Chicago The Wind Down; May 9, 2017

So I just had the most amazing time with my girls.  To say that I had fun would be an understatement.  If you are looking to come to Chicago but don’t like to eat or walk this is not the city for you.  There is so much to do and no time to do it all.  I really can’t stress the food enough.  I am glad I came now that I have gotten my weight under control.  The amount of food and good food we had was on overload.  I didn’t eat at an eatery I didn’t like.  The reception from Chicago natives was so warm and welcoming that I felt like I was in the South.

First of all let me send my most heart-felt condolences to the two victims of Chicago gang shooting that took place on Sunday.  I nor my girlfriends were in the area however we definitely kept watch of our surroundings. Let’s be clear, watching our surroundings had nothing to do with us being in Chicago but it was more of a common sense issue.  At no time regardless of where you live or visit should you let your guard down.  I also pray a speedy recovery to those 10 victims who were shot as well.  Chicago is not the mecca of violence as they have been described.  Violence happens everywhere.  However its important for the city of Chicago to come together because the violence definitely needs to stop.

I was the first of the girls to get into town.  I was able to check in without any issues.  If you are ever in the city please stay at the Kimpton Gray.  Is it pricey?  Yes, but if you want to have a relaxing stay with an upgraded flare they are the ones to provide it.  I was greeted with a mimosa.  Drinks are always a great way to start a girls trip.  The room itself was spacious, clean and very eye-catching.  Although I arrived at almost 11 am they allowed me to check in right away where I was able to catch a quick nap before the others arrived.  The staff was amazing throughout our stay.  The free happy hour daily was always a good plug too.  They treated us well.

Our first stop once most of us got situated was to the Broken English restaurant.  It was Cinco de Mayo on Friday so finding an authentic restaurant with good food and good margaritas was a must.  They didn’t disappoint.  It was a bit crowded but to be expected.  The drinks were strong and tasty.  We had a great time.  We did a lot of walking and ended up in Millennium Park.  However not before we discovered that we needed some chapstick due to the winds that Chicago is known for. The joke of the day is that we were able to share one of our girls chapstick aka the dickless chapstick as none of us had any near us or near our mouths before we came.  Hey who else can you talk junk with if not with your girls?!

We loved it at the Millennium Park.  The “bean” or the cloud as it is officially is called was my favorite.  I love the city’s architect.  The buildings were larger than life.  You could see the flare in each building.  I spent so much time looking up and admiring everything.  We decided to end our night with a late dinner at RPM Italian which is an Italian restaurant that is a collaboration that includes celebrity Bill and Giuliana Rancic.  The restaurant is beautiful.  I loved the food and the drinks. The portions were all you needed and it wasn’t over bearing at all.  We didn’t say anything at first that we were there celebrating mine and my girl Toi’s birthday.  The hospitality was great.  Once they did know it was our birthdays they brought us the most amazing gelato mini cones.  I did order orange sickle gelato.  Let me say it may have been my new favorite dessert. I have never had it at any other restaurant and it definitely is a memorable dessert to have again if I can.

The next day it was off to the Bongo Room for brunch.  Their drinks were amazing.  Yes I told you there was a lot of eating and drinking on this trip.  They had a little wait so we went to walk around and ran into a gem of a clothing store called Personal Priviledge (www.personalpriviledge.com) and if you are looking for trendy pieces but don’t want to spend a lot I would recommend them.  Ladies, they have ALL sizes from the small to the beautiful plus ladies too.  We were all pretty much walking out of the store with something.  I got 2 little items that I can’t wait to wear and have a little fun.  Oh did I mention they made each of us feel like we were the only ones in the store and of course the mango margaritas while shopping was a great touch.  Back to the Bongo room where the food was so good.  We took the L and the bus and headed over to the Navy Pier.  We took a ride on the ferris wheel and it overlooked the city. Did a little shopping as well as stopped at Margaritaville for some drinks before heading to happy hour at the hotel.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal at the South Water Kitchen.  I am telling you we looked up all of these places and read reviews.  Why go somewhere and know you may have bad food?  This was a mini vacation.  We weren’t about to cook a meal and we wanted good food and drinks and like I said Chicago’s DNA fit what we needed.  We walked, took the L, bus, Uber and Lyft.  The only form of transportation we didn’t take was the horse and carriage that we passed during our food tour.

Another stop was the Skydeck located at the Sears Tower.  So being up at literally the highest point in the city without a helicopter was such a treat.  The Skydeck was fun.  We had a great time and yes the ledge was everything you read and more.  We had a little time adjusting even the ones who don’t have height issues.  However we made it through and it made it some instant fun as we went to our Tastebuds walking food tour.  I was full by the end.  Our first stop was to Pizano’s for deep dish that Chicago is known for.  This location was the original location.  I am a fan of the deep dish cheese.  We had sausage too but the cheese had more of a kick to me.  They do have thin crust as well.  Apparently people don’t realize that Chicago makes a mean thin crust but they do.  Next stop was to More cupcakes (morecupcakes.com) where they have some of the best cupcakes I have had in a long time.  I am talking about flavors like bacon maple to everyone’s favorite red velvet.  Oh and I included the website because these beauties can be shipped all over the world.  They are worth it.

The next place was the Drake hotel where the ambiance is amazing.  The way that this hotel goes out of its way to excite your eyes with their floral designs is a game stopper.  They also have a beautiful tea room.  Oh let’s not mention their women’s bathroom was nominated for best bathroom and it’s not like any bathroom I have ever been in.  It was off to have one of the best hotdogs I have ever eaten.  My girl Cicely doesn’t even eat beef and was going to just try a bite but at first bite she said if I get sick it was worth it, it was one “damn good” hotdog.  By the way it was at Downtown Dogs that you can find it.  We ate the hotdog at Pippins Tavern.  The bartender was amazing.  I ordered a beer and then my girl Cicely bought me a shot.  However when the bartender found out it was my birthday he gave me a shot of Malort. Malort is what sets you apart from being a true Chicago native.  Apparently they give this to tourist to give them a “taste” of Chicago.  I was the only one who had it and it was awful.  I can take a shot but this was on another level.  I can’t begin to put into words how bad it tasted or smelled.  All I know is that I got through it.  The next stop was the Billy Goat.  This is a hamburger spot that was made famous by the owner, William Billy Goat Sianis.  He befriended a goat and was denied entry into Wrigley Field with the goat and he cursed the Cubs therefore the Billy Goat curse.  It was made further famous due to the SNL skit, “Cheezeborger, cheezeborger! You want a doublecheeze.”  Just a FYI, the cheeseburger themselves are thin so ordering a double is super necessary.  Next up, Fannie May which is chocolate heaven.  I was surrounded by so many different options it was hard to catch up.  Who doesn’t like chocolate though?  We even had a little to try to take home so you know I was a happy camper.

Did I mention that I also had some of the famous Garrett’s popcorn.  I mean if I am being a little foodie here why not?! So all in all we hit the main attractions.  We ate well.  We drank and was responsible so no hangovers and no visits to the hospital.  We were on our grown women level of traveling and more importantly as friends we were able to reconnect, talk crap and help each other through some difficult conversations.  We brought up some old stuff to get clarification, reconfirmed some girl rules and celebrated me and Toi’s 15th anniversary of our 21st birthday.  So as this doesn’t end #toibration but it does make it a great highlight.  The party will not stop until May 10th.  I asked some of my friends and family to send me some things about me and I will include them in my annual birthday year recap.

My favorite part was just being there.  I left the husband and kids at home, didn’t have a wake up time, no alarm, no work, and I had the choice to share my food.  I love my family and life but getting away is something I plan on making more time for.  I am an amazing mother and wife but I will be even more amazing with a little down time and play time.

My recommendation is to come to Chicago ready to eat, enjoy the scenery and the arts and expect to be wowed.  I have said and will continue to say that connecting with your friends is a must and I for one have plans to do more of this year and in the years to come.

My Birthday/Mother’s Day Wish List

So as you should know especially if you are a follower of mine is that my birthday I call it Toibration.  First of all I love my name, hence the blog name.  Two I love to celebrate things and let me tell you why.  I used to be a bona-fide Debbie Downer.  I am talking about the kind of woman where you could say something so super simple and I would find a way to make it into a bad thing.  Who wants to me around that negative energy?  NOT ME! So I had to grow.  I had to change but I had to change not because of the people around me wanted me to but because I saw value in changing for myself

So now that I have adjusted my inner being, I find the good in a lot.  Let’s not get it twisted I still don’t like some stuff and am vocal when necessary but for the most part everyday is a real blessing and I try to focus on that. I am a twin which means I have a birthday partner for life.  However another thing about sharing is learning to also make space for yourself.  So with that being said Toibration was made when I turned 30.  Everyone makes it like this huge celebration for your 30s but by then I was on baby number 2, engaged, and just overwhelmed.  HOWEVER I realized how blessed I was to be one above ground, and two surrounded by so much love.

During Toibration I indulge in the things that make me happy.  It could be as simple as a few hours at a book store which sounds boring but for me it’s not.  I can get lost in my own world and prior to having my kids I would escape there often.  Now I do it but in way smaller doses.  It could be a trip to a local coffee shop.  I may indulge in a few treats well a lot of treats but I may have to curtail that until the latter part of the celebration as I am still training and getting ready for the Broad Street Run.

Also my birthday runs into Mother’s Day.  I was actually born on Mothers day in 1981 and ever so often it falls on it.  Yay but I do like separate items for each.  I do not like it pushed together.  Thankfully my husband has been super great since the time we met in 1999 not to forget that.

Here are a few of the things I would love or would like to have or do during Toibration/Mother’s Day:

  • Day to myself to do my own thing
  • Uninterrupted time at Target-those who shop there know what I mean
  • Go to the Movies
  • Good non dairy ice cream
  • Moscato-I love my wines usually white or sparkling of any kind will do
  • New wine glasses-I said I love my wines
  • Facial
  • Shopping at Sephora, Mac, or even just at the local mall to get whatever I want
  • Balloons-I think they are super fun
  • Flowers
  • In lieu of cake, a great fruit salad or a super decadent cupcake
  • A nap
  • A good meal at a restaurant
  • Gummi Bears-Haribo are my favorite brand judge me
  • Mani/Pedi
  • New Journal-you can never have two many I carry one on me at ALL times trust me
  • Statement t-shirts
  • Cards/Affirmations
  • Scents-whether candles, bubbles bath, soaps, etc

So as you can see my list is about things that either feed back into my spirit a lot of the items are already a part of my self-care regiment or things that make me smile to no end.  So I hope you have your own way of celebrating yourself.  I know that some people dread getting another year older but I will be 37 Lord’s will and I embrace it in the most fun and laid back way!

Birthday Message: Toibration 36 Years Young!

So finally today is the day.  It is my birthday. Anytime you can wake up on the side of the living is a blessing.  Older people look forward to seeing a new birthday while younger people act as if it is a dread. Perspective tells you to be grateful for any time you have as it is borrowed.  Today I am grateful for my 36 years.  I have had many times in my life where I have been close to death.  I am grateful for the time I can spend making my dreams come true and being with loved ones.

I am truly blessed that this year has me pushing the limits a bit.  I set out on a journey of self-love this year and I am reaping the benefits.  If I can’t love myself than the love I have for others isn’t pure.  Loving on me more has allowed me to block out distraction.  I am no longer in competition with anyone else but me.  I wake up and speak positivity over myself daily.  I am not a love guru I just got tired of speaking negative thoughts of not being enough, being overweight, not cute enough, all of the things I tell my girls not to do to themselves.  I know that some people have the do as I say mentality but I am my children’s mirror.  What I show them by example is important.  I can’t be trying on clothes and talking bad about myself but tell my daughter to be strong and confident and I wasn’t.  I started addressing my issues.

I first looked on the inside. I was unhappy.  I could fix my weight any day but if I can’t work on being happy what is the point.  I would seemingly just find something else to be an issue.  So I began to journal hard.  When I felt unhappy what was the reason?  I noticed the pattern wasn’t in any event but how I processed how I thought about the event.  How much I allowed my anxiety take over.  These are not easy tasks.  I set out to find a way to turn each thought around.  I am not saying I am totally fixed and I walk around with happiness juice pouring off of me in an annoying way, but I can get through the day and have a better outlook.

When I look in the mirror I love what I see.  I just don’t tolerate myself.  I don’t speak negatively about myself.  I am not looking at my thighs and having issues.  Not just because I lost weight but because I realize that whatever shape I am in, can change and I am fine in my own skin. This year will definitely be better than last year in the sense that I am ready to continue in this love walk.  I encourage others to do the same.  Let me also warn you that once you begin your journey you may not lose friends or family but your relationships with them will change.  It’s then that you will see how people really view you.  Remember there are some who benefit to see you all sad, down, and miserable. Once you change that they won’t be receptive to the “new” you.  It will hurt.  You will be disappointed but grateful that it happened. Shine on anyway…No one can stop your shine but you!!

As always let me end by shouting out my twin sister, Tierra.  I had the honor of coming into the world with my own womb partner, sister, and friend by choice!! Love you and happy birthday!!

And as promised I am about 5 pounds to goal so the featured photo to this blog both at the top were taken at various points of my weight.  My highest weight in December was 190.  I am currently at 155.  So that is a good dip and I am very proud of it! I didn’t want to be the same size as I was after the birth of my youngest who by the way is 3.  You know how women say it’s baby weight but the kids is like 12, that is what I was doing. However with hard work, and dedication I have definitely improved the outside as much as I have improved the inside. I can definitely now give my kids a run for their money. My energy is definitely up.  I can handle going to the gym 3 days a week.  I am eating better.  I have made a lifestyle change instead of only a summer time fine change.  I want to be life time fine.  I have people who depend on me and most importantly I depend on myself.

Huge shout out to all of my friends and family. I really am touched by the special and unique gifts that have all been super personal.  Thanks for the emails, texts, calls, time spent-all of it.  I am smiling hard today.  Thank you to my ToiTime followers as well!!

So I will be on all of my social media spots today.  I will be enjoying this day to the fullest. If you can’t celebrate you no one will right?  Toibration continues….