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Birthday goodies!

Happy birthday girl.

That’s right, I celebrated a birthday earlier this month. While I don’t like to make a big scene about my birthday, I was really excited to be surrounded by cakes, balloons, and I even got sung to, twice! Lucky, lucky girl right here.

I usually spend my birthday with reflection heavy on the brain, but this year, I lounged by the pool and sipped on a peach + wine slushee (get the recipe here). And honestly, I got some pretty cool gifts! I know, I know, that’s not what birthdays are about, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites in case you’re looking to shop for someone on your list.

Laura Geller Summer Goddess Collection – I have gotten a few Laura Geller samples in my monthly Birchbox and continue to be impressed with the quality of this makeup. So, I was pretty amped to get this four-piece collection of full-size products! It comes with Spackle Tinted Make-Up Primer in Champagne (sheer soft gold), Baked Body Frosting Face & Body Glow in Tahitian Glow (mélange of swirled tan, cream and pearly pink), Dramalash Maximum Volumizing Mascara in Black, and Fifty Kisses Lip Locking Liquid Color in Beige Bite (rich nude).

So far, I’ve used the bronzer and the lip color – both I love. The bronzer is the perfect mix of color and highlighter, and even helps to cover redness. The lip color is good for every day, and stays on ALL day with a matte finish. I love it! You can purchase this collection at Ulta.

Q&A a Day 5-Year Journal – This was such a surprise gift, and kind of just what I needed without really knowing it! I’ve always had trouble keeping up with a diary, or a journal, but I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of doing so. This journal is good for five years, and provides a simple question for you to answer each day. This means you can keep a record of your years, but with less of a hassle – I love it! I started writing in it a week ago, and I’m excited to keep it going and then look back at my entries. You can get this journal on Amazon.

Rhinestone Trinket Box – Earlier this year, I met my mom and best friend in Vegas. For my birthday, my mom surprised me with a small, sparkly trinket box in the shape of a fortune cookie, which she bought in Vegas (this isn’t the exact one, but it’s really close). It’s gold, which goes with pretty much everything I own, not to mention that I love keeping my fortunes – especially if they have my lucky numbers on them.

Girl and Dragon Malbec – As a wine lover, any occasion for gifts brings an opportunity for wine. I will always drink wine, and if you’re ever in questions as to what to get me, it’s wine. I will never get enough and I’m always look to taste something new. So, I was pumped when I got a bottle of Girl and Dragon Malbec, which had a cool label (because of course), and later, I found out they’ve won loads of awards. I drank it with homemade vegetarian lo mein and it was scrumptious. You can purchase a bottle on their website.

“The Year of Voting Dangerously” by Maureen Dowd – I don’t often ask for books or buy books because I borrow so many from the library. But this book in particular, has been on my list, and isn’t available at the library. Here’s the description from AmazonTrapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavorables, Americans are plunged into The Year of Voting Dangerously. In this perilous and shocking campaign season, The New York Times columnist traces the psychologies and pathologies in one of the nastiest and most significant battles of the sexes ever. Dowd has covered Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton since the ’90s. She was with the real estate mogul when he shyly approached his first Presidential rope line in 1999, and she won a Pulitzer prize that same year for her penetrating columns on the Clinton impeachment follies. Like her bestsellers, Bushworld and Are Men Necessary?, THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY will feature Dowd’s trademark cocktail of wry humor and acerbic analysis in dispatches from the political madhouse. If America is on the escalator to hell, then THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY is the perfect guide for this surreal, insane ride. …And now I can officially add it to my reading list!

Miss Spa facial masks – Much like wine, face masks are another thing I can’t get enough of. If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to, the chances are very likely that I’m sitting in my bed, watching trashy TV, with some sort of clay, sheet, or bee venom mask on my face in hopes I’ll wakeup with radiant skin. Don’t stop believin’! When I was gifted a STACK of Miss Spa facial masks of different varieties, I was excited to add them to my stash. You can get them on Amazon.

Perhaps these awesome gifts I got can serve up some ideas for someone in your life, or heck, maybe you just need to treat yoself. Cheers!

BBC: ‘My Year With Eleanor’.

Hellooooo! I know it’s technically a holiday, so perhaps you’re reading this from the comfort of your bed? Or the beach? Here’s to hoping!

I’m at the office today, but we have spent a majority of the week packing, since the movers are coming tomorrow to put all of our work things in a new building. I checked out the place yesterday, and it’s nice, but very corporate. I’ll report there on Monday, so we’ll see how that goes.

I am really excited to talk about the last book I read: “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.

This book has been on my reading list for quite awhile, and I went to several bookstores looking for it. My mom eventually ordered it from a far away Half-Price Books, and I’ve just been waiting for the exact right time to read it. I knew it was going to be inspiring, and well, I’m in need of some inspiration! Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

In the tradition of My Year of Living Biblically and Eat Pray Love comes My Year with Eleanor, Noelle Hancock’s hilarious tale of her decision to heed the advice of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing a day that scares her in the year before her 30th birthday. Fans of Sloane Crosley and Chelsea Handler will absolutely adore Hancock’s charming and outrageous chronicle of her courageous endeavor and delight in her poignant and inspiring personal growth.

While I’m not a huge fan of the loads of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes out there, I can definitely appreciate a person willing to step out on a ledge for an entire year.

When you think about it, doing something every day that scares you seems like a really terrible task – despite all the growth, of course. But, Noelle Hancock mixes it up and does some really terrifying things (gets in a shark cage, flies a fighter jet, and goes skydiving), and she does some things that are less scary, but leave room for embarrassment (sings karaoke, does stand up comedy, and visits her ex boyfriends).

Naturally, she saves one giant task for last, and I won’t spoil it.

I know there’s lots of books out there like this, and while I haven’t read “Eat, Pray, Love”, I’ve heard it’s pretentious, and that’s exactly what I loved about Noelle’s story. It was honest, and although she shared all of the cool things she learned from her journey, she was also willing to show the dark side – think: sleeping pills, snotsicles, and an empty checking account.

I’m definitely, 100% recommending this book to anyone who feels like they’re in a rut, or perhaps feel like they haven’t lived their full potential yet. Who knows, maybe this book will inspire your “Year of Fear”!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is… drumroll… “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. Read along with us by simply commenting here on the blog, or following me on social media @OrangeJulius7.

And so, it’s Easter weekend! I am not religious, but I treated myself to a Marshmallow Milky Way (YAS), and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make this Sunday a Funday, complete with eggs and mimosas… because, Easter.

Have a fun on, y’all!

Hand-Picked: Tulle skirts & big cities!

In front of the Real World Chicago house.

In front of the Real World Chicago house.

The summer between my junior and senior year in high school, I went to Chicago with my best friend and our moms. We got makeovers, went shopping, visited the front door of the house featured in Real World, season 11, Chicago (which aired in 2002, and was taped during the September 11 attacks), and we also saw John Mayer, with Guster as the opening act.

It was not the first time I’d seen him perform live, but it was my first (of I think a dozen) concert with him as the headliner. He was not very popular at the time, and the convert was in sort of an open parking lot area. It was the first I’d ever heard his song, “Comfortable” [above] – and it is a moment I will never forget.

LA map.

LA map.

I went to Los Angeles, California, for the first time the summer before I graduated from college. I went by myself, stayed at a hotel downtown, and it was the longest flight I’d ever been on. LA is a city of dreamt of since I was in 5th grade, and I have always wanted to live there. I’d gotten a contact through a story I wrote for my journalism course, a guy who owned a public relations company for independent artists. I told him I was heading to LA for a few days to check it out, if he wanted to meet.

He agreed, and I met him and his wife at The Knitting Factory in West Hollywood to see one of the bands he promoted. I took the metro from my hotel to West Hollywood, and saw Mann’s Chinese Theatre. I was in awe.

Thinking back on it, it was a pretty daring thing for me to do all of the by myself, and perhaps not smart to meet someone I didn’t really know. But, it all worked out, and it was a memorable trip. I did the Hollywood walk, and took the Hollywood Homes tour. It was everything I’d hoped it would be!

So sweet!

So sweet!

About four years ago, it seemed like pretty much everyone I knew was getting married. I was in a few weddings, and attended many others – all fun. But there was one weekend that I literally went to one wedding on a Friday night, got up early the next morning, and flew to Florida for a bachelorette weekend. I’d missed night one of the festivities, but the ladies had rented a very Real World-esque loft (complete with colored lights in the shower) and we spent the days on the beach, and the nights out. It was a complete blast!

Invitation from a fancy New Orleans wedding I was in.

Invitation from a fancy New Orleans wedding I was in.

Ah, wedding season. Looking back on it, it was pretty fun, although expensive. But I think now, pretty much everyone I know is married. We should just drink and eat cake anyway, right?

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

Again, you can tell it’s 2003 because of my Tiffany’s… and my terrible haircut. Ha! Truthfully, my 18th birthday (and the summer surrounding it), was a little rough. But, my best friend lit the candles and sang me Happy Birthday a little after midnight, and all was good. And by the way, the cake was German chocolate… my favorite.

Senior prom!

Senior prom!

I remember a very popular senior told me during my junior year that wearing a big, fluffy dress was “not the senior thing to do”. She wore a mermaid dress, and well, I wore a big, fluffy one. But I loved it, and even though I had to ask my date, and I think we didn’t really get along, I had a blast stomping around Circle Centre mall in this thing. After wearing it to prom, and later to a sorority formal, I took lots of pictures of it, and donated it to the Cinderella Project, which allows girls to choose from donated gowns, and alter them if they choose. While I love it the way it is, I think it would look cool shorter in the front, and long in the back. I will never know the fate of the dress, but we sure had some good times.

What’s holding us back?

Live the life you've dreamed of.

Live the life you’ve dreamed of.

It’s my birthday-eve, and I admittedly get reflective around this time each year (as if I’m not reflective every day of my life). Before writing this, I took a look back at the last few years of birthday posts – and most of them are similar in fashion; I’m really just trying to forget the fact that another year has passed without me really reaching any of my life goals, while somehow simultaneously trying to get my life in some sort of order.

Truth be told, I’ve had such a shitty few weeks that it’s not really worth me worrying over the baskets of unfinished laundry or seemingly never-ending stack of bills that’s attacking my small income.

What I really want to know is, where is this all going? And please, spare me the Jesus talk. I’ve heard it plenty of times, and it’s not my thing, and let’s just leave it at that.

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago while listening to Chris Gethard’s podcast, “Beautiful Stories by Anonymous People”.

It’s episode 15, “The Hardest Part is That You Love Me”, and it’s a 25-year-old woman from California, and she claims she’s experiencing her quarter-life crisist. Preach, girl!

She is questioning where her career is going, and she’s convinced that instead of picking something she wants to do, she needs to let the universe gather information and guide her to where she needs to go (she’s admittedly a California hippie).

Eventually, he asked the caller what was keeping her from living her dreams… and whoa; that really got me thinking. I think about my hopes and dreams a lot; but never in those terms.

And the thing is, I think most of the time, we’re keeping ourselves from living our dreams over fear of failure. Right? Sure, there are other little excuses that could live in the way – money, location, people, etc. But when you REALLY think about it – what is it, what’s that thing that’s holding you back?

I found an old article in “Forbes” magazine, “The Lies We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” that talks about this exact subject.

“Always the easiest move is to do nothing. The path of least resistance is well worn. It’s when we decide to do something that things get trickier. It’s difficult to determine when we’re being cautious or being fearful. After all, we’re masters at rationalizing our fear into prudence.

Fear exists for a reason — protection. That same fight-or-flight response that prevented us from being eaten by tigers also warns us when our mental selves are in danger. Fear feels bad, and we want it alleviated.”

All very true. Sure, we’re afraid of failure, but what about when failure becomes the comfort zone? I think about this a lot in terms of dating. I know failure very well in relationships; I know it so well I’d venture to say that heartbreak is my homebase.

I know how to mend my heart when it’s hurting – it’s almost sad how sad of a science it’s become. I have certain go-to movies; comfort foods and positive phrases. I pack the memories in boxes and toss them in dumpsters; I ritually delete things from my phone and inbox. And with each time, the failure gets easier to get over, almost scary in a way, like the relationship was just a means to an end.

…Which explains why I’m terrified of something actually working. What does that even look like? What is that like, when a man introduces a woman to his family with no other intention but to include her in his life? Or when he does something for you with the hopes of nothing in return but your happiness?

But what about other hopes and dreams? Maybe it’s taking a trip, writing a book, running a marathon, recording a song, winning a contest – would it kill us to fail at something like that?

Many of my dreams involve living certain places or getting published… and I’ve failed plenty of times at that. But perhaps my fear is just never being successful at it; then I’d be crushed. Or would I? I’ll never know until I try, right?

In the podcast episode, Gethard tells the California girl a similar sentiment; that before he became a comedian, he was afraid of discovering the sting that he just wasn’t good at it. But, eventually he got his first big gig (right before he was about to run out of rent money).

But he packs a lot of truth in saying that there’s one reason you SHOULD try to go after your dreams: happiness. That one reason outweighs the 100 reasons you shouldn’t do it.

And yeah, I can get behind something like that. So, this weekend, I’m old AF, and I don’t care. I’m getting drunk, I’m eating all the foods I never let myself eat, and I’m sleeping in. Maybe I’ll make a dreamboard; maybe I’ll start writing the script I’ve got in my head. There’s another year ahead, in the adventures of me.

So, if you really want to wish me a happy birthday, I’d love to know what your dreams are. Maybe you’ve reached them, and how? Or how do you plan to reach them? Or what’s stopping you from going after what you want?

Let’s dream it, and let’s do it. This year.

Follow Holly on social media @OrangeJulius7 to catch up on her weekend antics (really just cat pics). We’ll see you right back here on Tuesday!

The makings of a meltdown.

Shutting the world out.

Shutting the world out.

It began with tears on the drive home. “It” meaning the realization that I was, indeed, losing my shit – the meltdown itself probably started two years ago.

But, there I was, uncontrollably crying on my drive home from work Wednesday night; attempting to hide behind a pair of aviators I’d purchased months before at the Dollar Tree. I don’t enjoy wearing sunglasses, but I also don’t like thinking about perfect strangers staring at me ugly-girl crying in 5:30 traffic.

As the tears fell, I was thinking about the stories I’d heard on the news – that someone was throwing rocks at vehicles on I-35, and perhaps one of these drives would lead me to my ultimate “Final Destination”-type of end, with a rock shattering the only thing in front of my face.

Yes, I had just had a pretty shitty day, but of course, it wasn’t just about that. Because it never is. Before making it home, I had to stop by Walgreen’s to refill my prescription for birth control. And every time I go to pick up said birth control, I remember that it’s pretty pointless to keep refilling it, when it’s been a solid seven months since I’ve even talked to a human with a penis.

I’d venture to say this meltdown probably started when I unexpectedly lost my job in late-2014. What followed that event was a series of mini-meltdowns, because let’s face facts: my life was shit. I was working my ass off, and still had no clue how my bills would be paid, how I would eat, and not get evicted.

I was going on job interview after job interview, and if that doesn’t test your confidence, I don’t know what does. After eight months of that, I was offered a job, and moved seven hours away to accept said job. I was flooded with a mix of emotions – this was cool! Exciting! A fresh start!

But now, today, nine months after that, I’m here, and my emotions have packed their shit, and moved to Mexico. And not Puerta Vallarta, either. They’ve migrated to the bowels of the boot where there are illegal drugs and warm tequila.

Moving to a new place has proved itself to be tougher than I expected. I’ll admit it, I haven’t really made any friends. And that’s embarrassing. It’s difficult, as an adult, to get out there – even just for friendship’s sake. Sure, I have made a few acquaintances in my dance classes, but that’s about it. And I’ll accept fault where it’s due; I’m probably not the most social of people, and that bad habit of mine is only getting worse as I travel deeper into the comforts of introversion.

Also, nine months in, my finances are still incredibly fucked up. I saw this opportunity as a chance to clear the slate, and actually STOP working on nights and weekends – I was no longer going to be so financially strapped. But, I soon figured out that even my new salary was not enough to survive in Austin, let alone make a dent in my credit card debt from the prior year.

So, a few months ago, I made a spreadsheet, and a budget, and I got back to hunting for side jobs. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky, and have gotten a few well-paying ones, and I’ve at least been able to start paying things back. And then it came time to file my 2015 taxes.

I quickly calculated that in 2015, I made around $20K the entire year – the least I’ve made in my entire adult life. Sitting here, right now, I cannot tell you how the fuck I ate last year.

But having a low income does not skirt me from having to pay taxes. In fact, I owe more taxes on that money than I have ever owed: $2,100. I couldn’t pay it all in April, so I sent what I could: a check for $300 and an application for a payment plan, offering to pay $300 each month until it was completely paid off.

And two weeks ago, the IRS responded, denying my request for payments. I owe the remaining $1,800 on July 4. In the two weeks that I made my promise to pay $300/month, I’d also lost two regular-paying freelance gigs, both of them together paying me $400/month. So, on top of being denied a monthly plan, I was also short on my budget – my budget for regular bills, gas, and food.

Money stress is the worst for me, I know it’s bad for everyone, but it just kills my buzz. I took a hard look at my finances, and found a few things to cut out: I cancelled three of my monthly subscription services, vowed to stop shopping online, and would no longer treat myself to my weekly burger and fries at P.Terry’s. I questioned cutting out my Tuesday night hazelnut latte ($4.28), but have yet to opt out.

I also decided to drag out my box fan, clean it, and go easy on the air conditioning. I know it sounds insane, but this is my attempt to do anything, when I felt completely hopeless. I have been cooking all of my meals at home, and made all of the portions extra small, to stretch every possible dollar.

I also kept applying for freelance jobs; searched online for publications that may be willing to pay me for my writing; entered a few writing contests that had prize money; and toyed with the idea of selling Melaleuca memberships.

I had originally planned to travel to Indiana in a few weeks to see my friends, and to go to a Dave Matthews’ concert. It’s a trip I’ve been dreaming about for almost a year. But the flight prices were a minumum of $500 – money that I know should go to my taxes. So, no trip.

And honestly, I know this is a first-world problem. Boo-hoo, I can’t take a vacation! It’s not about that; it’s about the fact that I’ve had about zero communication with anyone in-person since I moved here, and I don’t like my job, and I want to see my friends, and my birthday is Saturday and I’m going to spend it with my cat, and even at 31 years old, I still can’t fucking afford to do things I want to do because I am an entry-level data monkey with no end-game!

Just breathe. 

It’s fucking embarrassing to admit when you can’t afford things. I feel like everyone my age, or even 5-10 years under my age, is living it up, going on exotic vacations, when my passport is coffee-stained and about to expire.

So, after I came to this sad realization about the trip, I was still sitting at my desk at work on Wednesday, attempting not to cry. When I relayed the message to my mom, she told me to throw myself a pity party.

In truth, I do not want anyone’s pity. I don’t want anyone’s money (unless I’m doing fair work to earn it). I was merely looking for an OUNCE of compassion. A recognition that despite the fact that it’s been almost two years since I lost my job, I’m still – STILL – cleaning up the mess from it. I’m still budgeting my income down to the last dime, and hoping to God that when I open my mailbox, there is not an unexpected bill waiting for me.

Yes, I am still working nights and weekends, and still hoping that maybe one day I won’t have to; maybe one day I’ll make money from this blog, or not feel guilty when I take a long, hot shower, or maybe ONE day, I won’t have to use a calculator at the grocery store for fear of overdrawing my bank account on organic eggs.

As I drove home from Walgreen’s that night, I saw a plane flying over Metric Blvd. It was leaving the Austin airport, and I wished I was on it, no matter where the fuck it was going.

I had skipped dance class, despite knowing damn-well that it’s one of the only things in my life right now that brings me a little happiness. Instead, I did exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do in times like these. I went home, cried to my cat, got my quilt, and watched hours of TV in the pitch black.

I wokeup in the middle of the night when my apartment lost power. I wondered if I’d remembered to pay my bill. Yes, yes I did. I used my phone to make my way to the patio to find that there were no lights for miles. It was dead silent, and hot as hell. I secretly hoped the power would come back on soon, if only to make sure the food in my fridge didn’t go bad – I can’t afford to refill it.

On Thursday, this blog became a warzone with comments. Note to self: don’t talk shit about Beyonce. Queen crap aside, the commenters made sure to let me know that I am a nobody; I haven’t been in a relationship in forever; I’ve never been married; I am in fake relationships with celebrities via SnapChat; I am not self-aware; I’m not good at arguing; I overreact; my blog is full of my dirty laundry; I’m not consistent – blah, blah, blah.

And what the fuck do you want? Do you think I don’t KNOW that I’ve never been married? You think I don’t fucking know that I haven’t been in a relationship in a very long time? That I don’t find myself goddamn pathetic for dreaming about dating celebrities?

How many times have I had to remind myself that this blog is not meant for you? It is a place for me. It is a place for me to document my life, and if you don’t like it, then stop fucking reading it. Do not act like I benefit in any way from trolls reading my words, and then leaving comments cutting me down. That’s the kind of shit that makes me want to drive into the ocean.

Maybe I’m not self-aware, maybe this blog is full of shit, maybe I do suck at arguing – and you know what? Maybe I am a terrible person that doesn’t deserve shit in this life. And if you knew a thing about me, you’d know that I take things hard. That I’ve been in therapy. That I only have two friends I talk to on a regular basis. That I haven’t talked to my father in years. That I’ve had an abortion. That I live with guilt and shame, daily. That I fucking know, that I will probably never be in a relationship. That marriage is not going to happen for me. That I struggle with things most people find easy.

Yes, I know that the last person I slept with was so utterly embarrassed that we hooked up, he had to lie about it to save face. And yes, I know, that not a single fucking man I have ever slept with will ever talk to me again. Because I’m insane, chubby, and insecure, or all of the above.

I know, that every day, I put on an act, and pretend not to hate every thing that happens to me; not to despise every moment I live in. I have to listen to podcasts for eight hours each work day to avoid reality; dance each night to pretend that maybe I can shake out my sadness; blog what’s on my mind so that I don’t slap graffitti all over my apartment complex.

But thanks, thanks for pointing it out; thanks for reminding me that I am alone. And it kills me a little inside to know that a bully, a troll, has someone to go home to. I hope you consider yourself really lucky. In fact, anyone that has a partner, a group of friends, or even just insurance that covers therapy and a prescription for Xanax – you’re really lucky. #goals.

 And I know this all sounds nuts, but mid-meltdown, I don’t really give a shit.

I don’t know what’s next for me; and I don’t really know how to properly handle my feelings at the moment. I assume there will be some sort of light at the end of this. But for now, I’m just going to play this on repeat and hope some inkling of positivity gets into my pores.

If this post didn’t turn you away, guess what? The Bitter Lemon now has a newsletter! Subscribe here to receive exclusive, fresche content right to your inbox, and no, we won’t spam you! 

BBC: the birthday edition!

Ba-da-da-da-da!!!! Today is kitty Blanche’s 3rd birthday, so naturally, Blanche and I are sleeping off our raging hangovers (she’s 21 in cat years now, y’all).

No, actually, I’m at work and Blanche gets to stay at home, living the life of luxury all day. Lucky duck! To celebrate, Blanche got a special helping of soft food for breakfast. I gave her a gift early, because I just couldn’t wait: a bright yellow stool from IKEA so she can sit on it and watch birds all day.

Blanche's lookout point.

Blanche’s lookout point.

If the point hasn’t been made clear, I’m a total, loud and proud #CatLady – even though I only have one cat. Everything about my life pretty much revolves around my cat, and I’m fine with it. The funny thing about the stool is that, for some odd reason, I let Blanche BORROW my desk stool to sit at the window and bird watch.

But it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t getting it back. So, I bought her one for herself and took back my original desk stool. I may or may not decorate hers with colorful paints and or glitter. We’ll see. She also got a “smartycat” from my friend, which is one of those motion toys that’s really going to get the party started.

Being that Blanche’s birthday is today, I’ve been thinking a lot about our short time together so far. The truth is, Blanche has been the wildest kitty I’ve had as of yet. She’s got long, crazy hair, sharp claws (and teeth), and a very sassy attitude. But, this pretty kitty came into my life when I was dating an emotionally abusive alcoholic. She was there for many nights when I cried myself to sleep, and when he tried to break into my apartment.

She’s been with me through unemployment, retail life, late nights, and of course, our move to Austin (and she was silent a majority of the 7-hour drive). Blanche was a shelter kitty and was discovered with her mom and siblings in the attic of a school in Baton Rouge. In a way, we saved each other. That’s a cat that deserves some spoiling, amiright? Probably not, but we’re rolling with it. So, Happy Birthday to my wild-eyed, beautiful kitty, Blanche Devereaux!

Before I forget, if you entered the contest yesterday, you won! Congrats to Samantha and my mom, Anna! You should expect an email from Green Chef (sent yesterday).

So, that brings us to BBC, Blanche’s Book Club! We’ve finished reading book #2 for the club, and it’s a real success with the whopping two members on board (one of them being Blanche). But, it’s not a popularity contest. So, our latest read was “The Lair, The Bitch and the Wardrobe” by Allie Kingsley.

From the back of the book:

If you’re going to step on people on your way to the top, you might as well do it in stilettos . . .

. . . Or so she’s been told. Lucy Butler, former wallflower, lands her dream job working for her idol, world-famous fashion photographer Stefano Lepres. But in a world where getting doused in coffee for not getting the order right is the new normal, she isn’t getting any closer to her ideal of being behind the camera herself. Then a superstar actress generously takes Lucy under her wing and teaches her the ways of the rich and famous—treating her to racks of designer clothes and introducing her to a life of private planes and penthouse suites. Soon Lucy is dating a rock star, attending the hottest Hollywood parties, and dressing the part.

Lost in the luxury, she loses sight of the things that once mattered most. It’s going to take a hard blow from the high life to send Lucy back to the real life she always wanted.

 I know it’s kind of early in the year to say this, but this would be a great pool/beach read. It’s lite, sexy, glamorous, edgy, and in parts, laugh-out-loud funny. I’ll admit, it took me a few chapters before I really got into this book, but after that, I pretty much finished it in one sitting.

It’s got mixed reviews on Good Reads, but has some interesting books linked with it in the whole “Other readers enjoyed…” including “The Big Bang” by Linda Joffe Hull (think: Desperate Housewives), “At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Diastrous Quest for the Sweet Life” is Jennifer Criswell (memoir: moving from NYC to Tuscany), and “Lucy Gets Her Life Back” by Stef Ann Holm (single mom, super drama).

While I’m fairly certain this is Kingley’s only book of her own, she’s worked in the fashion industry for many years, and worked with Nikki Hilton to publish her book – pretty cool. Plus, she’s got gorgeous red hair, and who doesn’t love a red head?

The next book BBC will be reading is “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith, the second book in the Cormoran Strike Series. If you want to contribute to the discussion, leave a comment, email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com, Snap me or DM me @OrangeJulius7 or whatever you have to do. Or, you can send me a book title to read, but I’m not making any promises, folks. It’s the non-committal book club you’ve always dreamed of!

And what that, I’m signing off until Monday! Prep yourselves for an amazing week of blogs starting right here, on Monday. Muah!

Single Girl Recipe: Pumpkin Coffee Cake.

Nearly guilt-free and oh-so-delish.

Nearly guilt-free and oh-so-delish.

Y’ALL. Where has this week gone? It completely flew by, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I kicked things off by making this pumpkin coffee cake for my coworkers.

Originally, this recipe called for sweet potato puree instead of pumpkin, but I wanted to jump on the pumpkin craze, plus, it’s way easier to buy a can of pumpkin puree. But, feel free to alter it to your liking.

INGREDIENTS:

1 box Gluten-Free White Cake Mix (14 oz.) box makes one 8 or 9-inch cake
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (or sweet potato)
4 tablespoons light olive oil or coconut oil
1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer (made with 1/4 cup warm water) (or 2 eggs beaten)
1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk– or non-dairy milk or orange juice
1 teaspoon mild vinegar or lemon juice
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 2 teaspoons fresh grated, if you prefer

For the topping:

2 tablespoons Organic Spectrum Shortening or coconut oil
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon gluten-free flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl; rub and crumble it between palms to create a sandy texture.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with shortening and dust lightly with gluten-free flour.
Pour the cake mix into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients — pumpkin/sweet potato through ginger. Beat until a smooth batter forms; beat an additional minute.
Pour into the prepared cake pan; shake a bit to distribute the batter evenly. Crumble the topping all over the cake batter.
Bake in the center of a preheated oven until firm and tender- about 30 minutes or so. I bake at high altitude, so your mileage may vary.
Cool on a wire rack.

Place a large plate on the cake pan; quickly turn over and release the cake; repeat onto a clean cake plate.

Makes 8 to 10 slices.

…Now, since tomorrow is “Fiction Friday,” I need to go ahead and say this now. Tomorrow, the love of my LIFE is turning 37. My love, John Mayer, I’m sending you a happy, happy birthday!

Pic of the Week.

The birthday girl, yours truly, and the awesomest Beth.

The birthday girl, yours truly, and the awesomest Beth.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I spent my weekend in Baton Rouge, mainly for a great friend’s birthday celebration.

In years passed, I’ve made this same girlfriend a dessert of her choice to celebrate. I’ve made her angel food cake with homemade frosting (covered in neon sprinkles), and toasted matzah with chocolate and chopped nuts.

This year, she was having a football-watching birthday party, so we opted for something a little more interactive: a shortcake bar.

So, a few days before the party, I made enough shortcake for 35 people. I used Alton Brown’s recipe (for just the shortcake part):

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup half and half
Melted butter to brush shortcakes
Berries
Ice cream or whipped cream

Heat oven 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in half-and-half. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Cool and eat with berries, ice cream and/or whipped cream.

Then, I was pretty excited to make the toppings. I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for “quick jam” to make two separate syrupy-like toppings, one strawberry and one mixed berry (blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry).

1 pound of strawberries (or other berries), hulled and quartered

1/3 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, mashing with a wooden spoon, until the strawberries break down and the jam has thickened, 7-9 minutes. Transfer to a clean glass container and let cool completely. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Yum!

I also got whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate chips, and a giant tub of ice cream for the shortcake bar. It looked great! I think at first, people weren’t so sure how to go about the assembly, but it caught on after awhile (after the beer had settled).

It was so good to be able to spend a little time with my good friend and meet new people, too! It was a busy weekend, but certainly a good one.

This weekend, I’ll be heading to KANSAS CITY — do I have any blog readers in Kansas City besides Matt and Becca (who are about to get HITCHED this weekend, hence the getaway)? If you’re in the area and would like to drink to with me, shoot me a message, and let’s do this!

Cheers to weekend adventures all over this dang country!

Birthday Perspective.

Cheers, it's ya birthday.

Cheers, it’s ya birthday.

I turned 30 last week.

I’ve never been big on celebrating my birthday. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a little shy at times, or because having a birthday so close to July 4th made parties as a kid nearly impossible (everyone was always out-of-town).

I never thought age would bother me — it’s just a number. But since my 25th birthday, each year the number has bothered me more and more.

I thought I’d be married with kids by now. Is single “okay” at 30?

For my 26th birthday, I flew to Chicago to meet up with my best friend.

I was in an on-off relationship with a guy that, looking back on it, really treated me poorly. Now, he’s married to one of the women he cheated on me with.

During my layover in Houston, I got drunk and missed my connecting flight as I was chatting with a cute guy.

He was on the same flight heading to Chicago, and when we tried to get on a new one, the airline told us we were stuck until the next morning.

So, I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do in this situation and hopped in a cab with a perfect stranger.

We went to a bar, played darts, and took birthday shots. My flight was at 6 am the next morning.

He offered his place for me to sleep, and said he’d take me to the airport.

I had no luggage, so he let me borrow his phone charger, a shirt to sleep in, and we ended up hooking up.

While I would never recommend anyone doing that, I was starting to wonder if my now-30 self would ever be that spontaneous and daring.

I was certain I would not — I find myself getting less excited over potential boyfriends, and I do a lot of telling myself that it’s going to be okay even if I never get married.

But, then my 30th birthday happened.

My friend stuck with tradition and offered to take me to dinner. We went to City Pork Brasserie & Bar, where we had wine and a Grand Board (the salmon pate is delicious).

We closed down the place, bought the kitchen a six-pack, and were ready to hit the town.

Next, we went to Pelican House where we met a slew of pretty cute guys, and drank too many beers.

And somehow, we ended up at The Penthouse Club around 1am with said guys.

Naturally, my friend got a stack of dollars and we proceeded to give the Penthouse ladies some love.

Being that it was my birthday, I got a lap dance and ended up in a private room with Lauren, from New Orleans.

She got most of my dollars.

Just when I thought turning 30 meant giving up my fun card, I had a night like that.

Sure, I felt like absolute crap the next day, but it was completely worth it.

Age is all about what you make it.

At 30, I’m starting to see the world really is my oyster. I’ve got options — sometimes too many — and I can basically do whatever I want… Even if it means lounging at The Penthouse Club on a Thursday night.

On turning 30…

Make a wish!

Make a wish!

I turned 30 last week.

It’s one of those things I sort of never thought would happen — much like winning the lottery or meeting John Mayer — but, it turns out, the unbelievable can happen, and we’ll all grow old and turn into our parents.

Well, maybe.

I grew up believing that age was just a number; life is completely what you make it. And I really did feel that way until my 25th birthday… 26, 27, meh, okay, then 28 hit and I was really starting to feel old. When I turned 29 last year, I was REALLY feeling it.

I was feeling so old, in fact, that I used the space in my weekly column to talk about it:

And it’s not about crow’s feet or what’s on my driver’s license (I still get carded, so that’s a positive), it’s more about what I’ve accomplished.

In Baton Rouge, we judge people on where they went to high school, and then we judge them on their wedding, their spouse, and their kids.

With none of those things (I didn’t go to high school in the South), I start to wonder about my checklist. [Read the entire column here.]

In the weeks leading up to my 30th, I was really feeling the pressure — more than I’ve ever felt it. There were days when I woke up hopeless. It was difficult getting out of bed (more than usual) at times. I felt the regret from financial woes that I felt should have been resolved by 30.

I felt embarrassment that I still haven’t found a good “career job,” and often, I still feel like a kid. I wish I had more in my savings account and less debt. I wish I could actually get a fucking handle on doing laundry and keeping up with the dishes. I long for a day when I can actually relax; perhaps read more for fun or work on the tan (it was looking great last summer).

At 30, I pictured myself living in a place that was at least put together — you know, where the things match, the dishes aren’t from Wal-Mart, and my house wouldn’t be in complete shambles every single day.

But that’s not my life, and sometimes, I don’t know if it will ever be. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t breakdown and cry more in the 14 days before turning 30 than ever in my life. I questioned a lot of things about my journey, and was really looking for answers about the turns I know are coming.

I get a lot of flack for being a diehard John Mayer fan, but the truth is, I feel such a connection to his music. I started listening to his debut album, “Room for Squares” when I was 16. He was 25, and his stories about high school, college, and finding himself hit home for me.

With each album of his, I feel we’re aging at the same rate — so many of his songs hit my heart right when they need to. And no, I don’t need any religion other than that. So, while right now I’m incredibly living by his track, “Stop This Train,” one from his latest album, “Born and Raised” is also describing my life right now:

“If I ever get around to living, I’m gonna put my things away, in the drawers and in the closets, and there I’ll stay… If I ever get around to living, it’s gonna be just like my dreams” (If I Ever Get Around to Living)

In my head, I know that my life is taking the course it was meant to take. But I just have to get that through my heart and soul. I know I can’t compare my life to that of my parents’, my colleagues, my friends, or really… society in general. My path is my own.

Each week for me brings new adventures, new challenges, though my schedule is always quite packed. This week, I’ve got 40 hours of my retail job, two “career” interviews, and three freelance deadlines. Perhaps I’ll hit the gym; maybe I’ll get some sleep, or read a few pages for fun.

So, what did I do for my 30th birthday? I’ll save that adventure for a post later this week. But I’d love to know how YOU felt at 30, or what birthday made you get the FEELS?

Pic of the Week.

Angela & I in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Angela & I in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This week’s picture is a little different — it’s a throwback… to probably 2001-ish? The photo is of me and one of my best friends, Angela, on the roof of One Lytle Place (or as Angela calls it, One Little Palace) in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I picked this for this week’s photo, because today is Angela’s birthday.

I met Angela when I was in 6th grade, through another friend. It didn’t take long for us to become best friends once we met, having sleepovers, and bonding over two things: our love of Hanson, and our uncanny ability to eat loads of candy without gaining a single pound.

Over the years — the near 17 years that we’ve been friends — we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve taken many-a-vacation together, visiting Pensacola, Florida several times, seeing Mall of America, visiting the white sands of St. Thomas, and taking road trips to Tennessee.

When I visited her in San Diego, we took our first wine tour of the Temecula Valley, a trip I will never forget. She came with me to Baton Rouge, to stay in my dorm room during my first week at college. And I stayed in her dorm room in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

She’s come to Mardi Gras, and I’ve helped her cook the last six Thanksgiving dinners — one of my all-time favorite traditions (which is followed by opening Christmas gifts and watching Christmas movies).

But our friendship has seen more than just good times. Angela was there for me when I had my first (second, and third) car accident, when my parents got divorced, for every breakup I’ve been through, for the funerals we’ve had to attend. And a few times, we’ve gotten in fights… but thankfully, they never lasted too long, and with forgiving hearts, our friendship endured.

I’ve always believed that physical distance won’t break a true bond, and my friendship with Angela is proof of that. But Angela is more than my friend — she has become my family.

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And so, Angela, I want to wish you a very happy birthday — it won’t be the last! I hope your day is as fabulous, and as bright as you are! Cheers to our years of friendship, and many, many more. 

Happy Birthday!