckled Woodblock Chocolate with Cinnamon Snickerdoodle, and I got Honey Lavender and the Sourdough with Chocolate and Cherries off of the June Fermentation menu. I’m looking at the July menu currently, and trying not to cry because the flavors of the Berry Series look amazing. Portland Creamery’s Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero & Gin Spiced Blackberry Jam and Chocolate Chips? I’m dying. And now, thanks to Salt & Straw, I have been ruined. We got ice cream at Bluebird in Seattle, which was also good, but it just wasn’t the same. I am beyond tempted to join the “Pints Club” and have it shipped to my door…

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honey lavender & sourdough w/chocolate & cherries

While wandering around Portland, we had a light dinner at Maurice, a sweet French & Scandinavian luncheonette named after the owner’s rabbit! The airy, white interior, is filled with a mismatch of tables and chairs, vintage tins & flatware, marble counters, & a fully stocked bakery case of impeccable sweets. It’s the kind of place where you’d pop in for a quick fika break, have a first date, or a dinner party with all of your girlfriends. Peter enjoyed a vegetable risotto while I dined on a cool melon soup and beet & strawberry smorebrod.

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melon soup with crusty bread & tomatoes


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beet & strawberry smorebrod

Because we enjoy the art of dining so much, we drove into Seattle one evening simply to have dinner in Chinatown. Upon entering Ping’s Dumpling House, you feel like you have been transported to a rural Chinese home. The inside looks nothing like what you would expect from the outside – it’s far better. And then there are the dumplings. We were pretty hungry, so we ordered up a feast containing two types of dumplings (mixed vegetable and wood ear mushroom), a large bowl of “almost tofu,” and a giant vegetable steamed bun. All of this was served alongside a pot of hot tea and several sauces with which to dip your dumplings. I don’t think either of us really expected just how many dumplings would arrive – we ended up with about two dozen total! Much like at Sushi Ichiban, we left stuffed while at a bargain price. While I probably wouldn’t buy much from the adjoining market, I would highly recommend the restaurant section to anyone and everyone.

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dumplings for days

The best meal we had, however, came from Nicole. Being able to just sit at their home and eat pasta with our friends, Boston Terriers begging at our feet, was so nice. Nothing beats a bowl of noodles with fresh veggies from the market and a glass of wine!

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mmm gluten

I’m heading back to Philly and into NYC toward the end of the month and have already begun my food research. High on the list are Russ & Daughters, a snack of Peruvian Fries from VStreet, and 35 cent pretzels. If you have any recommendations, please send them my way!

Motownphilly’s back again

I’m super hungry today and all I can think about is the amazing food I ate in Philly. Because Crystal works at VStreet, that was my first stop the night I arrived, where, as I mentioned previously, she had saved me a soft serve “Cruise Ship:” piña colada ice cream with chunks of pineapple upside down cake and a cherry on top. It’s seriously what dreams are made of – vegan ice cream perfection!

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cruise ship soft serve

After a day at the Mutter Museum and Chinatown on Friday, I met back up with Crystal at VStreet for dinner and I seriously thought they might have to roll me out of there. She hooked me up with some appetizers to start – mint chutney green beans with papadum and Peruvian fries with aji Amarillo, cilantro, dried olives, & peanuts. I could eat those fries everyday – not to say that I’ve ever met a potato I didn’t like BUT these were some of the best I’ve ever had. The Indian-spiced green beans had a really commendable flavor, as well.

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mint chutney green beans

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Peruvian fries

For my main course, I ordered the Korean fried tempeh tacos. Large pieces of tempeh were cradled by a soft tortilla and enrobed with radish kimchee, grilled tomato sriracha and sriracha thousand island dressing. I added some other sauces, whose names I forget now, but both of which added an extra kick of heat to the tacos. I’ve been imagining them all day! Perfect for a taco cleanse, eh? Even though I was pretty stuffed, I couldn’t leave without another dish of soft serve, and they sent me out some of their caramel popcorn, too. By this time, the snow had begun to fall and snowpocalypse was on the way, so I decided to get a cab back to the house in order to beach out on the bed and contemplate the bad decisions I make in life. 😉 The best part – all of it was vegan!

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jumping on the taco diet bandwagon

I love eating at local spots when visiting new places, and enjoying the most authentic food as possible. No chain restaurants for me! On my list of foods to eat was Polish or Russian food. Since we were snowed in and couldn’t get into NYC, we had to pass on Russian fare, but were able to hike over to Port Richmond for Polish dishes. The aureate decor included disco balls and the sound of Polish soap operas permeated the acoustics of the bar – New Wave Cafe was the very epitome of authenticity. Every Eastern European meal must have hot tea, and they fortunately had some chamomile (I’ve been caffeine-free for two years now!), so I imbibed on that while Crystal tried one of their Polish beers. We split some potato and cheese pierogis with sour cream to start and I was in absolute heaven. Coupled with the fact that The X-Files was to premier that night, it was just too much for me, and I may or may not have started crying over anticipation of the rest of our meal and seeing Mulder and Scully again.

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pierogi!

Crystal ordered stuffed cabbage (I love making a vegetarian, Lithuanian version at home) with a side of mashed potatoes and beet salad, and I got potato pancakes and sauerkraut, accompanied by sour cream and applesauce, of course. The beet salad was definitely the best I’ve ever had – sweet, tangy, sour, earthy, and savory. All the flavors balanced each other perfectly. I wish I had gotten some borscht, too!

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eastern european bliss

Because we traveled far and wide to eat, it didn’t take long to get hungry again. My next request was for some legit Italian food. Thanks to the snowstorm, a lot of places were closed, but we traversed through the Italian Market, anyway. Though on the hunt for spaghetti and/or pizza, Crystal took me to Rim Cafe, where Rene made me a $12 hot chocolate called a “Volcano.” I ordered the 80% dark chocolate ganache “Lava,” but I considered trying the mascarpone one! Topped with more ganache, dark and raspberry chocolate shavings, it was incredibly decadent. I also ordered a mini cannoli, but I’m sad to say that it wasn’t very good – didn’t even touch Deborah’s at Yo Pizza. Watching Rene make the hot chocolate while surrounded by “Godfather” paraphernalia was an experience, nonetheless. If I had had an extra $100 to spend, I would have tried them all!

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“Lava” (apologies for the out of focus photo)

We did end up finding some pizza and spaghetti to round out the evening, and my appetite was finally satiated. I’ve been thinking about those damn tacos all day, and seriously considering trying that taco cleanse – tacos every day can’t be that bad, right? RIGHT???

Killer Tofu*

Before continuing to write about my PDX trip, I want to share with you some of the goodies I’ve been making! As a slight chill has begun to whisper its way into the season, it has moved me to create some warm dishes, full of rich color & flavor. I’ve been particularly fond of using fresh rosemary in both savory and sweet fare this past month. Having a kitchen stocked full of fresh herbs makes daily cooking even more enticing!

Root vegetables have taken center stage for me this Autumn. After enjoying a summer full of beet and peach caprese, it’s now time to slice up the beets -golden & red- and roast them with garlic, sweet potatoes, and carrots. I’m a big enthusiast of “eating your colors,” and there’s no better way than a jewel-toned dish like this one! Toss with fresh sage, parsley, oregano, and rosemary, and you’ve got some beautiful and delicious side dishes.

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roasted sweet potatoes, beets, & garlic with fresh parsley, sage, & oregano

An added bonus-they are completely vegan options! Another pantry item I can never have enough of  is olive oil. From sauteeing a mirepoix for soups and sauces to drizzling as a final touch on top of tomato pies, olive oil is one of those perfect ingredients that brings a recipe together. Not only that, it’s one of the healthiest fats you can eat! Nourishing for your hair, heart, skin, cognitive abilities, etc, it’s just about an ideal food.

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carrots & beets roasted in balsamic, olive oil, & rosemary

Root vegetables don’t have to be just roasted to be enjoyed – I’ve been using them for cozy soups, as well. I enjoyed a homemade parsnip soup in Michigan last Christmas, and decided to try my hand at my own version. This one included carrots, sweet potatoes, and apples, spiced with fresh ginger, tumeric, thyme, & roasted pepitas. Served with a steaming cup of mint tea (also fresh from the garden!), it’s an excellent meal to serve up on a grey, rainy day.

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root soup prep!

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finis!

What’s a dinner without dessert? I always, always have room for something sweet, no matter how big the dinner! I’ve been really in the mood for brownies lately, and instead of brightening them up with mint or orange, I made some with rosemary and sea salt. The recipe I found for these makes a chewy, wonderfully dense (I am not fond of cake-y brownies) brownie that surprises you with it’s hint of chili powder. Drizzled with dark chocolate and sea salt, the flavors compliment each other amazingly well. I did worry that the rosemary would make them taste…weird…but it was actually a pleasant surprise! The rosemary and chili powder heighten each other’s flavor profiles, while the dark chocolate balances them with it’s rich sweetness. These were dairy-free but they did contain eggs. I haven’t tried making them with an egg substitute yet, so if you do, let me know what works best!

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rosemary sea salt brownies

I really, really love the art of food – from the act of creating something delicious to sharing it with others. It doesn’t matter how tired I am after a full day of work, I still love to go home and immerse myself in the soothing process of making something from scratch. The change in the weather brings about a welcoming change in the process, too. It can be a little more complex as we begin to fill our refrigerators full of comfort food rather than the summer’s simple, freshly picked fruits and veggies, but the dishes created quietly warm your bones and your soul. Plus, who isn’t enticed by one’s kitchen becoming an indoor garden, those lush herbs begging to be eaten?

*props to anyone who gets the title reference!

What’s a geoduck?

The drive from Portland to Olympia can be a dangerous one, if you go it alone. That’s simply because the views are incredible. I don’t know how I managed to not hit someone or drive off the road while trying to take pictures and drive at the same time! (sorry, mom).

I got up early to drive to Nicole’s house (should I say, Lucille‘s house???), somehow managing to bypass any jet-lag out of eagerness to see my friend and her Bostons. After lots of puppy snuggles, we hopped in the car to explore and grab lunch. On the way into the city, I noticed this cute little  retro-themed burger shack, replete with dinosaurs and large wooden cut outs of cartoon characters, and thought to myself, “ooh, I hope we go there.” Nicole knows me pretty well because the next thing I knew, we were turning into the parking lot! Holy Hell. I don’t know how Olympia residents don’t eat at Eastside Big Tom’s on a daily basis. I was in veg heaven with veggie burger, hot dog, and chik*n sandwich options, plus fries, tots, and best of all, GOOP. The Goop was pretty much the main reason we went there-it’s a secret sauce they put on their burgers and you can order it on the side for your fries or tots, which I highly recommend. I was skeptical at first, being a big ketchup girl, but now I’m always trying to recreate the Goop in my kitchen across the country. It really is a THING out there! I devoured a veggie burger, fries with Goop, and a marshmallow milkshake before we headed to the farmer’s market.

Eastside Big Tom's!

Eastside Big Tom’s!

The Olympia Farmers Market, known as “The Jewel of Olympia,” really is a gem. I wish I could have bought all of the fruits and veggies they had-especially the Eastern European sauerkraut from Olykraut. (Please bring it to the South!) I did go home with the ‘Pineapple Express’ headband from Pieces to Peaces for my penpal, Adrienne, and a longing to shop there every week. The Farmers Market is in downtown Olympia, within walking distance to Budd Inlet.

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Budd Inlet

I debated buying all of these seed packets to grow in my garden, displayed so beautifully in vintage crates! It was hard not to scoop up all of the fresh lavender that many of the nursery vendors were selling…

sowing the seeds of love

sowing the seeds of love

Every now and then, I have to have an oyster or two. If you’ve ever read M.F.K. Fisher’s Consider the Oyster, then you’ll understand! How gorgeous are these?!

fresh oysters

fresh oysters

After the market, we made our way into the downtown shopping district. While Olympia may be a “college town,” it’s definitely got a big-city feel. The delicately curated shops have something for everyone, my favorite being Compass Rose. From Dram Apothecary bitters to vegan bags by Matt and Nat, stationary by the ever fabulous Cavallini & Co., and the best candles ever by Produce, I had to hold myself back from emptying my wallet there. I did, however, pick up a few 45s from Rainy Day Records. Sweet Nicole waited patiently while I sat on the floor, digging through boxes as quickly as possible! I got a couple of James Brown singles, and a copy of “Shake a Tail Feather” by The Five Du-Tones, among others. I fell in love with Psychic Sister, a vintage shop that also had tarot readings! I love getting vintage pieces from around the world, and found the most beautiful butterfly dress from the 70s that I was able to wear to a wedding recently. If you aren’t following these shops on Instagram or Facebook, you should be!

After a little shopping, Nicole drove me over to Evergreen State College, where we walked around the woods and took a little tour of the campus. It was there that I learned what a geoduck is! The mascot of Evergreen, the geoduck is a species of very large, edible saltwater clams in the family Hiatellidae. That said, I suggest you google an image of one, if you aren’t already familiar with it. Evergreen’s motto is Omnia Extares, or “Let it all hang out.” Google the geoduck. Trust me.

lush forest at Evergreen

lush forest at Evergreen

We drove around a little more, with Nicole taking us to the highest point of the city, showing me the best panorama of Olympia. By the time we got back to her house, we were greeted by yet another Boston having arrived! With 3 in her house and another up the street, it was nearly too much for me to handle! It was really hard to leave, even with the fact that there were more adventures awaiting me in Portland. Even better-Nicole drove down on Monday so we could do some pet shopping before I left! Putting us in a dog boutique is just asking for trouble…

Solo cross-country trip, day one, was better than I could have ever imagined. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such amazing friends!