Seek out those creative places

Dear Adventurers,

Long time no see! Are you ready for your next adventure? Don’t forget that we are the adventurers who blaze a trail so others can follow.

You might know that love to spend time in nature, with the trees and mountains around me. The company of nature reminds me of our place in the world. But I also love to look at the design and interior of cities and buildings. I enjoy seeing all new places because they give me an opportunity to see the world through new eyes. Sometimes, the great outdoors is much closer than you think. Just step out the door!

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The sounds, the smells, the brisk air and all the things that cannot be bought.

I would like to recommend you visit these cool places when you come to Chicago, fellow adventurers.

Give us those blue skies: The Robey

Are you ready for the summer sunset? Let’s check out the Robey Chicago. You might know it is my secret spot. I love to stay there to see the city skyline on its rooftop, touch the blue skies and witness the transition of four seasons.

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 Couldn’t get enough of this view.

Although it cannot compare to other luxury places in this city, when I stay here I truly forget the long Chicago winter. Here, you can explore the neighborhood and feel closer to this city, seeing another side of it.  Stop by and you will have this feeling: It is home away from home. 

I like beautiful places in walking distance of my home: The Hoxton, Chicago

It has been said: 

“The details are not the details, they make the design.” 

I cannot agree more. 

The Hoxton just came to Chicago a few months ago, but it caught my heart already. You will find an innovative and sophisticated visual experience that showcases the creative reach of Chicago’s art community here.

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Who says you cannot find a jungle in the city? Stay at the Hoxton to get your city break. Don’t forget to see the rooftop.

The dreamiest interior: The Langham Chicago

A cute pink taxi welcomes you outside this hotel, ready to start your experience “Langham style”. Summer is a wedding season; do you think this could be the location of your dream wedding? It is not only a romantic place for a wedding reception, but it also is a gorgeous place to stay and enjoy. The hotel has so many wonderful details throughout, including some magical installations and clever design features. You can enjoy timeless elegance, marvelous city views and the finest flavors here.

 

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The magical installation makes a fairytale come true.

The afternoon tea here is the best tea ever. I can really enjoy a fulfilling afternoon here, drink my cup of tea, hang out with friends and share creative thoughts. Please put an afternoon tea here on your list of things to do in Chicago.

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Sometimes, we need a little luxury in our life.

I am fan of the outdoors, but I also love to explore great building and interior design. So step out the door and tour these stunning spaces surrounding you.

It is time to turn toward adventure. 

 

A Floridian vs Midwesterner state of mind: The Beach

Surf approaching waves with a calm heart and grace.

As Floridians, we love to immerse ourselves into the beach and sunshine: we walk on the soft sand, dip our feet into the water, and see the sky on the same horizon as the beach. It seems that we can almost touch the clouds, feel calm and relaxed, listening to the sound of ocean waves. We are summer friends. It is simple, but the beach is one of the most important parts of our everyday life.

Midwest and Chicago are winter friends forever. But in Chicago, we do have local “beaches” on Lake Michigan, but the water is from the lake, not an ocean. Chicagoans love to dip their toes into the cool waters and silky sand, and enjoy outdoor activities on this “beach” in summer. But I cannot call it a “beach”.

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As a Chicagoan, you call it a a beach. But Floridian don’t really consider this a true beach, although it has sand and water. It’s just not a beach to us because it is missing the ocean and sounds of ocean waves.
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A Floridian dips her feet in the lake and has fun, but still misses her ocean.

Braving the bitter cold and stepping outside in all my layers to stay warm, I think I’ve become a penguin. But I realize something interesting: A Floridian and a Midwesterner have different ideas about a beach.

For me, Florida has the real beaches, which include the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. These are some of the best and famous beaches in the world, from Pensacola to Daytona Beach and from Siesta Key to Miami Beach. Each coastal oasis has its own vibe.

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One of the most impressive things is that they have different types of beach sand. I’ll never forget my first steps onto the soft pure quartz beach at Siesta Key near Tampa Bay. Sand artists come here to make gorgeous and amazing sand sculptures in contests.

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I am very proud to introduce my real home’s beach to you, especially to Midwesterners. It is common to see a fishing pier extending far out into the water, with the soft blue sky and clouds as a backdrop, and sea foam and white caps in the ocean as the waves break over the sand.

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The beach” opened in Chicago recently. It is an immersive art installation, which consists of a large, open room filled with more than a million antimicrobial and recyclable plastic balls, along with deck chairs, lifeguard chairs, umbrellas and signage that mimic the sensation of a day at the beach. Ha ha! I was diving in the BALL.

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Do you have a beach feeling, Floridians? It is all beach-themed art.

Chicago has many cool things, but it doesn’t really have a beach. Ha ha! So the best way to escape the bitter cold winter is to enjoy the REAL beach! Welcome to my home state!

We are in love with hot chocolate

Happy 2019! As the new year stretches out before us like a winding path, I thank you for joining me on the journey. I welcome 2019 with an adventurous and happy heart!

2019 is the year of chasing sweet-tooth satisfaction. The cold never bothers me, and it gives a good excuse to drink sweet hot chocolate. I declare that hot chocolate season is officially here! Let’s drink more COCOA in the winter wonderland. 

Some like it hot, but we like it HOTTER: Bombobar

When I heard this name for the first time, I expected their chocolate would be like a flavor bomb explosion. The first time I went there, I ordered their s’mores hotter chocolate, and I had a surprise: all the creams are on top along with a mini doughnut, really like a bomb. I had never had this treat before. It is definitely a super sweet drink, but sometimes you need sweeter and hotter in a cold winter.  

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Address: 832 W Randolph, Chicago IL, 60607

At the beginning of 2019, I went there again. They have added a new, even hotter chocolate: Party Monster and Salted Caramel. I like the salted caramel better, with its marshmallow, caramel popcorn, cotton candy and chocolate covered pretzels mixed together. It makes the hot chocolate powerful and sweeter. I like this sweet thing so much.

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Please forget the sugar and heavy calories; enjoy this heavenly drink.

If you don’t like super sweet things, I recommend that you try the Apple Cider. It is a little bit sour, but top it off with apple jacks, a bombo and whipped cream, and the flavor is perfect and will warm your heart.

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The mini doughnut makes this drink stand out. 

Experience the whimsical and delicious wonder of chocolate mice, chocolate penguins here: L.A. Burdick Chocolates

Chocolate mice, chocolate penguins, chocolate snowman…. they have captured my heart. All are handmade, so each one is unique and different. The funny thing is that Burdick’s is the same age as me. I would love to take their mice and penguins on adventures with me.

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Address:609 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

Drinking a cup of hot chocolate is a wonderful life experience. When I sip it, it is so soft, creamy and rich in my mouth. It brightens my gray mood on a snowy day. And it is not  only for winter time: I also love to drink iced hot chocolate in the summer.

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 Delicious steaming hot chocolate is calling me.

No better way to celebrate sweet chocolate than with a homemade marshmallow on top: Mindy’s Hot Chocolates

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Address:1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

You might know this place. I often come here to eat brunch (Avocado Toast/Smoked Salmon Toast ) and drink a cup of medium chocolate. The medium is milk chocolate with a touch of dark chocolate and a hint of caramel. It is simple but the sweet ratio is moderate. The best part is when the giant homemade marshmallow melts into the chocolate, making it more delightful and delicious.

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The white homemade marshmallow melts my heart. Come here to grab a cup of chocolate.

You can try different styles of hot chocolates here, such as Mexican chocolate, old fashioned chocolate, peppermint hot chocolate… Cheers to the hot chocolates!

I would love to suggest one more place to drink hot chocolates:Mexican hot chocolate at La Bodega.

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Things are heating up with Mexican hot chocolate.

We are in love with the COCOA. The weather outside is s frightful, but those hot chocolates are still delightful. It is time to get out there and discover some of the joys and sweet of winter. Enjoy!

The spirit of the season is out there III

Bonjour Holidays, Bonjour P.O.S.H 

At some point in your life, you want something that feels authentic—something that speaks to you. So I always find the special thing to tell a story. If your recipients are from Europe, or French, or love European style, this is definitely a place for you.

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Address: 613 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

P.O.S.H  is a local small business in town. In the holiday season, you should not miss its gorgeous window display. This charming dress captures the magic of the holiday spirit.

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The owner sells a lot vintage and authentic items from European flea markets, and has some unique items from their travels. Here, you don’t need to go far to find special gifts, including vintage hotel silver, tabletop, dinnerware, French tea, tea towels, antiques, paintings. You also can find items related to Chicago, such as a vintage Chicago postcard.

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Lots of vintage collections here, a lot to look at, a lot to love.

P.O.S.H is a perfect combination of European and Chicago styles, a small store that delivers a unique and warm message. 

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You can feel the magical things from Europe and Chicago.

You can not only find unique items here, but also many items that stir memories, like the corners of grandma’s kitchen, where I found cute kitchen items. I can smell her famous sugar cookies fresh from the oven.

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Grandma’s kitchen. Do miss her famous cooking?

I see many French items here, like the Eiffel Tower and French books for kids. It reminds me to think of my JAX mom. It is a magical place that connects the special memories between her and me.

Have you heard of this saying: “The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea”? In the French tradition, Mariage Frères has elevated tea to an art. If you have tried it, you understand the passion and reverence that tea aficionados have for these exquisite teas. If not, try it. I selected the Mariage Frères -Esprit de Noel Tea as a gift for my JAX Mom. She is French, and over time we grow closer every year, like a real mom and daughter. It is magical to be reunited, and we have a wonderful time enjoying this special tea together, laughing and sharing precious moments.

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No matter where we roam, there is no a place like home. I feel a strong connection with my family members in my home in the U.S.A.

 

More suggestions for special gifts:  

  1. L.A. Burdick Chocolate
  2. Anthropologie
  3. Gather home + lifestyle

I hope you enjoy Stephy’s holiday gift guideline, and I hope you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. Wishing you all a dreamy holiday!

 

The spirit of the season is out there II

Embark on a new scent journey: LE LABO

We believe that there are too many bottles of perfume and not enough soulful fragrances.

A scent can conjure up a flood of memories. This is why I love finding unique fragrances. If you know me well, you know how obsessed I am with fragrances. I would love to share my favorite brand: LE LABO. It is a niche perfume, simple but expressing a unique scent and character normally found in a luxury brand.

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The scents bring a flood of memories.

You might love the store décor, with old school fixtures and distressed tile walls making Le Labo’s products really stand out in the store’s sample section.

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This place, so aesthetically pleasing.

This store has great natural light for photos – and a great place for holiday shopping.

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Address:1618 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647; 47 E Oak St, Chicago, IL 60611

All of this store’s fragrances are hand-blended. Choose your scent, and they will blend the perfume, label and carefully pack it, all by hand. I love the careful process. I also love the scent itself.

Give the scent time to show itself: immediately after you spray, you might not particularly like the scent, but wait about half an hour, when the real scent appears. It will surprise you – and it is addicting. The fragrance is a private experience unique to each person. You just have to try it for yourself.

IMG_0481Although it is simple, the chic aesthetic and penchant for masculine notes make this a favorite to wear by both men and women alike. Fun note: the perfume names are simple and come from combining a main part of the perfume with how many materials are in it. For example, one perfume is called Rose 31/Bergamote 22.

Le Labo creates exclusive scents for some cities and sell it only there: Baie Rose 26(Chicago); Gaiac10(Tokyo); Vanille 44(Paris); Tubereuse40(New York). What cool city in the world do you want to smell like?

IMG_0484This time, I chose the “discovery set”for my friend who loves to wear perfume. This works great as a gift because each fragrance is private and personal. Because I am not certain which scent my friend would enjoy most, the “discovery set” is perfect because it has 16 classic scents. I also selected the Chicago exclusive Baie Rose 26. When he/she receives it, they can take their time to explore the range of LE LABO fragrances.

It is not only a gift but also a brand new and cool scent experience. Enjoy!

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How about the discovery set? A nice gift. Treat yourself or someone.

The spirit of the season is out there I

The season of sparkle and magic is once again here. Tis the season of gift giving to be sure.

I would like to share some ideas to help you find a unique, special gift for the special people in your life. I always find unique gifts for my close friends. To me, it’s more than just a gift: I am sending warm wishes to them.

Also, the following gifts are not only good for the holidays, but great for the whole year.

Your Home State is Calling

Do you have a special connection with your home state, as well as where you currently live? I have a strong connection with my home state – Florida, with tons of wonderful memories there. I now live in Chicago and love it there, too.

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What states are special to you?

The distance from Jacksonville, Florida to Chicago is 863 miles by air and 1,061 miles by road. But real friendship is not affected due to distance and time. I know because this is part of my story. I met one of my close friends in Jacksonville many years ago, when I lived there. This person has always helped me a lot and still does today. I now live in Chicago, but we still have close contact. We live in different cities but still share moments together: happy or funny, sad or upset. My friend always encourages, helps and supports me, and sees that I am growing. I know that while time rolls on, authentic friends remain with me, and true friendships grows stronger over time.

Words of thanks for this special friendship are not enough, so I helped to create this piece of art as a gift specifically designed by me. I chose the two states connecting me – Florida and Illinois – and told the artist the specific cities – Jacksonville and Chicago – and how I want to link those two cities. I chose the white shadowbox wood frame, then the store staff framed this for me, and I gave this to my Jacksonville friend.

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From Florida to Illinois, time and distance prove real friendship. 

This framed design tells our story of friendship, and even better, shows the love we both have of Florida. We are Floridians, we love Florida, and we have lots wonderful memories there.

If you are like me and feel a special bond with two states, you can create a similar map to tell your story. Trust me, this “States in Love” piece makes for the perfect gift – and it’s great for yourself, too!

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Let the “States in love” pieces tell your story.

 

The store creating this art – called FourSided – is one of my favorite stores in Chicago. It is a local small business and you can find special and unique gifts there. Other than this “states in love” puzzle piece, they have a lot of unique cards, posters and prints, framing and fun ideas. Good for your home decoration, too. The store also has cute decorations, a lot of balloons floating, and other ideas to show happiness.

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 Up, up, and away…..

Stop here and discover Foursided, a must stop for your holiday/occasion needs.

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Address: 2939 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657

A Floridian experiences her first blizzard

“Snow? What? Wow, it is too COLD!

I am thankful that I live in Florida!”

It is a Floridian’s first reaction if the temperature falls below 50 degrees and you hear of snow. As you know, I am a Floridian but now living in Chicago. The magic thing is that I never thought about how I would survive in the cold winter here. But I have survived. Living with the long winter in Chicago was a tough challenge for me at first, but fortunately I adjusted to it fast. Looking back, making the decision to move here to start a new adventure was so brave!

thumbnail_IMG_0171Today, I would like to share a Floridian’s perspective of snow based on my first blizzard in Chicago.

It is rare for me to see snow. I had never seen snow until I moved to Chicago. The blizzard is a new experience. I knew there would be a blizzard Sunday night to Monday morning, I was truly excited. I immediately texted my close friends in Florida and told them “Tonight we’ll have a blizzard in Chicago, the first blizzard in my life with forecast of 13 inches.” My many Floridan friends replied: “Wow, that is cold!” So now you know a Floridian’s first reaction when hearing of so much snow! Ha!

The night of the blizzard, I woke up many times to see look outside the window. I didn’t want to miss any part of my first blizzard. Monday morning, I woke up, went to the balcony and felt the blizzard in person, listening to the sound of heavy wind and snow. I saw white anywhere. Wow! I was very excited and recorded this great experience via video, taking many great snow photos, then shared them with my friends in Florida. I was proud to tell them: It is my first blizzard!

thumbnail_IMG_0172Although my first blizzard was not as big as what I expected – we did not get 13 inches – I still enjoyed seeing the snow and feel lucky to witness the first blizzard history in life.

You might be a Chicagoan or come from other cold areas, so you are used to seeing snow or experiencing a blizzard. Maybe you hate snow and laugh at me. As a Floridian, I always think it is a wonderful experience in the crazy snow world. I love to walk on the soft snow, leaving my footprints. I think the snow looks like white marshmallows. We never see such marshmallows on trees and chairs in Florida. So this is a fortunate experience.  

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I still consider myself a traditional Floridian, not a Chicagoan, but I enjoy writing stories in this unique new town, too. It is really cold for us. We are not used to wearing gloves, hats, scarves and heavy coats all the time. I like to wear sandals to go to beach, listen to the sound of the ocean, walk into the sand and water, feel  the sunshine. I think Florida beaches are amazing.

Now it is time for me to visit my sweet home – Florida. The sunshine, ocean, beach, blue sky and warm temperature are calling me. But most importantly, my “best family members” are calling. My next adventure will be at home… I can’t wait! It will be a fantastic story about a Floridian back home again. Stay Tuned!

Ice Cream is Never Too Cold in a Winter Wonderland

A cold treat in cold weather?

Yes, the combination has a way of shaking things up and inspiring the soul. Ice cream and hot chocolate are my necessities in a winter wonderland. Most people love to eat ice cream in summer, but I am obsessed with ice cream, so I think eating it in the cold of winter is a great idea. To start, ice cream in winter won’t melt. What other reasons can you think of to enjoy ice cream in winter? And what flavors? I would love to hear them.

For now, let me show you some sweet flavors I’ve discovered.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: simple is the BEST

I am a super fan of this special place, especially its wildberry lavender flavor – and an extra scoop in a waffle cone is the BEST. After my first couple of bites, I fell in love with this flavor. It is very soft and creamy with a faint aroma, and it melts in my mouth. It is SO GOOD ! It is very different from traditional ice cream, so eating Jeni’s ice creams – and the waffle cones — always provides a wonderful new experience.

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Jeni’s Ice Cream. Address: 1505 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Each flavor here is great on its own, but better when you combine flavors. Sometimes I will combine strawberry buttermilk, frose sorbet and supermoon…..But I almost always must have wildberry lavender, either on its own or combined with another flavor. Then I go outside, feel the frozen temperature and enjoy the ice cream. If it is snowing, it is an even cooler adventure and has brought back childhood memories.

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You can’t buy me love, but you can buy me wildberry lavender scoop in a waffle cone

Mini Mott: Taiyaki is swimming its way into my heart  

Taiyaki is a Japanese street treat, a fish-shaped cake (see photo). It is a dessert lover’s favorite type of fish. You don’t need to go Japan to find it. You can find a Taiyaki cone in the Windy City now, though I’ve found it only in one place: Mini Mott.

I recommend BELGIAN CHOCOLATE topped with nutty crushed black sesame seeds, creating earthy flavors that will melt in your mouth. It is great swirled into a seasonal flavor or on its own. I can’t say NO to it.

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Address:3057 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

Winter is a great time to try it because the ice cream won’t melt like it does in summer. By the way, where is summer? No worries. You will enjoy Taiyaki in winter even better. This ice cream will swim its way into your heart.  

Fancy Churro ice cream in Winter: Bodega

Wow, this churro combines different ice cream flavors with different toppings. It is large, fancy and delicious. One option is churro soft serve ice cream with fruity pebbles, sprinkles and gummy bears. It is like a unicorn feast for your eyes. Now they have an apple pie a la mode churro cone, a nice switch.(Address:355 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654)

Fancy Churro ice cream lights up the cold winter and gives you a little fire. Don’t be afraid of the cold and then feel like you missed out. Let the churro cones warm you. 

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I am awakened in winter due to this fancy churro ice cream.

So you can’t wait to try these special sweet treats already? Any time of the year is perfect for ice cream, but eating it in cold weather is a special treat. It won’t melt and drip everywhere, and it’s a great reminder of the simple but wonderful things in life. Don’t let the cold weather stop you from eating ice cream. Now it’s the time to try it – GO GO GO!  

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Begin your Windy City book adventure here

We all have busy lives. We are blinded by a lot of complicated things, such as work, stress, commitments, and the constant interruption of technology. Sometimes we need to escape the noise, get off our feet, find a place to sit down and collect our thoughts, especially in a large city. What is one great option to help you relax? Sometimes, it is reading. Immersing yourself in the journey of a book can give you a fresh perspective and renewed energy to face the world.

Strange things start in a WiFi-Free Zone

Who says you must go far for adventure? Are you looking for an unusual twist to your daily life? Allow me to share one of my secret spots in the Windy City: Kibbitznest Books, Brews & Blarney (Address: 2212 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago IL 60614). It’s a great change of pace when you want a little quiet time to escape the noise and bustle of the city.

Can you imagine being surrounded by books and without a phone or laptop, and without WiFi? Most people think they’ll die without some form of technology at their fingertips. I am not an obsessive book lover, but I do enjoy settling here at times, and this place has become  my secret spot when I want to experience peace and a little alone time. It feels strange to spend time in a WiFi-free zone. It encourages people to stop using their electric devices and instead focus on face-to-face communication. Today, it is hard to imagine life without WiFi and technology. But Kibbitznest is just such a place, a room full of books, newspapers, games, mini typewriters and music – a place to enjoy a simpler life. I read books at the Nest, and I actually use a real typewriter to compose little letters.

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Time stops for me here.

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The décor here is full of wooden bookshelves surrounding modern sofas and seating areas, with vintage style accent pieces such as world globes, old signs and bar stools. It is a wonderful spot to sit, unplug your phone and simply read in peace, sipping hot tea. Here, I find balance between a busy life and inner peace.

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Today, we hold so many conversations through texting, email or social media, but how long has it been since you had a deep conversation with someone face to face? This is a perfect place to invite them to join you in putting down your phones and laptops, and spend some time playing games, listening to music, laughing and talking. Even better, this place regularly hosts live music and book discussions, great opportunities to hang out, listen to talented people, share opinions and immerse yourself in things that feel real.

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It is not only a fantastic place to escape a busy life, but also to escape the chilly winter in the Windy City. This place reminds me that the best human communication in life is face to face, with lovers, family and friends.

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Enjoy game time with someone, laugh freely.

Books, books and more books, please! Take a break, enjoy a WiFi-free book adventure. You’ll find a little magic in your heart.

Get on board the Matcha Train

I love and enjoy coffee, but sometimes I want to change my routine. In these cases, I reach for matcha.

What is Matcha? Wikipedia defines matcha as a “finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is special in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and the stems and veins are removed in processing.

Matcha is easy on the eyes, calms and relaxes the mind, but also boosts metabolism and detoxifies, and it is nutritious. Now, take a matcha train with me: explore and try something new and green.

You can’t go wrong with anything at Easthill Tea Co.

Tea is sexy, but I think matcha is sexier. My favorite place to drink matcha in the windy city is the Easthill Tea Co. The reason is simple: their lavender matcha latte is made with macadamia milk, which is like mixing a little heaven into your drink. When you sip it, you will feel it smooth and creamy, not bitter. Most importantly, it is not super sweet, but rather gently sweet and soft. The sweetness ratio is perfect. A good matcha drink will make your mouth feel soft and clean, with just the right amount of sweetness. The choice of milk is very important, and I don’t know that alternative milks work nearly as well. I like the macadamia milk the best because it moderates the drink, and provides a slight nutty taste, making the matcha drink softer. And I love the look of the powered green tea.

Can you imagine a lavender and matcha combo? It is unusual, but this combination stands out. Try it! Hot or iced, it’s good!

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Also, don’t miss their cute animal matcha donuts. They bring back memories of my childhood. Now I am grown, they transport me to new places and adventures. It is a simple happiness. It makes my heart and stomach happy.

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Which animal do you like? Pick your favorite!
Address: 1816 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL 60647

“A big green apple” does nothing but makes your gray mood disappear

If you live in Chicago, I bet you know Sawada Coffee (Matcha). As I mentioned in my previous post (“Rise and Grind”), they have an excellent military and black camo latte. But you simply should not miss their green tea latte. I like to ask them to make a big heart in it, which look like a green apple. It fuels my gray day. Drinking sweet green tea latte in winter is not the worst thing. A note: this green tea latte is made with regular milk, and it tastes sweeter than others.

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Address: 112 N Green St, Chicago IL 60607

 

Almond milk matcha makes my heart sing: Pierrot Gourmet

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Here, I usually ask them to use almond milk in my matcha. When you sip it, you can feel and smell a strong almond flavor, tender and rich in your mouth. It fills you with warmth on a chilly day and warms my hands. Matcha macaron is a perfect match also. 

More matcha, please!

I have a thing for ice cream. I have a thing for soft serve. And I have a thing for matcha. So I had to have a Matcha soft-serve ice cream at Mitsuwa Marketplace in suburban Arlington Heights. The fresh texture melts my heart and cools me down in the summer. Not many places in the city have soft serve, but I heard there will be a new matcha soft-serve ice cream store coming soon to Wicker Park. I can’t wait to try it.

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Matcha cha cha our way, matcha latte, matcha ice cream, matcha macaron, matcha cake …… Hey! It is time to take a matcha train to start your day!

I left my heart in Pueblo

People and community give a place its vitality and special character. This is certainly true of New Mexico. It is not only the home of scenic beauty and creatures, but also the home to many Native Americans, and this area rightfully celebrates their rich cultures and history. When I am in New Mexico, my heart lies within the adobe houses made by the indigenous people. I enjoy exploring the way Native Americans have lived there, finding many lessons from adobe houses and cultures. It makes me want to explore these cultures further. I will try to explain why this land calls to me. 

Bandelier climbed its way into my heart.  

I take a trip to Bandelier National Monument. My curious mind takes me here to explore the ancestral Pueblo dwellings, to feel the way they were constructed and used. I notice many unique holes in the mountains. I wonder if these holes are entrances to homes of indigenous people? Yes! It adds a sense of mystery to this beautiful landscape.

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Hanging out in cliff dwellings is a beautiful thing. 

I am very excited to see ladders in the mountains, ladders that take me not only up, but back into history. It is an impressive adventure for me to climb 4 wooden ladders to the alcove house, 140 feet above the canyon floor. It is raining heavily and quite chilly, my hands are cold and almost numb, but I make the climb. The cold weather and great height do not scare me. When I reach the cave, I now see first-hand how Pueblo people lived and experienced their life so long ago. It is an amazing history lesson, hike and climb. I realize that for me this is the true New Mexico.

Climb the Bandelier, not so the ancient Pueblo people can see you, but so you can see them.       

Don’t miss: Let your feet wander!  

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Would you climb this ladder I did – in the rain and cold?

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Taos Pueblo: deep in my heart.  

“Each time I leave here it is like a death and each time that I return it is a birth”—Georgia O’ Keeffe 

I can’t agree more, it says what is in my heart.  

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This is not the place of my birth, but I feel a deep sense of connection and belonging. 

Ancient pueblos were constructed by the Native American tribe of Pueblo people, one of the world’s longest continuously inhabited communities. It is a special place for me, not only the adobe-style homes that I love, but also because I can see and imagine an ancient life that seems fantastic to me. 

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Taos Pueblo, New Mexico tells a good story. 

I am lucky to see snow at the adobe homes, snow that stays on the ladders and the roofs of the adobe houses, some with blue-colored doors, making this place more beautiful. I don’t why, but when I see glimpses into daily life here, the dogs roaming the area, the few remaining people still living here, shoveling snow and praying in church, my heart feels very warm. I know it is home for them, a simple and blessed life.

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My heart lives here.  

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Some views never get old: San Geronimo Church.  

Much time has passed since these homes were constructed. They are over 1,000 years old. All that time, these dwellings and this community have been given love and care to stand the test of time. Love makes a house a home. it is true. Yes, it is an old and small town, but it is full of love. Can you feel it? If not, go there and experience it yourself. This love inspires me to bring some of their handmade crafts back to my own home. 

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I’m trying to figure out how to get back to Taos ASAP. I miss it already.

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Bring home handmade pottery celebrating this native heritage. 

Don’t’ miss: Spend time on listening to the native people share their story. And try the fresh food made onsite.   

Fall in a desert diamond: Santa Fe 

What are your thoughts when diverse arts and a rich culture meet adobe architecture? It really gives Santa Fe its charm, a place in a league of its own. I stop shooting photos as a tourist and begin shooting what I feel, not just what I see. I feel this place’s vibrant colors, vitality and magic. The street artists share an artistic spirit, and it calls to me.

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Santa Fe is in a league of its own.  

Visit the wonderful art galleries and historic buildings with vast numbers of shops full of handmade art. Discover so many different giant paintings, antiques, potteries, jewelry and vintage art from around the world, much of which you will not find anywhere else in the world. I am in an artistic ocean.

 

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A lot of galleries showcase local art.  

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Art spirits are around me. I am forever exploring.

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Local artisans sell their handicrafts under this portico in the square.  

 

I would happily move here to nearly any corner of this city. Santa Fe is like a diamond: it sparkles in the desert as an incredible charm.  

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Santa Fe shows off my new favorite color.  

Don’t miss: Stop taking photos long enough to immerse yourself and absorb this artistic environment. If you can, visit Santa Fe at Christmas. The luminarias light the whole city and it is magical.

Nothing is better than the experiences found through travel. It exposes your body, mind and spirit to new places and allows you to discover new beauty in so many ways. This is true of New Mexico: the home to amazing landscapes, natural forces, beautiful creatures, fantastic art and many Native Americans.

This place calls to my body and my spirit. It truly is the Land of Enchantment!

The Land of Enchantment: it won’t disappoint you.

New Mexico calls itself the Land of Enchantment. This motto intrigued me the first time I read it. I was very curious and deeply wanted to explore this mysterious place.

My thoughts of this land before visiting: Desert, Cactus, Dry, Camel Color, Wild, Murals, Almost Mexico, Chile Ristras. But why is it the Land of Enchantment? I would not know until I visited and explored. So I did! Now, follow me, and find the answer with me in this adventure.

The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it…

Most people are not familiar with New Mexico, but you might know of White Sands National Monument. I knew this place would be beautiful. Many people select it for their wedding photos. Until I actually saw it for myself, I had never experienced anything like it.

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White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

All glittering white sands are around me, it is better than a white winter wonderland. I climb to the top of the gypsum sand dunes and look quite far, but cannot see anyone, just the white sands, mountains and sky. I run fast on the white sands with different slopes, I feel alive, my brain empty of thought. The sand and its stillness surround me, and my whole soul feels free.

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thumbnail_IMG_9727I’ve fallen in love with the sunsets here. Can you imagine a soft sunset color, with unique plants and mountains, along with the white sands, all on the same horizon? I am immersed in it, feel the charm of nature, smell the wind, listen to the heartbeat of nature here, wait to see the sunset, take a deep breath, and appreciate this very moment. I close my eyes, and I am now part of the white sands.

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Don’t miss: Sunset Tour at White Sands—Chase the sunset through the golden hour and enjoy the precious moment.

The moment when nature becomes home.

I never imagined that nature can become home, till I met you: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.

I am a natural and outdoor lover, and this hike was a profound experience to me. I hiked through the tent rocks, it reminds me of Antelope and Bryce Canyon (Utah). It was a bit harder to hike due to the inclines. I turn, looking up, and see the best perspective: unique rock structures and natural skylights. When I hike to the top, I can see the variation in height of white cone-shaped rocks, and I feel the wonder of nature. The breathtaking New Mexico landscapes and these natural, white tent-like structure look like homes to me, seemingly waiting for someone to move in to live. They have stolen my heart.

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There is no place like this: a natural white colored home 

 

Life is like an echo. I shout loudly, and I hear my sound repeat back to me clearly. When I am at the top of a climb, I feel as much as I see. Now I know why New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment: mysterious natural wonders in nature, combined with a rich cultural history in the surrounding area. It creates a special feeling inside me. It makes me think: my ideal wedding place will be in the white mountains, maybe here.

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The amazing New Mexico landscape is home to mysterious things in nature.

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Don’t’ forget to look up when you hike, the skylight is real, and you don’t need any filter.

Don’t miss: Say YES to the harder hike. New Mexico Rocks!

It is just a visit place for you, but for bats it is home: Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The first sentence of an introductory video at this park touches my heart. I think that it makes sense that aliens or space creatures might have visited New Mexico, as some people believe, because it probably looks and feels a lot like home on an alien world.

Now journey with me more than 750 feet underground. It will be a cool adventure, and this place makes me feel incredibly small again. I follow the cave explorer Jim White’s footsteps. I walk into the darkness and wander through the Earth’s enormous, cold, damp, spiky belly, exploring the marvels in the cavern. I cannot believe my eyes: this place does not look real. I see a variety of spectacular cave formations. The water reflects the surreal formations like a mirror, the inverted image like a strange but beautiful wonderland.

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Pictures never do justice

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The Land of Enchantment’s underworld

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The most exciting moment for me is to see thousands of bats flying out of a cave, off into the night sky. It is a wonderful experience. My eyes follow them in flight, and I can almost feel their speed. The creatures are marvelous, small and cute, with powerful navigation and flying skills. l think myself similar to the bats: small but not weak, and like bats, I love to fly about and experience adventures in the dark. Their amazing flight blew my mind!

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 Sitting at the mouth of the cavern to watch the bats fly.

Don’t miss: Bat flights program (late May through October); King’s Palace Tour. If you haven’t been there, you need to visit. Trust me!

The magical sights of New Mexico touch my soul and speak to my heart. Now I know: this home of so many stunning and splendid sights and creatures is truly the Land of Enchantment.