Video

My First Amtrak Train Ride

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I severely dislike waiting in lines at the airport.

I know you’re not supposed to hate anything, so I’ll say “severely dislike” instead.  I also know that I should look at the bright side and say “Hey- it’s just cool that I’m going somewhere!”, right?   And it is.  It’s just… patience has never been my virtue, and waiting in line is so dull especially when you have a bunch of things to be responsible for…

This is a first-world problem, I know.amtrack logo train

My point is- I got to skip all that internal drama on my first Amtrak train ride.  I’d say it started easily with buying the ticket online, but I didn’t actually buy it- Josh did.  (Thanks, Josh!)  He said it was easy.  Let me know if he’s right.

Because I was riding Business Class, I could have been on the train first.  But, I left my iPhone on a ledge in the station and had to run back in to look for it.  I’m glad I take pictures of everything or I would have been in Bloomington before I realized I didn’t have my electronic baby.

Luckily, someone turned  it in to the Union Station office, and even though the lady behind the desk shook her head at me like she’s never lost anything before- I got it back.   Yesssss!  Thank you, Jesus!  That would have jacked up my weekend.First Amtrak JenTravels

So, I thoroughly  enjoyed all of my first Amtrak train ride.  We boarded quickly, easily and no one looked through my bag, which I liked.  The staff was nice, the carts and seats were spacious and I combined vodka and Frappuccino for the first time ever.  Oh, it’s good.

I was also lucky enough to score a window seat and “Ooo” at the beautiful Midwest landscape at sunset.  It was pretty gorgeous.  I could have done a few more hours of that actually.

In closing- would I ride an Amtrak again?  Yes.  Absolutely.  And so should you.

Question: What was your furthest train ride?

WordPress.com “Audio Posts” let you do more traveling and less typing

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In researching my craft I often go off on rabbit trails.  There are so many different sites to learn about regarding social marketing and yet- they are all somehow connected.  One thing leads to another and another… It’s both frustrating and enthralling that I’ll never catch up.

Soo… suffice it to say- rabbit trails happen.  Today I was looking at my Klout score, which brought me to Bing analytics which brought me to WordPress.com, where I host this site.  Follow me?

What I like about WordPress hosting is that although I have less options as far as themes, I am totally in control of my website.  No html coders can tell me something will take weeks to fix, change or update ever again.  (That’s a story for another time.)Untitled drawing

So while clicking around in the backend of my site, I saw an embedded function called “Audio Posts”.  Ooo.  I have been so in love with the audio-to-text function on my iPhone 4S, I jumped at the chance to say more and type less.  (And this is why my outgoing text messages have become longer and more frequent.)

So- audio posts… I like ’em.  It doesn’t script-to-text, like I was expecting (like Siri), but still… It’s pretty cool.  It embeds an audio player into your post.  I left the first audio post untouched, so you could see how “bare bones” the post comes out.  But if people like and trust you- they may listen anyway.

Still, in the future, I’m sure I will go back to edit each audio post with script, photo, tags, excerpts…  Google can’t rank what it doesn’t know, so I have to go back in to make the post searchable and relevant.  The hardest part of video, writing and blogging is the details.  (Note to self: Look into virtual assistants)
Do you like my mustache?
So, though it’s still a lot of work to optimize, it could be the perfect solution for people whom I want to interview but are “weird” about being on video.  (That’s another post too.)  Instead, we can just talk into my iPhone, like we’re talking to another friend that couldn’t be there.  No deer-in-headlights here.

And since every post needs a good visual aid (lest Pinterest have nothing to “pin”, I’ll embed an Instagram or Flickr picture of the speaker or relevant image.  Next thing you know I’ve got a whole podcast thing going on using this very simple tool.  Simple.  I love it.

It’s like I said… More traveling and fun.  Less typing.

Done and done.

What tools make your life easier when you’re traveling?

Travel and Exercise

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It’s 11pm and I’ve been unpacking boxes all day.  I can feel that my body is tired, but I am still compelled to work out.  Is it because I am a work out freak?  Nope.  It’s because my body knows the difference between being fatigued from”doing something manual”, and exercising for my own health.  I don’t know how it knows, but it knows.

Anyway, I still have a lot of social marketing work to complete for clients tonight and uhg… it feels too late to exercise.  Plus, I’ve been traveling and I’m out of my rhythm.  You know how it is…

But, then again… I was tired yesterday and I went for a good run anyway.  And it totally made me feel better.  It even gave me energy to go out last night.  Not only that, but as I was getting dressed to go out, I decided that I felt 13% prettier than before I exercised.

Dude.  13%?  That’s a good feelin’.

And that’s just it.  If exercise makes me feel better and prettier, I gotta figure out a way to work it into my travels, right?  ‘Cause when I’m out there exploring, I want to be my best.  I want to feel my best.  I want to be up for any physical challenges… tackle bears, climb mountains and whatnot.

So, I’ll just have to be disciplined and make it happen. 5-6 days a week for at least 20 minutes.  No matter what country, language or climate.

Therefore, in that vein, I’d like to share with you a great YouTube workout video from my favorite coach Jillian Michaels.  It’s only 20 minutes, but she’ll kick your butt if you “show up”.  It’s online; it’s free- no excuses.

I’ll do yoga instead tonight though.  I think the breathing will do me good.  Chill me out.  I just couldn’t find a yoga video on YouTube that I’d whole-heartedly recommend, like my favorite yoga DVD.  It’s an hour, but your body will buzz when you’re done.  Good buzz.

Soo, if you are reading this, and you’ve been thinking to kick up your fitness / health / overall game- here’s your “sign”.  Make it happ’n, Cap’n.

Life is short. Feel prettier. Or more handsome. 13% – 17% more, to be exact.

Okay.  Well, there I go.  I procrastinated the amount of time that I took to write this post, BUT, in my defense, it was a perfect “travel exercise” conundrum.  I will now make myself read this when I don’t want to exercise but know I should.

Like now.  And I will.

How do you stay fit when you travel?  Or are you always on vacation?

Wine, cheese and chocolate at Enology in the Intercontinental Chicago

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Eno Wine Rooms Chicago I wouldn’t go as far as to say that wine, cheese and chocolate is enough to subsist on for an indefinite period of time (I do love steak and sushi) but the richness and decadence of the would-be snacks and cocktails at Eno have a way of satisfying my taste buds way more than most any fried appetizer.  I think it’s like that book about how French Women Don’t Get Fat.  It’s the quality over quantity thing.  It’s satisfying.

Eno Wine Rooms ChicagoConnected to the Intercontinental Chicago, you can order wine of virtually every variety at Enology.  Or… get a flight (sampling) of red, white and/or bubbles and choose your favorite.  Then, order that one by the glass.  It’s brilliant.

And it goes for the cheeses and chocolates too.  This works for people who want to try a little bit of everything.  I, personally, am a sucker for variety.   I’m famous (or infamous) for asking, “Can I try a bite of that?”

The venue is quiet enough to have a personal conversation or date night, and the flight descriptions are the perfect fodder for conversation- especially if you are getting to know someone new.

Long time pal, Michelle and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and learned a thing or two about bubbles, salmon and cheese.

Eno Wine Rooms Chicago

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**Considerations were made for this post and video.

Video

Michael Jordan’s Steak House: Chicago

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Michael Jordan Steak House Chicago I love steak.  Any chance I get to eat it, I’m in.  Maybe it’s because I’m from Texas. But then again, maybe not, because @FeliciaCago is the same way.  We’re suckers for lobster too.  The point is- we both love and very much appreciate good food.

So last week, as Felicia and I lounged about in our robes during our Intercontinental Chicago staycation, we came up with a few great ideas…

  1. We should get dolled/dressed up.
  2. We should have a girls-only fancy dinner date at MJ Steak House
  3. If a man, or a group of men, in a tuxedo(s) show up… all bets are off.

She should have played the lottery that day.Michael Jordan Steak House Chicago

Before Felicia left me for the penguin suit at the bar (oh yes, she did) we were seated graciously by Ricardo through Michael Jordan’s Steak House‘s gorgeous floating runway.  It made me want to shoot a music video, but I was too hungry, so I didn’t mention it.  Our server, Chris told us about the menu and specials and we ordered.  Very well.
Michael Jordan Steak House Chicago
**Side note: This was a great instance in which “checking in” to Foursquare came in handy.  If you are unfamiliar with the app, you and your friends can “check-in” to venues and the map tool lets you know where your friends are and where they’ve been.  One of the functions of the application allows for users to leave “tips” about the venue.  Big ups to Time Out Chicago for convincing me to try the garlic bread.  It was “amaze-balls”, as they say.  You’ll see.  (see video)

Being a Monday, the dining room was quiet and relaxed as couples and business travelers surrounded us.  It was a nice place to have a quiet date with someone you really like.  We had that.  Until she left me for a man in a tux, at the bar.  I would have done the same thing.

Hey.  A deal’s a deal.

Luckily, I was full, buzzed and tired.  My soft, cloud-like pillow-nook called to me “Come relax and catch up on reruns of The Family Guy.”  And so I did.
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For more pictures, videos and travel-related topics- connect with me on FacebookTwitterYouTubeGoogle+, FlickrPinterest FoursquareLinkedin and Socialcam.

Click for more information on dining at Michael Jordan Steak House in Chicago.

**Considerations were made for this post and video.

Video

Living a life of Executive Leisure at Intercontinental Chicago

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Executive Leisure.  I might have just made that phrase up, but I think it works.  What else would you call the rare instances when you can “make it rain” business-wise while being a man or lady of leisure?  Last week, the two-room, two-bath, fully-stocked, best-view-of-the-city type accommodations I received at the Intercontinental Chicago reminded me what life is really all about…  Room service, wi-fi and a huge pool.Intercontinental Hotel Chicago Executive Suite

I jest of course, but Executive Suite #4000 was a little slice of awesome.  And since the suite has more bedrooms than I have bodies, I called Twitter gal pal @FeliciaCago and asked her to take a mini-staycation with me.

She said yes.

So there we were… two ladies taking full advantage of our all-to-brief Michigan Avenue address and lifestyle.  We lounged the day away in robes, ordered room service, experience the attached Michael Jordan Steakhouse and Eno Wine Bar.  Oh.. and that pool.  The Intercontinental Chicago’s junior olympic-sized pool is something right out of a movie.  A fancy movie that I want to watch again and again.  (see video)


Intercontinental Hotel Chicago

For more pictures, videos and travel-related topics- connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Flickr, Pinterest Foursquare, Linkedin and Socialcam.

Click to book your Intercontinental Chicago vacation or staycation.

**Considerations were made for this post and video.

Video

Sullivan’s Steakhouse: Chicago, IL

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My first fancy date ever was at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Austin, TX.  I  was in college.  He was very established and said we could go wherever I wanted to go.  I consulted with my girlfriends and we settled on Sullivan’s- where I would feel the most special.

Lots has changed in my life since that night and yet the excellence of Sullivan’s brand of steak has remained.  For me, the most important part  of any upscale dining experience is customer service.  I know some will say food ranks higher, but I disagree.  Service makes or breaks an experience for me.  And that’s why I would recommend Keith Sansone and his team at Sullivan’s Steakhouse when you want to celebrate a special occasion in downtown Chicago.  They care enough to do it right.

Asta and I visited on a Thursday which- along with Sundays, boasts Swingin’ at Sully’s.  The nightly special includes $6 appetizers and specialty cocktails in the lounge bar which includes live jazz music in the heart of River North.  The crowd is grown up and established, so if you are looking to make some like-minded friends, you’ve come to the right place.
Sullivan's Steakhouse Chicago

After enjoying our appetizer and signature cocktails, Asta and I sat in the beautiful downstairs dining room as Keith and his staff continued to anticipate our every need.  Whatever wine was suggested to me (I forgot, but it was yummy), went perfectly with each of the steak filets that I ordered.  The seared tuna was perfectly cooked as I’m sure everything that comes out of the kitchen is.  I have to admit that we were a bit overzealous in ordering, but it made for an incredible lunch the next day.

Though it was not an official celebration, Asta and I were treated to a very sweet surprise (see video) that was the icing on the metaphorical cake.  (We had no room in our bellies for real cake which I’m sure is amazing.)

If you are traveling through or living in Chicago, and want a swanky place to hang, I would recommend Sullivan’s especially on Swingin’ with Sully’s nights (Thursdays and Sundays).  If you are celebrating a special occasion and want to make sure your party is treated as the special and valuable group that you are, call (312) 527-3510 and tell Keith I sent you.

So… how do you like your steak cooked?

Sullivan's Steakhouse Chicago

**Considerations were made for this post and video.

Video

Foursquare: iPhone Travel App Review

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iphone travel app foursquare
APPLICATION NAME & WEBSITE:  Foursquare  https://foursquare.com/

DESCRIPTION:  Share and save the places you visit with your friends and people with similar tastes

CATEGORY:  Travel
PRICE:  Free

GET IT:  Foursquare on iTunes

SOCIAL SPECS:  Lets you add friends from Facebook and Twitter, plus you may “push” your activities to your Facebook Timeline and/or Twitter feed.

LOCATION SERVICES:  Has “Explore” function to search by location and/or category
iphone travel app foursqare

FUN FACTOR:  You can become “The Mayor” of a venue if you check-in the most and sometimes the venue has a special prize for Your Honor.  Get cool badges, compete with your friends and get useful tips.  You can create a “Page” for your business.

DESIGN & INTERFACE:  Clean, intuitive, easy to use.  Loads quickly.

HIGHLIGHTS & TIPS:  Look for check-in deals before you order or while you are scouting venues..  You could be rewarded for checking in.

Think there’s an iPhone Travel App that I should review?  Email or tweet me!

PS:  Connect with ME on Foursquare!

Video

Tips and Packing for River Tubing in San Marcos, TX

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When you’re near the ocean, you go surfing and when you’re near a river, you go tubing.  Tubing in Texas has a variety of rules and regulations that always seem to be changing as local college students are always coming up with new loopholes in the last set of rules.  The long and the short of it is “Don’t be a jerk.”  Sounds easy.  And yet…

Yes, drinking is a big part of tubing for most, especially on a Saturday or holiday.  If you want a super relaxing ride, go on a Tuesday.  We chose to go on a Saturday and although I saw some rookie moves and party fouls out there, the overall fun and people-watching more than made up for it.  (see video)

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They say hindsight is 20/20 and in that spirit, here is a PACKING LIST AND TIPS for tubing down a river and specifically, the San Marcos River in Texas.

    1. Bring but leave in car: towel, dry clothes, hand sanitizer, cash
    2. Someone should have a WaterProof Case to hold: ID, cash, lighter, anything you wanna keep dry. 
    3. Find a tube rental and return ride company, so that you can get back to your car.  We used Don’s Fish Camp and had no problems.  Tube rental and return ride was $12 per person, but we scored a Groupon deal, so it was cheaper.
    4. Do it right and remember to bring a cooler.  Also, plan to rent an extra tube for it.  You’re not gonna sit that thing in your lap.
    5. Rope!  Don’t forget to bring a length of rope to ties your group’s tubes together.  It’s now effortless fun to chat and enjoy the scenery while having the full use of your hands and feet. 
    6. Don’t mess with Texas.  Don’t litter, in general.  Anywhere.  It’s rude.  The tube rental company gave us a netted trash bag to float along behind us and we tossed it at the end.  Simple.
    7. Think about your shoe situation.  If you think you may want to move faster, sneakers are good for walking the tube(s) out of a slow current.  Old sneakers would be best or water socks.  I wore leather flip flops and I may have ruined them from all the water and then slipping in them all the way to the car.
    8. Put on sunscreen early.  Repeat.  Be outside more often and less harshly if you want to be a bronzed god.  You know this.
    9. Consider buying your own tube.  Fancy tubes with cup holders and head rests can be bought for less than $20.  Here’s the Intex River Run I tube that I was eyeing up on the river today.  PS: You can still pay for a ride on the bus without the tube rental.
    10. You’re gonna get thirsty.  Bring something hydrating, like water, even if you BYOB.  Glass bottles and jello shots are not allowed.  However… huge bags of “juice” are.  (What’s with the slapping of the bag?)
    11. You’ll probably want a snack.  It’s not that long of a float (3-4 hours) but if you are going through the trouble of bringing a cooler, you may as well pack some healthy snacks that are easy to eat and share.  I suggest trail mix, grapes, Popchips, pre-made sandwiches and granola bars.  You can always bum snacks off your new river family- if you’re brave enough to ask.
    12. Music makes everything better.  Next time I would vote for our group to invest in buying or renting a Rugged and Waterproof Stereo Boombox.  As we tubed along past other groups we heard a variety of music.  Hard Ghetto Rap.  Nah.  Classic Country?  Yee-haw!  I would have had a really good time playing DJ on the river.  From PitBull to Classical… maybe.
    13. Capture the memories!  I brought the Ultimate Waterproof Case I just bought for my iPhone 4S and although my phone never went under water, I was happy to be able to take so many pictures while we were on the river.  If you aren’t as brave with your phone, a Kodak PlaySport (Zx5) HD takes still pictures and video for under $90 and you won’t lose your “whole life” if the case leaks.
    14. Other items to consider bringing: headache medicine, strap for your sunglasses, nerf football, lotion…

Did I miss anything?  Add your tips and comments below.

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