We’re back from spending a few weeks in Europe and I wanted to share a few photos from our time there. We visited Paris, Naples and the Amalfi coast, Rome, and Barcelona. We had an incredible time and my favorite part of the trip was the time we spent along the Amalfi coast in Italy.

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We flew into Naples from Paris and rented this cute little fiat car, because road trips are our thing. Then we started off for downtown Naples looking for breakfast, which ended up being hilariously unexpected and fun. The downtown itself is crumbling, it’s technically bankrupt as is evident by spray paint on the beautiful old architecture around the city (think Detroit a few years ago). No one uses traffic signs either, but somehow it all works out…organized chaos at its finest. I think a lot of people get stressed in situations like this, but for some reason we couldn’t stop laughing, perhaps too aware of the ridiculousness of the situation we were in.
We decided to get the hell out of downtown Naples and head towards the Amalfi coast. Little prepares you for the italian coastline. I’ve seen cliffs that drop into the ocean before…but this is just next level. The small roads and houses carved into cliffs that hug the coastline… the most beautiful turquoise colored waters of the Mediterranean sea just below…the vintage shellacked wood boats in the harbor that I could not stop taking photos of…the Italians and their animated hand-gestures…it was just so idyllic.  We visited the small towns of Positano, Priano and when we rounded the turn to Amalfi we just couldn’t take it anymore…we had to park the car, throw on our bathing suits,  and jump into the ocean.

We arrived salty and wet to our Airbnb flat. We rented out the home of two artists in the small hillside village of Ravello overlooking the sea. The most beautiful pink and purple wildflowers surrounded the home. Not far from us was a bar with outdoor tables set underneath a cavern where old Italian men sat playing cards and yelling at each other. In the mornings, roosters woke us. Sometimes I wish I could capture everything on my camera, but a lot of the time I just want to be experiencing it and I forget, so I have to describe it with words instead (use your words, nicole). We explored more, walking through lemon groves and down steep stone hillside stairs into town. There were friendly townie cats that hung around, which I always appreciate. One of the days we were there we decided to take the city bus up the hill after spending a day swimming at the local beach. The bus arrived and everyone began piling in. I held onto Trey, pulling him inside the bus (we were the last two that got on) and one behind us who didn’t make it on mustered up all the english he knew to tell Trey, inches from his face, “You are so bright! You stupid idiot!”. I laughed, thinking the guy must have been kidding…it was just a bus ride, and another bus was coming in 15 minutes! The guy gave me the death stare. Nope, he wasn’t kidding. That night we stumbled onto a “International Pop festival”, which reminded me of this tragically uncool talent/beauty pageant my high school used to throw called “The Miss CHS Pageant”, complete with big hair and sequined gowns. After a few liters of wine, this is really, really entertaining.
For local eats, Ada, our Airbnb host, recommended this seafood restaurant up in the hills. We arrived to the restaurant for dinner one night and were greeted by a young, mustached man. The restaurant was surrounded by a vineyard to our right, a goat farm to our distant left, and the sea in front of us. The mustached waitor brought a basket of fresh, whole fish over to our table and told us in italian-english “this is fish from the sea this morning (pointing to the sea). I prepare it for you”. We ordered a liter of the house wine made from the vineyard we were in, appetizers with goat cheese from the goats, and the fresh fish from the sea. Everything tasted amazing, and then…the supermoon came up, casting the most amazing shine on the night water. I know, I know…I didn’t believe it either, but there we were…bellies full of fish, minds tipsy off wine, walking home past friendly cats under the light of the biggest moon. And now I’m dead. It was a good life. Just kidding.
The last day we were there we walked down to the local harbor in Amalfi and rented a private boat that I captained, my first time outside of US waters. We cruised along the coast, hugging the shore and getting more views of the hillside, then we sailed over to the island of Capri before stopping and diving off the boat into the water. After that we came back, packed up the car, and headed for Rome. We really had an awesome time on the Amalfi coast and hope to come back one day.

Sitting at an airport in paris


It’s 4:30 am and I’m sitting in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France about to board a flight to Italy. We’ve just spent the week riding bikes and eating our way around Paris and now we’re heading to the Amalfi coast. Trey tells me I look like I just stepped out of Bill and Ted’s time machine because of the Smiths t-shirt and jean jacket I’m wearing. So, now I have a boyfriend for sale, $5 OBO. ;)

We stayed in a little flat in Bastille, a trendy district in Paris. There was a Vespa repair shop a few doors over with a French bulldog who guarded the door wearing a chain collar. The street was made of light gray cobblestone and there was a boulangerie with the best smelling croissants on the corner.
Highlights of being in Paris were an awesome gathering of foods from a local street market, renting bikes and riding through the city to the Eiffel tower for a picnic, and finding an original EP record of Francoise Hardy (my woman crush) at a hole in the wall flea market we ducked into because it was raining. I’ll do a full post on our time in Europe when I get back (sometime in between finishing my work in FL and packing up to move back to CA(!), but for now I’m going to absorb everything european around me sans computer.
Jack is with our trainer friend Brian who has six border collies and lives on a llama farm and Mila Cat is being watched over by my great friend Mel. We miss them!


a Botanical Jack

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Let me start by saying I know how this looks. It looks like I’m either a crazy dog person (I kind of am), a hippie (a little of that too), or a 6 year old playing dress up with my dog (jokes on you, I’m 28). Sometimes I get these ideas in my brain like “It’s Sunday, I’m going to make a collar for Jack out of wildflowers…because he will LOVE that.” Ideas that a normal person would think for ~5 seconds, dismiss, and go about their day.. but I actually execute because I’m that girl, whatever that means.

I took a woven leather belt I had laying around and stuck some pink bougainvilleas, periwinkles, and red carnations through the spaces, then wrapped it loosely around Jack. Jack is the king of wearing things around his neck. When you take his bandana out of the drawer, he prances over all excitedly. We joke that we’re knighting him every time we put it on him because of the way he sits with his chest out and head held high like he’s honored you’ve chosen him to wear it. Bow ties also, for special occasions. So yeah…if you were wondering what flowers + dog look like…here it is. You’re welcome.

Optional: discovering your wildflower plan is foiled and getting yelled at for picking flowers in the grocery store parking lot. Oh well, like Alanis says.. you live, you learn.

meet the locals

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Our list of things to do when we got to Florida looked something like this:

1. find a roof to put over our heads

2. swim with manatees

Florida is the best place in the world to see endangered West Indian manatees in large herds. During the winter months the coastal waters get too cold for them so they retreat into the warm waters of rivers and springs, much like the one we visited on this day.
My lab mate spends half her time researching manatees (traitor) and gave us the insider info on where and when to go see them. We took her advice and headed out early in the season to find them. We came across a small group feeding along a canal that consisted of a few adults and a calf. The calf was curious and started hanging out underneath our canoe, so I took a dip in to get a closer look at him. You really can see why they are most closely related to elephants by their leathery skin and finger nails (finger nails!). The moniker “sea cow” they’ve acquired from centuries of grazing on sea grass can be somewhat misleading. Most individuals are know by their scars and wounds (typically from boat propellers) and this little one was no exception, although luckily the mark on his head was just a surface scratch etched in the algae on its skin.
Jim Gaffigan the comedian has this bit where he calls manatees the ‘retired football players of the sea’ because they are so large and slow moving. It’s pretty funny, and true. Even though they are hefty, they have very little body fat (which contributes to their susceptibility to cold water). A few minutes later the calf swam back to its mom and I hopped back into the canoe and we parted ways. Oh I almost forgot….I learned that manatee females have two nipples, one under each arm pit… presumably so mom can continue grazing on sea grass on the bottom while nursing. Can you imagine? Arm pit nipples. So now you know. 

Strawberry summer salad

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Salads have been my go-to lately. Trey’s been in San Francisco for the past week and it has taken every ounce of willpower inside of me not to eat oatmeal for dinner every night.
The thing with salad is that it has to be interesting for me to want to eat it. Otherwise, it feels like I’m a horse chewing cud. My favorite types of salad are generally the ones where fruit is involved, and summer is the best time to capitalize on that with all the best fruits being in season. You’ve got your blueberries and peaches, and your strawberries and watermelons and even mangos and papayas…the possibilities are endless! (she says with crazy eyes)…
This is a salad I’ve really come to enjoy. Little buddy was looking cute so he helped too. Hope you like!
What you’ll need:
1 carton of strawberries, washed
chopped walnuts
1 package plain goat cheese (crumbles are better than the super soft kind)
1 bag spinach (or more depending on how many mouths you’re feeding)
salt & pepper
balsamic vinaigrette (Annies Naturals is really yummy)
You can also add grilled chicken or slice up an avocado to put on top if you’re feeling rebellious. Let cool in the fridge, serve and EAT!

A mini home tour

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We’ve been spending a lot of time indoors lately (audible sigh from Jack) since it’s basically Africa outside. So, I thought I would share some photos from inside our home, starting with the bedroom.

Ohh sleeping spaces.  In college I shared the hull of a boat with a friend, and later a twin-sized bed with Trey. Our last “bedroom” in San Francisco was in a closet (‘closet-bed’ as it came to be known as). Add an over-friendly dog and cat into the mix and you could say we definitely had become accustom to sleeping on top of each other. Even though we were used to tiny space living, and in someways even preferred it, we knew the first order of business when we got here was to get a bigger bed. And oh is it glorious (picture Trey sprawled star-fish on the bed. Or not, don’t do that).

Since we’re renting and knew we would only be here for a year, we didn’t make any major changes to the space. Our headboard is made from a shipping pallet, and the dresser is a craigslist find that we added some brass knobs to. Most of the items laying around are things we’ve picked up while traveling. The woven wall tapestry is a favorite of ours that we found while rummaging through a street market in Costa Rica. This space gets a lot of light and I find it really peaceful. It makes sleeping in on Sunday mornings really nice…that is, until someone gets hungry and we all have to get out of bed. I’m hoping to share more details of our home in the coming weeks since it won’t be long before we’ll be packing it all in boxes in preparation for our move back to California.

DIY INDIGO Beach Sheet

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This weekend we experimented with shibori, the art of shaped resist dyeing to create our own indigo beach sheet. The process involved folding, binding and compressing a bed sheet, then dipping it into a vat of indigo dye. On Sunday we went to Venice beach to collect shark teeth and our new sheet served as the perfect place for us to rest in between trips to the ocean.

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a supermoon


Copyright Wildlandia 2014

We’re big space nerds here, so when the opportunity to photograph a supermoon comes along on a warm summer night, you know we’ll most likely be in our backyard staring up at the sky. We brought chairs out and spent a good while just staring at the moon’s intricacies through our telephoto camera lens. Then we thought to film it moving across the night sky (above). 

720_2 supermooninsta 720_1 Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Trey’s grandfather (his namesake) was an engineer for NASA and Boeing Air. The technical documents he wrote for the Apollo 11 moon landing mission are in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC. Hearing his grandfather tell his stories during the holidays is always a fun time. It was great to see the moon so big and bright last night. The next supermoon is coming up in August…I’m thinking supermoon cocktails….

Documenting Orcas in the San Juans

Summer / 48.5333° N, 123.0833° W / 2014

During our trip to the Pacific northwest a few weeks ago, I was able to work with the Center for Whale Research (CWR) documenting the Southern Resident killer whales, or orcas, returning to their summer feeding grounds around the inland waters of Washington state and southern British Columbia. It was nice to get away from the lab in Florida and spend some time off the Pacific coast.

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The Southern Resident orcas are a large extended family, made up of three pods: J, K, and L pods.  Each spring they begin showing up in the calm inshore waters surrounding the San Juan Islands to feed on the runs of Chinook (King) salmon from the local rivers. With news of their return, biologists with the CWR and I headed out to photograph and film their arrival to account for any new (calves) or missing (presumed dead) members of the pod. Photographs and video are very helpful in showing us whether individuals have signs of emaciation (sickness or starvation), and can even allow us to note possible pregnancies.


There are currently less than 90 Southern Resident orcas left in the wild. The population was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act due to low population numbers in 2005 (and Canada in 2001). In the early 1980s marine parks captures devastated the population by taking more than 1/3 of the animals for entertainment purposes (the popular documentary Blackfish goes more in depth about this). Recovery of the Southern Residents has been slow ever since, making the CWR’s work even more critical than before. 

We had a great time at the CWR. Having first studied this population when I was an undergrad, seeing the resident orcas again is like visiting old friends.
*all photos and video were taken by me or staff at the CWR under a federal research permit.

united states of ‘merica

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We celebrated our nation’s independence the same way a lot of Americans do…with copious amount of light domestic beer, sun-filled trips to the beach with family, and shooting mortars out of make-shift exhaust pipe launchers in the middle of the street. Let freedom ring (in your ears, it was loud).