5 Tips To Avoid Distractions When Working From Home

Ever since embarking on the wild adventure of self-employment, people love to tell me how lucky I am that I get to work from home. And they’re right! Working from home has its pitfalls though too. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing is better than wearing sweats and a basic tee wrapped in my favorite cozy sweater while everyone else braves the single digit temperatures. I save a ton of money on not having a commute and eating what’s in my house for breakfast and lunch each day. Plus, I rarely buy coffee. Nice, right? I agree! The biggest downside of working from home is the amount of distractions. For myself, there is no one home but me and (if I’m in the suburbs) the dogs. The TV will call your name on gloomy days when all you want to do is curl up on the couch. The dogs will try and use their mind power to use you has a human pillow. They’re so hard to resist! Most of all, there is no one to keep you on track.

Avoiding Distraction When You Work From Home.png

Not working in an office, I find that I get loads more accomplished in my day. I hated working at a desk in a cookie cutter room. I took a million water and bathroom breaks and I found myself chatting with people on hangouts or AIM more than I found myself working. The days went by in a blur and I was miserable. Self-employment is not the easiest career choice nor is it the most stable. For those of you, like myself, who prefer creative freedom, choosing your own clients and workload, and working with people who have similar career and life goals that do not revolve around a corporate structure, self-employment and/or small business is the perfect fit. Let’s get one thing straight though, we work our asses off. On those days when distractions are winning over motivation, I’ve put together a list of tips to avoid them. Some may work for you, some might not. If you have any tips of your own, let me know in the comments below!

1 - Have a space created in your home strictly for work. In both of the places that I live, I have an “office space” that consists of a desk and all the things I need to do my job. It’s set up so that I can stay focused and on task with very little distractions. I also make sure my desk is facing outwards towards a window. The natural light keeps me alert and it’s much more pleasant than staring at a wall.

2 - Establish work hours. One of the hardest things when you work from home isn’t so much turning it on but turning it off. Not overworking myself is something I’m conscious of because I will work myself into the ground. Calculate how much time you need each day to conquer your responsibilities. Set up hours each day that allot that much time - no more, no less - and stick to it. Forcing yourself to complete your tasks within that specified period of time will help keep you focused . You’re giving yourself a deadline to finish the day.

3 - Set boundaries with friends and family. A big challenge in working for home is dealing with unannounced visitors and surprise phone calls. It’s hard for most people to understand that just because you work from home does not mean that you have the freedom to stop everything for a little chat when they feel like it. It may be flexibility you have and a drop-in once in a while is okay. If anyone is making a regular habit of it, it’s important to set a boundary. Let them know that these are your work hours and they need to be respected as if you were in a traditional office. As a friend or family member, they should understand that and respect your wishes.

4 - Dog moms, this one's for you. Scooby Doo likes to think that the work day ends at 1pm. He’s learned how to turn my desk chair around so that I’m forced to look at him. We all love our furbabies but when they’re being too much of a distraction, something's got to give. I have the luxury of being able to call family and ask them to handle the dogs for me on occasion when Scoobs is being extra obnoxious. On the days that I don’t, I have to heartbreakingly close my door. Call me a wimp, tell me that I don’t have control of my dogs, fine. It still does not change the fact that shutting out my rescue dog who means the world to me because I have to work breaks my heart. Sometimes, it has to be done though. Isolate yourself in your little work space and knock what you need to out as soon as possible.

5 - Keep the TV away and avoid comfy spaces. One of the first things I do in the morning when I wake up is make my bed and I don't get back in until it's time to go to sleep. I also avoid any spot where it could get too comfy like the couch. You want to stay focused and wrapping up in a blanket will not help. I also avoid the TV. It's easy to get into binge mode. If I do have the TV on, it's for background noise and usually on something like the Food Network or HGTV.

Those are my tips. It's not a science, there's no secret trick. It's making sure you have a good space to work and avoiding the comfy places throughout your home. Oh, and making sure the dogs don't distract you too much. At the end of the day, it comes down to self-management and being able to focus yourself. If this isn’t something you can handle even without distractions, working from home isn’t your thing and that is fine

Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup | National Soup Month

For those of you enjoying a nice, long weekend after the first full week back following the holidays, I hope you’re cozy and snug this morning. For those of you not enjoying a nice, long weekend like me, I hope you’re staying warm through this most recent arctic blast! Working from home definitely has its perks. I don’t have to go out when it’s snowing and feels like 9 degrees outside. Don’t be too jealous though because I have to venture into society the next three days so I’ll be suffering with the best of them. Today’s recipe celebrating National Soup Month is perfect for those extra cold nights when you’re not feeling 100% and want something a little heavier than Classic Chicken Noodle. This Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup is easy to make and gives the immune system a nice boost with the squeeze of lemon and loads of garlic. It’s packed with veggies too which makes you not feel so bad about the cup of heavy cream (which divided into four servings is hardly anything anyway).

Soup Month - Creamy Lemon Chicken.png

When I was brainstorming soup recipes for this month, I was hesitant about sharing two different chicken soups. It felt redundant but the Classic Chicken Noodle and the Creamy Lemon Chicken have different flavor profiles. While one is comforting and classic, the other is comforting and creamy. Besides that, the ingredients are a bit different. The Lemon Chicken uses several more vegetables and the Classic Chicken is really all focused on the homemade stock. The Lemon Chicken is also starch-free where the Classic Chicken has both noodles and potatoes. So there you have it! Decision made. Two chicken soups for the win. Besides, you can totally make these both in the same week and not get sick of chicken soup. They’re just so tasty. And...if you’re looking for a short cut, use the leftover chicken breasts from making the stock in the Classic Chicken Noodle in this recipe and you’ll skip the entire first step. Not only does it save time, it saves money.

Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup 2.0.jpg

Another reason this Monday is particularly difficult is because it’s my first official week back in the city. I’ve been living in the suburbs for about three and a half years but recently, I made the decision to split my time between the two. It’s a long and rather personal story I won’t get into but bottom line, I live a few days or weeks at a time in each place. I finally moved into my space downtown this weekend making it a functional place to both live and work which is fantastic! I’ll be able to lead a productive life whether I have a busy week of meetings in the city or absolutely nothing to do but sit at a desk in the suburbs. It will also give me back what’s left of my broken social life. Being away from the pups is something I could not prepare myself for though. We just celebrated Scooby Doo’s first gotcha day and second birthday this weekend. He was so excited, I promise that he knew we were all there for him. It made me so happy to see him so excited. Leaving him for a week is just about killing me but I can’t take him away from his big fenced-in backyard and Lou Lou (who I miss equally as much). So while he’s nice and warm snuggling with my cousins back in the suburbs, I’ll be snuggling a pillow with a big bowl of this soup to fill the void. Dramatic? Yeah, I agree. It still doesn’t change the fact that this soup is perfect comfort food though.

Photo Credit: Levine-Moore Photography

Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup
Ingredients:
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Chicken Breasts, cut into chunks
2 tbsp. Butter
1 Onion, diced
2 large Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 cup Frozen Peas
¼ cup + 2 tbsp. Flour
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 tsp. Thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp. Rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup Heavy Cream
Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the pot and cook until golden and cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Remove to a plate.

2 - Back in the same pot, melt the butter. Add in the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook 8-10 minutes until starting to soften. Add the peas and give a quick stir just to thaw them out a bit. Add the flour and cook until slightly golden and fragrant. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, avoiding any clumps. Add the herbs and the chicken, bring to a boil and let simmer 15-20 minutes until veggies are cooked through.

3 - Stir in the heavy cream and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and serve with a side of crusty bread.

*NOTE: Cooking time(s) may vary. Use this recipe as a guide and adjust anything as necessary.

Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup 1.0.jpg

8 Must-Have Items If You Work From Home

Working from home is something a lot of people are doing more often these days. Whether it’s because they’ve embarked on the adventure of self-employment or their company is allotting so many remote work days each month, it’s a trend that seems to be taking root. Since entering self-employment three years ago this past Thanksgiving, I’ve created a little nook for myself that serves as my place of work. I’ve learned what is necessary for a productive space to work from and what is not. It’s taken some trial and error, and lots of wasted money on my part, to figure out what works. To get 2018 started on the best note possible, I wanted to share eight non-negotiable things that are in my own personal space. Everyone is different thought so some of these might not apply to you as much but at least give them a shot. You never know if something out of the norm for you might actually work!

Must-Have Items For Working From Home.png

1 - A Good Planner. I’ve been in the planner business since 2015 when I bought my first high-end planner. Since then, I’ve found an option that costs half the price and works even better, the Happy Planner. I like seeing my schedule on a weekly basis and in a vertical view. Each row (as you see below) has a different purpose: top tier for personal appointments and dates, second tier for work-related things, and third tier for all things blog life. I like to include goals and top to-do’s in my planner and sometimes deadlines and notes. My planner is my life. I’ll use my Google calendar for appointments, meetings and events (anything that requires a commitment from me) as a backup but my planner is the Bible of Christine.

Office Must-Haves 2.0.jpg

2 - A fully stocked working space. Just because the office is at home doesn’t mean it should be any less stocked with supplies than an office. You don’t need a supply room full of dozens of back-ups but it’s smart to have the essentials within your office. This includes a desk, chair, lamp/lighting, computer (obviously), notebooks/pads, pens and pencils, scissors, a printer with ink and paper, tape, white out...you know, the essentials. I’ve built up quite a collection of supplies since college thanks to an office supply obsession but I’m cautious of clutter. Working in a cluttered space is as detrimental to productivity as not having the tools you need to work efficiently. So keep what you need and store or toss the rest. The less you have on your desk the better.

3 - A killer internet connection. Luckily I split my time between a city and the suburb of a big city so internet speed is never something I had to fight for. I have friends who live in different states and in the country and internet speed is something they don’t have the luxury to invest in. If you work from home and need to be on the computer and on email, a good internet connection is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Visiting family in Washington DC that didn’t have good internet was one of the worst experiences of my life. I had to go to a Starbucks to get onto my email. Unless you have a job that doesn’t require being connected to the rest of the world, there’s no way around it. You need fast, capable internet or you need to find a space that's able to provide it for you.

4 - A great coffee maker. This one is a bit biased because I have a coffee addiction but if you need your cup o’joe in the morning, this is a necessity for you as well. My Keurig had serious issues last year which caused me to spend a lot of money on buying coffee and ultimately time as well since leaving my house to get coffee was out of the way and not part of my regular routine. Having a good coffee maker available to you that’s stocked with beans or cups or whatever it requires makes the mornings go smoother and the afternoons survivable on bad days. I’m now a Ninja Coffee Bar owner and so far so good. I’m loving it.

5 - Essential oils and a diffuser. Last year, I became a Young Living member and ever since, I’ve been building up my collection of essential oils. Some days I use them more than others but the days that I do use them, they help me just the way I need them to. My nighttime routine now includes me prepping the diffuser for the morning so that I can press start and get going with my day. With this dry, winter weather, the diffuser is great to add a touch of humidity to the office. I have go-to blends for when I’m not feeling well and certain oils that I’m still experimenting with which is always fun. I know that my life has changed for the better with essential oils and I wish I had them earlier in my self-employment career when anxiety and stress ruled my life. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, contact me! I’ll be sharing more about them and my personal story as we get farther into 2018.

Office Must-Haves 4.0.jpg

6 - Inspirational quotes. This isn’t so much a necessity as it is a nice personal touch. I received this block of quote cards several years ago in a box swap that I still use today. Each card has a quote on front and back and each morning, I flip it to the next one. Some days, the quotes are eerily applicable to my life. Other days, they don’t relate but they do make me think for a minute. It’s a nice touch for inspiration and motivation.

Office Must-Haves 5.0.jpg

7 - Wall Calendar. I love my planner but it's good to have a monthly view of dates sometimes. I don’t write anything on my wall calendar, it’s only there for a month’s view of the days. It puts time in perspective by showing you how many days or weeks remain until a deadline or event. It also acts as a reminder for how much time is left in the month. I don’t know about you but November and December managed to disappear in no time even with the calendar on the wall.

8 - Water. One of the perks about working in an office is a water station or a stocked fridge with beverages. Let’s be honest, most people do not have water coolers in their home for regular hydration. With that said, it’s important to have a source of hydration at home. For those of us who don’t have safe, drinkable water (I’m looking at you well water), that could be keeping a stock of bottled water or some kind of filtration system. For those who do have good drinking water, that could be using a fun and reusable water bottle. The truth is that I drank a ton more water working in an office than I do at home. It was an excuse for me to get up and walk around. Having a water routine at home is necessary to keep the body hydrated and give it something cleaner than the dozen cups of coffee I can down in a day.

Do you work from home? What are a few essentials you must have for a productive and efficient work life?

Where To Go For A Winter Wonderland Getaway

Winter only began less than one month ago. Isn’t that hard to believe? With almost three months left of the cold-weather season, it’s time to plan for a winter getaway. Everyone loves a beach but you can visit those any time of the year. Snow only falls during during one season making it a little more special. It’s hard to ignore how pretty everything is covered in pure white, glistening snow. Everything looks magical and nothing beats getting cozy at night in front of a fire with a warm blanket and cup of hot chocolate. Maybe I’m biased since winter tends to by my favorite time of year (almost tied with fall) but it’s hard to ignore the beauty of the season. If you’re itching to get away for a long weekend or something more, we’ve put together a list of spots to go for a winter getaway in North America.

Winter Wonderland Getaways.png

Banff, Canada
For those who love the outdoors, Banff is the perfect winter getaway. Located in Banff National Park, this small resort town features skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snowboarding, and every other winter activity. There’s also hiking and fishing. For those who prefer to stay away from sports, there's plenty of shopping, dining and spas. Or stay in one of the gorgeous cabins and resorts to cozy up and catch up on reading. Not sold yet? Check out the city’s blog post on why you should visit in January.

[Photo via Pixabay User Olichel]

[Photo via Pixabay User Olichel]

Black Hills, SD
Go off the grid for a true getaway in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This remote, isolated area is the perfect location to disconnect and unwind, especially after a crazy holiday season. The Black Hills are a snow-filled wonderland making it an ideal wintry escape. Close by are Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and Devil’s Tower, all accessible year-round. Something tells me a photo of Mount Rushmore covered in snow is worth the escape.

Boston, MA
Boston is magical any time of year. The city’s age gives it a magical atmosphere making it perfect to visit no matter the season. Imagine the brick roads and cobblestone sidewalks covered in snow. The smoke coming out of old chimneys and the smell of baked goods wafting through the air. When the city glistens in the cold night, you’re taken back in time and nostalgia sinks in deep. The lights throughout the city are beautiful over the holiday season but if a January/February trip is in your future, it won’t be any less magical.

Freedom Trail - Boston ed.jpg

Burlington, VT
Remember in White Christmas when they’re on the train talking about how it would nice to have a white Christmas in Vermont? It’s the snow capital of the world! Well, Burlington is no different. Plus it carries small town charm with an old world feel. For those who enjoy culture, dining, and entertainment, Burlington is the getaway for you. It’s a great town for a long weekend visit with cozy accommodations and beautiful views. The Boston Globe recently shared an article on five ways to enjoy the city. It’s a great read for a jump start on planning that weekend escape!

[Photo via Pixabay User MariaMichelle]

[Photo via Pixabay User MariaMichelle]

Door County, WI
There isn't one winter round-up that doesn't' include Door County. A winter wonderland of the Midwest, Door County is Wisconsin’s ultimate snow land with 15 different towns to visit. There’s something for everyone whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly, family getaway or a romantic escape for two. From light houses to wineries, forests and national parks to unique restaurants, Door County has it all. Catch a jazz concert or stay in with a cozy cup of hot cocoa in front of the fireplace. Get a taste of cherry pie with local fruit the area is known for. Go on a brewery or distillery crawl, see a variety of wild animals, and take a ride on a snowmobile. If there were ever a winter wonderland, Door County is it.

Galena, IL
Galena is a small city in the Northwestern corner of Illinois. The town rests on the border of Illinois and Iowa with only the Mississippi River dividing them. It’s a charming place to visit with plenty to do but you can tackle it all in a weekend. For a longer trip, venture out to close cities including Elizabeth, IL and Dubuque, IA. Enjoy skiing, sledding, and other winter sports as well as relaxing spa days and delicious meals.

Galena.jpg

Hudson Valley, NY
The Hudson Valley is an expanse of counties and towns along either side of the Hudson River in upstate New York. The area is known for gorgeous views of nature, lots of history and an ever-growing food scene. Whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or planning an extended stay, there are plenty of small towns and national parks to explore. If you’re looking for a city escape, it’s also within driving distance of New York City. America’s oldest winery is located in the valley and the Appalachian Trail is one of the most popular hiking spots in New England. Want a taste of history? Visit one of the many old homes or estates for a trip back in time. With ten different counties to explore, there will be plenty to do now and even more to come back for.

Quebec City, Canada
For a European experience without the long flight, Quebec City is about as French as it gets in North America. The city is more than 400 years old so if you love historical destinations with a back-in-time feel, this is the spot for you. The city is known for a European experience but within minutes, outdoorsy types can find hiking, winter sports, and nature escapes. Visit some of North America’s oldest streets in Old Quebec. Take a day trip to Ile d’Orleans which is like stepping into the French countryside circa 18th century. Take a winter hike in the Jacques-Cartier National Park. Take photos of extraordinary views at the Chateau Frontenac. Wander through Place Royale for an afternoon of shopping and sightseeing. Quebec City and Montreal are two cities towards the top of my travel list I'd like to get to sooner rather than later.

Winter Park, Colorado
About 45 minutes outside of Denver is a small mountain town with plenty of charm and an abundance of privacy. My girlfriends and I visited last February for a long weekend getaway and it was a nice escape from regular city life. There are no words to describe the mountains. They’re magnificent and peaceful all in one. Leave the city on Sunday to take advantage of the Winter Park Express, a train that goes from Winter Park to Denver without any stops. The train travels through the mountains providing unbelievable views of the mountains and valleys. Winter Park is a ski town with lots of winter sports but if you’re like me and not as athletically inclined for sports that require balance, there’s also lots of restaurants, shops and spas to indulge in. Or, you could stay in with friends while taking advantage of the beautiful views from each window in the house.

Winter Park Mountains 1.0.jpg

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup | National Soup Month

Happy National Soup Month! I don’t get this excited about food holidays again until the fall when pumpkin dominates over everything. It’s the perfect month for soup to be the center of attention because it’s the coldest by all accounts. February might have it beat by a few degrees but I certainly hope not considering we’re coming out of single and negative digits for the first week of January. It also doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of cold and flu season, something that everyone seems to be fighting at one time or another. Me? It’s the sinuses. I’m constantly battling sinus pressure in the winter and some days I lose. That’s when you need a giant bowl of classic chicken noodle soup.

Soup Month - Chicken Noodle.png

I have four soup recipes for the month that will be shared on Mondays starting with this classic dish. I don’t know what it is about homemade chicken noodle soup but it feeds the body and soul. Maybe it’s the vegetables, or maybe it’s that the broth is made from scratch providing the body with a heavy dose of good nutrients. All I know is that nothing beats a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup when you’re feeling your worst. My Noni made chicken noodle soup for me growing up and she still does. I didn’t start making it from scratch until recently because I always thought it was so hard to make. It’s not though. It’s actually pretty easy, but it takes some time if you want to make it traditionally.

Chicken Noodle Soup 3.0.jpg

There are a lot of shortcuts to making chicken soup. Use store-bought chicken stock or broth and leftover cooked chicken. After all, these are the two elements that take the most time during the process. When you make stock from scratch, you’re extracting all the best stuff out of the chicken and it’s a pretty sustainable meal because you’re using every part of what you buy. To make the broth, all it takes is boiling the chicken (bone-in) and vegetables in water for an hour. The water will extract the best parts of the ingredients to make a rich broth that becomes the base for your soup. Use the dark meat for the soup and the white meat for something else later in the week like this easy Chicken Pot Pie recipe. Cut it up or shred it and the rest of the soup cooks up in under an hour. Easy, right?! A classic chicken noodle might take a hot minute to finish but it doesn’t take much work.

Chicken Noodle Soup 1.0.jpg
Chicken Noodle Soup 2.0.jpg

So put on a pair of sweats, turn on Netflix and get a pot of water on the stove. You’re making Chicken Noodle Soup tonight and you’re going to love it.

Chicken Noodle Soup 4.0.jpg

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Ingredients for the Stock:
1 Whole Chicken, cut into individual pieces*
2 large Carrots, left whole
3 Celery Stalks, left whole
1 Onion, quartered
4 Garlic Cloves, whole
1 Leek, halved (white and light green parts only)
1 small bunch each of Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp. Peppercorns, your choice

Ingredients for the Soup:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
1 Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2 Parsnips, diced
2 Potatoes, diced
4-6 cups Chicken Stock
1 Rosemary Sprig
A few sprigs of Thyme
2-3 cups Chicken, shredded or cut into chunks
1 lb. Egg Noodles, cooked**

Directions:
1 - Prepare the chicken stock. Cover all of the ingredients for the stock with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for at least one hour.

2 - Remove the chicken and set on a plate. Strain the stock into a large bowl, or another pot, and discard the remaining ingredients.

3 - Prepare the soup. Place the pot back on the stove and heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until softened. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, a minute or two. Add the parsnips and potatoes to the pot. Give a good stir and let cook about 5-8 minutes just to get the rawness out of the vegetables.

4 - Add 4-6 cups of the stock to the pot with the rosemary and thyme (use less stock if you want a chuckier soup, more stock if you prefer a looser soup). Bring to a boil and let simmer 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are all tender.

5 - While the soup cooks, debone the chicken. Reserve the white meat for another meal and start to shred the dark meat. Remove any bone, skin oe tendon and use two forks to shred the meat.

6 - When the vegetables are tender, add the chicken and let cook another five minutes to warm through. Place a scoop or two of the egg noodles into each bowl and top with ladles of chicken soup. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

NOTES:
* If you’re squeamish like me and don’t care for cutting up your own chicken, ask the butcher to do it for you or buy the whole, cut-up chicken in the meat section.
** Cook the egg noodles just under al dente so they don’t get mushy in the soup. Serve separately so that they don’t break down from cooking too long with the rest of the soup.

Chicago Coffee Shop Series | Wicker Park, Bucktown + Ukrainian Village

Ok you coffee addicts, I have five new coffee shops to share for the latest Chicago Coffee Shop Guide. Sadly, Filter Cafe which was also supposed to be included closed in November. This spot was one of my particular favorites so far while researching for this series so I’m hoping that they reopen with new plans this year. With that said, there have been a few additions to the coffee scene since I posted the other four guides in the series which means I’m going to work on follow-ups to those with more recommendations and new additions plus any closing information that’s recent. The difficult part is that there are SO many coffee shops and only so many days in the week and it’s taking me longer than anticipated to get to all these spots. I promise I’ll continue visiting the ones I have mapped out and report on them once I have enough to put together a guide. In the meantime, make sure you’re following on Instagram because I post real-time experiences.

Chicago Coffee Shop Series - Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village.png

Caffe Streets | 1750 West Division Street
With a prime location along Division Street in the Wicker Park neighborhood, Caffe Streets delivers an exceptional coffee experience. The cafe serves locally-owned Metric Coffee along with pastries and snacks. The space has an industrial design to it, very simple with a few quirky elements scattered about. The weekday crowd is mostly people typing away at their computers with a few friendly meetups. Weekends have a combination of people working and meeting up for coffee talk. When the weather is nice, Caffe Streets has a large patio with plenty of seating. It’s a great spot to people watch and enjoy the day, especially since they serve up a mean latte.

Wi-Fi:
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Pastries, snacks and small breakfast items (ex. granola with yogurt, scones)
Service: Friendly and efficient
Noise Level: Mild to moderate
Seating Space: Mixture of high and low seating plus an outdoor patio
Outlets: Plenty
Music: Eclectic collection and never the same. Perfect volume, soft enough for conversations and working but loud enough to hear.

Caffe Streets 1.0.jpg

Cup & Spoon | 2415 North Avenue
Part of the WOW District (West of Western), Cup & Spoon introduced me to a new Chicago neighborhood that I didn’t know existed! Stop in for a locally-sourced cup of coffee and bite to eat. The cafe features brews and bites from Metric Coffee, Littlefoot Coffee, Phlour Bakery, Pear Tree Preserves, and Jo Snow Syrups. It’s a local business that supports other local businesses. The latte is creamy and delicious and the Savory Breakfast Bagel is the perfect fuel when you don't have time to make breakfast. Cup & Spoon also works as an art gallery, showcasing work from local artists. They are on North Avenue right past Western which keeps it from being part of the Wicker Park neighborhood and instead a member of the WOW District.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Breakfast served all day, lunch sandwiches, and pastries
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Quiet during slow hours, Moderate during busy hours
Seating Space: A dozen or so tables, small space in general but decent seating
Outlets: Plenty
Music: N/A

Cup & Spoon 1.0.jpg

Ipsento | 2035 North Western Avenue
Ipsento provides a relaxed coffee experience on the edge of the Bucktown neighborhood. The service is exceptional and the coffee delicious. The Western Avenue location is the original spot and a bit small but perfect for getting work done. It’s quiet and the back room has plenty of seating away from the bustle of the barista counter. There’s another location, also in Bucktown but along Milwaukee Avenue - Ipsento 606, that serves up cocktails as well as coffee. Both are easily accessible with public transportation. The Western blue line stop is actually the closest “El” station to both.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Snacks and Sandwiches
Service: Friendly and Efficient. My coffee was a little overfull so one of the baristas helped me to my seat by carrying my plate of food. SO nice of them!
Noise Level: Quiet to Moderate, there’s background music but everyone was super chill and quiet during my visit.
Seating Space: A few seats in the front but more seating in a room towards the back. Still not a huge space though so get there outside of busy hours.
Outlets: Plenty
Music: Mixture of throwbacks, indie and top 40

Star Lounge Coffee Bar | 2521 West Chicago Avenue
Star Lounge is part of the Dark Matter Coffee company, one of the more well-known local roasters and shops in Chicago. Star Lounge is part of the West Town community in the Smith Park/Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Smaller in size, the coffee bar serves up brews both caffeinated and alcoholic. Dark Matter has a philosophy that centers around sustainability and offers products that are socially responsible, innovative and sustainable. They have a committed community and fan base and it’s no wonder because their coffee is really delicious. Star Lounge itself is very hip and cool. The crowd is indie/hipster and the vibe laid back. It’s a great spot but the lack of seating because the space is smaller and more like a bar setting doesn’t make it ideal to work but if you can grab a seat, by all means! You’ll see more Dark Matter locations in future coffee guides.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ok
Food Selection: Snacks and Pastries
Service: Quick
Noise Level: Moderate
Seating Space: Limited because of the small space
Outlets: Scattered
Music: N/A

Star Lounge ed.jpg
Star Lounge 4.0.jpg

The Wormhole Coffee | 1462 North Milwaukee Avenue
A Wicker Park favorite, Wormhole is one of those places you have to visit to experience. Get nostalgic surrounded by 80s pop culture from posters to a model of the DeLorean from Back to the Future. They play a mix of 80s, 90s and current music from the last 20 years (I can’t believe we’ve been in the 2000s for almost two decades - pinch me!). Wormhole serves Halfwit coffee along with other specialty roasters and a variety of pastries. It’s a fun space to grab a seat and hang out with friends or get work done. It’s one of the more popular coffee shops in the neighborhood though so don’t be surprised if it gets crowded.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Snacks and Pastries
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Mild to Moderate
Seating Space: Plenty
Outlets: Scattered
Music: Mixture of throwbacks and current music

Wormhole 2.0.jpg
Wormhole 1.0.jpg

3 Day Itinerary | Washington, DC

Quick trips are great for limited budgets but time can be an enemy. In planning a trip, it’s important to maximize the time that is available. Washington DC is full of things to see and do, so many that it can be intimidating at first, but planning is not as hard as it might seem. For starters, many things need advance planning since reservations come recommended. Second, many of the things will be similar in content: museums, memorials, tours, etc. Rather than a traditional itinerary post where we give a recommended schedule of events, we’ve put together a series of suggested activities for art lovers, history buffs and outdoor adventurers. There are also a few recommendations towards the end to pop in if you want to go off topic. Keep reading for more!

DC 3-Day Itinerary.png

FOR ART LOVERS
From portraits to sculptures to magazine covers, there are plenty of options throughout Washington DC to fill the time with art-focused activities. The trick is to determine what you are most interested in and prioritize time for your top picks. The National Gallery of Art would have been my first choice if I did much art viewing. The National Portrait Gallery would have also been towards the top of my list.

Day 1: Tackle the Big Stuff
The National Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Phillips Museum have some of the largest collections of art in Washington DC. It’s where many mainstream masterpieces are held like those from Picasso, Renoir and da Vinci. Other than hosting some of the more well-known artwork, these museums each take a chunk of time. You won’t be able to fit all four into your day so it would make the most sense to choose one or two and enjoy yourself. All but the Phillips Museum are located along the National Mall so if you choose any of these three, stop at the Garden Cafe for a bite to eat.

Smithsonian National Gallery of Art ed.jpg

Day 2: Dive into Culture
One of the unique things about Washington DC is the number of cultural art museums to visit. See artifacts from sub-saharan Africa at the National Museum of African Art and immerse yourself in Asian art and artifacts at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is home to a personal collection from Marjorie Merriweather Post who was passionate about French and imperial Russian art. The gardens are gorgeous if you can fit an hour or so into your schedule to walk through.

Day 3: Get Specific
DC has a variety of art museums that exhibit specific types of media. The National Portrait Gallery consists solely of portraits from presidents to public figures and celebrities. The National Museum of Women in the Arts hosts only artwork created by women with more than 5,000 pieces. The National Geographic Museum has an exhibit featuring all the magazine covers the publication has printed as well as exhibits featuring explorations, cultures and more.

FOR HISTORY BUFFS
History is everywhere in DC. From monuments to archived papers, there is a piece of history almost everywhere you step. It’s also where some of the more tourist-heavy traffic will be. After all, what’s traveling if you’re not waiting in line at least once? With there being so much history to experience in DC, it can be tricky to fit everything in only three days. So this itinerary breaks each day into specific themes: top tourist spots, museums, and special interest. If memorials are important to you, you might want to sacrifice one day or at least a half day of other activities to check a few off the list.

Washington Monument.jpg

Day 1: Top Historical Tourist Sites
The good thing about many of these spots, reservations are either required or recommended in advance so it makes it a little easier to plan your day. The bad thing, they will take up a good fraction of the day and lines might suck up even more time. This reason alone is why it’s good to get these activities in the first day. It leaves two more to cram as much in as possible. The two big ones that take reservations are tours of the White House and the Capitol Building. The White House requires reservations and a screening process in advance. If this isn’t planned ahead, you won’t be able to do it. The Capitol Building does not require reservations but they are recommended. Availability for day-of tickets are scattered and unpredictable at best. If the Capitol Building is important to you, book the reservation in advance. Other sites to consider for your first day include the Library of Congress, Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, memorials honoring wars and their veterans, and Ford’s Theatre among others.

Capitol Building ed.jpg

Day 2: Museums
There are several history museums in Washington DC, five of which I go into detail in this post. A few of the larger ones include the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History. For a deeper dive into specific cultures, visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture or the National Museum of the American Indian. Have a little fun at the International Spy Museum which takes a look at espionage throughout civilization or get a somber lesson in history at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Depending on the museum, it can take a few hours or half a day to make it through. The National Museum of American History took me about three hours and I didn’t hit all the exhibits thoroughly.

National Mall_American History Museum 6.0.jpg

Day 3: Specific Interests
Similar to the art available in DC, there are also places to visit that cover specific historical topics. The Folger-Shakespeare Library has a special collection from William Shakespeare and hosts performances regularly. The Newseum features exhibits that focus on media and journalism from over the years. For those who love old documents and history by paper, the National Archives will provide an interesting visit. You'll feel like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure. This is also a good day to fit in any sites or museums from the first two days there wasn’t enough time for.

Shakespeare Library ed.jpg

FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURERS & NATURE LOVERS
From rivers to forests, there is plenty to do for those who enjoy the outdoors. Paddle Boating along the canal and hiking are just two things to plan ahead for to enjoy nature in the capitol. Explore nature by exhibit with visits to the American Museum of Natural History or the Botanical Gardens. With a milder climate, DC makes it easy to enjoy these activities almost all year round.

Day 1: Natural History & Sites
Experience cherry trees in spring unlike anywhere else at the United States National Arboretum or become an expert on flowers at the US Botanical Gardens. Get educated on the history of nature from extinct dinosaur age animals to prehistoric plant life at the American Museum of Natural History. Take a stroll through a smaller, private garden at the Tudor House for a relaxing afternoon.

Museum - National Mall ed.jpg

Day 2: Take a Trip To Georgetown and Explore the C&O Canal
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) is almost completely intact from the original build providing an authentic historical experience. Walking or cycling is available for free along the canal or rent boats for a canoe or paddle boat ride on the water. The scenery is gorgeous and the canal is a whopping 185 miles so there’s plenty to explore.

Day 3: Hike
There are many places to go for a hike around Washington DC but one of the most popular is Rock Creek Park. There are miles to run or bike as well as horse riding activities, tennis courts, golf courses and more. The national park has activities and tours for kids and adults for those interested in expert-led experiences. To get farther out of the city, Fort Dupont Park is an old Civil War fort with hundreds of acres of land for recreation, hiking and more. It includes a long trail, community garden and even hosts concerts and events during the warmer months. Great Falls Park is another great option for hiking and boasts beautiful views of the Potomac River flowing over rocks and cliffs.

Mix up the schedule by adding in a few random activities. The National Air & Space Museum is a favorite for visitors featuring airplanes, simulations and all kinds of interactive activities. Eastern Market on Capitol Hill is a fun indoor/outdoor market that opens weekly with artisans from all over selling anything from clothing to food. Walk through the National Mall whether it’s on the way to get from one museum to another or simply to enjoy the scenery. It’s a large expanse of greenery and there’s plenty to wander around and do. If you’re on a budget, check out our post sharing free things to do in DC. For other ideas on what to do while visiting, visit our post sharing six things you must do.