Maddy Osman

Maddy is the founder of Chicago Cheap Ass. She loves to read, travel, cook, and play with her adorable dog Leonidas.


At Meatball Hero, EVERYTHING is Made In-House

Please note: a free meal was provided in exchange for this review.

I think I found my new favorite spot.

At Meatball Hero, EVERYTHING is Made In-Housev

Last week, I finally gave Meatball Hero & Pasta a try. If you’re keeping track, it’s the second Chicago restaurant to have a meatball theme. However, the other meatball restaurant in question, Mondo Meatball, didn’t stand the test of time. It seems like a lot of restaurants and bars in Wicker Park (like one of my favorites, Bom Bolla) are experiencing this quick turnover. Restauranteurs – take note.

But on to more positive things.

Chef Atif Ali is the mastermind behind this meatball masterpiece. His chef resume includes a stint at Bombay Wraps and even Balena. Ali picked the perfect spot to set up shop (3037 N Clark St) – at an intersection near Boystown, Wrigleyville, and Lakeview. If you can’t make it in – no problem. Meatball Hero and Pasta also offers delivery!

At Meatball Hero, EVERYTHING is Made In-House

But what really sets this restaurant apart isn’t the meatball concept, it’s the fact that everything is made in-house, a concept known as a “scratch kitchen.” Every morning, Ali prepares his bread, pasta and meatballs fresh, from scratch. It may not be the lightest fare in the world, but you can take solace in the fact that nothing is pre-packaged or processed.

Recipes are simple and reminiscent of what and old Italian grandma would prepare.


The meatball subs come in a couple distinctive flavors.  The Red Hero is more or less what you’d expect – a classic meatball sub with beef meatballs, marinara sauce, and smoked mozzarella (also made in-house!). The Winged Hero is the chicken take on this classic, and there’s also a seafood and vegetarian option.

The subs are anything but standard with housemade bread, meatballs, and cheese, but what I really loved is how easy they were to hold without making a mess. Chef Atif Ali hollows out the inside and puts the ingredients directly inside, without cutting two halves.

At Meatball Hero, EVERYTHING is Made In-House

If you’d rather eat your meatballs and carbs in the form of a pasta meal, there’s an option for that too! I fell in love with the fettuccine alfredo – it was the perfect creamy texture.

At Meatball Hero, EVERYTHING is Made In-House

And if you still have room, I tried the polenta fries and mushroom risotto balls (like arancini). I can personally vouch for how satisfying they both were – ask for the chef’s homemade ranch sauce to go with the fries.

At Meatball Hero, EVERYTHING is Made In-House

Meatball Hero and Pasta also has salads, but c’mon… live a little. This is definitely your spot for a cheat day meal.

Come in for National Meatball Day on March 9th. There will be free meatball samples, and BOGO offers on all hero sandwiches. It’s the perfect time to give this place a try and max out on all the benefits! If you can’t make it, definitely stop by sometime soon for lunch – they have an awesome $2.99 special that will hit the spot. And if you’re in the mood for a dinner date, Meatball Hero & Pasta is BYOB!

Have you been to Meatball Hero and Pasta yet? Let me know what you think in the comments! Or better yet, invite me with for the next trip… I’m already salivating over the thought of a meatball sub and fettuccine alfredo meal.

chicago cheap ass
Drink, Food, Guides,

The Ultimate Chicago Brewery Bucket List

Have you been on a Chicago brewery tour? I’m convinced we play host to some of the best beer in the country. Check out my ultimate guide to Chicago brewery tours for dates, times, pricing and everything you need to know to have a great experience!

The Ultimate Chicago Brewery Bucket List

5 Rabbit Cerveceria

6398 W 74th Street, Bedford Park, Illinois (by Midway)

Come try 5 Rabbit Cerveceria‘s 5 Lizard, or 5 Vulture beer ,and take a tour or eat in the taproom (or both).

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 3pm. Buy tickets ahead of time.
$10 buys you the tour, beer, and a pint glass.

Ale Syndicate Brewers

2601 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL

Ale Syndicate is a Chicago brewery that recently ran a Groupon giving brewery tours, though they’re  not officially open to the public yet. You can find out where to buy their beers and official events on their website.

Brewery Tour:
Limited availability with the purchase of a $16 Groupon deal for two. Check with Ale Syndicate for updated information.

Argus Brewery

11314 S Front Ave, Chicago, IL

Argus Brewery is a Chicago brewery that’s a bit of a hike for city dwellers, but an excellent way to round out your experience with Chicago beers. They’re located in the old Schlitz distribution stables – this is a brewery with history! Their Oktoberfest celebration is not one to miss.

Brewery Tour:
(Most) Saturdays at 12:30pm, 2pm, and 3pm.
$15 buys you the tour, beer, and a pint glass.
There’s also a Groupon which gets you 1/2 off for two people.

Atlas Brewing Company

2747 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

No tour at this Chicago brewery, but coming gives you the chance to drink Atlas Brewing Company’s own beer straight from the source.

Begyle Brewing Company

2747 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

With tours and a taproom, Beygle Brewing Company is an underrated Chicago brewery really has it all. Serious fans may consider their beer subscription service.

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 12pm.
$10 buys you the tour, a beer and samples, and a tulip glass.

Breakroom Brewery

2925 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL

Breakroom Brewery is a relatively new Chicago brewery created by a bar concept company – so you know you’re in good hands. I visited and loved their diverse selection of draft beers and fun taproom space. Decide for yourself how you feel about their Scotch Eggs. Bring home your favorite beer in a sealed metal “Crowler.

DryHop Brewers

3155 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL

Foodies will love DryHop Brewers, a Chicago brewery/restaurant concept. Come in and pick from one of their especially hoppy beers on draft, get a cheese plate, and pig out on gourmet comfort food. These guys offer crowlers, too.

Empirical Brewery

1801 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL

Brewery tours at Empirical Brewery are first-come, first-served and limited capacity. Get there at 12 to all but guarantee your spot.

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 1pm and 2:30pm. Check the website for “brewer-led” tours that go more in-depth on technical brewing topics.
$10 buys you the tour, beer samples, and a pint glass.

Exit Strategy Brewing Co.

7700 W. Madison St., Forest Park, IL

Exit Strategy Brewing is a relative newcomer to Forest Park, one of the closest Chicago suburbs (accessible via Blue Line). Skim through Exit Strategy Brewing’s beer list and multi-cuisine menu if you have a reason to come out to the suburbs.

Finch’s Beer Co.

4565 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL

Finch’s Beer Co has one of the best Chicago brewery tours, if only because they let you get absolutely loaded. You get a half can pour each time you go back or more, which means you’ll get a good taste of each of their beers (and then some). They’ve been known to run Groupon deals from time to time. Even the pickiest beer drinking can’t escape the lure of their colorful cans.

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm
$10 buys you the tour, unlimited beer, and a pint glass.

Forbidden Root Brewpub

1746 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL

Botanic-flavored beers and food to compliment them. Take your favorite tastes home in steel growlers.

Brewery Tour:
Offered once a week. Call the restaurant at (312)929-2202 for details.

Gino’s brewing company

500 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL

Did you know? Gino’s East, one of Chicago’s best deep dish pizza makers now makes beer in-house at the River North location! I personally can’t wait to sample their Witte Chicks Dig Me, a Belgian Witbier). Growlers are available to-go.

Goose Island Clybourn

1800 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL

25 of your favorite Goose Island drafts (and likely some you’ve never tried) are available to pair with delicious bites at this Chicago brewery. They tap at least one new beer a week and you can give it a try at their Thursday Beer Premiere events.

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 12:30pm, 2pm, 3:30pm
Sundays at 1:30pm and 3pm
$10 buys you the tour, 6 beer samples and a branded pint glass.

Half Acre Taproom

4257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

I bet there’s at least one Half Acre beer that gets you excited when you see it on tap at a Chicago bar. This Chicago brewery has both tours and a taproom with enticing food options.

Brewery Tour:
Every Saturday (except major holidays) at 11am. Get there early – these tours sell out.
$10 (cash only) buys you the tour, 3 samples, and a branded pint glass.

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

737 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL

This Chicago brewery is home to the Drinking & Writing TheaterHaymarket Brewing is a brewpub with personality. They run free party shuttles (including beer) to and from every Blackhawks game.

Brewery Tour:
Sundays at 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm.
$15 buys you the tour and 28 total ounces of beer.

Hopewell brewing Co.

2760 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL

Hopewell Brewing Co. is a relative newcomer to the Chicago brewing scene, situated in Logan Square. They’re open for drinks everyday but Monday – check out their beers on tap.

Lagunitas Brewing Company

1843 S Washtenaw Ave, Chicago, IL 60608

Lagunitas is the only Chicago brewery that offers their beer and brewery tour absolutely free(besides Revolution). Visiting Lagunitas is an amazing experience that I once shared on this blog. They also have an excellent taproom “edibles“. Live music starts everyday at 4:20pm. Is it any surprise that this company originates from California?

Brewery Tour:
“Every freaking day” at multiple times – check the website.

Lake Effect Brewing Company

4727 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL

Nestled away in Jefferson Park, Lake Effect Brewing Company is just a hop, skip, and jump (approximately) from the Montrose Blue Line Stop. Homebrewers will appreciate that these Chicago brewery tours are always led by the brewer.

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 2pm, 3:30pm and 5pm.
The tour is free with samples available for purchase in a flight at a steps-away satellite bar. Must sign up on their website.

Motor Row Brewing

2337 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

Motor Row Brewing is one of two breweries on Michigan Ave (the other is Vice District Brewing Company), with a focus on traditional European ales and lagers. Enjoy the warehouse-like space with an upstairs taproom and a downstairs tasting room.

Off Color Brewing

3925 W Dickens Ave, Chicago, IL

Did you know Chicago’s Off Color Brewing was open for tours? Come in on Fridays and you can make purchases (only on a debit or credit card) of their freshest beer batches.

Brewery Tour:
Saturdays at 2pm.
$10 buys you the tour, beer samples, and a branded pint glass.

Piece Pizzeria & Brewery

1927 W North Ave, Chicago, IL

Piece Pizzeria is a Wicker Park favorite. They’re known for their New Haven Style Pizza, especially when they collaborate with other beloved Chicago chefs and restaurants. They also brew their own unique styles of beer.

Revolution Brewing

Brewery: 3340 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL
Brewpub: 2323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL

If you live in Chicago, there’s no way you haven’t tried beer from Revolution Brewing – its one of the most “Chicago” breweries that exist. Their Kedzie Street location offers tours and taproom, while the Milwaukee Avenue location offers no brewery tours, but an excellent brewpub experience.

Brewery Tour:
Wednesday – Friday at 6pm and 7pm.
Saturday – Sunday at 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, and 6pm.
Tours are free and include beer samples.

Temperance Beer Company

2000 Dempster St, Evanston, IL

Yes, you can drink beer and do yoga, and Temperance Beer Company is proof of that fact. If you don’t have a car, Purple Line will get you most of the way there.

Brewery Tour:
The second Sunday of every month at 1pm.
$10 buys you the tour, beer samples, a pint glass and 10% off on merchandise the day of the tour.

Vice District Brewing Company

1454 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

Vice District Brewing is a relatively new addition to the Chicago brewery scene in the unlikely South Loop area. It is the brainchild of two passionate brewers who were neighbors, first. They offer members several specials, and an interesting spectrum of beers.

There are so many amazing Chicago breweries with new ones opening on a regular basis. What’s on your Chicago brewery bucket list? Share your picks in the comments!

Download a printable Chicago Brewery checklist!

Sign up to receive email updates from Chicago Cheap Ass, and get instant access to the Ultimate Chicago Brewery printable checklist!

custom t-shirt printing
Life, Shopping,

Get All Your Custom T-shirt Printing at Rush Order Tees

There’s a soft spot in my heart for Rush Order Tees, because they were one of my first clients when I made the move to freelance full-time, and are still one of my favorite clients today. Their blog is full of both fun and inspirational goodies that span all kinds of unique interests. There’s really something for anyone’s taste, and they have a lot of resources and support for custom t-shirt printing.

Working with Rush Order Tees has introduced me to custom t-shirt printing that is a cut above the rest.

Why you should get all your custom t-shirt printing at Rush Order Tees

Quick Turnaround

After all, it’s not called “Rush Order Tees” because it takes weeks to get the t-shirts you ordered! Oh no, Rush Order Tees prides itself on getting you product when you need it. If you can afford to wait, your shipping is free for printed and embroidered wear. If you need it in 2 days, that’s not a problem – Rush Order Tees can deliver. If you have any questions or special circumstances, they’re very responsive on their live chat.

High & Low volume Orders

Whether you need shirts for a team of hundreds, or even just one singular custom t-shirt, Rush Order Tees can accommodate. No need to spend a lot of money on a one-off project. Besides screen printing and embroidery, they offer a whole portfolio of custom t-shirt services.

Design Resources

Overall, Rush Order Tees’ t-shirt selection and design process is very simple and intuitive:

  1. Choose a product and color
  2. Add your own images or choose from clipart
  3. Add text
  4. Customize with individual names and numbers (ex/a sports team) for an additional cost

Remember those blog posts I was talking about? They’re full of detailed advice for designing shirts for volunteer events, sports teams, corporate functions, and so much more. Besides blog content, Rush Order Tees allows you to consult with a screen printing professional for free via their live chat.

Rush Order Tees also thoroughly reviews each order before printing and looks for common design issues including, but not limited to:

  • Pixelation
  • Placement and Centering
  • Removing background images
  • Color changes
  • Adjusting sizes between youth and adult apparel
  • Ink color contrast

Between Rush Order Tee’s resources during and after the design process, there’s no reason you’ll end up with a design you’re not in love with.

Fundraiser Support

Fundraising by selling products can be a nightmare. But, if you’re using custom t-shirts to raise money for a cause, Rush Order Tees can help you handle all of the small details. Their fundraising platform spreadspirit allows you to create a t-shirt and public page to share, then collects payment and order information for large groups and handles fulfillment and shipping. No sweat necessary.

There are other custom t-shirt printing companies that may be able to do things cheaper, but they are unlikely to achieve the same quality, especially in a rush. Rush Order Tees wins by being a company that always has their customer’s back.

Do you have an upcoming custom t-shirt printing projects? Go to Rush Order Tees to start the design process.

And share the details of your project in the comments if you’d like some help coming up with ideas to make them pop!

chicago cheap ass

Chicago Musical Theater: Get Ready for High Fidelity

Does it get more Chicago than High Fidelity?

It all started with Nick Hornby’s classic novel, then Stephen Frears’ feature film adaptation, set in hipster Wicker Park, Chicago. Chicago natives John Cusack, Joan Cusack and Lili Taylor brought the book to life. But they’re the cast of the past and today’s actors bringing the story back to life are a part of the Refuge Theatre Project’s contemporary musical theater production.

What is the Refuge Theatre Project?

Refuge Theatre Project bills themselves as “Musical theatre for real people.” You won’t find any stuffy renditions or B.S. here – it’s all crowd-pleasing good fun. Ross Egan and Morgan Briggs recently founded the project back in 2015 and aim to use musical theatre to appeal to Chicagoans. Their goal is to make the the theatre community as a whole more accessable to all. At any production, you can expect to hear stories about people dealing with life in a meaningful and fun way.

Their cast looks like a fun group of characters:

chicago musical theater high fidelity

Tell me more about High Fidelity

Ok. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a little background:

The main character, Rob, owns a vintage record shop, where most of the story takes place. This performance is unique in that it will also take place in a record store created especially for the production – “Refuge Records” at 666 W Hubbard Street in Chicago.

We find Rob after he’s recently split up with his girlfriend Laura, and he’s lamenting over the “top five breakups” of his life. Sounds juicy!

What’s next for Refuge Theatre Project?

Besides their production of High Fidelity, which runs from now until the end of February on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Can’t make it to High Fidelity? (Or want more from the Refuge Theatre Project?)

You can look forward to more musical theatre and other performances including:

  • Audition Diaries (dates to be announced)
  • bare: A Pop Opera’s (Fall 2016)

Visit the Refuge Theatre Project’s fancy new website to stay up to date on upcoming productions!

Refuge Theatre Project is also doing some fundraising on Kickstarter. Support the local arts by contributing to their campaign. Their perks are definitely worth the contribution, starting with a date night for two (not to mention a tax deduction)!

Are you ready for High Fidelity? Purchase tickets on Eventbrite and maybe I’ll see you at a show!

*Please note: free tickets were provided in exchange for this post.

hatchery subscription box
Reviews, Subscription Boxes,

Hatchery: A Subscription Box For Discerning Foodies

Of all the different specialty food subscription boxes I’ve tested (and I’ve tested quite a few), Hatchery is probably my favorite.

I love the idea that you get to try so many products in each box, and although they aren’t full-sized, you can get a lot of use out of them while deciding if you want to invest in a full-sized version of the product. Hatchery’s boxes are valued at $20. The box I got contained 5 different products.

These products won’t be the centerpiece of any meal, but they will add a much-needed flavor element to a dull dish. They’re all so unique – you’ll have a lot of fun experimenting in the kitchen.

So besides great products at a great value, you can also take heart in the fact that each box features products made by people and small companies, not corporations. Each box contains an insert with an in-depth company bio and tasting notes for each product. There are also a couple of recipes to serve as inspiration to get cooking!

The Hatchery theme of handcrafted(/homemade) is present in everything they do, including the box that the products come in.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.22.26 AM

Without further ado, here’s what I received in my tasting box:

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.22.11 AM

Fourth Creek Foods – Sweet Red Pepper Relish

$7 full-size


Here in Chicago, I’m pretty used to hot giardiniera relish being a standard side. Sometimes it’s nice to balance out a sandwich instead with a sweeter version of the same type of condiment. My boyfriend was very happy for this addition to my fridge.

Chi-Cho Sauce

$9 full-size


This sauce has some spicy elements, but is quite mild in taste. I’m glad to have it in my fridge for when I have someone over who likes flavor, but not major spice.

Laguna Salt Company – Summer Smoke

$8 full-size


I love specialty spices and salts, so this one’s perfect for when I’m experimenting with flavors. I’ve got to say, the packaging also draws me in. It all fits together so beautifully.

South Boulder Sauce – All Things Orange Hot Sauce

$9 full-size


This hot sauce is a little more intense than the previous one (there’s some habanero!), but interestingly enough, contains a flavor in common – carrots! I like to think that makes it a little healthier than the average hot sauce…

Laura Ann’s Jams – Strawberry Vanilla Bean

$9 full-size


Most of the time, I opt to buy the “boring” jams at the grocery store. Its good to get tasting boxes like these with curated products – it forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. What I liked about this was how balanced the flavor was. Perfect for spreading on a sweet and savory english muffin!

Hatchery has both tasting boxes and a la carte products available on their website. Sign up for the email newsletter to be notified when awesome deals happen!

If you’re still looking for a Christmas gift, as of this writing, they’re offering $10 off gift subscriptions using code, “HOHOHO” at checkout.

Have you tried Hatchery or other food-related subscription boxes? Share your finds in the comments!

Please note: A free Hatchery box was provided in exchange for this review.

beauty products to get you through the winter
Beauty, Life,

Beauty Products to Get You Through the Winter

I belong to an awesome “club” of sorts, called Influenster. People (mostly bloggers), with a lot of influence (measured by social reach), have the opportunity to be matched with different campaigns and try different products.

Earlier this month, I was sent a box filled with health and beauty products. For the most part, I’ve incorporated them into my daily routine. Here are my thoughts on each one:

Botanics Organic Hydrating Day Cream


Retail: $12.99

I’ve been getting into facial creams lately, as I’m told now is about the time my skin will start turning against me. Besides that, my skin turns super scaly in the winter and quite frankly, can use all the help it can get.

What I like about this cream is that it wakes you right up with invigorating minty essential oils. What I like less is the texture. It’s not as smooth as you’d expect. Overall, I would still use this cream to start my morning in a refreshing way.

Foot Petals: Killer Kushionz


Retail: $12.95

I’ll take any help I can get when wearing heels. These are perfect if you’re like me and save heels only for special occasions, and complain about it the whole time.

SinfulColors SinfulShine Nail Polish

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.36.33 PM

Retail: $2.99

I had such high hopes for this nail polish. I like that it’s a two step system that supposedly gives you gel-like nail consistency. But there weren’t any special directions, and I messed up my first manicure by not knowing how many coats were needed. The pigment was good, but the texture was not what I would describe as gel-like. And it chipped easier than my regular polish of choice.

Good Health Veggie Straws


Retail: $3.99 for 6.75oz

When I eat junk food, I go all out. So when someone tries to get me to eat healthy “junk food,” I tend to have my guard up. I shared these with a health-crazy friend and she absolutely loved them. I wasn’t stoked – they were pretty bland and tasteless. I think it just depends on your relationship with food.

Soapbox Shampoo & Conditioner


Retail: $5.99 for 16oz

This shampoo and conditioner smell so fresh and leave my hair so soft. I love that there’s a TOMs-like mission behind the brand. For every product you buy, they donate product to people in need. The price is pretty fair considering the social-consciousness and size.

Yogi Tea


Retail: $4.99 for 16 count

Yogi Tea is consistently among the best I’ve ever tried. I’m a huge tea fan and theirs gets my stamp of approval.

Not Your Mother’s Whip it Up Cream Styling Mousse


Retail: $3 for 2.1oz, $7 for 7oz

You don’t need a lot of product for va-va-voom volume. It smells like cupcakes. It works, but don’t overdo it!

Would you try any of these products?

Please note: I received these products for free to review.

Life, Shopping,

5 Ways to Bring New Life to Old Photos

We’ve all done it.

Snapped hundreds of pictures on vacation, vowed to upload them to Facebook, print them, whatever… and then it never actually happens. Those precious memories are out of sight and out of mind, often on memory cards that get lost or damaged. Such a travesty.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are so many ways to bring new life to old photos. Here are a few of my favorites options:

Phone Case

I love street art. When I studied abroad in Barcelona, I started a mini blog to document all the amazing pieces I found. It’s not hard to find a a great place to put street art. Honestly, it would work perfectly in any of these custom photo product categories. But because I love street art so much, I like it to be with me always, which is how it made it’s way onto my phone.

5 Ways to Bring New Life to Old Photos

Custom phone cases don’t have to mean sacrificing protection. The most recent custom phone case I made was from Vistaprint, I opted for rubberized protection.

Coffee Mug

If you drink coffee or tea at work, you ought to have a reusable coffee mug. Not only does it help save the environment, one cup of coffee at a time… it also let’s you show off a little of your personality.

I’m on the look out for what I would consider to be the perfect coffee mug – one where the image wrap takes up the entire space with no white spots.

bring new life to old photos

In the meantime, I’ve ordered coffee mugs (and many other photo products) from PrinterPix. But don’t pay retail, they frequently have great Groupon deals.


I recently ordered these coasters from PrinterPix after a trip to Peru:

5 Ways to Bring New Life to Old Photos

Whether or not you respect your coffee table, coasters make great accents. Regardless of if you choose to use trip pictures, pictures of friends, or old-fashioned pictures of family members (I know someone doing this as a gift this year…), you can’t go wrong. Good-quality coasters with a personal touch make a great addition to a coffee table.

Printed Canvas

My parents got me started on custom canvases. For every trip they’ve been on, they get a custom canvas printed and hang it in the foyer. They even installed spotlights to make the pictures really pop. They have an eye for beauty (especially because at least one of the pictures hanging is my own ;)), and I love taking in the whole room when I’m at their house.

I started this tradition with my boyfriend, getting custom canvases printed after our first trip together, which resulted in so many beautiful pictures. We got our first one made by little print in Melbourne when we were there. It reminds us everyday of how lucky Australians are.

Picture it on Canvas is a great resource for different sizes, frame thickness, and other treatments. I like the square options – they make it easy to fit in multiple canvas pictures in a small space. Groupon frequently runs deals, so check there first before paying full price (and note that you’ll still be responsible for shipping). If you’re not super picky about options, Walgreens also frequently does deals when you sign up for their email newsletter.

Photo Book

I like photo books to commemorate occasions or long periods of time.

To give you an example, my mom made one for a trip we took after I graduated to Spain and France.

She made me another one when I graduated college.

bring new life to old photos 2

They’re small and easy to store. And it’s fun to look back at a snapshot of time – especially when you know someone else put an effort into putting it together for you.

So whether you’re giving gifts, or making custom photo projects for yourself, there are so many great options to bring new life to old photos!

Have you taken advantage of any of the aforementioned opportunities? Or maybe did something else? Share your custom photo project ideas in the comments!

Reviews, Technology,

Do you Need a Smartwatch?

For the past month or so, I’ve been playing around with the Samsung Galaxy 6 and their first-generation smartwatch, Samsung Gear, thanks to Verizon. Samsung has recently updated to a new version of their smartwatch, which quite frankly, looks badass and dates this review a little bit. However, the functionality is essentially the same. So keep that in mind.

There are quite a few smartwatches on the market right now besides the Samsung Gear. First, there’s the Apple Watch which has a lot of functionality as an extension of Apple and it’s other products. Then there’s the Moto Watch from Motorola that works with Android phones. I couldn’t tell you much about functionality, but I’ve got to say that I find the aesthetic the most pleasing of any current smartwatch offerings.


I think it’s important to note that aesthetics are important. I wear a Fitbit on a daily basis, and it’s really ugly. But the thing is, there are options out there like fancy Tory Burch bracelet and pendants, and colorful band replacements.

With smartwatches, there are options to change bands and customize the watch face and background, but if you buy a smartwatch that’s bulky, there’s no way around that.

The first-generation Samsung Gear is a little bulky when compared to it’s competitors. But I think the creators must have understood that, which is why one of the new versions looks more like what you’d consider when hearing the word, “watch.” Check it out:

do you need a smartwatch

On the left is the Samsung Gear first generation, the right is Samsung Gear S2 (second generation).

Alright, so aesthetics aside, here’s what else you need to think about when trying to answer the question, “Do you need a smartwatch?”

Battery Life

If you’re wearing a smartwatch all day, everyday, you need to be charging it on the daily as well. The Samsung Gear I played with had decent battery life, but wouldn’t last over a day with all day use.


What I really liked about the Samsung Gear was the ability to see my day at a glance. It could replace my Fitbit, as it tracked my steps, gives me at-a-glance weather information, top headlines, and my hour-by-hour schedule by sinking with my Google account.

Not to mention, I can see if someone’s calling me without having my phone out. Isn’t it annoying when you’re expecting someone to call and want to put your phone away but don’t want to miss the call? You can avoid that entire jittery situation with a smartwatch. It also gives you quick access to your email in a similar situation where you’re just waiting for someone to email you back.


I didn’t mess around too much with apps, but there were plenty to choose from to get additional functionality out of the Samsung Gear, including some fun games. But a caveat… if you have big fingers, it’s probably just going to be super frustrating to use your smartwatch as an entertainment device!


All smartwatches start in excess of a couple hundred dollars. But the Samsung Gear is relatively inexpensive when compared to some of the other options currently available. This seems to be a trend with Samsung products. They provide a good quality without charging an exorbitant amount for it.

So here’s the big question…

Do you NEED a Smartwatch?

Short answer: no.

But here’s where I think a smartwatch would be incredibly useful: A person who rarely sits still or is constantly on the road for a job. An executive who’s day is full of meetings. Anyone who’s likely to forget about something unless it’s right in front of their face.

Smartwatches are definitely cool and fun, but work for some people more than others.

So what do you think? Do you need a smartwatch? Or maybe just want one? What are the most important features to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Drink, Food, Reviews,

Delicious Italian Wines Don’t Have to be Expensive

A few weeks ago, I attended an event where I was introduced to the wonderful world of Sicilian wines.

Let’s get one thing straight – I’m no sommelier. I’ve been known to hit up Trader Joes for 2 buck chuck when the need for wine has arisen. But this year I’ve given wine another chance as not just a means to an end, but a tasty experience.

To be truthful, I’ve never really liked reds, but after attending an event earlier this year featuring wines from the Rioja region of Spain earlier in the year, I knew I needed to open up my mind. This was the beginning of my personal wine tasting transformation. I also took a trip the Bom Bolla, a new Cava bar in Wicker Park, from the people behind Pop’s for Champagne. Needless to say, I’ve since graduated from 2 buck chuck.

So my explorations into more sophisticated wine choices had already begun right before tasting delicious Sicilia DOC wines.


At the wine event I attended, I had an opportunity to talk to one of the Marketers, and also one of the family members behind the Sicilia DOC winery!

Between delicious sips of Sicilia DOC, we talked about how the winery has been in the family for many generations. The people representing the wineries had such an infectious passion for their wine. Italian wine is so good… It makes sense that Sicilian wine is some of the best of the country.


It’s easy to find Sicilian Wines in Chicago. They’re available at Binny’s and are under $20 a bottle. The ones I liked best were in the $13-$15 range. So whether you want to indulge for yourself, or give a gift that makes you look like a wine connoisseur, these wines are the perfect choice.

My recommendation? The Planeta Rosé was my favorite of the various sips I tried before or after the event. To me, most rosés taste like a haphazard attempt to marry what people like about whites to reds. But this rosé was balanced in a way that made it distinctly different from both.

When shopping for Sicilian wines, be sure to look for “Sicilia DOC” on the label to ensure quality and consistency!


What’s your favorite kind of wine that’s a little more complex than two buck chuck? Share your picks in the comments so we can all get one stop closer to sommelier status!


8 Alternatives to Avoid Paying Full Price for Books
Life, Shopping,

8 Alternatives to Avoid Paying Full Price for Books

I love books so much that I challenged myself to read one book each week for a total of 52 this year… and I’ve already surpassed my goal. If you’re a kindred book spirit, let’s be friends on Goodreads.

What I don’t love about books is when I want one that just came out and it’s ridiculously expensive.

With a little self control and planning, you should never pay full price for books, even if they just came out. I’m willing to bet that the book of your dreams is available through one of the following options at a highly reduced cost!

8 Alternatives to Avoid Paying Full Price for Books

Used Books on Amazon

Let’s start with the basics. I’ve always used Amazon to get the best pricing on textbooks for college, but it also often offers the best price for a book I’m desiring. The kindle route is not the best way to go – especially if you love the feeling of a book in your hand and the ability to turn the pages on your own. Instead, search for a book of your choice and look at the used book pricing. There are few books I can’t find for a dollar or less (plus shipping). If I absolutely can’t find a book for a favorable price, I add it to my Amazon Wish List and monitor it periodically for pricing changes.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon built it’s reputation as being your one stop shop for books, and it’s new Kindle Unlimited subscription feature is no exception. It’s $10 per month and allows unlimited access to titles in the library. The library is pretty extensive and often includes new release titles. There used to be a similar service called Oyster, but it’s going out of business… probably because Amazon got in the game. At any rate, Amazon’s library is hard to beat.


Shelfie is an interesting little app I came across. Basically, you use your phone’s camera to take a “Shelfie” of the books on your bookshelf. Shelfie analyzes your collection and matches it with the free ebook versions of your book. Their library is somewhat limited as of the last time I used it, but it’s definitely something to watch and an interesting concept.


Duh! I don’t think I need to remind you that the library has FREE and NEW RELEASE books… but I will. But what you may not know about the library is that they also offer access to ebooks free with a library card. I wrote an article awhile back explaining the process. Remember the Amazon Wish List I mentioned awhile back? I like to cross reference the books on that list with the books that I can rent online.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg takes out of copyright books (currently over 50,000) and makes them available by ebook. Now’s your chance to catch up on the classics – for free!

Discount eBook Newsletters

OHFB and BookBub are two email newsletters I subscribe to that tempt me on a daily basis to buy ebooks, but at a ridiculously reduced price. You can’t opt for a daily email or weekly digest.

Local Used Bookstores

I’m going to ask you to go in with no expectations. Don’t have a specific title in mind, just be open to the possibilities. Used bookstores are absolute gems and used books can be DIRT cheap. There’s one in Lakeview called Bookleggers that I feel a particular fondness for and has some ridiculously good deals.

Book of the Month Club

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience starting the Book of the Month club subscription. It’s awesome! As soon as my 3 month subscription is over, I’m paying for a full year upfront. They let you choose between 5 books curated by interesting book lovers, with prices as low as $10 (including shipping) for a brand new hardcover. Can’t beat it.

What are your best tips to avoid paying full price for books? Share in the comments!