Newbie Nugget: Windy City

For nearly five miles yesterday my face and body were pummeled by strong, chilly winds. I had trouble (and still do) understanding why if I ran out and back from our apartment the wind would be in my face for the whole run.

So I did what any social media obsessed person might do in this situation and I took my question to Facebook. The answers I got, many citing Chicago's "Windy City" nickname, inspired today's newbie nugget.

Street Chicago - Windy City
{image source}

While Chicago is widely known today as the "Windy City," the nickname's origin has long been a subject of speculation.

Did you know... The nickname "Windy City" has both literal and metaphorical roots?

Those outside the city believe the nickname is based solely on the blustery conditions of Chicago. And with good reason. Between it's flat prairie landscape, proximity to Lake Michigan and towering, wind-tunnel creating skyscrapers, Chicago is indeed windy.

But I wasn't in Chicago for long before I began to hear and read about an alternate explanation. This one is much more widely recognized by both locals and Chicago history buffs and points toward a more metaphorical read of the word windy. Seems some in history have suggested that Chicagoans and most notably their politicians are windy, long winded or perhaps full of hot air.

Popular belief is that New York Sun editor Charles A. Dana popularized the moniker in the midst of the heated competition to host the 1893 World's Fair. However, this incredibly informative and convincing Chicago Tribune article suggests that Chicago was referred to as the Windy City years earlier. Journalist Nathan Bierma cites an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer on May 9, 1876. It's author called Chicago the Windy City both literally (there had just been a damaging wind storm) and disparagingly (sort of trash talking between local rivals).

If you've spent any time in Chicago there's no denying the literal interpretation of the nickname. I've often found myself horizontal from the waist down trying to run or even walk into a powerful head wind. Wind here is no. joke. But the metaphorical definition isn't so hard to accept either. In fact, I would argue that this blog is a perfect example of why I have fit in perfectly.

If you're a Chicagoan, have you heard both interpretations of the nickname?
If you aren't, does your city have a nickname with an interesting back story? Do tell.


Thankful Things

Last weekend my very sweet friend Cameron visited Chicago! It was a trip we've both been looking forward to since we hugged goodbye in Chattanooga last January.


Donut Vault Disney Princess @ the Disney Store

We spent a LOT of time eating. I mean, a LOT of time eating. We also made 3 trips to the Disney store. (Cameron has been compared to a real life Disney Princess because of her rosey outlook on life) With the time left over, we scoured the city in search of Divergent locations.

Both Cameron and I read and loved Veronica Roth's books (Divergent and Insurgent).

Yep. Happiness is having a friend that you can read young adult dystopian fiction with and then obsessively discuss it and hunt down the book's locations while on vacation.

Happiness is also having a husband willing to join you on your adventure and take goofy pictures...

Merciless Mart
re-enacting the elevator scene at the merciless mart

Hancock Tower in Fall Ready to Zip-line down
ready to zip-line off the hancock

Chicago Ferris Wheel - Navy Pier Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

On the Ferris Wheel
we rode the ferris wheel instead of climbing it while playing capture the flag

The Hub
we avoided the hub like the plague

Mandatory "Bean" Pic Erudite Headquarters
looking for Caleb at "the bean" and the erudite headquarters

Signature Lounge

Even though we have facebook and phone calls and plenty of text messages to keep us connected, it was really fun to get to share a few uninterrupted days together. I'm incredibly thankful for Cameron's friendship and for the memories that were made during last weekend's visit.

Nothing like a little bit of sentimental sappiness to start the weekend off right, right?



Don't let the summer-like temperatures fool you, Chicago. Halloween is just around the corner!

Pop up costumes shop litter Michigan Avenue, the price of candy has sky-rocketed and everywhere I turn I'm seeing Christmas Halloween decorations reminding me it's time to celebrate!

After spending five years in the bible belt where "fall festivals" were more prevalent than the campy celebration of ghouls and goblins, I'm pretty excited to see how Chicago (ya bunch of heathens) does All Hallows' Eve.

I doubt we'll be inundated with trick or treaters since we're living in an apartment building. (more candy for us!) So it looks like we'll need a different way to celebrate than fattening up panhandling munchkins.

I think I found a perfect event. Chicagoween.

From Friday October 26th to Tuesday the 30th, there will be a gaggle of events in Franken Plaza. (aka Daley Plaza) They're promising costume contests, magic shows, hay rides, hot apple cider and performances by Midnight Circus. Not sure who Midnight Circus is? Neither was I.

According to the Midnight Circus website:
The Midnight Circus encompasses performers who hail from all over the globe but now make their homes in Chicago—actors and acrobats, aerialists and eccentrics, clowns and contortionists, singers, dancers, musicians, and a lone dog. Though our talents are varied, we are united by a passion for community, a commitment to artistry, and a shared vision for bringing together our diverse art forms to create something exciting, accessible, and uniquely urban. 
Yes, please.

I'm also looking forward to a screening of the 1986 cult classic Little Shop of Horrors starring Rick Moranis. (Friday the 26th @ 6pm)

Please tell me you remember Audrey 2 whining, "Feeeeeeeeed Me, Seymour." Classic.

For the full schedule of FREE ghoulish events visit Explore Chicago's website.

How will you be celebrating Halloween this year?


Newbie Nugget: So Many Dogs, So Little Time

In Chicago, the hot dog is taken very seriously.

As someone who has made no secret of her devotion to the Chicago dog I am always excited to discover new hot dog stands to add to my ever-growing "must try" list.

Which begs the question, just how many hot dog stands are in Chicagoland?

The Dog at Hot Doug's | Chicago, IL

I was pretty astounded to hear the answer.

Did you know... there are 2,000+ hot dog stands in Chicago?

I learned this little tidbit of information on our Chicago Food Planet Tour a few weeks ago. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when our plucky tour guide rattled off the fact.

It seems my quest to discover the best hot dog in Chicago just might become a lifetime quest. Some quick math tells me I would need to eat a hot dog a day for five and half years to get to every single one. Since I'm not sure a hot dog a day sounds like the wisest plan, I might have to come up with a different strategy.

Perhaps one hot dog a week for the next thirty-eight and a half years is a better goal to shoot for?

Well, I better get busy.

Sound off people.
What stand should I try next?


Mmm Mmm Monday: Caffentures

As temperatures continue to drop and colorful leaves begin to fall, a warm cup of coffee sounds delicious and inviting. Chicago has a vibrant and varied craft coffee scene and a now there's a tour company to introduce us to it. Are you ready to go on a Caffenture?

I connected with Jenn Chen a.k.a. "The Coffee Girl" a few weeks ago on Twitter. We were both participating in a Chicago Ideas Week tweet chat and @Caffentures reached out to say, "Hello." It wasn't long before she invited me to join her for a "caffeinated adventure." (get it? get it? "caffeinated adventure!" Cute, right?)

Jenn Chen the Caffentures Coffee Girl

Chen started Caffentures earlier this year as a way to share her knowledge and love of Chicago's specialty coffee scene. Each crawl provides a unique experience for its participants with a minimum of three caffeinated stops and a tasty educational adventure with a coffee professionals. As described on the Caffentures website, "You typically can not buy this experience in any of these coffee shops."

Last week, I had the chance to attend a Red Line Crawl*. We started our adventure at Intelligentsia Broadway. There, our host Charlie helped us to begin to better understand our palates by offering us some acid.

No. Not that kind.

We tried five different food grade acids to identify the barely distinguishable to my palate differences. At this point it became clear that my palate and I have a lot to learn. This could have been an intimidating experience if hosted by an uppity, hoity-toity crew. Instead they made it challenging, informative and enjoyable.  We also tried two bright and distinctive Intelligentsia coffees (Kangocho Kenya and Debello, Ethiopia) in order to begin to recognize flavor notes.

Refining my Coffee Palate at Intelligentsia

Soooo, I couldn't really. But I was encouraged that this wasn't uncommon. It takes time, practice and concentration to begin to develop this skill. It definitely made me want to begin to refine my palate and keep learning.

Next up, Ch'ava cafe. Here we were introduced to the difference the brewing method makes in your cup of coffee. We started with Intelligentsia roasted Karatina Kenya Peaberries. The shop's expert barristas brewed the beans using a Clover and a Chemex. (...and were very game for a photo shoot)

Clover at Ch'ava Chemex at Ch'ava

Brewing Method Matters
{Clover brewed coffee | club soda to cleanse the palate | Chemex brewed coffee}

It was fascinating to me how two cups of the same type of coffee could taste so different. We were treated to a discussion about brewing methods and once again I was amazed with the care and detail that is taken to create (what I thought) was a simple cup of coffee. At Ch'ava, providing you with the perfect cup of coffee falls somewhere between a mad science experiment and a moving work of art.

We made our last stop of the day at Metropolis Coffee Company. Here we got to watch as a small batch of beans went from green (Did you know they're originally green? I told you I'm a coffee newbie.) to that familiar deep, rich brown. Not only was the Metropolis crew incredibly informative, they were entertaining and fun as well. It's clear they love what they do.

Roasting at Metropolis Chicago Roasting at Metropolis Chicago

We ended the day with a traditional "cupping." (that's what coffee types - and now I - call a coffee tasting) It was a full sensory experience, another opportunity to challenge our taste buds and enough to fully convince me that I'm ready to learn a lot more about this caffeinated world.

Cupping at Metropolis Chicago

I would highly recommend the Caffentures experience to a casual coffee drinker like myself or to a more experienced and knowledgeable coffee aficionado. All the coffee professionals combined both basic and more advanced information to ensure everyone was entertained and challenged. They were open for questions and definitely didn't exude that "I'm too cool for school" vibe I feared I'd encounter.

It is important to note that the tour ended up being four hours instead of the advertised three. Because of the interactive nature of the activities, several conversations and question/answer session went a bit long. This ended up putting us a little bit behind. I'm not certain if this is something that happens regularly or if we were just a chatty bunch.

All in all, it was a great chance to get to visit a few new-to-me coffee shops, learn more than I imagined I ever would about coffee and wet my appetite to learn more soon.

If you're interested in participating in a Caffenture - there is a Blue Line crawl happening this Sunday (October 28th). Visit the Caffentures website for more information and to reserve your spot!

How's your palate? Can you pick out distinctive flavor notes in a cup of coffee?
Or are you a casual drinker (curious to learn more) like me?

*Caffentures was generous enough to provide a complimentary ticket to the Red Line Crawl. But I can assure you all opinions in this post are mine and mine alone.


Thankful Things

Remember when I was all, *gush* "There's so much to do in Chicago in the fall." *gush*

Here's proof:
Friendly friends What r u Wearing

a. My friend Stephanie (of Wandering for Good fame) was in town for the Chicago Marathon.
    Bummer: missed her during the race
    Thankful: we caught up for coffee before she finished her jaunt around the world

b. I got to check out a preview of WhatRUWearing.net and meet the ladies behind the new website.
    Bummer: it's awkward posting running clothes or yoga pants (often what I'm wearing)
    Thankful: took my own picture in the WhatRUWearing mirror!

Freud's Last Stand @ The Mercury Baby Photo Shoot

c. As a Saint (blog post on that to come...) I got to volunteer during a production of Freud's Last Session. The play is a fictionalized account of a meeting between C.S. Lewis and Freud just before his suicide. Two brilliant men. Two radically different world views. One fascinating production.
    Bummer: getting showtime wrong and showing up 2 hours early instead of 1. Whoops
    Thankful: having a chance to see a Jeff nominated play practically FREE

d. Sweet Anna brought her parents down to Chicago to hang out last weekend.
    Bummer: no such thing when Anna's involved.
    Thankful: having a set of "couple" friends where all four of you get along.

Chicago Film Festival Swanky Night at Blackstone

e. I attended a fascinating panel discussion on adapting novels (and other material) into screen plays this week at the Chicago Film Festival.
   Bummer: can't think of one single thing: well organized, friendly staff/volunteers, informative speakers
   Thankful: knowing the film festival is still going on and I have a ticket to Silver Linings Playbook this week!

f. Fantastic Mad Men inspired looks, oldies pop music to keep the crowd entertained, and the breathtaking Blackstone Hotel Ballroom made the Fashion Follows Interiors event quite a spectacle. 
   Bummer: $5 for water even with "VIP" access left me feeling a bit parched
   Thankful: a great opportunity to people watch and network with members of the Chicago Blogger Network.

What's got you saying Thank You this week?


Go Bears

Admittedly, I've always been a bigger fan of baseball than football. But we lived in SEC territory for five years and now we're less than a mile from Soldier Field. It sort of feels like somebody is trying to convince me to reconsider.

I'll tell you one thing that would help, some cute Bears gear to wear to an upcoming game.  Soldier Field is an open-air stadium and I'm not sure if you've heard but it can get pretty chilly in Chicago during football season. Not only would these pieces look good, they would most definitely come in handy.

This Monday night, the Bears play the Detroit Lions (right, Karen?) at 7:30 at Soldier Field. Our neighborhood should be hopping. It doesn't look like the temperature is going to drop low enough (or that I'm going to have a ticket) to make these a necessity. But that means I have a little bit of time to collect all three pieces before my first Bears game.

How about you?
Football, baseball or something even better?


Just East of Lake Shore

We've been on several tours and heard several anecdotes about the architecture and history of Chicago. One of my favorite tour stories is the one I heard about the land beneath Lake Point Tower.

Lake Point Tower

Here's the legend: For years there was an ordinance against construction east of Lake Shore Drive. When development began on Lake Point Tower it created quite the hubbub. In the ensuing court case, the construction was allowed to proceed because of a very "Chicago" technicality.

The wording of the original ordinance forbade construction on land East of LSD. Turns out the plot intended for Lake Point Tower is actually landfill. So construction was permitted and the ordinance was quickly changed to prevent this from happening again. Crazy, right? Crazy enough to make a great story.

East of Lake Shore
a unique view of the city skyline

Regardless of how or why the construction was allowed to happen, Lake Point Tower is a stunning building with gorgeous, unique views (as the only building East of LSD) and a few very special amenities. Last weekend, as a part of Open House Chicago 2012, we had a chance to see parts of the building for ourselves.

Restaurant with a View
Excuse my wind blown, humidity ravaged hair.

On the 70th floor you'll find the breathtaking Cité. It's a fine dining restaurant with 360º views and a menu that had my mouth watering. There's an incredibly reasonably priced Chef's tasting menu that I can't wait to get into my tummy. (Hubby, are you paying attention?)

Cité The Pier

The building also boasts one of the first (perhaps THE first) roof gardens in Chicago. Designed originally by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, Skyline Park is currently in the midst of a major renovation. Staying true to Caldwell's original design the condominium association has commissioned Hitchcock Design group to not only restore the existing park, but implement the east half of Caldwell's plan that, for budgetary reasons, was never completed before.

Even under construction, the park is site to behold. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Roof Garden
oh how I love stacked stone...

Completed in 1968, Lake Point Tower was the tallest apartment building at the time. Despite being more than 40 years old it's graceful curves and clean lines keep it looking modern and fresh. Architects John Heinrich and George Schipporeit were students of Mies van der Rohe. The innovative rounded three arm design (see the whole building here) ensures that no apartment is looking directly into its neighboring unit but still ensures that each unit has a spectacular view.

Unfortunately, none of the residents of the building were willing to let us traipse through his or her home to check it out. (though we tried - no we didn't - what if we would have?!?) But after our visit last weekend, the hubby and I have have definitely not crossed this building off our "what if we could live THERE someday" list.

Please tell me you know someone who lives in this building
and will let me check out their pad.
Anyone? Anyone?


Hidden Passages and Gangsta Views

The rain didn't stop us. Umbrellas in hand, we made sure we didn't miss this weekend's Open House Chicago.

Though we didn't quite make it to all 150 available buildings, but we were excited for the chance to visit quite a few. We spent Saturday visiting the interiors of several of the Prarie Avenue Mansions in our neighborhood. All those servants quarters made our afternoon feel like an American version of Downton Abbey.

Then, on Sunday, we headed North. First stop: Tribune Tower.

Tribune Tower
A Taste of Chicago's Architectural Diversity

Completed in 1925 this neo-gothic skyscraper was commissioned as a celebration of the Chicago Tribune's 75th birthday. New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood won the opportunity to design the building in an international design contest that included a $100,000 prize. (in 1920s $$$!!!)

Tribune Arch

The neo-gothic style was chosen because it is most often associated with cathedrals. This building was meant to be not only the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world, but it was also intended to pay homage and exhibit reverence to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The newspaper is an institution developed by modern civilization to present the news of the day, to foster commerce and industry, to inform and lead public opinion, and to furnish that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide.
Colonel Robert R. McCormick 

Colonel Robert R. McCormick and his cousin Joseph M. Patterson were co-editors and co-publishers at the time of the buildings' construction. Each had an office on the 24th floor, each had a beautiful view, and each had a hidden escape hatch.

Paranoia cha-cha-cha.

Escape Closet - Tribune Tower Escape Hatch - Tribune Tower

If I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't believe the story. The hatch in what was once Patterson's office still exists. In the above pictures, you'll notice a "closet" that is nearly invisible when the door is closed. Inside the "closet" you'll find a super secret door that leads to a narrow stair case ending at the no-longer-open-to-the-public observation deck.

But the escape hatches weren't the only design eccentricities. In the Colonel's office there are four doors and only one door knob. Legend has it, the Colonel wanted to make sure when you left a meeting you were leaving on his terms. Apparently there was a button on his desk that unlatched one of the doors and allowed people to enter and exit through it. And I thought I was a control freak!

But he was a control freak with a killer view.

A View from the Top of the Trib
"Damn it feels good to be a gangsta."

All eccentricities aside, the Colonel was responsible for commissioning an iconic Chicago skyscraper. And he was proud of it. He made no secret of the fact that the building cost $8.5 million. (...again, in 1920s $$$!!!) At the time of it's completion, only the Eiffel Tower in Paris and three skyscrapers in New York City exceeded its overall height. Eighty something years later, it remains one of the quintessential Chicago buildings.

Up the Tribune Tower

So, who/what do you think these cousins were needing to "escape?"

Tune in later this week for more Open House Chicago Fun.