Posted by Krista on May 7, 2013
I’m behind on things. The New York Times was talking about Chicago about a few weeks ago. Chicago is talking about the The New York Times book review that talks about Chicago. And I am caught in between in ways I probably shouldn’t put words to. I live in Chicago but I was born in Queens and raised on Long Island and then the rest…well, you know.
As I write this, I’ve spent 46.1% of my life in The Great State of New York, 28.2% of my life in Chicago, and the rest elsewhere. (And I’m 29!!!!!)
There are things that drive me crazy about Chicago. Super crazy. Like…
Public transport in Chicago is half of what it should be. One night, when I was recently repatriated, I set myself up at the bus stop. A nice man, in a Cubs hat, stopped me. “You know there is no bus here after midnight, right?” It was 12:15 a.m. No, I didn’t know that. Chicago is a world class city. I thought we had world class transportation. $12 later, I got myself home in a taxi. I miss a good night bus. (I know they do exist in Chicago. I could take the Ashland bus, for example. But it doesn’t run in the wee hours.)
Winter in Chicago. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. The blizzard of 2011 was my great welcome. I adopted a 16-year-old German exchange student at O’Hare and took him home for 48 hours. He played a lot of Call of Duty, and I tried to figure out how to feed us. I lived here during the blizzard of 1999, when the roof of my building caved in, taking all the kitchen cabinets on the 3rd and 2nd floors with it. (Thankfully, I lived on the ground floor.) I hate winter. I hate boots. I hate coats. I hate the dark.
Khaki trousers on women. I’ve written about this before. Seriously, what are you thinking? If the New York Times lady had included this, I totally would have taken her side 200%.
Jewel-Osco. I go into Jewel and I’m like totally, “OMG where is the food? I mean, there’s some fruit here, but where is the rest of the food?” Because everything is in boxes and cans. This may be more of a statement about America. I miss Waitrose. (The leading photo on their site right now is of CHAMPAGNE.) P.S. I MISS EASILY ACCESSIBLE CHEESE.
Six-way Intersections. Seriously.
I’m afraid I’m going to get shot. The bar down the street from me got shot up the year before last. On a weekly basis, my neighborhood Facebook page is all like “OMG, did you hear that???” What’s with the gunshots, Chicago?? If you want tourism dollars — particularly from all those countries where their currency lets them buy ALL of Michigan Avenue — people just can’t get shot.
PIZZA. I JUST WANT A SLICE. A real slice. Thank God for that bagel place by the Whole Foods on North Avenue or I would die a salt-bagel-deprived life. Pizza and bagels really have nothing to do with each other, EXCEPT WHEN THEY ARE COMBINED!
Sports Bars and Bars Chockablock with TVs. I am not really into sports. Or TVs. I’ve tried. I’m just not. There are so many other things to do, read, see, etc. This is a total personal preference, but please list for me the bars in Chicago without televisions, and I will gladly visit them with you.
Steamed hot dog buns. SUCK.
People who say they’re from New York. So this happens a lot. I’m in Chicago and someone complains about something and I ask them where they’re from and they say they’re from New York and I ask where from because I’m from New York and it turns out the person is really from Ohio or Pennsylvania or somewhere but they lived in New York for three years and they tell everyone they’re from New York. Note to all: I lived in London for a while. I don’t say I’m from London. (But I still love it to pieces.)
Dude, I am all about being holistic. There are a lot of positives here.
- The airport — Chicago O’Hare — is easy to get to. After spending a lot of time in Brazil last year, I cannot even begin to explain how much I appreciate the Blue Line to O’Hare. And they have nice tortas at O’Hare. (Mexican sandwiches.)
- I like char dogs. (Grilled hot dogs, although see above about steamed buns.)
- People are nice, most of the time.
- Cheap manicures and pedicures. $35 for both if you’re lucky.
- The grid system makes it hard to get lost.
- BEER. From all over.
- Liz Phair, when she was good.
- Late May through early September.
- I own an apartment that I could never, ever afford in NY or London.
- I like tacos.
- The WGN morning show. (They’re doing something right there. That team has been there forever.)
- NPR. So soothing.
- Anything from Lao Sze Chuan.
I don’t know if I’ve really said anything. Maybe this is just a brain fart. BUT I WARNED YOU. That is all. Go for it.
Posted in Chicago, Miscellaneous | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on March 26, 2013
Everything’s fine, really. But as I’ve been saying to friends lately, the days are long, but the years are short. And my God, are the days long. Even though Chicago’s darkness makes for darkness. I’m eating out by myself tonight. Not unusual for me, but more unusual for Chicagoans, I think. (Necessity: there is only whole wheat pasta in the house that I bought in 2010. Accidentally at Costco. In bulk.) Chicago must not have the business travellers that London and New York have. The waitstaff ask me, “Where are you from?” And I tell them “Um, I’m from around the corner.” I don’t mind dining alone, but is seems to bother people here for some reason.
I’m rambling. The fact is, this blog is coming to an end. I’m not as excited about food in Chicago as I was about food in London. That may be more about me than it is about Chicago, so Chicago, don’t take it personally. (Although the local industry really needs to invest in power washing its restrooms and you really don’t need to fill my water glass every three minutes.) 2004 til now ain’t a bad run. And maybe I’ll keep going with it. Maybe in a different way. Maybe during trips to London. Or maybe if I really discover something amazing in Chicago.Maybe.
Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments
Posted by Krista on February 25, 2013
I hope you are well. I know that I have been irregular with updates but, in the main, it is because I have been working so many hours to try and make the [pub] a success. I am emailing today to update you all with the current situation of the business, give you an overview of what is happening.
Since opening in [x] I have continued to work as hard as possible to ensure the success of the [pub] and build a business that would not only give me a future but deliver a good return for my investors and those who put faith in me. The reality currently is that the business is in a very difficult position. Since opening I have, as much as possible, refrained from taking a salary and for the first, nearly two years worked not less than 90 hours per week. I opened in a recession and hoped the economy would improve but it has only got worse. To cut a long story short I have made two chefs redundant, cut every cost to the bone over the last year and it has not been enough.
I know that this news will not be the news that has been hoped for and no one is more disappointed than myself that it has got to this stage. This year I have personally put in every penny I had managed to save plus a loan and up to the limit of my credit card and the business, in October, hasn’t broken even and this is with me not taking a salary and being understaffed. It is this realisation that leads me to sending this email. It is, as you can imagine, not an easy realisation or email to send. I have wanted nothing more than to reward my investors and grow a business that saw everyone paid back but unless something drastic happens the business will run out of money within the next few months and I do not have anything more to put in.
This is not a call for more investment into the [pub] as I am not convinced it would do any good. I have given everything I have; work, blood, sweat, ideas and more and the business, after this long, is losing money. I truly think that closing the [pub] is our only option unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the next four months. There is an option to exit in [month N] as it is the [y] year anniversary but if we don’t then there is another [z] year commitment which, at the current income level, would be impossible to sustain for any time at all and at this point the business would literally run out of money. I am also personally in a position where I can no longer go on without any income.
I think that I made a mistake with the location and, although the general area is wealthy, being quite remote, in this economy, means we are a very infrequent destination. Having been in catering for some years I can honestly say that I think people’s spending habits have changed during this prolonged recession and I am not sure they will ever be the same again. I see customers sometimes who used to come often and now come only every few months and they say “oh sorry we haven’t been in a while, it’s not that we’re going elsewhere but we just haven’t been out for a few months”. It seems that the middle ground in dining, where I firmly sit, is being abandoned and the £10 for two meals big chains are much busier.
I do believe that the [pub] is a good model and in a different economy and a better location the model I have created would work and work well. It just seems that the economy is making it impossible and having not operated outside, effectively, of a recession, I have never had a good period in which to build a steady trade to underpin the business. I have tried everything I can and we have had many successes and have exceeded many customer’s expectations but this hasn’t led to enough repeat business. I took out a loan of £10,000 and put it in this summer but I am not sure what has happened this year, the whole Olympic period and following summer/Autumn just hasn’t moved at all. The whole time we’ve been open we have only really achieved break even because I didn’t take a salary. To give you an example, our best week last summer we took about £12,000 and this summer our best week was about £7,000.
I would welcome a conversation to explain more about the situation and to answer any questions you may have. Finally I want to apologise for any loss that looks likely to happen but I hope you understand that I have given absolutely everything I have to try and succeed but the tide against us was too strong.
Thank you again and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
From Krista: I received this e-mail towards the end of last year from a friend. I have the writer’s permission to post the e-mail. but without the pub name, location, and specifics. Thanks for reading, and if you can do anything today, tomorrow, this week or next, head down to your local, buy a beer, and stay a while.
Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on January 27, 2013
I sometimes find myself these days gripping my iPhone like a child would a blankie or favorite stuffed animal. I rarely put it down or let it out of my sight. I SLEEP with it. And yes, while this is disturbing, I’ve been thinking about how my life has changed for the better because of it. Especially for someone who lives alone, doesn’t have a car, and lives 1,300 miles away from family.
1. Words with Friends, online “Scrabble.” Generally, I talk to my mother once every week to ten days. With Words with Friends, we play EVERY day. I also play Words with Friends with my cousin Maureen, who I see once year if that. But now we too “talk” on Words with Friends nearly every single day. (You can play me under kristainlondon — yes, still haven’t gotten around to changing that username.) Neither my mother nor Maureen are happy that I keep beating them though.
2. Peapod, online groceries. Without a car, I used to hate schlepping to the grocery store, especially if I needed anything big like laundry detergent or paper towels or toilet paper. Now, as I remember things I need around the house, I add them to a shopping list on my Peapod app, and when I get to about $100 worth of stuff, I get it all delivered. MAGIC. Just last week, I was sitting in a restaurant thinking “I should really get those paper towels delivered soon” and placed my order via the app around 6 pm at night. The groceries were delivered by 8 am THE NEXT MORNING.
3. Zipcar, online car-rental. OK, I don’t have a car, but if I need a car, I just hit up Zipcar (the pay-by-the-hour car-sharing service) and do a search for available cars within a 1 mile radius and boom, I’ve got a car for a few hours for just $20 or $25 bucks or so. It’s life-changing to have access to a car when you previously wouldn’t have.
4. Yelp, online city guide. Laugh however you’d like about Yelp, but the other night, my friend Christina and I finished dinner at a local brewery here in Chicago — Revolution Brewing — and we weren’t ready to go home yet. We did a quick proximity search on Yelp to see what else was around and discovered The Whistler up the street. I drank a lot White Russians and we met a lovely couple from Hungary, all the while grooving to a pretty fantastic DJ. Wouldn’t have found The Whistler without Yelp. (Although of course we could have asked random people on the street.)
5. My Transit, online transit times: I take the bus now ALL THE TIME. All thanks to this app, which tells me when the next bus is coming. I’ve become quite the expert in finding a good coffee shop to wait in while I wait the six or seven minutes for the next bus. My point here is that I’ve enlarged my geographic circle of influence. I explore more of Chicago than I would otherwise because it’s so much easier for me to take the bus.
6. xfinity, cable TV scheduler from Comcast: I can be 4000 miles away in a different country, and I can still program my DVR to record stuff. That’s pretty awesome.
7. xfinity player: I can be somewhere not in Chicago, and still watch my favorite shows online. Also, I don’t have Showtime or HBO and the xfinity player lets me watch a limited number of episodes of things like Homeland and Girls for FREE.
8. Uber and Hailo, taxi ordering services: The other day, I was stuck on a street corner in the West Loop of Chicago after an ok lunch at Belly Q. The restaurant called us five taxis. One arrived. Finally, I ordered an Uber taxi off my phone and BOOM. I had my own personal taxi in three minutes. AND this was all paid for by my credit card, which was great because I was low on cash.
9. Everyblock, neighborhood communities: I’m kinda obsessed with this neighborhood community website. You type in your address and it tells you where the new restaurants are opening, what property is for sale, where all the most recent crime has happened, and what new fun community events are happening. The other day, I got this weird letter from the city about electricity and I didn’t know who to ask about it. I posted it on Everyblock and within minutes, I had the answer.
10. Apple Remote, control your Apple TV from your phone: Half the time, I cannot find my Apple TV remote. No trouble, I can just USE MY PHONE instead. It’s kinda awesome.
I can go on and on. You get the point. Actually, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Well this is a dumb post. Who doesn’t know all these things?” And that’s okay. I’m just in a thankful-quality-of-life mood at the moment and wanted to write this all down.
Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on December 23, 2012
Ah, holiday cards. Everyone is sending me pictures of their children and dog(s). I debated sending a photo of myself to everyone I know, but that would be weird, right? So instead, I sent them cards from the lovely Bluebell33 and enclosed my list of top 2012 recommendations. Consider this my present to you.
The Overdrive App for Library Books: With the impending fiscal cliff, I figured I should cut back on Amazon e-books. So I got a library card. And I found out that the Chicago Public Library system and many other library systems around the US let you check out e-books online using the Overdrive app. For free!!! TECHNOLOGY IS AMAZING.
Good Value Headphones from Brookstone: I’ve found my favorite, not-too-expensive headphones. (I hate earbuds. They don’t stay in my ears. So I end up giving away anything that comes with an Apple product.) Brookstone has a great pair of headphones for $30 that I love, and they come in a nice little velvet bag. Look for “Buds Surround-Sound Earbuds.” They’re white.
Pinterest for Online Moodboards: Lots of people probably know all about Pinterest, but I’m still surprised by the number of people who ask me what it is. I AM ADDICTED TO PINTEREST!!! In the old days, you would rip out pictures from magazines and say “That’s what I want my office to look like.” With Pinterest, you can search a visual catalog of pictures of anything really…offices, cupcakes, manicures, travel outfits, people who paint their hallways black (or turquoise), etc. Pinterest is particularly great if you are a crafty person and/or looking for inspiration. This is probably more a girl thing.
The iCloud for Online Storage: If you have an iPhone and/or you use iTunes, go ahead and spend the $100 for extra storage in the cloud. I’ve put all my music in the cloud using iTunes Match and although there were some initial hiccups – I recommend not uploading your music to the cloud until you’ve already de-duplicated your library and created a hard backup of your existing library – it’s nice to be able to access my entire musical collection from any device, not just my home laptop.
Spin It Again, Record Converter: I’ve embarked on a fairly large project to move a bunch of vinyl to mp3. Spin It Again is AWESOME. It automatically detects the breaks between songs and helps you clean up the spit and crackle of a record player. If you’ve got any old vinyl sitting around and you can figure out how to hook up your record player to your computer, give this a try.
The Vitamix for Making Soup Out of Anything: Yes, I finally caved and bought a Vitamix blender. This thing is CRAZY. It’s like there’s an airplane in my living room, but you can make soup out of ANYTHING with it. I haven’t tried it for mixed drinks yet, but for soups, it really can’t be beat. It’s expensive, it’s loud, but it’s awesome.
Clarks Shoes: I freaking LOVE Clarks. They’re a British brand, but you can find them in the US. (The US range seems to be pretty darn ugly though.) In October, I was in London and bought three pairs of Clarks and they are all some comfortable and well-made, plus I get lots of compliments about them. And they’re really not that expensive.
Cole Haan Mailing List: This is more of a tip than a “buy this” recommendation. Sign up for the Cole Haan email mailing list. I never pay full price for any of their beautiful leather goods. They are always sending emails with 20% to 30% discounts, and then occasionally they will have a big 60% sale. Keep a constant watch on their sale items.
Open-Toed Cotton White Waffle Slippers: I’m a bit obsessed with hotel slippers, and I love having them on-hand for houseguests. (Also handy for traveling when you know the hotel might not be the slippers kind.) So I always keep a stack of these guys around the house. Look them up on Amazon. They’re $17 for three pairs. Although I am sorely tempted by the 100 pairs for $277…
Josie Maran Argan Oil for the face: I attribute my youthful glow to “The Hehner Genes” (my mother’s side of the family) lots of water, my love of broccoli, and Josie Maran’s Argan Oil. Full of Vitamin E and essential fatty acids. It feels a little weird to slick your face with oil, but I think the results are worth it! Small bottle is roughly $48 at Sephora or online via Amazon.
THINGS I HAVE MY EYES ON IN 2013
Nest, Automated Home Thermostat: A thermostat you control with your mobile device!! My friends Karen and Bob have this and its awesome. Turn your heat or AC on/off from the car on your way home!
We Didn’t Playtest This at All, Card Game. I just bought this and am so intrigued to play it. It’s either going to be totally awesome, or totally ridiculous.
Black Paint: Yes, I’m thinking of painting a room in my apartment black. I blame Pinterest.
So…there you go. That should keep you busy! Enjoy, and I hope to see you somewhere in 2013!
Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on December 22, 2012
2012! It’s almost over. And I’ve ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING! This was going to the be the year I became a yoga instructor, went vegan, got married, and had Irish twins. Whoops. I need to get moving.
Instead, I ate a lot. All around the world. So that was awesome. Here are the ten best things I ate in 2012…
10. Cabbage soup, rye bread, and mystery juice at Podhalanka in Wicker Park in Chicago. I love Podhalanka. It is old. It is Polish. And it is very very sweet. I stop in here on my way home from work to catch up on world news (in Polish) and have a very inexpensive yet filling (and homey and delicious) dinner.
9. Asparagus at Elliot’s Cafe in Borough Market, London. I don’t know what they did to this asparagus…eggs and ???…but it was magic. As was the lighting and the crowd and the service and the check on the day of our visit. Delicious.
8. Anchovies and olives at Casa Lucio in Madrid. Ah, and that glass of rose that brought it all together. I am not normally an olive person, but seriously…I now cannot imagine a better combination. So simple, so perfect. How does Spain do their olives? Because really, it’s magic.
7. Corn salad at Antique Taco in Chicago. Gorgeous fresh corn, some sort of blue cheese, and tortilla strips and red peppers and God knows what else. Very very satisfying. Even though there are vegetables in here, this is not for those on a diet. A seasonal dish that is not on the menu after August/September.
6. Mystery Amazonian fish in mystery sauce at Santo Grau in Sao Paulo, in the Itaim neighborhood. I’ve lost count of how many times I ordered this while I was in town, and I AM NOT a creature of habit. Really, it’s not really a mystery dish or mystery sauce. I just can’t pronounce anything in Portuguese so I just point at the menu.
5. Pici with Meat Sauce at Casabiana in Tuscany, the little hotel we stayed at for the wedding of my friends Jen and Leigh. I am not a big sleeper, but I woke up at 10 am that morning and had missed breakfast. As soon as the restaurant opened at 12, I grabbed a seat and took whatever they offered. It was so deliciously luscious-looking that everyone who had already had breakfast went ahead and ordered a plate. The best kind of hangover food.
4. Potato Tortilla at Next Restaurant, the El Bulli Menu, Chicago. Sorry for the photo of partially eaten food. Imagine the tortilla, liquefied. In the best possible way.
3. I do dream of falafel. I have eaten falafel all around the world, and nothing compares to the falafel at Hoxton Beach on Whitecross Street in London. I think it’s the pickled veg that does the trick. Usually my first stop whenever I am back in London for work.
2. Lemon bars at the Four Seasons, Chicago. It was my birthday, so maybe that was part of the magic. But these were inexpensive and perfect. I am not a dessert person, but I will happily drown in lemon anything.
1. The off-the-menu Batara at Nagayama of Sao Paulo, in Itaim. Even their rice is good. A deceptively simple combination of salmon and crispy bonito flakes. So good that on one visit, I ordered multiple plates.
So, there you have it. 2012 in a nutshell. What will 2013 bring?? Hopefully more of the same, if not better. (PS, I was kidding about that yoga instructor, vegan stuff. But maybe not that marriage and baby stuff.)
Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on October 12, 2012
I’ve written about the Dyson Airblade before. I know it’s been around for a few years but I STILL LOVE IT! Every restaurant restroom should have one. The Xlerator is good too, but it’s the Dyson I’m obsessed with. I get a strange quirky burst of joy when ever I enter a ladies’ room and find a Dyson. Oddly, it’s not that I’m excited about having dry hands. It’s more that I’m excited about drying my hands differently.
When I make the millions I deserve, I will have a Dyson Airblade in my house, next to my Japanese toilet and my heated towel racks, and above my radiant floors.
Can you buy a Dyson Airblade retail? How much do you think it would cost me?
I found this one at Monk’s Pub in the Chicago Loop. The turkey club was good. The Dyson was better.
The Verdict: Yes to Dyson! Meh to Monks! (Although I love that a lot of the staff have been around forever.)
P.S. New website idea! Restaurants and bars in Chicago and London with Dyson Airblades!!!
Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments
Posted by Krista on October 4, 2012
Does anyone really enjoy weighing themselves? I hope not. I have been forcing myself to do this more often. It’s painful. I hate it. I hate my scale and I hate exercising and I hate not eating carbs.
America has been bad to me. I don’t walk as much as I used to. The portion sizes are ridiculously huge, and everything is fried. I AM FRIED. I am tired and I am fried.
So I bought a new scale. Personal responsibility and all of that. And what I bought is the Fitbit Aria. You might remember I wrote about my love for my Fitbit pedometer recently. Well, now I have the scale too. So every morning, I wake up and I weigh myself and my weight and percentage body fat (!!!) automatically transmit to some big server in the sky somewhere and end up on Fitbit’s website.
And there is a reckoning.
I like the Fitbit Aria. A lot. If you too feel that America has made you fat, you should buy one. It’s not cheap — I got mine for $129 on Amazon — but right now, it’s worth it.
Posted in Miscellaneous, United States | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on September 30, 2012
A while ago, the New York Times, only my favorite newspaper in the entire world, published a terrible article about travel tips from (supposedly) “seasoned travelers.” It was entitled, “How the Tough Get Going: Silicon Valley Travel Tips.”
It’s been bothering me for a long while.
While I admit that there were some gems in there , a lot of the article was complete and utter rubbish, and irresponsible to boot. No Tim Ferris, I am not going to pack a starter pistol in my luggage so I can ensure my bag gets special handling. Neither am I going to leave my car on the street for days on end because parking tickets are cheaper than airport parking. (Where I live, they will tow your ass. And I don’t have the time, energy, or virtual assistance necessary to get a car out of the impound lot.) And I will skip the disposable underwear (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD), please.
So first, let me tell you my real travel tips. From me, someone who flew over 150,000 miles last year and will probably fly over 75,000 this year and has always flown over 50,000 miles a year since 2004. (Most of it in the back of the plane.)
Let’s call them “Travel Tips from a Girl from Long Island” because at the end of the day, I’m not a very fancy person. I’m more of a practical person, a normal person, a normal person who wants to get off a plane and feel normal and well-rested and READY.
1. Tylenol PM is your friend. I cannot believe the New York Times piece did not mention Tylenol PM as any seasoned traveler will tell you that this is your secret to sleep and jetlag. Take two of these after takeoff (wheels up people) and you will be dosing within 40 minutes. When people tell me they can’t sleep on planes, I want to slap them and say “THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’VE NEVER TRIED.” Last year in particular, I made it my JOB to sleep on planes. Tylenol PM is also excellent when you’re in a foreign country and it’s 2 a.m. and you are staring at the ceiling of your hotel room. One time in Israel, I was out of Tylenol PM so I went to the pharmacist — a good New Yorker — and explained what I was after and done. The Israeli version of Tylenol PM.
2. Use TripIt.com and the app. Forward all of your hotel, flight and car information to one email address and it all magically appears within TripIt.com and the app, along with directions and weather. Then, when you get to your destination, you can just whip out your phone and tell the taxi driver where to go. No confusing mishmash of reservation printouts.
3. Buy this extension cord. You can thank me later when you’re in your hotel room that only has one plug by the bed and you want to charge your iPhone, iPad, laptop and Blackberry, all at the same time.
4. You’ll be surprised how good nasal spray feels. I complained recently about how dry my nose gets during travel and someone suggested I get some saline nasal spray. I feel a little dorky carrying it around, but let me tell you…pretty awesome. It makes me feel NORMAL after a long flight.
5. Use the stupid socks. Just like I feel dorky with my nasal spray, I also feel dorky wearing those compression socks. But after a trip back from Tokyo to London in 2008, I am now a believer. They are tight and uncomfortable when you are wearing them, but when you take them off on the other side of the pond, your legs just feel so much more awake and normal.
6. Introduce yourself to the person next to you. I’ve met a lot of interesting people this way. Most people are interesting. Some people are boring, some people are obnoxious, but most people are interesting. The first time someone formally introduced themselves to me on a plane was around 2004, when an American serviceman sitting next to me introduced himself as we got ready to depart Chicago for London. This guy was the nicest, most wonderful person in the world and we spent some time chatting upon departure and landing. Most importantly, he knew when to shut up. You should know when to shut up too.
7. Listen to Channel 9, if they have it. I LOVE listening to the pilots and air traffic control talk. Some of my favorite flights have been across the Middle East, where you listen to one air traffic controller in one country pass your plane off to the next air traffic controller in the next country. I am such a dork now that I will often get on the plane and ask, “Is the Captain going to turn Channel 9 on?” United calls it Channel 9 but other airlines might call it something else.
8. Be loyal to an airline. If you know you are going to fly more than 20,000 miles in a given year, try to consolidate those miles in one place. Even the most basic Premier status on United gets you priority boarding and free baggage. A big deal these days.
9. Get an airline credit card. I have a United Club Card along with a Starwood American Express Card. To be honest, I really don’t need the United Club Card for Club access it gives me. I use it mainly because it gives me 2x the points on any United purchase, and 1.5 times the points on any general dollar spent. It also gives me Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status, but this is a new feature that I have not tried yet. The Points Guy has a good write-up over here. (And I would just highly recommend his site in general.) Because of the large annual fee, I would not recommend the United Club Card for most people. It’s just for mileage whores. But there are plenty of other airline cards out there. GET ONE.
10. CHECK YOUR BAGS. Many people will disagree with me, but seriously, if you are flying a route like Chicago => London, there is no reason not to check your bag. If your bag for some odd reasons misses the 4 pm flight, it will be on the 6 pm flight or the 9 pm flight. Since 2004, only once have I reached the other side to find my luggage missing. And that was only because I flew Denver => Chicago => London and had a tight connection in Chicago. The bag showed up at my flat in London about 10 hours later. I forgave them. Personally, I would rather have ten outfits for a week of travel than chipping things down to four outfits in a carry-on, and I hate schlepping things through airports. That being said, I always carry-on two easy-pack outfits, two changes of underwear, and a t-shirt, just in case. And I do get nervous about checking my bags if two different air carriers are involved or if I have a fancy event to go to. In short, if I know that once I get to wherever I’m going, I’m not going anywhere, I just check my bags. (But I ALWAYS clearly label my luggage and include a sheet of paper on top of my packed luggage with my address, just in case. And my bags all have three name tags on them each.)
11. Noise Cancelling Headphones. Get some. I don’t need to write much about this. But I will say that my Beats Headphones are actually more noise-cancelling than my Bose Noise Cancelling-headphones, even though the Beats are not noise-cancelling.
12. Karma pays. Be nice to the screaming child, the harried gate agent, and particularly any flight attendant. There has been at least one occasion where I have received complimentary business class champagne in coach just for being a nice person. (I give up my seat a lot so old people and families with young children can sit together.)
I feel like I could write about this topic forever, but I’ll stop now. What are your travel tips? Tell me what you got.
Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous | 14 Comments
Posted by Krista on August 12, 2012
Sometimes I meet food and travel bloggers and marvel at their thinny-thinness. Because despite doing a fairly good job at eschewing most breads and pastas, and despite not having much of a sweet tooth at all (exceptions = mint ice cream and lemon tart), my losing battle with the gym continues.
Sure, I go through phases. In 2008, I was all about the British 10k and I was thinner than I’ve been in a long time, thanks to long weekly runs through Queen’s Wood in Highgate, along with lots of interval training on the treadmill at Virgin Active Moorgate. Then in 2009, I hired a personal trainer who boxed with me in my living room twice a week for six months before he nipped off to Australia and I stopped boxing. (The dress I wore at Christmas that year — a bondagey type of thing that did wonderful things for my top and bottom — still hangs morosely in my closet.)
And then I repatriated back to the US and I didn’t buy a car on purpose because I knew what life in America was going to be like. If I bought a car, I would never walk anywhere and I would never ride my bike. I would go out to eat at restaurants where portion size was EASILY two (or three) times what portion size in London was like. This would be another losing battle. I was afraid. Very very afraid.
So earlier this year, when my dad told me he was going to get me a Fitbit for my birthday, I was kinda okay with it, despite the underlying message he was sending. And then my friend Renee got a Fitbit. And then Kelly. And then Julie. So I finally gave in and asked my dad where my Fitbit was, and it arrived in the mail the other week.
And I am sort of in love with it. Firstly, because I am a data junkie.
Here, for example, is my Fitbit data from yesterday, Saturday August 11th. A very good day. I walked six miles and burned 2,416 calories. (While I’m sure this data isn’t an exact science, some data is better than no data, and by using the Fitbit every day, the comparison data — the ability to compare yesterday to today and tomorrow to last week — is still useful.)
Here’s where things get scary though. On Tuesday, August 7th, once I was out of bed, I spent 77.5% of the day sitting on my ass. Gah. Talk about motivation for getting up off your ass.
For women, you attach the Fitbit to the middle of your bra. Men can use a belt loop or a shirt pocket. Then, when all your friends have Fitbits, there’s a leaderboard that tracks who’s walked the most, who’s burned the most calories, and who’s been the most active. Who doesn’t like a little competition?
Two big observations:
- Someone like me, who is really only 5 ft 4 on a good day, burns an average of 2,310 calories a day. For me to lose weight, I need to eat a lot less than that. This is making me take a hard look at what I eat every day and ask “Is it worth it?”
- The days I’ve burned the most calories are not necessarily the days where I’ve had big workouts, but rather the days where I’ve been on my feet all day, walking and walking and up stairs and down stairs. Because of this, I’ve been walking to and from work more often (about three miles each way) as well as taking the stairs more often at work (both up and down) and just getting out and about more, walking around for anything really. (Anyone want to take a walk to the shop? Because I’m going.)
In considering the Fitbit, I also looked at the Nike Fuel Band, but there were two things about the Fuel Band that I didn’t like:
- It’s very obvious because you wear it on your wrist. I wasn’t so keen on the obvious bit.
- Online reviews frequently quoted people who had sat on their couch all day, but had somehow managed to walk three miles. This is because the Fuel Band relies on movements of your arm. Read a book with a Fuel Band on, and apparently you’ve run a marathon.
The Fitbit also tracks sleep quality — I definitely need to get more sleep during the week — and can also track your food intake. (I tend to use My Fitness Pal for that instead though as My Fitness Pal has the best library of food options.)
One thing I dislike about the Fitbit though is that it doesn’t synch with the website and the iPhone app unless I am within 15 meters of my home computer with the Fitbit base station (a USB device) attached. Technologically speaking
So…as of today, I’ll have finished a full two weeks with my Fitbit. I’ve worn it every day and haven’t slacked off one bit. And most importantly, it is making me change my habits. Wish me luck in continuing.
The Fitbit retails for about $100 USD.
P.S. If you too have a Fitbit, we can be friends on the Fitbit site. Add me using my kristainlondon at gmail dot com address.
Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on April 30, 2012
Today is my birthday. I woke up super early for no reason at all.
I went to the kitchen and opened a leftover fortune cookie and this is what it said.
My friends Aileen and Christina brought me tulips for my birthday yesterday. I watered them.
Then I cut up some fruit for juicing. I’ve been juicing a lot lately. Have you seen “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” yet? You should. It’s good. And I cant get over how much better everyone’s faces look after a few days of juicing. By the way, ginger is awesome. (Top right.)
I went to make some coffee. There was a note inside my coffee container. It’s like God is psychic or something.
I went downtown to meet a friend for more coffee. On the way to meet him, I stopped to smell the flowers. We ended up not drinking coffee. I had some water while we talked. He told me I need to ask people more questions.
I took a taxi to the Four Seasons. I’ve never been to the Four Seasons Chicago before. It’s much nicer than The Ritz, which is puzzling because The Ritz is always so crowded but it’s like it’s 1983 at The Ritz…all peach and gold. I booked myself in for a massage and a facial at the Four Seasons spa. My 80 minute massage passed amazingly quickly. My facial was good — they rubbed some sort of cream made out of amethysts all over my face and then rubbed it off with an electric current (I can’t make this stuff up, really) — but there was too much downtime. Me, I don’t like the steam.
The almonds and cucumber water in the relaxation room, on the other hand, were DELICIOUS. I ate a lot of almonds today. And I don’t even really like almonds. The dried cranberries were also nice. Oh, and so was the tea. The tea was quite nice. Although the glasses were quite small. They were so small that I thought they were cups for the almonds. You know, like when you ride at the front of the plane. The staff saw me trying to eat almonds out of their teacups. I was embarrassed.
It was 3:45 and I still hadn’t had lunch yet. So I went downstairs to the lobby bar and had some champagne and talked to my dad on the phone. He’s going to use his frequent flier miles to go to China. And he’s going to send me a Nike Fuel Band for my birthday. Or a Fitbit. People on Amazon seem to like the Fitbit better. Hmmm.
I had the best deviled egg I’ve ever had in my entire life at the Four Seasons Chicago. And I don’t even LIKE deviled eggs.
$24 worth of salad. It was a very good salad though.
Best part! Lemon bars. I am not a dessert person, but lemon anything gets me every time. And only $3!!!
My friend Eileen came and we had “New Fashioneds” together at the bar with the businessmen. Eagle Rare Bourbon (I like bourbon), Grand Marnier, Luxardo maraschino cherries, cherry bitter. Nice.
Then we walked around for a bit. It was a little foggy and mysterious downtown. Just like us.
I stared at these shoes for a while. Hermes. Right. Moving on…
And then I found some street art! In the Gold Coast of all places. A good feeling.
And then I took a taxi home, had some leftover Singapore noodles, and listened to Amy Winehouse’s “Lioness” and was in bed by 9:30 pm.
A good day.
Posted in Chicago, Miscellaneous, Spa, United States | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on January 21, 2012
I just made one of those traveler errors. You know, where you’re not paying attention and get totally screwed. I am in Brazil. They like cashew nuts in Brazil. A lot. So I bought this bag at the grocery store, not even thinking, and then I got the bill. 40 Reals. That’s $22. Of nuts. F*ck me.
Posted in Brazil, Miscellaneous, Sao Paulo | 3 Comments