Lifestyle

Lifestyle
Lifestyle

Fashion

Fashion
Fashion

College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Songs of Summer Playlist - Available On Spotify!

As you're reading this, I'm probably laying up on the beach in North Carolina with a good book, a little more sand than I'd like stuck to me, and (hopefully) a refreshing drink in hand. I'm also most definitely listening to the playlist below!

There have suddenly been a huge burst of new amazing songs and albums coming out lately, as if all of the music artists were just hiding out with their new releases until the weather heated up. 

Either way - I've been listening to and loving some new favorites nonstop lately, and I pulled them together in a playlist in case you've been looking for some new music inspiration, the perfect playlist for your next cookout, or just something to listen to while you pass the time at work! (Has anyone else been listening to Despacito nonstop?!)


You can access the playlist directly right here with Spotify, or you can play them below just by clicking on the songs!

PS - I mixed in a few old summer classics, too - some songs just never go out of style!


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Essentials of the Week!

Tomorrow, I'm packing up and heading off to the Outer Banks for a week and I could not be more excited! This week has felt particularly slow because I've been counting down the minutes until this trip, and it's finally almost here!

I haven't been back to the Outer Banks since I was a lot younger, so I'm really looking forward to exploring and getting some much-needed relaxation time. If anyone has any suggestions for the North Topsail Beach area, please comment them below! Restaurants, beach spots, little stores or even the best ice cream...I'd love to go exploring!

Here are my essentials for the week:


1. 73 Questions with Selena | Selena Gomez is quite possibly my favorite celebrity, or at the very least she's in my top 3. She seems so down-to-earth and funny to me, and I loved this video preview of 73 random questions she answered. You can catch the full version here!

2. My New Go-To Cami | Anytime I can find an adorable, well-fitting staple piece of clothing that also has a great price point, I can't help but scoop it up in a few colors. This cami is so perfect for layering year round, and I've been wearing it nonstop since I ordered it last week!

3. The Way We All Feel about Air Travel | Airlines have gotten a lot of attention lately for crazy incidents that have happened on board, but this sweet two-year-old summarizes a problem we've all experienced on a flight before - passengers who want to chat the whole flight! She had me cracking up.

4. Wind-Proof Dresses | I've already had one or two near-flashing incidents these last few weeks with warmer weather and a much-too-windy day for some dresses of mine...so when I heard that this adorable maxi dress actually has built-in shorts to keep you worry-free, I couldn't resist. Super budget-friendly, too!

5. Protecting the Castle | In keeping with my beach travels tomorrow, I couldn't resist sharing at this sweet puppy and his outrage at the ocean for ruining his carefully dug sandcastle/hole. What a sweetie!

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3 Easy + Delicious Memorial Day Recipes!

As I'm writing this, I'm finishing packing up my bags to finally head off to the Outer Banks for the weekend! I'm really looking forward to a week of relaxing and exploring with Dalton and his family - and their two adorable dogs, of course! 

We are staying in a house for the week, but I'm still not entirely sure what the kitchen//grocery situation will be, and I'm guessing we will likely be going out to eat more often than not, but I'm really hoping I might be able to swing by a little grocery store somewhere before Monday and pick up a handful of ingredients to whip up something sweet and simple to snack on for Memorial Day!

Whatever your Memorial Day plans are, it's always nice to add a little personal touch to bring to a host - or to serve up to your own guests! I rounded up a delicious (and easy) healthy appetizer, a sweet looking dessert, and some adorable mini skewers to cover all of the bases and top off your Memorial Day weekend with a bang!





Ingredients:
  • 1/2 seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • chopped mint leaves (around 2tbsp)
  • 2-4 limes, juiced
Directions:
  • Combine the fruit, mint and berries in a bowl
  • Toss in the lime juice right before serving. 
It's that simple! 

I may have a slight caprese obsession, but it's just so delicious and refreshing in the spring and summer! My other favorite caprese-themed recipe is right here.


Ingredients:
  • Mini Mozzarella Balls (or regular caprese cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh basil leaves, cut in half
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Toothpicks
  • Salt + Pepper
Directions:
  • Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, then lower to a simmer until it's a thin syrupy consistency (about 10 mins). Pour into a separate bowl and let cool.
  • Cut tomatoes in half. Put a mozzarella cheese ball, a basil leaf, and a tomato half onto a tooth pick. Repeat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and finally drizzle balsamic reduction on top. 



Ingredients:
  • 9x13-inch pan of Brownies (chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • Large marshmallows
  • Hot Fudge sauce for drizzling (optional)
  • Wooden Skewers
Directions:
  • Alternate threading fruit, brownies, and marshmallows onto a skewer. Drizzle entire plate with chocolate sauce and serve.

I hope one of these inspires you to whip up something tasty and delicious like I'm going to (attempt) to do - either way, I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend! 

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Week In The Outer Banks: Packing List

Growing up, I used to visit the Outer Banks and Hilton Head Island areas at least once per year. I have endless fond memories of exploring the islands and beaches there with my brother and friends, but haven't been back since I was 10 or 11!

That's why I'm especially excited that I'll be going to the Outer Banks at the end of this month for a week around Memorial Day Weekend - it will be so nice to be back, and to re-explore everything now that I'm an "adult". (It always feels weird to call myself that - I don't feel like an adult by any means!)

I haven't had the time to do a lot of research of the area we're heading to such as restaurants or cool spots that I want to be sure to find, but I'm sure as it gets closer and closer I'll be spending a lot of time doing that! I have had my eye on the weather, as I know that portion of the East Coast can be very up-and-down temperature-wise, especially when it's still this early in the year and we've had such crazy weather everywhere!


Thankfully, as of now it is looking like we're going to have pretty warm days, freezing water (of course), and slightly chillier nights, so I've gotten a head start on planning out my packing. I've gone into detail before on how I manage 'over packing' while still making everything fit snugly into only a carry-on bag, and a big part of this includes planning ahead of time! 

Like most girls, I'm a bit notorious for convincing myself that I'll need four outfit options per day, so I've been working on reigning myself in. Here are some of the ideas and outfits I'm planning on taking with me on the trip:


One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six (ON SALE!) | Seven | Eight

Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen | Fourteen | Fifteen | Sixteen

One of my biggest tips for packing light is to try to stick to a 2-3 color scheme rule (which works perfectly when you have a tendency to be a little obsessed with certain colors like navy, olive green and white like me!) 

Having accessories that will pair with any look such as cork, brown or gold also make for lighter packing and multiple outfits.

I can't wait to shoot some of these looks for you guys with some really exciting blog posts when I return!
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How This Southern Strategic Communications Major Made it Big in the New York PR World

It can be incredibly daunting during your four years of undergrad to think about the steps between walking across the stage at graduation and sitting at the desk of your dream career. Some paths might be more intimidating than others, and this certainly holds true for those who are interested in pursuing the elusive dream of Public Relations or Fashion in the city where it all happens: New York.

That intimidation factor didn't have a role in the life of Dakota Isaacs, who took the PR industry by storm throughout her four years at College of Charleston and is now dominating her career, one tube of lipstick at a time. She currently finds herself in a role as a Senior Account Executive at KFD Public Relations, an incredible startup agency in New York that just last week won Startup Agency of the Year!

I know a lot of girls who find themselves in the position of daydreaming about exciting and glamorous careers in these industries, but having no clue how to get from Point A to Point B, which inspired me to start a new series on the blog where I interview girls who have made it happen to help show you what it takes and how to do it! Who better to start with than one of my very best friends?!

Dakota took a break from her busy schedule to chat with me about the killer internships she landed through college, the ins and outs of New York Fashion Week, and the 'big break' moments that got her to where she is today.

Age | 24
Location | New York City
Current Title/Company | Senior Account Executive, KFD Public Relations
Education | College of Charleston, Strategic Communication

"I never dreamed of success, I worked for it" - Estee Lauder.


Let's start from the beginning. Did you always plan on entering the PR Industry? How did you come to that decision, and what steps did you initially take in college to make that happen?

I'm one of those by-definition Virgos who knew what they wanted to do since pretty early on. I've always been enamored by the industry and the glamour surrounding it. I can remember being 8 or so and spilling over a bag of my aunt's rejected Chanel compacts as if I was digging for gold, so when deciding where in PR to focus on, I naturally gravitated towards beauty.

Where fashion is aspirational, beauty is attainable - and I love that. You may never be able to afford the Boy Bag, but you can spend $36 on a tube of Lips & Boys and still feel like you own a luxury item. The beauty industry is fiercely interconnected, and when it comes to telling the stories, elevating the brands and controlling the message - PR is the one at the helm.

During college, I had over a dozen internships within the communications field, from digital marketing to non-profits and more. With each one I kept a running excel document of pros and cons, contacts, details about the company, etc. From time to time I'll go back and look at that document and am amazed by how many contacts I still use to this day.


What is the one piece of advice you'd give to girls still in college or in their early 20s looking to break into the PR Industry?

Say yes to everything. 

So much of what makes this transition period in your life so fabulous is that you aren't hardened by rejection or fear, which enables you to take risks. Stay out late, get up early, meet everyone you can and say yes to every opportunity that comes your way.

Your resume would make even executives in their 30s look lazy at times. What would you say was the biggest key to your success in landing so many different roles and opportunities with such notable brands and companies?

You don't get what you want in life if you don't ask for it, so I ask. I've been incredibly lucky to have grown up in an environment where I was told I could do and be just about anything I wanted. Fear of the unknown can be incredibly debilitating and when you learn to let it go you open up the door for some pretty magical things. Whether that's going up to complete strangers backstage at Fashion Week or joining a two-person startup, you have to remember you've only got one shot at this whole thing, so ask.

What would you say was the single opportunity that really launched your career above all others, and what made it stand out so much from the rest?

Interning at NYFW. You're exposed to so much in such a short period of time - editors, influencers, brands, publicists, celebrities. It's super buzzy and crazy but if you do it right you can really elevate your network quickly.


What kind of projects are you working on currently? Tell us about your process of creating and executing new ideas at work. 

I work across five brands within the beauty + wellness space so there's always something going on. Currently, it's planning a press trip to one of my luxury brand's laboratories outside of Paris where they develop their products.Our targets for this are the luxury books where we can secure 1-2 glossy pages really deep diving into the brand.

It's no secret that marketing and PR require long hours. Do you ever find yourself feeling burnt out, and if so, how do you move past it?

Absolutely. I love what I do, and I'm in a career that really meshes well with my personality and skill set, but that doesn't mean it's not still work. I live in the city of workaholics. For me, it's honestly a quick call to my Mom, a super hot bath and an evening spent on top of my roof. The effect of a good New York city sunset can do wonders for the soul - it reminds me why I'm here and what I want out of all of this.


What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? 

Read voraciously - the glossies, the blogs, the trade pubs. Learn to be scrappy if you aren't naturally. Trust you gut, don't take any shit, remember who you are and if nothing else, be kind. Forgive yourself when you fail, as you inevitably will, but do it fast. Forget boys, keep your eyes on the prize. Learn to let go of the things not meant for you, they have a funny way of manifesting themselves naturally. Remember that you are what you do, not what you say you'll do. And finally, never under any circumstance drink cheap tequila.



What qualities and skills would you say are most important to being successful in PR?

You've got to be able to think and act fast under pressure without giving away the fact that you are actually freaking-the-f-out inside. Secondly, you must must must be able to talk to a brick wall - if you've been through sorority recruitment you know exactly what I'm talking about.

What was your most exciting job moment so far? 

So tough. There are three that stick out the most:
  • My first print placement - landing 3 fragrances from Diana Vreeland Parfums within the holiday issue of 'Shape' magazine.
  • The moment my phone started blowing up with images surrounding a dreamy event I planned for our Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Collection launch in L.A. with GP.


Take us through a typical workday, and where life tends to take you after work is over.

It's cliché but anyone who works in PR will tell you there is no typical day. It could be breakfast with an editor, a fragrance launch event uptown, or a red-eye from LA. That being said, I tend to start my day around 8 AM, skimming The Times and peeping through my instagram feed (@kotakisaacs + @kfdpr) for any client coverage before making the decision of which article of black clothing to wear that day. I'm a sparkling water devotee so will typically have at least one LeCroix before arriving in-office as I'm not someone who should be caffeinated. 

Once in, the first thing I always do is review the press coverage that's been compiled of our list of clients which typically gets to our inboxes by 9:30 AM or so before giving the approval on which to clip and send off. From there it's anything strategy planning to client calls, pitching editors to target list development. Event planning is a part of PR just as much as reporting and client management - for me I's say it's a 50/50 split on the internal v. external communications front. There's always someone coming in the office (an influencer, editor, client, etc.), a package that needs a hand-written note or a press-win to celebrate.

Today, for example, I was in a meeting discussing ionic bonds and the emulsification of water and oil in regards to the delivery system of a Face Serum. I don't sit around playing with lipstick all day. 

Around 6 PM or so I exchange a flurry of texts in an effort to decide where we're doing dinner, which if you live in New York is easily one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of your day.


What is your best networking tip?

Use your weak ties. That's where the magic happens. It's rarely going to be your best friend that knows the VP of that uber fabulous company you've been following for months on Instagram. It's a lot more plausible that your best friend's mom's dermatologist might be her college roommate, and so on. Use LinkedIn to find where these weak ties are.



Favorite Drink Order?

For the daytime, it's been a matcha latte with soy since before they were a thing. Post-5pm it's a glass of Prosecco or the dirtiest Grey Goose martini the bartender can make.

What Is Your Go-To Power Outfit?

I'm a huge monochrome girl. Black, white, blush, you name it. Navy pants, a navy dress-length blazer, a crisp white button down, rockstud sandals (similar here) and my beloved carry-all is the go-to.


Favorite Spot in NYC? 

It's a tie between the Mermaid Inn on MacDougal in the West Village and my rooftop in FiDi.

Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in five years?

I'll preface this by saying that my current job is my dream job and as a publicist, my personal + professional life is completely intertwined. Let's be honest though, a corner office working in-house for a brand I adore is the next dream. Oh, and a one-bedroom.

Recommended read: Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office.

Favorite way to unwind/spend your free time?

Exploring the greatest city in the world.



Know someone who has been #KillingIt in their life and career lately? Feel free to email me at: prepessentials@gmail.com to submit them for a part of this interview series (or even submit yourself!) with a short summary of why you think they'd be the perfect fit! I'd love to hear from you!
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How I Make Sunday My Most Productive Day of the Week

I'm firmly a member of the group of people who believe there needs to be a day between Saturday and Sunday. With everything that needs to get done and ready for the week, it feels like 1/3 of the weekend is solely dedicated to organizing, planning and errands!

That being said, there are few better feelings than having everything set up and organized for a great week ahead and starting things off on the right foot. The difference it makes in my week when I have a day to meal prep, exercise, clean the apartment, and work on blogging (among other things) is seriously amazing. 

It can be all too tempting to lounge around in bed, indulge in a late brunch, and push off those errand-like tasks to another day, but I've found a few really great ways to make sure that Sunday ends up being my most productive day of the entire week - while still enjoying myself and getting in a little bit of relaxation, of course! 

I thought I'd share some of my best tips for starting the week off right and taking back Sundays for yourself! Your Monday-Friday mindset will thank you...


Tackle The Biggest Tasks First | We all tend to put off whatever chores or errands are our least favorites as long as possible, especially on a Sunday. As tough as it might be, do them very first thing and get them out of the way so that they aren't weighing on you all day long. You'll feel much more motivated to finish whatever else is on your list if you've already done the big stuff first, and you'll be able to enjoy your day so much more! (For me, this is grocery shopping. Can't stand walking there and back with the big heavy bags...only one more month until a Target grocery opens up around the corner, though!

Set Yourself Up For Success | The difference in the type of week I have is frighteningly dependent upon how I make use of my Sunday. Taking care of things like planning out my blog posts, having a clean room and an empty laundry hamper, making my lunches to take to work, and knocking out time-consuming chores or errands means that after a long day of work I'll be able to unwind and relax every night. Think about everything you need to accomplish in the next 7 days. How much of that can be done on Sunday, freeing up the rest of your weeknights? That is where your Sunday to-do list should come from!

Combine & Conquer | The number one key to my success, both personally and professionally, relies on my multi-tasking. On any given evening or Sunday (including right now writing this post!) you can find me drafting a blog post, editing photos, catching up with friends via text, responding to emails, catching up on my favorite shows, and eating dinner. It might sound like too much at once, but it allows me to cross so many more things off of my list! Anything you can do while multi-tasking on a Sunday will help you increase productivity like crazy. 

Allow Time to Reset | Taking some time with a beverage of your choice, some candles, and a peaceful, clean and relaxing environment will allow you to decompress from the past week and start fresh for the days ahead of you. I try to take this time each Sunday to write out what my goals are for the week. It could be something as simple as drinking more water, or something big like a major project I've been working on that I want to complete. Having those goals written out and at the top of your mind before a new week will help you re-dedicate yourself to them.

That's really it! There's no secret formula or magic trick to making sure you accomplish what you need to every Sunday, but having focus and motivation to actually get organized and set for a new week will have you feeling ten times better every morning when you wake up to start a new day. 

Give it a try for one month, each Sunday, and you'll be amazed how much better you feel!




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Essentials of the Week!

Chicago has had the most amazing weather this week, and I have been loving every second of it! I've been trying to soak up as much outdoors time as possible to take it all in while I can - you never know when Midwest weather is going to turn on you! (Of course, as I'm typing this I go to check the weather report for the weekend, and we have nonstop rain. Maybe I jinxed it?!)

On Monday, I finally completed my 100th class of Pure Barre, and I was so proud of myself! I already have a goal to hit 250 classes in the same amount (or less) time than it took me to get to this point, and I've managed to head there every single day this week. It's so refreshing to have a workout that I'm dedicated to, and that I never ever dread attending!

Nothing too exciting going on this weekend - especially after that weather report, jeez - but I'm likely going to spend it curled up inside and working on some new content for all of you while I'm in the Outer Banks for Memorial Week! If you have any posts you'd love to see appear on here, comment below and let me know!

Here are my essentials of the week!


1. Draper James Q&A | I know I already shared the new Draper James collection with Nordstrom yesterday, but I couldn't resist sharing this Q&A with Reese Witherspoon about the collection, her brand, and her overall life philosophies. It made her a lot more relatable and likable in my mind!

2. My Favorite Summer Sandal Just Went On Sale | I've been slowly building up my shoe collection in recent years now that I've gotten over my irrational fear of heels, and these adorable sandals shot straight to the top of my shopping list when warm weather came back around. The best part? They're not too tall, and are casual enough to dress up or down however you want! 

3. Home Is Where The Most Convenient Place to Find Wine Is | Just kidding. Kind of. It IS moving season for a lot of people though, and I'm hearing about so many friends either renewing their leases or struggling to find greener pastures around the city, so these tips for picking out a new neighborhood are well-timed!

4. Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun | I was cracking up laughing at this video of this sweet pup getting in on the exercise fun - I don't know how everyone next to that was able to keep going!
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Preppy Picks for Spring!

I'm sure many of you have already heard the buzz...but in case you haven't, Reese Witherspoon's clothing collection Draper James has officially launched on Nordstrom, with some pieces made to be Nordstrom-exclusives! 

I've had my eye on the brand for a few years off and on as some particularly adorable pieces have come my way, but I'm beyond impressed with some of the items they've launched with the new collaboration!

The traditional southern and feminine details Reese Witherspoon and her line have come to be famous for are all present and accounted for, but they have a bit of a more practical touch with this collaboration in my opinion that makes them wearable for more occasions than a Southern soiree or a 4th of July picnic (no offense to Draper James). 


Some of my favorite details in particular are the way they made simple button down tops like this one look a tad more feminine with adorable scallop details, and by adding a small bow to these great summer shorts

I've pulled together a few more of my favorite pieces below, too! 



Have you taken a look at the brand or the collaboration before? I'm thinking that some of these could be really great for some of the fun summer events we have planned, especially our trip to the Outer Banks next week!
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What to Wear to a Summer Wedding!

It's wedding season! Especially if you're approaching your mid-20s like I am...my goodness it feels like every single time I scroll down Facebook or Instagram these days, I find a minimum of two additional engagement announcements. Such an exciting time - but also overwhelming!

Summer weddings are always such a fun and exciting way to enjoy the nice weather and see friends, but there can be so many curve balls when it comes to deciphering appropriate attire. You have to take into consideration the weather (especially heat), the formality of the wedding, and of course you don't want to clash with the wedding party's colors and end up accidentally matching the bridesmaids!

I've got my fair share of invitations piling up on my refrigerator this year, so I thought it would be a perfect time to share some of the best picks I've found for summer weddings of all levels of formality and budget to help anyone else who is in the same boat!


More Casual...


More Formal...


*PS: dresses are organized from least expensive to most to help you keep your budget in mind!*

Summer is the time that you really get to play around with bolder colors, more fun patterns, and really make a statement (without going anywhere near out-shining the bride, of course!) 

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Strawberry Summer Salad for Your Lunches This Week!

I've mentioned a couple of times on the blog that I'm really focusing on prepping my meals and lunches for the work week every Sunday, and how much of an effect it has had on my ability to stay healthy and on track with taking care of myself (not to mention saving me a ton of money!)

The more recipes I've begun to try, the more variety I'm getting to have on a week-to-week basis, which has been great in helping me avoid becoming bored with what I'm eating every day. A couple of weeks ago, I shared this amazing superfood salad that I've become borderline addicted to - I ate it for lunch and dinner multiple days in a row last week - and I decided it was time to shake things up a bit!

I stumbled upon a Strawberry + Grilled Chicken salad recipe that sounded great, especially the homemade strawberry balsamic dressing that came with it...but I decided to make my own variation of it to swap out ingredients I preferred and make sure that it is filling enough to get me through an entire work day!


Strawberry + Chicken Salad w/ Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

Serving Size - 4 (I increased everything a little bit to make sure I had enough for every workday of the week! I will mark my adjustments in parentheses next to each item)

For the Salad:
  • 2 cups grilled chicken, chopped (I used Tyson frozen diced chicken and heated it up in a skillet, 1/2 bag will be plenty!)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups strawberries, chopped.
  • 4 cups spinach (adjust to whatever amount you need per day)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup thin-sliced almonds
  • Avocado, chopped (I used one per day, and added this right before eating so it stays fresh)
For the Dressing - I doubled every measurement below because I prefer extra dressing!
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tbsp). 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
Instructions:
  • For the dressing, in a food processor or blender, pulse the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth. Set aside.
  • Either use a rice cooker for quinoa and place two parts water to 1 part quinoa (so 1 cup quinoa = 2 cups water) OR rinse and drain quinoa and place with 2 cups of water in a small pot, bringing it to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a low setting and cook for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed/evaporated. Let cool on the side. 
  • Combine the salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, mix well. Add the dressing right before eating to keep fresh and crisp. Serve and enjoy!
I've been loving this salad so much this week, and it makes me so excited to be eating fresh berries now that the warmer weather is around. I even bought extra Strawberries to snack on when I'm at home because I just couldn't resist!
3

How I Keep My Teeth White At Home + A Giveaway!

Being a blogger, I spend a considerable amount of time in front of a camera. It definitely takes some getting used to, and I have certainly not overcome the occasional feelings of self consciousness (especially when doing a shoot in a very crowded public place!)

Taking pictures is by far one of my favorite aspects of the blog, and I love how much I've been able to learn about photography, my camera, and editing photos. One thing that does help me feel a little bit more confident is knowing that I look and feel my best. 

I've always been pretty cautious of making sure that I take great care of my teeth and my smile, and I've tried a handful of different teeth whitening products, like Crest Whitestrips. All in all, those were fine, but I've never had success with anything the way I have with the Smile Brilliant At Home Whitening Kit


I've been curious in the past about getting professional whitening done at a dentist office, but it always seemed like it was too expensive and a bit of a time commitment, so I put it off. That was why I was so intrigued when I heard about Smile Brilliant, because they allow you to have professional-level custom fitted trays to whiten with, and you can do it right at home!

Confession time...Occasionally, I'll have a picture that's very close up or with particular lighting that has made my teeth look less than perfect. Thank goodness for all of those editing apps we all have now, but ever since I started using my custom trays, I haven't had to touch up my teeth at all! 

My one other concern that always had me hesitating to try anything on a professional level is that I have a tendency to have sensitive teeth. Even whitening strips in the past have made them sore and ache, so the idea of using trays had me concerned at first. That was why knowing that Smile Brilliant had de-sensitizing gel to go along with the whitening gel was a big selling point for me! I actually only had to use it one time, but it was nice to have it as a security blanket!


They take all of the hard work and headache out of whitening your teeth at home. They send you a kit with everything you could possibly need, and some simple instructions on how to create the imprints for your custom trays. Afterwards, all you do is pack them up in the postage envelope sent to you, and send them off!




After using mine for only about a week, I could already see a huge difference in my smile (which was great with all of the traveling and fun trips I had on the calendar!) The next time I have a big event coming up, I will definitely be incorporating using my Smile Brilliant trays into my routine in the weeks prior. 

I wanted to be sure to share with all of my wonderful readers the opportunity to try it for yourself, so I've teamed up with Smile Brilliant to do a giveaway! One winner will receive the full teeth whitening kit, including de-sensitizing gel and the paste to create your own custom trays. All you have to do is click the link below to enter! Good luck!


*Giveaway will run for one week, for a $139 credit! It is open to USA, UK, Canada and Australia residents only*

This post was done in collaboration with Smile Brilliant, and all opinions and thoughts are entirely my own. I only support products that I genuinely love, and think that my readers would benefit from! Thanks for supporting the brands that help make Prep Essentials possible!


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Essentials of the Week!

Getting back into the swing of things this week to me a few extra days, but I'm really excited to have a few weeks in a row at home before we head off to the Outer Banks. I still can't get over the fact that it is already May, and we're practically halfway through!

Time is flying by faster than ever, and summer plans seem to be coming in right and left. There are a lot of exciting things coming up on the calendar, so I'm planning on taking these next few weeks to focus on myself and take care of a few things that seem to have taken up permanent residence on my to-do list...oops. 

My parents are currently making their way up from Florida to Traverse City, MI where they live in the summer and they've been sending me the funniest pictures of Rufus and Wrigley. I couldn't resist sharing the below photo of them near the beach - they look like cotton balls! I can't wait to see them (and my parents, of course) in Michigan later this summer.


1. Starbucks Is At It Again | As if we didn't all have enough excitement (and for some people, stress) in tracking down the Starbucks and Lilly Pulitzer Collaboration cups, it looks like they're spicing things up again this summer with a Ban.do collaboration that is LA-themed and looks insanely adorable so far! No word yet on exactly when it will be released, but I personally can't wait to see!

2. Two Brands Colliding | As I'm sure it blew up on many people news feeds early this week, I could not believe my eyes when I saw that Coach is purchasing Kate Spade. Personally...I'm way less than thrilled. I feel that Coach was outgrown years and years ago, and clearly their sales are reflective of that. The biggest disappointment of all? They already announced they'll be getting rid of the Kate Spade flash sales!

3. The Perfect Summer Sweater | I just scooped up this sweater for our trip to the Outer Banks over Memorial Weekend, and I'm already envisioning all the ways I plan on wearing it! It seems to be pretty lightweight, and I love that it is oversized. Chilly beach nights will be the perfect time to break it out and listen to the waves. 

4. The Solution to Finding the Perfect Fitting Jeans | I've struggled for many years over finding the perfect pair of jeans (until I found these, and now own several!) but this denim shop took "perfect fit" to a whole new level. Building your own custom pair that is expertly designed by you, and made to fit in the best possible way?! Sign me up! 

5. Stepping Into Adulthood | Believe it or not, I've recently had a few friends (some even younger than me) that they are in the process of buying their first home! Personally, few things sound more overwhelming to me...but it sounds like Zillow is working to make the process less intimidating and more geared towards Millenials with a new site specifically for those buying their first home!
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Weekend at the Kentucky Derby!

Last weekend was one of the best times I've had in ages, and I'm still sad that it's over! Being able to be home surrounded by so many friends and family members, including family friends we've known since I was a baby was such a blast and something I get to do very rarely these days.

I already went into a little bit of detail about our Friday activities and our visit to the Bourbon Distillery, but that was only the beginning of the weekend! I've been to many Derby races in my lifetime, but this one was hands down the most fun I have ever had. 


After taking a few years off, it was nice and refreshing to come back together with everyone I haven't seen these last couple of years and more importantly to show Dalton around and take him to his first Derby! Having him there really topped off the entire weekend. 

Unfortunately, the weather was not exactly on our side for most of the weekend, but we didn't let that stop us! Friday night we attended my close family friend's annual Oaks Day party (for those who don't know, Oaks is the race day before Derby and is really just as important as Derby itself! It is the day that the female horses, fillies, race for their big day and the whole event is pink-themed for Breast Cancer Awareness!)

We played a little but of Musical Hats, too! Looks like I didn't get the rain boot memo...

I was overwhelmed by how many people were in attendance that I was excited to catch up with, and we ended up staying up way later than planned because I just couldn't pull myself away. We had an early morning on Saturday, though, so we did finally call it a night to get some rest.

Saturday we kicked off the morning with a huge party at my best friend's house, where all of my high school friends gathered and brought along their significant others and college friends to make the crowd an unforgettable bunch. We snacked on some breakfast treats and made some morning cocktails before boarding the bus to head down to the track for the real festivities!


Of course, I had to snap some pictures with our wonderful hosts!

This year we opted for Infield tickets, and we knew it was going to be one muddy day. Luckily we were prepared! In the moments that the sun did come out, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and everyone's moods would lift - you could feel the energy in the air around you.


Truth be told - if you're attending the Derby with Infield tickets, there is a high probability that you won't even see a single horse the entire day, unless you go visit the Paddock or look up on the big screens. We still had an amazing time, and headed home weary, rain-soaked, and excited for hot showers and some delicious food. 


The first thing Dalton and I agreed on while we were exiting the track? The Infield was great, but we would be attending in the Grandstands next year! If you've never been to the Derby, you have to make it a bucket list item. It's unforgettable!


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Favorite Finds: May 2017

I've been hard at work to begin curating a closet and a wardrobe style that really represents the classic, comfortable way I love to dress while still adding little pops of colors, patterns and prints to keep things interesting. 

I recently did a massive clean-out of my closet (and shared my best tips for doing that, too!) and ever since then I'm trying to take my time and only add in pieces that really make me so excited to get dressed every morning...but also that are going to last me for years and years. 

Trendy styles are fun, and every once in a while there are some that I just can't resist, but for the most part I prefer to invest in something I could envision myself wearing a ton of different ways and constantly re-inventing to look different. 

I've had my eye on quite a few pieces lately, and I think I'm ready to finally pull the trigger and add them to my closet! Here are some of my favorite finds lately for the warmer months. I definitely want to stock up on some of these before our trip to the Outer Banks at the end of the month!


ONE // TWO // THREE // FOUR // FIVE // SIX // 
SEVEN // EIGHT // NINE // TEN // ELEVEN // TWELVE 


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Bourbon Distillery Tour + The Best Raincoat (Ever)

I think we can all agree that this has been an exceptionally rainy spring. Normally, the rain is enough to make me a bit grouchier for an entire day (which is something I should really work on) but lately, I've been a little bit better prepared for the inclement weather, and it really hasn't bothered me too much!

Of course, I'd always prefer to have a sunny sky and a warmer temperature during my walks around the city everyday, but having recently purchased a new rain jacket, I have felt ready to take on my day no matter what. 




I'm in love with the gold details and black buttons, plus the material is incredibly soft and feels a lot nicer than any other rain jacket I've ever had. I also like that the length is a bit longer to help keep the rain off of me, and of course that olive green color never stops filling up my closet!


The rain didn't let up for a moment while we were in Louisville for the Derby this weekend (more on that coming later this week!) and I was so glad that I had the foresight to pack it with me! I was so excited to show Dalton around the city, so thankfully we found some really fun indoor activities to keep us occupied on Friday and try something he had never done before!



Everyone in my hometown had been raving about this new(ish) Brandy Distillery called Copper & Kings, and it did not disappoint. Full disclosure, neither of us are Brandy drinkers, and I'm pretty sure this was Dalton's first and last time drinking it...but that didn't stop us from enjoying the tour! 



There are countless bourbon and brandy distilleries across Kentucky, and I highly recommend almost all of them, but my favorite part about this was that it was completely different than any other I've seen! Most are a decent driving distance from the city, and tend to be a little bit more outdoors-oriented. 

Copper + Kings had this really cool modern and urban vibe that I've never found anywhere else, and the Head Distiller personally gave us the tour, so it was really amazing to hear about his personal history with both vineyards and Brandy, and the thought process behind everything they do there. 


Overall, we had an amazing time and I'm so glad that we were able to explore a small piece of the city together before the Derby festivities began!



 
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Statement Earrings for Summer!

For the last few years, I've really been a huge fan of keeping my jewelry extremely simple. I usually rotate the same 3-4 pairs of studs, depending on the occasion, and repeat the same watch everyday with a mixture of bracelets or necklaces thrown in. I love the way that studs go with everything, and never distract from the outfit itself.

Lately, however, I've been really loving more simple outfit styles that need a pop of color with an accessory or statement piece of jewelry, and there is no better time than summer to play around with fun, bright and bold colors! 

Nothing beats white jeans, a simple top and a great pair of earrings and shoes to really pull a simple outfit together and make it complete. 


One thing I am definitely weary about when it comes to statement jewelry is that often times it can be very affordable...but that also often translates to cheap looking.



I don't want to spend too much on a piece that may be considered trendy and not long-lasting, but I also don't want something that will fall apart or look cheaply made, so there is a definite balance to consider!

I've definitely got my eye on this gold and pink pair as I think they're not insanely subtle or overly bright, but still add a great bit of detail and "texture" to a simple outfit.

Do any of you ever wear statement earrings, or do you keep it nice and simple like I normally do??
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