The unexpected pivot

It’s only August, but already I’m dreading the start of a new year. Why? Because every single year, I hear someone say, “This year will be better than the last!”

Will it though?

Unless you’ve had the absolute worst year of your life (so very sorry if that’s the case), every year something bad happens. 

Every year, we all go through trials and tribulations that shake us to our core and sometimes even make us want to escape and start over on January 1. But that’s life, babe.

I can’t remember the last time I had a year where nothing bad happened. Every year, someone passes away, I’ve gone through a bad breakup, been faced with a troubling financial crisis (oh hey, student loans), or in 2019’s case, got let go from a job I loved. 

I’ll be honest, getting let go from my job is probably the hardest obstacle I’d had to face. It’s stressful, heartbreaking, confusing, scary, and financially straining all at once. I’m an Aries and I do not do well with uncertainty. It freaking terrifies me. If someone were to say:

“Justine, you’re going to be fired today, but don’t worry, you’ll find a job doing XYZ withing X amount of time.”

I’d be like

“GREAT! Sucks, but thanks for informing me so I can get a plan together and anticipate my next move!”

But life doesn’t work that way so I’ve been forced to unexpectedly pivot. Did I ugly cry, wallow, and drink way too much red wine with my girlfriends? You betcha!

Then the very next day, I took myself to the beach, applied for 10 jobs, reached out to every contact I had, and secured 7 interviews for the following week. Then, forced myself to go to a Barre 3 class, showered and got dressed, and did laundry (I even freaking folded it while it was still warm from the dryer!). 

As much as I truly am terrified and want to sit on the couch and binge-watch TV, I know for the sake of my own sanity, I need to pivot my life and redirect my path. That job was not the path for me. To be honest, I looked back at my journal and remembered that while I loved my job, I was feeling unappreciated for about 4 months. So clearly, this was the universes way of forcing me to get out of my own way and pursue a career that I want with a company that appreciates me.

But that can’t happen unless I make moves. And I’ll add that every single interview is for a job that’s not in the field I was in, but in the field, I want to be in so this is all happening without much “experience.”

My point of telling you all this is because no matter what you’re grieving– the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, a part of your health– life is going to throw these moments at us where we’re forced to pivot the path we were on and discover something new.

It’s a time for us to really think about what we want and go for it. So if you’re in a moment where you’re forced to pivot and you’re struggling with where to start, try this:

Write down 3 things you’re grateful for. This can literally be the Cheerios you had for breakfast.

Write down 3 things you want. Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars here. If you want it, it can be yours.

Write “Wouldn’t it be awesome if __________________?” Examples:  Wouldn’t it be awesome if I met a tall, handsome man who loved and appreciated me for who I am?” “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I made $60,000 per year by the end of 2019?”

Always remember, you’re not going through this alone. We all face these moments in life and sometimes they can lead to the most beautiful places.

XOXO
– J

P.S. I’ll keep you guys posted on what actually happens to me but right now I am interviewing for my DREAM JOB at my DREAM COMPANY and I am manifesting the sh*t out of this job offer! Stay tuned! 

We’re engaged!

Wedding Wednesday

Although everyone close to us already knows, I am so thrilled and excited to announce to my CJ readers that Patrick and I are engaged! It’s so amazing to be entering this next phase of our lives and there is no one that I would rather have by my side than Patrick.

What most people don’t know is that Patrick and I started talking about marriage about a month after we met, so when he proposed, I was not at all surprised that it happened, but I was completely surprised when it happened!

A few questions that people started asking me right after it happened are “Did you know it was going to happen?” “Were you surprised?” “How did he do it?” “Did he know what kind of ring you wanted?” “Did he ask your parents?”

It’s so crazy because I always imaged getting engaged and wanting to stand out on a rooftop and shout it out to the world. But really, I found myself wanting to keep a lot of the details private between us and our families. So I’ll give you a sneak peak of what went down, but I’ll keep some of the special details just between us and our relationship- you understand, right?!

Leading up to the proposal 

First, I just want to say that Patrick was a complete gentleman. He took my parents out to dinner to ask their permission and told the most important people in my life (like my best friend) that his intentions were to marry me. While this might not be important to some people, it definitely meant a lot to me!

The day of the big question

My parents were in town visiting me in Charleston for the first time. At that time, Patrick was living in Buffalo, so he was not here. I took my parents down to John’s Island to see the Angel Oak Tree.  They had been to Charleston numerous times to visit my grandparents, but that was one landmark they hadn’t seen. So at the end of the week, we planned to see the tree, then grab dinner later that night.

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I brought my camera and was totally in my own world, taking photos of the massive tree (see above, haha). Then out of nowhere, Patrick emerged from behind the tree- Remember, I thought he was up in New York! 

It’s funny how the two of us can hardly remember what happened. We had to go back and watch a video my mom took to see what we even said! All I remember was being happy to see him, then seeing him holding the most beautiful ring in the world. The rest was a complete blur! I never expected to be so overcome with emotions. I was never the girl to cry when I was happy and could never understand why people cried tears of joy in movies, until that day.

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Photo by Karmen Noel Photography

Patrick got down on one knee, we both blacked for a moment, and then we were engaged!

As if the morning wasn’t magical enough, we went to dinner later that night to celebrate, where he had my family and every friend I knew in Charleston waiting to celebrate! I still cannot believe every single person I know and care about within 25 miles of where I live was there. Plus a huge shout out to my best friend in the entire world, who ran from her desk at work (where no phones are allowed) to Facetime with me as well.

I have never felt so much love as I did in that one day! The support from our family and friends have been wonderfully overwhelming we’re so thankful for each and every person who is sharing this journey with us.

I’m also excited to share some fun wedding content with you on CJ as well, so stay tuned for my Wedding Wednesday series for my fun to come!

XO – J

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Photo by Karmen Noel Photography

 

 

Shoutout to your strong friends

Someone asked me where I’ve been.

For the past few months, I have been a little off the grid (I guess). I haven’t posted on the blog, I have turned down countless social invites, and rarely even check my personal social media accounts. Personally, I’ve had a lot going on. I started a new job where I am writing and on social media, ALL day, Patrick and I transitioned into living together again, my grandfather passed away, Misia (our dog) has been having health problems in her old age, and I have been struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which has left me feeling tired and cranky AF.

But, while I work on getting myself back into order, I have also been spending a lot of time thinking about others. When I moved to Charleston, I lost friendships. Friendships that took me 25 years to build. Simply because it’s difficult to maintain friendships from 900 miles away, especially in your 30’s and everyone has careers, kids, spouses, etc. In the past 2 years, I have also lost both of my grandfathers, a great aunt, and my great grandmother (all expected, because that’s what happened in life).

Then recently the media has been filled with other major losses as well. A couple of weeks ago, I got sucked into watching the second season of Thirteen Reasons Why (a show centered around a teen who takes her own life). During that binge session, the world learned about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to suicide and (while watching the show) I learned about the suicide-related death of a classmate of mine.

The talk of death, loss, and mental health were surrounding me. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, sometimes when things like this happen, I just can’t freaking stop thinking about it. In this case, the death of my classmate really kept me up at night (literally). While we weren’t friends, our younger brothers were, for probably the last 20 years. I spend 12 years walking the halls of the same schools as her, I followed her on social media, and we talked here and there. She was such a sweet, wonderful person and her passing really left a hole in my heart.

Now, I didn’t mean to start off my first blog post in 3 months on such a sad note, so stick with me! 

Then last week, I was talking to a friend of mine at work and she said that the same types of thoughts had been weighing on her mind, too. She went on a trip to NYC with some friends and during a spin class, the instructor paused to reflect on the issues of mental health in our society and asked that the class “check in on your strong friends.” No, not the friend who is killin’ on the bike next to you while you daydream about donuts and try not to pass out. 

But the friends who seem to have their shit together. The friends who, on social media, seem fine, happy, and content. The friends who we run to when we need help.

The friends who despite their outward appearance, may not be strong at all. So while the words aren’t mine, I think they’re powerful enough to share. And you don’t have to get all deep and creepy about it either. Just shoot them a little love note to say “Hey there! Just wanted to let you know I am thinking about you and I hope you’re doing well.”

That’s it. So whether it’s your former best friend from 3rd grade, a friend who is on the other side of the country, someone you talked to at a networking event a few times, or your friend who lives down the road that you just haven’t seen in awhile, reach out to them. Stay in touch and let them know that if they need someone, you’re there. It could mean the world to them.

So to MY friends- the friends from Northwood, East, NU, Canisius, volleyball, former jobs, my current job, The U.K., Charleston, and everywhere in between, please know I love you and I am always here.

Whether you need someone to listen or a partner to down a bottle (or two) of prosecco, just know I’ll be there.

XO – J

 

 

Homemade Sweet Potato Pizza

A few months ago, I made cooked up this pizza with a bunch of random ingredients that were in the fridge. I figured throwing a bunch of my favorite foods on some dough couldn’t go that bad, could it?

Well, Patrick says it’s his favorite pizza recipe (which means a lot coming from someone who grew up in Buffalo, NY), and you guys have been asking me for the recipe ever since! So here it is.

Ingredients:
Your favorite pizza crust (I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free)
1 lb uncooked Brussel sprouts
1 large sweet potato
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (or feta)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp olive or avocado oil
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup (or as much as you want) mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1. Prepare your pizza crust. Personally, I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free crust because gluten and yeast really mess with my belly and this particular brand only has 1 gram of sugar. Be sure to read your ingredients labels. Often, gluten-free products are packed with added sugar to make them taste sweeter. 

4. Prepare your Brussel sprouts. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a food processor, or carefully using a knife, chop the Brussel sprouts into strips. In a bowl, mix the chopped sprouts, olive oil, + balsamic vinegar. I also throw a little bit of pepper on mine because I use pepper on pretty much everything!

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Line a cookie sheet/baking pan with parchment paper + spread out the sprouts. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until slightly crispy and brown.

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3. Mash your sweet potato however you prefer. OR peel the potato and microwave it in a microwave safe bowl for 5 minutes. When the potato is cooked, you should be able to mash it with a fork. Add a little bit of milk (I used almond milk) to make it slightly creamy. Then, spread the mashed potato on the crust as the “sauce” of the pizza.
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3. Top the sweet potatoes with mozzarella cheese. I use about 1 cup. You do not want too much because we still have a ton of other toppings to load! But you do want to make sure there is enough cheese for the cheese to melt and keep the toppings from sliding off.
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4. Add the Brussel sprouts on top of the cheese, followed by the blue cheese (or feta), and finally sprinkle on the dried cranberries.
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5. Finally, bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Being from Buffalo, I also dip mine in blue cheese dressing!

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Wegman’s yogurt blue cheese dressing is the BEST

Enjoy!

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If you give it a try, be sure to share your results with me. Nosh on, hangry pizza lovers!

XO – J

 

 

Fear of failing

The early stages of starting my own business.

I always knew that I would have a creative career. When I grew up, I wanted to be “an artist.” In Elementary and middle school, I couldn’t wait to get to art class and I would even do art assignments for my friends who didn’t want to do their own. I took every art class my high school and college offered, including A.P. art- which I passed.

Now, I work as a writer and Multimedia Producer for a media company which I love. But, something still seems to be missing. Every chance I get, I am painting, doing a DIY project, drawing, or creating digital media for my own blog. I absolutely love using my hands to create works of art.

I have sold crafts I have made, I have sold my writing, I have promoted my blog, and I always knew I wanted to start something, but never found the passion behind it. I was envious of women who had these businesses where they could live and breathe their brand. I always wondered, how are they so passionate about something and why am I not that passionate about any project?

My fiance has been consistently talking about starting an e-commerce business as a side hustle and has his nose buried in a business book most free hours of his day. Out of nowhere, I had this sudden urge to design apparel and have him help me with the business and shipping side.

I am not even joking, the name and brand came to me in a dream. I woke up so excited and passionate!

I never dreamed I would ever want to start an apparel company. But lately, I have been particularly homesick and I want to design tee-shirts, tank tops, + gifts (such as coffee mugs, blankets, etc.) to help me fuel my creativity and connect with the parts of home I miss. Think hyper-local casual apparel that you can wear to the beach or dress up with some jeans and heels.

While my designs are still in the very early stages and only a few people have seen them, the biggest thing holding me back isn’t the work it takes to design or mastering Adobe Creative Suite, it’s the fear of failing. 

It’s the fear of people thinking my designs or business idea is stupid.
It’s the fear of my friends and family laughing at me for starting a company while planning a wedding.
It’s the fear of financing the business side, such as inventory, shipping, and marketing.
It’s the fear of wasting money.
It’s the fear that someone who owns an etsy shop and might have a similar design comes after me for creating a similar product (and not knowing how to handle that).
It’s the fear of being successful and losing the passion or motivation to fulfill orders.
It’s the fear of spending all of my free time on a business and losing my freedom.
It’s the fear of not knowing where to start. 

Honestly, I am thinking I might start by coming up with 2-3 designs to sell online and maybe on etsy to see how it goes. But still, I don’t know where to start or when.

So if you are reading this and you think this is something I should do, please tell me! If you’re reading this and you had the same fears starting your own business, please let me know! If you are reading this and have questions about things I may not have even thought of, shoot them my way.

I am writing this to gain feedback, to give you a hint of what might be coming in 2019, and I guess to see if I am crazy or if I have support!

I can’t wait to see what you all think! I know the details are vague, but I don’t want to give too much away. 🙂

XO – J

Skinny & Cool Lemon Drop

Martini Recipe

Whenever I go out for cocktails, I so desperately want to try the cocktails on the menu, but I cringe at the thought of how much sugar is in them. Am I right? 

So when I am at home, I am always looking for ways to make my cocktails with a little more zen and a lot less sugar! 

Did you know that a traditional lemon drop martini recipe calls for 1/2 cup granulated sugar? PER MARTINI! 

F- that!

Here’s my Cool + Skinny Lemon Drop Martini recipe for you to enjoy guilt-free this summer! 

Ingredients:
1-ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 1/2 shots Titos vodka (Okay, I use two!)
1 packet of Stevia sweetener
1/3 cup plain sparkling water

Directions:
Chill your martini glasses in the freezer for a few minutes. You want these babies to be as cold as Buffalo Bills fans in December.
Add the lemon juice, vodka, Cointreau, Stevia, and Titos to your cocktail shaker.
Add ice.
Shake it until your hands are fridged.
Pour into your chilled martini glass and top with the sparkling water.
Add a lemon garnish if you wish.

Post pics of your cocktails below or post to social media using the hashtag #cooljustine

Cheers!

XO – J

Totally Addictive Homemade Granola

Store bought Granola is NOT “healthy!”

Well, not always anyway! Many times, granola (or granola bars) you buy from a package are LOADED with added sugars. I mean LOADED. They add sugar to the fruit, sugar to the oats, and I am sure sugar to the freaking sugar. In 2017, I started making my own granola. It’s a little guilty pleasure I enjoy my yogurt with granola or let’s be honest, to just snack on by the handfuls!

I make my own granola for two reasons:

#1 – It’s cheaper to make a large batch that lasts awhile than to buy it in a package or from the bulk section.

#2 – I can control what goes in it and ensure there are no added sugars.

Warning! Even though I do not ADD extra sugar, there is still a large amount of natural sugar in all of these ingredients. Plus, a lot of carbs and healthy fat. Therefore, granola is always better in moderation. I was only half kidding about eating it by the handfuls. Seriously, try to limit doing that! We need natural sugars, carbohydrates, and healthy fats in our diet, but again, all in balance.

Each time I make a batch, I play around with the recipe and add things I like based on what I am in the mood for. Here is a simple DIY recipe for amazing, totally additive, healthier granola:

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups of quinoa flakes, old fashioned rolled oats, or gluten free old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup sliced raw almonds (or nuts of choice)

1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts (or nuts of choice)

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut

1/4 cup chopped unsweetened dried apricots, cherries, or blueberries

1/3 cup unsweetened dried cranberries

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp sea salt (or Himalayan salt)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

3 tbsp extra-virgin organic coconut oil

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 300° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and mix well. Or toss it in a bowl with a lid and shake the hell out of it! It’s more fun that way.

Make sure your coconut oil is melted and mix it with the maple syrup and applesauce. You can do this in a bowl if you feel like stirring like crazy, or quickly heat them all up in a small saucepan to really get them friendly with each other. Just make sure the oil is completely melted.

Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and shake the hell our of them again until everything is coated well.

Dump it all onto the cookie sheet in a thin layer.

Bake the granola mixture for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring it around about every 15 minutes so it cooks evenly. Make it until it’s a golden brown and crisp.

Allow to cool, or risk burning off all your taste buds in anticipation of pure heavenly granola joy.

Store in an air-tight container.

A serving size is 2 TABLESPOONS.

PORTION CONTROL, PEOPLE! You can do it!

Comment below and let me know how yours turns out or if you came up with any other creative ingredients!

The Snuggle is Real

Raised in Buffalo, NY, I am no stranger to seeing record-breaking snowfall that shuts down an entire city. But, when I moved to Charleston, SC in 2017, I truly thought I was getting away from that tread.

Plot twist! Charleston, SC received 5.3″ of snow!

I’ll admit, when I saw snow in the forecast, I figured it would be a cold day and I’d probably have to scrape some ice off my car. I’ve done it here before. Then when businesses started closing, I figured the roads would be icy and it’s better to keep people home and safe.

So I danced around my living room with joy as I had a snow day! I was going to be put away the holiday decorations, clean, diffuse some EO, do some yoga, and have a great personal day! I kept the news on and sat with my boyfriend and dog glued to the TV. The meteorologists seemed overjoyed that for a change, their forecast was spot on. Snow was coming!

At first, I scooped up some snow and made a little snowball to post on social media. I wanted to make sure to get a picture before it all melted. It was kind of cute, right?

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Then, I got on with my day. I diffused those delicious smelling EO, I put away all the decorations, and I deep-cleaned the main living areas. But the snow didn’t stop coming! It quickly went from little-frozen balls of imposter-looking snow to real northeastern snow! The white, fluffy, Charlie Brown type snowflakes you can catch on your tongue!

Plus, it’s January and everyone knows January snowflakes are the best to eat.

Within 3 hours, we were looking at 6″ of snow where I live, slightly north of the city of Charleston. Of course, if I still lived in Buffalo, I would be complaining and writing a blog post about the beach. But here, this was really something to see! The best part of this storm is the lowcountry got very lucky. Some people, unfortunately, lost power, but not nearly as many as it could have been. The ice and snow could have caused an extraordinary amount of damage. But for the most part, everyone got outside to enjoy it! The newscasters were having fun as some of them have never even seen snow before. Our neighbors tied boogie boards to the backs of trucks and dogs were either overjoyed or looking it the frozen ground in confusion. Love it or hate it, you have to admit there is something really cool about being a part of history.

Unfortunately, I was wrong about the weather warming up and the snow all melting. We woke up today to the same 6″ of snow gleaming in the Charleston sun. It’ll warm up and be gone in a few days, but for today, it’s only 19 degrees and the snuggle is real!

XO – J

Why You Shouldn’t Make a New Years Resolution This Year

How many people actually know the definition of resolution? Without Googling it? Well, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. I think it’s safe to say most New Years resolutions end up being soft resolutions. Soft meaning, we’ll give it a try, but we’re not going to make a firm decision to stick to it. Or we’ll stick to it for the month of January and accept disappointing ourselves when we don’t feel like working on that resolution anymore.

Sorry to tell ya sweets, but that’s not actually making a resolution. So instead of half-assing a resolution, try setting obtainable goals throughout the year. Use the months of the year as measure markers to track your progress.

Want to lose 30 lbs? Throw your weight loss resolution in the trash, alongside the Christmas cookies and set obtainable weight loss goals. Set a goal to lose 3 lbs in January. Then another goal to lose 3 lbs in February. Then another 3lbs in March. By the end of the year, not only will you have stuck to your goal, but if you’re consistent, you will actually lose more than 30 lbs if you spread the goal throughout the entire year! Now doesn’t that sound a lose easier than trying (and failing) to lose 30 lbs in January?

Want to move to a new city? Throw away your resolution to move to your dream city and set obtainable goals. Start applying for jobs in January. Start researching places to live in February. Join social networking apps and social media groups in your new city in March. Find a moving company in April. By spreading out your goal throughout the year, you will be sitting pretty on a beach come December and can be proud that you stuck to your goals at the end of 2018.

Too often we make ourselves promises and come December, we make jokes about how we made resolutions that we never stuck to. So stop disappointing yourself by misusing the word “resolution” and make obtainable goals instead. Write down your goals and cross them off as you obtain them! As cheesy as writing down your goals sounds, I promise you, darling, you will be much happier with yourself at the end of the year when you can cross items off that list than make jokes about how you gave up on them.

You can do this! Make 2018 the year you throw away your resolutions and actually make your dreams come true!

XO – J