Our Faves of the moment

This week we made a selection of our favorites of the moment. From outfits to Netflix series, here are the things we are loving this season!

Fave outfits

Laura: Summer took a while to pay us a visit here in Chicago, but now that it is finally hot out, I have to say my favorite outfit for the weekends are crop tops paired with high-waisted bottoms, whether they are shorts, skirts or pants.  When it comes to shoes, I love wedges because it gives you a slimmer look while still being super comfortable. I specifically like the rope trimmed one, because they give off a beachy retro vibe. I own a pair of Michael Kors from last year’s collection, but these are fairly similar.

May: The off the shoulder tops are definitely my fave of the moment, and I guess I won’t be the only one this summer. I especially like the tops with the separated sleeves and bust – like this one – because they are more comfortable if you need to raise your arms.

In my closet, my favorite is the one pictured below. It’s from Zara, I bought it last year and I’m still crazy in love with it. The fabric is really light, which makes it so comfortable. It can be worn everyday, or dressed up for formal occasions.

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I also love the off the shoulder bikini style, but that deserves its own separate post.

 

Fave Hair Style

May: Braids braids braids! My coworkers can definitely confirm my passion for braids. I love this hairstyle, it’s comfortable and looks sophisticated. Once you get how to do it you can make a billion of different styles, like twin braids or crown braids.

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Right now, what I love to do is to make two little Dutch braids on each side of my head and make a pony tail. Braids of all kinds are by far my best everyday partner. If you’d like to know how to make a Dutch braid, I’ve made a tutorial for you.

Laura: Currently, my style is easy and effortless when it comes to hair. Finally I can let my hair air-dry unless I have to style it for a classier look. My hair is naturally wavy, so after I apply my care products, I kind of let if flow freely with a hair clip so it does not get in my face. If it gets too frizzy, I put it up in a top knot bun or do a half up-do braid.

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Fave Beauty product

Laura: Funny enough, without consulting with each other, May and I both wanted to tell you guys about a primer we discovered recently. The one I am using is Photo Finish Foundation – Pore minimizing by Smashbox. I have had a particularly busy and hectic couple of months and have not slept much. In spite of that, I have never received so many compliments about my skin, which is actually far from amazing at the moment. I have this little gem to thank. It smooths down your imperfections, and evens out your skin tones while feeling super soft and comfortable on the skin, even in this hot and humid weather.

May: Instant smooth primer from Clarins is my fave of all time. It’s a transparent make up primer that has a very soft texture, it reminds me of foam. When you apply it on your skin, it will fill in your pores and smooth out the imperfections. Then, when you apply your foundation your skin looks perfect.

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Fave Music

Laura: Because I am longing for a vacation and beach days, I am currently obsessed with the Latin hit Despacito. I know it is cliché, but I can’t help picturing myself at the beach, or dancing at a summer party.  I love the original version best, with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee… Sorry Justin Bieber!

May: Right now, I love listening to Ed Sheerean, and I can’t resist dancing and singing to the Shape of You. I also love listening the several amazing covers of this song; I selected three for you: one by Samantha Harvey, one by Gootmusic and the third by Twins Melody.

 

Fave Netflix series

Laura: I haven’t watched a lot of Netflix in the past few months, but now that my shows are coming back, I am watching again. Recently, I got back into Orange is the New Black, which I watch with delight and anxiety, because of the struggles that the characters go through. I like that each character gets their own story, and that it is not all back or white: everyone is deeply flawed, but also touching in their own ways.

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Apart from that, I have been trying to get back into House of Cards, but with the current political climate, I just could not bring myself to watch it yet, which is a shame because I loved the first four seasons.                                                                                                      Lastly, I love the Chelsea Show. I have been a Chelsea Handler fan for a long time, but sometimes got tired of her former show on E! Chelsea Lately. I think that being on Netflix and executive producer of her own show gave Chelsea more flexibility to talk about a wide range of topics from the most trivial to the most important, while keeping her irreverent sense of humor.

May: Together with my boyfriend, we love watching many different series on Netflix. I like Sense 8, Designated Survivor and – of course – Breaking Bad, but at the moment we have a new crush and that’s Iron Fist. I like the Marvel movies but it’s the first time that I watch a series. Since the very first episode, I loved it.

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The story is about Danny Rand, a billionaire who disappeared during a plane crash when he was a child.  After 15 years, he is back in New York to take over the family business. He will discover that corruption and crime are gangrening his family business and his loved ones. While he was missing, Danny acquires the knowledge of martial arts and the ability to use the Iron Fist from the monks of K’un One. He will use his ability to fix up his company.

Fave Activity

Laura: Lately, all I want to do is be outside. Since I have to wait a while before I am on vacation, I like to pretend I’m on vacation by hanging out on some of the best rooftops of the city, or lounging on restaurant patios. I am also planning a few trips to the lake beaches. My goal, before I leave in July, is to try Oak Street Beach, because I have not had a chance to try it yet!

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May: These days the sun is shinning so much and the temperatures are so hot that if I had to choose an activity it would be hanging out at the pool. I love laying on a lounging chair with a fruit cocktail reading blogs and magazines or going into the water and swim a few laps. I use my Apple Watch to calculate the distance I swim and the calories I burn. The pool is a perfect compromise for me to do some exercise without dying because of the temperature. At the same time, it’s the perfect place to rest (especially after working out).

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Sweet Home Chicago

Just a disclaimer: you may come across a few articles about Chicago in the next month or so. I recently found out that I was going to relocate to the East Coast at the end of July.

This means that I will be leaving the city that has been my home for the past six and a half years. Looking back, I realize that it’s been a long time! While I am happy to move on to new adventures, there are definitely many things I will miss about this amazing city.

So this first article will  mention some of the things that make Chicago my home.

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  • Walking/jogging by the lake

In my time here, I have moved a few times within the city, but I always made sure to stay within walking distance to Lake Michigan. It is one of the Great Lakes, so it resembles a sea because you cannot see the other side.  Though it does not have a salty breeze. I love being near the water; it is one of the few things that relax me. I don’t really care for lake beaches, but it is in Chicago that I really started jogging on a regular basis.  While I am no marathon runner, I go at least once a week on the lake path and it has become essential to my well-being. I should also add that the view of the skyline from the lakefront is pretty amazing.

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  • The yearly traditions

I love that Chicago has all four seasons, although the Spring often blends into the others. Each one of them brings yearly events that I love to attend. Two in particular are my favorites:

– The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House, which happens every year in October. For a weekend, many public and private buildings are made available to the public. Chicago’s architecture is amazing and I love exploring places that are closed to the public most of the time. It is like a weekend adventure into the unknown without leaving your own city and the list of participating locations change every year.

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– The ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago has a free zoo in the heart of the city and every Christmas, in collaboration with ComEd, they deck out the entire space with colorful light displays. It is like walking into a magical wonderland and I have not missed it since December 2012!

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  • The food scene

Chicago has an amazing restaurant scene. For a place famous for its hot dogs, pizza and Italian beef, the food scene is actually very diverse! There are a lot of up and coming restaurants with a wide variety of cuisines, and my boyfriend and I love exploring new hot spots, whether they are gastronomic institutions, or neighborhood gems. As a tribute to our neighborhood, and because I intend to make a more expansive article on restaurants later, I will only mention the unassuming places we typically walk to and leave out the acclaimed culinary temples you will find on a guide. Our favorite for Thai is Andy’s Thai Kitchen. For a local burger we got to DryHop or Kuma’s too.  For sushi – and the competition is fierce around here – we love Sushi Mon, and my favorite, everyday/healthy option is Vegetarian Express. This place is literally a hole in the wall; as a matter of fact I don’t think I ever ate inside it, but their food makes for awesome take out!

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  • The neighborhoods

Chicago has a multitude of neighborhoods. When I first arrived, I was surprised of how serious people are about the neighborhood they are from. They all have a different vibe and different trends. The funny part is as I spent time in the city, I too became attached to my neighborhood! Chicago is so spread out that people end up spending a lot of time in their respective neighborhoods because it helps make living here more personal.

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Here are some of my favorites: Lakeview (you should hit up Boystown at least once!) for the bar life and fun times. Lincoln Park and Old Town are a bit more yuppy, but they are my favorite areas to live. I love the old brownstones! Wicker Park, aka hipster central, is super popular for vintage shops, bars and entertainment. River North is the hip, urban neighborhood with a booming night life and the West Loop developed a top notch foodie scene. Make sure to spend some quality time with its Randolph street restaurants. Because I am lazy, I do not often venture there, but these neighborhoods are also worth exploring: Pilsen, with its vibrant murals and rich Mexican influence is a good one. Hyde Park, home of the renowned University of Chicago and Barack Obama, is also definitely worth the trip! Just a tip though, rely on a car or take the Metra (the commuter rail system) as they can be hard to reach with the CTA.

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After writing this, I realize I have so much more to write about Chicago, so bear with me through the summer!

 

My sunny life in Aix-en-Provence

I’ve lived in Aix-en-Provence for the past two years and each day I love this little city more and more. Aix is a charming little town in Provence, in the South of France near Marseille. It is famous for its rich cultural heritage, as it has been renowned for its thermal baths since the Roman Empire. Aix is called the city with a hundred fountains. It is a touristic place and also an important center of teaching and research in Law, Literature and Humanities. The University of Aix was founded in 1409.

As a resident, there are many things I like here; places and activities that pace my everyday life. So here is my personal list of all the stuff I love doing in Aix-en-Provence:

  • Taking a walk in the Mazarin neighborhood

The Mazarin neighborhood is filled with mansions, beautiful old buildings and fountains. What I particularly like is taking an evening walk there in summer. I am the kind of girl who drags her boyfriend from the couch to go for a walk at 11 pm and this neighborhood is great for a romantic walk.

This part of the city is also absolutely lovely during the day. If you are looking for a place to stay in Aix, I would recommend this neighborhood. It’s in the city center, but it’s a calm, peaceful and beautiful place.

 

It was the first restaurant in Aix that I went to with my boyfriend. I remember the evening perfectly. We spent it enjoying the twilight, talking about our day and discussing our dreams and projects.

It’s probably at that moment that this restaurant turned into one of my favorite places. Since this day, we celebrate all the important events of our life there.

The place is very festive, the food is good and their sangria is outstanding. You can share your plates. It makes the experience friendlier and more fun. On Sunday, they serve a great brunch.

 

  • Enjoying the patio on the Cours Mirabeau

The Cours Mirabeau is the main avenue in Aix, where the famous “La Rotonde” fountain is located.

The street is full of restaurants, hotels and shops. We love having breakfast with croissants and “pains au chocolats” at the Bastide du Cours patio.  There’s no better way for me to start my day than by having my morning coffee under the sun here.

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In the afternoon we love having  ice-cream on the same avenue. I can definitely recommend Giovanni Gelateria. They have a large selection of ice cream flavors and there is a terrace (which is quite rare for an ice cream parlor here) where you can take a break while enjoying your delicious snack. They also offer refreshing smoothies.

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  • The happy hour at the Cardeur square

Having a drink with my colleagues after work is a more common occurrence than we would like to admit. Most of the time, we have a drink on the Cours Mirabeau because it’s closer to our work, but I far prefer enjoying a glass of wine on the Cardeur square. The square is packed with restaurants and bars where you can enjoy this very important moment of the day called “apéro.” I particularly like being there on late afternoons because it stays sunny until late.

We often go to the Cutback bar, the happy hour is great and they also serve charcuterie and cheese platters.

 

What I like about the therms is that I get that vacation feel ten minutes away from home.

The best time to go is on Sunday during the summer. This is because they serve an amazing brunch with a large selection of fresh food, from croissants to meat, from fruits to fish. During the summer, you can enjoy the brunch outside by the pool.

You can still visit the Spa in the wintertime. There is a Jacuzzi, a Hammam, a sauna and sensory showers. Try the tropical one: when you close your eyes, you will feel as if you are in the middle of the jungle.

It’s a perfect place for a girls’ night out or a romantic day with your significant other.

 

  • Spending time at the Apple Store

The Apple Store is a great place to catch up with the latest technology while taking a break.  I love everything there:  the design, the location and of course the store itself. As a huge Apple fan, I love having a store in my city.

I love admiring the sunset from the inside. You can see the vermilion colored light all over the store with a perfect view on La Rotonde.

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Spending time in the store, enjoying the atmosphere, connecting with other people or apple fans is always a great experience. Now it will be even better with Today at apple.

  • Having a picnic at La Torse park

I enjoy jogging in this park with my boyfriend late afternoons. Sometimes, after our run, we stay for a dinner picnic. The park is quiet at this hour, which gives us a chance to enjoy the beautiful sunset.

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From time to time, we also go there for lunch.  The mood is much more lively, but it’s still very nice. Many people play, run, do yoga, or just lay on their towels to get a tan during these hours.

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Most of all, I love this place because this park combines different landscapes: there are two large grassy areas; a cute river; a little lake with some ducks and carp; a path lined with bamboo trees that resembles a Japanese garden; and even a sports field. The park is near the city center, only ten minutes away from the famous cours Mirabeau.

  • Having a Starbucks drink in the modern neighborhood

If something is missing in this city, it’s definitely a Starbucks coffee shop. Hotel Renaissance does have a Starbucks corner, which helps.

The great thing is that the hotel is in the modern part of the city. This gives me an opportunity to enjoy modern architecture and sculptures while enjoying a beverage. I find this place beautiful and inspiring, but you can judge for yourself:

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Going to Cannes is a great idea!

I wanted to congratulate my boyfriend for his promotion and celebrate his birthday, so I surprised him with a two-day stay in Cannes including spa, mojitos, beach time… all the things he and I love.

There are many incredible places in the world and Cannes is one of them. Here are some reasons why I enjoyed it so much, and why it’s a perfect destination for a weekend with your significant other.

  • The incredible views

In Cannes you’ve got many rooftops and terraces overlooking the sea. Most of the time they are hotel bars or restaurants. We were staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel, and it offers two great view points: the first one was a bar restaurant with a panoramic view on the beaches and the port.

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The second one was the rooftop pool and Jacuzzi that we enjoyed a lot in the afternoon. It was not as high up as the bar/restaurant but it was my favorite part of this hotel.

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  • The window shopping

We took a walk on La Croisette, the famous promenade overlooking the beach, and gazed at the luxury shops windows. I loved the atmosphere of this place, with the sunshine, the palm trees and the palaces surrounding this beautiful avenue. I also enjoyed looking at the Chanel’s, Dior’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s new collections with dreamy eyes. I fell in love again with the Michael Kors shop, which is a bit more affordable, and I am now coveting this pair of sunglasses.

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  • The private beaches

While on vacation, I particularly appreciate having lunch or dinner at the beach. Cannes is full of really nice private beaches that make you feel like you are on a paradise island.

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We went to a few beaches, my favorite was the Cristal Beach on the West side of the port. I loved the menu and the decor with the banana trees. We rented lounging chairs for the afternoon. It is so enjoyable to take a nap lulled by the sound of the sea.

  • No need for a car

When we arrived, we parked the car and did not move it until we left. It’s a real pleasure not being stuck in traffic or having to look for a parking spot for 20 minutes while on vacation. Cannes is a small city where you can get to almost everything by foot.

  • Being there in the low season

Going to the French Riviera in May has its advantages. We were there at the perfect time, ten days before the Cannes film festival. In May, the weather is great most of the time.  The temperature allows you to enjoy the pool or lie on your towel and get a tan. Because the tourists have not yet arrived, there is always an available lounging chair on the first row at the beach, or available tables at restaurants, and the sidewalks are not yet crowded. We are used to planning and booking everything in advance, so it was quite relaxing to choose our activities at the last minute without having to worry that it may be overbooked.
To end this article, here is a little Vlog.

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My Spring Cleanse

Growing up in France in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I felt a lot of pressure to conform to this ideal of skinny, petite look, which is often the French cliché. As a teen, I was into fad diets and new tips in order to stay in shape. The truth is, I was not a very athletic teenager and I only started exercising regularly well into college. When I moved to Chicago, I was worried about gaining weight because I would regularly gain weight when visiting the US and then lose it after going home. With this permanent move, I needed to find a better balance.

At first, it was difficult. Then, about four years ago, I decided to do a one month of cleanse in the spring. That meant not drinking alcohol for a month and eating “clean” ( meaning no processed foods and no white carbs), and vegetarian. I wasn’t sure about not eating meat for a month, as I was a self-professed carnivore, but I stuck with it. I also started working out regularly between two and four times per week. The results really blew me away. Not only did I lose a significant amount of weight, but I also felt better. To top it off, there were no crazy cravings after the first week. After that, I kept eating better and working out regularly. I also really cut down my meat intake, even though I am not fully vegetarian.

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An example of a clean Brunch: Poached eggs with salmon, avocado and Feta; sautéed mushrooms, spinach with coconut oil and fruit.

 

I am proud to say that I have consistently remained thinner and more toned than at any time in my life. Still, in the summer and during the holidays, I sometimes fall off the health wagon and splurge. For this reason, I have maintained the habit of a clean month in the spring and fall.  They help serve as a reset button to tune me back into good habits rather than a strict weight loss program. These past two years, I tweaked my cleanse a bit to reflect its new purpose.

For example, I do not watch calories as closely anymore and I am more concerned about making sure that I get enough energy, and feel good. This means that I eat more healthy fats (avocado, olive and coconut oil, nuts and nut butters). I also eat more high protein carbs like quinoa and soba noodles. It does not impact how much weight I lose during that time, but I feel more energized and healthier.

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I also focus more on other factors such as sleep. Going to bed early is sometimes a challenge, but I found that trying to stick to a schedule improves my ability to get more out of my sleeping hours. Additionally, I tried to switch up and develop my workout routine to help me fall asleep easier.

 

While I learned to enjoy my cleanse months, occasionally I feel that my social life takes a bit of a toll because I tend to be more selective in the social events I attend. Being the only non drinker at a party is not always fun. Yet it also frees my time to try new things, such as classes at the gym – I had been too shy to try until  now – or more involvement in this blog! I also make sure to include some activities I enjoy that do not involve eating or drinking, for example a visit to the museum or a movie, or going on long walks with my boyfriend.

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Diversey Harbor and the Chicago Skyline, on one of my favorite walks by Lake Michigan

I like to live a fast-paced life.  I also realize that taking care of myself and having a healthy lifestyle is a daily, and yearlong endeavor. I sincerely believe that these two months a year help set a good pace by helping me regain mindfulness and balance.

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How technology can help stay in shape

As far as I remember, food was always a big deal for me. I really love eating and I used to be a bit of an emotional eater. When I had a bad day, I would find comfort in eating. As a result, I struggled to keep a balanced weight and this is where technology actually helped me a lot.

First of all, thanks to YouTube, my booty is now firm. I practice different activities. I go running and I have a gym membership, but what I love about using YouTube to exercise is that you don’t need to get ready, get into your car or walk to the gym. Whether it is in the morning after I wake up, or after a day at work, I just need to turn on my phone, take my gym mat and here we go. I love working out outdoors, but  I deeply believe that I wouldn’t have obtained the same results without YouTube. It helps me stay active even when it’s raining or I’m feeling lazy. No more excuses.

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There are a billion You-tubers that will  make your muscles sore and bring your heart out of your chest. My big favorite is  Cassey Ho from Blogilates. She knows how to motivate me and is more like a friend than a coach. She definitely knows how to make it burn. I also like Chloe Ting, because her videos challenge me every time.

YouTube is not the only way I use technology to get fit.  Thanks to our smartphones,  it is now possible to know how many steps we took all day, how many stories we climbed up, how many kilometers or miles we walked and even how many calories we burned. Being able to know this type of information motivates me to be more active. Until I got the Apple Watch, I was using the podometre++  app on my iPhone. There are similar apps on Android devices. With the Apple Watch, I have a lot more details about my activities and I can set my daily goals. For example, my watch reminds me to stand up if it finds me too lazy. Above all, I love that we can share our activities with our friends, support one another and sometimes even tease each other. As a huge Apple fan, I could talk about the Apple Watch for days, but I’ll start to annoy you guys so if you want more information, you can find it here.

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Looks that my girls are working hard today

On top of helping me move my butt, technology also helps me manage what I eat. I use the Yazio app, also available on Android. With this app you can calculate the calories you eat everyday. I have to admit that counting calories can be a bit constrictive, so I use the app to make sure that my meals are balanced. When I see that I have crossed the line and ate too much, I use the app to set me back on track. It helps me maintain a balance without feeling the frustration of a diet. I don’t believe in dieting anyway. I believe we have to find balance between what we eat and what we burn.

There are lots of similar apps to Yazio. For example, I find Lifesum to be a very complete fitness app, although I still use Yazio because I am accustomed to it.

Last, but not the least, is Instagram. You can find many accounts for a healthy life and food ideas or Fitspo. I think it has a great impact on our lives by encouraging the exchange of this kind of content.

Here are some accounts I like:

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@fashionablefit
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@amandabisk
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@healthier_world
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@mimmidousis
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@sjanaelise
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@yourhealthyworld

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