July 24, 2016filed in Parents, Community

PODCAST: Work from your Happy Place

What an honor it was to be featured as a guest on Bellinda Ellsworth's inspiring podcast, "Work from your Happy Place". In just 22 short minutes, we covered everything from inspiration to organizing for business success to what it means to provide outstanding customer service to overcoming obstacles in pursuit of life's passions. 
I hope you enjoy the podcast. If you have a moment to leave a comment below, I'd love to hear what "Working from your Happy Place" means for you!
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
December 5, 2014filed in Travel

Chistmas season: Chicago style

The Christmas season is a favorite time for my family to return to my home town of Chicago. If the idea of visiting the Windy City during the holidays leaves you with visions of unbearable crowds and overrun shops dancing in your head, take heart and read on. It is my pleasure to share with you an insider's guide to some of Chicago's best - and some lesser known - experiences to enjoy with your family. 
OK, I know what you're thinking. "Cheryl," you say, "I thought you were going to take us off the beaten path!" You are right, this attraction is situated on Michigan Avenue and very much ON the beaten path, but is not to be missed. Check the park's website for hours and go early in the day to avoid the crowds. You will be so very glad that you did.
Ice skating in Millennium park | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Ice skating in Millennium park | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

I love to visit this nifty studio and gallery at this time of year to purchase handmade gifts for special people.
Lillstreet Art Center | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Lillstreet holds a holiday open house each year in which various artists take center stage to give hands-on instruction in their respective crafts. When we were there last year, my daughter Emma learned the art of silk screening.
Lillstreet Art Center Holiday Open House | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Lydia learned how to make a crazy cool personalized ring.
Lillstreet Art Center Holiday Open House | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

The girls also tried their hand at making clay ornaments. It truly is a wonderful gem of a place!
Lillstreet Art Center Holiday Open House | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Macy's will always be known to us as Marshall Fields' original store, but no matter what you call it, do not miss their over-the-top holiday displays. Again, this one is very much on the well-worn tourist path, but a visit at night is always a treat.
Macy's State Street | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

The girls are always mesmerized by the holiday scene in the windows at Macy's.
Macy's State Street | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Locate the enormous holiday tree in the plaza outside Chicago's civic center (Daley Center) and you are just steps from the German Christkindlmarket. Here you can shop for beautiful ornaments and sample scrumptiously warm potato pancakes.
Holiday Tree at Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

A visit to Daley always prompts a trip down memory lane for me as soon as I spy "The Picasso", a sculpture I played on as a little girl.

And speaking of wonderful European-style shopping experiences, a visit to the gorgeous Sweden Shop on West Foster is not to be missed, especially during the holiday season. We love to shop for holiday gifts here every year.
The Sweden Shop | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

A couple of boxes of their wonderful gingersnaps always manage to find their way into our shopping bag.
The Sweden Shop | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

I love finding something special under the tree that the girls have chosen just for me during our visit to The Sweden Shop.
The Sweden Shop | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

We love a Jam Restaurant meal at Christmas time. Coincidentally, this 5-star breakfast place on West Logan is just two blocks from where I grew up.
Jam Restaurant | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Not only is the food utterly delicious at Jam, the eatery's huge floor-to-ceiling windows flood the place with natural light, beating back any trace of gloom from even the grayest of Chicago winter days.
Jam Restaurant | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Do you and your family enjoy visiting Chicago during the holiday season? 
What are the special places that are on your must-visit list? 
Leave a note in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
August 22, 2014filed in Children, Families

Cottage Life

Each year around this time, I find myself reflecting on the good times my family has enjoyed together over the summer months. My memories invariably center around the days we spend at the cottage, where we feel closest as a family. 
There are no phones or computers at the cottage. There are no distractions or demands at the cottage. There is only us and the beautiful quiet. 
The kids spend long days reading, swimming, fishing, and kayaking. Forgotten toys are rediscovered and board games take center stage on the living room table once again. 
And there is just more of everything that is good in life. More time, more laughs, more snuggles, more naps. 
Wherever you find yourself in the coming weeks, I hope you enjoy every delicious golden summer moment. 
That is exactly what I plan to do, too. 
A child enjoys quiet playtime at a lakeside cottage in Michigan

A child swims in a lake in Michigan

A Michigan lakeside cottage is the perfect place to relax and dip your feet in the water

Children read and play in a Michigan cottage

Three children play in a Michigan lake

Two children paddle a kayak in a Michigan lake

A majestic swan swims in a Michigan lake

A chocolate labrador dog relaxes on the deck of a boat on a Michigan lake

Two girls fish from the dock of a Michigan lakeside cottage

A father and daughter snuggle on a boat

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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
July 15, 2014filed in Children, Families, Travel

A Visit to the Present, Past and (oh, my!) the Future

When I heard the news that my nephew was marrying his college sweetheart, I was delighted. After all, it's not every day that someone so close to me falls in love and decides to take the plunge. That in itself is exciting. Then I learned that the ceremony was to take place in Charlottesville, home of their alma mater, the University of Virginia. Lovely! But perhaps most exciting of all? He and his fiancee asked two of my daughters to participate as members of the wedding party. My girls were simply over the moon about it. 
This is the story of my family's happy travels to Charlottesville in the present, past and future. 
In June, the time finally came. The wedding was just days away, and we set off for "C'ville" as the locals call it. The wedding was simply lovely, the setting on UVA's campus was stunning, and Tom, my daughters and I felt honored to be a part of the day.
The central grounds at UVA were the perfect backdrop for some post-ceremony snapshots.

With the excitement of the wedding day behind us, we decided to enjoy more of what this beautiful part of the country has to offer. Of course, no trip to the homeland of Thomas Jefferson would be complete without a visit to, well, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello
This trip to the past starts at the pleasantly designed visitor and education center. A video presentation brings the former president to life and provides background on some of the things you will see on a visit to his home and the area surrounding it. A life-size bronze sculpture of the man himself waits with you at the stop for the tram that will take you to his front door.
We enjoyed the sights at Thomas Jeffersons' Monticello visitor center and garden.

We toured the inside of his home (no photographs allowed!), including the dining room where he entertained many famous guests (a dumb waiter built into the side of the fireplace hauled up bottle after bottle of wine from the cellar) and his chambers (he had his bed built into the center of the room between his private quarters and his study so he could easily get up and off to work in the morning). 
As interesting as the inside of Monticello is, the outside is just as much so. We took our time touring the large, well-tended and charmingly rustic garden that grows along one complete side of the property. Walking along row after row of crops, we marveled at the relaxation among the order, the calm of the space amongst so many daily visitors and wondered aloud to one another, "who in the world eats all the food that is grown here?" 
A favorite part of the day at Monticello for my girls was exploring the hands-on activities tucked away in a shady spot near the main home. Who wouldn't enjoy trying the art of writing with a quill pen and ink?
The Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center offers fun experiences for Monticello visitors of all ages.

Here is one of my girls trying out the camera obscura, a device that led to the invention of photography.
The camera obscura is a popular attraction at the Monticello Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center.

Visiting Monticello was a perfectly lovely and relaxed way to spend a day together as a family. 
I stated up front that this is a story of the present, past and future for my family. 
Remember the wedding? (Present.) 
Remember Monticello? (Past.) 
So what's the story about the future? 
A new fan of UVA and Charlottesville, VA is born.

We had such a lovely time in Charlottesville that all three of my girls have declared their intention to attend college there. Oh, my! I'm not quite ready for that just yet!
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
December 18, 2013filed in Parents, Style

How to Dress for the Holidays: A Photographer's Guide

What to wear for the holidays? Of course you want to look your festive best both at the party and in the snapshots that live on after the event. Follow these simple tricks for a look that flatters, whether in person or in posts. 
SHINE is your friend. Not only does it look great in photos, it adds a radiance to your face that cannot be beat. Shine on. 
PATTERN, on the other hand, is not your friend - at least when it comes to photos. If you simply love pattern and cannot live without it, try a scarf for a small dose of pattern and a whole lot of interest where it matters - near your face. 
COLOR makes you look beautiful when chosen well. I always advise clients to stick with neutrals and metallics, which are especially fabulous for the holidays. The traditional holiday colors of red and green are both tricky to wear well in photos for many. Red is particularly problematic for some, leaving them either washed out or quite rosy (especially after a glass of wine or two!). 
ACCENTS are the cherry on top of your beautiful holiday look. Jewelry wearers should follow the advice of Coco Chanel and remove one accessory before heading out the door. An accent piece in a photo is lovely, but too much jewelry can be distracting. With makeup, the rule of thumb is just the opposite. If you wear makeup, I suggest wearing just slightly more than usual. What might feel heavy for every day does not appear that way in photos. It wakes up the face a bit. One caveat is moisturizers and foundations containing SPF. Avoid these if possible when you will be photographed with a flash since it reflects the light back leaving you looking a bit bleached out. 
What's most important of all? Wear what you love. Even if it's red. And green. And wildly patterned all over. And crazy with beads and spangles and bows. After all, when you wear what you love, it shows in your smile. And there's no better look in a photo than a beautiful, genuinely radiant smile. 
For more inspiration and ideas, check out my Dressing for Holiday Parties board on Pinterest
Happy holidays everyone! 
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
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