Life

LET’S CATCH UP 8.4.19

As we sit at the beginning of August, still in the thick of hot summer days but with the realization that they’re passing all too quickly, I figured it was a good time to hit pause and catch up. Below, a few things on my mind before we head into what will no doubt be another whirlwind week.

  1. This past week (amidst a difficult work week) I started making lists on my phones of random things that made me happy each day. It really shifts your perspective. This week here are a few things that landed on my list: Saw two old men who seemed like old friends unexpectedly run into one another in the park, saw a very little girl hug a very big fluffy dog, a big bunch of limelight hydrangeas bloomed along my walk to work, Adam made me laugh until I was in tears, I tried a new workout… the list goes on. This post mirrors my sentiment.
  2. Adam and I set a goal to be “finished” with decorating the apartment by October. Not that it still won’t evolve as we live here but we have a few things that we want to push ourselves to wrap up so we can finally start entertaining this fall. This rug is at the top of our wishlist for the living room and we’re thinking of popping up to Brimfield in September to find a few more vintage finishing touches.
  3. Speaking of homes – this house tour is like a Wes Anderson movie come to life. That incredible kids room is exactly what I’d do if the lake house were mine alone to decorate (it’s doubtful that Adam’s family would agree to this – ha!). Life is too short to not have fun with decorating.
  4. We’re almost done season 2 of Big Little Lies (HBO) and Ozark (on Netflix) – both are so suspenseful! What should we watch next? I could go for some comic relief.
  5. August always signals “back to school” shopping for me and as a kid that meant a new pair of jeans. My friends at Talbots just sent over this pair of girlfriend jeans and they’re the perfect relaxed fit in a timeless dark wash. I’ll be wearing them everywhere come September.
  6. Our tiny local park (we call it our backyard) plays free outdoor movies in the summer and this week we’re going to see Wall-E. The animated pixar movie first came out in 2008 and was set in the “future” and shows all of these humans who only communicate through tiny screens fixed in front of their faces, even to speak to someone right next to them, and have had to leave their planet because it’s overrun with trash. I think it will be incredibly poignant to watch it now that we’re firmly in said “future”.
  7. Speaking of things that should be cautionary, fictional tales, but are frighteningly our reality – the gun problem in this country has reached an absolute fever pitch and I don’t know how we’re still not agreeing on this. It’s not a partisan issue when people are afraid to go to the movies, send their kids to school or do their weekly shopping for fear of being gunned down in a mass shooting. Here’s a great site with 30 ways to take action.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER TEN

I’ve been reading so many books this summer that I nearly forgot to go back and write the reviews on this batch! I have long days at the lake house/in the park to thank for that (plus stress at work that leads me to want to escape into a good book to blame for it). Last time I checked in, I committed to 5 books and I breezed right through them all and for the most part really love each one! Below my reviews + what I’ve already moved on to next on my shelf. And you can find all of my book club posts here.

SHOP THIS MONTH”S BOOK CLUB:

Black Swans by Eve Babitz: What an unexpected treat. This collection of short storeis reads a bit like Joan Didion meets Carrie Bradshaw if she were a 1960s Hollywood groupie. There were times I would write her off completely as a vapid valley girl and in the next sentence she would write something so beautiful I’d be searching for my notebook to copy it down. The stories are about the city of Los Angeles and her wild times… and sober days… living there. I loved this and it set me up nicely to get into the 1970’s LA rock ‘n roll scene that led right into reading Daisy Jones. (4 out of 5 stars)

Normal People by Sally Rooney: I expected to love this based on the rave reviews I was seeing everywhere – and I did like it… but I haven’t found myself highly recommending it to anyone. The novel follows a long up and down relationship between a young girl and guy as they struggle to define themselves both separately and together. While the portrayals of the main characters were honest and in depth, there was something slightly forgettable about the entire storyline – just teetering on the edge of being fully engrossing to me. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid: This book on the other hand was exactly as fun as I hoped that it would be – I honestly may read it again this summer (it only took me a day and a half I was so into it!). Written in a really interesting documentary style of interviews, the novel follows a band that rose to quick fame in the 70s and then broke up. Very ‘Almost Famous’ – a movie I love deeply, so consider that a major compliment. (5 out of 5 stars)

Blue Nights by Joan Didion: Ohhh Joan. Her book ‘The Year of Magical Thinking‘ about her husband’s death and daughter’s illness is in my top 10 favorite books of all time. ‘Blue Nights’ didn’t knock that out of place, but I really loved it too. This one is about her daughter’s death and once again Joan’s incredible ability to cut through the heart of one of life’s most trying experiences and really examine her own closest relationships is so moving. (5 out of 5 stars)

Goodbye, Vitamin: Funny and heartfelt this was a quick read that I ended up loving after picking up on a whim at the library. This novel follows the story of a woman in her early 30s who moves back home for a year when her father is diagnosed with dementia. Sometimes when things get the hardest in a family, it’s exactly when you need to find the humor most – and this book does that to great effect. (4.5 out of 5 stars)

SHOP NEXT MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:

I’m going to be closing out the summer reading as much as I can. My stack this month includes Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (all buzzy, relatively new fiction), Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (non-fiction following the true love lives of three American women – in vastly different scenarios – I’ve heard SO many rave reviews of this) and Leading Men by Christopher Castellani (which just seems like a fun, summer read). Happy reading!

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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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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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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.