December 2015 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

2015 Recape - A Year of Firsts and A Challenge for 2016!

2015 was a year of firsts for me - definitely more than any other year I can think of since I was a baby. When I was reflecting on this past year and thinking about what the best way to summarize this year would be, this is what I came up with.

No one should ever stop having firsts. I am a strong believer that your entire life should be one giant bucket list of events, activities, and ideas that come together and form one cohesive string of "firsts" - I know it sounds cliche, but it really is true!

Why is it that when we make bucket lists, they are always these pipedream lists of ideas that rarely get accomplished, or get accomplished very slowly? These are the things that we say we want to do more than anything in the world, but somehow they take a backseat to our daily lives.

While I understand we can't always afford or reasonably achieve every single item on our bucket list every single day, but there should definitely be a sizable quantity of things we are crossing off every month.

Here is a quick look at some of the biggest things I did in 2015!
Rode a Mechanical Bull - Got a Tattoo - Attended Lollapalooza - Graduated College - Shooting a Rifle - Learning to Surf - Cliff Jumping - Moving to My First City - Impromptu Mardi Gras Trip

I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity to experience so many things, and I don't want to ever stop having "firsts!" Don't miss tomorrow's post on how you can join me in making sure 2016 is a year of bucket list adventures and learning to always say yes!

I hope you all have a wonderful NYE and an incredible start to 2016!

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Less than Two Days Left to Enter the Giveaway!

Don't miss out on your chance to win a $15 Starbucks Gift Card!! Less than two days left and TWO lucky winners will be chosen!

I know the winter weather has really not kicked in anywhere, and we all had a fairly toasty Christmas, but I can feel it in the air - winter is coming! What better way to warm up than a gift card to buy your favorite holiday drinks before they're yanked out of Starbucks and tucked away until next holiday season?!

Enter below, and get as many entries as possible!

*SPECIAL NOTE* - I may be giving an extra little gift to one person who enters and comments what types of posts they'd love to see more of in 2016! I want to make this year the best year yet for prepessentials and everyone who reads it!

On a very contradictory note (always have to shamelessly promote less caffeine)...if one of your resolutions is to give up or cut back on caffeine, definitely do not miss my post on how to cope without caffeine and the best ways to kick the habit! You can do it - and you can still use the gift card for tea!

*I haven't had caffeine since I was 15, and that's with my chronic sleep problems - so I know you can!*

Good luck, and Happy Almost New Year!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Christmas in Naples!

Normally, my annual Christmas getaway to visit my parents in Naples is sweet relief from the winter weather, but this year it's actually been too hot for my taste! The crazy humidity and hot heat had us all sweating in our Christmas finest at the poolside cocktail parties (all six of them!) We've had such a busy social schedule - retirement seems to agree with my parents - that it really made packing light difficult. I've been a major outfit repeater!

Of course I had to have a special dress just for Christmas Eve. I bought this gorgeous emerald green dress at a boutique in Lincoln Park this summer, and kept finding myself "saving it for a special occasion". I'm a little glad I did, because it was perfect for Christmas festivities, but I'm definitely excited to start breaking it out of my closet more often now!

Rufus was pretty excited about all of the festivities too - I'm pretty sure he opened more presents than I did...but watching him play with all of his new squeaky toys was worth ti!

Straying from my usual 'all gold everything' style, I stuck to silver accessories this year and let the dress speak for itself!

What were your Christmas Outfits this year? I've loved catching up with everyone's adorable holiday pictures on Instagram...comment with your IG handle below and I'll be sure to follow you!

Follow me @prepessentials

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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Christmas Giveaway: TWO $15 Starbucks Gift Cards!

Good news my wonderful readers...Santa has come a little bit early to prepessentials, and that means only one thing...

A Giveaway!

Get your favorite mug ready...

It has been a whirlwind but incredible year for me and my little blog, and to thank everyone for your support and for helping me turn my hobby into my passion, I have decided to do a giveaway for one TWO $15 Starbucks Gift Cards!

Two of you lucky people will receive a $15 Starbucks gift card to keep you warm and sipping on your favorite holiday blends and beverages. And the best part is, you won't even have to wait for Santa to deliver it to your stocking - I will be able to email them to you directly, so you could be swiping and sipping by New Year's Eve!

Enter below, and have an absolutely wonderful and warm holiday season, from Prep Essentials!

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The Perfectly Packed Carry-On: Essentials for Easy Traveling

Hopefully everyone is fortunate enough to be traveling home (or is already there) for the holidays to be with their family and closest loved ones, but wherever your travels during this season (or any other) take you, one thing is for absolute certain: packing can be a total nightmare...but it doesn't have to be!

I know a lot of people may already feel like they have it down, while others get anxious and stressed about the idea of packing every single time a trip approaches. I like to think that from a lifetime of packing for my parents' houses, I've mastered the art of organization and efficiency when it comes to packing your bags and leaving nothing behind.

That's why I wanted to share my best tips and tricks for staying organized and on top of it while you pack & travel, so that your mind can remain stress-free and more occupied with thoughts of relaxing and enjoying yourself wherever you may be going.

I know this might look like a lot of clutter at could it possibly be organized?! But I promise you there is a super simple system (say that three times fast...) for keeping it all together and easy to find!

The trick is to have a couple of small separator bags that keep everything handy and in it's proper "section". This way you can breeze through security and never miss a beat digging for your ID, headphones, or charger.

I've compiled a couple of my favorite (and super adorable) organizer bags, too! Cosmetic bags work great, but any sort of small zippered bag will do!

1. Patent Cosmetic Case | 2. Tory Burch York Small Case // | Metallic Mini Makeup Bag | Kate Spade Classic Ezra | 5. Ikat Case | 6. Tahiti Case | 7. Marc by Marc Jacobs 'Pretty Nylon' Case | 8. Lilly Pulitzer 'Pack Your Trunk' Case

You can organize your sections however you want, but I typically have one for makeup/beauty products, one for technology, one for "extras" (hand sanitizer, tissues, chapstick...) and my wallet handy and organized for quick and easy access!

I'll be taking my own advice tonight while I pack for Naples to see my family for Christmas...anyone else heading off anywhere fun or exciting? (Even if that just means back to home sweet home?!)

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Madewell New Arrivals - Holiday 2015

It's as if Madewell read my mind this holiday season with their new arrivals...greens and naves and deep burgundies...sigh. Ironically, since moving to the city I almost never get to go into a Madewell store anymore - the only one in Chicago is on Michigan Avenue which is way too crowded for my taste.

Luckily for me, all of their lust-worthy clothes and accessories are just as beautiful online. Keeping around some of their classic top sellers, and always matching my simple but classically preppy style, Madewell has long since been my favorite store to covet, and this year's holiday new arrivals are absolutely no exception.

My top picks...

The colors and plaid patterns are so perfect for winter, and the deep emerald green of that cami dress would be gorgeous at a holiday party with tights and a shawl. The Tote is stunning monogrammed, and I think my favorite item of all is the cage bangle bracelet.

What are your favorite picks from Madewell this season?

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Cozying Up to Christmas

It seems that the one time no one really complains much about the winter chill is during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. There's just something so festive about the holiday decorations, light snowfalls, and cozying up in blankets and warm clothes by fireplaces (or, if you're like me and aren't fortunate enough to have a fireplace, a pretend one on your laptop screen...)

I know I have definitely noticed an increase in the amount of time at work spent daydreaming about heading home at the end of the day, curling up in my warmest and softest PJs, slippers and socks, and wrapping myself in blankets with a movie and a warm drink.

I've been on the lookout for some new winter lounge + sleepwear to get me through my very first soon-to-be-brutal *fingers crossed that it's bearable* Chicago winter.

Nothing beats a little plaid during the holidays. There's just something so festive about a good pajama set and some slippers by the tree!

You can't go wrong with classic whites, and these are classics! I am so obsessed with the small navy bows on these J.Crew shorts, and the clean blue lines on the pajama set are perfectly preppy and elegant - definitely at the top of my list to add a slightly more grown-up pajama set to my wardrobe.

(PS - the shorts also come in a pant!)

I think I have tried on more than ten different robes on various shopping trips in recent months, always debating between what is worth a slightly high price for an incredibly cozy product vs. trying to remain below budget considering this is strictly a "lounge" item and something that is categorized more closely to luxury items for me. Despite that, however, I think if I try on the Gap Sherpa Robe one more time the store might give it to me out of pity! *fingers crossed*

Needless to say I will be well bundled up for whatever winter weather Chicago brings my way, and I am thoroughly looking forward to a few more weeks of cozy nights by the Christmas tree!

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Cheers to Christmas - The Best Christmas Mugs Under $25

One of my absolute favorite ways to get into the holiday spirit is with holiday mugs of hot chocolate near the Christmas tree. Most of my holiday mugs still live at home with my parents, so I decided to get one this year for my new apartment!

Turns out there are a lot of super cute ones - choosing one was so difficult! I will definitely be purchasing more in the future, but for now my lonely collection of one is just fine!

In case anyone else is looking to add to their collection (or begin one) to get into the holiday spirit, I did a round-up of my favorite holiday mugs under $25 (and most of them under $10!)

All of these are so adorable, it's hard to decide! I think I know my next purchase, however, and it's definitely going to be this Elf-themed mug from an adorable Etsy shop I found!

Because cotton-headed ninny muggins is forever my favorite insult. And hello...its punny!
(mug)gins! Haha :)

What have you been sipping your holiday drinks from this season?

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Chicago Holiday Season Bucket List - A Guide to Chicago Christmas Events!

This is my first Christmas living in the city, and I am seriously loving it! The city is so beautiful this time of year (and thankfully not too cold - yet!) Everything is so festive and beautiful, and there is an endless list of ways to get into the holiday spirit! I'm overwhelmed by how many evens I want to attend, trying to cram everything in before I head down to Naples to spend the holidays with my family and escape the chill. 

The holiday activities have also been a great way to explore Chicago more and resist the urge to head straight home from work and curl up on the couch...although I'm still doing that plenty, trust me! For anyone else who lives in the city or visits this time of year - which I highly recommend - I have spared you the headache and compiled a list of all of the amazing ways to spread Christmas cheer Chicago-style. Fingers crossed I can accomplish all or most of the items on this list!

1. Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza - This Traditional German Christmas Market is probably my favorite thing I have seen so far this holiday season. A huge open market of traditional German foods and drinks, musicians and singers, sweet Christmas treats from around the world, and so much more. My favorite has been the indescribable hot chocolate and the fresh ginger bread!

2. Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo - This was the first thing I heard about when the holiday season approached, and I can definitely understand why! Visit the animals, musical light shows, ice carving, ice skating, and tons of activities for little kids too! You can also visit during Brew Lights, with dozens of draft beers and pale ale served among the 2 million holiday lights. (I've been to this one three times shame!)

3. Ice Skating at Millennium Park - Having visited Chicago many years before I moved here, ice skating at Millennium park is not new to me but it will always be one of my must-do activities during the winter. It's so incredible to see the entire city and all of its lights surrounding you, with ice skaters and music everywhere and the cafe serving hot chocolate and treats. My favorite thing to do is go out to dinner, head to the ice rink, then walk down Michigan Avenue to look at all of the incredible Christmas displays in the shops.

4. See one of the Chicago-Famous Holiday Shows - Being from Louisville, we always went to Christmas plays and shows but you can't beat the big-time shows in cities like Chicago. The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol have been running for over 30 years, and they've stuck around for a reason! I can't wait to try this new experience out in my new home next week!

5. Catch the CTA Holiday Train - I've been chasing this around for the last week so far and still haven't gotten a ride, but I've seen it on SnapChat and even a glimpse from the street when I was walking to dinner one night...major jealousy. One train on the "L" in the city is decked out in Christmas lights, displays, music, and elves handing out candy and Christmas Cheer for the entire month. Determined to catch it soon!

6. TBOX - The Twelve Bars of Christmas 12 Hour Bar Crawl...I think the name kinda says it all with this one. People have been asking me if I've bought my ticket since before the Halloween bar crawl in Wrigleyville! (And people get upset when people play Christmas carols before Thanksgiving...sheesh). An all day event in Wrigleyville that has been described to me in a hundred different ways, but it seems to be the holiday event of the season. I'll definitely let you know how it goes after this weekend!

Does anyone else have any helpful tips or holiday must-see events in Chicago? Please share with a rookie Chicagoan, I'm loving all of the exploring!

PS - Suddenly for the first time, I'm noticing the insane amount of Christmas movies that take place in Chicago/Chicago suburbs...Can't be a coincidence! You just can't beat Christmas in Chicago!

Happy Holidays!

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7 Best Beauty Products for Sensitive Skin - Tried & Tested!

The first snow has arrived, the winter chill is officially breezing its way around Chicago, and I am officially (unhappily) saying hello again to my dry winter skin. Anyone else?! I've never had such problems with dry skin as I am this year - I guess I have the Chicago wind to thank for that!

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm extremely cautious about what I put on or even near my skin. I am strangely (and uniquely to anyone else in my family...) allergic to a lot things when it comes to beauty products: deodorants, lotions, sunscreens, lip balms, anything for a bath (bath bombs, salts, soaps etc.), makeup removers. You name it, I've had an allergic reaction to some variety of it.

I don't even like standing to close to the entrance of a Lush store because the scent alone makes me cringe in anticipation of allergic reactions (And no, I'm not knocking Lush at all! I wish I could shop many of my friends and coworkers swear by their products!) It has been a lifelong struggle of trial and error to find products that work for me without causing some sort of irritation and uncomfortable reaction.

After years and years of curating the perfect list of beauty products and regimen, I have finally covered all of the bases and found products that work for me, so I thought I would share them for anyone else who has dry or extra-sensitive skin like me - and most importantly, I've always been cautious to avoid having to shell out a ton of money for some expensive exotic product just because my skin is a total diva when it comes to accepting a product!

I won't swear that these are all the perfect item for you if you have sensitive skin, but I have never met anyone with more sensitive skin than me and (fortunately) I haven't had any problems from any of these products, so I definitely recommend at least giving them a try if you are having troubles!

I love the new Venus Embrace Sensitive Skin Razors - they've actually made a huge difference when it comes to razor burn and bumps for me. I've also always sworn by the Aveeno sunscreens because they are oil-free and extra gentle, so I never have to worry about them disturbing my face or flaring up a reaction on my arms and legs (plus it was recommend by Allure Magazine and the Skin Cancer Foundation - can't beat that!)

I love the lavender scented body wash and lotions from Aveeno as well (what can I say, they do a great job for us sensitive people!). I'd love to hear if anyone else has some great products that work for them, or if any of these have worked for other people cursed to avoid all things perfumed or chemical-filled. 

Hope this helps in time for the dry winter air!

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Saks Spreads Holiday Cheer

This is my first holiday season in the city and I'm loving it for a lot reasons. I'm having so much fun finding all of the fun and festive ways that Chicago gears up for the holidays, but I still always have to share my favorite New York Christmas tradition (which unfortunately still remains on my bucket list to see in person).

Saks Fifth Avenue puts on an incredible lights show using 3D projection mapping on the side of their building every year during December to the tune of traditional holiday songs and I can't stop watching them!

The shows use a character called the #SaksYeti which is rumored to live on the rooftop during the holidays and create snow around New York City. You can find more about the magical character here!

There are a bunch of them online (links below!) but this is my favorite one of all time from 2012! And the best part? They happen every FOUR MINUTES!


Here are the links to the other years, as well! Which one is your favorite?

Saks Show 2011

Snowflakes and Bubbles - Saks Show 2010

Carol of the Bells - Snowflake Show 2009

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The Ultimate Guide of Do's & Don't for Applying to Jobs: Part Two

If you saw my post earlier this week, you saw all of my best advice and tips for do's and don'ts of the job application process, from when it is okay to email your recruiter to knowing what to focus on when making a decision about offers!

If you missed part one, you can find it here!

Knowing what to say, when to say it, and what is the most professional and appropriate way to get your point across is one of the hardest parts about the job and internship application process. This is why I'm providing you with templates and ideas for the best ways to go about certain types of emails and interactions with your recruiters and interviewers to seem professional, take-charge, and self-sufficient.

*Disclaimer: These are not perfect, nor are they a 'guaranteed' way to get you a job or internship you are trying to score. They are, however, proven and tested ways that have worked in the past! More than anything, use these as a great jumping off point for how best to interact with your point of contact during the application process, and then put your own personal spin on it!*

Use this directly after an interview or any other lengthy interaction you have with your recruiter or interview point of contact!

Use this if you were given a deadline for when you could expect a decision or a callback, and you still haven't heard anything! Yes, it is okay to reach out!

Check out my post here on how to write the perfect post-internship thank you note and hopefully land yourself a job offer! (Or at the very least, a stellar recommendation for future job opportunities).

Like I said, these are by no means 'perfect', but both my friends and myself have used these templates and they are a great jumping off point for knowing how to sound professional and appropriate, while still fighting for what you want!

Good luck, and as always if you have any questions or need other advice on how to interact with companies, I would absolutely love to hear from you!

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