Life

THOUGHTS ON TURNING 35

I turned 35 in Paris.

In some ways, it feels like I was 17 just a few years ago. Wide-eyed, sharp-tongued. Eager to pick up a full hand of mistakes in the next decade or so. I can picture myself so clearly then… it feels tangibly recent.

But at the same time, I feel solidly 35. And I mean that in a good way. I’ve softened in areas and strengthened in others. It’s been good for me, this slow and steady path of aging.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have this kind of fear of 35, but I’ve always held a bit of a fascination with this age in particular. Back at 17, in my tiny bedroom in Pennsylvania, I would stay up late to watch Sex & The City and think.. that’s it. Not some timeline of matrimony and motherhood that everything else was feeding me. I wanted exactly what those 35 year old women had. The big careers, big romances, big fashion, big city.. all on their own terms. That was it for me. So I spent the next decade and a half chasing it. And now? I think I just might have a version.

Along the way, there has been nearly as much broke (wallets.. hearts..) as there has been built. More lessons learned the hard way than any easier alternative. But in another 17 years, when I look back on myself in these photos, I hope I feel proud of the progress.

From here, the future feels unnervingly unknown. I suspect there will be more mistakes along the way. More growth too though. And if I need a point of reference – there’s always my original favorite female foursome… The Golden Girls. Carrie’s heels and Sophia’s handbags seem like a winning style combo.

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MY 2022 SUMMER READING LIST

Can you believe that we’re already speeding headlong into summer? One of my favorite “small joys” of the season is creating a Summer Reading List. Like you used to have for school.. but you know, actually fun. My reading definitely shifts with the seasons – and in summer I gravitate towards page-turning memoirs, light-hearted rom-coms and fast paced fiction. I’m really excited to dive into the books on this list and hope you find something you might want to pick up and read too.

And in case you’re looking for more – here’s my 2020 list and my 2021 list.

Linking them all below on Amazon so they’re easy to reference, but whenever possible I suggest visiting a local indie book store or your public library this Summer!

  1. Book Lovers by Emily Henry: A buzzy beach read that’s going to be everywhere this summer. I’ve read both of Henry’s other best-sellers and think they’re really well-written rom-coms. Excited for this one.
  2. Finding Me by Viola Davis: My virtual book club’s pick for June! I’ve heard this memoir is great with her voice on audiobook so I might end up listening to it instead.
  3. Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald: One of the classics that I’ve had on my list for awhile. I picked up a copy at famed bookstore Shakespeare & Company in Paris.
  4. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach: Literary fiction focused on two sisters coming of age, with a hint of a mystery element.
  5. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides: An academic thriller that draws on Greek mythology. Fun story: Adam and I unknowingly met the author over drinks in Paris and after exchanging emails, it dawned on me who he was as I’ve seen this cover everywhere! I can’t wait to dive into this one.
  6. Rivals by Katharine McGee: I rarely refer to anything I do as a guilty pleasure.. but liking these books definitely falls into that territory. This is the 3rd in the series about an alternate reality where America is ruled by a monarchy like our British co-horts. It’s the literary equivalent of an episode of Gossip Girl – and I (not so secretly now) really enjoy them.
  7. God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney: To redeem myself, here’s a smart literary fiction option. My book club is reading this in July and I’m excited to tackle these themes of faith and family.
  8. Taste by Stanley Tucci: Because I’m really dreaming of a vacation through Italy. This will hopefully tide me over until that day comes.
  9. Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman: I flew through this last week and really enjoyed it. A perfect rom-com beach read in my opinion – and I loved that it was based on a true story of a journalist who interviews Chris Evans and the story leads everyone to wonder what really happened between the two.
  10. Woman Eating by Claire Kohda: A modern literary take on the vampire trope. I’m reading this now and it’s a really interesting take – would make a good book club pick as I’m already wanting to discuss it with someone!
  11. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li: An Ocean’s Eleven style art heist story from the perspective of young, first generation immigrant Americans. I’m looking forward to this one.
  12. Fly Girl by Ann Hood: A memoir of a TWA flight attendant’s stories from air travel’s 1970s glory days.
  13. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Any excuse to stay in the dream-world of Paris for awhile longer. I actually started this on my flight so want to finish.
  14. It All Comes Down to This by Therese Ann Fowler: Sounds like it will be good for fans of The Paper Palace – a story about adult siblings dealing with family drama, set in coastal Maine.
  15. Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer: A tell all look at the “swans” that surrounded Truman Capote in New York’s 1960s society scene.

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LET’S CATCH UP 4.24.22

It’s been a pretty wild month so far and after being away for a couple of weekends in April it felt veryyy good to catch up on all of our errands and chores this weekend. The next couple of months are going to be non-stop, not to mention a big trip in a couple of weeks, so I’m relishing this sliver of time where the apartment is clean, groceries are stocked and laundry is done. Below, what’s on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my cart tonight.

ON MY MIND:

  • I’ve got a pen pal! The organizer of my newest book club put out an open call on Instagram and I was matched with someone in South Carolina. I picked up a card from Greenwich Letterpress so I can send my first note. There’s something I find so charming about getting mail and hand-writing something. I feel like I need to get some new stationery to keep on hand for my future notes – this boxed set is cute!
  • Mother’s Day is a couple of weeks away and I think it can be a very difficult holiday for a lot of people – those who have lost their mom, those who wish they were a mom, those who have strained relationships with their mom, those who feel like they’re struggling at being a mom. I particularly liked this article on Cup of Jo about motherhood.
  • While it’s taken seemingly forever for the weather to turn here in New York (we’re still barely breaking 60 most days), the flowers got the memo and everything is in bloom around the neighborhood. Tulips explode from curbs, cherry blossoms brighten up the park and the white flowers on the tree outside our windows seem to snow petals when the wind picks up. My allergies hate it but my heart loves it.

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I’m just finishing up Beautiful Little Fools – which is a parallel of The Great Gatsby from the perspective of 3 of its female characters. Is the writing blowing me away? No. But it’s an easy read and as someone who loves Gatsby it’s fun to be back in that world and imagine what the women were thinking, since the original focuses so heavily on Jay, Nick and Tom.
  • Speaking of the 1920s – The Paris Bookseller is high up on my TBR list. It tells the story of Paris’ Shakespeare & Co bookstore and the famed original owner, Sylvia Beach.
  • I’ve heard a couple of people – with really varied reading tastes – rave about this new rom-com. Sounds like it would be fun as a beach/pool/lake read this summer.

IN MY CART:

  • Since I was mostly working from home for the past 2 years, I haven’t really bought much in the way of warm weather office appropriate pieces in awhile. I’ve got my eye on this tweed jacket which will be perfect when the A/C is blasting.
  • This white cotton blouse and suede sandals that I bought before Palm Springs are both on major sale right now (the top is less than $20!) – they’ll both be staples in my spring/summer wardrobe.
  • While these dresses are on the pricier side, whenever I get one from this brand I end up wearing it constantly. And who am I to resist a Pretty Woman-esque brown and white polka dot?!
  • In my dreams I’m a person who only sleeps in pretty sets like this one. In reality I often sleep in an oversized Metallica t-shirt that I stole from Adam because it’s freakishly soft. But that set and matching robe would be a good place to turn things around.
  • I tend to forget that one of my favorite clothing brands has jewelry but these gold link necklaces are SO chic and several of them are on major sale – I’m deciding between this one or this one.

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BEST OF: JANUARY – APRIL READING

I can’t believe that the first few months of 2022 has come and gone. Because of the volume of books that I read, I found it tough to keep up with these recaps last year – so this year I’ve decided to share only the best of what I read. Rating books is so subjective, but for me – I grant an illustrious 5 stars (or a very solid 4 stars) when it’s a book that really captivates me while I’m reading it and sticks with me after I’ve finished. Whether it’s one that challenges my way of thinking or feels like a hug the whole way through. Below, the books I rated 4-5 stars so far this year.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: This book came out a decade ago and I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before this. An absolute 5 stars, this might now rank among my all-time favorite books. Set in the late 1930s, it’s a love letter to New York City – in all of its glitter and grime, ambition and abandon – as well as friendship and finding the people who are right for you, and letting go of those who aren’t. Katey Kontent is definitely a character I’ll keep with me for a long time. This is literary historical fiction at its best.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: I listened on audiobook and this was just… fun! Not everything I rate 5 stars needs to be brilliant literary fiction, sometimes it just needs to make me feel happy and that’s exactly what this did. I’ve read Beach Read by Emily Henry and far preferred this, I felt like the two main characters really just sparkled and I was so rooting for them both. This would in fact make a great beach read.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: A heart-breakingly honest memoir that recalls journalist Ariel Levy’s mid-30s, with all the mistakes, relationships, grief and choices surrounding career and motherhood that came with it. There are some brutal things that happen to Levy in this book – some she brought on herself and some that no one ever deserves. She looks back on it all with levity and a hard-earned grace I really admired.

Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik: I first read Eve Babitz a couple of summers ago and was completely swept away. A real life Penny Lane meets Carrie Bradshaw meets Joan Didion, she was at the white hot center of everything cool in LA in the 60s/70s. This biography managed to be capture the spirit of someone who seems impossibly hard to nail down. I loved it and have since picked up even more of Babitz’ work.

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas: Dark academia happens to be a very specific subsection of literature that I really love and this book explores that area in a totally new way. A modern look at morality, relationships, the divide between generations and more – this had me hooked from the very first page and never let me go.

Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors: A debut novel that really I really loved (it might make my top 10 of 2022 list), this looks at the whirlwind relationship between Cleo and Frank from a mix of their perspectives as well as others close to them. It sounds like a simple story but the beauty is in the characters, their joys, their flaws and ultimately their evolution.

Permanent Record by Mark H.K. Choi: Choi is probably my favorite YA author because her stories feel fresh and young, but also sophisticated and modern. This is one of her earlier books and as usual, I totally fell for the characters and flew through it.

Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron: I heard this described as a ‘coming of “old” age book’ and I think that perfectly captures it. At 72, Ephron (Nora’s sister) is rediscovering herself in the wake of her husband’s death – when suddenly and shockingly, she falls in love again. She also falls ill. The book is a look at hope, love, second chances and realizing there’s always more life to live. Will go on my list of favorite memoirs for sure.

The Marvellous Light by Freya Marske: Maybe my most surprising reads of the year – Edwardian England! A gay love story! Secret magic! I went in blind and ended up loving it. I still think about this book often since reading it in January.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo: On Instagram I said this is for fans of Father of the Bride – not because the plots have anything in common, but because there’s a sweeping feeling of familial love in this book that reminds me of that movie. I loved this family – the Mom and Dad especially – but all 4 daughters kept me equally interested and even though they were flawed (as all families are) I was rooting for them all the way to the end.

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LET’S CATCH UP 3.12.22

Hello strangers. Another month has dragged by weather-wise and flown by work-wise and here we are. I’m feeling deeply ready for spring, hopeful about the loosening of pandemic restrictions and cautiously optimistic about our upcoming travel plans. While also being worried for the state of the world at large. Aren’t we all? It’s still so surreal to think that on this day, two years ago, we had no idea how much things were about to change. And even now – who’s to say what will come next? Seize the day, history tells us. Or at least that’s the lesson I’m trying to take from it all. Here, a few things on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my cart lately. Hope you all had a great weekend.

ON MY MIND:

  • I haven’t had a ton of time for TV lately but we’ve started the new season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and are down to the last episode of The Great – which in my opinion, is one of the best shows on TV right now (it’s on Hulu to be specific). At turns smart, funny, sweet, cutting and almost painfully relevant given that it’s about Catherine the Great’s rule of Russia and how she wanted to move away from the nation’s barbaric past into a more enlightened future.
  • I’m a big fan of James Clear’s newsletter that sends simple quotes and advice for better habits and a happier/healthier life. This quote by poet May Sarton, sent in this week’s newsletter, really struck me: “The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.” May we all make time to sit in the changing light of a room. Especially now that we’re getting more light each day.
  • The recent legislation passed in Florida and Texas (and beyond) targeting LGBTQ youth both enrages me and breaks my heart. The Freedom For All Americans site does a great job of breaking down ongoing legislation by state and then offers ways to donate or get involved. I urge you to at the very least make calls to your state officials if you live in a place where this is happening. These kids need our help.

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I just started Better Luck Next Time – set on a ranch in 1930s Nevada where women would go until they could claim residency and get divorces granted in Reno. It’s a fun, easy read so far!
  • Last week I listened to People We Meet On Vacation on audiobook and absolutely loved it – one the best rom-coms I’ve encountered in awhile. I’ve also read Beach Reads by Emily Henry, but I far preferred this one.
  • Earlier this month I devoured The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy – a searing memoir about her mid-thirties, coming to terms with the balance of career and relationships, her outlook and experience with motherhood, forgiveness, loss and more. I thought this was beautifully done.
  • My book club is reading Greenwich Park next – a buzzy new thriller about a pregnant woman with a seemingly perfect life, who meets a friend in her prenatal class and suddenly things aren’t what they seem. I haven’t read a thriller in awhile so I’m looking forward to this one!

IN MY CART:

  • After having it on my running personal to-do list for about two years now, I finally went and picked out new prescription eyeglasses (these) plus got a pair of prescription sunglasses (these). I’m thrilled with both and frankly even more thrilled to finally be able to cross it off the damn list.
  • Call me crazy, but I kind of love the idea of this raffia bucket hat for our upcoming warm weather getaway?
  • I’ve also got my eye on this lace-up, nautical inspired sweater. I’d pack it for our trip but also wear it this summer at the lake with a pair of cut-offs.
  • I have these pajamas in navy and they’re just perfect. Thinking of picking up this oatmeal color (on sale right now) for spring.
  • How chic are these wide leg gingham trousers? They look as comfortable as the aforementioned pajamas. I’d wear them with a black crewneck t-shirt and a fun pair of earrings.
  • I love this black dress for spring date nights. It feels very Audrey Hepburn, á la Roman Holiday to me. I tried this brand last summer when they gifted me a dress (they make things in the same factories as your favorite contemporary brands like Reformation and Faithful, but at a fraction of the cost by charging a monthly site subscription and going straight to consumer). I was pleasantly surprised by the fit and quality and since you can cancel the subscription at any time I’m planning to try them again to pick up this dress.

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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.