Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tips For Making New Friends

As I've grown up, it has become more and more difficult to make friends. Maybe it's because I've become more judgmental or maybe because I'm just introverted or maybe it's the situations. Whatever it is, I've definitely been dealing with issues with making new friends. However, based on my social interactions and the friends that I have made, I've learned a few things about what works and what doesn't work in terms of making new friends.

photo via

Spend time with friends of friends.

Although you might be a bit nervous to mingle with new people, especially if you're not in school and don't have that ice breaker, a great way to meet new people is to spend time with the friends of your friends. You still have someone to fill in the awkward moments and help to break the ice, which makes the meeting a lot more comfortable. In addition, friends generally have similar interests. For example:

If you have similar interests with friend A and they have similar interests with friend B, then you're probably going to have similar interests with friend B. 

There are probably some scenarios where you wouldn't get along with friend B, but for the majority of the time, you would have some things in common with them. You're much more likely to enjoy spending time with a friend of a friend rather than a stranger, not to mention that you already have an introduction and can avoid an awkward first meeting.

Avoid Social Media Stalking.

When you meet a new person, the new default is to look them up. This means scouring their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, any social media that they have to find out what kind of person that they are. While this may be more prevalent among meeting potential significant others, it's still common to do this with potential friends. Maybe they have the most gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get along better with them. Checking social media before really knowing a person can really put a damper on a friendship because you have already made judgments, whether you realize it or not. 

Don't over-analyze people.

I am the QUEEN of over-analyzing people. I read into people based on their appearance, body language, habits, beliefs, interests, anything. I judge people based on the things that they say and note the little things that I like and don't like about a person. I know, I'm the worst. I think that this has been a consistent issue for me with making new friends, because I read into things too much. I am not a psychiatrist, so why am I reading into people so much? It's a habit that I'm trying to break. I think that it's me just being picky. I have this idea of an ideal friend in mind, but in reality, I need to start liking people for who they are, not who I think I want in a friend.

Think of it like a google search. Let's say that you write the word, "friend," in the search bar. Trillions of responses come up. Then when you categorize that further, to "perfect friend," it narrows it down to 10 million responses. More categorization, like changing it to "perfect friend in New York," it goes down to 3 million responses. 

The more that you analyze people and eliminate them based on small things narrows down the pool of people that you can potentially be friends with. Over analyzing people causes you to pick out the bad things about people and dismiss them quicker. 

Be open-minded.

It's easier said than done, but it's best to stay open-minded. It's just like dating, you don't want to judge a person merely on first impressions. When you meet people, try to keep an open mind. This connects back to not over-analyzing people, don't think about it too much and try to enjoy your time with a new person. Maybe the person seems a little weird at first, that doesn't mean that they're not worth your time. First impressions scare everyone and aren't always an accurate representation of who they actually are. Try to remember that when you're meeting new people and keep an open mind about them. Be willing to know more about the person and be willing to make anyone a potential friend.

Go to social events. 

Although sometimes I talk about how spending time with yourself is SO important, that doesn't make spending time being social any less important. They're equally important in your life. When in doubt, head to places that you know you can get a conversation going. Maybe go to that party, even though you only know a few people attending, or join a book club, or maybe take a class for something you're interested in. It helps if you attend social events that have some sort of thing binding everyone together, like a common interest.

For example, the book club, you can meet like-minded book lovers so that you a) have a common interest and b) have something to talk about. 

Social events may be a little awkward at the beginning, especially if you don't know anyone there, once you get past the awkward part, there are tons of opportunities for new friends. The main thing to remember at social events is to just go for it. Talk to as many people as you can, try to be outgoing, and make the most of them.

Don't be afraid to initiate the conversation.

As someone who is shy and introverted, I generally don't like starting up conversations, especially with a stranger. It's absolutely terrifying to me. However, as you grow up, you'll find that there are fewer opportunities for you to meet new people. It's not like elementary school where you were practically forced to talk to everyone there, leavng you with lots of friends and conversation starters. This is where I envy those that are outgoing and extroverted, because they can walk up to a stranger and start up a conversation. I like to fake it, because you know what they say, "fake it 'til you make it." I pretend that I'm more extroverted and outgoing (even though I'm anything but) to force myself to talk to someone new. While it can be scary to initiate a conversation, I say go for it, you might just find your new best friend. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chicago Travel Guide

If you haven't seen it already, I recently went to Chicago for the weekend. In fact, I even did a "Snapchat diaries" post on it, for you to catch up with my life. However, that post only covered the tip of the iceberg. I figured that it would be best to create a travel guide for future visitors to Chicago covering the best spots. I've visited Chicago quite a few times in the past, so I have visited a ton of the tourist attractions and there are definitely some that have stood out more to me based on my experiences. These are what I consider the must-do things in Chicago so that you can have the best time ever next time you visit.


The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago has such a nice variety of works. While it may not be the Met, it was actually the #1 voted museum in the world in Trip Advisor's Traveler's Chocie 2014. It houses some famous works, including The Bedroom by Vincent Van-Gogh, American Gothic by Grant Wood (that famous farmer pitchfork painting), A Sunday Afternoon on the the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, Two Sisters (on the Terrace) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte, and more. In addition, there are also some hidden gems that are just as amazing as the famous works.


How long you'll spend here: It's a pretty big museum, so I would plan out quite a bit of time to spend in there. For the average person, maybe the whole afternoon, but if you're a real art connoisseur, carve out the whole day. 

The Field Museum of Natural History

As someone who is not that interested in natural history, I was pleasantly surprised to say that I enjoyed spending time there. Obviously, if you're more interested in natural history, then it would be a ball for you, but even if that's not your thing, you can still enjoy yourself here. The Field Museum of Natural History has so many exhibits, from the largest, best preserved, and most complete T. rex skeleton, to Ancient Egyptian mummies, to a Pawnee Earth Lodge, gorgeous gemstones, a DNA discovery center, and more. You're likely to find at least one exhibit that you like, considering what a large variety that they have. There's some stuff about dinosaurs, some about ancient civilizations, science, animals, you won't be disappointed.


How long you'll spend here: Anywhere from a whole afternoon to the entire day. 

Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry has definitely been a childhood favorite of mine. I've visited a few times when I was younger and I LOVED it there. There's so much hands on stuff that makes it super kid-friendly, but they have such creative and interesting exhibits. It helps to capture the attention of people that aren't that interested in science and industry by putting a fun twist on it. There are so many exhibits, some of my favorites were the Silver Streak (one of America's first diesel-electric streamline passenger trains), Farm tech, and Yesterday's Main Street (an experience of America in the 1900s). Even though it's definitely more aimed at kids, I still think that I would love to return, it was definitely the kind of place that makes you feel like a kid again, even if you aren't one.


How long you'll spend here: Anywhere from the afternoon to the entire day. 

The Bean (The Cloud Gate)

Visiting the Bean is an absolute must. It's famous and well-known, and photographed about a thousand times. So why not jump in on it? Something about this mirrored glass distorting the city skyline (and for the totally cool selfies) brings so many tourists. The Bean was apparently the winner of a design competition and look at it now. If you're visiting Chicago, you can't not visit the Cloud Gate, or its other name, the Bean.


How long you'll spend here: You can literally spend about 10 minutes here and leave with the whole experience. 
What time you should visit: It's always crowded here, so if you're looking for the time for the perfect selfie, try visiting in the morning before it gets too crowded. 

The Chicago Cultural Center

This place is a hidden gem. I'd say that if you're a fan of architecture, this building is definitely a sight. It has a gorgeous design and not to mention some great art, whether it's a performance or their art galleries. It's best known for the Tiffany Dome, which I have to admit, is rather spectacular. This neoclassic building has it all, some great photo opportunities in front of the Tiffany Dome and some free attractions that you can take advantage of. The exhibitions constantly change, so if you're a frequent visitor of Chicago, you can still revisit it and have a totally different experience from the previous visit. Here is the list of upcoming events and exhibitions!


How long you'll spend here: You can spend anywhere from 15 minutes here to a couple hours. If you're planning on just seeing the building, it's a quick 15-20 minutes. However, if you're stopping by for an event of an exhibition, you'll probably spend a bit longer, especially if you like what you see.


Magnificent Mile

Even if you're not much of a shopper, you can still have fun at Magnificent Mile. Magnificent Mile is the 13 block stretch of North Michigan Avenue that runs from the banks of the Chicago River to Oak street on the north side. There are so many fun shops on the Magnificent Mile that are not your average stores that you would find anywhere. My favorite stores on the stretch include Eataly (which I went more in depth on in my Snapchat diaries post) and the Ghirardelli store. Big cities are so much fun for window shopping, especially because the stores are a lot bigger and the window designs are a lot more interesting.

ice cream at Ghirardelli's!

Explore the City Art

One great thing about Chicago is that there's tons of public art. There's the Crown Fountain (which kind of counts as art?), the Picasso, 1004 Portraits, Agora, and more. Here's a list of some public art in Chicago! In addition, Chicago has lots of wall art, which I am all for. I love how vibrant and creative wall art can be. I found this Chicago street art guide and there are so many hidden gems of art out there. You can definitely have a photo adventure and find as much wall art as possible and take a picture in front of every one. There's a lot more than what's on this list, so have a scavenger hunt with it!

Think the picture is stretched? Think again! This is part of the 1004 Portraits monuments!

The Chicago Riverwalk

Looking for a calm afternoon? Walk along the Chicago Riverwalk and take in the views. You can ride a bicycle, walk, sit, enjoy the river and the atmosphere. If you'd like to see the Chicago river and skyline with some great photo opportunities, there are tons of boat tours that you can take on the Chicago river and/or on Lake Michigan. I talked about my experience taking an architectural boat tour in my Snapchat diaries post, if you'd like to know more about this in depth. Whatever you end up doing, the Chicago Riverwalk is definitely worth checking out. Get some exercise while living for the city atmosphere. 


When in doubt, explore the city. The fun thing about cities is that you can walk around and get lost. You can discover hidden gems just by walking down the street and you can have fun just by being there. There are street musicians, fun public art, beautiful parks, and more. If you're visiting Chicago sometime soon and would like to ask for some opinions on tourist attractions, feel free to ask me! Comment, send me and email, tweet me, I would love to help out travelers! If you're not heading to Chicago, hopefully you can visit sometime soon, because it's definitely a gorgeous city. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why (and How) You Can Be Your Own Fairy Godmother

Everyone has heard of the famous fairy tales. They're classics for a reason. Whether it's from the Disney films, the original storybooks, or just through the tradition of sharing stories through the word of mouth, everyone has heard of these classics. The magical creatures and the happily ever afters transport you into another world, a fantasy world. It's a chance to escape reality. Although I would like believe in fairy tales, the sad thing is that they aren't true. There are no fairies, there are no princes waiting to sweep you off your feet, there are no magical creatures, and there are no fairy godmothers. However, just because fairy tales are fantasy, doesn't mean that happily ever afters aren't. Maybe it won't be as picturesque as in the storybooks, but happily ever afters do exist. Just because you don't have a fairy godmother to turn you into a gorgeous princess, doesn't mean that you can't live like one. 
I feel like in fairy tales, we often focus on the princesses, since let's be real, little girls and boys (let's not gender stereotype!) LOVE princesses. All of the favorite fairy tales in Disney movies and a ton of story books involve princesses. We're pretty much training to be attracted to the princess. However, I want to put attention on the unsung hero of the fan-favorite, Cinderella. (there are fairy godmothers in other fairy tales, but this is the most famous representation) I believe that the fairy godmother is a pretty cool gal. The fairy godmother may seem like a side character in Cinderella's story, but let's be real, the fairy godmother was the real MVP. She helped to make Cinderella's dreams come true and guides her along her journey. My new philosophy is not to aim to be a princess, but to be more like a fairy godmother. Why bother waiting around for a prince when you could be helping people and also making your own dreams come true instead? Maybe it's my inner feminist speaking, but I don't want to wait around for a prince and I instead want to focus on me and my personal dreams. So what better way to do that than to be my own personal fairy godmother?

So first things first, why would we want to be more like the fairy godmother? The fairy godmother is the kind of person that dreams big and delivers on those. Cinderella said that she wanted to go to the ball. The fairy godmother understood that, but she went above and beyond. The carriage, the dress, the slippers, okay, maybe she slacked a little on the midnight expiration, but hey, we're not all perfect. The point is that instead of fulfilling things halfway, she does entirely. She helps to guide people when they need help, which is where she got that "godmother" part. So why should you be your own fairy godmother? I'm sick of waiting around for things to just happen. I'm not getting any younger, after all. I know that we sometimes believe that our prince charming or a savior will come to help us. We believe that someone, even if it is a fairy godmother, will come to our rescue. So instead of waiting for my fairy godmother to arrive, why not just be my own? 

Find your own magic.

Unfortunately, we don't have the abilities that a fairy godmother has, meaning, we don't have magical powers, but that doesn't mean that we can't still work a little magic. I think that everyone has a little magic with them, we all have our own special talents, things that make us unique. Although I'm sure that lots of people out there are groaning and saying, "I don't have any special talents," that just means that you haven't found them yet. Honestly, I think that the best way to go when you want to discover what you can do is to step out of your comfort zone. Ever since I've started stepping out of my comfort zone, I've been discovering new things that I love. For example, blogging. I originally was nervous about blogging because it totally puts myself out there. However, stepping out of my comfort zone with blogging has led me to discover new passions, or the magic in me.

It's all about finding your talents. Maybe it's not as clear as you'd like to be, I mean, we can't all be science prodigies or popstars or mega-athletes. I'm not saying that it's not possible for you to be those things, believe me, it's anything but. What I'm trying to say is that maybe you're not good at all of the popular things. Just because you're not talented at something that most people tend to be talented in, doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have a talent. You simply have to discover it. Try out things that you would never consider or the lesser known things. Who knows? Maybe you'll discover a bit of magic within you.

Leave a trail of magic wherever you go. 

By this, I mean that you should spread kindness and share the love. Try to bring out the best in people, help them discover their magic, and use a little of your talents to be someone else's fairy godmother, even if it is just for a second. I don't mean that you have to take on someone to mentor them, even if it's just the tiniest bit of magic, it can still work its wonders. Maybe it's just telling someone that they look great today. Maybe it's doing a favor. Or maybe it's just holding the door open for a stranger. Anything that makes someone smile and makes their day just a little bit better. It's like a way of giving back.

Dare to dream.

I know that I mentioned previously that fairytales aren't real. And as sad as that is, it's true. However, just because there are no prince charmings and fabulous castles waiting for us, doesn't mean that we still can't dream about things that feel like they're out of reach. You can still dream, you can still have aspirations, even if they seem as impossible (or maybe more) than a fairytale. The difference between fairytale dreams and dreams in real life is what you do with them. You have a choice, you can either wait around for a fairy godmother to make those dreams to come true, or you can be your own fairy godmother and make them reality today. There is a difference between dreamers and dream chasers. Dreamers leave them as dreams, things that are only true in their imaginations. I'd be lying if I said that I never did that. There are about a million things that I have dreamed about and never acted upon. However, there's another type of people, dream chasers. These people turn their dreams into goals. Things that they will relentlessly pursue. Be bold. Be daring. Work hard, because in real life, you can't become a princess just by putting on a pretty dress. You need to work for your goals.

Be optimistic.

Okay, maybe the midnight expiration wasn't that great on the fairy godmother's part. However, she remained optimistic. Some people think that being optimistic is like going in with impossibly high expectations. However, that's not really the case. When you're optimistic, you believe that there's a possibility of success. It's being hopeful. The fairy godmother didn't know for sure that Cinderella was going to meet a prince and fall in love with him and she didn't really expect it either. She had hope that the night was going to go well, that's all. I think that one of the best things that you can do to really enjoy life is to look at things with a positive outlook, a growth mindset. You can look at things and say to yourself, "I can do it. And if I can't, I'll try anyways." Just because it may feel like there's an expiration on your growing success, doesn't mean that you should let your doubts plague your mind.

So maybe fairytales aren't real. But are the ideas behind them real? Absolutely. Fairytales are all about things that seem impossible but become reality anyways. Maybe there aren't any genies to grant your wishes or singing animals to do your chores. However, there are dragons to slay. There are things in your life that you will have to overcome. Roadblocks, failures, confusion, these are all metaphorical dragons that are just waiting to be defeated. But how can you do that if you're still playing the role of damsel in distress? You can't just wait for a fairy godmother to swoop in and save the day, you have to be your own, because you're in charge of your life. All you need to do is use a little magic. Or in this case, determination. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Best of the Internet

Happy Monday! Guess who is currently in China right now? Last Friday, I embarked on my trip to China. All my content has been pre-scheduled, so sorry for any lack of activity in social media, but I am SO excited about it! Hopefully I'm having a great time and taking lots of travel pictures. I don't know about what you're doing this week, but if you're hanging out at home instead of traveling, I have the best of the internet to keep you company! Even if you're not exploring a foreign country, you can still be out and about exploring some great online content.

@itssunnyrebecca

One // 12 Ways to Stop Feeling Jealous on the Internet

Ahh, the comparison trap. The internet is the biggest trap for comparing yourself to other people. Everyone seems like they have their lives together, they live the perfect lives, and seem to be so incredibly successful. I get it, on the internet, it's so easy to get jealous about what other people have. Whether you're a blogger that feels jealous about someone with more success or you're someone feeling jealous about someone else's beauty or anything along those lines, there are lots of ways that you can be jealous. This post mentions some ways that you can stop feeling jealous while surfing the web.

Two // Pity Party

This totally reminds me of a party for one, but maybe a bit more mopey. I mean, if you're going to wallow in shame, why not do it in style? This post on Oh Happy Day has the CUTEST decor and photos that will brighten up your day, even if you are feeling pitiful. If you're feeling down in the dumps, honestly, all you need is this pity party to make you feel a little bit better.

Three // Bloggers Get Butterflies Too (Why Blogging is Scary but Totally Worth It)

This post is honest and totally gets the realistic take on how bloggers actually feel. Bloggers can be scared, pressured, and, stressed. There are lots of fears that come around with blogging, because the thing about it is that it's like your inner thoughts are exposed for the world. It leaves you feeling vulnerable whenever you're honest and real. Blogging is scarier than people originally think it is. This post has some blogger takes and opinions on their personal struggles with putting themselves out there, telling other people, and more.

Four // Behind Eugene: The Making of a Viral Video

I watch Buzzfeed videos all the time. The content is entertaining and creative. The videos range from the kinds of things that just make you laugh to some serious topics like LGBTQ discrimination. This video goes behind the scenes of how they make videos. I loved getting to see the shoot and how they prepare for everything, I love getting to see behind the scenes types of things, whether it's videos, movies, blog posts, whatever. This video is both entertaining and also reveals a little about the industry.

Five // Science Says This is How to Recharge from Creative Burnout

I recently posted a post about what you should do when you hit a creative roadblock, since I've definitely been suffering from a lack of ideas. This article is a great extension of what I mentioned in that post, it puts science into play, if you're the kind of person that likes knowing the science behind things. Participants' creativity was tested throughout an experiment. It definitely puts psychology into play, which I found so interesting

What are you doing this week?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fruits + Stripes

Remember that one post that I had about making the most of your wardrobe? Guess what? I did just that with this outfit. This outfit definitely was not one of the things that I would have thought of right away, it's definitely a bit more unconventional and out-of-the-box, but so far, I am totally loving this look. I already had all of these pieces in my wardrobe, but I had never thought of putting them together. All you have to do is try out some new combinations and that's what this post is. 



I bet you're wondering, what makes this outfit unconventional? Well, this look is actually a crop top over a dress. I had seen a few other bloggers do this before, but I had never been able to put an outfit together like this before, since I usually don't wear crop tops. However, This look turns out to be seamless. The waistline on the dress is right at the same spot as the bottom of the crop top, so it almost mimics a top and a skirt. The stripes and fruit pattern go surprisingly well together, I mean, stripes go with everything. I love the fruit pattern of this dress, which is from Aritzia. It is definitely a little bit short for my liking, but the pattern is gorgeous! Obviously, the dress on its own is beautiful, but I like how the dress takes on a whole new look, maybe even more casual, with this styling. 

The crop top is from Forever 21, (here's a similar one!) and it literally fits perfectly. It's nice and snug, so that over the dress, it flows right with the dress, almost like I tucked a shirt into a skirt. Somehow, it tones down the look and makes the dress a lot more casual, since the dress actually has a sweetheart neckline, which is generally more formal. I added in the belt to cover up the line between the top and the dress, not because I really needed to cover it up, but because it helps to define things a bit better. 




I also added my recent go-to necklace, which I have been talking about constantly, this necklace from Charming Charlie. If I'm completely honest, this outfit probably would have still worked without it, but it was a nice touch. Since the top is generally simple, I figured that I could add a simple necklace to add a little more to the look. I've mentioned several times about how this necklace can add just a little bit extra, but not to the point that it's too much going on. 

Lastly, I'm wearing a pair of simple brown sandals from ASOS. They originally had gems on them, but a few fell off, so I decided to take them all off and go for a more clean look. The brown color of the sandals matches perfectly with the belt, so the look is clean and cohesive. These sandals are literally SO SIMILAR to the ones that I have, so if you're looking for some like these, this would be my suggestion.




Shop the Look

Crop Top: Forever 21 (Similar) // Dress: Aritzia // Sandals: ASOS (similar)
Necklace: Charming Charlie // Belt: ??? (similar)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What to Do When You Hit a Creative Road Block

I am a hypocrite. For the last few hours, I've been trying to brainstorm post ideas. The thing is that I've recently been suffering from a creative road block. Not just a temporary one, but for the past few months, I haven't been able to come up with what I would call my "best" content. I usually refer to my best content as my most creative content, most honest, and most real. However, I recently haven't been able to come up with ideas like that, which really strains me. If you've been a long-time reader of my blog, you might remember my post on why we shouldn't force creativity. If not, it's definitely something worth checking out, but the title basically speaks for itself. Creativity is something that cannot be forced, as disappointing as it is sometimes.


The thing about the blogging community and being an online creator is that there is a constant pressure to be producing new and creative content 24/7. The weekly schedule is great, it adds consistency for readers and helps me to establish a schedule to balance out my life and blogging, but in ways, it can be straining. For me personally, posting twice a week can often be a bit straining in terms of stress, on weeks where I'm super busy, it's pretty stressful to fit blogging into my schedule. There are also those other situations, like going on vacation, where the weeks leading up to it are full of a post scheduling frenzy, cramming in lots of work to make up for the lost time. So if we're supposed to constantly create amazing content, then what do we do when we hit a creative road block?

I wish that there was a clear answer, like 2 + 2 = 4, some foolproof formula for breaking out of your creative rut. However, that is merely a fantasy. There is no clear answer for how to get past a creative road block. All you can do is cope. I know, it's definitely easier said than done, especially with the aforementioned pressure of being a creator. So how do we cope with the creative road block and attempt to foster creativity?

Step away from the blog.

I know, it HURTS to do this. I know of a lot of bloggers out there that have taken blogging breaks when they hit a road block and come back with new ideas. However, I have not mustered up the strength to do it. I keep thinking about my pageviews, worried that if I take a break then my hard-earned growth will begin to decline. (an absolute nightmare! all the work gone to waste!) While it seems like in that time frame you may lose some less interested readers, is it really hurting you if in the end, you are able to create more creative content that you are actually proud of? You have to envision the short-term and long-term effects. Yeah, maybe the short-term effects may be some loss of readers. But is that really a bad thing if the long-term effects help to foster your creativity in order for you to make better content? Writing a fluff piece may keep readers coming in that moment, but if you're not proud of that post, then what's the point? It's not your best work. My point is that you should write what you're passionate about and allow the readers to come, don't chase after them if they're not interested. Take a break, refresh, and come back with new ideas, and let them come to you.

Go on an adventure.

Go out, get loose, and live a little! Maybe go on a photo adventure or try out a new activity, whatever you love to do. While it may feel like you're wasting your precious time when you can be productive, having fun helps you to get your creativity going, which will ultimately boost your productivity in the end. Not sure what to do? Here are some activity ideas for things to do in the summer! You can be a tourist in your own town, go to a waterpark, just find something that you'll have fun doing.

Don't brainstorm. 

What? Brainstorming is probably the most common thing to do when you hit a creative road block. I'm not sure about other people, but personally, I have never come up with a good idea off of brainstorming. All of my ideas have arrived unexpectedly. Brainstorming always leads to me thinking of ideas that have already been done or just causes me to feel frustrated about not being able to get creative. Try living your life and not thinking (or stressing!) about coming up with a good idea, let it come to you. For the most part, my advice to you would be to not think about it. It always leads to be overthinking things, which totally blocks my creative flow.


Let go of rationality.

We're taught to believe that it's best to think rational, to think critically about things. It's all that we've been taught during all the years in the education system. Think rationally. We're told to back things up with proof, be realistic, and not live in a fantasy world. While I understand the reasoning behind it, we're so accustomed to living like this that in a way, we kill our creativity. Sometimes it's okay to live daringly, live unrealistically, and explore the wonders. Move to the right side of your brain, less logically.

Spend time with friends.

I know that I said to let go of rationality and to stop thinking about it, but it's easier said than done. Spending time with friends is the perfect way to relax and get your mind off of brainstorming. Talking about things is great for getting your ideas going, even if you're talking about something mundane. Get some new opinions and thoughts and hopefully you'll be able to come up with something. Some of my ideas have come up from simple conversations, like lesson plans in school. Talking will get things going, kind of like a think tank, even if you're not discussing blogging. When you talk about things, whether it's things that you love, things that you hate, anything, you just might stumble upon that golden idea.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Snapchat Diaries: A Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend for the Fourth of July, I went on a trip to Chicago. It was a last minute, spontaneous trip, but hey, I wasn't complaining. I have been to Chicago numerous times before, so often that a lot of the places seem so familiar, the streets, the store locations, the museums, it felt like I had already done most of the attractions. Because of that, I didn't take a lot of pictures and stuck to a lot of iPhone photography and Snapchatting. I don't use my Snapchat everyday (although I would like to) because I feel like my life isn't really interesting enough to Snapchat the whole day. However, when traveling, it's a whole different story. 

What are Snapchat diaries? 

I've decided to create something new on the blog. Snapchat diaries aren't strictly limited to what I put on Snapchat, but the concept is the same. It's a way for me to share what happened/is happening in my life, in a casual way. It's my way of recapping an event or a trip or whatever exciting thing that happened. Snapchat diaries are kind of like travel diaries, but a bit more casual. I go more in-depth about the snaps that I posted and it's a great way for you to catch up if you haven't been so active on Snapchat!


What I Did:

Seeing as I've already seen a lot of the sights on previous visits to Chicago, the places that I'm mentioning are definitely a less popular than the normal tourist attractions. These spots would be nice places for you to visit if you're not a first time visitor. 

The Chicago Cultural Center

This neoclassic building was designed to impress and show off Chicago's sophistication. I've heard of "dress to impress," but this is definitely the first time that I've heard of "design to impress!" Top architects worked to make this building beautiful and they did not fail. The Cultural Center is home to the world's largest Tiffany dome, a stained-glass dome. In addition to the beautiful building, they also have some nice free art exhibits. While we were there, they were setting up for a wedding underneath the Tiffany dome, (what a great wedding venue!), so we looked around and then browsed the exhibits. The main exhibit was closed, since by the time we arrived it was about 4:45-5:00, but we visited the exhibits that were open. Personally, I wasn't a fan, but the exhibits change pretty often. 

The Tiffany Dome in the Chicago Cultural Center!

Exploring the Parks

In Chicago, there's a lot to simply explore. We walked around the park and by the water just to relax and take in the atmosphere. We walked through Grant Park, saw the Buckingham fountain, hung out at Queen's Landing, and saw the Petrillo Music Shell. At the time, they were preparing for Taste of Chicago, which I'm SO disappointed that I couldn't stay around to see. I just might have to make a visit to it in the future, my inner-foodie is excited simply at the thought of it. Cooking demonstrations, food, musical performances, it sounds like so much fun! I'm definitely bookmarking it for a future visit! 

Chicago, Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain

The Chicago Botanical Gardens

During the Fourth of July weekend, the Chicago Botanical Gardens was hosting an art festival! I love art festivals, it's a great way to spend your time, and since most of them are free, you can browse freely. It's kind of like visiting an art museum or a gallery, you can check out all the art, even if you don't plan on buying anything. However, my family has been looking for some new art pieces to put up in the house, so we were out on the prowl for potential art pieces. Art festivals pretty much always feature local artists, so it's also a great way to show some love out there to them. In addition, since it was at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, we got to spend some time checking out the flowers and the landscaping. It was like a two-for-one deal, the art festival and the gardens! What I found particularly nice about the botanical gardens was that there were lots of bodies of water. The water with the flowers and landscaping made it a lot more beautiful. 


Shopping

When in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile is what it is, magnificent. What I love about bigger cities is that there are a lot more specialty shops that you wouldn't find just anywhere, such as the M&M store, Dylan's Candy Bar, Garrett's Popcorn, and more. In addition, since it was the Fourth of July weekend, there were lots of sales to take advantage of. I ended up not buying anything (I have mixed feelings about this, I saved money, but didn't end up with any cute purchases), despite the sales. Zara was having a great sale, which ended up in literal chaos in the store, but I couldn't find things in my size, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, I was still able to browse other favorite stores, such as Anthropologie, Bloomingdale's Home, Crate and Barrel, Nordstrom Rack, and more. 

Anthropologie!

The Chicago Architectural Boat Tour

Okay, I know that I said that I wasn't going over touristy stuff, but for some strange reason, after all of my many trips to Chicago, I have never been on the boat tours. The boat tours go throughout the river so that you can see the city, some of them have tour commentaries and some of them don't. The one that we went on was an architectural boat tour with Wendella Boats. Our tour went through the river and then through the Chicago locks to the lake. The tour commentary included a bit about some of the architecture of the buildings as well as some of the history of Chicago. It made the trip more interesting, since I'm actually very interested in these kinds of things. I had never been through the locks before, and if you don't know what they are in terms of water transport, what they do is they raise and lower ships and boats. Often different bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes, have different water levels. The locks close in around the boat and then either raise or lower the water, depending on which direction the boat is going in. That was definitely interesting for me, since it was the first time that I had experienced something like that. We went for a 6:00 boat tour, which ended up being delayed until 6:30. Because of the wait time at the locks, we ended up being out on the water from 6:30 to 8:30. That meant that we got some time on the water with the sunlight and some with the sunset. 




Eataly

One spot in particular that my family LOVED, Eataly. Eataly is like an Italian marketplace, they have restaurants, coffee bars, bakeries, specialty groceries, ice cream, cafes, and more. There are other locations of Eataly in New York, many in Japan, Dubai, and more. They had some books on Italian cooking, a Nutella bar (with crepes!), a gelato bar, all kinds of things! They even had groceries, which weren't you typical groceries, they were the specialty products, ones that you wouldn't be able to find in grocery stores. We ended up buying a lot more than we expected. We stocked up on some lesser known pastas, pappardelle and bucatini, as well as some pasta sauces. The things there are definitely on the pricier side, but specialty groceries always are. I'm excited to try out the things that we purchased! Never before had I realized how much excitement I had for Italian food. This honestly had to have been one of the highlights of the trip, it was definitely a new experience for my inner-foodie. 

Where + What I Ate:

Usually, my family always forgets to make reservations at restaurants, and since the city is so packed, there are always waits for all the restaurants, leaving me to not have a chance to go to the trendy restaurants that everyone is talking about. However, this time I did my research and made reservations ahead of time.  As a foodie, I take eating very seriously. 

Lou Malnati's

 I discovered this restaurant on a multitude of food blogs and travel sites, saying that this restaurant was THE place for incredible Chicago style pizza. If you don't know what Chicago style pizza is, it's basically deep dish, with a thick crust. Unfortunately, like most of the Chicago pizza places, Lou Malnati's does not take reservations. We figured that if we got there early then there wouldn't be a wait, that was wrong. We arrived at around 5:45pm and had to wait for an hour before being seated. Even at 3pm, (we walked by on a different day) we noted a line already forming. Talk about popularity! Lou Malnati's definitely had the most interesting pizza that I have tasted (and I've tried my fair share of pizzas, from New York pizza to authentic Italian). The crust was thick, which I expected, and resembled a pie crust. The edges were crisp and pastry-like. The pizza was definitely busy. I ordered the Malnati Chicago Classic, it had toppings that I like, and the famous buttercrust! It had so much cheese and sauce and sausage that it was definitely rich. There were a lot of flavors going on at once and I'm not sure how I felt about that. It was so filling that I was only able to eat one slice. Granted, I generally can't eat a lot, but I was surprised that I was so full! We also ordered the Malnati salad as an appetizer, and honestly, it was SO good. I'm not even much of a salad person, but the sweet vinagrette dressing tasted delicious. I'm not a fan of the sour dressings, and this sweet dressing was perfect! Overall, I'd give it about 3.5 stars, (I'm a tough judge). I really enjoyed the salad and I have to admit that the pizza is creative, but I'm a thin crust kind of person to begin with and it was a little too rich for my liking. 

Stan's Donuts

I discovered that there is a plethora of specialty donut stops in Chicago. So of course, I had to check it out. I originally wanted to try out the Doughnut Vault, but it was too far from the hotel, so we decided to opt for Stan's Donuts, which was only a few blocks away from where we were staying. First impressions, I LOVED the decor in the shop. It definitely had a retro theme going on. At the entrance, there was a wall of kitchen aid mixers, all in various colors, mainly pastels. I thought that it was such a cute way to decorate, it added color and was so creative! Inside the store, they went for a mint green and pastel pink theme, two colors that I adore. We walked in and grabbed some donuts, I got the nutella pocket donut, which was basically a chocolatey donut filled with nutella. It was definitely a bit more pricey than Dunkin Donuts, the standards are $1.85 each, the specialties are $2.60 each, and the "dough boy's best" (the signature donuts) are $3.60 each. (Here's the menu if you're interested in the types of donuts they have and more about pricing.) While it was a little pricey, I think that it was fun to try out some fancy donuts. After eating that donut, I've been craving donuts ever since and I never crave donuts. If that doesn't say anything, then I don't know what does!

   

Roti: Modern Mediterranean 

I honestly don't have much to say about Roti, not because it was bad, but more because it wasn't necessarily outstanding. Since the Chicago Botanical Gardens are slightly out of the city, we stopped by Roti on the way back. The concept is a lot like Subway or Chipotle, you pick what you want and then they add it for you as they go down the assembly line. I ordered a chicken kabob on pita bread. I think one of the benefits of Roti is that the meat they use is better quality, there's grass-fed beef and antibiotic-free chicken. In addition, the pita bread is gluten-free and they use organic and/or GMO-free ingredients. If these are the kinds of things that concern you, then Roti has it covered. 

RPM Italian

Definitely a bit more pricey if you're on a budget, but RPM Italian had delicious Italian food, including handmade pasta. If you believe that handmade pasta tastes the same as grocery store pasta, you're wrong. Handmade pasta always has a different texture and often has a different thickness as well that adds onto the flavor. RPM Italian doesn't seem too expensive at first glance, but if you're a heavy eater, it can rack up quickly. The portions are small, so they're meant for you to order a bit of everything, kind of like a multi-course meal, where you would eat your appetizer, then the pasta, then the meat, and then the dessert. We ate dinner very early, since it was the only reservation that we could get if we wanted to arrive punctually for the boat tour afterwards, so we didn't eat that much. Instead of ordering the meat, we all just ate pasta and ordered truffle garlic bread. I actually love truffles, which is strange considering that I don't like mushrooms and they're in the same family. Truffles add such a distinctive flavor and always taste good with rich or cheesy foods, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the garlic bread tasted more like plain garlic bread and I couldn't taste the truffle, which was a bit disappointing. However, it still tasted delicious, I love garlic bread anyways. I ordered the pappardelle bolognese as my main course, and as I mentioned before, the handmade pasta definitely added a unique flavor. In addition, instead of ground beef like normal bolognese, this dish had short rib ragu in it, so it wasn't your typical bolognese. Overall, I'd give RPM Italian about 4 stars. I hadn't had a chance to try out more there, so maybe this isn't that accurate, but I liked what I ate there and would possibly visit again. 

pappardelle bolognese

Eataly

I previously mentioned Eataly in the shopping section for the fantastic selection of specialty Italian groceries. However, the food there was just as exciting. There was a nice selection of restaurants there, although we ended up not eating at the restaurants, but going for the gelato bar. I was torn between gelato and the Nutella crepes, but I went for hazelnut gelato. Since we didn't get dessert at RPM Italian, we decided to stop at Eataly for dessert and of course, the aforementioned groceries, after waiting a bit to digest. I can never eat dessert right after a meal, I always have to wait a bit first. 

Places I Would Like to Eat At:

Before the trip, I did a lot of research on the best restaurants in Chicago. As a foodie, I take food very seriously. Since it was only a weekend, I didn't get a chance to visit all the restaurants, but based on my extensive research, these sound like some great restaurants to look into for a future trip to Chicago. 

Little Goat: We originally made reservations here as a backup to whether or not we could get seats aat Lou Malnati's, since the only available time slot at Little Goat was 8:15pm, which was definitely a little late for dinner. However, I would still LOVE to eat there! Maybe for brunch, maybe for dinner, or maybe just for some baked goods, but it seems like such a cute place! This diner-style restaurant by Stephanie Izard is definitely going on my list of "to-try" spots for my next trip to Chicago. 
The Doughnut Vault: I mentioned before that I wanted to go the the Doughnut Vault but it was a little too out of the way, but I would still like to try it out sometime! I found lots of good reviews about it, plus the storefront looks adorable! Definitely bookmarking it for the future. 

   

Overall, I had a good time in Chicago. I had fun exploring some of the places that I have yet to see and doing some things that I haven't experienced before. Plus, I had a blast trying out lots of food and exploring the shops. I might do a future post about the attractions that I believe are the best, kind of like a guide to Chicago, so let me know if you would be interested in reading about that! 



In the meantime, add me on Snapchat so you don't miss out on my next adventures. I try to post on Snapchat as often as I can, but let me tell you, the travel Snapchats never disappoint.