CHICAGO, Tuesday, January 1, 2013. Whether you are trying to avoid the fiscal cliff, figure out how much to budget for Chicago's new rate increases from property taxes to water rates, to CTA and Metra fares, or just celebrating being number one for something, not our sports teams, but the highest parking meter rates in the nation--today is a day of new beginnings--some good, others not so much.
But before we say adieu to 2012 which remember, at some point, will become "the good old days" we are taking a moment to remember the good times. Here are my top 10 picks for 2012.
TJ's Chocolate Chips.
At $2.29 for a 12oz. bag this tasty sweet treat from Trader Joe's is hard to beat. Warning: TJ's chocolate chips can be addictive. I like to eat them by the handfuls. However, I try not to. By limiting myself to 22 chips, they actually become a low calorie indulgence at only 80 calories.
This year, I fell in love with a horse named Joey. Joey was the larger-than-life puppet in War Horse--the amazing show that came to Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theater for way too short a stay last December (through January 5, 2013). The object of my affection, Joey, is a magical breathing, galloping, charging puppet with actors inside the massive horse structure that gracefully maneuver it around the stage. Within minutes of watching Joey on stage, I forgot that he was a puppet...he became more real than if he were alive.
Where have I been for the last Millennium, you ask? Having never been a fan of being told what to do, I've always avoided classes (except for academics) like the plague. Somehow, this year, I found myself in a yoga class and now I have a new addiction. Yoga makes me feel good, look better and gives me an excuse to wear the great clothes from Lululemon.
What is Lululemon? A cult? An exclusive club? What is it about that elusive rounded A shape that looks like an upside down U that is making an appearance on the butts of fit, upscale, urban and suburban women who wear exercise clothes whether practicing yoga or running to the grocery store? It has become the sign of membership in what is one of today’s most powerful brands. Yes, it is expensive but, oh so figure flattering...plus they have great mark-downs. Did I mention the Lululemon yoga tank top that I scored on New Year's Day for $19 marked down from $58...versus the Target top I checked out earlier in the day on sale for $24 marked down from $26.99?
eBooks were never my passion until I got an iPad. Although I had eBooks on my iPhone and Kindle, for some reason, my iPad made all the difference. I especially love iBooks extensive selection of free classics that I was assigned in college but never had the time to read. Did I mention they are free?
I hesitate to share my new passion for Cocobon wine as it is often out of stock at my local Trader Joe's...but here goes, anyway. As there are only so many grapes and the popularity of this classic red table wine keeps increasing, I worry that it will become even more elusive. So please keep this find for yourself. Did I mention that Cocobon is only $6.99 a bottle?
Vivian Maier’s Chicago.
For anyone who loves Chicago history and wants a glimpse of everyday Chicagoans this exhibition, currently at the Chicago History Museum, creates an extraordinary photo diary of ordinary life in the Chicago Maier knew in the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibit features a maze of over 35 hanging 4-foot by 4-foot prints from Maxwell Street and Grant Park to the 1968 Democratic Convention and so much more. Maier, the former Chicago North Shore nanny captured Chicago like no other.
In 2012, I learned about LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) and the wonderful job they are doing for Cook County's most vulnerable residents. For the past 40 years LAF has made a huge difference in the lives of countless individuals including battered women, people with disabilities, children and immigrants. The client's stories are heartbreaking but with the help of LAF so many have gone on to lead successful lives and to help others. It makes me feel good in the midst of so much bad news that there is this beacon of hope--a true Chicago treasure. If you have some leftover holiday money that is burning a hole in your pocket you may want to share it with this outstanding foundation.
Allium, with its inviting fireplace and cozy lounge and bar seating, is an ideal place for a cold (or hot) Chicago day. The innovative menu, created by Chicago's superstar chef Kevin Hickey, is fun and delicious. Allium's location inside the Four Seasons Hotel makes it an impressive location to bring a client or a date for a surprisingly affordable meal.
When you think Milwaukee brewing, you think beer. But did you know that Milwaukee also brews a mean cup of coffee. The hometown Alterra coffee, in my opinion, beats them all from Starbucks to Caribou. You can purchase the home roasted Alterra coffee to brew at your home or drink it in one of their unique Milwaukee historic cafes that also feature barista music selections, sandwiches and more.