Life’s a (dog) beach!

My beloved dog-turned-best friend, Linley, and I are blessed to live so close to the most popular dog beach in Chicago.

Note: “Close” in Chicago terms means either ~an hour walk, or a ten minute walk plus two train stops followed by another twenty minute walk (Or an 11-minute drive…).

Regardless, it’s nice being so close to what we love: Lake Michigan, the sand and the sun!

I’m taking a little sabbatical from work—giving Linley and I more opportunity for fun in the sun. Over the past five days, we’ve gone to the dog beach twice. Watching Linley smile and make new friends, prance around the shore, get the zoomies in the sand and let the sun hit his face instantly warms my heart. I forget about all my problems when I’m around him 💛

On Monday, my friend Andrea met us at the beach—followed by a lovely stroll around Uptown, her soon-to-be new condo and an outdoor dinner. We ordered burgers (mine was vegan of course!) and I asked for a plate of grilled chicken for the little guy. Linley was such a good boy—per usual. I’m also lucky that he’s great on long walks and the CTA trains.

Photos and videos taken Wednesday, March 16 and Monday, March 21

A very “Chicago” St. Patrick’s Day

The obligatory, quintessential way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day in Chicago? Checking out the green river!

Having visited Chicago several times before relocating here, I hadn’t seen the green river since I was six years old. Fortunately, we are just a quick drive from downtown and we were able to stroll the Riverwalk when it was calmer from all the weekend’s parade shenanigans. Seeing this tradition without the rowdiness of the typical parade setting is a blessing in my book 💚

Cousinly Quality Time in NYC

The last time I saw my cousin in New York was summer 2017—far too long ago. But all that changed last weekend as we finally spent time together in The Big Apple.

My flight got in late Friday evening, so we grabbed a nice dinner and a quick night cap. We went back to Katy’s place—which was super cute and exactly what you would expect from a New York City apartment—and got ready for bed. Being with her again meant the world to me!

We attempted to take a stroll that Saturday morning, but the weather told us otherwise. Katy found a cute little cafe where we mixed up our coffee orders (totally my fault!) and then made our way through Columbia’s campus—en route to brunch in Times Square.

At Friedman’s, Katy, her sister, dad and I had the best potato-filled brunch of my life. The gluten free chocolate chip pancakes and sweet potato fries were to die for, but the conversation and that feeling of picking up right where we left off were even better.

No matter how stuffed we felt, Katy and I were determined to make our way to her friend’s birthday celebration, which was full of crafting and watching Broad City. I’m incredibly lucky to have met Katy’s high school, college and now grad school friends—because we have always lived in different states and I’m a few years older than she is. Katy and her friends are always welcoming, which was really nice and led to a fun, lazy day of candle making and painting. I definitely made everyone laugh when my paint exploded all over the table, but at least I can say that I predicted the future 😉

Still full from brunch (no joke!), Katy and I grabbed dinner at an awesome vegan place called JaJaJa—where our bartender Mario called us twins and handed us each a free shot. One of many reasons why I love my cousin as much as I do is that we can go from the most profound conversation to laughing and joking around. Our meal was full of that, which is something I’d missed very much and very deeply. We ended our night out with another drink at a different bar, playing a game of “What’s Their Backstory?” and me guessing one of our bartender’s names on the first try.

As much as I love the city, my favorite moments with Katy are always the simplest ones. I cherished our night of listening to Leo P on the sax, hearing her tell me more about her partner Ben and drinking tea until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. And it’s truly all of those “in-between” moments (taking the subway, walking to a destination, etc.) that make me love and miss Katy as much as I always do ❤️

On Sunday, our last day together, we started at a gluten free bagel and sandwich shop, and a stroll through Central Park. It was cold—especially with my iced coffee—but it was so worth it! Seeing people out and about because of the weather and our semi-decent coronavirus situation was something that didn’t go unnoticed, and something we certainly didn’t take for granted. We braved the cold until we couldn’t anymore, so we relaxed at Katy’s apartment, enjoyed more tea and life/family-related conversation, then ventured off to find more delicious vegan tacos!

Our time together always flies by and feels too short. I wish Katy and I lived closer together because she’s truly a sister to me. I don’t know who or where I would be without her in my life.

Fun in Virginia: MerMagic Con Round II

On Friday, March 4, I joined my best friend Terry for our second MerMagic Con in Virginia. We drove his red Kia Rio over eight hours south along with his boyfriend Reggie and his mom, and we had a wonderful weekend together.

With some minor hiccups and stops along the way, we finally arrived at the Dulles Marriott around 7:30pm, just in time for our “Mer Mixer!” Ter and I stayed up late and mingled with other mermaids, mermen and businesspeople in the community. Being back in this environment with one of my closest friends was much needed for both of us ❤️

Although I really wanted to stay for more of the convention the next day, we spent the majority of our morning running errands and patiently waiting for our Dunkin Donuts order. I also grabbed lunch with another one of my closest friends, Carolyn, who lives in the D.C. area. Our afternoon together was full of laughter and profound conversation, and flew by per usual. But I had to get back to the convention center to see Ter swim in his tail before the end of the day!

Reggie, Ter’s mom and I all met back up at the convention center to watch Ter in his element. Once we snapped some obligatory, fun photos, we headed back to the hotel, got ready for dinner and left to meet another one of Ter’s friends. The four of us, Ter’s friend Wes and his husband all enjoyed lovely food and drinks together. Seeing Ter laugh and meet so many new people – along with old friends – was endearing and heartwarming to see ❤️

I look forward to more memories with Ter, Reggie and Ter’s mom! Until round three 😉

Takin’ It Slow in “The Big Easy”

I’ve never been the type of person who has a singular, large group of friends (think How I Met Your Mother, Friends, or any sitcom for that matter). For the longest time I thought that was a bad thing, but I have always been blessed and grateful that I have close friendships from travel and work-related adventures (see a previous post with this same sentiment). I’m an “introverted, extrovert” who values my quality time with one or two people more than big groups of people, even as an ENFJ. And one of those friends I have gotten to know over the years is Jes.

Jes and I worked together during the pandemic (fall 2020 through spring 2021 to be exact), but never met in person until July, 2021. I decided to part ways with the company, move to Chicago and start something new; as much as this was the right thing to do at the time, knowing that I wouldn’t be in Asheville with Jes, Carolina and the other amazing women I met at The Pritchett Company was difficult to grasp. I HAD to visit Asheville and meet Jes in person, something that felt long overdue.

Jes (left), Carolina (right) and I (middle) in Asheville, North Carolina (July, 2021)

Jes and I planned a somewhat spontaneous trip to New Orleans (NOLA) a few weeks ago, and we had such a fun, easygoing weekend here in The Big Easy. Between the snowy weather and mechanical issues at O’hare in Chicago on Friday morning and the delays heading home last night, here were some of my favorite aspects of our time together.

Ghost and Cemetery Tours

As lovers of all-things haunted, Jes and I signed up for a walking ghost tour and a cemetery bus tour to end each night in NOLA. On Friday, we strolled through the French Quarter and we learned about all the haunted, ghost-infested sights from NOLA’s beginning to Marie Laveau‘s voodoo presence to Nicholas Cage’s drunken shenanigans—resulting in him getting kicked out of the city for good. Some of the most disturbing stories involved children dying of yellow fever and throwing themselves out of buildings, and how horribly slaves were treated. If you like spooky minus the graphic detail, I recommend a bus tour instead of a walking tour.

Pro tip: Go earlier in the night if you want more history than “fun.” A lot of tipsy folks will be on the later tours, and it can take away from the seriousness of NOLA’s haunted history!

Pro tip II: Get your palms or cards read! Jes and I did this and had a great time, learning something new along the way. Just make sure you go to a reputable place.

Art

Whether we were in the city centre, Congo Square or our tattoo studio on Magazine Street, Jes and I greatly appreciated the art as we strolled each afternoon. There is such a unique vibrant art scene in New Orleans that I appreciated very much. If you ever have some time to kill between activities, especially on a nice, sunny day, please take your time and get to know the local artists. Jes actually closed on a house Friday morning, which was the perfect excuse to buy new pieces!

Not only did we get artwork for ourselves, we also had some artwork done on ourselves…

Pro tip: Avoid tourist traps at all costs! You won’t get the authenticity and personality in your gifts from a “Made in China” shop. Artists will charge more for their time and brand, but it’s SO worth it.

Jazz Music

As a Detroit native and longtime lover of jazz, this was a must for my time in NOLA. We found a lowkey, casual absinthe bar (a plus!) and had to check it out. Jes and I each enjoyed a cocktail and swayed to the music before heading out on one of our tours. Boy did this make me miss Detroit!

Pro tip: Even if you don’t like jazz or want to carve time out for it per se, you can always pop into a dive bar, grab a drink and some bar food, and enjoy yourself for a song or two.

People Watching

^two truest words ever spoken about this city. My definition of a “wild night out” is three drinks and in bed by midnight. Some of the tourists here go HARD, and it shows even while waltzing down Bourbon Street. Even though we felt out of place, it’s worth a stroll and some snaps.

Pro tip: Please don’t be an idiot. Wear your mask.

There is truly something for everyone in The Big Easy. The food, energy and charm are truly one of a kind, and even if you’re a Midwesterner like myself, I highly recommend this southern city! I can’t wait for my next girls weekend with Jes 😀

Photos and videos taken Friday, January 28 – Sunday, January 30

Martin Luther King Jr. Day at The Art Institute of Chicago

Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day is deemed a “company holiday,” this is a day of remembrance of his life and celebration of his contributions—mixed with the harsh reality that we still have a long way to go.

For more inspirational Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, click here.

I felt guilty “celebrating” a day off this year, so instead of binging Succession or some other waspy program of the like, I wanted to further educate myself on black artists and activists by visiting my favorite art museum: The Art Institute of Chicago. The photography exhibit which featured black and LGBTQIA+ community members especially spoke to me; I loved seeing people of all walks of life be their authentic selves and become more prominent in their industries.

And yes, even Kanye is featured at The AIOC!

I believe Martin Luther King Jr. paved the path for other activists in the US and abroad. I originally wanted to say, “I wish there were more people like him,” but a better statement is, “I’m thankful there are more people like him out there!”

I hope to see a world without racism, sexism, homophobia… in my lifetime, it’s unlikely, but I am hopeful that our younger generations will continue to push society in the right direction.

A letter from Norway// Hello 2022!

As 2021 comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on, arguably, the most difficult year thus far, while also taking inventory on all the good things that have happened during the pandemic. One of those things has been maintaining contact with my family friend in Norway, Kjell.

Sitting with Kjell (Spring, 2016)

Kjell was a foreign exchange student who lived with my mom and her family in high school. He was part of my childhood and early adulthood from afar through handwritten letters, photos and memories exchanged between him and my mom, but I finally had the opportunity to stay with Kjell in 2016. Those two weeks with his family in Askoy, Norway (near Bergen) has as much impact on me now as it did then.

Here are some of the highlights from my time with Kjell:

Despite the fact that we’ve switched our channel of correspondence from handwritten notes to email, Kjell and I have kept up with regular check-ins and photo sharing! He recently wrote me, shared some family updates and of course, beautiful photos of Norway.

Our fishing spot in 2016 🥲

I wish all of you a happy new year, and wish you continued travel and adventures with friends in 2022 🙂

Chicago Architectural Tour

Last month, Juan and I joined some tourists (mainly fellow Michiganders) on an architectural boat tour of our ‘new home.’ We already knew the true meaning of why Chicago was named “the windy city” but wanted to learn more about the beautiful buildings surrounding us—as well as other quips!

For starters, there are a few prevalent styles of architecture found in the city, including but not limited to: art deco, Chicago school, post-modern and gothic revival. As much as I love art deco, the other styles complement my fav 1950s vintage incredibly well. It’s also important to note some of the most famous architects in the city: Boyington (Chicago Water Tower), Frank Lloyd Wright (various redesigns downtown) and the infamous architects from Studio Gang (St. Regis). If you’re in the Chicago area as a resident or visitor, I highly recommend going on this tour.

I especially love and admire Jeanne Gang, the designer of Chicago’s Aqua Tower. Born in 1964, she was first widely recognized for this building, the second tallest woman-designed building in the world. Aqua was recently surpassed in 2021 by the nearby St. Regis Chicago, also of her design. Gang is one of Chicago’s most prominent architects of her generation—as her projects have been widely awarded. How cool!

Photos taken Saturday, November 13, 2021

Last Day in Lisbon

Tuesday, September 21 was our last day in Portugal, for differing reasons. Dani was leaving for Italy in the afternoon to see someone on the Amalfi Coast, whereas I was flying back to Michigan to finalize packing before moving to Chicago. Our experiences leaving Portugal couldn’t have been more opposite—which I will get to later…

After a not-so-great night of sleep, I was feeling tired yet excited to check out Boca do Inferno: beautiful cliff dwellings and and scenic views in Cascais. I had to check them out before heading home. A cave had been formed from the crashing waves, so as you may imagine, the ocean air and sun on my face felt refreshing after a restless night. We saw individuals, couples and groups of friends hanging out on the rocks, taking photos, laughing together and even fishing! This instantly brought me back to fishing with Kjell, a family friend from Norway, five years ago in Bergen.

The rest of my day went downhill from there (notice I said ‘my’ day and not ‘our’ day). On our late morning train back to Lisbon, I wanted to check in for my flight. I never received an email, which was odd because my flight was in less than 24 hours. I checked my email, airline website AND the Lisbon airport site to find that some of my flights – including Lisbon to London and London to Montréal – had been cancelled. Instead of parting ways with Dani and enjoying a relaxing, solo afternoon in Lisbon, I had to say goodbye at the airport and figure out how the heck I was going to get home. After a realization that this was out of my control and I had to get home ASAP to pack and move, I had to purchase an entirely separate flight home from my phone at the airport—luckily taking me from Lisbon to Paris, directly to Detroit. Near-panic tears and $600 later, I decided to “shake it off” and enjoy my last evening in Lisbon.

Once my sweaty hike to the Airbnb concluded, I was able to enjoy how cute the apartment was. I sent some videos to my friends – both of the apartment and of my sweaty, exhausted self – before taking a shower and heading out for the evening. I enjoyed some street art on my way to find food, wandered into a local cork shop, and even got hit on during my walk to dinner—and trust me, that never happens! I found myself back where Dani and I were the night we met Julian and Max, and I immediately felt nostalgic. I nursed a Coca Cola with lime, some fries and a caprese salad as I watched the sun set over beautiful Lisbon and our European adventure.

Even writing this now is difficult because things have been hard… But that last night taught me to find the positive in every situation, to enjoy doing things solo again, and to let go of what isn’t in my control. Until next time 😉

Photos taken Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Craving Cascais

Cascais, one of Portugal’s most beautiful beach towns, was a must-visit on our week-long adventure. Although Lisbon was my favorite of the three cities, Dani and I were craving the sun, sand and sea that Portugal had to offer.

After an exhausting morning of travel mishaps, we were ready to do absolutely nothing on the beach. We walked down beautiful winding roads toward the shore, where there were tons of authentic restaurants and tourist traps ready to be explored. Past that was a smaller, somewhat crowded beach, but we found a secluded spot to lay our towels and our heads for a little while.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear the sounds of the water crashing on the cliffs around us, people speaking different languages again and feeling the sun on my cheeks (cheeks on my face that is — it wasn’t “that” kind of beach!) 😂

Dani wanted time to herself, but I wanted to eventually get in the water. It was cold, refreshing and was exactly what I needed. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved the cold water because it gave me an instant rush and felt like comforting bath water after a little while. I’m not sure if it gives me a “nostalgic” feeling per se, but being in the water is my happy place. Dani woke up and took some candid photos — which is normally a cringeworthy idea for me — but I felt good about myself and figured I should embrace the feelings I had that day.

Although I was soaking wet, we had a lovely dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. It was nice to sit and talk about absolutely nothing as we enjoyed some spicy food. Soon afterward we wandered around and explored some cute shops, including a gelato place we were aiming to check out on our way back. The sunset was too good to miss, and we even met some Swedish women with the most adorable dog — instantly bringing me back to my study abroad days. All in all this was the most relaxing, peaceful evening of the trip, which was much needed for both of us. We shared some laughs, grabbed some gelato and moseyed our way back to the apartment.

Little did I know my entire trip home was about to change. I had a COVID test-related scare based on my airline and it honestly put me in a spiral. I had to call Juan and everything… foreshadowing to what was probably my worst travel experience to date. But in the spirit of positivity, everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and I was able to calm myself down to enjoy my last evening with Dani.

I was deeply saddened that Dani wouldn’t be spending the last night back in Lisbon with me, but I did enjoy the time we had together. It was a great vacation full of culture, exploration, getting lost together and meeting the coolest strangers-turned-friends along the way ☺️

Photos taken Monday, September 20, 2021