Saturday, April 30, 2016

Around Town: Chicago

Saturday, April 30, 2016
The neighborhood:
Somewhere in between:

So many corners of Chicago are still new to us. We've gotten to know our neighborhood pretty well, but there are neighborhoods like north of downtown where there are endless antique shops, and west of downtown, with culture-rich communities like Pilsen.

We were recently presented with an opportunity that was pretty spur-of-the-moment and we would have to figure out how to make it work. It was exciting and scary and stressful at all at the same time. There were many mixed emotions, and a big loss of appetite on my part. Because much of it was unknown, and uncertain, we couldn't make any plans for this opportunity. The first night we were both so stressed at the decision that we didn't eat dinner. It was 9pm before S suggested that we go down the block for a light dinner, and just to get out of the apartment.

We walked to The Winchester, a place we've visited for both dinner and brunch, and we've been pleased each time. The best part? They have Scrimshaw on tap. Scrimshaw is a beer that we used to always order on tap at Stardust Coffee and Video in Orlando when we lived there. We would have many study-sessions at Stardust by day, and enjoy Scrimshaw on tap at their bar in the evenings. It was a gem of a place. There was kitschy art from garage sales covering the walls, and the service always left something to be desired. But it was our trusty place where we could always get Scrimshaw. That is, until after years, they stopped tapping it. Scrimshaw in a bottle is not the same.

During this stressful evening, we both ordered Scrimshaws at The Winchester, and as soon as we took our first sips, there was something so comforting about it. It's not just a great beer, but it's one of the first great beers that we used to always rely on at Stardust. We could always rely on it for a good time, or for a break after a long day of studying. And now, having a restaurant in walking distance that is always tapping Scrimshaw, is comforting in it's taste and it's nostalgia.

What ended up happening with that opportunity? Nothing came of it. It came into our lives dramatically, and then fizzled out so effortlessly. My appetite has been restored, and I've been able to concentrate back on work. In the interim, drinking a favorite beer like Scrimshaw, like we used to do in college, kept us grounded.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Our Fair City: Chinatown in Chicago

Monday, April 25, 2016

One thing that I miss when I think about Orlando is going out with friends to eat dim sum for breakfast. The servers would roll the cart of bite-size food through the restaurant, and would open the stacked bamboo steamer baskets for us to see the delicious treats inside. Our friends always knew which ones were the good ones. Without a menu, and by just relying on our friends, we would always leave happily full from an affordable meal.

We've been to Chinatown a few times since we've lived in Chicago. Each time it was to get dim sum. We've had to navigate the menus on our own, without our trusty friends to point out what is the best. We've been lucky and have found some favorite and familiar menu items like BBQ pork bao, and we've even been adventurous and discovered new favorites like egg yolk paste bao.

There is a new Chinatown (Chinatown Square), and an old Chinatown, but they are only a few blocks from one another. New Chinatown is an outdoor mall built with a courtyard featuring statues of the Chinese Zodiac symbols, and is like a little town, with two levels of shops stemming off from the courtyard. It's designed to look like a traditional Chinese Imperial Court, which makes for a picturesque visit. Old Chinatown is a long street, with more shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and apartments above the first floors. What I really like about Chicago's Chinatown is that it still has it's Chinese population. When we walk around, we see advertisements in Chinese, some scrawled by hand and taped up. We see signs outside of shops, also only in Chinese, and the locals walk around, going through their routine. Other Chinatown's that I've visited seem to be tourist destinations after years of spectacle.

Here are some things that we love to do in Chinatown when we visit:
  • Brunch at MingHin - At the end of new Chinatown, there is a two-story restaurant that serves dim sum often. When you have a big brunch of over 6 people, you're hard-pressed to find a trendy brunch restaurant that can accommodate all of you. On the second floor of MingHin there are huge round tables with lazy susan's in the middle, perfect for a brunch with tons of friends and lots of sharing.
  • Candy shops - I love trying all of the strange flavors. My favorites are guava and any combination of lemon and honey. I've definitely had some strange ones, such as candies that looked like square Jolly Ranchers (which I love) but then were squishy. Turns out, there was a thin film of edible plastic between the candy and the wrapper... I couldn't get past that. But there are also chocolates that look like river rocks, and sweets shaped like hamburgers or pancakes!
  • Tea and Chinese medicine shops - I love looking at all of the different teas available. But I really love checking out the strange ingredients for medicinal use! In these shops, you aren't supposed to take photos or videos. They have ingredients like ginger root (baskets and baskets of ginger root), dried sea cucumbers, and sliced deer antlers. Things I have never seen before!
  • Souvenir shops - Pocky, Panda chocolate biscuits, lucky cats, sake cups, tea pots. You name it, they've got it. Every corner in old Chinatown has a souvenir shop where you can buy your kitschy items. Rows and rows of shelves with items stacked together like an antique shop. It's fun digging around for gems in the stacks of items.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Roots of Inspiraton and How to Stay Inspired

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chicago is such an inspiring city. I meet so many people that are makers and creaters. But it makes me wonder, do cities like this attract makers? Are makers drawn to inspiring cities? - OR - Do makers attract one another? Are we meeting some inspiring people here because we have such inspiring friends to introduce us?

Looking at the bigger picture, what it is about our generation that breeds people that want to create things on their own? Some may think that we want to be able to make money one day, without having a boss to report to. But honestly, for me? I think it's more about having something that is all my own. So no matter if I spend most of my day working for another organization, I can always come home and put my heart and soul into something where only I call the shot, where all decisions are made by me.

These days, I haven't been inspired to write. I have jotted down ideas for blog posts, but the posts go unwritten. I keep my journal out, for anytime the mood strikes, but weeks go in between entries. Instead, I'm inspired to create. I would rather make a new item for my shop versus write about my day, or sometimes I would rather take photos and videos of the things around me. But when it comes time to write about the photos or put the videos together, or create product descriptions, I fall short. I've been trying to make more of an effort to do short writing exercises in my journal, but it's a habit I've fallen out of. 

Here are some ways that I've been staying inspired lately
  • •I carry a small Moleskine (the reporter style is my favorite) in my purse every where I go. Jotting down notes in my iPhone doesn't feel natural, but hand-writing feels more deliberate. I make sure to have it with me for whenever inspiration strikes.
  • Visit somewhere new. This is an easy one for me, being that I moved to a new city - across the country! - within the last year. Everything is new to me! I have grown very familiar with my neighborhood, but I find that whenever I adventure to other parts of the city, I see something that I have not seen before, and it definitely inspires me to take photos or video of the place.
  • Collaboration. I don't actively seek out businesses and fellow bloggers to work with, mostly because I have little time after work to devote to my blog. Instead, businesses and organizations will reach out to me. I don't collaborate with every request, but when I agree to working on a new project, it is usually something I haven't done before, which always gets my creativity flowing. 
  • •That also somewhat ties into taking risks. It's so easy to stay within my blogging routine, but when I try something new, whether it's as big as a re-brand or as small as a new variety of content, I always feel really inspired to create more.
  • Don't force it. I create my best content when I am inspired. It is hard to fake inspiration and creativity. I often find that I can come up with many different ideas in one sitting, and I attempt to finalized as much as I can in that sitting. Whatever goes unfinished, will likely stay that way until the next time inspiration hits. Forcing it (like when I tried to force this blog post yesterday) doesn't make for quality content.
  • •And lastly, feed off of the energy around you. If you follow blogs that you love, visit them to get your inspiration juices flowing. Read your followers comments on your blog posts, so that you can see what they are loving, and be inspired to create more favorable content for them.
When in the worst kind of rut, I sometimes will resort to a break. A break for me has never lasted more than two weeks, because I thoroughly enjoy blogging.

The weather is slowly turning warm and the earth is exploding with spring flowers. Even the change of seasons can be such a simple way to be inspired. How do you stay inspired?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mountains and Cities are both Hygge

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What a week. I had a huge event that I worked, plus another smaller one right after. My week was light on sleep and heavy on the work-load. But now we are here, the weekend. I've made a few sales with my shop over the past few months, and even though it's mostly for friends, it's the highlight of my week. Friends will tell me their favorite colors, and I will hunt for the perfect color yarn.

I was talking recently with a friend about how I cannot wait for Tokyo and the ramen shops with eight seats, the sushi restaurants with fresh fish, and most importantly? The mountains. Growing up in NYC we would always vacation in the Catskills in the Adirondacks. I think that's why I love cities near mountains. It's the perfect balance. I can have my city, it's culture, the museums, the great restaurants and bars, the friends, etc. But, I am also just a drive away from the mountains, or the forest. 

In Chicago, I don't have mountains close by, not like the Adirondacks. I often think about my dream home. Is my dream home the coziest apartment in the best neighborhood of the city? Or, is it the charming old house on the most wooded part of the mountain? 

If I had to chose between mountains or city... I think I would chose mountains, for the long run. I know that it's my end-goal. Living in Chicago near the hustle and bustle is most definitely my goal right now, and I've accomplished it. But if I was given the choice for a free apartment in Chicago or a free cottage in the mountains, I would go with the mountains. Because whether those mountains are in upstate New York or rural Japan, I want to be surrounded by that kind of beauty. When I'm older, I don't need any other kind of stimulation other than the rustling of the trees in the wind.  I'm so thankful to have the city now, and thankful that one day, mountains will still be there, whether for vacation, or for retiring. Because even when I walk Mort through our neighborhood, the wind will rustle the tree limbs together, and it's the most pleasant sound.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Things That Made Me Smile: March

Sunday, April 03, 2016

List of things I'm thankful for, things I'm loving, things worth sharing...

  • Loving this article on embracing the idea of hygge
  • Sarah's visit to Japan to help me with the little details of our trip! 
  • Looking into bringing some healing amber into my life. 
  • We finished the greyhound obedience classes with Mort! We want to start greyhound agility classes with him next. We originally signed up because we know he would love a weekly class for learning, spending time with us, and socializing with other greyhounds. Before we started the agility class, we wanted to sign up for the obedience class as a refresh of basic commands. And he did so well! We struggle with leave it, but all of the other commands, he's picked up really quickly. At the end of one of the classes, the trainer said that Mort would make a great therapy dog! I would love to visit hospitals with him, but I still have yet to look into what kind of commitment therapy-training requires.
  • I started volunteering in the Division of Insects with a colleague! Once a week, during our lunch break, we volunteer and help package specimen to send them across the world for requested research. It's a fascinating world of science that we live in.
  • This article talks about the history of the Easter Egg roll at the White House. I never knew the history, but I find it fascinating. I have a close friend that once worked on the event when she interned in the office of the First Lady. I'm so proud of her and that experience! 
  • We painted our kitchen to create a cozy and moody breakfast nook. I love the color and how it's completely changed the way our kitchen feels. With it dimmer in the kitchen now, it makes waking up with a cup of coffee a nice, slow routine. 
  • Weekly wine and cheese nights. While I work on my marketing job on weekends at home, S goes grocery shopping for us for the week. I always request a nice cheese and a bottle of red wine (the one that we served at our wedding has been a favorite again these days). And every Sunday, after I've finished my tasks for the marketing job, and before I have to go back to the museum to work on Monday morning, I enjoy my weekly wine and cheese. It's such a nice treat and I look forward to that little reward every week once I get my job done. 
Hygge & Wool + BLOG DESIGN BY Labinastudio