3 Chicks in Chicago

Girl’s Weekend!  My sister Becky along with our best friend since grade school, Patti aka Trish, and I took on Chicago this weekend for a glorious girl’s only experience which featured food, fun, music and, of course, wine.  Oh. Yeah.  WP_20160604_19_17_07_Rich (2)

We have been best friends for 45 years believe it or not.  I know, how can that be???  We all look so young!  From swimming at our neighbor’s pool every day in the summers to sneaking smokes in the field between our houses, we have been through life’s challenges and celebrations-divorce, death, weddings, births, businesses, etc. with lots of tears and laughter along the way.  I truly don’t know what I would do without these great women in my life.

After meeting up in our amazing suite at the Warwick Hotel on the Magnificent Mile complete with complimentary champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, we headed out for a walk by the waterfront, enjoying the blue sky and warm temps and then through historic Astor Park where the multi-million $ brownstones are to-die-for gorgeous.  Next on the agenda was a late dinner at Volare.  Even with reservations, the place was packed and it took awhile to get our table and food.  A HUGE appletini for Patti and wine for me eased the hunger pains but then the food arrived and LOTS of it–mushroom risotto, caprese salad, minestrone, pasta–all to share and sample.  YUM.

Becky and I are the “walkers” with matching FitBits so we got up early leaving Patti to her beloved sleep and took off for a walk by the river from bridge to bridge.  Satisfied that we were well on our way to 10,000 steps, we pried Patti out of bed with the temptation of a Saturday brunch at a neighborhood café where we sat outside until the rain began but not before a courteous street dude walked right up to us, declared, “Charlie’s Angels” and walked away.  You betcha!

It proceeded to mist on us as we ventured out of the downtown core to the Hyde Park Art Fair.  I have no artistic skill whatsoever so am in complete awe of the interesting creations that the artists were showing.  I saw an interesting cross necklace made out of antique silverware (only $35!) and pounced on it to purchase.  Patti and Becky also wanted one so they are going to order online at:  Silverware Artistry.  Later we hit the Magnificent Mile and shopped till we dropped at Nordstrom’s (and the Rack), Anthro, Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic.  All my favorite stores and the stars were aligned for us all to find stuff we loved to take home.  New Kate Spade shoes.  Check.  New Anthro white jacket.  Done.  Ring at 50% off.  On my finger.

Nothing says “Girls Weekend” like a concert by awesome artists so, lucky us, got to go see Sean McConnell and Kris Allen at City Winery on Saturday night.  I’ve seen Sean play in Seattle, opening for Griffin House at Columbia City Theater and, believe me, he is destined for greatness.  His new album comes out July 2nd and he is touring as the headliner in the fall, coming to Columbia City in Seattle on August 19th and Neurolox in Boise on 9/3.  Go see him before he blows up and is playing at huge arenas.  Seriously, if you like rich lyrics and soulful tones, you will enjoy Sean’s music.  Plus, I modeled my new hairstyle after his-seriously.  I told him that story after his performance when Becky and I talked with him so she could buy his CD.  He laughed.

Next up was Kris Allen and his band who got the crowd engaged, singing and clapping.  Thom and I saw him just last week in Seattle at The Triple Door and he was equally entertaining.  Singing by himself or with the group, Kris is a true talent that I have enjoyed since he was on American Idol.  He is a hard worker with a brilliant voice.  I hope he gains a wider audience and enjoys great success.  WP_20160604_22_04_53_Pro (2)

After a lovely evening with wine, great food and wonderful music, we once again got a quick Uber (I’ve even made Becky an Uber lover!) and off to the hotel for some rest.  The next morning Becky and I again wandered the neighborhood, walking to the lakeshore to get in our 10,000 steps.  Then, it was off to the train to South Bend to see Mom.  These 3 chicks had quite the time in Chicago and we vowed to make this a yearly event!  Cheers!IMG_8119 (2)


Blue Skies Are Possible

Attention my fellow China neighbors, please visit the U.S.on a day like today in Chicago and experience what blue skies, green water and clean, clean air feels like. I can’t help myself from constantly gazing at the skies here and giving thanks for the U.S. laws that we impose on cars, industries, etc. that keep it this way for us to live in an environment that isn’t hazardous to our health. You can yap all day about less government in our lives (yes, I’m talking to you Tea Party People) but that oversight keeps us safe. Seriously, people who make it happen in China need to wake up and smell the clean air that is possible. The people of China deserve a healthier environment to raise their families and live their lives. Most citizens don’t ever leave their homeland so they have no idea what is possible and what it feels like. I read in the state newspapers that pollution regulations are a priority so I can only hope that they mean it. I know my body can only take it so much longer and I will need to return to breathe clean air again and renew my lung capacity.

Chicago Waterfront!
Chicago Waterfront!

Today, I got up and walked the Chicago waterfront enjoying the beautiful Lake Michigan green waters and clean sandy beaches. Everyone was out early playing beach volleyball and staking their claim to a prime spot on the beach. A non-profit was promoting ice cream for donations so I bought a homeless woman a treat to enjoy on this sunny day.  There are definitely more homeless on the streets in Chicago than you see in China.  I wonder if that is because of the cultural traditions of taking care of family in China.

I’m now sitting outside a Starbucks to enjoy my treat, a Chai Latte. Yummy gingerbread milk on a lovely sunny cool day in the US of A. Doesn’t get any better than this…except when I pick up my beautiful daughter Hannah and Baby Mia today in Chicago and take them for their first visit to GreatGMA Gene and Great Aunt Becky in South Bend. We get to spend some quality time with friends and family before I head off to Atlanta for meetings and Hannah heads to Idaho for a friend’s wedding, Mia’s first. I can only imagine the fancy headband that she will be sporting with her pretty dress. Life is good.


Shanghai to Chicago

I knew I was back in the USA when I saw the “No Gun” sign posted prominently on the door of the boutique in Chicago.  Unbelievable that this preventative action is required to alert all gun-toting shoppers to check their artillery at the door or no Michael Kors for you!  Probably just a fashion statement vs. a safety precaution because, really, the gun holster would ruin the look of the outfit.

Only in the U.S. do you need to post this sign to high end shoppers!
Only in the U.S. do you need to post this sign to high end shoppers!

Arriving in Chicago from Shanghai, I was hyper-aware of the culture differences from the moment I landed.  Delta Sky Club-I’ve missed you!  Though the massage chairs are nice in the VIP Lounge in Shanghai, I appreciated the sensory overload from all the TV news shows and newspapers offered in the Club.  Heaven for a news junkie like me!  I miss hearing all the horrible uncensored news about humanity-makes you appreciate your own life more.

Deciding that I needed to be thrifty since this part of my trip was personal, I decided to save a few bucks and wander around O’Hare to find the Blue Line CTA train to take me to downtown Chicago.  Now, doing this late in the evening by myself and never having done this before was probably NOT my brightest idea.  Honestly, I felt safer in China than I did at that moment in my home country.  After an unhelpful bored CTA attendant told me to use the machines and rolling her eyes at my request for help, she proceeded to give me wrong directions.  I hopped onto the train with about a million TSA agents going home for the day, which made me feel only slightly safer, and immediately noticed that the trains were much dirtier than in China.  Interesting.  The layout for passengers in China is for maximum capacity with benches along the side to cram people in and lots of hand holds from the ceiling.  None of that here–just individual seats molded into shapes to accommodate the larger American posterior.  Sorry, but it’s true.

Jumping off the train after about 14 stops, I had called the hotel and found out the nearest station and it was definitely NOT the one the CTA agent had told me.  Glad I’m not a trusting soul.  Trying to cram my large suitcase through a turnstyle to get out, a very helpful Chicago citizen assisted me when I got stuck.  What the Hell!!  Who builds a tiny turnstyle for a mass transit exit!  Much more efficient in China to just walk through gates to get out quickly.  Grabbing a taxi was easier than I thought it would be and off to the hotel I went, forgetting to tip the poor driver because, in China, tipping is not done.  Sorry dude! I’ll have to cash in some $$ to spread around.

Even at night, the Chicago River looks cleaner than the Haungpu River!
Even at night, the Chicago River looks cleaner than the Haungpu River!

After being in a plane for a day, I quickly went for a late night walk along the Magnificent Mile.  Seeing the China Union Pay credit card sign in the Gucci window made me feel at home–you can tell who their primary customers are!  Here, the large three story retailers are Crate & Barrel vs. Prada.  Culturally, the Chinese like to wear or drive their wealth vs. buying home fashions that can’t be shown off in public.  It’s a status thing.  I also noticed far fewer luxury cars here vs. the gold plated Lamborghini I saw last week in Beijing.  No small display of wealth there!

The streets were quiet and the cool weather was probably keeping all the diners inside vs. on the outside patios.  What a pity!  I can’t wait to get out tomorrow and walk around this beautiful city before picking up my daughter and Baby Mia to go see family.  GMA Gene and Great Aunt Becky, here we come!