Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Recently Read

I've set myself a pretty lofty goal this year—reading a book a week! Adolescent-aged me would probably roll my eyes at this...growing up I'd read as many as a dozen books over a few weeks, but I'll admit their substance has grown and my free time for reading has shrank immensely. If you're curious how I made it through that many books in just a few weeks growing up, I'll let you in on a secret—I was kind of  an awful student in that I could frequently be found reading under the table instead of paying attention. I thought I was pretty sneaky about it, but my teachers apparently always told my mom during conferences. 

Anyway, more on my current goal. I read less during college and the few years following, making it through a book or two a month, sometimes more in the summer, but my priorities were changing (think classes, work, nights out with friends). Living in Iowa meant a lot of time spent driving to and from places, and when I first moved to NYC I didn't get much of a schedule down in terms of "me" time and time for other things—I was too busy exploring the city and, okay, having quite a few late nights...and early mornings. Now, I always keep a book tucked in my bag and I've set a bit of a schedule—my commute is about 40 minutes each day (provided the MTA isn't trying to f*ck me over), so I sip coffee and read the news on my phone on my way in. On my way home, I settle in to my current book and aim to get through at least 20 pages, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending how dense the book is, before reaching my stop. If I've a quiet night I might read a little more when I get home, and I'll usually make it through another 100 pages each weekend. Thanks to recently tackling Orwell's Collection of Essays, I'm currently a little behind on my goal...we're about 27% of the way through the year, and Goodreads tells me I'm only 19% finished with 52 books for the year! (10 books, if you're still in need of coffee to get your math skills going today.) 

If you want to follow my progress and see what's on my reading list, add me over on Goodreads! I'll be posting updates on some of my favorites throughout the year, too. 

This one was a recent book club pick—my pick, to be exact. I first spotted it at a bookstore in Brooklyn last summer after a friend's book reading, and the cover grabbed my attention. I snapped a picture (how I catalog books I want to read but haven't bought yet when I'm at the bookstore) and read the book jacket, but didn't pick it up again for a while. Then, last fall, it started showing up everywhere. Magazines, friends, other blogs were all talking about it. A quick backstory on the premise: a deadly flu wipes out (a presumed) 99.9% of the world's population and the survivors are left to rebuild. Sounds familiar, right? The author puts a special twist on the story thanks to a troupe that travels what's left of civilization 20 years later performing Shakespeare, but what's haunted me most since finishing it is how humanized and downright realistic this kind of apocalypse is. The relationships people lost and the new ones they form are relatable even now. While I hope an epidemic like this never happens, it wouldn't be entirely unheard of in today's age of air travel and antibiotic-resistant infections. It'll definitely make you think twice about being near anyone coughing on public transit for a while.

I've read one other James Salter novel before, a more recent release called All That Is. I'd seen A Sport and a Pastime at the bookstore before and opted to pick it up recently. If you're not familiar with his work, I'm not sure I'd recommend this as the first book—it was originally published in the 1960's, and the style isn't like that of contemporary novels. That being said, however, Salter is an incredibly gifted writer. Each sentence on its own may not feel remarkable, or even entirely make sense, but combined they weave an intricate, beautiful web of language that completely surrounds you as you read. The plot revolves around a young couple, the boy an ex-pat of sorts from the US, the girl from a small town in Southern France, set nearby. Fair warning, this novel is a little, ahem, x-rated in some ways. I'll also admit one thing that really did bother me was the sexist sort of way that Salter describes the girl, but not the boy. Content aside, though, the writing is some of the most beautiful I've read in a long time.

This was my second Neil Gaiman book. I first read American Gods a few years back, intrigued by the storyline but not the usual audience for sci-fi and similar genres (side note: if you haven't read this, I highly recommend it, especially if you're into ancient mythology and cultures). Gaiman, though, is a master at blending real life with something more than just sci-fi, a sort of old-world mysticism and mythology. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is another great example of this, although it's really more of a novella than full-fledged novel; I think I read it in about two days. Set in England, a man returns to where he grew up for a funeral (though who for is not made entirely clear) and finds himself wandering a route he once walked as a child, drawn back into a memory he can't quite remember is real or not. For me to say much more would probably get confusing as I'm sure I'd mess up the narrative somehow. 

A conversation with a friend late last fall about favorite authors and books reminded me that I'm not as versed in classic literature as I probably should be, so I've been making a point to mix some in as I go. I'd read precious little Orwell before this conversation took place, and since it's my friend's favorite author I thought I'd give some more a go. I started with Down and Out in Paris and London around the holidays and sped through it. These essays, on the other hand, were another story. The material is dense and at times focused on things I'm not as familiar with (Dickens and Rudyard Kipling come to mind), but other essays really hit home on some thoughts of my own and things I've tried to write about or study, so I found myself bookmarking a lot of pages that I have a feeling I'll be coming back to. 

I picked this up at a bookstore a few weeks ago when a friend and I stopped in to use the restroom after drinking too much coffee at brunch (whoops), and then we ended up browsing for nearly an hour after that. The only Didion I'd read before was a handful of essays (I'm pretty sure Goodbye to All That is a prerequisite for any 20-something who's live in NYC more than six months) and some journalism pieces. In hindsight, I probably should have picked something more uplifting after the Orwell essays—the memoir focuses specifically on the grief she felt after losing her husband somewhat suddenly, while her daughter was ill in the hospital to boot. Powerful grief is something I can relate to, having been affected pretty deeply by the loss of my grandpa exactly two years ago today. If you've ever lost a loved one, particularly a spouse or close family member, I think you'll relate and maybe find Didion's memoir somewhat comforting in its own way. 

Next up—I'm currently working my way through Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (picked up at the same time as the Didion), and my book club picked The Girl on the Train for our next read! I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've ready any of these, or suggestions for what I should try to fit in this year...I don't have a plan mapped out, I'm just winging it as I go!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ends and Beginnings

Ah, the official end of winter—only, if you live in NYC like myself, it's got us in a vice grip for as long as it can. These photos are actually from earlier this season, and I realized this week I needed to post them before the weather changed...ha, ha! By the way, if you're a curious weather nerd like me, today isn't actually the first "day" of spring—it doesn't start until 6:48p tonight! Fingers crossed for a warmer, more spring-like tomorrow.
The West Village is, hands down, one of my favorite places to be on weekends (and, ok, it makes for cute photos). The little side streets are never crowded, and my friends and I tend to wander around admiring the brownstones and joking about owning one someday...#marryrich, right? I like to get brunch around noon at Joseph Leonard—if there's a wait, my friends and I usually head across the street to a cute letterpress shop or the nearby puppy store. I would never buy a puppy from a puppy store (#adoptdontshop!) BUT, it's not the dogs' fault they're there and playing with a puppy is a 100% guaranteed way to put you in a good mood. Post-brunch, if the weather is playing nice, we usually wander around Bleecker and the surrounding streets, popping in to cute shops. Since I have a sugar problem, it's a safe bet I'll be scooping up some candy from Sockerbit.
This weekend is going to have a different kind of puppy time in it, though. A few months back, I signed up for orientation with Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue so I can start volunteering, and I finally made it off the wait list! I used to volunteer with a rescue league back home and have been wanting to get involved out here in NYC for quite a while, but I actually found that a lot of shelters are outside the city besides the big ones like ASPCA and the Humane Society, and I wanted to work with a smaller rescue where I can get more involved and be of help. 
Alright, back to wishing for spring weather to match up with the start of the season. Anyone going someplace warm that can fit me in their suitcase soon?

Zara Coat
Zara Plaid Scarf

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Morning // Link Love

This post is brought to you by my desire to be lazy this morning—because even though we're now halfway through March, spring is stubbornly refusing to come join us…today is barely 40 and very windy, and we're even going to see a night or two below freezing this week. Meanwhile, back home in Iowa, they're going to be above 80 tomorrow. That "8" is not a typo, unfortunately—but at least we've been warm enough to melt most of the snow, although a little has been lingering in a corner of my front yard that doesn't get much sunlight. This countdown is for real, though.
Despite the less-than-ideal weather, I'm still making an effort to end my usual winter hibernation (which never really even got into its full swing this year) and start exploring again. Recent weeks have included many a spring press preview, a trip to both the ballet and a favorite off-broadway theater, Orchid Night at the New York Botanical Gardens (though the grounds were smothered in snow at the time), an ass-kicking workout at The Fhitting Room that left me sore—in the best way—for two days after, an intro party for this year's Spring Street Social Society members and a meet-and-greet with one of Instagram's most famous dogs yesterday. So, this year is off to a pretty decent start…although I do need to be getting a few more workouts in somehow, because eventually we'll get some beach weather, right? 

Anyway, though I've not had much time for blogging lately (let's just say there have been a few too many nights lately where I fall asleep with all the lights on before I even wash my face), I have been bookmarking some things around the web that I wanted to share!

Read this:
Shop these:

*image via

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Brocade This, Brocade That

I'm going to both apologize for and blame any mistakes or grammatical errors in this post on House of Cards...
I wanted to finish the season before too much time passed and someone inadvertently spoiled it for me, which meant multi-tasking between blogging and Netflix (thankful for whoever invented Smart TV's). I succeeded at about 10p last night…and all I'm going to say is, this was really Claire's season (sorry, Frank!). I haven't talked to many other people who watch it yet, so if you did I want to know what you thought of the season! 
Anyway, back to the reason for today's post, aside from the fact that I needed to get one up since it's been a while (oops). Let's rewind to a few weeks ago—I don't want to get too in-depth on NYFW because really, what do I have to say that's different from what anyone else can say? I think Hallie summed up what's going on in the blogging industry side of NYFW pretty well in this post; I did very little reach-out on behalf of my blog, but I did attend some shows for work—or, more aptly, I had invites to a lot of shows for work that I didn't even make it to. We hosted a little party at the SoHo Grand on Friday night that week, which meant an early morning, late night, and whopping five shows missed that day (including my favorite, Suno!). 

Saturday rolled around and I finally rolled my already-dragging ass out of bed to hit up Tibi & Mara Hoffman, which the NYFW gods had put one right after the other in locations 50 blocks apart. I hoofed it a few blocks east after the Tibi show to beat the crowds, snagged a cab, and zoomed uptown as fast as I could. Both shows were beautiful in their own right—Tibi had a great color palette for fall with unexpected pastels and soft, chenille-like fabrics, while Mara Hoffman continued to grow away from her signature printed fabrics and experiment with embellishments and hints of oversized accents. Afterwards, I met up with Emily to grab some much-needed caffeine, catch up before she jetted off somewhere warm, and snap some photos in the snow…we are fashion bloggers, after all, and what's a winter without snow photos? I kid, obviously, but it does make a nice accent (and help hide the huge bags under my eyes). 
It will be interesting to see how NYFW continues to evolve in coming seasons to accommodate bloggers and the demand for instant gratification, but for now I'm just glad it's over. It was right back into a busy work week for me after the weekend, and I haven't really slowed down since—spring is coming, after all! I've been packing my calendar and just this past weekend saw both the New York City Ballet and a Broadway show; yesterday morning was spent hanging out at Jonathan Adler's incredible SoHo store to kick off his collaboration with Pond's, and tonight I'm going to get my ass handed back to me with my first-ever class at the Fhitting Room's new location in Flatiron. Wish me luck! 
Zara Jacket (old)