Beauty, Fashion, Love

A Valentine’s Day gift idea for her featuring Monica Vinader

Happy February, loves! I love this month as it presents occasions to celebrate 2 of my favorite people; my mom and my hubs who are both born in February…as well as LOVE on Valentine’s Day, which I of course LOVE! Target and any paper store are a dangerous zone for me this month…give me all the X and O swag! I could go crazy sharing heart day gift ideas for the leading ladies in your life, (or yourself-yes you deserve it), but that has potential to go from a post to a short story. And so today I am sharing just one fabulous gift idea!

Monica Vinader is a British luxury jewelry brand opening a new category between fashion and fine jewelry.  I personally am a huge fan of this category. I am not ready to pull the trigger on Cartier, however I would rather invest in quality statement pieces that I adore and will have forever, than crowd up my vanity with trendy fashion jewelry I will quickly outgrow.  Vinader’s stylish contemporary designs have a diverse celebrity following. My first MV piece was her iconic friendship bracelet which I had engraved and absolutely adore (more deets in my past MV post featuring the bracelet).

These slender cocktail earrings add a pop of red-carpet style sparkle to any look. A delicate row of irregular shaped pink quartz gemstones are set in a 18ct rose gold vermeil on sterling silver. My ears are very sensitive, and these beauties are light weight and comfortable.  They are no doubt eye-catching with their beautiful sparkle, but also not so dressy that they look odd with a casual outfit. Pair them with a simple sweater and pull your hair back in a low pony for an effortless feminine look.  Or go big and throw on your favorite party dress to amp up the drama! No matter what look you are feeling…don’t forget to seal the deal with a pretty pink lip (I am wearing my current favorite by YSL beauty slim matte shade #16). I highly recommend checking out Monica Vinader for extra special quality pieces for yourself or an extra special someone. If you are not a big online shopper and prefer shopping in person, Chicago babes can find MV at  Nordstrom. 

Photos all by one of my leading ladies, the beautiful Danielle Sommerfeld of the bombshell blogging duo Once Upon a Dollhouse.

All the X’s and O’s,

Julz Chez


Beauty, Life

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Everyone!

Tis’ the season to shop…for others! There is nothing better than pulling together a special gift for a special someone.  Here are my top picks this season.

For the domesticated darling:

I love a great themed gift.  I may not be susie homemaker myself, but a kitchen themed gift for a foodie friend is a home run.  Think outside the Bed Bath and Beyond gift guide…go for something unique and innovative. My choice is the Wonderbag.  The  Wonderbag is a non-electric portable slow-cooker that allows food to be slow cooked or kept warm off a heat source.  This groovy gadget also works to keep food cold; perfect for keeping wine chilled for an outdoor concert or picnic, and great for transporting a cold dish on a long road trip.  Bonus: the Wonderbag is an economic catalyst.  In rural African communities the invention can help a family go from 20 cents a day income to $2.  One more fun fact…Prince Harry and Meghan received a Wonderbag as a wedding gift!  Add a fun cookbook, (my pick is True Roots by the great Kristin Cavallari),  a cute set of dishtowels, (Anthropologie has the best), and your kitchen themed gift is ready to rock!

For the fashion girls:

I generally steer clear from gifting clothes other than simple tees or hoodies, (sizing is just too tricky), but a great handbag fits everyone.  If you have been following my blog you know I am a huge fan of Hammitt handbags.  Hammitt bags are high quality and classic styles that stand the test of time.  Visit my past posts Designer Spotlight: Hammitt HandbagsThe Perfect Clutch Bag, and the Hammitt Handbag Finale to see some of my favorite styles. Bonus: every Hammitt bag is covered with a lifetime warranty…and they arrive packaged beautifully!

For the glam girls:

When gifting a glam girl, keep in mind she likely has set products she is loyal to. So go for the fun stuff.  Every glam gal loves a new scent on her vanity, but it is always more fun when it is gifted.  My pick is OUI by Juicy Couture.  The refreshing scent is tart and fresh with notes of watermelon, jasmine, and woods. Bonus: the packaging is crazy cute!

Roll with the fun stuff theme for your glam girlfriend, and treat her the Watermelon Glow sleeping mask by Glow Recipe.  I am a proud mask-a-holic, and this is my favorite mask of the year.  The lightweight formula refreshingly hydrates, smooths, and perfects skin overnight with a revolutionary pillow-proof formula. Bonus: the packaging is also beautiful, and it smells delicious! The brand also offers a Watermelon Glow moisturizer, which is equally amazing. Add a bright fun lip color for the cherry on top.  Stila makes awesome lip stains. Shade Beso is my all time favorite red, and it truly stays on great all night!

For the beauty lover with sensitive skin:

For your girlfriend you know has sensitive skin; look for practical products with non-toxic ingredients.  My choice is the safe and super effective line Eczema Honey.  Their miracle healing cream is 100% organic and super effective. Pair this magic cream with the brands nourishing lip balm and oatmeal bath bombs to complete the organic goody bag.

For your eco-friendly beauty buddy:

C’Nu is a brand new luxury skincare subscription box that delivers a months worth of clean skincare to your doorstep.  All products are chemical free and made with natural ingredients. Each box contains a new green beauty line of 4-6 full size products. Bonus: the company is working with The Humane Society and is donating a portion of each order to stop animal testing.

Need a great beauty gift in a pinch? Walgreens and Target have seriously stepped up their beauty game by offering top quality brands. Vichy’s Clarifying Charcoal mask extracts dirt and toxins from the skin’s surface, leaving your skin silky smooth.  Add to the gift by scooping up another amazing product available at trusty Target and Walgreens, La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water. This water mist refreshes and tones the skin in one quick spray.

For the health nut:

My pick for your wellness loving friend is Matcha Collagen by Vital Proteins.  I make a smoothie with this collagen at least three times a week, and I absolutely love it.  Matcha contains 137 times the amount of antioxidants as other green teas, and improves hair, skin, nails and joints.  Make it the cutest Matcha themed gift ever by adding Vital Proteins “Meet Your Match (A)” sweatshirt! 

A classic gift for anyone:

A classic watch set is a home run extra special gift.  Daniel Wellington is a great source for elegant watches for everyone.  They are currently offering 10% off all their men’s and women’s watch sets. Use code JULZCHEZ for an extra 15% off. Bonus: they ship super fast and arrive beautifully gift wrapped.

For the rocker:

I am a huge fan of the company Time Warp Tees, a brand built to pay homage to icons of pop culture past and present with vintage-inspired throwback tees.  There is a tee for everyone in this rad collection.  Some examples: Will Smith, Stevie Nicks, Dr. Phil, ABBA, Blair Waldorf, Patrick Swayze, Britney Spears, and so many more. This is a gift that is sure to make anyone smile!  I am wearing a size XS for reference.  Use code julzchez10 for a discount. Hit up your local record store and find an old school album to complete the gift.

Real talk: I love receiving gifts. Also real talk: I love gifting even more! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas spent with loved ones.

“It isn’t how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”


Julz Chez

Fashion, Fitness, Life

Style Staples

There is no better place to capture the beauty of Chicago than the Skydeck at the Willis Tower.  Stepping onto the glass ledge that extends 4.3 feet from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere will no doubt provide a rush of adrenaline. Take that rush to the next level by flipping upside down…talk about a  great view!  This was not my first rodeo standing on my head at 1,353 feet in the air, (check out my oldie but goodie post Causing a Scene at the Willis Tower), but it was just as exciting as the first time.  Whether you stand on your head or your feet, every Chicagoan or visitor deserves this experience!

Onto the fashion!  My bomber jacket is by Rebecca Minkoff...such a versatile and chic staple.  RM jackets are excellent quality at very fair prices. If you are looking to spend less, BLANKNYC is a great brand that carries a classic bomber jacket for under $100.  Zara and Topshop are other great sources for stylish inexpensive jackets.

My moto leggings are by  Spanx.  I have been playing for team Spanx leggings for a hot minute.  These babies can be worn year round in so many different ways.  The waistband is comfortable and flattering, with the perfect amount of stretch. Any pair of pants I can practice yoga in, go to a restaurant in, or take a nap in are a friend of mine!

The slouchy boots that raged in the 80’s are back and better than ever.  I was highly interested in a pair, but didn’t want to drop much coin on the trend.  I scored this pair at Forever21 for a serious bargain. Forever offers a variety of styles at unbeatable prices, and the quality is pretty darn impressive.  Zara and Jeffery Campbell also carry great slouchy styles at low prices.  PS: if you have a pair of loose fitting knee high boots, simply scrunch them down as low as you like to create a brand new boot, DIY style.

Photos by Olivia Szwarc at Relax, Smile, and Love Always Photography

“With good basics, you’ll have endless options.”


Julz Chez


Medical Spa Magic

Icy cold winter weather sucks for many reasons. One of those reasons in particular really hits me hard.  Dry skin. When the weather shifted to icky cold, I felt like no matter how much moisturizer I caked on my face, my skin still felt dry. Dry skin equals dehydrated sad skin. Try applying makeup to that sad skin? Hideous.

In a triumphant turn of events, this tragic issue has been sorted out.  My skin feels better now than ever.  Lucky for y’all, I am sharing my juicy secrets.

Step One: Don’t mess around with a Groupon style signature facial at a day spa. Go for the gold…aka MEDSPA! A spa is not a spa y’all.  A facial service at a day spa will likely be lovely and relaxing, but will only provide a temporary solution to your skin’s needs. If you are in the market to truly improve your skin, a Medical Spa is the route to take.

Note: all med spas are not all fabulous. You must do your research. Do you want a sketchy human applying a CHEMICAL peel to your precious face? I didn’t think so. I had the good fortune of finding the best of the best in Chicago, CaTara Spa. I had heard great things about CaTara from friends, so I called to make an appointment for a particular service. I was kindly informed that is not how they schedule a first time client.  The experience is tailored to your skin’s needs, which obviously cannot be determined until they see you.  Brilliant.

The CaTara experience is such a treat. The team is “boutique style” small. The location I frequent is on Chicago’s gorgeous Oak Street, but there is also a CaTara in Algonquin for y’all suburban babes.  The owner, Cathy, is sweet as cherry pie. I felt cozy comfy with her instantly. Cathy’s esthetician dream team, Loren and Hannah, are beyond fabulous. Both ladies are insanely talented at what they do, and you will want to be best friends with them both!

I have done the micro needling skin resurfacing treatment twice. I loved it and can’t wait to do it again!  This treatment targets fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating production of the skin’s own collagen and elastin.  A series of this treatment is recommended for optimal results, but after just one round my skin felt different in a great glowing way.  Don’t fear the word needle in the title, because they first numb your face and you feel no pain. The day of the treatment you look a bit freaky but again don’t fear, the very next day you are good to go. So worth it!

In between my two micro needling sessions, I had two HydraFacials.  The HydraFacial treatment removes dead skin cells and extracts impurities while refreshing the new skin with cleansing and hydrating serums.  My skin felt amazing afterwards. Goodbye sad dry skin! Applying makeup to my baby butt smooth face post HydraFacial is a dream!

If you treat yourself a visit to CaTara, mention my name for $25 off a purchase of over $125…and maybe an extra glass of champs.

Below: my face every time I walk into CaTara. Say hi to the fabulous owner, Cathy Neuhalfen!

Just a gal anxiously awaiting needles on her face!

Meet Loren Armstrong. This beauty is a skin care wizard!

Meet Hannah HartzThis bombshell is a skincare expert slice of heaven.

Addition skin care tips from the great Hannah:

~Avoid hot water on your face as it is very drying. I personally take my showers steamy hot, so I am avoiding getting my face wet in the shower. When Hannah first asked me to do so, I thought she was cray cray, but turns out it is not so hard. Actually kinda fun in a bizarre way:)

~ Do not dry your face with your handy towel. Assuming you use that same towel to wash your hands, there will be icky bacteria on it you do not want touching your pretty clean face.  Instead use a one use only towelette. Your complexion will thank you.

~Do your full cleanse/exfoliate routine before bed, but in the am it’s fine to use a gentle cleanser or apply micellar water to a cleansing cloth to freshen up.

~Exfoliate regularly, with good stuff. Before an intense girl talk with Hannah, I was using the infamous St. Ives Apricot Scrub. It’s cheap, smells good, and always wins the Allure beauty awards! Hannah gave me a look of horror when I informed her this is what I was using. The right exfoliant is critical, otherwise moisturizers and serums are not able to properly penetrate into your skin. I have switched over to the Epionce scrub she recommended, and quickly saw improvement.

The gift of great skin is the perfect gift! CaTara gift cards are available.

Always remember that great skin comes from within! Drinking plenty of water is a key source for hydrated skin.  My final skin care secret is adding Vital Proteins matcha collagen to your routine. At least three times a week I mix a serving with almond milk and a sprinkle of flaxseeds. So delicious!  The benefits of matcha are legit: improves hair, skin, nail, joints, ligaments, tendons…AKA makes you healthy AND pretty!  Matcha is also a great source of antioxidants, and is free from dairy, soy, gluten, and added sugars.  Vital Proteins is a Chicago based company that sources their products purely from natural sources of essential proteins.

PS I am giving away Vital Proteins Matcha this week to a lucky XOXO reader! Follow me on the place I waste a lot of my life at, INSTAGRAM, to enter! Photos by SodaFountainPhoto.

“Invest in your skin. It is going to represent you for a very long time.”


Julz Chez


Show me your Mumu Striped Set

I am back with my third and final installment of fresh fall flares! Today’s bell bottom edition is striped with a matching blazer. When I think of an outfit that is so good it is actually fun to wear…this is it!  These pants are pure crowd pleasers…everyone loves them.  Once again created by my favorite flare pant source, Show me your Mumu. The high-waisted style is so comfortable and flattering.  I styled them with a rocker tee and the matching blazer.  The full outfit screams rock n roll chic!  If the matching ensemble is too much for your taste, the blazer is also a fun piece to wear on its own with jeans and a fitted tee.  If you are in between sizes I recommend sizing down in the blazer. The pants also look great with a bodysuit and a belt, a cozy sweater and a hat, a tied up blouse and heels…just about everything!

Outfit details:  Gucci belt bag, Stuart Weitzman booties, and Target shades.

Photos by Dani Sommerfeld of Once Upon a Dollhouse.

“Life is too short to wear boring clothes.”


Julz Chez


Fresh Fall Flares: Chapter 2

I am back to share yet another pair of bombshell flares by Show me your Mumu.  These babies are called the Woodstock Flare…perfectly titled, as they are clearly a nod to the groovy 70’s.  This style is not as high-waisted as the Berkeley zip ups I shared in my recent post, Fresh Fall Flares, but still comfortably hug and squeeze in just the right spots.  The distressed patches are one of a kind.  When I tried them on for my rock and roll (and super particular) Hubs, he quickly responded with an enthusiastic…”COOL!” Play up the retro vibes and style them with your favorite rocker tee and oversized shades.  Or keep it simple and pair them with a simple sweater to let the pants steal the show. I can’t wait to rock these beauties with a KISS tee for a concert…side rock wife note: KISS is on their final tour…it’s the End Of The Road!  Today I choose a White+Warren sweater, Stuart Weitzman booties, and a Chloe bag with a Rebecca Minkoff guitar strap for a pinch of rocker girl flare.  My favorite light weight hoop earrings by Jenny Bird and Chloe shades to seal the deal.

Photos by Danielle Sommerfeld of Once Upon a Dollhouse

“Don’t be like the rest of them darling.”~ Coco Chanel


Julz Chez