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what i'm reading


What I’m Reading | May 2016

May 11, 2016

MustRead | May 2016If you haven’t gotten the drift, I haven’t had a lot of time/energy/focus to get a lot of reading done. And honestly, I hate myself for that. I love reading, but I always go through bouts where I won’t read for a month or so, and right now…I’m going through one of those periods. So bear with me, because many of these books are ones I’ve already mentioned, but I’m still reading them…

  1. Gang Leader for a Day: I’m obsessed with this book. In case you missed my last few book thoughts (where I’m basically still reading the books I’m currently mentioning), it’s about how a sociology student embeds himself into the Black Kings. I could never be a sociologist or psychologist, but why or how people do what they do is so fascinating to me. And how environment plays into that? Oh, the trifecta. Did I mention this nonfiction piece takes place in Chicago? Um, it does.
  2. Come As You Are: Love reading a variety of books and this definitely is a random one about…wait for it…the female orgasm. Ah, now you get the title right? Haven’t read too much yet, but I’m excited to learn more. Science can be fun when it’s, fun.
  3. The Goldfinch: Naming this one PURELY so I will annoy myself enough to finish it. Pretty sure I’m going on year two of trying to read and complete this book. Any recos out there? Anyone? Bueller?
  4. Rising Strong: I’m a new Brene Brown convert, so I was super excited to get this book. I’m a few chapters in and liking it so far but…we’ll see what I get out of it.

In case you were wondering, yes I read all these books at the same time. It kind of goes along with my personality of trying to fit way too much into a small amount of time. Plus, I get distracted or want to read a non-fiction book when I’m reading a fiction one (or visa versa), so it’s an easy way to cover all my bases at one time.

I’ll update you if I *ever* pause an episode of Shahs of Sunset and do my mind some good by finishing one of these books. Jury’s still out right now…


weekend reading

September 14, 2015


If you follow me on Instagram, you already know this, but I adopted a puppy (formal post to come!). And while I’m happy I FINALLY made the jump to adopting, it has made my life pretty darn hectic, to say the least. So, while today’s been super productive in other areas of my life (meal planning, blog photoshoot, long walks in the park…with the pup) it’s also hard to squeeze everything I need to get done into one day. That said, this post is coming a bit late. But better late than never, right?

Okay, okay. Enough of the excuses. Let’s post this, er, post:

  • Loving this breakdown of organic vs. natural vs. chemical-free beauty products.
  • Also, appreciating these Etsy beauty finds.
  • This post is perfection, as I continue to update my apartment with furniture pieces.
  • Need to download all these apps ASAP.
  • Still not sure how I feel about horoscopes, but I love the ritual of reading them every Sunday. Sometimes they bum me out, but other times they give me a boost of confidence for the week. Does anyone else read horoscopes? What sites do you use? I only ever look at Free People or Refinery29.
  • It’s funny because I never do much on Halloween night, but I love the idea of it + decorating for it. Also, why this idea gives me little excited butterflies.
  • SO excited Like Knows Like is back with this new mini documentary.
  • If you haven’t heard of Man Repeller or her new podcast “Oh Boy,” I suggest you go download it ASAP. New episodes are available every Tueday, and tomorrow will only be episode#4. Gah! I’m TOTALLY obsessed.
  • I think these are Whole30 approved…which makes me want to eat them, like, now. Ohmygosh, so good.
  • Career / office goals.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!


weekend reading (and some news)

September 6, 2015

weekend reading - sept 6

I am so excited to be blogging again. I wish I had an entire month to devote to this little baby of mine.

Anyway, I hope you’re all enjoying this wonderfully long weekend. I’ve been a bit busy, but hoping today will be filled with reading, sleeping and…more reading.

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, so if you’re new here, these posts are meant to share creative, interesting or delicious links I find around the interwebs over the past week. Of course, I try to share a decent amount via Twitter or Pinterest, but sometimes it just works out better to serve you all the goodness in one place, at one time. So here it is:

P.S. Some exciting news: I’m starting the Whole30 again with some friends. Obviously the last Whole30 didn’t turn out so well for me, so I’m excited to give it another shot, starting this Tuesday. If you want to join in, comment below or email me and I’ll invite you to the Facebook group!


ladies and gentleman, I’m back!

September 1, 2015

IMG_0012Hello there my lovely friends. Gosh, it’s good to be back here. I’ve missed it a lot.

So, funny thing how my last post promised I would be consistent again visa vi this blog. It’s almost like I put that out into the Universe and then the Universe decided to remind me who’s really boss (no one). Needless to say, nitty gritty details aside (for now, at least), I took a bit of a siesta from blogging, but now I’m back!

Do you love my new logo? Depending on how long you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve changed my logo, um, quite a few times to say the least.

I’m not going to BS you–I love design, art and being creative. I change my logo frequently because I have some sort of weird design perfectionism and I’m always trying to get it just right. For now, I’m super happy with it, but only time will tell.

So what have I been up to? Well aside from the day to day, a lot! But that’s why I’m back here. I feel like I have tons to share and am so super excited to try and take this blog to the next level. I even attended the Create + Cultivate Conference about a month ago to get more inspired and get back in gear.

So what are you all up to this week? I know Labor Day is coming up and I am SO insanely excited to go home to my family for a relaxing, extended weekend. What are you all up to? If you’re new to my site, please drop a comment or send me an email by the way, especially if you’re living in Chicago. I want to hear what you’re all doing!

Also, if you didn’t already know, feel free to check me out on most all of the social media things: instagram x facebook x pinterest x twitter x snapchat.

Talk soon!

Life Relax

reading & read // watching & watched (04)

March 20, 2015


You know how Spring welcomed me? With a bug. Yep, I woke up with a terrible stomachache, head and throat feeling gross and now I have the chills. I’ve been wondering all week why I’ve had no appetite and now I’m thinking I found the culprit.

I was planning on doing a juice cleanse this weekend, but I guess that will have to wait for … next weekend maybe? Blah. Just feeling so nauseous (and no, it’s not a surprise pregnancy).

I also realized February flew by so fast I never shared my reading/read + watching/watched post with you. WTH. No wonder I was so proud of myself, thinking “Yeah, Nicole. You’re really flying through these books this month.” Um, no.

So I might share a few extras with you and I’d love any advice on what to read next. I feel stuck in a book rut right now, trying to get out.what I'm reading & watching this month | midwestlovefestREADING

Sharp Objects: I’m obviously a huge fan of Gillian Flynn, so I might as well give her 3rd book a look. Haven’t started yet, but hoping to finish by next month. Will keep you updated.

The Goldfinch: You know how I was talking about being in a book rut? Yeah, that’s what this is about. I still can’t seem to finish this book. Maybe it’s because the size is so intimidating (there’s nearly 1000 pages), but I guess I also lost interest. I’ve heard it’s SUCH a good read after you get past a certain point, so I’ll keep plugging away. Maybe I’ll read it while trying to get over this flu/cold this weekend.

Tinkers: I legit forgot I was reading this book. So…I’ll get back to you. Hopefully once I’ve read it.


The Girl on the Train: Fantastic book. If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this. And it’s an oddly quick read.

Blood, Bones & Butter: One of my friends, who knows I’m a huge Anthony Bourdain fan, recommended I read this book. She said it was similar to Kitchen Confidential. I agree the first half is very Kitchen Confidential-esque, but after that it strays a bit and becomes more about her life, husband and family than the food. Which, oddly, I was fine with. I didn’t want a Kitchen Confidential twin. While, I don’t agree with a few of the author’s decisions, the book is well-written and interesting. I also don’t recommend reading it on an empty stomach. Ohmygosh, the food she describes sounds SO good!

In the Woods: I know I mentioned this in January, so I figured I’d let you know what I thought of it. First, it’s a series. Did NOT know that. Second, if you love The Killing, you will love this book. It almost feels like I’m just watching a long episode. Very, very well written and intriguing. I looked forward to reading it every night.


Better Call Saul: Ryan and I were obsessed with Breaking Bad, so naturally we had to start watching Better Call Saul. The season has been pretty laid back thus far, until two Sundays ago where things started getting pretty interesting. Guess only time will tell if it can live up to Breaking Bad.

Broad City: Favorite. Show. Ever. Seriously. I tell everyone to watch this show, it’s so genius. I was once at a bar, and me and Ry (who also loves this show) were trying to convince our friend Ashley to give it a watch. As we’re talking, the bartender chimed in and said, “Are you talking about Broad City? Or..the best show ever made!?” I’ve also gotten a few people at work into it. Needless to say, you need to go watch it NOW!

The Fall: A friend of mine knows how much I loved The Killing and recommended I give this a try. Same hottie from 50 Shades, Jaime Dordnon, and apparently his acting is actually good in this series. Haven’t started it yet, but basically this show = weekend plans (and reading The Goldfinch, obviously).


50 Shades of Grey: Did you know I read these books? Yeah, good times. I had to read them because they were being hyped so much, it felt like a pop culture thing I should know. WELP, some of the worst writing, ever. The plot was interesting, but I spent half the time wanting most of the characters dead because they were so annoying. Anyway, of course the movie was hyped up just like the books. So, I took a gander last night. Sure enough, the acting felt extremely awkward (or maybe that’s just my frustration with the characters reappearing), the way it was filmed, or what was filmed, made the movie seem empty somehow and I couldn’t get it out of my head how much the media says the actors hate each other. However, the plot is interesting enough that I am intrigued to see what the sequel holds.

Whiplash: Just watched this movie with Ry (finally!) and loved it. Amazing acting, gripping and unexpected plot-line. Terrific film altogether.

Foxcatcher: Another incredible film I watched to and from NYC. First off, highly recommend as a travel movie–really takes you away and makes you forget you’re stuck on a plane. That said, while the acting was incredible and the story was interesting, the climax seemed to come out of no where and the movie itself felt stupidly slow.

BONUS: Birdman: I had to mention this movie. Holy crap was it good. The whole movie felt like a continuous shot (intentional), which made it feel really fast paced. The acting was insanely good (I love Edward Norton and Emma Stone in it, and of course the amazing Michael Keaton) and the whole movie was interesting, unexpected and had oddly funny parts. One of my favorite movies ever, I think.

Please tell me you have a good reco for what to read next?


Life Relax

reading/read + watching/watched (3)

January 28, 2015

january reading/read + watching/watched


The Goldfinch – Yes, I’m still reading this book. Everyone says it’s so great, but it has such a slow start, I’m struggling. Anyone else dive into this yet?

In the Woods – Just picked it up and LOVE it. After reading two chapters, I recommended it to five of my coworkers. If you love True Detective or The Killings, you will love this book.

Tinkers – According to Amazon, “Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.” Honestly, I’ve heard good things, but more than that, the book has basically haunted me for the past few years. Reading this isn’t even a choice at this point.


Parks and Rec (final season) – This show is like a bedtime story to me. I’ve seen every episode at least 3x, I use their phrases in my day-to-day conversation (treat yo self!) and it’s like coming home to a cozy blanket and nice fire. I’m happy to have it back on air and will more than likely cry during the final episode.

GIRLS – I’m sorry, I still love it. Maybe it’s because Hanna is a writer or because the acting and plot lines are believable, yet witty, but I’m not ready to give up on this show.


American Sniper – I wanted to see it, but I knew it would be hard; that I would cry. Sure enough, end of the movie, I start tearing up. Screen goes black, audience walks out of the room in total silence. I have never ever left a movie where no one spoke. It was like a funeral. I think that says enough (even if the babies in the movie were, in fact, totally and obviously fake).

Basically, I need to pick up my reading game. This much is apparent to me. I’m in the process of reading three books, but really excited to read the next few on my list.

What are you all reading this month?



reading // read + watching // watched (01)

October 10, 2014

what to read and watch in octoberI’m kind of obsessed with pop culture, especially when it comes to visuals and the written word. Chalk it up to my love of branding and art and writing, but I have a deep appreciation for good storytelling and a few interesting characters.

Of course, I’m always on the lookout for indie movies and books (like the ones mom & pop stores “highly recommend” with little post-its), but I still love to read the bestsellers. You know, the ones the Times is into? I just gotta see what all the fuss is about, in case I’m every at a really fancy dinner party and the topic of popular young adult thrillers comes up.

Well, I wanted to kick off a new monthly series featuring my favorite things in tv, movies and literature. Basically, what I’m reading, what I’ve read, what I’m watching and what I’ve watched. Feel free to add your own faves in the comments below!

what to read and watch in octoberI can never get enough books. I swear to you I am, indeed, reading these three books, all at the same time. Can’t help it. (If you want to follow along with my book/2014 book challenge, make a profile and lets be friends on goodreads!).

An Object of Beauty – Wanted to read this because it delves into the art scene via a young, attractive art seller. So far, so good.

The Goldfinch – Hoping to finish this book next, though it’s HUGE! But every single person I’ve spoken to says it’s an amazing, can’t-put-it-down piece of work.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Not sure what route this book is taking. I’m about half way through, and it definitely has some fantasy undertones, but mostly it seems like a Silicon Valley nerd book. Which means, thus far, I like it!

▲ ▲ ▲

Not That Kind of Girl – Just finished this book (it felt like such a quick read) and it was awesome. Can’t say for the amount of times they say “vagina” that I’d recommend it to many men, but the writing was beautiful and the stories were interesting. I’d probs even read it again!

Chocolates for Breakfast – This was one of those “mom & pop bookshelf” books I was talking about. Literally. I saw it at The Unabridged Bookstore here in Chicago, and had to give it a try. Not a bad book. First published in 1956, I was actually pretty interested, but the ending fell flat to me.

One More Thing – I think this is the opposite of Not That Kind of Girl: can’t really recommend this to many women. It seems men were falling over themselves to read this book, but I just…didn’t get it. Hard pass.

what to read and watch in octoberAmerican Horror Story (Season 4)  – I hate scary movies. Like, completely refuse to watch The Exorcist or anything with a possessed doll. But somehow, year after year, I have been suckered into the American Horror Story phenomenon. It’s more than scary or freaky or effed up–you never know where the plot is going to go. You think you have it all figured out and then BOOM! Someone finds out they were dead the whole series. Shit like that.

How to Get Away With Murder – The way they say this in the previews is catchy in itself  (“HOWWWW TO GET AWAAAYYY WITH MUR-DAAHHHH!”), but the plot line, which goes back and forth between present and past, and characters will get you hooked. For sure something I look forward to watching every week.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – Everyone thinks this guy is an asshole, but I disagree. He’s from New York. And he’s a badass (former) celebrity chef. He knows his shit. Plus, watching his show is like being read a deliciously good, well-written book, while laying back and looking at the pretty pictures.

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Chef – SUCH a feel-good movie. If you’re babysitting/hanging out with family/eating 4000 calories alone in a basement, you need to watch this. It’s believable. It’s uplifting. It’s interesting and relevant. I loved it. In fact, I should watch it again this weekend…

The Skeleton Twins – Supposedly this was originally marketed as a drama, but it turned out to be more of a comedy/drama (dramcom?). Highly recommend, especially if you watched and loved these two on SNL.

Guardians of the Galaxy – I do think this movie could’ve been a tad shorter than 2 hours, but that being said, it was good. And not just for the eye candy that is Chris Pratt. It was funny, the soundtrack was so choice and it was fun to watch. Perfect for date night!

Okay now spill. What are you into this month?

P.S. Happy Friday all! #tgif

Inspire Relax

lust, love and leave: september books

September 6, 2016

Doing a little housecleaning and upgrading the name of this series because that’s how passionate I feel about these things.

Also, it’s been awhile but I’m back in the reading game baby!

While I know Oprah and Mark Cuban prioritize reading, I’m not always so strict with my reading schedule. For me, reading and books are oftentimes like a roller coaster. One month, I’ll read nearly every day. The next month I’ll barely touch a book.

But no matter what hill I’m climbing on that roller coaster ride, you can trust two things: 1. I’ll always be reading up about what books to read next *and* 2. buying more books.

And with that, let’s break down what I’m reading (or not so much reading at times?), and what I’m looking forward to reading this season.

The books you need to check out this month!


The Goldfinch: If you’ve read this blog for a bit, you know that I’ve been trying to read this book for. Ev. Er. I think I started reading it about three years ago? I’m on page 200-and-some. Out of 700-and-some pages. Yeah. I think the size of it is intimidating (I have the hardcover), and also makes it next to impossible to commute on the train with–where/when I do the majority of my reading–but I’m hopeful I can fall in love enough with this book to finish it this summer year.

Shoe Dog: Written by the founder of Nike Phil Knight (a fellow book enthusiast), this book is highly recommended for any entrepreneur or the entrepreneurial-minded. It was well-written, engaging and gives readers a subtle boost to never settle and never give up on your dreams.

Gang Leader for a Day: I may have mentioned this book in the past, but since it’s been a bit, I thought I might recommend it again. LOVE. Maybe because it’s based in Chicago, and I’m inherently biased, but this is a smart book that makes you look at the world differently. With all the racial issues going on in this country, this is a strong reminder to love your neighbor because, as cheesy as it is, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Don’t be so quick to judge a book by its cover. Literally, because this book is kind of on the older-looking side.

The Girls: Lusted after it. Read it…fast. Loved it. It’s inspired by the Manson murders, so if you’re into a bit of creepy darkness, I recommend.



Life on the Line: If my former reads haven’t been dead giveaways, I’m a sucker for a good chef book. I also am obsessed with Netflix’ Chef’s Table. Put those two together and you get this book–featuring one of the Chef’s on Chef’s Table and his incredible journey, that spans beyond cooking. Hoping I can snag this one for cheap since it’s not a newbie.

Sweetbitter: A “summer must-read,” this novel follows the journey of a young twenty-one year old girl as she navigates the culinary world in NYC. Per above post, I’m a sucker for a chef’s tale. Fiction, or non.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo: Like most aspiring writers and self-proclaimed feminists, I’m way into Amy Schumer. Which means by default, I’m pretty damn excited to soak up her recently released book. Lucky for me, my sisters gifted me her book for my birthday, so I’ll report back soon.



Wake Up Happy: I’ve heard stories of Michael Strahan and how driven and charismatic he is, so when I saw this book on sale at Barnes & Noble, I thought “Sure! Maybe I can glean some wisdom from this man!” Sadly, the terribly poor editing detracts from whatever message(s) are buried within the pages of this text. Skip it!

P.S. I’m always down to be friends on Goodreads, if that’s your jam. Let’s get nerdy together.

Life Relax

movie + book picks for november

November 19, 2014

what I'm reading & watching this November | midwestlovefestThis month has been busy. Or, I’ve just been too preoccupied or sleepy to read much. Meaning a few of these books I read months ago (and just wanted to share because I love them). I’m super bummed I’m not reading more though. It’s something I NEED to change because I am still way behind in my Goodreads challenge. If I can even come close to my goal this year, I’ll be happy.

But, of course, my watching skills have stayed the same. How does that even work? #life


Yes Please – This book really surprised me. In that, I’m surprised I didn’t know when it was being released! Once I knew it was on shelves, I got it immediately. Sadly, I’m only about half way through, but so far so good! If you love Amy Poheler and kick ass women, you’ll adore this book. It’s witty, interesting and inspiring. Plus, it’s not arranged like similar books (i.e. Not That Kind of Girl, Bossypants). It has pretty graphics, essays by some of her closest friends and family, and even interactive portions.


Brain on Fire – This book will pull you in and possibly convince you that you’re going to come down with a case of the crazies in the next few years. Interesting, informative and detailed, this is a beautiful recap of a young woman who suffered and (slight spoiler alert) overcame a psychotic break.

My Berlin Kitchen – Obviously I love cooking. And food blogs. So this book, written by a food blogger (The Wednesday Chef), naturally grabbed me. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the author bounces between New York and Europe, detailing her romances with food and men.


House of DVF – I’m a huge reality queen. Like, if I could watch reality tv 95% of the time, I would. It’s sad, I know. Don’t judge. With that said, though, I really love this show a lot a lot! At least one legit reason to watch? DVF’s words of pure wisdom.

Nashville – I’ve been watching this show since it first aired, but never seem to watch it during actual airtime. The past few weeks, however, I was able to catch up on the past season. Huzzah! Drama. Sex. Partying. Love. It’s all there, and it’s all written, acted and sung so well.


Nightcrawler – This movie is intense. We also went to see Gone Girl, but since I had already read the book, it wasn’t too big of a shocker for me (though it was still a great movie). But Nightcrawler? Our friend was seriously on the edge of her seat, with her face in her hands. And I was mumbling “Oh my god…” every few minutes, which I NEVER do (I hate people who talk during movies). This movie, which of course includes ah-mazing acting by my boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal, makes you question that fine line between being morally responsible and climbing the ladder to success. I can’t recommend it enough.

Alright, now you go. Whatchya watching and reading this month?

Last month, Alice had a great reco–The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman. And once I get back on track with this whole book reading thing, I’m def picking up a copy.

Any other suggestions?

Digital Reads

Link Love

November 7, 2016

Link LoveHey all and happy Sunday! I *very* much needed a weekend like this. Tres relaxing and v. “do nothing” sort of vibes. That said, I am also dreading this week and all the busyness.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (per usual), journaling and reading. Really giving thought to intention, working with intention and letting go of things that no longer serve you or bring you joy, whether that’s relationships with friends or toxic family members or career-related, with various side projects or other things.

We just seem to have a problem with quitting, or knowing when to quit the right things. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve been told all my life not to be a quitter, and I pride myself on that. But when do you draw the line? When do you protect yourself and your interests and goals? When is it time to Joy Yee your life and look at the things that bring no longer bring you joy, thank them for their “service,” and then let them go, in order to make room for other things?

I know many people may think there is subtext to this, but I promise you there’s not. It’s just me looking around at people in my life, and myself, and how we all cling to certain things. Sadly, it’s nothing I’ve sorted through myself, but I’m trying. Dammit, I’m trying.

Okay, but on a more rosey note, I had a lovely weekend with my pup and husband. I ate pretty healthy (win!), but still made room for a donut and some caramel and cheese popcorn. I also worked out and went for a v. long walk with Kero on Saturday. Went and saw Doctor Strange (more on this later) and dined on delicious Mexican food (date night!). And I got to read the following links, which made me happy, and will hopefully make you smile as well. Cheers!