Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! It may be rainy and chilly in Chicagoland, but we are bringing out the cheeriness and beachy-ness vibes as we channel our inner Katy Perry and Left Shark.

Shoes: Toms see this post!
Red lips: Stila found in this post!

Mike's left shark costume: Target (old) similar here.

What are you going as tonight? HAPPY HALLOWEEN! #leftshark


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pure Barre: Post 2 of 2-- The Clothes Behind the Class

There is no way I could talk about how much I adore Pure Barre without talking about the fashion behind it. I would first like to thank Pure Barre Geneva, and in particular the amazing owner, Brynn Hanson, for sponsoring this post!

I have five phenomenal pieces from our studio to discuss. I will show you how fabulous they look for class, and then I'll give you a few ways to carry them into errands, coffee and maybe even the real bar, post Pure Barre class ;-)

The first item is without a doubt the comfiest shirt I have ever worn-- hands down. Even my husband felt it, and he was shocked! I believe his words were, "that is a REALLY SOFT shirt!" (A special thanks to my neighbor, Kelly, for shooting these pictures before sundown! Thanks, Kel!)
The Midnight Hour Poncho by Beyond Yoga felt like I was wearing a little slice of Heaven. To say it is luxurious would be an understatement. For reference, I was wearing the light heather gray in a size small. The coziness factor is incredible. Pure Barre Geneva is selling this piece for $98. It is worth every penny! I plan to wear this to PB class, to coach, to travel in next weekend, and for the rest of fall. 
I just threw on a Lululemon sports bra underneath for class. The poncho is roomy and delicate. It has quickly become my favorite top! 

Above: shoes are Nike, similar, here.

I paired the poncho with these fabulous Beyond Yoga leggings. I have to be honest and say I have only ever worn Lululemon leggings in the past. Oh. My. GOSH. have I been missing out! Beyond Yoga is sold at the Pure Barre Geneva location, and this brand knows its stuff. The shadow leggings are lightweight and extremely flattering-- much more so than any Lululemon pants I own. Mike asked if I was cheating on Lululemon, and to that I say, "bring on the affair!" Beyond Yoga is an excellent brand. 

The best part of this super-fabulous-cozy-poncho is that it's not just for sweaty barre time. It's for drinks and dinner with my gals or date night with my hubs. 
Black skinny jeans: similar, here.
BCBGeneration pumps-- to die for. They come in several colors, all of which are beautiful! My fashionable friend, Jackie, inspired my purchase of these BCBGeneration pumps. I thought they were Valentino! They're stunning!

These ALO Yoga Goddess leggings are completely on trend! I love how the two-tone pants look like you're wearing long spandex shorts and high leg warmers (which elongates your legs)! The fit of these Goddess Leggings is better than any spandex pant I have ever owned. You will notice a serious lift in your booty! (And who doesn't love that?)

You can find these leggings at our Geneva Pure Barre location in different color combinations for $90. For reference, I am wearing a size M.

For Pure Barre class, I paired these leggings with the Beyond Yoga skinny racer tank. I have always been a loyal Lululemon customer, but I am not exaggerating when I say this tank top is pure luxe. It's soft and lightweight-- it fits perfectly.  (For reference, I have on a size medium). This tank top is available for $60 at the studio. BONUS: at class Tuesday night I noticed that this tank top has shimmer in it! I was SPARKLING under the lights! Love!

After Pure Barre class, throw on a fun cardigan with this sumptuous tank top and a pair of rolled boyfriend fit jeans. Add booties, and you are ready for a fall afternoon of errands, coffee and meeting up with pals. Or, get cozy and work on your blog ;-) Striped cardigan is Express (old), similar Gap one here.

The best part of the tank top is how easy it is to layer with. You can add a long-sleeved tee over it during the winter for chillier days to keep your body nice and warm on your journey to class.

My last piece is the super-unique Pure Barre Nori pullover.  Our studio is selling these stylish tops for $85. There are a multitude of options for this shirt, which is why I love it so much. The mesh on top adds character to a (seemingly simple) soft, gray long-sleeved shirt. But then you turn around, and....

BAM!  The open back is perfect for ventilation. Change the bra underneath for endless new looks!

There are a myriad of options with this piece.  You can wear a sports bra (I love Target's Champion brand sports bras) under it, or you can pair it with a tank top (try the built-in-bra Power Y from Lululemon) for full coverage. This is a similar option for the Nori with a focus on the open back.  Now you can show off how toned your back is from all your Pure Barre classes!
Another sports bra option: Rue Boheme Bra from Lululemon.

A quick recap: 5 awesome pieces worn several different ways. Stop by Pure Barre Geneva today to stock up! (Or send your sweetie this blog post for Christmas gift ideas!)

Barre at our Crate and Barrel Bar ;-)

Mesh paneling on the Nori Pullover

The best part of the Pure Barre Nori Pullover

Cozy or sweaty, the Beyond Yoga skinny racer tank is a vital item for your wardrobe!

Many thanks again to the wonderful Brynn Hanson, owner of Pure Barre Geneva. Sign up for Pure Barre classes today! #lifttoneburn to your BEST body! 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Pure Barre: Post 1 of 2-- The Class!

I wanted to give you all a little background into my workout of choice. I am a Pure Barre enthusiast! This post will be dedicated to the class itself and what to expect. In post 2 of 2 (coming soon!), I will delve into some of the fabulous clothes sold at our PB location!

I am beyond excited and honored to write about Pure Barre (and my specific location, Geneva, Illinois). The atmosphere of the studio, the women who work there, and the class itself are all such highlights of my days. I feel exponentially stronger and leaner since I've taken Pure Barre. Let me enlighten you as to why I am a "Barre Addict".

Above: 4 of my beautiful bridesmaids sweating at the barre with me before my bachelorette party!
Jamie, Mandy, me, Megan and Caitlin!

To begin, you do not have to be a former dancer to take Pure Barre classes! Yes, a ballet barre is involved, but the language used is common. You absolutely will love the class, former dancer or not, and the terminology is simple and straightforward. Yes, you will be pliéing and relevéing during class, but instead of the French terms, you'll hear, "rise up to your highest tip-toes!" or "sink down to knee level!" for a nice grande plié.

Pure Barre Geneva is a few blocks from where we live downtown, and when I found out about this location, I couldn't resist signing up for the trial package. There are always new customer specials: typically there is a $99 unlimited month option for new members. When I hopped on board last year, it was teacher appreciation week, and teachers could take classes for free for a week! What a deal! Side note: there are classes offered 7 days a week! Mornings and evenings, to accommodate every kind of schedule.

I wanted to be in the best shape of my life for our wedding on July 11, 2015. I decided that the best way to do this was by a commitment to Pure Barre classes.  Honestly, the Bridal Bootcamp package transformed my body (3 months unlimited for $375, a class for your bridesmaids, and Bride to Be sticky socks!).  I have always been a dancer and a runner, but this workout was so much less mundane and more exciting than my long runs on treadmills during the winter months. 

The atmosphere: 

I can speak on behalf of my Geneva location (and I am sure the Youngstown, Ohio location and Wicker Park, Chicago locations, as I know some wonderful ladies who work for both of those Pure Barre studios-- heck, I would venture to guess it's this way at every PB studio!) when I say the teachers and employees of PB Geneva are some of the kindest, friendliest, most uplifting and motivating women I have met in my years of living in the Chicago suburbs. 

You'll walk in to your Pure Barre location, and you'll be greeted with warmth from the minute you step in.  Everyone is down to earth and kind; the genuine personalities of the ladies at my location is what has kept me coming back consistently for over a year.  They are truly happy to see you, which makes working out so much more enjoyable. Their enthusiasm is present at 6 am (I have once made it to class at that time! Paige greeted me with a cheer!) all the way to the 7:10 pm class! Paige, Lauren, Amy, Kat, Loren, Caroline, Hilary, Mara and Brynn (the amazing owner) at Pure Barre Geneva are so welcoming to all their customers! They make you feel so glad you came. Besides: "I am so mad I worked out," said no one ever. 

What to expect:

For your first class, you'll be shown exactly what equipment you need to get started. You'll need a red ball:

Small weights (2 or 3 lbs.-- I primarily use 2 lbs-- and it is ALWAYS a challenge!)

...and a rubber tube, either double or regular:

I would definitely recommend your own water bottle (though our studio has some to purchase for $1) and even a hand towel or washcloth because you WILL sweat! Your instructor will get you situated with the appropriate waivers to sign (plan on arriving about 15 minutes early to your first class). You will also want to wear socks-- you can purchase sticky socks at the studio, too! (They are $12 a pair, and they have grips on the bottom for maximum stability on the carpet).

Oh! And do wear workout capris or pants-- shorts won't keep your legs warm enough, and with all the moves you do, you'll feel much more comfortable in capri length or longer bottoms.

The music is always fun and new-- top 40 pop music to get you pumped up!  I am not exaggerating when I tell you this is the best 55 minute workout I have ever done. I have run the Chicago marathon, danced for 25 years, sweat through Bikram yoga classes, and still, Pure Barre is my all-time favorite workout. It is HARD. I can't sugarcoat that. However, you WILL see results in your body.  My arms are stronger than they have ever been. I am hyper aware of my "underarm jiggle" as I write on the board during school, but, it has diminished significantly since I've gotten into Pure Barre! Classroom teachers, rejoice! By taking Pure Barre classes, your posture will improve, your legs with look leaner, your seat will be lifted, your arms will be defined and your stomach will become toned.

Mandy, me and my sister, Anna, the day before our wedding!
Mandy in a Lululemon tank top, similar here. I am also in a Lululemon tank top, similar found here. Anna is wearing the Free to Be tank from Lululemon. 

Class begins on your feet with leg and arm lifts to get your heart rate elevated. You transition into abdominal work on the ground, coupled with a 90-second plank. Do not fret! I could not hold all 90 seconds in the plank to begin; I typically dropped to my knees about halfway through. But now, I can persevere through the 90 seconds! It is not a stoic hold; you are guided to push back through your heels, cross ankles over one another, etc. That's the beauty of Pure Barre: you really are constantly moving and not holding isometric holds for more than 10 seconds at a time. 

One of the most appealing parts of the Pure Barre philosophy is the idea of doing many repetitions of arm exercises with light weights. This slims you down, rather than bulking you up. The movements are all to be within an inch of movement-- the instructors are constantly reminding you to move "just the length of a paperclip" or circle your leg like you're "tracing a dime". Everything is measured in inch movements. Every movement is tiny yet so purposeful.

The instructors are phenomenal. Their energy carries you through every section of class. They learn your name right away when you take your first class in order to encourage and fix you along the way. The personal attention makes you perform each move with precision and accuracy. My class size is typically around 10-13 students, but I have had as many as 20 women! Once, I was in a class with 6 gals, and I don't think I've ever worked harder. The individualized attention was amazing! 

You then move to the ballet barre for thigh work. This is by far the hardest, but most rewarding, portion of the 55 minutes. You'll shake-- and that is good! When I began taking classes, my legs shook so much, I was mortified! But I came to find out that the shaking is where you're making the most changes in your body. Shake=AWESOME! You then stretch out your thighs after the intense exercises at the barre.  You'll work on your flexibility with your thigh stretches; I have even regained my left split (still working on my right!). 

Next is seat work! Time to get that lifted, Pure Barre ledge (AKA, your booty is perky and firm). Seat work often utilizes the barre, your red ball, and the tube.  

After the seat work is complete, you'll move to a slower section of class underneath the barre.  Here you'll warm up your abs (who are we kidding-- your whole body is piping hot at this point!).  You will additionally work on flexibility and strength beneath the ballet barre. 

Finally, you work through about 9 more minutes (but who is counting?) of abdominal work in the center of the room. 

You stretch to slower music, and you clap at the end, for yourself and your incredible effort! What could be better? It is extremely inspirational to see women of all ages and sizes taking (and kicking butt) at class! I have even seen brave men in class! The movements are manageable for men and women, of all ages and backgrounds. What is tantamount to your success in Pure Barre is understanding the idea of tucking your hips under. You want to always think of your belly button being pulled back to your spine and your hips and booty being tucked under (think of rotating your hip flexors forward-- I had to describe it as mini hip-thrusts to help my husband figure it out- haha!). If you arch your back and stick your butt out (like I typically stand, just by bad habit), you will find yourself becoming increasingly sore (ask my husband: he ran into this at the "Bring on the Men" night! Poor guy!).

So, let's recap. You get to hang out with your friends, listen to awesome music, burn about 400 calories in 55 minutes (based on a 140 lb person), gain flexibility and just generally thin out. What is there NOT to adore about Pure Barre? The staff at Pure Barre Geneva is phenomenal. I would highly recommend signing up for your first class today! (Bonus! If you sign up today, there is a $99 unlimited month that adds on the remainder of October! So, basically you'll get 5 weeks for $99!)   I am currently enrolled in the autopay, 9-month, Back to the Barre package. It is an investment I am making in my health and happiness. The nights I can make it to Pure Barre, I feel so great.

Where have you taken Pure Barre? Let me know if you have any questions or hesitations-- I am extremely confident that you will fall in love with Pure Barre.

So what do you say-- meet me at the barre?


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pattern Play: Dare to be BOLD!

Polka dots and stripes in the same outfit?

Plaids of different colors, worn together?

For shame? Or... for sure!

Pattern play is a newer concept for me. I started embracing it purely out of practicality: northern Illinois gets COLD from November to March. A sweater alone was simply not enough. I always need a sweater and a collared shirt underneath for work.  Thus, my own "uniform" was created.

Last fall, I saw this amazing, shiny, polka dot jumper dress from J. Crew Factory modeled with a different polka dot patterned collared shirt underneath. I was sold on pattern mixing at that very moment. (Also, I knew I needed to purchase that dress. At that moment. haha!)

                                              With the 2/3 of the Turk sissies, Megan and Kimmy 

At first, I played it safe. A green and navy sweater? Ok, I will pair it with a plain chambre shirt underneath the sweater. Safe, yes. Fashion forward? Not nearly enough.  (Below, playing it safe in polka dots and chambre and bows and chambre). The bow sweater is old, but here is something similar: from Saks off 5th. The necklace in both pictures is from Charming Charlie's. Here is an even better one from Bauble Bar.  My earmuffs are Kate Spade, compliments of my darling hubs. Here is a pair with a fabulous bow! That's my sweet Goddaughter with me below.

Above, I added a different patterned shirt, similar: here.
And a striped infinity scarf: this is a fun alternative, though not infinity.

I began with this navy gingham shirt from the J.Crew outlet.   I decided that adding polka dots on top would spruce it up a bit for the foreboding winter months. I liked what I saw! This was the original sweater. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. But here's a nice alternative: from J. Crew factory. Also, here's a black and white version from Mindy Mae's Market (the cutest website!) that you could pop a color (or collar!) under!

Additionally, I discovered plaids and jewels, thanks to an amazing fashionista, Sarah Vickers. Check out her fashion blog!
Gap collared shirt, old, but a similar one found here is 40% off!
Necklace, old, J. Crew Factory. Check out this one, instead. 

Have I seen pattern play over done? Absolutely. But, I can give you some tips and tricks on keeping it manageable.

1. Stay within the same color scheme.  It might be too much to pair green with red (unless it's Christmas), but if there is a pop of red in your navy sweater, feel free to compliment it with a blue gingham. Further, look at the colors intertwined in your plaid shirts-- perhaps choose to pick up the fainter pinks or yellows in your "base" layer.
Same blue gingham as above. 
My sister got me that awesome J. Crew apple sweater (which has since sold out), but here is a super cute alternative (25% off!). 

2. Add your statement jewelry into the mix. Pick up the tones of either layer to highlight your jewelry.

3. Usually 2 different patterns are going to be the best bet for pattern play. Anything more gets a little chaotic. If you are rocking stripes and polka dots on top, opt for a solid pant on the bottom. (Try these Winnie Pants in any solid color. They're so flattering and tailored for work! My girl Court and I love them!). Also, patterned tights rock! But not if you are already mixing two patterns on top.

4. Collared shirts under sweaters aren't the only way to mix patterns. Try adding a different pattern under a jumper to take your sheath dresses through the colder months. Also, throw a striped blazer on top of a dress to work the pattern play with a dress.

Above: I have this jumper in three colors. I get so much wear out of it! The yellow is no longer available, but the gray and red are fabulous colors. You can wear any patterned shirt underneath in the winter, or you can wear it sans plaid in the warmer months! 
This the the yellow jumper in teal. I LOVE the fit, too! Very flattering, fit and flare type style. 

Above: Ann Taylor blazer and dress. Got this idea from A Lacey Perspective. Check out her blog, too!
Both the blazer and dress are old, but here are some great alternatives: a great price, from Nordstrom. Blazer, L.L. Bean. (I'd suggest the black version of the dress and the black and tan blazer!)
Above blazer, Gap-- uber clearance last summer. Here's a nice alternative: from Nordy's.
The dress is Lilly Pulitzer. I would replace it with this stunner, and choose the white and gray striped blazer. 

5. Critter shirts work great with tailored, colored skirts. Critter shirts can also work so well with a pop of color short, as pictured below.  In other words, if you have a navy critter (anchors, etc.) on your top, opt for a complimentary color bottom, instead of a safe navy bottom. (And if you want to rock critter shorts or pants as a man, please contact Jeremy Pittenger because he knows how to wear a critter!).

Me, Mandy, Megan and Cheng, back home in Ohio
My shorts were old J. Crew factory, but here are some from Target for under $20! 
My tee shirt was also an old J. Crew Factory purchase, but I love this striped J. Crew tee that is currently 40% off! And this Gap Oxford, too! The red polka dots are adorable!
My monogram necklace is from Moon and Lola

6. Outerwear like vests or scarves can enhance your pattern mixing. I layered a chambre, polka dot dress with a buffalo plaid vest. That day, I remember specifically, was a high of 16 degrees. I added a gray sweater to pick up the gray of the vest. I wore navy tights and my brown Frye boots.

My Goddaughter and me :-)
My cousins at Bryn and Jack's birthday party!

The polka dot dress from Loft was an old purchase, but here is an alternative polka dot shirt dress from Ann Taylor! Currently 50% off.

Under my vest this time I wore a black and white polka dot sleeveless shirt (below, old. But, even better here from Brooks Brothers) and a yellow Banana Republic sweater (similar here, and it is 25% off!)
 I topped it off with the multistrand pearl necklace from J. Crew Factory. You cannot go wrong with that statement pearl necklace. I wear it SO much. Currently a steal at $31.50!

Have fun with your pattern play!  Embrace the PLAY of it!