Wedding Season Survival Guide Part 1

Weddings are stressful. Being in the wedding party is even more stressful. Less than being the bride but more than being a simple guest. I have heard horror stories from bridal parties but luckily have not had to personally deal with anything drastic myself. I've weighed tips from friends and done a little research to put together the ultimate survival guide. Don't be surprised when you see a little tough love delivered. I'm not holding back so be prepared if any of the don'ts or criticisms pertain to you. If you know someone who needs to read this, feel free to print it out and have them read it as well. It's a great passive aggressive way to bring bad behavior to someone's attention without being too forceful. Just don't be highlighting or underlining any of their faults if they're included. That's just asking for a fight.

5 Tips For Bridesmaids

  1. If you need to travel for the wedding, book your flight 45-90 days in advance. I have done a ton of research on how to save money traveling that can easily apply to wedding travel. Flights are generally at the best price range 45-90 days out. Scout out prices in advance and do it often to find the best deal. I've noticed that the close you get to the 45 day-range, the better the deals.
  2. Don't bitch to the bride. She is not your personal sounding board and issues you're having with anyone in the bridal party is sure to make her even more stressed. Handle the issue yourself or talk to someone else you can trust.
  3. Don't get wasted...at anything. I know that some things are meant to be fun (aka, the bachelorette party). But nothing good ever happens from the entire bridal party being drunk out of their minds. I'm not saying "don't drink." I'm saying be responsible. Be an adult.
  4. Share a room with other bridesmaids if you're going by yourself. Cramming as many people as is comfortably possible in one hotel room will help everyone save a few dollars. Pitch in on as many things together as possible so that everyone has the option to save a buck. 
  5. Get to know the other bridesmaids. Instead of sticking like glue to the one or two you know, ask all the bridesmaids to lunch and encourage everyone to get to know each other. You'll be spending a lot of time together so why not?

5 Tips For The Maid Of Honor

  1. Remember that this is not about you. If I had a nickel for every MOH that made everything about them, I'd be a millionaire. You were chosen by the bride to be her third arm. Don't screw that up by making everything about you or somehow mistaking this wedding is centered around you.
  2. On the other hand, you are not a punching bag. Just because you are the MOH does not mean you should let the bride, her family or any of the other bridesmaids walk all over you, tradition be damned. If this is a common issue you face, be polite yet firm informing them that you are not going to be mistreated or disrespected. You'll help with anything you can but you won't stand for bridezilla, momzilla or disrespectful bridesmaids.
  3. Ask for help. Don't shoulder all the responsibility. That will just lead to a psychotic break. Ask the other bridesmaids to pitch in. Most will probably be helpful. Also keep in mind that all of you are on a budget. Discuss options for things like the bridal shower and bachelorette party to determine what's most cost effective for everyone. 
  4. Be prepared the day of. Have a bag full of emergency essentials like band-aids, aspirin, water bottles, snacks, allergy medicine, makeup, etc. Prepare for every situation you can imagine and have a solution in a bag. 
  5. Be in tune to the bride the day of the wedding. Chances are, she won't eat or drink much and she'll be exhausted. Make sure she sits down to eat something, drinks plenty of water and takes breaks here and there. The last thing anyone wants is a fainting bride because of dehydration or malnutrition. 

Bridal Party Do's and Don'ts

  • DO offer to help the maid of honor with anything. Even if you can't stand her or she doesn't seem to want help, offering is common courtesy. No one should have to shoulder the full responsibility that is often put on the MOH regardless of tradition. 
  • DON'T be cheap. I have a friend who had to front the full cost for a limo to a bachelorette party as MOH because none of the other bridal party members gave her money. If a cost needs to be split or if a cost is going to be shouldered onto one person, chip in. Nothing irks me more than people who refuse to pay and then take advantage of the people who do. Everyone has a budget they need to stick to but there is no reason to get a free ride for all the shenanigans. 
  • DO be cooperative and flexible. Weddings are stressful. Being difficult just makes everyone's lives harder and it's inconsiderate to the bride. We all have stories of that person who made life hell for everyone else. Don't let that be you.
  • DON'T think any more of yourself than necessary. If you're the MOH, you are not God's gift to earth. If you're not the MOH but feel like you should be, don't be the jealous 'B.' There's a reason why the bride chose you for whatever she asked you to be and you should respect that. You also shouldn't make anyone feel less because of it either.
  • DO support the bride no matter what. I am that friend who is ready to run if the bride decides at any given moment she doesn't want this anymore. I will get the car, no questions asked, and drive to the other side of the earth. If you notice the bride is having hesitations or is getting uncomfortable, talk to her. You'd think I didn't have to include this in the list but sadly, I do. I've heard too many regret stories that could have easily been prevented if just one person was in tune with the bride's feelings and asked her what she wanted. Be that friend.

Do you have any other tips for the bridal party? Share them in the comments below. While you're at it, make sure to check out our Bachelorette Party Gift Guide as well.

Lincoln Park Wine Festival: Things To Do In Chicago

Dear Chicago, We would be forever grateful if you give us one beautiful, warm spring weekend. Why? Because the Lincoln Park Wine Festival is coming and we'd prefer to enjoy it dry and warm. If you don't have plans this weekend (if you do, cancel them), stop by Jonquil Park Saturday and Sunday from 1 - 6pm for a wine festival filled with live music, local artisans, tasty treats and more. See below for details:

photo c/o Lincoln Park Wine Festival 

photo c/o Lincoln Park Wine Festival 

*I received a complimentary ticket for this event. All opinions remain my own.

What: Lincoln Park Wine Festival
When: Saturday, May 21 & Sunday, May 22 from 1pm - 6pm
Where: Jonquil Park
1001 West Wrightwood Avenue, Chicago
Tickets HERE 
(use code'LLL' for $5 general admission tickets either day)

Listen to brand ambassadors and sommeliers talk about the latest trends, varietals, tips and more. The festival will include food and wine pairings, artists as well as products and services from wine-related vendors. 

General Admission Tickets include:
- Wristband for event entry
- 12-1.5 oz tasting tickets
Cost: $50

VIP Admission Tickets include:
- Wristband for event entry
- 12 standard tasting tickets + 5 tasting tickets for the premium VIP wine area
- Stemmed commemorative wine glass
Cost: $75

2-Day Tasting Package includes:
- Wristband for entry on each day
- 12-1.5 oz tasting tickets per day
- One souvenir glass each day
Cost: $90

Purchase your tickets HERE and use code 'LLL' for $5 off general admission tickets on Saturday or Sunday.

8 Things To Do In Chicago This Summer

Chicago doesn't get a long summer so we like to take advantage of the beautiful weather when it's here. That means, lots of festivals and events. Weekends are packed with them, especially the deeper into summer it is. Sometimes it can be hard to choose which ones to go to. Today, we have a few of our favorites that we'd like to share. Check them out and let us know in the comments if you have any favorites of your own. I'll also be attending quite a few myself so make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lincoln Park Wine Festival
What: Enjoy a weekend full of great wine, good food and even better company. The 2nd annual Lincoln Park Wine Festival features music, artisans and bites in an open-air market complete with food and wine pavilions. Listen to brand amassadors and sommeliers speak, listen to live music, enjoy food and wine pairings and much more
When: Saturday May 21st and Sunday, May 22nd, 1pm - 6pm
Where: Jonquil Park
1001 West Wrightwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
Cost: General Admission Tickets: $50; VIP Admission Tickets: $75; 2-Day Tasting Package: $90; Designated Driver Admission: $20 (not included)
USE CODE 'LLL' TO GET $50 OFF GENERAL ADMISSION SATURDAY OR SUNDAY
Visit the event site for more information and to purchase tickets.

photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Wine Festival

photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Wine Festival

Windy City Lakeshake
What: Chicago's very own country music festival is here for the 3rd year in a row. The lineup includes some of country's best like Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Brooks & Dunn and more. 
When: Friday, June 17th - Sunday, June 19th
Where: FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
1300 South Linn White Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Cost: 1-Day General Admission: $99.50; 3-Day General Admission: $225; Grandstand Reserved Pass: $299.50; VIP Lounge Reserved Pass: $599.50
Visit lakeshakefestival.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Square Roots Festival
What: Experience Lincoln Square on another level at the Square Roots Craft Brew & Music Festival. The 5th annual festival will feature more than 40 local craft brews (including special batch and limited release taps), food from local artisans and restaurants, plenty of entertainment for the whole family and 70 live music acts across 4 stages.
When: Friday, July 8th, 5-10pm; Saturday, July 9th, 12-10pm; Sunday, July 10th, 12-9pm
Where: 4400 - 4560 North Lincoln Avenue (from Wilson to Montrose)
Cost: Suggested donations - Adults $10, Kids/Seniors $5, Families $20
Visit squareroots.org for more information.

photo courtesy of Square Roots Festival

photo courtesy of Square Roots Festival

Feedback Chicago
What: Rachael Ray is bringing her SXSW event to Chicago for the first time in celebration of music and food. Feedback will feature some of Rachael's favorite musical acts, food creations, beer and wine pairings and more. Arists performing include Grace Potter, Los Colognes and more.
When: Saturday, June 5th
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Cost: $49.50 - $299
Visit feedbackchicago.com for more information.

Zoo Ball
What: Join the Women's Board of Lincoln Park Zoo for a romantic midsummer's eve of dreams, dining, dancing and entertainment. The night will celebrate the anticipated return of African penguins and feature warm ombre tones of burnt orange, red and yellow throughout the venue to promote the feeling of watching a beautiful South African sunset. This year's Zoo Ball is presented by Powershares QQQ. Funds raised will support the Women's Board's leadership pledge to fund new initiatives at the zoo, such as the new Mayari and Robert Pritzker Penguin Cove.
When: Friday, July 15th, 6:30pm - 12am
Where: Cannon Drive at Fullerton Parkway
East Gate Entrance
Chicago, IL 60614
Cost: Tickets begin at $700/person; table packages begin at $7,000
Visit lpzooball.org for more information.

Windy City Smokeout
What: Enjoy the best barbecue in the country while listening to some of the hottest country music talent at Windy City Smokeout. This food and music festival features all your favorite beer on tap, everything from pulled pork to brisket and more. Musical acts this year include Billy Currington, Big & Rich and Chase Rice.
When: Friday, July 15th - Sunday, July 17th
Where: 560 West Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60654
Cost: General Admission: $30-45; VIP: $150-199; 3-Day Pass: $100 for General Admission, $475 for VIP
Visit windycitysmokeout.com for more information.

The Taste of Lincoln Avenue
What: Hosted by the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, the Taste of Lincoln Avenue features flavors from around the neighborhood. 
When: Saturday, August 6th - Sunday, August 7th from 12-10pm
Where: Located at Lincoln and Fullerton
Cost: $10 at the gate for all day entry
Visit tasteoflincolnchicago.com for more information.

Naperville Wine Festival
What: Sample your choice of 300 wines from around the world at the Naperville Wine Festival. The event includes wine seminars and cooking demonstrations held by exhibiting wineries, sponsors, chefs and restaurateurs as well as live music.
When: Friday, August 12th - Saturday, August 13th from 5-10:30pm
Where: CityGate Centre
2155 City Gate Lane
Naperville, IL 60563
Cost: $32 in advance or $40 at the door; Designated Driver Ticket $15
Visit napervillewinefestival.com for more information.

A Night In The Clouds

Ready. Set. Tilt! There's nothing that will get your adrenaline pumping more than hovering 94 floors above a major city. It's terrifying, exhilarating and one of the best views of Chicago I have ever seen. Chicago is known for having one of the most beautiful skylines in the world but 360 CHICAGO takes it to the next level. To celebrate the new Sunset Series, Chicago bloggers had the chance to experience the TILT attraction on the 94th floor of the Hancock and other features 360 CHICAGO offers. 

When you enter the concourse, you begin an interactive lesson on the history of Chicago. The walls display murals of the city's biggest moments and accomplishments. There is a short video towards the beginning highlighting some of Chicago's most iconic events like the Chicago Fire. The photo you see below that looks like a spaceship is a time capsule set to open soon. Farther into the concourse, we're introduced to Chicago's neighborhoods like Wrigleyville, Pilsen and Little Italy. It's a true Chicago experience that locals will appreciate and visitors will enjoy. 

Before you enter the elevator to whisk you up to the 94th floor, stop and take a photo in front of the iconic Chicago skyline. Once on the 94th floor, there is plenty to enjoy. One of the newer and most popular attractions is TILT. This terrifying and exhilarating experience will have you literally tilting over the city of Chicago. It's maybe a minute long and tilts forward at several different angles for the ultimate experience. It's about as close as you can get to flying over Chicago. 

Have a drink before or after tilting at the bar and enjoy artisinal snacks and gelato at the Cafe. Engage in any of the many activities like the interactive screens. These point out popular, iconic and historical spots in the city of Chicago and discuss them. The floor features a 360 degree view of the city. My personal favorite is over Lake Michigan. The scene is so serene and peaceful, I could sit there for days just looking over the water. Pick up a souvenir or two in the gift shop and get as many photos as you possibly can because views likes this are meant to be captured.

Finally, the reason we were all there for this fabulous event  was to learn about the new Sunset Series. It is available to all visitors with general admission tickets from 6-9 pm and includes:

  • Mondays: Photography Night - On this night only, visitors can bring in tripods to capture the incredible images of the skyline, lights and views. Nick Ulivieri, a professional photographer lauded for his Chicago imagery, serves as the 360 CHICAGO photography ambassador, and will help develop photography workshops and contests over the year.
  • Tuesdays: Chicago Architecture Foundation docents serve as "guides in the sky." 
  • Thursdays: DJs from Mode Events offer entertainment while visitors toast sunsets.

360 CHICAGO costs $20 for adults and $13 for youth (ages 3-11). Chicago residents in a 606 area code that present a valid ID are in for a treat with the 606 Resident Appreciation Rate. This rate gives residents 50% off. Visit 360chicago.com for more information on what the 94th floor has to offer. 

The Single Girl's Guide To Valentine's Day

We are one week away from the lover's holiday. For those of us who are unattached, that can be depressing, empowering or it might mean absolutely nothing at all. One thing is for sure though, all your lovebird friends will be cheesing it up at an overpriced restaurant or activity filled date night that had way too much thought put into it. So what's a girl to do? Our Single Girl's Guide to Valentine's Day is here to save the day. From events to menus for one, we've got your solo Valentine's Day covered.

WHERE TO GO
Bohemian House (11 West Illinois) welcomes lonely hears to celebrate the single life with the special "Burger for the 'Lonely Hearts' at the Bar" served on a house-made potato bun, piled high with emmentaler cheese, sauerkraut, a fried egg and horseradish cream, alongside salt & vinegar chips. It will be available for dinner Friday, February 12th through Sunday, February 14th. 

Hydrate Nightclub (3458 North Halsted Street) is hosting their Beauties and Beaus show Friday, February 12th and Saturday, February 13th. Hot male dancers and sassy female impersonators bring the crowd to its feet (and on stage) in an interactive experience you won't forget. Discount code COFFEE will save you $10 off admission for the weekend.

J'temie Journelle (1725 North Damen) is partnering with Flowers For Dreams to make Valentine's Day shopping easy. Visit Journelle on February 13th to shop for your girls' night out (or in). Choose from a variety of garments and pajamas to make you feel fabulous regardless what your plans entail. Every Journelle purchase receives a complimentary mini Flowers For Dreams bouquet while supplies last. 

spa at dana (660 North State Street) is offering a few spectacular spa deals for a relaxing solo weekend. Try the "Berry Bubbly Mani/Pedi," a nutrient rich treatment full of antioxidants. Bask in the uplifting aroma of berries while sipping a glass of bubbly. They're also offering the "Be My Honey Facial." The ultra-hydrating facial will cleanse and exfoliate your skin before enriching it with a honey mask. Melt away stress and tension with a face, neck and shoulder massage and leave with a special glow. Sounds pretty amazing to me. Nothing beats a spa day!

GIRL'S NIGHT IN
If you're not feeling the crowds, grab the rest of the single ladies in your life and have a night in, perhaps while wearing a new pair of PJ's from Journelle while rocking a killer mani/pedi from spa at dana. I've got your Girls Night must-haves below from Netflix binge-a-thons to games and snacks.

WATCH
Anti-Valentine's Day: The Break-Up
Classic Slasher Film: Scream
Comedy: 10 Things I Hate About You (we're taking it back)
Old Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Psychological Thriller: Secret Window
Romance: Love Actually
Tear-Jerker: The Notebook
TV Shows: Friends, Criminal Minds, New Girl, Gilmore Girls

EAT
Delicious, decadent desserts from Inspired by Happiness. The gluten-free treat features three-layer cakes including the Dreamin' of Chocolate Dark & White Chocolate Layer Cake, Dreamin' of Strawberries White Chocolate Shortcake and Cravin' for Cookies & Cream Layered Cake. My bet is on the Dreamin' of Chocolate Dark & White Chocolate Layer cake with layers of Belgian white chocolate mousse and topped with chocolate ganache. 

SIP
Amazing cocktails such as... 

...The Raspberry Rose Royal
Ingredients
1 part Hendrick's Gin
1/5 part sugar syrup
1 fresh raspberry
Top up with champagne.

Preparation
Combine raspberry, sugar and gin in cocktail shaker and shake briskly. After just three strong shakes, finely strain into base of flute and top with champagne.

DO
Play: Heads Up created by Ellen DeGeneres.
Go: to a dance club
Stay: and have a dance party in your PJ's
Burn: photos of ex-boyfriends OR write down something that's been bothering you and burn it away. Maybe the night can become therapeutic.

SOLO NIGHT
Take advantage of the quiet and refresh. Read that book that's been sitting on your nightstand for months. Get rid of the pile of magazines collecting dust in the corner. Try that new recipe that has you questioning your baking abilities. Go to bed early. Just take the day and night for yourself to do things you never have time for. 

Plan: a vacation!
Read: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. You won't regret it.
Listen: to a new artist on Spotify. Or just go with Norah Jones because...she rocks.
Watch: Midnight in Paris. You can't go wrong with Woody Allen in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Clean: nothing. DO NOT WORK.
Write: in a journal. Maybe you can start a new hobby.
Make: a spectacular dinner for one. Because you deserve it. 

Cheezecake Without The Guilt

Strawberry Cheezecake 3

Recently, I was invited to a pre-launch tasting event for Daiya Cheezecake. Something I may or may not have mentioned on the blog before is that I'm technically not supposed to have dairy. Clearly, if you've seen any of my food posts, you know I don't listen to my doctors (I do not encourage similar behavior). I won't get into the nitty gritty but basically, my body is sensitive to dairy, not lactose-intolerant, just sensitive. How do you tell a dairy lover to never have dairy again though? It's devastating! Back when I was told this, there weren't a whole lot of non-dairy dairy options. Instead of milk, there was almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk. Gross. Now, we have Lactaid. Holy hell is this a gift from the gods. There's also now brands like Daiya who commit themselves to creating dairy-free options for people, like me, who aren't supposed to have it that also taste good.

Let's be honest. I love cheesecake. When I received an invitation for a private tasting of Daiya's new "cheezecakes" that are dairy and gluten free, I said yes but I was also very hesitant. I basically went in thinking I wasn't going to like anything. Daiya is the perfect example of why you should not judge a book by it's cover. I was ready to give these stuff the boot and it turns out, everything is incredibly delicious. I was able to try all four of their cheezecake flavors as well as several appetizers that they either sell or that were made with one of their products.

Chocolate Cheezecake What Daiya Says: Attention, chocoholics: This one is for you. Boasting a signature blend of cocoa and carob powders, the luxurious chocolate flavor is unlike any other. It's decadent, rich, indulgent - and once you've tried it, you'll wonder how you ever celebrated an occasion without it.

What I Say: The chocolate cheezecake tasted fabulous. It was incredibly rich and very smooth. I felt it was more of a thick mousse than cheesecake though. The texture was very light and airy, not dense like you'd expect for cheesecake. This one ranked in at #4 for me.

Chocolate Cheezecake

Key Lime Cheezeacke What Daiya Says: Bold and festive, Key Lime Cheezecake is like a trip to the tropics - but so much sweeter, and without the jetlag. Tart and tangy meets smooth and creamy to create a uniquely delicious flavor that will (much like a beach getaway) have your guests reminiscing for days.

What I Say: I am not a key lime person at all. I generally don't like the flavor. It's too tart for me most of the time. This flavor blew me away though. I honestly didn't think I'd like it but I loved it. The flavor was light instead of overpowering with the lime and the graham cracker-like crust was phenomenal. This one ranked in at #2 for me.

Key Lime Cheezecake

New York Cheezecake What Daiya Says: This one's for the purist - or for the topping enthusiast. Let the smooth, silky texture and classic flavor of New York-style cheesecake act as a blank canvas for whatever fresh fruit, syrup or sprinkles tickle your fancy. Or, you know, just enjoy it as is. Either way, we bet you'll soon believe in love at first bite.

What I Say: Of all the cheezecakes, this one was most like the real thing. If you had me compare real cheesecake with this cheezecake, I would not be able to tell the difference. It was dense and creamy, just like regular New York cheesecake. The lady serving this flavor encouraged me to try a piece on its own and then try one with some toppings. If you need to be told a second time to have two pieces of cheezecake, you've got to be crazy. I absolutely loved this flavor. It was my #1 pick of the four.

New York Cheezecake 1

Strawberry Cheezecake What Daiya Says: With its sweet, fruity flavor and eye-catching hue, pretty-in-pink strawberry is poised to steal the show. Bring it to your next dinner party and you'll have everyone asking which fancy, schmancy bakery you stopped at on your way home.

What I Say: The strawberry station was my favorite presentation of all four cheezecakes. It was served alongside pink champagne, my favorite! It was so pretty and welcoming. The cheesecake itself was pretty dense in texture and consistency. The strawberry flavoring was pretty sweet. This kind of reminded me of a strawberry yogurt. It was quite tasty but not one of my favorites. It came in at #3 out of the four varietals.

Strawberry Cheezecake 4

So those are the cheezecakes. I was overall impressed. In terms of favorites, New York and Key Lime were my top choices. Strawberry and Chocolate, although good for being non-dairy, were not my favorites. As I mentioned earlier, there were also a few appetizers. I managed to get a photo of three out of the four at the event. The Mini Grilled Cheeze Bite with housemade rye, Daiya Swiss and pickled ramp relish was amazing. This was my favorite appetizer at the event. I had about six of them. The Micro Quinoa Cheeze Burger with Daiya Pepperjack and caramelized onions was also fantastic. The Grilled Asparagus & Daiya Smoked Gouda Quesadilla was really tasty but the texture was a little weird for some reason. I wasn't sure if it was the cheeze or the asparagus but it threw me for a loop. They also served one of their pizzas which I loved. I'd definitely get that in the store.

Quinoa Burgers

I am on a mission to cut the foods that my body reacts negatively to out of my life. I will never 100% get rid of dairy but I have eliminated 75% of it. I'm not buying non-dairy alternatives or lactose-free alternatives. I'm also watching my fructose intake since that seems to have a negative trigger as well. Just for general health, I'm looking towards more ancient grains for carbs but am fairly new to this world so if you have suggestions, please let me know. Other than that, have you tried Daiya products before? What do you think? Is this cheezecake something you'd consider?