Winter on Lake Monona

unspecified-4.jpgunspecified.jpg

With all this beautiful weather we’ve been having, I had to get outside so I took a long glorious walk down by¬†Lake Monona last weekend. I feel so lucky to live right on the isthmus (the best geographic term, right?) and to be so close to both of Madison’s gorgeous lakes. Winter has been a tough time to move to a new city – everyone is in hibernation and there’s not so much going on – but this little thaw we’ve had has gotten me so excited for Spring. After being away from the Midwest for so long I’ve forgotten how much the cities come alive with the weather!

I didn’t expect my walk to turn into a photography expedition or else I would have brought my big camera but I had to share some snaps I took on my phone while I was out. How crazy is that ice?! I’m such a sucker for that sort of thing so these are only a few of the like billion photos I took of it.

Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday and soak up the sun while we have it for a moment. ūüėé

unspecified-5.jpgunspecified-2.jpgunspecified-1.jpgunspecified-6.jpgunspecified-3.jpg

Operation Boozeless: Week One

So after my sort of distraught post from last week, I thought I would follow up on how my first full week without alcohol went. To be honest, not that much was different – I have in fact gone a full seven days without drinking before so it wasn’t too crazy. But I did notice that my thought process has changed a bit as I prep for a longer stint on the wagon.

1461092_10202556664662826_371716332_n.jpg

1. Pay more attention.¬†I went out to brunch with a newer friend on Saturday and even though we have a lot in common and I really like her, we’re still getting in the groove of being friends. We’ve also spent most of our time going out together so a lot of our conversations have been wine-fueled. I love a good boozy bonding moment as much as anyone, but I had this moment at sober brunch where I thought “This conversation would be way easier if I had a drink.” What? This is really the state of my social skills? I’m better than that and my friend deserves better than that!

So I perked up, took a breathe, and listened better. And you know what? We ended up having a really good time, talked way after we’d signed the check, and made plans for another weekend. Boom! Definitely realized that I lean on alcohol sometimes because I’m just plain lazyyyyyyyy.

2. Change doesn’t happen all at once.¬†In preparation for my boozeless month I started reading a bunch of articles on the benefits of cutting alcohol. More energy! Clearer skin! Better sleep! The list goes on, so I was psyched to become the pure, zen, Gwyneth Paltrow version of myself. Color me surprised when after 7 days I pretty much feel the same! Because duh, I’m not going to change overnight and no one is going to erect a monument in my honor for not drinking one weekend of the month.

I am still hoping that by the end of the month I feel a difference in my body (because that’s the entire medical reason for this experiment), but I need to have some patience with myself and realize that cutting ¬†wine will not make me a super hero. Although fingers crossed I’ll feel like one by March.

3. I’m not that different after all. So on a typical Friday night when I don’t have any plans I’ll usually crack a bottle of chardonnay and then ultimately end up crying over the¬†Gilmore Girls reboot. I guess I always blamed this on wine, but low and behold I do the same thing completely sober… This is actually sort of a relief – that I am still pretty open to expressing my emotions even if that means weeping over¬†Lauren Graham’s face lifts.

So all in all I would say this has been an enlightening week. It’s funny what happens when you just change your mind set and how taking away a crutch like drinking makes you realize how much you don’t need it.

But this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for week 2.

Snowy Days in Madison

Although I woke up to a wet morning today, Madison has sprinkled some gorgeous snow on the city on and off over the last few weeks. After living in Ireland where it maybe snows once a winter it was really fun to see everything coated in the white stuff. These photos are from the first snow back in December, but I wanted to share as a reminder that winter is still magical (and not terrible because there’s no sun and it’s freezing and everyone’s in hibernation)!

Haha okay it’s true – I’m so ready for spring, but I know soon enough I’m gonna be wishing it was chilly and cozy again. So here’s a little taste…

DSC_0362.jpg

DSC_0377.jpgDSC_0324.jpgDSC_0396.jpgDSC_0389.jpgDSC_0343.jpgDSC_0374.jpg

Sobering Thoughts

DSC_0563.jpg

So I just found out that I have to stop drinking for a month. I’ve been having stomach issues and my doctor’s put me on a medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol, so it’s 4 long weeks on the wagon for me.

And you know what? I’m scared.

I’m scared because I’m realizing how much of my life revolves around drinking. I’m disappointed in myself for becoming someone who can’t meet new people without a drink in her hand. I’m afraid that I won’t be social and that people won’t hang out with me because I’m not drinking.

I haven’t been sober for this long since I was 18.

When I lived in Ireland, everything revolved around drinking. I went on job interviews at pubs, I drank with professors at lunch, we always met our friends out for pints. But I drank alone, too, because things were hard and it made life seem less stressful and more exciting.

But I think I’m the most scared that I won’t be able to do it. That I won’t even be able to make it a month. That drinking is too hard wired into me to let it go, even for the sake of my own health.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Not the only one who asks herself on Sunday morning if maybe it was too much. Gives herself pep talks on the way¬†home from the liquor store to justify a bottle of wine I will drink alone. Judges people at parties who say you don’t have to drink to have fun.

Well, I guess I’m about to find out.

What’s Your Morning Ritual?

I know it’s a little late for New Years resolutions, but I’m starting to feel settled at my job and¬†finally have more energy to dedicate to life outside work (whaaaa?). I’ve been an aspiring morning person for a long time¬†so I picked up¬†Laura Vanderkam’s book¬†What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast¬†for a little advice…

DSC_0321.jpgDSC_0318.jpg

In it she talks about using mornings to focus on personal growth through activities like exercising, writing, or meditating and sustaining them over long periods of time. She claims the benefits of morning rituals: people feel more fulfilled, have long-term career success, and are more focused and productive during the day. Her reasoning is interesting:

“Getting things down to routines and habits takes willpower at first but in the long run conserves willpower…¬†Ultimately, self-control lets you relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve willpower for the important challenges.”

I like the idea and, in turn, have been getting up early to write for an hour before work (almost) every day. Here’s what I’ve liked and disliked so far…

Pros

  1. I feel like a superhero! I’ve gotten up, eaten breakfast, caught up on email, and written for an hour before most people in my building are even awake.
  2. I like investing in my creative life. My job is really technical and it’s nice to still flex my artistic muscles even if its not my main focus right now.
  3. It makes me more focused at work. I’ve had a chance to brainstorm and daydream before I even get to the office so I’m not so distracted.

Cons

  1. Waking up is hard. I love sleeping, hate mornings, and it’s so easy to get derailed.
  2. Writing now feels like a chore, which duh is the point, but I’m surprised at how quickly I burned out on something I love. It make me wonder if I’m fostering my creativity or forcing it.
  3. It’s another thing to¬†push through. Sometimes my writing goes great and I feel awesome, but other days I feel frustrated or disappointed, which is a tough way to start the day.

Looking at my list, I definitely feel like it’s worth it to keep up my writing ritual (it was actually kind of tough to come up with cons!), but it makes me wonder if I’ll eventually lose my love for it because I’m forced to do it everyday. Or will I just love it more because I do it everyday? The jury’s out.

So, I’m curious: do you have morning routines? What do you do? Is it something you love to do or something you feel obligated to do? Any tips on keeping it up? Hit me up!

I’m Moving to Madison!

Madison.jpg

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already heard, but I wanted to announce on here that I’ll be moving to Madison, Wisconsin in the next few weeks! I’m starting as a Technical Writer for Epic Systems in November and couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter. I’ve been to Madison a couple of times since I’ve been home and will be heading up again this weekend to do some apartment hunting¬†(if you have any leads, let me know!) and it’s a gorgeous little city. I’m so excited to get to know my new home¬†and to hit the ground running at work!

If you’re a Madison local or have been recently, I’d love to hear any recommendations you have for restaurants, bars, shopping, or fun things to do around town ūüôā¬†And of course, if you’re ever around Wisconsin, hit me up for some cheese and beer!

DSC_0008.jpgDSC_0024.jpgDSC_0017.jpg

 

Elk Season in the Rockies

DSC_0187.jpgDSC_0146.jpgDSC_0084.jpg

One of the days I was in Colorado, my stepmom and I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park for the afternoon. We had planned on driving up the mountain and doing a little hiking, but quickly got sidetracked as herds of elk appeared at the roadside. Just super casual, Colorado… We ended up seeing four herds throughout the day and were lucky enough to get pretty close – I didn’t have a zoom lens on my camera so that first guy was really that close.

It was such a cool experience to watch these huge animals in the wild and one of my favorite photography experiences to date. I totally understand the rush of the whole National Geographic thing now! My heart was racing¬†after getting up close¬†and especially after the buck of the group made it clear our little photo shoot was over ūüė≥

DSC_0122.jpgDSC_0094.jpgDSC_0158.jpgDSC_0108.jpgDSC_0164.jpgDSC_0197.jpg

My favorite moment, though, was when we were driving home from the park and I spotted a herd taking over the local high school’s football field (above). We stopped to get a closer look to find them investigating the football team’s training equipment – one even stood on the big blue mat before deciding he wasn’t a fan ūüėā It was like seeing two worlds collide!

DSC_0137.jpgDSC_0088.jpgDSC_0176.jpgDSC_0117.jpg

If you’re around Colorado any time from early September to early October definitely stop by your nearest national park to see if you can spy any of these guys! Apparently it’s particularly crazy at the beginning of the season so bring your camera and keep your eyes peeled!

Weekend Roundup: The Wild West

This week I got the chance to go out to Boulder, Colorado and visit my dad and stepmom who are in the process of moving out there. I’ve been hearing about Boulder for years and I finally get what all the hubbub is about – beautiful scenery, great¬†downtown filled with restaurants and shops, and you’re never further than 10 minutes from an amazing hike.¬†Although it was a relatively short visit, it was so fun to see what they’re up to and let me say, it certainly doesn’t suck. I’m back in Chicago now and here’s a little bit more about my week…

DSC_0148.jpg

What I Did This Week

1. Before I left for Colorado, I spent an excellent Saturday afternoon with my family at the Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Tap Room here in Chicago. Crisp beer, decadent nachos, and a band with a washboard player made for a pretty awesome day. It was a little bit impossible to find (hint: the entrance is next to the parking lot – go figure), but the trek made the beer taste that much better. Fun for both the brewery inclined and the professional beer drinker ūüôā

2. On my first day in Colorado, my dad drove us out to Denver for the Dweezil Zappa concert. Him and my brother are huge fans and even though I didn’t know much of the music, it was clear that these guys are unreal musicians. Fun, weird, and filled with hippie dads, the whole thing was certainly an experience. Plus, you can’t go wrong when the tour is named “Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants”.

3. Yesterday was my beautiful mom’s birthday. We spent the day brunching, drinking mimosas, shopping, and eating – so just another average day, right? We even got a dose of lacrosse in there seeing my brother’s team make it into the championship finals game!¬†We had appetizers and drinks and a glorious steak dinner at Wildfire before heading back into the city. Cheers to you, mama! I love you!

Culturally Consumed

1. I picked up this book by my favorite Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, at the spiritual bookstore in Boulder (because of course they have one of those). This time in my life is bringing a lot of change and, along with that, a lot of uncertainty and fear. I have so many of his books already, but I felt like it was time to read this one Рwill let you know how it goes!

2. Visited the Saks Off 5th store on State Street in Chicago this week and oh man is it good. I highly recommend it for investment pieces like cashmere sweaters and winter coats because they seem to carry a lot of those right now. I walked out with this cashmere sweater in navy for half off and these cole haan sneakers for 50 bucks!

3. Late night Maddie + trolling Twitter = me buying Repeal the 8th art for my future apartment. Bought this beautiful print through the Someone You Love campaign and cannot wait to frame it and put it up for all eternity. I’ve been looking for a piece of art from Ireland forever, but nothing felt personal until I saw this baby. Feminist, colorful, and I think it will compliment my other pieces beautifully. Definitely check out the rest of the pieces in their online shop – a great gift for the Irish feminist in your life!

4. Speaking of other things I don’t need for an apartment I don’t have, my mom gifted me the most amazing salt and pepper shaker on this earth. Guys, I’m completely obsessed. It’s beautiful, hilarious, and practical! I also think this totally shows my priorities – art and kitschy home goods over furniture and kitchen ware. I like this about myself.

Coming Up Next

1. I’ve got BIG news coming up this week! I’m waiting till everything is finalized, but I’ll definitely be sharing a huge life update very soon!

2. I’ll be sharing some photos and journals from my trip out west – think snowy mountains, yellow and red leaves, and some wildlife up close and personal. I’ll also let you know what my favorite spots out in Boulder were and things I was super thankful I packed.

3. I’m on the prowl for some new fall boots (both over the knee and booties) so I’ll be sharing a round up of the ones I’ve been eyeing. It also seems like there are a million sales going on right now so I’ll be sure to include some discounted options. Till then!

Weekend Roundup: Sweet Home Chicago

It feels really good to be home. The last several weeks have been crazy to say the least, but no matter where I go in the world there’s nothing like coming back to familiar places and loving people. I’m honestly just starting to feel settled back into the US and a big part of me still feels like its in Ireland, but having some down time to write, run, and catch up with my favorite people has been really centering. Here’s a little recap of what I’ve been doing, reading, and loving this week…

14269064_685796824906109_381640270_n.jpg

What I Did This Week

1. Got dragged to a visiting artist lecture at the School of the Art Institute by my mother, a former student, and actually completely loved the whole talk. The artist, Tal R, is this sweet, silly painter from Copenhagen who preaches being “irresponsible” with art, something I totally resonated with after years of being told to be diligent and thorough while making theater.

2.¬†Sat in on a rehearsal of my friend Kevin’s contemporary choir at Northwestern and heard¬†a preview of their super interesting piece “Consent” by Ted Hearne. The text of the piece is a combination of love letters, marriage rituals, and text messages from the Steubenville rape case and explores the ways we use language of ownership and sexual violence to express romantic relationships. Haunting and fascinating. Looking forward to seeing more of his upcoming¬†concerts!

3. Headed up to Concord Music Hall to catch Kaytranada with my brother and our friends. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, it ended up being a fun night of DJs and dancing. I loved one of the openers, I think a local female DJ, but didn’t catch her name – if anyone knows, would love to hear more of her!

Culturally Consumed

1. Finally got around to reading Animal Farm after all these years. Such a quick read, but I see why¬†its required reading in high schools around the country: political commentary, easy to grasp and specific metaphors, and it’s actually engaging – I read the whole thing in like 2 hours. Feels good to¬†start reading for pleasure again!

2. This ultra-brief gem from one of my very favorites, David Sedaris, on this election. Just when I think things can’t get worse too…

3. Love this new series that Cup of Jo is doing. I’ve always been fascinated by personal style and its so fun to hear people talk about why they wear what they wear. Especially obsessed with her use of the phrase “bitchy accessory” to describe a structured, see-through bag. Like I resonate with that term soooo much – definitely need more bitchy accessories (and clothes and shoes) in my life.

4. Also, I know that Stranger Things has already had its moment in the sun, but I would like to take a moment of silence for Barb. She was the real MVP.

Coming Up Next

1. Heading out West on Sunday for a little bit so stayed tuned for some picturesque views and me pretending to be outdoorsy.

2. A HUGE guide to all things Dublin that has actually taken me a century to put together, but I’m super excited to share.

3.¬†A to-do list¬†for all things fall! Fall has always been a huge time of change for me (and this fall is no exception) so I often feel this time of year the way I imagine people feel about new years. Time to get into new habits, shed harmful and distracting practices, and open myself up to saying yes more. I know it all sounds so cheesy, but we all need some inspirational cheeseballs when we’re going through shit, am I right? Stay tuned!

London Travel Journal

IMG_1007.jpgIMG_0874.jpgIMG_1006.jpg

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that last weekend we did a quick trip over to London! I have to say, we really made the most of our three days there: hitting up museums and local markets, spending an afternoon in the country, and drinking and eating our way through several parts of the city. Of course there was so much we didn’t get to do, especially sight seeing wise, but we ended up having a totally lovely¬†weekend. So often quick trips feel like more work than vacation, but we really hit the right balance this time.

IMG_0851.jpg

Our first stop once getting into the city (from Stansted Airport) was the South Bank where Ian had a quick business meeting. While he chatted fantasy sports,¬†I took the opportunity to do a speed tour of the Tate Modern’s newly opened Switch House! The gallery spaces are mostly dedicated to conceptual art and preserving past performance pieces – there was even a small performance going on during my quick visit, which totally rocked my weird art world.

My overall highlights were original photos of¬†Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0,¬†a Cy Twombly-esque piece by Julie Mehretu, and the artist room of Louise Bourgeois, who is definitely¬†my fine art¬†spirit animal. Also, a conceptual work¬†that was literally a piece of string intended to be held by two people and exploring concepts of intimacy and space – too goodūüėā. I¬†could go on forever about this sort of thing, but I’ll spare you and just say that if you’re interested in conceptual art or performance art from the last couple of decades then the new Tate Modern building is a must.

018-9-rhythm-0.jpg
Marina Abramovic’s¬†Rhythm 0¬†exhibit.¬†Photo from here.
Louise Bourgeois_1red hand.jpg
Part of Louise Bourgeois’¬†10AM is When You Come to Me. Photo from here.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of wandering around the South Bank and making our way through the city to Covent Garden, where we chowed down at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Union Jacks.¬†¬†Along the way we stopped at the South Bank Centre’s food market for Pimm’s cups and duck fat french fries with garlic mayo (thanks for recommendation, Burke!) and took a ride on the London Eye. The views were fabulous, as you can imagine, and, despite the price, it was fun to get a little touristy while we were there. Afterwards, we walked by Big Ben and the Parliament Building and made our way along the Thames to dinner.

After a much needed meal of gourmet pizza (can you say braised brisket & artisanal cheese?), we headed home for an early night of late night British TV and room service in preparation for our trip out to the country the next day. The weather was a little spotty our first day in town, but we didn’t mind the incredible rainbows that accompanied the on-and-off showers. Seriously, they were the most vivid ones I’d ever seen –¬†photos didn’t do it any justice!

IMG_0881.jpgIMG_0883.jpgIMG_0903.jpg

Day two started out with a train ride out to Bicester for an afternoon of driving. Well, Ian driving and me timing laps and taking photos… But all the same, the countryside was totally beautiful and the lambos were pretty alright too.¬†ūüėČ

If you’re in Europe¬†or planning to visit and want to do some sort of driving experience, I would recommend TrackDays. They’re really the only company that does one-day test drives with driving instructors, which is what we were looking for. There are a lot of other companies who will rent out sports cars for full track days or do super luxury weekend long driving trips (ūüėć), but if you’re looking for more of a casual thing this totally fit the ticket. Well, as casual as driving a Ferrari can be…

After lots of planning and attempting to keep the trip¬†a secret (as it was a surprise graduation gift from Ian’s lovely parents), it was so great to see the whole thing come together. Even as we were driving up to the track, I was so nervous it wasn’t going to be¬†what I had thought, but it really¬†turned out to be perfect. Seeing Ian get to blow off some steam after working his ass off for a physics degree was awesome¬†– so grateful it all worked out!

IMG_0956.jpgIMG_0907.jpgIMG_0981.jpg

I will¬†keep the grainy, embarrassing, proud-girlfriend photos to myself¬†but seriously the whole thing was so cool! I thought I would be bored watching, but I actually got super giddy seeing him fly around the track in each of the cars. I even got to ride in the ‘hot lap’ car at one point, which was driven by a pro – I felt like I was on a roller coaster those things get so much speed! Ian’s report card: the Lamborghini got the A for drivability and top speed.

IMG_0961.jpg13597640_484294208441428_319000247_n.jpgIMG_0966.jpg

We ended our day by heading back to the city in time for happy hour, grabbing a bottle of rosé for our hotel room as we got ready. We got a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant, which Ian totally won by ordering the grilled tiger prawns, and headed out for drinks.

We were feeling fancy so we hit up Gong in The Shard for cocktails. The whole thing was an experience – from the 45 minute wait in the lobby to the heated toilet seats in the bathroom (I have seen heaven) to the drinks that come in birdcages – but be ready to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing. It was pretty pretentious and the cocktails themselves were, like, fine, but it’s really nabbing that window seat that makes the whole thing worth it. So dress to impress, be persistent, and steal a Vogue magazine from the toilets.

If you want the same view without the hassle, I believe you can book in advance at The View from The Shard, which is a champagne bar at the top. I think it’s a little more touristy, but has student ticket discounts and you will have a reserved time so you don’t have to creepily wait around the lobby…

From there we headed into Soho for some late night bar action and I honestly couldn’t even tell you where we ended up. I basically remember being creepily hit on by an old dude, hugging the bathroom attendant, and freaking out when Toxic by Britney Spears came on. I remember 4am samosas and chips were involved and I was coherent enough to take this photo of the sunrise from our hotel room. If you have more information about my night, please contact me.

IMG_0979.jpg

Sunday obviously began with sleeping in, a long hot shower, and a real solid hangover. But we didn’t let that get us down – we spent the day wandering around Marylebone and exploring some of my favorite little spots in town. One of my oldest friends, Janine, used to live in the area in high school and I got super nostalgic walking around the streets she used to take me down, showing me all the little shops and the best places to eat. I remember the whole neighborhood seemed to have some sort of magic to it and, even thought I’m old and jaded now, it still sort of feels like it does.

We were luckily enough to be staying in the middle of the neighborhood at¬†The Marylebone Hotel, which we loved. Our room was small, but the service was outstanding; seriously, one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. They just had all the little things that make a vacation feel luxurious, from turn down service to fuzzy slippers,¬†and were so helpful throughout our whole journey lending us umbrellas and holding our bags the day we left – even charging our phones while we were out. Total pros, highly recommend.

We got Daylesford suggested to us for brunch and it was certainly worth the wait with their light, refreshing bloody mary’s and delicious eggs benedict. The whole place is really into all-natural foods and has a pretty incredible little food shop attached to the restaurant. Seeing all the fresh veggies, beautiful cheeses, and cured meats made me want to have a picnic real bad.

My next go-to was my favorite of all bookstores, Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street. A little independent shop organized by region with just the most beautiful architecture; I could literally stay in that place for hours. I picked up this book while I was there and so far I’m loving the lyrical prose and the way the whole narrative feels steeped in regret – will keep you updated once I finish it.

IMG_1005.jpgIMG_0983.jpgIMG_0998.jpgIMG_0904.jpgIMG_0991.jpg

The rest of our afternoon consisted of sitting outside drinking cocktails and beer and watching the world (and the fancy cars) pass us by. Then before we knew it, it was time to catch our train back to the airport and our flight back to real life, but not without a stop at the Liverpool St. Station Krispie Kreme first…

A huge thank you to Ian’s parents, Kathy and Jim, for making our weekend¬†so totally special. We couldn’t believe how much of a full vacation just three days away felt, especially only a 45 minute plane ride away. Just goes to show that you don’t have to go too far to really get away.¬†ūüėė