Winter is Here

Winter is Here: 3 In-Person & 3 Virtual Ways to Celebrate the Season Responsibly This Year

In-Person Ideas

Though winter this year may feel a bit unique, there are many ways you can still gather safely with friends to enjoy this chilly season. Read on for a few ideas on how to celebrate this wonderful time of year!

Ice Skating

Bundling up and going ice skating is a romantic and exciting way to stay active during the winter months. There are plenty of outdoor rinks you can visit that offer all of the equipment you will need, just ensure that you wear warm gear so you don’t get too chilly – we recommend mittens, a hat, ear muffs and pants that can safely be tucked into your ice skates. Make sure to do some research into the ice rink you are going to, as some require you to reserve tickets. Sometimes these places have events as well, like live DJs or cafes serving warm drinks!

Ice Skating

Volunteer

This is the season for giving, which means that volunteering is a great way to gather with others while also contributing to your community. There are many places you can go to provide aid, if your group has a particular passion try to find something related to that! Otherwise, some popular options include going and cleaning your favorite paths or parks, contributing your time at outdoor soup kitchens or grocery distribution sites, or walking dogs from an animal shelter!

Volunteer

Snowshoeing

Many friends and couples have taken to walking to socialize. With the winter months coming, you can mix this up by renting some snowshoes to traverse your favorite trails! Usually, wherever you rent your shoes from, you can get great advice on the most scenic local trails. Plot out a path with your friends or partner, and then get out and chat on the way to your destination! Wherever you end up, we recommend choosing a location with warm drinks to serve as a reward for getting out and active during the cold months! To add to the romance, try a shorter trail at night under the stars!

Snowshoeing

Virtual Ideas

The holidays are around the corner, and while you may be celebrating differently this year, there are many ways to still spend time with those you love. It is important to stay social during these times to keep from feeling isolated, and to do so safely. Whether on a double-date or socially-distancing with family, here are some ideas to help you stay connected over the holidays.

Paint & Warm Drinks on Zoom

Everyone loves paint & wine activities, try this twist on the classic to warm up during these chilly months! First order the painting supplies or pick them up from your local craft store – you can also try another artistic medium if you would prefer! Then, grab your drinks and find a video on Youtube to paint along with as a group on a video chat platform like Zoom! This can be an alcoholic activity or not depending on your preferences, just switch up the warm drink ideas. Some of our favorites include hot chocolate, hot toddies, hot apple cider, or mulled wine. This activity is bound to not only keep you warm but will be a fun misadventure as you try to follow the paint lesson with your loved ones.

Drinks

Build Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread houses are commonly made together as a family, why not make it a competition amongst your friends? Together, put together a budget and rules for your gingerbread houses. Then, set a time to show them all off via video chat and spend the night rating them based on different categories like Most Creative and Most Silly. This is a great way for couples to compete against their friends, and brings some traditional holiday activities into a time where many traditions are having to be skipped!

Gingerbread Houses

Relax & Think Ahead

Does this holiday season have you feeling a bit down? There is nothing wrong with being aware of your feelings during this hard time. A great way to bond with your partner and with friends is to find ways to relax together. There are many online resources for group guided meditations – it is a great idea to set aside time to sit and reflect with others to make it a weekly or monthly tradition. You also can start looking forward to what you want to do once things are back to normal. Plan a trip together, or talk about the dates you want to go on in the future! This gives you something to look forward to and will help lighten your mood.

Relax

While enjoying the holiday season with loved ones, ensure you stay safe. To stay updated on the latest and most accurate information related to COVID-19, please refer to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

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Chicago Holidays 2020

Chicago Holidays 2020: COVID-19 Edition

Chicago Holidays 2020

Well, guys, unlike COVID, the year is officially coming to an end. Still, that will not put a damper on the season, and certainly not if we can help it. Chicago is still one of the most magical places to be in during the holiday season. So before you decide to go full bah-humbug on the holidays, check out our guide on holidays in Chicago–COVID style.

Give

There is no denying this has been a tough year for everyone. Fortunately, some of us have been spared in more ways than one, and if there has ever been a time to give back- it is now.

Check in with your local food banks and donation centers this year. Really show up for a family member in need or just donate to your favorite charity. The more holiday spirit we can spread around, the more we can restore faith in humanity this season.

Visit a Beautiful Restaurant

Hear us out. If you’re feeling particularly bummed about missing out on all the holiday gatherings, now is the perfect time to splurge on a nice night out with your partner.

Some of the most romantic restaurants in Chicago, like Oriole, Joe’s Seafood, or goosefoot, are now taking reservations and have strict safety measures in place for fine dining. You get to dress up, be around other humans, and feel inspired and grateful for making it through the year. Go ahead- celebrate!

(make sure to call ahead to get current information on any new curfews or guidelines)

Outdoor Activities

If you’re ready to venture out, keep an eye out for our beloved holiday traditions like the Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Ice Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park or check out Christmas Around the World at the museum of science & Industry.

All of which are scheduled to go on this year with some additional guidelines in place.

Join the Cyber Experience on Some of Your Favorites

If you’re braving the rest of the year indoors, then worry not. There are still plenty of cyber activities available to enjoy the season. This year, the Goodman Theatre is gifting us the audio version of A Christmas Carol the entire month of December.

Also joining the list is the beloved Christkindmarket event. It will feature an online marketplace of all your holiday favorites. The virtual store is scheduled to go live on November 1st and run through the end of the year.

And don’t forget about Chicago’s favorite virtual tours, ready to take you all around Chicago with just a click.

There you have it. We hope this makes your holiday season a bit more bearable. Don’t forget to be safe and keep up with updates. Hang in there guys, we’re all in this together!

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5 Reasons to Count Your Blessings

The Gratitude Challenge, Part 2: 5 Reasons to Count Your Blessings

5 Reasons to Count Your Blessings

Thanksgiving is on the way, but you might be feeling less than thankful. It’s been a rough year, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, so we get it. But there are benefits to digging deep into your thankfulness reservoir – enough benefits, that this is an exercise we think everyone should get behind. Here are five reasons you should count your blessings.

1. Thankfulness is a cycle.

When you learn to recognize the blessings in your life, you’ll start seeing them in more places. The more thankful you are, the more thankful you’ll be. This is a snowball effect that you want to get rolling!

2. Thankfulness introduces positivity.

We know you know what we’re talking about. When you’re grumpy, lots of things irritate you that you wouldn’t normally bat an eye at. Grumpiness begets grumpiness, right? Well, the reverse is also true. When you look at things with gratitude, your positivity is like a beam of light that illuminates the things around it as well. Thankfulness can actually make you happier.

3. It’s good for your health.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but gratitude may also have health benefits. Certain studies have linked gratitude with reduction in headaches, sore throats and congestion. Not all studies have found a correlation, but it’s certainly worth a try.

4. Gratitude is great for your relationship.

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, a study found that gratitude between relationship partners created a positive cycle. The study found that the partner receiving the thanks was motivated to continue the behavior that prompted the thanks, and the thanking partner was motivated to reciprocate the behavior. Just another reason to appreciate your partner, and let him or her know that you do.

5. It just feels good.

Thankfulness is like a warm and fuzzy blanket that you wrap yourself in to watch your favorite movie. Why wouldn’t you want to participate in something that is as comforting and satisfying as a steaming cup of soup on a blustery evening?

We hope you can set aside some time to count those blessings and head into a mindset of positivity and gratitude this Thanksgiving season and beyond.

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The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge: Staying Thankful When Things Are Hard

The Gratitude Challenge

It’s no secret that 2020 has been hard on everyone, and it doesn’t make you a negative person to acknowledge the toll it has taken on you.

But it’s neither useful nor productive to dwell on the difficult. Instead, research has shown that taking the time to count your blessings can actually make you happier. A 2011 study found that gratitude between relationship partners created a positive cycle in which the partner being thanked was motivated to continue the behavior that prompted the thanks, and the thanking partner was motivated to reciprocate the behavior.

Whether you welcome the approaching holiday season with open arms, or whether it leaves you feeling bereft, now is a particularly good time to focus on the positive and take the 21-day gratitude challenge.

If you search online for “gratitude challenge,” you’ll find a number of different options. What we’re suggesting is very simple, but still effective in lifting those spirits.

Get a small notebook and number the pages 1-21. Then, each day, write three things that you are grateful for. No repeats! And they can be as big or as small as you’d like. The point is to start looking for the positive in even the most seemingly insignificant interactions or events. Here’s an example:

On Day 1, I’m thankful for:

  1. Waking up in my comfortable bed.
  2. The supermarket clerk who was so friendly during check out.
  3. The wide sidewalks in my neighborhood that are great for strolling or jogging.

The great thing about this exercise is that it can help you learn to be a blessing to other people, as well. If you find that you are often grateful for positive interactions with others, you can strive to provide those sorts of interactions with your circle or strangers that you encounter.

And by the end of the 21 days, we think you’ll find that you’re an expert at pulling your own happiness wagon.

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3 Places to Fall in Love With This Fall Season in Chicago

Fallin’ in Love: 3 Places to Fall in Love With This Fall Season in Chicago

If you’ve blinked anytime during the last eight months, then let us officially welcome you to fall.

We might be biased, but Autumn in Chicago might just be one of the most beautiful things you will ever experience.

With its beautiful crisp fall foliage, envious weather, and increasingly growing list of things to do- there’s nowhere else we’d like to spend this season. The best part is- even a global pandemic can’t get in the way of enjoying this beautiful time of year.

If you’re worried that this season is canceled too, worry not- mother nature has got your back. Lucky for us (at least here in Chicago) that some of the best things about Fall are its stunning colors, heart-warming flavors, and seasonal décor- and not even the most controversial of events can cancel them.

 If you’re wondering where exactly these beautiful places, we speak of exist, read along to see some of our favorites. Enjoy!

Taking a walk from the Botanic Garden’s visitor center to the Conservation Science Center– because nothing feeds the soul and helps you feel the enchantment of the season like a mix of colorful perennials and fiery Japanese maples.

 A nice (short) road trip to Morton Arboretum. Nature amiright? This beautiful fairytale-like land is less than an hour’s drive away but feels like you’ve stepped into a new world. Featuring over 4,000 [type] of tress, we can almost guarantee you will leave this place feeling recharged and inspired- it also makes for a beautiful romantic getaway.

 The LaBagh Woods– Listen, if being outdoors is your cup of tea, you’re going to want to grab a couple of friends and head over the banks of the Chicago River’s North Branch to this forest preserve. With over 35 miles of trails, you can hike your way up to stunning oaks, maples, and cottonwoods. Bonus points for packing some apple cider and having the most Instagrammable autumn picnic ever.

These are just some of our favorites, but they are a mere dent on all that Chicago has to offer this Fall. Don’t be afraid to feel and (spread) the season’s spirit around. It’s about time we all start feeling good around here.

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Entering Autumn: 3 Ways to Safely Enjoy Fall Outdoors This Year

While social distancing and safe practices are still in effect, there are still many traditional ways we can celebrate fall safely with others. Read ahead for a few ideas to get into the fall spirit!

Visit an Orchard

Apple orchards are a great way to enjoy the season. These locations will let you pick apples for any of your fall cooking projects, or just eat the fresh fruit as is! We recommend using sweet varieties for eating plain, and more sour varieties for cooking. While this is a fun activity, it also supports local farms who may be struggling currently. Many orchards also have hot cider and other apple treats like donuts or pie for you to enjoy as you traverse the orchard. Nothing is better than wrapping your hands around some warm cider in the cooler months.

Entering Autumn

Pick Pumpkins

Pumpkin patches are a tradition for many, you can pick your fall and Halloween decor by hand whether you are looking for the perfect carving pumpkin or gourds to place around the house. This is also a great time to disconnect from technology for a while, something many of us struggle with during these months stuck at home. Once done picking out your items, you can even plan a carving event with your friends! If your group is more competitive, make a themed competition out of it and vote on your favorites. Some category suggestions are Most Scary, Silliest, and Best Technique!

Punkins

Take a Walk When the Leaves are at their Peak

Nothing beats talking a lovely walk bundled up against the brisk weather under beautiful changing fall leaves. Every year is a bit different for when it is best to go, and this time is different for every state, make sure to do your research! Often for Chicago it is in late October or early November. A few great Chicago locations to view the leaves are the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Morton Arboretum, Garfield Park Conservatory, and Winnemac Park.

Regardless of how you celebrate fall, make sure to do so safely. To stay updated on the latest and most accurate information related to COVID-19, please refer to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

 

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Autumn Adventures

Autumn Adventures: 4 Fun Things To Do In Chicago This Fall

Autumn Adventures

It’s time for pumpkin-themed everything. Though this fall may not look like previous falls, there’s still plenty to do while remaining safe and practicing social distancing. Check out this list of local activities if you’re looking for a way to spend a crisp, golden weekend.

Indulge your inner adventurer

The Forge: Lemont Quarries opened up in July. This enormous new destination includes the world’s largest aerial challenge course, complete with two miles of ziplines, rappelling and rock climbing walls. If that’s not your thing, you can go mountain biking or paddling in a canoe or kayak. The tech-minded might enjoy the laser tag or augmented reality outdoor escape games. There is also a smaller adventure course geared towards kids. The park is cashless for COVID-19 prevention, and has implemented strict social distancing guidelines so that guests can enjoy the facilities while staying safe.

Enjoy autumn’s brilliance

If you can’t imagine fall without a healthy dose of leaf peeping, look no further than the Morton Arboretum. Take in the colors while enjoying 16 miles of hiking trails. Entry is allowed via timed passes only, ensuring the ability to social distance while on the grounds. So plan ahead to enjoy this 1,700-acre “outdoor museum” of plants and trees.

Get your groove on

The Hyde Park Jazz Fest is still on for Sept. 26-27. The festival will feature a main virtual concert streamed from the Logan Center for the Arts on the 26th. To retain the energy of the event, organizers are planning live, mobile performances on the 27th. These performances will last roughly half an hour each and be held at different locations around town to reduce congregating. Whether you choose the tune into the streamed concert or attend one of the live ones, you’ll still be able to enjoy live jazz music this fall.

Grab a cold one

The Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer is going virtual this November, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get to sample the brews. The organizers will proceed with the competition and awards ceremony. Though the details haven’t been made public yet, they’re also working on ways for to get the beer to enthusiasts.

Enjoy and make the most of those autumn weekends while staying safe.

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Keeping Connections Strong

Keeping Connections Strong: 5 Ways to Socialize from a Distance

Keeping Connections Strong: 5 Ways to Socialize from a Distance

Social distancing. It’s a phrase we’re all sick of, but it doesn’t seem like it will be going away anytime soon.

You may be ready to resume your normal social life. After all, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about how social distancing impacts mental health, and how to balance the risks with your emotional well-being. But your friends or your family may be taking a more conservative approach. Or maybe you’re not ready to reenter society, and your friends are. Whatever your comfort level, we have a few ideas for socializing and staying connected while maintaining those six feet of distance.

  1. Have a pod picnic with your friends or family. Members of the same household can sit in “pods” spaced six feet from other pods. Being outdoors and bringing your own food will help you and your loved ones feel safe, while still being able to spend time together and catch up.red meal
  2. Go hiking. Again, being outdoors lessens any risks you may be worried about, and hiking six feet apart is not difficult to maintain. Plus, being outside and getting some exercise will lift your mood.
  3. Start a book club. This is a great way to socialize with people whose comfort level differs from your own. People who want to meet in person can do so, and those who prefer to stay virtual can join via video chat. Need an idea for the first read? Check out this list.Keeping Connections Strong
  4. Start a neighborhood activity. A Chicagoland mom came up with the idea of a shamrock hunt for kids back in March. The post went viral and inspired people in other communities, as well. If you don’t know your neighbors, this is a great way to meet them. Try starting a non-holiday version of the popular “You’ve been Boo’d” Halloween game where people leave mystery packages for neighbors, with a note to do the same for the next person.
  5. Run a trivia night. This is also an activity that can be done both in-person and virtually, depending on people’s comfort levels. Don’t know how to start a trivia night? Check out this guide.

We hope that you find an activity to suit your comfort level and allow you to stay connected to friends and loved ones. Stay safe!

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Double couple competition: How to put on a cooking challenge evening

Strengthening Bonds: Volunteer with Friends

Strengthening Bonds

If you’re looking to strengthen your relationships, or even forge new ones, there’s really no better bond than legitimately saving the world together. With dozens of volunteering opportunities (right now and year-around), Chicago has no shortage of options for friends to come together, roll up their sleeves, and help save the world. 

Think about it, chances are some of your fondest memories go back to when you’ve been part of a team. Whether that was part of a sport or a cause or even a job, working with your friends for a bigger cause is a guaranteed way to feed your soul while also having tangible ways to give back to your community and build each other’s self-confidence. 

If volunteering is something that you’ve always felt you were called to do, but thought of as a loner activity, ditch that mentality and ask your special other and friends to join you. Not only can the added support for what can turn out to be a mentally exhausting activity come in handy, but together, you can play on each other’s strengths to tackle tough situations. 

Where can I sign up?

There are different ways of finding the right fit. You can go to the soup kitchens’ direct website by either yelping your nearest soup kitchen and then signing up directly through their website, or by signing up for a volunteer match website like volunteermatch.org where you can literally choose to be volunteered for anything from a crisis counselor to finding support for putting a nonprofit event together. 

If weather permits, you can even choose to have a “Beach Clean-Up Day” that can end in a bonfire to reward yourselves for your hard work. 

The list is endless. If being a part of a group that helps strengthen each other’s value system sounds like your cup of tea (or coffee, no judgment), making a difference is only a signup sheet away. 

If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities specifically geared towards a cause as a result of the current coronavirus emergency, please refer to local hospital, clinic, school, and restaurant websites. Many neighborhoods, towns, cities, and organizations are organizing a variety of volunteering efforts to help support essential workers in the community as well as healthcare workers. Don’t forget to support your local small businesses at this time, many of whom may not survive this crisis.

To stay updated on the latest and most accurate information related to COVID-19, please refer to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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Double couple competition: How to put on a cooking challenge evening

COVID-19 Boredom: Keeping in Touch with Loved Ones

COVID-19 Boredom

The subject on everyone’s mind — boredom. It only took a global pandemic, but if this current state of affairs has taught us anything, it is to never take for granted our social gatherings (especially with friends and family) ever again. Humans need human interactions, and when we’re lucky enough to have them, we need to nurture them. This is imperative even from a distance! Below we’ve put together a list of a few social distancing ideas to help you and your special other connect with your friends and/or family from afar.

Zoom Out

Zoom isn’t just for work meetings. Use it to connect with friends/family and make the most of it by trying some of the following ideas:

  • Covid-19 BoredomStart a Book Club – Use an app like kindle to download the same murder mystery, then have a meeting to see who cracked the case first.
  • Use Social Media – In a bizarre twist of events, the social media apps that we once used to disconnect, can now be used for their intended purpose – to connect. Use fun filters, post your favorite recipes, and show off your current hobby on your favorite social platform!
  • Synchronized Show Watching – Pick a show you all agree on and binge it at the same time. Then, meet on zoom to let your emotions flow.
  • Play Virtual Games – Now is a good time to show off those charade and pictionary skills! Our personal fave is scribbl.io 🙂

Find a Way to Help Together

From sewing up face masks to donating canned goods, there is an outpouring of love, support, and community service from entire communities, without ever even seeing each other! Make a plan to donate or safely work together to help others get through this tough time. Even a simple hello can make someone’s day!

Go for a Walk (Apart)

If you live close enough, you can arrange to walk together on opposite ends of a street, or you can do a virtual walk and facetime/chat at the same time. Staying fit AND connected — multitasking at its finest!

These tips are great to help you through this time of isolation, but keep them in mind when your schedules get crazy again and life gets in the way again of you physically seeing your friends/friends. Stay safe everyone, and remember, we’re all in this together!

To stay updated on the latest and most accurate information related to COVID-19, please refer to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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