Chicago Holiday Happenings

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It’s the first day of December, my halls are decked and the holiday season in Chicago is on. There’s no better place to get in to a festive spirit than Chicago and below are a few things I am looking forward to this month.

Music Box Theatre Christmas Sing-A-Long: December 11-24; enjoy It’s A Wonderful Life or White Christmas with a theatre full of people who came prepared with bells, costumes and a whole lot of Christmas Spirit. Also- Santa usually makes an appearance!

Brew LightsDecember 2; Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Craft Beer tastings- enough said.

The Southport Stroll: December 4; from 5-9pm, enjoy sales in all the shops along Southport while Santa and Mrs Claus make their rounds, carolers in Victorian costume sing up and down the street and a horse drawn carriage acts as an old fashioned “L”. Because before public transit, there were horses.

CTA Holiday Train: Brown Line – December 2-5, Blue Line – December 10-12, Red Line – December 15, 17, 19; train cars on the “L” wrapped in Christmas everything. It’s amazing, smells really good and Santa and his reindeer brave the elements on a flatbed in between cars.

The Joffrey Ballet NutcrackerDecember 4-27; the only thing more beautiful than the theatre itself is this production by the Joffrey Ballet. Stunning and a Christmas classic.

Christkindlmart: through December 24; this German open air market is back in Daley Plaza for its 19th year and also back is the boot shaped mugs for the mulled wine. Thank goodness.


My Email is Yelling At Me

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 I woke up this morning to 34 emails. My initial reaction was a bit of panic (omg what happened?!?) but it turns out that these weren’t work emails or notes from friends…it’s Cyber Monday so BUY! SALE! SHOP! NOW!

I felt it on (Black) Friday and now today: my email is yelling at me. 

Even after I deleted everything and did a lot of unsubscribing, I started my day with this nagging feeling that I should be doing something else. What was I forgetting?

Marketing, man- despite being annoyed at all of those emails, my subconscious was still going “You are missing out on once-a-season sales, you should be Christmas shopping! Now!” 

I even started compiling a gift guide to post on this blog of things we love to gift. Because everyone needs one more list with links and a reminder that you should be shopping NOW!

So instead I leave you with a picture of margaritas from a really fun dinner with friends this weekend and the Christmas tree lot that popped up right outside of Big Star. Because just like people over pie, on this Monday I am choosing to reset my subconscious to having visions of friends and tacos and naps and memories of connecting with the things that matter to me from a great Thanksgiving holiday dancing in my head instead of messages from retailers in my inbox. 

If we are being honest, I would rather send everyone tacos and margs for Christmas anyways. Does Big Star ship?

Happy Monday, Friends. I hope you had lovely weekends and Thanksgivings. xo


People Over Pie

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This is a friendly reminder that if you are currently or find yourself tomorrow in the midst of a pie (or any other) failure, don’t worry about it. The people across the table from you just want to see you, not a perfect Sweet Potato Marshmallow Meringue* pie. They want to hear your stories and look you in the eyes as opposed to via the FaceTime or texts or phone calls that suffice during much of the year. So back away from the pie/potatoes/rolls/turkey. If it’s not working, skip it, fix it or buy it. People over pie, okay?

*This was the literal meltdown of my sweet potato marshmallow meringue pie last Saturday. So today I bought a pie. Because the professional pie people do a great job and no one is going to love me more if I pull off a perfect pie.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Pure Michigan

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Grand Haven Pier November 2015

This morning I woke up in Michigan and threw on warm clothes and ran out the door to meet my parents for a walk. A stop for coffee at a place that my best friend and I used to go to every Friday morning before our summer jobs (Traverse City Cherry coffee for the win) and we were on the water, walking, talking, having those conversations that just don’t happen on the phone. I don’t know if it was the coffee, our brisk pace (strollers our family is not!) or the unexpectedly warm-ish day but layers came off and we took a longer way back to the car because it was so enjoyable, being outside and being together.

And then I stopped to see my 98 year old grandmother who was in the beauty parlor in her assisted living home having her nails done. #priorities

And then I had lunch with my mom at a diner that still has the best chicken rice soup around.

And then I drove home to Chicago, belting out every song from Hamilton 1.5 times because the trip takes longer than the musical does but you don’t have to twist my arm to rap battle Cabinet meetings multiple times.

It was a really good day. Family can happen anywhere and today it happened in my hometown and I really loved it.

Grand Haven Lighthouse

thanks & giving

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I have had this print in my kitchen all Fall but today it’s an especially good reminder as we go into this holiday week that gratitude and service is what it’s all about. 

My intention for the week is to be rooted in this print’s message. Work, Thanksgiving travel, pie making, whatever it may be, I am going to approach it with thanks & giving, gratitude and service. 

Have a great week, friends.

{Print by Lindsay Letters.}

Simple Mills: Healthful and Really, Honestly Delicious

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Simple Mills Pumpkin mix

I love baking. I love having the cookbook open, flour on my hands, measuring each ingredient and anxiously peering in the oven waiting for it to be done. But deciding on a recipe, making sure I have all of the ingredients, cleanup, etc. take time and sometimes I am busy and/or just don’t feel like it. The friends who I wanted to bring a baked good made with love instead get flowers purchased with love because if I can’t bring them something I know is good, no dice.

Truthfully, I have never been a big fan of box mixes because I don’t love consuming things that I can’t pronounce or have no clue what they are. That’s why I was willing to try Simple Mills. The ingredients are clearly listed- they’re simple and, most importantly, all inside the mix. No measuring, no running to the store because you forgot something. All mixes use almond flour, which is a nice switch from traditional flours and if you’re gluten free, jackpot. I knew the true test of Simple Mills was going to be the pumpkin muffins because if we are all being honest, “gluten-free pumpkin muffins” sounds like code for “dry tasteless block of orange.”

Simple Mills Pumpkin

Verdict: more like “pillow of pumpkin glory.” You guys. These muffins were good. Really, really good. Moist, lots of flavor and super easy to make. I added bittersweet chocolate to half of the batter because I didn’t want these little guys to be too virtuous. The muffins were great with the chocolate and the ones sans chocolate were delicious solo or with a little almond butter.

I love bringing hostess gifts with something the hosts can eat the following morning. Someone did it for us once and it was genius- after cooking and cleaning up the night before, I woke up hungry but not ready for leftovers and certainly not about to cook something else. These Simple Mills muffins are going to be tucked in our little gift for the Friendsgiving we are attending tomorrow and I am really excited to have an alternative to baking from scratch this holiday season. Healthful and genuinely delicious is a prized combination: two genuine thumbs up from my kitchen.

Simple Mills Pumpkin Muffins

{Disclosure: the team at Simple Mills sent me the muffin mix gratis and all opinions are my own.}


Link Love

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West Loop Street Art

{street art in the West Loop}

Bon Appetit Magazine got it absolutely right- listen to your elders when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving. The old lady who said her kitchen has vibes made me laugh!

I am super into podcasts- here are 7 local podcasts you should be listening to right now. I have already downloaded Curious City and can’t wait to find out what Chicago would be like had the Great Fire never happened…

Hosting dinner parties is one of my favorite things in the world. This compilation of tips and anecdotes is really fun and timely for the upcoming holiday season.

You guys. Hamilton. I am not kidding when I say I could barely sleep last night because I was so excited after having listened to both 1st and 2nd acts over the course of my evening. A musical that tells the story of the creation of our country as set to hip hop. It is amazing.


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three arts club

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.

Pablo Picasso

This quote was on the barricade of the new Three Arts Club/Restoration Hardware showroom during construction and even without having seen what the building looked like inside before, what powerful words. Sometimes you have to tear shit down to build it up again. Preach, Pablo.

Also- this furniture store/restaurant/place to sit on couches you don’t own with pastries and espresso and pretend like you live there is really really gorgeous. The space once housed women pursuing the arts in the early 1900s and while I could go on and on about what an architectural gem this place is, click here for legit info from the experts at Architectural Digest.

Paris: Always a City of Light

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September 2015 Paris

I took this photo on September 13th from the window of the apartment I was staying in with friends in the 7th arrondissement. Shortly after, we took a bottle of champagne to the Eiffel Tower and popped it open right as the lights display began. We were surrounded by people doing the same and when the lights kicked on, the reaction was cheering, clapping, people hugging, kissing, celebrating. It wasn’t a special night per se. The Eiffel Tower glitters with light every night from 9pm to 1am but there is an undercurrent of joy, of celebration, of togetherness that pulses through Paris and it feels natural to let that undercurrent carry you. So… Champagne. Hugging. Toasting. Together.

Obviously, 2 months after this photo was taken was a very different scene in Paris and it goes without saying that the terror attack that unfolded on Friday was horrific and evil and many, many thoughts and prayers have been with the victims and their families ever since.

I leave this here with the sentiment that there is no darkness that can stifle the light of a community, of a culture that carries it with them so strongly as the people of Paris do. Paris is and will always be the City of Light.

Little Miss Sunshine | Dancing to the Finish Line

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Remember that scene in Little Miss Sunshine when the pageant officials are trying to prevent Olive from finishing her (slightly questionable) dance routine? And when faced with the choice of potentially shaming their daughter in order to keep the outdated, conforming peace that was the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the entire family jumps onstage and joins her in dance to the timeless classic “Super Freak“?

It’s such a good scene. I caught it last night and couldn’t stop smiling. Because I think we have all had that- you’re in the middle of what could be considered a train-wreck but you’re being your authentic self so instead of making a fuss, your people dance you to the finish line.

And then you push the van to get it to start and run to jump in. Together. Because vans break down and Grandpas teach weird dances and you travel that road together.

So. Many. Analogies in this movie. So good.