Winter Pep Rally

Chicago Lakefront Skyline

The football team at my high school won 2 games over the course of my junior and senior years. I was a cheerleader so one can imagine that yelling words of encouragement that never seem to come to fruition got to be a bit of a challenge over time. But we kept cheering and every Friday, regardless of the team’s record, there was a pep rally in the gym. The team would come out, people would say more encouraging sentiments, there were high kicks and jumping around and come Friday night, everyone would gather in the football stadium to see if tonight was the night the team would be cheered to victory.

My high school football team = winter in Chicago.

I look at the 15 day forecast and think “It’s over 30 degrees, that’s great!” and then it is 30 degrees and I am…cold. And going to be cold for the foreseeable future. Last Saturday’s 60 degree temps was like the really, super nice kid on the football team who catches a pass and you reeaaallly want him to make it to the end zone… and then he gets pummeled. Nice day but our optimism for good weather was abruptly cut short by the loss of 2o degrees the following day.

I walked outside today, saw the sunshine and realized that winter needs a pep rally otherwise I am going to lose perspective that it’s the Midwest in February and this is how it’s supposed to be.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is open all year so I walked over to see what animals were out and about. The zebras were doing their thing, chasing each other around, the lions were sunbathing, and I had the nicest chat with the zookeeper for the gorillas who usually don’t go outside until it’s 45 degrees but because it was sunny and no wind, they got to get some fresh air today. They seemed happy about this development.

The construction on the lake at Fullerton is finally complete so I checked out the new walkways and the view of the skyline, which is always pretty awesome. I walked along the lake home, imaging the empty marinas filled with boats and that I might someday be in this exact spot sans big puffy winter coat.

It was a winter in Chicago pep rally. You can do it! You can warm up and not snow anymore and make it pleasant be outside! Goooooo Weather!

While this rally will likely result in another loss, i.e. no warm weather in sight, I will take in the sights and activities our awesome city has to offer while bundled up knowing that cheering for brighter days is better than just assuming they will never come.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lions


A Life Lived with Value

Gi Laughing

During the almost 99 years of my grandmother’s life, she witnessed the invention of the toaster and of television, the women’s right to vote, the beginning (and end) of Prohibition, 4 wars, 17 Presidents, the Space Race, the creation of the internet, email, phones that are computers and can talk to each other and fit in your pocket. 

It’s crazy to think about the wildly fast pace in which the world has changed from 1917 to 2016 and crazier still to realize that a single person could see all of this and live a life alongside it.

My grandmother was a gracious host, believed in fresh manicures, cocktail hour from 4-5pm sharp, that education was of utmost importance, and always, always told the truth.

This past October, I told her the truth about some things going on in my life. Without missing a beat, she replied “Life is too short to work for people who don’t value you, life is too short to have anyone in your life that doesn’t value you. You value you and you must act accordingly.” The clarity and force with which she said this took me aback. She and I have been incredibly close my entire life; she has always called for my best while loving me unconditionally and this is at the core of every piece of advice she has ever given me: you must value yourself. Period.

My strong, sweet, smart grandmother exited this world a week ago and she left us with a thousand stories and memories that my family will no doubt tell for years to come but I think the biggest lesson, the best story is that of a life lived with value. She did this and the message was clear: value yourself so you can value the people and causes and work that is your life’s calling.

Because you value you and you must act accordingly.

A Heart Shaped Weekend

valentines day 2016 dinner party

I spent Thursday through Sunday in Michigan with my family. My sweet grandmother is making her transition to heaven after a pretty incredible almost 99 years on this planet. She never likes to miss a party so she has hung on through several days of storytelling and gatherings. At one point, there were 9 past and present staff members of her assisted living center in her bedroom; apparently there is a Hazel text message chain compromised of these kind women alerting each other to her condition and to come say goodbye. Time laughing and sharing and toasting was not in short supply and it was pretty damn special.

One of Hazel’s core values is hosting and with a Valentine’s Day dinner party planned at my house in Chicago, my mom insisted that my grandmother would have insisted I go home so I hit the road early and headed West. Several hours spent passing spaghetti and meatballs and pie around our table and really great conversation as we all curled up in front of the fire, nibbling on heart-shaped Rice Krispie treats and M&M’s as snow continued to fall outside was just the ticket. Having people in my life that I love as much as I do is my greatest blessing and an entire weekend, as all over the place emotionally and geographically as it was, to spend just loving them up…well, that is Valentine’s Day.

And I think Luna Bell was happy to host a heart-shaped party too.

Luna Bell Valentine's Day 2016

Winter Respite

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

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.