I am not a coffee drinker, which is a slap in the face to many. *gasp* I have nothing against the taste, as I love a good scoop of coffee ice cream, and I find the aroma absolutely intoxicating. That being said, caffeine and I are not always simpatico, and the caffeine in coffee affects my nerves in the worst way. One day, many years ago, I was exhausted. A friend suggested I take a little of her cold brew to perk me up. “The taste is smoother than when it’s traditionally brewed, I think you’ll like it!” I consumed roughly 3 or 4 ounces of it and had to take a 1/2 milligram of Xanax because my heart felt as though it was going to beat out of my chest. (Kind of like how I felt a few nights ago on Election Night…)

So, I stick with tea. Ha!

Many of my previous neighborhoods uptown have had wonderful local spots to buy tea – Cafe Buunni will long hold a very special place in my heart, as I still remember the day its Pinehurst Avenue location opened! – but I am always on the search for my tea spots on the Upper West Side. Some places are dedicated to tea, while others are coffee shops with great tea options.

And for the sake of of this post, I am extending the Upper West Side up through Morningside Heights, as there are so great tea options between West 110th and up through West 125th. (Neighborhood purists, come at me. Ha!) Many of these locations offer black teas, green teas, chai, matcha, or other specialty teas, either hot or iced; please click on business links for more details.

Tea on the Upper West Side

Coffee Shops & Cafes with Tea on the Upper West Side

Tea Shops on the Upper West Side

Bubble Tea on the Upper West Side

Anything I missed? Be sure to leave a comment so I can check it out and add it to the list!

Everything Bagel Seasoning is LIFE.

I’m not sure if this is a Millennial thing, a Gen Z thing, cross-generational for anyone between the ages of tween and fifty, but my goodness, I put it on way too many things. Mac & cheese, hummus, scrambled eggs, you name it. I occasionally get a little meta and even sprinkle it on my cream cheese on my bagel.


As the title suggests, I also love to put Everything Bagel Seasoning on my vegetables. While roasting some squash a while back, I sprinkled some seasoning on it and liked it…but I didn’t love it. I felt that there was an element missing, and after playing around a bit, I realized what it was: sweetness! Often one to roast my squash with a touch of maple syrup, and when I brought that plus the seasoning together, it was a match made in heaven! It’s the perfect sweet / savory blend so many people crave, with the seasoning adding a nice texture contrast to the soft roasted squash.

Be sure to swing through Yoga by Candace to pick up this recipe, which I posted there earlier this month! I have a good feeling this’ll be on repeat during this chilly autumn and winter months!

Maple Everything Bagel Roasted Butternut Squash
Maple Everything Bagel Roasted Butternut Squash

Most bloggers and content creators can agree on one thing: We invest a lot of our own money into our ventures. Cameras, lenses, backgrounds, props, ingredients, travel, you name it. I have yet to develop a good recipe for making free money, but if I ever get my proportions rights, I’ll share my secret, promise. *wink*

When it comes to surfaces and backgrounds, I have had my eye on Replica Surfaces for quite a while. In my current living situation, I have limited space in which natural light works – damn NYC scaffolding and ground floor living, ya KNOW? – and I have a few surfaces that I use in my tiny bedroom corner. Namely, I use a gorgeous wooden cheese board I was gifted many moons ago, but this 10″ x 12″ beauty only allows me so much space. It is also worth mentioning it’s gained a few stains in the past few years, despite careful cleaning.

I needed something larger, durable, but it couldn’t take up too much space, either.

Replica Surfaces has heeded that call, and it was an investment I wanted to make.

Truth: When I posted on my Instagram Stories in September that I had just purchased the Butcher’s Block surface, the DMs flooded in, and they were extremely polarizing. Either people had a bad experience with their respective surfaces, or they swear Replica makes the best surfaces they’ve ever purchased. I decided to reserve judgement until I got it.

Y’all, my final opinion is a wholly positive one, I am happy to say. I am also honest with my followers.

I’ll waste no time and run down a small list of my personal pros and cons:

Replica Surfaces Pros:

  • The surface came sealed up and wrapped in more bubble wrap than I knew what to do with! In other words, Replica Surfaces ships their products well-protected. My surface came in perfect condition upon arrival.
  • It is extremely thin yet sturdy, with a slight bit of malleability to it. It makes storage a dream! I am able to slip it under my bed, easy peasy! In a smaller space – hello, NYC apartment! – I appreciate it that it can disappear from my line of sight when it’s not in use.
  • I appreciate its size! Measuring at 23″ x 23″ (or just shy of 2′ x 2′), I have much more surface to work with than I previously have.
  • For my particular surface, I was impressed at its hyperrealism. For the layman? It looks like actual wood in my photos. I’m impressed with the lines, the wood grain, and slight color variations throughout the surface, just like real wood.
  • This is a breeze to clean up! I’ve photographed a few hard ciders on this surface, and it’s takes no time to mop up any drips or spills afterwards. I have a few spills I’ve had to take care of on my actual wooden shooting surfaces, and a few light water stains still remain, which is a bummer.

Replica Surfaces Cons:

  • As I speak about investments, this particular surface’s base price was $77. It wasn’t so much a con for me – I could afford it and I wanted it, so I bought it! – but I know this cost will be prohibitive for some. I have seen competitive brands at lower prices; some brands which print a complimentary surface on both sides of the board, which piques my interest, a 2-for-1, if you will. Maybe Replica Surfaces will move in that direction in the future!
  • It states in the literature that came with my surface that it is technically not a food safe surface; since I’ll often lay food (e.g. pastries, cookies, cheeses, et al) on cleaned surfaces *and* eat what I shoot afterwards, this was kind of a bummer. I doubt I’ll become instantly stricken if I ever ate something that was atop my surface for a few minutes, but I’m also the “better safe than sorry” type. 😂

At the end of the day, I am happy with my purchase! I will consider Replica Surfaces for future purchases, and am incredibly thankful for my large “wooden” surface. I hope that my review may help you in making your future decision-making process when it comes to surfaces for your content photography.

Note: This review was based on a personal purchase from Replica Surfaces. I was not paid or compensated in any way. As always, opinions are my own.

The clamour for a revival of my Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi recipe came about after I put a throwback photo of it on my Instagram a few weeks back. Who am I to disappoint my fans?

File this Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi recipe under “Canned Pumpkin Recipes”, “Recipes with Canned Pumpkin”, or “Delicious Recipes To Make This Fall” . (SEO, do your magic. Ha!)

Originally posted on this site on October 23rd, 2017, this gal is almost three and wanted to come out to play again.

I first tested and made this at my parents’ house in Connecticut that October, as their quiet and roommate-less home makes recipe development much more pleasant and, frankly, easy. Plus, my parents are always willing participants to be taste testers. If that doesn’t exemplify “win-win”, I’m not sure what does. I find gnocchi fun to make because it’s very hands on and I find playing with the dough to be satisfying. (Is there a tactile category for ASMR? Asking for a friend…) This version creates a more freestyle dumpling as compared to a traditional rolled and grooved potato-based gnocchi. Regardless, it is absolutely delicious, especially when tossed lightly with some melted butter and sage. (Keep it simple, here.)

I present to you my original 2017 photos, which, in my option, still past muster when compared to my current 2020 photography standards. 😂

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
(Adapted from Chowhound’s recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi with Crème Fraîche–Sage Sauce)


  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (Reminder: do not use canned pumpkin pix mix!)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Optional, Yet Suggested – Simple Sage Butter Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (I opt for salted, but feel free to use unsalted)
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, minced

Before We Get Started…

  • As you can see, this recipe originated from the linked Chowhound recipe, which I used as a basis for this gnocchi. Honestly, I have not given their Crème Fraîche–Sage Sauce a try, but I don’t doubt it’d be fantastic! I was opting to focus more on the gnocchi while making this recipe originally, not its toppings.


1.) Place parchment paper onto a large rimmed baking sheet and flour lightly. Set aside.

1.) Combine ricotta, pumpkin, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, and ground sage; stir until smooth. Slowly add the flour – 1/4 cup at a time – and mix until the dough is combined; it should be a bit tacky and soft, and do not mix it beyond that point.

2.) Place flour on a cleaned work surface (countertop, cutting board, butcher’s block, et al). Taking a rough handful of dough, carefully roll it on the floured surface into an even rope, roughly 3/4″ in diameter. Cut the rope into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet lined with floured parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough until all gnocchi has been made.

4.) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper (do not flour!) and set aside.

5.) Once water has come to a boil, carefully add gnocchi to the boiling water in batches, cooking at 3 – 4 minutes per batch. Gnocchi will float to surface of the water when finished. Remove with a slotted spoon, gently shake off any excess water, and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all gnocchi is cooked.

6.) Serve immediately with preferred sauces or toppings, or allow gnocchi to cool before freezing.

6a.) I suggested tossing gnocchi in a butter sage sauce, perfect for a 2 cups of gnocchi: Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat until melted, then adding in minced fresh sage. Turn heat down to medium-low and allow sage to cook for 3 minutes. Add gnocchi, toss in butter sage sauce, and allow to cook for another 2 -3 minutes. Serve immediately.

6b.) To freeze gnocchi, place sheet pan with cooled gnocchi into freezer for three hours; remove from parchment and place into resealable freezer bags for up to six weeks. Frozen gnocchi can be cooked again at a later time by cooking as noted in Step 5.