February Favorites

If you follow my @RefinedRedheadBlog Instagram account, you know what this blog post is all about. If not, (1) go give it a follow and (2) let me enlighten you — I decided to start doing a monthly ‘favorites’ post after creating a poll for my Instagram followers to take part in. The monthly recap will overview some of the clothing items and home items I bought over the course of the previous four weeks, new discoveries (local restaurants, products, etc.), and/or tips in one convenient location.

Starting with this sleek navy and red polka dot wrap dress I found at TJ Maxx! Best news? It’s still available online for purchase and it comes in two different colors…can you say ‘winning’? I struggle with finding moderate, trendy work dresses that come in my size without having to pay $30-$40 extra in alterations. With that being said, I was elated to discover this dress fit like a glove when I tried it on // I’m 5’5″ and wearing an XS

SHOP:Polka Dot Faux Wrap Dress by Catherine Malandrino from TJ Maxx for $24.99 in black and white AND here in navy and red (as pictured)

Let’s face it — I periodically get oil zits that blatantly stink unless you catch them early. They are a nuance, undeniably painful and bright red and are extremely hard to cover up with make-up! My trick for these and any blemish that arises is (1) rub it with an ice cube for a bit (2) apply tea tree oil. You can buy tea tree oil at any local drug store, The Body Shop brand pictured below is from Ulta, only $10! The Body Shop brand also has face wash, toning cleanser, lotion, and masks.Then, there’s my allout camo workout gear I discovered at TJ Maxx this month! They’re from Jessica Simpson’s “The Warm-Up” line and I’m obsessed. The leggings have ripped out spots that stretch along the thigh and knee area with mesh lining underneath and the sports bra has a criss crossed back that’s too fun to pass up! Unfortunately, I was unable to still find the items online, but you may still be able to find them in store (not pictured, a matching jacket). Similar camo leggings: HERE!Next up on the favorites list from this month…

If you live in or around Madison, you need to hit up Saints Juice Company. They’re located on Williamson Street, making a variety of fresh, natural juices on the daily with NO ADDED SUGAR. Repeat, no added sugar. So far, my favorites are the Exorcist (lemon, activated charcoal, agave, and filtered water) — great for detoxing, and the Prophe-See (carrot, apple, lemon, and ginger) sweet, but tart and full of vitamins and antioxidants!In the midst of shopping for a coworker’s birthday outfit, I came across this $7 clearance sweater find at H&M! Pro-shopping tip: stores are currently switching out winter merchandise for Spring items. With that being said, it’s a great time to snag sweaters, long sleeved tops, and even jackets at a discounted price to save for next Winter!I also bought an “I Am The Storm” tank top, supporting the ever so inspiring and outspoken, Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan in the midst of the news regarding the precious Miss America Organization’s leadership and the atrocious comments made about Hagan and other motivated, determined, compassionate women during their reigns. The fact of the matter? There’s no stopping a group of driven, accomplished, talented women on a mission to make a difference; there’s no weathering the storm. You can buy your own tank, t-shirt, or sweatshirt and support the cause (and scholarship) too! #MissAmericaStrong  #IAmTheStorm

Finally, I snatched some bright, floral Threshold throw pillows for my couch at Target this past week. About a month ago I found large white Ralph Lauren pillows at HomeGoods and got those as a ‘base’ knowing I could add different accent pillows to them to correspond with the season and/or holiday. Aren’t they cute?! // Shop floral Threshold Pillows from Target, $19.99.Here’s to hoping the weather in Wisconsin depicts the brightness and life these pillows exude sooner rather than later! Happy March my friends!


Rose Gold + Marble Bathroom Decor

The recent blush and rose gold craze has caught up with me. Which is somewhat shocking because for years I was someone who despised pink and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I decided a long time ago upon moving to a new, single bedroom apartment I wanted a white ruffled shower curtain (which I’ve loved the look of for quite some time) and that I’d choose other items around that.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that I discovered while shopping for some of these items. I have the Target app on my phone and pretty frequently browse items, favorite them, and/or place them in my cart. So when I went to Target after finding an apartment and was searching for some of these canisters and bath accessories that were in my cart on my app, I realized that my location services had discovered exactly what store I was at in Fitchburg and showed me what aisle the items were in that I needed. It also showed me when the item couldn’t be found in the store and how soon it would arrive if I ordered it online. Come on, that’s a “all hail technology” moment in my book!The room scent I have in my bathroom is Almond from Bath and Body Works which I oddly enough fell in love with while working a painting job with my Aunt at someone’s home this fall. I have the almond wall plug-in adjacent from my counter and the candle placed in a rose gold holder on the back of my toilet. Shop Almond 3-Wick Bath and Body Works Candle HERE // On sale right now for $12.95. Note, it is currently in a different, darker design than pictured.

Almond CandleTo accent my floating shelves, I purchased two of these small, contemporary white vases for $4.99 a piece from Hobby Lobby and light pink flowers that I cut down and arranged inside. Placed next to my favorite Amber & Argan body lotion from Bath and Body Works and almond room spray. Questions or comments? Post below and let me know what you think!

Living Up to the Golden Year // 25


Thursday kicked off my weekend a little early as it marked my 25th Golden Birthday. Now to give this some context, the last year was a grind mentally and emotionally for a number of reasons which I’ve alluded to in a previous blog post (GIVE IT A READ: Hey 2017, Thanks for the Life Lessonsand the past couple birthdays were consumed with long work days and minor celebrations; so I wanted to make sure I made this one special.  When I arrived at the office Thursday morning, I was greeted by coworkers who had lit cupcakes on my desk and began singing to me (actually put me into tears). After a busy day at work and a lunch date for sushi with a friend, a number of close friends and coworkers joined me for dinner at the Great Dane and then a portion of us went to Russell Dickerson at the Majestic Theatre in Madison. If you enjoy country music and have yet to see him, I would highly recommend you check him out ASAP — he’s absolutely incredible in concert.

My blush, bell sleeve top is from Forever 21! I can’t seem to find this exact top online, but they have a ton of mauve and blush bell sleeve styled tops in store and online for you to choose from. I can’t seem to get enough of blush tones right now.

SHOP THIS: Crisscross-Back Mini Dress from Forever 21 for $12.90

(comes in purple and white, I snagged it on sale in store for only $5!)Saturday, January 27th

I made the trek to Elkhorn for the evening a friend of mine, Malainey, dropping my vehicle off midway at a park and ride and jumping in the car with her. We decided it was a wiser decision rather having me drive two hours to Racine and two hours back to Madison after the pageant (not knowing when it would get done…a wise choice in retrospect considering the show finished around 10:30 and I was completely drained). Shout out to Chelsey for a wonderful, fun, and fitting opening number to “Umbrella” by Rihanna referencing the “#IAmTheStorm” frenzy surrounding the Miss America Organization, the mentality that we will weather whatever obstacles are thrown toward this program, and the fact that we, as a smaller pageant family in Wisconsin lost a mentor and longtime volunteer all too soon this year.

Casually recreating Savvy Shields and Nate’s engagement photo, no big deal. I’d say we got pretty dang close, what do you think? #PageantLove #TheSisterhoodIsStrong

Congratulations to Kylie Thompson, your new Miss Southern Lakes 2018 and my girl Haley Schonter for finishing as 1st Runner-Up! Also, congrats to Jennifer Schmidt, my fellow redhead for capturing her hometown title of Miss Racine 2018! I look forward to seeing what both of you accomplish with your years of service.

SHOP THIS WHITE BELL SLEEVED JACKET: Trumpet-Sleeve Jacket from Forever 21

Sunday, January 28th

Somehow, Malainey and I both forgot she had a 5K race to run this morning so naturally, I joined her. On only 3(ish) hours of sleep AND NO COFFEE we jumped in the car at 7:30 a.m. and were off to Hartford to run the “Conquer the Cold” portion of her winter running series through Lighthouse Events. It was cold, not going to lie. However, it was a gratifying feeling to jump back into ‘race mode’ after not running any race since my last half marathon in May.

Post race, we searched for the nearest Starbucks before she drove me to my car and I jumped back on the road and headed back to Madison in an attempt to beat my family to my apartment. I wrapped up the weekend taking my dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law, grandma, and brothers to Liliana’s in Fitchburg; a restaurant whose New Orleans cuisine closely tastes like one of our favorite restaurants in La Crosse, Buzzard Billy’s (but way better…yes, that’s possible).

My heart is so full and my body is oh so tired my friends, 25 is exhausting! Thank you all again for your kind comments, messages, phone calls, and gestures; I am undeniably very lucky to have so many incredible people in my life. Here’s to ensuring this year lives up to the ‘golden’ expectations!



DIY: Farmhouse Coffee Table

I’ve said it countless times, society should throw ‘welcome to real life’ showers when students graduate from college. You know, like a baby shower or more so a wedding shower. Makes sense, right? At that point in their life, they’re even more broke than they were upon graduating high school and by far, way more responsible in terms of dealing with copious amounts of money in a proper way. Not to mention, chances are they don’t have a lot of nice, quality home items when they’re fresh out of school.

Instead, young adults scrape what little income they have as they transition into a full-time job toward paying bills, debt, and attempting to buy home various items and better yet, decent furniture. For the past few years I have desolately wanted a farmhouse coffee table, but they range anywhere from $200 up to $600 (or more) and then the issue of shipping fees comes into play if it’s not close to you. So after admiring tables and pinning multiple finished products and vague DIY articles on Pinterest, I convinced my brother to help me make my own.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • (4) 8 ft. 2 x 4s
  • Miter or Table Saw — or know your measurements before leaving the store and have personnel at Home Depot or Lowe’s cut the 2 x 4s for you!
  • Multiple sheets of sandpaper (100 and 200 grade quality)
  • Wood yard stakes (for cross x’s on the sides of the table)
  • A caulk gun
  • An electric screwdriver and screws
  • A hammer

We started by measuring out and cutting the lower frame and screwing the boards together. It measures 16 inches wide by 51 long (just over 4 ft. long). Obviously, these can be adjusted to fit your space and furniture as you please — whether that be making it a little smaller or larger. In fact, we were following DIY instructions I found on Pinterest and found it necessary to make a smaller version of the table depicted in those instructions.

We then cut the legs and screwed them into the base frame at an angle from the inside as to hide the screws to the best of our ability, making them 19 inches tall. From there, we cut and secured a top frame alongside the legs, securing the long boards before the sides and adding a small 2×4 in the middle for reinforcement. The crisscrosses on the side of the table are in fact yard stakes cut into one another, nailed, and secured with Gorilla Glue for extra stability.After the frame was all nailed and screwed together, I took sheets of sandpaper and sanded down all the seams and edges of the wood as to smooth them over. Upon brushing off the sawdust, I used the caulk gun to cover some deep holes left by the screws and wide cracks from the boards and smoothed them out with my finger (keep a wet towel nearby to wipe your hands on). After allowing that to dry overnight, touching up as needed, and sanding down excess dried caulk, I primed the table and then painted it with Breakthrough paint in white. Best of luck!

Click here for more step-by-step instructions for your own DIY Chunky Farmhouse Table

Click here for another DIY Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table tutorial 

Goodbye resolutions, hello attainable goals

When I hear the term “resolution” I immediately think of a drastic change that takes a lengthy period of time to accomplish, anyone with me? In the dictionary the true definition of the word is as follows…ResolutionIt sounds great in theory, right? Oh, here is my list of New Year’s resolutions … “New Year, New Me” or perhaps, “This is my year! The best is yet to come!” And while the optimism and determination that follow these ambitious statements and goals are sincerely admirable, in reality, the tasks are daunting and many times, too vast for you to truly conquer without a strategic plan. Last year I made resolutions to save more money, pay off my credit card bill, and read 17 books in 2017 (just some of the numerous resolutions I set). Now mind you, these are the top point of my resolutions that I’m sharing with you and they don’t include the step-by-step goals I wrote down in order to reach those goals — or didn’t write down which is why some of them failed. Mind you, it’s human nature to crave segmentation when it comes to ultimately achieving a goal. Afterall, you’re not just going to say “I’m going to run a marathon,” and then go out and run it successfully without taking the necessary, small steps (no pun intended) and conscious dietary measures in order to get in shape for the event. Without those strategically thought out tasks, you’d most likely fail or severely injure yourself and if not, congratulations you’re far and few in between. So why do you care? Chances are you’re not gearing up to crush a full marathon in 2018 and trust me, neither am I. My point with this analogy is that you essentially can’t accomplish any resolution without setting small goals.

First off, let’s ixnay the term “resolution” all together and focus on attainable goals. If you’ve already set or written goals for the New Year, let’s make them more specific and if you’re like me and you’re finally getting around to setting those goals — let’s GET TO IT. Start by reflecting on the previous 365. What made you happy? What moments were rather difficult to you? What elements of your previous life chapter would you like to see change?

Only YOU possess the power to change circumstances in your life. Sitting back and wondering what could’ve happened or dreaming about what you want only gets you so far; you must take action. I know, you’re probably asking yourself, “Tia, how do I do this?”  Start by writing down all of your goals for 2018 and then make a conscious effort to break each one of them down further and sort out what monthly, weekly, and daily steps you need to take to accomplish that goal. For example, one of my looming goals is to drink more water. In order to ensure I’m taking daily action towards accomplishing this, I downloaded an app called “My Water” that allows me to plug in my gender and gender and type in how many ounces I’ve consumed. It also sends me notifications if I need to pick more water // BOOM accountability! If there’s not an app that allows you to follow-through with your goals, try creating a chart that you can physically print out and post somewhere inside your home (inside a kitchen cabinet for dietary goals, inside a closet door for lifestyle changes, etc.) ; this tactic allows you the capability to gain the satisfaction of checking items off while keeping track of your progress. Here are my overarching personal goals for this year…My personal goals for 2018Obviously, this list doesn’t include work goals, items I plan to purchase (a new laptop, a new vehicle, an entertainment center for my living room, etc.), or events I hope to attend; more or less a bucket list style format — those all have their own lists because I’m just extra like that.

Wishing you nothing but the best in 2018,


Hey 2017, Thanks for the Life Lessons

Let’s cut right to the chase…

For quite some time, I’ve continuously stated how eager I was to kiss 2017 goodbye and begin a New Year. The truth is, this time last year was extremely difficult for me mentally and emotionally as I tried to cope with changes in personal relationships with people I deeply cared about and considered a big part of my life and an overwhelming desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to accomplish long-term dreams and goals. There were parts of the past 365 days that absolutely stunk (for a lack of better words) and it’s very easy to become enthralled in those negative moments; overthinking what we did wrong and questioning how we could’ve possibly changed the situation — all while dwelling on the past. For instance, seven years of passion, hard work, and literal blood, sweat, and tears culminated to me finishing as 1st Runner-Up to Miss Wisconsin 2017 in Oshkosh in June of this year. And while countless people were quick to congratulate me on my devotion to the program over the years and accomplishments at state (which I am and forever will be appreciative of), those who know me well had quite a different approach. I remember returning to work the week following the competition when one of my coworkers called me into the conference room. He said, “None of us know what to say. We know how hard you worked to prepare for this and we know this isn’t the outcome you wanted,” he went on to express that despite how proud of me they were and that he wasn’t going to congratulate me because he knew at that moment in time that’s not what I wanted to hear…and he was right. The following couple of months were consumed with a lot of tears, reflection, and countless attempts to stay busy at work and socially as to take my mind off of everything.

I also knew prior to Miss Wisconsin that if it wasn’t in God’s plans for me to serve the state, that my two year contract with WXOW News 19 was coming to an end and I would have a small window of time to search for a new job. Mind you, this was something I put off because I wanted to focus all my attention on preparations. Well, reality hit hard on that Sunday when I returned home to my parent’s house and started to tweak my resume. I vigorously added news stories to my YouTube channel over the course of the following weeks just hoping a station would get back to me. I received responses regarding job openings and had a couple interviews at stations in larger markets, but couldn’t wrap my head around the crazy hours and inadequate financial situation that came with being a reporter. As much as I loved telling stories for a living and connecting with people in the community, the stress and anxiousness that came with long, late hours and minimal pay became overbearing. With that clarity and my instincts guiding my decisions, I started to look for marketing, social media, and sales positions in Madison. In that moment in time, part of me felt like I was giving up a dream and man is that a heartbreaking realization to grasp. However, I trusted in God’s timing and greater plan through it all and could not be happier where I am right now, in this moment.

So, why should you care and why am I sharing these raw feelings with you? I’m going to be honest with you (well, let’s face it, I usually am) … I am a very open, optimistic, and outgoing person. However, I also know that I tend to encapsulate my emotions because I was taught to focus my attention on others’ needs first. In turn, there are countless times when I diminish my own feelings only to have them build up and resonate to an unnecessary level. Again, my point? Despite how upbeat and positive a person may appear, you never really know what obstacles or life events they’re battling at any given moment: the loss of a loved one, big life changes…whatever it may be, remember to be kind and compassionate. Challenge your own mental and emotional boundaries. Put yourself in other’s shoes and most importantly, embrace all of the positive, supportive relationships you do have in your life whenever you are struggling with something. While many parts of 2017 were challenging, I would’ve never pushed through them without the kindness and love from co-workers, friends, and family. With that being said, I encourage you to come to terms with the past, stop analyzing the negative aspects, and embrace all the positive elements of your life as we embark on 365 days of new adventures, memories, and opportunities.

Here’s a look back on a lot of the good from my 2017…

In January, I supported some of my favorite ladies as the open pageant season began. Making the drive to Stevens Point with the best copilot a girl could ask for, my mom, for the Miss Northern Lights pageant. I also celebrated my 24th birthday and let me tell you, buying balloons for yourself takes some of the thrill out of the ordeal, but it’s worth it!

In February, I visited Charleston, South Carolina and played golf on a beautiful course along the water. I also hit one of my drives far right near this pond where an alligator was basking in the sun, needless to say I left the ball. My Miss Harbor Cities teen, Sarah and I did an impromptu photo shoot with Denise on Monona Terrace on a rather balmy 60+ degree day in February and I attended the Miss Madison-Capital City pageant.

In March, I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with my Oktoberfest family and friends at the annual Forks & Corks fundraiser. I attended the Miss Fon du Lac and Miss Wisconsin Central Pageants with my mom and crowned my Miss Harbor Cities successor the following weekend (phew)! I also paid a visit to Watrous Photography in Waukesha to take a new headshot for the Miss Wisconsin Sweeps Pageant.

In April, I  got to visit and enjoy dinner with some of my fellow West Side titleholders at one of my favorite annual events held in La Crosse for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Emerald Ball. I also was able to do live interviews with one of the CMNH heroes, Willa prior to the event beginning. I co-anchored for the first time, attended the Miss Kenosha pageant with my mom (also for the first time) AND was blessed with the title of Miss Badgerland 2017 at the Miss Wisconsin Sweeps pageant, a preliminary competition to Miss Wisconsin.

In May, Miss Wisconsin preparations we’re in full force as I attended Prep Day and Miss America Serves Day at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King. We, as local titleholders spent the afternoon visiting with veterans and performing our talents. My favorite memory from this day is having the opportunity to reconnect with Sally Olson (pictured) who I had the pleasure of eating lunch with during Miss Wisconsin week the year prior and keep in contact with with letters. May also brought marked my fifth half marathon, which I finished alongside my best friend, Liv and mom; in addition to my first time turkey hunting. Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything, but it was a whole lot of fun talking with them across the valley and nothing beats a good sunrise…especially in God’s country on Wisconsin’s west coast! I was also able to speak at my high school about “Let’s Talk: Skill Sets 4 Success” and the importance of college and career readiness. That same weekend my mom and I held our annual garage sale benefiting CMNH and raised more than $800 for the kids!

Oh and my not-so-little brother was voted PROM KING #SoProud

In June, I packed up my jeep and made the drive to Oshkosh for Miss Wisconsin week, feeling the most prepared and relaxed I had ever been entering the seven day stretch. My heart was filled with so much contentment and love thanks to my support system at work, friends, family, and the Morrall family. I made a point to embrace every moment of that week and I can honestly say I did just that; ultimately finishing as First Runner-Up, winning the Overall Evening Gown Award, and performing to a caliber I had not experienced ever before in my eighteen plus years of dancing.

img_9649-1In July, I made a point to focus on myself and to indulge in my favorite items (like way too many McDonald’s French Fries) after months of sticking to my healthy diet…don’t worry there were absolutely cheat days mixed in there. I attended Riverfest in La Crosse for the first time and celebrated with Oktoberfest peeps, drove home for an early Fourth of July celebration and fireworks with my family, celebrated my sister and brother-in-law at a joint Bachelor/Bachelorette pool party, and was able to get out on the river skiing with my dad and brothers.

In August, MY SISTER GOT MARRIED! What? After over a year of planning and preparing the big day finally arrived and it was the most perfect day. All the stress of long phone calls, day-long text messaging, countless pictures of decor and details all culminated in the most beautiful wedding and bride! I may be a bit biased, but heck, look at the pictures! We took a day trip to one of my favorite spots in Wisconsin, the Chain O’Lakes and I saw Toby Keith in concert for the first time at Fort McCoy.

My sister and I at her rehearsal dinner the night before the big “I do!”

In September, I bid farewell to the city I had called home for the past 6 years and moved home to my parents’ while I searched for a new job. I emceed the Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest pageant after helping to choreograph the opening and closing numbers this summer and putting the production elements together — a whole new perspective being on that side of the show and watching the contestants grow and learn! September also brought forth the start of my favorite season: football season, celebrating Oktoberfest in La Crosse with my dad, mom, sister, and brother-in-law (and Gary meeting Frank Fritz), and rounding out with my brothers’ senior homecoming.

The first Badger Football game of the season with some of my favorites!
My farewell get together at Kramer’s in La Crosse. SO thankful for this Oktoberfest crew!

In October and November, I officially moved into my new apartment in Madison — a city I’ve loved and wanted to call home for quite some time. Shout out to my brother, Reece, dad, and sister for loading up three vehicles and making the trek down from Rapids. I attended the Badger vs. Iowa game with Katie thanks to one of my favorite Festmaster’s last minute invite and welcomed three of my best friends for the Michigan game and ESPN College GameDay.

I also visited my bestie’s new home in Bloomington, Indiana with another dear friend, Taylor. We explored the city and attended the IU vs. Michigan game…sporting “Beat Indiana” and “Beat Michigan buttons, of course!

And to wrap up 2017, I adjusted to my new work environment and made new friends at my office; setting new goals for the upcoming year. My Grandma Bonnie and I tasted our first Old Fashions from The Old Fashioned in downtown Madison with my sister and Andrew and got our first, addicting taste of their glorious cheese curds before driving home for an extended weekend a few weeks later to enjoy the Christmas holiday with my family.

So while it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative obstacles life throws your way, it’s much more exhilarating and rewarding to soak up all the good. As you’re busy setting goals and expectations for this year, take some time to recognize all the blessings, positive experiences, and moments of growth in an effort to not only feel contentment with your life in the present moment, but to look forward with eagerness and optimism at the New Year. You got this!

#TheSisterhoodIsReal and it’s on fire

The saying goes, “Some women fear the fire and others simply become it.” A fitting representation of the women who compete within the Miss America Organization and strive to be advocates for change, voices for those without an outlet to share their own messages, and positive trailblazers in their communities, schools, and work.

As you may have heard, recent allegations surrounding comments made via email by the Miss America Organization’s FORMER CEO, Sam Haskell have caused an uproar from previous and current titleholders and volunteers at the local, state, and national level; and rightfully so. Sorry Sam, you messed with the wrong group of women. P.S. He resigned as of Saturday, December 23 // Click here to read more.

To sum up a series of degrading, hateful comments written by Haskell … let’s just say he spewed body-shaming comments upon a past Miss America, referenced a Miss America he wished death upon, and tarnished a number of other business opportunities for both the program as a whole and previous titleholders (this just skims the very surface of what was revealed). Now, to save myself the frustration and disgust in retyping the details, if you’d like to read the entire article written by the Huffington Post, feel free to do so here: “The Miss America Emails: How the Pageant CEO Really Talks About the Winners”

Former Miss America CEO Leonard Horn also urged Haskell to leave the organization, saying, “Resign Sam…..your attitude towards these women, as expressed in your e-mails, is blatantly antagonistic to the core mission of MAO.” -The Huffington Post

As someone who spent seven years of her young adult life competing in this program, a program that prides itself on providing educational and empowerment opportunities for women to succeed, I write this post to support not only my “sisters,” but the state representatives and Miss Americas I look up to. I write to those who have read this news without prior knowledge about this organization and quickly jump to misconceptions regarding the women who compete in the MAO. Lastly, I write to the hundreds of volunteers that are true leaders and fully understand just how impactful involvement in this program can be. In a statement from Forever Miss Americas they said, “as dedicated members of communities, businesses, and families throughout the U.S., we stand firm against bullying and shaming, especially of women, with derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean.” This group of talented, driven, compassionate women who have gone on to have successful careers in politics, music and performance, medicine, and television have taken action and created a petition in an effort to remove Haskell (check) and other board members who knew what was going on behind-the-scenes and didn’t say anything // Sign for change here

“The behavior of Miss America Organization leadership, specifically Sam Haskell, Josh Randle, Tammy Haddad and Lynn Weidner, is deplorable, as well as those who sat by while such derisive comments were passed around and didn’t object. We collectively call for their immediate resignation.” -Forever Miss Americas

“We have a seat at the table not because of a man, but because of a sisterhood founded on the principle of empowering one another. The cruelty, insensitivity, and misogyny demonstrated by Miss America Leadership is disgusting and there is certainly no place for it in an organization focused on supporting and uplifting women.” -Miss Wisconsin 2017

“These women are the only sisters I’ve ever had. They are strong. They are scholars. They are leaders. They are selfless. They are endearing. They are accomplished. They demand respect. And respect is what they deserve. Big changes are happening in our organization, but the #service #scholarship #style #success and #sisterhood will remain our foundation. I am proud to be a titleholder in the Miss America Organization. Together, we will continue to be women of incredible worth.” -Miss Iowa 2017

I have felt nothing but support throughout my many years of competing at the local and state level in Wisconsin and can attest to the fact that many other women across the country feel the same way. Don’t believe me? Go search “#TheSisterhoodIsReal” on Instagram or Twitter. With that being said, I cannot fathom the devastation the countless women who were targeted in these messages are feeling at this time — iconic Miss Americas like Mallory Hagan, Kate Shindle, and Gretchen Carlson. It’s clear that the program is long overdue for some changes and the time for change is now. No one, especially a person in a leadership position should talk poorly about those who comprise their entire organization. Haskell’s choices to denote his character and share such uncensored thoughts are representative of his personality and malicious intent, but are by no means a depiction of past and current titleholders.

Statement from the Miss America Organization Board of Directors:

“The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell. Mr. Haskell, in support of the organization, has agreed to abide by the Board’s decision. The Board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained. In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”

Women within this organization possess a desire to share their talents (dancing, singing, musical capabilities, etc.) and accomplishments, make a positive impact in their communities, gain scholarships to further their education, and most importantly — they aspire to grow as successful members of society. Along that journey, inevitably, strong relationships between contestants and volunteers are fostered. The bond between women within the MAO is a unique one, after all, get twenty plus (or more) women together who share the same “Type A” goal-setting, driven, selfless, compassionate attitude and something magnificent is bound to unfold. This organization has and always will hold a special place in my heart as it’s a quintessential part of my life story and I have no doubt that justice will be served, making the program stronger than ever before.

“The Miss America Organization has gone through it’s fair share of ups and downs. But I know that after spending 7 years competing, and willingly the rest of my life helping other women succeed, that this organization at its heart is not about the leadership. It is not about pitiful and hateful words flung between disrespectful people. This organization is about the thousands of women who commit countless hours toward bettering themselves and their communities. My heart is warmed by the fight, power, and poise of how every MAO woman has responded.” -Jessica Johnson, local titleholder in New York and Wisconsin

Jessica added, that during this challenging time, she goes every sister does not forget that “WE are what makes this organization and WE hold the power to mold it how we see it.”

Let us, humanity as a whole revert to the time old phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And God forbid if you do have harsh words to share, find a tactful, private way to do so or know that karma is bound to catch up with you eventually. Let us come together in a time of despair with utmost love and respect as we advocate for change like so many of us titleholders have done time and time again with our platforms. #TogetherWeAre EMPOWERED

Holiday Gift Guide for the Kitchen

Have someone on your Christmas shopping list that’s a little difficult to find the perfect gift for? How about going down the practical route and getting them something you’ll know the’ll use in some capacity — a.k.a. something for the kitchen. Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love food? If you know that person in particular enjoys cooking or baking it’s simply an added bonus. Here are some of my favorite items compiled into one convenient location for ya…

  1. A cookbook. This gem pictured, “Cravings” is written by Chrissy Teigen, model turned into blogger and subsequently an author and it is filled with a number of delicious recipes. Once you get all the basics needed, the text makes it extremely easy to change up what’s on the menu on a daily basis. // Hardcover version available at Barnes & Noble for $17.99
  2. State cheese board. What’s better than a little home state pride? This top shelf living Wisconsin slate cheese board is available at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and they have various state options available. It’s great for its practical use or for decoration. // Snag it here for $19.99.
  3. French Press Set. Have a coffee lover or perhaps a caffeine addict on your shopping list this holiday season? Help them up their at-home brew with a french press. This ‘Bodum Made in Portugal 3-piece Copper French Press Set’‘ from TJ Maxx is sleek, not to mention it’s only $34.99!
  4. Decanter and Glass Set. // Five Piece Fitzy & Floyd Decanter and Glass Set for $29.99, comes in copper or silver — totally playing into the blush/rose gold craze.
  5. Coasters. I have a newfound obsession with the Food Network’s line of kitchen items at Kohl’s (especially their white dishware, which I’ll get to shortly). I recently bought these marble and wood coasters from that line and love the sleekness with the touch of edginess. // Food Network Marble & Acacia 4-piece Coaster Set from Kohl’s for $17.49 [SALE]
  6. KitchenAid Professional 6 Qt. Pro Bowl Lift Stand Mixer. // I’ve admired these mixers for years as a go-to ‘big girl’ item necessary in one’s kitchen. They make baking and cooking seamless, allowing for multi-tasking during preparations. What color is your favorite? That’s the difficult decision... // KitchenAid Professional 6 Qt. Mixer in Silver from TJ Maxx for $249.99
  7. Ninja Chopper. A perfect addition for the kitchen for that special someone who loves to cook. And if they’re anything like me, they’re probably not the best at chopping fruits, veggies, meats, etc. by hand. Help them out a bit this holiday season! // Ninja Express Chopper from Target (in red or black) for $19.99
  8. Keurig. As a loyal coffee addict (hence the name of my blog), I can’t say enough praise about Keurigs. The flexibility to buy a small one for the office for a midday pick-me-up or two or to buy the larger version for home is truly a win-win. // Keurig K475 Single-Serve on sale at Kohl’s for $139.99
  9. Spiral Vegetable Slicer Set. A must-have kitchen item that makes eating healthy a little easier. This Paderno World Cuisine 4-Piece Slicer from Wayfair comes with a variety of blades and it’s dishwasher safe! // Vegetable Slicer Set from Wayfair for $40.99
  10. Bar Tool Set. Thinking a little outside of the box here with some kitchen items someone may want, but not necessarily buy for themselves. I love this Oggi 10-Piece Professional Stainless Steel Bar Tool Set from Bed, Bath, & Beyond because (1) it has ten freakin’ pieces with it and (2) it includes it’s own cutting board. // BUY IT FOR ONLY $39.99
  11. An apron. Let’s be honest, a chef could always use a new apron. This one is especially cute… // Kate Spade New York Polka Dot Apron from Macy’s $30.00
  12. Electric Wine Opener. The ability to effortlessly remove a cork from a wine bottle within seconds is one that will forever change your life; dead serious friends. This rechargeable opener can open up to 120 bottles in a single charge. It’s a little pricy, but SO worth it! // Cuisinart Commercial Wine Opener from Williams Sonoma for $99.95

Holiday gift guide

Cargo Green to Coat the Cold

Finding a warm winter coat at an affordable price can be a difficult task. If you’re anything like me, you have a variety of jackets and coats to choose from; but you inevitably continue to buy new ones (it’s necessary with crazy Wisconsin winters).

I recently snagged this cargo, cheetah faux fur lined Zara parka from TJ Maxx for only $49.99 and dare I say it’s warmer than my Colombia down parka? Well, it is. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find this exact olive cargo parka on TJ Maxx’s website, but encourage you to check out your local store to see if you can find it on location!Nonetheless, I’ve linked a number of similar styled coats for you below.

  • Puffer Coat with Faux Fur Hood from Zara, $45.90 // BUY HERE
  • Madden Girl Juniors Military Style Parka from TJ Maxx, $39.99 // SHOP HERE
  • Long Puffer Coat from Zara, $99 // BUY HERE
  • Hooded Parka from Zara in Moss Green, $69.99 // SHOP HERE
  • Hooded Parka in Dark Khaki with Faux Fur from Zara (with detachable fur hood lining), $149 // SHOP HERE — very similar to the olive & cheetah one I have!
  • Steve Madden Hooded Parka with Faux Fur at TJ Maxx, $59.99 // SHOP HERE
  • Juniors Rocawear Puffer Coat  from TJ Maxx in Olive, $49.99 // SHOP HERE

Holiday Gift Guide: Magnolia Hearth & Hand

If you’re a fan of Fixer Upper or know someone that is, this gift guide is ideal for your shopping needs. Their ‘Hearth & Hand’ line recently launched at Target and they have a number of affordable, cute home items that will make wonderful Christmas presents (either for yourself or someone else). Here are my favorites under $100:

Magnolia Gift Guide (1)