Monday, July 22, 2013

The City of Brotherly Love... and Hotel Love

I promise you, I do not work for Kimpton. (I did look into one of their job postings for a media coordinator. I didn’t think checking Instagram every ten minutes is quite what they meant by 2-3 years marketing experience.) Nor do they give me anything other than what any other loyalty member gets. I just wanted to clarify since Kimpton hotels seem to be the only thing I can talk about recently. Today is no exception.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Maximum Utility: Interesting Articles + a Dash of Thought

(The economic unit for measuring preferences or satisfaction is utility.  Each person's preferences are different, but here are a few things that have been impacting my utility lately.)

A few weeks ago, I lamented to Jason that I no longer recognize most of the names in the lineup at the 9:30 club, likely DC’s best-known music venue.  I’m just not the music fan I used to be.  Back in the day, I’d have concerts on the calendar, knew a lot of the obscure bands, and had the perfect song for every moment playing on my first generation iPod.  Over the past few years though, music has taken a back seat.  It could be that I’m not full of angst or crying over boys or doing anything else that requires having the same emo song on repeat.  Instead of hanging out with musicians, I’m married to a guy whose last music purchase was over a year ago.  It was classical music.  I rarely drive now, so I never hear new music on the radio, and contrary to my college-years, I can’t think with too much noise in the background, so often go days without signing into Pandora or iTunes. Now I’m so out of the music loop, and I’m ok with that. 

So that’s why this article was interesting to me: "Are Foodies Quietly Killing Rock-and-Roll" by Chris Richards in May 10’s Washington Post.  An excerpt: 

"Over the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of the foodie class and decline of the record industry. Are the two related? When did we start talking about new food trucks instead of new bands? When did the line outside El Centro D.F. taqueria get longer than the line outside the Black Cat? Is $8 a reasonable price for an order of duck fat french fries just because we can stream our music for free on Spotify?... [F]ood culture isn’t linking arms with rock-and-roll so much as replacing it."

I wouldn’t consider myself a “foodie,” but we definitely love food.  And the article sure provided some “food” for thought.  (Groan!)

The next two articles also came out a while ago, and I've been stewing on them both lately because they both have to do with two of the affects social media can have on us. The first article is “Instagram's Envy Effect” by Karen Russell for Relevant magazine:

"I’m not anti-technology or anti-Internet, certainly, but I do think it’s important for us to remind ourselves from time to time that watching other peoples’ post-worthy moments on Facebook is always going to yield a prettier version of life than the one you’re living right now. That’s how it works."

It seems like her point is that prettied-up versions of what we see of people's lives can often make us envious and erodes community. I know I've seen a lot of other blog posts that are almost "confession-like" as writers try to connect with readers by admitting their lives are not just a slew of one perfectly curated images after another. It's a good reminder. It doesn't take more than a few minutes of scrolling through my blog reader before I start envying someone else's job or house or wardrobe or whatever. Throw in more pretty things I don't have or places I haven't been showing up on pinterest and instagram and I-need-to-have-it-too-and-it-doesn't-matter-that-I-already-had-x-y-or-z! No matter how many blogs or magazines I purposely don't read, it's so easy to compare myself and feel dissatisfied when I don't measure up, however realistic that comparison is.

And here's the thing, oh Internet readers, I don't want to do that to you. I think to some extent, Jason and I are aware that God blesses us in ways we don't deserve, and we truly try to be thankful for that. We also know that a lot of the traveling we do fits into this period of our lives, but won't be like this for long. I don't want to create “instagram-envy” or glamorize our lives or turn this into a brag. 

On the other hand, if I'm keeping it real, a lot in our life right now is really awesome. Blogging about trips or fun things we do is my way of remembering it for myself, sharing with friends who really want to know, and sharing the knowledge I've gained on the way. I'm a nerd, so it really helps me to plan when I hear a lot of detail about someone else's experience, which is my motivation to do the same.

This article, “Please Continue Instagramming Your Amazing Life,” kind of described the positive effects of hearing about other people's amazing adventures: it can inspire you to do the same, resulting in actually building community based on shared interest:

"Are we really comparing our lives to those of our 'friends' online? Do we do the same thing in person? Do you hang up the phone after catching up with a friend and say 'I hate her. Her life is so perfect.'? Well. I’m a big fan of social media. I like to know when friends find places that make them feel awesome, or do things they’re excited to share, or find joy anywhere."

I like this perspective, because it reminds me that sometimes others actually do want to hear about the stuff I'm excited about too. Recently, a friend asked why I hadn't instagrammed more pictures of a trip we just got back from. It made me realize that I often assume friends don't want to know when they actually do.

So with that, enjoy your weekend enjoying music or food and instagram it.. or don't cause I'll get jealous!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Chicago Pt 2: Where We Stayed

I will just start out by saying, my husband is very patient with me.  I think he was a little distracted when I asked him if he'd mind switching hotels every night when I planned our trip to Chicago a few months ago.  I had a good reason, of course, to get free stuff, and thankfully the hotels were so close to each other it was actually really easy.  So now that we did that, I kind of feel like I need to do a little report on all those hotels.  This will probably only be interesting if you are going to Chicago and need a recommendation on where to stay or like pretty hotel pictures.

Let me just back up a bit.  Part of the reason we decided to go to Chicago was that our new favorite hotel chain, Kimpton, has a few properties there.  When Jason was gone for work earlier this year, he signed up for the loyalty program of the hotel chain where he stayed.  (What a good husband.  He knows how much I love capitalizing on any travel perks, so signed up while he was there.  He also brings home hotel toiletries for me.  Two months worth of hotel toiletries!)  He was there enough nights that he achieved higher "status."  One of the nice things about Kimpton is that if you have status with another hotel chain, they will match that status by letting you into their "Inner Circle," something you normally get after 15 stays or 45 nights with them. 

Anyone can join their loyalty program, In Touch, which gets you free wi-fi and a mini-bar snack.  It's just once you stay enough times that you get to be part of the Inner Circle.  Inner Circle Perks include complimentary nights at their new properties, room upgrades, plus a welcome gift of your favorite snacks (chocolates, fruit, and even some wine - heck yeah).  There are four different Kimpton hotels in Chicago, so because they were all within a ten minute walk of each other, and because we are a little crazy, we (if you could call asking Jason a question while distracted "we") decided we'd try a new hotel every night.  All the bouncing around got us a free night since their "Passport Rewards" program, gets you free nights based on how many properties you stay at, in addition to their normal rewards.  Just Another Points Traveler has a good write up explaining the whole program here.  So without further ado, here are the Kimpton Chicago hotels:

Nicest Room: Hotel Allegro

The first Kimpton hotel we stayed at was the Hotel Allegro.  It was a great location, actually all the Kimpton hotels were very conveniently located within a block or two of the L.  We got upgraded to a King Suite after only booking the most basic room.  I think the hotel room was as big as our house or at least was the biggest hotel room we've ever stayed in. 

The lobby was beautiful and pretty spacious, which made it a perfect place to hang out during their complimentary happy hour (definitely another reason this is my favorite hotel chain).  The jacuzzi tub made it tempting to skip out on the sights entirely. 

Closest to the River: Hotel Monaco

These rooms were pretty small, so I forgot to take many other pictures, however, there was a reason real estate was so sparse: the hotel was right on the river. We had some great views in the evenings looking over the water from the window of our room.

The staff at the Monaco were extremely friendly, and there was a couch type thing overlooking the window, which was nice.  The rest of the room was so small though, it just wasn't our favorite.

Best View: Hotel Burnham

According to the staff, the building the hotel is in was the first skyscraper in the city.  It been renovated to looked it did when originally built as an office building, so the door to your room looked like a door to an office.  We got upgraded to a corner room with a view of Millennium Park in one direction and State Street in the other.  The bathroom was pretty small and basic.  Located close to an L station, we heard the hotel restaurant was good, but never actually ended up eating there.

The lobby here was the smallest, making it less comfortable to hang out for wine hour, and the elevators were really small.  We just took our wine back up to our room though, where we could enjoy the view that made it Jason's favorite hotel.

Most Modern & Nicest Bathroom: Hotel Palomar

This hotel was in one of the really big high rises on the north side of the river, so I think if we had been in a room on one of the higher floors it would have been even more scenic than it already was.  We really liked our "welcome snack," huge jacuzzi tub, and floor to ceiling windows.  They also had served pizza at wine hour and had a huge lobby with a glass-enclosed fireplace, making it my favorite.  (I am easily bribed with food.)

It was super funny checking into all these places since our reservations noted the "Inner Circle" status.  It seemed like most of the staff at all the hotels really went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable and happy, more so it seemed than if we were normal guests.  It was funny to us because neither of us every received special attention anywhere before.  Back to reality at home, there were no wines or chocolates waiting for us, no one to welcome us by name.  At least I have enough hotel shampoos I'll get to enjoy a little sliver of hotel life for another few days.. or maybe weeks in my case!

(All opinions are my own.  I was not comped or paid by Kimpton in any way.)