Work Trip: Chicago, IL

I’ve continued to get requests for details and tips about my work travel, so I’ve been sharing some details about these trips when I can. I have also been asked for details about how to travel as a working Mom. I will work to incorporate more of these types of details, and I generally hope to post more in the future about my business trips . If you don’t see answers to questions you might have, please feel free to comment and ask.

A trip to Chicago, IL, was on the agenda this week. The trip was a two night stay and called for me to attend a VIP conference and conduct a flurry of side meetings. This was not my first overnight trip since Hurricane Harvey, but it was my first out of state and overnight trip.

Sunday – Prepare/Plan/Travel
As George has gotten older, pre-trip preparation has become much easier and streamlined. But the Harvey situation has creeped in and made things a tad more complicated. Oh, well. Easy come, easy go, right? 

I made breakfast (biscuits, eggs, and sausage) and dinner (pasta fagiloi soup) on Sunday morning for the guys to have while I was away. George and I also swung by Whole Foods to pick up fresh fruit and a back-up dinner meal, just in case it was needed.

I also made sure to do laundry over the weekend, to pack George’s school bag with all of the required necessities, to tidy up the house, and to lay out (by hanging them in a certain place) George’s clothes for the rest of the week.

I also packed some snacks for my trip, including a mix of almonds and cashews and fresh fruit. For those wondering, these are my typical go-to snacks for work travel.

But let’s back up to the play-by-play (since some folks have asked about these details).

5:00 AM – I couldn’t sleep, so I did some work before heading to the gym for a long walk. I really like working out on travel days because it helps calm my nerves. It also gives me a chance to watch the news while doing something for my self – win/win. I also swung by our house (not rental) to check things out. Once I got home, I packed my travel snacks and began prepping for the day and trip.

7:00 AM – I woke G up for the day and he immediately asked for breakfast. Specifically, sausage, eggs, biscuits, and some fruit. While he ate his breakfast, I had some fruit and tidied up the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. I also spent some quality time catching up with George. I also prepared a soup for the guys to have for dinner that night.

8:45 AM – Once the kitchen was clean and bellies were fed, I took a shower, got dressed, and finalized my packing.

10:30 AM – John, George, and I left the house bound for our church where we attended the 11:00 mass.

12:30 PM – We drove to Rice Village and had a great lunch at Coppa. George has been a hungry boy lately and he completely devoured a kid’s cheese pizza. I had my favorite Tuscan Kale salad and shared a side of roasted chickpeas with John and George. Thanks to generous food portions, we left with a great deal of delicious leftovers for the guys to have at home.

1:45 PM – Once we got home, George and John prepared for nap time and I changed and finalized my packing (again).

2:00 PM – I had a few personal phone calls while I made the drive to IAH. I also stopped to get gas once I got close to the airport.

3:00 PM – I pulled into the Terminal C parking lot and immediately found a spot on the Sure Park level. I walked into Terminal C security and breezed through TSA Pre-Check. I made a few more personal calls and took advantage of a few moments of peace and quiet.

iahboard

3:45 PM – I stopped at Cibo (my favorite snack store at IAH) in Terminal C to pick up some snacks – a supersize bottle of my favorite water (Evamore) and a package of GF pretzels.

4:15 PM – We boarded on time and I settled into my upgraded seat (in first class).

iah plane
4:45PM – We took off without issue and meal service began immediately. I was happy to get sparkling water and some warm nuts because at this point, I was getting hungry.

almo.jpg

For my entree, I had the grilled chicken salad, which was good. I skipped out on the dessert and bread and instead focused on drinking a lot of sparkling water.

dinner
I spent the remainder of the flight working – primarily catching up on emails and administrative tasks.

7:30 PM – Once we landed in Chicago, I took the train downtown (Blue and Red lines). It was a 50 minute ride to my final destination and cost me $6.00. Score!

8:45 PM – I arrived at the Four Seasons Chicago (site of the conference) and received an upgrade to a larger room. I unpacked and got organized while watching the end of the Emmys and getting caught up on the news.

10:30 PM – I crawled into bed and passed out.

Monday – Meetings 
For the first time since our vacation to Hawaii (and Hurricane Harvey), I slept for more than 4 hours at a time. It was glorious.

6:00AM – I spent the first part of the morning working on emails and watching the news.

7:30 AM – I went downstairs to the hotel gym to get in a long walk on the treadmill and to watch even more news coverage.

8:45 AM – Post workout, I jumped on a conference call and quickly ate the breakfast I had pre-ordered before I went to workout.

acai

9:00 AM – I got ready for the day while handling another conference call.

10:00 AM – While walking down Michigan Avenue, I held weekly calls with two colleagues. I also popped into Room and Board to talk to someone about ordering replacement furniture for our home. I also picked up some fabric swatches and a lot of great design ideas.

11:00 AM – I held another call while waking back to the hotel. Once I got there, I had two meetings.

12:00 PM – My colleague and I walked over to Cafe Spiaggia for a lunch meeting. If you don’t know, this is one of my favorite Chicago restaurants and I was delighted to be there. Naturally, I ordered my favorite dish – the handmade bucatini. It was fabulous, friends. Truly. My colleague and I also shared a delicious watermelon, mint, and pistachio salad.

buca
1:45 PM – My colleague and I walked back to the hotel for a series of productive afternoon meetings.

5:30 PM – We walked over to the Hancock Building for a reception at the Signature Room on the 95th floor. The views were incredible.

skyline

After about an hour, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked about a mile to our dinner commitment.

7:00 PM – We met friends and colleagues for a nice dinner at Prime and Provisions. We had a pretty spectacular steak dinner with a variety of classic sides (creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, macaroni, etc.). We also shared a few desserts, including an amazing chocolate and peanut butter pie. Fortunately, the conversations and fellowship were fulfilling too.

9:45 PM – My colleague and I walked back to the hotel and purposely took the long way to enjoy the night air. After an indulgent meal, it was also nice to walk off some of the “full” feeling.

10:30 PM – We briefly hit the hotel bar (there was another reception happening) before returning to our rooms. I did a a bit of work before crawling into bed at 11:15.

Tuesday – Meetings/Travel
5:30 AM – I was wide awake at 5:30, so I went down to the gym for a long run + walk while watching the news. Thank goodness for 24-hour gyms and 24-hour cable news networks. After returning to my room, I got ready for the day.

7:50 AM – I met my colleague and a business associate for a breakfast session at our conference. Afterwards, my colleague and I had two meetings before I headed upstairs to join a conference call, change, and to finalize my packing.

room

10:30 AM – I checked out of the hotel and made my way back to O’Hare via the “L.” It took me about 50 minutes to make the journey to the airport. The ride was easy and uneventful. And it was also $3.00. Score!

L
11:30 AM – The TSA Check Point had a small wait, but I passed through quickly. Once I cleared security, I waited in line to pick up some Garrett Popcorn for George.

pop
12:15 PM – We boarded and took off on time (12:50). I spent the flight working on emails and documents. We were also served a light snack – a fruit and cheese plate. I devoured mine because I didn’t get a proper lunch that day and totally forgot to pick something up at the airport.

snackplate
3:13 PM – We landed ahead of schedule and I was able to pick George up from school.

The trip to Chicago was eventful and productive and, as always, I am grateful for these professional travel opportunities.

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We’re Alive! And Well!

So much has happened since the last time I posted (three weeks ago) an entry here, that I have had a hard time thinking about how to approach this post. All I can think about is – Where do I begin?

Since most of you are likely keenly aware of the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, I’ll try to be brief and get to my main points. In fact, for the sake of our collective time, I’ll try to keep it to multiple bullet points.

– Here’s the bottom line: Although the first floor of our home is substantially damaged (we took on at least 2.5 feet of water) and we lost both of our cars to flooding, our spirits and lives are the same. We recognize how fortunate we are, especially when we compare ourselves to the situations of many others. Thanks to our resources, including flood, auto, and home insurance, we will be just fine. Thanks to the love and friendship of many, we feel supported.

– John and I didn’t sleep the night of August 26th and instead spent our time trying to move as many items as we could upstairs. Once water began coming in, we scrambled to move even more items upstairs. Around 4:00AM on Sunday, August 27th, our home began to take on water. We were lucky because all of our efforts meant that we saved a lot of items. But the water kept rising…

courtyard

…and rising…

dr flood

…and rising…

kitch flood

…and rising.

lr2

–  However, God was on our side because George slept through all of it and woke up at 8:30AM.

– We lost power around 4PM that afternoon and while John and G napped, I watched multiple neighbors get evacuated via helicopter. It was intense.

heli

– Around 6PMish, we made the decision to try to get out of the house to higher ground. My BIL was able to locate a private boat and we were picked up and taken to my sister’s neighbor’s house (same neighborhood as us) where the second story had power.

boat

– We stayed there one night and the next morning a friend of my sister and BIL took us in for a few hours. We showered, ate, and plotted our next steps.

Harvey Julia

– We ended up moving on to the Doubletree Galleria that night – with special thanks to my cousin for arranging for a monster truck to pick us up and navigate the water-filled roads. Fortunately, we were able to secure a rental car the next day – a truly miraculous feat.

Harvey Monster Truck

– Having wheels meant that we were able to get back into our neighborhood to investigate the condition of our home. While we had been able to “see” things thanks to our security cameras, we wanted to get real “eyes on” the situation. Fortunately, most of the water had subsided by that point and our power had been restored. Obviously, the damage was significant and we were sad to see the state of our recently remodeled home.

Harvey Fridge Freeze

– We stayed at the Aloft Galleria for the next week and in that time managed to file claims with FEMA and our insurance carriers and to demo the first floor of our home. Thanks to family and friends, we made significant progress on rehabbing our home.

Harvey ZH

– We were also able to lease a rental home and move in within a week of the storm. We are now sharing a house my sister and her family – we are so lucky.

Harvey Laura.jpg

– We are also very fortunate to have a seriously strong and generous network of dear family and friends. Thanks to our “village,” we have been aided with physical labor, food, prayers, hugs, supplies, you name it. Our dear friends let us borrow a car, John’s firm made sure we had dehumidifiers, fans, and packing supplies, and my family made sure we had manpower, cleaning supplies, and childcare. We also had neighbors and complete strangers deliver cleaning and food supplies. Words cannot convey how grateful we are. The outpouring of support, love, and friendship has been unbelievable.

Harvey Cousins

– We have already met our flood adjuster and and are well on our way to getting structure and content settlements. We have also met with our fabulous kitchen cabinet fabricator to get that ball rolling too.

– We have also tackled the car situation in earnest and I purchased a new car this week. I’m officially back in a Volvo XC90 (I drove one from 2005-2013) and I couldn’t be happier. John is also very close to closing a deal on new car.

– We hired a contractor and his crew has expertly removed all of the remaining cabinets, appliances, and shelves.

rehab

So, what’s next?

Good question. We are still navigating our next steps. Do we rebuild? Renovate? Sell the lot? Clearly, we have lots to think about.

Stay tuned.

Hunkering Down

Greetings, friends! It’s been a while.

24 hours ago, the sun was setting on our glorious summer vacation in Hawaii.

HI

But more on that later.

For now, John and I are prepping our house for the remnants of Hurricane Harvey.

LR prep

We’ve been up for the last few hours organizing and trying to prep the house for the worst. Since we’re still on Hawaii time, this hasn’t been an undue hardship.

The rain is steadily falling and water levels on our streets and in nearby Braes Bayou are rising rapidly.

Wishing all of my family, friends, neighbors, and fellow Texans the very best during this time.  May God bless you, them, and Texas.

Fredericksburg – Wednesday

Wednesday – We were assigned breakfast duty, so John went downtown and picked up some doughnuts, kolaches, and apple fritters. We served these with fruit and juices.

donuts

After breakfast, everyone got busy packing, cleaning, and organizing.

car

We left the house around 9:00AM because I had a 1:00PM video call to conduct at home. Our drive was easy and I made several conference calls on the journey.

We made it home, safe and sound, and spent the rest of the day working, unpacking, and getting organized.

We had a wonderfully relaxing getaway with our family and we are so grateful for the experience.

fam

Fredericksburg – Tuesday

We woke up on the Fourth of July to the smell of cinnamon rolls and muffins, courtesy of Nelda. After a quick breakfast, we got dressed and ready and made our way downtown to take in the local Independence Day parade.

grands

Finding parking and a spot to spectate were easy because we arrived early.

waiting

e and g

We set up chairs for the kids and tried to keep everyone busy until the parade began.

m,om and g

A lot of people turned out for the parade and it was a sight to see.

m and j

There were lots of floats and emergency vehicles in the parade. Some of my favorite floats were politically themed. Ha!

fire

After the parade, we did a bit of shopping before heading home. We kept it simple for lunch and had leftovers (pizza, fruit, chips, and dip).

iza

More family joined us at the house, and the senior Hunters made ice cream with the kids.  Needless to say, the kids were mesmerized – some even too wound up to nap in the afternoon.

ice cream

We had a very traditional Independence dinner menu of hot dogs and sliders.

dinner

We spiced things up with chili, Rico’s cheese, and an assortment of fatty, yet delicious, chips. We topped all of that off with a dreamy brownie and ice cream bar.

dessert

We ended the night with sparklers and a fireworks display by Zach and Ian.

sparklers

Fredericksburg – Monday

Monday – After another great night of sleep, we woke up hungry.

emma

Fortunately, Mom was on breakfast duty and wowed the crowd with homemade tacos. Two snaps for Mom.

taco

We had another luxuriously relaxing morning of pool time and patio living.

am pool

Julie and I made another quick trip to HEB so that we could make sandwiches for lunch.

We ended up with a pretty nice sandwich bar for lunch, complete with chips, dip, and fruit.

lunch

After lunch, John, George, and I went downtown to do some exploring and shopping.

g and j

Later, John handled nap time with George, while I hit the gym for another workout.

Once nap time and gym time were over, everyone relaxed outdoors.

pop

We had popsicles and an antipasti spread for snack time.

anti

For dinner, we ordered West End Pizza Company and boy was it delicious.

dinner

The kids watched a little “Finding Dory”  before bed in the game room,  while all parents and grandparents cleaned and got organized.

Fredericksburg – Sunday

Sunday – We woke up well-rested and I immediately hit the kitchen for breakfast duty. Waffles, bacon, sausage, and fruit were on the menu.

break

We had a great, lazy morning playing and swimming outside. Naturally, no one had more fun than the kids.

pool

We kept things easy for lunch and ate leftovers. And because afternoons are for nap time, George and I crashed hard. With some extra rest, I was energized for an afternoon workout at a nearby gym.

gym

We spent the rest of the afternoon poolside/outside. Snack time was also a critical part of the agenda.

snacks

The kids also enjoyed afternoon popsicles.

kids pop

We re-purposed leftovers for dinner and made S’mores for dessert.

dinner

Naturally, the S’mores were a hit with the kids.

g smore

Okay, and the adults too.

smores