an afternoon in the chicago botanic garden

I have spent the majority of my life living in or just outside of the city of Chicago. You would think that by now, I'd have seen most of the major attractions, and truthfully I thought I had. When my aunt was visiting from out of state a few weeks ago, my mom suggested we go to the Chicago Botanic Garden, and I realized that I had never been there before. Well, I was certainly missing out. 

Am I the only one who didn't know about this incredible place? I asked a few other friends and most of them hadn't been there before either. It feels like a hidden gem, maybe because it's not actually located IN Chicago - it's in Glencoe, about 20 miles north of the city. 

We went on a Sunday afternoon, and while busy, it didn't feel terribly crowded. The grounds are massive (365 acres) so you can always find a quiet corner. The Botanic Garden is actually divided up into 26 different garden areas, each with a theme - naturally, some are more popular than others. The Japanese Garden seemed to be the busiest, maybe because the plants and styling of the garden are so different from what people commonly see here. One of my favorite sections was the English Walled Garden, with its separate "rooms" designed and manicured in six different ways popular throughout British history. Despite the popularity of both of these gardens, it wasn't hard to find a quiet place to sit. 

The  Botanicals: Intimate Portraits  exhibit at the Regenstein Center. Photo by Laurie Tennent on Instagram.

The Botanicals: Intimate Portraits exhibit at the Regenstein Center. Photo by Laurie Tennent on Instagram.

It's not all gardens, however - there are exhibitions too. It was such a beautiful day that I chose to sit outside in the gardens while my family explored some of the exhibits, but I wish now I had seen the Botanicals: Intimate Portraits photography exhibit they had. Luckily for me, it's there through September 25th, so I'm going to have to plan a trip back. My brother said that the furniture exhibition called The Hidden Art of Trees was also really cool.

We ended our day with an (expensive) snack on a beautiful patio, but they do allow picnicking in a glen adjacent to one of the parking lots. I did see some people breaking the rules and eating snacks on various lawns, which I am sure you could get away with as long as you aren't a terrible human being who leaves garbage behind in a botanic garden. 

It's surprising to me that I haven't heard more people talking about the Chicago Botanic Garden, considering that it's free to go. While the parking fee is admittedly a bit steep ($25-30 per car, so make sure if you're driving you consolidate vehicles), you can take the Metra there from Chicago. There's even a $2 trolley in case you don't want to walk from the train station once you get there. You can also purchase memberships that include free parking for a year. 

Maybe it was the beautiful weather or maybe my affinity for plants has just grown stronger (seriously, my apartment is starting to resemble a ill-watered jungle)... but I LOVED it. I'm already checking Metra schedules so I can take a book and spend another summer afternoon there wandering around and reading. 

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 started focusing on my own happiness.  Those two things have nothing to do with each other, but they both felt very freeing. I had been spending a lot of time worrying about making other people happy, and it was fantastic to start worrying only about myself. And as an unexpected bonus, prioritizing myself 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!