Beer Under Glass at Garfield Park Conservatory

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Beer Under Glass

Have you ever been to the Garfield Park Conservatory? One of my clients is in the craft beer industry and I was invited to join them at the kickoff to Chicago Craft Beer Week called Beer Under Glass and was blown away by how gorgeous the conservatory was. It is basically the biggest, most beautiful greenhouse I have ever seen under a canopy of glass. And while it was a gorgeous evening, after the cold chill we had last week it felt really good to be somewhere that was warm and slightly humid.

Oh and there was beer. Really, really good beer. My little sampling glass (pictured above) was filled with several craft brews during the event and favorites included Moody Tongue’s Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter and the grilled pineapple and rhubarb infused Farmhouse Ale from Smylie Brothers– bonus points for the beer history lesson I got from Brad the head brewer which was seriously fascinating and awesome.

To recap: drinking local craft beer while surrounded by gorgeous greenery in a historic Chicago landmark. Beer Under Glass is about as solid an event as they come.

Garfield Conservatory

Smylie Bros BUG

Garfield Park Conservatory at night with moon

TGIF

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Lincoln Park North Pond City View

Happy Friday from North Pond in Lincoln Park! Signs of Spring are slowly but surely popping up and for that I am grateful.

I am also grateful for March Madness and that I always pick the Ivy League teams to do better than they should. My bracket is in great shape going into today and a victory for the Spartans will make for a stellar way to kickoff the weekend.

Enjoy the day, friends!

UberEATS Launches in Chicago

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UberEATS Chicago

As if Uber getting me all over town wasn’t enough, now they want to bring me food from pretty much wherever I want.

UberEATS launches today in Chicago and the new stand-alone app features 100+ of the best restaurants in Chicago and allows Chicagoans to order from their full menus 8ammidnight, 7 days per week. I tried it out last night and it was pretty great. From the moment I decided I did not, in fact, want to eat scrambled eggs to when my quinoa wrap from Lyfe Kitchen showed up was about 25 minutes and everything tasted just as great as eating there. My husband and I always hate ordering takeout because apps like Seamless only offer us places we don’t go to normally so we are left with food we only sort of want to eat sitting on our couch. I was really impressed that UberEATS offered healthy options like Lyfe Kitchen, Blue Door Farm Stand…and Homeslice. Because sometimes you don’t want to fight off DePaul students to get that glorious pizza.

The fine people at Uber were kind enough to send me a promo code for $10 off your UberEATS order- use the code JustaChiTownGirl and you’re set to jet.

{this post was not sponsored other than my promo code- I just really liked this service and think you will too.}

Winter Pep Rally

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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

 

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.

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.