Life

2019: A YEAR IN REVIEW

When I set my goals for 2019, I wanted to “swim”. Not to backtrack too much (in fact I’m not even going to link to last year’s recap post because re-reading it feels like a punch to the gut all over again) – but in that post I mentioned that in 2017 I felt like I was treading water and in 2018 I largely felt like I was drowning. So this year – I just wanted to swim. I didn’t have any lofty destination. But I didn’t want to feel like I was barely keeping my head above water either. And I’m happy to report, I swam a good number of laps this year.

One of the biggest highlights was our trip to Paris in May. An adventure designed to be surrounded by beauty. To revel in it. The trip fell over my birthday but also over Mother’s Day and in a year when no less than 7 women in my life were pregnant/had babies – I settled into a real peace about the fact that at 32 I wasn’t one of them. While they nursed their babies in hushed rooms – I drank absinthe in a noisy bar in Montmartre. I learned to appreciate my story more than I ever have. For that I am grateful.

I made enormous strides in all sectors of my health. Last year I said I wanted to work on my physical, emotional and financial health this year. I’ve largely refocused my life around this trifecta and although I feel like while I still have a long way to go – I built a solid foundation in 2019.

Physically, I felt lost in 2018 with knee pain that side-lined my typical running routine. This year, alongside my sister, I tried at home workout videos. I completed 140+ workouts – pushing myself to do things like squats, burpees, push-ups, lunges – that I never would have otherwise tried. And you know what? A stronger body seemed to take the pressure off that bad knee. In 2020 I’ll be slowly starting to run again – but I won’t be leaving those strength training or high intensity interval workouts behind.

Emotionally – I worked on myself and my partnership with Adam with a new resolve. In turn, Adam continued to teach me lessons in relinquishing control, fostering empathy and welcoming change. It took me many years to learn that the right partner (at least for me) holds up a mirror to your best and worst self and urges you to look directly into it. It is work I am almost confident I would not have the strength to do alone. His role in this and in my life continues to be a gift I didn’t ask for, and on many stubborn days say I don’t want. He continues to give it nevertheless and for that I am grateful.

Financially – I’m 180 degrees from where I was last January 1st. I wrote about how I shifted my money mindset, but in short I was tired of not feeling in control of my finances and tired of feeling like I didn’t know how to change that. And so I dove head first into learning how to be good with money. I tracked every penny. I made 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 year plans. I drastically changed my relationship with shopping – and have never loved my wardrobe more because of it. I’m so deeply proud of how far I’ve come and for once am really excited about my financial future.

And lastly – I wrote more and read more than I have in years. Maybe since I was a kid. Most of that writing will never be published here (I’m saving it for another medium.. hint, it has real pages you can flip), but about halfway through the year I shifted the type of content I posted here too. Instead of showing you one pretty outfit after another I cut through the bullshit (namely my own) and started writing things I actually cared about. Relationships, money, happiness. By the numbers, you enjoyed reading these more anyway and for that I am grateful. Below a few of my favorite posts from the past year:

How I Shifted My Money Mindset | How To Fight Fair In A Relationship | What Keeps Me Up At Night | My 10 Year NYC Anniversary | How to Budget When You Live in an Expensive City | Combating Winter Blues

I’ll be back to share what my plans are for 2020. Until then – hoping you all take a moment to reflect on your past year and feel grateful for the lessons that may have come from both the ups and from the downs. Thanks for sticking around.

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LET’S CATCH UP 12.20.19

I honestly can’t believe that as you read this I’ll be at the office for the last day in 2019. How? Also, how will I get it all done before a (hopefully) blissful 12 days off work?? Alas… a few things on my mind before we head out into the weekend and the holiday weeks ahead. Have a good one friends!

  1. I’ve loved watching blogger Meghan of Wit & Whimsy’s campaign to spread kindness this season – from encouraging others to make donations to their favorite charities to simply being a big nicer to our cashiers and delivery people this season, the world needs more of this. And it shouldn’t end at the holiday season.
  2. In New York it feels like winter arrived about a month ago, but technically tomorrow is the first day. I plan on baking cookies and cozying up in the sweater and scarf combo I’m wearing here.
  3. I can’t wait to catch up on a few new books over my holiday break. If you’re looking for a great book to dive into, I recapped the 10 best books I read in 2019 here.
  4. I’ve still got a few things on my holiday bucket list that I want to get checked off this weekend – including making it uptown to see the Rockefeller tree and Fifth Avenue windows. But we’ve already been ice skating, wandered through the West Village and bought tickets to see a classic Christmas movie in the theaters. Okay, so maybe Edward Scissorhands isn’t what everyone would consider a classic, but it’s a favorite of mine and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. Even better – the Nitehawk Theater is Brooklyn serves brunch while you watch!
  5. Speaking of winter’s arrival – I’m ready to book a warm weather vacation for the new year asap. We’re considering St. Petersburg in Florida, returning to Miami or heading to Mexico. Send recs!

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THE BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2019

I was originally going to save this post for the last week of the year, but it occurred to me that some of you may be in need of an affordable or last minute gift idea or something to read while you’re on a plane during holiday travel or have days off work. So for that you’ll need a great book. Of which I’ve read many this year. Here – the 10 best books I read in 2019 (in no particular order). A few of these are going to be fully reviewed in my next Steele Maiden Book Club post before the end of the year, but in the meantime I wanted to include them here. Get yourself to a local bookstore (or express ship it through Amazon if you’re in a pinch) and happy reading!

1. Circe by Madeline Miller: An obvious choice for fans of greek mythology or fantasy fiction, but a surprising choice for those who don’t think they are (like myself) who still may end up loving this story (like I did).

2. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo: For your favorite feminist. Or honestly, for the man in your life that could use some perspective. This non-fiction is a striking read that speaks to human desire and emotion in a really raw way.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama: From yourself to your mom to your boss, there’s something in this story that will likely speak to every woman in your life. An incredibly inspiring reflection from a humble and hard-working woman that just so happened to become the First Lady.

4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: For all your best girlfriends (especially the one who just moved to New York City). This story is a love letter to youth and freedom and the city that I love so much.

5. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: If you worshipped Penny Lane in Almost Famous (and I still do) you’re going to love this book. Like reading a memoir straight from the members of your favorite 70s rock band.

6. Blue Nights by Joan Didion: For anyone that considers themselves a Didion disciple – but would be particularly poignant for someone who has lived through loss this year. Her words on living through the loss of her husband and daughter are both relatable and also unfathomable.

7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: Smart fiction at its best, Ann Patchett pulls you into a world so believable you’ll forget it doesn’t truly exist. For anyone who

8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: If you haven’t already read the beloved story, now is certainly the time before Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation comes out at Christmas. Perfect for a young girl just getting into reading on her own or a grown woman revisiting the classics.

9. Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs: Totally different than anything else on this list – Augusten Burroughs memoirs always get me. This one in particular about the next chapter of his life and staying true to his witch-y roots really spoke to me – and gave me a good laugh.

10. Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl: For the foodie in your life or the one nostalgic for the days when the publishing world lived large in New York – this easy read is such a fun romp through 90s-00s at Gourmet Magazine.

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LET’S CATCH UP 11.17.19

October was a tough one. I think it was seasonal allergies but I really didn’t feel 100% all month and things at my full-time job really ramped up (Q4 is always super hectic/stressful and it takes takes me a bit to adjust to that intensity) – so I wasn’t quite as present here as I would have hoped. But now that it’s November, I feel like I’m out of the fog of things so to speak and I’m really excited to bring you guys more content here.

I’m not going to be doing traditional gift guides this year (I suspect you’re all more than capable of shopping for the people in your lives and I just feel like they all start to look the same from bloggers after awhile) – but I am going to be sharing all the festive outfits I’m wearing this season, how we’re decorating our apartment, the NYC holiday traditions I look forward to every year and some more “life” posts like how to stick to a budget during the holidays, how to handle all those big family dinners and how to not feel the pressure of “engagement season”.

A few things on my mind as we wrap up the weekend:

  1. The cute graphic sweater I wore in this post is now on sale + an extra 40% off. It has the comfort level of a sweatshirt but can easily be dressed up for the office. I know I’m going to be wearing mine often this winter.
  2. One of my favorite bloggers, Krystal Bick of This Time Tomorrow, recently traveled to Norway and I am swooning over her photo diary. Adding to my already long list of places I hope to visit someday.
  3. We finally just replaced our old broken record player with this sleek new one. In case you were curious, I’ve been spinning Harry Styles’ last album on repeat in anticipation of his new one that comes out next month, while Adam’s current top pick is a vintage record from 1978 called ‘Heavy Metal Be-Bop’ – if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about us I don’t know what will. Ha.
  4. Instagram is testing out hiding the number of “likes” a photo gets and I’m all for it. I often wonder if Mark Zuckerberg had any idea of the worldwide cultural impact he would have by simply putting a metric next to user generated photos? I certainly don’t think any of us did. But the facts are that people who use social media – specifically teenagers – report feelings of isolation, dissatisfaction with themselves, anxiety and depression in staggeringly higher rates than teenagers did just 10 years prior. No one should be measuring their self-worth by the number of times an invisible audience double tapped a photo of their face. Here’s hoping that as like counts vanish, we’ll all have an easier time of reminding ourselves of that.
  5. In my humble opinion – the West Village wins for holiday decor in this city. Plus it comes armed with a handful of delicious and cozy restaurants that feel extra festive this time of year. I second this list of top restaurants in the neighborhood from The Infatuation and want to tick a few more off our “dinner bucket list” this season.

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HOW TO HANDLE FAMILY AT THE HOLIDAYS

By this point I suspect you have one of two worries surrounding Thanksgiving. What to wear and/or how to deal with family. For the former, it’s simple – this dress. I suggest no belt, so that it’s just a super soft, super swingy tunic that still feels dressy enough with a pair of heeled booties to look like you have your life together when your grandparents ask, but still comfy enough to eat seconds of pie and then inevitably nap later.

For the latter, its not going to be as simple. I am incredibly fortunate to be a member of a nuclear family that truly gets along and loves hanging out together. And for the first 20 something odd years of my life I thought this was actually normal. Turns out, its not. And once you add in extended family and in-laws (and god forbid politics) – I’m guessing there’s about 95% of you that feel at the very least a small amount of stress about seeing someone across the dinner table later this month.

Well meaning questions (like – how’s your job? when are you two finally going to get married? how long are you going to live in New York?) can range from mildly prying to downright triggering. Add in another family that’s only attached to you through a significant other and you’ve got a whole other set of tightropes to walk. All while just trying to get through dinner without spilling sweet potatoes on your new dress.

Here’s what I suggest. Set expectations for yourself before you ever step foot into the host’s house. You can control 0% of how other people behave or how they question your love life. You can control 100% of how you react to it. Give yourself a pep talk beforehand if need be. Find a sibling or partner that you’ll be there with and can be your life raft during Thanksgiving dinner. And have an escape plan. You may be obligated to attend but you’re not obligated to stay until midnight.

In general, I find that usually when people ask probing questions into your life its because they are genuinely interested or because something about your life triggers their own insecurities. When they ask a 32 year old woman when she’s thinking of starting a family, perhaps its because they’re jealous they didn’t get time when they were that age to focus on their career because they were already strapped with two kids. Or maybe it just popped into their head and so they thought why not ask. Who knows. It’s not your job to figure out their shit. It’s your job to remember what you’re grateful for and get through dessert.

Of course, if you’ve got a family that operates at a level that feels destructive, burdening or hurtful to be around – I suggest you gather up a good friend or two, book a ticket and head to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. They host a ‘Black Sheep Thanksgiving’ party each year where you can hide out in the desert by the pool and escape it all. There are some things that just aren’t healthy – and I hope you all can draw that line, however hard it would be to do so.

But for the majority of us that will grin and bear it this year when their mother in law critiques our stuffing or our grandfather makes a joke in poor taste… know that after the long weekend you can return to the great life you’ve been busy building. At least until Christmas…

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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.