Everyone wants a beautiful home that is welcoming, conveys their style, and increases curb appeal. This undoubtedly extends to landscaping, but for many people, myself included, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and at a loss for where to start. Enter Tilly, an innovative online platform that makes professional landscape design more accessible to homeowners. Four long-time friends (Sarah Finazzo, Heather Hoeppner, Alexis Sutton, and Blythe Yost) combined their professional strengths to create a way for people to achieve the landscaping of their dreams and what sets them apart is the fact that it can be done all online!

Recently, I had the good fortune of interviewing two of Tilly’s four co-founders, Alexis and Blythe, to get a better understanding of the amazing services offered by Tilly, but also to gain greater insight into their inspiration, what it’s like to be female entrepreneurs, working with your friends, and more!


Megan: How did you conceive of Tilly?

Alexis: We [our four co-founders] were all together in our favorite summer vacation spot, Montauk, New York, in Sarah’s backyard interrogating Blythe for landscape advice when we thought, “We are so lucky to have a ‘Blythe’ in our lives; what the heck does everyone else do who can’t afford a pricy landscape architect or designer?’ Then we just kind of ran with it and have spent the last 13 months trying to fill that gap for homeowners.

Blythe: For me, after 15 years serving New York area’s most affluent, I had been thinking a lot about this idea of bringing landscape design to your average homeowner; it just didn’t seem fair that the entire industry is so cost-prohibitive. So the stars definitely aligned that day. And of course, it’s way more fun to launch something like this along with three trusted (and brilliant!) friends.

M: What are the benefits and challenges of being in business with long-time, close friends?

A: Speaking for myself, the benefits have far outweighed the challenges! It’s really rare to have this kind of relationship with your lifelong best friends and to have found a passion we all share. Of course, there have been some tough conversations, but I’ve been so impressed and inspired by what these women are capable of, not to mention that we’re all moms with 10 kids between us! It’s allowed us to build the type of company we want to work for, and we’d want our children to work for; flexible, inclusive, environmentally conscious, authentic and one that contributes real value.

Sarah, Heather, Blythe, and Alexis

M: Tilly is women-owned and operated. Are there any female entrepreneurs that inspire you?

A: Absolutely! There are many amazing female entrepreneurs who, against all odds, have built billion-dollar empires within the traditionally female-unfriendly venture capital construct. They are absolute rock stars and one I’m keeping a close eye on is Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix. I’m super interested in how they use data to improve an experience that I personally love/hate: clothes shopping! And I’m even finding myself more inspired by those who have taken another path and are building a business on their own terms. I just read about Jessica Rovello who is buying her company back from the VCs who were running her life; that takes guts!

M: I love your style quiz! What landscaping style(s) resonate the most for you personally?

A: Thank you! We love it too. It’s a super fun way to engage with Tilly and start brainstorming on your yard before taking the plunge on a design. Even before moving to Colorado earlier this year, I was always drawn to the Naturalistic style and now I can’t wait for Tilly to design my new front yard!

B: This is a tough one for someone who designs landscapes for a living because I am always trying to get a feel for other people’s styles and then blend that with their built and natural surroundings. So there’s not much room for my personal style to come through, which is how I think it should be. But every time I take our style quiz I get Eclectic, so maybe there’s your answer!

M: What are the economic benefits of good curb appeal?

A: Great question! There are quite a few. We most commonly cite research that has shown a 6-13% increase in home value with professional front foundation design. Similarly, there is a reported 200-275% return on investment for landscape design projects. But another I hadn’t thought of until really digging in is that it’s one of the few home improvements you can make that will increase in value over time. A landscape is only considered “mature” after about three years, whereas a kitchen renovation starts to lose value the day it’s completed; similar to driving a brand new car off the lot.

M: What makes Tilly stand out is the fact that customers can get beautiful landscape designs all online. What happens after? Does Tilly stay in touch? Do you recommend landscapers?

B: We are looking at a number of different models for bringing our designs to life. Ultimately, landscaping can be very different from region to region and we are looking for ways to bring the best possible service to each area. Right now we offer direct Tilly installation in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, partnerships with local landscapers in Denver and Chicago, and are exploring other avenues such as plant delivery and contractor directories in other places.

M: Tilly has had press coverage in prestigious publications such as Real Simple, Parents Magazine, Apartment Therapy, and New York Cottages & Gardens! How do generate buzz about Tilly?

A: It helps to have a badass publicist on your founding team (Sarah), and at the same time, there’s a great story to tell. Editors love being able to share something new and practical with their readers. I also think it’s well overdue that Blythe gets the recognition she deserves, so it’s been really fun to watch her get out there and share her expertise to a much broader base! That’s what Tilly’s all about, making this information available and accessible to more people.

M: Where do you see Tilly in the future?

B: We really see Tilly as becoming the go-to outdoor resource for today’s homeowners. Landscaping and gardening can be a bit intimidating at the start, and while design is our entry point, there are a lot of exciting directions we can take it! So stay tuned.

M: Where can we find out more about Tilly?

A: Well, we just launched our new website, so I would absolutely start there!  (www.tilly-design.com)  And for more frequent updates, news articles, design samples, etc. follow us on Instagram: @tilly_design.


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Hello all! The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind, so I hope you’ll forgive the lack of posting. I thought I’d do a little recap of what’s been going on.

In my five and a half years of working at The Larko Group, I have never been busier. This makes sense considering the United States’ unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, the lowest since 1969. The amount of searches we have received has been extensive and certainly keeps me on my toes and inclined to put in long hours to ensure I’m not missing any potential candidate/client matches.

In addition to that, I flew to Indianapolis for the wedding of my sorority sister, Kira, who looked stunning on her special day and broke it down, as she’s known to do, on the dance floor. She’s a total inspiration to me; not only is she a lawyer, but she teaches Pure Barre on the side! Incredible. It was lovely to see other friends from Indiana University and catch up on their lives. I was also reunited with my best friend, Britt, which is always a highlight! She has been busy moving into a beautiful new home and I can’t wait to visit her.

Earlier this week, I turned 30. The day before, I had a lovely dinner with my mom and essentially a secondary mom, Monica, over at Campagnola in Evanston. We discussed their recent trip to Tanzania, reminisced on days of yore, and enjoyed phenomenal Italian food and wine.

The next day on my actual birthday, I felt showered with love from so many directions: family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc., from dusk until dawn. It was frankly the best birthday I have ever had and I could not be more enthusiastic to take on another decade.

Currently, I’m at home, taking the day off to accomplish some errands, preparations for my birthday party tomorrow, get a massage (much needed!), and just do the things I love i.e. blogging, reading, and going to the gym. Right now, I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s difficult to put down. I suspect I’ll finish it over the weekend.

I suspect I will be able to post more regularly after this week of birthday festivities have concluded. I do have an exciting interview post in the pipeline, so please stay tuned for that. Happy Fall, all! Enjoy the sweater weather.


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I have a few unrelated subjects floating around in my brain so I figured it would be best to do another addition of my Smörgåsbord series. This makes number six, so let’s get started, shall we?


Marianne

This week, I watched Netflix’s French horror series, Marianne, directed by Samuel Bodin and starring Victoria du Bois as the protagonist Emma, who is haunted by the eponymous villain. Marianne is a witch that has haunted writer Emma’s dreams and becomes the subject of her book series, which has made her disillusioned, but rich and famous. She is reluctantly summoned back to her hometown where she encounters difficult memories and broken relationships, all while Marianne lurks closer and closer.

At first, I was distracted by the English dubbing; it’s not the best and frankly, I think I would’ve preferred the French voices with English subtitles. That being said, it ended up being a very interesting, gripping series. Creepy, fresh, and full of rich characters. In those ways, it reminded me of The Haunting of Hill House. It was nice to finally have some quality horror available again on Netflix. I highly recommend checking it out.

Watch now on Netflix.


DNA Testing & Solving Cold Cases

This morning I read an article in the New York Times entitled, “Why This Scientist Keeps Receiving Packages of Serial Killers’ Hair“, by reporter Heather Murphy. The headline was certainly attention-grabbing. It was extremely fascinating. Essentially, it reports on a newer DNA testing technique developed by Dr. Ed Green who figured out how to establish a genetic profile from hair without the presence of hair root. It was previously thought that one could not extract a DNA profile from anything but the root. This posed problems as hair left behind in crime scenes were minimal and didn’t always come with the root. Until now.

While he is unable to comment on his participation in active cold cases, he did receive immense attention and praise for using his technique to help solve the Bear Brook murders in New Hampshire. While this enables families of cold case victims to achieve some closure, the article also touches on the ramifications of the government having access to private DNA.

Dr. Green recently submitted a paper to a scientific journal. Once published, he’s aware that the technique could be used for trivial crimes, corporate espionage or harassment and said that ‘there need to be rules for how that power is wielded.’ But he’s hopeful it will be used for good. There are 200,000 to 250,000 cold cases in the United States, she said, and even if hair was collected in just 10 percent, that’s 20,000 cases that could benefit.

Dr. Ed Green was also involved in cracking the Golden State Killer case. Astonishing how this brilliant paleontologist was able to traverse fields and use his methods in establishing the Neanderthal genome to help solve cold cases. I look forward to seeing how this science pans out and continues to shape the field of criminal justice and forensics.


JVN

Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness just made headlines by coming out as HIV positive. I have already posted about how important I think QE is because it often focuses on marginalized groups and guides troubled individuals to finding their potential while continuing to highlight their best attributes. Jonathan is known as the bubbly, fun, and light-hearted queen of the show, but I think his openness about his status is hugely important in destigmatizing those with HIV. This revelation gears up for the release of Jonathan’s memoir, Over The Top, where he shares other painful experiences including sexual abuse at a young age and difficulties with bullying and addiction.

He is one of today’s most-known and most-beloved celebrities, so being this vulnerable with the public, while undoubtedly scary, intense, difficult, and potentially even dangerous for him will only help others that view him as a role model or see themselves represented in him. For that, he should most definitely be applauded for his bravery, openness, and willingness to share the less sparkly parts of his life.


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I have made many television, podcast, and other media recommendations in the past, but this is different. It’s important. I strongly believe that everyone should watch Netflix’s limited series, Unbelievable, about the true story of an 18-year-girl accused of lying about her rape and the two female detectives that investigate a series of rapes with a similar modus operandi. The series stars the inimitable Toni Collette and Merritt Wever as real-life Detectives Edna Hendershot and Stacy Galbraith, respectively, as well as Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Marie Adler. Marie a pseudonym for one of the true victims of this serial rapist who was active in both Washington State and Colorado.

This series is heartbreaking, infuriating, and highly informative with an outstanding ensemble cast including Toni Collette and Merritt Wever. Wever brings understated energy to Detective Karen Duvall; she is the vitality of the investigation with her quiet anger, empathy, and steady leadership. She, partnered with Collette’s more seasoned and cynical Detective Grace Rasmussen, give viewers the most empowered female duo since Thelma and Louise. Don’t worry; they’re not vigilantes but they have the same exciting grit and tenacity of Sarandon and Davis.

As a woman, these are the detectives I would want to be out there chasing bad guys. As Rasmussen demands in frustration at one point in the series, “Where is their outrage?”. She is referring to the even-keeled demeanor of their male counterparts when exploring different angles of the investigation. This is a question asked many times in this series. Where is the outrage? Why are women not believed?

Though the show makes it easy to celebrate these very human lead detectives as champions for justice, we also must bear witness to abhorrent mistakes by the institutions meant to protect people like Marie. Marie was put into the foster care system at a very young age and unfortunately, but not surprisingly, dealt with physical and sexual abuse. She does her best to move forward and we first meet her when she is living in an apartment complex subsidized by a non-profit that assists individuals transitioning out of the foster care system into the real world. It is in this apartment complex that she is threatened by a man in a mask in the middle of the night, tied with her own shoelaces, raped of the course of three or four hours, and photographed before being told she should be more careful and lock her windows.

The two male detectives that investigate the crime scene have little DNA evidence; the rapist used a condom and wore gloves. And yet, after one of Marie’s former foster mother’s contacts them about her doubts and Marie’s dubious behavior, the whole investigation shifts from the rape incident to Marie’s credibility. She is ultimately bullied and coerced into a confession that she lied about her assault. She is subsequently charged with false reporting, ordered to pay $500 towards legal fees, undergo mandatory counseling, and remain on probation. Throughout this ordeal, she has lost her job, all of her friends, and is the victim of threats and online bullying.

Denver as “Marie”, based on a true story of an 18-year-old rape victim charged with false reporting in 2008.

What I took away from this show was that there simply is no “normal” way to cope with trauma. Marie may have behaved strangely to her foster mothers after the fact. She may have vacillated on the details of her story. But I still must ask; why is there inherent disbelief of female victims? The system failed Marie over and over again. Fortunately, in the show and real life, she received the vindication she deserved but at an enormous cost. Denver’s portrayal of Marie should be mentioned; she maintains a tiny flame of dignity and strength throughout her ordeals. It is nearly extinguished by the ones that were meant to protect her, but ultimately, Detectives Rasmussen and Duval restore Marie’s faith in humanity.

After watching the series (and believe me you’ll binge it) listen to the Anatomy of a Doubt episode on This American Life‘s podcast detailing Marie’s case. While we hear sincere remorse from one of the male detectives that botched her case, we still get victim-blaming from one of her awful foster moms, Peggy Cunningham. She refuses to take responsibility that she put in motion the destruction of Marie’s life. I am truly outraged about it. Watch, listen, do your research. This is a true story. Share your thoughts below. And believe women.


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This weekend, Saturday in particular was quite eventful and so much fun. I started the day at the gym as I knew I’d be eating very well and without holding back for two celebrations.

The first was at Radio Flyer’s 102nd Anniversary Barbecue that I attended with my brother Bill who works in their warehouse as the “Prince of Parts”. I was so impressed by the building and grounds, the cheery dispositions of his colleagues, and the execution of a lovely family-oriented party. It was picture perfect out, if a little muggy, but it certainly was ideal for this outdoor party. There was mini golf, face painting, balloon art, and fantastic food available including a corn on the cob station, a DIY macaroni and cheese station, pulled pork sandwiches, great salads, fruit, and ice cream. Not to mention an open bar and an actual pig roast (the latter was not so much my speed).

The decor was delightful; the picnic table runners were red and white gingham, very appropriate given Radio Flyer’s colors, topped with happy yellow sunflowers. Bill and I participated in a water balloon toss with a large number of people, which was very entertaining. I met and chatted with some of his colleagues, including former temps of my firm that have since become full-time employees, as well as our staffing contacts there. People could not have been nicer and I can tell Bill is well-regarded for his hard work, fun personality, and his punctuality in the cafeteria at lunch hour!

We stayed for a few hours until it was time for me to head to Arlington Heights for Emma’s 5th birthday party at the Newmans’. Unfortunately, it seemed that the Lyft drivers in the area near Radio Flyer were not keen on making the trip. Eventually, after nearly 25 minutes of waiting, I was picked up and taken to the suburbs, though the driver seemed skittish of the highways, so it took much longer than I thought and the pizza was already getting cold. Luckily, I enjoy cold pizza as much as I do warm!

I said hello to all the adults, then the kids. I played with Izzy for a while in the backyard. She is a toddler now and still as smiley and fun as ever. We admired the many planes flying overhead that she pointed to and the beautiful pink sunset. The Iowa vs. Iowa State game was on in the backyard and everyone was enjoying themselves with drinks and good conversation. Later on, I housed a few slices of cold pizza. It was a fun night and Emma’s gift was a success since it was on her wish list and she screeched when she opened it!

The next morning I headed back to the city with a few bug bites on my ankles but feeling good. I took the Metra and a Lyft from the Clybourn Station to my place. Cleaned, did laundry; the typical Sunday activities. It’s an Indian summer out there. The locusts are buzzing rhythmically and Chicago’s clinging on to humidity. I’m not too mad about it, though I am always ready for fall. It will be a few short weeks until my 30th birthday, which is hard to believe, but I’m looking forward to celebrating. Life has so much to celebrate.


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In the summer leading up to September 11, 2001, and the surrounding terrorism events, I was very sick. Physically, I was seriously wasting away. Mentally, I couldn’t deviate from living a perfect life where I had 100% control. This manifested itself in severe anorexia, depression, and some obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Emotionally, I was regressing into a more innocent person. A non-person, really. I wanted to protect myself from the world around me so I imploded.

By September, I was completely withdrawn and a shell of my former self, which had been confident, gregarious, and social. I focused all of my attention on being an exceptional student, and not eating. I remember distinctly sitting in my sixth-grade classroom at Highcrest Middle School. I felt weak and diminutive in my chair. At this point, I barely made eye contact with my fellow students. However, I was lucky enough to have two teachers that I trust implicitly and treated me like a person.

On that September morning, I remember being vaguely aware of something very serious happening, and yet, I felt very insulated in Chicago and in my classroom with a trusted teacher. In my limited and distracted perception of events, this was something happening in New York. I didn’t understand the implications until I got home from school and witnessed my mom glued to our analog television in the kitchen, which was highly unusual.

I also remember making American flag beaded pins with my soccer team to fundraise for the recovery efforts. I was still not talking to anyone if I didn’t have to, but I did feel a sense of purpose that I hadn’t for a long while. I felt part of something good that was bigger than me and my personal struggles.

Years later after I recovered, I remember meeting a candidate that had lost a significant other and many friends during the attacks, as she had worked in the World Trade Center. I’ll never forget when she shared that part of her life and career story with me. It was a reminder of how impactful, devastating, and tragic it was for so many Americans.

While my September 11, 2001 experience was very indirect and shrouded in obscurity given my mental state at the time, I do try to pause and reflect about it, especially as I get older.


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Recently, I’ve been doing a little research on the world of Outsider Art. Outsider Art is created by individuals that haven’t had a conventional education in art; they’re self-taught. They are also not considered part of the conventional art establishment and many, though not all, suffer mental illness. The springboard for my research was when I came across some works by artists featured in German psychiatrist and art historian, Hans Prinzhorn’s Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922).

Prinzhorn’s groundbreaking study, the first of its kind, gained much attention in avant-garde circles of the time, interesting artists such as Paul Klee, Max Ernst, and Jean Dubuffet. In the 1940s, the latter went on to coin the term Art Brut (Raw Art), which along with the related concept of Outsider Art, has continued to capture the public interest, to the point where it has today (some might say ironically) become a successful art marketing category in its own right.

And indeed, it did capture my interest. In doing further research, I realized how mainstream Outsider Art has become. It is regularly showcased in galleries globally, including my beloved Chicago. Since 1991, Intuit: The Center For Intuitive And Outsider Art, has been showcasing Outsider Art exclusively, eschewing the notion that you need an MFA or a certain kind of CV to be successful and have your work displayed. While I’m just scratching the surface with my research on the world of Outsider Art, I wanted to share a few of the artists that stuck out to me.

Adolf Wölfli

Wölfli was a Swedish Outsider Artist that endured a rough childhood, having been physically and sexually abused. As he grew older, he began to show signs of predatory, deviant behavior with a few instances of child molestation that got him sent to prison. Later, homeless, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and exhibited violent and psychotic behavior. What calmed him? Drawing. Prolifically. And he only discovered his obsession with drawing at the age of 35. He would use pencils until all that was left was a nub of lead. He bartered food to get his hands on more pencils and paper.

Over the next three decades, he will paint, compose music and write a semi-biographical book that has 45 volumes, approximately 25.000 pages, and more than 1.600 illustrations.

Wölfli exhibited horror vacui in his works, or “fear of empty space” in Latin. Indeed, you’ll notice that his works are full and leave no blank areas. I find this fascinating and venture that it comes from some sort of compulsion.

Madge Gill

Madge Gill was born illegitimately in England, unwanted and shuffled from orphanages to relative’s homes due to the embarrassment of her birth. When she grew older, she married her cousin and gave birth to a few children of her own, unfortunately including a son with a fatal case of Spanish flu. After recovering from the illness herself, she took up ink drawing at the age of 38. These drawings are detailed, mesmeric, and in stark black and white, often featuring women in the garb of the time (the 1920s).

Interestingly, her prolific career was motivated what she called “Myrninerest”, or “my inner rest”. Gill was a spiritualist (later working as a medium in the 1930s) and believed she was a vessel for the spirit that produced her art as opposed to being responsible herself. This disassociation combined with the style of her work made her stand out to me and I rather wonder if she suffered from mental illness as well.

August Natterer

Natterer was a German artist featured in Prinzhorn’s book. The onset of his schizophrenia occurred after he married and established himself as an electrician. On April Fool’s Day in 1907, he hallucinated the Last Judgment, culminating in a suicide attempt and subsequent committal into a mental asylum for the remainder of his life. I couldn’t find much more information on his biography, but his artwork is striking, stark, and endlessly haunting.

My Eyes in the Time of Apparition (1913)

Citations:

(2019, April 23). August Natterer. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Natterer

Bentley, C. (2019, April 11). ‘Outsider’ Art Is Going Mainstream. But In Chicago, It’s Always Been In. Retrieved from https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/04/11/outsider-art-chicago

(2019, August 8). Hans Prinzhorn’s Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922). Retrieved from https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/hans-prinzhorns-artistry-of-the-mentally-ill-1922/

(n.d.). Home. Retrieved from http://madgegill.com/biography

(2019, June 22). Horror vacui. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_vacui

(2019, August 9). Madge Gill. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madge_Gill

Rhodes, C. (n.d.). Outsider art. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/outsider-art


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Except it wasn’t all that frightening…

My brother Bill and I went to see It Chapter 2 last night and while I found it quite entertaining, I was laughing more than jumping in my seat. The film itself was quite long, almost too long, running at two hours and 50 minutes. The comedic relief and imagery, particularly the purposeful goofiness of Pennywise the Clown, was substantial. There were some great jump scares but the film lacked the skin crawling terror and seediness of its predecessor, It.

Bill and I agreed that the casting choice of Scotsman James McAvoy was rather odd and he had a few cringeworthy moments riding his old bike silver. Other than that, I appreciated the choices for the adults Losers. Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James Ransone particularly shined as adult Beverly, Richie, and Eddie. Steven King, the author, made a fun yet goofy camoeo. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise was great, as usual, but I do wish they’d let him retain the level of depravity and danger of the first film. I felt they made him a little too clownish, for lack of a better expression. Honestly, I found It Chapter 2 a bit reminiscent of The Goonies, which isn’t a bad thing, but I just didn’t find it scary.

This reviewer hit the nail on the head:

This nearly three-hour sequel has well-rounded, appealing characters and even some laughs, but it lacks the nerve-rattling scares and appealing simplicity of its 2017 predecessor.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/it-chapter-two

Still, I recommend it as it was quite entertaining. That being said, I would plan to make a bathroom trip right before the film starts and make sure you’re not going in hungry since it’s so long!

Bill and me at the movie theatre!

Bill and I were running late for our dinner reservations (I didn’t account for the lengthy movie trailers) at Masa Azul in Logan Square, but the host was very understanding and we were sat immediately. We had this misfortune of choosing a wine that ended up tasting like Welch’s Grape Juice and was essentially undrinkable. The tacos were phenomenal as they had been the last time we went. We ordered:

  • Pork Chile Verde: tomatillo salsa-braised pork, onion, cilantro, Mexican crema, queso fresco
  • Lamb Barbacoa: braised lamb, onion, cilantro, avocado
  • Pollo en Pipian Verde: chicken thigh, pumpkin seed sauce, pickled guero chiles, queso fresco, cilantro
  • Asada: grilled flank steak, cilantro, white onion

All of them were tasty, but the Pollo en Pipian Verde was the most delectable, surprising given my usual preference for all things Asada.

I did happen to notice one of the wall decorations at Masa Azul; it reminded me very much of a scene from It Chapter 2. You can only imagine, otherwise, you’ll just have to see it…


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Female black Labrador retrievers are what I grew up with. The first that I remember is Reilly; she was pretty old and a bit of a mess from what I recall of her. She had patchy fur and was constantly scratching her skin, apparently due to horrible allergies and “a million health problems”, according to my mom. I loved her of course, especially her lovely white goatee, that of a grande dame. Unfortunately, I remember her always being a little bit stinky, so I didn’t snuggle her too often. At the age of 14, she passed away having developed cancer and as I was still quite young, the impact was not so profound.

Reilly on the left (as I remember her best) snuggling with Maggie, our family friends’ sweet yellow lab.

The dog that I really connected with the most was Jonesy. We got her circa 1999, so I would’ve been about 10 years old. She was the most athletic dog you could ever imagine. Under her glassy black fur were rippling, defined muscles. If ever you thought, “that dog is ‘juiced'”, one might suspect her (of course we would never do that). She had an infinite well of energy and would play fetch in the backyard or in Lake Michigan for hours until her humans got too tired. Once, she ran through our family friends’ screen door like a sleek black bullet; straight through, just to get to the back yard to see Maggie (Maggie was around for both Freeman dog generations and she was well-loved by all).

Jonesy wasn’t one for excessive snuggling, but you could get her to lay at your feet on the couch, feeling her rib cage rise and fall, hearing an occasional sighing exhalation escape her snout. She had glow-in-the-dark, iridescent green eyes; a truly beautiful face. I would give her a big kiss on her wet nose or her raspberry-colored belly, which she didn’t like. We went through a lot with her. She was hit by a car and survived, like a true Incredible Hulk.

Young Jonesy; I miss her so much!

Unfortunately, she was put down my freshmen year of college in 2008 after suffering from blastomycosis. She was only nine and I was truly devastated, especially as I was not there to say goodbye. Thanks to Jonesy, my fondness for black labs continue on. I get excited whenever I see one and I’m sure in the future, I will own one myself.

Being a single lady in the city, I realize a Labrador Retriever would be an inappropriate apartment dog. What the hell would it have room to retrieve in a studio apartment? It’s not the kind of breed that functions well without a ton of exercise and time outdoors; something as a full-time employee, I’d be unable to give at this time.

That said, I’ve looked into other breeds and am set on getting a smaller dog, particularly one from the “squish face sector” as I call it, also known as a brachycephalic breed. Think French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers. I love their bulbous eyes and stout front bodies. My entire Instagram feed is full of videos and pictures of these dog breeds and the itch to have a little buddy steadily grows.

It’s a huge responsibility and I am carefully considering the potential health issues (breathing problems, hip dysplasia, overheating, etc.) that can very quickly result in financial issues; queue an emergency vet visit! I would also have to pack up and move to a dog-friendly building. It would be quite an undertaking, but one that I’m feeling readier for with each month that passes. Perhaps when my lease is up in May of 2020, it will be time to move forward seriously with one of my biggest goals in life: getting a puppy!


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It took several weeks, but my fingernails are almost completely regrown. I haven’t had a stitch of polish on them for that duration. I’ve been trying to heal them after all of the damage done by no-chip gel manicures. My nails were paper-thin, breaking and peeling constantly, and painful to the touch. I realized that I had to quit cold turkey to get them fully grown out and healthy again.

At this stage, I’m not even sure I will ever get a no-chip again or at least very rarely. To start, manicurists seem to have to buff down the nail for the gel to adhere well. Then, you need to stick your hands under UVA light for each coat of gel to harden. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over time if you’re getting regular manicures.

Dr. Adigun says UV exposure during gel manicures should be a concern for everyone, not just people who know they are especially UV-sensitive, because the lamps used in these manicures emit UVA rays. Although these rays don’t burn the skin like UVB rays, she says, they do penetrate the skin to damage DNA and collagen, which can lead to premature aging and may increase skin cancer risk.

(n.d.). Gel manicures: The good, the bad and the UV. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/gel-manicures-dermatologists-share-tips-to-keep-nails-healthy

I am also guilty of peeling off the polish once it does start to chip, which takes off layers of your nails. Obviously, this is not the intended method, but even if I am patient and do it the correct way, it’s still not so great for your nails:

Acetone, the chemical soaked on the nail for removal, is very drying, and can leave the nail thinner, causing it to become brittle making the nail bed more susceptible to infections and fungus.

Staff, health enews. (2013, October 4). Is a no-chip manicure no good for your health? Retrieved from https://www.ahchealthenews.com/2013/10/04/is-a-no-chip-manicure-no-good-for-your-health/

Now, I do understand the draw to no-chip: it’s relatively quick, requires no drying time, and lasts for a couple of weeks if done properly. Still, I have to imagine that some point no chip gel manicures will phase out. Maybe dipping powder will replace it, or perhaps there will be a new, healthier method that’s developed. Regardless, after the wear and tear over the last few years, I’m thinking I would much rather get a normal manicure and wait a few extra minutes for it to dry than ruin my nails again.


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