Category Archives: amazingness

around the world and back again.

Somehow I blinked and all of my anticipated travel came and went. With the exception of two trips to NYC in the next couple of months, I’m officially done traveling for the year.

I wish I had made an effort to write about my trips in a timely manner. I’m only sitting down now to write something down because all of my trips over the last seven months have been so important to me. I’ve passed through countries I didn’t know I would ever see. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had so far and look forward to planning future trips, both locally and internationally.

romaitaly

I loved Rome so much more than I thought I would. It’s big and beautiful and busy. The best gelato I will ever have is in Rome; it’s so good I went a total of three times in the span of a few days. We saw the sights you’re told to see, the structures that have stood the test of time. But I think my favorite moments in this city were just wandering around, lounging on steps in Trastevere or exploring Pigneto, where our Airbnb was. And it goes without saying that the food is amazing. Even on our first night, when we arrived late and went to a small cafe around the corner to get dinner, it was so, so good.

italy2

Our time in Florence was unfortunately marred by a stomach bug that left us both incapacitated for a chunk of our trip. We managed to get over it after a day and a half, thankfully. If anything, it’s reason enough to return to Florence someday to make up for lost time. I’m glad we chose to go to the Amalfi coast last, as it was a really relaxing way to end our honeymoon. My favorite memory of our last couple of days was walking up a steep hill in search of dinner and stumbling upon a restaurant with a beautiful view of Positano down below.

I thought two weeks was the perfect amount of time for this trip, even though it still went by insanely fast. Italy is everything I thought it would be and I’m glad we picked it as our honeymoon destination.

Then in late May/early June, I was in Seoul for a work trip:

korea

While I was on-site working the majority of the time I was there, it didn’t stop me and my co-workers from heading out every night to explore. Koreans are really nice and helpful; I had people come to my rescue on at least two separate occasions due to the language barrier. I only knew how to say hello and thank you; while that was helpful, it didn’t exactly bridge the gap. I arrived to Seoul a couple of days early and stayed a couple of days after my work assignment, which helped immensely with getting used to the time difference (14 hours!) and relaxing before the long journey home. I ate amazing food and bought a hilarious amount of Korean beauty products. Korea has never been high on the list of places I want to travel to in Asia, but I really enjoyed my time there. Seoul is so huge that there was no way to see everything, so I know I could easily go back and see new things.

Now it’s summer here in Chicago and my 30th birthday is a mere 20ish days away. Not that I’m counting or anything. I’m really glad I was able to fit in so much international travel before the big 3-0; it was an important milestone I wanted to hit before I leave my 20s. And I’m already planning potential trips in my mind for the next couple of years.

Advertisements

saying yes to adventure: thailand

Last summer, I was on the cusp of turning 29. Getting that much closer to turning 30 didn’t bother me (at the time), but I had a realization that did: I have never traveled overseas.

Sure, I’ve traveled internationally. But only to Mexico and Central America, both of which are regions that speak a language I know and are in the same time zone as Chicago, give or take an hour.

I had never been on a plane for more than 4 hours. I had never experienced jet lag. I had never stepped foot in an airport where the majority of the signs were in a language I didn’t understand.

In college, while my friends went to study abroad, I stayed behind on campus. Given that I had already chosen to attend an out of state, private university, it was a luxury I couldn’t afford. After I graduated, I toyed with the idea of taking a trip for myself to Europe, or anywhere really. But I was ultimately more concerned with finding a full-time job and paying my bills to do anything so spontaneous.

Which brings us back to last summer. I have a full-time job, am paying my bills, on the verge of 29, and a few months away from getting married. Life seems on track, but the lack of overseas travel bothered me. By happenstance, my good friend Adrian mentioned casually that his friend was getting married in Phuket and due to a lack of vacation time, his girlfriend wouldn’t be able to go. I jokingly volunteered myself as his travel buddy, and then seriously volunteered myself.

There were a million reasons I could have used to talk myself out of this trip. But like I said before, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of doing some spontaneous, for the sake of being practical or responsible. I had no real reason to say no and ultimately, I knew it was something I really wanted to do.

Since all the traveling I did during this trip didn’t kill me, I can only assume it made me stronger. I met Adrian in NYC, since it was strangely cheaper to fly to Thailand via China from there than from Chicago, even with the flight to NYC and back on top. One small problem: I was flying into Newark, since our connection with Air China was supposed to be flying out of that airport. Until they decided it was going to fly out of JFK instead. So I spent the morning traveling from New Jersey to Queens, which isn’t exactly fun. Even less fun? Missing our connection to Thailand because our first flight left late, resulting in spending a couple of hours in the Beijing airport and arriving in Phuket about 10 hours later than we intended.

thailand1

Most people would assume this trip is already turning into a disaster. And considering that Adrian and I had never traveled together before, much less internationally, we could have easily turned on each other. Instead, in our delirium, we laughed it off, drank Chinese beer while we waited, eventually made it Thailand, stumbled into our hotel and checked in before promptly passing out for a few hours. We only spend two days in Phuket before moving on, but relaxing by the pool and the wedding itself were a solid way to start this vacation.

I don’t know what possessed us to fly out so early the next day after the wedding, but we did and headed to Bangkok for a couple of days. Bangkok was even more of a blur, filled with lots of walking, temples, good food, and markets. During our first day, we went to the Jim Thompson House, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and the Grand Palace. We thought we could squeeze in more but exhaustion eventually got to us. We ended the day with dinner at Soul Food and grabbed beers at Mikkeller Bangkok.

jthompsonhouse

bangkok1

watpho

The 2nd day was a little more laid back, which a trip outside the city to two markets: the Maeklong Railway Market and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. To make things easier, we ended up hiring a tour guide who essentially organized everything for us. He was really familiar with both markets and knew the locals, as well as the language of course. Tourists tend to flock to both of these markets, but for Maeklong, I only saw tourists outside on the railway section and not inside the larger market found in a neighboring building. Our guide helped us buy a few things, including fresh Thai chili peppers and dried fruit. Everything is so delicious and cheap, it’s kinda insane. I would have loved to have done a different floating market since Damnoen Saduak is very popular and crowded, but it was the only one open during the week. I did get to try mango and sticky rice, as well as coconut ice cream, which is my new favorite dessert.

railwaymarket

bangkok2

floatingmarket

We relaxed at our hotel before flying back to Phuket, where our trip be ending. I would go back to Bangkok in a heartbeat; there’s so much to see and do.

Back in Phuket, we stayed on a different beach and spent our first day back seeing elephants. Elephants are native to northern Thailand and I would have much preferred to see them in a sanctuary but I went with a local place that was well reviewed and recommended. The elephants were well taken care of, which is all that mattered to me. After that, it was an afternoon of hotel pool lounging. Note: all hotel pools should have a swim-up bar. It’s amazing.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

On our last day, we went snorkeling, which lasted all morning and well into the afternoon. It was my first time ever so it was a bit overwhelming for me; it didn’t help that the waters at our first location were choppy and difficult to navigate. By the 2nd stop, I felt comfortable and was really able to enjoy it. And of course, the amount of tropical fish I saw was awesome. We also stopped at a couple of different beaches, where I saw the bluest water I have seen in my life.

After some confusion about our flights, we made to the airport just by the skin of our teeth and actually got back to New York in time. I stayed in Brooklyn for a night with one of my best friends before finally heading back to Chicago.

The thing about going halfway across the world for only a week is that it passes by insanely fast. Even the 13 hour flights didn’t seem that long (although I did sleep quite a bit). I’m so glad I went. I’m glad I got to spend time with a friend I otherwise hardly see.

Alex and I are heading to Italy for our delayed honeymoon in late March, and I’m already beginning to plan that trip. From here on out, I’m looking forward to saying yes to more adventures.

another life update.

So much can happen in just a few months. The last time I visited this space, I was a day away from my 29th birthday. Since then:

wedding1

I got married, for one. After a year’s worth of planning and stress eating, our wedding finally came and went. They’re not kidding when they say the day of goes by so quickly; it was over before I knew it. And while I had so much fun and was so grateful to be surrounded by family and friends, I’m kinda glad it’s over. Wedding planning was (in my humble opinion) not fun. Now it’s back to business as usual, since married life is essentially the same as non-married life.

wedding2

wedding4

We just got our proofs over the weekend and I absolutely love how they turned out. Our photographers are amazing and I completely recommend them for any in the Chicagoland area — or out of state, they love to travel!

And speaking of travel:

oceanfront-phuket-thailand-uhd-wallpapers-1280x1024

[image via]

This past summer, a good friend of mine jokingly said he needed a date for a wedding in Phuket because his girlfriend couldn’t make it. I jokingly said I would totally go with him. That eventually turned in a serious conversation about how I would actually go with him because well… why not? I’ve never left North America and suddenly an opportunity to travel to Thailand of all places had presented itself. So a few weeks ago, we bought our tickets and are officially headed out the first week of December.

I am equal amounts excited and nervous for this trip. I’m glad that despite the cost I agreed to go because one of my major goals before turning 30 is to travel a lot more. And also, I had no real reason to say no. It’s so easy to talk yourself out of doing some spontaneous, for the sake of being practical or responsible. I had some money set aside and I realized I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity. While it’s a shame I can’t share this adventure with Alex, I’m glad I’ll be with a good friend, even though we’ve never traveled together before.

I’m hoping to utilize this space a bit more. I sound like a broken record, but I’ve been itching to write for myself more. I have this tendency to draft things and let them sit, unfinished and forgotten. It’s a side effect of being a perfectionist and also being hesitant to put certain thoughts or feelings out there for everyone to read. But I’m hoping to break past that. With the end of 2015 coming up quickly and my 30th birthday looming next year, there’s plenty I want to accomplish and write out. So I’ll consider this a baby step in the right direction.

smells like summer.

I think I’ve been spoiled by my back-to-back long weekends. The idea that this coming weekend will only last 2 days is kinda upsetting. Long weekends should pretty much be mandatory during the summer, don’t you think?

I’m so excited about all the new places opening up in Wicker Park and Antique Taco is no exception. I’ve been wanting to trying their food since before we left for Denver but didn’t get to squeeze it in. I finally was able to stop by for lunch on Sunday afternoon. One word: YUM.

Now, I’m not easily impressed when it comes to tacos.  But I had the mushroom tacos and they were super yummy (Alex had the ribeye tacos, which I couldn’t try but he assured me they were awesome). They had aqua fresca (watermelon!) and pretty amazing guac. I also discovered their horchata milkshake and I’m pretty sure I’m in love. It’s a super cute storefront and while it’s slightly on the pricey side, it’s a great alternative to Big Star (and their insane 2 hour waits).

Memorial Day was lovely; not only was it Alex and I’s one-year anniversary (!!) but we ended up hanging out with friends in Old Town before heading to Millennium Park for a free concert and a makeshift picnic.

We left just as it started to rain, which was actually nice after two hot days back to back. We ended the weekend with Thai food from one of our go-to spots. The weekend also included: sangria and heart-to-hearts with Angela, a much-need Target run, and Alex and I slowly but surely getting addicted to Game of Thrones.

May is practically over, which is crazy. So much is happening as of June. I’m excited but also nervous; some potentially big changes may be headed my way and I’m going to do my best to embrace them.

How was your holiday weekend?

see you soon, 2012.

Before I start talking about the end of the year, please watch the video above. It’s wonderful and touching and will probably make you cry (because it definitely made me shed a few tears). 2011 was quite a year. It’s a year that I had been waiting for, for quite some time. I had serious ups and downs since graduating college in 2008. And while I don’t necessarily feel like I standing steadily on both two feet just yet, I finally know that I’m well on my way there.

In 2011, I:

Went on a dating detox for 5 months. At the end of May, I met Alex and as they say, the rest is pretty much history. :)
I am so lucky to be someone so wonderful and so happy in our relationship. I feel secure, loved, and blessed. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

Had an amazing summer, filled with adventures with friends and Alex. There was visits to the beach, drinks, outdoor festivals (including one in Milwaukee, my first time there), and everything in between. It was definitely one of my favorite things about this year.

Dabbled in creativity. Alex gave me an old film camera he had in college and I’ve all but fallen in love with it. I’ve always loved photography and working with film takes time and patience, but I adore it. I’m looking to buy more film soon and dabbling even more in the winter months. :)

Baked like whoa. It’s no secret that I love baking and I love getting some practice in. I did a little bit of everything and tried lots of new stuff this year, including pumpkin bread and Alex’s favorite cookies.

Lost my job. It’s not as awful as it sounds. I worked for a small publishing company for a year and got laid off because my projects got cut. This sort of stuff happens. And it wasn’t until I left that I realized how unhappy I was with my job. In a way, it was almost a relief. And I’ve been a full-time freelancer in the past, so I wasn’t completely blindsided. I was also fortunate enough to find employment with my alma mater, and it let’s me do more web/social media stuff than editorial. It’s not full-time but it has potential and I still have a couple of freelance gigs going on the side, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity and potential career change.

All in all, 2011 was so much more than I thought it would be. I survived my first blizzard. I fell in love. I travelled to Texas a few times. I had fun. I grew up. Like I said, I finally feel like I’m finding some steady ground. And tonight, you’ll find me a little Irish pub with Alex in his neighborhood, ringing in what should be a nice, relaxed new year. See you all then. :)

winter adventures!

I can’t believe I’m going to be home in a week for the holidays! As much as I love the first snowfall, I always secretly look forward to a warm Christmas back home in Texas. :)

From the pictures above, you can catch a glimpse at my most recent adventures: Riding the holiday train, enjoying the Christmas tree that my roomie was oh so nice enough to purchase (it’s a real tree and makes our living room smell lovely!), shopping at the Renegade Craft Fair holiday market and walking about after the first bit of real snow we got last week (which has since melted away).

Before I can go home, there’s plenty to do, including celebrating Alex’s 29th birthday (my mister is getting old!) at Revolution Brewing and baking him a birthday cake–a chocolate stout cake, to be exact. This will only be my 2nd time baking with booze and I’m really hoping it turns out yummy! I know next week will be here before I know it, but I’m glad that all of my Christmas shopping is now out of the way. I can’t say I’m excited to fly out at 5:30 am next Wednesday (gah) but I’ll be home before noon that same day, which will be nice. :)

on into december!

Oh 2011, where did you go? 2012 is just around the corner! But first things first: wonderful holiday celebrations, Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities. :)

I get into the holiday spirit rather quickly. You’ll find me at my desk, listening to Christmas music non-stop, planning out my baking plans with my sister via text and carefully crafting gifts for the members of my family (and the boyfriend too!). I’m even plotting to go out of my way to ride the holiday train on the way home from work. For those who aren’t from Chicago, yes, we have a holiday train and it’s as amazing as it sounds.

This weekend will be the start of it all: on Saturday, Alex and I will be in his neighborhood checking out the Lincoln Square Christkindl Market. Then on Sunday, it’s back to Wicker Park to check out the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market. There’s the promise of snow this weekend, which will probably throw my Christmas spirit into overdrive. And with snow, beer, cider, yummy snacks and shopping, I’ll be in my own little winter wonderland. <3

{image source: tumblr}

so long november!

Is it just me or did the month of November manage to disappear completely? I blinked and suddenly, we’re only a couple of days away from December.

So what exactly has happened since I last posted? Hmm, well quite a bit…

* Alex and I went to Beer Hoptacular, a super amazing event held at the Aragon. A bunch of different breweries from all over the country were in attendance and we got to sample so many delicious beers. One of my surprising favorites: Blue Moon’s spiced amber ale. It’s got just an aftertaste of cinnamon that I’m sorta obsessed with. Yum!

* Finally caught another game with my fellow Wildcats at the Northwestern bar in Lincoln Park, Kendall’s. The place was pretty empty (it was a home game and hardcore fans go to Evanston for the game–oops!) but we had a lot of fun. And we beat Rice!

* My 6 month anniversary with Alex was yesterday, but we decided to celebrate the day before Thanksgiving. I got him some handmade whiskey glasses from Etsy and he got us tickets to see one of my favorite bands: City and Colour. Dallas Green is AMAZING live, ya’ll. We sat up on the upper section and had a decent view; we were also both amazed that we could hear him whenever he stepped away from the mic. Such a good show!

* I spent Thanksgiving in the suburbs with Alex and his family. His parents are really nice and gracious (they let us stay the night instead of driving back to Chicago late) and the rest of his family was really welcoming. He was a little worried that his family would be overwhelming, but it turns out they’re really not. Although both our families are Mexican, mine is much bigger and therefore waaay louder. :)

Otherwise, I’ve been working on freelance gigs and both my part-time jobs. While it would be nice to find something full-time again soon, I’m trying to prepare myself (and my budget!) to work with what I’ve got going on right now. I’m also so, so excited for the holidays. I get into the Christmas spirit pretty easily and I’m going home in a matter of weeks! I hope I can stay on top of my blogging too.

baking adventures: pumpkin bread!

With fall comes my irrational need to bake all things pumpkin. While at the store the other day, I grabbed a couple of cans of pumpkin puree since there weren’t that many left as it is; can you imagine what it’ll be like come Thanksgiving?

I had recently visited one of my favorite coffee shops near my apartment and had picked up a slice of pumpkin bread while I was there. Ever since, I was convinced I needed to try and make my own, even though I had never tried baking pumpkin bread before. A little searching along the blogsphere lead to me a great recipe at The Shoebox Kitchen.

I think what I loved the most about this recipe was the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg; I think it kinda made a huge difference in taste. I was optimistic about how the end result would turn out when I tried the batter. Soo yummy!

Even though it took over an hour for both loaves to bake, it was completely worth the wait. I took one loaf over to Alex’s and this recipe is completely boyfriend approved; half of his loaf is already gone! I’m glad I have one to myself, so I can have pumpkin bread and coffee for breakfast for as long as I want. :)

oh hello autumn.

As I sit here writing this, the weather in Chicago has finally taken a turn for the cool. After a sweltering summer, September has brought with it some much needed crisp, cool air. And as amazing as this summer was, I won’t be missing the humid heat.

With fall finally here, I’m excited for;

hot drinks (like mochas and apple cider <3),

new knitting projects,

pretty new boots,

And lots of baking! I can’t wait to dabble with pumpkin-flavored goodies again. This week, I’ll be trying my hand at dulce de leche brownies (from A Chica Bakes) and afterwards, I’ll be trying to make some pumpkin cheesecake muffins (as pictured above from Sugar Cooking); I spotted this muffin on Pinterest and have been obsessed with the idea of making them ever since.

In addition to this lovely change in the weather, I had a great, long weekend. I was off on Friday in addition to today, which resulted in a much-needed four day weekend. Alex and I hung out, ran errands, checked out apartments (and he may have finally found one!) and lots of yummy food on Friday. I met his parents (gulp!) on Saturday, and it was a great time filled with pizza and beer. Sunday was brunch and being productive on our respective laptops, followed by Thai food and movie night… and a few hours of playing Rock Band together. Today we slept in, made breakfast and hung out a bit before I finally made my way home.

Now, back to the grind tomorrow. Next weekend is the Renegade Craft Fair, which I’m so excited to go to. :)

{image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5}