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

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

 

 

The Girls’ Weekend that Changed My Life: Part 1 – Self-Discovery

Last week in my 10 Ways to Practice Self-Love post, I mentioned that I was participating in a yoga retreat. This was a big deal for me because I have always encouraged and coached other women to invest in themselves, however, I never made a large investment in myself. I always invested in myself through nourishing my body with nutrient-dense, delicious food. But, I was afraid of making the larger investment. Why? I am not sure why. Maybe I was afraid of investing in  myself and coming across something I did not want to face? Who knows. But, I took a leap of faith and invested more money than I’ve ever spent in one weekend on a life-changing yoga retreat lead by the beautiful, Cortney Ostrosky.

I went into the weekend with an open mind. On the first night, we participated in a sister-circle. I am not going to lie, this is the one thing I was most afraid of. I did not know what type of hippie-dippie sh*t we were going to do and I did not know what to expect. I’ll tell you more about that experience next time, but for now, I’ll just say that I went into new experiences with a completely open mind, regardless of what my pre-judgments were.

sister circle

By the end of the first day, I was in awe of how much I discovered about myself! I could not believe how fast I opened up my heart and learned to feel what was really going on. I felt  my insecurities, I felt my creativity, I felt my loneliness, and I felt how my body was reacting to all of my emotions.

In addition to the sister-circle, Cortney lead us through workshops and yoga classes to align our Chakra’s , allow our body to flow in sync with our emotions, and relax into a state of mind that was comparable to an out of body experience. Through each activity, I learned that I was shutting off my emotions. I was shutting of my creativity. I was hiding my femininity and sexuality. I was allowing my fears to take over my dreams and I was shutting people out of my life in fear of getting hurt.

I learned that I CAN dream big. Like change careers and have a job I love. I learned that I CAN have emotions. I CAN cry. I CAN dance. I CAN love other women and create incredible bonds without drama or gossip. I CAN align my body with my emotions in a healthy way through the food I eat and the yoga I practice.

By the last day, Cortney lead us through a pop yoga class. In this class, we danced to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off and literally shook it off! We shook our arms, did high kicks, and laughed at the people down on the beach who were clearly wondering what the hell these women were doing at 9 am out on a deck! I’ve listened and danced to that song 100x and this time I seriously got very emotional! I have NEVER felt so free! For the first time in my life, I felt like myself! I mean that!

For the first time in my life!

Isn’t that terrifying?? For 29 years I have been walking around as who? A lesser version of myself? Maybe! But now I know what makes me feel alive. It’s not one thing. It’s a combination of things like delicious vegan food that nourishes my body, gorgeous, soulful sisters who encourage me to be me, the ocean and the sound of the waves reminding me of how beautiful nature is, exercise to get my blood flowing, and fun music to dance to.

I am so happy and proud of myself for trying something new and investing in my own well-being. Whenever I get caught up in the stresses of life, work, loneliness, depression, and heartache, I try to take myself back to that weekend and remember that life really is fabulous when you make it fabulous.

 

XO – J

10 Ways to Practice Self-Love

I honestly used to cringe at the phrase “self-Love.” Probably because I didn’t love myself at all. My immediate reaction would be to think of all the things I hated about myself and I would use those reasons as excuses not to love myself. Reasons like: I hate my thighs. I hate being broke. I hate feeling like I screwed up my college degree and overall career path. I hate not having a passion. I hate being single. I hate some of the people I surrounded myself with. I hate, I hate, I hate! I wouldn’t even entertain loving myself while all of those things were wrong.

But were they really WRONG? Of course not! They were just things I attached to the word “wrong” and in turn, sabotaged any chance of them being okay.

Once I learned to accept that all the things I “hate” aren’t actually the end of the world, I learned to look at how I can use my areas of improvement to practice acts self-Love. I sure as hell wasn’t born with self-love in my blood. I have to work towards it every single day.

Here are 10 ways I personally practice self-love.

1. I enjoy eating vegan and vegetarian. Many people make comments or laugh at me for it. I actually used to eat meat to make other people happy! But eating meat did not make my body or my mind feel good. I feel more nourishment from plant-based foods.

2. I practice yoga. Not regularly, but when I feel like it. I’m a certified group fitness instructor so I do teach a class once/week. Other than that, I practice yoga whenever I feel like it. Maybe once/day and maybe once/month. But I don’t beat myself up when I see people in class who show up weekly and I show up sporadically. I do what works for me. Find something you like, and do it. It doesn’t have to be yoga. It just has to be something.

3. I keep a gratitude journal. My boyfriend will laugh at me when I travel and ask “So how many journals are you bringing?” He jokes, but for me, writing down 3 things I’m grateful for each day helps me keep a positive mindset.

4. I choose my tribe.  It wasn’t until my late 20’s when I realized that it is OK to let go of friends that no longer serve a positive influence in my life and make new friends to carry the same joys and value as me. I have my soul sisters let them know that I value their friendship!

5. I say no. Have anyone ever asked you for a favor and even though you’re screaming “NO!” inside, you still agree to do it? That doesn’t make you feel very good does it? And then you might even start to resent that person as you’re carrying out that favor? Me too! But I am working on it and I am practicing saying “no” to things that truly do not make me feel good inside.

6. I stay organized. Personally, I am more relaxed when I have things organized. This may be through planners, storage bins, or to-do lists. Being organized helps me feel calm and puts my mind at peace. I make organization a priority, knowing it’s a value I need to uphold to feel happier.

7. I buy myself flowers. I like to keep fresh flowers in the house as often as possible. Even if no one else will see them, they are there for me to enjoy and they make me feel happy. My local grocery store has some beautiful $4 bouquets that make both my wallet and my soul happy!

8. I go places alone. Going places alone isn’t always the most fun. But, I would rather go to the beach or my favorite coffee shop alone, rather than have no one to go with and not go at all. Sometimes being in my favorite places, by myself, helps me reflect on the things that make me happy and reconnect with who I am. I am a person who likes the beach and over-priced coffee.

9. I reflect on my faith. I grew up Catholic. However, going to church was never something I wanted to do. It was a chore and I felt guilty for not going each week. Going in fear of guilt did not make me feel good. So instead, I have accepted that while practicing my faith may not look the way some think it “should,” I understand what my beliefs are and reflect on them in other ways and other spaces that work best for me.

10. I invest in myself through experiences and not things. I have never taken a true vacation in my life. I have never planned to go to a destination solely to just lay on the beach and drink mojitos. I want to, but I never found that to be a good use of my income. Until recently. While I haven’t planned a vacation, I have plans to plan a vacation! Also, I am attending a 4-day yoga retreat on the beach (as I speak)! I always thought things like this were a waste of money because I didn’t have anything to “show” for it… except my own happiness! Duh! Someone once told me, “The happiest people spend their money on experiences, not things.” I am finding that to be very true!

Some of these might work for you and some of these might make you scoff. Girllll, do what works for you!! Your self-love won’t look like mine! Your self-love practice with only truly work for your self. Comment below or send me a private email and let me know how you practice self love!

XO – J

Why Hurricanes Are Better Than Snow

Growing up in Buffalo, every year while standing in 3 feet of snow and battling white-out road conditions, someone was mumbling “at least we don’t have hurricanes!” Well, that line is just something that north-easterners say to make themselves feel better!

In October 2010, Buffalo, NY was riddled by the chaos of an October snow storm. While the snow wasn’t anything Buffalo couldn’t handle, the trees still had leaves on them, which caused trees to fall, knocking down power lines and leaving 40,000 people without power for days, and even weeks. People were literally freezing to death in their homes, no one could shower, and once the snow melted, there was no way to keep food cold.

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In November 2014, I left a girls weekend in Charleston, SC and arrived back home just as a few snowflakes started to fall. Within 24 hours, we had approximately 7 feet of snow and homes began to cave in around the south towns. Literally, snow came crashing through windows and roofs of homes and cars.Thirteen people lost their lives during that storm and many homes suffered damaged to roofs, gutters, windows, and basements. ccc2e677633afe571c4873d8419d1433--funniest-memes-funny-memes.jpg

These are just two examples of the multiple storms I experienced throughout my 29 years in Buffalo, NY. In addition to these storms, New Yorkers deal with countless smaller storms, roof, gutter, basement, driveway damage, and salt damage to their cars from October – May every year! Not to mention, having to purchase new boots every year because the road salt will destroy any decent pair of shoes you wear in public. While hurricanes can cause far more extensive damage (such as what the Hart Family experienced in Florida in 2017) than any snowstorm, the chances of those storms devastating places like Charleston, S.C. are minimal.

A 2015 study found that an average of 923 people are killed as a result of snowy weather in the United States per year That figure includes automobile and plane crash deaths due attributed to snow.

In my lifetime, Charleston, S.C. has experienced one hurricane which caused “immense destruction” to the city of Charleston and surrounding counties. Since then, there have been many hurricanes which have brushed the coast and caused wind and flood damage to coastal homes. Such as, my first personal hurricane experience, hurricane Irma in 2017. While Irma was the direct cause of the third highest flood levels in Charleston history, most people made in through the storm unscratched. Evacuation was not mandatory, and most people (myself included) got a 5 day week in anticipation of what might happen.

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Again, I am not trying to downplay the significant devastation and destruction  hurricanes have caused. But coming from a girl who moved from Buffalo, N.Y. to Charleston, S.C., I would prefer the hurricane threats and gorgeous weather here over the year-round snowy nonsense up there any day!

XO J

 

 

 

How I Got a Promotion my First Month with a New Company

Like many millennials, I was stuck in an entry-level position making $35,000/year struggling to get by. I worked my ass off, had a master’s degree, and all my money went to paying for living expenses and paying off school debt. By 29, I knew I could never afford to get married, I couldn’t even dream of affording to have children, had never taken an actual vacation, and felt guilty for purchasing the occasional Starbucks beverage.

I know so many of you feel me right now. 

While I was working towards my master’s degree, I promised myself this crap would stop. I was GREAT at what I did, but couldn’t move up in my career due to every excuse under the sun.

  • I didn’t have a master’s degree
  • So-and-so has been with the company longer
  • Unfortunately the field isn’t lucrative
  • Budget cuts
  • No work experience outside of one field
  • Not enough experience in my field
  • The hiring manager hired their friend’s niece’s roommate’s sister
  • The company hired internally

So how did I get around these barriers?

I looked up to mentors and relied on their advice. I leaned on my professors, my supervisors, my previous supervisors, and older colleagues. I talked with everyone about how they got to where they were and asked for constructive feedback of how I could do the same. I actively sought out ways to improve my skills AND create strong, meaningful professional connections.

2. I choose a few companies I wanted to work for and focused in on them. Rather than wasting time throwing hundreds of random application to the wall in hopes one would stick, I figured out what I really wanted. For me, I decided to move to another city and focused on two main companies I wanted to work for. I learned as much as I could about the company, their culture, their mission and values, and the other people that worked there.

3. Then I stalked the crap out of people on LinkedIn. I randomly reached out to people at those companies and asked for their advice about how they do to where they were and if they had any advice for me. I ended up making some incredible friends and connecting with my current supervisor. I made sure people knew my name so when my application came across their office, the name would at least ring a bell.

4. I followed my applications with emails expressing interest. Whenever I applied to a position, I would look for the hiring manager (or senior manager in the department) and reach out to them. Almost every time I found their contact information on LinkedIn or on the company website. I would send them an email explaining that although I applied online, I wanted to personally express my interest. I also attached my cv and cover letter and thanked them for their time. Many times, I would send an email and soon after, I’d see they were checking out my LinkedIn profile.

5. I made my intentions known BEFORE accepting a position. When I was offered a position that was less than what I desired, I contacted the hiring manager and let them know that while I was grateful for the offer, I was also highly interested in professional development opportunities and growth. This was scary because they could have rescinded the offer, knowing the position wasn’t the best fit for me. However, having that transparent conversation made me the front runner for a promotion when the next position opened.

6. I worked my ass off. Knowing I was looking to move up quickly, I learned my job responsibilities as quickly as possible and then started volunteering to help in other ways. If I saw someone else who was falling behind, I would ask how I could help. Sometimes, I was given tasks as simple as data entry to help make their job easier. However, assisting with the other tasks gave me the talking points needed for my next interview.

7. I asked permission to apply for another position. I spoke with both my supervisor and the HR manager BEFORE I even put my application in for another position. I did not have to do this, but speaking with them first assured me I was qualified for the position and opened up the conversation about why I wanted to move up and how I was prepared for the extra responsibilities.

8. I treated the interview as if I didn’t know my boss. I was interviewed in my office, during work hours, 5 feet from my own desk. But, when I walked in, I treated the interview as if I was meeting my boss and colleague for the first time. I didn’t talk to much about what I currently do, but I highlighted how my skills could be used in the new position. I also followed up with a thank you email to the hiring committee.

9. I never talked about the position at work. I didn’t tell my coworkers I was interviewing, I didn’t talk about the position as if I was going to get it, and I didn’t treat my current position as if I was leaving it. I remained as professional as possible.

10. I communicated with my supervisor from both a hiring manager prospective and from an employee-supervisor prospective. During the interview, I told her I wanted the position. But, on our bi-weekly one-on-ones, I told her about my desire to grow and how I felt my current position wasn’t the best fit, and why. We talked about my professional growth so she could see my value in the new role and didn’t see me as money hungry.

In the past, I had gone into new positions and kept my mouth shut. I learned quickly that being a push over and saying “I understand” when turned down for promotions wasn’t getting me anywhere. I professionally voice my concerns in my new environment and took a completely different stand when it came to my career goals and how I would achieve them. When it comes to achieving any goals, you can’t just “wait your turn.” You have to KNOW what you want and go out there and grab it!

XO – J