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! ūüėČ

 

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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. ūüėČ

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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!

Make Them Hear You*

What a strange past couple of weeks it’s been. Upon return from the Pacific Northwest, we were thrown immediately back into the swing of things, and it’s been non-stop ever since. Then, once the events in Orlando took place, I couldn’t find the energy to do much of anything, let alone post here. I debated talking about it, but I just couldn’t (and still can’t) really find the words. I’m sad and I’m tired. It’s heartbreaking to receive texts from my friends saying that they are “scared to be in their own skin.” I can’t imagine their fear, their tremendous sadness, and the anger. I, myself, am beyond pissed. There are days that I troll Facebook, sharing article after article, getting into heated debates with narrow-minded, bigoted, fear-mongering, hate-harboring maniacs, and then there are the days that I just want to retreat. Which is better? I’m trying to find a balance between being active in discussions, in furthering awareness – not just about LGBT rights, but women’s rights, tighter gun laws, better accessibility to health care and mental illness resources, etc., and staying calm, centered, and content. It’s a double-edged sword, I think. You can’t be involved and not have strong reactions/feelings, but you also don’t want to live each day in frustration. But to not have your voice heard, to stay silent, creates a different season of discontent – I can’t imagine not being proactive. That orange monster was two hours away from our city recently and, filled with seething rage at the thought of him possibly campaigning in our town, and I ¬†vowed to ignite another protest if that happens. We turned away the KKK 6 years ago – I’m ready for this ding dong.

In the meantime, what to do to stay sane? Once the afternoon is done, and the incessant dinging from Facebook notifications has ceased, websites from various news outlets closed, I try to retire to the outdoor world for a bit, even if it’s for only thirty minutes to an hour. Our garden has become a refuge. Even on the days where there’s not too much to be done – deadheading completed, plant babies watered, waiting for the next harvest – just sitting quietly is rewarding. When the world has lost its damn mind, there are these little creatures that pop up from the ground, full of life, flowers bursting with joy, and trees birthing new fruit – reminders that not everything is terrible.

I couldn’t, with peace of mind, keep writing without recognizing what has been happening in the world. This is not a political blog, but it’s a human one. I’ll be resuming with more posts about our trip, Rosie, gardening, sweet treats, and reviews soon.

To all of my friends and family trying to make sense of everything right now:

“Go out and tell our story.
Let it echo far and wide.

….

And tell them, in our struggle,
We were not the only ones.
Make them hear you,

Make them hear you.”

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* the title of this post is from the song, “Make Them Hear You,”¬†from the Tony-Award winning musical, “Ragtime.” It was performed by my friend, Russell Joel Brown, who is currently on Broadway in the role of “Mufasa” in “The Lion King,” at our dear friend’s memorial service over a decade ago. Jaime was a champion of equality and acceptance for all, and someone who made a tremendous impact in all the lives he touched, including my own.

Seaglass & Stardust

Ah, June. It’s the birth month of my best friend, my boyfriend, my pops, AND Summer Solstice! The Spring season has been more than generous this year, with an abundance of Knock-Out roses, fresh banana peppers, and a plentiful supply of lemon balm & mint. I’m eager to see what the Summer will bring, as the temperatures soar and our garden continues to flourish.

Spring has had me drawn to cooler tones – shades of purple, blue, and deep pinks, reflecting the colorful hydrangea surrounding the neighborhood. They’ve shown up in my floral arrangements as well as in the jewelry I wear. I’ve added to my collection from¬†Seaglass & Stardust¬†with opals and amethysts, ignoring the superstition that one isn’t supposed to wear opals unless her birthday is in October! However, my mother’s birthday¬†is in October, and since Nicole has started a “Trio Thursday,” my mom and I ordered some to share. Nicole was incredibly helpful in finding the right stones for us – I was looking for the blue, relaxing hues while my mom was interested in ones with a fiery, pink flash. Rounding out the combo with a lighter, milky opal, and with three unique shapes, she created pieces that we’ve been wearing constantly.

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opals & eucalyptus

If you follow her¬†Instagram, you’ll notice her chunky amethysts have been selling like hotcakes! As soon as she restocked, I moved quickly and ordered one for my mom for Mother’s Day -as purple is her favorite color – and accompanied the ring with a lavender bush for the yard. I ended up receiving an amethyst ring of my own a couple of weeks later, and have enjoyed mixing and matching with my ever-growing treasure trove.

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fresh lavender for days!

Peter and I spent another afternoon at the¬†Atlanta Botanical Garden¬†recently, admiring the Chihuly exhibit and taking in all of the new blooms. The leafy Philodendrons always catch my eye, and I couldn’t help but take a photo of this icy opal contrasting against the warm red leaves. The Chihuly exhibit was lovely, and I’d be interested in seeing the glass under the lights in the evening. We also spent some time back at the¬†High, checking out the Basquiat exhibit, where they’ve displayed pages of his notebooks and selected works. It was intriguing to try and decipher his thought process, often schizophrenic at times. While the show has ended there, I would encourage everyone to visit it if it arrives in your area.

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As mentioned above, we’ve had a plethora of Knock-Out roses – ¬†and I can’t wait for the next round to bloom! Having worked for a florist many moons ago, I’ve always enjoyed floral arranging & design, and received my own florist’s license this Spring. Weekends have been consumed with a wealth of bouquets – from large baskets full for Beltane to smaller, fragrant nosegays placed in bud vases. As our current garden grows, I’ve been studying up on English herb gardens with the help of some exquisite guides from the 1800’s. The scents are wonderfully intoxicating and the herbs themselves can be used in many remedies and teas.

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amethyst ring from Seaglass & Stardust

With the entrance of June and the hotter weather, it’s time to start putting my hair up – though we don’t sweat in the south – we “glisten.”¬†Seaglass & Stardust¬†has started carrying the sweetest amethyst bobby pins that will do just the trick for keeping my bangs in place as they grow. That is, until I make the stupid decision to cut them again once it reaches 100 degrees with 100% humidity! ūüėČ Follow Nicole on Instagram to see all of her updates and sales, and take a peek at her website, where she’s been so kind to use one of my photographs!

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Seaglass & Stardust

Etsy

Fight like a GIRL

I want to take a step back and talk about two of my friends who are facing some tough challenges right now.

First up is my lovely Afro gal pal, Kaitee. A few months ago, after suffering extreme exhaustion, difficulty breathing, and finding a lump on her neck, she decided to go to the doctor – a challenging thing to do when one doesn’t have health insurance. It’s a good thing she spent the money to do so, as she was diagnosed with Stage II¬†Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While – thankfully – treatable, it costs a lot – financially, emotionally, and physically. A working mom, Kaitee has had to quit her job indefinitely, while her fiance works as much extra as possible to take care of her and the family. I’m happy to say she’s destroying this cancer like the bad ass that she is, but she’s still got a way to go. She’s one of the hardest working, kindest people I know, am I’m glad to have been able to call her my friend for the past ten years! Here’s the link to Kaitee’s¬†gofundme, started by our friend, Lindsey, and where she is SO CLOSE to the goal! Let’s get her there!

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No one sparkles quite like Kaitee!

Next is my and Rosie’s Boston buddy, Tammy. Rosie and Tammy’s Boston, Coach, have been Instagram friends for a couple of years now, and you might recall that I got to meet both Tammy and Coach in March at the dog beach meet-up in California. Immediately, Tammy embraced me as a member of their tribe, trying to convince us to move to California. I couldn’t have felt more welcome, and can’t wait to take Rosie to a meet-up! Not long after that trip, Tammy found out that she had Stage 4 Ovarian and Lung cancer. She, like, Kaitee, is a total warrior, and is kicking cancer’s ass! But, also like Kaitee, she has had to leave her job in order to fight the good fight. She and her friends have rallied to start BAM for TAM, a group effort to get her where she needs to go, the supplies she needs, and all of our support. Coach, Rosie, and my mom, who is a Scentsy rep, have teamed up and formed TEAM BAM FOR TAM, a fundraiser where all commissions from their Scentsy sales go directly to Tammy and her family. We’re about to start another one, with a custom Tammy and Coach warmer! Here’s the current link to¬†TEAM BAM, but since Facebook only lets one hold events for two weeks at a time, we’ll be creating the new event page this weekend. I will update as soon as it’s live!

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Coach & Tammy, cruising Cali on their bike!

 

Hotline Bling

So, Mercury is about to be Retrograde and I pretty much just want to cover myself in crystals and stay in bed until it subsides. But since I can’t reasonably do that, and have to go out in the world, I’m settling for decking myself out in wearable stones from some of the lady makers who are killing it in the gem world.

Two problems here: 1) I have stupid small fingers and wrists, and it can be challenging to find jewelry that fits. Bracelets are the worst, and I don’t find them very comfortable, anyway, but I do love rings. 2) After working for a high-end jeweler, and receiving perks and knowledge from that job, I find it difficult to shell out the cash for overpriced, mass-produced goods. What to do?

I can be found cruising Etsy most afternoons, searching for vintage goods, original designs, & apothecary elixirs, and it was through here that I stumbled upon Lazuli Handcrafted. Based out of Rhode Island, Erica creates sparkly baubles from raw gemstones to adorn your hair all the way to illuminating your fingers, and they won’t break the bank like all the overpriced commercial designers. These magical, electroformed pieces are just splendid – and better yet, she makes them in an array of sizes! Not all jewelers will make rings smaller than a 5, which can be disappointing, and because of the electroforming process, they cannot be re-sized, or have beads put in them. Finding a 3.75 is hard, so I usually just stick with a 4, giving my fingers some room to swell during these sweltering days. But I digress – the jewelry! I took advantage of her “Trio Tuesday” sale, and with Erica’s suggestions, picked out Herkimer diamond, emerald, and turquoise rings. Herkimer diamonds are great because they are ethical, conflict-free, and an ideal alternative to a real diamond. I’ve loved emeralds since seeing Return to Oz as a child, and who doesn’t relish a strong piece of turquoise?

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dainty gem trio with viburnum

I wear mine as a stack, but each one is unique and handsome enough worn on its own. I love the juxtaposition in Erica’s jewelry – delicately made bands supporting powerful, energizing stones. As mentioned, she creates more than just stunning rings: hair pins, earrings, necklaces – and she’s just released some Tibetan quartz chokers that this Leo is on the prowl for- you can practically feel the cleansing vibrations! I’m also highly lusting after her Herkimer Diamond 5 Stone Rings. What a great band! Any of you lovely ladies getting looking to get engaged? A single Herkimer diamond with the 5 stone band would be a flawless wedding set! Not into the whole marriage thing? Nbd – celebrate yourself with a few of these beauts!

When I have been able to tuck myself away indoors, I’ve been trying to channel the ominous energy from Mercury Retrograde and turn it into something good. I’m currently working on a Zodiac-inspired moon watercolor series, complete with – what else?- crystals! My muses are the minerals my guy and I brought home from a dig this past weekend, and, with paintbrush in hand, rings on my fingers, rocks by my side – I think I’ll be able to get through the next three weeks with little to no scarring. Even with 5 planets in retrograde this time, I feel like this one won’t be too bad. It’s a good time to slow down, reflect, and evaluate how we communicate with ourselves and the world. Best of luck to you all!