I cannot believe we only have two months of this year left…Where did 2019 go?!
This weekend, I am staying in the city watching a co-workers house and kitty while she’s out of town. I barely ever get to stay downtown, so I plan on fully taking advantage of this situation. I have dinner plans tonight with a couple friends at a place I’ve never been to before and then tomorrow I am participating in the Cliquish Faces of Content Tour and may stop by the new Uncommon James location in the West Loop. Who knows where else the weekend might take me, but if you follow me on Instagram, you can follow along on my adventures.
If you’re not up to speed on your current events this week, here are some great articles to read this weekend. My Wish List this week is entirely made up of new jeans because I am in serious need of a Fall jean haul. Hope you have a great weekend!
“I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.” No truer words could be said to describe the bond we’ve spent the last 23 years building. Well, maybe “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, but I can’t even hear the tune without shedding a tear. To say that our family was cursed with tumultuous mother-daughter relationships would sort of be an understatement, but as that psychic told you all those years ago, you managed to break through. I could never imagine my life any other way.
Times were rough and the odds were stacked against us. But with hard work, dedication, compassion, lots of love and a hint of sass, as we handle majority of the situations in our life, we persevered. I can now proudly call you my best friend. There’s no one in this world who understands me better than you do. For supporting me and sticking by my side through all my crazy ventures and emotional episodes, I owe you umpteen amounts of thanks.
We are two peas in a pod. Our similarities in interests are uncanny. You are my fellow wine connoisseur, travel enthusiast, city slicking, fancy dinner loving, photography hobbyist. There’s no better feeling than coming back to a home of opulence (lol) after a tough day of work, opening a bottle of red, watch an episode of Supernatural and finding things to make fun of. It’s the best of times.
I will always need you. No matter what stage of my life I journey to next, you are the one person that will remain constant. No amount of time spent together will ever be enough.
The greatest lessons I’ve learned from you are to be strong, to be confident, to be kind, to be the hardest working person in the room, to figure it out when you don’t know the answer and to be unapologetically yourself. I get the honor of learning from you each and every day. Thank you for teaching me to be independent and to fight for the things that I want. It’s the greatest gift you’ve ever given me.
And now we celebrate! You deserve all of the celebrations in
the world. I will never be able to truly repay you for the life I’ve been
given. I cannot wait for our delicious dinner and drinks tonight. I hope you
have the best birthday ever! I love you!
For the past week, I’ve been pretty out of commission. With the season change, came the inevitable sickness. It’s out there and it’s sinister this year, so beware! But just as I posted in my Instagram caption on Monday’s post, “almost everything will work again if you just unplug it for a few minutes. Even you.” No statement resonated with me more than this. As a woman always on the go, it was a hard pill to swallow, but I learned the importance to taking a step back and taking a breather, otherwise your body will take it for you and it’ll usually come at a very inconvenient time.
Although being sick wasn’t ideal, it allowed me to rest and heal for a second, something I hadn’t taken time for in a while. Now, I am feeling refreshed, renewed and inspired to create new content for you. Creative juices are flowing and next week we are back to regularly scheduled programming. I have some exciting ideas that I’m looking forward to executing. For now though, please enjoy this weekend reading roundup of the best articles I found on the internet this week. I hope you enjoy and come back next week to see what I have in store for you!
The cooler temps have been sweeping through the windy city this past week, and as a result, I’ve been living in my gray teddy-like, sweater coat. This week’s Wish List is a roundup of some others I’ve been eyeing online lately!
It’s finally the weekend! I don’t know about you, but I feel like this week totally flew by. Unfortunately, I think the nonstop running around that’s been going on for a couple weeks now is finally catching up to me. My throat feels like it’s on fire and I feel like I could fall asleep at any second. My insides are warm but I am currently sitting at my desk with a jacket on because I’m freezing. I think I caught it…whatever it is I don’t know but it is coming. Ugh! I HATE being sick.
But, in good ole Sydney fashion, I have a jammed day with work, dinner in the city and then a Blackhawks game tonight, so sorry germs but ain’t nobody got time for you today. I hope you all have a nice relaxing weekend. If you find yourself looking for some entertainment, here are some fun articles, videos and trendy pieces I found on the internet this week. Enjoy!
I’m a natural born wanderer. I want to travel as far as the eye can see and completely immerse myself in as many cultures that I can get my hands on. Aspirational trips include Italy, Greece, Morocco, France, Spain. The mere thought of exploring lands across the pond makes my heart explode. It’s like a dream or a fantasy.
Realistically though, I do have a full-time job, responsibilities at home and my bank account would weep numerous tears, so I improvise. In order to feed my traveling soul, I often have to remind myself that there are countless destinations right here in the U.S., heck even in the Midwest that are both beautiful and enriching. That’s why when my mom wanted to travel up to Michigan for the day to go on a winery trip, I was the first to volunteer as tribute.
Going up to Michigan is always a treat. I honestly think their wineries are impeccable. You can drive through fields and fields of grapevines and going this time of the year allows you to experience early Fall foliage. I would say that I make a trip up to explore Michigan wineries about 5 times a year. It’s one of the easiest ways to escape daily life and not have to travel that far away. Since we go so often, I have developed quite the laundry list of some of my favorite wineries to stop at on our excursions. Here are my top 5 favorite wineries in Michigan if you are thinking of taking a weekend trip anytime soon!
1. Tabor Hill: An elegant, yet relaxed venue with expansive vineyard views, delectable wine tasting and dining options and beaming with natural light. I love doing a tasting at the bar, sitting outside with a charcuterie spread and then wandering the grounds lined with grape plants. I recommend tasting the Classic Demi-Sec (their best-selling wine) and the Pinot Blanc. You will love it here, it’s a little taste of heaven.
2. St. Julian: This is the oldest winery in Michigan, and you can definitely tell given their outstanding hospitality while you enjoy a tasting of six award-winning wines. The staff currently servicing customers are 3rd and 4th generation wine makers and let me tell you they’ve perfected the art over time. The tasting room is nothing special, although, they do have a cute little seating area outside if you visit during the warmer months. Enjoy the Gruner Veltliner and the Chancellor wines while perusing the store tasting nibbles of homemade jams, sauces and salsas along the way.
3. White Pine: White Pine winery is situated in one of my favorite towns in the U.S. St. Joe, Michigan is one of the cutest, quaintest, seaside town I’ve ever been to. Streets are lined with cafes, boutiques, home décor shops and obviously choice wineries. It almost looks like one of those East Coast towns from a Halloween movie where everyone knows everyone, where it’s charming but a little spooky. White Pine is one of the better wineries I’ve been to in St. Joe. It’s small on the inside, but the flavors pack a punch. My personal favorite, not available on the tasting menu but you can sample if you make friends with the ladies behind the counter, is a warm, malt wine It literally reminded me of Christmas in a glass. We bought the malt wine kit and I CANNOT wait to whip it up on the first snowfall this year!!
4. Round Barn: If I’m being completely, 100% honest, this place is not one of my favorites in terms of their wine BUT it is hands down the best place to go for the entire experience. Go with a group and make a reservation to do a private tasting upstairs in the actual round barn. It is absolutely beautiful. You get 7 tastings in total, 5 wines, 1 vodka (which they make from grapes) and then a creamy dessert-style wine. I think the best time to go to Round Barn is in the Summer because their property is so enormous that they constantly have things going on like pop-up boutiques, festivals and live music. There are tons of places to sit outside if after your tasting you want to buy a bottle and enjoy some food truck magic. I could easily spend a whole day here. My favorite wine on their whole tasting list is their Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Shady Creek: Shady Creek Winery is actually located in Michigan City, IN but is a great pit stop location on your way up to Michigan since it’s so close to a lot of the wineries listed above. The building is cute on the inside and if you have a big enough group, you can reserve a private room right off the main tasting room. You have the opportunity to sample six different wines while visiting and I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. I love the wild, eclectic names the wines have, some of my favorites include T-Wave and Beach Glass. The food here is also another staple as I recommend having the flatbread pizza and getting the meat and cheeses plate.
Finding places to travel to right outside of your hometown
is kind of like fining a hidden treasure. It really isn’t all about flying
thousands of miles just to get away but finding an oasis close to home allows
you to escape more often for less. With the crazy busy, work-driven lives we
lead, we need something we enjoy to take our minds off of things just for a
bit. For me, that’s enjoying nice wines in a beautiful state. I’d love to know
if you have found any other great wineries in Michigan or what your hidden gem
travel spots are near where you live! If you travel to any of the above place,
I’d also love to know what you think!
Okay, I just HAD to share the above photo today in honor of the fact that this time last year I packed my bags with my two best friends and we flew to Iceland on our spontaneous girl’s trip. My first ever international trip. And on this exact day one year ago, we enjoyed a full spa day at the infamous Blue Lagoon. I mean look at how blue that water is!! This was seriously the trip of a lifetime, and I honestly miss that feeling so much. I could cry looking at photos from Iceland because it was truly that magical. There’s really no other word to describe it. Luckily, in a handful of months, I’ll be embarking on my next international trip. Can’t wait to share this destination soon!
I have had a crazy busy day so far and it is only just the beginning of a crazy busy weekend ahead. Today was on of those full maintenance days: hair colored, mani, pedi, the works. Later tonight, it’s the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for the wedding I’m in tomorrow. Obviously then that means that Saturday is full on wedding day from dusk to dawn. Sunday is a recoup day. Finally, on Monday we are heading up to Michigan on a winery trip for my mom’s birthday. It’s insanity, but a good, fun kind of insanity, ya know? If you are looking for some light weekend reading, I have rounded up my favorite articles on the internet this week and some HOT Fall items on this week’s Wish List. I hope you have a fabulous weekend!
I’ve always wanted to travel here. As a pop culture junkie, I appreciated that some of the most highly coveted shows filmed here. The Pacific Northwest is totally foreign territory to a Midwesterner. Tall mountains? Pine trees? Fresh seafood? Never heard of it. Perhaps that’s why the mere thought of traveling to our neighbor up North was so alluring.
A family trip was overdue. Every so often, the whole gang gets together: Mom, aunt(s), uncle, cousin. When sitting around in our pajamas with full stomachs at Christmas time last year, we started throwing around some potential destinations. Germany, Scotland, Ireland, California, Vancouver…wait, Vancouver, that one sounds good. Hey, why not make it a two for one, stop in Seattle on the way and make the most of the PNW? It stuck.
So, on June 4th the crew packed up, headed to O’Hare and took flight toward B.C. I previously exploited on our 24 hours in Seattle, our first stop on the excursion, so you can read all about that whirlwind day here. The next six days were quite an adventure on their own. If you are planning your own trip to Vancouver, I’m here to report that it may not be exactly what you think. Each and every day brought a new surprise, both wonderfully exciting and terrifyingly scary. Will I be back? The jury is still out, but if I were to make the trek again, I’d do many things differently. Here’s a rundown of everything we did, including some tips for packing and planning that I picked up along the way.
Before diving into the nitty gritty, I thought it’d be
insightful to outline what to know before you go.
Food Scene: If you are a total foodie like me, you are in for a culinary experience of your lifetime! Vancouver offered up some of the best cuisine I’ve ever indulged in. The eclectic variations offered numerous opportunities for your taste buds to be both enlightened and excited. Japanese, Vietnamese, seafood, steakhouses, bar and grills, Italian, Mexican, Malaysian, I mean I could go on and on for days. You name it, Vancouver not only has it, but serves it up like an Iron Chef. It was the most pleasant surprise.
Happy Hours: In the same vein as the amazing food options, it seemed as though every delectable restaurant we walked past or dined in at offered some sort of Happy Hour special. Not only did they offer it, the specials were incredible (portion and price wise) AND the restaurants encouraged you to partake. It made each mealtime that much more enjoyable because you had the opportunity to try various small bites and drinks in one sitting. Another fantastic surprise.
Transportation: A not-so-pleasant surprise is that Vancouver does not offer Lyft or Uber to get around. Means of transportation around the city and beyond are required to be either by taxi, bus or walking. Coming from the U.S. where there is Uber or Lyft just about everywhere, this was a bit of a culture shock and made transportation a little more expensive than I had anticipated. I asked a local why Uber or Lyft was not an option and he expressed to me that the companies tried, but the city shut it down because it was taking away from their own economy. Definitely something to take into consideration before booking your trip.
Landscape: Keeping transportation top of mind and knowing that sometimes your most convenient way of getting around may be by foot, I should warn you that Vancouver is extremely hilly. At times, I thought I had entered America’s Ninja Warrior trying to run up that ramp contraption. Lots of breaks and lots of water are needed if you prefer to explore by walking. I even saw a car start to roll backwards once, that’s how intense it is.
Safety: Honestly, this was probably the most shocking aspect of the entire trip. Although, I never really felt in danger, there were many periods throughout the trip where I was extremely uncomfortable. We stayed right in the heart of the city and being from Chicago, believe me when I say that I’ve seen my fair share of things happen, but for some reason this was totally different. Particular drugs are way more legalized in Vancouver than they are in the United States and it was very apparent. The gentrification in certain parts of the city was nonexistent even though you could tell that the city was trying to clean up its act. I saw variations of drug use happen on the street and I felt very uneasy at times, so if this is something you are not used to seeing, I would consider staying somewhere outside of the city. I also advise to do your research on the neighborhoods in the city. Some areas are extremely nice and beautiful, Gastown, West Side, North Shore, Stanley Park, Granville Island to name a few. Areas to avoid would include the South, Chinatown and the East Side.
Packing: Now we went in early June, the 4th-11th, so I expected Summer weather, but because you are so far North and completely surrounded by water, it was actually pretty chilly. It ranged anywhere from 60-75 degrees while we were there, not terrible, but not shorts weather when accompanied with a breeze. My advice would be to pack layers because depending where you are in Vancouver you could be sweating directly under the sun or shivering in the shade. Bring comfortable shoes to walk around in because a lot of walking will take place and a lot of the excursions you do there are very outdoorsy, so you want to be prepared. Make sure to pack some cute going out outfits for dinner and drinks because the restaurant and night life scene is pretty trendy and always a good time.
Where to stay
If you are still with me, it means you are really interested and I’m glad! When we were lodging in Vancouver, we decided to go the Airbnb route because, since there was a larger group of us for the first few nights, we wanted something that was spacious, where we could be together and somewhere that felt like home. I am not even going to waste breath or words going into detail of the first place we stayed. It was not a recommendation I want to make. The picture on Airbnb’s website did not match the place we got. It wasn’t terrible, but also not worth it. It was also located on the East Side, which if you remember from above, is a place I’d avoid, so thank you, but next. After three nights, my aunt, uncle and cousin left, so my mom and I downsized to a smaller apartment (still through Airbnb) on the West Side and it was fabulous. The view was impeccable, we could see the water, we were in a great neighborhood, just a short walk away from Stanley Park and the building was super nice. I would recommend this listing in a heartbeat. I can’t find the exact one, but here is one super similar in the same building.
Overall, if you are planning a trip to Vancouver, I would recommend going one of two routes. Option 1: stay in a hotel on the West Side or near the seawall. This is going to be the nicest area if you want to be right in the city and there are a ton of hotel options available. I would go this route if I went back. Option 2: Stay in an Airbnb right on the seawall or near Granville Island. I think the Airbnb option for Vancouver would be best right on the outskirts of the city and not directly downtown.
Where we ate and drank:
Our food expedition on this trip was one of the best parts
of the entire seven days, so this is probably the section I am the most excited
to share. Here is a list of all of the restaurants, bars, coffee shops and
breweries we had the pleasure of going to while on our trip:
Tim Horton’s: The one place I think you can skip. They say the coffee is better than Starbucks and Dunkin…I have to disagree
Joey Restaurant: Perfect upscale, yet casual dining spot. We shared amazing Lettuce Wraps, Sliders and Pot Stickers
Verre: Gorgeous spot right on the seawall. Had brunch there one early afternoon with great cocktails and even better eggs benedict
Rodney’s Oyster House: This place was quintessential Vancouver. You have to get the oysters (duh), lobster rolls and bacon wrapped scallops. Also, all very attractive men work here…it was kind of weird
Tasty Indian Bistro: Had some amazing drinks and some amazing flatbread here one night after dinner. It’s also really beautiful on the inside, if we had more time, we probably would’ve had dinner here one night
The Sandbar Granville Island: Probably our best meal of the entire trip (close tie with the Malaysian restaurant). What didn’t we order here…my recommendation: Sit inside to take it all in and order the crab cake, some sushi and the seafood hot pot OMG
What we did
It was my mission to ensure that every day was jammed packed
with activities. I am a restless traveler. I have this innate feeling of a
ticking clock over the entire trip, so I find it imperative to see as much as
humanly possible with the time that we do have. Here are all of the fun sights
we saw and endeavors we partook in:
Steam Clock in Gastown – Swarms of people huddle outside to watch this clock whistle a tune every 30 minutes. It’s almost more exciting to watch people’s reactions than to actually gaze upon the singing clock
Wild Whales Vancouver – Whale watching is an absolute must in Vancouver. Any time on the water is a must, but especially with the prospect of seeing wildlife like ginormous whales in their natural habitat. We saw a mom humpback whale and her two calves on our trip as well as a slew of sea lions. Our tour guide Alan Chang is also a fantastic photographer, you can see his work on his Instagram here
City Tour – This was one of those coach buses tours that packs in many sights at one time. Perfect for us since time wasn’t on our side. Our tour stopped at Granville Island, the iconic Totem Poles and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was the coolest thing I’ve done in a while. The views were absolutely breathtaking, and the anxiety is thrilling. Here is the tour we participated in.
B.C Lions Game – This was more spontaneous and NOT planned, but that made this little venture that much more fun. After dinner one night, we saw some guy selling tickets and decided to take him up on his $30 for 6 tickets offer and watch the Canadian version of our beloved American football. It was so cool to see inside the stadium that we saw every night from our Air BnB and regardless if you’re a fan of the team or not, sporting events are always a good time in my opinion
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – Also another spontaneous adventure. On our city tour, we drove past the symphony building. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but our driver said the inside was one of the most beautiful concert venues. I was sold and bought tickets on the spot to see for myself. It was incredible because the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was celebrating their 100th year and we got to see their closing show. Dressing the part wasn’t half bad either
Seawall Bike Ride – My mom and I spent an entire afternoon taking a leisurely bike ride around the seawall. The winding bike path took you off the beaten trail and some of the sights were ones I’ll never forget. Take your time, ride at your own pace, stop every so often, this was totally worth it because you’re going to think you rode 20 miles when really, you’ve only gone about 10. All you have to do is download an app to rent a bike, all of the instructions are right at the bike stations all along the seawall!
Harbor Cruises – On the last day of the trip, my mom and I wanted to take it easy but still enjoy some true Vancouver sights. I found great reviews on Harbor Cruises and booked the Indian Arm Lunch Cruise for an afternoon of great food, great drinks and stunning mountain scenery. We love being on the water, so riding along the coast in between enormous mountain ranges, there was something so calming about it. Like time stood still. Mountains stretched farther than the eye could see, we stopped by an all engulfing waterfall to snap some pics and enjoyed a surprisingly delicious lunch buffet. The bar was serving Caesars, also known as an American Bloody Mary with Clamato juice. Such a wonderful day.
And there you have it! That right there is my six surprisingly delicious, gorgeous, curious, intense and wonderfully weird days in Vancouver. I don’t want to write off Vancouver. Reflecting back on this trip reminded me of how much fun I had and how beautiful it was at times. Not every place is going to be just like home, and it shouldn’t be. The best part of traveling is getting the opportunity to experience another way of life through other cultures’ eyes. And it was eye opening in that you quickly realize people don’t live the way you do. It’s not a bad thing, it’s actual quite outstanding. Although there were small logistical aspects I would alter about my trip, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. Vancouver you were interesting and absurd and outrageous, and now you are kind of missed.