Style Inspired by the Sea

Are you there, summer? It’s me, Sara.

Seriously…summer can start any time now. I know that it JUST turned to spring, but I’m already counting down to hot days at the beach, walks by the lake, outdoor brunches, and rooftop bars. And I desperately need a tan. Pale is an understatement.

With that being said, I have already been doing a little bit of summer shopping. Maybe it’s a little early to start but…oh well. Plus, I’m going on vacation next month, so I need some outfits for that, too (I can rationalize any purchase…it’s a talent).

Because I love all things beach related, I’m always drawn to products that have that theme and that are inspired by the sea. From clothing to home goods, there is no shortage of these items out there, and now is the best time to buy them! Click through the links below to see some of my current favorites.

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Fornash Bangle | Sanddollar Quarter Zip | Fish Platter | Seahorse Tote | Bottle Opener | Starfish Sandal | Tommy Bahama Flip Flops | Rash Guard | Shell Enamel Bangle | Tissue Box Cover | Bookends | Mermaid Mug | Seahorse Dress | Fish Pillow | Canister | Starfish Ring

Maybe if I buy summer items, it will come quicker…right?! It’s worth a try.

Simple Ways to Have More Energy

Over the past few weeks, my schedule has gotten much busier than normal. I have a full time job that has a very busy season – which we are currently in the thick of – and I also do a lot of writing on the side.

I was a little bit worried about how exhausted I would feel once things started to pick up, as I knew I’d have to work long days and then come home and work on my writing at night. There is nothing worse than being overtired and cranky…especially for those around me who have to deal with the grouchiness.

However, I’m happy to say that I’ve had a TON of energy so far during this very busy time. Even more energy than usual, actually. I have made a few lifestyle changes that I think are greatly contributing to that level increase, though. I wanted to share them below, because who couldn’t use some extra oomph in their days, right?!

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Simple Ways to Have More Energy

Ample hydration – I have been trying to drink 100+ ounces of water a day (I definitely struggle with it on the weekends, though). I’m not going to lie..it’s kind of a chore. I feel like I’m constantly getting up to go to the bathroom and refill my water bottle (I use a big 20 ounce plus one). While this is definitely annoying, especially when I am slammed with work all day long, it is a good way to get me away from my desk – even if it’s only for a couple minutes. Sometimes walking a lap around the office and taking a break from staring at my computer can do a world of good! And, drinking so much water makes me feel all-around great. It makes me more energetic, makes my skin clearer, decreases my appetite, and helps me lose weight. It’s a TOTAL win-win situation, and I am really trying to make this into a long-term habit (I tend to go through phases of drinking a lot of water then drinking wayyyyy too little). I also have given up Diet Coke…which is a struggle, but I think it’s worth it.

Eating healthy – I have been making a huge effort to eat healthy, especially during the week. It’s been kind of difficult, as there are always so many sweets in my office, and we order dinner in every night since we work late, and there are always tempting options (usually involving french fries!). But…I feel so much better about myself and so much more energized when I stay away from super carby, fattening, greasy meals. I’ve been ordering wraps and salads, and have been making a conscious effort to only eat until I’m full. I typically end up eating about half of my meal and then eating the leftovers for lunch the next day, which has been great. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and proteins certainly has helped me stay alert and productive throughout the entirety of the day. No food comas here! Can’t say that I am not having a few weekly treats though – girl’s gotta have her chocolate!

Taking breaks – I need breaks throughout the day in order to stay focused. It’s just impossible to keep going, going, going without having a little time to decompress. I try to walk around outside during lunch every day, or even go sit at Starbucks or run an errand to Walgreens just to have a change of scenery. I always come back to my desk feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Make time for yourself – even though my schedule is nuts right now, I am still prioritizing making time for myself and what makes me happy. If I don’t, I’ll feel like I’m not getting joy out of my days, and then I will go crazy! Whether that “me” time is writing blog posts, reading on my Kindle, listening to a podcast, playing with Snapchat filters, painting my nails, watching Bravo, or some combination of all of those things, I am making time for it. Even if it’s only 15-20 minutes a day, I look forward to it and thoroughly enjoy my “me” time when it rolls around.

Regardless of how busy my schedule is, it’s important to me to stay energized and productive each and every day. This is what’s been working for me, and I’m always looking for new ways to be healthy and alert all day long.

What I’ve Been Reading

I have been really making reading a priority despite the fact that I’ve been super busy. Especially after a long day, it relaxes me so much to read, even if it’s just for 10 minutes before I fall asleep. (As a side note: one of my favorite things about reading on my Kindle is that I can read in bed with the lights off and just fall asleep reading because of the backlight. It’s the best)

Anyways, I have read some pretty great books in the past few weeks. I wanted to share, so here they are.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – this book was incredible. It is a historical fiction YA book about WWII. Given it’s YA, it’s a pretty quick read that was made even quicker for me because I wanted to know what was going to happen so badly! I don’t want to give too much away, but if you read and loved books like The Nightingale or Lilac Girls, you are almost guaranteed to love this book. This story is told from alternating points of view, which I love, and all-around, the author does a beautiful job weaving the stories and characters together. I was reading this in public during lunch one day and had to stop because I thought I was going to start crying – so warning: it is emotional at points. But that just makes it that much better of a read.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint – I was REALLY excited to read this as it’s been a highly anticipated book of 2017 and I was waiting for it to come off of my library hold list. I read it pretty quickly, because it was definitely an engrossing story. I really wanted to know what happened, and it did keep me guessing until the end. This is a story about two siblings that go missing and are ultimately found dead, and the journey to finding the killer. The journalist covering the story was a large part of the book, which I liked. But overall, it was nothing spectacular. I would rate it at 3.5 stars. Worth reading, but nothing to rush towards.

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf –  I read some reviews for this book and got it from the library on my Kindle, so I decided to give it a try. I really liked it and am excited that the author has so many other books. This is a story about a couple who goes back to the husband’s hometown in the wake of a tragedy. After having his fair share of devastation in his past, his wife begins to find out things about her husband that he kept hidden for the twenty years that they’d been married. I thought this was a great mystery where I really enjoyed the main character’s personality and genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen. I thought I had it all figured out, but was totally wrong in the end, and I love being surprised that way by a book. I would definitely recommend this. It was a relatively quick read, too.
Up next I am reading Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky, and I am waiting for so many things to come off my hold list from the library (sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get books off there – but the Chicago Public Library is truly the best!). To keep up with everything I’m reading, follow me on Goodreads.

St. Patrick’s Day Treats

I know Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t a HUGE holiday, but I couldn’t resist making a few treats to celebrate it! Last weekend was Chicago’s St. Paddy’s day celebration, so I made some cupcakes.

Six Sister’s Stuff posted the most ADORABLE cupcakes for the occasion, so I gathered the required materials and made them. They were incredibly easy to make, and I think mine came out pretty good (obviously not nearly as great as they did for Six Sisters’….but hey, I tried my best). I used such simple materials to make them – Airhead Extremes (I basically have a lifetime supply now), Rolos, mini marshmallows, and gold glitter. I made my cupcake cake chocolate instead of a white cake like they did on their blog, because…#chocoholic. Simple…but they look fancy…plus, they taste delicious and are perfect for the day!

Sharing some photos of how they turned out below! I also made a pistachio cake, and anything mint would be perfect for the day of all things green.

Simple & Affordable Home Organization Buys

Especially when you live in a small space like an apartment, staying organized is extremely important to keep your home neat and tidy. As I’m writing this, my house is in less than perfect condition as there are random items out the counter, there’s laundry to be folded, and there are work bags and shoes sitting on the floor. But…typically, I try to make an effort to keep things in order.

To do so, I have a few go-to items that are key to helping me keep my space organized. Before I moved into my own apartment, I thought that I would go crazy at The Container Store and Target buying all kinds of products that would help me keep everything in its place. I pinned all the pins on organization, and was excited to stock up on all the tools I thought I would need. But the reality is, you don’t need to spend all of that money on containers and systems in order to have an organized space. In my opinion, having all of that in an apartment will just make it more difficult to keep things tidy. Sometimes, less really is more.

Now that I’ve lived in two different apartments, I think I’m in a good groove of how to keep our stuff in some kind of order. Take a look at my go-to products, room by room, for doing so.

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KITCHEN

The kitchen is probably the toughest to keep organized, because it requires the most tools and accessories that are most frequently used. The thing I have the most trouble with is our “pantry”…or lack thereof. We don’t have an actual pantry, so our lazy Susan is stocked with most of our food items, and I use one large cabinet for all my bigger items, like flour, sugar, bags of chips and snacks, and so on. To keep that organized, I use these bins (which are actually meant to go in the fridge, but they work perfectly for this purpose). I have them in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they hold all my spices in the lazy Susan and all my baking supplies in the other cabinet. It makes things much easier to find and keep tidy, which makes a world of difference in these spots if you ask me. I bought a bunch of these at HomeGoods and they were very inexpensive.

When you’re short on space, namely cabinet space, it is tough to have and organize a lot of serveware and bakeware. I have a set of nesting bowls that is a lifesaver in this sense, because they’re a range of sizes, so I use them for everything – cooking, baking, putting chips out when people are over, serving dinner in, and so on. But, the best thing is that they don’t take up a lot of room in my cabinets because they are all stored inside one another, which is perfect. I highly recommend getting a set because you will use them all the time.

The last item I wanted to highlight for the kitchen is a plastic bag holder, because in all honesty, if you open the cabinet under my kitchen sink right now…on one side an avalanche of plastic target and grocery bags will probably come falling down. My mom has the best thing in her pantry, which is one of these nifty holders (she’s had it forever), and whenever we need a plastic bag we grab it from one end, and whenever we get home from the store we store the new ones in there (it has a seemingly never-ending capacity). This makes keeping them together so easy, and that way you always have some when you need them. My mom just told me she bought me one, so I’m obviously excited about that. It’s really the little things in life…:)

BEDROOM

I don’t have a ton of organizational items in our bedroom, mostly because it’s a pretty tiny space. But I do have a few to note. First, I have one of these awesome scarf hangers (why didn’t I think to invent these?!), which is great because I used to have all my scarves just in a canvas bin and I would always forget to ever wear them. Now, they are hanging up with the rest of my clothes, so I see them all the time and can’t forget about them, but they’re not just in a jumbled mess. I bought mine at HomeGoods.

Next, because I have a lot of clothes and we have small closets, I use these Ziploc space bags to store clothes in during the off season (like during the winter, I put my summer clothes in them). I fold everything up, place it in the bags, and then you seal it and use the vacuum to compress everything to make the bag smaller. It saves a lot of space and you can put the bags under your bed, in a closet, or wherever is convenient for you. They come in different shapes and sizes, and they’re also great for linens and bedding.

Finally, I use a few canvas bins in my bedroom to store my shoes. I have a lot of flats, sneakers, booties, and so on…and they take up a lot of room! I know there are a lot of different ways to store shoes, but this is just the way that works for me because it’s easy and convenient.

BATHROOM

Luckily, our bathroom has a huge linen closet in it and it makes it easy to organize and we have ample space to store things. But, I do use a few organization items in the bathroom. Again, I love canvas bins. I have one in our closet to hold random things like spare hand soaps, Wallflowers, and so on. It’s kind of just a catchall. These are also perfect to store cleaning supplies in.

Also in our bathroom, I keep plastic containers under the sink to hold things like medicine, hair products, and cosmetics. I just have a run of the mill one like this that I stand everything up in so it’s there whenever we need it. This keeps it out of the way, but still easily accessible. I also love how it’s clear so we can see inside it so that if we’re not sure where something is, we don’t have to rummage through the bin to see if it’s there. We can just look without even opening the bin.

To keep smaller cosmetics, I love something simple and easily accessible like this. For things like nail polish, hair bands, bobby pins, makeup, and so on, this is a great way to keep things together so that they’re not scattered about in your drawers or medicine cabinet.

LAUNDRY ROOM

The last room I wanted to highlight a few items for is the laundry room. We actually have a decent sized laundry space, and it’s so nice to keep it organized. We have a big oversized hamper (which is really hard to find! We found ours at HomeGoods and it’s GIANT and so durable). We use that for our dirty clothes. Next, we have rolling laundry cart (just got this one, but also love this one to iron on!) to put our clean clothes in when they come out of the dryer and then we bring them to the family room to fold them. It’s a process, but it keeps everything really organized and I like being able to do several loads of laundry in a row and I just pile the clean stuff in and fold it all at once after I’m done.

Finally, this may come as a shock 😉 but I use canvas bins to keep things in the laundry room organized. I use one for things that need to be dry cleaned and another for random things like laundry supplies and belts. Nothing fancy here!
Besides the moral of this story being that I’m obsessed with canvas bins, I hope these affordable and simple organization items help you keep your space neat and tidy!

Fun & Colorful Water Bottles

Even though you’re probably bummer if you weren’t able to find any of the Starbucks x S’well x Lilly Pulitzer water bottles, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a cute bottle to stay hydrated with. There are SO many adorable and functional options out there that there’s no need to fret.

Because staying hydrated (and accessorizing well) is so important, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite tumblers and water bottles for you to browse. I have quite a collection of my own – I keep some at work, have some stashed at both my parents houses, and have a BUNCH here in Chicago that I use daily and for the gym…etc. Having these tumblers and bottles is great because they alleviate the possibility of condensation and I like using bottles with a cap and straw. Plus, drinking out of something cute motivates me to stay more hydrated.

I bring – at the minimum – one cup of water to bed with me every night (I always wake up so thirsty) and I have a fear of knocking my drink down and all over my nightstand in my sleep. I actually used to have an awesome cup called a Mighty Mug that was designed to stick to the surface to prevent it from being knocked over. Pure genius! I accidentally put mine in the dishwasher, so it didn’t work correctly anymore…so I will have to get another.

For now, though, these choices will have to do.

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Confetti Tumbler | Lemon Tumbler | Monogrammed Bottle | Watermelon Bottle | Infuser Water Bottle | Monogrammed Tervis | Glitter Bottle | Gray Malin S’Well Bottle

I have been on top of my hydration game (for the most part), and I love how great drinking lots of water makes me feel! I ordered a cool product I saw to help remind me to hydrate all day long, and I can’t wait to blog about it once I try it. Stay tuned…

Lovely Loungewear

So I’ve been working a lot lately, and whenever I am actually home, I tend to be in either my pajamas or some kind of comfy clothes that I can lounge around in. I have a ton of comfortable clothes stockpiled in my (ever growing) pajama drawer, and it’s always funny to see how many of my clothes in the laundry each week end up being pj’s once we finish all the folding (that particular pile is usually pretttttty high).

Anyways, I wanted to recommend some favorites for loungewear. A lot of these are great for just hanging around the house, bopping around town on errands, a long travel, or even for working out. To be honest, I find a lot of these brands at Marshall’s and typically stock up on these clothing items there…but you can always order them online or find them in other stores as well.

Click through some current favorites below:

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Max Studio Shorts | High Low Sweatshirt | Pullover | Yoga Pants | Star Sweatpants | Criss Cross Sweatshirt | Waffle Knit Long Sleeve | Zella Leggings | Cowl Neck Top | Jane & Bleecker Shorts | Calvin Klein Shorts | Cold Shoulder Top | Monogrammed Shirtdress

5 Desserts to Make in Under 15 Minutes

When you’re in the mood for something sweet, want to bring a dessert to a friends house or dinner party, or want to impress your guests but don’t have a ton of time to spare, there’s still hope. There are actually some quite impressive desserts out there that are big on taste but that – believe it or not – don’t take much time to prepare. I’m sharing some of my go-to dessert recipes that can be prepped and ready in 15 minutes or less – all while leaving your taste testers wanting seconds!

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Illustration by Luna

Strawberry shortcake – this is especially great in the spring and summer, but really, you can make this all year round. All you need to do is chop up some fresh strawberries, then use a pastry cutter to mash them up until they are pretty mostly liquid with a few “chunkier” pieces mixed in. If the consistency is too thick, you can mix in a few drops of water, and for extra sweetness, a tablespoon or so of sugar. Then, I like to use heavy whipping cream to make some homemade whipped cream. I usually buy the pre-made pound cake dessert shells at the grocery store – but if they don’t have them, just I just use a regular pound cake that I slice up before serving. Then, you can create your own little “strawberry shortcake” bar and put out the berries, cream, and pound cake separately, and even some sprinkles if you so wish! Always a hit!

Mini banana cream pies – I love making these when I have extra banana cream from a cake, but they’re great to make on their own too. And super easy. Simply whip up your favorite banana cream recipe and use the mini graham cracker crust pies (I use the Keebler ones) to assemble personal banana cream pies. You can top them off with whipped cream and a banana slice, too!

Mini fruit tarts – I love these because they use pre-made sugar cookie dough, which is perfect if you have some in the freezer that you made or if you just buy one at the store. Using a mini muffin tin, put a ball of dough in each opening and bake in the oven, about 12 minutes. While the shells are baking, whip up cream cheese, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Once the shells are baked, cooled, and taken out of the muffin pan, fill each with cream and top with fruit – such as chopped strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, or blueberries. This recipe lays it all out perfectly and these are a great bite-sized treat!

Popcorn cake – I think this counts as dessert, right? It goes into a cake pan, so I’m going to go with yes on this one. The sweet and salty combination of this makes it irresistible and an instant hit. Pop up two bags of microwave popcorn and mix it with M&Ms and broken up pretzel sticks. Then, melt a stick of butter and mix in mini marshmallows until they are melted and smooth, completely mixed with the butter. Let this mixture cool for a couple minutes, then pour it over the popcorn mixture. Press the popcorn into a lightly greased bundt pan, cover, and allow to cool and set for an hour. When you’re ready to serve it, simply invert the pan onto a platter and it’s ready to be devoured!

Parfaits – so many parfaits, so little time! Luckily, you only need to choose one to make for your next get together, and they’re all beyond simple. From an oreo parfait – consisting of strawberries, cool whip, and chopped Oreos all layered on top of each other – to one that features strawberries, pretzels, sugar, and cinnamon, these are easy as pie and even look pretty fancy! Talk about delicious.
Who says you need to spend all day in the kitchen to go gourmet? These recipes prove that even when you’re pressed for time, you can deliver something sweet and satisfying to your friends and family.

Channeling Summer

Am I the only one ready for summer? I can’t lie, the winter here in Chicago has been pretty mild…but still, I’m sick of wearing my winter coat everywhere I go. I’ve always been way more of a summer person than anything, and there are so many fun things planned for summer 2017 that I am already counting down the days until sunny days, family vacation, celebratory weekends, outdoor concerts, rooftop bars, outdoor brunches, and everything else good that comes with the season.

Even though summer still seems far off, one of the most exciting things to do in the meantime is to stock up on summer clothes and accessories. Everyone’s spring lines have been making their debut and there is SO much cute stuff to choose from – old and new. I am totally channeling summer in my online orders and shopping trips as of late, especially because I’ve bought a few things to wear on a vacation at the end of April.

I have linked to a ton of fun summer-y items below. Believe it or not, these are just a FEW of the items I’m coveting. Also…need to note that Rue La La has been killing it as far as summer stuff goes so far. Having a year of free shipping on the site is very dangerous.

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Minted Print | Banana Leaf Phone Case | Pineapple Shorts | Pineapple Socks | Anchor Bangle | Whale Sweater | Pink and Navy Swimsuit | Scarf | Pineapple Bag | Flamingo Case | Pajama Shorts | Lip Balm | Seaglass Candle | Beach Perfume | Shorebirds Scarf | Seahorse Platter | Navy Striped Suitcase | Tropical Coasters | Romper Cover-up | Printed Romper | Scalloped Shorts | One Shouldered Dress | Chambray Shorts | Keychain

Weekly Favorites

So I am going to start doing a weekly roundups of a few of my favorite things from the week each Friday. I thought it would be a fun way to end the week and definitely more exciting than a recap of what happened those days (my life is not that exciting). Here are my favorites for this week:

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Favorite Meal – I just had the best dinner at Frontera Grill. It’s Rick Bayless’ restaurant here in Chicago that serves creative and delicious Mexican food. I had the skirt steak tacos, but perhaps the best part of my meal was the champagne margarita. Now I am thinking I am going to have to make my own champagne margs sometime soon!

Favorite purchase – I actually bought this last week, but it just arrived so I’ll count it for this one. I ordered this CeCe by Cynthia Steffe floral print drop waist dress from Rue La La, and I love it! It’s so perfect for spring or the summer, plus it was on super sale. It’s from last season, so you can’t really buy it anymore unless you’re really lucky and happen to stumble upon it, but this is a great alternative (also on sale!) or this is also really cute for the colder days of spring.

Favorite discovery – I follow a lot of book Instagram accounts, and maybe I am super late on this, but I love these Penguin Drop Caps. How beautiful would they look lined up on a bookshelf? They’d also make the perfect gift. Pretty pricey for the whole collection, but what an amazing thing to own.

Favorite GIF – I am a little too obsessed with GIFs. What did we ever do without them?! The below GIF pretty adequately sums up my week (I am eating some Girl Scout cookies before beginning a Biggest Loser challenge that starts in my office next week).

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Happy weekend!