Tag Archives: This I Do For Me

Wanna Join Me in Greece?!?!

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As you all know, I love to travel! So, I’m letting you in on a little secret today!

This…I…Do…For…Me is announcing its 2018 International Excursion (its back to Sydney, Australia in 2017) to Athens, Santorini and Mykonos!

The beautiful aspect of this adventure is that airfare is also included, making this one of the most affordable international offerings that you will come across.

There are only 14 slots available, and as I announced this dream vacation on my social media platforms today, five slots were immediately taken! Don’t think too hard — JUST GO!

If you are seriously interested in seeing stunning Greece, please contact me at 773/759-1374 for information on cost, payment plans and a detailed itinerary.

OPA!

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BEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT I HAVEN’T BEEN TO PILSEN IN MY OWN HOMETOWN!

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NEW BLOG POST!!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

I WANT TO GO BACK TO SPAIN, NOW!

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NEW BLOG POST!

Spain is life! Spain is Beautiful! Spain is Everything!

I spent 13 glorious days is Espana! Every time I visit a new city, it becomes my favorite. Madrid is everything I imagined — sophisticated, vibrant and cultured. I was blessed to experience multiple facets of this great city.

Madrid was also not everything I expected. My imagination has not evolved enough to hold all that this beautiful city and country has to offer. Although I only scratched the surface of Spain (I’ve also been to Barcelona and Mallorca in the past), Madrid convinced me that I must return several more times to fall in love with other cities there. So in advance, I want to thank Seville, Bilbao, Granada and Toledo! I look forward to meeting you.

While in Madrid, I visited the venerable Prado, where I saw the work of the Spanish Master Francisco Goya (his Black Paintings were something to behold), and I visited The Reina Sofia. There I saw the work of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica! It’s one thing to see these works in a book, but to view them in living color is nothing less than amazing.

What is Spain without Flamenco, along with a tasty selection of Tapas? At Torres Bermejas, we were entertained by seven Flamenco artists. The costumes were phenomenal, and the art form, itself, will have you mesmerized. Flamenco is both sexy and powerful.

What would a visit to Spain be without seeing some of the places that famed American writer Ernest Hemingway frequented?

The bodega Sofrino de Botin is one such place! Acclaimed as the oldest restaurant in the world (in 2025, it will be 300 years old), Botin is mentioned in Hemingway’s Classic
“The Sun Also Rises.” It was his favorite restaurant in Madrid, and who could blame him. The Roast Suckling Pig and Roast Lamb are their signature dishes and will make you salute the chef. Their Sangria was classic, as well.

When you visit Botin, ask to see and/or be seated near The Hemingway Table.

What was most memorable? My favorite experience in Madrid had to be the Paella class I took with four other people visiting from Australia, Poland and Arizona. I have always wanted to take a cooking class abroad, and I got to fulfill that dream. We also prepared a Spanish Omelet and a Cod and Orange Salad. We had a blast! Our instructor was truly phenomenal.


My second week in Spain was spent in The Salamancan village of La Alberca! Stayed tuned for a blog post about my volunteer experience with The Diverbo Program.

The people of Spain are Diamonds, and if you really need a crash course in living well, just emulate them!

Enjoy my photos!

For or more photos from Spain and other travels, please visit http://www.thisidoforme.com/travel.html

LET’S GET REAL, LADIES ARE YOU REALLY TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF?

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Let’s face it, we put up a good front when it comes to keeping it all together. We like to feel good about multi-tasking (the experts say we women are good at that),  about having a list, schedules and a synchronized routine for getting through life. We get a high from ticking off the boxes on our well crafted lists, and we can recite sequentially everything we “accomplished” that day.

What we won’t admit to is how damn tired we are. We convince ourselves that as long as we got all our errands done, our household tasks completed and we got that promotion or some recognition at work, we have it all under control. Do we, though?

If you have a family, when  was the last time you announced to family members upon arriving home from work that before you do anything (aside from an extreme emergency) for anyone, you are going to take 20 minutes in a room alone to meditate, unwind in the tub, sip a glass of wine or have a pleasant exchange with those in your household expressing why you are so glad to see them after a long and hard day?

If you are single, like myself, when was the last time you ate a meal without talking on the telephone?  Did you remember later what you even ate?

Even if you did perform some perfunctory self care, of these things, how much of it did you savor? Do you remember what it felt like?  Or did you do the usual by rushing through it so you could get to the next thing?

I am slowly learning that if I complete all my tasks, but I’m not present during the process, especially when im just trying to get to and rush to the next thing, I’m doing myself an injustice.

We have done this for so long that we think this level of functioning is normal.  So today I commit to doing it differently.  Yes, I will still maintain my lists, but I won’t trip when everything on it doesn’t get checked off.

I often say that I love myself, but when I don’t take time to breathe and tune into my relationships with people, I have to question that.  After all, life is about the people in it, not how succinctly we got through the day.

I’m making the commitment to do it not better, quickly  and efficiently, but with great care and more importantly — LOVE.

 

 

Starving for Fun in DC: Guest Blogger Yvonne Hawkins Shares Her Journey

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This…I…Do…For…Me is excited to welcome Yvonne D. Hawkins as a contributing and guest blogger!  Monthly, Yvonne will share her adventures and explorations in the Washington, D.C/Maryland/Virginia area with us.

 

It’s working even before I’ve started.

See, my spirit is starving for fun. I’ve been so busy, and I didn’t see fun anywhere on my recent to-do lists. Not since January’s first weekend when I ate at, Jaleo, an area tapas restaurant, for the first time to celebrate 2016’s arrival.

A girlfriend suggested the spot. It has a few locations in the D.C. area. I ordered a burger and another dish. It was the tiniest burger we both ever had seen. But it was good. And I had fun trying something new and spending the first days of the year with a friend.p

Fun missed the cut, though, since then. So fun didn’t get done. Yeah, that happens.

So I’ve created Artist’s Saw as a space where busy people can feed their spirits–day by day. Local adventure helps feed my spirit in between big trips. And my adventures of exploring the Washington, D.C. area also will run in This I Do For ME every month.

First, I’m off to Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, for lunch, then to the Alexandria Black History Museum, and Heritage Park . With the excitement of New Year’s Day gone, I’m focusing on truly getting centered for the year.

Alexandria has tons of African-American history because of the area’s role in the nation’s growth. So I’m going to the museum and park to connect with my ancestors while the new year is still young.

The restaurant, nestled in an area of Alexandria called Old Town, is a frequent flyer on must-do tourists lists. I’ve lived in Northern Virginia for four years now, but I’ve never eaten there. I want to know if it’s really a must-do place like people say.

Adventure awaits! And I think it’s working already.Tapas burger

Yvonne D. Hawkins is an ordained minister, recovering newspaper journalist, Christian life coach, and church leadership consultant. 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 artistssaw.com.

2015: A RECAP OF A GOOD YEAR!

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The year 2015 was a good one! First, I am grateful for good health and a deepened spirituality. I am grateful for family and friends, and I’m grateful for new opportunities. This was a year of treading new territory — new vision, new habits, new friends and even a new business! I found myself in the midst of enjoying many new adventures. “New” was the operative word.  Below is a recap of my 2015.

High Speed TGV at Gare do Nord

The High Speed TGV at Gare du Nord, Paris, France!

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France!

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France!

INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC TRAVELS

At the onset of 2015, I was only slated to take a trip to Northern California to hang out with my best friend for our birthdays in January, along with 11 cities in France. Normally, two trips, especially where one would be spent overseas, would leave me satisfied, but in making a commitment to remain open to what the universe delivered,   Here is what my 2015 travel itinerary looked like:

  1.    January — traveled to Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco;
  2.    March — traveled to New York City;
  3.    June — traveled to Montreal and Oka, Canada;
  4.    September — traveled to 11 cities in France*
  5.    October — traveled to Cincinnati and Oberlin, Ohio;
  6.    November — traveled to Sydney, Australia
Me, happy as can be, at The Eiffel Tower, Paris.

Me, happy as can be, at The Eiffel Tower, Paris!

Avignon, France!

Avignon, France!

A Youth Hostel Near My Hotel, Sydney, Australia!

A Youth Hostel Near My Hotel, Sydney, Australia!

In all of these destinations, I got to eat well (I had delectable macarons from Laderee), visit some of the most iconic tourist attractions (The Eiffel Tower, The Sydney Opera House), and I met incredible people everywhere I went!

In St. Tropez

In St. Tropez, France!

Street Cafe in Monaco!

Street Cafe in Monaco!

Iconic French Street Musician

Iconic French Street Musician, Arles, France!

SAMPLED NEW RESTAURANTS — You don’t have to have known me a long time to know that one of my favorite pastimes is to sample a new restaurant.

In 2015, the new restaurants that I visited were Greek Islands in Chicago’s Greek Town.  I am not normally a big fan of Greek food, but I must admit the The Lolipop Lamb Chops, along with a most delicious and uniquely seasoned skinless baked potato was out of this world!  It was also a  great place for an annual gathering of former co-workers.

I truly dined sufficiently at Mexique (French and Mexican Fusion) on the west side of Chicago!  As a matter of fact, this eatery was my favorite find in 2015.  I, along with a small group celebrated the birthday of a friend during the restaurant’s Sunday brunch.  Although all of the food was outstanding, I am still dreaming often of their crepes and their Tres Leche served with a scoop of peach ice cream.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

St. Tropez Market, Olive Stall

St. Tropez Market, Olive Stall

Batter and Berries was another major culinary surprise! Can you imagine lemon, strawberry, carmel or my favorite blueberry French Toast?  I couldn’t at first, but can’t imagine life without it now.  If you want to try out all of the favors, order The Flight of French Toast.  I promise you that you won’t regret it.  Owned by two fraternity brothers, Batter and Berries has expanded its reputation as a breakfast hot spot, so be prepared for a long, yet quickly moving fast line. I can’t forget my dining experience at Jaime Oliver’s restaurant in Sydney, Australia.  His polenta fries were outstanding!

Breakfast at QVB, Sydney, Australia

Breakfast at QVB, Sydney, Australia!

To round out my dining experience, I revisited some of my favorite restaurants — Salpicon! (Upscale Mexican) in Old Town, Chant (Asian Fusion) in Hyde Park, Francesca’s in Little Italy and Maggiano’s (Classic Italian) in River North.

THEATER OUTINGS — Chicago and New York

There is nothing like seeing a live theater performance.  I saw some awesome plays in 2015.

In Chicago, I saw Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s “Get on Your Feet.”  The music was great and brought back memories of their days with The Miami Sound Machine.  A Conga Line was even formed and traversed the entire theater.  I also saw a riveting production at The Court Theater of Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” a moving and riveting performance of August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” an absolutely fun production of “Gotta Dance” and “Kinky Boots.” Oh, I almost forgot the ever classic August Wilson play “Two Trains Running” staged at the Goodman Theater.

In New York City, I saw “Brothers at The Bottom” at The Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Broadway rendition of “Kinky Boots.”

DANCE PERFORMANCES — 2015 brought the annual appearance of the phenomenal Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  As in years past, the company debuted some new works, but no performance would be complete without seeing their iconic “Revelations.”  As many times as I’ve seen that piece, it’s always delivered in a fresh way.  I never tire of it.

2015 also brought The Dance Theater of Harlem back to Chicago after a 16 year absence. I had almost forgotten how superb they are!  Known for performing classical pieces, DTH introduced some contemporary numbers thus showcasing their versatility.

A Ballet Performance

A Ballet Performance


A Bouitique in Aix-En-Provence

A Bouitique in
Aix-En-Provence, France!

MUSICAL PERFORMANCES — January afforded me the opportunity to see the wonderful jazz guitarist Bill Frisell in Oakland at Yoshi’s.  April brought Ellis and Delfeayo Marsalis to the Reva and David Logan Center.  September delivered the well organized Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago — I saw Regina Carter and Maggie Brown!  In October, phenom Cecile McLorin Salvant treated Chicago jazz lovers to a whimsical evening, also at the Logan Center.

From a Performance with Violinist Regina Carter

From a Performance with Violinist Regina Carter, Chicago!

LIVESTREAM PERFORMANCES — I have grown more and more amazed at how many live performances I have seen right in the comfort of my home on my iPad or my desktop.  Thanks to Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) under the leadership of the great Wynton Marsalis, I have been introduced to new artists (e.g. Alicia Olatunja, Briana Thomas and Denzal Sinclaire), reintroduced to well known artists (e.g. Dianne Reaves, Rubin Blades), and we are always graced by the sounds of The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALCO).

CD, JALCO in CUBA!

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra! CD Released in 2015!

I even watched The Harlem Book Fair in July and Rick Steves Travel Conference in November via Livestream.  Wow, what we are able to do now given the wonders of technology — we can be there and yet not be there!

I am looking ahead to 2016 with a renewed mindset, an eagerness to try new things and to look at the old with a new set of eyes!

Shopping at The Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, Australia

Shopping at The Queen
Victoria Building,
Sydney, Australia

Iconic Provence Lavender

Iconic Provence Lavender

#thisidoforme

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*Paris, Avignon, Arles, Aix, St. Tropez, Lyon, Nice, Monaco, St. Paul de Vence, St. Balme Maxime and Cannes