Life

LET’S CATCH UP 6.2.19

I can’t quite put my finger on how or why but every single French girl we saw in Paris just looked so damn cool. It’s like this kind of undone, effortless confidence that they just exude that somehow makes everything they wear look better. The outfit above, on our last day in Paris, is probably the closest I got to their certain je ne sais quoi. A linen blazer and white cotton maxi dress (even better with the wrinkles), converse sneakers with cobblestone scuffs and a simple straw bag. We ate breakfast at Cafe de Flore, walked off the croissants across the Seine and then stumbled across this gorgeous little tucked away street. All was right with the world. Aside from studying up on how to master French girl cool and dreaming of a return ticket – here are a few other things on my mind this weekend:

  1. Every summer has its own magic – but doesn’t everyone have 1 or 2 summers in life that really stand out in their memory? I loved this New York Time article where 5 writers recount the ones that left the most lasting impression.
  2. I mentioned these perfect gold sandals over Memorial Day, and then I found them even further marked down here. Needless to say I’m still dreaming of them.
  3. Speaking of pinching pennies – I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me talk about how much of a financials fanatic I’ve become this year – but if you’re like me and felt really overwhelmed by the thought of it all – I like this post on the basics regarding retirement funds.
  4. This week I’m going to a comedy club on Tuesday night for an all female-comic evening and then headed to the ballet at Lincoln Center to see their take on Jane Eyre on Wednesday. I tend to kind of hole up in the winters here so I like to make up for it in summer and get out and enjoy all this city has to offer every chance I can! I’ll report back on both events.
  5. I’m always way late to the game when it comes to beauty but I tried a hair mask for the first time recently (this one – sold in individual packets – you just apply after shampoo in the shower and leave on for 5 minutes or so then rinse) and it left my hair feeling brighter and softer. And smells so good! I’d recommend.
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BEFORE/AFTER: THRIFTED DRESSER MAKEOVER

If you’ve been following along with the process – last April we moved into a new apartment. It was a year of transition and while I would have loved to immediately decorate the whole thing – reality intervened and for the first 6 months the bedroom was kind of in a temporary state. Case in point – we spent the year without a dresser of any kind, digging socks out of baskets tucked away into the closet and silently cursing our lack of dresser (okay, sometimes I was audibly cursing). The budget was being held for other more pressing things and I didn’t want to buy something inexpensive just to buy it. Our last dresser was from Target for about $120 and looked ragged and cheap just about as soon as we’d put it together. In this apartment I wanted to do things differently, practicing patience until I found pieces I loved and would grow with us for years to come.

Early in Spring I happened upon this dresser in a thrift shop while visiting my parents in Pennsylvania. It was $35 and in rough shape but I saw potential (Adam, for the record, did not.. but he came around). I love the thought of giving something a new life and not just accepting the way it currently looks as the way it has to stay forever. Especially with housewares, be willing to think of a new purpose for something or consider a small tweak that could make big impact. It makes for a home that’s way more interesting than having everything be straight out of the box, store bought.

I removed the old hardware, used an electric sander borrowed from my Dad to fully remove the old varnish finish and smooth out chips and dents then painted a chalky black color. From there I found simple, brushed gold drawer pulls, lined the old drawers with fresh contact paper and was nearly done when I realized that I needed something for the top. I wanted to be able to toss down my earrings or a mug at the end of the day without worrying about scratching up the paint.

At first I thought about having a piece of custom glass made, but since the whole project had been so affordable up to that point I kind of didn’t want to blow it all at the end. My Mom suggested a chic, oversized tray (I learned all my interior magic tricks from my incredibly resourceful parents) and that’s when I stumbled across this marble pastry slab at Crate and Barrel – almost the exact dimensions of the dresser top and I had already used marble contact paper to line the drawers! DIY serendipity. The entire project cost about $120 – for a beautiful, real wood dresser that is tailored perfectly to the space. Sometimes (okay a lot of the time) it pays to wait.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER EIGHT

I’m not quite sure why it took me over 2 months to read 2 books, but here we are. I’m looking forward to warmer days when I can read in the park or spend a weekend at the lake, reading beside the water – pretty much my all time favorite activity! Anyway.. below are my thoughts on the books I read in March/April and what’s on my shelf next. And if you’re looking for more – you can always find all of my book club picks here.

Becoming by Michelle Obama: First of all, drop whatever political baggage you’re holding at the door. This book isn’t here for that. This is the incredible true story of a woman born on the south side of Chicago, raised in a one bedroom apartment who went on to graduate with a law degree from Harvard and become the first African American First Lady this country has ever seen. It’s such an incredible story about the power of knowledge, hard work and resilience. It’s a story about what it means to be a young black girl in Chicago and how if you don’t like what that story typically is – you can fight to write a different one for yourself. It’s about marriage through difficult times and motherhood through crazy circumstances. It’s a human story and I highly recommend it.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: This book is by an Italian author and was translated into English and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that for me, there may have been a little something lost in the beauty of the translation. This is also the first in an anthology (The Neopolitan Novels) of four books and something about that kind of seemed daunting in the back of my head while I read it, like I’d still have so much more to read. All that being said, it’s still a precisely crafted novel about the story of friendship between two young girls – starting at about aged 5-6 and ending at age 16-17 taking place in a small village in Italy in the 1950s. Painting a complex story about coming of age mixed with poverty, family relations, education and community that felt like a slow burn – in a good way. And by the end? I still knew I’d have to pick up the next book at some point.

Next up: I’ll be reading Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (a novel based on the real-life story of a WWII-era New York socialite and a renegade group of concentration camp survivors), Maid by Stephanie Land (the memoir of a working mother’s will to survive), French Exit by Patrick DeWitt (a romp of a story about an Upper East Side Mother and Son who fall from grace and flee to Paris), Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (a multi-generational novel about how a decision by two people can affect families for years to come), and Black Swans by Eve Babitz (about the wild world of NYC in the 80s and 90s). I’ve got a lot of reading to do but I’m so excited about all of these books. Hope you’ll pick one or two of them up for yourself!

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LET’S CATCH UP 4.27.19


I feel like I have lots to catch up on (both in real life and here on the blog). After being away with family the past two weekends in a row and then being knocked out with a dreadful cold all week, I’m thrilled to be resuming my regular New York life this weekend. Below, a few things on my mind:

  1. If you’re looking for a new show this weekend – I highly recommend ‘Shrill’ on Hulu starring Aidy Bryant. I’ve been a fan of Aidy’s for a long time now via SNL but this show is something else all together. Essentially it deals with her relationship with (and society’s views of) her body – and plus size women in general. The whole show is great but there’s one scene in particular in which there’s a pool party and every woman there is plus size. I don’t think there has ever been a scene in TV history where that many curvy women were shown in swimsuits. It’s wasn’t the one “token friend” – it was everyone. There was cellulite and rolls and bikinis and I just was so happy that the next generation of girls is going to grow up and not only see one type of stick skinny body represented in media. The whole show is really powerful. And also brilliantly funny. Please watch.
  2. Two weeks from now Adam and I will be in Paris which feels frighteningly soon but also extremely exciting. I went once 10 years ago while studying abroad in London but he’s never been so we have lots to see and do. Aside from planning our site-seeing and restaurant research I know I’ll be grabbing these cute polk dot flats (on sale in Talbots Friends & Family 30% off sale) for all the walking we’ll do on this trip. Bon voyage!
  3. A few weeks ago I got my second earring holes pierced and a follower on Instagram asked for my tips. For some reason my friend and I thought it was going to be a really breezy experience – like we’ll grab a coffee, pierce our ears and go on. She had her first holes done as a baby so had no memory and I had mine done in middle school so it’s pretty foggy (plus my eyebrow pierced in college but that’s a whole other rodeo I won’t go into right now). To make a long story short it was not breezy. We picked an affordable tattoo shop and while it was fine, I can’t say I’d specifically recommend it either. I’ve known people who have gone to the trendy Manhattan places like Maria Tash and had a good experience but paid upwards of $150 for a single piercing by the time you buy the jewelry. I wasn’t down for that so we went the tattoo shop route (I paid about $70 total for both ears including jewelry). Just read reviews! Now to the piercing. My friend went first and her ears shockingly bled so much that she legit had blood down the back of her shirt. I watched in horror while wearing a white eyelet dress. Don’t do this. Apparently it’s perfectly normal to bleed a little or a lot – which we didn’t know – so wear dark colors just in case. Afterwards, you’re supposed to wear your hair pulled back for awhile so nothing gets tangled up and you’ll be cleaning them at least twice daily which honestly has added a solid 10 minutes to my morning and night routine. So I wouldn’t plan to do this right before traveling or a big event necessarily. Also, I spent several nights barely able to sleep because I could only lay on my back until Adam brilliantly thought I should try an airplane pillow (so that I could sleep on my side but that my ear would be in the middle not touching anything). That truly saved me. Basically, know that it’s kind of going to be a drag for about a month. But I’m happy I finally bit the bullet and did it because I’m excited to be able to wear tiny studs in the second holes and this will likely be my last piercing… like, ever.
  4. My sister and I are holding each other accountable for a 21 day online workout course called ‘Beach Body On Demand’ – a ridiculous name but honestly the best workouts I’ve had in years. These 30 minute circuits have me using muscles that I never even knew existed. I’m on Day 8 and feel stronger already. I haven’t weighed myself in years so I won’t be able to report on whether or not I lose any weight but I’m excited to see new muscles form and my stamina increase. It’s also just so good to raise the bar for yourself every once in awhile. Aside from the extreme soreness, ha, I feel really mentally recharged in a surprising way.
  5. After monthsss of searching for a couch that’s not too long but also not too short for our space, cool and modern but still completely comfortable and bold but not overly trendy – I think we’ve found “the one“. The best part is, they’ll carry it up the stairs of our 4th floor walk-up.
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5 EASY AND AFFORDABLE RENTAL-FRIENDLY UPDATES

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

This time of year always makes me want to switch up my home decor. Luckily, we’ve still got plenty of projects to work on here – but if you’re in the mood for something that freshens up your space, below are my favorite weekend projects that are big on impact but still simple, affordable and rental friendly!

CREATE AN ACCENT WALL:

Hands down my favorite way to make a big statement in a room without a huge commitment. My go-to has always been a rich, dark color – in my first NYC studio apartment I carved out a “bedroom” nook with a deep charcoal grey color behind my bed and it felt so cozy, but in this apartment I love our navy wall that leads into the entryway). And if your landlord approves it – I can’t recommend wallpaper enough. More expensive than a can of paint but SO much fun and personality can be added via print on a wall.

SWITCH YOUR HARDWARE:

I found the below nightstands at Home Goods – and while I loved that they were simple, narrow and included a drawer, the original black knobs made them look cheaper somehow. I found these agate and wood rectangle knobs at Anthropologie, swapped them out in 5 minutes and it elevated the whole look. Plus no one else will have the exact same nightstands now! An under $20 upgrade that makes me happy every time I see them.

The Steele Maiden: Fall Reading List

CHANGE YOUR LIGHT FIXTURES:

The only thing I truly disliked about our current apartment was the stock, rental light fixtures. If you’re a renter you know the kind. Those sort of gross flush mount ones that barely put off any light? Yeah.. get rid of those. I store mine high up in a closet so that when we move I can throw them back on and take my new lighting with me wherever we go next. While you’re at it? Add a ceiling medallion. I found this one for around $20 at Home Depot and it adds an instant bit of old world elegance to the place. Another 5 minute project that makes your place look really finished.

JUST ADD PLANTS:

To be honest, it’s really taken me a solid year in this new apartment to feel like I’m developing a green thumb. It takes daily maintenance. But the rewards of walking in to your home and seeing LIFE all around you is huge to me. Plants are proven to help filter the air in your home and definitively make people feel happier. Grab a new green friend this weekend, put it in a pretty pot and voila!

DIY A CUSTOM HEADBOARD:

I wanted the look of a custom headboard but didn’t want to commit to the price. So we found a cheap upholstered headboard online, covered it in batting from the craft fair and then wrapped it in a beautiful rich velvet fabric I had (and secured with a staple gun on the back). The entire project cost $100 but looks so much more expensive then that.

The Steele Maiden Book Club: Chapter Three

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