7 Small Shops to Support This Holiday Season

Now that we’re a week in to November, I hope you guys are finally accepting all the holiday content that’s infiltrating the blog! I don’t feel that bad, actually, at all. I got the Thanksgiving Food Magazine issue in early October and my personal inbox has already been bombarded with gift guides. Something tells me now is the exact time we should start talking about all things holiday. We’ll have a few more posts in the next month sharing gift ideas but it all kicks off with small online shops to support. I’ve pulled together a list of my favorite e-stores by fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs to shop from. Shop small and support the people you love. Instead of just hitting "like" the next time you see something from a shop or blogger you follow on Instagram, head over to their shop and see if there’s something you can purchase to support them and cross a gift off your list…

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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

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