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DIY BUILT IN GALLERY WALL

Our apartment building was built in 1905 and it was that old world charm that immediately drew us to it and made it feel like home. But there are some interesting quirks and design challenges that come along with that – not to mention the restrictions of being a renter. This nook (once likely a door that was sealed off somewhere throughout history) had just the top two narrow shelves installed when we moved in. And neither one was evenly spaced. To make it look more purposeful we decided to build out the rest of the wall, adding two more shelves that look like a match and filling it with frames of various sizes. It took me months and months more to actually decide on the photos for said frames – and if I’m being honest I’m still not sure that I am 100% firm in my decisions – but I love that it feels finished and I can easily swap photos if I’d like.

Each of the photos holds a special meaning for us and since it’s on the wall that sits between our living room and kitchen we look at it daily and wanted it to feel sentimental as opposed to filled with something like abstract art.

Above (from L to R): a photo of my late beloved Nan looking like the perfect 1940s pin-up, a photo of a sign we saw on a trip to Portland, Maine (I loved the typeface and the motto), polaroids from Palm Springs, Montauk and Manhattan, a happy bunch of chamomile (a favorite tea and flower!), a street in London next to a photo from a sunrise at the lake house (two of our favorite places), my niece and nephew, a postcard from one of our favorite restaurants in Charleston and finally – a photo we took in Copenhagen.

Below: two photos from our recent trip to Paris plus a classic car spotted in the East Village.

Below: One of my favorite pairings – this classic car next to a swan swimming through Hyde Park in London. Masculine vs. feminine. Man-made vs. nature. Two things of beauty in two completely different ways. Both were iPhone snaps – a testament to the fact that anything can be elevated to art in the right context.

Below: My Dad (the youngest on the left) with his two brothers in the 1960s and a photo from a picture perfect Fall day we spent in Amsterdam.

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CHIC SUMMER STYLE ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately. How we define ourselves and how important or unimportant that really is. On a podcast I listen to (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) they recently mentioned how often we “identify” as something but actually aren’t putting in any real work there. For instance, if you call yourself an artist but haven’t actually set aside time to pick up a brush in years. You’ve got to check in every so often and make sure you’re prioritizing the identities that are most important to you.

I identify as a vintage lover, a classic style-type and a sentimentalist – it’s what makes me love holding on to clothes for years. It’s why I don’t find the idea of Rent the Runway’s unlimited program (where you basically borrow clothes to wear and return for a flat monthly fee) very enticing. There’s just no story there. You wear it once and it’s over. And for awhile I felt a bit of pressure that I needed to be wearing/sharing something on the blog that was always buyable. Something new and noteworthy. But nothing in these photos is still available to shop, and I love each of the items anyway. And I want to share them anyway. That’s what feels true to my identity.

To note, if ‘trendsetter’ is an important part of your identity then maybe you’d feel the opposite when it comes to a shopping strategy. And that’s cool too. Just recognize what feels true to you and follow that lead.

It’s why I also re-prioritized reading in my life, travel over more clothes purchases and spending time with Adam, friends and family whenever possible over quite so much work. At the end of the day, I want to be an avid reader, world-traveler, good partner, friend, sister, daughter and Aunt more than a success at Instagram. And it feels nice to remind myself of that from time to time.

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MY 10 YEAR NEW YORK CITY ANNIVERSARY

Today marks 10 years since I arrived in New York City. A decade of me and Manhattan (minus a brief fling I had with Los Angeles of course.. but doesn’t every New Yorker have that one winter that makes them consider rash things like leaving?).

I’ve been lucky enough to fall in love at first sight twice in my life. And the first time was at 17, the moment I stepped out of Penn Station into the glaring lights of Seventh Avenue. I grew up in Pennsylvania which is only a few hours away, but until my late teenage years all I knew of New York was the romanticized ideas I’d inhaled from classics like Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby, my favorite shows (Sex & the City, Friends, Will & Grace and Seinfeld) and the glossy pages of Vogue. One look though and I was as good as gone. The same could be said for the second time I fell in love at first sight. But today’s not about him.

I arrived so absolutely bewitched by this city it seemed like the feeling would be impossible to sustain. But then, like true love, it has against all odds gotten better with time. Of course, like any true love we’ve also had some tough times. There were the early (and if we’re being honest, middle) years when I was barely making it. Years marked by cheap pizza and expensive rent for the shoebox sized apartment where I was eating it. The year marked by a painfully broken heart and the subsequent years marked by bad dates and my stubborn inability to turn down a tequila shot. All the times I’ve watched friends hit their breaking point with the city (you can see it coming if you know the signs) and move away. To Nashville.. or New Jersey. Anywhere that doesn’t seem quite as crushing as this place.

But then – I’ve always like the hard way. In fact, when I think of who I was when I arrived and the woman that I am now – I actually credit New York with softening me. With teaching me that it’s okay to cry. Publicly in fact. It’s okay to falter or flat out fail. This city is built on both sweeping success and fantastic failures all mixed up in one. Life goes on. You find your way back to your apartment, sleep it off and try again the next day. Like any good New Yorker would do.

And in spite of the trials, New York has offered the life that I spent my teenage years dreaming of. It’s confirmed the notion that hard work is rewarded. It’s insisted that being exactly who I am will be good enough to get me the things I want in life. It’s given me the kind of blissfully good days and adventure-filled nights that I thought could only ever possibly happen in the movies. It’s such a part of me that I can’t imagine my life anywhere else. It turns out, real love can last forever.

Here’s to the another 10, New York. I can’t wait to see where our story takes me next.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER NINE

After a bout of slow reading this spring, I really hit my stride again as we kicked off summer. And I’ve got no plans to slow down. Doesn’t it feel like there are just a million great book out right now? Below, the books I just finished (from here on out I’m going to be using a 5 star rating system so it’s a little easier to explain how much I liked or disliked each one!) and the big stack that’s waiting on my shelf next. Plus – see all of my past book club posts here.

SHOP THIS MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: Based on a true story, this book was set during WWII and followed the life of a New York socialite, a Polish woman and her sister who were sent to a concentration camp and a female Nazi doctor who worked at the camp. This wasn’t what I was expecting (without knowing the full story I thought it would be a little bit fluffier), but it ended up being unexpected and much more in depth. I like it but not sure if I loved it. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

French Exit by Patrick DeWitt: Short and sweet I read this romp of fiction in a single day at the beach – following an eccentric mother and her even more eccentric son as they flee New York and head to Paris. It was dark and witty and weird. Probably not everyone’s taste but I loved it. (4 out of 5 stars)

Maid by Stephanie Land: A memoir of a young single mother, sharing her descent into poverty and the ways in which the, often broken, system in our country keeps many there. It was a realistic re-telling of what life looks like when you clean houses for money that still barely covers the bills and work hard for a young child that you never have time to see thanks to the very same work. If you’ve ever for a second questioned how someone could end up on food stamps.. you need to read this book. I didn’t love it as much as other memoirs (Educated is hard to top for me), but I really liked it. (3 out of 5 stars)

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: This book topped the stack for me. An unexpected telling of the intersection of two families across two generations. I loved her writing style, the characters, everything. (5 out of 5 stars)

Next month I’ve got ambitious goals. Black Swans by Eve Babitz (think Valley of the Dolls but non-fiction), Normal People by Sally Rooney and Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (both at the top of the best-sellers lists this summer and I couldn’t resist), Joan Didion’s Blue Nights (reflections on her daughter’s death – her book about her husband’s death ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is one of the best things I’ve ever read) and Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (a story of reaching an age where you’re the parent and your parents become the children). Happy reading!

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HALFWAY THROUGH THE YEAR: CHECKING IN ON 2019 GOALS

It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that we’re now halfway through 2019. But ready or not, we’re here. And so I figured it was as good a time as any to check back in on my 2019 goals. How was I holding up? Did I need to re-focus? I’m happy to report I’m probably doing better than I’m giving myself credit for – but at the same time I think I’ve got areas where I can continue to push myself in meaningful ways and end up with a year that I’m really proud of. Below, my check in.

WORK: In my full time job, things have been a bit of a whirlwind so far this year so I haven’t made any progress on that dream project I hinted at back in January. However, I have made some fun plans for a little side gig that I’m working on launching by the Fall. For the rest of this year I want to try and really focus on the things that I’m passionate about and dreaming big about the future of my career.

HEALTH: I think I’ve actually made the most progress in this category – that’s not as easily shareable on the blog. In the past couple of months I’ve been continuing to challenge myself in my fitness routine and feel stronger each week. Mentally, I’ve made some really good progress on finding what triggers anxious feelings for me and what helps to ease them. Likewise, I think I did a bit better than in years past with getting through the winter without falling into too deep of my usual winter blues. And lastly, I’m most proud of the things I’ve done to measurably improve my financial health. I started the year far from where I wanted to be, but after making a clear budget per week/month and projecting 1 year, 2 year, 5 year and 10 year goals and benchmarks for myself I have made huge strides towards controlling spending habits and setting myself up for the future. For the rest of the year I want to amp up my fitness and my savings whenever possible!

EXPLORATION: I think I’m doing pretty well here too! That trip to Paris that I was manifesting is in the books and I’ve been pushing myself to get out and explore New York City as much as possible. From going to a monthly writer’s workshop to a weeknight trip to the ballet or a comedy club, I’ve been putting myself out there more. I hope to plan another couple of getaways for the rest of this year and continue to explore my favorite city!

HOME: Admittedly, I’ve still got work to do here. Just this past weekend I told Adam that I need to stop letting “perfect be the enemy of good” and just finally wrap up a couple of the rooms in our apartment that I’m hung up on. Then we can get on to actually enjoying them and entertaining! Last but definitely not least I included my relationship with Adam in this category (he’s home after all) – and because like any good relationship it’s always a work in progress and deserves just as much attention as my focus on career and health. This year we’ve been striving to be better communicators and I hope that continues to improve as the rest of the year plays out.

How are you all doing on your 2019 goals??

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.