This one time, I got ready to get married

A lot of people have asked:

“So, Lauren, do you feel different now that you got married?!?”

“Meh. Not really.”

I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to be right? The person you profess to spend forever with (in public, no less) should theoretically be the same person you knew the day before you did that.

But if I’m being really honest, there’s a tinge of contentment and joy that is, in certain moments, wonderfully overwhelming. It doesn’t hurt, I suppose, that our wedding was totally kick ass. Unfortunately, that means you’re going to be living through it on this blog for as long as I feel like it. Fortunately, I have really talented friends and some great documentation.

So… sorry not sorry. Continue reading

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An Amtrak Adventure: Chicago to Austin by train

Since my visit to Union Station in Kansas City, I’ve had a hankering for a long train ride, and when I found out that Amtrak could get me to Austin for the Dance/USA conference for less than the cost of a plane ticket I decided to go for it.

You’re probably either really jealous or think I’m really ridiculous.

At one point in history, the train was THE way to get there, wherever there is, and aside from the extra leg room, for me, it’s a blast to get a taste of what life was like before planes became an accessible way to travel. Our country is littered with magnificent buildings posing as train stations, and despite my home city’s inability to use Union Station efficiently, departing for a long ride from there transports you to a classier time before neck pillows and body scanners. Continue reading

Dear Lincoln Park Conservatory: I’m sorry I ignored you for 15 years…

Most days I feel comfortable saying that I’ve seen pretty much everything my home city has to offer. I’ve been to the tourist traps and the holes-in-the-walls. I’ve ventured to all corners of the city, and after 15 years in Chicago I thought I’d pretty much nailed down what to do and what not to do here.

But then I went to Lincoln Park Conservatory.

I have no idea why I’ve never been there.

It was a stupid cold and sleeting winter day in spring (read: late March in Chicago) and the weather threw a monkey-wrench in a scheduled pre-wedding “Meeting of the Moms.” In searching for indoor, get to know you activities, the conservatory seemed like a great alternative to window shopping in Andersonville, because moms like flowers, right?

Right. Continue reading

Open Hearts and Pocketbooks at Hubbard Street’s $800K Evening

Those folks at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago sure know how to throw a party. I didn’t really think they could top last year’s Spotlight Ball featuring THE Mikhail Baryshnikov, but all the fancies came out of the woodwork for a beautiful, inspiring, and incredibly lucrative night for Hubbard Street. Between gala tickets, silent auction and an exciting live auction netting $200K, Monday’s Spotlight Ball brought in more than $800,000 to benefit artistic and educational programming, so it was a pretty good day in the office for them.

I managed to rock my $10 dress from Marshalls and didn’t get embarassingly drunk. So I call it a big win for me, too. Continue reading

Touristing at Koval Distillery

Blogging is not something anyone does to make bank, but it does have its perks.

I was recently contacted by Vimbly to promote the new Chicago branch of their event booking company. Sort of like Amazon for events, Vimbly partners with companies to provide a storefront for all sorts of fun things to do around Chicago. They asked if I would try out one of the events, and I had originally booked a walking tour in Millennium Park. If I’m honest with you, I wasn’t that sad when Vimbly contacted me to let me know the event had been cancelled. In exchange they offered me my choice of other events as a replacement, plus an additional voucher.

So, you mean, instead of parking downtown and walking around the bean in the cold I get to stay on the North Side and tour the (indoor) KOVAL  Distillery (and you’re giving me money to do another event too)!? Ask me if I was disappointed…

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The KOVAL Distiller (currently trying its hand at gin)

The KOVAL tour is something I’ve been wanting to check out for awhile. You know me… I’m into that local sustainable thing, and everything at this Chicago-based whiskey distillery is done locally, and by hand. The only thing they don’t do on site is grow the grain that becomes their whiskey. Oat, wheat, barley and rye, along with all the ingredients needed for flavored liqueurs and brandies are from Illinois or its surrounding states (except the coffee liqueur, because coffee doesn’t grow in Iowa).

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A tour of the original distillery – which now appears to be purely for show while operations are out of a bigger facility elsewhere – lasts about an hour, including a generous number of tastings. The story of this family business is a fascinating one, as is the process of making fields of grain into bottles of spirits. Each step is thoroughly explained with tastes along the way, and for the beverage enthusiast this is a not-to-be-missed afternoon for North Side Chicagoans. While you’re at it, you might as well walk up to the Fireside and grab a hot apple cider too (maybe sneaking in a little of the apple brandy you just bought at the distillery…).

My only concern for KOVAL is growth. It’s so good that everyone’s going to want some. I’ve been on a couple of similar brewery tours of craft beers that started as small, family-oriented, DIY businesses and are now huge empires run by machines. For now, everything at KOVAL l is done by hand, but how long can they keep that up? The fact that a guy stands in front of the bottler and pours whiskey into bottles all day long is part of what makes me want to buy it. I want to support that guy. With growth and expansion (and there’s been a lot of that for KOVAL over their five years of existence) comes the inevitable replacement of that guy for a more efficient method. When machines start taking over I start losing interest, but fortunately that’s not the case yet.

So, cheers!1476215_10152094169921079_337646676_n

Koval Distillery is located at 5121 N. Ravenswood in Chicago. $10 Tours + tastings take place each Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, and can be booked in advance online through Vimbly.com.

Twenty Days of Thankful #5

Day #5: Sun and skyscrapers

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On my last morning commuting in from the suburbs, this was the view. Actually it was better than this, but sometimes pictures don’t do sunrises justice (at least not instgram pictures on my phone). The traffic was moving, the ipod was blaring, the coffee was hot and, in the words of the great Travis Tritt, “It’s a great day to be alive.”

Yeah, I went there.