When it comes to summer, there’s one golden rule of thumb – bottom line, always wear sunscreen. After burning one too many times, I’ve become a big advocate of sunscreen and faux tanning methods. Everyone’s skin tone is different: I have extremely sensitive and fair skin. Your level of protection will vary, but always use something.
I apply 50-70 SPF daily before moisturizing. Even if your moisturizer and makeup have SPF, it’s usually not good enough. I use Aspire Life from Che Sguardo in River North. It’s a small family owned business that caters to makeup artists. Kathy is an expert when it comes to beauty, makeup and skincare. Aspire Life sunscreen works as a moisturizer as well as a sunscreen – two in one! I love it because it doesn’t over saturate your face but rather works like a serum. Sometimes traditional sunscreen can be dense and leave oil that causes blemishes. Protect your skin the right way, don’t make it worse!
Pool and beach days:
I use 70 SPF Neutrogena Sport which is a bit heavier but for full sun days, it’s important to stay protected and wash your face after being in the sun. Don’t forget – the water reflects the sun which ups your chances of getting burned!
I use anywhere from 30-50 SPF with several applications throughout the day. Don’t forget your ears, the tops of your feet and back. The past few years, I’ve been using the spray sunscreens. It’s a more even application without that embarrassing hand print or missing section. And there’s no reason not to do it when application is so easy!
What’s your sunscreen routine? Let us know in the comments!
Connections are everything, and that was pretty characteristic of the awesome things that happened this week. Always put your best foot forward when meeting new people (and maintaining old friendships) – you never know where they could lead!
6/8 – Farmer’s Fridge, Quirky and #Foodiechats
Farmer’s Fridge is very close to my heart after being a part of it’s early months. I wrote a post about Salads in the Loop a few weeks back and am doing a giveaway featuring one of their salads! Anyways, this week, Farmer’s Fridge opened a new salad vending machine in a 7-Eleven location in River North. They were doing specials everyday ranging from free salads or 25-50% off. I got there for one of the free ones! Always a nice surprise. Make sure you’re following their social channels or subscribe to their newsletters – they tend to do things like this with the launch of new locations, which is happening fast.
An interesting thing happened when browsing a big Quirky sale. Quirky is an up-and-coming company that sells products everyday people invented. They have a lot of promotions and the products are a great value. Something weird happened and my order totaled $15, when it should’ve been 3x that amount. I reached out to the company and they said I got lucky and they’d honor the sale! The order was inspired by a cool beach tote with a mesh bottom to shake out sand.
The highlight of my day, however, involved a trip out to the suburbs. I was invited to participate in a #Foodiechats experience. For those who don’t know about #Foodiechats, it’s a weekly Twitter chat connecting foodies around the world (and it’s about to become something even bigger). This event was at the Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, conveniently next to the train I took in. We sampled food from their upcoming Summer Festival and a healthy plethora of Two Brothers Beers. I won’t go into too much detail here because I plan on writing a follow up post, but it was a night to remember! Lots of thanks to my friend Taylor who got me in on this event!
6/9 – Xoco and Lentil Marinara
Today I made my second ever trip to Xoco. It’s one of the office favorites, and a Rick Bayless restaurant creation. I met with a friend who helped me move to buy him lunch. We discussed this blog and he will be helping out with a section about networking and speaking events! I think it’s something this blog is missing, as it is aimed at young professionals in Chicago.
For dinner, I made my favorite creation – a lentil marinara “pasta” with zucchini noodles. It’s one of the “cheapest” things I make, but also one of the most flavorful and healthy. I’ll write up a recipe and take some pictures for you guys next time I make it! 🙂
6/10 – Influenster and Sox Box
I recently joined an online community called Influenster. As I am constantly trying to build up my online communities, it only made sense to cash in on it in some way. Basically, Influenster gives me the opportunity to try new products for free in exchange for using and talking about them. So there will likely be an upcoming blog post about what I found out I’m getting from them first. It’s a PUR sink attachment to purify water. I bring a Brita water bottle with me everywhere I go… this will make it even easier for me to use clean, purified water when I cook!
The Blackhawks played tonight (and won!), but I was invited to a Sox game with my company and some of our clients. It was my first time in a box, and I felt like a celebrity. All-you-can-eat food (hot dogs!), beer, and the most delicious dessert cart to pick things from. And you can’t beat the view. Thanks to whatever clients couldn’t make it – I had fun in your absence!
6/11 – Devil Dawgs and Techweek
Probably knowing how hungover we’d all be after the Sox game, we had our monthly lunch, featuring the culinary wonders of Devil Dawgs. Besides crazy hot dog creations, they have some amazing sliders (the Elvis with peanut butter and bacon is to die for) and chicken sandwiches. I haven’t tried their milkshakes yet but want to. Through a mistake on our end, or theirs (I’m not sure), I didn’t get my slider this time 🙁 But I’ll be dreaming about it.4
I found out today that I got a free media pass to Techweek Chicago. I went last year and had an amazing time meeting tech industry professionals and listening to experts I really respect speak about things that matter. Do you write for a company blog? Freelance or have your own blog? You might be eligible for for free media passes – not just for this event, but many others in Chicago. Concerts, speaking events and more usually give out free media passes depending on the industry you write for. It’s worth looking into! They also have free attendee badges available for specific events if you want a taste of Techweek without paying for a full badge.
6/12 – Activate and Chicago Blog Week
Activate has some sweet deals!
So Zipcar, my weekend Brand Ambassador job, has a partnership with Activate. Activate throws parties in alleys in the Loop and brings together tons of artists and music – it’s a great time. We’re doing an instant photo booth and get to meet a lot of attendees. By some crazy turn of events, I found myself face to face with Dante, the founder of Chicago Blog Week. To make a long story short, I may be a speaker at the event! More details on that as they unfold. We plan on meeting later this week 🙂
6/13 – Mae Concert
The first concert I ever saw was Mae and The Audition, in a church in Wheaton. It’s crazy how far I’ve come since that day, but Mae (and The Audition, really) holds a special place in my heart. So I bought tickets months in advance from someone who couldn’t make the show. Didn’t have to pay any of the extra fees – score! I went to the Bottom Lounge and sang my heart out to all my old favorite songs. It was a special tour, focusing on my favorite CD of theirs.
6/14 – Aroma Workshop
I bought a Groupon a couple months back after hearing how awesome Aroma Workshop is. I took my boyfriend with so we could each create our own signature scents. We smelled a lot of different scent bases – from fruity to musky and everything in between. One of Aroma Workshop’s employees expertly combined 4 different possibilities to choose from. We each left with the perfect signature scent to suit our tastes – so much more personal than a store-bought cologne or perfume. If you buy the Groupon, it works out to be about $30 per person. Aroma Workshop also carries a variety of bath products that you can combine with your scent. They keep your combinations in their computer system so you can refill in the future!
Don’t just read about good deals – get them yourself! Find of-the-moment updates by liking Chicago Cheap Ass on Facebook.
This article has been several weeks in the making. I contacted several restaurants and chains with locations in the Loop (and River North, hereafter referred to simply as “the Loop”), and all of them gave me an opportunity to try their products for free in exchange for an honest review of their salads and their establishments as a whole. After finalizing details, I went in and did my testing.
Finally, it’s time to give you an unbiased opinion on where you should be getting salads in the Loop.
Protein Bar is a favorite of many of my fit friends. With 11 Chicago locations (with exponential growth planned for the next few years), it’s not hard to find one close to work. I love that Protein Bar was the brain child of a man who wanted to do better by himself health-wise… you know you’re in good hands when that’s the genesis story of the restaurant you’re visiting.
Taste:What I like about Protein Bar is it’s “flavor profiles” that can be executed in many different forms. I’m talking about taking the same taste you’d find in an asian salad (what I got, pictured below), to a wrap, to a quinoa bowl. The salad composition is what sets Protein Bar apart from anything else on this list. Each bite contains a taste of every ingredient. It’s a perfectly chopped and blended salad. Make sure to ask for your dressing on the side – these salads are big enough for more than one meal depending on your appetite.
Nutrition: Depending on what you’ve set your macros to (they don’t call it Protein Bar for nothing), there are multiple tasty ways to hit them. They have an extremely customizable nutrition calculator to support those goals. Salads will typically set you back around 500 calories.
Price: On the affordability scale, Protein Bar isn’t the cheapest place to get a salad in the Loop, but it’s certainly one of the highest quality salads you can get from a fast casual concept. If you’re planning on being a regular, you’d better download their loyalty app, which gives you $8 after every $88 spent (and a free smoothie on your birthday). They tend to send offers via email as well.
Freshii is the type of chain that has cracked the code to creating an association between their brand and healthy living. I walked into the River North location pleasantly overtaken by a refreshing feeling. It’s hard to put into words, but I know you’ll feel the same when you check it out.
Taste/Nutrition: There’s a soft spot in my heart for any salad that compliments a good cilantro-lime dressing. I got the Fiesta Salad and loved every bite. While Just Salad and Protein Bar have mastered the art of the chopped salad, Freshii has mastered the art of a fresh taste in every bite. I also tried their Kefir, which is kind of like frozen yogurt, but more nutritious. Finally, I sampled one of their green juices. It was an incredibly healthy lunch and I loved every bite! Their nutrition information isn’t quite as user-friendly as others on this list, but does exist online.
Affordability: Think along the same lines as Protein Bar.
Courtesy of Just Salad team.
Just Salad is a recent Chicago addition, after finding success initially in New York. They opened with a bang, offering $1 salads and wraps on their first day. I scoped out the line and it was around the block. I decided to wait to try Just Salad in a more manageable setting.
Taste: As with many other salad providers on this list, you can opt to create your own salad creation, but should definitely give their mixes a try. These guys are salad artists. Like Protein Bar, they chop up the salad very well and you can taste all of the flavors in one bite. I got the buffalo chicken salad and several jealous stares from coworkers.
Nutrition: Salads clock in at about 350 calories (including protein) and go up from there based on the dressing. I got a simple lemon dressing that only added 5 calories and still tasted amazing. The salads are well balanced in terms of protein to veggie ratio. Use their comprehensive and interactive nutrition calculator to drill down the specifics.
Affordability: Just Salad isn’t cheap, but they have a great special worth mentioning. Buy a reusable bowl for $1, and every time you bring it back, you get free two “Essential” toppings (veggies, fruit, grains, etc) or one free cheese topping. If you’re a regular, this will definitely add up! I think it’s an interesting take on a loyalty program that takes the environment into consideration. They also have an app to offer additional savings for loyal customers.
Taste: Of all the featured salads, the least amount of love went into my Cosi salad. As Cosi isn’t primarily about salads, I guess I can’t be too sour about it. And they were extremely busy even when I went in after the lunch rush. The adobo lime chicken salad didn’t have anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t as special as some of the others listed.
Nutrition: Salads ring in around 400 calories or more, but come with a side of bread. Probably not the best place to go for a healthy balanced meal. I want to go back and try one of their sandwiches or bowls and review them again. But for this scope of this article, I’ll let my review stand.
Affordability: Cosi offers a loyalty program that offers you a free meal after your 10th visit. Otherwise it’s similar pricing to any aforementioned salad restaurant on this list.
I will admit to a slight bias when it comes to Farmer’s Fridge, but only because I used to work for them. That’s right, their earliest social media marketing came with help from yours truly. But as you can probably guess by now, I don’t promote any brands I can’t get behind. Farmer’s Fridge is an awesome and unique concept – it’s a salad vending machine. This is where I usually lose people. Yes. The salads are refrigerated. And replaced on a daily basis. The leftovers are donated to food pantries.
From: Farmer’s Fridge Facebook
Taste: Farmer’s Fridge salads are arranged in layers to keep as fresh as possible throughout the day. Once you shake in the dressing and distribute the different parts, prepare yourself for a flavor blast. All the ingredients are fresh and organic, so you can enjoy your salad guilt-free (is a salad every guilty, though?). The Cheater has one of my favorite flavor profiles, but look out for their monthly special salads to keep it interesting!
Nutrition: Starting this week, each salad has updated nutritional labels! A good feature is that most salads separate dressing nutrition facts from the rest of the nutritional information, so you can weigh using theirs (you should, it’s delicious) versus your own if you’re on a super low-calorie diet. Plus, as previously mentioned, only high-quality ingredients go into each jar.
Affordability: A regular salad will cost $6-8, a protein add-on is another $2. After 6pm, all salads are $1 off, and Farmer’s Fridge tends to offer promotions over their social media channels and through their email newsletter. You can return the mason jar it comes in to the kiosk, or upcycle it. I use mine to hold jewelry, tea bags, trail mix, and granola bars.
The above represents just a sampling of the places to get salads in the Loop. I think the major takeaway is that you should try a few and pick your favorite to rack up some loyalty points. Or stay in touch with the brands that tend to offer special promotions over their own channels!
Finally, Farmer’s Fridge has generously offered a free salad as a giveaway! Enter below if you’re a Chicago resident (can’t get them anywhere else… for now), and I’ll announce the winner by June 15!
This week was a busy one for me, especially as far as professional development goes. On Monday, I attended the Business Marketing Association (BMA)’s event “An Afternoon with the Stars” at 1871. I love 1871, because it’s such a cool community of entrepreneurs and startups. Just being there makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. We have a partnership where we handle BMA’s social media channels and in return, get to attend the events for free. There are a lot of really cool events and speakers, and the lunch events are usually at Maggiano’s, which is an added bonus. I think a lesson can be learned from BMA and Social Media Beast’s partnership – bartering isn’t dead. If you have a skill that would help a business you’re obsessed with, you might be able to make a trade.
Anyways – speaking of Maggiano’s… My boyfriend had a gift card to go, so we went after the networking event. I don’t know if I’m late to the game on this or what, but Marco’s Meal for Two is an incredible value. You share an appetizer, get two entrees to eat in the restaurant, two to take home, and a dessert. That’s four complete meals (two per person) for $40 total ($20 per person). It’s some heavy stuff, so I don’t recommend it on a regular basis, but it was a nice treat. Our waiter was awesome, so extra points for that.
5/5 – Einstein Bros Bagels and Argo Tea
I got a coupon for BOGO breakfast sandwiches from Einstein and decided to use it this morning. If you haven’t already, sign up for their email newsletter. That’s $6 for two ridiculously good breakfast sandwiches that I spaced out over two days.
Argo Tea sent me $5 to spend for Cinco de Mayo, which I used on my favorite beverage – the White Tea Acai Squeeze. They send out $2-5 in savings every other week or so, so you should probably join their loyalty program if you’re as obsessed with Argo Tea as I am.
I went to another networking event at Cole Haan, but ate dinner at my boyfriend’s place. We’re starting a tradition of making our Cinco de Mayo fare at home, because it’s not worth battling the crowds at the bars and Mexican restaurants. Besides, tacos made at home last for days.
5/6 – Protein Bar and Hot Pursuit
Today I started my salad tasting rounds for an upcoming article about the best bang for your buck regarding salads in the Loop. I went to Protein Bar and met brand evangelist Teddy who let me try an asian salad and wrap. More on that to come!
5/7 – Freshii, Naansense, and the Digital Professional Institute
Today was day two of salad tasting, and I went to Freshii to see how it compares to Protein Bar. I met the General Manager, Nick, who walked me through a couple different menu items and let me taste their kefir froyo, a delicious chicken salad, and a green smoothie. Check out my full write-up in the next week or two!
I knew I’d be in the Loop until at least 8pm, so I grabbed dinner at Naansense. Have you heard of the Freebie app? It’s currently based in Chicago and you can try new businesses for free based on your social influence. So I got a free Chicken Naanwich and it was divine.
Right after, I hoofed it over to the Digital Professional Institute for a free SEO strategy session with Leslie Herskowitz of Performics. Using case studies from big e-tailers she’s worked with, we learned more about getting found via search. This is becoming more and more important to me as I build up ChicagoCheapAss.com! Follow the Digital Professional Institute for more free and paid events. I just signed up for a few more.
5/8 – RPM Italian and Kelsey’s Bar
Today was an exciting day. My boyfriend’s brother proposed to his girlfriend. They make an awesome couple and it was really a matter of time until everything was official. My boyfriend and I tagged along for the festivities and celebrated with the happy couple at RPM Italian. I’m so spoiled having gotten to check out both RPM Italian and RPM Steak in the same month… Anyways, while neither of those places is “cheap” by nature, they comped $40 from the bill under a “Birthday” stipulation to make the engagement dinner a little more special. I’d say one of those two occasions would be a good time to check out either of the RPM’s… just make sure to tell your waiter what you’re celebrating!
After RPM, we went to Kelsey’s in Lincoln Park. Word on the street is that if you sweet talk Brooke she may throw you some free shots… just make sure to tip well!
5/9 – Fishing in Mchenry, IL
The rest of my weekend was spent with family and friends. Today I joined my boyfriend with his good friends at one of their lakehouses. I caught a catfish. It was pretty baller.
5/10 – Mother’s Day!
Today was spent in the suburbs with my family celebrating Mother’s Day. I got my mom a pretty nice gift, but then she turns around and brings me a present, too. What an amazing lady. It’s a belt with a beer opener buckle she found while thrifting. One of these days I’ll write a post (with the help of my mother) about how to thrift, where to go, etc. She’s the one who taught me how to never pay full price for anything. She’s my inspiration.
Right before the Chicago Marathon, DMK started their own “sorta” marathon to capitalize on the buzz and to advertise the opening of their new location – Henry’s Swing Club. The “sorta” marathon started at DMK’s original location, DMK Burger Bar in Lakeview. The idea was that you would run (or walk- your prerogative) to Henry’s Swing Club – about 4 miles in total. It was $10 to register, they gave us some awesome hamburger/Chicago flag tshirts, and all you can drink beer when you got to the final location. Oh, and the bibs had hilarious nicknames instead of numbers. A handful of my friends participated and we had a great time at the finish line.
Chicago Flag/Burger mashup Tshirt
Fast forward to April. I’ve kept up with DMK because I love their creativity and promotions. I noticed they were having a contest with unique prizes for each location in honor of National Haiku Day. Have you ever noticed how there’s something new to celebrate everyday of the year? It’s a little exhausting. But haikus are easy to write, and I had a great idea. For it to make sense, I just need to explain one thing. At the bottom of the menu of craft cocktails and sliders is an interesting entry. “-$2 testicles.” Yes, Henry’s Swing Club will dock $2 from your bill if you eat their balls. They rotate testicles from different animals as a daily special, so you never know what you’re going to get!
Food Menu at Henry’s Swing Club… notice the balls at the bottom.
Without further ado, the winning haiku:
lil DMK burgs River North just got better. Get paid to eat balls
Truly inspired, I know.
There were actually three chosen to go into the final round. I rallied my friends to get votes, but honestly mine was just the best in general. 😉
Now for the fun part. My winnings –
5 sliders 7 cocktails 5 giant pretzels
Just like a haiku!
I decided to take my boyfriend for a date night since he bugged his friends and family just as much as I bugged mine for votes to win.
Sliders and a giant pretzel at Henry’s Swing Club
The staff at Henry’s Swing Club hooked it up and treated us well. We tried a cocktail from almost every section of the cocktail menu. And tried a lot of interesting sliders. We still have some big pretzels to redeem the next time we come back! Not to mention my boyfriend still has to complete the ball-eating challenge. 🙂
Henry’s Swing Club is a wonderful fresh face in River North. You can chow down and get drunk on classy cocktails without breaking the bank. Definitely has the Chicago Cheap Ass seal of approval!
Sometimes I do some pretty cool things that don’t necessarily warrant an entire blog post. So, moving forward, #CheapWeek will be a review of the fun things I did and ate in Chicago the previous week. This is your insider’s guide to how a real “Cheap Ass” lives.
4/19 – Chef Week Kickoff Party
Chef Week Kickoff Party Menu
People – embrace the power of Twitter, already. I received an invite to a Chef Week Kickoff Party by paying attention to Chicago Chef Week’s Twitter handle (it coincided with my previous post about Chicago Chef Week). I brought my lovely friend Mallory as a plus one, and together we caught up while enjoying quality cocktails, wine, and food at the J. Parker – all for free. The J. Parker is known for its cool retractable rooftop. Unfortunately, it was raining when we went, but regardless, the place had a cool vibe and I’ll definitely be back.
For my first Chicago Chef Week meal, I went to Piccolo Sogno Due, which is just down the street from where I work in River North. I went with a friend who works at the Merchandise Mart and we each took advantage of the $22 menu which included several choices of appetizer, entree, and dessert. Halfway through the entree we were both stuffed, so I took the rest to go for the following day’s lunch. While I would not spend $22 on lunch on a regular basis, Chicago Chef Week is a great opportunity to try an expensive restaurant at a more affordable cost.
Love the Chicago-inspired design of the Verizon store on Michigan Avenue
In blog related news, I responded to a request for bloggers with Choose Chicago, and will soon begin writing for their Chicago Like a Local Blog. Choose Chicago is an awesome organization with a lot of visibility, so it’s a step in the right direction for Chicago Cheap Ass. I also had a fun meeting with Rebecca at Verizon; Rebecca connects bloggers with their products. I checked out the two-level Verizon store on Michigan Avenue and made a wish list of products to test for my “Save or Splurge?” theme. Back in college, I had the opportunity to test Verizon products for my personal blog, so I’m excited to continue this partnership.
4/22 – QBBQ and Instituto Cervantes
A tasty lunch from QBBQ
QBBQ is right around the corner from me. I had a $5 off coupon that I’d been meaning to use, so I went in and ordered a pulled pork sandwich with two sides for about $4.50. Talk about an awesome deal. I’ve been to their brunch before and it does not disappoint – especially their garlic parmesan fries.
Los Caprichos exhibit at Instituto Cervantes
Later that night I met up with a friend to check out an art exhibit called “Los Caprichos” at Instituto Cervantes. The exhibit featured an intersection of work between two Spanish masters – Goya and Dali. Basically, Goya created a series of paintings making fun of Spanish sayings, and then Dali took Goya’s work and made it his own. The exhibit runs through June 10 and is definitely worth a look if you’re interested in seeing the work of Goya and Dali for FREE up-close and personal.
4/23 – Chicago Trolley and Bellwether
Going out with Chicago Trolley
I happen to work for a company with many fringe benefits. We spent the afternoon with one of our clients, Chicago Trolley, who took us on a fun tour of Chicago. After the trolley tour, we went to Bellwether, which has the world’s best buffalo chicken spring rolls ($8 during happy hour, $12 regularly) and had a couple rounds of beer. I have never drank so much free beer or ate so much free delicious food as I have with this company.
4/24 – RPM Steak for Chicago Chef Week
Thick. Cut. Bacon. (RPM Steak)
I got my first cavity filled today and was worried my mouth would be too numb to properly chew dinner, but luckily I got it together about an hour before my reservation. I went with some co-workers to RPM Steak for the first time in my life. Everyone talks about how RPM (both Italian and Steak) is a must-do. It’s rather pricey, so I would reserve this spot for a special occasion. Luckily, RPM was one of the restaurants participating in Chicago Chef Week and had a 4 course menu with plenty of choices for $44. Done. After realizing that RPM Steak is a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, I paid using a gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket. This was honestly the best dinner out I’ve ever had, which I can say without even thinking about it. That good. Our waitress (Jennifer) was amazing. AND WE MET GIULIANA AND BILL RANCIC. This could not have been a more perfect night.
Yes, this cake has 14k gold flakes on it.
4/25 – Birthday at Hubbard Inn
It was a friend’s birthday and we went to Hubbard Inn to celebrate. I have been wanting to go there for a while, so this was the perfect excuse. They have tons of beers on tap and good food (though a little expensive). They even brought my friend two free bottles of champagne for waiting a little longer than expected for a table… now that’s service.
4/26 – Groupon at HALA IN
Vice City Brewing
So I was going to go to C2E2 today, but that’s a frustrating story. Basically, my name was never put on the guest list after winning a contest through the Freebie App. So I altered my plans and checked out Vice District Brewing. Definitely not a Cheap Ass place ($15 for two beers), but it was delicious and a quirky spot. They have board games and popcorn (win). Determined to use some of the Groupons I had purchased for eating out in my current neighborhood (Lakeview) before moving to my new neighborhood (Roscoe Village), my boyfriend and I checked out HALA IN after hitting up the gym. HALA IN has some beautiful-looking Mediterranean food. For $22 we got $40 worth of food – two sides (hummus, falafel), pita bread, an entree with rice, and dessert. Here’s a pro-tip: Groupon frequently has 20-25% off sales on top of their local deals. Try to wait for those deals for ridiculous savings on food.
Delicious dinner at Hala In
Check back next week for another roundup of what I did!