Blogs I Love (And Blogs I Love to Hate): First Edition

Today’s topic is a reader request! We were chatting about bloggers we love, how we find them, and bloggers we love to hate. She suggested I share my faves (and not so faves) with all of you. This post got really long really fast so I’m going to turn it into a  new series!
I prefer reading real bloggers over “professional bloggers”. Seeing perfectly staged, bright and light photos, while inspiring, makes me feel bad about myself. Reading a mom post about how her kid was a total nightmare and her house looks like a bomb hit it makes me feel like I’m doing just fine. Give me real over curated any day of the week, so you’ll see my blog loves skew towards real life people with jobs, maybe kids, and not someone that makes their living off of collaborations with retailers.

Blog Loves

Elements of Style.  This was one of the first blogs I started reading, and while it is “professional”, it is an accompaniment of her career. Erin Gates is an AMAZING Boston based interior designer. She has a classic style with a bit of a twist. Her blog focuses mainly on interiors, obviously, but also tosses in fashion and lifestyle. Despite it being her professional blog, Erin is not afraid to share her personal life with her readers. She has been open about her history with eating disorders, anxiety and, most recently, infertility. She is now adorably pregnant and styling that bump something fierce. I cannot WAIT to see the babe’s nursery. Below are a few images from her home just outside of Boston. Gimme that kitchen! And check out the cheetah print stair runner. So bold.

erin gates design portfolio kitchen

erin gates design portfolio stairs

Pineapple Style Blog. I first found Summer through her previous blog, Life is Reed-iculous, named after Reed, her sweet chocolate lab. This was one of the blogs that I creeped through, reading every post back to the beginning. (Don’t lie, you have totally done that too!). Summer has great fashion sense and a traditional Southern home style. She’s also not afraid to make fun of herself and has a sarcastic sense of humor, which I love. After lurking on Summer’s blog and insta for a while, we realized we were having babies around the same time. We became blogger friends, and shortly after our little girls were born, real friends! Or as real as can be considering we have never spoken, but we text often about the girls, their milestones, post baby bodies and our struggles as working mamas. Hopefully Summer will start blogging again about buying and decorating her new house in North Carolina. (Hint, hint!) Below are pics of her daughter Sloan, with her new lab Rolo and a favorite photo of Sloan’s nursery:

IMG_7199

full room
Its the Little Things. Taylor is a local Chicago girl, originally from Atlanta, who writes a fabulous blog that is a mix of celebrity gossip, trashy tv recaps, fashion and her daily life. She watches The Bachelor/Bachelorette, so obviously I’m  on board, and for those of you who are into any other terrible tv, she probably watches those too and recaps on her Thursday Coffee Talk series. She’s funny and sarcastic, and truly adorable. I want to be friends with her, even though I’m older and have a baby and cannot keep up with her super fun lifestyle. She is relatively newly married and her wedding was GORGE! Check out her dress!

Olive & Tate. I have a little crush on Stephanie. I began following her blog, back when it used to be called Newlyweds: North, shortly after she moved to Maine from South Carolina, literally one week after getting married. She and her husband have since welcomed baby Gray and are back in Greenville. Girlfriend is hilarious, loves red wine in bed, tells it like it is as the mama of a one year old (one of my fave of our posts is “An Ode to My Pre-baby Boobs”), and is currently renovating their straight out of the 70’s home into something gorgeous. She’s also one half of Willow Crowns, a small business that has the cutest headbands that Emma rocks on the regular. See below for her most recent home reveal and one year family photos, which I will be copying immediately.

Blogs I Love to Hate:

Hanging with the Hewitts. This actually used to be one of the blogs I read daily. A typical SAHM blog but I appreciated her candor and chatty nature. But over the last 6-12 months or so Caycee has turned the blog into a money maker. Every post contains a million links and she has a new outfit on daily. She’s really lost the content that made me want to read her, however sometimes I still take a peek, and when I do, it’s her and her fabulous body rocking a bikini at the pool/on the beach and drinking cocktails while her kids play, while I’m at work missing my kid. Makes me feel bad about my working mama life and my post baby bod. Unsubscribe.  Also recently, she has been wearing this wig thing that just drives me insane.

Barefoot Blonde. This chick is gorgeous, has ridiculously amazing hair, a fantastic body (even while pregnant), a beautiful apartment in NYC and a handsome husband. Oh, they also travel to places like Greece and Bora Bora, with their 16 month old? I mean, it’s too much. Oh, and she’s like 25. Who has this much money? I visit her instagram feed every once in a while, hate my life, and then unfollow again. See below for pictures that make me want to stab myself in my muffin top.

Barefoot Blonde

Barefoot Blonde
There are plenty of more bloggers I love, and bloggers I love to hate, that I’ll share in a second edition next moth. Until then, who are your must reads?

Summer (?) Bucket List

Apparently kids are already going back to school, so I thought I would share our 2015 Summer Bucket List. Each April or May I put together a list of activities that I want to do over the next three months. Summer is short in Chicago so we try to take advantage of it! Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) helps us to plan weekend date nights. Rather than keep this year’s bucket list on my computer, I put it up on our chalkboard wall aka the side of our fridge. Rather than walking down the hallway looking straight into a fridge, I put up chalkboard contact paper I found on Amazon. It took a while to get it perfect, but I LOVE it and use our little chalkboard for notes, grocery lists and holiday greetings.
 This summer I went easy on us, as we have a little one in tow, and I still don’t love leaving her with babysitters, so there are a few things we haven’t been able to do yet like go for a bike ride, go hiking at Indiana Dunes, attend movies or Shakespeare in the Park (which start after baby E’s bedtime) or grab cocktails at a few of our favorite rooftops. But, we have been to the pool nearly every weekend, hit up the local Farmer’s Market weekly for fresh fruits and veggies, have gone to the beach a few  times to let our pup play in the surf, and were able to join friends for a concert at Ravinia–the Tanglewood of the midwest.
  Last week, thanks to Grandma for coming into town to babysit, Tim and I were able to have a date night and cross two major items off our bucket list. Drinks at the Terrace in the new Trump Tower and a stroll along the new Chicago Riverwalk. The Terrace was definitely a bucketlist activity. I won’t be going there on the regular, especially as cocktails start at $25, but it was a beautiful view and a gorgeous night. A definite must if you’re visiting Chicago or playing tourist in your own city.     
Dress: Calvin Klein (similar here and here)  Clutch: Clare Vivier 
After dinner at GT Fish & Oyster, we decided to stroll to the new Riverwalk. I’m not just saying it because I live here, but Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities. The architecture is amazing, the beach borders downtown and a river runs through it. Up until this summer though, you could not take advantage of the river! Thankfully they just opened a beautiful riverwalk, complete with gardens, neat art installations and most importantly, bars! If you are one of the lucky and rich few who own a boatt, you can even pull up and dock. We strolled through a grabbed a glass of wine at City Winery, right underneath the infamous “corncobs”. What a perfect night. 

  

Block Party!

I have had an absolute love affair with our neighborhood since we moved here five years ago. We live a few blocks from a huge park, there is a public pool nearby that we frequent every summer weekend, we’re less than a 10 minute drive to the beach and walking distance to a grocery store and two cute little areas full of bars and restaurants. Over the past few years years we’ve gotten to know our neighbors a bit more (one perk of having a dog and a baby), but still don’t know a lot of the people on our street. Until this weekend when we had our first block party! Organized by these sweet guys that live two doors down (seriously, ladies, there are good looking, organized, smart and incredibly nice guys next door–come on over for a BBQ!) the block party was unbelievable. It kicked off at noon with a kid’s bike parade. Neighbors grilled while we all tried to knock Charlie into the water in the dunk tank. We had not one, but TWO, bounce houses, which I maybe forced myself into, an egg toss, water balloon toss, face painting, pinatas and a cakewalk.     
   The highlight for the kids (and my husband) was the visit from the firetruck. The guys from Engine 110 were so nice, and not only let us walk through the back of the firetruck, but allowed the adult in the driver’s seat. They also entertained my husband’s million questions.    Everyone brought out food for a neighborhood pot luck, and the kids spent hours upon hours riding their bikes and scooters up and down the street. E held court in our front yard and Addie had the time of her life. I was maybe the old lady who told them they needed to turn the music down at 11:30pm, but the lack of sleep was worth it to meet and get to know the names and stories of the families that we walk by every day. It makes life in the big city that much smaller.

Five on Friday: Back at It!

Well my dear friends, two weeks ago, during the prime of The Bachelorette, my blog had 350 views. This week I’m at 84 so clearly the people have spoken and I’ll be wasting my Sunday AND Monday watching Bachelor in Paradise. I do it for you, readers, I do it for you. A few things rattling around in my head this week:
1. I had leftover watermelon juice from my jalapeno watermelon margarita so whipped up another tasty drink to continue my summer of cocktailing! Muddle a few mint leaves in the bottom of a collings glass. Add a shot of vodka, watermelon juice, two solid squeezes of lime and top with a splash of club soda for some bubbles. Delish! I did not take a photo because I was attempting to eat a burger and appease my daughter, who was trying to shove as much leaves and dirt into her mouth as humanly possible.
2. On a walk this week I discovered another Little Free Library in our neighborhood.  This is our third and had lots of great children’s books. Do any of you have these? It’s a program in which volunteers place structures in their yards to fill with books. Anyone can take a book  or leave a book, with the idea to promote reading and foster community spirit. I’ve grabbed a few great books from our neighborhood Little Free Libraries and have dropped off some as well. I love knowing that they are moving around the city to so many different homes.  
3. I took myself to Target this week, treated myself to a Starbucks and had a nice little stroll. While marching through the shoe section I spied the following:  Dude, I’m 100% sure I had these in 1994. First birkenstocks, then overalls, and now these hideous heeled loafers. The 90’s are back!
4. Playing House is the best show you aren’t watching.I caught Playing House on USA last summer and it is hilarious! Short summary: Two best friends, one is pregs and her best friend moves home from China to help her raise the baby. I obviously connected with it last summer as I too was incredibly pregnant, but I’m re-watching Season One now and I am still laughing and crying. These women are hilarious and it’s a wonderful model of female friendship. Season Two just started this week. It’s a must watch! Also, you will die when you see their house and want to move right in.
5. My mother-in-law came in town to help this week as I had a work event late last night and the best part…she’s babysitting for us tonight too so Tim & I get to have a date night! We’re hoping to have a drink at Terrace at the Trump, which has been on our summer bucket list (which I will share next week). Fingers crossed we get a seat. Check out this view! I love this city.

Jalapeño Watermelon Margarita

Apparently today is National Watermelon Day, so I’m totally in trend with my post. I am not a huge tequila drinker, but I’ve pinned about 10,000 versions of watermelon margaritas this summer so when my husband declared yesterday a “Sunday Funday”, I went for it.
This recipe is adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen. I’m using her measurements below because I basically just winged it. I also didn’t have triple sec so omitted it. I highly recommend you salt the rims. So necessary and so delicious–it really cuts through the sweetness of the drink.  Also, a little tip for you local folks, Mariano’s sells freshly squeezed watermelon juice. WAY easier then buying watermelon, cubing, blending and straining.  Jalapeño Watermelon Margaritas
Ingredients:
1 jalapeño
3/4 cup tequila (I think I used more)
8-10 cups watermelon chunks or bottle of watermelon juice from Mariano’s
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup Triple Sec (I omitted)
1/4 cup simple syrup
Instructions
  1. Place tequila and a few slices of jalapeno in a glass  and place in the refrigerator for an hour or two.  Keep tasting to see if it is hot enough. I infused the tequila for about an hour and it wasn’t long enough for me–I like a little spice!
  2. Place watermelon chunks in a blender and blend until liquified. Pour watermelon through a fine-meshed strainer. Measure out 3 cups of watermelon juice OR go to Mariano’s and purchase a delicious bottle of freshly squeezed juice.
  3. In a large pitcher, combine the watermelon juice, tequila, lime juice, Triple Sec, and simple syrup. (To make simple syrup, mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, heat over low heat stirring non-stop until combined.)
  4. Rub the rims of your glasses with lime juice and dip in a plate of coarse sea salt. Fill glass with ice, top with your tasty drink, squeeze in another little splash of lime and garnish with a few slices of jalapeno. Ole!
      
I have plenty of watermelon juice left so I think I’m going to whip up another vodka cocktail this week. Would you all be interested in the recipe?