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Thanksgiving 2017: Getting Personal and Giving Thanks

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Thanksgiving 2017: Getting Personal and Giving Thanks

Yep! You’ve seen that photo before… quite recently actually but I made a few edits and this week is the fitting time to reshare it. In lieu of my Weekly Round-Up, I am going to take this time to get a little personal and share some gratitude. Afterall, if you’re not giving, you’re not really living! So bear with me as I get deep in preparation for Thanksgiving.

If you could care less and just want to know what’s what this week, scroll on down because I’m still sharing some cool deals and happenings for this week and into December. Plus, I am also sharing what I think everyone should bring to their holiday party this year. Along with Lucila’s Homemade Alfajores, I’ve got another host/hostess gift that will make everyone at the table happy (well, at least all of the adults)!

Now back to the program…. 2017 hasn’t been the easiest year for me as I faced some challenges that were tougher than I ever imagined. Before I get into that, I should mention that the last two years have been quite the emotional roller coaster. So, let’s rewind back to March 2015. At the time I was working as the Director of Social Support at a charter high school on the south side of Chicago. It was my 8th year there and I loved my students. I was so passionate about my work and was willing to always go above and beyond including running after-school programs, organizing fundraisers, hosting events., responding to calls and texts after hours from students and parents, and making home visits.

While I loved my work, was great at it, and it gave me purpose, I hadn’t been happy with the job for quite some time for a variety of reasons. However, I was afraid to leave. I was letting fear win because I had a secure job with decent pay and benefits. But that year shit hit the fan and life flashed before my eyes when my grandmother passed away in March and one of my oldest and dearest friend’s parent’s were in a tragic car accident. Sadly, her father didn’t survive. Two major losses, one completely unexpected, and a major wake up call that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

I resigned from my job of 8 years without any job leads, then packed my bags and spent almost 2 months in South America. I enrolled at ECELA in their Spanish and Counseling program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I stayed with a lovely host family in Palermo and took classes in Recoleta. During my stay, I traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Colonia, Uruguay; and Iguazu Falls. It was one of the most incredible times of my life and I felt an inner peace that I never felt prior. Every day was exciting and new and for the first time in my life, I experienced what it was like to truly feel part of a family. I finally felt like I belonged and mattered. I ate a delicious homecooked dinner every night with my host parents where we conversated with each other sharing our daily experiences. My host dad even took me to school on my first day. How cute is that? Needless to say, it was hard for me to leave. Two years later and I still miss them dearly.

I grew up in a single parent household. I was the middle child of five. We didn’t do family meals often or many family activities together. Communication was practically nonexistent and I often felt invisible. So to be among strangers and feel so loved and accepted was an incredible experience. During that summer away, I found peace within and realized in order to retain that peace, I had to sever ties with all toxic relationships in my life even if we were related. That trip also reaffirmed my decision to leave my job.

When I returned to Chicago from an incredible two months abroad, I had no clue what I wanted to do but knew I needed to find a new job. As I searched for opportunities, nothing excited me. Though a couple opportunities came my way, I chose to take a temporary school counseling position that lasted 4 months thinking that would buy me time to figure things out. And then I made a bold move accepting a full-time job offer in events and sales. I thought it was time for a change and this seemed like the right opportunity.

Within 6 months, I realized I was wrong. My life felt meaningless and I greatly missed my previous work of service. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the experience but not so excited to begin the job hunt again. This time around, it was even tougher. Aside from substitute teaching and a freelance real estate gig doing website maintenance and email marketing I’d had for the last year and a half, I was having no luck. It was rejection after rejection after rejection. And there is only so much rejection one can take. I was nearing my breaking point when interviews finally started coming in, even second interviews but then…. silence. I would never hear back even when I would reach out.

Though I knew I had a great educational background, a ton of impressive professional experience, and raving recommendations, I started questioning myself and my abilities. I was burning through all of my savings trying to keep up with bills. Still, I hired a professional resume/cover letter writer thinking that would give me the boost I needed but nothing came of it. Then I built a website sharing my resume, background, recommendations, and more. When the website didn’t seem to make a difference, I started networking everywhere I went.  I was trying and repeatedly failing.

Keep in mind, throughout this exhausting search, I also felt I had no one I could really turn to for support. I live alone, I’m as single as can be, and my family dynamics are unique. I felt scared, I felt nervous, and worst of all I felt all alone. I never anticipated job searching would be so hard because it had never been difficult in the past. I was starting to lose hope, confidence, and even joy. I have always been able to take care of myself and all of a sudden I was panicking about where the money would come from to pay my rent, utilities, car, etc. I began to feel like I was less than…. less of a person, less of a woman, less of anything. Employment has always been a large part of my identity and I had been unemployed for months.

I first started working at the young age of 12 babysitting. Then my best friend’s dad paid me to grade papers and tests for his students since I was a very good student. After that, there was one job after another. I worked retail at Venture (who remembers that place), Baker’s Shoes, Old Navy, etc. I lifeguarded at the neighborhood condominium and apartment complexes. I waited tables. I taught art. And I took several other jobs before getting into my career as a child/adolescent/family therapist.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked as an in-home family therapist, counseled adolescents involved with the department of juvenile justice working in youth detention centers, provided crisis counseling to Hurricane Katrina survivors, and worked in several schools. Obtaining a job was never difficult for me until this year and it impacted me greatly.

I started to withdraw a bit from friends and didn’t want to go out as much. I didn’t want to spend any money but I also didn’t want to be holed up in my apartment all alone where my negative thoughts would get the best of me. I was feeling sad and defeated and knew I had to snap out of it. I spent my days job searching and applying for jobs.

I had a gym membership, so I forced myself to at least hit the gym 4-6 days a week. I really had no excuse not to go. My membership was paid for through 2018 and I had plenty of time on my hands. Though, job searching is like a full-time job in its own way. I was losing hope and had to convince myself daily to stay positive and recognize everything I had to be thankful for in my life.

First and foremost, I have my health which I cannot express enough gratitude for since I was without health insurance for a bit and that was super scary. Plus, I suffer from hypothyroid which for those of you that don’t know means the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. I take medication for it daily and over time, I begin to feel sluggish, lethargic, and unable to function without the meds to regulate everything.

Additionally, I am blessed with incredible friends both near and far. Though few in number they are huge in heart. Quality always trumps quantity and my friends are super high quality. When I pulled away, they pulled me back checking in on me regularly, offering to take me out, letting me vent, and most importantly making me feel loved.

I am also grateful for my family that reached out and offered support whether it’d be as simple as being there, reviewing my resume, job networking for me, helping me out financially, or even hiring me to do some part-time work. I felt alone but realized I was not alone.

And most importantly, I am overly gracious for having my spirit which helps me stay humble and reminds that no matter how tough life can get I am still very fortunate to have my life. Let me tell you, a positive mindset can carry you far. If I didn’t have my good friends and family, though, my spirit could have easily broken. And I credit my good attitude and optimistic outlook for keeping old friends and making new ones. So, they all go hand-in-hand.

This year, I have met and connected with so many incredible people and I am so blessed to be surrounded by such awesomeness on a regular basis. I have friends in my life that go WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY back. I’m talking 5-30 years and I feel as close to them as ever (even the ones that have moved away). And I have new friends that I’ve made over the last year.

When I started to count my blessings, great things started happening. Just a few months ago, I could barely find work anywhere. Now, I am employed full-time (with health insurance) working as an academic coach in 4 schools on the north side. I continue to freelance for the real estate company. I occasionally host trivia. I pet sit. I recently started tutoring. And I am in the process of completing training to be a Sandy Hook Promise Presenter to reduce gun violence. My head spins every day and I am often exhausted but I am also so incredibly thankful to have these opportunities. And I know this craziness is only temporary.

And even with my insane work hours, I still manage to find time for fun with my friends whom I celebrated ALL weekend starting Thursday night at the grand opening of the Marriott Marquis in the south loop with a live performance by Jennifer Hudson and a whole lot of dancing by me! The dancing continued throughout the weekend at two Friendsgivings, volunteering, a get together with family from near and far, and an Escape to Margaritaville at the Oriental Theater.

My heart is full…… of love, joy, and positivity! I am super excited for Thanksgiving week and want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your time with friends and family. I know I will. I am volunteering again on Thankgiving morning before heading to the suburbs to enjoy the holiday with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her family.

I hope I didn’t bore you with me story and I purposely didn’t go into too many details but I wanted to share this with all of you for a few reasons. I want everyone to know that though it seems I am always living life to the fullest and enjoying one amazing experience after another, I also have my struggles and downfalls. I also wanted to share my story in case it may inspire someone else.

Perhaps, you’ve wanted to make a drastic change in your life but have been too afraid to take that leap of faith. I am here to tell you taking risks is necessary in life no matter the outcome. To this day, in spite of everything, I have zero regrets! I would honestly go back and do it all again.

Or maybe, I will lift someone else up by sending a message of love and hope and reminding each and every one of you to always count your blessings even in the darkest of times. And remember, even the darkest minute only lasts 60 seconds.

Now, enough being mushy and emotional. Lol! I got all up in my feelings but as you can see from these photos I’ve got a lot of joy and a lot of reasons to smile in my life. Tis the season to be jolly and thankful. Love and blessings to all of you.

Now don’t quit on me just yet…. scroll down for some awesome holiday deals, specials, and events throughout this month and December. I’ll be sharing more in the next Weekly Round Up. Until then, take care. XOXO

Holiday Happenings

Hampton Social

I’m excited to share that the NEW Hampton Social Burr Ridge location officially opens today, Monday, November 20 in the Burr Ridge Village Center, in Burr Ridge, IL. The 9,000-square-foot restaurant is the second location of the popular seafaring concept created by the highly lauded, Parker Restaurant Group (Hampton SocialMahaloBassment). Emulating the design and culinary elements similar to that of the original River North location, residents of the western suburbs can now enjoy the beachy vibes of the East Coast right in their backyard.


We can all feel it—fall is in full force. No leaves are falling on the islands, but why not revel in this last month of the season at Mahalo, a Hawaiian-influenced restaurant located in the heart of Wicker Park with a selection of seasonal items, including:

  • Pumpkin Pie Pina Colada ($26, center)
    A fall spin on Mahalo’s signature “Big Kahuna” cocktail, this colada is still shareable—except this time, out of a pumpkin. With Cana Brava rum, pineapple juice, coconut puree, and pumpkin spiced puree, it’s the perfect blend of your favorite fall latte and poolside sipper.
  • Cider Mule ($12, right)
    Classic meets seasonal with the cider mule, complete with Pau Vodka, apple cider, ginger beer, pumpkin spice, and lime juice. Appropriately served with a pineapple leaf, this refreshing libation is sweet, simple, and the perfect sipper to make you forget that winter is coming.
  • Pumpkin Crunch Cheesecake ($8)
    This crunchy, creamy, and layered cheesecake will take you to paradise and back. If it doesn’t, it will at least channel some pumpkin-pie Thanksgiving vibes, which is just as good.

I|O at the Godfrey Hotel

Ladies & Gentlemen, you’re invited to 54 on 4; a retro tribute disco party to celebrate Black Wednesday. Step beyond the velvet rope and experience a night of dancing and fun inspired by the legendary nightlife mecca. Bring your friends and join us for a night you won’t regret. Thanksgiving is for family. Tonight is for you. Come out for a hosted welcome reception from 9pm-`10pm. Features: DJ, disco balls, body painted models, glow sticks, grinder entertainer, glow sticks and more… Capacity is expected. Tickets recommended. E-mail with questions or reservations. Get tickets here.


Rather than succumbing to an evening at home on the couch this Thanksgiving eve, grab your pals and gather at a speakeasy-style lounge for some can’t–miss tunes and cocktails. In honor of Black Wednesday (Wednesday, November 22nd), Bassment (353 W. Hubbard St.) is offering Chicagoans (and those in town for the holiday) one-night-only drink deals with half-off bottle service; select cocktails; champagne by the glass; select shots; and glasses of wine and beer. Known for its innovative libations and elevated bites, the River North hotspot also hosts live music every Wednesday through Saturday night; guests who join in the Black Wednesday festivities can take in a performance from Erthe St. James & The Erthetones that evening. The sleek space also boasts chic exposed brick, candles and Britain-inspired décor making it an ideal “cool” place to kick off the holiday weekend – with a cocktail or two, of course!

Steak 48

In addition to their full menu, Steak 48 (615 N Wabash Ave., Chicago) will offer a special “Chef’s Thanksgiving Feast” entrée available on November 23 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring roasted turkey, whipped truffle potatoes, cranberry sauce and Chef’s childhood stuffing and gravy for $59 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). Exclusive to the menu just for Thanksgiving, Steak 48 will also feature their signature homemade pumpkin whoopie pie ($12/ea.) made with a delicious, creamy filling. Enjoy dinner in front of Steak 48’s one-of-a-kind glass expo kitchen, or in one of the restaurant’s semi-private dining suites featuring floor to ceiling glass allowing diners a great view into the kitchen to watch all the action. Thanksgiving reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at (312) 266-4848 or online at

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

WHAT: Honey Butter Fried Chicken announces a special “Black FryDay” menu item, waffle fries. The weekend following Thanksgiving, the restaurant is serving waffle fries, priced at $3.50 for an order of fries with Pimiento Cheese Sauce or Black Garlic Aioli available for an additional $1.50. The fries are available all weekend for guests in-house, to carry out, or through delivery via Caviar.

WHERE: Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 3361 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL


  • Friday, November 2411 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, November 2510 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 2510 a.m. to 9 p.m.

INFO: Honey Butter Fried Chicken – 773.478.4000 or

Wrigley BBQ

November 28 is National French Toast Day, and for all your brunch-crazed readers, I wanted to let you know that Wrigley BBQ will be offering a one-day-only rendition of this breakfast classic, Cinnamon & Apple Stuffed French Toast. Wrigley BBQ already has a Bourbon Bread Pudding French Toast rendition that diners can’t get enough of every weekend, but for this holiday Mitch is serving up something extra sweet – Cinnamon & Apple Stuffed French Toast. Piled high with slices of crisp, Michigan Golden apples, homemade pecan syrup and powdered sugar, this will be the perfect breakfast/mid-morning eat to satisfy French Toast cravings on the 28th.

Geja’s Cafe

Geja’s Café340 W. Armitage, will celebrate the holiday season with its 38th Annual Champagne Festival featuring Champagnes and sparkling wines from France and California. The three-month long festival, which includes two events and offers guests a chance to sample a majority of the Moët & Chandon portfolio, begins Friday, December 1st and extends through Wednesday, February 28, 2018.

Some of the featured wines will be:

       Glass / Bottle

  • Chandon Brut Classic…………………………………………………………..$12.00  /  $48.00
  • Chandon Rose…………………………………..…………………………….……$14.00 /  $56.00
  • Etoile Brut…………………………………………………………………………..$16.00  /  $62.00
  • Etoile Rose…………………………………………………………………………..$18.00  /  $70.00
  • Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut………………………..……….……………$20.00 /  $75.00
  • Moët & Chandon Rose Imperial………………………..…………….…….$25.00 /  $100.00
  • Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008……………………………………$27.50  /  $110.00
  • Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008 Rose…………………………..$35.00  /  $140.00
  • Dom Perignon 2006 ………………………………………………………………N/A    /  $225.00

To kick off the festival, Geja’s will host a special tasting open to the public featuring unique and delicious Champagnes and sparkling wines from Moët & Chandon on Sunday, December 3rd.  This event includes four champagnes and four sparkling wines, gourmet cheese and bread, and the opportunity to learn about the history of wineries from winery representatives. The tasting begins at 1 p.m. and costs $30 per person; space is limited.

On Monday, December 4th, guests can experience the “Winemaker Dinner Series”, a three-course meal that will be accompanied by a variety of sparkling wines from Domaine Chandon and Champagne from Moët & Chandon.  The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $65 per person. In addition to these events, Geja’s Café will host Moët Mondays every Monday during the three-month Champagne festival. Those who enjoy a glass or bottle of Moët & Chandon bubbles will be entered to win the special giveaway of the night.


Staytion1 W Wacker Dr,  is excited to continue its Celebrate the Neighborhood Series throughout the month of December with various events for both guests and locals alike to enjoy:

  • The Best of the Nogs (Tuesday, December 5th from 5pm – 7pm) will feature the Staytion mixologists’ favorite eggnog recipes made with local Chicago spirits.
  • Ginger, Ginger (Saturday, December 9th 1pm-3pm) allows attendees to create their own gingerbread people with frosting and toppings while sipping on the Staytion mixologist’s local ginger cocktails.
  • A City Aglow (Monday, December 18th from 11am-10pm) sends guests and locals on the hunt to view some of the best holiday light displays with the help of the hotel’s navigators. After exploring the city, participants can unwind with local rinehall brandy sips from Staytion’s mixologists.
  • Cheers to the New Year (Saturday, December 31st 6pm-1am) allows guests and locals to ring in the New Year with local sips and bites while enjoying live music and DJ beats.

ACE Hotel Chicago

Every Friday at 10 a.m., Ace Hotel Chicago will be lacing up their sneakers and hitting the West Loop sidewalks for a leisurely jog. The neighborhood run session will be led by UHLE Fitness Studio and is free and open to everyone (not just hotel guests). Keen joggers can check their bag at the front desk, hit the pavement and stick around post-workout to check out the Mies-inspired property, utilize the hotel’s free Wi-Fi, or fuel up at City Mouse, Ace’s all-day restaurant. Tip: order a bowl of Steel Cut Oatmeal ($8) to thaw out or pack in some protein with a Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata ($13). To join the party, RSVP here.

Nick’s Pizza Pub

The Nick’s Elves have flown all the way in from the North Pole to deck the halls because Santa and Mrs. Claus are coming to visit their favorite family pizza restaurant.

Join Nick’s to meet both Santa and Mrs. Claus:

Elgin: Monday, December 4th and Wednesday, December 6th, 4-8pm
Crystal Lake: Monday, December 11th and Wednesday, December 13th, 4-8pm
Chicago: Tuesday, December 5th, 4-8pm and Sunday, December 10th, 12pm-3pm

At Nick’s Pizza & Pub we believe in connecting friends and family, especially during the holiday season. We want to make it as easy as possible for you and your family to do so. No lines, a warm fireplace, well-fed kids AND we are happy to take care of the mess for a stress-free, relaxing, and memorable experience – DON’T FORGET YOUR CAMERA!

Spice Note Tequila

Spice Road Fizz & Ticket to Pearadise

Spice Note Tequila

Spice Note Tequila should be on everyone’s holiday table this season. Trust me, you and your friends and family will thank me later. Spice Note is the first line of premium tequila blanco infused with all natural spices. With its smooth, balanced taste, each infusion can be enjoyed on its own, as part of one of their artfully crafted cocktails or used to inspire your own creativity. The versatility of Spice Note Tequila knows no boundaries and is fully enjoyed in the shared company of loved ones.

Spice Note Cumin – Cumin seeds are savory, adding warmth, not heat, with a slight bitter undertone. When infused into tequila blanco, cumin adds a depth of rounded nutty aromatics, its inherent bitterness mellowed, naturally enhancing the rustic nature of the agave spirit. Using cumin seeds from India, Spice Note Cumin Tequila layers toasted warmth upon earthiness with a smooth, clean, satisfying finish.

Spice Note Cinnamon – Cumin seeds are savory, adding warmth, not heat, with a slight bitter undertone. When infused into tequila blanco, cumin adds a depth of rounded nutty aromatics, its inherent bitterness mellowed, naturally enhancing the rustic nature of the agave spirit. Using cumin seeds from India, Spice Note Cumin Tequila layers toasted warmth upon earthiness with a smooth, clean, satisfying finish.

Here are 2 signature Spice Note Tequila recipes

Spice Road Fizz

  • 1oz Spice Note Cumin
  • 0.75oz Opihr Gin
  • 0.50oz Lucky Falernum
  • 0.50oz Chai-Ginger Syrup
  • 0.50oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 full dropper Bitter End Memphis BBQ Bitters
Quick shake, strain into Collins glass, top w/ ice and soda water.

Garnish with candied ginger on a pick, and a dehydrated lemon wheel.

**Aaron Pollack, the bar manager at the Dawson, created the Spice Road Fizz recipe and it’s absolutely delicious.**  
Cinnamon Pear Cider (I’m calling this one Ticket to Pearadise!)
  • 2oz Looza Pear
  • 1oz  Spice Note Cinnamon
  • 0.50oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.25 tsp fresh grated ginger (a good 2 finger pinch!)
Shake on ice, strain into a fizz cocktail glass, top with Maeloc Pear Hard Cider. Garnish with expressed lemon rind oil and star anise.
Happy Thanksgiving
Katie Cahmann



  1. Katie, You’ve had an incredible year!! Thank you for going deep and opening your heart to your readers!

    Thanks for your support of Spice Note! I want to be sure your readers know that Aaron Pollack is the man who created Spice Road Fizz… so delicious! Aaron is the bar manager at The Dawson, where you’ll fine Spice Road Fizz on the spring cocktail menu. Happy Holifays to you and yours! ¡Salud!

    • Sheetal, Thank you! It was such a pleasure to meet you and your husband and be introduced to your delicious tequila! I have been telling EVERYONE about Spice Note Tequila. I also updated the post to include information about the awesome Aaron Pollack! Happy Holidays!