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doing Chicago: what to do in wicker park

Posted in Food, Travel by

When I was 16, I came to Chicago on an art scholarship. I fell in love and knew in my heart that I’d live here someday. At age 30 (woof,) I finally did it, and I am so happy. Since I’m getting to explore the city more like a native and less like a tourist visiting the same spots over and over, I thought I’d start sharing some of the hidden gems that might be overlooked by people coming to visit for the first time. Today’s spotlight is on Wicker Park/Bucktown. It’s one of the trendiest “hipster”-ish parts of town, but that means there’s a lot of great food and drinks in addition to things to do and places to shop!

Gotta start with my favorite food group. I love Dimo’s (and Dimo’s loves me!) If you’re in the Six Points area and just need to grab something quick, this pizza is where it’s at. Pop in, drop my name, and grab a slice of the white pie or another monthly special – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

If you have more of a sweet tooth, head across the intersection to Stan’s Donuts. Stan’s began in LA and their popularity has spread here to the midwest with two locations in Chicago. There’s not a lot of space inside, so be prepared to eat your donut and get on out. Go on the weekend to get the biggest selection (the beignets, buttermilk bar, and chocolate sprinkles are my favorites.)

Wicker Park is home to many great bookstores, and one of my favorites is Volumes Bookcafe. Part bookstore, part coffee shop, part bar, this is a really cool spot. Browse for books and cozy up in the cafe with a cup of coffee, or come in later on, grab a beer, and borrow a board game with friends.

Mahalo Chicago Wicker Park

Mahalo is the most Instagram-worthy spot on the block. It’s Hawaiian-inspired, and begging to be photographed. The drink menu is fantastic (grab the daily daiquiri and thank me later) and I look forward to visiting again for a meal. We went a few months ago and weren’t bowled over, but the chef has changed since then, and both the menu and website look much better!

There are a lot of great spots in Wicker Park to grab a cup of coffee – hop off the Blue Line and head straight into La Colombe, or head around the corner to the Starbucks Roastery. (Yeah yeah, I know, Starbucks. It’s a roastery, though, and they have more creative drinks – the Coffee Malt is amazing!) If you’re looking for a spot to set up and work, I love Brü. Very freelance-friendly, and they accept Brewpass. Use the code DESI1 when you sign up for a free cup!

Quimby’s is another great bookstore in the neighborhood. They feature indie and underground books, comics, magazines and – best of all – zines. Growing up I was really into zines (I still have a few of my favorites kicking around my parents house) and I could spend hours browsing the shelves here. They have both local and national authors, as well as lots of fun gifts and notebooks. They also host shows from time to time – the great Sad13 played here last spring.

kanela breakfast club

If you want a cinnamon roll the size of your head (and quite honestly if you don’t, there’s a great Urgent Care I can recommend in Wicker Park because something must be wrong,) head down to Kanela Breakfast Club. It’s my favorite one in the city so far, and the rest of the menu is equally great. They have a nice bar area and it’s bigger than it looks, so don’t let a line deter you. They turn it over quickly.

While it’s not a strictly local spot, I can’t visit Wicker Park without buzzing in to David’s Tea. Their summer collection is gorgeous and the iced tea press makes it easy to make single batches of iced tea in one tumbler – just grab and go. Pop in, grab a tea of the day, and try not to walk out with a pound of tea.

Don’t leave Chicago without a souvenir! Transit Tees have some of my favorite t-shirts and knick knacks. Ever since I saw Rachel on The Real World: Back to New York I’ve loved transit-inspired stuff, and there’s plenty of it here. Whether you want to rep a specific line or stop, they’ll have it. (Plus a lot of awesome Michigan stuff, too!)

Cabana Club

reckless records

If you’re into records, stop over at Reckless Records. Wicker Park is just one of their three locations in the city. They have both new releases and used records, and their website has an up-to-date inventory search. I’ve found my one unicorn record by checking their website constantly! If there’s something you’re on the hunt for, head in. Actually, check them out anyway – the staff is always ready with recommendations.

chop shop pizza summit chicago

Though it might not seem like it, there are a couple venues in Wicker Park where you can check out some shows. Subterranean features some of my favorite artists (including Doomtree in a few weeks!) and Chop Shop’s First Ward venue features some really great punk shows. (They also host the Pizza Summit where I attempted to eat my body weight in pizza against two competitive eaters in April, as pictured above.)

By the end of the day, you’ll be ready for some dessert. Jeni’s Ice Cream is a Midwestern classic (I highly recommend the salty caramel and brambleberry crisp combo) or head up on Damen to Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. Their whole menu is great, but I definitely recommend their namesake hot chocolates or cookies – chef Mindy even wrote a cookbook about cookies, so you know they’ve got to be great!

What are your favorite things to do on vacation? Any places in particular in Chicago you’re curious about? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to share the city with you!


July 21, 2017

an (updated) day in the life

Posted in Living by

This year, and really since I moved to Nashville, my life has been totally different than it ever was before – but I’ve been enjoying it that way. Since it has changed so much even since I did the last “day in the life” post, I thought it would be fun to do another “follow me around” blog about what my normal day is like!

6:30am: the alarm goes off (recently I’ve been waking up to the Glee version of “Home,” because of course.) I’ll hit snooze a few times before I get out of bed at 6:55, make a cup of coffee in the Keurig while my regular pot brews, and sit down at my computer.

7:00am: Because I am so lucky and fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from anywhere, I’ve lately been enjoying sitting on my patio and working from my laptop. It’s pretty painful for my tendinitis, but I can’t resist the sun. (I even got to work from the front lawn of the record store a few weeks ago!)


12:00pm: I check out of the office for the day and have a few hours between shifts. My favorite lunches lately have been scrambled eggs on a piece of toast, with roasted brussels sprouts (I never ate these growing up and now I am totally obsessed) and a side of fruit. I’ll clean my house, work out, take a little nap, or run some errands during this time. Lately I’ve really been focusing on purging my closet and the rest of my house preparing for this summer’s move (much closer in to the city) and my mom’s visit in a few weeks!

3:00pm: Depending on when my next shift begins, I could shower and get ready at 3 or 4. I make a quick Shakeology shake (lately I’ve been recreating the Mocha Coconut frappucino that Starbucks got me addicted to before discontinuing a few summers ago) and I’m out the door to head to the venue. Depending on traffic, it could take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour to get to work… I really wish I was kidding. Welcome to Nashville, ya’ll – hope you like to sit in your car on the highway.

6:00pm: Doors open for the show.

8:00pm: The show starts!

Then depending on what shift I’m working and how late the show goes, I get home between 8:30 or 12:30.

This is a really normal week for me. I might have one or two days per week off from the venue, so I don’t work at night on those days, but for the most part I really am this on-the-go day in and day out. Though it seems a little crazy busy, I really love it, and as hesitant as I am to admit it lest I jinx myself – I’m happier than I’ve ever really been.

What does a day in your life look like?

May 27, 2015

Springtime Friday Faves!

Posted in Living by


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “favourites” post, even though they are some of my favorites to read (and write!) This time, though, I found it surprisingly difficult – it seems like I was in a rut for a few months not really trying new things or venturing out very much. There are a couple new things I’m loving, so let’s check them out!

shark-tankShark Tank: Shark Tank you guys, I didn’t know! I accidentally got into this show during the ice storm when I was staying with Sixx and his roommates, who all watch it. Since then, I’ve spent my weekends binge watching it since I now work from home, and these episodes are on demand. (And maybe I’ve been watching the old seasons online too.) It’s cool to see all of the products and ideas people come up with, and I’ve maybe bought into a few of the ideas and businesses that have been featured…


The Trews: Pedal Steel introduced me to this band a few months ago, and I’ve been digging them a lot lately. This Canadian band has a great alternative rock feel that reminds me of the greatest generation and even though Spotify just took down my favorite album of theirs, everything else is great so head over to Spotify to check them out!

This Is Where I Leave You: to be honest, the jury is still out on this movie for me. There were parts of it that I absolutely loved, but the ending left me absolutely infuriated. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, because I still think it’s worth the watch (especially if you love Jason Bateman or ensemble cast family dramadies), but I think I need to check it out again before I make a final call on it.

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer: I really like to layer my SPF in the summer, and living in Nashville, summer comes a bit earlier. I’ve been using this under my beloved Urban Decay Naked Foundation and I love the little bit of extra coverage it gives vs. a primer with SPF – plus it’s super hydrating, matches my skin tone really well, and I can even use it on its own on a lazy makeup day.

Tennessee Brew Works Wit Wine: it’s no secret that I love beer. It’s also probably common knowledge that I work at a winery. We recently got in a new brew from TBW – a wit beer aged in cabernet wine barrels. It has almost a wheat-y taste, and is a perfect nightcap. (Of course I drank through the keg we had in, so it will be awhile before I can get this beauty back on my lips.)

Trello: I know I know, I did a whole post about my love for this cute little app, but it bears repetition. Using it for shopping trips is the newest gamechanger: I can make a list for grocery shopping as well as clothing chopping and check things off as I find them.

Brunette Ambition: Lea Michele is one of my favorite celebs, so I can’t believe I held out for almost a year before ordering her book. It came on a Saturday and during my lunch hour I tore through the chapter on Glee (of course.) The recipes look like food I actually could make, and this book reads more like a lifestyle blog. She should really get on starting one – I’m sure she definitely has time to blog while she’s on the set of Scream Queens 😉

What have you been loving this spring season?

April 17, 2015

“My Liver Is A Beet”: #BasicBitchesDoAJuiceCleanse

Posted in Food by

My girlfriend and I did a juice cleanse last week. We ordered a StyleBlueprint voucher for my favorite Nashville juice bar, The Urban Juicer, and after some fumbles at the start (they aren’t great at answering their phones, and I may have gotten a little “angry mom” with them about insulated bags) we started on February 3. It’s important to me this year to try to reboot my health from head to toe and recover, so I thought this would be a great way to kickstart that. I also thought it would be fun to do a sort of running journal as we went to catalog how I feel and how things are going!


February 3, Day 1: I’m not too concerned about how this is going to go because I was a juicer for two years until my juicer broke and I’ve just never gotten around to replacing it. We drink six juices and one elixir every day for three days – standard juice cleanse stuff. The first juice of the day is my go-to every time we go to Urban – The Well Being.

The worst juice of the day by far was the Liver Lover. I wasn’t struggling with it as much as much as Ram, but I did partake in power hour with her (we put on a 90’s Power Hour mix on YouTube to make her get through it.) Drinking 6 juices per day is hard because it’s just so much – I feel like I’m just constantly drinking. I did get a headache on my drive home (though it could have been from ridiculous Nashville suburb traffic) and ripped through my bag to find the Lemon-Aid elixir, which is supposed to be good for aches.

All in all I’m feeling good and staying strong on day one!

Captain’s Log, 9:19pm: I am so tired but I have to stay awake to drink all this stupid juice.

Read more…

February 9, 2015

Pancakes: an #adulting primer

Posted in Food, Humour by

Growing up, I LOVED pancakes. I remember every Saturday morning my mom would make stacks and stacks of them in our tiny kitchen and I would eat and eat them until I couldn’t eat any more. Even now, my favorite weekend in-home brunch is to cook up some pancakes and brew a pot of coffee and curl up in front of the DVR.

There’s a popular spot in Nashville called Pancake Pantry that is so popular that people line up for hours to get a table, and I had friends in town over the weekend who are big fans so on Sunday morning I bundled up and we waited for an hour before we were seated and served with menus.


Poor service aside, I was really not impressed with my pancakes. I didn’t say anything to them because the were all gloriously happy, but they didn’t taste any different than the box of Kroger pancakes I cook up at home.

At work the next day I told my co-workers, who had suggested going to Pancake Pantry a few weeks ago with Sixx, that I went and wasn’t crazy about it. Mouths agape, we started talking about pancakes and what makes a good pancake when almost everyone said the same thing to me: perhaps the real draw to Pancake Pantry for them is that they don’t know how to make their own pancakes.

This time I was in disbelief as they all started to tell me where their cakes went wrong. “One side is always burned!” “I cut into it and it’s still runny.” “When I pour it into the pan, it just spreads all over the whole thing.”

I started troubleshooting one by one and it occurred to me that maybe it would be good to provide a primer on the art of pancake making.

  • If your batter runs all over the pan: you have used too much water. Add more pancake mix, thicken it up, and enjoy your feast.
  • If one side of your pancake burns, your pan or griddle is too hot. Adjust the temperature down. Enjoy pancake bliss.
  • If your pancake is runny after cooking, you didn’t cook it long enough, dummy. Cook longer.

And that, my friends, is how to pancake.

October 13, 2014