Life

ON LIFE: SEEING YOURSELF AT WORK

Have you ever seen yourself at work? Not on a Zoom Call – that I’ve seen ad nauseam in recent years – but without a monitor screen reminding you to sit up straighter or fix your hair. I mean, have you seen yourself actually in the process of working? Or parenting.. or creating.. whatever it is you “do”. I don’t think I ever have. 

While on set for a photoshoot last week I had one of our model’s playing around with my polaroid camera in a video we were filming. In the midst of this she ended up taking a candid picture of myself and the photographer on my team. Essentially a reverse view of what our own camera was capturing. In the photo I am bent slightly, peering up to the camera’s screen – mid observation. A note to adjust the lighting ready to slip from my lips, musing quietly on what I think might work better. The wheels of my work are turning. It’s interesting to see myself this way.

This year I’m moving to a corner desk. It’s not exactly Don Draper’s Madison Avenue view, but it’s something. And I often find myself thinking I’m not quite cut out for the job. Too young (although less so by the day) or small somehow. But when I look at this photo I see myself in a new way – small, yes, but in control of the moment. Here lies hard proof that I am someone’s boss.

This photo felt like a tiny sign from the universe to keep going (also to stand up straighter and fix my hair). Next time you think of it – I encourage you to take a candid photo of someone “working” and give it to them. It might be just the thing they need to keep going too. 

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THE BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2022

A little later than usual, but I’d be remiss to not post this recap of something that has such a meaningful impact on my year. In reflection, this wasn’t my absolute best year of reading (2020 and 2021 were incredible for me) but the out of the 51 books that I read, the 10 below will stick with me for a long time. Some of them have even been elevated to the coveted “best books of my life” list. Happy reading in the new year!

Below, in no particular order, my top 10 books of 2022. And in case you’re interested – my lists from 2021, 2020 and 2019.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – I like historical fiction but I often find that the writing is not as compelling to me as more modern, literary fiction. This one however really swept me away. New York in the 1930s, a female protagonist that I just adored, an imperfect love story. It’s going on my all-time favorites list.

Left On Tenth by Delia Ephron – One of only 2 non-fiction books that made my list this year. This is a story of second chances. A coming of “old” age story. A reminder to us all not to give up or count ourselves out no matter the circumstances. I loved it. 

Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors – I tend to lean towards fictional relationships that feel more like real life.. a little messy, honest, hurtful, beautiful. This book had such a modern voice and a central relationship that felt completely original. I’ll be watching what Mellors does next. 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – The most backlist title on my round-up this year (it was originally published in 1992) this one is a cult classic to a lot of readers and a kind of pioneer in the Dark Academia genre. I’d wanted to pick this up for years and am so glad I did. It’s long but it builds such a vivid world that you really inhabit with these characters and I found myself not wanting it to end. All in all I really loved this book and it too has been elevated to one of my all time favorites.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske – I think I liked this book so much, in part, because it really surprised me. Fantasy isn’t my go-to genre by any means but this world, where secret witchcraft existed amongst Edwardian England, totally captivated me. Not to mention a very compelling love story at the center. A pitch perfect escapist novel to me. 

Sorrow & Bliss by Meg Mason – This book made me both laugh out loud and cry. A rare feat. I will say, it’s not an altogether easy book to read, but it has an unforgettable lead character with a great supporting cast and discusses mental health issues in a heartbreakingly honest way. 

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi – The second time a book by Choi has shown up on one of my year end ‘best of’ lists and the only YA book on my list. Choi writes in the most realistic young modern voice that I’ve read and I loved this New York story. Is it weird that in my head I pictured the couple as 2019 era Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson?

Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik – The second non-fiction book to make my list. Like the real life Penny Lane, I’d heard of Eve Babitz but found this deep dive into her life (and with it a look at 1960s Hollywood in its heyday) unputdownable. I read right before we went to Palm Springs and it felt so atmospheric and fun.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo – If you liked Commonwealth by Ann Patchett or Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (aka engrossing family sagas) I urge you to pick up this one that I absolutely loved at the beginning of last year. I still think often about Marilyn and David’s relationship.

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach – Another book I still think about often after having read it last summer. I devoured this over the course of a single weekend, out on the fire escape – sweating and sipping diet coke (it’s the sign of a great book to me when I can still distinctly picture exactly how and where I read it). I hesitate to give anything away here – but it’s a story of sisters and trauma and coming of age and I related to so much of it so deeply.

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LET’S CATCH UP 12.14.22

Can you believe that we’re two weeks into December already? While it’s been flying by, I really feel like I’ve been making the most of this season… even if it means for a slightly busier schedule than my introverted self tends to like.

Below, I’m sharing the holiday outfits I’ve been wearing lately + what else has been on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my shopping cart.

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ON MY MIND:

  • We leave for holiday travel in less than two weeks – a fact that seems as impossible as it is exciting. I’ve never traveled the week of Christmas/New Years before.. are we crazy? Time will tell.
  • Before we go I have a bunch of holiday movies I need to squeeze into watching this season! We’ve already watched Serendipity and The Holiday and we have tickets to see Love Actually at our local theater which will be fun! Now to make time for Elf, The Family Stone, While You Were Sleeping and maybe the new Netflix one ‘Something From Tiffanys’ which looks cute.

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • Because my mind is absolute mush this time of year, as usual I’m working my way through my Holiday Reading List – a stack of books that I look forward to every year that are easy reading and essentially feel like a giant hug. So far I really enjoyed ‘Last Christmas in Paris’ and just started ‘All I Want For Christmas’ and don’t want to put it down!
  • My virtual book club chose The Measure by Nikki Erlick as our January read so I’m hoping to get a jump start on that – could be a good book for our flight?
  • I love a good memoir and there’s quite a few on this ‘Best Memoirs of 2022′ list I’d be interestedin picking up this winter.

IN MY CART:

  • Besides last minute gifts (insert panicked face here), I making my final suitcase edit for our upcoming trip and wow wow wow wouldn’t this brocade dress be chic for New Year’s Eve?!
  • I can’t stop looking at this $40 evening bag. Okay okay, it’s a little bit tacky. But also kind of fun for a holiday party?
  • If you’re in need of shoes that would put Mrs. Clause to shame.. might I suggest these? I have them and plan to wear them tomorrow night to a jazz night at Lincoln Center!
  • Sizes are running low but this crisp white button down with feather cuffs is finally on sale! I might not be able to resist.

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2022: HOLIDAY BOOKS TO READ THIS SEASON

Another one of my favorite posts to write each year! Around 3 years ago I realized that by the time I get to December, my brain is just mush. And instead of giving up on reading because I don’t have the same type of focus/bandwidth I figured, why not give a fun holiday rom-com a try? Spoiler: I loved it. And so began my yearly tradition of stocking up on holiday books and reading with absolute joy. Since then I’ve expanded to other genres – historical fiction, fairytale re-telling, essays, etc. They just have to be light and not make me think too hard to qualify.

I’m excited to dive into this year’s list and hope that you find something joy-inducing for your own stack this season!

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.

ON MY READING LIST THIS YEAR:

All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox: Set in Nashville, two rising country music stars are forced to fake a relationship for the media. I expect that holiday spirit and sparks fly.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb: An epistolary novel (written through letters) that follows a couple in the aftermath of WWI. I’m excited to switch up the more modern romances of the other things on my list with this one. And Paris.. swoon.

You’re A Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky: Rich boy forced to leave the city and spend the holidays in charming small town, meets small town boy who is unimpressed with said rich boy. I presume, love ensues. I like that this is a new take on a Hallmark classic trope.

Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar: I was hoping to find one this year that had a fairytale type element and this dark re-telling of The Nutcracker feels like it will perfectly fit the bill.

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish: A ‘The Holiday’ type location swap story set in New England and New Orleans, two friend and an LGBTQ romance. Sounds cute!

Meet Me Under The Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss: One of my favorite authors in this genre, this one stars a small bookshop owner in London who encounters her childhood enemy at a school reunion in the English countryside. I love an enemies to lovers story.. and this feels like the perfect holiday setting!

FAVORITES FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS:

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

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.

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:  I 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.

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. I really liked reading this last year.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss: This was one of my favorites that I read a couple of years ago. 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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LET’S CATCH UP 10.24.22

I can’t believe we’re closing in on the end of October! Overall it’s been a busy, but good month and I’m hoping to try to savor the last week of it while mentally preparing myself for the couple of months ahead. Below – what’s been on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my shopping cart.

ON MY MIND:

  • Taylor Swift’s Midnights album. That’s all. Okay, okay, not really but you all know I’m a Swiftie so this past weekend’s new album release was a real October highlight and it’s been on repeat ever since. Not surprisingly, I bought the vinyl.
  • We’re hopinggg to book a trip between Christmas and New Years. I’ve never traveled during this stretch and while I know it will likely be a little hectic travel-wise, I’m excited at the thought of getting away for a few days after what is always a whirlwind couple of months for us both at work.
  • On a more serious note, November elections are so soon – make sure you’ve checked your states cutoff dates to register (if you’re not already) and that you have a plan to get out and case your vote.
  • Are you dressing up for Halloween? I’ll have to be pulling together something last minute at this point, but those are always the best anyway. I was Ruth Bader Ginsberg a couple of years ago and Midge Maisel (with Adam as Susie) from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the year before.

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I hate to admit that I’ve been in a little bit of a book rut lately. I keep picking things up, reading 10 pages and then just not feeling hooked. Alas, the last thing that I flew through was The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling (the follow-up to last year’s The Ex Hex) – a very cute romcom of a book that’s like Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls with a little extra heat thrown in.
  • My book club is meeting this week to discuss Sirens & Muses by Antonia Angress, which I read earlier this month (pre-book rut) and really liked. A little bit art/academia, a little bit coming of age in New York City.
  • I’m hoping to break the book rut curse with one of the following – all of which have been sitting in my TBR (to be read) pile for ages: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, Matrix by Lauren Groff or Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen.

IN MY CART:

  • I’m unapologetically starting to feel excited about the promise of holiday dressing right around the corner – it’s just the most fun! I love how versatile (and comfortable) this velvet jumpsuit would be.
  • I can’t stop thinking about this poodle sweater. It feels just kitschy enough, you know what I mean? I’d wear it with a kicky little mini skirt and tights for a mod look or jeans and mary jane heels.
  • I’ll let you in on a little secret – these $15 tights last long and hold up better than any other pair I’ve ever worn. They’re semi-sheer with a great shaping (but not suffocating top). I’m stocking up as the weather turns cooler.
  • I bought this 60’s inspired faux fur jacket before our Fall road trip the other week and while it’s only really been cool enough to wear it once – I’m still swooning over it. I just noticed that it’s 25% off right now too.
  • I love the look and shape of these high waisted, wide leg corduroys. All of the colors are good but I think I’d get loads of wear out of the black and would be a nice alternative to jeans at the office.
  • Just for fun this holiday season: These sheer opera gloves, this oversized rose party dress and these crystal strap heels. Not all together. Although.. maybe?

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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.