Day 1: A Beautiful City

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Today was a glorious day in Chicago.  The sun was shining, there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was in the mid-60s.  Perfection.  As I walked through downtown today, all I could think was how lucky I am to be able to live, work, and go to school in a city as beautiful as this, and that makes me so happy.

What I Liked In March

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Another month has come to a close.  March is an odd month in Chicago; the weather is wacky, so it can be freezing cold one day and warm and sunny the next.  This felt like a short month some how, but there was still a lot going on.  Here are just a few of my favorite things this month:

thawing out // Chicago finally crawled out of the deep freeze….sort of.  There were still some chilly days, and some snow, but we also experienced the first 70 degree day of the year this month.  It’s so refreshing to see people getting out and enjoying the city again.  And it’s nice to tuck that puffy coat away for another few months.

going Irish // this year, I took in Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities.  The city has historically had a huge Irish population, and they do it up right with the dying of the Chicago River and a parade down Columbus Street.  Seeing the river dyed was fun, and I probably wouldn’t go to the parade again (too many people!), but it was a lovely morning, and an even more lovely afternoon spent at a pub afterwards.

bring your A game // a friend of M’s and mine recently move to Chicago with her boyfriend, and this month we had them over for a game night.  It was so much fun to have a couple of drinks, talk, and play a few board games.  I definitely want to make this a monthly thing.

library living // since the weather has warmed up, and leaving the apartment doesn’t seem like such a chore, I’ve been going up to the Northwestern library a couple of days a week to get some work done.  I love the quiet, but relaxed atmosphere of the Deering Library.  Plus, it looks like Hogwarts.

loitering // one of my favorite books this month was Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio.  He’s definitely quirky, but once you put yourself in his headspace, you won’t want to leave.  I definitely recommend this collection of essays if you’re into nonfiction.  Some other favorites were At Large and At Smallby Anne Fadiman and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

gearing up for Easter // Easter is coming this weekened, and I have loved seeing all the cute Easter decor at big box stores.  I also indulged a bit and picked up some of the darling LUSH Easter bath bombs and melts.  They had some in the shape of eggs, bunnies, even a bunch of carrots.  They all smelled so refreshing and light, great for spring, and the shapes were just so precious.  I’ll be sad to see them go after the weekend!

chicagoversary // this month marked 3 years since I moved to Chicago.  I talked a bit it a bit in yesterday’s post, but I can’t believe it has been three years.  I grow to love this city more and more everyday and am excited about spending another year here!

100 Happy Days // this is cheating a bit, as I haven’t actually started yet, but some of you may remember that last spring I participated in 100 Happy Days, which is basically a challenge to post a picture to social media everyday for 100 days of something that makes you happy.  It can be anything, and I loved doing this challenge.  It’s a great exercise in daily gratitude and positivity, so I’ve decided to do it again! I’ll be starting on April 1st and posting the pictures here, as well as my Instagram.  Follow along, or better yet, have 100 Happy Days yourself!

Happy Anniversary

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This past week marked the three year anniversary of my move to Chicago.  I honestly cannot believe that I have lived here for three years.  That seems like a very long time, and like no time at all.  Isn’t it funny how that works? I have grown to love this city and I could see myself living here for a long time.  There are some things that I’ll never get used to, like the ridiculous winters, but honestly three out of four seasons in this city are magical.  Spring is so beautiful here, and I feel like I appreciate the newly green leaves and the budding blossoms so much more after the cold winters.  Summer is marvelous, and it is still a new feeling to be able to be outside in the summer and not want to die of heat exhaustion.  Fall is my favorite though, with the beautiful colors and crisp winds off the lake.  How could I forget the lake.  Though I have zero desire to actually swim in it, I adore Lake Michigan.  I have never lived close to a large body of water until moving to Chicago, and I am just enamored with it.  Few things are more calming and relaxing than walking the shoreline and looking out at the blue water that seems to go on forever, or watching a thunderstorm roll in over the water.  I love the festivals, the thriving downtown, the people, the neighborhoods.  I was initially apprehensive to make such a big move, to leave the south where I’d spent the first 23 years of my life.  It scared me a bit, to be honest, but I am so glad I made the jump.  Here’s to another year, Chicago.

Hey there, weekend

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Happy weekend, every one! Is it just me, or has this been an exceptionally long week? It felt like a long one for some reason – maybe because it snowed again this week.  I am looking forward to the weekend, when it will hopefully be warmer, so I can get out and enjoy this lovely spring!  I don’t have any big plans for the weekend, which is just the way I like it. I’m hoping to squeeze in a little writing time, and maybe a little shopping time.  If it warms up enough, I want to take Ein (my corgi) to the dog park at the end of the block, and maybe take a walk to get coffee or tea, or to the lake front.  I haven’t been to the lake since we moved to the north side, so a trip is overdue.  This weekend is also Palm Sunday, so I’m planning to find a service to take in. All in all, it should be a nice relaxing weekend, hopefully with a splash of productivity thrown in.  What’s on tap for your weekend?

Springing Foward

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Of course, as I write this, Chicago is making me a liar and the skies are getting ready to let loose a few inches of snow.  That doesn’t change the fact that it is now officially spring, which funnily enough I have always thought of as my least favorite season. I’m not entirely sure why I gave it that classification, but maybe it was because there was no reason to move it up my list.  Fall has always garnered the top spot, because I love all things pumpkin, and fall foliage, and crisp, windy days.  Since moving to Chicago, the milder, bright sunny summers have garnered the number two spot, followed by winter, because even though it can be harsh, snow and sparkling lights will never fail to excite me.  So that leaves spring coming in last, I guess out of necessity.  I can’t remember really being excited for spring, or anticipating it the way I am this year.  I’m finding myself invigorated by the slowly warming temperatures, the longer hours of sunlight, seeing more people getting out and enjoying the city.

Chicago is beautiful in the spring.  Lake Michigan ditches it’s grimy, muddy winter hue for a more sparkling, deep blue.  There are tulips everywhere.  Everywhere.  I’ve never seen so many tulips in so many colors, planted in all the flower boxes along all the sidewalks.  Things feel vibrant, new, refreshed, colorful.  It’s nice to shed some layers, to go outside with bare arms and legs, to order iced tea and walk along the lake front trail.  I think I’ve given spring a bad rap all these years.  I feel so energized by the new season this year, a lot of which I attribute to more hours of sunshine in the day, and just more sunshine in general.  Though I am still missing that hour of sleep we all lost a couple of weeks ago, I am ready to spring into this new season and enjoy that fresh feeling of ease that comes with the season.

Happy spring!

a fresh dose of color and life lives in these blooms.
a fresh dose of color and life lives in these blooms.

March 2015 Birchbox Unboxing

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Happy almost spring! I am so excited that it is almost spring now, more so than I have been in quite a while. I don’t know about you, but I felt like this winter was a long one.  Chicago is finally beginning to thaw and come out of the deep freeze.  Until living here, I never thought I would consider 45 degrees “warm,” but it honestly feels that way when you’ve gotten used to sub-zero temperatures.  The sun has been shining more, and now that daylight savings time is back in effect, it’s lighter out longer and just feels so refreshing.  Of course, what better way to welcome a new season than with a new Birchbox?  March’s box finally arrived at my house, but before we delve into this month’s goodies, let’s see how I ended up liking Feburary’s box.

My favorite products from last month were the amika hair mask, theBalm lip gloss, and the Juicy Couture perfume sample.  The hair mask not only made my hair feel soft and smooth, it smelled amazing, and the lip gloss is a great natural, everyday color.  The perfume sample was light and fresh, perfect for transitioning to spring.  The Juice Beauty cleanser and the Dr. Scheller lotion were both busts.  The cleanser did what I thought and broke me out, and the lotion was so thick and sticky that I couldn’t stand having it on my hands.  Three out of five is not bad though, and overall I was happy with my February box.

On to March!

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So the theme for March’s box is “Creativity,” which being a creative writing student and all-around creative type, I am totally on board with.  Not gonna lie, I’m not a huge fan of the box patterns this month.  There were three different tops and three different bottoms, and you could get any combination of tops and bottoms.  They’re all basically the same, just in different colors: one blue, one red, and one green/yellow. They just aren’t really my taste, and frankly don’t scream “creativity” to me.  But to each their own.  I still appreciate that all year Birchbox is changing it up from their usual brown craft paper boxes, and sending patterned, colorful boxes.  That said, I like the green/yellow box the most, and that is the one I got.  And I love that I lucked out with a pink bottom that matches the pink detailing on the box top.  But enough about the box – on to the samples!

My first sample this month is Elite Therapeutics Rosemary Eucalyptus Body Creme. I do love a good lotion, and this one is the perfect size to toss in my bag.  It’s made with all-natural and organic products, which isn’t necessarily something I seek out, but it’s cool when that works out.  The scent is definitely rosemary and definitely eucalyptus.  I’m not a fan of eucalyptus normally, but the rosemary really provides a nice balance.  Texture wise, I think this will be a hit.  It’s light weight and not greasy, but still feels really nourishing and moisturizing.

The next sample is It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product.  I’ve seen so many beauty YouTubers talk about this product, so I’m thrilled to get a sample.  It is pricey at $18 for a 4oz bottle, but the sample size is a generous 2oz, which is really fantastic.  This is a leave-in conditioner that is supposed to address pretty much any damage your hair has.  I’m hoping this will help get my ends back in shape after the long, dry winter.  It also smells so good.  It smells almost exactly like the Herbal Essences Long Term Relationship shampoo and conditioner I currently use.

Up next is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid.  I sampled an anti-wrinkle serum from this brand back in August and I really liked it.  This says it is a leave-on exfoliant that wipes away impurities for smooth, even-toned, glowing skin.  So it is a toner.   I’m slightly hesitant about this because it does say it is salicylic acid, which I don’t typically get along with, but I’m definitely going to try it because I do like the brand quite a bit.

My next sample is the first time I’ve actually wondered, “what was Birchbox thinking when they sent this?” It is the Roloxin Lift Revitalizing Facial Masque Treatment. I got two single-use mask packets.  This is a mask that is supposed to give you the look of a face lift for 24 hours.  It sounds a little too good to be true to me, and even if I did like the product, 10 single-use mask packets costs $110.  I’ll try it, but I’m pretty sure based on the full-size price alone, this is going to be a pass for me.

My final sample is Smashbox Cosmetics Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Stain in Coral. I am all about a good lip stain, and I have seen this one from Smashbox so many times and toyed with getting it, but I never have.  This is a cute little mini-size, and the coral color is a pinky coral (as opposed to orangey). It’s really the perfect shade for spring.  It is insanely pigmented, and not streaky at all, plus it doesn’t feel tacky or sticky on the lips, and it isn’t drying like some long-wear lip stains.  It also has a bit of a cake batter / vanilla scent to it, which I’ll never turn down.  This is definitely going into my lip product rotation ASAP.

So that is my March 2015 “Creativity” Birchbox! Overall, I think this is an amazing box.  Aside from the face masks, all the products I got feel tailored to my beauty needs and style, and I feel like it’s a good variety.  Some skin care, some hair care, and some makeup: the perfect trifecta.  If you like what you see and want to get your own Birchbox, it is a $10/month subscription service.  You can pay monthly or pay for a full year up front.  Everyone gets 4-6 different samples each month, tailored to the beauty profile you fill out. You can also review your samples to earn Birchbox points.  Birchbox has the best points system, hands down.  You get 10 points per review and 100 points  = $10 to spend in the Birchbox shop on full size products they sample.  It’s like they pay you $4-6 every month just for taking your box.  If you’re interested in learning more or signing up, you can click here for more details, or just go to Birchbox.com.

 Have a happy (and creative) March!

What’s In My Bag // Work & School

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Being a graduate student, I have the luxury of scheduling my work when I want to. Having total control over my daily schedule has it’s perks, but it also has drawbacks.  Sometimes, working from home starts makes me feel too cooped up and claustrophobic.  Plus, there are so many distractions at home – chores, errands, dogs, television, the list goes on.  I am my most productive when I get out of the house, and that means packing up the essentials I need when I work and heading to the library or to a coffee house. I haven’t been much for leaving the house during the winter, since it’s just been so brutally cold, but now that it is starting to warm up and feel more spring-like, I’m more inclined to go somewhere to work during the day, so I wanted to do a quick post on what’s in my bag for school and work.

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a cute, but functional tote // this is perhaps the most essential item.  While I do carry a large, tote-like handbag, I prefer having something a bit more sturdy for taking back and forth to the library.  I love my canvas Scottie dog tote that I got from the bookstore of my alma mater, Agnes Scott College.  It’s big and sturdy enough to tote my laptop and a few books, but not so big that I have room to take a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

laptop & case // I actually don’t always take this with me, but most of the time my MacBook comes with me, kept secure in a plain black laptop sleeve.

reading material // there is always a book (or two) in my bag.  If I’m taking a class, it’s usually whatever book is assigned that week, or the course reader.  Right now, it’s my current for-fun read, The Best American Essays 2012.

planner // it’s easy to keep track of your calendar on your phone or through Google, but I just can’t make the jump to digital organization.  I feel naked without my old-fashioned paper planner.  This one is by May Designs.  This year is my first time using May Designs, and so far I am loving it. It’s small enough to be super portable, but big enough to write down everything I need to.  Plus, I love how customizable the covers are.

notebooks // I will never be able to abandon paper notebooks, so even though I bring my laptop, I always have at least one (usually 2 or 3) notebooks with me.  They are where I make notes, and a lot of times if I’m stuck on a piece of writing, I abandon my laptop in favor of writing things out by hand.

important cards // very utilitarian, but completely necessary.  Never leave the house without my student ID for library access and my Ventra card for the L trains and buses.

headphones // these are cheap, noise-canceling Sony headphones, which are great if I am in the mood for some tunes while I work, or if I just need to drown out the noise.

lip balm // libraries are notoriously dry places, and nothing drives me more nuts than dry, flaky lips.  I always keep my EOS lip balm handy.  This is a medicated, tangerine scented one.

pens pens pens // confession: I’m a pen hoarder.  I just love pens, especially if they are in fun colors.  I can never decide what pen I want to use, and I like options, so I usually bring an assortment, plus a highlighter for good measure, since you never know when you might need one.

post-its // another confession: I’m also a post-it note hoarder.  I cannot get enough of them, and they come in so many fun colors and prints. Plus, they’re actually useful, so I don’t feel guilty going overboard on purchasing them.  I’ve been loving these little rectangular shaped ones lately.  They’re the perfect size to write a quick note, but they don’t take up too much space when I stick them in a book.

Not pictured, but also essential: My wallet, sunglasses or an umbrella (depending on the weather), a scarf (for drafty libraries and over air-conditioned coffee houses), a water bottle, and a granola bar.  Gotta keep that energy up!