Emma Frisch: In the Kitchen and on the Peaks

by Christine Perigen | January 16, 2013

Emma Frisch’s joy is contagious. Her big smile jumps through the phone and makes you think about her delicious cupcakes and the good work she’s doing through her organization, PEAKS. Just married and having just attended her twin sister’s wedding in the same year, Emma’s had a lot of reasons to smile, laugh, and celebrate.

Your wedding photos looked like they were straight out of Wedding Magazine – you couldn’t have had a more fun and gorgeous time. Tell us about the event.

I’m lucky to have married my partner of eight years, Bobby Frisch. We met while we were both at University of Pennsylvania. He is my fellow business partner and project dreamer. We’ve travelled all over the world together and created all sorts of cool things. He started a hotel that I helped him work on and that’s where I opened my first and only restaurant, to date. He’s now getting an MBA at Cornell, which is how we came to Ithaca. It’s a place we both love.

Did you know you’d be planning such a large wedding?

Absolutely not. I thought it would be small with an intimate group of people. It just didn’t turn out that way. We both come from enormous families that we love. We had 125 people attend and the majority were family members. We still managed to stay true to our values. We had the wedding at Millstone Farm, a place I worked at for several years and I’m really close with the owners and farmers. All the food was prepared by our friend who is a chef that partners with the farm and uses food grown from Millstone. All the guests were given a tour of the farm. The wedding tent was made out of used sail cloths. We were married in the horse field amongst horse jumps with a blue grass band playing. We celebrated until the morning with all the people we loved the most.

Your identical twin sister just got married in the same year?!?

Emma and identical twin, Dimity

Yes! This was a totally unexpected coincidence. Her husband, Nolan, was planning to propose the same day Bobby proposed to me but Bobby got to it first. So, Nolan pocketed the ring for another four months. Neither of us were expecting it so it was really special to share that process. She had the opposite wedding: a city wedding, half the size of mine, at the Brooklyn Winery. We enjoyed great food and drinks with a multi-cultural and eclectic, amazing group of people.

Twins: is it true that they are telepathic with one another?

It’s true that we are definitely connected. We think and feel the same way. When we share things, we are sharing the joy, burden or sadness. Our lives are uncannily in sync. An example of that was getting engaged and married at the same time. Similar things are always going on like that in our lives. We’re connected beyond being best friends. She is part of me. I feel that people don’t fully know me until they have met her.


You started an organization called PEAKS. How did it all start?

PEAKS started, quite literally, with the idea of reaching new heights and overcoming major obstacles. My colleagues and fellow mountain hikers, Steve and Chris, and myself saw a unique opportunity to raise money for EkoRural, a small non-profit in Ecuador working on climate change issues with indigenous mountain farmers. Thousands of adventure tourists were pouring into the Andes, with little awareness that the trails they hiked on were farmers’ footpaths. We found a way to bridge these two worlds by launching our first climb-a-thon.

At the summit of Volcano Cotopaxi, Ecuador 

In September of 2010, PEAKS was officially launched. I climbed to the summit of Volcano Cotopaxi, which is nearly 20,000 ft. Steve and two friends ran the “seven hills run” in the Netherlands. Another group of climbers in Colorado climbed a series of peaks. We shared our stories and pictures with family and friends through the PEAKS website, and collectively raised over $10,000 for EkoRural. For me, PEAKS was a way to combine two of my greatest passions: climbing and agriculture. After our launch, I took on the lead role for PEAKS development.

What have you learned from starting your own company?

The biggest lesson for me is this: you need to have a really committed and solid team working together to achieve success. I felt like I was flailing on my own alongside a full time job for quite some time; our volunteers and board members were incredible, but having salaried team members that you can depend on is critical for growth. The past six months of growth have proven this for me. But I am really appreciative of the people who have helped build PEAKS since the start. PEAK has been a team effort through and through.

What are the most successful campaigns on Peaks?

 Sustainable Neighborhoods Nicaragua, a student group that is part of Cornell University’s Sustainable Design Program, recently raised $25,000 to build an ecological housing community in Nicaragua. Eight days into their PEAKS Campaign they raised over $5,000, and hit their $25,000 goal in less than 45 days. We didn’t have a single customer support question from over 60 Champions and nearly 300 donors!

You have a side project that I love reading about: Cayuga St. Kitchen.

Food is my biggest passion. More so than rock climbing or anything outdoors.

Emma climbing

It’s my creative outlet where I can share food adventures I have with family and friends. I love cooking and I love eating even more. I’ve been involved in farming systems since I was 18 and in college. Cayuga St. Kitchen is a fun way to bring all that experience together and give myself an excuse to keep learning…and cook more food.

What has been the most fun dish you have created?

Gluten Free & Vegan Almond and Candied Orange Cupcakes

This past weekend we made vegan and gluten free cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. It was like learning how to cook for the first time. I had to use totally new ingredients. Gluten free cooking is a totally different pantry. I found myself cooking with potato starch and xanthan gum. I had to clear the whole food bank and start from scratch and use my own flavors. I was determined to not stick to the recipe. The frosting was supposed to be a vanilla frosting but I turned the frosting into almond cream. It was fun to light all of them with candles and eat them together and celebrate.

Where do you find your ingredients?

 Food is so much about the story and where it comes from. It’s important to cook with quality ingredients; it makes a difference. The food I use always has story or is connected to people I know. I love going to The Piggery and I know Heather, the owner. She tells me about the meats and they raise these incredible pigs in environmentally and animal friendly way. I’m always asking where the best Brie is or where the best food comes from. I try to buy food from anywhere and everywhere: Asian market, Ithaca Farmer’s Market, I’m always looking to try something new. It’s an adventure every time.

What change do you want to bring to the world?

It’s hard to know if you are actually creating change. The change I want to create is helping people feel empowered to make change happen themselves. Giving people tools and space to feel confident in making their dream and mission come alive.

Reaching New Heights: Emma climbing in New Paltz

Through Peaks, it is those little encounters that happen now and then that make you realize you are making change happen. Sometimes there are weeks or months where I feel that this is a dream in my head and it’s not actually creating any change but then someone will write us a letter and let us know that they think it’s amazing and they met their goal and they’ll thank us. There are lots of moments that show it is the little things that matter and if you keep plugging forward with your dream then you can create change.

What is your travel essential when you are on the road?
My advice is to pack as light as possible and be open to any new experience. One thing I have to bring with me…[long pause]…I know!! My fanny pack. Dead serious. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. I have the coolest one. Everyone should have a classy little fanny pack to store all your valuables and what you need on hand. None of that stuff under your waistband.

When in Ecuador…do you Crumple or Fold?
I’m a crumpler. I wish I was a folder. I’d probably use less. I guess I could be an in between but I’m more of a crumpler.

Emma Frisch is the Director and Co-Founder of PEAKS, an organization that provides the platform and audience for your fundraising campaigns. She also manages her food blog, Cayuga St. Kitchen and continually is experimenting with ingredients to make new dishes. She lives in Ithaca with her husband, Bobby.

For more information on Emma, PEAKS, or Cayuga St. Kitchen, click on the links!

2013 Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Read more stories – Roam Life: Interviews with Amazing Women

Learn more about Roam Life and adventure opportunities!

Upcoming Adventure: Sign up today!

Life, Lemons, & Laughter with C.J. Feehan

Amazing Women
Doing Amazing Things:

Website: http://lifegivesmelemons.com

I met C.J. in a ski mountain lodge with decent food and great beer. She came in loud with big hugs, which is how C.J. operates pretty much every day. She has an endless supply of in-your-face stories and always has something exciting, interesting, or weird going on. Last year, C.J. decided to quit the daily 9-5 and try her hand at independent, out-of-the-box work and has, so far, survived while adding a multitude of new and quirky stories to her repertoire. With her new book officially funded, we wanted to get a chance to hear more about the book, the experience, and how C.J. has been developing as a professional athlete and writer.

You have a new book that did pretty well on Kickstarter.


Yea, it was an exercise where I learned about people, marketing, and leveraging relationships and social networking. I learned it all in one month and I was self-taught. I sought publication through a traditional route for about a year and everyone wrote back and said you have a great voice in your writing and we were really entertained but it seems like a niche market.  These publishing companies would tell me that it appeals to outdoor adventurers or people that would read Jon Krakauer. All these traditional publishing houses were like, “We don’t even know what to do with that. It’d be great if you were already famous.” That’s sweet. One day, you’ll be eating your words.

With a lot of encouragement with the editor that I will be working with I decided to go the self-publishing route. I could have easily just gone the e-book route but as an educator, I always felt it was critical to actually have an idea in physical form.

That’s sweet. One day, you’ll be eating your words.

I decided to give Kickstarter a shot. Everyone told me, “$12k, you’ll raise that no problem.” I put the video and Kickstarter page together and launched it. It went nowhere. The first three weeks I was very discouraged. And then I hit this point where, they say after 60% is funded the rest comes in. I wasn’t 60% funded until I had 4 days left and it was during the 4th of July week. I really screwed up the timing. No one uses computers on weekends and the holidays would be a scratch. At the end I was raising about $2,000 a day but I was freaking out. I didn’t sleep for, like, four nights.

Now that the book is funded, when does it go into publishing?

The book is 75% finished. I have 25% to go. I like writing for long amounts of time over short periods of time. I once wrote a thesis in 10 days. The last part of the book will go fast. It’s been 2 years in the making.

I really screwed up the timing. No one uses computers on weekends and the holidays would be a scratch.

Give us the elevator speech of why you wanted to write this book.

I have had a pretty adventurous life. I don’t live within the confines of a box. When people ask me what I do for a living…it’s hard to explain. I don’t have a one sentence answer that is what I do. I am a teacher, a coach, I take classes myself, and I ski and I bike and I paddle…it goes on and on.

I came to the discovery that when I would tell people stories about my life they found it really funny because it was misery to me. I was entertaining telling these stories and I thought it would be interesting to run a blog and then convert it to a book. I always had a book in the back of my mind.

 I am dancing around yelling, “I got the ballerina!”

Nora Ephron was a great influencer in my writing the book. She died in the middle of my Kickstarter campaign. I was really devastated by that. It took some spiritual motivation and I thought, “Maybe it’s a sign.” She has a quote in one of her books, “My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.” So I started to frame my life into funny stories to share so I wouldn’t feel so bad anymore.

The epitome of that was a story that is in the book. I went to a five-mile charity race in Island Pond, Vermont with staff members from Burke Mountain. The town is dominated by a cult. They own stores and businesses in town so the vibe is strange but the town is nice. So at this charity race they are giving out prizes. I look at the prize table and see a picture with a ballerina. I wonder, “Do you win the frame or the picture?” It looked like one of those pictures in the frames you pick up at the store. Like it was just a stock photo they threw into a frame. The prizes were pretty hokey. Is it a frame or a painting?

I have had a pretty adventurous life. I don’t live within the confines of a box.

They call my number and I picked up the picture frame and I am dancing around yelling, “I got the ballerina!” I gave it to my friend, Jodi, and this woman taps me and asks to trade her the picture for her maple syrup. I really wanted the syrup but wanted to play up the joke about winning the ballerina. Then she told me it was actually a picture of the woman that the race memorialized that had died. I destroyed the sanctity of the whole event. We ran away completely feeling terrible. The only way I can make it right in this world is to write about it so people can laugh at my humiliation.

How did you come up with the title, “Life Gives Me Lemons?”

I didn’t think about it for that long. I called my brother and told him I wanted to write a book about being an idiot in all my outdoor adventures. I told him it had to be something about how life gives you lemons and you have to make it into lemonade. I wanted to make other people laugh about it.

It was a decision to me that took risk and sacrifice. You have to want it so bad that this is what you do.

Who do you want to read your book?

Anyone who has an interest in an outdoor or active lifestyle. The stories would resonate with them. Even the weekend warrior or the couch person who just pages through Outdoor Magazine. Anyone who has an interest in camping, hiking, paddling, skiing, the stories would resonate with them. The book is written somewhat like Chelsea Handler’s books: short, first person non-fiction stories. There is an edge to them with romance and heartbreak.  I think they can relate to stories about being an idiot.  I want to be like everyone man or every woman. Anyone can do this. Someone said to me, “You have the most amazing life ever.” It was a decision to me that took risk and sacrifice. You have to want it so bad that this is what you do. I am a vagabond to be able to do so – it can be drawback where I feel isolated. I travel all the time. There’s no way to keep a relationship for more than six months.

What do you want to tell your audience through your book?

It’s a two-fold message: I’ve had great adventures but anyone can do that. And second, if something really bad happens in your life you can re-frame it into a funny or entertaining story. When you do that, it is a liberating perspective to have on life.  You can learn from your experience and share it.

What does it mean to have a liberated life?

Sometimes I say to myself, “I hope something bad happens to you today.” It’s how I find my stories to write and also how I learn in life. When I lived in Killington, I skied and coached. People would say, “You are so lucky!” and I would say, “Yea, they have a lottery. They choose one person every year to move here and I got the ticket,” (insert heavy sarcasm).

Everyone gets too comfortable in what they do and we don’t have a lot of control over what happens in our lives. I have very little control over disasters in my life – I would have avoided them if I had control. I think too many people are living pretty sedate lives and they can read my book and feel like they live vicariously through me but I hope it’s inspiration to try something out of their comfort zone.

Roam Life is all about that. How do you get someone motivated to move?

A lot of people say they want to go to South Africa to race. (Editor’s Note: Josh completed the Cape Epic with partner, Jackie Baker this last April) But how many actually want to do it? How many people really want to pack the bike in the box, pack the clothes, be that in shape, and travel all the way there to race? Most people don’t want it as much as they say they do. To live more extreme you have to want it really badly.

I think too many people are living pretty sedate lives…

I took a huge risk in leaving my job and thinking I could float myself on a year in freelance writing. If it doesn’t work out I can go back to education. People said, “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” Nothing is guaranteed. To me, that’s a risk.

When you travel is there anything essential that you travel with?

I definitely don’t have any superstitions or things I have to travel with. If I can find a good latte wherever I am, I’m a happy person. Anywhere in the world. I don’t’ go to super exotic destinations. The most exotic place I’ve been was Morocco but I couldn’t get a latte there.

Where was the best latte had?

Oh, wow. Tough call. I had a pretty good one in Les Deux Alpes in France. The best latte I have had so far. But I’m still in constant search of a better one.

TP time: are you a folder or a crumpler?

 I guess I’m a crumpler. I’d say I’m a crumpler of everything. I’m not really tied to physical things. I don’t feel like they have to be folded.

E-Mail Update from CJ: Here’s a good TP photo for you. My dad jokes that I’ll never run out. I just figure if I actually get to use a toilet, I better be well supplied.

C.J.’s stockpile of TP.

CJ, we have the same first name which, I would argue is the best. So why the CJ?

My name is Christine but I write as CJ because there is a famous vampire romance novelist with my name. It’s a college nickname and once I wrote as that name people started calling me it, too. I always sign e-mails Christine. So people don’t know what to call me. People are thrown. I have so many other nicknames, no one really calls me Christine, anyway.

Christine J. Feehan is a freelance writer and media professional who currently resides in Vermont.  Her non-fiction work primarily focuses on outdoor pursuits, and she is a contributing writer at Ski Racing Magazine and NCAA.com as well as a media specialist for the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association. She’s also a professional alpine ski coach and a competitive cyclist who races for Team Elevate Cycles.

To order C.J.’s book: cfeehan@gmail.com