Happy New Year! Even though I'm thankful for all that 2022 brought me, I have to say I felt pretty ready to say goodbye to the old and welcome in a brand new year. For weeks now, I've been thinking about what I want 2023 to look like and the reason why it's been on my mind is because it's a big year. It's the one where I turn 4-0 and I'm honestly still wrapping my mind around that. So instead of coming up with the usual broad goals for the year, I decided to create a bucket list of specific things I'd like to do. That being said, I want to be kinder to myself and more attuned to my mental, physical, and emotional well-being so I'll do my best to check these items off the list but at the end of the day, as long as I'm happy and healthy that's all that matters ☺ 

My 2023 Bucket List
▢  Take horseback riding lessons (at least 3)
▢  Maintain a consistent gym schedule
▢  Plan a cousins' vacation to celebrate mine (and my cousin RJ's) 40th birthday
▢  Plan a vacation with Carina
▢  Plan a vacation with Alexa 
▢  Revamp the kitchen in my apartment
▢  Take care of my health so my annual physical is better than last year
▢  Complete Made New: 52 Devotions for Catholic Women
▢  Give therapy a try 
▢  Read at least 100 books
▢  Host a meal at my apartment
▢  Start a new creative project
▢  Complete Building Wealth By Doing Nothing: Investing 101 course
▢  At least 2 shopping ban months
▢  Seriously look into adopting a cat

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What are some of your goals/resolutions/hopes for 2023?

I can't believe New Year's Eve is only a few days away! I doubt I'll finish anything new between now and then so this is the perfect time to share my top albums, TV shows and movies from 2022 (in no particular order):

Top Albums
James Bay - Leap
Harry Styles - Harry’s House
Miranda Lambert - Palomino
Maggie Rogers - Surrender
Laufey - Falling Behind 

Top TV Shows
*all released in 2022 except CLoY
Crash Landing on You
The Summer I Turned Pretty 
Wednesday 
Inventing Anna 
Conversations with Friends
Pachinko 
Harry & Meghan 
House of Dragons 
The Dropout
Obi-Wan Kenobi 

Top Movies
*all were released in 2022 except Spirit
Coda
Downton Abbey: A New Era
Thor: Love and Thunder 
Uncharted
Rosaline
Fruits Basket -prelude
Enola Holmes 2 
Wakanda Forever
Glass Onion: Knives Out Mystery 
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron


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What were your favorites from 2022?
 


Last year I talked about my evolving reading tastes and how I was picking up books I normally didn't. I'm happy to say that continued in 2022! Again, I'm reading a lot less YA and yet two made it onto this list. I'm still reading primarily romance, a bit less fantasy (which does make me sad) but I also picked up more fiction and tried to check out books with a lot of buzz. Basically, I wanted my reads to be all over the place and I'm hoping that will continue in 2023. 

So here are my favorite books of 2022 (in no particular order):
  1. The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka
  2. The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
  3. In A New York Minute by Kate Spencer 
  4. House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas 
  5. Some Mistakes Were Made by Kristin Dwyer
  6. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus 
  7. Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  8. Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton
  9. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
  10. Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan 
Honorable mention: 


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What were some of your favorite books from this past year?


pub 10/25/22 by St. Martin's Griffith • Contemporary Literary Fiction • Received from pub for review⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars | When production assistant, Marlowe Banks, has to fill in as an extra across leading man Angus Gordon, the last thing she expects is for TV show's entire fanbase to hone in on a single, heated look between them. But they do and suddenly she's thrown into the spotlight, and thrown into more scenes with Angus (which turns out to be a very, very good thing). Ultimately it's about two people falling for one another as they look past the snap judgements  (him as the "bad boy") and their own insecurities (her feeling like a failure after her costume design work is torn apart by critics), and finding a new path. It was a quick, sweet romance that I did like overall and would recommend borrowing from the library (not to buy) but I have to admit that months later (I read this in October), it's not exactly the most memorable. 

* * *

reprint pub 2021-22 by Berkley • Sci-fi/paranormal Romance • Received from pub for review⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars | The tl;dr synopsis is that a group of women are abducted by aliens for nefarious reasons and when they land on an ice planet, they manage to escape only to run into a different set of aliens who happen to be blue, gorgeous, and eager to win them over through total devotion into mating for life (whew!). To say that I was skeptical would be an understatement but my curiosity won out and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually kinda like these books. Even though the series is outlandish and ridiculous (which I fully believe the author is aware of and actually leans into), I found myself laughing out loud a lot (probably not when I'm supposed to) and just thoroughly entertained by their escapades. The only times I found myself disliking the series was in the very, very beginning of the first book (there's a triggering scene I was forewarned about and I suggest you look up) and during the second book when it became too angsty. But when it's just being crazy and sexy, I do think it's a fun, mindless read that I personally just need sometimes. So keep an open mind, don't take it seriously, and go in with low expectations, and I really think you may find it as fun as I do. 

For my recent girls trip to Paris, every single one of us intended to shop because of the better than usual exchange rate, lower prices, and of course,  the VAT refund. I say all this up front because today's post includes all the purchases I made in Europe (the first four items in the graphic below!) and I realize it's a lot. It's not money I spent lightly and I absolutely budgeted for them knowing what a great deal it would be. These are all things that I'd had on my wishlist for a very long time and I even checked them out in person (in NYC) to make sure I didn't have any buyers' remorse when I got to Paris. 


So, without further ado, here are the purchases I'm obsessed with lately:


[top-bottom; left-right]


Van Cleef & Arpels Vintage Alhambra pendant | I've been in love with this necklace ever since I saw it a couple years ago. The white mother of pearl and black onyx versions are the ones most commonly seen (my friend got the black and it's more striking than the pearl) but this all gold version is my favorite. It is more expensive but this piece truly goes with everything I wear.  


Celine Teen Triomphe Bag in Shiny Calfskin | As far as luxury designer brands go, Celine has moved to the top of my list in the last year. I wanted a more casual black crossbody bag and I loved it as soon as I tried it on. The size is perfect for me and fits more than you'd expect. 


Longchamp Le Foulonne Hobo Bag | I have so many crossbody and tote bags but hardly any shoulder bags. The quality and minimalist nature of this bag is perfect! Truly, Longchamp is one of my absolute favorite brands. I find myself reaching for this one a lot. 


Longchamp Pure Phone Bag | I'd been wanting a phone bag (literally can fit my phone, keys, card holder, and maybe a lip balm) to throw on when I don't need much and this immediately caught my eye when I saw it at the Charles de Gaulle airport. I honestly don't think I would pay US retail price for it but the duty-free Europe price? It was a steal. 


A&F Air Cloud Puffer Parka | I haven't had a chance to wear this yet but I honestly can't wait to! The inside is the softest faux fur and the use of the word "cloud' to describe this parka is accurate. 


J.Crew Teddy Sherpa Jacket | Even though I hate cold weather, I'm such a sucker for a good coat. I'd been wanting a sherpa jacket so that combine with my recent love of brown (you'll notice a trend with today's post) and the fact that they had petite sizing made this purchase a no-brainer. 


Sam Edelman Loraine Woven Bit Loafer | I'm a huge fan of these loafers and I already own a pair in saddle. When I looking for brown shoes to add to my closet, I came across these on sale and I love them! The woven look adds a little something different to this classic pair of shoes. They're still on sale so if you're interested, buy them now!


Birkenstock Boston Shearling Suede Leather Mule | I saw someone in the city wearing these and immediately looked them up online. I've never been into Birkenstocks but something about this pair called to me! They're comfy and I love the brown color plus they're warm! They're a great alternative to my Uggs moccasins. 




For the newcomers: Alexa, DJKristin and I unofficially formed the Paranormal Book Club and the goal is to re-read (or in some cases, read for the first time) old YA paranormal books. The plan is to read a book/series per season (which I'm tracking here) and after, we'll answer five questions.

Today I'll be talking about our latest read: Something Strange and Deadly.

Here are my thoughts:
  1. What were your initial thoughts about the book? Were you excited to read it?
    The last time I read this series was in 2013 as a buddy read with Alexa and I only had the fondest memories of it. I was extremely excited to reread it because I've always considered it to be Susan Dennard's best work and all these years later, I still feel the same way! It absolutely held up and in some ways, I think I appreciated the storytelling even more now because it truly stands out amongst its peers with its genre-mix of steampunk, historical, and paranormal. Not to mention, it's diverse (without trying too hard) and I still love the heroine, Eleanor Fitt, for her fiery, courageous spirit and her flaws. If you're looking for a zombie book that has all the elements I already mentioned plus a motley group of friends, a little bit of magic, travel (in the later books), and romance, this is a must-read.  

  2. What was your favorite quote or passage, and why did it resonate with you? 
    "'Miss Fitt, you know curiosity gets men killed.' I grinned. 'Then I daresay it's good I'm a woman.'" 
    I think this passage sets the tone for exactly who Eleanor is. I truly do love her sass and her unwillingness to submit to society's expectations of her as a woman. She's very much her own person and that is something that deeply resonates with me. 

  3. Which character did you relate to the most, and what was it about them that you connected with?
    I related to Eleanor the most! I don't think I'd jump headfirst into a battle with zombies but I'm not someone who can sit idly by when there's a problem and we certainly have that in common. Not to mention, we both place importance on family, friendship, and independence.

  4. Was there anything you wanted to see more of in the book, like more page time for a secondary character or a plot point you wish was explored more?
    In the series, Eleanor teams up with the Spirit Hunters to battle their zombie problem (and more) and there's one particular person by the name of Daniel Sheridan that I will always want more of. 

  5. What are your final thoughts? Would you read this book again and/or continue with the series? Would you read another book written by the same author?
    I still love this series and in fact, both Alexa and I ended up rereading the entire series. By the end, we both loved it as much as we did the first time around. I have read Susan Dennard's newer series, Truthwitch, but I only really enjoyed the first book and it went downhill (for me!) from there so I never finished it. I am interested in The Luminaries, which came out last month, so I may check that out. 

*** 
Don't forget to check out what Alexa had to say about Something Strange and Deadly!

And if you want to learn more about 
Paranormal Book club and our past reads, go here.

"Paris, à nouveau" means "Paris, again" and it honestly still feels a bit surreal to me that I was there less than a week ago. The way this trip came about was completely out of my comfort zone. When one of my work friends asked me and the other girl in our circle to go on this trip with her, along with two of her friends plus two of her cousins (bringing us to a total of 7 girls), I hesitated. I'm friends with my two coworkers of course but traveling together is a whole other beast and the other 4 girls were total strangers to me. And yet, the urge to travel abroad was strong and none of my friends were free so I decided to take the leap and go for it. I'm incredibly grateful I did! It ended up being an amazing trip (not without its hiccups though) and we all buddied up, with our own itineraries, so it was the perfect balance of doing our own thing and meeting up with everyone for the occasional dinner / breakfast / activity. I was with one of my work friends the entire time and we ended up being very compatible travel buddies. I don't know if I'd travel with 7 girls again but would I travel with my two coworkers? Absolutely. 

Since I've talked about my last Paris trip in detail and revisited a lot of the same spots, I thought I'd approach this post differently. I'll break it down by what we did and where we ate but then cap it off with some useful and new-to-me tips I picked up on this vacation. 

Where we ate
Bakeries/Breakfast

Lunch/Dinner
  • Le Plomb du Cantal Rive Droite - known for their aligot 
  • Café de Flore - quintessential French bistro
  • Comptoir des Archives - we only got appetizers here so I can't speak to the entrees
  • Angelina - I dream about their white hot chocolate but the croque monsieur was excellent as well
  • Le Bistro - cozy little bistro 
  • Kitchen - the one and only time I didn't have French food in Paris; great for a quick meal!
  • Au Metro - do not recommend for dinner (breakfast looked better but we didn't try)
  • Le Flore en l'Ile - best escargot we had on the entire trip (we had it like 3-4 times), my first time trying foie gras (I'm a fan!), and they have Berthillon ice cream
  • La Bécane À Gaston - one of my favorite dinner spots 
  • Comptoir Breizh - if you need a crepe and coffee break
  • La Marine - beautiful restaurant and really good food

Pastries/Dessert only

What we did 
Museums (always buy tickets ahead of time)
  • Musée d'Orsay - I've been there twice and it's my favorite museum in Paris
  • Louvre - I hadn't been here since 2011 and it still gets claustrophobic quickly (at least for me); we had a list of 5-6 things we wanted to see which I highly recommend doing. 
  • La Galerie Dior - I was just there for the dresses and while certain parts of it were certainly beautiful, I wasn't overly impressed but it's a fun little stop that takes under an hour to peruse. 

Tourist Sights
  • Eiffel Tower - an absolute must; we only saw it during the day but I have seen it sparkle at night
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris - unfortunately still under construction 
  • Sainte-Chapelle - I've seen it three times and it never fails to take my breath away
  • Sacré-Cœur - it's an iconic church I recommend seeing at least once plus it's in one on my favorite areas, Montmartre
  • Palais-Royal - great spot for photos 
  • Tuileries Garden - peaceful garden if you want to sit down and relax

Shopping
  • La Grande Epicerie de Paris - we kept calling it the fancy grocery store but we could've easily spent a whole afternoon there buying goodies
  • Shakespeare & Company Bookstore - my favorite bookstore in Paris
  • Librairie Galignani - my other favorite bookstore
  • E.Dehillerin - this shop was frequented by Julia Child so a must-stop for cooking/baking lovers
  • Place Vendôme - beautiful plaza with surrounded by luxury stores
  • Champs-Élysées - the street for shopping
  • Ile Saint-Louis - quaint little island with lots of shops and places to eat at, plus it's surrounded by the Seine
  • Telle Mère Telle Fille - best fashion jewelry boutique (IMHO!); I shopped there during my last trip to Paris and loved their pieces so much I continued to order online (even though paying the shipping hurt). I was so happy to shop in person again! 
  • Pharmacie - they're everywhere (go for the skincare products!) but the best one is located at the Gare de 'lest train station. 

Christmas Markets
  • Tuileries Garden Holiday Market - cute but definitely geared more towards kids
  • Abbesses Christmas Market in Montmartre - exactly what we were looking for in a Parisian Christmas Market! We loved all the local vendors and shopped quite a bit. 

Tips for traveling to Paris 
  • Unless you plan to visit holiday or flea markets, you can pretty much rely entirely on your credit cards and not exchange money beforehand (but if you do -- do it through your bank weeks ahead of your trip).
  • If luxury shopping is on your agenda, download the app Global Blue. It tracks your VAT refunds automatically and shows updates on when you'll get your money. Plus it made getting through customs 100x faster. (Note: You have to spent > 100 euros to get a refund)
  • Along the lines of shopping, always check how the euro compares to the dollar. Right before our trip, the dollar was stronger but by the time we went it was more or less equal. Which is honestly still amazing! The price difference between US and Europe is wild. It was totally worth it to splurge because it was so much cheaper.
  • This was the first time I did serious luxury shopping on a trip. Weeks beforehand, I went into the city to check out all the things I was interested in buying because I didn't want to have any buyers remorse (wishing I had or hadn't gotten something). I'm so glad I did this! In Paris, the wait at each luxury store can be up to an hour or longer (this shocked me!) but because I knew exactly what I wanted and didn't need to aimlessly browse, it allowed me to be really efficient and not waste precious time that could be spent seeing Paris. 
  • Set up mobile passport control. I was most worried about entering the US thinking it would take forever but the airline told us to download this app as we were landing to make exiting the airport faster and wow, what a tip! It only took me 20 minutes to get through. Although, if you can get Global Entry like my friend did, that's definitely the way to go. 
  • I said this already but if there are specific museums you absolutely know you're going to see, don't wait in line. Buy your tickets ahead of time! 
  • Louvre Tip: To enter, go to the "Carrousel du Louvre" aka mall entrance. You can gain entry directly from the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre Metro Line 1 and 7 and it saves you a ton of time compared to lining up at the Pyramid, which is ridiculously long. 
  • I finally understand duty-free shopping! Seeing the stores at the Charles de Gaulle airport is worth it. 
  • Beware of train strikes. We originally planned to go to Amboise for a few days but our train tickets got cancelled and we ended up just staying in Paris (which I preferred anyway!). If you plan to visit other towns, have a backup plan or rent a car. 

***
Wow, this post ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated! 
But I hope you'll find it useful if you ever plan to go to Paris. 
I will never get tire of visiting and would 10000% go back again. 

This past weekend was mine and Alexa's monthly bestie date and our outing was especially fun! We tried a new breakfast spot called Davelle, which is a traditional Japanese cafe. It's quite small but if you go early like we did, we easily got a table (they have outdoor seating too). I ordered the black sesame and cream cheese toast while Alexa got berry and cream cheese and then we shared a plate of kaarage (Japanese style fried chicken). It was all delicious! And the spot itself was really cute and cozy. 

From there, we made a quick stop at Mejuri to shop their early Black Friday sale and then headed over to Wick and Pour, the first and only candle making lab in NYC! We both love candles but neither of us had ever made one before. The class is about 2 hours and while the location is pretty small, it was 12-16 people in a session. I combined roses and fresh linen scents with pink dye and gold glitter (Alexa and I both realize how very Sailor Moon-like it seemed) and she created one that was honey jasmine with old books scents with purple dye and pink glitter. I love how both our candles turned out! 

We ended our day with a matcha break at Cha Cha Matcha and book shopping at McNally Jackson

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What have you been up to lately?
Have you ever made candles before?
Welcome!
Welcome!

Hi, I’m Rachel! New Yorker at heart, Francophile in spirit, and forever wanderlusting. I’m passionate about books, ice cream, photography and finding creativity in my every day life.

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