November 2016 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Neutrals & Knits

In the past few years, I've really tried to incorporate a lot more neutral tones, classic wardrobe staples, and long-lasting items into my wardrobe (while simultaneously removing items that no longer belong...this part is still a work in progress!)

I love that you can wear neutrals in different ways all year long and still have totally different looks, depending on the season! This winter, I am all about cozying up in over-sized knits and sweaters, overcoming my fear of hats, and wearing as many layers as possible (thanks, Chicago!)

You can shop this entire outfit at the bottom of this post, too!

This sweater is probably my all-time favorite, and I wear it way more often than I's the perfect amount of softness, just large enough to be cozy like a blanket, and it goes with everything! Can you blame me?! I scooped it up off the clearance rack at Banana Republic last winter, but I've found a few that are super similar like this one, this one, this one, this one and this one

I've been pairing this look with my go-to Michael Kors watch (sold out, similar here) and my new cuff bracelet (similar here and here). Of course, my Essie Rose Gold nail color had to be included, too!

As you all know, I've really never been a "hat person"...that is, until moving to Chicago. I bought my very first hat last January when it was -6 degrees outside, and this year I felt that it was time to expand my collection a little bit. Thankfully, I found this adorable little beanie (on sale for only $15 right now!!!), and picked up this similar grey one too ($14!!).

These are my absolute favorite OTK socks. I originally just wore them around the house to stay warm and cozy, but now I pair them with all of my winter boots to stay extra warm. They're so soft!

I have this super soft long-sleeve basic tee in about 6 colors, and I would not say no to having a few more! All part of my plan to have more simple items in my closet to maximize layering potential! I like mine a little bit over-sized, so I'm wearing a Medium for reference! 

Colder weather means thicker leggings for me, so I own about 4 of these warmer and nicer-looking leggings, too. They're great for wearing to work without looking grungy if your dress code allows it! (I'm 5'10" and a size Small works great, they're extra stretchy so don't worry about ordering a size up!) 

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Gift Guide: For the Kitchen & Hostess

I must be getting older, because when I sat down earlier tonight to work on this gift guide and simultaneously make my own wish list, the two looked eerily similar...gone are the days where I want computer games and fun gadgets. Lately I've been longing for coffee table books, serving trays and barware, pretty candles and frames. 

Now if only I could get an apartment large enough to hold all of the knick knacks and kitchen supplies my little heart desires!

This gift guide is perfect for the ultimate host/hostess in your life, the girl who is always looking for an excuse for a party, or perhaps Mom or a Mother-In-Law/Boyfriend's Mom! You really can't go wrong when it comes to great gifts for the kitchen and entertaining essentials.

As always, they are organized in order of budget and by category for easier shopping!

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The Coziest Winter Cape Scarf

Things are starting to feel pretty festive around here...and that includes the weather! It looks like Chicago has officially caught on that it is winter (although, I wouldn't be mad if it didn't get much colder than this!) 

Even though there are a lot of downsides to the freezing temperatures, I love any excuse to wrap myself in lots of soft and cozy layers to stay warm. I picked up this cape scarf earlier on in the Fall, but haven't been able to wear it until the last week or two. 

You is so comfortable! It's so easy to pair with a simple sweater and jeans or over a dress to stay warm on a dressier nights out on the town! (Hello, holiday party invitations that are starting to stress me out!)

The print on this scarf is definitely one of those classic items that I know I'll be able to wear for years to come, and I've been trying really hard to focus on outfit additions like that to my wardrobe these days. I wore this one to run errands around the city last Sunday, and again over Thanksgiving while laying around with my family watching football games. 

I've been reaching for this great Gap sweater more and more lately (currently on major sale!) You can never go wrong with a simple, soft and comfortable black sweater that goes with everything. The subtle side slits make it a little more versatile, too!

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Essentials of the Week!

This week has definitely been one of the best ones lately...a short work week from home, family all around and Dalton visiting?! Doesn't get much better than that. (Okay, if my parents had brought Wrigley and Rufus with them for Thanksgiving, I would have been okay with that too...)

It's going to be a busy few weeks as we approach the holidays, but after this week I'm feeling rested and ready for hard work, holiday parties and lots and lots of Christmas music

Here are my essentials from this week...

1. The First Snow of the Season: Some of you may have just gotten your very first snow of the season this week, and that means we are officially in Bean Boot weather! I absolutely loved this short video of how Bean Boots are actually made, and watching all of the pieces come together. (If you still haven't picked up a pair, they might be a little backordered by now, but it's never too late! Shop my sizing guide and breakdown of Hunter Boots vs. Bean Boots to find the right shoe for you!)

2. When Clothes Meet Conscience: I always love reading stories about companies and brands using their influence for the greater good, and Patagonia is certainly doing their part this holiday season. Keep up the good work, guys! PS - my favorite Patagonia sweater makes the perfect Christmas gift!

3. The new #1 item on my Christmas List: Part of me still thinks this is a little bit too good to be true, so I definitely won't fully advocate for these on the blog until I try out a pair for myself...but the internet is swarming with the idea/video that Old Navy has come out with liquid-resistant white jeans! Yes, you read that correctly! You can pick up your own pair here - if you buy a pair, please let me know if this magic is real!

4. A Pop of Red for the Holidays: When you're planning all of your gorgeous holiday outfits for the many events coming up, don't forget to include your nails! I just picked up this gorgeous nail polish for Christmas and I'll be wearing it all month long!

5. Bells are ringing...Now that Thanksgiving is over, even the Scrooges can't pretend that it's too soon for Christmas songs! I've been playing my favorites all week long from this playlist, and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Open it up in your spotify right here

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend, and enjoy the time with your families and friends!

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Giving Thanks

Keeping today's post fairly short and sweet because I am powering everything off today to go spend some much needed quality time with family, friends and loved ones...but I had to be sure to take a moment to give thanks for all of the incredible things in my life. 

First and foremost, I am beyond thankful for all of YOU - my fabulous readers! This blog has really become a top priority of mine across 2016, and being able to see it grow and expand has been one of the most exciting things I have ever done. I can't wait to see what 2017 brings, and none of it could be possible without all of you!

I also have to give a very special shoutout to all of the amazing people in my life who support me and help me navigate life and this blog! If you had any idea how many snapchat "polls", texts with 15 pictures that all look the same, and proofreads that my poor dear friends and family and Dalton have to endure every time a post goes would have some major sympathy for them! In all seriousness, you guys know who you are - thank you for always being my most loyal and strongest supporters from day one. I love you all!

I hope you're all having an amazing holiday break with your families and friends...and eating delicious food until you're in food coma status! I know that's what I'll be doing the rest of the day!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

PS - now we can really break out the Christmas music! Here's my favorite Spotify playlist for the holidays (that I've secretly been jamming out to since Halloween ended...not sorry!) Listen below or click the link above to open it directly from your Spotify app!

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Gift Guide for the Girly Girl!

Are you getting tired of gift guides yet?! (Of course not - how could anyone get tired of finding the perfect gift for everyone they love??) This one was particularly difficult to make, partly because I don't consider myself an expert in all things beauty-related, and also because I feel like beauty and accessories are the two areas where women's individual tastes and unique style comes out the most. 

That being said, there are always some simple ways that you can find the perfect gift for the girly girl in your life - who doesn't love new jewelry, makeup and accessories?! I definitely think that this particular gift guide required a lot more variety and options to accommodate for everyone's different styles, so I've broken this one down by category to give you more choices!

You can shop this image below (products shown from left to right):

Now for the fun (and easier part!) Shop for your bestie by category below! I've sorted everything from most affordable, to most splurge-worthy to help you find just the right thing for your budget!

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Road Trip Playlist for the Holidays! (Available on Spotify)

As you're all packing up to head home for the holidays (or wherever you may be going - perhaps you're staying put, like me!) you might be ticking off all of the essentials on your checklist...clothes, recipes, snacks for the trip...but you can't have a successful travel day without music!

With so many of my friends driving over state lines today as they rush home to see their families and friends and soak in all of the holiday coziness, I wanted to make sure that everyone has an amazing set of tunes to make things fun.

I know some people are very sensitive about Christmas music being played before Thanksgiving is over, so I promise there are only a handful of songs sprinkled throughout this playlist...but come on, you know I had to put a few in there! 

This playlist is a mix of fun, relaxing, songs you want to shout the words to, and a little bit of everything in between. So turn up the volume and travel safe! You can listen to the playlist directly below, or follow the link to open it up in your Spotify app!

And don't forget to read my tips on how to have anxiety-free holiday travel!

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Gift Guide: For the Traveler!

We all know the feeling of being friends with that person that seems to always be off on their next adventure (or maybe that person is you!) Wanderlust seems to be growing and growing with every passing year for practically everyone I know, and for every destination I cross off of my list, four more seem to get added! 

While traveling (especially during the holidays) can certainly be stressful, it always amazes me how many incredible gadgets, bags and products there are to make things go more smoothly. 

Now that I've been upping my travel game, I'm definitely adding a few of these to my list (including some real luggage - I don't have any, still!) If you or your friends/family suffer from the travel obsession as well, these gifts are absolutely perfect for this holiday season to make sure they pack properly. 

There are definitely a lot of different ways to go with this travel guide, so I wanted to break things down and list out a few of my absolute favorites from the list!

For The Men...
 If you're shopping for the adventurous man in your life, you can't go wrong with this essential backpack, cosmetic pouch and weekender tote combination!

For Ladies...
If you're shopping for the beauty queen on the go, nothing could beat this incredible travel hair dryer, some dry shampoo, and a perfume atomizer. Don't forget to check out a cute carrier for all of her jewels! I recently purchases this super affordable travel steamer ($20!) and I have used it on every single trip. It weighs practically nothing, takes up no space, and is really easy to use!

For the Tech Junkie...
I am totally dependent on my technology to make long travel days more lively. Having some really great headphones (or ear-buds to take up less space, a Go-Pro to document everything, and a portable charger so you never stop going is just the right thing!

Happy adventuring!

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How to Have Anxiety-Free Holiday Travel

I've certainly been doing my fair share of traveling lately, and I'm finally starting to feel like an expert traveler (kinda) which is big news for someone like me who isn't the most comfortable when it comes to flying! I won't be slowing down any time soon either...5 flights scheduled in total to get me from place to place during the holiday season!

My main problem I always have when it comes to traveling and flying is anxiety...there is so much that isn't in my control, so much room for things to go wrong, and the whole experience is just downright tiring. Factor in the added stress that comes with holiday travel?? Yikes. 

You have to juggle families that are likely scattered across multiple cities, trying to nail down presents (and get them to the right places, on time!), make sure you're splitting your time equally...and don't even get me started on the packing process for all of the holiday festivities!

There are definitely some fool-proof ways out there to help make sure all of your holiday travels go off without the extra stress, so I wanted to share some of my best tips I've learned over the years (with a lifetime of having family members in up to 4 different states...) to help keep anxiety down, and festive spirits high!

1. Ship Gifts Ahead of Time. One of the best and most effective ways to help reduce the ache of packing when presents and gifts are involved is to ship them directly to wherever they need to go. Simply warn the person that you have a package arriving addressed to you (of course, ask their permission first!) and then wrap it when you get there. This is how I've handled my last few Christmases, and it's made things so much easier. (Plus, then I get to wrap them in the comfort of my family home, with decorations, music and festive snacks to accompany me!)

2. Make Flying Easy. Earlier this summer, I applied for TSA Pre-Check, and it's definitely one of those never-look-back scenarios. It saves me a ton of time, and my anxiety about arriving to the airport early has pretty much evaporated. Fun bonus - you don't have to remove anything from your bags, and you get to keep your shoes on! It takes a couple of weeks to get an appointment, so definitely go online and find out where to go ASAP. It lasts for 5 years, so it's money and time well spent!

3. Leave Room for the Unexpected. Everyone tends to leave extra time when it comes to going to the airports, but a lot of people don't budget this in to the time it takes them to actually get out of the house. If you're a last-minute kind of person, budgeting an extra hour of time into your travel plans will keep your schedule clear for what I call the "uh-oh window". Example: you're almost done packing and it's time to leave when you realize "uh-oh" never dropped off those last few things at the post office! (or pick up a prescription, pack a forgotten item, etc...). Leaving that extra window for mistakes will keep you calm and stress-free. 

4. Stay Plugged In. It's so sad to admit how dependent we are on our technology, but it's obviously a pretty critical part of the traveling process, especially when you're trying to stay on the same page as family members, etc. I get irrationally anxious when I see my phone battery dwindling throughout my travel now I have this incredible portable charger that holds 4 full charges, and fits easily into my bag. Now I know I can listen to my music, text away, and feel confident that I'll be able to stay updated. 

5. Plan for Things to Go Wrong. I don't like to advocate for a negative outlook on things, but I've found that if I can plan for and mentally prepare myself for things to go wrong (such as weather problems, flight delays/cancellations, bad traffic, forgetting to pack an item...) I tend to be better prepared, and it doesn't rattle me as much when these things do inevitably happen. Expect your travel to get messed up, and then be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't! The important thing to remember is - if you get delayed, cancelled, or forget an item...all of these things can be fixed. You will get there eventually, items can be borrowed or replaced, and the important thing is to just stay calm and breathe.

The actual process of traveling will probably always be something I'd rather not be doing...but then I remember how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to see new places, visit my family and friends, and spend the holidays with them. Definitely something to be grateful for and remember if/when you run into unexpected delays!

I hope you all have safe travels this week if you're heading elsewhere for Thanksgiving!

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Essentials of the Week!

This week was a little bit out of the ordinary for me, because I came straight from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. to work in my company's headquarters! I've been here a handful of times on work trips in the last year, but have always spent nearly every minute in meetings and still haven't explored the city at all. Shameful, I know!

I had a little bit of time to myself on Monday night when I arrived, so I was able to venture out to the Georgetown area (which is seriously adorable) and take myself out to a solo dinner. If you know me well, you know that dining alone is a serious fear of mine and I'm slowly trying to work on it - bringing a book with me helped!

I'm thankful to finally be home after so many travels, and am looking forward to a long weekend filled with resting, holiday decorating, and catching up on all of my shows...Has anyone else been watching American Housewife on ABC?! It can definitely have it's moments of trying too hard, but overall it's been a great source of comic relief. Definitely check it out!

On to this week's essentials...

1. This Bow-Back Dress is Perfect for the Holidays. I found this while wandering through the mall with Dalton last week and immediately wanted to buy it for some of these upcoming holiday cocktail parties. It's so classy, and the bow adds just the right touch! Pair with the perfect shoes. (These are pretty amazing, too!)

2. My Favorite Holiday Ad Ever. This video is actually about two years old, but it cracks me up every single year, and I'm constantly finding people who have never seen it! Perfect timing for the Thanksgiving feasts coming up next week.

3. This Amazing Holiday Lip Color. I'm still working on slowly embracing lip products into my makeup routines, but this one had me immediately imagining it paired with all of my upcoming holiday outfits. It's gorgeous!

4. We are less than a week away...from finally being reunited with the most lovable mother daughter duo on television! I was getting way too worked up while watching this video where the actors debate which of Rory's boyfriends is the best one. (Team Logan, obviously).

5. This needs no explanation. Just watch, smile, repeat.

I hope you all have wonderful weekends! 

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Gift Guides for College Students!

This is one part gift guide, one part my personal wish list...for anyone who isn't a blogger, all of these gift guides you see popping up are a serious test to our shopping habits! I'm officially lusting after pretty much every single item on this list. 

Whether you're in high school, college, or post-grad - these items are the perfect round-up of items both big and small (cheap and expensive) to either put on your wish list or gift to someone else who is in school. 

Some of these were my absolute must-haves in college, and others have been definite essentials since moving into my first apartment. Some are great for studying, moving around campus, slowly embracing the ability to cook, or having the best technology to enjoy your time at school. 

Middle Row: Barbour Coat // Barefoot Contessa "Make It Ahead" Cookbook // Grilled Cheese Cookbook // White Marble S'well Bottle // 'Bookworm' Art Print // Chromecast // Patagonia 1/4 Zip

Bottom Row: Initial Tumbler // Pineapple Shot Glasses // FitBit Flex 2 (It's Waterproof!) // Monogram Leather Laptop Case & Monogram Leather iPad Case // Nutri Ninja Blender // Turquoise Pens // Personalized Gingham Notepad // Beats Ear-Buds // Sherpa Slippers // Gold Scallop Business Card Holder & Silver "Let's Do Lunch" Version // Bose Bluetooth Speaker

These items are most certainly not exclusive to college students, but they definitely would have topped my list in college (and still are!) The leather laptop case is incredibly chic, and the sherpa slippers are perfect for winter. I carry my Bose Bluetooth Speaker absolutely everywhere throughout my apartment, and my Patagonia pullover is most certainly my favorite cozy go-to item.

Either way - these items are all most definitely topping my wish list this year!

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3 Easy Recipes You Can't Mess Up for Thanksgiving

I would be totally shocked that Thanksgiving is already almost here, but I'm too excited to care! It's so rare for me to get to see so many family, friends and loved ones all in one holiday, so this year is going to be particularly exciting. 

That being said, considering the festivities are taking place in Chicago this year (Do you know what you're  wearing yet?! Shop my outfit inspos here!) that it was high time I gave contributing to the cooking frenzy a shot. You know...with something small, harmless, and un-missable if I happen to screw things up! 

This got me thinking of a few different items that I could contribute to the various Thanksgiving dinners we are planning on attending. I happen to have the right dishes and pans to make pie (thanks parents!) so that one is topping the list...but pie felt a little bit ambitious. I wanted to secure a back-up plan or two in case things go totally haywire. 

It's not that I'm a bad cook, but Thanksgiving just feels a little bit too sacred to mess with! After consulting with the kitchen goddesses (aka all of the mothers I'm close with), they came up with these great and simple recipes sure to keep things simple...and that won't rock the boat if it doesn't turn out perfectly. 

If you're looking to expand your cooking skills this year and show up with a special surprise, try one of these out with me (and share your results - I'd love to see!)

1. Zucchini Muffins
Muffins might not be the very first thing that spring to mind when it comes to Thanksgiving contributions, but hear me out. While it's always a good idea to check in and see what you can bring & how you can help, often a hostess has everything mapped out and ends up brushing off your attempts to help. Rather than contributing a dish anyway (throwing off the balance, or perhaps duplicating an existing dish and creating the stress of the hostess having to find a space on the table), muffins are a great alternative to provide a little bit of relief and gratitude to the chef. They'll be able to serve them with breakfast the next morning to their guests and relatives from out of town, and will be able to enjoy a much-deserved cooking break! Plus, zucchini muffins are healthy and delicious.

  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Muffin Tray/Cups
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Add the zucchini, then the melted butter. 
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, add together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Stir this into the zucchini mixture bowl. 
  4. Coat each muffin cup with non-stick spray. 
  5. Spoon the mixture into each cup completely and equally.
  6. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes (until golden brown). Test with toothpick to ensure the center of the muffins are done. 
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes.
*You can find this original recipe here.

2. Pecan Pie
This is an old family recipe, and one I have always assisted on...but never tried out on my own. This is the year I'm going to see what I can do! I've never made a pie before, so it should be an interesting endeavor, but I think I'm up for the challenge! Pecan pie is such a classic Thanksgiving dish, and one that thankfully people tend to want seconds of. That means if you screw it up, you can easily whip up recipe #1 or #3 and no one will be the wiser!

Ingredients (Serves 8):

  • 1 Box Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust Unbaked (9" is standard)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Karo (corn syrup - I recommend the light kind!)
  • 2 Tbsp. Margarine (or butter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans (de-shelled, whole pecans)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray pie pan and place crust in pan. Place back in fridge until needed.
  • Add all ingredients (eggs, sugar, karo, butter, vanilla) in bowl and mix. Add pecans afterwards to the mixture to prevent clumping.
  • Stir ingredients and spread evenly in pie crust.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes.

*If you need instructions for how to lay a pie crust into a pie pan, I recommend checking out this brief video for reference!

3. Pumpkin Pie Martini
I'm not normally one for dessert cocktails...and tend to stick to more simpler tastes like wine and vodka tonics. I'm always apprehensive about anything that might be too sugary or sweet. Believe Me. This cocktail will not disappoint (and I promise, you don't need to have any bartending prerequisites either!) I tried it years ago at a family friend's house, and it ended up being published in her very own cookbook!

  • 1/2 oz. Cream Liqueur such as Baileys Irish Cream (or other of your choosing)
  • 2 oz. vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 oz pumpkin liqueur
  • 1 tsp. whipped cream (real homemade is best)
  • For garnish: cinnamon stick, ground nutmeg, and whipped cream
  1. Pour the cream liqueur and vodka into a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well. 
  3. Add the pumpkin liqueur.
  4. Shake again.
  5. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (preferable martini glass)
  6. Top with a teaspoon of whipped cream.
  7. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkling of ground nutmeg.

Hopefully these recipes will help you pull off a flawless and thoughtful addition to your Thanksgiving holidays, and help you test out those cooking skills!

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Is anyone else planning on testing out some new traditions or recipes?!

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