Life

WHAT 6 MONTHS OF A PANDEMIC TAUGHT ME ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP

Pat yourselves on the back if you haven’t broken up with someone during the past six months. I’m kidding… but I think I speak for most of us when I say that this has been an incredibly trying time. I’ve never felt more stress about the world at large and probably never been more stressed in my work life. Add to that the fact that for 3 months Adam and I were both spending almost all of our time living and working inside a one bedroom apartment and even with him back in the office now, our life remains much more insular than it ever was before – and you’re bound to hit a few rocky moments.

This is a truly unique time to have survived with someone and there are a few things that have become even more clear to me over the course of the past 6 months. I think any one of these could apply to any close relationship you have (parents, kids, roommates, friends) not just a romantic partner – so I hope you find something that may feel helpful. Because who knows what the next six months will look like – but I know I won’t be spending it fighting about who should do the dishes.

A little distance goes a long way.

From going to the grocery store to watching TV, Adam and I have always tended to spend a large majority of our time together. So to some degree, the early months of the pandemic were probably not as big of a jolt as they were for some families. But that being said – two humans are not meant to spend every waking second side by side. And during the past six months it’s become more important than ever to be sure that we’re also giving ourselves a little bit of distance. Maybe that means me going for a walk without him or me going upstairs to read while he stays downstairs to play video games. Too much time together can inevitably lead to some quarreling or – equally dangerous – a sense of complete co-dependence on the other person. It doesn’t have to be for long or every single day even, but a little distance goes a long way.

Let them have an annoying habit. Or five.

Adam is a uniquely quirky person. His taste in music for instance – which ranges from deeply experimental jazz to hard core death metal to every song that Hall & Oates has ever recorded. And when the spirit moves him he will play these at a volume that rattles my bones. He also frequently whistle tunes over the mouth of a beer bottle. Come to think about it a lot of his habits are ‘noise’ related. But I stopped labeling these as annoying during quarantine. They’re just him. My life would be painfully quiet without him and I bet I’d miss the sound of him the most. And those habits that can get labeled as ‘annoying’ are bringing the other person some sort of joy – and truthfully not hurting you at all. Plus – just remember that your partner probably has an equally long list of all your quirks and habits.

Carry the extra weight when you’re feeling strong.

Inevitably, one person is usually having a worse day than the other. Maybe something went wrong at work for me or Adam was feeling particularly anxious – if that was the case, the other of us (who was feeling mentally/emotionally/maybe even physically stronger) would just step up and carry the extra weight. Because we are spending so much time together I feel like we’ve become particularly in tune with spotting these signs and no longer need to wait for the other person to come out and say “I’m having a bad day, can you make dinner?” which feels like such a relief when you’re the one struggling. Don’t wait to be asked for help. Who cares if you’ve been the one to do the dishes every night that week. Don’t keep score and just carry the weight when and where you can. I’ve found it never goes unappreciated or unreciprocated.

The only constant is change.

When the world comes along and rocks the boat of your relationship – it can be easy to feel upended. You had your routines, you were comfortable. But the truth is that your circumstances – and with it your relationship – are always going to be in a state of change. Nothing can escape it. All of life is fleeting and no one has a crystal ball. So when the rug gets pulled out from under your feet – it’s important to be with someone that you can weather that change with and continue to recalibrate throughout life. Rather than someone who you are with only because your current circumstances are set up perfectly to support that happiness. This won’t be the most challenging thing that we survive together (and if it is, we’ll count our blessings) – but that’s fine. We’ll be by each other’s side. And he’ll likely be whistling a tune.

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MY 10 FAVORITE MOVIES THAT FEEL LIKE FALL

  • You’ve Got Mail – “Don’t you love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” Swoon.
  • Goodwill Hunting – Collegiate, New England.. how ’bout them apples?
  • When Harry Met Sally – It’s actually our New Year’s Eve tradition to watch this movie (because of the ending), but it also happens to have some of the most quintessential scenes of New York in the Fall. It’s worth watching twice a year, no?
  • Practical Magic – 90s Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sisters who just so happen to be witches. It’s also worth noting that the book that this movie is based on is actually part of a trilogy – with the 3rd book coming out this October. I highly recommend the first two in the series and I’ve already preordered the new one!
  • Stepmom – Such a classic to me. It’s a tearjerker but also upstate iconic. And if you’re on a Julia Roberts kick – Mystic Pizza deserves an honorable mention on this list.
  • Moonrise Kingdom – maybe it’s that perfect Wes Anderson color palette but this movie has a definite autumnal feel to me. Same goes for Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  • Hocus Pocus – I was a kid in the 90s – can you blame me? Also SJP never ceases to delight me in her ditsy witch role.
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Featuring Steve Martin and John Candy in an epic and hilarious journey to make it home for Thanksgiving. My family used to rent this on VHS when I was a kid and it still makes me think of watching it in our old living room.
  • The Craft – a must if only for all of the 90s goth-girl fashion that’s totally back in style now.
  • Remember the Titans – I’m admittedly not a football fan, but I do like this movie and for those of you that take your fall with a side of football, watching this would be a fun way to kick off the season.

What’s a movie you love that I should add to the list? I had someone suggest Knives Out which came out last year and I still want to see. Since I doubt I’ll be going to a movie theater any time soon I picture lots of cozy movie nights at home this season.

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LET’S CATCH UP 9.4.20

Perhaps a little worse for the wear, but we’ve made it to the unofficial last weekend of summer. Adam and I have been in the throes of some really demanding work weeks lately and are more than ready to blissfully check out at the lake house all weekend. Hope you all have equally relaxing plans. Below – what’s on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my shopping cart.

ON MY MIND:

  • I think we are all in agreement on how crucial voting is this year. I just submitted an application to be a poll worker. As someone with flexibility in my schedule and in good health – I want to make sure that I’m doing anything I can to help the in-person process at my local polling sites go smoothly. Apply here if you’re interested.
  • Museums have finally reopened here in the city! You need to buy tickets in advance and there are plenty of safety measures in place, but I’m already planning on a trip in late September or early October so that I can see the leaves of Central Park in all their glory from the rooftop of the Met. It’s one of my absolute favorite spots in the entire city.
  • The other night Adam and I spent several hours indulging a vivid fantasy in which we buy a cottage in the English countryside. I’m talking Google maps street view down rural roads, floor plan comparisons – the whole thing. I blame @hillhousevintage and the entire #cottagecore trend.

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • Truly one of the best things to come out of this strange year is the fact that I started two book clubs. And we’re into our second sessions already! The virtual group is reading The Paris Hours by Alex George this month and my NYC-based group is reading The Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson.
  • I tragically once ran out of books to read at the lake and I’ll never not overpack them again. I’ve got my library copies of The Chelsea Girls and The Topeka School in my weekender bag – just in case.
  • Claire – my other half @prettwords – has been reading and raving about Andr√© Leon Talley’s (former Vogue Creative Director) memoir: The Chiffon Trenches and I’ve promptly added it to my list. In a year of sweatpants, we could all use a dose of high fashion, no?

IN MY SHOPPING CART:

  • One of my goals this year was to invest in basics. Not that they necessarily needed to be expensive – but just to put a focus on filling in the holes in my wardrobe with good, solid staples. I always find myself wishing I had a dark brown leather belt – and this one could finally solve that problem.
  • I just switched over my closet from summer to fall and have plenty of great dresses to wear again this season. But if I do add a new one to my rotation, I think it will be this Seventies-inspired floral midi dress (30% off sitewide). Belted with boots for a stroll through the park or barefoot on the couch for Saturday napping – it works either way.
  • We’ve been using this year to tie up the loose ends around the apartment. Case in point – finally getting around to hanging curtains. We worked with Calico Corners on a quick home office update back in March (see that post here) – and loved those draperies so much we moved them down into the living room. Meaning we now need to replace the office/bedroom panels. They’re running a 25% off sitewide sale right now and I can’t tell you how much it elevates a room to have true, quality window treatments. It makes me feel like a real grown-up!
  • I want to add another pair of non-denim pants to my rotation for the fall and these wide leg cropped khakis are less than $40 now and look super flattering. I like the olive green shade.
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STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Look at me! Getting you book reviews in a timely fashion! Honestly changing the format of these posts to simply recap what I read in the past month instead of forecasting what I’ll read next and then having to stick to those really helped. So we’ll keep that going! I can’t say this was my all-time favorite stack of books but there were some gems in this batch, some light just for fun reads and a couple of more challenging books. Something for everyone!

All Adults Here by Emma Straub: I read Modern Lovers by Straub a few summer’s back and admittedly wasn’t really blown away, but I tend to lean towards literary fiction more than popular fiction. That being said – I liked this one more and felt like I was equally invested in all of the family members in the story. I also liked that there was a good representation of relationship types. This would make a great “beach read” if you’re still looking for something for the long weekend. (4 stars)

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo: I can safely say I’ve never read anything like this. Written in uniquely casual prose it took me a couple of chapters to absorb the rhythm but once I did I was hooked. This novel weaves together the stories of 12 different British women of color – giving a voice to those who are rarely the center of the story. I loved it. (5 stars)

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradel: A multi-generational story of female brewers set in the midwest. This book felt slow at times to me but I’m glad I stuck with it because the last half picked up and I liked where the story went. Best enjoyed with a cold lager, naturally. (3.5 stars)

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson: This book is a YA memoir – but honestly I don’t think you need to fall in the ‘young adult’ category to glean something from Johnson’s straightforward and honest account of growing up Black and Queer in America. (4.5 stars)

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham: A quick read that offered a light-hearted look at Graham’s career and life. It wasn’t the most riveting information but I think this would have been fun on audiobook and more-so made me want to re-watch Gilmore Girls, which is a perfect “on in the background” fall show. (3 stars)

Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson: Shifting between NYC in the 1970s and present day and following a young girl’s rise in the competitive world of ballet alongside a life-altering relationship, this book was a little bit coming of age nostalgia a little bit dark thriller. Lolita meets Black Swan. (4 stars)

The Perfect Date by Evelyn Lozada & Holly Lorincz: Set in the Bronx and featuring a diverse cast of characters, this quick read romance followed a down and out star baseball player and a hard-working single mom. To be honest I’m not sure that I really loved our leading man here but I read the entire thing in an afternoon and the other aspects of the story were still enjoyable. (3 stars)

Supper Club by Lara Williams: I heard the term “millenial malaise” the other day and this book definitely would fall into this category. If you were a fan of Sally Rooney’s Normal People or Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest & Relaxation I think you’d like this. Honestly, I was on the fence about those two but in comparison liked Supper Club more. (4 stars)

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MY TOP 10 BEST HOME BUYS

A lot of what I feel makes our home feel unique and like “us” comes down to the sentimental pieces, the vintage finds and the souvenirs from travel. However, when it comes to more mainstream purchases – there are a handful that we’ve purchased for this apartment that I truly love and would recommend. Below, my top picks and reasons why.

SHOP MY TOP 10 HOME BUYS:

No. 1 – Blue Velvet Couch: this was probably our biggest purchase for the apartment and so far we’ve been so happy with it (isn’t that nice when that works out?). In rich, navy blue and easy to clean performance fabric this feels like both a statement piece and also something with a practical, long life in our home.

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

No. 2 – Glass Lanterns: I wanted the decorative fireplace in our living room to feel warm and cozy each night. These gold lanterns play off the geometric tile we chose (full DIY fireplace design here) and bring a sense of warmth to the whole space.

No. 3 – Bedroom Wallpaper: I looked at what felt like hundreds of options, but I still swoon over the one we ended up with (linked as similar as I could find as the original is sold out) and it truly elevated the entire room. I love that it’s a traditional looking floral/brand design in a modern feeling oversized scale. I honestly feel happy every time I see it.

No. 4 – Milk Glass Ceiling Light: I’ve talked about it before, but replacing the stock lighting in a home makes such a world of difference. It’s an affordable upgrade and if you’re a fellow renter, simply store the originals and then take the new ones with you when you go. This milk glass ceiling light is a huge improvement from the weird black, three pronged fixture that was there before.

No. 5 – Mantle Mirror: I was looking for a mirror that was large in scale but small in price and this one fit the bill at almost 4′ tall. It turned out to be such good quality for less than $60! I painted the wood frame to this ivory color as a small upgrade.

No. 6 – Clothing Rack: Not only does it perfectly hide the strange eyesore that is this extra door in our bedroom but it also provides SO much extra storage while looking pretty seamless with our other furniture. Judging by the fact that I get DM’s every time this appears in the background of my style videos, I think you all agree.

No. 7 – Electric Tea Kettle: I’m embarrassed by how long I was heating up water in the microwave or a pot on the stove. This electric kettle looks like a real teapot but heats up lightning fast and the copper looks chic enough to leave out on the counter.

No. 8 – Jewelry Box: I’ve had this gold jewelry box for a few years now and still love it. It holds a ton, has a tiered, removable shelf inside and looks sleek on my dresser top.

No. 9 – Jute Rug: I wanted something that provided a lot of coverage without being too expensive in case it doesn’t work in the next place. I love the look of this natural jute and it’s still soft on bare feet!

No. 10 – Record Player: Our old record player was what I’d call a ‘starter model’ but when it finally gave out on us after a few years we knew we wanted a slight upgrade. This one is still compact in size but has better quality sound and a sleek, more modern look.

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.