Category Archives: Historic Places, Treasures and Surprises

Traveling — A Different Kind of Vacation



What was the unexpected?  Taking a vacation in the middle of a harsh Chicago winter — one that I never even entertained.  Winter has mainly been something to suffer through while I waited on the dawn of spring when it “made more sense” for me to take a vacation.

So when I was invited to spend time in Puerto Vallarta last month, I went with the flow and decided to spend some winter time doing something different, but this time in 80+ degree temperatures.

Typically, when I vacation, it is traditionally to locales where there are loads of historical monuments to behold, great shopping districts to experience, restaurants to sample and jazz clubs to get my music fix satisfied.

Although these destinations are exciting and filled with constant activity and fun stuff, I must admit that my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico was a different kind of vacation. Total relaxation ruled the entire week.

Although I took advantage of a few excursions — a tour the historic Lady of Guadalupe Church, viewing the sculptures along the Malecon and shopping, the best part of this trip was the time I spent at Palenque Spa getting a mani and pedi, along with a deep tissue massage, partaking in sumptuous meals like the one at Los Alcatraces La Marina, sipping champagne on the golf course and more importantly just kicking back on the beach in the most comfortable lounge chair while immersed in a collection of essays written by Samantha Irby sharing the company of special friends.

And I can’t forget the time I spent on the balcony watching daily sunrises and sunsets.

My mind was not bogged down with the items on my To Do List, or work related issues or making decisions.  My mind was clear — as clear as the waters in Mexico.

I think I can get used to that!








It’s a damn shame!  I’ve been to Australia, France, China, Africa, Spain and a host of other foreign countries.  I pride myself on being a global citizen, who partakes in a variety of cultural offerings.  I’m open to diverse cultures and sampling unique foods. I have even tried learning French at age 50+.

So with all this cultural exposure, how in the world could I have never been to The Pilsen community on the lower west side of Chicago?

I have been trying to get to The National Mexican Museum of Art since 2002; every year I vow that I am going to visit there, but it keeps greeting pushed off.  Back in 2015, I clearly stated in a blog post that I would no longer put it off and visit this treasure in 2016. Have I done it, yet? Not yet, BUT…

Recently I enrolled in a photography class with a phenomenal organization — Blue 1647!! Blue is a technology innovation center “where diverse people making a positive impact in the world gather to create, collaborate, learn and build (from Mission Statement).” With a mission like this, it’s no wonder Blue 1647 would find themselves in the heart of Pilsen — a community ripe for technological innovation, business development and culture.

When I found myself having to go there for my class, I was a bit excited because I’d never spent anytime in Pilsen.  Conversely, I was a bit uneasy about going there for the same reason — I’d never been there. If  I am honest with myself, I would have to acknowledge that no matter how adventurous I have been throughout my life, doing something for the first time was still daunting, even for me!

I love serendipity!  Here I am taking a class in a neighborhood that I have heard so much about but hadn’t spent any time there.  Once I arrived for my class and had to go out to shoot photos, I immediately felt the electricity and specialness of Pilsen. How could I have overlooked it, underestimated the importance of spending time there, and as much as I love Mexican food, what was my problem? I wondered.

Being surrounded by a number of beautiful murals depicting  Mexican culture, being in the midst of coffee houses like Cafe Jumping Bean, taquerias and the lure of the aromas of Churros and other edibles, I became overjoyed and blessed to be present here on a Saturday — a day where you can truly capture (with a camera) the the life of a community.  I could feel Pilsen’s spirit.

Residents rode by on bikes and even stopped to take pics with the women in my class.  Cars whizzing by slowed down to a crawl to checkout why seven women  were clicking away with their 35mm cameras.

Like many Chicago neighborhoods, Pilsen has gone through its share of gentrification; many families have moved out because of what’s been called an affordability factor. However, Pilsen hasn’t seemed to have lost its true essence.

It has a great balance of older adults who maintain the stories, music and history of its residents. There is other end of the spectrum where there are young people with high energy, new ideas and dreams.  There are small business owners like shoe cobblers, hardware stores, dress shops and long established restaurants.

Street food, Horchata and Huaraches can be found everywhere!

There is a lightness in the air — the kind that says, “we are family; welcome to it!”

I look forward to hanging out more and more (with my camera, of course) in Pilsen! I plan to get to know her well.








It was exactly one year on August 15, 2015 that I launched This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM)! It has been a year of tremendous growth, creativity, meeting fascinating people, traveling to places that I thought I’d never visit and stepping out with the belief that I could carry TIDFM off into the world for the benefit of women who are 50 years of age and older!


I am most proud of the business’s website; this is the pipeline for posting information for our clients and readers in the areas of Art/Literature, Theater/Dance, Music/Concerts, Food/Restaurants, For the Soul, and Travel. I chose to focus on these areas for the website, as well as the blog because activities, outings and excursions would serve as the focal point to encourage our target population to immerse and treat themselves, particularly since they have spent countless years caring for others.


Here are some of the fun things that I, along with my adventurous clients explored this past year:


In September 2015 – It was 11 cities in France – Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, Monaco, St. Paul de Vence, St. Balme Maxime, Nice, Lyon and St. Tropez! I left feeling like France was my home.

In November 2015 – It was magnificent Sydney, Australia! I have a trip planned for eight people planned in November 2017!

In January 2016 – It was the beautiful shores of Orange County and Los Angeles, California!  Shopping and sheer relaxation was the order of day for a solid week.

In June 2016 – I had the honor of traveling to Madrid, Salamanca and La Alberca, Spain! It was here that I fell in love with the culture, the magnificent food and the warm and loving people. I even had the chance to take a short side trip to Dublin, Ireland! I must go back there if for no other reason than I must spend more time in some of neighborhood pubs that are full of life, laughter and good food to accompany that fun environment.


It’s looking like Atlanta, Georgia in January, Cuba in February and back to Sydney, Australia in November 2017! Life is Good!


Some of the theater outings that TIDFM clients participated in included Byhalia, Mississippi at The Steppenwolf Theater, Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window at The Goodman Theater, the musical 42nd Street at The Cadillac Palace Theater, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at The Oriental Theater and Satchmo at the Waldorf at Hyde Park’s Court Theater.


The critically acclaimed Hamilton (hopefully my group’s name will move up the wait list)! If I see nothing else except Hamilton in 2017, it will have been a good year.


Yes, I and my clients love to eat! I, along with food critic Eleni Murphy reviewed some interesting restaurants. Eleni even shared some of her London, England favs. Oftentimes, these restaurants were sampled following a theater performance. What a way to top off a great production!

Here are some of the restaurants visited and reviewed during TIDFM’s first year of operation:

1. Café Ba Ba Reeba (Chicago, Illinois)
2. Sobrino de Botin (Madrid, Spain)
3. NAC (London, England)
4. Kappacasein Dairy (London, England)
5. Granger and Co (London, England)
6. Berners Tavern (London, England)
7. Sweet Mandy B’s (Chicago, Illinois)
8. Del Seoul (Chicago, Illinois)
9. Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago, Illinois)
10. Dove’s Luncheonette (Chicago, Illinois)
11. Cemetia’s Puebla (Chicago, Illinois)
12. Nini’s Deli (Chicago, Illinois)
13. Podhalanka (Chicago, Illinois)
14. Mercado San Miguel (Madrid, Spain)


1. Army Thai on Damen
2. La Palapa on 34th Street


I and a client attended the “Portraits of Motherhood” Exhibit, which highlighted the artistic talent of Antonia Ruppert. I found a gem on the south side of Chicago – The Creative Room located in the heart of the Park Manor community. This design studio’s mission is to provide a space for people to create their own DIY (do it yourself) interior design projects.  Clemenstien Love is the mastermind behind this hidden treasure.

I provided overview of books that I’ve read over the past year – including a few children’s books. There were a mixture of travel, music, autobiography/memoirs, short stories and social justice commentaries.  They ranged from biographies of culinary icon Marcus Samuelsson to children’s classics like “Corduroy” by Don Freeman.  For reviews of the other selections, please check out the art and literature link on


I plan in conjunction with another entity to include my clients on a few Famous House Tours during the holidays. Please stay tuned.


One of my favorite things to do in conjunction with the business is learning about the myriad ways in which women care for themselves even in the midst of dealing with life’s stressors. This section of the website spotlights a diversity of women who share with TIDFM’s audience how they care for their souls, especially as they are taking care of other people, their jobs/businesses.  Please check it out as you might find some helpful hints on self-care and the exploration of new things.

My first year has been loaded with fun, doubt, new experiences and places, great people and a true excitement about TIDFM’s future growth.

The growth of TIDFM has manifested through the creation of a logo, connecting with Mighty Mongoose Tours to write a blog post of an upcoming helicopter excursion, participation in The Diverbo program in Spain, serving as a guest on the radio program “Living it Up After 50,” hired two freelance writers for the website, ran two TIDFM contests, announced TIDFM’s first international excursion to Sydney, Australia, and I was asked to review a self-empowerment book by a coaching expert.

I am grateful to our readers, those who traveled with me and those who joined us on a number of outings. In the coming year, I plan to broaden TIDFM’s reach, and I hope you will stick around for the ride.


PHOTO ABOVE:  Me enjoying Indoor Skydiving!


Historic Pleasures in Virginia With Guest Blogger Yvonne D Hawkins


chocolate ice creamI’ve always wondered what it was like during colonial days for a young America when Paul Revere rode through the Massachusetts countryside, yelling, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

Or when white men, wearing white wigs and long, button-down coats visited their colleagues’ homes, first greeting the lady of the house by removing their wide, brimmed hats.

At Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town neighborhood, I almost could hear the clatter of horses’ shoes on cobblestone streets. Sitting at my table, after being escorted by a server dressed in colonial-era clothes, I looked around the rooms. My eyes landed on the pretty, thick drapes. I bet the drapes of that day struggled to hold back drafts on winter nights. The replicas that I saw hung stately from top to bottom of windowed walls. Still, I bet the actual drapes of colonial days, which didn’t have help from modern heating, often lost winter’s fight.

I sat at my table, and closed my eyes to let the images soak in. I tried to pull from my memory banks images from TV miniseries, books and movies that, until now, offered me visuals of colonial America. Here, though, I feel like I have a better feel for those days—somewhat.

I thought of the juxtaposition that freedom fighters who owned this house probably owned people, too. Of how those who lived here probably used slaves to run this very space. Reviewing the menu of typical tavern food, I wondered what day-to-day life was like for my ancestors in this place. Days that maybe filled some with hope, but others with disappointment since hope might as well have been a child’s toy only for those who could afford it.

My server, a kind young man, sat my lunch plate on a tin, charger plate. I ate until I was full. Partially because Gadsby’s serves a lot of food! And it’s quite good. I had beer-battered cod—two huge pieces—with fries. A pair of onion rings that garnished the fries. Coleslaw and iced tea. A couple who sat nearby sampled some of the tavern’s beers. They seemed satisfied.

Yes, Gadsby’s was the right pick for January’s trip. I ate well and got some of the spiritual grounding I had hoped for. I’ll definitely come back. Lunch prices are just right. And the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum that sits next door intrigues me. So I’m eager to see it the next time.

For this visit, though, I could hardly wait to get to Alexandria’s Black History Museum, next. Once there, the museum re-confirmed what I already knew. That colonial America is no nostalgic affair that I ever want to return.

The museum, just a few minutes’ drive from Gadsby’s, is small. But its curators know what they’re doing! I’d rank it as good as other hideaway treats in the DMV such as the Fredrick Douglas home in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It traces black life through Alexandria’s eyes as the city grew in the shadow of the nation’s new capital.

And, yes, I saw, the display about my historic, 212-year-old church, Alfred Street Baptist Church. The visuals of my church’s beginnings deepened my appreciation for black struggle in America. I worship every week on the exact piece of land as my ancestors did so long ago, and that connection is much stronger for me now. But I also feel a deeper appreciation for black overcoming, too. Through it all, we are still here. Literally. On the same land. We remain.

That was worth the trip.


Yvonne D. Hawkins is an ordained minister, recovering newspaper journalist, and church leadership consultant who specializes in pastoral care. She currently lives in Northern Virginia. She went to college and seminary in Evanston, Illinois, so she deeply misses Lake Michigan. And the Taste of Chicago. She definitely misses The Taste. Her newest blog is