The Rabbit Food Diaries: Preparing for the Beginning

Thanks, Ryan.
I just got back from the grocery store, y'all. Normally, the grocery store is such a happy place for me. So many new delicious foods to try, so many alluring new snacks on the perfectly-lined shelves, and the excitement of carrying all the full bags back home, eager to open up them up and dive in. I love going to the grocery store.

Not this time.

Yes, February 11th will mark the official start of my five-month stint into a very challenging adventure that I'm lovingly chronically here, The Rabbit Food Diaries. I'm beginning a gluten-free, vegan-friendly, whole foods, plant-based diet (read the first post here to find out why) - and I've already started cutting things out of my life. The first few that were relatively easy to break up with were alcohol, meats, and most dairy, which really has been helpful to aid in getting my body ready for this big diet change. I was worried this past week because I began having some pretty epic headaches, even though I was eating super healthy. So, I started reading up (naturally), and apparently it's something a lot of people experience. The changes my body is currently going through (and about to go through more intensely, sorry bod) is making my system re-regulate itself and detox all the bad I've been putting into it - fried foods, added sugars, sodas, intense amounts of white flour and breads - I'm pretty sure it's just massively confused right now. I've felt foggy, like a grade-A space cadet, with headaches and nausea here and there. I thought I'd turned a corner recently, finding several stellar restaurants that serve great TRFD-friendly foods here in New York, while the headaches have blessedly gotten less intense.

And then... I went to the grocery store. Not to my little, organic, family-friendly produce market where all the hipsters in my neighborhood go (no hate, it's my favorite!). I went to the actual supermarket. And they had everything there - EVERYTHING, y'all! - from my favorite Velveeta Mac and Cheese to the White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels that are leftover from this past holiday's food stockpiles (they're one of my favorite things on this whole entire planet). And I was not okay. I picked items up, I put them down. I picked them up again, reading the labels, thinking, "meh, maybe I can get away with this?" and then putting them down again, realizing how ridiculous I was being.

And then I got to the oats aisle. There were so many different options, and I felt incredibly overwhelmed. Some of them said, "gluten-free," others didn't. Some were instant, some were steel-cut or slow-rolled. Some were thick, some were fine. There were different flavors. And, of course, I didn't write down EXACTLY what kind I needed. So, I googled from my phone, "Is oatmeal gluten free?" The answer that I got was not as straightforward as I had wanted, so I proceeded to spend 45 minutes staring, looking at every single oat brand until I gave up - only to circle back around to the same aisle 15 minutes later. Visibly upset (I'm sure) at the amount of choices, and the mislabeling, and the many questions that I had that I knew none of the clerks around me would be able to answer, I was so mixed up that I almost had a straight-up panic attack on the supermarket floor.

All of this said, I realize now that all it takes is just a little more planning and a LOT of self-control. Telling myself "no," especially when I don't want to hear it, is probably one of the hardest lessons I'm going to learn from all this when it comes to food and regulating my diet. I've always, always had this love affair with comfort foods (I miss butter so much, I can't even begin to talk about it), so I'm really not sure if I'm going to be able to go back to that grocery store for a while. The produce sections, while very reassuring, colorful, and welcoming, are overshadowed by the horrors of the bread and cereal aisle. And don't even get me talking about when I walked by the bacon. Or the beer. Or the potato chips. Le sigh.

At the end of this whole ridiculous trip (after I freaked out over these things that in the long run hopefully I'll be able to grow-up and get past), I was able to find a brand of gluten-free oats that I'm sure will be delicious in an overnight oatmeal recipe that I've been dying to try. I also found a pack of "pretzels" that are vegan and gluten free - which, mind you, taste nothing like the glorious gluten-filled real pretzels, but are crunchy and delicious nonetheless. This is going to take a lot more getting used to than I thought, so if you need me, I'll be the girl in the grocery aisle tearing up while looking at ingredient listings on the labels.

If you have any tips, blogs, recipes, or books that would be good for me to take a peek at, please feel free to tweet @hippieteaparty, or e-mail me suggestions at hippieteaparty@gmail.com.

xx, Molly


The Rabbit Food Diaries: My New Little Adventure

Photo by Victor Demarchelier | HBZ.com
I want to take some time tonight to share something super personal with y'all. And I want for you to take it just as that: personal, and not me pushing any kind of agenda onto you and yours. I've been suffering from a handful of slight medical issues lately (nothing life-threatening, and certainly nothing y'all should be worried about), and my doctor and I have been discussing a few options to solve them. Together with her, and with a nutritionist that was recommended to me here in the city, we've landed on a new diet that I'm going to follow for roughly five months (140 days, to be exact) to see if it makes a difference with my problems.

This new diet is not one that I'm completely thrilled about, if I'm being 100% honest. I'm from the south, and I thrive on fried chicken, sweet tea, and biscuits. So when my doctor and nutritionist suggested that I go for a few months on a whole foods, plant-based diet, I had to hold back from straight-up laughing in their faces. Live without BBQ? Could I do it? Did I even want to? But as the medical issues got worse, we circled back around to the idea, and I told myself - hell, Molly. Let's try it. It's only five months.

I was going to keep this struggle with food and new dietary restrictions to myself - keep it private and in the shadows - but as I was sharing this all with a close friend at dinner tonight, he told me that I should open up and write about it. And as we talked more and more, I got to thinking that he might be onto something with the idea. There are some adventures (and misadventures) in life that are meant to be shared among inner circles, and then there are some that you need a little extra help with. I think that this might be one of those pivotal times for me.

Being ever a planner at heart (Type A child right here, y'all), I wanted to find a solid date that I could start this new journey on. So, rather randomly and by happenstance, I ended up with February 11th. This is going to be the start of a new exploration with food, general health and wellness, and life lessons - and I want to be able to share it. It's not going to be easy, truly. As I write this, I'm already craving a fried chicken sandwich, and I miss the sweet, lovely, rich taste of my favorite chocolate churros. Coffee was one of my go-to's in the early mornings before work, and a big ol' glass of wine was always a solid friend who could cheer me up at the end of the day. I've had a love affair with the worst foods. And now it's time to clean up my act.

So, if you have a recipe that you'd like to share with me - a website, a blog, a general tip on how to bypass the cravings of potato chips - please feel free to e-mail me at hippieteaparty@gmail.com or leave a comment below. All love, struggle, and support is welcome here - I have a strong feeling I'm going to need a lot of it in the next few months.

xx, Molly

A Brief Reading List on Plant-Based Diets:
- OneGreenPlanet.org
- NutritionFacts.org
- The Permanente Journal
- Forks Over Knives
- US News


Tidbits: Snowstorm Juno and A Subsequent Snow Day

Confession time: I'm not a big fan of snow. I'm from Florida (lest you forget), so being cold in general definitely doesn't win me over. And then, after a big snowstorm like Juno, the remnants of the storm hang out in the city for weeks on end - like the buddy who comes over to your house and then never leaves - slowly inching it's way towards unbearably disgusting by getting dirtier and dirtier in the pollution and general urban gross-ness. Finally there's the last stage of snow: the big, ugly bricks of brown icebergs, that loiter on corners and sidewalks here and there throughout the city until spring finally rolls around.

So, in a nutshell, I don't really like snow as a whole.

But there's one part of snow and ice that will always, always make my soul sing. Right in the middle of the snowstorm - before it gets too terrible to be outside, but after it starts to stick to the sidewalks - when the city goes sweetly silent. The snow muffles all the sounds of the hustle and bustle, and fluffy snowflakes stick to everyone's hats and scarves, making life feel like something out of a fairytale. And as everyone goes to bed in the middle of a snowstorm, you get the sense that the entirety of the city is curling up under a blanket with their loved ones, clutching a cup of warm tea, and snuggling in for the night. It's a very specific feeling, yes; but I felt it last night, and the happiness of it all washed over me. That's when I thought to myself, "Maybe snow isn't quite so bad."

The good news is that we had the day off to work from home (hi, leggings!). Naturally, I took the time to explore a bit, bringing Shep up onto the roof of my apartment building so the two of us could frolic together in the snow. I've been told they've done a bang-up job of clearing the snow already in Manhattan, but on my roof and in the streets of Brooklyn there are drifts over two feet high! All of it made me feel like a real-life snow bunny for the day.

Mug: Light Rust Studio / The Fresh Collective Co.


Beauty Bag: Your Best Bet DIY Detox Bath Recipe

Beauty trends can be suuuuper weird, y'all. I'm not going to lie to you here. There are a lot of the "trends" that come and go, and most of the time, I don't even think about trying them until I've seen that they can be proven to be somewhat good for you. Remember Oil Pulling? I'm still not totally sold. Don't get me wrong, coconut oil is a miracle worker on all sorts of levels - I just don't want to swish it around in my mouth for an hour (yuk). This is a rule that I've kind of set for myself: watch what happens, if no one dies and you're not fully grossed out by it, then try it.

Enter the exception to the rule this year: after reading about detox baths, I'm quite intrigued. I've been taking baths my entire life (I literally swear by their relaxation properties), so from the very start this seemed like something I would be into. As a teenager, whenever I would get a horrible sunburn that I didn't want my parents to lecture me about, as soon as I got home from the beach I would fill up the tub and throw in milk and oatmeal to calm my skin. Post-bath, I would spend hours lathering myself in aloe vera. It worked MIRACLES by the next day. I'm not even joking. So, reading about detox baths suggesting to put other fun ingredients into the tub? Sure, I can do that.

There are a few different recipes you can use for your ailments when it comes to detox baths, but the Epsom salt mixture is ideal for day-to-day stress and toxins. Because your skin is an organ, it absorbs a ton of particles from outside your body - including dirt and air pollution. Detox baths work overtime to help you cleanse your body of all these toxins, making you feel more refreshed and clearing up a whole slew of problems.

Epsom salts are amazing for a number of different reasons - first and foremost, they are the superman of minerals. When placed in a hot bath, Epsom salts - or Magnesium Sulfate - create a warming sensation, aiding circulation to help heal muscle pain, soreness, swelling, and tension. They also help to ease insomnia, ensuring that you to fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly. Taking Epsom salt detox baths have been seen to help people fight off colds and infections, regulate enzyme activity, improve oxygen use, and ease headaches.

But enough with the chit chat - here's my go-to recipe for the best ever detox bath! Pour into a hot (as hot as you can stand it) bath as the water is running, then soak with the water up to your neck for 35 to 40 minutes. Afterwards, you can take a short cold shower if you want, but generally I just towel off and get into some clean pajamas and head straight to bed. These baths make you pretty tired, so sleeping after will sound like a dream (pun intended).

HTP's Epsom Salt Detox Bath
1. 2 Cups of Epsom Salts (you can buy then at the drugstore, usually - I like these, with lavender scent)
2. 1 Cup of Pink Himalayan Salt (I use this all le time, even in cooking and elsewhere)
3. A Heaping Scoop of cold-pressed Coconut Oil (I swear by this)
4. 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Ground Ginger (or fresh ground ginger, but I like this so chunks aren't floating around in the tub)

The added pink salt serves to restore electrolyte balance and can doubly help to prevent sicknesses and colds alongside the Epsom salts. The combination of the two will lower stress while balancing pH levels. The ginger, by the way, is going to make you sweat - big time. But that's the point of all this, so just go with it! You'll need to drink a ton of cold water (before, during, and after) to ensure that you keep hydrated throughout the process. The coconut oil might seem slippery while you're in the tub, but it's there so your skin doesn't dry up from all the salts post-bath. You'll feel a bit slimy at first, but when you towel off, you'll have uber soft and supple skin that will thank you in the morning!

Have you ever tried a detox bath? What's your favorite combo that packs a punch? Let us know in the comments or shoot us an e-mail at hippieteaparty@gmail.com. Happy bathing!

The reason water as hot as can be tolerated is typically used is because this initially draws toxins to the surface of the skin, as described by Dr. Hazel Parcells in her book The Pioneer Nutritionist  Dr. Hazel Parcells in Her Own Words. Then, as the water gradually cools down, the toxins are pulled into the water via the principle of osmosis – the weak energy from the cooling water draws from the strong energy from the body heated up initially by the very hot water.
If the wisdom of cleansing baths appeals to you, below is a primer on four different types of therapeutic baths. Generally speaking, a cleansing bath 2-3 times per week with only one per day maximum works well for most people to keep elimination channels open and gently encourage the detoxification process on a regular basis.
- See more at: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/detox-baths-which-ones-are-best-and-for-what-ailments/#sthash.2GKsSiSm.dpuf
The reason water as hot as can be tolerated is typically used is because this initially draws toxins to the surface of the skin, as described by Dr. Hazel Parcells in her book The Pioneer Nutritionist  Dr. Hazel Parcells in Her Own Words. Then, as the water gradually cools down, the toxins are pulled into the water via the principle of osmosis – the weak energy from the cooling water draws from the strong energy from the body heated up initially by the very hot water. - See more at: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/detox-baths-which-ones-are-best-and-for-what-ailments/#sthash.2GKsSiSm.dpuf
The reason water as hot as can be tolerated is typically used is because this initially draws toxins to the surface of the skin, as described by Dr. Hazel Parcells in her book The Pioneer Nutritionist  Dr. Hazel Parcells in Her Own Words. Then, as the water gradually cools down, the toxins are pulled into the water via the principle of osmosis – the weak energy from the cooling water draws from the strong energy from the body heated up initially by the very hot water.
If the wisdom of cleansing baths appeals to you, below is a primer on four different types of therapeutic baths. Generally speaking, a cleansing bath 2-3 times per week with only one per day maximum works well for most people to keep elimination channels open and gently encourage the detoxification process on a regular basis.
- See more at: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/detox-baths-which-ones-are-best-and-for-what-ailments/#sthash.2GKsSiSm.dpu


What To Eat: Foods That Help Your Skin Glow

One of my first resolutions to myself for this year was to accept my failures with grace and determination. Something that I consider myself a pretty big failure at is eating healthy. Sure, I try as best I can to eat organically, and I at least attempt to choose fresh veggies whenever I have the chance - but as a 20-something adult, am I eating what I really should to take care of my body in the long run? The fried chicken sandwich I ate yesterday says otherwise (hey, there were pickles on there - they were green). So does the amount of butter that somehow goes missing from my fridge each month (I blame that on Shep).

As I've been listening to more podcasts over the past three weeks, and trying to enrich my life with intention and direction this year, I've been reading and hearing a borderline-crazy amount about health, and especially about diet. Now, I'm not overweight by any means, but I'm definitely not at the peak of my health. I don't have a membership to a gym, and I'm not that Soul Cycle girl you know. I enjoy Yoga and Pilates from time-to-time, but that's certainly not a regular occurrence (just bein' honest).

What I've learned so far on my journey through the sometimes-weird-and-obsessive health websites? Diet takes a major toll not only on your health as you get older, but also on your skin. You always hear people say, "You are what you eat," so while I will still be indulging in fried chicken whenever I need a treat, I'm trying my best to keep a better handle on what's going into my body. It's all about moderation, y'all - plus I could never live without my comfort foods. I'm from the south. Really, though.

I've written a lot about beauty serums and other outer fixes for problematic skin, but let's talk about 8 of the basic beauty foods we should all be eating that can help with making your skin more youthful and giving you the glow that we've all be searching for. Some of the below foods I already thoroughly enjoy, which is freakin' awesome progress for those resolutions I made for myself (self-high-five!).

Eat to Glow
1. Water. No-brainer. Duh. While this may seem pretty apparent to most of you out there, getting enough water for your skin to glow is kind of a hardy task. Between coffee, tea, soda, and juices, I find it really difficult sometimes to remind myself that water is more important to ingest. I'm now trying to drink at least 8 glasses a day, and I already see a huge difference in my skin! There are endless trips to the bathroom, yes, but water keeps your body healthy by flushing out toxins. Also, when your skin cells are properly hydrated, they're round and plump and beautiful; but, when you're dehydrated (which can be caused by so many things throughout the day - exercise, stress, diet, etc.), your cells are thirsty - making your skin dry and dull, and increasing the appearance of wrinkles. Which no one wants.

2. Avocados. YAY! I love avocados, so let me sing their praises here for a bit. They're rich in so many nutrients - potassium, Vitamins B, C, K, and E, as well as antioxidants and essential fatty acids. All of these things can some really awesome things for your skin: reducing inflammation; balancing out hormones (which can lead to acne); protecting against sun damage and UV rays; and increasing hydration and nutrient intake, while helps to keep toxins out of skin cells. They also lower cholesterol, promote a healthy body weight, and can reduce the risk of a bunch of diseases. Basically, you always want the added guac. It's worth the money.

3. Sweet Potatoes. I kind of don't understand people who don't like sweet potatoes - they taste like candy to me. Which is pretty freakin' cool, since they're amazing sources of Vitamin C - which helps to smooth out fine lines, acne scars, and wrinkles by naturally stimulating collagen production at the cellular level. They also have a load of beta carotene and carotenoids, which aid with water retention (keeping skin silky and soft) as well as helping the liver to flush out nasty toxins, protecting skin from UV damage, and fighting acne-causing bacteria in the skin. Sweet potatoes are also great sources of Potassium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D, which can keep our bodies and minds happy, healthy, and disease-free.

4. Greek Yogurt. This stuff is so good for you in so many different ways. The most important for your skin's health? Greek yogurt is high in a Protein rich in amino acids, which helps build new skin. As we get older, we need more of this lovely stuff in order to be able to repair damage in our body - including our skin. Greek yogurt is also an amazing food for your body's health in general because of it's Potassium and Vitamin B content, helping maintain energy levels and brain function, supporting low blood pressure, and warding off disease. And I didn't even get to mention the Calcium level (great for bone health and for watching your weight) or the Probiotics that keep your internal systems regular and balanced. I told you it was a doozy.

5. Baby Spinach. We all should've listened to Popeye when we were little. Spinach has a high level of Folate, which - first and foremost - can prevent skin cancer by helping to maintain and repair your cells at DNA-level. I think that's pretty important information to put out there given the Jersey Shore tanning after-effects. On top of that, the Vitamin A found in spinach aids cell regeneration, enhancing a youthful glow while helping skin rebuild and refresh. Vitamin A also prevents the overproduction of cells, which would lead to pore clogging (ugh, acne). Any type of leafy green you come across at the super market always contains a high water content, which rehydrates skin cells, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Spinach, specifically, is also rich in Iron and Vitamin K - which can improve the circulation of blood, helping the skin get added oxygen, and prevent the appearance of varicose veins.

6. Almonds. Beauty experts have long hailed this nut for it's beauty-giving properties. There are so many wonderful things that almonds do to help to make your skin it's glowiest. Fatty acids found in just a handful of almonds help skin cells to better retain water; they also help you to maintain a healthy body weight, lower your cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease. I haven't even mentioned the fact that they're packed to the brim with Vitamin E which helps to protect skin from sun damage from the inside-out. Almonds (along with other nuts) also have a butt-load of antioxidants which help skin cells to regenerate and fight off free radicals, reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Another added bonus outside of glowing, healthy skin? They're super-rich in Biotin, too, which can make your hair shiny and your nails strong.

7. Tomatoes. Strangely enough, canned tomatoes are said to be even better for your body than fresh tomatoes because they are richer in Lycopene - which protects your pores from getting clogged, and can also protect skin from harmful UV rays from the sun. Fresh tomatoes (should you be totally upset at the thought of BPA in canning) are also rich in Vitamin C, which serves to boost your immune system and heal scarring on your skin. Fresh tomatoes additionally reduce inflammation, and are rich in anti-oxidants that protect against free radicals aging the skin. Other health benefits: tomatoes have been proven to fight against multiple types of cancers, while supporting bone health and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

8. Sunflower Seeds. Your favorite childhood baseball game snack may surprise you with how packed it is with goodness. Sunflower seeds have an incredible amount of Selenium, which helps to tighten and smooth skin by preserving elastin, while also acting like an antioxidant (so, double duty) reducing free radicals and protecting against those harmful UV rays and sun damage. They also are a great source of Vitamin E, which works to enhance the effects of Selenium to improve skin texture even further (healing dry skin and scarring) while reducing inflammation. In general, sunflower seeds have been known to reduce cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, and help with stress levels because of their Magnesium levels. Bonus: the Choline found in sunflower seeds has also been linked to improved brain function, especially with memory.

I know that's a lot of information to take in at once, so I hope you'll do some reading of your own on the matter of skin health and nutrition - it's actually REALLY interesting once you do some digging! I've included a short reading list below, but the links above lead to some more science-y places that are kinda neat if I do say so myself (#beautynerd).

Which foods make your skin glow? Leave a note in the comment below or shoot us an e-mail at hippieteaparty@gmail.com.

Read more by clicking the links, or at these lovely articles:
- LaurenConrad.com
- FitnessMagazine.com
- Cosmopolitan.com
- MindBodyGreen.com
- BBCGoodFood.com
- TheHealthSite.com


Delightful Discoveries: Yangyang Pan Abstract Art

I don't speak to art on a larger scale here on HTP because I don't feel like I have the authority to do so (I let Erin do all that for me, since she's qualified and all). I enjoy art, just as much as any creative person, but I've never studied it super thoroughly - and I certainly don't pretend to have any sort of degree in it. All I can talk about when viewing and purchasing art is the feeling that an artist gives me and how much emotion a particular piece evokes. And there's something about Yangyang Pan that draws out the happiest, most joyful, feelings in me. Born in China, and relocated to Toronto, Pan has dedicated her artistic career to the vision of thoughtful and deep recreations of natural scenery through bright colors and happy notions.

I think the thing that appeals to me most about Pan's work - especially when I first came across it - is that is focuses on contrasts and colors that are found in nature. The vitality of each piece has a beauty to it that's kind of... conflicting (does that even make sense?). The canvas she creates tends to balance itself out, though, through a playful mix of dark and light, shadows and brights, saturation and reflection. On display in galleries throughout Toronto and New York, her artwork has a musicality to it, drawing from this natural side of life and presenting it within a negative space. It takes the viewer on an intense journey with colors of youthful energy, happiness and optimism, all of which speak to me so clearly that it's practically screaming - although through a gentle, but vibrant whisper (also, does that even make sense?). The balance and control of the paintbrush that she flaunts is something that drives wonder without evoking question - happiness and collection through play and experimentation rather than through exact measurements.

This artwork, which I've discovered on a whim (or maybe it was through fellow hippie Erin's Pinterest, I can't really recall at the moment), mesmerizes and calls for the viewer to feel compelled enough to drive along a fantasy road that otherwise wouldn't exist. Intensely and abstractly floral, while each one lovingly portrayed, Pan's pieces overwhelm the viewer with natural beauty. Rich with oil in some places, and empty calm in others - much like The Secret Garden that Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote about in 1911, in which Burnett explores the healing power of living things.

Winter Whites
Love This Piece
Cheers to Friday
All of the above art is created by Yangyang Pan, and presented through her Instagram - prints are available at her Etsy shop. Her website is here, and she lists her original works available here. If you'd like to contact her, do so through here - all her information is currently listed.


Little Things: Teeny Tiny Cabins

Whenever it's this cold out, my mind always wanders to the mountains (wanderlust at it's finest, hippies). To be quite fair, my mind also wanders to the mountains in the summertime, and I often take trips to the Catskills in the Spring and / or the Fall. I've already talked about this a bit, but I went to sleep-away camp in the mountains of North Carolina for countless summer months throughout my childhood and adolescence, so the mountains feel like a second home to me. The seclusion, the wilderness that surrounds you, the fresh air that hangs around you and enters into your body like a thick, lovely blanket: I love it all.

If you ask my man, he's partial to wanting to be near a body of water while on vacation (they say it relaxes you and makes you more creative) - so I try to accommodate him in my plans, usually with a river here, a lake there, a creek across the street - but I somehow always end up looking at AirBnB, dreaming of a far off cabin in the woods with little to no cell service. Something so romantically remote is rejuvenating to me. I think, for the most part, it's because when I leave the big, bad city, I want to be reminded of the simple, mountain, happy lifestyle that I remember experiencing as a kid, roaming the mountains of North Carolina, sleeping on a skinny mattress in a old cabin that smells so much of the wood it was made from, that you can't help but be in touch with your surroundings. It's incredibly difficult to get that in New York, where everything is comprised of concrete and metal.

While I sit here, perusing places that might be fitting for a March or April weekend getaway here in the Northeast, my inspiration was leading me elsewhere - to wondrous, far-off places with similarly remote locations - that featured the best teeny tiny cabins that look insanely perfect against their grandiose mountain backgrounds. Covered in snow, arched with trees and mountains and wilderness all around them, I couldn't help but fall head over heels in love. So, naturally, I wanted to share my #cabinporn here with my hippies - a roundup of the teeniest, tiniest, loveliest cabins that I could find. My hope is not that this makes you sad to be back at work and not on vacation, but to look forward / plan for a getaway of your own. Where do you want to go next?

The Most Perfect A-Frame Cabin
Mountain Cabin Winter Wonderland
Mountain Meadow Retreat | Photo by Michael Schmidt
Misty Mountainside Cabin
The Red Winter Cabin in Norway | Photo by Tzvika Stein
Cabin on the Mountainside | Photo by Bob Winsett


The Great Outdoors: Magical Driftwood Beaches

In New York City today, it is... frigid. It was so cold that when I left the apartment this morning, I seriously contemplated going back inside and adding another layer (or three, or maybe five). So, can you really blame me for wanting to continue writing about happier things, like warm weather, beaches, and sandals? It's ultimately my choice (*ahem* it is my blog here, I'm choosing to pull that card), so I'm going to continue walking down the "Molly's Holiday Vacation" miniseries path today and share another little trip we took. As a family, we jaunted out to a magical driftwood-laden beach at Big Talbot Island (not too far from Amelia Island, where we stayed for New Year's celebrations).

There are a few different aspects of driftwood that are almost dangerously poetic to me. First off, let's explain what it is. Found near oceans, lakes, and rivers, driftwood is born when a piece of wood - usually large branches pulled down by rough storms, whole trees that have been uprooted near a source of water, or even shipwrecked lumber - is in, or exposed to, water for a hefty amount of time. As the wood is repeatedly drenched in water over and over again, it's stripped of it's bark and bleached by the sun. It's also sometimes colonized by bacteria, algae, and other aquatic life, burrowing holes and homes. When driftwood ends up ashore, transformed by the time spent being underwater and drying out underneath the sun, it's extremely light both in color and in weight while the outer appearance is smooth and twisted.

You might know and recognize driftwood from stores like Restoration Hardware - it's often harvested and used in sculptures, furniture, and other housewares. But for me, I grew up with it on the beaches. And that's how it worked it's way into my heart, really. I have massive nostalgia every time I come across a shoreline covered in the skeletal remains of trees intertwined with one another; and it's because of places like Big Talbot Island.

Maybe it's my personal Floridian history with it, but driftwood is infinitely more to me than a chair or a candle-holder. Every time I see a piece of it, my mind is driven to think about the way that the weather changes the wood not all at once, but slowly over time. How it's composition is altered so drastically into an almost completely new entity, being morphed into a mummified remnant of what it once was. It's beachy and romantic to decorate your home with, sure, but driftwood is also a symbol of the past and a reminder of how consistent change is. It makes me identify with driftwood a lot of the time - not in a Tim Burton kind of way, but because of the transition that the wood goes through from one stage of it's life to the next. Each piece of driftwood ends up with it's own uniqueness based on the weathering it went through; for me, this matches how each of us as individuals are on a journey through life not unlike a piece of wood in water. We all come out of it differently. Deep, I know.

When we were at Big Talbot, we walked along the Shoreline Trail to what's known as Boneyard Beach. I mean, how perfect is that name? This beach was born from oak and cedar trees growing nearby falling onto the beach because of the natural erosion of surrounding dunes. These trees then become weathered and worn by the water and sun, moving and changing positions with the tide. And the way that they lay across each other all over the beach is truly show-stopping. It always takes my breath away - I could spend hours photographing each and every piece of driftwood I come across here.


Moments: More From Florida

There were so many lovely moments captured while in Florida over the holidays that I wanted to share a few more with you (for no particular reason other than the fact that I'm distracting myself from being back in New York City and back at work). From Amelia Island and Jacksonville to Winter Park and Fernandina, I have too many great North Florida pictures not to send these back out into the world. So, here's a tiny visual diary of some additional visual love I threw together into one memorial post.


Little Things: Florida Afternoon Rain

I'm going to be honest with y'all. Compared to New York and Brooklyn, Florida can be, well, boring. It's a kind of slower life down south, and when you're on vacation, you tend to ease into it and notice the little things that you never took the time to appreciate growing up. One of those things? The afternoon downpours that happen almost daily in North Florida. It'll be a lovely, sunny, warm day in the morning, with blue skies and fluffy clouds floating along peacefully - and then, BOOM. Usually right around 1pm to 3pm, the clouds go black, blocking out the sun, emptying out their entire contents onto the ground below before clearing up again an hour or two later. I'm the first to tell you that I hate walking through the rain here in New York City, but somehow the rain in Florida seems (how do I put this nicely...) cleaner. Better. Prettier. More peaceful. I had a chance to revel in the afternoon rain when I was on vacation, relaxing on my family's patio while reading a snuggle-up book. But, I kept getting distracted by all the sights and the sounds from the rain - a visual and audible lullaby for a city brat who was now accustomed to concrete, sirens, cars, and trains. Me being me, I tried to capture it all and imprint it into my memory bank to save for a chaotic day.

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