Justine Lorelle

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I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line I became my friends’ “friend who blogs.”

I’ve always been mildly amused by this because, clearly, this is not my full-time job. There are several-month-long stretches where I feel like the worst, most lackadaisical blogger in all the land. Blogging, for me, is solidly a fun little side project and not much more.

But, be that as it may, I still apparently blog more (or at least more publicly) than most of the other people in my circle of pals. Who knew?

As a result, I often find myself as the go-to for “I want to start a blog; what should I do?” advice. I could write a very specific, very brief self-help book.

I certainly don’t mind sharing my (limited) wisdom in this field, but I’ve noticed that I tend to tell people basically the same thing. So, for what it’s worth, here is my advice for starting a blog should you so desire:

1. Don’t make a huge investment.
Listen. I’m sure your blog is going to be a roaring success and that you are never, ever going to lose interest. But JUST IN CASE, I don’t recommend spending a zillion dollars on a designer and fancy hosting just yet. Give it three months. Get a free WordPress blog and see if you actually like baring your soul to the internet a couple of times a week. If you find that you love it and want to get more seriously into advertising or partnerships or whatever, then go for the fully hosted shebang.

But if a couple months go by and you start to feel uncomfortable or like you’re struggling, you are allowed to give up and you won’t feel like you wasted a small fortune. (For the record, a fully hosted blog will probably run you around $150 a year. It’s not a huge amount, but it COULD have been a really nice dress or a pair of shoes or two. Just things to consider.)

2. Maybe think twice before you bare your soul.
Blogging about your life is weirdly addicting. When I first launched mine, I was bursting at the seams with topics and I started to think about everything that happened to me in a narrative voice. This is good because it means you haven’t run out of ideas yet. This is not good because sometimes you can get a bit carried away and share something you’ll wish you wouldn’t have.

I’ve been fortunate. I have always been extremely cautious about what I share, rarely revealing any details about my marriage, job, or issues with friends or family members. That is a personal choice I made. Other bloggers share these things freely, and it works for them. You should deeply assess what you are willing to risk. Because that’s exactly what you are doing when you make something personal very, VERY public. You are risking it. Just keep that in mind (and maybe save your opinion on your latest fight with your spouse for your next best friend chat over a glass of wine).

3. The blogging world is surprisingly tight-knit.
I have actual friends that I have made through blogging. Some of them, I only know through our blogs’ comment sections and social media. Others I have actually become friends with in real life. These relationships are always kind of magical to me because they represent what I liked about blogging from the beginning — it connects like-minded people across all other boundaries.

It’s also just smart to have these friends. They will be the ones who inspire you out of blogging ruts. They’re the ones who will partner with you on fun initiatives that will help you grow your online presence. And they’re the ones who will cheer the loudest when you share your personal successes online. There are a lot of awful bloggers out there, but there are a lot of wonderful folks out there too. Find them. Follow them. Comment on their blogs. And TELL them that you love them. People always like hearing that.

In general, though, my main advice would be to not take it too seriously in the beginning. If this is meant to be your career, it will happen. First, make sure it’s something you truly enjoy. (Because you cannot fake it as a blogger. Passion is literally the crux of any kind of success on here.) Be yourself, carve out your niche, and enjoy the ride.

Blogger pals, what advice would you give to would-be bloggers?

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When I first got married, I’m going to be totally honest, I was a little bit sad to be giving up that feeling of potential that you could meet someone.

You know the one I mean: The one that makes you put a little bit more time into your hair before going out to dinner with a new group of people. The one that floods your body when you first walk into a party where you know you won’t know everyone. The one that says, “You could meet the one tonight.”

Of course, I saw the irony in this: I was sad to be losing something because…I had found it? Brains are weird.

But the point is, a very small part of me realized I was forever losing something that had been defined by excitement and hope, and that made me a little sad.

For the record, this is not the same as regret. I did not and do not regret getting married when I did. I’m just sayin’, it’s one of those funny life transitions that you don’t really consider until after the fact.

Now, though, I have such a different feeling about it.

The thing is, there is quite a bit of power in realizing that you don’t really care if you impress. In knowing that it doesn’t matter one tiny bit if that good-looking guy at the bar finds you attractive or annoying or what. I can be totally, 100 percent honest and myself because, when the conversation is over, I get to go back to the person I love who loves me more than anything.

Nowadays, if a guy tries to chat me up or flirt or whatever, I respond in exactly the way I always wanted to (but for whatever reason felt like I couldn’t because, well, “maybe” is a powerful thing). And that’s pretty cool. The idea of being exactly who I am without caveat is so freeing to me.

And the really funny part? I find I have much more meaningful conversations, even with total strangers, the quicker I can clear up that nothing beyond a friendly chat is going to happen here. I’ve actually had guys who at one point were hitting on me end up sincerely asking me for relationship advice just a few minutes after finding out I was unavailable. It might help that I’m just a friendly gal, but I like to think that removing the tension of “could something happen between us” allows people to just be themselves on both sides and make an actual connection with another human being. Neat, huh?

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re still in that phase of somewhat lamenting what you’ve lost, take heart. You probably never really loved the unknown all that much anyway.

I tell you what: There’s something about seeing how the other half lives.

This week, I’m working in my company’s San Francisco office. Instead of shelling out a zillion dollars on a hotel, I took a friend’s suggestion and opted for a much more affordable airbnb. I had never done airbnb before, but so far, I’m a fan. (As is my company’s finance department, I’m sure.)

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Let me tell you a little bit about the apartment. It’s a one-bedroom in San Fran’s South of Market neighborhood. The entire south wall is windows. The living room is HUGE and opens up to the kitchen and a dining area, plus a desk nook. It has two gigantic closets. (The bedroom closet is a walk-in.) There’s a washer and dryer in the unit. It has a dishwasher and a sink disposal. The bathroom has the world’s largest tub.

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Basically, I’m never leaving.

Because I dare to dream, last night I decided to look up the building to see if it was even in the realm of possibility that I could live there some day.

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

A 1-bedroom runs at least $3,700. And the most devastating part? This isn’t even the owner’s primary home.

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They actually live in Palo Alto, but the wife works a couple of days a month in the city designing stores for Anthropologie, and traffic is such a bother. So they bought a little pied-à-terre that they can let their kids use or stay in when they want to go to a restaurant in the city and not worry about driving home.

Life is hard, right?

So, bad news, I will never live here. Good news: I DO FOR NOW.

How often do you cook at home each week?

When the hubs and I first got hitched, I cooked often. Joey hadn’t get discovered his love of the culinary, which meant it was either eggs every night or I take on most of the cooking duties. But while I enjoy cooking, I found myself often making pretty much the same thing every night. (This was a weekly staple.)

Fast-forward almost four (!) years later, and the roles have almost entirely reversed. And while I love (LOVE) how often and well Joey cooks, sometimes I miss it. But, to be totally honest, cooking had started to bore me. My veggie-loaded pastas were good, but not that exciting. And while I was pinning new recipes all the time, I rarely had the motivation to seek out new ingredients and learn new techniques.

I guess Joey must have been feeling stuck in a rut too, because a few weeks ago, we started using Blue Apron.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled -- so you really can't mess this up.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled — so you really can’t mess this up.

 

If you’re not familiar, Blue Apron is a service you can sign up for that will send you perfectly portioned ingredients and recipes so you can cook at home. We signed up to get three meals a week, and personally, I immediately loved the process. Every Wednesday night, we receive a shipment of super fresh produce, spices, and seafood (we didn’t want chicken, so that eliminated other meats from our plan as well), along with the recipes cards — complete with step-by-step photos — we need to create the meal. Of course, there have been a couple of recipes we weren’t as crazy about, but for the most part we’ve been pretty pleased with everything.

The best part for me? I’m cooking again — AND I’m learning new things all the time. I’ve cooked Thai food, Vietnamese food, and pot pies, I’ve experimented with new kinds of seafood (I’m making catfish this week!), and I’ve learned so much more about working with fresh spices. I’ve pickled my own raisins. I’ve grated my own horseradish. I’ve become an expert chopper. And I’ve kept all the recipes we loved, so I can create them again any time I want. It’s also surprisingly affordable — we’re not spending any more on groceries than we were before.

I didn’t really realize how much of an effect Blue Apron had had on my cooking until this past weekend. We took a trip to Vermont with a few friends, and I offered to cook dinner and lunch two of the days. My plan was to make venison chili with cornbread quiche for dinner and venison cutlets the next day for lunch. I had never cooked venison before, and I’m always nervous about cooking meat after the Meatloaf Disaster of 2011. But after reading over a couple of possible recipes, I realized that the skills I had picked up over the last two weeks would translate pretty easily.

And you know what? That venison turned out pretty darn good.

So, I’m curious: How do all of y’all learn new recipes? Do you tend to cook the same things over and over? Have you tried Blue Apron? What did you think?

(I feel obligated to clarify that this isn’t a sponsored post — I just wanted to share my opinion about a new service we’ve been trying!)

Hi hi hi hi HI!

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you all.

You probably already noticed, but I took a bit of a break from the interwebs over the last two weeks. (Except what I needed to do for work.) Instead, I really threw myself into organizing our apartment and updating a few decor things.

We decided last year that this would be our final year in our current place, meaning we’ll be ready to move come April. Before then, though, I wanted to get rid of as much as I could to make packing and moving less of a headache.

Meaning it was time to tackle the really messy areas of our apartment.

Here were my main goals:

1. Organize the linen closet.
2. Organize the file cabinet.
3. Rearrange the desk area.
4. Replace our (seriously beat UP) living room rug.
5. Sell and replace our green upholstered chair in the living room.
6. Organize the kitchen cabinets and pantry.
7. Rearrange our picture frames.
8. Organize under the bathroom sink.

I had also hoped to get some organizing done in the bedroom, but that’s a task for another day. It’s mostly Joey’s stuff that needs a more efficient storage system. (Sorry, babe. I promise, you’ll like it better when everything has a place!)

Here are a few before-and-afters…because who doesn’t love a makeover story?

Let’s start in the kitchen. Here is the pantry before:

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And here is the pantry after:

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I don’t know about you, but those sweetly labeled food containers just warm my heart.

Up next, the linen closet before:

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And now the linen closet currently:

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Yup, more chalkboard label goodness.

Next up, I rearranged some furniture around our desk. Here’s what it looked like before:

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And here’s what we’re looking at now:

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For the living room itself, here’s where we started:

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And here’s the updated version:

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A little lighter, brighter, and a lot more colorful, non?

I also did organize the kitchen cabinets, under the bathroom sink, our file cabinet, and I even threw in the tupperware and baking sheet cabinets for kicks. (It was a very busy couple of weeks.) I’m still waiting for our new upholstered chair to arrive, but then I’ll be sure to post an update.

So there you have it! How did everyone else spend their break?

 

It’s time for that other favorite year-end blog tradition: the top 10 most visited posts of 2014! (Here’s last year’s for reference.)

Due to the wonders of SEO, pretty much every post on the list this year (and most of last year’s) is a how-to. But, hey, if it helped you, I’m happy. Let’s get into it, shalllll we?

10. I Almost Got Hit by a Car Today

So…I really don’t know why this one was so popular. Unless you all actually wish me dead and I just haven’t figured it out yet. The thing is, a LOT of people search the words “almost got hit by car.” So…apparently this is more common than I thought and it’s more of a miracle that it hadn’t happened sooner.

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9. Three Ways to Style a Top Knot

You know what people loved this year? Top knots. NeverMIND the fact that it’s called a bun and has been around for centuries. The only thing people love more than knots on their heads is multiple ways to create them. Apparently.

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8. What Guys Should Wear for Pictures

The only thing that concerned ladies more than how to style their hair this year? What their fella was going to wear for their engagement pictures. I gotchu.

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7. What to Wear to a Concert

This post, born out of my own uncoolness, continues to dominate. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, but the biggest reassurance here is that I’m not the only one who has NO IDEA what to wear to concerts.

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6. How to Write the Perfect Thank-You Note

I’m actually quite pleased this one has risen in the ranks — this is knowledge people need to know!

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5. How to Plan a Kate Spade Party

You know what life needs sometimes? An elaborately themed, super girly party. This one will definitely fit the bill.

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4. How to: Healthy Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If I’m speaking my truth here, this isn’t even one of my favorite recipes I’ve ever made. And the photos are terrible. But these cookies ARE pretty dang nutritious, and I’m glad you all enjoyed them.

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3. How to Plan a Mad Men Party

Our themed housewarming shindig remains one of my most successful parties to date, so I’m glad it’s still getting a lot of traffic. Feel free to steal any and all of these ideas.

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2. How to Skip Washing Your Hair for Six Days

It got bumped from the first place spot this year, but “how to be grubby without people noticing” is still a popular topic with y’all. My pain is your gain.

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1. How to Paint a Metal Filing Cabinet

This simple little post has been climbing the ranks for the last couple of years, but it finally made it to the top. I decided to include a photo of it present-day to prove that this tutorial actually does hold up. Pretty neat, huh?

SO there you have it. Did your favorite post make the cut?