February 2016 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Fresh & Feminine Scents for Spring

Everyone is buzzing about spring after the brief dose of warm weather we got this weekend. It definitely felt like there was an entire shift in the minds of moods of Chicago locals - everyone was busy, making plans, and trying to soak up every last drop of sunshine before it could disappear. 

All this talk about spring left me feeling really revived and awake, and ready for a fresh clean slate. Sometimes all you need to shake things up is a little bit of sunshine, a change in wardrobe (hello, spring clothes!) and a fresh new scent!

I've gathered together some of my favorite spring scents to help everyone cling to this warm-weather mood that we're all in and tide you over until the grey clouds are gone for good. I've never been a fan of heavy perfumes, or ones that smell super sweet and flowery like they're a bottle full of sugar - so if you're looking for something light, airy & feminine without smelling like you work in a candy factory, I definitely recommend trying one of these out! 

*Pro tip - a lot of stores in an effort to sell fragrances at the turn of the season will let you have baby samplers for free if you ask for them! 

I've had a sampler of the D&G 3 L'imperatrice sitting in my makeup drawer for about...6 years. Not kidding. Finally, last spring, I tried it out one day and ended up loving it so much that I used it all up in about a month flat. I finally remembered it this weekend when I was trying to embrace the warm weather and ordered a bottle immediately before I could forget again!

Chanel Chance has always been one of my favorites, and I really think it works year-round which is pretty rare. It's really fresh without being too girly, and it's probably my signature scent.

I just found a sample of Viva La Juicy Rosé flipping through this month's In Style and really loved it. I used to use Viva La Juicy, but this new version is a little less sweet (in a very good way).

Daisy is another one that I had for a long time before I honestly embraced it, despite the fact that my friends were constantly borrowing it from me and a lot of them say it is their favorite spring and summer scent. Now I love it and use it all of the time. 

Let the countdown to dresses, patio brunches and rooftops begin...

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Balayage Hair: The Pros & Cons, Including My Before & After!

I was a little nervous to try this part of my February Bucket List this month...but I was finally ready to take the plunge and try something new! My entire life I would say I've pretty much prided myself on never coloring or highlighting my hair. 

I even distinctly remember a time when I was around 12 years old that my dad very strictly and explicitly told me that I was never to do that - not. ever. At the time, I remember taking him very seriously but also laughing to myself because I thought that was the silliest thing...why would I ever want to do that? I love my hair!

I still absolutely love my hair - this was more about me being extremely curious about a trend, seeing a lot of friends try it, and finally feeling comfortable enough that this was such a subtle change that it wouldn't really matter. The great thing about Balayage hair is that you don't have to touch it up, your roots stay natural, and its really only the lower ends of your hair so it will just grow itself out naturally. To me, that made it feel no different than random colorful streaks we used to put in our hair for Lady Gaga Concerts or Field Hockey Games (just lasting a little longer...)

I was literally debating back and forth up until the minute I walked into the salon. No seriously, I had about 7 text conversations with friends I had been annoying about it for over two weeks, who by then were all yelling at me to just "do it already and stop worrying - it would look great!"

Here were the pictures I provided as my inspiration:

It helped that I really trusted the salon. I did a ton of research, and I've never seen a salon that had a 4.8 rating and literally pages upon pages with paragraph long reviews absolutely raving about the place as if it had changed their life. After a few recommendations from friends and a lot of scrolling on Yelp - I chose Salon V Chicago near my apartment and made the appointment. 

Naturally I had snapchat updates going the entire time...

Officially laughing and realizing why I hadn't done this before...

Playing the waiting game and trying to mask my panic over what on earth could be happening under all of that foil!

And somehow, because I decided to do this only days before I left for my trips to Washington D.C. and New Orleans - The only picture I have where there is a genuinely noticeable difference is in this one:

Although personally I think it looks a lot blonder here than it really is!

My overall verdict: I don't really think that my hair was done Balayage so much as just regular and subtle highlights that start lower than my roots - and it took me a few days to adjust and decide whether or not I wanted to go back and have her make it more like the pictures...but what I decided was that my absolute biggest concern was that I wanted this to be really subtle and just a fun change. 

My stylist nailed it when she said to me, "So you want to look like you spent a couple of weeks cruising around the Caribbean, right? Some natural highlights from some extra sun!" And that was exactly the level of subtlety I was looking for. 

I really love it now that I'm used to it, and truthfully unless I am in certain types of lighting you really can't see it which is fine with me! Most importantly - I stuck to my guns and tried something new and out of my comfort zone, which is what the Bucket List Spirit is all about. 

PS - the after picture is also at Mardi Gras, which was also on this month's bucket list post! Keep them coming, I have loved hearing everything new you have all been trying this month!

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Warby Parker Spring Collection: Welcome to the Circus!

Warby Parker, one of my absolute favorite eyeglass and sunglass brands, has just released their new Spring Collection and it seriously has me wishing I wore glasses - maybe I can get some without prescription lenses and just pretend to be that chic.

 The collection is inspired by the circus - bold colors, happy spirits and "spectacles" that make a real statement! (See what I did there?! Well, at least I laugh at my own jokes...yikes). With the new collection come three brand new silhouettes which are just as amazing as the classic Warby Parker styles we've always loved - and don't worry, the new collection brings its bold colors to those classic shapes as well! They've really thought of everything to kick off their first collection of 2016.

For more details on the inspiration behind the new collection and a breakdown of everything new, check out this awesome video!


Top: The Mitchell Style for Men in Earl Grey (how perfect is that name?)
Bottom: Kensett Style for Men in Atlantic Blue & Finch Style for Women in Bellini

The new colors come in super fun colors like "Maraschino" and "Peacock Green" - with returning hues such as "Bellini" and "Canton Blue". One of my favorite things about this brand is the Home Try-On Program. It takes a lot of testing out to know when a pair of eyeglasses are right for you - and Warby Parker helps you out by allowing you to borrow up to five pairs for five whole days to try them out! They ship them to you for free, let you pick out whichever ones you're interested in, and they even cover return shipping! It's like window shopping delivered to your doorstep. 

All of the styles are $95, and they have amazing customer service including a one-year no questions-asking policy where they will replace scratched lenses for free. Definitely worth the value!

This is the Laurel style in the amazing new Peacock Green! So, so pretty...

Another oh-so-cute image for the Finch Style for Women in Bellini - I think these might be my favorite!

And if you're needing an excuse to splurge on one of these bold new styles, consider it your good karma for the week - for every pair sold, Warby Parker donates a pair to someone in need! Do your good deed of the day and head online to Warby Parker or to your nearest store to check out the circus!

PS...Quick-View the rest of the new additions below!

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Build the Perfect At-Home Spa for a Lazy Sunday!

After a whirlwind of back-to-back trips and almost zero sleep for the last 12 days, there has been one thing and one thing only on my mind...glorious sleep.

I am envisioning a lot of lazy weekends filled with the 4 R's: relaxing, reading, resting and (w)riting, (at least until my birthday in a few weeks...but I'm pretending that isn't really happening.) When I hit my peak of absolute exhaustion traveling home from New Orleans, I really started to daydream about how great it would be to take some time off. 

It got me thinking about my favorite ways to unwind...what books I was looking forward to reading, lighting a bunch of candles around the apartment, and treating myself to some at-home spa treatments. I think I owe my body some repair work after the exhaustion I just put it through! 

I've gathered up all of my favorite spa day essentials, whether you want to treat yourself to a lazy Sunday, or get your Galentine's together for a girls spa weekend without emptying your entire wallet. 

Relax & Refresh with Morning Mint:
I absolutely had to include this set for a couple of reasons. When my mom owned her furniture store, this was one of the first things she got at market to start selling up front, and I remember smelling these every single time I went to visit her from when I was six years old until she closed the store my sophomore year of college. I recently bought some and they're such a sweet reminder of those visits to her store. They smell amazing - and they work so incredibly well! They are one of the extremely rare few of spa products that don't irritate my hyper-sensitive skin. It's honestly incredibly hard to just choose one - but I think the sugar scrub really is a miracle product.
Sugar Scrub | Bubble Bath | Body Lotion | Hand Creme

Light a Candle & Breathe:
A lot of people love lavender for relaxation, and I do too - but often the scents are way too strong and overpowering. I really want to try out the Dyptique one, and I've always loved the one from Bath and Body Works! I typically prefer citrus, mint or vanilla scents because there is something about them that just makes me feel so clean. The air feels fresher with smells like those. (The Lemongrass candle is the one I could never put down at my Mom's store - I literally used to walk around smelling it...) And the Endless Love candle I found completely by accident this summer - and immediately ended up burning through two full 3-wick candles of it. Oops!

Be Polished:
It's no secret that my Essie collection is never-ending, but these are some of my favorite girly and sweet colors perfect for events like a spa day or for a Valentine's Day date! I'm pretty sure that Fiji is the most popular Essie color of all time, although I think my favorite is still Bikini So Teeny. 

Turn the Page:
There's a whole post coming up dedicated to my favorite reads lately, but in the interest of relaxing and letting your mind wander, here are some of my absolute favorites. (PS, don't forget to follow me on Goodreads to get book suggestions, reviews, and see what I'm reading!) This is all a mix of light & funny, dark & twisty, mysterious, something you can't put down, and ones that are totally relatable. If you liked Gone Girl or Girl on the Train - Remember Mia is what's next for you. If you need a good laugh or a girl in her 20s who just completely gets you - start with the Dating Detox (which I have now read four times). Brain on Fire is such an intense and frustrating mystery, I devoured it in a single day. Could not put it down. 
PS don't worry...all of the links below will take you straight to the full and real summaries of each book!

Now all you need to do is pour yourself a glass of wine (or two), grab a few magazines and your comfiest sleepwear (like some of my favorites here) and treat yourself to a fully luxurious spa weekend right from your home!

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Brighten Up The Room: Cheap & Easy Flower Decor for Any Season!

I love flowers. I think they are one of my all-time favorite types of decor, and they make me smile whenever I have them in my apartment. Unfortunately, my budget doesn't love them as much as I do, so it is difficult to have them around all the time. 

Hydrangeas and Peonies are definitely my favorite types of flowers - and having blue and white hydrangeas was always in my vision of my bedroom in Chicago. They go perfectly with my all white color scheme with pops of light blue + gold everywhere. 

I bought some at Trader Joe's towards the end of the summer to try them out (and to cheer myself up while I was still adjusting to my new routine, schedule and life!) and I absolutely loved them. It was honestly the longest I've ever managed to keep flowers alive...they lasted about two full weeks before they started to wilt! I missed them so much once they were gone, so I found some super cheap ones on Amazon and ordered them. 

They required a little bit of trimming down and fluffing, but now I get to have a big bouquet of them every day next to me my bed, and they were just what that corner of my room needed. I love the way they brighten up an otherwise dark and dreary corner of my room - and they really pop! against the exposed brick. 

Flowers are so perfect for brightening up a room, getting these into place inspired me to place a few more small arrangements around the apartment to add some life and color. Unfortunately, those are still on their way to my humble little apartment and won't be here for a few more weeks, but I wanted to share some of the other ways that I love using flowers to brighten up a living space!

Some arrangements that inspire me:

Love the pop of pink - would go perfectly with my all-neutral living room to add a little color. And the best part is you can always change it up!


If you're looking to add some color and life into your life (or just looking to cheer yourself up on these drab and dreary grey winter days), I recommend checking out Bloom Nation. I was recently introduced to the site, and am really excited to try it out the next time I want to send flowers to a friend in need of a pick-me-up. If you haven't heard of them before, they are a flower delivery service that supports local florists on an online marketplace. 

All you have to do is enter the zip code of where you'd like flowers delivered, and they do the rest of the work! Having a mom that owned a local interior design business in Louisville (and who emphatically embraced + supported local flowers shops for all of her decor needs...always) I thought this was such a cool and interesting concepts. I'll always be a firm believer in supporting local businesses and artists, so you should definitely check them out!

I'd love to see the ways you use flowers in your home decor - tweet @prep_essentials or tag me in an instagram @prepessentials to showcase how you use flowers, and I will feature my favorites in a blog post!

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Everything you Need for Natural Contouring: Complete & Easy Tutorial + Products!

While visiting my two closest lifelong friends in Indianapolis on my way down to Louisville to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with their family (aka my adoptive family), we did a little lot of shopping and swung by Bare Minerals so I could re-stock on some of my makeup. Almost all of the makeup I use is Bare Minerals, probably more than anything because my friend that showed me how to do my makeup last year used them and that is what is sold uptown in Oxford, but I've remained a loyal customer because I love their products!

We noticed they were doing free makeup tutorials, and signed up right away to try and finally learn what all this crazy contouring nonsense is about. I was a little hesitant (I've expressed my hesitancy towards any sort of non-natural looking makeup before...) But I figured it couldn't hurt to try just for fun! I was relived to find out that you don't have to do the crazy contouring like what you see on makeup tutorial videos or on Pinterest where they have what looks like 5 shades of heavy creamy makeups smeared in war-paint patterns all over their faces to somehow blend together into a Kim Kardashian makeup regime!

The woman at Bare Minerals was super helpful, and showed us how to do a very natural and simple contouring that isn't heavy or obvious, but just subtly highlights the shapes of your cheekbones and angles of your face to be the most flattering they could be. I've attempted to re-create her instructions here, because I feel like there is a serious lack of tutorials on how to do this natural style of contouring that people like me would be much more comfortable with.

Step One: Use your primer as you normally would. If you don't use primer, it's great to give your skin a smooth, soft and polished look. One small squirt spread evenly across your face - particularly on your forehead, cheeks and down the bridge of your nose - is all you need!

Step Two: Again, use concealer as you normally would. Cover any blemishes, redness, or under-eye circles you may want to hide and blend it well. 

Step Three: This one is not necessarily mandatory, but I think it makes an amazing differences. Use the Well-Rested Eye Brightener (or another similar eye brightener) to cover-up particularly harsh under-eye circles if you have sleep issues like me. Apply the brightener in a triangle shape pointing downwards below your eyes like this: 

*Hint: It should look like you have light-colored triangles on your face until after you apply the foundation, where you will blend them right in. So don't worry! It is supposed to be visible during this step!

Step Four: Using the Beautiful Finish Brush (or a similar synthetic, soft and large makeup brush), apply your foundation. For best results, start on the outer sides of each cheek, and move the brush in a circular motion to blend right over the top of the eye-brightener. Keep moving in these circular motions on each cheek with the foundation until the brightener and foundation blend together to give your cheekbones and under-eye area a lighter and brighter blended finish. Then apply your foundation to the rest of your face as normal. 

Step Five: Using an angled brush for best results, take your bronzer and contour the sharp lines of your face (see image below!) This should be subtle and blended, and is really just to very gently darken the sharp angles of your face to help brighten the rest and - yep, you guessed it - contour your face! Do this just below your cheekbones, just below/along the sides of your chin, and very lightly and thinly along the lines of your outer nose.

Step Six: Use a blush/luminizer duo to contrast against these bronzer lines every more by applying just above where you applied the bronzer. This dark & light contrast will really make the contouring pop, lightening the places of your face that should be lightened and darkening the parts that should be darkened. If you find that the lines are too directly visible, when you are finished, take a big and fluffy  brush and very lightly blend around your face until everything looks smooth and blended. 

Personally - I'm still working on this and have only tried it a handful of times - I still can't get used to wearing that much makeup - but it really does look amazing when you do it! If contouring is something you've been wanting to try but you get intimidated by all of the paint-filled tutorials and videos, this is a simple and natural look that won't require you to buy a bunch of products you don't already have. 

I would love to hear from you if you try this out, or if you have any questions about the instructions!

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Closet Organization Reveal: Before & After + Organization Tips!

By far one of the best parts of my apartment in Chicago is that we somehow got the miracle of big closets in our bedrooms. I have so much storage space, and can even fit my whole dresser inside my closet! In all of the chaos of the moving process, however, I took advantage of this extra space a little too much and ended up haphazardly storing things everywhere just to finally be done unpacking.

It wasn't as if my closet wasn't organized, per se....everything did have a place - it was just a lot of ugly places that eventually become quite the eyesore. Although looking back on the "before" pictures now, I feel anxious all over again just thinking about it...During a particularly anxious winter weekend (yes, I clean and organize when I'm anxious), I decided enough was enough and basically tore through my entire closet. Shoes & clothes had to go, the insane tower of DVDs I had stacked on the shelves needed a new home, and my laundry basket storage full of shoes had officially outlived its practicality now that I'm no longer in college.

I got to work first by taking out clothes and shoes I never wear and donating them - I actually did a great job of this for the most part when I graduated, but it was definitely time to try again and let some more things go (never my strong suit). Then I scoured the internet for some cute storage bins that wouldn't break the bank and scored big with these grey bins from PB Teen.

I used the Medium-sized bins, and they were the exact perfect depth and width for the shelves in my closet, but the mini ones seem great for things like bathroom organization! P.S. They're on sale right now! Get them quick!

Then I found this cheap and small shoe storage shelf to hold my most-frequent pairs from Target - it's great because you can stack more on top if needed - my only complaint is that my taller shoes and booties only fit on the top shelf, but maybe it will keep me from buying any more because they currently fit perfectly!

Probably my favorite item I bought was this little nail polish organizer from the Container Store. Essie nail polish collecting is such a problem for me - but at least now they have a home! (Don't be fooled...these are just my springtime colors. The fall & winter ones are on display on my vanity...)

Without further ado, here are the (gruesome) before pictures. Don't judge me!

Yikes. The DVDs, Laundry Bin, Books, Miscellaneous items stashed away, and random heels on top of the shelves definitely needed new homes...

Thankfully after a lot of hard work, a lot of forcing myself to throw things out, and a lot of making space under my bed, here is the final result!

Ahh. That's better! 

Thinking about tackling a similar project on your own? Here are some tips to help you get started!

1. Start with the toss - keep - donate strategy. This is honestly something I've never done. Some of my friends through high school did this in their closets each winter and each spring, but I have such a hard time throwing things away that graduation/this project were the first times I've ever really done it, but it was so refreshing. The most helpful rules I used were asking myself if I would buy this in a store if I saw it today, and if I had worn it in the last 12 months. If not, it was time to let it go. Period. No exceptions.

2. Give everything a home. A lot of things in my closet were things I still need/use/want, but they were not in the right place. The massive mountain of DVDs got relocated into a couple of DVD sleeve organizers like this one and this one, saving me tons of space. The books got moved to a bookshelf in our living room, and the random little junk pieces got tossed. My hats were hung up on the back of my bedroom door next to my scarves and purses, and the shoes I don't use very often/seasonally were relocated under my bed in a shoe organizer like this one. This was all definitely a time-consuming process, but so worth it. If you can't find a home for something - question if you really truly need it.

3. Storing things seasonally is useful - but be careful of overkill. Some organization articles will suggest that you purchase a bunch of expense under-bed storage and bins insisting that anything for winter must be stashed away, and while that can be helpful for bigger or bulkier items, I don't personally believe you need to break the bank on expensive storage to do so. I own a few plastic bins like these that I keep under my bed, and I try to just keep them organized more or less in the same categories, but I have plenty of summer clothes, dresses and tops in my closet. Sometimes you can layer things, and it's a lot easier when you take trips to warmer weather and don't have to climb into a cave under your bed just to pack!

4. My best organization tip for all areas of the house: Sort by category. I am still a bit of a pack-rat - an organized one, but one all the same. The best way I stay organized is by knowing where a general category is. I have a scarf & winter accessory drawer, so if I don't know where a specific pair of gloves exact location is - I know it is in that drawer somewhere. I might be hunting for a specific charger, my GPS, or my car charger when I rent cars for road trips - nothing I use super frequently, but a total pain when I can't find it quickly. All of these types of items are stored in the same plastic bag under my bed. Out of sight, but easy to find. 

Has anyone else tried tackling any major organization or cleaning projects lately? I'd love to hear some of the ways you made it happen!

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