April 2017 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Essentials of the Week!

This week felt so great to be back in one spot and on my routine every day. I'm finally hitting my stride again with my workouts at Pure Barre (and not a moment too soon, I've been having way too many "vacation diets" these days...

I'm really looking forward to a restful weekend full of reading and catching up on some much needed sleep. Hopefully the weather reports are wrong and the sun makes an appearance, but even so - I don't think I'd main some rainy storms as a cozy excuse to stay in bed all day long watching movies and tackling my book list.

What are your weekend plans?! Here are my essentials for the week...

1. Your New Personal Stylist - I've been really curious about the new Google Home, Amazon Echo, and other home assistance devices lately. I've had a few friends that have given them a shot, but now I think I might just impulse purchase one for myself! The new feature Amazon has added will help you look your best every day!

2. Herschel Now Makes Luggage - I've come so close so many times to finally investing in some new luggage lately, but can't seem to pull the trigger...now I'm so glad I waited! The new travel collection looks very attractive, casual, and above all - practical. I'm loving the white, but might lean towards the grey to keep it a little cleaner!

3. A Way to Settle Differences - I avoid getting political, especially on social media and this website, but I thought the way that Heineken chose to address this ad campaign was so thoughtful and powerful, that no matter what you feel politically you can respect the creativity behind it (this may partly come from my marketing background and love for watching advertisements, though!)

4. My #1 Spring Jacket - This Spring I've been re-embracing my love for white denim, and I can't stop imaging the gorgeous ways to wear and pair this white oversized denim jacket. (T-shirt dresses every day? Yes please!)

5. The New Netflix & Chill - Given that my plans this weekend are to rest and relax at home, I loved finding this article with suggestions of other ways to spend a night in that don't revolve around Netflix. (Okay, I will probably still have Girlboss playing in the background, but at least I will be doing other things, too!)


How to Make A Classic Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby!

While some of you may not share the excited, giddy, Christmas-morning feeling towards the Kentucky Derby as I do, I'm here to tell you that you absolutely should! Granted, I may be a tad biased having grown up in Louisville my entire life, but it's such an absolutely amazing and wonderful event with people from all over the country in attendance.

I have taken a small breather from attending for the last three years (which might sound crazy to some, but you try going to an event with such fanfare and partying 8 years in a row without a break!) and now I'm so ready to get back down there next weekend!

There are an endless supply of traditions that accompany the Derby, but by far one of the most famous and time-honored is the delicious and refreshing Mint Julep cocktail. Be warned - this is a drink with Bourbon (obviously...given that it originates in Kentucky) and it comes with a kick!

One small request if you decide to give it a try: I urge you to make it yourself instead of ordering one in a bar on Derby Day. I obviously can't make a blanket statement about every single bar in America, but I have tasted some truly disgraceful excuses for Mint Juleps in these last few years and they are just not being made correctly!

In case you're hoping to celebrate (aka have an excuse to wear a cute dress, possibly a hat, and spend some time in the sun cheering on a horse) I thought I'd share the TRUE Kentucky way to fix up a batch of Mint Juleps for you and your friends - and score some major hostess points in the process!

The first thing you'll need is a proper Mint Julep cup. These can run a little pricey, but I've managed to track an affordable one down. It's important to have because you'll need to stick them in the freezer prior to using so they maintain that perfectly-chilled temperature (and keep the ice from melting too fast!)

What You'll Need:
  • Crushed Ice
  • Several Sprigs of Fresh Mint (You'll need them both for taste and for garnish)
  • 1 1/2 parts Bourbon (up to your discretion which kind, but Maker's Mark works just fine!)
  • 2 cups sugar (you can also substitute simply syrup)
  • 2 cups water
  1. Put Mint Julep cups in the fridge overnight beforehand, or in the freezer a few hours before using to keep them chilled.
  2. Either use a pre-made simple syrup (unflavored) or combine the sugar and water together and boil for five minutes while stirring. Combine either syrup or sugar/water in a covered container with 6-8 fresh sprigs of mint and leave overnight in the fridge. 
  3. Fill julep cup with crushed ice
  4. Pour 1 tbsp. of mint syrup on top of ice
  5. Add 2.5 oz of the Bourbon of your choice
  6. Stir rapidly to chill the drink, add a sprig of mint as garnish and enjoy!
It really is such a simple drink and the epitome of any true Derby celebration, so stock up on those supplies and get pouring!


Naturals & Neutrals

I try to be a little cautious when it comes to purchasing items that are "on-trend". Trends are great, and there are a lot that I genuinely love, but I don't like investing money in something that may not last a while or be considered a classic item that I can continue to wear for years to come.

(This has become even more true as I've begun my attempt at paring down my wardrobe and closet).

Sometimes it is a little bit too hard to resist, though! I've been seeing a never-ending steam of Instagrams and blog posts featuring natural-material accessories and shoes lately, and they're so adorable for spring and summer! 

They pair great with jeans or dresses, which means they can carry you beyond summer and into the fall, and given that they're typically running in neutral tones, I think they're versatile enough to be considered "classic" and last longer than a single season of trend-spotting. 

Not to mention, the materials being used seem a lot more durable than other types, and they're great for beach or pool outings, too!

I'm especially loving this small natural clutch because of the brown leather details, but this Sam Edelman bag is hard to resists with all of the small touches they've added to it! It would be perfect for a beach getaway.

Do you normally avoid buying on-trend items, or is anyone else loving these natural bag styles as much as I am??

Your New Summer Shoe Staple!

I've mentioned a few times that shoes and I have never been anywhere close to a Carrie Bradshaw level of love...it took me until around age 21 to stop being petrified of shoes with any heel at all, and really start embracing any shoe that I can walk in (without falling down), regardless of heel height.

This, of course, was much to the concern of my parents, I'm sure, considering I'm not exactly considered the coordinated member of the family!

In the last year or so, I've really begun to realize how much the right shoe can make an outfit...and how much a comfortable shoe can make or break your day/night. We all love these warmer weather days for our ability to throw on any pair of sandals and head out the door, but lately I've been embracing a new shoe trend that has me eyeing tons of styles and hoping to add them to my collection!

The more I see people wearing slip on sneakers & espadrilles, the more I'm mentally putting together outfits from my wardrobe they'd look great with! I'm most definitely late to the game here, but that's no surprise considering it took me a full two years to finally buy my now-beloved Converse shoes (and another year after that to learn how to clean them!)

I've had my eye on so many different pairs of comfortable (yet chic) sneakers, slip-on shoes, and of course the spring staple shoe - espadrilles! Espadrilles pair so nicely with everything from casual to dressy, and I really think sneakers can take any casual and comfortable outfit to the next level. Not to mention they're great for all of my favorite summer activities like bike riding in the park or exploring the Lincoln Park Zoo! 

Here are some of the cutest ones that I've had my eye on lately...




Books To Read This Summer!

Nothing makes me love Chicago in the spring and summer quite like reading by the water or sitting on the back patio of my apartment with some wine and a good book. Truthfully, my reading has taken a bit of a pause with how busy things have been on my travel schedule, but now that things are slowing down I'm getting more and more excited for all of the upcoming days I'll spend curled up with a book somewhere. 

Here's what I've been reading (and loving) lately!

1. You - Caroline Kepnes | This one really messed with my mind...in a good way! I'm still loving the psychological thriller style novels, and this one certainly had me on edge. It follows a similar concept to what you'd expect from a 'Gone Girl', but is told from the perspective of the villain. The really mind-warping part is that you find yourself cheering for him the entire time, and getting frustrated when things don't go his way! 

plus the sequel...

2. Hidden Bodies - Caroline Kepnes | This is the sequel to 'You', and it surprised me how different the two books seemed. Still very similar in concept as you continue to follow the main character Joe, but overall I think I actually much preferred this follow-up. If you enjoy the first, definitely continue reading. 

3. Small Admissions - Amy Poeppel | I picked this one up when I was looking for a light, amusing and easy read for my recent beach travels. It didn't blow me out of the water, and in the beginning I even found myself thinking it was a tad boring, but suddenly before I knew it, I couldn't put it down! I ended up finishing it in two days and really enjoyed it overall. If you feel bored like me in the beginning, I would recommend giving it a little more time. I loved this insider look into the confusing and baffling world of admissions into Upper East Side NYC early education...it was hilarious!

4. Only Ever Yours - Louise O'Neill | Unlike anything else I've ever really read, I was totally absorbed into this book from the moment I read the description. The story describes a world where women are not created naturally anymore, and are instead 'designed' and raised in a school where they are taught to become the perfect 'companion' for men, an instructor for the school, or what could only be compared to a twisted version of a prostitute. The world this author created was so bizarre, and yet it mimicked and pointed out a lot of the major feminist issues today in a really creative way. 

5. The Assistants | I loved (and was surprised) at how weirdly relatable this book was. Not relatable in the sense that it's something that has ever happened to anyone, but in the sense that I could totally understand from the beginning how the main character got into the whole mess in the first place. Being the assistant to the most powerful and wealthy media mogul in the world, $20,000 is a really small amount to some, and a huge amount to a regular 20-something trying to pay off her student loan debt. The rabbit hole she falls into was really just the beginning...and I loved what a light and fun read this was!

I have a feeling that now that things are warming up, I'll be spending more and more weekend afternoons along the lakeshore and on my patio with a good book, so I'm sure I'll be adding more and more books to my list very soon! 

Does anyone have any great reading suggestions they've picked up lately? I'm always looking for new books to try and add to my list!


Essentials of the Week

This week went by pretty quickly, and I'm lucky enough to be sitting with some of my very best friends (some of whom I haven't seen in over a YEAR) in Oxford back on Miami's campus for what I *believe* will be the very last time (at least until I have kids who want to tour the campus, a million years from now). 

I still absolutely adore Oxford and Miami, but I think it's definitely time to stop coming here so often! It's all too tempting with friends still on campus, and I truly forgot how beautiful it is during the spring, so being here this weekend is a special treat. I'm planning on savoring every minute of it!

Here are my essentials of this week.

1. A Unique Tour of My City - This video of a bird hitching a ride on a car as the man drives around Chicago was too cute, and I loved the man's reaction! That's one way to see the city!

2. The Solution to Coffee Stains - I'm not a coffee drinker, but plenty of my friends are, and they often commiserate about the fact that it's so frustrating that it stains your teeth. This clear coffee that just came out seems a little too good to be true - so someone who drinks coffee needs to try it and let me know if it still tastes great...I'm so curious!

3. The Perfect Tank for Summer - Tassels? Check. Seersucker? Check. The most adorable top for spring and summer? You bet. I need this in my closet asap!

4. Seven Positive Steps for This Week - I love the idea of this cute little printable with a "to-do" set aside for each day of the week to bring some positivity and health into your life and routine. If you've been looking for a reset, give this a try on Monday!

5. Pretty Blue Espadrilles - The moment I saw these online the other night, I knew they had climbed to the very top of my current wish list. I was immediately envisioning all of the different outfits I'd wear them with this summer, and that blue is just so pretty! 


Graduation Dresses!

I can't wrap my head around the fact that it's already this time of year again, but I've already had a few friends reach out frantically looking for ideas and suggestions for what to wear under their gowns on graduation day.

I happened to get lucky when I graduated college, as I randomly found the most perfect, light and comfortable white linen dress that I knew I could wear again and again (and wouldn't clash with my Miami red!) a few weeks before the ceremony at a little boutique uptown. I ended up repeatedly wearing it for all of the various ceremonies, dinners and parties that occurred in those busy few weeks before, during, and after with no shame. 

My high school had incredibly strict rules of floor-length long white gowns that had to be approved beforehand, so my experience in that arena is hardly helpful, but I think overall college and high school graduation attire expectations are the same!

I personally think it's best to stick along the lines of simple, classic, and something you can wear again and again (like my little white linen dress). That being said, it's a celebration and a great excuse to get something fun and memorable if that's more your style!

Simple black and simple white both look great whether your gown is fully zipped up or not. Personally, I tend to have more fun in the shoes department, since that's what you can see the entire time whether you have your gown on or not! Just be sure to select something comfortable!

Whether you're indoors or outdoors, I strongly recommend something light and airy. Those gowns get hot, and weather can totally make or break the day as it is!

White Dresses

Black Dresses

Patterned + Colorful Dresses

I have to admit - more than anything else I found, this black tassel dress was my absolute favorite for the occasion...I think it would look so cute for the day with the cap! Fingers crossed it comes back in stock soon for those who love it too! 

Spring Cleaning My Closet!

I have a small confession to make...I have really only gone through my closet and gotten rid of clothes once in my life. No seriously...

All throughout high school and college, I always managed to convince myself that I would wear something again. Even for the items that I knew I was done with, I didn't want to throw them out until I could replace them with something. I did a slight overhaul when I graduated college that I felt pretty proud of...at the time. 

In recent weeks, I've suddenly become completely fed up with how overstuffed my closet is with items I haven't touched since the first half of college! Life lesson number one: Just because an item was expensive, or well-loved at the time, does not mean you keep it five years after you stop wearing it. Oops. My bad. 

That's as far as I'm going to admit because I have fallen way too far down this hoarding rabbit hole of clothes to go into further detail, but I think you get the point. That's why this past weekend I blocked off my entire calendar and promised myself I would go through the strictest closet overhaul of my life - and I'm never looking back!

I ended up being able to get rid of over FIVE garbage bags worth of clothes! More importantly, my closet has never had so much space. I had some pretty major anxiety moments of - "oh my gosh, I am not going to have a single thing to wear ever!" but realistically, I'm not wearing these things anyway. They're actually blocking me from being able to see what I do wear, and now I'll be able to put together great outfits so much easier by seeing what can go together!

I tried to follow a general set of rules during the cleanout process, and overall they guided me away from hanging on to a few items that had no place in my wardrobe:

1. Have I worn it in the last year? Some people follow this rule a little bit more strictly, such as six months, but I wanted to account for certain seasonal items.

2. Would I buy this in a store today? This one by far helped me get rid of the most items. SO many things in my closet are not my style at all anymore, and I realized I wouldn't even give them a second glance in a store, nonetheless shell out money for it.

3. Do I have anything similar to this that I prefer/wear more often? I had a pretty long period of time where I was buying a lot of very similar items. This isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, but do I really need to own 3 or 4 white t-shirts when I only reach for my favorite one every single time? Not exactly.

These three simple rules were pretty game-changing for me, who tends to want to hang on to every little thing that I once loved (even if I don't love it anymore). For the few remaining items I kept trying to sneak into the 'maybe' pile, knowing full well it didn't belong there, I imagined that one of my friends was there overseeing the process and asked myself if she'd let me keep it or not. Hint: she wouldn't, for any of them. 

I wasn't expecting to get much in terms of selling items, but every little bit helps, and I treated myself to a few new pieces from Zara with the earnings. 

My next goal is to be way more mindful of what gets put into my wardrobe. I want classic staple pieces that all bring something unique and important to my closet. I'll be talking more on that in another post, but I'm really excited about what's to come, and about continuing to rid myself of clutter that I don't truly need! 


How To Clean Your Converse!

Now that things have been warming up, I've been finding myself grabbing for my converse with nearly every outfit. It actually has me thinking that it might be time to grab a new pair of stylish sneakers or two like this pair or this pair.

They're so comfortable and great for wearing anywhere & everywhere, it's hard to reach for anything else! That being said, anyone who has ever owned converse (or any white sneaker, for that matter) knows how insanely easy it is to get them dirty!

Truth be told, I actually think it looks a tad strange when they're so sparkling white and unworn-looking, but mine have definitely seen better days and they were more than past due for a good cleaning. 

Fortunately, it actually couldn't have been easier to get them back to good as new! If you've been meaning to brighten yours up for a while, the process only takes a few minutes of effort and it is totally worth it. 

1. Grab some Oxyclean Max Force Gel - I used regular Oxyclean spray the first time around, and it worked just fine, but the gel stick is a lot easier to use (and requires a lot less scrubbing). Rub the Oxyclean on the toughest spots on the canvas, and any other bigger stains or mud scuffs. 

2. Put into Washer on Delicate. I threw mine in with two towels to keep them from banging around everywhere, and just a splash of laundry detergent. 

3. Let Air Dry. I've heard stories of people's shoes shrinking in the dryer, so I personally wouldn't recommend it. I stuck mine on the back porch for a few hours one afternoon and they were good as new - and sparkling bright white!

It's as simple as that really, and totally worth the minimal effort it takes to brighten those babies up, just in time for spring and summer!


College Graduation Gift Ideas for Him & Her!

The season is upon us again...how can it already be time for graduation?! Granted, that ceremony is no longer something that ever gets put up on my calendar beyond a few younger friends that I keep in touch with, but it's still that nagging reminder that yet another year has passed since I left the comfort zone of Oxford and Miami University and headed here to Chicago!

There is a lot of fuss over the whole celebration and event of graduating, particularly in college when so much change is about to occur. I didn't do anything particularly major when graduating college, but I certainly had my work cut out for me packing and shopping-wise. 

Some of the most sentimental and heart-felt gifts I ever received were on that occasion, and others were just so exciting to receive before heading off to decorate my very first apartment and enter the 9-5 world of career life. 

If you're struggling to find the perfect gift for the special guy or girl you know that is beginning the journey, I've rounded up all of my favorite finds for college graduation to suit any budget!

Luggage, Weekender Bags & Luggage Tags are all great gifts because it's one of those things that you really begin to need as you enter adulthood. No more borrowing from your parents old hand-me-down collection. Having your own set will have you ready to jet-set off to fun and exciting places!

Nice Pajamas, Robes & Slippers just feel a little more adult and put together than a ratty old T-shirt and sweats (although I totally still wear that the vast majority of the time!)

A great professional tote or messenger bag for work is an essential item. I ended up buying myself one upon graduating, and then received the Madewell Transport Tote a year later which I am in love with. I did a post sharing the best post-grad totes and bags for everyone, whether you head to the gym after work or carry a laptop all day long. This laptop case and ipad case are great options too! If you want to stay on the smaller side, it can't hurt to have a classy and chic business card holder for the world's newest young professional.

A little piece of home (or where you're going) is a great sentimental and meaningful gift. I have a coordinates necklace from Dalton that has the location of my college house, which also happens to be where we first met. I also have a gold print of Chicago to commemorate my first city on my own! (Minted has tons of great options!)

 Staying fit and healthy gets a little bit tougher when you're own your own and working full-time days. Having a great sound system, a fitness tracker and some new fitness gear to go from work to the gym all come in handy for that little bit of extra motivation.


Essentials of the Week!

It has been so nice to be home all week and back into my normal routine. Packing my lunches, making up for some majorly lost time at Pure Barre (oops!) and getting to bed at a reasonable decent hour has made me feel like a whole new person!

I was beginning to forget what it felt like to not be exhausted and hitting snooze every single morning. I've even allowed myself a few nights off from blogging or doing any work at home to just relax in bed with some candles, cozy blankets and some good old fashioned Disney movies. What else would I watch before I go see Beauty & The Beast this weekend?!

I'm not planning on picking up the pace at all over the weekend. I've got some big plans to read on my patio with some wine, grill out for dinner alone, and do the biggest closet overhaul I've ever done in my life...slightly nervous, mostly excited. Be sure to follow along on Instagram stories! 

It's going to feel so nice to just sit back, relax and get organized while I enjoy some of this spring weather we have headed our way. 

Has anyone else been on a big spring cleaning kick?!

Here are my essentials of the week!

1. Decorating On a Budget - I'm always spending the majority of my time on Pinterest looking at home decor, and I can't get enough of seeing before and after shots, especially on a budget! I loved the total transformation this 25-year-old girl made to her living room space. 

2. Real Life Fairytale - I've mentioned on more than one occasion how excited I was to hear that Anastasia was being made into a Broadway Musical. I'm really not a big musical person, but I would definitely put that feeling aside for this one, and I loved seeing the behind the scenes story of the show!

3. My New Sunnies for Summer - I have no idea how I'd never heard of this store until my shopping excursion in NYC last week, but I loved just about everything in there! I can't wait to track down one near me. I was missing my sunglasses that day, and loved these aviators so much that I wore them right out of the store!

4. A Simple & Easy Easter Recipe - Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I think this recipe looks like so much fun! I'm thinking it could be great to try making with my nieces and nephew - with minimal mess! 

5. The Necklace You Need Right Now - I'm a big fan of little and simple pendants (especially gold ones, surprise surprise!) but this little pineapple is so adorable and simple. Perfect for spring and summer accessorizing!      

A Sensitive Skin Guide to SPF & Summer Sun

I am still barely dipping my toes into the vast expanse of skincare treatments, remedies, and products that are out there (and am slowly acquiring quite a list of favorites along the way!) I have often mentioned what incredibly sensitive skin that I have on here - and by sensitive, I'm talking recently developing an allergy to Neosporin.

I went from having never seen a Dermatologist in my life, to visiting one 17 times in the course of four months this time last year after a series of pretty major allergic reactions, so it's safe to say that I'm a huge chicken when it comes to trying out anything new, skin-wise. 

The unfortunate thing is that I'm reaching an age where taking protective and preventative steps towards looking after my skin is becoming more and more important to me (and actually was one of my top goals for 2017). It's hard to find treatments and products that will work for me when I'm constantly wondering if it's worth breaking out in hives over. 

While not everyone may have quite as severe of reactions as I do, I do get a lot of questions from fellow sensitive skin sufferers asking what my favorite products are in every category. While I'm hopeful that by this time next year I'll have a much more comprehensive list, I wanted to share the few that I've really fallen in love with now that things are heating up outside. 

I'm very cautious about using SPF and wearing sunscreen, especially in the summer months. You may not need to lather up a full body layer of pool-level sunblock on a daily basis, but wearing something on your face and hands every day with a light SPF will do wonders for your skin down the line.


1. Aveeno Daily Moisturizer - SPF 30: This one has to come first as it's far and beyond my favorite of the bunch. I like this one because for the days that I might be wearing makeup on top, this one stays light and doesn't make my face feel overloaded the way my other daily moisturizer does. I usually re-apply around 2pm, especially if I have plans after work.

2. Neutrogena Healthy Defense - SPF 50: Neutrogena has long been a go-to for all of my sunscreen needs. This one tends to be what I bring on trips where in more beachy climates or where I'll be in the sun all day long. Pro tip - using this doesn't mean you don't still need a regular face sunscreen. I actually layer both on for beach and pool days.

3. CeraVe Night Moisturizer - SPF 30: The easiest way for me to remember moisturizer is right before bed, when I'm going through the rest of my nightly routine. This one does feel a little bit heavier than the others, but since it is a night lotion it makes no difference to me, and my skin feels so much softer by morning.


3. It Cosmetics CC Cream - SPF 50: For a one-stop, do-it-all solution, this one is the winner. I only recently learned the magic of CC creams, but they really cover everything and more. Hydrates your skin, smoothes it out, brightens, and even has anti-aging elements. The SPF is just the cherry on top!

4. Bare Escentuals Bareskin Foundation - SPF 20: I've always loved Bare Minerals and Bare Escentuals, both for the reason that they're natural enough to never irritate my skin (even when I'm too tired lazy to wash my makeup off...oops! This foundation isn't my daily go-to, but it's definitely regularly mixed into my routine every once in a while.

Hand & Body Lotions

5. Supergoop Forever Young Hand Cream - SPF 40: Fortunately for me, my hands are the least sensitive part of my skin, so I don't have to worry quite as much about what I use, but I still like to avoid anything too perfume-scented or flowery. Truth be told, this one smells like sunscreen, but if it's getting the job done it doesn't bother me!

6. Aveeno Daily Lotion - SPF 15: I'm not particularly fair-skinned, so this has been my favorite body lotion for years. The lavender scent is my favorite (partly because it's the only way I can have a pleasant smell without being allergic to whatever perfumes have been added) but partly because it's so calming.


The Wanderlust Wish List for the 20-Something Girl on a Budget

It’s no secret that I love to travel, and I’ve certainly indulged in a few of my dream trips since graduating. Some highlights include skiingin Breckenridge, exploring and surfing in Puerto Rico + Culebra Virgin Island, and New Orleans for Mardi Gras. That being said, there are still an endless list of places topping my list that I’m hoping to cross off in the next couple of years.

Of course, being that I’m not a celebrity or happen to be married to one, reality is the obvious factor disrupting all of my wanderlust goals. I still frequently get texts and emails from friends and readers asking how I could possibly find the time and budget to be taking all of these trips only in my first 2 years of graduating college!

I can assure you, there is no hidden trust fund or credit card debt secretly funding my travels. It’s all about being smart with how you travel – you can seriously save hundreds upon hundreds of dollars if you do it right. If you’d be interested in seeing a post on how you can make it happen for yourself, comment below or shoot me an email at prepessentails@gmail.com!

For now, I’m letting my bank account replenish itself from my most recent trips and adventures, and spending my down time building out my list of budget-friendly and travel-worthy places to visit in your 20s without totally blowing your savings account.

Here are all of the places I plan on traveling (or already have) before I turn 30!

Croatia/Prague/Amalfi Coast
Puerto Rico
Turks & Caicos
Santa Barbara, CA
Austin, TX + Dallas, TX
New York City
Yacht Week
Kiawah Island, SC
Nantucket & Martha's Vineyard
Outer Banks, NC
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
San Francisco, CA + Malibu, CA
New Orleans, LA
Seattle, WA
Las Vegas
Denver, CO + Boulder, CO + Breckenride, CO
Boston, MA
Ottawa, Canada

I just recently returned from a trip out to New York (first time in a while!), and have tickets booked for the Outer Banks this summer which I am incredibly excited for. Fortunately, we have family and friends in a handful of these places, but the rest are going to remain on my wish list to hopefully cross off soon!

What have your been your favorite places to travel recently?!


Weekend in NYC!

I spent the past five days in New York City for the first time since I was 12 years old - talk about a whole different experience! I arrived Wednesday night for some work obligations on Thursday and Friday, and stayed through the weekend with some friends who live there. We had such an amazing time, I almost missed my flight because I wasn't ready to go home yet!

Despite the first two days being pretty rainy (from rain that quite literally followed me from Chicago), I got some good work done and was able to see my friends and squeeze in some dinner + drinks after work. By far my favorite meal of the weekend was a late dinner in the Lower East Side at a spot called Pizza Beach.

We split the Gnocchi and the Kale Salad, and paired it with the most delicious cocktail, ever. No seriously - I took a picture of the drink menu and interrogated the waiter to make sure that I could re-create this delicious concoction this summer - and as soon as I do, I'll be sure to share the recipe with you!

Friday night was a fairly relaxed evening with drinks on Stone street near my friend Dakota's office and a late dinner at a really fun little spot near her apartment called Felice, which also happens to have a really amazing happy hour menu and some delicious crostini choices as snacks. 

Saturday had a bit of a slow start, but we eventually migrated our way to AOC in Greenwich Village for a boozy brunch and to walk around perusing the shops and visiting Washington Square Park a little bit before heading back down to the Financial District to get ready for a night out with a group of friends! 

Sunday was by far my favorite day of the weekend, which contributed even more to my reluctance to pack up and head to the airport...we did a little shopping (and I got some great finds like this perfect green rain jacket and this cropped suede moto - both will be making appearances in some outfit posts very soon!)

We also squeezed in a visit to The Oculus, which is an absolutely incredible new structure alongside the World Trade Center Memorial. It's filled with stores, some food and treats, pop-up stalls, and a transit center as well. I loved the all-white theme and all of the windows - it was such a bright and open area.

 Afterwards, we wandered out by the water and walked along the paths there before topping off the afternoon with a late brunch at the famous Sarabeths in Tribeca where I had an incredibly delicious avocado + poached egg toast with burrata.

I'm already dying to plan another visit back, but don't want to get too crazy with filling up my travel schedule right now, so for now it will just be in the back of my mind until later on this summer. 

What are your favorite NYC spots? Are there any must-visit places on your list that I should make sure to hit next time I'm there?!

Brightly Decorated Life Art Prints!

I've been a huge fan of Evelyn Henson's art ever since I first discovered it two years ago, and I've had my eye on just about every collection she's released since then! Her mugs are great gifts for people (just ask my parents, who are both now the proud owners of Custom Goldendoodle Mugs for Rufus & Wrigley!) 

My current apartment is pretty much completely stocked when it comes to art and wall decor, so in recent months I've just been window shopping and creating wish lists of my favorite art prints, but I think I'm in love with this collection so much that I might just have to make room for it somehow!

If you're looking for that perfect colorful piece to make a room pop (or to pair with a bar cart) this is definitely the number one place I'd recommend checking out!

You can shop the entire collection, and view some of my favorite picks below!

Given the constant blue and white theme in my bedroom and apartment, I'm especially leaning towards the blue and white flower prints. 

I have some friends that are beyond in love with all things Elephant, so I'm already planning on getting some gifts ready for upcoming birthdays!

Which one is your favorite? If you find one you love, grab it quick - the collection is for a limited time only!


Essentials of the Week!

This has been a week full of travel for me, and I'm writing this from my hotel in New York right now with a pretty beautiful view of Central Park! I haven't been to NYC since I was 12 or 13...which seems crazy to me now! 

I have to admit, Chicago is still all of the city that I need, and New York will forever simply be a place to visit in my mind, but I'm so excited to be here and see some friends while I'm in town! Since it's been so long, I haven't made a single plan for while I'm here, and I've decided to leave that up to the experts (aka my friends!) 

It's honestly more exciting to know I have an activity-packed weekend without a single clue or agenda of what is to come...stay tuned and follow me on Instagram for updates, and comment below if you have some favorite spots that I absolutely must check out!

Here are my essentials of the week:

1. The End of an Era - If you haven't seen in the news this week, Jenna Lyons announced that at the end of 2017 she will be leaving from J.Crew after 26 years as their Creative Director and President. Many credit Jenna with the brand's mass success since 1990, including her ability to bring neon colors and bold designer trends into the mass market. Safe to say, I'll be holding my breath to see where they take the brand now that she's gone!

2. Your Netflix Binge for the Summer - I am embarrassingly excited to see this one, guys. I'm supposed to be out of town the day that it premieres, and I'm strongly considering *faking* sick just to pull a weekend binge and watch the entire thing (just kidding...kind of). The trailer looks amazing! 

3. The Cutest Puppy Video - Let's be honest, all puppy videos are pretty amazing, but this one had me watching over and over again. I couldn't get enough of this sweet little pup! 

4. Casual Tank for Spring + Summer - I'm all about simple and light pieces for spring and summer (I tend to always feel hotter than anyone else around me, so anything that keeps me cool and sweat-free is a big plus). I love the simple pom-pom details on this tank to wear anywhere or dress up.

5. To Kickstart Your Spring Cleaning - Everyone seems to always struggle with finding the motivation to begin the whole 'spring cleaning' thing...myself included! My main focus this year is doing the biggest clean sweep of my closet that I've done, ever. These tips are actually really helpful for knowing where to begin!


The Ultimate Chicago Summer Bucket List!

One thing you’ll be all too familiar with hearing if you’re a Chicago resident is comments about how crazy you must be to put up with our winters. Truth be told, I really think people are really overdramatic about that, but to each her own! Either way, you can be sure that most Chicagoans responses to that statement resemble something about how the incredible summer lifestyle here makes it more than worth the frigid months that follow. 

I’m coming up on my THIRD summer living here (which is crazy to think about!) and I’m still finding a never-ending list of activities I love along with those I can’t wait to try. I’ve crossed some pretty amazing ones off of my bucket list already, and most of those will be repeat activities for many years to come.

Here are some of the big bucket list items for us to try (or do again) as soon as the weather starts to warm up and stay warm! I've done my best to break them up into categories for easier searching, too - that way you can save it on Pinterest and come back to it when you're looking for fun plans! 

When You're Feeling Touristy...

  • Try out a boat tour along the river. My advice? Pick one around sunset. It gave me views of the city I'd never experienced before! 
  • Walk around Millenium Park and be sure to stop by the Bean and Buckingham Fountain
  • Explore Navy Pier and Ride the Ferris Wheel - I recommend going at night!

When You're Hungry (Or It's Happy Hour)...

  • Scout out food truck locations and have an impromptu picnic outside
  • Cool down with ice cream (my favorite spot is Oberweiss in Lakeview) and walk around the neighborhoods after dinner
  • Try out Chicago's best rooftops - J.Parker and Cindy's are two of my favorites!

When You Don't Want to Spend Any Money...
(Some of the items in the Tourism category work here, too!)

  • Walk around and explore the Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Relax on the Beach & Try Out Beach Volleyball
  • Explore one of the many Street Festivals All Summer Long (see the full calendar here!)
  • Bring a Picnic + Wine/Beer and Enjoy one of the weekly free concerts at Millenium Park
  • Find a good spot along the Lakeshore to watch the Wednesday Night Navy Pier firework show
  • Rent Divvy Bikes for a Day and Ride around the Parks or along the Lakeshore
  • Find a comfortable spot by the Lakeshore to relax and picnic (my favorite is the grassy area at Fullerton & North Ave)
  • Get Lou Malnati's Deep Dish Pizza as Carry-Out and bring some wine/beer to a free movie in the park (schedule) under the stars

Everything Else...

  • Get Cubs Rooftop Tickets for a day of all you can eat/drink and an amazing view of the game (OR grab bleacher tickets the day of for cheap and find an empty seat!)
  • Get tickets to one of your favorite concerts at Wrigley Field (I've got my eye on Lady Gaga or Zac Brown Band this year - here's the full list of upcoming concerts!)
  • Rent a Trolley & do a Bar Crawl with friends (and get some amazing views of the city)
  • If you're lucky, you might have a friend with a boat willing to take you out on the lake. If you don't, renting one is really easy and affordable when split with a group! I always check Groupon to find a good deal! 
I think the biggest detail this list is missing is an in-depth guide to my favorite rooftops, patios and happy hour specials around the city. I'm planning on doing a much more in-depth guide of all of those really soon, so stay tuned! 

What are your favorite Chicago activities, or activities in your city during the warmer seasons? I love to travel - so please comment below with some of your top choices and maybe it will inspire me to make a weekend trip out of it!


A New Standard for Makeup + Skincare

Skincare has always been one of those "mystery" topics to me. I've never had a skincare routine beyond leaving it completely alone, because with my incredibly sensitive skin and fairly clear complexion, anytime I tried to use any products it resulted in disaster. Why try to fix something that isn't already broken, I suppose!

That being said, one of my big personal goals this year was to find a few products to try that will start taking care of my skin for the long-term and aging process that won't cause any allergic reactions or negative side effects. 

So far, it's safe to say I've had some unsuccessful attempts (more on that later), but I've finally found one line of products that is really working for me. 

I recently received a "Home Try On" kit of Onomie Beauty (don't worry, this post isn't sponsored - I just truly loved the results I saw after a recommendation from a friend!) I told my friend Dakota that my dark circles were completely out of control these days, and I'm hardly a makeup guru so I've been at a bit of a loss as to where to begin. 

I loved the idea of a home try-on kit with a few different shades and options so that I could figure out which one was best for my skin tone. What really sold me on the brand though? The lengths that the brand goes through to ensure that their makeup not only has skincare benefits, but that they can back up those claims with clinical trials and solid facts.

If you're still hesitant about branching out - they've covered you there. You can go online to find your current concealer color, and they will tell you which shade is your best match using their Shade Translator!

They cycle all of their products through a third-party testing lab to ensure that they genuinely have the positive effects on your skin that they claim. Fun Fact? There is nothing that requires cosmetic companies to be approved by the FDA, meaning that they don't have to actually deliver on those promises to "transform" your skin! Onomie takes care to provide the promised results, anyway.

Makeup was a new undertaking for me only 2 years ago...beyond the bare basics, I knew nothing. I'm essentially at the same starting position now with skincare, so being able to use a product that combines both and spares me from having to learn a whole new line of products and routines? I'm sold!

The concealer has definitely been the biggest game-changer for me, which is great considering my dark circles were what prompted me to seek out some new products in the first place! I've never used a liquid concealer before, so it took me a few tries to get the hang of blending, but now I'm loving it and already ordered my next bottle!

Highlighters are something I've barely broken into in the makeup world, but with some instruction via Facetime from Dakota (she's a lifesaver) I've been incorporating this into my daily makeup routine now! Despite the fact that I don't have overly fair skin, I've been using the lovelace shade and it has given me a perfect dewy glow to top off my everyday look. 

I truthfully have no problems whatsoever with my standard primer, which is Bare Minerals, but knowing that this one is doing some extra leg work to take care of my skin has me reaching for it more often than not lately. I don't think I'll fully remove Bare Minerals from my makeup bag, but I like having this one on hand! 

If you want to try out their awesome at-home starter kit to find your shades and see what all the hype is about, just follow this link and get started! 


10 Casual Patterned Dresses Under $100!

I wouldn’t describe my personal style as overly feminine or floral, but I’ve also been trying to incorporate some more patterns and prints into my almost entirely solid and classic wardrobe these days. I love all of my standard staple pieces, don’t get me wrong, but I’m slowly finding myself to be more attracted to the occasional statement piece to really make a pop for a fun occasion.

Floral dresses seem to be one of the best possible ways to do this – and what better time than Spring? Okay I know, florals for spring…groundbreaking (had to be said!) but I do love the feeling of throwing on a comfortablepair of espadrilles or a chic pair of wedges alongside a simple sundress for a day of exploring and hanging out along the lakeshore or to a quick brunch with friends?

It’s so easy to dress them up or down for different occasions, and I’ve been finding a lot that are super comfortable. Now my only concern is finding ones that won’t blow up on a particularly windy Chicago day!

Here are some of the cutest floral and patterned sundresses I've had my eye on lately - and they're all under $100!


How to Land Your Dream Intership!

Summer means a lot of things when you're a student - a break from classes, time off from sharing a tiny dorm room with another person, perhaps a few vacations, and a lot of time poolside. For me, though, summer break in college also meant internships. 

Hardly every glamorous, but always rewarding and a great resume boost, I never had a summer in college without at least one internship. These days it seems like you have to have a fully stacked resume to have any hopes in the job market upon graduation. 

You may not know exactly what you want to do post-grad, and that's perfectly okay! A few of my internships solely taught me which industries and roles I wasn't interested in. Even if you have an internship that ends up being a fairly "blah" experience, the knowledge you gained will still be invaluable - especially to future employers! Even grabbing stacks of coffee is getting you one step closer to that dream job you've got your eye on.

I fully believe that you can land any job or internship that you want, as long as you know how to market yourself uniquely for each situation. It's all about selling yourself as the perfect candidate - even if you don't have any experience yet in that field!

There are a few simple tips to keep in mind during your job hunt that will significantly improve your chances of scoring that dream internships and adding another piece to your resume!

1. The Groundwork - Everyone knows that you should research a company a little before an interview with them, but I like to begin the process before even filling out my applications. Checking out their LinkedIn pages, Twitter and Facebook will give you some insight that you wouldn't otherwise gain on the company. Perhaps they've even shared profiles of previous interns! Discovering which companies you can best market yourself as the best candidate is step number one. 

2. Become the Perfect Fit - One of the reasons companies love interns is that they're still un-molded and a lot more teachable. Make your inexperience an asset! You likely don't have much practice or background in whatever field you're applying (hello, how could you?!) but that's not what you should highlight to the employer. Focus on the qualities you know their company searches for, and repeatedly explain & demonstrate to them why you would be a great person to quickly learn and adapt to what they're searching for.

3. Be Gracious - Employers won't be impressed by someone who thinks that they're above the stereotypical "intern" duties - like taking everyone's coffee order, ensuring that the big boss has a crisp diet coke in the fridge at all times (yes, this was seriously a task of mine as an intern once!), or jotting down basic notes about anything and everything. You have to start somewhere, and if you seem like the kind of person who will have a great attitude about every single task assigned to you and a smile on your face, it won't matter if you've had one internship or 20 prior to this role.

4. Keep it Old School - You likely are already told this, but thank you notes seriously do make a difference. I always write a thank you email within an hour of ending an interview and include some sort of anecdote or comment that relates back to our conversation so that I'm more memorable. I also always follow-up with a handwritten note that I mail. True story - In an office I was in, an applicant wrote a thank you note that the manager received a few days after the interview, and he went to go through his notes just to ensure that he had in fact given that applicant a job offer because he was so impressed. The little things make a big difference! 

*Hint - if you aren't sure where to find your interviewer's address - simply address it to them at the office location with ATTN: (their name). The company will be able to track them down, I promise!

If you have any other questions or want more advice about landing an internship, what to wear, or interviews, don't hesitate to comment or shoot me an email using the contact form on the right sidebar! I'm always happy to help!