Photo Journal: Graceland Cemetery, Chicago

Graceland Cemetery
4001 N Clark St, Chicago

I could tell you how Chicago’s Lincoln Park used to be the city’s premier burial ground until Chicago’s City Council banned burials there. Or that it was decided to move the city cemetery to what’s now Graceland. I could tell you that the cemetery spans 121 acres, and holds the remains of the city’s most eminent residents, including architects, sportsmen and politicians. I could harp on about how beautiful a garden cemetery it is, how it feels like you’re taking the most magnificent nature walk when you’re in the middle of it, which Chicagoans have been doing since it’s establishment in 1961.

Instead, I’m just going to show you how absolutely stunning Graceland is through some pictures I took when I visited late last year…

Cemeteries get a bad wrap for being creepy places. They generally don’t rank very highly on the traveler’s list of things to see and do. But Graceland felt much more like a museum crossed with a park than a burial ground. Visiting in autumn was magic, with all the leaves turning gold and red. The map you collect when you arrive is also particularly helpful, and adding to the museum vibe is the list of the important citizens buried there and a little biography of them all. And the only remotely creepy thing was the Eternal Silence statue below, and that’s only because Atlas Obscura told me that “looking into its eyes a person could see the nature of their own death…”

Photo Journal: Hama-rikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Hama-rikyu Gardens
1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo, Tokyo
Oedo line to Shiodome

I’m a little bit excited to be attending the Japanese Film Festival this evening, so I thought I’d head back to Tokyo this morning to get myself in the right headspace 🙂 After visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market for the first time, my friend pointed out that the Hama-rikyu gardens were a stone’s throw away and looked like they’d be worth a visit. We walked over, paid our ¥300 entry fee (AUD$3.50), and started weaving our way through the stunning grounds.

As the former family residence, garden and hunting grounds of the Tokugawa Shogun, Hama-rikyu also functioned as an outer fort for the Edo Castle. In the mid 1600s, a mansion was built on the land, which had been reclaimed from the sea, and years later the mansion had become a detached residence of the Shogun’s family.


Years to come saw the grounds sadly damaged by both natural and man-made disasters (namely earthquakes and war), and the land was donated to the City of Tokyo by the Imperial Family towards the end of 1945. Less than a year later, after intense restoration work, it was opened as a public garden, which still entertains a heap of visitors each year; today, let me take you on a tour through it!

One of its most unique features is the sea water ponds that change levels with the tides – the pond is actually the only remaining seawater pond from the Edo era within the city.

The 300-Year-Pine…

Hinokuchiyama Hill…

I didn’t catch what this gate was called, oops…

The beautiful pine teahouse…

Nakajima-no-ochaya, an operating tea house on the water…

O-tsutai-bashi bridge

And my favourite part – the flower garden 🙂



Urban paradise: The High Line, New York City


Woke up on Sunday morning thinking about this place for some reason… I think I first heard of the High Line around a year or so before I started actively planning our trip, and the concept completely fascinated me right from the get-go. You can read about the history of how this incredible project came to fruition on the website, but as a quick overview, a group called Friends of the High Line was founded in 1999 by a group of people who wanted to preserve and open the High Line, a train track abandoned in the 1980’s to the public as an open park-type space.

The planning began around 2002 and after a lot of hard work by some very dedicated people, the first section was finally opened to the public in 2009. It runs on Manhattan’s west side from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Aves, and it’s a fantastic way to see the city from a different perspective.

It’s open to the public daily, free walking tours are held if you want a bit more information on your stroll. There are events held regularly, like snow sculpting in the winter, and pop up cafes in the fairer weather. While not a green thumb myself, even I could appreciate the gardens; they still shone through the snow when I took these pictures in January. I could have spent the best part of the day up there, and it should be a must for anyone visiting the city!

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Cook this: Almond Amaretto cake


Sundays, growing up, were always “family days,” spent with grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and I’m sure this will ring true for a lot of others with an Italian background. As I’m getting a little older, though, that’s changing; I’m understanding that I’m needing a little more time alone, and time to look after me. The one thing that won’t ever change, though, that still makes me as happy and comfortable and safe as it did when I was a child, is seeing my grandparents. This post and recipe is a bit of a shout out to Dad’s parents, who are two of the most incredible people I know. Well into their eighties, they are so self-sufficient it almost defies belief and logic. That my beautiful little Nonna is still growing all of her own produce (literally everything from carrots to strawberries, zucchini to tomatoes, figs to grapes grow in their ENORMOUS garden – see below for a little bit of it), spending hours on her hands and knees digging up the sweetest carrots and that Nonno is still climbing up small step ladders to pluck me a small bowl of the figs I’ve loved since I was a tiny little person is both crazy, and at the same time, I can’t imagine it any other way.


But don’t think it’s limited to fresh produce; Nonno does his own alcohol, too. A genuine purveyor of quality home brew. Wine and spirits, thank you very much. And every time we visit, we get sent home with half a car full of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as a little bit of whatever’s just been bottled; last visit was Amaretto, a sweet, almond-based liqueur. I really like Nonno’s Amaretto, particularly for use in baking. It’s insanely strong (really, I shudder to think of the alcohol percentage…), so you don’t have the problem of it all being baked out when you add some of the home brewed stuff to your cakes, which means it’s still got that distinct flavour and kick that I remember so vividly (and fondly) from all the cakes and biscuits that I used to eat when I was younger.

I didn’t really have a recipe in mind to use when I got the bottle from Nonno the other week, so I had a flick through one of my older cookbooks, the Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking Around The World (1975 edition), purchased for change at the Grub Street Book Shop a few years ago. I found this recipe which I screwed around with a little and ended up with a cake that Nonna and Nonno would have been pretty happy with, had husband and I not eaten it all within 48 hours.


What I changed:

– Swapped the walnuts out for toasted, slivered almonds (left whole, not ground)

– Used the juice and peel of an orange instead of a lemon

– Added a standard shot glass of Nonno’s Amaretto


Other than that, I used the recipe and method as printed in the cook book, and got a great result – it was somehow dense, yet light and moist all at the same time, with the almonds really bringing out the flavour of the Amaretto, and the orange flavour sitting nicely with the almond. A bit of whipped cream would have been perfect with it (note to self for next time), and a little icing sugar dusted lightly on top wouldn’t have gone astray either (if I’d had any in the pantry). It’s one I’ll definitely make again (don’t think husband is going to give me much choice there), and I’ll double the recipe next time so I have some to bring to Nonna and Nonno!


Photo Journal: My grandparents’ garden

I consider myself to be supremely lucky – not only do I belong to a fairly close-knit, fairly traditional Italian family, but I am 28 years old and have only recently lost my first grandparent. The other three are all still with me, and not only that, but they’re all strong. I think that comes from the way they were raised; to be strong, self-sufficient, always fighting and always preparing for another day.


Dad’s parents’ house has always been a hub for important family events, bringing together both sides of the family. We gather there for birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays. Our big one is Christmas Eve, for what us grandkids have dubbed “The Feast.” Traditional Italian Christmas Eves involve a lot of seafood, and just food in general. Our family makes no exception to this rule, with the family gathering to feast on calamari, prawns, lobster, all fresh from the market. Salads, pasta, meat, potatoes, it’s all there! And all help on the back decking of their house, overlooking their big, beautiful yard, complete with one hell of a veggie patch, fruit trees of every kind, and a wood fired pizza oven that has it’s own little house.


Not long ago, I thought I needed to capture some of the beauty of this backyard, the place I’d grown up in. The yard I’d run around, ridden through on a tractor, climbed trees to look over, torn party dresses while climbing fences on “adventures” with my sisters and cousins. It’s where I’ve always eaten good food, then learnt to cook it as I got older, picked mulberries and figs off trees, using the lemons that had fallen off the giant, central lemon tree as projectile weapons against my sisters and cousins, and in turn being hit hard with more. It’s where I’ve taken part in the annual tomato-sauce making, watched my grandmothers drink wine and giggle like teenagers while gossiping in Italian, where my grandfathers have talked and talked and watched us kids with serene, satisfied smiles, and where I have both literally and figuratively grown up. It’s something I want shared and immortalised, because it’s really special. I hope everyone has a special place like this in their lives  and I’d love to hear about some of them  : )



Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014