Justine Lorelle

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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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.