The One with the Friends-giving (How My Friend Hosted the Ultimate Friendsgiving Party)

November 20, 2018

We all have that one friend: she constantly updates her Pinterest, throws homemade Halloween costumes out of the ballpark and lives to host a fun theme party. For me, this friend is Nathalie.

I've known Nata since elementary school, but she grew to become one of my best friends after we graduated high school. Since then, she's impressed me countless times with her creativity, enthusiasm and attention to detail. From her homemade sushi roll Halloween costume to her home-thrown theme parties and baby showers, her fun-loving energy and dedication to celebrating never disappoint. Over the years, I've made it a point to make it to as many of her parties as possible ... but there's one I missed last year that has haunted me to this very day: her Friends-giving party. And by Friends, I mean Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey.

I'm a major Friends fan, but if there's one person who I know would destroy me in a game of Friends trivia, it's Nata. As I mentioned earlier, her attention to detail is seriously impressive - so it's no surprise that she set the bar for what a Friends-themed party should look like (seriously - she deserves free Central Perk coffee for life). Lucky for us, she was kind enough to share some ideas and photos from her epic party here on the blog, so you can elevate your annual Friendsgiving celebration and create a night full of laughs that no one will forget.

Now ... PIVOT!

The Invitation

Nata co-hosted the event with her sister, Michelle. Online invites are the way to go.

The Decor + Food

Printable photo booth signs from Etsy
It's too small to see, but everyone is wearing "Hello, my name is" stickers with names from the show. Nata, second from left, chose to be Princess Consuela Banana Hammock (if you know her personally, this is no surprise).

The Episodes

I don't know these people, so I very beautifully covered their faces. 

Nata and Michelle played all of the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends while sharing a meal with their real-life friends out in their backyard. Perfect ending to a perfect party, don't ya think?

Pro tip: bless the meal by playing "I'll Be There for You" by The Remembrandts, and end the night with some Friends trivia. Loser wears a turkey on their head a la Monica.

For more fun lifestyle and celebration inspo, follow Nata on Pinterest and Instagram

My Favorite DIY Halloween Costumes (and Tips for Creating Your Own On a Budget)

October 22, 2018

Maybe it's the aspiring actress in me or maybe it's the child in me, but the fact of the matter is I look forward to Halloween every single year because for one night - okay, or three - I get to play dress up and make believe ... and, to quote mean girls, "no other girls can say anything about it" (just swap "no other girls" for "no one"). 

As a Disney-obsessed kid, I would always set my Halloween costume sights on a Disney princess/heroine (Belle, Mulan and Jesse the Cowgirl are some memorable ones) and my mom would take care of it from there. When I entered the crazy pre-teen and teenage tears, the costumes got sexier and a little darker, without being overly revealing. As soon as college hit, it was all about showing skin via a cliche costume. But over the past few years, I've taken matters into my own hands and have followed a less-is-more approach - and when I say "less," I mean less money spent on a store costume and rather, more time spent creatively piecing one together with items I already own. 

Here's my method in a nutshell: I purchase just a few smaller items from stores (usually craft stores) and mix them with several items I already own. The resulting costumes have become my absolute favorites and the ones I receive the most compliments on.

Here are a few of my favorite past costumes, including notes on how I created them and tips for piecing together your own costume without having to feel financially guilty afterward.

Mary Poppins, Halloween 2017
This Mary Poppins costume - along with the one directly below - is one of my most complimented costumes (which made me feel very proud, considering I pieced it together the morning of Halloween, when I wore it). I promise there's a high chance you have almost everything you need to recreate this already in your closet:

White blouse
Black skirt
Black tights/stockings
Black heels
Large purse (black works well here)
Black umbrella
Reb ribbon, for belt and bow
Black Edwardian-style hat (this you will likely have to purchase. I bought mine at Party City).
Fake red and white flowers (I got mine at Hobby Lobby, but Michael's and JoAnn's should have some, too).
Hot glue gun (to glue the flowers onto the hat)

Done-up, yet simple (avoid any dark eyeshadow or intense eyeliner)
Red lips to bounce off the red bow and belt

Bun or down in waves

Wednesday Addams, Halloween 2015
As I mentioned above, this is another one of my most complimented costumes, and I threw this one together the day before I wore it. The only thing I purchased was the pair of thigh-high stockings.

White button up
Black button up (to be worn above white button up) 
Black heels
Black thigh-high stockings 

Pale foundation/face (you can make your foundation lighter by covering it with some white eyeshadow or a pale setting powder, but I recommend applying a foundation a few shades lighter than your skin tone. Go for an inexpensive drugstore foundation, and set it aside for future Halloween costumes - vampire, Bride of Frankenstein, skull, etc.). 
Gray eyeshadow for shadow-y contouring
Black lipstick

Two braids

Jess and I dressed as Dolls of the Dead, Halloween 2016

These dolls were so much fun to dress up as. Jess and I got really into character, and at one point began skipping around downtown while holding hands and playing audio of children laughing on repeat from our phones. We freaked quite a few people out.  


Floral dress
White knee-high socks
Black heels
Teddy Bear, dabbed it with black eyeshadow and torn up (I felt HORRIBLE doing this, but it really makes the costume creepier. I've kept the teddy bear out of pity). 


Follow the Wednesday Addams/Black Swan idea: pale face, dark lips (I went with a very deep red)
Black/gray eyeshadow for under eye circles and contouring 
Black eyeliner for "patches" and mouth (we drew lines that resemble a puppet mouth)

Pigtails and a bow

Cleopatra, Halloween Weekend 2017

I've always thought of Cleopatra as strong, interesting and beautiful - what's not to love? The girl is timeless. Not everyone can say Elizabeth Taylor played them in a movie. Just sayin'.

White or black dress
Gold heels
Gold jewelry (necklace, bracelets, earrings, rings, etc.)
Gold headpiece

Full face, glowy and bronzed (I added gold eyeshadow to the highlighter cheekbones
Nude lips (I added gold eyeshadow on top)
Blue and gold eyeshadow with black Cleopatra eyeliner 

Straight and braids
Gold string or hair bands (I bought a stretchy string at Michael's and tied them over clear hair ties)

Black Swan, Halloween Weekend 2017

Ah, this one was fun - although I could never play a tormented perfectionist ballerina the way Natalie Portman did. So, you might not have feathers, a tutu or a black crown laying around, but there's a good chance you have the rest of this costume at home, either for your own purposes or from a past Halloween. Accessories can be purchased at any craft store or costume store for next to nothing. 

Black leotard/bodysuit
Tiny black shorts (to wear under tutu)
Black tutu
Black see through tights
Black ballet-style flats
Black feathers
Glue gun or pins (to stick feathers onto leotard)
Black crown

Pale face (see Wednesday Addams makeup above)
Black eyeshadow for contouring (See Wednesday Addams makeup above)
Deep red/wine lips 
Black and silver eyeliners for wings

Bun (topped with crown)

Cruella de Vil, Halloween Weekend 2015
This costume is easy to create, recognizable and fun for both adults and kids. Got a black dress, or black top + black skirt? Of course you do. Now, all you need are accessories.

Black dress or black top + black skirt
Black tights (optional)
Black heels
"Dalmatian" stole
Red gloves (easy to find at a costume store, or at stores like Target and Walmart during the holidays)
1920's style cigarette holder


Glam (she was a designer, after all) - and red lips to bounce off those gloves

Okay, so, I made the mistake of using white hair spray paint on half of my head. It didn't go well. I looked old and my hair started to look an awkward light purple as the night went on. Get an inexpensive wig. 
Trust me.

My DIY mermaid costume (missing the starfish), a few years after being worn
My sister, looking like a gorgeous mermaid at her sorority's bid day last year (it was ocean themed)
Nude bra or bralet (a halter might work as well)
Rope (I like gold, but nude or white will work, too)
Blue skirt or craft store fabrics (I wore an opaque blue fabric under a mesh blue fabric with scale/bubble-like details).
Starfish (you can purchase a bag of them at craft stores) 
Nude summer-y wedges

Dewy natural-looking base makeup - but be generous with bronzer and highlighter
Blue or green eyeshadow and "scales"(place a fishnet stocking on one of your cheeks and along your collarbone, then run blue/green/gold eyeshadow over the stockings to create the look of scales on your skin). 
Nude (or purple!) lips - have fun, but stick to a cool color palette (green, blue, purple)

Messy, beachy waves or a messy thick braid

Little Red Riding Hood (after a run-in with the wolf), Halloween Weekend 2016
One of my tips for having a little more fun with your costume is adding a twist to a classic. I dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, but after a bloody fight with the wolf. 

Black dress or black top + black skirt
Black thigh-high boots or black heels
Black tights (optional)
White glove (one looks even better) ripped and painted with "blood" (fake blood)
Red hood

Red lips
Red "slice" on cheek (use fake blood)
Smokey eye

Waves or low pigtails 

Desperate and broke? Here are two classic costumes that couldn't be easier to piece together:

Witch, Halloween Weekend 2016
All black
Witch hat
Black boots/heels/pointy flats
Optional: choker or moody necklace for a little attitude

To keep it classic, stick to green, black or deep red eyeshadows and lipsticks
Optional: black or green nails (extra points if they're pointy)

Keep it down - wavy, curly or straight work just fine

My sister as a modern day, Vampire Diaries-inspired vampire, Halloween 2015
Dark moody dress, all black, or a simple top + shorts with a black biker jacket (keep it cool)
Black boots or heels

Either your usual full base makeup or pale + dark eyeshadow for contouring 
(I've found that either one works)
Smokey eyes
Black and gray eyeliner and/or eyeshadow for "veins"
Deep purple or red lipstick 
Fake blood for underneath lips 

Same idea as the witch: keep it down - wavy or straight work just fine



- Write down a list of everything you need to piece together your costume, then go digging through your closet, friends' closets and family members' closets (with permission, of course!).

- For actual clothing that you need but don't have, check Goodwill and other thrift stores before heading to the mall.

- Look online for the extra items you need before running to the stores. Compare prices, then go get what you need. I stop at Halloween stores once in a blue moon for certain items, but I tend to find what I need at Target, Hobby Lobby, Michael's and Joann's. Craft stores are your friend!

- The internet is a gift when it comes to Halloween. Amazon often sells items for less than what you'll find at stores. As far as makeup and hair go, YouTube is your friend. And I'm assuming most people do this already, but utilize Pinterest for costume ideas, and check Etsy as a last resort for any necessary costumes or items! They might be a little pricier, but if you aren't having luck, it could be your saving grace.

Remember to have fun and get creative! Be as original as you can and give your costumes a fun twist. Play with themes, decades, etc., or follow what I did with my Little Red Riding Hood and doll costumes and add a little darkness. It is Halloween, after all. ;)

A Basic (Yet Necessary) October Bucket List

October 5, 2018

There's something about the start of October - actually, a lot of things - that instills a childlike excitement in me. Growing up, October 1st was the day that broke up the post-summer dullness and suddenly gave me several things to look forward to: a full month to celebrate Halloween (movies, parties, costumes, decorations and spooky treats included); a change in the weather (a blessing to us Floridians, who eagerly cling to any excuse to break out our sweaters and boots); delicious seasonal comfort foods, like butternut squash soup and pumpkin bread; and all the #basic fall festivities, followed by two more months of holidays to celebrate. It might be 90 degrees outside, but for me, it's still the start of fall - and you better believe I'm channeling my inner North Easterner by participating in all of the autumn and Halloween-themed activities a South Florida girl waits all year for.

Here's my October/Fall Bucket List (join me, will ya?)

1. Go to a Pumpkin Patch (and don't leave without a cheesy photo and a pumpkin of your own).

2. Carve aforementioned pumpkin (save the seeds!) and set it by your door as a piece of decor.

3. Those seeds? Rinse 'em, season 'em, roast 'em, eat 'em.

4. Get lost in a corn maze.

5. Go for a horseback hayride (but do your research and make sure those horses are being treated fairly!).

6. Have a scary movie marathon (I'll be sharing a list of my favorites soon, but in the meantime, you can find some fun options in this list). 

7. Create your own Halloween playlist to play outside your front door for Trick-or-Treaters.

8. Master a go-to fall cocktail and recipe. On that note ...

9. Go apple picking (or bobbing for apples), then use the apples in a recipe.

10. Host a Halloween party (bonus points if it's a Murder Mystery Party), complete with a candy bar, decor, costumes and themed treats.

11. Pick fallen leaves and use them as fall decor.

12. Visit a Haunted House (my favorite way to do this: go to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights).

13. Walk around a local neighborhood where the homes are decked out in Halloween lights and decorations.

14. Create a costume utilizing only clothing and items you already have in your closet/home.

15. Spend an entire day eating and drinking at Epcot during Disney's Food & Wine Festival.

16. Return to your Alma Mater for a tailgate + football game (#GoKnights!).

17. Channel your inner child and take a kiddo Trick-or-Treating (a kiddo you know and whose parents gave you permission, obviously). 

18. Help host a Halloween event at a local hospital, nursing home or shelter.


A Month in the Life

September 18, 2018

Image via A Cozy Kitchen

If you know me personally (or have me on social media), you probably know that I recently made a pretty big life change: I quit the job I was at for almost three years and moved out of Orlando, which had been my home for the past eight years, all to try and pursue a lifelong dream of mine: acting. I'm now living back home at my parent's house in South Florida - where I honestly never thought I'd be living again after high school - so that I can get my toes wet in the industry while living rent free. While I'm already missing living in the heart of Orlando and the friends I left behind a lot, I'm incredibly grateful to have a family who's supporting me on this crazy journey.

Needless to say, this change hasn't been easy; but at the end of the day, it's important - and comforting - to remind myself of all the blessings in my life: my family, friends near and far, having all my pets under one roof (mornings kisses from a dog + 5 kitties is the best), and personal things, like this blog, which I started in Orlando but can thankfully follow up with anywhere. As I begin this new adventure and we say hello to a new season, I figure it's an ideal time to reflect on and share all the things I'm currently loving.

Here are some of my favorite things right now:

More Mustard, Please 
Image via American Eagle
As fall approaches each year, I find myself being drawn to the exact same colors: military green and rust. While I’ll always think of them as autumn wardrobe staples – I’d even call them the season's neutrals – I’ve been newly gravitating toward one color nonstop: mustard. I’m seeing it in every magazine, blog and store, in the form of topsouterwear, jeans, shoes, bags ... even flared corduroy pants and nail polish. It's a universally flattering shade that somehow always manages to stand out. Also in this season? Leopard print. More on that next month. ;) 

Cravings Hungry for More
Image via Target
I'm not one of those crazed Chrissy Teigen fans, but I'll say this: the girl is killing it in the kitchen (and on Twitter, too). Her first cookbook, Cravings, is filled with mouthwatering, seemingly hard-to-top recipes (the mac and cheese and scalloped potatoes are game changers); and yet, her second cookbook, Cravings Hungry for More, has me even more impressed. I'm currently drooling over her breakfast recipes, like the Everything Bagel Cream Cheese Breakfast Bake and French Toast with Whipped Honey Ricotta Topping, as well as her Pad Thai Carbonara and, well, basically everything on every page. Head to Target, purchase Chrissy's book, go home, cook/bake and eat your feelings. 
Repeat last two steps as desired. 

Variety's "Remote Controlled" Podcast 
Image via Variety 
It's no secret that there's an abundance of fantastic podcasts covering news, politics, business and crime (both true crime and fiction); but once in a while, you want to hear something a bit on the lighter side - something that features the people who help you escape today's overwhelming and oftentimes dark reality. Enter Variety Magazine's podcast, Remote Controlled with Debra Birnbaum. The host interviews entertainers, directors, writers and more from some of the most popular and highly-anticipated films, television series and Broadway shows. My favorite episode right now has to be Milo Ventimiglia's. I've fallen more in love with him - and his legendary This Is Us character, Jack Pearson - when I didn't think that was possible. Listen at your own risk, though: the episode includes spoilers for seasons one and two. ONE MORE WEEK, GUYS. 

The Body Shop 
Image via The Body Shop
My sister dragged me into The Body Shop a few weeks ago and while I was skeptical of the hype behind their products, I'm a sucker for a good sale - which they just happened to have going on while we were there. My sister has beautiful skin and is product-obsessed, so after getting some of her recommendations - as well as recommendations from the employees in the store - I walked out with three of my new favorite beauty products: the Vitamin E Refreshing Eyes Cube (I swear my under eye lines have become less visible), Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-Oil and Vitamin C Glow Revealing Liquid Peel (together, the two have made my skin much softer and more radiant).  

Shake Shack Burger Copycat Recipe (!!!) 
Image via A Cozy Kitchen
Prepare to roll your eyes at me: one of the most difficult parts about my recent move from Orlando to my South Florida suburban hometown is that now, rather than being less than 15 minutes away, Shake Shack is a 45 minute drive away. The. Struggle. Is. Real. Shake Shack burgers are, without a doubt, my favorite. Maybe it's because I get instantly overwhelmed by a burger that's ridiculously full (in my opinion, Shake Shack's burgers are the perfect size), or maybe it's their juicy, crispy-edged, hand-smashed patties, or buttery burger buns, or delicious Shack Sauce ... but, case in point: I'm a woman in love. It's only a matter of time before I make the embarrassing 45 minute trek just to pick up a burger, but in the meantime, I plan on making this detailed copycat recipe from Adriana Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen (God bless you, girl).

Aerial Yoga
Hangin' out (hehe) at Elevate Yoga Center in Orlando

A few months ago, I decided to try yoga for the first time after coming across a Groupon for a studio in Orlando. Better yet, the studio, Elevate Yoga Center offered aerial yoga - a practice I've always found beautiful albeit intimidating. Signing up for a month of these classes was one of the best decisions I ever made. I left each class feeling stronger and more relaxed than I had in months, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to pick up aerial and silks. It was a great reminder that oftentimes, things appear more difficult than they actually are. I'm now a firm believer that if everyone on the planet practiced yoga every day, the world would be a happier and more peaceful place. 

Alllllll the Movies
Image via IMDb
Fact: the end of summer/start of fall has been a movie gold mine. Last month, I fell in love with the Netflix film To All the Boys I've Loved Before, an adorable high school rom-com (Netflix is basically recreating the '80s with its own Brat Pack) featuring a really fun and talented cast (helllllo, Noah Cinteneo). Just a few days after repeatedly watching the film, I fell even more in love with Crazy Rich Asians. This film has it all: entertaining and funny, yet touching and, quite honestly, important. The cast could not have been more perfect (in addition to Noah Cinteneo, I'm now crushing hard on Henry Golding) and the film has a story line that left me feeling allll the emotions. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, and I forgave. You know it's a good story when you can experience all of those feelings in just a couple hours.

Yesterday, I saw A Simple Favor and loved how twisted, mysterious and wickedly funny (yes, funny) it was. As for the film I can't wait to see? Life Itself, written and directed by Dan Fogelman (AKA the man behind This Is Us) comes out this week. Shoot me a text if you want to shamelessly sob in the theatre with me on Thursday night. 

*Can we give a round of applause for not just more diversity, but more representation (yes, there's a difference) in the film industry?! Keep it up, peeps.

Throwback Trends  
Image via Forever 21
It's been over a month since the movie was first released in theatres, and I still haven’t been able to stop thinking about the outfits worn by young Donna (played by Lily James) in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. In my opinion, her effortlessly cool late-‘70s boho/funky disco wardrobe was the highlight of the film. My sister and I recently walked into Forever 21 for the first time in, well, forever, after noticing an impressive array of ‘70s and even ‘60s-inspired pieces in their window displays and put it this way: we did some damage. From flared jeans, corduroy, multicolored stripes and hoop details to retro ankle boots, jumpsuits, drape-y, flow-y pieces and all the denim you can imagine, I can't get enough of the fashion from these decades. Also in? '80s inspired jumpsuits, a la Blake Lively in the aforementioned A Simple Favor.  

Trader Joe's Just Mango Slices
Image via Trader Joe's
Earlier this year, Jess and I went to Denver to visit her longtime friend, Carissa (who's now one of my favorite people on Earth). Of course, no trip to Colorado is complete without a hike. We hiked Devil's Head and just before we had to climb what looked like the Stairway to Heaven to access the highest lookout, Carissa pulled these Trader Joe's Mango Slices out of her backpack for us to snack on. They're dried mango strips with just the right amount of natural sweetness, and it only takes a couple to leave you feeling satisfied. I'm hooked and never leave Trader Joe's without them.    

Claire Wineland's TED Talks 
Image via Claire's Place Foundation
Like the millions of people who watched and listened to her honest and inspirational videos, I'm deeply saddened by the passing of philanthropist Claire Wineland, the 21 year-old who won the world over via social media and public speaking panels where she openly discussed her terminal illness (Cystic Fibrosis), her feelings about mortality, how her disease affected her, and how it wouldn't affect her all the same. I wish I could have met her, but I'm grateful she left this world with so many beautiful messages of strength, hope, love and courage. Listen to her TED Talks (there are a few, but this is her most recent one) and honor her by being kind, being brave, giving back, and creating a life you're proud of. 

Lemon Ginger Tea
Image via Bigelow/Amazon
A couple months ago, my friend Erin and I went to a spa to get massages and as we were waiting, the employee at the front desk brought us some hot lemon ginger tea. After just one sip, I had to ask him what brand of tea it was. Turns out it was Bigelow, which you can buy at just about any grocery store. I've had several Bigelow teas over the years, but this one is hands down my favorite. I always have packets of it in my pantry and reach for a cup whether I'm trying to prevent a brewing cold or simply want to feel more relaxed. 

Two and a Half Days in Chicago

August 3, 2018

While it's slightly embarrassing to admit this (honesty is the best policy, right?), I've wanted to visit Chicago since I was a kid ... because Frank Sinatra sang two songs about it. My mom regularly played Sinatra when I was growing up and, well, put it this way: if he sang about a trash chute, I'd probably hang out by trash chutes. Case in point: I love Frank Sinatra, so I always knew I'd love Chicago because he loved it himself. 

Even more embarrassing to admit is the fact that I also always wanted to visit Chicago because it's the backdrop to two of my all-time favorite '90s rom coms: While You Were Sleeping and My Best Friend's Wedding. That you are free to judge me for.  

To no surprise, the legendary Sinatra was right about Chicago. When I visited, I loved it and it definitely felt like "my kind of town." The city, the people, the food (!), the architecture and surrounding neighborhoods all filled me with the kind of exciting joy only a beautiful, bustling and multicultural city can deliver. And this trip was just two and a half days in length, so I know my experience was just a very small taste of what the city has to offer. Still, a taste is better than nothing. I'd say we made the most of our short time in the city (not to mention the fact that we squeezed a concert in - more on that below!). 

Planning on visiting Chicago soon and only have a couple days to spend in the city? Read on to see what we did - and ate (food is one of the best parts of traveling, no?).

Day 1

Image via Conde Nast Traveler

After my friend Ro and I met up with my friends Jess and Sam at the airport, we headed straight to our hotel. We stayed at the Virgin Hotel in Downtown Chicago, which sits in a convenient spot in the Chicago Loop just steps away from the river and Millennium Park. It felt cool and trendy, yet cozy and friendly (nothing ruins a hot spot like pretentious people, amiright?), and has a coffee shop, restaurant and rooftop bar. They also offer complimentary cocktails during a guest social hour, which is a nice bonus. The only downside we experienced staying here was that we planned to go to the rooftop bar, Cerise, Sunday night, only to discover they were closed early despite it being a holiday weekend (Monday was Labor Day). Lesson #1: if you want to visit a specific destination on a trip - whether it's a restaurant, club/bar, museum or monument, call to verify their hours of operation. Don't rely on the web to tell you. We were so disappointed that we didn't get to make it up, as we heard several positive reviews about it. 

Our first authentic Chicago deep dish at Lou Malnati's. Not the best photo, but this pizza was seriously delicious. For some pics that better showcase their pizza, check out Lou Malnati's Instagram.

Never say no to cheesy garlic bread. Never.

We were so exhausted after our early morning flight from Orlando that we immediately took a two hour break/nap in the hotel after checking in. We woke up feeling ravenous, so naturally, we proceeded to Lou Malnati's for some Chicago deep dish pizza to kick off our stay in the city. And here comes Lesson #2 of the trip: when embarking on your first authentic Chicago deep dish pizza journey, avoid ordering a pizza that isn't just a traditional damn pizza. I ordered something with veggies and turkey sausage in an attempt to get some nutrition in and instantly wished I had ordered what Ro decided on: a simple pepperoni pie. Hers was incredible. I didn't make the same mistake when we grabbed our second deep dish (more on that later). Also, this place had a typical wait of over two hours, so I suggest putting your name in and then exploring the nearby streets while you wait. It helps the time go by faster while allowing you the opportunity to stumble upon a hidden gem (we wandered into a mysterious antique shop).  

After stuffing our faces, Ro and I walked around the river and nearby streets, eventually making our way to Millennium Park to see the Bean, in typical Chicago first-timer fashion. We spent a couple hours exploring and people watching. Few things bring me as much peace and joy as simply walking around a new place, taking in all the sights and sounds. It's the little things, people. Also, was anyone else surprised by how difficult it is to get a solid photo of your reflection in the Bean? I was not prepared for that struggle and eventually I gave up. I was much happier with the photos below.  


After exploring and taking a few pictures, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the aforementioned concert. Who did we see, you ask? Another legend in my book: John Mayer. It was my second time seeing him live, but the experience was just as magical as the first. I teared up when he sang In the Blood and Stop This Train. 

Unexpectedly yet unsurprisingly packed and wore the same exact Amish-inspired hat as Jess.  
Day 2

We kicked off the next morning with yet another walk through the city and picked up some coffee and doughnuts from Glazed and Infused, which is now permanently closed. The buttermilk doughnut was delicious, but I wouldn't say the others were memorable. Still, #doughnuts. R.I.P. G&I. 

Since stomachs magically double in size on vacation, we made our way directly from Glazed and Infused to Summer House Santa Monica for brunch. Nestled near the beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood, it has an airy, fun and chic SoCal-inspired interior. The drinks were great, as was the food. The star of the show for me was surprisingly the Butternut Squash soup. So. Damn. Good. 

Summer House Santa Monica

After brunch, we walked through Lincoln Park, admiring the dreamy homes (another hobby of mine: walking by pretty houses and daydreaming about what my future home will look like while also trying to figure out how to afford the multimillion dollar homes I'm walking by). Ro and I ended up stumbling upon Hotel Lincoln and decided to head up to the rooftop bar, The J. Parker, for some cocktails with a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. 

Hotel Lincoln, standing tall behind the coolest moss/plant covered apartment building

View of Lake Michigan from Hotel Lincoln's 13th floor rooftop bar, The J. Parker 

Image via The J. Parker

To close our second and final night, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for a river cruise. Jess planned this after hearing it was a must-do and I'm so happy she did. It was a perfect night spent on the water, sipping on cocktails, mingling with friendly visitors and locals alike, and admiring the skyscrapers (we even got to see Lady Gaga's Chicago penthouse!). 

Photo taken and edited by Jess 

After the cruise, Ro and I had dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel and went for a short post-dinner walk around the city while Sam and Jess had a date night elsewhere. We all met up at Cindy's Rooftop for cocktails with a view over Millennium Park, and then walked over to Three Dots and a Dash, a tropical island-themed bar in River North, for a night cap. Remember how I mentioned earlier that we couldn't make it up to our hotel's rooftop bar? This was that night. Every bar closed slightly earlier than we expected for a holiday weekend, and since we got such a late start, we were bummed to not have much free time for bar hopping. So, to repeat what I stated earlier: always, always, always call a location to verify their hours of operation on holiday weekends.  

Cindy's Rooftop. Image via Chicago Athletic Hotel

Three Dots and a Dash. Image via Chicago Eater

Day 3

We couldn't get a reservation for Girl and the Goat, which was recommended to us by just about everyone we know who has visited or lives in Chicago, so instead, Ro and I went to Little Goat, the former's diner-style sister restaurant in the West Loop. For me, the breakfast at Little Goat made up for not getting dinner reservations. I had the Bull's Eye French Toast: sweet onion brioche french toast with fried eggs IN THE DOUGH, meaning the yolk poured out once I cut into the french toast *drools profusely.* It was topped with crispy fried chicken, seasonal berries and bbq maple syrup. I could have died of pure bliss right then and there.

After breakfast, Ro and I made our way to the The Skydeck, located on the 103rd (!!!) floor of the Willis Tower. Lesson #3 (this one we got right): pay for the "fast pass" that they offer in the security line area. The line to get to the Skydeck was originally over two hours long, and getting these passes cut our wait time to less than half of that for a very reasonable cost. It was 100% worth it. As far as the experience goes, I was nervous as hell on the elevator ride up (you can start to feel the elevator shake from the wind at a certain altitude), but it felt incredible being up so high and taking pictures on the glass. My stomach definitely felt a little uneasy when I looked down, but the overall experience was thrilling nonetheless. 

Chicago-style hot dogs at The Wiener's Circle. During late weekend hours, the employees are known for having foul-mouthed fun with the customers. I intend to go back on a Saturday night when I'm back in the city for a hot dog with a side of verbal abuse.  

To wrap up our time in Chi-Town, Ro and I visited Wrigley Field and then made our way to get more - you guessed it - food. We stopped at The Wiener's Circle for Chicago-style hot dogs and then immediately made our way to Giordano's for our last meal: deep dish pizza. I was smart enough to order a simple pizza this time around: nothing but good ole' extra cheese. We made our way to Millennium Park to devour our pizza while people watching in the park. It was the perfect way to end our short stay in the city.


Stay beautiful and delicious, Chicago. 


A few other recs I plan on taking advantage of when I return:

Feel free to share any of your own personal recommendations in the comment section below!