Oh baby, it’s cold outside!

Fireplace + hotty totty = pure bliss.

Fireplace + hotty toddy = pure bliss.

Okay, so I can’t complain too much about the cold weather, living in Austin, Texas. But I know many of you, my dear readers, are freezing your little butts off this winter. The funny thing about Austin is that I really never know what the weather is going to be like.

When I moved here, people said it still “got cold” come wintertime, and I believed it because, it definitely got cold when I was living in Baton Rouge. I know, all of the people north of me are sitting there, reading this and calling me a wimp. But, yes it still gets below 30 in the South, and it still stays humid, which makes it seem much colder.

Anyway, as the winter months arrived, the cold weather did not. It was still 70! Then, all the locals were telling me, oh, just wait until January and February. And, sure, we’ve had some nights in the 30’s, but not like what I was expecting. However, my apartment has two giant glass walls (basically big ass windows, it’s nothing fancy), and it gets freezing in there – but I still refuse to turn on the heat. I’m cheap, and it’s Texas. Period.

So, I’ve got 5 ways you can keep warm this winter! If Punxsutawney Phil is worth his salt, then we’ll all be romping around in our swimsuits in five weeks, amirite?

Get an electric blanket. It sounds so silly, but I asked for an electric blanket for Christmas, and I was really excited when I got it. You see, my bed is backed up against one of these aforementioned glass walls. And while it looks really cool, I didn’t expect my bed to be freezing when I slip between the sheets every damn night.

Enter: the electric blanket. Not only do I turn it on about an hour before I go to bed (in order to warm the sheets before I even touch them), but I also drag this thing to the couch when I’m ready for a TV binge. It is so cozy! Mine also has a 3-hour timer built in, so it shuts off automatically and you don’t wakeup sweating at 3am. I just love it!

Slip into slippers. I L-O-V-E slippers! I never really thought about my love for slippers until college, when you always have to have something on your feet in student housing. But I’ve been wearing slippers ever since, and I’ve got at least six pair in my closet as I type this. I’ve got ones with actual soles so I can wear them outside (don’t judge me), some that are super cozy and I may or may not sleep in them, and some that are just really cute.

DIY throat lozenges!

DIY throat lozenges!

Make something. Turning on the oven or the stove will make your house feel warm, and let’s face facts, who doesn’t feel better after creating something delicious? You should most definitely make Shrimp Ramen! Haylie Duff, from The Real Girl’s Kitchen has an awesome recipe.

Or… you could (and should) totally make your own throat lozenges. No, seriously! I saw a recipe in Bust Magazine and it looks surprisingly easy, and packed with cold-fighting properties.

Go for the warm accessories. Luckily, wool socks and thick beanies are in style this year, so none of us have to feel stupid when we step out in our winter’s finest. Blanket scarves have been everywhere this season, too – I wasn’t sold at first, but I bought one anyway and have had fun styling it different ways.

Down a hotty toddy. I hate Ole Miss, but I’ll take a hotty toddy any day of the week. Basically, it’s just a hot, spiked beverage, and who doesn’t love that? I found six recipes for toddies, and one of them is even from the Midnight Cowboy, right here in Austin! It’s a legendary bar, and I’d give you more details, but I got properly hammered upon entering.

What ways are you keeping warm in this cool snap? I’d love to say I hate it, but I love a good excuse to stay indoors and hunker down with a full DVR or a book! #AntiSocial

Fresh Friday: Sud Magnolia.

Pretty bottle, beautiful scent.

Pretty bottle, beautiful scent.

This week, it occurred to me that I’m only a few weeks away from having lived in Austin for six months! Can you believe it? It has really flown by. But, I can say that I am finally starting to feel like things are falling into place.

I’m learning my way around, finding my groove, and meeting some cool people. My job is still challenging, but I’m getting there, and I’m learning things every day, which is exactly what I wished for. I am excited to see what the next six months have in store.

So, what does the next six months have in store for this blog, and YOU, my dear readers? Well, lots of fun, awesome, new things! I’m starting work on my second online course. Haven’t heard of the first one? Well, in December, I published a complete online course for Beginning Bloggers (details & discount code here), and it’s been a decent success.

I want to keep building courses to support bloggers, online business owners, and fellow social medialites. So, be on the lookout for course #2 in the next few months, which will be focused on blogging best practices.

I also have a goal to write and publish another book – whew, big goal! But, it’s been done before (check out all three of my books here), and I’ve got so much info swirling in my brain for this next one. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

And of course, I’ve got all sorts of awesome advice to offer you, adventures to share (there will be some good traveling this year), and as always, stories of love, loss, and finding my way as a Singleton at 30… soon-to-be 31 year old.

I’ve been toying with the idea of offering a monthly newsletter for you guys (by subscription), which would have the same type of content you see on the blog, but exclusive to the newsletter, and probably more secretive, given that I know my boss or guy-of-interest wouldn’t be reading it. It would also contain exclusive deals and offers. That’s a big possibility – if you’ve got ideas or dreams about it, just let me know! I aim to please, folks.

But today, I’m here to offer you a new scent profile, because I’ve been spritzing on Sud Magnolia by Atelier Cologne aallll week! From Sephora.com:

A completely unexpected experience inspired by ingredients from regions where water and sky become one, Sud Magnolia is a floral and fresh fragrance with notes of magnolia from Louisiana, bitter orange from Seville, and atlas cedarwood from Morocco. The sharp tang of citrus blooms into a grand floral celebration. The woody drydown is reminiscent of antebellum elegance and nights of warm abandon.

This warm floral fragrance is exclusive to Sephora. It provides the freshness and elegance of a cologne, but is designed to provide lasting fragrance on the skin.

Notes: Bitter Sevillian Orange, Pomelo from Florida, Blackcurrant, Magnolia from Louisiana, Bulgarian Rose Absolue, Indian Saffron Flower, Atlas Cedarwood from Morocco, Sandalwood, Musk.

Style: Sophisticated. Refined. Romantic.

See? A perfect scent for my Louisiana ladies! It combines the sweet scent of magnolia with warm cedarwood, and the freshness of citrus. Kind of makes you hungry, right? I felt like every time I sprayed it on I could pick up different “angles” of the scent – and that’s why I’m really considering this to be my new favorite scent. It’s so unique!

I’m so ready for the weekend, per usual, and I’m excited to kick off a week-full of fun blogs right before the holiday we’re all dreading (or is it just me?). Don’t worry, it’s all fun and games at TBL. Until Monday, y’all be well.

Land a job from LinkedIn.

Yes, you can get a job on LinkedIn!

Yes, you can get a job on LinkedIn!

It’s a new year, a new you… could a new job be in store? Or, perhaps you’re considering an entire career change. If you’re new to The Bitter Lemon (Welcome!), let me fill you in: I unexpectedly lost my job at the end of 2014, spent most of 2015 hunting down my dream job, before finding it, moving 7 hours west, and am now living the LIFE.

First day on the job. Password: FINALLY

First day on the job. Password: FINALLY

And yes, they keep beer in the fridge for employees at my job (no, I’m dead serious) and there’s unlimited vacation.

Someone pinch me.

How did this happen to me? I got my job from LinkedIn. Again, I’m dead serious.

The better question here is, how can YOU do this?

Because here, at TBL, I’m all about spreading joy and happiness, and most importantly, figuring out ways to make every situation yours for the taking.

So, I’ve got 6 tips for improving your LinkedIn profile and landing that job you’ve been fantasizing about:

Let people know you’re looking

  • Whether you post on LinkedIn that you’re currently exploring career opportunities or you cleverly update your resume to reflect your job status, put it out there that you’re serious about a job search. Many hiring officers won’t take you seriously if you aren’t either – they think it’s a waste of time.

Actually fill out your profile

  • One of the BEST things about using LinkedIn to find a job is that many companies will let you apply for the job using your profile, which takes about two clicks. Trust me, it’s waaayyy better than having to upload and parse your resume, and then rewrite the whole thing again via answering a million questions. So, put everything on your profile you’d want a potential employer to know.
  • Recently, LinkedIn added a ton of new sections you can fill out and add to your profile. I’m not saying you’ve got to go nuts on these, but if you’ve got things to add, do it – if they’re going to make you look better, anyway.
  • When you fill out your profile, don’t be shy. You don’t have to worry about fitting all the information on one page, so go ape shit. Fill out all of the things you’ve accomplished in your previous jobs, highlight special courses or trainings you’ve attended, and don’t forget about areas you’ve excelled in. Sure, it’ll take time, but you only have to do it once.

Use a professional (looking) profile picture

  • I know not everyone has a professional headshot, but at least try to use a decent-looking photo. Do not use a selfie or any photo that features you, intoxicated, or looking sloppy. Come on! If you don’t have a photo, rig your iPhone to a steady area, sit in front of a plain wall with some natural lighting, set the timer, and smile like you mean it!
  • No matter what, don’t leave the photo empty. That just looks sad.

Network!

  • I’m not a big fan of networking, but networking on LinkedIn is pretty easy since you can do it while laying on your couch wearing sweats. So, find people you know, and connect with them – I’ve heard hiring officers only look at profiles with at least 100 connections. Find me (Holly A. Phillips) and let’s link up; 99 more to go!
  • Follow thought leaders in your field, or in the field you’re hoping to get into. Also, look for groups that talk about your passions, and join them.

Search for the right job

  • One thing is certain: LinkedIn is a GIANT search engine. But, in order for that to work in your favor, you’ve got to use the right words to find the jobs you’re looking for. This may take some brain storming. Think about the job you want, or the career field you’re interested in. Make a list of words and/or phrases that could describe it, and use these to narrow (or widen) your search.
  • For example, I knew I wanted a job that had something to do with Web/Internet and also writing and/or editing. I searched for all of those things, but also, web marketing, search engine marketing, social media strategy, online marketing, etc. I was able to find hundreds of jobs to apply to!

Don’t forget (or abandon) traditional job hunting skills

  • Yes, I work in the tech industry and I applied through LinkedIn, but societal norms still apply when it comes to job hunting. You still need to craft a well-written email/message/cover letter, and reply within a timely manner if you get a message or a call. The interview is still just like any other interview, and after every interview I had, even phone interviews, I mailed hand-written thank you cards.

So, there you have it! Got any other tips that have worked for you? Feel free to share them in the comments. Best of luck in your job search, and I hope to see you on LinkedIn!

Online Dating: ‘Love at First Swipe’.

My new favorite show!

My new favorite show!

I recently became obsessed with watching “Love at First Swipe” on TLC. The show stars Style Expert Clinton Kelly, along with Online Dating Guru Devyn Simone.

The point of the show is to help women (I haven’t seen any male contestants yet) present their best self on their online dating profiles. At the start of the episode, the viewer is presented with the woman’s current online dating profile.

Naturally, it’s a disaster. It usually has racy or very old photos, some sort of weird screen name, and other, general information that makes the woman appear un-dateable.

One recent episode featured a woman getting her Master’s in math. She only wanted men who were also math geniuses to message her online, and she made that very clear on her profile.

The next part of the show involves the contestant meeting Clinton and Devyn, and the expert pair works to get to the root of the problem: why is this woman presenting herself in a way that attracts the wrong types (if any at all) of men?

Then, Clinton works with her to get a new, flattering look, as well as new photos for her profile, while Devyn works with her to figure out what type of man she is looking for, and what she can put on her profile to represent her best qualities and attract the right man.

In the end, the contestant’s new profile is presented to 100 men, and of the (usually 70 percent or higher) men that say they’d like to date her, she gets to pick one to go out with.

I know I like this show because I’ve tried my hand at online dating, and it’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve always looked at it as a passive way of putting yourself out there, but we’re all so “connected” these days, I’m starting to realize it’s not passive at all.

As of now, I’ve tried Match, Ok Cupid, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Glimpse. While I’ve gotten hundreds of messages between all of these apps, I’ve only gone on actual dates with three men from them.

Just like the women on “Love at First Swipe”, I too, have wondered why certain men message me and others don’t,  or why the men I meet online don’t end up as successful relationships.

While my profile is nowhere near as extreme as the ones I’ve seen on the show, I’ve started to realize that some of the information I’m putting online probably isn’t representing my best self. One of my main profile pictures is of me, drinking a mug of coffee. The mug also has my blog address, The Bitter Lemon, which is usually my username as well.

I think this kicks me in the ass in two ways: 1. It automatically says I’m bitter, or bitchy, and 2. It leads men to this blog, which has a lot of personal information about me right off the bat; and a majority of that information is about my dating failures.

Not attractive.

I’m not saying it’s information I’m going to keep secret, but I probably shouldn’t lead with that. I’m also working on letting go of my past heartbreaks. Sure, it still affects me in some ways, but it doesn’t define me, and it’s not something a date needs to know.

Right now, I’m not participating in online dating, but after seeing this show and considering some ways I could improve my presence to potential suitors, I’m considering it.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be seeing you online soon.

Pic of the Week.

First thing’s first: I got new hair and I. DON’T. CARE. You know Chris Brown’s song, “Zero”? That’s my new theme song, ‘cuz that’s how manyyyy f*cks I give…

That’s right, my new hair is sassy, but more importantly, it’s easy to style and it feels healthy. I was rocking the same haircut and color for quite awhile, and although it was still looking great, it’s never too soon (or too late) to change up the game.

I think it’s true: women change their hair, or their look in some way, when they’ve reached a turning point. And after last week’s epiphany, I’m still feeling like a whole new woman, so why not get a fresh cut?

I have been eyeing this short, wavy style for a few months, wondering if I could pull it off. The women that wear it best have great bone structure, and let’s face facts, I could stand to lose a few pounds, and I’ve always had chubby cheeks.

I still kind of wonder how it ultimately looks, but when I woke up on Saturday morning, still in question, I decided “fuck it.” Who cares if I’ve got a round face, it’s my hair and I’m going to cut it. Booyah.

Truthfully, I’ve never been too worried about my hair. If it’s too short, I’ll grow it out, and if it looks terrible, it’s usually nothing a good wash and blow dry can’t fix. Perhaps I’ve been lucky enough to have some great stylists touch my locks, because I’ve really never had any hair disasters (and I definitely dyed my hair from a box for years and sometimes cut it myself).

But I put my faith in my hair stylist (Lydia @ The Garrett Neal Studio; you should check her out), showed her a picture, and we were on our way. She hacked a good chunk off the bottom (2-4 inches, depending on the layers), and added in some ombre highlights, aside from my usual refresh of reddish-brown color (you did know I’m a natural blonde, right?).

In years passed, I’ve spent a lot of time on my hair. I used to get up and wash it every morning, blow dry it with a flat brush to get it smooth, and then choose my hot tool of choice – I’ve done hot curlers, curling irons, straighteners, wave irons, and in the early 90’s, I definitely used a crimper.

But as of late, my plate is very full with other things: work, dance, blogging, freelance editing, my blog class, and general laziness in front of the TV. So, I cut the corners where I can. And while I still put on a full face of makeup before heading to work every morning, I don’t mind skipping on my hair.

This means my hair routine has consisted of this: washing it at night (with sulfate-free shampoo to treat my color), brushing it wet before bed, letting it air dry as I sleep…and then assessing the situation in the morning. Most of the time, it looks pretty good (my hair has some natural wave), and all it takes is a few sprays of something: dry shampoo (try Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak), texturizing spray (try Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe), or extra hold hairspray, and I’m good to go after a strategically placed bobby pin.

And my new cut completely supports this lack-of-care routine I’ve got going on. No fuss here.

Aside from my daily routine, I do a weekly protein treatment using Paul Mitchell’s Hair Repair and I throw on a hair mask (I like Amika Obliphica Nourishing Mask) a few days later, for good measure. Other than that, it’s easy, breezy, beautiful… (CoverGirl) over here.

Are you thinking of changing up your look this year? I’d love to see what style icons you’re admiring! Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see more of my fairly beauty regimen (and other ridiculous nonsense).

Reading list (#goals).

I’ve been reading the same book for, like, seven months. And it’s not a thick book, it’s an easy, fun read. I’ve just only looked at it about twice.

And why? Let me explain that I used to read ALL. THE. TIME. There were years, not long ago, where I read 25 books a year. As a writer, I feel it is my job to keep up with other writers. And, when I was learning to write, a great writer once told me that in order to BE a great writer, you must read great writing.

So, I’ve read a ton of books. But there’s a ton more out there I want to read. It’s not that I don’t want to read. I blame my lack of reading on last year, when I was constantly (and I do mean constantly) working to make ends meet.

But this year is different! So, I’m ready to finish reading that book I started last year (The Liar, The Bitch, and The Wardrobe by Allie Kingsley), and start (and finish) a bunch of others.

I’ve had this goal in mind for awhile because, like I said, I really do love reading. I also love curling up on my couch, getting lost in a great book. It’s the perfect escape and I’m ready to get back to it. I even got a few bookstore gift cards for Christmas, so I’ve already started my stockpile.

You may recall that last year, I treated myself to two books: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith and The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Well, I still haven’t read them, so those are still on my list (it’s sad, I know).

But, here are some others I’m hoping to read this year:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

In the New York Times bestseller that the Washington Post called “Lean In for misfits,” Sophia Amoruso shares how she went from dumpster diving to founding one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly?  Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

Legends of the Chelsea Hotel by Ed Hamilton

In a series of linked cyanide capsules, Legends of the Chelsea Hotel tells the odd, funny, and often tragic truth of the writers, artists, and musicians; the famous and the obscure alike; who have fallen prey to the Chelsea.

The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner’s talent shines like never before in this collection of short stories, following the tender, often hilarious, progress of love and relationships over the course of a lifetime. The Guy Not Taken demonstrates Weiner’s amazing ability to create characters who “feel like they could be your best friend” (Janet Maslin) and to find hope and humor, longing and love in the hidden corners of our common experiences.

What books are you reading right now, or looking forward to reading this year? I’d love to add to my list!

Fresh Friday: Velvet Orchid

Give it here.

Give it here.

Yeeeeehaawwww – here we are, yet again, on another fine Friday! The good news is you’ve made it through another week… and I have no bad news because it’s FRIDAY.

Between work and dance classes, the weeks seem to fly by pretty fast, but the weekends speed right on as well. This weekend, I’m really looking forward to getting my hair cut and colored, which is the usual routine for me, but I’m thinking about changing it up a little.

Hair envy.

Hair envy.

I’ve been considering a little bit of a shorter look, that captures my natural wave some (see: Khloe Kardashian). If you’re following me on SnapChat, you probably have noticed that I haven’t blow-dried or used any hot tools on my hair in months. I pretty much gave up trying – I like my natural wave, and straightening it is usually a waste of my time.

So, we’ll see. I’m pretty open to trying new things, and I’ve always been able to trust my stylist to give me a cut/color that’s going to flatter my skin and face shape. In other words, my hair future is in her hands.

Speaking of Khloe, has anyone been watching her new show, “Kocktails With Khloe” on FYI? It started last week and although I don’t watch “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, I was pretty anxious to check it out, given that her first guests were Brandi Glanville and Snoop Dogg.

It has an interesting format: the set is a mockup of her home, and it’s supposed to seem like she’s just having people over, talking and drinking (and playing drinking games), instead of on a stage for a talk show. I don’t know if it will get a second season, but so far I kind of like it.

Aside from just dancing my booty off (give my new favorite song, “Wut” a listen below) this week, I’ve been wearing this week’s scent: Velvet Orchid by Tom Ford. According to Sephora:

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid is an oriental floral that evolves the carnal grandeur and seductive power of the iconic Tom Ford Black Orchid into an uber-feminine fragrance lavished with notes of cool citrus, dramatic petals, suede accord, and vanilla. Rich, spicy, and intensely floral, it evokes a warm exotic garden. The slim and elegant bottle is enhanced with bold vertical texture and the signature brass nameplate.

Notes: Orange Blossom, Hyacinth, Jonquil, Cattleya Leopoldii Orchid, Suede Accord, Vanilla Tincture.
Style: Lavish. Dramatic. Seductive.  

This scent is DEFINITELY feminine. So, if you’re getting sick of me featuring scents on here that have a masculine site, today is finally your day! Between the petals and vanilla, it’s a soft scent, but not so soft you don’t notice it. I’d definitely give this one a whiff the next time you’re in a department store – it’s different (in a good way)!

So, there you have it! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to keep up with me this weekend, and I’ll see you right back here on Monday for another fun week! Cheers!

 

Don’t worry, be happy. Now.

Cheer up, Buttercup.

Cheer up, Buttercup.

The “Winter Blues” are a real thing (often referred to by smarter people as Seasonal Affective Disorder), and I’m here to report that there’s a way to rid yourself of these doldrums and turn that frown upside-down!

Truth-be-told, I got to thinking about things that make me happy, and things that make other people happy. I feel like I’m constantly on a mission to improve my mood, in order to just… enjoy life.

Of course, it’s really easy to sit back and say, well if I had this, lived there, worked over there, did this, met someone – you fill in the blank – then life would be better. But how about just living in the NOW? Because that’s all we have.

And, if you read yesterday’s post, I feel like a totally changed woman, and I’m learning to work with what I have, instead of moping over the things I’m missing. So, for the record, here’s what I’ve got:

  • A crazy cat
  • Great friends
  • Supportive mom
  • Pretty cool job
  • Apt in an awesome city
  • Jeep I love to drive
  • Working coffee pot
  • HBO
  • Half-full bottle of mood support

Sounds pretty good, right? But, we all have bad days or bad moments when we lose perspective and can’t focus on the good things that are right in front of us. And that’s what this list is for. Nine things you can do RIGHT now to perk up your spirits and crush the day – maybe this Bitter Lemon has gone a little sweet (okay, not a chance, but you get the picture)!

  1. Get caffeinated. I’m a coffee lover, and I drink it every morning, but if tea is your thing, or Red Bull, whatever, get your buzz on.
  2. Jam out. Listening to positive music can flip your mood in a second. If you don’t have a certain playlist that’ll do the trick, put on your favorite song. Personally, I’ll take any Queen song, any day.
  3. Just dance. Speaking of music, why not bust a move? There’s a 100% chance all of my neighbors have seen me twerking in my kitchen while waiting for my coffee to brew, and everyone on Mopac South at 8:30 M-F has seen me perfecting body-rolls while driving. Just try it!
  4. Close all social media apps. It pains me to say this, because I love a lot of things about social media, hell, a majority of my job is digital. But, people always post the happy shit online and a lot of times it’s not even true. However, it makes us compare and we start to feel like everyone else has it better. They don’t, but close the app, anyway.
  5. …Okay, but not YouTube. Hop over to YouTube to watch a funny video. My go-to? Shark-cat. Never lets me down.
  6. Remember photo albums? Open up a box of old photos. Apparently, looking at old pictures boosts your mood more than eating chocolate. I don’t know if I believe this, so you should probably eat chocolate WHILE going through pictures. But really, who needs a photo album when you can just Google that amazing pic of Bieber’s ass?

    You're welcome.

    You’re welcome.

  7. Go somewhere. Okay, so maybe this isn’t something you can do right now, but planning an experience or a trip will bring you more pleasure than spending your cash on material things.
  8.  Treat yourself. I don’t want this to come across as me saying that materialistic things bring happiness. Most of the time they don’t. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit just how much a trip to Walgreen’s brings me joy. Or even a scoop of frozen custard. So, treat yourself, even if it’s something small.
  9. Get lost. Maybe a walk would do you some good, or perhaps curling up with a good book to forget about reality for awhile. Sometimes, turning off my phone makes me feel like I’m on a vacation.

Lose Control in Dating… & Love it.

Learning to let go...

Learning to let go…

People often say, “When you’re not looking, that’s when it’ll happen.” These people are usually in a relationship.

I get it – just when you’re busy getting your life together instead of obsessing over dating, Mr. or Mrs. Right could be eyeing you from afar.

It makes sense, but the most difficult thing for me to wrap my brain around when it comes to dating is that it’s one of the only things in our lives that’s completely out of our control.

Think about it: in general, when you work hard, you know at some point, you’ll get a promotion. When you put extra time and effort into a hobby, the chances are likely you’ll get better at it.

But when it comes to romantic love, there’s really nothing we can do to ensure it’ll happen in the way we hope, or that it will even happen at all.

I wouldn’t consider myself a control freak, but when I think about all the things I try to control in dating, there’s a chance I might be.

For example, controlling where we meet someone. No one wants to meet in a bar anymore, and even online dating is considered taboo for some (I’ve done it, no judgment). I think meeting someone in a grocery store would be cool – we could bond over organic produce.

Once we meet someone, we try to control our feelings to protect ourselves from getting hurt. We also try to control who has the power in the relationship. But in the end, none of these efforts really work.

So, how can we stop trying to control one of the potentially biggest aspects of our lives? There’s a few ways, although they may not be easy.

For starters, stop wanting a relationship. I know that sounds ridiculous, but if you want something, your brain automatically starts thinking about what you don’t have; in this case, a significant other. This leads to you think you’re not enough on your own, and you are!

Next, it’s time to invest in yourself. I don’t mean Botox or plastic surgery, I mean those hobbies you want to spend more time on. Take yourself on a date, treat yourself to an afternoon of something you like, take a class to improve a skill, or plan an outdoor adventure that will soothe the soul.

The point is to fill your life with things that are going to make you happy and help you feel complete. It’ll serve as a good reminder that you don’t need to be in a relationship, and when you meet someone, you won’t come across as desperate or needy.

Once you do meet someone special, because you will, stop attaching meaning to every single thing. Try to just be in the moment; be in the relationship. We spend so much time analyzing every little text or action, and not only is it exhausting, but you miss the opportunity to just get to know the person.

Finally, and this is a tough one for me, stop fantasizing. It’s time to see things for what they are. Your mind may wonder to that fantastic kiss, but stop yourself before you’re mentally walking down the aisle. This will help you stay present, and if the relationship doesn’t work out, you won’t be working through a mind-created divorce.

Some of these are going to be difficult for me to grasp, but I feel like a weight has been lifted. If love is out of my control, then I’ve got to just throw my hands up and leave it to fate. Hey, this whole “fate” thing gives me an excuse to wear sweats more often, right?

Pic of the Week.

Just a few of my handmade Valentine's Day cards.

Just a few of my handmade Valentine’s Day cards.

Last week, I was under the weather. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been sick; I’d like to think it’s because I’ve been really good about taking my vitamins, eating healthy, getting rest, and using my essential oils.

But, lots of people in my office have been sick, so despite all of my efforts (and slathering my body with antibacterial gel), I got sick and was out-of-commission, no matter if I wanted to admit it or not.

By the time Thursday rolled around, my sick coworkers were all, “Oh, you just have to get through one more day!” But… I use my weekends to get SHIT DONE! I didn’t necessarily hope to be chained to my couch for days (even though that’s what I usually do while writing blogs and editing freelance work).

Either way, I woke up Saturday morning feeling stuffy and exhausted. Luckily, I’d equipped my apartment with cold supplies (did you know there’s such a thing as Kleenex with Vicks?!), and after a few hours on the couch under my electric blanket, I was feeling much better.

And thankfully so, because I knew it was my only chance to craft up some cute Valentines for you guys! I got out all my supplies – some leftover from last year’s batch, and lots of new fun stuff.

After 5 or 6 hours of crafting, and watching rom-coms, including Sleepless in Seattle, Paper Towns, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Longest Ride, I had crafted about 30 Valentines. I’m really proud of this batch, if I do say so myself! I cannot wait to send them to you guys!

Sunday, I was feeling much better, and was ready to venture out of the apartment (I’m suuuuch a recluse). I went shopping for books, a new moisturizer, and other Valentine’s goodies for care packages I’ll be putting together in the coming weeks. I also changed my turn signal and washed my car, inside and out. Like I said, I get shit D O N E on the weekends.

I know all of this Valentine’s hoopla probably makes it seem like I’m obsessed with the holiday. Truthfully, I’ve hated it for years. But, I’ve been a relationship writer for 10 years. Each year, when February rolls around – and each time I’m single – I wonder how to approach it.

There’s been years I’ve tried to ignore it; years when I’ve tried to just be cool about it; times when my girlfriends and I have worn all black and drank ourselves stupid; and times when I’ve been really, really sad over it. But the honest truth is, none of that makes me feel any different about the holiday.

And now, I just feel like the only thing to do is embrace it and celebrate the love I do have in my life. It is not romantic love, but it’s still meaningful and it makes me smile. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know that everyone – single or not – could probably use a little more love every now and then. So, that’s why I’m sending the cards and care packages.

I love you all, and I cannot wait for you to see tomorrow’s post!

Guide to Merlot.

I'll take all three, please.

I’ll take all three, please.

Ever notice that my Monday posts are about alcohol? Perhaps it’s because I’m fresh off a weekend of partying (not really), that I really don’t want to go back to the office (maybe), or that I just have a drinking problem (perhaps), in general.

Eh, who really cares? Last week, I was super jealous of someone I’m following on SnapChat because she was in Temecula, California. Let me just explain that Temecula has a special, special place in my heart: 1. it is beautiful, and 2. it is some to some exquisite vineyards and wineries that produce delicious, godly nectar.

Over the years, I’ve taken several wine classes, worked at different bars and restaurants, and been lucky enough to travel to many wineries. I’ve learned a lot about wine, and I’ve also met lots of people who have the hardest time buying a bottle for themselves or ordering a glass at a nice restaurant.

So, you may recall my “Bubbly Basics” at the end of 2014, but don’t be surprised if you see more wine guides ’round these parts. I’d love to drop some knowledge bombs, in the form of wine barrels!

Merlot is one of my favorite varietals, so I chose that to get us started. It’s also something you’ll see on many restaurant wine lists and even in grocery store aisles. No need to splurge here, you can get a fantastic bottle of this stuff for under $10. Let’s get this Merlot Monday going!

Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah.

What the heck is Merlot?

Merlot is the second-most popular varietal in the United States, right behind Cabernet Sauvignon. It thrives in most climates, which may be why it’s so popular (aside from it being delicious), but it’s known widely in France, Northern Italy, and the warmer regions of Switzerland. In America, Merlot grows well in Northern California and Oregon.

The cool thing about Merlot is that, instead of having a specific flavor, it’s more well-known for it’s smooth, velvety texture. It’s often used to mix in with other varietals, such as Bordeaux and Cabernet. Why? It’s got a thick skin and can mellow out the strong tannins in other varietals. This is what makes Merlot so, so easy to sip.

How do I buy/order the right Merlot?

Merlot is a bit of a chameleon when it comes to flavors, and those flavors really depend on the region where it was grown. So,  when shopping or looking at a menu, pay attention to the location on the label or under the wine name on the wine list. Cooler climates produce one set of flavors while warmer locations create another flavor profile.

Cooler Climate: France, Italy, Chile

  • Licorice, tar, roasted, red, dry, anise, charcoal, mineral,

Warm Climate: California, Argentina, Australia

  • Mocha, cherry, juicy, raspberry, spicy, cocoa, silky, vanilla

What are some delicious Merlots to try?

L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Merlot, Oregon ($36)

Made in Washington with grapes from Oregon, its black-plum flavors have a subtle bottom note of cocoa.

I'll tap that.

I’ll tap that.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2011 Reserve Merlot ($19)

Concentrated aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and chocolate are layered with notes of cinnamon and vanilla on the mid palate. The subtle and soft finish lingers with toasted oak.

Sebastiani 2010 Merlot, Sonoma County ($18)

Balanced, elegant, fruit forward but not overly ripe, this is an elegant wine with noticeable tannins and great cherry notes.

Concha y Toro ‘Marques de Casa Concha’ 2012 Merlot, Peumo, Chile ($16)

Aged 17 months is French oak barrels and is noted for its smokiness in scent and taste. It also has notable flavors of cherries, plums, licorice, and dark chocolate.

…And there you have it! Next time you need a little Merlot in your life, hopefully you’ll have a little direction and can treat yourself to something delicious. I hope y’all have a great Monday – see you back here tomorrow!

Fresh Friday: My Burberry.

Who doesn't love an add with Cara Delevingne in it?

Who doesn’t love an add with Cara Delevingne in it?

It’s FRIDAY! I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this week, so it’s been a struggle to keep up with work, dance, and well, all the other writing shenanigans I’ve got up my sleeve, but I freaking made it!

Monday night was the first OFFICIAL dance practice for my performance at the end of next month, and our group (the Video Vixens) were informed that we’re dancing to two songs, and one of the songs is a remix of Ludacris’ “Get Low”. Umm, YAS!

Despite feeling like absolute shit, I banged out a pretty good practice and am looking forward to learning another section of the dance next week. This week, I also discovered FM is replaying episodes of Dexter, so why not re-watch them all? Nothing cheers a girl up like seeing her favorite serial killer analyze blood spatter.

I cooked (and ate) all of my meals from Green Chef this week, and I’m looking forward to today’s delivery, which includes ingredients for Greek flatbread. Green Chef clearly knows the way to my heart!

And of course, there’s today’s scent profile: My Burberry! I’ve been wearing it all week; frankly, it’s my favorite kind of research, and I absolutely LOVE this one!

According to Sephora.com:

Inspired by the trench coat and its heritage of British design and craftsmanship, My Burberry captures the fragrance of a London garden after the rain. The scent is a contemporary British grand floral and features a delicate heart of rose woven with an unexpected touch of geranium leaf.

Notes: Sweet Pea, Bergamot, Geranium, Golden Quince, Freesia, Patchouli, Rain-Tipped Damask and Centifolia Roses.
Style: Effortless. Personal. Timeless.

Notice the mix of the masculine (Patchouli and Bergamot) with feminine (Freesia and Roses) – this is my favorite kind of mix, especially when it comes to fashion and style. Leave it to Burberry!

What’s everyone up to this weekend? I’m hoping to get well, while continuing my adventures at the Laundromat. I will probably go on a food truck adventure, and I’m definitely planning on crafting some of my famous homemade Valentine’s Day cards – if you want me to mail you one, PLEASE send me your address to holly@thebitterlemon.com – I already have a decent list going, but I would love to add you to it! Catch all the crafting on my SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 – see you there!

Eminence organic skin care.

Spa days are the bessssst.

Spa days are the bessssst.

Over the holidays, my mom treated me to an afternoon at the spa (Viva Day Spa in downtown, Austin, if you’re curious). We had manis and pedis, but we also enjoyed organic facials.

I’ve had many facials in my life, but this one was fantastic! So much so, that I wanted to get some of the products they used so I could T-R-Y to imitate the wondrous feeling at home.

All of the products were from the Eminence skin care line, which is completely handmade and organic. I’d never heard of it before, and the esthetician showed me the products she’d used – most of which revolved around skin brightening and moisturizing.

Bright Skin Starter Set

Bright Skin Starter Set

Luckily, they had a Bright Skin Starter Set,  which includes a cleanser, moisturizer, a face mask, and Licorice Root Booster-Serum, along with a pretty cute cosmetic bag. I got that, and definitely love the moisturizer and the serum.

The cool part about all of the products is that they are concentrated (because there’s no preservatives in them), so you can add a few drops of water to whatever you’re using and stretch it a little further.

The cool part about the serum is that you can add it to whatever liquid product you’re putting on your face. I add a few drops to my moisturizer, but you can add it to a night cream, face mask, or even your foundation to give your skin a boost.

What does it mean to use organic skin care? You’re putting ingredients on/in your skin (the biggest organ we’ve got) that are pure. Check out their farming process:

Originating from a balanced, holistic view of the universe, Biodynamic® farming practices regard the farm, the plants and the animals as a self-supporting ecosystem that lives and breathes. It renders fruits and herbs that are unusually high in nutrients and active compounds then harnesses these potent ingredients into a collection of products that are the ultimate in pureness and results-driven skin care.

Seeds are planted and crops are harvested following the lunar cycle so that when the tides are high, roots receive the most moisture and goodness.

As an alternative to harsh pesticides, the farm uses herbal teas and plant friendly honey traps from local bees as natural insect repellents ensuring that all Biodynamic® ingredients are farmed as naturally as possible.

Biodynamic® ​ingredients are void of all chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Only natural medicinal herbs and mineral composts are used to enhance the soil and ignite powerful growth forces in the plants from roots to tips.

It’s the real deal.

I’ve been trying to get really good about taking care of my skin lately. I’m getting older, and I’ve got to be able to put my best face forward! If you follow me on SnapChat (OrangeJulius7), you can see more of my daily skin care regimen, along with my other favorite beauty products.

What’s Your Number?

What does your number say about you?

What does your number say about you?

My best friend and I were sipping wine, while letting clay masks harden on our faces, and we got to talking about guys we’ve slept with.

She said someone she knew had slept with 80 guys, and I was shocked at first, but then I started thinking about my own number.

Before I ever had sex, I just assumed I would only sleep with one, maybe two, men in my whole life.

Of course, I was clueless and had a Polly-Anna view of how my love life was going to go down.

My sex life started off innocently enough. I lost my virginity at 20, to my then-best friend, and we were in love.

That was 10 years ago, and I’ve gone to bed with way more than two men since then.

In college, I was really worried about my “number.” I felt like I was racking them up quicker than I should’ve been.

My roommate at the time had just gone through a bad breakup and was going through her “fun” phase that all of us tend to have.

I remember her telling me that my number was no one’s business but mine, but she also had a trick for whittling it down if I felt that guilty about it.

“I don’t even count the guys if there was a condom involved,” she said.

Hey, whatever works (this is a judgment-free zone).

While I won’t reveal my number totally, I’ll say it’s less than 20.

So, if you do the math, it’s been 10 years since I lost my virginity, which makes that approximately two new partners a year – give or take.

Meh, not bad, I guess.

After a quick Google search, I found a calculator on Slate.com that asked for my gender, age, and the number of sexual partners I’ve had since I turned 18.

I typed in my number, and it said I’ve slept with more people than 88 percent of my peers.

Uh, what?

The information following was taken from a survey of 13,000 in 2014 that said millennials, on average, slept with 8 people in their lifetime.

Again, what?

I called my friend to dish my “sex calculator” results, and essentially tell her that, according to Slate.com and this survey, I was a slut.

She then wondered if it was because most people were married before 30; many people we know were married before 25.

It’s a valid point.

If I’d married the person I was dating at 25, my number would certainly be lower (although it still wouldn’t be 8).

The truth is, it’s all relative. It depends on you, the situation with that person, what you’re going through in your life… or it could just be relative to who you’re talking to.

I’m really not bothered by my number. In fact, until I plugged it into the calculator, I thought it was kind of low.

So, yeah, I’ve slept with people. Surprisingly, I’ve never even had a one-night stand. Which means that every person I chose to be intimate with was someone I cared for on some level.

But I think it’s a good rule to not stress about your number. It’s only your business, and it’s not something that needs to be shared.

In fact, outside of medical purposes, it’s not something I’d lose sleep over keeping track of.

After all, my number certainly isn’t going to get any lower.

Pic of the Week.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for Green Chef, an organic food supplier that delivers fresh, ORGANIC ingredients right to your doorstep, along with instructions on how to make delicious meals.

Well, I got my first delivery Friday, and it has proven itself to be a 15-pound box of organic goodness! I have been thinking about signing up for a service like this because the grocery stores in Austin are insanely busy. Busy as in, you can’t reach the broccoli because there’s a line to get to it. It gives me anxiety, and I’m not really down for it.

So, after researching several services, I chose Green Chef because it was all organic (non-GMO, fools!) and the price was on-point. You can choose what type of meals you want: vegetarian, omnivore, pescatarian, or paleo. And you can change your meal preferences at any time.

I chose omnivore, and asked for enough ingredients to make 6 meals each week, meaning 6 portions, 3 different recipes. It’s $80/week, which is pretty good considering I just took a trip to the grocery for almond milk, soda water, and wine, and it was $60.

So, my box arrived and it was completely insulated and packed with ice packs to keep everything fresh. And ALL of the ingredients were separated into ziplock bags and clearly labeled. It also came with colorful menu guides for when I cook my meals.

My box contained all of the ingredients to make pumpkin-stuffed shells (served with orange-chard salad), chicken couscous soup (served with carrot ribbon salad), and steak & beet panzanella (with steak fries).

The other cool thing about Green Chef? Obviously the opportunity to make foods I’ve never cooked before. But, there’s really NOT much cooking to be done. All of the sauces are pre-made, and stored in cute little containers, so the prep and cooking times are all around 30 minutes or less. Works for me!

So, Saturday night, I decided to have a date night with myself (because, that’s just how cool I am), complete with John Green movies, wine, and my homemade steak & beet panzanella, with steak fries.

The meal calls for grass-fed sirloin steak, organic balsamic vinaigrette, horseradish crème fraiche, organic golden beet, organic lacinato kale, organic potato, marble rye bread, organic onion, organic chives, and rosemary tomato aioli.

Then, there’s a colorful, picture-guide, explaining the 8 steps to complete the meal. Overall, it was easy to make because most of the prep-work is done for you. And in the end,  the meal was delicious!

I’m looking forward to trying all of the other meals delivered right to my door! If you’d like to try Green Chef, I’ve got a code that will give you 4 meals for free! I’d love to see what you think of it! Cheers!

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