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 a dermatologist or plastic surgeon that you trust and has lengthy experience with injections. I was once told by a doctor that “you’re not paying for the Botox itself, you’re paying for the person injecting you”. So it may be a little more expensive, but going with a physician’s assistance over an aesthetician may be a better choice for a first-timer.

What it's like to get botoxPRICE: The price is usually the #1 concern before getting injected. Make sure you have a professional that charges you by the unit, not the ‘full area’ (to give you an idea, Botox is around $10-15 per unit, and you’ll need about 50 to do the forehead). 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. 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. I will say, the biggest difference is my ‘surprised’ face (see below). I mean, I basically can’t look surprised anymore. 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 is known for ceasing sweating in injected areas, and can be used to ‘freeze’ sweat glands under your arms and forehead. 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

Continue reading…    

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

Baked Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

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!

IMG_0052 Baked Zucchini Fries

Health benefits of zucchini

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!

Zucchini 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.

Oven-Fried Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Oven-Fried Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Ingredients

  • Zucchini Fries:
  • Canola or olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchinis cut into french fry size sticks
  • 2 large eggs whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups whole wheat Panko or bread crumbs
  • Spicy Ranch:
  • 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • (Combine all ingredients and mix well)

Instructions

  1. Zucchini Fries:
  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  3. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  4. Stir together the whole wheat panko with salt and pepper and place in a large Ziploc bag.
  5. Dip zucchini sticks in the flour, followed by the egg white, then shake in the bag to coat and arrange on the baking sheet, not touching.
  6. Coat all exposed sides with cooking spray.
  7. Bake on the center rack for 7-10 minutes. Turn the zucchini and continue to bake until golden, about 5 minutes more.
  8. Serve hot with spicy ranch or marinara sauce!
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Goldplaited: Blowouts, Braids, and Makeup in Lincoln Park

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.

Goldplaited door

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.

Goldplaited

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.

You've struck goldCheck out Behind The Brand: Goldplaited from Windy City Bloggers

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! 😀

Braid hairstyleCall 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.

Follow Goldplaited on Instagram!

Fourth of July Bodysuit

Fourth of July

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!!!

Things to do in Chicago this Fourth of July weekend

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.

Discovery Bodysuit

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!

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10 Tips to Motivate Yourself to Work Out

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.

Motivate Yourself

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

Motivate Yourself

How do you stay motivated to work out?? Share your tips below!

I Love You, Cleveland

Cleveland

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.

ClevelandThe fandom

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.

542168320_1466700503126_3347170_ver1.0The eats

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.

Ten Best Restaurants in Cleveland

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Mellow Mushroom Pizza MMMMM

Check out my friend Kelly’s blog CLE Unleashed for updates on new and exciting places to eat & drink!

ClevelandHope for the Future

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.