2017 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

3 Easy & Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes to Contribute!

Before you get intimidated by this post...hear me out! Whether you are the type of person who could burn cereal, or someone who is giving Martha Stewart a run for their money, these recipes are simple and delicious and are guaranteed to be a hit at your Thanksgiving holiday. 

It will be many, many, many years before I'm ever hosting a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner myself, but I love trying out new recipes and cooking, and I think it's an incredibly thoughtful way to contribute to an often stressful holiday. 

Your host will definitely appreciate the helping hand!

Zucchini Muffins | While this isn't something that necessarily comes to mind for the actual Thanksgiving dinner, I think this is the best one on the list. Most often, yours hosts will already have their dishes mapped out, but playing host for a holiday is a massive undertaking, especially if you're also hosting relatives in town! The last thing any (sane) human would want to do after serving up a massive Thanksgiving dinner is to whip up a big breakfast the next day. These make a great and easy no-mess option for a host to lay out and have everyone help themselves and give a well-deserved break from more cooking! (Not to mention, zucchini muffins healthy and so yummy). 

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

Pecan Pie | This is one I've had for many years with my family, and it has finally been handed down to me. I'm really excited to give it a shot this year (and feel grateful that if I mess it up, we will have a backup!) Pecan pie is such a classic Thanksgiving dish, and one that thankfully people tend to want seconds of. 

  • 1 box Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust Unbaked (9" is standard)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Karo (corn syrup - I recommend the light kind!)
  • 2 Tbsp. Margarine (or butter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans (de-shelled, whole pecans)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Spray pie pan and place crust in pan (direction video for this below!) Place back in fridge until needed. 
  3. Add all ingredients (eggs, sugar, Karo, butter, vanilla) in bowl and mix. Add pecans afterwards to the mixture to prevent clumping.
  4. Stir ingredients and spread evenly in pie crust. 
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes and let cool.
*If you need instructions for how to lay a pie crust into a pie pan, I recommend checking out this brief video for reference!

Pumpkin Pie Martini | Dessert cocktails are normally not my forte, and I usually opt for wine or a vodka tonic at all times...mainly because I like to avoid anything too sweet. This cocktail will not disappoint, even if you're like me in that sense! You also don't need any bartending skills whatsoever, but it will definitely look like you're a pro! I got this from a family friend a few years back, and she ended up publishing it in her cookbook!

  • 1/1 oz. Cream Liqueur (like Bailey's Irish Cream)
  • 2 oz. vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 oz. pumpkin liqueur
  • 1 tsp. whipped cream (real homemade is best)
  • For garnish: cinnamon stick, ground nutmeg, and a dollop of whipped cream
  1. Pour the cream liqueur and vodka into a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well. 
  3. Add the pumpkin liqueur.
  4. Shake again. 
  5. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (preferably a martini glass)
  6. Top with a teaspoon of whipped cream. 
  7. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkling of ground nutmeg.
Try any one of these, and no matter what your cooking skill is, you will be the best guest a host could ever ask for (plus, duh...more food!)

Is anyone else feeling brave enough to try out a new recipe or two?!


Balancing Your Time During the Holidays

I think I'm definitely on an extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to the holiday season in that I LOVE it. All of it. Every single second of cheer, merriment, food and drinks, dressing up, decorating and cleaning...and even the chillier weather.

That said, I did not always feel this way. Holidays can be really stressful, even for people like me who really love this time of year. Between trying to balance schedules, keep your life on track, budgetary worries, and making everyone happy (and inevitably failing), I think we can all agree that it's a lot to take on. 

One of the things that always stressed me out above all growing up (and honestly it gets worse with age and the ability to choose) is how to split up your time. This might not be a problem for everyone, but growing up in a divorced household with the additional component of extended family always made this to be...a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. The thing with being younger is that usually these things are decided for you!

Now that I'm older, and I'm sure this is more relatable for many, is that when you're given the independent choice of where to spend your time, it also comes with guilt and stress and a lot of planning! If you have a significant other do you spend it with them? How do you divide your time with each others' families, combined with coordinating vacation days from work or balancing a school schedule, and fitting everything in? Whew...getting a little bit worked up just thinking about this, and my holiday plans are already set in stone! Talk about overreacting, y'all!

There are a few times I learned growing up that have totally cemented this process for me in my early 20s that I think are incredibly helpful, so if you're one of those people who starts to feel really overwhelmed by all of this, check these out and it should help chill you out!

Setting Expectations | One of the biggest problem areas with the holidays is that everyone gets an idea in their head about what they think the holidays will look like and how they will be spent. Expectations are a great way to get disappointed and leave people with hurt feelings - so establishing and discussing these way ahead of time are a HUGE time saver when it comes to damage control. 

People won't feel abandoned by you if you tell them you're going to your S/O's house for Thanksgiving dinner if they never believed you were coming to theirs first...even if that idea came out of thin air in their own imagination. Even if all you say is "we aren't entirely sure what our holiday plans are just yet, but we will let you know as soon as we do so that you can plan" a few months or weeks in advance can make all the difference!

Plan It Out | Usually sometime around mid-late October we sit down with some printed out calendars and map out a couple of different scenarios that make sense and cover all of our bases family-wise. (For us, planning out multiple scenarios is pretty much essential because it's guaranteed that at least a couple of them will have to be altered or scrapped altogether due to insane flight prices or family members weighing in). 

This is the easiest way to get a birds-eye view of what can work and make everyone happy, though! Once we've found something that seems feasible, we can just snap a picture or type it into our Google Calendars and share them with our families so that everyone is on the same page down to our flight times and arrivals (another essential for getting rides from the airport without being asked 97 times when we are landing!)

Syncing Calendars | I realized that last part should honestly be its own section...Sharing calendars is a game changer. I personally use Google Calendar and sync it to everything - blogging, personal, work-related, travel...and if you book a flight it automatically downloads your info from your inbox into the calendar spaces. It's amazing! The best part is that you can share certain calendar types (like travel) with family members so they can check it on their own or save it to theirs as well. So much easier!

Alternate, & Compromise | I got very well rehearsed in the idea of alternating holidays given my family situation as a child, but some people could never fathom or allow the idea of giving up every other year with families. Sometimes, though, you need to compromise! Either taking turns or compromising on a couple of details (like spending two days in one city rather than five). Whatever it is, you have to realize that it can't always be according to your plans!

Hopefully these tips will help give you a little bit of peace of mind and leave you free to enjoy all of the amazing holiday activities that I'm excited about! Number one on my list? Picking out and wrapping presents for everyone!


Why Bean Boots Should Be Your Essential Winter Shoe (Plus They're 25% Off!)

I became a total Bean Boot convert about halfway through college after initially buying into the Hunter Boot hype...seriously still can't understand why those are so popular, guys...

Bean Boots (also known as Duck Boots) are the single best and only option that I ever recommend to people who ask me for a rain/snow boot recommendation for the winter. In case you're not familiar with them, I wanted to break down every possible question you could ever have, from sizing, shape, and styling to help make your decision easier!

The timing couldn't be better too...because they are 25% OFF RIGHT NOW!!! This never happens, and it probably won't again for a while. Sale ends Tuesday, 11/14/17 with the code 25OFF) Even more insane? They aren't backordered!! I typically recommend that people who want these order in August to avoid waiting several months for the backordering, but it looks like their rising popularity in recent years has convinced them to stock up for the season!

In case that's not all enough to convince you, here are some of those other Q&A's I promised! 

What is The Best Use/Weather for Bean Boots?
Honestly, all weather - unless you're living in a tropical climate in which case a general rain boot would probably be just fine...(I ordered these recently and love them, plus they're only $50!) Bean Boots are great for any terrain, especially snow, and they are incredibly comfortable. It kinda feels like a luxury when I get to wear them to work!

Are They Comfortable?
Y-E-S! You have total flexibility, and great traction, which is great news for clumsy people like me who spend a lot of time falling on their butt anytime there is so much as a single icicle in a 6 mile radius. 

How Do I Know What Size to Get?
Their sizing guide is incredibly accurate, but I'll reiterate here for a personal perspective. These run large. Order one full size down from what you normally wear. I know what you're thinking, "but I'll wear them with thick socks!" They know that, and it is taken into account when they and myself recommend that you order a size down. Trust me!

They also come in different heights, and it really depends on what your needs are. The absolute classic, most popular and best go-to in my opinion are the 6". They are a medium length that hits a bit above your ankle, great for tucking jeans/leggings into them and pairing with boot socks. If you are really going to encounter a lot of snow, like in Minnesota or Northern Michigan, you may want to consider the 8" option or the shearling-lined ones, but otherwise 6" will give you everything you need. 

What Else Should I Know?
They have a lifetime warranty. I've owned mine for about 4.5 years now and have never looked back, but for some completely unknown reason if anything ever happened to them, I could have them repaired or replaced at no additional cost to me. Seems like a no-brainer here, y'all! They've also got free shipping.

If you have any other questions at all about sizing, deciding on a style, or how to style them, leave me a comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Essentials of the Week!

Happy Friday, friends! I hope your weeks went more smoothly than mine...I swear, the minute the holidays start approaching, everything flings into chaos! I'm writing this cozied up with hot chocolate and about six candles burning while I binge watch the shows I haven't had time to catch up on in weeks, and man...does it feel good.

I'm not exactly cheering on the temperatures to drop, but I won't pretend I don't love being cozy and warm with blankets, candles and some super rich hot cocoa. There's just nothing like it!

Here's to a peaceful weekend with a lot more cozying up. Is anyone else secretly loving the excuse to bundle up under blankets and hide away inside?? Bueller?

1. 90's Hair | I was cracking up laughing watching this video of 2000s born kids trying out "all the rage" 90's hair products. Does anyone else remember the wand that is supposed to braid your hair for you?? That had to result in so many girls gaining bald spots, I swear. It was particularly funny because my best friend got a product like this stuck in her hair in college....for hours. She had to go to a salon to get it out! (You know who you are, friend - hi!)

2. Beat Daylight Savings | It can be tricky, especially after Daylight Savings hits, to be willing to get out of bed or feel motivated throughout the day. It's dark when we leave for work, and dark when we head home...and our bed is just so much warmer. These tips for starting your day off right and motivated are going to come in clutch - trust me!

3. The Cutest Way Pups Are Finding Forever Homes | Well-known fact: I love dogs way more than humans. They're the best, and there is no arguing that fact. Also a huge fan of Harry Potter - and I was loving the way someone combined the two to make a sad situation at an animal shelter something that was exciting, attention-grabbing, and led to more adoptions! Everyone wins, and it's so cute. 

4. My Go-To Winter Nail Color | This is honestly a year-round go-to for me, and I just had to order my third bottle in the last year. Yep - you read that correctly, but hey I'm not ashamed! An $8 bottle of nail polish certainly is more affordable than $35 manicures...snag this in time for the holidays to get a break from the never-ending parade of reds.

Essentials of the Week!

Happy Friday, friends! This week felt a little strange - did anyone else have a hard time shifting gears from October to November halfway through the week like that? I felt so sluggish on Wednesday and Thursday...the weekend couldn't have come any sooner!

Personally, all I can think about is how dark it's supposed to get on Sunday with Daylight Savings. Dark on the way to work, dark on the way home...I've got my mind in the clouds thinking up what fun beach vacation I plan around my birthday in March to have something to look forward to!

Here are some of my essentials from this week!

1. The Queen of Prep Just Got Preppier | Lilly Pulitzer announced this week that they're adding monogramming! To be honest, when a friend sent me the article I assumed it was going to be for some excessive price addition, but it's only a ten dollar difference. Just when you thought they couldn't get any preppier - and just in time for some personalized holiday gifts!

2. Truly Deep Friendship | I've mentioned it on here a few times...but if there is any celebrity on earth that I would actually flip out to meet in person - it would be Selena Gomez. I've been keeping tabs on her health story surrounding Lupus and think it's so incredible that she's brought so much attention to the illness (I honestly knew basically nothing about it before she came forward!) But nothing is sweeter than her friend's sweet sacrifice, and they finally gave an exclusive interview!

3. Hitting Pause | Things are about to get insane...we have a lot of holidays coming up, colder weather, darker days...and everyone's calendars get packed this time of year! Make sure you're still taking time to look after yourself and follow these steps to take care of yourself and your mental state to stay calm, cool and collected through all of the family and holiday madness!

4. The $15 Winter Accessory Your Closet is Screaming For | How freaking cute is this beanie?! I couldn't believe it was only $15. I'm dying to have it in maroon - can you believe I bought my very first winter hat (above the age of 13, at least) only two years ago? Thanks for the re-introduction to winter, Chicago. I'll be building that collection with this little piece. 

5. Halloween Puppy Parade | The title really says it all, doesn't it? I could watch parades like this weekly. Can we make that a thing? Kick your weekend off with some of this cuteness and a whole lot of laughs. 

November Essentials + Wish List

I've got all of the cozy vibes here from this chillier weather we've been having in Chicago, and it's definitely got me thinking of winter! If you haven't already started changing up your routine for the colder temperatures, be sure to read these tips asap!

I've been finding myself scrolling around for chunky sweaters, boot socks, oversized cardigans, and SO. MANY. CANDLES. I am embarrassed (proud?) of the two full baskets that I have in my apartment with candles - but I seriously burn through them all so fast! 

In case you're trying to nest up for colder weather like me, I wanted to share some of my favorites and cozy essentials to help warm you up!


The Best Way to Find Your Dream Closet + A Step By Step Guide!

If you've been following me on Instagram (@prepessentials) you may have recently seen an Instagram story where I polled a few of you about your thoughts on the Like to Know It links and app that I (and many other bloggers use) to share our outfit details in posts!

The polls were super helpful for me to understand how all of you feel about it, and what I found out more than anything is that a lot of people simply don't understand how to use it or feel confused!

Why Should I Use/Download This App?

I use the Like To Know It app to do almost 100% of my shopping these days. I don't like to spend just for the sake of spending, but if I realize I need a great dress for an upcoming event, am looking for a cute new accessory, or am making a Christmas Wish List *I repeat, how is it November?!*...the app is the perfect place to go! 

I follow all of my favorite bloggers and fashion inspirations on Instagram (a few of my favorites are @daniaustin, @heatherpoppie, @livvylandblog, @karlierae, @lonestarsouthern, and about 100 more!) and I love being able to scroll through the app like a news feed that shows me all of their recent outfits, sale finds, and great looks to help my shopping be quick, easy and guaranteed to be stylish AF. 

Download the app to get started! Here it is above ^

Okay, How Does it Work?

It's SUPER simple! First, download the Like To Know It app - It's free, and you can get it right here!
Open the app and create your account. All you need is an Instagram and an email address! Now, any photo on Instagram that has a like.tk.it link on a photo like the one below is something that you can shop in the app. 

If you "like" that photo or take a screenshot, it will immediately appear in your new fun app with details to shop all the items you see! PS - all of my outfit photos will have this.

How Can I Get The Actual Outfit Details?

Once you've "liked" or taken a "screenshot" of a photo or outfit you love on Instagram, open the Like To Know It App and everything will show up there (like a news feed!). Tap on any photo to get the outfit details and links. I always try to link exactly what I'm wearing, but if it's sold out or an older item I'll link similar pieces as well! 

If there is ever a piece I'm wearing that isn't linked directly, DM me - I'll make it my mission to try and find it for you again!

Hopefully this post covered all of your questions, but if you're still confused, comment below and I'll help you out!

October Instagram Roundup!

Happy Halloween, friends! Is it just me, or has it been Halloween for like....a week now? Don't get me wrong, it's a fun holiday, but I'm definitely over it by now! Except for the Halloween candy near my desk at work. That can stay.

I realized it had been a little while since I did an Instagram roundup on here, and thought now was the perfect time before we start moving into all of this colder weather!

There are a lot of outfits, accessories and other favorites that I share on Instagram that don't make it here onto the blog, so check them out below, and if you aren't already - follow me! My Instagram is @prepessentials (and it's linked in the top right corner of this page, too!)

PS - you can also always find anything I share on my Instagram in the top of this page where it says "Shop My Instagram"!


Getting Your Body Ready for Colder Weather

Somehow, it is basically November...when did that happen?! I'm still trying to get over my major disappointment that Chicago basically had three true "Fall weather" days this year and then decided to skip right on over to winter.

We've been in the low 40s all week and it looks like that range is here to stay - which means it is definitely time to start treating my routine and my body like winter has arrived! Ps: we finally started watching Game of Thrones a few weeks ago on a date night (yes, the first season) and I feel like I'm allowed to make Winter is Coming references now. Feels good to be part of the club haha.

I think a lot of people tend to approach winter and colder weather in a reactive way...waiting for your lips to be chapped to wear lip balm, drowning your hands or skin in lotion after it has already become dry or cracked/painful, and sometimes altogether skipping adding extra moisture to your hair. Don't be that person!!

You will thank yourself over and over if you start caring for your winter body now, while winter is only showing us its early stages. Here are all of the things you should keep in mind to add to your routine so that your body feels great no matter how low the temps drop!

Happy & Healthy Hair | The most obvious tip for anything winter-related for your body is moisture, of course. Using a moisture-rich conditioner (my holy grail conditioner of all time is this 3-minute miracle deep conditioner...it's life changing and super cheap!) is essential, but remember to also cut back a little on the shampoo. Too much or too frequent shampooing can make your scalp even drier, so lighten up on it!

Try to ease up on heat-treating your hair, too. I know it's difficult...I'm being a total hypocrite here because I almost never wear my hair naturally and haven't for a while, but that extra heat to your already dried out strands can hurt it even more in the winter. So try throwing it in an easy and chic braid or bun and give it a few days off every week! If you're like me and will probably still ignore this advice...at least protect it with this, first!

Calling in reinforcements doesn't hurt, either. Adding in an extra step of moisturizer and something that will help hold it all in to keep your hair from getting brittle or flaky can make a big difference, so don't just focus on what you do in the shower! My favorites these days are this leave-in conditionerthis repair lotion (if your hair needs extra help like mine!), and for the last two years I've been using this amazing control cream and love it. I haven't bought these hydrating shots on my own but get them on the rare occasion that I've had a blow out and loved it!

I've linked all of my go-to holy grail products below for fast shopping, too!

Prepping Your Skin | This is something that was definitely newer to me last year, but I think I've got pretty well mastered at this point! The first thing I've already started doing is essentially moisturizing my entire body before bed each night. It may feel a little excessive, but it's much easier to keep your skin nourished than to try and repair it once it's already dry, flaking and cracked.

One thing I should mention...I have insanely sensitive skin - as in, recently became allergic to Neosporin kind of sensitive. I have had more allergic reactions to skin products and things touching my skin than I could ever possibly count. For this reason, I can't necessarily recommend the most fancy or special skincare products out there - but I do have my tried and true products that have never failed me!

Back to the point, though - every night I'll thoroughly apply my favorite moisturizing lotion before bed. I typically pay extra attention to my hands and elbows with this hand cream because those are the first things to dry up for me! For my face, I'm already sure to moisturize each morning and night with this and this - but for some reason one area on my chin is SURE to dry out and crack every winter. That's why I never leave home without a tube of this in every purse, and the moment I start to feel rawness there, I smother it.

The final piece people always forget about in the winter that is so essential and important...don't forget SPF! Just because it's cloudy, gray and gloomy outside doesn't mean the sun isn't lurking on the other side of those clouds, and your skin needs protection. Every. Single. Day!

Start From The Inside | While it's obviously essential to cover all the steps I've already mentioned, it is just as important to focus on what you're putting in your body during the colder months to help with all of these efforts. First and foremost? Double the amount of water you drink. Your body can't naturally moisturize your hair and skin if it's dehydrated on the inside. People forget to drink as much water because we aren't hot, and can't feel that we are sweating it out, but you are!

I also have started adding extra Vitamin C every day into my diet. Orange juice is a no-go for me, so I've started taking a daily Vitamin C vitamin to try and give me an extra level of defense against all of the coughs, colds and flus that are sure to be floating around soon. I also start incorporating more super foods into my diet - these work wonders to keep you healthy and avoid illness. The easiest way for me is with super-food-rich soups like a vegetable quinoa soup (this is a personal favorite) or a smoothie in the mornings.

Taking these steps now that November is (basically) here will be a total game changer for you when the temperatures really drop - so get going!!

Essentials of the Week!

Happy (almost) Halloween everyone! Admittedly, as I've gotten older I've sadly gotten a bit less into Halloween. I still love all of my fall traditions, favorite movies, excuses to make themed cookies & treats...but things like bars, costumes and halloween parties have definitely lost a bit of their shine to me.

That said, my eyes are already focusing on the other side of Halloween - the first day of freaking November. WHAT?! How, how, HOW is it possibly almost Thanksgiving and then Christmas? I

I swear, New Year's Eve was only a few months ago. Time is flying by faster than ever, but I don't feel as freaked out by that as I normally would because things have also been really content and happy in my little corner of the world. 

I hope you're all loving life as much as I am, lately! Here are my essentials of the week:

1. The Perfect (Most Affordable) Rain Boots! | Fun fact - I do not own rain boots. (See my comparison on Hunter Boots vs. Bean Boots for reasons why....) I do own Bean Boots but they feel way too winter-seasonal for these warmer months, and I have nothing else to wear! I finally decided this week to bite the bullet and get these super cute and functional Sam Edelman ones. The price was right, I love the brand and I've heard great things! Free shipping doesn't hurt either.

2. Lessons from Gilmore Girls | Cue back to Thanksgiving last year when myself and just about every girl I know was tuning in to Netflix to binge watch the Gilmore Girls Reprise...I just re-watched the entire show from start to finish last month for probably the sixth time and I'm not even sorry. This article pretty much sums up why I can watch, learn and relate to these characters for life! Anyone with me?

3. The YouTube Rabbit Hole | I've never been a major Youtube watcher...especially not following specific channels consistently. I'm also deeply obsessed with Olympic gymnastics (unclear why, but I've fully embraced the obsession by now) and totally fell into a rabbit hole watching Shawn Johnson & Andrew East's youtube channel. They're so real, and sweet with each other and I just loved it! If you're looking for something to binge, have at it. 

Classic Coats for Fall & Winter

Over the past year or two, my jacket and coat collection has evolved from three (yes, three) to something more resembling twelve. Before you think that it sounds excessive, I promise they all serve a really great and essential purpose, especially here in Chicago, and I'm very picky about making sure I never buy anything too similar to what I already own!

I finally feel like I've got most of the basics covered - a peacoat, a trench coat, a parka, my military jacket, a rain jacket, a couple suede moto or drape jackets, my perfect leather jacket, and a go-to casual quilted one. (PS - my quilted jacket is on MAJOR sale right now, just in time for chillier weather!) 

You can shop all of the current favorites in my closet below:

With these in my arsenal I've been covered for pretty much every single scenario I've encountered...but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't starting to eyeball some other coats that are similar for more fashionable purposes. I realized almost every single thing I've added on Pinterest lately has been including a gorgeous coat of some kind - so I've started shopping around again!
I think the best place to find great coats without breaking the bank is Nordstrom Rack. I have friends that get great finds at T.J. Maxx and Marshall's too - I just haven't been as lucky yet! 

Here's what I've been loving lately for my shopping list (or Christmas list! Hint, hint, family and friends!)

One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven

I've been absolutely loving the longer length and midi-length coats this season, and I'm so glad they've become more and more trendy! This sweater-coat is by far #1 on my wish list this winter, but I've also had my eye on this gorgeous olive green coat with gold buttons for a while. 

I have a different version of the J.Crew cocoon coat in red (number eleven!) and I absolutely love this one even more. I always see it around the city in varying colors, and I think the light purple and grey are my absolute favorites. It's beyond flattering on absolutely everyone I see wearing it, and definitely a great essential coat!

You can also shop my top picks below, too!


Study Tips for Midterms & Finals in College or Grad School

If you're still in school (or grad-school, like my best friend Layne will be starting in January #ProudFriendMoment) then you're likely approaching or have already encountered your first major round of midterms or exams. 

Which means you may have already figured out by now...that college is an entirely different ball-game when it comes to knowing how to study, how often to study, and what to study. Simply attending class and taking casual notes is no longer a fool-proof strategy for success, and it's going to completely vary from teacher to teacher to determine what will help you be successful!

That said, there are a few really concrete do's and don'ts that are pretty applicable regardless of your teacher's style, and they took me a couple of semesters to master, myself!

1. Do the Ground Work | Some of the absolute best tips I ever found out about a teacher were from people who had already taken the course. Whether you have an older friend in a club or organization you're a part of, or can look them up on sites like Rate My Professor, having those small advantages make all the difference. Some teachers might get all exam questions from their practice quizzes, some might love to throw in surprise quizzes on Fridays...whatever it may be, this "veteran" info is invaluable!

2. Segment Your Day | Prioritizing things by day, week and month is essential. Cramming for an exam for 24 hours straight is completely grueling, and while I was totally guilty of this from time to time, by senior year I learned that in the 7-10 days leading up to an exam if I just dedicated 30 minutes to an hour of studying, I could space it out without it really feeling too miserable, and was still able to absorb a ton of information in time for the test. 

You can spend an hour on a quiz, an hour on a homework assignment, squeeze in a workout, read some flash cards, watch a few Netflix shows, and grab dinner with friends all in one day without having to lock yourself away in the library!

3. Note-Taking Strategies Are Different | Simply writing down every single word is not going to cut it here. For one thing, you'll burn out after a week. If you're in a huge lecture with powerpoint slides, print them out beforehand and only write down things your professor mentions that aren't on the slide (these side comments always seem to make it onto the exam). 

If there are practice problems, be sure to write down how you got there - not just the answer. Otherwise, you'll get to the homework and realize you can't follow a thing! The point here is really just to be sure to adapt every single class, every single semester, to the style of the course. 

4. Take Important Breaks | You will absolutely run into times where you are studying for days at a time - you may already have! The key to surviving these and retaining new information is taking mental breaks. If you have a long night ahead, set your phone to notify you every 45 minutes to stand up, stretch, get a drink and maybe chat with friends. Come back 10-15 minutes later feeling refreshed and hit the books again! You might get stressed that you are 'wasting time' but in the long run you'll be much more productive and effective, I promise!


Books I'm Loving Lately...

It's safe to say that this fall has been sorely lacking in relaxing and unscheduled moments...you may have notice some significant gaps on content here in the last few weeks, and if you did - I am sorry! As I mentioned in this post, I started a new job this month and have been trying to make sure that most of my efforts and energy has been dedicated to starting things off on the right foot!

The good news is, things have been going incredibly well, and I'm happier than ever with my work life. The bad news? I've been neglecting this poor little blog! Not to worry, though - I'm finally getting situated in my new routine and have some very exciting content planned for these next few weeks!

I've been so exhausted at the ends of my days that I haven't had energy for much of anything...but I did manage to make it through a handful of pretty incredible books that I wanted to pass along!

I am always looking for new book recommendations, and would love love love if you could comment your most recent reads or all-time favorites below for me to check out!

1. One Of Us Is Lying | This one was my favorite on this list. I finished it in less than two days and was wishing there was more of it! I seriously didn't have a single clue who was telling the truth or what happened - all I knew was that it was going to be a crazy twist at the end, and I definitely wasn't disappointed there! Strongly recommend this, especially if you love a good mystery that keeps you guessing!

2. Disruption (2 Book Series) | I might have to revise my statement in the book above...this mini-series definitely rivals as my favorites on this list. It reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favorite books, ever - Free to Fall - and is essentially about a time in the future where a new piece of monopoly-style technology takes over simple things like...knowing who you're compatible enough to date. If you like wild stories like that, this is definitely a perfect one for you!

3. How to Murder Your Life | Full disclosure, I'm not recommending this for everyone. It kept me interested enough, but it definitely had points where I felt like I'd been reading chapter after chapter of essentially the same story over and over. Some of it was pretty insane, some of it fairly amusing, and a lot of it was really pretty serious and dark. The reason I'm still including it on this list is because it's a true story, and I couldn't believe that someone so high up in the magazine & beauty industry experienced this. Read the summary before buying and decide for yourself, but if the topics don't turn you off then I'd give it a shot!

4. The Lying Game | If you like Pretty Little Liars, Big Little Lies, or any books about boarding schools or groups of friends, this one is for you. That's essentially the criteria that had me instantly buying this one and I couldn't put it down! It is also written by the same author as "The Woman in Cabin 10" (but I still haven't gotten around to that one yet!) 

5. The Young Wives Club | If you want something light, funny and simple, I loved this one! I actually read this more when it was still "summer-time" but it's a great read regardless of the time of year. I've always loved the South and the social nuances that accompany it, and this book was completely filled with them! There's a lot more to it than meets the eye upon reading the description, so if you're on the fence I say go for it!

Do you have any all-time favorite books or recent reads that you'd recommend to me? I'd love to hear them!


The Perfect Early Fall Outfit

I think we can all agree (or at least, those of us in the Midwest can) that this fall weather has been more than a little bit all over the board. Yesterday I wore a dress with a light cardigan, and today I bundled up with a jacket and a scarf! 

I'm still wasting way too much time in the mornings, making myself late for work, while I try to come up with an outfit that will keep me warm in the early morning/late evening, and keep me cool enough during midday when it hits the high 70s in temperature!

That's why this dress + cardi combination I've been rocking lately has been the perfect solution. I scooped up this cardigan during the Nordstrom sale, and luckily for all if you it's still marked down to its sale price!

I only wish I had it in more colors...I anticipate some more shopping on the way! The oversized shape of the cardigan makes it great for layering, and I love that it's a little bit different than most of the cardigans I have with the circular edges

If you're like me and you've been struggling to find outfit inspiration for these all-over-the-place days then look no further! Fun fall dresses and cardigans make the easiest combination. This dress I'm wearing is an older one, but I found a few similar ones right here, and here, and also here that are great options too!


An Easy Transitional Fall Outfit

I think that we can all agree this weather has been totally all over the place. It seems like fall might be here to stay, now...but you never know (especially here in the Midwest!)

I've certainly been struggling to find outfits every morning that I'll be comfortable in all day. I actually added ten minutes of time into my morning routine this past week because standing in front of my closet was making me seriously late!

Jacket (Under $100!) | Dress (sold out, but similar) | Necklace | Booties | Watch | Ring

I decided it might be a good time to share some of my favorite transitional outfit ideas that make great go-to's for these bizarre days with 20-degree temperature ranges. Sweating at lunch and freezing in the office is so not fun. 

For me, transitional outfits are all about the layers. Being able to add a few pieces as needed and stash them in your purse when the temperatures hit their high point of the day makes getting dressed a lot easier (plus, the mixing and matching gives you a lot of different outfit options with just a few pieces!

Leather jackets are one of those major wardrobe items that I have coveted for years, but couldn't seem to find one that I liked as easily as everyone else. I swear I must have looked at over 150 of them both in stores and in person, and every single time there was one small detail that made it "not the right one". 

I didn't need it to be real leather and $495, and being affordable was definitely a perk...but then you run into the problem of them looking cheap! I love gold details, but not super shiny yellow gold. I know, I'm a pain! But let me tell you guys...this incredible jacket was beyond worth the wait. 

Every single last little detail is just perfection! Did I mention the price is under $100?! Sold. 

I think one of the ultimate ways to make leather jackets work during these hot-and-cold temperatures is to throw it over a t-shirt dress and some versatile shoes (these in black would be even more perfect...they're next on my shopping list for sure!) 

I love that the jacket has gold details that aren't crazy shiny or overwhelming, and the fit is so comfortable. This t-shirt dress is an old favorite from a boutique last year, but I found a few similar ones that are super budget-friendly here, and here, and here!

Thank goodness this year was the year I found this leather jacket, because I have a feeling it's going to be a purchase that lasts me many years to come!

Jacket (Under $100!) | Dress (sold out, but similar) | Necklace | Booties | 
Watch | Ring | Lipstick (Fall FAVORITE) | Leather Tote

Shop The Look:


How I Balance Everything

post signatureOne of the things I've always prided myself on is my ability to multi-task and juggle everything. It requires a borderline crazy level of organization - constant lists, reminders, tasks, and the occasional late night...but there's just no other way (that I know of, at least!) to stay on top of it all!

Between work, exercising, meal planning and prepping, social events, a relationship, blogging, sleeping...and of course, finding time to binge watch Netflix, it's safe to say I've got a lot on my plate. Then I look at other people who juggle things like families, taking care of a home, multiple jobs, and it blows my mind!

Everyone has their own version of a crazy routine, and life can get particularly hectic in these next few months we're approaching (whenever I really need to take 3-5 minutes to relax, I try this) but since I've managed to be pretty successful at finding a time and place for everything I need to do, I wanted to share some of my best tips in case any of you struggle to find a way to work everything in!

Stay Mindful of Shifting Schedules | I think one of the biggest things to note is that you have to be constantly adjusting your schedule depending on the day, week, and month. Routines shift more often than the seasons, and it's best to look at your entire month as a whole, and then break things down week by week to make sure you're budgeting time for everything.  

Sync Everything Together | I have three calendars. Yes, three! I have a content calendar for the blog, my work calendar that gets broken down into hourly blocks, and my personal calendar for appointments, meals, workout classes, plans with friends and date nights.  

Thankfully, I use google calendar for all of them, and the app lets me sync all three of my calendars into one place (plus it connects to all of my email accounts, so things like doctor appointments and flights that come into my inbox automatically get added with all of the info right there!) 

Find the Right Spacing | A lot of my tasks are things that can be condensed into a once-a-week type of activity. Meal prepping all of my lunches takes about an hour on Sunday, and that frees up about 35 minutes every single night of the week. Sometimes I do the same with dinners and a few smoothie packs for breakfasts, and that time saved is a total game changer. 

Take Advantage of Down Time | I have the "luxury" of a decently long commute every morning. I use this time to go through emails and file away or delete everything - all four of my inboxes always read zero at the end of every day. No exception. My inbox is like my to-do list. If something is in there, it means I am doing it today. Otherwise, it goes into a folder to help me keep track of things and make sure that nothing slips through the cracks. I also use this time to make lists such as for groceries, look up recipes for our date nights, or schedule appointments for doctors or anything else I may need. 

There's definitely no such thing as a one size fits all plan for organization, but these tips and tricks have totally saved my life these last few years, and I'm always fine tuning them and tweaking them to make life just a tiny bit easier. Even 15 extra minutes in my day is everything to me! 


Boots & Booties for Every Budget!

While the weather doesn't seem to be agreeing with the time of year and season, I've had my mind on Fall for about a month now and I won't give in! I'm determined that breezy fall afternoons on patios, light sweaters and cozy drinks are just around the corner, so in the meantime I'm hunkering down in the air conditioning day dreaming about all of my favorite fall activities.

All of this day dreaming has had one benefit, though...PLENTY of time to gather outfit inspiration and stock up on a few of my favorite fall staples for the season! 

I've got 2-3 solid booties that I am absolutely in love with, and know that I'll be able to wear year after year (especially these beauties by Sam Edelman...they're just amazing! I wore them here, and here). 

Still, my shoe collection is pretty lacking in general. I really didn't get crazy into shoes until the last few years because it took me a while to get over my irrational dislike of shoes with heels. I'm 5'10" after all!

I've been lusting after some of these picks below for weeks now, and I think I'm going to pull the trigger on a few! In case you're on the hunt for a few solid pairs of boots and booties to get you through the upcoming seasons, I rounded up some of my favorites (that are totally budget-friendly, too!)


The Essential Step Your Routine Is Missing

I always feel ten times more centered, focused and motivated throughout my weeks if I'm staying on routine. Doesn't it always feel way harder to stick to a routine when the weather is nice, though?! 

There's always a happy hour in lieu of a workout class, or a dinner with friends in place of chores at home and saving money in the kitchen. (Not that I don't love those extra fun social activities!)

One thing I've been working really hard to keep in my routine these last 4-5 weeks regardless of what's going on in my schedule is using this amazing app to help center myself and focus. More than anything, its been super helpful whenever I've had a particularly anxious or stressful moment. 

I've genuinely never found anything as effective as this app at calming myself down and helping me feel relaxed. *Small disclaimer - this isn't an ad or sponsored, I seriously just can't get enough of this app and wanted to share it with all of you right away!

The app (aptly named) is called Calm, and it is a total lifesaver. There is a free version and a paid version, and I truthfully am still using the free one because it has the feature I like and use the most, which is the breathing exercises. 

It felt a little silly at first, but now that I've really given it a chance, I absolutely love it. It's most effective with the sound (usually headphones) and if I close my eyes....but basically you simply inhale deeply and hold for a few seconds, and then exhale the same way. It brings my heart rate down, helps me focus, and really calms me in times of anxiety or heightened emotions. 

The app has a ton of other features I haven't explored too much yet, like sleep tracks, meditation (and guided meditation for newbies, and they've recently add music tracks for things like sleeping, relaxing, and focusing, too!

You should absolutely give it a try and incorporate it into your routine even once a week. I guarantee you'll love it as much as I have! You can download it right here (and they even have a desktop version on their site if you're on your computer!)

Has anyone else found something super effective and simple to help them focus, re-center or relax?? I'd love to hear more suggestions, and I'm always looking to find more options! Leave your favorite in the comments below!