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Hi My Name is Windy: My Chicago Whirlwind

By November 20, 2012 Travel
Goodbye Chicago


Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.

~ Frank Lloyd Wright

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I’ve heard a lot about Chicago; some great, some not so great. It’s the home of the Blues, the Cubs, Kanye West, high crime rates, R.Kelly and Obama! When I found out I would be visiting the City of Wind for a work conference, I had lots of interest in getting to know the it firsthand. Was it really as cold as people say? Would I run into Lupe Fiasco? What was all the fuss about that silver bean?

I got into Chicago late Wednesday evening, checked into The James Hotel, which is a very nice hotel in the Magnificent Mile neighborhood and near the Razorfish Chicago office. I grabbed late-night sushi and sake with coworkers and got ready for the next day’s activities.

~ Obligatory Mirror Pic ~ 

Before the sightseeing adventures could begin work had to be attended to. The reason for the visit was a Social Media Summit to discuss the latest and greatest in the practice.

Razorfish Chicago is a pretty outstanding office, my favorite one so far (sorry New York & Philly). Neon walls, bright lights, lots of glass conference rooms. And did I mention… beer on tap. I’m not the biggest beer drinker but you have to admit that’s pretty awesome.

~ Whoop, there it is!  ~ 

Over the next two days there was a ton of exchange, idea sharing and thought leadership. Did I mention I love my job? Well I do. After long days in meetings, it was time for a little Chicago style food sharing. Deep dish pizza, anyone? I now fully understand why Chicagoans are wild about their pie!

~ Delizioso! ~ 

After more meetings, Friday finally winded down and the weekend was set to start. We transferred hotels to the sex-ay W Hotel Lakeshore!  How sparkly is this sign? Very posh!

We headed out on the town and hit up Wicker Park area for scrumptious tacos at Big Star and evening cocktails at Violet Hour, which is a clandestine undercover spot that doesn’t allow cell phone use and has hilarious house rules like: “No O-Bombs. No Jager-Bombs. No bombs of any kind.” and “Please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner.”  I love it!

With three cold Chicago nights under our belts, Saturday was officially dubbed the CHICAGO CRAM!

With one full day to sightsee, we decided to see as much of Chicago as we possibly could. I think we accomplished that and more. There must be some sort of award for the most frenzied, yet controlled tourism ever! We’d certainly win.

Dressing for city walking and cold temps is no easy feat. I think I managed well with dark skinnies, black & white striped shirt, leopard blazer (unpictured), bright green scarf, my Shelli Segal coat and comfortable suede boots.

First stop was brunch at the absolutely delectable Yolk, a top rated brunch in the city. It was jumping good!

~ Jaimie loves Yolk! ~ 

Next stop, the TOP of the WORLD! Well the top of Chicago at least! We hit up the John Hancock building and got a view of Chicago from the 96th floor. Insider tip, hit up the ladies’ restroom in lieu of going to the observatory. Backdoor tricks FTW! (Thanks Deanna) 

It was so surreal to see all of the immaculate buildings from so high up. Chicago truly has beautiful architecture and many throwbacks to a classier, jazzier age.

We came down from our high and decided to take an old school horse & carriage ride to get a quicker view of the Chi. Chicago has lots of luxury shopping, traditional hotels, cathedrals and amazing signage. Every storefront has its own unique flair. There was even a cow on the front of a building!

~ Say Cheese ~ 

Next we shot across town to Millennium Park. I didn’t know what to expect of the giant Cloud Gate sculpture except that it seemed pretty cool. Cool is an understatement! Millennium Park is beautiful, has so many different sections, great sculptures and lots of energy. There were about 3 different wedding parties taking pictures!

You’d think we’d be exhausted at this point but we kept the party going and headed to do an Architecture Boat Tour on Lake Michigan. As we rushed through throngs of people (the annual Lighting Parade coincided with our trip – what fate!) we prayed we wouldn’t miss our boat.

And guess what…. WE DID!  Bye Bye Boat.

All was not lost. With the lighting parade came a fireworks display and a later boat ride that ended with seeing the fireworks. On. The. Water. SCORE!

For me, the boat tour was the highlight of the trip. Coasting on Lake Michigan, learning all about the buildings, the companies that inhabit them and the history of the city. Chicago is truly lovely at night.

We parked on the lake and watched the fireworks. It was the cherry on the Chicago sundae. Dinner at the famous Ditka’s (the food was superb) for Jaimie’s birthday dinner and eventually the night ended at the legendary Wiener Circle. I couldn’t get good video because I was laughing entirely too much at the crazy characters behind the counter! But this clip from Conan will show you what WC is all about.

I played a hilarious game and won a T-shirt. Wiener Circle is truly hilarious place and a must visit when you’re in Chicago.

Exhausted from a long day, I conked out ready to head home.

Sunday with only a few hours to spare, we trekked to the Navy Pier, the top tourist attraction in Chicago. The Navy Pier has a giant Ferris Wheel and lots of arcade games.

~ We’re Mad for Chicago ~ 

All in all, Chicago is a pretty spectacular city. It’s like a modern day Pleasantville: clean streets, beautiful buildings and lots to do. Seeing the glorious facade of Chicago makes me want to delve deeper into the parts unseen. 

~ It’s safe to say I’m smitten with the Windy City ~

x Until next time, Summertime Chi!

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Clock Strikes Midnight: 7 Ways To Bring in The New Year

By December 27, 2011 Life Advice, Personal Interests
vintage_new_years_eve_ball_drop

We’re barreling down on another year and right up there with your New Year’s resolutions is your New Year’s festivities! Celebrating your past year and welcoming a new one is of the utmost importance. While tradition would have us shaking our groove thangs, watching Dick Van Dyke and kissing someone when the ball drops, those aren’t the only options for a rockin’ NYE!

For me, New Year’s Eve sets the tone for the year to come and spending it with people I love laughing, enjoying great food is the perfect way to welcome another year of prosperity, blessings and good times!

Here are 7 more ways to bring in the New Year with style!

1. Dance into 2012

Who doesn’t love an all night dance-a-thon with your girls, glitzy party dresses and high heels included?! Get the girl gang together, pick an out of town locale, rent a hotel and have a one-night only sweat session! Most clubs/venues have NYE special events, top notch DJs and other people kicking off their heels and dancing their way into the new year!

2. Have an Exquisite Dinner

If you’re more the contemplative type or prefer reserved to rocking, than perhaps a quiet dinner at home or a la fancy restaurant is more your speed. Most restaurants have two and three course specials for New Year’s Eve diners. Grab your honey or best friend and treat yourself to a delectable meal, something you wouldn’t normally spend money on. Lobster, anyone?

3. Plan a Movie Marathon

When I was younger, my siblings and I would plan elaborate movie marathons complete with gobs of candy, popcorn, soda and junk food. Well I can’t say I’ve grown out of it and planning a cool movie theatre style marathon right from your sofa is a grand (and comfortable) way to celebrate. Grab the gobstoppers and anything with Seth Rogen.


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4. Indulge with a Spa Day

Essential oils, hot stones, strong hands rubbing the kinks out of your shoulders… bring in the new year in tranquility and zen-like peace. Having a spa day (solo or group) is a great way to ease your mind and come into another year fully relaxed.

5. Throw a House Party

On NYE there’s lots of traffic and commotion, so why not bring the party to you? Invite a great group of friends, make an End of the World playlist (be sure to include “Party like 1999— cheesy I know) provide great snacks and stocked bar and have a great time! Let Dick play in the background and don’t forget the party hats, noisemakers and bubbly!

6. Travel for an International Countdown

While it may be a bit late to hop a flight and travel for NYE, keep this mind for 2013. Celebrating NYE in another country is a great way to experience how other major cities celebrate! Syndey, Bangkok, London and Paris are know for their electric NYE festivities complete with full light shows and parades!

7. Volunteer your Goodwill

Start the NYE in good faith and charity by volunteering at your local shelter, teen organization or religious institution. Help with a youth New Year’s event or work in a soup kitchen. Helping those less fortunate is a great way to set the tone of another year of service and goodwill.

How are you bringing in the New Year? Where will you be ‘round midnight?

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Taking Off: Feeding Your Wanderlust

By December 1, 2011 Play, Travel
vintage-air-stewardess

The idea of traveling has been swirling in my mind, making my palms itch with wanderlust and basically harassing me to get out and do something about it.  I don’t know where my need to travel comes from. Maybe it’s my complacency with routine or a need to realize my minute status in this large world, but there are few feelings that rival taking a flight and landing in a place I’ve never been. And my recent trip to the Bahamas only intensified my desire.

I recently made the resolution to pay more attention to this calling and honor it by making it a priority in my life.  So often we ignore the things in our hearts and rationalize them away with excuses. “I’ll travel when my debt is paid off” or “I can’t afford to travel.” Where there are excuses there is inaction and no one ever got to California standing on a dirt road in Kansas.

I totally understand that sometimes life prevents us from being able to get up and go and it is a lot easier said than done. But with anything, if you want it bad enough you (and the Universe) will find a way to make it happen.

Here are a few tips on feeding your wanderlust and giving it the precedence it deserves.

First Layover: Accept your Wanderlust

First you must decide that exploration is for you. If you daydream about distant lands, exotic meals, authentic people and experiences then you’ve been bitten with the wanderlust bug. Take it seriously and don’t allow yourself or others to downplay it. The world is a large, diverse and enriching place and we must see it.

Second Layover: Get a Map and Imagine

One of my great girlfriends Beza is an avid traveler and true inspiration. One day on her table I spotted a book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die. In it she had tabs and pages marked off; where she had been and where she wanted to go. I purchased the book and have been scouting out the locations I am dying to see. I won’t see any or all of the destinations any time soon but it is a great motivator.

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Third Layover: Get a Crew or Go it Alone

If I could count the number of times I didn’t go on a trip because none of friends could (or wanted) to go I would have thousands of frequent flyer miles. Traveling with friends is an amazing bonding experience and I’m a huge proponent of girl getaways but when the crew can’t come you need to strap on your backpack and hit the road solo. I’m in the works of planning a solo vacation simply for the hell of it.

Final Destination: Plan for It and Hit the Road

Dreams of travel are nothing without fulfillment. Actually buying that plane ticket, booking that hotel or making those arrangements are what seals the deal and gets you one step closer to traipsing the globe. If planning a trip in its entirety seems overwhelming, book your hotel first. Then a week or two later book your plane ticket. Before you know it your travel date will be here and you’ll forget all the things that held you back.

And lastly for all of the wanderlust lasses, daring divas, adventure-hungry chicas who know that there’s more beyond our front door, I leave you with this quote:

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  ~ St. Augustine

Are you experiencing wanderlust? What travel plans do you have in the works?

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Oh the Places You’ll Go

By July 10, 2010 Travel
passport

I love to travel, walking through airports, the feeling of taking off and floating into the sky, landing somewhere I’ve never been and experiencing all the destination has to offer. My recent 4th of July trip to Miami has left me bitten by the wanderlust bug and I’m plotting the places on my “to go” list. While my international list is a mile long, there are a few stateside locations that I’d love to see as well.

Palm Springs, CA

As an East Coast resident, the appeal of California is high but I’ve never really seen the draw of LA (The Hills hasn’t helped). But Palm Springs, the middle of the desert and mountains seems less beachy and has a more casual, artistic and retro feel. Parker Palm Springs by Johnathan Adler is a must on my list.

London, England

I’ve been obsessed with London and English culture since I can remember. The Beatles, Queen Elizabeth 1, Alexander McQueen, Amy Winehouse. It’s my dream to live in London for a spell and while I was fairly close, it wasn’t so. I will make it there one day and when I do I will breath the exhibits, the unique attractions, the nightlife.

Greek Isles

The pristine Aegean Sea, the sorbet colors., the hills, the history. Greece with it’s rich traditions and numerous islands is like a paradise unto itself and if pictures look this amazing I can only imagine what it looks like in person. The food, the beaches and visually arresting imagery makes Greece a must-see.

Mecca

A religious rite, visiting Mecca and going on Hajj is a big priority on my life and spiritual list. To see the Kabbah, visit Mount Arafat and back to Mecca, to take the same path of Prophet Muhammad, it seems so out of my reach but an experience that I know I will cherish for my life. While a woman can not perform Hajj without a husband or  male companion, I still feel it will be a singular experience.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as I’d honestly go to East Bumblef*ck if it meant doing something new. But these are a few places that are on my bucket list.

What world destinations would you love to visit? What places are on your travel list?

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Stylish Thought’s Guide to All Girl Getaways

By June 23, 2010 Travel
girls_getaway

Crazy women setting out for adventure. I’m a firm believer that if you really want to get to know someone, go away with them. Whether for a special occasion or just to get the hell out of dodge, there’s something about being out of your typical element with amazing friends that really opens the lines of friendship and creates lasting bonds that you and your girls will cherish when your all married and saddled with kids. (Remember one creed: What happens on Girl’s trips stays on Girl’s trips)

That said, every girl’s getaway doesn’t need to be table-top danceathon complete with wild, drunken nights (though I’ve had my fair share). Girl’s Getaways can be as varied as the personalities in your group. The idea is to travel to a place that will not only breath new life into your friendships but allow everyone to be comfortable. Going away with friends is about crafting a dynamic that will make for a memorable experience (so if you’re planning a relaxing spa weekend leave the friend who can’t handle her liquor at home.)

When planning a trip with old and new friends alike  here are a few tips to ensure that all ladies involved have the time of their lives and it’s worth everyone’s time (and moola)

1. Set expectations

Make sure that everyone is aware of the circumstances of the trip and expectations are set around it. Some will want to party while others will want to lounge by the pool. Knowing this ahead of time will allow for everyone to do their preferred activities and still be apart of the group. (But don’t be so rigid that people don’t feel they can be themselves on the trip)

2. Set a Date and Budget

Plan in advance and be reasonable. Everyone’s isn’t balling on the same budget. And by having the timing and money discussion early you can target appropriate venues and activities so that everyone is comfortable and not breaking the bank to be included. Additionally, be flexible with dates. Shoot for vacations across Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate everyone’s work schedules.

3. Decide on the Planner

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians? Sounds familiar. In my experience it’s best to let one or two friends (preferably one with a knack for party planning- there’s one in every group) take the reigns as the designated planner. She will gather everyone’s input and get consensus on venues and payments. On the flip side: Don’t take this responsibility if you’d rather just show up with your bikini. Nothing worse than a friend who mismanages the trip; you’ll never live it down.

4. Scout out the Unknown

Who goes on vacation to stay in the resort all day? Old married couples, that’s who. Get out and explore. Research local and off the beaten path events and activities where your traveling. Do things that will have you talking (and laughing) for months to come. Check out the nudist beach, go deep sea diving, check out a shoe museum, meet some men (if for nothing more than flirting). Be safe, travel in groups and try new things (just don’t get busted for smuggling drugs, this isn’t Brokedown Palace)

5. Save the Drama for your Mama

Real Housewives of NY showed us all what a girls trip should not be (Scary Island anyone?). Leave your baggage at home and the cattiness at the door. A trip full of women doesn’t have to cater to the snippy stereotypes. Let your stress melt away, enjoy amazing food, great friends and a beautiful GETAWAY.

Here are some cool trip ideas for your next All Girls Getaway. Send me a postcard!

Quickie, anyone?

For out of town quickies, grab one or two girlfriends (the fewer the better). Festivals, wine tasting or vintage hunting are great incentives to travel for a weekend.
Northern Virginia Wineries
Chicago Weekend Getaways
Essence Music Festival

Beach, Bikini and Booze

Cyndi Lauper had it right all along. Girls do just want to have fun (well at least I do) and what is more fun that hot beaches, hot guys and hot dancing? (I’ll wait)
Ibiza Nightlife
Guide to Cancun

Serenity Please

Let’s face it sometimes you just want to retreat. Get away from all the stress and rejuvenate.
Yes to Yoga
Be a Surf Goddess

Summer’s here, so start planning your next girls getaway! And remember I’m your friend so don’t forget to include me on the invite.

What are some amazing all girl getaways you’ve had?

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