New Me + New[york] City

NYC + Self-discovery. September has been fun.

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When I was a kid I used to want to be a lot of things. But, I think at the crux of it all I wanted to have one foot in the realm of creativity. I was yearning for it, and didn’t feel like there was a way for me to achieve it. Better yet, I didn’t feel like I was creative.  If you ask any of my friends that endured those adolescent years with me, they will tell you not only of my trend to be a romantic, but also about my infatuation with different mediums of creativity. I tried being a writer, had short stint of thinking I could be an actor, and so much more. I think that’s why I gravitated to food so much. It was finally a medium that I excelled in.  It can transform perspective, it’s multi-faceted, and it literally takes people’s breathe away. More than that, there’s something in it for everyone. From the science of baking to the absurdity that modernism has brought to the contemporary food scene and everything in between. Food has been the be all end all for me over the last ten years or so. It’s been an amazing ride (and this isn’t my break up with food, btw if you were worried I was writing a breakup text). In turn, it’s about what food has led me to discover. Thank you, food. (I wish ‘food’ could talk to me, haha. I wonder what it’s personality would be like?)

Well, if you haven’t figured it out already, this post is not about food. This post is designated to voice excitement on a new medium. I’ve been dabbling in photography since moving to the bay (almost three years, now). However, up until about four or five months ago I wasn’t interested in the technical side of photography. I’ve grown to expand my knowledge and I can’t help but experience a similar feeling I’ve felt for cooking all of these years. Being a self-pioneer into a new creative space is so fun. It’s exhilarating.

I ventured to Manhattan last week for work, and while I was there I had some time to really flex my new skills. Not only did NYC offer me a new perspective, but a fresh landscape. In my week there I felt validation for my work, a true culmination that this newer form of creative expression was worthwhile, and that maybe I might be good at this, too!

The quality of my work has increased significantly. As I continue to learn about photography my eyes widen, my heart opens, and my love for capturing moments expands.

I thought I’d keep this post short and sweet and showcase my favorite pieces of work from my trip.

Also, on a side note, a few of these photos were taken by Ryan, but all the editing is my own. This is also the first time I’ve made an effort to capture more of an urban landscape. I usually photograph humans, so this is something pretty new. 🙂 Hope you enjoy.

Oculus
Oculus.
Stable House
The Village.
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Stonewall.
Washington
Best park ever.
Pattern Boy
Oakland, CA.

I wonder how my perspective will shift in the next six to twelve months? Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading. I love all of you.

Sewing New Seeds.

Gardening projects, backyard renovation, + life thoughts.

This post is a bit bittersweet, as I start my new job tomorrow, which is most definitely a good thing. However, it’s also the symbolic finish line for the projects I’ve been working on over my last month off from work. During that time, I’ve planted a new garden, renovated our backyard, as well as, refurbished some furniture (pictured below). Converting a run-down backyard space into a livable garden, a venue to entertain friends, and a space for nightly talks with the boy has been absolutely amazing.  Over the last three weeks or so, we’ve had so many laughs & glasses of wine in our new space (probably more glasses of wine than laughs). Moving forward it’s gratifying to know that we have a full home that feels warm and now extends outdoors, as the outdoors are such a big part of Ryan and I’s life.

I’ve always wanted to plant a garden. Growing up my father had a beautiful garden in our yard before we developed on the land. As a child, we had fresh tomatoes, basil, carrots, eggplant, and more. As a twenty-something, finding a space to garden isn’t always the easiest. Moving into our apartment about a year and a half ago, there had happened to be a raised bed; however, our neighbors were using it at the time. Since that time, the bed had become untamed without care, and I was fortunate to take over the space! Checkout the conversion below and let me know your thoughts. Also ya’ll have to come over for dinner soon. #Pizzanight with fresh veggies for everyone.

FLOWERLAND.

Flowerland, which is located on the border of Berkeley and Albany, CA was my first thought when it came to planting a garden. A known institution in the area, and a spot for some awesome coffee, courtesy of Highwire, this place is a must. Not only is there selection of plants and more amazing, but the place is stunning. It’s aesthetically incredible, is so authentic, and also captures the zeitgest of the moment with it’s witty signage.

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GOOD READS.

Not only does Flowerland, have and incredible selection of everything for your home garden, but they also have an entire indoor store with a great selection of candles, coffee table books, notebooks, local art, and more.

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FINDING THE RIGHT PLANTS.

After stopping at Flowerland and picking up a few transplants (it’s too late in the season to start plants from seeds, for most plants, Kale you’re probably safe with, as well as, most squashes) I headed over to Westbrae Nursery , and found the rest of the plants I was looking for. As an amateur, a couple of resources along the way helped to solidify the right choices to ensure a good harvest. A couple of must haves for any Bay area gardener I’ve attached in a link below!

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THE SUPPLY.

With a full crop picked, and some diversity and balance found between herbs and veggies, the lot was ready to go.

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(From left to right by row) Carrots, Broccolini, Chives, Italian Parsley, Thyme, Celery, Sweet Basil, Cilantro, Purple Collard/Kale Hybrid, Authentic Thai Basil, Lemon Mint, Mint.

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PLANT ME.

This was the most fun part. Ryan, Jack, and I (Ryan not pictured, as he was taking most of the photos) went to work with our new garden bed. We found some great organic soil to revitalize the older soil, tilled the land, and laid the plants down. A couple of the herbs were potted on their own (as pictured below), and the rest is history. Currently we are two weeks into the process, the carrots and broccolini are grown very, very well, and the rest of the crop is moving along just fine! Not pictured below, a tomatillo plant, which I’m super excited to make salsa verde with in a few months.

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Thyme
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Cilantro + Parsley

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Broccolini after two weeks!

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Jack Joe Kiss Garden
Kisses from my little helper. Ryan was taking all the photos this week.

TABLE TALK.

So, in the process of planting a garden, I was also re-doing our entire backyard. I found this table on Facebook Marketplace for free, and it was in pretty rough shape. I took it home, purchased a can of outdoor paint, and painted it white. The white adds a nice depth and sense of ‘new’ to our backyard without feeling too rustic. (The original look of the table was similar to that of the weathered chairs.) We’ve put up string lights, laid new mulch, and have created an entire space for hosting guests, along with a fire pit.

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TAKING THE TIME

Before I close out, there’s a couple of things I wanted to say. First off, taking on any project takes time (and most of the time, money too). During my few weeks off I definitely did my share of adventuring up north, finding a good book (or two) to read, and had my share of a few good times out. However, the biggest life lesson I learned from this project came from giving myself the time to fully see something through from start to finish. I see the same maturation with work projects all of the time in my profession, but taking on a side project has given me a newfound respect for nature, mental health, and the importance of defining what you want ‘Home’ to mean to you. I invested four weeks of time into little projects like this garden and the revitalization of our yard because home to me is defined as a place where love, conversation, debate, and true authentic experience should be shared. I challenge you, to define what ‘Home’ means to you, take on a project and live that truth. I’m so grateful for my time off, it was better than any vacation I could’ve taken. Sewing new seeds, and finding a place that you’re proud of to have as your own and to share is nothing short of incredible.

CELEBRATION.

Lastly, to celebrate, we had our friends over for dinner + games this Labor Day weekend. Check out these smiles. Thanks for being our family. Love you all!

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Photo taken by @cru.cait

Pictured:  @sswonkohw @ryanarthurwright @sweden95 

THANKS FOR READING.

Philz good one-2

 

 

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Mendocino

Day trips, dogs, and dallying along the coast. Warning: Beautiful photos ahead.

 

Hi Everyone,

Another week has gone by, and it’s time for another post. This week’s post is extra special, as I’m writing about one of my favorite places in the world, Mendocino, California.  Ryan and I discovered Mendocino about two years ago, pretty soon after we moved to the Bay Area. Located right above Sonoma County, Mendocino County is known for incredible wineries such as Saracina & Bonterra (recently awarded best North American Winery), mountains, and valleys. The county is full of wildlife, rare flowers and plant life, and one of the most stunning views of the ocean on the west coast. The town of Mendocino is perched on the bluffs of the coast within the county and is home to around one thousand people. Most of the local economy is fueled by artisans, B&Bs, art galleries, and restaurants. From Berkeley the drive is a little over three hours, so getting up here does not happen often, sadly. However, each opportunity to make it up for the day or the weekend is truly special. Rather than writing a lot today, I’m going to leave the rest of this post to mostly pictures, as the landscape is absolutely stunning.

Jack and I drove up to Mendocino last Thursday. We woke up early, grabbed a Philz coffee, and made our way up the coast, stopping in Hopland, CA for some photos (not pictured here), and also spent time meandering through the riverscape on US-101N. I highly recommend stopping to see the wildlife. As we arrived at Mendocino, the first stop along the way was at Big River. An inlet situated right below the Pacific Coast Highway protected as National Seashore, that is home to hundreds of species of birds, plants, and other wildlife, as well as, a local spot for a nice beach day. Check it out.

BIG RIVER

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After spending some time at Big River, Jack & I decided to hike a new trail that runs east from the seashore, inland. Recently the town of Mendocino and surrounding unincorporated towns put their funds together and purchased Big River Estuary to be protected indefinitely. To read more about the project, click here.  Below you’ll find photos from our hike through the protected lands.

HIKING

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As the hike came to a close, Jack & I were both ready for some grub & shopping. As mentioned earlier, the downtown area of Mendocino is full of local shops and purveyors/artisans. We hopped into Oliver (our Subaru) and headed downtown. Throughout you’ll find links to a couple of my favorite spots to be bookmarked, if you make it up this way!

DOWNTOWN

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Yes, there is a whole section about jam. This jam store truly has the best jam in the entire world. To admit a secret, it’s one of the reasons I drove up here in the first place. Ryan, my best friend Kara, and myself, stumbled upon this place on our last trip up north. Located on the very last corner of one of the main roads in town and a giant cliff, this local jam spot creates small batches of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and boysenberry jams. If you do not take anything else from this blog, make a mental note of this place. You can find them here. There is nothing better than contributing to a local economy. Do yourself a favor and buy some damn jam :).  Also, they have the cutest building ever.

Other Links: 

Garden Bakery of Mendocino

MacCallum House Inn, Mendocino – B&B

JAM (Yes, there’s a whole section about jam.)

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Checkout these wildflowers, absolutely stunning.

As our trip came to a close, the pup and I meandered a bit more, making our way through the small streets of town. Some random photos to follow capture the essence of this magical place. From the tiny well kept homes to the native bees, Mendocino has made a special impact on the way I see the world. California, you’re beautiful.

MEANDER

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With one last stop for a coffee at the Goodlife Cafe & Bakery, we were off and headed home. Until next time Mendocino, keep being beautiful. Also, yes, that red building is a grocery store. How?! So beautiful. What a good day to be alive. Thanks Jack for being my sidekick.

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For more information, any other recommendations, or to collaborate on any photos/projects/day trips please DM on instagram or find me at joecalasci@gmail.com

As always, thanks for reading.

Travel on.

Taking Back Sunday.

Reset. Recharge. Reflect. #MakeSundaysGreatAgain

Over the last two and a half weeks I’ve been on vacation. Well, technically, I’ve been in between employment, as I’m getting ready to start a new position, soon. During that time, I’ve had a lot of downtime. Usually, if any of you know me well, I’m always going. Going to find a place to hike, a new ingredient to play around with, or off for a run. However, in these last fourteen days or so, I’ve been rather still. I’ve been investing time into my home, rather than abroad. I love the home that Ryan and I have built and in effect I feel as though I’ve become somewhat of a home-dweller! This week I decided to focus my post specifically on the topic of home, but more precisely Sundays + home.

As long as I’ve been an adult, Sundays have always been my favorite day of the week. A large percentage of my generation has coined the term ‘Sunday Scaries’ as it can be seen hash-tagged across the interweb; in contrast, I see Sunday in an opposing light, and hope to change your perspective on the start/end to the week (depending on which way you look at it)

Sundays to me represent a few things: 1. Resetting 2. Recharging 3. Reflecting.

Reset

Ryan and I tend to do most of our adventuring, food pioneering, and ‘Fun’ stuff on Friday nights or Saturdays. By the time Sunday morning rolls around we have a usual habit.

We love a good Sunday morning coffee + breakfast. Right down the street from our house is Acme Bread Company, one of the Bay’s biggest suppliers of all things gluten (yum). In addition to it’s kitchen, they have the cutest little storefront where locals can purchase fresh bread and other yummy treats. My favorite are the cheddar and jalapeño croissants. I’ll either grind up some coffee beans at home or make my way to Philz (most likely ground at home), and then head to the market for some fresh bread. Over the next couple of hours to the tune of Bon Iver, Aretha Franklin, jazz assortments, and maybe some Mumford and Sons, we rise with the sun as we cook. (Almost forgot to mention the Smokey the Bear Mug,  it’s the only coffee mug to drink out of these days.)

A couple of our Sunday treats this week.

We’re really lucky to live in such a fruitful place. Right now, the fig and lemon trees in Berkeley are in bloom, and one of the perks of living in a fertile valley, is that there’s always something to be harvested.

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Thanks, Jo for the beautiful figs.

After a long breakfast, hopefully in the backyard, we’ll usually take the pup for a long walk around town. By mid-morning to afternoon there’s definitely a feeling of being reset. Waking up slow is a luxury in these times, and intentionally taking time to be slower is something I highly recommend.

Recharge

Going back to the theme of ‘home-dwelling’ that I had mentioned earlier, Sundays have always been a day to sit around with the boy and hangout with the dog, but lately they’ve come to truly have a deeper meaning. One of the perks of our current apartment is that it has spectacular natural light. On a Sunday afternoon, spending time nestled up with a good book (just finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen – highly recommended) on our comfy couch (ask @idontkaratall, she slept there for a week) is the absolute best. During the week we are bothered with the hustle and bustle of it all, but finding a creative outlet, reading, or even taking a nap truly refreshes me for the week to come. Not to mention, Game of Thrones on Sunday night is always a nice cherry on top.  Recharging, is a true highlight of Sundays. Let that iPhone recharge, and take some time respectively for yourself.

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Two personal cooking favorites.

Reflect

During the regular grind of life, when I’m not staycationing, this time has become so much more than a couple of hours with family and friends. Sundays do not warrant anything from you. They do not ask for dates, prior engagements, or extracurricular activities. It is a day comprised of hours strung together that do not oppress, but rather grant freedom. Freedom in the form of time. Rather than being scared about what’s to come next, we should be using what we have to honor the work and time we’ve spent over the last seven days. The debate will rage on whether Sunday should be a day full of worries for Monday and the week ahead, but I challenge you this week to take it as it is. Social media has coined hashtags to instill depression and sadness into your week. In a world full of pessimists, ridiculous negative tweets, and a 24-hour sensationalist news-cycle, take a second. Put the time in this week, but take it back on Sunday.

#MakeSundaysGreatAgain

 

 

Leap.

2017 is flying by, what have I achieved this year? What will you achieve?

Taking a leap into something new is scary. For me, personally, new always equals “I’m not good enough yet, so I’ll just wait until I’m the best before actually trying out the new thing.” Which, quite frankly doesn’t make any sense, but for some reason it does to me. In 2017 I’ve taken a lot of leaps. Leaps into new friendships, leaps into/out of jobs, leaps into new skills, and leaps into new mediums of expression. If one thing during this post is to be the most true, leaping into anything new is not easy for me. At the beginning of the year I wrote down a list of ten things I wanted to achieve this year.

  1. Zero Debt
  2. More Money Saved.
  3. Start Wedding Planning
  4. Write More
  5. Find your brand.
  6. Budget each month
  7. Best shape of my life
  8. Find a new community
  9. New Camera
  10. New job.

Although we are a little more than half way through the year. Technically we are 66% through 2017, but I figured rather than writing a post about one specific trip, recipe, or experience, I’d do a little self-reflecting. Hopefully in the process, I can pass on some reflecting to all of you, as well!

So, how have I done? 

  • Zero Debt
  • More Money Saved. 
  • Start Wedding Planning 
  • Write More (I’d give myself a B-)
  • Find your brand.  
  • Budget each month
  • Best shape of my life
  • Find a new community 
  • New Camera 
  • New job

Woah! Over the past eight months I have been extremely diligent in my efforts, but rather than dwelling on the fact that I’ve smashed what I’ve set out to do, mostly, I’d like to take a second to harp on ‘why’ I set these objectives, specifically. Before moving on, I’d liked to address that creating objectives for the last 33% of the year, has not been as successful, but I’ll report back when I’ve come to a more clear conclusions as to what I want it to look like.

Each one of these objectives for 2017 are not mutually exclusive, and that’s what I truly love each of them and how they’ve impacted my 2017 thus far. 2017 has been extremely challenging and I’ve had to work harder than I ever have in my life to intentionally fulfill what I wanted. I’ve always seen myself as a person with strong work ethic, but putting intention behind my drive is truly why i feel a difference this year in contrast with years’ past. Rather than setting a bunch of goals that I hoped to achieve that I’ve been dragging along for years and years, I thought about how each goal could impact one another and my well-being to carry me forward while feeling empowered and positive (side note: I’ve had moments of pure struggle where empowerment/positivity was nowhere to be found, too)

There are a few things about me that not many people know. First, and foremost, I do not like being around a group of new people. I feel extremely uncomfortable and lose my confidence. These experiences make me feel numb, out of place, and truly scared. I have a tendency to say ‘no’ to things that make me uncomfortable, as I’m sure a lot of us do, but towards the end of 2016 I was allowing this characteristic/trait to take over and make those around me feel unhappy. Moving into the new year, saying ‘Yes’ made it’s way into many of the objectives found above. Saying ‘yes’ to taking control of my finances, saying ‘yes’ to fully diving into the deep end and finding a new community/friends, and saying ‘yes’ to finding a job that better fit my professional objectives.  For some, saying yes is easy, but I would challenge you. Are you saying yes because it’s shielding you from being vulnerable and taking charge, for the same reason that I was saying no?

Moving on (sorry for putting on the ‘i’m a therapist now’ hat for a second) other goals such as buying a new camera, diving into new forms of fitness, and finding my brand/writing more have allowed me to find new forms of expression. We all need to express ourselves, from time to time, and some more than others. My mediums of expression come from genuine and authentic conversation in my relationship, with close friends and family, and most often through cooking. However, 2017 was a year to find new muses and new modes. Photography has been a godsend, especially in the last two or three months since we’ve acquired our new Sony camera. It has truly established a new lens (pun intended) that has granted both Ryan and I a new perspective on our own lives. Writing, always a favorite of mine, is something of a lost art with our generation, and I highly encourage handwriting, there’s something about the digestion and completion of a thought on paper that elevates the medium from any other form of writing. And, last but not least, fitness, specifically new types of fitness such as weightlifting (I’m a big cardio guy) has opened new avenues of healthy living.

If you’re still reading this (I know this is a longer post), I challenge you to find a new medium. Whether it’s for health reasons, expression, or to lean into your vulnerabilities, or any other reason, do it. We are multi-faceted incredible beings, and we should explore all sides of ourselves. You’ll be surprised what you’re capable of.

I’ll end with a quote from some earlier writing back in June. I was sitting at work, extremely frustrated about the small mindedness of a certain individual, and I channelled that frustration into some positive writing.

“Don’t become like the rest of them. You have a caring soul. Hear the world cry, see the beauty, feel the balance. It is all here and it all deserves admiration.”

What will you leap into the last 33% of the year?

What do you want me to post about? Leave your comments below. Travel? Food? Style? Advice?

Next week, I’ve got some updates on my gardening and backyard project, stay tuned!

 

 

Healdsburg

Healdsburg day trip, new gardening endeavor, and more.

Hello food lovers, friends, + other internet people.

I’m back in action with some highlights on our bay area life, plus a little bit on fruit!

Over the past couple of weekends, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been crazy on my Instagram game, and there’s a good reason for it. Instagram is a true vessel for creative expression and it’s free! I’ve been spending some hard thought on what I want my brand to be, and I think I’m finally getting somewhere. I’ve always been in love with food (like seriously in love) and I’ve never really found a way to incorporate it into my life, other than the obvious dinner party & sharing with friends. Those closest to me know that my one life goal is to have a successful career, with food being the common theme.

Over the next couple of months I hope to bring more flare, color, Berkeley lifestyle, and food into my Instagram. Any thoughts, feedback, or suggestions are highly welcomed.

Thought I’d let you know why I’ve been an instagram-crazy lately 😉

Onto the food.


FRUIT + MORE

Living in the Bay Area is truly a blessing. We have a LEMON TREE in our back yard. #Blessed. I cannot tell you how amazing this has been. From homemade pasta dishes to dressings, and cocktails to desserts, living in one of the most fertile regions of the country has been unreal.

Before moving to the Bay, the organic food movement, was very very low on my list of priorities or disciplines to study. The reason, I don’t really know I guess. I’ve always been such an avid lover of food, but I guess I never really put the sourcing and economics of food to the forefront of my mind. However, since moving to the Bay a little over two years ago, I’ve been challenged to think outside of the box. Ryan and I live in a place where people use their front yards as garden space, rather than a useless lawn (for more on this, give me a call, there are so many useless side effects of Captialism/materialism, and ‘The lawn’ is one of them) People plant gardens at their children’s schools based on the seasonality, and use the harvest to feed the local community, one another, and as a source of income for the under privileged. My point here, sorry for taking the long way around, is that the actual anatomy and epistemology of food is common knowledge here. This has radicalized my process in the preparation, cooking, and serving of fresh and local produce. The culture has engulfed my life, way of thinking, and has altered my technique.

This weekend, Ryan and I made our way up to Healdsburg, CA (about 1.2 hours outside of the Bay area), and found ourselves at one of our favorite spots, The Shed.  They supply high quality, locally grown & sourced ingredients to a variety of lunch and dinner guests, as well as, a number of events. Their space is beautiful, features white-washed walls, and is always full of natural color from the fruits and veggies that fill the room.

From the beautiful yellowish tomatoes to the organic blueberries and strawberries, this day trip gave me the inspiration to create our own organic garden. We’ve got a raised bed in our backyard that is currently unused. Stay tuned for updates (most likely during the late fall months) to see what we yield!


Beauties from our trip to The Shed!

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What type of food methods/techniques/sourcing, are you infatuated with? Have any of these differences made any change to the way you think about food?

Comment below! 

As always, thanks for reading. I love you all!

 

 

Summer Updates

New blog post, finally. Check out what Ry and I have been up to since our last update!

Oh hello again!

It’s been a LONG while since I’ve blogged anything. (Sorry.) I’ve decided to use this medium today as an update on our lives, a reason as to why I’ve been absent, and what’s planned for the future.

Over the past month and a half or so, we have been SO busy. We’ve travelled to Blue Ridge, GA to scope out wedding venues with some of our best friends, we’ve partied for LA Pride with some individuals we befriended in SF over the last two years, we’ve road tripped to Bend, OR over Memorial Day Weekend, driven to Joshua Tree for the Fourth of July and much much more. It seems like we are always on the move, and you know what? I kind of love it. If there is one thing I’ve learned about Ryan and I, it’s that we need, new and exciting adventures. This time of year is full of opportunities to adventure as the Pacific Northwest opens it’s beauty up to the world, LA offers it’s summer take on food and sunny activities, and the East Coast is in full bloom. There is nothing like vacation in the summertime.

With that being said, all of this travel needs to be documented! We’ve been doing a good job (I’d give it a B+) of documenting our experiences with friends and family, but it’s time to step it up!

I originally started this blog as a medium to showcase my love for food, and I will continue to do so, but in the meantime, check out some of our best travel moments from the past ninety days or so.

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The US101N.

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Great Bloody’s + Brunch from @grandlakekitchen in Oakland, CA

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Follow @cru.cait and @sweden95 for the best photos you’ve ever seen 😉

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In the upcoming months I hope the dedicate more time to this blog, at least one post a week.

 

Some posts to watch out for:

  • Israeli Cardamom Coffee – I’ve been loving middle-eastern cuisine recently
  • More Cast-iron!
  • Hopefully a new Le Creuset + Camera (yasss)
  • Pictures of Ryan (Isn’t he so pretty…?)

And, lots more!

Also, make sure you’re following along at @jay.cal on instagram!