I wrote this more than a month ago and really wanted to wait for Molly's pix. She still hasn't sent them (hint, hint, Molly) so here is a peek at our trip to Chicago:

What a trip! I fell in love this weekend with CHICAGO! Last Thursday, Shelley Cavenaugh and I left Wilmington to join Anna and Molly Thompson in the Windy City. Our main event: the OPRAH SHOW! (More on that in a minute.)

Shelz and I arrived at the "all-suites Omni hotel in the heart of Chicago's Magnificent Mile" around 3pm. After their lunch, Anna and Molly met us in the room and we began our adventure. We went to Banana (as in Republic) and then to Bistro 110 for drinks. After that we went to H&M and Giordano's for deep dish pizza.

We turned in early to prep ourselves for Oprah. None of us could sleep. I think it was a combo of 'I'm too excited to sleep' and the fact that it was 80 degrees in our room. I think we all woke up at least once an hour and we were all wide awake at 5am! We left the hotel around 7:00. We knew this was going to be a great show: a historical inauguration, huge week for the oscars, crazy news about Blagovich.
We arrived at Harpo studios just as the sun rose over the city. We checked our coats, checked in at the front desk and checked all our valuables at the door. They actually had to check my entire pocketbook because it was too big and had too many items deemed dangerous (phone, camera, notebook, gun, I mean gum). We waited in a room full of (mostly) women for about an hour before they called us in by numbers. We sat stage left on the first row!
Early sunrise over Harpo:
Our moment arrived, out walked Oprah and we were part of history. First they talked about hormones and menopause with two call-ins. Then they talked with James Smith - the page one editor of the Sun Times (I liked this part). She ran a piece from the Today show: the Bush daughters' letter to Sasha and Malia Obama. It was my favorite part, but it actually made me like George Bush for a nano-second....ewwww. The best interview was with Viola Davis. She interviewed the actors and director from Slumdog Millionaire (which hadn't even opened in Wilmington). There were technical difficulties with Skype. There was a point during a commercial break that Oprah looked directly at us and said, "Can you understand a word they said?" Shelley and I shook our heads and Oprah kinda laughed and said, "We are fakin' our ass off up here."
After the show, she explained: less than 12 hours earlier, they didn't have a show. Caroline Kennedy canceled. Garth Brooks canceled. Two other ideas fell through. Oprah even suggested that they cancel the show and the audience could have doughnuts and coffee and pictures with her (wouldn't that have been the BOMB?). I got a little teary when she said that they had to show up for the audience. How easy would it have been to give in. They had pulled several all-nighters, traveled to D.C. and back and had everything that could go wrong in one show, go wrong. But they showed up. Even on a bad day.
I had gone in with one question for Oprah (in case I actually got to talk to her): as a woman with the ability to influence so many people, what is your favorite leadership lesson? The indirect answer: show up.
After the show, we hit the Oprah Store. It has all of her favorite things - books, very soft pajamas and tee, lounge wear, cards, etc. etc. Then we posed outside:

We went to Wishbone, which was right around the corner. It was yummy y'all! They actually had real southern food in the heart of Chicago. Okay, the slaw wasn't quite right, but they served a darn good burger, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.
I think we shopped that afternoon (I may have taken a nap through that trip) and we went to Salpicon for dinner. It was unbelievable! We had awesome margaritas, chunky guacamole and grilled tiger shrimp with spicy roasted tomato and chipotle sauce. Yum! The Afterwards, we ended up at Quartino.We mainly went for the zeppole drowned in chocolate sauce. But, we happened to sit next to three women we had seen at the Oprah show. When we introduced ourselves, Germaine, turned to us and said, "Wasn't that the worst Oprah show ever?"
The next morning we fueled up on the most expensive breakfast I've ever been served. Thankfully we had vouchers for our continental style feast.

A view of the Hancock building from our window:
That day was LOOOONG. We hit Michigan Avenue and shopped til I just about dropped. Our fav place might have been the 900 Shoppes because (even though expensive) it was inside! The temps that day hovered around 20 degrees.

That afternoon, Shelz and I visited the Hancock Observatory.

Then the four of us went to Lincoln Park. We shopped and shopped and shopped and shopped and, well, you get the picture. Our favorite place may have been 1154 Lill Studio, Stinky Pants, and Dog-a-holic.

At Vosges. Shopping for Chocolate.

Here I am wondering why the hell I gave up candy this year!

We went to a pub down the street that sold Fat Tire beer. Yum.

Do we look cold? We are. Because it is.......
Because it is freaking 4 degrees (sans windchill):

After the pub, we went to dinner at Cafe Babareeba. An incredibly huge tapas and paella joint with great sangria and more Fat Tire. We played the Four C's game and I quizzed everyone on their answers to the Pivot Questionnaire. Which, in retrospect was a great funny bone warm-up to The Second City performance that we attended at 10pm! It was the funniest thing I've ever seen live. Incredible, smart humor and pratfalls galore. Can't wait to see these actors on prime-time someday. Shelz and I stayed for the improv routine afterwards and it was worth it!
The next morning, we were almost too busy for breakfast.
Our challenge: stuffing our suitcases with all our loot.

She had to stuff all the items below in that one duffel. It didn't work! We had to hit a Marshall's down the block to buy her some new luggage!