Life

2022: HOLIDAY BOOKS TO READ THIS SEASON

Another one of my favorite posts to write each year! Around 3 years ago I realized that by the time I get to December, my brain is just mush. And instead of giving up on reading because I don’t have the same type of focus/bandwidth I figured, why not give a fun holiday rom-com a try? Spoiler: I loved it. And so began my yearly tradition of stocking up on holiday books and reading with absolute joy. Since then I’ve expanded to other genres – historical fiction, fairytale re-telling, essays, etc. They just have to be light and not make me think too hard to qualify.

I’m excited to dive into this year’s list and hope that you find something joy-inducing for your own stack this season!

And a friendly reminder – I’ve linked these to Amazon so that you can easily see what they are – but independent bookstores need your support, especially at the holidays.

ON MY READING LIST THIS YEAR:

All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox: Set in Nashville, two rising country music stars are forced to fake a relationship for the media. I expect that holiday spirit and sparks fly.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb: An epistolary novel (written through letters) that follows a couple in the aftermath of WWI. I’m excited to switch up the more modern romances of the other things on my list with this one. And Paris.. swoon.

You’re A Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky: Rich boy forced to leave the city and spend the holidays in charming small town, meets small town boy who is unimpressed with said rich boy. I presume, love ensues. I like that this is a new take on a Hallmark classic trope.

Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar: I was hoping to find one this year that had a fairytale type element and this dark re-telling of The Nutcracker feels like it will perfectly fit the bill.

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish: A ‘The Holiday’ type location swap story set in New England and New Orleans, two friend and an LGBTQ romance. Sounds cute!

Meet Me Under The Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss: One of my favorite authors in this genre, this one stars a small bookshop owner in London who encounters her childhood enemy at a school reunion in the English countryside. I love an enemies to lovers story.. and this feels like the perfect holiday setting!

FAVORITES FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS:

One Day in December by Josie Silver: The one that started it all. I read this 2-3 years ago and was instantly hooked on this genre. It’s a classic girl meets boy, girl loses boy to girl’s best friend story. It takes place over the span of almost a decade and I couldn’t put it down.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis: A blizzard traps two people together one night and then fate keeps bringing them back together. Feels a little like Serendipity which is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva: A reimagined tale of what Charles Dickens life looked like as he wrote his beloved Christmas Carol. I loved going back in time to 1800s London and reading this fictionalized account of how his family and friends (and mainly himself) might have showed themselves in his famous work of literature.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris: I’ve mentioned it many times but Sedaris on of my favorite authors. This compilation of his holiday-themed essays is a short, funny read that includes reflections on his time spent working as an elf in Macy’s Santa-land.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory:  I loved that the main couple in this book was in their 50s roughly, it had a Royal storyline (the daughter is a stylist for a Kate Middleton type Duchess) and was diverse (all of the main characters are Black) – and a fun trip to London too! A nice book if you’ve had your fill of the usual 20-somethings falling in love.

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire: From the author of Wicked (that inspired the award-winning musical), this book is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Wild Swan’ fairytale – and takes place in New York City at Christmastime in the 1960s. I really liked reading this last year.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss: This was one of my favorites that I read a couple of years ago. The main character is reluctantly seeking love after focusing on a career that she loves and balancing relationships with her family and friends. She felt really well-rounded and realistic. Spoiler – love ensues.

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LET’S CATCH UP 10.24.22

I can’t believe we’re closing in on the end of October! Overall it’s been a busy, but good month and I’m hoping to try to savor the last week of it while mentally preparing myself for the couple of months ahead. Below – what’s been on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my shopping cart.

ON MY MIND:

  • Taylor Swift’s Midnights album. That’s all. Okay, okay, not really but you all know I’m a Swiftie so this past weekend’s new album release was a real October highlight and it’s been on repeat ever since. Not surprisingly, I bought the vinyl.
  • We’re hopinggg to book a trip between Christmas and New Years. I’ve never traveled during this stretch and while I know it will likely be a little hectic travel-wise, I’m excited at the thought of getting away for a few days after what is always a whirlwind couple of months for us both at work.
  • On a more serious note, November elections are so soon – make sure you’ve checked your states cutoff dates to register (if you’re not already) and that you have a plan to get out and case your vote.
  • Are you dressing up for Halloween? I’ll have to be pulling together something last minute at this point, but those are always the best anyway. I was Ruth Bader Ginsberg a couple of years ago and Midge Maisel (with Adam as Susie) from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the year before.

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I hate to admit that I’ve been in a little bit of a book rut lately. I keep picking things up, reading 10 pages and then just not feeling hooked. Alas, the last thing that I flew through was The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling (the follow-up to last year’s The Ex Hex) – a very cute romcom of a book that’s like Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls with a little extra heat thrown in.
  • My book club is meeting this week to discuss Sirens & Muses by Antonia Angress, which I read earlier this month (pre-book rut) and really liked. A little bit art/academia, a little bit coming of age in New York City.
  • I’m hoping to break the book rut curse with one of the following – all of which have been sitting in my TBR (to be read) pile for ages: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, Matrix by Lauren Groff or Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen.

IN MY CART:

  • I’m unapologetically starting to feel excited about the promise of holiday dressing right around the corner – it’s just the most fun! I love how versatile (and comfortable) this velvet jumpsuit would be.
  • I can’t stop thinking about this poodle sweater. It feels just kitschy enough, you know what I mean? I’d wear it with a kicky little mini skirt and tights for a mod look or jeans and mary jane heels.
  • I’ll let you in on a little secret – these $15 tights last long and hold up better than any other pair I’ve ever worn. They’re semi-sheer with a great shaping (but not suffocating top). I’m stocking up as the weather turns cooler.
  • I bought this 60’s inspired faux fur jacket before our Fall road trip the other week and while it’s only really been cool enough to wear it once – I’m still swooning over it. I just noticed that it’s 25% off right now too.
  • I love the look and shape of these high waisted, wide leg corduroys. All of the colors are good but I think I’d get loads of wear out of the black and would be a nice alternative to jeans at the office.
  • Just for fun this holiday season: These sheer opera gloves, this oversized rose party dress and these crystal strap heels. Not all together. Although.. maybe?

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LET’S CATCH UP 9.5.22

After a restful long weekend, I’m feeling ready to dive head first into a short work week and the fall season ahead. We spent a lot of the past 6 weeks out of town on the weekends so I’m really excited to have no plans to leave the city for the rest of this month. Below, what’s on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my online shopping carts.

*photo above from this post last year – I promise I’m shooting lots of new content soon!

ON MY MIND:

  • We’re seeing Harry Styles at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night and I cannot wait! We actually saw him play there in 2019 on his first solo tour, but since his rocket to super-stardom since then it will be so fun to see him again in this context. I’ve heard that half the fun is seeing what everyone else is wearing at the show.
  • Season 2 of ‘Only Murders in the Building’ came out over the summer, but to me – it feels like a fall show, so I’ve been saving it. If you haven’t watched season 1 yet I highly recommend it as a fun watch. And I love the Upper West Side setting! Going to start on season 2 tonight.
  • Nate Berkus and his husband just decorated a Fifth Avenue apartment that’s to die for. Found via Grace Atwood’s blog post here.
  • I’m hopinggg for a Fall overnight trip up the coast to visit Salem, Massachusetts in October. Give me all the real life Practical Magic vibes please. Have you ever been?

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I love to read seasonally, so Fall often means books set in academia, thrillers, moody literary fiction or atmospheric novels set in Autumn. And if I can help it, a witchy read or two.
  • Originally published in 1992, The Secret History is arguably the original in the ‘dark academia’ genre. I just started and the New England campus setting is perfect for kicking off fall.
  • My New York book club is reading When We Lost Our Heads – set in early 19th century Montreal and following a pair of young girls that quickly become engaged in a dangerous friendship.
  • I’m slowly making my way through Jane Austen’s Persuasion. While it’s short, the language is pretty dense so I’m taking my time. Going to treat myself to watching the recent movie adaptation on Netflix when I’m done!
  • In an opposite and frivolous direction, after loving The Ex Hex last year (think Gilmore Girls with a dose of magic) – I’m preordering the sequel The Kiss Curse so that it will be ready and waiting for October reading.

IN MY CART:

  • The Labor Day Sales really got a hold of me this year. Luckily it was almost all things that I’d been patiently eyeing and was able to scoop up at a good deal.
  • How cute is this mod little tweed mini skirt and matching jacket set? I can already picture a million ways I’d wear these pieces. *Adds to cart*.
  • I love an oversized borrowed from the boys style button-down shirt. This white one looks perfectly cut and is 25% off right now.
  • I used this micro retinol serum last fall and saw a noticeable improvement in the tone and texture of my skin, without any of the harsh effects of a full-fledged retinol cream. Of course, once I ran out I failed to replace it. Just noticed it’s 25% off right now so I’m re-ordering!
  • Everlane is running a sale on denim right now and since the other pair I have from the brand has held up really well, I’m going to try this high waisted straight leg pair in a dark wash.
  • I just re-stocked on all my favorite hot tea flavors since we’re about to enter the season of an evening mug-full each night. I’ll be sipping Paris and Hot Cinnamon Spice out of my cute new pumpkin mug as the weather cools.
  • Call me crazy.. but I can’t stop thinking about this leopard print trench coat. It’s bold, but with aforementioned jeans, white button down and a pair of patent loafers I think that it would lean more towards chic and classic? Under $200 and a piece I think I’d keep in my wardrobe forever.
  • Sezane rarely offers sales so when I saw $30 off with code LASTHOORAH I grabbed this sweater I’d been longingly looking at for the past month.

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ON LIFE: THE BEST THINGS I LEARNED IN SCHOOL

My niece started first grade yesterday and it got me thinking about the 14 years I spent on my own formal education. Besides the obvious fundamental learnings, what were the biggest lessons? In my career and life today, what learnings from my school years do I return to again and again to help guide me? It’s sure as hell not Calculus. Below – some of the best things I learned while in school. A couple of which were not from a teacher at all.

From my High School French Teacher: Commit.

  • You really can’t just muddle your way through proper pronunciation and while most of us 16 year olds felt shy or silly giving those verbs gusto – it actually sounded far better when you did. If you’re going to do something – commit and go all in. You won’t look silly, you’ll look brave.

From my college Art Professor: Don’t be precious with your work.

  • This man would take a fully finished project – that he had said good things about! – and literally crumple it up in front of you. Effectively ruining something you’d just spent hours on. The lesson – if you’re a creative, you should have an endless well of ideas. The finished work became almost irrelevant, the skills of how to create work is what we were learning. To this day, if 5 of my ideas at work are rejected, I don’t spend any time lamenting it. I pivot and come up with 5 more. I’m confident in the creative muscles that he helped shape.

From my Dad in High School.. when the girls were not always kind: People are always going to find a reason to dislike you. Let them dislike you for being great.

  • There are a lot of things that came relatively easy to me in school and – for now obvious reasons – that meant that sometimes girls would find other ways to make things difficult for me. I think he instinctively could see this and didn’t want me to end up shrinking myself in order to make my social life easier. It’s not always an easy path (and maintaining humility goes without saying here) – but since then I’ve never once tried to downplay my talents in order to appease the insecurity in others. If you didn’t hate me for being good at something, I suspect you’d find a different reason.

From my college Fashion Design Professor: Present first.

  • Fashion design critiques could be absolutely brutal in college. Raise your hand and volunteer to present first. You’ll be nervous as hell but those doing the critique are often softer because they have nothing to judge you against and it shows a particular confidence in your own work that often influences them to feel the same way. To this day, I’m not shy about putting my ideas out to a group first. You might still get criticism – and that’s fine – but at least no one can say you didn’t have something to offer.

From my High School History Teacher: Our experiences outside of the classroom, help shape what we learn inside the classroom.

  • This particular teacher used to be a long haul truck driver before pivoting to small town history teacher. So many of his stories connected a life experience of his outside the classroom back to something we were learning. It made me realize that as far as traditional education will take you – that real world, on the ground learning is what really brings it all to life. Later, when I studied abroad, I would think of him. Another lesson? It’s never too late to start again.

From my Dad on the day he dropped me off at college: Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

  • He said it offhandedly when he circumvented a parking attendee in order to get a better spot to unload my things. It wasn’t meant to be some big life lesson – but it’s honestly the only thing I remember about that day. And something I’ve repeated to myself many times since. Sometimes, you need to just go for it – if you wait for someone to grant you permission, you could be waiting a long time.
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LET’S CATCH UP 7.11.22

I’m in a bit of denial over how quickly the summer is passing and, as much as I can, am trying to savor each of these warm weather weekends. For the record, I’m in full support of adopting the European approach to summer, which involves a much slower pace and about a month off work for holiday travel. But in the meantime, I’ll be planning day trips to the beach, popping champagne just because, ordering dessert and hopefully wrangling a weekend or two at the lake. Below – what else is on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my cart lately.

ON MY MIND:

  • The news cycle has just been brutal lately. One of the few ways that I’ve felt like I can make an actual difference is by signing up with Vote Forward – an organization that helps encourage historically underrepresented communities to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. When you sign up, you can select a state and send letters to potential voters to encourage them to get out and make their voices heard. I chose Pennsylvania (my home state and one that is deeply divided).
  • We saw the Elvis movie this weekend and I think I’m still processing it. I grew up with a pair of southern grandparents who loved Elvis and some of my earliest memories are of my grandfather strumming his guitar while singing Elvis songs. So for that reason alone, I knew it would hit a nostalgic sweet spot. In typical Baz Luhrmann fashion it was hyper-stylized, but I thought Austin Butler did a great job playing Elvis – the singing, dancing and accent all felt right to me. What I.. nearly hated.. was Tom Hanks. To be clear, he plays the villian of the story – Elvis’ long-time, manipulative manager that essentially ruined his career and contributed to his early death. But still, I found him incredibly hard to watch. All in all, I did like it – but I think you might need to love Elvis to appreciate the movie?
  • I’d love to start slowly collecting more art and like the way that blogger Grace Atwood approaches collecting art (trust your own intuition, buy what you love) – this post she just shared on common art related questions is a good example!

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I’m reading ‘Finding Me’ by Viola Davis right now for my book club and it’s been really moving so far. I didn’t know anything about her back story – and the fact that she survived her childhood and ended up where she has is such an incredible story of resilience, perseverance and sisterhood. It’s also a really poignant perspective on race and poverty in this country. It will very likely be a 5 star read for me.
  • If you follow me on Instagram then you might have seen me raving about ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ series on Amazon. It perfectly captures that feeling of being 16 and having a crush that just consumes you. I also loved the friendship between the two Moms and the beach house setting. As luck would have it, the show is based on a 3 book series. Did I order the complete boxed set? Yes. Do I plan to binge read them all as soon they arrive? Yes. Team Conrad forever.
  • Speaking of book adaptations, have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? It was such a huge best-seller a few years back but I never picked it up and now I feel like I’d want to read it before the movie comes out!
  • I’m excited about this debut novel, Portrait of a Thief, from Grace D. Li. It’s being sold as Ocean’s Eleven with an immigrant story twist. Think I’m going to start on it after I finish my Summer series!
  • I’ve been craving a home refresh lately and am wanting to – slightly – evolve my style. I’m often really drawn to the eclectic look of British homes and want to pick up this coffee table book to explore the inspiration further.

IN MY CART:

  • Last month I did a self-imposed “no shopping” challenge. I started the practice a few years ago when I was trying hard to break the fast-fashion, ‘buy it, but don’t need it’ trend based habit of over-shopping that I’d spent about a decade indulging in. It worked and ever since I’ve been far more intentional about shopping and my personal finances. But even with good habits firmly in place I like to use these month long challenges as a chance to reset a couple of times a year. It also really helps me to become clear on what I do actually want to buy – if I’m still thinking about it a month later, I know it’s probably worth it.
  • I tried this clean beauty brand last summer and loved the mascara but it’s since been used up. I’d love to grab a refill and also try the lipstick and cream blush in this set.
  • How sweet is this cashmere cable-knit short sleeve sweater? It has a very vintage feel that I’d pair with denim shorts now and a midi skirt or under a blazer come fall.
  • I haven’t been wearing a ton of jewelry lately (besides small hoops and the rings I never take off) – but this teeny seed pearl necklace caught my eye and I think it would look great layered with a few chains or my favorite charm necklace.
  • I know it’s far from Fall, but these high waisted houndstooth trousers are on sale and will look so chic with a simple black sweater. I’ve mentioned it before, but when I’m shopping with my forever wardrobe in mind, if I see pieces that I love like this, that fill a gap in my closet and I know I’ll wear repeatedly – I buy them. Who cares if it’s July?
  • Also, call me crazy, but I might also pick up this pumpkin mug. We’re short on storage space so I have to be very sparing with my seasonal decor and the good stuff always sells out. I can just picture myself with a big cup of hot tea in this and a good book. Here’s to buying what sparks joy.. no matter the calendar date.

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.