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?

<3 Al

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.

 

<3 Al

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.”

<3 Al

 

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!

 

<3 Al

Vera Wang: Chicago Fashion Show and My Vera Story

A few weeks ago, I went to the Vera Wang fashion show during the Evening Of Bridal Luxury in Chicago. The night started off with a cocktail and full juice bar with the CUTEST display of appetizers. I love any excuse to dress up and dragged my mom, my cousin and my MOH to the show.

Until a month ago, in my mind Vera Wang was just another gorgeous designer. I got engaged in July, and have (very) slowly been putting the pieces to our wedding puzzle together ever since. I started looking for my dress in early February and thought I was early to the game, not realizing that most high-end wedding dresses have to be ordered nine months to a year in advanced. Whoops! I wound up rushing to make appointments at every major bridal store in the city, and the first one just happened to be Vera Wang. If you know me or anything about my style, you know that I am not interest in your typical pretty princess bridal gown. I was not expecting to be blown away at Vera Wang like I was: as it  turns out, she is a total bad-ass dress designer  showcasing TONS of unique selection. I wound up back at the Vera Wang showroom with my mom two weeks ago to order my dress and am SO excited!

Fortunately or unfortunately, my dress was not featured in the show because it is part of the “color collection” but I fell in love all over again with each dress that “walked down the aisle.” For Vera’s latest collection, she took cues from Verona, Italy according to Vogue. Wang gave old world interpretations a modern update for the 2017 bride.

Whether you are a bride or just looking for something beautiful to scroll through,  Vera Wang 2017, some wedding decor inspiration and Harry Winston’s drop dead gorgeous diamond collection are for your viewing pleasure below.

 

All photos by Fig Media

I got irrationally excited when I saw these fuzzy heels. I picked up this pair a while back and have had them on repeat ever since. I am also loving these and these at Nordstrom.

 

*All photos by James Gustin, owner of Fig Media.

 

Almond Chia Pudding

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Sticking with the theme of breakfast this week, I discovered  that I am behind on a delicious, healthy breakfast trend: chia pudding. This past Tuesday I had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien and was shocked at how many allergy sensitive breakfast options they have to offer. I settled on a bowl of fresh fruit with coconut and raspberry chia pudding and went home and immediately started searching the internet for what measurements to use to make my own.

This chia pudding recipe is dairy, gluten and soy free but you do not miss those flavor profiles. If you love almond and raspberry, please try to make this and let me know how it goes!

Almond Chia Pudding

1 cup vanilla almond milk ( I prefer the taste of Califia Farms!)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine your almond milk and chia seeds in a bowl to make sure seeds are evenly coated. Add in vanilla and cinnamon and whisk with a fork. Take a medium size mason jar and pack soft raspberries at the bottom, pour chia mixture on top. Let sit in the fridge for a minimum two hours or overnight.

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I love these fun bowls from William Sonoma. They are plastic, easy to clean and add a nice pop of color to any meal. You can shop the whole collection, here.

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<3 Al

Chicago Events: Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

 

Tickled Pink

 

Tickled Pink

 

Tickled Pink

 

Tickled Pink

 

Tickled Pink

This past Friday evening, hundreds of Chicagoans came together to generate awareness about breast cancer and celebrate with the brave survivors through Chicago based charity Tickled Pink. For those of you who don’t know, Tickled Pink is an annual fundraising event that has partnered with Bright Pink since 2013 Bright Pink is the only national non-profit organization focusing on prevention and early detection for breast cancer in women.

One of the many issues with detecting breast cancer at an early enough to stage to be able to aggressively treat it is that women are not often educated on how to self-check and what signs to look for in their body. Tickled Pink helps to educate women on what to look for and supports survivors. If you want to check out an easy to digest symptom and sign article, check this out.

From dancing to the live band (who rocked!) the event was nothing short of dazzling. Tables were lined with amazing little bites from Chicago’s hottest restaurants- not to mention the donuts from Stan’s. The event location, Morgan Manufacturing, is such a beautiful space in Chicago, and the best part was it never felt too crowded or spacious – it was just right.

We really enjoyed being able to attend such a beautiful event and support a great cause. See below for more fun photos from the event and the looks we went with!

XO.

Al + Lex

Al

Dress: Missoni (Similar: here)

Lex

 Dress: Bloomingdales // Shoes: Target

Tickled Pink

 

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink