Link Love

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December Mornings

As I read about this act of true generosity, I was so happy this happened anywhere given the current state of our world but was especially happy to see it happened in an airport near the small town I grew up in.

There is no better way to communicate that you think you are better and that your time is more valuable than others than by being late. This Forbes article tells it like it is and I hope it gets sent around every office and to every functioning human being on the planet. (Favorite line: “Being late is about power. It’s showing the other person, or people that you’re a “big deal” and have the upper-hand in the relationship. It’s also called being a dick.”)

My husband and I caught this commercial a few seconds in and were just captivated…and when we found out it was an ad for Barbie, we were floored. Well done, Barbie. Well done.

Can you believe that Home Alone is 25 years old? Chicago Magazine did such a cool piece on it with a ton of things I never knew like that New Trier High School housed a lot of the sets and that Chris Farley auditioned for the role of Santa Clause but was in such bad shape from the night before that he didn’t get the part.

There’s going to be full moon on Christmas!

I was actually listening to the soundtrack when I saw the news break on Twitter: Hamilton is coming to CHICAGO in SEPTEMBER!!!!

{image c/o last Sunday’s Instagram post}

Just A Chi Town Girl’s Last(ish) Minute Gift Guide

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2015 Holiday Gifts

For those on your list that didn’t specifically ask for a robe (again), Christmas shopping can end up snowballing (holiday pun intended) into an ordeal. Here are a few things that are on my gift go-to list that I think are great for everyone from your sister to her boyfriend that you have never met to the co-worker who you know is getting you something so you should probably have something wrapped and ready to go.

Cooking Like a Master Chef: Chef Graham Elliot has won Michelin Stars, cooking shows (any heard of a little thing called Master Chef?), James Beard nominations all while running 2 very successful Chicago restaurants and now he has another winner on his hands- his new and first ever cookbook. It’s equal parts inspiring and accessible which means this is something your pro-in-the-kitchen dad will eat up as well as your roommate who is hoping to make something other than ramen in the new year. Our holiday menu is filled with recipes from this cookbook!

KeySmart: I know, I know- getting someone a key chain for Christmas sounds lame but I have been using my KeySmart for 6 months and I love it. Fishing in my bag for a jingle of keys that resembled that of a janitor was annoying so when I saw a co-worker with this neat stack of keys that fit cleanly in his pocket, I ordered one immediately. With the extensions, up to 20 keys can fit in there and it will hands down be the most useful thing under the tree this year.

Duke Cannon Soap: It’s pithy, honest, American and doesn’t give a f*ck. Did I mention its soap? With product names “Big Ass Bar of Soap” that “smells like victory/productivity/accomplishment”, this men’s skin care company is for dude’s dudes. Aaand  I am going say women who like dude’s dudes too because I most certainly bought 2 bars, one for my dad and one for my husband, and while my dad did get his I definitely took ownership of the one in our house because it smelled so damn good. And who doesn’t want to start the day smelling like victory?

NARS Gipsy Lipstick:  My best friend always gifts me the best beauty products. I mentioned this to her on my birthday this year and she said that she loves giving people something they can love, use up and then not have it laying around the house. I think she is on to something. This sheer red lipstick is my daily go-to and the perfect new color to play with after you change out of your Christmas jammies.

Club W: The gift that keeps giving, Club W is a wine club that allows the recipient to select what wine arrives each month. With videos of sommeliers discussing the bottles available via their sleek app, there’s no surprise when a shipment arrives and it’s a really great way to try new varietals you’ve never heard of. Winter is coming (in theory)- the people on your Christmas list might as well be well prepared, right?

There Was A Singalong

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Gold Coast Mansion Christmas Party

On Friday night I attended my husband’s work holiday party at a  house mansion on a street that I have walked by for years and it surpassed every dream I ever had about how insanely gorgeous it must be inside and how it would be the perfect house to ornately decorate for Christmas. There was also a singalong led by the host at a baby grand piano that was adjacent to this roaring fire and being there singing these songs while drinking really fancy French wine was basically my Christmas dream come true. 

The rest of the weekend was a far cry from the festivity of Friday night (i.e. I didn’t get dressed or leave my house until 6pm on Saturday night and that was only because I needed Jeni’s Ice Creams but this weekend still goes down in the books as a really good one.

That said…there are 11 days until Christmas and I haven’t done nearly all of the Chicago Christmas things and the only Christmas movie I have checked off my list is “While You Were Sleeping” which doesn’t really count because I think my mom and I are the only people who like or consider it a holiday movie. Love Actually, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Christkindlmart, Zoo Lights, it’s time to get my holiday game in gear.

Santa Wishes Come True

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Friends stopped over in Friday night for an inpromotu cocktail hour and after sharing a bottle of prosecco around our Christmas tree, the holidays really felt kicked off. My parents were visiting and with our friend’s awesome 2 year old hugging and dancing to carols with a stuffed Santa Claus, the mood was really lovely and festive.

The next morning I went to make coffee and saw that my Spartan Santa had a little extra flair. Our buddy Conor’s trademark move is using the ever present pen in his pocket to leave notes which is a really fun part of having him at our house. I chuckled while I made the coffee and it turns out that the little ceramic boy’s wish came true: Michigan State won the Big 10 Championship! 

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.}