Things I Like

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

invite-edited

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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!

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?

“Justine and I grew up down the street from one another in Johnston (where the grass is always greener) and we were in choir and show choir together at school. After attending Drake University, she went on to wow Martha Stewart (among tons of others) with her writing, editing and all-around-awesome life skills. She lives in NYC and is someone you want to have on your side in any battle against a messy apartment, poor grammar, lacking money management skills, and unruly hair. Seriously, though. She has truly funny posts about everyday life events that you never knew you cared about until she wrote about them! She highlights little nuances in funny and endearing ways that can only be rivaled by Tina Fey. Maybe it’s just me, but I could not stop thinking about Justine when I read Bossypants. And her hair is famous. Take note! “

^^^Literally the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me, said by one of the nicest, funniest people I know. (And who I am sad will no longer be blogging her life. Thank goodness we’re real-life friends, right?)

Recently, my pal Ashli invited me to attend a gym she does PR for called FOCUS Integrated Fitness. I’m always up for a new gym adventure (gymventure?), so I readily accepted.

It also didn’t hurt that she told me this gym had also trained Beyonce. If wanting to look #flawless is a crime, lock me up now.

The gist of the gym is that they offer personal training, but also a small class setting that feels like a personal training session because you get so much one-on-one attention. Here’s what I thought of the class.

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The Gym
Space: The gym is fairly small with two personal training rooms and a larger area for the classes walled in by glass. There are three bathrooms, two with showers, and a water fountain for filling bottles. (Hand towels are provided; water bottles are not.) The gym equipment varies from kettle bells to treadmills to a TRX that you cycle through in a 6-station circuit. There are iPads at each station with videos demonstrating the move (in case you forgot it).
Cleanliness: Everything seemed very clean, and this might be the best smelling gym I’ve ever been in. (Weird, but true.) I didn’t shower, but I would have felt totally comfortable using these bathrooms.
Attitude: I was able to meet with someone from the marketing department, a co-owner, and two of the trainers, and they were all as nice as can be. The trainers provide constant feedback about the moves and your form, so you really do feel like you’re getting personalized attention. Most of the other people in my class were regulars, and our trainer (Kate) made a point of memorizing my name so she could call out to me the same as she did to the other people.

This is Kate. She is adorable.

This is Kate. She is adorable.

The Workout
Difficulty (Out of 10, 1 being “could do it in my sleep” and 10 being “omg I can’t walk”): 7. The class starts off with a group warm-up for about ten minutes including push-ups, crunches, and squats. Then the trainer and their assistant walk you through the six stations, demonstrating each move and the alternate move you do between sets. For example, at one station you might do elevated push-ups alternating with V sits. You then go through the stations, performing each set and it’s alternate movement twice. After the circuits, you do a 40/20, where you perform one move for 40 seconds, another for 20 seconds, and then alternate while the trainer calls out new moves each time. Finally, there’s a cool down with stretches. The class felt challenging, but not as intense as I usually go for.
Experience: The class itself was good (the other members were very welcoming and the trainers were accomodating, but I did feel like I was missing some of the energy I usually find in group classes. It might have helped if the music was louder or something.
Afterburn: Even though it didn’t feel like I was working super hard during the class, I was pretty sore the next day from all the squats and pushups. (You do a lot more than it feels like.) So what do I know?

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Final grade: A-. In general, I’m not a huge fan of stations in a workout — I feel like it breaks up my flow. But I love a gym that feels upscale without being alienating, and that’s exactly the vibe FOCUS brings. I also think that because there is such a heavy focus (PUN!) on personalizing the workout, the trainers would be more than willing to adjust each movement to make it harder if I had asked for that.

Have any of you tried FOCUS? Or do you have strong feelings about stations vs. circuits?

Recently for work, I was selected (along with a bunch of other editors) to film 30-second videos for a client. We shot the videos in our office over two days, including an interview segment and a B-roll “real life action” portion.

The last time I experienced anything remotely like this was when I was in Glamour a zillion years ago, and before that when I would occasionally appear on camera for a wedding website I worked for.

So aside from that handful of times, I am not accustomed to anything even in the same realm as a life of fame. In all these cases, though, I can tell you immediately the best part: Having someone else do my hair and makeup.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. But there’s something about being able to completely put the stress of looking a certain way in someone else’s hands that puts a girl at ease.

Here are three beauty lessons I learned whilst being a star*:

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Let’s all take a minute to acknowledge how perfect my hair looks. That stylist was gooooood.

1. It is really nice having someone else fluff your hair for you.
I like big hair, and I cannot lie. Unfortunately, while I have enough hair to knit you a sweater with (what?), it is so painfully straight that volume is always a bit of a struggle.

BUT YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THAT IN THIS VIDEO. And do you know why? Because a professional hairstylist made a point of fluffing and smoothing between almost every take. So, basically, it looked perfect every second.

A girl could get used to that.

2. It is really nice having someone else do your ponytail.
I know what you’re thinking: “Justine, isn’t the ponytail like the easiest hairstyle to do ever?”

Uh, yeah, sure. If you want to look like an amateur. The angle of your pony combined with the proper combing and backcombing to get the required amount of height and bounce is anything but child’s play.

But when you have a pro armed with (what else?) a Mason Pearson Boar-Bristle Brush? Instant magic.

3. It is really nice having someone else monitor how shiny your face is and correct it regularly.
Real talk: I have an oily T-zone. This is something I am moderately insecure about, and by the end of the day, if I haven’t taken very careful precautions, you could borrow my forehead the next time your slip-and-slide tears on a hidden rock.

The point is, at least a couple times a day I’m either re-powdering may face or, at the very least, dabbing it with a napkin or piece of toilet paper to soak up any slickness. But when you have a professional makeup artist keeping watch? I get those seconds of my life BACK, you guys. And I don’t even need to think twice about shine.

So basically, yeah, I could get used to this.

And before you even ask (family), I MIGHT share the videos when they’re done. Unless I look/sound stupid. So, what I’m saying is, no promises.

*Bahahahahahaaaaaaa yeah right.

how-to-plan-kate-spade-party

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love a theme. (Symptom of being an overplanner.) I typically plan one themed (or at least more elaborate) party a year, and since it had been over a year since my Mad Men housewarming, I was due for another.

The party would be to introduce a few of my girl friends. A while back, my friends Ashli and Nikki started a little tradition of planning “glam girls’ nights in” where we could introduce women from our different social circles that we thought would get along. I had said I wanted to host the next one, and then I set about working on the girliest party theme possible: a Kate Spade theme.

Here’s how I decorated, what we ate, what we wore, and how we celebrated.

How I decorated:
The first question my husband asked when I told him the party theme? “What the heck is a Kate Spade party?” Essentially, the theme was lots of color, stripes, and polka dots. In the invitation, I asked all the girls to incorporate stripes or polka dots into their outfits. (More on that later.)

invite

I got my invitations on Etsy from Olive & Star — because a fancy party needs a fancy invite. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail?

My apartment is already pretty colorful, so the rest of the decor was simple. I created a rainbow canopy with crepe paper streamers, had a few balloons in the entryway for when people walked in, and created a photo wall in the kitchen using polka dot wrapping paper and some leftover streamers.

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kate-spade-decor

I also made a few Kate Spade quote prints in Photoshop to decorate the food table, bar, and bathroom. You can download the PDFs for these at the bottom of the post.

What we ate:

veggie-rolls

Veggie Rolls, cheese and crackers, and spicy crab dip made up the appetizers.

Veggie Rolls
Ingredients:
Carrots
Red and yellow bell peppers
Cucumbers
Goat cheese

Directions:
1. Chop carrots and bell peppers into matchstick slices. Set aside.

2. Thinly slice cucumbers into long strips. Spread with 1/2 Tablespoon of goat cheese.

3. Place carrot and pepper slices into cucumbers, roll up, and pin into place with a toothpick.

Spicy Crab Dip
Ingredients:
4 cans crab meat
4 T light mayo
2 tsp chili powder
1 T hot sauce

Combine ingredients and chill until ready to serve.

For dinner, I boiled tortellini and served with a marinara (store bought…I’m only a pretend housewife, remember?) and a kale pesto.

tortellini

Kale Pesto
Ingredients:
4-5 cups kale, washed
1/2 cup pine nuts
4-5 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

My friend Cyndy also brought a salad.

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cake

“Naked” Funfetti Layer Cake
The highlight of the food, though, was the dessert. I want to preface this with one fact: I am not a baker. Baking is chemistry, meaning you can’t really improvise that much, and that stresses me out. I almost always mess up things I bake, and even when I don’t, there’s ALWAYS a moment during the process when I am convinced I’ve ruined the whole thing.

Like I said — stress.

I always manage to forget these things when I entertain, however, and decided that I was going to bake a cake.

Not just any cake. A layer cake. Because that’s simple.

I baked a funfetti cake from a box, but I did a few substitutions to make it taste better: add milk instead of water, butter instead of oil, and an extra egg. The buttercream I made using this recipe.

Word to the wise: Just because you’re making a “naked” cake doesn’t mean you don’t need LOADS of icing. I should have at least tripled that recipe to have had enough.

After baking the layers and trimming them to be level (another tip: freeze the layers overnight after baking to make them easier to trim/stack), I started stacking. A few spoonfuls of sprinkles and a confetti topper later, we were in business.

The drink I’m calling the PopFizzClink in honor of our hashtag. Here’s how to make it:

drink

PopFizzClink Cocktail
Ingredients:
1 oz St. Germaine
1 oz pomegranate juice
Champagne or Prosecco

Combine St. Germaine and pomegranate juice in a champagne flute and fill the rest of the way with bubbly. When making in large batches, I recommend mixing the St. Germaine and pomegranate (in equal parts) in a large pitcher to chill beforehand. Then you pour a bit in each glass and top with champagne/prosecco.

What we wore:

kate-spade-guests
Have I mentioned how much I love friends that commit to a theme? These girls did not disappoint.

Everyone incorporated stripes or polka dots, plus there was plenty of color to add to the evening. Plus, I finally got to wear the tulle skirt I’ve had in my closet for months. (Because one day I decided I needed it, okay?)

Even Bogey got in on the action. (Because you know I would not have a party without Bogart.)

What we did:
Since the evening was going to be about introducing people who didn’t know each other, I planned a few games to keep things interesting. (I didn’t want to do too many because I know some people hate party games…just enough to get everyone talking.)

Aren’t You Cute?
For this game, I gave each girl five polka dot stickers at the beginning of the party. Whenever they heard someone use the word “cute,” they were allowed to steal a sticker from them. But if they said it, whoever caught them could steal a sticker from them. The goal was to have the most stickers by the end of the evening.

Meet My Fabulous New Friend
To introduce everyone, I paired the ladies off with someone they didn’t know with questionaires. They would interview their partner, and then “introduce” them to the rest of the group. I stole this idea from Ashli and Nikki’s party because it was such a funny way to hear hilarious stories and get to know each other beyond the basics. Questions included things like “what is your job,” “what is your most embarrassing moment,” “what is your favorite place you have traveled to,” and more.

There Will Be A Quiz
While everyone was introducing their new friends, I wrote down random facts each person revealed. After we had all “met,” I told everyone we were starting a new game where they had to be the first one to identify who had said the things I had written down. Whoever remembered the most (and the fastest) won a prize.

Put a Bow On It
We didn’t end up playing this game, but I think it’s always good to have a back-up in case things start to slow down. The plan was to pair everyone off again and give each team of two a piece of ribbon. They would then have to race to tie their ribbon into a bow first — but each person could only use one of their hands. Teamwork!

At the end of the party, I also sent each girl home with a little goody bag with a face mask, compact mirror, nail polish, and a Ring Pop.

treat-bags

The party turned out exactly how I hoped. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I had fun learning new things about everyone. Plus: cake and tutus. What more do I need?

Thanks again to the girls for playing along! And a HUGE thank-you to Monica for taking most of these pictures (if you want to hire a photographer in the NYC area, let me know and I can pass along her info).

#popfizzclink!

 

Free Downloadable Kate Spade PDFs
Eat Cake for Breakfast
But first, champagne
Cocktail in her hand, confetti in her hair
She is anything but ordinary.
Coral lipstick
Dressing up begins at age five…
#PopFizzClink
She is a voracious reader…