New Year, New Goals

It’s officially the new year and everyone is talking about their resolutions – except for me.

Honestly, I hate new years resolutions for the sole fact that they stem from such negative feelings about ourselves. With the focus primarily on how much weight we need to lose, what we failed at in 2017, or the old saying of “new year, new me” the constant need to change ourselves year over year astonishes me. In fact, I’ve already seen posts from people beating themselves up because they already “failed” at their resolution. It’s been three days! There are so many opportunities to make things happen, don’t get down on yourself already! It may be a new year, but I am the same, self-loving me that you’ve known and (hopefully) loved all year.

While I don’t want to spend the year attempting to change who I am at my core, or resolving to change how I look, I do want to go into 2018 with some goals that I can accomplish. They’re not meant to change me, but they are some things that will help me grow as a person.

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2017: What I Learned

2017: What I Learned

Am I the only one who can’t believe 2017 is just finally coming to an end? Looking back on this year and all of the things that have happened it’s hard to believe some of it was within the past 365 days. From travel to work to my health, so many big changes and events happened for me this year that it’s hard to comprehend that I haven’t had a few more breakdowns. If I had to describe the year in one word it would be learning.

Every part of this year taught me something new about myself and about others – whether the lessons were good, bad or still undecided.
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Holiday Gift Guide: Your Parents

Holiday Gift Guide: Your Parents

I don’t know about your parents, but mine are so hard to shop for. My mom is so picky that usually she sends me a link to exactly what she wants (though I admit I do the same thing back to her), and my dad never really wants us to spend our money on him. He stands by the greatest gift my brother and I ever game him being a pajama set from Target because he only had one pair with a hole in them prior (he really is a minimalist). But the holidays are all about being thankful and spoiling the ones you love, so I have a lineup of gifts that scream “I LOVE YOU” to the people who mean the most to you.

For Mom:

Eucalyptus & Sea Salt Scented Candle | Henri Bendel, $40
This candle will have mom thinking she’s on the beach front instead of in a winter snowstorm. The sea spray notes are balanced by chilled orange and the rejuvenating scent of eucalyptus. With eucalyptus being one of my favorite scents in the world choosing this candle was a no brainer. And one thing I love about Henri Bendel candles is how strong they are. Their candles really brighten up the room and refreshes the space.


Self-Care Kit | Scratch Goods, recommended products total $83 – $87
Scratch Goods is easily my new favorite place in the West Loop. Founded by two high school friends, Maureen and Elizabeth, their line was created to fulfill a need for natural, affordable skin care products. As soon as I tried my first set of goodies from them I was hooked! The products are fabulous and, unlike many brands I’ve tried, don’t irritate my sensitive skin. It’s so hard for me to find products that don’t turn my bright red or make me break out and these do the trick! Any products from their line would make a perfect gift for mom, but below are my recommendations for what I would put in my self-care starter kit:

  • Jade Roller ($25): My jade roller is my new favorite thing I own. It feels amazing, is easy to use (you literally roll it over your face), and has some amazing benefits. Mom’s new jade roller will promote blood flow & cell turnover, reduce any puffiness, stimulate collagen production, smooth overworked facial muscles and leaves skin glowing. On super puffy mornings she can cool her roller in the fridge for extra pore minimization (or any time of day, doesn’t only have to be used in the morning!), but my personal favorite way to use mine is by warming it up under hot tap water after applying my face oils and using the roller to help open my pores for maximum absorption. If you were only to pick one product for mom this would be the must-have.
  • Matcha Mask ($18): This mask is the perfect option for mom. It was created as a tightening, anti-aging mask that detoxifies while lightening dark spots on your face. The ingredients are matcha, bentonite clay and sea clay, making this a perfect combo of tightening, detoxifying and brightening. While I have yet to try this mask – I personally use and love the charcoal mask which is a great option for deep cleaning pores – this is high on my list of things I’m dying to try.
  • Mask Brush ($6): The mask brush is pretty self-explanatory, but it makes the perfect add-on when giving the gift of a matcha (or sea or charcoal) mask. The brush is perfect for a flawless mask application, and keeps mom from having to use her hands or ruin a makeup brush trying to figure out how to get her mask on. They also have gorgeous, handmade mask bowls that are a wonderful addition if you’re looking to add more to your mom’s gift.
  • Face Oil ($34 – $38): Face oil + a warm jade roller after a face mask is one of the greatest feelings in the world. While using mine I was texting my boyfriend about how happy I was I invested in all these new products and how obsessed I was with all of them. While the face oils don’t need to be exclusively used after a mask (Nicole, the fabulous employee helping me at Scratch Goods the other night, told me she uses her heavy oil morning + night), they do feel especially amazing after one. They have three options for oils: light face oil ($34), heavy face oil ($34), and a 15% zinc face oil ($38). I personally use the light face oil because I was worried about how my sensitive skin would react to oils, but any are a great option depending on what our mom likes. The light face oil is intended for normal to oily skin and absorbs quickly, while the heavy face oil is a more intensive moisturizer for normal to dry skin. And the 15% zinc face oil is described as a premium, restorative face oil rich in zinc that works best with skin drink.

If you live in the Chicagoland area I highly recommend stopping by the store to pick out the perfect set for your mom. They are extremely helpful and can help pick out the perfect products depending on your mom’s skin type and preferences. And, through the end of the year, if you bring unopened toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, tampons, razors, etc) items to donate to Sarah’s Circle they will give you 10% off you in-store purchase!

Gifts For Dad:

wilmangiftsetWild Man Starter Kit | shopamongtheflowers, $38
This Wild Man Starter Kit is the perfect gift for dad. It offers a box of plant-based products that are soothing enough to help him unwind, while still feeling manly enough to make him think he just finished a hike through the mountains when he finished. (If only all “hikes” made us feel as refreshed as this box does) The kit includes a wood pile man mist, whipped coconut body butter and a bar of cold process soap with a backwoods scent. It’s the perfect care package for dad while mom is using her Scratch Goods goodies.

Sock of the Month Club | Yo Sox, $72+
A sock of the month club subscription is the gift that keeps on giving (for 6 or 12 months depending on the subscription you buy). I love this idea because dad gets socks for up to a full year, reminding him every month how loved he is. Plus, every time he wears his new socks he’ll think of you. I love the subscription to Yo Box because they have such fun patterns and prints, so every month he’ll get a unique, fun pair (or two) of socks. This gift is guaranteed to put a smile on his face.

Gifts For Both:

Cooking class | Sur La Table, $69 – $85
A cooking class is the perfect gift for a couple – especially mom and dad. It gives them a fun night out, something special to do together, memories to make and ends with a delicious plate of food. Sur La Table offers a wide range of classes from tamales to paella to homemade pizza to cookies, so you can pick the perfect class for mom and dad. While I’ve mentioned Sur La Table, there are cooking classes offered at different locations, stores, and restaurants through the US, so no matter where your family lives you can get them a cooking class for a perfect holiday date night gift.

What did you get your parents this year?

Holiday Gift Guide: Love of Your Life

Holiday Gift Guide: Love of Your Life

The holidays are the perfect time for love. Someone to curl up with on a cold night, to go ice skating with, or, if you’re from Chicago, the perfect date for Zoo Lights and Christkindlmarket. But it can also be a stressful time trying to figure out the perfect gift for the one you love. No matter your budget there are great gifts you can get that aren’t an over-the-top cliche. Whether for him, for her, or a gift for the two of you to enjoy together, below are my picks for the love of your life.

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Giving Tuesday: A Look at my Marathon Charity

Giving Tuesday: A Look at my Marathon Charity

Congratulations! You (and hopefully your waistline and wallet) survived Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I hope you were able to fill your bellies with delicious food and your closets, stockings, houses and more with amazing new buys – I know I stocked up with some self-care goodies from Scratch Goods and some new work clothes from LOFT and I am so excited to get both packages in the mail.

In the wake of an entire weekend centered around treating yo’ self, today is a day truly dedicated to helping others. Happy Giving Tuesday.

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Holiday Gift Guide: Best Babe

Holiday Gift Guide: Best Babe

I don’t know about you, but sometime I have the most trouble finding the perfect gift for my best friends. I mean, I want to get them something they’ll love, something they’ll use, and something unique. It takes me so long to pick out the perfect gift for each one that I’ve become the queen of gifting a month late. But with these picks below I no longer have to worry about not having a gift in time. Below are my top picks for your bestie this holiday season:

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Holiday Gift Guide: Foodie Friend

Holiday Gift Guide: Foodie Friend

With the restaurant scene buzzing and social media taking over, it’s hard not to find yourself friend’s with a self-proclaimed foodie. So what better to gift them than something that supports their love of all things edible? While most foodies have a plethora of kitchen gadgets, below are my top picks for fun gifts that they likely haven’t already given themselves.

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My Whole30 Survival Guide

My Whole30 Survival Guide

As many of you saw, I recently did a month of Whole30. Ever since finishing and sharing my experience, I’ve been flooded with messages from friends and followers saying they’ve been inspired to start a journey of their own. As you carry on throughout your Whole30, or begin to plan it out, here are some of my top tips to help make it as seamless as possible.

1) Find friends to do it with you
I cannot put in to words what a world of difference it made to have people on their Whole30 journey with me. I actually did not have any immediate friends doing Whole30 with me, but I joined a group led been Instagram babe Everything Erica, who organized a large group along with her friend Brett from Her Tasty Life. We had a Facebook group full of women supporting each other, sharing recipes, and venting through our experience. It made it so much easier to have people to talk to who understood what I was going through and could help me get through the tough times and celebrate the good ones. If you don’t have friends who want to join you, a supportive online group is the next best thing.

2) Meal Prep
Meal prepping is one of the best ways to stay on track with Whole30. By preparing all your foods, you’re able to control the ingredients and be certain that your meals are 100% compliant. Not to mention, it helps you feel empowered in the kitchen and fully in charge of your diet and life. I recommend setting a routine that works for best for you to do a grocery haul and prep for the week. I typically recommend Sundays for anyone who works full time because it helps you get ready for your weekday lunches, but any day can be prep day!

3) If you have to go to a party or happy hour, eat beforehand
This is one thing I learned early and fast. There is nothing worse than leaving work and heading to an event only to find there’s nothing you can eat or drink. (Well yes, you can have water, but it doesn’t look as fun as those fancy cocktails your fellow part-goers are sipping.) I would always head to these with a full stomach so that there was no temptation to try a small bite of anything.

4) Adjust your portions
Remember – you are cutting out grains, legumes, dairy and more. These are calories you’re used to consuming, and things that probably filled you up enough that your typical veggie portion was smaller. But on Whole30 you need to make sure you are eating enough to keep from getting sick or undernourished. There is a great guide that shares the recommended portion sizes, but a general rule of thumb is a palm sized protein and filling the rest of you plate with veggies. At first I couldn’t get the hang of eating so many veggies on my plate, and I could feel myself suffering for it. The first few days I felt sick and weak, but after re-evaluating my portion sizes I quickly bounced back to my energetic self.

5) Keep approved snacks hand
OK, so snacks are not necessarily coveted in Whole30 – you’re intended to strive for 3 meals a day, but sometimes things get in the way. You have a big workout, have kids to wrangle around and lack time for big meals, you’re used to six small meals a day, or something happens and you’re starving and need something to hold you over. This won’t ruin your Whole30, as long as you don’t indulge on things that aren’t approved. I kept a bag of cashews at my desk at work for emergencies. If I planned a post-work trip to the gym I’d eat a half a handful of nuts to get me through my gym since my dinner was now going to be eaten around 9pm. Or some days my lunch was smaller than I’d thought it was going to be and I just needed something to ease my headache. It’s better to have something available than to have no options and cave into something that isn’t approved. Another great options is to keep carrot and veggie sticks ready to go in the fridge. Add some Primal Kitchen Ranch and you’re good to go!

6) Find new ways to ease your emotions
One thing that Whole30 really opens your eyes to is how much our eating habits are driven by our emotions. You may celebrate successes with a big meal full of cocktails and treats. Or you may eat away sadness with a pint of ice cream. Whatever your vice, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have at least one emotional eating habit. Mine were celebratory margaritas, stress beers, and sad pints of Jeni‘s Goat Cheese and Dark Cherries ice cream. Now I celebrate success with present for myself (think manicure, new shirt, or new candle), ease stress with a massage (I love seeing what Groupons are available), and when I’m sad I hit the gym and work it out. Instead of having food as a crutch I’ve found new ways to replace healthier forms of wellness into my emotional responses.

Have you tried Whole30 yet? What is your biggest piece of advice for a first timer?

How to make sure you go to the gym after work/class

How to make sure you go to the gym after work/class

Halloween is over, and Thanksgiving and the holidays are right around the corner. Between the candy, pies, desserts, and holidays feasts, it’s easy to neglect your waistline. But finding a solid workout routine can let you have your cake and eat it too, without your pant size growing.

But, if you’re anything like me, you might find it hard to manage a 6am wake-up call to sweat. I’m able to make it happen from time to time, but my body’s rhythm just does not want to let me out of bed without snoozing until the last minute, so I’ve found that often times night sweat sessions work best for my schedule.

But that means you have an entire day to find a reason not to go. A last minute happy hour invite finds its way to you, you’re tired, it’s cold, the weather is bad and you just want to get home – whatever the excuse that day it’s easy to find one. While no one is perfect and sometimes the trip to the gym is missed, I have found a few ways that help ensure that I get my sweat on.

1) Bring your gym bag with you
One of the easiest excuses is “well I don’t have my stuff with me.” And one of the easiest distractions is “well I’m already home, I don’t want to go back out.” By bringing your gym bag to work or class with you, you eliminate both of those reasons at once. If your next stop is the gym and you have nowhere to deter you from getting from point A to point B you will be far more likely to make it to that class you’ve been wanting to check out.

2) Find a gym you love close to work or school
It’s easy to skip the gym when the trek there is over 30 minutes each way. When you want to get to bed early, have things to do at home, or are already exhausted the last thing you want to do is spend an hour commuting on top of your workout. By making sure you’re gym is easily accessible, you allow yourself to spend more time lifting then sitting on a bus or train.

3) Sign up for a class that requires pre-registration
This is especially helpful for boutique studios where they have a last minute cancellation fee. If you are signed up and committed to go, it’s harder to simply skip your workout. The guilt associated with missing, the accountability you’ve set for yourself (and if you know the instructor it’s even harder to bail on them), and the potential costs you may incur all encourage you to follow through on the workout you’ve set for yourself.

4) Go with a friend
Going to the gym with a friend provides added accountability. By having someone to workout with you have someone to call you out on your bluff if you say you can’t make it last minute. (Okay sure, sometimes you really do get sick or stuck at work late, but they may challenge you to ask if that’s really the case – and sometimes it’s not). When Kendra (Chicago Food Hunter) started going to boxing classes with me it was much harder to back out at the last minute. It also helps make the gym more of a social activity, which can encourage you to stick to plan when a social happy hour comes up.

5) Put it on your calendar
My work calendar is always full of my workouts, even though they occur after hours. By putting my class out there in the universe I make a stronger commitment to following through. It shows you’re serious about going, keeps people from randomly popping into your office 10 minutes before the end of the day and creating an easy “out”, and adds an extra layer of commitment. If you’re not comfortable putting fitness classes on your work calendar then throw them in your planner, on your phone, or somewhere you keep track of things to make sure you hold yourself accountable.

6) Set a night aside for the gym and let people know about it
For the longest time, Monday nights were my go-to personal training night (not my only night to workout, but my one guaranteed night a week I committed to my trainer that I would be there). My boyfriend knew, my friends knew, my coworkers knew, my family knew, pretty much everyone I know knew. And because everyone knew that this was my go-to night to take some time for myself and get a workout in, my friends didn’t invite me to things on Mondays. They either planned things on a different night, or if it was something that had to happen on a Monday they didn’t invite me. And it made it so much easier to commit to my routine. When you make it known to the world that a certain night is a no-matter-what-I-get-my-workout-in night, you not only set yourself up for success, but allow your friends and family to help ensure your success as well.

Are you a gym night owl? How do you hold yourself accountable to get your sweat on?

DOH! I mean GO! to Moe’s Tavern in Lincoln Park

DOH! I mean GO! to Moe’s Tavern in Lincoln Park
This past weekend I spent the day in Springfield drinking with my boyfriend.

Okay, not actual Springfield, but at the Moe’s Tavern and Arcade Pop-Up Bar at Replay Lincoln Park it was hard not to feel like you were in Springfield alongside Homer, Barney, Lenny and Carl. It’s the perfect getaway for any Simpsons fan.

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