Newbie Nugget: Three Centuries in One View

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it more than 100 times, but I've become an architecture geek since moving to Chicago. If you spend a few hours wandering the Loop, you'll find it incredibly easy to understand why. 
The architecture in this city is stunning.
It's diverse, it's eye catching, it's exciting and there are so many interesting stories and anecdotes behind each of the buildings.
3 Century View
This weekend, I took another architecture boat tour. Yes, that's my second boat tour this summer. No, I do not consider that overkill. Yes, if you'd like someone to accompany you on one next weekend, I'll be happy to go again.
On the tour, our guide pointed out this three century view just hanging out and begging to have its picture taken. 
Here are the details:
a. The Riverbend Building: construction on this primarily residential building was completed in 2002
b. The Fulton House: construction on this former warehouse turned condo complex was completed in 1898
c. 350 W Mart Center: construction on this mixed use commercial space was completed in 1977
If you're keeping score that's three different centuries representin' at that fork in the Chicago River.
Rather impressive, yes?
Is there a tourist activity in your town that you just can't get enough of?
Or have you taken one of the architecture boat tours in Chicago? What'd YOU think?


Thankful Things

"I don't look for bliss, just contentment." 
~ Alison Krauss

Untitled Untitled

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The thing about contentment is, sometimes when you rest in it, bliss sneaks up and kisses you on the cheek.

I mentioned on the A Foreign Land Facebook page yesterday that this week has been full of things for which I am incredibly thankful.
  1. The Grant Park Music Festival is still going on! This means free concerts in Millennium Park on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings. And it turns out that up in the seats, the audience is very well behaved. (unlike many people on the lawn)
  2. I'm currently caught up in a mad love affair with Washington Street.
  3. When you relocate, one headache is finding new doctors, dentists, vets, stylists, taxidermists (just kidding we haven't stuffed any deceased pets - yet). It's scary stuff trusting your body, pet, and hair to the care of a total stranger. But this week, I was able to cross another one off the list when I was referred to, Scott at Natural Elements Salon. He was fantastic and I feel pretty again. (Though, that doesn't mean I don't miss you like crazy, Miss Cameron.)
  4. Work has kept me busy this week and I even had a chance to publish a post on the Weaving Influence blog
A weekend visit from family and cooler temperatures over the next few days means this list will probably continue to grow throughout the weekend.

But, enough about me, what about you?
Has bliss kissed you at all this week?


Worth It: Prairie Avenue Neighborhood Tour

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of a good FREEBIE.

But my love doesn't stem from my being cheap (although some might argue that I am). I love taking advantage of FREEBIES because then there's a little bit of change left in the bank to spend on events that require a financial investment.

Today, I'm here to tell you that the Prairie Avenue Neighborhood Tour is absolutely worth the very reasonable investment required. The tour happens on select Sunday afternoons and is offered by the Glessner House Museum.

It is a perfectly delightful way to spend the afternoon.

For two hours, we walked and gawked at architecture while learning the fascinating history of the neighborhood. And let me tell you, our guide provided plenty of juicy little neighborhood stories during our time together. Once Chicago's premier locale, the prairie district is in the midst of major revitalization and restoration after several decades of decline.

Kimball House - Prairie Aveneu
The Kimball House | 1892

In the late 1800s, ninety mansions lined these very few and very exclusive blocks. Those mansions were home to Chicago's wealthiest residents, including George Pullman, Marshall Field, and Philip Armour. Though only 7 remain standing today the area's rich architectural history remains evident.

Wheeler Mansion Wheeler Mansion Interior Staircase
Wheeler Mansion | 1870

Prairie Avenue's hey day was short lived. By the early 1900s the neighborhood began to decline as industry moved in and its high society residents moved out. There seems to have been a mass exodus North of the River.

BF Goodrich Co. Building - Chicago
BF Goodrich Co. Building | 1911

Elbridge G. Keith House
Elbridge G. Keith House | 1870

I'm quickly becoming a Chicago history geek, so the bits and bites shared on the tour were fascinating to me.  Our guide was richly informed, relaxed and funny. His passion for the neighborhood was evident and utterly contagious.

The tour was time and money well spent. It was definitely worth it.

For those of you interested, the Keith house (pictured just above) is on the market. 
We've gotten so used to our 900 square feet we're going to pass on making an offer.
But what about you?

For more information on the Glessner House, this tour, and the others they provide:
www.glessnerhouse.org • glessnerhouse@sbcglobal.net
312.326.1480 • 1800 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616


An Unanticipated Path

When I first started blogging, I had big plans for where A Foreign Land was going to take me.

Even though I knew nothing about blogging or the blogging community, I was fairly certain my rise would be meteoric.

I had gigantic, dooce-sized dreams about publishers banging down my door begging me to write a book. I imagined hundreds of thousands of page views each day from fans around the globe. I just knew that brands would be dying to advertise on my little corner of the blogosphere. Why wouldn't they? My blog would be wildly successful.

Although I wasn't "in it" for the money, I figured a paying gig was inevitable.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to attend Social RevUp's Brands & Bloggers Summit (#bbsummit12 for those of you following along on Twitter).

It was a Saturday full of encouraging speakers, blogger connections and feelings of inferiority.

I looked around the room in awe of the other powerhouse bloggers. These women were getting the page views I dreamt of as a newbie blogger. They had networks of networks - too many connections to be counted. They were working with major brands, taking FREE trips to Disney World, and sharing their "secrets" on national television.

These bloggers were successful.

What was I doing here? Clearly I was out of my league.

I took notes, made new friends, drank in as much information as I could and left quietly with my tail between my legs.

Let's be real for a moment. It's been several years since I started this blog. I haven't attended any of my own book signings. The only "ad" that I'm displaying is one that I chose to swap with a blog friend. And if I get a couple hundred page views in a day, I'm elated and grateful.

The path this blog has taken has been very different from the one I intended.

If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step,
You know it's not your path.
Your own path you make with every step you take.
That's why it's your path.

- Joseph Campbell

My path has included personal growth, deep, rich community and an opportunity to improve my writing. My path has meant very slow and not at all steady growth. My path has been character building and ego crushing (believe me, it needed to be). 

My path has been more than I could have hoped for and better than I could have imagined.

It's true, it hasn't led to fame or fortune. But if a "paying gig" was what I was seeking, well, it has led there.

It hit me like a ton of bricks on my walk home from the conference. Perhaps it was time to revisit my definition of success. My dream for this blog has come true. But like every other dream that I've been blessed with in this life, it looks nothing like what I dreamed it would.

And for that, I couldn't be more thankful.

Which of your "dreams come true" look nothing like you dreamed they would?


Newbie Nugget: Etiquette on The Lawn

This summer we've been living on the lawn of Jay Pritzker Pavillion. We've seen concerts. We've seen movies. We've seen dance.

The Lawn - Millennium Park

There's one thing that each event has had in common.

There is a very clear etiquette people follow while on the lawn.

The Lawn - Jay Pritzker Pavilion

And apparently the gist of that etiquette is, "Do whatever the hell you want while paying absolutely no attention to anyone around you."

The night we watched Giselle, there was a group of six girls sitting behind us having their BOOK CLUB. Seriously, they were fully discussing a book. They had a bottle of wine and a list of questions. They weren't whispering. It was like the lawn was their freakin' living room. And do you want to know the kicker? They were discussing Fifty Shades of Grey.


It seems that the further you move back on the lawn the more rowdy the people get. But, we've definitely learned a lesson. Any expectation of total quiet or a crowd actually paying undivided attention to the performance has been thrown out the window.

Have you ever had an, "Are they really doing that here?" moment at an outdoor public performance?


Mmm Mmm Monday: Green City Market

For weeks I've been seeing pictures and hearing all about Green City Market. But nothing prepared me for what I discovered when I stepped off the bus last Saturday morning.

After a morning of yoga in Millennium Park and quick stop by Starbucks, I hopped a bus North and took a wander through the Green City Market in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

Green City Market

Perhaps it was the zen-ish mood I was in, but I think there was an angel chorus singing as I walked up. My jaw dropped. I'm not gonna lie, it was a little bit of delicious overload.

Green City Market

I went in expecting to find an abundance of beautiful fresh vege. (I'm channeling Gordon Ramsay there. Did ya catch it?) Of course, I wasn't disappointed. The market was bountiful.

What I wasn't prepared for was the selection of fresh meat, eggs, baked goods and prepared foods to enjoy while I browsed. And I might have squealed when I walked by the live bluegrass band!

The atmosphere couldn't have been more idyllic.

Green City Market

After walking around, maybe five times I grabbed a lamb filled hand pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company to help fuel my decision. It was rich, flaky and totally decadent. I savored every bite.

But it didn't help me decide.

Confession: I left the market last Saturday with NOTHING. I'm not even kidding. There was so much goodness that I couldn't narrow down what I wanted most. It's crazy, I know. And I kicked myself when I got home.

You better believe that when I went back on Wednesday morning, I made sure to fill up my bag with lots of fruit and veggies. Even though there seemed to be fewer vendors there on Wednesday than Saturday, I had no problem finding plenty of yummy treats. We've been enjoying them all week and I can't wait to go back again Wednesday.

If you're in Chicago and you haven't made a trip to the Green City Market, I would definitely say it's worth a trip or 5. The market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays all year long from 7am until 1pm. Come prepared to eat, shop and enjoy.

Are you an outdoor market shopper 
or do you stick to the produce aisle of the grocery store?


Chicago Spotlight

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win a giveaway on the lovely blog Project Soiree. The prize was this pretty little abstract painting that has finally found it's forever (or until we move) home in our place.

The piece was created by Sara, the hostess over at Project Soiree. I fell instantly in love with it but I took a little time finding the perfect place to display it. Wall space is definitely at a premium in our small space. But how could I not make room for a piece by a local artist? When I realized its size and color palate were a perfect fit in our bathroom, I excitedly hung it up. Now it makes me smile each time I walk by.

If you're interested in checking out more of Sara's colorful, abstract pieces, stop by her Etsy shop

Have you found the perfect spot for any new pretties at your place lately?


What "Not" To Do

Today I'm headed to my first ever blog conference! So while I'm filling my brain with lots of information at Social RevUp's BBSummit12, I've got a weekend rewind for you to check out.

Originally posted in July of 2011

If you've been visiting this blog for any length of time, you know that making lists is one of my coping mechanisms hobbies.  Lists get me dreaming.  Lists help me to set achievable goals.  Lists keep me from looking back with longing or getting bogged down by today's stress.  Lists allow me to systematically cross items off one by one and fool myself into thinking I have some semblance of control. Lists make me smile.

I have an Ultimate To DO List.
I have a 50 Books That I MUST Read List.
I have a Day Zero List (101 tasks in 1001 days).

I. Love. Lists.

But today I have a list of a different kind to share.  See it all started several months ago when I read this fantastic collection of essays by Shauna Niequist called Bittersweet.  In one of the essays, Niequist unapologetically lists several activities, foods and other sundry things of which she is not a fan.  It seemed like an exercise in letting herself off the hook.  By putting these things on paper it was as though she was embracing who she was and who she wasn't.

As I read it, I was intrigued by her list of things "To Not Do." A month or so later, while reading The Happiness Project I discovered that its author, Gretchen Rubin had discovered a similar truth.  (I suggest you read about HERE as she explains it far better than I ever will.) In her quest to find happiness she learned the importance of being Gretchen.  This simply meant she had to accept and acknowledge her limitations and embrace her natural likes and dislikes.

The idea was incredibly appealing to me.

While there is still a whole host of things I want to try while I'm on this Earth, there are a few things I'm cool with not ever attempting again.  For me, there is something so liberating about admitting that I'm just not into something.  No apologies necessary, just acceptance.

It makes me feel empowered to embrace that while a food/activity/belief/place might be very popular or healthy or insert positive adjective here, I am not REQUIRED to love it. By freeing myself from the need to develop a forced appreciation for things, I'm giving myself time and energy to devote to the things I really LOVE or haven't yet tried. And that, my friends, brings us to the most recent list in my life.  It's my list of things that I'm okay to not do. Perhaps an Anti-List, if you will.

1. I do NOT ski. While I love the idea of hanging out in a ski lodge, skiing is not for me.  Barreling down the icy cold side of a mountain on two planks is not enjoyable to me.  Mountains are indeed breathtaking and I'd prefer to enjoy them on the other side of a huge picture window while I'm drinking my hot cocoa by a roaring fire.

2. I do NOT like sour cream.  It gives me a weird taste behind my nose.  I hate it when it contaminates my food.  That creamy white ickyness gives me the creeps.  However, you put a packet of onion soup into it and give me a bag of ruffles and that's a whole different story.

3. Paris did NOTHING for me. Perhaps it was a case of expectations being set too high, but the city did not win my heart.  Having spent zero time in the remainder of France I'm totally open to falling in love with it (especially after finishing Julia Child's My Life in Paris recently).  But, if I never return to Paris I will not shed a tear.

4. I am NOT a beach person.  Pasty white skin makes me the worst EVER layer-outer and I have a itty bitty tolerance for heat and sand.  (I do love the ocean though.  A rocky shoreline full of cliffs and crashing waves has been known to make me swoon.) There are too many places around the globe that I'm dying to explore to spend every vacation moment on a beach.

5. I do NOT have a green thumb. I've written about this before. I kill just about everything I plant. Doesn't matter if the plants live inside or outside, in sunshine or shade, with water or without.  I kill them all. Indiscriminately and completely.

May I introduce you to my latest victim?

I reserve the right to add much, much more to this list as I continue to try new things and learn more and more about myself.

What about you? Do you have anything you're willing to admit is on your anti-list?


Great Tour - Even Better Price

There are countless tours in and around the Chicago area. Food tours, architecture tours, neighborhood tours, and themed tours are plentiful. For a guided tour junkie like me, it's an understatement to say that I'm in heaven. What I'm finding even more exciting is that some of these tours are FREE! Combine my love of tours and my love of a good Freebie and you have one giddy girl.

Last month I went on my first Freebie tour and today I'm going to tell you all about it.

I learned about Chicago Meetup back in May while reading Rachel Bertsche's MWF Seeking BFF: My Year long Search for a New Best Friend. Bertsche mentioned meetup as a wonderful way to meet new people in a city when you know no one. 

Meetup defines itself as the world's largest network of local groups.

Here's the concept. After signing up (it's free) you enter a few interests, find meetup groups that seem to match your interests/geographic location, and then pick an activity that sounds entertaining. Meetup's mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self organize. So, it's all about getting out of the house/office/place where you spend most of your time and making new friends.

Columbus Statue - Chicago UIC Police Station

In June I jumped on board with the Windy City Explorers. It was a great tour through Little Italy and University of Illinois of Chicago.

Our guide, Tom Besore, was knowledgeable, approachable and funny.

Mario's Italian Lemonade - Little Italy Chicago

On the nearly three hour tour we covered several miles on foot. Plus we stopped for treats at Mario's Italian Lemonade (Mario made it clear they do NOT have a website) and Carm's Beef and Italian Ice. If you're curious what the difference is between Italian Ice and Italian Lemonade, even after trying both, I'm not totally sure. I promise you though, they are both tart, refreshing and delicious.

Columbus Statue - Chicago

The Windy City Explorers group seems to have an event almost every week. I'm looking forward to attending another one sometime this summer. I should mention that this is a Freebie with an "*". There is a requested $5/year membership due for this group. But, I mean, come on. Five dollars per year for a seemingly endless banquet of Chicago neighborhood tours? That's an amazing value.

Now, you want to hear some good news for you? There are Meetup groups all over the country and all over the world! So, if this sounds like something you'd enjoy, check it out.

Have you ever participated in a Meetup event?


Chicago Must Have: Cross Body Bag

When I arrived in Chicago I carried a very pretty and very impractical bag. It had a short strap. It was open on top. It was a perfectly prime target for a pick pocket or a purse snatcher.

The purse made me and everyone I hung out with nervous. Jumping on and off the bus, wandering crowded streets, waiting for trains ... at every moment I had to babysit my bag. I felt like I was serving it instead of it serving me. I knew I needed a cross body bag to keep my wallet and phone safe. Plus it needed to be roomy enough to lug around all the "necessities."

In a few weeks I found the perfect Cable Car Satchel by lug. It has served me well these past few months. It's just like the one below except it's black. It has several compartments. It zips closed. And it's waterproof - which means I can pull it back out when the snow starts falling in a few months.

Until then, I'm on the hunt for a bright, utilitarian, feminine cross body bag. I need something new to get me through the remaining summer months.

Here are a few I have my eye on:

Cross Body Bags

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Do you have a favorite?


Meet Jenn: Simplistic Living

Happy Button Swap Guest Post Day! 
(perhaps it's time to come up with a catchier name...)

Have you noticed Jenn's totally chic button on my sidebar this month? Well, today she's stopping by to say, "Hello." In the short time Jenn and I have been bloggy buds, I've found her to be sweet, kind and incredibly supportive. Because of that, Jenn's blog is one of my regular reads. 

Jenn is currently living in Worcester and having a tough time adjusting - a feeling I am all too familiar with. Given her feelings for her current location, I was super excited when she agreed to write and share a post about Boston instead. Since Boston is a city that I haven't spent much time exploring, I'm looking forward to a virtual visit today.

Take it away, Jenn!


Hi guys, I'm Jenn. I am so happy to be guest posting for the lovely Molly today. I blog over at Simplistic Living. It's a lifestyle blog where I share all of the things I love. You will find anything from DIY and recipe posts, to inspirational posts. I love sharing stories and pictures from adventures my soon to be husband and I go on. Come take a peek and follow along as we conquer graduate school and adulthood together. I always love new readers!

My fiance and I are from a very small town in New Hampshire. Most days I will complain and say I hated it, but I miss the area more and more each day! We moved to Boston right after we graduated from college in 2011. I hated city living at first, but I eventually fell in love with Boston over the year we spent there. We recently had to pack up and move again to Worcester, MA due to school and finances. I am not loving Worcester the least little bit.

Molly is always sharing her amazing adventures in Chicago, so I thought I would share some of my favorite adventures from Boston! I was going to attempt to find the good in Worcester, but so far I haven't found anything worth sharing. My heart is still in Boston and adjusting has been difficult!

My all time favorite spot in Boston is the Boston Public LibraryHave you ever been? If you are ever in the area I highly suggest stopping in. Maybe it's my love affair with books, or maybe it's the architecture in the building, but I can't get enough of the library! They have an insane selection of CD's and DVD's, and of course every book you could ever want. But they also have a little courtyard with fountains where you can go outside and read. Plus, there is a small cafe, an art gallery, a room filled with maps, and so much more to look at. Here are a few pictures. Hopefully they make you want to visit one day.

My second favorite spot in Boston is a town called Brookline. I could spend hours (and probably have) in their bookstore called the Brookline Booksmith. It's incredible inside. The top  floor is all new books, and a little gift shop. The downstairs is all used books!

Seriously, I have a book obsession, but it's wonderful inside. After we stroll around the bookstore we either pop into Temptations cafe and grab a coffee, and split the chicken pesto sandwich or we head over to Berry Freeze and treat ourselves to some frozen yogurt. There is also a new pizza place called Otto that just opened, and it's heavenly.

Brookline has everything I need. There is a Trader Joe's for grocery shopping, quite a few delicious restaurants, some boutiques, and even bigger stores like the Gap. Seriously, it's one of my favorite places in Boston. It feels a lot less "city" and a little more suburban. It was only about a 15 minute walk from our apartment and it was never ridiculously crowded like other parts of Boston.

Did I make you want to visit? I'd love to be your tour guide! Here are a few pictures...

Do you have any favorite spots where you live? 
I'd love to hear about them! 
Come stop by Simplistic Living and say, 'Hi.' 
I promise to welcome you with open arms!


Would YOU be interested in swapping buttons & posts in the future?

(I promise I'll come up with a catchier name!)


Mmm Mmm Monday: Taste of Chicago

I was warned by several savvy Chicago locals to stay away from the Taste of Chicago.

They said it was too crowded. They warned it had become increasingly dangerous over the past few years. They all agreed that it wasn't worth the trip. They unanimously advised staying away.

Turns out I ignored their advice.

Since the Taste was within walking distance of our place and one of the biggest food events in Chicago, I couldn't very well skip it all together. I mean, come on. But I did keep the heart of their advice in mind and kept my visits short and around lunch time.

Perhaps it was my low expectations, but I enjoyed myself. Although I didn't spend much more than a few hours spread over two trips, I had a delicious time.
(Especially since I had a fist full of FREE tickets to use on my 2nd trip
Thank you, Bill, Vicki and Ann.)

Asian Carp Slider Raw Spaghetti & "meat"ball

Tempura Fried Veggies Rib tips from Robinson's

I tried an Asian Carp Slider with tomato-jalapeno chutney. That's right, I said Asian Carp. Yes, THAT Asian Carp. I didn't find the carp to be nearly as tasty as the chutney it was slathered in. But I'm definitely counting that as one of my "25 foods that will make other people gag."

I tried Raw "Spaghetti & Meatballs." Which was zucchini ribbons, cold marinara and a carrot and nut faux meat ball. Now, I know this sounds a little bit weird. But it was incredibly refreshing and delicious. So good in fact, I'm adding raw to "must try" restaurants.

There was a helping of tempura fried veggies and potatoes with chipotle dipping sauce that I thought tasted entirely too rich and decadent to be healthy. However, knowing they were prepared by Karyn's on Green, I figure I must be wrong.

But after all those veggies, this girl needed a little bit of meat. A helping of Robinson's rib tips hit the spot.

I also tried a "cheezborger cheezborger" from Billy Goat Tavern (the burger was meh but the pickles were outstanding), Bulgogi from Jin Ju (fantastic), a dark chocolate covered frozen banana from the Fudge Pot (yum) and a small cup of rainbow cone (more! please!).

Sure it was crowded. Sure it was hot. But the lunch crowd was comprised mostly of families so I never felt anything but safe. The portion sizes were pretty reasonable for the prices. And I thought there was a great variety of foods to sample. 

Now, I can't claim to be a Taste of Chicago expert. I was too hot to stick around for any of the cooking demonstrations and I didn't bother to get tickets for any of the concerts. But my limited experience this year was positive enough to warrant a trip back next year. What it lacked in ambiance (black top, crowds and ohhhhh the heat) it definitely made up for in good eats.

Are you a fan of street/food festivals? 
Or if you're in Chicago - Did you make it to the Taste?


Extended Holiday Celebration!

As I mentioned last week, having July 4th fall on a Wednesday was kind of weird. But it was also kind of wonderful.

For us, a Wednesday holiday meant two holiday weekends plus a party day mid-week. Win-Win-Win.

During our second holiday weekend, we made the trek to see family in St. Louis. It was a quick trip, but there was plenty of twin action while we were there.

Meet my incredibly sweet nieces Gabby and Grace.

Gabby & Grace

...and my crazy 2nd cousins Max and Sam (with the Princess Clara thrown in to keep things extra adorable).

Max, Clara & Sam

My sister says that identical twins are a total fluke. If her doctor is right, I guess I'm just a fluke magnet.

Any "flukes" in your family?