WFH Tips During Quarantine

WFH Tips During Quarantine

I am lucky enough that during this time of social distancing and possible lockdown that I have experience in the art of working from home. And trust me, it’s an art. Here’s the back story since everyone might not know, but I don’t blog or “influence” full time (ugh hate the word influence). I have a full-time job as a Customer Success Executive at a technology agency called 4th Down Solutions. We create digital solutions for sales teams to learn and train remotely and efficiently so the business is actually booming right now. Message me if you have a need for it – we will probably have a solution. Anyway, enough of my sales pitch!

I have been working from home for this company for two and a half years, but before that, I worked for a large pharmaceutical company and that was a work in the office everyday sort of culture. So I have gone from one extreme to the other and I know it can be difficult.

When I first started working from home two years ago I loathed it. I missed the camaraderie of an office, structure, and taking breaks, but it’s still possible to do all those things from home so below are my tips on becoming a WFH expert like me!

Set up a dedicated workspace. 

This is probably the most important advice I can give. When I first started working from home I would set up my desk at my kitchen counter and leave it there morning, noon, and night which isn’t a very good work-at-home practice. Setting up an area that is JUST for working is essential. If you don’t have enough space to leave things out and put them AWAY aka close a door on your office space then you should put the work away physically each night. Don’t keep your notebooks, devices, and laptop open after you are done working. This practice will make you work LONGER and unnecessarily and when I did this I saw my mental health just go bonkers. So make sure you do this if NOTHING else!

Start your workday and end your workday at certain times. 

This goes along with what I was saying above. Keeping hours of when you’re working is very important. I always sit down at my computer between 8:30am and 9:00am and then shut my computer by at least 6pm unless I have a late meeting or something that absolutely cannot wait until the next day. It’s easy to start working earlier and earlier and later and later and you want to avoid this. Start and end your day the way you already normally do. My one coworker even sets a timer at the end of the day to remind her to stop because sometimes you can lose track of time and already it’s 7pm. Trust me, this will help your sanity.

Take breaks. 

You do this when you’re in an office even if you don’t know you do. You talk with coworkers, walk around the office, go get coffee, shop online, etc. Make sure to take those breaks even though you are working from home. A lot of people start to feel guilty when they are home and not continuously doing something, but trust me if you were at the office you would probably be less productive. I know, it sounds not true but it really, really is. Sometimes I take breaks to walk to the grocery store, listen to a podcast, shop online, make a playlist or have a snack. It can really be anything but do it.

Keep your cell phone in a different part of your home while working. 

This one has been key for me lately especially because I also have the Sassy side business. I am constantly getting DMs, notifications and other things that distract me from my full 9-5 job, so I keep my phone stored in my bedroom where I can take breaks to look at it but it can’t be with me in my office space. This is really helpful during conference calls where it is easy to get distracted by your phone and not focus. Don’t be that person who has to ask, “can you repeat that?”. I have been that girl, it sucks.

Make your bed in the morning. 

A lot of people will recommend that you get dressed for work. This has never appealed to me and I did try it for a week or two and gave up after a while. I usually roll right from the bed into my “office” and it hasn’t affected my productivity. However, not having my bed made always made me feel gross. So pick your poison but do something that makes you feel ready for the day. Wash your face, put on makeup, make your bed, put on real clothes instead of PJs or work out clothes – just do something that you know will make you feel like you’re more YOU in the morning.

Music vs. TV 

More me having the TV on is distracting. Sometimes if I’m doing things that don’t require a lot of brainpower like updating Excel sheets with user data or tasking people online then I will move my office to the couch to be able to have the TV on the in the background but more often than not I end up muting it or pausing it because it’s too much of a distraction. I MUCH prefer putting on music to keep me positive and upbeat throughout the day, but that’s also what helped me study in school so whatever helped you be productive while studying will most likely help you when WFH. Some people like to listen to podcasts, classical music, the radio, or just have silence. Again, do what you would do at work.

Set up times to just connect with coworkers. 

1000% this is what I miss most about not being in a physical office space – the people. I am very much an extrovert and a people person and my job does require me to be on the phone a lot which sort of helps with this whole no physical contact thing, but sometimes you just want to talk shop or complain about your clients or just talk about your life outside the office and yea not having a coworker just sitting next to you is hard. My coworker Emily and I used to make it a point to message each other when we needed to complain or bitch about something and get it off our chests and it has made us so much closer because of it. So if you have someone that you are really close to at the office – see if they will Face Time or Skype with you during the day – this practice always, always made me feel better and made transitioning from an office to a WFH situation so much easier.

Babymoons Aren’t Just for Couples

Babymoons Aren’t Just for Couples

A few years ago my friends and I came up with the concept of a friend babymoon. See, a babymoon is typically when you take a trip somewhere with your husband before your baby comes, but what about seeing your BFFs before that happens? Once you have the baby you have less time to see friends and do things like get pampered and eat at fun restaurants, so why not do something before that (temporarily) gets put to the wayside?

Enter: the friend babymoon!

I’ve thrown a few of these over the years, some lavish and others not, and I think for my friend Meggie’s babymoon we found the actual perfect recipe so here is how to throw your friend the most awesome babymoon in Chicago ever.

1. Don’t tell her it is happening. 

This has been the major key for all my best babymoon plans. The best way to surprise her entirely is to have her husband or partner in on the plan. Ask them for a few free dates and then set it up behind her back and have her husband bring her there for a completely different reason and surprise her entirely! Another way is just to ask her for a few dates and then tell her you have a surprise planned for her and to be ready at a certain time, pick her up, and bring her yourself. You know what your friends prefer so do what works for them aka some people do not like surprises and need some warning 🙂

2. Book the Kohler Waters Spa at Lincoln Park for you and all your friends.

This was my first time going to Kohler Spa in Lincoln Park for a massage treatment and WOW I cannot recommend this place more, but before I get into my amazing massage let me tell you the amazing deal they have. On Thursdays and Fridays after 5pm, Kohler Waters Spa at Lincoln Park offers The Happier Happy Hour. If you have a group of five or more guests you get 20% off your services when you book together*! This spa is meant to be enjoyed as a big group of friends and that is exactly what a Friend Babymoon is all about! Their water treatment room is great for catching up with friends over their really tasty snacks (all recipes from the original Kohler Spa in Wisconsin!), amazing water therapy pool, and the saunas and steam rooms. Add cold towels and you literally have the recipe for the most relaxing girl’s night.

While my friend Meggie got the prenatal massage, I got the Uniquely Yours massage. They use all sorts of techniques to massage your body based solely on what you tell them to focus on. I had just done a really intense squatting workout so I asked her to work on my thighs and she did some stretching techniques that were just sensational. I left feeling relaxed, soothed, and also stretched out so I could work out again later (yep, past Alex scheduled ANOTHER workout after this – so silly that past Alex). I really like light touch and really intense smells bother me, so I told my massage therapist all of this before we got started and she tailored the massage exactly to what I like. This is unique because most spas have set massages you are buying and sure you can ask for a deeper massage or a lighter touch but they aren’t going to tailor the massage around stretching just because you asked for it!

After your massage, they take you to the relaxation room and Meggie legit looked into ordering one of the chairs in the room to her house since it was so comfortable for her! It is very easy to fall asleep in this calm and peaceful room and we almost did, but we had places to be so we made for the locker room where the Kohler rain showers are. I would pay to just come to stand in that shower y’all!

*All group members must receive a 50-minute ore more treatment. Advanced booking is required – at least four weeks is suggested.

3. Set up dinner afterward at a nearby restaurant. No makeup needed.

The best part about a babymoon is that no one cares what anyone else looks like so post spa go completely makeup-free, put on your finest sweats, and book a big table at nearby Summer House or a equally fun atmosphere restaurant if you are booking a different spa. Preorder ALL the cookies – trust me the pregnant woman will want them! And have some rose, you deserve it for planning this perfect evening.

4. Give her one last surprise.

Some people like to give the massage as a gift (great idea!), but if she or her husband offer to pay another nice add on is one last surprise – a nice robe! I have asked many, many of my mama friends what they would want before their first baby that they didn’t know they needed and a LOT of people say comfortable PJs or a nice robe that you can breastfeed in! We got our friend one from Monica + Andy for her babymoon gift. Very comfortable and monogram-able which was very up her alley.

Fun fact: My friend and I went for her prenatal massage treat last week and this weekend she had the baby! So, safe to say this massage did all the wonders in the world for her to get that baby moving!

January ’20 Outfit Round-Up

January ’20 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 January. 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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{Coat: Old Navy black puffer jacket Beanie: Macy’s knit cuff beanie, shoes: Target wedge platform shoes}

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{dress: ASOS tiered mini dress, barrettes: Squared Tortoise hair clip set, booties: Vince Camuto perforated booties}

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{jeans: Old Navy Rockstar distressed jeans, top: Jessica London keyhole swing tunic, booties: Vince Camuto perforated booties}

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{pajama set: Dreams & Co. 2-piece classic pajama set}

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{top: Jessica London Georgette hi-low tunic, booties: ComfortView Sidney booties, leggings: Spanx faux leather leggings}

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{dress: Chic Soul You Go Girl dress, headband: Anthropologie Lauren knotted headband}

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{gym set: Fabletics}

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{headband: Chic Soul Candy Shop headband, top: Chic Soul Lost the Battle top, Leggings: Spanx faux leather leggings, booties: Vince Camuto perforated booties}

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.