September 2016 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Must Have Box + Special Discount!

Has this been as long of a week for anyone else as it was for me?! I forgot how lengthy a work week can feel when it isn't cut a day short by all of my fun travels about a rude awakening! Luckily, I had a fun surprise on Sunday night when I returned home from my trip to Pittsburgh! 

POPSUGAR sent me this Must Have Box to try out, and I couldn't believe how many incredible things were inside! I've been testing everything out all week, and I'm definitely a fan! A few years back, I tried out a few different monthly subscription box sets, and while they occasionally yielded some exciting products, for the most part I didn't feel like they were worth the money spent. 

That is definitely not the case with this box - I was so excited about every single item inside, I wasn't sure where to start! I'm sharing below all of the goodies I got in my surprise box, and giving you a sneak peek at everything you could have for yourself with the click of a button!

Flint: This is definitely going to be a #MustHave for this fall and winter as I start breaking out the sweaters and leggings, and the best part is that it fits right inside my purse! Flint is the only retractable lint roller...meaning no sticky mess collecting dust when you're not using it, and a sleek portable case that makes it easy to throw it into your purse!

GFB - Gluten Free Bites: These bite-sized little snacks didn't last more than a day in my apartment...they are non-GMO, vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, high-protein snacks...which is basically a lot of good-for-you adjectives that make it hard to believe how delicious they are! I immediately did a search to figure out which grocery stores in Chicago carried them...more please! (PS - I recommend the Dark Chocolate Coconut!)

Jack & Lucky Wide Brim Hat: Full disclosure, I have never felt like I can pull off hats. Something about the shape of my head just has me fully convinced that hats and I don't get along, style-wise. I've been coveting all of the fashionistas who have been able to put together amazing fall looks with one of these hats, and I was always too afraid to shell out the cash and try one for myself...thanks to the #MustHaveBox I can finally test the waters without breaking the bank!

MANI-ER Kit: One of my favorite things about fall is changing up my nail polish colors to the fall styles...and anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of DIY manicures. This little mini-mergency kit has all of the nail essentials in a little purse-sized pack so I can touch them up wherever I am!

BRIOGEO Deep Conditioning Mask: Okay, this item was by far the most exciting one in my box, in my opinion. My roommate has tried a deep conditioning mask a few times and loved it, so I've been meaning to get around to trying my own (especially because my poor hair doesn't always get the royal treatment thanks to my constant relationship with my straightener...oops!) I haven't had a chance to test this one out yet, but I'm fully planning on treating myself with it this weekend!

Smith & Cult Lip Lacquer: Another big favorite of mine this fall is all of the darker and bolder lip colors...I've only started experimenting with makeup in recent years, and really wore one of my first legitimately bold lip colors a few weeks ago, but I feel like fall is a great excuse to branch out a little bit and give it a try! The color I got in my Must Have Box was "The Warning", in case anyone else wants to test it out! 

All of these products were so great, and they were valued at over $145 total! Cost-cutting is big for me this time of year as I prepare for the holidays, so this is a great way for me to snag the essentials without breaking the bank.

The #MustHaveBox would be the perfect gift for your besties, or as a way to treat yourself! All you have to do is choose a subscription plan that works for you, and wait for your monthly box of amazing #MustHaves and essentials at your doorstep! 

The best part is, just for my fabulous readers is a special discount code! Just enter the code SHOP5 when you order your #MustHaveBox, and you'll receive $5 off your first box! (As if you needed even more of an incentive to try it out!)

Happy Friday, and have an amazing weekend!

This post was created in collaboration with Popsugar Must Have Box. All opinions are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the partnerships that make PrepEssentials possible!

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Pumpkin Patch in Pittsburgh!

This past weekend was the perfect combination of activities, relaxing, and fall. (If you haven't caught on yet, I really, really love fall...) I spent a long weekend in Wexford, PA visiting Dalton. Heading up there is always such a nice break from the city - we usually find some fun activities outdoors and avoid the usual constant schedule that we're under when he comes to Chicago (not that those aren't fun, too!)

On Sunday, we headed over to the pumpkin patch near his house to find some mini-pumpkins that I could bring home on the plane, taste the different hard ciders, eat an amazing cinnamon roll, and just enjoy being outside! Technically, it was still September...but given that I've been asking him to take me there since sometime in June, I think he is probably excited to have this particular item off of our to-do list! Oops.

It was such a gorgeous day, despite it being a bit warmer and less Fall-like than I imagined, so we managed to snap a few photos while we were there. I was hoping when we finally made the trek that it would be cold enough for boots, light jackets and scarves but unfortunately the weather forecast told a different story so I had to improvise style-wise!

They had so many different flavors of hard cider, I had to sample extras to find the one I liked best!

You know it's been a toasty September when I'm wearing sandals to a pumpkin patch...

We got to watch the cider being made right in front of us, and then drink it fresh! 

Cheers to a successful weekend kicking off fall, festivities, and all things #basic!

Shop my look below!

Has anyone else gotten a head-start on the Fall festivities?! What are your must-do things to get in the spirit for the season?

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How to Avoid Getting Sick in College!

I have been convinced for most of my life that I have one of the worst immune systems of anyone I know. I am constantly getting sick, and always managing to get weird and random illnesses no one else that I know seems to have. In recent years, it's turned me into a bit of a crazy germ freak...but that's also kinda been working!

My crazy health tips might be a little bit excessive at times, but they're also 100% worth it because the number of times I get sick per year has dropped to almost nothing. I only wish I had figured it out while I was still in college, surrounded by thousands of germ-infested common areas and students!

It's way too easy to get sick in college - especially while you still live in the dorms. Dorms are a literal breeding ground for all things cold/cough/flu/strep related, and everything in between. This doesn't mean there aren't some really effective ways to reduce the risk of getting sick and staying healthy all year long, though!

Here are some of the tips and tricks I've picked up over many years of being #PatientZero to help keep you healthy in college!

1. Lots of Antioxidants: This is a trick I really didn't start trying until after I graduated, and I really regret it now. Whether it's a smoothie/smoothie bowl, yogurts, or some oatmeal & fruit, fruits packed with antioxidants like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. are filled with powerful antioxidants that boost your immune system and help you fight off diseases and germs (among countless other benefits!)

2. Have the Essentials On Hand: One of the most important parts of cutting an illness off before it begins is treating your symptoms the minute you have them. I personally despise going to the doctor, and avoid it as much as possible; however, I also know how to recognize my symptoms and which medicines are best for which scenarios. I always kept a "first-aid drawer" (aka the pharmacy in my closet, as my friends referred to it) with all of the essentials fully stocked. Here's what I recommend:

  • Tissues
  • Thermometer
  • NyQuil & DayQuil (or their off-brand alternative)
  • Sinus Medication (Sudafed is my favorite and doctor's recommendation)
  • Mucinex (If you're congested or have sinus issues, this is a must)
  • An Over-The-Counter Nasal Spray like Flonase
  • Cough/Throat Drops
  • Hand Sanitizer (although washing your hands is always preferred!)
  • Tea + Honey
  • Emergen-C Packets
  • Allergy Medication (if you're like me, allergies can lead to other sicknesses easily!)
The last thing you want to do is trek to the nearest pharmacy or a germ-infested student health if you can avoid it, so be sure to have these handy way before the seasons start to change, and you'll thank yourself later!

3. Become a Germ-o-phobe, and Clean Everything: This is tricky enough to battle when you live in communal areas like dorm rooms or apartments, but every little bit helps. My roommate and I used to keep 2-3 bottles of Lysol Cleaning Wipes stashed around the room, so we could always wipe down common items like doorknobs, drawers, and light switches. We were teased for being over-protective, and then envied when we stayed healthy and happy that winter! 

4. Wash Your Hands > Hand Sanitizer: While hand sanitizer is a convenient fix if you're walking into a class, or just trying to take extra precautions, but whenever possible it is always best to wash your hands. It's more effective, and your body can begin to build a bit of a resilience to hand sanitizer. Nothing can ever top good old-fashioned warm soap and water - and be thorough! In my opinion, constant hand-washing is the #1 reason I don't get sick nearly as often anymore.

Pro Tip - this also includes places like the fitness center. You may be courteous and wipe down your machine after you use it...but are you really sure someone before you did the same? They might have been coughing into their hands all day long! Take an extra second and sanitize before exercise.

5. Stop Sharing! It can be tempting in college when everything is communal, but as often as possible - do not share. Don't share food, don't share utensils, cups, drinks, towels, anything! No one is going to think you're being a bad friend if you're just trying to take care of yourself. On the flip-side, if you feel like you're coming down with something, warn friends that might want a sip of your coffee and do everyone a big favor!

6. Take a Daily Multi-Vitamin: I'll be honest - I'm super guilty of not doing this one as often anymore. In college, I always had the Costco-sized package of gummy vitamins, which made it easy to take one (or three...) every day. You can't expect your body to fight off all of the germs and illnesses you're exposing it to if you don't take care of it yourself!

7. Emergen-C & Vitamin C: Everyone likely knows that Vitamin C is a great immune booster (along with those antioxidants!) but this one is so important I wanted to emphasize it again. If people you spend time with are getting sick, start chugging that Emergen-C before you have symptoms. Preventative steps are more than half of the battle when it comes to staying healthy during the school year!

8. Sleep: It seems to me that the number one time people start getting run-down in college is right about this time of year...everyone has been there for about a month, going out, staying up late with friends, midterms have arrived and late-night study sessions are setting in...and suddenly your body is so run down that it can't cope. Don't skip out on the sleep, or all of those other activities will take a much bigger hit when you're too sick to participate.

Just for laughs, I couldn't resist sharing this snap I sent to my dad in January of me enduring my first full Chicago winter this past year...and buying my first hat since I was a little kid. (Yes, I was seriously so stubborn that I didn't buy a single hat in college). Thanks, Gap, for the cozy hat!

Talk about a happy Chicago girl...

Stay warm and healthy!

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How to Maintain Balance in College!

One of the questions I often got in college, particularly in the later years, was "How do you find the time for everything that you do? Aren't you exhausted?" Of course, sometimes I really was exhausted. But for the majority of the time, I was able to hold a careful balance of everything that was important to me using a few simple tricks. 

This included holding a position in my sorority, dating, two other campus clubs, time spent with friends, two majors, running this blog, the Honors program, and the oh-so-important days of Netflix binge-watching and general laziness...When you write it all out like that, it can seem nearly impossible - but truthfully, all it takes is a little bit of prioritization, organization, and careful planning. 

If you're like me and want to make sure you experience everything in your four short years on campus, follow these 5 simple tricks and you'll soon be the master of time management among your friends (and still have time to sleep and relax!)

1. Create More Time: The biggest problem people seem to run into with time management is that they just feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. In reality, people just aren't using the majority of their time in an efficient way. If you're smart and efficient about how you spend your time, you can have infinite amounts of it for everything you want to get done! My favorite trick for this is using block scheduling. If I see that I have an exam coming up in the next couple of weeks, I write down a few "assignments" a couple days a week leading up to the exam, so I only have to spend 1-1.5 hours on it at a time. This way, I'm focused, efficient, and I don't get so bored that I waste extra hours procrastinating when I could have been doing something else more productive, and when the exam arrives I've been preparing for weeks!

2. Working Way In Advance: Some people tend to operate strictly on a "due date" schedule. While this can work, it's not effective when you're trying to "do it all". Colleges tend to clump things like exams and big projects together, which always somehow seem to fall during the same week as Career Fair, Homecoming, and a big date party. Not ideal. The best way I managed to keep my cool and never have those panic weeks was by doing my work way in advance. It can be all too-tempting to realize you've done your homework for the week and call it quits, but looking into the following week or next set of exams and getting started on preparing study guides or doing the next assignment puts you in the best possible position to avoid the chaos. 

3. Multi-Tasking: Realistically, this one may not be for everyone. Some people insist that they are incapable of multi-tasking, but for those of you that are able to handle a few things at once, this one is definitely the biggest life-saver on this list. You can totally customize which activities you handle at once depending on your focus levels, but sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day. If I was having a swamped week, but hadn't seen Dalton in days, we would agree to study together instead of apart. If I had to host a sorority meeting for my committee, I would simply rent a large study room at the library, and combine the meeting with my dedicated study time for the day. 

4. Take Things Day-By-Day: The biggest way that I used to get overwhelmed in college was when everything would feel as if it was due at the same exact time, or piled into one consecutive week (which was not uncommon, particularly during exam times). This is when I started to employ my trick of breaking things down by day. Sit down, make a list or a calendar, and write out everything you need to do for the entire week (or 2 weeks). If you have assignments, write those down first by due date, and then you'll be able to visualize the order they need to be completed. Then you can fill in extracurriculars, club meetings, dates, and time with friends based on which days have the most gaps or extra time leftover. Now you have your entire week broken down in front of you, and you can take things day-by-day.  

5. Utilize Your Down-Time: This somewhat goes hand-in-hand with multi-tasking, but not quite. It's one thing to multi-task when you're sitting at the library, but the number one way I completed most of my "extra" work for clubs, sorority projects, and other meetings was by taking advantage of your down time. I never minded working on things while I had Netflix playing in the background or sat in a room with my friends chatting and laughing while I did the activities that didn't require my full focus. I still felt like I was relaxing and doing what I wanted to do, but I was also able to accomplish things like blog posts, designing sorority apparel, etc. Save the low-focus, low-energy activities for those Netflix nights and you'll have half of your to-do list crossed off in no time!

I hope these tips help you realize that you really can do it all - and still spend the majority of your time having fun in college! What are some of your favorite time-management tricks for balancing everything in life?

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Meet Wrigley!

This has been an incredibly exciting week for my family, because on Tuesday we welcomed home a sweet baby puppy named Wrigley into the family! He is a goldendoodle, just like his big brother Rufus. 

Okay, so technically Wrigley and Rufus belong to my parents...but they come stay with me from time to time, and I'm the world's best babysitter, obviously! I've been using Rufus (and now Wrigley) as practice for when I get my own puppy...hopefully not too far in the future (that's a hint, Dalton!)

I absolutely love Goldendoodle puppies (and all other kinds, of course). Wrigley has already been documented in hundreds of pictures and videos in his few short days at home so far, and it's safe to say he is not camera shy...or afraid to try and eat the phone when we Facetime. I'll be meeting him in-person very soon, but for now the videos and pictures are doing just fine. 

There are just too many adorable pictures not to share them and introduce Wrigley - I promise this won't be the last you'll be seeing of him and Rufus' adventures on here! You could say they live a luxurious lifestyle...

I let Wrigley "take over" the rest of this blog post, so he could tell you all about his first few days with my family!

Hi everyone! My name is Wrigley! I am 8 weeks (and a couple days) old. So far, I love my new home, my new big brother Rufus, and chewing on toes/shoes/anything near my mouth. I love FaceTiming with Olivia, and usually try to lick and eat the phone when I see her. My favorite toy is my stuffed animal that looks just like me!

I'm also a big fan of snuggling, especially after an exciting playtime.

Today, my big brother Rufus shared his bone with me!

It turns out, I really like bones.

I can tell I'm going to like these humans.

Being this adorable is exhausting.

This is my bedtime companion - he has a heartbeat and smells just like my Mom so I don't get lonely when it's time for my new humans to go to bed!

Rufus already taught me how to car-ride, and I slept the whole way!

One day I will conquer this yard...and this very tall step.

My big brother Rufus is great - he shared his bone with me and his favorite stuffed Pig! Mom is pretty great too.

I think we are going to be the best of friends.

Don't worry - there is plenty more Wrigley coming your way soon!

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Slow Down

I've mentioned it countless times over the last month and a half, but wow have things been busy around here. Counting it out, I realized that I haven't been in Chicago (or without a pack of visitors staying with me) since mid-July. 

How I haven't collapsed and fallen over yet is honestly starting to amaze me...but somehow I am still powering through, and I'm going to have to, because the next time I don't have any major travel plans isn't until October 15th. 

I wouldn't trade my busy lifestyle for anything, because it means I have been filling my time with friends, adventures, time spent with Dalton, family, and everything in between...That being said, Monday after work I essentially starting to cry when my bag of groceries broke through the bottom of the bag. Yep, not kidding. (Keep in mind, I am not the crying type. Not even a little bit).

After throwing a mini-tantrum to myself, trudging back to Trader Joe's and replacing the groceries, and a fairly cranky bus trip back to my apartment, I realized that I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. I've been so busy filling my time with constant activities and travel, I haven't taken a single night completely to myself in almost two full months!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you finally pause, take a deep breath, and realize you're incredibly overwhelmed and exhausted? Today was mine, and let me tell you - it startled me. Sometimes I think we all forget how taking time to relax and enjoy ourselves in some peace and quiet alone is just as important (if not more) than making time for everything else we have going on. 

If anyone else has ever experienced this feeling (or is even feeling it right now), I wrote down a few of my favorite ways to unwind, take a breath and slow things down. So take a deep breath, cozy up somewhere and try them out for yourself! If you're worried you don't have time for any of these steps, you could also try a few things off of my fast-list for taking care of yourself when you're pressed for time!

1. Curling Up With a Book. Even if you aren't a big reader, I highly recommend this step above anything else. If books aren't your thing, find some distracting articles, or a magazine that can get your mind off of things. I love to lose my thoughts in a book - it instantly takes away all of my stress and puts my head in a different world. If you are a reader like me, check out this book list and this one too for new recommendations! PS - you can also find all of my posts with book recommendations under the lifestyle - books tab at the top of this page!

2. Taking Care of Your Body, First. Sometimes, when things feel to overwhelming to forget about or even process (particularly if you're extra stressed about something in particular), just the thought of working things out mentally can make the stress worse. Whenever this happens for me, I start by doing something for my body first! Whether this means a shower or bath, painting your nails, putting on something extra comfy and stretching, or heading out to a workout class - whatever works for you to make you feel well taken-care of is a great place to start. 

3. Pick One Problem, and Only Tackle That One. If there are multiple balls that I'm juggling at once, I get so anxious about ignoring even one of them that I end up delaying handling anything I'm focused on. It can be hard to know where to start - so pick one thing that isn't your biggest problem you're facing, sit down, and make a plan. Is there a list of steps you need to take to get it taken care of, or perhaps some emails that need to be sent to get a plan in motion? Is there a conversation you've been putting off that you need to finally face? Whatever it may be, just isolate one single problem, dedicate one hour to it, and you'll walk away feeling dramatically less overwhelmed.

4. Write Everything Down. My best advice I always gave my friends in college when they would feel like there was too much to do and not enough time to handle it all was to sit down, and write everything on a sheet of paper. (This was usually met with protests that they didn't have enough time for that activity, but after persuasion they always admitted it helped them gain perspective!) Write every single thing you're juggling down on a sheet of paper, and break it into categories. You can sort it by priority, deadline, or even just the days of this week. Then you will be able to visualize where you have time to squeeze each thing in, de-prioritize things that aren't essential, and it will really help you gain that birds-eye-view perspective that is needed to dial the overwhelmed feelings down!

5. Put Yourself First. You can't tackle anything on your to-do list, manage your daily activities, or even really function as your true self if you don't make yourself the most important thing. (Take it from me, who apparently cries over groceries these days when I don't spend enough time on myself, haha!) Sometimes you have to say no to the things you can't handle, even if your only reason for saying "no" is that you need to spend a day catching up with yourself and your own problems. You shouldn't be saying "yes" to events, chores, or activities that you won't be able to be your full, best, and true self, anyway! So it's really okay to tell that friend you need to get dinner another time, or that you're too busy to help her analyze her new boy's weird texting language. No one will fault you for taking care of yourself!

What's your favorite way to unwind and take care of yourself when things have been particularly busy? I'm heading off to bed now to try and catch up on some much needed zzz's...

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Fall Reading List 2016!

Despite my seemingly never-ending travel schedule and busy lifestyle these last couple of months, I've still managed to stay fairly on top of my goal to read 250 books this year, and the last handful that I've found have been by far some of my favorites of the entire year. 

I always seem to have a hard time finding and committing to a book, because I want to be fully convinced that I'm going to really love it - it can be a bit of pain when I search for hours, but it's beyond worth it when I read book after book that leaves me gripped from start to finish. If you're looking for a few good reads to sit outside and enjoy some gorgeous fall weather, look no further! I've rounded up some of my favorites that I've read recently for you!

1. Dark Places - Gillian Flynn | You might recognize this author as the same one who penned Gone Girl, and this book certainly lived up to the author's fame. I've been meaning to get around to reading this one for a while, and now I totally regret it! Every time I thought I knew who the villain was, another curve ball was thrown.

2. Dangerous Girls | This one was more fast-paced than the others, and great for a summer time read. A group of high school seniors on Spring Break in Aruba wake up one morning to find their best friend violently killed in her room, and the suspect list gets smaller and smaller. At first, I thought the story-line was predictable, but don't give up on it yet - I was definitely wrong!

3. Free to Fall | Easily my favorite book I've read in a very long time, this one is 100% a must-read. The minute I finished it, I hastily texted my closest friends (and called my parents) telling them the plot summary and insisting that they read it so I can talk about it with them! I think the reason it had me so excited was because I could almost see it happening in real life...picture a technology company that completely dominates the industry with a phone and app that helps you make every single decision in your entire life...and the consequences that can come with that.

4. With Malice | Truthfully, this one is fairly similar to Dangerous Girls - a fast-paced thriller revolving around the secrets, lies and hidden truths of a sudden and shocking death between high school best friends while they are abroad on a trip. I read this one right after Dangerous Girls, probably because I had enjoyed that one so thoroughly.

5. Everything, Everything | I make it a point to never pick out romance novels. They're great stories, but they tend to be as predictable as a book can get, and lately I've been preferring mystery thrillers (a side effect of loving Girl On The Train that still hasn't gone away...) but I am so glad I gave this one a shot. It was described as a book meant for people who loved The Fault In Our Stars, this one is about a girl with an auto-immune disease that has kept her living inside a "bubble" in her home for her 17 years of life. A boy moves in next door, but believe me - this story was anything but predictable. My second favorite book in a very long time!

6. The Perfect Girl - Gilly MacMillan | This author was also featured on my summer reading list this year, and I loved this book even more. Only released this month, the storyline had an incredible way of sucking you in. It's told in the perspectives of several characters, and all of their stories, secrets and thoughts slowly uncover the truth about what happened that night. That's all I'll say, because I don't want to ruin anything, but having finished it only an hour ago, I'm still excited by what a great story it was up until the very last page.

PS - If you're looking for even more suggestions, you can find my favorite books of the summer here, too!

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Shades of Fall with Essie + Home Manicure Tips!

I've always been a fan of painting my own nails - partly because I love changing the colors to match my moods/outfits, and partly because I have never personally gotten good results from gel/shellac manicures. The "no-chip" thing is a total myth where I'm concerned, and still barely lasts 72 hours with my nails. It's hard to justify an expensive salon lifestyle when I'm not getting the desired results!

One of the best perks of painting my own nails is that it saves me a ton of money, which allows me to justify the occasional $8 splurge on a new nail color that will last countless uses! That's why every season I treat myself to a few new colors, and fall is always my favorite one to shop for.

I've made more than a few mentions of my obsession over Essie on this blog over the years...but I really just think their colors knock it out of the park! They're always so different and unique, and the polish is a great quality. 

Cocktail Bling | Merino Cool | Angora Cardi | Power Clutch

I've had a lot of friends say that they would love to paint their own nails, but that they're terrible at it. Honestly, practice definitely makes perfect with self-manicures, but there are also a few tips that can make it less frustrating and more relaxing!

1. Use a good polish. Whether you're essie-obsessed like I am, or all about O.P.I. it's crucial to have a good quality polish that won't stick or clump, and that lasts over time. Make sure you're using a brand that you can trust to come out clean and smooth every time. If you really love the long-lasting no-chip manicures you can get at the salon, don't worry - most brands are now offering Gel versions of their polishes in all major beauty and drugstores!

2. Keep Q-Tips Handy. For those with shaky hands or a habit of 'coloring outside the lines', having Q-Tips on standby to dip in remover and wipe the edges of your nail clean is a game-changer. As long as you're quick with the clean-up, there's no reason you shouldn't have any trouble getting nails that look professional and mess-free.

3. Taking the Extra Steps does Count. You may not have time for a full fluff-and-buff manicure every single time, but when you do, it's best to take those few extra mins to clean everything up. You wouldn't be happy if you went to a salon and they went straight to the polish, would you?! Soak your nails in some warm soapy water, clip them to the desired length and clear out any painful hangnails or over-grown cuticles. Having healthy nails actually does help nail polish last longer and gives it a cleaner look. 

4. Avoid Smudges. A lot of my friends also say they can't sit still long enough to paint their own nails, because they always end up bumping into something or touching them before they're dry. I always make sure I've done my entire nightly routine before I get started, so that nothing can interrupt my important "sitting still" time. I usually promise myself I will watch the length of one TV episode before I try to do other things - and setting your phone on Do Not Disturb helps keep you from being tempted to scroll and smudge!

5. In A Rush? Dry Them Fast. Sometimes we don't all have the luxury of sitting still and doing nothing for 30 minutes. When I run into this issue, I try to let them air-dry as long as possible, and then I opt for my back-up hair dryer! Set it to a low heat setting and blow it evenly over your fresh nails to speed up the drying process so you can head out the door. 

Do you prefer home manicures or visits to the salon? Does anyone else have the problem with gel/shellac that I do, or am I just destined to never make it work?!

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Flannels for Fall!

With the exception of occasionally stealing a comfy over-sized flannel from my brother growing up, I really didn't start embracing flannels and plaid until this past winter when I found an adorable one that had just the right feminine touches - chambray sleeve cuffs with white polka dots. (Unfortunately, this was a magic find at a boutique in Lincoln Park and I've never been able to find anything like it online!)

However, once I was finally introduced to a plaid flannel I really loved, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I wasn't wearing it more often! (Especially considering how many J.Crew Excursion vests in my closet that they pair perfectly with...) I'm definitely planning on stocking my closet with a few more this year, and have already gotten the ball rolling with this super soft grey one!

If you're anything like I was, and haven't fully embraced the #FallFlannel trend, the problem might just be that you haven't found the right one yet! I've pulled together my favorite fall flannels this year to keep you comfortable, cozy and cute all season long. 

Top Row: Left | Center | Right

Middle Row: Left | Center | Right

Bottom Row: Left | Center | Right

The top row picks are my favorites if you're already a lover of all things flannel and plaid, but need something new and different to add to your collection. The color combinations are gorgeous, and this one is the softest one I've ever felt - I'm so glad I bought it!

The middle row are best for people like me - those who really aren't sure how they plan on styling or wearing a flannel shirt, but are looking to test the waters. These all have really unique and special elements (similar to that one I found last year at that boutique!) so they stand out on their own. I love the wrap-around style of this one, but the peplum at the bottom of this one gives it such a great feminine touch.

The bottom row are the classics - great when paired with a simple vest or worn alone with a classic pair of jeans, bean boots and some thick socks, the styles in this row are timeless. You really can't go wrong with any of them, and they're guaranteed to last for years to come.

How do you style your flannels for fall? I'm still new to wearing them, so I'm looking for more ideas and ways to wear mine!

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How to Survive (and Thrive) at College Career Fair!

This week is going to be busier than ever, because on Tuesday I will heading down to Oxford for Career Fair to help recruit for my company, and staying through the weekend for Homecoming! I can't believe I will be in Oxford for almost a full week, and there are too many reasons for excitement than I can count. 

My first few days will obviously be mainly focused on Career Fair, coffee interviews, and a recruiting/networking dinner...but that doesn't mean I won't be spending every free moment with my friends and exploring campus again. While I've been getting prepared for the week, I've been reminiscing on my times at school that I was anxiously preparing for Career Fairs, interviews, and networking events...while also trying to balance everything else! 

I'm really looking forward to being able to experience everything from the side of an employed alumni - and after texting all of my nervous friends in school this week, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share some tips and tricks for how to expertly navigate the event and secure interviews...and job offers!

1. Keeping Up Appearances
Obviously, there are guidelines when it comes to what to wear and what is considered appropriate for career-related events (more on that in another post!) I had professors harping on my classes for weeks about the Do's and Don'ts of Career Fair attire...the one thing nobody warned me about is the heat. I can almost guarantee this is universal across all will be in a massive room, packed with people chatting, shaking hands and moving around. You will sweat a lot (and not just because of nerves!) As nice as it feels to have your hair fully styled, I found myself wishing I could get it up and out of my face/off of my neck...which led to some seriously distracting hand-to-hair movements during conversations. Try a low, professional bun like this one - or another style that will be low maintenance so recruiters will focus on you!

2. Know Who You're Talking To
It's important to give your absolute best impression no matter who you speak to at a company's booth...but your nerves are likely a bit misplaced! My attendance this year is a perfect example - while I plan on representing my company and showing people that it's a great place to work, I'm not even affiliated with Campus Recruiting, HR, or Hiring! I'm simply a friendly face from the school that can relate to and represent what would be of interest to students. I have no say in who does or does not get a job...and really, we are trying to get people to like us just as much, if not more than the students! So take a deep breath, and realize that you're here for information, to pass along your resume, and to get your name in front of the right people. Don't be nervous!

3. How to Handle the Nerves
No matter how much experience (or lack thereof) you have with these events, it's always hard to find your rhythm and get a confident vibe flowing through your system. You've prepared and practiced, but somehow as soon as you get to that first booth, you realize you have no idea where to start. Go to 1-2 booths that you aren't truly interested in just to get your game face on. Then you won't have to worry about striking out with a company you really want, and you'll be ready! Think of it as the warm-up to the big game.

4. How to Stay Hands-Free
You might decide (or be advised) not to bring a purse..and that's not bad advice. The room is cramped and crowded, and between holding your resume + portfolio, shaking hands, receiving business cards and trying to stay calm and confident, adding a heavy tote to your shoulder can only complicate things. What I didn't prepare for the first time around was - with only my portfolio in hand, where was I supposed to put my keys and phone?! Have a plan in place for these essentials to keep them out of sight and in a safe place. I managed to find a way to slide them into a back pocket of my portfolio, but it was hardly a fool-proof solution!

5. Keep Your Options Open
Don't rule anything out. While it's great to have goals, dreams and plans...students aren't always in a position to be picky. Essentially my only criteria when looking for internships was that I desperately wanted to come to Chicago...and I still forced myself to widen the net and explore opportunities in Cincinnati, Columbus, Michigan, Boston...and I was even surprised that some of the ones I was most interested in were cities I never would have considered otherwise! Plans are great, and backup plans are even better.  

6. Know Yourself
At the end of the day, you're simply representing yourself and showing these people who you are...but more importantly, who you can be. Like I said earlier - they are trying to impress you as much (if not more) than you are trying to impress them! Smile, take a deep breath, and tell them why you would be an amazing, capable and competent candidate worthy of their time and efforts. Confidence is the main thing that they are looking for in every applicant, and the students who have it stand out a lot more than you think!

Good luck to everyone preparing for career fairs, internship expos, and interview season - it's a stressful time, but it always works out in the end...I promise. You can never have too much practice with these events, and you never know what you're going to find! Most importantly, try to have fun - there are obviously more exciting ways to spend your time, but taking steps towards your future can be exciting too!

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5 Wardrobe Staples To Take You From Summer to Fall!

It may not feel like it with the heat wave we've been having this week (really, Chicago?) but Fall is upon us. Personally, I couldn't be more excited to break out all of my new fall wardrobe essentials and embrace Fall for the basic and magical season that it is! Bring on the boots, field jackets, cozy sweaters, and gorgeous changing leaves. 

I might be getting just a little bit ahead of myself though...there is plenty of warm weather to go around, and if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that these seasons will be unpredictable! In the meantime, there are thankfully a few fashion essentials that will keep you going for those crazy days with highs of 85 and lows of 55.

Fall is the season of transitional style, and I've picked out my top 5 wardrobe staples to help you navigate these weather patterns in the meantime. Having these simple few things will ensure that you're ready for anything, and look amazing every day!

Long-Sleeved Dresses:
Having a handful of go-to t-shirt dresses can be the perfect thing to throw on for those hot-cold days of early Fall when you're really not sure what weather to expect. If it's on the chillier side, you can pair it with ankle boots and a light scarf. If it's heating up, swap the boots for a pair of flats. This item is super-versatile and a must-have. Shop some of my favorites below!

My all-time favorite t-shirt dress (I own it in three colors, and my friends all have it too) is this super comfy long-sleeve t-shirt dress from Necessary Clothing - and it's only $15!

Ways to Wear It
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Over-Sized Cardigans:
These are great no matter what you wear underneath - pair them with jean shorts and a top, jeans and a tank-top, even a t-shirt dress. Cardigans are perfect for turning warm-weather outfits into something that will resist those fall breezes rolling in, and if you get too hot - just remove and stow in your purse! I've linked my favorite cardigans this season - this Madewell one is my soft!

Ways to Wear It
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Chambray Dress:
Possibly one of the best purchases I've made, given how many seasons it works in. Spring, Summer, or Fall, this piece is all about how you accessorize it. Easily worn with a light scarf, ankle booties and even a jacket, there are hundreds of ways to style this look all the way up until winter sets in. While the heat is still around, keep it simple with a belt around the waist, a cute pair of sandals and your favorite pair of sunglasses

Ways to Wear It

Military/Anorak Jackets:
I only recently added one of these to my wardrobe, and I'm already dying to wear it as much as possible this fall. Similar to the cardigan, these can really be paired with any warm weather summer outfit to make it last into the September and October months. Most often seen in olive greens, it's perfect for fall when you combine it with cute scarves, your favorite boots and some comfortable jeans. (Let's not forget how great these are as rain jackets, too!) When the chill really sets in, you can simply add layers underneath and you're all set!

Ways to Wear It:
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Light Scarves:
By far the easiest item to transition the seasons with, a light scarf is one of the first to be unpacked from my under-bed storage because it keeps me cool while I walk to work, but still incorporates the elements of fall. If you stick to neutral colors, these can work all year long (although that didn't stop me from scooping up this one last weekend in Louisville - it was too adorable to resist!) Pair with dresses, tops, or really anything!

Ways to Wear It
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What are your must-haves for transitioning your wardrobe for fall?

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