June 2016 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

4 Easy & Refreshing Summer Cocktails!

This has been our second weekend in a row featuring 90 degree temperatures and a super strong sun to bring the heat - I hope everyone has been wearing their sunscreen! (Confession: I got a bit of a burn laying on the rooftop this past Saturday...and I was being really good about re-applying!)

We've been braving the heat for a few hours at a time, but it seems to wind us up in the same place each day - craving some air conditioning and a refreshingly cool cocktail. The good news is, it's given us a good excuse to try out some new treats!

Stay cool and sip on one of these next Saturday afternoon!

Full Recipes:


Cucumber Ginger Fizz

Watermelon Cucumber Cooler

Grapefruit Salty Dog

What are your favorite summer sips to stay cool and refreshed on these hot afternoons?

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Be an Unforgettable Summer Party Guest!

It takes a lot for me to turn down an invitation to any sort of summer event…illness and being out of town (hopefully doing something equally fun) are pretty much the only excuses I’ll accept. Music, friends, sunshine, a couple of summer snacks and cocktails and I can’t imagine a place I’d be happier. 

While not every single summer event demands a special effort, throwing together these soirees tends to be a lot more difficult than it appears, especially if food or grilling is involved, so I always try to contribute however I can. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to be sure that your host feels appreciated for their efforts, and that you were able to contribute something small but special to make the day that much better for everyone!

Fresh flowers are always appreciated, and you can find them for cheap in the summertime!

For larger parties, sometimes feeding everyone can be a bit overwhelming, so it's good to have a recipe or two on hand that are easy to make, quick to prepare and transport easily. Be on the lookout for a post this week sharing two of my favorites for summer parties! (I will link them back here later!)

One of my favorite hostess gifts (especially in summertime) is to bring a two-ingredient cocktail gift that is light and refreshing. The host/hostess can either whip it up for the day or save it for next time! 4 simple and refreshing recipes can be found right here.

Sometimes all you need are the right songs to make a good party great - start with this summer vibes playlist available on Spotify, here!

Show up with one of these and you will be sure to make the day a little bit more fun, and make you the ufortgettable guest (who is sure to get an invite time and time again!)

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An Insider's Guide to Brunch in Chicago!

OH MY, can this city do brunch. I've never traveled anywhere else that boasts such a long list of unique and incredible brunch locations, from rooftops to patios, bottomless brunches & along the lakeshore...you can truly have it all (and you still won't cover even half of your "must-try" list.) For every brunch spot I cross off my list, three more seem to get added!

To help ease the headache stomachache over having to narrow down the long list of options, whether you're a local or just planning to travel to Chicago in the near future. I've reviewed a few of my absolute favorites here, and what my go-to menu and beverage item are!

*Full Disclaimer: I am not always the most adventurous eater, so while I have loved the meals I'm recommending, you may be more adventurous and love something so much more! Trust me, every spot on my list will have you overwhelmed with choices!*


One of the first places I ever went for Chicago brunch, back when I was visiting my brothers as a little middle-school kid. Fell in love, and still insist on consistent visits.

Pros: The food is unreal. 100% worth the wait (as long as your wait is an hour or less). The good news is, it’s in an awesome area with a lot of shopping, and plenty of people end up giving up, so the wait time is always 15-20 mins shorter than they say. 

Cons: Fairly small place, super limited seating, and of course they don’t take reservations. The wait time can get pretty long after 10am, so suck it up and head there early - don’t worry, they have some pretty amazing Bloody Mary’s and Coffee cocktails that make up for the lack of sleep. 

Favorite Menu Items: Pancake Orgy. Personally, this is a little bit too much food for me these days, but my first few visits you couldn’t keep me away! Wash it down with their unbelievable strawberry mimosa. Hint: if you aren't a pancake person, they also have a french toast version!

My personal favorite (you can see it frequented on my snapchat almost every single weekend, especially in the Spring & Summer!) The entire atmosphere transports you to California, with a beachy and well-lit vibe that makes you feel trendy just sitting in there. 

Pros: The atmosphere is what really puts this place over the top for me. Every time I sit here, I manage to convince myself by the end of the meal that moving to California would be a great idea. The food is incredible (also as a dinner spot) and everything on the menu is super tasty. Bonus points: they have a ton of options if you’re trying to be health-conscious and stick to the lighter side of things. 

Cons: Can be a tad pricier with certain items, especially the cocktails, but they do have a wide variety of those that range around $10 each. Getting a reservation is super tricky, but if it’s just for two, you can almost always snag a bar seat. (Try to book reservations more than 2 weeks in advance, unless you're okay with super early, or 2pm! Still totally worth the wait and mid-morning snack to get you through the hunger pangs).

Favorite Menu Item: The avocado toast is amazing. I naturally opt for this because avocado toast is by far my favorite breakfast, but no one does it as well as Summer House. The bread is homemade and pretty thick, but it comes with super delicious poached eggs on top and scallion mascarpone. Your mouth will water when it arrives, and it's always too pretty not to Snapchat it!

No matter what you get - you must get the fries as a side. They’re quite possibly the best fries I have had in the city, and I always order an extra plate just because. 

Pair your brunch with a passion fruit margarita, which I will tell you tastes completely different than what you would expect (i.e. not pink, and a lot less fruity tasting than I imagined) but in a very good way! This drink was super refreshing, and unlike many bar drinks in Chicago, it’s actually worth the $10 you spend, alcohol-wise. 

Right in the heart of Lincoln Park, I found this spot when I was an intern and exploring the DePaul campus area near my apartment. Definitely best-known for it's sweet BYOB deal (more champagne for me!) and the giant jars of Nutella on every table. 

Pros: The BYOB thing is great, because that can definitely be where your bill starts to climb if you're looking for a boozy brunch with friends. There's a Whole Foods down the street if you forget to come prepared, and it's fun because you can dream up new concoctions! The massive jars of Nutella are a nutella-lover's dream come true (I've definitely had friends tempted to take one home with them...)

Cons: Another brunch space on the smaller end (and no outdoor patio), so wait times can stack up pretty quickly here but in comparison to other spots it's not too terrible! You can always request a few glasses and get started on those homemade mimosas while you wait!

Favorite Menu Item: Stuffed French Toast & whatever mimosa combination you're craving! The stuffed french toast is super filling and totally worth it, and the balsamic syrup on top is out of this world. Goes pretty well with some extra Nutella added on top!

This is my go-to if I slept in a little late, or don’t want to deal with fighting a crowd. Don’t let that fool you, though - this place is great, and the lack of wait time is anything but a con. The original Nookies is closer to the River North area and harder to get into. (Sidenote - this is right around the corner from Toast, so if your wait time there is too crazy, head here!)

Pros: Almost always get a table right away. Sits in a great location with lots of shopping nearby (including a Lululemon, always fueling my excuse to browse…) The service is pretty quick, so this is a nice way to get in a brunch without interfering with whatever plans you have for the day. 

Cons: Very little to complain about here. I wouldn’t rank the food above some of the others on this list, but it also has some things that I can’t get enough of (including the Tomato soup they bring out before your entree…not something I would ever think to order for brunch, but it’s mandatory for me here!)

Favorite Menu Item: The cup of tomato soup - no seriously...it's amazing! The green goddess skillet is my go-to entree - it's the perfect way to indulge in some brunch delights while still packing in the veggies and greens so I can brunch (somewhat) guilt-free!

I can genuinely say I'm not exaggerating here - Hampton Social has the coolest and most unique restaurant atmosphere I've experienced. I wasn't even participating in conversation for the first 10-15 minutes we were there because I just kept looking around and observing all of the decor (and enjoying the incredible live music of beachy and relaxing songs.) If you've ever wondered what dining in the Hamptons or Montauk feels like, Hampton Social wants you to experience it firsthand!

Pros: Everything from the great music and beach vibes to the neon sign reading "Rosé All Day" on an ivy wall makes for a truly remarkable brunch experience, but it definitely doesn't stop there. All of the food looks incredible, and some pretty key cocktails are in the mix too. Those copper pineapple cups that are so #trendy right now? Get your own when you order "The Royal Treatment" and sip away!

Cons: There was nothing I didn't love about this place - it was actually even relatively easy to make a large reservation a little over a week in advance. We were definitely bummed that we didn't get to have a group photo in front of the Rosé All Day sign because there are tables in front of it (not exactly a legitimate complaint...!) I was a little surprised at the menu, because after stalking their Instagram there were a lot of things missing that I would have loved to try! There seems to be a vast disconnect between the brunch and dinner menu, but it's a great incentive to go back and try it out on a summer evening!

Favorite Menu item: I haven't had a chance to try anywhere near the amount of things I want to try, but I would recommend going for the full Montauk experience and springing for a Hampton Roll - just don't forget to ask for a side of fries! The Royal Treatment cocktail was excellent (fair warning: the cinnamon syrup is an overwhelming flavor though, so if that's not your thing I recommend the Southhampton Smash!)

Just around the corner from Jam N' Honey, this is a rowdier brunch spot with a big patio and a lot of day drinking action. What could be better than pizza for breakfast?! Tons of fun signs hang throughout the restaurant with slogans such as "I could give up pizza, but I'm not a quitter". My kind of motto.

Pros: A great location and always fun with a big group of friends. There are plenty of picnic-table style seats to hold you and your #squad while you dig into some pretty amazing pizza (and don't forget the appetizers). They've been known to give out free cake balls for dessert, too! The back patio is amazing and a great spot to enjoy beautiful Chicago summer weather. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options as well!

Cons: Always a crowded spot with loud music and big crowds, so this is more on the high-energy atmosphere of the brunch scale. The wait times can be brutal, and you typically get ID'd at the door (although I have seen families inside as well, so not 100% positive on where they draw the line). 

Favorite Menu Item: I'm old school when it comes to pizza (and my choices tend to be limited toppings-wise because I don't eat pork) so my go-to is the "Strike a Posner" pizza, prefaced with an order of the mozzarella bread sticks of course. Pair it with a Moscow Mule (and for an extra $15 you can keep the copper mug!)

Reserved for a specific type of day - Zella’s is famous for it’s bottomless brunch and incredible patio. Planning to spend an entire day with friends drinking mimosas and enjoying throwback music on a massive patio? This is your spot. 

Pros: You pay $40 and get all you can eat from the breakfast buffet, plus bottomless mimosas, bloody mary’s and beer from 10am - 3pm. They are always quick about refilling your pitcher, so they aren’t screwing you out of your time frame.

Cons: This place used to be the same deal, for $25. The breakfast buffet is plenty good, but nothing to write home about. The mimosas can be pretty heavy on the OJ and light on the M…but if you make a special request to keep it equal and stay friendly to your waitress, you can always remedy that pretty easily! Zella’s can also be pretty crowded, so get there by 10:30am at the latest if you want a table big enough for all of your friends!

Favorite Menu Item: It’s all you can eat, but make sure you grab the mac and cheese! So. Good.

Happy Brunching!

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Summer Vibes Playlist!

Today marks the official start of summer, and you can feel it all over the city - the vibe and energy of everyone is electric. Social calendars are filling up rapidly and just the weather itself has me feeling more awake and ready to be outside (which makes being stuck inside an office on weekdays a little bit tough...)

One of the things I do to keep myself feeling those w e e k e n d | v i b e s during the work week is to listen to some summery songs and daydream about sunshine, sand, and brunches on patios. 

You can listen to the playlist below or right here on Spotify. It definitely aims for that easy and carefree summer mood I try to cling to as long as possible after a fun weekend spent with friends. Happy listening! 

PS Catch and Release by Matt Simon is definitely my favorite - it's been on repeat pretty much constantly since I found it!

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Instagram Round-Up & Life Lately Recap!

City life never seems to let me slow down, and I love (almost) every hectic second of it! Unfortunately, it does seem like there are always travel plans, moving apartments (ok, this one might be a pretty good excuse), excessive overtime hours at work, and coveted time with my Netflix account that have been getting in the way of blogging lately. Blogging is still so important to me, and I promise I am re-dedicating myself to posting more regularly for all of you! 

To make up for some of the time I've missed over these last few weeks, I wanted to do a recap of my latest Instagrams (follow me!) and other snapshots from some of my adventures like riding bikes around the city, my first Cubs game, and more!

Brunch at Summerhouse Santa Monica is always top of my list...

Riding bikes around Chicago parks was a bucket list item for me...and I was only upset that I hadn't done it sooner! We were certainly rewards with incredible views

Summer in Chicago means rooftops, rooftops & more rooftops!

Even more brunches at Summerhouse...I can't resist the grapefruit mimosas!

Catching up with friends from Louisville in Chicago is always the best

A sneak peek of our new back patio set-up...more to come!

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2016-2017 Lilly Pulitzer Agendas are Here!

Feeling a little nostalgic while writing this - I always loved my Lilly agendas through high school and college...since graduating I've done pretty much fully digital but sometimes I really miss physically writing stuff down (okay, I miss the stickers too...)

Seems like they're releasing these earlier and earlier every year - or are we seriously already that far into summer???

If I were buying one, my favorite is definitely Lovers Coral...so adorable (and my best friend would definitely lay claim to Tusk In Sun). 

Personally, I think the large agendas are the perfect size (Jumbo is just massive for carrying around everywhere, but as a desk agenda it could be great!)

I was secretly wondering if they would release a You Gotta Regatta planner in honor of them bringing back the pattern for a limited time (that was my favorite agenda I ever had) but no such luck. Definitely worth checking out the new releases and scooping some up in this summery print before they're gone!

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Summer Reading List + My Latest Favorites!

I decided earlier on this year that I have a personal goal of trying to read 250 books within one calendar year. It sounds crazy ambitious, but honestly my problem has nothing to do with finding time to read them all, and everything to do with reading faster than I can afford/not being able to find enough books that I'm interested in!

If anyone has any new book recommendations for me, please send them my way! I probably spend about 20 minutes a night scouring the internet looking for new book recommendations. 

Despite all of that, I've still managed to do a pretty good job of staying on track to my goal (so far I've read 65!) and with summer officially here and everyone counting down the days until their beach vacation or lazy Sunday afternoons spent in the sun, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite new finds to help you pick out your perfect summer book! 

For more of my recent favorites, reviews & wish-list books, follow me on goodreads

What She Knew | Luckiest Girl Alive | A Girl Like You | Shadowlands

Brain on Fire | All The Missing Girls

Brooklyn Girls | Uglies | We Were Liars | A Great & Terrible Beauty

Not all of these are brand new, some are in fact some of my old and absolute favorites, but many of these I am constantly told by friends that they've never heard of (and rather than recommending the same list of books you're seeing on all of the other blogs you're following, I wanted to try and mix things up! I only recommend books I have already read (and loved!) EXCEPT for All the Missing Girls. This one has been on my pre-order list for months, and I am dying to read it!

I tried to include a little bit of everything, from mysteries & thrillers to girly and easy beach reads, and everything in-between!

PS: A couple of these are also the first in a series, so if you're a big reader or looking for something that will sustain a long beach vacation (lucky you!) those are a good place to start! Series books are:
A Great & Terrible Beauty, Uglies, Brooklyn Girls, and Shadowlands.

Let me know what you think, and please keep recommending books to help me get to 250! Now that I have my new patio set-up, I have a feeling I'll be reading more than ever...

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June Bucket List!

Summer in Chicago is what makes the winters worth it..weekends have already been a whole new world of social events, outings, brunches and activities just for any excuse to spend time outside. (I'm starting to remember why my body was so exhausted by the end of Fall...too many social events all summer long and not enough sleep!)

The good news with the beautiful weather is that I was finally able to complete every single item on last months Bucket List! It was incredibly satisfying (and so much fun!) I even crossed off a few extra "firsts" in my beautiful city, including my first ever Cubs game! Something my friends have told me is inexcusable considering this will be my third Chicago summer...THAT is crazy...

I'm all moved in to my new apartment (don't worry - pictures soon!) and have officially begun my first month of Pure Barre classes, so I will definitely let you know how that goes as well! My new routine is great, but I'm ready for some new adventures in the city with this month's list. Is there anything else I'm totally missing?? I have been here for three summers but I just know I am not exploring my city to the fullest, so some of you other locals need to help me out with ideas!

I'm hoping some of these will turn into some pretty great posts for all of you, too! I'm especially excited about learning my way around a grill with all of our new patio furniture!

What's on your summer bucket list?

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Brand Spotlight: Boys + Arrows

A little over a month ago, I featured all of the best swimwear for 2016 that work for every budget - and during my searching I stumbled upon an absolutely amazing site! This is always by far one of my favorite parts of blogging - getting exposed to new things, people, places, brands...I feel like I'm always learning...and I love sharing it with all of you, too!  (I have a feeling we will all be on the hunt for new swimwear sources with Victoria's Secret closing out that portion of their brand!)

Boys and Arrows has some of the cutest (and most unique) swimsuits I have seen in a long time! Unique is important to me - as much as I love my Target and Victoria's Secret swimwear, I love having something that no one else has, and the different strap styles, patterns and shapes of the Boys and Arrows collection are so adorable you'll be sure to make a statement.

What really drew me to the brand was the entire vibe of the overall brand image...all of their lookbook images and collections show that each piece was designed with laughter, fun, and adventure in mind for the trendy but simple girl. The collection video is like watching a super-trendy celebrity's instagram feed in video form! (You all know exactly what I'm talking about!) See for yourself!

It is already appearing in some of our favorite and most well-loved stores like Anthropologie, Asos, and Nordstrom...but here is a full list of where to find them if you're like me and hesitate to buy items like swimwear without trying it on in person!

Here are some of my top picks from their latest collection...it is so hard to choose!

One: Top & Bottom | Two: Top & Bottom | Three: Top & Bottom | Four: Top & Bottom | Five: Top Bottom | Six: Top Bottom | Seven: One-Piece | Eight: Top & Bottom | Nine: Top Bottom | Ten: One-Piece | Eleven: Top & Bottom

What's great about this brand is they stick to a core selection of styles...and then they expand them out to a large variety of patterns so no matter what you can mix and match and find something you love that is uniquely yours.

They also have some really great cover-ups that match the suits perfectly (but also mix & match pretty well!)
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six

They have jumpers, rompers, skirts, dresses, robes...the coolest one (in my opinion) is The Clever Cover (numbers two and five)...it took me a long time to figure it out at first, but it actually goes with a bikini top and wraps into it to secure, which I love!

PS here are some favorites from the Boys and Arrows Instagram!

What do you think of the brand? Has anyone else found any cute new swimwear lines?

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