Winter (Boots): The Struggle is Real

Five months. I have been searching for warm, weather-proof winter boots for five months. The struggle is real to find boots that are wide and large, and most importantly, pretty.The journey began at Nordstrom—the place for shoes for all sizes. But, it was futile, even at Nordstrom Rack on State Street. They only had fall boots in their store in September and none of them fit. I have large feet. I mean to say that I could share shoes with my brother, not my sisters. I tend to shop at Payless, and I found one weather-proof boot that looked perfect, but of course, it was out of stock.

We are in the heart of winter in Chicago, and so far I have been walking through snow, sleet, and slush in flats, high heels, and 4″ fall booties. People would literally come up to me and say, “I don’t mean to be rude, but why are you wearing what you are wearing?” or they would look at my legs and feet and ask “Aren’t you cold?”.

My first attempt to buy boots was last winter at DSW in Lakeview. The sales clerk politely informed me that there were few in my size and that most likely drag queens bought them all. I knew there was a reason why it’s always been hard to find a pair of normal shoes in my size—I’m talking a pair of black pumps or a winter boot.

I am pleased to announce that as of today the struggle has ended. This was due in large part with the help of online forums, shoe reviews, and blog posts. Jezebel put out a warm winter boot guide in 2013. The boots were good, but a lot of them were out of stock and none were in my size. There are many solid winter buying blog posts that assess weather-proof vs. water proof. Glamour has a cute and practical winter boot guides. Some even went into such detail as narrowing selections based on shoe laces, but they were all irrelevant because the boots didn’t seem to fit my feet.

Then, I saw that Macy’s had winter boots. I ordered a pair of Aerosoles Lasticity Boots. They were beautiful in-person and online. They had great reviews and they were on sale. But, they didn’t fit.

Alas, I looked to Huffington Post’s: The Best Shoe Guide for Gals with Large Feet from 2013. While good, it’s time for a 2015 update. I have for you a mini guide to shopping for stylish winter boots made to fit your feet. Be warned, we are in the middle of winter, so boots are sparse in all sizes.

Guide to Winter Boot Shopping:

Jessica London: Jessica London carries shoes up to size 13 wide. They have various widths and they also have wide calf boot. There are less than 15 cold weather winter boots. Consumers usually have mixed reviews on quality and fit. Also, even if you buy boots on sale, shipping is only free after a $99 purchase.

Macy’s: Macy’s carries up to a size 11 wide in cold winter boots or a size 12 regular. If you are just looking for a winter boot, they carry one in size 12 wide compared to the 50 plus boots they carry in size 11 regular and 100 plus boots they carry in size 10 regular.

Nordstrom: Nordstrom carries shoes up to size 13. There are a lot of shoes available in 12 regular and even 13 regular at Nordstrom Rack on State Street, but at Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue, the largest size they carried was 12 regular. When shopping online, Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns.

Zappos: I have never kept a Zappos shoe purchase. With that being said, women swear by this site. They carry sizes up to 17 and they have special shoes like wide calf boots. Their widths range from SS to EE. In terms of snow boots, the boots only extend to the ankle in larger sizes. So, it looks like you are wearing sneakers and not boots.They do, however, have a wide selection of riding boots in larger sizes. Zappos has free shipping and free returns.

Overstock.com: They go up to size 15 regular. As an added bonus, their shoes range from extra narrow to extra wide. Of course, the 15 regular shoes are Lady Gaga-esque.

Payless: If you are going in Chicago, go downtown. The one on State Street has the widest selections for size 12, 12 wide, 13, and 13 wide. The one in Edgewater and Uptown also carry up to size 13 wide, but they have a smaller selection. Payless carries sizes up to 13 wide. Shipping is free with a $35 purchase and right now it is their Buy One, Get One (BOGO) sale.

DSW: In Chicago, the Lakeview location tends to have more variety in larger sizes, but after size 11, the selection becomes sparse. Online, their boots go up to 13.5 and are available in narrow, regular, and wide. However, when searching for ridging boots and winter boots, the largest size available is currently a size 11 regular.

J. Crew: J. Crew carries up to size 12 regular. On J. Crew’s website, you can’t narrow your search by size. So, the task can be cumbersome if you have a rare shoe size.Top Brands include Sorel. Sorel makes quality, comfortable, and really fashionable winter boots. They only carry up to a size 12 regular and don’t have accommodations for narrow or wide feet. If you can get one in your size, go for it.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Breaking Up With Starbucks: A Chicago Freelancer’s Confession

A tall cup of coffee will suffice.

Freelance writing at StarbucksWe all do it, we all procrastinate. The solution was Starbucks. They are everywhere. Pick a neighborhood, pick an intersection. They range from cozy, to downright cramped to quite peaceful actually, especially if you are partaking in Starbucks evenings (after 2 pm please).

This relationship got serious when I joined the rewards program. I would leave Starbucks to go to another Starbucks in the name of not going home without my work done. I have become acquainted with a few Starbucks. Those in Edgewater/Andersonville, in Lakeview, in Gold Coast/OldTown/Viagra Triangle.

First things first, all Starbucks are not created equal. There are ones with comfy chairs, numerous decor, and jazz playing in the background or there are ones with show tunes and ear budded, hoodie-wearing students studying for the bar in others.There are friendly baristas, and there are work-oriented ones.

West Armitage Starbucks:

The best Starbucks to go to is off the Armitage brown line at West Armitage. The baristas are so nice. It gets fairly busy, but after 6 pm starts to die down. The West Armitage Starbucks is a perfect spot to get your work done and then easily meet up with someone afterwards. There are tons of bars just a few blocks north near the Fullerton red line, and if you don’t want to walk, there are a few bars across the street.

Gold Coast & Old Town Starbucks:

Then, you have the Starbucks on Dearbon and Division in the Gold Coast. This Starbucks has high-top tables. It is not convenient for collaborative projects, but  rather solo endeavors. The baristas are nice and the facilities are clean. You might just freeze to death in the winter here because a lot of people go in and out. It’s not really a place that too many people linger. But note that it is open to 11 pm most nights—an added bonus.

People bring all sorts of food to Starbucks like Chipotle, but nothing compares to the 24 hour Starbucks in Old Town, where study groups bring picnics complete with banana bread. Lakeview StarbucksThe Old Town Starbucks is perfect for study sessions, chess matches, reading, or intense studying. There is constant traffic and most of the time, especially on Sunday afternoons, tables and outlets can be scarce. But, this Starbucks is big, and the windows bring in the warmth of the Chicago sun (when it comes out). For spending a day inside, it almost feels like you were actaully outside.

The prettiest Starbucks is the one on Oak and Rush across the street from Barney’s. You can order your Malbec and sit on the balcony for hours in the summer. The only drawback is that there are no outlets outside. Inside is perfectly beautiful and inspiring. I would go there to read. Though wine and other alcohol is involved, there is still a great deal of focus, minimal banter.

Edgewater Starbucks:

The Starbucks on Bryn Mwar in Edgewater has spotty internet. Fair warning. The baristas are nice. There is cozy seating, but it’s not a place I like to go. The one a sub-neighborhood away in Andersonville has a more focused, professional vibe. You can take the #22 Clark bus or walk the half mile from the Berwyn red line. Either way, it has ample indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of outlets and espresso to recharge. One of the baristas added three shots of espresso to my coffee—on the house.

Despite the options and the various atmospheres that one name can create, I’m breaking up with Starbucks. I have found other coffee shops with food that actually tastes good. There is a particular scent to Starbucks that turns quite foul after a few hours. Honestly, the Chicago libraries are quite nice.

And so now I am a Ghost texter. I receive the reoccurring emails from Starbucks trying to lure me back: “Join Now and Earn Five Bonus Points”. They even sent me a gold card in the mail and put my name on it. Truly, the perks have not changed. Starbucks simply recognized that we have been seeing each other a lot lately and it was time for an upgrade, but I’m not ready to move in.

Maybe I just need to take a break, but for now this freelancer got her gold star and does not want to keep it.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Chicago

On holidays like today, it’s sometimes mysterious how people celebrate. The train was empty at its usual rush hour. There were three lone commuters that joined me in my car. The FedEx guy smiles when he sees you in the office and divulges that no one else is. You offer a wry smile. His load will double tomorrow, he informs you as he wishes you the best on this slow day.

I like these holidays because during this time you are reminded of history. And this holiday serves as a reminder that things were really bad. That it was one man’s dream that changed things. That’s it: One. Single. Dream. and the leadership, courage, and affinity for that dream.

Last week I put on an extra layer (even though I am currently wearing flats), as every Chicagoan will tell you is necessary during January’s cold spell, and in an attempt to break free from my drudge—my funk—I opted to go someplace inspiring: some place with color, some place bright. That for me was The Art Institute of Chicago. It’s so easy to trap your mind into thinking that “it’s just the way it is” and art challenges that by folding up a rug and putting it on the wall, or hanging filaments from the ceiling.

When you go to a museum that you have been to several times, it’s easy to gloss over the photography, murals, and abstract pieces, but this time, I went down the stairs and there I saw a picture—a photograph of two men down the hall. It was a diptych. Diptychs are a type of photography where two photographs are placed next to each other either horizontally or vertically to create a greater meaning and to tell a story.

I walked down the hallway, taking in the other black and white photography, but none compared to the diptych. And there, framed, singly on the massive white wall I read “Dawoud Bey: “The Birmingham Project””. The two men were in church. They weren’t smiling. They didn’t invite conversation. The boy looked agitated. He looked like a) he didn’t want to talk to you and b) he didn’t like that you were starring. His counterpart only looked a degree more inviting than the slouched boy.

Who I was staring at was a boy who was tragically killed in the September 15, 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Bey photographed children that represented those killed in the church bombing. To complete the diptych, Bey photographed an older version of the child to demonstrate how old he would be today. It was brilliant, it was profound. It was truth as I had never experienced it before. It’s easy to say a child died and recognize that it is tragic, but it is significantly harder to take your eyes away from what was and what could have been when they are starring right at you.

Go, see it in person. But for those who don’t have the opportunity it’s pictured below.

“The Birmingham Project” By: Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey’s exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago ends this Sunday, January 25, 2015. Chicago residents receive free admission on Thursday nights from 5 pm – 8 pm. At the ticket booth, the attendant will just ask you for your zip code. If you are looking for a way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., the Art Institute is also open until 5 pm today.

The Art Institute is located at 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 and is easily accessible by all CTA trains at the Adams/Wabash stop or at the Jackson stop for red line and blue line.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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