Alexa and I have officially been friends for 10 years and we wanted to celebrate this moment by sharing 10 of our favorite memories together. (I can't wait to see if we have any overlaps!) 

I honestly can't believe it's been 10 years already. But at the same time, it just feels like we've been friends forever and this last decade has certainly flown by. It was actually really fun to go back through photos and just remember how much we've done together and how much of my life she's seen. I mean, when we first met I was still living at home, still at my first job, and on the cusp of some major life changes. How far we've both come since then! I'm so grateful for this friendship and for Alexa's steady presence through all the ups and downs. I'm very lucky that I can call her one of my best friends. 

So, without further ado, here are my 10 favorite memories of us, at this current moment*, in chronological order. (*Disclaimer: We've shared so much and continue to make new memories all the time so coming up with a definitive list is basically impossible but I tried!)

1 / July 2012 • The first time we met in person
We had started talking on Twitter a few weeks before we met in person for the first time at Books of Wonder for an event with Melina Marchetta, Gayle Forman, and Kristin Cashore. Afterwards the two of us plus Estelle and Sasha got dinner at Cafeteria, where we happened to sit next to one another and the rest is history! 

2 / July 2014 • Horseback riding at Garrett Mountain Reservation
This being one of my favorite memories of us will never, ever change. It was such an impromptu, random thing to decide to do together but in typical us fashion, we threw out the idea after reading Racing Savannah and 20 minutes later, we had a plan set. It was our first sleepover at my apartment (I totally remember us watching Fushigi Yuugi together), going horseback riding (which was so much fun), and walking around Montclair. 

3 / November 2015 • Apple picking in Warwick, NY

Neither of us had gone apple picking in years and we were once again inspired by a book to make the drive up to Warwick, NY to do so. I remember us coordinating outfits, singing in the car, taking really good pictures and just having the best time together. (We have a video!)

4 / August 2017 • Watching Dirty Dancing in Bryant Park

This is just one of my favorite memories ever. During the final "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" scene, everyone in the park (us included!) got up to sing and dance along. It was just a magical moment to be a part of. 

5 / March 2018 • Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik

I will never forget watching the sun rise on the incredible Blue Lagoon as we walked towards the main building, fresh off the plane, jet-lagged, and just in complete of awe of the view in front of us. (Getting into the actual pool was super fun too!) 

6 / April 2018 • James Bay concert at Brooklyn Steel

Our first (and certainly not the last) James Bay concert we went to! How could seeing one of our favorite musicians together live not be on this list? I can clearly remember us standing towards the back (since neither of us are a fan of crowds), singing and dancing along to our favorite songs. 

7 / June 2018 • Romeo & Juliet by American Ballet Theatre
This was tough because in general seeing ballets with Alexa is a tradition that's very near and dear to our hearts but I knew I had to pick one and even I'm shocked that my choice is Romeo & Juliet. I'm not a fan of this particular story but what I do remember is Stella Abrera, how she inhabited the role of Juliet, and how we much we loved this performance of hers. We could not stop raving about her! 

8 / May 2019 • Seeing the Eiffel Tower together

Going to Paris with your best friend is a must and I'm so glad we got to make this trip happen. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was such an adventure. First we saw it up close and then we made our way to the Trocadero to take better pictures and of course, it started raining. But we continued to take pictures anyway and then we decided to eat at Carette while we waited for the tower to light up. It was pretty late by then but so worth it to see the Eiffel Tower at night. 


9 / August 2020 • Gantry Park, celebrating Alexa's birthday 

This was a significant day to me. It was 4 months into the pandemic and my first time going to NY since everything had started that March. Alexa and I had decided to find ways to safely hang out each month -- first for my birthday and this time for hers. I had never been to Gantry Park before and instead of walking around, we grabbed food to go, shared a blanket unmasked, and sat there for 5+ hours just talking. And for a moment, we got a teeny bit of normalcy back by hanging out together and that meant so much to me. 


10 / October 2021 • The drive up to Vermont

This was our first vacation together since the pandemic started and while I loved the entire trip, what stands out to me now is the drive up. We've taken road trips together before but never as long as 5.5 hours. And guess what? The time just flew by so quickly that we were both shocked when we realized we were in Vermont. We had our Rachel & Alexa's Roadtrip playlist on in the background and talked nonstop the entire way up. There's very few people I can do that with and Alexa is one of them. 

***
And there you have it, my 10 favorite memories of us. 
Here's many, many decades more :) 

Don't forget to check out Alexa's post and see what her top 10 are!

Here are some non-bookish articles I really liked this past month and my latest loves.


Links
1 / I didn't become a Sophia Bush fan until I started listening to the OTH Drama Queens Podcast and began rewatching the show along with it. She recently got married and I really enjoyed the Vogue piece which covered all the thoughtfulness (and activism) that went behind her wedding celebration.

2 / When @callingallhorsegirls shared on Instragram that The Zoe Report had written a post entitled, "Horse Girls Are 2022’s Unexpected Style Icons," I totally squealed on the inside. 

3 / I've only been to New York Comic-Con once but when I saw the announcements coming from this year's San Diego Comic-Con, I can't even begin to the describe the envy I felt (maybe one day I'll go?!). There were lots of exciting announcements but the two I'm currently thinking about the most are: the She-Hulk trailer and The Walking Dead spin-off featuring Rick and Michonne (!!!!). 

4 / Ever since I heard about A Tiny House Resort in the Catskills, I've been wanting to go. The Matador Network recently shared a post about 11 tiny houses available on Airbnb all across the US and I am intrigued. 

5 / The most random blog post award goes to The Everywhereist's "I Tried 21 Flavors of Mountain Dew For Some Reason." Full disclosure: Code Red Mountain Dew has been my favorite soda since college (or was it high school?) but I try not to drink soda as often anymore. But when I do, that is my #1 craving but it's now super hard to find. 

6 / As someone who misses back-to-school shopping, "7 Grown-Up Back-to-School Items to Add to Your IRL Shopping Cart" on Apartment Therapy was total clickbait for me. But also, I think I may actually shop these items for work in September. 

7 / Metro posted "How to do a better Sunday reset to start your week off right" and I don't know about you, but I can could some of these tips. 


Loves

1 /
I'm usually a hot coffee person all year round but walking to work in this heatwave has me reaching for iced coffee in the mornings. So I bought this sleeve and it's just so cute and useful. 

2 / I never wear heels except for special occasions so I think it's pointless to buy anything expensive. I went to a wedding recently and I needed some cheap, low heels so I took a chance on these and wow, they were even better than I expected! They didn't hurt my feet at all. 

3 / I swear, I feel like I've tried so many different pillows (including an expensive one from Casper) and nothing has helped with my aching neck/shoulder situation (my desk job also contributes to this) but I decided to give one more pillow a chance. And omg, I finally found a winner. This pillow from Amazon has been great for me!


***

Do you have any links or loves to share?
Would love to hear about them!
Life lately
Summer is halfway over! Which I'm mostly sad about  but I have to say, this heatwave we've been in for the last two weeks has not been pleasant. (I just want 70 degree weather!) But there's just something about the beginning of summer that fills me with joy. That's when it starts to get warm, I know my birthday is around the corner (June baby over here!), and there's just this anticipation I feel knowing there's going to be so many fun things to plan with family and friends. And so far? My summer has exceeded my expectations. But more importantly of all, it's felt really normal and it feels like a blessing to get here.

Jun-Jul Superlatives
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One-sentence reviews
These are books (physical + ebooks) from my TBR or the library aka the non-review books.


 ***
How's your month been?

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.

So far we've read The Iron FeyBeautiful Creatures, Sweet Evil, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Born WickedTiger's Curse, Altered, Unearthly, Glass Houses, and Angefall together and today I'll be talking about our latest read: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

Here are my thoughts:
  1. What were your initial thoughts about the book? Were you excited to read it?
    This was my first time reading Wicked Lovely and I went into it fairly blind. Even when it first came out in 2007, I don't think I had much awareness of this series so I was looking forward to checking it out. It's about Aislinn who's always had the Sight and been able to see faeries and their cruel antics on humans. She knows the best way to stay off their radar is to pretend she isn't aware of them at all but the Summer King Keenan has decided she will be his Summer Queen and suddenly she's thrown into a world she never wanted to be a part of in the first place. Even though the book didn't become a favorite, I actually enjoyed the lore and the overall story. The ending felt pretty ahead of its time, which surprised me. But I think what was missing for me was depth. More time was definitely needed to develop the characters and have stronger world-building. 

  2. What was your favorite quote or passage, and why did it resonate with you? 
    “I don't know why certain people shine for others. I don't know why you and not someone else.” I think this resonated with me because it's something I personally wonder in real life. Why sometimes there can be an immediate spark with someone and other times not. 

  3. Which character did you relate to the most, and what was it about them that you connected with?
    I wouldn't say that I related to Aislinn but of all the characters, I connected with her the most because of her bravery, her sureness in herself and what she wanted (or didn't want in this case). She wasn't going to cave to the Summer King just because he set his sights on her and I respected that. 

  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?
    I mentioned this already, but more time on developing the characters (their backstory and who they are) and the world building. With the latter, I was already intrigued by the lore so I wish the author had just taken it a step further. 

  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?
    Overall, it was a quick easy read and it entertained me. I wouldn't read it again or continue with the series but it did make me more curious about Melissa Marr so I'm going to see what else is in her backlog. 

*** 
Don't forget to check out what Alexa and DJ had to say about Wicked Lovely!

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

Ever since I discovered that local lavender farms existed, I've been wanting to go and it was fitting to go with Alexa because at one point, we wanted to plan a trip to Provence, a destination famous for their lavender fields. It's not quite France but Pleasant Valley Lavender, located in NJ, was a lovely escape for the day. 

We went to Comfi for breakfast first, a restaurant less than 20 minutes away from the farm that had this strip-mall, homey diner vibe and a huge menu. There were so many options! I got their Famous Homemade Caramel Apple French Toast (if you ever go, ask for the caramel syrup on the side; my one complaint on this otherwise great dish was it became too sweet) and Alexa got Sweet Snazz (a grilled croissant dipped in their special batter and topped with fruit and Nutella). 

From there we went to the farm! There was no admission fee and you just paid for what you picked. We each got a decent bouquet and paid less than $10 for it. The fields are admittedly on the smaller but there's still a lot to pick from as they have French, English, and white lavender. There are certain areas where they asked us not to cut flowers from since people tend to take photos (like us!). But we personally enjoyed our visit a lot. There was something very relaxing about cutting flowers together at this cozy, little farm and I can totally see us coming back! 

Happy Bastille Day, friends! If you've been following my blog, you know I celebrate my love of Paris and all things French every year on this day. And if you're new around here, now you know I'm a total Francophile. 

To celebrate, Alexa, Kristin, and I tried out a new-to-us French restaurant called Cafe Un Deux Trois, which we've all probably passed a dozen times before and never noticed (it's located on 44th Street aka the Theater District). 

The minute I stepped inside, I felt like I was transported to Paris. It 100% had that look and vibe. We ordered drinks and escargot (obviously!) to start. Then for dinner, I got moules frites (steamed mussels in a white wine shallot broth served with french fries), Alexa got farfalle maison (bowtie pasta with mozzarella, eggplant, sundried tomatoes in a light tomato sauce), and Kristin got the crepe vegetarienne (grilled zucchini, eggplant, tomato & onions w/ garlic & olive oil). And for dessert, we shared their fondant au chocolat, a warm flourless chocolate cake served with crème anglaise and raspberry coulis. Needless to say, we were all very happy with our food!


***
If you're looking for more NYC-based French restaurant recommendations,
here are some tried and true favorites:
(only been here ☝ once but it made a great impression!)




Here are some non-bookish articles I really liked this past month and my latest loves.


Links
1 / Just one of the many, many reasons why I love France — Eating at your desk is "banned" and we should all adopt this mentality. 

2 / I'm a huge Natalie Portman fan so I've got two articles about her to share: Vanity Fair chats with her about Thor and Thrillist shares a list of her 15 best movies (I've seen most of them!). 

3 / I binged The Summer I Turned Pretty the weekend it came out and weeks later, I'm still amazed by how much I loved it and still think about it. So when a family friend recently trashed the show after only a couple episodes, I tried not to take it personally. (You know, I'm totally judging though.) But I think this post from Refinery29 about "How The Summer I Turned Pretty Reframes The Glow-Up" is a must-read for fans and anyone who clearly missed the point of the series. 

4 / Trader Joe's is my go-to grocery store and The EveryGirl created a list of "The Trader Joe’s Summer Essentials You Need To Try ASAP." I totally throw my support behind the ube spread and shrimp seafood burgers but the rest I'll need to add to my shopping list! 

5 / The annual Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is right around the corner and I could not be more excited to start shopping. If you need some inspiration, check out the lists from: The EveryGirl, Hey Nasreen, and Fashion Jackson

6 / My favorite influencer Alyssa Lenore recently posted her "2022 Luxury Bag Collection" and as always she continues to be my inspiration for all things luxury. This video makes me want Hermes even more, not to mention re-think Goyard (I wasn't super in love when I visited the store but maybe I need to go again!). 

7 / Thao Thai, a contributor on A Cup of Jo, writes about "The Magical 10-Year Plan" and I'm not going to lie, after reading this there's a strong possibility I may write one down for myself too. 


Loves

1 /
I tried another foundation (again!) and it's one I didn't think would work for me at all but I wanted to try anyway. It's the Kosas Tinted Face Oil! My skin gets really oily throughout the day (and yet it's also dehydrated) so I didn't think this would work for me but it does. My face still gets shiny but I feel like the foundation separates rather than getting cakey-looking which is often my problem. I don't know if this is THE ONE for me yet but so far, I'm very happy with it. 

2 / I love the dance party workout videos from MadFit and her latest one based on Harry's House (which I tried for the first time this week) is now my favorite. 

3 / My leather Apple watch bands were starting to aggravate my skin when I'd wear them all day and night so I decided to switch to silicone but I wanted slim bands with more options for adjusting (I have small wrists!). This 5-pack from Amazon is such a steal! It's a great price and there are so many color options. I'm honestly tempted to order more. 

***

Do you have any links or loves to share?
Would love to hear about them!

The best thing about my birthday is spending time with family and having one-on-one outings with each of my best friends. I really don't plan big celebrations (except with my family but it's lowkey; they're only "big" because I have so many relatives!) but I do feel like this year we're making up for when we couldn't all be together and I loved every minute of it. This was definitely one of my most memorable birthday weeks (and the most normal in years)! 


Le Prive with Alexa • I kicked off the week by having dinner at Le Prive with Alexa. Neither of us had been before but we loved it and ended up ordering almost all the appetizers on the menu to share. We got escargot, a fromage board, steak tartare, seared scallops, fries, and then creme brulee, and beignets for dessert. I know it sounds like a lot but the small portion size of every dish made it perfect for us. Everything was delicious so I'm pretty sure we'll be back. Plus it's near Port Authority making it super convenient for commuters like us!


My actual birthday (June 29th) • I started off the day by getting breakfast at The Committed Pig with Mary Ann. Again, neither of us had been before but we both got blueberry pancakes with air-fried bacon (!) and it was so good! I also loved how they served coffee by giving each of us a thermos and mug. We were just very impressed. From there we went to Short Hills Mall so I could buy my birthday present to myself—a Dior Book tote! I've been eyeing this bag for 3 years now and it was time to pull the trigger. The embroidery on it is gorgeous so I'm happy I finally got it. 

Then I spent the latter half of the day with my immediate family. We kept it simple with my favorite pizza (Singa's) and cake for dinner but it was really nice! My nephew Ian loves when the candles are lit and we all sing happy birthday. 


Nails and dinner with Carina • Carina and I both had a summer Friday so we were able to hang out at my apartment for a bit and then we got gel manicure and spa pedicure. Then we got Bitol Cantina for dinner, which was our second time there and at this point, it's quickly become a favorite for us. We've been trying different each time and every one has been a winner. But the stand out from our last meal for me was their Mexican creme brulee! Their version has more a corn base, which I loved. 


Animal Crossing BBQ with the family • My uncle's birthday is on July 4th so we usually celebrate our birthdays together, which we did this past Saturday. But what I didn't know was that my cousins, John, Carina, and Jason, were going to make it Animal Crossing-themed! Seeing the decorations immediately cracked me up. It was just so fun! Even though it was a hot day, we all sat outside eating, talking, and gushing over Ian as he ran around. 

***
So that was my week! I just felt so loved and was genuinely touched by the messages, presents, and everyone's thoughtfulness. It certainly made turning 39 feel less daunting!
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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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