Valentine’s Day: A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

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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.

In 10 Years

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le deux magot

I remember sitting at Les Deux Magot 10 years ago at a table outside tucked in a corner. It was cold, Spring just hitting Paris, and I was finishing “A Moveable Feast.” I read a lot of Hemingway and Fitzgerald while backpacking after my study abroad was over so going to one of their old haunts was one of the first things I did after getting off the train at Gare du Nord. I treated myself to a cup of coffee so I could sit at that tiny table as long as I wanted; I was 20 years old and even though I was coming off of what I see now as an incredibly ballsy time period in my life, I remember sitting in that cafe entirely caught up in “Would I make the right decisions in college, what should I do for my career, where should I live, do I really like my friends, would I fall in love again?” Basically, would everything be okay? Would I be able to do it, whatever “it” was?

I was back at that same cafe a few weeks ago. The sun was shining, the benefit of Summer spilling into Fall, and I was passing by after spending several hours in a cooking class. I treated myself to a glass of champagne so I could sit at that tiny table as long as I wanted. I watched the bubbles rise and burst and when I entertained some new questions floating through my mind, I thought…


Yes, everything will be okay.

Yes, you will be able to do it.

In the past 10 years, each of those questions were answered in one way or another. A decision is the right one simply based on the fact that you made it and everything absolutely works out even if it doesn’t because you are strong enough, smart enough, capable enough to move toward what is next. Turning 30 didn’t really mean anything to me, I had no list of 30 things I learned, but sitting in the sun on the sidewalk at Les Deux Magot remembering so viscerally who I was the last time I was there made me realize that the difference in the last 10 years is that I have learned that win, lose or draw, I’ve got this. It’s going to be okay, it is already okay, you’ve got this.

And you know what else? That independent, ballsy girl was still there on that patio. Coffee or champagne, some things never change.



So Full I Could Burst

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This post could alternatively be called “The Time I Cried Upon Being Seated at HUSK”.

I have been wanting to go to Charleston for a few years, specifically to go to HUSK and The Macintosh, and for one reason or another, haven’t made the trip. Well, this weekend I went away with some girlfriends and in the spirit of “bacherlorette’ness”, they planned everything…and a trip to BOTH restaurants were on the agenda.

Which is why I cried after the HUSK waiter handed me a menu that said “Congratulations!” on it this morning. I was so happy to be at that table with women I love and who were so lovely in their wanting to celebrate me and my upcoming wedding this weekend. The entire weekend was so sweet and thoughtful; a friend who couldn’t make it sent her celebrating in the form of my favorite bottle of champagne and there was a welcome basket with my favorite magazines, nail polish, candles and beach essentials waiting for me in my room upon arrival.

I have never felt so celebrated in my entire life.

Back to the food. Manhattans on tap, ricotta dumplings, sheepshead fish on a bed of the best vegetables ever cooked and banana pudding in a mason jar at The Macintosh. Biscuits with lemon ricotta cheese and lingonberry compote and shrimp and grits at HUSK. My best friend halfheartedly offered me a bite of her heirloom tomato omelette and later said she was happy I said no because it was the best omelette of her life.

Charleston is next level with their amazing food. Good lord. Next. Level.

I am heading back to Chicago with the fullest heart and belly I have ever had. I am so, so grateful for this absolutely delicious season.