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Why Diane Von Furstenberg is a Girls Girl- Food, Fashion, and Friends

“I design for the woman who loves being a woman.” ~ Diane Von Furstenberg

This is exactly what came to mind when an invitation to preview the new DVF collection at Neimen Marcus popped in my social feed a few weeks ago.  I have always admired women who find a way to make themselves and other women feel good about themselves (see Why We Blog).  Women are so multifaceted and intricate that there are so many ways to speak to the core of a woman and for DVF, it is through clothing.

So I grabbed my #MomSquad and made a Mom’s Night Out (#MNO) out of it to enjoy in the creative collection at Neiman Marcus Michigan Avenue.

Sonia With Ceta Walters of Clark And Stone

Sonia With Ceta Walters of Clark And Stone

Live Models Giving Inspiration
Live Models Giving Inspiration

Hosts Ceta Walters and Sam Saifer Berngard created a festive and fun atmosphere with live models, nibbles, and cocktails.  DVF did the rest, her collection was vibrant, playful, and sexy. Obviously anyone in a bright yellow dress or blue fur jacket will exude confidence and fun!

As a Mom, getting out of the house with some of my favorites ladies was already a win, but being part of an event designed specifically to speak to women who love being who they are was the cherry on top!

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Gibson’s Italia

Also, for those of you in Chicago, we were able to score a table at the new Gibson’s Italia, this hot spot did not disappoint. As a vegetarian, my menu was limited, but that was not a problem. I ordered their Italian grain bowl which was a perfect blend of salad with substance.  The farro and barley added a hearty and yummy touch!  The spaghetti dish was cooked to al dente perfection.  Since I wanted to try multiple things, I halved my order with my husband and secretly had wished I had the whole thing to myself (shhh!). My absolute favorite was the Mozzarella de Buffala.  As a vegetarian we often order this as a starter and I can honestly say this one stood out from the rest.  It was a delicious blend of avocado, basil and cheese…yummm!

Grain Bowl With Farro and Barley
Grain Bowl With Farro and Barley

Overall, I’d say the night was a win ….who knew a spontaneous weeknight could turn into so much fun!

XOXO,

Sonia

Why São Paulo, Brazil Should Be On Your Bucket List

My husband and I were excited to attend our friend’s wedding this past October in São Paulo, Brazil. I’m anxious to share my first travel post about our trip. I hope I could do justice to all of my memorable experiences. Luckily, I have pictures to help. 🙂

We stayed at the Radisson Blu São Paulo, which was the official hotel for all the wedding guests. The hotel rooms were clean and spacious and our bathroom was equipped with L’Occitane products, which are a personal favorite. I have to mention, the Radisson Blu São Paulo, did a fantastic job with the daily buffet breakfast which includes an extensive offering of fresh coffee, cereals, pastries, eggs, cured meats, fresh juices and a whole lot more.

I can admit, as a vegetarian I was concerned about traveling to a country that relishes their meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was surprised to find there were quite a few highly recommended vegetarian restaurants.  In between our time attending wedding events, we had a chance to visit ‘Goa’ a fusion cuisine with Indo-Brazilian influence. They source fresh ingredients from their farm right in their very own backyard.

We even had a chance to go to the ‘Mercado Municipal’ and try countless exotic fruit sourced from all over the world including the Amazon. One delicious fruit after another, we were in heaven and wanted to purchase crates full of the delectable variety. But beware! This is a tourist hot-spot so all the fruit is marked up considerably and you are better off just taste testing.

By the way, here’s what I wore to the market that day: A simple white button down with a bright red ruffled skirt with brown flats (for comfort). I fit right in!

São Paulo is quite populated and there are many impoverished areas yet it’s easy to find people smiling, especially seen on the portraits of city walls drenched in lively graffiti at every turn. One such place is Beco do Batman, English: Batman’s Alley. Along with street art, which serve as great photo-ops, this area is host to cool art galleries, co-working spaces and amazing fine dining.

Beco Do Batman

Beco Do Batman

It was wedding day in São Paulo and we were ready to witness our friends tie the knot and celebrate Brazil style. Receptions in Brazil go on till 5AM! It seemed like an impossible task but if anyone was up to it, it was we New Yorkers. They served multiple courses throughout the night to keep us fueled and the bar kept flowing. We were such troopers; we partied hard all night and shut the place down. We still got it!

Here’s what I wore to this fabulous event. This sparkly maxi was a big hit and so comfortable to dance in:

…and here’s Mr. Sagir making a cameo.

The wedding was followed by a buddy-moon in Bahia, Brazil. For those who may not know of this new trend, a buddy-moon incorporates your friends on your honeymoon. It’s the official after-party to your wedding! Although, the reception was nothing short of fantastic! Buddy-moons are a fun way to continue the celebrations with friends.

We took a short flight from São Paulo to Bahia, then a bus and finally a boat in the dark underneath the starlit sky to a place called Barra Grande, a beach town on the Marau peninsula. On the way to the boat, we stopped at a local eatery off the highway specializing in empadas. The palm heart flavored empadas were a favorite amongst us and we even stopped to get more on our return trip. Here’s a quick video I took of the quaint eatery while we waited for our food.

Having returned for a month now, I’m missing the warmth. I don’t just mean the weather, but the familiarity of the locals. I understand more about the inviting culture after having been there and miss it so much. I’ll share more about the second half of our trip soon so stay tuned for my next post!

XO,
Puja
Trendy Chick

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Easy-Peasy Hosting Tips

Looking ahead to fall and the holidays its crazy to think that 2017 is wrapping up and my calendar is already booked!  Still when the holidays come around, I get the bug to get my friends and family together over food and fun. Growing up, my Mother taught me a lot about how happiness and memories can become attached to things like eating together. Every effort put forth to make a meal ‘special’ was always acknowledged.  Along the way, I picked up a few quick and effortless tips that I use time and time again. These tips are meant to show my guests how much I appreciate them.  So with the help of some old school tricks from my Mom paired with the genius hacks of Pinterest (check out our Party Board), here are some dinner party secrets that will make hosting a breeze.

Keep your Liquor Bottles, ALL of them
Piggy backing on the mason jar trend, old bourbon, tequila, and scotch bottles make for great variety and décor on a table top. 

Keep it Simple and and Natural
There is nothing like the fragrance of fresh flowers and greenery from the yard. Yep, even if you don’t think you have pretty bushes, you do! With the help of some candles, ALL (yes, all) greenery livens up a table top. Bring the outdoors inside whenever you can. Setting the tone with earthy additions to your décor is trendy and familiar.

Don’t get Overwhelmed
I love either stocking up on readymade family dinner items from the grocery store or catering for a get-together. I have found that catering from a restaurant that you may think is expensive can often times be cheaper than eating there.  Make a budget and get a few quotes, I think you will be surprised.  Bear in mind that by outsourcing the cooking you stay focused on the decorating and presentation of the meal. Hosting a potluck is another great way to use food as an excuse to bring people together — and cut down the effort you need to put in!

Borrow Don’t Buy
I have made the mistake for years of buying decor for my dinner and cocktail parties, but now I have done away with a stash of decor that I have used over and over again.  I borrow items like chargers, runners,  and vases from friends and even scoped out a local antique shop that was cool with me renting a few trays for centerpieces (it can’t hurt to ask…right?)

Going the Extra Mile Without Losing your Mind
For a dinner party, I take the extra 5 minutes (literally 5 minutes) to print out the menu onto paper. Then cut the printed paper into narrow sheets, and tape them around the napkin to create a more formal feeling to the evening. Labeling the food is a quick way to feel fancier and show your guests you made an effort.

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The combination of glass bottles, earthy accents from the yard, a proper table setting, and relaxed atmosphere is truly the backbone for a perfect evening. Sometimes, I will hire a bartender and created a signature drink for the evening. Speaking of, if you have not tried a French 75 yet, I highly recommend ordering it on your next date night. We used the recipe from Epicuious to get the party started.

I know hosting can seem overwhelming when you decide to do it. Making a list of things to do and crossing one thing off a day, you won’t need more than two weeks to comfortably throw a fun dinner party where you can focus on the most important thing of all: time with loved ones.

Cheers,
Rina

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Compliments to the Chef!

The chicks have been busy trying to approach blogging from all angles, so when we had the opportunity to meet with food bloggers and enjoy the creations of a Le Cordon Blue trained Executive Chef, we naturally jumped at the opportunity.

Chef Jarvis Belton had meticulously designed our five course dinner with all our senses in mind.   NOTHING was left behind — we truly ate with our eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and fingers!  During this exclusive dining experience for bloggers and photographers only, Chef Belton considered not only the preparation of the meals, but also the presentation.

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Having trained at the international Le Cordon Blue culinary institute in Mallorca Spain, he learned the hard way that it takes a ton of patience to cook a rice pudding and the how much team work is required to build dishes with ingredients from all over the world.  With creative ingredients, he put a spin on a traditional dishes such as a pumpkin ‘mashed potato’ paired with a mouthwatering peach chutney (who knew!?!) or a crostini with garlic, fig, and fennel (yum!)

Paired perfectly with wines from all over the world, this dinner had us in sensory overload.  After enjoying a salad with a chocolate jalapeno balsamic drizzle (you read that right) and our main dish, we were advised to wash our hands for dessert.  Hesitantly, we returned unsure of what was in store.  Chef Belton meticulously built out desserts on top of our hands with a hand churned whip cream, fresh fig, and caramel drizzle which we ate with a spoon right off our hand.  Just delightful and different.

Having an intimate dining experience where you can interact with the chef directly was a truly unique experience.  The casual conversations with others who also enjoy documenting what they eat was also really fun.  Learning about what people are up to over a delicious meal will always round out a perfect chick-tastic evening.

Thanks Chef!

Your Party Chick,

Rina

Party Like A Chick!

We all enjoy a girl’s night, right? But what does that even mean? A girls night to the chicks means time spent with friends in a space that is comfortable and filled with love and laughter (oh, and then there is good food and drinks, too!).  Some of my favorite girls’ nights have been those where we can compare notes with friends on life, marriage, motherhood and the newest reality shows!  Girls nights can be as few as 2 friends or as many as 10, but no matter what, the main goal is to make it a special way to get together and have fun!
There is a rotation among the chicks where we take turns having each other over — that way we all have the opportunity to get together often without the pressure of hosting all the time.  This also means that we each take that opportunity to host seriously and try to find a way to make the most intimate gatherings just a little “extra” special.  To help, party chicks have made planning a little easier — by making affordable and adorable party boxes.  With the craze of selfies and dessert tables, everyone is looking for the Instagram-perfect picture to share with friends and family. We are excited to announce our first party box themes: the Fiesta Box and the  Bollywood Box! 
Details: Henna Stencils, and Bindis

As women in our thirties we pay attention to all the details that go into hosting a girls’ night. The Party Chicks have hand picked these specialty items to make your get together a little different with everything you will need (even the command hooks!) and ten minutes.  You can create the perfect atmosphere to make your friends lay back, relax, and enjoy the time you all have set aside for each other.

Check out our introductory boxes in our Etsy Shop here.

Packing The Perfect Picnic

Let’s be real, eating out is the BEST; it’s a meal that I don’t have to cook…woohoo!  When the weather gets warmer, I’m always up for finding a way to combine my love of ‘not cooking’ with the outdoors.  Wait for it…a picnic!  Yay, ok now that you love the idea, take a deep breath and accept that the planning is totally worth it.

Growing up, my mom would throw some PB&J sandwiches, potato chips, and Coca-Cola’s into a backpack with a few towels and call it a picnic and as fondly as I remember those times, I have NOT been to or had a picnic like that in years!  As a mindful eater and a mother, making EVERY meal into an opportunity to do right by my family keeps these meals a little more balanced and creative.

The essentials are still the same — something to sit on, something to eat, and something to do!  So grab a blanket, (check out these super trendy and beautiful ones by Boho Street), try out some of our favorite bites, and throw in a frisbee, kite, soccer ball, or our personal favorite, Bananagrams and head out!

One of our favorite family recipes is my mom’s semi-homemade ‘3 Bean Salad’.  With less than 10 ingredients and in just 5 minutes, you can wow your taste buds on the go!  To see more recipes like this, like us on Pinterest and check out our ‘Picnic Basket’ board for more ideas.

The baskets that we use include reusable utensils and dishes and although it may seem like you’re doing more harm than good, the utensils are also eco-friendly so you can enjoy your meal, guilt free. Be sure to pack some wipes to wipe off the dishes before you pack them and keep a couple of disposable grocery bags for garbage.

For larger potluck style picnics which may include kids, an effective tool that we have used is a Google Doc for tracking who is bringing what. Here is a peek at what that form looks like and lucky you, it’s already set up as a template!

With the summer vibes kicking don’t forget your bug spray and sunscreen, this Aromaflage perfume has a built in bug repellent that you can’t smell, its wonderful and made from aromatic essential oils made from botanical extracts.

I hope that this inspires you to get out sooner because if you are anything like me, later never comes.

Have fun!

Your Party Chicks,

Rina And Sonia

 

Chick Picks:

Picadilly Basket
Basket for 4 With Blanket
Wine Stakes for the Beach!

Shared Birthday Parties

Kid’s birthday parties: What they are … and where they’re headed.
When I was growing up and that special time came around, my mom would throw a heartfelt birthday party for me in my backyard. There were hot dogs, games like pin the tail on the donkey, a homemade cake, and presents that were actually opened in front of the guests. That’s all changed.


Elaborate parties……
When my eldest child turned one, I celebrated by throwing her a magnificent birthday party that she would never forget (or at least I wouldn’t). The fact that her birthday lands on St. Patrick’s Day made it even more fun! I hired the local children’s Irish dance troupe to perform. A traditional corned beef and cabbage feast was served to the adults, and there was an amazing spread for the children, which, since it was all over their faces, was mostly lost on them. For the pièce de résistance, there was a huge Shamrock cake. All of our friends in the neighborhood were invited. It was a celebration to remember!
The days of elaborate parties are over……
Fast forward 8 years, and the days of elaborate kids birthday parties are over, for the most part, at our house. I’ve changed my ways and become more “practical”. In fact, with my friends, we have started throwing “shared” birthday parties.
Even my hubby is on board……
It all started when my husband started to realize the number of birthday parties filling our weekend. He would ask (because he’s usually clueless about our weekend plans), “What are we doing this weekend?” My reply seemed to always be, “We’re going to a birthday party.” He’d reply, “Another one? I just saw those people last week. Don’t we have any other friends? We’ve got to get a life.”  You see, we have three children, and each one has around 20 kids in their class. Do the multiplication, and you’re looking at something like 60 parties per year, more than one per week every week of the year.

The goody bags……
No offense, but most of the parties were essentially the same. They were held at huge venues, gifts were collected in a box and never opened in front of the guests, and a pre-written thank you card was handed out in the goody bag as we left. Isn’t being invited to a party gift enough? And, do we have to hand out candy in a gift bag after giving the kids high fructose corn syrup fake juice (sorry), cake and ice cream to say, “Thanks for coming!” More like here’s your fattened, hyper, overtired youngster to deal with for the next two hours. He’s your problem now (thank God). I’m like thanks a lot! See you next week!  Once my child even received a basketball as part of an elaborate gift bag! A really nice one too! Actually, that was a score (no pun intended) but my kids have also received gift cards. Am I the only one who thinks this is too much? My Mom wouldn’t believe the extravagance that goes on nowadays.
What to give?……
For gifts, I either go to Amazon to buy another $40 birthday gift for a child who already has everything, or (don’t tell) I, sometimes, go to the attic where I hide away the presents my children have received that were duplicates of ones we already had, and find one to re-gift. Come on, you’ve all done it! They’re perfectly good toys! Right? Moving on . . .
A lightbulb moment……
One day, the other savvy chick and I were discussing birthday party ideas for our soon-to-be 5 year old boys. We analyzed all the possibilities and dates to have these parties when, at the same time, a light bulb went off in our heads!
Let’s throw a “joint” birthday party!……
Not the adult kind some parents need after one of these triple birthday party weekends, but one that celebrates our sons birthdays together! Since our sons were born only 4 days apart, it made total sense! We figured we were saving the rest of the class the rigmarole of another weekend dominated by another lame kid’s birthday party (the party, not the kid)!
Ok, do the math!……
On average, I shell out around $500 for each child each year. The first birthday parties were more. Hmmm……3 kids X $500 = $1,500 per year on birthday parties! Now let’s really get into tricky math and base this on 8 years of birthday celebrations! $1,500 X 8 = $12,000. Now that’s some serious cake!
I know what you’re thinking……
Before you start thinking, “Oh, I get it, they spend half the amount and receive 100% of the gifts!” WRONG. We make it clear on the invitations, “No Gifts Please”! We find most people adhere to that request.
An end to popularity contests……
Sometimes parents aren’t sure if the people they invite will come. They don’t want their child to be hurt and embarrassed so they decide not to throw a party at all. By including all the moms in the class in this planning, every kid will have a birthday and no one will feel left out.
Benefits to Shared Birthday Parties……
1) Cost savings! You can spend half the amount! Or share with a couple of people in the class and save 2/3rds on your birthday budget!
2) You get your time back on the weekends!
3) You don’t have to rush around and spend another $40 on a generic gift! (Or search through your cob webbed attic!)
4) Every kid gets a birthday party.
5) The best benefit of all is the relationships you form while planning the parties. You make friends and get to know the parents and kids better!
6) Finally, less sugar….less sugar….less sugar….. If you are a mom like me that watches your children’s sugar intake, you have just reduced the amount of cake and harmful food dyes they are going to consume this year.
The idea has caught on……..
These 2 savvy chicks were thrilled with the success of their idea. And this might shock you. Neither child complained or felt cheated! My son loved his party! So much so that we are having it again this year with 4 other kids who’s birthdays are also in the Spring; including our brainy chick’s son! My son actually shares the same birthday with a boy in his class. (May the 4th be with you!) Now two other moms with children in that class are hosting a shared birthday next month!  Don’t forget that each child still gets their own family party. That’s important. It’s when our kids can open presents and get attention from those closest to them.
In conclusion……
We haven’t done this every year for every child. Some years we still want to throw a party just for our little darling. Other times we allow our child to have a party that brings only a few friends together for a special experience, either because it’s an expensive activity, a long drive away, or it’s an all-day experience. Those are great and memorable too.
Key to Successful Shared Birthdays……
1) In order for this to work well, you need to include all the moms who’s children have birthdays the same time of the year. Depending on the class size, maybe 3-5 shared parties a year. Inclusion is the key. Offer it up so everyone has the opportunity to participate if he/she would like.
2) Be flexible! Work with the group of women on finding the venue, time and date.
3) Divide up the responsibilities! You need one person to “coordinate” the master list and start assigning responsibilities! This is best handled by the “spreadsheet” mom. You know who I’m talking about!
4) Make sure each child’s name gets into the Happy Birthday song. It’s funnier the more kids you have sharing a birthday.

Josie Croll, Savvy Chick
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Costco Haul

 

I get asked ALL the time what I buy from Costco because I’m there at a MINIMUM once a week.  It’s the food version of Target for me.  Everyone is at peace; I stock up on the essentials we need and the kids know the food court is part of the rotation – a win-win.  I was a Costco-lover even before we had children because I found great pleasure in having a stockpile of toiletries and paper towels.   I still have PTSD from running out of toilet paper in my house when I was growing up.  I vowed that would never happen to me as an adult.

Costco also has a pretty strong selection of organic produce, meats and dairy.  I’ve found that their produce lasts longer than the local grocers’.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 items I purchase from Costco:  Even if you don’t have a need for these items, it’s helpful to know that Costco carries them, and typically at a much better price than its competitors.

Pesto – delicious imported Italian basil pesto to put on pasta, wraps, chicken and quesadillas! This is the #1 preferred pasta topping in our home.  It’s phenomenally quick and far from tastes like a two-ingredient meal.  The kids devour and ask for seconds, without fail.

Kodiak Pancake mix – if you like to make pancakes or waffles, this mix is sent from the griddle gods themselves.  It’s foolproof with its 1:1 water to mix ratio and it promises to deliver consistently fluffy results every time.  And if that weren’t enough, this mix is packed with 14g of protein per serving and only contains the most natural of ingredients!  (a gluten-free version is available on amazon).  You can get creative with the mix, which if you ask me, is always the best part of making batter.  And with this mix, you can get straight to the best part of mixing.  I’ve added shredded coconut, sometimes chocolate chips and have even used buttermilk versus water when feeling especially deserving.

Sweet Kale salad – You never knew you liked brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and broccoli all in the same RAW salad until you’ve tried this prepared sweet kale salad.  It comes with pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and a poppyseed dressing, which I could eat by the spoonful.  You can also make your own salad dressing and customize your toppings if you prefer, but for all of the shredding, dicing and chopping that goes into it, it can be an excellent base to your “homemade” salad.

Roti – These were an accidental discovery while trying to find uncooked tortillas.  Amazingly fresh tasting, these bake in minutes if making large quantities or puff up in a frying pan (no oil needed).  They are incredibly soft and can be used in lieu of tortillas.  Try them with burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, wraps – their uses are endless and they taste fresh because they are!

Contigo Water Bottles – Costco carries a rotation of seasonal Contigo water bottles.  Whether a 3-pack of BPA-free adult-sized water bottles, a double-pack of stainless steel water bottles, kid-sized bottles or thermal mugs, be sure to check your Costco’s inventory before purchasing online or from another retailer.  I’ve found them to be significantly less expensive at Costco.

PT’s (Organic) Coffee – beautiful, robust coffee free of pesticides.  Just grind up the beans before you leave (yes, Costco has a coffee grinder for our use) and you have an aromatic bag of caffeinated deliciousness ready for your machine or bullet-proof coffee!

Frozen Mango…. frozen cherries, frozen berries, frozen pineapples….Their frozen fruit selection is beyond amazing and super convenient if you like to make smoothies and yogurt parfaits, bake with fruit, or simply have fruit on hand.  Do you want to peel mangos, work around the pit and chop them up into perfectly cubed pieces?  One prophetic quote comes to mind: “ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!”.

Maple Syrup – Costco carries 1L of 100% pure Grade A maple syrup at a cost you can’t beat.  If you know how maple syrup is sourced, you’ll have great appreciation for the value offered.  We sweeten oatmeal, pancakes, even coffee with this delicious elixir.

La Croix – the Costco I frequent carries a 24ct. variety-pack of LaCroix.  They also carry a solely lime flavored case.  If you want to increase your water intake in a novel way, or if you’re trying to break your diet coke/coke habit, try La Croix.  The can and tab opening mimics the cracking open of a carbonated sugary drink without all of the bad stuff.

Individual Hummus packs – these are amazing on-the-go snack items and a great source of protein for your kids’ school lunches.  Pair with fresh vegetables, pretzel snaps or chips (all sold at Costco )

All this and I didn’t even touch on their selection of cheeses, but you have to go in person to be a believer. Whether shredded, sliced, hard, soft, in stick form, wheel form, or wedge form, keep Costco in mind when planning your next cheese board crowd pleaser.

Hope to see you in the Costco aisles soon!

Yours truly,

Brainy Chick Serene

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