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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER TWO

The Steele Maiden Book Club: What I'm Reading

Earlier this year I kicked The Steele Maiden  (see the first installment here) and I’m finally back with another round.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler:

After binging the Amazon series ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’ starring Christina Ricci about the early days of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (which I loved) I knew I had to read the novel that it was based on. I, not surprisingly, loved the book even more than the series. If you’re a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the 1920’s or just historical fiction in general I think you’d like this – but the themes of love within a complicated relationship and a woman finding her place in the world are universal here and so beautifully written that I can’t imagine anyone not finding something to relate to in this book. I can see myself re-reading this one.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein:

This one falls into the category of books like Lena Dunham’s ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ or Amy Schumer’s ‘Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’ – easy, amusing reads that aren’t exactly going to make you smarter but are definitely going to make you laugh a few times along the way. I honestly can’t decide if I’d recommend this or not because I think there are stronger books in the female comedian turned writer category (I’ve always loved Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’) – but if you’ve already read all of the top titles you’d likely enjoy this one too.

SHOP THIS MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:

Next month, I’m diving into Cruel, Beautiful World by Caroline Lewitt (about a young girl in the 60s who run away with her teacher), Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (about a young woman in advertising in New York in the 30/40s that flashes forward to her life as an older woman in the 80s – I’ve already started this one and really love it so far), and The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (set at a Drama School in 1990’s London).

All of those are new fiction though which means next go around I want to mix things up – maybe a good thriller or a historical biography? If you have suggestions send ’em my way!

SHOP NEXT MONTH’S BOOK CLUB

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MY NEW NIGHTLY ROUTINE WITH CLARINS HYDRA-ESSENTIEL

The Steele Maiden: Nightly Skincare Routine with Clairins Hydra-Essentiel

Things in my life have been fairly stressful lately. And this Winter weather just isn’t letting up (as I write this they’re calling for snow again in New York tomorrow). Combined, those two things can wreak absolute havoc on skin. Which is why after returning from my trip to Wyoming last month I knew I needed to switch up my nightly routine in order to help combat all of the factors that are working against me.

The Steele Maiden: Nightly Skincare Routine with Clairins Hydra-Essentiel

I first tried out Clarins’ Hydra-Essentiel skincare collection last year (full post here) and quickly became a total convert to their Silky Cream Moisturizer (I still use it regularly!). So when they offered me the chance to try a couple of their latest products, I was ready and willing.

Their latest Moisturizing Reviving Eye Mask and Replenishing Lip Balm are great for my routine right now because they’re super targeted. While I’m happy with my nightly cleanser and moisturizer I was finding that the skin around eyes was looking dry, dark and tired by morning and my lips were dreadfully chapped (is there anything worse?).

The Steele Maiden: Nightly Skincare Routine with Clairins Hydra-Essentiel The Steele Maiden: Nightly Skincare Routine with Clairins Hydra-Essentiel

So I’ve been making a conscious effort to set aside an extra 15-20 minutes each night to really devote to my skin and my general well-being. That means a cup of hot tea, a good book and a generous helping of the Replenishing Lip Balm each night (it leaves my lips feeling plump and smooth almost instantly!). And then a couple of times a week I’ve been using the Moisturizing Reviving Eye Mask as an overnight mask. You can also just apply it for 10 minutes and remove, but I’ve been really noticing a difference in the texture of the skin around my eyes (less puffiness and dryness) and the overall brightness of skin tone when I leave it on overnight. Plus, that way I can apply it and then crawl right into bed without having to worry about getting up again to wash off. Win, win!

My plan is to stick to this new routine and by the time Spring finally rolls, my skin and I will be looking just as lively.

The Steele Maiden: Nightly Skincare Routine with Clairins Hydra-Essentiel

*A thank you to Clarins for sponsoring this post. As always all opinions are my own.

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OUR RELATIONSHIP 10 COMMANDMENTS

The Steele Maiden: Advice for Couples - Our Relationship 10 Commandments

I was determined to share more personal stories on the blog this year and you all agreed that relationship tidbits were something you’d like to see. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (hello lovers!) I wanted to share Adam and I’s Relationship 10 Commandments. I first heard of this idea on a podcast I listen to faithfully (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) and loved it so much. I had never written these out before, but when it came time to think of what the 10 ‘pillars’ of our relationship were – these came very easily. I don’t like to think about them as rules, more like lanes on a road. We’re racing along best when we’re keeping it steady between these 10 guidelines.

I can’t stress enough that Adam and I in no way think we have a perfect relationship. And what works for us, could be all wrong for others. Also, several of these were completely stolen from other couples that we admire or bits of wisdom we’ve heard throughout life and applied to our own relationship. But regardless, it’s a fun exercise I thought I’d share. And if you try it too (you could make one of your relationship, your family or just yourself) I want to hear what makes your list! Without further ado…

OUR RELATIONSHIP 10 COMMANDMENTS:

  1. ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM – from the very beginning, we decided it was us against the world. We’re a team of two, trying to figure out a way to win in this crazy game of life. If I do something great I want to look back and see Adam cheering, and if he falters I want to be on the sidelines yelling ‘you got this!’.
  2. LIVE IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF GROWTH – No relationship is perfect. Ours certainly isn’t. But if we’re always trying to make it better and trying to grow together, that means more to me than some idyllic version of #couplegoals.
  3. TALK TO ME – honestly, communication (as it pertains to a relationship) isn’t either of our strong suits. But we both agree that communication is really crucial to a solid relationship. So it’s something we work on and remind ourselves of all the time.
  4. SIGNATURE MOVE – A sense of routine and pattern of habits has always been super important to me. Adam has always winked at me from across crowded rooms and keeps his hand on my hip-bone until I fall asleep at night. I always link my arm through his elbow when we walk on the street. It’s a constant physical reminder that the other person is there.
  5. ACCEPT THE WHITE FLAG – if we’re in one of those silly, bickering moments and the other person tries to break the mood (with a joke, a hug.. a white flag if you will), let them. Unless it’s some sort of major fight that you really need to work through, accept the attempt at apology and move on. Life’s too short to spend it pouting.
  6. FRESH EYES – A lifetime is well, a long time. And I think all too often people settle in to thinking they know every single story the other person has ever told or thought the other person has ever had. I try to actively learn new things about Adam, share new things with him and generally look at him with fresh eyes.
  7. SUNRISE/SUNSET – We try to start the day together and end it together. That means if I have to stay up late to do work, Adam stays up too. While we’re at it, we kiss good morning just like we kiss goodnight. The world can take you in a million different directions throughout the day – but at least we know we begin and end it together.
  8. PAY IT FORWARD – The whole ‘I did the dishes so you should do the laundry’ life sounds exhausting to me. Just carry your weight. I like to think we’re both good about not keeping score. My Dad always told me ‘relationships are give and take’ and I think some years you’ve got to give more and some years you’ll need to take more. If you’re with someone that’s willing to do the same, it all comes out in the wash.
  9. OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS – You know the saying. People can definitely evolve over time, but I think at our core we are who we are so it’s best to come to terms with that. I’m damn stubborn and Adam is slow to adopt new ideas. I suspect that when we’re 80 we’ll still be that way so best to find a way to love those aspects of each other now.
  10. TAKE YOUR MEDICINE – I read once that couples can get common colds (your little passing everyday fights that cure quickly) or cancer (the incurable, killer kind of differences). But that most couples have, well, diabetes. A disagreement or issue that you will carry for a lifetime but that – if kept in check and treated regularly – is not really a big deal and you can still go on to live a fully happy life. Maybe you have differing political views or one of you has a tendency to be a workaholic or struggles with anxiety. Not deal breakers, but you need to recognize the diabetes, communicate (hello #3) and be sure that you’re treating the issue. We have our flare ups but we typically can see them coming and take our medicine so to speak. 

The Steele Maiden: Advice for Couples - Our Relationship 10 Commandments

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER ONE

The Steele Maiden Book Club: January 2018 Reads

Reading has always been such a huge part of my life that it’s funny to me I’ve never really discussed books here on the blog. My Mom worked at a library up until I went to Kindergarten and my parents like to joke that I could organize a card catalogue before most kids even knew how to read. When I first moved to New York in my early 20s, I founded a book club and have missed it ever since it ended. I used to devour a handful of books every month, but between this blog and my full time career – it became harder and harder to find the time to read.

This year, I’m determined to change that and it seems like you’re all interested in the idea too. So I bring you – the first month/chapter of The Steele Maiden Book Club. Each month, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the books I’ve read in the previous month and then selecting a couple of books for the next month to come, in the case that any of you want to jump in and read along with me!

THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris:

Sedaris is one of my all-time favorite authors. Painfully funny in his no frills approach to both writing and life. Theft by Finding is a chronological collection of his real diary entries over the past 40 years. Honest, hilarious, and beautiful even in its banality – there’s something incredibly brave about sharing so much even when it seems unimportant to the greater scope of his life. I also love that because these don’t have an overall narrative you can pick it up and put it down like a collection of short stories. And a reminder, that if you want to be really great at something (be it writing or anything else)… practice it almost every day for decades.

MODERN LOVERS by Emma Straub:

Eh. To be fair this book was exactly what I was expecting so I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but maybe just not blown away. Set in modern day Brooklyn the story follows two main couples now in their 40s (who met in college) and their now high-school aged children. A multi-generational story that touches on coming of age, navigating relationships and coming to terms with your life choices as you grow older. An overall pleasant read, I’m just not sure that I ever felt very invested in any of the characters. But for a beach vacation or rainy weekend where you want to plow through a book over the course of a few days and not have to overthink it – this would be a good option.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng:

I read Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You in a single weekend last Summer so I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. Little Fires Everywhere was maybe even better (and that’s saying something). Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 90s the story weaves together two families with very different dynamics and backgrounds. And just like her first novel, shows you just how much we often still don’t know about the very people closest to us. Each character is so beautifully written that you find yourself having a hard time deciding who’s side you’re on as the plot twists and turns. Without giving any more away – suffice to say I can’t recommend this one enough.

SHOP THIS MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:

Next month, I’m diving into Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (after binging the Amazon series ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’ starring Christina Ricci about the early days of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald – which I lovedddd) and You’ll Grow Out of It (recommended by a friend who just so happened to be one of the members of my old IRL book club). It’s a short month, so I’m sticking to just those two. Have other suggestions? Drop me a line or comment here.

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WHAT IT REALLY COSTS TO LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY

The Steele Maiden: How Much it Really Costs to Live in New York City

When I asked what you all wanted to hear more of about New York your answer was a resounding ‘your everyday life!‘. And so I figured to begin, I’d go ahead and address the (expensive) elephant in the room. How much does it really cost to live in New York City?

I can’t tell you how many times Adam and I have been in a social setting outside of NYC and had someone has hinted, with wide eyes, at how much it must cost us to live in this city. Or even flat out asked us how much we pay for rent (side note: unless I’m offering up that info or in turn you’d like to tell me how much your mortgage costs.. this question can be skipped) But nevertheless, I get it – this city is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country (San Francisco actually takes top prize) so it stands to reason that people are curious about just how much we pay and more-so why anyone would want to pay for it?!?

I have two things to say about that. One – it’s expensive to live here so you better damn well love it. If you’re paying an arm and a leg in rent and spending all your time complaining about it.. then leave. There’s some kid in small town Illinois who would kill to take your spot. I dreamed of living here since I was a pre-teen and almost 9 years after first moving here I still think the sun rises and sets with this city. It’s what routinely softens the blow of the expense of it all. And secondly – if you really want it, be willing to make sacrifices. There were times when I was 22 and broke, living in a studio apartment, working two jobs, eating cheese quesadillas for dinner and selling clothes at Buffalo Exchange just to make my rent each month. It never made me want to leave, it just made me want to work harder. Back to point number one. Get it?

The Steele Maiden: How Much it Really Costs to Live in New York City

So here it is – a realistic look at what New York City costs me. To note: this is specific to me – you can live for a lot less (and I have) and you can obviously live a lot more extravagantly (looking at you Beyoncé). But I think for an average person in their 20s/30s without kids, this is a fairly good average.

Rent: Ouch. Here’s the big one. I live in a one-bedroom, walk-up (meaning no elevator.. or dishwasher.. or laundry…) building in the East Village. Average rent for an older apartment like ours downtown will set you back anywhere from $2,250-$2,750 a month. Because I’ve got a roommate that I share that one bedroom with, I luck out a bit as opposed to having to cough up the money for a bedroom all to myself. And if you head uptown or to Brooklyn you can easily get yourself some better amenities or more space for that same money. Or of course you can jump up to the $2,800-$3,300 range and secure a balcony or a walk in closet. I love our current neighborhood and the fact that we are within walking distance to most of downtown Manhattan and my office – but as we look for new apartments I’ll be sharing what we find and where we end up!

The Steele Maiden: How Much it Really Costs to Live in New York City

Transportation: Here’s the great thing – you can ride anywhere you want in this city for $2.75 on the subway or bus (a monthly pass for unlimited rides is $121). You can catch a a crosstown cab for around $15 with tip or buddy up and take an Uber Pool double the distance for just $5.

Because of that East Village apartment, I am lucky enough to walk to work so I personally spend about $30 a month on transportation (a handful of subway rides and maybe a cab or two) which is a considerable savings if you compare what a monthly car payment, insurance and gas cost you out in the suburbs. Adam actually does drive to work in New Jersey so he’s got $5 a day in tolls and gas, but his car is paid off and we park for free on the street.

Food & Drink: Admittedly, a big portion of my money after rent and regular monthly bills seems to go towards food and drink. The great thing about this city though is that you can eat and drink on a dime and still get something great. Or you can reallyyyy #treatyoself and splurge.

An average cocktail is $14 (more if you’re paying for a rooftop view or a hotspot ambience) but you can also find $5 beer and $1 oysters at a great happy hour like the one at Mermaid Inn. Same goes for food – an average dinner for 2 at say, a delicious Italian spot in our neighborhood will run you about $75 before tip (appetizer, two glasses of wine and two entrees), but the $17 large pizza we get in our neighborhood is damn good too. Top dollar steaks or hole in the wall ramen that will knock your socks off. You choose here.

I’ve found grocery store costs to be slightly higher but if you make use of Trader Joes, local farmer’s market and small grocers I’d say these costs can end up being comparable to elsewhere in the country. Except for cereal which is inexplicably almost $7 a box in Manhattan. Why, New York, why?

The Extras: You can easily get a huge armload full of beautiful fresh flowers at any corner bodega for less than $20. But in a good neighborhood a soy chai latte will set you back $6 from Starbucks. Views from the Top of the Rock cost $34 but entry to the Met Museum is technically a donation (so if you can only pay $1 they’ll still let you in). Tickets to see a late night show like Jimmy Fallon are completely free as long as you can grab a spot when the seat lottery opens up and there are major deals on same day tickets for Broadway shows if you wait in line in Time Square. This city has a million things to offer. It’s all about finding which of it falls within your budget – and then getting creative for the rest.

The Steele Maiden: How Much it Really Costs to Live in New York City

 

 

 

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.