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I visited many towns and counties in Ireland during my stay. Though I only had one day in Galway, it left a lasting impression on me. The charm of the streets and the friendliness of the shop owners impressed me. I learned about a progressive Swedish Illustrator and the slow fashion movement, not to mention that I stumbled upon some serious foodie delights!
With the help of my friend Cliodhna, I discovered a coffeeshop named Coffeewerk + Press! Such style within these doors. Shop owner Daniel humbly turns out a selection of goods that is as elevated style-wise as any cool-kid boutique in my Brooklyn neighborhood. I took forever picking through his collection of goodies. He supports artists all over the world! The coffee options at Coffeewerk are also certainly worth a mention. Take it from this coffee snob--you're in good hands here!
The author of this book, the much-loved Swedish author and illustrator Elsa Beskow, has quite a wonderful story of her own.
Elsa Beskow always loved fairy tales, and started telling stories even before she could speak properly. She told stories to her older brother Hans, who would help her find the right words and give suggestions on the plot.
Her upbringing was liberal and she was raised to stand up for her ideals. These values are reflected in her children's picture books. The Flowers' Festival, from 1914, argues for freedom of speech for everyone, and some suggest that Mrs Chestnut, in her loose-fitting dress, is depicted as pregnant - a daring thing to do at a time when the middle classes were of the view that pregnant women should be kept out of sight.
Elsa Beskow's aunts and uncle had progressive views of parenting and education, and they began a school where children learned through games and enjoyment and with focus on understanding what they studied.
How wonderful that such a talented artist was also one of the original believers of what we call play-based learning today! I'm fascinated by her. Read more about her here, or get one of her books for yourself and see what I mean!
There is SO MUCH talent in this town.
The hottest table in Galway is certainly Ard Bia, whether for lunch or dinner. The things coming out of this kitchen were absolutely fantastic. I wish I had more photos of the dinner I had (I ate there twice in 24 hours!) but sadly they were eaten too quickly to be photographed.
Ard Bia owner Aoibheann is also a partner in the Tweed Project, and I couldn't resist buying their beautiful shawl! The Tweed Project creates handmade, one off pieces that combine beautiful Irish fabrics with modern tailoring for a truly authentic expression of Irish design. Their aesthetic and their website is really wonderful, I highly recommend clicking over.
Galway is a special place, and not just because it's so photogenic. (The photographer's bias!) My experience there played a huge role in how much I came away from Ireland absolutely in love with all things Irish!
Landing in Iceland looks like landing on the moon. It's expansive, and it's really volcano-y. It has a fresh smell and a sheer quality, like the whole country was edited in photoshop to be -10 saturation.
Our first day was long, but we jumped right into exploring. The sun in Iceland in May rises around 4am and sets at 11:45pm, so landing at 7am that morning gave us 16 hours to play! A nap did occur, I admit. And COFFEE. Coffee definitely happened.
On recommendation from at least three people, we ate at Snaps three times! It really was the most reliably delicious option in the non-fancy realm of dining in Reykjavik. There are lots of set-menu fine dining options in town for those with aims on super-fine nordic cuisine, but we stuck to tried and true favorites in the glass-domed dining room at Snaps. You can enjoy the fading light while you eat, because it stays light or at least magic hour for HOURS... and then ultimately never really gets dark-dark!
You've probably heard of The Blue Lagoon. It's a fairy-tale-looking geothermal spa just outside Reykjavik, and it'll be the first thing you are inundated with when you do your very first Iceland Google search. Because of the popularity, I assumed the experience of visiting the spa would be overrated and touristy. Here's the thing though. It really LOOKS LIKE THIS. Like, no Photoshop required. It's the ace up Nature's sleeve and it's a WIN.
There are so many more horses to pet, day trips to take and lovely people to meet. My biggest recommendation is that five days is NOT ENOUGH to experience Iceland! I will be back.
It's winter now, and I'm craving things in my life to be neutral and calm and minimal.
I'm liking my house clean and folded and stacked. The counter is mirror-clean and the dishes are always washed before bed these days.
I make things and I work for myself, so my days march out ahead to the beat of the freelance metronome, without kids to yet interrupt my pace.
Busy, yes. But. If there is no time, I can make time.
These winter days feel decadent yet earned. It feels like there is probably some really rad stuff right around the corner. It feels GOOD.
It's day five, no coffee. Sweet-ish and caramel-tinged, frothy and dessert-like. Oh, java. (sigh) I miss you.
I decided that my 4-cup per day habit was out of hand when I started having trouble sleeping. This has happened before. The last time it happened, I just went a few days without coffee at all, and my symptoms of lethargy-yet-sleeplessness disappeared! For a whole year, almost! But now they're back, and on Monday of this week, I embarked on 7 days without having any coffee at all.
Day Five. (whimper)
I was trolling the archives for the 5 million shoots I'm behind on blogging, and the first one that came to mind was when I shot with Joe Speicher of Ground to Grounds at Ninth Street Espresso earlier this year.
Ground to Grounds is a must-click if you're a coffee nerd like me. It's an online publication about the world of coffee. From farm to cup, and everything in between. Their Instagram feed is a love note to my favorite bean, and their site always has profiles of cool coffee shops across the country. After our visit, Joe put together this cool post featuring our afternoon getting to know Ninth Street Espresso General Manager Trey Wrage. He used to live in my hometown, Santa Cruz, CA!
Ninth Street Espresso has been a favorite of mine for a sweet tiny cup of espresso ever since I discovered them when I worked near their outpost in Chelsea Market. This time, I got to tour two other locations!
Drool with me? Better yet, go have a cup of coffee for me. I have to last until Monday.
p.s. On Day 1 and 2 of a coffee-free existence, the difficulty was pretty much all mental. I just WANTED it, because it looks and tastes like sweet, sweet heaven. But I didn't have a crazy headache, and I did have more energy, weirdly. On Day 5, I'm just getting downright nostalgic for the old days. Like, last-Sunday old. I think all this sleep I'm getting is getting to my head. Everything will feel normal come Monday, when I am back to my awesomely jittery self. COFFEE!
That time I met Anna Sui... and she was completely rad!
Head over to the indispensable Beauty Blitz to read their full coverage of our visit, where Anna gives us a sneak peek of her world. Beauty Blitz is one of the savviest destinations for everything beauty, and it's run by the sweet and supersmart Polly Blitzer, who is also a stone cold pro. Love her.
Also hit up the original bohemian queen herself at AnnaSui.com and fall down the girly rabbit hole!
Writer Wendy Rodewald-Sulz can be found being fabulous on Instagram.
I spent July 4th in Cape Cod! A house full of friends.
It was like summer camp for adults. Every day we flip-flopped down to the sandy shore to sunbathe (with 50 SPF, you see, we are 1% more responsible now that we're 30-something...) and to swim out to the floating dock. Our 7-year-old co-camper would call out crazy words, instructing us on exactly what to say in the air as we jumped off. "HAIRBRUSH!$^#*!!!"
And, there was lobster. My brain categorizes lobster under (!!!!!!!)
It was vacationus maximus. And it's on repeat, in my mind, during work this week.
New York, what gives? One day, 61 degrees and balmy, the next 18 degrees plus wind chill. It's time to take matters into my own hands. Here's a long-overdue post from my recent winter-escape to Barbados... may these photos and memories coax the sun goddesses and breeze-bringing spirits out of hiding and back to New York, New York... Please. (Please!)
In Barbados, when we weren't on or looking for the main highway, called the ABC, (which, hilariously, was almost entirely unmarked, by letters, signs or otherwise) we were lying on our empty beach, kayaking, grilling fresh meals at home, exploring the local beer with our neighbors or swimming with the sea turtles, our sea-based neighbors.
A group of five friends, spending time meeting new friends. And all to celebrate the one and only Sarah's birthday! Sarah my love, may we all have many more times around the sun, and may most of yours be by my side.
Of all the places I go when my mind drifts, when it puts itself on 'sleep', when I'm just numb and dumb and moving slow, or in fact checked out completely, with a tingling bum from too many photoshop hours in this chair, I go, I go, I happily go, to the far off places I've been.
In the spring of 2013, I went on a trip to Southeast Asia for six weeks. I went alone. I went to meet and shoot and wander, and to be both completely off the grid and completely on, as I ignored every single email but posted hundreds of photos on Instagram, photos that just flowed out directly from a moment I'd just had, alone but never alone. Solo on the wandering path I'd created for myself. Buoyed by the heart-ing of the images from friends back home. Surprised at myself as I strode confidently into each new day of unknowns.
Everything was new, and I was humbled. Alone but not alone, I was electrified by the indelible faces I was meeting. Western faces and Eastern faces, and everything in between. Faces that surprised and astonished and tickled me, ones that hugged me and scared me and made me cry, ones that had the same mission as I as a wanderer, and ones that had lives so different I was rendered speechless.
I wasn't supposed to be there, I knew, not really. I "shouldn't" have gone at all. My heart was still broken from a break-up a few months back, a five year chapter that snapped closed with a whooshing devastation, knocking the wind out of me for six whole months. My gut ached with loss and loneliness, as my best friends floated down aisles and into delivery rooms.
Though I felt I should have rebounded more quickly, my sadness made me listless in business. As any business owner knows, dropping the ball for a day can be terrible, but watching the ball slowly roll away from you, week after week, without making the slightest effort to chase it leads to epic loss. My photography business was hanging by a teardrop. My contracted deadlines, my financial obligations and my guilty conscience for even considering such a long time away all narrowed their eyes into a slit, in unison, in warning. "You can't afford it, and you don't deserve it."
I've seen that movie, so to speak, and it sucked. I'm no longer gullible enough to believe the curious put-downs my brain generates when it's searching for an answer.
I just go out looking.
For the answer.
Because to know what's behind the curtain of my need to wander, is an answer I deserve.
I calmly considered all the obvious logic that might have prevented me from buying the one-way ticket, but something kept pushing me towards this adventure. I knew if I wanted to get my business back on track, I needed to spend some serious time alone with my thoughts.
Though it would be far from my first solo trip to a far-flung place, it was different than the others. I was listening closely, for once, to the echoes of history, as well as to the people I met. Less of the hair-tossing yoga girl I was in India at 25 (though I love her, too) and more the family-lore-loving listener, aiming to just connect with other humans. Alone but not alone.
Part of me leaving like this, with so much in flux, felt bratty. It was indignant and solipsistic. It was saying, "Of all the things I want in life but that are out of my reach, (aisles, delivery rooms, firework-crusted career success, endless world travel) world travel is the one that I can grasp for myself. Right now."
But questionable motives aside, I also knew that travel heals you, in its own way. To be lost and dirty, to be hungry and queasy and to be language-dumb, means to soon after be cared for, welcomed in, shared with, fed til you're stuffed to the gills and your eyes are crinkly from laughter.
To hear secrets, to rock baby sisters, and to make papaya salad. To shuffle awkwardly to new music, feet still thumping with new rhythms long after you've lowered your lids. To bear witness to the lives and stories and tragedies of others, unsure of how you could have possibly continued existing, across the world at home, and still be breathing, had you not followed your fate here to this place.
Ultimately, the ground sang. The faces roared. The shape of those moments will be detailed in future posts, and I can't wait to set them free with words, they shouldn't live only in my head.
The whole country of Cambodia imprinted me with hope and renewal, a country that has been through so much, but who in 2013 had so much pride on their faces and love on their lips.
I returned home. My bills and my mistakes were all still there, and (surprise!) they were compounded into even more nightmarishly twisted versions of the messes that I left. My trip didn't "solve" anything, not that I thought it would. I patched and apologized and saved money, I was honest and earnest and direct with clients. I wasn't afraid to ask for help from my friends, my family and my community. I am still in business, thriving even, and I am smiling.
And what fun, I think now, to finally be writing about this trip, nine full months after returning. What a thrill to have finally given myself permission to let these memories blossom. Much more to come soon from this trip! This is absolutely only the beginning.
NOTE: All photos here were taken with my beloved Fuji X-E1, which proved itself brilliantly as the off-duty photographer's right-hand man. I was too busy soul-healing and temple-traversing and existing outside of my norm to be using the camera I use for work (I didn't even bring it). This is the camera I reach for when I set out to just... be.
Checked out in the mind, tucked in by the fire... The cabin days in Truckee were the best blend of relaxation and... sleeping? Those two things are different, right?
The food at the Jax on the Tracks Diner is absolutely divine, and with service that is unbelievably fast and friendly considering how busy they are.
And the vintage snowshoes on Linda's wall make me yearn to try snowshoe-ing! Look, Kaufmann Mercantile has these swanky versions available... would I dare?
I'm sure my mom would document that train wreck, (I mean, totally competent adventure!)
It's helpful to figure out what you're thankful for. To have an excuse to take stock of your lot, to sit back and consider carefully what you have around you that is awesome. It's helpful for perspective, to feel less blegh-y about the things you might otherwise complain about, and it's helpful to be appreciative of the smaller (more concentrated?) great things in your world that you might often ignore.
Helpful because a little meditation on your good fortune can make your smile softer, and more permanent. It can make you stand taller when you stand up for what you believe in.
For me, besides making and enjoying food (which I love-love!) the whole entire meaty-whole pervasive amazingness of my life is the people I love dearly. They are numerous and they are wild and they fill my home and fill my life with such an intense warm glow that it more than overflows my cup of wants. I had a lot of these faces around me last week for our Friendsgiving in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and I couldn't be more thankful if I tried. Bottoms up, family!
Ana (aka Schecky)
It's the longest day of the year today!
Where did the 8:45pm sunset find you? I decided to lay on my back in the grass on the Great Lawn in Central Park, watching the big orange ball fall lower and lower in the sky.
"Summer afternoon--summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. -Henry James
I find myself in yet another magical place. Up in the hills of Northern Vietnam there are countless beautiful, misty villages.
I spent a day each in Sapa and Bac Ha, and encountered quite a few minority Hmong villagers, each with their own beautiful dress, dialect of Vietnamese and lifestyle. I met mothers and grandfathers, cousins and babies. All sweet, some outgoing and some cheeky.
In Bac Ha I was eagerly given a shot of the homemade corn hooch they favor, at approximately 8:30am. Who am I to refuse? Each family has their own recipe, but rest assured its about 90 proof. Tasted great, in fact. Clear but with the smoky flavor, a palate towards whiskey rather than vodka. Whiskey just so happens to be my poison of choice (not that I drink very often, Mama...)
As with Laos, I am repeatedly rendered speechless by the handwoven textiles in Vietnam. The Hmong people really have a way with color theory and exquisite detail. I definitely think I gravitate towards the work of the Flower Hmong. Their work is similar to the textiles I oohed about in Luang Prabang. I tried not to go overboard buying handmade memories, but admittedly I shipped a box home.
This city princess got herself into the mud again. My day of trekking in Sapa began the morning after an overnight rain, so of course I found myself without the proper footwear to hike with. Undeterred, I enlisted a Black Hmong woman named Xay to hold my hand down the steep bits, and happily bought a bag from her at the end of the journey. Along the way she told me all about her life and her children, and had many questions for me about the USA. Her smile was genuine and she was steady as a rock in her own professional hiking shoes (thin plastic flipflops!?) and her command of English was impressive. I'm sending you the bag I bought from her, with a photo of her inside it.
So many more photos to come from Vietnam! The trip wraps up soon, and though I'm attached as hell to Southeast Asia, it will be nice to be in my own (soft!) bed.
In Hanoi, you bring your pet bird to the park with you so that she can chirp the latest gossip with the other birds. Though a caged bird is sad in a way, this is a sweet ritual that I was surprised by and loved. Hanoi, Vietnam.
Okay, granted this is an Instagram photo, but the truth remains that the color the sun splashes as it sets over Angkor Wat, is, undeniably... Epic.
This is a day I won't soon be willing to leave. I won't stop wanting to replay it on loop, in my daydreams. And in the moments before sleep comes.
Free... From understanding exactly what's in your food. Bah. I'm sure there's no additives in there! In Kep, Cambodia, today, I sure wolfed down my grilled fresh crab and veggies, drizzled with this mystery hot sauce.
Friends. Sun. Babies that I love. So fierce.
The air just smells different here. In the BEST way.