5 Reasons Wicker Park Is The Place To Be In Chicago

5 Reasons Wicker Park Is The Place To Be In Chicago

The guide to fully experiencing Wicker Park
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One of my favorite pastimes includes adventuring around the beautiful city of Chicago. Every time that I think that I’ve gotten familiar with one the many nationhood’s, I take a wrong turn and find myself in a whole new area that I wasn’t aware of. And with every nationhood comes a unique culture that I crave to experience.

Among my many adventures, I have had some of the best in Wicker Park, where the outcome of gentrification is so completely apparent. And while at the expense of many, something truly incredible did come out of it. A neighborhood bursting with unbelievable culture and life.

To many, Wicker Park is the nationhood of hipsters and vegans, however to me it is just another section of Chicago that is defined by the culture of its people. So I would encourage everyone in the Chicago land area to set a day aside for the sole purpose of adventuring around Wicker Park. And if you do decide to go on this little adventure, then these are some of the places you have to go to, in order to fully experience Wicker Park.

1. The Coffee Shops

If you know anything about me at all, then you should know that coffee consumes about 60% of my life and 99.99% of my daily liquid consumption. With that in mind, it was imperative for me to learn more about Wicker Park’s coffee scene, and let me just tell you, it didn’t fail to impress.

One of my favorite things in the world is sitting in one of Wicker Parks many little coffee shops with a perfectly roasted cup of black coffee and a good book. It is the only way that I know how to relax, and possibly a game changer for you. The first coffee shop that I would recommend (and my favorite) would be The Wormhole Café. The second you walk through the doors, you are sure to notice the back to the future car hanging on the wall, and the incredible aroma. And while I am a loyal black coffee drinker, when I am at The Wormhole, I always indulge in the Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa (which is literally one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had). Some other shops that are close runner ups would be The Dollop, Bru (incredible smoothies), Buzz Killer Espresso, and Volume Bookcafe (a bookstore and a café… I mean come on).

2. Thrifting

Wicker Park thrift stores are like the Tiffanies of thrift stores. And by that I mean that the clothes are so nice, that the items are actually regularly price, and could be mistaken as brand new. So while the whole concept of “going thrifting” is slightly inappropriate for this situation, it is still one of my favorite things to do. And if you are struggling to keep up with ever changing fashion trends, then you can just walk into any thrift store in Wicker Park and everything that is in that store is guaranteed to be the coolest thing right now.

With that being said I find some to be better than others, and The Buffalo Exchange to be the absolute best. While extremely small in square feet, The Wicker Park Buffalo Exchange is overflowing with style. I have found some of my absolute favorite pieces of clothing there, and judging by the outrageous amounts of people in there at all times, I wouldn’t just say it’s not just my belief. And If you manage to come out of the Buffalo Exchange with any money at all, you should head right over to Crossroads Trading co. and Ragstock.

3. Bookstores

I have searched the city of Chicago for the most incredible book stores, and while some of my favorites are scattered around the city, Myopic Books will always be up there. If not for the great selection of books, then for the simple fact that every inch of that shop is occupied by numerous books. There are little cave like hallways that are just wide enough for one person to walk down, and those hallways are literally create by huge book cases. And if that isn’t cool enough for you, then the fact that I have gotten lost in the maze of floor to ceiling book cases should do it for you.

I have truly never seen so many books packed into a space in my life. After checking out this gem of shop, you should head over to volumes Bookcafe (mentioned earlier), and enjoy the marvelous combination of literature and caffeine. And if you haven’t got a headache from all the caffeine and reading, you should stop by Quimby’s Bookstore, for perhaps the quirkiest experience of your life.

4. Food, Food, Food

I really should dedicate a whole article to Wicker Park food, but for today Im going to have to keep it short. Now please do keeping mind that I have been to almost all of the cheaper options, but haven’t really gotten to try anything over about $15. So if you aren’t a college student, I wouldn’t limit yourself to this list. When you go to Wicker you have to get a donut from Stan’s, and I would recommend the one with the most calories. And if you do check out Stan’s, then please make sure to appreciate the colorful Kitchenette mixers that line the walls as art.

If you are still in need of some sweets after Stan’s, then you have to go to Jeni’s Ice Cream Shop. As you approach Jeni’s there will be a line out of the door (guaranteed), but it is so worth it once you get inside. I would highly recommend getting their 4 scoop option in a bowl, that way you can try four of their dozens of flavors. And If you are not looking for ice-cream or donuts, then I can’t help you. Just kidding, I would recommend the big star, it is right next to the park itself and is always completely packed.

5. The Little Things

There are a few places that don’t fall under any of these categories that you should definitely check out. One of my all-time favorite places in Wicker Park is Sprout Home. It is a cute little flower shop that has classes on terrarium making and the best succulents around. Overall it just has a really pleasing aesthetic, and is necessary for the Wicker experience. And lastly I would highly recommend you check out the Wicker Park itself (actual park) and the tire art installation in Wicker that is titled “Brick House”.

To conclude this little Wicker Park guide, I would like to express how important it is for everyone to step outside of their comfort zones and experience the culture around them. This one just so happens to be about an hour away for most and will open your eyes to a lifestyle that perhaps you aren’t used to.

Cover Image Credit: How I Travel

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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Living With Celiac Disease

Kids would put food in my face and tease me about it, they'd tell me that my symptoms weren't real and that I was just faking it for attention; I even had adults tell me this too.

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At the age of eight, I experienced horrible stomach pain, weakness, and illness. I was doubled over, and I didn't know why I'd felt so horrible. It wasn't the kind of pain you feel when you have the flu, or when you have cramps. It was a different kind of pain, but I knew it wasn't good. My parents didn't know what was wrong with me either. The only thing my dad had suspected was that perhaps I was intolerant to gluten.

For those who don't know, gluten is found in many food items that primarily contain grains or are often high in carbs. This isn't to say that all foods with carbs or grains have gluten, but they oftentimes do. Gluten is a protein within wheat that is the primary ingredient in cake, pizza, and bread. It is even sometimes in food that you would never suspect, like Twizzlers. It's also synonymous with ingredients like monosodium glutamate, malt, barley…etc.

I tell you that to tell you this:
At eight years old, I was told I had celiac disease. Which just means that my body is unable to digest and break down gluten, preventing me from absorbing vital nutrients.

My dad found out later in his life that he was gluten intolerant after many years of breakouts and complications. He had ascertained the idea that maybe I had also carried this gene and that was why I was in so much pain. Each time we digest gluten, our body attacks our small intestine, killing off what is called villi. My body was in so much pain because I was eating gluten.

After taking gluten products completely out of my diet, I felt 100% better. I was no longer in intense pain, I no longer had rashes, and all other symptoms went away. From then on, I had to watch what I ate, as if I was on a life-long diet.

As you can imagine, this was a ton of responsibility for me as an eight-year-old because I now had to constantly check every label there ever was, make sure that the food I was eating at school didn't have any sort of gluten in it, and I was also now a novelty at school. Kids would put food in my face and tease me about it, they'd tell me that my symptoms weren't real and that I was just faking it for attention. I even had adults tell me this too. They thought I was being hypersensitive.

I had to remember everywhere I went that I had to avoid eating gluten. Do you know how hard that is? It's in so many things. When I was young, not many people knew what celiac disease was. There weren't any gluten-free alternatives out there, so I was eating lots of rice, beans, and salad. I had a very limited food palette. I could no longer have the amazing foods I enjoyed like pizza, garlic rolls, cake, or even ravioli. Although it seems odd, ravioli and spaghetti-o's were my favorite then and I was no longer able to have them. It crushed me.

Having celiac disease was hard as a child because when I went to birthday parties, I couldn't eat most of the food they provided. I couldn't enjoy birthday cake or the pizza that most people ordered. I always had to bring my own food and explain why every time. It seems silly, but I often felt left out. Not being 'normal' because of my allergy made me feel like an outcast. You'd think you wouldn't feel like that, but it generated a lot of those negative feelings because I was a burden to feed due to my allergy.

Fast forward 13 years later, I still have to be careful of what I eat. Celiac disease is something I'll never get rid of. It's a part of my DNA, and there's a good chance my kids will also carry the gene and deal with the same issues.

I don't usually tell people I have celiac disease because I can sometimes get away with having trace amounts of gluten and still be mostly okay. But when I accidentally eat gluten, I pay the consequences. There are times when I accidentally eat it and feel like I can't get out of bed because of the stomach pain. I joke that the pain is so horrible that I feel like I'm dying, but it really does feel severe in the moment.

Being gluten intolerant, I spend quite a bit more money on groceries because I have to find gluten-free food and it's way more expensive. Because gluten-free became a fad diet, more places began offering alternatives and it was easier for me to find foods I liked. When I find gluten-free goodies that aren't normally gluten-free in restaurants, you bet my eyes light up! It's exciting but also a relief.

Being gluten-free has oftentimes felt like a curse, but it's also a blessing sometimes.

The upside to this is that researchers are looking into developing a pill that will help those with celiac disease digest gluten easier and/or subside symptoms completely. So hopefully soon, I'll be able to eat the foods I once loved without feeling ill.

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