25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the list! If you missed yesterday’s post, get caught up here quickly. Don’t worry; I’ll wait.

Okay, ready? Let’s get to it.

6. You should know how to travel alone.

I vividly remember the first time I took a plane trip without my family. In a way, it was kind of scary because you’re entirely on your own to get through security, get to your gate on time, find your luggage, etc., but similar to moving, being utterly on your own is incredibly empowering. Now I kind of relish when I can travel by myself, if only for how efficiently I can get from place to place.

7. “You should know your de-stressers and then use them whether — its yoga, Call of Duty, running, Ben and Jerry’s fro yo, or cleaning.” –Annie Schunicht/soon-to-be Breitinger

Annie has been my BFF for most of my life, so it shouldn’t be any surprise I would turn to her when compiling this list. I mean, she has graduated law school, moved to Florida, and she’s marrying the love of her life this September. Plus, she did this with me:

She’s kind of awesome. And one thing we both have in common (besides the ability to take an amazing photo) is that we can turn into crazy people when under a lot of stress. Fortunately, as Annie points out, part of being an adult is learning to deal with that tendency in a healthy way. The point is, we’re getting too old for temper tantrums and utter meltdowns. When things seem to be falling apart, go for a jog, stuff your face, make a list, and then get on with it.

8. You should know how to send a proper thank-you note. (And actually doing it every time you receive a gift or go on an interview.)

I mean, I don’t really need to get into this again, do I? If you’re 25, you’re officially too old to get off the hook for this.

9. “You should own least 3 professional outfits (read: no hooker heels with suits).” -Annie, again.

10. “You should know that what you may have thought of as failing or giving up might just mean making a necessary change. Be prepared for life to fall apart and come back together many times. Even many times in one day!” – Michelle Rose Abraham

Michelle often tells me she wants to be me when she grows up. Which, to me, is so funny because a.) I feel like I’m still figuring so much out and b.) there are so many things I admire about her. She’s super talented, smart, funny, and incredibly nice. She’s truly brave (yet another of my friends who moved across the country from everything she knew to strike out on her own), and I’m so happy to have her in my life.

I also love that she can speak so candidly about realizing something isn’t the right choice for you. That cross-country move I mentioned? It didn’t work out exactly as she had hoped. But rather than simply flailing and giving up, Michelle was able to pick herself back up and start out on a new journey. At this point in our lives, I think it’s crucial to know how to deal when something doesn’t work out — and how to figure out what to do next.

Hooray for Annie and Michelle! We’re almost halfway through the list folks. See you tomorrow!

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25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 1

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!

Book Review: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

My most lasting impression about The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway was, interestingly enough, not anything to do with the crux of the plot.

While I found the descriptions of the rose industry interesting, and I was mildly interested in Gal’s interaction with her niece, her friends, and her love interests, the part the really stayed with me was her experience with kidney failure. I never knew that much about dialysis before, and I think I always had this mental image that it affected your life in that you had to go to the doctor more frequently than other people.

I had never thought about how it would control what you ate and how much water you were allowed to drink. As someone who drinks about a gallon of water every day, it made me thirsty just thinking about Gal’s condition.

But I think there’s something about Gal herself that leaves the reader wanting. She seems so determined to not be dependent and to stamp down any feelings of neediness that she ends up stamping down just about every emotion. I didn’t feel her interest in maintaining any relationships. I barely felt her love for her niece in the writing. And while she even addresses this lack of concern for others (so consumed in her own problems as she is), it seemed like an afterthought. “Oh, yeah, maybe I should ask my friends what’s going on in their lives now and then.”

An afterthought that didn’t have much follow-through.

If you read this book, were your dissatisfied with Gal’s emotions? What was your most lasting impression of the book?

Join us in the BlogHer Book Club for even more discussion topics.

4 Steps for Getting Through Wedding Withdrawal

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.

 

What Guys Should Wear for Pictures

Ok, I know I said there wouldn’t be much posting this week, but I did want to share one thing.

So remember how my sister is a super cool model/photographer? SO cool, in fact, that she was also the genius behind my engagement pictures?

Well, since then, her photography business has been blowin’ up (as the kids say) with engagement, family, and head shot shoots. (Seriously, check it out.)(And if you’re in the Des Moines area, HIRE HER NOW.)

And since we’re still (sort of) near our 1-year anniversary, I asked her to photograph Joey and I for posterity. And I’m really excited! If she can make us look half as good as her other subjects, we should end up with some pretty sweet pictures.

But, since I’m me, my first concern is naturally what the heck we’re going to wear. Actually, I should clarify. It’s what the heck Joey is going to wear.

I feel like the internet is pretty helpful to girls trying to figure out what to wear in engagement pictures/portraits/etc., but it seems like there is less advice out there for dudes. Dudes are important too!

So I put together a quick round-up of guy ensembles that I think photograph pretty well, based on the literally thousands of engagement shoots I’ve seen. Let’s start with the formal look.

1. You really can never go wrong with a well-cut blazer, like this American Rag Jacket. It will give even jeans a little polish, and it’s also helpful for streamlining any look.

2. Am I the only one who’s a sucker for a guy in gingham? Get one that actually fits you, like this ASOS Slim Fit Gingham Shirt, for a tailored look. (Or, here’s an idea: Actually get it tailored. You’re welcome.)

3. Your pants should fit too. Try these ASOS Slim Fit Smart Pants in Black. Trust me when I say you’ll wear them a million times.

4. Another shirt option? Try a charcoal button-down with a black skinny tie. To make it super easy, just buy this Merona Men’s Shirt & Tie 2-Piece Combo. One-stop shopping!

5. A classic watch (like the Citizen Eco-Drive Watch) will make it look like you actually put a little effort into your look.

6. You can never own too many skinny ties. I also like this Sovereign Code Stripe Skinny Tie.

7. I don’t care how old you are; you’re too old for ugly shoes. Invest in a classic pair of shoes, like these Banana Republic Thomas Dress Oxford Shoes.

Now, most photographers will also let you incorporate a second look into your photo shoot, so it’s ok to go a little more casual this time around. What ISN’T ok? Sloppy T-shirts. Here’s how to do casual correctly.

1. Yeah…so…I have a thing for boys in henleys. Let’s not talk about it. I’m just saying…buy this Converse One Star Men’s Double Layer Henley.

2. If you’re one of those guys who is already freaking out about the idea of dressing up at all, shame on you. But because I’m eternally generous, I’m going to say it’s ok to wear a T-shirt IF AND ONLY IF you truly have the figure to pull it off and it fits as well as this G by GUESS Element Short-Sleeve Slit Shirt. IF AND ONLY IF.

3. You probably already own a pair of great jeans, so you’re set. If not, buy these Joe’s Jeans Classic Straight Leg Jeans.

4. Here’s a secret: Every girl loves a guy in a plaid shirt. Plus, they happen to photograph pretty darn well. Try this Crate Benchmark Tissue Long-Sleeved Plaid Shirt.

5. I’m only going to say this once: Real men wear cardigans. WELL. If you don’t already have one, try this Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen Basic Solid Cardigan.

6. WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT SKINNY TIES? Try this Wembley Camden Plaid Skinny Tie tucked under a grey cardigan with jeans. Because you did listen to me about the cardigan and jeans, right?

7. A pair of really cool canvas shoes finish off this look. These are Vans, but I couldn’t find a link to purchase, which leads me to think they might be custom. Anyone know where to find them?

So there you have it! Did any of you take engagement photos? What did you wear?

Here’s what’s going on.

If you hadn’t already guessed, it’s going to be a bit of slow week on the blog.

BUT DO NOT DESPAIR.

It’s because I’m working on a little segment that will publish from Friday to Tuesday (yup, WEEKEND posts, you guys!), so I just need to focus on that right now.

Plus, the gender reveal party I’m planning for my friend Megan (remember her from this post?) is Sunday, so that has me rather preoccupied as well.

But if you can bear with me until Friday, well, hopefully it will have been worth the wait. Here’s a hint: It all has to do with a certain someone turning a quarter of a century on Tuesday.

(It’s me, you guys. It’s me.)

See you Friday!

Don’t starve. Learn to cook.

I consider myself a fairly decent cook. I mean, I’m not getting super fancy on anything. But Joey and I are always fed and almost always happy with what I make.

More importantly (in my opinion), I’m pretty capable at taking a bunch of random ingredients and throwing together an entree and a few side dishes on the fly.

I’m not kidding. The recipes I “invent” are literally discovered through the thought process of, “Well, I like {insert food} and I like {insert other food}…so I would probably like them together? Maybe?”

Most of my favorite recipes since I started cooking for myself have been happy accidents, where certain foods that I knew would taste okay together have wound up tasting AMAZING. ON ACCIDENT. I love that. I very rarely follow recipes (unless they’re from my momma) beyond glancing at the ingredients to get a general idea of other combinations of food that work for other people.

I guess that’s the difference. I just look at all meals as a combination of food instead of a recipe. Maybe that’s what makes it less intimidating?

The point is, while there are definitely MUCH better chefs and bakers out there (this girl, this girl, and this girl, to name a few), I think I have a couple of super basic tips that any just-starting-to-cook person can appreciate.

1. The only spices you really need in your cabinet are cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, and paprika.
Are salt and pepper considered spices? (I told you, I’m not an expert.) I don’t think they are. You should have those too.

But in terms of straight up comes-in-the-spice-rack spices, the four aforementioned spices will be enough for just about anything you’re going to make regularly. Especially the last three. You can add them to veggies, meat, rice — really any savory food — for flavor you didn’t even know you were capable of. (You can also use them to replace taco seasoning packets, which are made up of basically the same mixture plus tons of sodium. You’re welcome.)

And cinnamon is just good on almost everything. Fact.

Occasionally you’ll probably run into a specific recipe that requires something else, but for the day-to-day-I’m-just-going-to-whip-something-up-out-of-whatever-is-in-the-fridge cooking, these four will do ya.

2. The easiest way to cook vegetables.
I have a friend, who is married to my other friend. He love vegetables, but she does virtually all of the cooking and, for whatever reason, is intimidated by cooking vegetables. I’m intimidated by making meatloaf and potatoes (AFTER THE WORST KITCHEN DISASTER IN MY HISTORY OF COOKING), so I don’t judge. We all have our things.

But the thing is, vegetables are quite possibly the easiest thing in the world to cook. Especially if you know how to roast them. Want to know how? Okay, pay CAREFUL attention.

First, set your over to about 375 degrees. Wash your veggies and either cut or slice them into whatever shape seems normal (for example, cut broccoli into chunks, cut tomatoes into slices…but honestly, you can’t mess this up). Toss the cut-up veggies with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (or garlic salt). Spread on a baking sheet and bake. THAT’S IT.

For most veggies, you only need to roast them about 15 minutes. Denser vegetables, like beets or potatoes, can take up to an hour. Check on them a few times to determine the best length of time for your oven.

3. The easiest meal to cook ever.
Are you ready for this? Grab 2-3 vegetables out of your fridge. (Almost anything will work…broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, green beans, spinach, kale, swiss chard, WHATEVER.)(Ok, just not potatoes or beets…as I said, they need special treatment.) Wash and chop them.

While they’re draining, prepare a pot of quinoa or rice or pasta on the stove. Let boil/simmer.

Back to the veggies. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add the veggies and saute for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cumin, and paprika (told you they’re helpful!) — however much you want, but a couple of shakes of each should do the trick. Or you can get really fancy and throw a few chopped garlic cloves into the mix.

When quinoa/rice/pasta is done, and the veggies are fragrant and soft (but not mushy), combine everything. Add hot sauce or lite soy sauce (for quinoa and rice) or a bit more olive oil (for pasta) if you like. If you want protein, throw in a scrambled egg, pre-cooked chicken or shrimp, or even a tuna from a can. EAT IT.

Speaking of hot sauce…

4. When in doubt, add hot sauce or cheese.
You guys. How did I not know about the wonders of hot sauce until, like, three weeks ago? YOU GUYS. It’s really, really good, in case you didn’t know. And better than that, it covers a multitude of sins.

If you’ve whipped up virtually anything, and the flavor just isn’t doing it for you, add a few drops of hot sauce or a couple tablespoons of feta or parmesan cheese. I don’t know why this works, but it has never failed me. One of those three ingredients has saved many a bland dish in my house. Make sure you always have them on-hand.

In general, the best way to get comfortable cooking is by, well, cooking. Once you’ve cooked a fillet of fish, you know how to cook almost every fillet of fish. Once you’ve learned how to cook vegetables, you know how to cook almost every vegetable.

Remember, you’re just combining foods. Don’t be intimidated!

Okay, opening the floor to people who actually know what they’re talking about. What are your super basic, super general cooking tips that you didn’t really learn until you had been cooking for a while? I wanna hear ’em.