Category Archives: Real Life

Warm Weather Wardrobe Refresh


When I was packing for my Florida trip, I realized that I’ve been wearing a lot of the same summer clothes for years. It seemed like the right time to freshen up the warm weather wardrobe. I found several tops at my beloved Ann Taylor Loft, as well as the dress pictured below. Everything is wonderfully soft and comfortable. I also had a hankering for some proper sandals, and this Steve Madden pair from DSW was exactly what I had in mind.


For more casual wear, I picked up a few tank tops at Old Navy, including the one below. I’m a total tank top loyalist in the summer. The photography in this post is by my lovely and talented cousin Bailey Jordan. Check out her Instagram for more photos and her website for other design work. Bailey, thank you for making me feel pretty while also capturing me for the awkward turtle that I am.


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That Time I Met Prince

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“Met” is perhaps a generous word for my brief interaction with him. It happened several years ago during my time as a bookseller. I was assigned to the cash registers for the hour and was probably more than a little bored. Few things are more painful than being trapped in a small, narrow space when a sunny day is happening just outside the window. I paced over to one of my coworkers who was stationed near the door. Jason had a strange look on his face, and he started typing me a message on one of the e-readers.

I was confused by what he was doing and generally foiled his attempt to be discreet. Finally I read the message he had typed: I think Prince is in the magazines. Just as I understood what was happened, the man himself emerged from the magazine section. He was on his way to the registers, which meant he was walking right towards us. I’m sure we looked guilty and had clearly just been talking about him, but he pretended not to notice.

Let me just paint you a picture. He was wearing a Prince version of a casual outfit: head-to-toe cream, stretchy flared pants, and a hooded sweater with an interesting neckline. His hair was straight, and he had some nice stubble going. No afro or round, colored glasses like he often had for public appearances around this time. Across the wide counter, he appeared to be about my height, which is apparently accurate. He was a small and quite beautiful man.

I scurried back to my register like the embarrassed bunny that I was. There was a woman with him who did most of the talking as they paid for a stack of music magazines. In fact, Prince said a total of three words to me. When I asked if they wanted a bag, he answered in his soft voice, “Yes.” And then the most wonderful moment of all happened. As they turned to leave, he tossed the bag over his shoulder and said “Thank you” as he sashayed out of the store. It was a stylish exit, as you would expect from a seriously unique, seriously stylish man.

I won’t pretend that I’m the biggest Prince fan in the world, but I do love his music. I have fond memories of dancing to “Kiss” with friends at a wedding and listening to a friend’s band play a gorgeous cover of “I Would Die 4 U.” I always feel happy when I hear “Let’s Go Crazy.” And I’m glad that I have my own personal story about him, however silly it may be.

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NerdCon: Stories, Day Two

When I got to the convention center on Saturday, Friday felt like it had been a practice round. Now I knew where the bus stops were and the layout of the venue. I knew that a water bottle was unnecessary and to sit near the aisle unless you enjoy feeling trapped. I also brought a better tote bag. (Well, my free NerdCon tote broke while I was waiting for the bus on Friday, but I probably would have brought a different one anyway.) And perhaps most importantly, I caffeinated early.

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The mainstage shows on Saturday were on point. John Green opened the morning show with his own explanation for why stories matter, and it was probably my favorite talk of the entire event. He spoke about stories as the only way to be someone other than ourselves and how escapism can be valuable. I’ve actually given some thought to why I think reading is important, and my answer is that it teaches empathy. Apparently John Green and I are on the same page, which pleases me to no end. There was also a rapid-fire Q&A with some of the guests and a poetry reading. How many events are there where a poetry reading gets massive crowd support? And hello, Dessa Darling was one of the performers. (Dessa is a member of Doomtree, a popular Minneapolis hip hop group, and a solo artist. She’s rad.)

My first panel of the day was No Pressure: How to Keep Creating Once You’ve Technically Succeeded. Not a problem for me currently, but an interesting topic featuring some of the most interesting guests at the convention. We’re talking Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Dessa, and moderator Patrick Rothfuss. Hearing about creative struggles and insecurities feels more personal than most topics discussed in a convention setting. It didn’t hurt that every member of the panel has an excellent sense of humor. Seems odd to say that the panel least applicable to me was also the best, but that’s what I’m sayin’!

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My next panel was going to be Is This A Kissing Book?: Writing Sex, but instead I felt the might of the Patrick Rothfuss fandom. When I left the main auditorium, there was already a loooooong line outside the smaller auditorium where the aforementioned panel was taking place. Were many of them waiting to see their bearded overlord and not interested in kissing at all? It seems probable. After a few hopeless minutes in line, I decided to scrap it and take the hour to eat lunch and head to the Rainbow Rowell signing. And oh my goodness, am I lucky that I got there early.

Hank Green and Rainbow Rowell had the same consecutive time slots for signings. The first session was full long before I got there, and despite the fact that we weren’t supposed to line up until one hour beforehand, people were already loitering for the next session. It was definitely the most “yuck, there are people everywhere” moment of the convention for me. I was getting anxious on behalf of the volunteers being stared down by a crowd of impatient fans. However, I met some nice female comrades while waiting in line, plus running into a former coworker from the bookseller days.

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This signing needed to move along faster than the one I attended two years ago. We were near the end of the line, and it was almost time for the afternoon mainstage show. Once again I was thankful for my pre-written note to give her. We did still manage to have a brief but ridiculous exchange. When I approached the table, she said, “Are you Courtney?” My expression was utterly shocked because I was thinking, There’s no way she remembers me from two years ago, right? This woman meets thousands of fans, after all. Then I remembered that I was wearing a nametag. Well, we had a nice chuckle about that, and I scored some awesome Simon Snow pins.

I was originally planning to hit up one more book signing—Maureen Johnson, after the mainstage show—but after the battle to get to Rainbow, I was rather wiped out. I decided to just enjoy the show, and if there was room at the Maureen signing afterwards, so be it. (There wasn’t.) The highlight for me was a mock debate between two teams of guests on such vital topics as: would you rather fight a hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? Few things are more entertaining than watching people get worked up over ridiculous arguments. The afternoon ended with a couple thousand people singing along to a Paul & Storm song about Game of Thrones.

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I left the convention feeling inspired about my own creative work and grateful that so many other people appreciate good stories and storytellers.

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NerdCon: Stories, Day One

Bright and early on Friday morning, my fellow nerds and I flocked to the Minneapolis Convention Center to hear from some of our favorite storytellers. Although the crowd skewed toward teens and young adults, there were people of all ages in attendance. I saw more cat eye glasses and brightly dyed hair than you would find in a random sampling, as well as an abundance of nerdy T-shirts.

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Each day opened with a mainstage show, followed by several time slots for discussion panels and book signings, then another mainstage show in the afternoon. Hank Green kicked off the Friday morning mainstage by explaining why he organized the convention and why he thinks stories matter. There were separate (but hilarious) history lessons from the musical comedy duo Paul & Storm and games played with some of the guests. Book people are generally a decent sort, but it was nice to start off on a positive note with the whole group.

Next on my agenda was the Stephanie Perkins signing. Remember how I love her? For signings they set up a room with four sections of chairs. In theory, after a guest’s section was full, the signing was closed. This was my first exposure to the popularity of fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss. He was signing at the same time as Stephanie, and there were a bunch of people who couldn’t even get in. We were a more subdued group on the Stephanie Perkins side of the aisle. That made it possible for her to take photos and chat a bit with each person.

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My biggest mistake was probably not caffeinating beforehand. I found myself a little surprised and awkward when I actually met her. Thankfully I had written a card to give her so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to be brilliant on the spot. She’s a very sweet person, not to mention adorable. I had her sign my copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After because it’s the only one that I have in hardcover. Her inscription is a reference from the book. I was a little frustrated with the dim lighting in the signing room, but they rectified the situation the next day.

In the afternoon I went to two panels. The first was the Nerdfighter Q&A with Hank and John Green, which was mostly silly but also touching at times. Maureen Johnson moderated with her dry sense of humor, pretending to get angry if the men would go off on tangents. There were running jokes about An American Tail and the fact that John owed Maureen a dollar. In one of the serious moments, John got choked up talking about how much he appreciates the support from the community that’s built up around the Vlogbrothers videos.

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My second panel was the “So How Do You Make Your Money?” panel. This topic may have been a little broad for a one-hour discussion, or else it just wasn’t what I was expecting. At least I got to see Hank Green and Stephanie Perkins at close range. Stephanie talked about how she felt pressured to write serious fiction when she was studying creative writing in college, even though her true passion was for children’s literature. I definitely felt that pressure as well, although a lot of it was self-inflicted, so I was hardcore relating to her story.

When I was planning my NerdCon adventure, I intended to go to an event during every time slot and probably stay for the evening performances. The problem with this plan is that it ignores basic needs like eating and rest. Being an introvert, I get exhausted by crowds after an extended period of time. After the afternoon mainstage show, I decided to head home. I went to everything that really mattered to me, and I needed to rest up for the bananas day that was Saturday.

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I’m Going to NerdCon!

I’ve always wanted to go to a convention. Since I don’t have unlimited funds for traveling to southern California for VidCon or ComicCon, I didn’t know if I ever would. Then Hank Green, brother of John and founder of VidCon, decided to try out some smaller conventions with more specific themes. And where would the first one take place? In my very own Minneapolis! Even without travel and hotel expenses, I quibbled about the ticket price. That is, until I got a nice reward from work that was the exact amount of a ticket.

NerdCon: Stories is basically the perfect convention for me to attend. The guests are storytellers, many of them authors, but other media is also represented. If I were to list my top five young adult authors, all but one of them will be at NerdCon. I’m talking about Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Stephanie Perkins, and Maureen Johnson. The only person missing is my girl Sarah Dessen, but it feels like an embarrassment of riches already. The convention is two days of discussion panels, signings, and mainstage shows. When I looked over the schedule, it was surprisingly easy to decide what I want to do during each time slot. There’s also a vendor room that I’m excited to peruse. Hopefully I go home with some books and nerdy merchandise.

I haven’t been this excited about an event in quite some time. My only concern is that my introverted side will come to the forefront and be bothered by the crowds. However, I’m determined to fully enjoy this experience. This crowd is nothing compared to VidCon, for instance, and the tickets haven’t even sold out yet. I plan to come prepared with headphones and reading material for times when I need to wait in line. In a lovely turn of events, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On comes out the week of the convention, so I may be reading that unless I devour it in three days. Either way, if all goes according to plan, the book will be christened with the author’s signature.

I’m planning to take photos and blog about the convention obviously. I just wanted to provide an introduction and share my excitement. NerdCon is a week from Friday!


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Blue & Burgundy Clothing Haul

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When I found myself wanting to spruce up my wardrobe, I was tempted to give Stitch Fix another chance. But first I decided to try finding clothes the old-fashioned way. That is, going to an actual store. My friend Jenny took me to an outlet mall, and we went a little crazy at Ann Taylor Loft. I went home with five new clothing items that I love (a better success rate than any Stitch Fix of mine), which seemed worthy of sharing. The new items are: the polka dot top, burgundy skinny jeans (!), burgundy lace tank top, leafy-printed sweater, and floral pencil skirt. The Loft was into this blue and burgundy color palette, and so was I.

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As always, Katie was my intrepid fashion photographer. Since we no longer live together in a house with a backyard, we had to venture out into the world. I did location scouting and everything! Shortly before sunset around Lake of the Isles turned out to be a great backdrop, even though I felt a little silly at times.


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Apartment Projects: The Gallery Wall

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My greatest wish for my new apartment was to have a gallery wall. I was seeing them all over Pinterest and other blogs, and it seemed like an ideal way to personalize my new home. Plus I had several 5×7 photographs that I had printed and framed but never displayed in my old apartment. A couple of weeks after moving, I felt ready to tackle the gallery wall project.

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I created my gallery wall using a method from A Beautiful Mess (found here), which involves making paper cutouts in the shape of all the art pieces. Then you can arrange the cutouts on the wall with tape and find the best configuration before making any holes. This method was a lifesaver because I ended up moving the gallery to a completely different wall. I was planning to hang it above my bed, but the cutouts revealed that my pieces weren’t big enough to properly fill that space. Instead I tried out the wall above my kitchen table, and it worked wonderfully! Once you have the final arrangement, you can mark on the cutouts where to position the nails. The paper rips right off after the nails are in place.

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They don’t mention this in the article, but my first step was actually arranging the pieces on the floor. I was inspired by another post on A Beautiful Mess (found here), which deals with a gallery wall that’s closer to the size of mine. I liked how Emma used one piece as an axis with the others lined up along its edges. You could also think of it as a spiral. This seemed like the best way to be artfully asymmetrical, and I’m very satisfied with the results!

Please excuse the messy table.

Please excuse the messy table.

The largest print is by Simini Blocker, whose Rainbow Rowell fan art is very popular on Tumblr. You may recognize the 5×7 photos from when I first moved into uptown (seen here and here). I have five of them in frames, but four was a better number for this arrangement. The square print is by my friend Jenny, and I also included a 4×6 photo with my college roommates. I love that the gallery has different shapes and textures but still feels cohesive. Thanks, black frames!

Simple touches like this go a long way toward making a rental feel like home.


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