Our Trip to Arizona

If all you know of succulents and cacti is that they are easy, slow growing additions to a desk or a bedside, you are gravely unprepared for Arizona. Prickly pear, agave, and saguaro cacti line highways, grow wild in the desert, and are the foundation for many a home’s hardscaping. These, in combination with citrus trees and skyscraper-level palm trees, make for a vacation for the books.

Within an hour of arriving at Anne’s aunt and uncle’s house in Scottsdale, I nearly crashed my bike as I ogled the biggest barrel cactus I had ever seen. Little did I know this was just the beginning. Our trip was filled with time at the pool, delicious food, cool museums, Cubs spring training games, and a lot (A LOT) of plants. If you’re planning a trip to the Phoenix area, I cannot recommend the following enough. Some of these suggestions originally came from Sarah Rhodes (@arrowandapple) and Jayme Henderson (@hollyandflora). Thanks you two!

To-Dos in Arizona

Desert Botanical Garden | The Desert Botanical Garden is filled to the brim with native plants and wildlife, but it’s unlike any other botanical garden I’ve ever been to. Saguaro and organ pipe cacti reach 70 feet into the sky, and the agave will measure close to your wingspan. Be sure to carve out at least half a day here in order to walk all of the trails, eat at the relaxing restaurant, and browse the gift shop for plants. Oh, and don’t forget to go home with a few saguaro seeds from a volunteer. Mine are germinating, and if all goes well, they’ll grow 1-2 inches in the first year!

Phoenix Public Market | This open air market is definitely worth adding to your list. It’s open on Saturdays from 8a-1p, and is the perfect spot to meet local farmers, artisans, and bakers. One of our favorite booths was Radish, a fresh-pressed juice company with pretty amazing juice combinations.

Musical Instrument Museum | “Anyone with a love of music should be legally bound to make a pilgrimage to this museum, missing out on it would be a crime.” MIM hosts the largest collection of musical instruments in the world, and it is awe-inspiring to say the least. The exhibits are attainable for any visitor, and their headset technology allows you to hear all of the instruments they have on display. Is hearing them not enough, though? Visit the Experience Gallery for a chance to play a curated selection of instruments.

Changing Hands Bookstore | Do you like books? Do you like beer? Changing Hands is not only a bookstore, it’s home to First Draft Bar. Roam the aisles with a beer in hand, or sit and meet other bookworms over a drink. Changing Hands offers an excellent selection of new and used books. I almost lost Anne forever here.

Baseball games | Spring in Arizona wouldn’t be complete without a little baseball! The Cactus League is what brought Anne and her family down from Chicago in March. We went to a couple of Cubs games and enjoyed lounging on the outfield lawn.

To-Eats in Arizona

Vovomeena | Portuguese for “Grandma Meena,” this is a great place for breakfast or brunch. Cute decor, friendly staff, and good coffee.

Joyride Taco House | Just know that you probably won’t want to leave. Besides the jaw-droppingly good tacos, enjoy a prickly pear margarita on the patio and take in the hip and well-curated vibe. The veggie tacos were delicious.

FnB | The chef at FnB isn’t called the “veggie whisperer” for nothing. We ordered what felt like the better half of the menu and indulged in our dinner there for over two hours. Each plate had incredible depth and a unique combination of ingredients. We left asking ourselves, “Do you think they’d cater our wedding in rural Wisconsin?” It was that good.

Sweet Republic | Even if you think you don’t have enough room left for dessert, you’ll have enough room left for Sweet Republic. They’ve been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Time Magazine for good reason. I ordered the black sesame ice cream just to try something different, and was not disappointed. Their ice cream is all-natural, local, and homemade.

(Other spots that were recommended to us but our bellies were too full: Lux, Federal Pizza, St. Francis, Fame, Rollover Doughnuts, Nami, Ollie Vaughn’s Kitchen and Bakery, Short Leash Hot Dogs, Welcome Chicken and Donuts, Max’s Mukhaase, Angel’s Trumpet Ale House)

Clearly, a return trip is in order.


PS) Did you participate in the 30-Day “Reset” Challenge in March? How did it go? Leave a comment and share your experience–I’d love to hear what worked and didn’t work for you.

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Adventures in Greece & 10 Greek Tips

Good news: We found our next home! Phew. I am so excited to get to know a new neighborhood (East Passyunk!) and rearrange furniture to my heart’s content. It’s larger than our current apartment by about double, and it offers amenities we’ve never had before: Central air! Washer and dryer in unit! Second bedroom! DISHWASHER!

Until then, you can find me on the living room floor, purging old papers and slimming down craft supplies such as scrap paper and saved ribbons from gifts past. (It’s official. I’m a crafting hoarder.) Organizing my embroidery thread box was nearly the death of me, but now it looks GOOD. We’re also going to visit Anne’s family in Chicago for the next week! I think a Cubs game and a trip to the family farmhouse in Wisconsin will do us some good.

While we were in Greece, we took a lot of pictures, and below are some of my favorites. I hope that they give you a little flavor of our three weeks away. Our destinations included Athens and six Greek islands: Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, Koufonisi, Santorini, and Crete. If you have any questions at all about my pictures (like where exactly they were taken), please leave a comment below! I’d be more than happy to give you specific details.

Also below you will find my “10 Tips for Traveling Greece.” I did a lot of research before leaving Philly about all kinds of Greek things. These ten tips are ones that I did not find elsewhere. If you are planning a trip to Greece (which you should REALLY do), I hope these recommendations help!

  1. Bring a sturdy pair of sunglasses. Athens and the Greek islands are incredibly bright–both from the intense sun and the white, reflective architecture.
  2. Pack shoes with traction. Many streets in Greece are made of marble, which is surprisingly slippery.
  3. The metro system in Athens is the most efficient I have ever experienced. Taking it to and from the airport, or to and from Piraeus (the main port in Athens) is very easy.
  4. It might be wise to book ferries for late morning/early afternoon. Early morning ferries require a very early start time, while ferries too late in the day will require you to navigate your next destination in the dark.
  5. The smaller the Euro bills, the better. Paying with bills over 10€ can be tricky at times. If you have 50s on you, break them in places like supermarkets or museums.
  6. Tipping about 8% in restaurants is normal and expected.
  7. Bring your own water bottle when eating out. It is much cheaper to purchase it from a corner store or supermarket than it is to purchase it at the restaurant.
  8. Bread is often an added expense at restaurants (0.50-2€/person). If you do not want/need bread, leave it on the table untouched and it shouldn’t be added to the bill. If you are gluten free/allergic, ask for them to not bring the bread as the host is seating you.
  9. That being said, dips do not come with bread/pita. So if you plan on ordering a dip, hold onto your bread because you will want every last piece of it. (The dips and hummus in Greece are unbelievably tasty.)
  10. Know that everything will work out. Prepare yourself, be organized, and pack as little as humanly possible. The less you need to lug up and down cobblestone streets the better. Bring Woolite to hand wash clothes, or find a local laundromat for a few Euros. Less luggage = happier traveler!

Have a great week!

Airplane Mode: We’re Going to Greece!

I’ve always liked this quotation from the Dalai Lama because you don’t have to travel halfway across the world to go some place you’ve never been before. “Travel” might take the form of visiting a new neighborhood in your very own city, or experiencing nature in a new way. Traveling is something that has always interested me. It stretches you in new ways, makes you think creatively, and, if done right, can be a very humbling experience.

For me and Anne, our trip to Greece is five weeks away. WHAT?! We have been looking forward to this since January. It’ll be our first time traveling abroad together, and I couldn’t be more excited! After what was a long year for me, exploring Greece with Anne for three weeks is going to feel incredible. I hope that it is just the rejuvenation I need.

As we plan and map out our trip, I’ve come across some really wonderful inspiration, both for Greece specifically and travel more generally. I thought I’d share some of that with you today. Are you traveling anywhere this summer? Tell me where in the comments below!

Greek Inspiration

A colorful fishing boat (source)

Santorini (source)

Gala Beach on Pano Koufonisi (source)

Fresh sardines and Greek salad on Antiparos (source)

Sunset in Santorini, and other helpful tips (source)

Delphi, one of the world’s greatest ruins (source)

Design*Sponge's Athens city guide

Design*Sponge’s Athens city guide (source)

A mix and match color scheme (source)

General Tips & Tricks

Learn how to best use your iPhone while abroad here.

Learn how to download offline Google maps here. Beware that offline Google maps expire after 30 days. Add this to your to-do list just before you leave!

These tips in Travel 101 are incredibly helpful for any kind of trip you plan on taking.

Rick Steves on the importance of packing lightly.

Here’s a great blog post on upping your travel photography game.

Suggested travel apps:

Before you leave:

  • Hold your mail and any current subscriptions.
  • Set up a self-watering wicking system for your houseplants.
  • Notify the bank of your upcoming travels.
  • Sign up for the smart traveler enrollment program (STEP).
  • Photocopy all travel documents (leave one copy in your luggage, and one copy with a family member at home).

This just skims the surface. What are your go-to travel tips and tricks? I’d love to find out more, so leave a comment below!

An Afternoon at Petit Jardin en Ville

Today I would like to share with you all Scissors & Sage’s very first small business profile.  I chose a small business that I am continuously drawn to: Petit Jardin en Ville.  This “little garden in the city” can be found tucked away in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood, and it instantly transports you to Paris.  Claudia Roux, Parisian florist and garden designer, is the owner of this magical storefront.  She offers her floral design services for weddings, special events, parties, restaurants, and hotels, as well as her garden services for your every garden need year-round.

When I contacted Claudia to see if she would be interested in having her small business profiled on Scissors & Sage, she was delighted.  I couldn’t wait to head over to Petit Jardin for an afternoon.  From the minute you walk in, your senses are fed.  Beautiful flowers, found objects, gardening tools, and whimsical French music fill the space.  Claudia, with the help of her French-born husband, Vincent, assist customers both in and out of the shop.  (I have personally received two flower deliveries at my front door from Vincent — what a happy sight!)

Claudia sat down with me and spoke of her journey to Petit Jardin en Ville, and below are some segments from our conversation.  At the end of my visit, Claudia, Vincent, and I clinked apple tart slices to celebrate Petit Jardin.  This shop, first opened in May 2014, has quickly won the way to my heart.  I am excited to share Claudia’s story with you all today.  Be sure to check out Petit Jardin en Ville online (Official Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook) or stop by in person!

From Claudia: After I met my husband, and right before we got married, I moved to France.  We were living in Paris.  I had always been artistic and had worked with florals, but I really didn’t find my path until I moved there.  Flowers are part of the culture in France, so I started to take horticultural classes.  I worked very closely with my teacher, Catherine Muller, who was the protégé of Christian Tutora.  I studied with Catherine for the five years that I lived in Paris.  I still continue to take classes with her now.  Her aesthetic is very similar to mine.  It’s a very garden-y kind of style that I like a lot.  France is a mixture of old and new, which really brings an interesting aesthetic.  It’s where I gained my understanding of combining both of those.

 

My husband and I spent a lot of time in different regions in France [collecting found items].  For example, in Bordeaux, you can find old metal grape pickers with leather straps that you would throw the grapes in as you picked.  A lot of the areas we go to are in the countryside.  We find a lot of farm pieces, which really appeal to my aesthetic, too.  We like to go and find things that others haven’t found yet.  We do bring some city-type things such as a parking sign and original advertisements from the 1940s.  Of course, I choose many things that I can put flowers in, like bottles and glasses, to evoke a feeling of a relaxed, carefree atmosphere that you find in the countryside where people spend so much time outside.

 

Philadelphia as a whole has changed over the years.  When we were looking at spaces, we kept coming back to Old City.  We wanted to be part of a neighborhood, and to emulate the spaces you would find in Paris.  Those spaces tend to be small and have a very special kind of dark feeling.  The flowers bring the light to the inside.  You know, I came from the suburbs where everything is big.  When we moved to Paris, there were so many things that I left behind that I realized I didn’t need.  You can live so beautifully and simply by just editing what you already have.  It enabled me to see a different way of life, and I love small spaces now.

 

Blogs are really important for people like me to get feelings from.  I look for interesting blogs that have a little bit of my aesthetic but also bring something different.  If you’re doing different kinds of projects, it’s always super interesting to me.  I love everything that you can do with your hands.  The more you do, and the more you create, the more people will see.

 

If you have a really great idea, go with it.  Don’t second-guess yourself; don’t hesitate.  If you really like it, and if you can spend the time with it, it shows to other people and they will like it.  In retrospect, I would have tried to start earlier and not be so afraid to start something new.

 

A Morning at Quail Hill Farm

Last weekend, Anne and I took a drive out to Amagansett, NY to see my family.  It’s that time of year when you try to squeeze in that final beach vacation or time spent with loved ones before the fall rolls around.  My aunt, uncle, and twin cousins live in a cozy house tucked away on a dirt path, removed from the hustle and bustle of the Hamptons but close to the beach.

Early Saturday morning, my aunt Melanie took a few of us to Quail Hill Farm, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm she belongs to.  I have memories of going to this farm from when I was a kid, eagerly scouring dirt patches with my cousins to dig up potatoes from the ground.  Digging for potatoes proved to still be one of my favorite activities, but going back now, I realize just how much this farm has to offer: Quail Hill Farm is one of the original CSAs in the United States!

We were amidst the veggies, herbs, and flowers for a few hours, and we entered a trance-like state from the sheer happiness of gathering food straight from the source.  (The feeling reminded me of the days when I worked at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.)  We weren’t the only ones out there, either.  Our morning excursion included friendly community farmers, each teaching the other how to cook this, and how to identify that.  No one was texting; no one was snapchatting.  We were all enjoying the beautiful weather, the pretty wildflowers, and each others’ company.

Below is a sampling of pictures that represent the treasures that we picked.  Keep reading for a full list of what we found!

We harvested:

  • Curly parsley
  • String beans (green, purple, white)
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Heirloom carrots (orange, purple, white)
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Italian eggplant
  • Japanese eggplant
  • Cucumbers (green, white)
  • Peppers (green, purple, red, orange)
  • Heirloom tomatoes (cherry, grape, black cherry, green zebra, peach, red zebra, San Marzano, pear-shaped, pink)
  • Zucchini
  • Artichokes
  • Garlic
  • Onions (yellow)
  • Lettuce (green and red)
  • Cabbage
  • Wheatberries

Also:

  • Wildflowers
  • Sunflowers
  • Fresh bread

Here we are at the end of it all!  It is certainly an experience we will all remember for a long time to come.  Do you belong to a CSA?  Do you grow your own produce at home?  Respond to these questions and share your thoughts in the comments section below.