Leap Year Project

Sometimes in life we meet people with visions so captivating that others can't help but follow them. Victor Saad is one of those vision casters. Since 2012, he has been taking risks and encouraging others to Leap along side him. What started as an ambitious year long project has turned into a movement to challenge the way we experience higher education.

When dreaming of the 2012 Leap Year Project launch party it was clear that if we were going to make the event a success, it would have to be just as inspiring as the Leap Year Project vision.

In the end a great team of volunteers, business owners and Leap Year Project participants created a night to remember.

Laura Hebden of Maven Collection built a light bulb installation with used bulbs donated and shipped from Green Light New Orleans. The simple design signified what the Leap Year Project is all about... a great idea, coupled with a great purpose. Green Light replaces old bulbs in homes of people in need. This saves residents money on their bills and helps conserve energy for the environment.

During the evening, local community organizers spoke about the risks they were taking to make their community a better place. Some Chicago students shared their story of collecting shoes for their friends and neighbors in a west side community. A gallery of photos and stories form socially conscious risk takers filled the walls. Stories of sustainable farms in urban areas providing education on healthy eating to students, DC lobbyists risking it all to save the Orangutangs, doctors donating their time and experience to those in need around the world, whole families coming up with ways to give back while growing closer to one another. It was a space filled with inspired and inspiring individuals.

Leap Year Project is gearing up for another go around since 2016 is a leap year. Stay tuned for what The Leap Year Project has in store. It is sure to be better and bigger than we saw in 2012.

Whiskey Wednesday Chicago: Workshop

I have fond memories from every Whiskey Wednesday, but the dinner hosted around the Workshop Chicago table is special.

Kara returned from LA for the event. Her and I hosting together was like magic. Never underestimate the power of working with the right people. The people we choose to journey through life with is the most important choice we make, and often times we don't treat it as such. I am happy to have friends who have moved all over the world to follow their hearts, but at times I just want to gather them all up in the same space, build the biggest table we've ever seen and eat. Eat delicious food, drink perfect drinks and talk and laugh and talk until the sun comes up. Ending the ordeal tired but with full bellies and hearts. That is my dream, and this night was a sliver. 

Talented Chicago chef Gil made an incredible meal for our guests, Kara from Willow and Niche flew in. We had a guest celebrating their birthday, strangers connected through social media and friends of friends of friends in attendance. The back drop of the Chicago skyline was all the decoration we needed.  

Spiced popcorn balls, endive salad, Pork, lentils and pumpkin pie for dessert. All paired with a classic Old Fashion. 

Whiskey Wednesday Chicago: Flesh For Food

In December Whiskey Wednesday was back in Chicago. Guest Chef Flesh for Food created a menu of homey comfort food complete with pork chops, apple sauce, glazed carrots, grilled greens and chocolate chip cookies. I have never had a more incredible Pork chop. A couple of dear friends and strangers joined us. The mood was warmth. Country in the big city right down to the classic Jack Daniels Whiskey with an apple cider twist. 

A much needed pause around the table in the midst of a season of hustling.

Whiskey Wednesday Chicago: Cargo Studios

Whiskey Wednesday events have inspired people since their inception. Something fantastic and natural happens when a group of talented, kind strangers come together around the table for good food and whiskey. The atmosphere while sharing a meal with one another around a table is familiar and safe for most or a wish fulfilled for others.

October of 2014 Whiskey Wednesday LA came to Chicago via Willow and Niche, and had the pleasure of partnering with them to create a lovely evening in a local artist space. 

For me this WW was a teensy bit more special than the rest. I have alway been a connector. Someone who wants to bring people together. Friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers at a super market, but finding your place in the world as a connector can be complicated. Sometimes connectors can become so busy connecting everyone else with one another that they forget to connect themselves. This Whiskey Wednesday I watched as people I had connected work, laugh, drink, eat and dream together. The cherry on top was that I was able to do that with them. Sit with them at the table tied me in, the most devoted of external connectors. It is because of that feeling I experienced that I will continue to create table memories and moments for others to feel connected, included and tied to one another. 

Daniel Kelleghan and Grant Legan formerly of Cargo Studios offered up their space on the west side of Chicago, and Willow and Niche prepared a delicious meal. 

Daniel Kelleghan 

Grant Legan 

Willow and Niche 

Local Chicago distillery Koval sponsored our evening with a four grain whiskey that will make you a believer. 

Our make shift table at Cargo Studio was all neutrals but all sorts of pretty in this lighting. 

Whiskey Wednesday Chicago: Home

One of my personal favorite Whiskey Wednesdays was hosted in my home in Chicago. I will never forget the stories of first dates and worst dates I heard that night. Can you imagine going to a hot yoga class on your first date? Cannot Deal. Everything was make shift down to the door that we used as a table. The decor was simple and the focus was on the good eats and incredible guests that took a chance and had dinner with a bunch of strangers. 

Whiskey Wednesday LA: Launch

The Summer of 2013 Willow and Niche began Whiskey Wednesdays in LA. 

It was my pleasure to be a part of the launch, to watch a dream become a reality and celebrate with a group of 25 former strangers turned friends by the end of the evening.

Kara from Willow and Niche is a dear friend and soul sister. She nursed me back to health during my own struggles with food allergies and illness. Her hands made the meals that healed my weak body and at the table a friendship blossomed that refreshed my weary soul.

For Kara, It had been a dream to move from Chicago to LA and start a dinner party business. Being a total enthusiast, she did just that. Not only was this night the reality of a dream come true but it was the start of great things to come for us both. 

Kara's dreamy loft offered the perfect space for sharing food and conversation late into the night. New LA friends and friends of friends came to connect with one another over Whiskey cocktails paired with homemade dishes.