Your Guide to Austin

When it comes to exploring a new city, I want to see and do everything possible. Lucky for me, I was able to explore Austin twice in one month, both for work and fun. After a total of 10 days in this amazing city, reality set in and I sadly came to the conclusion that PTO does not grow on trees and I had to go back to Chicago at some point. Similar to my Napa trip, my boyfriend and I set out to explore Austin like a “local” would, while also experiencing “touristy” things like this.



During my two trips, I was able to stay in different areas of Austin for each. For work, we stayed downtown at the JW Marriott (2nd and Congress) to utilize several of their meeting room spaces. From a guest’s perspective, the service was absolutely wonderful. The hotel decor and pool area added to the appeal of the hotel itself. I would highly recommend staying here if you’re looking for a centrally located, downtown hotel.

For my second trip, my boyfriend and I stayed at Hotel Van Zandt  (a Kimpton Hotel property). You can’t beat the customer service at both of these properties. I loved that Hotel Van Zandt was RIGHT on Rainey Street (more on Rainey Street to come) and was absolutely gorgeous. Their concierge and front desk staff went out of their way to make us feel at home during our entire stay. I fully intend on staying here again for my next trip back to Austin. Anyone want to join?

| Hotel Van Zandt Entrance |IMG_1507| Hotel Van Zandt Pool |


Austin is DEFINITELY a city where you are going to indulge. Whether you are eating or drinking your calories, there is good food and drinks at every corner. With some research leading up to my trip, and recommendations from friends that live in Austin (Hi Natalie!), I was prepared to explore the Austin food scene.

Here are some of my favorites – 

Perla’s: A South Congress favorite of mine! I’m not embarrassed to admit that between both of my trips to Austin, I ate here twice (well, technically three times if you count a quick appetizer and drink before a late dinner – don’t judge). If you like seafood and/or oysters, Perla’s is a must! Even if you don’t like seafood, their drinks and outdoor patio make it worth the trip. Between their shrimp po’boy, seafood tower and gazpacho – I could eat here every day! Tip: make sure to make a reservation but arrive early to see if you can be seated outside!

LaunderetteLaunderette would absolutely be a PERFECT addition to Chicago’s food scene; but since it’s not, I was so happy we were able to go here for dinner and sit outside (one of the many perks of Austin’s warm weather, endless outdoor seating availability at most bars/restaurants). Everything on Launderette’s menu was delicious. Some personal favorites were the fried oysters, burrata, crab toast, frites (obviously) and their whole branzino. If you read anything in this paragraph, this is a must! You have to save room for their birthday cake ice cream sandwich  (shown below). Literally HEAVEN in a dessert. Tip: they do not take reservations. Get there a little bit early and get drinks at the bar while you wait.

Clark’s Oyster Bar: Clark’s is another great oyster bar with outdoor seating located in West Austin. Some of my favorite menu items were the oven-roasted oysters, mussels, and mac & cheese with crab! I loved the dinner vibe here and the drinks were delicious too!

La CondesaFor my client outing we utilized La Condesa’s event space, Malverde. I instantly fell in love with the decor throughout the restaurant and the food/drinks could not have been more delicious! I highly recommend Malverde if you’re in need of an event space for a larger group. Not only was the service great, but you’re in your own private space away from the restaurant.

Other favorites worth a visit: 

  • Jacoby’s:
  • Hillside Farmacy
  • No Va
  • Salt & Time

| Perla’s Shrimp Po’Boy |IMG_1056
| Launderette’s Fried Oysters |IMG_1376| Birthday cake ice cream |
IMG_1499| Malverde space at La Condesa downtown |IMG_1504


Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t go to Austin and not indulge in the abundance of bars and restaurants around you. These were some of my favorite activities while visiting Austin that of course, in some way still involve food and drinks.

Franklin Barbecue: Hi, I’m Justine and I waited in the Franklin Barbecue line for 3 hours on my visit to Austin. If you’re asking yourself, “is it really worth it?” Yes, it is. I’m not sure I can say this was one of my favorite things I did on my trip to Austin, but it was definitely one of the most memorable. I can’t speak for anyone else, but in our experience, we got there just a few minutes before 8:00 a.m. and we sat down to eat by 11:30 (they open at 11:00 a.m.). Call me crazy, but the waiting part was just as fun! We made friends with our neighbors in line, played games, drank beer and even the Franklin staff came out around 9:30 to serve drinks, take orders, etc.

Torchy’s: A goal of mine on the trip was to find a food truck for breakfast tacos. After some research, I found that Torchy’s was nearby several Instagram-worthy spots I wanted to check out and that they did indeed have breakfast tacos. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t able to try the queso that so many friends recommended from Torchy’s.

“Greetings from Austin”: 
I love the Greetings Tour murals that are located all across the United States. It took me forever to see the Chicago one so I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the Austin mural a block away from Torchy’s! The exact location is at 1st & Annie.

Jester King Brewery: 
I am in no way a beer connoisseur, but give me sunshine and a cold drink, and I’m good to go. After our Franklin Barbecue adventure, we made our way 30 minutes outside of Austin to Jester King Brewery. When we arrived, there were at least a hundred or more people also looking to enjoy the sunshine and good beer. On the Jester King Property they have an awesome outdoor pizza place, Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. Who doesn’t love beer and pizza, especially together?

South Congress: The entire South Congress area is definitely worth a visit if you plan on visiting Austin anytime soon! Make sure to stop at the “I love you so much” sign located at Jo’s Coffeewhere you will most likely see at least 3-5 other groups/couples doing the same thing. Take a couple of minutes to check out the unique boutiques up and down the street. My two favorites were The Gypsy Wagon and Strut. This is also where you’ll find Perla’s, Hopdoddy for burgers, and Amy’s for ice cream!

|The Wrangler and Breakfast Taco #3 |IMG_0931IMG_1500IMG_1414| Gyspy Wagon on South Congress |


Rainey Street: Container Bar and Bangers are two my absolute favorite bars on Rainey Street! Make sure you go to Bangers on a Sunday for their Sunday brunch and order a manmosa! Bangers has live music, great people watching and lots of dogs that definitely made me wish I had one of my own.

Easy Tiger: Located on sixth street, Easy Tiger is a really cool cafe/bakery that has a fun creek-side beer garden that serves simple snacks and cheeses. We ended up going here twice and loved it both times!

Other bars to check out:

  • Star Bar
  • Rattle Inn
  • Market Bar
  • Lucille’s
  • Bungalow

IMG_1458| Parlor Room on Rainey Street |
IMG_1506| Container Bar on Rainey Street |IMG_0992IMG_1473

So long, Austin! I hope to see you very soon!


Chicago Beauty: Lincoln Square

Hi! Remember me? I decided to take a much needed break from the blogging world while my full-time job and freelancing with Brides by Kelly (post coming soon on this new makeup adventure) picked up for the spring/summer season.

Although I went on a blogging hiatus, I’ve discovered some very amazing Chicago salons thanks to PrettyQuick that I can’t wait to share with you! It’s always been (blog) goal of mine, to share with you the best nail salons in every neighborhood of Chicago. For today’s Chicago beauty spotlight, I ventured out to Lincoln Square. I say ventured, because I rarely leave my Lincoln Park (home) and River North (work) bubbles. Lincoln Square, however, did not disappoint. My personalized manicure and pedicure with Jenny at Noktivo sealed the deal, and I will be headed back to Lincoln

Square very soon.

IMG_1275With what seems like hundreds of salons in Chicago, Noktivo is the first truly chemical free salon in the city. I sat down with owner, Jenny Duranski, and had what felt like the most personalized nail experience.

Jenny and I chatted the entire time and yet I still felt like I was receiving five-star spa worthy treatment. Noktivo’s inviting and unique space made me feel right at home during the entire appointment.

Justine: What makes Noktivo different from other nail salons in Chicago?
Jenny: We are not just a nail salon that does things differently, we’re an entirely different kind of nail salon. We are committed to our clients and staff health by extensively researching and choosing clean product lines. We foster community through the relationships we build with our clients, small business friends and vendors. And most importantly, we uphold the mantra of “Be the change” by advocating for reform on Capitol Hill. I was just in DC in March sharing my personal story to help strengthen the Personal Care Products Safety Act to protect nail salon workers across the country.

Justine: How long have you been in the beauty industry doing nails?
Jenny: I’ve been doing nails for almost 15 years.

Justine: What do you love most about owning your own business?
Jenny: The ability to do what I love every single day and the flexibility it gives me to raise my daughter at the same time.

Justine: Are there certain scrub/scents that are trending right now for spring?
Jenny: Our Salted Grapefruit and Rosemary Mint have been our most popular so far.


One of my favorite parts of the entire manicure and pedicure was the lotions and scrubs Jenny used. There were so many scrubs and scents to choose from, all providing such great benefits to the skin. Jenny’s husband is originally from Macedonia which gives her the opportunity to personally pick out natural ingredients from Macedonia to use in her salon. Jenny carefully chooses specific scents and ingredients for their skin and aromatherapy benefits. She explained to me that peppermint is refreshing and cooling, grapefruit is energizing but also full of skin loving Vitamin C, and lavender is calming, soothing and also healing. Lastly, she talked about how coconut is a protective oil that helps the skin retain moisture. At Noktivo, they pair coconut with raw cacao that contains four times as much concentrated antioxidants as green tea.

Noktivo’s nail polish lines, LVX (a Chicago brand!) and Joshik are 7-toxin free, TPHP-free, made in the USA, cruelty-free and Vegan. The salon and boutique also carries skincare products, non-toxic nail polish removers, and natural deodorants.


|Nail color: Mondrian from LVX’s new spring collection – I love a good red |

I took home the LVX 3 in 1 Treatment which works as a nail strengthener, top & base coat (above)!


Noktivo Natural Nail Salon and Green Beauty Boutique eliminates the harmful chemical smells, using good-for-you ingredients and eco-friendly materials. Their nail technicians provide top-notch quality nail care and always follow proper sanitation protocols. Jenny and her team are passionate about using healthy beauty products and knowing their ingredient lists inside-and-out to accommodate clients with allergies, Organic and Vegan lifestyles or who are pregnant.

To get $15 off your first appointment with PrettyQuick or to book your next nail appointment with Noktivo, click here!

*Thank you PrettyQuick for sponsoring this post. All opinions, as always, are my very own!



Happy Friday! I come bringing good news; Chicago is expecting warmer weather next week and I CAN’T WAIT! Warmer weather definitely means a happier Chicago, even if the rain is tagging along the way. I’ve come to realize that even though I have weeks where I try and limit my social media use, there’s nothing better than taking a look back at my Instagram feed to reflect on all that I’m thankful for in my life.

Here’s what’s going on lately via @justinegershak:

FullSizeRender_3|Touring the Flowers For Dreams facility|

I can’t believe Erin and my tour of Flowers for Dreams was over a month ago at this point! Did you know that this Chicago-based company has donated over $140,000 in just two years? All purchases benefit a local charity where they give back 1/4 of each sale to the featured charities that month.

FullSizeRender_2|Galentine’s Day Dinner|

There’s nothing better than getting together with your favorite girlfriends to celebrate each other. We toasted to each other over some sushi and BYO-wine at Seadog Sushi in Wicker Park.

|First timer at Bang Bang Pie|

I had the most delicious Valentine’s Day brunch and even took home some pies to try! I highly recommend the Bacon Biscuit, Sausage Biscuit and  the key lime pie!


|Friday night fun at goldplaited in Lincoln Park|

Anytime I can head over to goldplaited, I’m there! I’ve celebrated bachelorette parties, snow days and Lollapalooza with my favorite owners, Mal + Corinna!

FullSizeRender_1|Touring the Bobbi Brown Corporate Office in Soho|

Just this last week I got the opportunity to take an advanced training class with the Bobbi Brown artistry team. For those of you that know me, Bobbi Brown has been a HUGE part of my life for the past five years and has given me the confidence that “all women are pretty without makeup, but with the right makeup can be pretty powerful.”


|The cutest Greek gem just a block from my hotel in NYC|

If you ever find yourself here for lunch or dinner, make sure you order the Greek fries!

ErinCoreyEngagement|When your job collides with a best friend’s special moment|

Last Sunday, I got the pleasure of doing one of my best friend’s makeup for her engagement pictures.
Jill Tiongco did an amazing job capturing Erin and Corey’s love for one another.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Highlighting 101

 Happy March! One of the many reasons I enjoy having this blog is the opportunity I get to share some of my favorite experiences and more importantly products with you! Although most people know what strobing is, many don’t know how to achieve it. I’m constantly being asked by my clients how to get that “glow” from within look, without looking…..sweaty. Below, I’ve not only picked out the best of highlighting game, but have also shared some tips I’ve learned along the way to get that perfect highlighted look.

Product Spotlight: Highlighters

| 1. Bobbi Brown | 2. MAC Cosmetics | 3. Anastasia Beverly Hills | 4. Becca x Jaclyn Hill |

The key here is to make sure you’ve chosen a highlighter that complements your skin tone for a subtle sheen. Long story short, we’re trying to avoid the 90’s frosted look. As you see above, the Anastasia Glow Kit (available in two different color combinations), has a variety of different shades that you can layer on top of one another or on their own. These options allow you to find the perfect highlighting shade for your skin tone. My personal favorite right now is the Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector in Champagne PopThe color pay off is amazing and I’ve found that the shade itself is very universal and more importantly flattering.

Now for the placement, my rule of thumb is always to highlight the highest parts of your face (or spots that catch light) such as your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, below your brow bone, in the corners of your eyes, and above your cupid’s bow. You can also refer to this Cosmo image + the flawless Gigi Hadid on the best areas to highlight. To avoid looking overly shiny when using a highlighter, stick to matte bronzers and blushes for this particular look.

Lastly, make sure you blend any harsh edges of highlighter so it fades into the rest of your skin. Brush recommendations: Sigma, Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury.

Do you have any highlighters you can’t live without? Share in the comments section!