The Top 10 Posts of 2013

Similar to my annual sum-uppance, I also like to share a round-up of the top ten most-read posts of the year every December. (Last year’s winners here.) It’s usually fairly amusing — I mean, without this list, we would never have known how much people like reading about narwhals, right?

Let’s do this.

10. How to: Baby Gender Reveal Party
I loved writing this post almost as much as I loved planning my friend Megan’s baby gender reveal party, and apparently my readers have enjoyed it as well. You’ll also be happy to know that Bill and Megan had a healthy, adorable little boy that we all adore.

9. How to: Throw a Mad Men Party
So apparently I need to plan more parties? Our houseapartment-warming party was one of th most successful party I’ve ever thrown. I themed it (because I’m me), and the results were pretty fab. This post shared what I cooked, what we wore, and how I decorated.

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8. Get Your StitchFixMy post from the first time I used the service. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a follow-up about my other experiences with the company here. I actually did find something in the subsequent fix that I liked, which I have completely forgotten to blog about. But they made things up to me.

7. What Guys Should Wear for Pictures
Listen, dudes. I’m looking out for you. This will hopefully be helpful for any newly engaged folks out there.

6. How to: Nutella Hot Chocolate
Another repeat from last year. You just can’t argue with Nutella.

5. How to: Plan a Bachelorette Party in Chicago
I still think this is one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever written — and one of the best parties I’ve ever planned. I stand behind all of my recommendations, and people who attended have told me that people forward them this blog post when they come across it while Google-searching bachelorette party ideas. That’s some good SEO right there.

4. How to: Create “Disney Princess” Curls
I often joke now that my target audience is little girls between the ages of one and seven because of my cartoonishly large eyes and long blonde hair. But turns out that little joke was a great way to drum up some blog traffic. Go forth and learn how to curl your hair.

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3. So…this happened.
So…this one is weird. I mean, the post is funny. It was a funny thing that happened to me. But this post NEVER got any serious traffic until November 28th, when suddenly it exploded in popularity, getting about 5,000 page views in two days. (A sizeable amount for my little blog.) I know the traffic came from Facebook, but I have no idea why or where in the social network. If anyone knows why, I would love to have this phenomenon explained.

2. How to: Paint a Metal File Cabinet
The tale of how my father-in-law and I took a rusted out file cabinet and restored it like new. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll buy spray primer. Everyone wins.

1. How to: Skip Washing Your Hair for Six DaysIt’s like the little post that could. Thanks to a hefty dose of Pinterest traffic, this post has risen from the fourth most-read post last year to the most-read post of the year. Round of applause (and dry shampoo) for everyone!

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Thanks for another great year! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this one.

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Our Pretend Pet

Hey! Hey, guys! I missed ya.

I hope you all had lovely, safe, relaxing breaks over the holiday. Joey and I did as little as possible, so we certainly did. The only bit of excitement? Babysitting my coworker’s cat.

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Her name is Mira. Pretty cute, right?

As my regular readers are well-aware, Joey and I have wanted a pet for a while. It hasn’t been possible yet, so we were pretty excited to spend our week off of work with something small and furry.

Before I tell you how it went, I think it’s important that you know that we are not cat people. I mean, I’ve had a cat, and she was great, but I will always pick a dog first. But like I said, we’re desperate and she still met the “small” and “furry” requirements.

Mira arrived without incident, took a few seconds to get acclimated, and then promptly started playing with us. She chases string (like, you know, every cat ever) and fetches elastic hair ties. She’s tiny, so she didn’t make any kind of mess.

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Joey promptly got very attached.

The most annoying/cutest thing about her? She would try to wake us up at 4:30 in the morning, but she would do it by curling up between my shoulder blades (I sleep on my stomach), putting her face right next to my face, and purring as loudly as she could.

I mean, that’s just kind of hard to get mad at.

We also got on a pretty good schedule of pet care — waking up a little earlier to play with her before heading out for the day, scooping litter twice a day to prevent any gross smells, requisite petting time.

The only thing Mira was missing? A desire to cuddle. She loved being pet, but she only sat in my lap one time (and then, it was only for about two minutes)(the happiest two minutes of my day). But that cat has zero desire to be held, at least by us.

Of course, eventually we had to give her back. And for two not-cat people, we were both pretty bummed to go back to our pet-free lives. It might be time to invest in a fish or something.

Either way, it was a good introduction to what it will be like when we finally get our own pet. Someday…

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Bon voyage.

Today, I did something a little crazy.

I signed up for a marathon. In Paris.

All together now: Eeeeeeeeee!

 

Taken from the Eiffel Tower on my first Paris trip.
Taken from the Eiffel Tower on my first Paris trip.

 

Really, I could not be more excited to go to Paris again. And heck, to run a full marathon for the first time. I just can’t think too hard about it. Or about the training.

Oof, the training.

I’m running it with my pal, Diana, who ran the Philly Half with me, and of course Joey will be there to support. It’s actually the same week as our anniversary, so it will be nice to celebrate by revisiting one of our honeymoon spots. (You know, without getting food poisoning this time.)

So I’m psyched. And terrified. And totally open to any marathon training suggestions/schedules my marathoner readers have to share.

Allons-y!

You better tweak.

Anyone who has known me for more than a few minutes (or read even a few posts on this blog) can probably tell you two things about me:

1. I’m very committed to the idea of self-improvement.

Whether it’s my attitude my running or my outfits, I’m always trying to be the best version of myself.

2. I am a bit fickle.

Not with things that really matter, thank goodness. (I’ve been pretty into the same dude for almost half a decade.) But I like change. I’m not afraid of changing anything from my hair to my job if I’m not happy with it, and if you’ve read more than a few posts on here, you’ve probably lived through a few I those changes with me.

I recently caught up with a dear friend from high school named Whitney whom I rarely see and who relies on social media and this ‘ere blog to keep up on what I’m up to. I thought it was pretty funny that one of the first things she commented on was that she loved following my adventures in decorating my apartment, but she had noticed I hadn’t made any changes in a while.

It’s not that I don’t want to, I swear. Joey will be the first one to tell you that every month or so, I have a new idea for something we should add or switch up.

The biggest thing that holds me back? Cash monies, yo.

And the fact that I know we won’t be in this apartment forever, so I’m less committed to the idea of perfecting the space.

Instead, lately I’ve been into the idea of making little tweaks to give everything I slightly more polished feel. One thing I finally did (despite having the materials for about six month sitting in my closet)? Install a bulletin board above our desk.

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The benefit is two-fold: the wall looks less blank and we finally have a place to corral all the tiny papers and receipts that make their way to the desk.

Next, we added more storage to the kitchen with a pair of wire racks.

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I’m kind of in love with them — so much storage! The more observant among you may have noticed that we removed the white console table that used to hold our microwave and china. Then you win a prize! (Not really…limited funds, remember?) I sold the table on Craigslist (for more than I paid for it, I might add) and used the cash to buy one of the shelves.

My next mission is making each shelf look a little more styled. (Because I’m a freak.) these two are my favorites so far.

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The last two updates are purely cosmetic. First, I gave in to the coffee table styling trend (seriously, guys, I don’t make this stuff up) and added a white lacquer tray from West Elm with a few pretty candle holders from Target and HomeGoods.

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I also added a little crown-shaped bowl I picked up at Michael’s ages ago (that I had been using to hold bracelets) because Joey and I tend to take our rings off when we get home (I don’t sleep in mine…is that weird?) and one of us who shall remain unnamed has a tendency to misplace his. I mean, his or hers. So now there’s a convenient place for it to live when it’s not on hisher finger.

And last but not least, I finally got an outdoor door mat. And look how swanky he is:

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It’s almost embarrassing how much joy that mat gives me every time I leave or come home. Seriously, I am so weird. I mean, he almost distracts you from that eyesore of a door.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. A couple other changes you (Whitney) can look forward to: a potentially new coffee table and a FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY updated bedroom. (Finally.)

Stay tuned!

What to do in Des Moines

Is there anything better than going home for a visit? Not if you’re me.

Joey and I spent a long weekend over Thanksgiving with my parents, and it was exactly what I needed. I’ve loved living in New York these last (almost) five years, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out of the city.

Besides, going home means so much more than a change of scenery. If you’re me, it means your mom cooking you breakfast every morning and making your favorite dinners most evening. And if she’s not cooking, your dad is taking you to your favorite local restaurants, as well as a few new spots. So now, I’m sharing the wonder with you.

Here’s a quick guide on what to do (and, let’s be real, what to eat) should you ever been lucky enough to spend a weekend in DSM.

First, a few things you can’t eat unless my mother is also your mother:

Our first night home, my mom made my favorite soup IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, Italian Wedding Soup. But trust me, it’s so much better when my mom makes it.

The next night, we had a family dinner. FEAST YOUR EYES (since you can’t feast your belly):

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Dinner featured a few of my favorites, like my mom’s sweet potato casserole, butternut squash casserole, and corn bread. (My name is Justine, and I like carbs.)

The next day, I hit the gym with my dad (to work off the aforementioned carbs), shopped with my mom, had ANOTHER delicious dinner by my momma, and then hit up downtown Des Moines with a few of my oldest friends. If you’re in town, I recommend El Bait Shop if you like beer, The Lift if you like hipsters and creepy art, and Fong’s Pizza if you’ve gone to the other two places and need something to soak up all the incredibly inexpensive drinks you ordered.

Because, guys? I didn’t pay more than $6 for a single drink all weekend. And the $6 one was fancy.

The next evening, my mom had a party for some of our family friends, so we got dressed up and ate fancy apps for a few hours.

Aren’t my parents cute?

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The next night, we had another family dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Des Moines, Centro.

//instagram.com/p/hZgrw4Suzf/embed/Do yourself a favor and order the Lemon Sage Martini.

The next day, my sister took some picture for my for my blogger style swap, but not before a quick lunch at La Mie.

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I got the Avocado Tartine, and I wasn’t disappointed.

And that night, Joey, my parents, and I stormed downtown Des Moines, grabbing dinner and drinks at The Continental (so many cheap cocktails and apps…) and playing a few rounds at the arcade bar Up-Down (I own at skeeball).

Our last day, we had lunch at Zombie Burger (the one place Joey requested) with my family and a few friends we hadn’t had time to see yet. If you go, I highly recommend getting one of the milkshakes. (Spiked, of course.)

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Sadly, then it was time to pack up. And while it is nice being back at our home, I’m already looking forward to our next trip back to Des Moines.

On coffee and fake accents.

D: They gave me the wrong drink yet again. In a month, (1 month) they have never, ever gotten my drink right the first time.
Ever.

I’m like THANKS! Not mad! Just not comin’ back.

 

Me: Bahaha

 

D: I mean, first world problems, for sure

 

Me: But still.

We deal with a lot.

This is all we ask.

 

D: Just want a no foam soy latte. That’s all.

 

Me: You want too much.

 

D: “Vanilla latte” comes up.

Nope.

Nope, that not it.

 

Me: In the old country, you knew your place.

 

D: In Mother Russia, you make mistake, you no eat whole winter.

 

Me: In  Mother Russia, latte drink YOU.

 

D: You drink potato latte. Out of hollowed potato. And you like it.

 

Me: We make latte with potatoes and tears.

 

D: Potato spice latte: Two parts potato, one part despair.

 

Me: With a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

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?)

 

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I even convinced the hubs to let me go through his closet…though we’ll see how long the color coding lasts.

 

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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!