Harry Potter New York Store
I had been wanting to check out the Harry Potter Store in New York and I finally got to visit two weekends ago with Carina. We got there by 8:30AM, scanned the QR code to enter the virtual line, quickly grabbed some pastries and coffee, came back to wait in the actual line, and basically got to enter right when it opened at 9AM. I definitely recommend going early! 

This store is every HP fan's dream! The way they structured it is beautiful and as always, the attention to detail is incredible (ie. the elevator looks like the Floo Network!). Also, if you love buying all the paraphernalia, then this place is for you. I personally was mostly going for the experience and the butterbeer (which didn't disappoint!). I figured I would buy one thing, but I shopped way more than I expected to. I got the Hogwarts Castle Wand, a bottle of butterbeer, a Hedwig magnet, and a Vera Bradley x HP travel mug. My only regret is that we didn't try one of the virtual reality activities they had -- but there's always next time!


Cold Spring, NY

When DJ asked me if I wanted to go to Cold Spring, NY this past Saturday, I immediately said yes! It had been forever since we last hung out and you all know how much I love a good day trip. We met at Grand Central and took the Metro North up. The ride flew by as we caught up and before we knew it, we had arrived. 


To be honest, we didn't really plan ahead. We knew we wanted to shop books, get ice cream, explore.. and that's about it. And it was fun to wing it! From the train station, we walked to Main Street and put our name down for lunch at Hudson Hil's Cafe, where the wait was about over an hour, but everyone seemed to want to go there so we figured we'd try it out. While we waited, we shopped at Split Rock Books, Pink Olive (cutest store ever!), and Archipelago at Home. Then we started taking pictures of interesting storefronts and then finally it was time to eat. We both got Hudson Hil's Fig Grilled Cheese and french fries and it was honestly worth the wait!



After lunch and after some kind old man saw us struggling with our map print out (neither of us could get signal), he told us that if walked through the underpass and closer to the river, we'd find ice cream. We found the underpass and when we emerged on the other side, we realized there was a whole other side to the town. We got ice cream at Moo Moo's Creamery and sat outside near the river. There were breathtaking views, a park with benches, and gazebos. It was just so beautiful and quaint. DJ said he was getting Stars Hollow vibes the entire time we were there and I totally agree. 


I'm so glad we decided to do this! I had never even heard of this town until DJ mentioned it. But if you ever want a quick getaway for the day, this was the perfect short escape. I would definitely visit again! 


The first time I read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was 8 years ago so I was really surprised to find out about the sequel. But I knew I had to read it. To prepare myself, I re-read the first book by listening to the audio, as narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda (he was excellent!), and I can’t emphasize enough that a refresher is absolutely necessary before you read the new novel. It literally picks up right where it left off. 

Spoiler alert — in the predecessor, it’s a tumultuous journey for Ari and Dante as they initially become friends and eventually get their happily ever after once they’re both able to recognize how much they love each other. In this sequel, it’s all about the aftermath that they face, both good and bad. What does it mean to be gay Mexican young men in a small town where it won’t be accepted? This is their constant fear, along with that of their parents. Up until now, I actually thought these books took place in present day but it’s sometime in the 80s/90s as the author navigated different topics regarding the AIDS epidemic and LGBTQIA+ issues. But to counteract all the heavier (and absolutely necessary) conversations this story drove, there is also a lot of light in it. 

For one, it’s a beautiful thing to watch Ari open up to friends and accept himself. Friendship played a huge role in this book in general, which I loved. And as always, both Ari and Dante’s parents are active participants in their children’s lives. The banter, advice, and unconditional love in every scene filled me with so much joy. If I had one complaint about the book though, it would be Dante. He’s never been endearing to me as Ari (whom I adore!) and of all the characters, he’s had the least amount of growth (in fact, I’d say he didn’t mature at all). But I was willing to overlook that because everything else in this book is just amazing. I laughed, I cried, and I cannot wait to have a copy of this book on my shelves. 

Do I recommend? Clearly the answer is yes! If you were a fan of the first book, this won’t disappoint. And if you’ve never read it (but decided to read my review anyway), do yourself a favor and read it now. 

***
pub 10/12/21 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub for review



[top-bottom; left-right]

Apple iPad Mini 6 | I traded in my 2019 iPad Mini for the latest version (and paid the difference) and this is by far, the best version. It's more compact, I love the new colors (I got purple!), and it fits easily into the majority of my bags. 

Rothy's The Square in Ecru | Full disclosure: I've bought 3 pairs of Rothy's in the last two months. This was the first and the one I've used the most so far. I usually get The Point and I don't like the The Flat so their new Square style is the perfect compromise. And as always, super comfy. 

Zara Pearl Soft Top | I don't wear crop tops but I do wear high-waisted jeans and I'm petite so the length of this top is normal on me (just the way I like it). The pearls make a statement without being over the top and it's just so pretty in person. 

Madewell Sunray Coin Pendant Necklace | I'm surprised by the reviews on this but maybe it's because they ordered it online whereas I bought it in store. As soon as I saw it, I knew I would buy it. 

J.Crew Open Front Cardigan Sweater | Sweater weather is mostly here (except we are getting some random 80 degree weather days still!) but I'm stocking up on cardigans regardless. Since this a boxy style, I was worried it may look frumpy on me which is why I sized down (which would be my recommendation). I love how feminine it is and the fit is great. 

J.Crew Ruffle-collar ribbed merino wool sweater | I don't have anything like this in my closet but between the colorway, stripes and ruffled collar, I knew I'd be adding this to my cart! For tops, I'm usually a XS and for this, I went with S since I don't like my shirts to be too fitted and I had a feeling this was a slim-fitting top. I ended up being right so I'm very happy I went up a size and I can't wait to wear this one out!

Aritzia Babaton Hazlitt Vest | I have been obsessed with getting a sweater vest for Fall/Winter and I finally found the (almost) perfect one! I love the color, the mock neck and the fit. My only nitpick is the shoulder pads which I'm going to remove. But otherwise, I love it. 

Madewell Broadway Cardigan Sweater | This is unfortunately sold out on their website but it's a great neutral cardigan. I don't know if I would've picked it up if I was shopping in store but seeing how it was styled on the model is what convinced me and I'm glad I decided to get it!


***
Have you bought anything lately that you're obsessed with?

For the first time since the pandemic started, I finally went on a trip and it's not an exaggeration to say that it was glorious. I basically haven't been outside of New Jersey / New York since March 2020 and getting away and having a change of scenery was exactly what my mental and emotional health needed. I know I sound super dramatic but that's truly how I felt! And I'm so glad my first real vacation in almost two years was a road trip to Vermont with Alexa! Traveling by car (or train) is all I'm comfortable with at the moment so this was perfect.  


Day 1 • We left Friday morning from my apartment and I was preparing myself for the long 6 hour drive (I did all the driving during the entire trip), but it flew by! We both joked that we were so busy talking that when we looked up, suddenly we were in Vermont. Alexa and I are pretty efficient travelers so we left early, ate in the car, made only one stop (for gas, food, & bathroom all in one shot) before we reached our first destination, the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm

It was a great stopping point because it gave us time to stretch our legs. We didn't want to ride the horses so we were there to walk around, admire the farm, take photos, and pet some horses (we met a lovely horse named Loki). From there, we drove another hour and arrived at our Airbnb! If you're in Stowe by yourself or with one other person, I can't recommend this place enough. It's on the smaller side but it's conveniently located, cozy, and Heidi is the sweetest host you'll ever meet. 

Since we were both tired from the long day of driving, we picked up food from Piecasso and watched Falling in Love (which we enjoyed!). 


Day 2 •
We picked up breakfast at Stowe Bee and Bakery (highly recommend) before venturing out on our two scenic drives! First we drove through Stowe Hollow and Little River Dam, which had breathtaking yellow foliage, streams, and winding roads. Then we stopped by Ben & Jerry's Factory (did you know they originated in Vermont?), and had lunch at Cold Hollow Cider Mill. From there, we drove through Edson Hill and West Hill, which still had beautiful foliage but also a lot of farmland (we really enjoyed seeing cows and horses everywhere!). 

Then in the late afternoon we got to attend the Stowe Arts Fall Festival (I'm in love with the Kokeshi dolls by the artist I met there; I got one for myself!). It was fun to walk around and see all the local artistry. And finally, we ended the day with dinner at Swiss Fondue By Heinz, which was great. A word of advice though: make dinner reservations weeks in advance. We had a bunch of restaurants on our list but they were all completely booked for dinner. We were lucky we got this one!



Day 3 • We picked up coffee and biscuits at PK Coffee (best maple lattes we had the entire time) and ventured on what was the most scenic and slightly daunting drive of our whole trip. This drive was through Smugglers' Notch, which took us up a mountain with gorgeous trees on either side of the winding roads. I admittedly felt a little nervous with my little Honda Fit but we drove slowly and carefully, and picked good spots to stop and take photos. It was absolutely worth it! I never knew fall foliage could be so beautiful or that I would love seeing it so much but I did. We also drove through Jefferson, Johnson and Hyde Park before going back to Stowe and doing a shorter scenic drive through Brush Hill, which was a back road trip with more beautiful views. I like to think we took good photos but honestly, they don't do the scenery justice. 

After all that driving, we took the afternoon to explore the Main Street in town. We grabbed lunch at Cafe on Main, plus shopped at Stowe Mercantile, Bear Pond Books, Shaw's General, and Laughing Moon Chocolates. We took photos of the iconic Steeplecase and walked for a bit on the Recreational Path (if my feet didn't hurt, I would've loved to explore it more!). 

Then we picked up dinner again from Piecasso (everywhere else was super busy but we didn't mind; we really liked their food!) and stayed in to watch Love Marriage Repeat, which was entertaining to say the least. 


Day 4 • Did we wear matching Stowe t-shirts on our drive back home? Why yes, we did. (Don't judge us.) We were both sad to be leaving but we had one more stop to make that day and that was to get maple lattes and coffee grounds from Vermont Artisan Coffee (it's in a striking red building). And from there, it was back on the road and back to NJ/NY! 

***

Clearly, we loved our trip to Vermont! It's such a great fall trip to take if you want something relaxing, outdoorsy, and picturesque. I would definitely go back again and stay at least one day longer. 

Have you ever 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, and Altered together and today I'll be talking about our latest read: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.

Here are my thoughts:
  1. What were your initial thoughts about the book? Were you excited to read it?
    I remembered loving this series until the couple I shipped didn't end up together. I still enjoyed the last book but I was definitely bummed about the ending. So even though I was excited to re-read this, I was worried that feeling might color the experience. But I'm happy to report that it did not! The book completely held up. I had remembered the main details: Clara, a half-angel, had moved with her family to a new town to fulfill her purpose, once she figured out exactly what it was. She knows it involves Christian, a boy at her school, but that's it. Along the way, she makes friends and meets another guy, Tucker, and naturally, there is a love triangle as a result. But I didn't remember all the little details and I found myself feeling impressed with this series all over again and wishing there were more YA angel books like this one.   

  2. What was your favorite quote or passage, and why did it resonate with you?
    "So often we only do what we think is expected of us, when we are capable of so much more." Even though Clara says this when thinking of her purpose, I think it's a line that can resonate with all of us, myself included. 

  3. Which character did you relate to the most, and what was it about them that you connected with?
    Probably Clara! Granted, I'm not a half-angel with a destiny of fulfilling my purpose but I think at that age and even when we're older, we're all trying to figure out who we are and what exactly we want to do with our lives (aka purpose). Clara has moments of doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty but she never gives up, and I loved that about her. 

  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 wouldn't have minded more Christian (but that happens in the next book!). 

  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 really enjoyed re-reading Unearthly and my immediate instinct was to keep going. The only reason why I didn't is because I (nor NYPL) had the book but I wouldn't be surprised if I continued rereading at some point. And I would definitely read more from this author! 

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

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

I had just been saying recently how even though I do enjoy all the rom-com books lately, what I've missed (and really wanted) were the romances with angst and sexy times. When Sparks Fly totally fit the bill! I actually went into the book pretty blind as my main reason for reading it was because Helena Hunting wrote it and she did not disappoint. Avery and her two younger sisters run their family business, the Spark House, a premier hotel/event space in Colorado Springs. Between a job she loves, her friends and sisters, and living in a condo with her best friend Declan, life is good. Then Avery is in a car accident which leaves her immobile for weeks. It's a sobering moment for all as it could've been much worse and brings up painful memories for both Avery and her sisters, and Declan insists on being her sole caretaker throughout her healing process. And this is when is get complicated (I love a complicated, messy relationship in my romances!).

Avery and Declan have a long history together stemming since college but suddenly being together 24/7 and him taking care of her every need (and I mean every need!), has them questioning and finally realizing what's between them. I absolutely loved the progression of their relationship. We got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and I appreciated that while the author was ramping up on the romance aspect, she didn't neglect the fact that Avery was healing her body and how frustrating that was for such an active person. She also didn't shy away from Avery and Declan's issues, with the former dealing with hers head on while the latter preferred to shut down. It made the conflict that much sadder and intense and likewise, the conclusion that much sweeter. 


Do I recommend? Yes! I really, really enjoyed this. 


***
pub 9/21/21 by St. Martin's Griffin
Adult - Contemporary Romance
Received e-ARC from pub for review


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


Links
1 / I love seeing inside other people’s homes, which inevitably makes me want to buy a home of my own that I can decorate to my heart’s delight. And I definitely felt that way watching Architectural Design’s feature on Nina Dobrev’s home. Her kitchen is everything!

2 / I am all about wearing nightgowns to bed (yes, I’m anti-pants when it comes to sleepwear) so I enjoyed this post on Cup of Jo that asks the question: “What Do You Wear to Bed?” And they share a bunch of great recommendations based your answer. 

3 / The Financial Diet created a short list of “3 100-Day Challenges To Do for the Last 100 Days of the Year” and I have to admit, it’s a pretty great list. I’m inspired to try but we’ll see if I actually do it! 

4 / I’m the first to admit that ever since I’ve started working in the office again a couple days a week and the weather started changing, the urge to shop has been strong. And I’ve been caving in to the urge a lot. Verily Magazine shares some tips on how to curb your shopping when you’re bored and while I do a lot of these things already, I really need to double down on it. 

5 / I started following Honestly Holistic on Instagram when one of her posts showed up on my Explore page. I clicked on it on a whim and it basically described a lot of the symptoms I'd been feeling in the last few months. It felt great to not feel alone (or crazy). If you've been dealing with anxiety, I highly recommend checking her out. 

6 / Joshua Jackson is on the cover of this London-based magazine called JON and I feel like we all need to take a moment to appreciate how handsome he looks. Also apparently I might be able to find this in the US -- so friends if you see this, feel free to DM me :) 

7 / I've been wanting to start investing and that was actually one of my goals for 2020. But then the pandemic hit and I decided to put it off. Reading about TheEverygirl's experience with investing for the first time makes me want to start looking into it again. 

Loves

1 /
It really pained me to spend so much on a face cream but wow, the Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore is actually worthy of the hype. I see a big difference with the my skin (hydration, texture & tone), which means I'm going to order it again and pray for a sale in the near future. 

2 / I watched Only Murders in the Building when it first premiered on Hulu and the episodes just keep getting better and better. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez is the squad I didn't know I needed! If you haven't started watching this, you should. 

3 / I'm always buying different lip balms but I think I may have found my favorite every day one. I love the feel of the Avene Cold Cream lip balm


***

Do you have any links or loves to share?
Would love to hear about them!
Life lately
These last two months have been a whirlwind! The highlights were: every time I hung out with friends or family, took myself out on solo dates, my blog turning 10 years old (!), listening to more audiobooks, and trying to have a more active lifestyle (aka working out at home or going on walks). And on the sadder side of the spectrum: I've been dealing with a ton of anxiety (thank goodness for incredible BFFs and cousins offering support), and it was recently the two-year anniversary of my mom's passing. So it's been a lot of ups and downs and I'm letting myself feel whatever I feel but you know me, I try and focus on the positive. And even though I'm a summer girl, I'm looking forward to fall! I think it's because I already have some fun plans for the next couple of months so I can't helping feeling excited (and tempted to shop!). 


Aug-Sep Superlatives
Favorite read
Follow on Goodreads
Most liked photo
Follow on Instagram



On the blog

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


 ***
How's your month been?
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.

read more

Instagram