photographer envy: berta tilmantaite


It's true. A picture is worth 10,000 words. I look at the work of Berta Tilmantaite and feel as though I'm traveling around the world with her. From place to place I get a sense for the people, the landscape, and a way of life that is so foreign to me. You can see it on the people's faces. In Georgia the norm is a grimace and in Indonesia the smiles are full of joy. It tells a history. It exposes reality.

How I would love to be a photo journalist doing just that. I want to travel. I want to see the world and capture it all with my lens. Through a couple mirrors, some light, and a snap we're able to convey a world of truth that connects people all across the world. I look at Berta's Facebook, and she's meeting people, talking to strangers, and soaking in the beauty of who they are as an individual and a representation of their place in the world. She goes anywhere and is fearless. I want to do that, uncover the story of mankind and communicate it to others. 

Berta Tilmantaite's work hits my aspirations on the head. She's does it too perfectly. Do browse her work and videos if you get the chance. It is all phenomenal.  

rocket cat cafe


Nestled in the heart of Fishtown, on Frankford Avenue, lives Rocket Cat Cafe. It's become a recent favorite for it's bare decor, quirky clientele, and dark house brew. It's a small hub of locals, where people come to be alone, but never really are. Together, everyone sips and writes and thinks and stares out the window. Everyone brings a story with them, and they whirl through my brain as I sit quietly observing.

weekly scenes: the highs and lows


Call it hormones, or call it life. The past couple weeks have had a lot of ups and downs. When the lows roll in, man it’s defeating. Thank god for the people who help talk it out.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. There have been so many great things that have happened too. Babies being born, pancake breakfasts, belly laughs, new opportunities...those are things to focus on.

In every life there will be downs, we just can’t let them kill us. If anything, they are lessons to better ourselves. Use the energy of those highs to push on through the bad. I'm not perfect. None's perfect. That's life.

paleo squash & seafood bisque


Like everyone else, I've been eating healthier in the New Year. This is one of my many recipe creations in the venture to do so. It is a spin on seafood bisque with squash-based broth and no dairy. The seafood dresses it up, and adds healthy protein. Each bite feels like an indulgence. Things just shouldn't taste this good, and be this healthy.

1 Onion
1 Large Garlic Clove
2 Acorn Squash
5 Cups Water
1 Tsp. Vegetable Bouillon or a Bouillon Cube
.4LB Scallops
10 Clams
16 Shrimp
2 Tsp Moroccan Seasoning
1 Tsp Tumeric
1 Tsp Chili Powder
1 Tsp Safron Threads
Ghee & Olive Oil for Sauteing
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the acorn squashes in half and lay them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Dress with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until caramelized.
2. Remove squash from the oven. Once cooled, scoop out the innards and set aside.
3. Using hot olive oil, saute chopped onions and garlic in a large stock pot.After they are cooked through, add squash, water, and spices. Important, do not salt until the very end. Oysters add a lot of saltiness to a dish and you don't want to overdo it.
4. Using a hand blender, turn the squash and onions into a fine liquid. Let simmer.
5. In a separate saute pan, caramelize scallops and shrimp in ghee. Set them aside in a bowl when finished.
6. Toss oysters into the squash broth and cover the pot. The steam that is trapped with your lid will cook the oysters. Remove the lid once all have opened. After 5-7 minutes they should be done. 
7. Kill the flame and mix in scallops and shrimp.
8. Taste for seasoning and add as much salt/pepper as is needed.
9. Serve!

empire brewing company


Empire Brewing Company is a long-time favorite spot of mine back home. It's a local brewery with great food, fun times, and a good attitude. I grew up going there with the family, and have since made sure to visit almost every time I'm home.

Empire is the first business in central NY to use 100% NY State produced renewable energy, and the good efforts don't stop there. The restaurant uses locally sourced food as much as possible, and really promotes the concept. You'll see "eat local" signs all throughout the place, right down to the coasters. The owners also have a garden that provides produce for the restaurant as well as a farm stand nearby. All of their spent grains and fry oil get put to use for local livestock, and paper products are biodegradable. With so many measures taken, one can sure feel good about going there to grab some beer and food.How's that for sustainability? 

My favorite thing to do when I go to Empire is to order a beer flight. I can never finish the whole thing, but for only $10 you get to sample a whole line up. Certain brews are always included, and then there are two seasonal picks as well. My personal favorite beer at Empire Brewing Company is the Black Magic Stout. 

The Food
There are a lot of great menu items at Empire, but my no-fail is the lobster bisque. I've been eating it since I was a wee one and each time it goes down so easy. The soup comes with blue corn croutons in it that are particularly tasty. Blue corn sprinkles the menu throughout and is a signature of the restaurant. Also good, are their flat breads and fajitas. Pictured above is the Mediterranean plate which is a great accompaniment for the bisque. 

maria cornejo and mark borthwick's brooklyn pad


How great is the home of fashion designer Maria Cornejo and her photographer husband Mark Borthwick? I love the open format and strong emphasis on natural elements. It's like an over-run forest clashing with modernity. How about the view of that garden outside? The pad itself is in Brooklyn where couple resides with their two teenage sons. Imagine growing up this way!

Think that's good, here's some further reading on the inspiring couple.

(Photos by Marc C. O'Flaherty)

moments at home


Adam and I were able to take a quick trip back to Syracuse last weekend. As can be expected of central New York in January, temperatures were close to zero and snow covered every stretch of nature to be seen. Despite the bitter cold we were able to hit the snow shoe trails with my dad and the three dogs. At outset, my fingers were numbed to the bone, but once we got going the blood started rushing, circling in my abdomen and sending warmth to the extremities. It’s hard to explain the beauty that surrounded us. There is no other way to describe it besides saying that it felt like witnessing magic. Gusts of wind would knock snowfall from the trees, and it looked like a million tiny stars raining down. The quietness, the stillness…it was breathtaking.

The indoors felt just as magical. A warm haven of love. The older I get the more and more I appreciate my parent’s home. It’s full of good taste – not too fancy, but elegant and rustic. From light fixtures, to wedding gifts hanging on the wall, I love the little details all around. Above everything, I enjoy how lived in of a home it is. In every nook you can feel the years, the lives of three children, dogs, and two parents who love each other. Both my mom and my dad have their hobbies. My father paints, draws, and builds models while my mom is an avid gardener and reader. As a result the place is full of books, plants, paint brushes – you name it. The environment that all of it creates is so comforting to me. I peruse through and sometimes pick out a book to borrow. I guess you could say I feel at home. I can't help but think, "what precious little moments..."

baked lotus root chips with spicy avocado dip


That, up there ^, is a lotus root. If you're not familiar, try one. They are a staple in most Chinese and Taiwanese cooking, and they come in many forms. I've seen acidic lotus root salads, soups with lotus root pieces, drinks, and even chips. If you know what you're looking for, you can find them at most Asian grocery stores. 

Like everyone else, I want to kick off the new year with a healthy start, and so I'm going to do another Whole30 cleanse. The key to a successful cleanse is planning, and so I've been crafting up an arsenal of recipes to have on hand. This is the first that I will share with you all. It is completely dairy, meat, and carb free. The chips make a great side for dinners and lunches, or can be served as an appetizer if you wish. The spicy avocado dip makes a nice accompaniment, and is filled with plenty of good fat to keep you full while cleansing.

1 Lotus Root
Peanut Oil
Salt & Pepper

1 Avocado
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Mayo (Made with Olive Oil)
1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1 Tbs Chili Oil (see picture above)
1 Tsp Salt

Chip Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Peel and thinly slice your lotus root. The thinner you get them, the better the texture will be. If you have mandolin it would be a good tool for this.
3. Spread your slices out on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush with peanut oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper,  and put in the oven to bake. Depending on how thing your slices are, the baking should take 30-45 minutes. Take the tray out when chips are crispy.

Dip Directions:
1. Lightly brown garlic cloves over low heat in a bit of peanut oil.
2. Throw all ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy.