26.2 Miles of Commitment

So hard to believe it’s already been a week since the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon where 45,000 people from across the world raced through the streets in the city of neighborhoods. 

Part of the route runs through my own neighborhood. This year I was nestled between miles 6 and 9 to the East and West. I had a few friends in the race this year who I could track progress for along the way. I saw several others I knew and could cheer on during that beautiful fall Sunday.

Whenever I watch big marathons or parades or large scale celebrations with participants from all walks of life, I get so emotional. There’s something about the power of community that gets me in my feelings. I shed a few tears of joy as my boyfriend and I stood and clapped for both strangers and friends.

I was watching people in the midst of accomplishing something major…26.2 miles worth of sweat, grit, self-talk, joy, pain, victory. A metaphor for life like no other. Alongside other spectators, I spent much of my time cheering along and encouraging people I didn’t even know. 

There were people of all ages, fitness levels, races, religions, genders, etc but we were all there to rally around the same cause. We all wanted to see people accomplish some variation of the same goal — to finish and to do so safely. 

It was a beautiful day and so many accomplished goals. My favorite part was feeling part of one positive community and I hope for more of that in my town and yours. 

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Hosting my first Wine Tasting Party

Over the past few years, I developed more interest in wine. Visited some good wineries out of state, tried my share of great varieties, subscribed to Wine Spectator magazine and recently attended a local wine & sweets stroll event checking out cool neighborhood wine stores and restaurants. After that last event, I was like, I could totally do this. I really want to do this so I had this is great idea to host my own wine tasting party. 

Of course, Pinterest is always a fun place for me to start gathering visuals on my ideas. I start there then make ideas into my own style. These are all pics from my party. Hope you enjoy and use some ideas to host your own! 

I decided to host a blind tasting. I chose 6 whites and 6 reds. I put together an Evite, shared with a few people in my family and had the absolute best time. My boyfriend was instrumental in helping me not only plan the event but executing on the vision and it was amazing, even better than I hoped for! We make the best team.

I covered every bottle’s label and ordered them so we would taste from white to red, light and delicate to dark and rich. I wanted people to just rely on their intial thoughts and impressions when sniffing and tasting. I didn’t want people to make assumptions based on labels. People were stumped and surprised and had a lot of fun in the process!

When people arrived, I started them off with a Mango white wine. Everyone got a small tasting glass of their own to use then take home. I made the bottoms with chalkboard paint and had people write their names with a cool white paint pen. When they left, everyone took home in a gift bag with a cute little magnet about wine. I used a “It’s wine o’clock somewhere” stamp I found at Michaels to decorate the gift bags in a red wine stain dye.

Of course, you can’t have drinks without eats. We kept it light and did snacks instead of a full meal menu. We had so much chocolate. I made chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered pretzels. There was Columbian dark chocolate and some even more delicious dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt from Trader Joe’s. Plenty of Ghirardelli milk choclate squares and a bunch of dark chocolate covered cherries. Red wine and chocolate mix great and it was delightful. 

We also had plenty of cheese — brie, smoked gouda, parmesan, apple-smoked gruyere, blue, gorgonzola, honey goat and sharp cheddar. Fruits, bruschetta, prosciutto, dips and salads. 

My brother-in-law is awesome and brought these great wine tasting note sheets. People could take notes on which wines they did and didn’t like. 

Because it was a blind tasting, I also made people guess a lot. I told them to write down what kind of wine they thought it was…Riesling, Cabernet or whatever else. They got a bonus point if they could guess who makes the wine and another bonus point if they could guess what region of the world the wine came from. My sister guessed the most right and won a bottle of champagne.

Of course, people also brought snacks and more wine including my brother-in-law’s home brew wine which was delish.  All in all, we had a great time and the party lasted until after 4am, ending with a taco run, really great conversations and lots of empty bottles. Cheers until next time!

Travel Untangled: Memphis, Tennessee

A few months ago, I had some vacation days to burn and some summer to enjoy. I asked my family to join me on a road trip to Memphis. 

We could spend time with my Uncle Sonny, a retired military vet who spent many years working in the Department of Corrections. He likes structure and routine but loves when family come to visit and disrupt all that. We had a great time. We could also…

.. See one of my fave former college professors and let her meet the cuteness that is my nephew. Then we could for sure…

 

…enjoy some sights and scenes of Tennessee. On our trip, we even took a few minutes to marvel at the mighty Mississippi River which we crossed at several points. We will definitely be back though, we didn’t make it to Beale street and some of the music tours we wanted because of several crazy, stormy weather days. 

One of the places we visited that I always wanted to check out was The Lorraine Motel. This is the location where civil rights activist and leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was shot. 

In addition to a memorial for Dr. King, there is also a Civil Rights Museum taking visitors through the history and journey of blacks arriving enslaved, enduring slavery and the on-going civil rights movement, to present-day, of African-Americans in America. A powerful mixture of triumphs and setbacks, the memories cascade even today since many of us or our parents and theirs are alive and saw the up and down times throughout history. We don’t have to look far however since America still isn’t very far on the spectrum of, “all men are created equal.”

Each room in the museum takes on a different piece of history. It’s always emotional for me, but I held myself together. That is, until I walked into a room with a song playing over the loud speaker and a video with lyrics on a giant screen. They were singing, “We Shall Overcome”….and I lost it. A ball of tears. I guess the outpouring of feeling overwhelmed me. Each word as powerful and relevant TODAY as decades prior.

It was quite an experience and I would recommend you take a visit to the Lorraine Motel someday. 

No matter who you are, where you are from, how you were raised or whatever else, we can teach ourselves (our kids, spouses, friends, neighbors, politicians, families, coworkers, etc) to be/do better because we know better, to really love people – all people, to show kindness and humility in our humanity. We can absolutely change the world. 

“I may not get there with you but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land” -Dr. King

Final Civil Rights Museum room has quotes from many world leaders, including President Barack Obama

Hope you enjoyed the recap of my trip to Memphis! That place is full of history, music, great food, good fun and I can’t wait to be back.

Chicago Goods: Museum of Contemporary Art

In the last month, I have been to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) located downtown Chicago twice. They currently have Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, on exhibition with The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

Murakami has an interesting mix of artistic displays, ranging from traditional Japanese paintings to fun animated characters to kooky yet darkly playful looking, almost monster-like characters to pop art collaborations with musical artists like Kanye West.

MCA is located just behind the Water Tower Place, a mere block from the Magnificent Mile. Most days they are open until 5pm with the exception on 9pm on Tuesday and Friday and being closed on Mondays. Suggested regular admission price is $15 for adults. Illinois residents are free on Tuesdays which is also a treat because during the summer, MCA hosts Tuesdays on the Terracewhich features live jazz from 5:30-8pm, has drinks for sale and space for people to mingle or chill on their back patio area. After the jazz is done, visitors have an additional hour to walk through all open exhibits before the museum closes at 9pm. 

Murakami’s The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg came out of the Japanese folk saying that an octopus in distress will chew off a damaged leg to ensure survival, knowing that a new one will grow in its place. 

A really profound concept when you think about it.

“The exhibition chronologically traces the many reinventions and refinements that have fueled Murakami’s career. I have now gone through the exhibition twice and I don’t think it will be my last. I find something new and interesting every time and there is plenty more to discover. Though some of the pieces have aspects that are plain weird, when I think overall about his message, I get it. I love that the exhibit goes in chronological order so you see the evolution of Murakami’s craft and mental state as he reinvents and refines over time.

I know the Art Institute of Chicago gets a lot of love (and it should!) because it has a lot more historical pieces but this is another option for people looking for something different in Chicago.

Murakami will be on display until September 6. Enjoy! 

Book Review: The Mastery of Love

“The only way to master love is to practice love. You don’t need to justify your love, you don’t need to explain your love; you just need to practice your love. Practice creates the master.”

A friend of mine recommended this book by Don Miguel Ruiz, said it changed their relationship which was fascinating enough a statement for me to check it out. 

This book, also boasting as, “A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship,” was quite a read. I highlighted so many strong takaways and nuggets of wisdom. 

“The whole world can love you, but that love will not make you happy. What will make you happy is the love coming out of you.” 


Essentially Ruiz focuses on fear-based beliefs and assumptions that sabotage love and cause drama in out relationships.  He discusses control, accepting & loving ourselves to love others and how perfection leads to self-rejection. 

“Whoever wants to suffer is welcome to suffer, but we don’t have to suffer.”


There are three masteries that guide us towards happiness, freedom and love. The Mastery of Awareness, the Mastery of Transformation and the Mastery of Love which is the result of achieving the first two masteries. 

“If you go into a relationship with selfishness, expecting that your partner will make you happy, it will not happen. And it’s not that person’s fault; it’s your own.”


I will say some parts at the end gave me pause when Ruiz tries to solidify examples through character stories from ancient India and Toltec tradition but other than that, I was tracking along with a great deal of what he was saying. 

“In the end that is what we are looking for: to find ourselves, to be ourselves, to live our own life, instead of…the life we were programmed to live.” 


I can see how this book can positively impact a relationship. I have already used some of the key wisdom points in my own. 

“When you hear your heart guiding you to your happiness, then make a choice and stick to it.” 


Communication and the desire to understand our significant other can help us elevate one another in love. We practice love. We are able to be vulnerable, open and honest without fear. 

“The relationship you have with yourself is reflected in your relationships with others. If you reject yourself then you will make the assumption that the other person will reject you for the same thing you reject in yourself.” 


You are what you believe you are. Be love for it’s what we all need most. 

Travel Untangled: Starved Rock State Park

Illinois is an interesting state. Most people who don’t live here know of Chicago, maybe Springfield then the rest fades into oblivion. Well, I suppose some who do live here also think that way. 

Over the weekend I got to visit a natural treasure of the state that I would recommend to residents and visitors alike: Starved Rock State Park.

Council Overhang

Starved Rock is a little less than a 2 hour drive from Chicago…located in Oglesby, Illinois. On almost 3000 acres of land include miles of hiking trails, canyons and waterfalls…something for all ages. 

The local towns to Starved Rock are the size that city-people like me call “charming.” On a shuttle tour, we learned the grain silos in town are considered the skyscrapers. Imagine my surprise. 

Random grain silos from Google lol
Sears Tower photo taken by me Monday during Chicago River Architectural Boat Tour

I had the best, most relaxing experience during my visit to Starved Rock. 

We hiked through a few canyons, saw some beautiful waterfalls flowing into hidden dips and valleys from the Illinois River and learned of the history of Starved Rock, named for a rather tragic 1760’s incident in Native American history. 

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

This family trip was also my nephew Malik’s first big adventure. In fact, our group ranged in age from 2 months to 60+ and we all enjoyed every minute. 

The park is free to enter and has free parking. They offer guided hikes, guided trolley tours or people can go explore on their own. They said on a busy holiday, they can get 400,000 visitors. They have a hotel and cabins on site for booking. They also have campgrounds for anyone interested in roughing it for a night or two under the stars. There are restaurants, live music at The Lodge and during our stay, we saw two weddings get hosted. 

I’m telling you, this place has so much to offer. 

Here are some more photos from our trip. Visit Starved Rock! You won’t be disappointed. 

Me & Dad with one of our guides
Me in Ottawa Canyon
Mom & Dad enjoying the view of the canal

Above is a victory photo.  My mom has been through several health things in the last few years including hip replacement surgery in February on Valentine’s Day. She was unsure if she could handle the hiking and so were we but she did it! This particular canyon and hike through Ottawa was a lot of climbing up and down steep steps, taking extra care in slippery and muddy areas, stepping on jagged rocks to cross water in our paths and she friggin (I wanted to use a stronger word here but I know mom will read this lol) rocked it ALL!!! I’m so proud, as we all were. This was a major accomplishment on the journey and such an awesome photo to take!

Loved ones
Sister & Nephew
Me posing with my waterfall friend

Until next time! 

Summer is Here!

Here in Chicago, summertime weather seems to has arrived and I am over the moon.
Though summer officially lands June 21, just last week, I was able to pack my winter coat away…finally. I wish I were joking about that. Even last month we were still having temps range from 40s to 80s which just makes me crazy in the head. 

I already declared that I want to be outside as much as humanly possible. 

Chicago has so many festivals, concerts, shows, rooftops, events and many of them are free or cheap, at least the ones I keep an eye out for. 

Downtown isn’t the only part with things to offer.  Tourists and locals can get to know city areas even better by stopping by the hundreds of neighborhood festivals. 

This weekend I enjoyed the Chicago Blues Fest, one of the world’s largest, free festivals celebrating blues music performed by outstanding musicians and artists. 

I want to soak up the sun (bathed in my sunscreen of course) and be at the lakefront all the time. The next few weeks include camping trips and roadtrips and fun in the sun. 

If you live in a part of the country like me where you get 4 seasons and it’s not divine all the time, enjoy summer while we got it! The next few months will be the perfect mood booster to prepare for whatever winter brings us later this year.  

Have a great week and get some outdoor time in. Fresh air is everything and good for the body, mind and soul.