Posted on March 14, 2017
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!
Posted on March 7, 2017
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 James Gustin, owner of Fig Media.
Posted on March 2, 2017
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.
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.
Posted on March 1, 2017
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!
Al + Lex
Dress: Missoni (Similar: here)
Posted on February 28, 2017
I was always a kid that loved to eat my vegetables. I was vegetarian for almost 8 years through middle school and high school and eventually began eating meat again. While I still eat meat to this day, I do not HAVE to have it with every meal. I have never been someone that was into diets or limiting what I ate, and still am not, although recently I had to make a very vast change to my daily diet and cut out gluten, soy, corn and dairy for health reasons.
Originally, I thought cutting four things out of my diet would be extremely difficult. While it is challenging for certain food categories like breads , I learned that there are still tons of options out there for me. I recently found a cookbook that I love, One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane (if you have not checked out her podcast, you NEED to here!) that incorporates a lot of “good for you” veggies (ex. not just lettuce which has 0% nutritional value) in yummy ways.
I recently made Murnane’s “Breakfast Potato Bowl” and it really knocked my socks off (and my meat eater fiance who stated that it was “actually very good!”) While it may not sound like much, the flavor is great and it will leave you feeling satisfied. I was not originally planning on sharing the OPP cookbook, but thought it was a great resource for those that are veg based or have dietary restrictions. All of Murnane’s recipes are 100% gluten + dairy free and can easily be modified if you have other dietary restrictions.
I decided to make this on a whim this past Saturday morning and did not have potatoes so I substituted white yams. I also did not have some of the veg listed below in the official recipe, but threw in zucchini, tomatoes and whatever was in my fridge. This dish can also easily transform into a Mexican food style bowl with the addition of a blob of salsa on top + whatever your favorite toppings are.
Here is the recipe if you want to try it for yourself:
2 medium large potatoes (cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 orange or red bell pepper (seeded and diced)
1/2 onion (diced)
1 garlic clove (minced)
sea salt and pepper
dash of paprika
1 cup of cooked black beans (drained and rinsed- I used cannellini beans!)
2 cups spinach
Optional toppings such as avocado, sprouts, salsa, hot sauce, etc!
Heat a generous pour of oil in a large pan. When the pan is hot, add potatoes and cover for 10 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften. Stir every few minutes. Add veggies, onion, garlic, paprika + salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the veg is soft and potatoes are cooked through. Add beans and spinach until the spinach begins to wilt.
Put a generous scoop in a bowl and top with avocado, sprouts + whatever your heart desires!
To share a little bit about the OPP mission, One Part Plant encourages those interested to incorporate one plant based meal a day into their daily routine. Jessica Murnane does not tell you what you can and cannot eat, she just makes it fun to cook in a healthy way.
You can pick up One Part Plant for yourself, here!
*This book was not gifted to me + this post was not sponsored, just something I genuinely love and wanted to share!
Posted on February 21, 2017
Everyone has their go-to cocktail. Up until two years ago, my go-to “cocktail” was a great glass of red wine. That all changed when I had my first Eastern Standard at Soho House in Chicago. It is the perfect blend of freshness from the cucumber and mint with a little bite from the gin.
The Eastern Standard is not often found on drink menus in the United States- mainly because it was invented in London by Tom Kerr for Soho House Group. An Eastern Standard can be made with vodka or gin and while you can’t go wrong with either- the gin element allows the cucumber and mint flavor profile to shine through in a more enjoyable way.
This is a classic cocktail meant to be sipped on while sitting outside during the Chicago Spring. If you want to make this into a more party friendly cocktail, simply make your drink in a pitcher, add ice and top with chilled club soda. Below is the classic Eastern Standard recipe as told to Refinery 29, although I included a second recipe below that I have altered to taste.
When I first started to attempt to recreate the Eastern Standard at home, there was always something a little off about my version vs. the Soho House version. I found that if I infused my gin with cucumbers (fill a mason jar with cucumber, fill with gin and pop it in the fridge) it matched the exact taste of the Soho House version. Highly recommend!
Soho House Eastern Standard:
50ml Bombay Sapphire gin
1 large lime, juiced
20ml sugar syrup
3 thin slices of cucumber
3 mint leaves
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and double-strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a floating cucumber slice.
Ali’s Eastern Standard:
3oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 large lime, juiced
20ml sugar syrup
6thin slices of cucumber, muddled
6mint leaves, muddled
Muddle cucumber and mint in a cocktail glass. Add lime, simple syrup and gin. Top with ice and stir. Double-strain into a coupe cocktail glass.
Garnish with a floating cucumber slice.
Posted on February 16, 2017
In honor of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills starting up again, I chatted with fan-favorite Erika Jayne about her music and what she loves about Chicago. If you don’t watch the RHOBH, Jayne is the most real of the cast and isn’t afraid to tell it how it is.
Plus, who doesn’t love a woman that brings her hair and make-up team everywhere she goes?
Alex: How would you describe your personal style?
Erika: I always wear body conscious clothes and I’m always thinking of curvy, curvy and sexy, sexy and woman, woman, woman. That’s just what I’m drawn to and what I’ve been known to wear.
Alex: If you could only wear one brand or designer for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Erika: Definitely Alexander McQueen.
Alex: What are your favorite places to shop, eat, and play in Chicago?
Erika: Let me tell ya! We stay at the Waldorf, which is like, the best hotel in the world! Right out front that door, is amazing shopping. Hermes, Barney’s…there’s the Adidas store. Everything is within walking distance, it’s fabulous. I love Chicago, I’ve never had a bad trip to Chicago. It’s just awesome…awesome people, awesome food. It’s an awesome city.
Alex: Where do you find your inspiration when creating a new song?
Erika: My album that’s coming out, the things that were happening to me at the time were a great influence on this album. Experiences, people, things that I’ve seen, places I’ve been. I take everything and put it into what I write about. If I get stuck, I walk away and take a break and then look at it.
Alex: Who are some of your favorite artists that you look up to?
Erika: I am a Madonna fan, I’m a Prince fan, I’m a Michael Jackson fan! Beyonce! All of the people that put on shows. I love the showman.
Alex: I read that you went to a performing arts high school?
Erika: Performing arts high schools was an amazing experience, and I wish that all young performers could go to a place where they could hone their skills and really figure out what they like, and do something they enjoy. That experience is incredible.
Alex: You collaborated with Flo Rida on “Get It Tonight.” What was it like working with him?
Erika: He was a cool guy. He’s a very big star, and was kind to me. I think “Get it Tonight” turned out great.
Alex: What’s the best experience you’ve had thus far in your career?
Erika: I don’t know if I’ve had one single moment sticks out, but I know some of the best experiences are when you’re on stage looking out at the audience and they’re singing the song. Or you get messages afterwards like ‘hey, you really brought a smile to my face, I loved the show.’ That’s really what it’s all about. It’s taking people on a journey. We all live in a reality where things possibly aren’t the best. But if you can go to a show and escape for an hour, hour and a half. That’s what it’s all about.
Alex: A lot of my readers are college age and trying to break into fashion, music, or some form of the arts. What would be your greatest piece of advice for them?
Erika: Two things: study your craft, and get a great mentor. Great mentors make careers, and they shape who you are as a young artist or a young professional. Be incredibly good at your technique, craft, whatever it may be. Make sure you know your craft, have your technique down, be flawless, and get a great mentor. Those two things are what I think are the most important. You have to know what you’re doing. You need a mentor to show you how things are done properly. Let me tell ya, nobody got to where they are without someone helping them in some way.
Posted on February 14, 2017
In the past few weeks I have talked about the FTC Blogger Guidelines and how Edelman is changing the data analytics game for bloggers- last week was How To Pitch. Your goal after sending a pitch should always be to get XYZ Brand PR person on a call.
A simple phone call is something that is often overlooked, but can make a great impression on someone. One of the things that has stuck with me through my years in PR was Hillary Sawchuk of A Drink With telling me that when you want to work with someone, always try to get them on the phone. It is much, much harder for someone to say no to you on the phone than via email. Phone calls can be scary, especially if you are like me and do not particularly love chatting on the phone.
Below are some helpful tips for brand phone calls and a sample call agenda that I use for calls with clients and the people I work with for my clients. It helps me stay organized and not feel unprepared.
Organizing a call can be difficult- but including extra information in the calendar invite helps to keep everyone on the same page.
- Title the call invite with your name and the brands name.
- Put a quick discussion overview so your team is prepared. If it is just you, it gives you a simple guide so you do not get stuck in an awkward silence.
- Always put the titles and contact numbers or emails of everyone joining the call. This helps call attendees to know who is from where so there is no confusion.
- Use a service like FreeConferenceCall.com. FCC gives you a free dial in number and access code. Using FCC looks professional, and helps avoid confusion about who is calling who.
Knowing what to ask can be tricky. Here are some sample questions that you can talk through with your brand:
- What are their initiatives for the year?
- What is the brand’s target demographic?
- How would they describe their current consumer?
- When does the brand plan their budget?
- Is social media a top priority for them?
- What information can you provide them?
- Do you have any upcoming initiatives you are trying to promote?
Alexandra Moresco is the owner and founder of A Moresco PR + Digital Strategy.
Posted on February 9, 2017
In honor of NYFW kicking off today, I thought I would share one of my favorite throw back posts from last year when the CFDA had a small presentation in Chicago. The CFDA website refers to Steven Kolb as “the nicest person in fashion,” and I would have to agree. As we sat down in the private lounge at the W Hotel Chicago, Kolb made small talk and was calm and collected as press and designers whizzed by around us. Kolb is the type of person in Fashion that you admire for their business expertise and kind face.
A: What’s it like to oversee all the day to day operations at the CFDA?
S: Well, um, that question makes me nervous. It’s quite an exciting thing, and that may seem cliché, but I am very lucky that I have the job that I have for a couple of reasons. One, there are 400 members in the CFDA, like major designers that are around all the time and I know them all personally. As designers, as business people, as colleagues, as friends. And the passion that designers have, the creative passion that they have…is really inspiring. I don’t necessarily see myself as a creative person, but when I work with a creative person I can take those ideas and make them work. For me, that is a really exciting thing. There are 23 people that work at the CFDA. We have this amazing team and many of them started there as interns and stayed with us. They are just so committed and wonderful and they are fully in support of our mission.
A: I know that your career has always consisted of non-profit work, previously at the American Cancer Society. Why did you decide to go over to a fashion non-profit like the CFDA?
S: So the CFDA is a not for profit, but a different kind of not for profit. I was last at the American Cancer Society, and then previously at an AIDS organization, and then I was at MTV helping to start a not-for-profit. My colleague Lisa and I knew each other because when I worked for the AIDS organization, Lisa and I had worked on a project. She’s been with the CFDA for over 20 years. So when the person before me left, she suggested that the search committee interview me. So I came to meet the selection committee which was Diane Von Furstenberg, Stan Herman, the president of the board, and talk about the job and the organization, so how I ended up there was because I wasn’t a fashion person. That’s what they liked, I had this experience running an organization, managing an organization, I understood how an organization works, and bringing that experience and that skill set to the job. That’s what got me the job. Shockingly, why I took the job wasn’t because it was a fashion job, although I’ve learned to really love and appreciate the fashion part of it. What I love about it is that back when I was a student in college, I never wanted to work in corporate America, I wanted to work on social issues and give back and help people that need it. The truth is, the same thing I did at my previous positions, I am doing at the CFDA. We’re helping emerging designers gain business development. We’re helping students get jobs. We’re helping experienced designers with licensing, etc. We do a lot of philanthropy through our organization so I still get that fulfillment of helping people, but just in a different way.
A: One of your greatest accomplishments that you’ve had at the CFDA is creating the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. How did that come to be?
S: It started as…it’s an interesting story. 911 happened during fashion week, and this predates me, I started in 2006. Because of that [911,] all the fashion shows were cancelled, so a lot of young fashion designers that were just starting out lost their deposits and a significant amount of money for shows that they were unable to do. So the industry rallied, particularly under Carolina Herrera’s efforts. These big designers said “come show in our showrooms, we’ll help you,” and they did these shows that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Anna Wintour saw this kind of hole and how vulnerable these designers were. She worked with the CFDA to create the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. I came in the third year and helped to build its financial strength and grow the organization of it. I think its contributions to American fashion is so great. It has helped create this new American Fashion…Alex Wang, Prabal [Gurung,] Phillip Lim, Rodarte, Joseph Altuzarra…they all came out of the Vogue fashion fund. Not only has it created a new generation of American fashion, but it’s also influenced other parts of the world. Having said that, why we’re here in Chicago is not this dissimilar to what we have done at the Vogue Fashion Fund. A few years ago, we created the CFDA Incubator for emerging designers and it is a business development program where we give them mentors, studio spaces, and we are able to give them opportunities, like bringing them here to Chicago through our partnership for the W hotels. The W has a strong passion for fashion…that rhymes. Working with us, they know that for these designers to get to the next step, they need to increase their distribution so an important market like Chicago, for them to be able to come here and show in this awesome space that W Hotels set up, is game changing for them.
A: Do you have any advice about going into the creative industry?
S: Look, I think that you have to be patient and you have to put in the time. I think in the world of instantaneous gratification and our own hyper celebrity around what we do ourselves with social media, and how we can have a face and be known on the internet, can somehow distort our own well being and self worth. You have to go out and learn. What you think you’ve learned in college is good, but you actually haven’t learned anything until you get a job and are working around people that have been doing these things for a long time, that’s when you’ll learn the most. Continue to be a student, work hard, and have an opinion, but know that you’re around people that have been doing it for a long time and take advantage of that. Use it to your advantage and learn from them. That’s how you’re going to grow your career.
Is anyone going to NYFW? Who is your favorite designer?
Posted on February 7, 2017
Valentine’s Day is the holiday to pull out all the stops: a new dress, a fun dinner: and beautiful cocktails! I think that a lot of people hear the word “cocktail” and get intimidated by all of the ingredients it takes to make them. While a lot of cocktail books call for hard to find dashes of this or that, it is easy to make a beautiful drink for your special someone with items you have lying around your house!
I made this cocktail this past weekend while recipe testing for a small Galentine’s Day party I am having for some girlfriends this coming weekend. This Pink Drink only has four ingredients and comes together in a pinch. Scroll down for the full recipe!
The Pink Drink:
1.5 oz gin (I prefer Hendrick’s!)
1.5 oz pureed watermelon
.5 oz simple syrup
Top with seltzer water
Combine your gin, watermelon puree and simple syrup (boil half water, half sugar in a pot and simmer until syrupy.) in a shaker (if you don’t have a shaker, use a mason jar!) and top with ice. Shake for about 10 seconds and then strain into glasses. Top with seltzer water.
If you do not like watermelon or do not want to take the time to puree watermelon, strawberry juice is a great substitute that you can buy in a can at the grocery store. To add some “wow” factor to my cocktail, I plopped a fluffy piece of cotton candy on top!