Life

THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER SIX

It’s been since September since my last #SteeleMaidenBook Club post (where did October, November and December even go?!), but I’m back and planning to be able to stick to a more regular, monthly schedule for these posts in 2019. If you want to see everything I reviewed in 2018 – you can find those posts here. Below, what I read this Fall (hint, some of the best 4 books I read all year) plus what I’ve got on my shelf for January. Happy reading!

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: This novel follows the life of a young, millennial woman throughout college and the beginning years of her building a career in New York. Touches on the complexities of relationships (both female friendship and romantic involvements) and the ultimately what kind of drive, motivation and sacrifice it takes to rise to the top in any given industry. I really liked this overall, however I will say that I didn’t love it as much as I loved Wolitzer’s earlier work The Interestings. Maybe it was because I never really connected with the main character? Either way there were some interesting side stories here and I think it’s worth a read for sure.

Calypso by David Sedaris: Consistently one of my favorite authors, Calypso felt a bit different than some of Sedaris’ earlier memoirs in that he’s middle-aged now and has been dealing with some of the messier bits of life (his mother’s death, sister’s suicide, the hurdles of being in a multi-decade relationship). He handled the topics with his signature mix of bizarre hilarity and self-depricating honesty. Highly recommend.

Marlena by Julie Buntin: I picked this book up on a whim from one of my favorite little bookstores back home in PA and was so pleasantly surprised. The novel focuses on the life-shifting friendship of two young high school aged girls – and while the specifics of the storyline are likely not one many of us can relate to (I hope, as things get fairly dark), the feelings of the magic of those types of friendships are really universal in my opinion. Also just really beautifully written. Totally exceeded my expectations which is the best kind of book to me.

Educated by Tara Westover: I had high hopes for this book after reading so much great press and it didn’t disappoint. Tara shares her real life story of growing up in rural Idaho to a family of extreme Mormon preppers (meaning they feared the government, banned modern medicine and forbid the children from receiving a formal education as they prepped for a Y2K-like fall-out of society). Not only are the specifics of this story unbelievable but it’s also an incredible tale of one woman’s bravery to fight for the education that she deserved. Everyone should read this book.

SHOP THIS MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:

For the month ahead I’m tackling Little Women by Lousia May Alcott (a classic I somehow never got around to and feels like a good winter read), A Wild Swan by Michael Cunningham (a collection of re-imagined fairy tales from the author of The Hours), The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (a popular thriller that I hear is going to be made into a TV series) and I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (historical fiction recommended to me by a dear friend and fellow book lover).

SHOP NEXT MONTH’S BOOK CLUB:

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GOALS FOR 2019

As tough as much of 2018 turned out to be (read more about that here), when I look at my ‘goals for 2018’ post – I still managed to achieve a few. Mainly, a better work life balance (life kind of forced my hand there but I cut way back on blog related work and really took time to just be still and rest). And I also took some strides towards better health. After years I went to the dentist and eye doctor, I drastically reduced dairy from my diet (due to stomach pains that I had just kind of been grinning and bearing for several years) and in the second half of the year I got back into a solid workout routine.

In 2019? I want to not just focus on the basics but really push myself to get out of my comfort zone. Here – a few actionable goals for the coming year.

WORK:

I’ve had a personal project swimming around in my head for a couple of years now and all the usual excuses (fear of failure, that I’m not being ready, lack of time…) have stopped me. It would be a fashion story-telling sort of website.. and maybe podcast? Regardless, this year I’m going to just start. Even if it doesn’t become some smashing success. Even if it’s just for me. A failure is better than never even trying, right?

In terms of the blog – I think I’d like to find some sort of consistency that I can maintain. I used to post really regularly and then this past year that kind of went out the window. I’m hoping for 3 solid posts per week this year. And sharing more home decor, more everyday outfit snaps and more personal posts that hopefully connect with all of you. Anything else you want to see? Let me know in the comments!

HEALTH:

I’m planning on putting my health as another big focus this year – mental, physical and financial. Prioritizing things like rest and reading that make me feel mentally healthy. Pushing myself to maintain my 5 day/week workout routine and get back to a place where I feel really strong. And focusing on better spending habits in the short term as well as working hard on a long-term financial plan.

EXPLORATION:

I’d like to continue to explore New York, pushing myself to look beyond my favorite places and handful of favorite restaurants and make the most out of living in this amazing place.

Also – if I can get my ducks in a row and my pennies in a jar, I’d really love to do some more traveling this year. I’ve made a “wander-list” of places I’d like to get to this year and figure – if I put it out there the universe just may bring it back to me, right?

HOME:

This applies to both my relationships at home (and fostering them to be the best they can possibly be) as well as making my home a place that feels like a reflection of my personal style and a respite from the often craziness of the outside world. Also – I hope there are plenty more home projects (like this one) to share with all of you.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and exciting new year!

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2018: A YEAR IN REVIEW

It’s almost funny to me now when I look back at my 2017 recap post that I thought it had been a somewhat trying year. I guess 2018 figured I still had a few more lessons to learn…

A lot of people choose one word/phrase mantras for their years instead of a list of resolutions. If I look back at 2017 I’d say my phrase was “treading water” – I didn’t really get where that I wanted to (in my career life or personal life) and if I look at that year really critically (as I’ve been known to do) it’s because I was so busy just keeping my head above water trying to balance work, blog, freelance, relationships that I didn’t have a chance to dig deeper and do the work that would have resulted in real changes.

If I look back at 2018 I’d say my phrase was “drowning”. Like a slow culmination, early into the start of this year – my life began to slowly break down. My company downsized and went through multiple rounds of lay-offs. My position was spared but seeing colleagues that had become friends pack their things was not easy nor was living with the fear that I could be next. I struggled with health – emotional, physical and financial. One of my closest relationships shattered in ways I hadn’t thought possible and left me unsure of how to move forward without it. I spent my birthday at my grandfather’s funeral for god sakes. For the first time in my adult life I felt really truly lost. There were a lot of days that just getting up and going to work felt unsurmountable. And a lot of nights that ended in tears.

As I look ahead to 2019 I’d like to think my word will be “swimming”. I’m not going to be arrogant enough to set a goal of where I’m swimming towards (although I’m hoping it’s a sunny little island called happiness) – but the point is that I’ll have my head above water and I won’t be doing the backstroke. 2018 taught me that I have zero control over a lot of factors in life, but it also reminded me that I have complete control of myself. In the second half of 2018 I joined a gym again. I started writing just for fun. I devoured books again the way I used to before I let my life get too busy for it. I posted less on my blog (turns out the world didn’t come to a screeching halt). I had the difficult conversations I’d been avoiding since 2017. I loosened my grip on the past and opened my arms (just a little) to embrace the unknown of the future. In the second half of 2018 I came to the realization that at the end of the day – even if my life turns out absolutely nothing like I had imagined – I’ll be able to keep going. I know how to swim.

While I hope that your year didn’t have quite as much heartache as mine did at times – I also hope that you were able to garner some valuable lessons from it regardless. One of my favorite quotes this time of year:

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

I feel ready to write in a few of my own answers in 2019.

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LET’S CATCH UP 12.14.18

Be honest with me – have you finished shopping or have you not even started yet? I fall, embarrassingly, into the latter category. This weekend is my chance to play catch up. And to that end – I thought there were a few errant thoughts that I wanted to share with you all. Happy reading and then happy weekend!

  1. We went uptown to see all of the holiday storefronts on Fifth Avenue and the Rockefeller Tree last weekend and even with impossible crowds of tourists, it’s still just plain magic. Even more so when you are carrying a thermos of hot toddies. A spiced tea with this recipe will do the trick.
  2. I’ve been waiting for the return of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel all summer and am trying to slowlyyyy pace myself on the new season. It’s got me thinking about female comics and exactly what it is about them that enamors me so much. Lucille Ball, Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are all sort of personal heroes to me. I think it’s because they cared far less about their looks than making the crowd laugh and pushing back against the status quo. This interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus only further confirms my fandom. 
  3. If you’re also in the ‘last-minute shoppping’ boat – Anthropologie is having a 30% off sitewide sale. I love their little giftables like candles or cold weather accessories for the ladies in your life. 
  4. I’ve got 5 more days at the office before 11 blissful days off. I plan on finallyyyy getting through my last #SteeleMaidenBookClub stack. Reviews and what’s next on my shelf coming soon!
  5. Pantone has deigned ‘Living Coral’ as the 2019 Color of the Year. I like this illustrated guide as to how they came to the decision.

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DIY FIREPLACE MAKEOVER WITH HOME DEPOT

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

I’ve been bursting to share this project with you guys! This all began months ago, flipping through design books and swooning over incredible fireplaces. Staring at the decorative fireplace in our living room I couldn’t help feeling like it hadn’t quite reached its full potential. And so my little dream of a fireplace makeover began. And also where The Home Depot came in. I was thrilled to sign on to partner with them on this project since they’ve always been our go to source for home DIY projects throughout the years. For the complete play by play of how this whole thing miraculously came together (just $300, a few splinters and a swear word or two along the way…) – visit my full post on The Home Depot blog.

BEFORE:

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

AFTER:

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home DepotThe Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

And just for fun – a few things we learned along the way. In case you’re inspired to tackle your own rental-friendly DIY fireplace makeover (or really any other home project your heart desires).

THINGS WE LEARNED:

  1. When all else fails – search for a YouTube video or sand it down a bit more. Ha.
  2. Measure twice (or three.. or four times), cut once. Something my Dad (the ultimate DIY-er) ingrained in me very early on. I can’t tell you how many times we checked measurements on trim for this and thankfully never made a mistake in cutting.
  3. Working with brick (and old apartment floors!) is tricky since you’ll never get a perfectly level surface or straight edge. Instead of letting it drive you crazy – make friends with shims. There’s a couple of them hidden throughout this fireplace.
  4. A lot of people find DIY home projects with their partner to be a recipe for disaster. We’ve found having a really clear plan (lots of lists and sketches), talking through each step before we begin and encouraging each other when the other starts to lose hope (somewhere in hour 35 I promise it will happen) goes a long way.
  5. Most importantly – don’t let the fact that you’re a renter stop you from maximizing your home’s potential. Sure, we likely won’t live here forever so someday we’ll have to leave this fireplace behind and technically we invested time and money into someone else’s place. But in the meantime? It’s ours and I have a smile on my face every single time I walk in the door and see this fireplace. Totally worth it in my opinion. Same goes for bothering to paint the walls in a rental, switch out a light fixture or upgrade drawer pulls. The littlest changes can have the greatest impact and make your time (however fleeting) in a rental infinitely more enjoyable.

Thank you to The Home Depot for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.