I turned 27 last week.

I don’t celebrate birthdays, so there was predictably little fanfare around this one (plus, I had an ear infection, so I was a bit more preoccupied with taking antibiotics and drinking fluids than anything else that day).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw a list of 27 things you have to do by 27 (I could never top this one anyway). I’m also not going to bore you with my list of goals. (BECAUSE I DO THAT ALL THE TIME ALREADY.) The only reason why I even bring it up is because, to be totally honest, I have been super jazzed about 27 for a while now.

Is it just me, or is 27 really the first time people start to treat you like you’re legitimate? For most of my life, the majority of my friends have been older than me. I’ve always been pretty driven in my career, so I often find myself working with people older than I am as well. And the moment that I always dread (because it always comes up) is when someone asks me how old I am.

If you’re 26 or under, answering that question is usually met with the equivalent of this:


But whether it’s 27′s proximity to 30 or just that it takes four full syllables to say, I can’t help but notice that the response is much more similar to this:

Ok, maybe not QUITE like that…but there is definitely more respect there.

And when you’re like me and started acting (mostly) like a grown-up right around the age of 13, 27 is finally (FINALLY) the year when you start acting your age, amiright?

The point is, I feel like this is going to be my best year yet. Yes, I say that every year, but I feel especially good about 2014/2015.

What was the year you really started to feel like a grown-up?

- As I’ve mentioned before, we recently hired a dog walker to give Bogey a break around lunch time. And, you guys? I can’t say enough good things about the company. They are prompt, responsive, and incredibly nice. Whenever our usual walker (Emily) has to miss a day, she always arranges for someone else to come take care of our boy. Plus, getting a text every afternoon about how he’s doing is the best. I especially like when she includes a photo.

This week’s Bogey adventure? We’re attempting to let him hang out in the living room during the day instead of the bathroom. There’s more space for him to move about, and it’s cooler now that the weather is getting warm. The downside is that there’s also more for him to get into, but we’ve been leaving him out for an hour or so at a time with success, so hopefully he continues to just chew his toys and not our stuff.

- My hair is FAMOUS.

- I don’t have any good updates for my Spring Simplification List, but I do have updates on the meal planning!

For the last week and a half, Joey has been a dinner machine, and the results have been pretty great so far. He feels more organized because he doesn’t have to think of things to make every night and already has shopping lists pre-written, and I feel better because I’m helping and lists are involved. Win-win!

So far, the best dinners he has made have been the Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza (which he made on tortillas) and the Shrimp, Leek, and Spinach Pasta. You guys. That pasta. If I ever had any doubts about marrying Joey, that dinner wiped them all away. So. Good.

Up this week is a stovetop avocado mac and cheese we’re both pretty excited about. I’ll let you know how it goes. (And if you have any good simple/healthy-ish dinner recipes to share, we’re all ears! Leave a comment below.)

That’s all she wrote, folks. What’s going on with you?

I’ve never been a big fan of confrontation.


Honestly, my first instinct is to passive aggression. I’ll make a “joke” or simply avoid the issue. Not exactly the best way to resolve anything, ya know?


I’ve gotten a bit better as I’ve gotten older. I recently had the revelation that I would be much better at high school now. I know how to handle mean girls. I’ve learned how tenuous the line between a bully and a coward truly is, and how easy it is to send a bully running for the hills.


The main thing I’ve learned is to nip things in the bud. The moment you let tension sit, it starts to fester, and what could have been a simply cleared up misunderstanding turns into a full-on feud.


I’m pretty sure all of Romeo & Juliet could have been solved in one long chat over some wine had there been someone around to start a dialogue.


Other than that, stay calm, hear everyone out, and know when it’s time to move on. The fact is, you’re only in control of your own response — sometimes people prefer living in conflict. That doesn’t mean you have to join them.


So does my new understanding mean when something stressful or problematic arises, I dive head-first into the fray to solve the problem?


Well…not quite. But it is getting a bit easier to talk myself into taking a stand, especially when it comes to sticking up for myself or those I love. (Even if my hands are quietly shaking in my lap while I do.)


So spill: What’s your best conflict resolution tactic?

A while ago, I made a promise to stop apologizing for lags in posting. But I’m actually kind of embarrassed at how little dedication I’ve showed in the last month.


I mean, where are you guys supposed to turn for your half-hearted tutorials and weird anecdotes?


I think the only solution is to create a sort of calendar and hold myself to it. Due to the busyness of life lately, I feel like I can reasonably commit to two posts a week. The next few weekends are all fairly packed with activity, so hopefully that will elicit some material.


One project I want to work on? Decorating our bedroom.


I don’t know why the bedroom has continually proven to be so dang impossible to decorate for me. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that it’s usually doubling as a storage room. (Thank you very much, tiny NYC apartments.) But you think I could at least decide on a bedspread or something.


I’ve posted mood boards and inspiration photos of bedrooms in the past, but nothing has ever really come to fruition in a “I want to share photos of this room with the world” kind of way. It seems doable to get this done before the end of the year, though, right?


So between that, a half marathon in Philly in two weeks, TWO visits to see my family this month, and a (super secret) upcoming blogger collaboration I’m taking part in, I should be able to crank out 16 posts before the end of 2013.



Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m in a little bit of a holding pattern.

I mean, everything is good. There’s just not that much going on.

Work is fine. Everything with Joey and me is good. Life is pretty much business as usual.

So why aren’t I completely at peace with that?

I’ve mentioned before how I have problems being content. I’m an achiever, so if I’m not striving toward some goal, I think I feel a little lost. Like I don’t have a direction. I’ve never been very good at coasting.

Which is why (I assume) whenever I get too comfortable with anything, or feel like it’s not that much of a challenge anymore, I get a little restless.

And goodness knows I don’t have much to blog about when I’m overly content. Meaning you guys are the real victims here. (Right, guys?)

Fortunately, I think we’re just in a bit of a slow patch. In the next couple of months, I have a half marathon (my first in over a year!), I might be doing a tough mudder (more on that later), and I’m heading home to Iowa for the Thanksgiving break (could NOT be more excited). Hopefully those adventures will bring about a few interesting stories.

Maybe this is just a seasonal transition. Anyone else feeling a bit stuck-in-a-rut?

I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm. (A title I actually wear proudly…I never understood being embarrassed about being a bit of a nerd. Nerds win every time.)

When I was younger, I would actually read constantly, even as I was getting ready for school or walking down the sidewalk. My mom would get irritated as I appeared to dawdle, forever telling me to “put down the book and come on.”

Sassy child that I was, I would usually snap back something like, “Do you know how many parents would love to have a child they had to tell to stop reading?!”

My name is Justine, and I’ve been a sassafras since 1987.

Today, I read an average of a book a week. Two if I’m reading something particularly fluffy. I’m constantly on the hunt for what to read next (my Kindle and Amazon’s endless supply of easy-to-download material has been a blessing and a curse), so I thought I’d share a few of the books I’ve read recently in case anyone else is in the market.

In no particular order…

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
This one was on my list for a while. I’d loved Bossypants by Tina Fey, and everyone said this book had a similar feel. Plus, I’m always on board for a humorous memoir by a sort-of awkward gal I admire.

I thought this one was funny, but not quite the laugh-out-loud riot that Bossypants was. It’s also an insanely quick read, so don’t count on it to get you through more than a handful of subway rides. Still, I recommend it for something light.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
I hadn’t seen the movie, but after all the fuss about this story line at the Oscars, I was curious. After reading it, I honestly can’t believe the movie will be better than the book. The characters are so vividly drawn, and the plot is both hilarious and heartrending at times. Highly recommend this one.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This came as a recommendation from my friend Erin, a fellow lover of young adult lit. They’re making it into a movie next year, so I recommend getting it on your radar before then. Erin cites this as one of her favorite books, and while I didn’t have quite the same reaction to it, it is lovely and tragic in a way only YA can be (two teens with cancer meet in a support group and fall in love…the ending isn’t altogether unpredictable, but it’s also not corny in any way). Plus, I think it’s rare to find a male author who can capture the angst of being a teen girl well, and John really nails it.

The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyI hate playing favorites, but this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. (And, like I said, I’ve read a lot.) It will appeal to the Hunger Games crowd (most of the story is told from the perspective of teens during an alien invasion that has devastated the planet), but it’s a smarter science fiction that readers who think themselves above the HG crowd will also appreciate (it’s a little more Ender’s Game, actually). The biggest selling point, though, is that it’s almost entirely unpredictable. I’m really difficult to shock in books (I mean, there are only so many plot lines out there, right?), and I genuinely did not know what to expect for most of this book. It’s just really, really enjoyable. It’s also going to be a trilogy — albeit the second book doesn’t even have a release date yet — so you’d be super cool to get in on this now.

The Ender’s Game Quintet by Orson Scott Card
Speaking of Ender’s Game, I also read this quintet this year. I’ve since discovered that there’s an almost inexhaustible amount of subsequent books exploring every facet of the series, but I feel pretty satisfied with the plot after reading these four books. The first one will always be my favorite, but if you’re a commit-er like me, you’ll want to read all four. Warning: If you don’t like science fiction, you won’t like these. No matter what anyone tells you, they are not really like Hunger Games at all except the first book has children waging a war.

The Selection/The Elite by Kiera Cass
Just so you don’t get the wrong idea that all I read is fancy-schmance science fiction books (and in the interest of honest, total disclosure), I feel it’s only fair to mention that I’ve also gotten into this soon-to-be trilogy. It’s basically a mix of The Hunger Games (sensing a pattern here?) and The Bachelor. Seriously. It’s not really a book series I brag about reading, but it was perfect for reading by the pool in Florida. If you want something mindless but entertaining, pick it up. The third book is out next year as well.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Finally, let’s add a little mystery to my recommendations. I read this book because it was recommended by the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, on (I think) Glamour.com. It’s about a serial killer who is able to travel through time (you have to read to find out how), making it nearly impossible to catch him. One of his would-be victims survives, though, and becomes obsessed with catching her killer. The book is good, but it didn’t get my heart racing as much as I thought it would. An interesting take on an otherwise overdone plot, though.

I’m currently reading Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (another Flynn rec on Glamour), but I don’t really want to say anything until I’ve finished. I’ll keep ya posted.

So what has everyone else been reading? Lord knows I need a few more download ideas.