Is Your Hobby A Side Hustle?

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I came across an article the other day—in the Girls Night In newsletter, which I love—that touched on something I’d been thinking about for awhile—the fact that “every domestic hobby is at risk of becoming a side hustle.”

In my view, a side hustle isn’t just any part-time job—I wouldn’t consider my job at an accessories store this past fall to be a side hustle by any means—but is something that allows you to pursue a hobby you already love and get paid for your work as an added bonus (and it seems like the author of the article I linked above would agree with this definition). However, I’ve also heard the term in reference to anything that someone pursues outside of “normal” work hours. Additionally, for someone with different interests–like pursuing a career in the fashion/accessories world–selling jewelry at a store like the one where I worked would probably fall more into the side hustle category, even if it lacks the same creative element that’s involved in making the actual pieces.

I obviously talk a lot about interior design on this blog and derive so much pleasure from decorating my home. People in my life constantly ask me if I plan to pursue interior design as a side hustle, and my answer is usually this: I’d love to, but I’m scared of what could happen if I try to turn a hobby into a paying gig (even if it’s just something part-time). As Ann Friedman says in the article, “Personal pleasure is what makes a hobby a hobby,” after all.

Right now, I’m still working as a freelancer for Houzz, and it’s just about as much as I’d like to do at this point. My day job has been picking up work-wise, and I appreciate the connections and extra experience—and cash!—working for Houzz provides, but I can’t really commit to more at the moment. I also really value the fact that I can spend all day at work looking at numbers, research, and spreadsheets–which has been a big part of my new role, in addition to more creative communications tasks–but then come home on the weekends and spray paint a table or prep my apartment for a photo shoot. I love being able to tackle different types of work throughout the week to keep things interesting. I think I’m noticing this more now because my last job was much more writing-focused and while I still blogged a lot during that time, I’m remembering that I didn’t always want to come home and write more than I already had at work.

I also know that personally, once something becomes “work,” I approach it very differently than if it’s just a hobby. Even the other night, when I was lugging home a coffee table and telling my Uber driver how I planned to paint it (this lead to a long conversation about the driver’s own home improvement projects, haha), he was asking me if that was something I did—or would consider doing—as a business. I told him no, because then my standards would be so much higher! I feel like charging someone for a service adds a whole new dimension (and pressure) that can be eliminated when you’re doing something for yourself. It’s not that I don’t try my best to make something look beautiful even if I’m going to be the one accepting the end product (I am guilty of being somewhat of a perfectionist, after all!). But when money and contracts are involved, there is a different layer of expectation, in my view.

I’d love to hear what you all with side hustles think. At this point, I would consider blogging a hobby rather than a side hustle—and I’m just fine with that for the reasons I mentioned above. Does that mean I don’t get envious of full-time bloggers, like, all the time? No! But I do recognize that with contracts and payments comes additional pressure and concerns that may not have existed before. So let me know–is your hobby (whatever it may be) a side hustle or is it just a creative outlet, and what setup makes you happier?

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January Goals Recap

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Since it’s suddenly mid-January (did anyone else have their fingers crossed that we’d get a snow day today? Come on, DC, it’s about time!), I figured it’s about time I share an update on the goals I posted about at the beginning of the month. I always love hearing about how other people’s plans/resolutions are going, because when they’re going well, it’s super inspiring (and when they’re not, it just proves that we’re all human!). Here’s how things are looking for me since we last checked in…

1) Find a meaningful volunteer opportunity. I would love to find a way to give back within the greater DC community while also expanding my social circle in the process. I have a few places in mind, but I’m still kind of getting into a groove with my new job and want to get a better sense of how much extra time I’ll have before I commit. I would love to work with an organization that supports women/families (animals are cute but not so much my expertise! Haha) and am excited to hopefully be a part of something meaningful in the new year. 

Update: I’m pleased to report that I was able to sign up for a volunteer opportunity that I enjoyed from this past fall (handing out meals on a mobile food truck that goes around DC) but I couldn’t get a slot until March! (Which I guess is technically a good thing, since it means a lot of people want to help out, but it’s a long way to wait!). However, I’m excited for my shift since I had such a positive experience working with this organization (Martha’s Table) before. It was so gratifying to see how appreciative recipients were when they picked up a warm meal (the food they receive is made from scratch and smells delicious!). The stops that the truck makes are in two highly-trafficked downtown areas in DC, which I think makes the experience all the more powerful, as volunteers are truly interacting with individuals right in their own backyard, as opposed to in an area of the city that seems completely foreign (though that can be an equally wonderful, eye-opening experience!).

2) Get back into reading. Ugh, kicking myself for being such a bad reader this fall. But cold evenings + lots of new books on my shelf = the perfect motivation to get back into a rhythm. Plus, I really like plowing through books so that I can review them on the blog for you guys! My book posts are always favorites and it’s so fun to hear what other people are enjoying.

Update: I’ve been able to do a bit of reading and have been so happy about it! I started (and finished) an amazing book last weekend–highly recommend if you like psychological thrillers–and honestly looked forward to picking it up again every time I had to set it down (I ended up finishing it in about a day, it was that addictive). I’m hoping to cross some more books off my list soon, but I think it’ll take me awhile to get back into my “reading obsessed” phase that lasted most of last year.

3) Try a dry-ish January/month. I was talking to another blogger about this and we both agreed it’s so hard to try to set this type of goal when we’re also both dating, because it seems like every first date occurs at a bar (and I’m not opposed to that). However, I’d like to make more of an effort to forgo that glass of wine at home or out with friends, because more often than not I just feel tired and headache-y. I actually went out with some friends the other night and ordered one (very watered-down and juice-like) margarita and couldn’t have been happier with my decision, because when it was time to go home I felt energized instead of dehydrated and exhausted!

Update: This one has been going pretty well considering that yes, I have broken it for social events, but no, I haven’t had a SINGLE glass of wine at home alone/after work! I’m really proud of that, to be honest…I had gotten into the habit of reaching for a glass (which I usually couldn’t even finish anyway) while reading or watching tv at night, and as I mentioned awhile back on Insta stories, I haven’t missed this routine at all. Even when I have “gone out,” I haven’t had more than two drinks…I’m just not feeling it! It’ll be interesting to see whether/how I keep this routine up in the coming weeks and months, and I’ll be sure to share.

How are your January goals going? It sounds like a lot of people have been trying dry January (and haven’t broken it at all, haha). If you have any advice regarding anything I’ve shared above, I’d love to hear!

 

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Little Luxuries You Can’t Miss

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I’ve been in a redecorating mood lately (let’s be real, though, am I ever not?!). The good news for you is that I’ve scoured the internet for some great deals that you won’t want to miss. Below are a few of my faves.

In the market for a Diptyque candle? Save yourself $10 by signing up for C.O. Bigelow’s emails. Then, order one of the designer candles off their site (their shipping is super fast, too) and pat yourself on the back for the $ you saved (because let’s be real, these babies don’t go on sale, so $10 off is still a huge victory).

If you need to switch out your accessories, H&M Home is the perfect place to grab some new items…how adorable is this jute basket, and who can say no to a cute sleep mask or a classy little handheld mirror?

I was browsing the home section at Target the other day and didn’t leave with anything (#willpower), but a quick trip online has me wanting, like, everything…but especially this little rug. Ordering it for my bathroom, ASAP!

As if we need proof that Amazon Prime has everything we could ever want/need…this little ginger jar comes in at under $20 and has two-day shipping! I’m also lusting over these Homesick candles…I’ve heard great things!

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Turkish Rugs on Etsy

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Happy Monday! It’s been a slow blog week for me, so I’m trying to get back in action since I have today off. I wanted to share the details on the Turkish rug I ordered from Etsy last week, since I’ve gotten a few messages on Instagram and promised to reveal all of the details on here.

I’ve talked on here before about how much I love Turkish rugs, and a few months ago, I snagged one from a neighbor who runs a little flea market in his yard each weekend morning (seriously the best idea). I have it in the hallway outside my bedroom and considered putting it where the one I ordered is sitting now, but the colors were a little dark for me. I really wanted to get something with a feminine, muted look, for my bedroom (I’ve been mixing my decor up a bit!) and I came across my ideal piece after hours (I mean hours…) of browsing Etsy.

I knew I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a small piece (mine is about 3 by 6) but I definitely got an amazing deal for the size. Turkish rugs can be super pricy, so that’s why I wanted to look on Etsy as opposed to a site like Lulu and Georgia or even a seller on Instagram, as I wasn’t willing to drop hundreds!

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I’m usually super impatient and order the first thing I see/like (great quality, I know…), but decided to be super thorough when shopping for a rug because of the one-of-a-kind nature of each item and the fact that I couldn’t exactly return my purchase (it shipped directly from Turkey!). I seriously scrolled through pages and pages of Etsy listings and couldn’t make up my mind, so I decided to narrow it down a bit. I found a seller who offered free shipping and had gotten great reviews and focused on all of his listings before deciding to grab this piece (also pictured above). It arrived in three days from Turkey (I placed the order on a Sunday and the rug came on Wednesday), which was super fast! Everything was in wonderful condition and looked just like the picture, and the seller even threw in a small pillow cover.

I’ll hopefully post some real pictures of the rug soon, but in the meantime, I’d highly recommend ordering from this shop if you’re in the market for something similar!

 

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Winter Workout Essentials

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New year, new workout routine, right? Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who happens to be looking for a new gym during the biggest month for enrollment, but hey, I’ve always been more motivated when working out in a crowded gym than an empty one!

However, in addition to awful weather during the winter months (which can be enough to deter you from heading out to exercise), actually getting to the gym can be even more of a pain due to icy sidewalks and the need for lots of layering. Having gone to college in Maine where the gym was actually pretty far away compared to everything else on our small campus, I’m used to bundling up and making the trek down and have followed basically the same routine for the past 8+ years.

I mentioned last week that I’m loving my new workout bag from Lululemon (thanks, Mom!). While I’ve never really carried a workout bag before–generally I would come home from work/school and change before heading to the gym–this one has been great so far (still unsure why the small size, which I have, isn’t back on the site!). What’s great about this bag is that it’s water-resistent, which is key when walking in who-knows-what kind of weather. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a much sturdier option than your standard canvas tote.

When walking to the gym, I always wear my Hunter boots or something similar if there’s even the smallest amount of snow or ice on the ground. The last thing you’d want is to slip on your way there, and sneakers just aren’t great to walk in during this kind of weather. While it’s a pain to carry around an extra pair of shoes, I find it necessary. Even an old pair of Uggs will do! I also generally wear cropped leggings to work out and therefore appreciate the extra warmth and coverage that tall boots provide on my walk down…cold ankles are a no-no.

Lastly, while I’m one of those people who always needs music to work out–movies/podcasts just don’t do it for me–I’ve found that I need a little extra inspiration in the winter on the walk to the gym, which seems to go on and on. This, this, and this are three of my favorite warmup songs at the moment (sort of random, I know), but they keep me energized so I’m not thinking about how cold my body is as I walk outside.

Speaking of which, I’m always looking for new workout playlists…if you have any suggestions for can’t miss music, let me know!

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One Kings Lane Home Tours + How to Recreate the Looks

You guys. I’m ridiculously obsessed with the home tours that One Kings Lane posts, and am more specifically in love with all of their makeovers. I wanted to share two of my favorites that continue to inspire me even though I’ve had them pinned for months, if not years!

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First up is Amy Stone’s home, which I fangirled over on Insta stories the other day. OKL went in and made over Amy’s new space (though her old apartment was beautiful as well) and it looks absolutely gorgeous. I loved it from the moment the feature came out! I’m a fan of how the space is a mix of classic and collected, and really just want my own place to look like hers. What’s particularly inspiring is how well-curated it is–nothing is out of place and there aren’t extra accessories lying around that make the space look cluttered. However, there’s just the right amount of stuff that it doesn’t look sparse, either.

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I also love how “grown up” Amy’s apartment looks, and I think that’s partly because it’s less “trendy” looking than many other spaces. Timeless pieces can truly work wonders, and Amy’s collection of ginger jars, classic jute carpet, and traditional-looking artwork help complete the look. Bookmarking this tour as inspiration as I prep for our Houzz shoot later this month!

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Next up is Cole Wilson’s space, which OKL redid awhile back. I. LOVE. IT. Leopard, a Turkish rug, and chinoiserie pieces? Sold! Again, I love how the space is minimalistic without being barren. It really makes me want to continue sorting through my stuff and display only the pieces that I truly love. What’s also great about this space is it proves that tiny NYC apartments doesn’t have to sacrifice style…I mean, there are pieces of nice art attached to Cole’s fridge! I also appreciate the stories behind several of the pieces. Oftentimes it’s all too easy to click “purchase” or scoop something up for no particular reason, but I think it’s much more fun to sift through fairs and flea markets to find an item that’s truly one of a kind.

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The best news? You can recreate these two looks easily on your own! I’ve rounded up a few pieces that reminded me of items featured in the tours, and they’re all super affordable.

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If you like the round mirror look shown above (I’m a big fan!)…this lookalike is under $25.

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Both Amy and Cole have chinoiserie garden stools in their apartments, and this one is under $70.

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If you’re lusting over Cole’s leopard pillows, look no further than Ballard Designs (they always have sales)!

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A few more hints…

Need an affordable Turkish rug? Etsy is a gold mine. I just ordered one for my own space, and I’ll share it on here when it arrives!

Jute rugs are featured in both homes. IKEA sells them for a steal!

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FRIDAY FEELS #18

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No real format today…just popping in to share some life updates, as it’s been weeks since I’ve done one of these!

How has everyone’s four-day week been going? Since I was working for a few days during the week between Christmas and New Years, I didn’t feel the same stress that a lot of people did after having been off for a week and a half (however, saying goodbye to my second four-day weekend in a row wasn’t a fun feeling). Still, on New Years Day I was about ready to start getting back into a normal routine. Speaking of which–I love that (per an Insta poll I posted last week) lots of you don’t love NYE either. It’s such an overhyped holiday and there’s always too much pressure, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one that feels this way! I ended up hanging out with college, grad school, and DC friends (all at once, which I love!), starting out at my place and then going to another person’s apartment in Arlington. I couldn’t have been happier with how our plans turned out (plus, lots of champagne and “What Do You Meme” were involved!).

A few things I’m thinking about this week…

-I was thrilled to find out on Wednesday that I’d been named one of The Everygirl’s top 10 home tours from 2017. I actually had no idea about this and only found out when glancing at my blog analytics, so it was truly a happy surprise. I am so appreciative of everyone who viewed the feature and has been supportive of my nonstop decorating! 😉 Being profiled on The Everygirl was a dream–not only because I got to share my personal style on a site I love, but also because I got to talk about a lot of non-decor topics and be connected to some new readers along the way!

-Laugh if you want, but I’ve kind of been experimenting with a “hack” before committing to a new gym. I’m pretty sure that I’ll join the gym at the university where I work, but since they’re currently closed for winter break, the gym doesn’t open again for awhile (why it’s closed for so long, I don’t know…there are tons of people on campus!). However, I decided that skimping on workouts until the gym opened (especially right after the holiday season) was a no-no for me, and I needed a more than a 5-class monthly ClassPass pack to tide me over for two weeks. That said, I didn’t want to spend $$ in the process. So, in the meantime, I’ve been free trial-ing gyms in the area, and it’s actually been really fun! One gym gave me an awesome 5-day pass that allowed me to use the location near my apartment as well as the one near my office. It’s probably a little out of my price range in the long run, but I’m glad I was able to sample it and get a sense of the offerings. I’m visiting three (!) more gyms this week and while the free workouts totally don’t suck, I honestly, could end up signing up for one of them if they seem more convenient and are within the same price range as the university one. What makes toting workout stuff around the city more enjoyable? A fun tote–I got this Lululemon one (although in a smaller size, which isn’t appearing online) for Christmas and am in love–it’s super sturdy, sleek, and holds a ton.

-On Tuesday night I spontaneously took myself to a free improv show alone and enjoyed it! Since I already had an appointment right after I got out of work and wouldn’t be making it to the gym or anything anyway, I figured I might as well do something fun in the evening and Googled away. While I’m not one to go to a restaurant or a bar alone, I honestly didn’t feel that weird about doing this and would recommend that other people try something similar!

-I need exciting work lunch ideas. I’m really proud of myself for packing lunch for work every day since starting my new job (I did go out on the first day, but mainly because I wasn’t sure of the protocol). We’ve had a few team lunches here and there, but the general culture at my office is to bring, and I’m all about that…I can easily pack a week’s worth of lunches for $20 or less, which is such a steal in the long run. I do need to think of some new healthy ideas to switch things up a bit, so if you have any suggestions, let me know! Also, does anyone else agree that whatever other people are doing totally sets the tone when it comes to lunch? When I worked in magazines, a lot of people brought their food, but at another place I worked, everyone swore by their daily $10 salad and I easily fell into that trap because my homemade sandwiches just didn’t look as good…haha. Anyway, I’m very happy about low cost meals (I really dislike spending money on food!) and am going to do my best to keep it up!

-Resolutions. I shared some of my goals for the year on here last week, but honestly I feel like my list of resolutions is a mile long. In that spirit, I really enjoyed this article from The Everygirl–check it out! As for how my personal goals are going…I’ve been doing well, actually! I’ve barely spent anything all week minus paying for essentials, took the bus to and from work every day despite the temptation to take a $3 Uber Pool in the cold (which is obviously a steal, but adds up), haven’t broken Dry January (though that’s easy to say because I’m writing this pre-weekend), and have enjoyed free workouts and cooking at home. We’ll see how long I can keep this up…

Whew–much longer post than I meant to write! Hope everyone enjoys the weekend and stays warm!

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How to Score Awesome Thrifted Furniture

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I’ve gotten some questions on Instagram about my thrifted furniture finds, so I thought I’d do a post on thrifting tips! I’m by no means a pro–there are literally tons of Instagram accounts run by people who buy thrifted furniture, fix it up, and sell it, and basically wish I was that talented–but I’ve had a lot of fun finding great pieces for low prices and sharing my redos via Insta stories. Here are a few pieces of advice!

1) Browse frequently. You’re not necessarily going to have luck every time you go looking for a piece of furniture (same goes when it comes to Craigslist–I’ve found that the selection on there can either be really blah or full of gems). However, if you go to the same places often enough, you’ll have a sense of their prices and what they carry. If a thrift store rarely carries any furniture or only sells extremely overpriced items, it’s time to move on and scope out somewhere else, even if it means driving a few miles further. Once you find a store that carries a good selection, check back often. My personal philosophy is that if you have luck somewhere once, you’ll have luck there again…just not necessarily on every trip.

2) Think outside the box. Just because something looks a certain way doesn’t mean it has to stay looking that way–as in, ugly colors are easy to paint over! This was a harder one for me because I had zero faith in my spray-painting skills until recently…so if I found something that didn’t match my color palate, it would have to stay that way until I could lug it home to my parents’ house and beg my mom to help me. However, spray painting–especially when it comes to smaller pieces–really isn’t that hard! When my mom and I redid some dressers a few summers ago, we did go through the whole process of sanding, priming, and then painting and painting again, but I definitely don’t do that with the smaller items I find. In my current apartment, I’m lucky enough to be able to paint on our roof, so all it takes is a quick trip to the hardware store for a can of spray paint or two (always buy extra–it’s better to have too much than have to run back to the hardware store mid-painting session), some plastic gloves, and a piece of tarp (you can also use an old sheet). I’m so glad that I decided to give spray painting a whirl because it really does transform a piece in a matter of hours.

3) Look for locals. As I mentioned earlier, there are tons of people who purchase vintage furniture and will fix it up for you. If you don’t have a ton of time to go browsing or don’t mind paying a bit more to have someone else take care of the painting and refurbishing process, do a quick Google or Instagram search for professionals in your area. I did this with my campaign dresser last year and am still very pleased with how the whole process worked out–working with a professional who had a large truck and highly skilled at painting was such a big help, as I never could’ve tackled such a large piece of furniture on my own! And if you’re really willing to spend some extra cash, you can look into out-of-state sources, as many people will not only refinish furniture, they’ll also ship it to you! One of a Find Charleston is one of my faves–I follow them for inspo and maybe will pull the trigger on one of their pieces at some point.

Happy shopping!

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My 10 Favorite Books of 2017

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I was going through my book roundups on the blog the other day and wanted to re-feature some of my favorite titles that I read in 2017. No matter your favorite genre, you’re bound to like at least one of these!

In no particular order…

1) The Light We Lost, by Jill Santopolo 

Amazon summary: Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

My take: It seems like everyone loved this book this past year, and I don’t blame them. Both IRL friends and blog friends raved about this book, and once I got a copy, I tore through it in days. A lot of the situations that the main characters encountered reminded me of my own experiences, and you can bet I was sobbing by the end. I think everyone I know who read this could relate to it on some personal level, especially if they dated/met someone in college, lived in NYC, etc.

2) We Could Be Beautiful, by Swan Huntley 

Amazon summary: Catherine West has spent her entire life surrounded by beautiful things. And yet, despite all this, she still feels empty. After two broken engagements and boyfriends who wanted only her money, she is worried that she’ll never have a family of her own.

Then at an art opening Catherine meets William Stockton, a handsome banker who shares her impeccable taste and whose parents once moved in the same circles as Catherine’s. But as William and Catherine grow closer, she begins to encounter strange signs. Her mother, now suffering lapses in memory, seems to hate William on sight. Is William lying about his past? And if so, is Catherine willing to sacrifice their beautiful life in order to find the truth?

My take: I still talk about this book with people because I thought it was so addicting! I was sucked in to the plot line right away and went back and forth between feeling bad for the main character and also wanting to mock her. When I picked it up I hadn’t necessarily thought it would be as intense as it was. If you like a good psychological thriller, this is for you.

3) Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris 

Amazon summary: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.

Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.

Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.

My take: This is one that I talk about ALL the time and still get goosebumps thinking about. It was the perfect thriller in that it wasn’t too complicated to follow but still had tons of plot twists that surprised me every time. It’s one of those ones that you’ll feel bad about liking so much because it’s so dark and twisted, but you just can’t put it down because…omg.

4) After I Do, by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Amazon summary: When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

My take: I’ve said this before, Taylor Jenkins Reid just rules. I’m always drawn into her work right away and was so curious what would happen between the couple profiled here. I started this book on a  plane ride and couldn’t put it down because I honestly felt like I knew the characters (and was definitely jealous of their cuteness but also intrigued about their “decision”).

5) Cancel the Wedding, by Carolyn Dingman 

Amazon summary: On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancé. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?

My take: This was the best “rom com” type of book that I’d read in a long time. I feel like it’s hard to find a book that isn’t too cheesy or doesn’t lack essential/realistic details, but this book, which was part historical/mystery and part love story, didn’t disappoint. I recommended it to a friend who also loved it–it’s the perfect thing to curl up with when you just need to escape!

6) How to Murder Your Life, by Cat Marnell 

Amazon summary: From the New York Times bestselling author and former beauty editor Cat Marnell, a “vivid, maddening, heartbreaking, very funny, chaotic” (The New York Times) memoir of prescription drug addiction and self-sabotage, set in the glamorous world of fashion magazines and downtown nightclubs.

At twenty-six, Cat Marnell was an associate beauty editor at Lucky, one of the top fashion magazines in America—and that’s all most people knew about her. But she hid a secret life. She was a prescription drug addict. She was also a “doctor shopper” who manipulated Upper East Side psychiatrists for pills, pills, and more pills; a lonely bulimic who spent hundreds of dollars a week on binge foods; a promiscuous party girl who danced barefoot on banquets; a weepy and hallucination-prone insomniac who would take anything—anything—to sleep.

This is a tale of self-loathing, self-sabotage, and yes, self-tanner. It begins at a posh New England prep school—and with a prescription for the Attention Deficit Disorder medication Ritalin. It continues to New York, where we follow Marnell’s amphetamine-fueled rise from intern to editor through the beauty departments of NYLON, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and Lucky. We see her fight between ambition and addiction and how, inevitably, her disease threatens everything she worked so hard to achieve. From the Condé Nast building to seedy nightclubs, from doctors’ offices and mental hospitals, Marnell “treads a knife edge between glamorizing her own despair and rendering it with savage honesty.…with the skill of a pulp novelist” (The New York Times Book Review) what it is like to live in the wild, chaotic, often sinister world of a young female addict who can’t say no.

My take: I LOVED this one, and not just because Cat Marnell grew up in my hometown and talked a bit about that throughout the book. I was fascinated by the way her addiction shaped her life and how her relationships and career suffered as a result (particularly because I also have a magazine background). I would like to re-read it soon after I tackle some of the other books on my long list!

7) After Perfect, by Christina McDowell

Amazon summary: Selected as one of the year’s “Fifteen Books You Need to Read” by the Village Voice, Christina McDowell’s unflinching memoir is “a tale of the American Dream upended.” Growing up in an affluent Washington, DC, suburb, Christina and her sisters were surrounded by the elite: summering on Nantucket Island, speeding down Capitol Hill’s rich back roads, flying in their father’s private plane. Their life of luxury was brutally stripped away after the FBI arrested Tom Prousalis on fraud charges. When he took a plea deal as he faced the notorious Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort’s testifying against him, the cars, homes, jewelry, clothes, and friends that defined the family disappeared before their eyes, including the one thing they could never get back: each other.

Christina writes with candid clarity about the dark years that followed and the devastation her father’s crimes wrought upon her family: the debt accumulated under her identity; her mother’s breakdown; her own spiral into addiction and promiscuity; and the delusion that enveloped them all. She shines a remarkable, uncomfortable light on a family’s disintegration and takes a searing look at a controversial financial time and also at herself, a child whose “normal” belonged only to the one percent. A rare, insider’s perspective on the collateral damage of a fall from grace, After Perfect is a poignant reflection on the astounding pace at which a life can change and how blind we can be to the ugly truth.

My take: I also cannot stop thinking about this one! I was amazed at how Christina’s life was turned upside down after her father’s arrest (she’s also a DC-area local, which made her story all the more interesting to me). Her writing is powerful and tells such an intense story of loss and betrayal. I also love how she wrapped up the book as she described a serendipitous trip back to her hometown.

8) Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance 

Amazon summary: From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

My take: An insightful take at an often overlooked population in the US, Hillbilly Elegy was by far one of my favorites this year. I sent a copy to a friend who grew up in the rural South and was curious about the book, and he–and his parents–greatly enjoyed it. This book raises a lot of important questions and perspectives at such a challenging time in our country–it’s truly a must-read for all. It would be a great one for a book club!

9) The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan 

Amazon summary: Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at TheNew Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

Marina left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. Her short story “Cold Pastoral” was published on NewYorker.com. Her essay “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” was excerpted in the Financial Times, and her book was the focus of a Nicholas Kristof column in The New York Times. Millions of her contemporaries have responded to her work on social media.

As Marina wrote: “We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” The Opposite of Loneliness is an unforgettable collection of Marina’s essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to impact the world. “How do you mourn the loss of a fiery talent that was barely a tendril before it was snuffed out? Answer: Read this book. A clear-eyed observer of human nature, Keegan could take a clever idea…and make it something beautiful” (People).

My take: This is a hard one to summarize into a short blurb, but all I can say is that this was a powerful collection of stories by a talented young woman, and I wish I’d picked it up sooner. Marina’s insight and level of detail is amazing and inspiring, particularly for a college student.

10) Tie: The One that Got Away, by Leigh Himes, and A Window Opens 

Amazon summary: 

The One that Got Away: Meet Abbey Lahey . . .

Overworked mom. Underappreciated publicist. Frazzled wife of an out-of-work landscaper. A woman desperately in need of a vacation from life–and who is about to get one, thanks to an unexpected tumble down a Nordstrom escalator.

Meet Abbey van Holt . . .

The woman whose life Abbey suddenly finds herself inhabiting when she wakes up. Married to handsome congressional candidate Alex van Holt. Living in a lavish penthouse. Wearing ball gowns and being feted by the crème of Philadelphia society. Luxuriating in the kind of fourteen-karat lifestyle she’s only read about in the pages of Town & Country.

The woman Abbey might have been . . . if she had said yes to a date with Alex van Holt all those years ago.

In the tradition of the romantic comedy Sliding Doors and Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, Leigh Himes’s irresistible debut novel tells the funny and touching story of an ordinary woman offered an extraordinary opportunity to reboot her life, explore the road not taken, and ultimately, find her true self–whoever that may be.

A Window Opens: “A winning, heartfelt debut” (Good Housekeeping), A Window Opens introduces Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a (mostly) happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker, or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up, and her work takes an unexpected turn. In the midst of her second coming of age, Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all but, what does she really want the most?

My take: Both of these explore the challenges of family life while still being overall light reads. They’re probably more for women who are married with children, but as a single 20-something I still enjoyed both stories, which explore the paths we take in life and the never-ending question of whether we’re making the right decision. Again, they’re definitely more within the cute “rom com” category but lack the cheesiness and focus more on “real” things, at least in my opinion.

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Insta Story Roundup

Happy 2018, guys! My guess is everyone is heading back to work today or tomorrow after a nice long weekend. While I did have to work three days last week, having two four-day weekends in a row was a super nice way to reset and get prepped for the new year.

I wanted to share with you some of the products that I’ve mentioned on my Insta stories lately. I don’t always remember to post about them on the blog, but I thought it would be fun to share a few things I’m loving lately.

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First up is this new lamp that I ordered via Amazon Prime. I came across this one while browsing Target.com and fell in love with it but decided to look for something a bit cheaper, since I’m constantly arranging and rearranging and have way too many lamps as it is–however, the Target option is definitely a steal if you’re not a lamp hoarder like me ;). When I spotted this gem for under $20, I knew it had to be mine! While it didn’t come with an Edison bulb like I thought it would (I should’ve read more closely!), I was able to grab one at my local hardware store to complete the look. I’ve done a lot of furniture rearranging in my bedroom lately (these wood tables, which I’m now using as a nightstand, had actually been in my bathroom!) and am hoping I’ll be able to chill and let things stay put for awhile, since I have a tendency to change up my space, like, multiple times per month (any other interior design fanatics can likely relate!).

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In my sitting area is a new wooden table that I found at a Goodwill for only $7.99! I love that it has a little drawer that is kind of camouflaged but can hold a decent amount (I’m using it to store my magazines!). I haven’t always been as drawn to the midcentury modern style, but I thought this would be a fun way to try it out. On the same Goodwill trip, I came across the little clay bowls pictured here, and while I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be mugs, candle holders, or something else, I knew I wanted to scoop them up. They remind me of something that would be sold at Salt & Sundry or another trendy shop. I popped some tea lights inside and have loved sitting on the couch reading while being surrounded by candlelight.

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This picture isn’t the best quality, but I ordered a wallpaper sample from a shop on Etsy with the intention of framing it, and it shipped super quickly. The swatch that I picked out here (they sent me three) looks a little wrinkled, oops. However, if you’re in need of some new wall decor and don’t want to commit to a pricy print, wallpaper is an easy way to bring a pop of color into your space. I purchased the sample for 99 cents INCLUDING shipping–talk about a steal!

Have you scored any exciting decor finds lately?

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