Back to school: The ultimate list of dorm essentials + the one item not to forget on move-in day!

Back to school shopping used to be one of my favorite parts of a new school year, as I’m sure it was for many people. A particularly fun year was before my freshman year of college. The items on your back-to-school shopping list were more than just clothes, notebooks and new pens, but also bedding, kitchen items, and even some furniture. While this list seems exciting, it can also be overwhelming with the amount of choices in stores like Target, Walmart, and Bed Bath and Beyond.

As a college student who lived in 4 separate forms of housing, as well as a 2 year NYC apartment veteran, I have learned through trial and error what the best products are and where to buy them.

My advice here is to not be to concerned about matching everything your roommate has, as that seems unnecessary to me. You should pick what you want it to look like and maybe it can compliment your roommate’s vision.

My other tip is that not everything needs to be totally instagram-worthy. Definitely get cute items if you like them, but I don’t think spending outrageous amounts of money on dorm items is the best choice, as they can tend to get ruined or just worn out after a few years! I personally splurged on my bedding and kept everything else simple.

Without further ado, here are my dorm essential picks!

Bedding Essentials

Cute and functional duvet and shams

Lilly Pulitzer for PB Teen Duvet and Shams in Orchid Border and Elephant Bazaar

My bedding that I used all 4 years of college was from the Lilly Pulitzer for Garnet Hill Collection, which I loved! Unfortunately, that’s no longer available, but Pottery Barn came out with a new collection last year which has a whole bunch of awesome bedding and furniture. My sister actually has the Elephant Bazaar in her dorm currently, and we have the Orchid Border with the Bolster Pom Pom Pillows in the twin bedroom in my house on Martha’s Vineyard!

A duvet insert

Naturally, a duvet means you need a duvet insert. I had a microfiber one as opposed to down, because its less expensive, but also just in case of spills or who knows what. Down is not the easiest to dry or clean.

A comfy mattress topper

This is the same mattress topper that I had, which seems expensive but I knew I would have a twin XL bed for at least 3 years. It was also SO comfortable, I had the best bed and my friends would even come over to sit on my bed!

The ultimate mattress protector

The same exact mattress protector I had, which protects from everything you could possibly think of. I truly don’t think another one is worth the money!

Neutral sheets and pillowcases

I kept it very simple with a jersey cotton sheet set! The set won’t break the bank, are easy to throw in the wash, and are super comfortable. I still have these type of sheets at my apartment!

A body pillow

My roommate and I both had our beds against the walls, which obviously meant each of us had a cement block wall next to our beds. We both had body pillows to help us from not touching the often cold, cinder block wall. I had a fun, furry one which made my bed extra cozy and Morgan had a monogrammed body pillow!

A cozy blanket

My boyfriend and I are all about the cozy blankets! He got me this one from Walmart before I moved into my new apartment, and it was the perfect gift to match my bedding! In college, I had a similar white one that I folded at the end of my bed.

Headboard pillow

I didn’t have a headboard at first in my dorm, until I found a piece that goes on like a headboard that someone left in the hall after de-bunking their bed. I got lucky there, but I wished I had a cushier head board instead of the ugly brown wooden one. This pillow headboard would have covered the ugly brown one, I wish I knew about these sooner! Here is another pillow headboard from BB&B!

Bath and Laundry

Towels and washcloths

Having a few extra clean towels is always a good idea, so I’ve linked these towels from Target, which are plain but useful. I picked up these ones as hand towels for my current apartment when we moved in because there is a Target right near us! Here are some options from Walmart and Bed Bath and Beyond as well.

A simple shower caddy

Nothing screams college dorm more than a shower caddy, right? I had this exact same one from Bed Bath and Beyond my freshman year, and you really don’t need anything fancier than this. They now even have phone pockets?! This has me cracking up, but I guess it is smart just in case someone accidentally locks you out of the room when you are in the shower! Here are some other shower caddy options from Amazon, Target and Walmart. I have recommended all mesh versions, because you don’t want to have something else to clean, and these don’t retain water, so theres no mold involved!

A sturdy hamper

I got a hamper on a HomeGoods run with my mom before college, and I still have it to this day! While it held up pretty well, it has really started to breakdown recently. I love it so much I just keep it to put my dirty jeans in. I replaced that with a hamper that has separate sections for whites, darks, and colors, which I’m a big fan of since I am a laundry sorting stickler. However, in a dorm you probably want something a little smaller, so here are some options from Bed Bath and Beyond, Amazon, Target and Walmart.

Storage and other items

Bedside table

This cart from Target is cute for using as surface space, as well as storage. It’s always great to have spaces to put things so they are not in the way in such a small space! Sterilite drawers also are great for extra storage and some surface space near your bed.

Extra drawers

If you are anything like me, you’ll probably need more than the 3 drawers that the school gives you in your dorm furniture. I got some easily movable Sterilite plastic drawers  that I actually packed some of my clothes in for the move. It made it easy to move limited items but it was pretty heavy! Here are Target and BB&B options as well.

Lamp

Absolutely necessary in my opinion! The lighting in dorms is typically very institutional. In other words, it’s not very good. I loved doing work in bed, so a lamp was great to either turn on with the lights off or just for some extra lighting! I still have this classic, plain Target lamp. Similar options from Bed Bath and Beyond, as well as Walmart.

Over-the-door hooks

These will come in handy on both the door too the room, as well as on the closet doors! I found the more hooks, the better. Here are options from Target (with a basket on top!), Walmart and BB&B (also has a towel bar — perfect!).

Under bed bins

Bins under your bed are a great way to store extra clothes, as well as baskets for snacks, cleaning supplies, or bags!

Trunk

I just think that a trunk is a quintessential going off to college item! I had a green trunk that my mom bought for me years ago from Bed Bath and Beyond, and I brought it to college with me. My sister ended up getting one too, just because its so cute! It also doubles as storage, so although it took up a lot of room in my little dorm room, I made space! While they are on the expensive side, I have linked a few different options from Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Pottery Barn, and Amazon.

Decorations

Fairy lights

Soft fairy lights add another nice form of lighting, as well as decoration to a dorm room or apartment. These photo clip lights are also perfect for polaroids! *buys for apartment*

Cork boards & letter boards

As you can see from my freshman year dorm photos, cork boards were the move (I had these tile ones). Letter boards came into the game later, and they are so cute!

Frames

Cute frames can also make your dorm feel more home-y, whether they are for family/friend photos or even fun prints (like my favorites from Evelyn Henson!). Frames from Target, Walmart and Amazon linked here! My wall frames pictured here are the ones linked from Amazon, which were inexpensive and look great on a white wall.

Acrylic organizers

Perfect to keep on that institutional desk that you can’t get rid of! I loved having these to just hold my little things and get them out of the way, all in one place. They look put together and they can be for more than just makeup/beauty items. I just picked up a new one from Target, and had this one in college, plus here is another one of my favorites!

Essential Oil Diffuser

This is the perfect item to help you destress when you are in your dorm room. You can get relaxing essential oils and mix them together to create great scents! Also great because you can’t have candles in dorm rooms. (I did and I always forgot to hide them and would have to get my room inspected lol) Linked from BB&B, Walmart, Target and Amazon!

Hanging aids

Command hooks, strips and Scotch mounting putty and mounting tape are king in a temporary space. The best way to hang up photos, lights and hooks are command brand! That way when you leave the room you wont get charged for damages. These command clips are also great for hanging lights on the wall!

The one item not to forget for move-in day

A great pair of scissors

Honestly, my friend’s mom got me this exact pair of Scotch scissors right before I moved in and thank god she did! These were being used throughout the entire move in and I kept them in my desk drawers, so they were easily accessible. They got a ton of use, and I feel like they are a very forgotten tool, especially on move-in day when you need them the most! DON’T FORGET THESE!

 

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Game of Thrones Premiere & Cheese Board Debut

Who watched the GOT season 8 premiere Sunday night?! I was so excited for it, and the episode didn’t disappoint. I watched the season 7 finale right before, and I forgot just how action packed it was. Watching that made me so pumped for season 8. I can’t wait to find out who ends up on the iron throne, but I’m sad that some of my favorite characters could face death! ):

Anyway, I had a few friends over for the premiere, so naturally as an entertainer and someone who just purchased a new cheese board, I had to make up a cheese plate for the watch party.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I picked up this marble cheese board with a golden pineapple detail about a week ago. The board came in the mail and I immediately felt the need to buy a bunch of cheese and invite people over, then I realized that the GOT premiere was the perfect time to break out both!

I picked up most of the items from good ole Trader Joe’s (there is one right around the corner from my office, and it’s never too packed, truly a blessing). I got some Cotswolds cheese, double cream gouda, herbed goat cheese, and Dubliner cheddar. For fun other cheese plate items, I used truffle marcona almonds, bread and butter pickles, pita crisps, cornbread crackers (all from Trader Joe’s), shelled pistachios, and some cucumber and orange pepper cut up.

It was all very delicious and extremely filling! I would definitely recommend getting and making a cheese plate for entertaining, as it was the highlight of the night (other than the episode, obviously).

Happy eating! xx

Taking my Bar Cart to the Next Level!

Bar carts are so fun and versatile. They are a great place to store things in a small apartment, and they also can be dressed up for fun!

This One Kings Lane bar cart was a recommendation from Amy of amybelievesinpink, which my mom bought last year on sale. She decided it was not what she wanted for our house in Martha’s Vineyard, so she decided to give it to me for my new apartment! While this bar cart is certainly different, and more of a statement piece, I actually love it in our apartment. It really adds something to our very neutral look, and is the perfect size to hold all of our alcohol and fun cups!

I have been wanted to upgrade my bar cart in some way, adding something fun to it that would go with the summery feeling this cart already gives from the turquoise color and the bamboo material.

I finally found the perfect items to do so! The first item is this marble cheese board with a gold pineapple detail. This marble cheese board can serve as just a tray that we keep on the bar cart, or exactly what it’s meant for when we have guests over. The second item that will really spruce up the bar cart are these gold pineapple marble coasters! These will really help preserve our table and bar cart from rings and liquid stains, while also feeling cute and summery.

I have had my eye on these items for a while, and the coasters are 20% off right now. The cheese board is also on sale, however today you can get one Williams-Sonoma item 20% off with free shipping on your order by using the code “SPRING” at checkout! I already placed my order and I am so excited to use these.

Quick Super Bowl appetizer: The best buffalo chicken dip recipe

I was born on Super Bowl Sunday 24 years ago! As a Super Bowl baby, I am always amped up for the day (especially when the Patriots are playing).

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I love all the fun recipes that come with the day, as many of them are foods you would never eat otherwise. Many of them are ridiculous, over-the-top foods that also require a lot of prep and cook time. This buffalo chicken dip is a quick, simple recipe that is equal parts easy and delicious!

Truth be told, I usually slightly follow Frank’s Red Hot Recipe for temperature and measurements, but I tend to add my own flair too it.

The Recipe:

2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken. I use the meat of 1 rotisserie chicken, I usually cut the breasts with a knife and measure it out to 2 cups.

8 oz of cream cheese. I usually use low fat cream cheese, and I let it soften up a bit first.

1/2 cup of Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce. This is KEY. The regular hot sauce also works, however I love to use the buffalo wing sauce from Frank’s, it’s the best.

1/2 cup ranch dressing. I repeat, ranch, not bleu cheese.

1/2 cup of your preferred shredded cheese. Frank’s calls for bleu cheese crumbles, but I personally prefer shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. I mix 1/2 cup in with the cream cheese, buffalo sauce, ranch, chicken mixture, as well as some for melting on top.

Scallions (for garnish).

Pre-heat oven to 350° F, place mixture in a shallow baking dish of choice. Bake for 20 mins. Serve with pretzel/pita/tortilla, bread, veggies, or really whatever you prefer!

Frank’s recipe recommends to mix up the dip after it is warmed, however I think it is best with the meaty cheese top and fresh scallion garnish!

Happy Super Bowl and GO PATS!!

Tips for the first semester of college

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If you’re reading this, chances are you have yet to head off to college. Whether it be in 2 weeks or 2 years, it’s good to know that going to college is awesome, but tough. It’s tough to leave behind your home, family, friends and everything that is familiar to you. While adjusting is easier for some people than others, social media has definitely played a role in the adjustment to college life. Many people feel like they should be having the time of their life from the minute they get on campus, and often try to portray that on social media, even if that’s not exactly the truth.

The truth is that EVERYONE has a hard time at first, no matter how much fun it looks like their having, or how many friends it seems like they have made. I had such a hard time adjusting, and I’m the first to admit it. I thought I hated school at first, but then I realized that I was making friends and having a good time. Suddenly, I didn’t hate it anymore, and I regret every second I was miserable because that’s time I could’ve been enjoying myself at my favorite place in the world.

Getting used to college life is difficult at first, so here are some tips to make it easier!

Be open to any and all friends

College is an excellent opportunity to make some new and awesome friends. There are so many new people to meet, so go out and meet them! Everyone is in the same boat when they get to school, and usually everyone is open to making friends with whoever they meet. Even if you don’t become best friends with the first people you meet, it’s great to have people to say hi too around a campus.

Walk around/off-campus

Walking around is a great way to get to know the place you’re living and studying at for the next 4 years. Explore all the buildings and facilities, so you’ll have some knowledge when a class is in an obscure building or that they actually have racquets for the raquetball courts. Checking out your local surroundings is helpful too. The coffee shop downtown could be a great place to study during finals when the library is packed.

Take every opportunity

If someone invites you to eat lunch with them in the dining hall, do it. If someone asks you to play on an intramural team even though you aren’t athletic, show up. If someone invites you to go to a speaker on campus, go. Something as simple as a walk around campus can help you learn something new.

Keep yourself busy

The first couple of months are the hardest, and sitting around in your room is not going to make you feel any better. Someone told me to keep myself busy in the beginning and I totally wrote it off. To this day, this is my main piece of advice. If you are busy, you totally forget about being sad or missing home! Hang with friends, make plans, study at the library, grab a coffee, go to the dining hall, hit the gym. These are all things you can do to keep yourself busy that will take your mind off of things.

Surround yourself with other people

A bit different than being open to new friends, although still encouraging social interaction. You can’t be sad when you are talking to new people and learning new things about them, as well as sharing information about yourself! This could be your next door neighbor, your RA, a professor at office hours, or even people in the lounge in your dorm.

Be yourself

There’s no need to change who you are to please other people. You’ll meet the people who like you for who you are. It might take a bit of time, but those people are out there. If you are always unapologetically yourself, you’ll find your people.

Have a great time, don’t forget about school work

Going out with your friends on a Thursday night is perfectly fine. Just make sure you don’t have a test on Friday morning or homework you haven’t done for an 8am class. Believe it or not SOME (not all) jobs do ask for your GPA after college and grad schools want to see your transcripts. I’m all for going out, partying and having a fun time, although getting recognized for your academic achievements also feels great!

While a lot of these tips have common themes, such as being social and keeping yourself busy, they all will make a huge difference. You can make it through the hardest part of college with ease, as long as you put yourself out there even a little bit. Good luck and go kill it!

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Products I’m Loving Right Now

While waiting to meet some friends for dinner recently, I stopped in to blue mercury to kill some time. I’m always looking for masks or creams to help clear my skin of blemishes and impurities. Here I picked up a few products that I really like, so I wanted to share a few other products I have been impressed with! From skin care to home fragrances, these products are on my list of necessities.

Mario Badescu, Cucumber Tonic Mask, $18

This mask is amazing, and I would be honest if I thought otherwise. I have used many different skin care products over the years, and I see visible results from this mask. I noticed that my skin appeared to be tighter and my pores cleared of impurities. 10/10 would recommend to those with blackheads and/or acne. I have fairly sensitive skin and this hasn’t irritated it at all.

Renee RouleauPost-Breakout Fading Gel, $38.50

This stuff is pricey, but worth it in my opinion. I ordered this product to meet the shipping minimum and this product has really impressed me. I see visible results after daily application, which is some what of a unicorn in the skincare world.

Renee RouleauAnti-Cyst Treatment, $45.50

PSA– this is a lifesaver. Last week, I felt a cystic blemish appearing on my face. I don’t get them super often, but when I do they are usually large, red and painful. For years I would get this cystic acne and be in the dermatologist’s office getting cortisone shots to make them go down. This stuff works like a charm, I put it on the cystic pimple I saw felt on my face last week and its gone after 2-3 applications. I’m considering switching all my facial skin care products over to Renee Rouleau products.

Bath & Body Works, Bondi Beach Single Wick Candle, $14.50

I stumbled into Bath & Body Works a few weekends ago. I’m a sucker for these deals and for scented candles. This candle smells like summer, in a banana-flavored sunscreen kind of way. The smell is so great and it makes me feel relaxed when I’m trying to wind down at night.

Fresh,  Hesperides Grapefruit Eau de Parfum, $25

My second blue mercury pick up; this scent is light and smells exactly like grapefruit, not one bit artificial. Rollerballs have become a favorite of mine just for the convenience of them. I carry this around in my purse just in case I need to freshen up.

Glossier,  Lidstar, $30 for 2

Personally, I’ve never really been “into” makeup. I like mascara and a BB cream to cover my face, but I never really ventured much into eyeshadows other than a neutral palette from the drug store. These cream eye shadows are all parts glittery and easy to apply. Simple, but effective.

All of these are relatively affordable as well as available online, so feel free to try some and let me know what you think!

 

Tips for Finding an Apartment in NYC

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Every summer, recent college grads flock to New York City, often for a new job at a flashy big company or promising start-up. After graduating from Fairfield last spring, I also applied to many a job in New York. I even started looking at apartments before I was employed, as one of my roommates started working a month earlier than I did. While I didn’t have a job, I was determined to get one in New York, and looking for that apartment early made all the difference.

We didn’t have a very good plan when we started to look at first and that was crucial. I was still living at home and I had to come to NYC on multiple occasions to look at certain apartments we randomly looked up on StreetEasy. Thankfully, we decided to wait another month for the move-in date. More research and more walking around New York, looking at apartments was very helpful.

Here are my tips for successfully finding an apartment:

Make a budget

Luckily, my roommates and I were mostly on the same page budget wise. We had said things like “we’d be willing to pay $100 more a month for a super and a washing machine in unit.” Also, beware of the “net prices” of apartments. It sounds like a good deal and the one month rent-free was nice, but I still have to cough up the extra money every month.

Make a list of necessities

In addition to your budget, this list can have things like laundry in the building, doorman, live-in super, close to restaurants or grocery stores, gyms, etc. My friends had a list that also said things like “Can you hear the traffic from outside?” “Is it on the ground floor?” “Does the building have a history of rats/roaches?” (Unless it’s brand new, they all do).

Do research/ take a walk/look around different neighborhoods

When we first looked we stayed at a friends apartment in Lenox Hill, so we looked around that area. My roommate’s sister lived in the East Village, so we also looked around there. I didn’t really know what neighborhood I wanted to be in, but after a whole day of looking around two specific areas, I realized there were many more places to look. We found a decent place with many of our list items checked off in Murray Hill.

Look on StreetEasy or contact a broker

While the photos and information may not always be accurate, this site is a helpful tool. I literally found the apartment we currently live in on StreetEasy and while it’s small and has its moments, its a pretty decent spot with no fees. We also had gotten in touch with a broker from a friend, and she gave us some helpful information. We didn’t end up meeting with or seeing apartments with the broker, which is definitely a good way to save money.

Give yourself time, but don’t be afraid to jump on an opportunity

Time is essential for finding the perfect apartment. While these apartments come and go, its necessary to look around and find areas that you like, in your price range, with your list of wants and needs. We did look for awhile, but I’m glad we did wait to look at more apartments in different areas with an organized plan. (Spreadsheets are helpful as well!) However, don’t be afraid to jump on an opportunity if it feels right. An apartment in our friend’s building with HUGE rooms and closets, a big living space, all the bells and whistles really went literally within hours. We looked, we loved it, we decided to look at others, and by the time we called to put down a deposit, the apartment was already taken. If you love it, don’t hesitate, especially if it checks all the boxes.

Thanks for reading and good luck with the apartment search! Please leave feedback and/or questions in the comments below.