Winter Respite

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The Standard Spa Miami Pool

In an incredibly odd stroke of luck, work landed my husband and I in Florida at the same time so we met up in Miami to end the week. The above photo is everything we hoped for –sun, swimming, beautiful views of Biscayne Bay– but it was also a lesson in perspective. When we arrived at The Standard Spa on Friday, it was 55 and rainy and we were complainy jerks who actually said aloud that we just wanted to go home. Being from Chicago, land of cold that feels like it will last forever, I think the thought of being somewhere else and still being cold was hard to swallow. Lulled into sleeping late by the rain hitting the roof of our odd little motel’esque room (and possibly by the cocktails consumed at the Delano the night before), we emerged around 11am to find…sun. 80 degrees. Joy and glory and an entire day ahead to enjoy the shit out of South Beach!

Lesson: everything can always be different tomorrow and as long as you’re with someone you love, get the heck over it.

Highlights of our time included wonderful meals at The Matador Room and Pubbelly Sushi, the drag show we walked by on Collins Ave, the nap I took at The Standard in a hammock surrounded by mangrove trees, and the frozen rosé we sipped while laying in the sun.

The pool also had music underwater, which was pretty cool too.

I am back to wearing multiple layers of clothing every time I step outside but I am ready to ride out the rest of this Chicago winter with memories of warm sun and frozen cocktails to get me through.

Standard Spa Miami Pina Colada

Standard Spa Miami Outdoor Tub

Valentine’s Day: A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

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Felt Hearts Valentines Day

It seems that Valentine’s Day is either loved or loathed, nothing in between. I stood neutral on this heart shaped holiday until my (now) husband and I had our first official date(s) on Valentine’s Day weekend. He took me to a tapas restaurant and was super excited because there were heart shaped ice cubes in the urinal (eww), I was excited because champagne sangria (yum) and to complete the romance trifecta, the restaurant has since been demolished in order to make room for a Williams-Sonoma. But we did have a blast and we did end up getting married so my Valentine’s neutrality has shifted toward festive-light, a belief that despite the hype around what Valentine’s Day is “supposed” to be, it is entirely possible to spend heart-themed time with people you love that is enjoyable and not entirely forced. Because real talk: it’s February aka freezing and waiting for a cab while wearing tights to go to a dinner where you are forced to order from a prix fixe menu that claims to contain aphrodisiacs is not what you want to do. It’s just not.

A little effort goes a long way and showing someone you care about them isn’t accomplished by some grand gesture you will never do again. Some suggestions:

Valentines Day Ideas

  1. The Murder Mystery Company hits the sweet spot of being dinner and an activity. I went with girlfriends a few weeks ago and from the second we walked in, we were a part of a theatre production aimed at solving “Whodunnit” after the host of the event is mysteriously murdered. Guests are given roles of suspects and what I loved about it is that you could be as involved as you wanted to be- people ran around asking for clues and others were spectators, both being equally as fun. Drinking wine and laughing with friends is always good too…and we totally won “Detective of the Night” for solving the crime. Thumbs up.
  2. Two words: Dive Bar. Having fun and not taking things so seriously is always romantic and there’s nothing more fun than eating tater tots while hurling pointy objects at a dart board (even if you are as terrible at it as I am.)
  3. Gummies are the new chocolate and the same rules apply as they did in the 4th grade- heart shaped anything for the win.
  4. Coco Chanel said “I only drink champagne on two occasions: when I am in love and when I am not.” So there you have it, the answer is champagne.
  5. Going for a run and helping others always makes me feel good and Cupid’s Undie Run achieves both. At 2pm this Saturday, run in your undies (really) through Wrigleyville to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Cocktails before and after optional but probably necessary.

Weekend Duos

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langham chicago fireplace

(Langham Chicago lobby)

Since snow and January seem to be an unavoidable duo, I vote that this weekend also includes fireplaces and good books, naps and warm blankets, wine and…more wine.

Happy Friday and wherever you are, stay safe out there!

 

Hi Neighbor

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Hi Neighbor

There is a darling older gentleman who sits on a porch swing a few blocks from my house. He often wears a military ball cap, one of those hats with the tall top that signifies details of how and where he served, and there’s always a big American flag flying, jutting out from the front porch post like proud declaration. I give him a wave and a “good morning/afternoon” as I pass; if I wave large enough, he will give me a nod but more often than not, he keeps on (presumably, I hope) enjoying his day on his swing.

Of course, it’s too cold for him to be out there right now but I noticed this sign as I passed by yesterday.

Hi Neighbor. Thanks for the salute and God Bless.

The nails on the sign are still shiny so I presume it’s new. I could see him opening the sign as a Christmas gift, perhaps from a son or daughter who noticed on their visits all the people making a point to wave to our neighborhood’s proud but silent veteran. I could see them going outside to drill into the cold brick and step back to admire their handiwork, a note to the community that even if it’s not acknowledged in the moment, the time taken to salute this gentleman is appreciated.

There may be no accuracy as to my daydream about how that sweet sign came to be but the point remains: keep waving. Keep saluting. You never know when a small gesture might have a big impact.

Reading: When Breath Becomes Air

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When Breath

Between the sub-freezing temps and a gnarly head cold that swooped in on Friday, I spent a fair amount of time curled up on various pieces of furniture in my condo reading this weekend. I finished When Breath Becomes Air by the late Paul Kalanithi and long after I set it down, his incredibly profound, beautiful words were still washing over me. It’s been awhile since I have had a book do that, where I really wanted to absorb and consider every page.

To make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning—to consider a world that is self evidently not the world we live in. That’s not to say that if you believe in meaning, you must also believe in God. It is to say, though, that if you believe that science provides no basis for God, then you are obligated to conclude that science provides no basis for meaning and, therefore, life itself does not have any.

A neurosurgeon at Stanford, Dr. Kalanthini spent the two years after his terminal cancer diagnosis examining what makes life meaningful. His approach from both a science standpoint (he was a doctor after all) and as a lover of literature and words and his family was fascinating. The book examines death but more than that, it examines what one does with the time spent living and that perhaps the elusive search for the meaning of life isn’t that elusive at all.

The NYTimes gave it an incredible review and with the author having been the brother-in-law of one of my favorite bloggers (Cup of Jo), I decided to pick it up and I am so glad I did.

 

On Shallots and Only What Matters

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Did I ever tell you about the time I cried while cutting a shallot?

I took a cooking class in the Latin Quarter of Paris last September (Le Foodist, highly recommend it) and in group classes like that, everyone has a multiple jobs. I stirred the custard for the homemade French vanilla bean ice cream every 4 minutes, balled turnips, diced herbs and, among other things, I cut the shallots.

Chef Fred demonstrated the proper technique and I got to work. I took a breath and could smell the sweet soft scent of this onion-like bulb with every pass of my knife. Methodical, sensory, cut, slide, smell, feel. I felt myself tear up and be on the verge of a legit cry. I was in a kitchen in a foreign land, cutting a shallot, preparing a meal with strangers, learning new things and I realized it was the first time in too long that I let myself feel something just for the sake of feeling it. I was inspired and deep in my gut happy, ready to cry in public.

That day in that Parisian kitchen was on to something.

I don’t think I need to actually cry in public (all that frequently at least) but there’s something to zeroing in on all of the things that matter, the goals at hand and releasing everything else that I want to remember about that day.

To carrying with me only what matters.

I love this photo because a gorilla could have been strangling me and I would still have been stirring and smiling and drinking wine- absolutely nothing was going to phase me that day. My intention is that 2016 being more of that kind of joyful, present, grounded, inspired living.

To only what matters.

 

New Year Link Love

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Wrigley building

{image taken New Years Day evening}

12 days into the New Year and the only assessment I have is that it’s a whole lot colder in 2016 than in 2015- where did this sub-20 degree and snow business that eluded us all of December come from?! I’m freezing. I rarely go into January 1st with a list of resolutions but I do usually feel a sense of nostalgia over the year past combined with a clean-slate sort of feeling regarding the calendar changing.

This year? Not so much. And I’m okay with that. Despite all of the “New Year, New You” noise, to me the new year simply means more time to do my best and love my people and create things that matter.

Some things on my radar lately:

New restaurants opening in Chicago this Winter. I super love La Sirena Clandestina so El Che Bar has my attention…and it’s not like anything from Grant Achatz will suck so I’m excited for Roister too.

When I am spinning my wheels trying to [fill in the blank], I need to remember I just need to do the thing I have been created to do and be something that I already am. This post from Shauna Niequist over at Proverbs31.org felt like a big, reassuring hug.

I have been obsessively learning about the things I am interested in lately so this article listing 9 things to learn in Chicago in 2016 was timely.  Just reading about the adult drop-in classes at the Joffrey Ballet gave me butterflies…will report back if I get the nerve to take a class.

Speaking of things I love learning about, The Music Box Theatre is showing “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” right now. I spent an oddly long time discussing art with a colleague of my husband’s at their holiday party and he raved about the film so I am excited to check it out and learn more about the woman who seriously owned one of those insane palazzos in Venice and stuffed it full of even more insane art.

Double speaking of things I love learning about…wine. I finally watched Somm on Netflix and I was a nervous wreck waiting for them to find out of they passed their Master Sommelier examination. I can’t wait for Somm: Into The Bottle to come out on February 3rd.

Puppies. More specifically, should we get a puppy?

Happy (very belated) 2016, friends… and stay warm out there! xo

 

Pass It Along

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On Christmas Eve, we went to see “The Christmas Schooner” at the Mercury Theater. A tale about a schooner bringing Christmas trees from northern Michigan to Chicago, it was a really fantastic way to spend the afternoon. The cast was wildly talented, the music was wonderful and the theater itself was just darling. 

The last song in the show spoke to when you have blessings in your life, it’s not enough to appreciate them, you must pass them along. Be a blessing, pay it forward. A fir branch was passed between the people singing as a symbol of the blessing. At the conclusion of the number, they gave it to a young girl sitting in the front row of the audience…and she passed it to the person next to her. Who passed it to the person next to her and no one stopped the branch as it went through the entire ground floor of the audience. 

They were passing the blessing.

I was a ball of crying hiccups at this point (“they’re passing the blessing, the world is an okay place!”) and it was such a surprisingly lovely moment. I adore musical theater and its ability to make you feel so, I guess, thanks for the cry, Christmas Schooner. 

My husband and I have been talking a lot about our 2016 and that moment on Christmas Eve keeps coming back to me. Pass it along, pass your blessings along. The dust is still settling on my goals for next year but passing blessings along sounds like a good place to start.

Merry Christmas, friends. I hope your holidays contained at least one good hug, one good cookie and a blessing you can pass along. xo 

Holidays & Health with Studio Three

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S3 logoAhh, the week of Christmas. The time of year when I cast my healthy lifestyle to the wind in lieu of the visions of cocktails and cookies dancing in my head. In years past, I have occasionally gotten a quick walk in here and there (you know, after Christmas morning coffee cake, before mimosas and in between sitting on the couch with relatives for hours) but real talk, I tell myself that I will do it “next year”, lump it in with some resolutions that will happen…not today. But after having spent some time working out at the new Studio Three in River North, I had a crazy idea: what if I went into 2016 feeling great? What if I enjoyed my holidays and all they entail but still maintained some semblance of my usual health and fitness routine? Is that even possible? After a few super sweaty, amazing Peloton cycling classes at Studio Three, I got up the nerve to ask badass instructors Antonia DeSantis and Liz Cuttica if it could be done. Spoiler alert: it can.

Studio Three‘s goal is to build a community where people can try different workouts and achieve a balanced fitness program that includes cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. Yoga, interval and a high-tech cycling class called Peloton are all offered in their brand new and state-of-the-art facility. In addition to the efficiency of accessing all three classes in one place, each instructor is such an expert in their field that after every class I felt like I really and truly got what I came for and more.

So holidays and health- let’s do this!

What is your advice for managing a busy holiday schedule and working out? How can people make decisions in December that set them up for going into the New Year feeling great?

Antonia: Plan ahead. Period. Set aside some time, even if it’s not as much as you would normally do for your workouts and food prep. Don’t use the holidays to get completely derailed because you are out of your normal routine. Find a new one based on the activities you have going on each week during the holidays and stick to it. No excuses. Also, outside of actual festivities, make a point to eat healthy. Every little bit adds up…both when you don’t stick to a plan and when you do.

Liz:  Plan ahead. You can have fun during the holidays without totally derailing a healthy lifestyle. If you have a holiday party at night, plan ahead by eating well throughout the day. If you know you are going to be hung over the day after the party, be sure to get a good workout in the day of the party. By thinking ahead just a little bit you’ll set yourself up to have fun while still feeling good about yourself.

There are a lot of “spin” studios out there- what makes Studio Three and Peloton special? What’s great about having multiple workouts in one facility?

Antonia: Peloton bikes are hands down the best bikes on the market. The technology alone sets them apart, but the bikes are also very comfortable and offer a smooth ride. Now add in classes driven by music but supported by metrics along with the incredible lights and sound of the studio….it takes boutique cycling to a completely new level.

Liz: I love that I get to interact with a broader community of people and hopefully inspire them to try new disciplines. It’s such a great feeling to see people expanding their workouts having fun trying something new.

What do you think is the most important thing about health and wellness that most people don’t know?

Antonia: It truly is the fountain of youth, better than any potion or lotion you can buy in bottle! A healthy lifestyle will keep you young on the outside and more importantly on the inside. The youngest looking people I know have made health and wellness a priority in their lives. When I worked in finance I saw how quickly young people aged because they didn’t take care of themselves. Lots of heavy client dinner and drinking, along with late nights and stress will eventually takes its toll no matter what age you are.

Liz: The rest day should be everyone’s secret weapon. It is just as important, if not more important, than the workout itself because not resting the body will set it up for failure. Don’t cheat yourself, but listen to your body and when it is telling you to rest, do it.

Liz Studio Three

Liz Cuttica- Peloton Instructor at Studio Three

antonia studio three

Antonia DeSantis- Peloton Instructor at Studio Three

(images c/o Studio Three)