July 2017 - Prep Essentials

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College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Post-Grad Series: The Do's & Don'ts of Furnishing Your First Apartment

One of the most amusing things to me when I first graduated (and really the months leading up to it) was how insanely fascinated I became with home decor, picking out mundane details like bedding & shower curtains, and furniture shopping.

I could spend an entire weekend doing nothing but decorating and it would be one of the best weekends I've had in a while. I can totally see why my mom ended up becoming an interior decorator - it's fun! 

A lot can be said on the topic about decorating your first apartment (especially the fun parts!) but one thing that I see time and time again is people regretting how they spent their money, rushing into things, and investing in the wrong sorts of items. 

That's what I want to help you avoid today! I know you're probably in an awkward place of "I finally have a real income for the first time!" and "I still feel exceptionally poor - why does the real world cost so much?!" and I totally get it. There are certain items you should take your time, save up money, and invest in a long-lasting piece...and others that might seem like a great purchase, but in reality you will end up regretting later. 

I'm breaking things down, room by room, for what is worth a "solid investment" and what items are okay to head to Ikea and HomeGoods for to help you avoid those very costly mistakes ahead of time!


Living Room

Couch | If you're going to buy a couch, do it right the first time. Understanding that not everyone can afford to shell out $1000 for a couch right off the bat, heading to Ikea and dropping $250 on a pretty low quality one that won't last more than 1-2 moves in its lifetime tends to be a wasted investment. 

If you're going to invest in a big ticket item, take your time. Yes, you may be without a couch for a few weeks or even months, but that's all just part of post-grad life. Save up, find a really incredible deal, and then purchase something you know will last you for many years to come. Repeatedly replacing a $300 couch every 2-3 years is not saving money...don't fool yourself into thinking that it is. 

Decor & Smaller Comforts | This is where you can really get creative on a budget. Stores like HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, World Market, and Ikea have amazing finds for such affordable prices. You don't need to drop $100 on throw pillows from Pottery Barn. Candles, throw pillows, soft blankets, and some coasters are really all you need to help pull a space together. 

Media | Everyone seems to have a different situation when it comes to a TV and Media setup after college, but for the most part this seems to be where hand-me-downs come into play. If your parents have any old TV's or speakers they no longer use, grab them! If you're feeling the urge to splurge, wait for a major sale like Cyber Monday to snag one from Costco or Best Buy and score a major discount. 

Kitchen

About a month ago, I did a huge post rounding up all of the major kitchen and cooking essentials you need in your first apartment, including a breakdown of which pieces are best to invest in, and which ones are fine to go cheap on. You likely have the basics covered, and all of the incredible time-saving gadgets can gradually find their way into your kitchen over time. There's no rush! 

Start with the basics and work your way to the big stuff. Christmas is a great time to lock in some of those "invest" pieces. (Yes, we are now at the stage of life where Christmas means home decor and kitchenware. You'll be excited, trust me!) You can find that roundup of kitchen items here in this post

For items non-cooking related, like tables and chairs, you can scoop up amazing finds on Craigslist, at garage or yard sales, antique stores, etc. You just have to be willing to hunt, and maybe slap on a fresh coat of paint!

Bedroom

Mattress/Bed | The only other item I'm going to swear up and down that you need to invest in from the beginning is a good, solid mattress. Not only is this so important for your body and overall comfort, but there isn't really such thing as a "great" cheap mattress. You don't need to buy the top of the line, $2000 Tempur-Pedic option, but you should find one that works for you that will last you for a long time...like, a decade. 

My parents emphasized this so much that it became a graduation gift for me, and I know I'm going to have it with me well into my 30s. Your mattress might be the biggest commitment you've made in life thus far. Like car dealerships, mattress stores have a never-ending stream of huge sales and deals. Wait until the next random holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, President's Day...all big mattress sales!) and head over to get a big discount. These holiday sales generally mean you get a box spring and bed frame including at no extra cost, too.  

One option you can look into is to set up a monthly payment plan. I know that doesn't sound ideal, but one of my friends set this up and had paid for a really high quality mattress within four or five months of living here in Chicago.

Bedding | This category is one where I'll say that preference is priority. If you're on a major budget, you can find perfectly soft and comfortable bedding for cheap at Target, Wal-Mart, or TJ Maxx. If you are feeling a little more spendy, feel free to go nuts and find a really nice sheet set you love - but be warned...bedding tends to be something that you'll replace sooner than later. You might spill wine on it during a late night Bachelorette viewing party, or just get tired of the colors you chose. 

Where did I put my dollars in when it came to bedding? The non-cosmetic aspects...like an awesome foam topper, a feather bed insert, and a comfortable mattress topper. My bed is seriously a cloud, and I am obsessed. I personally care a lot more about what I'm lying on top of than the color of my sheets that year, but like I said - it is all about your personal preference!

*Skipping over the bathroom because, seriously, what are you trying to invest in there?! Buy towels that keep you dry and a bath mat that keeps you from falling down. The end!*

I know this doesn't cover every single apartment purchase you're going to make, but hopefully it makes a big dent in all of those big-ticket items. If you have any questions or aren't sure about something, comment below or shoot me an email at prepessentials@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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Essentials of the Week!

For the first time in July, I feel like this week was all about getting back to my routine (just in time for AUGUST to roll around...does that blow anyone else's mind?! I feel like summer literally just began two weeks ago). 

Despite the summer months flying by, I have a feeling we will still be experiencing those hot summer temperatures well into early October, if last year is any indication. 

This is likely an unpopular opinion, but I'm beyond excited for Fall. I love it so much more than summer - the outfits, the temperature, the fun activities like football games and tailgating, apple cider and fall candles...that is definitely my happy place!

In the meantime, I'll be over here soaking up more of this summer sun. Here are my essentials from this week!


1. This (Hilariously) Awkward First Date Introduction | If you've been following along like me, this "couple" has kept a running joke on Tinder messages for over three years without ever actually meeting or talking...until they went viral. They ended up on Good Morning America this week, and now they're going on their first date all-expenses-paid by Tinder...in Maui! This was so awkward and hilarious to watch. 

2. The Prettiest Eyelet Top | In case you missed it earlier this week, I shared one of my absolute favorite tops for summer. The eyelet details and pretty blue color make it a must-have - plus, it's under $50!

3. Getting to Know Neil Patrick Harris | Okay, I admit it. I have officially crossed the threshold into the land of obsession when it comes to these "73 Questions With..." videos, but I can't stop! This one is hands down the best one. He is even funnier than I imagined or realized, and seeing his incredible home and sweet family was the best part. Very much worth a quick watch if you're bored!

4. This Beach Home Tour Makes Me Want to Move | I seriously think I pinned every single room and photo from this home tour, guys. It's GORGEOUS. I'm a huge fan of light, white and airy spaces with blues and greens spread throughout, so if anyone knows if the owners want to gift their house to me, let me know.

5. The BEST Cardigan Got Re-Stocked | If you're like me, you are probably just about fed up with the Nordstrom Sale, but the final day is actually one of the best days to snag final finds! They re-stock a ton of items in a hope to push through their extra inventory, and I've been waiting for this cardigan to re-stock since early access! And it did...in SEVEN COLORS!



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Easy Teriyaki Chicken Meal Prep Recipe!

If you've been following along with the weekly Post-Grad Essentials series posts, you may have seen this BIG post detailing eight of my favorite go-to recipes for meal prep and lunches to take to work with you. 

I whipped up this recipe Monday night late and a day behind on most of my to-do list, just looking for something quick, healthy and easy to make so I could drag my exhausted self to bed at a reasonable hour. 

It was SO good I had to interrupt my original post I had planned for today just to share it with you guys - no seriously. It's that good!

The best part is that it is super simple and quick to make. I put some rice in the rice cooker, steamed some broccoli in a pan with olive oil, and set to work on making this homemade teriyaki sauce. 

                                                                                                                                                       image via


Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used Tyson pre-cooked diced grilled chicken breasts and blackened them up with a pan in olive oil - HUGE time saver!You can find them in the frozen section)
  • salt and pepper
For the Sauce: (I doubled the ingredients of everything for extra sauce!)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I left this one out! good either way!)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced (1 teaspoon of minced garlic = 1 clove)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Instructions:
  • Cook Rice and Steam Broccoli, set aside. 
  • Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, cook in pan with olive oil (flip often)
  • In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine all of the sauce ingredients and stir thoroughly until there are no cornstarch lumps. 
  • Add sauce to chicken in large pan and stir constantly until the sauce thickens into a glaze texture. 
  • Pour over rice and broccoli, and serve. 
    • FOR MEAL PREP:
      • Keep rice in separate containers, combine chicken and broccoli. To re-heat rice each day, add a little water to the rice and put in microwave for 1-2 minutes on regular heat. Drain water and serve for soft rice. 



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Michigan Winery Tour + Gorgeous Blue Top for Summer!

After writing up a recap of our trip to Traverse City, Michigan, I realized that there was an entire blog post's worth of content just from our incredible Sunday of strawberry & lavender picking followed by a tour of a handful of wineries.

Traverse City has a literally never-ending list of fun activities and things to explore, but one thing I am sure to never miss whenever I return are some of my favorite winery tours and tastings. Although my parents often already own bottles of the wines, we almost always find a new bottle or two that's been added to the collection worth bringing home!


Eyelet Top (runs TTS, but can be tighter in the chest so size up if you have a largest chest!) | Distressed White Denim Shorts | Jack Rogers Sandals | Gold Aviators (only $29!) | Gold Ring | Coordinates Necklace | Earrings | Watch

We started the day out at the Brys Estate Winery, and realized upon pulling in that they have a new section called the Secret Garden with fresh strawberries, fields upon fields of fresh lavender, and fresh flowers that you can pick yourself and take home! We couldn't resist, obviously.




The little store had absolutely everything, and the side patio had me wishing we could lounge around and smell the lavender all day long.



I can't even begin to describe the smell that surrounds you if you walk down the rows of fresh lavender, but if you ever find yourself in a position to try it out, be sure to do it!


What made the day even more fun (for me) was a chance to wear this pretty blue blouse I had just picked up before the trip! The eyelet detailing is so fun and summery, and kept me from being too hot all day long in the sun.


It is honestly a miracle that little basket of berries made it home without being eaten entirely by me!

The Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery has an incredible patio and view where you can stop for drinks and cheese plates - I highly recommend if if you're ever in the area! You can find it on the Old Mission Peninsula. 


I couldn't stop staring at the blue bay and the endless rows in the vineyard.

The main entrance to the winery and tasting tour


Dalton isn't a wine drinker, but this was step one in remedying that for sure! He even got a glass of their new rosé with me on the patio before we headed out.


The eyelet detailing on this top is so perfect and cute, it really speaks for itself. The Carolina blue color is what really sold me, though. Safe to say this is not the only item in my closet this shade of blue, and it certainly won't be the last!


I paired the top with my favorite high-waisted white distressed shorts, which in retrospect may have been a questionable move considering I was weaving my way through bushes of strawberries...but I somehow managed to get out unscathed. 

Here's hoping we can find the time to get back up there towards the end of the summer, because we still have a long way to go with getting Dalton to drink wine (and I obviously wouldn't mind some more, either!)

Shop the Look:


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RE-STOCK ALERT: The Nordstrom Sale Still Has Amazing Items Left!

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale opened to the public on Friday morning, and it seemed like things sold out in record-setting time this year. I was getting a lot of texts from friends about items that had already been snatched up, but I assured them that re-stocks happen consistently throughout the sale!

Thankfully, my advice was not misleading, because when I checked this morning for all of the top picks my friends were dying for, they had all been re-stocked in multiple sizes and colors!


These deals are seriously amazing, guys - I'm expecting more of my purchases to arrive tonight, so be sure to watch my Instagram stories later this evening! 

Here are some of the best re-stocks, with some notes on the size, fit, or available colors and sizes! I'm planning on continuing to add to this and update it throughout the day as much as I can, so be sure to check back if you aren't finding what you need! 

(I'll try to also announce it on Instagram if I find something new and add it!)




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Essentials of the Week!

Whew! This week has been a total whirlwind. I feel like I've been playing catch-up all across the board - at work, with the blog, and most importantly, with sleep! I think there has just been a lot to adjust to in all of those areas this past week...but I definitely want to spend the weekend getting re-focused and starting next Monday off in a better place. 

Does anyone else have those weeks where everything just feels a little...off? I've been hitting snooze too many times, running late, needing more energy, and slowly falling behind. 

Further proof that having a productive Sunday can make or break how the rest of your week goes!

Here are my essentials for this week:

1. The Best Perfume I Have Ever Smelled | Normally, I wouldn't necessarily push too hard on something like a perfume, because scents are such a personal taste and everyone has such different opinions...but earlier this week a coworker of mine bought this brand new scent, and I loved it so much that I bought the bottle minutes after smelling it on her. It's that wonderful! 

2. The Triple Threat Wine Experience | I'm a huge fan of adventure, of wine, and Croatia has been on my next-to-visit travel bucket list for almost five years now. When I saw that a winery is trying something that has never been done before in Croatia, I got even more antsy to book a trip! They are storing their wine in clay jars underwater for 700 days, right off the coast of Croatia! TBD on how good the wine actually tastes, but this just seems like an incredible experience either way.

3. This Tank Perfect for Layering| I love a good deal, and for $12, this adorable and simple tank can't be beat. I personally love the "burnt ember" color because I think it would last you well into the fall and all summer long, too! Grab it before it's gone! 

4. The "New" Instagram? | My news feed blew up yesterday with the announcement from Amazon that they are launch a new app called "Spark" that looks eerily similar to Instagram...with a much more shoppable experience. I'm definitely intrigued!

5. 73 Questions | I have been loving these "73 Questions With..." videos that Vogue has been doing. They have somehow been able to target absolutely all of my favorite celebrities (and especially the ones I wish I knew more about!) This video with Gigi Hadid was so fun to see. 
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Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Early Access: What's Left that I'm Loving!

So, I'm sure by now if you read many blogs or follow a lot of us on Instagram, you are probably very worn out on all things Nordstrom Sale. I hear ya - I really do. However...SO many of my readers do not follow a lot of blogs (but thanks for checking out mine, friends!)

I have had a handful of girls tell me they don't have the time or patience to sift through the dozens of pages on the sale site, only to find that half the items they like are sold out in their size or color. 

That's why I still wanted to take a minute today to round up all of the AMAZING items still available in the sale - in LOTS of sizes and colors - while Early Access is still going on! Tomorrow (Friday, July 21st) the sale opens to the public, which means by noon essentially every remaining adorable and affordable item is going to be totally. gone. 

There are so many great items left, and I'm still snagging a few for myself like these pants and this sweater because I know today is the last chance before the ultimate free-for-all!

Here are some of the amazing picks I'm still finding (and keep in mind, a lot of items have been re-stocked multiple times, and when the sale opens to the public they're going to add a few totally brand new items to the sale! So if it was sold out once when you looked, check again, and again!)

All you have to do is click on the image of the item you like to shop it directly!!














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Instagram Outfit Roundup!

In case you don't follow me on Instagram yet (why not?!), I've been thinking that it would be a good idea to once in a while do a roundup of my latest outfits on Instagram to give everyone a chance to shop the looks and score on the best deals I've been finding lately!

All of the outfit details are right below each picture - I loved the idea of doing this because it's obviously way easier (in my opinion) to do online shopping from a computer vs. a phone, PLUS this way you don't need to be signed up for Like To Know It!

Side note, if you aren't already signed up for Like to Know It, you absolutely should be! It's an incredible app that lets you directly shop for pieces in your favorite bloggers' Instagrams. All you have to do is: download the app (it's free!), and you can either "like" or "screenshot" an image on Instagram, and all of the outfit details with links will appear in the app for immediate shopping!

The app is how I get all of my new ideas when I'm looking for a great top or dress, or a great affordable accessory!

Anyway...back to the Instagrams!


I absolutely love this olive green duster. It's so lightweight, and perfect for layering from day to night in the summer!






Nothing beats stripes and white jeans for a classic summer look.







This little blue top is so lightweight and breezy - and the eyelet details make it perfect for summer outings!




















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Essentials of the Week!

This week (and today) in particular is one of the most exciting I've had all year. Scratch that - it is definitely the most exciting, because today after two years of long distance, Dalton is finally moving to Chicago!!

Safe to say I'm a little bit giddy while writing this post, and this week has been equal parts extremely fast and horribly, terribly slow in anticipation of today. 

I feel like my head has been a little bit foggy all week, because the excitement has made things a little bit difficult for me to concentrate on anything else, but it's finally here! Talk about a great start to my weekend!

Here are my essentials from this week:


1. My Number one Nordstrom Sale Pick | I'm hesitant to even point this out, for fear that it will sell out before the sale opens to the public next week, but I am so in love with these booties! It seems like a lot of people with early access have already scooped it up - in case you want to see my other top picks for every category, I've rounded them all up right here

2. Can't Stop Listening | Selena Gomez's new single that she released yesterday. She is definitively my favorite celebrity, and the only one I think I would actually fangirl over if I met her in person. I can't wait to see what her new album will be - and in the meantime, I'll be over here playing this on repeat so many times Spotify will develop a feature like Netflix asking "If I'm Still There" (ha - I really hope they don't do that, though...)

3. Some Friendly Advice... | Coming from someone who does 98% of their shopping online, this was a good one. This was a GREAT one considering the Nordstrom Sale is this week and people are throwing down that credit card information like their lives depend on it. Worth a quick read!

4. 10 Life Improving Habits | I immediately loved this list after reading the very first item. The amount of times I tell myself to do something because I "should" instead of reminding myself why I want to, and why I will be glad I did it, is crazy! For example, the days you say "Well, I really should work out today". Give this a read - this wellness expert really knows what they're talking about, and this list is my goal for the next month now!

5. The Funniest Video I've Seen in A While | Ending on a happy and funny note - I watched this over and over again, and laughed harder every single time. This video went viral this week, and I am so glad that it did. 

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Budget-Friendly Favorites from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!

I'm sure your Instagram feeds, Twitter, and any blog that you follow are all filled to the brim today with endless roundups and collages from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale...mine certainly are! I'm still loving seeing all of the different picks that the lucky few got to snag yesterday before the early access began last night...and I'm carefully curating my wish list as we speak!

If you're like me, and don't have a Nordstrom Credit Card to give you Early Access - don't worry! They add a ton of new items when the sale opens to the public on July 21st-31st! You can still check out the sale right now to figure out which items you want...just don't get attached, because these items are already selling out fast!

A lot of people use the sale to stock up on designer styles with a $300-$400 discount, and that's pretty amazing....but personally? I'm 24 with student loans, and I'm still not at a place where I can comfortably drop $500 on a single pair of boots just because they're on #sale! Anyone with me?! 

There are an unreal amount of incredible items and staples that won't break your entire budget for the next three months that are absolutely worth stocking up on now while they're discounted, though! 

I know it's hard to think about fall items, but I try to do the vast majority of my fall clothes shopping during this sale because when you add it all up, you end up saving hundreds of dollars!

I've rounded up a ton of my favorite picks in every single category for you guys to shop the best items that won't break the bank right now! I recommend making a Nordstrom account (it's totally free and amazing) and setting up a Wish List so that when the sale opens to the public, you can just click "add to cart" for anything in your wish list that is still available!

So, without further ado - here are my favorites! Just click on an item in the image below to shop it!















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Traverse City, Michigan Recap!

We had such an amazing time in Traverse City, Michigan over the 4th of July - it's hard to know where to begin! My parents have a cottage up there right along the river, and it has made for some pretty incredible 4th of July traditions in our family over the years, but this year was by far my favorite year yet!

I think Wrigley likes the big yard even more than I do...

It was Dalton (and Wrigley's) first summer up there, so it was extra special this time around. I had way too much fun showing Dalton all of my favorite spots and activities, and trying out some new things, too!

The weather couldn't have been better the entire time we were there - we really lucked out. The first two days were pretty low key, I had to get some work done and gave Dalton a chance to hit the golf course with my Dad. Friday night, however, even I picked up a club and accompanied my parents to a 9, Wine & Dine event at their course where we all laughed and swung our way through nine holes with some incredible food and wine tastings every few holes. (My kind of golfing, am I right?!)


Saturday we took full advantage of the sunnier skies and headed down to the boat for the Air Show over the lake. My parents invited some of their friends and we had a pretty great spread of drinks and appetizers to keep us happy all afternoon long.





Most of the evenings were spent at home with some unforgettable home-cooked meals (seriously, no matter how much better I improve my cooking, nothing will ever beat meals at home with my parents).


Sunday we had a little bit more of a low key day, but it was by far my favorite one of the week. We rounded up the bikes and took them into town to show Dalton around, and there is this one amazing bike path around a smaller lake that is insanely beautiful. My dad and I used to sail on that little lake, and I have so many fun memories there.



We took a break from the biking to stop at a local brewery called North Peak with a really great patio - if you're ever in the area, I highly recommend it! Then we hurried home to give the dogs some attention before we loaded up the kayaks for a 2 hour float down the river. The river has such a gentle flow it's more like a stream - we usually bring a cooler with drinks, and paddling is rare (except for Dalton, who must have crashed into about a dozen trees along the way! It's going to be a while before my parents let him live that down...)


The dogs were so well behaved in the kayaks, and Wrigley did an amazing job in his first river trip. We usually drive about ten minutes north of our house, and float down the river for two hours before getting out right in our backyard!


The next day, we ventured up the peninsula to some of the wineries (another post coming soon about those, because they were AMAZING), and snuck in a little bit of strawberry picking, too! Dalton isn't much of a wine drinker, so this was a good way to start getting him into the habit (because seriously, if someone doesn't start drinking wine with me, I'm going to keep having a bottle all to myself...and no one needs that!)





The actual 4th of July was pretty low key for us - just our family out on the boat with the dogs, soaking in the sun and views before having a quiet (and amazing) dinner at home in the backyard. 

I really couldn't have asked for a better trip with my family, and now I'm working on trying to find another weekend in the early Fall to head up there again! There were so many things we didn't get to try.


If you're ever looking for a place in Michigan to visit, I could not recommend Traverse City more! Comment below and tell me what you did for your 4th of July - I'd love to hear from you!
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