College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad
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Essentials of the Week!

Things finally started to sink in for me this week just how nonstop things have been for me lately. I love to travel, I love seeing and hosting friends, and I of course love when I get to go out and visit with Dalton...but when I finally sat down on Sunday and carefully mapped out my next few months of travel plans + trips, I got seriously overwhelmed. 

At the time, saying yes to just about everything that came my way was fun and exciting (and still kinda is!) but when I actually took the time to write it all out on a calendar, I realized that I may have signed myself up for just a little bit too much. 

I've been out of town or hosting guests nonstop since mid-January, and I only have one weekend between now and early May where I have a break! SO excited for some of the things on my agenda...including a trip to NYC to see my friend Dakota, a road trip back to Oxford to see old friends, and of course...the Derby! 

That being said, I'm definitely going to have to re-focus and make sure I'm taking time to focus on myself every day for the next couple of months so I don't get too burnt out. I'm feeling a slow and easy summer...anyone else?!

1. Making Coffee Cute Again - I've been feeling major jealousy over the Starbucks spring cups that got released these last few weeks because mainly order iced drinks, and have been missing out on all the fun. This new collection is so adorable, I might have to try and snag one for myself so I can get some spring vibes, too!

2. Hit The Running Trail - With these gorgeous new Nike running shoes that were just released in celebration of the anniversary of their most popular (and fashionable) shoe ever. The gorgeous Nike's in different colors you're always seeing on bloggers? These are those. And man oh man, do I want them in these colors...

3. Match Made in Fashion Heaven - Is anyone else as excited as I am for the collaboration between Victoria Beckham and Target to come out (April 9th!) I love the idea and inspiration behind the line, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. This little preview looks great!

4. Your Guide to (Healthy) Meal Prep - I'm all about making my lunches every week (like this AMAZING superfood salad I had this week!) and I think this guide is a great way to get started when you're not sure where to begin!

5. Trenchcoat Season - I've been wearing my trenchcoat every chance I get this week, and I can't take my eyes off this gorgeous option from Madewell (with a great price!)

Have a wonderful weekend - I hope you guys get some of this amazing weather we're expecting here in Chicago!

The Yummiest Superfood Salad to Pack In Your Lunches Next Week!

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, I've been itching to try out more "summery" lunches and step away from crockpot soups and other cozy winter recipes. As soon as the groceries start having wide selections of (affordable) berries and vegetables, I'm all about salads and light recipes to embrace the season!

While hunting for this week's meal prep recipe, I stumbled upon the most delicious salad I've ever had. I know that's a pretty bold statement, but I fully stand by it! This salad is amazing. I think the real secret is the homemade dressing recipe, which is both healthy and delicious. 

I tend to be wary of packing salads as my lunch, because between my long work day and my Pure Barre class after work, I tend to be pretty hungry by the time I get home, so I always want to ensure I'm eating something filling enough to get me through the day. 

That's why I've been so excited about this most recent find! It's packed with so many delicious sources of protein, I didn't get hungry at all - major accomplishment for me considering I'm #NeverNotHungry. 

                                                                                            Image via

I made one slight modification to the original recipe and swapped the goat cheese for feta because I'm not a huge fan of goat, and it was still delicious! I think whatever your preference, the salad is still great. Huge shout out to Kristine for helping me find this delicious recipe! I'll certainly be checking there more often and sharing my favorite finds with you guys in the future. 

Serving Size: 4 (I added a little bit extra of everything and doubled the dressing recipe so I'd have enough for all 5 workday lunches! I love dressing, so I knew I'd want a little bit extra). 

Salad Ingredients:
  • 1 cup quinoa (I made 1.5)
  • 1 large bunch of kale (I used a packaged box)
  • 2-3 cups of spinach (optional, for more texture and larger salads)
  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 4 oz. goat (or feta) cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup of sliced almonds (you can usually find these in bags near the fruit/vegetable aisle!)
  • 1 avocado, chopped (I added this the moment before I ate the salad so it would be fresh!)
Dressing Ingredients: (Again, if you prefer more dressing, double everything below)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I love lemon, so I increased this to 1/2 and it was great!)
  • 2 tablespoons of honey 
  • 1.5 teaspoons Dijon Mustard 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt 
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • Either use a rice cooker for quinoa and place two parts water to 1 part quinoa (so 1 cup quinoa = 2 cups of water) OR
    • Rinse and drain quinoa and place with 2 cups of water in a small saucepan, bringing it to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a low setting and cook for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed/evaporated. Let cool on the side.
  • Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. 
  • Once the quinoa is cool, add it to a bowl with all of the salad ingredients. Toss gently to combine evenly. If saving salads for meal prep during the week, separate into containers and add avocado + dressing right before eating for freshest results.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! I'm going to mix things up for next week so I don't get bored, but I already can't wait to make this for my weekly lunches again! 

10 Kitchen Essentials For Beginners!

In the last year, I've slowly been working on building up my cooking skills and I've really begun to found a love for my time in the kitchen. I'm by no means a kitchen expert, but I can confidently say that I've mastered a solid set of recipes for each meal + some appetizers (and cocktails)! 

I've slowly been acquiring more tools and essentials to help me out along the way, but the wish list of items I'd love to stock my dream kitchen with someday seems to be ever-growing. Some things are absolute essentials, and others are a bit more splurge-worthy, but would be wonderful to have all the same. 

My current kitchen is probably the smallest I've had (especially factoring in counter space) but I typically have enough room to do whatever I need. I'm still constantly coveting my dream kitchens on Pinterest in between pinning recipes that I want to try on the weekends. 

Here are some of my favorite kitchen essentials, from the must-haves to the someday-maybe items. There are, of course, an endless supply of small (but incredibly) useful tools - just ask my parents, as that tends to be a go-to for me when it comes to Christmas gifts! That being said, however, if you've been on the verge of trying out your hand in the kitchen, this list will get you started on the right track to having what you need!

Prepping, Dicing + Chopping - 

1. Great cutting boards - Cutting boards + knives are definitely the two tools I use more than anything else in the kitchen, so have a good set of both is definitely essential. Most people swear by bamboo boards as the best, and there are some really great options like this one and this one...however, I personally still use plastic the majority of the time because the wood boards are a lot more effect to clean and maintain. If you're not looking to add prep time, pick up a set of plastic ones like these.

2. Prep Bowls - I have pretty limited counter space, and even when I do have more room to cook, I like to keep everything a little bit organized (shocking, I know). It makes cleanup so much easier.  I really like this set for general use, or if you want to store ingredients for later, ones with lids like these are great.

3. Knives - This is obviously one of those tools that you can certainly drop a lot of money on - and that's not necessarily what you should do. However, if I were going to "splurge" on any kitchen item a little bit, this would be in the top 2. My favorite knives are the ones passed down to me from my parents, but my Dad recommends these and these. The best starter kit is this set right here, which also comes with a knife block!

4. Dish Towels + Drying Rack - This is definitely something that needs very little budget put towards it. (These are the ones I use!) Some nicer pots and pans really shouldn't go through the dishwasher, so hand scrubbing them and setting them up to dry is the right way to go. I love this flat one because it dries well and stores easily when not in use.

Utensils + Helpful Tools - 

Realistically - most utensils will come in sets that have all of the essentials. Spatulas, spoons, silicone mixing spatulas like these, a whisk, tongs, measuring cups/spoons, and a few different shaped spoons to get you by. If you're just starting to build a kitchen, this is what you need! Make sure you focus on a durable silicone that won't melt with heat or scrape the coating off of your pots and pans. Otherwise, I'm going to share some of my favorite *specialty* tools that have made my time in the kitchen so much better!

5. Handheld Chopper (or Food Processor) - This one is really up to you, budget-wise. My roommate recently bought this handheld dicer that has been such a game changer when we are chopping up vegetables like onions and peppers for various dishes. You can also step up your game and get a food processor which will make things a little easier, and broaden what you can do with it! If you're just starting out though, the handheld tool works great.

6. Juicers & Squeezers - I personally have an obsession with lemon-flavored dishes, and tend to use lemon juice pretty frequently (especially when I'm making salad dressings!) My little handheld lemon/lime squeezer is so essential for me, but if you're into juicing your fruits and veggies beyond that, investing in a great juicer is the right way to go. I'd recommend a Vitamix or a bullet!

Cookware - 

7. Cast-Iron Skillet OR a WOK - I have both of these, and they're honestly both SO amazing. Realistically, I don't need both, but I do love them. Cast Iron Skillets are incredibly useful because there are so many different ways to use them, from on the stove to in the oven. I'm a huge fan of making stir fry-style dishes (essentially throwing together different combinations of meats, vegetables, and grains like rice/quinoa/potatoes/pastas), and the Wok is amazing for that. They're usually quite large, which means you can make large quantities of food for weekly meal prep all at once, and only have one dish to clean! I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Wok recipes, and I love them all! It's like having an entire restaurant of tools and uses right in your kitchen.

8. Baking Dishes - I use a glass set with varying sizes, and they cover pretty much everything I need when it comes to utilizing my oven. These are great for lasagnas, desserts, cornbread...everything. A simple set works great.

9. Rice Cooker - Some people might think this one isn't necessary, but I use mine almost daily.  I love to use my rice cooker quinoa or rice as a side dish to my chicken and vegetables every week, and this way all I have to do is add water and flip the button, leaving me free to focus on everything else.

10. Slow Cooker/Crockpot - This is such a crucial thing to have for those of you who may not be a Master Chef just yet. There is nothing simpler than throwing a ton of ingredients into a crockpot, pressing a button and going about your day (even running errands, going to sleep or going to work) and having a meal be completely ready and done with no additional effort a few hours later. I especially love using my slow cooker in the winter for soups and stews, and it totally played a role in my newfound love for cooking.

Of course, it's always a little more fun in the kitchen when you have a cute apron and some adorable oven mitts! With these essentials, you'll feel like Julia Child in the kitchen in no time! (Or at least, you'll feel like you can successfully feed yourself without keeping the fire department on speed dial!)

You can find some of my all-time favorite recipes here, and the best part is that they're all totally beginner friendly!

Stripes + Bows for Spring!

According to the calendar, it is officially Spring as of yesterday...but Chicago obviously disagrees with that sentiment. We're still sitting in a fairly chilly cold spell lately, and it's not showing signs of heating up anytime soon.

I've been so ready for the warmer weather that over the weekend I flipped most of my closet back to spring and summer styles (and kept a few sweaters out to hold me over until the weather changes). Despite the chill, I couldn't resist throwing on some of my latest purchases and gifts, including this adorable Madewell top that I was coveting for my birthday! (Thanks, Melissa!)

I headed over to the lakeshore on Sunday and was instantly reminded why I love this city so much - and how excited I am for summer! The water was the prettiest blue (it didn't have anything on Puerto Rico, but I'll take it!) Needless to say, it was pretty windy - I kept having to hold my hair from my face!

I love how light and airy this top is, which means I'll be able to wear it all summer long without getting too hot - something that is always a problem for me. The BEST feature of the shirt, though? The adorable bows on the sleeves! That was what totally won me over.

I've searched for years to find the perfect jeans in general, and have had an even harder time finding flattering white jeans. Something about the white just always makes me feel more self conscious...anyone else have this problem?!

Thankfully this past winter I discovered my new obsession with the high rise Madewell jeans, and have since purchased them in pretty much every available color. My birthday gift to myself was to finally scoop up a pair of the white, and they did not disappoint. Still a perfect fit, and still so flattering!

All the outfit needed was the perfect pop of details, and these white beaded earrings were just right. I tend to go simpler with the accessories and shoes when it comes to warmer weather, and I've got a feeling this will be one of my new go-to outfits for just about everything. 

Bow-Sleeve Top (On Sale for $50!) | White Jeans | Flats (only $50, also available in nude + black!) | Earrings (old), similar here! | Sunglasses | Monogrammed Tote (mini version is also amazing!) | Watch

I realized while writing this post that I don't really have many light popover and tunic-style shirts, and that it might be time to add some more to my wardrobe to wear from work to the River Walk for some evening drinks with friends. Here are some more of my favorites: