Sunday, November 30, 2014

10 Fail Proof Christmas Present Ideas

Oh boy. It's that time of year again. The holiday season is so incredibly magical and I love it with all of my heart but holy crap it's so so so stressful finding presents for everyone. I made this list partially for myself because I needed some ideas but also for you all who may or may not be wondering just what the hell you're getting your beloved Uncle John or Cousin Sarah this holiday season.

1.) Candles

Ha! The most absolute fail proof of them all. Seriously, who doesn't like a candle? ESPECIALLY candles that smell like Christmas. 

Marion Lane is my favorite place to get candles. I love supporting small businesses, but they also have the best quality candles I have ever used. Their scents are really something else, too. They're not funky like some other candles I've smelled. They're so pure. I love that their descriptions are spot on of the scents. Their Baked Apple Pie is exactly the smell of your kitchen after you take an apple pie out of your oven. I don't know how they do it. They've got some serious candle skills at Marion Lane.

 //Buy them here //

But you know what the most awesome thing about this company is? They can take your favorite scent and change the color of the wax to match your decor. Now if that isn't customer service, I don't know what is!

2.) Tea Towels

Such an underrated gift. We all do dishes. We all spill stuff on the kitchen floor. We all need them. I prefer cute ones for all my lady friends. I love the Christmas themed ones, but every day towels work just as great.

// Buy them here //

3.) Cozy Fuzzy Robes

I don't care what you say; fuzzy robes make winter mornings 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 times better. (I really don't even know what number that is. All I know is that it's big.) I can guarantee you this will put a smile on someone's face.

// Buy it here //

4.) Monogrammed Throw

You can never have too many throws. I like the soft and fuzzy ones for cuddling... 

With my laptop. And Netflix.

Brownie points if you can get it monogrammed. 
// Buy them here //

5.) Coffee Cup/Thermos

For extra brownie points, fill it up a gift card to your friend's favorite coffee shop. You could even fill it with some Swiss Mix hot chocolate packets or some of those Starbucks Via's. 

// Buy it here //

6.) Soap/Lotion Set 

I like this gift for newly weds or people who just moved houses. I also think it's a perfect gift for grandmas because they just appreciate stuff like this, god knows why. I think everyone can appreciate a good soap/lotion set. Benefit: they think of you every time they use it!

// But it here //

7.) On-the-go Phone Charger

These used to be really expensive but now you can find them for like $20. I think people still think they're $50+ so you can just smile and nod while they exclaim "wow! You didn't have to!" because that's how much you love them. 

// Buy them here //

8.) Super Cozy Christmas Jammies

Throwing it back to Christmas Eve when you were a kid on this one. Every one needs a pair of super cozy Christmas jammies. It's just a necessary part of Christmas, okay? Best part is, you don't have to know your friend's exact size because they usually just come in XS, S, M, L, etc. Perfect for winging it.

//Buy them here // 
You don't necessarily have to get a onesie, but holy canoli I'd be so excited if I got one of these.

9.) Scarves

Scarves are awesome. I feel so European whenever I wear one. Best part about scarves is that they're so dang versatile. Target sells some super cute ones. Funny thing is, I think people always feel like they're not chic enough to wear a scarf or whatever. Give them that push and buy them one of these bad boys today!

// Buy it here //
If you're feeling wintery, you could do a scarf and mitten set. 

For extra brownie points, throw in some hand warmers!

10.) Personalized Stationery

Personalized anything is really such a nice touch. Besides, if you're on a budget this holiday season, just go to Invest in some nice paper, plop it in a nice box with a ribbon and call it a day (but you didn't hear that from me). 

// Get them here //


As I was finishing up this post, my cousin suggested I add a nice glass water bottle to the list. She's a genius! Totally something you wouldn't buy for yourself, but would be perfect as a gift. 

Thank you, Colleen. Find the same one here.

Well, that's it folks! Good luck and Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Things On My Mind

1. Shake it Off // 80's Style

Can we just talk about how perfect that this aerobics routine is for the song? I laughed pretty hard first time I saw it. But you know what the best part about the video is? It was made in 1989, which is the name of good ol' T-Swift's new album, incase you didn't know already. 

2. Audible

I've told you all before that I'm secretly a 40-year-old woman on the inside but holy crap this just brings it to a whole new level. I've been living at home this semester (more on that later) and I drive 45 minutes or so to my classes every day. Instead of just listening to the same songs over and over again on the radio, I've been listening to audiobooks. So, Audible is a monthly subscription service just like Birchbox or Ipsy. It's $15 a month which seems a bit pricy until I saw that the audio book price for what I'm currently reading is $90. (Which is a hellova lot overpriced, if you ask me.) I originally ordered the longest book to get the most out of my money (~40 hours long or so). It turned out to be a great investment, because I am soooooo obsessed with the series AND they're making a TV show on the book series! (More on that later, too.) Win-win for McKenna Lee.

3. Wayfare App

In second grade, we had pen pals somewhere in the Midwest or something. I thought it was THE coolest thing ever. (I wonder if I still have some of the letters?) I was watching the Today Show the otherday (seriously, this isn't the only thing I do, I swear) and there was this lady who was talking about this cool new app called Wayfare. So, basically, it's this app that connects you to a person somewhere on the planet, and you become each other's guides/penpals for the week. The app gives you photo challenges like "something that I look forward to everyday" or "a typical apartment/house in my town" or "something that I love to eat." It's pretty cool; although, sometimes the person you get connected to doesn't respond. It feels a little one-sided in that case. Good thing is that it's super duper easy to ditch that person and find someone who's actually interested in being a penpal! The whole shindig lasts for a week, and then you're matched with another person. The app is free, so there's really nothing to lose. Check it out!

4. How to Get Away with Murder

I watched the first couple of episodes and I wasn't super impressed. It felt like just another ABC drama that would be dragged out over several years even though it slowly went down in quality over the years... *cough* Grey's Anatomy *cough* Well, I'm addicted now, and I almost want to become a law student. Just almost.

// credit //
Actually, I just need to get myself a Frank. xoxoxoxox amiright? I may or may not have a soft spot for a little bit of scruff. 

5. Orphaned Otter Learns to Swim

This is just too adorable. I really want a baby otter. Otters have actually always been one of my favorite animals. They're just so FLUFFY. They're almost like aquatic bunnies that eat sea urchins and I just think that's the coolest, cutest, bestest thing ever. 

What has been on your mind lately?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Going to College Part 1: Surviving College App Season

I was watching the Today Show (I told you I'm a 50-year-old woman on the inside) the other day and Hoda and Kathie-Lee were interviewing a few admissions officers. I know it was supposed to be informative, but dayum, it was down right pissing me off.

The problem with the college admissions process is that there is a hellova lot nepotism and cheating going on. It's not fair. When I was a senior in high school and I was applying to colleges, I was so naive about the whole process. I had been dreaming about going to an Ivy since I was 10-years-old. I remember sending an email to my cousin when I was 9 or 10 asking if I should go to Stanford or Harvard. Ha! My brother is a senior in high school this year, and while he's definitely not applying to any Ivy's, I know just how stressful of a time it can be. I feel like so many people are on the cusp of a mini-mental breakdown, but they have to keep it inside because they feel like no one else can relate. High school is already super stressful. Add the college application process on top of it, and you've got one stressed person!

I've put this series together in the hope it might help some of you get through one of the most stressful parts of your lives. I was lucky because I had a buddy that was going through the same kind of stress (we even applied to a bunch of the same schools!) so I didn't feel like I was in the whole process by myself. Not everyone is so lucky.

Here's my go-to guide for applying to college in the least-stressful way possible! It can be done without a mental breakdown! I promise!

1. Create your "list"

I'm sure you've already done this if you're applying to college. If you already have, keep reading whilst I elaborate. If you haven't made your list of colleges you're going to apply to yet, holy canoli child, get to it! It's November and some due dates for apps have already passed. Most of them are January 1st or so. Don't freak out too much if you haven't, though. Do some research and create a list. DO IT NOW. Anyways, if you have, here's my advice: add three more schools to your list. Nothing is worse than being rejected from almost all of your choices (been there, done that!). Add one of each to your list: a reach, a match, and a safety. A reach school is a gamble, but having more reach schools increase your chances of getting into one of them. Match schools are less of a gamble. I got rejected from one of my best matches (like, what??). If all else fails, your safety will send you an acceptance. Even if you don't really think you'll go there, it's sooooo nice to have the option. It makes you feel less screwed over by the college process, I think. And who knows? You may go look at the campus and decide you actually really like the school. Besides, at the end of the day, it's just undergraduate. People care more about graduate and beyond, if that's the route you decide to take.

2. Keep on top of your due dates

I seriously cannot stress this enough. DO NOT wait until winter break to get started on those damn essays. You'll inevitably run into writers' block somewhere along the way and freak out because there's a deadline approaching and go to your room and cry from all of the stress. Don't do that. Besides, when you're stressed, your essay quality declines. Essays are so important because they give admissions a look into who you really are as a person. Start now if you haven't already. Work on the weekends. Do homework on Saturday, applications on Sunday. No rest for the wicked, eh?

3. Don't B.S. your essays

Seriously. Nothing is worse than having an essay that is sooooo clearly over-editted or completely fake. The best college essays are the ones that have your voice shine through. Are you a sarcastic person? Put some sarcasm in your essay. Have a way with puns? Put that in! Some essays are a little more serious, yes, but you can still let your voice in. That leads to another suggestion: don't let too many people edit your essays. You lose your voice everytime someone puts some "input" into your essay. Some input is good, yes, but beware of over-editted essays. Admissions officers care about what you have to say; not your parents. If the essay prompt is about something silly and ridiculous and in no way relates to your life, DO NOT B.S. it. Dig deep. Ask your parents for inspiration. They can tell when you're not being genuine and it affects your application. A lot. I know it sucks to work your behind off on some silly essay that practically determines your future when you don't even know if you'll get into that school or not. But, we've all been there. It doesn't seem fair at all, really. But you can do it. Pretend you're that little engine that could. "Yes, I can... Yes, I can.... Yes, I can..." Before you know it, you'll be done with them all, and you can sit back and (kind of) relax until decisions.

4. Send your transcripts, test scores, etc. EARLY

Stuff comes up. Schools sometimes don't get the things you send them. This happened to me with the University of Michigan and thank goodness they were kind enough to let me send them again after the due date had passed. Most schools aren't so kind. They have 20,000 + applications to get through and let me tell you -- you ain't a priority. One less application to go over. SEND THEM NOW. Okay? Okay. 

5. Don't get behind in school

College applications take up a ton of time. It's ridiculous. But don't slack off in school. Make sure you do your schoolwork first, then work on your application. If you start early enough, you can work a little bit at a time on them. You won't be stressed when the due date is in two days and you just have the basic information filled in. Easier said than done, obviously, but this is probably my most helpful advice. My grades first semester of senior year suffered from stress and too much work to do. I had a pretty bad concussion, too, which really sucked. Worst time possible for that to happen, but hey, it worked out alright for me. But seriously, guys. Keep on top of your schoolwork and don't let the senioritis get to you. It's real, I can assure you (I'm in college and I still think my senioritis never actually went away to a certain extent). Just don't let it get the best of you. Stay motivated. Your future matters more than going out with friends.

6. Take a mini vacation

Book a hotel room for a night. Don't bring any homework. Shut off your phone. Take your friend or your sister or your mom or whatever. It's important to give your mind a break from the stress of this semester. When you get back to reality, you'll feel refreshed, and have a better grip on how to deal with your to-do list. 

College app season sucks. A lot. It's quite possibly one of the most stressful things that you'll ever have to go through. There's nothing you can do to get rid of the stress, but there are ways that you can make it less of an impact on your everyday life. It's only one semester. It'll be over with in a blink. You can do it. I know you can.

Best of luck.

Any advice for dealing with College App Season?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Clinique 3 Step System || Review

After hearing nothing but greatness about it, I finally caved and bought the Clinique 3 Step Cleansing System. My mom used to work at Clinique when we was younger, and she used the 3 Step for years and years. Quite recently, my cousin bought it to try it out. So far, I think she likes it. (Of course, after I publish this post I suspect I'll get a text from her saying that she tossed the Clinique wash because it was making her breakout. Go figure.)

I've had some weird skin stuff in the past, so I was reluctant to try something new on my face. You know that Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser thing everyone raves about? The one that has won tons of beauty awards for being just generally awesome overall? The one that is probably the highest rated cleanser ever? Yeah, that one. I dealed out good $25 on the kit in hopes it would make my skin just as awesome as the reviews.

Ohhhhhhh far from it.

I must have been allergic to something in it because I had the worst breakout that I've had in years. Not fun. 

Since then, I've also found out that my random yucky breakouts were caused by a bacterial infection. (Yeah, I didn't know that could happen on faces, either.) And let me tell YOU -- that was an absolute JOY to fix. McKenna's tummy + antibiotics = :( tummy. Very, very :( tummy.

My skin is pretty much normal now. It's really not oily, nor is it really dry. It fits somewhere in between, although it tends to be a little bit on the sensitive side. I'm lucky in terms of that. I do get the occasional stress or hormonal breakout, but other than that, I've been one happy camper as far as my skin goes.

So, since my skin was feeling pretty happy again, I decided to change up my skin care routine. I'm nearing adulthood (yikes), and I know my skin is changing from its teenagery self. Funny how skin changes with time just like we do. (So deep.) I currently use the Bioré Charcoal Cleanser and some AcneFree wash that has Benzoyl Peroxide in it (best for bacterial breakouts). I bought the Clinique system because I was worried that all that salicylic acid/benzoyl peroxide stuff was unnecessary for my skin at the moment and I wanted to get something that was a little bit more gentle and a little bit more geared towards my skin type.

Voila! This happened.

Let me break it down for you. The Clinique 3 Step comes with a wash, a toner, and a lotion. Here's what I think of each of them so far:

1. The Cleanser

Very, very gentle. Like,  I-was-worried-that-it-wasn't-going-to-take-off-my-makeup kind of gentle. In fairness, I did have a good amount on yesterday. (The lady at the Clinique stand kindly did my whole face up with makeup after she tested the cleanser on my skin.) I used it again this morning and it worked so much better. It's for dry combination skin, which is awesome, because my face dries out from most cleansers! The toner did take off the bit of foundation still on my face after I rinsed off the cleanser, so never fear! 

2. The Toner

This is what makes my face feel clean. I like that it's still gentle. I used to use SeaBreeze astringent/toner and it really dried out my face if I used it too often. This is great because it takes off any stubborn makeup that the cleanser didn't get. It leaves my skin with that same feeling you get after you brush your teeth; minty, almost. I don't know how else to explain it! It's my favorite step of the whole process. 

3. The Moisturizer

The dramatically different moisturizing lotion (or DDML in Clinique talk) really does just that. For me, it's actually almost too moisturizing. My skin isn't really dry... but it isn't oily either? It's tricky when products are meant for either oily or dry skin. It's very light, but it's so moisturizing that it almost doesn't absorb all the way into my skin. It's a really nice base for makeup, but I'm not sure I like the almost greasy feeling I have on my face when I wake up in the mornings. If you have very dry skin, I can see how this would be perfect for you! Best part: even after I wash my face (before I put on moisturizer), it's still super, duper smooth. Like a baby's bottom. On your face. (That just got weird. Sorry.)

It has taken me almost a week to write this post. I'd write a paragraph or so and then get distracted with something else. (That's life, kids.) After a week of using this, no breakout! yayayayayyayayay *happy dance* *party music* *fireworks* *people explode out of giant cakes*

My skin has never looked better.

Have you tried the Clinique 3 Step system?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Voting & Stuff

Now here's something that really gets my goat.

(Wait, is that even the right saying?)

Every time Election Day rolls around, there are always those select few who announce that they're not voting. This annoys me on so many levels and I'll explain why.

Let's throw it back to the year 1776. The American Colonies were amidst one of the biggest bloodsheds in American history. I mean, seriously. It was pretty cray. People were dying left and right. Kids lost their fathers. Women lost their husbands. Parents lost their sons. And we all know just how fabulous 18th century medical care was. It wasn't just a musket wound that killed those men, no sir-ree! Many died an agonizing death from something as preventable as an infection. (Damn, what a bottle of Purell could've done back then...)

#tbt to the 18th century // credit

And WHY would they go through all of that?

Oh yeah. Because they wanted to give their descendants the freaking right to freaking vote. British government was kind of a control freak (probs just Type A personalities to the max). But we were having none of that. nope nope nope.

So despite all of that, we won. Pretty big deal.

'merica // credit

But, wait! That wasn't the end of it. Nope. No, it wasn't. For like the next 200 years or so, the country was run by rich old white men.

(Oh, lol, wait, it basically still is...)

The ladies were like, "Naw, man. We ain't havin' none of that." And they refused to give up their battle.

But dayum. Ladies like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton went through hell and back just to give women the same right to vote. They were jailed. They were tortured. They were starved. They were beaten. But some serious kudos to them, because here we are in 2014 and we are allowed to vote. So yeah, that's pretty cool and all.

Shoutout to my homegirl: LIZZY S-TON // credit
And through all of that, you're still too busy to vote? (Uh, hello, that's what mail-in ballots are for.) People on this planet, in 2014 (!!!!) no less, still don't have that right. *cough* China, North Korea, Russia *cough* Don't take your right for granted. 

In my area, there's a congressional race that will be decided from only a hand full of votes. Last time I checked, only nine (NINE!!!) votes separated them. Oh yeah, and don't forget the freaking presidential election of 2000 where the freaking president was decided by less than 2,000 votes. (Even though technically, Gore won by popular vote, but Bush won by electoral vote. America is weird, kids.) 2,000 people who decided not to vote for whatever reason. 

I'm really not a patriotic person. It just kills me that these people worked so hard for something so important but so many people just take it for granted. This country is a democracy, and it doesn't work unless you go out there and make yourself heard. 

Well, there you go. Stepping off my soapbox...

Your voice matters. Don't forget it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October Favorites

October Faves

Before I get started, can we please just talk about how October went by in the blink of an eye? Like DAMN. One second it's sunny and in the 90's then BAM it's 60-something and I'm sitting in my bed in fuzzy socks and my North Face jacket. I'm really not one of those people who love sweater. No, actually, I loathe sweater weather. When it's cold enough to wear sweaters, well, let's see, it's COLD. Who likes the cold anyways? Not me! No sir-ee

(Um, seriously, though. I literally changed colleges because it was too cold. In my defense, it's supposedly the second snowiest campus in the continental U.S., but hey. I'm not hatin' on you snow and cold weather lovers. Y'all go enjoy your frostbitten body parts and slipping on your behind on that ice. Imma stay back and enjoy my Vitamin D, thank you very much.)

1. J. Crew Factory

I always forget that J. Crew has a factory store website. Whenever I'm at an outlet mall, J.Crew is always the first place I go. Maybe I feel like factory stores should just be at outlet malls? Not online? Either way, J. Crew Factory has some amazing steals. The quality is just as awesome as J. Crew, but everything doesn't cost an arm and a leg, ya feel me? I'm trying to save my money for the holidays (trying being the key word), but there was an awesome sale a couple of weeks ago and I couldn't resist. I did buy some cotton v-necks for $10 each (see what I mean about great prices?!) just because you can never have too many of the basics. There are a couple of cute sweaters I have my eye on... Black Friday, Cyber Monday -- hurry up!!

2. Jack Rogers

I bought my first pair of Jacks this past summer in Florida. I wasn't really sure about them when I bought them. They're super popular in the South, but not so much where I live. Fast forward a few months and HOLY CRAP I'm in love. They're super cute, super comfortable, and -- oh, did I mention? -- SUPER CUTE. I have a blue pair and they go with everything. They're really easy to dress up or wear casual, too! I'm thinking about getting a second pair. They sell Jacks with monograms, and I'm totally in love with them, but I'm trying to convince myself not to buy them until it gets a little warmer. We'll see how that plan holds up...

3. Baby Lips Crystal

I know I've mentioned my love for Baby Lips' new product on here before, but oh my. My oh my oh my. I feel like my insides have a permanent layer of sparkle on them from wearing this on my lips so much. It's seriously THE perfect addition to your everyday makeup look, plus it's sooo moisturizing! I've always found with lip glosses and lip stains that my lips get dry from them. Definitely not the case with this bad boy. 


Ever since the World Series ended, I've had this sort of void in my life. I had been watching Giants games for what seemed nonstop for months and months. But now it's over. The best of all endings happened: the Giants won the freaking World Series. Words cannot explain how happy I am from that. Anyways, to fill this sudden hole in my life, I've been searching the interwebs for the cutest Giants apparel. Even if you're not really a big baseball person, I suggest buying some Giants gear anyways. People will think you're cool because your team is actually the best baseball team in the whole freaking country. "Gee," they'll think. "I really wish my team won." Yes. Yes, you do. Bummer.

5. Kate Spade

I'll preface by saying that I've been a fan of good ol' Kate Spade for quite some time now; however, I've just recently been enchanted with some of the new bags that have come out. They're classy; yet fashionable. They're designer; but affordable. They're retro; yet fresh. They had a mini Surprise Sale recently and it took ALL of my might to not buy anything. Just holding out for Cyber Monday/Black Friday now... A girl can never have too many purses, after all.


What are some of your favorite things from this month?