New Gallery: Seattle, WA

I've added a section on here called Travels that I'll be using to post some of my favorite photography from past trips. Eventually I'd like to do a full post about each one, but that's a bit more time-consuming and obviously I haven't really gotten this whole blogging thing down yet.  I've only sorted through & edited photos from one trip but I'm excited to continue to add some more - right now you can view pictures from a trip last year to Seattle to visit my aunt & uncle, sister and cousin!

 

 

2015 Book Report

One of the most satisfying things I accomplished in 2015 was to fall in love with reading again. I had always been a voracious reader - my parents actually used to punish me as a kid by taking books away - but somehow, particularly during a tough period of my life, I stopped reading almost completely. I decided a few years back that I wanted to read Modern Library's Top 100 Novels, and from 2012-2014 all the reading I did was various attempts at struggling through Ulysses, and that was pretty much it. 

Then, this past year, I realized it made way more sense to start reading from the BOTTOM of the Top 100 list. I also put together a book club with some friends, which provided some great peer pressure to actually finish what I started reading. It really helped me to reintroduce reading back into my life, and I once again have piles of books all over my apartment because my bookcase is too small. 

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  • GOAL: 12 books
  • READ: 12 books! I actually thought I had only finished 11 and was really disappointed, but then I remembered that I read Coming Clean on Kindle at the very beginning of the year, before I really started using Goodreads. 
  • BOOKS BOUGHT AT INDIE STORES: 9 - going to local bookstores is one of my favorite things and I willingly shell out money to buy my books there. #hipster
  • FAVORITE:  Easily Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.
  • HATED:  The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy. This is supposed to be a "wildly funny" novel, according to descriptions, and the first couple dozen pages involve the main character beating his wife and trying to strangle his kid. Har har. I can't believe this made the Top 100 Novels list; it's awful. 
  • LONGEST:  Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - 447 pages. 
  • SHORTEST:  The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain - 116 pages.
  • FUNNIEST:  Most of these books were not at all funny, so definitely One More Thing by B.J. Novak, though I wasn't a huge fan of it.
  • SADDEST:  Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, told from a child's point of view during the Holocaust.  Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller is a memoir about a childhood spent living with hoarder parents; very sad in a totally different way.
  • BEST COVER:  I bought The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman entirely based on the cover, so that's a clear win. Honorable mention to The Postman Always Rings Twice.
  • WORST COVER:  The Ginger Man's gross illustration matches its repulsive interior.
  • MOST OVERRATED:  I know everyone loves Devil in the White City, but it left me cold, despite being from Chicago and loving the history of the city.
  • READ OFF MODERN LIBRARY TOP 100:  4 - I made it through books #100-97 (I finished #96 a few days into the new year).
  • READ FOR BOOK CLUB:  8
  • GOAL FOR NEXT YEAR:  I'm being ambitious and going for 24, double what I finished this year.  I'm on track so far!

A Few Hours in Memphis, TN

These photos are super old, but I've been feeling inspired by my friend Jasmine's blog to share some of my travel photos, and these have been sitting on my computer for years - they might as well see the light of day.  


Most of the traveling I do for work takes me to destinations within driving distance of Chicago, most of which I have been to multiple times before.  A few years ago, I got invited to speak at a conference in Memphis, and I was excited to explore somewhere new.  I really only had a single afternoon to check out the city, so I definitely need to return someday.  

I got lucky with a few aspects of my trip - I was staying in the downtown area and the weather was perfect, so I was able to easily walk around. I stopped into Dyer's which is well-known for their greasy, delicious burgers before wandering down Beale Street popping in and out of stores. I did make sure to also stop in A. Schwab, which opened in 1876 and is the oldest store on Beale. The entire street is decorated with awesome neon signs advertising various blues bars. The most famous options are of course B.B. King's and Jerry Lee Lewis's, but unfortunately I didn't have time to come back at night for the live music.

There is so much to do in Memphis if you're into music - Graceland is of course famously located outside the city, the Gibson Guitar Company offers tours of the factory, and there's also Sun Studio just a few minutes off Beale. I didn't have time to go to Graceland, and I decided to breeze through the Rock n' Soul Museum, mostly because I ran right into it while wandering around. There was tons of memorabilia from decades of Memphis music history. I had to rush through it but I felt like I could have spent easily spent a few hours in here.

After I left the museum, I headed up Main Street to go to the Peabody Hotel. The hotel is incredibly famous, and it didn't disappoint - the interior is absolutely stunning. I grabbed a drink at the bar to wait for the famous Peabody Duck March. This tradition was born in the 1930s when the hotel's general manager returned from a hunting trip and drunkenly decided to put some of his live decoy ducks in the hotel's fountain. The tradition lived on and now every day at 11am and 5pm, a red carpet is rolled out and ducks march from the elevators to the fountain for a swim. It's an extremely popular thing to see in Memphis apparently, because it was so crowded I couldn't even get any good photos! I apparently forgot to take pictures of the hotel itself as well, unfortunately.

While Beale Street is cool, I also absolutely loved the architecture and beauty of Main Street. My hotel was located right off of this, so I walked from the Peabody back to the hotel, snapping pictures of some of my favorite scenes along the way.  Then it was back to my hotel to prepare for my panel the next morning, concluding my tourist time in Memphis.


Summary

WHEN: August 2013

WHY:  I was invited to speak at a conference for work; I had a few hours of downtime to explore

FOR NEXT TIME:  This was absolutely not enough time to spend in Memphis. I definitely plan on checking out some of the live music on Beale Street. Also on the top of my list is the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the site of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination. I'd check out the Sun Studio tour for sure, and I'd like to go through the Rock n' Soul museum again a bit more carefully. I guess seeing Graceland would be interesting, but I'm not a big Elvis buff so that's probably on the chopping block if I don't have much time. I'm not sure why I went with a burger at Dyer's (probably because I was starving and standing right next to it) but next time around ribs are on the menu. I loved the location of the hotel I stayed in, and I'll definitely try to stay off Main Street and within walking distance of Beale when I go back. 

EDIT:  I used to have a list of Airbnb rentals (and a referral code) at the end of this blog post but the more research I've done on Airbnb, the less I feel confident supporting them until they address some of the valid criticisms against their service. Because of that, I've removed that part of this blog.

A Chicago Summer

So I've been trying (and mostly failing) to write a blog for years. I guess this is the newest attempt? I've had an awesome 2015 so far and I'd really like to document it - plus I feel like writing a blog will encourage me to find interesting things to do (particularly in the winter) instead of just sitting at home and playing video games. Can you tell I feel awkward writing this? I feel awkward writing this.


It's officially fall and yes, it's cliche to say this, but I can't even believe the summer is over. After a really awful summer last year, this was the best one I've had in ages. Here's a quick recap of all the awesome stuff I did. Sorry for bragging. I'm lazy so I mostly used pictures from my Instagram but I'll try not to do that in the future.

Hockey playoffs with the best possible result. The Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, and for the first time ever I got to go to a playoff game thanks to some work connections.  Actually, I got to go to two games - #spoiled - and they won both games. Clearly, I am good luck.

I saw a couple of great shows, including Riot Fest. First up, a concert at the Palmer House that was part of an event called Hilton@Play. I got invited through work (I work in hospitality) and if it's free and there's food I will BE THERE. It was actually supposed to be a Meghan Trainor show, but she got sick and canceled and frankly I'm glad because I'm not a huge fan. The replacements were Sydney Sierota (who is the lead singer of a band called Echosmith) and Andy Grammer, who I knew because of that one catchy radio tune. Sydney did an acoustic set which was very pretty but not really my thing, but Andy Grammer was really fun - very energetic and upbeat, poppy stuff.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, a friend had an extra ticket for RATATAT at the Riviera in Uptown.  This show was fantastic! I haven't really listened to RATATAT much since high school but since there aren't lyrics, all you really need to do to enjoy yourself is dance your ass off (which I did, despite the venue being about 1 million degrees even though it was September).

I think this year was my favorite Riot Fest ever, and I haven't missed one since I moved back to Chicago in 2010. It wasn't the best lineup I've ever seen, and the weather could have been better (nothing will top the first year they had it in Humboldt Park, which was glorious), but for the first time I had a big group of friends going AND I actually got to see Motorhead! It was a festival so I saw a lot of bands but my highlights were: Eagles of Death Metal, Motorhead (of course), Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, and the Prodigy.

I chopped off all of my hair and cut some bullshit people out of my life.  Those two things have nothing to do with each other, but they both felt very freeing. And as an unexpected bonus, getting rid of crappy people meant that I had time to reconnect with old friends AND make new ones. I also got to spend a lot of time with my family and hang out with my brother and sister before they went back to school.

I got to travel... a LOT. I had not been on a real vacation since 2011, and then this year I went crazy. There was a long weekend in Seattle in March (I guess that's technically not summer but who cares). Then I went to Europe for three weeks in April. Wrapped it up with almost two weeks in Hawaii in August. I'll make separate posts about those though - way too much to share to include them in this recap!