I’ve mentioned my (wedding planner) friend Cynthia a few times on my blog. She’s an incredibly talented event planner, and everything she puts together seems to go off without a hitch.

The adorable Cynthia!

The adorable Cynthia!

This is never more clear than at her annual tea party. This was the first year I was able to attend, and Cynthia asked if I wanted to share the details on my blog. Y’all know I love a party, so I happily obliged. Here’s what we ate (and drank), how she decorated, and what we wore.

The Details

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Like me, Cynthia appreciates the value of a paper invitation. A couple of weeks before her fete, she sent out these sweet invites. Each invitee was instructed to wear their “prettiest dress and loveliest hat.”

For decor, Cynthia created rustic-style centerpieces out of a variety of colorful flowers. The shabby chic theme continued with the place settings, which she created by combining about four different sets of china.

My contribution to the party was a game I dubbed “Tea (and Questions) for Two.” On slips of paper, I printed a variety of “getting to know you” questions. One person would draw a question that they would have to answer, and then they would pick someone else at the party they didn’t know as well to answer the question as well. Then the selected person would draw a new question that she would answer, and then she would pick a new person to answer, too. It was a simple, fun way to learn a little someone about every other person at the party.

The Food

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I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the food. We started with a strawberry, spinach, and feta salad, followed by three kinds of tea sandwiches (cucumber, smoked salmon, and chicken salad), lemon squares, Greek and black-and-white cookies, and, of course, scones. Here’s the recipe Cynthia used to create the scones:

Blueberry Scones (adapted from Robert Irvine’s eat!)

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Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, cold and cut in pats
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 egg, beaten
zest of an orange

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

Step two: In a large bowl, blend the butter pats with the flour, sugar, grown sugar, salt, orange zest, and baking powder by hand until the butter has been combined.

Step three: Add blueberries and mix well. Don’t crush all the berries!

Step four: In a second bowl, blend the cream, half-and-half, and egg with a whisk. Stir in flour mixture until dough comes together.

Step five: Remove scone dough from bowl and knead on floured counter, rolling 5-6 times. Do not overblend, or the dough will be too tough. Divide into 12 triangular shaped portions and arrange on a cookie sheet.

Step six: Bake until the tops are slightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Step seven: Serve with jame and clotted cream, flavored mascarpone, or creme fraiche. (We had the creme fraiche, and I can HIGHLY recommend it.)

The signature drink was (obviously) tea.

The Style

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I tell you what — you tell these girls to bring out their tea party best, and they will not disappoint. Cynthia even brought a selection of extra hats for anyone who didn’t have one on hand. I wore a floral dress from Forever 21 (a million years ago…but you can find a similar style here or here), a double strand of vintage pearls (okay, okay, they were just beads), and the world’s cutest hat from Fascinators First on Etsy. If you need a hat or fascinator, I can highly recommend her — the hats look exactly the same as in the picture, and shop owner Rita is willing to customize just about anything.

Over all, everyone had a lovely time at the party, and it’s always a great way to get to know a new group of gals. Thanks again for planning, Cynthia!

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Photos by Monica Vasquez — Contact me for her info!

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Don’t talk to me.

Living in New York has had a variety of effects on who I am as a person.

On the brighter side of things, I think I’m tougher, braver, and more likely to stick up for myself than I was before I lived here.

I’m (slightly) less directionally challenged. (Provided I’m operating on a grid system of streets.) I can navigate any subway system in the world. (Because there’s no way it’s more complicated than the one I tackle on the daily here.) I can speak somewhat intelligently about almost every culture of cuisine. I have been exposed to a wealth of the arts. I’ve gotten much better at operating within a specific budget.

Like I said, pros.

Unfortunately, lately I’ve noticed a host of bad habits this city seems to have instilled in me as well. And they are…unflattering, to say the least.

1. Interrupting.
For most of my life, my mother has struggled to craminspire in me a love of the mannerly. And while I am a stickler for “please,” “thank you,” and not texting whilst at dinner with others, I can’t help but notice that I tend to cut people off mid-sentence a lot more than I used to.

I promise I’m not passing the buck, but the fact is, if you don’t interrupt New Yorkers, you might never get a word in edgewise. I’ve actually noticed that, when I make a firm attempt to not interrupt, there are people I know who have forgotten how to end stories and even sentences. They sort of trail off like an actor whose stage partner has forgotten their cue.

“So that’s…pretty much…what happened…”

It’s even worse when you encounter someone who could literally just keep talking for days, weeks, months. Then you might as well slip out of your heels and grab a snack because you’re going to be there for a while. Hope you didn’t have anything important to mention.

2. Ignoring.
This is especially bad when I’m out and about. Look, it’s no secret that the streets of NYC are a harrowing place sometimes. While I have only a couple of times ever felt actually unsafe, there are near constant opportunities to be accosted as you make your 1-and-a-half-block commute from the subway to the office.

As a result, I find myself tuning out more often than I like to admit. And not just tuning out — it’s like I have literally placed blinders on my eyes. I will sort of shuffle into people because I didn’t even notice they were standing there. And I’m not the only one. Pretty much every New Yorker will tell you the ignoring happens out of a sense of self-preservation, but the fact is, it’s pretty rude to pretend like you are the only person on the sidewalk trying to get from point A to point B.

Basically, New York is making me really inconsiderate.

3. Impatience.
Okay, okay, I was never the most patient person even when I lived in the Midwest. But, you guys? My fuse feels infinitely shorter these days.

Remember Commuter Justine? Well, now she doesn’t only come out when there are issues on the train or when there’s an angry letter that needs writing. Maybe it’s a result of the aforementioned increased likeliness to stick up for myself, but I find myself having a harder and harder time tolerating people who make my life harder the longer I live here.

I mean, I’m obviously not hauling off and socking someone in the face. But I feel my brain reaching a rolling boil more often than it used to. And New Yorkers en general aren’t exactly known for their patience with humanity.

So there you have it: the not-so-subtle ways New York is turning me into a jerk. But you guys still like me…right?

Has your locale inspired a few bad habits in you? Dish in the comments.

Ohhh, apartment living.

Most of the time, I am totally fine with our apartment. Is it the newest, most modern place on the planet. No. But our building is reasonably well maintained, and I love our neighborhood, so I overlook a lot of things.

At its core, it’s just a basic one-bedroom that is nice enough because we make it nice enough.

One thing that I really do not like, though? Our lack of closet space.

The bedroom has one minuscule closet that would actually be impossible for Joey and me to share, so it is exclusively Joey’s. I use an IKEA wardrobe instead, and while it is marginally bigger than the closet, it’s still not much.

Over the weekend, though, I decided to see if I could maximize the space I had with just three simple closet organizing additions. And it I was able to create this:

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(Side note: I am wildly impressed with anyone who can take a decent photo of their closet. I am never successful in my attempts. Probably because, unlike this person, not all of my clothes are the same three colors. You will just have to trust me that it now looks worlds better in person.)

The biggest issue I had before was that my wardrobe only had one hanging bar across the top and two shelves for shoes. I have to be totally honest: I’m not that much of a shoes person. In New York, you pound your shoes into the pavement day after day, so, to me, it feels silly to spend much on something I know I will have to replace after six months or less. The point of that mini confession is that I don’t really have that many shoes to begin with. And especially in the fall, after I retire so many sandals and wedges until April, I really don’t need nearly so much space for my kicks.

Pro tip: By positioning your shoes so one shoe faces front and the other faces back, you can fit up to an additional pair of shoes in the same amount of square footage that you could if you had all the shoes facing the same direction.

I started my closet TrAnSfOrMaTiOn by removing the top shoe shelf. Already, so much more space! To better utilize it, I added a double hanging barInstantly, I had doubled my hanging space. I arranged my clothes so tops, sweaters, and jackets hung from the top bar and skirts hung from the bottom bar.

Next, I added a hanging shoe/accessory organizer to hold the pairs that didn’t fit at the bottom. This also worked as a great means to separate my tops/sweaters/jackets from my dresses, which take up the right side of the wardrobe.

Finally, I hung a handbag file next to the shoe organizer. This allowed me to hang some of the bags that were currently in the shelves next to the wardrobe, opening up shelf space for other storage.

The result is seriously life-changing — I can actually see all my clothes! And it totally inspired me to straighten up some of the other areas of my home that cause me stress — stay tuned for more DIY updates.

What are your tricks for creating more space in cramped areas? Anyone else working on organizing projects this fall?

Last weekend, I did something I’ve never had the gumption to do before: I did a bit of dumpster diving.

Well, technically there was no diving. Or even a dumpster. But I did spot a GIANT gold picture frame where they put our building’s garbage (in the alley behind the building) and take it home with me.

It’s in almost perfect condition (it still had the cardboard corner protectors on it!), and there weren’t any bugs or weird smells on it. (I swear, I inspected that thing like a hawk.) And it’s GIANT. Roughly 2×3 feet.

I think it could be the perfect solution to the blank space above my dresser (that continues to mock me every.single.day it remains blank). Now I just need to decide how I want to style it.

So far, I’ve come up with five different options — but I want opinions. Here’s what I’m thinking:

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Leave it blank (and possibly hang lights on it)
Apparently this is a trend? I don’t hate the look, and I do have a bunch of string lights from my parents’ party I could hang up. But it still feels…blank to me. Maybe the secret is having a whole bunch. I do have one other gold frame…but I’m not sure that’s enough.

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Create a chalkboard with paint
I like this idea because the repurposing possibilities are endless, and it could be created in an afternoon. Plus, it could be fun to switch up the quote for different season/events/etc.

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DIY (Cross-stitch) Painting
I’ve also been toying with the idea of painting something abstract-ish. I’m not actually that artistic, but I could definitely create something like this faux cross-stitch design. Remember when I made this adorable actual cross stitch? Maybe something like that, or a bigger, more abstract version like in this photo.

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Song lyric as art
Another alternative to a traditional painting that I can still DIY is this song lyric mural (that I discovered when the lovely Kayla pinned it!). I could do the lyrics of our first dance song, or find a poem I like, or anything, I suppose. Sort of a more permanent version of the chalkboard quote.

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Professionally commissioned Bogey portrait
I think I’m kidding. But also…kind of not? I mean, that’s kind of adorable. And maybe it could be awesome and hilarious? What are our thoughts?

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So, what do you think? Haaaaaaalp me.

How to Plan an Anniversary Party

My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. By any standard, that’s an accomplishment. My parents always had the kind of marriage that made me want to get married, too, so it was important to me to help them celebrate this milestone. I planned a party in my mom’s home state of Ohio for the whole family. Here are all the details of where and how we partied.

The Location

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Their anniversary was in June, but the soonest I could get everyone together was August (close enough, right?). The party was in my aunt’s backyard (my mom’s sister), which turned out to be more than perfect. Not only is her backyard beautiful with giant trees and a huge hydrangea tree that created the perfect backdrop for photos, she also has a huge deck where we could put the tables. And, obviously, it was more budget friendly than renting a room at a restaurant — and it gave us a lot more freedom to customize the space.

We started the night on the patio where we had arranged cocktail tables and a drink table. On the deck, we arranged two long tables for dinner and hung string lights for a bit more ambiance.

The Flowers

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To save money, I arranged my own flowers for the party. My friend Cynthia is an event planner, and from her I learned not only how to arrange flowers, but also about the company Global Rose, which will deliver fresh bulk flowers (for incredibly reasonable prices — free shipping!) almost anywhere. I ordered 50 peachy-pink roses, 10 white hydrangeas, and bulk greens to fill in the arrangements. That gave me enough flowers to create eight mason jar centerpieces and two smaller arrangements for the drink table. The flowers arrived in perfect condition and held up beautifully for days. I recommend having your flowers delivered at least a day in advance so the roses have time to open up a bit more. (Note: Hydrangeas aren’t as hardy, so don’t order them too far in advance and keep them in water constantly so they won’t wilt.)

The Stationery

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I designed the menus in Photoshop and printed them on Kraft paper. For the gold “menu” at the top, I printed the original text in a light brown and then traced over it with a gold marker. I used the same marker to hand-write the place cards on Kraft paper tags.

To display the place cards, I made holders out of wine corks (I always save them). To create the holders, you’ll want to steam the corks for 4-5 minutes before using an exacto knife (or a bread knife if you realize you don’t have an exacto knife…that happens to some people). To keep the corks from rolling, I super glued a metal washer to the bottom of each one.

To finish off the tables, I printed black and white photos of my parents over the years and displayed them in simple white frames along with glass lanterns with candles.

The Food

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The food came from a local caterer, BOSS Corporate Catering. And, you guys? My only regret is that this company is in Ohio and I can’t use them anytime I want to have a party in New York. The food was so good, and Crystal, the owner, went above and beyond, helping us move the food into our chafing dishes and arrange it for the party. She was also extremely responsive and accommodating during the planning process, which took a lot of stress off of me. We had Sicilian skewers and goat cheese bruschetta for appetizers, then dinner was chicken marsala, penne alfredo, zucchini and summer squash, strawberry arugula salad, and fresh dinner rolls with honey butter. Dessert was a lemon berry mascarpone cake and a chocolate espresso cake.

The Drink

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The signature cocktail of the evening was an Elderflower Blush.

Ingredients:
Fresh strawberries
Fresh basil
Gin
Elderflower Liqueur
Seltzer
Prosecco or champagne

To make by the glass, muddle strawberries and basil in a glass and add 1 oz gin and 1 oz elderflower. Top with equal parts of the bubbly stuff. (We made ours for a group, so Joey muddled the strawberries and basil in drink dispenser and added equal parts gin and elderflower and about two cups of seltzer. We filled the glasses half full with this concoction and then topped up each with Prosecco.) Garnish with a strawberry and basil leaf.

The night came together beautifully. It was so great to spend time with my family that I don’t see that often, and my sister took the loveliest photos of us all. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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Sources:
Photography by Figment Art Photo
Food by BOSS Corporate Catering
Flowers from GlobalRose.com
Glass lanterns from World Market
Paper and frames from Michaels
String lights from Target
Rentals from Sun Rental

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This is what my brain feels like right now.

It has been kind of a weird week.

I think every lifestyle blogger will tell you that one of the hardest things about publishing portions of your life is knowing where to draw the line. I tend to veer toward the over-cautious when it comes to personal issues with my family, job, or really most negative things I encounter, and that’s not a decision I’ve ever regretted.

The problem is, when something negative is plaguing my mind, it’s really hard to think of anything else to blog about. Posting my typical frivolous shopping round-ups, hair tutorials, or decor ideas feels disingenuous. And, if I’m totally honest, the darker perspective makes me scoff at my own frivolity.

Sad, right?

This week, I’ve felt slightly barraged by things outside of my control. It’s probably why whenever I sit and think about something I could write about, the only things that come to mind are lists of things to accomplish. Lists of things that are within my control. I can’t fix my personal issues, but I can organize my closet, gosh darn it.

It could be worse. I could be emotionally and physically crippled by adversity. Instead of, you know, propelled to meal plan and purge unwanted clothing and dust everything. At the very least, I end up with a cleaner apartment, and that genuinely gives me more mental stability.

It could be worse…right?

I apologize for how cryptic this post is. Like I said, I don’t really want to get into it. (OBVIOUSLY, RIGHT?) But I feel like I owe some kind of explanation for being so silent.

Commiserate with me — when you’re feeling out of control, how do you temper the crazy?

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