Casual in Nashville

 

This past week I finally got to visit Nashville! DJ frequently takes trips to Nashville for work, but since beginning my masters program at DePaul University in Chicago it has become difficult to travel due to missing class. I had my Spring Break last week and tagged along on DJ’s work trip that he extended through the weekend so we could explore and it did not disappoint.

It felt SO.GOOD. to get away from the cold weather in Chicago and walk around without a jacket most of the trip. I had no idea that there were so many different areas to explore besides the touristy downtown- I explored 12 South and Germantown. 12 South is home to a lot of great, small stores and restaurants as well as Draper James. Draper James is adorable but dangerous because one thing is cuter than the next- more on that in a post to come!

Shop some of my favorite Draper James picks: Totes Y’all, the worlds cutest Easter dress, embroidered cocktail napkin, lace shirt dress.

I stuck to basics throughout my trip, opting for dark denim, my new favorite flats and nontraditional, light tops. I found these flats at Nordstrom in Chicago last month. They are by Tory Burch’s previous designer, Mercedes Castillo. They are SO ingenious because you can wear them as a slide, or slip a leather cord through the sides of the flat for a tie-up style sandal. I already have my eye on these (and every other shoe in her line- lol.)

Top (only $30!) Jeans. Flats.

Some beautiful old houses I snapped while wandering around Germantown. If you visit Nashville anytime soon, I would highly recommend heading to this area! We are thinking that we would like to visit Charleston soon- any recommendations?

❤ Al

Why I Love Barry’s Bootcamp

I never thought I would see the day when I would write about my fitness regime; let alone that I was excited to share it! At the end of the day, I love sharing topics with my readers that are a huge part of my day-to-day life and fitness is no doubt one of them.

So you might be interested in taking a workout class and don’t know where to start. I have been there too. It’s hard with so many choices these days—especially living in a city where people have a craving for fitness left and right. A workout I have always been curious about is the HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout at Barry’s Bootcamp. I never doubted I wouldn’t like it – but so far, I love it. Wherever you are in your fitness journey, you MUST give Barry’s Bootcamp a try. I understand it might be a little nerve racking imagining a “bootcamp” setup, but I mean it when I say you become so empowered from this workout. It is an experience where you are so pumped up by the music and the trainers, you give 200%. The first time I took a class, the music was blasting and the energy in the room gave me goose bumps. If there is one thing for certain, it is that you CAN do it and you will LOVE yourself after.

Again, what is Barry’s Bootcamp all about you ask?The HIIT workout is designed to burn up to 1,000 calories and is divided up between strength and cardio (25- 30 minutes each). I have been fortunate enough to take a few classes and I am obsessed so far with Barry’s and the results I am seeing.  I sat down with my fierce boss lady friend Kate Lemere who is a Chicago Founding Trainer and Marketing Coordinator of Barry’s Chicago to help tell you more because who better to hear from than the fitness expert herself!? If a Barry’s studio isn’t near you, I hope at the least this encourages you to take chances and push yourself to get to where you want to be in your fitness journey. I love supporting brands that I truly believe in, and I love sharing it with others in hopes that they like it too. If you are in Chicago, come take a class with me!! I would love to sweat with you ;).

XO.

Lex

Kate Lemere is a Barry’s Bootcamp Trainer, Nike Trainer and founder of the blog The Four Percent.

 

What is the biggest difference between Barry’s and other fitness studios?

Barry’s is the pioneer of boutique fitness and since its inception in 1998, it has grown into a global community. The energy in the room and the caliber of trainers is what sets us apart. I mean we didn’t even make our own tagline. Our clients coined our tagline as “the best workout in the world.”

 

Tell me about the workout. You either do floor exercises or you’re running your A$$ off on the treadmill– what is the reason behind switching between Floor to Treadmill?

It’s a HIIT workout or high intensity interval training. You are pairing cardio with strength training. This is the most effective combination that helps stimulate muscle fibers and creates an after burn effect. Also, HIIT workouts are approachable for all fitness levels: different exercises can be modified and progressed to cater to all ability levels both on the floor and on the treads. You know your own body the best and what it is capable of.

The Instructors. What would you say is most important to them when it comes to teaching classes?

The energy of the room and focus. ENERGY is contagious and it’s continually repurposed. As instructors, it’s our job to propel energy forward, but it’s even better when our clients feed off of it and feed into it for each other. Something else that is important is FOCUS. There is a lot going on in the room. To give 100% you need to listen and pace yourself appropriately to get the best of your workout. You have to listen to what you are doing and where you are going next so you’re able to pace yourself appropriately and set yourself up for maximum success.

Your classes offer a variety of focus points (Arms, Legs, Chest, Abs.) Why not full body all the time? What is the benefit of having specific classes?

Barry’s schedule is planned on a macro level across the week to avoid overtraining and overuse.  One day you’re working your arms and abs, the next it’s butt and legs, and the day after chest, back and so on. Traditional splits allow for gains without injury.

 

When you take classes at Barry’s, you want to see results. How long does this take? What other steps need to be taken to see the results you want (tight booty, slim hips/legs, toned muscle, etc.)

Every BODY is different. After your first class, you feel different—emotionally and spiritually. After a couple of weeks you will see results kick in. You have to keep pushing a little more speed and a little more weight each time to see the results. Also, when it comes to your diet, it’s just as important to consider when you eat as it is to consider what you eat. Our Fuel Bar, for example, has a full menu of shakes with protein and carbs to help you recover and help your muscles rebuild and repair.

 

It takes TIME to change your body especially when you are just starting your fitness journey. At Barry’s, you will see results but what is most important is to have fun.

 

[End]

 

I always enjoy learning about experts on a more personal level too: How they got to where they are today, words they live by, and more. See below for a few more questions I asked Kate and how fitness is a part of her everyday lifestyle.

For someone who is just starting to get back on the fitness/workout grind, what advice do you have for them?

Don’t get frustrated with yourself—ask questions and enjoy the process. I have my own blog, The Four Percent that helps explain why I prescribe workouts I execute because knowing why you are doing something as opposed to going through the motions helps you to continuously evaluate what you need to get to where you want to be.

During your class, you say some very encouraging words to get your class through the workout. What saying/ quote to you live by when it comes to fitness?

Meeting the moment. When you are listening to a pump up song or signing up for class—you are looking for that push to better yourself. When the time comes, we back down because we are afraid we don’t think we can do it. That’s a shame. This weight (or) run is what you came here for. Don’t back down, meet it, take it head on and when you leave you’ll feel like you did what you came to do. It helps build confidence to help you achieve other things even outside the room.

How do you define fitness?

I define fitness as a prioritizing moment. Fitness doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be crazy or creative. You don’t even need to be crazy active. Just take care of your body. If you don’t take care of your body- your body won’t be conditioned to take care of you. You need quality of life and you have to take care of yourself to do it.

How did you make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle?

I was a competitive swimmer for nearly 15 years, and being active was ingrained into my lifestyle from a very early age. For those who struggle with motivation I would encourage a little tough love. All day every day we do things that we don’t necessarily want to do (think go to work, take out the trash, clean our house, etc) but we do it because we have to. Working out and taking care of your body is no different.

Aside from Barry’s Bootcamp style workouts, what are your top 3 favorite workouts? (Cardio, Yoga, Pilates?)

You need a well-rounded training routine. I recommend mix of HIIT, strength training and mobility/recovery. Barry’s, cycling, pilates, I love it all.

Favorite snack? Guilty pleasure?

I have a raging sweet tooth. I love HALO top ice cream or nut butter based snacks. I must have dessert every night whether it’s fruit, or a protein pancake with almond butter to close out the night. I do it every night and I do it for myself.

What do you think the next trend is in the fitness world? (Food? Style? A specific workout?)

I think there will continue to be a greater emphasis on community and connection. People as humans crave the touch points- a connection to the trainer, instructor, and just connecting socially with the trainers.

Ina Garten’s Aperol Spritzer

There are very few “famous” people that I admire, and it is an odd assortment at best! I love Lori from Shark Tank, Mike + Frank from American Pickers…and of course Ina Garten from Food Network. I do not just admire Ina for her cooking skills, but for her ability to turn something out of nothing: IE the failing Hamptons grocery store she bought all those years ago and then flipped into a cooking empire.

This month, my mom took me to see Ina Garten “in conversation.” She told old stories of when she met Jeffrey and what it was really like opening up that tiny grocery store. I also got a signed copy of Cooking For Jeffrey, which I have already made three recipes out of. They were shockingly simple to follow and came out exactly as they were supposed to.

If you have ever watched a single Ina Garten cooking show, you know two things: she loves Jeffrey, but she LOVES to drink cocktails in her garden. My kind of girl. I made Ina’s Aperol Spritzers for my family and they were a hit. It is the kind of cocktail you want to sit in the warm sun and drink, plus it does not require a lot of ingredients. Here is what you will need:

 

Ina Garten’s Aperol Spritzers:

Ice

1 bottle of Prosecco, chilled

12 ounces Aperol

1 bottle San Pellegrino (any sparkling water will work!)

6 half-round orange slices (I prefer blood orange!)

“For each drink, fill a 14- to 16-ounce tumbler three-quarters full with ice. Fill each glass two-thirds full with Prosecco, add 2 ounces of the Aperol, a splash of San Pellegrino, and an orange slice, and stir. Serve ice cold.”

 

Do you have a favorite summertime cocktail? The Eastern Standard is another one of my favorites.

 

❤ Al

Spring Time Sippin’ in Chicago

Spring time is HERE and you know what that means?! Floral everything, flow-y tops and rooftop season is upon us! When it hits even 60 degrees in Chicago, it’s sandal season with no jackets sipping on Moscow mules. For tourists or locals alike, I always love going to Cindy’s Rooftop on top of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. It is half indoor and outdoor with stellar views of Millennium Park and the Lake. When the Cubs won, my gal pal Kati and I swung up to see the exciting chaos from above. It was a day to remember to say the least. When I stop by for an early evening cocktail or at night to see the city lights, I tend to wear a leather jacket in case I get cold, with boots, a long black tank top and ripped jeans. Trust me, the moment it it is warm for a consecutive 3 days in a row, I will be sporting my bright floral attire. Until then, leaning towards darker hues but gradually moving into spring!

In case you were trying to plan for the first warm day way in advance like myself, here are a few of my favorite rooftops in Chicago!

Any other rooftops or neighborhoods you would like to know about? Comment below and ask away! Love recommending my favorite places!

 

XO.

Lex

Cindy's Grey Garden Cindy's Rooftop Cindy's RooftopCindy's Rooftop
Cindy's Rooftop
Cindy's Rooftop

Jacket: Helmut Lang (similar here and here!) // Boots: Aldo

Drink: the Grey Garden @ Cindy’s

Skincare: Bioderma

Lex here and with the weather rapidly changing in Chicago, I thought it was the perfect time to share some new skin care products I have been able to try. Enter Bioderma. I was able to try a few of their products, which compliments your personal skin type. Whether your skin is dehydrated, oily, or sensitive, Bioderma really has a product for anyone. The brand prides itself in finding the perfect in between when it comes to a laboratory and dermatology, and I can see why. See below for my thoughts on the products I was able to try!

Sensibio H2O wipes and Sensibio H2O

Both of these products are for sensitive skin. I love using the H20 wipes to remove my makeup before I work out at the gym. It takes off my makeup in a heartbeat and leaves my skin feeling clean and fresh. As for the H20 water, I only have to use a dab and the makeup around my eyes comes right off. Easy to use and it doesn’t make my eyes sting either! Winning.

Hydrabio Sérum

I love a good Serum. What is cool about this product is after you use it (before bed or in the morning), it doesn’t leave a sticky residue. I prefer to use this serum before I go to bed so it is the only thing on my face and my skin is getting the moisture it needs. Respect for a product that can help dry skin living in cold weather.

Sébium Pore Refiner

 The one thing I will say about this product is it left my skin feeling rather dry when I used it only a few times a week. What I did notice though was it tightened and evened out my skin where I have blemishes. Being freckled, I do have a red spot here and there so I did see the pigmented color go down and smoothen out, even after just a few time using the product!

Sensibio Eye

We all need an eye cream that will help preserve our youth and avoid any sign of raccoon eyes. I woke up after using this for a few days with bright, tight skin and I didn’t look tired either. Some of you know I am not a morning person– so this sensitive eye cream is perfect for those who might not want to use a cream every night, but maybe 3-5 times a week to get us through the work week!

 

I really enjoyed all the different products, especially the sensitive skin and hydrating lines! Be sure to know your skin type before you go to purchase skin care products – and you don’t have to spend a fortune on them either! Bioderma is a quality skincare line for an affordable price.

Make sure to order Bioderma online and let me know how you like it!

XO.

Lex

Food For Your Skin: Scratch Goods

 

I live right around the corner from a little beauty shop called Scratch Goods. I had always meant to stop in, but with the cold weather I am rarely out walking. I had no idea that most of the Scratch Goods space was dedicated to a mask bar. The mask bar is much different than a facial: the Scratch Goods gals actually take the time to walk you through how to take care of your skin at home, what ingredients help fight your problem areas and all the in between. With a recent change in my health, using all-natural products is a very important thing to me and I am so happy to have found this new resource! A MAJOR plus: most products range from $14-$18.00: very affordable compared to $60 bottles of all-natural skincare sold at Sephora or Nordstrom. While I am not in any way knocking those brands, this just goes to show you that there are some affordable, organic ways to take care of your body.

Scratch Goods began out of a personal need for natural, affordable skincare. Co-founders Maureen and Elizabeth, high school friends now living in Chicago, realized that while they were eating clean, their personal care products were still laden with questionable ingredients. Knowing that 70% of what is applied to our skin is absorbed into our bodies, they slowly purged from their homes everything containing parabens, sulfates, pthalates, synthetic fragrances + dyes.

Replacing these items was much more difficult –  truly natural products were hard to find, and came with high price tags. So they rebuilt their own personal care regimen from scratch, in their own kitchens. Their requirements for product development remain the same today: food-grade ingredients that are safe enough to eat, fragrance from pure essential oils only, and zero water, eliminating the need for synthetic preservatives.

Here are five (slightly shocking) things I learned today:

  1. Coconut oil shouldn’t be used on your skin: it blocks the skin from releasing toxins from the body.
  2. Caffeine is great for aiding in lightening dark spots and assists in anti-aging. Scratch Goods works with Dark Matter Coffee in their mask selection.
  3. You should be putting on a hydrating spray before you apply oil to the face: water is the only liquid that can penetrate to the third layer of the skin.
  4. Jade rolling can work wonders for you: jade has healing properties and can be put in the fridge or run under warm water to help decrease facial inflammation.
  5. Pure activated charcoal helps fight breakouts and blackheads.

Here are some 100% all-natural products I would recommend: Charcoal Mask: $17.00, Cleansing Oil: $14.00, Lash + Brow Oil: $18.00, Lavendar Mint Soak: $20.00.

The Roscoe Village space offers their full range of fresh, handmade seasonal goods as well as an interactive mask bar for guided, self-service facials.  However, Scratch Goods is expanding to a larger store in the West Loop.

*While these services and products were provided complimentary, I only share places and products that I truly believe in. As one of my doctors recently told me, “Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t smear on a sandwich.”

❤ Al

 

Downtown Chic

Chicago Style Chicago Style Chicago Style Chicago Style Chicago Style Chicago Style

Sweater: Nordstrom (Similar here) // Jeans: Topshop @ Nordstrom // Boots: Aldo

Hair Products: Moroccan Oil and Blowout Sealing Serum

Shampoo: Fekkai // Conditioner: Fekkai

I have been meaning to channel my inner tourist and share some images that really capture the epitome of Chicago. I wanted to live here for a reason, right? One of the most iconic pictures in Chicago is the infamous CHICAGO marquee located at State and Lake at the Chicago Theatre. I work right next door to it so I get to see it every morning and night as I get off and on the redline. State street is great for shopping (I call the Macy’s the Disneyland shopping adventure of Chicago) and you’re in the heart of the city’s Theatre district where you can easily snag student rush tickets to a show.

It has still been a little colder than usual in Chicago, so I went with a black sweater, torn jeans, and ankle boots. I tend to lightly style my hair during the work week and use more products/ heat on it during the weekends, so I think that could be a reason as to why my hair grows so fast (I am in a desperate need of a haircut…). I shared a few of my hair products I use in case anyone is looking for new product recos! Moroccan oil has been my go to for years, and sometimes I mix it with my Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial to give my face ultimate moisture before bed. Any must have black clothing items you have spotted? Let me know!

XO.

Lex

Vegan Chocolate Cake Waffles

Someone recently told me “listen to your body.” Sometimes your body tells (screams) at you for chocolate. This past weekend I stayed in on the faux St. Patrick’s Day that Chicago celebrates by consuming copious amounts of green beer and purchasing “all you can eat breakfast buffet” tickets at the local bars (honestly, how sketchy does that sound?!) and baked a gluten free, dairy free(+egg free), soy free, corn free + vegan chocolate cake!

Since I had to cut all of these food groups out of my diet due to health reasons, I have struggled to find food substitutions that I once loved in the sweets department. You know when you just crave a piece of cake with some gooey frosting? I had the itch and it needed to be scratched.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I still had a minor cake craving. I thought to myself: what if I put a piece of cake in my waffle iron? And it was created….the extremely glutinous chocolate cake waffle. This is the perfect “once and a while” treat for a snow day or celebratory weekend and it is super easy to make!

Personally, I prefer King Arthur Gluten-Free chocolate cake mix which you can find in Whole Foods. I also made this super simple frosting with Califia Farms Almond Milk. For anyone out there with food allergies, Lyme Disease like me or just food sensitivities- this is a fun recipe for you to still enjoy a sweet treat!

 

❤ Al

Green for St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is always an event: you see the river dyed green, you eat lots of corned beef and cabbage, drink green beer, and bar hop all around the city. One of my favorite things about St. Patty’s Day is the people watching! Oh are the outfits fun. I wanted to share a ‘street chic’ St. Patrick’s Day outfit I’ll be sporting on Saturday (as Patty’s day happens early this year) as I brunch with friends, see the green river, and hop around Chicago to a few bars and friend’s apartments. I love the slight poof to my top as I have been noticing that as an up and coming style. I decided to jazz up my outfit a little more with an added neck scarf. Thank you Anthropologie for the cute outfit! What greenery will you be sporting?! Below are a few of my top Chicago go-tos for Patty’s Day festivities too.

Top 5 Restaurants/Bars to go to on St. Patty’s Day (Saturday March 11th and 17th)

*Don’t forget to download the app Tally (a bar tab on your phone without the hassle of using a credit card at busy hot spots!) and receive 20% off your tab at participating Chicago bars on St. Patty’s Day!

All my luck,

Lex

Top: Anthropologie // Jeans: Anthropologie // Neck Tie: Anthropologie // Shoes: Nordstrom Rack

Photography by Brittany Benson.

How do you TLSP? Translucent Loose Setting Powder by Laura Mercier

I never was a translucent loose setting powder kind of gal. I use my Chanel VitaLumiere Foundation, a little bronzer and Hourglass highlighter and I am good to go. I recently received Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder (Thank you Influenster and Laura Mercier for the complimentary product!) and let me tell you, this setting powder is EVERYTHING. I highly recommend using the “baking” technique to set the powder under your eyes- your makeup does not move and looks great from day into evening. You simply let the powder sit on your skin for ten minutes and then brush of the remaining powder with a fluffy brush. I would definitely recommend this makeup product to any beauty gals out there. The TLSP absorbs oil and reduces shine all day so you’ll never have a shiny forehead in selfies!

Using it is super easy. Simply use the TLSP after you apply your foundation, and then go on to apply your bronzer and highlighter. Boom! You are ready for a night on the town.

Application Technique:

  1. Load your velour puff with TLSP
  2. Fold puff in half, work powder into puff, rubbing both halves together
  3. Tap off excess powder
  4. Fold puff into taco shape. Press and roll, puff onto skin to set foundation.

If you haven’t tried TLSP yet, you should try Laura Mercier’s! I love trying new techniques and when I want a more matte look, this is my jam.

Have you tried it before? How do you TLSP? Let me know!

XO.

Lex

Sweater: H&M

Photography by Brittany Benson.