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)

With love, Aunt Berta

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I called my best friend to thank her for an incredible Christmas gift (cooking & food goodies from Dean & Deluca!) and laugh about the hilarious card she had put it in. Having been friends for 15 years, we have quite a few inside jokes and countless stories between us and she is a really funny person so I figured the Dear Hannah card was her being irreverent.

Nope. The company put in the wrong card.

There really is a Hannah and Aunt Berta. And I bet Hannah is super confused as to why her card references being in Paris together. Unless Hannah was recently in Paris with Aunt Berta making risotto in which case no harm, no foul. 

I might not stop laughing for the rest of the night. I am so tickled. I got to call my best friend and share a belly laugh across several thousand miles. That’s good stuff.

What a blessing that the laughs only keep growing throughout the years. What a blessing friendship is.

With love, Aunt Berta

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.