Chicago State of Mind

Hello all!

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write anything at all; two jobs and school keeps this girl pretty busy. I’ve been wanting to write this entry about our trip to Chicago for a long time…so here goes!


My fiance and I visited Chicago the weekend before Valentine’s day, to have a bit of a getaway for ourselves. His sister lives up there, and I had never been! While in Chicago, I was able to capture a ton of beautiful pictures. I’ll include some in this post, but you can see the rest at!


One of the biggest things we wanted to do while there was see the Shedd Aquarium. I’m a marine bio nut, so I love all things ocean (all things outside, really). Additionally, we saw some great landscapes, restaurants, shops, and a whole lot of taxis!

Below is a list of things we did, and my review of them! I hope this helps out anyone who is planning on going to Chicago in deciding what to do while up there!


Anyone who has ever heard anything about Chicago recognizes this name. I had been told countless times that I needed to go to the Shedd. Everyone raved about it, telling me I would absolutely love it and it’s just about the coolest thing in Chicago.

Naturally, I was sooooo excited to go once we planned our trip up there. We bought our tickets beforehand, and had everything set up. Once we got to Chicago, my future sis-in-law mentioned that we should definitely go to the Shedd, especially since it was free that weekend. Immediately we both were a bit angry, wondering why we had spent so much money on tickets if it were going to be free?? We decided that once we got there, we’d complain to someone and surely get a refund.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, when we hitched a ride in a taxi and were off to the aquarium. Once we arrived, we were in awe of the gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline that could be seen from outside the Shedd. Because it is located on Lake Michigan, any way you look, the view is amazing. As we walked to the large entrance, we noticed a huuuuuge crowd. Hundreds of people stood in line to get a hold of the free-pass day. It wasn’t even 10am yet, and the line was probably an hour wait. Luckily, we overheard someone ask where the entrance was for people who had already bought their tickets. PHEW! Needless to say, our anger of preordering the tickets went away immediately. I would much rather spend $60 dollars on a ticket than spend 2 hours waiting outside in the freezing cold. After waiting in line for probably less than 10 minutes, we were inside the Shedd! Finally!

I was so excited to be there. After so many people telling me how amazing it was, I couldn’t wait to see for myself. The first thing we saw were the Beluga whales. Oh boy, how I love marine mammals!! We spent some time there, and unfortunately a couple small surrounding exhibits were under construction. We moved on to discover the beautiful dolphin exhibit. Dolphins are my absolute favorite animals, my spirit animal if you will. I’ve been obsessed with them for as long as I can remember. And don’t get me wrong- I hate seeing them confined to small tanks (like all the other animals there in captivity). But, I can appreciate the draw to have them there. It’s a great way to educate others about these beautiful creatures.

After we moved on from those two exhibits, the visit sort of went down hill. I didn’t find any of the small aquariums very impressive. The crowd was far too much, and I wish we hadn’t gone on a “free” weekend. To be honest, I don’t feel the need to ever go back to the aquarium. It certainly would be fun to take younger children, but other than that, it didn’t do much for me. I have also been to the New England Aquarium in Boston, and also to the aquarium in Wilmington, NC. The Shedd didn’t compare to those two in my opinion.

If you have never gone, go for the sake of saying you’ve been. They have a cute little photobooth where you can take pictures to keep as a souvenir. I’m glad that I went, but I don’t plan on visiting again anytime soon.


Oh, what can I say about The Disney Store?? As soon as you walk in, it feels like you’re at a gift shop in Disney World (or Land, for you West-Coasters). I am absolutely in love with all things Disney, so of course I loved this store. It’s impeccably decorated, the staff all wear costume-esque attire, and they have every stuffed animal imaginable. Going to this store made you feel like you just took a trip to the Disney Parks. It’s that simple; if you’re in Chicago, go to the Disney store!! Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll have some great pictures to look back on!


Eating in Chicago ruined me for regular food. In fact, since going my fiance and I have changed our diet and grocery shopping habits entirely. Every single dish that I had in Chicago tasted soooo fresh, real, and healthy. I honestly didn’t know food could taste so good until we went up there. It’s like I’ve been missing out on this everyday incredible experience for my entire life…here’s a list of the restaurants we visited, and I would recommend ALL of them!!

Portillo’s (duh, it’s iconic…even if you can only grab a picture…stop by!)

True Food Kitchen 




There is obviously SO much to do in Chicago- and we did so much more during our trip! Check out The Bean, The Field Museum, theatrical shows, bars, and a ton more.

I’ll include some pictures from the trip below! This is my first travel blog post, and I’m writing it a month after the trip! I’ll surely try and write the next sooner (that way I remember what I did a little more clearly). In April, I will be going to the Smoky Mountains, and in May I will be in Belize! Stay tuned for those blog posts! Check out more pictures on Instagram @hanxjo and on

Eataly is basically a food & wine mall. It has tons of restaurants inside, and amazing food & wines from all over the world.
Portillo’s- famous for their Chicago styled hotdogs.
Fishy kisses in the Disney Store.
Art along the walkway near Lake Michigan.
Reflections in The Bean of Millennium Park!
Lake Michigan- easily mistaken for an ocean.
Just one of many food pictures taken. It’s beautifully presented AND delicious!
Desserts at Eataly.

To the girl who didn’t give him a chance

I haven’t written a post in a while, unfortunately. I like writing- it clears my head, organizes my thoughts, and calms me down when I most need it.

Today’s post is one I’ve thought about time and time again, but it was never put into words. Since my fiance is the one who asks about my blog, and checks it daily for new posts, I wanted to dedicate one to him. Especially one I’m only writing because he keeps me motivated.

So to elaborate on the title, “him” is aka my fiance, and “the girl” are those in his past who did not treat him well- at all. I really truly want to thank you, ladies. I wouldn’t have him if you hadn’t taken him for granted.

But let me fill you in on all the things you’re missing out on, because you didn’t have the patience to give him a chance

1. His quirks

Sure, they can be annoying sometimes. But just when I’m about to freak out on him for cleaning up my dinner before I’ve even finished, I try to remember something. How lucky am I to get to know him so well? I’m quite possibly the only person on the planet to know of this personality trait.

2. His fears

I love having this level of intimacy with someone. I love knowing that if something is wrong, I’m the one he leans on or comes to for comfort. I get to know the dark places, like no one else ever will. And he knows mine.

3. His humor 

And it’s wonderful, let me tell you first hand. I’m not talking the teasing and joking he does with friends, family, and coworkers. Don’t get me wrong- that part is great as well. I’m talking the goofy side that no one would ever believe existed, nor would I unless I saw it first hand. He has the best laugh, the best jokes, and I would never know what I was missing out on had I never seen it.

4. His compassion

It is truly amazing just how loving and compassionate he is. And at first glance- you’d never know it. It wasn’t until a few months into our relationship that I fully understood it. He is quite possibly the most compassionate person I’ve ever met. And I know when he reads this, he’ll think “No, she is!” But that just shows, even more, just how loving he is.

5. His forgiveness

I am probably the worst person on this entire planet when it comes to forgiveness. Sometimes I work myself up waaaaay too much, and start bringing up everything imaginable in the past he’s ever screwed up. I want to be a forgiving person so badly. And sometimes I do very well. Sometimes I slip up. But he’s always there to forgive me when I do mess up. He never brings up anything I’ve ever done solely to hurt me. He’s so good at accepting and moving on, where as I tend to dwell on the why’s and how’s of the situation. At the end of the day, I wish I could be more like him sometimes. Not letting things we can’t change bother us. He is the living example of forgiving like God.


I can seriously learn so much from him. And I get an entire lifetime to do so! Again, thank you ladies. Had you been patient and understanding, I would miss out on the best thing in my entire life. 

Anchors the Soul


Happy humpday!

Hope you’re doing well. It’s a bit cloudy and gloomy from my end of the blog, a beautiful day nonetheless. I’ve gotten to write quite a few different blog posts since my start, exactly one week ago today. I’m proud of myself for sticking to it.

Recently I have been struggling with my day-to-do life. I work 2 jobs, and also attend school in pursuit of my bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, since I have transferred over from community college (where I earned my associates) I’ve had a rude awakening. My chemistry course is far more excruciating that I ever could have imagined.

I’m not a chem guru to begin with, but I sure was motivated at the beginning of the semester. I decided that it didn’t matter my past experiences with the subject, if I worked hard, I could get through it. So I did work hard. And kept working hard. Right up until about 3 weeks ago. I slowly started to realize the difficulty of the class. My professor, having a PhD in the subject, treats this CHE 141 course as if it is a grad level course. We’re expected to spend at least 12 hours outside of class each week, and have 3 assignments due every single week. Not to mention, the professor is dead set against explaining how to figure out a problem. He gives you the question, the answer, and basically says “figure it out yourself.”

That’s probably enough complaining about the class, for now. And I’m not trying to blame the professor for my failures. I’ve just come to the realization that I’m not cut out for the job. This is only the first chemistry course of 4- each getting more and more difficult.

This was extremely sad for me to admit. My whole life, I’ve always had a love for science. I’ve traveled far and wide to see natural wonders, from the amazing jungle of Belize in Central America, to the rough waves of the Mediterranean off of Spain’s shores. I love it all. The birds, the trees, the rain, reefs, dunes- all of it. And I’ve received my associates degree in science with an emphasis in biology. I hate to give up now.

But, I’m realistic. I’m dreamy enough to know I can do anything I put my mind to. But I’m realistic, once more.

So, today on this gloomy Wednesday, I needed to give myself some hope and motivation. I hope you enjoy it as well. Let it give you a message today.

  1. At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength. Hope that it will get better, and strength to hold on until it does.
  2. I’m learning to trust the journey even when I don’t understand it.
  3. You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your greatest miracle.

I know life goes on, and I know everything will be better in time. And it’s not all that bad now- maybe just a bit confusing. Still, I feel a bit lost. Something I know many others are feeling right now as well. I hope this post is something you can relate to- and I hope that you take away what I did from these reassuring quotes today.

Until next time!


10 basic necessities

So the title says it all, right? Necessities. Things you NEED. Okay so maybe not for survival…but to survive the next couple months in a fashionable manner…


Here is my top 10 list of fashion necessities to kill it in the pumpkin patch, a bonfire,a chilly day at work, at Thanksgiving dinner, and quite possibly the on coming holiday parties! Let’s begin.

All images are pulled from Pinterest!

1. Leggings

Don’t hate me for this one. So maybe you don’t like the idea of them as pants. Fair enough. But, you can’t deny them as a vital part of a cold weather wardrobe. Wear them under an oversized sweater, or even under your favorite casual dress. The possibilities are endless. I find my favorite pair of leggings at H&M. You can pretty much find leggings anywhere from $5-$15.

Pro-tip! Fold your leggings at the bottom, creating a 3″ ish gap on your ankle when wearing low enough cut shoes. It makes you look way more stylish- for absolutely no effort.

**day 6** Over sized grey sweater with adorable black leggings and leather purse and black shoes.:


2. Booties

Choose what color you like best- and what suits your wardrobe. I have 2 pairs, brown and black. Sorry not sorry, I like having options. For fall, brown seems more suitable. As it grows closer to December, I opt for the black. But do you, girl. You can usually find a cute pair right around $30, which is what I paid for both of mine.

fall booties:


3. Cozy sweater

Going off what is mentioned in #1, sweaters are awesome to have in your closet. Whether you’re chilling at home sipping on a glass of wine, or heading to dinner with the future in-laws, an oversized sweater is perfect for looking adorable and not trying. Combine number 1-3 so far on this list, and you have the perfect outfit! I found my oversized sweater at Goodwill for a whopping $4.

Can't wait until it's cool enough to wear fall clothes! (and then I'll be yearning for Spring):


4. Stacked necklaces

This is definitely a little more my style than a major trend right now. But it definitely has blown up since the whole bohemian style took flight and now dominates. Statement necklaces were cool maybe 3 years ago- but they’re slowly starting to die down. I’d pass on picking up a new chunky piece of jewelry anytime soon. Stacked necklaces are great- dainty, so they’re not as annoying while wearing. You can pick a bunch of different little charms that tell a little bit about your personality and style. For me, I wear a cross, a compass, and a small circular pendant. But I definitely sub in and out necklaces as I please. You can  usually find a premade necklace pack at the store anywhere from $5-$20, depending on where you are and what all you want. Or, create your own and buy separate necklaces. Here’s a super cute bohemian example:

instagram photog acc @stefgphotography:


6. Basic tops

What a very general title, right? Well there’s not much to this one, honestly. Go to stores like H&M (my fave), Kohls, Gordmans, Target, and even Walmart and snatch up a tee in every color and sleeve length. You can find the very basic tops from brands such as Hane’s for about $10, and for something a little fancier, anywhere from $10-$25. For the cooler months, here the examples I’ve come up with:

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7. Scarves

We’re nearing the end! And this one is probably one of my favorites. How great are scarves? Pretty great, let me tell you. And there are all sorts. Thick, thin, long, short, chunky, smooth, heavy, light. Tons. The fad of infinity scarves has come and gone. There’s a new sheriff in town. The chunky knit scarf. You can buy them in stores, but I suggest searching on Etsy or eBay for your next one. Support an individual or local business. You might pay a little more, but giving them the business rather than a corporation makes you a winner in the end. For example, check out Wood’n Walls Studio on Instagram and Etsy.

Free People Maggie Maye Chunky Knit Scarf at Free People Clothing Boutique:

8. Mittens

Following the knit theme, find a nice cozy pair of mittens or gloves. Not only do you want to stay warm, but also look adorable. I would once again suggest doing your research on local venders. Shop local first, ya’ll!

Family Mitten Pattern / Madder:

9. Duck boots

These might be known by a different name, I’m not positive. But everyone needs a pair, regardless. I was hesitant to include these on my list, because they are so hit or miss with people. I think they’re adorable. You might think they’re hideous, that’s okay. But they’re very much a vintage look, and are certainly making a comeback. New pairs by LL Bean and other well known companies can go for $100 or more. Check out eBay listing and snag a worn pair for a bit cheaper. They normally run $50-$80 used. A little pricey, but definitely a unique and versatile piece to add to your wardrobe.

Duck. Duck. Boots! A stylish staple for your cold weather closet.  duck boots $24.99 compare at $50:


10. Bags

Girl, treat yourself and get a cute bag! There’s nothing more practical. You use one everyday! (If you don’t…how?) My life is in my purse. Not only the necessary things such as my wallet, keys, lip gloss, pens, planner, change of clothes, emergency fund, life vest, parachute, but also the little things! It so easy to justify splurging on a bag. It’s for everyday use, and a great statement piece. You can get a cute bag anywhere from $10-$400, so chose well!

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This concludes my just-for-fun fashion list. What do you think?


See you next time!



Good morning from the capital city!
Today didn’t start off in the most promising way. Why, you ask? Well, first of all my fiancé had to get up early, leaving for work before the sun had hardly made an appearance. And that makes me sad, of course, that he had to go. But in doing so, he awoken me like a bear from hibernation. And I mean it. I don’t know if you can relate, but when I sleep, I SLEEP. And not a whole lot can wake me up.

Not only did the stir from the other side of the bed nudge me awake, but also the loud drills of a nearby roof repair. Whose men, by the way, were not considerate in the least of those not-so-early-birds.

Soon after I became slightly conscious, I realized a prearranged orthodontist appointment (yay!). Scrambling for my tooth brush and a pair of pants, I finally stumbled out the door head to my monthly meet-up for dental torture (that will all pay off in the end, yes it’s true). As I hit a red light just blocks from the office, I glance over to a very unique license plate. It read “HBRW 11,” and I immediately wanted to reach for my phone. Fighting the urge to drive distracted, I waited until I pulled up into the empty office parking lot to google just exactly what verses awaited for me. Well, if you’re not familiar with this chapter, here’s a little sample for you:

11 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Now if you read the rest of this chapter, the bible gives examples upon examples of people like Noah and Enoch using this idea in their lives. Basically, the way I personally interpret the first to verses if this: believe it, even if you can’t see it. Have faith that even though something is not staring you straight in the face, it is still there.

I’m super happy that this was the message that I received this morning. You see, there was a reason the parking lot was empty today. Apparently, everyone had been rescheduled for NEXT week, because the doctor was out. Although I never did get that call. Most people would normally sigh heavy, roll their eyes, and grudgingly drive off. Wondering why on earth they just had to climb out of bed 2 hours earlier than usual to go to a cancelled appointment.

Well, because of the message that popped up today on the road, I handled the annoying news fairly well. I rescheduled with the receptionist, thanked her, and headed to class a little early. Faith is knowing that things like this happen for  a reason, whether I can see that or not. Who knows, maybe I would have overslept and missed class had I not gotten up for the appointment. Maybe I would have left at the wrong time, and ended up in a car wreck somewhere between here and there. There are infinite possibilities as to what “could have been.”

This is just one way of  interpreting these verses. And it’s how I received my message today. Not to mention, I saw a beautiful rainbow while heading to school. So if anything, at the very very least, I drove across town just to see that little rainbow in the morning. And I can live with that.

This is your daily reminder to always look for the good in the world, no matter what.



Wake Up, Be Happy


Good morning, readers!

Today is what you make of it. But we can all use a little help from our friends, right? And let’s be honest, I need this this morning as well. So, following up with my previous blog post, here are 5  S E N S A T I O N A L quotes to start off your morning. Enjoy!

“Life is getting up an hour earlier, to live an hour more.”

“You will never have this day again. Make it count.”

“The sun is up, the sky is blue. It is beautiful, and so are you!”

“It’s a good day to have a good day.”

“The best way to get things done is to simply begin.

Do what motivates you in the morning. Stretch. Get a breath of fresh air. Make a cup of coffee. Shower. Read a verse. Watch the sunrise. Every single day is what you make of it, and you will never get to re-do today.

I think this is about all a person can handle from a blog post in the AM. I hope I helped make your morning a bit easier. Thank you God for another day!


The Idea


Good evening!

Look at me! My second blog post! This is farther than I have ever gotten. I’m not sure what I want to talk about- so I’m just going to wing it. That’s right…Who makes the rules around here?

I’ve had the idea of selecting a “quote” of the day and writing a post regarding those specific words. So, we’re going to give this a try! Stay with me here.

The very first quote that popped up on my feed was one that I have been needing to hear, and I think a lot of people in this day and age do as well.

“It is ever so beautiful to be strange. To do things differently than others. To see things in a rare light. To me, that is such a gold to carry.” -Christopher Poindexter

What a wonderful quote. Let me break it down to the way I understand this idea.

A. It is ever so beautiful to be strange.

Think of the trends of today. I’m talking the full spectrum here- man buns, instagram, Starbucks, Uggs, hashtags, leggings as pants, travelling, writing a blog. None of these things sound so strange, do they? Well, trends haven’t always been trends. They started as an idea in someone’s head. Someone who said “Hey, I have a different idea.” And now their different idea are things which all of us (or at least most) enjoy. And although they’re not so different now, they were at one point, and created someone, somewhere, success.

Take this other idea- back to the basics. Artists. Art is all about being creative, being yourself. Could you imagine if nothing were ever strange in art? Never would we have had Mona Lisa’s half smile. Nor the melting clocks of Dali. Or that famous scream. All these things are obscure. All these things are unique. And now what was once someone’s strange vision is an unforgettable work of art.

Man, is it BEAUTIFUL to be strange.

B. To do things differently than others.

Not much more needs said about this one. Could you imagine if every bird sang the same song? If every tree had the same leaves? Or if every country had the same culture, language, or landscape? Lastly, if every person had the same thoughts?

Be unique. Go off the beaten path. Let it take you someplace no one has gone before. Break that basic chain that society tells you you must follow. You don’t have to live the life expected of you. You can live your life for you. I think once you realize this, there’s no telling what you can achieve in this world.

C. To see things in a rare light.

This might be my favorite point in this passage. Look at things for more than what they might appear to be. I love going on walks, strolling as slowly as possible without looking suspicious of something. I love watching the breeze go through the trees. Seeing busy bugs fly from bloom to bloom, on a mission. Squirrels, bouncing from blade to blade looking for the perfect spot of grass to bury their treasure.

As a photographer, I love looking for the obscure things in life that others might not think worthy of a photo. As a writer, I love looking for the things that are unable to speak for themselves and write their story. As a Christian, I love looking for the hidden blessings that are disguised in our day to day life.

How wonderful is it to be able to look at things the way no other person has looked at them?

Lastly, C. To me, that is such a gold to carry.

Be intrigued by the little things in life, and you’ll never have a boring day. Look at the reflections in the pothole puddles on a dark, rainy day. Watch the beads of water roll down the window of your local Starbucks and thank God we have such cozy days. Trust me, finding joy in life is much more valuable than the bills in your pocket. It’s the real gold. Carry it with you wherever you go.


Until the next random quote!