The winter can get old quickly, especially when limited sunlight results in some cabin fever. After back to back weekends of bitter cold, travel and battling the flu, my husband and I were ready to have some much needed social interaction. But rather than convince friends to venture out into the snow, we decided to host an impromptu game night at our apartment. The occasion not only gave me the chance to test out some new party and crowd-pleasing dishes (see this post), it also gave me the chance to break in our new dining table and many of the entertaining pieces we received as wedding gifts. One of our newest items is my new favorite, a bar cart. This cart is deceptively big- it’s not bulky and doesn’t take up much room, but it holds many bottles and glasses, in addition to holding bottles and other tools in hidden cabinets and drawers. To prepare for guests, I took some time to focus on the essentials of entertaining. First, I organized and stocked the bar cart, making sure the right (and enough) glasses were on hand and other accessories, like cocktail napkins, bottle openers and a nice candle found a home on the cart for easy access. I also browsed through some new cookbooks for some easy but fun dishes that were simple enough to put together and serve a crowd, without creating a lot of work for me or mess for the guests. One of my favorite things to do is put out a bunch of snacks, mixing healthy and heavier options, so everyone has enough to eat and can indulge without guilt and graze during games. I used some of our new pedestals to create a simple, clean place for the snacks, keeping them elevated from the table so our game of Cards Against Humanity wasn’t interrupted. A game is an easy and fun way to keep everyone engaged and it’s a fun option for a cold, winter night. The last important element? Making sure drinks are chilled and ready to go- especially champagne!
Fashion note: I’m wearing Zara jeans (similar here), a Madewell sweater (similar here), and Asos loafers.
What got me through the week and what I’m looking forward to this weekend!
It was a big week for me with a lot of work projects culminating and more than usual events during the week, and it will be an equally busy weekend. However, even though there’s a lot already scheduled, it’s not overwhelming with many fun things planned over the next few days. In fact, it helped the work week go by faster having so much to look forward to. I hope your weekend is just as enjoyable!
The perfect Irish coffee: unfortunately, a quick flash of warm weather has given way to frigid winter temps, reminding us the season isn’t over yet. The good news is it’s the perfect time to enjoy some winter warmer cocktails (like I did a few weeks back) that don’t seem as enjoyable during the warmer months of a year, like a classic Irish coffee. You can’t go wrong with this Jameson recipe and if you make this now, you’ll have time to perfect the drink by next month’s St. Patty’s day party! (P.S. Bailey’s now makes a great dairy free and vegan option using almond milk, if that’s your thing. I promise it’s tasty!).
Chef’s Table: This Netflix show is the new favorite of my husband and I. It documents the best chefs in the world, how they got where they are and what distinguishes them from the rest. Seeing the work of these chefs is like art and we’ve been so inspired by it, we decided to make exploring new restaurants one of our resolutions for 2018. Our first stop was the Michelin starred Boka, which was visited by our favorite Chef’s Table chef, recently.
I, Tonya: I finally saw this movie two weeks ago and it was my favorite of the season so far. Even though I lived through the Harding-Kerrigan scandal, there was so much I didn’t know and this movie provides an alternate perspective from some of the main characters involved. The story is more emotional and heavy than I expected, but the film has a camp factor that provides some comic relief when needed and keeps it from feeling too depressing. Watching Margot Robbie feels like watching Tonya herself. Do yourself a favor and see this.
Closet detox: One of my other New Years resolutions was to revamp my wardrobe in two ways. First, I vowed to make fewer purchases opting instead to buy a few new, quality items from season to season, investing in better long-term pieces rather than feeling the need to constantly buy of-the-moment trends I’ll wear minimally. In order to to do that, I needed to first do a good closet purge, giving away not only the items I’m no longer interested in, but also the items that no longer fit and those I still like but never wear. It can be hard to part with some items, but if you truly never wear them, why let them take up space? I’ve found it’s actually easier to put together stylish outfits with a smaller, well curated selection that pairs well together than with a ton of items that don’t work with anything else and never serve a purpose. This Goop piece gives some great advice about conducting a closet detox. No time like the present, right?
This past weekend was one of the biggest eating days of the year: the Super Bowl. While I’ve never cared much about the game (except this year, love my Eagles) I’ve always enjoyed the food, but who doesn’t? In fact, it doesn’t matter what type of celebration you’re having, you can guarantee that food will be important and what to serve for a much-hyped eating event like this game can be polarizing. Do you have wings or potato skins? Pretzel nuggets or mozz sticks? Sliders or subs? The options are endless, but you really can’t go wrong. The best idea is to have a little bit of everything, so no matter how many people you’re celebrating with, there’s something for everyone.
I took the same approach when crafting my game day menu. My husband and I already had a somewhat indulgent weekend thanks to enjoying restaurant week, so I wanted to have some healthier options to balance out the heaviness, and save room for dessert, of course. I went for a classic dip that I’ve made for years, which satisfies pretty much everyone, and backed that up with a veggie and herb based dip for contrast, serving both with a crudite platter of raw veggies and some favorite crackers. While some also opted for fan favorite wings, I also sliced and baked up some sweet potato wedges for the meatless guests to have as a main, along with the dips and some kale bites. To save time and make it easier on myself (no shame!) I hit up the frozen foods aisle at Whole Foods for my favorite kale bites and some additional apps. For a tasty and quick nod to Philly, I bought some fresh pretzel baguettes, served with a dijon mustard, which is so much better than the frozen option. And what gameday wouldn’t be complete with some ice cream for dessert? The flavor of choice- Jeni’s salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks.
While the Super Bowl may be over, the Olympics are just days away. Why not have some friends over for an opening ceremony gathering and whip up some of these dips for the occasion?
Have you ever randomly tried a new exercise or went to a new class, unsure what to expect and walking away wanting more? That happened to me this past weekend with an Inferno Hot Pilates class. My yoga studio started introducing these class into their schedule occasionally awhile back, and while I was curious, I never got around to giving the class a try. I’ve been to Pilates classes randomly before and it’s something I’ve been wanting to revisit and possibly work into my regular routine. When my yoga studio announced they’d be holding teacher training for the inferno Pilates throughout last weekend, that included classes open to students as well, and I figured now was my chance to try it and I’m so glad I did. The workout was tough, featuring series of high intensity but low impact moves repeated numerous times and in a heated room, but it was also fun with great music and a great communal energy from the rest of the students. It also went by incredibly fast, which is always a plus!
This is something I’m very eager to revisit since the workout was challenging but incredibly rewarding. My yoga studio is looking to add more classes to its schedule but if you’re not in Chicago or are looking for more info, check out founder Gabi Walters’ website to see where and how you can get involved in the practice.
The winter can be tough for many reasons, but also when it comes to dressing. Trying to look stylish and put together is difficult when temps are frigid, often requiring lots of layering, it’s dark during the commute and there’s usually snow on the ground (unless you’re lucky enough to live in a more pleasant climate!). More often than not, a polished outfit is forfeited for one of comfort, warmth and function. But style doesn’t have to be sacrificed entirely in the name of dressing appropriately for the weather. In fact, when done correctly, there are ways to be both warm and stylish.
I try to keep a few things in mind when dressing in the winter. First, I always check the weather. If it’s going to snow or snow is on the ground, I always wear the appropriate boots, because there’s no point in ruining a good pair of shoes and being cold! I also keep the temperature in mind when deciding if I need to wear a dress versus pants or determining how many layers are needed. Second, I layer no matter what, pulling out blazers to wear under coats, reaching for chunky knit scarves and wool beanies. The key is to select polished accessories that keep you warm, but also keep outfits looking polished, such as a cream colored beanie or a thick scarf with a subtle thread of metallic. Keeping other accessories, like footwear and purses, neutral helps to avoid the look of an abominable snowman. Finally, I try to remember that outerwear is essential but can also be fun. Wearing a faux fur coat keeps things feeling playful and unexpected, while also keeping you warm! It’s a bold print but when paired with basics, an animal print can actually be a neutral and it also works just as well for a nice winter date night as it does with jeans and sneakers.
It IS possible to look cute and feel warm throughout the winter! But the good news is that spring is just within reach!
Fashion note: I’m wearing a Topshop coat (another option here and similar here), a Northface beanie (another option here), Madewell jeans, Converse sneakers, and a vintage purse.
What got me through the week and what I’m looking forward to this weekend!
Escaping Chicago winter for warmer weather (at least in my food!)
And just like that, it’s the last Friday of the month. It seems like 2018 is off to a rapid start, but I’ve also kept busy thanks to getting sick, my husband’s bout with the flu, a trip back East and a lot of other events. This weekend I’m looking forward to catching up on some newly Oscar nominated movies and trying out some new restaurants, both of which I’ve discussed below and plan to discuss more of in the future. Here’s to enjoying the last weekend in January!
Crazy Rich Asians: This book popped up on my radar this summer when another book in the series was released. I was informed by a friend to start with this one and it did not disappoint! I initially bought it to read over my honeymoon, but ended up lounging, swimming and sipping cocktails more than I read; however, I quickly devoured this once I returned. It’s outlandish, unexpected and very entertaining. If you’re looking for a new read, put this on your list.
Trader Joe’s Port Salut: I saw this cheese pop up on a number of “best of the year” lists online toward the end of 2017. At the time, I was researching new cheeses to try for my weekend cheese boards and decided to give this a try. It’s a creamy, delicious cheese that tastes much more expensive than it costs, which is the perfect combination. Not only is it great on its own, but the creaminess makes it perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese.
2018 Oscar nominations: Award season is officially underway. Last weekend concluded with the SAG awards and a few days later the Oscar nominations were announced. I’m planning on seeing Margot Robbie in I, Tonya this weekend to kick off the season.
Cook Beautiful and Dining In: These books are the latest additions to my growing cookbook collections and so far, they’re becoming quick favorites. I’ve made a few simple, but delicious, dishes from both books for weeknight meals (which I’ll be sure to document soon), but am looking forward to digging into both further for some upcoming weekend meals that look delicious and elevated without being cumbersome. Stay tuned for me!
This past weekend we hosted some friends over for a game night (and to watch some fight I knew little about!). To me, a game night is synonymous with fun snacks and party food so I wanted to make sure the spread included plenty of fun treats that were both easy to whip up and easy to eat while simultaneously playing cards. As usual with me, I also wanted to strike a balance between having some indulgent treats (leftover Christmas cookies) and some that were satisfying without being too heavy. That’s where this white bean dip entered. It’s surprisingly simple- the ingredients are basically white beans, garlic, lemon, and a little oil and spice- yet it packs such a flavorful punch. It’s also incredibly easy and quick to whip up thanks to a few quick steps and a blend in the food processor. I was short on time when getting the food ready and was able to make this ahead and then stick it in the fridge while I prepared the rest of our meal. I threw it on a platter with a mix of veggies and crackers, which balances out the nearby cheese board. You can’t get easier than that! If you’re feeling curious and want to try it for your next gathering or the upcoming Super Bowl, a similar recipe is here. Just do yourself a favor and add some toasted pine nuts to the top of the dip (1 tablespoon will do)- it makes a difference!