Unique Chicago Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Although I’d like to think I eat healthy 90% of the time, there’s always room for dessert, and Chicago is a fantastic city to help you satisfy your sweet tooth! This summer, I’ve chowed down on some of the most unique and delicious post-meal sweets and now I’m here to share them with you. If you’re visiting the city or live here long-term, save up your cheat calories and try out these tasty Chicago treats!

5) Amorino Flower Gelato

Flower gelator at Amorino
Flower gelato cone at Amorino

Chicago recently acquired two new Amorino gelato stores and their signature flower cone makes you feel so elegant… before you devour it in two bites because this stuff melts crazy fast! You can add an adorable and tasty macaron in the middle to class it up even more.

Amorino Chicago
838 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610

4) Goddess & Grocer Rainbow Cake

Goddess and Grocer Rainbow Cake
Goddess and Grocer Rainbow Cake

My rainbow cake Instagram picture has been re-grammed a dozen times because it just looks so darn beautiful! This cake is truly a masterpiece, and you can grab a slice at any of their locations. Mmmm taste the rainbow.

Goddess and Grocer
1649 N. Damen Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60647

3) SteakBar De-Constructed Banana Split

IMG_4863
SteakBar deconstructed banana split

Oh MAN was this sundae a joy to eat! It comes on an enormous platter: ice cream, banana slices, toppings, caramel sauce… you name it, you get it. Oh, and there’s a sparkler on top in case you already feel like this dessert isn’t a party.

SteakBar
1500 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610

2) Firecakes Ice Cream Donut Sandwich (and vanilla glazed)

Ok, Firecakes Donuts gets two pictures because I couldn’t decide which I enjoyed more! The ice cream donut sandwich is literally a donut cut in half stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with fudge. Why haven’t we thought of this sooner?? The second place at Firecakes goes to their vanilla glazed donut. Oh my goodness is this thing delicious. Not too sweet, but perfect enough to wake you up in the morning!Ice cream sandwich IMG_0085Firecakes Donuts
2453 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

1) Hugo’s Frog Bar Chocolate Mousse Pie

Hugo's Frog Bar chocolate mousse pie
Hugo’s Frog Bar chocolate mousse pie

My favorite unique Chicago dessert I tried this summer was the chocolate mousse pie at Hugo’s Frog Bar in the Gold Coast. GOODNESS was this thing worth the double workout the next day, or what?! The piece was as big as my head, and it was so unbelievably delectable and chocolate-y.. I could have eaten the whole thin if I wasn’t there with some fabulous friend, I’m just sayin’. Hugo's Frog Bar

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House
024 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

What unique desserts have you tried in the Windy City??

A Paris-Themed Wedding Shower

My sister Angelina is getting married in just a few short weeks, and it was my honor to help throw her a fabulous bridal shower to celebrate. (Check out her chic Chicago bachelorette party details here!) She’s getting married in Québec, and has loved all things French since she was a little girl, so a Parisian-themed wedding shower was a no brainer. I worked diligently with my mom and the  to put together a beautiful French-inspired brunch party for 45 of Angelina’s closest friends and family.Paris themed wedding showerWe celebrated the shower at Market Beer in Rocky River, Ohio. Jill, the party planning manager, was absolutely fantastic to work with. Every request I had, she found a way to make it happen, and the rustic yet chic outdoor/indoor option was perfect for a summer party!

Decorations

In order to stay with the Parisian theme, we decorated the space with elegant Martha Stewart tissue paper flowers, pink and white tablecloths, polka dot balloons, and feminine tulle bows for an extra pretty touch. The Chanel flower vases I made were so pretty in the sun! Grab my DIY instructions here!Chanel vaseI also found a few Eiffel Towers and my talented aunt painted beautiful French scenes on 4×6 cardstock, which I placed in double-sided IKEA frames. I also created an easy crepe paper curtain with kite string – it looked so beautiful and swayed in the breeze! My mom had a CD filled with instrumental French café music, so we played that over the loud speaker and it really set a great tone for the afternoon.

IMG_0163 IMG_0116Activities

I knew I wanted a unique shower – not just your typical “come, eat, and watch the bride open presents”. So I designed some ‘stations’ around the perimeter of the space for guests to take part in during their time with us! One area featured French lessons with Esther, a lovely tutor I found on Wyzant. She taught guests a few common French phrases, and also shared memories from her experiences in Paris.IMG_0071

Another table was meant for writing down your favorite date night idea for the newlyweds on popsicle sticks, as well as writing ‘flowers of love’ on cut outs and attaching them to a beautiful shadow box frame my mom and dad made with props from Michael’s!Write date nightIMG_0039

I purchased this pre-made PDF from Etsy filled with French-themed photobooth props, then printed them at Staples and glued skewers on the back. What a fun easy way to spice up people’s photos! And of course, there were tables set up for made-t0-order omelettes, pastries, and eggs benedict.IMG_0160My favorite station at the shower was the DIY Flower Crown workshop. I ordered $100 worth of baby’s breath, daisies, and carnations (I could have probably ordered half, FYI) from Costco, and provided flower wire, cutters, tape, and ribbon. Guests measured out how much wire they needed, then wrapped the flowers around as they like, to create beautiful crowns to wear during the party! The idea was a hit, and all the women in our lives walking around wearing gorgeous flower crowns really added to the French feel. 🙂 Look for a separate blog post next week!IMG_0073IMG_0029

Read about my experience at Flowers for Dreams’ flower crown workshop!

Gifts

Near the end of the party, we made an announcement that if you wanted the bride to open your gift, head over to her sitting area and she would happily open it. If you did not care either way, you could continue to enjoy the party or head out. I was amazed by the amount of people who didn’t feel the need to see her open her gift! I think it speaks volumes to our patterns of bridal showers. If you’re looking for a more contemporary option, and to simply enjoy opening your gifts in the comfort of your home without feeling rushed, this is definitely an option. That way, guests who want to be there when you open it have the option to, and those who don’t can feel a little more free to stay or go.IMG_0010

What a beautiful day it turned out to be!

Stop & Smell the Vintage Roses | VIPme Dress Review

I can’t believe summer is coming to an end, but it was a beautiful few months filled with beautiful summery dresses! For my last farewell of these hot Chicago months and transition to fall, I’m sharing two pieces I received from the fabulous online clothing boutique, VIPme (be on the lookout for another post next week!).VIP ME VIP me close up

This vintage printed short sleeve midi dress is too cute for words. It comes with a matching belt that provides a beautiful hourglass shape, perfect for that vintage look I was going for.Vip Me Dress

Although it has two layers for volume, this A-line dress is 100% cotton, so it breathes wonderfully even on a hot day. I can see myself wearing this to a day party, the park, or a bridal shower, and accessorize with a hat or cute clutch. VIPme has tons of adorable and unique dresses just like this; I love having pieces that I know not many other people own!VIP MeIf you like this adorable vintage dress, you can find it and hundreds more over at VIPme.com. Their website is really user-friendly, and they offer almost every style you can think of at an affordable price. They also offer free shipping promotions, so enter your email for special offers! Don’t forget to use promo code SIJessica99 for $5 off your first order of $50! Here are a few more vintage pieces that I’m looking forward to snagging in my next order.. 🙂
VIP Me Dresses

SISTER TIP: You can download the VIPme IOS app to bring even more brands into your pocket!

How are you styling your transition to fall??

Unique outdoor experience with Kayak Chicago

I’m always up for trying new things, especially in my city of Chicago, and especially when it’s warm outside! Kayak Chicago let me try out their architectural kayaking tour down the Chicago River, and it was such a cool and unique experience for tourists and local Chicagoans alike. Kayak Chicago

We had a group of 8 and we met off North Avenue for easy access to the Chicago River. Our South African guide, Bruno, was fantastic! He had really interesting bits of information to share about Chicago history and architecture, and took some time to show us the best method for kayaking (and, more importantly, how to quickly get out of the way of boats). You could tell he was very passionate about the city of Chicago, which made us all excited to learn more about where we call home.

Kayak Chicago
Kayak Chicago

I’ve tried kayaking before, but only in short spurts. I gotta say, the 3-hour kayak roundtrip was pretty intense! Get a good night’s rest and eat a solid breakfast for this outdoorsy trip and you’ll be good to go. I recommend wearing loose athletic gear and bring plenty of water. A bathing suit isn’t necessary but make sure to bring a Ziploc bag to store your phone in case water splashes in from the paddle. I wore sandals and took them off for the trip and that worked perfectly.

Chicago Merchandise Mart - it used to have its own zip code it's so large!
Chicago Merchandise Mart – it used to have its own zip code it’s so large!Kayak ChicagoThe most fun part of my afternoon with Kayak Chicago was the ability to view the city from a completely new perspective. I mean, look at these incredible pictures!!Kayak Chicago

IMG_0048

I have a newfound appreciation for the Chicago River, as well as the incredible history that went into creating The Second City, aptly named after a famous rebuild following the great Chicago fire.Kayak ChicagoKayak Chicago

Overall, Kayak Chicago, which offers day tours as well as sunset firework tours, was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking to do something unique and athletic in the city. The cost is around $70, but always check the website for specials. Hurry, you only have about a little more time to take advantage of this beautiful weather!

My fantastic guide, Bruno!
My fantastic guide, Bruno!

Kayak Chicago
(312) 8-kayak-8 / (312) 852-9258
1220 W. LeMoyne ave Chicago, IL
https://kayakchicago.com

DIY Festival Flower Crown with Flowers For Dreams

Flowers CrownI collaborated with Flowers For Dreams when I first started Pepperminting, and I have been using their floral design and bouquet services ever since. It’s an amazing organization that provides beautiful, local flower arrangements with a charitable twist: every bouquet benefits a local charity. So unique and so great for the Chicago community!

Flowers For Dreams also holds events and workshops, and this past weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to their Flower Crown Making Workshop to learn how to create a unique flower head piece for Lollapalooza weekend! Festivals are the perfect opportunity to wear a fresh flower crown, so make sure you reach out to Flowers For Dreams next time you need to look boho chic. I brought along my friend Sarah from Balanced Babe and we got to work!Flowers for Dreams Sarah

Flowers For Dreams was named a top Instagram account to follow and it’s easy to see why! Follow them on Instagram HERE!

In order to make a flower crown, you’ll need: wire, twine, filler greens, and of course, fresh flowers. A crown lasts for about 24 hours with care, so if you want it to last longer, you can purchase silk flowers for about the same price.

The key to creating a flower crown is to keep the fillers and flowers going in the same direction around the crown. Start with some greens like eucalyptus, baby’s breath, or other fillers, and cover your wire. Wrap the twine around the stems, and overlap as much as possible so there are no empty spaces.

Then, snip the flowers about an inch or two below the bud and continue wrapping around the crown. The best part about making a flower crown is that no two will look exactly alike. You can take out flowers or add more depending on how you like your piece to look! I must have reshaped and changed my crown a dozen times before I was satisfied.Flower Crown

I added a piece of ribbon to the back to make it a little more fairy-like and feminine, and then spritz with some water and keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to wear! Flowers for dreams groupWe all had SO much fun at the event, Flowers For Dreams is definitely one of the best companies I’ve had the pleasure of working with in Chicago. And my flower crown looked fantastic, even the next day!IMG_0066

Flowers For Dreams
1812 W Hubbard St.
Chicago, IL 60622
312.620­.1410

The Most Beautiful Place in Illinois: Baha’i House of Worship (and less than an hour away from Chicago!)

I’m always up for a fantastic day trip, especially during the summer season when I’m off work. Scrolling through Facebook, I found an article that listed the most beautiful sights in each of the 50 states. Illinois’ most beautiful place was named the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette; about an hour outside the city down Lakeshore, and a mere 15 minutes from Evanston. So, I hopped in my car and went on an adventure!Bahai Temple of WorshipI am so glad I took the time to visit this architectural dream. The Baha’i faith, as I learned from the very informative Welcome Center, was founded in 19th century Persia, and believes in unifying the human race and society.Bahai Temple of WorshipThis is the only temple of its kind in North America, and the beauty of the building and the grounds is absolutely breathtaking. It is a quiet, serene place to gather your thoughts, attend a service, or simply marvel at the detail needed to create the house of worship. You can go inside, but they ask not to take pictures.Bahai Garden

At night, the temple is lit up beautifully, but during the day, the gardens were gorgeous and the windows let in the summer light. This temple is definitely worth the short drive from Chicago or the suburbs! I haven’t seen all of Illinois, but I can’t argue that this sight was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen while living here.Bahai Temple of WorshipBaha’i House of Worship
100 Linden Ave., At Sheridan Rd., Wilmette, IL

Pineapple Romper

Summer is in full swing, and I love sharing my sunshine-filled OOTDs on my Instagram page! (follow me here!) Once in a while, I’ll wake up, workout, shower, and put something on that just makes me smile all day, and this is one of those outfits!

Pineapple Jumper

This summery pineapple romper is too cute for words. It has a back-tie detail and is loose and airy on these 95-degree Chicago days. Pineapples are all the rage lately, and anything I can get my hands on with this adorable lil crown-wearing fruit brings me joy!Pineapple RomperUnfortunately, the style I’m wearing is sold out, but you can get on the list at Lulu’s for a white version, which is just as cute, maybe even cuter!

What are you favorite summer looks?? Share them below!

Attention Botox first-timers: I did it, here’s what to expect

Ah, Botox. The lovely, inexpensive love chemical that many women and men pump in their foreheads and crows feet to look younger and more refreshed. I’ve heard that Botox can be addicting, but I’ve also heard that it will change your life. So, in preparation to look my freshest for Angelina’s wedding this September, I visited the amazing Maggie at Lincoln Park Aesthetics to clear up and prevent future wrinkles!

The lovely Maggie, physician’s assistant at Lincoln Park Aesthetics! Make an appointment today!

My first tip is to go get Botox at an office that you feel truly comfortable with. I definitely recommend going to an office ran by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.  The provider should be specialized in injection treatments and have lengthy experience. I was once told by a doctor that “you’re not paying for the Botox itself, you’re paying for the person injecting you”. It may be a little more expensive..but going to a professional office rather than going to a Botox party at someone’s house is a better choice for a first-timer.

What it's like to get botoxPRICE: The price is usually the #1 concern before getting injected. One way to possibly save a little money and have a better, more lasting experience, is to go with Dysport, Botox’s competitor brand. My PA, Maggie, preferred Dysport for me so I could have more range of motion and movement in my forehead, and it tends to last a bit longer than Botox.  It is sometimes more beneficial to get charged by the area, but only if they are someone that requires a lot of units. Otherwise it is more beneficial to be charged by the unit. Most women require about 30 Botox units or 80 Dysport units to treat the upper one-third of their face (eleven’s, crow’s and forehead). Both are very similar, but do your research online so you can make an educated decision on which brand is better for you!

PROCEDURE: The procedure itself is extremely quick (under ten minutes) and completely painless. Honestly, I barely even felt a pinch, the needle is so thin and small. Another great perk is that there’s no down time. I went to lunch immediately following, and no one would even be able to tell. In addition to that, no one has really been able to tell except the few friends I shared with, and now of course, the thousands of you that are reading this haha!

RESULTS: My results made my extremely happy. I feel fresh-faced and youthful; not frozen or “Joker-like” in the least. The Dysport smoothed out my forehead wrinkles and crow’s feet, and I’m still able to smile and frown pretty naturally. Within a month or so I will be able to look more surprised but the lines won’t be etched in. It’s been about a week now, and I’m getting more comfortable with it everyday, but if you’re someone who’s extremely animated, this procedure may take some getting used to! Maggie said the average patient sees results for 3-5 months, so if you’re interested, plan on visiting about three times a year.Before and After BotoxFUTURE: The real question is, will I get Botox/Dysport again? Most likely, and probably Dysport, so I can have more range of motion in my expressions. It’s inexpensive, pain-free, and makes a really big difference on my face that I notice immediately. I will continue to eat healthy, workout, and take care of my skin, but if I can go in every once in a while and have a nice refresher to say youthful, that sounds pretty darn good!

SISTER TIPS: If you are thinking about getting Botox or Dysport, go conservative your first few times. You can always add more if you want, and that way you can see if you like the product and the results before going all out. Also, Botox/Dysport is known to reduce sweating in injected areas. Not sweating during my workout is a definite perk of these injections!

Are you a Botox/Dysport user?? I’d love to hear your experience and advice below!

Lincoln Park Aesthetics
908 W Armitage Ave, Chicago’s Lincoln Park
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: 773-825-3048

DIY Chanel Perfume Vase

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.

DIY Chanel Perfume Vase

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How to Create an Instagram Feed You (and others) Will Love

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!

A few days ago, I got lucky and Old Navy reposted my picture!
A few days ago, I got lucky and Old Navy reposted my picture!

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! 🙂Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 4.28.27 PM

 

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 4.19.29 PM

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.

Use colors that are pleasing to you and your followers. Focus on ONE shot, versus a collage of several.
Use colors that are pleasing to you and your followers. Focus on ONE shot, versus a collage of several.

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.

Sometimes, a well placed and silly hashtag can gain a better and more loyal following!
Sometimes, a well placed and silly hashtag can gain a better and more loyal following!

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!

My highest liked Instagram pic ever. For no apparent reason.
My highest liked Instagram pic ever. For no apparent reason.

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.

JesiPepperminting