Gift Guide

HOLIDAY BOOKS TO READ THIS SEASON

It’s officially holiday romcom reading season! By this point in the year, my mind typically of mush from my full-time job and an otherwise busy schedule, so a couple of years ago I started gravitating towards really light, fun holiday books in December – and it’s since become one of my favorite seasonal traditions. Sure, they’re sometimes a little bit cheesy, but they’re also full of heart and go down easier than a cup of eggnog. Besides this year’s new releases I’ve also included a few that I loved from years past as well as a couple that aren’t romance focused at all – but still perfectly seasonal. Happy holiday reading!

And a friendly reminder – I’ve linked these to Amazon so that you can easily see what they are – but independent bookstores need your support, especially at the holidays. And since it’s Small Business Saturday, why not pick one of these up from your favorite local shop?!

On My Reading List This Year:

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox: I’m reading this now and it’ a mix between movies The Holiday and The Parent Trap (a city to country + twin swap) plus both twin sisters are bakers, one as a host of a British Bake Off-esque show and one in a family run bakery. Lots of hijinx so far.

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer: I finished this last week and honestly, it was so fun to learn all about the traditions of a holiday that I’m only surface-level familiar with. There’s not a ton of diversity in these holiday books, but this one did a really nice job of weaving that into the storyline – apparently the author, similarly to the main character, suffers from chronic illness as well. I loved the bubbe (grandmother) character too.

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire: From the author of Wicked (that inspired the award-winning musical), this book is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Wild Swan’ fairytale – and takes place in New York City at Christmastime in the 1960s. It’s one of the books I’m most looking forward to this season.

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole: This one centers on an unlikely friendship between a young aspiring fashion designer and an older resident in her same apartment building and a certain dress brings them together. As previously mentioned, I love when older women get to be main characters in books (it so rarely happens) – so this one was an easy sell to me.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis: A blizzard traps two people together one night and then fate keeps bringing them back together. Feels a little like Serendipity which is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Always in December by Emily Stone: A woman who hates the holidays runs into a man who gives her a reason not to. Set in New York, London and Edinburgh (three places I love) so this was an easy sell to me.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin: Paris at Christmas.. in a bookstore. Need I say more? I actually picked this one up last year and didn’t have time to get to it so I’m hoping to this year. Sounds very sweet.

Past Favorites:

One Day in December by Josie Silver: The one that started it all. I read this 2-3 years and was instantly hooked on this genre. It’s a classic girl meets boy, girl loses boy to girl’s best friend story. And takes place over the span of almost a decade and I couldn’t put it down.

In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren: It’s Groundhogs Day meets Christmas in this book giving one girl many chances to get it right.. or wrong. A fun, festive read I liked last year.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva: A reimagined tale of what Charles Dickens life looked like as he wrote his beloved Christmas Carol. I loved going back in time to 1800s London and reading this fictionalized account of how his family and friends (and mainly himself) might have showed themselves in his famous work of literature.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris: I’ve mentioned it many times but Sedaris on of my favorite authors. This compilation of his holiday-themed essays is a short, funny read that includes reflections on his time spent working as an elf in Macy’s Santa-land.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory: Loved that the main couple in this book was in their 50s roughly, it had a Royal storyline (the daughter is a stylist for a Kate Middleton type Duchess) and was diverse (all of the main characters are Black) – and a fun trip to London too! A nice book if you’ve had your fill of the usual 20 somethings falling in love.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss: This was one of my favorites that I read last year. The main character is reluctantly seeking love after focusing on a career that she loves and balancing relationships with her family and friends. She felt really well-rounded and realistic. Spoiler – love ensues.

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THE BLACK FRIDAY SALES I’M SHOPPING: 2021

I try to be really strategic when it comes to Black Friday/Cyber Monday – because honestly (and I say this as someone who makes their full time living in Ecommerce) marketing surrounding these sales can really push you into buying things you don’t need just because they’re on sale. That being said – I use this as a time to pick up gifts and a handful of selects items that are either classic wardrobe staples or pieces that I otherwise wouldn’t want to pay full-price for (like a fun holiday skirt that I will only wear a handful of times).

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and may the discounts be ever in your favor this weekend.

THE SALES I’M SHOPPING:

FAVORITES I OWN, NOW ON SALE:

  • I have a few nice wool overcoats for winter, but I needed another heavy duty puffer and this Lands End one is perfect for casual weekends. In fact, every time I’ve worn it so far I’ve been too warm – which is a good sign that it’s going to actually hold up to a New York winter. Their whole site is 50% off + free shipping.
  • I just got this long cardigan (40% off right now) in and am swooning – I’m going to share two ways to wear it this weekend. But suffice to say it’s the new (slightly unexpected) standout of my holiday wardrobe. Plus – this velvet blazer, these jeans in a simple straight leg, and this cute plaid bag – are all wardrobe favorites of mine and they’re all 40% off too.
  • This gold mirror (we have it in our room at the lake house) is nearly $100 off right now. It can be hung vertically or horizontally and I love that it is simple enough to fit with almost any decor.
  • I shared the Sarah Flint Perfect Pumps in my last blog post and I truly can’t say enough good things about the quality, comfort and fit. They’re a definite ‘splurge’ – but when you factor in how often you’ll wear them and how long they’ll last, the cost per wear feels quite practical. My code SARAHFLINT-BASTEELE gets you $50 off 1 pair, $100 off 2 pairs, $150 off 3 pairs or (if you’re feeling wild) $200 off 4 pairs.
  • This Grecian bust pot I bought last year is 30% off – it looks great on it’s own or filled with flowers.
  • This plaid wrap dress I wore on Thanksgiving is an extra 25% off its sale price – along with all the rest of the discounted designer styles at The Outnet.
  • My new favorite clean mascara is 20% off right now in the brand’s only sale of the year. I’m thinking of trying their brow gel too.

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MY 2021 HOLIDAY GIFT WISHLIST

Perhaps, quite selfishly, one of my favorite posts to write each year is this round-up of the thing that are on my own personal holiday gift wishlist. Do I *need* any of this? Mostly not. But if I decide to gift myself something or if someone reading this is looking to gift me something, here are plenty of things I want. And if you’re having trouble thinking of things to put on your own wishlist – maybe one of these will be a fit!
  1. Silky Pajamas – I’m very into the idea of these luxe looking pajamas with a celestial print.
  2. British Designers At Home – I rarely buy coffee table books (because in full transparency we don’t have a coffee table) but I’d find space for this one about the real homes of British Designers. I love that lived-in, quirky English style.
  3. Oversized Hair Bow – Wouldn’t be mad at accompanying tickets to Paris while we’re at it.
  4. Red (Taylor’s Version) on Vinyl – I think this one goes without saying.
  5. Harney & Sons Holiday Tea Set – I love specialty teas in winter and this duo (Hot Cinnamon Spice and Holiday) sounds so festive.
  6. Statement Earrings – I’ll likely be cashing in on my employee discount for these beauties.
  7. Plaid Bag – Adds such a fun, festive touch to an otherwise simple outfit.
  8. Silver Party Heels – These would be so cute with sparkly socks and jeans or tights and a party dress. Code: Steele15 will get you 15% off if you’re similarly swooning.
  9. Tickets to Moulin Rouge on Broadway – I really want to get back to a Broadway show after over a year of not having that option. Moulin Rouge feels like it would be such a fun one!
  10. Holiday City Mugs – These festive mugs come in New York, London, Paris and Los Angeles versions and I’m very tempted to collect the full set.
  11. 1990 Sweatshirt – Adam is a 1990 baby and I love this vintage looking red sweatshirt as a nod to him.
  12. Taper Candle Holders – I like that these feel organic and seasonless. They’d be so pretty with a colored taper candle.
  13. Light Tortoiseshell Glasses – I finally made it to the Eye Dr. since pre-pandemic and my prescription changed slightly. A perfect excuse for a new pair of glasses.
  14. Work Horse by Kim Reed – I’m fascinated by the underbelly of the New York restaurant scene. I love that this memoir takes you inside the world from a woman’s perspective.

SHOP THE POST:

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A VERY BOOKISH GIFT GUIDE

To me, there’s nothing quite like the gift of a book. And at a time when many of us could use an escape, a good cry or a good laugh or something to inspire us – books can provide that. So without further ado – A Very Bookish Gift Guide for 2020. There are mistletoe-filled romances and challenging literary novels, books for parents, partners and friends – and yourself of course. Nearly 50 of them in total!

Disclosure: If you’re able to purchase these from your local bookstores please do so! I’ve also linked everything on Bookshop.org which is an awesome resource that supports indie stores across the country. However, in the product carousels below the images link to Amazon – as it was the best way for me to show all the covers.

Click to the next page for all of my recommendations!

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SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY: 10 NYC BASED BUSINESSES TO SHOP

(Margaux Pointe Ballet Flats)
  • Strand Bookstore – While I have a solid handful of bookstores in this city that I truly love, the Strand will always feel like my home base bookstore. They’ve been around since 1927 and I’ve been visiting for over 13 years, since I first interned in the city. Like most indie bookstores this year, they need more support than ever this holiday season. Right now if you buy $100 in gift cards you’ll get an extra $20 gift card.
  • Margaux NY – If Audrey Hepburn needed a modern-day source for the perfect ballet flat, she would come to Margaux. I was kindly gifted the pointe ballet flats and I feel approximately 25x more chic every time I wear them. Their shoes come in wide, narrow and regular or custom options and the Italian leather continues to mold to your feet over time. Like I said.. perfect. They’re 20% off sitewide this weekend, but if you miss the sale – code: STEELE10 will get you 10% off your first pair.
  • The Koop New York – A Black, female owned business out of Brooklyn that makes some of the best selling candles I’ve tried. They’re offering 30% off right now and while things tend to sell out quickly, if you sign up for their newsletter you’ll be the first to find out about restocks.
(The Koop New York candle)
  • East Olivia – I’ve followed Olivia on Instagram for a few years now and am always blown away by her incredible floral installations around the city. She’s since opened her own shop and also sells dried arrangements online that are so, so pretty. A thoughtful gift for a flower loving friend spending lots of time at home right now.
  • Madame Matovu – My favorite vintage store in the West Village. Go for the beautifully curated clothing, accessories and artwork – stay for the conversations with Rosemary, the owner and a longtime New Yorker.
  • CW Pencil Enterprise – This female-owned specialty pencil shop on the Lower East Side is a writer’s dream with pencils from around the world plus stationary and other bits and bobs to outfit your desk. The kind of niche place that makes me love this city so much.
  • McNally Jackson – If the Strand is the original NY bookstore, McNally Jackson is her slightly more literary older sister. They’ve got 4 locations including a new spot in South Street Seaport with a beautiful cafe, but also take online orders – and with sales down 70% this year, every order counts.
(Outside of McNally Jackson, at the Seaport location)
  • Dobbin St Co-Op – An expertly curated Brooklyn-based vintage store with two locations. I’m partial to the one in Greenpoint), where I’ve had good luck finding cool, mid-century homegoods.
  • Gigi New York/Graphic Image – a Long Island based company that carries beautiful handbags and leather accessories. I’ve been carrying this black leather crossbody bag for 5 years now and I swear it still looks as good as new. They were also kind enough to send me a leather 2021 planner which would make a beautiful gift this season to those of us looking forward to a fresh page in the new year (ahem.. everyone).
  • Fishs Eddy – Nearly 12 years ago when I first moved to New York I remember reading about this quirky Union Square home goods store and taking the 6 train down to visit. Now I’m just a short walk away and still love stopping in to find unique dishes and gifts.
(Vintage embroidery artwork via Madame Matovu)
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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.