Monday, April 27, 2015

Monthly Favorites: April

I was once again short on funds ($20 to last me 10 days sort of short…), so my monthly favorites are a bit meagre this month but no less awesome, promise. Without further ado…

Vince Camuto Snakeskin Heels 

I made a somewhat frivolous buy when I went to DSW a few weeks ago. I had intended to buy a pair of black ballet flats since mine are in disrepair but made a series of mistakes that led to my leaving DSW without them. First, I went into the clearance section and spied these gorgeous Vince Camuto heels, in my size no less. Second, I proceeded to try them on and they looked all sorts of gorgeous on my feet. Third, I noticed that they were 70% off. These black and white snakeskin heels with the ankle strap are normally $100, but at DSW they were $80 with an extra 70% off. I ended up getting these beauties for $24 when all was said and done. I really can’t resist a good bargain… I haven't worn them yet, but I’m going to love styling these. I can just as easily wear them with jeans as I can with a nice dress.

New York Color Nail Polish 

This wasn’t a new buy, but I rediscovered this NYC Tudor City Teal nail polish when I put it on for Easter. It seemed like a springy color (and matched my dress), and the rest is history, but I wore it so much that Dad started complaining about it! I Honestly, the polish doesn’t have the greatest staying power (it chipped something fierce by day 2), but the color is just so striking that I didn’t care. I got a ton of compliments on it too, so I might need to find a longer lasting version of it by another brand. Anyone have any ideas?

Special K Salted Caramel Chocolate Snack Bars 

I will eat just about anything if it’s covered in caramel, so this was the perfect snack for me. They fit easily into my bag when I’m running out the door in the morning to catch my train, and they’re great little pick-me-up snacks during the day. I’m not a huge fan of salty snacks, so this is the perfect balance of sweet and salty for me. Plus, at 100 calories a bar, what’s not to like?


If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the day I impulsively bought freesias instead of my typical bouquet of roses. They seemed spring-like to me, maybe because they remind me a bit of forsythias which are among the first flowers to bloom in spring by me. I loved the vibrant color of this bouquet but it’s the beautiful fragrance that has turned me into a freesia fan. I walk into my room after a long day of work and it smells like someone has just sprayed this subtle, sweet perfume. They’re a bit wild looking too which has made for a nice change.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Monthly Musings: April

Dad finally bought a New York Times subscription, and I may have gone a bit NY Times happy this month.  I felt very grown up reading the paper on my way to work though!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Every Day is Earth Day

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

I’m not a huge Earth Day celebrator, but I do think that taking a day to raise awareness about environmental protection is great. We all share this planet, not only with the people living now, but those in the future, so it’s important that we do our best to protect it. I think you’d have to be living under a rock not know about global warming, deforestation, and a slew other environmental issues (fracking is a huge one in my neighborhood).

Since the environmental movement started in the 1970s, we've made strides toward living more responsibly. I know that the sheer number of recycling receptacles in New York has grown in the last decade; animals like the Red Kangaroo and Bald Eagle have been saved by the Endangered Species Act; and the international community has started to take climate change seriously and start initiatives to reverse its effects.

I want to do my part, so this year I’m going to be more conscientious about my recycling. While I do recycle aluminum, glass, and plastic, I’m not always great when it comes to recycling paper (and I use a lot of it for work). So I’m going to change that.

  • I’m going to read manuscripts for work on my Kindle rather than printing them out. Each time I have to read a manuscript for work, I’m printing anywhere from 200-600 pages. I’m going to try to get in the habit of reading them electronically.
  • I’m going to use double-sided printing.
  • I’m going to recycle paper, not just throw it in the trash.

Are you going to do anything in honor of Earth Day?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Reading List #1

I devour books, or at least I used to. Back when I was in high school, I was the sort of person who’d go through 2-3 books a week on top of whatever I was reading for my English lit class. Things started to change once I went to college though. My reading load—even for a speed reader like me—didn’t give me much time to read for fun. I was an English and history double major, so I was going through hundreds of pages of reading a week for each of my major classes. When I started working in publishing, my leisure reading lagged again because of the manuscripts I needed to read for work. After spending all day talking about books (and reading them), it can take a lot of energy to pick up a book just because.

I’m hoping to change that by creating a reading list for myself in hopes that I'll get back into the swing of reading for fun again. Not only do I enjoy books in general, being well-read is a necessity in publishing. Plus, I read so many sub-par manuscripts for work that it’s good to remind myself that there are good books out there!

On Immunity by Eula Biss – I picked this advanced reader copy up as a freebie last year when I went to BookExpo America (BEA). With BEA 2015 going on next month, I thought it was high time I finally got to this book. It’s received a lot of hype since being released and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and a New York Times Best Seller. When I picked it up at BEA last year, I never knew it’d blow up the way it did—I just liked the cover. I’ll be interested to read Biss’s take on what immunity means to society.

The 40s by The New Yorker – I got this book from my parents this past Christmas after some serious hinting on my end. It’s a collection of New Yorker essays written in the, you guessed it, 1940s by people like E.B. White, Langston Hughes, and Vladimir Nabokov. I’m a hugely interested in the 1940s (any classic movie lovers out there?), so I’m looking forward to seeing the 1940s through the eyes of the writers who lived through it.

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – Hillary for President! Hillary Clinton is sort of the woman of the hour (if not the year) after formally announcing her 2016 presidential bid on April 12th. We’d all been speculating for years about whether she’d run, and I was happy to see that the rumor mill had gotten something right. I’m looking forward to reading more about who I’m hoping will become the next president. Since this is an autographed copy though (and the book is huge), this is something I will not be stuffing in my bag to read on the train.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – I already wrote about The Secret History in a book haul post, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself. However, I’m definitely looking forward to finally sinking my teeth into this novel.

What are you planning on reading next?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Road to France Pt. III - Advance Tickets

Are my Francophile tendencies showing yet?

Or am I driving you crazy with my French vacation that is now 100 days away? My apologies if I am!  I get overly excited, or so I'm told.

Now that Mom and I booked the flights and hotel reservations, I feel like I can finally sit down and start planning what we'll be doing in Paris and Nice. I love planning these vacations, but I’m also anal about it. My itineraries are planned almost to the hour and include detailed travel directions (street names, metro lines, travel time, etc.) between the sites I intend to visit. Crazy, I know.

My Fodor’s Guides are on a rotating schedule in my bag, and I’ve read them from cover-to-cover several times already. My list of the museums, tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants I want to visit has gotten very, very long. Mom is somewhat concerned about the survival of her feet!

Since I have some idea of what I want to see now, I've started buying advance tickets and booking tours. This was the most budget friendly approach I've figured out for seeing all the sites, and it saves you time while you’re there too. Instead of having to make a dent in my spending money to buy tickets while in Europe, I put aside money each month before the trip and book everything that I can online. Most museums have advance tickets available on their websites, and you can usually print them out. The best part? The queues for advance ticket holders are ordinarily short or non-existent. I also love using to book day-trips and skip-the-line tours. These tours sometimes give you access to areas that are not open to the general public, a great little perk! With my spending money intact, I get to do a lot more shopping and eating than I might have otherwise.

I learned the hard way from my Italy trip last year that it’s important to consider proximity so you don’t end up going across town multiple times in one day, for the sake of your wallet, if not your sanity. So, as far as Paris goes, I’ll be trying to stick within a particular arrondisement each day (and sometimes going into the adjacent ones).

We did some booking last weekend, which was super exciting. So far we've booked the Eurostar to London, a Seine River dinner cruise, a French Riviera sightseeing cruise, and Versailles day-trip as well as advance tickets to Musée du Louvre and Musée de l'Orangerie. We'll be booking more next month too!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Je Parle (Un Peu) Français!

It’s been about six months since I started my quest (I’m on a lot of quests this year…) for French fluency, and I’m so happy that I’ve stuck with it! I’m not taking classes so I’m completely accountable for myself, and I have to be my own motivation to boot. Admittedly, there are some days when reviewing French is a pain, but I know that it's important to practice daily. At least that's what all the foreign language instructors have said.

There have been a couple days where I skipped my review, but I did have a 160 day streak and now I’m on day 47 of another. I spend about 20-30 minutes with my Duolingo app each day, and although it doesn’t sound like much, I can feel the difference. I’m beginning to know that a sentence is wrong because it sounds wrong, the same way I know if something is grammatically incorrect in English. My vocabulary seems to be expanding slowly but surely as well!

There have been some lessons that have proven more difficult than others, like dreaded demonstratives (I don't understand when/why I must use celle, cela, celui, ceux, and celles) and also time. I’m hoping that since Duolingo makes you review your “trouble” spots until they’re not a problem anymore that I’ll figure it out.

Now that I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with French, I’m going to start trying to read French translations of books. It’s somewhat intimidating, but it’s a step in the right direction. Right? I also need to stop being a baby and start watching/listening to French more. I’ve slacked off in this area…

Fluency is still a long way off, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made since the fall. I feel less like I'm reviewing and more like I'm building on that three semester foundation of mine. I do know that at some stage I’ll need to find a way to converse in French regularly, but I’m taking it one day at a time for now.

Although, pulling a Carrie from Paris in Four Months and moving to Paris does appeal to me just a little bit…

Do any of you have tips for learning French? Or any other foreign language?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Extreme Dog-Earring: Artfolds Paper Sculpture

I’m one of those people who thinks it’s sacrilegious to dog-ear books. So when one of my aunts bought me ArtFolds book, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would ruin a good book by folding over all the pages. It took me months of staring at my copy of ArtFolds' Sense and Sensibility before I decided to live dangerously and go for it (I’m such a rebel, I know).

For those of you who don’t know what ArtFolds is, the concept is that you turn a book you’ve read into a paper sculpture. By folding the pages according to detailed instructions, your book is transformed into a word or design that can add interest to any book case. In my case, the pages of Sense and Sensibility folded into the word “Love,” which is a sweet sentiment from my aunt.

Since I’ve read Sense and Sensibility more times than I can count, I skipped re-reading the Austen novel and spent a couple hours one rainy Saturday afternoon creating my paper sculpture. I think it looks kind of nifty, don’t you?

I don’t think I will be any less vocal about how dog-earring books is a vile habit (buy a bookmark!), but at least my ArtFolds edition of Sense and Sensibility turned dog-earring (extreme dog-earring) into something pretty. I sacrificed a book for the greater good. For art!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Quest for the Perfect Concealer

One of my goals this month is to freshen up my make-up bag, and first up is my quest for the perfect concealer!

I am afflicted with dark circles under my eyes (thanks Daddy). Is anyone else? No matter how much sleep I get, there will always be these dark somewhat purplish circles under my eyes. Ricky Raccoon much? I hate them with a fiery passion, and I’m pretty self-conscious over them too. I know—rationally—that the dark circles probably look a million times worse to me than they do to anyone else. But maybe not? In any case, with the exception of a couple of naughty blemishes that crop up around that time of the month, I use concealer primarily to cover up my dark circles.

I’ve been using Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer for years now, but when I finished my last tube, I thought I’d give another product a try. I’d seen a lot about Maybelline Fit Me Concealer on some beauty blogs I follow (even heard it called a drugstore dupe for NARS Creamy Concealer), so I figured I’d give it a go.

Since I'm pretty pale (ghostly according to my tanned family), I went with the fair shade which also had a slight pinkish tint to it. The fact that I haven't gotten sun all winter doesn't help matters. I do really like the formula and found it super easy to blend with my fingertip, and it didn’t feel heavy on my skin either.

Maybelline Fit Me Concealer did a great job at covering up blemishes and redness but was maybe not quite opaque enough to completely hide my dark circles--they're evil I tell you! It did brighten up that area of my face though, so I can’t complain too much (not to mention that it cost me under $6).  I’m not sure if my quest for the perfect concealer ends here, but I think I’ll keep playing around with this one until I’ve made my final decision.

What concealer do you use? Any tips for hiding those dark circles?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Floating Flowers

I love flowers, which you probably know if you’ve been reading my blog. I always have a bouquet in my bedroom, flowers appear in a large number of my blog posts, and come spring (after the snow melts and warm enough to put my down coat into storage), I’ll be in the garden section of Home Depot with my parents picking out this year’s blooms.

But sometimes for the sake of blogging and photography, I have to destroy some flowers to get the look I want. That means that I’m occasionally caught plucking petals from a beautiful rose or decapitating daisies. I also feel guilty about and have a difficult time throwing the flowers away afterwards, especially if they’re not yet faded.

When I was photographing my monthly favorites for March, I popped the heads off some white flowers from one of my mother’s bouquets to add a bit of spring to the shots. Although the rest of the bouquet had seen better days, these unidentified flowers still seemed quite fresh so I didn’t have the heart to throw them out. But I didn’t know what to do with them either.

Eventually I came up with the idea of a floating "bouquet."  I grabbed one of my mother’s candy dishes, filled it with some water, and dropped the flowers in. Now that I look at it again, it reminds me vaguely of water lilies in a pond. I’ve been pleased with the overall look of my floating "bouquet," which has taken up residence on my bedside table. There’s something very tranquil and soothing about it. I’m sure someone who understood the art and subtleties of Feng Shui could explain why that is, but for now I’m just going to enjoy it while the daisies keep.

Do you have any surprising uses for flowers?

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Month, New Goals: April

March was busier than I had anticipated, which gave a new meaning to the term March Madness (since I would never be using the expression to talk about college basketball…). My Mom, my best friend, and my favorite Canadian all celebrated birthdays this month on the 5th, 17th, and 18th, respectively. I was yet again inundated with reading and an ambitious copy-editing project. I went out for drinks with a co-worker and suffered the nauseating effects of one too many margaritas but had a more responsible St. Patrick’s Day (and my liver is grateful for such small mercies). How was your month?

As for my March goals, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but maybe I’ll do better in April? Anyway, here’s my March in review:

Do some spring cleaning. I managed to accomplish nothing on this front thanks to weekends spent reading for work, blogging, baking, and binge-watching Netflix. I'm hoping to get around to some cleaning this month though—my bedroom has seen better days.
Book France.  Check! You can read all about how I booked my French vacation using here. There are only 113 days until I leave for Paris with my mother, and it’s about all we’ve been able to think about since we booked it. I’m already in the planning stages and my Fodor’s guide books have taken up residence in my bag.
Get Mom her birthday present. Check! She was more than a bit excited to receive her London in a Box for her birthday.
Read for fun. I failed at reading for fun this month and still have yet to finish Sex with Kings, which I started in February. Almost all of my reading was work related—I read and wrote reports on one 900 page behemoth and two others manuscripts, a handful of partials, and also copy-edited a 400 page novel. The only fun reading I managed to do was re-read my Fodor’s Paris 2015 and France 2015 guides. Do those count?
Bring lunch to work. Check! I brought lunch to work for all but 4 days in March.


  • Start booking French excursions. I like to buy my tickets to museums and book day-trips in advance of my trips, so I’m hoping to book the first of these in April. More on this later!
  • Freshen my spring wardrobe. It occurred to me the other day that it has been a couple months since I’ve bought a new piece of clothing (what is wrong with me?), so I'd love to buy a few things to breathe new life into my closet. I’ve just had a lot of expenses in recent months that were more important than a new blouse (Christmas, France, paying to get my taxes done).
  • Freshen up my make-up bag. Spring is the season of fresh starts and rejuvenation, and one thing I'd really love to rejuvenate is my make-up bag.  I'd love to try out some new products and maybe introduce them to my daily make-up routine which has been pretty much unchanged for the last 2-3 years.  Does anyone have make-up suggestions?
  • Watch the new episodes of Outlander. Team Claire and Jamie! It’s been months since the first half of season one aired on Starz, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next eight having read Book One last summer. The new season starts on April 4th.
  • Watch the new season of Game of Thrones. I honestly don’t know a single person apart from my father who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones. How many of you watch it? Season 5 starts on April 12th, so you’ll find me tuning in then.
  • Start using MyFitnessPal again. I’ve slacked off on logging my food into the MyFitnessPal app, so I’d really like to start doing that more regularly. It helps me to keep track of the nutritional value of food, which is important on my quest to eat my way to a healthier year.
What are your April goals?

Lovely calendar by Rifle Paper Co.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Monthly Favorites: March

I’ve always loved reading “monthly favorite” posts from other bloggers, so I began to wonder why I hadn’t done one myself. Well, at first I thought that it was too formulaic and was worried that I’d bore those poor souls who read my blog, but then shouldn’t I be writing my blog for me? I hope I don’t bore you to tears, but I’d love to know what you think of my post at the end.

I was more than a bit strapped for cash this month after booking my French vacation (totally worth it), so you’ll notice that most of my purchases are from sales. Who can say “no” to a good bargain though?

Audrey Brooke Handbag 

I bought this burgundy cross-body bag back in November/December but used it for the first time this month. I loved the bag when I first bought it because of the rich color, size, the fact that it’s genuine leather, and the price (originally $150, I bought it at 70% off at DSW with a gift card, so I only ended up putting $10 towards it), so I still don’t know why it took me so long to use it. It’s perfect for what I need in an everyday bag—it’s big enough to carry books or pages from manuscripts for work, my lunch, and all the other odds and ends that end up in a woman’s bag. I’d highly recommend Audrey Brooke to anyone based on my experience with this one bag.

Call It Spring Sunglasses 

Not sure who else has a Call It Spring by them, but my local mall has had one for a year or two now. They carry nice shoes, handbags, and accessories for reasonable prices. I bought these sunglasses in January when they were on sale for $7. I love the idea of cat-eye sunglasses, but I haven’t been brave enough to go all in. These seemed like a good set of “training wheels,” and who could say no to that price? The weather has just started to be sunny enough to wear these, but I’m hoping to get a good amount of wear of them this summer.

Starburst Jellybeans 

Nothing says Easter like jellybeans (except for Cadbury Eggs)! With Easter just around the corner, I’ve been taking advantage of the candy situation. Starburst Jellybeans are among my favorite Easter candies thanks to their juicy flavors. Some jellybeans taste like colored sugar, but these have great flavors and they’re distinct from one another. If you like Starbursts, get yourself a bag of these.

Kate Spade Gift Wrap 

Has anyone else noticed that birthday wrapping paper, generally speaking, looks like it’s made for a child? I was having a hard time finding age-appropriate paper for my best friend’s gift when I stumbled upon Kate Spade New York gift wrap. Admittedly, it’s a bit pricey at $12 a roll, but I loved the sophisticated and minimalist look of it. I didn’t realize the paper was reversible until I got home, so I bought it solely because of the gold dot design, but the black and white stripes look great too. I’ve been contemplating using these as backgrounds for posts too. What do you think?

Pop! Alcide Herveaux Figurine

So, I never got onto the True Blood bandwagon, but Joe Manganiello is another one of the celebrities in my harem (he just doesn’t know it yet). When I saw the Alcide figurine on sale at a store in Grand Central, I bought it on a whim. He’s been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. I personally think the Pop! Figurines are adorable, and they have sets for all the major TV shows and movies. True Blood might have been too scary for me, but Alcide with his bulging muscles is just up my alley.

Outlander Blu-ray 

Who else is excited for the second half of the first season? I know I am! I pre-ordered the first eight episodes on blu-ray the moment it was available and have no regrets! I’m addicted to this series. The Scottish highlands, the Jacobite history, and the Claire/Jamie romance. Also, those Scottish accents! I’m hoping to have a marathon of the first eight episodes before the new ones air.