When I was little, all I wanted to do was be a skater kid with the big boys. Of course, I only had a little sister so access to a board was pretty limited and I was blowing most of my allowances on Pokémon cards. Nevertheless I continued to wear primarily skater skirts throughout middle school and longed for a lifestyle that would never be mine... minus the bloody knees, I still got plenty of those. Flash-forward to present day, you're down a couple of beers after work and your friend asks you if you wanna go skateboarding in his garage? Uh duh. And obviously you bring your camera.
We may not be as well know as Seattle, but Milwaukee definitely knows a thing or two when it comes to coffee, or at least has enough coffee snobs living in it to support all our local roasters and cafes. I've been working in the coffee industry for almost six years now, and personally, I feel like I have just scratched the surface of this crazy micro-culture. However, there is one time-honored tradition that I have had the pleasure of taking part in, and that is the art of the barista "throwdown."
For anyone who is unaware, a throwdown is a friendly competition where two baristas battle it out for the most impressive latte art. The two designs are poured and presented to the judges who vote for the best cup, typically defined by visual aesthetics, degree of difficulty, color infusion, and definition. The competition is whittled down to the final two (March Madness style), leaving the winner who gets the pot, i.e. the $5 entry fee charged for each competing barista.
Needless to say, the night was a roaring success with laughter abound and PBR cans littering the counters and the La Marzocco, in true Milwaukee style. Suck on that Seattle.
There's nothing like a trip back to your roots to make you feel whole again. And that's exactly what I needed going into this past fall. I had just gotten the news that I had fallen short yet again, and did not land the job I thought was basically in-the-bag. Melancholy ensued, self-doubt reigned, and the couch became my second home. After a week I even rearranged all the furniture in my house, taking comfort in the household objects I did exert control over. My one ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel that was my mind, was a trip to New Orleans my friends from high school had organized. About a year and a half ago my friend Linnea got married and we all headed down to Nashville for the bachelorette party. Needless to say, we all probably had too much fun on that trip because now we're addicted to doing one every year. Insert, NOLA 2016.
Surprisingly, none of the girls had ever been to New Orleans, let alone Louisiana, so although I was born in Lafayette, I felt a certain sense of pride showing off my cajun upbringing. All we could talk about on the cab ride from the airport was the food we were going to consume: seafood gumbo, fried okra, catfish po'boys, oysters on the half shell... ironically we did not consume any of said delicacies that first night and just got drunk instead, too happy to be in one another's company after being separated by so many miles. The laughs were plentiful, the vodka-tonics overflowed, and the hangover the next day was merciless.
Seriously though. One of the worst hangovers ever. Our first full day in the Big Easy and I could barely walk (this was due not only to my constant need to stop and hurl but also because I awoke to a bruised and swollen left foot and had to slowly limp everywhere, the pain was so bad; I'm told I tripped through the front door last night and went flying into the couch. Typical). Anyways, the gang picked out an adorable garden breakfast spot to refuel and I made mental maps of where all the toilets were located. It was an entertaining brunch to be sure, and I'm pretty sure everyone in the restaurant thought I had irritable bowl syndrome.
We spent the next few hours wandering around the streets of the Quarter, popping into a few shops here and there, until finally I felt like I had overcome the last hurdle of my hangover. So obviously alcohol was the next stop, just in time for happy hour. I know, I know, I'm a glutton for punishment. But hey, when in NOLA...
The rest of the day and night was a blur of gumbo, jazz, and dranks-on-dranks-on-dranks. Leave it to Linnea, Emilie, and Laura to find the only country western bar in the French Quarter where we dropped at least two full drinks on the floor, and met the best shot-girl in the business. Eventually we found our way back home and slept like babies, eager for the next day of adventures.
And adventures we had, or at least culinary adventures. Breakfast was amazing, dinner was beyond words (seriously, never say no Jacques-Imo's), and finally we got the chance to get outside the Quarter and hang with some locals (I even met a Rottweiler named Big Freeda).
All good things must come to an end however and Sunday night we all re-packed our bags, hugged out our goodbyes, and headed to our separate destinations. One of my favorite things about my friends, besides our uncanny ability to have a good time wherever we go, is that no matter how many miles we put between us, how many months we pass with out seeing each other's faces, we can pick-up exactly where we left off so seamlessly it's like we never left. So here's to good friends, good times, and good ol' Louisiana. "Laissez les bons temps rouler."
Back when the weather wasn't quite so crisp and the leaves had yet to shed themselves from their branches, I was fortunate enough to take a weekend trip to Chicago with my dear friend Alison. She had recently had a birthday AND graduated from grad school so a bit of a celebration was in order. Us being us, we obviously ate all the food, drank all the dranks, and hit up every bookstore we stumbled across. We're a specific breed of human that combines the appetite of a fifteen year-old boy with the literary interests of a feminist librarian. You'd like us.
After some delicious southern fare for our Saturday brunch-fest at Longman & Eagle, we wandered around Logan Square, popping into a few boutiques (and of course Uncharted Books) and snapping pics of my favorite subject matter: sticker-vandals and urban graffiti. I don't know where this obsession stems from; maybe my failed attempts at becoming a skater punk, but ever since high school, I've always been struck by the textures, colors, and patterns that crop up from distressed graffiti art. It's almost impossible for me to pass a sticker-ed street sign or peeling poster without immortalizing it forever with my Canon, as most of my friends and travel companions would attest to (with a knowing smirk).
Alison and I had originally met and trained as baristas in Milwaukee so tracking down a quality coffee shop is usually at the top of our travel to-do lists. This being Chicago (and Logan Square) we couldn't not stop in at Intelligentsia. This was surprisingly my first experience at an Intelligentsia cafe and was therefore having a hard time deciding between just straight espresso or a macchiato. The barista I consulted with my dilemma was fairly pretentious but he did deliver unto me one of my new favorite quotes ("Um, I don't really split my shots but there is a guy here who does a deconstructed cappuccino"), so I guess it all evened out. Plus, the 'spro was pretty excellent.
One of our last stops in the area before heading back to our hotel downtown was at this adorable little flower shop, appropriately named Fleur. I wanted to buy everything (go figure) and ship it back to my little Milwaukee flat but sadly I had to submit to the reality that I am not a rich, urban socialite, and furthermore, would never be able to keep all those plants alive with my somewhat-elusive green thumb (or lack entirely thereof). Regardless, white and blue china plus emerald-colored leaves equal my new favorite color combo. Win.
We had a pup staying with us (a Weimaraner named Skyler to be exact) at our dog-friendly, home-away-from-home, so once we got back to the room, we set off for another stroll through the Chicago streets. Highlights include flashing our middle-fingers at Trump Tower, and spotting this perfectly retro, Pepto-Bismol pink automobile that looked like a prop leftover from a Wes Anderson movie.
The rest of the evening was a blur of perfectly Instagram-able cocktails and exquisitely hand-crafted desserts (that we just so happened to stumble upon on our way out of Unabridged Bookstore). We were staying at the Hotel Palomar which has this swanky little cocktail lounge downstairs that we posted up in most nights, ordering rounds of the most gorgeous gin and tonics I had ever seen. They were touted as Spanish Gin-Tonics, calling on the lost art of pairing certain gins with particular tonics, always complementing each other as well as the extravagant garnishes, served whole and submerged in the glass goblet. My two favorites were the Rose-Cucumber and the Lavender-Lemon. I am now obsessed.
After a rainy night spent giggling in the hot-tub and dancing to Tom Jones, we said goodbye to the Windy City, and shortly, each other. Sad as we were to depart from one another's company, we knew it wouldn't be long till we were back in each other's arms and boarding a plane for our next adventure in January.
I recently had the pleasure of volunteering at the Sheboygan County's 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer's at Evergreen Park. One of my friends is a committee member and asked if I would be willing to volunteer my photography services for the event, so last Saturday I loaded up my Honda CR-V and headed off for Sheboygan, double-checking that the forecast did indeed call for rain and grabbing my raincoat as I ran out the door.
And rain it did. Apparently rain had never actually fallen on the day of the event, so while the rest of the volunteers and committee members scrambled to tie down tents and tip tables to avoid water-log, I outfitted my camera with the ever-resilient plastic grocery bags I threw in my pocket to create my own cost-efficient rain protector. Not the most glamorous of choices I know, but hey, a girl's gotta eat.
Despite the weather, the walk was huge success. The turn-out was great and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, even if they did have to don their raincoats for the day. Families of all shapes and sizes enjoyed not only the walk through Evergreen Park (which is as gorgeous as it's name suggests) but also a symbolic flower garden for those with love ones affected by Alzheimer's, an activity tent for the youngsters, and all the hot dogs you could eat (literally). So even though we were a little damp, there were still lots of smiles, and even some sunshine. If this type of do-goodery sounds like your cup of tea, then you should definitely check out the Walk to End Alzheimer's website to find a walk near you.