Friday, March 31, 2017

April Goals

March kind of got away from me. I had so many plans and goals that were derailed by my battle with a lack of motivation and the end-of-winter blues. I am looking forward to a fresh start in April with new goals. But first let's check in on my March goals:


  • Figure out a day care solution. So far it's still just me watching Victoria, but I have two sitters who can come over to help during busy days. Checking out day cares and preschools is on my to-do list.
  • Go on a date night. Graham and I took our first night away from V in two months to go to our friends' engagement party. I want to do regular date nights from now on. I am not going to say I would like to do one every week, though, because Graham's work schedule is chaotic and it's not always realistic.
  • Start half-marathon training. I started training ... three weeks late. Also, I ran fewer than 10 miles during my first official training week, so I had a rocky start. I plan to get back on track this month.
  • Attend four yoga classes. I attended three yoga classes and did more at-home yoga this month. I also renewed my Yoga Alliance membership and applied for a teaching job. I plan to write some yoga posts in April. (If this is something you'd be interested in reading about, please comment below.)
  • Go on at least one group run. Not done. I signed up for several, but I never made it. (See my post on motivation to work out for more.)

  • Enroll in a photography course. The four-week class I want to do starts in June. In the meantime I plan to practice on my own and read photography blogs.
  • Create an updated media kit. I started my media kit but was too tied up with freelance writing to devote much time to this. 
  • Write and send a newsletter on running. Not done. I plan to work on this in April. 

April goals


  • Ramp up half-marathon training. 
  • Attend four yoga classes.
  • Match March's freelance writing income (or surpass it). Let me know if you'd like to see a post on sources of freelance income.
  • Make blog updates. I want to start working on updating my pages, header and more. Any designer recommendations?
  • Film at least four YouTube videos. Please subscribe!
How did you do on your March goals? What's on tap for April?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chicago Spring Half-Marathon Training, Week 1 | Lessons From My Slow Start

** This post contains affiliate links. 

Shop Flipbelt in various colors.**

I almost didn't share this half-marathon training recap, but I wanted to share the lessons I have learned about balancing fitness and family/life. It's never easy, but it's important to remember your why. Why is this training important to me?

  • I want to be a good example to Victoria.
  • I want to feel stronger.
  • I want to be healthy.
  • I want to prove to myself I can do it.
  • I enjoy running (when the weather isn't miserable).

Monday: 1.65 miles at Orangetheory Fitness.

Floor workout included:

  • 800-meter row
  • 250-meter all-out row
  • 500-meter row
  • 980-meter row
  • Weighted reverse lunges (30/20/10/10)
  • Static crunch scissor kicks (30/20/10/10)
  • Squats (tapping the bench) (30/20/10/10)
  • TRX strap squat jacks (8 reps, 3 sets)
  • Bench stepups with 12 pounds (8 reps, 3 sets)
  • Side plank hip dips (8 reps, 3 sets)
  • Goblet squats with 20 pounds (8 reps, 3 sets)

Tuesday: Strength and restore yoga, 60 minutes.

We didn't do a single Warrior pose or full sun salutation, but it still felt challenging. Most of the class focused on hip and shoulder openers because the two students (including myself) requested them. I found Fierce pose, aka Chair pose, especially difficult, probably because I haven't done it in months.

Wednesday: 2.2 miles at Orangetheory. I chose to attend class over doing group training outside. Sorry, not sorry, because it was 30 degrees, and there was no way I was running outside. I used to do it all the time, but lately I ask myself, why do that when you have a membership at Orangetheory?

Floor exercises included:

  • High rows on the TRX straps
  • Two 700-meter rows (My time was 3:09 for each.)
  • Squats with 15-pound weights
  • Alternating Supermans
  • Leg lifts
  • Single-leg deadlifts

Thursday: Rest day. Light stretching.

Friday: 1 mile run and yoga at home. I wanted to run the 3-4 miles it said on my training plan on this 75-degree day, but by the time Graham was home and I could go outside, it had cooled down to the low 50s with wind that made it feel in the 40s. Chicago weather is just so fun! I made it about a mile before I realized I was underdressed and returned home.

Saturday: 1 mile. I tested out how I felt in the weather and I was not up for it at all. The wind makes a drastic difference.

Sunday: Rest.

Mileage: 5.85 miles.


Yes, I realize this mileage is pathetic. I don't feel completely out of shape, so I know I will still be ready for the half-marathon in seven and a half weeks. This will be my eighth (I think) half-marathon (in addition to two marathons, two 10Ks and four Ragnar Relays), so by now I know what it takes to prepare myself for a race. While I am disappointed in my slow start, I am celebrating the small victory that is beginning my training (officially).


Don't feel guilty for prioritizing family. I skipped Sunday's workout to sleep in, cuddle with the family and then get ready for the Shedd Aquarium. I knew I would surpass my step goal that day, so I didn't beat myself up about it.

Track macros and steps. Hitting your rest day counts is just as important as your training day macros and steps. Watch portion sizes!

Be flexible. As much as I'd love to stick to the schedule I set in my planner, life gets in the way sometimes. I might schedule a 6:45 p.m. workout but then I have no child care or work runs late. I write down other workout options in my planner in case that happens. For example, my planner will say 6:45 OTF or 8 p.m. OTF. If I can't run outside and there are no classes available, I will try to instead do some yoga and exercises at home using videos or my own teaching plans.

Be kind to your body. Lately I have needed more rest days because of my shoulder and back soreness. While most of the discomfort has subsided by now, I still want to be careful in my workouts to make sure I am not overdoing it. It's also important to incorporate stretching, foam rolling, massages (on your own or professional), and other self-care methods.

What are your current fitness goals? How do you make time for fitness/your hobbies?

Current favorites**

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shedd Aquarium With a Toddler

Our family Sunday Funday tradition continued with a day at Shedd Aquarium on Sunday. It was a wet and foggy day that called for yet another indoor activity, so we booked last-minute tickets to the Shedd for a lively day.

One of my goals as a parent is to teach Victoria to love and respect animals and nature, so while I have mixed feelings about aquatic shows, I wanted her to see the good being done by institutions such as the Shedd. Victoria was captivated by the fish, turtles, sharks and sting rays, which she recently become more interested in because of the movie "Moana." You can easily spend an entire day at the aquarium, especially if you get Total Experience or Shedd passes.

Tip: Do not book last minute like we did if you want the Total Experience or Shedd passes. You will be charged an extra $15 a person to skip the line and most of the shows will be sold out. Also, find parking at a lower cost on Spothero** vs. $19 to park in the Adler lot or similar prices at Soldier Field. (FYI: Kids 0-2 get in to the Shedd for free!)

Shedd suggests bringing an umbrella stroller, but I had no trouble in a regular jogging stroller. Of course, as with any popular attraction, you have to be patient with people who walk in front of you. It happens, and you'll probably do it, too.

Despite that ticket lesson learned, we had a successful family outing with no toddler (or adult) meltdowns.

How was your weekend? Have you been to the Shedd?

Previous Shedd post:

Watch a video of our day!

** This post contains a referral link to Spothero. We each get $5 off if you book parking through my link.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chicago Spring Bucket List

Spring is finally here, though Chicago has yet to get the memo. The only way I can get through the remaining weeks (days, I wish) of this weather is to plan all the fun activities I want to do this season. Thus, another Spring Bucket List is born!

Here's what I have on deck:

  • Take three Dabble classes. I have my eye on a summer cocktail class, a jewelry-making class and hopefully at least one other. As I've said before, Dabble is a great way to find your next hobby and you can use code MARETTE10 to get 10 percent off your first class
  • Plant my garden. We'll be heading to our favorite gardening shop soon to pick out way too many plants and garden supplies. I CAN'T WAIT.
  • Volunteer at the community garden. The Petersen Garden project in Chicago has countless opportunities to volunteer. 
  • See Hamilton Chicago! I bought tickets to Hamilton months ago and our show date is quickly approaching. This will be a highlight of the season.
  • Run the Chicago Spring Half. I have about nine weeks to train for the Chicago Spring Half. It was a fun race last year and I like that we got a free plant to take home.
  • Go to as many Cubs games as possible! Enough said.
  • Visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I haven't been there, but it'd be a nice place to practice my photography skills this spring.
  • Go to a farmers market. Fresh veggies from local farmers -- what could be better?

What's on your spring bucket list? Need some inspiration. Find some ideas below!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More Products YouTube Made Me Buy

Five more types of products I purchased because of YouTube videos. (I have various shades of the polish and eyeshadows.)

** This post contains affiliate links.

I recently shared five products I was inspired to buy after watching YouTube videos. Welp, there's more than just five products on the list of beauty products YouTubers made me buy influenced me to buy. Today I'm sharing Round 2. Luckily, these are all affordable products! Bonus: These are all cruelty-free brands.

Despite purchasing all of these products, my makeup collection is fairly small. I bought a lot of these products to replace non-cruelty-free items. (I am still using up some of my non-cruelty-free items before I replace them with those not tested on animals, because I don't want to waste products either. I also recently donated gently used and sanitized products to a women's shelter.)

Five more items I bought:
  • Makeup Geek shadows: I had never even heard of this brand before watching beauty gurus on YouTube. I liked the affordability and pigmentation I saw in videos, so I decided to give these a shot. While I like them, I notice some of the foiled shadows come apart easily. (I have broken a couple of these eyeshadow pans.) The mattes are nice, though, and Coco Bear is my favorite shade. 

  • Wet n Wild Megaglo Contouring Palette: I wanted to try contouring, but I didn't know where to start. I heard in multiple videos that this is a great starter palette, and they were so right! It's also super affordable. I used up a whole palette and was sent a new one as a free gift with a recent foundation purchase (below). Score!
  • Wet n Wild Photofocus Foundation (Desert Beige): I loooove this foundation; it's the only one I use right now. It's my perfect shade, too. I like the vast shade range in this collection, and it looks great on my skin. I would say it's natural coverage, which is why I like it for everyday use. If you have oily skin you might not enjoy that it stays slightly dewy. I don't love the scent but I can look past it for $5.99.
  • KL polish in Gumption, Snickerdoodle and Dass Esspensive: These are cruelty-free as well as free of harsh ingredients. Also, this formula lasts longer on my nails than other brands I had been using. I like the polishes, though you can only order them online. (Dass Esspensive is beautiful but it's sold out on KL Polish's website.)
  • Milani Retouch and Erase Light-Lifting Concealer: Many YouTubers have been talking about the Milani products that were released recently, including this concealer. I decided to replace my empty Too Faced concealer with this, but I got a shade that is a bit too light for me, so I still need to try it in my correct shade. On first impression, I think I would like more coverage. 
Note: Products are cruelty-free to the best of my knowledge. You should always conduct your own research if you're interested in becoming cruelty-free.

What are your favorite products right now?

Shop some of the products**

Related posts:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gaining Back Motivation to Work Out | Half-Marathon Training

** This post contains affiliate links.

Yoga pants by 90 Degrees by Reflex (similar)**; C9 sports bra (similar)**; Fabletics headband**; Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 shoes**

In October I became a work-from-home parent, and the adjustment period has taken a toll on my fitness motivation. Keeping up with a toddler is a workout in itself, am I right?! I've skipped workout after workout recently and I find myself in a rut. My half-marathon training was set to begin March 1, yet it's three weeks later and I have only run 11.35 miles. My excuses to skip runs or fitness classes include but aren't limited to: Chicago weather, getting sick, back and shoulder pain and prioritizing family time over fitness. The real reason I have been slacking on training, though, is simple: I have lost motivation.

The Chicago Spring Half Marathon is May 21, which is in nine weeks. It's really now or never: I need to start seriously training. I want to re-prioritize fitness because working out is a key part of my physical and mental well-being. In an effort to burst out of this rut, I'm sharing ways I plan to regain motivation when the gym is the last thing I want to do.

  • Read fitness blogs. I find that I am inspired when I read a fitness blog post or watch a vlog. The passion can be contagious. Surround yourself with motivational influences.
  • Write down a specific workout and time in your planner. When I list something in my planner, I MUST do it. If you're the same way, scheduling a class in advance may give you the necessary jolt.
  • Find a buddy. My friend and I were discussing our lack of motivation this weekend and we asked ourselves, why haven't we worked out together yet?! I have no problem canceling workouts I plan myself, but I can't imagine canceling on a friend.
  • Make it a family affair. Lately there have been days when I don't want to leave the house for an 8 p.m. workout (the only time I can go sometimes) because I want to be back in time to put Victoria to bed and read her a story. We recently bought a running stroller, and I am counting down the days until I can take her with me on short jogs in nice weather. (Plus I won't need to save my running for so late in the day and can instead do them during my lunch break.) Graham has also expressed an interest in training for a race together, during which we can motivate each other.
  • Create a new playlist. Every season I put together a running playlist on Spotify. I get excited about uninterrupted time to listen to new music and current favorites. (Stay tuned for a new running playlist!)
  • Compile a vision board on Pinterest or on actual paper. Use motivational quotes, images and workout plans as inspiration. Visualize the results you want to see. Remind yourself why you work out in the first place.
  • Try new workouts, running routes, class times, teachers/trainers. Mixing it up in some way keeps your workouts exciting and interesting. Take the most scenic running path! Sign up for a different group fitness class! Grab a new pair of colorful leggings! Try a different style of yoga! 
  • Wear a fitness tracker daily and track meals. Seeing your progress can give you a boost of confidence. It's also fun to hit that daily step goal!
  • Keep a workout journal (take photos of yourself or share your workouts on social media). Write down how you feel before, during and after. Share your successes and failures to figure out what works for you and what doesn't. Ask yourself if there's something to be grateful for about the workout process and find an inspiring community via hashtags (#fitspo, #fitfluential, #MondayMotivation, etc.). Also, photos can help yourself see progress over time that isn't always obvious to ourselves.
  • Set out your cute new workout clothes. Updating your worn-out athletic gear makes you want to work out! I recently got the pink/purple leggings above and am so excited to wear them more often.
How do you stay motivated? Share your tips in the comments to help each other out!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cruelty-Free Empties

** This post contains affiliate links.

My most recent empties feature new and familiar products to me, but all of them are cruelty-free! I've been focusing on self-care recently, especially when it comes to my body and my skin. This round of empties reflects that. Bonus: These products are all affordable!

  • Miss Spa Brighten sheet mask ($2.99): I have written about how much I like these affordable sheet masks several times; they are a regular part of my skin-care routine.
  • Wet 'n Wild Photofocus Setting Spray ($4-5): I liked this drugstore setting spray. It set my makeup in place and made any cakey-ness disappear.  I didn't have any issues with creasing either! I really don't think it made my makeup last that much longer -- at least I didn't notice a difference. My only complaint is that the spray is a bit strong. I didn't have to repurchase because I got another for free with a recent Wet 'n Wild order. Win! Although, I haven't been using this much yet because I am currently trying out the Milani Make It Last setting spray.
  • Ole Henriksen Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths (trio was about $15, sample had 10 cloths): I got a trio set of Ole Henriksen products recently as part of a birthday haul thanks to family. These cloths have a citrus scent (reminds me an Orange Creamsicle) to them that became a bit much for me after a few uses. They were gentle on the eyes and removed most of my makeup, but I am not in love with these wipes.
  • Dr Teal's Pure Epsom Salt Soaking Solution, Eucalyptus & Spearmint (about $4.50): I go through these bags of Epsom Salt regularly. (I probably have used five or six in the past month.) I have had soreness in my shoulder and back, and these help me relax after workouts or after a long day at my desk. I also enjoy the Lavender soak. 
  • Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm ($3.99): I cannot live without this lip balm, especially in the winter. I have other flavors but the original is the best. I don't know why I even bother with the other flavors/scents; it's the best.
  • Udderly Smooth Hand Cream (about $3): I got this hand cream as part of a self-care gift from a family member when we brought Victoria home. It saved my skin during this winter! I liked to carry it in my purse. 
  • Lush Hottie Massage Bar (not pictured, $12.95): I bought this on a whim because I found myself at a Lush store in Chicago before brunch with Jessie. I was intrigued by the massage bars, and the Hottie is meant to help sore and tired muscles. It's shaped with bumps on one side so that you can massage the area. It has a warm, almost spicy scent and the oils (including jojoba) dissolve into your skin, leaving it super soft. I would definitely buy this again.
  • Lush Brazened Honey Fresh Face Mask (about $9): I liked this gentle, moisturizing mask, which also has a bit of a spicy scent. (It contains ginger, fennel, cardamom and turmeric.) I think I prefer the Cup O' Coffee more, so I may go back to that one, even if I disliked the mess it creates. You really can't go wrong with Lush masks though.

What products have you been loving lately?

Shop my empties**

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Modern Lettering Class

Have you ever wanted to try something but felt unsure of where to start? has helped me with several of those situations. I recently wanted to buy a sign during vacation, but I couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of cash on it. It seemed like I could just do it myself if I practice lettering.

Modern Lettering class, which I found via Dabble, quickly showed me that lettering is much more difficult than it looks. It piqued an interest that I plan to pursue further.

The class is taught by Tamasin Ford in a classroom at Power Up Tech Academy. She has a workspace waiting for you with your own workbook, which she created, and a pen that you choose and take home. (I chose classic black, but red, blue, green and other colors were available.) Tamasin also offers coffee, tea and water during class, though you are free to bring your own beverage, as you are in many Dabble classes.

Rachael (of Tea for Two blog) and I went to a Monday night class on a snowy March day in Chicago. I was nervous about finding parking outside the building on Clybourn Avenue, but it was easy to find. Surprisingly, most people were on time despite the snow!

The class begins with Tamasin discussing the basics for about 20 minutes or so. She goes over the workbook and suggests working at your own pace. Some people get through the entire workbook throughout class, while others, like me, only get to about the third page because it takes them more practice. After the talk, Tamasin walks around to each person around the table to offer feedback and tips on ways to improve. It seemed that every student thought she was terrible at lettering, but Tamasin often pointed out how we were much tougher on ourselves than we needed to be. I thought my overturns and underturns were awful, but she didn't seem to think they were at all. The first lesson I learned about lettering is to slow down and be patient. I also took a lot of breaks in between practicing. The two-hour class inspired me to keep practicing. If nothing else, scribbling on pages is good meditation!

The class is $32, but you can get a discount on this and other Dabble classes by using my ambassador link.  Dabble is also available in cities such as Seattle, St. Louis, Denver, Atlanta and Austin. You can use code MARETTE10 to get 10 percent off your class.

** I received a Dabble credit to pay for this class. I was a fan long before becoming an ambassador. I may receive incentives for using my code and links.

Previous Dabble experiences:

Dabble videos:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sunday Funday at Jump! Zone | Chicago

Sundays have been family-fun days recently. However, we have been limited to indoor activities lately because Chicago has decided to be Chiberia again. Yesterday we checked out Jump! Zone in Niles (north of Chicago), a facility full of inflatables for kids to play on. Victoria was in heaven and we were happy to keep her entertained and active.

One minor gripe: The place was difficult to find. The directions kept being rerouted on Google maps, and it looked like we were being taken to a warehouse and not a family play center. Jump! Zone is in the back of a large industrial building and has small signs; we had been on the right track all along.

If you end up finding it, you'll pay $11 for each child. (Parents don't pay, which is nice, but you also don't jump. The kid in me wanted to jump, too!) Victoria, at 2, was one of the smaller kids, but she seemed to enjoy most of the inflatables. We shared many laughs as she fearlessly took on the slides the older kids had taken over. I slightly worried about kids who were jumping from inflatable to inflatable and climbing all over the place, but luckily we didn't have any incidents. Hooray!

We had a nice little outing before family dinner and frozen yogurt nearby. I love our family days!

How did you spend your Sunday?

Friday, March 10, 2017

At-Home Teeth Whitening
with Smile Brilliant | Giveaway!

** Thank you Smile Brilliant for sponsoring this post. **

I realized recently that I don't have many photos of myself from the last few months. I have preferred to remain behind the lens rather than in front of it because I wasn't happy with my teeth. As an Invisalign wearer, I struggle with keeping my teeth white. I've been wearing the trays for more than two years, and though my teeth have become straighter, they sure could use some affordable at-home teeth whitening!

Smile Brilliant recently reached out to me regarding their home teeth whitening kits, and it seemed like an answer to my manifestation of whiter teeth. I was about to finish what I thought would be my last Invisalign treatment aligner, so it couldn't have come at a better time. (I later found out I need more trays to make more tweaks to my smile.)

I gave Smile Brilliant's custom-fitted teeth whitening trays a try while I am waiting for my new aligners to come in. The whitening process begins when Smile Brilliant sends its impression kit. You receive everything you need to take an impression of your teeth at home (plus they send a backup kit in case you mess up!). I followed the easy directions on the impression card and didn't have any difficulty taking my impressions. After you rinse the impressions off and let them dry, you can drop them in the return envelope and take them to your mailbox.

My impression before I sent it back to Smile Brilliant.

Smile Brilliant then sends you a confirmation email a few days later when they receive your impressions. It's not long before you receive your custom-fitted whitening trays to use!

Before you whiten, read the instruction cards completely so you understand how it works. I decided to start off with a minimal amount of whitening gel and only gradually increased the amount once I knew how sensitive my teeth would become. I didn't have any issues with excessive teeth sensitivity by doing this. In one instance I did apply too much and a tiny portion of my gums turned white, but that was gone in less than two hours. I didn't experience any pain because of it. The teeth whitening gel comes in syringe applicators that make it easy to apply to your custom-fitted whitening trays.

After just a few weeks of use, my teeth became much whiter, though I still could use more whitening sessions to remove more coffee and food stains. Overall, I am happy with the progress from my starter whitening kit. If you have coffee stains on your teeth, you might like the results! I finally feel more confident in my smile and have been taking more photos lately.

Smile Brilliant suggests whitening at night so you don't re-stain your teeth by eating colorful foods afterward. I typically used it before bed while watching TV. I  used the gel for a minimum of 30 minutes, but you can wear them from one to three hours.

Want to try Smile Brilliant? 

Enter the giveaway!

Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $139 store credit by sharing this post and filling out this simple form.

To purchase your own smile kit for 5 percent off, use code maretteflora5 on Smile Brilliant's website!

Giveaway is open to U.K., Australia, Canada and U.S. residents only. Must be 18 or older. No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes. Winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. Contest ends March 24.

How Much Is Teeth Whitening

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

5 Beauty Products YouTube Made Me Buy

** This post contains affiliate links.

This post was inspired by the popular tag on YouTube about products YouTubers made us all buy. These are just five of the makeup products I wanted to buy after hearing rave reviews about them on YouTube. Of course, there are countless makeup products I've heard about that sound amazing, but when it comes to beauty products, I stick to cruelty-free and mostly affordable. Check out some of the makeup I was compelled to buy and what I think about each:

  • Wet 'n Wild Megalast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick ($4.99): I recently saw several YouTubers rave about these affordable liquid lipsticks while searching for new lip colors to wear. I have a recent goal of wearing lipstick more often, and these seemed like a great option. I invested in a few shades and so far I love them. They last a decent amount of time on the lips and they are easy to apply.
  • Milani Luminoso blush (about $8): Jaclyn Hill, Kathleen Lights and many others have called this blush a favorite  and I can see why. First, the packaging is lovely. It also applies nicely and looks good on a variety of skin tones. It is my go-to blush.
  • Milani Make It Last Setting Spray (about $10): This is a recent purchase, so I don't have too many thoughts on it yet besides it smells nice and the spray isn't too forceful. 
  • Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer (about $13): I bought this because of Kathleen Lights, but I purchased it online before swatching it. Had I tried it in person I would have seen that it's a bit too light for me most of the year. I am able to use it when my tan has faded, though. It smells like a tropical paradise, as I'm sure you've heard, and the packaging is cute.
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance eyeshadow palette ($42): Pretty much every single YouTuber I've ever watched has given this palette positive reviews. I kept seeing it and admiring the beautiful shades, so I added it to my Christmas wish list and Santa brought it to me! I used it exclusively during a recent vacation and loved how I could do a variety of looks with the eyeshadows. The packaging gets easily dirty, but it's still lovely.

Have you purchased anything specifically because you heard about it from a YouTuber? What was it and what did you think?

Shop the products**

Monday, March 6, 2017

Chicago Children's Museum

On our last day together as a family before G's work ramps up, we headed to Navy Pier. We had yet to go with V since she came to Chicago last October. I had high hopes for a warm day, but when it was only in the 50s, the Chicago Children's Museum quickly stood out as an ideal indoor destination.

Spothero helped me find a parking spot near Navy Pier for $9 vs. $25 at the pier. It was only a half mile (or shorter) walk to the museum. When you enter the gift shop, you walk upstairs (or take the elevator with a stroller) to pay for your admission ($14 per person over 12 months). Lucky for us, children get free admission on the first Sunday of the month!

Kiddos will have plenty to keep them occupied at the exhibits, and while it was a bit crowded on this day, it was never unenjoyable. Among our favorite stops was the Dinosaur Expedition, where you can uncover dino bones! We weren't able to try out the Tinkering Lab because it was to capacity when we went, but we explore every other exhibit at the museum.

It was a successful, fun-filled family day, and I hope it's not too long before we have another!

Watch a video of our day!

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

March Goals

I am ready for March -- for change and for warmth. This month my routine will be adjusted once again after returning to work in February. My husband's work will also ramp up and V just started pre-ballet and speech therapy. Our lives will be busier but also happier and healthier, I hope. Today I'm sharing my March goals for accountability reasons, but first, let's check in on my February goals:

February goal check-in:

  • Enjoy my remaining family leave. I was not ready to return to work, that's for sure. 
  • Find family-friendly activities in Chicago. We spent a day at the Field Museum, which was fun, and we took V to the playground when the weather was nice. 
  • Get back into a fitness routine. I was on track with my workouts for about a week and a half before I felt discomfort in my back and shoulder that has lasted for more than a week. I plan to slowly get back into my workouts this week.
  • Make it to one group run and one yoga class. I benefited immensely from a restorative yoga class last week! I didn't make it to a group run, though, because of my back and shoulder pain.

  • Pursue more freelance writing and editing opportunities. I began my writing project last week. So far I have only written a few pieces, but I hope the work continues.
  • Search for a photo-editing course. I found several options but the classes don't begin until March and April.

March goals:


  • Figure out a day care solution. I work from home and V has so far stayed home with me. This won't always work, especially when I have busy production days. WAHMs, how do you do it?!
  • Go on a date night. Since V arrived,  G and I have preferred to do things as a family, but now that we are in more of a routine we can go on date nights more often.
  • Start half-marathon training. I am registered for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon in May and training begins this week!
  • Attend four yoga classes. I would like to take yoga classes weekly during my half-marathon training. While I am certified to teach yoga and can practice alone, I can't find a quiet enough space to practice in my home, so classes are my best bet.
  • Go on at least one group run. 

  • Enroll in a photography course.
  • Create an updated media kit.
  • Write and send a newsletter on running. Are you subscribed?

What are your March goals?

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chicago Eats: The Dawson
and Tuco & Blondie

Brunch is my middle name. Among my talents is an ability to pick great brunch places. It's a gift! I recently tried two Chicago eateries I hadn't visited yet: The Dawson and Tuco & Blondie. I loved both for different reasons.

The Dawson, West Town

I caught up with friends recently at the Dawson on the most gorgeous 65-degree day. We sipped on Bellinis ($11) as we waited for a table on the patio, which has a fireplace and plenty of seating areas. I basked in the sunshine while trying out the smoked salmon ($16), a large, beautiful platter. It was the best breakfast I've had in a while. The restaurant would be a great place to hold private events!

Tuco & Blondie, Lakeview

I came across this Mexican food restaurant while perusing the #InfatuationChi tag on Instagram. The food, drinks and decor looked amazing, so I suggested it to Jessie, who is quickly becoming a favorite brunch companion. I ordered the chilaquiles ($12) minus the chicken. It's two overeasy eggs over tortillas in red sauce and avocado, corn, tomato. It's also topped with sour cream. I paired that with black beans and rice. The rice wasn't the best I've had, but I loved the beans. I also enjoyed the red sauce, though I wish I would have ordered the eggs overhard (just my preference). I also had a classic margarita because when in Rome ... I also loved the decor. The walls next to the bar displayed framed cactus prints and a cactus adorned with holiday lights stood a few feet away from our table. We couldn't resist a photo with the mural outside, either.

What restaurants have you been loving lately? 

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