September Spotlight

September! The first unofficial days of fall. That time of year when pumpkin spice takes over even though the weather is still a roller coaster of 60 to 80 degree days. Sweaters are taken everywhere even when they’re unnecessary during the heat of the day. It’s getting really close to my favorite month of the year, October. The line-up for the now “31 Days of Halloween” on Freeform have been announced. Hocus Pocus references are EVERYWHERE and you’ll find me along with many other people in a giddy mood. It’s cool enough to work on the patio again without your laptop erupting in flames and the bugs start to disappear. It’s just a wonderful time of year because it’s the start of all the best holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I mean, how can you not be loving the change in seasons?

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Finished two books over the last week which has me motivated to start adding more to my reading list…

I recently start cutting a lot of gluten and dairy out of my diet and have been scouring the internet for ideas and tips. Love these pantry staple suggestions…

All about a cozy fall wardrobe and Lauren Conrad’s new weekend line is killing it…

We got our few fall-like consecutive days which called for whipping out the pumpkin. Get cooking for the season with these recipes

Planning a trip to the northeast during fall is no picnic but photos of what the leaves look like throughout the season are giving me plenty of motivation…

Drooling over this English Country Kitchen design

For dog moms that are into essential oils, these are great tips for how to use them. I use them to help my pup with his anxiety often...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Beef Roast with Fall Veggies & Mashed Potatoes
Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Tapas Night
Weeknight Chicken Burrito Bowls

TOP TRAVEL POSTS
[from top left]
8 US Destinations for Solo Travel
9 Spots to Grab Brunch Around Chicago
A Guide to 3 Days in Boston
Hotel Indigo San Antonio Riverwalk - Checking In

WHAT I’M UP TO
Ok, I have quite a bit to share with you guys so I’ll try and keep it as brief as possible. Let’s start with A Simple Favor. I was invited to an advance screening of the movie this week and HOLY CRAP! Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are on fire. This was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a really long time. The script was genius, the chemistry of the cast was undeniable, and it was straight up entertaining. From the previews, it’s hard to tell if the film is more of a comedy or a thriller. It’s definitely more along the lines of dark comedy with a bit of a film noir twist. Whatever you’re thinking about A Simple Favor, prepare yourself to be surprised because there is one twist after another. It almost reminded me of a Gillian Flynn novel but with a lot more humor. Blake Lively is giving off a ton of Serena Van der Woodsen vibes with her wardrobe and Anna Kendrick is as awkward as ever. I’m afraid to share any real details because I don’t want to ruin anything and it would be easy to do so. Bottom line, Dean Richards even said A Simple Favor is the movie of the weekend on WGN Radio this morning so GO SEE IT! Before the movie, a friend and I had dinner at Pinstripes in River North which is a block away from the theater. Their patio is along the river and absolutely gorgeous. We shared the Hummus and Avocado plate and both got gluten-free pepperoni pizza. AMAZING!

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Next up, I finally finished Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns. I will have a full review of this book coming soon but I wanted to pop a few notes in here. This book gave me a lot of feelings: anger, frustration, disbelief, nostalgia. As awful as it sounds, it's not bad though, nowhere close. It started a bit slow because she recapped a lot of what happened in this novel’s prequel which I did not read so I appreciated it. However, all that time that was spent recapping previous events caused the climax and ending to feel rushed. I loved all the descriptions of Paris though. Amy, the main character, details the feelings and smells walking down the streets in Paris vividly. The descriptions of the setting are on point and it transported me back to my favorite place in the world. It was a welcome escape whenever I picked it up to read.

Finally, I am greatly struggling with planning a fall trip to the northeast. It’s going to happen but booking accommodations has been the hardest task. I have never had such a hard time booking travel before, even last minute. So this is going to be very interesting to see how this trip turns out. I’ll keep you posted, mostly on Instagram so make sure you’re following me. If you guys are fans of country music, I’m currently listening to Carrie Underwood’s new album, “Cry Pretty,” and I’m obsessed. I’ve been a fan of hers since American Idol and it’s always fun to see what she comes out with. She’s on my concert wishlist so hopefully I can grab tickets and see her next year!

WISH LIST
100% ready for fall weather which means I’m looking for a strong sweater game. Loving this cardigan from Banana Republic and this one from Anthropologie as well as this cute off-the-shoulder from LC by Lauren Conrad…

Speaking of fall, it’s just about time for blanket season! So excited to start whipping out all the coziness but this one might make a new addition to my collection.

This year has been a bit difficult and I’ve needed inspiration and motivation wherever I can get it. These brand new tote bags bring a huge smile to my face...

August Spotlight + Giveaway

Happy Wednesday! For those of you enjoying the peace and quiet with the kids back to school, I hope you’re having a very productive (or relaxing) day. For anyone personally going back to school, maybe it’s your final undergrad year or you’re heading off to get a phD, I wish you the best of luck and a million wonderful memories. For those of us who are aware that it’s back to school but it doesn’t necessarily affect us, here’s to another Wednesday! Crack open a bottle of wine tonight because you made it halfway through the week! Today, I’m particularly excited for this monthly spotlight because we have a giveaway! It’s been a while since I’ve ran one of these on the blog and I’m super excited because these are products I have been personally using for months. Giveaways are great but they’re even better when you have someone’s stamp of approval on the product you’re about to win. I got a little personal in my update this month because there are a few things I felt I needed to explain so bear with me and next month, I promise it will be all about what’s coming up the rest of the year!

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
With fall around the corner, heartier salads are looking really delightful like this Steak Salad with New Potatoes

Wishing I had an Instant Pot just so I could make this

Life gone crazy? Loving these easy ideas to bring some structure and control back into life to make it less stressful…

I’ve always wanted to make homemade treats for my pups and this recipe looks like a great place to start…

Cedarwood is one of the more inexpensive essential oils and it’s so versatile. These are great ideas to use it more often…

Get the most out of your trip by taking exceptional photos. Great tips from a fellow Chicago blogger…

I can’t stop thinking about France so I’m living vicariously through other travel bloggers right now…

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Chicken Milanese with Simple Spaghetti
Chicken Parmesan Sliders
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote

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WHAT I’M UP TO
Has it already been a month since the last update? This year is flying by and while I’m counting down the days until fall and cooler weather, it feels like 2018 has gotten away from me. This year has been a whirlwind of one thing after the next. The first few months of this year, I split my time between the city and the suburbs which got out of control really quick. During these months, we found out that a very close family member of mine (I won’t say who for privacy reasons, maybe one day in the future) has terminal cancer. It was a difficult blow but we’ve been surviving and I’ve served as chemo buddy through this process. From February through July, every other week we’d tackle appointments and this particular commitment required me to put travel on hold. While I have plenty of travel content to share that’s built up over the last few years, my first trip for 2018 will most likely be later in fall. Some days I feel like a failure as a travel blogger but I wouldn’t take back the time I’ve been able to spend with my loved one for anything. Life sometimes hands us cards that we don’t want to play but all we can do is make the best of them.

Moving on to earlier this summer, the first week of July I had a bit of a accident and injured my face pretty bad. It required a total of five stitches and several weeks for me to lick my wounds and get my confidence back. I’ve injured myself dozens of times in my mere 27 years but not once have I done something to severely affect my appearance. I’ve healed up really well but the scars will be pretty obvious (at least to me) for a while. During the whole debacle, washing my face was a bit of a challenge. I had to use super sensitive products and had to be careful not to get any moisturizer near the wounds. Well, I’m about to give Aveeno another shout-out. Before leaving the hospital from getting stitches, the nurse ran through the dos and dont’s of caring for stitched wounds. One of them was to use a mild cleanser at which point I asked if my Aveeno gel cleanser for sensitive skin was ok. The answer? That’s perfect! During a time when it felt like everything was spinning out of control, it was a relief to not have to change at least one part of my regular routine. It’s in times of emergency that make you appreciate the small things. Earlier this year, Aveeno sent me a very large goodie box for mentioning them in one of my monthly spotlight posts and it’s been a nice little stash to supply the cabinet for a while.

With that said, I have goodies for you too! My Aveeno routine consists of the Ultra-Calming Gel Cleanser in the morning followed by the Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF. At night I use the Ultra-Calming Nourishing Night Cream after exfoliating in the shower. This particular line has become an essential part of my skincare routine and since randomly picking up the night cream at the store during the winter, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference. I can’t wait to share these products and my experience with one of you! Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter to win a care package of Aveeno Ultra-Calming Goodies.

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WISH LIST
Thinking about investing in this scalp scrub from Goop to give my hair a post-summer cleanse…

I finally made the jump to it Cosmetics’ CC Cream and I’ve been missing out. This is a three-in-one cream, sunscreen, and moisturizer and gives plenty of coverage. A little goes a long way too…

I never got those new sandals for summer but I’ve still got my eye set on these gladiators…

100% ready for sweater season but still in love with summer dresses. This fit-and-flare maxi dress has a floral print I’m obsessed with…

***GIVEAWAY***
The prize includes:
- 1 bottle Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser
- 1 bottle Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30
- 1 package Aveeno Ultra-Calming Makeup Removing Wipes

Terms:
For our full terms and conditions, click here. For our full privacy policy, please click here.
- Must be 18+ years of age
- Winner’s mailing address must be in one of the 48 continental states (we will not ship the prize to Hawaii or Alaska)
- Giveaway ENDS Thursday, August 23rd at 12AM CST

ENTER USING THE RAFFLECOPTER BELOW:

July Spotlight

We’re interrupting your regular programming schedule of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale to bring you...something different. I love a good sale but is anyone else sick of seeing a million articles and social media posts dedicated to sale items? So if you’re like me and looking for other links around the web, this post is for you! It’s time for the July spotlight and I haven’t had much time for browsing the last month so what I’m sharing had to be work my time. Translation: these links are good ones. Plus, you guys seem to be loving te Pasta Primavera recipe. It’s been the #1 viewed post for the last two weeks! If you’ve had a chance to try it, let me know. I’d love to know what you think. While everyone is more than likely enjoying the second half of their summer and heading off to one or two more vacations before it ends, I’m counting down the days until fall. Summer has been absolutely awful this year with record breaking heat and annoyance from yours truly. I can’t wait for cooler temperatures so I can wear my sweaters and booties again and start making soup and all things pumpkin.

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Throwing a party this summer? Rock your outdoor party with a few entertaining tips

For those of us who would love to meal prep but die a little inside at the thought of eating salads every day all day….

Off the grid is sounding better every single day, especially when I see treehouse getaways like this…

I’m obsessed with this home and dreaming of being able to cook in the kitchen every day…

The podcast episode from Boss Girl Creative talking about overcoming your belief barriers spoke to me on a deep level. If you’re struggling with not feeling good enough or qualified enough, listen up…

I always love finding movie set locations when I travel but the first one on this list is at the time of mine. Any other LOTR fans out there...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Taco Fiesta
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Tapas Night
Southwestern Chicken Pita Pockets
Pasta Primavera

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WHAT I’M UP TO
Hello, lovelies. It’s been a hot minute since I did a check-in, or wrote a post, or did anything productive for that matter. Truth? This weekend was the first weekend I've a minute in a while. Where to start...let’s go back, shall we? The last two weeks of June, as you might have read in the last spotlight, were fabulous yet exhausting. I had an event, meeting or something more days than I didn’t. I saw Lea Michele and Darren Criss in concert on the LMDC Tour (more on that in a second), my friends and I had dinner not once but twice, it was my birthday, oh...and I fell and split my face open in several places and needed stitches. Let’s go back and focus on the good stuff.

LMDC Tour. Holy cow, it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I had expected Lea Michele to be incredible but she is flawless when she performs. Not one note was missed or botched. Lea Michele and Darren Criss came to the historic Chicago Theater June 26th to kick off the second run of their tour. It was fun, nostalgia-filled if you're a "Gleek" and I wish I could relive that night all over again. Darren was funny and personable. These are two people I wish I could have hung out with afterwards. It was truly an incredible concert. I have my eye on a few more concerts coming to Chicago including Panic! At the Disco in February and I’d love to see Ed Sheeran in October but the stadium he’s playing at is way overpriced with tickets so we’ll see. Waitress is also on Broadway in Chicago but it’s only here for a few more days and it doesn’t look like I’ll be going to see it at this point. Believe me when I saw my heart is broken. That just means I’ll have to figure out how to get to NYC to see Katherine McPhee play the lead role instead!

Let’s talk food for a second. In those crazy two weeks, there were lots of food events. It all kicked off with a mid-week staycation at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort with a delightful dinner at Three Embers. It was a meal to remember, that’s for sure. I also attended a Windy City Bloggers happy hour at the Metropolitan in the Sears Tower. The views of the city are incredible and the lamb sliders were to die for. Finally, I attended an event with HomeChef to get to know their chefs and learn more about the company. For example, did you know that HomeChef was started and is based here in Chicago? I didn’t! I’ll have a full post discussing HomeChef soon.

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July itself has been pretty uneventful. The fourth is pretty low-key for me, I don’t really celebrate and at the end of the week I had my accident so I’m confined to my house until I feel comfortable enough to start going to events and crowded places that are not the grocery store again. I'm using this experience as one to learn from and soon I’ll share a few more personal notes about the accident and my injuries. I’m not quite there yet and am testing out a healing method to see if it actually works. On that note, if you have any tips to help get rid of scarring, I’d really appreciate them so leave ‘em in the comments below! Until next month, stay cool and enjoy the rest of summer!

WISH LIST
I think I finally found the new bedding for my bedroom! I’m in love with this comforter set from LC by Lauren Conrad..

The one thing I do love about summer is getting to wear super cute dresses. I’m loving this Tie-Waist Dress from Anthropologie in the floral print…

If you’re looking for a comfy t-shirt bra, I’m obsessed with the Breathe Wireless Bra from the Gap. I practically live in mine…

I really love the body positivity campaigns from Aerie and it makes me want to start supporting the company more. This Plush Zip-Up Sweater looks super comfy and perfect as the weather starts turning later this summer..

5 Recipes to Celebrate National Pineapple Day

Happy Wednesday! You know what that means? We’re halfway through the week which means the weekend is almost here. And it’s even better because next week is a holiday week which means...short week!!! To say I’m excited is an understatement. Did you also know that today is National Pineapple Day? It’s also International Pineapple Day but the point is, it’s a day for celebrating pineapple, one of my favorite fruits! I love the versatility of it. It’s great fresh, on its own or grilled on top of a burger. I’ve come to enjoy it so much, that it’s even been sneaking it’s way into quite a few recipes lately. Keep scrolling to grab a few.

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I’ve always known Hawaii to be the land of the pineapple but did you know that they’re actually native to South America? The Spanish brought the fruit to Hawaii where they ended up commercializing it. For a while, pineapples became a sign of wealth among European aristocrats since it was so expensive to either import them or grow them through early versions of greenhouses. I find this fascinating! And now, Hawaii barely produces any of the world’s pineapple contributions. Imagine my surprise considering I visited Hawaii back in 2006 and we had plenty of pineapple and even visited a plantation. But now that I realize it was 12 years ago, I guess it shouldn't be so surprising.

I could go on all day about pineapple but I’m sure you’d rather check out a few recipes. My favorite use of pineapple lately has been grilled and on top of burgers. Something about the combination of savory, juicy meat and the tangy sweetness of pineapple gets to me. It’s a flavor combo that can’t be beat and it’s an easy way to add a little pizzazz to your dinner table or impress guests. Where else (other than a restaurant) will you get a burger with a pineapple on top? People are generally too apprehensive to go out of their comfort zone with food when they’re hosting guests. Me? I like to challenge people’s comfort zones so don’t come to dinner at my house if you’re not ready to see something non-traditional on the dinner table. I love the classics but boy, do I love a twist!

BBQ Chicken Burgers with Grilled Pineapple
This recipe is one of my favorites. Ground chicken is used instead of beef for lighter burgers that are packed with flavor. Keep the patty from disintegrating on the grill by using a full cup of breadcrumbs in the meat mixture. I used regular breadcrumbs but panko will work as well and might even give the burgers a light, airy quality.

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BBQ Hawaiian Chicken Bowls
This is a great weeknight dish. Everything (except the rice) is grilled, or cooked on grill pan over the stove. Start with the chicken breasts and while they rest, grill up the pineapple and peppers. Serve over rice with my homemade barbecue sauce and this is a winner.

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Frozen Mango-Pineapple Daiquiri
Fresh or frozen pineapple will work for this delightful cocktail. I call it sunshine in a glass because you can’t help but be happy while drinking it and it looks so sunny! White rum, my preferred choice of liquor, has a mellow flavor so I will warn you - it goes down a little too easy. This would be a great cocktail to whip up for a few friends on a casual night in but I wouldn’t recommend making it in larger batches since the slushy quality really makes it special.

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Grilled Pineapple Burgers
Inspired by one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, this recipe was my first try at putting a pineapple on my own burger. Modeled after a burger I had while visiting Denver, it has a lot of flavor packed into the meat patty so that the pineapple doesn’t take over. Provolone cheese adds a mellow touch to all the strong flavors and provides a nice balance.

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Mango Pineapple Salsa
Probably my favorite salsa recipe...ever. Nothing mixes better with pineapple than other tropical flavors. This salsa, while very yellow in presentation, is addictive. So addictive that in the original post I wrote a disclaimer releasing me from any responsibility of future salsa addictions. It’s so easy to make and is 100% worth making in triple or even quadruple batches. It will go fast. Believe me!

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Guide to Summer in Chicago

It’s officially the first day of summer! Because winters are long and brutal, Chicagoans go all out from squeezing in patios wherever there’s space to extra long beach days. Even if it’s 100 degrees and humid, you’ll see patios and rooftops packed. And while you’ll find me hibernating for a better part of the warm season, it’s fun to get into a summer dress and enjoy an ice cold glass of rose. Whether you’re a local or visiting for a few days these next few months, we’ve got your guide to summer in Chicago from where to eat to how to escape the heat when it becomes too much. Grab your sandals and let’s start the celebration!

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WHERE TO EAT
Breakfast at the Allis

Start the day in style at the Allis in Soho House. One of my favorite places in Chicago, the Allis has a unique, welcoming environment with design elements that scream to be shared on Instagram. Choose from house made baked goods, cold pressed juices, and delightful egg selections. The French Toast with berries and vanilla creme anglaise are delightful. The Baked Eggs in arrabbiata sauce are a unique choice with tons of flavor or build your own omelet. I’ve had almost the entire breakfast menu at the Allis and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

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Lunch at City Winery on the Riverwalk
The riverwalk has recently gone through a makeover in the last couple of years. Previously a place that locals and visitors avoided, the City of Chicago has put a lot of money into cleaning it up and making it a place for people to enjoy. There are plenty of areas to sit back and relax, landscaping has been added and there are a sprinkling of restaurants and grab-and-go food joints. One of the restaurants in particular that I love to enjoy after a long day is City Winery on the Riverwalk. City Winery is a pretty popular establishment with a few locations scattered across the country. They’re known for wine, of course, and also live music performances. City Winery at the Riverwalk is a casual spot with a fantastic wine selection and delicious shared plates. They’re a great option for lunch because it tends to get crowded later in the day and the shared plates make munching easier when it’s warm outside. If you happen to be coming in the cooler months, they have heated domes so you can still enjoy the gorgeous views even if it’s below freezing.

Afternoon Tea at LondonHouse
Get out of the heat with afternoon tea at Bridges in LondonHouse. Their menu features sweet and savory bites, a variety of teas, and lovely wine selection for those looking to embrace the “rose all day” mentality. For a complete experience, order the LondonHouse Tea for a $50 flat fee per person. It comes with all their sweet and savory treats in a beautiful tiered presentation and your choice of tea. Sip a cup of Earl Grey or glass of Whispering Angel while enjoying unbeatable views of the Chicago River in a comfortable, sophisticated environment. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Dinner at Shore Club
Possibly the hottest new spot to hit the scene this year, Shore Club takes beach casual and merges it with sophistication. Located on North Avenue Beach, Shore Club has gorgeous views of the lake and a variety of seating and dining options. Enjoy a romantic dinner for two in the restaurant or get the night started with the girls in one of the cabanas. Their menu is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine and has something for everyone. This is the #1 spot on my summer bucket list and I hope to see you there as well!

Dessert at Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery
The hottest dessert craze in Chicago at the moment, Smallcakes offers homemade cupcakes and ice cream to anyone with a sweet tooth. Their Limited Edition Mason Jars with Smallcakes SMASH has taken over social media and for good reason too. Cupcake meets ice cream in a mason jar filled over the brim with all kinds of goodness. You choose a cupcake and two scoops of ice cream. They stuff a mason jar. Try one of their regular cupcake flavors like the Chocoholic or Cookies n Cream. They also feature monthly flavors with a different one for each day of the week. It’s the ultimate summer treat.

WHERE TO GET OUT OF THE HEAT
Browse Impressionist Art at the Art Institute of Chicago

Illinois residents, save a buck at the Art Institute of Chicago on Thursday nights after 5pm with free entry! Browse the well-renowned modern wing, see ancient artifacts, or walk through the 2nd largest collection of Impressionist art in the world. Outside of the D’Orsay in Paris, a museum strictly for Impressionism, the Art Institute has the largest collection with pieces from Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and more. I can get lost in the paintings from this era. Make sure to check out upcoming events at the Art Institute as well. They have them regularly and might provide a nice activity for your visit.

Experience TV History at SNL: The Experience
Last fall, the Museum of Broadcast Communications launched SNL: The Experience, something Chicago is very proud of. Second City has given Chicago a name in the world of comedy. Many of the comedians that have performed and worked at Second City have also made a name for themselves on SNL like Tina Fey, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Bill Murray, and Stephen Colbert. The exhibit takes you through the entire SNL experience from the first meetings of the week to what happens after the show. They also have recreations of famous sets like Wayne’s World and Weekend Update, plus a replica of Studio 8H.

See Chicago From 94 Floors Up
360 Chicago
has one of the best, if not the best, views of Chicago. With a 360 degree view of the city 1000 feet up, there’s nothing quite as ethereal like seeing the lake extend out for miles during sunset. Lucky for you summertime visitors, the 360 Chi Series is all summer long and features special events and activities throughout the week. Enjoy yoga in the mornings on Saturdays, Sunday Funday for families or my favorite, happy hour on Thursdays! If you have the guts you can also try Tilt which has you leaning over the city. It’s the craziest thrill seeking adventure that I’ll ever do.

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THINGS TO DO
Hit the Beach!

From the South Side to North Shore, Chicago is full of beaches along the lake. It isn’t summer in Chicago if you don’t visit at least one of them. My personal favorite is Oak Street Beach tucked away near Navy Pier. It’s smaller and not as well known so it doesn’t get as crowded as the likes of North Avenue Beach. Of course, North Avenue is one of the places to be if you’re heading to the lake and I encourage the experience at least once. Montrose Beach is another great option farther north of the city close to the Uptown neighborhood. And if you’re willing to go even further, Rogers Park (the last neighborhood in Chicago before hitting Evanston) has beautiful parks along with the beaches up there. The beaches on the south side have unbeatable views of the skyline, FYI. For a complete guide to beaches in Chicago, I suggest checking out this recent article from Thrillist.

Enjoy one of the MANY Festivals.
With summer being such a short season in Chicago, we’ve learned how to pack in all the good stuff and that is including festivals. From May through September, it’s a safe bet to expect several festivals every single weekend throughout the city. Windy City Smokeout coming up in a few short weeks is one of my personal favorites. Barbecue joints from around the country come and serve their favorite dishes like BBQ Pulled Pork, Ribs, Fried Chicken and more. And what’s barbecue without a little country music?! A few bands and artists I’ve seen perform at Smokeout include Maren Morris, Dan + Shay, Chris Young, Big & Rich, Billy Currington, and Kacey Musgraves. A few other festivals I’d recommend are Logan Square Food Truck Social (because, food trucks, duh!), Northalsted Market Days, and Chicago Gourmet. RedEye Chicago has a complete guide to Chicago festivals and Choose Chicago breaks down the biggest ones by month in case you need help shuffling through the mess.

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Take a Ride on the Water.
The best part about Chicago being located on a lake is that the lake tours are one-of-a-kind and spectacular. Shoreline Sightseeing has really affordable boat tours. Take an architectural tour that goes along the Chicago river and into Lake Michigan or just take a Classic Lake Tour. While it doesn’t have all the history of the architectural tour, it does share a few facts and you’ll be on the lake the entire time instead of the river. They’re also shorter which is nice if you have kids or a short attention span. Tour times are available all day long but if you’d love a great sight, Chicago at sunset from Lake Michigan is unbeatable. Check your weather app and get in line early to make sure you grab a spot.

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Watch a Movie in Millennium Park
Tuesdays through August, see a free movie in Millennium Park. Get there early to grab one of the seats in front or take a picnic basket filled with snacks and a blanket to kick back on the green. It’s a local favorite. You’ll find lots of couples enjoying a date night and groups of friends having wine and a dinner they pulled together on their way over from the office. If you’re visiting Chicago on your own, there are plenty of people who enjoy the free movies in the park on their own as well so you’ll be in good company. A few of the movies playing this summer are WALL-E, Coco, Slumdog Millionaire, and Get Out.

5 Productivity Tips For When You Travel: #WorldProductivityDay

In honor of World Productivity Day, I thought it would be a fantastic time to share a few tips to stay productive while traveling. One of the reasons I have the fortune to travel often is because I can work anywhere as long as there’s an internet hook up. When you’re not bound by a corporate office structure, it affords a lot more flexibility to live your life rather than your job live life for you. With that said, while traveling is a perk of working from home, you still need to make time to meet deadlines while away. It’s not always easy and sometimes you might have to spend more time in the hotel room or coffee shop than you would have preferred, but it is doable. These are some of the tricks I’ve learned in the last few years.

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#1 - Set Office Hours. This was the most important lesson I learned and I learned the hard way too. It’s great to plan and work while traveling but it doesn’t work well unless you set aside specific times dedicated to it. I schedule a few hours early in the morning from 7-9am (if not earlier), venture out until lunchtime and then get a few more hours in during the afternoon. Usually around 1-4pm. There are two reasons for this. One, not much is open before 9am so there’s not a ton to miss out on and the afternoon is a high tourist time, perfect to avoid crowds. The second reason is because I tend to get the most action on email in the afternoon so if there’s a time of day I need to be present, that’s it. If necessary, I’ll set aside an hour or two at night as well. The point is, that time is specifically set for working. Whether I grab my portable office and head to a coffee shop or make a spot for myself in the hotel lobby, that computer is open and I am focused. When you don’t set that time aside, it’s hard to gage how much time you need to get all your tasks done and the lack of organization could end up causing you to spend more hours at the computer than you’d prefer.

#2 - Make the most of the time you set. Along with setting the time to work, making the most of it should be just as important. Don’t waste the three hours you’ve set aside in the morning checking on your Facebook feed. Unless your tasks have to do with social media, sign off all your accounts and mute your phone. Avoid any and all distractions so that you are solely focused on getting work done and getting out to explore. But don’t forget, just because you’re working doesn’t mean you have to be holed up in a hotel room. I haven’t been to one town or city without a local coffee shop or bakery that offers internet. Take your computer out of the hotel and sit in a cafe like a local. It might give you a little extra motivation to get your to-do list done.

#3 - Batch Tasks. One of the most efficient ways to work is by batching similar tasks together. My day typically blocks out by writing assignments, pitching assignments, and miscellaneous tasks. Schedule the hardest tasks or the ones that will take the longest amount of time at the beginning of your set work time. Getting them out of the way will help keep up momentum so you don’t get discouraged by the time you’ve reached your final to do. Getting discouraged could cause you to spend more time on it then necessary. The strategy of batching tasks is helpful because it forces you to concentrate on the same type of work rather than constantly shift your focus and mindset. It’s a more productive way to get things accomplished.

#4 - Prepare in advance. This is a big one and it will have a great impact on how much you’ll be on the computer while traveling. Regardless of your job, there are tasks that can be done in advance so that they’re off your plate at a later date. For me, these tasks might be writing and scheduling social media content or getting follow-ups out for a pitch that I sent recently. Two weeks before leaving, make a to-do list of all your regular tasks, all your deadlines and anything that you can think of that might come up during your time away. Figure out what can realistically be completed before you leave and execute them. By taking care of things that can be done in advance, you’re freeing up time to enjoy the destination rather than work on those tasks. It will also relieve some stress when you return.

#5 - Let your team know you’re traveling. Unless you want it to be a secret, be honest with your colleagues and your clients. Let them know you’re going to be traveling for a certain amount of time and that you won’t be as available as usual. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be there to handle emergencies if they come up or stay on top of your regular tasks. It lets them know that you might not be as quick to answer and that if there’s something that can wait to be addressed when you return, you’ll file it for later. This is helpful because it will keep clients and colleagues from piling on new responsibilities that aren’t urgent and they’ll most likely back off a bit on communications as well. And that’s great because you won’t be constantly digging out of emails. The bottom line - you’ll be returning soon and if you have a good relationship with the people you work with, they should be understanding and flexible to allow you to still handle things but keep it light

June Spotlight

Oh, June...the kick-off to summer, graduation parties, birthdays and backyard barbecues. The month where we should all be thinking about fitting into less clothing but end up eating far more than we need. It’s also the month to gather and see friends and family you might not have seen for a while. It’s a great time to catch up, check-in with the people who we might have lost touch with since Christmas. Hopefully it’s the month or leading up to a month with lots of travel planned. Nothing screams summer vacation like actually heading somewhere other than home. And for those of us who’d prefer to get away from the scorching temperatures, it’s a time to escape the heat. Regardless of what June holds for you, I hope you enjoy it and that you have something to look forward to this summer. We all deserve a little summer vacation whether we’re 5 or 50.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Moulin Rouge is premiering on Broadway in Boston next month and I’m really trying to figure out how to get there to see Aaron Tveit as Christian

I recently looked into hotel prices for Paris on a whim and it looks like a trip might be on the horizon so I’m slowly doing research to get back sooner than anticipated (imagine a thousand exclamation points here)...

Crazy work days have been calling for regular recharging. Loving some of these oils right now…

A few personal reasons have kept me from traveling this year but the bug is very much alive and kicking. I’m trying to decide what type of trip I want to focus on for the rest of 2018…

When you’re in the process of redecorating and can’t stop looking at French country style inspiration…

Beach reads that offer you more than just entertainment...

Ready for all the food festivals this summer...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Blackberry Jam
Garlic Butter Tilapia with Lemon Panko Gremolata
Herb Roasted Chicken with Baby Potatoes
Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Maple Butter

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WHAT I’M UP TO
It’s been a bit uneventful lately. My day job consumed practically the entire month of May and the first week of June. That’s actually why it was pretty quiet around here. Sometimes one part of life takes over and everything else needs to take a backseat. The weekend was a nice reprieve from the insanity and I’m looking forward to another. I have a lot of fun events and plans the next few weeks that will be great to share on Instagram. Next week, I’ll be previewing a new restaurant in the Sears Tower (Willis Tower for you non-Chicagoans), having dinner at a restaurant in the north suburbs and staying overnight as well, plus my girlfriends and I have happy hour next Friday! My brain is exploding with all the Instagram opportunities and since I finally got my story highlights set up, I’m more motivated to use them.

Content for June is all about summer. We’ve got recipes to avoid heating up the house and recipes that are lighter so you don’t feel gross after dinner. There are also a few more brunch recipes I’ll be sharing and these two are just as good as the first one. The Farmer’s Market series is also starting this month which is something I’m particularly excited about. I mentioned it in last month’s spotlight as well but to recap, I’m creating a challenge for myself to use locally grown, seasonal produce more often. Each week, I’ve set a budget for the farmers market and I have to write a recipe using the ingredients that I’ve bought. The first few recipes are a bit sparing since we’re just starting to get our crops in but they’re pretty darn tasty if I may say so.

We’re in the thick of bedroom redesigns! We’ve got the main color throughout my walls and there are just a few finishing touches left. I’m really excited now that you can start to see the transformation. I still haven’t figured out what new bedspread or blinds I want though! It’s such a hard decision. I think I might just have to go to a few stores and check them out in person. I’m in the thick of Paris Ever After by K.S. Burns. I haven’t been the best reader since the last monthly spotlight but I am about 60% of the way through so I call that a success. I like it so far but the main character’s “husband” makes me crazy mad and her current inability to see how awful he is, is even more infuriating. More on that when I finally finish though. Hot Mess by Emily Belden is up next and I am really excited to read that one. I’m still hoping to see Moulin Rouge in Boston but I haven’t been able to pin down dates to make tahe trip. Lea Michele and Darren Criss are bringing the LMDC tour to The Chicago Theater later this month and I am DYING to see them as well. There are honestly so many great concerts coming up this summer, it’s hard to choose which ones to go to!

WISH LIST
Currently in love with the Gillian and Maladee sandals from Sole Society…

*NSYNC celebrated their anniversary and now gems like this vintage tee-shirt are popping up regularly. You can even buy their albums on vinyl

I’m still obsessed with everything Magnolia by Joanna Gaines. I’ve also decided I need to start adding more serving platters and fun cutting boards to my kitchen collection...

10 Tips For Solo Travel

Traveling as a party of one comes with a lot of perks. For example, all the decision making is yours alone. No taking into account other opinions or interests. On the other hand, it also comes with a little bit of responsibility. Because there isn’t someone to have your back, you need to be smart about things like going out at night and blending in as a local. Finally, traveling alone is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. Eat a meal alone and get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds. Bottom line, solo travel is an experience. Whether it’s a good one or a bad one is contingent on you but if you follow these “rules,” I think you’ll be in decent shape. After all, they've managed to keep me out of trouble and I come home feeling inspired! Most important is rule #1...have fun.

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1 - Have Fun. I’ve read countless posts on solo travel and so many of them are rather ominous in nature. Don’t do this. Be careful of that. As a general rule for anything in life we should always be cautious and smart. Use common sense wherever we go and in whatever we do. Traveling solo is an experience some people may only get once so my #1 tip for you is to have fun. Embrace the time you have! Enjoy every single moment and create as many memories as possible. Don’t let fear keep you from adventure and the experiences the opportunity gives you.

2 - Make A Plan. There are three type of travelers. The ones who plan every minute of the trip, the ones who have a rough itinerary, and the ones who fly by the seat of their pants. I’m right in the middle. This is more of an overall travel rule rather than just for solo travelers. Always have an idea of what you’re going to do but especially if you’re by yourself. I like to research by neighborhood or type of activity. For example, when I went to Washington DC, I had a day just for museum browsing. When I was in Boston, I organized my time by neighborhood to cover more space in less time. If you prefer having a strict plan, that’s 100% fine. If not, I suggest to at least research your destination beforehand and create a rough sketch of an itinerary for each day so that you at least have a guide.

3 - Eating Alone Is Not As Awkward As It Seems. Confession time. I’m more introverted than I am extroverted. I am terribly shy when it comes to meeting new people, talking to strangers and asking questions. I also get super insecure doing things by myself so when I say that I’ve broken the code for comfortable solo dining, I’m not kidding. The first time you eat at a restaurant by yourself will be a little uncomfortable and intimidating but once you get past that first time, it gets better. Start with breakfast or lunch. Most cities, you’ll find a lot of solo diners in the mornings and afternoon because it will be people traveling for work.

Once you’ve had lunch at a corner bistro by yourself, it’s time to go out for dinner! I’ve dined by myself from pizza parlors to swanky Italian restaurants. If you’re not sure what to do with yourself and are afraid you’ll look weird, bring a book or a tablet to occupy your time. Once you begin to feel more comfortable, you won’t even need the book. Some restaurants are great for people watching which is one of my favorite meal time activities. And as far as food photography is concerned, everyone is taking pictures of everything nowadays. It’s hardly a giant flashing sign that says “Look at me! Look at me!.”

 Breakfast is by far the easiest meal to break into solo dining. That's how I started, breakfast and frequenting coffee shops on my own. Don't wait until you travel to get comfortable eating alone. Start in your home town at a coffee shop or favorite diner! This was in San Francisco my last morning there. Those crepes were pretty incredible.

Breakfast is by far the easiest meal to break into solo dining. That's how I started, breakfast and frequenting coffee shops on my own. Don't wait until you travel to get comfortable eating alone. Start in your home town at a coffee shop or favorite diner! This was in San Francisco my last morning there. Those crepes were pretty incredible.

4 - Embrace Local Culture. This is more applicable for foreign cities but still something to keep in mind for any destination. The best way to avoid drawing attention to yourself is by pretending to be a local. Follow the general dress code of the culture, try and speak in the native language where you can and embrace common practices of the culture. For example, Italian women dress well every day all day. They do not wear yoga pants to the corner market, they are completely dressed. This doesn’t meant to walk down the street in a formal dress and heels but packing a suitcase with casual sundresses and cute tops to pair with jeans wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In France (notably Paris), women are a bit more modest in their dress. They don’t wear short skirts or low cut tops. They might be dressed casually but it will be simply. They don’t wear bright colors or anything that would draw attention to them. If you wear a dress that’s a little too short or a little too low-cut, you will be noticed. I made that mistake without realizing my dress was too short and I never wore that dress in Paris again. The French are also very conscious of respecting other people around them. In other words, Americans are known as loud and disrespectful because they will laugh loud, talk loud and just be loud. It’s easy to cut your noise contribution as a solo traveler but it’s important to know that even the little things can make a difference between standing out and blending in as a local. A quick Google search will give you plenty of information about the city you’re visiting. Search “what not to do in CITY NAME” and you’ll get plenty of advice.

5 - Avoid Drinking & Going Out After Dark. I don’t want to get all ominous with this post but there are a few things that should be addressed for solo travel. It all comes down to being responsible. Do not drink too much while traveling alone. That has bad idea written all over it. Having a drink here and there when they are supposedly fantastic is ok but you don’t want to even get tipsy. Another note, try to stay in after dark. It’s hard to navigate a new city in the daylight, let alone at night when the streets all look the same and the lighting is inconsistent. It’s much easier to look lost at nighttime and it’s much easier to become a target for petty crimes like theft (and the worse ones that I won’t mention). It’s also prime time for everyone else to get wasted which isn’t fun to deal with regardless of where you are in the world.

6 - Go On A Group Tour. This is a great opportunity for first-time solo travelers or those of us who need a little more adjustment time. Book a tour early in your trip. On one hand, it will give you a nice introduction to the destination and allow you to get familiar with it while being led by an expert. On another hand, it could introduce you to other travelers who’ll be there at the same time. It’s a great opportunity to interact with other people who obviously have similar interests and because you’re participating in the same activity, it takes the awkwardness out of the introduction.

 I didn't take any formal tours while visiting Boston but I did closely follow a few while visiting places like the Granary Burial Ground which filled my brain with a few new random facts about American history. Everyone is obsessed with Hamilton right now!

I didn't take any formal tours while visiting Boston but I did closely follow a few while visiting places like the Granary Burial Ground which filled my brain with a few new random facts about American history. Everyone is obsessed with Hamilton right now!

7 - Make Copies of Everything. This is another one of those general rules for travel. Make sure before leaving, you have at least one or two copies of your passport or identification card (Driver’s License or State ID), your insurance card(s), tickets for travel (planes, trains, etc.), travel insurance, hotel booking confirmations, any other confirmations for things that you purchased like tours, events or restaurant reservations, and emergency contact information. I know it seems like a lot, especially since that’s a lot of wasted paper but we’ve all learned the hard way at least once that you can’t always count on technology.

8 - Start Early. Avoiding crowds is a specialty of mine. I don’t like them in any type of situation so I’ve learned how to avoid them. Starting earlier is the best option. Get to the places with higher tourist traffic right when they open. Enjoy open landmarks and historical sites before most people have had their breakfast. You’ll get better photos and you won’t waste time fighting crowds that resemble a can of sardines. Besides the perk of avoiding crowds, starting earlier gives you more hours in the day, especially if you’re not planning to be out much after dark.

 We took a sunrise boat tour on the river to see Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley while in France. The views were absolutely stunning and we got to tour the castle before the crowds descended. 

We took a sunrise boat tour on the river to see Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley while in France. The views were absolutely stunning and we got to tour the castle before the crowds descended. 

9 - Know Where You’re Going and Be Confident. This one is a two-part tip. When we arrived in Paris, the program leaders gave us a few tips to make the transition easier. One of them, I still use to this day even in my own city. Don’t give your cab driver and exact address. Instead, tell them the nearest street corner. This is important for two reasons: 1) you sound like you know where you’re going and they’re less likely to take you for a ride; 2) If you get a creep, they won’t know exactly where you’re heading. The second part of all this is to be confident. It sounds like an odd thing to say while giving advice for travel but it’s important. The more vulnerable you make yourself seem, the more likely you are to be targeted.

When I was in Boston, it was the first time I had ever visited the state, let alone the city. My first night there, I managed to navigate myself to a restaurant in a different neighborhood than what I was staying in on the foot and in the rain all while it was dark out. Someone who actually lived there stopped me for directions somewhere. Do you believe that? They stopped little ol’ me for directions! Why? Because I seemed like I knew where I was going. And that wasn’t the last time it happened either. I was stopped for directions almost every day I was in Boston and little did these poor travelers know, I was just as lost as they were. When you pick a destination, note the directions before leaving and get there with confidence. And even if you end up going off course and getting lost (one of my favorite things to do), hold your head high and keep moving forward. Confidence is the best tool you could use.

10 - Enjoy Being The Sole Decision Maker. The #1 reason I love solo travel is having 100% control over the decisions. I choose where to eat, sleep, and explore. I choose if I want to have a doughnut for breakfast. I choose if I want to spend an entire day in a museum. Traveling with other people always includes extra opinions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but when you are traveling for a specific reason or simply because you love visiting new cities, having to take into consideration another opinion can be limiting. What if your friend is a picky eater? What if your boyfriend hates anything that doesn’t involve action-packed activities? Having to please others with different interests than your own always leads to compromising. When you travel alone, the only person you have to compromise with is yourself.