Laissez les bons temps rouler! Beads, bourbon, beignets, pralines, po' boys, and a beautiful wedding. I just returned from my first trip to Nola after watching a childhood friend exchange vows with her (now) husband in an elegant and loving wedding ceremony. They lead their own second line, and wed in the beautiful backdrop of the Audubon Tea Room at the Audubon Zoo. I feel so fortunate to be apart of their special day as well as fall in love with the same city in which they fell in love in. Spending a whole day eating dishes mostly made of shrimp (cajin shrimp, shrimp po' boys, shrimp jambalaya), indulging my sweet tooth at the infamous Cafe Du Monde, scarfing down one of Johnny's Po' Boys, and mississippi mud at Laura's Candies was just the beginning. Visually drinking in all the local artisans at the beautiful Jackson Square, exploring the eerily intriguing Madame LaVeau's VooDoo Shop, learning about the history of Mardi Gras and the effects of hurricane Sandy at the Louisiana State Museum, and having my first mint julep at Pat O'Brien's, allowed me to experience all the different colors the city paints with. We also threw in a night at the casino and had just a delicious and joyful rehearsal dinner at Evangeline. You'd thin one would be quite exhausted from all these adventures but I'm just hungry for more! I'm so happy I was able to visit this eclectic city and get a taste of all is vibrant flavors; I can't wait to go back again.
It's that time of year when there's a slight crisp in the air, pumpkin becomes everyone's favor flavor, and you favorite shows come back on the air. It's time to bust out that stove popped popcorn and cuddle up on the couch to these scintillating sitcoms:
The Son's of Anarchy: Ok, last season was pretty violent and the start of this one is no different. However, it's the final season and I have to stick it out with them. I cannot wait to see if everyone's secrets will be revealed and how these crazy dynamics will play out. As the body count continues to rise, so does the drama and personal turmoil.
The Walking Dead: It won't make it's debut till next month, but I am counting down the days! Last season, we saw everyone's individual personal journey as they made their was through the devastating loss of their home and safe haven. Now that everyone reunited in last season's finale, I'm ready for some kick-ass action and resolution. The gang's back together again!
Pit pulls and Parolees: The one reality drama I'm really excited for. I'm making a trip next month to New Orleans and I'm hoping I'll have a small chance to meet these wonderful people who do enormous amount of work in order to help man's best friend, and the men who just need a little help. I'm guaranteed to cry in almost every episode, but I also am guaranteed to hear a great story based on selflessness and love.
Broad City: I'm ready for this crazy twosome to do it again. It's raunchy, real, and reckless; and I wouldn't want it any other way. If you're not familiar, Abbi and Ilana are two single gals in New York City who deal with city life as young twenty-somethings the only way they know how, with each other. Through awkward roommate boyfriends, power outages, and crushes on guys down the hall, these ladies know how to spice up city life.
Tight pocketbook=amazing summer of fun. Having a tighter budget sometimes proves to having more exciting and adventurous experiences. This was the first summer my boyfriend and I were living in the city together (yea!), so I wanted to make it something special. After having an amazing road trip and adventure out west earlier this summer, our funds for more experiences under the summer sun was running low. This allowed for: fun filled picnics on the dog beach with my love and my little furry love, free yoga classes in Millennium Park with old friends (sun salutations among skyscrapers is invigorating), champagne dinners at home, champagne happy hour dates (followed by dinners at home) with new(er) and cherished friends, discovering my city's history with coupon tickets to the Chicago History Museum with that same old awesome friend, pretending I'm Katniss Everdeen with discounted archery lessons with my sister for her birthday, perusing the natural prairie landscape of Illinois in the heart of the city in Lurie Garden, finally using those tickets I received as a birthday present from one of my good friends to see one of my idols, Katy Perry (thank you thank you thank you Vicki!!), and winning tickets to a music festival (I literally hugged the woman who presented the tickets to me).
My boyfriend and I were so fortunate to win those tickets to North Coast Music Festival; we were able to close the summer on a bang by seeing some of our most favorite musical groups in a hot, sweaty group of hundreds of other people. Including Snoop-a-loop!
Point being, don't let low funds stop you from having fun. Explore your city! Find those free days, scour those websites for the best deal, find your favorite restaurant recipe and make it at home for half the price. (Side Note: Yellow Tail makes a decent sparkling rose that has a re-sealable cap (what!) and a bottle is less than $10! It was my best kept secret this summer.) Enjoy your time, seize every moment; you deserve it.
This past spring, I had the honor of standing up in one of my oldest and most cherished friend's wedding. This fall, I'm standing up in my cousin's wedding as well as being invited to two other weddings. I am so happy to be invited to experience such a joyful day for all these couples, but it does make for a crazy/busy summer and fall. There are outfits to pick out, bridesmaid dresses to try, presents to buy, and travel to book. On top of that, this month, along with my mother and sister, we hosted the bridal shower for my beautiful cousin; so there were venue's to book, games to plan, prizes to get, decorations to create, and gifts to find. Seems like it would leave your head spinning. However, through all of the timelines to create in order to get everything done, there is one universal message you will find: love. All of this is done for love. I consider it such an honor to be invited to the special day for all these couples. To witness the confession of their love for each other now and always. Some would say it is too much to do all this; they might not want to make an expensive trip out of town for a wedding. To me, for a person to take the time and consideration and decide they would like me to attend such a momentous occasion, the least I can do is show up! I already have the experience of regret of not making it to a friend's wedding in the past; I hope to never have that feeling again. One will never regret a positive experience and weddings are nothing but filled with joy and elation. Soak it in!
Through Tupperwares of home,-made fruit plates, bags of nuts and pretzels, bottles of water (ok, and a few bottles of Coca-Cola), and a few bags of beef jerky, all whilst laughing to our favorite comedian's stand-up, the boyfriend and I made it through a cross country trip to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and back! Surprise: we still like each other! When I told friends that our plans for Vegas had changed, and that we had decided to drive to our destination, most we worried that we would come back tried, angry and ready to take a vacation from each other. Honestly, I was nervous myself. Our deparure date seemed to be approaching quickly and I still have this lurking suspicion that I had not prepared enough (despire being fully packed). Newsflash Cassandra: if you've been driving since the age of 16, you don't need to prepare for a road trip. You've already done it. This one, is just going to require way more (sometimes dirty) gas station visits, and more naps in the car. However, we had an amazing time and I believe it took a great deal of teamwork and common goal of, 'we're gonna make this the best trip ever' that helped us out. The reason for this cross-country excursion was the amazing experience of finally making it to the Electric Daisy Carnival electric music festival in Las Vegas, NV. It was a cosmically electric experience; I'm only sad we couldn't have stayed longer and enjoyed more (we were only at the festival 2 days; we spent the remaining time with family). Also, it was my first trip to Vegas, so I tried to fit in as much adventure as I could in a short period, which can still leave your head spinning after you get home!
As it it the season for vacations and adventures for most, I did come up with a few tricks/tips to survive a long road trip and to make the most of your experience:
Laugh as much as you can. We have discovered that you can create Pandora radio stations based on favorite comedian. I ended up laughing so hard my stomach hurt and a little drool was coming out of my mouth because it wasn't closed I was laughing for so long. So instead of scrolling to find just the right station or re-playing your 'road trip' playlist again, laugh your way through the great plains (they're boring enough and need some livening up).
Pack a lunch. I can't tell you how boring convenience store food can be after you 3rd stop at a gas station. Especially to keep you energized and focus, fresh fruit and veggies can be a much better resource; home-made guacamole is also much more satisfying than the next bag of chips you buy. A small cooler or lunch box can keep them cool for the 24 hour trip!
Stop to wonder. "Horses!' was something I yelled out repeatedly on our drive. Taking few moments to gaze and take pictures of the beautiful landscape you're passing through can make the trip more special. How amazing and fortunate that you're seeing new parts of your home country and enjoying new geographical features. Coming from the flat Midwest, I was so happy to experience the mountains and deserts of the West.
Make that car comfy. After all the prep for the trek, I forgot a pillow! A cross-country trip and I forgot an essential piece of napping equipment. I had to improvise by bunching up a shawl; probably the one time I cursed myself on that trip. If you're spending over 2 hours in the car, make it comfy and cozy with your favorite socks, sweaters, leggings and blankets. HOWEVER, don't underestimate the power and versatility of a good shawl/wrap/sweater. Oh, you're traveling to 100 degree weather? Bring a shawl.
Don't oversleep; don't go sleepless. You're ready to make this vacation the best one yet. Not happening if you're in bed getting some extra shut eye. During vacations is the only time I utilize the excuse, 'I'll sleep when I'm dead.' (Not justification for a late Tuesday night out at Tommy Bahama-themed Karaoke bar--go home!) However, you don't want to be a zombie and absolutely lack-luster about the amazing things you're exploring. I actually left the trip feeling under the weather, and unfortunately, my immune system did seem to bounce back throughout the trip. However, making sure I got my full 8 hours of sleep, allowed me to be energized and ready to do as much as I could and all that I wanted to do. You don't want to constantly caffeine dependent in order to experience your time off.
Group Huddle. 'But I don't want to!' Don't end up talking and sulking like a kindergartner on your trip. Taking a few moments in order to go over what you want to do for the day with your fellow vacationers can really help group morale and ensure everyone is getting out of their adventure that they want to. Saying, 'I was thinking of doing this? What did you want to do?' can make all the difference. Nobody wants to spend their time with a Debbie Downer. They want an Energetic Ethel! (Hey, I tried making that work).
Again, Vegas was a true dream come and I hope everyone gets the chance to experience something new and exciting this summer. Travel is the only thing you spend your money on that makes you rich ;)
The List! When and Where of the Freebies
Museum Free Days:
Museum of Science and Industry:
Art Institute Chicago:
The ones I'm looking forward to:
Chicago Blues Festival (6/13-6/15)
Burger Fest (7/12-7/13)
West Fest (7/12-7/13)
Taste of River North (7/18-7/20)
Chicago Craft Beer Festival (7/19-7/20)
Wicker Park Fest (7/26-7/27)
Fiesta del Sol (8/1-8/3)
Parks I love:
Henry C Palmisano Nature Park: Natural prairie landscape with beautiful views of the skyline
Hamlin Park: Whoo Hoo! A Swimming pool. If you want that true summer staple.
Lincoln Park: Nothing is better than the beachfront
Beaches I love:
Montrose Beach: A popular north side beach with a relaxed family atmosphere. Plus, a dog beach too!
North Ave Beach: If you want to have a party, you're in the right place.
31st Street: Quite secluded with beautiful views of the city
As some of you Chicagoans have noticed, the weather has made a nice jump from fall-like to summer! We really didn't have much of that fun, spring jacket kinda of weather; however, most are not complaining. We are happily shaving below the knee, slapping on that sunscreen, and strapping on that sports bar (who wants to sweat through their favorite lacy brazier?!?), and running towards summer with arms wide open. There are so many possibilities in the summer, everyone is ecstatic. The city has put on her favorite slinky dress, blew us a kiss, and we can't keep our eyes off her. However, the best things to do in the city are the free and/or relatively cheap things. Here are things that are on my 'libre' list this summer:
Festivaaaallllss: Literally every weekend. EVERY weekend from May 31st till September you can go to a festival in the city. Whenever people come to visit me in Chicago, they say, 'Yeah, I wanna come up when there's a festival.' Oh really? Come up every weekend! Most of them just require a $5 suggested donation (yeah, a required suggested donation doesn't make sense to me either), and if you grab a bite before you go, and bring a bottle of water, you'll get to spend your money on something you really want. Like a braider bracelet, or the best bbq chicken sandwich in the city. Whatever you think is worth it ;) THE FESTIVALS I WANNA CHECK OUT
Beach Day: I feel so privileged that I get to experience so many different geographical terrains all in one state. To me, it's amazing that I can hit the slopes in the winter, explore trails and caves in the fall, and become a beach bum in the summer, all within a driving distance. Bring a few snacks, refreshing beverages, a beach read, and maybe even a frisbee (yeah, you'll toss it around for a little bit); call a few friends and you can have a full day of sun, sand, waves, drinks, and fun. Plus, you'll probably sleep realllly well that night. Oh, a relaxing day and a restful sleep? Do it. MY FAVORITE BEACHES
Museums: The city of Chicago is graced with some amazing museums filled with a plethora of knowledge. And they have free days! For Illinois residents, you can wander around museum all day for free on certain days! Of course, it's usually during the week, but if you have a random vacation day floating around, I can't imagine a better escape than lazily walking through great halls of knowledge expanding your mind and sparking your soul. WHO HAS FREE DAYS
Picnics: Again, after that freezing winter, we are taking those leisurely walks, and preferring public transit just to have a few more minutes soaking up that goreous sun. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than eating outside. Besides that parks located by the beach fronts, there are a few other parks around that city that boast some amazing views or cool shade. Bring a mini grill, a blanket, a cooler, and your favorite thing to grill on the bar-b-que (whether hot dog OR veggie burger) and enjoy those outdoors. MY FAVORITE PARKS
It's summer blockbuster season and I can't wait. Honestly, I believe it's why movies are made. To take us on these epic adventures with the best technology available that makes a feast for our eyes!
Movies I can't wait to eat my Sour Patch Kids and cold Coke with:
Neighbors: This movie looks absolutely hilarious and I feel like it's been such a long time since I"ve seen a REALLY good really funny movie at the theaters. I can't wait
22 Jump Street: I loved how the first movie didn't take itself seriously and I hope the sequal won't as well! It's a hilarious comedic duo that I hope hasn't lost it's edge
Transformers: Age of Extinction: The large explosives, the sci-fi theme and story line, the energy and the massiveness of the whole thing makes me so excited. I watch these movies anytime they're on tv. It's the summer blockbuster. One day, when it's just too hot outside, you'll have massive fun watching this in the cool a/c.
Maleficent: Sleeping Beauty was my favorite movie as a child. Well, let's be honest, it still is. I'm so excited to see this story re-imagined in live action with some amazing costuming, make-up, and special effects.
Chef: I think this will be a great feel good movie. The cast looks amazing and I hope it allows me to leave the theatre happy and hungry for some goo d food truck fair ;)
Obvious Child: I love seeing Jenny Slate's comic genious on 'The Kroll Show' and I cannot wait to see how it translated on the big screen. I'm sure it'll be full of fearless comic choices that'll leave you rolling on the floor.
Entertainment I'm enjoying on the couch with fruit and Cool-Whip:
The Leggo Movie: (Film) Not originally on the list but everyone's been talking about it! I have a good feeling that it will live up the hype
The Grand Budapest Hotel: (Film) Wes Anderson. That's all you have to say.
True Blood: (TV) It's the final season!!!! I can't wait to see where this goes and how they are going to wrap up the series. I have only read the first book so I have no idea where it will go but I can't wait!
Orphan Black: (TV) It's a little like Alias but the story line is sooooo much more amazing. I don't want to give away too much, but if you like sci-fi, spy, action with a kick-ass female lead you MUST watch. Thank you BBC America!
It's that time of year. That time, where are primetime passions leave us and sail off into that summer siesta sunset. Our shows are ending! HOW will we preoccupy our time?! I may not be a master of style or a professor of beauty yet, but there is one thing I'm great at: watching TV. I could watch TV and film all day. Literally, all day. I'm not just talking about binging on the new season of your favorite show that just came on Netflix. I'm talking home improvement, movie, talk show, movie, primetime, late night, reality, and probably another movie type of TV watching here. I love watching these stories. That's why, ever since I could remember, I always knew I wanted to perform. I wanted to be the one to tell the stories. I wanted to take people on a journey, and maybe, bring a little happiness or escape from the stresses of their daily lives. Therefore, I've continued to cultivate my craft by absorbing as much of it as I can.
If you have OnDemand or DVR, I would suggest catching up on some of these beauties, or put them on your list to wait for when the season comes out on Netflix:
The Mindy Project: This show makes me so happy. I think Mindy Kaling is an amazing writer. If you watched The Office, you will no doubt enjoy seeing Mindy's writing come to life again. She has the amazing ability to bring to light the flaws we have as men and women in a comical and endearing manner.
Parks And Rec: If you don't watch this show, I don't know if we can be friends anymore. If you know me, you know that I idolize Amy Poehler (along with her fellow comedienne, Tina Fey). Amy brings the character of Leslie Knope to life with such amazing comedic ability. Set in an office setting, the rest of Leslie's co-workers bring individualized humor in a quirky and relatable fashion. The character of Leslie is a wonderful role model for all women. Plus, it makes me kinda interested in government....kinda.
Revenge: My guilty little pleasure. Yes, there's a few actors on there in which I'm not totally impressed with, and some characters I wish the writers would have killed off already; however, there is the amazing premise of revenge! How will she finish off her master plan?! And, boy, does Madeleine Stowe have an amazing wrinkle-free angst-filled stare that, along with her wardrobe, will leave you breathless. Fingers crossed the show only lasts one more season; or else, this plot will be carried on unnecessarily long.
Vampire Diaries: Laugh all you want but I am sucked into this show, and you will be too! Yes, it's a teen vampy drama, but I love sci-fy story telling. It's typical scenarios set in a make-your-own-rules fantasy atmosphere. Anything can happen! How can you not love that?! Yes, Nina Dobrev has a few bad acting habits (as do a few other actors), but she is gorgeous and show always has plenty of eye candy.
Vice: If you're not watching this documentary show, you should be. They showcase the idiocracy of the issues we have as a modern world. We still have mass class differences? People don't have food everyday? There's still ignorance on violence against women? We havent' made a non-lethal drug legal? YES. And Vice does a great job of informing you about it. Knowledge is power.
Like the flowers that I am hoping will pop up, my wardrobe is ready to bloom. Although black is the most abundant color in my wardrobe, I am not an neutrals girl; I love color! I try to utilize a different focus color each day. Currently, I'm hoping the peaches, fuchsias, and greens I'm wearing with eventually turn my surroundings around as well. Layering with my dresses is something I'm exploring as well. A cute cropped sweater tucked into a wide banded belt is an amazing way to bust out those dresses early and still keep them functional and fashionable. Also, I am loving on orange at the moment. It is reminding me of the Orange Dreamsicles I am ready to eat! Put that spring in your step and thrown on something colorfully delicious.