Tag Archives: Wanderlust



As I reflect over the 2017, I realize it was an extremely busy year.  It was a year of a lot of firsts for me, particularly as it relates to building my two year old business This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM).

It was a year that allowed me to see how I brought dreams to fruition for others and just how much satisfaction I derived from playing a role in that.  It was also a year where I faced some long-standing doubts and fears, and surprisingly I came out on the other side!  I like to do yearly recaps mainly so that I can not only see what I’ve accomplished, but examine the misses and areas where I still need to grow, as well.

So for all that it brought, here is TIDFM’s 2017 recapped:


January — I, along with nine female relatives, took (what has become known as “The Cousins’ Trip”) a four day jaunt to Atlanta, Georgia. Our cousin and her husband treated us royally.  The trip was made especially memorable because we traveled there during the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  birthday was being celebrated in his hometown.   It was also magical to spend that time with family members.  We took in the movie “Hidden Figures”, saw Roy Ayers perform at the City Winery, ate at some fabulous restaurants, laughed and talked, talked and laughed, and more importantly, we paid homage to Dr. King by visiting his grave site,  along with that of his dedicated wife and comrade Coretta Scott King.



March — I was able to visit a close friend who lives in Berkeley, California.  This was the first time that I spent my entire time in Berkeley versus spending time in Oakland or San Francisco.  We saw an art exhibit at Berkeley Museum of Art, ate Bi Bim Bap at a  Korean restaurant (ate there twice because I can never get enough of Bi Bim Bap), watched a myriad of movies at her home and toured the campus of The University of California, Berkeley.  I have always wanted to see this campus, especially because of its history of protest, advocacy and of being a change agent.

A visit to the Bay area would not be complete without paying a visit to the outstanding restaurant Burma Superstar!  That place! That place!  They offer every imaginable way to please your palate; their coconut rice alone will have you begging for more, and the variety of Burmese food offered is amazing.


September — I finally got to travel to a city that I have been longing to visit for quite some time.  This trip, like my excursion to Atlanta, allowed me to spend time with family — 3 cousins — who made my trip so special.  Not only is Seattle a most gorgeous city, its food scene is amazing and as diverse as its residents.  You want good ice cream?  There is Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.  You want really good Sushi?  There is Trappers.

And I can’t  forget my visit to the famed Pike’s Market, The Northwest African American Museum and the city’s Space Needle!





The University of Washington’s campus is picturesque, and situated on that campus are some of the most architecturally unique buildings I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, Seattle’s weather is my kind of weather.  Although it was overcast on several days, the breezes and fresh air made the trip all the more enjoyable.

Also, Seattle gave me a chance to be mesmerized by The Chihuly Exhibit held on The Seattle Space Museum Caampus — what magnificent work!









October — Reykjavik, Iceland — Not a place I would have ever imagined myself visiting until I came across an incredible fare offered by Southwest Airlines, but AM I GLAD I DID!  Naturally, once I really began to research Aurora Borealis (aka The Northern Lights), I was determined to witness this phenomenon first hand.  On a cold Iceland evening, I got my chance.  How awe-inspiring it was!





Who would have thought I would have paid to join an excursion to whale watch?  I maintained the attitude that “as long as I am here, I might as well immerse myself in Icelandic culture.”  It was cold and wet, but I felt like a trooper because I pushed myself to do something that I would never have done before.  I saw not only whales, but but I saw humpback dolphins, and other unrecognizable water bound animals.

I shivered my butt off, but I enjoyed every minute.




I was also able to partake in a two hour Icelandic Beer Class where you not only tasted a variety of beers (that was a lot of fun), but I learned about what was going on historically in Iceland at the time those beers were crafted.  Our class members were from Canada, Italy and Sweden.


Of course we took the obligatory city tour — Reykjavik’s Cultural Building was hosting a run of Tosca, along with some lesser known productions and exhibits.


We also saw the building (pictured below) where President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev held in 1986 made progress toward creating The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and The Soviet Union.


The highlight of the city tour was seeing the Lutheran Church Hallgrimskir, which is one of Iceland’s hallmark tourist attractions. Running a close second was bathing in the iconic Blue Lagoon.


November — The end of the year saw me revisit Sydney, Australia, but unlike my first visit in 2015 where I went Down Under solo, this time I escorted eight women aged 50+ to the land of Oz!  It was a monumental trip because it was the first official excursion for This…I…Do…For…Me and it was the first time some of the ladies had ever left the United States.  AUSTRALIA WAS EVERYTHING!

Our Sydney, Australia  Itinerary Included:  The Sydney Opera House Tour, The Royal Botanical Gardens, Cronulla Beach, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Seeing the Southern Cross at the Sydney Observatory, Sea Life Aquarium, Madam Tussaud, Watson’s Bay and Doyle’s Restaurant, Bondi Junction (for shopping) Day Trip to The Blue Mountains and numerous restaurants representing Thai, Greek, German, Italian and Mexican Cuisines.














  1.  We took a Greek Cooking Class at Sur La Table in Chicago;
  2.  I and 12 TIDFM patrons participated in a Wine Tasting and Food Pairing led by Sommelier Brian Duncan at Eddie Vs on The Gold Coast;
  3. We attended The City Winery’s Sunday Concert Series; classical, jazz and choral music was the fare;
  4. We attended a Salute to Katherine Dunham at The Harold Washington Library;
  5. We attended both The Annual African American Film Festival and viewed a film monthly at The Gene Siskel Film Center;
  6. TIDFM sponsored its First Annual Book Swap and Dinner at Eddie Vs;
  7.  We attended three theatrical productions — Hamilton, An American in Paris and The Bodyguard;
  8. TIDFM in conjunction with Chisiko offered a Women Warrior Masterpiece Art Class at Robust Coffee Shop;
  9. We attended The Chicago Cultural Center’s showing of the documentary “Still I Rise” featuring the life of phenomenal Activist, Writer and Renaissance Woman Maya Angelou;
  10. We attended a musical performance featuring drummer extraordinaire Terri Lyne Carrington and Liz Wright;
  11. We attended Dixon School’s Annual African American Cultural Festival;
  12. I attended “Black Girls Gather” in Chicago hosted by “For Harriett “Writer and Activist Kimberly Foster;
  13. I was invited to join The Shanghai Committee for The Chicago Sister Cities Program;
  14. I even learned how to play Mah Jong;
  15. Attended The Annual Good Food Conference;
  16. I threw my first Paella Party (see pics below)










I am excited about 2018, as TIDFM will be traveling to Greece in September!  We will continue to experience the wonderful cultural scene that Chicago offers.

I will keep you posted on our other exciting events scheduled for throughout the year.






















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


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.



This is the 3rd and final installment of my posts on Spectacular Sydney, Australia!

I have been back from Sydney, Australia for a little over a month, and like with so many things, the impact of that experience continues to unfold. Most notably, the main thing that will always be at the forefront of my mind are the friendly people that I encountered and how open Sydneysiders were to converse, ask and answer questions.


Photo:  The Famed Sydney Opera House


Take Mayleen, who I met while eating breakfast at The Queen Victoria Building (QVB).  Noticing that I was obviously not from Sydney (maybe looking more African American than Aboriginal was a dead give away) nor from England (my American accent often mistaken for being from the southern states versus the south side of Chicago),

Mayleen had just sat down across from me to enjoy a pastry and a cup of coffee before she reported to work at a boutique in the building.  She immediately asked where I was from, and when I responded “Chicago,” she wanted to know more about me and specifically more about the churches in my city. She explained that she was a member of  the Pentacostal faith, and she truly hoped to visit the churches led by Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyers and Joel Osteen someday.

We discussed and even lightly laughed and joked about some of the craziness going on in the world and how we must pray for its healing.  We exchanged information so that once either I returned to Sydney or she traveled to Chicago, we could connect.  We said our goodbyes. I remember thinking how pleasant the experience was and really feeling good about taking this trip.

Then there was a young (in her early 20s) woman named Tanta, who was of Balinese descent but had grown up in Sydney.  She was passing out chocolate samples outside of Haigh’s, a premium chocolatier.  Once I detected that she was friendly and would be open to questions, I said, “I’m just going to come out and ask you, why does Sydney have so many Asian citizens.”  It’s important to note that from the time I step off of my flight in the airport, I noticed that it seemed that every seven in ten people I saw were of Asian heritage.


Photo:  Inside The Sydney Opera House


Tanta chuckled and explained that 44% of the people in Sydney were not from there and that many of that 44%  were primarily Chinese.  Tanta attributed it to the development of new economic markets.  She, too, wanted to know where I was from and what I was doing in Sydney.  She told me about her desire to visit the U.S., and maybe even experience living in either NYC or San Francisco. She seemed so excited while chatting with me that another layer of Sydney was embedded in my heart and consciousness.

She wished me an enjoyable experience and urged me to do The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.  Needless to say, I had no intention of doing that climb, so I smiled and thanked her for her kindness but not before I went into Haigh’s to purchase some salted caramel chocolates.



Photo:  In The Rocks Section of Sydney


Photo:  Life is Good in Sydney!


In the midst of meeting friendly Australians, I encountered some very friendly North Americans —  Ryan from San Diego, Savannah from Montreal, both of whom I spent an entire afternoon with on a city tour and a group of three lively young men from Hawaii and Los Angeles.

When I  spotted them, I went right over and struck up a conversation with them at the QVB.  I also met a super friendly couple from Seattle at The Sydney Wildlife Center.  In each encounter, we were all happy to meet each other and readily shared some of our awesome Down Under experiences.


Photo:  At the Sydney Wildlife Center with New Friends Visiting From Seattle


So, if you have been hesitant about traveling to Australia, because its just too far away, the flight is too long, you don’t know anyone interested in traveling there with you, or a whole host of other excuses, no worries, mates. You will be amongst some of the friendliest people in the world, and there is plenty to see and fun to be had. When you go you must explore:

  1.   The Sydney Opera House — I saw a ballet performed by the      Australian National Ballet Company.  Be sure to take the tour of the Opera House — you won’t regret it;
  2. Bondi Beach — just gorgeous;
  3. Manley Beach — access by ferry;
  4. The Taronga Zoo — access by ferry;
  5. The Sydney Wildlife Center — get to know Erica and other Koalas
  6. The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb — This I Did Not Do!
  7. Darling Harbour and its many restaurants, stores and boutiques;
  8. Sydney Harbour — sit, sip, eat and enjoy music along The Opera House Promenade; take a cruise along the Harbour;
  9. The Rocks;
  10. The Central Business District (CBD);
  11. The Queen Victoria Building (shop, chat with the locals and admire the beautiful architecture;
  12. Visit Chef Jaime Oliver’s Restaurant — you must try the Polenta Fries


Photo: Beautiful Christmas Tree Laden With Swarovski Crystals at The QVB




Photo:  Train Stop in The Central Business District


Photo:  A Trainer at The Sydney Wildlife Center


Photo:  “It’s Your Shout” (An Aussie Phrase Meaning This Round of Drinks Are On You).  In This Case, It’s A Pimms Cup!








Sydney, Australia! PART 1


Me at The Sydney Wildlife Center With Erica the Kaola!

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Photos: Robin at The Sydney Wildlife Center; on Bondi Beach; the Queen Victoria Building Clock; the famed Sydney Opera House


At the beginning of 2015, taking a trip to the continent of Australia was the furthest thing from my mind. Even though the country was on my bucket list, it was way down on the list — mainly because I knew very little about that continent. It seemed like a whole other world.  I just assumed that I would get there, sometime before I left this earth, not in 2015, however.  I hadn’t even identified a particular area (e.g. Melbourne, Perth, Tasmania, etc.) that I wanted to visit.  The mantra? JUST GO TO AUSTRALIA! JUST GO TO AUSTRALIA!

Ironically, though, my mind always went back to the many New Year’s Eve Day celebrations I watched on television over the past 10-15 years.  It is at this time that I, like many Americans, get to watch the New Year arrive first in Australia.  You always see the iconic Sydney Opera House, its beautiful architectural sails displaying some celebratory image, along with a fire works show that had you longing to be right there in the middle of all of the festivities.

Even though one could easily visit Melbourne, Perth, Cairns or even Tasmania, Sydney and its many beautiful sites — Darling Harbour, The Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, Bondi and Manley Beaches — was embedded in my subconscious mind to the point where I didn’t even think about other destinations in Australia.  Besides, even the name Sydney has a sophisticated ring to it!  Then the most serendipitous happening occurred — I came across an incredible fare (flight, accommodations and excursions) with Qantas Airlines!

At the time the opportunity to visit Sydney came up, I was already a month away from going to 11 cities in France. As  I began to mull this Sydney travel opportunity over in my mind,  each time I would try to convince myself to take advantage of that trip at another time. I said to myself,  “After all,  one major trip (France) a year should be enough for you, Robin.”

I continued to go back and forth, back and forth until…I finally decided the price and the amenities were too good to pass up.  Once again, I began talking to myself “Besides,  you only live once.”

I wouldn’t allow myself to think about Sydney, until I returned from France.  Even though it took me three weeks to recover from France jet lag, I still managed to muster up the energy to create an imminent dream trip that would be taken in less than two months. And a Dream Trip it was!

I must also mention that with all of the traveling that I’ve done, both domestically and internationally, Sydney was my first solo trip!

I know a few people that have traveled solo for many years, and they always touted that they loved these trips because they could awaken when they wanted, eat where and what they desired, be open and available to meet new people, and set their own schedule of daily sites to be seen. I have to admit, this was a new way to travel for me, but I was game!

Here is what I did:

DAY 1:  After getting settled in my hotel room at The Great Southern on George Street, I immediately ventured out for the first of my scheduled excursions — A Captain Cook Sydney Harbour Cruise.  This allowed me to see a panoramic view of The Sydney Harbour Bridge, along with the stunning Sydney Opera House.

I happened to befriend a group of Monks from Thailand, who were as friendly as they were serene and soft-spoken.  We took turns taking pics with each other’s cameras and/or cell phones.  We all stood on the ship awe struck that we were “Down Under” and grateful for having crossed each other’s paths.

I then enjoyed a delicious meal Al Fresco at Rossi’s, also on the Harbour.  The Italian food offerings were mouth watering.  Ironically, the eatery was Russian owned and operated.  It is important to mention that 44 per cent of Sydney’s population is not from Sydney.

DAY 2:  I awoke highly rested and energized to take on my next Sydney site — The Queen Victoria Building (QVB).  After The Opera House, The QVB, was my second most desired site to visit.  Talk about stunning — the architecture, the six domes atop of the building and the elegance of its interior was breath taking.  It was already decked out with Christmas decorations, and each store and boutique was beautifully organized and receptive to its customers.  Because my hotel was only seven blocks from The QVB (also on George Street), I ate breakfast there every morning.

Afterwards, I went back to Sydney Harbour, grabbed some good street food, and listened to the musicians situated at various points there.  Sydney is a great place to people watch, and again, I was struck by the amazing diversity of the city with its huge concentration of Asians.

I struck up a conversation with one of the musicians who hailed from Liverpool, England (the home of the Beatles). He specialized in the music of American folk artists.   He asked me if I had any musical requests, and being a big jazz fan, I couldn’t think of one folk artist or song in that moment. So he delighted me and all the others on The Harbour with tunes from Tracy Chapman, James Taylor and Joan Baez!


In my next post, I’ll talk about the surprise new friendship that I formed.  Chat with you later, mates!



















Reflections on France — How I Miss Her!

Reflections on France — How I Miss Her!

I have been back exactly one month from my Wonderful France trip, and one thing is really clear to me — I want to go back!  France has that great mix of serenity — Saint Paul de Vence and  Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Balme — to high profile sophistication of Monaco, Monte Carlo, Nice and Lyon– to the just plain fast pace as you would find in exciting Paris.

When I say I felt freer than I have in my entire life, I mean it.  I was free to meet new people —  adventuresome Australians, caring Canadians and all ablaze Americans.  I was free to try my first Pastis and my first Floating Island.  I unapologetically and unashamably took pictures of all the iconic Parisian and uniquely French sites, while at the same time taking photos of some of the most unsuspecting aspects of life in France.  You know the ones that cause you to ask yourself “who would be interested in this photo?”

The food, the food, the food!  Who knew that ordinary chicken could express its Frenchness in so many different ways.  I actually had Coq Au Vin!  Who knew that macarons taste better in Aix? Who knew I would eat at Paul Bocuse’s Lyonaise Restaurant in Lyon? And, oh, The boulangeries, charcuteries and the plentiful open air markets (St. Tropez) too big to navigate in one visit.  I had fun trying, though!

Who knew that I would find a bracelet laden with Swarovski Crystals for little or nothing?! I came back loaded down not with clothing, but with tee shirts and refrigerator magnets shouting out Côte D’Azur, Avignon, Arles and Cannes!

I am determined to cook something — anything — with those cooking herbs from Provence, and then lay that meal atop the Provençal linen that I purchased.

Yes, I’m a newly minted Froncophile.  Can’t you tell?  Actually, I’ve been one for a while through my mental travels, visits to French restaurants in Chicago, and through the writings of James Baldwin, Richard Wright,  Peter Mayle, Julia Child and a good number of Expats, who like me, have that Love of France Disease.

France, who knew I would miss you this much? #thisidoforme.com