If you have made it up to Hudson Valley on your weekend getaway from New York City, also check out Westchester County.
Taste some of the best maple in the world at Crown Maple at Madava Farms. Their certified-organic maple products are so pure, you can taste the woods. Take a tour of the technologically advanced facility and learn how maple is harvested. Sample different kinds of syrup and homemade pastries made on the premise. The 800 acres property of Madava Farms is open to the public for picnicking and hiking. It’s a great place to enjoy the peaceful and scenic outdoors only 80 miles from the city.
There are over 35 wineries in the Hudson Valley. If you have limited time, stop at award-winning Millbrook Vineyards and Winery’s 30 acres of vines include plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and an Italian grape varietal called Tocai Friulano. The winery officially opened for tours and tastings in 1988 and today produces between 10-12,000 cases of wine annually.
For lunch, stop at Babette’s Kitchen, offering gourmet salads, pasta, sandwiches and entrees using local seasonal ingredients. They pride themselves in having long lasting relationships with local farmers who supply them with the best produce the Hudson Valley has to offer. You can also get boxed lunches to take with you on a scenic train ride or road trip.
Contemporary art lovers would want to take this opportunity to stop at Dia: Beacon art gallery. Occupying a former Nabisco box printing factory on the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon presents Dia’s collection of unusual art installations and spaces, such as white on white, homepage to the square, fluorescent lights and more. Since its opening in May 2003, Dia:Beacon has helped transform the city of Beacon into a vibrant arts destination for visitors from the region, New York City, and beyond.
Thereafter, take a tour of Lyndhurst Mansion, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions. Overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, The architectural brilliance of the residence, designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, is complemented by the park-like landscape of the estate and a comprehensive collection of original decorative arts. Its noteworthy occupants included: former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.
Dinner at Rivermarket Bar and Kitchen is a must. The restaurant and market showcases producers located throughout the Hudson Valley. Menu includes a variety of fresh seafood, poultry and meat paired with local wines. The rustic decor of restored wood ceiling brings the outdoors inside, and gives a subtle reminder of the restaurants’ sustainable initiates.
Those interested in learning about where their food comes from can visit the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown. Here you can meet some happy chicken, pigs and sheep, who are treated humanely. The center also offers educational day camps for kids to learn about farming, livestock and sustainable eating.
Yonkers is an interesting suburb, where many New York City commuters also reside. Here you can visit the Hudson River Museum to see six art galleries, the Andrus Planetarium, and Glenview Mansion, an historic house museum of 1876; taste local brews at Yonkers Brewery; and enjoy a delicious meal at award-winning chef Peter Kelly’s restaurant, Xaviar X20 on the Hudson. A ride back to Grand Central is only 30 minutes aboard Metro-North Railroad.
This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.
Read Part 1 of my upstate New York experience in Duchess County.
When I think of New York, images of the city’s bustling streets, neon lights, Broadway musicals, top chef restaurants and shopping at 5th Avenue fill up my head. The fact is the state of New York has a lot more to offer than Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. For the first time, I took a train starting at Grand Central Station to explore the surrounding areas of upstate New York.
A 2-hour ride on Metro-North Railroad took me along the Hudson River to the city of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess county. A short walk from the train station to the elevator led to the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, spanning 212′ above the Hudson River and 1.28 miles across. This is a great place to get a good view of the river and the surrounding foliage, specially during spring and fall. During season, there are concerts, open air movies, marathons, and festivals taking place in the historic state park.
Poughkeepsie has a few restaurants, hotels and shop that sustain tourism in the area. Shadows restaurant offers great view of the Hudson and is often used for large events, such as wedding receptions. Also, nearby is the Franklin D Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. Here you can visit the Roosevelt family home, burial site, see the president’s personal library, and an interactive museum. Just a few minutes drive away is the Vanderbilt Mansion, one of the smaller homes owned by the family. After spending an afternoon in the area, you begin to picture what affluence and stature the neighborhood had up until only a few decades ago.
Food lovers can take a break at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for dinner. The oldest and most well known culinary school in the country offers four student-run restaurants. Here when you dine, you will become part of their classroom experience. The CIA’s new 800-seat, state-of-the-art Ecolab Auditorium in the Marriott Pavilion makes it possible for visitors to experience one of Half Moon Theatre’s New York-style theatrical productions after enjoying a meal at The Bocuse Restaurant, American Bounty, or Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici.
Rhinebeck is a charming city to stay overnight. Check into America’s oldest continuously operated hotel, Beekman Arms, for luxurious accommodations in a historic setting. Next day, stroll around the downtown area, shopping for antiques, clothes and local products, as well as boutiques and dining at historic taverns. Not to miss is Oliver Kita Confectionaries for hot chocolate, cupcakes and handmade chocolate truffles. Terrapin Restaurant features farm-fresh organic cuisine under the guidance of award-winning Chef Josh Kroner. There are over 30 wineries in this area and many of them are offered on the menu, paired with locally raised duck, venison and chicken.
Early December is a good time to visit Rhinebeck for the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, where a local resident dresses up in a Santa-bishop like attire, accompanied by his long-time sidekick, the Grumpus, as well as the entire town parading through the town.
The Hudson Valley area is roughly 150 miles long and covers various counties. It is easily connected to New York City by train and makes for fun weekend getaways. Read Part 2 of my upstate New York experience in Westchester.
This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.
The New York Times Travel Show is the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, Consumer Seminars, and an interactive Exhibition including more than 500 exhibitors from Africa, Asia, Australia/South Pacific, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Mexico and the United States. In addition to discounts and special offers for travel, the show provides educational seminars and live entertainment for families, individuals, couples and seniors.
I attended the 13th New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center last weekend. There were more than 500 exhibitors, representing 150 countries, which was great but also overwhelming. Entire rows representing geographic areas were set up, featuring different tourism boards, travel agencies, resorts and more. This year, there was a section on wellness travel as well, featuring one of our partners, The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina.
The winners and their categories were:
- Best in Show: Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
- Rookie of the Year: Go Touch Down Travel and Tours
- Most Interactive: Destination Canada
- Best 10′ x 10′ Booth: Flight 001
- The People’s Choice: Mexico Tourism Board
- Most Imaginative: Curaçao Tourist Board
- Best Show Service: It’s Easy Passport Visa Services
Here are some of the vendors that stood out the most to me…don’t be surprised if you catch me at these locations in 2016!
Voyage Unique Mongolie organizes trips across Mongolia, the most popular being the Gobi Desert. They own two hotels – Dream Gobi Lodge and Dream Terelj Lodge. Both are yurt style camps with private bathrooms and luxury accommodations.
Eco Sicily is a project to promote tours to the small towns in Sicily. The area has access to beaches, hills and villages. Old traditions are still followed when it comes to art, cuisine, agriculture, etc.
Yampu Tours offers unique tours across the world, focusing on local interactions, learning and adventure. You can design a custom itinerary choosing your own date, location and a theme that fits your interest.
Lernidee is a Germany based company that offers rain and river tours to remote parts of the world. The ones that caught my attention were the Silk Road tour across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the Trans-Siberian railroad.
Valdez, Alaska is a destination that encompasses the best of everything Alaska has to offer. Closed to cruise ships, this small town is most enjoyable by driving or ferry. It has access to glaciers, wildlife, fishing, hiking and more. The representative told me I can find myself standing fishing right next to the bears!
Seychelles are beautiful islands off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, which are frequented by European tourists. If you have had your fill of the Caribbean, this would be a great destination to combine with your African safari.
There were also workshops, seminars, cooking demonstrations, cultural performances and book signings taking place during the show. Celebrity personalities included Madhur Jaffrey (Indian actress, food writer, author), Ruth Reichl (chef, food critic, author), Arthur and Pauline Frommers (travel writers), and many others.
If you are in New York City or surrounding area in January 2017, make sure to add The New York Times Travel Show to your upcoming calendar.
It has become an annual tradition. Each year, I write a blog about the 5 best meals I ate. This is very hard to do since my job involves eating and traveling “for a living.” This year, I traveled to 14 countries and 5 states in the US. Needless to say, I ate a lot of good food!
After considerable thought, these memorable meals made it to my top 5 picks of 2015:
Machneyuda Restaurant in Jerusalem – This concept restaurant is run by three genius chefs – Yosef “Pappy” Elad, Assaf Granite, and Uri Navon. They run the business like a party. The quirky website and non-descript menu that offer dishes like “Entrecôte Django Unchained Style,” and “Lamb with lot of tasty stuff,” with pairings like “yummy stuff, some sauce” offer some clues. The waiters are not just friendly, they are singing, dancing and even doing shots in the kitchen…at work! The food is served in unpretentious sharing plates and is absolutely to die for. Ingredients are sourced from the surrounding Machneyuda market.
The biggest surprise for me was the dessert. Our server cleared out our table (we were 5) and laid out aluminum foil to cover it. On it, was orchestrated a symphony of cake, chocolate sauce, caramel, candies, nougats, cookies, ice cream and whipped cream – spread around the entire table within matter of minutes. It looked very haphazard as it was happening, but then appeared to be a delicious pile of artful looking happiness. We dug in with our spoons feeling like kids, and started dancing to the Israeli pop tunes.
Catalina Rose Bay in Sydney – Located on the world-famous Sydney Harbour, this family run restaurant is known for serving the highest quality meat and poultry sourced from all over Australia. Sydney Seaplane Highlights Flight Fly/Dine experience, included lunch at Catalina overlooking the Rose Bay. We start by enjoying fresh oysters on the shell paired with an Australia white that is produced not too far from the bay. The warm Sydney sun refreshed us as we watched the Seaplanes go by. I had the Poached Western Australian Marron Tail (something I had not had before), and the small sushi plate with delicious fresh tuna, salmon, prawn, kingfish, tataki tuna and Catalina roll. Dessert was caramelized fig with bitter caramel mousse, brik pastry and sugared pistachio. It was a memorable dessert, though the others I took bites off were pretty good too.
Ever wondered what it would be like to travel the world, taking photographs, working for National Geographic? What sounds like the best job in the world, is actually one of the most difficult ones personally and professionally.
I recently attended an exhibition on Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment at Fernbank Museum of Natural History (on display September 26, 2015- January 3, 2016), where the influential photography of 11 award-winning female photojournalists is on display. Sponsored nationally by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., Women of Vision was curated by National Geographic Senior Photo Editor Elizabeth Krist, who had the challenging task of choosing a selection of images to best represent the broad portfolios of the 11 extraordinary photographers.
Next to the photographs is a background story on what social issue the photographer witness or what her feelings were. There is also a video podcast about the female photographers where they talk about what it’s like to be a traveling photographer on assignment for National Geographic.
Some of the things these acclaimed women talk about is having courage to go to places most people wouldn’t think of going to. National Geographic Photographers don’t just cover tourist attractions; they go to warn torn, disaster sites, and are often in the middle of conflict. Safety is an issue. They could be out on the field stuck in the middle of a dessert with little water or in the jungle waiting for leopards to emerge for weeks at a time.
There is the pressure of finding the right photograph that tells a story. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is not a catch-parse in this line of profession. While there is a details story to go along with most photographs, these women are out there to capture a moment in history with a photographer. Sure it’s wonderful if they get recognized as a National Geographic photographer of the year, but most National Geographic photographers do what they do because they are passionate about it.
Women of Vision features nearly 100 photographs, including moving depictions of far- flung cultures, compelling illustrations of conceptual topics such as memory and teenage brain chemistry, and arresting images of social issues like child marriage and 21st-century slavery. In addition to the photographs, visitors have an opportunity to learn how National Geographic magazine picture editors work closely with the photographers to select images and tell a story.
“For the last decade, some of our most powerful stories have been produced by a new generation of photojournalists who are women. These women are as different as the places and the subjects they have covered, but they all share the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions. “The exhibition reaffirms the Society’s position as a respected leader in the field of photography.”
“This provocative exhibition will take our visitors on an eye-opening journey that highlights a range of subject matter and natural history themes,” said Dr. Bobbi Hohmann, Fernbank’s Vice President of Education, Collections and Research. “Through their compelling images and stories, Fernbank’s visitors will gain a better understanding and appreciation of our world and its many inhabitants.”
Women of Vision underscores National Geographic’s history of documenting the world through photography and its ongoing commitment to supporting photographers as important and innovative storytellers who can make a difference with their work.
Go Eat Give is giving away 4 tickets to see Women of Vision and Queen of Sheba exhibits at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Leave a comment below and enter to win. Drawing will take place on Monday, Nov 23, 2015 and notified by email.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is a well kept secret that I am about to reveal. Shankara Ayurveda Spa at the Art of Living Retreat Center is a pristine destination for those who want a short getaway to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
October is the best time to drive through Blue Ridge Parkway and watch the leaves turn into shades of yellow, orange and red. As you go up in the High Country, watch the valleys unfold beneath you and fill in your lungs with refreshing crisp mountain air.
Perched up on the mountain on a private reserve, only a few minutes outside the city of Boone, NC, is the Art of Living Retreat Center. Originally built in the mid 1990’s as a transcendental meditation center, the place was abandoned, auctioned, and later rebuilt as one of the largest retreats in the country. In October 2011, the Art of Living Retreat Center opened its 381 acres after lots of renovations, and now offers a hotel, spa, restaurant, apartments, organic garden, pottery center, and halls that can be rented out for weddings, conferences, retreats and workshops.
The retreat’s parent organization is Art of Living Foundation, the world’s largest volunteer-based non profit organization, that was founded in 1981 by India’s spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The Foundation conducts “Art of Living” stress-relief courses, based on yoga, breathing, and meditation, and offers a variety of personal-development and trauma-relief programs around the world.
The resort is designed on the principles of Vastu, a set of architectural and planning principles assembled by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi based on ancient Sanskrit texts. The exterior of the main hall reminds me of an elegant white palace that could be found in southern India, with its welcoming gardens, calming fountain, and giant swans guarding its gates. Wooden ceilings have a geometric layered pattern and a glass window in the middle of the ceiling, resembling an upside down stairway to heaven. Heated floors and carpeting provide comfort to those participating in weekend yoga and meditation retreats.
Across the street is the main building where guest check in. There is an unassuming reception desk managed by couple of resident staff. They greet me with a big smile and a warm welcome. Mr. Venkat Srinivasan, PhD (Manager of operations and guest experience), who has been here since the renovations began, officially welcomes me to the premises and takes me on a tour of the grounds.
We first drive a few blocks to the spa building, the newest addition to the property. On the way we pass by buildings that are rented out as apartments to the staff and students at Appalachian State University. There are also modest one bedroom rooms rented out to visitors for an Ashram type experience. Guests who are looking for solace and peace can stay here without the distractions of modern life, at a very affordable price. The spa rooms at the Shankara Ayurveda Spa are comparatively more luxurious. King and double beds are decorated with hues of purple and white, and offer unobstructed views of the forest and mountains beyond. There’s a phone, television and working desk, as well as robe and slippers. Samples of toiletries come from Shankara, an upscale skin care line that embodies the ancient eastern science of Ayurveda, and the western state of the art anti-aging science. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Plant-based treatments in Ayurveda may be derived from roots, leaves, fruits, bark, or seeds such as cardamom and cinnamon. 100% of the net profits of Shankara product sales are donated to global humanitarian projects through International Association for Human Values (IAHV).
The spa service rooms and saunas are located only one floor up and offers traditional Ayurvedic treatments, such as Marma – where pressure points are activated to pacify the doshas; Basti – warm medicated oil massage for the joints; Netra Tarpana – eye detox for improving eyesight; as well as herbal exfoliations, Thai and Swedish massages, are offered at the spa. The therapists here are well trained in the traditional Ayurveda therapies and many of them have practiced all around the world.
I try the Abhyangya detoxifying herbal massage which involves a gentle full body oil massage in circular patterns. It aims to release stress and improve circulation. Regular treatments of Abhyangya also helps in weight loss. After unwinding at the sauna, I lounge in a chaise at the quiet room, sipping on a cup of soothing organic Balance Tea. Shankara blends and sells different kinds of Ayurveda teas that help with depression, anxiety and restlessness.
Dinner reservations are not necessary while staying at the Art of Living Retreat Center. Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet is served at the main dining hall at set hours of the day. Emphasis is on healthy and wholesome vegetarian dining, while gluten and dairy free choices are also available. Executive chef, Raju, believes in invoking the taste buds with sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent flavors that help feel satisfied while eating less. A typical meal would include soup, salad, protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and dessert. Variations of cuisines is also great for the taste buds. On a Friday night, the theme could be Southern, serving okra and kale stew made with ingredients from the garden, vegetable Jambalaya, and maple molasses coconut bar; while on Saturday afternoon, we are offered a simple meal of Indian yellow lentils, aloo-gobi (potatoes and cauliflower curry), and basmati rice. There is a strict no alcohol and no meat policy on the campus.
After dinner, everyone heads downstairs to a communal hall for Satsang, which in spiritual context means a gathering with good or righteous companions. A few people pick up musical instruments, while others take over the mike and start singing in a slow melodic voice. The group joins in the chorus of short chants and songs that are pleasing to the ears, and invoke a meditative state in the room.
Visitors can enjoy free yoga and meditation lessons offered every morning and evening for anyone who wants to join in. The classes are good for any age and experience level. We stretch our joints, practice breathing techniques, and learn how to manage stress and be more peaceful. Some of the classes involve group discussions and guided meditations, most teachings act as reinforcements to keep a healthy mind, body and spirit.
Art of Living offers a happiness program on the weekends where participants are taught the importance of being happy from the inside, and how it impacts immunity, health, energy and personal relationships. There are also silence, meditation, detox and weight loss retreats throughout the year.
For leisure, visitors can enroll in pottery workshops at the Clay Studio. Here you can learn how to make your own pottery on a clay wheel with a guided instructor. Extended workshops allow you to paint, bake and finish the pieces, or the instructor would mail it to your home once ready. In November, there are special holiday ornament making classes with clay conducted by studio director and award-winning Appalachian State Fine Arts Pottery alumna, Laurie Caffery Harris.
If you have a green thumb, you can volunteer at the organic vegetable farm. Resident farmer, Emily, a native of London, practices biodynamic agriculture, that emphasizes spiritual and mystical perspectives on the soil, plant growth and livestock care. Farming methods include crop diversification, avoiding the use of chemicals, and consideration of celestial and terrestrial influences on the crops. All of the produce from this garden feeds into the kitchen, and you can see a fresh basket arriving at the dining hall each morning.
Finally, Srinivasan shows me a well manicured labyrinth, historically been used as a meditation and prayer tool. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world.
Being so close to nature, solo and guided hikes are encouraged during your visit. I go through 3-miles of natural trails encountering various kinds of trees, shrubs and mountain herbs, as well as occasional deer. The walk along the edge of the hill offers spectacular views of the fall color. Seeing how nature has shed its leaves and adjusted its appearance for the seasons right before me, I begin to recognize a subtle transformation happening inside of me. After the clean air I ingested with my newly learned breathing techniques, the release of stress from my body during the Ayurvedic massage treatment, the farm to table organic vegetarian diet in my system, and the communal gathering of spiritual companions, its hard to walk away not feeling any different that when you first came in to the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at the Art of Living Retreat Center.
Go Eat Give is offering a weekend Spring retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center in March 2016, in partnership with Calmtivity Yoga. Click here to read more.
Atlanta foodies, we’ve got something for you! Your chance at an inexpensive culinary tour around metro Atlanta has finally arrived with the release of the Atlanta DiningOut Passbook. This tiny book of two-for-one entrée deals features over 50 of Atlanta’s favorite eateries and over $1500 in value. Participating restaurants include Agave, STK, Apres Diem, Anis, Murphy’s, No Mas Cantina, McCray’s, Sun In My Belly, Meehan’s, Einstein’s, and dozens more!
In addition to eating good, purchasing the passbook also benefits the non-profit Open Hands Atlanta. Look at you, you philanthropist foodie!
Enjoy the Atlanta DiningOut Passbook for only $39.99, regularly $99 with special discount code GOEATGIVEPASS2015. What’s more? DiningOut will donate another $10 to your favorite charity, Go Eat Give. That’s a win-win for everyone.
So start saving, eat well, and give back along the way!
With Indonesia being the world’s 3rd largest exporter of palm oil, the production of palm oil has devastated the natural habitats of the animals and orangutans that inhabit the area. Founder, Alexandra Saunders took a personal interest in orangutan conservation when she lived in Indonesia and studied them in graduate school at UC Berkeley. It was through this passion that Nuubia created the Chocolate Wildlife Project, which provides small farmers living on the edges of Orangutan habitat with a viable source of income to abstain from destructive farming practices.
In February 2015, Nuubia San Francisco opened its first flagship retail space in the newly built “Market on Market” inside the Twitter building, bringing fine chocolates, confections, natural spreads, macarons, hand crafted ice creams and seasonal specials to the city. Either take a selection of these handmade items home, or stay and enjoy a chocolaty treat with freshly brewed latte in-store while sitting at Nuubia’s Chocolate Counter. The chocolates can be purchased at their San Francisco location, or ordered online. They are very well packed with an ice pack and delivered within a couple of days directly from the store.
Nuubia San Francisco
1355 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103
On Sunday, September 13, 2015, Atlanta welcomed for its second consecutive year, Le Diner en Blanc, a 25-year-old Parisian tradition of an all white affair that has now taken its showcase of elegance and friendship international.
Surpassing last year’s attendance at the inaugural event, which took place at the Millennium Gates Museum at Atlantic Station, the dinner caught the eyes of over 1700 guests and shut down Peachtree Street for a posh picnic taken above and beyond our imagination of a plaid throw and a woven basket.
Le Diner en Blanc unites people from all walks of life each year in 60 cities across 25 countries. This year, Donae Burston and Cleveland Spears hosted the Atlanta event in partnership with Moët & Chandon. They delivered an exceptional evening of entertainment, camaraderie and celebration. Guests came dressed to impress in the finest white attire – gowns, suits, headdresses – you name it. Also suited for the event, Moët & Chandon featured Moet Ice Imperial packaged in all white and the only champagne of its kind to be served chilled.
The location, unreleased until minutes before the event, nestled eloquently between the historic performing arts venue, The Fox Theatre and upscale Midtown hotel, The Georgian Terrace Hotel. Guests checked in at multiple locations across Atlanta to be shuttled to the top secret location upon its announcement. Atlantans brought tables, chairs, white linen and competitive decor along with homemade dishes to the outdoor party. Rebecca Kailer Downs sparked the evening with sensational tunes performed in French, truly setting the mood for an evening of Paris in Atlanta.
The waving of white napkins from Ponce de Leon Avenue to 3rd Street signaled the commencement of dinner and concluded with attendees lighting over a thousand sparkers, illuminating Peachtree street. Now, the real party has started.
Ashanti Floyd, also known as The Mad Violinist, impressed many as he skillfully performed hit songs on the strings of his violin. Based out of Atlanta and Los Angeles, DJ Hands of Grace followed with a set of Top 40, House and R&B that couldn’t help but raise guests out of their seats and onto the dance floor.
Le Diner en Blanc Atlanta was an unforgettable evening of great energy, class and pleasure. Check out the official website to stay up to date with next year’s locations and dates near you. You don’t want to miss out.
Photo credits: Kayla Freeman