Monthly Archives: June 2017

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When you might want to try a meal kit service even if you like to cook

Fitness

Last week I wrote about why you might want to try a meal kit service even if you like to cook, but this week I’m writing about when you might want to try one.

As I mentioned last week, I set up a Blue Apron delivery for when I was going to be out of town for a weekend. That way when I got back we would have dinner taken care of for a few nights without me needing to go to the grocery store or worry about sending my husband.

I did the same thing when I went on my Sonoma vacation but this time I tried HelloFresh. I ended up enjoying that process so much more. We got Chicken Parm Salad, the Juicy Lucy Burger, and Zesty Crusted Catfish.

Each meal comes in it’s own little box which I LOVED! The meat is separate but all the other items are corralled together. This warmed my organization loving heart.

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First up, I made the catfish. I’m always a bit hesitant to make fish, but HelloFresh made it super simple. The fish seasoning could have used a little more kick, but the rice was outstanding. I never thought to add lemon zest to rice! It really takes it up a notch. I ended up doing the same thing with a lime later that week on my own. So, thanks for the idea!

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Next, I made the Juicy Lucy Burger. That recipe taught me how to make onion jam which was, in a word, amazing. I want to eat it on everything. This burger tasted just as good as a gourmet one I could have gotten at a restaurant, except I wasn’t tempted to order fries with it. The nutrition stats are a little higher than I would like, but I didn’t use all the cheese they sent and I had plenty of onion jam leftover.

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The Chicken Parm Salad was also a winner. Mixing the roasted potatoes with the dressing and spinach was something I wouldn’t have thought to do but it worked really well. Also, they sent us an extra chicken breast so I ended up having leftovers. Score!

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Overall, all three recipes were simple to make AND I got some ideas I can put into practice on my own. Most of the veggies were pre-chopped (not so with Blue Apron) and the recipes didn’t require me to use every pot or pan I own.

I actually ended up getting a second HelloFresh order this past week because I forgot to skip the week. Oops. But, it ended up being a nice way to get some more info about how HelloFresh fits into our life.

The second box had recipes that were a bit more involved and required a few more “pantry staple” items (butter, olive oil, sugar). If you’re absolutely a kitchen novice or you never cook then this might be a problem. I have all those things on hand so it wasn’t an issue for me. Of the three recipes in the second round I loved two of them and thought one was just okay.

I do find that the HelloFresh instructions aren’t quite as thorough as Blue Apron and that they tend to underestimate how long to cook the meat items. So, again, maybe not the best for kitchen novices.

However, I think using a meal kit delivery service like this is perfect for:

  • When you won’t have time to go to the grocery store for a full week’s worth of meals
  • When you’re traveling (you could have it delivered to your AirBNB!)
  • When you’re tired of making the same recipes over and over again

Many of you commented that you wouldn’t use a service like this every week and I actually agree. But, I definitely think it’s a nice ace to have in the hole when you just can’t fathom meal planning.  If you want to try HelloFresh you can get $40 off your first delivery when you use my referral link!

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What to wear to host brunch at your house

Casual Friday · Shopping

Well, okay, I not only wore this outfit to host brunch, but I also wore it wine tasting in Healdsburg, CA. And that’s where we took these pictures. But, I did wear it this past Saturday, too! Awesome outfits totally deserve to be worn more than once.

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On Saturday I made brunch for several of my friends and had Julie, a Stella & Dot stylist over to show off her wares. When I packed for California I only took two necklaces and two pairs of earrings. One of the necklaces (the one pictured in these photos) and one of the pairs of earrings were from Stella & Dot. Specifically, the Rebel pendant and the Pave Triangle Ear Jacket. I wore both multiple times and, since the earrings are actually several pairs in one, I was able to mix and match them depending on how fancy I wanted to be.

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I love supporting women who have their own hustle (and getting hostess perks aren’t bad either!). Actually, if you’re looking for some super versatile jewelry, I’d love it you used my link! You can also get my amazing leopard print watch, which I also wore a ton in California.

Speaking of women who have their own hustle, both my top and my bralette are from Moonfish, another women-owned business. I think I’ve mentioned before that Sarah at Moonfish is amazing at picking out items for me to try on that I would never think to try myself. Case in point, both the top and the bralette are items I would have not picked out to try on.

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I now want to wear this outfit every day! I even wore the top and bralette with my black Principle Denim jeans (also from Moonfish) to dinner on Sunday and again to work on Monday. I might have a problem.

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The Flower Seller [SIA Post]

Style Imitating Art

Good morning, everyone! (Or afternoon or evening, depending on when you’re reading this). I had a busy weekend hosting a brunch at my house, visiting the local farmer’s market, and enjoying dinner at a friend’s place. How was your weekend?

Speaking of farmer’s markets, the one closest to me is lovely and I might just have to convince someone to take this week’s Style Imitating Art photo there so I can do Salazar’s choice justice.

She chose an animation from series by Chinese artist and illustrator Oamul that is pretty clearly inspired by flower sellers in Vietnam.

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The outfit I’m wearing today is actually perfect for this, so I think I’ll recreate it on Sunday and head out to the farmer’s market again to pose with some flowers! Or, I’ll just take pictures in my yard with a bouquet. I guess you’ll have to wait and see next week!

Want to submit your own style imitating art? Just send a photo of your outfit to Salazar at 14shadesofgreyblog@gmail.com by next Monday evening, July 3rd, and she’ll include it in her round-up on Wednesday.

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Why you might want to try a meal kit service even if you like to cook

Fitness

I have a routine. On Sunday mornings I get up, make my breakfast and coffee, open my laptop, and pull up my calendar and my Pinterest boards. I grab a pad of paper and a pen and I make a menu of dinners for the week and a grocery list. Then, once all my coffee is gone and the breakfast dishes are washed, I head out to the grocery store.

I actually don’t mind cooking. My husband will say I’m actually pretty good at it. Over the years I’ve gotten good at looking at a recipe and determining if it will be easy to make on a weeknight or if it’s something I need to save for a weekend. I look for meals that require the fewest number of pots and pans but which also incorporate proteins and vegetables and not that many bread-y carbs.

But, you know, after awhile it’s really nice to let someone else do the thinking about what ingredients you need and what recipes you’ll make. Especially if you’re going to be out of town on the day you would normally do your grocery shopping.

That’s what happened over Mother’s Day weekend recently. I was out of town and while, yes, I could have make the menu and grocery list before I left town and sent my husband to the store on his own, I thought, “hey, why not try one of those meal kit delivery services?” I figured this would be a great alternative for times when I can’t get to the grocery store.

I started with Blue Apron because, yes, I listen to podcasts and they advertise on ALL OF THEM. After a slight snafu with getting an account set up (apparently you can only have an address in their system once and the people who lived in our apartment before us also used Blue Apron), I was able to place my order.

I ended up with Roasted Pork & Mustard Pan Sauce, Tandoori Style Chicken & Rice, and Stir-Fried Wonton Noodles.

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So, what did I think?

The good:

  • Saturday delivery worked out perfectly
  • Mobile app is easy to use
  • One of the vegetable ingredients wasn’t available but they swapped it out for a different veggie and put a card in my shipment indicating that
  • The meat quality was good
  • Most of the veggies were fresh, although one of the cucumbers was soft on one end by the time I got to it

The not-so-good

  • Making these meals was STRESSFUL! Many of them required more than one pan and lots of fiddly ingredients. So. Much. Chopping.
  • The recipes used way more cooking oil than I’m used to. I tried to make them as written so I could give an honest assessment, but I’m just not used to using multiple tablespoons of oil in a recipe after years of tracking fat macros.
  • At the time I placed my order, I could only choose two meat-based meals and one vegetarian one. Both Jason and I like to eat meat. I ended up purchasing chicken at the grocery store to add to the stir-fried wonton recipe. Which, by the way, was one of the worst things Jason and I had ever eaten. The recipe, that is. Not the chicken.
  • The pork recipe was almost identical to something I already make, except the one I make (a variation on this one) is much simpler.
  • The chicken recipe was okay, but it still required more work than I wanted on a weeknight! Poor Jason had to listen to me complain almost the entire time. And I usually don’t mind cooking!
  • No leftovers! Jason and I (well, mostly I) take leftovers in our lunch 4 out of 5 days. The only Blue Apron meal that had enough leftover for another meal or two was the wonton noodle one. I’ve heard other people claim that their Blue Apron meals made more than they could eat, but apparently Jason and I eat a lot.

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All of the veggies for the roasted pork dish…for two people.

Overall, I was not impressed with Blue Apron. I know that some people like them because they try to use in-season items, source from local or sustainable farms, use non-GMO items, etc and even have a recycling program where you can ship back the packaging. However, I fully admit that those are not top priorities in our house. Except recycling. I like to recycle!

I’m much more interested in using a service that makes my life easier, not harder. But that doesn’t mean I gave up on meal kit delivery services! Nope! Instead, I tried HelloFresh with MUCH better results. But this post is already pretty long so I think I’ll tell you all about that next Friday. How’s that sound?

Do you use a meal kit delivery service? Which one do you use? I recently got a promo code for Sun Basket and I might try it, too.

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. Although my HelloFresh link will get you $40 off your first box and $20 credit for me!

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The Sonoma Round-Up [SIA Post]

Style Imitating Art

The best thing about picking a bright, colorful, graphic piece of art for the Style Imitating Art challenge? It’s seeing all the bright and colorful outfits!

This week it was such fun to see how everyone interpreted the Greeting from Sonoma mural. First up, we have Jen who, of course, found her own mural that represents her city!

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We also clearly have the same taste in hats. You can read all about how she came up with her outfit and the mural in her photos here.

Next we have our other co-host, Salazar who said the hot air balloon in the mural inspired her to wear her hot air balloon blouse. She said it seemed like something one would wear in wine country and, yes, I agree! Loose, flow-y pants are definitely a go-to for many women of California!

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Mike went with my suggestion of a graphic tee! Yay! The gray works perfectly with the metal wall and the red, white, and blue matches the “Greetings” lettering.

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Then we have Kezzie with her dress that looks like a mural itself! Plus, her metallic shoes. Clearly we were on the same wavelength with our footwear.

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Finally we have me in my coral dress!

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Thanks again to everyone who participate! Stay tuned for next week’s choice by Salazar!

 

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Greetings from Sonoma: The Outfit [SIA Post]

Office Appropriate Outfits - Summer · Style Imitating Art

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I’m sure you all know how difficult it is to come home from a vacation, but it’s even more difficult when you’ve come home from a place with amazing weather, amazing food, amazing views and amazing wine! And you spent the time with amazing company (shout-out to my mom).

We didn’t have any real plans for our trip other than get to Sonoma and have fun. Well, that’s not entirely true. The one thing I wanted to do was go find this mural at The Fremont Diner in Sonoma since I’d chosen it as this week’s Style Imitating Art inspiration.

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And, yes, I succeeded! I wore my latest Moonfish purchase along with my brown and silver tote, silver shoes, and silver necklace (also from Moonfish). I was tempted to wear my gold jewelry and brown shoes but I went with the silver to mimic the metal wall.

Oh, and you’ll notice the hat in all my Sonoma photos. I bought this hat years ago at a street festival in Chicago but I think this was the first time it got worn so many days in a row.

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We ate lunch at the Fremont Diner after spending the morning on the balcony of winery with the most beautiful view: Nicholson Ranch. I’d been there once before almost 8 years ago, so of course I had to take a picture in almost the exact same spot.

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And here I am with my friend Holly, in July 2009!

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(Clearly I have a thing for silver shoes!)

If you weren’t following my Instagram Story, you probably missed out on many of the pictures I took this trip. So, here’s a taste of what we ate at The Fremont Diner (pun totally intended!)

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Fried oyster hash for me, shrimp and grits for my mom. Followed by amazing pecan pie!

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Don’t forget! If this week’s artwork inspired you to come up with an outfit, send it my way (looplooks@gmail.com) by the end of the day on Tuesday, June 20th and I’ll include it in the round-up on Wednesday.

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How to be a Ninja Warrior [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

After Bethany posted about her workout at Junior Ninja Warriors I knew I HAD to go check that place out. And then Maggie asked if anyone wanted to join her for a class so of course I jumped at the chance!

The Junior Ninja Warriors facility is located almost exactly 2 miles north of me so I decided to get in a short run at the same time. I ran from my house to the facility so I was already nice and warmed up. Oh, and did I mention it was leg day with my trainer at my regular gym so I’d already done a strength workout?

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Normally Junior Ninja Warriors is reserved for kids, but a few nights a week they have adult hours. An instructor shows you how to do three different groups of obstacles and the idea is that you practice a few times and then go through each grouping for a time.

Let’s just say that we didn’t always get to the being timed portion of the obstacles! However, I realized that I have so much more upper body strength than I thought. All that strength training over the past 2+ years is actually working!

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Among other things, we did monkey bars, scaled the warp-wall (here’s video proof!), conquered the Spider, and tried our hand (feet?) at log rolling.

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It’s interesting but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become less afraid of hurting myself. For example, after we did the spider we had to do what basically amounted to parallel bars. I managed it find the first time but the second time my hand slipped on the last bar and I fell flat on my back (on mats, of course). Maybe it’s all those trapeze lessons I did in the past, but falling like that doesn’t phase me anymore!

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I had a BLAST and would love to go back. I love being able to put my strength to use and actually see the results of all the hard work I do in the “regular” gym.

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A Hot Day’s Dress

Office Appropriate Outfits - Summer

A few weeks ago I restarted my Le Tote account that I’d put on hold. I was hoping to get some dresses I could wear in Sonoma. It turned out that I didn’t end up taking any of them to Sonoma with me, but I did wear the one I got several times beforehand. We’ve had a few really hot days in Chicago and this dress was perfect for those.

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I had to run a bunch of errands before going on vacation so this outfit got worn to Ulta, Target, and the grocery store.

I’m not a huge fan of the lace-up trend that’s going on, but since this one doesn’t actually lace I rather enjoyed the fun accent that looks like it laces but it doesn’t actually tie or anything.

The shoes are a recent order from Shopbop. I have them in brown and I love them so much I decided to get them in silver, too. Especially since the straps on my silver gladiator sandals need to be re-glued.

This outfit would be perfect to wear to outdoor festivals or, if you’re like me, just around town while you do that thing called adulting.

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same dress in different color | exact same dress | same shoes | similar hat

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Greetings from Sonoma [SIA Post]

Style Imitating Art

I’m writing this from my couch on Saturday but hopefully by the time you read this I’ll be in Sonoma with my mom! I’ve been doing a little bit of looking online to come up with some things to do but, for the most part, I’m thinking we’ll figure it out as we go along.

However, I did find this perfect mural for Style Imitating Art this week that’s located at a place in Sonoma called the Fremont Diner. My plan is to get a picture of myself in front of it!

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I’m packing several dresses that would work well with this mural, mostly because it has all of the colors of the rainbow in it!

But I want to see what outfits you put together with this inspiration! Graphic tee? Something bright? Something that reminds you of California? Send it my way!

Email it to looplooks@gmail.com by Tuesday, June 20th and I’ll post it in my round-up on Wednesday, June 21st.

 

 

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A deck sneak peak

Office Appropriate Outfits - Summer

Remember when I said we were decorating our deck? Well, the chairs came and I bought a rug and it all matches the hand-me-down tables perfectly!

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same chairs | same rug

I still need to hang our cafe party lights and find an ottoman (any suggestions??) but it’s definitely coming together! And if you want to see it person I’m still having a brunch party on June 24th and I’d love to have you there.

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I actually wore this outfit when I explored two neighborhood spots with my friend (and former neighbor) Margaret. She’s super into the food scene in Chicago so she knows all the places. We had brunch at Cellar Door Provisions and then more coffee and pastries from the Bakery at Fat Rice. Both are within walking distance of our apartment!

Cellar Door Provision is the cutest space and has simple but tasty food. Fat Rice is more energetic with some very interesting flavor combinations. But, I discovered that both have coffee bars so I know where I can go when I run out of coffee at home.

And then when we got back, she even helped me get the deck chairs set up! I’m sure she can attest to the fact that they are quite comfy. Chewie seems to think so, too.

 

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This outfit is also really comfy and I think I’m going to wear it on the plane to Sonoma ON SUNDAY!

Yes, my mom and I are taking a girls’ trip to California and I am so excited. I have already planned to pack all my new dresses (two from Moonfish!) and will get my mom to take some pictures. So, stay tuned!

similar dress | same jacket | similar sandals | similar scarf