Monday, December 8, 2014

Bookshelves + Pieces of Me

My love of books has existed since I was little and saw Beauty and the Beast for the first time and knew I wanted a library in my home just like in the movie. Ok so I don't exactly have a library of books on that level quite yet but I take pride in my three bookshelves and my growing collection of books. 

Other pieces of my life have begun to inhabit these shelves and you glance quickly at them you'll begin to understand a little bit more about me. There's a shelf dedicated to every french book I own and read in the last 4 years. Then I have an entire shelf with travel books, mostly Lonely Planet and Top10, bursting at the seems. My passport is well preserved in a glass globe on one of my shelves with my daily little plate of jewelry. Some of my most valued momentos from traveling reside on these shelves and growing my collection of books and memories feels amazing. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Maps + Feeling Like Magellan

For any gift I give, I always like to make it personal and creative. I stumbled upon this incredible book of maps at Paper Source and had a stroke of inspiration to deconstruct the book and take different maps and gift them for Christmas.

Each map is so incredibly detailed and beautiful that leaving them bound in the book just felt wrong. The illustrations are each so unique to each country and while the map can't really guide you through any country, it shows the diversity, resources and monuments found there. 

I thought it would be a lot harder to dismantle the book but it was fairly easy. I started with going through and using an X Acto Knife to snip the string binding throughout the book and then I used the same knife to then precisely cut the other pages that were glued and after 30 minutes I magically had 52 maps to play with. 

After taking apart the maps I had them spread out across my dining room table and for a few seconds I felt like Magellan because I imagined this is exactly what his desk looked like as he was exploring the world. Granted these maps wouldn't help me navigate through the coasts of Italy, I still am imagining I still am envisioning that this is how explorers felt!

Some of the maps I am thinking of spray painting and others I am thinking of putting pom pom fringe around the border as an homage to one of my favorite British artists Ann Carrington.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Passports + Momentos

On every adventure I've taken I always collect an annoying amount of small momentos from every city. The essential things I always bring back with me… regardless if my suitcase is already buckling… 
- Currency
- Ticket stubs
- Artwork
-Business cards
- Jewelry

I have different shoe boxes filled with momentos from every city I've been to. A bit excessive I realize that but I like to stay organized and then it is easy to go back and rifle through each box and find exactly what I'm looking for! I feel like it is important to keep these small things even if its something like ticket stubs from museums or cable car rides because you can always go back to them. 

Being able to finally scratch off my first country in Africa felt amazing! I am a very visual person and getting to scratch off each country is aesthetically pleasing and its just as gratifying as ticking something of a list of to do's!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Market + Chicago

I haven't visited the Chriskindl Market in Chicago in probably 15 years so I thought it was time to pay this winter city staple a visit! Walking around the city is one of my favorite things to do so I was excited to have this adventure.

 It was an unusually warm night so we thought it would smart to go then… and apparently every other person had the same idea. The moment we stepped onto the Daley Plaza we transformed into bumper cars at a carnival. I would never say I excel at dealing with large crowds so this was going to be a challenge.  

The ridiculous amount of people did not stop me from enjoying and stopping to look at all the colorful and creative stalls that lined the plaza. We spent maybe half an hour walking around the market before we couldn't breath anymore and decided to take a nice walk around the loop and enjoying the holiday decorations around Chicago. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spray Paint + Center Pieces

 Every year Thanksgiving is a fairly large production at my parents house with usually 25-30 people coming over. I always love Thanksgiving at my parents house because both sides of my family celebrate together and the food is something to never be missed. My mom always has her cooking techniques and dishes down to a T and so I always place myself in charge of decorating. 

I always love creating the center pieces for the dining room table. I will sometimes use pinterest to get inspiration from. Last year I spray painted pumpkins with different designs and patterns in a gold metallic finish. This year I decided to use squash and carve them out at the top and place tea candles inside. 

Then I had a flash of creativity and decided I wanted to spray paint leaves to make the centerpiece fuller. Luckily every winter my dad converts our basement into a greenhouse and provided me with a large variety of fig leaves to complete my Thanksgiving centerpiece. Since it is a no no to pick leaves off the trees and plants, I gave them a good shake and got to work spray painting them!

After 2 hours of carving and getting a little lightheaded from spray painting, my diy project was complete! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Banana Bread + Broken Platters

Made my first attempt at mastering banana bread today. It went… ok. I scoured through Pinterest to find the perfect recipe. Finally found one without walnuts to accommodate my inconvenient allergies and I got to work! I learned the key to a great banana bread needs ripe banana to keep the bread moist. I however was impatient and couldn't wait for them to ripen. The crumble was incredibly easy to make and tasted amazing. I'm considering putting crumble on every desert I make from now on!

The plate was one of the treasures I brought back with me from South Africa. Unfortunately it did not survive… In fact it did not even survive 3 hours after I purchased it thanks to my clumsiness. So now instead of using it to plate beautiful pasta dishes at the hypothetical dinner parties I throw, it will just have to be used as decoration.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Elbowing Tourists and Penguins

Walking up the undisclosed winding road to Boulder Beach lined with palm trees and quaint houses you could never imagine that just around the corner lived thousands of little penguins on a secluded beach. The South African Government has built this raised walkway along the beach and through the trees so that people can transform to being flies on the wall to this colony of tuxedo studded birds. I could have stayed there for hours watching them stand on the beach and watching the rebel penguins swim in and out of the arctic current water.

At any attraction there is always that one sweet spot that gives you the best view and everyone knows about it and elbows their way to the front in frustration. There are the tourists that fight their way through the crowds and then there are the tourists that will tap their feet and roll their eyes and look at their watches until they make you so uncomfortable you have to leave. Then there was me who waited methodically for a spot to open then slithered my way in and didn't look back… and it was completely worth it! 

Observing these animated, wild and exotic animals (exotic to me having growing up in Chicago)was such an amazing experience. I fully embraced and enjoyed my few minutes in the golden spot and was blown away by the contrast of penguins and this incredibly clear turquoise blue water and palm trees.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baboons vs Sasha

On our way to Cape of Good Hope we were met by 15 or so wild baboons just going about their normal lives along the cape. It blew my mind that they were not afraid to be by the road and that they were almost a little daredevil about it all and were really ballsy and didn't care if a car was coming or not. They came within inches of the car and we discovered that like the shark watchman there were also men who watched the baboons and if they were in the road or were going to get hit it was their job to rescue them! 

We also saw wild ostriches along the same road, although we didn't spot anyone watching out for them, so either there is an over population or the ostrich meat here is realy tasty. 

We finally got to the bottom of Cape Hope and were met with a little 820ft climb to the top. It actually was really exciting and an adventure to climb all the way to the top. The "stairs", I use quatations because they consisted of rocks here and there and a few wooden edges, were inconsistent and jagged but it made it more exciting! I felt like Indians Jones navigating through the twists and turns of the mountain and being inches from the edge with nothing to hold me back was terrifying but totally worth it. My sister told us a tip for climbing is to have 3 pints of your body touching a rock or the ground at all times, my dad heard that as 3 quarters touching at all times and began joking that he was using minimal contact with the cliff and telling us he was climbing on his tippy toes.... welcome to my dads funny and interesting world! 

When we finally reached the top it was absolutely gorgeous, even though it was a bit overcast you could still see the outline of the mountains and hear the waves crashing into the side of the cliff. Well worth risking my life to see Capetown from that view!

Climbing the southern most tip of Africa

My first full day in Capetown was full of unexpected fun and adventure. We started out the day visting the neighborhood my sister has been living in then going to lunch at Mama Chochi. Then we headed to Boulders Beach to visit the penguins. On our way we stopped on the side of a cliff to watch for sharks and we met a man who sat in a little post and whose sole job was to watch for sharks coming into the harbor. If he saw one he would radio down to the beach and a siren would go off warning all the surfers to leg it back to the beach because a shark was near by. He told us he hadn't seen one in a bout to weeks but I kept holding out and hoping that today would be the day, but I thought it would be better not to see one because then it would be risking the lives of all the surfers in the water. Then I thought, the surfers know their risks when they get into the water so for 10 minutes I was rooting to see a shark... But we never did. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Capetown Bound...

Starting my journey to Capetown with a 7 hour flight to Amsterdam. Waiting at the airport might be unjoyable for a lot of people but for me they are my playground. I've always enjoyed the buzzing energy of waiting at the gate and walking around the terminals. Maybe I'm a bit weird but I've always made the most out of being at the airport. The idea of having 7 uninterrupted hours on the plane to read books, listen to podcasts and eat the 10 lbs of snacks that I packed is bliss! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Preparing for South Africa...

For the last 5 months my sister Ana has been living in Capetown and interning at the Red Cross Hospital. Based on her instagram, she has been living the life down there with weekend sailing trips, music festivals and wine tastings as well as persuing her passion to work with kids. I am so proud of her for following what makes her happy and for taking the opportunity to travel as much as I did during university. I am beyond excited to be reunited with her and have her show me South Africa through her eyes.  

Packing for this trip has been somewhat of a puzzle since on our way home we will be stopping off in Amsterdam for a few days and currently Capetown is entering their summer season and Amsterdam will be in their Fall season. Trying to pack as minimal as possible for 2 different climates is difficult but the challenge is exciting!

I’ve never been to South Africa and before my sister started living there I never imagined or desired to go there so soon. It was definitely not on the top of my travel list but the first time she came back with pictures and stories I was sold! So tomorrow my parents and I are traveling halfway across the world to visit her for 2 weeks and explore Capetown and Amsterdam.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kidless at the Pumpkin Patch...

There was one thing that was very evident after we’d taken 5 steps into Sonny Acres, we had forgotten to bring a child with us to the pumpkin patch since apparently everyone else had made their sunday a family event there. None the less we had fun on what turned out to be a perfect Fall day where the sun warms you up as it hits you and the leaves are a perfect burnt orange hue as they make that wonderful crunching noise under your feet. Fall is without a doubt my favorite season. I am a very visual person so seeing the leaves change colors and the vibrant hues they transform into makes me appreciate Chicago and makes the cold weather a little more bearable.

Our mission was to find the perfect pumpkins for carving and after grabbing a quick bite to eat we stumbled upon a little patch of untouched pumpkins. As soon as we realized what we had found we turned into overprotective miners that had just hit gold and we were playing defense against little kids while we picked the best pumpkins. Once we had hunted and gathered 4 beautifully orange and round pumpkins to carve we scooped them up and started walking to pay. Unfortunately they were a bit too heavy for me so we stopped half way and as I slowly and carefully set them down to not bruise them… my very nice Vince jeans decided it was their day to rip right in the crotch. For anyone else this probably would have been terribly embarrassing and ruined their day, fortunately for me I was familiar with this situation as it had happened to me before and much worse, so we had a good laugh and continued on our pumpkin hike to pay for them. When we discovered they would cost nearly $50, we quickly jumped ship and instead settled for mini pumpkins to carve. Overall it was a perfect Fall experience rich in warm colors, ripped pants and pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gatsby and Daisy for the Night...

Gold Coast Room at the Drake

Growing up in Chicago, you learn to associate The Drake with old school glamour and sophistication combined with proper tea times and refined evenings out. On Saturday night, The Drake lived beyond these expectations. I was there attending the most elegant, beautiful wedding my eyes had ever seen, something purely out of a movie.

As we walked into the Gold Coast Room at The Drake the gatsby themed wedding was in full swing. Dancers had been hired to do the charleston in 1920’s flapper dresses, dripping pearl necklaces and feather boas. The food had perfect presentation and the salad dressing I could’ve drank straight from the salad dressing dish but I had to show some self control.

Once everyone had sat down and the bride and groom had been introduced, a champagne parade ensued, I didn’t even know something like that existed but on cue to Raise Your Glass by Pink came on and 20 servers came marching out with bottles of champagne raised up in the air and they did a lap around room ending at the head table then trickling through the crowd.

For months I had been searching for a dress for this wedding and couldn’t find anything suitable for the occasion. I finally found luck at one of my go to e-commerce websites, They always have an amazing selection and their return policy is seamlessly easy to navigate. I bought a Joanna Augusta long black dress that wrapped closed with a delicate ruffle trim at the top. I wore a pair of strappy heels that resemble the Nudist heel by Stuart Weitzman, except mine were from Forever 21 and I can wear them the entire day plus dancing and not get tired! I found the perfect arm cuff by Vanessa Mooney to wear to make my outfit more unique and fun and then I wore about 15 Alex and Ani bracelets on my wrist to complete my look.

I didn’t let my boyfriend see me in the dress until the day of the wedding because I wanted it to be a surprise. He then got the same idea in his head to not let me see him in his tux… So I took him to Men’s Warehouse to pick up his tux a few days before the wedding and I couldn’t get out of the car. 30 minutes later he emerged from the store with a grin on his face and said he had gone in thinking he was was going to look like James Bond and he came out looking like the Penguin from Batman. The suit they had chosen for the groomsmen was what was appropriate for the 1920’s Gatsby themed event, with long coat tails, wide pants (not fitted like he prefers) and a pleated shirt. I thought he looked incredibly handsome and I felt like we were Daisy and Gatsby for the evening.

For me no event is complete without a photo booth. I am a complete sucker for them and it doesn't matter where one is, it could be in the corner of a sticky bar and I will be in there, and I've done that more than once. While I'm sure photo booths were not invented until after the Gatsby era, it was a nice element to have to the wedding and they even included props! The props included packs of candy cigarettes, my boyfriend and I stole 2 packs and couldn't stop eating them at the end of the night!

The wedding was undeniably wonderful and The Drake was the perfect setting for a Gatsby themed wedding complete with a 16 piece orchestra and 200 + guests that filled the room with dancing, laughter and fun. We capped off the night by taking a walk to Oak St. Beach since the weather was so nice and just sitting on a bench and enjoying each others company while we looked out onto the lake.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Collecting More Stamps Than Carmen San Diego

  Photo: Milano Centrale 

Traveling has always been a part of my life. My first airplane ride was at three months old to visit my mother’s family in Mexico. While I clearly have no memory of my first international travel and no passport stamp to prove it I still see it as the beginning to a long and wonderful love story between travel me.

I am fortunate enough to have amazing parents that saw traveling as an opportunity to give my sister and I what they never had growing up in families of more than five kids and immigrant parents. My parents also saw traveling as a way to teach us about diverse cultures and colorful cities that you couldn’t possibly learn about by sitting in a classroom.
They helped spark a love of travel in me that has taken me around the world. I’m 24 years old, and I’ve already visited 15 countries and grown up a lot along the way. I’ve visited some of the most beautiful cities in the world and even had the opportunity to live in Paris for a year and Milan for 3 months.  My favorite adventure to date was my month trip through South East Asia with one of my good friends Zoe. We ziplined through the jungles of Chaing Mai, snorkeled til I’d seen every fish in Ko Tao, kayaked through Halong Bay, dodged cars and tuk tuks through the streets of Hanoi and bared through the thick humidity of Hong Kong.
All of those cities come with many stories of embarrassing moments, amazing adventure, undeniable excitement and happiness, some travel failures that I learned from and many more emotions and photos that I hope to share later on. I would like to use this blog to share my traveling  and life stories and photos with you because in my short 24 years I feel like I have done a lot, and I am grateful for every opportunity I’ve had and created for myself. Hopefully it will spark inspiration and or at the least make you laugh a little.