Tag Archives: Chicago

Favorite Finds Friday {1/30}

Good morning!

As soon as I hit publish on this post, I’m headed out to a dentist appointment (awesome) and some errands. Today started a bit later than usual since Bobby and I were out way past our weeknight bedtime of 9 p.m. We had a reservation at Cafe Ba-Ba- Reeba, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. When I first moved to Chicago, Ba-Ba-Reeba was a go-to for my girlfriends and me since it’s affordable and always delicious. Bobby and I hadn’t officially celebrated my new job, so last night we did just that over a pitcher of white peach sangria and Spanish tapas.

Cafe Baba Reeba Chicago

Spicy potatoes

Spicy potatoes & lamb meatballs (my favorite)


Manchego cheese flatbread


Butterscotch custard & mini banana split for dessert

I could wax poetic all day long about my love for Ba-Ba-Reeba, but it’s time to jump to the real reason you stopped by today, Favorite Finds Friday. If you’re a new reader to The Magic Tree (welcome!), Friday’s post is always a bit random. It’s the place where I share my favorite finds from the past week, including links, pins, articles, recipes, products and anything else that made my week!

  • Madewell booties. I was on the lookout for weeks for the perfect pair of tan booties. Once these babies went on sale last month, I snatched them up and couldn’t be happier. Unfortunately, the exact boot is sold out, but I almost went with these, as they’re very similar.

Madewell Booties

  • I’ve been on a major kale salad kick lately. This one included craisins and parmesan cheese.

Kale salad

  • I love this classy southern gal, and don’t think she’s ever looked better.

Reece Witherspoon


Liked what you saw today? Check out past versions of Favorite Finds Friday:

Have a fantastic weekend, friends! ❤





Filed under Favorite Finds

40-Minute Treadmill Walking for Beginners

Yesterday was one of the best days ever.

Whole Foods opened in our neighborhood! While this may not be news to some, the ‘hood has been void of a major grocery store for over a year now. Chicago is a very walkable town and to have to drive to buy groceries is just a travesty. I’ve been counting down the days until I could spend my whole paycheck on organic chia seeds and $8 cold pressed juices. 😉

Like the strange person that I am, I woke up early to stand in line with 499 of my closest friends.

Whole Foods line

We were all vying to be one of the first 500 people into the store so that we could snag complimentary gift cards. They were handed out at random and ranged in value from $5 to $25, with one lone gift card worth $500. I, of course, was the lucky recipient of a $5 card. Ha! But hey, it was still a fun hour or so spent in line. I made some new friends and tried a number of samples that were passed around.

Whole Foods Samples

Some sort of cookie bar & locally brewed coffee

I also came away with a green juice. A bit too much cayenne for my taste, but I already know I’ll be a frequent visiter to the juice bar. I love a good fresh juice, but absolutely hate to clean my juicer. Who’s with me? Such a pain!

Whole Foods green juice

Also, if you can’t find me, I’ll be here…

Whole Foods Cookie island

Drowning in icing and sprinkles. Most people drink after a stressful day? I eat cookies.

We even went back to Whole Foods for dinner to take advantage of the 50% off hot bar. It was a freaking mad house and I was so overwhelmed that I just shoved random items into my cardboard boxes. Don’t ask me what’s in there. I don’t know.

Whole Foods Hot Bar

Now, to switch gears a bit, let’s talk fitness. When the cold temps sweep into Chicago, I feel the need to take my workouts indoors. You guys already know I’m a big fan of at-home workouts, but I also turn to the treadmill to vary my routine a bit. I’m not much of a runner and never have been. I ran a half-marathon once in college, kind of enjoyed training, but also never felt those runner endorphins people talk about (leading me to think they are a myth!).

I am however, a big fan of power walking. If I set the incline and speed at just the right levels, I see a major calorie burn on my polar watch and really feel my heart pumping. I could never walk at the same speed or incline throughout the duration of a treadmill session. I would die of boredom before I found out if Adnan Syed is guilty! (any Serial fans out there?). Interval training has become integral to my consistency with cardio.

This 40-minute treadmill walking workout is perfect for beginning exercisers or anyone who is looking for a moderate calorie burn. It’s something I turn to at least once a week on the days that I use our building’s gym.

*Please remember that I am not a personal trainer or a doctor and am just sharing what works for my personal fitness level. Always listen to your body and check with a professional before starting any exercise program.

40-minute treadmill walking beginners


Questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite ingredient to put in fresh juice? <– I love carrots for the flavor and color.
  • What’s your go-to form of cardio? <– Spin class for me. I miss Fly Wheel!




Filed under Treadmill Workout

Travel Outfit Fail

Hello there! How are things on this fine hump day?


I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t typing this post from the comforts of my warm bed. I’m trying to ease my body back into single digit temps. I took the train into the city yesterday afternoon dressed in a wool cape and flats – no coat, hat, gloves or socks. I didn’t really think through how to dress for my travel day and I was getting some strange looks. Bobby picked me up at one of the trains stations downtown and my hands froze from my walk from the train to his car door – brrrrrr!

Alright, now I’m done complaining about the weather…for now.


We left my aunt’s house around 10:30 a.m. yesterday and headed to the Ft. Meyers airport. I grabbed a quest bar and an apple for breakfast and ate them both in the car. I sat with my mom at her gate since my flight didn’t leave for another few hours. Once she began the boarding process, we said our goodbyes and I headed to my own gate. Ever since I left for college I dread saying goodbye to my mom. I’m always in a funk for a day or two after we depart. Love you more than life, Mama!


At one of our many dinners out in Naples

I bought a skim latte and an overpriced turkey sandwich at Starbucks before sitting down at my gate. The Ft. Meyers airport has free wifi (praise the Lord!), so I caught up on some blog reading before boarding my plane to Chicago.


turkey sam


After a very smooth travel process, Bobby picked me up downtown and we headed home. I unpacked a little, put in our grocery order and loved on Baxter (who pretended he didn’t know me…gotta love cats) before it was dinner time over here. Since there was literally nothing in the fridge, we both were in the mood for takeout. I decided on our go-to sushi joint. We always order so many rolls, I can never remember to tell you about them the next day. Think spicy california, spicy shrimp, one speciality roll + two others. I also ordered a miso soup to warm me up. I’d consumed very little produce throughout the day, so I blended up a smoothie for dessert.


1/2 banana + frozen strawberries + almond milk + ice


I have a hair appointment later today. I only get my hair colored 3-4 times per year, and it’s a little brassy since my last appointment. I’m thinking of asking for a subtle bayalage similar to this photo. What do you think?




Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Weekly Wisdom

Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest addition of Weekly Wisdom. You actually won’t find a lot of wisdom over here, but just some arbitrary thoughts that don’t deserve a whole blog post. Feel free to play along in the comments section! But first, let’s cover dinner.


I have loved my crockpot for many years, but fell in love again this fall. When you cook about four nights per week, it really comes in handy when you’re just not feeling the whole saute/roast/simmer thing. I prepped one of our favorites, Honey Sesame Chicken, around 2:30 p.m. yesterday and let it cook for four hours.


I paired it with some sautéed snow peas and broccoli that were dying a slow death in the fridge. This stuff is gooooooood.

dinner close

Plus, it makes a ton of leftovers which is always a win in my book. Now on to the fun part of this post, Weekly Wisdom.

  • Cats on bags – seriously, why do they do this? Those are two different bags on the same day. I’m convinced if I put a plastic bag in the bathtub, he would find it. Do dogs do this???

baxie bag 2baxie bag 1

  • Icing Smiles – I recently read about this nonprofit organization in my November issue of All You Magazine. They accept “cake requests from parents of children with life-threatening conditions and match them with nearby bakers, professionals and amateurs alike.” Growing up in Louisville, my mom and I used to bake for the local Ronald McDonald House, and I’ve been on the lookout for something similar in Chicago. I’m planning to sign on as an amateur baker (obvi), but I’m hoping they know my cakes usually turn out like this:


  • Leann Rimes’ Christmas album is amazing. Christmas songs + country music? Yes please. People can say what they what about girlfriend’s personal life, but I will always love her voice.
  • Wild comes out on Friday! It’s one of my favorite books and I think Reese is the perfect person to portray Cheryl Strayed. I will have to bribe Bobby with candy because he doesn’t really want to see it 🙂


  • Coyotes in Chicago. This is a real thing. And they’ve learned to look both ways when crossing the streets.
  • I’m considering quitting Class Pass. It was a head-over-heels love affair at first, but I’m just not using it as much as I thought I would, making the cost not worth it. I really LOVE Fly Wheel and Exhale yoga classes, and I hate that I can only attend each three times per month.


Post-Fly Wheel sweat!

  • I’m not the only social worker graduating in two weeks that doesn’t have a job. One of my classmates sent around a survey asking people about their job status. I feel a little better that I don’t have gig lined up since lots of others are in the same jobless boat.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.40.51 AM




Filed under Dinner, Healthy Meals, Weekly Wisdom

Wind at my Face

I’ve got the crockpot cooking,


the laundry going and my suitcase partially unpacked. I guess I’m trying to redeem myself from this morning. Speaking of, let’s pick up right where we left off.


I was hungry again mid-morning and scrambled some egg whites topped with ketchup.

egg whites

Not the most beautiful photo, but it always does the trick.


I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do on the workout front today. But the sun was shining, it was a balmy 32 degrees, and I needed some fresh air, so I headed out for a 60-minute power walk.


I listened to the first episode of Serial. As a major fan of murder mysteries, I highly recommend the podcast. It made me want to listen to #2 and walk another hour! But I didn’t because the wind was whipping at my face.


If I didn’t tell you this picture was taken today, you might think it was from the summer. Chicago still has some of the most beautiful views year round.

navy pier

Also to note, the lakeshore path is swarming with people, dogs, bikes and rollerbladers from June through September. Today, I saw about five people. Chicago really is a different city in the summer.



I knew I wanted a big a** salad for lunch, so I chopped romaine + swiss cheese + mixed nuts + 1/2 green apple + 1 large carrot + apple maple chicken sausage + 1/2 salmon filet (leftover from Sunday) + Marzetti yogurt ranch.


I’m am the least picky person when it comes to salad. I literally throw in anything I can find that resembles a potential topping. I might not serve this weirdness to anyone else, but it works for moi 🙂

After plugging through some school work, I enjoyed a snack of sweet ‘n salty popcorn + 2 cuties on the side.

cuties popcorn

We don’t have anything special planned for tonight. I’m headed to a yoga class in the morning, followed by a day of babysitting and a graduation cocktail reception at my school. Really looking forward to it!


Questions for you:

  • Are you a Serial fan?
  • What’s your favorite salad topping?



1 Comment

Filed under Healthy Meals, Lunch, Workout

Dear Sugar

Dear Sugar,

It’s not you. It’s me.

We’ve been together a long time, but I think it’s time for a break.

When you make me feel sick, I still want more.

Sometimes, I think I’m addicted to you!

I’ve quit you before and dated other people.

Don’t be sad, Sugar. Nothing is forever.


Post-pageant treats

Lately, I’ve been indulging in more sugar than usual. Daily dips in the chocolate chip bag, leftover Halloween candy while babysitting, seasonal coffee drinks…it all adds up to me eating too much of a good thing, and I can feel it.

Despite getting enough sleep each night, I often wake up feeling lethargic (and I’m not even working full-time!), with a headache and/or craving something sweet for breakfast. Based on my past experience, these are all symptoms of sugar overload.

Over the summer, I eliminated added sugars for three months(!) while preparing for the Miss Illinois USA pageant. After just five days, I’d never felt betterI had so much energy (and if you know me, you know “high energy” is not a phrase used to describe my personality), my skin cleared up, I was sleeping soundly every night, and my cravings mostly disappeared.


The treats at Bouchon Bakery from my trip to San Fran

Obviously, I include refined sugar in my diet nowadays, mostly because I don’t think it’s a realistic – or fun – way to live. I’m a firm believer that eating is not about avoiding food groups on the reg (unless it’s for medical reasons). As I’ve said before on the blog, I strive for balanced living, or an {approximately} 80/20 approach to eating. <– 80% unrefined & clean foods; 20% anything goes.

However, I also like to challenge myself when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. And since I haven’t been feeling my absolute best, it makes sense for that challenge to start now.

With Thanksgiving next week and Christmas right around the corner, I know the next few weeks will be full of indulgent eats. So, to start my holiday season on the right foot, I’m eliminating added sugar for the next seven days, in addition to exercising each of those days. <–I typically exercise 3-4 days per week.


A vintage barre class selfie

What makes this challenge even more of a challenge is that I have three dinners out planned in the next seven days. Healthy eating can definitely be done at restaurants – you just have to get a bit creative!

Questions of the day:

  • Have you ever eliminated sugar from your diet?
  • Do you notice that other food groups (ie. gluten, dairy, meat, etc.) affect your energy levels?




Filed under No Sugar

Sunday Snaps 11/16









Hope your Sunday has been wonderful. See you in the morning!



1 Comment

Filed under Sunday Snaps

Favorite Finds Friday


I wanted to share with you my favorite finds from the week. This is going to be a regular feature over here on The Magic Tree, where I compile a few things from the past week that have been makin’ me laugh/cry/think/swoon/salivate/covet, etc. You get the picture. So without further ado…the inaugural Favorite Finds Friday! 

  •  A video of this hot shirtless guy unaware he’s being filmed while dancing and cleaning. That’s a MAN….using a MOP! Even though I get the slightest gut feeling this might be staged, it still makes me chuckle nonetheless. I especially love the dogs observing from the stairs. Haha!

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.19.47 PM

  • This link to nine cats giving dogs massages might be the best thing ever. If you’re a cat lover like myself, then you’ll especially appreciate this compilation. Who knew cats were SO generous with their talents!

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.25.37 PM

  • I have been obsessing over these bedazzled leggings lately. So impractical, yet so perfect! Can’t you see it with a crisp white blazer for the holidays?

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.28.33 PM

(I can’t seem to track down the original link, only the one from Pinterest)

  • The most accurate description on earth.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.32.58 PM

  •  A brie/chocolate/strawberry grilled cheese is basically what my dreams are made of. Do you ever see a food photo and it just sticks in your brain? (Or, does that only happen to me?…) MUST. MAKE. NOW.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.39.12 PM


  • You may have been living under a rock if you haven’t seen this video of therapy kittens! OK, OK, it’s another cat video, but I’ll cry if you don’t watch it. It makes me want to train Baxter to be a therapy animal. I think he’d like that very much 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.51.24 PM

Any good finds from the week?



Filed under Favorite Finds

Outfit Inspo: Knit Cape

Over the years, Pinterest has quickly become my main source of fashion inspiration. When I was in high school and college, I used to keep binders full of magazine clippings featuring outfits that I wanted to recreate. I like to think I was ahead of the technology curve. Today, I took a cue from some of the looks on my “Weekend Fashion” board (<– these looks don’t have to be worn on the weekend obvi, they just have a more relaxed vibe!), and decided to rock my knit cape.


I first saw this identical cape + tee on Penny Pincher Fashion a few months ago and decided I needed to add them to my winter wardrobe.

close up

Has anyone noticed my affinity for skinny pants + loose sweaters yet? For F21, the cape feels thick and high quality, and is actually warm! I’m kind of in love. Sadly, the tee and cape are both sold out, but F21 has some other great options.

I was also inspired by these other cape/poncho looks, and plan to recreate some of them as well.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.47.43 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.49.58 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 6.52.02 PM

Have you tried the cape trend yet?


FYI – I saw on Twitter that Argo Tea is offering $5 off your purchase if you download their new app. I did so today, and enjoyed a new-to-me Earl Grey Vanilla Cream. Take advantage, ya’ll!





Filed under Deals, Fashion, Outfit Inspo

Thursday Musings

Good morning!

Just wanted to pop in quickly before my longest day of classes begins. This post might be a bit random, so bear with me 🙂


We threw together turkey burgers for dinner in ten minutes flat. I’d been very snackish while babysitting, so just didn’t feel like eating much else. That didn’t stop me from making dessert just an hour later.

mug 2

This pumpkin mug cake is my pumpkin version of Katie’s five minute carrot cake for one. (PS. If you love dessert, but prefer to lighten things up, check out her blog. I actually think she’s a baking genius). I’ll post my variation of her recipe once I perfect it to my liking!


Drizzled with sugar-free maple syrup!


For breakfast this morning, I toasted a slice of ezekiel bread and smothered it in peanut butter while drinking my coffee and checking emails/perusing blogs. Soon after, I packed up my lunch and snacks for the day.


Hooray for a new camera cord and no more iPhone photos!

My salad included romaine + 1/2 green apple + carrots + 1/2 avocado + reduced sugar craisins + mixed nuts.



I’m about to head out for the day, but wanted to share with you a link to some fantastic reads from the week. One of my favorite bloggers at Fitting It All In posted a list of some of the most thought-provoking articles. I plan to make it through all of these over the weekend.

While scrolling down to the comments section, I noticed that Claire opened herself up to criticism from some of her readers (mostly due to the “controversial” section of articles). I happen to think that she’s doing us a favor by sharing her own thoughts and opening our minds to all sides of the coin. I prefer articles that make me think!



Leave a comment

Filed under Healthy Meals, Meals on the go