New Hair, Do Care

It’s Monday- go get it!

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Hair has always been somewhat of a struggle for me.  I was born with a head full of it and thankfully, I still have a full head of thick hair, which grows like a weed.  But knowing what to do with it has always been challenging. My sister is great with hair; she can whip up an updo or a braid on anyone, herself included, in minutes and it looks perfect.  Me, not so much. The extent of my hair abilities is basically a ponytail, a messy bun and moving a flat iron through my mane.

My hairstyles have been equally problematic.  There were the years I had awful bangs because my sister convinced me my forehead was too big without them.  The middle-school era where I wore my hair in a top knot every day for probably two years. The terrible Cleopatra style cut around seventh grade that scarred me for life and made me hesitant to ever cut my hair again.  I grew my hair out in high school and finally mustered up the courage before high school graduation to chop off my mane to shoulder length (so short to me back then!) to have a fresh do for college, but then essentially just had the same, long hair for nearly three years until I finally started to muster up the courage to get stylish with my hair.  In my Junior year of college, I experimented with layers, side parts, side bangs, before eventually chopping it all off for the Victoria Beckham inspired bob that was ever popular in 2008. After sporting that for a few years, I grew it out and experimented again with side parts, side swipes and other styles before just having a nice, but basic, long layered cut for the last four years.

I’ve been itching to chop it all off again but with my wedding on the horizon, I was hesitant to do it.  It seemed silly to cut it all off and either have to wear extensions or be limited by the type of style I could wear for my wedding.  So I decided to wait and finally, after I was married, I decided I was ready. It was a new year, I was in a new phase of my life and I felt totally ready to take the plunge and chop off seven inches of my hair to the “lob” style I’m now sporting.  Even though it’s much shorter, and does require me to style it, it actually feels easier because it is a style and it always has a look, rather than the many days my old hair just felt “blah.” So I encourage you to ask yourself, “why not” and if you’re thinking of changing it up or yearning for a fresh look, why not just take a chance and try something new with your hair? After all, it grows back….and there are wigs and extensions and hats for a reason 🙂

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WEEKLY WRAP UP/WEEKEND COUNTDOWN

What got me through the week and what I’m looking forward to this weekend!

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Stealing the Easter Bunny’s cocktail, a carrot juice mimosa

It’s finally starting to feel like spring and I’m so, so thankful.  The cold weather seems to have gone on forever and even if it’s only temporary, I’ll take it and enjoy it.  This weekend will be busy, thanks to seeing some family, having a fun date night out on the town and prepping for throwing an upcoming party for some friends, who are expecting a baby.  I’m looking forward to embracing the chaos and finding some quiet time to prep for the week ahead. What will you do to enjoy the weekend?

Chef's Table Pastry

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Channeling my inner Italian with biscotti and espresso, thanks to Giada’s new cookbook
  1. Chef’s Table Pastry:  This is a spinoff of the popular Netflix show, Chef’s Table, for which I’ve previously professed my enjoyment.  The new season is a slightly different version, focusing on pastry chefs, who I’ve recently had more admiration for thanks to another baking show obsession (more on that later).  The new season drops today just in time for a binge weekend session if you have the time.
  2. The Daily Dish Podcast: My love for Bravo TV is strong and I’m an avid watcher of nearly all their series.  This time of year is intense, but in a good way, with multiple franchises of the housewives airing, as well as other favorites premiering.  With so many shows to watch, it can be tough to stay up-to-date but this podcast, run by producers at BravoTV.com, always provide a funny and firsthand recap of the latest in the hot Bravo goss, as well as feature appearances from some very special guests.  If you’re a fan, you should listen.
  3. Giada’s Italy: My mom, who has been the primary inspiration behind my love of cooking, has been a fan of Giada De Laurentiis for many years, so I’m no stranger to her recipes. My mom has often turned to her recipes for new spins on Italian favorites for everything from a casual Sunday supper to a large family gathering, and I even tune into her show on the Food Network from time to time for easy party ideas and healthy spins on classic dishes.  Yet surprisingly, I’ve never owned one of her cookbooks, until recently. My parents recently sent us her latest book, inspired by all things Italy with reinventions of classic dishes suitable for quick weeknights, leisurely weekend dinners and plenty of ideas for parties. It’s all shot in Italy, which gives the book a gorgeous and stylish element (not to mention Giada’s outfits are very well styled too!), which makes me all the more excited to head to the motherland next year.  Fair warning, you will probably see plenty of her recipes in the Sunday Supper Series soon!
  4. CAP Beauty: I recently heard about Cap Beauty when listening to another favorite, Radio Cherry Bombe (the podcast from the food magazine with the same name).  Their brand motto is “beauty is wellness, wellness is beauty” and their products reflect that. They believe wellness exists in every aspect of our routine, from what we put on our skin to what we eat, and their site is a great resource for all things wellness in every aspect of life, from makeup to groceries.  They also have their own book High Vibrational Beauty which features “recipes and rituals” to help you live a well life. Check it out if you need some health inspiration.

 

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Sunday Supper Series

Get it cooking!

Cooking is nothing new for me.  It’s something I truly enjoy doing, do often and love to share with others, which is why I do so here.  But I am trying something new in the form of Sunday suppers. Sunday was always a day we had a home cooked meal, something comforting yet usually with a healthy spin, as a way to wind down and enjoy the end of the weekend while setting up for the week ahead.  In college, my roommates and I often did our own version of Sunday dinners and occasionally went to the family home of one of our close friends, whose parents lived nearby, for the legit Italian Sunday dinner.

As an adult, I’ve adopted the same ritual to my own Sundays, making a nice way for my husband and I to refuel and fight off the dreaded Sunday-night-anxiety.  It’s a tradition I’ve been doing for years, first in my post-college days cooking with my friends, then when I lived on my own and now for my own (tiny) family.  But recently I’ve changed my approach to this tradition, finding a new way to enjoy the meal with others while testing my culinary skills by trying new recipes. My sister-in-law had the brilliant idea of starting a cookbook club, Sunday supper version, where each week we alternate picking a recipe to make for that Sunday’s dinner.  We share the recipe on Friday, have the weekend to shop, and on Sunday we both make our own versions of the dish(es) and share the outcome. The results have been a lot of full bellies (and happy husbands), not to mention the chance to expand our cooking skills and recipes. It’s also enabled us to enjoy Sunday family dinner, despite not always being able to sit at the same table.  

This is a new tradition, with only four meals under our belts so far, but I’ll be sharing the recipes here, as well as some regular food content in between.  The question is, which one will you try? There’s no time like Sunday to get in the kitchen and get cooking. Enjoy!

Week 1:

During a recent trip to Detroit, where the idea for this cooking club began, I bought some fresh pasta  from Eastern Market so we decided to try a simple pasta recipe to pair well with the bold flavors of the pasta.  Spaghetti e olio is essentially just spaghetti, although we used fettuccine, and olive oil, along with a few other ingredients.  To balance out the meal without being too heavy, we added some roasted shrimp and broccoli (a suggestion of Ina Garten that I highly recommend) and with a raw and roasted kale salad on the side.  This has classic Sunday supper written all over it.

 

An American in Paris

Inspiration for the new week!

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I recently wrote about my New Year’s resolution to explore more restaurants, and consequently, to spice up my date night attire.  Part one of the resolution was at a new American restaurant but part two had my husband and I feeling like we were in Paris, so naturally I had to dress the part! For our second new restaurant outing, we headed to Margeaux Brasserie, which is a chic and delicious French style bistro that leaves you feeling like you’re sipping champagne and eating brie in a Parisian bistro circa the 1920’s rather than in downtown Chicago circa now.  Everything about this place is impeccable- the food, the style, the ambience and the service all surpassed any expectations.

We indulged in some truffled baguettes, champagne, chocolate pot de creme, among many other dishes and I couldn’t resists the urge to fully embrace the French vibes and bring out my inner Parisian style.  Since it was still winter, and snowing, I wanted to be warm without sacrificing style. I opted for a simply- but, I think, chic- dress that lets the velvet fabric do all the talking, leaving everything else understated but impactful, plus a swingy dress helped hide all the cheese and bread! I paired that with some simple booties accentuated by an outline of studs, along with my favorite faux fur coat.  I kept the accessories simple but efficient with a classic grey clutch and my favorite chunky but luxe scarf. It was the perfect Parisian style outfit for the perfect Parisian style dinner, all without ever leaving Chicago!

Are you inspired to try something new for your next dinner date?

 

Fashion note: I’m wearing a Madewell dress, Topshop coat (similar here), Cuyana clutch and Rebecca Minkoff booties.

WEEKLY WRAP UP/WEEKEND COUNTDOWN:

What got me through the week and what I’m looking forward to this weekend!

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Why is it that sometimes short weeks feel the longest? I’m lucky to have a few days off this week, but that meant kicking things into high gear earlier in the week.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a long weekend filled with running errands, planning for some exciting future events, finding some “me time” and celebrating the holiday.  In honor of Easter this weekend, I’m going to spotlight some of my favorite chocolate treats, which I’ve been abstaining from for the last 40 days and am very much looking forward to indulging in this weekend.  Have a great holiday, if you celebrate, and have a great weekend!

  1. Favorite cupcake: Magnolia Bakery is a classic.  I fell in love with their sweet treats when I lived in New York and I’m lucky enough to still be able to get my fix at their Chicago location.  Luckily, even if you don’t live by a location you can order online. My favorite? A chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream icing, in one of their signature pastel colors, of course.
  2. Favorite ice cream: This is my version of Sophie’s Choice.  I have so many favorite ice cream flavors, I could never narrow them down.  Choosing my favorite chocolate is even harder, and then what about the consistency? I love frozen custard, soft serve, and regular old hard ice cream equally.  Okay, I need to stop! Some of my favorite flavors include Jeni’s Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks (formerly known as The Buckeye), Haagen Dazs chocolate peanut butter, and Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby.
  3. Favorite candy: This also depends on the situation and my mood, but mostly I prefer chocolate peanut butter, which is why my favorite candy of all time is probably a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  Also close to my heart are Sno Caps, which are great for the movies, and if I want to keep it simple, nothing beats a classic Hershey’s bar.

 

I could go on and on with my favorite chocolate treats, but I’ll stop there.  I hope you sink your teeth into something special this weekend too!

Not your average chicken dinner

Seriously, make this now!

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You know the saying, “winner, winner, chicken dinner”? Well, I’ve never really understood the meaning behind the phrase, but what I can tell you is this chicken dish IS a winner.  It will make you reconsider every boring, weeknight chicken dish you’ve ever eaten. Partnered with a spin on a broccoli side dish, you have a complete, nutritious, fulfilling and totally upgraded dinner that will be a new classic in your meal rotation.

Here’s what makes both dishes so great.  The chicken is both pan seared and baked, nestled among a bed of carmelized shallots, sweet dates and salty olives (I use Kalamata) that all work together to create the juiciest and tastiest sauce your chicken has ever come in contact with.  Meanwhile, the broccoli- or broccolini to be exact- is cooked in such a simple way, it’s amazing we haven’t been doing this to regular chicken and broccoli dinners for year. Simply roasted with some cheese, lemon and spices/herbs, this side dish is fast, easy and still delivers on taste.  It’s the perfect easy compliment to the hearty chicken.

Both of these recipes can be found in my two latest cookbook additions, Cook Beautiful (contains the chicken recipe) and Dining In (home of the broccolini).  I highly recommend both, but I even more highly recommend you cook these dishes ASAP.  

Enjoy!

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Chill Out

Motivation to get you through hump day!

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It’s probably not too surprising that I’m a big believer of self-care.  I try to prioritize time to take care of myself, both by exercising consistently and by cooking most meals at home.  But there are other ways to take care of oneself. Finding time to yourself, whether it’s taking a walk, treating yourself to a solo cup of coffee, unwinding with a glass of wine, face mask and a soak in the tub, it’s important to have alone time that includes doing something you want to do, something that will make you feel better and be better to others.

I found one such option last week at Chill Chicago, which is a meditation studio.  Meditation is something I enjoy, but have done infrequently, mostly because I find it difficult to decompress and quite honestly, meditating just falls low on my list of priorities.  But I recently decided it was time to make time for it, at least occasionally. I found Chill Chicago and decided it was the perfect place to try it because of their class selections.  They offer various types of meditation classes, designed specifically for different needs, such as “breath” or “insight,” and most are only a half hour, so it’s a good way to ease into the practice.  What sealed the deal for me was the mixed yoga and meditation class, which was 30 minutes of a gentle yoga, with poses designed to open up the body and make it more comfortable for the subsequent 30 minutes of meditation.  The practice went by surprisingly quickly, and helped to both calm me down and give me some clarity. It was the perfect way to end a very hectic week and I’m already planning a return visit!