The Last 8 Books I Read

It’s been about 6 months since I did a book roundup…I have read some amazing books lately. 

The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

I just finished this one. I sped through it in about 3 days which is crazy. I never read that fast. If you’re looking for a light thriller, page-turner, this is great. Written by a woman with the two main characters being women. Very satisfying. 

I checked this out from the library using the Libby app.

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are
Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas

This was a gift from my lovely friend Jen. I had seen it when it came out but never bought it. What a treat to get it in the mail. It’s not a book-book, it’s more like a compilation on musings on being French, from Paris more specifically. Parts were enticing and beautiful, others … pretentious and a bit annoying, kind of like Parisians. But overall, it was a nice diversion.

The Paper Palace
Miranda Cowley Heller

My daughter picked this to read for school and it turned out to not be appropriate for a 13 year old. Oops. Heads up, it could be triggering. I did like it though. The prose, the setting. I could relate to the main character. (Reece Witherspoon book club pick which guarantees a female lead and writer.) It gave me Where the Crawdads Sing vibes as well as Commonwealth, things happening to kids that shouldn’t and a good amount of family disfunction. The story flips back and forth between present time and 70s/80s when the protagonist grew up, from New York City and Cape Cod. Again, not for kids.

MYTHOS
Stephen Fry

This is maybe cheating since I haven’t finished this but I thought I’d add it in. I’m almost half way through it. As you could guess, it’s about greek mythology. I personally love the subject matter. I thoroughly enjoyed CIRCE. But this is more of a text book, but a text book that really make the lives of the gods and goddesses super fascinating. I thought I knew a fair amount but am really getting a thorough reeducation. By the way, shout out to Mr. Cave, my 7th grade latin teacher, who made Roman and Greek history and mythology interesting. In and of itself but also since our language and culture has been built upon it. 

CASTE
The Origins of Our Discontents
Isabel Wilkerson

I LOVED this book. No surprise it has been so glowingly reviewed. It’s amazing. I wanted to tell everyone to read it. Like, stop what you’re doing and read this book. I don’t think there is a more important, pressing topic right now. It explains that racism, or more accurately ‘Casteism’, is the framework our whole country is built upon. But, I think a lot of people are just not ready or able to take in this amount of truth. I think a few people I know might just get very defensive. That makes me sad. I have so much respect for Wilkerson for the hard work it took to compile this as well as the creativity and talent to write something so easy to get through. If you’ve been thinking of reading it, I think you will really enjoy it. And you’ll never be the same.

this is how it always is
Laurie Frankel

I don’t know how I found this book. Someone recommended it. It is a fictional account of a family who navigates their child’s desire to transition from a boy to a girl. I think It’s a difficult thing to understand and sympathize with if you’re not going through it yourself. Society as a whole has a long way to go. Frankel does a beautiful job of bringing us along for the ride. We learn about all the psychology, logistics, feelings and struggles involved. It’s just so beautifully depicted. And written. And it’s not just a book about being trans. It’s about family and marriage and friendship and honesty and choices and love.

The Mothers
Brit Bennett

My friend Lauri passed this book on to me and it was perfect. I really like a story of women, families, secrets, pain and redemption. Recommend!

Me Talk Pretty One Day
David Sedaris

Can you believe I’ve never read this?! My friend was referencing it and so I had to go back and read it. I’ve read Naked and When You Are Engulfed in Flames and adore Sedaris. This one is so good. 

How to Boost Your Mood (when it’s cloudy for days on end)

How to Boost Your Mood (when it’s cloudy for days on end)

I find that the weather can really dictate my mood, and my motivation. If I don’t see blue sky or sun for a while, I feel … not good. So, when that happened recently, I thought, maybe there’s something I can do. I sat down and wrote this list:

FLOWERS
CANDLES
EXERCISE
OUTSIDE
FRIENDS
VITAMINS
MUSIC
PERFUME

Some of these things are obvious and I do them fairly regularly. But some of them surprised me. Like, where did that come from? So I know these things help improve mood, but the thing about a cloudy day is I forget about all the things that can make me feel better.  I need to remember to use them when sluggishness started to settle in. And the sooner the better. Usually taking simple action works well, like taking a walk. And, the more often I do these things, the easier it is to do them.

Since I work from home, which I love, don’t get me wrong, I need to find excuses to get out of the house. I also need to connect with people (other than the three I live with.) Calling a friend is super helpful. Seeing them in person is even better! Making plans with your people is so, so important. I think we all learned how important human connection is after being deprived of it during the pandemic. I can’t make plans with someone, I usually go out by myself. I highly recommend strolling through stores just to look at stuff. Or better yet, an art museum.

Exercise is also essential. Luckily I’m already in a good habit of prioritizing workouts. Usually I do it first thing in the morning. Right now I have a routine that I walk the dog then I go for a longer walk by myself. On some days I do Jazzercise from home. I started doing Jazzercise on-demand at the start of the pandemic and I love it. Don’t judge my old lady workouts! They’re awesome. When the days get shorter and colder and I’m less willing to go outside, I have to really make myself get outside. I know it makes a big difference in my energy level.

I definitely believe in vitamins. I just never remember to take them. Not only are they good for physical health, they are good for mental as well. Studies have shown that calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3s, vitamin B, vitamin D, and zinc all help to boost mood. I take Garden of Life but there are obviously many to choose from. 

Adding light, artificial light if it’s cloudy or dark, is supposed to regulate circadian rhythms (like your body’s reaction to light and how it effects energy). I got therapy lamp a few years ago to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). “Symptoms of SAD include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods.” – Harvard Health Blog. I’m not sure if the one I have is good or if it’s making a difference but I thought it was worth a try. I find that turning on lights and lighting candles can also make me feel better.

I found it really interesting how many things on my list were sensory. Flowers and candles – sight, music – hearing, perfume (and flowers, and candles if they’re scented) – smell. Enlivening the senses can make us feel more alive. So often people are tempted to numb out to combat depression; bingeing on alcohol, sugar, social media, or TV. Feel less. I never realized that feeling more could be much more effective.

The idea of buying myself flowers is very new to me. So is wearing perfume. I think I got my new love of fragrance from my daughter who is constantly asking for essential oils, candles and perfumes. It feels very indulgent and I’m surprised I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy it more before now. I learned a lot about happiness and self-care from reading The Year of Living Danishly. Lighting candles, drinking hot tea, listening to music, setting a mood. How did I not know about these things?

It’s so easy to get caught up in doing all the things. We feel compelled to clean and work, to take care of others and be “productive.” But if we’re feeling down or tired maybe we need to take a step back, slow down and do something that really creates beauty and wonder. Maybe a cloudy day is just the universe saying, your to-do list just got a lot shorter.

 

My Favorite Shows of 2020 — Ranked

My Favorite Shows of 2020 — Ranked

I’ve been wanting to break down all my favorite shows from this year. I really watched a lot of “tv” in 2020, but I’m probably not alone in that. It’s funny how you find a show you like and binge it, or sometimes try to make it last and then feel so lost when it’s over. There are some shows I wish I could go back in time and watch again for the first time, shows that stay with you, that you remember so vividly. I know that shows and movies are so subjective, you like what you like. I’ve suggested shows to friends and they didn’t like them and vice versa. Then there’s that terrible purgatory of the “show hole”  where you’ve finished a series you loved and cannot find anything as good for a while. If you’re in that place, maybe this list will help. I’ve ranked my top 10 favorite shows and movies from both Prime and Netflix.

AMAZON PRIME

Shows

  1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – Please watch this show! It is so delicious. There is a fair amount of cursing, so, beware, but I loved Mrs. Maisel, a wealthy New York divorcee turned stand up comedienne. It is full of 1950s fashion, backwards thinking and irreverent revolt against every institution. Love, love, love.
  2. Endeavor – Most favoritest show probably ever. It is British, a crime drama, set in the Sixties and stars super swoon-worthy Shaun Evans. I watched to the end of season six this year. Then I fell into a deep Endeavor-deprivation down spiral. I was so sad to leave my ‘friends,’ and would miss all the lingo I had come to know, like, “Mind how you go…”
  3. Homeland – Tenth and final season. This show is quite violent and dark and probably not for everyone. I had to watch it because my number one weakness is Spy Drama. I love spies, I especially love girl spies. And Carrie is such a beautiful, lovable f-up. It’s got middle east multi-layer political crisis and Russians and bureaucracy and Saul. Sometimes it was too much for me and sometimes it gave me so much anxiety because I know a lot of that stuff was going on in real life, but I stuck it out and I loved how it all went to hell in the end and then wrapped up happily like a Disney movie.
  4. The Durrells in Corfu – There is no show like this! It’s SO good. Set in the 1930s England, a widowed mother of four decides to move to Greece. It is such a beautiful setting and has great characters and acting. I could not get enough of this show.
  5. Hanna – So, ass-kicking girl spies hiding in European forests. Super secret intrigue and no one can be trusted. Hanna always out smarts everyone and manages to escape.
  6. Death in Paradise – best sappy-sweet, super formulaic British crime drama set in a fictional Caribbean island. You’ll fall in love with the head detective and after a couple seasons he’ll be off the show. A ton of seasons, a ton of episodes. There’s always a murder, exactly 4 suspects and they all have an alibi. All the feel-good reggae and dancehall hits. Beautiful island scenes.
  7. Homecoming – Sort of like Hanna, sinister government project with human test subjects, dark suspense and mystery. Will the protagonists figure it out, escape and bring down the bad guys?
  8. Counterpart – Fell in love with the Nationwide insurance guy. Nerdy sci-fi at its best. It’s the future? There are two parallel universes and everyone exists in both.
  9. Upload – Also sci-fi and kind of a little bit Black Mirror. Life the afterlife virtually. Weird and kind of light-hearted fun. Main female role is so cute, so likable.
  10. Ladies in Black – I’ll throw this one in. I’ve never heard anyone else mention this little gem. It’s about a group of women who work in a department store, in Australia, in the 50s. Really lovely and original.

Honorable mentions: Jack Ryan, Fleabag, Big Little Lies

NETFLIX

  1. The Queen’s Gambit – Can’t stop thinking about this. It’s fairly dark, but… the clothes, the sets, THE CHESS. Anya Taylor-Joy is mesmerizing as the lead. It was very bingeable. So original. Kinda think I’m going to have to watch it all over again.
  2. The Crown  season 3 and season 4 – I’ve been loving the Crown all along. It took me a while to get over the fact that they switched out the whole cast after season 2 (and will again for season 5). Some episodes are more entertaining than others. Some are so sad. But the characters just keep growing on you. Please watch it! Then tell me who your favorite family member is.
  3. Rita  season 5 – No one I know has watched Rita, or upon my recommendation as far as I know. It’s in Danish and subtitled but that should not deter you. It is amazing. I highly recommend it. Especially if you are a school teacher. But also if you are a parent or a woman or a human of any kind.
  4. I’m Sorry – this is a show you watch and do not tell anyone you do. It’s so wrong. So funny. But so wrong. I loved it too much.
  5. Queer Eye season 5 – this show gets better every episode, every season. I get that it may not be your “cup of tea” but I LOVE a makeover and it’s like makeover to the 5th power. And Jonathan.
  6. Ozark  season 3 – This drama pulls you in and you find yourself hooked and then so disturbed. It’s beyond dark. I really can’t do this kind of show anymore but dammit, Jason Bateman, you make dark so adorable. Such a good cast and so twisty turny and original.
  7. Sex Education – It took a few episodes but this became a favorite. Basic premise: high school boy and son of a sex therapist (Jillian Anderson) sells sex therapy to his classmates. It’s an honest and diverse look at sex and growing up. (Not for kids!)
  8. Black AF – I never watched Blackish, but fell into watching this and loved it. So worth it.
  9. The Goop Lab – SO GOOPY. If you’ve heard anything about Gwyneth Paltrow (GP) and her company Goop, you won’t be surprised by the cooky therapies they try on this show. I liked it. Let me know if I’m crazy.
  10. Last Tango in Halifax – Two English senior citizens meet after 60 years and fall in love. Their families don’t. I’m not sure why I’m putting this last, it was very well done. It’s got some very downer, depressing, heavy bits… but I really got into it.

Honorable mentions: Derry Girls, Workin’ Moms, The Good Girls, Atypical, Down to Earth, The Duchess, The Good Place

Remember April?

It’s been awhile. I haven’t been blogging. I haven’t been socializing. I haven’t been a part of the world. So I thought I’d check in with you all. After much thought and reflection, I’ve come up with a vision for this platform, this blog. And that is this: just post stuff. Sometimes a crappy effort is better than no effort at all. Creativity is a tricky thing. And I can talk myself out of creating because I think too much about my audience’s reaction. But, really, who cares? Sometimes the cure for feeling stuck is to just do the next thing, no matter what anyone thinks about it.

Let’s pretend that I posted something new every week. That would take us back to April 3rd. That was my friend Annie’s birthday. Some of her friends and I decided to go over to her house and sing happy birthday to her in her driveway. That turned into dressing up and singing and dancing to ABBA. And then that morning it was rainy and I thought we decided to wait until the afternoon when it let up. I stepped out of the shower and Peggy called and said where are you?! I said I’m not dressed and aren’t we doing it later? to which she said, and I quote, “Just put on your wig and get over here!” And I did. We danced in the rain to Waterloo and Mamma Mia and Annie videoed it and even though we said do NOT post that, she put it on YouTube.

A few days later we went through the kids not wanting loft beds any more. My daughter convinced us to dismantle hers so it was just a regular full sized bed on the floor with no room for a desk and a massive clean out of her closet and all her old toys. I photographed all the Barbies, the My Little Ponies, and other oddities (Do we really need a rubber unicorn finger puppet?) and asked my friends if they wanted any of it. My son’s loft bed could not be converted so it was either use a chainsaw or flip the whole thing upside down. We chose the later and ended up having to take it apart and put it back together incorrectly, which was quite the IQ test.

Then it was Easter.

Then my daughter grew out of all her clothes. You know what that means. She wanted new clothes. It seemed like the perfect time to finally get her to watch The True Cost. If you’ve never seen it, you should. And your kids should. It’s about the devastating effect of fast fashion. In actuality bribed her. I said I’d buy her the crap she found on Pinterest if she still wanted them after watching it. She didn’t. We got a few things she needed. I passed her old clothes to friends and got some new-to-us things from other friends.

Quarantine continued and we struggled though online or “distance” learning. Middle School is a MF. I decided it was time to read Queenbees and Wannabees. It is full of great information about the challenges of teenagers. It also re-traumatized me! Ah, adolescence.

And there you have it. That was April.

 

Most Popular Outfit Searches

Google released its “2019 Year in Search” covered in the CNN article here which listed the most Googled outfit related searches. So, what are they, and do I care?

Egirl/Eboy is basically 80s punk with a little 90s grunge mixed in. How cute are these kids with their tartan, ripped jeans, fishnets, studded belts, chains and heavy eyeliner? I want to make them a mix tape with the Cure, Minor Threat, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Soundgarden. and  WHAT I WOULD BUY: GAP Plaid Pants

Soft Girl is the same as above, but with pastels. Same high-waisted pants with heavy cinched belt, also too-short skirts and too-short tops. WHAT I WOULD BUY: Asos Overalls

source: @samramic

Biker Shorts is pretty self-explanatory, but must include oversized tee, really big sneakers or combat boots. Bonus points for a blazer and/or fanny pack. WHAT I WOULD BUY: Free People Bike Shorts

VSCO Girl is so hard to define because it’s always evolving and so varied by season and location. May include: cowry shell necklace, crop top, ripped jeans, VANS. Beach-y and relaxed with a heavy dose of privilege. WHAT I WOULD BUY: Santa Cruz Tee

source: m.imgur.com

Dickies are actually really cool. The retro, masculine, can-I-check-your-oil look is edgy yet accessible. Look good with converse or VANS. They come in lots of unexpected colors as well as boiler suit versions. Balancing them out with softer elements, like a feminine tee, make for a great outfit. WHAT I WOULD BUY: Madewell x Dickies Twill Pants

source: @fashion_jackson

White Jeans also seems like a no brainer. Popular pairings: more white or tans or other neutrals. Extra credit for a brown leather tote bag. WHAT I WOULD WEAR: Sézane Brut Sexy in Ecru

source: stylevu.com

Fila is just Fila. I like that so many fitness brands never seem to go out of style. I’m not sure I need to explain this, basically, if you have a Fila sweatshirt (or really any fitness brand), wear it. WHAT I WOULD BUY: Hanami Logo Sweatshirt

source: thekatiquette.com

Champion is the same as Fila. (BTW, I just want to applaud the marketing departments that are keeping these brands relevant and profitable.) And I want to say, I love seeing how you don’t have to have a lot of money to be on trend. And that you don’t need to follow trends. Just find what you like and wear it! WHAT I WOULD BUY: Champion Joggers

source: livelovesara.com

Leather pants are great as long as you can afford them and aren’t against leather. Faux is also an option. I’m not a big fan of “leather” leggings that don’t look like pants. But whatever your preference, all you need to add is a tee shirt, a cozy sweater and literally any shoes. WHAT I WOULD BUY: Emerson Fry Vegan Leggings

 

What types of outfits do you search for?

 

How I Organized My Closet

I love to organize. I especially love to organize my clothes. I’ve done so many closet clean outs. I would get rid of things that didn’t fit or I never wore. But then three years ago I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. #konmari #sparkjoy I went through all my clothes, category by category and asked myself if they “sparked joy”. I was able to let go of items that didn’t spark joy even if they were gifts or expensive, or “might come back in style one day”. The whole process was so good! And I followed her advice about folding and arranging things so I could see it all easily. I stopped packing away off season items. All of it worked for me and I have kept it up over the years since.

This is my small walk-in closet. Items are arranged left to right: dresses, skirts, trousers/chinos, jackets, sweatshirts, long sleeve tees, button downs, tees, tank tops. I hang a lot of my clothes. Then, items go left to right: long to short, dark to light, heavy to thin… And I can see all of it at once.

I fold my sweaters and place them on a top shelf, organized by color. Thinner ones tend to go on top but then I get lazy so it’s favorites on top.

In my top dresser drawer are tights & socks, then bras and underwear.

Next is an extra deep drawer with my obsessively curated collection of jeans, followed by shorts.

Drawer three is: pjs tops, pj bottoms, pj shorts, swim suits and finally (summer) scarves.

The bottom drawer is all workout clothes: jackets/long sleeve tops, tanks and sports bras, shorts and capris, and then long leggings. There are some towels tucked in the back…

I have about a dozen bags hung up, including totes, a backpack, handbags and crossbody bags. Then I have my collection of belts and necklaces. I can’t say I ever really wear any of them but I’ve narrowed them down to what I think are essential. I also have a small selection of jewelry on top of my dresser along with some sunglasses and perfumes.

Shoes! I love to see all my shoes, and even though they get a little dusty, I like them lined up on shelves, not in boxes or bins. I made these shelves myself — just plain boards like the one up top for my sweaters. They are long enough to fit 11 pairs across, so my total shoe collection is 33 pairs…not including athletic shoes, or rain & snow boots which are kept elsewhere, along with outerwear, hats, gloves and scarves.

So that’s it! Thanks for reading.