My sister’s wedding shower is coming up next month, and I’m trying to do as many DIY projects as I can, to make the party unique, chic, and budget-friendly! The shower has a Parisian theme, which makes my job as maid of honor incredibly fun! We will have about six tables set up, so I knew I wanted elegant, French-themed centerpieces, and what is more French and fabulous than the most famous French designer of women’s clothes, Coco Chanel?! These DIY perfume bottle flower vases are inexpensive and a beautiful touch to any wedding, shower, or party.
Ah, Instagram, my favorite social media platform (although Snapchat is making a case to beat it). I love taking pictures, editing pictures, posting pictures, and seeing other people’s pictures, so clearly, Instagram and I have a wonderful and loving relationship. I used to use Instagram to keep up with friends, stalk the Kardashians, and post sunsets with every filter available. When I started blogging, my entire Instagram-ing vision and purpose changed. Followers are everything, and your followers want to see high-quality, intriguing, unique & useful pictures. I wasn’t just posting for me anymore, I was posting for those I feel honored enough to share my stories and life with. So I was determined to start givin’ them all I’ve got!
The more I blog, the more exposure I have for my own brand on Instagram, as well as others’ visions and lifestyles. I’ve learned a ton through my experiences, on how to create an Instagram feed that I am proud of and love to share with the world. Here are some tips and ideas for you to create an Instagram feed that helps you express who YOU are! Also – if you’re not already following me, go hit that button right now @JesiPepperminting! 🙂
1. Go public
I know I know, that’s terrible advice. This is 2016, EVERYONE looks at your social media, right?? – employers, friends, family members, that one girl who’s dating your ex… Hehe.
But seriously, if your feed is mainly made up of cupcakes, sunsets, and your dog sleeping, why the heck are you still private?! Nothing about that is personal or going to get you in trouble with the world. I gotta admit, I enjoy my privacy here and there, but I love sharing my Instagram life photos with the world and then saving my more private, personal shares for Facebook. Going public on Instagram changed everything for me; I can connect with others more easily, and businesses can find and follow me without having to request access. Plus, hashtags are useless if your profile is hidden from the public.
2. Be strategic about your posts
Long gone are the days when I grabbed my phone, snapped a pic of something random, then popped it on Instagram. Instead, I truly think about a photo before I add it to my feed: does this fit with my Instagram theme and brand? Is the color scheme complementary to my other pictures? Is this something I’ll want to remember in the future and be glad I documented? And most importantly: is it even a good picture?? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these, chances are, I’ll keep the picture in my photo roll for my own personal memories, but it won’t make the cut to my feed.
3. No more collages
I love a collage just as much as the next Instagrammer, but simple, one-post pictures tend to do much better on Instagram than a busy collection of 3 or 4. If you can’t pick your favorite, there’s no shame in posting one today, then another from that same event a few days after! People will appreciate your enthusiasm for that moment (or that outfit) and you’ll be happy that you were able to post both pictures on your feed.
4. Hashtags work… sometimes
I’m hesitant about using hashtags on my posts, but you’ll see that I include them on about half. Don’t get me wrong, hashtags do work, but you have to use them very strategically. According to research (yes real research provided here), interactions are the highest on Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags. ELEVEN! Wow. So clearly, and scientifically, hashtags are effective. I, personally, haven’t seen a ton of traffic from hashtags, but I have had success when I use one or two hashtags to emphasize a point, get involved with a trending topic, or make a silly joke at the end of my post (see below). I gain more viewers because of witty hashtags versus overdone ones like #blogger, but don’t get me wrong, I’ll throw those in sometimes, too.
5. Don’t get too wrapped up in likes
Everyone wants a ton of likes, obviously. It’s like the instant, most fun, most satisfying part of posting an Instagram pic. But I’ve learned not to get weird about the amount of likes I get. Sometimes, pictures I’m SUPER excited about and love don’t do nearly as well as I’d hoped with the public, and other times, I’ll post a stupid iPhone picture of a new lipstick, and BAM, get more likes than any photo I’ve ever taken in my young life. Sigh. Such is the unpredictable fate of an Instagram picture, haha!
6. People follow you for a reason, share a bit of yourself with them 🙂
One of the reasons I love Instagram is because it allows people to open up to each other on such a personal level, without really knowing each other personally! It’s kind of ironic and bizarre, but it’s a really cool effect of this golden social media age. I feel seriously humbled when people follow me on Instagram – like, that’s pretty darn neat that they willingly want to see what’s goin’ on in my crazy life. I take that responsibility pretty seriously, so therefore, I post pictures that I not only enjoy, but that I know my followers will appreciate as well. Tasty foods, colorful outfits, unique travel locations, you name it, I’ve shared it.
If you need a new “after school” snack or the perfect side dish to complement any summer meal, I have the perfect option for you! AND it’s pretty darn healthy!
I frequently wonder how to use zucchinis in my everyday kitchen life. They’re incredibly inexpensive and have great health benefits – an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C, with high amounts of fiber to keep your body in check. Turns out, zucchinis are very versatile and can be used in many recipes – from bread, to cake, to casseroles, and of course, crispy fries!
Usually, sticks like this have been cooked in a deep fryer, which means lots of heart trouble and calories for you. Luckily, these zucchini sticks are oven-baked and they taste AMAZING! Adults and kids alike will love these delicious alternative to fatty fries, adapted from EatingWell.
Raise your hand if you like to look pretty. (raising). Now raise your hand if you like when someone else MAKES you look pretty so you don’t have to do it. (raising even higher).
Chicagoans, meet: Goldplaited! Goldplaited is an elegant finishing salon that offers fantastic makeup, braiding, blowouts, and other beauty services to primp and pamper you for a night out, a photoshoot, or to prepare you to be your most fabulous self. The salon is owned by two sisters, Mal and Co, which makes this mission even more dear to my heart and amazing. Female-owned, female staff, female clients. LOVE IT.
The boutique is located in Lincoln Park, surrounded by restaurants, outdoor patios, and a wonderful juice bar next door. I grabbed a large green smoothie and couldn’t be more excited to try out Goldplaited’s services!
The salon itself is trendy and chic as can be. The walls are gold and white, the beauticians could not have been more pleasant and professional, and the queen herself, Beyoncé, boomed from the speakers and filled the salon with Lemonade. I knew I had come to the right place.
Right away, my stylists got to work. I decided on a Game of Thrones-vibe braid hairstyle with a bronzed smokey-eye makeup with false eyelashes to top it off.
The service was exceptional. My hair looked incredible and my makeup was absolutely flawless, AND I got to listen to Beyoncé radio for two hours while being pampered. A perfect 10! You can check out Goldplaited at the Windy City Smokeout next week to get festival-ready and adorable for chowing down on some fantastic smoked food! Use this link and code PEPPERMINTING for $75 3-day tickets! What a deal! 😀
Call Goldplaited for your next night out, for engagement pictures, weddings, showers, bachelorette party, you name it, they do it. They’re also offering “Free Braid Fridays” right now; purchase $20 retail, and you get a free braid hairstyle! What a cool deal! Who run the world? Girls.
There’s nothing better than a holiday weekend, especially in Chicago! This city has everything – beaches, volleyball, festivals, amazing food, fireworks, boats… you name it, we got it. And the weather is forecasted to be absolutely immaculate! So excited!!!
One way to get into the Fourth of July spirit is obviously by covering yourself in red, white, and blue patriotic wear. Nothing scream ‘MURICA more than an American flag onesie! Especially when that onesie costs $12.99 and fits like a little onesie glove and SUCKS everything in like it’s nobody’s business.
I found this bodysuit at, where else, my favorite clothing store Discovery. Want a $25 gift card to grab an adorable holiday outfit like mine?? Head over to my Instagram @JesiPepperminting and enter today’s giveaway! All you have to do is like my post, follow me and @DiscoveryClothing and you’ll have a chance to win! Good luck! And have an incredible, safe Fourth of July weekend!
Working out is hard enough without having to worry about motivation. It’s way easier to sit on your couch and eat ice cream all summer, but if you want to be stay healthy and get that bod, as Britney says, you better work b*tch. Here are some tips that my friends, family and I use to stay motivated to work out eeeeven when the couch looks so much more appealing.
Sign up for group fitness classes
Group fitness classes are the #1 way I stay motivated. I’m in a phase right now where I just want to be told exactly what to do and how long to do it for. The perk of group classes is that the workout changes frequently, and you benefit from a personal trainer without having to pay the one-on-one fee. I take circuit training classes and well as kettlebell weight training classes at my gym 4-5 times a week, and I’ve seen incredible results.
Use a heart-rate monitor
My circuit training class utilizes a heart-rate monitor program so that we can all see what our current BPM is, our current calorie burn count, and check if we are in the “easy, moderate, hard” or “extreme” level of heart rate. My favorite type of heart rate monitor is one that straps around your chest, right under my sports bra elastic, but there are plenty of wrist monitors that are just as accurate.
Buy some new gear
Everyone knows that buying a new pair of training shoes, yoga pants, or sassy workout tank can be enough motivation to put on and head to the gym. I buy most of my workout gear from Old Navy; it’s durable, comfortable, and very inexpensive compared to other brands. Although, I have friends that swear they will never put anything on their body except LuLulemon. Whatever your preference or price point, grab some new swag and hit the gym!
Get a dog
Or in my case, borrow a dog! Every time I visit home, I run outside with my parents’ two dogs and go from 0-100 pretty quickly. I breathe hard, I have fun, and help the dogs get some well-deserved playtime too. Instead of just walking a dog, be more creative to add to your workout: play hide and go seek by climbing a tree, play chase around an object for constant stop-and-go motion, or wear ankle weights while you run with your dog.
Surround yourself with inspiration
My sister’s favorite motivational tip is to find a picture of what you want your body to look like and keep it as your phone background. She is forced to look at the picture each time she flips through her phone, and that helps her stray away from desserts and bring her focus back to her ultimate goal. Write post-its about how amazing you are and inspirational quotes from the internet. Tell your friends and fmaily your health goals so they can support you and make restaurant and weekend choices that will help you fulfill your accomplishments.
Take and post a selfie
I don’t care what the haters say, I’m a HUGE fan of inspirational body Instagram and Facebook selfie posts. I love seeing people start their caption with “I don’t usually do this…” or “I’m not one to post body selfies” because it takes such courage and excitement for someone to take a before/after or progress picture and post it for the whole internet world to see. It can boost your confidence a TON by posting a progress pic and having your friends and family (or heck, strangers) comment how good you look and to keep at it. If you’re not into posting selfies, at least take a few angles in front of your mirror so you’ll have something to compare your progress to as you make gains.
Pay for a really expensive gym membership
One of my biggest motivations, regardless how shallow, is the fact that I pay $100 a month to be a part of a gym that offers me unlimited HIIT workouts. I am very aware of where my money goes each day, and to think that each time I skip the gym, I’m basically paying a few dollars out of my pocket helps me get my butt there.
Make friends with the regulars in your class
You’ll find out pretty quickly who is motivated to regularly attend workout classes, and it’s pretty fun to introduce yourself and get to know them on that level. I also like to make friends with the trainers, who may feel more comfortable pushing you if they know you on a personal level and what your goals are.
Follow The Jillian Michaels’ theory: “get in, hit it hard, and get out.”
A great motivator to workout is knowing that you’re only going to be doing it for 20 minutes. Do a Jillian Michaels’ 20-minute power workout and move on with your life!
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Listen, if you don’t want to workout and you can’t find any way to motivate yourself, take the flippin day off! It’s ok to skip a day, it’s ok to skip a few days. You know what is best for yourself, and if none of these tips work, then take it easy on yourself, and work to get back into a rhythm tomorrow. We as people, especially women, tend to be our own worst critics. I guarantee you look better than you think, and are healthier and stronger than you give yourself credit for. Take your workouts one day at a time and stay positive! You got this!
How do you stay motivated to work out?? Share your tips below!
It’s the #SUMMEROFCLEVELAND, my little Pepperminters! The Cleveland Cavaliers have won a championship, the Indians are consistently proving they’ve got the right stuff this season, Stipe won the UFC Heavyweight Title, the Lake Erie Monsters brought home the Calder Cup, my family’s ice cream store Honey Hut is doing better than ever, AND the city was even featured as one of the main plot lines in the summer hit Finding Dory! I was in town for Game 7 and for the championship parade, and I gotta say, I’ve never felt that kind of positive energy and pure joy from so many people at once. The enthusiasm was contagious! Although I’ve moved away, my Cleveland roots mean so much to me and here’s why.
The city always welcomes me back
I was born and raised in Cleveland, yet decided to journey away from my hometown to explore other options, similar to many others my age. I attended school at Loyola University Chicago, then moved to Houston, Texas and Wilmington, Delaware to teach high-risk populations. Now I’m back in Chicago, which almost feels like a mini Cleveland at times because there are so many native Ohioans in this part of the Midwest. I fondly remember the $39-one way tickets from Chicago to Cleveland that I used to book on a whim in college when I missed my family and hometown. For under $100, I would be home in an hour, and feel a hero’s welcome from family and friends. Whenever I visit for holidays, my friends text or call and try to (many times, unsuccessfully) calculate a time in our busy schedules for us to meet up and have a drink and a few laughs. My parents joke I’m the “protocol daughter” who returns to Cleveland after a few months of big city life, and the welcome home joy I feel each time I make the trip will never be outdone.
Cleveland fans are revered as the best fans in the world, and I’m here to tell you there’s more truth in that than you’ll ever know! When I go to watch a game at a Browns Backers bar, the fans completely take over and it’s easy to forget I’m in a different city. Believeland, a 30 for 30 documentary released by ESPN this summer, helps explain why the fandom in Cleveland is so intense and pure, and until you’re in another city and see how non-natives talk smack on Cleveland, you probably don’t know how fiercely you’d defend it and how big of a fan you’d become.
As much as I love Chicago dining, the Cleveland dining scene have taken a GIANT leap forward in the past few years and I couldn’t be more excited. Every time I visit home, there’s a new restaurant to try out. My recent favorite that my sister took me to was Urban Farmer, which has fantastic brunch and dinner options. Little Italy is a magnificent little treasure of restaurants and eateries, and of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great beer options throughout the city.
Check out my friend Kelly’s blog CLE Unleashed for updates on new and exciting places to eat & drink!
One of the things I’m most proud of is Cleveland’s ability to tune out the negativity and keep looking forward towards a better future. No one believed we could win a championship, no one believed Cleveland would be anything more than the “mistake on the lake”, but here we are, proving ourself as a capable city and just as much potential as our big brother cities. However, Cleveland has been in the news a lot for other things that do not fill me with pride. Our city needs to come together now more than ever to work our city’s problems and prove the “we are one” chant we all yelled on the night of the Cavs victory is real! Kinda like a favorite child, I want Cleveland to get better since I know there’s so much good it has to offer.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever move back to Cleveland, but I do know that as much as we complain about the weather, and the potholes, and our beloved Browns, we are all in this together and our story of a NEW Cleveland has only just begun.
I am a Disney girl through and through, but when it came to a 30th birthday trip with my sister, we decided that we should try something different. Thanks to Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando is now a heavyweight competitor with Disney, and as self-proclaimed Pottheads, Universal has been calling our name for years. So, we booked a quick weekend getaway, and started planning! I learned so much being a first-timer in Universal, and now it’s time to pass my knowledge onto you! Here’s how to have a successful weekend in Universal Orlando:Stay at a resort on property
Similar to Disney, Universal Studios has major perks for guests that stay at their on-property resorts. There are a few options, but we ended up choosing Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, which is the highest tier of the resort choices (and the most expensive, unfortunately). It has a very upscale feel and is meant to mirror the Italian town of Portofino, nestled right on the water. The price held it’s value; the room was spacious, the pool was absolutely glorious, and we were able to enter the park an hour before regular ticket holders.
Make an Itinerary… even if you don’t stick to it
I spent hours creating a beautiful, perfect itinerary for our brief 72-hours in Orlando, and although we deviated from the plan about 8 minutes into our first day, I’m still really glad I made it. A structured itinerary encouraged me to research rides, restaurants, and wait times, and I felt confident going to the parks after I had a plan in mind. I linked my personal itinerary below, take a look, it worked really well!
Buy the Park-to-Park ticket (and buy it online ahead of time)
The best value for tickets is the park-to-park ticket online (you save $20 versus buying it at the gate), and trust me, you’ll want the park hopper option. With the park hopper, you have access to ride the Hogwarts Express between both parks, and the experience is definitely worth the money. Be sure to print out the tickets ahead of time so as soon as you get the gate, you’re ready to go.
The food, overall, isn’t that great, so plan ahead
Yes, I consider this a tip because I wish I would have been prepared. The food is just… ok, in my opinion, especially compared to Disney. One perk is that the value is definitely there. A hot dog is the price a hot dog should be, a bottled water is $2.99 (a little expensive but still not sporting event expensive), and snacks will only run you a few dollars. However, there just aren’t a ton of options available for dining, so I recommend doing some research ahead of time and looking at specific menu items to see what you may be interested in for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Considering I purchased 6 Butter Beer drinks/ice cream cones, I personally recommend those signature snacks!
SISTER TIP: Our favorite dining spot was actually at the Simpsons Fast Food Blvd. It offered a variety of food options, cold Duff beer, and the most amazing face-sized donut I’ve ever tasted for only $5.99! That’s $1.20 each for dessert for a family of five. Great deal. Check out the video below (side note – how amazing is her ring?!)
Play along with the characters
In Harry Potter world, many cast members are just as big of fans as we are, and they’ll love to play along with you. We heard many statements (“I’m late for potions, move out of my way!”) and taking a few minutes out of your time to talk with them will make your day. Stan from The Knight Bus offers a great photo op, and the dinosaur handler in Jurassic Park took her role very seriously. [See video below].
Head to Harry Potter World first thing in the morning
My last tip is to head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ASAP, like literally, first thing in the morning. There are two different ‘worlds’ – Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure). Both were amazing, but you’ll find you probably prefer one over the other. We absolutely loved the attention to detail in Diagon Alley; it was as if we stepped into the books themselves, so we started our morning there both days. I recommend grabbing a spot in line of your favorite ride first thing, as well, as the lines get longer as the day progresses. Remember, if you stay on site, you get to enter the park an hour before other ticket holders!
Keep your eyes out for a Harry Potter World tips post in the next week! Until then, comment some tips you have below! 🙂
One of my favorite things to do around the city of Chicago is to find pretty murals and unique backdrops for photographs. The city is so vibrant and full of art, and every corner has surprising amounts of character and love.
This pink heart garage is hidden away on 1820 W Webster, and it’s the perfect spot for engagement pictures, or just to peek at during a Sunday stroll through the city. Ironically, as my friend and I were taking these shots, an adorable couple with their baby were walking by, and I asked if they wanted me to take a family picture (she shared that it was actually their first photo together as a family!) and it could not be cuter.H&M Off the Shoulder Dress $14.99 (check for restocks)
It is the summer of LEMONADE!!!
Wait… Bey, why do you have a baseball bat?
Hopefully, like me, you’ve been watching Beyonce’s visual album “Lemonade” on repeat the past two weeks. I’m inspired, stunned, excited, and truthfully, I found myself craving some actual lemonade! So I used my handy dandy Thug Kitchen cookbook to whip up a batch of 5-ingredient lavender lemonade to celebrate the coming of summer… AND to calm myself after listening to this unbelievably heated album (see above… ^ Jay has done her very very wrong, ladies).
Lavender has incredible healing properties. The simple aroma of lavender can help treat insomnia, anxiety, depression, and restlessness, and lavender oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it great to soothe skin problems. My house if full of lavender candles and lavender essential oils, I figured it’s about time to add some dried lavender to my kitchen ingredients.
I bought organic lavender dried leaves from Feel Good Organics – which is among my favorite trustworthy companies for organic products. You can sprinkle some in a cup of tea, let it steep for 20 minutes, then strain for a fantastic homemade remedy for headaches, gather dried leaves in a mesh bag for a cute gift of homemade potpourri or simply boil some dried leaves in water for an aromatic effect all through the house.
I tweaked the recipe a bit, and it turned out absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS. So whether you’ve had a rough day at the office, you’re having a spring get-together, or your man cheats on you with Becky, lavender lemonade is definitely soothing and calming drink this season!