All posts by heidi

the ultimate gift guide for candle lovers

Use this gift guide to make your loved ones feel super fancy with this awesome list of the best luxurious candles.

I really want to dispel the notion that candles are a cop-out gift that you give to your great-aunt because you have to get her a present. Candles are a wonderful gift for the right person –  that person being a candle lover. How do you know if someone’s a candle lover? They probably have six or seven candles (or more) placed elegantly around the house, all with burnt wicks.

I’m one of these people. There are three candles on my desk right now, one by my bed, one in the bathroom, and another two in my living room. I think they’re romantic and moody, and complete rooms with a glowy, warmth.  I light different candles depending on how I want to feel – energized or relaxed.  I love them, and I put a lot of thought into the candles I buy, so do most candle lovers.

Why do candles make good gifts? Really nice candles can cost a good chunk of money. It’s hard to justify spending $45 on something that you plan to burn. But the fancy, sophisticated feel they add to your day is priceless.

Buying candles for other people can be tricky. Cheaper candles often hit heavy with a chemically smell. The best candles are light, airy, and clean burning.

To help you in your search, I’ve rounded up the best scented candles on the web.  These super-fancy candles will make anyone feel special. Don’t worry, you won’t find any Yankee Candles in this list.

Fifth-and-Madison-Cosmopolitan-SohoFifth & Madison Cosmopolitan Candle – I’ll start with my favorite first. Fifth & Madison are amazing candle makers. Their product smell fantastic and burn light and clean. People always ask, “where is that candle from?” when I’m burning a Fifth & Madison candle. The Cosmopolitan is a good candle for a sophisticated New York girl who likes sweet and fruity scents that aren’t overbearing. I also suggest the chai pumpkin latte and joie de noel as seasonal gifts.

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Jonathan Adler Champagne Pop Candle – JA’s candles have been my long-time love. Their elegant jars and scents make me feel just a bit rich. I’ve loved Jonathan Adler’s Champagne candle for a long time. They’ve expanded their boozy scent collection to include vodka and abesinthe, which I’m absolutely obsessed with. Burning these candles makes me feel so classy.

Henri Bendel CashmereHenri Bendel Cashmere Candle – Did you know Bendels has its own candle line? How refined does this cashmere candle seem? Looks like they removed it from their website today, of course (possibly sold out?), but I suggest browsing their other candles. I’d definitely take a risk on the white pepper.

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Voluspa Prosecco Bellini – I own two Voluspa candles (they sell them at anthropologie) and love them both. The milky, classic jars are elegant, and the clean-burning fruity scent of Prosecco feels like such an indulgence.

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Terrain Hot Cider Candle – I cannot get over how perfect this candle is! That mug! Once you’ve burned the entire candle you can use the mug. And apple cider is the perfect holiday scent. This one is definitely on my wish list.

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K. Hall Studio Moss Printed Candle – My friend made fun of me when I said I owned a moss-scented candle, but the scent is somehow perfect and comforting for any time of year. I can’t wait to burn through it (120 hours) so I can use the screen printed jar as a vase.

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Luminous Candles Old Books Scented Candle – One of my favorite things to do is light a candle, curl up on the couch and read a book. How great would it be if my living room suddenly smelled like a library? This one is definitely a candle for the bookworm.

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Bath and Body Works Fresh Balsam Candle – I was really hesitant to put a Bath & Body works candle on here, but I own this one and I really do love it. It leaves the house smelling like Christmas trees. This  candle does hit heavy and fills the room, but the eucalyptus and balsam make it very pleasant.

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Terrain Moscow Mule Candle – Another perfect candle from Terrain. Of course, I mostly want this for the mug (they retail around $30!), but filling my home lime and ginger reminiscent of a delicious cocktail doesn’t hurt.

laudree brioche candle

Laudrée Brioche Candle – Take a quick escape to the French countryside with this candle. Who doesn’t want a house filled with the soft, sweet scent of baked brioche?

Molton-Brown-Vintage-2015-Single-Wick-Candle_with_box_CAN181_XLMolton Brown Vintage 2015 Elderflower Candle – This festive and luxurious candle is filled with grapefruit, elerflower, and vetiver, and feels very special.

The 10 Best DIY Gift Ideas Just in Time for the Holidays

Have you ever attempted a handmade Christmas? A few years ago I committed to creating all of my Christmas and holiday gifts. I loved the thought and intention that went into every gift.

I know handmade gifts can be an intimidating, if not unwelcome, thing. But I’ve rounded up the best DIY gift ideas on the web. Trust me, your friends and family will love these!

The Ultimate Handmade DIY Gift Guide. Make Christmas and the holidays extra special for your loved ones with these DIY Gift Ideas.

from top left to right

  1. The Cutest Mini Face Planters from Sugar and Cloth
  2. Elegant Copper Candles from The Merrythought
  3. Leather and Brass Hanging Planter from Vintage Revivals
  4. Floral Bath Bombs from Emma Mag
  5. Minimalist Mountain Clock from Say Yes
  6. Iron-On Transfer Dolly Parton Bag from A Beautiful Mess (It’s perfect!)
  7. Deer String Art Decor from me
  8. Cheerful Hand Painted Mugs from A Pair and a Spare
  9. No-Sew Adventure Resolution Banner from Breathe Happiness
  10. Herbal Pre-Shave Beard Oil from The Merrythought

So, which is your favorite? I kinda want all of them!

If you need more ideas, be sure to check out my DIY and Crafts Pinterest board.

Great Gift Idea: Adult Coloring Books

Earlier this year (way ahead of the trend), my best friend sent me one of my favorite gifts ever – an adult coloring book.

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Since then, I’ve seen them everywhere. They’re the entryway display at the craft store, they’re at farm potlucks, they’re at girl’s night. And they’re the perfect gift.

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Why? They give the person you care about an opportunity to indulge in personal time. When I first started coloring, it felt like a waste of time, like I could be doing something more productive. But adult coloring books made me conquer my Type-A personality and forced me to relax and just enjoy the passing of time. They helped me enjoy beauty and creativity without demanding a purpose or an end product. They’re definitely something I would never buy myself.

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Adult coloring books are pretty challenging, but they also encourage you to stretch your imagination and approach colors in a new way.

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Currently, I have two adult coloring books. The first one, The Secret Garden, is probably the most popular one out there and with good reason. Johanna Basford uses whimsical and complex illustrations to bring a joyous garden to life.

Sometimes the illustrations are a little too complex. I’ve never actually finished a complete page. But they’re still very fun.

I’ve also colored in her other book Enchanted Forest  and absolutely love it. It had unicorns in it!

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I also have the Creative Cats Coloring Book, of course. Creative Haven, the company who makes this book, also makes a few more. They’re certainly not as intricate or imaginative, but I like them all the same. It takes less time to complete one of these drawing and I wouldn’t say they’re strictly for adults. Mosaic Masterpieces is really fun and challenges you to get creative with color!

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These are the markers I bought to accompany my new hobby. They’re a nice quality and color for the price. The tips are shaped so you can color thin or thick lines and you get 100 colors!

If you’re struggling to find something for your creative loved ones, I’d definitely suggest these. Or, if you’re stressed out from the holidays, sit your butt down in front of a coloring book with a candle and some hot cocoa. It will absolutely calm you down.

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So do you have an adult coloring book yet? What do you think of them?

Warm and Nourishing Vegan Pot Pie

In our home, pie is a point of contention. For me, pies are a lot of work with relatively little payoff. Ryan entirely disagrees, but of course, he’s not the one making the pies.

Vegan-Pot-Pie-Final-4It’s usually the pie crust that pushes me over the edge from “maybe I’ll make that” to “hell no.” I’m too stubborn to buy the pre-made crust, which frequently contains lard. And the idea of cutting butter into flour, rolling out dough, cleaning flour off the counter because, of course, I get flour everywhere…it’s just exhausting.

Pot pie, in particular, is something that took Ryan a long time to sell me on. It was a while before he convinced me that a pot pie can be more than the frozen, pea-filled, slightly fishy tasting, microwaveable flour brick of my childhood. But he asked nicely, if not repetitively, for a vegetable pot pie and how can I deny his cute face?

Vegan-Pot-Pie-Final-2If you aren’t intimidated by a little hard work, this vegan pot pie might just be for you. Or, in my case, your loved ones.

With the holidays just around the corner, this pot pie would be a perfect centerpiece to your vegan Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Or, if you’re like us, it can be one of many centerpieces. The thick and buttery crust holds together a warm and nourishing center that leaves you feeling heavy, contented, and warm.

Vegan-Pot-Pie-Final-3I searched the web for a vegan pot pie recipe, but couldn’t find one that satisfied me. A lot of the recipes seemed to cut corners in some way. Hell, I did too by adding a frozen veggie medley. Part of the reward in cooking such a labor-intensive pie is the process of making it.  It’s clearly a pie for special occasions. One that is made slowly and consumed even slower over a glass of wine and a candlelit dining room table.

Vegan-Pot-Pie-Final-5If you’re concerned about the time it will take to make this during the holidays, don’t worry. You can freeze the assembled pie uncooked and place it in the oven when you’re ready to eat. I doubled the batch and froze an entire pie for later. Definitely worth it.

Nouishing and Warm Vegan Pot Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Vegan
Cuisine: Vegan
Yields: 8 Slices
Ingredients
Double Pie Crust (adapted from Easy as Vegan Pie)
  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cups cold non-dairy margarine, cut into chunks (I used earth balance)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp (or more) ice water
Vegan Pot Pie Filling
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small red potato, chopped
  • 1 ½ - 2 cups cup frozen vegetable medley (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome)
  • 6 oz tofu, cut into chunks, (seasoned and pre-cooked optional, but recommended)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup non-dairy creamer
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh sage leaf, chopped
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions
Make the Pie Crust
  1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl
  2. Using a food processor or a pastry blender cut in the margarine until the mixture has a grainy, wet sand-like texture. Be sure not to over-work the dough. Tip: You want the margarine very cold. I put the chunks of margarine in the freezer while I’m getting everything ready. You don’t want it to freeze, but it works much better.
  3. Sir in the lemon juice.
  4. Then add the ice water into the mixture, one tablespoon at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the texture is smooth and the dough is combined well enough that it sticks together.
  5. Split the dough into two equal-sized round balls. Cover each ball with saran wrap and let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare the Filling
  1. In a small dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sauté the onion and chopped red potato until the onions are clear and the potato becomes slightly tender. The potato doesn’t have to be completely cooked at this point.
  2. Add in the tofu and the vegetable medley and cook for an additional five minutes.
  3. Pour the vegetable broth and the non dairy creamer into the pot and wait for it to simmer.
  4. In a separate bowl, create a roux by whisking together the flour with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, the nutritional yeast, and soy sauce.
  5. Add the roux into the pot with the filling, whisking constantly until the flour is well combined.
  6. Throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped fresh sage, white pepper, and salt and let the mixture cook for five more minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat and let the filling cool slightly. It will thicken as it cools.
Assembly
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. While you’re waiting for your filling to cool, roll out the pie crusts with a rolling pin.
  3. Line the bottom of a pie dish with one of the rolled out crusts.
  4. Pour the filling into the lined pie pan, smoothing the filling out so it appears flat on top.
  5. Complete the pie by adding the second rolled out pie crust on top, pushing the edges together to seal the pie.
  6. Using a sharp knife, add a few slits in the top to vent.
  7. Cover the edges of your pie crust in aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes (or 60 minutes if it’s a particularly deep dish pie) removing the aluminum foil after 30 minutes.
  9. Let the pie cool slightly before digging in!

Vegan-Pot-Pie-Final-1I’ve adapted this a couple of different ways. I’ve added Follow Your Heart mozzarella style cheese and  vegan sausage crumbles. Both were very good, but I’d avoid doing both at the same time because it gets a little too salty.

Pin it here!

This warm and nourishing pot pie is perfect for a cool fall day.
This warm and nourishing pot pie is perfect for a cool fall day.

decorate a pumpkin with nail polish

Confession time: I buy way too much nail polish, but I never use it. I can’t help it. I’m attracted to the fun colors. How can I resist? I love the idea of carrying around bright, cheery colors on my fingers and toes.  

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But the reality of the situation is that I have about twelve shades of beige and only paint my nails once every few months. I loathe waiting for my nails to dry – I’ve got things to do! – so I often go without. As a result, most of the polish I purchase sits on a shelf for years until it gets too gross to use.

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In addition to using immense self-discipline at makeup stores, I’m trying to find creative ways (water marbling!) to use my nail polish reserves. Of course, decorating pumpkins was at the top of my list.

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Crackle nail polish always seems to make a comeback around Halloween, and I couldn’t wait to plaster a pumpkin with it.

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I absolutely love this effect. It’s perfectly eerie for Halloween. I used Maybelline Color Show Shredded in Carbon Frost.  If you use crackle nail polish, be sure to apply two layers of base coat on the pumpkin. If you don’t apply the base coat, the nail polish won’t crack.

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I was perusing my favorite discount makeup store when I stumbled on this polka dot nail polish! This is definitely my favorite effect on the pumpkins. How fun is this?

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Mixing in a few treats with the tricks – I call this my cookies and cream pumpkin. No need to apply a base coat. Just one coat of the polka dot nail polish was enough.

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This textured nail polish (Sally Hansen Fuzzy Coat) is my least favorite of the effects. I had such high hopes for it. I think it would look cool against a black background, but it looked washed out on the white pumpkin and I was afraid it would blend in too much with an orange pumpkin.

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Oh well. It was still worth a try. Which technique is your favorite? 

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the best vegan pancakes

It’s probably no surprise that I love pancakes. They’re perfect just the way they are and I would rather not modify them. So when it comes to making a vegan version, I’m really picky. I’ve gone through so many recipes trying to find the best one. I’ve tried practically every “vegan pancake recipe” on the first page of Google. Many of them come out dense, flat, and oily, with no resemblance to the cakey, fluffy texture I want out of pancakes.

Vegan-Pancakes-1I’ve even tried Champs’ pancakes and was like, “Mmm, sorry, no.”

But I’ve finally found the perfect recipe!  I have made this recipe half a dozen times at least and each time it turns out great! You’d never know they were vegan. They’re perfectly fluffy with the right balance of buttery and cakey goodness with crispy edges.

Vegan-Pancakes-5The best part? You only need one bowl.

Vegan-Pancakes-4The secret is the flax egg – a mix of ground flaxseed, or flax meal, and water. It’s often used in vegan baking to mimic the effects of an egg.

I’ve made these pancakes with both banana and blueberries and it turned out amazing each time. I use liquid coconut oil which gives them a slightly nutty taste. You can use olive or canola oil, but for the best taste, go with coconut.

Vegan-Pancakes-3Adapted from here.

the best vegan pancakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Quick and easy vegan pancakes to add to your morning brunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Yields: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed
  • 2.5 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil (liquid form)
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • vegan butter for griddle (I used Earth Balance)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, create a flax egg by whisking together the flaxseed and water. Let it set for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the coconut oil, maple syrup, and almond milk until well combined.
  3. Switch to a wooden spoon and gently stir in the baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and flour until combined. Be sure not to over-mix.
  4. Melt the vegan butter on a skillet pre-heated to medium heat. I use about 1 tsp for each pancake.
  5. Pour ¼ cup of batter into the skillet at a time.
  6. If you’re adding mix-ins, sprinkle them into the batter as you place it on the skillet.
  7. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes on both sides, until crispy and thoroughly cooked.

Vegan-Pancakes-6I’ve shared a few more tips on making perfect pancakes here.

How do you like your pancakes? I rarely use syrup on my pancakes. My favorite are blueberry pancakes with whipped cream. I used to love chocolate chip, but have lately only wanted blueberry. Ryan loves banana and maple syrup. 

Quick Fall Craft: DIY Ribbon Pumpkin

A few weeks ago, the weather gave us the shyest hint that fall was coming and immediately I became more cheerful and optimistic. Fall always makes me feel hopeful and relaxed, like I want to take things easier, slow down, and just savor the season.

Naturally, at the first sign of browning leaves, I went straight to the craft store to stock up on my fall-themed craft supplies. Of course, I go straight for the most colorful aisle in the store – the ribbon section. I’m frequently attracted to ribbons, but can never figure out how to craft with them in a way that doesn’t look tacky. I thought I’d try my luck at shaping the wired ribbon into a pumpkin, using a particularly shimmery one to add to my collection of glitter pumpkins (my favorite!).  Plus, using a glittered ribbon seemed like a safe way to incorporate glitter into my décor without getting it everywhere.

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Lately, my busy days are making it hard for me to sit down and really enjoy a day of full crafting, so I have to supplement with smaller things I can do during a one-hour TV session. This craft took maybe 10 minutes from start to finish.

Supplies:

  • Wire ribbon
  • Clear tape (not necessary, but makes it easier)
  • Craft/jewelry wire or a twist-tie
  • Cinnamon stick

Cut four equal sized strips from the ribbon, mine were about 14 inches. You’ll want to leave an additional 1 – 2 inches on the ends to wrap them. The longer the ribbon, the bigger the pumpkin. I recommend keeping them small, since the ribbon isn’t the sturdiest.

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I used a “template pumpkin” to get a good size.

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Take the first two ribbons and cross them right at the middle. Temporarily tape them down to hold in place.

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Add the third ribbon, diagonally intersecting the other two. Then add the fifth ribbon, crossing diagonally the other way across the existing ribbons. Secure with tape.

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This part is a little tricky. Slowly start twisting the open ends of the ribbon together, until they’re all bunched and have closed the top.

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Secure by wrapping a wire around the ends.

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Sometimes the ribbons get pushed around in the process, but simply puff them out and help mold them into a pumpkin shape. Remove the tape (I forgot when I was photographing). As long as the pumpkin isn’t moved around too much, it should keep its shape just fine. Then add a cinnamon stick for a stem!

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You can pick up a few different colors of ribbon to have an entire ribbon pumpkin patch!

Pin it here:

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Fall Favorite Things

This summer felt very long, which makes me worry fall will be short. It’s already getting a little too chilly for long evenings outside. To make this fall last as long as possible, I’ve listed a few things I am doing or want to do to savor the moment.

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Currently:

– Sharing the bed with two snuggly cats.
– Opening all the windows and
– Listening to Chvrches
– Buying tons of sweaters. (this and this)
– Drinking dirty chai lattes. My favorite is from Gregory’s.
– Also, dark roast coffee.
– Riding horses in the park and
– Taking Long walks listening to podcasts. Have you started Limetown yet?

Desiring:

– Bike rides in sweaters.
– To take a hand lettering course.
– To knit another hat.
– Two words: Apple cider (donuts and drinks)
– Must make: my favorite fall recipe.
– Must visit: the cat cafe that opened up four blocks from my house! They have KITTENS!
– Peruse my favorite yarn/craft store in Red Hook.
– To visit a pumpkin patch.
– To pass out halloween candy.

What about you? Is fall your favorite season? What are you looking forward to?

JumpIn! An Adult Ball Pit

Would you visit an adult ball pit? When I first heard the U.K. exhibit was coming to NYC, I was thrilled and made a reservation immediately.

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Then the date of our reservation rolled around and I started to wonder if it would be lame or if I’d find it boring. I was even feeling a bit embarrassed I dragged my up-for-anything friend to it.

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But once I walked into Pearlfisher, the organization hosting the exhibit, I immediately realized this was going to be a blast. The pool was beautiful with 81,000 white balls meant to resemble snow.

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Everyone in the pit was smiling and laughing, including my friend, who had the biggest grin on her face.

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And that’s really what the exhibit is about – encouraging us to play and have fun without thinking about anything else, just being present and experiencing the pool. Experiencing something new changes your thinking and sparks creativity.

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So would you JumpIn?

JumpIn

NYC weekend: bike date + day trip to Governors Island

On what must have been the sunniest day of the year, Ryan and I hopped on our bikes to celebrate summer with incredible food, ferry rides, and goats, of course.

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We pedaled down to South Brooklyn to the piers, where Smorasburg is held.  Smorgasburg is a giant food bizarre with more than 100 vendors offering New York’s city’s finest food served under a tent. It’s truly incredible. And it just keeps getting bigger. The New York Times described it as “the Woodstock of eating,” which seems about right. Shoes are not required.

Visiting Smorgasburg is one of Ryan’s and my favorite things to do during the summer. I wrote about another trip here. This beautiful water tower overlooked the event. You can see the white tops of the food tents in this photo.

Water Tower

We picked up some vegan fare at the ‘burg from Chickpea & Olive. Their jackfruit pulled “pork” sandwich hit the spot.

Chickpea & Olive

We ran into my neighbor and ate lunch with her and her friends. They were also heading to Govenors Island.

After a quick jaunt to snag some vegan ice cream we we headed over to Pier 6 to board the ferry with our bikes. There were so many people bringing their bikes on the ferry! I love seeing a popular bike community.

Fun fact: This photo was taken probably seconds before I broke a spoke and almost ruined the trip for us. Thank god there was Citibike on the island, so you don’t even have to bring your own bike! They also have independent bike rentals.

Here’s the South Manhattan view from the ferry.

Govenors Island has a rich American history, serving as an important location in the American Revolution and the Civil War. It has more recently been occupied and then abandoned by the Coast Guard, leaving it with tons of shut down buildings  that look like this:

Now it’s open for public use and it’s a great place to ride bikes with no cars! We made a few loops on our bikes and stopped at the shore to snap a photo of the lovely view of the Statue of Liberty.

Because I can’t resist a good farm, or any farm at all, we headed over to the urban farm to check out what they’re growing.

It’s a teaching garden, which educates public school kids on urban farming. There were lots of kids there helping plant seeds and till the soil.

This one even had livestock! Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of a chicken? They never stand still.

They also had some very sweet goats. I think I was more excited about them than the kids.

My gosh, how cute. Those eyelashes!

When someone first suggested that we visit Governor’s Island, we heard – and didn’t believe – that you could walk goats on a leash. It’s totally true!

Sadly, we missed the goat walk, but I definitely need to make this happen.

The island was lined with food trucks, so we stopped for some ice cream, took another lap on the bikes, and made our way home on one of the last ferry’s out.