A Guide to Christmas in Chicago

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Christmas Chicago 2

The holiday season is here and I don’t beat around the bush in claiming that Chicago is the best city in the world to enjoy the holidays. It is just a fact. But if there is anything negative about all of the holiday awesome in our fair city it is that there is so much- how do you possibly know what is happening and when and make plans to do it?!? That’s what I am here for. Below you will find links, dates and details for all sorts of fun Chicago Christmas goodness. Mark your calendars, friends!

Tree Lighting at Daley Plaza: November 25th at 5pm

Thanksgiving Day Parade: November 27 at 8am

Christkindlmart: November 21-December 24 Sunday-Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday-Saturday 11-9pm; this German open-air market is open in the Daley Plaza to satisfy your craving for mulled wine in little boots, ornament shopping and wiener-schnitzel.

Wreathing of the Lions: November 28th at 10am the beloved Lions at the Art Institute get their traditional evergreen wreaths and following the ceremony, families are invited inside the Ryan Center to create their own wreaths, totally free.

Zoo Lights: November 28-January 4 frpm 5-9pm (check the website for specific days as it’s a bit inconsistent and you would hate to be stuck outside the gates with your spiked roadie. Or not…)

BrewLights: December 3rd from 5:30-9pm- $40 will get you a dozen holiday beer samples that you can use to keep warm while checking out the Lights.

Southport Holiday Stroll: December 5th from 5-9pm; free cocktails, shopping, sales, more free cocktails, a sleigh that acts like a bus to transport you up and down Southport (for free!), Victorian carolers and Santa & Mrs. Clause. Such a quaint experience for such a big city.

Ice Skating at The Peninsula: The “Sky Rink” opened last Saturday and sits 4 stories above Christmas-ready Michigan Avenue. Combine that with spice wine and you’ve got my kind of outdoorsy activity. Open Monday through Friday 3-8pm, Saturday 12-9pm and Sunday 12-6pm.

Ice Skating at Millennium Park: Monday-Thursday 12-8pm, Friday 12-10pm and weekends from 10am-10pm

Caroling at Cloudgate: Fridays at 6pm starting on November 28th until December 19th, choirs will lead a community singalong in front of the Bean. Mark this down as the most festive thing you could possibly do. I sang my heart out last year.

30th Annual Music Box Theatre Christmas: December 13-24th, The Music Box Theatre does showings of It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas. Sometimes Santa shows up and there’s a group singalong. Gosh, I love a singalong.

Kris Kringle’s Kandy Kane Ball: Festive cocktails for a cause at Joe’s on Weed on December 13th from 9pm-12am. Proceeds benefit Chicago Children’s Charities and don’t forget to bring a toy to donate at the door!

Claymas Christmas: December 21 at 9:30pm- Holiday improv. These guys are hilarious.

CTA Santa Train: November 28- December 23- check the schedule for when this hub of Christmas cheer is on your tracks. It smells like cinnamon, Santa and the reindeer are on a flatbed and the inside is covered in decorative holiday awesome. So, basically, the only time during the year when you actually want to get on the El.

Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”: December 5-28; Joffrey is one of the best ballet companies in the world and to see them do The Nutcracker is so special.

 

Friendsgiving

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I love that “Friendsgivings” are a thing. All year I am grateful to have friends who I love like family and taking a day to prepare a meal together is becoming one of my favorite traditions.

Something else I love? Going all out with cooking. Everyone in this group loves to cook so something like a Friendsgiving means added effort which takes their food from a The Food Network level to, I don’t know, a Thomas Keller/French Laundry level. These people are not messing around and my taste buds are so happy for that.

Ryan was on mashed potato and bourbon punch duty while I took on dessert. In case any of you have desserts on deck for this week, I did some prep-work for you and highly recommend doing an Apple Slab Pie and Pumpkin Bread Pudding with caramel sauce. This apple pie feeds a full group and is a lot denser than round pie. I added almond extract to the glaze because I love the sweet nutty flavor with the apples. Oh and totally make the pie crust. I did it for the first time last year and again this year, it makes such a difference and is so easy.

It’s my theory that people don’t actually love pumpkin pie but are tied to the idea of pumpkin being fall tradition so skipping the pie and doing Pumpkin Bread Pudding was my move…and it was a hit. I am not crazy about raisins so I did cranberries and holy cow, I can’t believe how easy it is to make caramel.

Our Friendsgiving meal was incredible but I think my favorite part was after leftover containers had been made, the table cleared and everyone curled up in the living room. Bottles of wine passed around, jazz playing, storytelling, a few people dozing off, blankets being shared. Like that quote from Walt Whitman, “We were together. I forget the rest.” Togetherness is Thanksgiving and I am so grateful for that.

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I am also grateful, and slightly surprised, that these sweet potatoes arrived on the table without the use of a fire extinguisher.  Last year, there were flames coming from the oven when the marshmallows caught fire thus earning this dish the name of “torched sweet potatoes” on the menu this year. While it was funny to watch everyone scramble to extinguish said fire, no one exactly complained that things were a bit calmer around the oven this time.

sweet potatoes

 

Love Actually Is All Around

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Midway

One of my favorite movie scenes is in Love Actually when people are meeting their loved ones arriving at the airport. Something about the hugging and smiling and Hugh Grant saying that “if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that love, actually, is all around” that makes me tear up.

I have been to Midway Airport 15+ times this year to fly out for work travel; I don’t hate it but I wouldn’t exactly call it my happy place. But last night I went to pick up my best friend who was flying in from LA and I had so much fun. I was a few minutes early and was so happy to be standing at Arrivals, watching people come out. Big hugs and hellos, kisses and handshakes, going back in for that second hug…I didn’t know people actually parked cars and met people at the airport anymore and I love that they do. It was totally Love Actually last night at Midway…and then it was my turn to give my friend a huge hug and touch her belly which is growing my new best friend that will arrive in February. Pick up people from the airport is where it’s at, I tell you. A instantaneous happiness burst.

Love actually IS all around. In this season and all of them. That’s so cool to remember.

Link Love

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The Dana

 

I hosted an event for work last night at The Dana- what a cool and cozy space!

I wouldn’t want Santa to eat alone either- this little girl made me smile so much.

Ryan’s been refusing to go to Pure Barre with me for months now and while possibly the funniest thing I have read all week, I don’t think this article is going to get him there.

Loving this #WomenWhoWork campaign.

This video about the Power of Empathy makes so much sense…(and I love when the goat says “Uhh, you wanna sammich?”.)

Friend Thanksgivings are upon us and I am thinking that this apple pie and this pumpkin bread pudding will be joining the gathering.

I love food and think our fair city has the best there is but 24 Restaurants in 24 Hours is insane! So is riding a scooter in Chicago…

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On Being Seen

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I recently was out for a morning walk, bundled up, 7am, sipping coffee. As I was crossing the street, I noticed someone that I used to know passing by and when I went to say hello, because you know, adults, I saw him raise his eyebrows at me and look away. My first reaction after “What the fuck was that?” was “Oh my god, he saw me. In glasses, no makeup, I haven’t brushed my teeth, this is the worst winter hat I own, I was seen.”

Let me recap: Someone I have never liked gave me side eye at 7 in the morning and my reaction was shame. That I was wrong. That I was seen. And shouldn’t have been.

It took me that next few blocks of my walk to get out of my ego. Man oh man, ego.

I had a similar conversation about being seen with a friend not too long before that. We put ourselves “out there” on purpose; we blog, we post on social media, we claim we are strong personalities but when it comes to being seen in an uncurated way or unexpectedly, we get small. Post this imperfect photo of this ordinary moment? Have a strong opinion? Share our work loudly? OMG, someone might see me.

Wait.

Isn’t that the point?

Isn’t that what we were going for by, I don’t know, even having a Facebook/Instagram account, being a writer, creating a business? Being a person on the planet?

There is a disconnect between being seen as-is and the curated story we share with the intent of being seen.

I work from home when I don’t travel and most days, the cat does something cute/funny/sleeps and we send selfies to Ryan at work. I am not one of those people who abides by the whole “even when working from home, shower and put on real clothes” thing. Yoga pants, hair on top of my head, more than likely rocking my sweatshirt with the great state of Texas in bright shiny gold on it because it’s super soft, it was a gift from a friend very dear to me and I can say “Texas Forever” when I look at myself in the mirror. Anyways, these selfies. The cat and I send them. And when I am scrolling through all the photos in my phone, I am always surprised by how much I really like these photos. I look…like me. On my less-than-confident days, I see the forehead that needs Botox yesterday and hair that is a day past a good shampoo and good lord, do something with yourself. But on days where I feel like me, which are increasingly more often the older I get thank you JESUS, I see the lines by my eyes that remind me of my mom and her decades of laughing and I get excited about them deepening with that same kind of joy. I see my smile. I like smiling. I see a face I am proud of simply because it’s mine and I am proud of the person I am, grown to be, fought to be. I want that person to be seen and spoiler alert, it is seen because it’s me and I am with me every day.

Back to the multi-block walk of shame.

What freaked me out so much about being seen by this person, glasses, ugly hat and all? Actually…nothing. But because I wasn’t prepared to be seen, my armor of curation wasn’t on ready to inflate my ego if need be. Brene Brown says that shame needs 3 things to thrive: judgment, secrecy and silence and after my ego about the ugly hat got walked out, shame was DOA, dead on arrival.

And that selfie with the cat? I posted it on Instagram. I love that photo. I love the photo where I am glammed up at the Green Mill on my birthday too. The thing both images have? Me. Happy.

I’ve got to admit that I kind of got a high from posting it.  It felt like shouting to myself “See?! You are FINE! You are worthy and good and deserving of being seen ALL THE TIME! Not just when you are right or planned or have makeup on…you are here and that is GOOD!”.

Being in control of what is seen, when it is seen and how we might be seen does not need to be our armor. It does not protect us from others. It hides us from ourselves and from loving the selfie we are at noon on a Thursday just as much as we love the Saturday night date selfie.

And I think you should love your selfie. And be seen. All the time.

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5 Questions With…Jacki Carr

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Jacki Carr

I am not sure I know anyone as good at being themselves as Jacki Carr is. A million adjectives describe her, of course, but beyond kind, open, brilliant, strong, and warm, Jacki Carr is Jacki Carr. She IS the adjective.

Goal coach, yogi, and hiking fiend, Jacki lives in LA with her sweet fiance and adorable pups Moose and Bear. In collaboration with the lovely Mary Beth LaRue, Jacki took her love of connection and the possibility that exists within all of us to create the Rock Your Bliss movement. Rock Your Bliss is a goal setting + life living + yoga doing lifestyle movement geared toward pushing you to live a life you love. Jacki is walking the walk and benefiting all of us by also talking the talk. Jacki believes that “living a life you love” isn’t a cliche but is actually possible if you get real, get vulnerable and, as is Rock Your Bliss’ tagline, “make shift happen”…and she is shouting this truth from the rooftops! Speaking from personal experience, 5 minutes with Jacki makes you believe you can rock anything and I hope these 5 questions give you a glimpse into the bliss rocker herself. Oh and spoiler alert: Jacki and I share a serious affinity for elf culture.

So here it is: 5 Questions with…Jacki Carr.

1. What is your favorite think about where you live? I live in crazy Venice Beach, California where we hustle and flow, the beach meets the mountains and it is literally sunny and 70 every day.  My numero uno favorite thing is the absolute easy access to all things nature. I hit the beach to learn to surf in the morning, hike the Santa Monica Mountains in the early afternoon and decide on a last minute to roadtrip North to sleep in a tent under the stars in a National Forest.  All in one day!

2. Here’s 50 bucks- what are you going to do with it? Hey, thanks Nina. I am going to choose adventure.  I’ll take $30 to fill up my PRIUS gas tank and roadtrip North to camp under the stars with my man, our pups and rad friends. Quick stop to grab s’mores materials and goods to grill with the remaining $20 and we are on our way to talking over a campfire, day hiking and nature loving.

3. What is your favorite holiday and why? Hands down, no questions asked, all in on this answer, my favorite holiday is Christmas. There is magic in the air at this time: songs we all know the words to, old classic films you can only watch in December, that giving feeling, travel to see family and my favorite run, the Santa Monica/Venice Christmas 10K. I go back to Indiana every year to celebrate with my humongous family where there is so much love, always a little drama, card playing, gift unwrapping and boozey White Russians. Nina, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. (Ed. note: Yes, yes it is!!!)

4. What’s the best trip or vacation you have ever been on? Last year I traveled Italy with my sister to celebrate her college graduation. We had the most incredible experience bonding on the trains, planes and automobiles and exploring museums, landscapes, churches and bars. Our hashtag for the trip was #morevinograzie.  I shall translate for you:  More Wine Please. My favorite memory was biking through beautiful Tuscany, sipping Chianti while eating decadent pastas and turning the bikes to ride home to Florence in an all out rain storm for 2 hours. I have never laughed harder.

5. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I often ask this question to so many people, and how funny that I have not asked myself this question in a long time. I would write and perform a one-woman show on a stage about my obsession with self help. There would be a rap about mala beads, crystal stones stuffed in my sports bra for courage and prosperity, books lining the stage like the self help section at B&N, angel cards, feathers everywhere to represent angels, some God squad talk, yoga chat, essential oil smells and I would somehow create a chakra wheel to spin. Tickets, get your tickets!

If you are ready to rock your bliss, you should consider rocking it in Mexico. From March 7-14th, Jacki and Mary Beth are hosting a retreat in Sayulita. yoga, your feet in the sand, margaritas, more yoga, goal creating/setting/crushing? Yes, please! Click here for more details.

You can also get your daily dose of bliss inspiration by following @JackiCarr and @RockYourBliss on Instagram and Facebook. I know I do.

JC

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Weekend Forecast: Brunch with a Chance of a Bloody Mary

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Cheers! It’s Friday!

If brunch and a Bloody Mary sounds as good to you as it does to me right now, here are some great spots in Chicago to hit up this weekend: Crosby’s Kitchen (pictured above), Homeslice (pictured below, it comes with a slice of cold pizza!), Sunda (two words for you: Sumo. Mary.), Tweet (so.many.combos) and Rockit (the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar was clutch for our group the day after our wedding). If you’re snuggling in at home, you can’t go wrong McClure’s mix.

Happy weekending!

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Juice Joke

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The Cutler #6 at the Real Good Juice Co: “Spinach, carrot, celery, cucumber, apple and lemon fires a bullet pass of flavor to your mouth, and QBs your immune system like an American football hero with really nice hair.”

I am no Bear’s fan (nothing against the Bears in particular, I just don’t like the NFL) but the name and description of this juice made me laugh so hard. Of course, I also had to ask the juice guy if it would also make me really mad come Monday morning…

And with that, I made my first football joke about the Bears. After almost 6 years in Chicago, I feel like it was a long time coming.

Link Love

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(loving this new wall at YogaView)

The 10 coziest restaurants in Chicago - I love The Tortoise Club and Bavette’s for their cozy factor so this list is great. And perfectly timed for this arctic blast/polar vortex we are allegedly getting.

With Friendsgivings and the holidays upon us, it is most certainly time for big batch cocktails. The Hard Cider Sangria is likely happening very soon in our house.

Super interesting read: Why I Left My Job at Google. Living authentically trumps everything, I agree.

Also in the job realm, I could not agree more with Malcolm Gladwell’s article about what makes a great job. These factors have been at the top of my conversations and thoughts about career lately.

In a rookie mistake last year, I didn’t get my tickets for the Music Box Theatre’s showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” before they sold out. Don’t be me and miss out- they’re on sale now.

In funniest texts you can get from your Dad news,How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you” came across my iPhone screen this morning. After laughing for a full minute, I went to this link…and laughed some more. Luna Bell is definitely plotting to kill us.

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