Tips to Be a Gracious Host & Guest During the Holidays

The holidays are some of the busiest travel times of the year. It’s rare that families end up in the same area where everyone can go back to their own beds each night. With that said, it’s not uncommon for people to stay with friends or family members during the season. I have yet to host a guest that I didn’t want back but I have heard horror stories from other people. It inspired today’s post sharing tips to be a gracious guest AND host. Why host, you ask? I am sure most of us have experienced at least one home we’ve stayed in that was super uncomfortable. Not everyone is a great guest and not everyone is a great host. We could all use reminders on how to be better at both, especially during a time of year that’s more stressful than usual. Don’t worry, though. I’m not here to lecture on what not to do. I’m here mostly to encourage positive interactions and experiences so that everyone has a wonderful holiday…

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Preparing For the Holidays. Yes, It's Time!

1 week until Halloween. Less than 1 month until Thanksgiving. 40 days until Hanukkah. 2 months until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a scant week longer until New Years’ Eve. Whether you are playing host or not, it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. I love fall more than most people and I wish the season was longer but to avoid the stress of last-minute dinner planning, gift wrapping and cookie baking, now is the time to get started. I hear all the time about how people love the holiday season but hate it more because it’s so stressful. It doesn’t have to be though! Just because you’re planning for Christmas and Thanksgiving in October doesn’t mean you have to have all the decorations out to celebrate early. It means…

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The 2018 Fall Guide to Chicago

Fall in Chicago is a special time of year. The amount of time we have beautiful, brisk weather perfect for wearing cozy, chunky sweaters is limited as winter and summer fight over the milder season. The trees turn colors and the streets line with leaves of yellow, orange, red and brown. It feels magical and surreal at times that a city could be so gorgeous. If you’re visiting from out of town, hopefully you get to experience one of the more brisk days (like today). Experience what it's like to bundle up while roaming the streets of the Windy City. Whether you’re looking for a comforting bite to eat, need to warm up, or ideas for things to do...we’ve got the ultimate list for fall…

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Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns | A Review

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review but with the latest I conquered, I couldn’t resist. It’s not secret I have a soft spot for Paris and all things French. It’s a city and a culture that spoke to me in a way few other things have and it will always hold a special place for me. Earlier this year, the author of a new book reached out asking if I would give it a chance and share my review. I agreed foolishly thinking that I’d be able to handle this in time for the release. HA! With my reading habits I should have known better. It wasn’t until recently that I made reading a priority. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed and this year I’ve gotten so lost in life that I almost never took a minute to myself. So while it might have been a slow start, I rapidly finished reading Paris Ever After earlier this month and I have quite a few things to say about it. Before we get to what I have to say, take a look at the description from Goodreads first.

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The Lady Boss' Guide to Chicago

Chicago is one of the best cities for self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs. Going off on my own almost four years ago now, I’ve had the chance to get to know the city in a different way. It became my office playground like many other people who are in similar career paths and work environments. I’ve explored different neighborhoods and found a few favorite spots to return to and a few spots that are better for casual coffees with friends. For a productive day “out of the office,” I learned quick that cafes and coffee shops with a strong internet connection are vital. It’s also a perk if they offer real food and not just snacks or pastries as well as plenty of outlets. To meet with colleagues or clients, it’s important to find spots with a lower noise level or at least moderate so you can have a conversation without screaming. Some of the best spots are tucked away in the neighborhoods of Chicago and others are right in the heart of downtown. All it takes is a little exploration to find the right ones!

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September Spotlight

September! The first unofficial days of fall. That time of year when pumpkin spice takes over even though the weather is still a roller coaster of 60 to 80 degree days. Sweaters are taken everywhere even when they’re unnecessary during the heat of the day. It’s getting really close to my favorite month of the year, October. The line-up for the now “31 Days of Halloween” on Freeform have been announced. Hocus Pocus references are EVERYWHERE and you’ll find me along with many other people in a giddy mood. It’s cool enough to work on the patio again without your laptop erupting in flames and the bugs start to disappear. It’s just a wonderful time of year because it’s the start of all the best holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I mean, how can you not be loving the change in seasons?

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Finished two books over the last week which has me motivated to start adding more to my reading list…

I recently start cutting a lot of gluten and dairy out of my diet and have been scouring the internet for ideas and tips. Love these pantry staple suggestions…

All about a cozy fall wardrobe and Lauren Conrad’s new weekend line is killing it…

We got our few fall-like consecutive days which called for whipping out the pumpkin. Get cooking for the season with these recipes

Planning a trip to the northeast during fall is no picnic but photos of what the leaves look like throughout the season are giving me plenty of motivation…

Drooling over this English Country Kitchen design

For dog moms that are into essential oils, these are great tips for how to use them. I use them to help my pup with his anxiety often...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Beef Roast with Fall Veggies & Mashed Potatoes
Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Tapas Night
Weeknight Chicken Burrito Bowls

TOP TRAVEL POSTS
[from top left]
8 US Destinations for Solo Travel
9 Spots to Grab Brunch Around Chicago
A Guide to 3 Days in Boston
Hotel Indigo San Antonio Riverwalk - Checking In

WHAT I’M UP TO
Ok, I have quite a bit to share with you guys so I’ll try and keep it as brief as possible. Let’s start with A Simple Favor. I was invited to an advance screening of the movie this week and HOLY CRAP! Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are on fire. This was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a really long time. The script was genius, the chemistry of the cast was undeniable, and it was straight up entertaining. From the previews, it’s hard to tell if the film is more of a comedy or a thriller. It’s definitely more along the lines of dark comedy with a bit of a film noir twist. Whatever you’re thinking about A Simple Favor, prepare yourself to be surprised because there is one twist after another. It almost reminded me of a Gillian Flynn novel but with a lot more humor. Blake Lively is giving off a ton of Serena Van der Woodsen vibes with her wardrobe and Anna Kendrick is as awkward as ever. I’m afraid to share any real details because I don’t want to ruin anything and it would be easy to do so. Bottom line, Dean Richards even said A Simple Favor is the movie of the weekend on WGN Radio this morning so GO SEE IT! Before the movie, a friend and I had dinner at Pinstripes in River North which is a block away from the theater. Their patio is along the river and absolutely gorgeous. We shared the Hummus and Avocado plate and both got gluten-free pepperoni pizza. AMAZING!

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Next up, I finally finished Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns. I will have a full review of this book coming soon but I wanted to pop a few notes in here. This book gave me a lot of feelings: anger, frustration, disbelief, nostalgia. As awful as it sounds, it's not bad though, nowhere close. It started a bit slow because she recapped a lot of what happened in this novel’s prequel which I did not read so I appreciated it. However, all that time that was spent recapping previous events caused the climax and ending to feel rushed. I loved all the descriptions of Paris though. Amy, the main character, details the feelings and smells walking down the streets in Paris vividly. The descriptions of the setting are on point and it transported me back to my favorite place in the world. It was a welcome escape whenever I picked it up to read.

Finally, I am greatly struggling with planning a fall trip to the northeast. It’s going to happen but booking accommodations has been the hardest task. I have never had such a hard time booking travel before, even last minute. So this is going to be very interesting to see how this trip turns out. I’ll keep you posted, mostly on Instagram so make sure you’re following me. If you guys are fans of country music, I’m currently listening to Carrie Underwood’s new album, “Cry Pretty,” and I’m obsessed. I’ve been a fan of hers since American Idol and it’s always fun to see what she comes out with. She’s on my concert wishlist so hopefully I can grab tickets and see her next year!

WISH LIST
100% ready for fall weather which means I’m looking for a strong sweater game. Loving this cardigan from Banana Republic and this one from Anthropologie as well as this cute off-the-shoulder from LC by Lauren Conrad…

Speaking of fall, it’s just about time for blanket season! So excited to start whipping out all the coziness but this one might make a new addition to my collection.

This year has been a bit difficult and I’ve needed inspiration and motivation wherever I can get it. These brand new tote bags bring a huge smile to my face...

August Spotlight + Giveaway

Happy Wednesday! For those of you enjoying the peace and quiet with the kids back to school, I hope you’re having a very productive (or relaxing) day. For anyone personally going back to school, maybe it’s your final undergrad year or you’re heading off to get a phD, I wish you the best of luck and a million wonderful memories. For those of us who are aware that it’s back to school but it doesn’t necessarily affect us, here’s to another Wednesday! Crack open a bottle of wine tonight because you made it halfway through the week! Today, I’m particularly excited for this monthly spotlight because we have a giveaway! It’s been a while since I’ve ran one of these on the blog and I’m super excited because these are products I have been personally using for months. Giveaways are great but they’re even better when you have someone’s stamp of approval on the product you’re about to win. I got a little personal in my update this month because there are a few things I felt I needed to explain so bear with me and next month, I promise it will be all about what’s coming up the rest of the year!

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
With fall around the corner, heartier salads are looking really delightful like this Steak Salad with New Potatoes

Wishing I had an Instant Pot just so I could make this

Life gone crazy? Loving these easy ideas to bring some structure and control back into life to make it less stressful…

I’ve always wanted to make homemade treats for my pups and this recipe looks like a great place to start…

Cedarwood is one of the more inexpensive essential oils and it’s so versatile. These are great ideas to use it more often…

Get the most out of your trip by taking exceptional photos. Great tips from a fellow Chicago blogger…

I can’t stop thinking about France so I’m living vicariously through other travel bloggers right now…

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Chicken Milanese with Simple Spaghetti
Chicken Parmesan Sliders
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote

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WHAT I’M UP TO
Has it already been a month since the last update? This year is flying by and while I’m counting down the days until fall and cooler weather, it feels like 2018 has gotten away from me. This year has been a whirlwind of one thing after the next. The first few months of this year, I split my time between the city and the suburbs which got out of control really quick. During these months, we found out that a very close family member of mine (I won’t say who for privacy reasons, maybe one day in the future) has terminal cancer. It was a difficult blow but we’ve been surviving and I’ve served as chemo buddy through this process. From February through July, every other week we’d tackle appointments and this particular commitment required me to put travel on hold. While I have plenty of travel content to share that’s built up over the last few years, my first trip for 2018 will most likely be later in fall. Some days I feel like a failure as a travel blogger but I wouldn’t take back the time I’ve been able to spend with my loved one for anything. Life sometimes hands us cards that we don’t want to play but all we can do is make the best of them.

Moving on to earlier this summer, the first week of July I had a bit of a accident and injured my face pretty bad. It required a total of five stitches and several weeks for me to lick my wounds and get my confidence back. I’ve injured myself dozens of times in my mere 27 years but not once have I done something to severely affect my appearance. I’ve healed up really well but the scars will be pretty obvious (at least to me) for a while. During the whole debacle, washing my face was a bit of a challenge. I had to use super sensitive products and had to be careful not to get any moisturizer near the wounds. Well, I’m about to give Aveeno another shout-out. Before leaving the hospital from getting stitches, the nurse ran through the dos and dont’s of caring for stitched wounds. One of them was to use a mild cleanser at which point I asked if my Aveeno gel cleanser for sensitive skin was ok. The answer? That’s perfect! During a time when it felt like everything was spinning out of control, it was a relief to not have to change at least one part of my regular routine. It’s in times of emergency that make you appreciate the small things. Earlier this year, Aveeno sent me a very large goodie box for mentioning them in one of my monthly spotlight posts and it’s been a nice little stash to supply the cabinet for a while.

With that said, I have goodies for you too! My Aveeno routine consists of the Ultra-Calming Gel Cleanser in the morning followed by the Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF. At night I use the Ultra-Calming Nourishing Night Cream after exfoliating in the shower. This particular line has become an essential part of my skincare routine and since randomly picking up the night cream at the store during the winter, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference. I can’t wait to share these products and my experience with one of you! Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter to win a care package of Aveeno Ultra-Calming Goodies.

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WISH LIST
Thinking about investing in this scalp scrub from Goop to give my hair a post-summer cleanse…

I finally made the jump to it Cosmetics’ CC Cream and I’ve been missing out. This is a three-in-one cream, sunscreen, and moisturizer and gives plenty of coverage. A little goes a long way too…

I never got those new sandals for summer but I’ve still got my eye set on these gladiators…

100% ready for sweater season but still in love with summer dresses. This fit-and-flare maxi dress has a floral print I’m obsessed with…

***GIVEAWAY***
The prize includes:
- 1 bottle Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser
- 1 bottle Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30
- 1 package Aveeno Ultra-Calming Makeup Removing Wipes

Terms:
For our full terms and conditions, click here. For our full privacy policy, please click here.
- Must be 18+ years of age
- Winner’s mailing address must be in one of the 48 continental states (we will not ship the prize to Hawaii or Alaska)
- Giveaway ENDS Thursday, August 23rd at 12AM CST

ENTER USING THE RAFFLECOPTER BELOW:

July Spotlight

We’re interrupting your regular programming schedule of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale to bring you...something different. I love a good sale but is anyone else sick of seeing a million articles and social media posts dedicated to sale items? So if you’re like me and looking for other links around the web, this post is for you! It’s time for the July spotlight and I haven’t had much time for browsing the last month so what I’m sharing had to be work my time. Translation: these links are good ones. Plus, you guys seem to be loving te Pasta Primavera recipe. It’s been the #1 viewed post for the last two weeks! If you’ve had a chance to try it, let me know. I’d love to know what you think. While everyone is more than likely enjoying the second half of their summer and heading off to one or two more vacations before it ends, I’m counting down the days until fall. Summer has been absolutely awful this year with record breaking heat and annoyance from yours truly. I can’t wait for cooler temperatures so I can wear my sweaters and booties again and start making soup and all things pumpkin.

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Throwing a party this summer? Rock your outdoor party with a few entertaining tips

For those of us who would love to meal prep but die a little inside at the thought of eating salads every day all day….

Off the grid is sounding better every single day, especially when I see treehouse getaways like this…

I’m obsessed with this home and dreaming of being able to cook in the kitchen every day…

The podcast episode from Boss Girl Creative talking about overcoming your belief barriers spoke to me on a deep level. If you’re struggling with not feeling good enough or qualified enough, listen up…

I always love finding movie set locations when I travel but the first one on this list is at the time of mine. Any other LOTR fans out there...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Taco Fiesta
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Tapas Night
Southwestern Chicken Pita Pockets
Pasta Primavera

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WHAT I’M UP TO
Hello, lovelies. It’s been a hot minute since I did a check-in, or wrote a post, or did anything productive for that matter. Truth? This weekend was the first weekend I've a minute in a while. Where to start...let’s go back, shall we? The last two weeks of June, as you might have read in the last spotlight, were fabulous yet exhausting. I had an event, meeting or something more days than I didn’t. I saw Lea Michele and Darren Criss in concert on the LMDC Tour (more on that in a second), my friends and I had dinner not once but twice, it was my birthday, oh...and I fell and split my face open in several places and needed stitches. Let’s go back and focus on the good stuff.

LMDC Tour. Holy cow, it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I had expected Lea Michele to be incredible but she is flawless when she performs. Not one note was missed or botched. Lea Michele and Darren Criss came to the historic Chicago Theater June 26th to kick off the second run of their tour. It was fun, nostalgia-filled if you're a "Gleek" and I wish I could relive that night all over again. Darren was funny and personable. These are two people I wish I could have hung out with afterwards. It was truly an incredible concert. I have my eye on a few more concerts coming to Chicago including Panic! At the Disco in February and I’d love to see Ed Sheeran in October but the stadium he’s playing at is way overpriced with tickets so we’ll see. Waitress is also on Broadway in Chicago but it’s only here for a few more days and it doesn’t look like I’ll be going to see it at this point. Believe me when I saw my heart is broken. That just means I’ll have to figure out how to get to NYC to see Katherine McPhee play the lead role instead!

Let’s talk food for a second. In those crazy two weeks, there were lots of food events. It all kicked off with a mid-week staycation at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort with a delightful dinner at Three Embers. It was a meal to remember, that’s for sure. I also attended a Windy City Bloggers happy hour at the Metropolitan in the Sears Tower. The views of the city are incredible and the lamb sliders were to die for. Finally, I attended an event with HomeChef to get to know their chefs and learn more about the company. For example, did you know that HomeChef was started and is based here in Chicago? I didn’t! I’ll have a full post discussing HomeChef soon.

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July itself has been pretty uneventful. The fourth is pretty low-key for me, I don’t really celebrate and at the end of the week I had my accident so I’m confined to my house until I feel comfortable enough to start going to events and crowded places that are not the grocery store again. I'm using this experience as one to learn from and soon I’ll share a few more personal notes about the accident and my injuries. I’m not quite there yet and am testing out a healing method to see if it actually works. On that note, if you have any tips to help get rid of scarring, I’d really appreciate them so leave ‘em in the comments below! Until next month, stay cool and enjoy the rest of summer!

WISH LIST
I think I finally found the new bedding for my bedroom! I’m in love with this comforter set from LC by Lauren Conrad..

The one thing I do love about summer is getting to wear super cute dresses. I’m loving this Tie-Waist Dress from Anthropologie in the floral print…

If you’re looking for a comfy t-shirt bra, I’m obsessed with the Breathe Wireless Bra from the Gap. I practically live in mine…

I really love the body positivity campaigns from Aerie and it makes me want to start supporting the company more. This Plush Zip-Up Sweater looks super comfy and perfect as the weather starts turning later this summer..