A London Girls’ Getaway


I really miss spending time alone with my girlfriends. But, between work and family commitments, there is scant time for that leisurely hang out of yore. I had fantasized about an actual girls getaway with my best friend from college. It was challenging to organize. But, after a few years of planning, we made it happen this past January.

Here, in Travel + Leisure, I report on all that we stuffed into 96 hours in London.

 Girls' Getaway

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Charlotte Tilbury Chic

Test Driving the Brit Celeb Makeup Artist’s Line at Selfridges

I had a mission in London. The beauty industry had been buzzing about celeb makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury’s new line. The mascara was said to be next level. The concealer able to camouflage a decadent night of partying. And, the Wonder Glow Primer able to deliver a lit-from-within effect that filled in wrinkles creating an anti-aging optical illusion. With a cadre of celeb clients that range from Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and the new Mrs. Clooney, I was intrigued. Especially because this makeup is tough to find stateside.

I hightailed it over to Selfridges and challenged the talented Oliver Simpson to transform my fatigued complexion into something resembling Sienna Miller. The counter was MOBBED. We found a stool and got to work. Charlotte’s Magic Cream infused my jet-lagged visage with verve,  brightening the complexion and adding a dewy glow. Next, the Wonder Glow Primer evened out my skin tone. The foundation added another level of luminosity. I have a zillion blushes at home. But, I found the Cheek to Chic Swish & Pop Blusher alluring. The effect was sun kissed and natural. Finally, what girl can resist a lip gloss at the end of the day? We finished the look with a moisturizing swipe of Sweet Stiletto Lip Lustre.

I may not be Sienna Miller, but, damn, I felt good!


Charlotte Tilbury's Light Wonder Foundation + Wonder Glow Primer

Light Wonder Foundation: $45, Nordstrom + Wonder Glow Primer: $55, Nordstrom

Here’s what I bought:

Charlotte's Magic Cream

Magic Cream Moisturizer, $100, Nordstrom + ‘Cheek to Chic’ Swish & Pop Blush: $40, Nordstrom


Luscious Lips

‘Lip Lustre’ Lip Lacquer: $22, Nordstrom + ‘The Retoucher’ Conceal & Treat Stick: $35, Nordstrom


Makeup artist Oliver Simpson & Amy Tara Koch at the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Selfridges

Makeup artist Oliver Simpson & Amy Tara Koch at the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Selfridges

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Scent Décor: It’s a Thing

Scent plays a huge role in style. A woman’s fragrance is an extension of her look. Upscale hotels (like the Plaza Athenee in Paris) often boast a signature parfum that symbolizes the property’s luxury status. Even retailers (think Abercrombie and Fitch) use aroma to define their brand. This concept carries over to décor. A home is yet another style platform to personalize with scent.

My Chicago apartment embodies my eclectic style; a mix of contemporary and mid-century modern furniture punctuated with offbeat knickknacks culled from travels around the globe. Art is everywhere: photography, sculpture, graffiti paintings and zany African head dresses as wall hangings. And, drapery is treated as jewelry, each room’s piece de resistance. There is a lot going on but, somehow it all flows perfectly. Smell plays a role in my home. There is always a hint of French lavender (I tuck sachets everywhere) and fresh flowers to counteract the frigidity of winter. To channel my Miami upbringing, I saute orange and lemon peels for a whiff of tropical citrus.

Downy Unstopables in my house

When Unstopables reached out and asked me to test drive their new scent décor, I signed on. My favorite? The in-wash scent booster. With two active daughters, the laundry baskets are always overflowing. This product (just add it to the wash at the beginning of the cycle) adds a subtle, pleasant fragrance to clothing. Though it won’t reduce the amount of laundry, it makes the experience more pleasurable!

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Atk Chats Parenting Issues with CNN

Is it OK to Spy On Your Kids?



Spying on your kids. It’s a divisive issue. But, like it or not, monitoring your kids is all a part of parenting. I was asked by CNN’s Kelly Wallace how I felt about the issue. Here is what I said. And, below, is Kelly’s entire piece published on Cnn.com this morning. What do you think about spying on your children?

Spying. It depends on your kid and his/her age. Intellectually, I can understand the nanny cam. First time moms are anxious about leaving their precious babies with a stranger. So, the camera is more about keeping an eye on the nanny versus the baby. But, I don’t approve of spying-type cameras for older kids. There needs to be a certain level of trust established. Kids need to spread their teenage wings and start having experiences outside of the parental realm. However, if my daughter (I have two daughters, 9 and 12) started acting out in a way that signaled a problem, I would need to re-think this stance. Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with this issue. Yet.

Social media? That is another story. I prefer to use the term “monitoring.” Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are virtual feeding grounds for all types of illicit behavior. I constantly talk to my 12 year old about privacy and the presence of perverts online looking for innocent girls. I monitor her content (she’s into Instagram) but also her privacy settings to make sure that perverts (and cyber bullies) can’t access her accounts. I really believe in establishing a high level of trust. In order to have access to a phone (she claims to be the last of her friends to get a phone) my daughter had to prove that she could follow rules (my husband had her write an essay!) and commit to limits on phone/social media use. She has really followed through so I do not read her texts.

When I was a kid my parents definitely spied on us via a low-tech intercom system. HA! We always heard them tuning in and modified our conversations accordingly.

Is it ok to spy on your kids?

Read more here


Kelly Wallace from CNN

Video from CNN.com

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My Kind of Town, Chicago

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The food. The sports. The art. The theater. There is a lot to love about the city of Chicago. And I have the good fortune to report on all things fabulous in the third coast for Travel + Leisure Magazine.

With the holidays upon us, everyone is talking about what to do over the vacation. So, herewith, I am spilling the cultural beans on some excellent activities guaranteed to keep siblings, best friends, parents and kids engaged and happy. Below is my segment on ABC’s Windy City Live. And beneath that is a link to my local expert’s guide to Chicago for Travel and Leisure.


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Check out my local expert’s guide to Chicago for Travel + Leisure here!


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