Save your feet from pain with Sole Patches — a review

I’m a huge heel enthusiast, and I also happen to work in a big pedestrian city, New York itself. That means that either I change shoes twice daily, or I figure out a way to make my beloved heels not kill my feet by midday. There’s a new product called Sole Patches that aims to relieve foot pain from wearing uncomfortable shoes, and I was given the chance to review them! Here’s what I thought.

sole patches

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Snapshots // Sun & summer days

Hey all! I’ve been having a swell summer so far and I thought I’d share some snapshots of my extended vacation, and share some travel tips as well. My time off this year has been more of a stay-cation, because I can’t truly afford a trip anywhere. Instead, when my family and I took time off, we made day trips to places around Manhattan and Brooklyn, and it was a great opportunity for me to be a tourist in my own city. Here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to lately!

Smorgasburg

My sister and I went to Smorgasburg this past month, a food festival in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with dozens of local food places setting up booths. It’s an incredible place to try so many new kinds of food, and this particular festival was right near the water, with amazing views of the Manhattan skyline. I would absolutely recommend visiting Smorgasburg, although on the day I went, the heat of the day made it a little more difficult to eat my weight in food. I’d recommend going on a cooler day in September. Still—that view!

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Things I want to do this Christmas…

I’m making a list (and checking it twice?) of all the things I want to do now that Christmas has arrived! This is my absolute favorite time of year, and I really try hard to make every day just a little bit special, even if it’s taking thirty minutes to sit with a Christmassy book/story or sip some hot chocolate. I always spend a lot of time with my family this time of year, and I also want to take a few extra days to do these things, too:

see The NutcrackeIMG_0016r

I’ve been meaning to buy tickets to the ballet forever, and Christmas is the best season, in my opinion. NYCB puts on The Nutcracker every season, so this year I have to make sure to catch a performance.

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Bryant Park in the city is beautiful this time of year when they open up the merchant stalls and set up their Winter Village. It’s becoming a tradition to visit before Christmas Day, and go ice skating. Which brings me to:

go ice skating

I’m not a skilled skater by any means, but after an hour of hanging onto the barrier, I get the hang of it and I always have a blast (I think I’ve fallen every time, though).

read Dickens’ Christmas stories

Every year I read A Christmas Carol, but the book I have featured seven or eight other Christmas stories by Dickens, so this year I read them ALL.

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Of course: this is a must-do tradition. A lot of the time I visit the tree after Christmas because I’ve had no time, and while that’s not a bad thing (it’s less crowded, after all), seeing the tree before Christmas is definitely more special.

I get all warm and happy this time of year, and I hope that whatever holiday you’re celebrating this season, that it’s happy and cheerful and spent with the people you love.

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Book thrifting ‘haul’ at Westsider Books

A few weeks ago I hit up one of my favorite bookstores in the city, Westsider Books on the Upper West Side. It’s very old and creaky, with two floors (top floor is rare books), ladders that you can climb to get to the tippy-top shelves (a la Belle), and books that are stacked two rows deep. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then it’s probably behind that first row of books on the shelf.

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This is my favorite bookstore in the city because its atmosphere is perfect for slowing down, taking a moment to relax, and of course, because it lets you find books you didn’t know you wanted. They’re all used, and so they have that used-book character that I like. But if you come in here with a specific title in mind, you may not find it. Instead, something else jumps out at you, and you’ll take it home.

I came here with my best friend, and we found some great titles that I wouldn’t have put on my list otherwise:

Lucrezia Floriani, by George Sand; Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe; The House on the Strand and Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier; and The Letters of Charles Lamb: Volume One. 

I’ve read Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s short story collection, but none others by her, and of course, Things Fall Apart is a classic story I’ve been meaning to read for a while. The edition I picked up was a cheap reprinting for a college class in the 80s, and the book of Charles Lamb letters was printed in 1911. I love that. Oh, and these all smell fantastic.

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Libba Bray’s excellent sequel to ‘The Diviners’

The book Lair of Dreams, the sequel to The Diviners by Libba Bray, was a long time coming. But since I’ve been reading Libba Bray since I was 12 all the way back in 2003, I knew her penchant for pushing back deadlines and making fans really earn the next installment in a series/trilogy. But this one, like her others, was worth the wait.

16060716Libba Bray is the author of a book series that changed my life when I was a young teenager: A Great and Terrible Beauty and its two sequels, books set in Victorian England and featuring a female character with connections to a supernatural world of power that she can control. Bray’s new series follows along the same lines.

Set in 1920s New York, a world of flappers and speakeasies, the Harlem Renaissance and Ziegfeld girls, The Diviners is about a group of teenagers who have psychic or supernatural abilities. The second installment follows eight different main characters, each with a rich backstory, strong characterizations, a different “ability,” and distinct voices.

There’s Evie O’Neill, the quintessential flapper and an object reader. She loves the high life, and she loves being the famous Sweetheart Seer, her radio personality. There’s Theta Knight, a sultry Ziegfeld girl with a dark past. Henry DuBois, a dreamwalker looking for his lost love, a boy named Louis he left behind in New Orleans. Memphis Campbell, a poet from Harlem who can heal with one touch. Ling Chan, a resident of Chinatown and a victim of polio who finds solace in her dream world, where she can do anything she likes.

And more…each unique, each interesting. It’s truly a feat to have such a varied cast, all of them main characters, all of them with a different voice, all of them as interesting as the last. As episodic as the book is, it never feels fragmented, and I never was annoyed to turn the page and find that this or that character was now the focus. I liked them all.

Oh, and these books are also literally the scariest books I’ve ever read. They’re horror stories at heart, so in the last one there was a ghostly murderer killing people and stealing body parts so he could build himself a body. I didn’t sleep for the entire time I read it.

This installment is slightly less horrifying, but just as gruesome. When the earliest (shut down) subway station in New York is accidentally discovered by a trio of workmen deep in the bowels of New York, a ghost is awakened who enters the dreams of its victims, showing them their deepest desires and then using that dream to sap their life force. The “sleeping sickness,” as the terrified New Yorkers call it, causes its victims to enter into an unending sleep while they burn from the inside out. Scorch marks appear on their bodies as they dream and dream—until they die.

Oh, and the ghost is also snatching people and turning them into monsters with razor-like teeth, horrifying howls and screams, and jaws that unhinge to attack their victims. Imagine Gollum but ten times scarier.

Despite its horror, this book is still very much character driven. Evie especially is a character who goes through many “growth spurts,” and each character has to face an inner demon as important as the physical ones that threaten to kill them and everyone they love. Memphis struggles to be a poet and has to deal with racism in 1920s New York. Ling Chan lives in Chinatown during the height of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and also faces racism. Theta deals with her murky and violent past, Henry copes with hiding and also accepting his homosexuality, and so on. The book is so rich, steeped in history and social issues, and the characterization is never sacrificed for the sensational.

I’m seriously impressed with the writing, as well. Since 2003, Libba Bray has become a truly talented wordsmith, even more so than she was.

“Every city is a ghost.
New buildings rise upon the bones of the old so that each shiny steel beam, each tower of brick carries within it the memories of what has gone before, an architectural haunting. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of these former incarnations in the awkward angle of a street or filigreed gate, an old oak door peeking out from a new facade, the plaque commemorating the spot that was once a battleground, which became a saloon and is now a park.”

At the heart of this book is New York, a rich tapestry that becomes a character in and of itself. New York fiction is perhaps my favorite “genre.”

I really don’t have much criticism of this YA novel. I think it’s a must read, for all ages. It’s epic, important, full of truth and beauty, and just as striking as the first book I read by Bray, about 12 years ago.

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Snapshots

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

A couple weeks ago I went upstate with my friends to the Catskills for Oktoberfest! It was an awesome weekend filled with beer and karaoke, fire pits and some beautiful mountain views. It’s one of my favorite places: too bad it rained all weekend. 🙂

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The weekend after, my sister and I saw Keira Knightley in the off-Broadway show Therese Raquin, adapted from an Emile Zola novel. The show was a nail-biter, a drama about a French woman who has an affair with her husband’s best friend. Her lover kills her husband so he can be with her, and then the husband haunts them both.

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Onstage, Keira Knightley is as wonderful as she is onscreen, and we even got her autograph at the stage door afterward!

Then, in keeping with my resolution to be an annoying tourist in New York City more often and take advantage of living so close, my best friend and I took a Saturday this past weekend to go exploring. We had lunch outside near a waterfall at Paley Park, went uptown to visit my favorite bookstore The Westsider, and wandered around Central Park.

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We sat in front of the Belvedere Castle, and then walked down to Strawberry Fields, the section of the Park dedicated to John Lennon. It was peaceful, and there was a street performer playing acoustic Beatles songs, adding to the ambiance and importance of such a place, so close to where John Lennon used to live.

Next weekend I’m going pumpkin picking, and so I have to say, so far I’m really enjoying my autumn. 🙂 What’s everyone else doing this season?

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Fall Days & Fall Nights

Every season of the year brings something new and exciting that makes me so happy I live in a place with four distinct seasons. After the heat and excitement of summer fades, there’s nothing I love more than to enjoy the crisp fall weather by either staying in for days at a time with a book, or going outside for those singular fall activities I can’t get enough of. Also I love crunching leaves. 😉

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Here’s my very, very brief checklist of the things I want to do this fall season:

go apple/pumpkin picking

There is no better way to soak in the crisp fall weather than going apple picking—braining yourself in the head with that long picker, eating more apples than you buy, and breaking all the rules by trying to climb trees (and only going up three branches) are all priceless experiences.

dress in jewel tones

Eek! I can’t tell you how excited I am for fall fashion! I already have my scarves lined up and ready, I’ve bought boots, I’ve bought dresses, I’ve bought stockings. I’ve put together some outfits I seriously cannot wait to put together and share.

For me, fall fashion means layering, wearing jewel tones like purple, burnt orange, reds and yellows, and boooooooots.

read scary books

Summer is always a reading slump for me; there are always a million other things to do! So to get myself back in the routine, and to get myself hype for Halloween, I like to read something slightly scary. This year, it’s going to be Libba Bray’s sequel to The Diviners: Lair of Dreams.

As a fantasy/historical/YA novel, it’s not exactly a horror story BUT Bray’s first Diviners book was easily the scariest thing I ever read, so I have high hopes for the sequel.

drink oktoberfest

BEER! Do I have to say more?

take photographs

This time of year, or really, whenever the seasons start to change, I love to go out wandering with my camera in hand. Everything slows down and you have this intense quiet time to yourself to think, reflect, and flex your creativity. I love it, and I get some beautiful photographs out of the mix.

be a tourist

Fall in New York City is not only freaking beautiful, but it has so much more culture and just as many activities as in the summer. PLUS, as an added bonus, the rooftop happy hours aren’t ridiculously packed anymore.

There are so many events and festivals, especially food-related (which are my favorite kind) and I can’t wait to try them out.

snuggle

Cold weather = blankets and hoodies.

I want to be a tourist in my own city

Recently I wrote this article about how fun it is to be a silly tourist, and that got me thinking about all the things I haven’t done in New York. But it also makes me think about all the stuff I have done, and how worthwhile it is to tour your own city as if you are a newcomer, seeing it all for the first time.

When my cousin visited from Italy, we took her to the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, and that was one of the best moments I’ve ever had, able to see all the nooks and crannies of the city from way up high. I also did a couple touristy things recently that I absolutely adored: going to the observation deck at One World Trade Center, and going on a boat on the Hudson River (which I actually did last year, too!).

Here are some pictures of my escapades as a New York “tourist”:

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This boat is a replica of a 18th century schooner, and onboard is a beer tasting! This is literally one of my favorite things in the world. I went with my sister and brother-in-law, and we had a great time.

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The views were amazing.

After the boat, we walked from Battery Park to the Bowery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and we walked by the New York Stock Exchange, Trinity Church, and other landmarks that tourists usually visit, but that I’ve never taken the time to explore.

So I want to make time to tour New York, to visit those places a tourist would, but that as a local, they sort of go over your head. I especially love Lower Manhattan, because it’s visibly so much older than the rest of the city, and knowing how much I know about the history of New York, I want to be there more to soak up that amazing feeling that studying history and being a part of history always gives me: like I’m just one part of something so much bigger than myself, and that will go on after me. Being a tourist in my city makes me feel like I’m tied to its history, that I’m a part of it, and that it’s a part of me.

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Author Spotlight // Edith Wharton

I have a strange fascination with Edith Wharton, as I have with anyone who can both adore and eviscerate New York City. Growing up in the shadow of the metropolis, I always felt like it was home even though it was always intimidating and strangely, always just out of reach. But if anything can top the allure of contemporary New York City, it’s 19th century New York City, a city dominated by a High Society populated by old-world Americans. Americans whose recent ancestors founded the country. It’s almost magical, historically. And Wharton dissects and criticizes it with the same brand of poison pen that Jane Austen so deftly wielded. Yep, I love Edith Wharton. Let’s explore.

6165890_1071303709Edith Wharton was born into the New York society she would later write about so carefully. Born wealthy and privileged among Fifth Avenue Society, she started writing at the young age of 11, featuring many of the real-life characters she knew in her life. Even though she was quite a prolific young writer, she was not officially published until she was 41 years old. She won a Pulitzer for The Age of Innocence, and published 37 other books, including the one featuring one of my favorite characters in literature, Lily Bart: The House of Mirth. 

In high school, I knew Edith Wharton as the author of Ethan Frome, a novel which I hated down to my very core. It wasn’t until later that I discovered her most popular, Pulitzer-winning novel The Age of Innocence and my personal favorite, The House of Mirth. I love reading about society, about the particular eccentricities and hypocrisies of people, and yes, I do love reading about ballrooms and nosegays and big dresses. And I love, love reading about what New York used to be, even if it was filled with terrible people doing terrible things. That’s mankind, innit?

Right now I’m reading The Age of Innocence for the first time since I was 16 or so, and there is so much I don’t remember that it may as well be the first time I’m reading it!

The Case for Living At Home

Recently I had a talk with a fellow recent college grad. She told me I should move out, because moving out gives you a great sense of independence and makes you grow into an adult so much faster. She’s back at home after graduation and her mother is still washing her clothes. She asks her mom for money when she goes out to bars on the weekends. When she was at college, she would call her mom to put food money on her debit card. Such independence.

When I was thirteen years old, my father asked me if I’d like to start working at our family business, a restaurant we own and operate. I was thrilled and said yes. For the past ten years I’ve worked there, throughout high school and in college, when I commuted to the Bronx campus of Fordham university. Since I was 13, I haven’t asked my parents for a single cent for myself. And I’ve lived at home for all my adult life.

When old friends ask me what I’m doing with my life now, they get really condescending when I tell them I live at home. One friend told me, “you were always a homebody” and l941768_4889754085997_345924844_naughed. I get frustrated, because not only do I enjoy living with my family rather than have to share a bathroom with three other girls, but I truly don’t see what the big deal is all about.

True, that most of the time living at home is a luxury. There’s no rent to pay, no annoying roommates. Lucky for me, I live half an hour away from New York City, so relocating for work was never an option. I understand the necessity for moving out, but I don’t understand the stigma of staying at home.

For me at least, living at home made me force myself into independence. I never wanted to be irresponsible or take advantage of my parents’ hospitality, or stunt my adult growth by letting my mom do my chores. Also, living at home during college gave me perspective about the future. My parents never limited my college activities (shenanigans) but it helped that I knew I was grounded in reality, unlike most college students. It was a vastly different experience, but I’m grateful for it.

“So what now?” people say. “Are you going to move out?” Well, let me tell you: I’d love to follow in my friends’ footsteps and have a fabulous apartment in Chelsea or the Upper East Side, but I can’t afford it right now. Living at home gives me financial security, something I’d rather boast than Central Park views or a short commute. It’s different, once again, but I won’t feel shame about it. I’m proud of it. If my life changes and that New York dream becomes a reality, that will be wonderful. But right now, I’m content with my setup. I’ve cultivated a relationship with my parents, sisters, cousins that would have been sacrificed if I’d moved out for college or after, and those relationships are now invaluable to me.

I think the stigma of living at home is something a lot of young people fear needlessly. There’s no shame in it. And it’s pretty awesome knowing you’re coming home to people who love and support you. If you can do it, don’t be ashamed of it. And save some money in the bargain. Your student loans will thank you.