travel

Off to the Shore!

beach

I’m so happyВ that it’s summer. And I’m even more thrilled that I’ll be spending a week at the beach!

My friends and I rented a house on Long Beach Island, on the Jersey shore. (No, it’s definitely not like THAT Jersey Shore.)

I used to vacation on the island when I was a kid. I remember it being sleepy and quaint—no chain stores, lots of mom and pop restaurants, tons of mini golf courses. My sister and I loved Fantasy Island (the island’s little amusement park) so much, that we even rode and named the same carousel horses year after year. (Mine was “Galaxy.”)

I haven’t been back to LBI in almost 20 years, so I’m excited to see what it’s like now. Either way, I’m expecting to have a very nice, relaxing time. It’s hard to beat long days at the beach.

I may or may not be posting next week, so in the meantime, a few quick links from around the web:

There’s a tech edition of Cards Against Humanity. Yessssssss.

An awesome DIY IKEA cat bed.

Some cool photos and video of the Oakland Ballet working with street dancers. (I’m a big fan of Storehouse, the platform on which that was built. So awesome for telling stories. Can we get that functionality on WordPress, please?)

Have a warm and sunny weekend!

An Alphabet Inspired by Cities

This has to be one of the coolest senior theses I’ve ever seen.

Graphic designer Rebecca Mah created an alphabet in which each letter is inspired by a different city. The letters are meant to be “drop caps,” which are the large first letters at the start of a paragraph, usually in a book.

I loved looking through all the letters, though these especially caught my eye:

B01

H01

M01

P01

R01

 

See Mah’s full alphabet here. Which is your favorite?

(Images by Rebecca Mah; found via Design Taxi)

Food Envy: Girl Eat World

The Girl Eat World Instagram account is amazing.

Each photo features a unique food item taken in the place where it’s from.

The creator of the account is Melissa, an avid traveler from Singapore. As she describes it on her Tumblr:

Last summer, I went on a solo backpacking trip to Europe. I didn’t feel like asking strangers to take pictures of me and I’m not too fond of selfies, but I AM always eating so I took pictures of food at whatever memorable site I was in.

Such a simple yet brilliant idea.

I especially love the whimsical desserts.

Now can anyone tell me where I can get this kind of durian ice cream sandwich in NYC?

(Images via Girl Eat World)

New Orleans-Themed Toms

I don’t often blog about products, but I couldn’t resist posting about these Toms. The design is a map of New Orleans.

NATURAL TOMS X MAKE IT RIGHT WOMEN'S CLASSICS

You know how much I love maps. And Toms are pretty much the only shoes I wear.

This particular pair is a collaboration between Toms and Make It Right, a nonprofit founded by Brad Pitt to build affordable, LEED Platinum certified homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward—which never fully recovered from Katrina.

I visited New Orleans for the first time, a year and a half ago, and loved the city. I was only there for a few days, but didn’t go to the Ninth Ward. To be honest, I didn’t want to be one of those “disaster tourists” who gawk at places hit by unfortunate events.

I would like toВ see the Make It Right houses, on my next trip, though. Some, like this one, are designed by firms based in New Orleans…

Waggoner and Ball Architects are located in New Orleans and designed this home.

…or nearby Baton Rouge.

Trahan Architects are based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and designed this home.

Others were designed by architects from Tokyo…

Shigeru Ban Architects are based in Tokyo, Japan and designed this home.

…and Ghana.

Constructs Architects are based in Accra, Ghana and designed this home.

Frank Gehry’s firm designed one, too.

Frank Gehry and Partners are based in Los Angeles, California and designed this duplex home.

At first, I was jarred at how starkly modern these homes are. I especially loved New Orleans’ historic architecture, and these houses seem to contrast so much. But after looking at the photos a few times, I could see design elements often found inВ more traditional NOLA homes—slatted wood, vibrant colors, porches.

Either way, Make It Right’s mission is undoubtedly rooted in good. I’m reserving my final opinion on the homes’ aestheticsВ for when I see them in person. 😉

(AndВ here’s one more pair of travel-worthy TomsВ I stumbled across.)

(Images via Toms and Make It Right)

How Upcoming Vacations Make You Happier

tumblr_mqx3jd8S2L1qcr58zo1_500

This made me smile: a story in the NYT‘s travel section about how planning vacations makes you happier.

Sure, that’s pretty much stating the obvious. I’ve posted about how deciding to a trip boosted my mood when I was going through a difficult time, and how I usually beat my post-vacation blues by booking another trip. And I’d think that most people would agree that they just feel better when they have a getaway coming up.

But I’m all for anything that spreads the word of how travel is good for you!

According to the NYT piece, anticipating a trip makes you happier due to a number of reasons. (All are well-rooted in happiness psychology.):

  • Researching a destination can get you excited about what you’ll see/do/experience, as well as provide you with positive images to recall anytime you think about your trip.
  • By researching, you’re also learning lots of interesting, new things—thus shaking up your boring day-to-day routine.
  • Most people also talk about their upcoming trips with friends or family—the act of being social is a happiness booster, as is talking about experiences.

I like toВ refer to upcoming trips as “carrots”—like a carrot dangling in front of a horse to get him to move. Quick getaways are “baby carrots” and long trips are “big-ass carrots.” They’re the incentives that energize me anytime I think of them,В simply by making my life feel richer and more exciting.

(Image by A Well Traveled Woman, via Bippity Boppity Boo)

Weekend Trip from NYC: New Hope, Pennsylvania

Two weekends ago, Evan and I decided it was time for another trip out of town. (Like me, he’s a native New Yorker who often needs a break from the city.) Due to a crazy period at work, I wasВ unable to take time off, so we once again looked for a quick, one-night getaway that we could drive to in less than two hours.

We opted for New Hope, Pennsylvania. Though the town is right off the Delaware River, where we go tubing every year, I’d never been. (The Delaware divides New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and we’d always launched our tubes and gone out for dinner on the NJ side.)

New Hope seemed like the perfect spot for an early-spring overnight. The town looked cute, and our good friends, Karen and Steve, are getting married there this fall. Plus, Evan and I both have a penchant for farms, and knew there were many in the area. We booked a room atВ Ash Mill Farm, a few miles outside New Hope.

We arrived early onВ Saturday evening. A bar mitzvah was in full swing in a tent on the grounds, but the b&b, itself, was quiet.

entry to ash mills farm

Evan and IВ checked in with the innkeepers, a young couple named Matt and Noel, and headed upstairs to the 1790’s room.В The farmhouse was built at that time, and it felt like it! Our room had wooden windows, doors and floors in-line with the period.

1790's room

I was happy that the view from our room was green grass and trees, instead of other apartment buildings!

view from 1790's room

I liked the red accents, and thought the room was cute, but we both felt the place needed a bit of…freshening up. Mostly, a new coat of paint, inside and out.

Evan and I walked around the farm before the sun set. The animals were all hiding, so we just strolled among the trees and steered clear of the bar mitzvah tent. (No need to crash a 13-year-old’s party!)

The next day, we sat down to breakfast in the dining room…

dining room

…and helped ourselves to fruit and pastries from the breakfast buffet. Noel and Matt also served us a good omelet, a waffle, and fruit and yogurt.

breakfast spread

When Evan and I checked out, we learned why the place felt like it was in a transitional state. Matt told us that last year, he and Noel were just a regular couple who had day jobs. While looking for a wedding venue, they came upon Ash Mill Farm and fell in love with it. They got married there during the summer. Around that time, they also learned that the innkeepers were looking to move on. A few days later, he and Noel took over the place.

That explained a lot! It’s a pretty big task for a newlywed couple to take over a farm and b&b and start to spruce it up.

Before leaving the farm, Evan and I spent some time on the grounds, again—and this time, the animals were out!

sheep grazing

We stopped into the barn to see the sheep and goats—who all clamored to the fence when they saw us.

hungry sheep

Evan indulged them with some food.

Cute, right?

sheep

…though I was just as excited when one of the barn cats arrived.

barn cat

Some of the sheep were oddly shorn. (If you happen to know why they were, let me know!)

sheep in the barn

We also walked through the part of the barn that can be used as an event space. I loved this all-wood room and the natural light that poured in. I could imagineВ how pretty and romantic a wedding dinner there would be.

event space

After leaving the farm, we headed into New Hope. Even though it was Easter Sunday, lots of people were out.

new hope street

We walked up and down the streets, passing the Bucks County Playhouse (love how it’s housed in a towering barn!)…

bucks county playhouse

…and checked out shops, like the Soap Opera Company.

the soap opera company

After a while, we got hungry.

The Creole menu at Marsha Brown looked good, and the restaurant is in a converted church. But they wouldn’t let us in without a reservation, since it was a holiday. At Nikolas, they were only serving dinner, even though it was 2 p.m.

Evan and I finally decided to eat at Hearth, and ended up happy with the decision. The restaurant was quiet, and we got a nice table in a sunny spot upstairs. We shared french onion and porter rarebit on pumpernickel toast, polenta and a veggie pot pie.

hearth

Despite feeling full afterward, we still stopped for ice cream (topped with chocolate-covered waffle bits!) at Nina’s Waffle’s

nina's

…and then walked around someВ more, just enjoying the warm weather before heading back to the city.

new hope street 2

4 Great Places to Eat in Philly

Last week, Evan, the special guy in my life, had a special birthday. (The big 4-0!) And since there’s no better way to celebrate than by getting out of town, that’s exactly what we did.

Due to our schedules, we only had 24 hours to go somewhere over the weekend. So I narrowed our options to places within a two-hour drive from NYC. Since we’d recently taken trips to Hudson, NY; Vermont and the Berkshires, we knocked similar destinations out of the running. (And yes, I will post some photos and recaps from those trips, soon! :)) Evan wasn’t interested in Atlantic City. And Boston and D.C. were a little too far for a 24-hour trip. We decided to head to Philadelphia, a city that most of us New Yorkers often neglect to explore, despite it being less than two hours away.

Unfortunately, it rained the entire time we were there. As a result, our plans for wandering around different neighborhoods were quashed.

On the upside, we ate some really good mealsВ and otherwise relaxed in our hotel room. (We stayed at the Four Seasons—excellent service and big rooms, but definitely old school decor.)

Here’s where we ate:

Barbuzzo

barbuzzo interior

Our dinner reservation was actually for Sbraga, but we arrived in town too late to dine there. (Sbraga stops serving at 11—and we weren’t ready to head over until then.) So we went to Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean place that serves dinner until midnight. We were pretty happy with how that worked out!

The place was still hopping when we arrived atВ 11:30. All the pizzas, pastas and small platesВ on the menu looked delicious and we had a hard time narrowing our options down to a few dishes. We opted for a charcuterie board, a pizza with spicy wild boar sausage, and—my favorite plate of the evening—butternut arancini.

bb_charcuterie

For desert, we shared a salted caramel budino—a decadent custard over a dark chocolate crust, topped with rich caramel.

bb_budino

While our server could have been friendlier, I couldn’t have been happier with the food. I’d make a trip back to Philly just for the arancini and budino!

 

Wedge + Fig

Evan and I can both eat cheese until the cows come home (har har). So when choosing a brunch spot, we both gravitated to Wedge + Fig, a cheese shop in Old City that also serves meals.

wedge + fig

Inside, the space is sunny and cheery, and our server was super-friendly. While it seemed like a travesty not to get an ultra cheesy dish, I was seduced by the NOLA—poached eggs on top of homemade cornbread. Luckily, Evan’s strata had more than enough cheese, and I helped myself to a good deal of it.

 

Sonny’s Famous Cheesesteaks

Of course we couldn’t leave Philly without getting В cheesesteak. Right before getting back on the road to NYC, we stopped at Sonny’s, which Alan Richman and several other criticsВ recently declared, inВ GQ, had the best cheesesteaks.

Evan and I split one cheesesteak with onions, peppers and provolone. (I know, Philly natives! I couldn’t bring myself to order Cheez Whiz!) It was really tasty, with a nice kick from the peppers. The sandwichВ was also surprisingly light and not a bit greasy—we devoured it in minutes. And had this conversation:

Evan: That was so good. I could seriously eat another one.

Me: God, so could I. Um, there’s actually another cheesesteak place a few doors down. Should we get another one there?

I’m sure you could guess what we decided to do.

 

Campo’s Deli

campos

A few minutes later, at Campo’s, we ordered almost the exact same sandwich: a Philly cheesesteak with provolone, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Evan and I ate it on the ride back to NYC. Campo’s sandwich was more of what we expected a cheesesteak to be: juicy and heavy. The mushrooms gave it a nice, rich flavor. Though overall, I preferred the lighter version at Sonny’s.

We’ll have to go back to Philly when it’s not pouring and chilly, and explore the city beyond its restaurants. But we definitelyВ had an awesome time eating our way through our 24 hours there. (And Evan, I hope you had a very happy bday trip!! xoxo)

(Images via Barbuzzo, Wedge + Fig, TripAdvisorВ and Yelp)