Mother’s Day Ideas with Soft Surroundings

Mother’s Day is around the corner. I am having nasal surgery this week, and I wish I could see my mom. She is going to stay in Nashville, but I will see my husband’s mother all week as she is taking care of me for the first week in my recovery. I had to make sure to find something for my mom before my surgery, so I could ship something in time.

I was recently invited to the grand opening for the new Soft Surroundings store in Naperville, a suburb of Chicago. I took a look around their website, and while my personal style tends to be more urban and modern, they offer the kind of merchandise my mom loves. Mom is a very casual dresser and she loves bright colors. She is also a fan of decorating with patterns.

Soft Surroundings Store

First thoughts: The new Naperville store was absolutely packed on its opening day. It was full of women who were about the same age as my mother. My chances of success increased. Awesome.

Gift Display

Secrets Book

Sassy Magnet

I noticed that Soft Surroundings sells some really cute accessories and gifts. I was really fond of their well packaged lip balms and novelty books. Soft Surroundings is a pretty good little gift shop – they have lots of selection!

Soft Surroundings offers petite clothing sizes in addition to women’s and misses sizes.

Solution Wall

Brow Solution Wall

Also, their “Solution Walls” in their beauty section cannot be beat. You know how at Sephora, you have to go brand display to brand display and most of your options for brows are pencils or wax? Soft Surroundings has an entire wall dedicated to thickening those brows up with serums, powders, pencils and more. I love it!

Sunglasses at Soft Surroundings

Me having a little fun with an awesome pair of sunglasses I found…

Line at Soft Surroundings

I was serious about the new Naperville location being packed. That was the line to pay. It was crazy. As I walked back to my car, some women noticed my shopping bag and stopped me to ask where the new store was located (across from Anthropologie).

You can shop Soft Surroundings online here. All orders ship Fedex 2-Day shipping, but shipping fees scale based on the size of your order.

I normally pick out our gift to my husband’s mother too, but I got hit with a nasty cold and sinus infection this week (hence, the need for nasal surgery), so that one is now on my husband.

#DateMe: An OKCupid Experiment

#DateMe. Well, not me personally. I already have the love of my life. I’m also married to my husband. (Crazy dog lady humor, except not really…) I do want to tell you about the theatrical production of #DateMe: An OKCupid Experiment at Second City’s UP Comedy Club, because it is utterly amusing.

My other Better Half (because Pierre wasn’t allowed) and I were invited to see the performance, as well as share a drink with its creator and star, Robyn Lynne Norris. Who is a doll, by the way. The show is based on her real life experience creating 38 “undateable” profiles on OKCupid – real responses, real screen names, real hilarity.

#DateMe play in Chicago review

#DateMe Set

Also, it’s a good thing that I am already married because I was kinda down with about half of the OKCupid responses Robyn received. Other users would likely assume that my profile is fake because the six things I cannot live without are:

  • My dog, who will always be more important than you
  • Dateline (Keith Morrison episodes preferred)
  •  Airheads candy
  • Makeup tutorials on YouTube (like this one!)
  • Wi-Fi hot zones
  • Drinking drinks with straws, because otherwise I choke

We joined Desirée from FashionLingual and Abril from The Color Palette for drinks and dinner too at the new 1959 Kitchen & Bar at Second City. I ordered a Dark Humor cocktail which was pleasant, and we shared dishes like their fried Brussels sprouts with balsamic (can be made salt-free!) and beignets. UP Comedy Club offers food and beverage in the theatre, but I think the food is more chef-driven at 1959. If you consider yourself more of a foodie, you may want to arrive at the complex early to eat at 1959 beforehand.

1959 Kitchen & Bar at Second City

1959 Menu Review

Low sodium diet option at 1959 in Old Town

The first act for #DateMe is very strong without a lot of wasteful lead-in. The jokes start pretty much right away, which is always preferable for a comedy. The production also incorporates some improv, as the audience likely expects from anything related to Second City. All performers had superior recall, and this was one of my favorite moments in the show.

GuysLaughing

Robyn Lynne Norris performed perfectly as the play’s protagonist (though she’s playing herself as creator and writer) and it was interesting to see very personal elements woven into the narrative. I thought everyone was perfectly cast with standout ensemble performances by Joel Boyd and Dana Robie, who exhibited superior comedic timing. I am really not into physical comedy as much as the spoken word, and I enjoyed how they both could deliver a punchline using vocal inflection. Though really, like I mentioned, every cast member had a great performance and contributed to a strong performance.

Robyn Lynne Norris, Nikki Kanter, Dana Robie, and Abril Ponce

Robyn Lynne Norris, Nikki Kanter, and Dana Robie

My date night outfit:

I recommend seeing this show before it closes its Chicago curtain May 29, and you can reserve your tickets by clicking here.

On a more serious note, I am having surgery next week. Before I go under the knife, I will share with you some Mother’s Day gift ideas this week.

For the Weekend: New Country

Chicago Theatre play New Country

Last weekend, my husband and I saw a great play at the Den Theatre in Wicker Park called New Country. My friend Surinder is involved with the production and invited us to see it since it’s set in Nashville and I am from Nashville.

Nashville people can be real critical about what’s really Nashville. Especially these days, since more and more transplants move into the city every day.

The set reminded me of The Hutton Hotel in Midtown Nashville. Alright, we’re to a great start. (I wish I took some photos of the set for this review, but we arrived to the theatre a few minutes late. The Den’s box office team was very kind to let us come in right as the show was starting.) 

It was our first time seeing a play at the Den, and we thought the theatre was really cool. It’s in a vintage little building with winding hallways. Our stage was set up with the audience on both sides of the stage for a more intimate theatre experience.

I really enjoyed the plot. Of course, it centers around the music business. I didn’t mind it though. I grew up around the music business and while it wasn’t close to home, the storyline definitely followed some stars’ (or really, their starter spouses’) experiences. I greatly appreciated that musical numbers were kept to a bare minimum… this play is about the drama.

The quips. The phrasing. Y’all, I was really laughing.

The writing was so good that I left angry that the Goodman Theatre made me sit through the mess that was Another Word for Beauty, instead of something like this play. The dialogue between the characters is so good. The kind that makes you remember why you love seeing live acting.

I thought all of the performances were great. Mark Roberts, who also penned New Country, was definitely the standout as Uncle Jim. His accent, his grizzly beard and even the way he pointed his fingers like my good friend Bobby, rang true for me.

I really do recommend seeing this gem of a show while it’s still in Chicago, from now until May 14th, 2016. You’ll need to do street parking in the heart of Wicker Park, so allow for extra time to find a spot. Fortunately, once you find a spot you’re settled as far as dinner and a show is concerned. We had dinner afterwards at Enso (sushi) and dessert from Stan’s Donuts.

To see performance times and reserve your tickets, click here.

5-Minute Hair Trim Technique

A few weekends ago, I was invited to model for Andis, a salon and barbering tools company, at America’s Beauty Show. I am very familiar with the show as I formerly was the marketing director for a hair extensions company, and I was excited to score a show pass.

Hair trim clipper technique for women

ABS is insane and if there’s a salon-quality beauty product out there, it is likely presented at the show. Each brand is showing off their latest and greatest and it can almost be overwhelming. I was familiar with Andis, but as a woman who has always had long to chin length hair, I wasn’t familiar with their barbering tools.

My sister, an editorial hair stylist (you can also follow her on Instagram: gghairdesigns), asked me to pick up a pair of Andis clippers for her, so I knew the company was reputable.

I explained to the organizer that I had a cut scheduled at my salon only a week later and that I would like a trim-only. The stage stylist, Jessica Zeinstra, was super professional and respectful of that and showed a new technique for delivering an accurate blunt-cut trim in under 5 minutes using Andis clippers!

Jessica used a comb as a guide as she carefully grazed my ends with the clippers. It really took no time at all and I thought my hair looked great. To be honest, I liked my trim a lot better than the slightly asymmetrical cut my regular stylist gave me a week later.

 

Clipper trim technique for medium to long hair

how to trim hair in 5 minutes with Andis clippers

Try showing this 5-minute hair trim technique to your stylist the next time you are in a super hurry. I think I want to switch back to Solo Salon here in the West Loop for my cuts, so it will be easier to pop in and out.

I’ve been meaning to get my brows done and still haven’t done it. On my platter this week: drinks and dinner with friends (and colleagues) at Bar Siena, co-working with another client tomorrow, a Savvy Women in Marketing event with Maria Pinto, my IV infusion treatment, two birthday parties and I’m test driving the to-be-released Jaguar XE on top of my consulting business, taking care of little Pierre (a full time job in itself, haha) and cooking most meals from scratch because my doctor put me on a low sodium diet.

Friends at America's Beauty Show

Other highlights from the show also included hanging out with my friend Donna, who is a master hairstylist now based in Portland, and buying almost an entire nail salon from the Creative Nail Design booth.

Seriously, the only thing I didn’t get was the pedicure chair. I scored a LED lamp, 16 Shellac colors, 5-Minute Express Top Coat, 6 new Vinylux colors, a free Vinylux top coat, three regular mini polishes, and all the cuticle oil, cuticle remover, polish remover, nail wraps, and more I will need for over a year. Manicures at my place!

Premium Outlets of Chicago has a Kate Spade outlet

The top I’m wearing is Kate Spade and I found it at the Premium Outlets of Chicago in Aurora, IL. I believe it was only $80 (her tops retail $225-$500), and I wear it all the time when meeting with clients. I wore it with bell bottom jeans to the show, but I think it looks great with skirts and dressy trousers as well. (Red bag is my loved Louis Vuitton Twice bag in Cherry.)

I also want to give a local charity benefit some blog love. The Design Center at The Merchandise Mart is excited to celebrate the annual DreamHome opening on Thursday, April 14  from 6-8pm at a special Preview Party benefitting Almost Home Kids. This Naperville-based charity is the official beneficiary of DreamHome and provides transitional care in a home-like setting to children with complicated health needs, training for their families and respite care.

You can see more information and purchase tickets to the Preview Party ($75) here.

Review: AquaGear Swim Shop

After a cold and rainy Easter weekend, it’s hard to believe that summer weather will be here before we know it. Honestly, I’d be thrilled if it were 80 degrees tomorrow… but I take comfort in knowing that soon it will be shorts and roof top pool weather again. I want to share my review of AquaGear swim shop, so it can help others when swimsuit season hits.

AquaGear.com invited me to write a review of my experience with them and gave me a small credit so I could provide feedback on the checkout process. I shouldn’t be surprised that a company who welcomes feedback to that extent would be so incredibly customer-focused, but their customer service completely blew me away.

I am not an athletic swimmer. I’m not really a swimmer. I’m more of a drink a glass of rosé while on a pool floaty kind of gal, but they have some fairly nifty stuff for even a poolside hobbyist. I picked out a tankini that was sporty and fun.

Within an hour, a real live person from West Palm Beach, FL called me to let me know that the style of tankini would be backordered for longer than expected. They asked me if I wanted to pick out another style and they would honor the price of my original selection. I picked out a fun tribal print tankini to pair with a black side-tie bikini bottom I already own.

My new order would take 2 weeks as a special order, and it arrived earlier than expected. Their team sent me a friendly and personalized email with tracking information letting me know.

Tribal print tankini for summer 2016

(I’ll post a picture of me wearing this cute tankini once it is warm enough to spend time at the pool!)

I received my Tyr Emerald Lake Cascade Cross Tankini and it’s very flattering. I would also advise that the tankini is true to size. I ordered a medium and it ended up looking more sexy than athletic on me, but I also gained a little weight and my chest is out of control at the moment. It may not be a good athletic suit if your cup size is above a D, but it’s also a lot more respectable looking than most swimsuits if you are curvy!

I really like the double straps and criss-cross design in the back. I felt like it was a supportive swim top but the thinner straps kept the look modern instead of matronly like most swimsuits you’ll find in larger cup sizes.

Swimsuit shopping can be horrible in-person even, but since the sales team for AquaGear were so present and helpful I felt like it was a great online shopping experience. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I am sure a product expert would have helped me with fit.

They have more than just swim suits and have all sorts of aquatic athletic equipment. I was really surprised by all of the accessories for various pool activities like exercise or water therapy.

I have a few friends that are really into water activities, and I will recommend AquaGear.com based on my experience. They also have some attractive men’s board shorts that I can see myself purchasing for my husband.

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend. We spent most of our weekend exercising and doing some spring cleaning. We did have a little fun though! We enjoyed our dinner at Swift & Sons before seeing The Matchmaker at the Goodman Theatre. I recommend seeing The Matchmaker because it’s Hello, Dolly! for people like me who like wacky schemes but hate Broadway singing and jazz hands. We spent the later half of Easter with my husband’s parents and had dinner together at Nellcôte.

Despite the best of my intentions, I seem to average only one post per week. If you want to see some of the fun things I stumbled upon, like 30s and Chic on Facebook. I also share what I’m digging in real-time on my Instagram.

Friday Faves

Hello and good morning! While I have to hold out until the end of the day for my weekend to begin (well, I do have a hair appointment this morning), I am looking forward to a fun couple of days. We’re seeing rock n’ roll documentary Los Wild Ones, celebrating a birthday, and I am going to a beauty event before dinner at Monteverde.

Here are a couple of other things I am excited about this week:

Billy Reid Lana dress spring 2016

I am obsessed with this dress by Billy Reid. It’s the Lana style and while the fabric is nubby, it breathes really well and can be worn into summer. I wore it to a marketing seminar at the new Google headquarters here in the West Loop. I accessorized it with a suede tassel necklace by Accessories Mercado and open toe booties by Stuart Weitzman.

Red Parka Party for One Warm Coat sponsored by Woolrich

It’s warming up and I love it, but I do wish I had more opportunities to wear this warm coat by Woolrich John Rich & Bros. I attended their charity coat drive for One Warm Coat at the Virgin Hotel here in downtown Chicago, and I ended up receiving a red parka of my own.

Their arctic parka (on sale here!) is really well constructed, and if you’re like me and don’t like wearing wearing fur unless it is subzero outside, the coyote trim is removable.

UberEATS launched a new app that delivers the full menu from hundreds of restaurants. Download it here, and use promo code “30sandChic” for a $10 credit off your first meal.

If we’re not dining in, I’m making reservations on Open Table. I just claimed my 2,000 point perk in the form of a gift card we can use at Swift & Sons next weekend.

I’m sure it’s because I am trying to do a million things at once these days, but I’ve noticed more white hairs popping out of my auburn locks all of a sudden. My friend and former hairstylist recommended Color Wow! to me and it’s really awesome. It touches up your roots in a natural looking way using bare minerals. I’ve noticed that the powder prevents the hair from getting greasy throughout the day and helps it look thicker. Triple win!

Finally, if you are a blogger who needs help resizing images to format properly across social media sites, Sprout Social launched Landscape this week. This nifty tool is easier and quicker to use than Canva.

I hope everyone enjoys your weekend!

Change And Other Tips From Maria Pinto

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the new M2057 boutique to hear Maria Pinto speak about entrepreneurship and fashion. Since today is Monday, I thought I would share her story this morning to motivate us all to keep on track with our professional goals.

Chat with Chicago fashion designer Maria Pinto

If you aren’t familiar with Maria, she is a Chicago-based fashion designer with a strong following including Michelle Obama and Oprah. While most designers would consider praise from the President of the United States the pinnacle of their careers, Maria wanted more.

She had a clientele for her $2,000 and up dresses, however she noticed that most women who came into her shop loved her clothes but could only afford them on sale or not at all. She closed down her business to reflect on what she really wanted to accomplish, and after some introspection, decided to launch the M2057 concept.

Maria Pinto boutique in Chicago's West Loop

M2057 offers a modern aesthetic at a more affordable price, comparable to Diane von Furstenberg. I know $300-$700 is a splurge for most people, but it is easier to afford a special piece here or there than a $2,000 dress.

After testing the M2057 concept through Kickstarter, Maria is opening a select number of showroom boutiques with a unique business model. Customers can try on samples in-house, but their purchases will be shipped to them a day or two later. Benefits to this include always getting fresh merchandise (no makeup left on it after someone else tried it on) and lower overhead to keep a mid-range price point sustainable.

In addition to the price point, one reason I feel like this new collection is more accessible to working women is the fabric used. It’s a nylon blend that is machine washable and it travels really well. I’m planning on picking up a tailored work dress for a business presentation I have in Texas next month.

I greatly admire Maria or anyone who can say “this no longer gives me what I need” and takes action to do something else. It’s really hard to build a business, and until you’ve tried it, you have no idea just how often self-doubt can creep in.

This nifty chart by Nicole Fallon sums it up pretty well:

What it's like to be an entrepreneur

She also advised that any person interested in launching her own line take the appropriate technical classes and learn through apprenticeship.

I really appreciated how Maria took the time to speak with fledgling or aspiring entrepreneurs. I know my blog has really suffered as I deal with growing pains in my consulting business.

Recently, I had a couple of highly qualified contacts reach out to me to see if I’m hiring. I know I need to hire or partner up with someone (or two), but I haven’t nailed down what that plan looks like.

Let’s chat: What are some of your short term and long term professional goals? 

 

Vacation-Ready Steals

Lately I have been doing a lot of online shopping. It’s for a combination of reasons… I am going out of town again soon to warmer weather and I also have been gaining weight rather quickly. The good news is, it’s the perfect time to pick up vacation-ready steals because everything is on super sale and many pieces are still in fashion for 2016.

Ready for the beach - vacation fashion steals

I am going to California for a management meeting and then I’m flying directly to Las Vegas to meet my husband and friends. So, I am packing once for two separate trips. Because this is not challenging enough, I have been gaining weight like crazy this month. I am getting my thyroid levels tested, and I’m convinced that my thyroid is the culprit (Hashimoto’s runs in my family).

I have to share with you these cute steals, because I didn’t pay over $100 for any particular piece!

Make sure to check Amazon too, since certain sizes in the same styles can be had for less than $30 sometimes. I also used eBates for additional cash back.

For the DL1961 Karlie boyfriend short, definitely size down. I sized up to wear them on the “fun” day of my business trip (and because pants don’t fit me right now), and they are still very loose.

I think the Joie shorts are very flattering. They flare a bit at the thigh to give the illusion of skinnier legs. Thanks, Joie! Appreciate it. I’m planning on wearing them with my Stuart Weitzman Nudistsong sandals in Las Vegas, and I cannot wait to wear them during the late spring here in Chicago.

As our sidewalks are covered in snow this morning, I cannot wait to get some much needed sun. I hope it will help me feel better. For the Vegas leg of my trip, we’re staying at The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino. I booked a body glow treatment in the spa before my husband flies in, and I am planning on taking advantage of the spa private pool and hammam amenities.

This past weekend my shop-a-thon continued at the Premium Outlets of Chicago in Aurora, IL. I was invited to a private event there, and used the opportunity to find some fabulous work clothes. They deserve their own post, so that will be coming soon. You would not believe what I found for 80% off.

I hope everyone has a great start to your week! 

Be Mine: frank body Lip Scrub and Balm

How is it almost Valentine’s Day? I know how… it involves me working my butt off (but not really, according to my skinny jeans) and having a full schedule through May. But Valentine’s Day is almost here and I’m excited to share with you a serious find for soft, kissable lips: frank body lip scrub and balm.

Natural coffee grounds lip scrub and balm review

I’m a fan of Frank’s skin care and I have been using their facial cleanser, facial moisturizer, and body butter religiously. I was given a pack of their new coffee ground lip scrub and lip balm to review, and I am in love. True love.

frank body lip gift set for valentine's day gift idea

The lip scrub is scrumptious with a sweetened coffee taste from the grounds and sugar granules. It does its job, so I’m pleased as punch. But… the star of the show is definitely the lip balm.

I am absolutely obsessed with the lip balm. You may have noticed from previous blog posts or selfies on my Instagram account that I tend to have dry lips. I suspect that it’s from a heavy duty dosage of Accutane when I was a teenager, but I know that I just can’t help having cracked lips.

Usually, lip balms just sit on my lips without any moisture absorption. The moment I take a sip of a drink, the balm becomes useless and my lips dry out and chap. frank body’s lip balm puts my lips in far better condition than 99% of other balms out there.

What it’s like: the balm is thick and while there is a squeeze tube, you will likely want to use your fingers to swipe a smaller amount across the lips. The balm has a light scent, but my husband is a coffee addict so this isn’t a negative for me at all.

At $14.95 for both products, I wholeheartedly recommend snapping up a set for yourself before Valentine’s Day. If you want a little gift to give your girlfriends for the holiday, I think it’s a great gift that will not break the bank.

Besides having kissable lips, I have other things planned for Valentine’s Day. Next Saturday, we’re going to check out a trendy sushi place in Lakeview followed by the political satirical play Mutt in Boystown. On Valentine’s Day proper, we’ll likely make a romantic dinner at home followed by a chocolate tasting experience hosted by Vosges.

Are you doing anything special for Valentine’s Day or are you avoiding the crowds and snuggling (with a partner, pet, or glass of wine) at home?

Exhale Evanston

With a busy schedule, I haven’t been very good about working out. I’m the kind of person who needs a class (or trainer to yell at me) or else I will keep putting it off. I need and want the structure that comes with working with someone who knows what they are doing. If you are on Chicago’s North Shore or live close-by to Evanston, I’d like to share my experience with Exhale‘s newest location with you.

I really like the core fusion classes at Exhale’s Gold Coast location (plus, I always stop at Tails in the City to spoil Pierre) so I excitedly accepted my invitation to try a complimentary class at the new Evanston location as well as attend their grand opening party.

Exhale Evanston review blog post

My workout outfit details (my pants are more red tie-dye, they are current season and may still be in stores):

The women’s changing area was tighter than in the Gold Coast location, but it was right off the gym and offered fresh cotton towels just outside the fitness area.

Exhale Evanston group class review

The fitness area itself was large with plenty of space for everyone’s mats and for everyone to stand at the barre. The mirrors on all four sides also helped with checking posture and position throughout the workout. Since it was the grand opening, our class had a live DJ, DJ Megan Taylor of Fig Media, to blast dance hits.

The Evanston location tapped Elisabeth to teach regularly during the week. Here’s the deal… she’s tiny. Like double zero tiny. And it’s clear she works out. A lot. And based on how many corrections she helped me with (and I’ve been doing barre for a while), it’s very clear she knows her stuff.

Be prepared for your legs to shake. Be even more prepared to feel the burn the next day. Exercises in the core fusion class include hand weights, barre exercises, ab work, and floor exercises with a playground ball.

Exhale Evanston opening party recap

After our class, everyone got to enjoy an opening party with mimosas, cheese, specials on Benefit cosmetics and complimentary back massages courtesy of Egea Spa in Evanston. My masseuse really knew what she was doing and worked a number on my right shoulder, which is always out of alignment thanks to a chubby bulldog always pulling me on leash.

All in all, I am happy I went to their event and can recommend the classes to women living on the North Shore.

I worked out today and I incorporated many of the exercises I learned in class into my independent workout (and yes, I am resting in bed with Pierre on my legs now).

 

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