Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I go out to eat a fair amount.
Like, a lot.
I like nice restaurants. I like ambience. I like a glass of wine. I like appetizers and desserts. I like debating what my dining partner and I are going to get for ourselves and what we’re going to share. I like cheese plates and tapas. I like big salads filled with caramelized nuts and avocado. I like mood lighting and the clink of glasses and waiters who keep my water glass filled.
Plus, I mean, you know I like eating.
The only problem with this little hobby of mine? I live in New York City, and it’s not, you know, inexpensive to go out around these parts.
For the record, I have cut back. And it’s not like I’m spending like a millionaire even when I do go out. But it’s definitely a sizable portion of my monthly expenses.
The thing is, I accept that. I guess I figure that now is the time of my life to go out to dinners and meet up with friends. At some point, we’re going to settle in more. We’ll probably move away from New York, get a house, have a couple of kids, and suddenly a dinner on the town will become an event and not so much just our lifestyle. So even though it’s a luxury, it’s one I always appreciate.
Like when I’m walking down 9th Avenue to meet up with a friend at Chelsea Market. Or (gasp) hopping in a cab because I’m late for dinner in the East Village. Or like last night.
My friend Carly and I had dinner in one of my favorite restaurants in Chelsea Market, Friedman’s Lunch. Friedman’s occasionally has a special dessert that is a skillet cookie with ice cream (also known as my favorite thing), and I was telling Carly about it during the meal. When we asked, though, we were informed tonight was not one of the magical evenings the skillet cookie is available.
Driven by a desire beyond our control, Carly and I took to the streets trying to find somewhere we could procure a warm chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of ice cream. Finally, we happened upon a diner. Carly explained our quest, and the maitre d’ told us to take a seat because he would take care of us. Carly also managed to finagle us two healthy pours of wine because — surprise! — she also happens to speak Italian and the entire waitstaff was Sicilian. Whatta gal, right?
These kinds of things don’t happen in every city in the world.
And, not to get overly sentimental, but those are the things I want to remember when I think about my New York life. I did cool things. I had so much fun. So I keep these things in their place, but I also appreciate fully when they happen.
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.
Apparently there’s something in the water because I’m not the only one who feels compelled to talk about clothes right now. (Don’t miss my dear friend Kayla’s newest post!)
Like Kayla, I too feel like I have too many clothes. The anxiety tends to mount at the times of year that I usually feel more compelled to purchase (looking at you, fall season), especially when I find myself shoving sweaters into tightly packed drawers or struggling to find a certain skirt in my wardrobe.
Excess stuff has always given me anxiety. Excess clothing makes me feel anxious and materialistic.
The most embarrassing part is that even when I feel like my closet is full to bursting, I can still be tempted by the latest J. Crew email in my inbox. After all, what’s one more sweater? And at 60% off? It would be a waste not to take advantage of such savings, right?
One thing I’ve tried to be more aware of in the last couple of years: If you have to spend money to save money, you’re not really saving money.
In the last few weeks, I’ve actually hit a point of shopping saturation. I have plenty of clothes, and I’m finding it easier and easier to ignore deals. (Because, let’s be honest, there is always a sale going on somewhere.)
Two other things that have helped? A more organized closet and limiting my options.
I’ve said before how much I like getting rid of things. (Part of my aversion to stuff.) I try to prune down my wardrobe at least a couple of times a year, and it gets easier and easier the closer I get to truly identifying my personal style.
Because, yeah, 26-and-a-half years later, I’m still working that out.
This past weekend, I filled two large shopping bags with items to sell or donate and put all my summer clothes to keep in a plastic bin for storage until the temperature warms up. The result? A neat, color-coded wardrobe with room to actually sort through each item. (Okay, the color-coded part doesn’t happen naturally. I’m a freak, okay?)
I even convinced the hubs to let me go through his closet…though we’ll see how long the color coding lasts.
It might sound weird, but I actually feel calmer looking at my clothes now. Okay, yeah, it definitely sound weird. BUT I AM WHO I AM, GUYS.
As for limiting my options, I’ve decided to only wear about seven colors.
Hear me out.
There are few things more irritating to me than making an impulse buy — or a “yes, this will be my style” buy — only to realize after a couple of wears that an item just isn’t me. Now I’ve wasted money and space in my closet on something I don’t even like.
So I started to think about what it is that I always like, and basically it translates into anything J. Crew/Ralph Lauren/preppy-esque. And more specifically, it almost always comes in a shade of black, white, grey, navy, green, red, or camel.
And thus, a new shopping rule was born.
And so far? It seems to be working pretty well. I definitely feel like I’ve curbed the excess spending.
What about you guys? Do you have any shopping rules? Another of my unofficial ones is that I rarely buy anything full priced. And, of course, I always use Ebates. Share yours in a comment below!
I try to limit the amount of time I spend talking about diet or losing weight.
In girl world, this is an anomaly. (Did you read that in Cady Heron’s voice? Because I did.) My dear friend Madison did a series of posts a while back about “fat talk,” which some of you may remember I contributed to.
I think I’m pretty open about my insecurities in general, I just don’t see a lot of benefit in perpetuating fat talk or this idea that it’s wrong to not feel fat or disgusting all the time.
True story: I recently went to a few wineries with a bunch of my gal pals. Someone a took group picture, and one of the girls didn’t love how she looked in it. Another girl replied, “Girls never like how they look in pictures.”
Think about that. Girls never like how they look in pictures. Never. Because you are female, you will never like how you look.
Doesn’t that make you sad? It makes me sad.
Without really thinking, I replied, “I do!”
I didn’t mean that I thought I look good in every photo, I just meant, yes, it was possible for me to see a photo of myself and not be repulsed.
Everyone just chuckled and the conversation moved on. But the moment stayed with me.
It made me think about if I had a daughter, honestly. While I would want my daughter to be humble and to keep things like appearance in their place (that is, not thinking they’re the most important), I also want her to feel comfortable in the fact that she is not wrong-looking. I want her to feel like she can like how she looks in a photo.
I’m curious what my other female readers think (or male readers, if you have a thought about this). Do you feel pressure to deride your own looks in groups of women? Do you feel like you’re sincere in doing this? Do you never like a photo of yourself?
I’m writing this with mud still under my fingernails. (Though, for the record, I started writing it Saturday night.)
Saturday morning, I survived my first Tough Mudder.
For those not familiar, a TM is basically a half marathon with obstacles. Tough obstacles. Obstacles with names like Electric Eel, Everest, and Arctic Enema.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it was happening. Here’s how it all went down.
A couple of months ago, my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to join her Tough Mudder team. I’ll be honest: My immediate answer was thanks, but no thanks. I have a few friends who have done Mudders in the past, and I could never get over the fact that there are obstacles that involved running or crawling through electrically charged strings that would actually shock you whilst you tried to scramble through.
I mean, I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise, but that seemed crazy even to me.
A couple of weeks ago, though, Diana was telling me how one of her friends had dropped out of their three-woman team, and since so many of the obstacles require some serious team effort to get through, “If only I could find someone who would take her place.”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, I guess if I could just have her entry, I could do it with you.”
Also known as the words they’ll engrave on my tombstone.
Of course, Diana quickly made the arrangements, even reaching out to a friend of hers who works for TM to get my name on the entry, and the deed was done.
Honestly, I tried not to think about the event too much in the (terribly) short weeks leading up to it. Diana and I are also doing a half marathon next month, so we were already training. We both continued with our conditioning training regimens as well. So we were preparing. We just weren’t thinking about what we were preparing for.
The morning arrived all too soon. Diana and Stephanie (our third team mate) met us at the course in New Jersey. The weather was uncharacteristically good, which actually boded well for the rest of the day.
That Arctic Enema I mentioned? It involves submersing yourself in a dumpster filled with icy water. Like, the top three to four inches of the water are just chunks of ice. It would be just swell if it wasn’t freezing outside when we got out of said dumpster.
So anyway. Around 10:45, we crossed the starting line. Around 10:46, we had to scale a sheer wood wall.
The race had begun.
Besides running about 12 miles, we also did about 12 obstacles. (I’m honestly too tired to remember exactly how many. Plus, there’s a lot of running up and over steep, muddy hills throughout, and while those don’t technically qualify as official obstacles, they should.)
You can read the descriptions of all the potential TM obstacles you could encounter here, but the ones I can remember that we did were the Electric Eel, the Cage Crawl, The Cliffhanger, Electroshock Therapy, Everest, Fire Walker, Funky Monkey, Island Hopping, Just the Tip (not as dirty as it sounds)(actually, it was really filthy), Kiss of Mud, Mud Mile (lots of mud), Walk the Plank, Boa Constrictor, the Arctic Enema, a Wheelbarrow Crawl, several Berlin Walls, and Warrior Carry.
The worst parts? Easily the Arctic Enema and the shock stations. As I said, the electrocution had always been my least favorite part about the event, and actually living it lived up to my perception. It hurt. And in a way that just made you kind of angry about it. I did not like it.
Here’s a video of it happening (the weird jerking motions we make are us reacting to the electricity):
The icy dumpster was just the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. I mean, I’ve done a polar bear plunge, so I guess I thought I had an idea of what to expect.
I. Had. No. Idea.
The second you hit the water, your breath just leaves you. As does any sense of reason. We made the mistake of popping back up for air before swimming under the divider (yup, they make you swim through the icy water completely submerged), so we had to force ourselves to go back under just to get out. I vividly remember swimming toward the end and feeling several inches of ice move around my head as I broke the surface.
As we burst up again, Diana just screamed, “I NEVER WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.”
There was a mad panic as we desperately just tried to fight out way out of the dumpster. I may have kicked a teammate. I honestly don’t even remember.
When you get out, you just have to keep moving. I couldn’t think. I just knew I couldn’t stop moving. You warm up again fairly quickly, but the shock to the system takes a bit to wear off.
Okay, I just made the whole thing sound pretty awful. Let’s talk about the fun parts, shalllll we?
The Warrior Carry was actually probably my best moment. We were a three people, but at the Carry you’re supposed to run down a stretch of the path carrying a partner on your back, then switch midway through. Since we needed a fourth partner, we paired up with another team of three. That was two girls and one dude.
One 6-foot-three, 200-ish pounds dude. Named Adam.
He and I made our acquaintance, and then I hopped on his back. I honestly could barely to put together a sentence because my brain was still a little frozen from the Arctic Enema, but as we approached the switch point, he asked me if I wanted to switch.
“Yeah, sure, let’s do it!” I replied without thinking. The next thing I know, I’m running down the path with him on my back. His two partners turned around one point and marveled at my Herculean strength. (Really, they shouted, “Oh my GAWD, how are you doing that?”)
When we got to the end, we high-fived, and Diana ran up to me shouting, “Justine, you carried a man!”
I felt kind of awesome.
Thinking about doing your own Mudder but not sure what to expect? Here are the four things I think you really need to know:
1. You should train for this. I know you did a Warrior Dash or a 5K without any extra training, but this is different. Even if you weren’t doing anything else, you’re going to run between 10 and 12 miles. You should probably be able to run 5-6 without stopping. It also wouldn’t hurt you to work on your upper body strength. There is a lot of lifting yourself over things or pulling yourself through things.
2. You will get dirty. Embrace it. Because you will literally get coated in mud. Mud will be in your toe nails, in your ears, in your eyes, in your belly button. At one point, Diana looked at me and said, “You have mud in your teeth.” At another point, I was looking for Diana, and I realized I had literally been staring at her for ten seconds, I just didn’t recognize her because she was completely covered in mud. You will look like a swamp monster. It’s easier to just accept it. (Plus, there’s probably a water obstacle in the next half mile to help rinse you off a bit.)
3. You will get a little hurt. But probably not too much. I have a bunch of scratches and bruises on my elbows and shins (on top of being sore as heck), and I smacked my elbow falling over the other side of the Berlin Wall. But unless you are actually a spider monkey, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Fortunately, you won’t really realize that you are getting beat up until the end (and even then, not really until the next morning). Adrenaline sort of just powers you through everything.
4. Believe in Tough Mudder karma. You won’t be able to get through the whole course yourself. People will pick you up, give you hand holds, pull you through tunnels, and in some cases carry you through portions of this race. Accept the help (because you need to — you will actually find yourself thanking some dude for pushing you over a mud hill by your butt), but also pay it forward. When you get over the hill, reach back to give someone a hand over. Help the 40-year-old dude get through the narrow, slippery tunnel. Carry the man on your back because it’s part of the fun.
5. And most importantly, you’d best have a sense of humor if you want this to be fun at all. It’s important to choose team members that you can joke with (or at least just make “are we really doing this” eye contact with), and it helps to be friendly with everyone else. Thank people. Cheer people on. Remember that everyone is being ridiculous, and you’re not the only one planning to go home, shower, and not jump in the mud again for at least another year. And if all else fails, remind yourself that there is free beer in the end.
Honestly, I’m glad I did it. It was extremely challenging, but I think it’s important to challenge ourselves. And I sort of had a similar thought as I did during the polar bear plunge that it’s just nice to do things that you never thought you would do. It’s nice to surprise yourself. It’s kind of fun to crawl around in the mud and get dirty, then jump into cold water from a 20-foot plank, then scramble up a muddy hill, then run a mile through the woods, then crawl on your back through cold water, then carry a tire half a mile, then crawl through mud under barbed wire, then slide down a muddy hill, and finally run up a sheer wall with only the hope that someone will grab your hand and pull you up.
No, really. It’s kind of fun.
So that’s how I survived it. Now I’m sore, scratched and bruised, and still swabbing mud out of my ears.
But also? Kind of awesome.
As I mentioned in a recent post, this summer was one of a bit of…excess.
This was true when it came to eating and drinking, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it also meant spending more than I normally do. I mean, I think it’s fairly common (there’s a lot more going on in the summer generally…now we’ll go back to hibernating), but it still means that now I’m looking for as many ways to save as I can for the next few months.
For me, one of the first things to go are my favorite girly habits. (I swear I’ve blogged about something like this before, but I just searched for about ten minutes and couldn’t find the post.) I’ve started doing my own nails (even procuring a little cuticle trimmer in the hopes that I’ll eventually stop picking at mine), and I’ve been seeking out cheaper ways to maintain my hair color.
As I’ve said before, it is expensive being blonde in New York City. Like, whoa. Since a full highlight can be equivalent to a car payment, anything I can do to stretch the time in between is super helpful.
Which is why I was pretty thrilled to discover these two products.
Seriously, you guys. Life. Changing.
The first one is John Frieda’s Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Spray. (Say that five times fast.) You spray it on your hair (I usually just do the roots) when it’s wet, then either hang out in the sun or simply blow dry. The heat makes the product work it’s magic.
I was a little nervous to try it initially because of a scarring Sun-In experience my brother had when I was a child (I’m a good sister, so I’m not admitting which brother), but the lightening is really gradual and natural-looking. In fact, I’ve had about six people ask me if I had just gotten my hair done since in the last couple of weeks of using it.
That’s a win, folks.
The second product is an even faster quick-fix. I actually discovered it on accident on my way to work one morning. I realized a little too late that I maybe should have washed my hair the night before (whatever, you all know I’ve gone longer without washing my hair) and ducked into a drug store to buy some dry shampoo. When I spotted Jonathan Product Root Touch Up and it promised not only to soak up excess oil but also to hide roots, I was very interested.
And, you guys. It works SO well. Here’s me before using it:
And here’s me after:
So that’s how I fight the fade on a fixed income. Any other secrets out there I should know about?