Local Day Out – Suburban Chicago Garden Boutique

It is HOT in the Chicago suburbs today. I’m talking 89 degrees (but my phone says it feels like 90 degrees and I agree), not a cloud in the sky kind of hot. So, what does a normal girl do? Heads to a new outdoor garden boutique in the smoldering heat.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and since the weather is so nice people are already out and about. I drove to Downtown Aurora and found my way to the most adorable garden boutique called Branch Gardens. It’s brand new, just opened May 1st and was basically a garden lover’s dream (me).

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This space was revamped from it’s original glory. Downtown Aurora has some incredible historic buildings and architecture. It is the last stop on the BNSF railway, which takes you from Aurora to Chicago with intermediate stops. So, if you’re looking to get away from the city for a day, it’s easy to hop on and check out the new shops in downtown Aurora.

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The shop was filled with adorable planters, plants, homemade soaps and little home decor items. The space itself gave me a Joanna-Gaines-started-a-garden-shop vibe, but in the absolute best way (I am a huge fan of everything Joanna does).

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This place was honestly so worth checking out. I think Aurora has great potential to thrive as it once did and these shops coming in certainly gives it a head start in the right direction.

The owners are super great and will help you with anything you need. They both have a passion for horticulture and make it a wonderful experience for every visitor.

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It was a great kick-off to my Memorial Day weekend, now off to see what else I can find.

What are your favorite local places?


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Bedroom Decor Plans + Inspiration

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My bedroom has been my greatest creative inspiration and space for the last few years. It went from being a pastel purple teenage disaster littered with emo band posters to my rose gold glowing sanctuary.

My bedroom doubles as my office right now, which means that I spend a lot of time in there. So, anywhere that I am spending a lot of time I want to be nice, inspirational and visually appealing.

My color scheme is very millennial approved. Everything works around my touches of copper, pink and white.

While I do love my space right now, I am always thinking and looking for ways to improve it even more. I have done a post on my room in the past (which you can check out here), and not too much has changed, but this post is more about where I hope to go with my future decorating.

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Hanging small terrarium from Amazon.

I have worked on adding some more greenery to my space (definitely want much, much more soon). I tried having succulents in the past, but unfortunately didn’t care for them properly (or maybe overwatered) and they died. I now am the proud plant mother to 5 air plants and a trusty *bamboo* (I’ve heard the IKEA bamboo sticks aren’t really bamboo). I would love to try a bigger potted plant next.

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I love this terrarium that was gifted to me during Christmas.

I got very obsessed with making yarn wall hangings once I followed a DIY and kind of ran with it and made it my own a few years ago now. I have since made several for gifts and I think they are just adorable in any space. I have been huge on texture lately and these provide just that. They do get quite dusty though! So be sure to give them a good shake outside now and then.

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Obsessed with this embroidery hoop by @earthologie (find her on Instagram)
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One of my DIY wall yarn hangings with a circle wire hoop.

One of my favorite new decor editions this year has been my rug that I found at a vintage shop locally. Just everything about it: the color, the texture, the handmade quality and the shaggy little ends. Obsessed. I’m not usually huge on carpet-on-carpet looks, but since this is the space I’m currently confined to I really wanted to still incorporate it.

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And of course my trusty IKEA lamps have kept my room loyal to the rose-coppery look. These were such a great addition to my room. I have one on either side of the room and when they’re lit up with the Edison bulbs they illuminate a beautiful golden, copper glow that reflects beautifully off the pink accent wall.

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Now for my inspiration for future room decoration plans:

First thing I’d love to change is my bed frame because it’s old, bulky and just doesn’t match. I found this one on West Elm and I am so in love with the simplistic, wire frame:

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My bedroom currently doesn’t have a mirror which is something that I desperately need to change. This one from Anthropologie, although expensive, has given me some serious inspiration:

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And just how cute is this little pink stool from Wayfair? I would love for this to be in reading corner.

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Much more inspiration to come. I am always looking for things to renovate and improve my space! What are your favorite places to shop for unique and cute pieces? Let me know in the comments.

As always,

Thank you so much for reading!

Emily


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I’m Making Money Doing What I Love

Hello everyone and happy Friday (woohoo!).

Through an odd series of connections and events over the last month and a half I have been working as a freelance reporter for a local community newspaper in my area. It has been absolutely wonderful getting to go out and report, write and take pictures to create articles that are being shared and read by many other people. To be honest, it’s a crazy feeling. 

It all fell into place at exactly the right time. While I am very fortunate and genuinely enjoying this experience, I’m still definitely getting used to the idea of freelancing as a means of actually making money. It also has been a wild ride getting back into the swing of reporting and writing after taking a hiatus between graduation and this gig. I’m figuring it all out slowly,  but for now I just have to see this as a side thing.

But, for a girl who dreamed her whole life to get paid for her writing, this has been a very uplifting and positive moment for me… especially when I saw my first check.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been really focused on the gun reform issue right now in America. I had a chance to speak with a few of the AMAZING high school students and a college student involved in planning March For Our Lives Chicago. I covered a local high school walkout on Wednesday, continually impressed and inspired by these young people.

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One of the signs held by a supporter at the high school walkout I attended.

It’s safe to say I’ve been having a pretty good time. I’m doing what I love, the thing I went to school for. I’m happy!

 

I hope that you all have a fantastic weekend and thank you for reading and encouraging me to keep pursuing my dreams. This is such a fantastic community online and I’m lucky to be a part of it.

Until next time,

Emily


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My trip to Seattle

Back in February, after little deliberation, my boyfriend and I planned a trip to Washington state for June. I had one thing on my mind, and it was graduating college and immediately leaving for the trip the next day. It acted as my motivation for months. Turns out it wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. The trip was great, the timing could have been better.

I am terrified of flying. I don’t have any reason to be, I’ve flown before with no issue, but in recent years the fear has escalated. So, I had to figure out a way to get to Washington (because I was not ready to face my fears) any way I could without flying in a plane. We chose to take the Amtrak Empire Builder from Chicago Union Station allllllll the way to Seattle, a 47-hour trip. This was not my boyfriend’s idea, he’s great for agreeing to it.

While planning, I thought of it as an adventure. NO. BIG. DEAL. We bought coach seats for around $300 roundtrip, about what we would have payed with roundtrip airfare, and, well, you can read my review of the train ride here.

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We did survive the train ride. We had some awesome views to get us through it, but not until Montana. The food was overpriced and bad. Okay, I’m done.

The morning we finally arrived, Seattle graced us with its lovely grey glow and it was just what I imagined. We rushed to the rental car place to pick up what we thought was going to be a Hyundai Elantra, but ended up leaving with a CAMARO.. we weren’t complaining.

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Tom taking a picture with his medium format at Whatcom Falls Park.

The first stop on our trip was Bellingham, WA, where we stayed in the best little Airbnb. Shoutout to Donna & Vincent for being so kind and helpful, letting us check in a little early. It was the perfect place for us and the BED WAS A 10/10… especially after “sleeping” in a coach seat for the previous two nights.

 

Bellingham is such a great town with adorable shops, amazing little food spots and of course, coffee shops. We are still raving about the crepes and coffee/tea from Magdalena’s Creperie. Fairhaven is right next to Bellingham and also has a great little downtown area, totally worth checking out. Mt. Baker is very close nearby to both these towns, so everywhere you look (when it isn’t cloudy) while driving around you are graced with gorgeous views.

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We had three days in Bellingham, which was enough time for me to find Kombucha Town, a bar that served some delicious kombucha on tap. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t fully cooperate, but there were a few moments of sunshine. We went up to Mt. Baker wilderness and took a drive up until I started freaking out when we saw the ice capped mountains through the mist. It was truly beautiful though, I highly suggest going there at some point in your life.

 

 

As our time in Bellingham came to a close, we packed up the Camero, stopped at Whole Foods to grab some Kombucha Town cans and hit the road back towards downtown Seattle.

After such an amazing stay at our first Airbnb, we were a little bit disappointed with what awaited us at the Seattle place. It was fine, we can’t really complain for the price we payed per night, but it definitely could have been better. Each night I had to wonder whether there was a ghost standing next to me or not. Whenever we walked back in from outside, we were hit with the mixed odor of super old house and cat pee. It was fine, wouldn’t stay there again.

 

 

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BUT WOW.. SEATTLE.. You’re great. It was such a great time getting to know the beautiful neighborhood of Wallingford, where the average home price seemed to be over a million dollars, and where we stayed. We took a nice stroll to Gas Works Park quite a few times during our trip, which is this awesome industrial park overlooking downtown Seattle.

We had to pack a lot into six days, so we didn’t get to do EVERYTHING in Seattle,  but we did a decent amount. We walked all over Capitol Hill, stumbling upon a delicious Mexican restaurant called Fogón (where we definitely ate twice). We found our way to the Space Needle, but didn’t go up.. i.e. crippling fear of heights.

The historic Pikes Place Market really tickled my fancy with it’s gorgeous flower bouquets that were such a bargain. We saw the first Starbucks, but didn’t bother going in since it had about a mile long line. More on Starbucks soon.

 

 

We went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, located right near the Space Needle, which was a great experience. Who would have thought that colored glass could evoke so much emotion? There are people there would you will think are trying to take your picture so you buy it at the end, but really they are free professional photos and who doesn’t like free photos? Take advantage if you ever go. Also, be sure to stay for the little movie clips they play of Chihuly talking about his process.

 

 

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If you want a cool way to spend 30 seconds, take the Seattle Monorail. It will take you up to the equivalent of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile where you’ll find some shops and food. I think every city should get a monorail.

The Seattle Art Museum was a good time, filled with a lot of beautiful art, including a lot of indigenous and Native American artwork and clothing. There is a wonderfully huge deconstructed tree hanging from the ceiling to greet you. Admission cost is just a donation, we gave $5 each and it was most definitely worth it.

 

 

As a former Starbucks gold card member, I felt a deep obligation to check out the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, and oh am I glad I did! While we didn’t get into the original Starbucks, this was *in my opinion* much better.

It had the class you would expect in a higher end Starbucks, with copper and wood detailing, coffee extraordinaires carefully brewing up some expensive concoctions (like a nitro cold brew float) and the roasters themselves, making sure the tourists get quite the show as the roasted beans make their journey from toasting to the bag.

It’s tough to get a seat since the place is so busy (we went twice and couldn’t get a seat either time), but even if you sit on the staircase like we did, it’s worth the trip. According to one of the workers, Chicago is getting their own 4-story Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room pretty soon.

 

 

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I’m dating a huge baseball fanatic, so we did check out one of the Seattle Mariners games while in town and I thoroughly enjoyed myself (even though I don’t really care for baseball). The stadium was really clean and we even got to see it’s convertible ceiling in use as it started to rain. The game was complete with an extremely drunk 21-year-old kid slurring and getting into a fight with his girlfriend and getting disowned by his friends.

 

 

We did not see Mount Rainier until the end of our trip, since the cloud cover was pretty serious, but when we did it was so breathtaking. We took an Uber up to Kerry Park to sit with our fellow tourists and take in the views.

To get a little bit closer to nature, we ended our trip with a beautiful hike called Rattlesnake Ridge, which was over 2,000 feet ascending to the top (more than us flatlanders are used to). With the encouragement of several peppy pups who ran up the trail with their owners, we made it to the top and took in the beautiful views. Thank god for a good pair of hiking boots and socks.

 

 

We packed a lot into a week and a half in Washington, but I’m so glad we had such an incredible experience. This trip was truly one I will never forget. I have so much respect for the Pacific Northwest and hope to be back soon. If you have any more questions about our trip, just leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading,

Emily


A few more random photos from the trip:

 

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DIY Painted Polka Dot Pumpkin

A few days ago, Tom and I decided to go to a local pumpkin patch to grab a few of our own from the fields. It was a wonderful thing to do together and really brought us into the fall spirit. We picked about 6 total pumpkins and some mini pumpkins all for the low price of $15. When the friendly farmer lady told us the price we almost laughed cause we thought she was joking. Even Home Depot charges about $10 for an awful pumpkin.

My advice: always choose the pumpkin patch over large retailers.

The price made us super happy about the pumpkin adventure and we went back to my house to carve them up. We didn’t make any real design plans.. instead we grabbed some knives and cut into them hoping for the best. To the tune of Monster Mash on repeat, Tom chose a simple design: a very simple design. He went with your typical small-faced jack-o-lantern, but it was still adorable because everything he does is adorable to me. I went with a slightly more complex idea.. JACK SKELLINGTON (from Nightmare Before Christmas). I think both of ours turned out perfectly and they now sit proudly outside of my house. They might be rotted out by the time Halloween actually comes, but that’s okay.

It’s really the simple things that bring me so much joy.

Yesterday, I wanted to get a bit crafty with one of my leftover pumpkins. I had heard of “painting pumpkins” and thought it would be an awesome thing to try. I came up with a simple idea: gold paint with black dots. It is so adorable and perfect to add a little bit of flair to your average pumpkin display.

Just in time for pumpkin carving, follow my DIY below if you want to try something new and make your very own PAINTED pumpkin:


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What You’ll Need:

  • Pumpkin of your choice (any size will work)
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Acrylic Paint Brush
  • Cup of Water
  • Paper Plate
  • Old T-Shirt or Newspapers to work on top of

Directions:

  1. First, make sure your pumpkin is rinsed or wiped clean of any dirt (you will run into more if you actually pick it from the field). Working with a clean surface is very important or you will run into problems with the paint sticking. If your pumpkin has a super long stem, cut it shorter before you start. Here’s mine all cleaned up and stem trimmed:

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2. Pick the first color you want to be your “base coat”. I used metallic gold acrylic paint that I found at Michael’s. Squeeze some paint onto your paper plate and begin to paint a thin layer onto the surface of the pumpkin. After it’s evenly coated (it will look very transparent) let it dry for about 20-30 minutes. Here it is with one coat:

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3. If your pumpkin is dry to the touch, you’re ready to apply a second coat. This will probably be ALL YOU NEED. Repeat step 2 by applying an even layer all over the pumpkin. It should look opaque enough, but if it doesn’t you may need to wait another 20 minutes and apply one more coat. Here is how mine looked after the 2nd and final layer:

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4. After waiting 30 minutes for the color to dry.. it’s time to add the polka dots! I used metallic black for my dots, but any color would do the trick. This step takes a little bit of patience and artistic ability since it is KINDA difficult to freehand circles. I drew two different sized dots. Some about the size of a quarter and the others about the size of a nickel. I tried to do an even mix of both for a cool effect. If you use a dark color like black.. you will only need one coat of paint for the dots. Here it is in the beginning after just a few:

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Then I added even more:

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5. Wait for it to fully dry. Clean up all your paint and make sure you rinse the brush for future projects! Use to decorate an indoor area or put it outdoors to add to the jack-o-lanters! It adds a unique, handmade flair to your front step.

Here it is next to my carved pumpkin:

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Thanks for reading and I hope you all try this before the big day which is coming up very soon!

-Emily

My Anxiety Story: Raw + Real

I have anxiety and panic disorders.

I wanted to lay that out right away (if the title of this post didn’t already tell you) because this whole post is going to be me honestly and completely explaining my life with those disorders.

If you’re not interested in my personal story, that’s okay, but don’t think that you should be ignorant and uninformed on this illness. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 MILLION PEOPLE have to deal with this on a daily basis. That’s right. 18% of the population. That means at least 4-5 people in a class of 30.

It’s important to understand that just because people suffer from anxiety, panic and depression does not mean that they are ‘crazy’. It is as uncontrollable as getting the flu and if we had our way we wouldn’t go through this at all.

Open your eyes and accept.

Since I was very, very small, as soon as I can remember, I’ve had irrational fears. I was afraid of (just to name a few) clowns, doctors, dentists and dogs. When I was young, most of the fears were understandable. I could easily get away with my episodes because it was still cute. But, like everyone, I got older.. and I didn’t outgrow my fears.

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I went into elementary school and I was fairly social. I had a good amount of friends and did well academically. But, there were still moments where I was afraid. Around this time is when I learned how to hide what was happening to me. It was so helpful and eventually I could talk myself out of the panic. I did well for a few years into middle school.

This is when it started getting worse. I was afraid of almost everything and hardly anyone could understand. In turn, I pushed myself away from most people other than my close friends (most of who I met in jr. high) so no one could see me freak out. I figured if I isolated myself, maybe it would go away. I feared going into classrooms with a large amount of peers because I felt everyone could tell I was panicking. It was an awful, traumatic cycle. Thankfully, I found an amazing circle of friends who understood and would calm me. I finished Jr. High feeling pretty good. I was excited for high school to start.

My Freshman year of high school was not bad at all. I had a really good time and felt secure and happy. I listened to the music I liked, wore dumb clothes and hung out with my friends (typical 14/15 year old). It was almost like all my anxiety had been pushed back on the shelf. Of course, I had random panic sometimes, but often music was my ultimate medication (not cheesy, it’s true).

But, then Sophomore year came. It all started up again. I feared going to class, driving and just about everything else. It was total torture. I would start hypervenilating in the middle of a quiet class and make an excuse for the nurse to let me go home, because ‘anxiety attack’ was not a valid illness. Often, she would tell me to have a mint and sit down. I was at the nurse probably 2-3 days a week; they knew me by name.

Junior year wasn’t any better. It was probably my darkest point in terms of depression taking me over. My grades were suffering from missing school, everyone was talking about college and I was terrified. For a while, I didn’t know if i’d be able to get into any colleges. This added even more stress. Overall, It was a year of full on panic.

Senior year the panic again slipped away. My grades went way up, I got into some more artsy programs and started totally focusing on my writing. I had wanted to be a writer since I was young and it felt so achievable then. This, I believe, boosted my confidence and helped me push through my year and graduate. Graduation was an amazing day for me; I made it out of the place that I had such awful memories with (panic related, everything else was fine).

The first few years of college went very well for me. I started working out, lost a good amount of weight and finally felt like myself. I had been stress-eating for comfort for a long time. I started attending Columbia College and felt completely at home. Freshman and Sophomore year zoomed by.

Last year, everything started to come to a halt. My panic attacks were back. I had to take a semester off from Columbia in the fall due to some financial reasons (Columbia is so expensive). I think this took a toll on me emotionally. My world I had created for myself in the city was essentially taken from me. I laid low, worked at home and went to community college. I was just okay.

Then, Spring 2015 I decided to go back to Columbia. I moved in with a friend downtown, which turned out to be a very poisonous environment. I was stressed. I had to leave that apartment and move back home to commute daily. I did it and finished the semester, but there were days where I had to leave class, go to the bathroom and splash myself in the face because I ‘couldn’t breathe’. This was also a time where I was still drinking black coffee, which I now know was an awful decision.

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Fast forward to now and I’m dealing with my panic now more than ever. I have never in my life taken any medication of talked to anyone outside of family or friends about my disorders. I’ve always been a big believer in natural remedies. I tried yoga, which did help but turned out to be crazy expensive. I did all the breathing techniques; these still help. The last few weeks have been back-to-back panic attacks. I’ll tell you what happened to me yesterday:

I was on the train heading into the city for my first day of class. It was around an hour and a half ride, stopping at every stop, and I was just browsing Twitter and Instagram.. totally relaxed. Then, out of no where, about an hour into the ride, I started fully panicking. This is an extremely terrifying experience to deal with while you’re alone. I was numb, couldn’t breathe, blacking out and crying. How I got off the train is a total blur. I remember running to the elevator and then sitting in a corner hyperventilating. I couldn’t go to my first day of class.

For the first time in my whole life of dealing with this, I knew I needed to see a doctor. I have finally accepted help and medication to get myself under control and get my life back in order.

The next few months will be a trial in helping myself. I can’t say I’m not worried that it may not help, but i’m hoping for the best.

I hope that maybe sharing my story, and struggles, will help at least one person, somewhere. I don’t want it to be a secret. Why should my illness have to be pushed to the side and ignored?

I am not crazy. I am not any less human.

These issues are very important to me. As a person who suffers daily, I want to see a more positive shift in the treatment of people with mental illness. I think there should be more done in schools for young people, and more care for people of all ages.

I want the stigma ended, truly.

Anxiety, Panic and Depression don’t just go away. We can’t just stop.