Hi Neighbor

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Hi Neighbor

There is a darling older gentleman who sits on a porch swing a few blocks from my house. He often wears a military ball cap, one of those hats with the tall top that signifies details of how and where he served, and there’s always a big American flag flying, jutting out from the front porch post like proud declaration. I give him a wave and a “good morning/afternoon” as I pass; if I wave large enough, he will give me a nod but more often than not, he keeps on (presumably, I hope) enjoying his day on his swing.

Of course, it’s too cold for him to be out there right now but I noticed this sign as I passed by yesterday.

Hi Neighbor. Thanks for the salute and God Bless.

The nails on the sign are still shiny so I presume it’s new. I could see him opening the sign as a Christmas gift, perhaps from a son or daughter who noticed on their visits all the people making a point to wave to our neighborhood’s proud but silent veteran. I could see them going outside to drill into the cold brick and step back to admire their handiwork, a note to the community that even if it’s not acknowledged in the moment, the time taken to salute this gentleman is appreciated.

There may be no accuracy as to my daydream about how that sweet sign came to be but the point remains: keep waving. Keep saluting. You never know when a small gesture might have a big impact.

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)

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.

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

  

Weekend Notes

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Avec

Friends, food, food, friends. That was the cadence of my weekend and you will be hearing no complaints over here. Because bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates at Avec.

CH Distillery

And a nightcap at CH Distillery.

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And a chocolate cream pie that changed my opinion about chocolate cream pie at Bavette’s. Usually, it’s just my husband and I so after the glory that is Bavette’s seafood tower, steak, chicken, and corn (why is that corn so good, someone tell me), we can’t even look at dessert but that’s the benefit of having friends in town who are dessert people- insistence on dessert.

Related: dessert people are the best people.

Also related: can everyone we love and adore spending time with please move to Chicago? Thanks.

Not pictured: fried pickles for lunch at the Butcher’s Tap, drinks and apps at Gilt and the egg sandwich I needed from the Eastman Egg Company truck that was basically parked outside of my front door on Sunday. Like I said- friends, food, food, friends.

Which brings us to tonight:

veggie soup

Vegetable soup as far as the eye can see. #balance

Aside from the really wonderful meals, this weekend left me so full of everything I love about life- time spent with our people. Old stories, new stories, laughing, listening, future, past. That connection feeds me and can’t imagine a life without a table between us sharing all of that…and dessert.

32nd Annual Music Box Theatre Christmas Show

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Music Box Marquee

Walking by as the marquee was changed at the Music Box Theatre reminded me that I need to get tickets for the annual Christmas Show. Sure enough, they went on sale on Monday. December 11-24th, The Music Box has showings of It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas that include a singalong with Santa in their gorgeous, historic theatre and it’s even better than you might imagine. My mom, husband and I went for the first time last year and let’s just say we won’t be caught without bells this time around.

Snag your tickets now-this is a whole thing and they go quickly. You won’t regret it and it’s worth mentioning that there is a bar should this much Christmas cheer require a cocktail.

Weekend Notes

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Halloween Leaves

If you grew up in the Midwest, Halloween was the one day a year when you were convinced your parents were trying to ruin your life. Terrible weather was a guarantee and in trying to make sure you didn’t get, I don’t know, pneumonia, your costume got stuffed under a snowsuit/raincoat over your costume making it impossible for anyone to know that you were a gypsy/witch/Scarlett O’Hara (for example). As it was pouring down rain on my walk to workout on Saturday morning, I thought about this and how twenty-some years later, Halloween still means layers protecting you from the gross elements but I was decidedly less mad because it’s a fun memory and I was listening to a good Halloween playlist.

LB Halloween 2015

Our cat Luna Bell was a hero in a half shell for Halloween. No American Short Hairs were harmed in the making of this photo- LB was a purry little kitty while putting it on and after shimmying out of it, she promptly rolled inches from where Ryan was sitting for some more attention.

2015 Pumpkin

My mom always made holidays such a happy time for me when I was a kid and when carving this pumpkin on Saturday, I was instantly transported back to standing on one of her kitchen chairs because I was too short to scoop out the insides. However, not actually being a kid anymore meant I got to admire this year’s handiwork while sipping a Blood & Sand cocktail which seemed fitting for the holiday. As did my “Go Green, Go Halloween” themed pumpkin- Spartan pride knows no bye week.

Nov 1 2015

 

And just like that, it was November 1st and 70 degrees- a complete 360 from Saturday. Again, if you live in the Midwest you know what a miracle yesterday was and were outside the entire day like we were soaking it up. Being able to eat outside anytime after Labor Day is the biggest treat in Chicago which meant we were basically obligated to get bloodies and burgers at Crosby’s Kitchen to marvel at our Fall luck.

Happy Monday, friends. There are sunny days and warm temps ahead this week which means the “it’s not snowing yet” luck continues so lets keep the enjoying every second train going, shall we?

Super Blood Moon

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I know it has been 3 days but I am still not over the Super Blood Moon. I usually don’t care about this sort of thing but I saw it rise from behind cloud cover when I was killing time walking around the Diversey Marina while waiting for my husband to finish at the driving range and the next thing I knew I was sprinting toward Lake Michigan to get a closer look (I know that’s not how it works but my legs moved to a “get to the water” chant or something. Super weird.)

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I got there and it was a party. Tons of people were perched on the break wall. Some had wine and food, some had massive camera operations set up, some were like me and went “holy shit” and sat down to watch the Moon like a movie.

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Oh and what a show it was. I stayed until it was dark, not taking my eyes off this huge orb of light that made a glittering moonpath on the water the higher it rose. When I did take my eyes off of it, I noticed that the Moon was the only light; no one was on their phones*, everyone was as enamored as I was. It’s rare to have a shared experience in public like that nowadays. (*The above picture shows everyone on their phones but I swear, once it was dark, people had their eyes glued eastward.)

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After a quick Google search in the car, I found that the eclipse was going to happen at 9:13. Clouds had moved in so I assumed that what I saw at the lake was going to be it. It was almost creepy how the clouds parted exactly at 9:13. We had a wide open view from our rooftop! We had a glass of wine, waved to neighbors on the rooftops on either side of us, talked about the science of eclipses and enjoyed what I think will end up being the last of that Indian summer we were having.

And holy cow- Super Blood Moon lived up to its hype. Something that is truly rare, indeed.