2017 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Essentials of the Week!

I'm really excited today because my parents are (finally) back in town for the weekend and they brought Rufus & Wrigley with them, so I'm going to get a lot of quality time with the entire family! 

They're out in the suburbs with my brother, my two nieces and my nephew, so it's going to be nice to get out of the city for a day or two and just de-compress and relax. 

This week was pretty uneventful, but I've been working on a lot of really exciting summer blog content for all of you whenever I've had down time from work and Pure Barre, and I think it's going to be amazing! Hopefully you all love it as much as I do!

Here are my essentials for this week!

Dying to Watch | This new Netflix show coming out in July...I've been running seriously low on shows to watch! (probably a sign that I should go outside and enjoy more of this incredible weather...) and this list of even more shows to binge this summer.

Sweat-Proof Hairstyles | I literally can't do more than four hairstyles to save my life...but I'm determined to learn a few more of these summer hairstyles to help beat the heat and keep my hair from drenching in sweat all summer long. Some of them look super simple!

My Favorite New Sunnies - for $29 | I posted a picture on Instagram the other day with my new favorite sunnies, and got so many questions about where they're from! You can shop all of my outfits right here, but these sunnies are too good not to share twice (plus, they're so cheap!)

The Next Big Thing | I absolutely loved Grace Vanderwaal's performance on America's Got Talent, and couldn't stop watching the original song she performed...so when I stumbled upon this on YouTube the other day, I got chills! She is AMAZING!

One Hotel Room, 13 Cities | Anyone who knows me knows that I have a strange obsession with all of the futuristic and cool technologies and ideas that pop up all over the internet...this one has me really excited. Elon Musk came up with a Hyperloop hotel that will let you travel between 13 cities in the U.S. through a portable hotel room. You have to see it to believe it! 

Summer Kebabs Grilling Recipe!

One of my absolute favorite things to whip up on the grill these days are pineapple kebabs (and really just anything involving grilled pineapple - it's so delicious!) 

While my pineapple-only kebabs were suiting me just fine, thank you very much, I realized that it would be so simple to add a little bit of flair to them and turn it into a main entree, rather than just a tasty side snack. 

I tried out a handful of recipes, and this one was hands down the winner. I loved that these weren't spicy at all (spicy is my enemy) but still have a really strong and delicious flavor to avoid any blandness. 

They couldn't be easier to make, and the refreshing pineapple and roasted veggies included make it the perfect summer grilling snack...not to mention it smells amazing while you cook. Our neighbors were definitely envious!

                                                                             Original Recipe via

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 fresh pineapple, chopped into 1" cubes (I bought the pre-sliced! #lazy)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1.5in. pieces
  • Wooden of metal skewers 
  • 1 green pepper, cut into 1.5in. pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into kebab-style chunks
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (important for the texture!)
For the Chicken Marinade/Glaze:
  • 1/4 cup canned pineapple juice (NOT fresh!)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cups sugar 
  • 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional - I left these out...too spicy!)
*Note - for the chicken to marinade properly, you should do some of the initial prep steps 1-4 hours before you actually want to grill and eat!*

  • In a bowl, combine and whisk the glaze ingredients together. Add 1/4 of this mixture to a bag along with the chicken and 3 tbsp. of olive oil. Toss it gently to make sure it is evenly coated. Marinate in the fridge for 1-4 hours (the longer the better!). Put the rest of the glaze aside in a separate fridge container. 
  • Preheat grill to approx. 375 degress (medium-high heat)
  • Drain marinade from the chicken and thread the chicken, peppers, pineapple, and onions onto skewers (wooden or metal are fine!)
  • Add the extra marinade (set aside) in a small saucepan and add the 1/5 tbsp. of cornstarch. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer until slightly thickened. Set aside. 
  • Grease the grill (see my beginner grilling tips here!) and grill the kebabs for 8-10 minutes, rotating 1-2 times until they are evenly grilled on all sides. 
  • Brush kebabs with tangy glaze. 
Optional - serve with rice and a cilantro garnish for an extra touch, and add a little of the extra glaze. It's delicious!

(Even More) Books to Read This Summer!

Earlier last month, I shared my top picks for summer reading this year, but I've been reading more than ever lately and I wanted to pass along a few more favorites! I ended up finishing six books during our Week in Outer Banks.

With the weather finally being nice out, I've been trying to finish every evening during the work-week by spending some time out on our patio with a book in hand to decompress from every day. One of my best friends is a teacher, and she's been doing a lot of reading this summer too (and normally she's not a big fan!) so being able to give her my favorite recommendations have been so much fun. 

Be sure to check out the first list of books here, but in case you wanted even more, I've got five more reviews below!

PS - I don't like giving away actual plot details because I'm always afraid of spoiler alerts, and I don't think I can do a better job than the book descriptions themselves, so below you'll just find my reviews and recommendations, and if you click the book title it'll take you to an actual plot description/space for purchase!

Everything You Want Me to Be | This book had me really on the fence for the majority of it. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I wouldn't say it "wasn't worth the read". That being said, the beginning took a little while to get going, and even when there were major plot twists towards the end they just didn't have that "shock factor" you'd expect or want. It was still a good story, and a solid summer read, but overall I'd give it a 6/10.

The Wrong Side of Right | I finished this book in less than a day when I first arrived to the Outer Banks, and I really enjoyed it! It's definitely different than my usual reads, but I thought the plot idea was unique and interesting so I gave it a shot. This would be a great easy summer read by the pool or beach, and don't be fooled by the description - it's not an overly political book whatsoever. Somewhat similar to the movies First Daughter or Chasing Liberty!

Into The Water | I'm reviewing this book for the sole purpose that I felt fooled by it, and I was honestly so extremely disappointed. This is one of maybe 5 books that I've ever just outright not finished (even when I'm hating a book, I'm just too Type A usually to not complete it to the end). I picked this one up because it was the same author as Girl On the Train, and I was just so bored by the plot. There were way too many characters, and even about halfway through I just couldn't figure out why I should care about the plot! You've been warned...

The Real Real | A combination of the authors and the description were what really hooked me into buying this one for the trip. I could tell it would be such a light and easy beach read, and I really liked The Nanny Diaries, so I thought I'd give this one a shot. It wasn't groundbreaking or legendary in terms of writing talent or plot, but it was good and entertaining, and took me back to the days of watching Laguna Beach & The Hills. (And honestly, it had me re-thinking and questioning a lot of the scenes on those shows!) Overall, I'd recommend it for the summer!

Undecided | I was weirdly drawn in by this book, and it caught me off guard. It definitely has some racier scenes, but I liked the general concept of the plot and typically think college-themed books are pretty entertaining. I ended up liking the characters so much that I ended up reading the sequel immediately just to keep it going. By far the most "mindless summer beach read"on this list, but I think it was good!

Casual Summer Style + Sandals for $35!

If you take a look through my closet, it's definitely safe to say that I have some favorite go-to colors and styles. Recently, I've really started adding to my obsession with olive green, and I can't get enough of it! I love that it works year-round, and I've been finding so many incredible summer dresses, accessories and tops to help pull it off.

Typically when I'm shopping, I look for outfits that I can easily wear from work, to happy hour, or even to run errands in. This means casual but stylish, comfortable, and something that can be worn with dozens of different outfits. 

I couldn't resist when I found this gorgeous lightweight duster from Nordstrom for only $45, and I've been wearing it everywhere!

I have a tendency to get overheated even in the dead winter of Chicago, so I'm typically pretty cautious about anything that I'd get too hot in, but thankfully this was so lightweight and breezy that I've been able to throw it on for some of these hotter days we've been having with no problems!

I'm a big fan of dainty and neutral details that pair with anything and everything, and I have a tendency to wear the same few pieces over and over again because they're classic and have sentimental value. 

My favorite gold necklace has the coordinates of my house from college, and I wear it almost every single day. I scooped up this adorable cork clutch from J.Crew right before our trip to the Outer Banks, and it's been so perfect for date nights, casual brunches, and everything in between. I had my eye on it for a while last summer but didn't love the price tag, but now it's on sale for only $35 on the Factory website!

My gold sunglasses pair perfectly with all of my go-to gold accessories, and I grabbed these at & Other Stories while I was in New York, a new-to-me store that I've been loving ever since. Plus, they're only $29!

These Steve Madden sandals were an amazing find at Nordstrom Rack recently, and they come in a few other colors like black and gold, too! I love brown leather accessories in the summer, and these are such a comfortable pair to just throw on and head out the door. They didn't even have a breaking-in period at all, so I definitely recommend them!

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Post-Grad Essentials Series | Getting Organized

Okay, guys - it's finally starting to sink in how long it has been already since I graduated. I've been seeing all the new hires at my company this month that just graduated, and I feel old already!

In keeping with that realization, I wanted to share a few things that I've learned in the two years since graduating college that have proven to be insanely important and helpful - and can help you take your #adulting skills to the next level.

Today is the first day of a new weekly series on the blog for the summer where I'll be sharing my most helpful and important ways of breaking down the puzzles of post-grad life and making things seem a little bit less scary, and a lot more manageable!

The topics are going to range anywhere from budgeting, de-coding what to do with a 401k, finding and decorating a great apartment, tracking down new doctors/hairstylists/dentists and everything in between, learning your new neighborhood or city, making new friends...we're really going to cover all of the bases, guys!

Today's post to kick off the series is all about organization and keeping track of important documents & information. Some of this might feel like a no-brainer...but some of it will likely surprise you! My parents had me holding on to this stuff for myself once I was a freshman, so I had a bit of a leg up when it came time for living on my own in Chicago!

Up until now, your parents have likely kept track of a lot of things that never even occurred to you...and you're also being introduced to a lot of things that have never been a factor in your life before. There are so many different little responsibilities that crop up once you graduate college - but it doesn't have to be as overwhelming as it seems at first glance!

The very first step in getting organized for all of the below information is to get a file folder or organization system of some kind where you can store everything you could ever need in one safe and accessible place - this folder and this one are great options to start!

Taking Care of Yourself | One of the most dreaded parts about post-grad life for me was knowing I'd have to find new doctors, dentists, and other physicians that I both trusted and could afford (more on how to find the best of the best in another post soon!) It's so important to be fully informed on everything you've ever done medically. Usually, you can request for a patient version of your medical records from previous physicians to be sent over to you for storage, including medications you've tried, vaccinations and their dates, surgeries or broken bones, x-ray copies, dental records, check-up history, allergies, family illnesses and family medical history, your health insurance records....all of this is so insanely important (and likely something you've never thought twice about until now!) Having all of these on hand can be really important and useful, especially if something comes up with your health and a doctor needs more background information. Keeping your health insurance information on hand will also help you know where you're covered so you can avoid costly bills!

The MOST Important Documents | Up until now, your parents have likely kept these under lock & key...and for good reason. That being said, you're an adult now, and it's important that you are the one in possession of these forms for a lot of different uses and reasons. This includes your passport, social security card, the original copy of your birth certificate, and your driver's license. You also need to have two copies of all of these - one for you, and one with your parents or a trusted person of your choosing. Next, you need to take a minute to set an alarm or reminder in your phone/calendar/planner 8 months before any of these expire or need to be renewed. Trust me, some of them take a long time to renew, some of them become more costly if the time lapses, and you never want to be caught without one being up-to-date.

I had to renew and replace every single one of these when I moved (no seriously) and it took AGES and a lot of money. Some of mine were misplaced when I was younger, so if you don't have them don't worry, it's fixable! You can renew/replace them here: social security card | birth certificates | passports | and your driver's license can be replaced at your new local DMV.

*If it makes you nervous to hang on to such important identity-related documents, it's definitely worth considering getting a security deposit box at your local bank (and it's pretty easy to do!)*

The Never-Ending Paperwork | You're likely about to be handling more paperwork than you've ever seen in your life...lease and rental agreements, different types of insurance, bank statements, utility bills, phone bills, internet & cable...the list goes on and on. This is such an important thing to pay attention to - you need to keep a copy of every. single. thing. Whether it's digitally in an email folder, or alongside all of these other items, you need to save everything. If your roommate handles the bills, ask to receive a copy each month or to be added as a co-owner of the account so that you can have access. This comes in handy more often than you think, like when you have to prove residence at the DMV or when registering to vote!

Speaking of Registering to Vote | I know this might be low on people's priority lists, especially as we just went through an election, but this is usually something you can take care of while you're handling all of this other stuff, so it is smart to just get it out of the way. At your local DMV, ensure that you have the right documentation and ask to be registered to vote in your new city/state, so you don't have to worry about it when the time comes. It's super easy!

All About the Money | Everyone seems to have varying degrees of experience handling money upon graduating, but one thing is certain - you're about to have a lot more of it, and you're about to have to pay a lot more of it too. Tax documents that you receive from your new job, 401k forms and information regarding your company's plan, anything regarding student loans if you have them, bank statements and documents...all of this needs to be saved, protected, and kept in one place. (Most banks do digital statements these days, as do student loan companies, so I made email folders with passwords for both!) 

So there is is - everything you need to be keeping tracking of and organization now that you're officially entering the "real world". I know it seems intimidating and huge at first, but honestly most of these things you will only have to handle once every few years, or once and then never again! They're all equally important, though, and you'll constantly thank yourself in the years to come when you need them for something. 


Essentials of the Week!

Happy Friday, friends! The heat this week was absolutely unbearable, and I'm seriously hoping things cool down a little bit over the weekend. 

I've got a handful of friends in town, so despite the weather I'm going to have a busy next few days! I spent the entire week trying to get back into my routine with meal prepping, working out, and creating some exciting new content for the blog, and the days absolutely flew by. 

Can you believe 4th of July is just around the corner?! Insanity.

Here are my essentials of the week:

1. "Pinch Me" Moments | Coldplay was one of the first concerts I ever attended, and I got chills watching this amazing video of a fan getting the ultimate "pinch me" moment when he got to show off his incredible piano skills at the concert.

2. My New Favorite Summer Clutch | I picked up this little cork clutch before our trip to the Outer Banks, and I'm so in love. I carry it everywhere with me! It's been especially perfect for date nights, and the sale price makes it a must-have.

3. Soccer Star in the Making | By no means is this a great quality video, but the moment it captures was way too funny and adorable not to share. I sincerely hope this kid's parents get a hold of this video to show him when he's older, because it is amazing.

4. FREE Online Classes for the Coolest Things | I've always been a huge fan of the Everygirl website, but this article got me so excited. The article highlights some of the best ones, but they're offering 2 months of free classes to learn tons of new skills like growing an herb garden, mixology, lifestyle photography...I can't wait! Definitely worth checking out.

5. Living in Linen | Linen is by far one of my favorite materials to wear, especially in this summer heat! I've been slowly trying to find some great linen pieces to add to my closet, and these cropped pants look so comfortable. I can't decide which color would be best! They'd be perfect for travel days, wearing to work, or just lounging around.

Organizing My Life with Erin Condren LifePlanner™!

I'm a little bit Type A...to say the least. Okay - a lot! I'm always trying to find new ways to streamline my life, get a little bit more organized, and stay on top of everything.

Between working a full-time job 40-50 hours per week, juggling the five million aspects of being a blogger for essentially the same amount of hours, social engagements, my constant travel schedule, a long distance relationship....it's safe to say things have been lost in the shuffle more than a few times.

After graduating, I really started keeping track of everything digitally because it was just too hard to adjust to all of the changes without having access to everything on my phone - but I still felt like something was missing. I don't think I could ever truly give up my need to write things down, color code, and keep a notebook with me at all times. 

I tried out a few different planners throughout college, but when it came to actually having every single feature, detail, and adorable accessory + color imaginable, nothing ever came anywhere close to the Erin Condren LifePlanner™

I'm so particular about the layout of every page in my planner and notebooks, I really need to be able to customize it from start to finish to make sure it can keep up with all of my weird OCD quirks - which is why I love the custom LifePlanner™notebooks!

I decided the most creative part of my life, this blog, was what really needed to be paired up with (colorful) pens, stickers, doodles, and all things inspired when it came to getting organized. That's why I ended up designing a planner cover that matches the general brand + theme of my site, and included the Prep Essentials name on the front!

There are few things I love more than color-coding and making lists...sad, but true! Every single calendar, to-do list and notebook that I use daily has a color for every category of my life...which is why the bright & fun colored pens & other accessories that you can order with an Erin Condren planner are what really sold me on the product back in college (and today!)

You can even customize little details like the color of the coil spine...which worked out in favor of my small huge gold obsession, of course! They also had black, rose gold, and silver. To be completely honest, they had so many different little features you can customize, it took this indecisive girl an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to decide on everything!

The planner has so many different ways to jot things down...there's a year-at-a glance calendar, a month-at-a-glance, week-at-a-glance, and even a little tiny notebook in the back folder pocket to keep track of important dates, contacts, birthdays, holidays, and more. 

I had used the LifePlanner™ back in college so the brand wasn't entirely new to me, and I'm so glad that I've decided to re-visit using it for all of my blogging purposes. That's why I was especially excited to hear about the event in Chicago earlier this month at Dylan's Candy Bar! I mean come on - could there be a more fun & colorful venue?! 

Okay, so I might have been excited about the candy too. I may or may not have consumed my entire dinner solely via Swedish Fish. Self control? Non-existent. 

What was news to me was all of the other products Erin Condren has begun offering since I last bought a planner! They've totally expanded into an entire lifestyle brand, with home decor like gorgeous custom acrylic trays, mugs, blankets, pillows, phone cases, and so many other cute gifts and accessories!

I'm all about keeping things colorful, so it's safe to say I'll be re-visiting those options the next time I need a great gift for a bestie.

The party was the perfect evening with friends, bloggers, and some seriously sweet & delicious drinks. I've totally falling back in love with the brand, and I'm hoping my ability to juggle everything in my life is going to be ten times easier now.

Does anyone else need to write things down to stay organized? Have you been struggling with wanting to keep things digital while sticking to the tried and true methods of planners?

In case you're like me - you can use the discount code GETSOCIAL15 for a 15% discount on the Erin Condren Website until July 31st!

This post was sponsored and in partnership with Erin Condren, including some c/o products to try out and review. As always, all of the products and opinions I share on Prep Essentials are completely honest and true, and I only ever share products that I truly love enough that I think my readers would love too! Thank you for supporting the partnerships that help make Prep Essentials possible!


My Favorite Summer Tank Top + White Jeans

If you took one glance at my closet, you would immediately know that I stick to a pretty consistent color scheme. A lot of neutrals, black, and every single shade of blue imaginable. I've always thought that blue is one of those colors that looks beautiful with every skin tone, hair color, and eye color - and it's just so pretty in the summer!

That's why when I found this gorgeous light blue tank (similar here) while doing a little bit of shopping before my trip to the Outer Banks, I knew I had to have it. It's a simple staple, and it pairs perfectly with white jeans or denim shorts for an easy and casual outfit I can throw on at a moment's notice.

I kept reaching for it during our entire trip, and I'm so glad I ended up buying it! Plus, the price point is pretty hard to say no to, right?!

I have to take a minute to mention that Dalton was such a trooper when it came to snapping some blog shots for all of you during our trip - photography is in no way a hobby or interest of his, and I can't thank him enough for helping me out!

I've mentioned it on countless occassions, but I am so in love with Madewell jeans. Their high-rise skinny jeans rescued me from a six-year stint of not owning a single pair of jeans that fit well/that I was comfortable wearing (no seriously...six years!!) 

I've continued to purchase them as new colors become available, and they are so worth it. PLUS, I recently found out that if you bring an old pair of jeans that no longer fit, you can take $20 off a new pair, while your old ones will be recycled for better uses like home insulation! How cool is that?!

But seriously - if you're looking for a perfect, simple and casual outfit to lean on all summer long, this one right here is it. I paired it with my favorite Jack Rogers sandals and I was all set! 

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Week in the Outer Banks!

Our vacation to North Topsail Island was such an incredible week - my only complaint was that I wish it could have been longer! I hadn't been back to the Outer Banks since I was younger, and it brought back so many vivid and fond memories of my childhood vacations with my parents.

If you've never been to the Outer Banks in the summer, I highly recommend adding that to your bucket list as soon as possible.

They tend to be on the sleepier, quieter side when it comes to little beach towns, but for a week of relaxation and quality time soaking in the sun, it was exactly what I wanted to kick off the summer. 

Most days began with breakfast on the outdoor patio, followed by a lot of sunscreen and loaded arms down to the beach for a full day of swimming, tanning, and reading! 

A few of the nights, we grilled out and enjoyed a calming evening at home, and we scoped out a few pretty great restaurants, too! Of course, the NHL playoffs were going on, so that was a non-negotiable agenda item for a couple of nights considering Dalton and his family are huge Penguins fans!

All in all, I had such an amazing time spent with all of them (and their two adorable dogs) getting some sun and drinking copious amounts of wine. I ended up completing over six books during the trip - a high quantity, even for me! (Don't worry, a recap of those is coming up ASAP!)

If you want to shop some of my outfits from the trip, you can find them right here (or by click the shop tab at the top of this page!)

It was the perfect way to start the summer, and has left me feeling even more excited about the other adventures and trips we have planned for these warmer months! Up next - Traverse City over 4th of July with my parents (and Rufus and Wrigley!)

PS - can you believe we didn't take one single picture together on the entire trip?! Talk about an epic fail. I fully plan on overcompensating while in Michigan, so there's more to come!

The Easiest Beginner's Grill Recipe!

I mentioned during my post last week about grilling tips for beginners that sometimes it is best to start with smaller things, like vegetables and fruits, before tackling the trickier recipes involving meat.

One of the very first recipes I tested out on my new grill last summer was this incredibly delicious grilled asparagus recipe - and it still remains one of my absolute favorites to this day! I have whipped this up just about every single time I've had friends over for a cookout, and it has become a favorite among all of them. 

The best part is that it couldn't be easier or simpler to make - and it requires almost zero ingredients! It makes for the perfect side dish for a summer meal outside. 

  • Aluminum Foil
  • 1 pound of asparagus, with ends cut off or peeled (wash first!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (I've made it without this when I ran out, and it was still amazing!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, sliced into multiple pieces
  • Take the aluminum foil and fold up the edges to be about an inch high, forming a tray to rest the asparagus on. (See the original recipe here for an image example!)
  • Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus, and wash well. Let it dry or press dry with paper towel, and toss with the olive oil. 
  • Lay the asparagus across the foil tray and season evenly with garlic salt + onion powder.
  • Top with the slices of butter, spread evenly across the asparagus.
  • Grill over medium heat (325 degrees works just fine) until the asparagus is tender-crisp. Usually takes about 5-7 minutes at 325!
  • Toss lightly to spread the melted butter evenly, and serve immediately. 
It's as simple as that! Of course, it goes without saying that you should use tongs and a plate or tray when pulling the foil tray off of the grill to avoid getting burnt! For more tips and tricks to begin "mastering" using a grill, don't miss the post from last week!


Essentials of the Week!

This week was a little bittersweet coming off of last week's vacation! Maybe we need to re-locate somewhere with more of a year-round vacation lifestyle...although Chicago summers really just can't be beat! If I had to head back to the city, at least it's during the best time of year.

I think my mind has still been on vacation-mode, because I've managed to have an incredibly relaxing week! I guess I wasn't ready to give up that unplugged lifestyle, because I spent most of my down time after work reading (even more) books, catching up with friends and trying out some new summer recipes to share with you very soon. 

Here are my essentials for this week!

1. The Way We ALL Feel About Swimsuit Season | I've never been one to buy too hard into the whole "bikini season is approaching, work on your bikini body!" thing, but then again I try really hard to stay fairly in shape all year long. Either way, I hate swimsuit shopping almost as much as I hate trying on jeans, and these two moms were so hysterical talking about this year's swimwear trends! 

2. Light Wash Jeans for Summer | I've truthfully never ventured into the realm of light wash denim, but now that it's becoming more common and trendy again, I'm really loving the idea of a light-wash pair or two for summer. I especially loved this pair for obvious reasons - Madewell's high rise denim is the most comfortable and easy to wear denim I've ever found. Might have to give these a try!

3. Why Travel Is Even More Important | In wake of the tragic and terrifying events happening all over the world lately, it can be easy to think that now isn't a very safe time to head abroad or go exploring. When I heard the news, I immediately thought of the 10-15 friends I have currently visiting London. This article shares some great views about why we shouldn't let fear stop us from seeing the world.

4. Inspiration at Any Age | This 12 year old is making people in their 20s, 30s and 40s look seriously unaccomplished...his idea for helping those with disabilities is truly inspiring and it's so amazing to see such drive, compassion and motivation from someone so young!

5. The Cutest Canine Concierge | Ending on an adorable note...I fell in love with this little pup who helps check guests in to the Hilton in Milkwaukee (we all know my soft spot for Goldendoodles!) I would totally be the guest freaking out and asking if I could play with her during my entire stay at the hotel


5 Grilling Tips for Beginners

One of the most exciting parts when moving to my new apartment a year ago was having a patio and my very first grill! Granted, my grilling experience at that point amounted to little more than halfway observing my dad while sipping on some wine and distractedly texting...but everyone has to start somewhere!

We ended up opting for this electric grill to help us avoid the cost (and struggle of carrying) a big kerosene tank or lugging bags of charcoal around, plus this just seemed like the most beginner-friendly option. For those reasons, I highly recommend this grill for the size, shape, and ease of use, however...it also has some definite cons. It can lose its temperature really easily, so looking at the reviews of some other similar electric options would definitely be wise! 

I've come a long way with my grilling skills and recipes since then, and now that summer is finally here I thought it would be fun to share some of the best and most basic tips for grilling in case you're just starting out, or have been looking for the motivation to! Most of these are, of course, courtesy of my dad, who happens to be an amazing cook.

1. Oil the Grill Before Each Use | The last thing you want is meat sticking to the grill when it is time to flip. Take a paper towel soaked in oil and brush it along the grate with tongs, or use a marinating tool to do this. A little bit goes a long way, just be sure to cover the whole grilling surface you plan to use.

2. Never Grill Anything Straight from the Freezer | Fun mistake #1 that we made with our new grill! Definitely plan ahead and be sure to thaw out any meat or vegetables you're planning on grilling, and if it starts to get too warm beforehand you can always toss it into the fridge to keep cool until you're ready. 

3. Avoid Over-Flipping | For consistent taste and temperature, try to only flip meat once on the grill, about halfway through the cooking process. This will keep everything even, allow it to cook fully, and help avoid certain areas being over and undercooked. 

4. Anything That Touches Raw Meat Should Be Used Once Only | The GOLDEN rule of grilling that my taught me from day one is to be insanely, overly cautious when it comes to handling raw meat. If you use a pair of tongs to touch the raw meat, don't use them again later while cooking. This can transfer raw meat juices and make you very sick. Wash your hands frequently, after each time you handle the raw meat, and try to avoid touching it with your bare hands as much as possible. Better safe than sick, right?!

5. Don't be Afraid to Experiment | Grilling is for so much more than just meat, guys! My two favorite recipes include a garlic asparagus recipe or grilled vegetable or pineapple skewers. There are so many super simple recipes out there (try my Pinterest board for grilling!) and if raw meat intimidates you, these are great ways to get comfortable with the grill, first. 

2 Documentary Recommendations

I always flip-flop on my love for documentaries. I really thoroughly enjoy them, but I'm extremely picky about which ones I watch and I have to be in the right mood and mindset to watch one and truly pay attention.

Dalton, of course, exclusively wants to watch them, so these days I've been watching more than I would normally agree to. Followed by several hours binge-watching what he calls my "brain melting" shows like the Kardashians...guilty pleasures!

I have found a few documentaries lately that I absolutely loved from beginning to end, and knew I had to share them with everyone in case anyone else has been looking for a great movie to watch. Personally, there's nothing I love more than curling up on my patio with a glass of wine and a book or a good movie. Gotta love these summer nights!

These are both available on Netflix, too!

Naledi | I picked this one out after watching the trailer (and after some prompting by one of my best friends who is positively obsessed with elephants). It's a true story about an absolutely adorable baby elephant named Naledi who was born into a rescue camp and becomes orphaned when she's still just a baby. It unveils the relationships she had with the men who look after her, and the decisions they make to try and save her life. It's a super moving tale, but I also loved it for not being too heavy or political (I tend to avoid those types of documentaries, they stress me out!)

Elephants are such incredibly intelligent and wise animals, and I really think they're a species that we don't understand or know as much about as we should. Highly recommend this pick!

Audrie & Daisy | This one is definitely more on a serious note, but it was such a powerful documentary and really well done. There has been a huge rise in talk about bullying, particularly in high schools, recently across the media from documentaries like this one and shows such as 13 Reasons Why (which was actually an incredible book, and I highly recommend it!) I could not believe some of the things these girls and their families went to, and the extremes of it all. I watched it three separate times just to pay close attention to each of the different stories, and it is absolutely worth watching.

As for me, I'm closing down my laptop for the night and heading to my patio for some of that outdoor reading with wine I was talking about earlier...but hopefully I'll have some more documentaries to recommend soon!