Tips for Organizing Your Blog Posts

November 26, 2013

(alright non-blogging friends, this is one you can skip.  see ya tomorrow for some thanksgiving entertainment.)

as i mentioned in last month's goal recap, i have all my blog posts done for the rest of this year (and i have since the beginning of october), minus the occasional photo from an event that has yet to happen.   which means i had 44 scheduled posts done at once time (it's currently at 20).  crazy, right?  i'm thinking you're pretty jealous right now.  i've had quite a few requests for exactly how i accomplished this.  and there's nothing i love more than sharing how i get organized and getting other people there too.

i decided that posts were going to go up 5 days a week, and they'd go up at the same time the night before.  therefore, the first thing i did was make a 4 week rotating schedule, which works for pretty much every month without much tinkering (due to holidays).  just a general idea of what i'd write about each day, broad enough to keep repeating each month.  you might already do this without realizing - do you link up every friday with whitney or lauren?  do you do a weekend recap?  anything like a pinterest thursday or recipe wednesday?  then you're already doing this.  i'm sure if you go back through my posts for october, you can see what my full schedule is.  but a few examples - the 2nd thursday is a new cocktail cupcake recipe.  the monthly giveaway is the 1st monday.  every tuesday i write my random lists, which probably amuse me more than anyone else and i'm totally fine with that.  (and certain wednesdays are for organizing, which is what brought you here today!)

get the picture?  the point is that i have a category for each day.  trust me when i say this - when you're sitting there thinking 'what do i write about today?!', having the options narrowed down to 'oh, today is my day to write about organizing!' actually makes it easier to focus on getting an idea down than if you could write about any topic under the sun.  everyone can benefit from having a little direction, even if that direction comes from yourself.  and since i decided this was the best route for me, i was able to narrow down the topics of my blog as well as make the pretty organized links you see up top. and every blog post fits in one of those categories.

after that, definitely the hardest part, all i had to do was write.  i didn't want to be slapping together post at the last minute that had nothing to do with the direction of my blog.  and that was a much more daunting task when i didn't have a schedule.  you wouldn't believe the difference in how much more easily the ideas flow when you're not under pressure.  so whenever i'm in the mood, i just type.  knowing i can save it for whenever the category arises but still be able to keep my posts organized.  (and some days i want to write a million things about chicago.  some days, like the day i had it scheduled, i hate this town.  good thing it was already written!)  i want you to know what you're getting when you come here.  and i don't want to go months without mentioning a topic because i just forgot about it.

i think a great product for this 4 week schedule i've got going is the weekdate.  (and this is not a sponsored post)  which is an adorable little planner for $23 and i think it's vastly underrated.  as you can probably tell, the weekdate is ideal for people who have regular schedules - the same book club every month, the same class every week.  write it once and forget about it!  so my blog post schedule goes right in that top 'monthlies' part.  'weeklies' is a great area to write down link ups you're a part of.  and the individual pages are great for checking things off like whether you visited your sponsors.  it's not a ton of room to write, so it's not the planner for very descriptive post ideas, but it's perfect for quick calendar checks, and definitely the most portable option.

some bloggers will hate this scheduled style of posting.  they're just sit down and write whatever they're feeling that day bloggers.  that's not me - that would stress me out!  i'm so organized everywhere else in life, it had to trickle down to my blog as well.  what do you think?  do you blog on a schedule?  do schedules help or hurt your creativity?

don't forget, if you need help organizing your posts or want me to help make a schedule for you, you can always hire me.  also, i write about organizing all the time (well, at least twice a month) so if you have a request just leave it in the comments or e-mail me!

6 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Black Friday

November 25, 2013

i think there's a pretty divisive shopping on black friday line.  you either love it or you hate it.  i admit to being on the hating side of it.  but only for the reason that i generally dislike people, and i especially dislike them in large groups.  (i prefer the company of hawkeye, and we prefer to shop from the couch on cyber monday.)

for the people that love it, i wish you luck, and i leave you with these tips.  that also apply to real life for us cyber monday shoppers.

you need a game plan.  you cannot just run willy nilly through life, nor through black friday, and expect not to get trampled.  or at the very least, miss all the good things you set out to get in the first place.  no one coddles you in the real world, so have a plan.  and a back up plan.  decide where you're going and when.  prioritize your goals, because you might not get to everything.

you can trust your game plan partner, but other than that, trust no one.  that little grandma may look sweet and innocent but you let your guard down for one second and she's swiped the last flat screen.  how'd she even lift that?!

always wear comfortable shoes.  your feet, your knees, your hips, your whole body will thank you.  you cannot walk around in heels all day every day, especially if you don't splurge for the comfy ones.  and they exist, comfy and stylish shoes, i promise you.  they're just more expensive.

caffeine is your friend.  people exist who don't like coffee.  i don't know these people.  i'm certainly not friends with any of them, they couldn't be trusted.  but on black friday, as in life, caffeine can get you through most things you just don't have the energy for.  drink the coffee.

resist temptation.  remember the game plan?  don't get sidetracked with things that look just as good that are set up along the way to your prize.  you want the computer, get the computer.  don't stop for the printer or the extra hard drive.  prioritize.

don't forget to eat.  being hangry does you no good, in life nor on black friday.  hangry is a real thing, my friends, and it's a big problem.

so what side of the fence are you on?  black friday or no black friday?

Top 10 Little Life Hacks

November 24, 2013

are you familiar with the term 'life hack'?  a life hack is any little tip or trick that you use each day to make your life more efficient.  it saves time and sanity and helps you check everything off your to do list quicker and cheaper.  so today i partnered with one of my sponsors this month, quinn, who blogs at desgettier, to bring you our top 10 life hacks.

fist up, here's quinn's 5 awesome tips (i didn't actually know any of these before, i'm excited to protect my flowers!)

1. Line the edge of your lips with a clear wax crayon to prevent red lipstick from bleeding. Mine is a Dior pencil just because it was a Dior sales assistant who gave me the tip, but I saw a NYX clear crayon at Target for a much cheaper price & I’m sure it’d work the same. 

2. Use a cup-sized thermos to upgrade your eating and drinking. I found this cute 8-oz thermos at Starbucks on sale for $10… and then my life changed. I use this every day, almost exclusively compared to all the other mugs/bowls in the house. Why use a cup when this thermos will keep my iced tea cold? Why use a mug when this thermos will keep my coffee hot? Why eat ice cream in a bowl when this thermos will keep it from melting? True story, once I even drank white wine out of this thermos to keep it chilled. Lol okay fine I do that a lot.

3. Invest in a breathalyzer to keep in each car. These can be found on Amazon for $80-120ish. My boyfriend and I bought these in January and can’t believe we ever drank at any restaurant/friend’s house/any location outside of our house without them. We use them every time we’ve had even one drink — and have been surprised to see the BAC % after even one glass of wine. If you’ve ever said “I only had one drink, obviously I’m fine to drive” you should blow into a breathalyzer just once to see the numbers. You can’t accurately gauge your level of “buzz” unless you have numbers to reference it with, right?

4. Mix one drop of bleach in with water to prolong the life of flower arrangements. When the florist told me this, I was a little surprised — bleach seems like such a harsh agent to be putting near delicate flowers! But since bacteria is the real culprit of wilting flowers, just a drop — barely even that — is enough to combat the bacteria without hurting the blooms.

5. If you use 2GB+ data every month on your cellphone plan, consider buying a grandfathered unlimited data line. Jon and I used to pay $30/month each for a measly 2GB of data from Verizon, but we typically actually use 3GB+... costing us another $10 — not anymore! Some people still have the now-discontinued “$30/month Unlimited Data Plan” and they can transfer them to you on eBay for about $250. So you’ll break even after just two years but now you’ll have access to unlimited data! Oh, and don’t worry about being scammed — when you call into Verizon to take over the lines, you confirm everything with Verizon before finalizing :) 

leave it to quinn to take a great photo with all the items she mentioned.  i'm not that together.  ah well.  here's my top 5 life hacks:

1. freaked out by opening a bottle of champagne?  hold the cork in place with one hand and twist the bottle with the other.  the cork won't go flying, the champagne won't overflow.  the secret is twisting the bottle, not the cork.  if you didn't just shake the bottle, there's no excuse for spilled champagne - that's a waste of perfectly good alcohol.

2. the fastest way to chill said champagne (or beer, wine or other beverages) is to wrap the bottle in a wet paper towel and put it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.  it'll be cold as ice.

3. technology is your friend.  use to track your favorite shows.  dvr is great but sidereel alerts you when a new season is starting or when your show changes days.  even better?  they let you know when the episodes are available online and where.

4. rubbing alcohol cleans a microfiber couch.  water leaves water marks and takes forever to dry.  rubbing alcohol cleans, doesn't leave an odor, and evaporates faster than water.  a little rubbing alcohol and a sponge are all you need to get stains out.  even grease stains from where hawkeye decided to eat her fried chicken.

5. and i think my biggest life hack is laundry.  here's my secret - i don't separate colors and i wash everything in cold.  'eek!' i'm sure you're thinking.  but honestly it's a huge time and sanity saver.  i tend not to buy a lot of white clothes because i'm not tan enough for them, ever, and it's not a good shade with my cool undertones.  but even white clothes, i've thrown in the wash with orange, with green, with grey.  whatever!  i'm lucky enough to have an in-unit washer dryer, and when something is dirty, i throw it in.  when the wash is full, i start it!  washing my white towels and sheets each week are the only exception, they get washed on hot because they are a big enough load.  i also wash new reds or dark wash denim solo or with like colors for the first wash or two, since those are big color bleeders.  but most items are just fine being washed in cold and get just as clean.

what are your favorite little life hacks?  don't forget to head over to desgettier to see more beautiful photos from quinn as well as fun notes on brands and, especially helpful this time of year, how they keep you shopping!

10 Best: Ways To Avoid People

November 21, 2013

i'm still in birthday mode.  but who says the word 'celebrate' has to mean party or a big night out?  i celebrate just as much in the comfort of my own home, thank you very much.  are you staying in this weekend?  i feel like i want to, and should, in preparation for the (a) drinking overload that is black wednesday and (b) people overload that is thanksgiving.  john's family is very nice to me but i'll be damned if i don't just prefer my nice, quiet holidays with mom and dad.  during which we eat out because my mom and i don't eat turkey, and none of us are cooking up a grand dinner when it's just 3 of us.  i'm completely serious when i say we go to an indian food buffet (my dad is indian, don't forget.)  and it's wonderful.  and no one has to clean any dishes.

anyway, my top 10 recommendations for avoiding people this weekend and instead lounging celebrating in your sweat pants:

1. cooking: face it, the odds of you pulling off a thanksgiving timeline like steph's are slim to none.  might as well use this weekend to start making some thanksgiving dishes that can be reheated the day of!  what's your favorite go-to food on thanksgiving?  mine is brussels sprouts, i love them.  i plan on cooking a couple recipes of them this weekend!

2. learning: on my 101 in 1001 list, i have the task of learning my favorite phrase in 5 different languages.  that phrase being "two beers please, my friend will pay," which is my absolute favorite thing to say in spanish at a mexican restaurant and then point at a stranger, watch the waiter laugh, and then give me my beers for free anyway.  it's a win for everyone.  so now i'm learning this phrase to use it every where i go.  i've got italian and french down (which are darn close to spanish) and now i've found it in german: zwei bier bitte, mein freund zahlt.  learn it with me!

3. blogging: i'm trying to plan a weekend with betsy that we honestly just dedicate to blogging.  (sadly not this weekend, but i can prep for the event this weekend!)  for us, the weekend would mean making delicious food and having wine while we lounge in our pj's and just write and schedule blog posts, bounce ideas off each other, etc etc.  for me i'd also spend it organizing my reader and downloading some apps to help manage social media and possibly learn about easy photo editing (cause i do nothing right now.  not that you care, but i do in fact take an iphone photo and slap it on a blog post.  i hear it would look nicer if i made a little effort.  sue me, i like writing more than photos.)  would you like to virtually join us for a few hours?  we'd be available to do a google hang or gchat or talk on twitter, maybe set up a discussion board somewhere so everyone could ask questions or work out their ideas.  what do you think?  this weekend would probably have to be post-christmas, it's just so busy til then.  but it'd be a fun start to the new year!

side note - i got a new camera, the canon powershot s110 after quinn's recommendation, and it syncs wirelessly with my phone and computer!  i took this picture of my birthday flowers, no editing, no filter.  my post photos are about to get much much better.

4. netflix: 4 seasons of dexter, now on netflix!  does anyone have a problem binge watching dexter?  i don't, but i could see it being a problem for some.  but you should get over it, because it's a great show.  i'm definitely going marathon watch it.

5. website: santa's reindeer!!  it is never too early to just sit for hours and watch santa's reindeer.  apparently santa comes out and feeds them a few times a day too, but i don't care about that.  i just love watching the reindeer!

6. online shopping: i'm spending some time this weekend gearing up for cyber monday in just over 1 week.  deals are already online at some stores, and some have let you know what the specials would be.  i need to get my cart ready (because i do not shop on black friday.  i hate people.) and target has been enticing me with their secret cyber week deals.  i'm coming for you, target.

7. organizing: if you haven't already started, this is prime organizing time in prep for the holidays.  move furniture so you can fit your decor/tree.  have your kids make their donation piles (you know, because santa only brings new toys if you leave him a pile of old ones to take to other kids.)  (i only wish my mother had told me this, her attic would be in a lot better state right now.)  don't let the holidays and all the new stuff it brings overwhelm, start making space now.

8. television: the christmas movie marathons begin!  the hallmark channel and lifetime (two personal faves) are airing their made for tv christmas movies all weekend long.  you cannot for one moment tell me you don't also love them, because you would be lying.  we both know it.  lifetime even has a new one this year, kristin's christmas past.  i don't even know what it's about, other than her waking up 2 decades ago, but i'll be watching it!

9. pinterest: do you follow my pinterest boards yet?  do i follow yours?  leave me your link!  pinning things related to christmas while watching made for tv christmas movies is probably the way i most want to spend my time.  like these peppermint crunch truffles.  yes please.

10. and of course, decorating!  here's what my house looks like this time of year:

yes, my tree is bright, yes those are my peppermint red velvet cupcakes with marshmallow vodka frosting.  and yes, i begin the decorating right after my birthday and i don't wait til thanksgiving.  thanksgiving has never been a big holiday in my house/for my family so i skip right to christmas.  and my tree, who is a pre-lit snow covered beauty from macy's (go buy the floor model after christmas, don't be stupid), named lennox, deserves to be up as long as possible.

have a wonderful weekend staying in and doing nothing!

My Top 3 Chicago Dive Bars

November 20, 2013

birthday birthday birthday!  i don't even care that it means that i'm 29.  i just like my birthday.  over the years, i've done a lot of different things for my birthday - bar crawls, clubs, live bands, parties at home, sports bars with wristband deals.  but one thing about my birthday parties that you can always count on is that it will, 100% of the time, end at a dive bar.  i just adore dive bars and i always have.

dive bars can be icky, but my favorites aren't really gross.  they're just small neighborhood bars that you don't need to dress up to go to.  they have a relaxed feel, bartenders remember you.  i don't mind occasionally wearing dresses and heels to go out but i'm usually in jeans and flats, i refuse to pay cover or go anywhere with a line (i hate the idea of cover, and i also tend to hate the types of places that charge cover), and i generally dislike places that have dress codes, even if i'm not in violation of it.  dive bars it is.  dive bars are where you go to relax and be comfortable, you can hear your friends talk, you can play card games and drink normal beer and well liquors.  icing on the cake if they also have room for beer pong and flip cup.  (which my favorites do, of course.)

i narrowed it down to my top 3.  do you know how hard that was?!  honorable mentions include snickers, raven's, carol's, and dugout.

beer on clark.  well they just get right to the point with that name, don't they?  beer.  you know what you're getting in a place called beer.  this one is in wrigleyville.  our pal adam bartends here, and he cracks open my tall boy of pbr (refer to my 'things i am not above post') the minute i walk in the door and i'm greeted by a 'you again?' and a $5 bill so i can put my country songs on the jukebox.  and then we have a 'where's tara?' conversation because somebody likes that little ginger and was very sad when she moved.  to say this is my favorite establishment would be a gross understatement.  even though it isn't huge, they have karaoke and beer pong tables, and even a crack machine.  everything i look for in a bar.  plus no cover, no dress code, no line, no crowds.  every time i text kelli about playing beer pong, she texts back 'let me guess. beer on clark?!'  and i promise, being named beer and all, they have a lot of very good beers.  i just happen to enjoy cheap ass pbr.

yak-zies.  located in lincoln park and they have free popcorn.  i honestly think it's the epitome of dive bar to have this.  both 'free' and 'popcorn' are infinitely better when you're drinking.  yak-zies is strictly an after hours bar.  you know, one of those places that's open til 4 a.m. so you only go there once wherever you previously were closes.  this is where we end up after my friends' band plays.  they close down at some place like cubby bear and we move on over to yak-zies.  my only issue here is that you have to go down stairs to get into the place and then up stairs to get to the bathroom.  i don't like stairs when i'm drinking.  or maybe it's that they don't like me.

mother's.  this place is gross and a dive bar and a multitude of other things yet it ranks probably second on my list only to beer on clark, and it's located in the gold coast.  it's the first bar my mother went to when she turned 21 (and the first bar she threw up at) and it probably hasn't been cleaned since.  they have karaoke in the front, where my pal matt dj's and lets me sing whatever i want even though i have no talent, and pool tables that mostly just get used for beer pong.  and free popcorn.  seriously, something about that free popcorn makes it a dive bar, i don't really know the rules on that.  see yak-zies.  in the back they play dance music and have another bar and more beer pong tables under black lights so you really get just about everything in this joint.  most importantly, it's open til 4 a.m. and 5 on saturdays.  i don't know why i care, i rarely make it that late any more, but the option pleases me.  they do charge cover for guys... but i'm not a guy, so what do i care?  as with yak-zies, i just don't enjoy the stairs, but oh well.  win some, lose some.  they make up for it by having a bathroom attendant with watermelon blow pops.

what do you think?  are you a fan of the classy joints, or are you a true dive bar lover like myself?

(and the places where my friends work?  they are my friends because i started going there.  i didn't know them first.  that's a true dive bar.  and maybe also i'm just a friendly creature of habit.)

Little Life Win: Birthday Freebies

November 19, 2013

happy birthday to me!  (unless you're reading this on tuesday night, in which case, almost happy birthday to me.  my birthday is the 20th.)

birthday freebies are one of the highlights of my year.  i'm not generally one of those dreads-getting-older types, but if you are, birthday freebies ease the pain.  there are just so many out there.  i doubt i could actually collect every single one during the whole month - but that does not stop me from trying.  no shame in my game!

one of my favorites - sephora.  last year it was a sugar lip duo set, this year it's mini benefit they're real mascara and watt's up highlighter.  no purchase necessary, just walk right up to the register and whip out your birthday e-mail you received.  (you do have to buy something if you order online though.)
free coffee.  so much free coffee.  every coffee shop i pass - starbucks, caribou, dunkin donuts, panera, all the cute local chicago places.  for someone as obsessed with coffee as me, this is huge.
free cone from marble slab.
free bagel with cream cheese from brueggers.
$30 gift certificate to benihana's.
free bowl at noodles and company.
free sandwich or salad from au bon pain.
$5 off at jason's deli.
free dessert at buffalo wild wings.
free double steakburger with cheese and fries from steak 'n shake.
discounts on dairy queen cakes and buy one get one free blizzard coupon.
buy one get one free ice cream creation from cold stone.
buy one get one free admission to medieval times.
buy one get one at qdoba.
free auntie anne's pretzel.
free burrito from baja fresh.
free cone at baskin robbins.
free entree at houlihans.
$10 to maggianos.
free pizza at old chicago.
free meal at ihop.
free burger at red robin.
olive garden, corner bakery, panera bread, einstein brothers, applebee's, chili's, arby's, baker's square, ben & jerry's, huhot, boston market, buca di beppo, carraba's, culvers, taco john's, ruby tuesdays, fridays, krispy kreme, sonic, joe's crab shack, jamba juice, fazzolis - you name it, they give you some food for free.  you need to sign up for your favorites asap!

basically, i have paid for no food for the entire month of november, and i have no intentions to.  and there's a ton of discounts and non-food related items too - anthropologie, cvs, swagbucks, dsw, old navy, ulta, payless, aveda, american eagle, dave and busters, world market, even getting your brows done at a benefit counter.  i collect them all with an evil little 'it's freeeee' cackle.  collect all the free things.

yes all of these free things require signing up for the company's e-mail list.  here's a tip - i have a 'spam' e-mail account.  it's what i use to sign up for mailing lists and free things and sales promotions and to be perfectly honest, i check it once a year.  at my birthday.  100% worth it.

birthdays most definitely do not suck!

i can't be the only one - what birthday freebies do you love?  are there some missing on my list that i need to hurry up and get?

7 Awesome Things About Birthdays

November 18, 2013

it's birthday week!  my birthday week.  i love birthday week.  month.  my birthday is officially on wednesday, but i've been celebrating, of course, all month.  i love my birthday.  obviously i love celebrating in general, and i love other people's birthdays (almost) as much as my own.  some people really don't like getting older, but i don't mind it.  any reason for a party, in my opinion.  this year is a little quieter.  i'm turning 29 so i'm saving a lot of time, energy, and money for celebrating the big 3-0 next year.

but i'm still celebrating a little this year, with dinners with my friends and lots of movies and date nights with john.  (i'd go out with my parents but oh yeah, they're in vegas without me.)  i could never let my birthday go uncelebrated!  not when i love so many awesome things about birthdays:

1. awesome presents!  sarah and betsy both got me things off my 101 list to celebrate this year - betsy just took me to a new greek restaurant and the greek museum on sunday!  getting things is always fun, but when your loved ones go above and beyond to get you something they know you really want, you get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing how much they care.

2. midnight phone calls from your best friend.  i guess it's only 10 pm her time but still!  my phone rings at 12:00:01.

3. birthdays mean you can plan whatever kind of celebration you want (or none at all, but that's not my style) and your friends will even travel to another state for you so you can tailgate for your favorite team.
at purdue with megan and tara!

4. they also always come out to celebrate, even when you pick dirty college bars to party in, and bring you pink fluffy light up crowns to wear.

i don't know who was more excited about 40s of colt 45 on the menu, me or marcus.  i think me.

5. calories don't count on your birthday.  dinner, dessert, cocktails - birthday is a calorie free day!  have you seen the hand decorated pan of brownies megan once made me?  beautiful.

6. your shenanigans are acceptable.  your friends shenanigans are acceptable.  no judgment on birthdays!

7. birthday freebies.  check back tomorrow for my favorites!  hint: i haven't paid for food or coffee all month.

what are your favorite parts about your birthday?  or are you a non-celebrator?

On Being a Realist

November 17, 2013

Hello fabulous Not Entirely Perfect readers! Thanks to Steph for lending me her space. The last time I posted for Steph, I did a basic About Me. This is similar, but it's a re-post from December 2012 about my crappy qualities because you can't shine up a turd, can you? What can I say, I'm a realist.

I am fierce with myself. Like everyone, I show my strengths more than my weaknesses, but that doesn't mean I'm unaware of the places where I fall short or the character flaws that I have.

My blog naturally gravitates to a lot of things that are my strengths: productivity, organization, cooking, saying no, dissing Justin Bieber. A lot of people have said to me,  "How do you do all the stuff you do on a weekend?" To them I say, "How do you take a spin class at 5 am or run a 5k or divide a check by seven without using a calculator?"  Your triumphs could very well be one of my hot mess disasters. We can't all be good at everything, and if we were all good at the same things, that would suck. Because who would assemble furniture for me? I actually hate when people say, "Stop! You CAN do it!" One, let's be honest: I don't really want to. Two, no, I can't. Just like I can't hop on my purple Unicorn Wanda and take a quick ride to the moon.

If I try something a few times and don't get better at it, I say good day to it. Some things you just know in your gut you're not ever going to get the hang of, and when that happens to me, I'm okay with it. I don't beat my head against the wall or try it 59 more times. I'm not going to be good at everything I do. Part of life is playing to your strengths and knowing your weaknesses so you can avoid them. These are some of mine.

1. I am not arty or crafty. I am afraid of hot glue guns. I spaz when creation is in the air. I like to pin things on pinterest and imagine myself standing calmly before my assembled materials, wearing crisp white pants and a slim finely striped button down accessorized by a complementary chunky necklace, with my hair in a topknot I effortlessly fashioned myself. I gaze around serenely and pick up a tool to begin. Then I wake the F up and go look at something someone else has made.  Because it isn't happening. And I'll never wear white pants.

2. Blow drying my hair. My arms get tired, I always have resulting Uncle Larrys, and I'd rather just skip it. So I skip it. Every day.

3. I am very very bad at dealing with weak people and attention whores. I feel like punching them in the face. Sweet Brown ain't got no time for that.

4. Getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise. I lack the willpower and desire, and I am not going to be acquiring either of them. I can't even walk a straight line that early. Once I busted out some Billy Blanks at 6 a.m. and nearly broke my face and some glassware in my living room. I'd rather stay in bed for my own safety and to preserve my belongings.

So would Geege. Obviously.
5. My self pedis leave a lot to be desired.

6. I am unable and unwilling to keep my dogs off of furniture and beds. I'll deal with the hair, and so will you if you come over.

7. I can't hang anything worth a damn. Michelle has hung pretty much every picture and curtain rod in my house. The ones that are crooked are my masterpieces.

8. Using power tools. I'm like a baby trying to pilot a rocket ship.

9. I know every word to a lot of songs, but you don't want to hear me sing them. It's not a pretty sound.

10. My gift wrapping is an atrocity. Bags are my friend.

11. 5 + 3 x 12 = hand me the calculator. Math is a foreign language to me.

12. I'm impatient to the max and will lose my shit over it.

So there you have it. Some of my shatshiney qualities. And I'm okay with being bad at stuff. I like to know and acknowledge my blind spots so they don't bite me in the butt. Then I spend 98% of my time accentuating the positive: the things I'm good at doing, my natural proclivity for certain tasks and ways of thinking. I hope you do too.

It's sunny here today in Philadelphia, I hope it's sunny where you are too.

Come visit me at Life According to Steph.
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10 Best: Life Lately Moments

November 14, 2013

1. wedding fun!

my friend from high school, katie, got married last weekend!  slightly awkward since, obviously, that also means she went to high school with john's sister julie and invited her, but like the family party, julie was on excellent behavior (maybe because, also like the family party, she wasn't there long.)  but i had a wonderful time since i sat with one of my besties, sarah, who lives in utah and i don't see often.  that's her wedding in which i was a bridesmaid that my blogger picture is from up in the right corner.  katie made a beautiful bride and the whole thing was just so pretty.  she made great choices about every little detail.  even if i did drink too much and john got sarah's husband wasted incredibly quickly.  at least it made us take some really awesome photo booth shots!

2. and that means photo booth strips get a number all their own.
i'm obsessed with these at every wedding.  sarah gave me a solid 40% of her shutterbooth photos that she believes have my face in them.  i like those odds.  i didn't do quite as many at katie's, but not for lack of effort.

p.s. sarah is checking something off my 101 in 1001 list for me for my birthday - she's getting me makeup brushes!  eek!  thanks girl, love you.

3. blogger meetup coming soon.

betsy and i both have 'take the amtrak somewhere' on our 101 in 1001 lists.  i've never been on one.  we wanted to stay close-ish so it wouldn't be 20 hours on a train and i really wanted it to be a state i haven't been to before because that's another of my 101 goals.  we decided on cleveland because it's a 7 hour train ride (and driving is almost 6 so you'd save like nothing by driving) and cleveland has the rock and roll hall of fame, which is also on betsy's 101 list!  having fun while being productive is my favorite thing.  we're going to plan this for some time early in the new year, hopefully on an extended weekend.  if you're near cleveland and want to join us, let me know!  i'll absolutely keep you updated.

4. 'who me?  no, i did not steal these socks out of the laundry bin.  i would never.'

this little meerkat move is actually my favorite to encourage.  i'm teaching her to follow my hands while she stays like that, so her little paws move to the left and the right.  because guess who's got no thumbs and is wearing a red leather jacket and being michael jackson in the thriller video for halloween next year?  this dog.  you'd be lying if you said she wasn't (a) the cutest ever and (b) going to win every costume contest across the land.

5. john's texts lately.  he's been hilarious, 12 hour days 7 days a week make him loopy.  i can't screen shot them because they are not all internet appropriate.  but two of the best ones managed to make the cut:

(1) i assume he meant jacob and edward, but he's really close.  or, i guess, he would be really close if we were going to see twilight.  but we're going to see catching fire, and he's talking about the hunger games... good thing we watched it wednesday before we go to the theater for the second one.  he actually liked it and wants to see the 2nd movie.

(2) i was dying at this one.  panic much?!

6. i was reading steph's post on forgiveness, which i thought was really great.  in theory.  but i don't really forgive people and i definitely don't forget.  i don't let it bother me, which is a main point in her post - it hurts you more than it hurts them.  but, for me, it doesn't.  i kind of just forget they exist and don't give it a second thought.  and then my perfect motto popped up on pinterest.  this, this is much more accurate to how i live my life.


7. how far in advance is it weird to plan things?  because that's what i've been doing lately.  planning parties that are over a year away.  i decided on a 90s theme 30th birthday party weekend in nashville (november 13-16, 2014) and we've already picked our costumes for halloween next year.  i might be crazy.

8.  i updated my advertise page to include a little service i offer.  blog and social media management.  i know the holiday season is very busy, i know some people have babies on the way or are taking huge vacations.  so take advantage of this unmarried, child-free, travel-phobic girl and hire me (for cheap!) to handle some things in your absence or even just when life gets hectic.  i can respond to comments and e-mails for you, comment on other blogs to keep your name out there, or even keep your twitter and other social media outlets updated.  pretty much anything so your blog doesn't suffer while you take a hiatus (i can post for you too!).  if this is your first time using me or a service like this, pretty please contact me for a discount code so you can try it out!

i just really like being online...

9.  900.  right over there on my sidebar.  i know i know.  numbers don't matter.  no they don't, but the fact that you guys care that much means a lot to me.  thank you.

10. updates to the blog!!  did you notice?  doesn't it look pretty?  it's still the black and white that i prefer, just a little more streamlined.  because i got my posts/ideas more streamlined, so i wanted it to look a little more organized around here.  and make it easier for you to find what you're looking for, hence the categories at the top with the adorable drop down menus!

happy weekend!

Lemonade Cupcakes with Sweet Tea Vodka Frosting

November 13, 2013

tara's main love in life is jeremiah weed's sweet tea vodka.  this stuff is delicious, if you've never had it you need to change that immediately.  and this from someone who doesn't even like sweet tea.  but in vodka form it's perfect and makes delicious alcoholic arnold palmers.  if you didn't know, those are iced tea and lemonade.

which i obviously decided to make into delicious, delicious cupcakes.  the tangy lemon cake pairs perfectly with the sweet frosting.  beware - you cannot taste the alcohol in this frosting, no matter how much you add.  you just taste sweet tea.

for the cake - beat 1/3 cup room temperature butter with with 1 and 1/3 cups sugar.  slowly beat in (in this order): 3 eggs, 1/4 cup thawed lemonade concentrate, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 and 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk.  pour into cupcake tin and bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes (check after 18 minutes.  they are done just when a toothpick comes out clean, bake them for the least amount of time possible - that's how cake stays soft.)

better plan?  (if you ask me) buy a box of lemon cake mix, mix it with a 12 ounce can of sprite and bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.  you're welcome.

for the frosting - beat 1/3 cup of room temperature butter until it's smooth and fluffy.  slowly add in 1 to 2 cups of powdered sugar and then just over 1/3 cup of sweet tea vodka.  and another cup or two of powdered sugar and beat til it's smooth and fluffy again.  more vodka = thinner frosting, more powdered sugar = thicker frosting.

frost and enjoy!

sorry that taking anything but iphone photos seemed like a lot of work at the time.  next time the photos will be prettier.

The End of An Era... That Actually Ended 15 Years Ago

November 12, 2013

do you just have one of those holy shit i'm never getting my childhood back kind of days?  you know logically well that you're an adult and if you're like me at (almost) 29, you've actually been an adult for awhile.  but some days something reminds you that you just can't help but miss being a little kid?

i haven't been to a blockbuster since college.  there's not many left and there hasn't been for years.  but somewhere in the back of my mind i knew some were still open (because there's one by my target) though i realized full well i would never set foot in one again.  yet, somehow, their official closing announcement made me rather sad.  

i felt old thinking of how often i went to blockbuster with my mom, how patient she was while i wandered up and down aisles, pretending i wanted a new release when i actually settled on an olsen twins video every time (until my mom just bought them all for me) and especially how blockbuster movie nights also coincided with my dad being out with his friends and mom and i having waffles and ice cream for dinner.  naturally, the phrase 'good old days' flitted across my mind.  and of course nothing makes you feel older than unironically using the phrase 'good old days.'

though it's been at least 15 years since i've set foot in it, i can still remember exactly how my hometown blockbuster was set up.  i can picture it perfectly, aisle by aisle.  i could walk to that olsen twins section with my eyes closed.  i still know which aisle to avoid because even horror movie cover images give gave me nightmares.  they even routinely stacked the candy and 'movie theater popcorn' at the checkout the same way, back when bart simpson was the face on a box of butterfinger bbs.  much like the rest of my unrelentingly mayberry of a small town (as mayberry as you can be when you border chicago), the lincolnwood blockbuster never changed and that was comforting.

but like the 'purple hotel' that we lincolnwood kids had all our birthday parties at and the dingy 5 screen theater that tried it's best to compete when the megaplex moved in, the blockbuster is now gone.  and it's another reminder that i too need to grow up or get left behind.  i don't like that feeling.  and maybe when you're using a giant video rental chain store and an asbestos infested purple painted motel as metaphors for your life, you should take a prozac.

i'm sure everyone remembers their childhood decade with fondness, but there's just something about us 90s kids.  and i don't mean born in the 90s, i mean born in the 80s and old enough in the 90s to start venturing away from your parents and to actually remember it.  we're very melancholy about that decade.  why is that?  was it really that much better than all the others? (psssh, yes.)  are we just more vocal about it because we're that angsty whiny internet generation?  or are we not far enough removed yet to really just get over it? 

but life does indeed go on, even for 90s kids, and i really am sorry to tell blockbuster and 10 year old stephanie - that's the end of that.  but damn, i was adorable.  and hilarious.

Things I Just Don't Have Time For

November 11, 2013

admittedly, i'm an impatient person.  i am absolutely horrible at waiting.  i don't understand lines or traffic and i'm absolutely miserable if i have to deal with either of them.  at least i'm not alone in this - i know kathy ain't got time for that either.  (for the record, i completely agree with the things on kathy's list.  they're a little more serious than my list, but i'm 100% on board nonetheless.)

7 things i just don't have time for:

waiting for candy crush lives.  omg candy crush, 30 minutes for 1 life?  you're killing me.

high maintenance clothes.  if it says 'dry clean only,' i read it as 'nope, don't buy me.'  i also don't even own an iron or ironing board, so if it's not going to look acceptable straight out of the dryer, i will not buy it.

homeopathic remedies.  i don't doubt that there are all natural ways to improve my headache or calm my allergies.  but if there exists a pill for it, you can bet i'm taking it.  the faster acting the better.

automatic hand dryers.  besides the dyson ones, automatic hand dryers suck. i don't know, in the grand scheme of things, how much better they are for the environment versus paper towels when it comes down to the electricity of the thing.  but i don't exactly care either.  they take forever to dry your hands, which always leads to me just wiping them on my pants anyway.

captcha.  you're crazy if you still have this on your blog.  i cannot read those stupid letters.  sometimes i comment, and then if it says i got the letters wrong, i give up and never leave the comment.  i don't have time to sit there and figure out those damn letters multiple times in a row.  it's bad for my blood pressure.

vacuuming.  someone buy me a damn robot vacuum already!  i am great at organizing and cleaning everything - except the carpet.  i hate to vacuum, it's the worst cleaning task i can imagine.

anyone knocking on my door that wasn't invited.  thank goodness for my apartment building that lets no one in.  but people are guilty of this at my parent's house.  i don't have time for your sales pitch, i'm not interested and i never will be.  i have 10,000 other things i could and should be doing right now, and coming to jesus just isn't one of them.  i'm sure the nuns at my high school would disagree, but there it is.

what don't you have time for?

And His Name Was Earl

November 6, 2013

for today's throwback story, i decided to share with you a little story that still gets talked about in our family regularly, despite the fact that it happened over 15 years ago.  it always starts with "remember when they locked dan in the murphy bed?"  you see, i have three cousins.  twin boys two years younger than me (dan and dave) and a their younger sister (kristin), 6 years younger than me.  their mom reads this blog so i'm sure she'll correct anything i can't remember in this story (like our babysitters name.  i think i just made lauren up.)

don't be fooled by how sweet and mature we look now.

once upon a time, we could be real little shits.  especially together.  i'm sure we still are, but we're old enough to do it at the bar without parents around so it's acceptable.  if a tree falls in the woods and all that.  but when were together as children, the plotting began almost instantly.  the boys even spoke a secret twin language and i was the only one who could understand it.  we were sneaky.  i'm not sure why on this particular occasion our parents left us at a hotel with a babysitter named lauren, but they did.  first and last time that ever happened.

regardless, we arrived to the hotel that afternoon with our parents and bolted straight to the pool.  the fact they lived on a lake with a water slide off their porch was irrelevant.  nothing compares to a hotel pool when you're 11 (and 9 and 6).  with the parents still around, we calmly swam and splashed, generally behaving like the angelic children they assumed we were.  and then we found a mangled, baseball sized, squishy little water absorbing pool ball that had been abandoned.

and his name was earl.

no really.  he was a dingy dark blue and had 'earl' written across the side with black sharpie.  despite his rather well-worn appearance and missing chunks, we were instantly obsessed with earl.  but you can't let your parents know when you love something and are about to battle over it, of course, because then they just take it away.  no, we knew we could save earl for a more opportune time.  the babysitter was coming.

we headed up to our hotel room and our parents left us with this poor teenage girl, lauren.  somehow lauren is related to us, though i don't think i've seen her since this incident.  after we promised to be good, lauren took us down to the pool again.  perhaps to wear us out?  this was her first mistake.  the moment we raced to the pool, out came earl and out came the guns.  battle lines were drawn.  getting control of earl was a matter of life or death.  the only thing that mattered was becoming the master of earl.  first the boys tried to drown each other trying to claim the ball as their own.  kristin and i, the level-headed, 'sharing is caring', girls of the group, realized earl could have two masters and quickly banded together and snatched earl to retreat to the safety of the girls locker room.  to which we locked the door.  i said two masters.  earl could never have four masters, that's crazy talk.

we sat in the locker room sauna for what felt like hours but was probably closer to 7 minutes before hotel security decided it was enough because (a) we were too young to be in the sauna at all and (b) oh right we had locked the door of a public locker room in a major chain hotel.  lauren took earl away and escorted us back to the room, assuming that getting yelled at by the hotel staff was really going to put us on our best behavior.  she mistook the eye of the storm as the storm being over.  silly lauren.

we calmed down once we got upstairs, but we all knew the battle wasn't over.  lauren turned her back for 2 minutes to order pizza for us while leaving earl unattended (like we had forgotten about him?  never.) and that was all it took for hell to break lose.  again.  the battle was far worse in the hotel room.  there was furniture to crash into, beds to jump on, tv channels to scream over, multiple doors to close and locks to pick.  there was no controlling us as we bounced off the walls trying to keep earl away from the others.

at some point, i threw earl onto the murphy bed that came with the suite.  (do you know what a murphy bed is?  it folds up in to the wall.)  and dan dove in after it.  dave and i looked at each other and raced to lift the corners of the bed, because apparently all that adrenaline gave us super strength, and we trapped dan inside the wall.  i mean really, you could barely even hear his muffled screams but lauren caught us anyway and demanded we let him out.  but sugar crazed power hungry children are not to be trifled with.  particularly when they're of the age to realize that they out number you.  we stood there pushing that bed up for hours.  fine, minutes.  when we finally let go and the bed crashed to the ground, dan had crazy eyes.  wide, unblinking, horrifying, full of hatred crazy eyes.  pretty sure lauren thought, at that moment, that he might murder every last one of us.  i thought that too.

luckily after a few minutes, the pizza guy came (and kristin literally got down on her knees and begged him to take her with.  he refused and ran away quickly.)  somehow, miraculously, the eating calmed us down long enough to not cause too much additional trouble before our parents came back.  that or we got distracted by something on tv.

and when our parents returned, lauren announced that we were satan's spawn and that she would never babysit again.  dramatic much?  but poor lauren never did babysit again and i'm fairly certain the four of us were never left together without parental supervision.  the boys took earl home and my aunt is such a pack rat that i guarantee they still own it.

for now.

A Lesson In Movie Theater Etiquette

November 5, 2013

my birthday is 2 days before the 2nd movie of the hunger games trilogy, catching fire, comes out.  which obviously is what i requested of john that we do for my birthday.  at some point.  not opening weekend of course, because my patience wears thin enough at the movies when it's not crowded.  i can only imagine how i'd behave in a packed theater. 

and that is why the last movie i saw (in theaters) was despicable me 2 with ruth on the 4th of july.  before that, i probably couldn't even tell you.  the hobbit?  suffice it to say, i see, max, 4 movies a year in the theaters.  usually it's about 2.  (and the last time i saw a movie on opening day was one of the pirates of the caribbean movie and we brought rum in for our drinks, so i didn't care about anything anyway.)  i wait for things to come out on netflix or i'll even pay for it on apple tv if i really, really can't wait.  but theaters are rough for me, and here's why:


and you can probably infer the exact voice, dripping with disdain, in which i say that.  it's true, people in groups suck.  and this is never more evident than when you're in a crowded movie theater.  my biggest movie-going pet peeves:

this should go without saying but obviously not everyone has learned this yet - shut up.  i don't even need to elaborate on this.  you know better, so why are you still doing it?  stop talking.

if you're one of those people that leaves all the time, sit on the end!  i honestly don't care if people come in late or leave, i don't even notice - as long as they sit on the end.  if you know you'll have to pee, if you want popcorn/pop refills, if you're a doctor on call, if you (inexplicably) have a kid with you at a generally not for kids movie, do not sit in a middle seat and disrupt your neighbors by crawling over them the entire time.

children do not belong in r-rated movies.  stop.  period.  end sentence. 

applicable to so much more than just a theater - chew with your mouth closed.  i may not be able to see it in the dark theater, but i can hear it.  and that's just as bad.

if you're going to sneak food in, make it quiet food and for the love of god make it movie appropriate.  this is not the time to pull out your 6 inch tuna sub, man.  popcorn.  candy.  nachos and hot dogs are even acceptable.  this isn't the place for your smelly dinner.

i can't wait for catching fire to come out on video.  i waited until the hunger games did, but at the time i didn't know any better.  i must see this one as soon as possible.  please don't make it suck for me!  and a special shout out to theaters like the icon that has a 21 and over section in which you can drink the whole time and be away from children, and reserve your seats.  whoever decided that - you're my hero.

what's your biggest movie theater pet peeve?

(p.s. i routinely get made fun of for how i say 'theater' which to me is thee-aa-ter but apparently it's thee-ter.  which makes no sense because it's spelled with an a and i will continue to pronounce it as such.  at least i don't say 'pellow' and 'melk' like my mom and tara and the whole state of wisconsin.)

Happy Happy Happy

November 4, 2013

oh happy lists.  and blogging.  blogging can absolutely make you want/like things you otherwise wouldn't care about.  and you have to realize that what makes other people happy might not make you happy.  i think i struggled with that longer than i care to admit (in life, not so much in blogging).  for example, people love travel so much and i really wanted to be like that.  so i'd go when people offered vacations, even though in the back of my mind i was dreading the packing and the laundry and the fees and anywhere that involves sand and especially the flying.  it's just not fun for me, so i finally accepted that and now i stick to only essential travel like weddings (although, i'll never say no to vegas!)

after reading rachel's list, i wanted to make one of my own.  complete with photo overload, as a little happiness reminder.  so, leaving out the huge ones on everyone's list like friends and family, what makes me happy?

snow.  i just won't ever be one of those people who retires to florida.  i love snow.  and even in chicago winters, day in day out, trudging to and from work, i still love snow.  i promise, ask me in february, my answer will still be 'can winter please stay?!'  i've always been a snow baby.  i always wanted to be out in it as soon as it snowed, shoveling paths for the dogs and building snow turtles.  only child = no man power for snowmen.  snow turtles are way cooler anyway, especially when mom lets you have the green food coloring.

dogs.  i have no problem admitting i prefer dogs 100% over people.  john never likes my 'who would you save in a fire' answer, but he should really stop asking because it's always hawkeye and always will be.  dogs in general make me happy, not just hawkeye - i'd probably save john's pug, thor, before i'd save john too.  (they need the help, john has legs and a larger lung capacity, he's fine.)  dogs are just so much more loving than people and a bad day is instantly remedied by a trip to the dog park.

dogs in snow?  so. much. winning.
for me.  hrh was as unimpressed as her "this is some shit" face implies.

organizing.  oh you know that would make the list!!  some people who get bored decide to watch tv.  i organize my underwear drawer.  and don't forget to enter to win a whitney english day designer on yesterday's post!

pledge families.  and beer.  i swear being blonde was not a requirement for our pledge family, it just worked out that way.

taco bell.
getting a great deal.
spending the day at the racetrack.
theme parties.  and costumes.

perfectly timed gifs.
list making and goal planning.
opening day.

gummy bears.
sending christmas cards.
apple picking.

the lc line at kohl's.
both kelly and i have long underwear on under these jeans.  never surrender!

what's on your happy list?

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