Tag Archives: Event

Friendsgiving 2016 | Salem, MA

For the past few years, I’ve been doing a lovely tradition of Friendsgiving with my best friends who you may also know by their blogs or as co-hosts of Secret Sister, Alyssa (from Books Take You Places) and Amy (from Tripping Over Books). We started the Friendsgiving sort of unofficially when they came into town to stand up to my wedding back in 2014. Basically, almost the entire wedding party got along so swimmingly and we had such a good time together that we wanted to have that magical wedding week continue. We decided to do a Friendsgiving in the years to come to get together with our friends, old and new, and celebrate the friendships that we’ve built despite the distance between all of us. Although this trip wasn’t exclusively bookish, I wanted to share this fun experience and special adventure because we experienced so many new and fun things in Salem!

This year instead of coming to Illinois, Alyssa, Amy, and I got together out in Salem, MA! Why Salem, you ask? Alyssa and Amy were already set to attend the Juliet Marillier event at a teashop in Salem and with so much going on in our lives this year, the trip for the two of them all the way out to Illinois was a bit too much, especially having just come out to IL for BEA back in May. It was much easier for me to meet up with them, so I headed out to the east coast for a reunion with my two best friends!

We headed out to Salem on a Friday morning and it was shaping up to be a chilly but gorgeous weekend! The leaves were falling, the sun was shining, and I was ridiculously basic with my big sweater, boots, flannel shirt, and Starbucks drink. We drove from Alyssa’s place in CT out to our Airbnb in Salem, which was so lovely! We ended up renting a house right off of the water instead of staying in a hotel and the experience was just perfect. We got our own little space (the house was a multi-residence but each residence with a separate entrance aside from the entry hall) and it was great to have the amenities that came with an Airbnb instead of the limited options when staying in a hotel. The house was a little ways away from downtown Salem so we did have to drive back and forth but it was a quick drive and the parking garage in the downtown area wasn’t too expensive if we wanted to jet back and forth between the house and the town.

Friday night, we headed into town for the Marillier event and it was hosted by Jolie Tea Company off of Essex St. It was a very small and intimate gathering which was a very cool experience compared to other book events. The tea shop even had a special tea blend specifically for the event and it was quite delicious too! But the best part of the experience was being able to see Alyssa meeting one of her all-time favorite authors and getting books signed that were so special to her. The tea shop was so lovely, very cute, and the staff was so helpful and kind, even to tea newbies like me! We even went back later on in our trip to warm up with a few cups of tea after a chilly trip around the shops. I also couldn’t leave without sampling some of their macaron selection! I ate them on later in my trip but the creme brûlée one was probably my favorite!


Saturday was our day to be tourists about town! It was so much fun to be able to do because whenever we get together, it’s always for events like BEA or ALA and we never have time to go walk around, visit shops, and just be a little touristy. Alyssa has visited Salem many times and Amy has been at least once, but it was a first time for me so I was excited to see anything and everything new! I just loved the feel of Salem in general and it was so neat to be somewhere with so much history. We headed out to the Salem Witch Museum as one of our first stops and the attraction itself (which you’re not allowed to photograph inside) is a little outdated but I had a fun time! I actually kind of liked the cheesiness and oldness of the figures of the production because let’s be honest — I’m a huge scaredy cat so I need a little levity in places that are trying to be a little spooky! It was a neat attraction and also educational! I actually didn’t know nearly as much about the Salem Witch Trials as I had thought so it was a great place to get all of that information. And naturally, I picked up some souvenirs!

img_9636 img_9639 img_9638

After the museum, we visited a few more places around town including Wicked Good Books (naturally), Wynott’s Wands (where Amy bought her own wand and I was seriously tempted), and had an absolutely delicious lunch at Howling Wolf Taqueria! The book store was small and cozy, but any bookstore is a good bookstore! I was tempted to buy some bookstore merch but managed to stick to a bit of a budget! I also really wanted my own wand from Wynott’s (made to have a look and feel like Olivander’s) but they were a bit on the pricy side and I couldn’t quite part with the money for one.

We also stopped by Old Burying Point Cemetery which was just so neat. History like that always amazes me and it’s so neat think of things and places that people had interacted with hundreds of years ago. I’m from Illinois so it’s not like it’s that new but we don’t have a lot of historical attractions in Illinois and if they do exist, it’s a single house that’s still standing or in the middle of a giant tourist attraction. Granted Salem is kind of one big tourist attraction too but it’s much more authentic-feeling and the history is truly everywhere.


To close out the night, we went on a ghost tour, or as the flyer advertised it, Salem Night Tour. Let’s remember here that I’m a huge scaredy cat and I was convinced to go on a ghost tour. What. Happened. No, but really, I’m kidding. I wouldn’t have normally agreed to go on a ghost tour but it was one that Alyssa had been on before and she promised it wasn’t scary — and it wasn’t. A little creepy at times since we were learning about ghosts but it wasn’t made to be a scary tour — it was educational, historical, and interesting (and no ghosts followed me home). Our tour guide was also a lot of fun! It was pretty freezing out but I had my new Ravenclaw hat on and bundled up as best as I could for not bringing a jacket with me. I had a really fun time and it was so neat to learn about the different spots around Salem and some more of its history! And we also got to pass by one of the locations from Hocus Pocus (the “I Put a Spell on You” scene) which was really fun!


Sunday allowed us a few more touristy stops, but first we had to grab some coffee. We had plans to go on a tour of the House of Seven Gables so we were in search of coffee and breakfast before we did so. We were heading down the street when we came upon a coffeeshop called Derby Joe and decided to stop in and I’m so glad we did! The coffee was strong, the breakfast sandwiches were delicious, and the staff was so much fun! We instantly felt welcomed and ended up chatting for quite a while as we ate and drank our coffee. I just love experences like that where you really make a human connection at an establishment because long after we left, we kept talking about how much fun we had at Derby Joe, which wasn’t even supposed to be a highlight of our trip and yet it was one of those places that we really connected with.

The House of Seven Gables was a really neat tour! I actually had no idea what to expect and I had such a great time on the tour. It was another place where I got to see some really interesting history and another place where we had a great tour guide. Parts of the house had been updated in order to be a better tourist attraction so they weren’t really historically accurate anymore but really the whole experience was historical in its own right and just really so interesting to experience. I don’t often get to take historical trips anymore (we used to take all kinds of family vacations as a kid) so this was really just a wonderful experience.


After our tour, we headed back home to make Friendsgiving dinner! It was a great night of good food but even better, full of great friendship talks. As much as we talk all the time, it’s so different and so special to be able to talk and hang out with person and it was amazing to have that time with my friends. We had a really nice night just hanging out and talking — and taking photos of the super moon!


First thing Monday morning, it was time to pack up and head home but I think we all had a really amazing time. I absolutely loved staying in that Airbnb and it became our little home for the weekend. We had such a great time in Salem and I’m so glad we made a weekend out of it so we could all get together again!

Have you been to Salem before? What were your favorite attractions/shops/restaurants? Did we do any of the same things?


BEA Part of It | Chicago Edition 2016


Traveling to Chicago for BEA this year? Totally new to the city and don’t know what to do/where to go? Then this Chicago edition of the BEA Part of It series is just what you need!

Four years ago, Estelle from Rather Be Reading started the BEA Part of It series — a little guide for everyone who was travelling to NYC for BEA. She wanted to share her home with everyone who was visiting and point out some of her favorite spots, give ideas for places to go, and recommend things to do. Since BEA is in Chicago this year, I thought it would be a nice tradition to continue for first-time/infrequent visitors to the Windy City and with Estelle’s blessing, BEA Part of it, Chicago edition was in the works!

This year, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Chicago attractions along with some other Chicago area friends: Katie & Kylie from The Polished Page Turners, Heidi from YA Bibliophile, and Jaime & Erin from Fiction Fare! Keep your eyes peeled for their Chicago-themed posts throughout the rest of April and into May!

I grew up in (and still currently live in) the Chicago suburbs so I’ve been in and out of the city pretty much all of my life! I wanted to share some of my favorite spots and recommendations for things to see while you’re in the city for BEA this year!



  • It’s not really that windy. The “Windy City” actually was a reference to “hot-air” politicians back in the 1800s. (Although that might still be true today.)
  • Weather. May in Chicago… could be anything! Chicago weather is a bit unpredictable but I’d say bet on nice spring weather (50s, 60s).
  • Chicagoans. Most of the “Chicago accents” you hear on TV are extremely exaggerated! Though I have been told I do have a slight Chicago accent.
  • Public transit. The Metra and the El (the subway/elevated train) are commonly used forms of public transit. I’d say for most things you can probably use a taxi or an Uber to get from place to place. Unless you’re going a fair distance, you probably won’t need to use the trains and I don’t really recommend the bus system. (Also in part because I’ve just never taken it.)
  • McCormick Place. If you’re trying to find places around the conference center, I’ll be honest… it’s kind of in a dead zone. There aren’t a lot of restaurants or places nearby and you’ll likely have to take a cab/Uber to get places. It’ll be a pretty long (and possibly unsafe) walk if you try to hoof it anywhere from McCormick! (Trust a person who has accidentally made a nine mile walk down the lakeshore once time… Just take a cab.)
  • Like New York, Chicago has many different neighborhoods. If you’re looking for places near McCormick, I’d suggest looking in: South Loop (NOT THE SOUTH SIDE), The Loop, Magnificent Mile, River North, West Loop.


  • Pizza. Chicago is known for its deep dish pizza! If you want to try some, my favorite place is Lou Malnati’s. Another option is Gino’s East (which is also great but I like Lou’s a bit more). If you’re staying near McCormick, I recommend the Lou Malnati’s on State Street. There are also locations for both in River North.
  • Burgers, Sandwiches, Hot Dogs. One place I’ve been to several times is Rockit Bar & Grill in River North. It’s a few miles from McCormick but I’ve always loved the food (standard American fare) and there’s a great beer selection too. They have a fun rock & roll theme going on and the menus are bookended in old record covers. Buddy Guy’s Legends is a little bit closer and there’s a strong cajun & blues theme. There’s live music (actual shows at night that may require tickets but free during the day/dinner time). Another Chicago staple is Portillo’s, famous for their hot dogs and cake shakes! They’ve expanded into a few places now  but it’s almost strictly a Chicago establishment.
  • Italian. Quartino Ristorante is a fantastic place for Italian and it’s also a wine bar. The dishes here are meant to be shared! Order any plate off the menu and you’ll get a medium sized sampling (it probably won’t fill you up) and the idea is to order a whole bunch of different things and share them with the table. We went here for a birthday recently and it was a lot of fun! It’s a little bit fancier than just casual dining (price and attire).


chicago attractions

  • Attractions.
    • Museums. The Art Institute is the museum I’ve frequented the most (usually because we went there for many school field trips). It’s really neat to explore — plus, you can pretend you’re in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Also near by is the Museum Campus — The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium are all right next to each other. (Also by Soldier Field!)
    • Millennium Park. Millennium Park is a great place to walk around and see some traditional Chicago staples like The Bean, Grant Park, and Buckingham Fountain. It also surrounds the Art Institute! You can also take a walk down the lakeshore and just enjoy the view.
    • Navy Pier. I haven’t really been to Navy Pier as a destination (mostly walked through it) but it’s a classic Chicago attraction! Check out the Ferris Wheel!
    • The Sears Tower. Okay, so they renamed it The Willis Tower. It’ll always be the Sears Tower to me.
  • Nightlife. Howl at the Moon is a dueling piano bar in River North. I’ve never been but I know several people who have been many times!
  • Baseball. The Cubs are in town during BEA week! There’s a night game on Wednesday the 11th and an afternoon came on Saturday the 14th if you’re still in town. Wrigley Field is a little far but easily accessible by El (That’s how I get there!) and if you’re a big baseball fan, Wrigley is such a historic landmark (and just a really fun place overall). 
  • Shopping. The Magnificent Mile is famous for its shopping! There are tons of stores to choose from, lots of restaurants in the area, and other attractions.
  • Theater. Check out a comedy show at Second City, a showing of Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, or Disenchanted at Broadway in Chicago!
  • The Beach. Yes, the lake does have a couple beaches! The water will still be freezing so I don’t recommend getting in the water but you can visit Oak Street Beach or North Avenue Beach on the North Side!

wrigley field

I feel like that’s a lot of info and so little info all at the same time! There’s so much more to Chicago BUT other museums, restaurants, and attractions are just so far away from McCormick Place and I’m guessing most people in town won’t want to travel TOO far in a city that they don’t know well. And truthfully, BEA takes up so much of the day and every year I’ve been I usually want to see people at night so this should be plenty to fill your Chicago time throughout BEA week! Hope these help! I can’t wait to hear about some first-time Chicago experiences!!

And if you’re going to BEA for the first time ever, I also have a post sharing my own personal experiences and tips for what to wear/bring/do!
So You’re Going to BEA For the First Time?

On The Same Page Secret Sister: Round 4 | Get to Know the Hosts!

Hey there loves! As many of you know, one of the biggest “rules” that we are pushing is that we hosts must “know” you. A lot of you have asked what constitutes us “knowing” you, and that is a very valid question in this digital age! Basically, we want to have faith in those that we are allowing into our precious project. We want to be able to say, “Oh yeah, that is the girl who OtSPcirclebanner250chatted with me about her search for a job as a Librarian.” Or, “She is the girl who was active in the hashtag despite not being able to join in on last round.” We look at your avi picture, we memorize your name, we make notations next to your sign-up in our spreadsheet. Full disclosure: when we go to our spreadsheet and one (OR TWO!!) of us has to notate, “no idea who she is, she doesn’t even follow me” we give some serious side eye. Are we looking for followers? Not in the least bit. Do we think that you ONE BILLION PERCENT should know who ALL THREE hosts are? OH. YES. We actually had a ridiculous amount of people this round thank two of us or not know that they were speaking to one of the hosts when we reached out to inquire about an issue, and so on. It is embarrassing for YOU when we bring this info back to base as the information on who we are is so readily available in a few different places.

With that being said, we thought it would be helpful if we each wrote up a little “about me” so that you had some points to bring up when you chatted us up over the next month. HINT: THIS MEANS IT IS A VERY GOOD IDEA TO GO AND VISIT ALYSSA AND AMY’S POSTS, THERE MIGHT BE A QUIZ LATER. We put the question to twitter, and some of you had some things you just HAD to know, so let’s get goin’!


How did you get the idea for The Secret Sister Project? The project was Alyssa‘s idea! There was a lot of negativity floating around in the blogging world — specifically on Twitter — and Alyssa wanted to implement a project to bring positivity and build relationships throughout the community. She/we threw some questions out there to gauge interest and voila! The Secret Sister project was born!

How did the three of you meet? I first “met” Alyssa when I was a baby blogger and looking for awesome blogs to follow. I liked her posts and then saw a Princess Bride quote in her Twitter profile and I knew we needed to be friends. We worked on the very first Fortnight of Fright together, ended up tweeting each other Friends quotes all the time, and finally decided to move our friendship from Twitter to texts. We finally met in person at BEA 2013! She actually picked me up from the airport and we roomed together. We were afraid that once we met, we’d have nothing to talk about but we hit it off as if we’d been friends forever!
I knew Amy from around the blogosphere and we had chatted but not really talked as much as I had with other bloggers. We met briefly at BEA 2013 but I still didn’t know her really well. Once I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire (one of her favorite series), we ended up talking about the series! She and Alyssa had texted and we were like, “This is silly! We need to group text about this so we can all talk at the same time!” And thus, our conversation and a best friendship was born! 


What is your favorite (or most popular) blog post that you have written? Favorite and most popular cross over a bit but are still a bit different! Some of my most popular:

Some of my personal favorites:

List a few things that anyone can mention to get you talking!

  • Friends (I’m obsessed. I quote. I re-watch millions of times)
  • Any of my big book fandoms: The Lunar Chronicles, The Grisha Trilogy, Harry Potter (I’m a Ravenpuff but lean more Ravenclaw!), anything Gayle Forman, Throne of Glass, The Name of the Wind, Brandon Sanderson books (Mistborn, Steelheart)
  • The Princess Bride
  • Beer (I’m a beer girl! I homebrew with my husband too)
  • Heroes: Reborn – I just binge watched and caught up on the season so far!
  • Pitch Perfect (JESSE <3)
  • Choir (I used to be a total choir nerd! I miss it. Sigh.)
  • What I’m currently reading
  • Anything about reading/blogging!
  • Hmmm this is hard! If you’ve struck out on all of those ideas, just stop by and say hi! I don’t bite 🙂

Which FRIENDS character would you have dated? Definitely Chandler. 

Were Ross and Rachel really on a break? No. I mean maybe a break but a “break” doesn’t mean “break up”. Sorry, Ross. 

What is in your Zombie Apocalypse Kit? Besides weapons/zombie-fighting essentials? A kindle loaded full of books (and some of my favorite physical copies for when I can’t find a way to charge the battery anymore), beef jerky, ummmm. This is hard! Photo albums to keep with me… and… water? I haven’t really thought about this! 

Marry, Kiss, Kill: Loki, Thorne, Jamie Fraser | Kiss: Loki, Marry: Thorne, Kill: Jamie (sorry, Jamie, only because Loki would kill me if I tried to kill him and we all know I end up with Thorne)

What genre do you enjoy reading the most? Fantasy (both YA and adult) and lighter contemporary. I’ve started getting more into sci-fi too! It’s changed a lot over the years! I didn’t think I liked fantasy until I started reading the right books and now I can’t believe I wasn’t reading those all along! I do like a more serious contemporary/realistic fiction but lately my life has been so hectic that I need those lighter books! 

Do you have interests outside of reading? Of course! My husband and I homebrew beer as a hobby (a delicious hobby) and we also started our own company to make and sell homebrewing equipment — Starting Point Brewing Equipment. It’s still a work in progress and we’re working on items to add to our shop but we’re hoping to kick that off even more soon! The dream is to open a brewery someday but that’s of course quite costly.
I also started making candles! It was just for fun at first and then I couldn’t help but pair them with book-inspired scents for inspiration and I really wanted to share that with other book lovers! I just opened my own Etsy shop — Novelly Yours — last month! 😀
My husband and I also love traveling. We haven’t gotten to do as much lately but we love to go camping, find new places to visit, and just get away when we can.


What is your favorite standalone book that you have read lately? Hmmm. The first one that comes to mind is The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens. I thought it was so well done and I really connected with the characters a LOT! 

Who is your favorite or least favorite character in literature? I haven’t thought about this question in a while and I think it’s Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. He just has so many qualities and traits that I love. He’s studious and smart but also wily and a prankster. He’s tough and yet sensitive. He loves music and performing, I love his friendships, and he’s maybe a bit of a dolt with the ladies but I’ll wait for that to develop a bit more haha! I just love him and I’ve become so invested in his story! 

Who is your favorite author that you have met in person? Leigh Bardugo is instantly the author that comes to mind! She’s such a strong and fierce woman, which you can see from her social media accounts as well, and she’s also absolutely hilarious and so much fun to be around in person! I’ve been fortunate enough to meet her a few times on tour and she’s always so nice, warm and welcoming, and just an absolutely blast to “hang out” with! 


What upcoming books are you excited for? Any new book by my favorite authors (Heartless, Throne of Glass #5, A Court of Mist and Fury, The Raven King, The Dregs #2), P.S. I Like You by Kasie West, The Last Star by Rick Yancey, Summer of Sloane by Erin L Schneider… oh just go look at my “omg can’t wait” list on Goodreads haha! There are WAY too many!

Favorite gifs for reference?  (All of these are like Friends, New Girl, and Pitch Perfect by the way…)

For times when people need to shuuuuush

I mean, you just need this one. JESSE!

And this one

We all need a good omg gif

When you’re having a bad day…

Because Schmidt

Okayyyyy that’s about it about me! If you’re new to #otspsecretsister we would love to get to know you ASAP so we can give you the green light for round four! Unfortunately due to some circumstances in the previous round(s), we are enforcing the “get to know” you rule and do want to be familiar with at least who you are and maybe some things that you love! Hit me up on Twitter (@bookaddictguide). That’s the best place to chat! But you know where else to find me on social media if you want to hang out there (see sidebar!)…

Don’t forget to stop by the other two hosts (and my BFFs), Alyssa and Amy! Hop to it, friiieeeends!