How Do I Spend My Days in Chicago?


A question I get a lot is, “So what are you up to in Chicago?” (Actually, not a lot of people ask me that–this readership is pretty minuscule at this point, but I’m going to answer anyway.)  Tomorrow marks four weeks since my husband, David, and I moved to Chicago.  These last two weeks or so, I’ve started to feel settled and gotten into a pretty good routine.  I’m definitely not as bored as I thought I would be, at least not yet.  I started doing some freelance writing, which I’ve really been enjoying, and really helps to give my days some shape, but also a lot of flexibility.
Come along with me and I’ll take you on a tour of a typical day…

7:30-8am–Wake up, Elaine!  This may sound late to a lot of you, but honestly, it’s about the same time I woke up when we lived in DC.  Except now I’m not feeling rushed to get ready and get out the door.

8-9am-Get ready for the day, watch Good Morning America (not ashamed, it’s my favorite morning show and I love it), and eat breakfast

9-9:30am-Watch the start of Live with Kelly while checking e-mail and doing some ,light online shopping (I bought these mules the other day because the ones I really wanted from Nordstrom were back ordered until May and the Go Jane ones were a third of the price and should be here by Thursday!)

9:30-noon-Buckle in for work time!  Research, writing, e-mailing with the client I’ve been freelancing for.

Noon-1:30pm–YOGA.  My favorite part of the day.  I’ve been mainly going to The Lab in the West Loop and occasionally Yogaview in Bucktown.  I also found a really terrific Pilates studio in River North called Amplified Pilates.

2-4pm–I go to our health club, get a late lunch or post-yoga smoothie and work for a few more hours.

4-6pm–Either run errands or treat myself to a massage, manicure, etc. (there’s a massage therapy school a few blocks from our apartment and student massages are $40 for a 60-minute massage!)

6-7pm–Make dinner (or, ya know, pick up dinner from a restaurant)

7-10pm–Wind down, watch tv, read, etc.

10pm–Lights out!  I’ve been trying to be better about getting to bed earlier.  The central time zone means all of my favorite shows are on an hour earlier, so I have no excuse to stay up until 11-11:30.

So, there you have it.  A day in my Chicago life, 4 weeks in.  Writing it out like that kind of makes it sound boring, but I really, really like it.

Goodbye for meow.

Battle of the Yoga Pants

On the same day the price of Lululemon’s shares took a precipitous tumble, I am writing a post comparing their Align Pant with Athleta’s Salutation Pant.  First things first, I love both of these pants and rarely wear anything else to yoga.  If it’s a hot yoga class, I’m partial to Lululemon’s Wunder Under Shorts or the discontinued Liberty Shorts.

Let’s get to it–

Lululemon’s Align pant definitely seem like they would be see-through, but I tried them on in-store and I bent and stretch every which way and was all clear.  I don’t like super compression tights, so these are terrific.  They’re a 7/8 length, which is great because Lululemon pants are often quite long on me (I’m 5’3..and a half).  The ankle does stretch out a bit after a wash or two (I wash all of my yoga pants inside out and generally by themselves–I only dry them for 15-20 minutes and let them air dry the rest of the way).  I also have the Align crops (19″ long) and there’s no problem with stretching out on those.  I love that these are seamless–it really feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.  One item to note, certain lighter colors show sweat very easily.  I returned the dark red color because of this problem.  The navy and black are fine–I’d steer clear of anything lighter though.  Size-wise, these run a little bigger than Lululemons other pants.

Pros: Soft, non-compression fabric.  7/8 length. Seamless.

Cons: Ankle stretched out after a few wears/washes. Light colors show sweat quite easily.

Athleta’s Salutation pant is similar to the Align pant.  They’re a little tighter (these are my first pair of Athleta pants, so I don’t know how the others compare, but I got an XS) and the fabric, while very similar, isn’t identical. These are less expensive (by about $20) than the Align pant.  These do have seams, which I don’t love but isn’t a deal breaker by any means.  These are also 7/8 length and the ankles are intact after the first wash.  (I just bought these a few days ago, so I’ve only washed them once.)

Pros: 7/8 length. Price.  Sleek fabric.

Cons: Little too much like compression tights.  Seams.

Overall, I really like both, but give my official endorsement to Lululemon’s Align pants.  Hopefully my endorsement takes them out of the red after today’s disappointing sales forecast.

Goodbye for meow.

Newly Discovered Snacks


I don’t love to cook–I have high hopes for developing my repertoire of recipes, but this post isn’t about cooking, it’s about snacks.  I love snacks.  Since moving to Chicago, I’ve discovered a number of delicious, healthy-ish snacks.  Here are three of my favorites and one honorable mention:


Emmy’s Coconut Vanilla Macaroons.  These aren’t macaroons as I know them–the French kind or the American kind (at least, I think of that version as distinctly American), but they are delicious.  100 calories per macaroon ans 6 grams of sugar.  I’ve really been trying to watch my sugar intake these last few months.  I can never just cut it out, I’m only human, but I do try to limit my sugar to no more than 20 grams a day.  I limit myself to no more than two macaroons in one sitting (yeah, usually…).  You can order them online or it appears Emmy’s are sold at most Starbucks and a select number of Whole Foods.



I Heart Keenwah Dark Chocolate Puffs.  I’m in the minority, but I really don’t like dark chocolate.  It’s too bitter.  There, I said it.  I Heart Keenwah Dark Puffs (with Pink Himalayan salt) are so good though–after Lake Shore Lady recommended them, I decided to give them a try.  While I don’t like dark chocolate, I do love quinoa, so I was intrigued at the idea of putting them together.  The quinoa is puffed up to be quite large and dipped in chocolate. 140 calories and 6 grams of sugar per serving (serving size is 1 oz).


Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.  I’m really late to the party on this one, I know.  Sitting here, studying the nutrition label and it’s not exactly unhealthy, but I can’t, in good conscience, say it’s healthy either.  Even so, have I been eating it by the spoonful every six hours or so since purchasing it?  Yes, definitely.  Having a Trader Joe’s in walking distance of my new apartment will be dangerous.


Tera’s Sustained Energy Blend.  This may come as a shock to those of you who know me, but I love Muscle Milk.  Feeling a little sluggish before a yoga class?  Drink half a Muscle Milk.  Feeling depleted after a particularly tough, say, yoga class?  Drink half a Muscle Milk.  Tera’s Sustained Energy Blend is not Muscle Milk.  I’m including it here mostly because I feel good after i drink it and I know it’s really good for me.  It is by no means a tasty treat.  I’m sorry if you feel misled.  I felt misled too, but that’s my mistake.  I mean, I bought this concoction at the health club I just joined, what was I really expecting?  I don’t know, I thought it would taste more like Jamba Juice.



Goodbye for meow.

5 Things Friday

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5 Things Friday.  Hopefully you’re spending your weekend doing something much more exciting than packing.


5. Children Invade Dad’s TV Spot.  Children are, I’m told, a blessing.  This video of a guy talking about the South Korean President’s impeachment while his kids disrupt him is too good not to share.  I love how the daughter marches into the room, followed immediately by the baby who rolls on in.


4. Lululemon Align Pants. By far my favorite yoga pants–they have a very light compression so you feel ‘held in’ rather than ‘sucked in.’  Be careful with the lighter colors though, they do show sweat.  And that’s all I’ll say on the matter.  Athleta appears to have a similar style pant, the Salutation Pant, for $20 less that I’d like to give a try.


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3. Relationship Status: Cats.  My new errand running bag and I couldn’t be happier.  I walked around the apartment last night, wearing the bag, and telling David we were no longer married because my relationship status is CATS.  I’m delightful and not at all annoying to live with.


2. Rose’s Luxury.  For my final dinner out in DC, my friends and I are going to the Michelin starred restaurant, Rose’s Luxury.  They don’t take reservations so my dear, dear friends are going to wait in line and I’ll join them once David and I are done packing for the day.  Given that people pay $25-50 for a professional line-waiter at this restaurant, not having to wait in said line is a tremendous going away gift.


1. Girl and the Goat.  One more restaurant to round things out.  My friend and my co-worker got my a gift certificate to Girl and the Goat as a going away gift.  If you live in Chicago, you’ve definitely heard of this restaurant and, even if you don’t live in Chicago you may have heard of it.  I’ve never been and based on their Open Table availability, I’ll have to wait a little while.  Items like bleu cheese sweet potato pierogies and escargot ravioli have me pretty jazzed about trying this Chicago hot spot.

Goodbye for meow.

Why I Love Yoga

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I really, really love yoga.  As I’ve discussed before, I may even want to do yoga teacher training at some point in the not too distant future.  I’ve been practicing yoga 5-6 times a week for the past two and a half years or so.  After my first yoga class, I’ll never forget how tired, sweaty, and sore I felt.  I don’t remember feeling tranquil or zen.  At all.  I wish I could tell you what made me want to come back to another yoga class after that.  I remember that it was a fairly quiet work week and my husband (then boyfriend) was out of town, so I just went back.  I’d say after my third or fourth class, I started to feel hooked.  The following weekend I went to the 7:30 class on Saturday morning.  I’m not really a morning person, so I was really starting to turn over a new leaf.

Before too long, I was planning my whole week around when I could get to yoga and how I could squeeze in an extra class.  I mostly practice yogahour at Capitol Hill Yoga.  Yogahour was developed by Darren Rhodes–it is “an accessible, affordable, expertly-taught flow class that offers clear and specific alignment instructions.”  It’s different from a typical power yoga class in that there aren’t as many transitions or chaturangas and there are set sequences (a ton of them, so it never gets boring!), so the poses start to feel familiar once you’ve gone to a few classes.  I like all forms of yoga, but yogahour will forever be the style of yoga that gave me a consistent practice and I’ll miss it dearly when I move to Chicago.  There are dozens of yoga studios in Chicago though, so I really do look forward to finding my new yoga home.

But let’s get to answering the question at hand–why do I love yoga so much?  Before yoga, I went to the gym maybe twice a week and really didn’t like any minute of it.  I did 20 minutes on the elliptical and 10 minutes on the rowing machine and called it a day.  It was always such a chore and yeah, I guess I felt better after having done it, but it was still a drag.

After I got over the initial post-yoga exhaustion, I realized I’d found an exercise routine I didn’t dread–I actually looked forward to it!  Seeing a pose, practicing it over the course of days or weeks, and then finally being able to do it was really exciting and something I was clearly lacking in my work out routine.  I really like how in yoga you’re totally free to hang out in child’s pose if you’re not feeling 100%–in fact, a good teacher will practically encourage it, they’ll say something very yogi-ish like, “listen to your body and honor it by taking a rest if you need to.  Be at your limit, but not beyond it.”  You definitely don’t hear that in a spinning class or a barre class.

All this is to say, I like that yoga challenges you just as much as you want to be challenged–no more, no less.  And, of course, I like the blissful savasana at the end of class.

Goodbye for meow.

5 Things Friday

5-things-friday-1Happy Friday!  I really like when bloggers do ‘5 Things Friday,’ so here’s me giving it the old college try…

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  1. This purse.  I saw it at Banana Republic a few weeks ago–just before a particularly traumatic dentist appointment–and thought very seriously about treating myself.  Well, now it’s on sale.  So, I have to treat myself, right?  Right?!

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2. These shoes.  I’ve mentioned previously that I fancy myself a bit of a sneakerhead and I really like these.  My husband thinks they look like nurse’s shoes.  I should buy these and show him they’re just what the doctor ordered!  Hmph.

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3. These mala beads.  I ordered some mala beads (basically prayer/meditation beads that can be worn as a necklace or a bracelet) earlier this week.  Yet again, I fell prey to a sponsored Instagram post!  I know mala beds won’t make me be able to execute a perfect forearm stand or crazy inversion, but I can dream.

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4. Volunteering.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I expect to have a lot of free time in those first few weeks back in Chicago.  With that in mind, I’ve started researching places where I can volunteer with cats.  I wonder if I’ll have to change their litter…

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5. Early onset nostalgia.  I had my last meeting on Capitol Hill this morning.  Even though I’ve worked off the hill for the last two years, I still spend a lot of time there for meetings, briefings, etc.; so it was very bittersweet.  It was exciting and humbling to work on Capitol Hill and there’s a lot I’ll miss about Washington, DC–that view is surely near the top of the list.

Though, this view isn’t so bad either…

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Goodbye for meow.

Leaving That 9-5 Grind…For Now

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When my husband and I move to Chicago in a few weeks I won’t be working just yet.  I’m giving myself the freedom to get acclimated back in Chicago and maybe then see what the job market looks like for ‘ole Elaine.

Like a lot of people my age (freshly minted 30-year-old), I’ve been working since I graduated college eight years ago.  I worked on Capitol Hill for six years and have worked at a foreign policy think tank for the last two years.  Not that I’m some grizzled veteran of the workforce of anything.  Believe me, I know that’s not the case.  I’ve been really fortunate to work in an area that I enjoy and am equally as fortunate to be able to take a little breather for the time being.

This is probably true everywhere, but in Washington especially, so much of your identity is wrapped up in ‘what’ you do and, in many cases, ‘who’ you work for.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes me nervous for my ‘identity,’ going forward.  I can imagine it now…

SCENE: A cocktail party at a swanky Chicago bar

Acquaintance: So, what do you do?

Me: Oh, um, I do a lot of yoga.

Acquaintance: Oh, that sounds lovely.

Me [sensing judgement, where there is none]: I JUST MOVED HERE, OK?!? MOVING IS STRESSFUL AND YOGA HELPS ME RELAX AND I ALSO HAVE A CAT THAT I TAKE CARE OF AND SHE DEPENDS ON ME AND THAT’S A FULL TIME JOB.  Sort of.  I mean, not really.  Anyway, nice talking to you.  Better get home to my cat.

That was fun.  Let’s dig a little deeper now.  I’m equal parts overjoyed and petrified.  Let’s start with overjoyed:

  • I’ll be closer to my family and my in-laws.
  • Chicago is an amazing city!
  • I’m ready for something new, but still familiar (I grew up in Chicago, but haven’t lived there since I was 18)–I have lots to rediscover!  Which brings me to my last point…
  • Without a full-time job, I’ll have loads of time and freedom to rediscover, explore and, get settled.  For the first time in eight years, my time is fully mine and this is a luxury I surely won’t take for granted!

Ok, now onto petrified:

  • What will I do with my time?!?!  Exploring and rediscovering will be fun for about three days and then I’ll be bored to tears!
  • What if I want to start working full-time again, but no one will hire me?!?
  • What even are the part-time jobs out there?!  People tout the benefits of part-time work and a flexible schedule, but what does that really mean?!
  • What if I get super lazy and unmotivated and just hang out with Burrito all day?!

So, yeah, between the made up conversations with well-meaning acquaintances and the constant pro/con list, it’s an interesting time to be in my head.  I know everything will get figured out and it might take some time and some maneuvering.  If anyone has gone through a similar transition, please share your insights!

Goodbye for meow.

Yoga Two a Day

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Today I did something pretty out of the ordinary.  I went to two–count ’em–two yoga classes in one day!  I did my normal yoga class in the morning and then tacked on a yin yoga class afterward.  I thought it might help with some knee pain I’ve been having.  I’m heavy on power yoga/any yoga that is more physically demanding, so it was nice to try something a little slower.  I don’t think it helped my knee pain, but there’s an ice pack in the freezer with my name on it that has been helping ease the discomfort.

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I started doing yoga about two and a half years ago and absolutely fell in love.  Seriously, I pretty much plan my entire week around when I can make it to yoga and, if I have to miss a class, I do my best to find a way to sneak in another class.  I’ve toyed with the idea of doing yoga teacher training, but a few things have held me back:

  • Working full-time
  • I like to keep my weekends to myself (not that I do super fabulous or interesting things, but I just like my time to be my own)
  • Most importantly, the very real fear that doing yoga teacher training would make yoga seem like a chore instead of a hobby

Moving to Chicago might provide the perfect opportunity to give it a go.  We’ll see.  I’d honestly appreciate any insights from other yogis out there who have done yoga teacher training.

And, to close things out–here’s an outtake of Burrito photobombing one of my yoga pictures.  Happy Sunday!

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Burrito sniffing around my yoga books

 

Goodbye for Meow.