A day at the farmers market

Did someone say fresh local honey?

This weekend I ventured over to a little town called Wheaton, IL to check out their Saturday French Market. I’m a sucker for the words “fresh”, “local”, “natural”, “non-GMO”, “better than the grocery store produce section”, and I was not let down with the beautiful choices of fruits, vegetables, honey and even homemade cheese.

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Fellow market browsers checking out the local bargains.

There is something so special about knowing exactly where your food came from, and the people who run these stands are proud of their products. I was intrigued by one stand that had a giant British flag hanging off the back of it, and it turns out that there were some very British men selling sausages. Of course, I had to hear their accents so I asked them a few questions. They were a little insulted when I said that I don’t eat sausage, but they got over it.

The produce was gorgeous. I saw a poppin’ red pepper that looked like I could see my reflection in it. There was a head of romaine lettuce that looked out of this world. Don’t even get me started on the wonderful assortment of berries.

Aside from all the delicious food, including some donuts and crepes, there were beautiful fresh flower bouquets for a bargain price, handmade soaps and a super adorable home decor shop.

Not only are you getting a better product when visiting your local farmer’s market, but you are supporting a local small business which is oh-so-important to me. While the hot summer days are almost behind us, maybe it’s time you check out your own local market this weekend and pick up some great stuff to add to your meals.

I ended up leaving with some homemade, fantastic cheddar cheese, a whole bunch of fresh blackberries and a big jar of honey.

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Have a great Monday everybody and keep eating local.

-Emily

 

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Tips for riding the Amtrak Empire Builder Coach Class

I’m not the biggest fan of air travel, so when it came time to plan my trip from Chicago to Seattle my mind was instantly searching for any other way to get there. I had never taken an Amtrak train before, but after doing some research on the Empire Builder route, it seemed like such a beautiful way to see America.

We bought coach seats, which meant that we had to sit, sleep and do whatever else we could to keep us occupied in that seat. There was no bed for us to lay down in at the end of a long day of exploring the U.S. the old fashioned way, which definitely had its negatives.

The total duration of our trip to Seattle was 47 hours. It sounds much more lovely and quick than when you are actually on the train. Two straight days of doing anything can become extremely boring.

Before we dive into the tips, let me preface this by saying that I actually really enjoyed the trip on the Amtrak Empire Builder once we hit Montana all the way into Washington, but if you know anything about Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota, you are aware of how boring these states can be to drive through/take a train through.

While trying to prepare myself for what to expect riding coach on the Amtrak, I really couldn’t find much other than a few slightly helpful Youtube videos and a couple of vague articles. So, I figured I’d share my tips after going in almost blind and riding the Empire Builder coach class.

  1. Comfort Essentials

The coach seats are sneakily uncomfortable. At first sit, you will probably say something like “oh wow, these aren’t that bad”, but trust me, it gets worse. They do recline, but not nearly enough for a good night of sleep. There is also a foot rest at the bottom of the seat in front of you, which can make relaxing a little bit easier.

Bring a neck pillow, not a real pillow. I can’t stress this enough. Unless you end up lucky enough to not be on a sold out train (like we were) and no one ends up sitting next to you, in which case you could probably lay across both seats and have a decent sleep with your regular-sized pillow, then having a neck pillow is a much more comfortable option. We had both with us on our trip, I tried sleeping with the regular-sized pillow and could not get comfortable for the life of me, but once I switched to the neck pillow I was out like a light.

Don’t forget a blanket. Even if it’s a small little throw, it will make your journey so much more cozy. It makes the coach seats seem a little bit less like coach seats. Hopefully, it will distract you a little bit more from how much you wish you had a sleeper car.

Not necessary, but I suggest bringing some comfy shoes/slippers/shoes you don’t really care about to wear around the train. The bathrooms get a little bit grimy after two days of constant use, especially with how small they are, so having something you don’t really care about makes stepping into there a little bit easier.

2. Snacks + bottled water

The Amtrak food is a little bit pricey, and let’s be honest, they can get away with it because there is nowhere else to eat, even at the long stops (we did see some people order a pizza to get dropped off at one of our stops prior to arriving.. we were so jealous). Dinner is about $18-30 per person and it’s just about what you would expect from railroad food in taste.

Unless you are really great at packing food in a small cooler, you may run into having to purchase food once or twice. They do have a snack car on the Empire Builder (not sure about other routes) at the bottom of the observation car which has some microwavable snacks and drinks, but they aren’t the best. I got a microwaved bagel, took a bite and immediately threw it away.

I would suggest just carrying on a bag or cooler filled with snacks that could potentially replace a few meals, unless you have the funds and are wanting to buy all the meals on the train. The coach passengers meals are not included.

Bottled water is a huge must-have. First of all, you want one bottle reserved just for brushing your teeth.. because the sinks get pretty gross and dirty, the water is from a holding tank, etc. Second, you just need water. Pack as many as you can in random bags.

3. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes

You are not the first passenger ever riding on the train, which means that there have been other people sitting in those exact same seats for hours on end. Bring some disinfectant wipes to totally sanitize your area (pull-down tables, arm rests, basically anything you can) and you will  be surprised how much dirt you pick up.

I know by this point you probably think that this train must be disgusting, or that I am a total germaphobe. The second is true, the first is up to your interpretation. But, carry some hand sanitizer with you because, again, you are around a lot of people.

4. Take advantage of smoke-break stops

There are plenty of stops along your route, but there are some that are longer than others and trust me, you’ll want to take advantage. The majority of stops are about 3-5 minutes long as passengers load and unload. But, the smoke break stops are anywhere from 10-45 minutes.

If you’re anything like me you will be crawling out of you skin by the time you reach one of the stops, so get out stretch those legs and make some friends with people who are on the trip along with you.

5. Sleeping

I kind of covered this already with the pillow situation, but sleeping is pretty tough in the coach seats. First of all, the comfort is a big issue, but you will find what works for you, you have plenty of time if you’re going the whole route.

Then, you have to hope that your fellow passengers are respectful and quiet at night.

Just because you go to sleep doesn’t mean that the train stops. You will continue picking up more passengers all through the night, which brings the added noise of people throwing their luggage up top or being a little bit too talkative. We luckily only ran into this once, and we took this train roundtrip, so it wasn’t a huge issue.

If you’re traveling with someone you are comfortable sleeping next to (i.e. significant other), try out some weird contortions like laying your legs on them. It’s worth a shot.

They make the announcements for breakfast in the dining car starting at 8 am over the speakers, so don’t expect to sleep past then unless you have quality noise-cancelling headphones or can sleep through anything. The morning views are incredible and worth being awake, anyway.

6. The Observation Car should be your BFF

The train comes equipped with a train car filled with seats and tables looking out with floor-to-ceiling windows, which makes the journey a lot less painful.

In the summer months (we went in June), a few Trails & Rails guides from the National Park Service give a tour of all the beautiful scenery you pass through, starting in Montana into Washington. This was so much fun and so memorable for us. If you get a great crew, you will learn a lot.

The observation car is also a great place to make some friends. Remember, everyone else is stuck on the train too and it’s interesting to meet people from all over the country and world (we met a couple from Australia!).


Don’t let these tips/warnings detour you from taking the Amtrak. Honestly, we did enjoy ourselves, it was just a little bit too long for our taste. We also took the Empire Builder roundtrip, so it was a total of four straight days of our vacation stuck on a train. It was such an experience to see the country as people did back before car travel became popularized.

Here’s a few photos from the windows of the train:

Let me know in the comments if you have ever taken the train, or if you have a trip coming up tell me about it!


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Liebster Award + Nominations

Hello to all my lovely followers, old and new! I’ve spent the last year finishing up college (officially a graduate, woo!) and working at my marketing internship. I’m so happy to be back on the blog and able to share things with you guys again. I really missed this community. A big thank you to Sarah from Lifewithlilred to nominating me for the Liebster award, it means so much! Go check out her blog and leave her some love.

The Rules:

  • Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 blogs.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.

Q&A:

  1. Matte or glossy lipstick? I have to go matte (specifically Ruby Woo from MAC). Having my hair get stuck in the gloss really annoys me.
  2. Favorite sweet treat? Absolutely chocolate ice cream.
  3. The best concert that you’ve ever been to? Either Say Anything + Bayside or The Arcs.
  4. Last series you binge watched? More like when do I ever stop binge watching. I am currently bingeing Parks & Rec (for the second time) and Better Call Saul (for the first time).
  5. Least favorite school subject? Luckily, I’m done with school forever.. but it was always math and science.
  6. Any weird or hidden talents? I am basically Weird Al Yankovic. Whenever a song comes on or is stuck in my head I change the lyrics to things that rhyme, i.e. girl is always squirrel.
  7. Something that grosses you out? Fish. When people don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Lizards.
  8. What do you admire about your best friend? I have several best friends and I admire each of them for different reasons. But, they are all very strong, beautiful people and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.
  9. Male or female celebrity crush? Chris Pratt + Kiera Knightley.
  10. Last movie you saw in theatres? Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
  11. What did you do for your last birthday? Painted pottery, got some drinks, ate at the Cheesecake Factory.

My lovely Nominees (only doing 5):

Questions for you:

  1. If you could only save one person, George Lopez or John Cena.. who would you pick and why?
  2. You have $1,000 to take a trip, where are you going?
  3. Top 5 favorite dogs:
  4. All time favorite food?
  5. Who is the best character from The Office?
  6. How do you overcome stress + anxiety?
  7. Tea or coffee?
  8. Your favorite thing to blog about?
  9. Dream job?
  10. Your #1 goal before 2017 is over?
  11. Which version of Beyonce are you?

Thanks again, Sarah, for nominating me!


I just created an Instagram specifically for this blog.. so hop on over and follow me HERE.liebster

Travel Diary 2016: Chicago to Acadia National Park.

*I wrote this blog back in January and never uploaded it*

As it snows outside my window, I am immediately filled with travel memories.. to times of warmer weather and adventuring; to one time in particular that happened about six months ago.

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Suburbs of Chicago are freezing in January.

This time last year, I was sitting with my boyfriend Tom planning where in the world we should go for a summer trip. We danced around with the idea of visiting Seattle. We got so far as to planning an entire trip on roadtrippers.com called “West Coast Roadtrip” (original, I know): it was the real deal. But, that trip came to a close when we realized just how far Washington was via driving (28 hours, 2,060 miles to be exact).

So, we did what any people who had absolutely no idea where to go would do.. we pulled up Google maps. We really had this attraction to the New England region, especially the seaside. After a bunch of searching, searching again and searching one more time, we decided on visiting Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Once we had the destination, it was all about where to go. We had to worry about what car to take (we ended up taking my very small, very cute Hyundai Accent), how much gas would cost, what cities we would stop at for the night and make sure we got to Acadia in just a few days. It took a while, but we had everything completely planned and by the time June hit, we were ready to go.

From the suburbs of Chicago, we embarked to our first destination: the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. There are a few things I learned while driving to Niagara: 1. The highway in Canada was essentially one very long, boring road. 2. Nobody is as excited as you are to go to Tim Horton’s. 3. Crossing into Canada from the U.S. will take a little while.

We did eventually get to Niagara after an all-day drive. It was absolutely beautiful and I now understand the hype. We stayed for the night we got there, plus the whole next day and left the following morning. We did basically every touristy thing you can do and had a great time.

We did something called Cave of the Winds where you get to take an elevator down to the base of the falls and walk around. There is a part of it where you are standing right next to the waterfall and the water slams you. It was great.

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After standing under Niagara on Cave of the Winds

Of course, we also did the Maid of the Mist. I would definitely recommend doing Cave of the Winds OVER Maid of the Mist, since the majority of the time on the “Maid” was spent trying not to freeze to death and attempting to see through the very thick mist (it doesn’t have it’s name for NOTHIN’). Both were amazing though.

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On the Maid of the Mist

After our day and a quarter of exploring Niagara (and 10 m we were onto our next destination. This one was really just a “we need to sleep somewhere” stop: Keene, New Hampshire. It turned out to be a pleasant stay. On the way to Keene, we made a lunch stop in Syracuse, NY, which I was a big fan of! We ate at a place called Funk N’ Waffles (it was on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives) where they had a turkey dinner waffle. It sounds gross, but I promise it was amazing.

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Jive TURKEY (Not Tuerkey) from Funk N’ Waffles

Later that day, driving into New Hampshire was when our roadtrip views started to get beautiful. Upstate New York was started the hills, and from there we were driving through essentially small mountain ranges in Vermont. Vermont is the prettiest, most natural looking place I have ever been in the U.S. If you ever have to drive through it for any reason.. do it.  I am still wishing that I could drive through that area again.

In Vermont, we came across a small shop on the side of the road that sold honey and maple syrup, so naturally we got both.. and I have never had anything as good as either of those in my whole life. 10/10 recommend driving to Vermont just for some maple syrup.

We did eventually get to Keene, NH, where we stayed the night. My favorite moment from Keene was when we went to get some Panera for dinner and they had a lobster roll on the menu. As midwesterners, we were shocked, and told the Panera employee who couldn’t believe we didn’t have it on the menu in Chicago. Basically, this was when our trip started to feel very New Englandy.

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Side of the road in Vermont

The next morning we packed back into the car and headed towards our real destination, our cozy AirBNB in Lamoine, ME (right outside of Bar Harbor). We drove a lot on this trip, so much that it started to just seem natural to sit in a car for 9 hours a day. When we entered Maine, I really wanted to see the ocean, we pulled off at a random, small beach community and walked down to touch the water. It was a crappy, rainy, cloudy day.. but it was incredible to me.

We were planning to stop in Portland, ME for lunch and spending a few  hours looking around, but we got hungry before that and ended up in the town of Kennebunkport. It was pouring rain, we were a little bit hangry and sick of driving, but we had lunch at a small little restaurant. Tom got his first lobster roll there, which he thought was the best one ever, but he hadn’t tried any others yet in Maine.

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Our lovely Airbnb.

Later that afternoon, we finally got to our AirBNB. It was a long, long road to get there, but we did and it felt incredible. That night we drove into the town of Bar Harbor and had dinner at an Irish pub at sunset overlooking the bay. It was there that we found Bar Harbor Tom:

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The next week was filled with a ton of adventure, from exploring downtown Bar Harbor, to taking a trolly all the way to the top of Cadillac Mountain, we truly got the (probably touristy) Maine experience. I’ll let this picture slide show take you through what we experienced:

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Here is a video from Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park. This place was so amazing:

This was our first big adventure together. It was honestly fantastic and much better than we even hoped. If you ever get the chance to get out to Bar Harbor, I highly suggest it.

Our trip took place from the middle to end of June. The weather was in the 60’s-70’s, so it’s nice, but don’t expect this to be a beach vacation.

Let me know where your favorite place to travel is in the comments.


 

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Sorry I’ve Been MIA

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all having a lovely first day of November and that your Halloween festivities were fantastic. I wanted to drop by and apologize for my lack of posts lately. I have been dealing with some personal issues and haven’t gotten around to posting. I will be back ASAP, hopefully sometime this week. I appreciate all of your support and thank you so much for following and reading regularly.

There will be loads of things for me to share during the upcoming holidays…. so don’t worry.. I will be back with a vengeance.

See you all soon,

Emily

I went to a wedding!

I am super into weddings. Maybe it’s the hours of watching Four Weddings on TLC, or the beauty and time that everyone puts into them.

Yesterday, I went to the most beautiful wedding ever for my cousin. It started off in a front yard of a gorgeous home with large trees and woodland decor. It was so well done (even though they dealt with pouring rain).

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We then headed over to the reception venue which totally blew my expectations. It was a super nice barn-themed reception (this place was beautiful). We were welcomed by mason jars with their names and wedding date on them, which were used all night to refill at the open bar.

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The food was really good, not even just for wedding food. I had some chicken and potatoes and the rest of my table got salmon. EVERYONE WAS PLEASED. Their dessert area was perfect… cupcakes… the best cupcakes I’ve ever had.

Then, Tom and me got the party started by requesting Thriller. It worked and we danced for a good portion of the night.

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The night ended and on our way out we may have pocketed some more of the delicious red velvet cupcakes.

It’s nice to see family come together despite their differences for a happy event.

-Emily

I’m Alive?

Hello friendly followers and newcomers,

I thought I’d give a little update on my life since i’ve been completely MIA for weeks. First of all, I’ve been thinking of tons of new posts that I will have coming up that I am so excited about.. SO STAY TUNED. Secondly, I have been neglecting this precious page because of college. The last few weeks were insane but now the semester has finally come to a close and I am ready to enjoy the summer. I will be posting so MUCH because summer is my time to shine.

I am in the process of planning a summer road trip to Tybee Island, Georgia.. and honestly it’s harder than it sounds trying to get 4 college students with low-paying jobs to have a decent getaway. If it all comes together expect several posts about the trip (which should happen towards the end of July).

Also, something exciting happened a few days ago. My boyfriend got a NEW PUPPY. It’s a baby black lab and it’s the cutest damn thing to ever walk this earth. Her name is Daisy and I’m obsessed with her.

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So those are the new cool things happening in my life.

Sorry for abandoning you all,

XOXO EMILY.