Lent is fast approaching (in fact – Ash Wednesday is tomorrow), and as a born-and-raised Catholic, it seems appropriate to address it here, as well as to reflect on my intentions for the forty days. Easter is (arguably) the most important day in the Catholic year, and the forty-ish days ahead are a necessary pause with reflection, prayer, and yes – giving something up or adding something in – that make it feel that much more sweet.

It’s far too personal, even for me, to share the details of my faith life – so you’ll have to allow for some mystery. But what I will share is this: I’m paying more attention to this season in 2018 than I necessarily have in years past and I’ve decided to meditate on this attention through the following intention: a somewhat dramatic shift in my eating habits over the next forty days.

I already eat rather healthy, as you may know. (Or may see on Instagram.) But I’m still hooked on several vices that don’t always nurture my soul and psyche the way they necessarily should, so I’m interested and open to experimenting with what happens when I severely limit or cut them out.

As a moderator (not an abstainer – thanks Gretchen Rubin for this helpful intel!), it’s not realistic to expect that I’ll never consumer these things again, like, ever… but it is much more realistic to expect that I’ll be able to do it for the next forty-ish days, particularly paired with the reflection and meditation that Lent brings.

So for Lent (or for those not following a Christian church calendar, from February 14 until March 29), I will be doing the following:

1. I must be able to recognize, pronounce (and be able to picture in my pantry) everything on the label of anything I consume.

  • No weird chemicals or preservatives
  • No “natural flavors” or “XYZ flavor/essence”
  • No oils that I wouldn’t cook with in my kitchen
  • Exception to the above rule: active cultures in fermented things like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha; vitamins/supplements (including current medicine cabinet offerings, collagen peptides); tea (I’m looking at you, Honey Lavendar Yogi Tea!)

2. No added sugar/sweets.

  • No raw or refined sugar (including coconut sugar and other “natural” sugars)
  • No artificial sweeteners, including aspartame and stevia
  • No conventional sweets/desserts (including cookies, cakes, pastries, candy, etc)
  • Exception to the above rule: natural sweetening via fruit (NOT fruit juice) like dried dates, mindful/minimal use of honey and maple syrup

3. No alcohol.

  • No wine, liquor, beer, cider
  • Exception to the above rule: kombucha

4. Plant-based menu on Fridays (and Ash Wednesday).

  • No animal-based products (including dairy/eggs)
  • All other rules still apply
  • Exception to the above rule: when traveling for work, it’s acceptable to eat just simply vegetarian as necessary

5. Write down/track everything I consume.

  • Use this as an opportunity to remain mindful about my goals and health.
  • Find alternative strategies to deal with emotions and binge urges.
  • Stay accountable to myself and these goals.
  • No exceptions.

What are you doing (or not doing) for Lent this year? Do you observe this season? I’ll be checking in somewhat regularly with these intentions, and would love to follow along with your journey as well.

Tuning In: Podcasts I’m Obsessed With

It’s THURSDAY! Man, this week has felt long, and I am exhausted, so let’s put a pin in my other planned posts and things bouncing around in my head and talk something that always captivates my interest.

Podcasts.

I’ve been an avid podcast listener for a decade now – it all started in my sophomore year of high school (2008 – woah), when I discovered a knitting podcast – and then another – and a Disney podcast, all of which offered me an outlet for two very niche interests that weren’t being fed by people I knew “in real life.”

And from there, I was hooked. And an off again-on again romance has commenced, where I go through periods of listening religiously and then sporadically. A theme in most things in my life, funny enough. In the most recent past, I’ve definitely been more on the listening religiously side of things… and that’s a good thing, since the list of podcasts I tune into regularly has skyrocketed (and the list of ones I have queued up has grown even more).

A comprehensive list of podcasts I’m obsessed with*

*detailed, and in the categories I’ve organized them into on my Podcast app

Morning News: I start every weekday morning with the following two podcasts, which make me feel more on top of national and world events and an engaged citizen of the world. I love both because they’re bite size and easy to listen to on my commute.

  • Up First from NPR
  • The Daily from the New York Times

Economics and Politics: Since I can be a bit of a junkie, often these quick hits of the news are just not enough for me – so I round it out with commentary and/or news updates from the following podcasts. I try to keep it well-rounded, with a variety of both liberal and conservative sources, to maintain a good sense of how opposing viewpoints see the same events.

  • NPR Politics Podcast
  • Left, Right and Center from KCRW
  • FiveThirtyEight Politics
  • Powerhouse Politics
  • Media and Politics Podcast from Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center
  • Women Rule from Politico
  • Freakonomics Radio
  • The Weeds from Vox
  • The Federalist Radio Hour
  • What in the World from Unpops
  • Pod Save America
  • Nerdcast from Politico
  • Political Gabfest from Slate
  • DecodeDC
  • Stay Tuned with Preet

Pop Culture/Culture: Ok, let’s change gears a little bit – it can’t be all news, all the time. (I think that would drive me insane!) I like to stay up with the latest in pop culture, but without cable and a sporadic interest in social media, that’s not always the easiest task. (It’s so easy to just get into my groove of tried-and-true TV favorites, neglecting what’s new and next.) These podcasts keep me informed – and often laughing.

  • It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders – from NPR
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour – from NPR
  • Reply All
  • Without Your Permission
  • Note to Self

Health, Nutrition, Running, and Fitness: Oh man, a large section that could rival my interest (cough-obsession-cough) with economics and politics. Listening to podcasts on these topics connects me with people around the country who share the same curiosity and passion that I do – it makes me feel less alone, as people I know “in real life” aren’t as into it as I am. Plus, it gives me an outlet to think and talk about it, which offers a welcome break for those “real life” friends and family!

  • Another Mother Runner
  • Ali on the Run Show
  • Run, Selfie, Repeat
  • Personal Best
  • The mindbodygreen Podcast
  • Dr. Ruscio Radio: Health, Nutrition, Functional Medicine
  • Foodist with Darya Rose, PhD
  • Balanced Bites
  • Namaslay
  • Pursuing Health with Julie Foucher
  • PaleOMG Uncensored
  • Run Eat Repeat
  • I’ll Have Another with Lindsey Hein
  • The Ultimate Health Podcast
  • The Healthy Moms Podcast
  • The Fit Bottomed Girls Podcast
  • The Energy Healing Podcast
  • Almost 30
  • Healers
  • Well-Fed Women
  • Food Psych Podcast

Fashion/Beauty: I’ve been obsessed with fashion and beauty for as long as I can remember. Clothes and style are an integral part of my psyche (even if sometimes it doesn’t look that way… as I write this in leggings and a long t-shirt). These offer me an outlet to think and talk about it, since similarly to health and fitness – I haven’t really met people who share the same love of style as I do.

  • Pop Fashion
  • The Business of Fashion Podcast
  • Fashion No Filter
  • Forever 35

Books, Books, Books: Sometimes I just want to talk about books and writing. Or hear about other people who are obsessed with books and writing. Storytelling inspires, excites, and challenges me to grow and learn in the world – and of course, I’m always on the hunt for new sources of good recommendations.

  • Just the Right Book Podcast
  • What Should I Read Next?
  • #AmWriting
  • The Moth

History: Unabashed nerd here, if you haven’t caught onto that already! History podcasts are a favorite – they help me look at world issues with a more informed point of view and, on a less serious note, are just stinking interesting. Cannot lie, there’s nothing like the feeling of sharing a little known fact or anecdote with a friend, colleague, or acquaintance to brighten my day.

  • Spirits
  • Artcurious
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class
  • My History Can Beat Up Your Politics
  • Hardcore History
  • What Really Happened?
  • Witness from the BBC World Service
  • Civics 101
  • A History of the World in 100 Objects from the BBC World Service
  • Curious City

Happiness and Individual Betterment: These are big topics for me – and are a constant focus and source of fascination. It all started for me with Gretchen Rubin in podcast-land, but my interest in “self help” books can be traced all the way back to before I was even a teenager. As a tween, there were “self help” guides for teens that I read cover to cover (again and again and again). I still definitely lean into this space when choosing books to read, but when I can’t sit down with a new one – these help me get that betterment fix.

  • By the Book
  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin
  • Happier in Hollywood
  • Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
  • 10% Happier with Dan Harris
  • Awesome Etiquette
  • Sorta Awesome with Meg Tietz
  • The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes
  • The Life Coach School
  • Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

Science and the Brain: Talk to me for five minutes and you’ll probably learn quickly that I can be a bit of a hypochondriac. Not all-in necessarily, but conscientious of my health and well-being at all times… and frequently, this appears in part with my efforts to take care of my brain, since my top fears include Alzheimer’s and Dementia. We lost my Nani to dementia and it was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced; to say that I’m obsessed with taking care of my brain and am acutely aware of changes in my memory and comprehension would be saying it lightly. But maybe that’s a topic for another post, so for now – the brain and science podcasts I’m into are below. (Science, particularly, since it was another interest of mine growing up, and yes – yet another topic for another post. Moving on.)

  • Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik
  • Hidden Brain from NPR
  • Intelligence Squared
  • Geek Chic’s Weird Science
  • Science Vs

Travel: I love to travel, and truly travel – not vacation. (Although, don’t take that to mean I don’t love a few days on the beach! I totally do.) One of my bucket list items is to live abroad for a year, and while I contemplate how to make that happen – and how to fit more travel into my life – I tune into these for my “fix”.

  • Expat Sandwich
  • Zero to Travel Podcast
  • Nomadtopia Radio
  • Women Who Travel
  • The Expat Chat

Startups and Business: As an entrepreneur with a few side projects in the works (I’ll divulge with the time is right, pinky promise!), I’m always up for talking shop and finding community with fellow entrepreneurs. Being a startup or side hustle founder can feel isolating at times, especially when you don’t have a group of likeminded people around you – but tuning in for a few minutes a day definitely helps me feel less alone. Oh, AND, it’s tirelessly inspiring and often entertaining; how could anyone resist?

  • The Other F Word
  • The Art of Charm
  • Forbes Under 30
  • Problem Solvers from Entrepreneur
  • The Strategy Hour Podcast
  • Being Boss
  • Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz
  • StartUp Podcast
  • Breaking Into Startups
  • Masters of Scale

Advice and Love: Some might say these fall under individual betterment, but I think they stand best solo. It started as research for a project I’m working on, but I’d be lying if I said it’s stuck around because of it – I’ve loved advice columns for about as long as I’ve loved self help books (and some might say it started earlier – thanks to Dear Abby and my favorite, Dear Carolyn, in the paper my Dad subscribed to when I was a kid!). Since I’m between newspaper subscriptions at the moment, these give me a fix in between the Ask E. Jean pages in my monthly Elle delivery.

  • Dear Prudence
  • Dear Hank and John
  • Dear Sugars
  • Anna Faris is Unqualified
  • I Feel Better Podcast
  • Modern Love
  • Savage Lovecast

Knitting: Ah, the category that started it all. Although the podcast I first became hooked on is no longer active (Cast On – worth the listen, even archived!, and I’m eternally grateful to Brenda Dayne), the second is – Knitmore Girls. I feel affectionately to Jasmin and Gigi as two of my closest knitting friends, since I’ve grown up with them now for TEN YEARS. And my goodness, I love their mother-daughter relationship. I don’t listen to many others anymore, but I used to listen to this category in droves – now, it’s down to my top two.

  • Knitmore Girls
  • Commuter Knitter

Disney: Hang in there y’all, you’ve made it nearly to the end! I’d be remiss to not call out the other category that started it all – my obsession with Disney World, and this whole community of people who wanted to talk about it as much as I do. I’ve been listening to WDW Today on-and-off since episode around 400 or so, and listened to almost all the archives during the height of my obsession in high school. Like knitting, I used to listen to many others – but now it’s down to my top two. Because who doesn’t love a little Disney in their lives?

  • WDW Today
  • The Disney Dish with Jim Hill

Sleep: I’ve struggled with sleep issues for the past few years and frequently listen to the following podcast to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. It was actually mentioned on another podcast I listen to (thanks Pop Fashion!) and it’s definitely been a calming force in my end-of-day routine. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

  • Sleep With Me

Whew! If you’re still reading this – I’m massively impressed. This post was WAY, WAY longer than I thought it was going to be.

I had no idea I subscribed to so many podcasts, and to be honest, I even went through and culled before/while creating this post to unsubscribe from ones I’m no longer interested in. Still – that left me (and now you) with 104 podcasts to choose from. ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR. OH MY GOODNESS, I HAD NO IDEA.

Yes, all caps are necessary. BECAUSE OH MAN. ONE HUNDRED FOUR IS A LOT. No wonder I can never feel like I listen to them all consistently or can keep up with them all.

ANYWAY. Since I’m such a junkie – do you have any other recommendations in these categories that you’re currently loving? I’ve gone through periods of obsession with true crime, although I’m noticing that those favorites aren’t currently represented in this list – and I’m always down to further explore any of the above topics. As I always say – LMK!

January Goals Check-In

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I want to hold myself accountable to my wide range of goals and resolutions I’ve put out for 2018. (Both my 25×25 and my 18 in 2018, plus a range of sub- and private lists because I’m a woman who loves lists and there’s nothing wrong with that, right? Right. Anyway.)

I thought about a weekly check-in and that seems too often, honestly. I can barely update this blog on a regular basis, and that would mean essentially every post would be a check-in, which seems a little bit too much, to be honest. I’d like to keep this blog a space where I can write about whatever inspires me at the moment, whenever I want to post about it. (Although, I would like to experiment with posting more. About what, not sure. Time will tell.)

Monthly check-ins seem a little sparse, but also reasonable. I’m going to give it a try for a while and see how it feels, so well – here it goes. My January check-in.

18 in 2018

  1. Take sailing lessons.
  2. Implement a daily skincare routine. – So far, I’ve been successful at this! I’ve been washing and moisturizing my face twice a day, and I’ve only missed one night. My skin feels (and looks!) great – I wish I’d taken a before picture – and I’ve only had one zit this entire month.
  3. Watch 100 of IMDB’s Top 250 movies of all time. – I watched 1 this month – falling behind on this already. (oops!)
  4. Read a book for at least a half hour daily. – Yesss, success! I haven’t missed a day, although sometimes I’m fighting to keep my eyes open reading before bed, trying to cram it in. Sometimes I’m supplementing books with blogs or other online written material, but I’m still working on prioritizing reading in my day. This month, I finished two books – coming in right under the wire as I finished the second just a few minutes ago.  (And I’m two-thirds of the way through a third!) I’d say I’m off to a good start.
  5. Go kayaking in the Chicago River.
  6. Write consistently in a journal. – So far, success. I wrote in my journal 8 times this month, and I’m loving getting my thoughts down on paper.
  7. Gamble (a little) in a casino.
  8. Shop regularly at a farmer’s market or CSA. **This isn’t really a thing in the dark, cold months here in Chicago, from what I’ve found. But I have my calendar marked for April when most start back up again! In the meantime, I found this service called Imperfect Produce to test out – its a delivery service of organic veggies straight to my door – and my first shipment is February 6. I’ll keep you posted on how I like it!
  9. Go camping at a country music festival.
  10. Return to running post-injury and run a race.
  11. Make a lifelong bucket list. – I got started on this in January. It’ll be a long list, but I’m having a good time imagining all of the things I want to do.
  12. Send birthday and anniversary cards to my friends and family. – I sent two this month! Woo!
  13. Travel to a country overseas.
  14. Have photos printed into a memory book.
  15. Go on a date that’s truly blind/a set up.
  16. What the sunrise over Lake Michigan after a night out.
  17. Join a beach volleyball rec league.
  18. Drink 100 oz of water every day. – So far, so good. 100oz minimum every single day… I’m convinced it’s part of the reason my skin looks so great!

Resolutions complete: 0

Resolutions in progress: 7

25×25

  1. Take a trip by myself. DONE! I went to Boston for a week, and (as you might have guessed from my constant rambling) had the best time!
  2. See Hamilton: An American Musical.
  3. Write a letter to myself to open on my 30th birthday.
  4. Find, and buy, my signature scent.
  5. Host an elaborate dinner party.
  6. Ride a bike along Lake Michigan.
  7. Make a painting to hang on my wall.
  8. Have a drink at a bar by myself. DONE! I had a drink by myself while in Boston nearly every night. It was intimidating at first, and there were a few fails, but more often than not – I had a great time and met some of the most interesting people.
  9. Go on a day hike.
  10. Eat pizza pot pie.
  11. See a movie by myself.
  12. Achieve a body, and healthy mindset, that I am proud of. – In progress. I’ve been working on being kinder to myself, and have also been consistently tracking, as well as getting my water and workouts in.
  13. Take a cooking class.
  14. Go on a day-long bar crawl.
  15. Eat a sundae at the Ghiradelli store on Michigan Ave.
  16. Discover my signature cocktail. – In progress. I can tell you that tequila-and-soda and vodka-and-water are NOT it. But I am digging the idea of a Gin Fizz – and the Whiskey Smash I had in Boston is the stuff dreams are made of.
  17. Pay off the remainder of my credit card debt. DONE! I paid it off completely on December 29, and paid the small charges off from this month already.
  18. Read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
  19. Attend a meetup.
  20. Say yes to everything for a day.
  21. Have an epic spa day and makeover.
  22. Go shopping on Michigan Ave.
  23. Buy fresh flowers for my nightstand.
  24. Learn to play a casino game (poker, blackjack, etc)
  25. Take golf lessons.

Resolutions complete: 3(!!)

Resolutions in progress: 2

My month has been by no means perfect, but I’d say I’m off to a solid start with many of these goals and resolutions. I’m checking things off the list – and having a great time doing it – while looking forward to what the coming months will bring.

First up? A February cooking class. Just gotta pick one to attend.

I’m obsessed (Five Things for a Monday)

Let’s lighten it up around here, shall we? I feel like I’ve done a fair amount of reflecting and taken you along for the ride, but it’s Monday and I feel like I’ve had one of the most Monday-est Mondays around, and I need a little joy and brevity.

And I’m taking you along for the ride. So without further ado, five things I’ve been obsessed with lately:

1. Hawaii 5-O

My best friend got me hooked on this earlier this winter and then we both got in deep…way, way deep. (The number of times I’ve considered – read, looked up the cost of – flying to Hawaii is not a number of times I’d care to admit to anyone, especially the internet.) I fell in love with the show, especially the humor, the friendships that formed and how each person’s strengths and weaknesses made the perfect team.

And it doesn’t hurt that Steve McGarrett is easy on the eyes, am I right??

Another highlight – it was a cop show that had a substantial amount of character development and yet, it didn’t focus on romantic relationships to drive that development. We saw significant others occasionally, but there was no big romance that drove the show… a refreshing change from many other shows that dominate TV. Not that I’m against romance, but I love seeing friendship and personal growth and careers at the forefront, rather than relying solely on another person to make everything better/fix you/etc.

We just finished season 7 on Netflix, so now we’re in this waiting game – season 8 is in progress and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out – but we don’t have cable, so waiting is what we shall do. And until then, I’ll continue to think way too much about the Five O’hana – and consider another show that could help fill the void. (Any suggestions??)

2. Health & Wellness Podcasts

Surprise, surprise. (Ok, well, can we all at least feign surprise?) Health and wellness is undeniably an ongoing interest/obsession for me, but it’s been an even more constant theme recently. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means and how I’m striving to be my best self, but for the sake of the post – let’s just chat about what I’m listening to.

Some of my recent and/or long-time faves: PaleOMG Uncensored with Juli Bauer, The mindbodygreen Podcast with Jason Wachob, Run Selfie Repeat with Kelly Roberts, Run Eat Repeat

And on my TLT (“To Listen To”) list, comprised of new-to-me podcasts, as well as old favorites I’m just laughably behind on: Foodist with Darya Rose PhD, Dr. Ruscio Radio: Health Nutrition Functional Medicine, Personal Best, Ali on the Run Show, Another Mother Runner, I’ll Have Another with Lindsey Hein, Pursuing Health with Julie Foucher, Namaslay, Balanced Bites

3. Turnips

Hang in here with me. I loooooove turnips(!!!!) and especially when made via this Peanut Butter Fingers recipe. A little bit of ketchup (or occasionally ranch, for this Midwestern gal) and I swear they’re the BEST fry replacement. Most times, I even like them better than fries and crave them. They’re a key reason why I’m seriously considering investing in an air fryer. … I mean, could you imagine?

Turnips and I are in the middle of a full-on love affair and you’re welcome to join the party. Give it a shot, and I have a feeling you won’t regret it.

4. What Makes Us Country – Luke Bryan

Somehow I missed the memo that my forever hashtag-MCM Luke Bryan released new music in DECEMBER. WHAAAAAT. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this dreary January, and now imagine the inevitable constant streaming that has followed.

Fave: Most People Are Good. This song just makes me want to drive down the highway in Tennessee or North Carolina with the windows down in summertime. Specific, I know- but ya feel me??

I love this new album (not surprising) and I’m debating a summer tour date, since I’ve never seen him live and it’s time to take this love off the internet and into the real world. It’s on my 18 in 2018 to go to a country music festival… so clearly, I gotta pick one where he’s headlining, duh.

5. Yoga

Coming off of my Boston trip, I’ve had some tweaks of knee and ankle pain again. Frustrating, to say the least, as I’m finally coming off nearly a year of PT – but I’m trying not to stress too much about it. Instead, I’m making my focus proactive, and that means backing off cardio and weights and heading back to the mat.

In fact, I’m posting this after my first yoga class back at Core Power Yoga. I did a brief stint at the studio close to my house last fall and really loved it – but my attention waned, my focus shifted to a dedicated PT regimen, and before I knew it… well, here we are.

Walking back into the studio was such a welcoming experience! I seriously love the atmosphere and community – it feels like coming home and I can’t wait to make some friends and fully immerse myself.

I’m thrilled to be back and am looking forward to getting into a more balanced, active routine.

>>>

And there you have it! Five things for this Monday – a little dose of much needed joy to kick off the week. What have you been obsessed with lately?

Reflections on Boston

It’s hard to believe that last week I was in Boston, knee deep in the history of the city and the exploration of a place that has held my heart since I was 14. (And also, since we’re all friends here, and I’m being honest – an exploration of myself, and how I stand on my own two feet.)

Coming back from the trip, I’m still glowing a bit from this self-discovery – as well as mentally packing my bags and planning my next adventure. There’s so much I learned about myself throughout the visit, and I don’t want to lose a bit of it – so I figured I’d write it down, for my own memory (but also in case anyone reading this is curious about traveling solo).

LEARNING ONE: I am capable of more than I could have ever imagined.

Traveling on my own was the ultimate crash course in self-reliance. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty independent person, but nothing truly prepared me for stepping off that place and realizing, no one was at the gate to meet me. No one really “cared” I was here. I had no plans, no obligations for an entire week.

I travel a fair amount for my day job, so getting off a plane and through an airport alone is not too uncommon. But those solo jaunts were always quickly capped off with client visits and work obligations. Here, in Boston, instead – it was me and only me, for that jaunt… and the next seven days.

And I liked it way, way more than I thought I was going to.

Not only did I have the luxury of only doing what I wanted to do on the timetable that I wanted to do it, I was also put to the test – navigating a new, strange public transportation system and a new, strange city, opening my eyes to new and exciting things around me (even things that were – gasp! – not in my guidebook), and remaining open and social to strangers, especially when going out at night. Those chats were some of the highlights of my trip, and they would never have happened if I’d closed myself off due to fear… or if I hadn’t gone out solo at all!

Not that it always went smoothly! I discovered quickly that without the lake as a reference (Thanks, Milwaukee and Chicago!), I have an impeccable ability to get lost and walk 10 minutes in the opposite direction… even when looking at the Google map. (Oops.) (Live and learn, right?) That being said, by the end of the week – I became much more comfortable in the walking city that is Boston, and even managed to make it from the North End to Beacon Hill with minimal phone checking.

LEARNING TWO: Tuning into the world is an eye-opening experience.

During my time away, I didn’t touch my headphones from the second I landed in Boston until my morning commute two days after I got home. As someone who’s basically attached at the hip with this piece of tech (phone-keys-wallet-headphones is the frequent refrain when leaving the house every morning), this time in silence and, well, immersion is unheard of.

I’m a person who would’ve previously told you that I was obsessed with background noise. I don’t necessarily need a fan or some sort of white noise machine going at all times (although I gotta say, I don’t hate it in the office), but it does drive me crazy when I’m at home with another person – and it’s silent. We’re not talking and there’s nothing going in the background. I love to listen to music or a podcast on my commute, during the work day, at home while cooking dinner, heck – even in the shower or when falling asleep.

And that’s not counting leisure time with TV in the background, whether I’m “watching it” or not.

But while I was in Boston, I pushed myself to not “tune out” my surrounding and instead tune into them. I kept my headphones with me for emergencies but didn’t use them once – although I must admit, I was tempted during lunch on my last day. Instead, I people watched, peered into shop windows, soaked in the architecture, and wandered around to my heart’s content. And honestly, it was magic.

It leaves me wondering – I wonder if I treated Chicago with the same wide-eyed curiosity and enthusiasm, would I love it as much as I love Boston?

I’m not certain that’s the case (I mean, Boston’s pretty perfect), but it’s something to consider. And dare I say – worth a try?

LEARNING THREE: Five Days Solo is the Perfect Amount of Time (For Me)

When I started telling people that I was taking a trip solo, I got a fair share of negative response – my mother was worried about my safety, my friends thought it was ridiculous, my coworkers thought me strange (although, what else is new?). But the resounding fear was – wasn’t a week too long? What if I hated it?

To which I gotta say: rude. What are you implying, that I’ll get sick of myself? (Ok, if we’re all being honest, that was one of my fears too.)

So yes, I was tentative about going solo, and I was tentative that a week was ambitious and perhaps “too much time,” but I also felt confident that I’d like it. And clearly, like it I did.

But liking it – nay, loving it – aside, I will admit that a six full days was just one day too long for my liking. By the time Friday rolled around, I was tired, slightly overstimulated, way out of my routine and normal schedule, and ready for an afternoon at home. Which is when I learned – cut while you’re ahead, and leave the trip wanting a little more. Five days was the perfect amount of time: a weekend would’ve felt too short and any longer I would’ve gone a bit stir crazy.

Not that I would trade my Friday night for anything – that night was awesome, and a perfect send-off from this city that has my heart.

Armed with this knowledge, though, which was arguably the goal of this trip (learning more about myself and how I stand on my own two feet) – I am better able to plan future trips and make more concrete goals for the future. Knowledge is power – and I’m now armed with another little bit of it.  

LEARNING FOUR: A New Friend is Right Around the Corner

Tuning into the world and being open to strangers turning into friends were highlights of my trip. Chatting with locals in bars led to some fascinating discussions, great food recommendations, interesting touring sites, and (I hate it, hate it, hate it when people say this, but I gotta do it) an expanded worldview.

Overall, I’m a pretty shy person. I have become much more confident and outgoing as I’ve aged, but my entire childhood could easily be defined with a photo of me on a couch, reading or surrounded by art supplies; as I like to tell people, I was an indoor kid. 100 percent.

But as I get older, I do my best to push myself out of my comfort zone – and a large part of that is chatting with new people, making friends, and being comfortable doing things solo. (Helloooo, Boston trip – complete with solo travel, solo touring, solo eating, and solo drinking.) Every time I enter a social situation alone, I am gripped with anxiety…

…and nearly every time, the situation turns out so well, I meet someone interesting, and have the best time.

It’s these positive experiences, one after another after another, that make doing things solo less scary – and they’ve introduced me to people I would’ve never otherwise met or experiences I would’ve never otherwise had. (I mean, would I have found a tiny late-night Italian deli that was cash only and the size of my living room? Probably not, but celebrating a new friend’s birthday – and eating that calzone – are equally unforgettable.)

In honor of continuing this adventure here at home, I’m going to make more of an effort to step outside of my normal Chicago comfort zone – and instead of rushing around my day-to-day life all the time, slow down and do things solo once in a while. I’m sure I’ll find interesting people along the way.

TLDR;

SO, if you hadn’t picked up on it yet – I am completely, unequivocally hooked on traveling solo! I had the absolute best experience and can’t wait to try my hand at more adventures. I’m already saving and planning for my next trip.

It is so freeing not to be gripped by the fear of traveling solo, and I no longer am naggingly curious but paralyzed by the anxiety that I would actually hate it. Because, it turns out (and I know it sounds dumb), I really like myself – and I really like spending that much time pushing my comfort zone and spending quality time with me, myself, and I.

With Boston checked off my list, and traveling solo officially checked off my 25×25, I’m debating my wanderlust heart and the question – where to next? Part of me wants to push for a trip every month, but I’m not sure that’s realistic with my budget, work-travel schedule, and family commitments. (Plus, start small right? I can always make monthly trips a goal in the future.)

So for now, I’m committing to one solo trip (whether that’s a weekend, a long weekend, or even longer) a season. Winter, obviously: Boston. So that leaves Spring (March-May), Summer (June-August), and Fall (September-November). Current cities that have my eye: Austin, Dallas, Moab, Nashville, Sedona, Portland (the Maine one), Louisville, Santa Fe, New Orleans, Savannah….

Ahhh! So many places, so little time. So glad I’m content flying solo.

Boston, you’re the real deal

I’ve given it quite a bit of thought, and decided I don’t want to leave.

Don’t get me wrong, I am. (Mostly because the price difference to change my flight was astronomical.) But I want it on the record, right now, that I don’t want to go, and I’ll definitely be back.

Boston, you’ve held a bit of my heart since I was 14 years old. I came here to put you and my unparalleled ability to romanticize everything to the test, and you passed with flying colors.

So yes, Boston, I love you. And yes, Boston, someday I will call you home.

But until then, I’m heading back to my other heart and home, Chicago. And while I sit here at the airport terminal on this hazy but sunny Saturday morning, I figured I’d give whoever stumbles upon this a day-by-day account of the second half of my trip.

Let’s get started, shall we?

WEDNESDAY

I slept in a bit in the morning, which to this morning bird, meant just after 8. I had breakfast at the AirBNB while reading my book, and the started out for my first adventure of the day: the JFK National Historical Site.

If you know me, you know how much I love, Love, LOVE JFK. And if you don’t know me, well, you do now.

So naturally, visiting his birthplace was high on my list of priorities for this trip – as was a visit to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, but I’ll get to that later.

The JFK National Historical Site is in Brookline, Massachusetts – a somewhat lengthy, but definitely manageable, T ride away. I settled in on the green line with my book, and before I knew it – I was hopping off in the Boston suburb and ready for my first JFK excursion.

It was a snowy day in Massachusetts Wednesday – the meteorologists were suggesting anywhere between 3-8″, depending on who you asked and when. (I think it ended up being less than 3, but I digress.) The snow was fluffy and exceedingly picturesque, making all of the sweet houses in Brookline and the streets of Boston look even more magical.

So off the train and in the snow, I walked into the suburbs on the hunt for JFK’s birthplace, which I found…and then found out it was closed for the season. (Oops!) I had checked both my guidebook and Google before heading out, but at that point – I couldn’t get mad. In fact, I laughed. Something like this was bound to happen on my trip.

After a few pictures, and a great deal of standing in the snow, imagining what it was like when JFK was born and lived there, I noticed a light on the side of the house. Curious, and determined to double check, since I’d made it all that way – I went around back to the official entrance. Still closed, I determined, although I could book a tour. (Two weeks in advance.)

While processing this disappointment/wry humor, I noticed a sign posted for a self guided JFK walking tour, among other guided house tours. My interest was piqued: I was already all the way out here, and a walking tour seemed to be something I could do year round. I pulled up the site on my phone, and indeed – I could! So off I went, to get my JFK fix.

The walking tour was nine stops of significant places in JFK/the Kennedy family’s lives. Put together by the National Park Service, each stop was accompanied by a few paragraphs detailing the significance – and while some were more of a stretch than others, I loved seeing some formative places up close.

This spontaneous adventure, coming out of a disappointing closure, was honestly a highlight of my trip.

Along the way, my socks has become soaked from all the picturesque snow, so I stopped in a local bookstore to warm up. While my feet remained soggy (which a secondary stop at TJ Maxx for fresh socks fixed!), I did find a book of essays all about Boston – which I purchased to take a little piece of my new home back to the Windy City. I’m so excited to break it open next.

With dry feet and a JFK fix, I hopped back on the T and headed over to Cambridge. I walked through Harvard’s campus, which was even more beautiful in the snow, and then spent the afternoon at the Harvard Art Museum. I had the place nearly to myself, and was able to really pause and look at all of their incredible collections.

Spanning three floors, with research happening on the fourth and fifth, Harvard has (I suppose, unsurprisingly) amassed a wide-ranging and inspiring collection of art. From the modern (including, of course, my favorite – Jackson Pollock) to ancient works from Mesopotamia and Rome, I saw a bit of everything that afternoon. Standouts included some Renoir landscapes, my current obsession, as well as a curated dive into German art.

An afternoon well spent, in my opinion.

Stomach grumbling, I took the T into the city and stopped in the harbor at the Boston Sail Loft – a local joint with incredible clam chowder, which was literally served in a heaping coffee mug.

As I munched on this clam chowder, and later – a stellar bowl of lobster mac and cheese, which I’m still drooling over, I chatted with a guy sitting next to me. Turns out, he grew up and lives in Madison, and actually is considering an office in my hometown. What a weird, small world! These chance encounters have been my favorite part of traveling solo, and definitely part of the reason I’d do it again.

Stomach satisfied, and albeit, a bit exhausted, I wandered back into the snow, which had changed from delightfully fluffy to wet and windy and pelting my face. Hey, not everything can be perfect – right? I was tempted by the thought of my new favorite dessert, the cannoli, and decided what the heck, I’m on vacation. So over to the North End I went, gathering a cannoli for a sweet treat before bed.

A solid day.

THURSDAY

Well rested from an early night, I got up bright and early to visit a local WW meeting before my day of touring. It’s a part of my week and so integral to my mental and physical health, so I try my best to fit it in even if I’m traveling. And I’m always so glad I did.

Refreshed, I hopped the T over to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum – where I spent literally the entire day. No, seriously. I arrived around 9:30 and left just before 5, and easily could’ve spent another hour or so there.

The museum was AMAZING.

I mean it, it was incredible. Both for a JFK devotee as I am, but also for an intense look at a fascinating period of US history. The museum is extraordinarily well curated, intensive but not overwhelming, and utilizes a phenomenal amount of video and audio footage to bring the history to life in an engaging, multimedia way.

Like I said, amazing. And I had the place (essentially) to myself.

No, seriously – a few school groups passed through, but rather quickly. Other than that, I saw no more than like 5 other people the entire visit. And while I got mistaken for a student/chaperone at least once, they left as fast as they came, and I was able to truly engage with the material with the attention and the time I wanted to devote to it.

And so I did. But perhaps my obsession with JFK, and my newfound little tidbits of knowledge, are best spent in another post.

The museum takes you chronologically through his life, starting with birth and his early years and then following though his time in the Navy, his senate run, his presidential campaign, and then his time in office. It dove into major challenges and successes in those three years, and then finished with his death and enduring legacy.

All in all, amazing. (Like I said, time for JFK in another post.)

After spending the whole day at the museum (even with rushing through the last exhibit! Information overload.), I grabbed something to eat quick in the museum cafe and hopped the T over to the Institute of Contemporary Art.

The ICA is a smaller museum, with a curated collection on only one floor. What it lacked in size, it made up for with breadth, including a video piece by Steve McQueen that’s still kicking around in my head.

The other highlight was a room devoted to an exhibit I had only previously read about in the New York Times, and it did not disappoint. Nicholas Nixon is a photographer who’s photographed his wife and her three sisters once a year for more than forty years – and every single one of those portraits was hung chronologically in this gallery.

Walking counter-clockwise around the room took you from his first portrait of the sisters back in 1975 all the way through his most recent portrait, taken in 2017. Watching the age progression and sisterly bond in a poignant manner was captivating, as you see the sisters age seemingly not at all, but then suddenly all at once. For me, it called into question my own perspectives on aging and family, and what it really means to see and be seen.

But despite this exhibit, which certainly was a highlight, I was not smitten with the ICA. While I usually am a contemporary art devotee, some pieces were still a bit avant garde for my taste – which leaves me to wonder if I would’ve benefited from some sort of guided tour. I made it through in barely two hours, and left with a sense of wanting, wanting more, wanting context, wanting something.

After my museum day, I stopped by a packed Irish dive in the financial district for a Guinness and then moved on to a second Irish dive that was slightly less packed, so I could have some dinner. Fish ‘n chips hit the spot as made friends with two different women that night, both with fascinating stories to share. Dive-y places are my favorite, especially when going somewhere solo. The relaxed atmosphere just welcomes conversation, as well as a far more reasonable tab.

FRIDAY

My final day in Boston had arrived.

I had a slow start to the morning: breakfast at the AirBNB and packing the wide array of little things I’d managed to pick up throughout the week. (I flew in with a full suitcase and sorta had a feeling it was a mistake – a feeling definitely vindicated as I started to pack back up. Oops!)

Then, it was into the city for my least structured day of the trip; the only thing on the agenda was exploring. I had my sights set on a cool old bookstore I’d read about in Chinatown, a leisurely stroll through the North End, and a trip to Beacon Hill. Paired with a lot of great food and even more walking, it was a relaxed but ambitious day.

The old bookstore in question was Brattle Book Shop, an old used/rare books store in Chinatown that was one of the first hubs of literary history in the United States. And oh my, y’all, this place was INCREDIBLE. Multiple stories with shelves and shelves and shelves of every kind of book under the sun. Contemporary, vintage, rare – there was a little bit of everything.

Slightly overwhelmed, I wandered the aisles until I ended up in a tried-and-true section: historical/political non-fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres, and there were so many books I wanted to read. I’m pretty sure my TBR list grew a hundred fold in just a short visit. I limited myself to just one read, although I’m still adding others to my hold list at the library, and my suitcase was thankful. I’m not sure any more would’ve fit!

Elated, and with lungs filled with the fumes of old books (there even was an outdoor section in an alley, y’all!), I wandered over to the North End, stopping for a lobster roll for the start of my snacky lunch – which also included some local Sicilian food, a cannoli (of course!), homemade pretzel bites, and a scoop of ice cream, over the course of the afternoon. (Needless to say, there was no need for dinner… my personal food tour of Boston had me stuffed!)

While I munched my way through Boston, I explored the North End – so many cute shops! And bakeries! And corner family-ran places! – and then wandered over to Beacon Hill.

In Beacon Hill, I went to Charles Street for some boutique and antique shop exploring. I started on one side of the street, popping into all of the shops that caught my eye.

…which was, well, almost all of them. Seriously, it’s a wonder that my wallet escaped practically unscathed!

The antique shops have so many beautiful pieces, the boutiques are brimming with the preppy, classic clothes I adore, and then, of course, there are plenty of shops that are my weakness – stationary/gift boutiques filled with independent, artisan, and/or unique treasures. I could spend all day in shops like that! So many quirky little joys to admire.

I bought a local artist print of a Boston Street to take home and have framed, kind of a reminder of that “Boston feeling” I feel swelling in my heart whenever I think of the city… or heck, the entire time I was there! And smitten with my new treasure, I went back to the AirBNB for a much needed nap before determining my last-night-in-Boston plans.

My final night. I was so exhausted, but knew I couldn’t waste my last few hours in this city that I love. So after a nap, and a fresh coat of red lipstick, I rode the T into the city and stopped by two bars near the financial district.

In the second, I met up with two guys from Couchsurfing, a site that both fascinates and unnerves – and had an awesome time! They didn’t even know each other, but were so friendly and really showed me around their hometown on my final night. I’m so glad I took the leap: I made a new friend and had an amazing final meal (and a cannoli, duh. Plus this thing called a “peanut butter bomb” which was awe-worthy.) from a little Italian corner deli that couldn’t have been larger than my apartment living room. So tiny and cash only – my favorite.

Grinning ear to ear, I caught a ride back to my AirBNB for a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport.

SATURDAY

Which leads us to today. I woke up early, packed the rest of my belongings, chatted with the German guy staying in another room of the AirBNB, and then headed over to the airport via the T.

Woah, was it a much different experience on the way out! I became so much more familiar and comfortable with the transit even over a few short days.

The airport is large, but TSA was a breeze, and before I knew it – I was here at the gate, waiting to board and writing to you. In a few hours I’ll be home, but as I mentioned in the up front: much of me really, really doesn’t want to go.

TLDR;

My trip was amazing, period. Traveling solo is the best!

I’ve been thinking and will be sharing some of the things I’ve learned about myself over the past seven days in another post. So stay tuned for that – and for now, well, grab a (another) cannoli. You earned it!

Greetings from Boston

I’m here, I made it, and I’m in the midst of my fourth full day here in Boston.

When I made the decision to add solo travel to my 25×25, I was terrified – what if I hated spending that much time alone?! – as well as excited – imagine how much fun it could be to do only what I wanted to do.

And now, four days in – I gotta say – it’s exactly as fun as I thought it would be!

I’m not sure why I’m surprised, but in a way – I am. I’ve always considered myself independent, but this trip has been way outside my comfort zone. Heck, eating alone at a restaurant or ordering a drink at a bar by myself is way outside my comfort zone! But now I’ve had dinner solo 4 times, and I can say that it’s honestly not as bad as I thought it would be.

It’s honestly kind of nice.

And while there have been moments where I wished I was sharing an experience with another person – for instance, some of the art I found at the MFA yesterday! – for the most part, I’ve been totally content being solo. It’s been the perfect trip for me, myself, and I.

So a quick recap of what I’ve done so far, and I’ll share more throughout the week. I’ve been doing my best to go dark on social media so to fully immerse myself in this city and everything it has to offer. And to my surprise, I haven’t really found that all too challenging.

But alas, for my memories, and your (hypothetical) curiosity:

SATURDAY

I was off to the airport mid-morning for my flight to Boston. Navigating the L with baggage is always a pain, but luckily on a weekend, the trains are less full.

The same cannot be said for the TSA. I made it to the airport and stood in a long, slow line for security – reminding me why I always fly late in the evening or early in the morning. Another side observation: it seemed most people were heading on ski vacations, and I was strangely jealous. I wrote off skiing in high school, but am considering trying to learn again.

I got distracted at work the day before, so I ended up in the C group. It’s a perk and a downfall of Southwest, not having assigned seats, so I ended up in the middle seat between two women who slept the whole way. We took off, I started my current read (which I am OBSESSED with!) and before I knew it, we’d landed in Boston.

It was off the plane, onto baggage claim (there’s an argument that I simply have far too many toiletries), and then I figured out the shuttle and T, rather than paying $20 for a Lyft. I’m so glad I did, because the first time was the hardest, and every time after has been a breeze! And my 7-day pass for twenty-ish bucks has paid for itself like ten times over by now.

After the struggle of figuring out how to exit the T station and make it to my AirBNB, I finally made it, I got in and got settled. The neighborhood has a bit to be desired, but it’s literally a three minute walk to the T, so honestly – good enough for me.

I dressed for dinner and then ventured out for my first solo meal, nervous but also excited to explore the city some more. I ended up at B&G Oysters in the Back Bay, where I had oysters (shocking!) and this Atlantic cod fish which was killer…and had Brussel sprouts that were to die for. Seriously, still thinking about them.

Dining alone was probably my largest anxiety with this trip, and I’m happy to report that it’s not nearly as bad or as awkward as I imagined it would be. I’m able to slow down, enjoy the food, enjoy the atmosphere, and truly get lost in my own thoughts. There’s a lot to be said about mindfulness, and setting your fork down after every stinking bite.

Plus, at B&G Oyster, the bar overlooked an open kitchen – so I always had something to watch. (Or someone – I can’t lie, the kitchen staff was cute!)

After dinner, where I got bit in the booty by a $12 seltzer charge (oops!), I caught a Lyft deeper into the Back Bay to this divey bar I’d hear about called Bukowski Tavern. My #1 goal when I travel is to avoid tourist-y spots and to not be a shitty tourist, so I’m always on the hunt for where the locals actually eat and actually drink.

(This being said, I’m not above a few touristy stops – after all, they’re touristy for a reason!)

But alas, I ended up at Bukowski Tavern, which did not disappoint. Dark, dingy, and cash only – it was my absolute favorite kind of bar. They only had beer and wine, so a local beer it was, and I ended up chatting with this guy from South End about his life, my trip, and just about everything under the sun. I called it a night just before midnight, and truth be told – it was a pretty stellar first day.

SUNDAY

I didn’t set an alarm on Sunday morning, but I still was up just before 8 – pretty standard for this morning person, especially when taking into account the time change. I had a quiet start to the morning, got ready for the day, and walked over to Trader Joe’s for some breakfast and snack provisions for the week – partially to save money, but also because I crave healthy food and breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

After breakfast, I took the T over to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where I spent my late morning/afternoon. It was INCREDIBLE. Isabella Stewart Gardner amassed this astounding collection of art and then opened a museum to share it with the public. I spent most of the day there, and even got in for $5, thanks to my student ID!

I started in the new wing, which housed a Henry James exhibit, and explored her relationship with this famous author. It was fascinating to see the overlap of the art and literary world, and it was the part of the museum which felt the most like an actual museum – the rest felt like wandering an old mansion, packed with art.

I even discovered a new-to-me, might-become-a-favorite artist: John Singer Sargent. His work was awe-inspiring and frankly, moved me. I’m struggling to really find the words.

Also, I need to learn more about his peer James McNeil Whistler – his work was beautiful, but also he seems so petty and hilarious. He wrote quite a few pieces defending his work and calling out critics, I simply had to chuckle to myself.

After the exhibit, I made my way over to the original part of the museum, where I gave myself permission to just enjoy the art, to be present and see it, and not feel pressured to read everything. I know it seems simple, but this was truly life changing for me. It’s completely altered how I viewed the museum, and I had an amazing time. (Double emphasis necessary.)

I’m usually a read every plaque, page, wall kind of person, so this was outside my comfort zone – and entirely freeing. I think I’m onto something.

After a few hours of exploring, I was experiencing a bit of art overload – so I took off and decided to make a few stops along the way back to the AirBNB. This adventure took me to Copley Square, where I saw Trinity Church, as well as the Boston Public Library (sooo beautiful!!!! and housed some more of my new fave – John Singer Sargent. This time, it was a few of his murals).

I also had to stop and admire the Boston Marathon finish line, of course, which ends right in front of the public library. I’ve been obsessed with this race for years, and it’s on my bucket list to qualify and run it. I found the plaque celebrating the 100th year and took far too many pictures, because what can I say? Total running nerd.

Then, glowing from the running energy, I went back to the AirBNB to get changed, charge my phone, and head out for my second solo dinner: Neptune Oyster.

This experience was slightly less pleasant: I was crammed into this corner at the bar and could barely move. I felt vaguely rushed the whole time, and the door kept opening with people who entered – bringing in a frigid breeze every other minute. Definitely less pleasant.

But the food was good (oysters, shrimp, and a lobster roll, oh my!), and seafood any day makes this girl a happy girl. After, I walked over to Mikes Pastry to try a cannoli and… well, let me tell you – my life has changed forever and I’m pretty sure I’ve found a new favorite dessert. Seriously, I’m 99% positive I saw stars. Yum.

I ate my cannoli at Mike’s and when I was wrapping up, this sweet old woman came and started chatting with me. She told me all about her life, and I told her about my trip. She complimented my gloves and told me I should start a business selling them, calling it Emily’s Treasures. When I was about to leave, she wished me three blessings: health, happiness, and success. With the first two, she said, the third will find me, and then I’ll have them all.

Floating with that blessing, I went over to a local bar called the Tip Tap Room, where I met a friend and had some fried calamari, along with a few cocktails. I called it a night later than usual (almost one, my goodness!) and geared up for my second full day.

MONDAY

Monday started early-ish, watching the snow flurry and enjoying a light breakfast. Then, off to the MFA, where I waited in the longest line, complete with dozens of screaming kids. It’s what I get for choosing the free day, I suppose.

Once inside, I wandered at my own pace, starting with an amazing Rothko exhibit in the modern wing. He’s consistently one of my favorites, and it was wonderful to see a selection of his work all together. Then, I crossed over to the American Art wing, where I started with my favorites (Pollock, plus Motherwell and other greats from the 20th century) and worked my way back until the 1700s. I moved slowly and took my time, enjoying the work and only reading when moved – inspired from my experience at the ISGM.

The MFA has a few Pollock pieces on display, which never fail to stop me in my tracks. One particular one, No. 9, moved me to the point I had to sit, contemplate, and write in my journal. I’m pretty sure I’ll always and forever be a Pollock groupie.

I then moved back to the contemporary wing, peeking at an interesting photo exhibit about families and then a modern exhibit about resistance. Watching how art interacts with politics and culture is endlessly fascinating to me.

I wrapped up my visit with the European wing, mainly focused on the Gothic period – as well as the impressionists, a movement that has only grown on me since I first started studying art a decade ago. (I wasn’t always the biggest fa, admittedly.) I’m finding quite a bit of enchantment with Renoir’s landscapes these days.

Feeling some art overload, I headed back to the AirBNB and dressed for dinner, venturing out to a tiny (think like 15 seats, max) hole in the wall in the North End – the Daily Catch. I tried the aglio olio squid ink linguine with grilled calamari, which was out of this world. And being cash only, I feel like I really stumbled on a local place – my absolute favorite.

I ended the night early, turning in around 9 – I was so wiped from Sunday and my day at the museum! But before I could turn in, I had to put the cannoli rivalry to the test and try one from Modern Pastry. I had a chocolate chip one, and while it was good – it wasn’t Mike’s good… and I determined which side of this rivalry I fall on. (Team Mikes, all the way.)

TUESDAY

I woke up sans alarm just after 7, a luxury I sure could get used to. I took a nice slow start to the morning, reading a few essays from the book I started on the plane, and had breakfast. Then, it was off to Fenway Park for a tour.

For all those who know me IRL, yes, I said Fenway Park and yes, I know that it’s a baseball stadium.

I’ve always been fascinated by sports, but mainly in the spectacle. And also, I’ll admit, in a bit of a jealous gosh I wish I “got it” kind of way. Every year or so, I go through a phase when I decide I should get into sports. It’s such an amazing community activity, and something that brings so many people together.

But then there’s numbers. And stats. And names and players and so many intricacies it’s difficult to keep it all straight. Not to mention, so many sports! How do you really choose?

That all being said, I gotta say – Fenway might put me at the brink of another “I should get into sports” phase. I’ve been teetering on the edge for a while, but I think it’s time. The park itself was beautiful and historic, and I loved the tour I had, where I heard all the stories and frankly, the pride, they have in their team.

So yes, me, sports. Maybe.

After getting schooled on some baseball knowledge, I made my way over to Union Oyster House to kick off my touristy afternoon. It’s so touristy and I so love it. The clam chowder was ok, but honestly – my crab cakes were amazing. One of the best things I’ve had on this trip! The bartenders were friendly, even if they were trashing Chicago – oblivious that a Chicagoan was in their midst.

With Chicago as my adopted city, I usually don’t get too defensive. But I just gotta say – real Chicagoans don’t eat deep dish. Really. I swear. At least none that I’ve ever met so shut the heck up please.

Moving on.

After my touristy lunch, I embarked on my touristy afternoon – a walk along the Freedom Trail. Which took me about 3x longer than the guidebook said it would, reaffirming something I’ve learned about myself over the course of this trip – no matter what the suggested time is, for me – I should double it. At the very least. Vacation Emily often moves in slow motion.

But as I wandered along the Freedom Trail, taking in the history, and reading from my guidebook like a nerd, I fell deeper and deeper in love with this city. (Seriously y’all, I’m head-over-heels, in way deep here.)

I’m going to have to come back in the summer, so I can do the trail with all of the stops open (most were closed for the season, or open “by appointment only”) – and I may have checked rent prices 1, 2, or like 7483782 times.

Told ya, I’m in deep.

I wrapped up the Freedom Trail at Bunker Hill, which I couldn’t climb because I got there too late (oops!), and went back to the AirBNB to charge my phone and change for dinner. I had cocktails (whiskey smash, yum!) and dinner at this place called the City Table in the Back Bay, which was good – but I’m not sure I’d highly recommend. Far better local places, in my opinion.

Turning in around midnight, it was case closed on a great third day. (And if you’ve made it this far in my rambling – I’m impressed.)

TLDR;

The first half of my trip has been spectacular, to say the least. I’ve met some amazing people, had some incredible food, gotten hooked on cannolis, and explored the city I’ve been obsessed with since I was 14.

I’m in the midst of my fourth day right now, and seriously wishing I’d extended my visit til Sunday when I booked – I already don’t want to leave! More to come, I’m certain. But for now – go grab a cup of water, or tea, or wine, or heck a cannoli. You’ve earned it!

For the Sake of Film

The number of films I’ve seen is laughable.

There, I said it.

I’ve never been much of a movie or film person, in all honesty. I like them fine, I guess, but always gravitate to the shorter television mediums – 42 minute episodes seem to be the perfect length, in my opinion. (Even though, more often than not, I watch several of them strung together… and definitely could’ve just watched a movie in that time.)

BUT, in the spirit of personal growth and development, as I’ve written about extensively in this corner of the internet thus far, one of my 18 things in 2018 is to watch 100 influential films from the IMDB Top 250 this year.

100 films. WOAH. That feels like a bit of an overwhelming number, but I’m also excited to explore this side of culture – I think it’ll be good for me, and also… I can’t wait to understand all of the references thrown around in pop culture.

I won’t be counting the films I’ve already seen in my 100 (surprisingly, there are a few – marked in italics!), but here’s the list I’ll be working from over the next 362 days.

IMDB Top 250

The Shawshank Redemption

The Godfather

The Godfather: Part II

The Dark Knight

12 Angry Men

Schindler’s List

 

Pulp Fiction

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Fight Club

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Forrest Gump

Inception

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Goodfellas

The Matrix

Seven Samurai

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

City of God

Se7en

The Silence of the Lambs

 

It’s A Wonderful Life

The Usual Suspects

Life Is Beautiful

Leon: The Professional

Spirited Away

Saving Private Ryan

Once Upon a Time in the West

American History X

Intersteller

Casablanca

Psycho

City Lights

The Green Mile

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Intouchables

Modern Times

Rear Window

The Pianist

Terminator 2

The Departed

Back to the Future

Whiplash

Gladiator

Memento

Apocalypse Now

The Prestige

 

The Lion King

Alien

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Sunset Boulevard

The Great Dictator

The Lives of Others

Cinema Paradiso

Paths of Glory

Grave of the Fireflies

Django Unchained

The Shining

WALL-E

 

The Dark Knight Rises

American Beauty

Princess Mononoke

Aliens

Oldboy

Once Upon a Time in America

Citizen Kane

Das Boot

Witness for the Prosecution

North by Northwest

Vertigo

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

M

Reservoir Dogs

Braveheart

Amelie

Requiem for a Dream

A Clockwork Orange

Taxi Driver

Lawrence of Arabia

Double Indemnity

Like Stars on Earth

To Kill a Mockingbird

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

 

Toy Story 3

My Father and My Son

Amadeus

Full Metal Jacket

Hacksaw Ridge

The Sting

2001: A Space Odyssey

Bicycle Thieves

 

Toy Story

Singin’ in the Rain

Snatch

Inglorious Basterds

The Kid

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

L.A. Confidential

For a Few DOllars More

3 Idiots

Scarface

Rashomon

The Apartment

The Hunt

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

A Separation

 

Good Will Hunting

Arrival

Metropolis

Yojimbo

All About Eve

Batman Begins

Some Like It Hot

 

Up

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Unforgiven

Downfall

Raging Bull

The Third Man

Die Hard

Children of Heaven

The Great Escape

Heat

Chinatown

 

Inside Out

Pan’s Labyrinth

Ikiru

My Neighbor Totoro

On the Waterfront

Room

Ran

The Gold Rush

The Secret in Their Eyes

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Blade Runner

The Seventh Seal

Howl’s Moving Castle

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

The Bandit

A Wednesday

Casino

Judgment at Nuremberg

A Beautiful Mind

Incendies

Wild Strawberries

The General

The Elephant Man

Warrior

V for Vendetta

The Wolf of Wall Street

Andaz Apna Apna

Sunrise

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Hera Pheri

Gran Torino

Rang De Basanti

The Big Lebowski

Dial M for Murder

Trainspotting

The Deer Hunter

Tokyo Story

Gone with the Wind

Fargo

Sholay

Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.

 

Finding Nemo

The Sixth Sense

Cool Hand Luke

Rebecca

The Thing

No Country for Old Men

How to Train Your Dragon

Into the Wild

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Mary and Max

Gone Girl

Come and See

There Will Be Blood

It Happened One Night

Life of Brian

Rush

Hotel Rwanda

Platoon

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Shutter Island

Network

The Wages of Fear

The Nights of Cabiria

 

Spotlight

Stand By Me

In the Name of the Father

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Wild Tales

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 400 Blows

The Maltese Falcon

12 Years a Slave

Ben-Hur

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Drishyam

Million Dollar Baby

Persona

Amores Perros

The Princess Bride

Jurassic Park

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Memories of Murder

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Stalker

The Truman Show

The Grapes of Wrath

The Message

Touch of Evil

Before Sunrise

Annie Hall

Gandhi

Rocky

The Bourne Ultimatum

Diabolique

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

Donnie Darko

Udaan

Monsters, Inc

Zootopia

The Wizard of Oz

 

The Terminator

Prisoners

Groundhog Day

Twelve Monkeys

Catch Me If You Can

Jaws

La Haine

Barry Lyndon

Chak de! India

The Best Years of Our Lives

Infernal Affairs

Strangers on a Train

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Sin City

The Battle of Algiers

Dog Day Afternoon

The Help

The Imitation Game

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Ip Man

 

13 films down. 237 to go, with 99 to go in 2018.

YEP, I’ve already watched one (well, three, but two aren’t on this list). My roommate and I watched the Bourne Trilogy last weekend, which includes the Bourne Ultimatum. I loved them – way more than I thought I would. And now I’m always analyzing different situations and locations in my day-to-day life, thinking about how Jason Bourne would handle them.  

There were a few that I’ve seen loosely in the past (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Some Like It Hot, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, to name a few), but I’d like to see again since it was definitely pre-college. Anything I’ve seen in college or post-college counts in the italics, in my opinion. And it’s my blog and my resolution, so it’s my opinion that counts. Right? Right.

I won’t necessarily be watching them in order, but come December 31, 2018 – 100 of these will be checked off. Any recommendations on ones I should watch next?

18 in 2018

As promised, similar to my list for 25 by 25, I have a more expansive list of goals for 2018. I’ve looped this in with my word for the year, since they’re tangentially related… and three posts all of lists/resolutions/goals seemed excessive. Two is reasonable, right? Right??

I’m a huge podcast listener and a fan of many, many podcasts. Someday, maybe we’ll go through all of the ones I’ve been loving lately – I’ve been listening to some since 2008, so there’s nearly ten years worth of love to discuss(!). BUT, for now – one of the podcasts I’ve been loving lately is Happier with Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft.

If you’re not familiar with Gretchen’s work (I can call her Gretchen, right?? We have one-sided conversations all the time, so I’m considering us pretty close to best friends.) (I kid.) (Kind of.), let me share a brief overview. A few years ago, Gretchen underwent a yearlong happiness project where she explored methods to making herself happier, and then published this in a book titled (you might’ve guessed it) – the Happiness Project. This book fell into my lap from a former love’s mother, and I absolutely loved it.

I started listening to her podcast about a year ago and some change, and quickly got hooked. Gretchen went on to write a few more books (which are on my “to be read” list), but I make the time to listen to her podcast on my commute frequently. Her happiness hacks and stumbling blocks have nudged me to make small and big changes in my life, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

In a recent episode, Gretchen and Liz talked about making a list for 18 things you want to accomplish in 2018, as a spin on new year’s resolutions. Since NYE is my absolute favorite holiday, I’m always all ears when it comes around every year – and I loved this idea of making my resolutions into tangible items that I can cross off the list.

I’m all for adding something new into the mix, so without further ado…

18 things for 2018

  1. Take sailing lessons
  2. Implement a daily skincare routine
  3. Watch 100 of IMDB’s Top 250 movies of all time
  4. Read a book for at least a half hour daily
  5. Go kayaking in the Chicago River
  6. Write consistently in a journal
  7. Gamble (a little) at a casino
  8. Shop regularly at a farmer’s market or CSA
  9. Go camping at a country music festival
  10. Return to running post-injury and run a race
  11. Make a lifelong bucket list
  12. Send birthday and anniversary cards to my friends and family
  13. Travel to a country overseas
  14. Have photos printed into a memory book
  15. Go on a date that’s truly blind/a set up
  16. Watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan after a night out
  17. Join a beach volleyball rec league
  18. Drink 100oz of water every day

I’m looking forward to the new challenges and experiences that 2018 is going to bring. And how these 18 items are going to help bring my work for the year into fruition: brave. 24 is all about living loud, and tangentially – 2018 is about being brave.

I’m still determining exactly what that means to me.

Happy almost new year, y’all. Let’s make it a good one.

25×25

3 dogs.

4 days.

5 parties.

12 cousins.

26 kinds of cookies.

300 hours of knitting the Christmas present of a century.

3,129,203,231 baby niece photos and snuggles.

The holidays are {nearly} over for me and as always, it was the most fun blur. Christmas is magic, and I’m so glad to have been able to have another year at home with the family.

Now that I have a quiet moment (something that is hard to come by in my parents house), I’ve snuggled into the couch with a mug of tea and some halfwaythroughmy24thtriparoundthesun reflections.

It’s hard to believe that I’m less than six months away from being 25. 25 seems so old, and yet I feel so, well, not.

So far, my twenties have been phenomenally different than how I imagined they would be growing up. I’ve had some great moments, and some hard ones, sure, but I’ve also become faced with the fact that I may not ever feel like a “real” adult.

But 25 feels real, like it’s a major milestone I should address in some way. So I’m doing it my way, in a favorite way that may just rival my love for excel – a list. 25 things I want to do before I turn 25, that is.

Big, small, and everything in between, I’m putting this out there into the universe as accountability, as a nudge to accomplish a few of the things I always thought I’d do/know/have by my mid-twenties. So for the sake of brevity (and in no particular order), here we go.

25 things I want to do before 25

  1. Take a trip by myself
  2. See Hamilton: An American Musical
  3. Write a letter to myself to open on my 30th birthday
  4. Find, and buy, my signature scent
  5. Host an elaborate dinner party
  6. Ride a bike along Lake Michigan
  7. Make a painting to hang on my wall
  8. Have a drink at a bar by myself
  9. Go on a day hike
  10. Eat pizza pot pie
  11. See a movie by myself
  12. Achieve a body, and healthy mindset, that I am proud of
  13. Take a cooking class
  14. Go on a day-long bar crawl
  15. Eat a sundae at the Ghiradelli store on Michigan Ave
  16. Discover my signature cocktail
  17. Pay off the remainder of my credit card debt
  18. Read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  19. Attend a meetup
  20. Say yes to everything for a day
  21. Have an epic spa day and makeover
  22. Go shopping on Michigan Ave
  23. Buy fresh flowers for my nightstand
  24. Learn to play a casino game (poker, blackjack, etc)
  25. Take golf lessons

What do you think? Can I accomplish all of these things before Memorial Day Weekend? I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and someday I’ll figure out a not-awkward way to end these blog posts. Also, because I love lists – these are tangential to my 18 things for 2018 – AKA my New Year’s resolutions. What can I say? Girl’s got goals.

(Next step: to actually mark things off the list.)