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

ninainthechiUncategorized%s Comments

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

ninainthechiUncategorized%s Comments

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

ninainthechiChicago, Uncategorized%s Comments


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.


A Call From Santa. Seriously.

ninainthechiUncategorized%s Comment


Santa calling

I subscribe to the belief that we are all adults here and, as such, we can do what we want. Feel strongly about Thanksgiving having its own month? You and Nordstrom can hold out on holiday cheer until November 27th. I, on the other hand, will not because of the aforementioned I do what I want.

Before October and the week straight I listened to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at work, there was August and the “A Call From Santa!” app. The Christmas Countdown app was the first thing I downloaded when I got an iTouch in 2010 and it’s been a trusty sidekick ever since (45 days until Christmas in case you were wondering) so one night laying in bed playing around on the app store, I was shocked to find there was a entire world of Christmas apps that I didn’t know about.

Enter “A Call From Santa!“.

You guys.

Either call Santa or have Santa call you. Whenever you want.

I just got his voicemail and from there I could select from several options, including learning what he is doing right now (eating dinner with Mrs Claus, FYI). Requesting a call is also an option which is pretty cool because you can put in the child’s (err, person’s) name, age, etc whom the call is going to. I plan on doing this to my husband or our 2 year old friend Finn soon. Depends who plays their cards right.

So I played around with this app over the summer and out of the blue, I got a text message FROM THE BIG GUY:

apple watch and santa

I don’t know if you can see what is in the background but I was at Binny’s Beverage Depot. I was equal parts super excited about the text and embarrassed that Santa caught me buying booze.


I bring this to your attention so 1) there is no confusion about how I feel about Christmas and its alleged “season” and 2) if you have a little person (or big, no judgment clearly) that would get a kick out of a call from Santa that you can drum up at a moment’s notice, you know about this little app of Christmas joy.

I am totally calling back to put my husband on the naughty list.

{I think this is when legally as a blogger I am supposed to clarify that all opinions are my own and “A Call from Santa!” didn’t pay me to write this but let’s get real: this was the best $1.99 I have ever spent.)



32nd Annual Music Box Theatre Christmas Show

ninainthechiChicago%s Comments

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.

A Belated Merry Christmas

ninainthechiUncategorized%s Comments

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

As mid-December hit, it was very apparent that the pace I was choosing was not sustainable. So I pumped the brakes and chose a new theme: slow. My reaction to things, whether it was an email or something major…slow. Deciding on holiday plans, menus, running errands…slow. I knew that being present with those I love wasn’t going to be possible if I was frantic, emotionally or otherwise, and so I chose slow.

It was the right move.

It was a wonderful Christmas spent with family, both those we are related to and the dear friend variety, and being in Chicago for all of it was such a gift. Because of slow, I felt like I soaked up every conversation, every meal, every glass of wine and just looking back on all the memories reminds me that whatever decisions or self-care necessary to be present in every moment is exactly what needs to be done.

So 10 days late…Merry Christmas. I hope your days were merry and bright and filled whatever it was you needed during this season.

The time we went to Eataly & never stopped talking about it

adminUncategorized%s Comments


I really hate when new restaurants open and everyone is all “oh em gee, this place is the most amazing of all amazing restaurants to ever open on the planet”. Okay, okay, I get it, said new restaurant is great, calm down. Eataly opened a few weeks ago and subsequently, people have lost their minds over it. I’ve heard it’s packed around the clock, strangers have given me “insider tips” on how to navigate it and so on.

Ryan and I were doing some last minute shopping yesterday when I got super hungry, super fast. I was still in the clothes I went to Flywheel in and needed a quick bite, let’s just shoot into Eataly and grab a slice of pizza and head back out, we decided.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Choosing 2 slices of the most incredible focaccia pizza led to getting directions to the nearest wine barrel (turn right at the coffee bar, we were told), which led to us standing up at a tall bar, raving about the ricotta and dough and toasting to what has already been the best holiday season we’ve had. We watched people having as much fun as we were, strangers talking to each other, incredulous over this grocery store/restaurant/food stand/wine shop/cheese emporium/meat heaven/crudo station. Ryan drinks wine but isn’t usually as enthusiastic as I am; he insisted we get another glass, he was having so much fun, he didn’t want to leave. While waiting at one of the many bars, we met a stranger in from Denver en route to Christmas in Houston, bought his beer and said cheers to safe travels. We met an old man from Brooklyn that couldn’t believe that you could just walk around with wine-we clinked glasses with him on the escalator. We perused wine from the region I studied abroad in Italy, passed cheese wheels bigger than I am and got very, very, very excited about our honeymoon in Italy.

Basically, everyone losing their shit over Eataly is 100% spot on. This place is amazing.

We went for drinks with friends before and after dinner and literally couldn’t stop talking about it. We woke up this morning talking about it. We made tomato sauce and pasta from scratch today because we wanted more of that simple, whole food. Our buddy we were with last night texted today to say he and his fiancée got in a fight over chess- we told him to take her to Eataly to make amends.

We are those people. And I don’t even care. I am going to be thinking of our fun afternoon for weeks to come. And dreaming of that ricotta zucchini pizza…





Caroling at Cloud Gate

adminUncategorized%s Comment


Caroling at Cloud Gate, aka the Bean, is the most festive thing I have ever done in my life. The high school choir girl in me totally geeked out. I made friends with the people standing next to me and by the time Ryan arrived, we were trying our best at a four part harmony of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Seriously, next Friday night at 6pm-go. It’s beautiful and festive and there’s so much Chicago love that you won’t be able to stand it.