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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Self-Worth: Why It Is NOT A Number!

In a world full of likes, followers, fans and favorites, how do you determine your true worth? As a blogger, this is a daily part of my world. I would love to say that I don't give a damn who likes my work, who reads my posts, who enjoys my Insta snaps, but in a way I do. I like when people appreciate my effort, see the same beauty as I do in my daughter's smile, give me props for busting my ass on an event that I helped plan. Do I let it determine my worth? Never.

Let me start by explaining why I became a blogger. I was pregnant with my first child and absolutely terrified, but not for the reasons you might think. I was afraid of becoming the suburban soccer mom with a helmet haircut, mom jeans and the mini van (hey, they are convenient, I get it). I didn't actually know WHO I was at the time and how being a mom would change me, and I started my blog to find that out.

I never intended for my blog to become my main work, and it still isn't. I am a stay at home mom, and truly thankful for the opportunity to be one. I continue to blog because it is something just for me; in a world where my main job revolves around cleaning up after and disciplining little ones, the blog world is one where I get to create reality for myself.

As for my worth? Yes, being a blogger allows me to use my creative talent and for that, I feel thankful to have an outlet. We (bloggers) are constantly asked what our numbers are by companies, PR agencies, even colleagues. If you aren't secure in who you are and aren't aware of the fact that your true worth has nothing to do with how many Instagram follower you have, it can tear you up. I've felt that insecurity many times, but through the years I have learned to say "In the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?" Yes, I completely understand that the more followers you have, the more people are exposed to a brand when you post and there is value in that exposure. But please, don't let that define you.

I often work with smaller brands, on occasion for free. I have had people scoff at working with a company for no monetary compensation, but if I like the company's story and believe they are truly dedicated to their work, it is incredibly fulfilling to know I am a part of their success story.

And outside the blogging world? No one person is "worth" more than you. Everyone has different priorities, goals, and attitudes. If you value family time over alone time, that is your priority and be proud of that. For me, I am an anxious introvert and get incredibly overwhelmed by having my kids around me 24/7 (and yes, I know, I decided to have them and I love them dearly but I NEED a break). I need my alone/adult time, my space. This is why I attend quite a few events and set up nights out with friends- it allows me to be ME, not me as a mom, and it allows me to recharge for when I am back with my kids. And yes, I have caught some flack for how much I am out and about. I assure you, my children are happy, well taken care of, and usually fast asleep.

When you see people on social media out at glittery, buzzy events and you are at home doing "nothing special," take into consideration that you aren't in their shoes and don't know why they are out and about. They might need to blow off some steam, gossip with the girls, feel alive again after too many nights feeling invisible. You are home with your family or recharging or relaxing, and yes, it might seem like no one appreciates you, but they DO. Your worth is immeasurable, no matter who you are. Let your worth be defined by doing what you love, loving what you do, your kindness, your compassion, your hard work, dedication and honesty- not a worthless digital stat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Girl's Night Out: Tequila at Taste on Chestnut

Sometimes, you have to ditch your date and have a girl's night out! A few friends and I gathered at one of the North Shore's most popular dining venues- Taste on Chestnut. Every other Tuesday, this illustrious venue provides a free Taste on Taste event for patrons- a food and cocktail pairing with a different theme each week.

This week featured Partida Tequila, with sipping samples of their three different types of tequila, and a little education on each.

Partida Blanco- hints of citrus, herbs and tropical fruit
Partida Reposado- hints of vanilla, hazelnut and almond
Partida Añejo- hints of banana, chocolate and sweet pear

I am embarrassed to admit, I had never actually sipped tequila. Most of my experience with it has been in a margarita or (gasp) shot form. When you sip and savor the taste versus merely take a shot, it is a totally different experience.

We then moved on to cocktails! Our host shook up an amazing Watermelon Margarita that has since become my absolute favorite summer cocktail. Stay tuned for the recipe and a feature at an upcoming event! Another amazing mix was the Tequila Bellini- a mixture of peach puree, mint, Partida tequila and a little bubbly.

Taste on Chestnut paired these delicious sips with Steak Mini Sopes with Chipotle Crema. The care and composition that went into just these appetizers left me eager to return for a full dinner!

Although it was a bit chilly, we had to bring our cocktails outside to enjoy the patio- after all, it is summer! Taste on Chestnut's tables wrap around the restaurant, providing a fairly secluded option for al fresco dining.

Their next event is tonight, July 28th from 5:30-7pm featuring "Art of the Shot." They will be serving shots of various liquors, as well as bites of mouthwatering Shrimp Ceviche with Watermelon and Jalapeño. For info on upcoming events, make sure to follow their Facebook page. Give them a call for more information, and yes, their Taste on Taste events are FREE! In addition to fine dining, Taste on Chestnut also offers cooking classes where attendees help prep the ingredients while the staff prepares and plates the meal. Can't wait to make a return trip!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#DateNight Food & Fashion: Summer Fling at Sullivan's

Ahhhh summer. Is anyone else completely thrilled that it has finally arrived? I am firmly in the camp that summer doesn't truly start until we have a string of gorgeous, can't-stay-inside days. In the Midwest, let me tell you: summer has JUST started.

With all this weather craziness, it hovered around 100 degrees here in the Midwest last weekend. I had absolutely no desire to cook, grill, simmer, saute or any form of culinary effort. When I heard that my fave location for filet, Sullivan's Steakhouse, had a new summer special, I booked a reservation and booked it over ASAP. The recently introduced the Summer Fling- a signature 6 oz. filet paired with fresh Maine lobster for $45. Surf & turf for under $50? You won't find that many places, especially with the attention to detail and impeccable service like Sullivan's has. I've said it many times, but they cook the perfect steak to my exact specifications. Sigh. Already planning a return trip for all the food I was too stuffed to order!

I can't visit Sullivan's without ordering their signature Knockout Martini: fresh pineapple-infused clementine vodka. This is probably my favorite martini around- not too sweet, not too alcohol-heavy, and I am guessing the name comes from the fact that these can sneak up on you!

We started out with the Crispy Shanghai Calamari- perfectly breaded and fried calamari and cherry pepper bites drizzled in a sweet and spicy chili glaze. It has just the right touch of heat tempered by the sweet glaze.

Next we moved onto Shrimp & Lobster Bisque- a decadent, rich mix of seafood, sherry and cream.

To lighten it up, I opted for the Heirloom Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad drizzled in aged  balsamic vinegar, pesto and salt flakes.

On to the main course, the Summer Fling! Bart opted to go all out and order his "Oscar Style"- lump crab, asparagus and Bearnaise sauce atop a perfectly cooked filet.

We ordered the Garlic Horseradish Mashed Potatoes as a side to share. This is one of their signature sides, and I make sure to order this tangy twist on the standard mash every time I visit.

For dessert, they had an impressive selection of house-made sweets: from Peanut Butter Black Bottom Pie to Bananas Foster Bread Pudding to S'Mores Mousse Cake, it took every bit of willpower to stick with a frothy cappuccino. I used to wait tables years ago, and noticed that many restaurants don't actually make their own desserts- they defrost, thaw, or heat up a concoction that comes from somewhere else. At Sullivan's everything is made in their kitchen, and they don't even own a microwave.

Want to dine outside? The patio at the Lincolnshire location overlooks a reflecting pond, and offers a secluded destination to enjoy the summer breeze.

As for the fashion on this steamy evening, I pulled out the one pair of shorts (Me, shorts! HA!) that I own. I actually love these- they are from Banana Republic at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago.  I am normally not a fan of shorts because they aren't the most flattering apparel item, but one of my gal pals threw them at me in the store and I decided to step outside the box a bit. If you tuck a shirt in the front and leave the back out, it gives a more relaxed vibe (as opposed to the "American tourist tucking his t-shirt into his shorts" vibe).

The shorts are a light tweed with metallic thread woven through and only cost $8. I paired it with a skinny gold belt from Old Navy and a silk tank from the Banana Outlet as well (under $10).
I can't recall where I purchased the earrings I wore to dinner, but the earrings above are from Rocksbox- the jewelry rental site that I adore. If you aren't familiar with Rocksbox, you select your favorites online and they send you three items at a time to borrow according to your taste. You can keep them at a discount, or send them back to swap for new pieces. At only $19 per month, it is a huge cost savings for me as opposed to buying new jewelry all of the time. Want a free month? Use my code CHERYLBFF54.

The shoes are my splurge but I wear them ALL the time- BCBG Darron Pumps from DSW ($69.95). They look fabulous with these shorts!

Sullivan's is fairly casual as far as steakhouses go- I felt comfortable in dressy shorts, and would feel equally comfortable in a floaty maxi dress or even cocktail dress. They even had live jazz playing the night we dined, which added to the classy, throwback atmosphere.

Make sure to stop in for their Summer Fling before the season is over! This deal will be available until Labor Day, so make sure to book a reservation ASAP. Cheers!

Disclosure: I was provided with a dinner at Sullivan's Steakhouse for review purposes. All of my opinions are honest and my own.