Sunday, January 13, 2019

The 12 Books I Read in 2018 (and the Ones I Didn't)

Last January, I vowed to read 12 books in 2018. Don't get me wrong, I love to read and am passionate about books, but when reading and writing is part of your day job, it can be tempting to skip doing it for leisure. At the same time, being well read is so important for writers to constantly expand your vocabulary and be exposed to different styles and dialects. My hour-long train ride (each way) to work last year definitely helped me meet my goal, which I intentionally didn't set so high that it felt like a chore.

Among these books are classics—like the 1,000 page Gone With the Wind and the short novel And Then There Were None—but there are also just-for-fun beach reads and crime novels. There were also a few books I started and abandoned, because life is too dang short to suffer through a book that doesn't speak to you. Below, I'm sharing a few thoughts on each one. What's on your reading list for 2019?

The Jazz Bird
My favorite era is the 1920s, so this prohibition-era murder mystery novel was right up my alley. Flawed characters keep you constantly questioning who you're really rooting for.

This bestselling historical fiction book is a must-read that's chock-full of insights into events that have shaped the Koreas we know today. It's a long one, but kept me hooked the whole way. A woman on the subway commented while I was reading one day that the plot is a bit melodramatic, and well, she's right, but I didn't mind.

Frances Gould
I wanted to switch things up and read a piece of nonfiction, which I don't often do, and I was interested in this piece about a wealthy socialite who got in bed with the Nazi party during World War II. Her reputation, and her fortune, survived with nary a scratch. It was really interesting to learn about how the other half was affected by the war, and how one woman played that to her advantage, with no regard for who it hurt along the way. It was an interesting story, but I was ready for something lighter when I was done.

The Identicals (abandoned Eligible)
That something lighter came in the form of my favorite beach read author, Elin Hilderbrand. I've read a ton of her books, which mostly take place on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. All of her books, including this one, are easy reads with lots of insights about family dynamics, love, and relationships. Before this, I started Eligible, a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. I accidentally left it on the plane to our honeymoon, and wasn't that enamored by it to purchase the book again, so I went with an old favorite instead.

Gone With The Wind
Holy 1,000 pages Batman. This was the longest book I've ever read, but well worth it. Gone With The Wind has always been my favorite movie, but I hadn't read the book until this year. I loved being able to contrast the differences in plot and characters. While there are a lot of flawed assertions about race and slavery (the book was written in the 1930s), it's a must-read that details the fall of the old south, a woman's lot during that time, and aftermath of the Civil War.

Matchmaking For Beginners
I picked this book as a free Kindle Firsts download, and it was worth the read. The ending was a bit predictable, but the characters were well developed, and I love a good happy ending.

Happiness Project
I read this book many years ago and couldn't identify with a lot of it—marriage, finances, family. I'm glad I gave it a second read, because it really hits home at this point in life. From the many mantras I extracted from this self-help read, my favorite is this one: "The days are long but the years are short."

And Then There Were None
This classic murder mystery is a fun, easy read. No, I didn't figure it out before the ending, but Sean insists he was able to.

Motherhood (abandoned)
When one of my favorite influencers posted about this book on Instagram, I immediately wanted to read it. I really wanted to like this book, but the stream-of-consciousnesses writing style just didn't jive with me. Read a few of the Amazon reviews and be convinced to give it a try by those who connected with her poetic writing. I'm just a traditionalist who needs full sentences, so I didn't get very far into this one before dropping it.

The Execution
I found a book laying around the office that was written by Dick Wolf, the producer of Law & Order. I'm a huge SVU fan and knew I wanted to read it. It was like one big Law & Order episode so I of course loved it. The story is part of a series about the main character, Jeremy Fisk, but I had no problem catching up with the main players.

A Well Behaved Woman
I got to review this book for Quest Magazine, and it was one of my favorite historical fiction pieces. It offers another point of view for a notorious society woman, Alva Vanderbilt. You can check out my review for more insight!

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
For my October book, I wanted to read something on-theme, since Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love colonial history as well, and I really enjoyed this look into puritan New England. It's also a fast, easy read.

Daughters of the Lake
This book was another free read from Kindle advance, and really worth the read. It was a murder-mystery that followed characters past and present with a little sci-fi twist.

Winter Solstice
A beach read for the wintertime? I saw another book by my favorite easy-read novelist, Elin Hilderbrand, in the bookstore around the holidays and had to pick it up. I mean, I read Gone with the Wind, so I deserved a few fun ones, amiright?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Red Beret for a New Year's Coffee Break

Head to Toe: Sweater, jacket, and jeans, thrifted // Beret, Amazon // Clutch, Ora Delphine // Sneakers, Keds

New Year, same me! I have big plans for 2019, so I'm going to need some serious coffee to power through the hustle. Connecticut friends, you have the try Billy's Bakery in Fairfield. It's my new favorite, with yummy New England Coffee and the best pastries, fresh bread, and a full deli for lunch. Plus, it's a female-owned company, so boss babes unite!

But back to 2019. It's only day two, and it's already been a busy start. I'm still trying to think through my goals for the year, and translate some of those abstract plans into concrete ideas. But as long as there are Christmas cookies left, there's still time to iron out your resolutions, amiright? In the meantime, at least my outfit can be thought through. I'm loving this red leather beret Sean got me for Christmas, and it called for a full Parisian-inspired outfit. Bonne année, fashionistas! (That means Happy New Year in French...I Googled it, I don't speak French). Happy New year, fashionistas!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Making Merry 2018: Hosting Christmas at Home

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday season! Sean and I hosted my parents for Christmas Eve and Christmas, and we had the nicest little holiday just the four of us, even though we missed relatives who live further away. We made Italian Christmas Eve: Sean's mom's manicotti recipe with sauce, sausage, and meatballs. For Christmas, we made Cornish game hens, which are surprisingly easy to cook and look pretty when they're plated. My mom brought a ton of yummy Christmas cookies, so I made a blueberry pie—Sean's favorite. My favorite pie hack is to use cookie cutters to create a pretty top crust that looks beautiful but is actually so much easier to create than your typical lattice. My mom let me borrow her collection of holiday cookie cutters. I couldn't decide on one, so I used them all and made a menagerie of holiday favorites. The more the merrier! Happy holidays to from our family to yours!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Chenille Sweater and Flare Culottes

Head to toe: Sweater and culottes, TJ Maxx // Clutch, vintage // Booties, Dr. Scholl's (last season) // Necklace, Alex Woo

When I first saw chenille sweaters were making a comeback, I was dubious. I never loved them as a kid when they were hot in the '90s—I think it was a tactile thing, velvety feeling things always freaked me out. Apparently, 20-some years can change your perspective. When I saw this perfect mauve sweater for a few bucks at TJ Maxx, I had to have it. And now I think I need 100 more. It has just enough sheen to feel more festive and dressed up than your average nubby sweater, it never wrinkles, and it feels so super soft to the touch (I've gotten over my velvet issues, it seems).

I do have one gripe about this sweater that I shared in a small Instagram rant. It's hand-wash only, and it drives me crazy when cheap items are hand-wash or dry-clean only. I'll be delicate with my J. Crew cable-knits, but this, unfortunately, went for a spin in the wash. I laid flat to dry, and it doesn't seem any worse for the wear. Ain't nobody got time for that, especially with less than a week until Christmas! Who's ready?
Photos by Laurel Creative

Friday, December 14, 2018

Cozy On The Go In Downtown Manhattan

Head to Toe: Turtleneck and boots, TJ Maxx // Overalls, H&M // Boots, Seychells // Bag, Brahmin // Beanie, J.McLaughlin // Necklace, Alex Woo

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a “Sip & Shoot” event with NYC website My Life OOO and photography studio Laurel Creative. It was my first experience doing a shoot on the other side of the camera—besides posing for my auto-timer or having a friend snap a few photos. I learned that modeling is way harder than it looks, but I had a blast and love the way these photos came out.

I’ve been obsessed with the whole Hygge movement (a Danish concept for coziness) lately, hunkering in at home with my pups under a cozy blanket. This super push fleece hoodie lets me take those vibes with me when I have to go out into the real world, and it’s perfect instead of a coat for a warmer morning. Thankfully, it’s Friday and I’m planning on staying in as much as possible this weekend. Who else is team let’s stay home?
Photography by Laurel Creative

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Easy DIY Seashell Snowman Christmas Ornament

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! Sean and I had the whole week off, which was divine, and we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving and and an early Christmas with family in Maryland and Virginia. It was our first trip down south since our whirlwind weekend visit in June, when my niece took on the task of collecting pretty clam shells on the beach. I had been saving them for some sort of DIY project to give at Christmas, and with a little Pinteresting, I decided on these cute snowmen ornaments.

The difficulty level was literally zero. I picked up a hot glue gun and puff paint for cheap on Amazon. (Seriously, the glue gun was $12 and works great. I want to hot glue everything in my life now.) I glued the clam shells together in snowman-like fashion, then glued some yarn I had handy in a loop to the back...The shells are heavy, so I glued the yarn all the way down to avoid all of the weight on one shell. Buttons, face, and carrot nose with puff paint and you are done! Let the puff paint dry for a few days so it is fully hardened. If you don't have shells handy, winter is a great time to collect them since there is little traffic at the beach, or you can buy a bag of them at the craft store. Happy Christmasing!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Hipster for a Day: A Plaid Jumper in Brooklyn Heights

Head to Toe: Dress, Urban Outfitters // Hat, J.McLaughlin // Sneakers, Keds // Jacket, LL Bean (thrifted). 

This weekend, I headed to my favorite borough to celebrate a friend's new digs in Brooklyn Heights. Walking through her neighborhood gave me all the feels. I was so charmed by the brownstones and tree-lined streets, and couldn't help but picture our lives if Sean and I decided to settle in Brooklyn instead of the suburbs. While I have zero regrets about Connecticut, it was fun to play hipster for a day, so I put on my most Brooklyn outfit and went along for the tour of the nabe. We walked from the pier at Brooklyn Bridge heights to DUMBO and ended at Randolph Beer, which had great vibes, food, and brews. It turns out, they have two other locations in Nolita and Williamsburg, so I will definitely be trying it again. Cheers!