Posted on March 15, 2017
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!
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 10, 2017
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!
- Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub *Use Tally!
- City Winery Riverwalk: Small Irish bites and a live band throughout the day!
- IO Godfrey Rooftop Lounge: It’s supposed to be cold on Saturday- this is an indoor rooftop! *Use Tally!
- Hubbard Inn: Tickets still available! *Use Tally! Bottomless mimosas and small bites for $40
- FADO Irish Pub: Because it’s Irish and they are celebrating on actual Patty’s Day too
All my luck,
Photography by Brittany Benson.
Posted on March 8, 2017
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.
- Load your velour puff with TLSP
- Fold puff in half, work powder into puff, rubbing both halves together
- Tap off excess powder
- 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!
Photography by Brittany Benson.
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 6, 2017
More often than not I receive the question “So you’re in public relations. What do you do?” and part of what brought Al + I together is our different backgrounds in PR – she has her own biz and I work in a public relations agency (hello corporate America!). Let me start off by saying: PR is fun. I think across all PR agencies, it’s the mindset of “work hard, play hard” that gets you through the day and everyone’s combined hard work really pays off.
So again, what is it that I do? Anyone looking to get into PR but not sure what it entails? I broke down a few crucial parts to what makes up being a public relations professional along with a few tips I’ve learned so far in my career.
Who is a PR professional and what do they do?
A PR person is a people person: Media Relations
Ever wonder why your local FOX news covered the grand opening of the new grocery store down the street and interviewed by standers and C suite execs of the grocery store chain? Chances are they are working with a public relations agency with the goal of spreading the word about their grocery store on a local and national level. Now why is the grand opening of a new grocery store interesting you ask? That is where us PR wizards enter the scene. Our goal is to think not only creatively, but strategically. Does the Chief Marketing Officer of the grocery store brand have any local ties to the community? Does the company support a foundation that would entice more customers to shop there over it’s competitors? PR people take all of these angles into consideration when we are calling the producer of FOX news, ABC, NBC etc. because they want to know “Why is this story interesting?” and “Why does this story matter?” If we only have 30 seconds to speak with the producer: we better be ready to give a five star elevator pitch and make it the most exciting story to date.
Since the world is turning into a digital, always plugged in society, we are also finding the perfect online news outlets that both you and I read. If the grand opening of the grocery store was happening in Orange County (southern California), our target consumer probably reads The Orange County Register online and in print. It’s our job as experts to find the editor who is writing about similar events, get in contact with them, and again explain to them why this story is important and why it’s something they should share with their audience.
You might be wondering: do we pay the OC register to post about the grocery store grand opening? The answer is no. PR is free publicity. (*Note this is different than an advertisement.) The grocery store brand is paying my agency to hustle and get the word out about the grand opening. This means having write ups in well known outlets that have millions of monthly readers. If I had a friend post on her Facebook about the event, it would only reach the number of friends she has on FB. We want to earn the most impressions for this story so we go for the heavy hitters that make the most sense. In other words I am not going to pitch the San Francisco Examiner for an event happening in Orange County– it doesn’t make sense and unfortunately no one really cares in SF.
A PR person is all about social media: Digital
I am in such a cool position at my job. I am the hybrid child at work being half consumer and half digital focused. In the PR landscape of things, digital experience is quickly evolving into something everyone needs to be an expert in. That being said, I work on different influencer programs with my consumer clients. I help find the right bloggers with the right audience that is the best fit for the brand. I help draft content briefs so our bloggers feel well equipped with relevant information about the brand when they go to write and really am the day to day liaison between our blogger friends and the brand to make sure they feel good about their post and are producing engaging, relevant content.
Happy client + happy blogger + happy team = winning.
One of my clients for example, sells baking products. Through lots of research, I help find the perfect food blogger that 1) fits well with the brand and likes to bake 2) has strong photography skills 3) her audience is engaged with her content on both her blog and social channels and 4) is affordable for our brand to sponsor. Once all of these boxes are checked, I work with the blogger on selecting a recipe that most likely centers around a holiday (for example, cinnamon rolls for a Christmas brunch) and will resonate best with their audience. I am also the one reviewing their content to make sure it fits the brand’s voice, and when the post goes live, we later report on her metrics! (Views, engagements, likes, shares etc.)
It has been really neat so far on my blogging journey to incorporate what I am learning at my PR job into my blog posts on Al + Lex and working with brands that best fit into my lifestyle. Of course I want to share information about products that I use in my daily routine, whether it be relating to fashion, fitness, beauty, travel or PR.
For example, one product I came across is Felix Gray. Think of Felix Gray as the go to eye wear for people who work (and stare) at a computer all day. I am quickly raising my hand volunteering as tribute as I am always staring at a screen whether it be at work or for blogging. I wear my “Nash” style Felix Grays at work and when I am elsewhere typing up my blog posts. Before I started wearing my FG’s, I would ask myself “am i slowly going blind?” due to blurry vision throughout the day even when I was wearing my contacts! My Felix Gray eye wear has helped me alleviate eye strain by eliminating glares and filtering blue light.
FG sources their acetate (fiber used to make textiles) from Varese, Italy – a region with a 100+ year reputation for producing the world’s nicest acetates (think along the lines of Oliver Peoples). They did a ton of research and started working with a firm to create the perfect lens, which does not use a coating to deflect blue light like other brands might, but filters the high-energy light by using a synthesized pigment naturally produced by the human body and adds it directly into the lens material. What I also love about this brand is that it is so affordable. The lens itself would typically cost $300+ from an eye doctor, and we all know that frames can be so expensive these days! Felix Gray is its own efficient tech company and with that, keeps the prices low and affordable while selling a quality product.
A PR Person is a story teller: Strategy
My favorite part about PR is we get to brainstorm and think of creative ideas for brands in hopes to tell a story, make an impact, and engage with consumers. We want our brands to resonate in the minds of consumers and create a campaign that lasts instead of being a one and done moment. The mind of a PR person is always churning with thoughts: How can we get through the clutter for our client? What is the next big thing in social media? How can we make a statement? What does the brand need the most? What can we do that no one else is doing?
When we are planning for the next year for our clients or have a new business pitch we are going after, we have numerous brainstorms to hear the ideas of our fellow coworkers. Ten heads is better than one and I personally love hearing everyone’s ideas because everyone comes from a different background, bringing fresh ideas to the room.
In short, I love my job and the work I get to be involved in. If you are looking to get into PR, I recommend joining your local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter, grab coffee with someone who works in an agency who’s clients intrigue you, and most importantly be open to anything when it comes to PR. You will learn so much that goes beyond a job description that will help you both in the workspace and in your everyday life.
Smiling big as I wrap up this post because I love what I get to do and I hope with whatever you do as a career or hobby, you love it too.
Complimentary product was included in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photography by Brittany Benson.
Posted on March 3, 2017
I love my city. One of the things I love most is you never feel too consumed from living in Chicago. You can always go to different places throughout the city to get fresh air and clear your mind. One way Bill and I decided to get some savvy R&R was to take a little stay-cation. Our stay was made extra special thanks to the hospitality from the Waldorf Astoria Chicago. We are familiar with the Gold Coast neighborhood and have many memories there but being a guest in your own city for once is pretty fun and something different. Bill and I relaxed, did some shopping, and had delicious dinners during our stay. I think my favorite thing about our short and sweet vacation was the fireplace in our hotel room.. it’s the little things that matter right?
I encourage you to take a stay-cation in your city, whether it be by yourself, with a friend, or lover.
A few tips I have when you are thinking about taking a stay-cation:
- Plan ahead: Think of where you ideally want to stay, and a few new dinner spots you have been wanting to try.
- Bring an outfit you normally wouldn’t wear out: I don’t mean bring something outrageous. Just bring a dress you never have a chance to wear but always receive compliments on. Dress up because it makes you feel fabulous.
- Do something tourist-y: Yep. You read that correctly. Bill and I went to the Lincoln Park Conservatory on an off day when it wasn’t busy. It reminded both of us what a beautiful city we live in and how nice our local attractions are.
I shared a few photos from our stay-cation below: Fireplace, Balcony, Outfits and more.
If it’s not going away from your home for a weekend, find a great movie, make your favorite snack and splurge on that fancy candle you have been dying to try.
Dinner at Merlo Maple
A Day as a Tourist at the Lincoln Park Conservatory
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!