LOVE + EVOLUTION in Madison

Thursday night, I headed out into the Wisconsin chill to see To The Best of Our Knowledge‘s live radio show called LOVE + EVOLUTION at the Majestic Theater. I was introduced to the glories of radio in college and have discovered so many amazing shows over the years so, of course, I had to support me some local Wisconsin radio! 💕

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The show was structured like many podcasts: several stories, comics, interviews, and lectures on a common theme. The night’s theme was inspired by Valentine’s Day, but with a bit of an intellectual twist: the show explored the connection between love and science.

Are we biologically programmed to love? Is love just a means to procreation? If so, how does non-heterosexual sexuality fit in? Is altruism an extension of love? You know, real casual stuff…

But the one question I kept returning to is one that I’ve been grappling with for years: can science really explain the experience of love? I used to get so upset when people would say that “love is just chemicals firing in your brain” and “love is just biological programming to keep the species going”. And obviously those things are very true! But to break it down into a formula or a genetic code makes love feel fake to me – like you could engineer it in a lab or cook it on a bunsen burner.

One biologist answered my question (and I’m paraphrasing): It depends on your definition of explain. Yes, science can offer a subjective explanation of love and how it came to be evolutionarily, but can it explain the experience and sensation of being in love? No. He likened it to humor – you can study humor and what makes something funny, but you can’t explain to someone what it’s like to laugh.

Needless to say, the whole night pulled at my mind and my heartstrings and I really hope they do another show like it soon!

In the meantime, I’m excited to listen to this episode on why it’s good to be alone (lol happy valentine’s day!) and to ask my next date these 36 questions… I’ll be sure to post the podcast when it comes 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…

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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!

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…

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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 🙂

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 – will 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…

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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!

Favorites from Spring 2017

As fashion month comes to a close, I always like going through all the looks from the big shows and finding my favorites. I’ve started to really hone in on which designers I love (Gucci, Mary Katrantzou, Rodarte), but I love finding new brands that are surprising and beautiful. I’m obsessed with the Molly Goddard collection for its off-kilter gauzy, neon awesomeness and am really digging Dice Kayek‘s tailored volume.

I’m also really loving the sort of ’70s professor meets Marie Antoinette’ vibe happening in a lot of collections for Spring. Ultra luxe fabrics, voluminous sleeves, and suiting = count me in. This means I’m obviously obsessed with Gucci this season because tulle ball gowns, pink plaid, and gold suits… come on! Anyway, I’ve included my faves below and pinned my other favorite looks here on Pinterest, if you’re interested. Enjoy!

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[Coach, Reem Acra]

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[Mary Katrantzou, Fendi]

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[Gucci, Maticevski]

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[Giamba, Molly Goddard –> my favorite look of them all!]

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[Gucci, Delpozo]

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[Dice Kayek, Antonio Berardi]

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[Marco de Vincenzo, Gucci]

I’m also apparently really into long-sleeved dresses and dramatic blazers, which isn’t wrong. My workwear come spring is going to get very interesting though lol. What’d I miss? Which collections are your faves? Fashion month can be completely overwhelming so I’m positive I’ve missed some badass stuff. Please direct me to it. Much appreciated.

Summer Vacation Part 2: Berlin

Part two of our trip was a stop in beautiful Berlin. My friends had really hyped Barcelona and it was definitely so fun, but I just totally vibed with Berlin. The crisp air, the sense of history, and the low-key atmosphere of the city were right up my alley. Barcelona was exciting, but Berlin was truly relaxing. My favorite moment was simply walking around and experiencing the city with good people and warm coffee. Sometimes that’s all you really need…

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Where we stayed: We skipped the AirBnb this time and stayed at the Grand Hostel in Kreuzberg, which we had a good experience with. Clean rooms, cheap drinks, close to several good restaurants, and a minute’s walk away from the MĂśckernbrĂźcke U-Bahn station, which came in handy. We also rented bikes for around 10 euro through the hostel and met some fun people to go out with, so it was a great home base throughout our trip.

The Kreuzberg neighborhood was recommended to me by my friend, Anna, who lives in Berlin and was really lovely. You do have to take the U-Bahn to all the big tourist sites, but it was worth it for the quiet room and relaxed vibe of the area. I bet an AirBnb around there would be gorgeous.

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What we did: We did less specific sightseeing in Berlin and a lot more walking around and taking it all in, which was lovely. We had beautiful weather for strolling along Alexanderplatz, Museum Island, and the Brandenburg Gate.

On day 2, we rented bikes from our hostel and made our way to Tempelhofer Feld, an abandon airport that has been converted into a park. It was honestly the coolest thing. The entire structure is still standing and we biked along the runways and discovered small planes tucked away in the brush. We grabbed a soda at one of the little stands with my lovely friend, Anna, and spent the afternoon catching up and enjoying the beautiful weather.

On our last day, we did a walking tour of the city, which I highly recommend. I know some of Berlin’s history from my contemporary history class back in the day, but it was so interesting to hear about it all while really being there. Our tour guide was knowledgable and warm and it was nice to see all the major spots in one afternoon: The Brandenburg Gate, The Berlin Wall, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and The East Side Gallery. I definitely have a new appreciation for Germany’s fraught history and have been cueing up the Cold War documentaries on Netflix ever since.

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What We Ate: While we were in Barcelona, we kept joking that we were on a “foodie holiday” because we always managed to find some really great grub. Berlin was no different. Our first night we stumbled upon Blue Nile, an Ethiopian place right near our hostel, which was super delicious. We gorged on an enormous platter of meats and veggies while sipping on passion fruit Dju Dju beer (which I seriously want to find again, it was so good).

Other dinner highlights were Burgermeister, where we had seriously epic burgers and fries (pictured below) after a day of bike riding. We also tried the local fare of currywurst, which is bratwurst made with curry spices and smothered in curry ketchup – sounds weird but is actually delish. But the real MVP were Berlin’s kabobs, which were all incredible no matter where you went, especially after a night out… We tried to hit up Mustafas because we kept hearing it was the best spot around only to run out of time since the wait was an hour and we had to catch our flight home. So if you go sometime, let me know if it’s really worth the wait! I was so bummed!

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Where We Drank: Similar to Barcelona we stuck with pre-drinks at the hostel since beer was cheap and the people were fun so we didn’t do much bar hopping. Our first night, though, we did head out to Mein Haus am See, a 24-hour bar over by Rosenthaler Platz, for a couple of pints and some atmosphere; I loved the weird art on the walls and the ultra-hip bartender. It was definitely more chill than the clubs, if you’re looking for something a little more laid back.

The highlight for me, though, was discovering a fabulous riverside bar with deck chairs and cold beer. We spent a few hours sunbathing and watching the boats cruise by – it was some serious vacation vibes. Couldn’t have asked for better weather or company.

In terms of clubs, we hit up Tresor, a big popular club, and Golden Gate, a gritty spot underneath a train stop. Both played similar trance-electronic music and involved a lot of people standing around smoking cigarettes on the dance floor – I was clearly not cool enough to be in either of these places. We didn’t have any trouble getting in, but if you’re worried, get your best grunge look on, don’t say much and try to speak German to the bouncers. The whole thing wasn’t really my scene, but it was certainly an experience.

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Berlin is definitely a spot I want to go back to. I was blown away by the history, the art, the people, and the laid back feel of the whole place. Nothing better than crisp, sunny weather, great beer, and wonderful friends, right? Barcelona was good fun, but Berlin takes the cake for me this trip. Till next time!

Out of Context

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Before I left for Dublin, I got the chance to see an art show by my wonderful stepmother, Jill, at the College of Dupage. She took a welding class at the college and let’s just say she got pretty into it. After watching her lug giant hunks of metal around for the better part of a year, I was really excited to see her work.

I love the way it uses industrial elements in ways that aren’t mechanical. The pipes aren’t perfectly parallel, the chains are movable, the chrome isn’t spotlessly shined. It makes the material seem almost organic. Plus, she’s got some pretty clean welds, as one COD student admired.

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But what I loved most about the exhibit was how much joy and fun Jill has with her work. Even when things are hard and it feels impossible to lighten up, she always tells me “It’s just life, enjoy it.” and I watch her do that everyday. Sometimes I think the only thing she takes seriously is having a good time…

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Beautiful show, Jill! Excited to see what you do next.