Posts Tagged With: Summer Activity


I am crazy about jasmine and its sweet fragrance. They are mystical and romantic. Their scent seems to trigger nice memories of my childhood and of the people who I deeply care about.

About three summers ago, I bought two jasmine plants from a nursery in my old neighborhood in Chicago. I planted them together in a rectangular plastic container and placed them outside of my apartment window. I would move them inside of the apartment when the breeze turns colder, keep them close to a bright window, and hope they stay alive until spring returns. Once the air becomes warmer, I’d move them back outside again and let them stay out for the whole summer. That dance continued every year to this summer in our new home in Michigan. As a native to the tropical regions of the world, my jasmine plants love and thrive in the bright sun, heat, and humidity that summer offers this year. I just have to make sure that they drink lots of water once a day.

Here are the little beauties. Wished you could smell their intoxicating beautiful fragrance.

I notice that they start budding and blooming like crazy in July.

My morning coffee ritual on the patio becomes even more special with the little beauties’ scent all around. It’s pretty fantastic!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer wherever you are!

Categories: Outdoor Living in the City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Rain or Shine…

The rain is pouring hard. I feel the water droplets fall violently on my skin. But yet Jeff and I can’t stop laughing as we pedal our bikes faster heading back north. We probably have the same thought at that moment, “It was sunny when we started! Why didn’t we check the weather today?” I see parents pushing strollers and speeding up as their little kids happily stick out their tongues to taste the rain. It can be fun to be caught in the rain. Some joggers hide under the trees. A few look upset because this heavy but cool rain in the middle of a hot day ruins their plans. The rest keep on running and pedaling undisturbed, entranced by the noises coming out of their earphones.

Earlier that afternoon, Jeff and I wanted to go on an easy bike ride along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. We had light lunch and drinks packed nicely in Jeff’s messenger bag along with a blanket. I had picked a spot between West Fullerton Parkway and North Avenue Beach for us to have our little picnic*.  As soon as we got to the place, thick, dark clouds turned the world grey and then decided to unload what they had been carrying on us and Chicago.

I have never considered myself an outdoorsy or a sporty person. My idea of being outdoors used to consist of sitting at a café or a beach, reading a good book with a drink in my hand. Living five blocks away from Lake Michigan in Chicago supports my love for lazy summer days. I’d put on my bathing suit, sunscreen,and a summer dress, pack a bottle of water, towel, and a good book, and I would be off to the lake every chance I got. Sometimes, Jeff would join me and we’d pack some food and just hang out at Chicago’s front yard. It’s nice to sit on the grass facing the gigantic body of water or the high-rise buildings which mark the curves of the city’s east side.

Last summer, Jeff and a good friend of mine, Farah, inspired me to get a bicycle. I remember asking if they planned to be “serious bike riders” who’d put on their cycling gear and just zoom along the trail that stretches for 18 miles like the wind. Jeff has had a bicycle for as long as I can remember and he rides his bike to and from work during warmer months. I think of him as a pretty-serious bike rider. Farah bought hers that summer and at the time was having so much fun beach hopping. I was totally sold when she said, “Serious bike rider? I ride my bike wearing a summer dress!” “Okay,” I thought, “I could do that! I think I’ll combine fun in the sun, light lunches, and bike riding and see how that goes.”

On beautiful spring and summer days, when the sky is clear and the breeze is cool, it is so easy to keep riding the bike for miles through parks, beaches, and cool spots. Each point offers different scenery. From the little kids in their soccer outfit trying to kick the ball far too big for them to play with at a park on Foster Beach, to boats parked at Belmont Harbor, and to the perfect view for a poster of Chicago’s skyline from the north at a curve close to North Beach Avenue. My favorite view is still the city’s modern civilization beauty, framed by blue water and sky, from the grassy lawn of Shedd Aquarium.

But now, the dark clouds follow Jeff and me as we go north. We race the rain to see who is faster. As we enter Montrose Beach area, the rain decides to go east. The trail and grass look dry from this point up to Bryn Mawr. So we stop, pull out the blanket and devour our lunch. Our eyes follow the dark clouds as it moves fast across the lake, maybe to unload on Michigan. The sun is out once again and it dries our semi-wet shirts while we watch people pass by. The sirens from ambulances and a fire truck driving on Lake Shore Drive add to the city’s soundtrack. Three teenage girls walk by with a boombox, a scene we hardly see anywhere anymore, singing and dancing to the tune. “They look a bit too young to be stuck in the 80s.” says Jeff as he sips his coffee. We just finish the coffee when we feel little water droplets from the sky. A different group of clouds are following the previous batch. Summer days in Chicago seem to be thunderstorm-prone.We’ll just stay flexible and go back out next weekend. More cool spots to share!

*Our definition of “picnic” might be slightly different from what others would normally imagine. Ours consists of: either sandwiches or any dish we happen to cook that weekend packed in individual lunch containers, two water bottles, an old blanket for us to sit on, and sometimes, coffee in a slim thermos. No baskets, no pretty plates, cups, or paper napkins. We try to keep things simple .

Have a great summer everyone, come rain or come shine!

Photos property of The Traveling Chili Pepper

Categories: Outdoor Living in the City | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Hugged by the Sleeping Bear

“Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tried and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear”. (Chippewa Indian legend)


The sky turned pink as the sun gently descended and kissed Lake Michigan’s horizon. Bonfire gave out a perfect wood-burning scent at the secluded Peterson Road Beach in Honor, MI. Sitting on the beach with my friends, I saw Venus hanging not too far above the horizon on one side and the Sleeping Bear Point and Empire Bluff resting on the lake on the other side. The soothing sound of small waves crashing was perfect to be recorded and played before bedtime. I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes, hoping to absorb everything. When I opened my eyes I saw Farah busy preparing the smores, Fifi spraying everyone with mosquito repellant, Theo looking deeply into his camera to capture the moments, and Jeff pointing the video camera at me and said, “Hey, Birthday Girl!” Then the dark sky brought out thousands of stars. Everyone sank into their own beach chairs, buried their feet deep in the playful sand while sipping their drinks. My senses were babied by nature’s beauty and my heart was full.

It was my 30th birthday. I wanted to do something different for my birthday celebration. So I said, “Let’s go camping!” Jeff, an outdoor enthusiast, found a campground by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan.  He booked it in January for my birthday in… May. He called up some of our closest friends and three were able to join. So we packed up our camping gears, food, and drinks and drove northwest.

I think the location was perfect for good friends to celebrate beautiful summer days. The weekend was filled with great cookouts, conversations, and plenty of laughter with nature’s sounds in the background. Deer would lift up their heads to catch a glimpse of who’s passing by and who’s calling them “Bambi.” The breathtaking views from the scenic drive along  the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive or the Old Mission wineries, the easy breeze, the smooth sand, and the cool water definitely forced everyone to slow down and be playful.

I would definitely come back to hug the Sleeping Bear.

Photos property of The Traveling Chili Pepper

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Categories: Michigan Travel, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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