Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Tomorrow is my first official day back at a regular schedule and work after a two week vacation and I’m feeling refreshed and re-energized. Something that has been a long time coming. Every year, I like to start off or end with a post that reflects on the year past and looks toward goals and dreams for the new year. Have a seat and grab a cup of coffee because I have a bit to say this year. A lot has happened personally, professionally and emotionally. While I’m on board with everyone who complained about 2018 being a terrible year, I’m also grateful for it because it gave me the kick in the ass that I needed.Read More
How was your first day of spring? In true Chicago style, we dropped below 40 degrees yesterday so our first day felt more like late fall kind of weather. This chilly weather is making it difficult to get out of bed each morning so if there’s one thing I’m looking forward to with the new season, it’s hopefully finding more motivation to get out of bed. I’ve also been on a Criminal Minds binge lately. It’s the one show I allow myself to watch on Netflix and I’ve been a little too eager to catch a few episodes here and there. Instead of continuing to jabber on, I’ll get to the March spotlight! Lots of great stuff to share this month.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Getting inspired for my next dinner party with these recipes
Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house with 5 ideas for spring cleaning your life
And speaking of spring cleaning, recraft your workspace for a more calming atmosphere while putting things back together
Desperately wishing I had a house of my own to redecorate the dining room
And while we’re talking about houses, I think I found my new home in this French villa
Prepping for Easter next weekend with sugar on the brain…
Adding to my ever growing book collection with these inspiring suggestions
Embracing my inner romantic and making sure every one of these European cities is on my bucket list
Love these tips for productivity at work to avoid working overtime
Vicariously living my Nicholas Sparks movie dream through this Beaufort, South Carolina feature
Absolutely loving the dog mama gift ideas
Visiting foreign cities through my essential oils! Rome, here I come...
WHAT I’M UP TO
Normally I like to update you guys on my book progress but reading hasn’t been a huge priority in the last month. I’m hoping to finish Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron by the next spotlight. There’s nothing against the book, things have just been a little crazy lately. I’m feeling a little extra motivated to get finished though because I was just sent two new books to read and review and I’m pumped. Hot Mess by Emily Belden is her second book but first fictional novel. I read her first, Eightysixed, when it came out a few years ago, provided a review and even did an interview with her! I had the opportunity to listen to her speak at a recent event hosted by Chicago Woman magazine here in Chicago with other influential women in the food community and left inspired, motivated and with a great attitude. I also got my hands on an advance copy of Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns which I can’t wait to start reading. Any novel or memoir that’s based in Paris gets bonus points for me. Reading about the characters’ experiences transport me back to the city I vowed to always return to.
Moving on from the book front, it’s been a little crazy lately. I’m in the thick of one of the busier seasons for my day job which has a tendency to take over every other aspect of life. I’ve also been hard at work behind the scenes with a project I can’t talk about yet but and very excited to reveal in the next two months. So even if things get a little quiet on the blog front, know that I’m still working with a fury to get content and other goodies to you. I’m still living that split life - half my time in the burbs and the other half in the city. To be honest, it’s a little exhausting some weeks and I get to the point where I just want to stay in one place. I unfortunately don’t have any travel planned. There’s just so much going on that any travel I planned at the moment would not be fun. It would be stressful and overwhelming so I’m holding off before making a getaway this year.
I saw Love Never Dies the last week it was in Chicago and you guys, if you have a chance to go make it it happen. Something I haven’t talked about too much is my love for musicals, theater, etc. Phantom of the Opera was one of my favorite musicals since I can remember. I saw it live twice and can basically quote the movie from beginning to end. When Love Never Dies originally premiered in London, it was only supposed to be a one-time run. They weren’t going to bring it to any other cities. But then it went to Australia where they filmed it and last year it was announced Love Never Dies would tour the US. The music is incredible and the talent absolutely mindblowing. I was ready to be slightly disappointed since I’m such a fan of Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess but Gardar Thor Cortes as the Phantom really did a phenomenal job. I cried twice and you will rarely see me cry for anything. I was practically sobbing at one point. The emotion was real and you could feel it in your bones. So please, if Love Never Dies comes to your city, go see it. If you haven’t see Phantom, rent the movie on Amazon or something. You won’t regret it, I promise. Next on my radar, the pre-Broadway premiere of Pretty Woman featuring Samantha Barks which is here in Chicago right now!
Loving the flowy dresses coming out for spring right now especially this one from The Gap
My skin went through a lot of issues over the winter with uncharacteristic breakouts, dryness and redness. I started using the Aveeno Ultra-Calming Night Cream and it made a HUGE difference in just one application. There’s no partnership here, just a typical consumer giving a product a go. After the night cream worked so well, I added the gel cleanser to my routine as well and even converted my best friend. Now I want to finish my collection with the daily moisturizer. This stuff is honestly amazing.
Did January feel long yet quick to anyone else? It’s been about one month and one week since we introduced the monthly spotlight post and it feels like I wrote it a year ago! I can’t believe that it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re a month and a half into 2018 already. But January also felt like the longest month ever. Is anyone else on the same page? It would be nice to know that I’m not alone here. Since this is a new series, I’ll share a quick reminder of what to expect in these monthly posts. I’ll share links from around the web I’m loving as well as posts you guys are loving from LLL including recipes and travel. I’ve also got a mini wish list and peek into what I’ve been doing lately. So without further adieu...let’s get on with it!
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Find out what essential oil blend you need to be diffusing with this fun quiz
Ready to hop a flight to NYC just to try out some of these bakeries
Getting my student hat on and taking a refresher on blog monetization 101
Working on building better habits
Totally wishing that I owned my own home thanks to these kitchen design trends that are hot right now
For all you single gals out there, it’s 100% ok if you’re single for Valentine’s Day
Time to get your read on with this bomb list of books for girlbosses
Boost productivity with easy home decor tips that cut away distractions
Warm up from the inside out with comforting casseroles. Good food is necessary with this weather!
4 Trips Worth Taking - Get ready for some serious wanderlust
Great tips for keeping your career on track while traveling
WHAT I’M UP TO
I finished Interference by French writer, Amelie Antoine. I was definitely taken by surprise in this book. It was completely different than I had originally expected where the storyline is concerned but it was fantastic. Amelie knows how to take the carpet out from under her readers and leave them with mouths agape. Not only was I taken by complete surprise about two-thirds of the way in, but she ended it with a twist I doubt anyone saw coming. It’s a short book, only about 180 pages, and a quick read. Do yourself a favor and read it. I’m about 100 pages into Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron now. So far, so good and I’m a bit more motivated to keep moving with this one because I’m DYING to see the movie. Hopefully I’ll be able to share a mini review in the March Spotlight! Or I may just post it on Instagram.
I’m working with a teeth whitening company and so far loving the results. Full post sharing the review coming soon! Still have a few sessions to go though. I’m also working on a few other surprises that I have up my sleeve. Hopefully they’ll be ready to launch by the end of the first quarter! In the meantime, enjoy this photo of my friend’s dog, April, and I. She was rather demanding during a recent photo shoot but I embrace all the puppy kisses!
I still haven’t decided on any travel plans yet this year. Client work is pretty busy and I’m working hard on a few things behind the scenes for the site. Not to mention we have a lot going on with my family right now and I’m trying to get ahead of my finances so that I’m managing them rather than the other way around. If you’re looking for a bit of help where money and finances are concerned, I recommend checking out Tess from Wander Wealthy. She’s got tons of great content and advice to make managing money easy which is not a simple feat for someone who’s as bad with numbers as I am.
Dying to try the recipes in Giada de Laurentiis’ new cookbook Giada’s Italy
I would give anything for The Cozychic Throw from Barefoot Dreams to get through the remainder of winter
I’m currently obsessed with these long-sleeved boatneck tees from The Gap. Who am I kidding? I’m obsessed with everything from The Gap.
In the spirit of new beginnings, I want to introduce you to a new monthly series you’ll be seeing around these parts. Each month, I’ll be sharing a spotlight featuring updates, a few of my current favorite things, deals I’ve found around the web, and more. I’ll also be sharing some of your favorites including recipes with the most views and travel posts you guys have been frequenting. It’s just the first in many new things I’ll be introducing in 2018 and one that I hope will inspire you and introduce you to some of the blogs and websites I read regularly.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Loving this California Farmhouse Decor Inspiration.
Appreciating my NYE tradition of staying at home and watching the ball drop instead of these interesting cultural traditions.
Feeling inspired for a new year with these 10 quotes.
Finally figured out how I’m going to embrace change each week with this article. I’ll take on one of these throughout the year for a nice switch. Not all of them are applicable but there are enough to get me through most of the year!
Great tips to reevaluating goals in order to set yourself back on track.
Things I wish I knew about traveling solo during my first trip and things I’m still learning today.
5 winter skincare tips anyone in a cold climate should know.
Beating procrastination with essential oils.
Preparing for emergencies by properly equipping the car.
FAVORITE TRAVEL POSTS
[from top left]
5 Things to Do In Chicago During the Holidays
Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown - Checking In
Boston Restaurant Round-Up | Pizza, Pasta & Burgers
Hotel Monaco Denver - Checking In
WHAT I’M UP TO
I just finished reading Not My Fairytale by E.M. Tippetts which was an easy, light-hearted read perfect for post-holiday. I finished it in two nights thanks to a very long, very late reading session. I’m moving on to Interference by French writer, Amelie Antoine. It’s a switch from Not My Fairytale, going from chick lit to a suspenseful thriller. I don’t know much more than what the Goodreads description has provided but I’ll let you know if it’s a good one! If not in the February spotlight, on Instagram for sure.
My goal is to read at least 10 books this year. I love reading but I’ve been the world’s worst bookworm only reading a total of five books in 2017. My reading queue currently includes: The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Furstenberg, Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron, Secrets of Six-Figure Women by Barbara Stanny, and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Share your recommendations in the comments below!
Good friends of mine who own Levine-Moore Photo did a shoot with my family and I to surprise my Noni for Christmas. After the shoot, we did a few shots with me wearing a tee from my friend Dannie of Stile. Foto. Cibo.’s shop. If you love cheeky graphic tees, head on over for some dog and coffee love.
I’m on the second half of my two-week vacation this week from my freelance work and dreading Monday like I’m sure everyone else is. After two Mondays of no work and two weeks of doing whatever I want whenever I want, this coming Monday is bound to be a rough one. I’ll be using my Shit Happens, Coffee Helps mug from Cuss It Out, another store recently opened by a good friend of mine.
I’m looking at a few destinations for travel in 2018 for consideration. A few of the destinations on my radar include Montreal, New Orleans, Ireland, Maine, Charleston and Havana. Have you been to any of these spots? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!
Dying for this super cozy blanket at Nordstrom
Hoping to tame my poor winter skin with this light moisturizer
Waiting for these cozy socks from Barefoot Dreams to come back in stock so I can buy one of each color
Do you have a love/hate relationship with social media? Me too. I love that it allows us to connect with distant family members. I love that it makes it easy to stay up-to-date on current events. I love that it let’s me share my content and content from others sites with all of you. I hate that it has created a world of 24-hour availability. I hate that it is always changing. I hate that it can be challenging to master. While social media in general and each social channel comes with its pros and cons, we can't deny that social media is important in any business model.
According to an article on Small Business Trends, “8 in 10 internet users globally visit/use social networks on their mobile devices” and “Around 1 in every 3 minutes spent online is devoted to social networking and messaging.” People are always connected wherever they go. Not capitalizing on this opportunity to connect with them is borderline negligent. Small Business Trends additionally reported on social media marketing statistics from businesses. According to their research, “Almost 90% of marketers say their social media marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic.” More important, over “1 in 3 Internet users say they go to social networks when looking for more information about a brand or product.”
So what do we do with this information? First, look at your demographics. Research social media stats for each demo whether it’s by age, gender, income, location, etc. See where they are the most present and tailor your strategy so that you’ll reach them with the proper information. Second, build a digital brand that has a strong image and consistent presence regardless which social media platforms you use. The #1 key to success in social media marketing is consistency in your brand while reaching your audience. Finally, integrate digital ad campaigns into your organic content. It’s important to be sharing the same messaging whether your content is organic or paid. The less your ad and boosted content feels like...well, an ad...the more receptive the audience will be.
Owning a business in today’s world might seem more complicated but it has the potential to lead to greater success. A business is able to reach people that may have never heard of it without the power of social media. It can be a challenge to find a strategy that works well but once figured out, it is an unparalleled asset. Embrace the world of social media and use it to your advantage. Whether you’re promoting blog content or products, your business will be better off for it.
Our final Fearless Woman to Know for Women’s History Month is the incredible, Katie Carrico of Chicagogrammers and Dining at My Desk. I’ve known Katie for a few years thanks to the Chicago blogging community and I was pumped when she co-founded Chicagogrammers. It’s a fun community for Instagram influencers in the Chicago area that grows your Instagram skills while providing fun events to get to know local businesses and other members.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Chicagogrammers.
First of all, hello readers! If you’re reading this, you obviously have good taste, and thanks to Christine for letting me chime in! I’m Katie Carrico, Founder of Chicagogrammers. We’re a member-based organization for local Chicago Instagram users! Chicagogrammers organizes events and promotions with local bars, restaurants, businesses and brands to help them create a buzz on Instagram, which is far and away the BEST social platform for getting the word out there for businesses. The best part is that it’s free (and always will be) for members! We currently have 400 members, our hashtag #chicagogrammers has been used 37,000+ times, and we have 5,700+ followers on Instagram. We’re growing everyday, and we love new members! Our Instagram account is a regram account, and each day of the week we pick a different theme, and those themes rotate monthly. It’s just a fun account to follow, because you’re always going to get a good idea of what’s going on in this great city we live in, and some great Instagrammers to follow. A big goal of ours is to always remain member-centric, so we try to find fun ways to highlight our members as much as we can.
What made you decide to organize Chicagogrammers?
Ah, the story of Chicagogrammers...well, it really started as a whim this past July, because as a blogger for the past seven years (Dining at my Desk), I’ve seen MANY of these blogging groups form throughout the years on Facebook. You know the ones that ask you to click to read everyone else’s blog post, or follow each other, or any other number of blogging boost requests? The idea behind these groups isn’t bad, but the real issue is that the group might have 10,000 followers, and all of a sudden, now you have to read 1,000 blog posts? Or maybe you just have to read 5 or 10 posts, but in a sea of 1,000 comments, is anyone REALLY going to find your post? I thought starting something LOCAL that takes the best part of blogging - that’s Instagram, of course - and making it a group where people could meet each other and hang out in real life sounded interesting. I flung an email out to a few blogging buds to see if they would be interested in helping me with this endeavor, and I was lucky enough to have Chrissy Barua of the wonderful blog, The Hungary Buddha Eats the World, partner with me. Since meeting at a blogging event a few years ago, we’ve kind of been inseparable, and we comment all the time how we’re the perfect business partners - the stuff I suck at, she does remarkably well, and vice versa. We started Chicagogrammers randomly via email on a weekday afternoon, and actually didn’t even think to see if the Instagram was available - we were much more concerned with the Facebook Group! Luckily, all the social media handles were available, and here we are!
Do you have any Instagram tips to share?
I do!! My personal favorite find of all-time is the app VSCO Cam, which I use to manually edit every single image I put on my own Instagram account. The app is a little tricky to maneuver at first, so look up an online tutorial, but it seriously makes your photos SO MUCH BETTER. My other big tip is make sure you’re using hashtags in every photo, preferably just one or two in your main caption, then up to 30 in your first comment. Might I recommend the #chicagogrammers tag?
What are your favorite spots in Chicago to visit for photos and Instagram posts?
Well, I’m a foodie, and I do tend to get invited to a lot of great events in that realm. I’d say my absolute favorite event of all time was a blogger event where we partnered with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and had a foodie crawl. Basically anything that I can eat as much as I want (that’s always a lot) and explore this city is always right up my alley. I’ve never met a food I didn’t want to photograph.
If someone is interested in Chicagogrammers, how can they sign up for more information and is there anything you can share that Chicagogrammers has in the queue?
Yes, we LOVE new members. To join, visit our Facebook Group, and then we’ll have you sign up for our weekly newsletter, which is filled with fun and free (always Instagrammable) events for members to attend. We do an official Chicagogrammers monthly happy hour each month, which members can sign up for from the newsletter. Our newsletter comes out around noon on Wednesdays, and you want to get to your inbox quickly, because our events fill up fast! As far as events in the queue, we have quite a few things up our sleeve, including some awesome collaborations, but can’t tell you about them just yet. Stay tuned!
Thank you for being one of our fearless women to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Leave us with a little inspiration for the other fearless women who are reading.
First of all, it’s inspiring to see so many women in entrepreneurial roles within the blogging community. The ladies are killing it out there! My best advice is to follow your intuition. If you have an idea and it seems like a good one to you, no matter how small it is, you can make it happen! Make friends who are interested in the same things as you are, and before you know it, you’ll have the network you need to help turn an idea into something amazing. Thanks for having me!
Women’s History Month is coming to an end in a few days but before it’s over, we have to lovely ladies for you to get to know. Dannie from Stile.Foto.Cibo. is a style and lifestyle blogger who has become a quick friend of mine in the last year. She’s passionate, intelligent and kind-hearted. We share a love for our rescue babies and French macarons. Keep reading to meet Dannie and make sure to check out her blog!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and
I’m Dannie, a 20-something style and lifestyle blogger. Stile.Foto.Cibo is Italian for style, photo, and food. When I started the blog, it was exactly that. A place for me to share my style journey as well as all the awesome food I was making and photography I was doing. Since then, Stile.Foto.Cibo has evolved into a space for me to share my style as well as give face and voice to the femme lesbian community.
Congratulations on your recent wedding! The photos from your special day and honeymoon were amazing. How have you been able to balance these momentous life events, blogging and work?
Full disclosure, I’ve been having an incredibly difficult time balancing my day job, blog, and life. I have to keep the blog separate from work and I have to have times where I just power down and enjoy time with my wife and dogs. But finding the time can be incredibly difficult. It’s actually in my 5-year-plan [yes, I have a 5-year-plan] to move away from Chicago to the West Coast and just blog full time. I think it would be much better for my overall work/life balance and a change of scenery would be quite fun. In the meantime, assume I need coffee, a nap, and a puppy cuddle.
What’s your favorite part about being a blogger? What keeps you inspired and motivated?
I honestly love the community. I feed off of excitement and community and sharing and supporting other girl bosses. Working with and around other amazing women is what keeps me motivated and going. I love reading other blogs to get inspiration, help build my own style, and simply see what people are up to. The community can be so uplifting and empowering. It’s really what keeps me hustling every single day.
You are a huge supporter of rescue animals. Tell us a little bit about your furbabies and why you’re so passionate about this cause and these animals. We’re a family of rescues as well and they hold a special place for us.
Do I have a maximum word count? Because I can go on endlessly about dogs and the rescue community.
Zoe is my first dog. She’s a Boston Terrier/Jack Russell mix who is the laziest little nugget ever. She loves chewing on bones, licking the peanut butter jar clean, and running around at the dog beach. She’s my first dog love and the reason I started working with rescues. When she was rescued, she weighed 10 pounds, was severely emaciated, had a UTI, worms, and ear mites, and was scared of her own shadow. Now, after 2 months in a foster home and two years with us, she weighs 18 pounds and is so confident and playful that she will try to play with the vacuum cleaner.
I began volunteering at PAWS last summer because I had the time and love to give to many dogs but the space to only have one. So I went and volunteered to share my love and help dogs like Zoe find homes. Zoe has a very rough beginning and I needed to help other pups with difficult backgrounds find amazing homes so they could become as wonderful of dogs as she is.
Tonks is our second child. I found her kind of by accident while volunteering at PAWS. We’d recently moved somewhere that allowed two dogs and I thought “nah, I can wait.” I lasted 3 days. We moved on July 31 and we brought Tonks home on August 3rd. She has been a whole different kind of challenge to Zoe’s shy/fearful personality. Tonks has a lot to say, needs constant attention and stimulation, and exhibits signs of barrier aggression, meaning it’s really difficult for her to meet other dogs if she’s on leash. She’s still my sweet baby and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. I just wish she would shut up sometimes! Hah!
Overall, the work I do with dogs is about giving back to a community that welcomed me so openly and helped me find my Zoe. Everyone has at least one Heart Dog in their lifetime, the dog that they connect with on a deeper level than all others, and she is mine. I didn’t think it was possible [pawsible?] to love a dog so much but she astounds me every single day with how powerful our bond is. I work with rescues to help other people find their own Heart Dog.
You have a series coming up on your blog celebrating women in the LGBTQ community. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Fashionably Femme launched on International Women’s Day as a way to celebrate the femme in a community where we’re often erased. I don’t know how many times I’ve surprised people by being gay (“but you don’t look gay!”) or been told “you’re too pretty to be gay.” These are, quite possibly, the most idiotic and uneducated reactions I could possibly receive. As a femme-identifying lesbian, I love dressing up and being girly. But the general stereotype of a lesbian is the butch. And while I come with more power tools than the average dude, I also come with a LOT of lipstick. Fashionably Femme aims to give fellow femmes a chance to have a space to share their style and speak their peace. That being said, if any of your readers identify as femme, please reach out! I’d love to feature you!
Thank you for being one of our fearless women to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Leave us with a little inspiration for the other fearless women who are reading.
Remember that no matter what, you are wonderful. You are important, you matter, and you are loved. No matter what anyone says to you, you are important and you have a reason for being here with the rest of us. You may not have found it yet but I am confident that you will. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t give it to them. Keep on rocking.
With to-do lists constantly growing and so much to manage between work and home life, sometimes it feels like there’s no way to keep track of it all, even with the perfect planner. Our phones already hold pretty much all our lives- pictures, social media, Netflix. With these 5 apps, your phone can also help keep track of everything that needs to get done, and make sure it gets done.
Asana is perfect for anyone working in or managing a team. Team members can join the same group to share and assign tasks, share files, and add comments and updates to keep everyone in the loop. I personally use Asana at my job everyday, and my coworkers and I all agree it’s the best way for us to stay connected and know who’s doing what.
Sometimes, I really want my handwritten notes or a hard copy of something saved as a PDF on my phone so it’s easy to send in emails and texts. Taking pictures of notes works okay, but they often come out blurry, and the photo files are too big to send in an email. The Genius Scan app allows you to scan anything and converts it to a PDF on your phone. This makes it easy to send the notes or document in both text messages and email, and you can email it to yourself to save it on your computer.
I feel like if I’m not being productive, it’s because I’m looking at random articles and Tasty videos on my phone. With the pocket app, I can save all the articles and videos I see coming up on Facebook or Safari to look at later. Now there’s no excuses- you have the link saved for later, and you can look at it after you get your to-do list done!
As a working student, I have multiple email addresses that are constantly getting flooded with both important information and spam. Sometimes, I look at my mail app on my phone and feel overwhelmed by everything in it. The second I have my email finally organized, I feel so accomplished. Spark detects if an email is personal, work, or school related, and files messages away to their respective category. It makes it much easier to tackle my inbox and keep work, school, promotional, and personal emails separate.
Sometimes I feel like I need a to-do list just to organize my real to-do list. Wunderlist makes creating dynamic and interactive to-do lists simple. Within your to-do list, you can create subtasks, set deadlines and reminders, check off items, share tasks with colleagues, and add attachments and pictures. Each item on your list is perfectly tailored to help you get it done. Best of all, it can sync across all your devices and virtual calendars.