monster bash

Misunderstood monsters are all invited to my house next Monday night.  That’s right, I’m hosting a monster bash: a celebratory fête for all the good hearts crying out from inside a somewhat disfigured facade.

What’s that?  You’re a helpful ghost? A big friendly giant? A monster afraid of the dark? Come one and come all.  I’m having a spooky movie night and i’m inviting my closest friends and all misunderstood goblins.

My closet friends, however, will need to wear a spooky sweater to the monster bash.  I’ve decided that ugly sweater parties shouldn’t always be reserved for Christmas.  Let’s start rocking the heavy knits a little sooner, shall we?  Here are my top picks:

spooky sweater

As for the entertainment, my friends have requested the following:

Do you have a halloween tradition?  Any suggestions for the spooky movie marathon?

2 dollars for 1 smile

What could be more wonderful than stumbling upon friendship?  I studied abroad in Rome my junior year of college, and oops, silly me, I didn’t take an Italian language class before I moved there.  Typical American girl just got too excited about streets of gold, palaces of art, and endless gelato.  Best decision ever.

The school arranged for a representative to meet me at the airport and take me to my apartment.  Luckily, that representative forgot to show up, and I ended up walking to-and-fro in the Fiucimo Airport wondering how to get a cab.  I made a few inquiries, and within a couple minutes, I was swarmed with people claiming to be taxi drivers and promising the lowest price in Rome.

And then!

Like a dream come true, a pretty brunette grabbed my hand and asked if I was American.  I nodded my head yes, and she told me to come with her.   I followed her through the airport, and she explained about the importance of only using certified cab services, avoiding people without uniform, and always knowing the appropriate price beforehand.

We shared a cab to the university, and the 30 minute drive was filled with more jokes than a comedy show at Second City.  The two of us decided to meet up again the following weekend in Dublin.  Three weeks later we  found ourselves in Prague, six months later in Berlin, two years later in Chicago, and five years later (as in this past weekend) in Minneapolis.

Dear Clare, you’re the greatest friend in the world, and I’m so grateful that you came to visit.  I was going to post about making you a handmade Thank You card, but I just ended up writing all about you (couldn’t help myself).  Your card is included at the bottom of this post.  LOVE YOU.

Clare and Jen circa 2008:
At my 2013 wedding:
I made Clare’s thank you card by making sketches on paper, uploading the drawings onto my computer, and then arranging them into fun designs:

woo hoo for you


The US Census estimates the world population at 7,113,000,000.  In terms of birthdays, 19 ½ million people are entitled to blow out candles and eat cake every single day of the year.

With millions&millions of birthdays being celebrated each day, it might seem silly to focus too much on the annual celebration.   When you think about birthdays as an opportunity to celebrate a unique individual, however, it seems like much, much bigger deal.  If that quirky person is your BFF or your sweetheart, you may even want to organize a street parade or a block party.

The people we love bring something unique to our lives, and for one day, we have the opportunity to celebrate how special they are.  It’s so simple and happy, really: a birthday is a reminder to celebrate the unique qualities that each of us bring to the world.  Think about what makes your friends and family special, put on a party hat, and make a toast to their individuality.

I’m having a birthday this week, and kind letters from friends and family have already arrived to make me smile.  Their sweet notes have inspired me to research creative HBD cards.  I zoomed around the web, and this is what I found:


Quite a variety of ways to a say HBD, right?  Everything from your standard birthday card to a pinata in the mail to a cookie greeting card.  Which card would you most like to receive?

getting lost together

Fall is on my mind, and since I’m the cheesiest romantic out there, I’ve been thinking about seasonal date ideas.  I happen to love surprises even more than romance and cheese, and so I created a game that surprises the receiver with fall date ideas.  I’m calling the game ‘Fall in Love,’ but if you’re on the normal end of the romance scale, you can call it anything else that you want.

The game works like this:  write 12 occasions that will occur during the fall season on envelopes, and then the envelopes with surprise dates to be opened on the given occasion.  For example, the envelope that says “1st Day of October” has a card inside that reads ‘we’re going to spend the day at a corn maze.’   The envelopes and cards I made are below, and you can download them here: fall1 and fall2.  Or you can make your own and personalize the dates 🙂

best dressed award

judge book cover

I enjoy judging books by their covers.  I enjoy it so much, in fact, that I’ve made a game out of my sneaky hobby.  The game works something like this: enter bookshop, pick 5 or 6 books with appealing covers, guess which one will be the most satisfying, and then read the first chapter of each book. Win the game by purchasing the book you originally judged to be the most enjoyable.


Books sometimes take a couple chapters to really hit their stride (just like dating, right?), but that’s not what this game is about.  I’ll read reviews and give the less-well-dressed novels a chance when I order them on Amazon.

The books above are the contenders for this week.  Which cover do you like the best?


yolo rolo

Knock knock
Who’s there?
YOLO who?

Laughing? Probably not, but that’s because the joke only works while eating YOLO ROLO cake.  Now, after you make this cake, you can say the joke, and then eat the delicious treat.  YOLO ROLO! Get it?

Okay okay, still maybe not that funny.  I don’t think the Lonely Island rappers meant for me to get comedic with their song, but it makes perfect sense: YOLO, so why not eat chocolate caramel ROLO cake?

The ROLO YOLO cake is easy as 1-2-3: simply prepare the batter for an angel food cake, mix in rolos, and top with chocolate caramel frosting.  Enjoy, and remember: YOLO!

fan mail

fan mail

Disney Fact: In 1933, Mickey Mouse received 800,000 pieces of fan mail–more than any other star in Hollywood.  The first letter I ever wrote was to Santa, letting him know that I wanted all the Nancy Drew books and a Skip-It.  After making my Christmas wishes clear, the second letter I sent was to Melissa Joan Heart.

“Dear Melissa,  Clarissa Explains It All  is the best show on television, and I watch with my sister almost every single day. Unless my brother is watching Ninja Turtles , because they usually come on at the same time.  Luckily he is usually busy playing outside because we only have one TV.  Anyway, I wish I had a friend like Sam that crawled into my bedroom whenever he wanted.  I have to share a room, so you’re doing pretty well for yourself.  Anyway, I think we’d be friends, and hopefully we can meet someday. XO, Jen.”

After that initial letter went out, I received an autographed postcard from Clarissa thanking me for watching the show.  I pinned the postcard on my wall, and then I wrote to Kelly (Saved by the Bell), Alex (Mysterious World of Alex Mack) and Ashley (All That).   Time to grow my list of signatures from famous celebs (aka, best friends).

I’m a huge fan of fan mail.  The concept is just so great — take a moment to share generous thoughts and send kind words.  I got behind the movement when I was 9, and I’m still practicing the trade at 26 (that’s like.. let’s see.. 17 years of fan mail  from yours truly.)

Anyway! This whole post is really just a plea for my readers to let someone know that you appreciate their work.  The web makes it easy to contact almost anyone you admire, so no excuses.  Jot down a couple people who inspire you (designers, photographers, writers, fashion icons, comedians, teachers, etc) and then send them a piece of fan mail.

For example, I’m a huge fan of designer/illustrator Shannon Kirsten.  She has no idea that I scope out her Etsy shop when I’m bored, or that I pin almost all of her designs.  I’m ending all that today with this fan mail addressed express from me to her.

what’s in my bag?

my bag

If I’m not taking pictures, I’m either reading, writing, or pondering why chocolate coconut water & sour peach rings taste so delicious together.   The only drawback to this behavior is that I need a giant-sized bag for the camera, the lenses, the books, the journals, and, of course, the dog necessities (I take Kinzie just about anywhere I can).

Okay okay, so I’m pretty sure you don’t care what’s in my bag or what I’m doing on the day-to-day.  That whole diddy about what I carry around was really just to show you that I’m currently reading (&loving) Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I’m liking it so much that I ordered Tina Fey’s Bossypants to minimize the withdrawals that will inevitably occur when I finish the novel.  I’ve also been a fan of Chelsea Handler’s books for a while, and Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me is patiently waiting on my nightstand.

So, here is a little photo collage paying homage to the girls that are making me smile:

funny girls

suddenly september

eek! i’ve had a wonderful summer, but september is my favorite month and i woke up this morning about the upcoming fall festivities. so excited, in fact, that i channeled some of my enthusiasm into a graphic about why i love september so much. hope you find it inspiring:

To be honest, I’m even a little excited about the fall outfits that come with the chilly weather. These are the looks I’m planning to rock once the temperatures drop low enough to bring out my boots:

fall sweetheart

literary fall

the spectacular now

ImageMy giggle alarm goes off every time someone says that they need a vacation. Or that they’re looking forward to the weekend.  And again when they plan a week-long celebration for their birthday.

The giggles are always suppressed so that I don’t ruin their enthusiasm for a special day or occasion. But what I really want to do is stand on the top of my tall, tall, tall, tall, (I thought if I used the word tall enough times it would convey just how high high high high up I am) building, and remind them that every single day of their life is special.

Why not live every day like it’s your birthday? Why not celebrate whenever you can? For me, the absence of pressing work, errands, or problems is enough to make a reservation for bubbly on the 99th floor.  Join me? I’ll stick an umbrella in your drink and we can cheers to the present moment.

This post probably seems somewhat flippant, but I promise there is more profound reasoning to my logic.  I realize that happiness is fragile, and that all the good things – many of them that we take for granted, could be gone in an instant.  When we are feeling healthy, we should celebrate the absence of pain.  If the sun comes out, why not run through the sprinklers and ride a bike? Sure enough, the rain will come soon.

Dear readers, I want you to live every day like it’s a gift. It’s Saturday, so it’s a perfect day to start.  I hope it’s sunny wherever you are, and I hope that you’re going to live today like it’s your birthday – candles and all.

Another thing to celebrate is the opening of Apricot Lane in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  I visited the new shop yesterday, and I’m hoping that the owner, Laura, becomes my new shopping buddy.  She styled me in the outfit you see above, and she also provided cute looks for the next few days.  She’s having a $50 giveaway for the opening, so stop by and say hello — maybe you’ll get lucky and win 🙂