I’ll admit to working long into the night a few days in a row just to get these photos edited in spite of work and classes – but these two are worth it! I’m really excited to be able to share Mike and Nicole’s wedding with all of my readers. You all have been wonderfully supportive, and I couldn’t imagine a better couple to work with. A ceremony at dusk with the city lights and the fountain aglow? I couldn’t imagine a more romantic exchange of vows, and as corny as it is, it’s evident their love is the real deal.
See the rest here!
It’s been some time since I’ve sat down to write a post without much knowledge of what I was going to say. The last month or so has been wonderfully hectic – our trip to New York, a family trip to Florida, many new clients, and the start of (what I can only hope is) my last year of classes. During our trips, I went online for maybe five minutes a day, long enough to respond to any urgent emails only. Funny how difficult it is now to get back into the swing of Real Life, and how much incorporating leisure time online seems just out of reach.
Because of this, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into my online presence lately, and the lack of time I have to adequately keep up with this blog. In just a week, I’ll be shooting my first wedding. There is so much joy and anticipation wrapped up in that very defining event, although I feel quite confident that I’ve built up to it in the right way. I have so much left to do in terms of building though – not only a style and experience, but also the business side of things. What I’d like to do, I think, is eventually integrate everything into one website – have a more organized approach to entries, with less wedding and food blogging, and more of the most important things, posting personal, travel, and Anni Cee photos in the same blog, with the occasional text entry updates as well. I hope that will bring a little more care to my photography blog, which I think is lacking, and that I’ll be able to focus more on having a clear “feel” to it.
I also want to put my all into a few projects that I have up my sleeve – I’m in the early stages of putting together a boudoir marathon here in Chicago (and will need a model for a free mini session, please let me know if you’re interested!) and I’m finally taking a real French class that has been quite the treat.
I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on this — I love keeping up with everyone on here, and I do value your opinions!
What was most important to me in introducing this travel series was to get at the heart of the stuff that travel is really made of – not a vacation, per se, but travel as exploration, lifestyle, and experience. That can be incredibly fun, but it can also be incredibly challenging. I think it’s the challenging experiences, though, that are often the most mind-blowing and rewarding. I hope you’ll enjoy reading Catherine’s story as much as I did.
Catherine works in malaria prevention in Africa but lives in Seattle with her husband Micah, and their dog Izzy. Catherine and Micah are documenting their adventures in house building, home making and building a life together on their blog Forty20Four.
Like most people, when someone tells me they are traveling for business,
I think they are staying in a nice hotel for a few days somewhere to
attend meetings or a conference. I imagine them taking trips with a
colleague or two and being gone for a week. When I travel for work,
it’s nothing like that. About 85% of my trips are done alone and last
a minimum of two weeks but usually, more like 4-5 weeks away. I
average about 2-3 months away every year.
Traveling for my work is interesting and exciting, but can be
incredibly lonely and tiring. I am blessed to travel to countries
most people I know (outside of work) will never visit. Malawi,
Tanzania, Zambia and Ethiopia are incredibly beautiful countries with
warm people but they are places hurt by disease, poverty and
Children in at a Zambian orphanage. The kids who are raising their hands have had
malaria at least once in their lives.
I think the hardest part of my job is traveling alone. Sometimes I am
lucky and I’ll go places where I have colleagues that I already know
who invite me out and make me feel like one of their family members.
Going to Ethiopia and Zambia are a joy because my colleagues there –
my friends – are so wonderful. They bring me home with them to share
meals with their families. They call me each morning to see how I’ve
slept and offer me rides to the office even when I’m out of their way.
They make sure I see as much as their cities and countries as I can
because they are proud to share it with me.
Other times I go to places where I don’t know anyone. I am there to
problem solve or assess a situation which means I don’t spend a lot of
time making friends in the office. In those cases, I spend a lot of
time left to me own devices. I spend evenings by myself watching TV,
catching up on work or hoping to catch my husband on Skype. I don’t
often venture out alone in the evenings as it can be dangerous or
uncomfortable being a western woman out unaccompanied. You get a lot
of stares, a lot of creepy men approaching you and sometimes a lot of
hassle from street vendors depending on where you are.
When I can, I do try to explore on the weekends. It usually means
going to a museum or going shopping. If it’s safe, I’ll even take
weekend trips alone – though that has only happened twice in 4.5 years.
Earlier this year I did manage to make it to Zanzibar, which was
absolutely amazing. I got some strange looks from the hotel staff
but once they understood why I was in Zanzibar alone, they were very
accommodating and made an effort to help me plan my time there. I
hope to return to Zanzibar one day with my husband.
View from a small boat off the coast of Zanzibar
earlier this year.
This is a picture of Victoria Falls
— a side trip I took on my first trip to Zambia in 2007.
It’s gotten harder over the years because now when I travel, I leave
my husband behind. I think being married makes the trips lonelier.
It’s hard leaving your best friend and the person your share
your life with, for weeks at a time. It’s hard coming back to the
hotel and not having someone to share your day with –especially when
it’s been a particularly tough one. I’m truly lucky and blessed to
have a husband that is supportive of my career and understands that it
means me being away from home a lot. I wish I could take him with me
when I travel but he is a teacher and can’t take time off during the
We make it work though. Before I leave, my husband makes an effort to
clear his evening schedule of grading papers, so we can spend
dedicated time together. I try to do what I can to make my time away
easier for him. I stock the kitchen with food for a week or two, cook
a few meals for him, take
care of any housework that needs to be done and arrange for our dog to
go to my parents house every weekend so he has time to do lesson plans
and grade papers. Izzy, our dog, is growing out of her puppy stage,
so the weekends away aren’t as necessary as they were before. When we
first got her, she needed a lot of attention and it was hard for my
husband to get work done in the evenings.
We email daily and every Sunday connect via Skype when I’m away. With
him teaching all day and the time difference, calling during the week is
complicated. I send him pictures of the places I go and try to be as
descriptive as I can in emails. I know he loves to travel to so we
make a point to taking lots of weekend trips away during the year and
taking at least one big trip abroad. I would love for him to join me on a
work trip one day, but until then, vacations together will have to do.
With all the hardships of traveling alone, I am still so grateful for
having my job. I work on a project that does important work to
prevent malaria, I meet wonderful people, and see
places I never thought I would. And at the end of the trip, I get to
come home to a husband and dog who love me.
Community health worker in Malawi telling a little
boy he has malaria and needs to take all the medicines he’s being
I’ve been lucky enough to shoot a whole slew of amazing people lately – from a sweet baptism with a big, loving family to Nicole and Mike, a couple who are exactly why I love what I do. I really hope you’ll go check out my favorites from their session on my photography blog.
At the age of eleven, I was already a full-fledged shopaholic who, essentially, was benched due to lack of funds. I had these little daydreams where I imagined getting stuck in the mall, or getting a bag to take around and load up with anything I wanted. Or maybe a mall-for-life gift card? It was always the mall in my daydream, and our mall didn’t even have a Nordstrom or anything really good. I did a lot of shopping at Claire’s, Aeropostale, PacSun, and the like. There was so much possibility in those stores!
I’m partially convinced it was books and TV that gave me this sickness – it seems like every TV show or movie had some kind of makeover and/or shopping spree scene in it. And if you’re Julia Roberts, you even got to leave the saleswoman who had been rude to Hooker You the day before at a loss for words.
The point of all this is that I have done some sort of if-only roundups for years. They’ve just gotten less PacSun and more expensive. If you have to dream, dream big, right? The weather’s getting chilly, fall is on my mind, and I’m coveting:
L’Agence sweater from Barney’s
Philip Lim trousers from SSense
Isabel Marant shoes (Ebay)
We’ve been back from New York for a few days now, and I’ve been struggling with whether or not to write a post immediately. Though I brought my DSLR, I mainly took photos on my Canon F1, so it’ll be some time before I have the scans. I love the F1 as a travel camera, since it’s much less bulky and I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen.
Either way, it’s tough to write about a trip that felt so…. un trip-like. I’ve never gone anywhere and stayed in an apartment, which is perhaps the first thing that threw me off. Having an apartment to come back to at night, to grocery shop for, to cook and do laundry in, to run out and get coffee from in the morning, to get food delivered to… it’s absolutely wonderful. Of course, it’s kind of awful too, because if you’re like us, and you love the city and the neighborhood, it makes it really tough to leave.
I had never been to New York before, and while I knew I’d love it (where does a girl who loves Chicago, yet sometimes, naggingly, feels it’s too small, go? New York, of course) I wasn’t really prepared to love the less obvious differences. Every city has its own energy, its own vibe and feel. D.C.’s was quaint in a city way, it was easy to figure out and easy to settle into. It felt safe and inviting, yet not boring. Chicago is home – I can think of no other way to describe it – but it’s also bursting with character and the cycle of reinvention. Old neighborhoods becoming new, always changing, but with those same anchors of the lake, the Loop, the parks, the people. At its heart, I think, its very Midwestern.
What hit me most of all was how easy it was to settle into a New York Routine. In the morning, we’d have coffee, either at our favorite coffee shop down the block, or on the balcony outside our bedroom window. I’ve never had a balcony before, I may have been sold on this alone!
(view from our balcony/bedroom)
(“our” kitchen table)
We joked, while walking around the entire lower side of Manhattan, that if ever we won the lottery Chelsea or one of the nearby areas like the East Village would be our ideal neighborhoods. But I actually loved Brooklyn – specifically, Cobble Hill where we stayed – for the little coffee shops and endless rows of brownstones.
I’m not sure that this post has a point, other than that this trip solidified in our minds that a move to another city is in order within three or four years. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but beyond Cleveland, I haven’t really experienced other cities much. And I don’t know that Cleveland counts as a city, nor would I want to return. I think, despite my best intentions, I’ve become a little bit of a wanderer. It’s very lucky, then, that Ross feels the same way, because each time we travel we seem to get a little more restless to see more of the world.
Hey guys! I was so excited when Jenna agreed to write up this guest post for Through my Lens, because I’ve always been jealous of her travels. I guess when you marry someone who is from Europe, you’re bound to end up well-traveled! Even if you’re not heading off to Europe anytime soon, these tips are pretty universal and useful for any trip. Thanks for posting, Jenna! Enjoy your upcoming trip!
Ciao! I’m Jenna, the author of That Wife. I like writing on my blog, taking pictures, and pretending like I speak Italian/ I have a son who is about 1 1/2, and a husband currently undergoing the MBA program at the University of Chicago. Anni and I have actually met a few times in real life, she let me practice my boudoir photography on her, and we’ve met up to eat few times, including a picnic in the park this spring.
Anni asked me to write a post on travel, and she let me pick the exact topic, so I chose to go in a direction that I am hesitant to label myself any kind of expert in this area. Though I might seem like a well-seasoned traveler (I’ve been to Europe 3 times in the last 3 years and am headed back on August 30th) it’s really a combination of a little luck and a good marriage (I married a Pole). What I wanted to do is share some of my theories about good vacation planning. If you love reading blog posts on people’s travels, you can read the 12 day journal I wrote up detailing my first trip to Italy and Poland in 2008, my blogspot blog updated via my phone whenever we go on big trips where access to a computer is limited, or my posts tagged with the word Travel on That Wife.
I feel like I got a taste of the unconventional vacation experience last year when we went to Vienna. We went at our own pace, we saw lots of famous things, but we also experienced some things that my friends on Twitter didn’t know to recommend. We felt like locals a few times, though I’m sure the maps and American accents gave us away immediately. We’re going to be spending 10 glorious baby-free days in Italy in September with an itinerary that includes Bologna, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Lake Garda. I’m looking forward to squeaking out some Italian (I took three semesters in college) and eating gelato every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. The itinerary though, isn’t anything like I’ve heard from anyone else, and I like it that way!
My tips for planning an unconventional vacation, along with some pictures I’ve taken during my time in Europe.
1. Research and Network
Of course you can go to Rome or Paris or London and have a great time doing exactly what the guidebooks say you should do, but where’s the fun in that? I like trying to strike a balance between seeing the magnificence of the city and attempting to experience the area as a local might. If you want to make this happen, you need to spend lots of time reading forums, blog posts, travel guides, random books from the library, and pretty much everything else you have time for. You will start to hate this vacation you are planning. Then you will actually go on said vacation and love it so much you’ll decide to do it all over again!
Networking via the internet is an awesome way to learn more about a given area. I have an awesome readership that seems to include at least who has done pretty much everything I want to do in life, so I love turning to them. Twitter and Facebook are great places to put the word out and find people who have been where you are going. I’m in the middle of planning our Italy trip and I happened to connect with a girl who lives in Italy. When I emailed her and asked for her she went above and beyond with her suggestions, even making me a spreadsheet with a cautious itinerary.
I loooooooove Tripadvisor. I know there are all sorts of other great sites, but this one is so massive that I can find a hotel in just about every city. I like the layout, the way the ratings work, and that I can find either a hotel or a b&b if I so choose. I’ve really enjoyed searching through the forums as well, that’s how I learned that Lake Garda has a hot spring that’s in a cave!
3. New York Times Travel Guides
My very favorite vacation planning resource is The New York Times (an odd choice I know) because they have these really fantastic travel guides. I used one to map out our awesome trip in Vienna, and I still need to comb through the guides for Florence, Cinque Terre, and Bologna. They have one for Boston, and I’m kicking myself because I didn’t consult it before I went a few weeks ago!
If you’re heading to say, Milan, you can visit the NYT page for Milan and they even have suggestions for where to stay, what to eat, and what to do. I like sticking with the editor’s picks in this area.
4. Give Up On the Idea You Can See and Do Everything
It’s not possible. Let yourself sleep in, eat long dinners, relax.
5. Decide On a Priority
Our priority when we travel is food. I’m crazy about food, and when we go somewhere I want to eat the best of everything. That doesn’t mean we’re always going to eat at the most expensive places either. I want the best roadside stands, the best gelato, the best fancy dinners, and the best simple lunches. Maybe your priority is getting really cool pictures? Or touring lots of museums? Or staying up late and experiencing the local nightlife? Whatever it is, make your priority one of the main focuses of your vacation planning.
6. Set a Basic Schedule
Remember all that research you did? If you don’t write your notes down somewhere, and take said notes with you on your vacation, it’s all for naught. In my opinion the best way to enjoy your vacation is to prepare adequately beforehand, and for me that includes Excel spreadhseets with estimated costs, ideas for daily activities, how we will transport ourselves from one point to another, where we will be staying, etc. I keep everything on Google calendar as well, that way I can access the information on my phone whenever I need it.
One word of caution though? Have your schedule and your research and your planning, but be flexible! Sometimes you want to linger at Point A, and you’ll miss Point B. That’s okay! As I pointed out above, you can’t do it all. Live in the moment and enjoy what you are currently experiencing. Going on vacation shouldn’t be about checking things off your list (Vatican? Check. Eiffel Tower? Check. Big Ben? Check.), it’s about experiencing and immersing yourself in a new culture.
And if I can give you one last piece of advice: Keep a travel journal of some sort. Even if it’s just basic notes. I really value the picture I have from our trips, but you can’t take a picture of everything, and sometimes there are stories that need to be written down so they aren’t forgotten. Like the time my mom was told by the airline attendant that she had to buckle her coat into the seat next to her if she wanted to set it down. Or the time she accidentally brought a knife through security while leaving Poland. Those are the kind of stories that need to be remembered and laughed at, you know?
Kelly from KJ Pugs tagged me in this fun post – seven prompts that you pick an old post for. I had a lot of fun going through old posts – a lot which I had already forgotten about – to figure out what to share with you all again.
1) Most beautiful.
The Short List. This is pretty much my life well-lived plan, and it includes lots of beautiful places and promises. I’m not sure there’s anything more beautiful than that!
2) Most popular.
The post that has drawn both the most links and Google searches (even though it didn’t win) was my entry into Serena’s cooking challenge, my Strawberry Grape Focaccia + Perfect Lemonade. And really, it sounds oh so good right about now. It almost makes me want to do dishes so I can make some. Almost.
3) Most controversial.
This one was a huge surprise to me, but without a doubt it was this post about figuring out if we could afford to re-sign our current lease. I got not only a whole bunch of opinions and comments, but emails too. If anything I learned that what’s important in a place to live is so radically different to everyone that it’s a miracle I ended up with someone who agrees on apartment criteria. I heard from a lot of people who valued parking spaces, in-unit laundry, and square footage over neighborhood, and couldn’t believe that we’d choose a more central location over such amenities. And I got a lot of people reminding me that Chicago is still cheaper than New York and D.C. (On the other hand, try telling someone from the suburbs what rent is in the city. You’ll get a dropped jaw, especially if they’ve just seen said 650 square feet of living space.)
4) Most helpful.
For me, at least, my post on struggling with getting any sort of foot in the door with photography was the most helpful. I heard back from lots of photographers who had been there, brides who let me know what was important to them and where they looked, and all of you in general, who have been so supportive! The advice I received in that post really helped me to feel more confidence for the free sessions I shot initially, and later my first few paid sessions.
5) A post whose success surprised me.
Man, is that worded awkwardly. It makes the post sound like a person. Anyway, this is much more recent, but I was amazed that you all understood (and even agreed with) my rambling post on Why We Write. It was one of those posts that I didn’t plan, and it was exactly what I love about blogging – that it’s an outlet to not only push yourself and your own writing, but also to bond with others who are similar to you. And, you know, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who still watches my Sex and the City dvds years later. (And no, I didn’t take this photo from my TV – it just was uncredited online. We actually don’t have a TV!)
6) A post I didn’t feel got the attention it deserved.
This little post, on being young and in love, was one of my very first posts on the blog. It was a silly little thing, written (I’m sure) in response to the zillionth person who couldn’t believe how young we were and our story. I’m honestly not bothered by peoples’ surprise, especially the longer I live in the city and see how unusual it is to be committed so young – and the more we grow, the more secure I am in our relationship. But I think that every stranger who interrogates (because it’s always strangers, for some reason) forgets that, you know, while they’re asking for the first time, we’ve been asked over and over and over. (And over.)
7) Post I’m most proud of.
Hands down, I’m most proud of my D.C. Recap, not because it was particularly amazing in and of itself but because of the experience. I loved our whole trip, my wonderful D.C. ladies, and going on the first trip that was 100% ours. This trip really gave us time to think about what we want with our futures, and realize that living in at least one other city is something that’s so important to us. It also made me realize that we can travel on a budget, and on our own terms, so that it fits into our lifestyle without being extravagant.
I’m so excited that Maria’s post is kicking off our round of guest posts for Through my Lens. Not only does it come with stunning photos, but I’m ashamed to admit that I knew nothing (save the kick ass coffee) about Nicaragua beforehand. Now it’s definitely another place on my big list of travel musts. Thanks, Maria, for such an awesome post!
Hey kids! Maria here, from Procrastination Station, stopping by to say hola to the A Room with a View crew!
When I heard Anni was getting ready for a travel series, I eagerly and quickly typed up an email asking, “please, please, can I contribute? Pleeeeeease!!!” like the obnoxious kid at the front the classroom that you love to roll your eyes at.
ANYWAY…today I wanted to expose you to the land of my peoples, the land of lakes and volcanoes, a place more commonly known as Nicaragua. Nicaragua is situated smack dab in the middle of Latin America and is most recognized for its coffee and surfing.
I made a trek back to the homeland of my relatives in the summer of 2008. In trying to see as many family members as possible, my parents, sister and I got to spend some quality time in the mountains as well as the shore. I apologize in advance for the quality of these pics as they were taken with my less than stellar point and shoot..coupled with the fact I know nothing about photography in general, haha.
First, let me introduce you to Jinotega, the land of coffee, the city of mists. My grandma once said that Tuscany’s rolling hills reminded her of home and I’m sure you can see why:
The first two are the views from my room at La Perrera, my mom’s cousin’s hotel and restaurant, right on the outskirts of town. The last picture is of the property itself. Surprisingly, it gets a little chilly, up there in the mountains and I found myself grateful to the fact I packed a sweatshirt, much to the dismay of my father who always joked that Jinotegans didn’t know the meaning of the word “cold!” According to my dad, it was never cold in Nicaragua! The thermostat that read 4’C (40’F) in the misty morning, begged to differ.
Our visit to Jinotega was parked between two trips to the shore.
It was at Poneloya where we caught a glimpse of surfers catching some gnarly waves:
while it was at Montelimar that we took the time to enjoy some rest and relaxation at an all inclusive resort before finally heading home:
Sigh:::What I wouldn’t give to sit back in that hammock to enjoy a piña colada made with Flor de Caña (bet ya didn’t know Nicaragua made some awesome rum!)
In any case, thank you Anni for allowing me the pleasure to share my ancestral homeland with you and your lovely readers! And thank you readers for putting up with me today! Hasta luego amigos!