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. 

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!