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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Brewing kombucha at home: growing my SCOBY

After years of obsession with the fermented tea drink we all know and love, Kombucha, I have started to brew my own batch at home. So far, my experience has been very positive and I decided I would share my process for those of you interested in trying it out yourself. Kombucha costs anywhere from $3.00-$6.00 in stores, so brewing at home is a fantastic money saving option, plus you control exactly what goes into it.

I will do a few separate posts as I do this process. This one will cover how to grow a SCOBY, the next will talk all about the first fermentation process and then I will talk about bottling for the second and final fermentation.

If you want more information on what Kombucha is and a little bit about it, check out my previous post.

The first step is to either grow a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), purchase one online or get one from someone. I am a member of a fantastic Facebook group of kombucha home brewers which is really where I learned everything I know. They are incredibly knowledgeable on brewing, what to look out for and even give some amazing flavor suggestions.

If you are wanting to get started with brewing, I highly suggest you become a member of the group. It’s also a great place to see if someone near you has a SCOBY to spare (and they grow like crazy, so there’s a good chance someone has some they want to get rid of).

I chose to grow my SCOBY at home for two reasons. A. It’s extremely easy and B. I knew exactly where it came from. I ended up growing it in an IKEA jar that my boyfriend had laying around from his cold brew coffee brewing and it worked great.

Here is how I grew my SCOBY:

Ingredients:

2 Cups of Water

4 Organic Green Tea Bags (you can use black or white tea instead)

1/2 Cup of White Sugar (some people use organic, that’s fine, I just used regular ol’ sugar)

1 Bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha

Recipe:

  1. Make sure your jar is clean, wash with warm soapy water, rinse very well. Then, do a second rinse with mostly water and about two tablespoons of vinegar to make sure it’s clean. Again, rinse well. Let dry completely.

  2. Bring two cups of filtered water to a boil, once it reaches the boil turn off the heat. Then, you will want to toss in your tea bags and let it steep for 15 minutes.

  3. When the 15 minutes is up, dissolve your sugar into the tea. If it isn’t completely dissolving, turn on the heat for just a few seconds while stirring until all the sugar is gone.

  4. Let the sweetened tea cool completely to room temperature. This will take a few hours.

  5. Once tea is cooled, pour in one bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha in your jar, followed by your room temperature sweetened tea mixture. Stir it up with a clean spoon.

  6. Cover with part of an old, clean t-shirt and secure around the top of the jar with a rubber band.

  7. Let the jar sit at room temperature, preferably in a dark spot like a pantry or closet for two weeks, undisturbed. You will start to see your SCOBY grow slowly over the two weeks.

  8. Once your SCOBY is grown, you can start your first fermentation.

 

*Note that room temperature, amounts/types of tea used, sugar content and more can mean a different brewing experience for everyone. You will learn what works well for you as you go.

Here are some pictures of the progress I had over the two weeks:

It’s very exciting to see how your SCOBY forms slowly each day! I hope you all give this a try, let me know in the comments if you have any questions or other methods that have worked for you.

-Emily


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Amtrak Train Travel Wishlist From Chicago

I had the interesting experience of traveling via Amtrak to Seattle from Chicago on the Empire Builder last June, and since then I can’t stop thinking about where else it could take me.

I have to be honest, when I finished my total roundtrip Amtrak journey I had a major love/hate relationship with train travel. After all, in two weeks I had spent 96 hours on the train. Do anything for 96 hours (in 48 hour straight intervals) and you may start to question your choices too.

But, now, several months later, I am looking back and appreciating that train trip for the views, interesting people we got to meet and talk to and the land we covered in just a few short days. We got to see parts of America that is rarely accessed and watch the sunsets and sunrises over some of the most beautiful places.

So, lately I’ve been thinking where else the train could take me. Besides the terrible discomfort of sleeping in the coach seats for two nights, I really enjoyed myself and think I could easily do it again (my boyfriend probably would not).

If you want to see some tips and tricks I have for riding the Empire Builder, check out this older post of mine. 

Here are some trips I would love to take via Amtrak:

  1. Chicago to Denver – California Zephyr

    Roundtrip Coach Price for Two in June 2018: $488 ($244 each).

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This trip takes 18 hours and 40 minutes from Chicago, IL to Denver, CO. Most of the trip takes you through Iowa and Nebraska, so I am not sure exactly how exciting it would be, but it’s definitely one I would love to try since the travel time is drastically shorter than that to Seattle.

It would be great to do this Amtrak trip as a multi-stop where you can get off and hop back on to head toward Utah, Nevada and finally California. But, if you’re looking for a shorter trip, Denver would probably be the ideal spot to stop.

If you want to find some great places to eat while visiting Denver, check out this list by Eater. Honestly, it’s all about the food and the views.

Cute Airbnb’s I would love in Denver:

The City Experience  

Modern Feel

Bungalow

2. Chicago to Boston – Lake Shore Limited

Roundtrip Coach Price for Two in June 2018: $364 ($182 each)

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This trip takes 21 hours and 48 minutes sweeping you past the Great Lakes, New York State and Massachusetts until the final destination in Boston. I followed a similar route when traveling to Maine and when you get into New York state the views are beautiful.

I would love to do this trip to check out Boston and all of its amazing history and culture. Plus, I mean, those accents.. who can resist them?

Yet another list by Eater to give you some of the best places to eat in Boston.

Cute Airbnb’s I would love in Boston:

Bright in Boston

Bohemian Bricks

Clean, Sleek, Modern

3. Chicago to Austin, TX – Texas Eagle

Roundtrip Coach Price for Two in June 2018: $448 ($224 each)

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This trip will take you 28 hours and 21 minutes. Not a short one, but it’s basically a straight trip down south, so you will get to experience the change in scenery as you go. This is a route that will take you all the way into Los Angeles, if you want to torture yourself through two days of travel, but otherwise is a great option to hit all the big Texas cities.

Austin is a city known for it’s food, so be sure to check out a lot of it if you decide to travel there. Here is, you guessed it, another article by Eater of Austin’s best spots to eat.

Cute Airbnb’s I would love in Austin:

Quirky Airstream Home

Tiny Home Dream

Modern Living Guesthouse


These are just a few trips I would love to take from Chicago using the Amtrak. I realize that this method of travel is not for everyone, but I think it’s something to try out at least once.

Where would you like the train to take you? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

Emily


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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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My 24th Year

Last Wednesday I celebrated my 24th birthday which is still really crazy to me, not because I’m afraid to get older, but because I feel like I just turned 21. Either way, it’s here and honestly I’m excited for this year.

I was lucky enough to have a great dinner and celebration thanks to my amazing boyfriend Tom.

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I’m going to commit to regularly posting on my blog and taking it more seriously because it is a passion project that I really do care about. I started this blog in Spring 2015 and now I have 72 published posts, almost 400 followers and I have had the chance to connect with and get to know some of you, which has been such a great experience for me.

There are some incredibly personal moments that have happened in my life over the last few years that I hope to share with you soon, because I really believe it can help someone else out there.

I can’t say how grateful I am to have this community and outlet… so thank you. I look forward to posting every single time because of your support and kind comments.

I am pretty active on Instagram, so follow me there! I try to keep up on my Instagram Stories pretty much daily.

Please let me know what you guys would like to see more of in future posts by commenting one or a few numbers below:

  1. Travel Posts
  2. Health/Recipes
  3. DIY
  4. Mental Health/Self-Care

 

UNTIL NEXT TIME,

Emily

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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The Reality of College Graduation and Life After

This is not a post to sh*t on going to college, getting an education, etc. I loved college (2 out of 3 that I went to) and had some of my absolute best times (and some scary times, I’m looking at you Chicago 7-Eleven robbery), learned a lot and became a much better journalist than I could have ever imagined.

But, this has not been an easy transition from the glamour of college graduation, with it’s brilliant, big speeches about how we are going to be the best people in the entire world once we walk off that stage, to the real world: the reality of applying to jobs, getting interviews and, most of all, getting rejected. For those of you who have been there, you know how that hurts.

I am not trying to scare any of you, I am still extremely hopeful that I will land a position sometime soon. I think it’s all about your attitude. I have been very positive each time I have sent out an application, and more times than not I get a phone call, an interview. It’s just important to realize that these jobs might not happen RIGHT AWAY for some people, and I think colleges kind of do a bad job in providing false hope that when you graduate you will already be in your career.

I went to school for Journalism and from the beginning I heard how hard it would be after (I can hear all of you going “well, duh”), but I could not go for anything else. I have loved reporting and writing since I was a little girl and I had to follow my passion. But, I realize that passion does require major sacrifice (aka being poor for a while). For those of you out there who chose an artistic/unconventional major, you can probably understand this struggle between knowing it might be hard, but wanting more than anything to do what you love.

I can’t lie, there has been this overwhelming stress and depression surrounding the search for a job. That’s my experience, you may feel differently. I wake up in the morning shocked that I haven’t landed a position yet and it’s already almost 8 months after graduation, and it’s both discouraging and motivating at the same time. It’s a hard period for post-grads, in the wake of loan repayments hovering and a hope to be independent and out of our parents house, that I feel doesn’t get talked about enough.

I am here for anyone out there that is going through this transition period. You most certainly are not alone, we can create a little community in the comments and chat all about this if you’d like. I just wanted to keep it real with you all, because I think sometimes bloggers can be made out to be these overly happy, organized people with absolutely perfect lives.


Here is my best advice if you are still in high school/searching for a college:

-Do your research on how much you can afford or what your loan repayments will be after you get out of school.

-Pick an in-state school unless they are giving you absolutely great scholarships to go out-of-state.

-Know what your projected major will pay when you graduate (a general estimation).

For those who are about to graduate:

-Prep your resume early. Have a few professors you like help you with it or give some advice, or some knowledgable friends. Start sending it out about 6 months prior to graduation.

-Take internships that you will enjoy and will complement your major/minor (even if they are right after graduation). Try your absolute best to get paid for your internship, you deserve that.

-Don’t feel bad about moving back home or struggling for a little bit after you graduate. Don’t feel bad about taking a retail/food service job to pay your bills while searching for something you really want to be doing. It will get better.

For those who have already graduated:

-Indeed has been a great resource for me (they seem to have the best job postings). Send out those resumes like crazy and you will likely get at least a few responses.

-As stated in the last section, it’s okay to work in retail/food service in the meantime. It’s also okay to take a job that maybe wasn’t exactly what you were hoping for. Just because you take a job doesn’t mean that you have to be there forever (this is an idea I struggled with until recently).

-It will get better because it has to. Stay positive because it is so easy to fall into a dark place and it’s not so easy to crawl out of it.


 

Thank you to my lovely followers and those that are new for taking the time to read,

Emily

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