Category: Chicago Livin’

Such a ‘Bler: The American Writer’s Museum

Such a ‘Bler: The American Writer’s Museum

I used to be a Creative Writing minor but decided to drop this pursuit heading into my second semester of sophomore year. Regardless, I love words and learning more and more about their magic. I’m also from Hanoi, Vietnam and was not too exposed to international literature growing up, despite having gone to an international high school. My senior English major friends recommended that I check out the American Writers Museum. 

Funnily enough, I had walked past this place several times on my way to Millennium Park, the Art Institute and anywhere downtown really. It’s literally at 180 N Michigan Ave, how have I not heard of this museum before!!! The entrance fee was very affordable, and the selection of information was divine. 

The first picture features probably my favourite room. The right wall is dressed turnable boxes that feature information about some of the greatest masterpieces in American literature history such as To Kill a Mockingbird. I was glad to recognize some because it means that I’m at least on the right track with my journey. There were also many that I recognized from the introduction to literature course that I took freshman year! Seeing these works again really made me even more grateful that I had the chance to study them up close despite not deciding to go down the English route for the rest of my four years at Loyola. The left side of the room features a timeline documenting the journeys of America’s famous writers and their contributions to the arts. 

The museum also offers many great special exhibitions. They currently have one about Bob Dylan. Yes he was a singer, but also a songwriter, author, poet, and visual artist. The display informed me so much about his song lyrics and the thought process behind them. It really deepened my appreciation for the messages that music can help express. Also, did you know the the song Make You Feel My Love that is so famously sung by Adele is originally by Bob Dylan, or am I just too young? 

However, this last photo is of my favourite feature of the museum – the desk of typewriters. WHAT A DREAM! I have always wanted one so to be able to sit down and practice on models that were similar to some of America’s greatest writers’ in history left me quite awestruck. I typed out some of my original poems and was even allowed to take them home. One of the members of the museum even told me a fun fact: Lady Gaga writes all of her songs on a typewriter. I can see why now. The rush of creativity sitting by a typewriter is really something else. 

I can’t wait to come back for the next exhibition, and the next and the next.

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Such a ‘Bler: Wicker Park Like You’ve Never Seen Before

Such a ‘Bler: Wicker Park Like You’ve Never Seen Before

You’ve heard me rave about Wicker Park. You’ve heard me confess that I thought I’ve gotten to know Chicago quite well by now. This upcoming piece is where both topics of discussion marry. 

Sam is going to Spain for study abroad this upcoming Fall, which means she’ll be blogging her adventures very soon on the Undergrad Admissions Office blog. However, it also means that she and I have only so many brunch dates left until next Spring. As Sam and I once again explored our beloved hang out destination, we spontaneously decided to venture some more upon noticing that this building looks like New York City’s Flatiron building.  

First, let me just ask you: doesn’t this trail remind you of the Highline in New York City? 

This discovery happened from a casual conversation we had with the owner of a resale shop on our stroll after dinner. I’ll give all the credit to Sam because she proved that day to be even more socially friendly than I was with strangers (I’m very excited about this.) After telling us about how he opened his store and somehow guessing our shoe sizes correctly, he was nice enough to point out a few new spots for us to explore.  

This is 606 Trail. The nice shop owner (I wish I wasn’t this bad with names) said it is a repurposed abandoned railway. If you get off the Damen blue light keep walking in the direction of the huge Walgreens, you’re bound to hit it. 

Here’s an article with more information about this renovation: http://archive.jsonline.com/features/travel/chicago-turns-abandoned-railway-into-urban-trail-b99581902z1-329572721.html 

We were pleasantly surprised with this hidden gem. For me personally, it symbolized a lot of what I love about choosing to go to university in Chicago. Though we were still in the city, being a bit elevated from the ground gave us a different view. I spotted new art that peakaboo here and there on buildings and more coffee shops and local businesses for us to explore. It is also apparently a popular visit for a lot of people in Chicago too. We saw lots of people biking and jogging that afternoon and taking in the beautiful weather and city. 

Although Wicker Park is a tad of a stretch from where we live for a morning or afternoon run, this trail makes for a great “gosh am I too full for ice cream just yet after that brunch” stroll and conversation. 

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Such a ‘Bler: IGNITION – FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS

Such a ‘Bler: IGNITION – FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS

I attended my first theatre festival! 

Ignition is an annual new plays festival hosted by Victory Gardens, one of the many extraordinary theatres in Chicago. Victory Gardens is a short walk off of the Fullerton Redline stop and that was where the festival was hosted this year.  

The festival originally began to showcase work by women. Immerging playwrights would submit their pieces and the theatre would curate the selection and then proceed to work with the playwrights who get chosen to craft debut readings at the festival. Throughout the years, it has branched out to celebrating works by other artists including coloured artists, young artists and artists of the LGBTQ+ community as well. I think it’s so wonderful, because it gives new artists the rare opportunity to be discovered by one of the biggest theatres in one of the biggest theatre cities in the world. One of the playwrights this year was even an intern at Victory Gardens just last year. The variety of the showcase really proves that greatness can come from anywhere at any time. I hope I am just as lucky. 

Throughout all the readings, I couldn’t sit still in my seat. This was partly because of the masterpieces being displayed and partly because I was just so proud to be a witness of their blossom. Ignition chose to focus on plays in process in year, which means the plays are not yet done and the readings were of the draft that the playwrights are currently at with the story. Frankly I don’t know how they could get any better, but this also taught me that things can only get better. I often leave my pieces when I think I’m done and choose to not look back with the belief that they can only be as good as they are right then. Perhaps, I should take another look. 

My favourite piece of the entire festival was a play called Tasters by Meghan Brown, which follows three women on their journey of being tasters for food served to the kings of different lands to make sure no poison was being served in the palaces. The reading was directed by my playwriting professor, Devon De Mayo (I KNOW RIGHT SMALL WORLD) and it was a match made in heaven. I had met Devon before the festival but couldn’t find her after the reading. With all my courage, I went up to Meghan on my own after the playwrights’ panel on the last day of the festival and introduced myself. I offered to buy her coffee but unfortunately, she was flying back to California right after the last reading that afternoon. She did however say we could Zoom video call because she loves chatting with students and fellow writers, so I’m super excited for that. She is a screenwriter and playwright based in LA and I hope to learn lots from her because that is the path that I hope to embark on myself. 

I also perked up the courage to shake hands with Victory Garden’s Artistic Director, whom would hopefully be my boss in the near future. I am particularly proud because I went up on my own (after not being able to locate my professor after all the readings.) This isn’t out of the ordinary of me but I will say that my eagerness to introduce myself was sparked even more by the passionate environment. I would absolutely be honored to work alongside the people I met that weekend, and contribute to the ever impressive flame. 

Truly, ignited. 

HEY, I ALSO MAKE VIDEOS! 

HERE’S THE SUCH A ‘BLER PLAYLIST: 

Such a ‘Bler: I Thought I’ve Seen Chicago

Such a ‘Bler: I Thought I’ve Seen Chicago

Going on my third year in Chicago now, and having been a tour guide several times to an abundance of family and friends who have visited me, I thought I was almost an expert. However, it wasn’t until this Summer when I tried my very first Chicago hotdog (I loved it.) 

With this embarrassing realization, I set out to re-explore some of my favourite spots. The hotdog was enjoyed at the Park Café at Millennium Park, one of the first touristy destinations when I arrived in Chicago in 2017. I often just drop by to show my friends Cloud Gate, the huge structure at Millennium Park and Crown Fountain but boy have I been missing out on some good food. Don’t get me wrong, I had been searching around town for a place to finally experience this world-famous treat. But why was I searching anywhere else for this famous hotdog? It was right here!!! The café also has other hotdog options if Chicago isn’t your style, and really yummy ice cream too. 

This summer, I also set out to venture on CTA lines other than the red, such as the brown, purple, green and pink lines. Going to Loyola has definitely familiarized me with the redline (to the point of remembering the order of its stops) but now that I live off campus, I discovered that the purple Loop takes way less travel time to go downtown! Other lines also offer much faster routes to my favourite places. I guess I just had to get over the initial hesitation to explore. 

Strolling around the Chicago Riverwalk is another one of my favourite activities. It only took a wrong turn whilst trying to find my way back to the L one pretty afternoon for me to realize that I could love it even more. Just look at this beauty of a structure. I honestly stopped and marveled in awe. It also made me wonder whether I had been looking up at my city enough, and this is coming from the wanderer of the group. 

Perhaps you already know all of the above and I’m just being silly. I guess this is my way of saying keep venturing. Because I thought I knew most of Chicago as well. 

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Such a ‘Bler: Andersonville

Such a ‘Bler: Andersonville

Welcome to Andersonville (of course I would introduce this place eventually.)  

I am deeply obsessed with SoHo, New York and often compare Wicker Park to it. However, I knew that if I was going to spend four years of my life in Chicago, I need to find Chicago’s own beauty. And it is Andersonville.  

It’s this neighbourhood that’s a short walk off of the Berwyn Redline stop and honestly one of the best places to enjoy your day off, or even a day that you just want to work outside. I’ve had my fair share of both. There are so many cute coffee shops and restaurants sprinkled around, each with its own unique Andersonville touch. One of my personal favourites is A Taste of Heaven. My newly alumni friends, Andrea, actually took me there after learning about my deep appreciation for breakfast food. The restaurant serves breakfast food all day (I’m squealing) and has a really fun blue and white tiled floor – a twist on your conventional black and white chess checkered spread. And that’s just the thing about this area! 

It seems like any other little town, with cafés, a Starbucks and shopping destinations but if you take your time and really stroll, you’ll thrift stores, antiques places, plant shops, resale bookstores and several up and coming local businesses. My first time around, Andrea even took me to a place that sold old x-ray clips of people’s teethes.  

My friend Sam, whom I wrote about in an early blog about our growing excitement with farmer’s markets, has also recently brought to my attention that on Wednesday from 3-8pm, Andersonville also has a farmer’s market! And you know it’s already now also scheduled on my calendar. 

There are also occasional street books and knickknack resales out and about. I found this mirror at one of them. I also found this little picnic basket brief case thing at one of the antiques stores FOR $5!!!! Next to it, a young jewelry crafter set up her own little table and I got myself some new funky earrings. Being an artist myself, I love being able to support other local artists and personally learn the story behind their work. 

I am now going to leave you now with an aesthetic array of photos because Andersonville itself is just a gem to capture – trust me, take the trip and you’ll be leaving with the same. 

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Such a ‘Bler: Loyola Farmers Market

Such a ‘Bler: Loyola Farmers Market

Well, here we are. I’m hooked! Yep, I’m officially a member of the Farmer’s Market fan club. And lucky for me, Loyola has one right beside the campus during the Summer months!! It’s literally right outside the Loyola Redline CTA stop!!!  

Follow other events that happen there here: https://www.instagram.com/rogersedge/ 

Now that I’ve moved out of the dorms and am living off campus, the produce that I buy has become a higher priority amongst my purchases. It’s wonderful to be able to go to one right after, or even between classes during weeks where I’m too packed to trek down to Wicker Park these Summer/early Fall months. I think it’s also a good venture for sophomores because second year dorms have kitchens and you can challenge yourself to cook a new dish during weekends! And honestly, everyone should come by because it’s a just lovely time!!!! 

Okay, I’ve ranted enough about how wonderful farmers markets are in my previous post (do give that a read though hehehe) but I will mention that the extra special thing about this market is the featured street performances!!! I’ve only been to this one once, but if I’m not wrong, there are different ones featured each time. You’ll just have to come by and see then – the market opens every Monday from 4-8pm.  

Loyola Farmer’s Market: https://www.instagram.com/loyolafarmersmarket/ 

Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/437135203526254/ 

There is also occasionally a gelato truck parked next to the market. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY YOU NEED TO TRY IT. I had some earlier sophomore year when the weather was warmer, and I haven’t forgotten it since. I’m so glad it’s back!!!! I also just love that it is aggressively pink.  

I remember from my UNIV 101 course during freshman year that some TAs organize weekly visits to this farmer’s market (or at least mine wonderfully did.) If yours does, you should definitely give it a go. I never did as a freshman and I very much regret it. But hey, at least now, I can possibly see you there? We can geek out about fresh fruits and flowers together. Happy Summer Ramblers! 

HEY, I ALSO MAKE VIDEOS! 

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Such a ‘Bler: Wicker Park Farmers Market

Such a ‘Bler: Wicker Park Farmers Market

Just look at those blueberries!!!!!! I had the absolute best time at my very first farmers market (wow that’s a lot of first this Summer haha.) I’d always been very curious about farmers because I know they are not only great for the environment but also a chance to support local farmers. My mum and I planned to go to the one in Logan Square but unfortunately got rained out 🙁 so I was ecstatic when this one popped up! 

There was wide variety of freshly grown and picked produce. You can also find things such as homemade spices, pastries, ice cream and homegrown flowers!! I did squeal quite a bit when I saw tubs and tubs of colourful fruit because I basically live off of fruit. The even better news is that the prices were too crazy compared to those found in supermarkets. I brought along my own big tote for my purchases, and also bought some new reusable market bags for specific produce! 

The shop I bought my bags at (it’s a new, and apparently first zero-waste store in Chicago too – the owner is very very nice!!): Zefirowaste. They’re only at Wicker Park offline but you can definitely get your sustainability act started via their Instagram.

This is my friend Sam Bejarano (she’s vegan!) She’s also a rising Junior at Loyola and is very involved in our Student Government, so feel free to reach out and ask her questions! The other beautiful feature of this photo is a chimichanga!!!!!! It’s basically a deep-fried burrito, and yes it’s vegan. Sam took me to this beautiful vegan/vegetarian restaurant called The Handlebar afterwards, which was also in Wicker Park. It was only short walk from the farmer’s market, so it was a nice way to continue enjoying the lovely weather. 

We then also decided to sit outside for lunch! The space was very decorated with posters from music events. I even found a sticker from Loyola’s radio station, WLUW, in above the sink in the bathroom so that’s was extra exciting! I just got a mushroom omelet with fries on the side because I’m not vegan nor vegetarian, but there were so many tempting options!  

For dessert, we got a slice of cake that was a new added feature at the café. This Lemon Raspberry Cream Cake is actually from a one-woman vegan bakery called Pie Pie My Darling. The owner, Heather, is on her way to opening her own space but is still taking orders from individuals customers and restaurants like The Handlebar. 

Honestly, this cake is a must try because after this experience, I think I’ve officially hopped on the vegan desserts train.

I hope this little snippet of my adventurous Sunday in some way inspired you to go out and try new things! I’m definitely coming back. Catch you at the next farmer’s market? 

HEY, I ALSO MAKE VIDEOS! 

HERE’S THE SUCH A ‘BLER PLAYLIST: 

Such a ‘Bler: The Art Institute of Chicago (and Rambler perks)

Such a ‘Bler: The Art Institute of Chicago (and Rambler perks)

One famous Chicago touristy spot is of course the Art Institute of Chicago! And as a rambler, you get free passes with your Loyola ID for four years!!! 

My best friend from high school recently visited from Korea and we attended the Manet and Modern Beauty exhibition. The Art Institute holds several special exhibitions like this a year, and luckily, my Loyola ID also made me eligible for a free pass for Manet. Gosh was it beautiful. I always thought I’d have to go to France to see works from the French genius himself. I was most starstruck by his work Jeanne (Spring) and still can’t believe I saw it right here in Chicago. 

The institute’s collection also features areas such as Impressionism, African Diaspora, American Art and Pop Art. I visit roughly 4-5 times a year, just for fun. However, professors often assign projects or homework that require us to visit the Art Institute for artistic research. An inspiration hunt for my Theatre Design I course (THTR 252) during freshman year was actually my first visit. We were starting a set design for the play “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre, so of course we were instructed to explore the special exhibition of old miniature doll houses. Here’s a snap of my favourite. And of course, my findings for the project featured other works from the institute’s vast collection as well. 

I think it’s really neat to have projects like these. Although artistic inspiration can come from anywhere form coffee shop designs to second hand book shops, it’s nice to know that there’s a huge gallery I can always go to if I want to hit many stops at once (even if it usually ends up with me spending a whole day there.) 

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Such a ‘Bler: International Museum of Surgical Science

Such a ‘Bler: International Museum of Surgical Science

I will admit, I’m not too big of a science person, despite having graduated high school with Cambridge A Levels Biology. How did I end up at the International Museum of Surgical Science you ask? My theatre internship held a community outreach event in collaboration with the museum (yes, I’m laughing as well.) But hey, I absolutely recommend a visit! 

The above picture is the main reason. It’s a miniature replica of a surgical theatre, in which people would sit and study an instructor operate live time. This is one of the many displays featured at the four-story museum. The first picture is of the statues of the important figures in surgical science history. More information about them can be found on the other floors of the museum, as well as newly rising international contributors of our current century. The fourth floor features the history of what the museum used to be – a house – as well as a special exhibition that is updated every few months.  

Before leaving, the nice lady at the check in desk suggested that we check out the old pharmacy at the back. It was very intricate and was accompanied by a small dentistry outside it. There was even a statue of a pharmacists behind the counter. He’s placed to look like he is preparing one of the many packets and bottles of medicine found in the shop. There was also a special button on the counter, but I’ll let you come by and press it yourself. 

I think it is also crucial that also I mention their unique gift shop which features biological organ plushies (yes you heard that right, come through.) 

I honestly would have never known that Chicago had this hidden gem if it weren’t for my internship’s event and turns out a lot of my friends didn’t either. The museum is located at 1524 N Lake Shore Dr, or just a fifteen-minute walk from the Clark/Division Redline stop. I know that sounds like a lot but there isn’t much to complain about when the weather is this nice. Why not take a stroll? 

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Such a ‘Bler: Loyola Park Beach Days

Such a ‘Bler: Loyola Park Beach Days

Believe it or not, I didn’t know that Loyola is located next to Lake Michigan arriving on campus freshman year. I’d like to think that you are all in fact better at location research than I am, but just in case, now you know! Ever since I discovered this outstanding cherry on top, I’ve been taking advantage of it as much as I can (when Chicago isn’t freezing of course.)  

The more I think about it, the gladder I am that I stayed in the States this break. My Chicagoan friends have been raving about how I NEED to experience a proper Chitown summer. I completely get the excitement now! On days where it’s just below 90 degrees, do find yourself a good book and pretty tree at Loyola Park. It’s become perhaps my favourite past time. Also featured in the photo above is the Loyola picnic mat that I grabbed from freshman orientation (note!!!)  

What I specifically love about this activity is the fact that the park is next to the beach!! I spent three years of my childhood in Sydney, Australia and at a primary school located right next to a park beach. So being at a university near the water is so nice for me. It’s also just lovely to be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago whenever you need. To sit and just sit, watching the waves dance and even take a dip when the water’s just right. Communal picnics and celebratory beach days are also fantastic! The beach is located in between views of Evanston and Navy Pier. My roommates and I spent Fourth of July here and were able to catch glimpses of fireworks happening at both locations! 

I sometimes just come by and people watch. It helps my creative flow as a writer, and I always end up smiling seeing others curled up with a book or throwing a frisbee around on the sand. Families even bring their barbeque and have weekend roasts! 

I recently discovered that events are regularly held here. On one of my afternoon sun-sits, I had a couple of people ask me whether “the show has started?” I of course was super confused but this snap of a chaired-crowd besides a tent kind of explains it. I believe it was a small travelling circus. I was admittedly too wrapped in my book to investigate but it sounded like fun. 

Next time, I’ll be sure to have a closer look! 

HEY, I ALSO MAKE VIDEOS! 

HERE’S THE SUCH A ‘BLER PLAYLIST: