Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Coffee #19


Link Love
Design Files: Desiree Hartsock - Michaela Noelle Designs

Happenings
Chicago: First Wives Club
What: In First Wives Club, based on the smash hit 1996 film and Olivia Goldsmith’s bestselling novel, three former college friends reunite to find that they have more in common than their alma mater! Ditched by their respective husbands for younger women, they band together to settle scores with the men who did them wrong. Featuring a new book by Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women), known for having created some of popular culture’s most empowered female characters, songs – both original and classic – by Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland, and direction by Simon Phillips (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical), First Wives Club is a hilarious and inspiring story about friendship at its strongest… and revenge at its sweetest.
When: February 17 - March 29, 2015
Where: The Oriental Theatre
Cost: Tickets start at $45.51

Chicago: The Book of Mormon
What: The Book of Mormon returns to Chicago after have an incredibly successful first-run. The New York Times calls it “the best musical of this century.” The Washington Post says, “It is the kind of evening that restores your faith in musicals.” And Entertainment Weekly says, “Grade A: the funniest musical of all time.” Jon Stewart of The Daily Show calls it “a crowning achievement. So good it makes me angry.” It’s THE BOOK OF MORMON, the nine-time Tony Award® winning Best Musical from the creators of South Park.
When: February 25 - May 17, 2015
Where: Bank of America Theatre, 18 West Monroe
Cost: Tickets start at $56.66

Chicago: Disney's Beauty and the Beast
What: Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.
When: March 25 - 29, 2015
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph Street
Cost: Tickets start at $25.04

Chicago: The Decemberists
What: The Decemberists are on tour and they're coming to Chicago!! They'll be playing songs from their new album as well as old music.
When: March 27, 2015 - 7:30PM
Where: The Chicago Theatre, 175 North State Street
Cost: $36

Chicago: Randolph Street Market's "Spring Fling"
What: Come for the amazing shopping but stay for the experience. Over 90+ vendors, live music all weekend long, great food/drink from local vendors, and more. Check out new vendors Lost Era’s and American Honey Repurposed Furniture who will be bringing antiques, furniture, vintage clothing, costumes, and props. This Market is sure to make you feel warm and cozy during the cold Winter Wonderland that lies in Chicago. The Market is OVER Winter and thinking SPRING! To prove it, they are offering free entrance to customers wearing Easter bonnets. They'll have an Easter Egg hunt going on all weekend long with special treats and deals included in every one!
When: March 28-29, 2015
Where: 1340 West Washington Street
Cost: Tickets range from $3 - $30. Visit the website for more information.

Movies Music & TV
Brandon Flowers released a new single this week called "Can't Deny My Love" and it's pretty good. Listen below...

Insurgent came out a week ago and it looks insanely good. I need to watch the first one so I can see this. It's been on my list for a while but I just haven't gotten to it. Are you guys Divergent fans?

Serena is officially released today. I've seen it on Apple TV's movie section so it must have skipped the theaters. I read the book earlier last year and it wasn't awful but it wasn't my favorite. The movie stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence though and actually looks pretty good. I kind of want to give it a shot. What do you think?

Celebs & Hollywood
So Ed Sheeran did the nicest and most adorable thing recently by stopping by a fan's wedding to sing "Thinking Out Loud." The whole wedding was orchestrated by a local radio station to give this couple a break and a wedding they deserve. The story is amazing and the video is so sweet. I love him!
source: E! News

Apparently, Kypton Locke and Tenley Molzhan are forever over. Give that a second to let your heart mend. Why do I say this? He's expecting a baby with his girlfriend and her name is not Tenley. It's Samm Murphy and I have no idea who she is. Kypton was and still is one of my favorite Bacherlorette contestants of all time. He seems like such a genuine and great guy. Congrats to him and his girlfriend.
source: Us Weekly

Congratulations to Molly Sims on her baby girl! Scarlett May Stuber was welcomed into the world last night I believe. There wasn't a date mentioned so the photo could be an hour old or a week old. Regardless, congrats on her gorgeous baby girl.


If you're interested in featuring an event in the Friday Coffee series and the Upcoming Events page, or, you have a client you think would fit into the Friday Coffee series, send an email to lifewithasideofcoffee [at] gmail [dot] com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: A Review

Confession time. I have been a terrible reader in 2015. Remember how I said I want to reach a goal of 35 books this year? I must have been out of my mind. Reading has definitely taken a backseat to the rest of the things I have going on, like creating 90-day blog and business plans, building steps to take this site to the next level and start a successful freelance career. I've managed to sneak some reading in but between the endless pile of magazines growing a fire hazard in the corner of my room and no motivation to do anything at night but sleep has proved challenging. The one book I've managed to complete since  Jackaby is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and what an escape it was. 

source: Goodreads
The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them. 

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways. 

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

What I Say
I love this book. Sarah Addison Allen knows exactly what she's doing when it comes to creating a captivating novel that doubles as a super easy read. I was pulled into Garden Spells from page one and could not put the thing down. I read this in two nights. Amazing, I know. Considering I haven't read more than 200 pages in three months other than this book, that's a huge accomplishment. Something that Allen has a knack for is creating a story with the supernatural without feeling superficial or out of the ordinary. The Waverlys have special abilities, powers you can call them, but nothing so extreme that it feels completely unrealistic. Well, nothing except for the apple tree with a personality.

I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much was because I related to Claire in a lot of ways. She likes to keep to herself and she likes patterns and routine. She doesn't like things to change much and she doesn't like new people coming into her life. She's much more severe where these things are concerned than I am but I understand her hesitations and discomfort more than I'd like to admit. Opening herself up to this new guy, Tyler, was a huge thing for her and I loved experiencing her character transformation. Anyway, this is a great book and I one hundred percent recommend it. If you're looking for an easy but really great read, Garden Spells is just for you. If you like a little out of the ordinary, even better. Between mixing herbs and plants, apple trees with attitude and an old lady with a keen sense of the future, you won't be bored. You just might even find yourself laughing without realizing it.

Have you read Garden Spells or any other book by Sarah Addison Allen? Tell me what you think in the comments and tell me what you're reading.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cooking With Stanley: The 1st 10 Weeks


When I decided to cook my way through The Tucci Cookbook, I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was going to push me out of my comfort zone and try some things I otherwise wouldn't. I knew that it was going to challenge my cooking (and baking) abilities, something I'm normally comfortable in. I had no idea that it would force me to get a better sense of time management. I had no idea that it would cause me blood, sweat and burned skin (literally). I had no clue that it would make me feel even closer to my Italian roots because I didn't realize that was even possible. I like to say I'm a pretty organized person but getting this series together and keeping it moving has pushed me to systemize everything and become even more organized than I already am. So instead of posting a meal this week, I've decided to celebrate the first ten weeks and recap some of my favorite Cooking With Stanley moments.

Favorite Screw Up
That time I turned an artichoke into a flower...

Most Painful Moment
That time I burned my arm in a 500 degree oven...

Favorite Meals
Week 2 - Beef Tenderloin with Prosciutto

Week 4 - Steak Oreganato and Pasta with Maria Rosa's Sauce

Week 10 - Tuscan Biscotti

Favorite Photos

Favorite Moments
That time Papa Coffee and I had mussels for the first time...

That time my Noni and I made pizza dough together...

Have you had a favorite week during Cooking With Stanley yet?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pamper Yourself with TomBox


I made a promise to myself I'd never write another box review again. Don't get me wrong? I love subscription boxes and I had a serious problem that needed an intervention but writing about them each month seemed too repetitive for my taste. I was recapping what I got in the mail once a week, at least, and I felt that it took too much time away from other things I'm more interested in writing about. When TomBox reached out to me a few months ago to try this package for, you know, the time of the month in exchange for a review, my curiosity got the best of me. So here I am, writing one more box review with lots of random goodies to make your time of the month easier.

So what is TomBox? TomBox is a monthly subscription service for girls to make it through that time of the month. They send you a feminine product of your choosing, makeup, jewelry and sweets (my favorite part). The box starts at $10/month for a no-flow box where you would just receive makeup and jewelry. For a 6-month membership, the monthly cost comes out to $14/month and if you just want to subscribe monthly it's $16/month. Considering pads and tampons alone cost $10 at least, this box is a steal in my opinion. Revlon is not a cheap brand either. I'm sure that eyeliner runs around $8. So with those two products alone, this box has already given more than you would pay for. 

Let's walk through the box, shall we? When you order your box, you have the choice between Always, Kotex, Playtex and Tampax for the feminine product. There's a selection of pads and tampons and in different varieties. You tell them your skin type and style, whether or not you additionally want to purchase razor cartridges and if you want double the makeup and jewelry. These both come with an extra fee obviously. I was very satisfied with the makeup selection they chose for me. All the products were something I'd actually use. They've really come in handy. The candy was my favorite part though. You want to win my heart, send me a Reese's. It took all my willpower to make that treat last till I took some photos. For the jewelry, I received a necklace and a pair of earrings. I haven't quite figured out why you need jewelry to get through your period but it's a nice touch. Everything else I can say is necessary. 

As far as subscription boxes go, this one is pretty interesting when you first learn about it but nothing out of the ordinary when you receive it. All of these items makes sense to make it through your period. The candy handles the cravings, the feminine products are essential and then the makeup and jewelry help when you need to look nice but don't exactly feel it. Let's be honest, self-confidence is not something that mother nature brings with periods. Bloating, irritability, breakouts and flat-out crankiness make us feel gross sometimes. At least that's the case for me and some friends of mine. Hopefully not for you. What I'm trying to say is that TomBox might be right up your alley. Give it a try and if you love it tell me. If you don't, yell at me. You win some, you lose some. I think it's a fun idea personally.

So tell me, have you received a TomBox before? What do you think? Is this something you'd be interested in giving a try?

*I received one month's TomBox complimentary for review. I am not being compensated for this post*

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekly Eats #8


Happy Sunday! I hope you're all having a great weekend. I went out on the town last night and went to my first country bar in Chicago. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find out this existed. There are a few more that I found online I'd like to try out now. Who's up for a country bar crawl?? Who knows? I might even make a blog series out of it. Anyway, I've been cooking up a storm lately. I forgot to get pictures of one of the meals but I think you'll be satisfied with what I've got below. Tell me in the comments what you've been eating lately!

Rosemary Chicken Breasts with Brown Butter and Balsamic Mushroom Ravioli via Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals: I love my Rachael Ray cookbook. Lots of great meals come out of it including this one. I basically followed this recipe exactly as it was written. You can use your choice of ravioli so I decided on mushroom. I just felt that it would pair with the balsamic really well and I was right! This was a kid-free night dinner. They don't like the taste of balsamic at all so if it's a main component of the recipe, I'll save it for a night when they're not eating with me.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup via Weeknights with Giada: This was made on another night where I just fed me. I love Giada's recipes. She's one of my favorite celebrity chefs. Her meals are so fresh and packed with flavor without feeling too heavy. This soup was delicious. I had it a few times for lunch the rest of the week with a simple turkey and swiss sandwich. I accidentally read the directions wrong and took the rosemary leaves off the stem and pureed everything. You're only supposed to infuse the stems while the soup is cooking...whoops!

One-Pot Pasta with Tomato Basil Sauce via My Recipes: This was a really easy and really flavorful dinner. You can easily make this completely vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken but I had chicken on hand. This would be a great for a night when you're not looking to do a lot of dishes. It's one pot and you're done.

Turkey Vegetable Skillet via Recipe Runner: This dinner was soooo good. I made some modifications out of laziness and needing it to stretch a little farther. You're supposed to end cooking with popping the skillet in the oven after sprinkling with cheese. Well, we have a cheese hater in this house and I just didn't want to transfer it to another dish (we don't have an ovenproof skillet), so I let everyone add their own cheese. I also didn't feel like this was going to be enough for everyone so I whipped up some brown rice to put the skillet over and it was a perfect meal. Healthy and tasty.

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Sun-Dried Tomatoes via Diethood: Diethood is quickly becoming one of my favorite food blogs. You may notice I'm regularly including dinners that I make from her. She's just got lots of really tasty, healthy recipes that end up being huge hits. This dinner was made on a night when I was feeding myself (again) but I really enjoyed it. Instead of using regular chicken breasts, I used chicken breast fillets. they were much thinner but still paired well with the meal.

Beef Stew via Martha Stewart: I have to give you a warning. If you plan on making this meal, get a whole dinner party together. I cut the ingredients by a third and I still filled up my entire crockpot. We invited my grandparents over for dinner, sent a very generous goodie bag home for Papa Coffee to eat the rest of the week and I just polished off the last of the leftovers we kept here. This easily can make 10 servings and I didn't even make the entire recipe. It's absolutely delicious but you may want to at least halve it.

Kale Minestrone via PureWow: This soup was so good. It might look more like pasta than soup but I can assure you that's not my fault. Someone in the house seemed to think there wasn't enough pasta in the soup and added the whole box while I was in another room. In other words, what would have been a normal soup turned into a stoup and now the leftovers are more like pasta. I love how this is a super food meal. It has tons of nutrients and good stuff  and it tastes great so you can feel good about feeding it to your family. It's fairly simple to make as well and it's a one pot meal which I absolutely love.

So that's what we've been eating! Tell me in the comments below what you've been munching on. Any recommendations?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Coffee #18


Link Love
Blue Floral Dress - Mix and Match Fashion

Happenings
Chicago: First Wives Club
What: In First Wives Club, based on the smash hit 1996 film and Olivia Goldsmith’s bestselling novel, three former college friends reunite to find that they have more in common than their alma mater! Ditched by their respective husbands for younger women, they band together to settle scores with the men who did them wrong. Featuring a new book by Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women), known for having created some of popular culture’s most empowered female characters, songs – both original and classic – by Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland, and direction by Simon Phillips (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical), First Wives Club is a hilarious and inspiring story about friendship at its strongest… and revenge at its sweetest.
When: February 17 - March 29, 2015
Where: The Oriental Theatre
Cost: Tickets start at $45.51

Chicago: The Book of Mormon
What: The Book of Mormon returns to Chicago after have an incredibly successful first-run. The New York Times calls it “the best musical of this century.” The Washington Post says, “It is the kind of evening that restores your faith in musicals.” And Entertainment Weekly says, “Grade A: the funniest musical of all time.” Jon Stewart of The Daily Show calls it “a crowning achievement. So good it makes me angry.” It’s THE BOOK OF MORMON, the nine-time Tony Award® winning Best Musical from the creators of South Park.
When: February 25 - May 17, 2015
Where: Bank of America Theatre, 18 West Monroe
Cost: Tickets start at $56.66

Chicago: Matt Kearney with Parachute and Judah and the Lion
What: Matt Kearney is coming back to Chicago with Parachute and Judah and the Lion. He'll be playing music from his new album Just Kids and other favorites like "Ships In The Night."
When: March 21, 2015 - 7:30PM
Where: Riviera Theatre, 4746 North Racine Avenue
Cost: $32

Chicago: Bar Pastoral's Prix Fixe Raclette Dinner
What: Bar Pastoral is hosting a prix fixe dinner series, featuring freshly melted Spring Cook Farms Reading Raclette (a semi-firm cow's milk cheese) in a traditional Swiss dish of roasted meat and vegetables, crusty bread, and other savory accoutrements. The Michelin Guide recommended cheese & wine bistro will set aside its regular seasonal menu for these events.
When: March 22, 2015
Where: Bar Pastoral, 2945 N. Broadway St.
Cost: $35


Chicago: Disney's Beauty and the Beast
What: Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.
When: March 25 - 29, 2015
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph Street
Cost: Tickets start at $25.04

Chicago: The Decemberists
What: The Decemberists are on tour and they're coming to Chicago!! They'll be playing songs from their new album as well as old music.
When: March 27, 2015 - 7:30PM
Where: The Chicago Theatre, 175 North State Street
Cost: $36

Moves Music & TV
I feel like every week I'm updating you guys on a new trailer for the Avengers. I'm loving it though. Each one gets me more and more excited. This one is just a TV spot for March Madness but it rocks.

Celebs & Hollywood
Howie Mandel got the surprise of his life this week when his house was toilet-papered by prankster Roman Atwood. The end result was seriously impressive. The funniest part was that his wife and his song was in on it. Nothing like team effort!
source: USA Today

Ok, so apparently Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively never actually did confirm their baby's name was James until now. He wanted it to come out naturally rather than shout it from the rooftops. I seriously love this couple.
source: TODAY

Bradley Cooper and Suki Waterhouse are reportedly broken up. To be honest, I didn't even know the two were dating and I don't even know who Suki is. I just remember her because how can you forget a name like that. I hope they're on to better and happier things. 
source: E! Online

Leah Jenner and is pregnant and loving it. She recently shared a photo resting a coffee cup on her baby bump. She's adorable pregnant.
source: Just Jared
A photo posted by Leah Jenner (@leah_jenner) on

Peter Facinelli and Jaimie Alexander are engaged! I still miss him and Jennie Garth together but sadly not all relationships are meant to be (aka, Justin and Britney, Brad and Jen). The photo Jaimie posted to Instagram has them looking super bad ass. I wonder if they planned to match jackets...
source: NY Daily News
A photo posted by Jaimie Alexander (@jaimiealexander) on

If you're interested in featuring an event in the Friday Coffee series and the Upcoming Events page, or, you have a client you think would fit into the Friday Coffee series, send an email to lifewithasideofcoffee [at] gmail [dot] com

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cooking With Stanley #10


Cooking With Stanley is a bit late this week. Sorry about that, time just got away from me. I have this problem where I sometimes genuinely don't know what the day of the week is, or even the date. I have two calendars on the wall by my desk and a planner always open to today's date but I'd say 75% of the time, I have no clue what day it is. I blame it on not really having weekends but who knows. So yesterday, when I was getting things together, I realized that I posted something else and not Cooking With Stanley AND...it was Wednesday. By the time I was able to sit down and get to it, it was just way too late in the day to post anything. Better late than never, right?

Menu
Starter: Salad
Main Dish: Fillets of Fish in a Basil Tomato Sauce with Crostini
Dessert: Tuscan Biscotti


Ever since the potential food allergy situation, I've had to cut some of the meals down to eliminate any shellfish. I won't lie, it's disappointing and kind of a pain since I planned these meals so meticulously but I decided I'd rather not risk my safety all because of food. You might think that's a no brainer but I still refuse to believe I actually have an allergy. For the love of God I just had shrimp! Isn't that like the mother of all shellfish allergies? I really don't get it. But on the other hand, not all fish is out which means the main course for this week was a go. 

We started with a simple salad that I whipped up super quick and ate while the fish finished cooking. When I say that I planned the timing of this meal perfectly, I'm not kidding. I didn't want the fish to be overcooked or cold when I served it which meant it had to be served right out of the oven. Well, I had everyone sitting down and eating their salads as the fish finished cooking through and then plopped it onto the plates immediately. I stopped by the grocery store that morning to pick up some fresh fillets and ended up with Walleye. My Papa couldn't stop taking about how that was his favorite but sometimes it could be expensive. The odds must have been on his side because not only did they have it, it was one of the cheaper options. It was my first time eating Walleye and I have to say it wasn't too bad. The sauce the fish was cooked in was packed with flavor and I really think it made the dish. I toasted up some French bread that I sliced and drizzled olive oil over it to use as the crostini. It was delicious to soak the sauce up with.


For dessert, I made the Tuscan Biscotti. This traditional and simple recipe has a mix of anise, vanilla and almond extract. It's very tasty and I'm proud to say I didn't set the house on fire. Baking is not my specialty. I either forget there's something in the oven or get impatient and don't measure the ingredients. My idea of baking is grabbing some break-offs in the refrigerator section and slipping them in the oven for some quick cookies. Just this week I made muffins out of a bag. However, I really want to start baking more because I love the end result. So, I think I'll be making something each Friday. They're slow days anyway and who wouldn't want to kick off the weekend with some homemade sweets. I still think I have a lot to learn with the biscotti though. I have a feeling it was more the oven than me but one of the loaves did not cook as well as the other. Before you cut the cookies into strips, you bake two loaves of the dough. One turned out exactly like you would expect for biscotti, the other is still a bit soft in the middle. I have a few left that I'm still munching on. Regardless, these are delicious cookies. Biscotti is one of my favorites so I had a blast eating these.


Well, that's this week's Cooking With Stanley. Does any of this look good to you? Next week, I've got more pasta and some fish.