Why You Should Visit Anguilla & What To Do on This Island Paradise

Alex always joked that we’d find out we were expecting a baby the week of our Tokyo trip- and guess what…

Needless to say, my OBGYN didn’t recommend flying around the globe and eating sushi for a week so we needed to come up with a plan B- fast since Alex had already taken 10 days off of work for the trip and we were in vacation mode.

We both decided that laying on a beach would be ideal for rest and celebrating our new news and decided on Anguilla, an island where we’d never been. So we lied to almost all our friends and family and told them we were Tokyo bound, when we really planned to hit the island. (we knew people would suspect we were pregnant and wanted to wait to share the news later in the pregnancy)

Luckily for us, when we told all the nice people at the; airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc that we were expecting- we were able to get almost a full refund for the Tokyo trip. All the Japanese lessons I’d been taking? We will use have to use those as motivation to hit Tokyo in the future OR hit every Japanese restaurant locally and hope the chefs will take pity on me and let me practice.

ANYHOW- back to Anguilla and why you MUST go.

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the beach at Cap Juluca

  • It’s pretty easy to get to- we flew to Puerto Rico then took a puddle jumper an hour over to the island. We’re talking SMALL plane people- like one pilot- but we felt totally safe.
  • There’s really not much to do besides relax on one of the insanely gorgeous beaches. A lot of islands have lots of nightlife, shopping or sights to explore and you almost feel guilty skipping that stuff. But Anguilla is all about floating in a crystal sea on your own personal raft.
  • The culinary scene however is OFF THE CHAIN. We had some of the best meals we’ve eaten- anywhere at the local restaurants.
  • The locals are friendly and very welcoming- we felt safe everywhere we went.
  • The hotels are so amazing we couldn’t pick just one, so we split our time between three.

Where To Eat: 

  • Tasty’s– this little roadside beach house is perfect for lunch and we had two incredible fish sandos and some out of this world conch fritters. They also serve dinner.
  • Mango’s– if you like eating steps from the sand with completely relaxed, yet white table cloth service- you will love Mango’s as much as we did. The grilled lobster was so good that we made reservations to come back again on the spot. If you want an outside table to drink in the sunset with your meal- make reservations or show up around 6pm.
  • Dolce Vita Italian– another beach spot that serves up tremendous service and home cooked Italian classics. One of the best eggplant rollatinis I’ve ever had- and don’t even get us started on their pizzas!!
  • Picante Mexican– aside from the casual atmosphere, another thing that stands out on Anguilla is the ability to get almost any cuisine and have it be really, REALLY good. Picante is where we got our Mexican fix and then some- listen to a pregnant woman when she tells you how beyond the burrito, guac and everything else on the menu will blow you away.
  • The outdoor restaurant at the Malliouhana Hotel: listen, to be fair, I’m sure the more formal dinner restaurant is delicious as well- we just chose to eat at local spots off property with the exception of lunch. Thank goodness we tried the conch pizza- which had the perfect amount of bubbles in it’s crispy crust, the tender grilled octopus salad and fresh watermelon salad. Combined with the views- it’s a must visit.
  • Veya– I saved the best for last, and truly feel like I need to be careful with how I use my words- none of them will do Veya’s food, atmosphere or service justice. The setting is literally a restaurant in a treehouse, the service is attentive and warm without being overbearing and the food…. I literally can’t even describe how delicious the; layered salad, conch fritters, local leafy greens, shrimp cigars, grilled jerk spiced tuna, rissotto primavera, and key lime pie in a jar tasted. It was truly one of the best meals either of us had ever eaten. YOU MUST GO- twice if you can.
From back to front:  Tuna Risotto  Local Greens at Veya

From back to front:
Tuna
Risotto
Local Greens
at Veya

Where To Stay: (we only booked the first 2 nights of our trip, with plans to explore the other hotels)

  • The Viceroy– we kicked off our stay here, and got upgraded (thanks Amex!) to a mega suite complete with full kitchen- a major plus for someone who is craving bean chili from a can.

What we liked:  the modern feel, the variety of fitness classes (spin, bootcamp), the stunning adults only infinity pool, jumping off the high cliffs and swimming into the hotel’s beach, the free bicycles, being able to ride to the local grocery store, the free and massive breakfast.

Meh: the amount of kids (and our room overlooking the kids club), the slightly snobby vibe of the guests, the food in the dinner restaurant, the fact that the hotel was SO modern and new that it felt like it could have been anywhere, and not on a remote beachy island.

  • Malliouhana– the middle portion of our trip was spent at this newly renovated island paradise.
the stunning lobby- during the day the floor shimmers and matches the sea- which you can see right thru those windows

the stunning lobby- during the day the floor shimmers and matches the sea- which you can see right thru those windows

What we liked: the staff (from booking and recommending spots to eat, helping put on the top of our stubborn Jeep, and recommending the best spots to check out on the island- they were the best), the yoga classes, the bright Jonathan Adler-esque rooms, the delicious breakfast, lunch by the pool, the fact that it’s small but never felt busy and we never had to fight for a beach chair, the impressive gym, the gorgeous private beach.

Meh: the spa was good, not great…and really- that’s it.

  • Cap Juluca – with the best beach BY FAR on the entire island, we hemmed and hawed over whether or not we should book here for longer. Instead, we visited their beach daily and wrapped up our trip here.
it's the little things...

it’s the little things…

What we liked: THE BEACH- flawless, crystal clear, free SUP & water sports, the beach, the beach the beach, you can’t say enough about it. Daily breakfast, workouts with local Cardigan Connor (former cricket star who’s also running for local office), the extensive library stocked with fun beach reads, rafts to use and float around on, daily delivery of bottled water and sorbet on the beach, the room location on the beach.

no filter, no joke- this is the beach at Cap Juluca

no filter, no joke- this is the beach at Cap Juluca

Meh: the rooms are in need of an update- badly, but they were totally fine and comfortable, the noise from the room next door (not really the hotel’s fault).

Overall we don’t regret how we split up the trip , but next time we’d probably skip Viceroy and divide our time between the second two hotels just because they felt more true to that “Island Vibe”.

What Else We Did: 

  • On a rainy afternoon we took the fairy over to St Martin- meh- the French cheese and yogurt we brought back was delicious , but otherwise we’d skip a venture to that side of the island
  • Rented kayaks and paddled to a little secluded beach – we saw sea turtles and that was cool.
  • Rented a Jeep Wrangler with no top- tons of fun for exploring the island and popping into one of the many beaches.

Would we go back? YES. 100% and we plan to take the newest member of the family someday soon.

Anguilla an ideal babymoon spot, destination wedding or place to celebrate with someone you love.

Summer 2015 Best Bikinis

1. I live in a city where you can only really wear a bikini MAYBE 4 months of the year.

2. I’m currently pregnant and growing further and further from a “sexy” swimsuit body.

And yet I manage to be completely obsessed with bikinis- to the point that I consider myself a solid  resource for finding pieces in places most don’t think to look.

Here are some of my favorite brands & sites for swim season:

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My friends Meggy and Melissa introduced me to this brand and it’s quickly become one of my favorites for a few reasons. Price: every suit is around $79 bucks- for both the top and bottom. Fit: As a girl who used to wear an XS small top and now needs an XL, I can truly appreciate a suit that adds support and flatters a fuller bust. Color: the neon colors really pop against tan skin and are extremely flattering. 

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Disclaimer- I’m pretty sure this style isn’t available anymore, but before it ran out of stock I also picked it up in gold. 

Don’t fret… almost every single suit on the site is simply incredible. I’m a huge fan of their line of bright solid suits with metal accents and the way these things fit. Nothing is worse that a suit that accents the wrong curvy parts and these do nothing but flatter. 

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Speaking of bright colors, metal accents and the SIIICKEST fit ever- meet French brand Pain de Sucre. 

I stumbled upon this line while in St. Barth’s and was shocked by how flattering their pieces were. There is something about a simple solid suit that fits perfectly that can stand out more than one with a super crazy pattern- not that those aren’t fun too- but when you want the LBD version of a bikini…this is your brand. Luckily they also have an on-line store. 

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Beach Bunny will always be my #1 OG brand- mostly because I was wearing one of these suits (including the above bottoms) when I fell in love with my husband. 

The majority of my bikini collection is Beach Bunny because their suits are; fun, trendy, SUPER sexy and they go on sale often. 

When I say *sexy* I mean it…their bottom cuts range from tiny to dental floss…so this summer most of my Bunnies will be packed away till post baby- but TRUST ME when I tell you that getting back into them is major motivation. 

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Revolve is like an all-you-can-eat buffet of bikinis and swimwear. It doesn’t matter how modest or skimpy you want to go- they have multiple options. 

PLUS- they send you a pre paid envelope with return shipping so you can order as many as you like, try them on at HOME in your mirror and send back the rejects. Because let’s be honest- a suit may look beyond on a model but make you look like a stuffed sausage. (yes, I’m speaking from experience)

And remember- a spray tan makes EVERYONE feel better while trying to find their perfect summer staple.

Just Spin

Soul Cycle is awesome…blah blah- we’ve been hearing about this NYC fitness institution for years thanks to it’s crazy celebrity following and FINALLY Chicago is getting an invite to the party.

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Heavy Metals

The website is live and classes start Tuesday, April 14th- BUT the real reason for this post is because of an event they are throwing with LADY GAGA on April 21st.

Yep- for only 1k you can ride cheek to cheek* with Gaga.

*Well, not really…the bikes directly next to her already sold out for 2500$.

BUT mega fans still get to breathe the same air…and all the proceeds go to the Born This Way Foundation.

How much would YOU pay to ride with your favorite celeb?

Buy your golden ticket here.

Slam Dunk Kale Artichoke Dip

(Thought I’d share from over at TheWifeyKitchen.com!)

Considering the fact that 40 million Americans fill out NCAA brackets- I’m assuming at least a few of you will watch the games and attend a viewing party or host friends…am I right?

That got me thinking about a recipe that travels well, and is at least SEMI healthy….and this dip is the answer.

I made it for my family over the Christmas holiday as an appetizer and even my brother was a fan, so I tweaked it some more and if I may say- it’s delicious.

Plus, it’s green…just like my team THE MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS!

Slam Dunk Kale Artichoke Dip

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What You Need/Grocery List:

  • either a can of quartered artichoke heats or a healthy serving of artichokes from the salad bar.
  • a bag of spinach and/or a container full of spinach from the salad bar.
  • a bunch of kale- I get mine pre chopped from Whole Foods salad bar. You can also buy your own and chop it
  • a small container of Greek Yogurt- PLAIN. I like to use the 2% fat version
  • 1/2 cup of light mayo
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • a head of garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • either a fresh round load of bread or crackers/bread for dipping
  • a blender or food processor
  • a round or square baking dish- oven safe

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What To Do:

  • pre heat your oven to 350 degrees, cut off top of garlic and place cut side up , wrapped in tin foil and drizzled with olive oil in the oven for about 30 mins. When the garlic is soft enough to squeeze- it’s done.

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and after

and after

  • sautee 2 tsp olive oil , kale and spinach for about 5 mins or until everything is “wilted”.
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pre wilting

  • dump the mixture into a blender, add the artichoke and garlic and pulse until blended

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  • return this mix to a bowl and add your cheeses, yogurt and mayo- and a dash of salt and pepper as needed- stir until it’s all one happy family

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  • layer into your baking dish, sprinkle some extra cheese on top
  • bake – un covered- for around 25 mins or until the top begins to get golden brown

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  • (IF USING ROUND LOAF) cut off top, scoop out middle and break or cut into pieces. Pour dip into bowl and serve with pieces for dipping.
  • Otherwise- serve with tortilla chips, or crackers and track that bracket without starving!

* STEP BY STEP VIDEO COMING SOON*

Chicago’s Best Blowdry Salons

How do you choose where you get your hair/nails/tans/fitness/facials done? Friend recommendation? Magazine? Yelp reviews?

I’m completely guilty of using Yelp, even though I know that owners of these places create fake accounts and post glowing reviews.

So guess what? I decided to start posting reviews here- since I’m the kind of person that will try almost everything.

Today it’s all about the blowout bar trend that has FINALLY hit Chicago.

Back in the day, a blowout used to cost whatever your stylist’s rate was- and one stylist I used to go to charged 95 bucks! If you’re like me, 95 dollars is a lot to spend for something that you will most likely ruin by sleeping on or working out the next day. And if you wanted extensions clipped in or your hair curled…the price kept going up.

Aside from cost- the other major issue with getting a killer blow out was time. I remember going to a Gold Coast Salon here in Chicago, waiting for an assistant to shampoo me, then waiting for my stylist to finish the client before me, then sitting for a 45 min blow-dry. 1 hour and 30 mins is NOT ideal.

Which is why I’m such a fan of blow-dry bars.

PROS:

  • get you in and out in under an hour
  • provide a “menu” of styles – which eliminates guessing games and getting lost in translation
  • one set price, usually $40
  • one person washes and styles you- eliminating time and extra tip
  • normally open early and late

CONS:

  • businesses need to accommodate for steady stream of customers and hire MEH stylists
  • you most likely will get someone you’ve never met, who doesn’t know your hair and what you like

Chicago BlowDry Bars and what I thought:

Blowout Junkie

  • friendly staff
  • on-line bookings
  • provides an i pad with both a style menu and magazines to read
  • they provide at home services as well, I’ve yet to use
  • I’ve never had a bad blowout here- in fact I’ve had some of the best. They’ve worked with my long hair and short as well and always done a fantastic job.

Blowtique

  • rude front desk girl
  • fantastic owners (sometimes they work the front desk)
  • have to call to book an appointment
  • I’ve always had a fantastic blow-dry here as well and I’ve never had the same stylist twice. I’ve also gone in for a “touch up” before a big date and now I’m married to the guy ;)

Blow by Blow

  • on-line booking
  • they provide at home styling options- which I’ve used and she was prompt and did a great job
  • cute salon
  • stylists are always chatting/singing loudly
  • took my mom there and she got a HORRIFIC style job- think tight spiral curls. But the stylist was happy to re blow straight and it looked great
  • one stylist pulls very hard on hair and has ripped out my extensions
  • (aside from the pain) always very happy when I left

Dream Dry

  • I’ve been to one of the  New York salons and LOVED everything about the experience
  • on-line booking
  • I booked with a female, and when I got there they gave me a male (no biggie, but odd)
  • Oribe  & Kerastase products
  • provide an i pad loaded with magazines and styles
  • I booked for an add on conditioning treatment- they didn’t give it to me but tried to charge me for it
  • asked my stylist for “beachy loose waves, or bend to my hair with a deep side part”. He delivered the worst hair I’ve ever seen. My hair looked; limp, scraggly, frizzy and was parted off center. I took a pic but it’s too bad to post…I did send it to my normal stylist who was in shock
  • I will not go back to this location- and they had the BEST YELP reviews by far- which inspired this post.

REMEMBER:

You can go to your own stylist or someone who has a stylist they love for those truly special occasions or if you don’t want to leave it up to chance. For those I recommend: Tina Morales/CM Salon, Nicole/Studio 110, Hans VanDoornick/Maxine, Charles Lord, Aaron Scott/Charles Iferegan, Elle/Tracy Anducci, Alexi/Taylor Reese.

Halloween 2014

I know I’m a week late on this post- but WHATEVER- the costume creation process struck at the last moment- per usual and after that …well…I needed a time out.

We originally had planned to be something else, but in the end we were: Smokey The Bear and a Forest Fire.

only YOU can prevent forest fires!

only YOU can prevent forest fires!

Do YOU want to do something similar?

Here’s how:

I bought a nude colored corset from the shapewear section at Bloomies for the top , then covered it with leaves I collected from the street- placed like a cool top made from leaves would look…I also added matches on the top section of one bust. I glued everything down with fabric glue- the day before Halloween.

close up of leaves and matches

close up of leaves and matches

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I also bought a Devil costume from Amazon and used those chaps and hot pants for the “fire part”. Also part of the “fire”: red clip in hair extensions, fake cigs tucked into the corset and red lip liner with orange eye shadow for the eyes and chest.

Now, onto Smokey- BTW- someone let Al know that this is Smokey’s 75th Anniversary so points for being relevant!

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We actually used a cop costume we bought last year but didn’t use, bought a nose, bear hat and park ranger hat from Amazon- and PRESTO- Smokey the Bear. I added a bit of flair by using black eye liner to trace the *Smokey* on the hat and give it that *ashy* look.

a make your own cookie bar came from JoAnn Fabric, Pillsbury and Oreo Cookies- plus some faux lights from the Dollar Tree

a make your own cookie bar came from JoAnn Fabric, Pillsbury and Oreo Cookies- plus some faux lights from the Dollar Tree

We also threw a pretty impromptu Halloween mini party- and let me tell you- next time you’re hosting anything…hit up a Dollar Tree/Store whatever is in your zip code. I nabbed SO much stuff on Halloween on the cheap.

glow in the dark necklaces, etc make great party fun

glow in the dark necklaces, etc make great party fun

Cost effective and festive? YES PLEASE.

Now, let me start thinking about the 2015 costume…

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