2 Years Later

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I wrote. It is truly amazing how fast life moves, and changes. I’ve changed jobs (and careers altogether) and moved back to Minneapolis. It’s not something I imagined doing, but the job and life in Chicago took a toll and I needed a change. I’m so grateful for the time I had at that job, it provided me the opportunities to visit so many wonderful cities and introduced me to some of my best friends. Chicago is a great city, but it was hard to put roots down when I traveled at the rate I did – and I desperately missed nature!

There are far too many things to list here that have happened in the past two years, so I won’t even attempt to do so. My new job provides me with opportunities for travel (about 20%) and I get to work with animals – which I love. Last week, I spent time within a few feet of 6 elephants that were just rescued from being euthanized in Africa (due to severe drought and poor health). The day before this, I visited a customer who breeds reptiles and roaches… What will tomorrow bring?

Most importantly, my newest career path has allowed me to have free time! For 10 years I worked in sports and entertainment. This means that I’ve missed birthdays, holidays, and numerous occasions with friends and family. For awhile I thought it was worth it. No job is worth it. Work-life balance isn’t just a trendy term created by Millennials, it’s an important practice more of us should aim to achieve. Life is too short to feel chained to a computer or a desk or a job that doesn’t allow you to LIVE.

So with this new found free time, I will be traveling to visit friends in Europe, Canada and around the US! I’ll also have work trips to Southern California, St. Louis and Georgia. Thus, I felt like it was a good time to start writing again.

And, as always, if you have any “must-do” recommendations – PLEASE let me know! In Europe I will be traveling to Munich, Innsbruck, Vaduz, Zurich and the Black Forest.

 

Ciao for now, Lissa

 

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Are you From Tennessee? Because You’re the Only Ten I See

If I lived in Nashville (which would make my soul so happy), I would use that pick up line on every tourist who walked through the doors at Tootsie’s…

I love Nashville. There are very few cities I’ve been to where I feel home, and this beautiful city is one of them. From the first moment I saw its luscious hills through my airplane window, I knew this city was going to stomp a bootprint right on my heart. Though, going out on Broadway during the Women’s Final Four isn’t exactly the same crowd I had remembered back in the fall.

nashville 3

But it was okay. My insane, two-bedroom, suite at the brand spanking new Omni Hotel made my forget my man troubles (or lack thereof…) while gazing out my floor-to-ceiling windows…

nashville

I’m dying just remembering taking this photo. I want to live in that suite forever and ever…

nashville 2

Y’all, I can’t even. I’m so obsessed it makes life in the Windy City difficult at times. The grass is truly greener in Nashville (I mean that literally, it snowed here like a week ago…). Though I may never move there, it will hold a place in my heart that can only be filled with frequent vacations back to visit.

Of course we went out Honky Tonkin’ the first night we were in town, and we also ate dinner at my favorite diner – Merchant’s. This little house with the vintage feel has two separate menus, servers that wear bowties, suspenders and skinny jeans, and deviled eggs that will make your grandma turn in her grave (no disrespect, of course).

On my first trip to Nashvegas I received a Hatch Show Print as a gift, so I was happy to find out that the shop was in our hotel lobby. And I went shopping… twice.

Printing posters like it's 1899.

Printing posters like it’s 1899.

I didn't leave empty-handed.

I didn’t leave empty-handed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have spent a whole day in there asking questions about the printing process, but I showed some self-restraint… and purchased one large print (for my mama) and about 5 small card prints.

And yeah, there were some basketball games too… And a concert featuring Cassadee Pope…. but mostly there was just a lot of pimento cheese, bourbon and live music.

I love the Music City and hope to visit again soon. The trip didn’t end here, we went straight to the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) for some hockey and cheese whiz. Lots of cheese whiz.

I’ll write about Philly soon, but for now I leave you with these…

Brittney Griner is 6'8" and wears a men's size 17 shoe.

Brittney Griner is 6’8″ and wears a men’s size 17 shoe.

Tennessee State's marching band... it's a guitar.

Tennessee State’s marching band… it’s a guitar.

Cassadee Pope concert.

Cassadee Pope concert.

 

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B1G Hoops, Hopes and Hockey

Wow, has it really been two months since I last wrote? WHOOPS.

I really haven’t been traveling as much, which is the reason behind the absence. That, and I have been preparing for our crazy run at the NCAA spring championships. You know what happens before that, though? Conference tournaments. I love that I get to work at the Big Ten tournament every year just because of my location, because it means I get to cheer for my Gophers!

B1G

The excitement of March Madness Mayhem is unavoidable, even for the fans of the little Big Ten schools that have very little hope of progressing far into the tournament. But this one weekend in March, all of the fans cling to that hope and cheer for their teams. Though this conference is not considered the best in the NCAA, Michigan State and Michigan played well and added to the little conference that could. Plus, Wisconsin (….still better dead than red…) are in the Final Four. This will be the only time I ever cheer for the Badgers. Ever. And let’s not forget that the Gophers are playing in the NIT Championship Game tomorrow night (#RaiseTheGarden #SkiUMah)! Sure, it’s not Dallas, but we’ll take it.

March is On

Michigan State won the B1G Tourney, and our time in Indianapolis was coming to close. Not before we had one night out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day properly. And man did we both pay for it the next morning. Brutal.

While this is all fun and good, let’s get to the real excitement of my month… the B1G Hockey Tournament (aka a trip to the Motherland…) and eventual Gopher Hockey run to the Frozen Four (another tournament I will be attending soon)! Like any good Minnesotan, I love hockey. Which also means, I hate that they split up the best conference in college hockey, thus ruining the greatest college hockey tournament – the WCHA Final Five. The B1G Hockey Tournament just didn’t compare. And when the Gophers fell apart against the Buckeyes, that helped no one. The crowd for the championship was near silent, and the stadium felt empty. BRING BACK THE WCHA!!!!

A trip home wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of my besties, and a night out at the Wild Onion in St. Paul. Following the tournament I was lucky enough to catch my friend play lacrosse against the team he used to play for (and I used to work for) and spend the afternoon with friends before my flight back to Chicago.

laxlax 2lax 3

 

 

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Pour Some Sugar on Me.

A year ago today was my last day spent as a resident in Minnesota. What an incredible year it’s been. I thought it was appropriate to write my annual post about New Orleans, the Sugar Bowl, and the shenanigans that ensued, bearing in mind the year that’s occurred between games and states.

My first Sugar Bowl in New Orleans marked the end of something, and at that time I didn’t know where I was headed. I would never have imagined that a year later I would be the second-in-command for the annual Fan Fest and concerts that take place in the French Quarter prior to the game. At that time, I just took it all in and hoped for the best, knowing there was a chance I would never been there again.

But I was there again. And I am so happy I had the experience the year before as a temporary/contracted employee. Not only did that mean I had the experience of being there before, but I had the appreciation of seeing it through two completely different sets of eyes.

I have a love/hate relationship with New Orleans, and every time I visit the love part of that sentiment grows. With an entirely new group of coworkers this year, and one who was sadly on his way out, we had a great team and everyone spent the week living up to the motto “Work hard. Play hard.”

Bourbon Street Balcony

Bourbon Street Balcony

Dancing on Frenchman St.

Dancing on Frenchman St.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still don’t know how I do it during these events, 12+ hour work days with a maximum of 2 hours a sleep each night. If I tried to do this here in Chicago, I would be a wreck. Something about being out in a different city, trying new bars, new restaurants and out with new people, you’re able to just keeping going… just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

But seriously. I feel like the damn Energizer Bunny. By the end of the week I no longer have a voice, I can’t feel anything below my knees, my eyes are like slits, and I’m just happy I still have my credit card (and my dignity, well mostly).

NYE Photo Booth.

NYE Photo Booth.

The most important thing is, we all produce incredible work during this time. Maybe it’s a job qualification none of us know they’re secret shopping for… Whatever it is, it’s quite a sight to see a group of 25-30 year olds putting on a festival after the legendary nights we have on Bourbon and Frenchman Streets. Have you ever seen a group of people chug hurricanes? And then show up for work at 7:00am? Because I have. And I applaud this awesome group of people I call my coworkers.

NYE with the best group of girls to work with

NYE with the best group of girls to work with

Producing an event like we do takes months (and months, and months) of preparation. It’s an incredible thing to take a step back and enjoy it from time to time. One of my favorite parts is watching the crowds of thousands of alumni, students, drunks, etc. come to Fan Fest for the Pep Rallies. It’s such a sight to see. And I love marching bands, mascots and the like…

Obviously, I can’t talk about this time of year without the mention of the bands we bring in to play on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year: O.A.R. and Imagine Dragons. I’ve been a fan of O.A.R. since I was about 16 years old, so I was ecstatic. And they put on a great show, like they always have done and always will do.

O.A.R.

O.A.R.

O.A.R. aftermath on stage

O.A.R. aftermath on stage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all had an idea that Imagine Dragons would be a popular band when we booked them, then the EXPLODED. They were everywhere. We were all watching it unfold and keeping our fingers crossed for a great show. And man, was it a great show. Not only are they a very entertaining and talented band, the crowds were INSANE! Kids were lining up at the front of the stage 6 hours before the first note. It was cold, damp and nasty outside (aka December in NOLA). Traffic stopped, crowds were EVERYWHERE. It was loud and it was a great way to kick off 2014.

Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons

And then there was the game… I wish I could say I paid attention to every moment, but it honestly just felt so good to sit down I didn’t have a full attention span to give. Quite the upset though… BOOMER SOONER!

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Allstate Sugar Bowl

In a few months the cycle will begin again. And I can only imagine with the next year will bring.

If you’d like to see the full-length Imagine Dragons concert from Fan Fest, you can go to http://www.allstatefanfest.com. I suggest watching it, and if you look to the left of the stage you will see me dancing below the jumbotron. Screaming may have occurred too…

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Great Read: Date a Girl who Travels

I’m friends with a ton of females that travel. And when I say travel, I mean 50-100% of the time, I don’t just mean a once or twice a year type of travel…. The kind of travel that makes you question paying rent, makes it impossible to have a normal social life (forget a normal dating life), but also makes you feel so completely blessed to be part of that small percentage of the population who gets to travel and call it a job.

One of these women shared this great blog about the benefits of dating girls like us.

View story at Medium.com

 

Enjoy.

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Hoosier Daddy?!?!

I’ve been spending too much time in the Hoosier state, mostly in Indianapolis. In case my two trips in two months wasn’t enough, I’ll be back in March for the Big Ten Basketball Tournament. Fortunately, I’ve been exploring this city with some great company.

The first of the trips to the luxurious and exciting city was to work at the Big Ten Football Championship. This event is always a good time, mostly because it’s one of few events that I get to attend that features my college conference. This year was a particularly fun trip, mostly due to having a PIC (Shan Shan – writer of Romping & Roving)by my side, but also because of the entire group we had with us.

big ten good works

Refurbishing a park in Indy

big ten ff

Big Ten Fan Fest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the weekend (aside from watching OSU lose!) was meeting up with some coworkers from Atlanta and enjoying the taping of ESPN’s College GameDay from backstage. Sure, we couldn’t feel our feet and our faces were numb from the negative temps, but it was still a new experience and a lot of fun for our team.

game day

On the set withe GameDay crew

After returning to the warmth and comfort of the indoor Big Ten Fan Fest, we rooted on Michigan State during the pep rallies and eventually to a victory at Lucas Oil Field.

big ten game

This trip was just a prelude to the fun we would eventually have in this city in January…

Once the dust settled from the holidays and the Sugar Bowl (posts to come…), we packed up our bags and hit the road for Indy once more.

My whip for the weekend.

My whip for the weekend. Photo courtesy of Shannon.

The particular trip was for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) annual convention. AKA 8,000 football coaches in one city. Sorry to our male coworker (pictured above) who had to listen to us all week…

But in all seriousness, 8,000 coaches were in one place at the same time. I was overwhelmed. Thankfully, 6,500 of them were over the age of 40 and married. And about another 1,000 of them were under the age of 40, southern and married. So that left us with about 500 who were actually our age and single. And by our count, we were the only 2 females in a 5 mile radius. The odds were ever in our favor…

Until we met this guy.

Creeper Alert!

Creeper Alert!

Yeah, he didn’t really leave our sides… Though we laughed so hard it was hard to finish our cocktails (Chris had him going that he was a GA from Alabama…), it limited our options on conversation with coaches our own age.

After a successful few days at the convention, we packed up and headed our separate ways… Chris back to North Carolina, Shannon back to Michigan and me back to Chicago. It was a fun final trip with these two and I’m sorry we had to say goodbye (for now).

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I Left my Heart in Lexington, KY

You may remember that last year I wrote a love letter to Utah. I’ve been a lot of places since then, and none have had quite the same effect on me, until now.

To the city of Lexington, Kentucky:

I miss you. It’s been almost a month since my last visit and I still think about you regularly. I’m always wondering when I’ll make it back to see your luscious green horse pastures, taste your sweet bourbon and whiskey, and eat at your simply delicious restaurants. You surprised me every time I was fortunate to visit, which has been quite a few times over the past few months.

From your beautiful culture and love for horses, to your diners and dives, I will always have a special place in my heart for you. Lex, (do you mind if I call you that? I feel like we’re close enough for pet-names…) what surprised me most about you was your bar and restaurant scene. Each and every establishment has a unique menu, vibe and clientele. I’m sorry that I ever underestimated you, I now know you deserved so much more than I gave you credit for. I’m glad that you’ve remained a hidden gem and that you have not been damaged by demand of becoming a bigger city. You’ve stayed true to your roots and because of that, the people in the city are as unique as you are. Sure, there are also a lot of homeless people, meth addicts and criminals… but what outweighs their presence is your overwhelming amount of well-dressed, educated, interesting and kind people.

Let’s just talk about the men for a minute, shall we? Beards, suspenders, vests, elbow patches and amazing shoes are just as commonplace as a pair of jeans. I fell in love every five minutes. Maybe it was because of the concerts I was working at, Avett Brothers and Zac Brown Band, but I’d like to think people are always well-dressed there, Lexy. When I visited Keeneland, I was blown away by not only by the grandeur and the bourbon, but also the amazingly stylish outfits people were wearing for a day at the races.

Lastly, the meals I devoured at Shakespeare, Saul Good, Tolly-Ho and other restaurants will be remembered forever. Shakespeare will easily take the title of as one of my favorite restaurants in the country. The atmosphere, the decor, the dessert… I could eat there every day and never be bored.

Lex-lex, I hope to see you again soon. Until I can be in your embrace again, I will think of you fondly and miss you very much.

Love always, Lissa. 

Keenlend.

Keenlend.

Avett Brothers

Avett Brothers

Tolly-Ho's Ho Mart

Tolly-Ho’s Ho Mart

Zac Brown Band.

Zac Brown Band.

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