At a time when a lot of my day-to-day is routine and limited (for good reason), these monthly ventures into the city to hang out with Alexa are literally a breath of fresh air. I get to be outdoors and walking around for hours in New York with one of my best friends and it's just such a welcome break! 

On Saturday, we met up at Claudette for brunch, which was my second experience with outdoor dining. I felt good about it because I saw pictures of their set-up online and I had to make a reservation beforehand which clearly laid out the rules. But it was even better than I expected! There are outdoor, enclosed but ventilated booths with heaters per table (each fit either 1-2 people or larger ones for 3-4 guests). You have to get your temperature taken and based on your party, your time is limited. Since there were two of us, we could only have the table for an hour and the service was so great and efficient. We definitely felt safe, warm, and cozy in our little booth and the food was delicious! If you're wary of outdoor dining like we are, I highly recommend trying this place out and going right when it opens so you're the first guests to use the booth that day, which is what we did. 

From brunch, we walked to three different bookstores. We laughed afterward because it was such a typical thing for us to do pre-pandemic and it felt great to be able to do it now, albeit with masks. We went to The Strand, Barnes & Noble Union Square, and Books of Wonder and walked out with books from each spot. 

After buying books, we talked towards the Flatiron Building. It's one of my favorite sights in NYC so I was bummed to find that it had all this scaffolding on it. From there, we stopped by Cha Cha Matcha to buy matcha lattes and a matcha bundt cake to share (so good; just the right amount of sweetness!) and brought our afternoon snack back to Madison Square Park. We pretty much sat there talking until it got too cold for us to handle and went our separate ways from there. 

I seriously couldn't believe how quickly 5.5 hours passed by but I guess that's what happens when you're having fun! We've already picked out the date for our next hang out and I can't wait. 


***
What have you been up to lately?
Happy Friday, friends! I'm excited to share that Hello, Chelly has a whole new look and to tell you all about it. 

To be honest, I'm really proud and glad that I could still find a lot of joy in creating content in the past year with everything going on. But then in December, I found myself itching for a change. I really wanted to simplify the main page and showcase more of my posts since I do blog regularly. I also wanted a header that felt a lot more personal and more me. 

First, I bought the Ava theme from SoulMuseDesign, who was the creator of my previous theme and a joy to work with. She's quick to answer questions and to make updates to the design if needed, plus all her themes are super affordable. I can't recommend her enough! Then I commissioned the extremely talented Danica to do my portrait so I could use it in the header. I sent her a photo and I thought she did a beautiful job of recreating it in her signature style. I couldn't be happier with the final result. 

And lastly I've spent the last few days putting it all together and I love it! Expect more tweaks and a more cohesive photography style and aesthetic to come but I hope you love the new look as much as I do!


As adorable as Tweet Cute was, it's Emma Lord's second novel You Have a Match that stole my heart. It centers around Abby, who signs up for a DNA service along with her best friend and crush Leo, expecting nothing to come out of it. Except she finds out she has a sister named Savannah ('Savvy') who's only a year and a half older than her, lives close by, and happens to be an Instagram star. They decide to meet up at summer camp so they can uncover the truth of why Abby's parents gave Savvy up for adoption but it's about so much more than that. (Although that was clearly a driving plot throughout!) 


The two girls are complete opposites and are dealing with insecurities related to growing up and their relationships with their respective parents and the mystery behind their situation only heightens that. It also doesn't make it easy for them to connect. Part of the joy of reading this was watching them start off as strangers and work their way towards becoming sisters, even when it was painful. Lack of communication was actually kind of a running theme with every sub-plot and while again that might be frustrating, it rang true to me given that they are a bunch of teenagers! That was especially true with Abby's secret crush on Leo. These two were so clueless but I related to the fear of change and admitting feelings. I just loved them! I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Leo and another friend at camp were Filipino. I was very happy to see that representation here (plus all the Filipino food callouts made me hungry!). And finally, the last thing I need to mention is friendship. It's a huge theme in the book and it's portrayed in many different ways but the one I found most moving is between the adults (which you'll understand when you read this!). But truly every theme -- friendship, identity, online image, not knowing how to communicate with family, and finding your own way -- resonated with me deeply. 


Favorite camp scene from a TV show/movie | I immediately got Parent Trap vibes! And I'm referring to the 1998 version featuring Lindsay Lohan that I was totally obsessed with in high school. My favorite scene is when they decide to switch places! 



***
pub 1/12/21 by Wednesday Books
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub for review
Goodreads | Author
The Queen's Gambit

At this point, you'd have to be living under a rock to not have heard of this show. When I sat down to finally watch The Queen's Gambit myself, I immediately understood all the hype and buzz by the end of the first episode. It follows Beth Harmon who is orphaned at a young age and sent to live at an orphanage. While there, she becomes addicted to two things: chess and drugs. In only 7 extremely well-done episodes, we see Beth's coming-of-age story as she strives to become the best chess player in the world while dealing with her past, drug use, the meaning of family, and just growing up. I absolutely loved the story and how it was told. Not to mention, Anya Taylor-Joy was perfect as Beth. Every emotion played across her face as she faced obstacle after obstacle in spite of her brilliance as a chess player. It was interesting to see how seriously chess was taken in various parts of the world and how much of a "men's game" it was. So to see Beth, a much younger woman by comparison, take it by storm was exhilarating to watch. And as someone who loves clothes and fashion, I was not expecting that to play a huge role here but whoever the costume designer was, can you please tell me where to find these clothes? By the end of the series I wanted to raid Beth's closet, learn how to play chess (again), and read the book (still debating this).  



Selena: The Series

I've already hinted that I wasn't thrilled with how Selena: The Series played out and this Refinery29 article states exactly why but I still wanted to share my thoughts on it. My introduction to Selena Quintanilla was through the 1997 movie featuring Jennifer Lopez. I fell in love with the music and ended up looking up her albums in addition to the soundtrack. But most of her all, her journey of pursuing her dreams and her tragic death left an impression on me when I watched. When I heard about the Netflix series and saw who was cast, I already had my doubts but I knew I'd check it out anyway. So I watched the entire first part (I believe Part 2 comes out this year) but after the first few episodes, I was already unhappy with it. The show focuses so much on Selena's father Abraham and her brother A.B. -- their feelings and struggles and passion for music. Even her sister Susanna gets meatier moments that show her growth as a musician in their family. While Selena? She just feels like a background character who's there to look pretty and sing, but often shows no passion, ambition, or opinion on anything. Instead she lets her family steer the wheel for her and that to me rings false. If the show is named after Selena, then it should actually star her. And no offense to Christian Serratos but she doesn't look or move like Selena at all. Her dancing is awkward at best and you can tell she's an actress pretending to be a singer and not a true performer. I understand the significance of having a Mexican actress play this role but if you look at this YouTube video that shows a side-by-side comparison of J.Lo and Selena, you can tell Lopez really did her homework so she would move exactly like Selena. It's actually incredible. I'm going to keep watching mostly out of curiosity but this series so far was a huge disappointment. 



Virgin River

My cousin's wife kept telling me to check out this show and once I finally did over my Christmas break, I binged both seasons in a matter of days. It follows Mel Monroe as she moves to a remote town named Virgin River to work as a midwife and nurse practitioner in an attempt to start fresh. She learns that not only is small-town living not as simple as she expected, but neither is leaving behind a painful past. The show is centered around revealing what that past is, how she tries to fit into town (sometimes succeeding, other times failing), and of course, romance. There were surprisingly other aspects to the show beyond small-town drama and romance that I wasn't expecting. But I was definitely most drawn to Mel's personal story (past and present), her romance with Jack (all the freaking swoons), the people she befriends (Hope cracks me up), and her work as a midwife. I know it's fiction but it's still so impressive to see her work as a nurse practitioner. I will say that I enjoyed season 1 more because season 2 started to go a bit off the rails with its side drama, IMHO. But everything that went down evoked a lot of feelings from me and I can't wait for season 3 to see what happens next. 



Bridgerton

I should've known that Shonda Rhimes and historical fiction would make for an explosive combination but even I was still unprepared for how steamy it got (obviously, I was 100% for it!). I thought she did an incredible job of adapting The Duke and I, although she was clearly pulling bits and pieces from later books (I've only read the first two). The changes made sense and she fleshed out characters that didn't get much screen time in what I've read so far. It was great to see more of the older Bridgerton siblings and the secondary characters, even if they differed a bit from their bookish counterparts. The show centers around debutante life and marriage season in Regency London and focuses particularly on Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett, a duke. They decide to enter into a fake courtship in order for her to get more suitors and for him to get harassed less by mothers. But you know fake relationships always end up bringing up real feelings and this did not disappoint. The casting, particularly for Simon (RegĂ©-Jean Page, you are my absolute favorite on this show), was spot-on. The aesthetics, cinematography, costumes, and music were just beautiful. It was an entertaining show that I could not get enough of. It's basically historical romance meets Gossip Girl, which is definitely my jam. This show better get renewed for a season 2! 


***

What have you watched recently?

Note: All shows are available on Netflix



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


Links
1 / Like many of you, I'm still reeling from the events of this past week and have been glued to the news. Of everything I've read, something about Sarah D. Wire's (Los Angeles Times) first-hand experience from inside the Capitol made me quite emotional. And of the snippets I watched, this Joy Reid clip “nails it exactly.”

2 / Two Netflix shows I binged over my holiday break were Selena: The Series and The Queen's Gambit. I'll be sharing my own thoughts on both soon but in the meantime, read why Selena was problematic (I agreed with this so much!) and see why I wanted to raid Beth Harmon's closet.

3 / I can't enough of seeing remodeling projects or looking at small space tours! This before and after of a 350-square-foot studio on Apartment Therapy is a really good example of the latter.

4 / It cracks me up that 20+ years later, there are still new articles being written about why Pacey is a million times better than Dawson. (#TeamPacey forever!)

5 / It was interesting to see PopSugar's predictions for 2021 which covered everything from fashion, wellness, beauty, entertainment, careers and more. A lot of them felt really spot-on to me, but I'm sorry I will never give in to TikTok. 

6 / Instagram's algorithm continues to get worse and naturally, my engagement has been steadily dropping. If you've noticed this too, RainyLune shared this extremely informative article about it. (Thanks Emma @ Miss Print for sending me this link!)

7 / Even though travel isn't an option right now, I can't seem to stop torturing myself with travel posts. I'm totally saving Carmen's Luxury Travel's list of the "Top 10 Most Interesting Places to Visit in London" for the future.  


Loves

1 /
I got this Galison Herstory Museum puzzle for Christmas and completed it over my break. It's even more beautiful than I thought it was going to be! It's not available on Amazon anymore but if you love puzzles, I would definitely try to track this one down. 

2 / My best friend got me this Anecdote candle and not only is the caption hilarious (and accurate) but it smells wonderful too. 

3 / I've talked about feeling stress and anxiety lately so I got this roll-on calm essential oil which I've been using every night for the last 3 weeks. I personally really like it and find it comforting. 


***

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

It is always a joy to have a new Alexandra Bracken book! Her latest is Lore, which is a standalone fantasy novel that focuses on Greek mythology and is set in New York City (two of my favorite things). It's centered around an event called the Agon, in which the nine Greek gods are forced to become mortals every seven years and are hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines who can then kill them and gain their powers. For years, Lore Perseous has turned her back on that world and hidden herself away after the brutal deaths of her family. But when the next hunt comes to her city, two participants find her: her childhood friend Castor, whom she believed to be dead, and the wounded goddess Athena. She can't ignore either of them and from that moment, it's go go go. Because it's a standalone, the action starts immediately and the entire book had a high stakes feeling from start to finish. 


I loved the way Bracken interpreted Greek mythology, pulling in the gods and the rival families (you can guess where Lore is from, right?) and gave it a modern twist by setting it in the present and NYC. From the beginning, Lore was a heroine who intrigued me. I wanted to know her backstory and everything that led her to this moment of joining the fight after years of isolation. I admired her courage and unwillingness to follow the rules dictated by the society she was a part of. The build up of her story completely paid off and the secondary characters who join her only built upon that. Friends from her past and present quickly played a huge role and I'm always a fan of watching unique individuals come together to form an unlikely crew (Bracken is so good at this!). Overall Lore was a super fun, well-written book with lots of twists and turns that kept me on my toes. 


Do I recommend?
 Absolutely! It's out as of yesterday so definitely pick it up. 


***
pub 1/5/21 by Disney-Hyperion
Young Adult - Fantasy - Mythology
Received ARC from pub for review
Goodreads | Author



Happy New Year friends! One of my favorite things about the beginning of a new year is that fresh start feeling. I love opening a new planner on January 1st to write down my goals for the year. And I almost always wanted to clean, declutter, and reorganize my home. It's out with the old, and in with the new. But I also want to carry with me the important lessons I learned from the year before and recognize what I did accomplish in 2020. 

In spite of last year's chaos, I actually did meet a lot of the goals I set out for myself. I read 169 books. I started a photo journal that I posted in every single day without fail. Thanks to working from home, I was able to save more and because I was cooking 90% of my meals, eat better although I struggled with snacking and working out. And while picking up a new hobby didn't happen (crocheting is hard!), I had my existing interests to keep me busy. 

So, what do I plan for 2021? 

Appreciate the little things and focus on communication with loved ones. Like I mentioned in my end-of-year retrospective, what we experienced last year gave me a deeper appreciation for the little things, staying local, and the creative ways in which my friends and family have stayed connected through it all. I want to carry that feeling with me into 2021 and since we're not out of the woods yet, continue to make time to stay-in-touch with loved ones whether that's virtually, in person, or a mix of both. 

Read as least 100 books
. Although as per usual, I'm fairly certain it will end up being a lot more than that. I want to read more of what I own and set a monthly limit on ARCs. I'm rereading one old favorite book or series per month (this will help me decide whether to keep or donate them!). Paranormal Book Club will continue on and I'm excited to read at least 4 books with them this year. And finally, I swear I'm going to read my Dad's favorite book, The Sun Also Rises. 

Journal every day. I enjoyed my daily photo journal so much that I decided to keep it going again this year. 

Get focused on physical health again. Between work and the cold weather, I've spent a lot more time sitting than being active and that definitely needs to change. Also, cooking daily and meal prep will continue to be good for me but I do need to get a handle on my snacking again. 

Be mindful of mental health. The pandemic, everything that happened in 2020, and the amount of time I spent alone last year really made me think about mental health and anxiety. I've already started adding a meditation app to my nightly routine, drinking tea at night to help me sleep, and being more vocal with friends about how I'm feeling. But I need to consider work too and remind myself to take random days off to keep from burning out instead of just waiting until I take a staycation (not that there's anything wrong with staycations; I took 3 last year and it was the best!). 

Follow a monthly budget and save more. I'd like to think I've always been good with my finances and saving money. But I want to take it up another notch. Towards the end of last year, I was definitely shopping online a lot more and I think having a monthly budget will help to keep me more aware of my spending. 

***
What are your goals or resolutions for 2021?

Look at that first row of pre-March 13 pictures! Feels like a lifetime ago.

Where do I even start? 2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget and if there was ever a time for deep self-reflection, this was certainly it. I do think that I not only learned a lot about myself but I found plenty to be grateful for. And I swear that's not me being falsely positive for the Internet!

So instead of my usual round-up of highlights where I talk about all my travels, concerts, and outings (since clearly that did not happen), I thought I would share what I've been reflecting on these last 12 months. 

I know I'm one of the lucky ones.
Even though the fear of catching COVID has been looming over me and my loved ones, we've all managed to stay safe and healthy. My job remained stable and busier than ever, which meant I didn't have to worry about finances. So even when I am complaining about something, I'm truly, truly grateful. 

It turns out I do have a limit on "me time." I've always loved living alone and never once wished I had a roommate. But living alone pre- and post-pandemic are two entirely different things. I spend about 90% of my time by myself now and without the regular in-person contact of coworkers, friends, and family, it's been making me anxious in a way I've never experienced before. It struck me hard in the beginning when I wasn't sure when I could visit my Dad, then it got a lot better, but recently it's been hitting me again as we are quickly approaching a year of this. It's made me evaluate how important it is to take care of my mental health, in addition to the physical. 

It's feels like 10 years worth of events were packed into 2020. So much happened this year on top of the pandemic, that I can't even try to list them all because we'd be here forever. But the conversations that started this year need to keep going into 2021 and beyond. I've prioritized reading the news and staying informed in a way that I haven't before and I plan to keep that up. 

I realized I don't need a lot to be content. Don't get me wrong, of course I miss traveling, going out to restaurants/concerts/shows, and walking around mask-free without worrying about social distancing. But this year forced me to slow down and I realized as long as I can see my family and friends safely and I can literally go outside (I have a whole new appreciation for parks, picnics, and takeout), then I can survive without the other stuff. It also doesn't hurt that a lot of things I enjoy can be done indoors (ie. reading, redecorating, cooking, jigsaw puzzles, TV show binges, blogging, and more). But as soon as it's safe to fly again, you know I'll be booking a trip! Until then though, I'm happily staycationing. 

Thank goodness for video chats, texts, phone calls, and outdoor hangs. I think we all had to step up our communication game with the distance and I'm so thankful everyone in my circle did because it 100% helped to keep me sane. I'm usually not a phone call or video chat person to be honest but I got over that real quick because it was so nice to catch up on a regular basis and see each other virtually. Plus I can't help but feel proud of the clever ways we made hanging out in person work. With my family, we relied on weekly backyard lunches all summer long with tables 6ft apart (which have since moved indoors). With Carina and Mary Ann, again we hung out in backyards and parks with our masks on. And I have to mention my monthly hangouts with Alexa. I would joke with her that she lives the furthest away from me of my friends and yet she's the one I see the most. Since June, we've more or less hung out once a month alternating between Queens, Jersey, and now Manhattan and it's been so vital for me to have that. 

It was my Mom's one year anniversary in September. I couldn't believe it had been a year already and even now, it still feels surreal that she's not here. Typically my whole family (immediate and extended) would've gone to the cemetery to pray and have a meal together so it was sad to not be able to do that. Instead we visited in groups and I had an outdoor dinner with my cousins at least. I honestly just didn't want to be alone that day and I wasn't.  

It's really nice having a pet. Even if that pet is just a betta fish! Midway through the year, I wanted something to take care of and since I was having so many issues with my local animal shelter about adopting a cat (which I am still very interested in!), I decided to get a fish. His name is Tomoe and 7 months later, I still love having him! 

My baby nephew has been a ray of sunshine for my family. My nephew Ian is a huge reason why I can't say 2020 is the worst year ever because this year brought him to us. Experiencing the holidays with him and just watching him grow (way too fast!) in general has been such a joy. And remember what I was saying earlier about the lack of human contact? Just getting to hold him in my arms once a week was and continues to be a huge source of comfort. 

So those are my reflections for 2020! I'm more than ready to say goodbye to this year and even though I know 2021 won't be a magical fix, I am hopeful it will be a better and eventually safer year for us all. 


***
Thank you for reading my blog and hope you all have a Happy New Year!

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