When Harlow Goes To The Vet

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"I did not eat no dirt." -Harlow

The amount of time Harlow and I spend together is a little ridiculous. He doesn't leave the bed until I get up in the morning, and he doesn't go to bed at night until the moment I do. Occasionally he'll pretend to put himself to bed in the evening, but if I'm not up there within twenty minutes he'll peak his little head out the bedroom door like, "hey you coming?"

So it's safe to say when I notice him acting a little different I'm on high alert. *also see: neurotic. It usually goes like this-

I'll notice Harlow slightly limping at the park. I'll call Chris. Chris will say, "just keep an eye on it." I can do that, I think. If it persists for a few weeks I'll call the vet.

Then I casually get on google to see what it may be. CANCER. It's always cancer. Within one hour of seeing the limp we're at the vet. This happens every time. Harlow goes to the vet no less than 10-15 times a year.

The most recent visit last week was due to dry patches on his shoulder. He licked them occasionally, but not every day. According to google they were because of arthritis.

And so I began learning about treatments. We would need to install a therapy pool for him in our living room. Sure, it wouldn't be pretty. But anything for Harlow and his arthritis!

We were at the Wicker Park vet within 24 hours. The doctor came in and saw Harlow sitting on my lap as he always does, laughed a little as all vets do, and then began looking him over. Within ten seconds she pointed out that his harness rubbed in the exact same spots where the dry patches were.

Could it be from that? She asked kindly, not wanting to humiliate me for being such an idiot.

Yes, yes it could.

While we were there we did some routine blood work as it was that time of the year. I paid my $170 bill for peace of mind and reminded myself (as do I after every unnecessary vet visit) that it's better to be safe than sorry. It's kind of funny to me that I had shingles for over two weeks before I forced myself to go to the doctor, but the second I saw one skin irritation on Harlow we were at the vet within 24 hours. Priorities.

Two days after the visit I had all but forgotten about the vet until I got a call from the doctor.

"The results from Harlow's blood work came back," she said and I interrupted,

"Does he have cancer?" I asked. More like shouted.

"No, but we see small signs of tick disease. We're not sure if it's still active, so we need him to come back in for more blood work to be certain."

"Is he going to die?"


"How long does he have?"

"Probably 7-10 more years."

"Oh no, it's that serious huh?"

"Not at all, are you even listening to me?"

"Should I install a therapy pool?"

Long story short, I was terrified when there was an "issue" with his blood work, but after one more vet stop we have confirmed it's all good. He may have had tick disease last summer, but luckily his body fought it off.

Moral of the story- spring is here so get your tick meds!!!  The vet suggested NextGuard and said that Frontline isn't as good as it used to be, if you use one that works what do you suggest?

Thanks for listening. Now Harlow has to get to hair and makeup because he's filming a commercial at our house today.... More to come on that tomorrow!

Highs and Lows of the Oscars

Monday, February 27, 2017

The day after the Oscars often feels like January 1st to me. (Only I'm less hungover.)

I feel excited and motivated after watching a room full of dreamers doing exactly what I'd love to do. The writers, the actors, the musicians, all people creating and doing great work. Work that they love. It's what they were put on this earth to do. I just find it all really inspiring. Like how I was put on this earth to make sure t-shirts about dogs and day drinking!

Jk. But? ....

After my work is done today I'm giving myself a solid 4 hours to be creative. No restrictions. I'm taking my computer and daydream notebook (that's totally normal to have, right?) and going somewhere to write. I don't know what it's going to be, but I have a sudden burst of creativity energy I haven't had in awhile that I have to let out. Thank you for that, Oscars.

Speaking of, how about that ending? At first I thought it was something scary happening, because that's what I often think these days unfortunately when I see something out of the norm in a busy situation. But after I realized it wasn't anything bad I just assumed it was a bit. A shitty bit, at that. My thought was, Kimmel, are you kidding me? This is in such poor taste...

And then after I understood what was really happening I was pretty excited. I wanted Moonlight to win. To be fair, I haven't seen La La Land, but I just really liked Moonlight. It's a beautifully written sad story that's quite different from any other films I've seen lately. And the acting was phenomenal. If you haven't seen it, rent it on Amazon like today.

Overall, I thought last night's show was pretty good.
Highlights for me were:

*Viola Davis's speech. SO GOOD. She can do no wrong.
*All of the old Hollywood glam style going on.
*Justin Timberlake. Obvi.
*Candy and donuts falling from the ceiling = my dream.
*All the short pixie cuts women are rocking.
*The commercials. I think I was just overly emotional? They all hit home for me last night.

*The tourists coming through felt very uncomfortable. Like, hey look it's "not-famous people" how hilarious! I don't know, that bit just didn't hit for me.
*Casey Affleck winning. Not a fan. 
*People on my Facebook "boycotting" the Oscars and Hollywood by watching other shows... made by Hollywood.

I got quite the chuckle out of some people on my newsfeed being very vocal about hating Hollywood and noting what shows they were watching instead of the Oscars. Curious as to where they think those "other" shows were pitched, shot, and produced? Hollywood.... Oh Facebook, always entertaining me.

Overall, it was a good night to remind me that there's dreamers out there doing what they love. You just have to work your ass off and never quit pushing. (And stop wasting time on Instagram.)

What did you think of the Oscars? Did you watch? Which film did you like the best?

On Leaving My 20s

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I'm approaching the last few months of my twenties and it's starting to mess with my head.

I know age is just a number and it's better than the alternative, and blah blah blah. Trust me, I give myself those pep-talks all the time. There's just something about that big 3-0 that freaks me out and makes me question all the things. (Professionally and creatively, speaking.)

Such as.... Is there where I thought my career would be? No. And a little yes. I always knew I'd work for myself, I just wasn't sure how. I naturally assumed I would be an underground candy saleswoman forever. Thank God that only lasted a few months in the mid 90s.

Would I work for the Schwans Man? No. But I won't pretend there wasn't a brief time (also in the 90s) when I considered this based solely on the fact I thought that having this job meant I could eat all of the spicy chicken strips, ice-cream drumsticks, and egg rolls my little heart desired.

And if you would have asked me when I got a little more mature (like a pre-teen) I probably would have told you that I wanted to work at a magazine. Because as a child I assumed adulthood meant working at a magazine in a big city, wearing slip dresses with strappy stilettos, and saying things like, "I have to get the marketing report done for the big meeting tomorrow, so maybe just one more Cosmo!"

Also, I was Andie Anderson. Or Jenna Rink. Because every "single successful woman" worked at a magazine in the early 2000s. And she was okay being single! But was also desperately seeking a man to show her what real happiness meant.

Where was I? Oh yes, talking about how turning 30 is messing with my head.

While I didn't envision life as T-Shirt lady, I can't help but appreciate the hell out of it never the less. Doing as I please (almost) every day is a huge factor on my happiness level. Also not wearing slip dresses and stilettos helps my happiness factor, as well.

The thing that stings when I think about turning 30 is the fact that I haven't finished any major creative project up to this point.

Dreamer-Me naturally assumed I'd have five books published by now, a movie, maybe won some awards. Why not? Dreamer-Me says I can do anything.

Real-Me says then DO IT already.

The Academy Awards are on this Sunday. I watch them every year and usually cry during the acceptance speeches from newbies that say, "If I can do this, anyone can! This is for all the dreamers out there." Those speeches get me because I believe them. But then I have to remind myself that behind all of those pretty speeches lies a lot of hard work and grit. Two things I've been lacking when it comes to writing.

I've basically put  all of my creative projects on the back burner to grow my business. I know a lot of the greats know how to master both- their work and their passion projects. I just haven't quite yet, however it's about damn time I do.

I have three months to finish my twenties and go out on a strong note. That being said, I've got a lot of work to do today.

Where To Eat/Drink In Havana Cuba

Monday, February 20, 2017

And a full week later I'm going to tackle our favorite eats and drinks in Havana once and for all!

I suggest you take this post with a grain of salt (as you should all of my posts) as these spots are simply my suggestions. I may be leaving off some real gems, so do some digging before you go!

On vacation we typically just like to stumble into wherever our path leads us, however as we quickly learned in Havana that's not always possible- especially when it comes to dinner. If you want to go to some of the more popular spots you will need reservations.

For Dinner:

Every person, and every site, told us to go to La Guarida. And so the first thing we did upon landing in Havana was take a cab there to make a reservation. It was the best food we had (and most expensive) but the view on top of the building overlooking the city was well worth it. Had we not made reservations it would have been a  3-4 hour wait we were told.

The first night in Cuba we stumbled upon El Chanchullero, a place that felt like Havana's hipster joint. We didn't have reservations so we had to wait outside for about an hour, but again, we felt it was worth it. It was a cool atmosphere with good service and fun music.

Just down the street from El Chanchullero is a little spot called El Dandy, which might have been one of my favorite places. It had a good hole-in-the-wall feel to it, which we all know I love. El Dandy also had strong drinks with good bar style food. With no reservations we got lucky and only had to wait about 25 minutes.

For Lunch:

Our favorite thing to do was walk the streets of Old Havana and sit down at a sidewalk cafe with live music.

Shamefully, we went to Cafe Paris two days in a row. We just enjoyed it so much we figured why not. It wasn't so much the food or the drink that was awesome, but the location that was so great. It was just a few blocks off the main plaza and great for people watching.

We attempted to eat at one of the bigger restaurants right in the plaza (see pic 5) but the service was terrible and the food was extremely over-priced. Makes sense, given its location. You'll be tempted to sit there as well, but I'd suggest just grabbing a drink like we did then moving on down the road. You can do better.

Hotels/ Rooftop Bars:
We went to a different rooftop every day. Below is a pic from the Saratoga. This hotel is gorgeous and so is their rooftop pool. Anyone can go up and enjoy the views and grab a drink by the pool so we took advantage.

We also loved the rooftop at Hotel Raquel (for real, you have to go here.)  I'm kind of convinced this is the hotel I'd like to stay in if/when we come back. It's beautiful, vintage, and they have great daiquiris.

Hotel Ambos Mundos was great for pre dinner drinks on their rooftop (and you could get wifi if you bring your internet card!)

And I also suggest sitting outside in the huge chairs at Hotel Nacional de Cuba with a rum drink and a cigar, while taking in the sights. (See last two pics.) I could just imagine the old timey Havana parties that used to happen at this place.

And that concludes some of our favorite spots to eat and drink in Havana. Are they all pretty touristy? Definitely. But we're tourists so I guess it worked!

If you still have questions about Havana ask me below or shoot me an email!

And now it's time to watch Big Little Lies... ahh I can't wait. Is it good? Please tell me it is, I need a new series in my life.

Check out the Do's And Don'ts of Cuba here. 
9 Things You Have To Do Before You Visit Cuba.

5 Things On Friday

Friday, February 17, 2017

I'm not sure I really have five things, but for some reason writing a number in my title always seems to ease me into a post. I've also read it makes for good clickbait.

First things first, I've heard from at least ten people who say they have trips to Cuba on the horizon. Boy oh boy, I am excited for you! I'm confident you'll love it- permitted you like seeing things off the beaten path, enjoy just walking around, and aren't necessarily looking for a relaxing/resort type of vacation. If you're a big resort/lay by the pool/get served drinks in a timely manner kind of person, I'm not sure Havana is for you...  Speaking of, I still have my food/drink post to finish up which will come Monday.

Second of all, I went to the doctor this week for basic blah blah blah reasons, one of which being I've had a consistent headache for about two months now. It doesn't keep me from doing my work or make me blackout by any means, but it's very annoying. Anyway, turns out I'm just really dehydrated. What a simple, preventable reason. I drink about a cup of water a day and apparently that's not cutting it (maybe it's more like four cups, but it's still a pitiful amount.) ....  I've read all the things about how great drinking water is for your brain, body, skin, I get it. I've just been dumb and haven't been following the simple guidelines. However, I'm going to start, if not just to kick this two month migraine.

It's going to be mid 60s all weekend in Chicago. And while this excites me and makes me pretty happy, it's a little worrisome. This global warming stuff is no joke. Everyone is looking around going, wait is this spring? It can't be. This is Chicago. Winter lasts until May. And yet the 10 day forecast is all high 50s, low 60s. It's just kind of eerie. Never the less, I plan to enjoy it...

Speaking of spring, St. Patrick's Day is one month from today! Mind if I shamelessly plug my fav day drinking tee? Okay, cool! Find it here.

Wow, I almost made it to five. Thanks for hanging in on this ramble of a post.

I guess I'll end by mentioning two good books I've recently read, Small Great Things and Behind Closed Doors. Small Great Things is much better in my opinion, but Behind Closed Doors was a very fast read- I finished it in one travel day.  Have you read either? What did you think?

Have a good weekend! Enjoy the weirdly warm weather.

Do's and Don'ts of Cuba- Part I

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Part 1...

Getting There-

Don't check luggage. We heard horror stories of people waiting 2+ hours to get their bags. People in Cuba seem to be on a much different time frame. Try to embrace it.

Do arrange a cab with your casa/hotel, but don't panic if they don't show up. (Ours didn't.) We just grabbed another cab.

Do write down the address of where you're staying before you lose cell service. (See my previous post.)

Do ask how much the cab ride will be before every cab you take. Literally, every one. They may try to take advantage.

Do you know Spanish? This is essential. Luckily Chris lived in Spain for six months so his Spanish is pretty good. Mine is minimal, but we were able to get by. 98% of the people we met did not speak any English. Getting around in Havana would be pretty difficult if no one in your group speaks Spanish. Apps can only get you so far.

Speaking of apps, DO download some Cuba apps that work offline. I suggest "Cuba Travel," and "Maps.Me" and "SpanishDict."

Do bring a roll of toilet paper. I knew I was in trouble when I used the bathroom at the airport and there wasn't any to be found- or even a canister where it should be held...

Once You're There-

Don't drink the water.

However, I did drink the mojitos and daquiris which obviously had ice. Is that why I've been sick for the past 2 days? Perhaps.... I also ate the fruit, and the seafood, and everything else so who knows.

Do eat at your casa if given the chance. The family who owned ours made us a sweet little breakfast every morning consisting of bread, a fruit plate, scrambled eggs, and the best coffee I have ever had. At only 5 CUC it was a steal!

Don't worry about bringing tons of bottled water. We bought 10 bottles at the airport in Florida only to find that vendors were selling it everywhere in Cuba. It's not impossible to find by any means.

As for cigars, DON'T buy them from the people on the street. They're not good quality and the only place you should buy them are from the hotels or the actual cigar shops.

Don't believe the people who come up to you say, "You're in luck, today is a cigar holiday!" This is a lie. We were told this every day. They want you to follow them to their friend who is selling cheap gross cigars on some random corner.

Other lies to watch out for:

"The bar/restaurant/(fill in the blank) is closed today! Come to my friend's instead. Much better!"

It's not closed, these people are just getting paid to get you elsewhere.

Yes, we were hassled by people on the street for money, but not to the point where it was that bothersome or scary. We really found the locals to be extremely friendly and welcoming. When they heard we were from Estados Unidos their faces lit up and they acted as if they couldn't believe it- a vast difference from when we go to Europe and say we're from the United States...

We never felt unsafe at any time, however it's also worth noting we rarely stayed out past 11 p.m. since we did so much during the day. It's always important to be conscious of your surroundings when you're out of your normal environment.

Daytime Fun-

Do pay someone to drive you around in their old car. We paid 25 CUC for one hour. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. They drive you all over Havana and it's something you just can't miss. You'll find several of the drivers right outside Hotel Inglaterra, or any other large hotel in the area. (Same goes for all of the tours.)

My second favorite thing was getting lost in the streets of Old Havana. I could have done this all day, every day. Around lunch we'd find a fun street cafe with a salsa band playing and post up for a few hours while we drank beers and nibbled on some food.

Don't expect the food to be great. Here is what Chris and I concluded, if food isn't a huge deal to you you'll probably think the Cuban cuisine is just fine. However if you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, you'll think it's just meh. More on food and drink coming in part two...

Do take a hop on-hop off tour bus (if you're into this.) It's 10 CUC and about an 1.5 hour ride all over Havana. We didn't learn as much as we hoped, but it was enjoyable-ish.

I suggest paying a little more for a private tour. We weren't able to do this because we didn't know it was an option, but next time we will...

Do go to a beach (if you have the time.) It's about a two hour cab ride, we didn't simply because we were short on time and we didn't intend for this trip to be a beach trip.

Do book an excursion. Again, this is something we missed due to time. But we met friends who paid a cab driver 100 CUC to drive them to a tobacco farm where they rode horses through the fields, while drinking mojitos. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty great to me.

Tomorrow I'll name specific restaurants, bars, and rooftops we enjoyed. And then I'll stop talking Cuba/posting photos of old cars I promise! Maybe... PS Happy Valentine's Day!

9 Things You Have To Do Before You Visit Cuba

Monday, February 13, 2017

I have so much to say about this trip. But having literally just returned, I don't quite have the right words yet to describe how amazing this city was. The colors, the energy, the vibrance, it was unlike any place I've been before.

I also wasn't expecting to see buildings that looked like they had been bombed in a war zone, having crumbled from the inside out, no electricity in many, or even ceilings or walls, and yet still find the beauty of it all so unreal. It was crazy.

So before I get into all that, let's start with the basics; the more straightforward stuff you should know if you're thinking about booking a trip to Cuba.

1. Cuba Travel Requirements.
There are 12 general license categories you can use to travel to Cuba at this current time. We certified for "Educational Purposes." I feel like I now know so much about Havana I didn't before and I am SO intrigued to learn more. The city is simply amazing.

We did all of this through Southwest and they were extremely helpful.

The only time we were asked about the license was in Ft. Lauderdale. No one ever mentioned it again or asked to see a travel log of any sort.

2. Get a Visa.
Again, this was done through Southwest as they have partnered with Cuba Travel Services and it cost us $50 each and we did it all online. We were sent a "YOU NEED A VISA" email right after we booked our flights. And a few reminder emails.

Once you get to Ft. Lauderdale you just have to check in with the Southwest desk and they'll instruct you from there. I should also note Southwest isn't paying me to write this (however I wish they were haha...) but I have to say they made everything very easy.

Except for the fact I paid for Earlybird check-in and still only got B35. What the hell, Southwest? Anyway...

3. Money.
What you bring to Cuba is all that you have. As of now, plastic isn't accepted anywhere. At the end of our trip when we got to the airport all that we had left to our name was two CUCs (basically two dollars.) We spent it on a Sprite and enjoyed it like it was our last beverage ever.

We cut it a little too close for comfort but I'm partially to blame for that given our last night I ordered two prosciutto plates and two shrimp cocktails for the friends I had asked to join us for dinner. *said friends were several stray cats and dogs, but that is beside the point. You don't invite guests to dinner and then not offer to pay for their meal when you know they don't have any money, right? Exactly.

I have no regrets. Unless Chris is reading this and he's still annoyed with me about the "pickle" it put us in. In that case, I regret it.
*do not regret it.

4. Exchanging money.
We were told to bring Euros. I suggest exchanging your dollars for euros at least 7-10 days before your trip and not less than 12 hours before like I did. As it turns out, most U.S. banks take 7-10 days to get euros.

Once in Cuba, you can exchange your euros for CUCs at the airport in Cuba, but the rate isn't great. Instead, we found a bank near our Casa in Old Havana. You'll know the exchange banks right away because there will be long lines outside of them. Suck it up and wait. You'll also have to suck it up when the locals continue to cut you because that's just the way it works.

5. Don't count on your phone.
Like for anything. I knew we wouldn't get service or wifi (unless in specific spots) but I thought I was being smart by screen-shotting things I wanted to do/also writing down bullet points on my phone notepad. It was all fun and games until we touched down in Havana and my iphone went nuts on me and wouldn't leave the homescreen that simply said "Hola!"

For reasons I still don't know, it went into total reset mode and I couldn't access photos, notepad, anything, until I was able to find a wifi spot. Thank God Chris memorized the address of our Casa Particular where we were staying or we would have been in a real "pickle."

6. Where To Stay.
Generally speaking, there are two types of places to stay in Cuba- the hotels (most of which are government owned) or Casa Particulars (which are similar to Bed and Breakfasts and privately ran by families, usually.)

From just a little research, I saw the hotels were around $400-$700 night, and the casas are anywhere from $30- $300 (depending if you rent a room or the entire home.) Ours was roughly $50/night. It was in a great location (our fav being Old Havana) safe, clean-ish, but SO loud. I've never slept so bad in my life. The trucks outside, the pipes screaming, God only knows the other noises we heard, so for that reason, I won't share the name because I just can't recommend it. Keep it simple and just look on AirBnB. And if a review says "it's pretty loud," believe it.

8. Wifi.
You can buy 1 hour wifi cards at any hotel for around 4 CUCs. The best place to use the cards are in the big hotels or in the parks where you see herds of people with their phones out, meaning wifi is accessible.

9. Book dinner reservations.
Where? That's coming in post two!

Don't you worry, as soon I hit publish on this post I'll start working on the Dos and Don'ts of Havana. Things like excursions, where to eat, drink, renting a car, IBS, ext!

If you'd like to know something specific, ask below so I can tie it in tomorrow.

All in all, Havana was the most beautiful crumbling city I have ever seen. I wasn't expecting it to be what it was, but I must have said at least 50 times "this place is unreal." You won't get it until you visit it for yourself.