It’s been, frankly, a week. I commuted into my office in Brooklyn 4 days instead of 2 this week, had plans after work more nights than not and, thanks to a Covid-exposure – I had to cancel a flight I was supposed to take today at the last minute. I’m fine (tested negative), but exercising an abundance of caution because of where I was headed. As I said, it’s really been a week.
Regardless – it’s set to be a pretty fall weekend here in New York and I’ve got some really fun blog stuff on the agenda to shoot and get prepped to share. Here – the rest of what’s on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my shopping cart.
ON MY MIND:
I saw The French Dispatch (the new Wes Anderson movie) in theaters the other weekend and, as expected, loved it. It’s extremely dense… stories within stories within stories. Meaning you could watch it multiple times and notice something different each time. But mainly, it’s an ode to creatives. And expats in France. And Timotheé Chalamet. What’s not to love? I’m hoping to catch Spencer – the Princess Diana movie starring Kristen Stewart this weekend.
I’m really trying to wrap my head around the fact that there’s only about 7 weeks left of this year. This is my friendly reminder to check in on your finances. Do you have enough budgeted for holiday spending? Are you within reach of the yearly goals you set? There’s still time to pivot if need be. And if you need extra help – here’s a post I wrote at the start of this year about prioritizing your personal finances.
While I’m by no means a master chef, I do like to have a handful of tried and true recipes that are easy to make and I know we’ll like – this soup recipe from blogger Liz Adams always hits the spot on a chilly night. I’m planning to put it on the menu for this upcoming week.
ON MY BOOKSHELF:
I’ve been in a bit of a book rut this past month. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that work is crazy busy or after a long year I’m just too tired to mentally connect. Short stories always feel like a nice alternative to longer fiction when I feel this way – and I just started Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King. So far, so good.
Next week my virtual book club is chatting about Mrs. March. It takes place in New York around Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s so it’s well-timed. But don’t expect warm and fuzzy festive feelings. It’s a strange psychological thriller about one woman’s inner unraveling. I really liked it but you’ll want to read something light afterwards.
Speaking of light, I love a holiday-themed rom-com this time of year. The Ex Hex was SO cute (think Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls) and I just picked up a handful of Christmas-themed books (plus one for Hanukkah!) that I’ll review later this month. Here’s my round-up from last year.
This coffee table book – English Designers At Home – would make a great gift for that friend of yours that dreams of running away to the Cotswolds someday. Ahem.. me.
IN MY CART:
I really like Halloween and Thanksgiving, but I love Christmas. Which means I’m not above decorating early. How cute is this city brownstone ornament? While we won’t get a tree until after Thanksgiving, I might break out a bit of garland soon.
After last holiday season, mainly spent tucked away at home, I’m eager to celebrate in classic New York fashion this year. I’m thinking tickets to see the Nutcracker and this bow top with a vintage party skirt?
Speaking of festive – I’m absolutely torn between these mary-jane heels in patent silver or perky plaid. And by torn I mean I’m close to buying both. Help.
It’s suddenly very much coat weather here in New York. I’m going to be sharing a few next week, including this chic black and white option that can be dressed up or down.
I always find myself needing new pajamas this time of year and want ones that feel comfy, look nice and are reasonably priced. Plus I prefer shorts with a long-sleeved top. It’s a specific ask. These could be winners.
I should begin my reminding you all that I’m about as novice as it comes when it comes to skincare. But in the past few years I’ve been trying to branch out and give my skin a little more love and care. Recently, quite a few brands that I’ve admired from afar offered to send me some of their new product to try – almost all of them clean beauty – so I was eager to give it a go. I’ve been using all of these for at least 1 month now to really get a true sense of how they work and if I’d incorporate them into my routine. I’m happy to say that the below 5 items made the cut.
Kiehls Micro-Dose Retinol Serum – I’ve been afraid to try anything with retinol for years now. I’ve read all sorts of things like it takes a month or so for your skin to react then calm down. It makes your skin super sensitive to the sun. Etc. All of it just felt like too much hassle when I otherwise slap some moisturizer on and call it a night. But when Kiehls offered to send this low dose micro Retinol cream I was curious. I’ve been using for about two months now and I can honestly say I love it. I use it every other night and haven’t experienced any sensitivity or adverse reactions. In fact, I kind of felt like I could see the positive effects (subtle lessening of fine lines, more even skin tone) right away. I’ll definitely be repurchasing when I run through this bottle.
Merit Mascara – I was frankly skeptical about “clean” mascara. For some reason I felt like it wouldn’t last all day or wouldn’t have the same kind of volume as my regular brand? Consider me converted. This doesn’t smudge, clump or flake at all on me and I typically have mascara on for like 14+ hours on a work day. Gives the same if not better volume as my old brand and the biggest benefit is that it doesn’t irritate my eyes at all, which used to sometimes be an issue for me.
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick – My skepticism over clean mascara also extended to lipstick until I tried Urban Decay’s Vice options. The satin/cream and matte finishes both have nice saturated, long-lasting color (my favorite is ‘The Big One’ – a warm red) and when you think about how much lipstick you ingest while wearing it.. it’s kind of a no brainer to make the switch to a cleaner option.
Beauty Counter Overnight Resurfacing Peel – I’ve never tried Beauty Counter before but heard plenty of people singing their praises for years now so was eager to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve been using this overnight resurfacing peel on the nights when I don’t use the micro-dose retinol serum and the combo is proving to really even out my skin tone. This one helps to minimize pores too which I love and generally feels like the perks of using a mask without the messiness or annoyance of having to rinse it off. I’m the absolute laziest when it comes to nighttime routines so this is a clear winner for me.
Beauty Counter VitaminC Serum – It smells like a cross between oranges and eucalyptus to me and has this really great consistency that’s thicker than a serum to me but lighter than a lotion, if that makes any sense? Either way, I’ve been using this every morning since I got it and it gives me this even, glowy, dewy complexion – like I just walked out of a facial appointment. It’s pricier but I don’t even use moisturizer in the morning’s anymore with this and a little goes a long way – so worth it in my opinion.
I watched the premier of The Wonder Years reboot this week and had all the feels. I grew up watching the original and it’s one of those shows that just makes me really nostalgic for being that age. Not to mention that Winnie Cooper remains a major style muse for me. I love that they’re heading back to that era but showing another perspective.
Adam and I are both in pretty busy seasons of work, but I’m determined to carve out time for some fun date nights and a day trip or two this Fall. Hopefully we can make it back upstate and maybe I can convince him to see a Broadway show with me? I’d love to catch Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in Plaza Suite.
I’m probably late to the game here but I’ve been listening to Kacey Musgraves new album Star Crossed on repeat. So good!
I’m finally getting a full weekend at home after being away at least partially for the past 6 weekends in a row (cue me coming down with a cold last week). I plan on hitting up the Union Square farmer’s market for pumpkins and switching my wardrobe over to fall clothes!
ON MY BOOKSHELF:
I finished The Mothers by Brit Bennett last week and really loved it. It was her debut novel and I found that I liked it more than The Vanishing Half – which was so popular last year. There was something more subtle and searing about this one and I loved the way it explored motherhood from many different angles. Regardless – I’m sure I’ll be reading anything Bennett comes out with from now on.
Claire and I (my other half @prettywords) both are reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead right now and are totally swept away. It’s really fun to be reading at the same time so we can discuss and it makes the fact that this is a 600 page novel feel a bit less intimidating. The story moves back and forth through time, focusing on a female pilot in the 1950s, her parents in the 1910s and the actress playing her in a movie in 2010s.
My New York book club chose Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Harlem Shuffle, as our next book and I’m really excited to see what this one is like. I love The Underground Railroad and Nickel Boys, but this latest book is apparently a bit of a departure from those and more of a suspense/mystery.
If you read my Fall reading post then it should come as no surprise that I pre-ordered Alice Hoffman’s last book in the Practical Magic series – The Book of Magic. I can’t wait until it arrives in early October.
IN MY CART:
I mentioned on IG stories but for the first time in a long time I’m really excited about fashion again. And I’ve got the overflowing online shopping carts to show for it. Trying not to go crazy but who am I to resist a cute plaid mini skirt on sale?
I’m the worst when it comes to buying new makeup. After my favorite eyeliner was down to a stub I finally reordered a new one. It’s a bronze-y brown that’s not too metallic but has just enough shine to brighten up my typically tired eyes.
It’s ironic that after spending the last decade working in the jewelry I rarely buy any. This pearl and onyx ring feels like a piece I’d wear forever though. Thinking of treating myself after a big year at work.
Blame it on the pandemic or just my getting older but my threshold for uncomfortable shoes has dropped drastically. Inez convinced me of their comfort with these strappy sandals and I’ve only heard rave reviews about their boots. I can’t stop thinking about these perfect tan suede ankle boots and code STEELE15 gets you 15% off.
I’m always stalking this brand for sales and finding this floral mini dress at 70% off feels like a major steal. So cute for those date nights I mentioned!
I love the idea of these high waisted drape-y trousers. They remind me of some of my favorite 90s sitcom working women like Helen Hunt in her Mad About You years.
With my 2 day a week commute to Brooklyn, I’ve found myself officially needing to carry a “commuter back-pack”. My last one was from this same brand and has held up great for 6 years but it finally needs a replacement. I like it in black this time around.
I tend to read “seasonally” whenever I can – lighter books in the Summer, longer classics in the Winter. In the Fall I like to read books with an autumnal feeling. Ones that feel like a cozy hug or have a hint of magic. Below – the top 10 books I’d recommend picking up this season.
Practical Magic Series by Alice Hoffman: Okay, okay so this is actually 4 books, but I’m counting it as 1 since it’s a series. Following a generations of a family of witches, the first in the series inspired the classic 90s movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock – I’ve seen it a million times and it never gets old. Then there’s Rules of Magic – set in the 60s/70s in NYC and my favorite of the series so far. Last year brought Magic Lessons which is old Salem and has a very cozy feeling and this Fall will be the last book – The Book of Magic. Honestly I’ve loved them all.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller: This is the perfect summer into fall book to me. Set at a lake house in Cape Cod, a family convenes as their lives diverge. It has an incredibly strong sense of place (you feel like you’re in the cabin with them in the woods) and vivid, complicated characters. I couldn’t put it down and it’s absolutely going to make the cut as one of my top reads of the year.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson: I read this book last October on a whim after seeing it as a staff recommendation at The Strand and it exceeded my expectations. It reminded me of ‘Are You Afraid of The Dark?’ in that it was sort of nostalgic and kitschy without being actually scary and had so much heart to the story. If you lean toward literary fiction but want something that feels seasonal, I think you’d love this.
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow: This one is pretty lengthy but if you’re looking for an engrossing slow burn, world-building type novel to disappear into this Fall, this is it. Sisterhood, sorcery and suffragettes set in “New Salem” during the early 1900s. A cozy, magical book that I really enjoyed last Fall.
7. Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs: If you like David Sedaris but want something that’s slightly seasonal – I loved this one. Burroughs is one of the few authors that I find myself truly laughing out loud to and these sharply written
8. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: Set between early 2000s Brooklyn and late 1700s Paris – this is a sweeping story about a young woman trapped in time after making a deal with the devil. I loved the settings and the longevity of the storyline and while there’s an obvious suspension of belief with the premise – there was so much that felt really real to me.
9. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn:I rarely go in for the blockbuster thrillers but I loved this one when I read it a few years back. A Hitchcock Rear Window-esque story with a reclusive woman who watches her neighbors from her New York apartment but things aren’t always what they seem. Don’t watch the Netflix movie and go in spoiler-free.
10. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: I basically just put this on every list because I love it so much – but there’s something about a drama-filled family story with this really vivid house at the center that feels right for reading in the Fall. Plus there are some ‘coming home for Thanksgiving’ plot points that tie it in. And if you are more into audiobook – Tom Hanks reads this one and it’s just a delight.
To me, September always feels like a fresh start. No matter how old I get, it still reminds me of the unnerving promise of a new school year. Brand new shoes to break in and pencils to sharpen. The first crisp chill in the air that finally allows for sleeping with the windows open. Anything seems possible again in New York in the Fall.
This year has not been short on challenges for me. Largely at work but personally too and, quite obviously, for the world at large. In a lot of ways I found it just as hard as 2020. And I don’t think I’m alone in having spent much of the year sort of stagnant (or languishing as the New York Times so aptly coined it). And on top of that, last Fall was extremely stressful so I don’t really feel like I got to savor it. So more than ever I feel gripped by the desire to use this next season to the fullest. To slow down in the little moments while simultaneously adding fuel to my bigger pursuits. To feel like my best self. Or, at the very least, some some slightly improved, slightly more sane version of myself.
I want to get back to being creative, just for creativity’s sake. Taking photos, writing, playing the piano. I want to get back to exploring the city. Back to date nights and dressing up on a Tuesday just because. Dust off the shoes that have been similarly languishing in the back of my closet for a year and a half. I want to go on long walks in the cool morning air, treat myself to fresh flowers and get a regular manicure. I want to be better about creating a balanced work/life schedule and at the same time – allow for spontaneity.
September is always a fresh start. What will you do with it?