This was my third time visiting Chicago for work and fifth overall. I’ve visited all the biggies: Willis Tower, Hancock Tower, Art Institute, the Bean and Museum Campus. This time I stayed above the River, right off Magnificent Mile, so my real goal was to try out some new restaurants. And that definitely happened!
Saturday night, M had a birthday dinner at her home in McLean. It’s such a great house, and she and her S.O. have put a lot of work into it. So for part of her birthday, she has excited to host her first seated dinner party for 13, plus one five-year-old.
I was excited to help her set up, and it gave me a chance to use all those non-practical skills: setting up a cocktail bar, flower arranging, cheese platter feng shui…
It was a really great mix of people and great conversation. I will not be hosting any seated dinners with china and crystal anytime soon, but I do have family coming to the house in two weeks. Let’s get out the fresh flowers and deck furniture.
I lived in Northern Virginia until 2010. My dad lives there, and my best friend, so even through college and now when I’m a Georgia resident, I don’t consider myself a tourist. This past weekend, my aforementioned best friend celebrated her 30th birthday and I got to ride shotgun. Here are the some of the highlights:
After 7 years of traveling for work and an entire lifetime of flying in between parents, I’ve got packing a light carry-on down to an art. No, I don’t have a tablet, but that might change by the end of the year. I always bring a small paperback on board, and if it’s a 5+ hour flight, I’ll splurge on an oversized fashion magazine. Yes, physical books and magazines are heavier, but reading on a screen is not good for your brain. Also, I can’t read books with substance on a screen. The only ebook I’ve been able to read and actually absorb is Fifty Shades of Grey. But that doesn’t have much absorb to begin with….
Now that the controversial book vs. tablet question has been answered, here are my other essentials for flying the friendly skies:
Longchamp Le Pliage Tote. This is the absolute best bag I’ve ever had. It’s an all-purpose tote that folds up quite nicely. The large tote is my go-to carry-on and it fits my laptop in case I bring it with me. I pack a medium tote to use as my purse when I land.
iPhone and iPod Nano. I bring both, especially on longer flights. I’ll rent a movie on my phone or download some podcasts to pass the time. But if I just want to listen to music, I’ll use my Nano. There’s no point in wasting phone battery.
Rechargeable Power Cell. I got this red Duracell (above) for work last year and it’s been great. I will charge it the night before I leave and it gives me a good safety net in case flights get delayed, or the plane doesn’t have a USB outlet. I can get back to a full phone battery in less than 45 minutes.
Kate Spade Travel Wallet. This was a birthday present to myself a few years ago. The wallet is long enough to hold boarding passes, passports, etc. I also have a ton of hotel membership cards, Metro cards from different cities, stuff that doesn’t fit into an everyday wallet. I can also keep my phone in the outer pocket and use it as a clutch.
Kate Spade Henrietta case. This was also a birthday gift. It’s a little small for makeup, so I started using it as an all-purpose pouch for all the stuff that ends up at the bottom of your purse. I keep business cards, extra pens, my phone charger, mints, spare change, hand sanitizer, etc. I also keep 2-3 teabags inside. Many places offer coffee, but their tea selection is terrible. Bring your own and you’ll never have to be stuck with Tazo tea. It’s the worst, don’t deny it.
Kiehl’s Baby Lip Balm. This is my favorite lip balm of all time. It’s super smooth, not sticky, and it doesn’t evaporate super fast. I keep one in every bag, on my desk, in the bathroom and in every top shelf. I also use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial moisturizer. Both protect from super dry, recycled plane air.
Snacks and an empty water bottle. Swedish Fish and almond M&Ms are my current favorite. I’ve also brought a snack bag of oyster crackers or a small single-serve cereal box before. The empty water bottle is to fill up once I get past security. If a flight is over two hours, one cup of water from the flight attendants is not enough. Also, I try to grab Chick-Fil-A or a small yogurt for protein before morning flights.
The first weeks in April are a great time to be in DC. They’re also the most expensive and ridiculously crowded weeks to be in DC, aside from national holidays. It’s the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and tourists come from all over the world to take their photos with some pretty pink trees. I will be heading that way this weekend, and from all my years of living in the DC/MD/VA area, here are some tips for getting around:
Take the Metro. Driving and parking in DC is a nightmare if you’re not a native. The Metro the easiest way to get around the city, but be prepared to share the trains, escalators and sidewalks with thousands of your closest friends. A daily pass is good, but if you’ll be around for more than one day, get a SmartTrip card and fill it up. You’d be surprised how much small metro trips can add up during peak hours.
See the Cherry Blossoms on a weekday. Weekends will be packed, however strolling on a Wednesday afternoon is quite pleasant.
Don’t feel the need to paddle boat on the Tidal Basin. Yes, this is a fun thing to do. But remember the Tidal Basin is huge and paddle boats will make your legs burn like no other. You’ll be winded by the time you make it to the Jefferson Memorial. Also know that it tends to be windy in April and the probability of paddling against the wind in choppy water is pretty high. I don’t want to be a killjoy, but do it another time.
The Constitutional Mall is an awesome place to go, but remember that it is very long especially if you want to hit all the major sites: the Capitol, Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. Don’t forget that little White House a couple blocks over. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and snacks. One thing the Mall doesn’t have are places to buy food. Also bring a light jacket. Inevitably your 12-year-old sister will not dress weather-appropriate and buying her an Official Cherry Blossom fleece is extortion.
Make a reservation. DC is overflowing with a so many great restaurants. Don’t wait forever for a table. Make reservations well in advance. By well, I mean at least a week.
When the Festival is on, the major DC attractions will be crowded as well. All of the Smithsonian Museums will be packed, so go early if you want to check them out. Otherwise, King Street Alexandria and Georgetown are other spots to take a nice stroll.
On Saturday, we went with some friends to a special Proof Syrup tasting at The Pinewood in Decatur, GA. We’ve been huge fans of this restaurant since they opened 3 years ago. At it’s heart, it’s a whiskey bar that serves awesome southern food. They have House Old-Fashioneds on draft and some of the most passionate bartenders and mixologists around.
From their catering experience, they decided to make their own batches of cocktail syrups to save time. Now, Proof Syrups is available to buy in stores in a variety of flavors. For this ScoutMob cocktail tasting, we had three old-fashioneds with each flavor of syrup, which combines the simple syrup, bitters and citrus. Just add alcohol, and your cocktail is complete.
This post is not sponsored by The Pinewood or ScoutMob. I’m just a local fan…
I was completely mistaken thinking I could finished my book during my last trip. I don’t think I had a single 5-minute window of downtime to read. However, this month is looking very promising, and with the amazing weather coming, I can restart my favorite afternoon pastime of reading outside on the deck. I got an amazing tan reading Game of Thrones… For this Sunday, here were my favorite reads for the week:
From Scout to Hermione: Bookworms salute their favorite heroines from Mashable. My personal favorite heroine from literature is Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She’s so raw and gritty, yet completely capable, multi-dimensional and the hero of the entire trilogy. Yes, heroines are fictional characters, not real people. But, how we chose to view them is a reflection of the qualities we’d like to see in ourselves.
Touch by Claire North. My colleague from Australia recommended this to me. We both bonded over our love of Gillian Flynn, so this story about a girl who was brutally murdered and before she dies she is able to switch bodies with her killer. This one is at the top of my list for my flight to Europe.
10 Projects that Increase Home Value. This is definitely a grown-up read for the week, but more than half of these projects need to be done with our house in the coming 3-5 years. Not complete remodels, but the usual maintenance and face lifts. We love our house, and it helps to know that we are investing in it the right way.
“Sometimes I think staying busy is the opposite of staying hungry.
I found this in my journal this morning, right after I updated my personal and shared Google calendars. My schedule just got a little more packed, but it’s with events that really matter to me: leadership events, trips with Troy and my best friend’s birthday. This is just to get me through the beginning of June.
I’ve been counting my vacation days, planning trips and I always have my to-do list in hand. With all of this, I don’t actually feel busy at all.
Merritt’s 30th Birthday. This year, both of my absolute best friends are turning 30. For Mary, we went to Stand-up comedy and UFC. For Merritt, I’ll be flying to Virginia to celebrate with her and her family. It’s also during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, so that will be an outstanding backdrop.
Chicago. My next work trip is to Chicago, a place I usually love going to, weather-permitting. I’ve done most of the tourist attractions, but I’m hoping it’s sunny enough to head to the Chicago Zoo. If not, I have my eye on Waffles Cafe.
St. Margaret’s! I have a Board of Governors meeting at the end of the month, so that means another flight to Virginia. I have some extra time, so I’m hoping to get to meet with some students and have dinner with my grandmother.
Inman Park Festival. This is one of the best events in Atlanta. It’s also where Troy took me on our first weekend together. We started as a long distance couple six years ago, and I would fly to Atlanta once a month. This festival is in an awesome part of town, and has blocks of local artists and great food.
I got back from my business trip to Boston on Wednesday night. After freezing for four days, I was happy to get back to the non-jacket, non-glove weather of Atlanta. I’m usually good with a long coat and gloves, however no told me to pack long underwear or an ear warmer or boots. While Boston unfortunately has a way of not making me happy, here are some highlights of the trip:
I did get a chance to walk around Boston Back Bay before and after each work day. As a person who absolutely hates cold weather (when I’m not prepared), I tried to make the best of it by sneaking into local shops, restaurants and coffee houses. It is a fun town to explore, I just wish it was better timing.
Another highlight of the trip was that Troy and I finally booked our flights to Europe for the Spring. This includes a round trip flight, jumper flights via Easyjet, and a reservation on the Eurostar. We also purchased our Paris Passes and tickets to the Vatican museums. Needless to say, we won’t be doing much for a while after dropping that much cash.