You be Cinnamon and I'll be Cayenne

Sweet and salty, black and white, we know these combinations. These seemingly opposing forces oddly work together. Black never looks quite as dark and imposing as when next to a bright white, nor does salt ever taste quite so amazing as when it is sprinkled atop some caramel. These opposites work because they actually are quite similar. Sweetness and saltiness both are strong flavors that use to enhance other flavors. Black and white are both extremes of color, one being all colors and the other a complete lack of colors (this can go either way depending if we are talking about pigments or light). They would not work quite as well if they were 100% different. It is the duality within the similarity that makes opposing combinations so strong.

I like to think about this often when in the kitchen. If I am going to use a strong, spicy spice like cayenne, I often throw in a dash of cinnamon. The mixture of these two creates a swirl of exciting confusion when you lift the spoon to your awaiting tastebuds. This duality, this yin and yang you may say, is an important element in life. Especially in friendships. Sure you don't want to be friends with people completely opposite you in every way, but I think it is important to have differences that can be used to enhance each other.

I have this one friend, well more like cousin, who is pretty cool. Her name is Banjo. Yes, like the instrument. She is an amazing, talented, beautiful, strong, independent, hilarious young woman. Banjo and I have this habit of always being exactly the same but in completely different ways. We often show up to dinner or church wearing the same outfit but in completely different styles. I might be wearing a white lace dress, brown ankle boots, and flowers in my hair while she wears a black lace dress, doc martins, and a chain necklace. We are the same, but different. More than the way we dress, our personalities are very similar but very different. We both have similar strengths (ie. humor, talking, listening, leading) but we go about each one in very different manners. Example, we both enjoy theatre, but I am the backstage, writing in the corner type while she stands in the bright lights belting her heart out to loud applause. This allows us to lift each other up and, like spices, enhance each other. We are kind of like a clown fish and sea anemones with our symbiotic-ness. 

banjo5.jpg
mae2.jpg

Are there salts to your sweet in your life? Can you be someone's cayenne? Who can you lift up simply by being yourself?


xoxo

Justice

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Sending Your Thoughts

 
Letters are no matter of indifference; they are generally a very positive curse
— Jane Austen

No body writes letters anymore. I go to the mailbox and I don’t quite see the point. All that is in that black box with the red flag on the side are a bunch of bills, never-to-be-opened catalogues, and ads by politicians I know nothing about. I guess with email, Facebook, texting, phones, etc. nobody really has use for mail anymore. But oh to receive a letter, how divine! My sisters and I still send snail mail to each other on occasion, even though we talk on the phone daily and I even live with one of them for most of the year, but nevertheless it is so meaningful to receive a little envelope filled with greetings, encouragements, and tokens of love. To receive a letter is to receive permanent proof of someone’s thoughts. It’s like they sealed, stamped, and sent you their fleeting thoughts of you. As I am a word of affirmation kind of person,

I wish I could receive more letters. I have come to realize that in order to receive more, I must send more. Now I know that I am not the only one who likes to receive letters, so that follows that I am not the only one who should start sending more letters.

How to write a letter according to Miss. Toast and Roses:

Taken from tips by Miss. Manners

You must first select the proper paper. Whether you prefer thick, gold bordered letter paper with your initials monogrammed on the top or cute floral stationary from Papyrus, you must select the paper that works for you. Once you have selected your preferred paper/cards you must reserve it only for letter writing. NOT FOR NOTE TAKING. NOT FOR TODO LIST MAKING. ONLY LETTERS!

After your paper is selected you must decide whom to write to. Is there an old friend you haven’t heard from for a while? Or did someone give you a gift a while ago and you never thanked him or her? Or is your mother in need of some encouragement?

Once you have a recipient in mind, sit down with a nice cup of tea and begin to write. It is not required in the modern age to follow proper letter writing etiquette, but I think it is still preferred.

Start with the date on the upper right hand corner.

Then your salutation. Some suggestions from Miss. Manners are:

Dear
Dear Friends
Dear Madam
Dear Sir
Dear Sirs or Madam
Gentlemen
Madam my Sister
Mesdames
Sir my Brother

After the salutation you write a little introduction. This can be things like “alls been well with me”, “the cat is fatter than ever”, or “I do miss you ever so much and just had to write you a little note of love”. Just as in essay writing, you then write the meat of the letter. This could be essential information about your life or questions you have just been dying to ask of the recipient. Just remember to always keep it simple and inviting, that way you are more likely to get a response. After a short conclusion, such as “I’d love to hear from you soon” or “You really ought to stop by for tea sometime, just give me a ring”, write your salutation and signature.

Suggestions of salutations:
Affectionately
Love
Respectfully
Sincerely yours
Your friend
Your good friend
Yours sincerely
Yours truly
Your most obedient and humble servant
Xoxo

When it’s all done fold your letter up, slip it in the envelope, lick it, stamp it, address, and send!
Congratulations! You have just successfully made someone’s day.

Xoxo

Justice

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Stylin Back to School

The produce section of the grocery store is full of apples and peaches and pencils are on sale. Must be about time for a new school year to begin. Kids are frantically finishing (or starting) summer homework, getting new haircuts, and trying to convince their parents that their school supplies really do need replacing–because you simply you can't re-use a binder. I love this time of year. Partly because I love school and learning and can't wait to go back. Although I think I may be one of only a few with that opinion. I also love this time because it always feels like a time for new beginnings. Anything from the past year can be forgotten and we can all just move on. It is also a time to turn our wardrobes over; time for back to school shopping! Sure we all end up reverting to sweatpants by mid October until May, but at least for a little while we can pretend that we have a great school style. I often like to dream up what great things I could wear while sitting in a government lecture or while working in the chem lab (not that I go to either of those at Art school...).
Today, instead of preparing for my upcoming term at Oxford University, more on that later, I though about what amazing outfits I could wear while there–although frankly I plan on just wearing sweaters and leggings.

I hope you are all as excited for the new school year as I am, whether or not you are actually still in school, because it can mean a time of new beginnings for all of us.

xoxo

Justice

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Cause for Celebration

celebrate.jpg

I’m not one for big parties—too many people and far too much noise. I’ve never empathized much with those people that look forward to going out on Friday night. I don’t understand, nor do I like, popular music and I certainly don’t like “grinding” unless it is grinding my morning coffee. However, give me a tea party, cocktail party, or brunch and I will be the life of the party. I love dressing up, sipping tea, and eating small pastries that took too much time to make. Sitting around a small table chatting with my closest friends while listening to some classical music or jazz. Now that is what I call a celebration.

However, as I am not a New York socialite, European Princess, nor even a southern belle, I don’t get many invitations to such events. That doesn’t mean though that I can’t celebrate.  We all know that life is a gift—that is why today is called the present—so in my opinion that means that everyday is cause for celebration. It’s simple math: today=present=gift=party=celebration=happiness

It is for that reason that I believe we should find one way every day to celebrate a little bit. It can be an outward display of celebration or an inward one; which ever most suits your party style. As I am a tea party and lace dress kind of gal, I do things like sit down and drink a cup of tea while reading some Jane Austen. Or, after a long hard day of work, I put on a dress and some pearls and sing along to show tunes while making macarons.

Chai macarons, original recipe here. They are amazingly delicious and i have already eaten like all of them. 

Chai macarons, original recipe here. They are amazingly delicious and i have already eaten like all of them. 

Some days are more celebratory than others. There are some days where my only bit of celebration is sitting on the train in complete silence (yes that seems celebratory for me). Whereas other days I get to dress up, go out to coffee, and eat cake with friends.

These little acts of celebration are a constant reminder of the magnificence of life. By celebrating, or “personal partying” I like to call it, I remember to live in the present, because it is a gift. 

Life is celebration, for those who knows how to celebrate every moment.
— Bharat Zanvar

xoxo

Justice

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Hail the Mighty Kale

I've never been much of one to follow fads. When all my friends were obsessed with hoodies and "Livestrong" bracelets in third grade, I was still wearing my fairy wings to school. In middle school when every other person was playing M.A.S.H on the bus, I was doing crosswords. When High School rolled around and all the girls were wearing cheetah print, high-low dresses to prom I was extra rebellious and stayed home in my sweatpants and watched Breakfast at Tiffany's. Today though, it seems as though I have been sucked into our trend obsessed culture. Not necessarily fashion-wise (I still insist on wearing fairy wings sometimes) but food-wise. However, it is not only, or really at all, because I want to be cool and accepted. Rather because the "fad" foods today are delicious and really healthy. Quinoa, Kombucha, sweet potatoes, almond milk, gluten free products (although I don't actually have a choice on that one), and above all kale, are all things I consume daily. I can go on hour long rants about how great all of these foods are, just ask anyone I work with.

Every morning I put on my crocs, go out the vegetable garden, and cut myself a big ol' handful of kale. This is probably one of the happiest moments of my day. I either put the big green leaf in a smoothie, juice it, bake it into crisps, make a gigantic salad, steam it, or just eat it plain. I really love it and I am sure that to some people I sound insane. Nevertheless, I am happy. I get to eat delicious food, that I grew myself, and have the satisfaction that it is making me healthier. For some of the health benefits of kale, look here

To name just a few though:

  • lots of fiber
  • contains Cancer-Preventing Phytonutrients
  • supports detoxification
  • contains over 45 flavonoids (anti-inflammatory benefits)

One particularly delicious way to consume this leafy green is by mixing it in a big salad with other similarly hipster foods.

Kale-Quinoa-Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • One Sweet Potato (diced)
  • Handful of dried cherries
  • 1 c. cooked Edamame
  • ½ c.  cooked quinoa (~1/4 c. uncooked)
  • One Apple (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • ½ c. cooked corn

  • Kale

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey

Directions

Cut the sweet potato into small-ish cubes, about ½ inch squared, but you don’t have to be too precise.

In a large skillet, mix the sweet potato and oil of your choosing. Stir occasionally until the potato is cooked all the way through, it should be squishy and slightly browned. 

While the potato cooks, slice up the apple into bite sized pieces and prepare the other vegetables.

Cut up the kale into manageable pieces and make sure to cut off the hard, woody stock part. Pour a little bit of olive oil onto the kale and massage it. Yes, massage that kale. Set aside.

Once the potatoes are fully cooked, mix in the cooked quinoa, edamame, dried cherries, and cooked corn. Pour the vinegar, dijob mustard, and honey on top and stir. Cover the skillet for about four minutes to let the flavors mix deliciously. Finally add the apple and stir. 

Mix the quinoa/potato mixture with the kale and enjoy. To really epitomize the hipster-ness of it all, listen to the Spotify “Roots Revival” playlist. Or if you don’t have spotify, try these bands:

To really epitomize the hipster-ness of it all, listen to the Spotify “Roots Revival” playlist. Or if you don’t have spotify, try these bands:
Trampled By Turtles
Vaudeville Etiquette
The Show Ponies
The Head and The Heart
Mumford & Sons (of course)
Of Monsters and Men
First Aid Kit
The Hunts
The Avett Brothers
Punch Brothers

xoxo

Justice

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Mile High Style

On August 1st, 1876 the sky was blue, birds were singing, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed Colorado into the union as the 38th state. What a good choice on the part of America as a whole. Today, on the eve of Colorado's 138th birthday, we are still alive and thriving. Our economy is booming (due to the legalization of a particular plant), we are still the healthiest state in the country, we are on our way out of a perpetual drought, and our fashion industry is on the rise. Wait, Fashion industry? in Colorado? You must think me crazy, but no ladies and gentlemen, while I may live in the Mile High state, I am in 100% in my right mind. In fact, today marks the beginning of Colorado Fashion Week. Now we may not be New York or San Francisco or Milan, but we undeniably have a certain sense of style that is all our own. I am not sure what looks will be going down the runway of the CFW shows, however I am sure of what styles walk down the streets of the wild wild west. When walking into the closet of a New Yorker you are sure to find a plethora of black. When rifling through a techie of SF's wardrobe you will most likely find some plaid and corduroys. When entering any true Coloradan's home you are sure to find a few staples:

Cowboy Boots: We still share that wild west flare that the miners and ranchers of old brought here, so whether they were worn once for a barn dance wedding or are worn daily while mucking out the barn, cowboy boots are ubiquitous in this fair state. 

Sensible Jeans, most likely levi's: Most Coloradans, especially once you get farther west than Denver, still know how to work. Like go outside, dig in the dirt, get callused fingers kind of work. And this requires sensible jeans that won't rip as soon as you try to bend down to lift up a stack of fire wood.

Hiking Boots: If there is one thing all Coloradans share, it is a love of the outdoors. And why wouldn't we share this love? it's absolutely fantastically gorgeous here! Don't believe me? Go to google, type in "Colorado nature" and fall in love and move here. So, needless to say, we all like to hike and do it quite frequently, whether it's just a quick jaunt up the mesa above the coors factory or a month long treck through the Rockies.

BirkenstocksAs well as still being cowboys, we also tend to all have a bit of hippie blood running through our veins. It's why we make so much stuff out of hemp and were one of the first states to revolutionize Gluten Free baking. It's not our fault, we house the lovely city of Boulder, it's just in our geographical blood. So whether we admit to it or not, we love those goofy looking leather sandals. Especially when worn with smart wool socks.

A Life is Good T-Shirt: Life is good in Colorado. The sun shines like 96% of the year, we get to be outside all the time, we have amazing food, and everyone is super duper attractive here. That's why we like to flaunt the fact that we are happy and go camping and eat natural food by wearing semi-hideous, but ridiculously soft, t-shirts. 

A Really Really Good Winter Jacket: It is no surprise that every Colorado home will have at least one closet full to bursting with winter clothes. after all, we get snow for approximately 9 months of the year and it frequently reaches -20° in January and February. But that wont stop us from connecting with our beloved outdoors! We have North Face and Columbia jackets to protect us!

Colorado Swag: Even if someone wasn't born in Colorado, anyone who lives here for any amount of time has a great amount of pride for this amazing state. On any given day, of the people you pass I guarantee that about 32% of them will be wearing something branded with the Colorado flag. That's because it is an awesome flag and it's an awesome state and we are awesome people. The awesomeness is overwhelming. 

Happy Birthday Colorado, stay healthy, stylish, and awesome

XOXO 

Justice

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Keep Your Head Up


kayaking

Blue is a beautiful color. Blue with swirls of purple and red, it is a powerful, intense, magical color. Blue sky, blue ocean, blue dresses, blue is beautiful—unless it’s on your leg. I am sitting on the couch doing “owie inventory”, pointing out all of my many battle scars from a long, adventure filled day to my mother trying to receive a little sympathy. Not that I really need much sympathy, I am so filled with joy and pride to feel anything but elation. This elation can only be the result of a long fought battle ending in victory. Like King Arthur, Don Quixote, and Aragorn I fought a mighty monster and after being pushed down many times, a still ended on my feet. What was this monster? The Arkansas River. And my weapon of choice was a paddle. Protected by armor of a life vest and helmet I braved my way down this mighty river in a vessel called a “duckie”. I would just like to add that this was my first foray down a river in anything but a canoe. I really had no idea what I was doing. I went swimming mostthe time and flipped on 3 out of 4 of the man made drops. On the third flip, as I was under the water feeling the rocks hit against my back and trying to push the boat off of my head, I realized that I was experiencing a metaphor. A life metaphor. An Augustus Waters-type metaphor (for my TFIOS fans out there). While I was being pulled down the water, having lost my boat and paddle, trying to keep my head above the water, I realized that this is what life is. Life is going to keep pulling us forward, whether we want to go or not.  Things will nock us over, sometimes we will tumble head over toes, and things will continue to push us down. We can either succumb to the force and keep our head under the water, or we can swim to shore, catch our breath and keep going. Sure we might end with some bumps and bruises, but we continue to fight.

xoxo 

Justice

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Painting Smiles

 

I have the best job in the world. I would say my job title is "holder of the hot glue gun and molder of small minds" at the Denver Centre Theatre Academy. That means that I get to spend everyday creating art with children. Sometimes it can be frustrating and I frequently have a perpetual headache, but that does not mean that it is not one of the most rewarding things in the entire world. I love going home knowing that I made a difference in someone's life. I know that every day I am able to teach at least one kid something, even when it is simply how to hold a paint brush without getting paint on their faces, feet, and neighbors. I teach them, as I am paid to do, but they also teach me. I am amazed by how free children are. They know no bounds, know they can do anything, and see everything as an adventure. I ask them to paint a giant piece of cardboard and instead of saying "I can't paint", as I have heard countless adults say, they throw all of their pint sized energy into creating the best piece of art in the history of cardboard paintings. When they are finished I see in their cute little faces an expression of such incredible joy that can only come from the pride of creating something. I wish that more adults would be like this. One of the saddest things for me to hear is "I can't draw" or even worse "I am not an artist". Of course we aren't all Van Goghs, Beethovens, or Hugos, but we are all artists. We can all recognize beauty and in some way re-create it–whether that is on paper, in a speech, on a piano, in the way we dress, in words, or even simply in our heads. We simply need to approach life as children do, without inhibitions and with the strength of a never ending imagination. 

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.
— George Bernard Shaw

Last night I had a few friends over and we did just that. We turned on some fun music like the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean and Final Countdown and became children. We danced, sang, and painted. We threw paint at giant canvases, at the ground, and at each other. We didn't care what our creations looked like, we didn't care what other people would think, and it was the most freeing feeling. The amount of joy exuding from the people around me was so encouraging. I can't help but smile even thinking about it now. I genuinely believe that if we could all take a moment to do as children do and shine, we could all create something beautiful–a smile. 

Xoxo

Justice

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The Tailored Short

Happy Sunday world! Sunday night is always a bit of a let down. It's still the weekend so we are often tempted to continue the party, but it is also the night before work/school, so we can't get too rowdy. While we may want to continue to ignore our responsibilities, that simply cannot happen. This is especially true, at least for me, in the summer. I feel like I shouldn't have to go back to the real world on a Monday morning in July, it just shouldn't be allowed. Something that makes it even more difficult is when it is approximately 176° and you are required to wear business clothes. Why we can't wear swimsuits to work in the summer will always be a mystery to me, maybe it has something to do with modesty and appropriateness. That is why tailored shorts are probably some of the best things ever created. They are fashionable, cute, cool (temperature wise as well as fabulousness), and professional! They can be paired with almost any kind of top and dressed up or down. If you have a relaxed work environment you can wear them with bare legs (as long as you have shaved of course). I suggest though wearing them with nylons or maybe some fun colored tights, that is just my preference.

Tailored shorts can also be worn all year long, like in winter with some knit tights, a button up shirt under a sweater, and some boots. 

Have a great week everyone!
xoxo

Justice 

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To A Poet

 

"I'd rather be broken than empty, shattered than hollow, and by your side"

"You can't plan on the heart"

"Time, Time is a fickle thing. Let's see what it can bring"

"Will you look at me? Take a good look at me and tell me who it is that I am."

"I was born to endure this kind of weather"

"No matter how many times I tell myself I have to be sincere, I have a hard time standing up and facing those fears"

"I am nobody's baby, I'm everybody's girl, I'm the queen of nothing, I'm the king of the world"

"You sit and stare out at the rain, or bury yourself in books. Don't look at no strangers no, don't give them any looks"

"And how apparent it all becomes that you're not close, not even near."

"Sometimes I wish I could find my Rosemary Hill. I'd sit there and look at the deserted lakes and I'd sing. And every once in a while I'd sing a song for you."

"Well I guess sometimes I wish you were a little more predictable; that I could read you just like a book."

"And I hope for a trace to lead me back home from this place, but there is no sound–only me and my disgrace"

"It always takes me by surprise how dark it gets this time of year"

 

All the quotes are from songs by The First Aid kit, listen here 

All the photographs are the property of Mary Justice McNeil, owner of this blog. However, if you would like to pin them, please do!

xoxo

Justice

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Drink Some Sunshine

Know that obnoxious little saying, "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade"? Well as annoying and cliché as it is, there is a reason we hear it so often. That's because it's true. It's really easy to get bogged down by the negative things in our lives. Bad and sad things happen. Bad and sad things happen a lot. This morning I burned my toast, that made me very sad. The thing is though, we can't let burnt toast burn our mood. We have to stand up, shake off the dust, and keep going. We gotta "turn that frown upside down". We just have turn those sour life lemons into delicious, sweet lemonade. The only way to do this is to stay positive. I do this little thing where at the end of every day I make a list (usually mental) of everything good that happened that day. Even when nothing good seems to have happened, I try to find some little sliver of happiness. Even when the only good thing that happened was that I didn't die. By doing this I am continuously keeping my attitude sweet and sunshine-y. In some metaphorical way it's like I make a giant glass of lemonade every night, and I LOOOOVE lemonade. It is my favorite beverage. 

In order to encourage you to drink a giant glass of lemonade, both figuratively and literally, here are some of my most delicious and amazing homemade lemonade recipes. All have been tested and approved and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. 

Plain Lemon-y Lemonade

lemon

1 3/4 c. sugar
8 c. water
2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice 
(depending on lemon size, it's usually 9-10 lemons)

Combine all the ingredients in a large pitcher and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Refrigerate and serve in a glass, or mason jar, over ice. Place a lemon wedge in the glass to add a bit of class.

Lovely Lavender Lemonade

lavender.jpg

1/2 c. Dried Lavender buds
1 3/4 c. sugar
8 c. water
2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice 
(depending on lemon size, it's usually 9-10 lemons)

Soak the dried lavender in the water for a couple of hours. Every hour or so taste the water to test the strength of the lavender, when it has reached the strength of your preference, pour the water through a strainer or cheese cloth. Another option would be to put the lavender into a reusable loose leaf tea bag. Once the water is done, mix the sugar and lemon juice into the water and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Refrigerate and serve over ice, this one is particularly nice when drunk from a wine glass. 

Rose Buds and Sunshine 

1/2 c. Dried rose buds
1 3/4 c. sugar
8 c. water
2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice 
(depending on lemon size, it's usually 9-10 lemons)

Soak the rose buds in the water for a couple of hours. Every hour or so taste the water to test the strength of the rose, when it has reached the strength of your preference, pour the water through a strainer or cheese cloth.  Once the water is done, mix the sugar and lemon juice into the water and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Refrigerate and serve over ice. Smile and relax. It is best to be enjoyed while sitting in the garden reading a good book.

Strawberries, Lemons, and Happiness

strawberries

10 Large strawberries, halved
2 Tbsp sugar
8 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a blender, blend the strawberries, 2 Tbsp of sugar, and 1 c. of water until completely puréed. In a pitcher, mix the 1 c. sugar, remaining water, and lemon juice. Then pour in the strawberry mixture, stir together. Refrigerate and serve over ice. For added freshness, put a few leaves of mint in the glass. This delicious strawberry lemonade is best when sitting next to pool, wearing over large sunglasses, and flipping through a magazine.

Next time you feel the sad blues or angry reds nocking on your door with a handful of lemons to throw at your face, just take those lemons, squeeze the sourness right out and mix with a healthy dosage of sugar and smiles. 

xoxo

Justice

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What makes a home?


Whenever I enter someone else’s house I immediately assess whether or not the house is a home a simply a shelter. One can live in just about any sort of shelter. However, not every shelter is a home. It takes a certain amount of love and care for a house to be transformed into a home. It needn’t be especially large or fancy; it may be anything from a tent in the woods to a castle on the beach.
I have been in many “houses”, but only a few get that honorary word “home”. 

After all,

Home is the nicest word there is
— Laura Ingalls Wilder

Home may mean different things to different people, as only it should. I am certain that houses where I feel one hundred percent comfortable to be myself would make others cringe. For example, I can’t possibly feel at home when a house has been perfectly gridded out, everything is perfectly displayed, and there is an excessive amount of white. At the same time though, I get a similar feeling of discomfort when a house is too messy and smells of cat urine. For a house to be transformed into a home takes a certain touch of magic I believe. It has to have a look of cleanliness and order that proves the owner cares about the appearance. However it must also have evidence of life. A little bit of wear and tear. Maybe some books on a table, a blanket thrown on the couch, shoes tossed unceremoniously next to the door. It requires a lot of care and work, as well as a sense of belonging. Where does that belonging come from? That I cannot tell you, only that some places possess it and others do now. There are no obvious symptoms for this feeling of “belonging” in a home, but when it is there, it is ubiquitous.

As I am now approaching the seventh month of being away from my own home, I have been longing to find that sense of belonging once again. It came as a great surprise when, after an eight-hour bus ride and two-hour car ride, I arrived at my friend’s house in the beautiful land of San Diego. Even though it was midnight and I was exhausted I could tell right away that her house was a home. As soon as I walked in I could breath a great sigh of relief, I felt accepted, comfortable, and like I belonged. It was as if the arms of the small one floor beach cottage were wrapping me in a warm embrace. 


Do you believe your house is a home? If you answered no to this question, oh you invisible reader, what do you think you could do to make it one?

Please don’t forget to follow, subscribe, check out my other pages, send me requests, comments, questions, etc. I love hearing from all you beautiful people

xoxo

Justice

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The Call of the Wild

 
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
— Bilbo (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings)

You may have noticed, or maybe you didn't, but anyways, I have not written anything in about a month. This is not because I decided to give up my dream of being a writer and joined a circus, nor is it because I married a british lord and am now living in a castle, it isn't even because I got lazy and decided to spend a month sitting by the pool and eating marshmallows. Although those are all very appealing life choices, none of them apply to me, at the moment. No, for the past 25 days I have driven 4600 miles, been through five states, danced for 11 of those days, hiked numerous mountains, and swam in various lakes and streams. When finding ourselves in between leases my sister and I decided that it would be a better decision to be homeless in our Subaru and travel the pacific north west than to join the legion of San Francisco homeless. So we embarked on a transcendentalist adventure to find ourselves–one which I believe even Whitman and Thoreau would have been envious. 

5 June 2014: We awoke at 4 am and drove for thirteen hours, stopping once for food and a couple of times for gas, when necessary. Our favorite driving past times are reading out loud, memorizing poetry, making up stories about our fellow journeyers, and reading through the dictionary to find new and interesting words. Oh, and singing tonelessly at the top of our voices to musicals and disney music

6 June 2014: Awoke at 5 am (we got to sleep in!) and drove only ten hours in order to arrive right on time for the rehearsal dinner for Nan's friend from college. After staying the night at a KOA, we all awoke and helped prepare for a beautiful, home made, cowgirl wedding in the breathtaking Paradise valley (Montana).

paradise valley.jpg
Paradise valley

After the wedding in Paradise Valley we drove to the near by town of Livingston Montana. You know those old western movies where nothing is alive and there is like one shop/restaurant/bar where everyone hangs out? Well Livingston is kind of like that. We stopped at "Pinky's Coffee Shop" where everything was pink and had flamingos painted on it. There we got bottomless cups of coffee for 3 dollars in all. It was quite amazing.

livingston

Upon drinking approximately a gallon of coffee each, we drove a couple of ours farther east in Montana until we came to the "largest city in Montana", Billings. Now I don't know this for sure but I'm pretty positive that Billings is not much larger than the smallest city in California. They have about one tall building and a lot of vintage stores. Which was AMAZING, because it's Billings Montana and they don't realize that any where else they could sell these gorgeous antique dresses for a lot more than $20. They also have a great railroad museum and some good steak.

billings montana
Billings Montana

We spent two glorious days of rest in Billings and then drove west for Spokane, Washington. Near by Spokane is a state park called Bowl and Pitchers. Nan tried to tell me why it's called Bowl and Pitcher but it didn't really make sense to me. It had something to do with some big rocks and a river. Well anyways, we camped there and took a "bath" in the river and went for a hike and got wonderfully lost.

bowl and pitcher
bowl and pitcher

Our next stop was Seattle, that grey and rainy city to the north. If you drive about forty five minutes south of Seattle, you go through this very neighborhoodish neighborhood and then BAM! all of a sudden you're in a state park surrounded by trees and silence. It's amazing. We camped there for two nights and explored Seattle, where we saw a lot of fish, tourists, and coffee shops. 

seattle
seattle

On some date that I now do not remember we left Seattle and drove to Olympia. In the fine city of the gods we stayed with some old family friends for three days and drank a lot more coffee, had a bonfire, and got soaked by more rain. I decided I liked Olympia, they have a lot of gluten free food and a great book shop that my sis had to drag me out of kicking and screaming to prevent me spending all of our gas money. 

Olypmia
olypmia books

Because we missed the east side of Washington so much, we drove back over the Cascades (listening to the Hobbit soundtrack the whole time) and returned to Spokane. Spokane is another fabulous city in Washington, and not only because Nan went to college there. We visited the Davenport Hotel, where Bing Crosby often stayed, and got coffee at Atticus, where they have the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird on a wall. We also went to the movie theatre there, joining the real world for a few short hours, and saw How to Train Your Dragon 2. Which is an amazing movie and Hiccup is an animated version of my perfect man. One day in Spokane we went to a diner in a train car (!) and had omelettes bigger than my head and then went to "Green Bluff". Green Bluff is a magical land of orchards and plant growing things where we got to pick our own strawberries. 

spokane.jpg
green bluff

On June 22 we picked up the rest of our family at the airport, along with the two mandolins, accordion, banjo, drums, and guitar. We piled into the car and drove to Coeur D'Alene Idaho for a week long Contra Dance camp. A week of delicious food, amazing music, heart racing music, hiking, lake swimming, canoeing, and good companionship. Essentially a week of pure heaven. 

lady of the lake

Sadly though, all good things, as well as all bad things, must come to an end and on Saturday (two days ago) it was time to head home. Nan and I packed up all our stuff, smells and all, and headed back south to California. We arrived in the bay area just in time for a dinner of BBQ Ribs and watermelon at Grandma's house. 

I'm gonna make this place your home

Taking a month off from life, from media, from technology, a sabbatical from stress and from responsibilities was probably the best thing I have ever done. On this trip Nan and I learned so much about ourselves, about each other, about people in general, and about the world. We had time to reflect on who we are and what we believe. We got to talk without fear of judgement and completely let go. Even if you can't take a month to explore the Pacific North West, I challenge you to take a step back from the world...who knows what you may discover. 

xoxo

Justice

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Call me a Hippy

Lately my sister has started accusing me of being a "hippy". I have no idea why this is. It may be because of the kombucha I make under my bed or because all of my facial products and lotions are made of coconut oil and tea-tree oil...or maybe it's because I do yoga while baking. Just to prove her wrong, I made her some homemade, all natural, good for you granola bars. Oh wait, that's not proving her wrong. Oh well, who cares. Maybe I am becoming a hippie, that's probably what happens to anyone who lives in Colorado and San Francisco for long enough. But you know what? I am perfectly happy. I feel healthier and happier than I ever have in my entire life. 
What you put in your body is extremely important–both physically and mentally. Healthy food is not only about taking care of your body, but also your mind and spirit. When we eat poorly, we don't get the vitamins and nutrients our bodies need. So then, a lot of our energy and focus has to go into making up for that. We feel lazy, unmotivated, or yucky. But when we eat well and get all of the nutrients we need, our bodies can perform how they are supposed to and we can focus on more important things, like playing with puppies and doing arts and crafts with glitter glue, or you know, work and family stuff. Sure we all crave ice cream every once in a while, and it is okay if occasionally we give into the delicious pint of creamy goodness, but for the majority of the time we should be putting into our body the things that it needs to be at tip-top performance. 

granola bars
granola bar recipe

Why did I choose these ingredients?

  • Almonds contain potassium and iron which are both essential in maintaining energy levels. Nuts in general are a healthy energy boost because they have protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Quinoa is a funny word so thus should be consumed. It is also a "supergrain" which is super high in protein, has a lot of fiber, contains iron, lysine which is essential for tissue repair, and it is high in magnesium. It is also high in Riboflavin which is another funny word and is also really super duper important.
  • Flaxseed provides omega 3 and omega 6 which are fats necessary for tissue growth, cell renewal, and the proper metabolism of all body cells.
  • coconut oil and meat (flakes) are packed with nutrients and good fats that give our body increased energy.
  • Honey is, again, a natural energy boost. Not only that though but it helps our immune systems, can prevent cancer and heart disease because of flavonoids and antioxidants, it is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Plus it tastes yummy.

We are fantastic human beings, we can do amazing things, so we should really take care of ourselves. And if wanting to take care of myself by eating chia seeds in everything makes me a hippy, then give me a hemp necklace and call me Stardust. 
Have a happy and healthy week everyone :) and try eating some granola, your body will thank you.

xoxo Justice

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The Diamond in the Rough

 
lamp.jpg

"Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what outside, but what is inside that counts. This is no ordinary lamp. It once changed the course of a young man's life. A young man, who, like this lamp, was more than what he seemed. A diamond in the rough."–The Merchant guy, Aladdin

When taking a stroll through the streets of Vallejo, CA, the words of this short little man kept running through my mind over and over and over again. A few things about Vallejo: it's the biggest city in the county of Solano, it was the home of the Zodiac Killer, and on an average night you can hear at least 8 gun shots. Generally when you say that you're staying with your sister who lives in Vallejo, people's reactions are something like "don't get shot" or "why?". Despite the negative rap (there is an actual rap... by Mac Duna ft E40...you can look it up) there are some amazing things about the city. It's kind of like the thrift shop of cities, there are treasures hidden amongst the hole-y jeans. You just have to be willing to search and be open enough to see it for what it is. 

vallejo ca
vallejo ca
vallejo ca
vallejo
vallejo
beautiful door

I guess that's kind of like people. Like Aladdin. They may not seem like much, they may have some rougher edges, we just have to get to know them. Who knows? They may be the million dollar necklace at Goodwill or the rose amongst the thorns. Or the diamond in the rough that releases the Genie. I think we all need to be reminded of that sometimes

Have a fabulous week you beautiful peoples

xoxo Justice

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Sand, Sun, and Smiles

There are many benefits about growing up in Colorado. 1) mountains. 2) We naturally have more red blood cells than other Americans. 3) It's perfectly acceptable to wear shorts in the snow and no one questions your sanity. 4) We have good beer (so I've been told, I personally don't drink the liquid) and 5) Mountains. 
Something we don't have, though, are beaches. Kind of comes with being a landlocked state. No ocean, no beaches, no surfing, no sand (except the sand dunes), no ocean sunsets. Due to the location of my upbringing I was never really introduced to this weird thing called the Ocean, other than what I could gather from watching the Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. On Summer vacation sometimes we would visit my aunt who lives near the beach in Santa Cruz, but this vast expanse of water terrified and confused me. As with most things we don't fully understand, it scared the bejeezes out of me. I decided that because it scared me, I didn't like it. I never exactly went into the water nor spent a great amount of time enjoying the company of sand and seashells, so this decision was a bit unjustified. However, upon moving to California people started to question my sanity when I said I didn't like the water. Apparently that is a crime here. In an effort to face my fears, I have been attempting to come to terms with my fear of being swept out into the endless waters and actually enjoy time spent on the beach. And you know what? I actually like it now! I can confidently say that not only am I a mountain girl but also a beach babe.
Yesterday, to celebrate my cousin finishing her last final, we took a day trip to Stinson beach in the Bay Area just off of Highway 1. 

highway 1

As I was enjoying the sand and forgetting to reapply sunscreen (which I now thoroughly regret) I realized that I had overcome something. I overcame my fear of the beach by learning to understand it. This may sound kind of silly and simplistic, but just by taking time to understand it, it no longer seemed scary. And I actually went in the water. I went INTO the ocean. That has never happened in my life before. And I didn't die. If I was able to overcome this fear, can not I overcome other fears? If we take the time to understand things that have scared us in the past, maybe they will no longer scare us in the future–this does not apply to spiders. If you are scared of spiders I recommend just staying away from them. They don't need to be understood. But other things, like going on spontaneous adventures, going camping, traveling, flying, eating strange foods, etc. maybe those kind of fears just need to be faced head on and pushed aside. 
Now if only I could apply this to my fear of driving...

xoxo Justice

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Memorial Mainbocher

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope your day off brought many a hot dog, sunshine, American flags, and, hopefully, an observance of what this holiday signifies. Memorial day, originally Decoration day, began following the Civil War to commemorate the soldiers (both Union and Confederate) who died. I am sure you remember this all from American history class ;)

Today we take this federal holiday off from work every last Monday of May to remember all who have died serving our country. Of course, now many of us just use it as a day to sleep in and eat watermelon. But we should not let the deliciousness of picnics get in the way of remember how it is we have the freedom to have such picnics.

In memory of those who have fought and died to preserve this wonderful country, I offer a quick fashion history lesson.

So, in the first half of the twentieth century there was this really awesome designer named Mainbocher. We pronounce his name French-like (man-bo-shay) but he was actually American and his real name was Main Rousseau Bocher (pronounced Maine-Bocker). However, since most American designers weren’t accepted into the French couture world, he combined his name and made it sound French. So patriotic of him. Mainbocher designed incredibly expensive, beautifully elegant haute couture dresses for the elite of the elite. The “Roys Royce” of fashion designers, only the richest could afford his designs. He had a very select clientele and in order to be added to that list, you had to have references from someone else already on it, such as Princess Karam of Kapurthala or Diana Vreeland. One of his most significant customers was Wallis Simpson. He designed much of her wardrobe, named a color after her “Wallis Blue” (it’s rather an ugly shade of grey blue), and designed her wedding dress and trousseau. This iconic dress is considered the most recreated dress in history.

Main Bocher Wallis Simpson

He was a big fan of the corset and after the undefined silhouette of the thirties, redefined the fashion for the forties with a nipped-in waist. A pre-curser to Dior’s “New Look”.

Mainbocher corset

During the second world war, Mainbocher did something quite unexpected. He designed the uniforms for the WAVES. WAVES was a division of the U. S. navy that consisted entirely of women (yay!). It stood for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service”, pointing out that the creation of such a division was due to the emergency circumstances of WWII. For more information on the WAVES, click here.

So imagine this, America declares war on Japan on 8 December 1941. 30 July 1942, WAVES is created and needs women to enlist. They have the TOP AMERICAN COUTURE designer designing their uniforms. Everyone who enlists get two (possible more) Mainbocher made garments. That would kind of be like joining the military today and getting two Chanel suits for free.

An advertisement from LIFE during WWII for the WAVES uniform, the man on the left is Mainbocher

An advertisement from LIFE during WWII for the WAVES uniform, the man on the left is Mainbocher

mainbocher uniform

Say what you will, but that is some excellent PR work if you ask me.

Have an excellent evening everyone! God bless our troops and God bless America!!!

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Grateful Grapefruit

I am immensely aware that there are a great number of things for which I should be grateful. I am incredibly blessed; I have a loving family, good education, clothes on my back, and a refrigerator full of deliciousness. Maybe it’s because I just drank a green juice or maybe because I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars, but I am especially grateful for my health today. This past weekend I lay in bed for three days straight and slept for about a million hours. This is not because I thought I should catch up on some much-needed sleep after a tough semester, but because I was quite sick and my lungs had decided to, to quote Hazel Lancaster, “suck at being lungs”. As I am a restless person who doesn’t really believe in being still for longer than a few seconds and I always want to be doing something useful, I absolutely HATE being sick. I get this mind crippling fear thinking about being useless. If anyone ever wanted to destroy me, all they would have to do is force me to sit still and do nothing. It would be terrible. That is why I try to lead as healthy a lifestyle as I possibly can. By being healthy I can be useful and helpful. In the past people said “Carpe Diem”, today they say “YOLO”, but it is hard to do either while sitting in front of the television and doing nothing. And if you are sick, or even just lazy or bored (both of which I consider sickness of the brain), you cannot seize the day.

The first step to a healthy lifestyle is gratitude. Being grateful for the life you have and all of the blessings that have been poured down on you. Instead of wishing for something else, a better life, car, wardrobe, body, etc. you can focus on the one you have. Being ungrateful leads to unhappiness, unhappiness = sadness, sadness = unhealthy soul, unhealthy soul = unhealthy body, and you will never be able to do anything to improve your life with an unhealthy body! Gratitude = happiness, happiness = healthy soul, healthy soul = healthy body

Next step is sleep. As much as I hate admitting this, sleep is important. Sure, I would love it if we didn’t need to sleep, there would be so many more hours to do activities! But that is not the case. Around eight hours of sleep (although I generally get more like 6…) is necessary to stay healthy. It will help you prevent sickness as well as keep your mind clear for the day. Everything is brighter in the morning, and not only because the sun is up. Sleep means letting go of the day and a new one awaits, a new one full of new adventures.

Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?
— L. M. Montgomery

Vitamin D (and all the other letters in the alphabet). Vitamins are vital. You can read a lot of medically things about how vitamins are vital for your health, but I am not a doctor and quite frankly all their grandiose words make me sick. So I will just go off of experience, taking my gummy vitamins is not only delicious but also has kept me away from sickness for the entire year (that is, until the very last weekend…). Vitamin C is good for immunity, so definitely take that to stay healthy. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12, etc. are also good. As for my FAVORITE, vitamin, D, that one is easy to get.* We get it in sunshine! Sunshine is magnificent. You should try to get at least half and hour of sunshine a day. The sun never stops shining, and by absorbing some of its rays, we absorb its glowing joy and happiness. As I have said above, happiness leads to healthiness That is a scientific fact ;)

http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/the-truth-about-vitamin-d-why-you-need-vitamin-d

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise! We all know that exercise is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. So I will just leave it to Elle Woods to hit it home:

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't.”

Garbage in, Garbage out. This applies to, first and foremost, what you eat. If you eat crap, you will feel like crap. Don’t believe me? Try eating a pint of ice cream and whole order of fries and tell me how you feel the next day. I guarantee you won’t feel like doing anything helpful or useful and will be a grumpy pants. Nobody like a grumpy pants. Eating well is a sure fire way to make you feel good about yourself and stay healthy. I suggest cutting all processed foods, sugar not from fruits and veggies, and wheat. Try that for a week and you will feel great; your energy will be up, your skin will glow, your tummy with be happy, your pants a little looser, and your happiness levels soaring. This also applies to what you read, watch, and listen to. If something you are watching or reading is making your grumpy, uncomfortable, or angry, it is not beneficial. It is not helping your happiness or health.

Finally, smile. Staying positive in all things is key is staying healthy. Even on days when the case of the grumpy pants is unavoidable, try smiling. Surround yourself with encouragement. Your day will go the way the corners of you mouth turn.


All of this simply goes to say that happiness and healthiness go hand in hand, like a symbiotic relationship they depend upon each other for survival.

Once we are healthy and happy we can focus on being a helpful, useful, and living to our full potential. I can bet you, that while working on health and happiness, the others will just fall into place. It’s YOLO in its most complete meaning.

It is a beautiful day, why not enjoy it? 

Life is Good

XOXO

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American Pie

pie.jpg

As Summer rapidly approaches it is time to heat up the grills and break out the picnic baskets. It is time for hot dogs and watermelon, lemonade and sunscreen. School is almost out and I can hardly wait. What am I excited for most? Laying in the sun for hours and reading a good book, the smell of banana boat sun screen, the stickiness of residual watermelon on hands, flip flop tans on callused feet, and the taste of a homemade berry pie. I have been making pies for quite a long time, they are a family favorite. My sister claims the prize for the best apple pie, I cannot deny that. But as far as berry pies go, mine has been reported to create the sensation of explosions of love on your tastebuds. I'm not lying. Don't believe me? You'll just have to try it

berry pie

And the secret ingredient is that you have to listen to and sing along with (at the top of your lungs) the all time classic American Pie by Don McLean

XOXO
Justice

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BFF

When it hasn't been your day, your week, or even your year, who will be there for you? If you're out in the road, feeling lonely and so cold, whose name will you call? Friends, best friends. Those people who will be there for you no matter what, through thick and thin. The race of people Anne Shirley calls "Bosom Friends"

A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.
— Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Yesterday I left San Francisco after nine months of artsy scholarly study. I left behind an empty dorm room, piles of papers in the trash, and a boat load of memories. As well as some of the best friends I have ever had. As I walked down Sutter St, in my baseball cap and dragging a suitcase with a wonky wheel, looking the epitome of a tourist, I thought about all of the amazing friends that I have had. Even though I am no longer in contact with some of them, I remember them all. From the boy I shared toys with when I was an infant to my study buddies in high school. They have all shaped me to become who I am today, they stay with my "like a handprint on my heart" (musical lyrics are always relevant). It may have been the emotions caused by staying up for three days straight or the unnatural San Francisco heat, but I got quite sentimental on that long walk. San Francisco is chock full of, what we call, "techies". The creators of the beloved Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, etc. All of those apps and websites that have come to replace real, live friends. Walking down the street, sitting in a coffee shop, or studying in the library, I see more people looking at their phones rather than at the people surrounding them. It's like in the world of iClouds we all live on our own little clouds. All of the apps and technology we have to bring us closer to others, has only isolated us more. We count "likes" as more important than hugs. You may have over 1000 followers, but how many of them have you actually spent quality time with? Now, don't get me wrong, I love social media. I mean come on, I'm writing a blog. But a part of me longs for the time before all of these shiny tech things and instant friendship found in a pocket. I long for a time when people wrote letters, stopped by for tea in the afternoon, and sat down and talked for hours at a time. No distractions, just pure quality time. 

Why are friends important? Why are real, flesh and blood people with raw emotions and sass important? I am sure there are quite a few psychological studies about this. I am not a psychologist. I am just a person who has been blessed enough to have had a best friend. 

Why Best Friends Matter

  • Friends are fun! They spend time with you and make you realize that you are never alone (even when you want to be...) They are the ones who can make you smile even in sorrow and laugh until you pee your pants a little bit in any situation.
  • Instant comfort zone. True friends never judge you. Well they do judge, but not in the way strangers do. They may judge you, but constructively.  They always listen to you, even if your thoughts or opinions are ridiculous or wrong. They can calm you down and relax you in any situation. They're like the sweatpants of life.
  • They are honest. How many people can you trust to give an honest opinion without any prejudice or bias? Not many. But best friends always will be, even if you don't want to hear it.
  • They're like a human diary. You can tell them all of your secrets; personal problems, family problems, relationship problems, dietary issues, worries, fears, embarrassing antidotes, etc. anything and you never need worry about them spilling the beans. 
  • They hold you up. They support you unconditionally, even when it seems like the whole world is against you. 
  • They help you grow. Whether they are aware of it or not, they teach you lessons about life and yourself. They can always offer you a fresh perspective. More so though, they love you unconditionally and many times know more about yourself than you do. And by helping you to grow, you are helping them as well.

The bond of the best friend is more than just a label, it is a promise. A promise to always be there, through thick in thin. When it hasn't been your day, your week, or your year they are always there for you. 

friendship

I believe that this sacred promise is in peril of being lost. I am afraid that people are letting go of hands to pick up phones. This terrifies me. So let's make another promise, to keep the promise of friendship. Whether your best friend is next to you, a state away, across the country, or across the world, let them know how much you appreciate and love them. Call them up, text them, walk over to their house, tweet about it, facebook message it, carrier pigeon...what ever floats your boat

xoxo
Justice

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