April Snow Helps May Flowers Grow

I am really not sure what April snow brings but we had fun trying to find an uplifting rhyme.  This winter and whatever you want to call this pretend spring is has been long and rough.  So when it snowed on Monday, April 9 I really wanted to just stay in bed under the covers like a hibernating animal and give up.  But I knew I had two options stay warm in bed but feel bad that I am not being a good mom or productive and let the cycle continue or I could get up, bundle up, get out of the house and make memories together.  I was really sick for nearly two months over the winter and I missed almost all of the playing in the snow time.  I was bummed about that especially at the time but it was beyond my control and I tried to let that go.  So when the opportunity for playing in the snow came up in April I knew I should take it.  I am so happy I did, we made some wonderful memories together.  As we were bundling up to go outside and check out the snow, Annabelle said "mom let's have a photo and video shoot!"  So of course we did!  She gets me.  

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There was barely enough snow to cover all the grass, but hey there was enough to sled down the little toddler sled hill at Euclid Square Park.

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She loves snow angels!  --She also makes sand angels in the summer too. 

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I love that she tried to climb the tree in her snow pants! 

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"Mom can we play on the playground!?"  But there is snow? Yeah, she thought it would be fun!  It definitely was.

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She had so much fun with that shovel.  Glad she thought to bring it with!  I had to dodge flying snow a few times, but we were alone at the park.  Watching the way snow falls when you throw the snow in the air is a great science experiment right?  Learning through play.

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She spent a while shoveling snow from the hills and off of slides.  I love that she stopped for a moment to get a portrait.

We were going to walk over to Addis Cafe to get coffee to go but look at those storm clouds!  We made the right choice a few minutes after it started hailing little pellets.  We drove to Addis and spilt waffles so everyone won!

Annabelle had the best advice when it comes to weather about a month ago.  I said something about snow or cold, questioning it in late March--haha if I only knew it would be more weeks of cold.  And her quick response was "It is what it is."  She's wise beyond her years.  Now as the weather continues to be awful and spring feels like it's never getting here I remember her words and try to just embrace whatever weather we are given. I try to make the most of our days even when it's really hard to get off the comfy couch--movie days are good sometimes too.

The Paths of Life are Not One-Way

I feel like I am staring at a bunch of one-way paths for my life and career and I need to choose wisely.  So I stare at them, analyze them, plan out where I think they will go and I just freeze.  

 

So many notebooks full of dreams and plans.  So many articles read, podcasts listened to, and so much searching for my own answers.  I stare at those paths and I want to know where they go.  I want to peek around the corner and see if they are for me but I can't. Because the paths aren't like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book where you can cheat and flip through to the end and see if that was a wise choice.  Which is really scary because I want to know where the path goes.  But it's also wonderful because the path isn't fixed.  The ending isn't written. That could be even scarier in a sense.  There are infinite possibilities.  

 

So often we hear about the fear of failure but not many talk about the fear of success.  That is what I suffer from.  I worry that if I pick a path what if I am good at it, what if it goes well, too well.  What if I never get to explore those other paths because I am too successful at this one.  That seems crazy, right?  I thought so too.  I thought this concept was kind of insane and something was wrong with me. Then I started talking to my friends and found I am not alone. Others feel the same way.  --This often happens when we actually share our fears and the tough things we go through. But I know it's easier to just share the good stuff. I often thought I don't want to burden people with the bad stuff, they don't want to hear about that. 

 

Right now I am staring at these paths and so much is possible, it's exciting, scary and overwhelming.  I feel that once I take those steps down the chosen path that's it, that's the one way I am heading.  But a dear friend of my today helped me see that I still have a choice.  If it goes too fast or gets overwhelming I can take a break.  I can also try a new path.  It is not set in stone.  

 

Lately, I have been hearing all about knowing my ideal client, sharing my why, defining the vision for a business.  But you know what, as a creative person that is really hard.  We wear many hats as creative entrepreneurs and moms, many of which are always changing.  Yet as business owners we are supposed to be defined and concrete. Life isn't stone so why do we have to have such a concrete definition of our business?

 

A friend of my asked me "who do you want to be?"  After telling him he sounds like Moana's grandma I responded with I do not know.  

 

He told me to "be honest with yourself and say the first thought in your mind out loud.  If you get it out, it's easier to figure out."

 

My unfiltered response was this...

 

I love being a mom and I want another kid but that isn't happening and it's really fucking hard! 

 

First I hardly ever curse but at that moment there was no other way I could describe it.  I was in a downward spiral of grief and depression the other day and I am so thankful for him and my other friends that day whose texts and phone calls saved me. 

 

Life isn't going according to plan. --but does it ever? I thought I had my path chosen.  I was a stay at home mom--I mean work from home, I often forgot that in the first few years of motherhood.  I was always a photographer.  I never stopped working but at times I took steps back.  I didn't market my work or actively try to get new clients. I always had some referrals and repeat clients. And somehow I even had new ones fall in my lap.  For some reason, though I didn't consider myself a working mom.  A colleague of mine noticed I changed my Linkedin profile to reflect my new role as a mom and he too thought I had taken myself out of the game.  I guess in a way I had. 

 

In my mind, I had a plan.  I had a focus.  I would be a mom and a part-time photographer. I would take only a few clients but my main focus for the first 3 years of my daughter's life would be raising her and spending time together as a family. My husband worked full time and my income was going to be extra money for savings and extra things (like my coffee habit, vacations and home projects). Then around the time she starts preschool, we would have our second child. Then see maybe a few years after that a third or maybe just stop at the two.  After the babies weren't babies anymore and didn't need me as often my part-time photography would turn into full time again.  I would have time for marketing and growing the business. It sounded like a great balance.

 

I always thought well I am getting older so the third child might depend on my age too.  But in all my thoughts I never thought that the second pregnancy would be tough.  And at first, it wasn't.  A few months after we started trying we got pregnant, right on time. It was a few weeks after she started preschool (we got pregnant the beginning of October 2016).  

 

Annabelle starting preschool was more emotional than I thought but when I struggled, I found peace knowing that we would have another little one soon.  Except we didn't. I had a blighted ovum.  I will tell my story when I can get through typing it without breaking down in tears--or rather I can work through those tears enough to finish. Basically, it is a miscarriage where the gestational sac develops but the fetus doesn't develop. The word I often thought of to describe it is EMPTY.  That was how I felt too--and sometimes still feel that way. After almost 3 months of dealing with awful pregnancy symptoms while also dealing with pain, uncertainty, anxiety, loneliness, and so many emotions my body finally got the message and on Christmas Eve 2016 officially ended the pregnancy.  Since then I have been trying to heal and we have been trying to try again.  

 

It has been a very long year and three months and still no good news to report.  There are still days that it comes in waves.  I see a random post that someone is pregnant or someone asks about our future plans for another kid or Annabelle says something or a million other tiny things and it feels like a fresh stab wound.

 

Those little things remind me that the path of raising another child is closed right now.  I want desperately to jump on that path and run to the joyous moment of meeting our second child and then watching her or him grow.  But I can't-- at least not right now. So I stand frozen unable to choose.  Worried that if I go down one path, if I succeed at that kind of career that I will miss out on that wonderful path of being a full time, fully focused mom again.

 

That same friend told me "get that hurt out of your way, so you can enjoy the good that's happening for you now." And he's right. Every time I get motivated and think I can move on I feel this secret and this hurt hanging over me. I pause. I wait. I also didn't think I could write honestly on my blog or share my story without sharing this part of who I am. 

 

It is rare that I will ever post a blog without photos but I don't know what to choose to illustrate these words so for the time being, I think the words are enough.  That was hard enough. Someday I might come back and add some photos but for now, I will move forward and take steps to move along the path. Maybe I will succeed and it will be terrifying and amazing.  But it doesn't mean I have to continue along that path forever and it certainly isn't one way. They connect.  If I find out soon that a new path is open then I can explore that and come back.  Possibilities may not be what we planned or what we saw coming but if we keep moving we will find our way.  

 

Thank you to all my friends who have been there for me. I need to remember to continue to reach out because each time I do I am amazed by the response.  You are all so wise and kind and mean so much to me! To those reading this that have gone through similar or feel this way too, I want you to know you are not alone.  

Little By Little Inspiration

We were singing Moana songs in the car on the way to preschool on Friday morning.  I told Annabelle that I love the movie Moana.  I think it's funny and inspirational.  

"What does inspirational mean?" she asked me curiously. 

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When you become a mom you quickly realize that you will have to define everything.  You have to teach so many things that you kind of take for granted that you even know, simple things like definitions of words and more complex things like how things work or why people act a certain way. As a parent, you get to learn about the world all over again and see it with fresh eyes.  On a daily basis, I have to stop and think how do I explain or define this.  Thankfully sometimes Google rescues me.  Sometimes I say I don't know.  Sometimes I ask what she thinks.  And sometimes I wing it and give the best explanation I can.  Some days I feel like I know nothing about the world and some days I feel I know nothing about myself. 

Being a parent is a journey of self-discovery and hopefully, it is the journey of becoming your best self.  It is inspiring at times. But it can also be frustrating and discouraging.  The biggest thing to remember as a parent is to give yourself grace.  You are not going to have all the answers.  You are not going to always get it right. You do the best you can and that is good enough.  Remember you are enough.  That is something that is often so hard to remember as a parent.  We question and doubt.  Parenting doesn't happen all at once.  You certainly are not going to have all the answers right away--actually, never. You will never have all the answers.  It's okay to say I don't know. It's more than okay to ask for help. We do the best we can and we learn little by little.

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So I told her that being inspired is kind of like seeing someone who does something strong, brave or smart and it makes you feel like you could do something great too. It motivates you. (Luckily she didn't ask me to define motivate too. Sometimes I get into a loop of defining words using other new words then just get stumped.)

Without hesitation and very matter of fact, she says "But I can't even move the couch!"   (when we are cleaning we move the couch)

I did not see that response coming.  I giggled.  Then quickly tried to compose myself I didn't think laughing was polite to her very honest response. So I quickly tried to lift her up.  This is as close my response as I remember (I wrote it down shortly after I got home).  

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Well yes, you can't move it now but someday you will.  You will get stronger little by little if you work at it.  Just like gymnastics and learning to read you learn a little at a time.  When you started gymnastics you couldn't do much but you worked at it and now you are stronger.  Before you couldn't hold yourself up or balance or do somersaults.  I bet sometimes you see the girls doing cartwheels and flips and think you can't do that or it's so much to learn. 

"Yeah," she says in a small defeated voice. 

But if you keep practicing you will get there.  You are already starting to do cartwheels and balancing better and do flips on the bars now.  You are so much stronger than you were when you started. 

 

"That's true I can do cartwheels now."

 

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It takes time.  It takes doing it little by little, one step at a time.  Do you think Moana could just sail across the ocean and climb and take on Te Ka?  No, she worked on the island and got stronger as she grew up.  

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I could tell she was starting to understand but still in doubt so I continued...

So I was blogging--which is like writing a story but it's online instead of printed in a book.  And in this story, I felt discouraged because the recipe for the neighbor's cake is a little complex and I am not a good baker.  Our neighbor is a good baker because she does it all the time.  She told me that I don't need to make the complicated and difficult recipe to start out with.  I should start with something smaller and simpler, a recipe easier to make.  Then I can practice and work my way up to that cake. I learn it little by little and it gets easier.  

 Her first day of her second year of preschool (2017-2018 school year) she was so confident and excited.  She practically ran into the school.

Her first day of her second year of preschool (2017-2018 school year) she was so confident and excited.  She practically ran into the school.

Annabelle mumbled something in agreement.  I could tell she understood more.  She also offered some encouraging words.  I wish I remembered exactly what they were but we were pulling into the car dropoff line for preschool.  She asked if we could have "turkey chicken" a recipe that Jon makes. It's just chicken but at some point, she wouldn't eat chicken if you called it chicken but she would eat turkey.  So one day we said "turkey chicken" and somehow that dish is always called that. It's chicken with a rosemary balsamic glaze (on the side she doesn't eat the glaze so it's literally plain chicken).  

It was quickly our turn in line and the rush to get her out of the car was on. Unbuckled her. "Here is your coat and bag." The teacher whisked her off. I yell "I love you!" as she exits the car, just in time before the door closes.  Just like that our unexpected little life lesson was over almost as quickly as it started.

 

The car in front of me thankfully took a little while to pull away and I watched her walk with a little more confidence up those stairs with her little backpack that's almost as big as she is.  The Moana song, Where You Are, was still playing. My heart was full. I was overcome with emotion as I had a flashback to dropping her off her first day of preschool.  

 

 Her first day of preschool ever.  September 8, 2016.    Emotional day for me, tough mommy moment.   

Her first day of preschool ever.  September 8, 2016.    Emotional day for me, tough mommy moment.

 

She is now more than halfway through her second year of preschool.  Soon she will be going off to kindergarten.  Little by little (although it seems much faster) she is growing up.  The song that was playing was the one she asked me to listen to the Moana song from the beginning of the movie.  I asked her if it was the one Moana grows up in. Of course was, Where You Are. 

 

The lyrics are some of the best...

You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are

 

 

 

Annabelle, you inspire me every day. You are strong, clever, kind, sweet, honest and funny. I love how much you want to learn, your curiosity and your sense of adventure. You make me a better person. I know I was meant to be your mom. I want you to remember that, come what may, you know the way! Listen to that voice inside you. Someday you will move that couch and so much more. 

 Annabelle and me at Chicago beach September 2017.  Photo by Jon Harle.

Annabelle and me at Chicago beach September 2017.  Photo by Jon Harle.

--I read parts of this post to Annabelle she corrected me and said she can move the couch.  She also thinks on Friday she said she could move the couch.  Although that doesn't make sense in our conversation, so not sure if she is changing it after the fact or if I heard her incorrectly.  In any case, she can, in fact, move the couch now.

 Annabelle showing off she CAN move the couch.  February 26, 2018

Annabelle showing off she CAN move the couch.  February 26, 2018

Surviving Long Winters in Chicago

It's February in Chicago and winter feels like it's never ending.  You are probably cursing that groundhog, questioning why you live here, dreaming of getting on a plane and going somewhere warm or maybe all of the above.  I usually try to calculate through the entire month of February if I can just get in the car and drive until I get to the ocean or at least warm weather.  However usually one of us (or all of us) are hit with some sickness and getting away for a long weekend doesn't work out.  So we have to find a way to survive the winter and try to keep our sanity.  I still haven't figured out a way to keep healthy all winter--please send tips and juice!

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We are blessed in Chicago area that there is so much to do every season so before you book your tickets and fly away for the rest of winter (take me with you!) here's some ideas to make winter enjoyable until Spring is here to stay. 

Enjoy Nature Inside and Feel the Warmth

My advice anytime some one is feeling the winter blues is GET TO THE CONSERVATORY ASAP!  There is no better feeling in the middle of winter than walking into a little bit of tropical (or desert) paradise.  When I need a pick me up and need to feel that warmth again I head over to Oak Park Conservatory (luckily I live just a couple blocks away!)

If I have a little more time I head to Garfield Park Conservatory.  I could go on and on all day about these two wonderful places, how much I love them and the wonderful events and experiences we have had there however they really need entire posts dedicated to each of them.  I will publish those in the next couple months and update this post when I do.  In the meantime here's just a few of the probably thousands of photos I have at each of them and extremely quick details on each. 

 There are 3 main rooms at Oak Park Conservatory. This front room changes with the seasons.  The largest room is a tropical fern room and the other is a desert room.  There is now also an outdoor play area check it out when the weather is good.

There are 3 main rooms at Oak Park Conservatory. This front room changes with the seasons.  The largest room is a tropical fern room and the other is a desert room.  There is now also an outdoor play area check it out when the weather is good.

 There are so many flowers and plants to discover at Oak Park Conservatory. 

There are so many flowers and plants to discover at Oak Park Conservatory. 

 Be sure to stop at the desk and ask for the little explorer bags at Oak Park Conservatory.  They contain binoculars, measuring tape, magnify glass and markers.  Also pickup a clipboard with paper and a scavenger hunt sheet.  So much fun, learning and exploring for the littles--and adults too.

Be sure to stop at the desk and ask for the little explorer bags at Oak Park Conservatory.  They contain binoculars, measuring tape, magnify glass and markers.  Also pickup a clipboard with paper and a scavenger hunt sheet.  So much fun, learning and exploring for the littles--and adults too.

 Mark your calendars for March 4, 2018 for my favorite annual even in Oak Park, Kids Fest at Oak Park Conservatory celebrating George the parrot's birthday.  There is usually some fun crafts, some special exhibit often live animals or insects, singing Happy Birthday to George and of course all the wonderful plants at the conservatory.  I will hopefully share more before then but mark your calendars!  Here's the group craft project from Kids Fest 2016.

Mark your calendars for March 4, 2018 for my favorite annual even in Oak Park, Kids Fest at Oak Park Conservatory celebrating George the parrot's birthday.  There is usually some fun crafts, some special exhibit often live animals or insects, singing Happy Birthday to George and of course all the wonderful plants at the conservatory.  I will hopefully share more before then but mark your calendars!  Here's the group craft project from Kids Fest 2016.

 Sunshine shines during the 2018 Spring Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory.  The show Hashtag: No Filter is in bloom until Mother's Day.

Sunshine shines during the 2018 Spring Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory.  The show Hashtag: No Filter is in bloom until Mother's Day.

 Thanks Jon for take a mommy and daughter photo at Garfield Park Conservatory spring show 2017.  It is great to be in front of the camera sometimes.   "Go Cubs Go! Hey Chicago what do you say the CUBS (not Pirates Annabelle) are gonna win today!"

Thanks Jon for take a mommy and daughter photo at Garfield Park Conservatory spring show 2017.  It is great to be in front of the camera sometimes. 

"Go Cubs Go! Hey Chicago what do you say the CUBS (not Pirates Annabelle) are gonna win today!"

 Spring Show at Garfield Park Conservatory 2017.  I can't wait to see the tulips bloom in this years show.  I wonder what colors they will be this year.

Spring Show at Garfield Park Conservatory 2017.  I can't wait to see the tulips bloom in this years show.  I wonder what colors they will be this year.

 Sometimes Mickey gets to Adventure with us at Garfield Park Conservatory.  I love the Desert room.  The lighting is the best, temperature is usually just right and it's often really quiet in this part of the conservatory.  Also look really close you might find a Mickey shaped cactus.  Ok they call it Bunny Ears. It looks like it has fuzzy dots on it.  But don't touch, if you look close those little dots contain a lot of little needles!

Sometimes Mickey gets to Adventure with us at Garfield Park Conservatory.  I love the Desert room.  The lighting is the best, temperature is usually just right and it's often really quiet in this part of the conservatory.  Also look really close you might find a Mickey shaped cactus.  Ok they call it Bunny Ears. It looks like it has fuzzy dots on it.  But don't touch, if you look close those little dots contain a lot of little needles!

 There is so much to explore at Garfield Park Conservatory.  Kids will love the Children's Garden.  It even has a big tunnel slide, worth the climb.

There is so much to explore at Garfield Park Conservatory.  Kids will love the Children's Garden.  It even has a big tunnel slide, worth the climb.

I often forget about Lincoln Park Conservatory because it's not as convenient for me to get to especially in winter.  If you are in the Lincoln Park area you must check it out.  Also in Lincoln Park check out Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. It's a museum about nature but there is also a butterfly house and lots of windows to let in sunlight. Are there other local conservatories am I overlooking or are worth a drive? 

Bring the Outside In

Grow something.  Literally.  Get your hands dirty and start your seeds.  I am going to have to refer to my gardener friends on this one.  So where are you raise those green thumbs high so I can see them.  When can we start seeds?  Soon right? I know it depends on what we are growing, but what if we haven't got a clue.  What is a great set of seeds to start that you know people like me can't kill easily.  Anyone have recommendations for a couple veggies, herbs and a few flowers.  Every year I say I am going to get seeds started inside and it doesn't happen.  Some years I buy the packs of seeds, the dirt and all the supplies--or collect egg cartons or other cute seed starters I found on Pinterest.  Oh Pinterest I love and hate you. But then I stare at them clueless.  One year (or two) I let Annabelle "plant" the seeds and they did well at first.  But then when I moved them outside some critter ate them all.   My money is on those squirrels who have destroyed so many things in our yard.  Well my garden and farmer friends please help! 

 She is seems so small here.  This was Spring of 2015, hard to believe how fast 3 years has gone.  

She is seems so small here.  This was Spring of 2015, hard to believe how fast 3 years has gone.  

 I didn't get this photo until the roses were about a week after her birthday but they still looked great.

I didn't get this photo until the roses were about a week after her birthday but they still looked great.

I also love to buy plants or fresh flowers in the winter or receive them as gifts-hint hint my wonderful husband.  Flowers around the house just brighten it up.  I keep telling my husband that when we have fresh flowers it makes me want to clear the clutter and keep the place cleaner.  However I do not think he believes this philosophy or he doesn't get the hint.  He did buy flowers for Annabelle for her birthday. Such a sweet dad! She loved them.  (I did too,  And for the record the place was pretty clean the whole time they were on our table.) 

You know this blog would be a lot better with another flower photo on it so maybe I should go get myself a bouquet from one of the local florist I drool over on Instagram.  You know for "research purposes" or "for work." 

Here's some of my favorite local florist instagram feeds: 

@flowersfordreams 

@fieldandflorist

@fleurinc

So what do you think should I go get a bouquet, so I can photograph it? ;)

 

 

 

That excuse has totally worked before when I wanted pie from Spilt Milk.  I had to get pumpkin pie to take a new photo for International Pumpkin Day.  I needed something to post and of course I celebrate Pumpkin Day!

 I also HAD to get the pumpkin bread with maple glaze from Split Milk because it was International Pumpkin Day and it completed the photo.  It was delicious.  

I also HAD to get the pumpkin bread with maple glaze from Split Milk because it was International Pumpkin Day and it completed the photo.  It was delicious.  

Get Creative

I know it's the end of winter and if you are like me the only you are feeling creative about is how you can make your comfy pants pass for real pants or see how many days you can go without leaving the house.  It takes SO much energy to get those creative juices flowing in the winter time.  It's especially hard when being creative is your job suddenly making anything that could resemble art feels like so much work.  Looking at my notes for this helpful idea makes me laugh now. 

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"1. Make Crafts - Valentine's"  HAHA no I am not some craft mom that does some cute pinterest worthy crafts with my daughter.  My idea this year for her to make valentine's day cards was pretty old school and simple.  Red and pink construction paper cut out hearts. Buy heart/love stickers, shimmery/glitter pins and glitter---I know I totally regret that last one.  Sorry other parents in the class I am sure you cursed my name when your kid opened the envelope and glitter flew out.  It wasn't like the cute Trolls shooting glitter everywhere either.  It's probably still all over your house--trust me you haven't seen mine.  My husband wasn't too happy either.  But she sure had fun making them!  This craft however did not help me survive winter it made it seem even longer.  So depending on how much you value a little peace and quiet now vs extra clean-up later crafts (unless you are that crafty mom) might not be a good recommendation.

 

 Baking is messy work but fun.

Baking is messy work but fun.

"2.  Make Some Food"  This is more laughable than the first one.  Me making food is like the mom version of crafts with glitter.  I am not the type of baker or chef to clean as I go.  I actually really like cooking and making things.  But the trail of flour, chopped vegetables or spices--because you have to give them that thrown dash into the pot/bowl--seriously it tastes better that way, all over the kitchen isn't really my idea of fun.  I love my neighbor Emily she is always making the most amazing dishes AND she will surprise me and drop them off at my house.  Seriously you guys I won the neighbor lottery--NEVER moving!  (I can't cook but I help her out with coffee) I don't know how she does it. Seriously where do I even find xanthan gum for this amazing recipe that my daughter calls "the neighbor's cake"?  Some day I will find the time to try it myself.  Although I can already see my tiny kitchen covered in cinnamon crumb topping.

So this suggestion is going so well isn't it?  Well getting creative is a great way to get through the winter.  Writing in a journal, making art, writing a hand written note/card or any other ways (seriously cooking and baking are wonderful) that you can create something it makes you feel a sense of joy and accomplishment.  

Embrace it

Is it Spring yet?  This blog is longer than I thought it would be, maybe it's now spring. Nope still not yet.  Fine.  So there are some things that are good about winter. 

Soak up the snow --and I say this holding my breath hoping for no more snow this winter but it's only February and it's Chicago so not sure odds are in our favor. If it does snow again embrace it. It is beautiful.  Get outside! Take some photos.  Go sledding.  Build a snowman. Make snow angels.  Drink hot chocolate.  

 She's dressed up in her fancy Cinderella dress, holding my hand, while we cuddle on the couch watching Moana.  

She's dressed up in her fancy Cinderella dress, holding my hand, while we cuddle on the couch watching Moana.  

Take advantage of extra time indoors.  Relax! It is totally okay in winter to cuddle up and watch a few extra movies.  I hated being sick for the last couple weeks but it really forced me to slow down.  Annabelle and I got in some extra cuddle time and watched Moana a few times.  Moana is my favorite movie! Disney got everything right with that one. Singing the songs and seeing strong Moana makes you thing you can accomplish so much if you try and don't give up.  A great movie to watch in the depths of winter!  I also started tackling things I have been putting off, like hitting publish on blog posts.  I also have been slowly going through my photo archive and getting it in order.  It's a large and overwhelming task that makes winter seem way too short. 

There are many indoor places to explore too especially the wonderful museums, many of which are free in February.  However I will save that for another day or it really will be spring before this is published.  How do you survive winter in Chicago?  Please send me your tips to staying healthy and finding joy when winter seems so long. In the meantime I will be complaining about that silly groundhog and dreaming of being back in Walt Disney World and I may or may not be doing so in my comfy pants.

 

"But First Coffee..."

Today (and by that I mean January 30 when I first wrote this) I was at Addis Cafe and ran into a friend who was trying the coffeeshop for the first time. She was just telling her friend that she was checking out the coffeeshop because I am always posting about it (in my Instagram stories and feed). I was so excited that sharing my love of this local place helped bring in a new customer--and new fan. She said the coffee and waffles were perfect. I am happy she had an enjoyable meal and coffee. It feels so good to share new places we discover and our favorites. This is one of the reasons that I am finally following through on this blog.

 

 Photo of me and Annabelle in the Grand Floridian before our Princess Character Dining dinner at 1900 Park Fare.  We loved meeting Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Stepsisters and StepMother (note characters are different at this location at Breakfast and Lunch). Photo by Jon Harle (thanks love for this!)

Photo of me and Annabelle in the Grand Floridian before our Princess Character Dining dinner at 1900 Park Fare.  We loved meeting Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Stepsisters and StepMother (note characters are different at this location at Breakfast and Lunch). Photo by Jon Harle (thanks love for this!)

Also today I received a text from another friend saying she loves the photos of Disney and what was the name of that character dining place again she was recommending it to a friend. I realize what many have been trying to tell me. I have information and experiences that people are interested in. It is time to put the planning into action. 

 

I struggled with how to start this. I tried to plan it out. Wrote a reintroduction about five times. (maybe more) I often try to do too much. (Applies to other areas of my life too) I want to tell it all in one post, I want it to be perfect. A good friend of mine, Emily, reminded me to keep it simple not everything has to be a long post.

On January 24 another local photographer Joey @littlebittyproductions posted a photo with the quote, "Just Do the Damn Thing."  I immediately felt a sense of guilt and also inspiration.  It was like she was talking to ME!  I began working on getting my act together and planning to relaunch this blog.  --And by beginning I mean continuing the planning I have been doing for the last year or two but kept holding back from actually publishing.  

If you have followed me on Instagram or Facebook for the last couple years you know I basically run on coffee and that I have a great love of local coffeeshops.  So it is only fitting to start there.  My daughter and I have been working on a little side project for the last few years CoffeeShop Park.  --More on that officially later but in the meantime you can follow #coffeeshoppark on Instagram for a sneak peek.

 S'mores Latte (seasonal) at Addis Cafe in Oak Park.  Photo by Tina Harle

S'mores Latte (seasonal) at Addis Cafe in Oak Park.  Photo by Tina Harle

Addis Cafe in Oak Park is my current favorite Oak Park area coffee shop.  You will find me there several times a week.  I love to edit my photography, meet with friends and just relax there especially in those couple hours a day I get while my daughter is in preschool.  Annabelle calls this "the coffee waffle place"  because well that's the two main things they are known for.  Oh my do they do both of these right!  

 Love sipping Honey Nutmeg Lattes while I edit photos at Addis Cafe 

Love sipping Honey Nutmeg Lattes while I edit photos at Addis Cafe 

I promised to keep this brief and simple (see so tough for me!) so while I could go on all day about my love for Addis Cafe I am going to give you my Top 5 favorites! --Yes that's a High Fidelity reference.  If you do not know what I am talking about please go watch that movie right now! (well finish this blog, grab some coffee then snuggle up and watch it)

Tina's Top 5 things she loves about Addis Cafe

1. Honey Nutmeg Latte.  One of the best lattes I have ever had.  It's perfectly spiced and not too sweet.  This has been my go to drink since I first tried it.  I have mine with almond milk cause me and regular milk are not best friends anymore. The almond milk does complement the drink.

2. The 206 Special--Mixed Berry Compote waffles with whip cream. Oh my they do this one right!  The berry compote is sweet from the berries but doesn't have that artifical or too sweet syrup like flavor because it's made from real berries and homemade.  Best berry compote I have ever had.  See a close number 3.

3. Berry Compote Scone this is a new addition to the menu this winter and oh my it's delicious.  When I want to eat all that berry compote but not have a full waffle this hits the spot for sure.  Just look at it...

 Cherry Scone with Berry Compote.  Photo by Tina Harle

Cherry Scone with Berry Compote.  Photo by Tina Harle

4. Okay ALL the waffles.  It's really hard to pick one.  The Gusto with nutella, bananas, almonds and whip cream has been my favorite for a long time.  The savory waffle with sun dried tomatoes, avocado and spicy (yet mild) sauce--oh and cheese.  It is a perfect balance of sweet, spice, and savory.  I haven't tried the others because they are so good I have a hard time deciding as it is.  But I have no doubt that they are all amazing!  Annabelle loves one with just nutella and whip cream (a modified Gusto) and I ask for an extra plate for us to split.  She just loves licking the nutella out of the little waffle holes, eating the whip cream with a spoon then making a huge mess picking the rest up.  Some day she will use a fork, right?  Until then I giggle at the big adorable mess she makes.

 Gusto waffles (Nutella, bananas, almonds and whip cream) and Turmeric Latte Addis Cafe.  Photo by Tina Harle

Gusto waffles (Nutella, bananas, almonds and whip cream) and Turmeric Latte Addis Cafe.  Photo by Tina Harle

5.  Turmeric Latte (again with almond milk) This is slowly making it's way into the number 1 spot especially in the winter months.  Turmeric I hear has nutritional benefits which is a bonus.  But this spice that is in the ginger family has a little kick to it that I just love.

How are we already at the end of the list?  There are so many things I didn't mention.  One of the best parts of Addis Cafe is that it is such a neighborhood place. The owner lives in the area. She can be seen in the cafe with her friendly smile. She knows you and your order after only a couple times. This is in walking distance from my house--in good weather of course.

I will share with you more of our local favorite places (of course includes coffeeshops), our travels and my photography.  Wow I did it, published, actually blogged again.  Please tell me what you want to see more of to help me decide what to post next.