Unsolicited Advice

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Yesterday, Joey and I had a few friends over for dinner and dessert. It was by no means the most elaborate or biggest party I’ve ever thrown — in fact, the whole thing came together spontaneously and in about six hours — but despite it’s simplicity, we had a lovely time with our friends eating, laughing, and catching up.

Because I grew up with a hostess-with-the-mostess mother then worked in the wedding industry and now work for one of the most famous hostesses in the world, I’ve always been fascinated by what details make a really great party. I still have a lot to learn, but I thought it could be fun (and helpful for anyone planning a party in the next few months) to share my favorite tips for planning a fun, stress-free event.

Here are my top five entertaining tip for newbies:

1. Set the table and make the salad ahead.

I always do these two tasks at least two hours before guests arrive. The table setting I might even do the day before if I have enough notice. For one, it forces you to start cleaning up. In my house, we use the dining room table to hold mail and other odds and ends that need to be put away. There’s usually a coat or two slung over a chair back. (I won’t name names as to whose coats they are…but they’re not mine.) The back corner of the room has also become an unofficial craft storage area. (Okay, that one’s on me.)

The point is, there’s quite a bit to be sorted out before it’s company-ready. All of which has to be done before the table can be set, so saying I’m going to set the table means I’m going to get the dining room ready. Plus, setting the table in advance means you can take your time, and the extra effort goes a long way. As for the salad, trust me when I say it will be the last thing you want to worry about when you’re trying to get dinner on the table. Make it early and keep it in the fridge.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

I rarely make dessert or purchase wine for events in my own home. In my area, I rarely invite someone over who doesn’t accept with the phrase, “Sure, what can I bring?” Letting someone else bring a few drinks or a dessert lightens your load both physically and financially — let people help.

3. Presentation is everything.

There’s nothing wrong with serving something store-bought as long as no one ever sees the package. I’m not saying you should deceive your guests (if someone asks you for the recipe, ‘fess up), what I mean is that if you can’t be bothered to cook, the least you can do is serve the food on a pretty platter.

This goes for the table as well. Use place mats or a table cloth, and break out your nice dishes even if the meal isn’t all that fancy. (Hey, when else are you going to use them?) A pretty table sets a more festive mood even if the get-together is laid-back.

4. Two words: Cloth napkins.

Everyone feels a bit fancier and, at the end of the night, you just throw them all in the laundry hamper. Easy-peasy.

5. Clean up right after guests leave.

You will want to fight me on this one. After a day of cooking and cleaning and possibly a week of planning, at the end of the night you’ll want to put your feet up or answer your bed’s siren call while the dirty pots and dishes sulk in the sink. DO NOT DO IT. Believe me when I say there is nothing better than a successful night of hosting except the feeling you have when you wake up to a perfectly clean apartment. Odds are, the last time it was this clean was moments before your guest arrived. Don’t you want to revel in it a bit? So suck it up, wash the dishes (and dry if you’re feeling extra ambitious), clean the tabletop, swiff the floor, and take out the garbage. Then sit back with one last glass of wine before bed. You’ve earned it. (And you’ll thank me in the morning.)

Happy entertaining!

I’ve mentioned a few times how I was just not a girlie-girl growing up. With three older brothers, all I wanted to do was play sports (I know, it’s hilarious if you know me know), wear my hair in a ponytail, and never put on makeup EVER.

Suffice to say, times have changed.

Nowadays, I think you could say that I’m downright girlie. I mean, sure, I still love hanging out in sweatpants, I actually enjoy watching hockey and football, and I have no qualms about getting dirty when the occasion arises. But I also have no problem glamming it up now again. (And we all know I spend too much time wondering if what I’m doing with my hair is a good decision or not.)

The point is, over the last few months, I’ve been intrigued by a girlie trend (that probably isn’t really a trend because it has been around since makeup was invented): the bold red lip.

It has to be said that I have attempted this look a few times in the past, but I always ended up chickening out of wearing it anywhere besides my bathroom. It always felt too stark. Too bold for my poor little tomboy self.

But, for whatever reason, this week I decided to be demure no more. (At least in terms of my lip color.)

Of course, confidence is only part of carrying off a red lip. Here are my steps for applying the perfect bold lip color without looking like a clown. (Or crazy person.)

How to Apply the Perfect Bold Red Lip

1. You’ve probably heard the advice that you should only highlight one part of your face at a time. If you love a dramatic eye, go neutral on the lip. In the same vein, if you’re going for a bold red lip, a simple black cat eye is all you really need to dress up the rest of your face. I also incorporated my favorite top knot (using my new favorite hair tools).

2. Using a soft toothbrush, I buffed my lips to remove any dry, flaking skin (thanks, cold air) and applied a very light layer of lip balm.

3. Next, liner. I never line my lips normally, but for such a bright color, I figured better safe than sorry. I used a color the exact same shade as my lips to outline my mouth, then filled in my lips a bit for good measure.

4. Color time! I used NARS Pure Matte Lip Color in Vesuvio. I like it because it’s not a pinky red and doesn’t look cheap. Instead of just smearing on the lipstick (especially because I was using a matte shade), I instead dabbed it on a bit at a time until my whole mouth was covered. (Color outside the lines? A quick swipe with a Q-tip can clean up and uneven edges.)

5. To make the color last, next I’ll swipe my finger in some powder and tap it on over the color. Then I’ll reapply the lip color using the same dabbing technique as before.

6. Another light layer of lip balm to keep my lips from feeling tight, and you’re good to go!

And just because gifs are fun, here’s one so you can see the above images in action:

I know, I’m just too much fun.

So there you have it! I’m not sure if this is a look I would wear all the time, but it could be fun for a special occasion now and then.

Do you ever wear red lipstick? Does it freak you out a little? What shade is your favorite?

Last day at my current job! Woo!

Ok, now the real post.

Maybe they’re on my brain because I’m starting the new could-be-the-dream job, but I feel like I’ve been thinking a lot about insecurities lately.

I think everyone has their thing. You know. The thing that keeps you at the bathroom mirror a few seconds longer. The one that makes you shy away from pencil skirts or sleeveless tops. The one that keeps your hair long or your makeup a touch heavier. Or the one that makes you laugh louder or speak up less.

We all have something that makes us feel less adequate, whether it’s all the time or just every once in a while.

I’ve written about my own insecurities a few times. (After all, overcoming the bulk of them was what helped me score a spot in Glamour magazine and a guest post on Espresso & Cream.)

But one thing I’ve only recently become aware of is how insecurities can evolve.

For example, growing up, I was always conscious of my crooked teeth and big feet. Braces straightened the teeth and a growth spurt (sort of) balanced out the feet, but puberty was less kind in other ways. Suddenly I was tortured about the size of my thighs, and later, the flatness of my stomach, the jiggle of my upper arms, the fullness of my face, blah, blah, blah.

Healthier living and healthier thinking helped me outgrow and get over most of those insecurities (though I’d be a bold-faced liar if I said I never had a day where I dismissed skinny jeans because, well, I just wasn’t feeling all that skinny that day), but the really interestinghorrible part about growing up is that just because you outgrow or get over one (or nine) insecurities doesn’t mean you’re good for life.

Over the past few months, every time I see a picture of myself I think, “Hmm…is my forehead…big? Like, weirdly big? And have my teeth gotten more crooked? Maybe I should have replaced that broken retainer…” Plus, you already know my issues with the crooked nose. And I’ve always wanted to be about four inches taller.

I think the biggest difference between these insecurities and the ones that plagued me in the past, though, is that I just don’t care as much. Sure, I wouldn’t be devastated if they suddenly went away, but I don’t let it affect my entire life like I used to. I would never describe myself as an insecure person.

Part of that is due to a revelation I had when I was at my worst in terms of insecurities. I remember being in my car crying about something or other I didn’t like about myself (because I am queen of the driving breakdown…super safe, obviously), and suddenly having this flash of, “Oh my GOD, would you get over yourself?”

It was kind of a startling moment. But the fact is, insecurities are petty and selfish. There are people with real problems out there. The size of my jeans is not a real problem.

I think, in general, people know this. Usually when you’re freaking out about something like what your shoulders look like in a tank top, you’re just not thinking clearly. You’re obsessing. You’re fixating. The biggest thing you lack is not muscle tone — it’s perspective.

Really, the gaining of perspective is probably the real biggest insecurity evolution I’ve experienced. So when I’m frustrated that my torso is kind of short or that my ribs are so wide it looks like I have no boobs at all (it’s a real thing, I swear), I let myself have a, “Well thanks A LOT, genetics!” moment, and then I roll my eyes and get on with life.

Because, en general, I’m good. I’m fine. And I’m thankful that my biggest problem is filling out a bathing suit.

Do you think your insecurities have evolved as you’ve gotten older? Would you describe yourself as an insecure person? And, spill: What’s your lamest insecurity? It can’t be worse than wide ribs or a (possibly?) large forehead.

You guys! I’m 25! WE MADE IT!

And, in case you were tired of this segment, today is the last day. So…yay?

But anyway. Let’s get into our final five Things You Should Know Before 25.

21. You should know how to end a bad relationship.

This tip applies to the romantic and otherwise relationships in your life. The fact is, no matter how much work you put into something, you can’t always make things work. Sometimes, relationships are more of a mental, emotional, and even physical drain than anything, and it’s okay to admit that you would be happier without that person in your life. Break-ups are almost always difficult, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the right thing to do.

22. You should know you can’t fix people.

Sometimes your friends are just going to keep making bad decisions no matter how much good advice you give them. Sometimes people you love are going to be incredibly self-destructive, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s always good to be there when they want to pick up the pieces, but if their poor decisions are affecting your peace and happiness, see the above point.

23. “You should know how to live alone. When I was 22 and 23, I spent several months living alone. At the time, I hated it. But now, looking back, I realize it gave me the kind of independence and insight into myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way. ” – Susan Elgin

{the first picture Susan and I ever took together}

Susan unofficially guest posts on the blog pretty much anytime I’m having a meltdown about the way my life is going. (Don’t worry; I return the favor when she’s feeling that way about her life.) We’ve always joked that our friendship was our version of the New York love story (two strangers meet under unexpected circumstances, instantly click, and form a life-long relationship…adorable, right?), and honestly, I can’t imagine my life without her. Not only is she super insightful, she’s also one of the few people I feel completely comfortable being 100% honest with. That’s tougher to find than you might think.

But anyway, back to her tip. Not surprisingly, I completely agree with this. I know it’s not possible for everyone to live on their own (financial obligations are real, yo), but if you can, I highly recommend it. Besides teaching you big lessons in the way of being an adult, (“Wait, so you mean if I don’t replace the toilet paper, no one will?”), it also shows you what you’re made of. Your real, inner person comes out in unexpected ways, and you learn that you can be self-reliant. Plus, you know, you can walk around in your underwear.

24. “You should know how to cook. That doesn’t mean you have to be able to put together a five-course meal, but you better be able to follow a recipe.” – Erik Holt

Even though we’ve gone to school together since the fifth grade, Erik and I didn’t really become friends until our junior year of college. I mean, we had always been friends, but a trip to D.C. to visit Annie (and a 2-hour Taylor Swift prom special on MTV) in the summer of 2008 solidified that the three of us would be bonded for life. And it has to be said, I am so glad that is the case. Erik is another one of my basically-my-brother friends that I am crazy proud of for what he has accomplished (including having just accepted a sweet new gig in Chicago!) and for the person he is. Really, I am so blessed to have the best friends.

ALL RIGHT WITH THE MUSHY STUFF, YOU GUYS. Back to his tip. I completely agree with this. I think everyone should have that one dish they can whip up in their sleep, whether it’s Coq au Vin or a killer grilled cheese. At this point in our lives, you should be able to keep yourself nourished with something other than another bowl of cereal. Plus, you need something in your back pocket to impress dates, right?

25. “You should know that you don’t have to have everything figured out yet. You’re still young enough where if you want to make a change and try something new — whether that be a new job, new city, relationship, or whatever — you can. But you have to be willing to take that leap of faith because nobody is going to do it for you.” – Erik, again

A couple of people submitted tips similar to this (either a sign that it’s true or that we all just desperately need to believe it. But when I read this, I couldn’t imagine ending the series on anything else. Because 25 isn’t old. It isn’t an ending of anything. As another submitter said, 25 is the age where we can do things we won’t be able to do 10 years from now and that we couldn’t do 10 years ago. I think that sums the whole series up nicely.

Of course, if you’ve turned 25 and haven’t accomplished something on this list, you know you’re not actually a failure at life, right? As quite a few of these tips have attested, 25 is an age where it’s really OK to still not have everything figured out. I’m not sure there is an age where you’re supposed to have everything figured out.

Really, this segment was just about taking stock of what’s going on. Being mature enough to handle your ish, while realistic enough to know that we are way too young to know everything.

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted not only for sharing your wisdom, but also for being a part of my life. I love you all dearly. And I don’t know about you guys, but I have a feeling 25 is going to be my best year yet.

My 25th birthday is five days away.

I don’t celebrate birthdays (so this isn’t me fishing for cards and gifts), but I wanted to talk about this particular milestone because, well, it is a milestone.

When I was a wee little Justine, I used to have this mental plan that went something like this: I’m going to get married at 20 and have kids at 25.

Okay, so…we’ve learned that wee little Justine was kind of a psycho. Or at least vastly overestimating how quickly she would get her life together. I mean, seriously, you’re still very much in college at 20. This is why we don’t take life advice from 6-year-olds.

But the point is, from the start, 25 has always signified something big for me. Twenty-five is the age (in my brain) that I was supposed to be completely and utterly grown up. Settled. Life was supposed to be figured out.

Needless to say, that isn’t exactly what happened.

I mean, to my own credit, I have some things figured out. The marriage thing? I’ve figured the crap out of that one. The job thing? The where we want to live thing? The money thing? Eh…that’s what the second-half of your twenties is for, right?

But for this commemorative post (available for two easy payments of $39.95!!)(I’m the only one that thinks of infomercials when I hear the word “commemorative”? Okay, moving on.), I wanted to focus on the stuff I can check off. More than that, I wanted to get input from some people who I really trust and admire on what they think is important to check off before you hit 25. So I sent out a Facebook message to a few people who fit that description and compiled their thoughts with my own. Some of these are silly things. Some of them a bit weightier. But they’re all 100 percent true.

And just in case you’re already overwhelmed at the thought of reading all 25 in one sitting, I’m splitting this post into five parts. Check back over the next five days for the rest!

So without further ado, here is the first half of our list of the 25 things you should know by the time you turn 25:

1. “You should know how to host a dinner party without completely freaking out.” – Madison Mayberry Hofmeyer

This is probably kind of a weird thing to say about someone who I’ve only met once before, but Madison is kind of one of my favorite people in the world. (Yup, I’m putting it all out there, Madison.) Not only is she insanely nice and smart and funny, she’s also a pretty fabulous cook. (You might recognize her from when she won Rachel Ray’s “Hey, Can You Cook?!” competition in 2008.)

And while you might think, “Sure, a girl like that could easily throw a dinner party,” I think Madison’s thought is incredibly valid. Because a dinner party doesn’t have to be a fancy sit-down event for 20. I think what she means is that you should be able to entertain guests for dinner without losing your mind, and I can completely get behind that.

2. You should know how to use a public restroom.

Okay, this one is from me. And what I mean is, you should know to check if there’s toilet paper before you’ve disrobed and sat down. And you should know to make sure you flush the toilet properly. And you should know to put some paper towels in the stall if you’ve used the last of the toilet paper. And you should know how to wash your hands without leaving soggy paper towels clogging the drain in sink. And for the ladies, it should go without saying, but for the love of all that is holy, you should know not to leave used tampons in the toilet. It’s disturbing to discover.

It never fails to shock me how many grown-ups still have not learned how to do this properly.

3. “You should know how to write a grammatically correct cover letter. That’s inspired by a resume I just read that included, among other hilarious things, ‘An understanding of chivalry’ listed under ‘Honors and Awards’. -Joe Thuente

Joe and I have been friends since the seventh grade when we rode the bus together twice a day every day. I don’t tell him this enough, but he’s someone I’m insanely proud of in terms of what he has accomplished in the time I’ve known him. He has checked off making a major move, getting a graduate degree, and getting his dream job from his life’s to-do list, and I consider it an honor that he’s kept me as a friend this long.

But enough mushy stuff. The dude also knows a thing or two about applying for and getting a job. (Plus, his anecdote is hilarious.) The fact is, it’s never going to be cool to sound uneducated. Learn yourself some basic grammar, folks. And, seriously, have a trusted adult friend read over your cover letter before you turn it in. We don’t need any more of these guys.

4. How to survive away from your family.

5. “You should know how to give a good handshake. And, for God’s sake, if you are male, you should know how to tie a God damn tie by this point.” -Joe T., again.

There’s nothing to really add to that, except I would say that ladies of the world should know how to tie a GD tie at this point too. You never know when you’ll be called on to save a male friend/boyfriend/husband from embarrassment.

Thank you to Madison and Joe from your contributions! See everyone tomorrow for the second installment!

So. It’s been three days since you got back from your honeymoon. And, I mean, it was great and all. Really great. You loved it.

But something is amiss.

What is this weird sensation you have to search Pinterest for bouquet ideas? Why haven’t you cancelled your membership to the various online wedding planning sites you joined a few months ago? We all know you totally baited your coworker into bringing up that wedding she’s going to next week just so you could talk about it.

What you’re experiencing is wedding withdrawal, and there is a cure.

1. You don’t have to let go completely…yet.

There are still a few wedding-related tasks to accomplish after you say “I do.” Get your wedding dress cleaned and preserved (or donate it!), mail out those thank-you notes, and get on the arduous process of changing your name.

That’s bound to keep you preoccupied for at least a month, right?

2. Indulge your desire to plan by offering to host any baby or bridal showers that pop up.

Your husband’s cousin just found out she’s pregnant? You can totally plan her gender reveal party. Your sister’s friend just got engaged? DIBS ON THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY.

I mean, you needed to do something with that binder of centerpiece ideas.

3. Break up with your message boards.

I know, I know. You may have spent the last year chatting with those girls about your evil sister-in-law and whether or not your should alter your dress’s neckline, but hanging on (and getting inundated with wedding-themed newsletters) is only going to make the break-up harder.

Say your good-byes and delete your account—after you’ve become Facebook friends with the ones you would actually hang out with.

4. Remember that the wedding is supposed to end sometime.

You might have loved planning, but now it’s time to enjoy what really matters: your marriage! But don’t worry, it’s still okay to thumb through your wedding album (or even pop in the wedding video) whenever you get a craving.