A Weekend in Fishtown, Philadelphia

Greetings! It’s been a bit since I checked in and while I’d love to blame it on work, it’s been a bit of work, a bit of play and a load of procrastination.  Let’s focus on the play today with a 24 hour trip through Fishtown, Philadelphia.

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Fishtown is a small neighborhood northeast of center city.  When I first moved into Fishtown in 2008, it was considered an up-and-coming neighborhood.  During my visit this past weekend, I would say Fishtown has arrived. Walking down the main drag, I spotted dozens of new shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.  I could not believe the hoards of young people walking around enjoying the sunshine in what was once a semi-desolate, working class neighborhood. There were only a handful of bars and pizza shops, one good cafe, and a single thrift store. I loved the neighborhood because it was removed from the hustle and bustle of center city, sheltered from the crime stats of Kensington, and small enough that I ran into friends on a weekly basis.  It felt like my little neighborhood and while I sensed a bit of pushback from the families that lived in Fishtown their whole lives, I still felt welcome and secure.

Fast forward eight years and the whole landscape of Fishtown has shifted.  It’s clear that short-term yearly rentals are more common in the community. You can see new housing popping up everywhere to accommodate students and hoards of younger crowds that are flocking to Fishtown to settle.  With the crowds comes the coffee shops, restaurants, yoga studios, community spaces and art galleries.  No longer are there abandoned lots waiting to be bought, instead there is a taco stand or a vegan ice cream shop filling the once vacant space.  Spending 24-48 hours in Fishtown would have been in enough in 2008, but now you’d need a week to really see and taste all it has to offer.  Instead of overwhelming you with every bit of goodness, I’ll let you in on my favorite gems, and you can explore the rest as you see fit.

Coffee

Rocket Cat – an old favorite coffee shop with alternative charm.  Rocket Cat has a variety of brews and bits to get you going in the morning.  It also acts as a community bulletin board with event posters lining the windows and a huge table of fliers and postcards with the current month’s happenings. If you’re looking for an authentic Fishtown event to attend during your visit, stop in at Rocket Cat and look for the hand drawn and designed postcards and fliers, they’re bound to be produced by a funky group of artists living in one of the many art co-ops in the neighborhood.

La Colombe – is a gorgeous cafe and eatery space on Frankford Ave. The architecture and interior design is enough to warrant a quick stop.  La Colombe also has lattes and coffee on tap, which seems strange and it is, but they’re amazing! Ask for a little sample if you’re not sold. I recommend the Pure Black mixed with the Draft Latte.

Grub

Honey’s Sit & Eat – reminds me of a slightly health conscious southern kitchen.  Fresh OJ is a must and if you’re having trouble deciding on a meal, choose their 2 egg breakfast bargain. It’s more than enough especially if you choose the biscuit and grits. The tofu scramble is another favorite.

Memphis Taproom - has always been a favorite.  The menu was pretty similar to what it was when I lived in Fishtown, but that’s because every single item is amazing. I highly recommend the smoked coconut club. I was a veg for five years and this is the ONLY vegetarian pub sandwich I had that had satisfied every sandwich craving.  I used to miss meat filled sandwiches so much until I discovered the coconut club – try it and tell me that crunchy smokey coconut doesn’t taste exactly like bacon, I dare you.

Pizza Brain – is the place for pizza in Fishtown.  All the others are typical, not-too-exciting pizza take out places, but Pizza Brain is a gourmet pizza eating experience.  Most of the varieties are sold only by the pie, but there are a handful of pizza by the slice options.  The slices are huge and one is more than enough, besides you have to save room for Little Babies ice cream, which is right next door.

Johnny Brenda’s – JB’s is a bumping bar, pool room, and music space at night, but during the day they serve up creative pub dishes. My favorite is the roasted beets salad with warm goat cheese, but I’ve never disliked anything I’ve ordered from Johnny Brenda’s so order it all!

Dos Segundos – This is technically Northern Liberties – another neighborhood that was ‘up-and-coming’ when I lived in the city. It’s packed with middle and upperclass professionals and an amazing strip of restaurants and bars. Dos Segundos has reasonably priced Mexican food and the best margaritas in the city. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever ordered, but the tacos are top notch if you’re looking for something yummy on the cheap!

El Camino Real – Also technically in Northern Libs, El Camino Real has prime people watching outdoor seating and an interesting Tex-mex style menu.  There’s a great mix of meat and veggie-centric meals.  The chili and mac and cheese are amazing starters or together they make a whole meal. Sharing the seitan wings will please even the pickiest meat eaters. If you’re a vegetarian surely get the sweet potato and cactus burrito.

Drinks

Frankford Hall – is a nice wide open space perfect for large get-togethers or a quick drink after work with a pal.  It’s a legit beer garden with dozens of full sized outdoor tables as well as games to keep you busy.  The food, booze and vibe rings true to what I’ve experienced in Germany – I highly recommend it.

Cook & Shaker – is a little out of the way depending on where you’re staying in Fishtown, but the beer list and fresh, creative cocktails can’t be beat. Cook & Shaker is a perfect stop for happy hour although the ‘One in a melon’ cocktail will have you staying long after.

Murph’s – is a neighborhood bar. I’m sure the locals are pissed about the shift in patrons, but this will always be a favorite bar of mine – maybe it’s because they were lax on IDing back in the day.

Treats

Little Babies – is the bomb.com. Every single flavor is delicious and true to life. What do I mean by that? I sampled Ranch and wanted to vomit at how accurate it tasted. I had a mouthful of cold salad dressing in my mouth. WTF. Well done Little Babies! I obviously didn’t order that flavor, but you know I’m all about that balsamic banana! Little Babies is great because they offer up vegan ice creams that taste amazing and have the texture of regular ice cream.

Things to Do & See

Take a walk down Frankford ave where you’ll wander by a couple parks and small community gardens.  There’s a great mix of boutique shops, independently owned clothing stores and artist studios and galleries as well. Girard Ave east of Front Street also has a great row of shops and consignment stores that are worth wandering into. Look at the fliers in the neighborhood for live events. There’s plenty of art, music and movement in Fishtown.

Keep in mind: Even though the neighborhood has arrived, it’s still Philadelphia, so keep your city wits about you. If you’re staying in Fishtown, but you want to pop over to northern Libs, it’s perfectly safe to walk during the day, but once night falls, I’d bike briskly or hop in an uber to avoid any complications.

There you have it. Visit Fishtown if you’re looking to glimpse into the every day life of young Philadelphians trying to survive in the city without paying heaps and heaps for rent.  If I moved back to Philadelphia tomorrow, you could bet I’d rent in Fishtown.

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A Garden Introduction

Throughout this summer I’m excited to keep a journal documenting the growth, updates, and general observations of the gardens around our house. Since it’s the start of the season, I thought it would be appropriate to begin with a little overview of the outdoor space. Admittedly, the photos in this post aren’t that exciting, but I’m happy for the visual record they’ll provide as the season progresses.

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We have a very large deck, a number of raised beds, a small-ish pond with a waterfall/stream powered by a pump that we can turn on and off. There’s a small rock path leading from the deck to the pond, and then this path continues down the side of the hill to our driveway. The rest of our outdoor space is rustic. Our house is built on the side of a hill/mountain, and fortunately there is no landscaping, instead, we just get to walk off the porch and and are immediately immersed in the native Rocky Mountain foothills ecosystem, full of evergreen trees, cactuses, native grasses and flowers, and small shrubs, all dotted with many rock outcroppings.

Location

For anyone interested in the nitty gritty – I’m gardening in Boulder, CO in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We’re at about 6000 feet altitude, and in USDA zone 5b.

The Challenges

This is going to be my first real season gardening in Colorado. For the past two summers, I mainly grew herbs and a few things in pots on our deck, but this year my goal is to start improving the permanent spaces around our house. The main challenges that I want to keep in mind are water supply, animal predation, and length of the growing season.

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I think I’m already doing a good job of reining in my expectations when it comes to that last item. If this were PA, I would have been actively working in the garden and adding new plants back in April. But here, we saw some of our biggest snow storms just a month ago! That definitely helped to keep my expectations in check. It also helps that the nurseries (knowing what’s what) don’t put out many of their plants until we’ve entered the window where putting them in the ground is ok. So, I’ve just started to add some perennials to the flower beds, and while it *feels* late, I think I’m right on schedule.

When it comes to plant choices, I want to create a responsible garden, so I’m really focusing on plants that will do well in a more arid environment. Fortunately for me, many of the flowers that I like also fit the bill as having low-water needs. After their first season, that is. You want to water plants well in their first season to ensure that they become established in the beds, growing nice deep roots that will help them  in future seasons with lower water supplies. We have a drip irrigation installed throughout the beds, so that will help with watering but even so, I want to make sure we’ve installed a water-wise garden.

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The other challenge that I’m trying to keep in mind are the foragers that frequent/live on our property. There are families of Mule Deer living in this area, and they love to graze in our yard. They are often eating the native grasses growing on the hillside, but they also walk right onto the deck and will look for anything tender growing in the garden. We also have rabbits living in the yard and they have no qualms about eating from the garden. Again, I’m lucky that many of the flowers I want to add to the garden are generally considered to be deer and rabbit-safe, but this is not the case for most vegetables, so as you’ll see below, I have a plan…

The Raised Beds

There are twelve tiered beds along one side of our deck, a few more that line the stairway from our driveway to the front door, and a couple more on the east-facing slope of our mountain below the house. We don’t see those last two on a daily basis, so I think I’ll end up ignoring them for most of this summer while I keep my focus on developing the plantings in the other beds.

Flowers

All of the planted areas currently contain a collection of early-season bloomers (daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinths). There are a few peony plants, lavender, roses, and a lot of bearded irises.

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This year I’m hoping to expand the variety of flowers growing in these beds. My plan is to add black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, bee balm, catmint, yarrow, goldenrod, and milkweed. From my research, these all fit the bill as having low water needs and also being relatively unattractive to foraging from deer and rabbits. And while I’m trying to keep away some animals, I’m hoping to attract others. These flower choices are all attractive to a combination of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

In addition to the flowers, we have a number of ornamental shrubs – butterfly weed, flowering hydrangea, and lilacs. I don’t plan on adding any more shrubs at the moment; I just want to maintain what we have.

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Edibles

We inherited a few edible plants in our garden. There are perennial herbs (sage, chives, oregano, and mint), a raspberry patch, and a few old strawberry beds.

A lot of people flinch when they here about mint in the garden because it’s so invasive. We’re fortunate in that all of our mint is planted in the rock pathway between our deck and the pond. It’s slightly shaded and is an area with soil that stays more moist than other beds (perfect for water-loving mint), and fortunately, it can’t really spread beyond that zone because it’s cornered by the pond, stream, and deck.

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I didn’t know anything about raspberries before moving in, and I still feel like there’s a lot to learn. I know that there are some varieties that produce berries late in the season off of new canes and other varieties that produce berries throughout the season off of old growth. Right?

Last summer I cut all of these canes back. We only ended up getting two berries (no joke!), but they were delicious! It could have been that we didn’t water the area enough? Or it could be that this is a variety that produces berries on old growth? I didn’t prune anything this season and am going to see what happens. I’ve also signed up for a “small berries” class at a local nursery. I’m hoping to walk away from the class with both tips for growing and caring for our berry plants as well as information about different varieties that do well in our area.

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I think our strawberry beds are all past their prime. I’ve read and been told that a strawberry plant only has a few years in it before its production slows down. Last year we had quite a few flowers, and I think I saw a berry or two, but we never got to any of them before the animals (this might be an unavoidable problem). I’d like to re-energize our beds, but I think I’ll wait to do anything until after the class.

When we moved in, every one of our raised beds had something growing in it – some were more full than others. Calder and I were both excited to completely empty at least one bed for growing veggies. We don’t have high expectations, or necessarily a high demand since we have a farm share, but we want to grow a few things that we can pick and eat, and more importantly to give the boys the exposure to growing something that they can pick and eat.

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So this spring, I cleared one of the beds right off of the deck, moving most of the plants to open spaces in the surrounding beds. We then turned over the soil, added compost, and planted a few early-season veggies and herbs. Right now we have a little area of loose-leaf lettuces and another area of radish varieties (I’ve heard radishes are absurdly easy to grow, and I’m looking for an easy success in our first season). One side of the bed is dedicated to herbs – we have thyme and a hardy rosemary, if we’re lucky, both will be perennials in that space. We also added a dill and a fennel plant. In the middle of the bed I put in a couple of bok choy plants and one rainbow chard because we like to eat those greens. I think that as it gets too hot for the lettuce area, I’ll plant some basil in that zone.

This past weekend we built a couple of fenced boxes to fit over the vegetable bed. Nothing fancy just a super-simple frame using the cheapest wood from the hardware store with chicken wire stapled to it. I built the box in two pieces so that it would be easy to pick them up and move then aside when we’re working in that bed, and we can use only one if we only need half of the bed covered.

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So that’s the state of the garden as of this week. Between the late snowstorms and recent rain, we’ve had a relatively wet spring, which is getting everything off to a really nice start (even if we are all going a bit stir-crazy inside!). The radish and lettuce seeds have sprouted! And all of the perennials I’ve planted thus far seem to be thriving. I’ll be excited to update this series throughout the summer as a record of how the beds change, and I’m hoping that the visuals will really help me each year as I think about what I’d like to add/change in the garden.

In the next post I’ll introduce you to our pond and my dreams for a big, lush water garden… they’re competing with Calder’s dream to turn the pond into our hot tub!

 

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DIY Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve made some vanilla-infused vodka (great for milkshakes!), a savory roasted chicken with vanilla bean, and some homemade perfumes with vanilla essential oils.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but today we’re finally hitting on the key ingredient in every kitchen – vanilla extract! Who doesn’t have a bottle of vanilla extract in their kitchen? It gets used in everything. In fact, yesterday the boys and I baked our favorite chocolate cake, and even that called for two teaspoons of vanilla extract. 

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My fist exposure with homemade vanilla extract was a few years ago when I received a bottle from my BFF for Christmas. It was amazing, and I cherished that bottle, wanting to use it but also keep it for ever because it was just so good. As you’ll see, DIYing your own extract is so easy that I probably should have reigned in my emotions a bit…

The key to make a quality vanilla extract comes down to two things : 1. quality beans and 2. time.

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How-to

For this bottle of extract I used 8 Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans and 1 cup of vodka. Split each bean by slicing through it lengthwise, then place the beans in a jar, add the vodka (making sure that it covers the beans), and let sit for at least two months.

After that time, you don’t have to remove the beans. In fact, you can let the extract sit longer to get a richer flavor. And as you use the extract, you can top it off with more vodka to keep your batch going.

That’s it!

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For how simple this recipe is, there are many ways to personalize it. Try different vanilla beans for different flavors (for example, Ugandan beans are supposed to have a more smokey flavor). You can also use different alcohols. I used vodka because it’s flavorless, so I would really only taste the vanilla from my beans, but you can substitute rum or bourbon. Personally, now that I have this bottle, I’m excited to experiment with a few more bean/alcohol combinations.

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And if you just happen to have a big bottle of vodka sitting around, don’t forget that with a single vanilla bean and a few days, you can turn it into a smooth vanilla vodka! If you’ll remember, Calder made fun of my idea to make vanilla vodka, but the joke’s on him because that stuff was so good that it’s already gone and I’m thinking about making another batch (maybe with lime this time!).

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A New Season

Hey there, we’re still here! Somewhere.

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As the weather has changed, we’re finally enjoying spring in the mountains and have turned our attention outside. Breakfast on the deck, planting a little bed of veggies, cleaning up the pond, afternoons at the park, which morph into evenings and dinner in the park. It’s all amazing, but it’s pulled me away from the computer, which is both good and bad. I love all of the time in the sun and fresh air, and there’s nothing that puts a bigger smile on my face than digging in the dirt (especially when the boys help), but I do miss documenting our days. So, I’m hoping to get back here, even if it’s at a more relaxed pace over the next weeks/months.

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The photos in this post are from a Mother’s Day hike that Alex and I took up our mountain to the old cabin in the woods. I wanted to spend one-on-one time with each boy on Sunday, and when I asked Alex what he wanted to do, “hike to the cabin” was his idea. It was so perfect. There was only one moment when I threatened to leave him in the woods – three year olds are tantrum masters. But we recovered, and then had a great time exploring that cabin.

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Every time I visit the cabin, I’m in awe of what it must have taken to trek all of the materials to that spot, and I’m also left with so many questions. Who was it? Why there? when did the cabin start to fall apart? It looks like such a quality piece of work, not a temporary shack. And it’s so cool that I wish I could freeze it in time, but I know that we just have to let nature take its course.

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On this particular trip Alex came to the realization that “maybe this was a house!” and “maybe somebody lived here!”. It was amazing to watch his little brain grasp these big ideas, especially as he started to wonder what happened to the cabin, where did its floor go, etc. etc.

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And in other news, little Luc started walking over the weekend! Soon the three of us will be taking that hike together.

And with that, I’m signing off to get back out in the garden. I’ve been working hard in that space and am so excited to share/document the work.

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In the Field : Sara Lingenfelter

This post was originally published on April 25th, 2014. We’re republishing it today because it’s Arbor Day! Get out there and hug a tree, but first, read about someone who’s doing some awesome work to help save the American Chestnuts.

As we mentioned on Monday, today we’re introducing a new column called In the Field, where we tag along with someone doing interesting work. In this post we’re talking to Sara Lingenfelter (formerly Fitzsimmons), the regional science coordinator for the Pennsylvania Chapter of  The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). I think I can speak for both Sarah (my sister) and myself when saying that having an excuse to search out and talk to someone like Sara is just the sort of reason why we started Seasoned. I couldn’t wait to learn more about TACF’s mission and current projects as well as Sara’s research and the day-to-day aspects of her job!

Given that today is Seasoned’s first Arbor Day, we couldn’t think of a better tree to talk about than the American chestnut, Castanea dentata.  Depending upon your age, you may have heard your parents, grandparents, and/or great-grandparents talk about the majesty of the American chestnut. These trees are native to the forests of the Eastern US, where they were considered extremely important for their role within the ecosystem and as a valuable economic resource.

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How To: Fill and Hang a Hummingbird Feeder

 Here is the feeder I have & here’s one double the size. These feeders are extremely easy to fill, hang and clean. The red color attracts hummingbirds, but not stinging insects – bees, wasps, hornets, etc can’t see red, but are attracted to yellow. BTW we love bees, just not near our hummingbird feeder.

It’s that time of year again :) hang up those feeders, plant flowers to attract pollinating insects and watch your yard come alive with activity. We originally posted this just about a year ago, but thought it was a fun reminder – so here it is again.

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I spotted my first hummingbird of the season yesterday, which means it’s time to hang up the feeder.  This post is kind of a no-brainer, but who knows, maybe you’ve never hung up a hummingbird feeder? Maybe you didn’t even think of doing it until this post and then you were like DUH, I should totally hang up a hummingbird feeder. Is that you? Cool, keep reading.

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Creative Corner : Artist Benjamin Gazsi

We’re republishing one of our favorite artist interviews today – originally posted on April 22, 2014.

Ben Gazsi is an artist who may be best known for his eco-sculptures, but before we delve into his work, let’s get one thing out of the way. Yes, his given name really is Benjamin Gazsi; it’s a Hungarian name, not a political statement related to incidents in the Libyan city.  And get this, he’s not the only Ben Ghazi (different spelling intentional) to be asked such questions. So, on with the art then?

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I discovered Ben’s work while preparing for our camping trip to Cooper’s Rock State Forrest. I knew that his bear sculpture was still standing and was excited to see it and take a few pictures while we were there. As luck would have it, Ben was in the forest working on his next installation for Cooper’s Rock: a turtle that is being unveiled today, Earth Day 2014! Of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to photograph his process and ask a few questions.

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Winter Photography Tips

Sarah is a professional freelance photographer – she’s always sharing tutorials. Learn how to find flattering natural light for selfies and portraits or catch tips on photographing kids and pets. See what camera Katie shoots with or check out my favorite lenses.

Live Seasoned Spring 16 Photographing Winter Landscapes08Live Seasoned Spring 16 Photographing Winter Landscapes14 We agree, it’s a little bit strange to talk about Winter Photography Tips in mid-April, but did you see all the snow that fell in Boulder this past weekend? It wouldn’t stop! With a house full of food and relatives and the fire on full blast, we enjoyed every second of the snow.  We even made it outside for a hike up the mountainside.  If you’re still enjoying wintery snowscapes, here are a few practice pieces of advice for photographing in the snow. Continue reading

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Two Bits

We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share your a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned.

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Sarah here :

What a week! The weather here was so so, but it motivated me to get a bunch of work done before my trip to see Kate in Colorado next week. I spent long hours in the darkroom and in my home office, developing prints, paying taxes and getting everything squared away. Nothing too exciting. I did listen to some interesting podcasts that I’d like to share here. If you like the suggestions, I’ll keep them coming in future two bits posts.

Stuff You Should Know – How Makeup Works – Wow. This one was eyeopening! Did you know makeup hasn’t really been regulated since around 1938?! Insane! That was the real gem of this podcast, just knowing that we are all rubbing unregulated chemical concoctions into the largest organ on our body.. not good. Just like we were surprised to find out beaver castoreum is sometimes used in artificial vanilla flavoring, there are some pretty curious ingredients in common makeup products. Kate has taken a few mineral makeup classes and we’re hoping to share some of that information and a recipe or two in future here on the blog.

Stuff You Should Know – How Perfume Works – Not as disturbing as the makeup podcast, but equally informative, it was cool to hear what exactly goes into creating a perfume.  I wanted to listen to this episode after Kate wrote the coolest post (in my opinion) on DIY perfume a few days ago. Check it out if you’re interested in making one of our custom scents, or maybe you have your own idea in mind?!

What else? We started the week reminiscing about a trip to Bali, Indonesia, shared our camera equipment mid-week and rounded it all out by talking about IUDs. Varied, but informative week here on Seasoned. Oh question, when learning new workouts and yoga sequences online, what do you prefer? Still images, videos, GIFs? We’d love to know. Happy weekend!

 

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Sarah’s Mirena IUD experience

Coming at you with something pretty personal today, so if you’re a dude, or you don’t feel like hearing about birth control, this is your chance to tune out! We’re not trying to offend anyone so simply look away please, but be sure to visit us tomorrow :)

Hey ladies, I wanted to share a brief summary of my IUD (Intra-Uterine Device) experience here today.  I had been contemplating writing this for a little over a week. I wasn’t sure if it was necessarily blog material, but really, what is blog material? What are all the things we avoid talking about because they’re not pretty and cute? So here I am, talking about my uterus on the internet. If this creeps you out or seems like TMI, I sincerely apologize.  I think it’s important to talk about things that apply to half the population, hence our discussion about birth control here today.

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