Category Archives: Chicago

What to make of this time in our lives

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Friends through it all

Difficult. Lonely. Scary. Frustrating. Whatever your choice of adjectives for it all, taken together, this pandemic, the increasing instances of natural disaster,  the pervasive injustice of racism and sexism, and our severely divisive political situation are making it hard for many die-hard optimists of any age to keep their stance.

How are you coping with life these days?

Before all this, many of us Chicagoans were carefree frequent consumers – partly a function of living in the heart of this big, vibrant city. The hope is we will go at least partly back to those times, but that’s not going to be fast or easy. So much uncertainty and instability.

Still, like grass and weeds that relentlessly creep up among building ruins and through cracks in abandoned playgrounds, roads and parking lots, the human race will rise again. But let us also fervently hope that we will find some meaning in all that we have been and are still going through. Perhaps we’ll learn to listen more carefully  to our fellow humans. Perhaps we’ll find new reasons to be gentle with ourselves and with others, however egregious the transgressions.

“Be kinder than necessary
because everyone you meet
is fighting some kind of battle.”

― J. M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)

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Enjoy fall Saturday nights at Lincoln Park Zoo

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Join the animals for a fun night out at Lincoln Park Zoo

If you’re looking for something fun to do – outside and safe – on Saturday evening, and you’d like to support one of the city’s most beloved institutions, check out Lincoln Park’s new Zoo Nights series featuring extended evening hours, fall decor, food & beverage by Levy Restaurants, and a family-friendly outdoor experience.  Standard safety guidelines apply to accommodate COVID-19 including required face coverings, limited capacity, and more.

Zoo Nights are Saturdays through October 31st from 6pm – 9pm. All guests require advance tickets for $5 each available at https://www.lpzoo.org/event/zoo-nights/. Members will get an extra 20% off food and non-alcoholic beverages. If the weather sucks or you can’t make it for any reason, you can give your ticket to someone else. Or just write it off as a donation to our wonderful zoo.

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Essential workers keep the world going ’round – even in pandemic

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Essential workers without PPE – Photo by Remy Gieling on Unsplash

This strange time in history has me reading and listening to the news more than I ever have. Saw something this morning that got me wondering; Latino workers in essential jobs tend to suffer more infectious outbreaks of COVID-19. So where are these “essential jobs” and what do we know about them?

The Economic Policy Institute conducts extensive studies and recently compiled their 2019 data into tables of demographics about the 55+million workers deemed essential in our country. Those people going to work every day during the COVID pandemic…taking care of our needs despite the danger to themselves and their families. The industries that employ 60+% of essential workers are:

  • Health care – 30.2% of all essential workers
  • Agriculture and food – 20.6%
  • Industrial, commercial, residential facilities and services – 12.3%

All the rest of the industries deemed essential are in single-digit percentages of that 55+ million workers. If you’ve got the time to review, these tables reveal some fascinating facts.

News sources report that many  of these essential workers don’t have adequate access to effective PPE (personal protective equipment like masks and gloves) and are not able to keep proper distancing while working in close quarters. Unsurprisingly, then, they get infected in greater numbers with the coronavirus.

Imagine a world without enough people to work these jobs…with limited access to the services these workers provide.

Say thank you to these folks when you see them they do their thing: Treat your sciatica. Repair your vehicle. Cook your meal. Drop off your package. Fill your tooth. Deliver your food. PIck up your garbage. Take your temperature. Do your laundry. Drive you home.

And if you have any ability to affect such things, stand up for their right to be protected during this pandemic. Thank you, people.

P.S. Oh, and check out the wages table. The average gap between male and female pay in many industries looks to be ~$2 to $4/hour. Yep, really.

 

 

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Virtual everything? Dress up your meetings with free backgrounds

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We already had dozens of brick-and-mortar closings around the city  with the advent and increasingly widespread use of the Internet. I was particularly sad to see the iconic Michigan Avenue location of Crate & Barrel close down recently and give way to a 4-story Starbucks – also now closed down in our #coronaviruslockdown. I told a few cab drivers – before this craziness – I guess the only thing we can’t get online these days is a hot cup of coffee…

But thank God so many of us did adapt to the use of new technologies, from blogs to smartphones to Google search. Seems it may be how we all learned so quickly about the seriousness of this threat to public health and began to avoid going out and exposing ourselves and others. Yes, radio and television are still at work, but it’s just as  likely we heard about the danger online, in emails, and maybe on our smart home devices if we set them up to play news for us.

Even more importantly, many of us already knew how to use FaceTime (if we have iPhones) and Duo if we have Android. We already knew how to “see” each other via technology. And now  many of use are becoming seasoned users of conference/meeting software like GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts and Zoom.

Treat your fellow meeting folks to a gorgeous background

In the spirit of sharing and adding some joy to our newly boxed-in lives, here’s a way to make your Zoom presence even more appreciated by your fellow participants. Here are results from a Google search for FREE Zoom backgrounds you can use to dress up your meetings.

And if you love Chicago, 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck (875 N. Michigan Avenue) now offers beautiful backdrops to give your friends/coworkers something to admire other than your home office.

From twinkling city lights at sunset to stunning lakefront and skyline scenes only found in Chicago, it’s easy and free to swap out “inside” views for aspirational views of gorgeous panoramic views found only at 360 CHICAGO and TILT from its 94th floor perch.

360Chicago background for Zoom

It’s easy and free. Simply visit https://360chicago.com/zoom-backgrounds/ to download free images…visit often to download the rotating options. Follow on social @360chicago and #360Chicago on all social networks.

And here, too, are some lovely decorator backgrounds from the good folks at Williams-Sonoma. https://blog.williams-sonoma.com/work-from-home-in-high-style-with-zoom-backgrounds/

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Thank you to those who continue to serve in these perilous times

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Coronavirus looks like it’s going to be around for quite a while. Thank you to the scientists who are working assiduously to find a vaccine and/or a viable treatment. Thank you to the brave people who continue to work in critical industries – health, food, utilities and so on – despite the threat. May they remain healthy and their work bear fruit soon.

We are all of us being called upon now to meet challenges unheard-of in the lifetimes of any of us alive today. We can try to support the industries most threatened – restaurants, theaters, etc. – to the best of our abilities (e.g., here’s a link to donate to help the 130 now-out-of-work staffers at Carnivale Restaurant).  We can live in our newly curtailed worlds – thank God for the Internet – and we need not let fear take us over.

Indo Pacific barrier reef

Nothing is or ever will be the same. To help you find solace and peacefulness as you re-imagine your life, here’s a link to your own personal fish tank – the Georgia Aquarium’s live cam feed of the Indo-Pacific barrier reef.

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Vacation in style with Historic Hotels of America

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Vacation is a time to bask in comfort and luxury if you’re able and willing to do that. Across the entire country you can find dozens and dozens of Historic Hotels of America, all of which are beautifully preserved and refreshed. They will make you feel like royalty and will gently remind you about the history of the area you’re staying in. Here’s a map of U.S. historic hotels so you can pinpoint if there’s one near where you want to go.

The gorgeous historic atrium at the Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee

Take the magnificent Pfister Hotel by Marcus Hotels in Milwaukee, WI. There are, according to their website, at least 125 reasons to love the Pfister Hotel. A bonus of this vacation destination is that not only is it loaded with beauty and history, it’s also within driving distance. Why not treat yourself as you make the acquaintance – or get reacquainted with – our fair sister city so close by.

The Peabody Hotel Lobby – minus the ducks

In the fast-growing-in-popularity metropolis of Memphis, TN you’ll find The Peabody Hotel – of twice-daily-duck-walks-through-the-lobby fame. In addition to the famous duck parades past the registration desk, you have your choice of satisfying dining options within the hotel. Among them, the most opulent dining room in Memphis enthralls with Old South splendor and the classic French cuisine of Executive Chef Andreas Kisler. In addition to being the only Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond rated restaurant in the Mid-South, Chez Philippe has been named among Food & Wine magazine’s “Top 50 Hotel Restaurants,” described as “worth a special trip” by The New York Times and included on Open Table’s list of Top 100 “Most Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.” Add to that a boatload of non-stop music and history in the many historic and modern venues, museums and landmarks in the fair city of Memphis, and you’ve got yourself a truly worthy vacay spot.

Palmer House Hilton pool

Closer to home, the Palmer House Hilton will charm you with some of the most exquisite gold-leaf and velvet-curtained surroundings you’ll run into anywhere in Chicago. Did you know that Potter Palmer built this hotel for the love of his life, Berthe Palmer, and that it burned to the ground in the Chicago fire exactly 13 days after its inaugural event? Palmer – who was so discouraged he wanted to leave Chicago altogether but chose to stay because his beloved Berthe encouraged him to do so – went out and negotiated a huge loan from a business associate and rebuilt the new Palmer House – right across the street from the practically still smoldering remains of the original. And that’s just the beginning of the Palmer House story. I have extremely fond personal memories of staying at this fabulous hotel when my college-bound daughter wondered why she’d want to live in Chicago. We lived in Cleveland at the time and visited often to see family but hadn’t really gone “out on the town.” Needless to say, once we settled in at this grand hotel and perambulated our way up and down Michigan Avenue, she fell madly in love with the city and made her college choice accordingly.

You can, of course, also consider treating yourself to a stay at the hotel that anchors the entrance to the famous Magnificent Mile – standing regally on the corner of Michigan Ave. and Oak St. The Drake Hotel is known for many things, including the gorgeous Palm Court and its High Tea service, the legendary Bookbinder snapper (red) soup, and the former Cape Cod Room, known for its wooden bar carved with famous people’s initials – like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. This space closed a few years ago, but has now reopened as a breakfast option for hotel guests and the general public. Called the Cafe on Oak, it features a couple of specialty Benedicts named after MM – biscuit, steak & egg – and JD – muffin, pancetta, tomato & egg, Happily, the bar and many of the original furnishings remain so that history-seeking guests can still get a feel for the original space and this longest-continuously-running hotel in the U.S.

Wherever you go in our fair country, be sure to check if there’s a historic hotel where you might indulge yourself and your loved ones. It’ll be worth every penny.

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Luxuriate in Historic Hotels of America – here and there

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Historic Hotels of America came to Chicago recently to bring attention to a few of Chicago’s own homegrown historic gems as well as several others. Seated in the majestic King Arthur Court room at the Intercontinental Hotel, 505 N. Michigan Ave., industry observers met representatives from several of these giants and heard them talk about the features and amenities of their gracious historic hotels.

The Intercontinental itself is a gorgeous historical hotel that was once an exclusive men’s club. The furnishings are rich and comfortable, the decor impeccably stylish, all of it kept in excellent condition with regular upkeep and periodic refurbishing and modernization over the years.  A treasure to indulge your guests in for catered meetings and conferences, or yourself and family for holidays and vacations.

Palmer House, a Hilton HotelOne of Chicago’s great historic gem hotels is the beautiful and iconic Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe St. With a lobby to die for in terms of stateliness and decor, this is one of the prime Chicago spots to come to experience a historic hotel at its finest.

Palmer House History is Hott tour
Palmer House History is Hott tour

One of the many interesting ways to experience this location is the “History is Hott!!” luncheon and tour, held Tuesday through Saturday depending on ballroom availability. The hotel’s resident historian, Ken Price, a tall, dynamic speaker, continually surprises and delights guests with nuggets from his seemingly inexhaustible wealth of information about Chicago, the hotel and the history of both. Reserve a place on the tour by calling 312.917.3404.

The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, is part of Chicago’s history and part of its current cultural milieu. The public is regularly invited to participate in multiple different events each year. Everything from a Youth Breadmaking Workshop featuring star baking chefs from around the world, to a summer camp this year for kids 7-17 with cancer in which some of the hotel’s rooms were transformed into bunk cabins and meeting spaces became the site of campfires, cookouts and talent shows, while kids were taken on adventures like rock climbing, Lake Michigan cruises, swimming at the beach, and more.

In 1893 the Palmer House pastry chef invented, at the behest of Mrs. Palmer, the first brownie for the Columbian Exposition World’s fair in Chicago. Their version of this iconic dessert, which is now legendary and ubiquitous, is still melting sweetly on peoples taste buds today. Made with real chocolate, fudgy yet light-as-air compared to some, it’s rich, apricot-glazed and deeply chocolate – definitely a close-your-eyes food. And when you buy one, you even get the recipe. Start with “14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, a pound of butter…” Then, enjoy working it off at the hotel’s modern fitness center.

Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection Hotels, 200 E. Third St. in Davenport, Iowa, owned by Marriott, is another treasure listed with Historic Hotels of America. First opened in 1914, this beautiful hotel has a fascinating history, detailed in a beautiful hard-bound book full of memories and historical photos. Since 2010, after a $46 million renovation, it has become the landmark destination in the Quad Cities. Their favorite adjective is “Hipstoric.” Their mantra is “Stay. Host. Play.” And they have some gorgeous spaces in which you can do all those things. Intimate private dining rooms, comfortable boardrooms and elegant, gilded ballrooms, in combination with their sleek contemporary decor throughout the public spaces and in all the rooms and suites – complete with luxury bedding, make great spaces for conferences, meetings, special occasions or just laying back. And at affordable rates.

Amenities include a fitness center, complimentary WiFi and a heated indoor pool and hot tub. And as for playing, enjoy The Spa at Hotel Blackhawk or unwind with cocktails while you bowl a few frames at their own indoor Blackhawk Bowl. Consider the world-class cuisine at Bix Bistro or take a quick break for coffee or latte at Beignet Done That Cafe. TripAdvisor awarded Hotel Blackhawk their Certificate of Excellence and AAA awards Four Diamonds. Stay here, host here, and play right in the hotel – or use it as your home base while you drink in the pleasures of the entire Quad Cities region.

The Wigwam Welcome Arch

The Wigwam, a 440-acre resort oasis in Phoenix’s West Valley, is celebrating the centennial anniversary of its Organization House, the first building on the site. Once housing Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s executives, today it’s the foundation of The Wigwam’s authenticity and historic charm. Travelers are invited to enjoy a special “Centennial Thank You Package,” along with a line-up of epicurean events, wellness journeys, and special promotions. Valid for stays through December 23, 2018, package prices start at $209 and include a two-night stay in an Adobe Traditional Room plus a $100 resort credit towards enriching activities, dining, and wellness experiences at the historic resort. A huge 26,000-square-foot LeMonds – Aveda Salon and Spa, An amazing 54 holes of championship golf (two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trend Jones, Sr.). Delectable cuisine at five dining outlets. Plus entertainment and active lifestyle amenities for guests of all ages.

The Wigwam aerial view

Meander through the resort’s meticulously manicured landscape of palm trees, rose gardens, citrus trees, and lush greenery – highly unexpected in a desert setting. Guestrooms and suites, most housed in adobe style casitas, feature updated comfortable, contemporary interiors accented by authentic Southwestern décor. Set up meetings in updated spaces. Enjoy shopping onsite. Relax and play in the three expansive swimming pools, bocce ball and tennis courts, along with the spa and the golf club. For more information on The Wigwam, the “Centennial Thank You Package,” or the 100th Anniversary of the Organization House, call (623) 935-3811 or visit www.wigwamarizona.com.

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