I tell you what, you guys. I have literally started four blog posts this morning, to then just delete the whole thing because I felt it was too boring/self-centered/blahhhh.

How on EARTH have I kept this blog going so long with such an uninteresting life?? WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING HERE READING THIS?

Just kidding. I love you. Please don’t leave me.

But seriously, I think I’ve lost some of my blogging mojo.

I debate all the time just giving this thing up. Seriously. Like, has it served it’s purpose? Am I old and boring now? Are you all just reading this to be polite, prim smiles plastered on your faces as you quickly scroll through my words in an attempt to just make me feel better?

I hope not. That would be embarrassing for all of us. (AND YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT EMBARRASSMENT.)

The thing is, I’ve grown attached to my little blog in the last (almost) seven(!) years. I don’t really want to throw the ol’ gal by the wayside. Which means there’s only one thing left to do.

StellaJustine has to get her groove back.

I started by reading through some of my old posts (from the way, way back, like 2010). The biggest difference between 2010 Justine? (Besides a new address, job, marital status, and NAME.) That girl just did NOT take this that seriously. Which isn’t to say I take it seriously now (this is and will probably always be just a fun side project), but I didn’t put so much pressure on my posts. Sometimes they were just a sentence or two. Barely more than a tweet. But they were fun.

I want things to be fun again. I want to think more about the silly things I’ve started to ignore and take for granted. I think I lost sight of what I set out to do with this blog (aka, a weird diary of sorts), and I want to get back to that. But, you know, hopefully with better photography.

For all of our sakes.

Next week, you guys. Next week is gonna be good.

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It’s raining in New York City today.

Correction: It has been raining in NYC for the last 36 hours, and it’s supposed to continue at least through to tomorrow. Nothing like a soggy group of city-dwellers to get your morning started right.

But you know what? I’m actually not that bummed out about it. And I actually have this lil’ blog to thank for it.

The other day, someone commented on this old post of mine. Y’all remember that one?

I mean, of course I didn’t 100 percent stick to all the goals I outlined in that post. In fact, I even told you I wouldn’t at the end of it. But about a month ago I really let my mood slip.

I lost perspective. I got complacent. I stopped focusing on what’s important.

The person who commented on the post isn’t someone I’ve ever met before, and she had no way of knowing that I wrote that post a long time ago and hadn’t thought about it for a while. But I want to thank her, and I want to thank this rainy day, because they both brought me back into focus.

I also skipped writing out my goals for October — which, for a goal-oriented gal like myself, is like sailing into the ocean without a rudder. Let’s kick things off by correcting that for November, shall we?

November 2014 Goals:
1. Bake three things from scratch.
I mentioned before that I want to bake more this fall, but I’m getting more specific. I actually have baked a couple of things recently (pumpkin scones and salted caramel coconut blondes), but both of them were from either a mix or a premade-homemade mix. Next time, it’s all on me.

2. Rearrange the art in my home.
I’ve made a few small changes to the apartment in the last couple of months, which means that some of the art I had previously hung needs to be adjusted. I also feel like this will be a good way to refresh everything without spending any money.

3. Bring my lunch at least four out of every five workdays.
I’m not going to lie, I slipped on this big time the last couple of weeks. We’ve been busy, groceries haven’t been bought, and as a result, I’ve spent more money on food than I should have. But we’re getting back in a groove (I cooked on Monday this week and Joey cooked last night, meaning lots of tasty leftovers to choose from), and that’s also helping me refocus on our financial goals.

Three goals seems reasonable, right? We’re also going to be in California next month for about nine days, which I could NOT be more excited about. Stay tuned for a tip-packed vacation post!

What are your goals for next month?

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In general, I think transitional periods of our life are only truly recognized retroactively. In my life, it is rare that I’ve had the perspective or wisdom to realize, in the moment, that my life is changing. That I’m changing.

But it’s pretty easy for me to look back over the last 27 years and say, “Ah yes, May of 2009. That was a doozy.”

I bring this up because, for the first time ever, I think I’m finally learning to recognize the signs.

I haven’t been updating the ol’ blog very much in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been making the usual excuses:

1. I’m tired.
2. I’m busy.
3. I have a life, you guys.
4. Despite being busy, nothing really note-worthy has been happening.

But if I’m totally honest, I’ve been feeling a little off. That crippling “holding pattern” feeling has permeated my day-to-day, and every mentally drafted blog post usually starts out with, “So today I….boringboringboringboring.” It’s how I end up with posts like this.

Lady baggage. We've all got it.

Lady baggage. We’ve all got it.

So I’ve waited instead of posting more drivel. I’ve waited for something interesting or funny or awkward to happen to me. Something that makes for a good story. But you know what? Life has been relatively par for the course.

Good for stress levels. Bad for the blogging biz.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that whenever I start to feel that trying-to-run-through-wet-cement feeling, it usually means something in my life is about to change. It usually means I am changing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this concept of who I am. A coworker recently attended a conference about how to raise confident girls, and the main point of the speaker was that girls are put under a lot of pressure to be a lot of things: smart, charming, funny, pretty, athletic, sweet, perfect. And by the time they reach middle school, they are so busy acting out these roles, they don’t even know who they really are.

No offense to the speaker, but that’s not a middle girl school thing. That’s a life girl thing.

In my pondering, I’ve realized that a lot of the insecurities I’ve thought I let go of haven’t really packed up and moved on — they’ve just been quieter tenants. It’s not that I’m not insecure, I just have a healthy sense of perspective. I realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m not good enough because there are just much bigger and more important issues out there than little ol’ me.

That sounds self-deprecating, but the one thing that actually doesn’t bother me about me is the not mattering bit. I’m just one person — and what kind of psycho actually thinks the world revolves around them?

The point is, I’m trying not to run from these insecurities anymore. I’d rather face them, accept them, welcome them to the club that is me, and then move on. Maybe that’s me getting closer to who I am.

So is this definitely one of those transitional periods I’ll look back on one day as a “before/after” date? I guess I can’t say for sure until I reach the other side of the hill. But I think it is.

Does this even make any sense? Anyone else feel like they’re just waiting for things to start? Any other lady readers totally relate to the idea of not being sure who you are?

When I first went to type the title of this post, I almost wrote “November 2014.” So that should give you an idea of what to expect from this post.

Aannnnnyyyyyway. Here are a few things going on that I just couldn’t make warrant full posts.

1. I went camping. 

This looks more dangerous than it actually was.

This looks more dangerous than it actually was.

Like, over a week ago. Obviously, nothing earth-shattering happened. But it was nice being in the woods. It was also Bogey’s first time camping. He loved it, but was EXHAUSTED by the time we went home. Guess it’s hard to get by without your usual 8-hour nap every day.

I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but I like the above shot. I’ve always been a little bit afraid of heights, but every year we hike this gorgeous area called Mohonk. It’s a literal rock scramble, and occasionally you’re clinging to a fairly slippery boulder trying to launch yourself over a narrow (but deep) hole in the mountain. I’m never exactly terrified for my life, but there are times I feel uncomfortable about the fact that I could get hurt.

At the end of the day, though, I like to chalk it up as one more thing I do that scares me or pushes me out of my comfort zone. No point in getting complacent at the ripe old age of 27, right?

2. I ran my fifth half marathon.

So fast. So tough.

So fast. So tough.

This was the first distance race I’ve ever done without really training for it. Granted, I work out 5-6 days a week, and I have a full marathon under my belt, but I was a little nervous considering I hadn’t run more than eight miles in one stretch since April.

Things went surprisingly well, though! I finished in under two hours, which was a relief after the bust of the Philly Half and my unpleasant Paris experience. It’s always nice to run a full race without ever wanting to die at any point.

Plus, this race gave you a crown and a glass of champagne at the end. So I didn’t hate THAT.

3. Bogey had his first tick.

This picture has nothing to do with the tick. But how cute is that face??

This picture has nothing to do with the tick. But how cute is that face??

I woke up this morning to our usual cuddle session, but got distracted by a pill-shaped mass clinging to the tip of his right ear. Surprise, surprise, our little fuzz face had an interloper.

We did the classic hold-a-blown-out-match-by-the-tick’s-head and then removed it with tweezers. We’re not quite sure when he picked up his little parasite (maybe camping? but that was a while ago…), so now I’m keeping an eye on him for any signs of infection. So far, though, he has been acting the same as always.

It’s weird having this little life form that we feel so responsible for. Like, we love the crap out of that dog. The thought of something happening to him kills me. Yet another reason why I firmly believe a dog is a great preview into parenthood. (I know, I KNOW that having a kid is a million times more complicated. I’m just saying it’s similar.)

So that’s pretty much everything of note. October is going to be busy, and then we take our California Adventure in November. December (I’m hoping) will be nice and quiet.

What have y’all been up to?

 

Healthy Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

What? Two baking posts in one week? Who am I, you guys?

I guess this is me unofficially adding “bake more” to my fall bucket list.

Today’s recipe is technically a cookie recipe, but the health nuts out there will appreciate that it is flour-, egg-, dairy-, and gluten-free. It does have nuts, but those can easily be swapped out if you have an allergy.

I actually made a variation of these cookies a while back (recipe here), but this time around, I made a few substitutions and the whole process turned out a lot better. Here’s how to make them:

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Healthy Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
2 overripe bananas
1 cup gluten-free oats
1 1/2 Tablespoons cacao powder
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:
Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step Two: Combine all ingredients, mashing the banana with a fork. Stir until the bananas are completely blended with the rest of the ingredients.

Step Three: Place 2-tablespoon clumps of the “batter” on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. These cookies don’t really spread, so you don’t have to worry about the cookies being close together. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cookies appear slightly crisp on the outside. Let cool and enjoy!

Cacao is one of my favorite chocolate substitutes — it’s high in antioxidants, magnesium, and iron. It adds a rich, chocolatey taste without too much sweetness. (In this recipe, the overripe bananas make the cookies sweet enough.)

Next, I’d like to try a variation of these cookies with canned pumpkin instead of bananas. Stay tuned!

I’ve noticed a few bloggers making bucket lists for the seasons. You’ve probably seen them: In the summer, they want to go to the beach, try surfing, throw a BBQ. In the fall, they want to make s’mores, go camping, wear plaid, etc.

You all know I love fall. And you know I love making lists. So I figured, why not? Here’s what I would put on my fall bucket list:

1. Go apple picking.
2. Make an apple crisp.
3. Go camping.
4. Hike a trail through fall leaves.
5. Drink apple cider.

You may notice a propensity for the outdoors and, well, eating. I am who I am.

And what a coincidence, I’ve already checked off three of those things. Last Friday, Joey, Boges, a few of our friends, and I went apple picking at an orchard upstate.

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Bogey clearly loved it most of all, but Joey and I also had a great time picking our own apples and drinking cider. (Hello, Bucket List Items #1 and #5!)

Last night, I decided to check off item #2 by making apple crisp for the first time evah. Here’s the recipe I used, in case you have your own list to tackle this season. Bonus: It’s also gluten free as long as you use gluten-free oats.

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Whiskey Pecan Apple Crisp
(gently modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

For the filling:
6-7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

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For the topping:
1 cup hazelnut flour
1 cup gluten-free whole oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the garnish:
Cinnamon Whiskey (I used Fireball)
Cinnamon for sprinkling
Vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream (optional…but recommended)

 

Step One: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Step Two: Combine the apples, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons honey, and lemon juice. Stir until apples are coated evenly.

Step Three: In a separate bowl, whisk the hazelnut flour, oats, salt, remaining cinnamon, and pecans.

Step Four: Use a fork or your fingers to mix in the remaining honey and butter until the topping has a crumbly consistency.

Step Five: Pour apples into two 9-inch pie dishes or baking dishes. Cover with the crumble topping.

Step Six: Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Step Seven: Spoon half a cup to one cup of crisp into a bowl while still warm. Drizzle with 1 oz of the cinnamon whiskey. Top with ice cream, whipped cream, and cinnamon as desired. Enjoy!

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