Sipping with Spirit Hub All Summer!

Sipping with Spirit Hub All Summer!

Over the last few months I have been working with Spirit Hub to bring you some delicious porch sipping cocktails for these summer months. Luckily, summer isn’t over quite yet so I am going to do a round-up of all the cocktails I have made so far so you can recreate well into October because I think we are all going to be trying to hang out on our patios for as long as humanly possible this year!

All of the below cocktails are all made with spirits that I got from Spirit Hub. They are a company that is all about bringing exceptional spirits from independent distilleries straight to your door. Most of the brands on their website are small-batch spirits that I had never even heard of before which was so fun to be transported someone different each month without ever having to leave my living room. I will include links to each bottle for each cocktail below but remember to use my code SASSY20 to get 20% off your order when you do!

EASY PALOMA WITH JUAN MORE TIME REPOSADO TEQUILA

Easy Paloma with Juan More Time Reposado Tequila
Juan More Time Resposado from Spirit Hub

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Squeeze about one lime (2 tablespoons) in the glasses.
  2. Add agave for taste. I added about 1 tablespoon per glass but if you like sweeter you might need more.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Fill the glasses with ice and equal parts tequila, grapefruit juice, and club soda.
  5. Garnish with lime!

RASPBERRY GIN SMASH FEATURING NEW ALCHEMY DISTILLING FLEURETTE GIN

Raspberry Gin Smash with New Alchemy Distilling Gin

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Combine the sugar & water in a small pot and heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil and dissolves. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Slice up your limes.
  3. Muddle 2-4 raspberries in each glass.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons simple syrup (cooled sugar water mixture), and 3 tablespoons gin in each glass and top with more raspberries.
  5. Cover all of this with 1 cup of ice and a ½ cup of soda water.
  6. Garnish with mint & limes.

GIN MINT JULEP WITH NEW ALCHEMY DISTILLING FLEURETTE GIN

Gin Mint Julep with New Alchemy Distilling Gin

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Place mint leaves and simple syrup in the bottom of the cup.
  2. Muddle the mint and simple syrup in the bottom of the cup.
  3. Fill the glass halfway with crushed ice.
  4. Pour gin over the crushed ice and then top with more ice. Yes, MORE! 
  5. Squeeze lime in for taste and then garnish with a lime.
  6. Slightly stir and sip!

Community Response: What are your Top 3 MUST HAVE skincare products?

Community Response: What are your Top 3 MUST HAVE skincare products?

Last week I asked all of you to give me your top 3, can’t-live-without, skincare products and you guys DELIVERED. Below are all your favorites, including mine, with links to purchase the items. If an item has a X2 or X3 next to it that means it was recommended 2 or 3 times! Hopefully this is a good starting point when looking for items that are Sassy community approved!

SERUMS/OILS:

recommended 4x!

Beautycounter No. 1 Brightening Face Oil x4

Clarins Double Serum x2

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate X2

Seabucktorn Oil by Best Skin Ever

Lumene Nordic-C Glow Boost Vitamin C Serum

Obagi Professional-C serum with hydroquinone

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Intensive Hydrating Serum

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

Pixi’s Vitamin C Serum

OleHenriksen Truth Serum

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic

The Ordinary’s Niacinamide + Zinc Solution

Sisley Hydra-Global Serum

CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Face Serum

Skyn Iceland Arctic Face Oil

The Ordinary Buffet Serum

Herbivore Emerald Hemp Seed Deep Moisture Glow Oil

Lancome Advanced Genifique Anti-Aging Serum

SUNSCREENS:

EltaMD UV Clear Face Sunscreen

Super Goop Unseen Sunscreen

La Roche-Psay Anthelios Sunscreen

Algenis Sublime Defense Sunscreen

Dr. Loretta Urban Antioxidant Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunscreen

Glossier Invisible Shield Sunscreen

CLEANSERS/FACE WASH:

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Cleanser

Cerave Gentle Foaming Cleanser X2

Cetaphil Daily Face Cleanser

Lancer Polish Scrub

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser

Farmhouse Fresh Cleanser

Shea Moisture African Black Soap

Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Face Wash

Tula Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser

Grown Alchemist Polishing Facial Exfoliant

MOISTURIZERS/CREAMS:

Recommended 3x!

CeraVe PM Moisturizer X3

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Facial Moisturizer X2

Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer

Yon-Ka Time Resist Night Cream

Lush Celestial Moisturizer

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

Beautycounter Adaptive Moisture Lotion Countermatch

Murad’s Skin Perfecting Lotion

Clinique’s Moisture Surge 72-Hour Hydrator

Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Cream

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel with Hyaluronic Acid X2

Mario Badescu Bee Pollen Night Cream

EYE CREAMS:

Recommended 3X!

Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream x3

Necocutis Lumiere Line Smoothing Eye Cream

Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Eye Cream

Beautycounter Countertime Ultra Renewal Eye Cream

Tatcha Peony Eye Cream

TONERS:

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner

Lancome Hydrating Toner

Klairs Supple Preparation Face Toner

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Toner

Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner

Thayer’s Witch Hazel Facial Toner

ACID TREATMENTS:

Recommended 3X!

Sunday Riley Good Genes – 3x

The Ordinary Hyaluranoic Acid 7% Toning

PCA Skin Acne Gel

Glossier’s Solution – Face Exfoliater

Beauty Pie’s Superactive Capsules

Elemis Resurfacing Face Pads

CLEANSING BALM/MAKEUP REMOVERS:

Recommended 2X!

Farmacy’s Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm X2

Clinique Take the Day Off Makeup Remover Balm

Fresh Soy Makeup Removing Face Wash

LOTION:

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Lotion

Weleda Skin Food Ultra-Rich Cream

CeraVe Healing Ointment

Beautycounter Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm

MASKS

Recommended 2X!

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask – x2

Beautycounter Overnight Resurfacing Peel X2

Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask

Tatcha The Kissu Lip Mask

Ahava Hydration Cream Mask

Milk Melatonin Overnight Lip Mask

Mighty Patch Duo

Kora Organics Tumeric BHA Brightening Treatment Mask

Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque

Shea Moisture African Mud Mask

Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel

OTHER:

Tinkle Face Razor

Tula Eye Brightening Balm

LIP BALMS:

Glossier Balm DotCom

Smith’s Rosebud Salve Lip Balm

PRIMERS

Tula Face Filter Blurring Primer

Community Response: Tell Me a Time You Were Sent Home for the Outfit You Were Wearing

Community Response: Tell Me a Time You Were Sent Home for the Outfit You Were Wearing

Last week I saw a post that said, “When you interrupt a girls school day to force her to change clothes, or send her home because her shoulders or bra straps are visible you are telling her that making sure boys have a “distraction free” learning environment is more important than her education. Instead of shaming girls for their body teach boys that girls are sacred objects.”

It resonated with me significantly because I have at least two instances that I can remember that I have been sent home for wearing “inappropriate” clothing when in reality it was probably just because my body developed sooner than other girls or because a man felt uncomfortable around me. I shared my stories on my Instagram stories and then asked for others to share theirs. The responses were OVERWHELMING. It felt good that my experience was a shared one, but alternatively felt icky and sad and gross that so many of us had had the same problems growing up. That we were shamed, humiliated, made to feel bad about our bodies. Below is my story and all your shared stories. If you didn’t have an opportunity to share one in my stories, please feel free to share one in the comments below. I want this to be a place that we can all share our stories and feel heard.

MY STORY:

It was picture day in 7th grade at my Catholic grade school. We usually wore uniforms but on picture day we got to dress up, which for a budding fashionista was a really exciting thing. I had gotten a new outfit at The Limited just for this. I remember thinking I looked like Cher from Clueless in my white button down and pleated plaid skort and Mary Janes. When I got to school I for sure remember feeling looked at and uncomfortable and when we were about to go get our pictures taken, the principal came out and told me I could take my photo since the only thing in the photo would be my white button down, but then I would need to get picked up by mom because my skirt was inappropriate.

I remember my mom being mad that I got sent home because she helped me pick out the outfit and sent me to school. Also it was a SKORT, meaning the skirt had shorts so I didn’t think there was anything inappropriate about it. The shorts were probably just as short as the ones I wore for gym class. Anyway, flash forward to the end of the school year. There was a tradition that the 8th grade class would “will” something to the 7th graders – something that they would need for the next year. Usually they were funny – like my friend Meggie was given a frown because she never stopped smiling. My “will” was a long skirt. I died of humiliation since the one thing the 8th graders thought about me was one of the more embarrassing of my grade school career.

YOUR STORIES:

*These will be anonymous.

“I was sent home multiple times in middle school for ‘too much’ cleavage.”

“Not sent home but openly criticized for length of a denim skirt in 8th grade.”

“Wasn’t sent home but I’m petite and the school wouldn’t let me take in my uniforms to fit. I was tall for my age and ALL leg. It was humiliating to be called out while giving a speech.”

“A toga in 12th grade…Not from wearing a bed sheet, but from one shoulder showing.”

“My bff and I had matching outfits on: shorts, tank top & cardigans and I was forced to button mine up to the top because I had boobs and she didn’t. I was in 8th grade. I was sent to the office by a male teach which as an adult is creepy because he totally was looking at me not as a child which I was.”

“1st day of my freshman year of high school. Shorts were ‘too short’. My mom left work to bring me clothes. She only did it because she worked so close to home/school at the time but I still got in BIG trouble at home for inconveniencing her.”

“Actually happened at work two years ago. Had silk tank under cardigan. Went to lunch & came back with cardigan draped over my arm (100 degree Midwestern summer). I was sent to HR.”

“I’ve always been a big girl. Went to Catholic grade school and they didn’t have our uniform in bigger sizes so I had to special order skirts because I wasn’t allowed to wear pants and had to wear the very noticeable boy shirts. Got teased all the time for it and no one stopped it.”

“I’ve got long legs/short torso. I got sent home in 10th grade bc my jean skirt was ‘too short’.”

“Our rule was shorts to the end of your finger tips. I wore some plaid ones with heels once and they were long enough but the heels ‘made my legs look a mile long’ so I was sent home.”

“I wasn’t sent home, but this happened to me as an adult. I was a first-year teacher in a tiny town in the Delta. Principal had me do the dollar bill test for my skirt in front of my students because she didn’t like my outfit. I passed the test, but was humiliated.”

“Not sent home, but embarrassed in a cafeteria full of people. Had to do the ‘finger tip test’ because they said my shorts were too short. I passed ‘the test’.”

“Not me, but my teenage step-daughter. Racer back tank. Sexy shoulder blades?”

“My HS was so bad about this and they would watch students enter daily at each door. Awful. Also ‘finger tip length’ is some BS, especially for us tall ladies. I’m 5’9.”

“I’m a teacher and twice I’ve been shoulder shamed until either I cover up or change. I dress business casual. I was wearing dresses both times and nothing cut. I had on proper foundations ie bra and underpants.”

“Wore a Christina Aguilera short to photo day at a Catholic school and was sent home.”

“Mine actually happened at work while in grad school! They said my dress was too short even thought I was wearing opaque tights and knew it was NOT too short. Told to change shirt because I was wearing ‘spaghetti straps’. Straps met 2 finger rule.”

“A friend had to go home, bring all school clothes to school and try on in front of principal!”

“I sat down and my shirt didn’t cover that little bit of back. I was 10 and felt embarassed.”

“We had uniforms at our school. We had to go out in the hallway 1 by 1, kneel and skirts had to be touching the floor.”

“Sent to the office over a tank top that ‘flaunted’ my large chest as my English teacher put it. It was not low cut I was super petite and had 38D chest. She always tried to humiliate girls that had curves.”

“I had a skirt that went all the way to the ground. With a slip on underneath. Still deemed suspicious! Because ‘you might be able to see through it in the sunlight’.”

“My sister who is modest was told to put on a sweater because she had a thick strapped bra on. She said ‘no’ because she was really hot and she felt like she’d faint. The teacher (a woman) kept arguing with her in front of the class. Finally my sister said to the teacher, “But you’re wearing a thin strap tank top”. Hypocritical rules. It was a Catholic school and this teacher always had her thongs showing and later was fired for making a sex tape.”

“I was taken into a classroom alone and lectured by a teacher for wearing a t-shirt. It wasn’s low cut but it ‘outlined my breasts’ and I was being ‘sinful’ and ‘men would see you differently’.”

“I was sent home from a choir concert because my skirt was “too tight” under my choir robe.”

“Wasn’t sent home but I’m tall and had to do a public shorts/skirt length check ALL THE TIME.”

“Not sent home but I developed early. Teaher pulled me out to talk about wearing a bra. We were poor and I couldn’t ask my mom to buy 1. So had to have a lot of talks that year.”

“They attempted to send me home towards the end of the day. I told them my mother would flip, but they could try calling if they wanted. They opted not to since we had less than 2 hours left and knew my mom would get mad.”

“My hs was awful. We had a gigantic (6X) orange tee saying ‘Tomorrow I will dress for success.’ We also couldn’t even wear flip flops or tanks in summer. This was NW Indiana. Looking back now I wish I would have called out the administration.”

“I too developed early around 7th grade. I remember the first time I wore a v-neck shirt I didn’t wear a tank top under it. My mom worked for the ambulance and wasn’t always home before we left for school but I by no means thought it was inappropriate. You could just barely see the start of my ‘cleavage’ line. I was told I needed to find a way to fix it or I had to go home. With no way to go home since my mom was out with the ambulance, I stapled a piece of paper into my shirt to cover up my 2cm of cleavage.”

“In my school district girls couldn’t wear shorts but boys could. I live in TX and it was HOT.”

“Not school but a job. I wore a shorter dress that went to my mid thigh and told not to wear it again.”

“Worse. A straight size girl would regularly wear a tight dress that hit just under her butt and no one cared.”

“Shamed in home room in 2010. for wearing leggings.”

“Never sent home, but I was singled out in front of everyone during lunch in 7th grade.”

“I remember wearing a tank top with ‘too thin a strap’. The creepy ass principal made me put on a dirty old t-shirt over it for the rest of the day. It was a punishment. I was being punished for wearing a tank top when it was too hot. It was the modern equivalent of a Scarlet A.”

“My volleyball team was made to order soccer uniforms because the principal said no one wants to see “big girls” in spandex volleyball shorts. I was furious! Still mad.”

“Never sent home but told to war a jacket over tank tops or one-shoulder tops in FL. Uh, it’s hot!!!”

“Never sent home, but if I was to wear a dress or skirt it was only when planned with others. Comfort or safety in numbers I realize now.”

“I’m very tall so shorts were short on me. Was forced to wear sweats in 9th grade because my shorts were ‘too short’. It was early fall so it was HOT. I felt embarrassed. Oh and the sweats were a men’s L or XL and I was probably an XS at the time.”

“Catholic school: skirt was ‘too tight’. It was bell shaped with ruffles – I just had hips under it! I also got a detention because I bent over to pick something up and my shirt untucked itself.”

“Admin in HS first asked if I was a parent or a student. Then dress coded me. Also got sent to the principal’s office for my school issued cheer uniform. ‘It looks different on you.'”

“I got reprimanded wearing a miniskirt at Express because I’m hippy and they didn’t like it. A miniskirt THAT THEY SOLD. In multiple colors. Just not for people like me I guess.”

“Not sent home, but along the same lines: I am VERY busty with a very petite frame. Went to senior prom with a guy friend and inveitably my dress showed some cleavage. His mom apparently made comments to all of the other parents that “at least their son was going to prom with a girl who knows how to dress appropriately”.

“Not sent home, but my pants were always too short. I was 5’9″ since 11 and always picked on.”

“A teacher stopped me in the hall to to unroll my pants (my 7th grade self made low-rise jeans lol). My pants weren’t too low – I was carrying an armful of textbooks & my shirt rode up! It was humiliating and I remember feeling so ashamed. Also I had a big ass and curvy hips at 12. She wasn’t doing that to any of the twig girls.”

“Back in the late 90s I was sent to the principal’s office for wearing a spaghetti strap tank top. I was already a D cup so my bra straps showed. I was told to reevaluate my style choices. But other girls in my class could wear spaghetti straps and bras and not get in trouble. I didn’t see it as fair at the time, but talk about a triple standard shame right there!”

“Def had to measure my shorts inseam multiple times in front of the entire class.”

“Didn’t get sent home but they gave me ugly sweatpants to wear all day.”

“Not sent home but collectively the girls in my senior class were told off the day after an awards night for dressing like we were “at a party” AKA in teenage sundresses with spaghetti straps in June.”

“I’m 5’11” so skirts were shorter on me. Had to be as long as fingertips and it came to my knuckle. It made me feel like a GIANT being called out class and escorted to principal’s office and they called my mom to tell her to go get me. It was a knee length skirt at most. Humiliating.”

“Got detention for lower back showing when leaning into my locker.”

“I was also sent home for wearing Nike track shorts since they curve up on the sides.”

“We weren’t sent home but had to wear like ‘community clothes’ basically sweatshirts/sweatpants.”

“My orchestra teacher told me everyday that my midriff was showing.”

“I was made to wear someone else’s gym uniforms from the lost and found.”

“They wouldn’t send us home, they made us change into our gym uniforms but STILL!”

“Sent home for wearing bike shorts with a long t-shirt (covered my behind). Funny because it’s back in style.”

“I was stretching and leaned back therefore my shirt rode up. VP saw and I got in school suspension.”

“I legit got sent home in high school for wearing a maxi dress because it had spaghetti straps.”

“Sent to put on gym shorts because shorts too short (mid thigh) – 5’7″ in 6th grade…”

“We had a very strict dress code at work and if you wore capri pants, you had to wear a polo with it. I forgot and wore a nice, dressy top but got sent home to change because it wasn’t a POLO.”

“Not sent home from school but shamed at church because my skirt was at my knees and not below.”

“3rd grade teacher sent me home because I had crimped my hair that day (FLY AF!) and I was ‘touching it too much’ and distracting the boys in class. THIRD GRADE!”

“Definitely the short shorts at one point due to my height. I had to wear gym shorts instead.”

“I wasn’t allowed into our 7th grade dance because I had on a sleeveless blouse.”

“I got a Saturday detention for my skirt measuring 4 1/2 inches above my knee instead of 4 inches.”

Chicago Restaurant Week Recommendations 2020

Chicago Restaurant Week Recommendations 2020

Chicago Restaurant Week used to be my favorite week of all the weeks in Chicago because I got to try a bunch of restaurants that I normally wouldn’t because money. Restaurants that normally would cost me $75pp would now only cost me $35 – what a deal. However, in the past years, Chicago Restaurant Week has changed and some restaurants have higher price points than others and it’s hard to figure out what is a good deal and what isn’t and ultimately what restaurants are worth visiting and which aren’t.

I put together my own list of restaurants that I think are worth the effort based on their menus and some based on bang for your buck.

Most Steakhouses

Steakhouses are usually my go-to pick for restaurant week since I know I am going to be getting a good deal especially if the cut of meat on the menu is a good one. This year, a friend and I are going to GT Prime for dinner because we’ve always wanted to try it. Here are some of my other steakhouse faves that I feel like have good offerings this year: Capital Grille, RPM Steak, Prime & Provisions, and Mastro’s Steakhouse.

Cabra

For $48 per person at Cabra, you get four courses with multiple dishes for each course which makes sense because it is a tapas restaurant. I’ve been here for lunch before and the food is just spectacular. Stephanie Izard can do no wrong IMO. Get the goat empanadas and the beef heart skewers.

Dos Urban Cantina 

I haven’t been here in years, but the meal I did have was sensational. The ceviche scallops at Dos Urban Cantina are to die for and their menu is actually really expensive. For only $36 this is a pretty great deal and they have the ceviche scallops on the menu.

Formento’s

Formento’s is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in my neighborhood. The meatballs alone are worth coming here for. Not only do they have a fantastic happy hour, but their Restaurant Week meal is just as great. This meal is also $48 per person but again you get four courses and it includes some of their best menu items like the bucatini, the meatballs, and the chocolate cake!

Galit

I got to try Galit, an amazing new Middle Eastern restaurant in Lakeview, earlier in 2019 and instantly fell in love. They have the actual best falafel I have ever tasted and their salatim plate (dips & pita) was the most amazing thing ever. Both of these things and many more are on their Restaurant Week menu. I highly recommend this place if you can get in and get their Israeli white. It’s sensational.

Bistro Campagne

Lincoln Square is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago and Bistro Campagne is one of my family’s favorite restaurants. This menu is only $36 and you can get all my favorite items on their menu: the mussels, steak frites, and pain perdu! If you want to try a new neighborhood, this is def not a menu to miss.

Lonesome Rose

A Logan Square hot spot, I loved my brunch I had here a few years ago. Lonesome Rose’s menu has some great choices – I love it when they give you lots of options to pick from and I would definitely go with the nachos.

Rooh

I am a big fan of this new-ish Indian restaurant Rooh in the West Loop. I went with some friends for a girl’s dinner and we loved everything we had. Their butter chicken (I know, I’m basic) was amazing and is on their Restaurant Week menu.

The Bristol

The Bristol is a classic Chicago farm-to-table restaurant and their menu offers four courses with lots to choose from and I know chicken isn’t usually the “thing” to order when out but their Amish style chicken really is to die for.

December ’19 Outfit Round-Up

December ’19 Outfit Round-Up

Shopping via links is hard so here is an easy way to do it by shopping one blog post of all my featured outfits of December! So in no particular order, here we go!

For reference, I am usually a size 16/18 in dresses, 20 in pants, and almost exclusively a 1X in anything Anthropologie.

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{Jumpsuit: Eshakti geometric jumpsuit, headband: Anthropologie Lauren knotted headband}

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{Jacket: Eloquii moto leather jacket, Top: Jessica London red sequin shell, Jeans: Lane Bryant Tighter Tummy Hi-Rise Skinny Jean in Velvet Dark}

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{Dress: CoEdition Fit & Flare Dress}

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{Top: Shop Chic Soul Plaid top, Leggings: Spanx faux leather leggings, shoes: Target platform wedges}

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{Work out top & leggings: Fabletics, gym shoes: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus sneakers}

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{Overall dress: Black denim overall dress, Top: Polka dot blouse, shoes: Target wedge platform shoes}

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{Top: Jessica London Tie-Front Tunic, leggings: Spanx faux leather leggings, boots: Comfortview Wide Calf black boots}

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{Coat: Old Navy black puffer jacket}

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{Jacket: Chic Soul pullover, Leggings: Universal Standard leggings, sneakers: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus sneakers}

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{Top & Leggings: Fabletics, Sneakers: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus sneakers Bra: Plus Size Compression Nike Sports Bra}

*this sports bra is easily one of the best I have ever had as a plus-size woman

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{Dress: Jessica London beaded jacket dress, Shoes: Comfortview Katiya pumps}

Things To Do in Chicago in the Winter

Things To Do in Chicago in the Winter

Chicago winters are brutal, so here are some activities that keep you warm indoors but also let you have an enjoyable season because we can only binge-watch so many shows during the months of January – April, amirite?

TopGolf Swing Suite 

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Don’t dismiss the TopGolf Swing Suite just because you just aren’t that into sports. This luxury simulation sports bar is literally for everyone. There is a multitude of games that aren’t golf-related that you can play on the simulator like zombie dodgeball, soccer, baseball, and even carnival games. I took my dad’s family for our annual holiday party last week and it was a huge hit with kids and adults. Another reason I love this place are the food and drinks. I’ve been to TopGolf out in the suburbs and the food is good don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t Aster Hall level delicious. Aster Hall is a food hall in the 900 Shops on Michigan and they have actual Small Cheval burgers! The elote and the pizza are also delicious and it can all be catered for your private party at the Swing Suite. It’s also a casual bar so you can just pop in for a drink before or after shopping!

Time Out Market 

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A personal favorite pastime of mine is just eating and drinking. In the summer it’s easy to bop around to different places to eat and drink, but in the winter it’s too cold to go even one block which is why my favorite new place is Time Out Market Chicago. Any food hall might do in a pinch, but this place stands out because of the amount of seating and the abundance of options there are. You could come for lunch, drink, stay for dinner, and then have dessert. Come with LOTS of friends so you can try one of everything, but my favorites are the dumplings by Urbanbelly and the brussel sprouts by Band of Boehmia.

Block 37 + Hot Tix 

I love going to the theater, but it can get expensive so hitting up a Hot Tix booth is something my family and I do pretty frequently when we are visiting other cities. Luckily, Chicago has one right on the first floor of Block 37 on State Street and this holiday season my dad and I used the booth to get tickets to a show at the Goodman Theatre which is right across the street! They have tickets to all sorts of shows though including things on the north side of the city so it’s worth checking out for deeply discounted tickets!

Igloo/Winter Cabana Rentals 

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I did one of these for my birthday a few years back, but heated plastic igloos have become the hottest thing of winter 2020. You can find them at the following places and you’ll have to contact them for pricing but we paid $200 + a minimum spend threshold based on how many people were in the igloo for two hours when I did it at iO Rooftop at the Godfrey: Barcocina, City Winery on the RiverWalk, iO Rooftop at the Godfrey, and Hotel Zachary.

Sassy’s Book Club: Top Favorite Books of 2019

Sassy’s Book Club: Top Favorite Books of 2019

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I read 30 books total this year, which did not hit my ultimate goal of 35 books total (damn!), but was up 5 books from last year so that’s a big improvement. Progress – I’ll take it! Last year, I didn’t do a book recap of my faves from 2018. Not sure why, but let’s just chalk it up to sheer laziness. However, here is a recap of all my favorite books from 2016-2017 if you’re looking for more inspiration.

And below are some of my fave reads from 2019. Not all of these books were written this year FYI. I just read them this year. And fun fact – all the authors are female which feels very fitting. I also linked them all on my Amazon shopping list if you want to buy them!

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

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The brilliance of this book is hard to describe. It covers so many issues in such an eloquent way that it just astounded me. The book centers around the 3 sisters in the Butler family – Althea, Violet, and Lillian – and each chapter is told from each of their perspectives. Althea and her husband have just been put in jail, and Violet and Lillian are dealing with the aftermath including their two daughters. Incarceration, eating disorders, overachievement as fulfillment, social acceptance are just some of the themes this book deals with. All the sisters are so vastly different too you truly feel like you enter a new world with each chapter. This wins for my book of the year and in my opinion, is a must-read.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Let me start with saying this is going to be made into a show for Hulu in 2020, so if you are someone who likes to read the book FIRST do so stat. This book is about two teens growing up in the 2010s, Connell and Marianne, who have literally nothing in common but have been brought together outside of their normal school setting because Connell’s mother is Marianne’s housekeeper. What happens next is a story that will feel very familiar and frustrating to any millennials. I know it brought out those feelings for me.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane 

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At its core, this book is a love story. You follow Kate and Peter from birth. They grow up as neighbors – both children of NYC cops – and they strike up a quick friendship that is tested over and over again throughout the 40-year arc we follow them on. It’s an explosive arc and tackles the common topic of what forgiveness looks like for different people. A lot of this book felt comfortable to me since it deals with Irish Catholics (a topic I know a good bit about), but the explosive moment that shapes both these families’ lives is massive and leads to such great drama and questions for all parties involved. Highly recommend.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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At first, I had a hard time reading this book since it is written like a manuscript of a documentary. Keeping track of who is who was a little rough since this is about a rock band of 7 people so there are lots of characters. This book is set in the 1970s during the height of rock and roll and about a socialite, Daisy Jones, who joins a rock band and they hit peak fame. Now, a team of documentarians is doing a biopic on the band in the present time. It’s interesting to hear different perspectives and questions whose view is true or not. This is a quick read and well done.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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It took a little bit for me to get into this book, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. This book is set in Chicago (the author went to Northwestern), so I personally loved knowing street names and the bars and restaurants she mentioned. But, that’s not that important to the storyline. The book itself is set in during the AIDS epidemic and follows two stories – one of Yale, a gay man watching his friends suffer and pass away as the disease ravages Boystown, and Fiona, the sister of Yale’s best friend who has just passed away. Fiona’s story is told 30 years in the future and it is almost hard to follow why this story is important to the one in the past, but it is. It’s like unraveling a mystery of how these stories connect, and the end result is fantastic. FYI this was optioned by Amy Poehler and is also being made into a TV show.

A Sassy Guide to Delafield, WI

A Sassy Guide to Delafield, WI

If you’ve ever wanted to live in a Hallmark film, well I have the perfect town for you to visit. Delafield, Wisconsin is located in the Lake Country of Wisconsin (which they won’t let you forget – there are lots of items you can buy that proclaim you are a Real Housewife of Lake Country!) and only a two and a half-hour drive from downtown Chicago. It’s almost equally between Milwaukee and Madison give or take 10 minutes so it’s a great getaway for most cities in Wisconsin too!

My friends and I love doing little weekends away with each other so we decided to explore Lake Country and the small town of Delafield for a short autumn weekend in November. We left on Friday night and got to the hotel a little after 10pm since we stopped for dinner outside of Milwaukee.

So remember when I said this town is basically a Hallmark film set? Well, that’s true. It’s super quaint, cute, homey and all decorated for the season. However, that’s where the comparisons end. Most Hallmark-Esque towns might not be very modern. I, for one, automatically think of old-timey bed and breakfasts, outdated diners, and antiquated buildings, but Delafield is modern and has a lot of updated amenities. One of those being the hotel we stayed at The Delafield Hotel.

The Delafield Hotel is a luxury hotel with a great blend of cozy and modern features. The lobby has a masculine lodge feel, but still feels bright and welcoming. The rooms are roomy, cozy, but still have modern touches like Kohler rain showers (I DIE!) and fun artwork. The hotel also houses its own restaurant – I.d.– and is next door to a massive fitness center, be Fitness, that the hotel guests are allowed to use during their stay. We were actually blown away by the hospitality here (everyone is SO nice) as well as the space being so fresh and modern. This hotel could easily be in the heart of Chicago.

On our first night, we opted to stay in and just watch TV (lots of channels btw including On Demand!) and woke up early the next day to go to brunch at Belfre Kitchen. They call themselves a neighborhood gathering spot and we’d have to agree – we went back twice for brunch and then some appetizers before dinner and were impressed with both. Their space is airy, modern, and built-in a former church. It has a very cool vibe and the menu is very unique. For instance, we each got one of their mimosa flights which came with different juices and the choices were things like rhubarb, prickly pear, and pomegranate in addition to typical juices like orange and peach.

After brunch, we did some shopping around town. Our favorite store being Element Style. It had all the cute, cozy items you need for the season. Each of us bought something here like gloves and sweaters. Some other places we’d recommend to stop in: Next Door, Bliss Boutique and the cute antique store next to Angelina’s restaurant.

That evening, we went to I.d. for dinner and again were blown away. The caliber of food they had was high and reminded me of some of the best restaurants I’ve been to in Milwaukee and Chicago. Our favorite dishes were Nashville Hot Chicken Wedge, Beet Gnocchi in a sheep cheese fondue, and the Chorizo Verde Meatballs. I can’t say that anything was not good though! You could literally order anything on this menu and be impressed – like you can’t go wrong with amazing truffle fries!

If you’re looking for nightlife, this town isn’t really it. Sorry, Delafield! But I think they know that. Our hotel had an amazing bar that had live music and we could have easily stayed there for more drinks, but we decided to go to the other bar in town Revere’s for a more relaxed vibe. They have a game room in the basement too with darts, pool, and Golden Tee. They also have Photo Hunt (nude version only please – if you know what I mean please leave a comment below!). We stayed way too long. Most people had already left, but that’s our MO. Like I said before, everyone in this town is beyond nice and we made friends with the bartenders and were having a grand ole time. Pro Tip: this town is like New Orleans so you can drink on the street. We are large fan of roadies so this was one of our fave things about Delafield!

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The next morning, we woke up and hung out in our insanely comfortable beds while recapping our evening and then drove home but not before we stopped to get some Spotted Cow to take home with us. If you know, then you know.

Jim’s Guide to a Perfect Chicago Christmas

Jim’s Guide to a Perfect Chicago Christmas

Last December, I wrote a Chicago holiday activity guide of all the things I love to do around Christmas and this year to spice things up, I invited my dad – who you guys know as Jim – to write give his own top list of things to do for the season. So below is a list of all the things you should do with your own Dapper Dad (or mom or friend or uncle or whomever!) when the time allows:

1. Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park followed by drinks at Offshore at Navy Pier. 

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This ice skating rink is particularly fun because like the city of Chicago explains it “it’s a multi-sensory experience”. It goes in a circle but has tiny hills and sharper turns so it’s more of a ride than going in one pace around an ice rink for an hour. Not too far away is Navy Pier’s newest bar Offshore. It is the nation’s largest rooftop bar and it has a roof so it’s got the views without the cold weather. I have also heard that they have dressed it up for the holidays!

2. Caroling at the Bean followed by drinks at Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. 

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Every Friday from now until Christmas, there is Christmas caroling at the at Cloud Gate aka The Bean. Local choirs lead the singing and everyone gets a songbook at the event. The Bean is conveniently located across the street from Chicago Athletic Association Hotel which houses Cindy’s – another awesome rooftop that has great views, outdoor fires, and inside seating.

3. Drive around to see the Christmas lights of Sauganash.

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The neighborhood of Sauganash in Chicago is known for its holiday decorations. Take a drive around the neighborhood and end your night at Fondue Stube for some traditional melted cheese and bread. My parents had one of their first dates here!

4. Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a holiday concert. 

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The CSO does holiday concerts all month long, but the most fun ones (in my opinion!) are the themed ones. The Harry Potter concert was Thanksgiving weekend, but the Home Alone one is coming up soon!

5. A Loyola Ramblers game.

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Not sure how this one snuck in here, but I am guessing Jim wants us to all go to a game with him now that he is a fair-weather fan lol.  In all fairness, he is an alum and this is where he met my mom so we will let it stay on the list.

November ’19 Outfit Round-Up

November ’19 Outfit Round-Up

Shopping via links is hard. Trust me, I am also a human who likes to buy from people she is influenced by on the Internet. So in attempts to make it easier to shop my outfits, I am instituting a new monthly blog post where I do a round-up of all my outfits from the month so you can easily shop them from your browser. So in no particular order, here we go!

For reference, I am usually a size 16/18 in dresses, 20 in pants, and almost exclusively a 1X in anything Anthropologie.

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what is art?

{ jacket: Jessica London faux fur jacket, booties: Comfortview Henley booties, dress: old Forever 21, but linking a similar dress from Torrid}

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i want a hot dog real bad

{top: Anthropologie Mallory ruffled blouse, headband: Anthropologie Lauren knotted headband, black jeggings: Sanctuary classic leggings, shoes: Target platform wedges}

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comfy cozies

{top: Chic Soul slouchy tunic, leggings: Universal Standard core leggings, slippers: Lands’ End shearling slippers}

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eshakti

{headband: Anthropologie Lauren knotted headband, dress: Eshakti ruffle floral cotton dress, shoes: Target booties}

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fabletics

{entire work out outfit: Fabletics}

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glam casual

{hat: red beanie,  jacket: Jessica London 3-in-1 puffer, top: Jessica London metallic shirt, black jeggings: Sanctuary classic leggings, booties: Comfortview Henley booties}

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holiday look

{barrettes: Quarters & Caviar pearl & geometric barrettes, sweater: Jessica London faux fur-trim sweater, boots: Ivana Wide-Calf Boot by Comfortview}

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my winter in FL look

{headband: Ann Taylor velvet knotted headband, dress: Anthropologie ruffled tunic dress by Rossi}

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car not included

{top: confetti chenille sweater, skirt: GibsonLook pink pleated skirt, shoes: velvet flats – these are old and from the Gap, but I found some cute ones from DSW that are similar}

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swingin’ into the holidays

{headband: Anthropologie Lauren knotted headband, jumpsuit: Eshakti stripe matte jumpsuit}

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bye fall

{top: Amazon Relipop loose sweater, pants: Old Navy pixie pants in leopard, shoes: Target platform wedges}

How to Throw an Effortless Friendsgiving with HoneyBaked

How to Throw an Effortless Friendsgiving with HoneyBaked

I am someone who loves entertaining. Got that from my momma (and my papa!). The worst part of entertaining to me is the prep for it. Some parts are exciting – like decor and table settings and a theme! – but prepping food for me has always been my least favorite part of hosting an event since it takes time away from hanging out with my own party guests!

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This past weekend, I hosted a Friendsgiving with my friend Terri at her condo since she has an amazing dining room table, but it turned out to be pretty effortless so let me take you through what made it pretty easy for us and how you too can throw an effortless Friendsgiving for you and your friends.

  1. Outsource. 

Some years when my parents were hosting a LOT of people for a holiday dinner they would cater part of the dinner. They loved making the main course, but buying sides from a catering company helped cut down the level of effort they had to make and in the process, they got to enjoy their own party a lot more. This year I wanted to host a Friendsgiving but I didn’t want to have to miss half the party because I was in the kitchen cooking which was why when The Honey Baked Ham Company wanted to partner I was thrilled! I knew they had fully cooked entrees that were easy to heat up and serve, but I didn’t know about the many entrees they have as well that also heat and serve ready. In fact, they have 10 different sides that you can pick from!

We got the Honey Baked Turkey Breast, which serves 6-8, as well as six different sides for such a reasonable price. Not only did it cut our cooking time in half (maybe more!), but it saved us money too.

If you’d like to replicate this meal, I have a special code for you to get savings on a Honey Baked Turkey Breast.

 

 

2. Plan a smart menu. 

When we planned out our menu, we tried to pick as many of The Honey Baked Ham items that had the same oven temperature and baking times so that we could serve a hot meal! When you live in a small space this is a key way to menu plan! Luckily, a lot of the HoneyBaked sides could go into the oven together.

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3. Set your table the night before. 

I do this even when I’m just having a few people over for cocktails and apps. Get out all the bowls, serving dishes, glasses, and decor the night before and set it all up without the food out. That way you only need to focus on getting ready before your guests get there. If you’re anything like me you are waiting until the very last minute to get in the shower!

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4. Pinterest is your BFF. 

When putting together table decor, I always turn to Pinterest to inspire me. Since I was hosting the party with someone else, I created a decor board and then shared with her to see which ones she liked the best and then we pulled different ideas from each of the ones we both liked to create our table! Pro tip: shop NOW for your Thanksgiving tabletop decor. Everything is on MAJOR sale since Halloween is over and people are very much in Christmas mode. We got most of the things on our table from Michael’s and Pier 1 for almost 80% off.

We had the best time at our Friendsgiving celebration because of the time we saved with HoneyBaked. We truly put in the minimal effort for such an amazing time and delicious food. I highly recommend turning to The Honey Baked Ham Company for your Friendsgiving needs. They really hit the spot for us!

This post is sponsored by The Honey Baked Ham Company. Views and opinions are my own.

How Instagram Took Me On a Journey To Love My Body

How Instagram Took Me On a Journey To Love My Body

The first time I ever remember someone telling me I was fat, I was probably 9 or 10 years old and we were at a birthday party at the local high school’s pool. It was a popular girl’s birthday party and I remember feeling really cool that I got invited, but that often happened because my best friend was gorgeous and every boy liked her and every girl wanted to be her. I was her sidekick. I was shy, and apparently “fat”.

I had gone to the locker room to change out of my swimsuit and into my clothes and as I was coming out I overheard the birthday girl telling everyone that I was fat. I don’t remember any other detail than that, but that was the first time I thought, “oh you’re not like these girls.”

Looking back on this it’s easy to know why this girl said what she said. At age 10, I had gotten my period. My body had started to change much sooner than these girls’s bodies had. They were all straight as arrows because they weren’t going through puberty, but I was. I had boobs, tiny but there. I had the starting of a curvy body and she had none of that. I’m not saying she was jealous. I’m saying she probably was just pointing out the obvious – my body was changing and theirs wasn’t but as a 10-year old kid all you hear is, “I am ugly.”

This moment and many others shaped how I looked at myself for years. All I wanted to do was be small like the other girls so that boys would like me and I could wear the clothes they did. I’m sure this is what led my mom to take me to dieticians and let go on Weight Watchers in high school when, to be honest, I wasn’t eating badly AT ALL. I was a super healthy kid (minus the stray pop tart + Cherry Coke breakfast I made a ritual my freshman year). My dad required us to play sports year-round so I was constantly working out and my mom made us lunch and dinner most nights so it wasn’t like I was living at McDonald’s.

The summer before college, I was determined to be “skinny” for my new life. I did Weight Watchers and drank a V8 juice for breakfast, ate a bagel for lunch, and then salads for dinner. Not healthy at allllll, but I lost weight and went to college probably the skinniest I had been in my teen years. I promptly gained it all back my freshman year and deemed myself fat and ugly again.

From then on I think I just resigned myself to the fact that this was who I was, but not in a good body-positive way. More of a welp, this is what you get so eat whatever you want and who cares kind of way. It didn’t help that I was depressed because my mom had recently passed away so add in those factors and my body took a real back seat.

When I moved back to Chicago, my dad could tell that the one thing that kept me from being truly happy was what I thought was the elephant in the room: my weight. He offered to get me a trainer and I worked with Ron consistently for months and I did lose weight but I also felt stronger and I loved it. I was back to not exactly eating healthy though. Not on Weight Watchers, but def limiting myself to very little calories and then binging on late-night food. I never really thought of myself having an eating disorder, but looking back on it I definitely did and still do struggle with my relationship with food. Since I consistently work out or have bouts of time where I work out a lot, I have always been able to keep myself more or less within a certain weight or dress/pant size.

My 20s were a time of insane self-consciousness mainly because I was the biggest I had ever been in my life even with the training and weight loss. I was constantly thinking I wasn’t good enough because I was bigger than my friends. Going to stores and realizing I didn’t fit in anything there. Online dating and no one attempting to talk to you. It can be so demoralizing and can put you in such a bad headspace. Not really seeing anyone in the media and  I would have to take breaks from dating constantly because it would get to be too much – being seen as a fetish, guys meeting you and instantly feeling you could see their disgust on their faces, or not even getting messages at all.

Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t this like cloud of darkness over me. I’ve always been a pretty confident person outwardly. Most of my struggle is internal and people have always remarked about how confident I was. That underlying tone being like, “Oh, you’re so confident…since you’re a big girl.” Despite that, I knew I was smart. I knew I was funny. I knew people tended to like me. I knew I had things to bring to the table other than my weight. I knew I was pretty, but I also knew I wasn’t “hot”. Or at least what the media deemed “hot”.

I joined Instagram like most people did back in 2010 to take artsy pictures of things around me and, of course, my food. As it evolved into something bigger and people began using it as a way to monetize, I thought hey I could do that and started to take more pictures of my food and of things to do around Chicago. I started sharing stories and my outfits and people reacted to them so alarmingly positive that I started sharing more of my face on my profile.

I didn’t even know about the body positivity movement and barely followed any plus size bloggers until later. I don’t know how I started following Mindy of @mindycityy but I did and I went to an event at Eloquii and I just felt seen. All these confident plus size women in one room chatting and being confident and being STYLISH. I wanted more of it.

I started doing style shots and sharing more of my looks and got such positive reinforcement that I kept doing more and more and more. And finally I shared a post of me in my underwear and work out outfits showing my stomach and my FUPA – things I had been so ashamed of before, but I wasn’t anymore. This was me. I wasn’t going to hide it anymore. And you know what? Those pictures of me showing my stomach and the parts of me I hate are still some of my most liked photos to date. Because I was vulnerable! Because I talked about something that all of us struggle with daily! I wasn’t doing it for attention, but to make myself more confident and to create a community who saw inspiration in that.

Have I figured out the perfect balance of binging on burgers and working out nailed down yet? No. Do I love my body every day of the week? No. Do I want to lose weight sometimes? Of course! But, I see all these body positive bloggers and Instagrammers out there owning who they are and I feel hopeful that someday I’ll stop caring completely about that stuff. However, the fact that I feel like it doesn’t affect my end happiness anymore is such a weight lifted off my shoulders. Do I think I deserve love despite my weight? Yes, of course. And I’m not sure I would have said that even just a few years ago.

I can’t pinpoint the exact point where I went from someone who was confident on the outside and maybe 45% confident on the inside to who I am now – more like 80% confident on the inside, but it feels great. And I have the community on Instagram to thank for that.

What Being an Athlete Means To Me

What Being an Athlete Means To Me

The last time I considered myself an athlete was high school. I was on teams. I was training. I was actively competing against other athletes.

Then I went to college and I stopped playing team sports, but I knew that if I stopped being active I would gain weight so I still took classes off and on at our athletic center or at a nearby gym for the next four years. Since then, I have been what you’d call and off and on gym goer. Not what I’d have ever considered is an “athlete”.

In my mind, an athlete was someone who was on an organized team and was paid professionally to do it or if you’re on a high school or college level, someone who trains to play competitively. Me going to Pure Barre a few times a week did not categorize me as an athlete. And that was still my thought process until I started the mentorship program with Nike that I am doing now.

When I first signed up for this program through Chicago Ideas I even checked with the organizer/producer to make sure I didn’t need to be a “runner” because sure, I exercise but I’m not running 8 miles a day or anything. She assured me they were looking for all kinds of athletes. I sort of chuckled at the word athlete, but I knew I would make a good mentor since I love motivating young women. And then I went to my first event and felt like such a fraud.

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Our first time meeting our mentees was a few weeks ago at the USWT soccer exhibition game. We got to meet them before the game and make posters, eat lunch, play games and then went to watch the game with girls. The girl I am paired with, Ashley, is a cross country runner – something I know nothing about other than I know you run…a lot. The other mentor Ashley was paired with is a marathon runner and I automatically felt like I shouldn’t even be there. Not only was Kathleen what I considered a real “athlete”, but all the other women in the room also seemed to be more of what you would consider an athlete. A lot of the mentors own fitness studios, played sports at a college level, or have run 5+ marathons. And then there was me – a plus-size woman who exercises occasionally.

Even though I felt like a fraud, I still loved the camaraderie of the group of mentor women and I knew I was still bringing something to the table so this didn’t feel like a total loss. And then we had the 5K yesterday. Like I said, Ashley is a runner so she sped off like a bat out of hell once they said GO and like I said before, I am not a runner. I tried briefly to be one. About 6 years ago, my coworker, Sarah got really into running because our mentor and manager at work were really into it and encouraged us to run the Hot Chocolate 5K with her. For a brief few months, I did the Couch to 5K thing and ran a few 5Ks and tried to run an 8K and then I gave up. Running was just NOT my thing so why try to make it my thing, right? Same thought I had yesterday. Just do what you can and get there. And I did it. I cut a few corners so that I didn’t miss the rest of the day (we had some professional athletes come to talk to the kids after the run!), but I did it. And Ashley was so proud of me. Yes, my mentee was proud of ME. It’s a laughable moment, I know and such a Lifetime movie. Mentor gets a mentee who she learns more from than the mentee learns from her. So cliche. But it’s true.

This whole experience, which isn’t over by the way, has taught me that being an athlete is really just a state of mind. I don’t consider myself an athlete because I ultimately I don’t think I do enough to be an athlete, but like Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” This is incredibly true. My adamant statement that I’m not an athlete I believe comes from being plus-size at the gym. Being plus comes with an assumption that I’m not active or that I don’t know how to use gym equipment or I’ve never set foot in a gym at all. It doesn’t help when you meet new people and tell them that you played traveling volleyball and they respond with, “oh really? Never would have thought you’d play sports.” And maybe that’s also because I come off as a girly girl, prissy sort of person, but in my mind, it’s because they think I can’t possibly move my body because it’s larger than theirs.

Sometimes that’s a hindrance for me to want to go to the gym and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I know I’m strong and other days I believe what I think others see in me. However, I also know the importance of being active. I was a student-athlete once upon a time. I know what strength that gave me – to have a voice, to speak my mind, to get to know other women well. It has taught me so many things that are useful for my corporate world life today. It has taught me that being healthy is important. And I know that is what I am bringing to the table for my mentee. Sure, she is teaching me, but I am teaching her what being strong is just by showing up, by participating, by not giving up.

And I think that’s a much better definition of what an athlete is, don’t you?

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A Sassy Iceland Guide

A Sassy Iceland Guide

My girlfriends and I like to travel. If you’ve been here long enough you probably know that since we were just in Cabo earlier in the year and we will take random trips around the country like Charleston, LA, and Nashville, but Iceland was our first “adventure” trip together. Usually, our trips revolve around drinking and shopping and then more drinking and then a nice meal out. This trip was more like athleisure wear and waterfalls and then drinking until we did it all over again! Below is the itinerary we followed and some overall tips for navigating Iceland.

Overall Tips

Let’s start with some tips. I did a LOT of research before I went here and I feel like some of it was valid and some were a little off. So here are my two cents:

  • Everyone complains about the food being so expensive, but I didn’t find it to be that pricey. We went out for meals every night in Reykjavik and we usually spent around $50-$60 each time for a nice meal and wine. If I went out to a nice dinner here in Chicago it would cost me way more than that. I think the issue is that normally inexpensive items are expensive like say a salad or a hot dog are double what they normally would be and that’s why people complain about the price. If you are going thinking you are going to spend what you normally would in a big city like NYC or Chicago then you should be fine!
  • Alcohol IS expensive. Most of it is shipped in so wine is expensive. We bought a bunch of wine at Duty-Free when we landed to help us with pre-dinner drinks and that helped a lot. It’s much cheaper at the airport than in town.
  • We went back and forth on having a car or not, but we ultimately went no car. We didn’t want to have to pack up our bags multiple times and travel around so we just did day trips. It actually was probably cheaper for us too to do it this way because gas is actually VERY expensive so while the car itself is cheap, everything else is not.

DAY ONE: Exploring Reykjavik 

We got into Reykjavik early, so we decided to take the first day relatively easy. We took naps, got ready and went out for lunch at Snaps Bistro. The food was fine, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to dine here.

Next up was a puffin tour with Special Tours. My friend who had just visited told me about it and it didn’t disappoint. It is about a two hr. tour that leaves from the port and it goes out to this tiny little island with all the puffins. You learn alllll the facts about puffins and wildlife in the area.

After our tour, we decided to do what we do best and that is participating in happy hour! Happy hour is a time-honored tradition in Reykjavik because booze is expensive so everything is usually half off during these hours and some bars end pretty late so you can go from bar to bar just chasing deals, which is what we did. Here is our little tour that started from the port and ended on a rooftop!

  1. Slippbarinn – They have really good cocktails!
  2. Lebowski Bar – If you area fan of the movie then you will love this place. We aren’t super fans so we walked in and walked out basically, but worth it to stop by at least!
  3. Kaffibrennslan – This was a cute outdoor bar across the street from Lebowski. If it’s nice out, I recommend it but otherwise, these places are a dime a dozen.
  4. Petersen Svitan – Now this was a winner. This rooftop was gorgeous and the drink and food deals were good. Def hit this spot up!

We ended our day with dinner at Mat Bar which I cannot recommend enough. The food was FANTASTIC especially the bay scallops which they had hand caught that very day. After dinner, we walked home and got the most amazing sunset. I would highly recommend going to the water to watch it. Our set around 11pm and we were nice and drunk at that point so it was the perfect end to the day!

DAY TWO: Golden Circle Tour 

Day two we started the day very early with a tour of the Golden Circle from Get Your Guide. We did one that involved an hour of snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier. I could not recommend this tour enough.

We basically had a private tour with a very nice minibus. It was us and a couple on their honeymoon with our tour guide who was local to the area and knew so much about everything. Since it was a small group we really could pick and choose what we wanted to see and explore more of whereas with a big group you’re really on their time table. We saw so many beautiful things this day including the Geysir, Þingvellir National Park, and Gullfoss Waterfall, but of course, our favorite part of the day was the snowmobiling.

Getting up to the glacier is a bit of a pill since it’s rough terrain you’re in a super jeep, but once you get there it is so worth it. They suit you up so you don’t need to bring any gear, but I recommend long socks because you’re wearing your own shoes. Sneakers are completely fine but you do slide around a bit so just be careful on the ice. Being a plus woman, I was nervous they wouldn’t have the gear to fit me but they had suits up to like a 4X since men in Iceland are pretty big and hearty!

Also of note, this tour is about 8-10 hours. You leave early in the morning and get back around 6pm. Since it’s day time until 11pm this didn’t bother us, but this is why a lot of people like to have their own car so they can do things on their own time table.

When we got back to Reykjavik, we got ready to go out and had dinner at Forettabarinn which is right by the port and Slippbarinn where we had had drinks the day before. This restaurant is cute and casual and good for a quieter meal. I like the location because it’s not in the main busy square. My favorite thing we ate was the lemon quesadillas because after a day out on the road eating lamb, I was ready for some American comfort food!

This night we were SET on finding some fun bars because we had struck out the night before and we were very successful when we found a karaoke bar in the basement of Saeta Svinid. Saeta a burger bar in the main square over by Pablo Discobar (which we tried many times to go to, but it was NEVER full of people), and the karaoke bar in the basement was one of our fave spots we hit up. Afterward, we went to a bar our waiter had recommended – Kaffibarinn – which was full of tourists and right up our alley. This bar closes pretty early though so I would start at Kaffibarinn and end at Saeta.

DAY THREE: South Coast Tour 

We did a tour of the slightly-more-out-the-way South Coast on day three. The tour was also about 10 hours because you’re covering more ground. This one was also through Get Your Guide but much cheaper because we were on a giant bus with about 60 other people. We didn’t like this tour as much because it was so rigid and it was way less luxurious and we didn’t get special attention like we had the day before.

However, we still loved that we got to see Skogafoss Waterfall, the black sand beaches that were in Game of Thrones, and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. So many waterfalls! All so gorgeous! You must come to see this part of Iceland, but if you have your own car I would say that’s the way to do it.

Back home we got ready and went to dinner at Rok Restaurant. We got there right before it closed, so we felt a bit rushed and didn’t love our meal but I feel like maybe it was just because they were about to close and didn’t have everything normally on the menu. We ended our night at Bravo for drinks where we ended up meeting some amazing locals. It was hilarious and fun night…and we stayed up way too late.

Day FOUR: Blue Lagoon & Home 

We saved Blue Lagoon for our last day and I am so glad we did because we were dead as doornails after partying the night before at Bravo.

Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and the water is blue and gorgeous and hot AF. This was definitely the most relaxing thing we did the entire time we were there and I say it’s a must. Each reservation gets you four hours of time at the lagoon. We bought the premium experience which got us each a drink of our choice (smoothie, champagne, beer, etc.), a robe, and a reservation at the spa’s restaurant. The spa’s restaurant lets you wear your robe to lunch and it’s glorious. I had the most amazing lamb dish I have ever had here and then afterward we went right back in the hot springs.

The lagoon has its own shuttle back to the airport that costs about $15 (I believe), that you can book prior to getting on-site and we did that. If you have your luggage with you, you will have to check it at the front gate so make sure to leave time to pick it up on your way out.

And that, my friends, is how to spend the perfect four days in Iceland!

 

Sisterhood of the Lane Bryant Flex Magic Waistband Jeans

Sisterhood of the Lane Bryant Flex Magic Waistband Jeans

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Lane Bryant. All opinions are 100% mine.

Since college ended I have worn dresses almost exclusively. If I show up to an event or party in anything but a dress my friends usually do a double-take, but that’s because I have a hard time finding jeans that fit my body well or that I don’t have to roll the cuffs up on or more importantly, are comfortable enough to wear all day.

A lot of companies seem to think that all plus-size bodies are the same. We are all tall. We all have larger bottoms. We all have thicker ankles. And that’s just not the truth. Just like straight sizes, we come in all shapes. And thankfully Lane Bryant has created a line of jeans that cater to all sorts of bodies and I have never felt sexier in denim than I have in the Flex Magic Waistband High-Rise Tighter Tummy jeans.

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Lane Bryant Magic Flex Waistband Tighter Tummy High Rise Jeans

They fit my body like a GLOVE. My butt is clearly defined and doesn’t look saggy like it does in some other jeans I own. The Tighter Tummy jeans stay up on my waist and don’t lose their structure throughout the day, but they still have some stretch in them. And they have a patented reinforced high-rise panel that helps slim your stomach and smooth your waist giving me definition in my body that makes me feel more confident.

 

And the most important thing for me is that the jeans fit me at the ankles. I have often found that jeans made for plus size women flare out at the bottom, but these mold to your ankle size. I went with the petite sizing since I am 5’2 so the regular size was a little too long for me and I would have had to cuff them.

Now, here’s the most fun part of this whole post. It’s the part where I tell you I’m hosting a denim event at Lane Bryant in Fullerton Plaza on Saturday, August 17th from 2-4pm. I will be there to help everyone try on their amazing Magic Flexband denim that comes not only in this Tighter Tummy style, but also Curvy Fit, their Signature Super Stretch, and the Deluxe Fit. Each of these fits is for a different body type – like if you’re fuller in the waist but smaller through the hips (Deluxe!) or if you have a small waist but curvier hips (Curvy!) – they have something for EVERYONE! So stop by so I can help you shop.

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When I went in last week to try on all the denim, I also was able to try a lot of other items (hopefully you saw my stories when I was in store doing a style session with myself!). I loved almost every top I tried on, but the overall winner was this Striped Off-the-Shoulder Poplin Top. I am wearing a size 16 cause I think this style runs a little big in the shoulders. It’s feminine and adds a pop of FUN to the outfit so it felt very me.

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Striped Off-the-Shoulder Poplin Top

And just in case you didn’t think this outfit was head to toe (except for the shoes sorry everyone!), you were WRONG. Underneath these jeans, I am wearing the Cacique No-Show Hipster Panty with Lace. They are currently having an amazing deal on their website – 5 panties for $35. Amazing deal! I know I needed some new undies and these feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all which I love.

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No-Show Hipster Panty with Lace

Chicagoans – don’t forget to come to try on these magical jeans with me this upcoming Saturday. It’ll be so fun and I wrangled Jim (aka my dad) to come too! You know he will want to style everyone so come out – it’ll be so fun!

 

Why I Don’t Have a Niche

Being able to explain what your brand does is very important. It’s Marketing 101. And having a personal blog, an Instagram, or Twitter is having a brand.

But how do you market that brand when your brand is just simply…you?

Ever since I changed my Insta name to Sassy Confetti I’ve had a hard time figuring out what my “niche” is. For a while, it was food. And then I added in stuff I did around Chicago. And then when Instagram Stories came into the picture and people started asking me about my clothes, I thought why not also talk about fashion? Why not talk about travel? Why not include my family, friends, relationships? Why not just show everyone everything? Instagram is basically a scrapbook of my life anyway…why not just show it all? So, I did.

A lot of people along the way encouraged me to find a niche. “You can’t be everything to everyone,” someone once said to me. When I posted more fashion, food accounts would unfollow and when I posted food fashion accounts would unfollow. And I thought they were right, but I kept growing even though I was sharing whatever I wanted.

Somewhere along the way I stopped caring about having a niche and eventually, people in the blogging world started calling me Sassy instead of Alex because Sassy isn’t just an adjective. Sassy is Alex aka me. And somewhere along the way, I didn’t have a niche anymore because my niche was just being me. That’s what made me stand out. That I was just purely ME…Sassy.

People ask me a lot how I’ve been able to grow my Instagram because lifestyle and fashion accounts are a dime a dozen. It’s hard to grow them because there are just so many. The market is over saturated with people trying to sell you their niche, their brand, their style. So what was my secret sauce? How did I keep growing even though I didn’t have a niche?

A lot of growth is luck – let’s be honest – because not everyone started out on day one when Instagram just began. Some of us started just two or three years ago (or just months ago!) so they didn’t get a leg up. I was lucky enough to start doing this before the saturation had begun, but not when it was at its peak either. When the algorithms weren’t impossible to predict. The other half is hard work. Commenting, responding to DMs, cultivating TRUE relationships is how you really grow.

And then a tiny sliver of growth and success in the blogging world is being real. Being your true self. Showing everyone the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure, you don’t see everything. I don’t always talk about all the bad things in my life, but I do let you in to see enough that you all know a good amount about me and the hardships I’ve dealt with. You also see me without makeup, without a bra, and you see my insecurities. I think growth is a lot about that. And it’s why brands want to work with people now because their audiences trust them when they are honest with them.

So when people ask me to describe my blog or explain what my niche is, I say simply, “My niche is me. It’s about fun and color and food and Chicago and travel and fashion and movies and books and podcasts and friends and family.” Because I am all those things. I’m not just one thing and I don’t want to talk about just one thing either.

And that’s ultimately the most important thing, right? What do you want to talk about? Is it just food? Is it just fashion? Awesome! Go for it! Is it fashion and food? Cool! Is it about all of the above and then some? That’s cool too.

Just be you whether that is having a niche or not.

Things To Do in Chicago During Spring (AKA when it’s still rainy or snowy cause Chicago)

Things To Do in Chicago During Spring (AKA when it’s still rainy or snowy cause Chicago)

If you follow my stories on Instagram, you probably already know that I love staying busy and I love trying new things, which can sometimes be hard in a city like Chicago where you can’t really go outside much during the winter/spring because it’s cold AF. A lot of the time new and fun just means leaving your house for two hours to try a new restaurant. But for me, eating out all the time as a past time gets old fast so below are some things I did this winter and spring that I would highly recommend as the weather is still figuring itself out.

Aura Readings by Revealing Soul 

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My friends and I actually heard about Cindy who runs Revealing Soul from my astrologer friend Lauren of Modern Astrologer. We had done an astrology reading private party the year prior and Lauren had mentioned that her friend was starting to do aura readings. Cindy sets up a special custom camera that takes pictures of your aura, which is the light around your person, and then translates what that means in a group setting. To do a group reading like we did in your own home, you have to have at least 5 people, but she also does private readings out of her own home! We had a great time and I will definitely be seeing her again since she’s a medium as well. More on that to come!

The Magic Penthouse

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This past month, I did a fun date night with my boyfriend to see some magic. But The Magic Penthouse isn’t a regular magic show. For one, they only put on their exclusive shows once a month. The name of the show got its name because they were doing small, private shows out of their friend’s penthouse apartment where a few magicians would come and do magic up close and personal in an intimate setting. It grew from there to where they now do the same thing but in a ballroom at a hotel. The dress is cocktail chic, you get champagne all night (it’s an open bar so really anything you want), and you see magic not just on a stage but while you roam around the room. That way you get to truly interact with each magician as you want. If you’re more interested in mind readers, you could spend the whole 2 hours with just him or if you want to see it all you can walk around and sample all the magic. We truly had the best time and I would highly recommend it. The next show is coming up soon on May 17th!

Vanderpump/Bachelor in Paradise Viewing Parties 

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The only part about Monday that I enjoy is the TV. Right now that means Vanderpump Rules and soon that means Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise! I personally love to go to viewing parties like I did just last night at Broken Barrel to watch the Vanderpump Rules finale. They do theme food specials (like goat cheese balls!) and Pumptini cocktails and set up the room to look like SUR! Ranalli’s also does fun specials during the Bachelor/Bachelorette with heart-shaped pizza and discounts on Bachelor wine (yes, this is a thing).

Face Masks at Scratch Goods 

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This is a super fun BYOB activity. Scratch Goods in the West Loop hosts face mask tutorial type classes all the time and you can do it as a group activity or just go with one or two friends. They walk you through how to make the mask and you get to apply all the product and walk out with a fresh face!

Trial Run: Organic Tampons

Trial Run: Organic Tampons

Let me start this post by saying I am in no way a clean/green natural product expert. I still use non-natural deodorant after a pretty gross rash occurred while using Kopari. I want to try to use more natural cleaning products in my house but haven’t started the transition yet. Clean beauty products are something I have but not exclusively.

However, I read somewhere recently that tampons come in direct contact with very sensitive, highly permeable internal tissue in our bodies (makes sense when you think about it!) and that vaginal tissue contains a very large number of blood vessels and mucous membranes which can carry chemicals and other materials to other parts of your body.

It’s worth noting that the research on the above is so varied. I read article after article while writing this post about if you need to use organic tampons or not and what are the side effects of traditional tampons and one doctor said glyphosate is the main factor for people turning to organic which exists in such trace amounts in tampons that “a lifetime of heavy tampon use doesn’t approach the amount allowed for one day of oral intake.”

So the toxins might not be a major concern, but the idea of organic tampons being biodegradable really spoke to me – especially a plant-based applicator because the less plastic we have that doesn’t disintegrate on this planet is fine by me. Some women also said they felt less hormonal issues (cramping, heavy bleeding) when using organic tampons which also spoke to me since I get really bad cramps during my period.

At which point I was like OK, sounds like I could probably be fine using conventional tampons for the rest of my life, but what is the harm in trying something more natural especially if it’s biodegradable and makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for the earth?

Ironically not long after that, O.B. Tampons reached out to me to see if I wanted to do a collaboration around their organic tampons as did the plant-based feminine care company Honeypot Co. This is what I like to call good old fashioned telling the universe what you want and then it lands right in your lap karma. I’ve also heard really good things about Lola, but I didn’t order any in time for my April period so I will have to add to this post once I receive them in the mail!

Last week, I had my period so I used both organic tampon products and here are my thoughts on organic tampons overall.

CONS: 

  • I felt like I had to switch these tampons out more than conventional tampons. For me, this was comparable to having to apply more natural deodorant throughout the day. It’s doable, but also annoying especially when you’re used to it being so convenient to NOT have to switch out your tampon so frequently. Organic tampons definitely aren’t as absorbent as conventional tampons and that’s what a lot of people usually put in the PRO list because that means it’s less likely for you to get toxic shock syndrome. I usually use Playtex tampons and they are known for being SUPER absorbent so I think the variance there was a big one for me since I’m used to using maybe only 2-3 tampons a day during a heavy day and with organic tampons I used probably more like 5-7.
  • That whole thing about feeling less hormonal? That was a definite NO for me. I had one of the worst bout of cramps I have had in a while this go around. Ones that had me laying on the floor cursing everyone and everything out. I’m not sure if the hormonal thing is something that comes with using the organic tampons more regularly or not, but for me in this instance no I still had heavy bleeding and cramps.
  • The tampons were really easy to insert, but sometimes when removing them it hurt a little bit more than conventional tampons seemed to. This isn’t a deterrent for me, it wasn’t enough pain to make me not want to use them, more of a like, “Oh, that isn’t what it normally feels like”.
  • Organic tampons are much more expensive. I could get a 36 pack of non-natural tampons for the same price as a box of 18 organic tampons.

PROS

  • For me, the fact that both products were biodegradable is a big draw for me and would overshadow a lot of the cons.
  • O.B. actually has applicators that are 92% plant-based which again makes me feel better about trashing them. Honeypot’s applicators are plastic just BPA free.
  • In general, just feel better about what I am putting in my body and what I am putting back in the earth.

Overall, I thought my experience with organic tampons was a positive one. I would 100% buy organic in the future and try different size tampons and companies to find the right one for me.

I wouldn’t say O.B. or Honeypot won over one another. They both had good products that did what they said they would. O.B. might have a bit of an edge because they have plastic-free applicators, but Honeypot was founded by women, donates their time and money to menstruation charities like Happy Period, and is a start-up so really both would keep me as customers moving forward.

If you want to read more on the subject of if organic tampons are right for you, I suggest this article which helped me a lot when I was doing my own research.

15 Years

It’s been 24 days since the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death and I’ve had the draft of this sitting on my desktop since then trying to figure out what to say to convey how I dealt with my grief. I knew I wanted to acknowledge her anniversary somehow and, in my mind, the best way to do that was to write a post about how lately I’ve really felt like I’ve been working through my grief. In the simplest terms, what I originally anticipated this to be was a love letter to myself. Kind of like, HEY Guys, look at me, I dealt with my grief and now I want a pat on the back!

But that to me seems laughable now. It’s funny right that you can have such a clear vision of how you are feeling at any given moment and think you will continue to feel the next day and the day after that, but then just a few days later I’m like, “wait, did you actually deal with your grief? No, you don’t deserve a pat on the back.”

In all honesty, I don’t think I fully dove into my grief ever. I’ve been chipping away at it over the last 15 years as I found the strength. And that’s the thing about grief, right? It’s different for everyone. Mine was a slow burn and honestly something I probably won’t ever get over, but something I will learn to burden me and less and less so eventually it doesn’t affect my relationships and how I live my life.

In the past, I let my grief dictate a lot of how I lived my life. Some aspects made me, in my opinion, better. It made me want to grab every opportunity I could. A friend wanted me to visit her in New Zealand? Yep, doing that because I might not be able to do it ever again. Should I bungee jump? Yes. Should I skydive? For sure. I am really proud that I have literally lived my life to the fullest, but that does have its drawbacks…like zero savings in my 30s and packing on pounds because I should definitely treat myself to that milkshake because who knows if I will ever be able to experience a milkshake again. It’s a slippery slope.

My grief also was detrimental. It made me guarded. I felt like I needed to be strong. For whom? I’m not really sure. Maybe for other people around me so they didn’t have to be made uncomfortable around my grief? But that strength meant numbing the pain and that meant closing myself off to relationships that were scary. Scary relationships were ones that could be ripped away from me – particularly romantic ones. A lot of my “relationships” right after my mom passed were with people who were unavailable – they had girlfriends, they were long distance – in other words they were fleeting. They couldn’t hurt me because they weren’t going to be around long and I knew that.
I was watching Poldark lately, which if you don’t watch and you’re into BBC period dramas then you ABSOLUTELY MUST, and the main character said a really interesting quote to another character whose child had just passed away.

“To be strong is weakness. Tears must fall.”

The quote really hit me in the gut because it made me realize that I had been trying to be so strong that I was actually not feeling the pain. To feel the pain is actually the stronger action.

Since then I’ve tried to change in small ways to let that weakness and grief through. One is to be able to talk about my mom. Even 15 years later, talking about her makes me really emotional. Surface level things are easy to chat about. She liked candy apples. Her birthday was in September. She had a David Yurman bracelet exactly like that! It’s harder to go deeper. I’ve recently started dating someone and I find it especially hard to talk about my mom with him. I think I’ve realized it’s because I’ve really never met anyone since she passed away that I would have wanted her to meet and it’s really hard for me to come to terms with the fact that she never will meet him. Sitting with that grief and actually letting myself grieve the fact that she’s not here for that is something I probably would have grazed over in the past, but I’m trying to truly let myself sit with that sadness now.

Another small change is just having a year of NO. I know most people have a year of yes, but I’ve actually had probably too many years of yes. I am constantly overdoing it and I need to scale back. One way, in particular, is with friendships. After my mom passed I had a hard time of letting any friendships sort of fade and fizzle out. I didn’t want to lose anyone else so I kept people around that maybe I shouldn’t have. My goal this year is to maybe be a little less social, let those friendships fizzle that should have naturally fizzled a long time ago. Inner circles don’t need to be 50 people deep and that is something small I am working to fix over this year.

Also on the docket, spend more time with the people who do really matter and who have been there for me through it all. They are the people it would really hurt to lose and I need to remember that.

My journey with grief is far from over and may actually never be over, but I am proud of how far I have come. If you had known me in college, you would know things are a lot healthier over in this noggin these days. I’ve let the grief soak in below the surface more and I will continue to in 2019.

I guess I will take that pat on the back after all.

Why I Loved My All-Girls Education

Why I Loved My All-Girls Education

Fun fact: I used to be really shy. So shy, in fact, that I used to make my sister ask strangers where the bathroom was or for directions or give my order if we were at a restaurant.

This fact usually shocks a lot of people because I’m a pretty big extrovert now and there are a lot of reasons that probably happened, but the biggest reason was my all-girls education in high school.

I was lucky enough that my parents basically forced me to go to an all-girls school. I say forced because they always knew I would attend Woodlands Academy, which was a part of the same network of schools that my mom had attended as a teenager but gave me the illusion that I had a choice. I looked at another Catholic high school and another all-girls school and ultimately wanted to go to the coed one because at the time my 8th-grade boyfriend was also attending that school. FYI, that same boy came out in college so thirteen-year-old Alex was blessed that she didn’t follow him to high school!

Basically, my mom had loved her all-girls education and wanted to bestow that treasure on me. “These girls will be your friends for life” was a phrase I heard a lot – and not just from my parents, but from teachers and past students alike.

And dammit if they weren’t right. Not only was Woodlands female only, but it was a small school. My graduating class only had 52 students. We all knew each other. Not only did I know every girl in my class, I knew every student in the school. I knew every teacher, administrator, and probably a lot of parents. All that to say, you can’t hide. Hiding was a specialty of mine in grade school. I didn’t want to be laughed at by the mean girls or the cute boys so I didn’t raise my hand even when I probably should have.

But take away the boys and you don’t have that concern anymore, and sure there are still mean girls but you care way less about what they think because again there are no boys so it’s not like I’m really competing with them for attention. They’re just girls. And I’m just a girl and we have the same issues.

You also have way more opportunities to try things you might not have out of fear, being laughed at, or people thinking you’re a nerd. I played sports, but also helped edit the literary magazine which was a skill I took into college by editing the student newspaper and I was made fun of for a lot because it wasn’t drinking beer or partying, but I didn’t care because I had the confidence to not care what other people thought and the skills to make fun of myself alongside my friends because it really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks but me…and it’s great for my resume. I mean, I didn’t have any trouble finding a job post college!

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I recently read an article that talked about a new study conducted by The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) to see if there were real benefits to single-sex education, and specifically for women. They compared self-confidence, academic achievement, political engagement and aspirations of girls’ school graduates vs coeducated peers to see if one or the other were better prepared for college and beyond. The results said girls who had completed single-sex education had stronger academic skills and were more engaged in school.

The ones that stuck out to me though were that girls from single-sex schools demonstrated higher self-confidence and exhibited increased political engagement which I find true of me and all my fellow graduates from Woodlands Academy.

I came into high school as a shy, introverted kid and left a confident(ish) young woman who was way more prepared for college and WAY more into women’s rights. It should be no surprise women and women’s rights are talked about a lot at an all-girls school.

I just think you leave an all-girls school after graduation thinking you can accomplish anything because there are no men telling you it’s impossible or they give the opportunities to the boys first. There are no boys, so there isn’t that competition or like I said before the caring about what a boy might think of you if you participate in something they consider “lame”.

And my mom was right, those girls I met in high school are still some of my best friends today and that’s just an added benefit to what already stands out to me as an amazing education.

 

 

A Sassy Mexico City Guide

A Sassy Mexico City Guide

I usually do these guides split up into categories. Are you looking for food? Ok, here ya go! Are you looking for sights? Ok, I got ’em! But this guide I am going to break out into a day by day guide because Mexico City is VAST and you really have to do it in chunks or rather, by neighborhood, and that’s how we conquered Mexico City over Thanksgiving break.

First things first, I felt insanely safe. That’s the question I get asked the most when I tell people my family and I went to Mexico City for vacation. Yes, we felt safe. We took Ubers everywhere and it was very cheap and every driver was sweet and their cars were clean (cleaner than the ones in Chicago even). Not everyone speaks English, but it’s possible to get by without it, however, my sister speaks fluent Spanish which helps! And I would recommend maybe not staying in the city center, which is what we did, and instead, pick a quieter area like Polanco or Roma. It’s not unsafe or unsavory, but the downtown area isn’t what I imagined and if you want something more quaint then I recommend a smaller neighborhood that you can really sink your teeth into.

DAY ONE 

Our flight arrived late on a Wednesday night, so we really started our tour of Mexico City on Thursday. I had found a free walking tour, something we always do when we go to a new city, of the neighborhood of Coyoacan but it was only on Thursdays so we decided to start there.

We used the Strawberry Tours of Mexico City for our Coyoacan tour and I can’t say I would recommend it. The tour was pretty disjointed and didn’t always make the most sense. It was obvious our guide had knowledge in a lot of things and then not a ton of knowledge in a lot of other things one of those little knowledge things being about Frieda Kahlo who is from the Coyoacan area. And since the tour was of her neighborhood, I think it would have been nice to learn more about her. In short, I recommend a tour because we did learn a lot about this really artsy, historic neighborhood, but maybe with someone who does know the area and history better would have been ideal. I also HIGHLY recommend this neighborhood to people who are into the ‘gram. It is full of brightly colored homes and walls and my dad and I took many photos.

Speaking of Freida, we didn’t end up getting to go to Freida Kahlo’s house for a tour because we didn’t pre-buy tickets and apparently that was a mistake. We got there right when the house opened and there was a line to get in so it’s really THE thing to see in Mexico City. We didn’t feel like we missed out because we did get to see the outside of it and saw this awesome neighborhood but if you’re a big Freida fan, I would pre-order tickets.

After our tour, we went to lunch nearby at Septimo which is a pizza place in the neighborhood. My sister is a pretty picky eater so we end up eating pizza a lot (not complaining here!) but this place was awesome. We had the Mexican pizza which was a more salsa like type sauce, 2 different kinds of Mexican cheese and a basil-like topping that I can’t remember the name of, but damn was this pizza good. We also had this lovely bottle of Mexican wine that we ended up buying a second bottle to take with us on our next adventure of the day.

There was one thing I knew I desperately wanted to do while we were in Mexico City and that was visit Xochimilco. This area is what is left of a vast water transport system built by the Aztecs and people still have these huge gondola-like (but WAY bigger) boats that locals and tourists alike can take cruises on while mariachi bands float past or food vendors. I had heard from a few friends who are locals that this could be super cheesy, but fun afternoon and since it was Thanksgiving at home we thought what better way to celebrate than an afternoon cruise down a canal? If you want to go, read below for some my tips because this is definitely out of the way and somewhat of a tourist trap so you need to know the ropes if you go.

This really ended up being our favorite day of the trip so I really recommend it! We took an Uber here and actually hit a lot of traffic. Traffic in Mexico City is very common – it’s like being in LA! On our way, our Uber driver started to be flanked by a guy on a moped/motorcycle who kept waving him to follow him. Thankfully my sister spoke Spanish and we realized he was from one of the boat companies trying to get us to use their boat company so we did end up following him to a more local drop off location where we haggled with the boat company. We ended up paying $78 for 2 hours on a private gondola. We had read that you can get them down a lot more, but this also wasn’t busy season and we didn’t have much haggling power at this point since there were only 2 boat companies working that day since there was some music festival going on in town.

We brought our own snacks and wine that we had bought from the restaurant and we drank wine and listened to mariachi and had a grand old time dancing and singing. Some tips:

  1. Bring your own food. There are lots of food vendors but everything is way overpriced because most families bring literal feasts on these things and the only people who don’t know to pack food are…tourists.
  2. There are no bathrooms and if you do want to use one on the canal you have to pay so just be aware and have coins if you know you’ll need to go.
  3. Bring a radio or speakers. I wish I had thought of since we could hear mariachi every once when they sailed by, but most people brought their own speakers on board and we didn’t know to do that so we had radio silence a good amount of the time on our boat.
  4. Getting an uber back into the city center was somewhat of a chore, again because of that festival, so we walked about 15 min back to the main square and got an Uber there. This might not apply if it’s less busy when you go, but beware you might need to walk a good while to get back to an Uber friendly spot.

That evening we went to a restaurant close to our hotel for dinner and it wasn’t anything to write home about so not worth mentioning here, but we did have bed wine so don’t worry guys – all is well!

DAY TWO

We had actually signed up for another free walking tour with Strawberry Tours, but when we arrived at the meeting point we realized it was the same damn guide from the day before so we decided to ditch the tour and do our own self-guided walking tour that my sister found online.

I loved doing the tour ourselves so that we could go at a slower pace and explore what we wanted to explore and it took us to a lot of things we felt would have been skipped if we had done a tour with a guide so highly recommend this self-guided walking tour we used. Also, we didn’t get to go here for breakfast because I didn’t realize we would need reservations, but El Cardenal is supposed to be superb. It’s in the Hilton across Alameda Central park that is on the guided tour so we actually did the tour backward and it was perfect. We got to see things like Zocalo, Madero Avenue, and Templo Mayor.

Jim and I love architecture so going to see one of Luis Barragan’s houses was a must for us when we went to Mexico City. I had also maybe heard it was very colorful and that sounded like a gram moment to me 🙂 We chose Casa Gilardi to go to, but we found out later that there are a bunch of other houses and even a church nearby that you can also explore if you have the time. You have to make a tour appointment online via email. I made my sister do it since everything on the website/Facebook page was in Spanish but both the brothers who did the tour spoke English so it didn’t make a difference. It’s not a guided tour in any sense of the word, you basically just show up and walk through the house and they tell you how their family came to own it and that’s about it. It took us maybe 20 minutes to see the whole house, take pictures (which costs extra), and talk to the brothers for a little bit.

Afterward, we walked to the neighborhood of Roma to have lunch at Lardo. This was the least Mexican meal of all since it was Mediterranean but the food was spectacular and the ambiance was even more perfect – it felt like you were in a high-end secret garden. After lunch, we walked around the Roma neighborhood which is very hip and had lots of stores and cute coffee and pastry shops, cocktail bars and other restaurants. We didn’t have a ton of time to explore, but we did head to Condesa DF, which is a hotel, for rooftop cocktails before going back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Like I mentioned above, my sister is not a foodie like my father and I so she stayed home and we went to the highlight of my trip: Pujol. If you’ve watched Chef’s Table on Netflix then you might have seen the episode about this restaurant – one of the best in the world – and their mole madre. It was an insanely fabulous meal and the service was just top notch and when I asked for them to sign my menu they invited us back into the kitchen. One of the best meals of my life!

DAY THREE 

We woke up early to go to Teotihuacan which is a vast archaeological complex outside the city. It takes about 30 minutes to get there without traffic and we knew wanted to be one of the first people there and also before it got too hot. It was November when we went, but it was REALLY hot there and you can get burnt all year round. We all got color despite wearing 30 SPF so beware.

This site was once a flourishing pre-Columbian city and you can climb up to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun to get a view of the whole thing. The steps are very, very steep and I got up about 200 of them before my dad decided maybe I should sit the steepest part out. I’m not lying when I say I am the clumsiest human alive and most people were going down these steps on their butt so I missed maybe the last 30 steps of the site but it was awesome when you’re up there. You can also walk around the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, see the Pyramid of the Moon and other artifacts from the Teotihuacan culture on site.

After walking around for maybe 2 hours, we headed to lunch at the nearby grotto restaurant called La Gruta. The restaurant is legit in the middle of a grotto carved out of a cave. It’s very cool and the food was surprisingly amazing. We even got to try fried crickets which were really tasty.

We got an Uber back to the city which took over an hour this time because of traffic and we all took showers and then went out to explore the neighborhood of Polanco for our last night n Mexico City.

Polanco is a very wealthy neighborhood with lots of cool restaurants, stores, and shops as well as a lot of chain restaurants so you have to do a bit of searching for things that are unique. Our dinner wasn’t that notable but we did get ice cream at Ice Cream Nation which makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Fun to watch and fun to eat! We even stumbled across a Christmas concert in the main square. We really loved Polanco and wished we had more time to explore but we were leaving early the next day so we left after dinner and headed home.

Mexico City was everything we wanted it to be and more! I highly recommend checking out this great city that has so much to offer.

Christmas is Better When You Have a Car: a Memoir

Christmas is Better When You Have a Car: a Memoir

If you know Chicago fairly well, then you know that a lot of people in Chicago have cars despite it being a city. That’s because this city is big and sometimes hard to navigate (ugh to the no east to west public transportation!), and parking isn’t impossible to find like some other cities. Nevertheless, I don’t have a car. I like public transportation and I like walking so it doesn’t bother me…until it’s the holidays. Then it annoys the hell out of me that I don’t have a car. So when Toyota reached out to see if I was interested about using one of their loaner cars for the season and tell you all about my favorite features, I jumped at the chance because doing errands with a car during the holidays is just literally my dream come true. So if you’ve been thinking about upgrading in 2019 let me tell you all the reasons why I loved having the 2019 Toyota Corolla HB to help me be the best Christmas Sassy I could be.

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Apple Car Play

If you follow along in my stories, you probably also know that Toyota took me to the 103.5 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball for the holidays. The concert features a multitude of different artists who all sing about 3-4 of their recent hits and sometimes holiday music! I was most excited to see Calvin Harris perform but ended up loving Bazzi and Shawn Mendes’s sets so much that I became obsessed with their music so the entire time I had the Corolla Hatchback I was playing a playlist I created of all the music I fell in love with at the show. Thankfully I was able to use the car’s Apple Car Play features to do that. It’s so easy to set up your phone to Bluetooth and play your music straight from Spotify! For a music lover like me who likes to play their own playlists when they are out and about this was clutch.

Lane Departure Alert & Automatic High Beams 

Toyota has these Safety Sense features on their cars that I absolutely love and my favorite two are the Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beams. They were particularly awesome during all my holiday shopping because everyone seems to be out and about during November and December and not everyone is great at staying in their lane, so with this feature, you can make sure not leave your lane until the coast is absolutely clear in front and behind you. Automatic high beams are something I feel we see a lot on cars now, but it’s so nice to not have to care about accidentally leaving them on when you have to run into a spot real quick to do an errand!

Road Sign Assist 

This was a feature I had not previously seen before and it kind of wow’ed me! Road Sign Assist actually shows you on your dashboard the speed limit or if a stop sign is approaching so you’re more aware of your surroundings when you drive. I loved knowing the speed limit, especially in the city when it’s constantly changing from 35 to 25 quickly. If you don’t know the area well you might get stuck with a traffic camera ticket and that is the worst!

My experience with the Toyota Corolla Hatchback was amazing and I wish I didn’t have to give it back after a week! If you want to read about my experience driving the Toyota CH-R from this summer you can do so here.

Where to Eat in Chicago on Christmas Eve

Where to Eat in Chicago on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has always been my grandma’s jam. The day started at 10am and ended at 5pm and was jam-packed with traditions. Traditions are also my grandma’s jam. She has one for every holiday and Christmas had the most.

Actual traditions we endured over the years:

  • Sing happy birthday to Jesus with a large yule log cake.
  • Sing the entire Twelve Days of Christmas song as each grandchild hanging an assigned ornament to the tree (this took forever).
  • Christmas card competition. This was just judging all the Christmas cards my grandma had gotten that year. It was definitely the most fun thing we did. There would be rounds and rounds of voting and it got HEATED.
  • Stocking stuffers. Just like so much present opening really.
  • Sometimes if we had a priest there (so Catholic guys, so Catholic) we would have a mini church service.

Afterward, you’re exhausted and you don’t quite know what to do with yourselves, so my parents never wanted to go home and cook a big nice meal for us especially since we usually hosted Christmas Day dinner at our house. It then became a tradition for us to go out after going to grandmas for a nice dinner that was not at our house. When we lived in the suburbs, it was usually the country club because it was easy and on the way home, but after my mom died my dad stopped going with us to my grandma’s for Christmas (another story, another time) and we started meeting him after for a nice steak dinner downtown. Steakhouses are always open on Christmas Eve which is what started that tradition, and also my whole family loves a good steak or a baked potato (my sister doesn’t eat meat!).

In the spirit of giving, I’ve decided to compile a list of places we’ve gone for Christmas Eve dinner and loved, AND also include some places I know are open for Christmas Eve and I have been before and adore just in case you find yourself joining our family tradition of dining out the night before Christmas.

Steak 48 

We are going here this upcoming Christmas Eve! I have never personally been, but I have seen their delicious looking food on Instagram and I am very pumped up!

Maple & Ash 

We have never been here for Christmas dinner, but we did come for my birthday this year and were blown away by the service and the food since it wasn’t what you’d call typical steakhouse fare. If you’re looking for something that is safe for most people (steak, potatoes), but also has a flair for fun then this is the place. They also give you a complimentary drink when you sit down and it’s just got a great ambiance. At this point though, it might be REALLY hard to get a reservation here since it’s such a hot spot, but always call – you never know!

Bistro Campagne

I used to live up in Uptown, which is where my Dad still lives, so we used to go to a lot of places in the Lakeview/Lincoln Park/Lincoln Square area since it was so close to home. This was one of our favorite dinners because it was so quaint, cozy and festive inside. If you’ve never been, their food is divine and highly overlooked because of their location. If they have mussels on the menu, order them.

Mastro’s 

One of our favorite steakhouses. The food is phenomenal – I mean that butter cake come on. The service is fantastic. They have live music. They decorate for the holidays. This place is always packed on Christmas Eve and there is a reason. The year we went it was so busy we had to sit upstairs! That place is gigantic too so idk how that was even a thing. Highly recommend this place if you want a solid steakhouse holiday experience.

Angelina Ristorante 

This was another restaurant we went to a few times for Christmas Eve dinner before I moved from Uptown to the West Loop. If you live in the area, you probably know it as a happening bottomless brunch spot, but they actually have really good Italian food for a good price point. It’s a very casual setting but good ambiance and everyone there is very sweet. If you’re looking for something a little less populated, I recommend this place. I would call and make reservations though, it gets a little busier the later in the evening. We usually went around 5:30pm for a few years.

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I went here last week for a hosted influencer dinner and was highly impressed. If you’ve never been, it’s a Brazilian steakhouse so you get access to the salad bar which includes basically everything you could ever want to eat including soup, charcuterie, cheese, and tons of salad options – made and premade! Then, they bring out the meat and they don’t stop until you say UNCLE which is my dream meal. Zero jokes there. Then you can access their dessert table which is holiday themed and it’s very delicious and very vegan-friendly. Not that I’m vegan, but they did mention that a lot haha.

Shula’s

As you guys probably remember from my stories with Jim, we attended a special Women in Wine dinner here last Friday which Shula’s will have all month long! You get flights of wine paired with your dinner which includes a flight of filets! Yes, 3 filets of goodness all topped with different things. One topped with lobster, one shrimp and one a simple peppercorn sauce. Not to mention, the wine is all made by female winemakers which is so badass. This promotion doesn’t end until January so make it a point to get there even if you don’t eat out on Christmas Eve!

Somerset

We’ve never been here for Christmas Eve, but I’ve personally been here for brunch and dinner and this place has great ambiance, food, and service – classic hallmarks for a good Christmas Eve dinner so I recommend. Their roast chicken is FANTASTIC!

Siena Tavern 

Can’t say enough good things about this place. If I have friends in town, I usually bring them here because I love their lasagna, the meatballs…ok, really I love it all. They still have reservations which is surprising so definitely hop on that!

Prime & Provisions

I came here for a holiday dinner with my coworkers and we were wow’ed by their menu. The location of this one is perfect too since it’s right on Wacker and easy to take cabs, trains, buses to get here and it has a great view of the river if you get a window seat.

Let’s Get Real About Content Creation

Every once and a while, I will see some posts or stories circulate around Instagram that talk about #sponsored posts. The gist of these posts are the following:

  • As a non-content creator, you probably don’t understand that we don’t just do sponsored posts to be annoying on your feed. It’s actually, in fact, because we are trying to make money!
  • Please like and comment on my post so I can make more money.
  • Please and thank you!

Usually, I see these posts and I commiserate, I’m all like, “Yea girl, PREACH!” because I too participate in doing sponsored content with companies and brands and like these other men and women I want to do the best job I can for a brand and they determine my ROI by reach and impressions and likes and engagement. The better all of that is, the more brands want to work with you and the more you can make money.

Add in the drama of Instagram algorithm that might hide your post from your community and doing brand partner posts can be really stressful. Let’s not start on the algorithm. Another post, another day!

I saw a recent Instagram rant though that phrased her frustration a little differently. It basically said, you know those posts you see that look “a little too perfect with a product prominently displayed and the captions that often feel fake?”, you should like and comment on them, it’s how we make money. She went on to say some good points about supporting that person because this is their job and it doesn’t take long to like or comment on a photo if you enjoy their content. Then she goes on to say, “Sponsored posts can be annoying, but if you can look past the cheesy caption and awkwardly placed product you’ll see a woman working hard.”

OK, here’s my issue. We as content creators keep putting this blame of not getting enough likes or comments on the follower/our audience. What if instead of creating content that looks “too perfect” or using “cheesy captions” that might feel authentic, we decided to try something new? What if we took the fewer likes or fewer comments as a kick in the ass to be like, “You know what, maybe I need to try some new things (poses, locations, colors, angles!), see what content my audience wants to see more of, take it up a notch!”

Again, let’s take the Instagram algorithm thing out of the equation because I see really creative, unique content out there that is getting suppressed and unfortunately it’s an issue but it’s a different issue than the one I’m trying to address today.

What I’m trying to say is that we as content creators need to take responsibility for that content we are creating and then ultimately how it performs. Creating content and doing sponsored ads is marketing. Marketing is a lot of trial and error and then strategy and execution. As owners of our brand and content, we should be constantly testing out new things in small doses, see if it works and if it does implement that across our strategy. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it or adapt it slightly and see if that affects your follows/likes/comments.

If you look back in the deep dark depths of my Instagram posts you will see a lot of trial and error that I did. For a while, I took a lot of black and white photos because I liked that aesthetic on other accounts I followed, but I quickly realized it didn’t lend itself to my personality. I am color, I am loud, I am opinions and the community that followed me could see that and wasn’t really engaging as much with the softer, quieter tones I was playing with.

Too often I feel like I see bloggers or content creators doing the same thing when promoting a product. 20 different bloggers doing the same pose, the same background, the same colors, using the same caption. If our content looks like the rest of the content for that same campaign, then how are people setting you apart from the crowd? Why would they want to like or comment on it if it’s seemingly inauthentic, tired and fake?

I have a lot of blogger friends who I give a lot of credit because they are constantly strategizing with their photographers or sounding boards (aka boyfriends or friends or colleagues) about creative and unique ways to stand out from the crowd and trying to cut through the crowd with their own authentic voices.

 

Their product placement makes me intrigued and that’s the whole point, right? I want to see something and be intrigued enough to not just like a photo, but also to swipe up or click that link in that bio! We may be content creators, but we have to be marketers first. That means knowing your audience, engaging with that audience, figuring out what works and what doesn’t from your metrics and then course correcting if needed.

That’s not to say you can’t have AMAZING content and it still doesn’t get likes or views (bc algorithm but again another post, another day), or that you sign a contract with a brand and they have very strict guidelines that you have to abide by which might limit how you can talk to the product or pose with the product or style your photo so I do get those limitations. I’m just encouraging us all to think about this process from the viewpoint of the client and our audiences because sometimes I think we lose sight of that obligation.

And it also doesn’t mean that the woman who wrote the comments above isn’t right. I agree it’s not hard as an audience member to like a post and support another woman trying hard to compete for business. Support, support, support. But let’s also as content creators not become complacent and keep adapting and doing things to deserve that engagement and support.

NOTE: I am not perfect. This doesn’t mean I haven’t done the things mentioned above. I definitely have taken a similar shot as someone, posed in the same way as someone, used a caption that wasn’t that creative. We all do it! Sometimes that’s what feels most authentic to you and you always gotta do you.

Sponsored Posts Explained

I have been on Instagram since its inception when my friend Jamie introduced it to me. If you scroll way far back in my Insta posts, you’ll see the proof in these horrible, horrible shots of grainy dark food shots.

Back then it was kind of the wild west of Instagram and people didn’t have to say if they were doing an ad or indicate it was sponsored because it was new and it hadn’t really been regulated yet. This was also back when I just had a personal account so it also didn’t really matter to me.

Then brands started to realize they could capitalize on these followings people had garnered on Instagram and sponsored posts started to become more and more prevalent. But if you’re not trying to get sponsorships or advertisement deals for your Instagram, how do you know what all of the different terms for sponsored posts mean. #ad, #sponsored, #partner – what does it all really mean? And how much money are people really making?

One questions I personally get a lot is if I blog for a living and the answer is a resounding NO. I don’t make nearly enough money to support myself from my blog or Instagram alone. However, some people do blog full time, but usually, they have a much larger following than I do which means they have a higher reach. Marketers want to reach a wide audience when they spend money on a campaign and people with 100K followers vs. 7K are usually more desirable. Makes sense! So how do I sometimes work with partners or advertisers? As a micro (very micro) influencer, PR companies and advertisers might be more interested to work with me because of my engagement. I might have a smaller audience, but that audience (aka all y’all) are very engaged with me which means you might listen to me as opposed to a larger blogger who could talk about the same product.

Not all sponsored posts are paid opportunities though. This is where I think people get confused the most. What is the difference between #ad, #sponsored and #partner!?

Legally if you are doing a paid for sponsor post, you must include the hashtag #ad or #sponsored according to the FTC. That means if I am getting paid by the company to create content, I have to disclose that I am getting paid to sponsor the product in question. That’s why so often bloggers or influencers feel the need to say, “Guys, this isn’t sponsored”, because for so long you didn’t have to say it was sponsored and people want you to know the difference between being sold to vs. just liking a product and wanting to talk about it.

If you see the hashtag #partner, that usually means that the influencer/blogger got the product for free in exchange for a post on their feed or stories. However, if you see something like #airbnbpartner, that does suffice with FCC as indicating that it is a paid partnership. Paid though can mean many things and sometimes paid just means getting product or expensive product for free in exchange for content.

Now that we know what these hashtags all mean, where does the trust come in? Well, I can’t speak for all bloggers but I personally only work with brands that already use and trust or do research on and find to be quality products that I think you would also like. To talk about Big Fig mattresses again, I received the mattress almost two months ago so I waited to do my review until I had used the bed a good amount to know that it was something I would recommend to you all. If I hadn’t liked it, I would have returned it to the company and not written the post but I truly do love the mattress. In fact, I’d like to be in that bed right nowwwww. If I also haven’t explicitly said this is a sponsored or partnered post, then know that I was not paid to talk about the product.

Dining out at restaurants is a tiny bit different. A lot of times restaurants will host an event or reach out and offer you a meal on the house. Right now FTC does not require you to say that is sponsored so usually if I get a free meal I will indicate that by saying, “Thank you so much to Restaurant X for having me!” or something to that effect so you know I got the meal for free. Same goes for if I got other product sent to me in the mail, I should disclose that they sent it to me for free to review or test.

And that is sponsored posts in a nutshell and hopefully gives you a better idea of how the whole sponsorship process works on our end and how we bring that to life for you!

 

Take Me to Lollapalooza!

Take Me to Lollapalooza!

Last summer, my friend Rob got us backstage passes to Lollapalooza since he knew someone who knew someone in the band Cage the Elephant, and it was one of the best nights of my life for lots of reasons (another story for another time), but one of the reasons was because I met this beauty blogger who also knew someone in the band and she was at Lollapalooza with L’Oreal as an influencer. Back then this blog was just an idea I had and I had just started to take it more seriously and the idea of representing a prestigious brand at such a large event was mind-boggling. I vowed that someday that would be me. I would get to go to Lollapalooza because of my own personal brand.

When it actually happened this year and Toyota asked me to go to Lolla to cover their presence at the fest, it was a total pinch me moment! It was a crazy, wild four days but I was so happy to have the opportunity. And not just that, I got a loaner car this past week to test drive and tell you all about!

But let’s start at the beginning, which would be Day One!

Lollapalooza: Day One

I started my Lolla experience by heading straight to the Toyota Music Den because Fletcher was playing and I love her! A lot of people, myself included until now, don’t know that Toyota actually has their own music tent set up on the north end of the fest. They usually have people who have previously performed during the day later during the week or later in the day so you should always check their schedule when you go next year! It’s a hidden gem for live music 🙂

I also got to check out the interior of the C-HR which is the car I got to drive around all this week, but more on that later! We scurried off after seeing some music and checking out the cars because we had to see Chvrches and Arctic Monkeys who were both fabulous. Day one was a success – especially because it was less crowded!

Best part of the day: Getting my hair & make-up done at Goldplaited in River North! I loved it and I felt pretty badass all day long because of it!

Lollapalooza: Day Two 

My friend Mindy joined me on Friday so we could see our fave body positive singer Lizzo, but first, we stopped by the Toyota Exhibit Love tent that was set up by Buckingham Fountain. This one was my favorite tent because they had free scoops of ice cream and the cones even had the Toyota logo stamped on them! So cute!

Mindy and I also got to record our own voices using the JBL headphones to make a commemorative pin that had our voices etched onto it. I had mine say, “Sassy Confetti loves Toyota!”, because this was the best week ever. That is not sarcasm, this was the best 4 days ever thanks to Toyota. Did I mention they hooked us up with VIP passes? Well after we checked out the Exhibit Love, Mindy and I went straight back to VIP to get some free snacks and drinks all while watching Lizzo from some plush seats with SHADE. Shade is a hot commodity at Lolla, let me tell you! We also go to Bruno Mars, which was a real highlight of the weekend for me. He is such a showman. Day two, complete!

Best part of the day: Meeting Lizzo…well, I didn’t, but Mindy did and seeing her get all emotional about it was pretty great. OH, and I met Jordan from the Bachelor which was pretttttty great.

Lollapalooza: Day Three 

Saturday was a HOT day, so my friend Nic and I went over to the Toyota x Sirius FM booth because we heard it had a LOT of shade. They were right! The whole vibe screamed Marfa, TX (maybe because that was the theme ha!), and it had a real spiritual Texas vibe. I even got my aura read and I mean they readdddddd me. Our spiritual guru told me I need to stop planning so much and just let life happen. Not sure how well I will ever be at that, but I guess we should give it a try if that’s what my aura says, right?

This was our favorite day of the line-up in terms of singers: Carly Rae Jepsen, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd! We had a great time and maybe a little too much wine before ending our night with a faux deep dish pizza at the Hilton across the street!

Best part of the day: All of Nic’s horrible puns. If you watched my stories, then you know haha.

Lollapalooza: Day Four 

At this point, NOT sure how I am alive after four days of drinking in the Chicago humid heat, but I am alive and kicking, and I had to stop by the Toyota Exhibit Love booth again to get my commemorative Lollapalooza screen printed tote.

Afterward, with margaritas in hand, my friend Sammy and I headed over to see The Aces who were fabulous. If you don’t listen to their music, you should start. They are going to be the new HAIM! We also got to see Bazzi and Odezsa to round out a great final day at Lollapalooza. And then it was a week of recovery for me!

Best part of the day: Two things – The Aces (they really are amazing!), and getting glitter like the kids do!

Week After Lollapalooza: Recovery with My Toyota CH-R

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Getting this loaner C-HR from Toyota could not have come at a better time, to be honest! I was so tired from walking all over Lolla that I needed a reprieve from walking all over the West Loop to do errands, pick up lunches, and taking public transportation! Not only that, but I had a wedding in the suburbs and was going to Ravinia on Sunday after the wedding so having a car was super ideal.

After a week of driving it, I had to give it back and I already miss it. My favorite features were for sure the Toyota Safety Sense, which beeped at you whenever you floated across lanes and would nudge the steering wheel back to where you were supposed to be. Really helpful when you’re driving on the highway or narrow Lake Shore Drive! I also loved the in-mirror back up sensor which helped me see if any car was near me when I backed up in my packed parking garage, and this car is Apple Car compatible and I love that hands-off feature where you can respond to texts or command it to call people! It’s a lifesaver when you’re driving and need to send a quick text to someone but don’t want to pull over or be distracted by your phone.

Hands down, I would recommend this car to anyone looking for something that would transition well from city to suburbs.

Thank you again Toyota for such an amazing experience! It was the highlight of my summer!

Rocksbox: The Jewelry Subscription That Keeps My Spending in Check

Rocksbox: The Jewelry Subscription That Keeps My Spending in Check

Let’s start with a confession: I love jewelry. Being plus size means you can’t often shop at regular size stores with confidence that everything will fit, but with jewelry, well that’s another story. I can go anywhere and buy jewels and they will fit! So when I’m itching for a trend, I usually reach for the thing I know will fit: jewelry.

Because of this, I own maybe 30 statement necklaces…half of which I never even wear anymore. I’m not sure I want to know how much money I’ve wasted on cheap jewelry!

Then I heard about Rocksbox. It’s a jewelry membership service that is only $21 a month with designers I know and recognize (and covet like Kendra Scott!).

Here’s how it works:

  1. Log into your account and create a wish list. This was the best part for me because I basically got to curate a little jewelry drawer. Then each month I get some of it in the mail!

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2. You also get assigned a stylist who then curates a box for you every month based on your wish list as well as a style form you fill out when you sign up.

3. Once you verify you like what he/she has picked or selected from your wish list, they send you this pretty package in the mail:

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4. Wear your pieces all month! Or if you like them, but don’t want to buy them, you can keep them longer. Just know you will pay another $21 for every month you keep the jewelry. If you LOVE it so much that you can’t part with it, then you keep it and pay the overall price. That $21 you pay per month will always go towards any purchases you decide to make, and most of the pieces are $20-$40 so you can get a great piece of jewelry out of this deal!

5. Once you’re done with it all, use the prepaid label and the reusable envelope it came it to send it back. Literally just drop it in a post office box (it’s small enough to not have to take to the actual post office which is so great).

6. Then you start the process all over again!

OTHER NOTES: 

  • Each piece is hand-inspected before it gets sent out, so it’s clean!
  • If you buy all 3 pieces, you get $10 off the entire price
  • The company was founded by women and led by women which I personally am a huge fan of!

If you want to try Rocksbox for free for one month, use my code SASSYCONFETTIXOXO in the promo code box!

A Sassy Palm Springs Guide: Part Two

A Sassy Palm Springs Guide: Part Two

Below are some more of my Palm Springs recommendations including shops that you can’t miss, restaurants that are to die for, and the most important walls to take pictures against!

Shopping

  • SHAG: 60s themed art – super fun store that has a little tiki bar that was great for a photo shoot!
  • Christopher Kennedy: This guy is known for being the ‘it guy’ of Palm Springs interior design. His store has tons of fun goodies. I bought a little cactus planter for my apartment here.
  • Trina Turk: The clothes are expensive, but they also have a Mr. Turk store next door that has lots of little trinkets including a lot of Jonathan Adler stuff which I’m a big fan of.
  • Christopher Anthony: Cute art store. All these stores are right next to each other. Basically Palm Canyon Drive has tons of shopping and eating and you can’t go wrong at any of these places, but these were my faves!

Restaurants

  • Eight4Nine: We went for dinner, which was good but not super amazing for the price, but I would recommend coming for drinks and appetizers in the bar area. This place is definitely a scene and has an awesome outdoor chic patio.
  • Purple Palm: Highly recommend for brunch. Their croissant BLTA with a fried egg was to die for. And the restaurant looks out onto the hotel pool, so it’s great for a long brunch with mimosas and a great view.
  • El Jefe: Good Mexican place in the Saguaro hotel.
  • Birba: Cute Italian spot in downtown Palm Springs. Not far from the tiki bar I mentioned in my first Palm Springs guide. Make sure to sit on the patio – it’s got lots of twinkle lights and it’s very magical.
  • Ice Cream & Shop(pe): This place is a two-for-one. They are both a ice cream parlor AND a cute little store. We came here and got date ice cream (SO GOOD) and shopped their cute trinkets including a flamingo pool float that holds my drinks while I sunbathe!

Walls

  • Trellis at Parker: This is something everyone in Palm Springs has a picture with – it’s literally right outside where you walk into the lobby. Also the bellmen are very well versed in taking photos here so use them – they know the best angles!
  • MDMN Mural: This very colorful mural is right outside Trio in downtown Palm Springs. Hit up the parking lot and you will find it!

A Sassy Palm Springs Guide: Part One

A Sassy Palm Springs Guide: Part One

Oh Palm Springs! It’s a wonderland of color, architecture, and modernism and I LOVE it. If you didn’t know before (and you probably do), I love color. Palm Springs basically IS color, so it’s an awesome place to go if you want sun, history, culture, and relaxation. Below are some of my recommendations for hotels, things to see, the best pool party scenes and bars!

Hotels

Palm Springs has some fierce hotel options and while most of the ones below are $$$, they are super gorgeous and even if you can’t afford to stay at one, checking them out for the interiors, architecture or bars/restaurants, is definitely recommended!

  • Parker: God, is this place just #GOALS. The first time I came here was just for cocktails during a bachelorette party and we got to hang out in the lobby and have some spicy margs, but didn’t get much further. This place is so exclusive that a lot of movie stars stay here (Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron were JUST there according to my Uber driver), so they keep the grounds on lock down only to guests. Even if you’re going to the spa for the day, you can’t just wander around the grounds after. Somehow, we convinced the security guard to let us prance around and we happened upon so many fun nooks and crannies. If you can somehow sneak back here, totally worth it. You could hang out here all day playing croquet, giant chess, ping pong or in their many pools. Also, the spa is so great and I got one of the best facials I’ve ever had. Another fun note: Jonathan Adler just did some of the renovations and the decor is so colorful, quirky and fun.
  • Saguaro: Another place that screams COLOR! I have actually only been to this hotel in Phoenix because the last time we were there was the big White Party and it was mayhem trying to get on property, but this place is great to stop by and explore and take some Instagram pics 🙂
  • The Colony Palms: This is where I stayed this past weekend and my sister and I were big fans of the relaxing pool (this is NOT a party pool by the way), big fluffy robes, and good drinks. Their restaurant is really great, so I highly recommend coming here for a drink or dinner.

Things to See

  • That Pink Door: This is someone’s actual home that people come to take photos in front of all. damn. day. I am no exception. I came here with a gaggle of girls during my friend’s bachelorette and we did a full on photo shoot and it was great. The address is 1100 E Sierra Way if you feel so inclined to do the same! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #thatpinkdoor. Yes, it has it’s own hashtag.
  • Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway: Mid-century modern architecture runs rampant in Palm Springs, and one way to see it is by bike. That’s what my friends and I did when we were there last May. It was hot as Hades but we biked all over including to Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway, which was also his and Priscilla’s home for two years in the ’60s. You can go in and get a tour, but we just biked by and stopped for some photos.
  • Self-guided architecture tour: I am huge in history and architecture, so checking out some of that while we were there was important to me. Click the link here for some of the better spots to check out and you can do your own tour – with a car or a bike!
  • Tramway: This past weekend was my first time going up the Tramway, and it was a really fun little trip. We went up and had some lunch and lots of wine (whoops!) and just chilled. The view is spectacular and a little chilly so bring a jacket. Pro tip: they have full bars at the main level where you pick up the tram and another one at the top, so you can drink while you wait for the tram on both sides!
  • Lisa Vanderpump’s Star: While you’re shopping, you have to stop and get a picture with Lisa Vanderpump’s star on the Walk of Fame. I’m a huge Housewives fan, so this was a must for me. You can find her star at 155 S. Palm Canyon Dr.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: FYI, the national park is only about an hour away from Palm Springs, so if you have a car I HIGHLY recommend checking it out. We went at sunset for a picnic and I wish we had had more time to explore.

Pool Parties

  • Riveria at Palm Springs: This place is a bachelorette heaven and has great DJs, fun cocktails (get the mojito!) and sometimes have fun pop-ups around the pool. When we were there they had a free tequila tasting! If you want a fun party atmosphere, I highly recommend their pool party.
  • Saguaro: I mentioned them above, but you should for sure check which DJs are playing while you’re there because that totally indicates whether it will be a rager or not. I still need to get here, but I’ve heard this place gets wild.
  • Ace Hotel & Swim Club: This place is all about the pool parties and often have different themed ones, so check out their calendar to see what’s happening while you’re there because it’s probably worth checking out.

Bars

  • Bootlegger Tiki: This is the cutest little tiki bar speakeasy in the middle of downtown Palm Springs. Cocktails are great, inside is adorable.
  • The Purple Room: This was a Rat Pack hang-out back in the day and still acts as a traditional supper club with live entertainment. I did not get to go, but I’ve heard it transports you back in time. Def make a reservation and get a martini.
  • Woody’s: If you can’t get a reservation at the above, I recommend here. It’s more casual, has great burgers, and the Frank Sinatra-esque live music. A lot of musicians also hang out here so you never know who you will see!

Check back next week for more of my Palm Springs recs – including restaurants and walls!

 

Travel Essentials: Sassy’s Expert Packing Tips

Travel Essentials: Sassy’s Expert Packing Tips

Last week, I gave you some short tips for being a better packer in my Instagram stories, so I thought I’d transcribe them as well as some of my other expert packing tips here for your next trip! Ironically, my next trip starts this Thursday…yep, leaving Chicago again for sunny California and some downtime with my family.

1. Lay out all your clothes day by day before putting them in your suitcase.

This is my number 1 tip for all time. It really helps eliminate wasting space and also overpacking. I will lay out my outfits literally day by day that I will be somewhere. For example, I’m going on a trip this weekend so I will lay out my clothes from Thursday plane outfits to Sunday plane outfits and everything in between. This includes laying out accessories and shoes! This way you don’t forget anything at home and you have no confusion about what to wear moment to moment. The only issue is that you are then required to wear what you bring, so I usually bring one back up outfit just in case something doesn’t speak to me while I’m gone. But ONLY ONE.

2. Minimize how many pairs of shoes you bring by picking outfits that share similar shoe choices. 

Even if you’re just bringing a carry-on, that carry-on can get mighty heavy if you are dragging around multiple pairs of shoes. So to mitigate that problem, I usually try to wear outfits that share similar shoe choices. The only time this is hard is when I’m traveling for work and know I need to be on my feet a lot. It is usually nice to switch up your shoes daily to avoid your feet feeling like actual death. If you need a lot of shoes, then I recommend lighter clothes 🙂

3. Pack each section of your suitcase by when you’re going to wear it. 

When I get somewhere, I don’t always love unpacking my suitcase especially if I’m only there for 2-3 days. So I usually like to pack bottom to top based on the days I will be there. Put the items you know you won’t need until the end of the trip at the bottom of the bag and work your way up. I try to keep my first outfit, pajamas, underwear at the top of the suitcase for easy access and then use a drawer in the hotel for my dirty clothes until the end of the week/weekend and then dump all the dirty in together!

4. Include your heaviest items as part of your plane outfit. 

This usually only pertains to the winter months, but I usually like to include my heaviest coat or shoes as part of my outfit for the plane so they don’t take up a lot of space in my suitcase that can be used for more important things like my hair styling tools. Heaviest shoes, or just ones that take up a lot of space, are either booths or running shoes. Running shoes that rarely ever get used by the way, but I bring them everywhere like I will suddenly be someone who works out when they travel.

5. Always have your bathing suit, underwear, and toiletries at the top of your suitcase. 

There have been many times I’ve been asked to check my bag last minute because it’s a small plane or there isn’t room on a connecting flight if I show up late, and my luggage has been lost a gooooood amount. So I’ve learned that when that happens, I usually grab the important things from my bag before handing it over. This means they need to be at the top! If I’m traveling somewhere tropical that means grabbing my swimsuit (I’ve been in St. Thomas for a week with no bathing suit…it was horrible),

 

Travel Essential Series: Shop My Beauty Bag

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I leave for Orlando tomorrow for work (eek – it’s gonna be a big week!) so I’m doing a travel essentials series for you guys! Earlier this week, I gave you a list of all my fave Netflix shows to binge watch on flights, and when I’m not at work dinners, and today I am going to share all my fave travel beauty must-haves!

Let’s start with what you need in your carry-on first. I fly a LOT, so I’ve learned over the years, especially as I get older, that moisture is key. That’s why I always fly with Evian facial spray and Rohto drops in my carry-on. A water mister probably sounds stupid, but it’s seriously changed my life on long flights. Spray it on a few times during the flight and especially after you wake up from a long nap. It’s refreshing and hydrating and just plain feels good! My eyes are naturally dry so I tend to travel without my contacts in if it’s an international flight, but if I’m just flying in the US, I always have Rohto with me. It’s like Icy Hot for your eyes and brings relief quickly and stays a lot longer than normal eye drops from the drug store.

To keep the hydration theme going, lately, I’ve been traveling with a lot of face masks and eye pads. My favorite eye patches are by Klorane:

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There is nothing better than after a long day of work, coming back to your hotel room and just laying back with some cooling eye pads. Plus, hotels dry you out! I usually start with a face mask and then end with the cooling eye patches. My go-to masks are the Say Yes line. Particularly love their charcoal face mask!

Getting ready in the mornings usually has to be a quick and ready type thing for me. When I’m on-site for events, I usually work late and get up early. So a quick shower, some dry shampoo, and a perfume bath are usually what happens.

My favorite dry shampoo is by Batiste and you actually can buy travel sizes of it on Amazon! They sometimes have it at Target, but they didn’t this time so I’m traveling with a Tresemme one that I don’t love as much.

Finding travel size perfume is usually not fun either. Sephora sells rollerball version of most popular scents. My favorite is Marc Jacobs, which you can also purchase on Amazon as well. I also sometimes will buy some scents from Pinrose. They have little perfume wipes that I like to travel with and that also allows me some variety of perfume scents which you don’t usually get when you travel!

Best thing I travel with though is my Tangle Teezer. I get HUGE knots in the back of my hair if I don’t wash it daily (even if I brush it often), and I have a really sensitive scalp so getting the knots out is not fun. This brush somehow gets the knots out without hurting your head at alllll. They have a travel size which I just recently bought to take with me everywhere. Obsessed.

And that, my friends, are my travel beauty essentials!

Travel Essential Series: Netflix & Fly

I travel a lot for work, which means I spend a lot of time in the air! Most of the time, I have to log onto wifi and do some work, but sometimes I like to sneak in some recreational time and either read or sit back and Netflix.

I’m sure this isn’t news to a lot of people, but did you know if you have the Netflix app that you can download their shows so you can watch them without streaming!? This isn’t just great for planes but great for any kind of public transportation situation. So, I like to load up on some shows just in case I don’t want to use a lot of my battery whilst traveling. Below are some of my favorite shows available on Netflix now AND are downloadable (because not all of them are!).

Schitt’s Creek 

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Oh man, this show gives me so much joy. It’s about a family who loses all their money and the only thing they still own is a town called Schitt’s Creek and they move there and small-town hilarity ensues. Eugene Levy wrote this with his son Daniel who also stars in the show. Things I love about this show: Moira’s accent, anything to do with Alexis, and 100% I want to be bff with David.

The Confession Tapes 

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If you liked Making of a Murderer, you will like Confession Tapes. Each episode follows someone who was coerced into giving a confession and later backtracked claiming that the police made them confess to something they didn’t do. A lot of this for me was a did they/didn’t they guessing game. Some of the stories really made me nauseous that this is our justice system. Moral of the story: always get a lawyer.

Glow

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Anytime I suggest this show, people are always like, ‘A show set in the ’80s about girl’s wrestling? Pass.’ But for real, this show is really funny and heart-warming and apparently based on a true story of a real-life show from the ’80s called “GLOW”. Alison Brie is really great in this as a struggling actress who answers an add to be on this new reality show. It’s short 30 min. episodes and I blew through the first season in one day. It’s cute, it’s quirky and I highly recommend.

Last Chance U 

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I am a thing for documentaries and this was one of the first ones I streamed on Netflix. It’s about a community college in East Mississippi that takes in players that have been removed from their Division 1 schools for disciplinary reasons to give them their last chance to possibly be recruited back into a D1 school so they can eventually go on to the NFL. The first season is fascinating and really sort of plays out like a Friday Night Lights episode meets The Blind Side. You don’t need to like football to like this!

Hasan Minaj: Homecoming King 

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Hasan Minhaj’s stand-up comedy special is less stand up and more like a stand-up memoir about his life. He starts with how his parents met, how he lived for a long time alone with his dad in America while his mom was in India, and moves on to his life going up in California with immigrant parents. I learned a lot about the Indian culture during this special, which isn’t something I could say about others and it’s freaking hilarious to boot.

The OA 

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This is one of those shows that I want to tell you to just watch without really giving you any context. If you’ve watched any other films of Brit Marling’s, you’ll know this gets a little out there in terms of storyline and content, but I love the storytelling of it and how it keeps you guessing at every turn. If you don’t like sci-fi, this is not for you.

Marcella 

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The show opens up with a woman in a bathtub covered in blood but alive. Is she a victim of a crime or a perpetrator? We don’t know. Then we find out, this woman in the tub is the main character and she can’t remember what happened the night before. I love murder shows and I love psychological thrillers. This combines both. Marcella is a former cop who gets brought back onto a case because a serial killer has seemingly come out of retirement, but how is she linked to it? We don’t know and SHE doesn’t know which makes this show ten times more thrilling.

Sassy’s Book Club: My Favorite Books of 2017

Sassy’s Book Club: My Favorite Books of 2017

If you read my post the other day you got to learn more about my writing aspirations growing up. So, it will hopefully come to no surprise that I am an avid reader. Growing up, I was obsessed with the Bronte’s and Jane Austen and also any chick lit I could devour. I don’t read as much as I used to as an English major, but I still try to read at least 20 books a year (thanks for keeping count Goodreads!). Speaking of Goodreads, follow me if you want to see real life updates of my 2018 reading challenge progress!

Below are some of my favorite books that I read during 2017 (and some in 2016, but were too good to not tell you about!). I also linked them all in my Amazon Shopping List!

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler

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This book was actually recommended to me by my friend Ellesse after I asked for some recommendations mid-year because I was almost exclusively reading books recommended by The Skimm and being super disappointed in them. Do NOT read The Light We Lost, by the way, it’s horrific and I can’t believe The Skimm recommend it. Anyway, this book is a delight. It somehow manages to be funny and serious at the same time. The writing is smart, sassy, and the topic is intriguing. I’ll give a tiny synopsis, but I don’t want to give anyway away so this is going to seem pretty vague. The story is about a girl in college whose brother has disappeared, and it is somehow connected to another disappearance of someone in her life who felt like family. It’s not really a mystery, but more like a mystery of trying to figure out who these two people were in the protagonist’s life. Read this. It really is spectacular.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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This is one of the books that I read in 2016, but it’s one that I recommend anytime someone asks for a book recommendation. This one was a fast read for me, mainly because each chapter follows a different person within this one family that originated in Ghana. The interesting twist is that the story starts with two sisters of a Fante tribe. One of the sisters is captured and traded to Englishmen to be shipped to America and be sold into slavery, while the other stays in Ghana. The story unfolds over 300 years, but each chapter zeroes in on one person and it progresses up until modern times. I learned so much about the slave trade in this book, but also just about progress, or lack thereof, that our countries have made since then. Fantastic read. Couldn’t put it down.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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OK, I’ll admit it. This was no The Girl on the Train, which is why I think it doesn’t get a high rating on Goodreads. However, I found the content highly intriguing. I’ll agree, there are a lot of characters in this book and at first, it’s hard to keep them all straight, but see it through and trust me you will not regret it. What the book descriptions don’t tell you is that this book is anchored in witchcraft. Meaning these turbulent waters that all these women die in are connected to witches being taken to them to see if they could float back during the Salem Witch Trials era. If you could float, you were a witch and if you sunk, you weren’t a witch, but usually died anyway. The story follows a slew of different female characters and their connection to the water and I found it very interesting once you figured out who was who. I kept a little list on my bookmark while I was reading it to make sure I didn’t forget each character’s little back story.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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Cue the sobbing. This memoir is about a young doctor who is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and begins to write about his experiences because as a young boy, he had debated between a career in medicine or in literature. The memoir is really about what makes a life worth living and it’s poetic and beautiful and lyrical. Kalanithi is really a genius with words and it’s crazy how talented he was. If you’ve dealt with cancer in any aspect of your life, this is a hard read, but very much worth it. This one was recommended to me by my father and sister since we have all dealt with a lot of cancer in our lives and it was very therapeutic.

Shrill by Lindy West

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If you are curvy (and even if you’re not), I highly recommend this read. West’s memoir is about not fitting in and how she dealt with that and is still dealing with it now with her highly public battle with Internet rolls. I found myself taking screenshots of multiple pages to go back later and to read and bring up in conversations, which to me is always a sign that something is sticking and resonating with you and therefore should be recommended to others to read as well.

Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola 

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This book was recommended to me by one of my fellow book club members, Sami, and I really enjoyed it. Hepola is very self-deprecating, one of my favorite traits about myself btw, and while the story she tells is very sad and sometimes hard to hear, she somehow makes it…I don’t want to say funny because it’s a serious topic, but yea it does have a good amount of humor.

A Sassy Nashville Guide: Part Two

A Sassy Nashville Guide: Part Two

So far, we’ve covered my favorite on Broadway, breakfast/brunch spots and shopping of Nash Vegas. Let’s move on to the meat and potatoes of Nashville – the murals, dinner, and sight-seeing!

Murals

 

 

  • I Believe in Nashville: located at 2706 12th Ave South. This one is an icon and even though it’s overdone, you have to do it. It’s also right near most of the shopping in my last post so if you go shopping in the 12 South area, you will definitely not miss this mural.
  • Draper James Stripes Mural: located at 2707 12th Ave South. You guessed it, this one is on the Draper James storefront! Go shopping and see a mural.
  • Nashville at Heart: located at 2705 12th Ave South. Show your #NashvilleatHeart by visiting this mural done by the American Heart Association!
  • Ian Ross + Jason Woodside Murals: located at 11th and Laurel in the Gulch area of Nashville, which is right across the street from yummy brunch place Milk & Honey. These are two different murals right next to each other which means double duty without a lot of travel to grab your shots!
  • Google Fiber mural: located in East Nashville at 1012 Woodland St. aka outside Five Points Pizza. All the color, all the fun.
  • Star mural: located at the corner of Martin St & Humphrey St in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. Good if you’re wearing a very bright colored outfit!
  • Alley outside Three Brothers Coffee: someone compared this wall to modern hieroglyphics. This wall is completely black and white so it works really well if you are wearing something SUPER colorful.
  • Looking Pretty, Music City: At the end of the block that houses Marine Layer in 12South, you will find this very colorful wall with the saying “Looking Pretty, Music City”. Incredibly cute.

Dinner Spots

 

 

  • Husk: I could not be more in love with this place. It’s got such great Southern charm. The food is magnificent (esp the charcuterie board) and even if you don’t get food here, you can saddle up to their bar and just get a cocktail and apps. But for sure worth the price tag.
  • Five Points Pizza: a very casual spot in East Nashville. Their garlic knots are out of this world. They have local beer and wine in tap from City Winery. Their pizza is creative and different – like this vodka sauce pizza we had. Perfect hangover food.
  • Pharmacy Burger Parlor: this is a great spot for the summer because they have an awesome beer garden and great burgers that come with tots. Do I seem obsessed with tots? Because I am.
  • Rolf & Daughters: this is not an exaggeration, but this is the literal best meal I’ve ever had in Nashville, hands down. I had this fabulous duck for my entree, but the starters were real stand-outs. The beef tartare toast was just sensational and the butternut squash which didn’t even taste a thing like a squash. If you can get squash to taste not like squash, you can come cook for me anytime!
  • The Old School: The experience here is nothing short of magical. Yes, it’s a little out of the way but it’s worth taking time out of your way to go. They have live music on the weekends so you can listen to folk music as you eat and the vibe is very chill, low candlelight with a modern Little House on the Prairie take on decor. The carbonara and duck dishes were INSANE. And the service was just outstanding. I’ve also heard this place does goat yoga and in the summer they have live music on their lawn. It’s such a cute place! I want to come back in the summer and get a cheese plate and listen to music outside and drink all the rose. Anyone with me?
  • Dino’s: My favorite food is a good burger, so for my birthday I found Dino’s which is a seedy dive bar with greasy delicious food. Their Bad Boy Basil burger with basil aioli and avocado really hit the spot. If you don’t want to sit in the actual bar, there is a really cute patio out back with some cool murals to boot!
  • Chaatable: We thought this place would be more of a fancy vibe, but it’s def more casual. Indian street food that is really delicious. Come hungry – the servings are huge for a family-style type place!

Sights to See 

  • Parthenon: I’ve never been to Athens, so I can’t attest that this is as grandiose or as beautiful as the actual Parthenon, but it was pretty incredible to see a full-blown replica in the middle of Nashville. Apparently, it was built to celebrate the state’s 100th anniversary because of the city’s nickname for being the Athens of the South. This nickname comes from all the universities and colleges in the city. Nashville was THE place to go to school in the 1800s/early 1900s if you lived below the Mason Dixon.
  • Ryman Auditorium: the first time I was in Nashville, I got to see the Opry at the Ryman since the Gaylord hotel was being renovated. It was the most amazing experience. I highly recommend seeing the Grand Ole Opry show at the Ryman if you can. It’s a radio program that is broadcast live and all sorts of different performers come (some very famous!) and perform. We got to see Jimmy Dickens there as well before he passed, which if you are a country fan you know that’s a big deal! They also just do tours during the day, which if you are a history fan, I highly recommend.
  • Country Music Hall of Fame: I really only recommend the hall of fame if you are a big country fan. I love country music so it was fun for me to see all the costumes and memorabilia, but if you aren’t into country music this probably isn’t the place for you. They do have a good amount of Taylor Swift stuff, so if you’re a big Swiftie then it might be worth it!

3 Cocktails to Make your Cold Days (or Nights) Warm & Cozy

3 Cocktails to Make your Cold Days (or Nights) Warm & Cozy

It has been a dream of mine for a while to get out of Chicago for NYE. It just feels more exotic somehow! So this year, my friend and I decided to go visit our friend who moved to Nashville two years ago. Nashville seemed like a good idea since it’s usually a lot warmer than Chicago and we were hoping to wear fall coats and boots and romp around the city sight-seeing.

Of course, it ended up being a balmy 9 degrees most of the weekend so staying warm was key! And since it was a vacation, after all, we figured the best way to do that was to spike our coffees and hot chocolates as we ran around Nashville using Solo Hot Cups to Go.

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you can get solo hot cups to go at the grocery store!

Below are some of my favorite recipes for spiking my hot beverages in the winter. These are great to transition from afternoon to night too and keep you caffeinated and warm. And they are all SUPER easy because as you all know, I am all for the simple and easy when it comes to cooking or making a beverage. That way you can consume it sooner and faster! And by using Solo Hot Cups to Go, it was a simple and easy cleanup. In other words, there was no cleanup!

 

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The Hot Bird

  • 1.5 ounces Songbird Coffee Liqueur by Cardinal Spirits
  • 6 oz. hot coffee
  • Whipped cream

This one is simple. Just add the liqueur to your coffee and top with whipped cream (or don’t!) and you’ve got one spiked hot coffee that is good to go sight-seeing with!

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An Irish Winter

  • 1 1/2 oz. chocolate flavored whiskey
  • 1 hot chocolate packet
  • A dash of peppermint oil/extract
  • Marshmallows

Make your hot cocoa. I’m a single lazy girl, so I buy either buy my hot chocolate at a coffee shop or get the pre-made packets from the grocery store and then add the whiskey and peppermint oil and top with as many marshmallows as I please! I love this one because it tastes nothing like alcohol and everything like chocolate and peppermint! It’s like a Frango mint.

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Spicy Cumin Margarita 

  • 2 oz. Spice Note cumin tequila
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. simple syrup

OK, I know I know. This one is not very warm. In fact, you probably want some ice in your to go cup. But, this tequila warms you up with one sip because it’s spicy! And the to go cups keep your hands the perfect temperature! Place all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake it like a salt shaker and then pour over ice (or don’t pour over ice if you’re freezing!).

 

A Sassy Guide to Galena & the Car That Got Us There the 2020 Toyota Highlander

My family and I usually take a big trip during the summer since my sister has it off from school, but 2020 is a weird one so instead of doing a trip to say Japan we decided to do a road trip to Galena, IL. It’s about 3 and half hours west of Chicago and has tons of history. 87% of Galena’s buildings are historic buildings and can’t be torn down so it’s literally like stepping into the 1800s when this town was in its heyday. Galena is located right on the Mississippi River so it used to get a lot of steamboat traffic, but when the rivers got lower the steamboats couldn’t get through because their cargo was too heavy and the city eventually lost its luster, but it makes it such a cute getaway today!

2020 Toyota Highlander – peep that sun roof tho!

Toyota loaned us their new 2020 Highlander for the weekend and it was literally the perfect car for a family road trip. Some of our favorite features as a family included:

  • Ventilated front seats (it was so hot out this was amazing!)
  • Three-zone automatic climate control with separate second-row control panel so we each could have individualized temperature settings!
  • Wireless smartphone charging station – key for doing directions from your phone and not losing battery
  • Jim’s favorite thing – the in-dash split level shelf where he could put his mask and napkins haha
  • The Head-Up Display with speedometer and navigation assistance that appears right above the steering wheel in the glass so you don’t have to turn your head to look at directions or what music is playing!

We arrived in Galena at our B&B Felt Manor Inn on Friday evening around 5pm. I had won a gift card for a stay at the inn last year so it came in super handy when we needed a getaway that was closer to home, in-state, and had a private coach house so we didn’t need to have contact with any other guests.

Felt Manor Inn.

The coach house is completely separate from the main inn and was recently renovated and is completely modern. The rooms in the inn are more traditional to a 1800s home with no TV, etc., so I am glad we picked the coach house because we decided to have a pizza & movie night our first night in Galena. We had originally planned to eat downtown but the pizza place we wanted to try was still only doing take-out. This ended up being a blessing because downtown was PACKED to the gills with people and bachelorette parties. We felt more comfortable doing our own thing at home. We got pizza from Cannova’s which was actually fabulous – get their speciality pizza with spinach – YUM!

We started Saturday morning early because we wanted to do some physical activity by renting bikes from Fever River Outfitters to ride along the Galena River Trail. 3 bikes for 2 hours were about $60 – a real deal to us city peeps! We went about four miles down the trail which ended at a really great view of the Misssissippi River and some really cute rainbow Adirondack chairs and then biked back.

We stopped at the Belvedere Mansion on the way back which was a real treat. This home was considered the first mansion in Galena and was owned by J. Russell Jones who owned a bunch of steamboats. The home was eventually sold after he got offered a job as a US ambassador to Belgium, but the home itself is still maintained in all its 1880s glory. A lot of the house has trinkets and treasures from all places over the US so each room has its surprises – like the original drapes from the movie Gone with the Wind are in the conservatory and there is a clock that possibly belonged to the captain of the Titanic!

Galena River Trail.

After our tour, we rode back downtown and got lunch at Dirty Gurt’s – good pub type food – and then went home to shower. I had convinced everyone that we needed to do a winery tour of Galena’s finest wineries in the area, but I failed to realize most of them closed at 5pm so we ended up only going to Galena Cellars Vineyard, but it has a gorgeous view of the hills and you can do wine flights for as low as $10. I did the rose flight and Jim did a dry wine flight.

That evening we went for dinner at a German/French hybrid restaurant called Fritz & Frites which was cute. Most of Galena’s Main Street is shut down so people can eat in the streets and it makes for a cute little view downtown.

Sunday morning we woke up relatively early again to pack up, eat our delicious breakfast from the inn (they make it fresh every morning! drool!) and went back to downtown Galena to do our own self-guided tour of the history of the downtown buildings and stopped in some of the shops like Galena Apothecary, Great American Popcorn, and Elle & Beck. On our way home we stopped at Thunderbay Falls which had these gorgeous falls and fishing (we just did the falls!), and then drove the 3 hours home.

Galena Cellars Vineyard.

COVID CONCERNS: This weekend away was literally just what the doctor ordered for me – I really needed to get out of the city. Downtown was a little crowded at times, but if you stayed at the beginning or ends of the closed off Main Street you could avoid a lot of the crowds. I would say 50% wore masks on the street and the other half didn’t so just be forewarned. All stores and restaurants require masks and a lot make you use hand sanitizer before coming in the store as well. Felt Manor Inn was completely contactless and we highly recommend it for someone looking for a hybrid Airbnb/Inn experience since you could be relatively alone but also got amazing happy hour platters, cookies, wine, and breakfast each morning left on the porch!

Drop any questions you have about our first road trip we’ve tried during the pandemic in the comments below!