Things I Like

“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…

I’m pretty thrilled to announce that I have completed the Spring Simplification List (with a couple caveats, I suppose).

BEDROOM
Move bed back

Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays

Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area
Create more organized entryway

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet
Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table (added to Craigslist)
Clean out pantry

(The newly checked off items are in purple.)

First, the desk. Some of you will remember my post last week talking about how I wanted to spruce up our computer desk. Well, for once I actually accomplished a goal within a couple of days. (It may have helped that I had a little party Saturday, so I had extra motivation.) After a quick trip to Target, I had this:

desk-overall-1

desk-decor

Of course, with a close up of the GREATEST TAPE DISPENSER EVER.

Next, the new coffee table. I have been coveting this one from West Elm for literally two years, but I just couldn’t in good conscience shell out $600 for a coffee table. Plus, you know my thing about buying new-new furniture. (And people very rarely sell these on Craigslist, probably because they’re perfect.) So, in typical me fashion, I scoured online for something similar, preferably pre-owned.

I searched for months, as evidenced by the fact that I wrote this simplification list at the beginning of spring. Finally, a week ago I found my new table.

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photo 3

It even has a lift-top like the West Elm version! The biggest difference? I paid $75 to a guy in Brooklyn for mine. Win.

Now for the list caveats. Obviously, there are three things that have not happened yet: art over the dresser, selling the kitchen table, and finding an IKEA Norden table.

For now, I’m sticking with the table we have. It’s fine. It doesn’t provide extra storage, and I will still sell it if anyone contacts me, but I’m holding off on buying anything new for a while. So for now, this one will do.

I still have every intention of finding something for over the dresser, but I think it’s time to retire this list. Obviously I’ll let you know when I find the right thing.

Even with those little asterisks, I still feel pretty accomplished about checking off a lot of those things. Cleaning out the crawl space and finding the new coffee table have been plaguing me for the better part of a year, so it’s pretty dang satisfying knowing they’re done.

Guess it’s time to think of some more goals, huh?

I’m writing this post before the sweat has even dried from my body so you get as accurate a recall of this class as possible.

A few weeks ago, my friend Sabine reached out to me because she had semi-recently become an instructor at SoulCycle.

I had only ever taken one SC class before, and, it has to be said, I wasn’t that impressed with it. But I’m a firm believer in second chances, so when Sabine offered me a free class in exchange for an honest review on my blog, I told her to sign me up.

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The Gym
Space: If you’ve never been to SC, the aesthetic is actually really similar to Drybar. If you’ve never been to Drybar…it’s modern and uses a lot of white and yellow. Shoes are included in the cost, and water is $2 extra. One of the biggest pros to SC is its locker room. Y’all know I love amenities, and these locker rooms are fully equipped with fancy soaps, good hair dryers, hair accessories, and the various toiletry and product accoutrements you need post-workout. (Basically, FREE STUFF!) The spin studio itself isn’t remarkably different from any other spin studio. The bikes are arranged in a semi-circle around the instructor’s stage. Throughout the class, the instructor has control of the lights and music.
Cleanliness: The locker room was a little messy, probably because it was the end of the day. Everything was wiped down and sterilized though, just a little cluttered.
Attitude: Before I attended spinning classes regularly, I think I would have been a little intimidated by SC classes. Most of the people there have been going for a while, and, in general, they go hard. If you have a few classes under your belt, though, you’ll feel right at home.

The Workout
Difficulty (Out of 10, 1 being “could do it in my sleep” and 10 being “omg I can’t walk”): 9. As I said before, I didn’t really care for the last SC class I went to mostly because I didn’t feel like I got a really solid workout. Sabine’s class was entirely different. Girl makes you work. Between continuously harder “climbs” and sprint intervals that had me literally dripping sweat, not to mention a tough arm circuit in between, I had a little trouble walking down the stairs to the subway after.
Experience: Sabine did a great job keeping the energy level up, even though class was on a Friday night. Classes like this are really all about the instructor, and I liked her style of providing cues and how smoothly each interval flowed into the next. One thing I don’t always love about SC classes is that you do a lot of arm work while you’re riding, including tricep dips and pushups on the handle bars. For me, it interrupts the flow of riding a bit, but I do like ending the class feeling like I’ve worked out more than just my legs. I think this is something I would probably get used to as time went one — even this time around, it was easier. Speaking of arms, there’s a portion of the class where you slow the bikes and do an arm circuit with light weights (at least, they feel light in the beginning). Sabine will be happy to know that my biceps and shoulders were burning (in a good way) by the end of that portion. Plus, she actually played music I hadn’t heard a thousand times at every other spin class, which is a big bonus.
Afterburn: I was already feeling wiped when I left the class, and I have a feeling my shoulders will be sore tomorrow morning. Definitely tough one.

Final grade: A! I’m not sure if I can afford regular SC classes, but if I go, at least I know Sabine’s classes are worth the cost.

And, for the record, I’m not just saying all this because Sabine is my friend. If I hadn’t liked the workout, I would say something like, “It’s really great for beginners!” This was tough in the best way possible.

Thanks again for having me, Sabine!