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20Something Blogger Summit

You may have noticed a new badge to the right side of the blog here; this upcoming weekend, August 19 – 21, I will be attending the 20Something Blogger Summit here in Chicago.

This is not only my first 20Something Blogger adventure, this is my first blog summit of any stripe. Via connections on the Twitterverse, I’ve been aware of various summits and conferences in the past, but this is the first time I’ve been brave enough to pluck myself from the fringes and dive in.

Honestly, I’m beyond excited. I feel like a kid on the eve of the first day of kindergarten. My pencils are sharpened, my outfits are planned, my blog business cards have been ordered, and I’m ready to make new friends.

Signing up for this conference was a measured act of self-confidence. First, as we know, I’m on the very tail end of being 20Something. Second, signing up for this conference means that I’m publicly declaring myself to be a “Real Blogger.”

While the conference’s location made signing up an easy decision (no need for airfare or hotel), I stumbled a bit in seeing myself as the ideal attendee. Do I have the readership to call myself a blogger? Have I been at it long enough? I mean, I ordered blog business cards – who do I think I am?

I’m just a girl with a blog. I’ve always loved to write and having a blog gives me a reason to do so often and a platform by which to share it. I’m not looking to change the world, sell a product, or get a book deal.

(Yet, at least.)

I’m just a girl with a blog. This weekend, I’m going to a summit where I’ll be learning new tools, trying out new ideas, and meeting new people. I’ll be handing out cards with my blog address (“Hi. I have a blog. I think you should read it – you might like it.”) and hopefully receiving cards in return.

I’m a girl with a blog. I’m no longer a girl afraid to blog. After this weekend, I hope to be a girl unafraid to call herself a blogger.

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PhotoWalk: Ravenswood

I got a fancy new camera a few months ago. I took a class to learn the new, advanced functions of this camera, but was underwhelmed by the level of instruction. I learn best by doing, anyway.

The result: photowalks. A photowalk is what it sounds – I walk around a predetermined area taking pictures. There’s only one rule: I’m not allowed to review or edit photos while I’m out. I’ve found that’s the only way to keep from deleting pictures out of self-doubt.

Lately, I’m into textures. I took this camera with me to Seattle and was amazed at the detail it captures. I took several pictures of the Gum Wall and was impressed/repulsed with how I was able to document every last blob of gum. Since then, I look at walls anew. Could I capture every crevice, every crack?

Ravenswood is a nearby street split down the middle by the elevated train tracks of the Metra. Each side features retaining walls of wood, metal, and stone. I set out to document. Below are the (resized) results:

I love how the rusty retaining wall behind the leaves could almost be treebark

Many colors of rust

These leaves were so vivid

Wildflowers

This tenacious little guy was growing out of a rock

Post with rusty nail

Chipped-paint fire hydrant

Southern Manners up North

I spent the first twelve years of my life south of the Mason-Dixon line. While I was young when we left Virginia, I have pretty solid memories of the time we spent in Texas. In 1994, we moved North and I started Junior High in western New York with an accent and an affiliation for Garth Brooks.

Junior High can be a bit brutal on anyone who stands out in any way, so I quickly worked to drop the Southern drawl. It would sneak back up on me whenever I spoke to family and friends from back home, but I was quickly able to assimilate with my teen peers. People soon stopped asking me questions about cacti and rodeos and eventually forgot I’d even know the answers to such inquiries.

Now, seventeen years after leaving the South, I’d consider myself decidedly Northern. I can handle extreme cold, reluctantly say “pop” when I mean “soda”, and I haven’t had Frito Pie in years.

The Southeast can keep its oppressive humidity, but I’d like to import some of the manners. See, in the South, we greeted everyone we saw on the street – friends and strangers alike. Nothing too in-depth – just a quick “Hello,” a wave, and a smile. No, I wasn’t raised in Mayberry. Midland, Texas boasted over 100,000 inhabitants while I was there. Regardless of population size, the practice of greeting ones’ neighbors is deeply instilled.

This cheery habit was very hard for my family to break. We’d stroll through our small town in western New York warmly greeting people who, in turn, would stare at us as though we were a herd of unicorns. We rarely got responses beyond dumb shock. Northerners seemed to only acknowledge acquaintances, so I soon did the same. This is not to say that Northerners are cold or unfriendly (in fact, Minnesota may be one of the friendliest states I’ve visited). It’s just different, and no thirteen year-old wants to be different.

People say they can still tell my parents are from the South originally. My mother has an accent to which I’m too accustomed to hear. My father has never met a stranger and has a kind word for everyone he encounters. The more I spend time with my sister, it’s clear that her mannerisms are still pure South. She tells me that people still stare blankly at her when she greets them, but that doesn’t stop her.

Me? I walk quickly through the streets of Chicago with my gaze focused straight ahead. I rarely acknowledge other people unless they appear to be threatening or in obvious distress. It’s kind of sad, really. I may live in a large city, but I hate to think that I’m so removed from the other people sharing it with me. I may be many years removed from the wee Texan I once was, but the least I can do is look up and smile.

Covet: Fresh Flowers

As we know, I’m a shelter blog/magazine enthusiast. While certain interiors are purely aspirational, there’s one thing all shots-of-perfectly-decorated-rooms have in common: fresh flowers. Isn’t it amazing what a vase of peonies can do to a room? The sunny weather has me craving bouquets.

In search of floral inspiration, I came across The Green Dandelion. Sarah, the flower-arranging mastermind, lives in Portland (one of my favorite cities ever). Look at this loveliness:

Up until, oh, five minutes before stumbling upon this blog, I would have told you that I didn’t like white flowers. Sure, they provide texture, but I want color! Clearly, I was completely wrong. Dead wrong.

Sarah’s friend Rachael was also playing with flowers during that photoshoot.  Look at these “living” earings made out of lichen!

(Sidenote: not sure which lovely lady is the model in this photo, but oh my word, those eyes!)

During the Summer, my favorite source for fresh flowers is the local Chicago Farmers Markets. It’s early still, but later in the season there are booths awash in all manner of botanicals. I tend to gravitate towards bouquets comprised all of one kind of flower, but now I’m inspired to be more bold and play around with mixing and matching. I want to try monochromatic arrangements (for texture) and using non-standard materials (twigs, branches).

Results to follow.

Craft Beer Week

For the uninitiated, we are now in the midst of Chicago Craft Beer Week. As new homebrewers and lovers of all things craft beer, Will and I knew we had to attend some of the festivities. Our event of choice: Craft Day Afternoon.

This event was a dream. On arrival, we we were each given a souvenir tasting cup and a menu. Forty-five different beers were set up in stations at the bar, in the beer garden, and upstairs. The serious taster could easily track which selections they’d sampled and plan what to try next.

I was delighted to discover the first beer by Chicago’s new 5 Rabbit Brewery. Their American Blonde Ale was crisp and clean with a smooth, honey aftertaste. Very drinkable – by both craft aficionados and neophytes alike. Bottles will be available in stores on June 1, so I will definitely be enjoying this beer all Summer. As the nation’s first Latin microbrewery, 5 Rabbit has the potential to bring many new flavors to the craft brew scene.  A brewery representative spoke to us about upcoming lines including a white beer flavored with passion fruit for summer and another featuring chilis. You can bet I’ll be drinking both. Plus, they are local (to me at least, but you should try them out wherever you are)!

Another favorite was a tart cherry ale by a local homebrewer. The beer contains two different kinds of cherries and has been aging since 2008. 

Like with any hobby or past-time, it was fun to spend the afternoon with like-minded individuals. (Also, while I never advocate faking an interest in something to get a guy’s attention, I’d like to let all Chicago area beer-loving ladies know that the guy-to-girl ratio at this event was at least 5-to-1.)

Best Day Ever

Today, my friends, is epic. EPIC.

Why?

Because my sister, Kerry, is now an official resident of the City of Chicago.  That’s right, Minnesnowta, cry your wee little eyes out.

To say I’m crazy-excited would be an understatement. Kerry and I haven’t lived in the same town since the days when we shared (and fought over) a bathroom. After graduating from High School, Kerry made her way to the Frosty North and has been there for the past eight years.

No longer.

Kerry will now live literally around the corner. Not “literally” like “I was literally about to freak out and die if Molly won Top Model.” Literally for real. Literally like:

I have big plans for Kerry’s first Chicago Summer. It’s kind of all I’ve talked about since the decision to relocate was made. Every time I go to a restaurant I look at the menu for non-meat items and, in the case that there is more than one, make a mental note to take Kerry there. We are going to go to many a street festival (except Taste of Chicago because that one is nutters and full of slow-walkers and always on the hottest day of the year and I hate it). We’ve talked about having a weekly “running date” and going to see Something Borrowed. 

Mostly, however, we are just going to hang out. With her living in another state, visiting one another had become an “Event” – full days were planned right down to when and where we’d go to dinner. As one of us had either taken a plane or sat in a car for six hours to see the other, there was the feeling that the time spent together had to be almost structured. Now, with her LITERALLY RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, if I want to invite her over for beers and bad TV, I can. We can just be lazy together.

I’m so excited to get this chance to get to know Kerry better now that we are both “adults” and for us to become even closer friends.

Envy as a Template

There are a few people in my life whom I envy quite a bit. I’m not talking about envying what they have, I’m talking about envying who they are. You can always purchase a similar purse, for instance, but you can’t buy fearlessness.

Specifically, I envy this girl l I’ve known since college. To me at least, her life seems like one big adventure. Most recently, she’s been all over southeast Asia and various Pacific islands in between. Even when she’s here in the US, she’s all over the place; beaming at me through the computer screen from Maine, Michigan, and Vegas. To top it off, she’s universally well-loved (as she should be, she’s sweet as pie).

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