Thursday, May 14, 2020

A Different Ravinia This Year


Ravinia is one of the most unique music presentations in the world. I am a huge fan of the music festival and can’t believe I just discovered it a few years ago.

The Ravinia Festival has been running all summer long for over 50 years. Located in Highland Park, Illinois, it’s always presented top performers from around the world, with genres that cover all the bases.


Unlike other music festivals, Ravinia is non-profit and runs on sponsorships and gifts.

Last year I did a story on the ZZ Top concert I had seen at Ravinia the previous year, along with a preview of the upcoming season. I also included it in a number of my CI Living segments.


I had planned on doing the same thing this year, but, this year, as we all know, life is quite different. During the Ravinia Festival in 2019, I had the pleasure of seeing Nickelback perform, with Buckcherry opening for them. I have always been an unapologetic Nickelback fan.

They have produced some of my favorite songs. The ones I could sing along with all day.


The concert did not disappoint. Anyone there, watching fans singing and dancing to favorites such as “Someday,” “Rockstar,” and “Photograph,” would be clear about the profound affect the band has had on pop music.


In fact, Nickelback was so good that I had hoped to see them again when they returned to Ravinia Festival in 2020.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus had different plans. The 2020 Ravinia Festival had to be cancelled for the first time.


While this unique festival, where you can bring a picnic and a bottle of wine and listen to music on the lawn in Chicagoland, will not be taking place this summer, the Ravinia team is still keeping things alive.



On Saturday, May 15th, the performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, which was part of 2019’s Ravinia Festival, will be shown as part of the PBS series Great Performances.

Before this initial presentation at 9:00 C.S.T., there will also be a virtual panel discussion with Conductor Marin Alsop, President and CEO of Ravinia Festival, Welz Kauffman, Tony Award-winning actor Paulo Szot, Chicago Children’s Choir Artistic Director Josephine Lee, and Highland Park High School Band Director Joshua Chodoroff.

Check your local PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) listings for additional times if you miss the initial May 15th debut of Mass and put the Ravinia Festival on your 2021 summer calendar. You can sign up for the newsletter on their website. It’s a must for all music lovers.  

Photos of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" by Patrick Gipson/Ravinia Festival
Photos of Nickelback and Buckcherry by Brittany Lambright



Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tasting Chicago during the Holidays


Brittany and I woke up pretty early at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago

We had a pretty full day and I didn’t want to overdo.

We had breakfast downstairs at Fisk & Co. as we planned our day.



Our first outing was to the ChristkindlmarktI had never been to one in Chicago before, but had a good time at the Carmel one last year (and really loved the ones in Europe). 

The Christmas Market is a great place to get handmade souvenirs and German treats. 

I picked up a few Christmas tree ornaments and warmed with hot chocolate, while bringing home some potato pancakes and a pretzel.



I didn’t want to eat anything at the market because we had a brunch plan—and it turned out to be a big one.

After a nap, we took an Uber to the restaurant.

River Roast  turned out to be an excellent choice for brunch. The location was scenic along the river and there was live jazz music in the background.



We put in an order for the freshly baked cinnamon rolls while we were deciding on our entrees.



The cocktail list looked wonderful and I went for a Bellini, while Brittany had the Chocolate City Cold Brew. 


The rolls were about the best I’ve ever had, as was my meal choice, a roasted acorn squash was stuffed with cranberry, apple, parsnip, and faro.

Brittany enjoyed her fried chicken sandwich and we shared a side of the macaroni and cheese. We also had some tasty biscuits with honey.

All of the dessert menu looked fantastic. 


We decided to hang out, listen to the music, and enjoy another cocktail while we worked up an appetite for it.

We did find the room for an Adult Sundae Funday, vanilla ice cream with a spiked macaroon, whiskey cherries, rum soaked pineapple, and a Brûléed Banana, and PB & J Cheesecake. Yes, they were scrumptious!


Brittany wanted to go to the Blackhawk store, and I headed (on the same block) to Trader Joe’s, a store they really need to bring to Champaign.

We gathered our luggage from Hotel Monaco and made one last stop. Although we were pretty full, we did take home quite a bit from 
Stan’s Donuts.

For the holidays, they rolled out a Peppermint Chocolate donut, as well as a gingerbread one and one that was Crème Brulee filled.




We left with the boxes of donuts, which included my favorite, Peanut Butter Pocket.

We also had some Peppermint Hot Chocolate for me, and a Chocolate Lightening for Brittany for the road.


It was a sweet ending to my last trip for a while as I was heading back in for another back surgery.



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Holiday Time is a Great Time to be in Chicago

I was back in Chicago right before the holidays with Brittany and my scooter. We had a few more things to discover before I took some time off for more back surgery. 

We checked into the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, which has a perfect location downtown.

I had never been to a Kimpton before. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of their wine in the evening. 

What we did get to see was one of the best rooms I’ve ever had in Chicago. The one-bedroom suite is reasonably priced (compared to most of the suites in the Windy City) and very big. 

I loved the separate bedroom, with large window seats. We were in a corner, so they provided a beautiful view and also had cushions large enough for kids to sleep on. I’d definitely recommend this room as comfortable for a family of four, or even six. 

The original plan was to check out some outdoor activities, such as the Lincoln Park Zoo lights or the Christmas tree at Millennium Park. The weather was frigid and wet, so it didn’t seem like a good time for either. 

On our way to the hotel, we had thought about stopping by the new Starbucks, which has a Roastery inside. The line was two blocks long. We noticed a few stores down, at the AT&T store, there was a Central Perk pop-up. 

We are both huge Friends fans, so it seemed like a good idea to check out this (inside) attraction. 

We were not disappointed.

If you have a chance to go to any of the Central Perks’ popups, it is an amazing experience for a Friends lover. It’s filled with memorab ilia and pieces from the set, as well as video clips, timelines and even a place in “Central Perk” where you can take pictures.


After another break, I headed a few doors down from the Hotel Monaco to the Virgin Hotel.

This was my first time there and I hope to go back to explore more and check out the restaurant. This trip was part of Chicago’s holiday tour.



Cerise Rooftop is not just for summer anymore. It was decked out in Mele Kalikimaka Christmas mode, with heated domes to keep warm in!

I thought it was really fun and I enjoyed the Hawaiian themed rum punch.

There was one more stop for the night and that was to see Dave Cavalier, whom I had met at Bourbon & Beyond a few years ago. He was playing at the Elbo Room. You can see my story about that event here



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Variety of Chicago in the WInter


The first time I was every in Chicago was in the winter. It was after the holidays, but many of the decorations were still up. 

It was freezing (-12!). I still thought the city was magical.

Fourteen years later, I live two hours away and love taking trips to Chicago.

I can’t tell you that I know my way around the city because I’m always looking to discover something new, or at least new to me.

I went to a different section of the city to a museum I have never heard of before. 

Wndr Museum is nothing like any other museum I’ve ever been. It’s fun enough for adults, and perfect for a family outing.

It was just Brittany and I on this outing. While the modern art is beautiful, this museum is more about experiencing it than looking at it.

Mirrors, music, textures, and shapes help you immerse yourself into the wonders of the Wndr Museum. 

At the end, there’s something else for kids of all ages. Instead of the usual hot dog and popcorn snack bar, this museum has an all-you-can-eat cereal bar!

From there we were off to a very popular Chicago sports bar for a first visit.





Timothy O’Toole’s may be most popular for their endless screams with every game imaginable, but they also have great food and drinks.

It’s one of those drinks that brought us there.

We were there to meet former Bears’ player Patrick Mannelly, who was introducing Longsnapper IPA, in partnership with Tighthead Brewing Company.
 I’m still not a beer drinker, but Brittany said it was delicious.

She sipped along with the Shrimp and Pasta. I loved the Chicken Pita.

I did speak with the Bears’ longest-tenured player, who retired in 2014, after 16 years with the team.

He has worked as an on-air analyst and now has an online instructional website, Longsnapper.

Mannelly, who is married to Tamara John, the co-proprietor of a healthy living website and daughter of MLB great Tommy John, also partnered with Kevin Gold and Chris Rubio to create the Patrick Mannelly Award. 

The honor is given to the best long snapper in college football (Mannelly played for Duke).

We left Timothy O’Toole’s and checked ino our home for the night, Hotel Essex on Michigan Avenue.

This boutique hotel is just a short walk from the Art Institute and Millennium Park. It’s a perfect spot for a girls’ (or romantic) getaway.



Even though I had my scooter with me, I was still glad there was time to nap before heading to the next appointment.

Fortunately, we didn’t need any transportation as it was actually right at the hotel.  

Sx Skybar was decked out for the holidays and had views of the Chicago Skyline.


The décor is plush and comfortable and though they don’t have a full dinner menu, there was more than enough food to satisfy us.

Sx Skybar is the place to be seen while you are sipping champagne cocktails and feasting on (not so) small plates.



We loved everything we ate: Peking Duck Eggrolls, Tempura Oyster Mushrooms, Port Belly and Fish Tacos.

It was the end of this holiday trip to Chicago for Brittany and me as we had to leave early in the morning, but we had another coming up soon.



Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Welcome to 2020

Happy New Year!

2020, It's not only a new year, but also a new decade.

As you obviously know by now, I've slowed down a lot over the last years, but I am still here! Now that I have cut down on travel, I really hope to get caught up with my stories and photos on the places I haven't written about on this blog yet.

Although I've done stories, there are so many more details I get to include on Wine And Spirits Travel I'm looking forward to telling you about Mackinac Island, Michigan, Rockford, Illinois, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Richmond, Indiana, and many other places I've loved.

I also have some other news: I've been invited by Amazon to be one of their official influencers. The program, which began two years ago with high profile influencers such as Shark Tank's Mark Cuban, has no been expanded to real people like me, with many followers on various platforms.

My page is all about things I do, wear, and use. Your not going to find expensive face creams or $500 blenders on this page, but you will find my favorite face cream, back patches, and even the ($15) portable mixer I love.

Bookmark A Few of My Favorite Things and check out some of the products I have. I'll be continuially adding things I love.

Marcia Frost


P.S. You can also check out my product reviews at Spiritstraveler, which includes liquour, one thing Amazon does not sell.