We’re into the first week of actual fall, and I’m looking back on a summer well enjoyed and well lived.

The sunshine months are so fleeting in Chicago, it’s important to get out and soak them up while you can, if you can! In years past, I went through summers where I wasn’t home enough to bask in the rays and enjoy the season’s pleasures. This year, I wanted different things for myself. Instead of feeling depleted from travel and taking on other responsibilities, I wanted my summer to be a season of healing – healthier and more active, more grounding, more stability, more intentionally centering my spirit and creating a feeling of home. This year, I committed myself to doing the things that celebrated summer in Chicago while I could. Here’s some of what I did this summer in the city! This post ends in a giveaway, so read on to enter!


photo by Steve Yursik

FINALLY made it to Mario’s Italian Lemonade! Located on Taylor Street in Chicago’s Little Italy, this neighborhood lemonade stand has been drawing crowds every summer since 1954. They are purely seasonal – this year, they closed on September 9th. I have wondered about this place for years, every time I passed by there’s always a crowd or a line. Finally, I got it together. They have a long history for excellent reason. Their Italian lemonade is SO incredibly delicious and fresh! I dressed for the occasion and made this a photo shoot. This dress is by Eloquii and it’s one of my favorites for summer. So light, floaty and fun!

I visited farmer’s markets and festivals and rooftop bars. Chicago has an amazing list of neighborhood farmer’s markets – so many neighborhoods have their own special day and unique vendors, and downtown holds some of the biggest and best. I especially love the Daley Plaza Farmers Market, the longest-running one in the city. That’s where I stock up on incredible produce and visit some of my favorite vendors in the city. My must-visits include the Rise n Roll Amish bakery, Justice of the Pies, A Taste of the Philippines, Misercordia and River Valley Ranch.

Summer in Chicago also means rooftop bar and al fresco restaurant season, and I made my way to a few favorite places. If you’re in the city and looking for a rooftop to hang out on, there is truly a scene for everyone. Depending on what you’re looking for, I recommend Tanta (chic, Peruvian, great cocktails), Reggie’s (rock club, edgy and fun with surprisingly delicious sandwiches) and Cerise (trendy, sceney, clubby).

2018 Lollapalooza.

Totally enjoyed some summer concerts! One of my favorite things about living here is the amazing array of live music that comes through Chicago. This year we wound up going to the Taste of Chicago twice because Black Star was one one night, and on another George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic were headlining. Both evenings were amazing! Great, free, live music abounds in this city and I never take that for granted! There are also SO many incredible music festivals, and this year I made it to one day of Lollapalooza and one day of Riot Fest – that was all I needed.

photo by Steve Yursik

We signed up for a month of the Chicago Water Taxi, and it was AWESOME! My neighborhood is near enough to the Chicago River that we would see the water taxis coming and going. For a long time, we would look on and wonder about the experience. Finally, this year my husband surprised me on our anniversary. We took the water taxi on that day and then signed up for a month. It was GLORIOUS. I recommend you get on board at Chinatown and ride the water taxi up to Michigan Avenue for some of the most beautiful views of Chicago’s architecture. I learned so much more and grew to appreciate several new parts of the city in the process! Click here to learn more about the Chicago Water Taxi.

Our balcony and little gardening set

Spent time cultivating our balcony garden. I’ve noticed a theme in my self-care practices, and that theme is nature. I feel most re-centered and at peace when I am in some element of nature (this may also corelate to my struggles with winter, but that’s for another post). This summer, my husband and I went all in with the limited space that we have. We live in a downtown apartment with two balconies. On one balcony, we planted a herb garden with basil, rosemary, mint, cilantro, and two strawberry plants that never bore fruit larger than a fingernail, but those strawberries were super sweet and very cute. On our other balcony, we were a bit more ambitious – baby eggplants, tomatoes, peppers (both hot and sweet) and lettuce.

There is something so wonderful about gardening, especially with the world being as stressful as it is. Planting a seed or plant into the earth, nurturing it, watching it grow and reaping the harvest is an incredible cycle, a restorative act, a way to save money, a way to give back to yourself – so many things! We didn’t have a bounteous harvest, but I am so happy to say we made a few meals and salads that included ingredients we grew ourselves. Whenever I needed a moment of peace and physical grounding this summer, I found it sitting on my balcony with my little gardening tool set (click here to see it, so cute).

Took some photos in places I wanted to. Do you have any places in your city that you drive by or walk by and think, I should take some cute photos there? You should do it! I had a few spots I wanted to snap pics in front of and I would always find a way to talk myself out of it. Finally, one afternoon I just put on a cute dress and went on a long walk with my husband. We made it a cute little photo shoot day and now I can check off those locations in my mind. These was one of the photos, and this is the dress (click to shop)!

With Tanikia and Steve, creators of BlackOwnedChicago.com! Photo by Chuck Olu-Alabi

Went on the AMAZING Black History Tour by Black Owned Chicago! Black Owned Chicago is an awesome online resource that’s all about supporting local Chicago entrepreneurs. This site took things to the real world in the month of June, leading really informative and uplifting trolley tours to historic Black sites. I was lucky enough to go on the first day and we had a tremendous, beautiful, inspiring experience! And it was pretty much fully booked and then ended at the end of the month. I am really hoping Black Owned Chicago brings the trolley tours back next summer, it was such an enriching experience! Thanks for a phenomenal afternoon, Black Owned Chicago. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

photo by Steve Yursik

I rode my bike and retreated into nature. Yes, Chicago is a big, bustling city. Yes, it can be intense – especially if you’re not used to a big city. If you live here and feel overwhelmed or stressed out, I encourage you to head to the lake if you can. There are pockets of peace and beauty here that can make you feel miles away from the hustle, bustle and stress. It’s where we go when the news cycle is too much, to work up a healthy sweat and breathe in fresh air and hear bird song.

We took these photos on a day when we had to escape. Lake Michigan is such a gift. You can get on a bike and ride along the lakeshore and still find these beautiful sanctuaries, an oasis away from the commotion. This was one of my favorite things to do this summer, just get away from it all and breathe.

I feel ready for fall. Time for a changing season and new ways to regenerate my energy.

photo by Steve Yursik

I’m ending this post with a special giveaway from Songmics! The brand that made my gardening set also made this picnic blanket. They make a variety of interesting, helpful household products all sold on Amazon. This waterproof picnic blanket is also by Songmics, it’s a big 72×72 and it’s waterproof, so perfect for picnics from let’s say late spring to early fall. The folks at Songmics are offering two prizes! One lucky reader can win this picnic blanket. Another lucky reader can win a set of their high quality wooden hangers. I’m gonna use those for my fall project, tackling my closet once and for all.

How do you enter, how do you win?

This is a classic, old fashioned blog giveaway, open only to residents of the USA. To enter, leave a comment right here on this post and let me know which item you want, and why. Picnic blanket, or hangers?

This giveaway will be officially closed by 9/28/2018 and winners will be chosen and announced then.

**edited — 10/7/2018 — this giveaway is officially CLOSED, and the winners are Toya and Lisa Benedict. I will e mail you for your info, to send over to the Songmics team. Thanks to everyone who entered and please don’t give up — more giveaways will come right here on Afrobella.com!

How did you spend your summer/vacation time, bellas?


Toya says:
September 24, 2018, 6:06 pm
Love the post! I’m totally inspired. If I was to win, I would choose the hangers I recently moved and recently married and these days I’m all about organizing and trying to get my House on track. Thank you again for the inspiration.
carol clark says:
September 24, 2018, 6:47 pm
waterproof picnic blanket is also by Songmics i could use this to take the family on outings this would be great we have nothing right now i love it
Annette says:
September 24, 2018, 8:49 pm
I;d love to have the hangers. I'm remodeling my kids' room and making it into a guest room. These would be so nice to put in the guest closest.
Wanda Foster says:
September 25, 2018, 3:17 pm
I spent all my time with my elderly mother Virginia till she transition to rest, then her oldest brother transition a month later.Right now I'm oou because my Auntie just passed away in Florida. I'm at peace with all that's happened. I miss my Mother dearly.l would love the blanket to start a new beginning next summer.
Angela says:
September 25, 2018, 3:23 pm
I'd love the hangers. I need to get my closets in order for fall & these would be great.
Melissa K says:
September 25, 2018, 4:07 pm
SONGMICS has beautiful items. If I had to choose, it would be the 3 tier storage cube closet organizer. I am purging everything in my apartment that I no longer need. Not quite becoming a minimalist. but I want to feel freer. It would come in handy.
Lisa Benedict says:
September 25, 2018, 6:36 pm
I would love the Songmics Picnic Blanket if I were to win the giveaway. This was the summer of, "slow down." for me. I have a chronic illness and overall 2018 has been a challenge to keep up a pace that I can no longer obtain. I cover fashion shows locally in and around Detroit, and I have a social media business. I spent most of my time observing my surroundings. I live in a remote area and it truly is a beautiful area. When I could get outside I found myself looking at different vareties of flowers and plants. I visited a few farmers markets. When I could not drive my husband gladly drove for me. This time really brought us together as a couple, talking, laughing and sharing our mini road trips. As the temps are starting to drop in Michigan, I am seeing trees with leaves change almost on the daily. I love the variety of colors that come to life during the fall.
Willa Harris says:
September 25, 2018, 9:15 pm
I would love the garden set. Like you said, there’s something about nature that centers you. Be it on a balcony, in a park, there is nothing like being outside and watching that little seed turn in to something that nurtures your body and soul.
Susan Christy says:
September 25, 2018, 10:15 pm
I've been trying to organize my house and get rid of stuff, so the hangars would be perfect!!
Michele Pineda says:
September 25, 2018, 11:40 pm
I would love the hangers, as I am now doing Fall cleaning and organizing! Sounds like you had a great summer! I sweltered a bit in the Northeast lol and hit the beach a few times, and then went on my annual vacation to visit family and friends abroad. Did some shopping in the markets, went to the beach there as well, and enjoyed myself after a long year. Now with winter coming, I am gearing up for watching my faves on Netflix and Hulu and enjoying time with my teen daughter, hubby and the grandkids who visit often.
meghan says:
September 26, 2018, 11:29 am
Would love the picnic blanket, would be great for fall events.
Kelly D says:
September 26, 2018, 8:53 pm
I would choose the hangers, because they are so practical and I am always looking for hangers and running out of them.
Julie says:
September 28, 2018, 10:49 am
Both would be totally helpful. I think I would go with hangers.
KV says:
September 28, 2018, 10:00 pm
Your summer looked like so much fun! I would choose the hangers.